There is a strawberry on her desk; plump, red, and inexplicable. She is still staring at it, not yet daring to pick it up, when Agent Doggett walks into the office.
"Good morning, Agent Scully," he murmurs before putting down his cup of coffee and then sitting down at his desk.
Scully doesn't respond. She's still staring at the fruit like it might be a bomb.
"That's not much of a breakfast," Doggett says.
"It's not..." Scully begins, then trails off, because she's not sure what the fruit is, let alone what it isn't.
"It's not what, Agent Scully?"
"It's nothing," she says, and pushes the fruit aside. Underneath the berry she sees one word printed on her desk blotter
'Don't drive to his apartment,' she thinks, getting into her car.
'Don't get out of the car,' she thinks, sitting in his parking lot.
'Don't knock on his door,' she thinks, but she doesn't have to. The door is already open.
'Don't go to him,' she thinks, her legs already starting to move.
'Don't stay,' she thinks, as his lips meet her own.
'Don't,' she thinks, and does.
The situation began with a note placed carefully on Scully's desk that said, 'Thank you,' and nothing else. No signature, but Scully recognized the handwriting and knew exactly what it referred to. Krycek, and their...she hesitated to use the word affair, even to herself. It had been an incident, more accurately, and one she did not intend to repeat. Yet Krycek, after two blissful weeks of no communication whatsoever, had decided to bring up the incident. But to what purpose? Scully didn't know and didn't think she wanted to find out.
She crumpled the note in her fist before Doggett had a chance to come in and see it. Not that it contained anything incriminating, but she wanted the note gone. Imitating Mulder, she threw the paper ball at the waste paper basket, where it fell in neatly.
"Nice shot," Agent Doggett said as he walked in the room.
"Thank you," Scully said, and sat down, determined to put the note out of her head. Nevertheless, thoughts of her afternoon spent fighting and fucking with Krycek kept intruding, bringing along the still bitter ache of discovering Mulder's betrayal. The only thing she hadn't asked that afternoon was how long he and Mulder had been lovers. In her anger and dismay, she'd forgotten.
She wasn't sure why it mattered, but it did. Mulder was supposed to be *hers.* Knowing that Mulder had also been Krycek's made the loneliness she felt in Mulder's absence somehow worse. Their child might come to fill that void, but for now it was only a slight swelling of her stomach and small flutter beneath her ribs.
Scully could feel herself being drawn to Krycek, remembering the look in his eyes as he touched her skin. She thought it was possible that he understood the emptiness inside her because he shared it with her.
Not that she would be jumping into his bed anytime soon. Krycek was still a killer, still a traitor, still the scum that he had always been. Just because Krycek understood her pain in a way the scrupulously decent man sitting in Mulder's chair couldn't did not mean that seeing him was a good idea. In fact, it might be the worst idea Scully had ever had. But still, it remained, lodged in her head with the tenacity of a barnacle clinging to a boat.
That night, she got in her car and drove to Krycek's apartment. She sat in her car in the parking lot for hours before driving home. The next night, her will power saved her only after she pushed the call button for Krycek's apartment.
"Who is it?" his disembodied voice demanded.
Scully remained mute.
"Scully?" he asked, and her nerve had broken, causing her to flee for her life as she knew it: paperwork and television and Lean Cuisine for one.
The third night she went to Krycek's door and he wasn't there. Sure he must be gone, off killing or maiming or whatever it is that he did, Scully let herself into his apartment. She felt a momentary wave of deja vu, remembering the first time she had come here with her worry and dread over Mulder and the confrontation with Krycek that had followed.
'And the sex. Don't forget that,' her mind insisted on adding. Yes, there was that, and no, she hadn't forgotten. No matter how hard she'd tried.
She fell asleep on Krycek's couch, and when he woke her with kisses she wasn't surprised because she'd been dreaming of him.
"Why are you here?" Krycek asked when he saw her eyes open.
"I don't know," she confessed, worried at how good she found it to see him crouched beside her.
"Go home, Scully," he said, kissing the edge of her jaw.
"No," she found herself saying. 'I want this,' she thought with wonder, and began to unbutton her blouse.
"I don't want you," Krycek said as he slipped his hand underneath her bra to cup her breast, his thumb stroking back and forth across her hardened nipple.
"Shut up," Scully said, then kissed the man she hated, one hand reaching up to trace his jaw and the other settling over the hard bulge in his jeans. It was plain that Krycek wanted her. And Scully, despite everything she knew about him, wanted this beautiful, faithless creature with his unfathomable eyes and the body sculpted and scarred by the sins he'd committed.
Logic and reason deserted her. Regrets were filed away for future examination. There would be time later for recriminations. Now all she wanted was to touch Krycek's skin and to feel but not think for as long as possible.
Her doubts came back only briefly as Krycek held her bare legs wide apart and sat there for what seemed like a long while, just looking at her exposed flesh. "Is it...am I..." she ventured haltingly into the thick silence.
"Vile," Krycek said, then dipped his head and delicately began to taste her. His tongue lapped at her with slow, thorough strokes that belied revulsion. "Disgusting," he added, before drawing her clit into his mouth and sucking until she screamed at him to stop, that it was too much, far too much, but still he continued until she thought she'd gone mad.
Four days later she found a single deep coral rose on her desk. A note tied to it read, 'This is what I saw.' Scully destroyed the note but kept the rose, setting it in a coffee cup full of water.
"That's pretty," Doggett said when he saw the rose. "Secret admirer, Agent Scully?"
"No," she said. She didn't throw the rose away until the last petal fell onto her desk blotter.
Over the next few months, a small collection of tokens found their way into Mulder's former office, forcing her to draw conclusions regarding their significance or lack thereof. With Krycek, it was impossible to tell. He never explained anything.
Like the small toy she found over a month later propped against her computer's keyboard. It was a red-haired mermaid with a rubber tail and a discreet molded bra of seashells. When she moved her mouse, her computer was not on the FBI start-up screen, with its fields for her name and password. Instead a web page from a mythology web site stared at her. Rusalka, it said. A vengeful water-sprite that drowned unwary men.
Scully threw the toy into the bottom of a drawer. She didn't know what Krycek meant by the gesture and she didn't mention the incident to him, not even when he whispered, "Rusalka," into her hair as he came inside her several weeks later.
It wasn't the sort of relationship they had.
Not that they had a relationship.
"You smell like the sea," he once said.
She'd made a face. "Dead fish and seaweed."
"Dead fish and seaweed," he confirmed.
"Alex Krycek, king of romance," Scully said sourly.
In response, Krycek bit her inner thigh. Not too hard. Just hard enough.
It was only later, after Mulder had come back and Krycek had gone, and then Mulder had also gone that she realized what should have been obvious. The rose, the mermaid, the smooth pink shell, the book of fairy tales, the strawberry, the goldfish swimming in its small bowl, all the puzzling gestures that often made little sense but still drew her back to him. Even -- hell, especially -- the resurrection of Mulder.
No wonder Mulder, lover of puzzles of all kinds, had been drawn to this man: killer, thief, and lover. Alex Krycek fucked in person but made love by proxy.
The lips she offers up are stained berry red by the ripe fruit he'd left for her. Neither one of them mentions the gift because that isn't what they do. That isn't what this is about.
"Take me down," he says to her as they fall onto his bed. "Down."
She isn't sure what he means, not exactly. How could she drag this man
(killer, thief, traitor, lover)
down any further?
Under the waves of some mythical Russian lake, perhaps? One where she is the killer and he is the innocent victim. Only...her mind spins as pleasure seeps past her working mind. In the stories, rusalki were victims themselves.
Maybe he is trying to tell her that nothing is exactly as it seems on the surface. There could be more things dwelling under those dark Russian waves than she can easily see.
Maybe he is apologizing the only way he knows how when his lips touch her and his tongue steals the last lingering traces of strawberry sweetness from her mouth.
'Rusalka.' 'Take me down.'
It's like she's killing him and he doesn't really mind...
A black lacquer box sits on her desk, a brightly painted scene adorning its lid and sides. She puzzles over the depicted scene. There is a princess, she can tell that much, and some dark man in purple robes who might be a wizard or a priest or even a prince, for all she knows. Perhaps all three.
She opens the box, expecting to see a word, a command really, printed on a piece of paper in Krycek's familiar handwriting, but her prediction is wrong.
Doggett looks up from the files he's reading and regards the smile on Scully's face. "Good news?" he asks.
"Not exactly," she replies.
"Bad news, then?"
"I'm sorry to hear that. Why don't I take you out to dinner? It might take your mind off your troubles." 'And maybe you'll tell me about these presents you keep getting,' she can almost hear him add.
"No, I don't think so," she says. "I've got too much to do tonight."
"If you ask me, Agent Scully, I think you work too hard."
'I didn't ask you,' she thinks, but the thought is more indulgent than resentful. Doggett reminds her of Charlie sometimes, and her ache for her absent brothers and their overprotective ways causes her to be kinder to Doggett than she otherwise might be. Or maybe it's her impending motherhood and all the hormones raging through her system. Or maybe she's come to realize that nothing is exactly as it seems, and throughout all of Doggett's nosiness is an overriding concern for her that leaves her feeling touched despite herself.
"Maybe," she tells him. "Maybe I do. Good night, John," she says, calling him by his first name for the first time.
"Good night, Agent Scully." He pauses, as if he knows something he couldn't possibly know. "Be careful."
"I will," she lies as she gathers up coat and purse before leaving the office. She doesn't bother to throw away the piece of paper she found in the small wooden box. Let Doggett make of it what he will.
All it reveals is one word printed in Alex's hurried handwriting. 'Please.'
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