Krycek lit the candles and stepped back, admiring the table. Perfect, he decided. Not too much, but just enough to show Scully that he knew it was a special night.
She probably wasn't aware that he knew it was her birthday. And if this date had fallen before her trip, he probably wouldn't have done anything about it. But in the eight days since she'd come back, things had changed.
Though they didn't have sex every night, it was more frequent now. She was more open about the whole thing, and while she still couldn't or wouldn't give voice to what, specifically, she wanted, it seemed that she was no longer in denial about wanting and liking the sex.
He had made a few concessions, too. He tried to give her a little more private time, and had laid off the mindfucks. That put a temporary crimp in his overall plan, but he figured it was worth it. Better to lull her into complacency now; it would make later mindfucks easier and less noticeable.
This dinner was technically not a mindfuck. After all, it was her birthday, and she was entitled to a celebration, something nobody else in her life was likely to give her. His options were rather limited, but he did the best he could. He'd taken more trouble than usual with the food (surfing cooking websites until he found a gourmet recipe he thought she'd like), and was prepared to let Scully do what she wanted afterwards, no questions asked. If she wanted him to go away, he would. If she wanted to have sex, he'd let her dictate how it went, no matter what she wanted. He would make sure that everything that happened was focused on her pleasure.
Maybe it was a mindfuck after all...
"What's all this?"
Krycek, momentarily startled, turned to find Scully standing behind him. "Happy birthday," he said, planting a friendly kiss on her cheek.
While he was no expert on birthday etiquette, Krycek knew that was not the customary response to that phrase. "Thank you very much, Alex. I'm so glad you remembered," he prompted her.
There was that sound again. "Something wrong, Dana? Got the date wrong, didn't I?"
"What? Oh, no... how'd you know?"
"Nefarious research, of course," he said, neglecting to mention that he'd sneaked a peek at her driver's license. "Now come on, sit down. Your celebratory dinner awaits."
"Um... Alex? I hope you didn't go to too much trouble..."
"I know it's not much, but it probably wouldn't be smart if we went out --"
"It's not that," Scully said, stepping back a little. "I'm not staying for dinner."
"You're not staying." She shook her head. "Work?"
"No, I'm going out to dinner. Mulder and some other people kind of arranged a little party..."
"Party." He had no clue why that idea should piss him off so much, but a sudden, surprising anger welled up inside him. "Party? And you didn't even think to call?"
"For what? You honestly think you'd be invited?" she shot back.
"You might've thought that I might make some arrangements myself --"
"I didn't even know you knew it was my birthday!"
"Well, I do, and for your information I did go to a lot of trouble. I had plans for tonight, and you didn't even think to call and tell me you wouldn't be here!"
Some little part of him realized he sounded completely irrational, but he didn't care. So much for all the efforts he'd made since her trip. None of it mattered. The thoughtless bitch was just using him. "What the hell made you think I wouldn't want to do something today, huh?"
"We don't have that kind of relationship," she said quietly.
"Relationship, hell! That's just common courtesy!"
"So now I'm supposed to check in with you every hour on the hour?"
"Who said anything about checking in? All I ask for is a simple goddam phone call when you know you're not going to be here. Is that so much? Especially when there's the outside chance when I might've had something nice planned?"
"Fine," Scully said flatly. "I'll have to remember to take my crystal ball to work so I can tell when you've got something planned." She turned and began to move away, but Krycek grabbed her arm and spun her around.
"You're going to blow me off twice in one night?" he hissed, even as something inside him screamed at him to just let it go. He might have, but he'd obviously been letting too much go lately. Control had to be reasserted.
"Get your hands off me!" She pulled her arm away from him but he didn't let go. "Or are you going to hurt me and call it another lesson?"
He immediately let go, but she didn't turn away. She remained there in front of him, breathing hard, glaring at him, eyes blazing, face flushed with anger, and Krycek was stunned to feel a rush of heat in his groin. He had a sudden, almost uncontrollable urge to kiss her, touch her, fuck her right here on the floor and make her forget about her dinner plans; to take care of his own needs for once without having to think about hers. It took every ounce of self-control he had to not do that; to take a step back and rein in his temper. Giving in to it had already gotten him in trouble once; he knew if he let it happen again it would spell the end of the deal.
Head down, he took a few deep breaths, until he felt he could trust himself to look at her without touching her. He looked up again to find her in the same position, seemingly waiting for him to make a move. He forced himself not to. Instead, he spoke.
"Look, you may not like this situation, but it is what it is and it's not gonna change any time soon," he said. "I've tried to make this deal tolerable for you. I've made concessions I didn't have to make. I've done a lot of stuff I didn't have to do. And I've done it all, in case you didn't notice, for you."
"Don't do me any favors!" she spat.
"You could at least acknowledge the effort!"
"Why? I never asked you to be here. I never asked you to do anything for me. I never asked anything of you, so don't expect me to be grateful!"
"You couldn't be anyway, could you?" Krycek seethed. "Makes it harder to lie to yourself that this is just about sex."
"It *is* just about sex!" Scully shot back. "Stop trying to make it into something it's not and can't ever be!"
She spun around and stalked off toward the bedroom. Krycek followed, but stopped when she slammed the door in his face. He waited, debating what to do next, until the bedroom door opened again. Scully, in different clothes now, stepped out and thrust a familiar package in his face. "What's this?"
Krycek bit back the nasty comment that came immediately to mind. "A birthday gift," he said.
"Birthday gift," she repeated. "And what makes you think I'll accept any kind of gift from you?"
"You already did --"
"That was different," she said quietly. "I presume this isn't deal- related?"
"Oh, come on, it's just a damn birthday present! Can't you just shut up for once and open it?"
"Hmph." Scully eyed the small package. "I suppose I'll have to so I know where to return it, right?" She tore the paper off, opened the box, and held up the velvet box inside. He watched as a strange look came over her face and he thought she might throw it at him right there, but she slowly opened it.
She didn't say anything; just stared at the box.
Her reaction was unsettling. Anger he could handle. In fact, the way this evening was going, he expected it. Silence, he couldn't handle right now. "Well?" he asked tentatively.
Scully looked up at him, that odd expression still on her face. "I can't... I can't accept this..."
"I just... it's not right..."
Krycek sighed. "They're just earrings, Dana. Birthstone earrings. I don't know what kind of meaning you're reading into that, but there's no hidden message here. Just earrings."
She snapped the case closed and handed it to him. "I can't take them."
"Why the hell not? Didn't we go through this already?"
"It's too much, Alex," she said wearily. "Don't you get it?"
"Why don't you explain it to me?"
She checked her watch. "I'm late already. Just return those, please? You shouldn't have bought them."
He couldn't let her leave like this. "Dana --"
"I'm leaving, Alex." She moved past him into the living room and scooped up her bag and coat. "Think about it and maybe you can answer a question for me when I come back. How am I supposed to call and tell you I won't be home when we agreed weeks ago that you wouldn't answer my phone?" With that, she was gone.
The sheer logic of her question sapped all the anger out of him. She was right; he was being irrational. What was it about her that made him behave that way? It seemed to happen every time she did something counter to his carefully constructed plan. But Scully was an intelligent, independent woman. He couldn't really expect her to cater to his every whim, could he?
Krycek moved slowly into the bedroom and dropped the earring box on her dresser. "Sure," he muttered to himself. "Happy fucking birthday."
Scully slipped into the apartment at just past 12:30 and found it dark. She'd been expecting Krycek to wait up for her, but was relieved that he had gone to bed. She didn't want to talk about his gift or their fight, and if she could put it off for a while, so much the better.
She moved quietly into the bedroom, noted Krycek's still form in the bed, and then moved on to the bathroom. Trying not to wake him, she managed her preparations for bed without too much trouble, although she did drop the toothpaste tube noisily into the sink, and slight dizziness made her stumble into the towel rack on the wall. <It's always the last drink that gets you,> she chided herself as she left the bathroom.
She realized she must have made more noise than she thought when Krycek yawned, stretched, and opened his eyes. "Hi," he said. "Have a good time?"
Apparently he'd gotten over their argument. She felt a little guilty over that, but if he was willing to ignore it for now, so would she. "Yes, very good," she sighed as she slipped into bed beside him. "I spend so much time down in the basement working on those cases nobody else will touch that I sometimes forget I have friends elsewhere in that building. It was nice to see them tonight."
"You should find this amusing... it seems that Mulder's recent speculations about my private life have spread. I lost count of how many people asked me tonight where my boyfriend was."
She heard a soft laugh. "What did you tell them?"
"That he was home, sick in bed."
Another chuckle. "That's it, feed their fantasies. Should keep 'em busy for days." Krycek settled deeper under the covers and she thought he was going back to sleep, but after a few minutes she heard his soft voice again. "Dana, why won't you accept my gift?"
<Oh, shit.> She glanced over at him and found that he hadn't moved. He was still lying on his side, his back to her. That was probably a good thing; at least she didn't have to deal with those hypnotic green eyes this time. "It isn't... proper," she stammered, trying to gather her thoughts. Her head felt much too swimmy to have this discussion. "This is a business deal. We have a business relationship."
"Does Mulder give you birthday gifts?"
Scully glanced at the earring box on the dresser, thinking of the Apollo 11 keyring that Mulder had given her. "No, he never has." Feeling a small measure of satisfaction that she'd ruined his point, she wasn't prepared for the next question.
"You already accepted a much more intimate gift. Why do you have such a problem with this one?"
Blindsided by the obvious question. "I accepted that under duress, remember."
"I didn't make you take it. You chose to. And you chose to wear it."
What could she say? She had. And it was quickly becoming her favorite lingerie.
"Did accepting that gift have a satisfactory outcome?"
She closed her eyes and let her mind drift back, seeing herself dressed only in the bra and panties he'd given her, straddling him on the sofa, rubbing herself against the growing bulge in his jeans... She shook the thought out of her head, but the flood of warmth the memory had brought to her lower body stayed. "Yes."
"So what's wrong with this one?"
"In some ways the earrings are a much more intimate gift than the lingerie..."
"How so? Please, educate me."
"Well..." She glanced over at Krycek again and found herself studying the soft, downy hair on the back of his neck. "In a normal relationship, that's the kind of thing a man gives his girlfriend or wife for her birthday. There's some... feeling behind it..."
A soft laugh. "Dana, are you asking me how I feel about you?"
"Well, no, but... I..." Her voice trailed off as she realized that that was exactly what she was asking. Was this strictly a business deal for him? Or was he just messing with her head again?
"Did it ever occur to you that you might be reading too much into this?" he asked.
Was she? "It just seems like the kind of gift a man gives to someone he has an emotional attachment to..." <That was so lame. I'm probably playing right into his little head game...>
"And I'm not allowed to take even the smallest liberties in this relationship even though we're having sex?"
Sex. The magic word. The perfect way to make him forget this discussion... "No, you're not. We have a business relationship." Some business relationship...
Krycek sighed. "I'm sorry if I offended you, but sometimes a pair of earrings is just a pair of earrings."
Sex wasn't only the way to make him shut up. It was also, she realized, exactly what she wanted. What she'd wanted all evening. What she needed now that the memory of the lingerie encounter had aroused her. Scully turned on her side and pulled herself close to him. "And I'm sorry if I hurt you, but I don't want to think about that anymore," she purred in his ear. "There's something else I'd much rather think about." She slipped her hand inside his boxers and gently stroked his penis.
He gasped at her touch and arched into it. "I like the way you think," he sighed.
She kissed that soft hair at the back of his neck before moving on to suck on his earlobe. "Know what?"
He moaned softly as she circled his organ with her hand and started long, slow strokes up and down its increasing length. "What?"
"I've had sex on my birthday exactly once in my life," she murmured, nipping at his neck. "With Jack Willis. And that was probably only because we shared the same birthday and he wanted it."
"So I take it this is only round one?"
"Oh, yeah. It's *my* birthday. You're not going to be the only one who comes."
He thrust into her hand, so she moved it and started to gently play with his balls instead. He drew in a ragged breath and let it out slowly, then rolled over onto his back. "You won't actually be having sex *on* your birthday," he reminded her, placing his hand over hers and moving it where he wanted it.
"Okay, *for* my birthday." She reclaimed her hand from him and slid off first his boxers, then his t-shirt, before returning her attention to his penis. She gently circled the tip, making him buck again, then gathered the secretions on her finger and drew a line with that finger up his body to his chest, where she started toying with one nipple. "You're not going to make me beg on my birthday, are you?"
He suddenly rolled her over so that she was on her back and he was on top of her. "Now, would I do that to you?" he teased.
"Think you know me, don't you?" He leaned down and kissed her deeply before slipping her pajamas off and moving to kneel between her legs. "Okay, I promise, no begging tonight. Let's see how ready you are..."
Suddenly she felt two fingers stroke briefly between her legs before they slipped inside her. She moaned and arched up to meet his hand, dangerously close to coming just from that. "Ready," she gasped, "but you can do that for a while if you want..."
His fingers withdrew, but nothing else happened. Scully opened her eyes to see Krycek looking at her, a wicked gleam in those green eyes. "What?" she asked with some trepidation.
"You up for something a little different tonight?"
"Nothing scary, birthday girl. Just... a slight variation on an old theme. I think you might enjoy it. In fact, let's call this another birthday present."
"Um... okay, I guess..."
"Good girl. Trust me, you'll like this," he said, lifting her right leg and draping her foot over his left shoulder. He positioned her left leg similarly over his right shoulder, raising her pelvis off the bed and tilting her into a rather uncomfortable position.
"Alex? What are you doing?"
"Expanding your horizons a little. I know it's uncomfortable, but I bet after a while you won't care..." She felt the tip of his cock resting against her entrance as he laced his fingers through hers and pushed her hands into the pillow on either side of her head. It briefly occurred to her that this was just about the first time that he'd touched her with his left hand, and she wondered why that was. His left hand felt virtually the same as his right... except that the left hand didn't sweat.
Needing to feel him inside, she tried to arch upward, but found that she had no leverage. Ordinarily she knew he'd let her twist in the wind like that for a few minutes, but this time, true to his word, he responded to her cue and eased himself slowly inside her.
She gasped softly, reveling in the feeling of him stretching her, filling her... and then she felt something else. She cried out at the jolt that started deep inside and emanated throughout her whole body; not quite an orgasm, but something slightly different... "Alex?" she asked when she could breathe.
He smiled down at her. "Looks like we found one of your secret hot spots. Can't find those without going really deep. Feels different, doesn't it?"
"Different," she breathed, squeezing him and noting that he was deeper inside her than usual. Quite a lot deeper, she thought. "Good. Wonderful. More?"
"Your wish is my command," he said, and began moving in a slow, deliberate rhythm.
She squeezed his hands and let herself drift, relishing the friction inside and the slightly different sensations that his deeper penetration provided... when he stopped moving.
"Forgot to observe the most important propriety, didn't I?" he said in response to her unspoken question. He took a deep breath and, in a slightly husky tenor, started to sing. "Happy *birth*day to *you*..." He started to move again, his rhythm matching the pace of the song, the words slightly more pronounced with each inward thrust. "Happy *birth*day to *you*... Happy *birth*day, dear *Da*na... Happy *birth*day to *you.*"
And on the last note, with the deepest thrust, she saw stars and felt her insides explode with a deep, volcanic orgasm. Clutching his hands hard enough to hurt him, she cried his name as the spasms tore through her, the sensation spreading out to every nerve ending in her body.
An eternity later, as the last spasms of the orgasm rippled through her, she was surprised to find her voice. "You sing very well."
"Thank you. Veteran shower-singer, y'know."
"I've never heard you sing in the shower."
"Of course not. You're not usually around when I'm in the shower."
"True." She tilted her head back, staring at the ceiling, idly wishing she had a mirror there. She wanted to see this position, see the look on her own face as he kept up that slow, deliberate thrusting. Wanted to see him move, that nice firm ass...
<Where the hell did that come from? Oh, hell, admit it to yourself already, Dana. Does it really take alcohol to make you acknowledge that this man fucking you is amazingly attractive?>
It took a moment for her to realize that he was speaking to her. "I truly am sorry about the earrings, Dana," he said. "I never meant to make you uncomfortable. They really are just a birthday gift. No strings attached. I mean it. It never occurred to me that you'd take it any other way."
Uncomfortable as this position was, there was definitely something to be said for it. With the deeper penetration he was hitting spots he didn't normally hit. Seriously responsive spots... "Hey, what were you doing while I was gone, watching our video? You don't usually last this long unless you already came at least once."
He laughed softly. "Maybe I just have more self-control than you think."
She laced her fingers more firmly through his and squeezed tightly as she felt the exquisite pressure building inexorably inside her again. "What would it take to make you lose that control?" she wondered aloud.
He thrust a little harder, a little deeper, and fireworks exploded behind her eyes as she came again, almost as explosively as the first time, the waves of pleasure shooting from her groin right up her spine to her brain. He leaned in close, bending her into a very uncomfortable position with her knees practically in her ears, and kissed her, gently exploring her mouth with his tongue. Her wordless cries of pleasure were lost in his kisses.
"Truth be told," he whispered, "I could've come in my pants watching you masturbate."
He leaned back, unbending her and letting her catch her breath as he continued that deliberate stroking. "Pig," she said, when she could speak again.
"Don't you know that's every guy's secret wet dream? Well, one of 'em, at least."
"That's why you tortured me so much that night?"
"No... I teased you because it's fun."
"I hate you, Alex."
He gave a few more harder, deeper strokes. "Want me to stop, Dana?"
"No," she sighed. "Oh, God, no."
"Wasn't it worth it?"
"Yes, yes, every minute. Do that aga--" Her words lapsed into soft moans as a small orgasm gently rippled through her lower body.
"I do so much for you Dana," he purred, "and all you can say is you hate me. Very sad state of affairs, wouldn't you say?"
"Why does watching... er... that... turn men on so much?"
"Never really thought about it. Just a guy thing, I suppose. But it does serve another purpose, at least for some of us. Research."
"Gives us some idea what you like."
She thought back, at least as much as her pleasure-fogged brain would let her. "But you didn't use anything you might've seen me do..."
"That doesn't mean I didn't file it away for future reference. Besides, it's kind of fun showing you new things that you might like even better..."
<He's not even close yet. How the hell can he do this? People talk about having sex for hours, but I never really believed them...> "So what's the other secret fantasy?"
"You don't need to know that. Besides, you wouldn't do it anyway."
"Why? Just how perverted is it?"
"Look through Mulder's video collection sometime. See if you can figure it out."
"How do you know it's in there?"
"Saw the collection. It's represented in there. Heavily."
He suddenly changed his rhythm, thrusting harder and faster now, giving her what she'd wanted all evening. She tried to move with him but her position wouldn't allow it; she could only change the angle slightly, letting him drive even deeper inside, almost impossibly deep. She was moaning loudly now, waves of ecstasy overwhelming her body and her brain until she thought she'd explode, knowing she would if he didn't finish soon. She'd come enough times already she was sure she couldn't anymore, but she did; one more explosive, shattering orgasm accompanying his last deep, savage thrust. Half a second later she heard him groan and finally felt him come; felt his warmth spurting deep into the very heart of her.
He recovered first, slowly sliding his softening organ out of her while slipping her legs off his shoulders and back onto the bed. She was glad he did that; her limbs felt like they weighed a ton and she wasn't sure she could move them. He settled next to her, head propped on hand, watching her.
Gradually her breathing slowed down and she was able to speak again. "I like that position," she murmured, suddenly very sleepy. "I came a lot."
He laughed softly. "You certainly did. So tell me, was that worth waiting 33 years for?"
"Y'know, you should go out drinking more often. Alcohol has a most interesting effect on you..."
She opened her eyes and glanced over at him. "It does?"
"Don't worry, it's a good effect." He cupped her face and kissed her gently. "Happy birthday, plamennaya malyishka."
Scully found herself humming as she dressed for work the next morning. For once in her life, she'd had a really good birthday, that little fight with Krycek notwithstanding. There was a party (a rare occurrence for her) and birthday sex (an even rarer occurrence). There was even the standard deal-related disk, with a gift bow stuck to it. She had to smile at that. Maybe it was only her good mood, but it seemed a very sweet gesture.
She picked up the disk from the dresser and found the earring box underneath it. She stared at the unopened box for a while, then opened it and stared at the earrings themselves. She had to admit that Krycek had good taste. First $300 silk lingerie, now tasteful birthstone earrings. Very pretty earrings too, with deep, dark amethysts and small, unobtrusive diamonds. Again, the type of thing she'd buy for herself if she were going to splurge.
After a while, she lifted her eyes from the earrings to her reflection in the mirror. Was it coincidence that she had chosen a plum-colored suit? She shifted her gaze from her own reflection to that of the man still sleeping peacefully in her bed. Maybe he was playing it straight for once. Maybe a pair of earrings really was just a pair of earrings.
She studied her own reflection again, then removed the earrings she had on and put on the amethyst ones. A very thoughtful gift, she had to admit.
Scully looked at her birthday present for another moment, then picked up the disk and left the bedroom, once again humming.
Krycek immediately noticed the earrings when she went home that night. Almost as soon as she sat down at the table, he went to her, tucked her hair behind her ears, and smiled warmly at the sight of his gift. He didn't say anything, didn't ask her what made her change her mind, and for that she was grateful. He just seemed happy that she was wearing them. <Maybe it really was just a birthday gift,> Scully told herself.
His low-key acceptance of the gift issue gave her the confidence to ask the question that had really plagued her mind all day. She debated with herself over it for hours, knowing she didn't really want to hear the answer, but she eventually came to the conclusion that she needed to hear it. Every time she looked at Mulder that day, the question came to mind. She couldn't let it rest unless she asked Krycek. So, after dinner, when they were settled on the sofa watching TV, she did.
"Alex," she ventured, "remember what we were talking about last night?"
He glanced briefly at her, then turned back to the TV. "We talked about a lot of things last night."
"I meant... the fantasy thing. Remember?"
"Mmm-hmm. You wanted to know what the other universal male fantasy is."
"And you told me to look through Mulder's video collection to find out."
"Right. Did you?"
"No..." Scully shifted position on the sofa, drawing away from him a little. "Alex, I have to know. It's been bugging me all day..."
Krycek turned to her again, this time paying more attention. "I'm not going to tell you. This one you have to figure out on your own."
"No, that's not what I meant --"
"You don't want to know?"
"Well, yes, but... there's something else I need to know, too." He said nothing, so she took a deep breath and continued. "I need to know how you managed to see Mulder's video collection. Enough of them to know."
A gleam came into his eyes as a slow grin appeared. "Which would you rather know?"
"I'll tell you one, but not both. Which do you need to know more?"
Scully just looked at him for a long moment. He was going to make a game out of this. Fine, then she'd just withdraw the question. She was about to say just that when the realization struck that if she didn't find out, it would drive her crazy. That gleam in his eyes had to mean that the answer was far more complex than the obvious -- that he'd broken into Mulder's apartment and watched the tapes. Which meant... no, not possible. Or was it?
"I could barely look at Mulder all day without thinking about it," she said quietly. "Tell me about the videos. How you know."
Krycek lowered the volume on the TV. "You sure?"
Not an encouraging sign... "Yes, tell me."
"Okay, you asked for it." He took a sidelong glance at her, then turned back to the TV. "Mulder and I used to have porn parties when we were partners."
Scully closed her eyes and silently cursed herself for asking. But now that she had, she had to hear the rest of it. "Porn parties?"
"Yeah, we used to invite the whole Violent Crimes Section over for pizza, beer and circle jerks." Pause. "Every Friday."
A thoroughly disgusting image sprang into her mind, but she immediately squelched it. It couldn't have been like that, could it? Mulder wouldn't...
Then again, maybe he would.
She opened her eyes again to see Krycek grinning at her, barely controlling laughter. She thwapped his arm. "Pig!"
"Sorry, you got the wrong swine this time. The videos were Mulder's idea." She gave him her skeptical look. "Really, they were."
"No parties. Still want to know how it really happened?"
If she wanted to be able to look Mulder in the eye ever again without that image coming to mind, she had to know. "Tell me."
Krycek shut the TV off. "It all started innocently enough," he began. "It was a week or so after we became partners. I dropped by Mulder's place after work that Friday with some files he wanted, and he asked if I wanted to hang out, have a beer, and watch the baseball game. My assignment at the time was to keep an eye on him, so --"
"Your assignment?" Scully interrupted. "For the smoker?"
"Yup. He wanted me to stick close to Mulder, so I figured this could be valuable training -- see what he does in his off hours. So I stayed. The game's over by 10, so he suggests a video. I'm thinking he's talking about a regular movie, but instead he pops in... I don't even remember the title, but it was porn."
Scully shook her head. That didn't sound like Mulder at all. "He just started one of those tapes without even telling you what it was, without even asking... no. That's not Mulder. He wouldn't do that. He watches those alone."
Krycek shrugged. "Not everybody does. It's a guy thing. Women shop, guys watch porn. No big deal."
"I thought men watched sports," she countered.
"Yeah, and porn. Group porn watching has a whole different dynamic than solo. The group aspect actually makes it less arousing... at least I found it that way. You're more likely to sit there and give running commentary along the lines of 'check out the rack on that one' instead of whipping it out and --"
"Stop!" This was definitely more than she wanted to know, about both of her partners. "Too much information, okay?"
"Hey, you asked."
"What were you doing watching with him, anyway? I thought you said you didn't like the professionally produced videos."
Krycek leaned back against the back of the sofa. "He was my assignment. I couldn't exactly say no, could I? Whether I wanted to or not, I had to stay. That's probably why most of the running commentary came from me. I'm a doer. Mulder's a watcher, so these things hit him harder than they hit me. I'd sit there on the floor and critique whatever we were watching, and he'd be on the sofa doing... what he does... Most of the time he was considerate enough to get up and go to the bathroom when --"
"I really don't need to know that," Scully interrupted. "How am I supposed to work with him after hearing this?"
"Like I said, you asked," he said with a shrug.
She was sorry she did, but she had to remind herself that Krycek could've made the whole thing up. Probably had. Mulder just wouldn't do that. "Didn't Mulder ever find it odd that the videos didn't affect you?" she asked.
"As a matter of fact, he did. After about three or four of them, he asked me if I really wanted to continue watching, since I didn't seem to get anything out of it. Though how he knew that when he was always in the bathroom, I'll never know..."
<Didn't happen didn't happen didn't happen,> Scully chanted mentally. "So you stopped?"
"No, I told him we could go out, cruise the bars and find some real action, but I'd feel bad when I scored and he didn't. So in the
interest of partner harmony, I'd stay and watch the videos with him. Besides, even if I didn't find them especially arousing, they were certainly entertaining. You think old sci-fi movies are bad? You gotta see some of these..."
Scully just looked at him. "You are so full of it it's not even funny. Why do I bother asking you anything?"
"If this isn't true," he said, "how could I know so much about his collection?"
"I'm not convinced you know anything about it. Even if you do, you could've broken into his apartment and watched."
"Right," Krycek nodded. "The Morley Man paid me to take porn breaks in my mark's apartment. Makes perfect sense."
So much for that idea. She sighed. "Fine. So you and Mulder had private porn parties every week that didn't affect you at all. *That* makes perfect sense."
"Oh, those videos affected me," Krycek admitted, "but not as much as they could have. Not as much as... oh, say, our video... does. In fact there was one... I don't know why this one struck me the way it did, but it just sucked me right in... I didn't know he was in the room... he didn't know I was in the room... or if he did know I was there, I don't want to know about it..."
"Enough!" Scully cried. "I have to face him tomorrow morning!"
"Good. Ask him about that video. Find that one, and you find the answer to the other question."
"There's only one that answers the question?"
"Not really," he said. "That's just the most blatant example of it. Besides, I think I steered you wrong a little. There's really two variations on that other fantasy. Version A is pretty common in basic porn. I guess you'd say I'm a Version A guy, only I'd rather do it than watch it. Mulder's probably a Version B guy, so he has a lot of those. Not a majority, but probably a higher proportion than you'd find in the average guy's porn library. Just keep track of the ones in the office - - he rotates them regularly with the ones at home -- and you shouldn't have any trouble figuring it out."
<Great. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Your Partner's Fantasy Life But Were Afraid to Ask,> Scully thought. Krycek might be making all this up, but it was probably true that if she did examine the tapes, she'd learn more than she ever wanted to know about Mulder's private life. Was she ready for that? "The one that got you," she mused. "That was a Version A tape?"
Krycek shook his head. "Nope, B. Surprised the hell out of me." He cast a sidelong glance at her. "But I guess you know about that, don't you?"
The mere memory of Krycek's homemade video was enough to do to her what the video itself had done the first time she saw it. Arousal was almost immediate; the problem of how to face her partner suddenly seemed far less important.
Krycek seemed to pick up on this. "Let's put one of ours on," he said casually. "I'll show you why amateur tapes are better..."
"I thought you'd rather do than watch."
"Then why watch?" She grabbed his hand and pulled him up. "Let's go do."
Scully sat at her desk, idly scrolling through the documents on the latest disks Krycek had given her. She had realized that she couldn't give Mulder the birthday disk on the day after, so she'd waited and copied the next night's file onto the same disk. Conscious of Mulder's suspicions about her informant and what she was doing, she'd done that a few times before, cutting down on the apparent frequency of contact and giving Mulder a lot to chew on at one time. He was doing that now, carefully reading the files and taking notes, while Scully contemplated how to ask him if Krycek's story was true.
She was so lost in her own thoughts that she didn't even hear Mulder until he'd called her twice. "I'm sorry, what?"
"I was just wondering how you and that new guy of yours are doing," Mulder said casually, not looking up from his notes. "You've been seeing him for, what, about a month now?"
"Five weeks, and we're doing just fine," she said, wondering what he was getting at.
He looked up at her briefly, but then returned his attention to his computer. "Those earrings... very nice. Birthday gift?"
"Yes, Mulder, from him. Is there a point to this interrogation?"
Now he looked at her. "Interrogation, Scully? I just want to know that you're happy, that's all."
<Happy? Only at very specific times, about every other night...> "Yes, Mulder, I'm happy," she said. "I appreciate your concern, but really, I'm fine."
"If you say so." Mulder bent back to his notepad.
Another few silent minutes ticked off the clock until Scully, still needing to hear a denial of Krycek's story, finally spoke. "Mulder, you consider us to be friends, right?"
Now he gave her an odd look. "Of course, Scully," he answered immediately. "Don't you?"
"Of course I do; you know that. I was just wondering how close you've gotten to your other partners."
Mulder thought about that for a moment. "I never had a real partner before you," he finally said.
"Not even Jerry LaManna?"
"Yeah, I guess Jerry was a partner. Sort of," Mulder admitted.
"Was he a friend?"
"Not the way you're thinking, Scully; not like you are."
<Right, some friend I am,> she thought. "That's not what I mean. Did you ever... do anything together, outside of work?"
Again Mulder thought about his answer. "We caught a few ballgames together before he stole my work," he said at length.
This seemed to be the right approach to take... "What about Krycek?" Scully asked casually.
"Krycek was never a friend or a partner," Mulder said flatly.
"Mulder, I was there during your first case with him. I know how he worked. He was watching you. Didn't he try to insinuate himself into your life?"
"Yeah," Mulder said slowly. "Yeah, I guess he did. That must've been why --"
"Why what?" she asked with a sinking feeling in her stomach.
"He dropped by my place one night, right after that first case. He said he was dropping off files, but in hindsight, I know there had to be an ulterior motive. My mistake was inviting him to stay and watch the game. Somehow it turned into a regular thing -- he turned up at my door just about every Friday after that..."
The moment of truth... "For what?"
"Whatever. Games, movies..."
"Yeah, movies. I think he fell asleep during 'The Day the Earth Stood Still', but he seemed very interested in 'Rosemary's Baby'." He was looking at her funny again. "Are you going somewhere with this, Scully?"
<Uh-oh...> "No, I was just wondering --"
"-- how close I've been to past partners. Y'know, that makes me wonder just what you mean by close."
"Because I'd like to know how you can say you're close to someone and not even tell them the name of the person you're dating."
Scully just stared at him for a long moment. She knew he was curious, but she never thought he'd come right out and ask. "Mulder, my private life is private," she said at length.
"So it is. But you've been awfully secretive lately, Scully, about that informant of yours and this guy. Why do you feel the need to keep all this to yourself? Don't friends share this kind of information?"
<The best defense is a good offense...> "I don't remember you ever telling me the sordid details of every date you've had since we've been partners," she said quietly.
"That's beside the point. This is obviously something more serious. Is there something about him you think you have to hide? Do I know him?"
"No," she lied smoothly.
"Then why can't you at least tell me his name?"
"So you can check up on him to make sure he's good enough for me? You're not my father, Mulder."
Now Mulder gave her what she mentally called his wounded puppy eyes. "I'd never invade your privacy that way," he said quietly. "Don't you know that?"
"Then why are you so desperate to know his name?"
"Why are you so desperate not to tell anybody?"
Scully could tell that he wasn't going to give up. She still didn't understand why he was so desperate to know, but he'd be relentless now. "Alan," she said, thinking quickly. "Alan Keller. Happy now?"
"What does he do?"
"Freelance security consulting. Want his shoe size too?"
The wounded puppy eyes again. "I just want to make sure you're okay, Scully --"
"I'm fine, Mulder," she huffed. "Don't you trust my judgment? Can't you, just once?"
"I wonder if you should trust your own judgment after Philadelphia."
She had to stifle a gasp. It was completely unlike Mulder to hit below the belt like that. "Philadelphia was an aberration," she said softly, making sure not to let him see that he'd gotten to her. "Completely unrelated to Alan."
"What about your informant?"
"What about him? He's an informant; has nothing to do with Alan or Philadelphia."
"Really?" Mulder gestured toward his computer. "You've passed along a lot of information lately. You must be seeing him pretty often, leaving poor Alan home all alone..."
"Completely unrelated," she repeated, more firmly. "And 'poor Alan' is just fine with it, thank you."
She was saved from further interrogation by a knock at the door. It opened, allowing A.D. Skinner to step into the office.
"Good morning, sir," Scully said brightly. "What can we do for you?"
Skinner glanced from Mulder to her and then back, knowing he'd interrupted something. Once Mulder's attention turned to him, he spoke. "There's been another Krycek sighting."
"Where?" Mulder asked, at the same time Scully asked, "Confirmed?"
"Near Ford's Theater," Skinner replied. "It's not confirmed, but the agent who filed this report is a veteran, and I think he knew Krycek. We need to pay attention to this one."
"Who was it?" Mulder asked.
Mulder nodded. "Good man. May I?" He held out his hand and Skinner relinquished the file folder he'd been holding.
"So is this investigation now official?" Scully asked, desperately wishing away the butterflies in her stomach.
Skinner sighed. "I think this warrants looking into. I'll assemble a small task force and we'll try to lay out some kind of strategy; maybe some stakeouts. I'll keep you advised."
Mulder looked up from the file. "This task force... it'll be people who know what they're doing, right? I don't want him to get away because of some rookie mistake."
"Veterans, Mulder. Good people who can be discreet."
Mulder nodded again. "If Krycek has any idea we're looking for him, he'll be out of here like a bat out of hell and we'll just be chasing our own tails."
Scully started to feel the noose tightening around her own neck. "Are we really sure it's Krycek?" she asked. "And if it is, what in the world is he doing? What's he doing at Ford's Theater? Pretending to be a tourist?"
Mulder and Skinner both turned to her, giving her funny looks. "We don't know yet what he's doing," Skinner finally said. "Or that it's him. That's why we have to watch for a while, doing nothing. We have to get a feel for where he's going and what he's up to."
"But we're watching officially now, right?" she asked. At Skinner's nod, she continued, "What if it's not him? Are we really justified in wasting the taxpayers' money if we're not sure?"
Funny looks from both of them again, and Scully mentally cursed Krycek. For all the worry he was putting her through, she deserved a big reward. If nothing else, he ought to let her tie him up. Sure, he *thought* she wouldn't know what to do with him...
She shook her head. "I'm sorry, what?"
"Meeting tomorrow morning in my office, first thing," Skinner said. "I'd like to try to get this wrapped up fast."
"Of course," Mulder said, rising to usher their boss out. "Thank you, sir."
Scully drummed her fingers on her desk, avoiding Mulder's gaze. <If you don't have a good explanation for this, Alex,> she thought, <you are a dead man.>
"You've been in D.C. off and on for a while, haven't you, Alex?"
Krycek lowered the newspaper he'd been reading. "Yeah, I guess. Why?"
"Have you ever done the whole tourist thing? You know, museums, sights, that sort of thing?"
Scully watched as a look she couldn't identify crossed his eyes. "No, not really. Never had time."
"You've never been to the Smithsonian? The Capitol? Ford's Theater?"
Now she could identify the look in those green eyes. He had something to hide. "No... Why?"
<Dammit, why do you keep doing this to me?> "You were seen last night near Ford's Theater," she said quietly.
"Dana, I was here last night," Krycek said smoothly. "With you. Remember, we --"
"I went to sleep afterwards," she interrupted. "And I know you're a night owl. I have no knowledge of what you do after I'm asleep."
"You think I leave here and go carousing every night?" His tone had just the right degree of indignation.
"You were seen by a veteran agent, one who knew you when you were with the Bureau. Was he mistaken too?"
"Probably. I don't know about you, but I'd like to know who this is who keeps masquerading --"
"Don't." Her quiet word stopped him. "Don't lie to me again, Alex."
His gaze challenged hers for a long moment, but then he sighed and gave in. "I had a meeting, okay? I *thought* nobody saw anything..."
"You might as well have had that meeting in the lobby of the Hoover building!" Scully cried. "Didn't you think you'd be seen?"
"At that hour? Besides, I didn't pick the venue," Krycek muttered.
"Never mind," she sighed. "Thanks to your meeting, Skinner's making the hunt for you official. He's organizing a task force. You have *got* to stop putting yourself in danger like that! It's important now."
"Frankly, I think I'm doing a remarkable job of *not* being seen," Krycek said. "Two sightings over five weeks is a pretty low percentage..."
"Not low enough. Can't you conduct your business outside the city?"
"Does it really matter? You're covering for me, aren't you?"
Scully sighed again. Would he ever get it? "Not if you don't take better precautions. I can only do so much. If you get caught, it's your own fault, and don't you dare try to lay it on me."
"Don't you have a vested interest in keeping me out of custody?"
"Yes, but I need your help. Why do you have to make everything so much harder than it has to be?"
Now he sighed. "Look, I'm trying to get a lead on somebody. When I do, I won't have to have all these late night meetings. Can't you hold Skinhead off until then?"
So that was what his mysterious business was all about. "Who are you trying to locate? Maybe I can help."
Krycek started to say something, then thought better of it. "Never mind," he murmured. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
He shook his head. "Can't. Not yet."
Did that mean he would confide in her someday? "Are you even close to locating this person?"
He thought that over for a second. "I think so," he said slowly. "I got some new information last night. With any luck it might lead somewhere."
That thought stirred up a vague unease in her. "What if you find... him? Does that mean the end of the deal?" Oddly enough, she didn't feel the relief she thought she'd feel at that idea. She wasn't sure exactly what it was she felt.
"Not necessarily. That depends on you."
She let out a breath she hadn't even realized she'd been holding. "But it does mean an end to the nocturnal activities?"
"One kind, at least," Krycek said with a leer.
Scully had never found such an expression arousing before, but now, after the tension of the day, she found it very much so. Besides, there was no point in arguing anymore. They knew each other's viewpoints already; further discussion would only annoy both of them. Nothing would change anyway, no matter how much they argued. And since she knew he could follow through on what that leer promised...
He seemed to pick up on this. "You seem a little tense, Dana," he said casually. "Anything I can do to take your mind off your troubles?"
A sudden idea sprang into her mind. What a way to take her mind off things... "Yes, as a matter of fact, there is." She stood up. "Remember what I said about the videos?"
"Ours?" At her nod, he continued, "You wanted to make more."
She turned and moved toward the bedroom. "Now?" she heard from behind her.
"Now, Comrade Director."
This time he didn't make her wait.
"So tell me," Krycek said, nuzzling at her ear, "why tape tonight?"
Scully allowed her head to fall back, exposing her throat to his lips. "Why not? Maybe I need some new material for when you're out on your late-night scavenger hunts."
He chuckled softly. "Tell me next time you do that. You'll score big deal points if you let me watch."
She raised her arms, allowing him to take her shirt off, then lay back against the pillow. "Make it good and I might."
He took a moment to remove some of his own clothing, and when he sat down next to her, he was down to t-shirt and boxers. "So," he said, stroking her cheek with a fingertip, "tell me what you like."
<Just get to it, that's what I'd like...> "What?"
He gently slid her pants off, leaving her in just her underwear. "It occurred to me that all this time, I've just assumed I knew what would make you feel good," he said, now running his fingertips around her ear and down her throat. "Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there's something you really like that I haven't done yet. Is there?"
She gasped softly as he left a trail of soft kisses over the ground his fingers had covered. "You're asking... asking what I like?"
"Mm-hmm." His fingers danced lightly across her collarbone. "C'mon, share."
"Mmm... That. I like that," she sighed softly as kisses again followed touch.
"Good choice. We sort of let foreplay fall by the wayside, didn't we?" Fingertips drew a feather-light trail between her breasts. "What else do you like?"
"I like..." She arched her back, allowing him the access to unhook her bra and lift it off her. "Like... I like most of what you've done... Mmmm, like that," she sighed as his fingertips lightly traced circles around one nipple. "Both, do both..."
"All in due time, Dana," he chuckled, then lapped gently at the same nipple. She moaned softly, arching upwards, wordlessly asking him to do more. He sucked briefly on that nipple and lightly bit it, drawing a gasp from her and sending a spark right to her groin. She was sure she'd come if he just kept doing that, but he moved on, his fingers now gently tracing the left side of her body,
from armpit to hip and back again.
"Like that, huh?" he murmured softly, touch giving way to feather- light kisses again.
"Mm-hmm. Do the other side too?"
"Mm... no, that's a little awkward." His fingers -- fingers of his right hand only -- now skimmed down her torso. "Let's just stay in the middle now, okay? All the fun stuff's there anyway." He covered her abdomen with kisses, licked lightly at her navel. "If you can't tell me what you like, can you tell me how you like it?"
Krycek was tracing little circles on her inner thigh now, and she felt herself growing wetter with each circle. "How I like it?"
"Mm-hmm. You like it slow and gentle?" He licked lightly at the thigh he'd already set on fire, his tongue inching ever so close to where she wanted it...
"Mmmyeah, slow's good. Anything's good..."
She could feel his breath now between her legs, through the cloth of her panties. She felt rather than heard him speak.
"You like it rough, don't you?" His tongue darted out and found her clitoris even through her panties. She cried out softly, so close to orgasm, but not over the edge yet. Not unless he did that again...
"You do like it rough, don't you?" he repeated, now licking around the edge of her panties. "You like to be fucked fast and hard, don't you, Dana? I know you do."
"Ohhhh, yeah, like it," she sighed. "Like it rough. Just like it."
"Thought so." His tongue touched on her clit again, but moved away too quickly. "So tell me how you want it tonight. Tell me what you want to do for the camera."
Camera. Camera? Her head snapped up and she looked toward the closet, but she didn't see anything. Where had he said the lens was? Was it on yet? "Camera on?"
He kissed his way up her body, dipped his tongue into her ear as he reached toward the bedside table. "Is now," he breathed. "C'mon, tell me what you want."
"I, um..." Suddenly it didn't matter that he was sucking on her nipple, or licking at her thigh. All she could think of was the camera, recording for posterity her every move, every action, every little thing he did to her, every little thing she did in response. Every little thing, like allowing the man her partner hated most in the world to remove her panties and... and...
"Dana?" Krycek was looking at her expectantly. "What do you want me to do?"
"Oh, um... do whatever you want," she said, letting her head fall back on the pillow again. "Just get on with it, okay?" <Get on with it and don't make me think about what I'm doing...>
He shrugged. "If you insist," he said, and then his head was between her legs.
It was good, it was always good, she always came when he did that, came quickly... but it didn't feel right this time. Every time she tried to relax and feel what he was doing, the image of the small camera sprang into her head, its little red light blinking in the darkness of the closet. She could see what the camera saw; could see herself allowing Alex Krycek, liar, traitor, and murderer, to take her clit into his mouth. She could see it, but she could no longer feel it.
She shook the image from her head and tried to concentrate on what he was doing, what he was supposed to be making her feel. It worked at first, as she felt the pressure inside building, building... but the camera came to mind again. She was about to have an orgasm on camera, thanks to the ministrations of a wanted felon. On tape, where anyone could see it, see her behaving like the whore she'd become.
With a small cry she jerked away from Krycek and sat up. He looked up at her, confused. "Dana? What --"
"Nothing, Alex, it's nothing," she said quickly, stretching out again. "It's just... I'm not in the mood for that, okay?"
"Not in the mood for... since when?"
"Just not tonight, please?"
"Want me to stop?"
Scully looked up at him, seeing the animal lust in his eyes. Would he stop if she told him to? Not likely, not if he really felt what his eyes showed. And she knew he did; that erection didn't lie. How could she make him stop?
Maybe she didn't have to. Maybe she could make it through if it was over quickly. She had to; this was all for her partner, for the case. She had to do it. What made this time so different from the who knew how many other times she'd allowed him inside her body?
<Don't think about the camera,> she told herself. <Don't think, just do it.> "No, don't stop," she said softly. "Just... just not that, all right?"
His eyes locked on hers for another long moment before he shrugged and took off his t-shirt. "Whatever you want," he said, slipping out of his boxers.
It occurred to her now that the brain was without question the most important sex organ. Her preoccupation had all but destroyed her arousal, and she felt dry as a bone. Her gaze moved over his large, very hard penis. She knew it could hurt even when she was very wet and desperately wanted him. There was no way in hell this was going to work.
Krycek noted her hesitation. "You sure?" he asked.
<For the case. For Mulder. You can do it.> "Yes, but... I don't think... Do you have..." Her voice trailed off. What in the world made her think he'd have anything?
He looked at her a moment longer, then leaned across the bed and rummaged in the drawer of what he obviously thought of as his table. He came up with a small bottle, and was about to pour some of the contents into his hand when he looked up at Scully again. "Are you really sure?" he asked again. "If you're not, I need to know *right* *now.*"
<Stop asking me and get on with it!> "Yes, I'm sure." She held out her hand. "May I?"
He relinquished the bottle, and she squeezed a little of the lube into her hand, warming it. With long, light strokes, she coated his organ with it, inducing shivers in her partner and reducing him to soft moans. The sounds and the effects her hands had on him struck a chord in her too, and she found her arousal coming back. It was just sex, wasn't it? Not something she'd never done before. Getting through it would be easy.
And it was easy, at least at first. He slid effortlessly inside her and started moving with a quick but smooth rhythm. Her body responded, opening to him, moving with him, moving swiftly toward an inevitable climax...
Scully shook her head, unable to get the image of the blinking red light out of her mind. She could even hear it; the soft whirring of the machine as it recorded their every move. Her body stiffened again and she pushed at Krycek, but he took no notice. He shifted position, riding high now, giving her the clitoral stimulation she needed to come, but again, she barely felt it. All she felt was the glare of the lens, focused on her.
It wouldn't work. She wasn't going to come. She couldn't, not knowing that the tape was running. All she wanted now was to get this over with, get the tape out of the machine and destroy it.
Krycek was holding back, waiting for her. <Now, how do I know that?> she asked herself. <Oh, God, what's wrong with me? How could I know something like that about somebody like him? How could I let this happen?>
She wrapped her arms around him and drew him down closer to her. "Not gonna come," she whispered. "Finish."
His pace picked up, and she just lay back and closed her eyes as he slammed furiously into her. <This is how the professionals do it,> she thought. <They don't feel. Just take what's dished out and accept payment later. No feeling at all.>
But she did feel something. His frantic strokes were starting to hurt now, and she knew she'd be very sore in the morning. <Finish,> she silently begged. <Just finish, end it, get this over with, get out of me, get away from me...> As if on cue, he gave one final, savage thrust and with a low moan, emptied himself inside her.
Still breathing hard, he barely had time to pull out before she shoved him away from her and curled up on her side near her edge of the bed, pulling the blanket up to her chin.
"Dana?" She could hear confusion in his voice, but she only gathered the blanket more tightly around herself.
"Dana, what the hell happened?"
His hand fell on her shoulder, and she jerked away from him as if burned. "Don't touch me!"
"C'mon, Dana, what's going on here?"
He touched her again, and again she recoiled from him. "I said, don't touch me!" she hissed.
To his credit, he didn't. But that didn't make it any easier not to cry.
She was much too quiet.
Krycek stole a glance to the side, at Scully's motionless form on the other side of the bed. Still recoiling from him post-sex. He knew now that that practice wouldn't change any time soon.
She was often quiet after sex, if for no other reason than to get some sleep before work. But there was a different quality to this quiet. Waves of something else -- frustration? anger? humiliation? -- were coming off her, and he wasn't quite sure what to do about it.
Surely part of it had to be sexual frustration. For the first time in their shared history, she hadn't come. Even on that first night, when she turned around and called it rape, she came. She had to be harboring some pretty deep-seated inhibitions to be so self- conscious just because she knew she was being videotaped. What other reason could there be for her not coming? It couldn't have been any failure on his part; she was tense, practically shaking, from the moment he turned the recorder on, and he couldn't seem to get through to her no matter what he did. And she wouldn't let him touch her afterwards, after he turned off the tape and offered to finish her off if she wanted.
So this time it hadn't been good for her. Only because of the tape? If so, there was a simple solution. They could agree that it was better if he chose which sessions would be taped, and do so without her knowledge, the same way the first two tapes were made.
Of course, that would require that they talk. Didn't look like there'd be any of that in the near future. Still, it didn't hurt to try.
"Dana?" Krycek said softly. No reply, but he continued anyway. "I'm sorry it didn't work out."
She didn't move.
"We can try again if you want..."
The word was soft and sort of muffled, but at least it was a start. "I don't mean the taping, I meant --"
"I know what you meant. No."
He gently touched her shoulder, but she wrenched away from him. Okay, bad idea. Words seemed to be all right, so he tried again. "Really, if I'd known it was going to freak you out like that, I wouldn't --"
"Shut up," she said, her voice still muffled. "Just shut up, will you?"
Okay, maybe it wasn't sexual frustration. But something was definitely up. "Dana, what's wrong?"
Her body was shaking gently now, and he knew she was crying. It wasn't *that* bad, was it? "Dana --"
"Everything!" she burst out. "Everything's wrong, okay? This whole deal..."
Back to that subject again. "Dana, we've been over this," he said patiently. "You led me to believe you were okay with the deal. If you feel differently about it now, I don't know --"
"Okay with it?" she broke in. "How am I supposed to be okay with something that makes me feel like --"
Her words abruptly stopped, and it didn't look like she was going to finish the thought. "Like what?" he asked.
Krycek thought he knew what she was going to say, but needed to hear it. "Dana? Like what?"
The reply finally came, in a tiny voice. "Like a whore."
Bingo. Not a surprising sentiment, but a little unexpected that she still felt that way. Hadn't her attitude been very different since her trip? Shouldn't she be over this by now?
Maybe it was the tape. That really seemed to screw with her head. But she was the one who wanted it... "I'm sorry," he said.
"I just bet you are!" she snapped.
"I am sorry. If there was any other way to structure this deal, I would've done it. Don't you know that?"
"No. It didn't have to be this way." Her voice was muffled again.
"It did. I'm not about to give away information for nothing, and there's nothing else you can offer me." That was actually not far from the truth.
"How about immunity? Isn't that how deals like this usually go?"
Krycek sighed. "That's not in your power to give. I doubt if you could even arrange it."
"Why me? Why not go to Mulder? You usually do."
"Not for the big picture. I don't want him. I want you."
"So you ask me to prostitute myself." Her voice was soft and shaky.
A little spike of guilt stabbed at him. "You knew what you were getting into," he said. "You knew how it would be. You agreed to it. You said you could handle it."
No answer, but he could see her trembling lightly.
"And that was a bad analogy."
That got Scully's attention. She turned halfway toward him. "What?"
"The whore thing. What you're doing is different."
She turned a little more. "Excuse me?"
"I'm serious. Let's look at this, shall we? Hookers get only one thing out of what they do -- money. You --"
"I get one thing, too. Information."
"Oh, come on, Dana. You know you get more out of it than that. Information wasn't the only reason you agreed to the deal."
"Oh?" He could almost see the upraised eyebrow that went with that tone.
"Yes, oh. Think about it. Do you think hookers enjoy what they do? Do you think any of them ever has an orgasm when they do it for money? Well, you enjoy it. You come all the time... well, most of the time. They do it because they think they have to. You do it because you want to. You're in this as much for the sex as for the information."
She turned over and curled up again. "I'm in this because you wouldn't let me out of it." Her voice trembled a little again.
Krycek sighed, trying to beat back that sliver of guilt. "I'm trying, Dana. I'm trying to make this good for you. I want you to enjoy it." He laid his hand on her shoulder and she shook it off, but not as violently as before. "I really am sorry," he said softly.
"That doesn't make it any easier. This is just so... it's still very difficult."
He didn't know what else to say, so he said it again. "I'm sorry."
Neither of them moved or spoke for what felt like a long time. Finally Scully sighed heavily. "I had a really bad day," she said, very quietly.
Krycek turned toward her, but didn't speak.
"And the tape... I can't, Alex. All I could think about was the recorder. I can't do it if I know you're taping."
That sounded encouraging. "What if you didn't know? You didn't know about the others and you were okay."
Another long silence, followed by another long sigh. "It might be better if I don't know when it's happening."
Very encouraging indeed. "Okay, we can do that. So... what happened today?"
"Mulder was asking questions. He asked about you."
"Well, my boyfriend. My informant. I had to make up some things."
"We'll have to go through that some other time." He touched her shoulder again, and this time she didn't draw away. He ran his hand gently up and down her arm. "I really, really am sorry about this, Dana," he said. "Are you going to be okay?"
Another sigh. "I suppose so."
"Can you handle this deal? Really handle it?"
Krycek held his breath while she considered his question. Finally she repeated, "I suppose so."
"If you'd just admit to yourself that you like it, you'd feel a lot better about all this."
Now she pushed his hand away. "Don't push it, Alex."
For a change, he took her advice.
Mulder accepted the disk Scully gave him several days later, but didn't dive right into exploring it, as he usually did. This time, she felt his gaze follow her to her desk, and when she looked up, his eyes were firmly fixed on her. "What?" she asked.
"Scully," he said at length, "something about this whole setup stinks. In fact, everything about it does."
A feeling of unease settled over her, but she made an effort to sound normal. "The information isn't any good? You haven't even looked at it yet."
He shook his head. "Not the information, the setup. Are you sure you know what you're doing?"
"I know exactly what I'm doing, Mulder," she said patiently. "Everything's fine."
"Has it occurred to you that this informant of yours could be dangerous? Think about it. He's obviously in with them, the smoker and his group, or he wouldn't have this stuff. How do you know they -- or he -- won't take you again?"
"Why would they do that? What else could they possibly do to me that they haven't already done?"
"They could kill you this time."
"They already have!"
The words came out sharper than she'd intended, but they had the desired effect on Mulder. They had an effect on her too; the fear that she usually managed to keep at bay suddenly started gnawing away at her insides. She took a deep breath, trying to calm herself, but the fear only receded part way.
"Why come to you and not me?" Mulder asked after a moment.
"Maybe he knows your track record with informants, bothering them at all hours of the night and demanding information. Maybe he knows you wouldn't be patient and abide by a deal --"
"Maybe the guy knows I wouldn't sleep with him."
That again. "Mulder, I've told you time and time again that my boyfriend is not my informant. Why is that concept so difficult for you to grasp?"
"Maybe because the timing's just a little too perfect," Mulder said. "You meet this guy. Suddenly a week later, you have this informant and a mysterious deal. What are you doing for him, Scully?"
"Maybe I'm giving him tango lessons," she said smoothly.
He arched an eyebrow. "Horizontal tango?"
She sighed heavily. "Do you honestly think I'd go that far just to get information? Do you really think that little of me?" <You don't have to, Mulder, I think little enough of myself already.>
"I think you'd go that far if your informant said he could cure your cancer. That hypothetical scenario wasn't so hypothetical, was it?"
<*Can* he cure me?> "Come on, Mulder, there isn't any cure! You and I both know that!"
"No." Mulder shook his head. "There is a cure. I know it, and somebody in that group knows it -- and knows what it is."
"Tell me something, Mulder. Tell me why somebody in that group would give me information *and* cure my cancer? Doesn't that sound a little one-sided to you?"
"Maybe it's not so one-sided if you're sleeping with him."
"I'm not sleeping with him," she said flatly.
"Okay, let's move on... for now." Mulder moved around his desk and sat on the edge of it. "What about Krycek?"
<Uh-oh...> "What about Krycek?"
"You tell me, Scully. You don't seem particularly motivated to catch him."
That feeling of unease grew stronger. "What do you mean? I want him in custody as much as you do."
"Do you, Scully? That's not how it sounds to me," Mulder said. "All I hear from you is let's wait, we have to be careful, take it slow, make sure we don't waste the taxpayers' money. If I didn't know you like I do, I'd almost say you were stalling, maybe covering for him."
"Mulder, I --"
"And there's only one reason I can think of for you to do that."
She fixed a steady gaze on him, hoping that the extreme discomfort she felt didn't show. "Mulder, what are you suggesting?"
"What does it sound like I'm suggesting? Sure looks like you've had some contact with him. What is it, Scully? Is he your informant?"
"Why would he come to me? He goes to you. He likes to mess with your head."
"Maybe he wants to mess with your head this time. Answer the question, please?"
She should've known avoidance techniques wouldn't work with Mulder. "No, Krycek is not my informant," she said, realizing as she spoke that she had unconsciously crossed her fingers behind her back.
"Why wasn't your boyfriend at your birthday party?"
Mulder had obviously been thinking about all this for a while. His mind was moving quickly, skipping around between subjects, and Scully felt like she was swimming against the current trying to keep up. "I told you, he was home in bed with the flu."
"Yet you came to work the next day wearing that very lovely gift from him."
"I went to see him after the party." At least that much was the truth. "I wanted to make sure he was all right. He gave me the earrings then."
"Just handed you the box? Just like that?"
She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned against her own desk. "He wanted me to have them, even though we couldn't celebrate until he felt better."
"Mm-hmm." Now Mulder paced slowly around the office. "Or maybe there's something about the guy you don't want other people to know. Maybe that he's a wanted felon?"
"How dare you?" she cried, letting just the right note of indignation into her voice. "How dare you even suggest that! He tried to kill me! What on earth makes you think I'd even touch that man, let alone sleep with him?"
"You think I liked coming to that conclusion? You think I like the thought of you having any contact, of whatever type, with him?"
"Then don't think about it," she said, calming down. "It's not true, Mulder. My boyfriend and my informant are two different people, and neither one of them is Krycek. I haven't seen him since right before you dragged him off to Russia and lost him."
Mulder shook his head slowly. "The pieces fit together just a little too neatly, Scully."
"Haven't you ever heard of coincidence?"
"There's no such thing as coincidence."
"How about trust, then? You say you trust me, Mulder. Don't you trust me to tell you the truth about something so important?"
He didn't answer for a moment; just looked at her. Finally he said, "Who's your informant?"
"I don't know his name, or anything else about him. He's just a contact. No information."
He nodded. "And if I called Mr. Alan Keller about a new security system for my apartment, would anybody know what I was talking about?"
Scully smiled faintly. Thanks to Krycek's computer skills, Alan Keller, security consultant, now existed -- at least on paper. She had no doubt that Krycek could make him exist in the flesh too, if it became important for him to surface. "Of course, Mulder. Please do," she said, betting that he wouldn't. "I'll get you his card if you like."
The soft snort told her he wasn't going to call her bluff... yet. "And you really haven't seen Krycek?"
"No, Mulder. Not since November."
"You'd tell me if you did?"
"Of course, Mulder. I just don't want him to slip away like he's done the last few times."
Mulder came to rest at the edge of his desk again, fixing anxious eyes on hers. "Can you look me in the eye and swear to me that you haven't had contact with him?"
She gazed serenely back at him. "I haven't had any contact with Alex Krycek. Satisfied?" Her fingers were crossed behind her back again.
He looked at her a moment longer, then rubbed at his eyes. "Okay, if you say so, Scully. It's all just coincidence."
"Yes." She moved closer and gently touched his arm. "You're paranoid, Mulder. You see conspiracies in everything. Sometimes they're just not there."
He chuckled softly. "I'd have a hard time imagining Krycek giving gifts, anyway."
Scully smiled. "See, Mulder? There's also a lot of things about your speculations that don't fit, that don't make sense. There's nothing to it. Nothing at all."
Mulder smiled too. "I guess you're right. Thanks for clearing that up."
They both sat down to work, but the gentle chill that crept up Scully's spine suggested to her that Mulder wasn't completely convinced.
Krycek slipped smoothly inside the back door of the bar and eased into the last booth in the back. He didn't realize until he was safely hidden in the corner of the booth how wary he had been coming here. All the old instincts were coming back; his senses seemed sharper, more acute than they had at any time since he'd taken up residence at Scully's, and he felt the presence of that heightened sixth sense that had allowed him to survive in the past when he shouldn't have. That sense had been dulled, practically non- existent, lately, but on this night it came readily back and fit him like an old, familiar glove.
He took a moment to scan his surroundings. Casey's was never the most popular hangout, but it was still the choice of discerning Fibbies, which was probably why Skinner had chosen it for his team. The work was underway now, stakeouts were scheduled, and the hunt was on. There they all were, off duty now, gathered up front around the bar and the first few booths. There were a lot of them, but there were also enough casually-clothed patrons around that his jeans and leather jacket wouldn't stand out among all the suits and topcoats up front.
As he surveyed the area, Krycek asked himself for about the fifteenth time that night what the hell he was doing. This was crazy; there was just no other word for it. He used to take chances like this because he had to, just to stay alive. Now he was taking them because he wanted to get laid. <Alex, my friend,> he told himself, <your priorities have really gone to hell.>
But that assessment wasn't quite right. If all he wanted was to get off, he reasoned, he could've gotten out those videos he'd recently made and jerked off all night. No, what he really wanted, needed, was the excitement; the thrill of the chase. He'd lived on the edge for a long time; long enough that it would take more than just a few weeks with the little redhead to domesticate him. He wasn't sure he even could be domesticated. He was safe and comfortable at Scully's, but he still felt the need to venture into dangerous territory on occasion, testing those old skills, seeing if he still had it. Seeing if he'd still be able to survive in the hard, unforgiving world if the deal somehow went wrong. And reminding himself just how nice "safe and comfortable" could be.
So here he was, in the lion's den. Not the most dangerous situation he could put himself into, but pretty close. Dangerous enough to make the sex really hot...
Pushing that thought to the back of his mind, he tuned back in to his surroundings in time to flirt with the waitress while giving her his order for a double vodka. One more point in favor of these occasional excursions to the danger zone: ego stroking and confirmation that he could still bag somebody other than the Ice Queen if he so chose.
Krycek sat back, sipping his drink and keeping an eye on the two young women at a nearby table who were checking him out, making a bet with himself about which one would approach him first. *Would* he ever choose to bang somebody other than Frosty the Fibbie? The deal didn't provide for that, but didn't prohibit it either, and sometimes he just thought he could use a break. After all, the deal was strictly a sexual thing. When they weren't having sex, Scully treated him at best as a roommate she didn't particularly like, and at worst... well, that didn't bear thinking about. Granted, things were more often at the better end of the spectrum, but he sometimes wondered what it would be like now with someone else. Someone who didn't make him feel guilty. How would it feel to lose a few hours with someone who didn't hate his guts; didn't care who he was or what he'd done? How different would it be to be with someone who'd happily do things solely for his pleasure?
Different, without a doubt. Maybe even pretty good. But worth the trouble? There were risks to getting involved with anyone else, including the fact that he could unwittingly run into a Consortium assassin or some psycho. There were other drawbacks too -- Scully would laugh if she knew he found the necessary condom use to be one of them. But two major things held him back from encouraging those two young women or doing anything more than flirting with the waitress. The first was that there was no woman on earth he wanted more than Dana Scully, thus rendering any outside-the-deal excursions both meaningless and unsatisfying on so many levels. The other was the knowledge that he could never have the kind of control over another woman that he had over Scully.
That wasn't to say that the deal didn't have its advantages. Krycek watched Scully, perched on a bar stool just at the edge of a group of agents, a group that included Mulder and Skinner, who were engaged in conversation. She listened absently, making an occasional comment, but she was mostly lost in her own thoughts. He allowed his gaze to sweep over her, taking in the brilliant blue eyes, near-perfect figure, shapely legs. She was easily the most beautiful woman in the room, that don't-mess-with-me vibe only adding to her allure. Hell, he was getting hard just watching her. Just watching her sit there. Dana Scully, Ice Queen, could make breathing sexy.
What he hadn't known, what nobody in the place could've known, was that she was pure fire in bed. Despite, or maybe because of, her relative inexperience, she was outrageously responsive, much more so than any partner he'd ever had. Practically everything he did got her off; something he'd never been able to do before. He knew he was good, but she had to be really starved for that to happen. That being the case, was it really him she wanted, or just his dick? Would anybody else's dick do just as well?
Evidence suggested otherwise. Starved or not, she turned all suitors away. That was probably a good thing at this point. Krycek was pretty sure he'd have to beat the shit out of any guy who dared to approach her. She was his territory now; his to play with however he chose. He was the one in her bed every night, the one who belonged there. He was the one who broke down all her walls; who gave her what she needed; who made her scream with pleasure every night.
The only problem was that breaking down her walls and unleashing her inner hedonist had been... too easy. And he was probably enjoying it far too much.
Or maybe he was just bored. Maybe that explained the waitress and the two girls. Maybe that was what was behind those uncharacteristic thoughts about sex that was more give-and-take, instead of him giving and his partner taking. Sure, there were things that he didn't, couldn't get from Scully, but was it worth it to look for them in somebody else's bed? In the long run, no. He could give and not take with Scully because it was all part of the mindfuck. He wasn't sure he could do it in another situation; one that he didn't have full control over. Besides, he suspected he wasn't wired to provide the required emotional component. He was too busy looking out for himself; when did he have time to care about anybody else? Better to forget other women and get what he could from Scully.
She didn't give a whole lot, but she had indeed surprised him more than once since the deal started. The biggest surprise? That she couldn't get enough. Going into this, he hadn't expected that her sex drive would be anywhere close to as strong as his, but it seemed to match and maybe even surpass it. Picky as she was, she had somehow managed to put aside her personal issues regarding him and what she thought he'd done in order to get the deal moving. She could've said no, but she'd made those personal compromises in order to sleep with him. With *him.* She couldn't get enough of *him.* What would she do if he ever said no to her? *Could* he ever say no to her?
Krycek pushed that thought out of his mind. Scully might be getting in deeper than she'd intended, but he wasn't... was he? He was as much in control as he'd always been. That was why he was even in the bar in the first place. The inevitable sex would be only a highly enjoyable by- product of his real mission. His true objective was to engage in some mindfucking. He'd managed to melt the Ice Queen in private -- and oh, how gloriously and thoroughly she had melted -- so now it was time to up the ante a little. Could he melt her in public as easily as he'd done in private?
The taller, blonder of the two women nearby had just risen and started to approach him (thus allowing him to win his mental bet) when Scully's gaze fell on him. He raised his glass and winked at her, noting with some satisfaction that her facade cracked and her jaw dropped for at least ten seconds before she recovered. She leaned forward and whispered a few words to Mulder, then stalked to the back of the bar and slid into the booth, across from him. "What the hell are you doing here?" she demanded.
Krycek smiled to himself. The little redhead was good and pissed already. If he played his cards right, this could be one *hot* encounter... "Having a drink. What does it look like?"
Scully glanced over her shoulder, making sure nobody had followed her. "You had to leave the house just to drink?"
"Drinking all alone at home, all by myself? You want to turn me into an alcoholic or something?"
She wasn't amused. "Alex, get out of here," she hissed. "Now."
"Afraid one of your colleagues will see you with me?" he purred. "It'd be very, very easy to get out of that, y'know. All you have to do is arrest me." <You could blow this deal straight to hell any time you want to, Little Red,> he thought. <Why don't you? Or don't you know that you can?>
He watched her mentally process his words for about thirty seconds before rejecting the idea. "And let you tell them all about our deal? Not on your life!"
Did she have any idea what she looked like when she was riled up? He had to close his eyes and think of something, anything, other than her for a moment, or else he'd get too hard, too fast. He took a deep breath and focused on her again. "Go back to your friends and let me finish my drink in peace, okay?"
"No. Home. *Now.*"
Home? His home, too? Krycek laughed softly. This was going too well. Time to push another button... "If I'm going home, I'm not going alone."
"I'm not ready to leave yet," Scully said firmly.
"Who said anything about you?" He let his gaze drift to the two young women at the table, knowing that Scully would look too. He nodded toward the taller one. "How 'bout if I take her home with me? She's kinda cute..."
He heard her sharp intake of breath and expected her to lash out at him, but she didn't. She took another deep breath and said quietly, "You can't. We have a deal."
He shrugged. "So? The deal doesn't prohibit --"
"And just where do you think you're going to take her?" Scully seethed quietly, cutting him off. "My bed?"
Her bed. Their home, but not their bed, her bed. Well, at least now he knew that the little redhead was susceptible to the green-eyed monster, too... "Okay, so we'd go to a motel. I bet she wouldn't mind at all." He stole a glance at Scully, noting the flush across her cheeks and her increased respiration rate. "She'd probably suck me too, if I wanted," he continued, knowing that was one thing Scully'd never do for him. The request was on the table; she could do with it what she wanted. Time to start moving in for the kill. "I bet she'd even fuck me right here if I asked her to."
He heard her small sigh and smiled to himself. Arousing her was just too damn easy. Making her want what he wanted, even if she found it abhorrent, was only slightly more challenging. Now he just had to get her to say the words... "Want me to tell you what I'd do to her?"
No answer, but he could hear her breathing faster and saw out of the corner of his eye that she couldn't look at him anymore. Wouldn't be long now. "I think I'd start with the jeans," Krycek said, still facing the girl but watching Scully. "I'd leave the shirt alone for a while. Sure, I'd start off with a little nipple attention, especially since she's not wearing a bra, but that's just preliminary. The actual start would be the jeans. They'd come off real fast."
A small sound came from the redhead, and he turned a little more toward her. She was probably playing the scenario out in her mind. He wouldn't have to push her much further at all before she caved. "See, sometimes it's incredibly sexy to give a woman oral sex while she's still half- clothed. Makes you feel like you're doing something you're not supposed to; kinda like her husband or boyfriend is going to walk in on you or something. So I'd do that. I'd start slow, teasing her. You know all about that teasing, don't you, Dana? Think she'd like it? I bet she would. Bet she wouldn't come as fast as you, though. But that's okay; it lets me experiment. Nothing too fancy for starters, just a lot of licking. Lots of tiny, light little licks, eventually concentrating on her clit. That'd make her come. I wonder if she's a screamer. Do you think she screams when she comes, Dana? I wonder if she comes as easily as you. Think she'd like it as much as you do if I --"
The single soft word stopped him, and he looked fully at her. Her eyes met his now, the feral glare practically burning through him, her chest heaving with every breath. She sat perfectly still, but her entire bearing suggested a panther about to pounce. The Ice Queen was gone, replaced by his fire goddess. Aroused as he already was by the images his story created in his own mind, that look was almost enough to send him over the edge, but he managed to get himself under control and return her gaze calmly. "Yes, Dana?"
"Not her. Me. Do that to me. Take me home now and do that to me."
He took a deep breath to calm himself, willing his erection, already uncomfortable, not to move on to painful. "I was going to have another drink," he said nonchalantly.
Paydirt. Scully leaned across the table, grabbed him and kissed him hard, savagely... possessively. He returned her kisses just as hungrily, only stopping when neither of them could breathe anymore. Between kisses he managed to gasp, "You want it right here?"
More kisses. Damn, the way the woman sucked on his tongue it was a damn shame she didn't do blow jobs...
"Car..." she breathed.
"Hallway." More kisses. "In the back."
More kisses. "Bathroom."
His hand, which had been tangled in the hair at the back of her neck, slipped forward and found her breast. "Sink."
She moaned softly and arched into his caress. "Sink. *Now.*"
Somehow they were able to slip away toward the bathrooms without anyone noticing, and without running into anyone. Without being aware of running into anyone, at least. Two minutes after their negotiations were concluded, Krycek had Scully perched on the edge of a sink in the ladies' room, skirt hiked up around her waist, her legs wrapped around his waist, greedily kissing him.
They tore at each other's clothing, succeeding in banishing her suit jacket and his leather jacket to the floor. He barely felt her scrabbling with his zipper as he tore at her pantyhose, unable to find any way to get rid of them. She wasn't helping either, grinding herself against his hand. "Now, Alex," she moaned into his mouth. "Now, I need you in me now..."
God, he needed to be in her, but the damn hosiery... "Fuck!" he growled, tearing at the things. She gasped and opened her legs a little more, and finally he felt a hole in the nylon. He took hold of the edge of the hole and yanked fiercely at it, finally creating a space big enough to get his hand through. He ripped further, stopping only when he heard Scully yelp.
Her kisses assured him that he hadn't hurt her... or, if he had, that she didn't care. Her trembling fingers finally managed to free his cock, and without further ado he shoved her panties aside and drove frantically into her.
He set a fast, furious pace, slamming roughly into her, half expecting her to tell him to stop, but he couldn't. He couldn't stop now if his life depended on it.
It didn't look like she could stop either. She opened herself further to him, hooked her legs around his body and pulled him deeper inside her. He felt her hands roaming over his chest, his back, as he kissed her, driving his tongue into her mouth and eagerly accepting her tongue in his.
This was too intense; sensory overload. He knew he wouldn't last long, he was close already and knew she was too by the sounds she was making. <Come for me, Little Red. Right here, right now, with all your friends just a few feet away...>
Suddenly she gasped slightly and her body stiffened. It wasn't an orgasm, he could feel that. Pulling back a bit, he looked at her face, and saw that she was staring at a point behind him. He shifted his gaze up into the mirror, seeing the reflection of the door... and the two girls he'd been flirting with frozen in front of it.
<An audience? Must be time to put on a show.> "Ignore 'em," he whispered to Scully as he licked her ear. With one hand he ripped at her blouse and pulled her bra back, then bent his head to suck on her nipple. He quickened the pace of his thrusts at the same time, drawing a breathy moan from Scully and laughter from somewhere behind him.
The laughter abruptly stopped, and all he heard was Scully's sounds of pleasure. They were alone again, she was into it again, and suddenly she was coming, the strong spasms inside her caressing, squeezing his cock. He was close already; could feel a mother of an orgasm coiling up from deep in his balls, and Scully's climax was all it took to send him over the edge, too. He pulled her closer, burying his own cry of pleasure in her kisses as he felt himself explode deep inside her.
He cradled her limp body close to his, unable to tell which of them was trembling. It had been good before, but this... <Fuck all that stuff she doesn't give,> he thought, covering the top of her head with small kisses. <Just fuck it. Don't need it. Just let it always be like this, always feel like this...>
Her head still buried against his shoulder, Scully's muffled voice reached his ears. "I really, really, really hate you, Alex."
<That's my Little Red.> "Hate me all you want," he whispered, "just keep fucking me like that."
Now her head came up. "What?"
<Shit. Too much information...> "The old men," Krycek said quickly. "The faster they go down, the better."
Scully pulled back a little and studied him. "I should just kill you and get it over with," she finally said.
<With my cock still inside you? You little deviant, you. You're learning...> "You don't want to do that." He bent his head and captured a nipple between his teeth, through the fabric of her blouse, and was rewarded with a gasp as she arched up toward him.
"Oh, *God*, I hate you," she moaned, her hands slipping around his neck.
"That's good. Hate's a good thing..."
"You're only in this for the sex..."
He nudged her clothing out of the way and took her bare nipple into his mouth. "This surprises you?"
"This is all your choice. You goad me into it when *you* want it."
"Like you need goading..."
"It's true! Like this..."
"I wasn't the one begging for it out there in the booth."
"I wasn't begging..."
He turned his attention to her other breast, eliciting a long moan from her. "So what are you going to do about it?"
Her breath caught for a moment, then she nudged his face up to hers and kissed him. "Nothing," she whispered.
"Nope. But you're going to do something about it."
"And that is...?"
"Take me home and do to me what you said you wanted to do to that girl."
True paydirt now. "Home?"
"Uh-huh. And where at home are we going to do this?"
"In bed, where else?"
<Say it, Red...> "Where?"
"Bed. What's the matter with you?"
He gave a sharp thrust of his hips, making her throw back her head and cry out with a surprise climax. "Where?"
"Bed. *Our* bed," she breathed. "Our bed."
"Since you put it like that, let's go." He slipped out of her and got dressed, but paused when he saw that she hadn't moved. "Dana, come on. Unless you want it again here. Maybe we can do it right on the bar this time."
"Alex..." She pulled at her clothing, trying to rearrange it. "Look what you did! I can't go out there like this!"
He took a good look at her, and had to admit that she was right. Her skirt was a wrinkled mess, her silk blouse was savagely torn in the front, rendering her unable to sufficiently cover herself, and there was a big run in one leg of her pantyhose.
He picked up her discarded jacket and handed it to her. "If you put this on and button it up, would it hide most of the damage?"
She tucked in what was left of her blouse and put on the jacket. "I guess so... as long as nobody looks too closely."
"You're not going to see anybody anyway. We're leaving, remember?"
"But I have to see Mulder. I left my things with him."
"So... keep the jacket closed, grab your stuff, and tell him you had a nosebleed. He leaves you alone when you have those, doesn't he?"
"Usually, but..." She pulled at her pantyhose, succeeding only in lengthening the run. "I think you scratched me."
"How am I supposed to explain this run? It didn't come from a nosebleed..."
"Don't linger. Just get your stuff, tell him you have to go home, and leave. How hard is that?"
He watched from the back hall, outside the bathrooms, as Scully picked up her coat and bag and spoke with Mulder. Mulder stood, like he'd offered to drive her home, but Scully put him off. Krycek waited until she was moving toward the bar's front door before turning toward the back door.
He suddenly came face to face with the two girls he'd been flirting with. He flashed them a smile and a wink as he moved past them.
The shorter one started giggling. The taller one flipped him the bird.
Krycek left the bar through the back door, whistling.
Scully's hands were shaking as she tried to fit her keys into the lock. She didn't know if it was because she thought too much, because she'd been having so much out-of-this-world sex lately, or maybe because of PMS, but she was almost desperate. Sex had been on her mind all day, all week since the bar incident, and she wanted it, needed it right now.
She finally managed to unlock the door and was ready to pounce on Krycek... until she noticed that he wasn't paying attention to her. He was sitting on the sofa, having a beer.
With her mother.
Scully just stood there in the doorway, gaping at the tableau before her, until Krycek rose and approached her. "There you are. Missed you..." he said, as he swept her into his arms and greeted her with a kiss that threw her even more off-balance than she already was. She was still trying to catch her breath from that when he released her and breathed into her ear, "Play along."
Wondering what the hell he meant by that, she hugged her mother. Maggie Scully returned her pleasantries with, "Dana, honey, why didn't you tell me you were seeing someone?"
Scully plopped onto the sofa, where Krycek immediately snuggled up to her and started a very distracting nuzzling of her neck. "Seeing someone?" she asked dumbly.
Krycek chose that moment to start raining feather-light kisses on that little spot behind her ear that drove her crazy. Especially since she was already primed and ready, the sensation turned her insides to jelly. She pushed him away gently. "Stop that," she hissed.
Maggie smiled indulgently. "Yes, Alex has been telling me all about it. He's quite the charmer, isn't he? I'm so happy for you, Dana."
"Um...thanks..." Scully grabbed Krycek's hand, stopping him in mid- grope. She squeezed it just a little too hard, finally getting his attention. "A word please, Alex?" she asked, leveling a stern gaze at him. "In private."
"Anything you say, G-Woman." He matched her gaze with a steady one of his own. Then, to Maggie, "Excuse us, please."
Scully led him to the bedroom and closed the door behind them. She was about to light into him when he pinned her against the door and claimed her mouth in another one of those heart-stopping kisses. "Which word would you like, Dana?" he purred between kisses. "I kinda prefer 'foreplay' myself. A highly underrated word..."
It would've been the easiest thing in the world to give in to those demanding kisses, to that not-so-gently exploring hand. This was what she'd been thinking about all day, and she was about a nanosecond from pushing him down on the bed and ripping his clothes off... until she heard her mother moving around in the other room. She pushed Krycek roughly away from her, and held him at arm's length when he resisted. "Knock it off!" she commanded. "What is the matter with you? What the *hell* are you doing?"
Krycek shrugged, still leering playfully at her. "I was just having a nice conversation with your mother. What's wrong with that?"
She held him off as he moved into her personal space again, and he finally gave up and started to pay attention to her. "What in God's name did you say to her? She thinks we're dating!"
"Is that really such a bad thing?" He was the picture of innocence.
"How could you do that to me?" she wailed.
"What do you want from me, huh?" His playfulness had instantly changed to annoyance. "She came in here, using her key... I was here... What the hell was I supposed to do, tell her I'm the plumber?"
"You were *not* supposed to tell her that we're together!"
"Then tell her that," he said. "Go ahead and break your mother's heart. All she wants is to see that you're happy, Dana. She wants to know that you have someone with you in your time of need. She wants grandchildren... did I tell you she asked me if we've considered marriage?"
Scully gaped at him in horror. "What did you tell her?"
He backed off a bit, giving her his best wounded-puppy look. "What, don't you trust me?"
"Like you've given me reason to?"
Krycek sighed. "I told her it's too soon to think about it, okay?"
She relaxed a bit. "Still, you didn't have to say you're my boyfriend," she admonished.
"You would've liked it better if I said I was your live-in lover?"
"Lover?" she cried. "We're not together! Get that through your head! This is *not* a normal relationship!"
"It might as well be!" he shot back. "We live together, we sleep together... you came home and begged me to fuck your brains out *before* dinner every night last week... and we're *not* together?"
"It's not the same thing," she hissed.
He just looked at her.
"It wasn't every night," she mumbled.
"Okay, four out of five."
"Oh, right, we managed to make it through dinner the fourth night."
"That was the *third* night!"
He shrugged. "Whatever."
Scully took a deep breath. "It's just sex," she said in a low voice. "Just sex. Completely meaningless. Only sex. Nothing more --"
He caught and held her eyes with his intense green ones. "Tell me you don't want it to be."
She gulped. "Of course not. Do you?"
He held her eyes a moment longer, then chuckled softly. "What do you think?"
"I, uh... think..." She took another deep breath. "I think we'd better get out there before my mother gets the wrong idea."
Now Krycek smiled and traced the line of her jaw with his fingertip. "Wrong idea? We're thinking about marriage, remember?"
Scully brought his exploring finger to her mouth and gently sucked on it. "Please be a good boy and don't say anything to embarrass me in front of my mother, okay?" she asked, figuring that he'd only behave if she gave him incentive. "Then... as soon as she leaves..." She reached down and gave the bulge in his jeans a firm squeeze. He gasped in surprise as she slipped out the door with an angelic smile.
"Honey, is everything okay?" Maggie asked, as Scully joined her in the living room.
"Fine, Mom, everything's fine," she assured her. "I'm afraid you caught us at a bad time, though. I'm so sorry, but Alex and I..."
At that moment Krycek appeared at her elbow. "Crotch-grabbing, Dana?" he murmured into her ear. "Two can play at that game... and never forget that I'm better at it than you are."
He straightened up and favored Scully's mother with one of his megawatt smiles. "Maggie, please say you'll join us for dinner."
Krycek watched Scully turn slowly and shoot a loaded look at him. "Alex, I was under the impression that we had plans?"
"Honey, if it's a bad time, we can always reschedule," Maggie said.
"It's not a bad time at all," Krycek assured her, smiling to himself at Scully's almost sub-audible growl. "Our plans weren't set in stone, were they, Dana? Surely we can put them off and spare a few hours for your mother."
"Alex..." If he wasn't mistaken, her tone sounded suspiciously like a whine. "Are you sure those plans can wait that long?"
<They'll wait as long as it takes to drive you to the point where you need to get fucked or you'll die, Little Red...> "Oh, sure, they can wait," he said lightly. "I can wait, Dana. Can you?"
"Really, I can come back another time," Maggie put in.
"No need," Krycek said, taking Maggie's arm. "In fact, coming tonight was a wonderful idea. Wasn't it, Dana?"
"It *would* be a wonderful thing..." he heard her mutter.
"What's that? Can't quite hear you, kitten."
She raised her eyes to his. Was that a challenge he saw there? Or a warning of his impending death? "I said, I can wait if you can, Alex," she said through clenched teeth. "Mom, why don't you come and sit down?"
Scully escorted her mother to the table while Krycek busied himself with the food. "Do I have a minute to change?" he heard from behind him.
He looked up to find her edging toward the hall, but he caught up to her and kissed her cheek. "Of course, kitten, but only a minute." Then, lower, so Maggie couldn't hear, "No fair soloing in there."
Her blue eyes blazed at him. "Make this quick or you will die," she growled. "And don't call me kitten."
"I'll call you whatever I want and you'll like it, unless you want me to propose to you on bended knee in front of your mother..."
"Bastard!" she snarled before stalking off down the hall.
"I love you too, hon," he called after her, feeling deep satisfaction at the loud slam of the bedroom door.
"Can I help with anything?" Maggie asked, coming up behind him.
"What? Uh, no, just sit down." Krycek led her back to the table. "Everything's covered. Want anything? Something else to drink? Another beer?" He could play the perfect host if he had to, but he was suddenly very nervous being alone with Maggie. The poor woman had no idea she was about to become the pawn in a twisted little game...
"Just mineral water if you have it," Maggie said with a smile.
As he handed it to her, she leaned forward and said, "Alex, you've spent a lot of time with Dana recently, haven't you?"
"Yeah..." What was she getting at?
"I was just wondering... how is she? Is she all right?"
It took a moment for him to realize what she was asking. "Yeah, she's fine. Doesn't she look fine?"
Maggie fixed a direct gaze on him. "You do know what I mean, don't you?"
"Of course." Great, just what he needed; discussion of the one issue that would put a damper on the game. He had to get off this topic fast. "She, um... she doesn't like to talk about it."
"She doesn't talk to you about it either?" Maggie shook her head sadly. "I'm so afraid she's still in denial."
The last thing he wanted was for the evening to turn into some sort of intervention. If Maggie was looking for an ally, she wasn't going to get one. Not now. "She's not in denial, she's fine, and I don't think she wants to talk about it tonight."
"Alex, I'm just concerned for my daughter --"
"I know you are. She appreciates it, I appreciate it, but everything's fine. Okay?"
She looked at him for another long moment, then gave in. "All right. Consider the subject closed."
Krycek felt Maggie's eyes on him as he moved around the kitchen, and waited for the expected question. If she couldn't talk about the cancer, what other subject was there? When the question came, it wasn't what he thought it would be.
"Do you often cook for Dana?"
Years of working with the smoking man and his group had taught Krycek that there's no such thing as an innocent question, no matter who's asking it. Maggie might still be heading where he thought she'd go, but she was taking a roundabout route to get there. "Just about every night."
"Sometimes he's lazy and all we have to eat is leftovers."
Krycek looked up to see Scully emerging from the hall. Had she...? No, probably not. She didn't look relaxed, but she did look... determined. There was a definite challenge in her eyes now... and he could easily see why.
It wasn't that the shirt was that low-cut, really. It was one of his favorites; a black v-neck that was softly clingy in all the right places. But it was clinging in a way he'd never seen before. Her breasts now seemed bigger, fuller. The shirt's neckline was just low enough to reveal the barest hint of the swell of her breasts, tantalizing him and making him ache to touch her.
Dana Scully in a Wonderbra? He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, willing away his body's reaction to the sight. <They're just breasts,> he told himself. <Not like you haven't seen them a thousand times before. Control. You're in control. You're not going to cave first. She is...>
He looked a smiling Scully right in the eyes. "We wouldn't have to have the leftovers for dinner if you'd let me make lunch for you in the morning."
"Not that you're ever awake when I leave --" Scully immediately realized her mistake and sat down without a word, unable to meet her mother's questioning gaze.
To Maggie's credit, she waited until the food was on the table and everyone was digging in before asking. "So, are you two living together?"
Krycek pounced on that one while Scully was sipping her drink. "Yes, we are." He tried hard not to smirk when Scully choked on her water.
She recovered quickly. "Temporarily, Mom. Alex's apartment was damaged in a fire and it just didn't make sense for him to spend money on a hotel while it's being fixed."
"Fire?" Maggie laid a hand on his arm. "You weren't hurt, were you?"
A tiny pang of guilt stabbed at him. Was it really fair to mess with Maggie's mind like this? She seemed to be such a nice person, and the primary object of the mindfuck was the daughter, not the mother. Oh, well, every operation had its innocent victims, and what Maggie didn't know wouldn't hurt her. Right? "No, I wasn't hurt. It was my neighbor's fault, smoking in bed, y'know? Nothing major, just the usual water damage and there's that awful charred smell everywhere." He leaned closer to Scully's mother and lowered his voice, but not so low that Scully couldn't hear him. "To tell you the truth, I'm enjoying it here so much I might not go back when it's ready."
The look on the Ice Queen's face was worth the numbness in his leg where she kicked him. "Alex, didn't we talk about that?"
"Actually, Dana..." Maggie began.
Scully turned toward her mother. "Mom, I know how you feel about that. You know I wouldn't --"
"Normally, it would make me very uncomfortable," Maggie broke in. "And I still don't feel right about it, but this time... maybe it's for the best."
Scully choked on her food. "But, Mom --"
"I mean it, Dana," Maggie said. "In this case I'd just feel better knowing that you're not alone. You might need someone with you in case anything happens."
If Maggie only knew who it was that she'd just deemed suitable to protect her daughter...
Quickly bending his head over his plate, Krycek surreptitiously watched Scully. If he'd been the one to make a comment like that, she would've bitten his head off. The cancer was the one topic even he wouldn't pick at; if they ever talked about it, Scully had to bring it up. And she had done so only twice. The subject both saddened and angered her, and he was sure that her mother's implication that she was anything but a tower of strength would anger her even more. No matter what she felt, she couldn't let herself be seen as vulnerable. He almost expected an explosion of some type from her, but it didn't look like that was going to happen. She put her fork down and folded her hands in her lap. "Mother, I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself," she said calmly.
"I know you are, sweetheart," Maggie said. "But it never hurts to be prepared, does it?"
"Not now, Mom." Scully spoke in that same calm tone, but Krycek knew she had to be inwardly seething. She glared at him for no apparent reason, but he just shrugged a little. After all, he wasn't the one who brought the subject up.
The atmosphere was getting a little too tense, and somebody had to do something about it. "Anybody want any more food?" he asked brightly. "There's plenty." He hadn't had much time to cook, thanks to Maggie's visit, but his spaghetti and meatballs usually went over well.
Both ladies declined, but the tension was broken as Maggie posed another question. "Tell me, how did you meet?"
"Worked together," Krycek said quickly, before Scully could invent something. Better to act as natural as possible here; the closer he stuck to the truth, the fewer details he'd have to remember later.
"Briefly," Scully added. "One case, a few years ago."
Maggie turned to Krycek. "So you were in the FBI?"
He acknowledged Scully's warning glare with a wink. "For a while, until I realized that the pay's better in the private sector."
"Which private sector?" Scully murmured.
Maggie didn't appear to have heard her. "Then you must know Dana's partner, Fox Mulder."
"Oh, yes," Scully said quietly. "Alex and Mulder know each other very well."
Krycek managed to shoot a glare in Scully's direction before Maggie turned a questioning glance toward him. If the cancer was Scully's taboo topic, the Mulder situation was his. The object of this game was to get Scully to get rid of her mother so they could have sex. Why the hell was she bringing this up? "Mulder and I, um... don't really get along," he mumbled.
"Oh? Why's that?"
When he hesitated, Scully prompted him. "Go ahead, Alex. Tell her exactly why you and Mulder don't get along."
He tried to kick her, but she deftly moved her leg out of the way. Why was she pushing this? He thought she wouldn't want to talk about Mulder at all. This had to be her revenge for him asking her mom to stay. Was making him squirm really more important to her than getting rid of Maggie and her questions?
He cleared his throat and took a swig of his beer under the watchful eyes of the Scully women. How close to the truth could he get? "Let's just say that I burned some bridges when I left the FBI. Ticked a few people off, Mulder probably most of all. It's just better if we stay out of each other's way."
"He was upset that you left?"
"It was more the way Alex left," Scully supplied. "Mulder thinks he left some issues unresolved."
"What do you think, Dana?"
"Well, I --"
"I felt I could better resolve those issues from outside the Bureau," Krycek said quickly. "And so far I think it's working pretty well. Wouldn't you say so, D?"
Scully smiled sweetly. "How would I know?" She moved slightly, highlighting her cleavage, then delicately sucked in a strand of spaghetti. Krycek had to look away.
"In any case," he murmured, "the effort has been... quite fulfilling. I'm satisfied so far. And I think you're pretty satisfied too..."
A faint blush appeared on her cheeks, and this time she was the one who had to look away.
Maggie, obviously a little uncomfortable, broke the tension again. "You lost touch after Alex left the FBI, right? What was it that brought you together after so long?"
Krycek looked her right in the eye and said, "Sex."
Maggie laughed heartily while Krycek watched her daughter out of the corner of his eye. He knew he'd pushed Scully too far and expected some sort of outburst from her, but she didn't move. Obviously too nervous to see the humor in that statement, she sat still, her head bowed over her plate. She was chewing her lip, an action he found curiously sexy.
Funny how the oddest things could sometimes be so arousing...
Aware of her mother's curious gaze on her, Scully managed a small smile. "Cute, Alex," she said quietly. "Real cute."
He gave her a tight smile. "Just another one of my hidden talents."
Maggie cleared her throat. "Really, what did bring you together?"
"What brings any two people together?" Scully said, a bit uncomfortable with the question. "Our paths crossed and I guess we just sort of... clicked."
"I made her an offer she couldn't refuse," Krycek added, with a wink at Scully.
"I see." Maggie took note of the looks passing between them and gulped her drink.
The rest of the meal was accompanied by more mundane conversation, with both Scully and Krycek deftly avoiding any further questions Maggie had about the nature of their relationship. It wasn't until the table was cleared and they had moved into the living room for coffee that the real reason for Maggie's visit came up.
"Dana, I just wanted to drop off Kathleen's wedding registry list. I thought that we might go shopping tonight, but of course, you have plans."
"Registry list?" Scully asked. "The wedding's in August! Why on earth would we shop now?"
"Because the girls are planning the shower for next month."
"Next month," Scully said. Maggie nodded. "Four months before the wedding?"
"Element of surprise," Krycek supplied, thoroughly amused by the conversation. "She'll never see it coming."
"Exactly," Maggie said. "And you know how curious Kathleen can be."
Krycek elbowed Scully. "Who's Kathleen?"
Scully sighed, and in that moment he knew she'd wanted to keep this wedding a secret from him. "My cousin," she said quietly.
How intriguing. "A family wedding? Great. I'd love to meet more of your relatives."
The look Scully gave him was the very picture of the Evil Eye.
"Anyway," Maggie was saying, "if you wanted to, we could still go shopping tonight. The store's still open and I'm so sorry, but I feel like I've wrecked your plans for this evening..."
"Maggie, you didn't wreck anything," Krycek said quickly. "We wanted you to stay."
"I don't think I'm up to those plans anyway," Scully sighed. "I'm a little tired tonight. I'd really rather just stretch out right here on the sofa and watch a video..."
An image of Scully lying there moaning and stroking herself sprang into Krycek's brain, and it felt like every drop of blood in his body headed straight to his groin. <Calm down,> he told himself. <Control. You're stronger than she is...> He took a deep breath and said, "Aw, c'mon. There's still plenty of time."
"Oh, you go ahead, Alex," came the reply. "You know I like to watch videos alone."
Oh, but the look on her face when she'd finally begged him to fuck her... "And you know you like it when I join you."
There it was. That look. She remembered too...
Scully sprang up from her seat on the sofa and paced around the coffee table. "On second thought, we were both looking forward to those plans, weren't we?"
"Mm-hmm. Can only be put off for so long..." he murmured.
"I should go," Maggie said, standing up. "I'm so sorry, I should've called first."
"Mom, don't worry about it." Scully handed her mother her coat. "It's fine. You didn't ruin anything."
"Alex, it was lovely meeting you." Maggie planted a soft kiss on his cheek. Uncomfortable with that gesture, he ducked his head and mumbled similar words.
"Mom, we'll go shopping this weekend, I promise," Scully said, ushering her mother to the door. "I'll call you."
Farewells were said, and finally Scully closed the door and they were alone. She remained against the door, her feral glare practically searing a hole right through him. "Now, how about those plans?" she breathed, her voice low and sultry.
Now he had her where he wanted her. "Plans?" he said, getting up. "I do believe we have a date..." He moved toward the kitchen, and Scully followed.
"Yeah." Krycek stepped back and showed her the dirty dishes and pots clustered on the counter. "With some dishes."
"Dishes?" Scully suddenly snatched up a dishtowel and swatted him with it. "I didn't just throw my mother out the door to do dishes! And how could you say those things in front of my mother?"
Krycek grabbed a towel of his own and snapped it at her. "Whaddya mean, how could I say those things? I didn't say anything to embarrass you!"
"She's not stupid. She knew something was going on! And how come you didn't introduce yourself as Alan?"
Oops. "She caught me off guard. I forgot, okay?" Seeing her all worked up drove his simmering arousal up another notch. If she didn't stop swatting him and get down to business, he'd have to do something himself, very soon...
"You've never been caught off guard in your life! What if she mentions this to Mulder?"
Scully's towel-snapping had chased him into a corner, but he battled back out of it. "What, does she have brunch with Mulder every Sunday or something? Why the hell would she even see him unless you were there too?"
"Mulder has ways of finding things out, Alex! He's not above pumping my mother for information."
"He is if you don't let him." Krycek grabbed the end of Scully's towel and pulled her close to him, trapping her against the table. "You really wanna have a towel fight?"
Her eyes, hungry once again, locked onto his as he pressed himself against her. A small sigh escaped her lips when she felt his erection, a reminder of the promise she'd made before dinner. "No, I don't want to have a towel fight," she breathed, tugging his zipper down. "We had plans, remember?"
It wasn't until clothes were all over the kitchen that Scully seemed to realize where they were. She froze for a second, distracting his attention from the breast he was sucking. "Bed?" she asked.
The tease had gone on long enough, and Krycek wasn't moving another inch until she fulfilled her promise. "Right here." He turned her around so that she was facing the table, the very same table they'd just had dinner on. "Bend over," he breathed.
She resisted a little, but he bent with her until her torso was on the table and he was on top of her. "Alex?" she asked.
"Don't move," he told her, then straightened up and pushed deep inside her.
She gasped at his sudden entry, her hands scrabbling on the table surface for something to grab onto. She knocked something to the floor, but he didn't really hear it. He slammed into her fast and hard; couldn't stop no matter what. He barely heard her cry out, but he felt the rhythmic spasms of her orgasm. He slipped his hand down between the edge of the table and her body, found her clit and rubbed at it; maybe too hard, but she soon came again anyway.
Nothing registered anymore, no outside stimuli at all. All he knew was the warm wetness of her body, the intensely pleasurable sensations centered in a few inches of his own body. Was there anything else that felt that good? No, couldn't be. Nothing else could ever feel like that...
It was over too fast, much too soon. He came hard, and afterwards leaned, panting, on top of Scully. Two hours of teasing and anticipation spent in just a few minutes. It would be such a waste if it didn't feel so damn good.
He slipped out of her, but she didn't move. She lay there across the table, breathing hard herself, and that was when he saw it.
Why hadn't he seen it before? He searched his memory, realizing that he'd never seen her back before. Another secret held by the enigmatic little redhead. "Dana?"
He lightly traced the colored circle on her lower back. "Tell me about this."
Scully gasped and whirled around to face him. "What?"
So she didn't want to talk about it. Even more intriguing. "Your tattoo. Tell me about it."
Something that looked almost like panic crossed her eyes, but only for a second, followed by an odd gleam. "Do you want to hear about the tattoo?" she asked. "Or would you rather have a blow job?"
She wasn't offering... was she? "Excuse me?"
"I could tell you about the tattoo if you want, but I think I'd rather give you oral sex. Your choice."
Krycek couldn't believe his ears. "You want to *what?*"
"You heard me." She grasped his hand and tugged him toward the bedroom. "Come get it if you want it."
"Let me get this straight," he said for about the tenth time. "You *want* to do this?"
Scully sighed in exasperation. "Say that one more time and I won't."
"Okay, okay." He folded his arms across his chest and leaned a shoulder against the closed door. "So... any time you want to start, feel free."
She sank to her knees, took a deep breath, and fixed her eyes on his still-soft penis. In this state it seemed so... non-threatening. Why, then, did she have more butterflies in her stomach than she could ever remember having? Sure, she could hunt serial killers and murderous mutants, but when faced with giving a guy a blow job, she turned into a spineless, quivering lump of Jello. Why the hell had she said she wanted to do this?
It wasn't just the blow job that threw her, she had to admit. It was Krycek. She could probably do this for any other guy and not feel so nervous... probably because most guys wouldn't grade her performance like Krycek did. The fact that this was an incredibly intimate gesture, in many ways even more intimate than having sex, didn't help, either.
Krycek's voice broke through her thoughts. "Y'know, Dana, if you really don't want to do it, I won't hold it against you. There's lots of other things we can do if you still want to."
Was he telling her he didn't think she could go through with it? Well, she'd just have to show him he was wrong. Steeling her nerves, she took another deep breath and glanced up at him. "No, I'm fine. I just... need a minute."
"Sure, take your time." He turned slightly and leaned fully back against the door.
Scully fixed her eyes again on his penis. All men liked blow jobs, right? Shouldn't the thought of this be arousing him, at least a little? Maybe it was too soon after his orgasm. Great, she'd have to do all the work.
She leaned back slightly, trying to map a strategy, when he spoke again. "Just so you know," he said casually, "swallowing's optional. It'd be nice, but there'll be no lost points if you don't."
"My, how generous of you." It took all the self-control she possessed not to shudder in front of him. Wouldn't do to let him think she was less than eager to do this, would it?
She suddenly wished she weren't naked. Any clothing, even underwear, would make her feel less vulnerable. But all the clothes she had been wearing were strewn all over the kitchen, and she knew that if she moved to get something else from her dresser, Krycek would never let her hear the end of it. She'd just have to make do au natural.
She was just leaning forward slightly, almost ready to begin, when she heard a soft laugh from her partner. "Dana Scully on her knees in front of me," he said. "Never thought I'd live to see the day."
If he was trying to throw her off, he was doing a damn good job. "I may be on my knees," she returned, "but who's the vulnerable one here?"
"Oh, a power trip too. That's so... so..."
<Arousing?> She mentally filled in the end of the sentence. <Hot? Sexy?>
"... so damn cute!"
"Cute?" she spat. "I don't have to do this, y'know --"
"Hey, this was *your* idea. Did I ask you to suck me? No..."
"You did ask. In the bar..."
Her voice trailed off as he thought about that for a second, until the memory came back to him. "Oh, that? Dana, that was a general statement. Didn't really mean anything. Certainly didn't mean I was asking you to do it. I figured you never would."
"'She'd probably suck me if I wanted' was a general statement?" Scully sat back on her heels and glared at him.
Krycek sighed. "First thing you have to remember about men," he explained patiently, "is that we're pigs. We --"
"Oh, believe me, I know that," she broke in. "I've seen ample evidence of that lately."
"We generally think about three things," he went on, as if she hadn't interrupted. "Food, booze, and sex. Blow jobs, as a sub- category of sex, get a lot of thought. For some guys, it's a toss-up whether their first thought about a woman will be 'maybe she'll fuck me' or 'maybe she'll suck me.' What I said in the bar really was a general, guy-type statement." He favored her with a warm smile. "We're really very simple creatures when you get right down to it. Not hard to figure out at all."
<Food... booze... sex... money... power... mind games... world domination... no, not hard to figure out at all.> She took a deep breath. "Men may be simple, but you, Alex Krycek, are the most complex creature I've ever met. How you have any idea what the average man thinks about is beyond me."
He laughed softly. "Thank you. Nice to know that I'm unique."
"Oh, you're a unique one, all right." Slight movement in her peripheral vision drew her eyes down again. So the mind game aroused him, while the prospect of receiving oral sex didn't. This was one of those times when Scully would've given practically anything to know what was going on behind those pretty green eyes of his. It wasn't just the mind game, was it? He'd said a couple of times already that one of the things driving the deal was the fact that he wanted her. As uncomfortable as that statement had made her in the past, she clung to it now. At least that was a normal, natural human urge. She couldn't let herself believe that he was so twisted as to need the mind game.
<Just another mind game,> she told herself. <He doesn't believe I'd really give him a blow job, and he's going to make it damn hard for me to do it. I'll show him...> "You're not helping me here, either," she said after a moment. "If you want me to do this, shut up and let me do it my own way, okay?"
"Yes, ma'am." He snapped off a smart salute before relaxing against the door again. "Y'know, I never saw it going down quite like this..."
"You're lucky it's happening at all." She leaned forward again, stopping just close enough for him to feel her breath on him. Seeing him rise to the occasion just from that made her feel a lot better. It had just been too soon before. He was as susceptible to basic biology as any normal man. Alex Krycek was far from normal, but at least he wasn't so twisted that he *needed* the mind game to get aroused.
She leaned in a little closer again, and it suddenly occurred to her that she had no idea what to do next. She'd attempted oral sex only once before in her life; an experience that had been a complete disaster. As bad as that was, the pressure of the deal and Krycek's little scoring system could only make this time even worse. On top of that, Krycek wasn't circumcised. That fact, only a curiosity up to that point, suddenly became very important. Intellectually, she knew it shouldn't make a difference, but in practice it made a huge one. She'd never even had sex with a whole man before Krycek, let alone blown one. What the hell was she supposed to do?
"Any day now, Dana," Krycek prompted.
"Shut up or I'll bite it off!" Scully growled, uncertainty making her words harsher than she'd intended. No matter how vulnerable a position she thought him to be in, she still had to be careful about pissing him off.
He just laughed. "You know you don't want to do that."
<I don't want to do this either. What the *hell* am I doing?> She watched, fascinated, as he grew a little larger, a little harder, right before her eyes. Okay, let him play his little head games if he wanted. The more work he did for her himself, the better. Her hands braced on her knees, she leaned further forward and tentatively touched the tip of his penis with her tongue.
The small sigh that escaped him was an encouraging sign. Okay, so far, so good. Now what? Lick some more, right? She let her tongue glide over the head, around to the underside, up the shaft, feeling him growing with every stroke. So maybe this wasn't so difficult after all. Krycek seemed to be enjoying it, and it wasn't too horrible for her yet. The foreskin wasn't even that much of a problem; it was just something else to play with or move out of the way. Yes, she could deal with this.
She took the first inch or so of his organ into her mouth, ran her tongue over the tip again, and sucked, delighted to hear him gasp and see his knees buckle. His breathing was faster now, more ragged, and one of his hands rested on top of her head. He didn't push her, but she thought he might -- the last man she did this for had. That had been part of the problem that time. But so far he was only stroking her hair as she worked, not pushing on her head.
She sucked again, a little harder, drawing a long moan from her partner. Sounded almost like he was ready to come...
Suddenly she stopped as a thought struck. <I'm supposed to let him come in my mouth. I'm actually going to let him do that? What the *hell* did I get myself into here?> She immediately removed her mouth from him and took a deep breath before continuing, just licking the shaft this time. Her change in tactics brought a whimper of protest, but that faded into a low moan of pleasure when her tongue found an especially sensitive spot.
She lapped at the tip one more time, taking a few drops of fluid onto her tongue, then returned to the spot he seemed to like, on the underside of the head. She'd been wrong before. He hadn't been close to orgasm then; he was still growing harder now.
As she worked, she looked up at him. His head was thrown back against the door, eyes half-closed, his breath coming in short little pants. Was he holding back, making her work harder than she had to? Probably not; he looked to be enjoying this far too much. That realization almost made her stop -- why should she do something just to please him? -- but another thought struck at the same time. During the course of the deal, she had never seen him without iron control over any given situation. Here he was completely vulnerable; totally at her mercy. Was this just part of his mind game? Or did he really trust her that much? Maybe both. Maybe neither. There was a faint possibility that not everything he did was part of the mind game. Maybe he just wanted a blow job.
That had to be it. He hadn't goaded her into doing this; it was her own stupid idea and he jumped on it. Maybe she would've been better off trying to explain the tattoo and all her issues with authority that went with it. Too late now, though. She'd started, she thought she might be close to finishing...
His voice snapped her out of her reverie, and she realized that he wasn't panting anymore. He was still hard, but... didn't seem *as* hard. She licked harder at that one spot. Shouldn't he be enjoying this?
Sure, she needed some time to decide the orgasm issue (and there was a lot more to that decision than his simple issue of "spit or swallow"), but suddenly this didn't seem to be going in the right direction...
He tapped her head twice. "Yo, Dana! That feels really good and all, but would you mind licking somewhere else for a while? You're starting to scrape skin off there."
Now she stopped licking altogether. "Of all the ungrateful --"
She was interrupted by the ringing of the telephone.
They both looked over at the phone on the table by the bed, then back at each other. Scully's eyes dropped to his still-erect penis. Take a break? Continue and let the answering machine pick up?
"Might as well get it," Krycek told her. "You're not doing me a whole lot of good at the moment."
"Son of a bitch!" she hissed, then dove across the bed and scooped up the phone. "Hello?"
"Hey, Scully, it's me."
Mulder. With glorious timing, as usual. "What's up?"
"Just got this report of a huge, wild creature in a forest in Pennsylvania. I don't want to make any judgments yet, but the park ranger who contacted me did mention Bigfoot."
Scully sighed. "You've got to be kidding, Mulder. You're running off to chase after Bigfoot? There's never even been a report in Pennsylvania!"
Suddenly she heard chuckling behind her, then felt the mattress dip as Krycek collapsed next to her, laughing hysterically.
"Am I interrupting something, Scully? I can call back..."
"No, no, you're not interrupting anything." She glanced at the clock. "You don't really expect me to come with you, do you?"
"Not if you don't want to. I just wanted to let you know where I'm going to be for the next day or so. I'm heading up there tonight, but I don't know when I'll be back."
"You're going now? Mulder, it's late."
"Gotta check it out when it's still dark. They don't come out much in the daytime."
"Fine, Mulder. I'll be waiting when you come back and tell me it was just a big bear. Enjoy."
"You enjoy too, Scully. Good night."
She hung up the phone, rolled over and smacked Krycek's arm. "You can't just shut up, can you?"
"Can't help it," he said when he could breathe. "Spooky running after Bigfoot? That's just too..."
She sighed. "Mulder believes in his work."
"He's the only one who does. Sure, E.T. and government conspiracies, okay, but Bigfoot?"
"You'd be surprised at some of the things we've run into over the years."
"Bet I wouldn't. Oh, well. Better to have him sniffing around a forest somewhere than poking around here anyway. Now, where were we? We have some options here."
She sat up. "Options?"
"Mm-hmm. You can pick up where you left off..." His hand drifted down and he started gently stroking himself. "You could finish it with your hands. We could do something else. Or you could tell me about that tattoo..."
She slapped his hand away. "You may want to watch me, but I have no desire to watch you doing that."
"Fine," he huffed. "If you talk about the tattoo, I'll finish in the bathroom."
Tattoo? Authority figures and innermost feelings? She wasn't ready to talk about it yet. Hand job? She didn't want a repeat of what happened the last time she did that. Sex? He was the only one even mildly aroused. That left...
She rolled him over onto his back and pinned him to the bed with her body. "Never let it be said that Dana Scully is a quitter," she said, then moved lower and took his penis in her mouth again.
If variety was what he wanted, variety was what he'd get. She kissed, licked, sucked, alternating between the very sensitive head and the shaft, and soon had him panting and moaning with pleasure again. He grew larger and very hard very quickly, and this time she was pretty sure he'd come fast. She'd started it, so she might as well go all the way.
She took more of his organ into her mouth, swirling her tongue around it, then drew back again. Down again, then back up. That seemed to be what he wanted; his hands tangled in her hair and now he did push her head down, gently. She resisted the pressure and kept up her own rhythm. She wasn't used to having anything quite that big in her mouth, and it took a bit of adjustment, but she managed, as long as she didn't give in to his direction.
Then it happened. She was on a downstroke, taking as much of him in her mouth as she could, when without warning his hips thrust upward. Suddenly his penis hit the back of her throat. She gagged, choked... and bit down.
His yelp of surprise and pain registered only peripherally. She was too busy choking, coughing, and trying to quell the instant nausea. At least there was nothing in her mouth anymore -- he jerked away from her when she bit him.
She was still coughing when he lit into her. "Jesus, Dana, you bit me! What the hell was that?"
She tried to say something, but could still only cough.
"If you didn't want to finish it, you could've just said so!" he went on. "Jesus Christ, if you don't know what the hell you're doing, why'd you even start?"
"I was... doing... okay..." she choked.
"Have you ever done this before? Ever tried? Ever even thought about it? Well, here's a news flash for you -- you're allowed, no, *encouraged* to use your hands too!"
"It would've been fine if you didn't ram it down my throat and choke me!" she shot back.
"That's why you use your hands. So that doesn't happen! And by the way, have you ever eaten a popsicle? The skills transfer, y'know!"
"Oh, come on, it wasn't that bad!"
"The hell it wasn't! For God's sake, you bit me! Do you have any idea how much that hurts?"
"I'm sure there wasn't any permanent damage. You'll recover."
"Do me a favor, huh? If I ever agree to let your mouth anywhere near my dick ever again, just have me committed, okay?"
He was overreacting, as usual. Wasn't she the one who almost choked? But she managed to bite back most of her anger. "Trust me, you don't have to worry about it happening again. That was a one-time event." If she ever thought about trying something like that again, she'd have herself committed first.
"Good, 'cause you really suck at sucking." He flopped into bed and turned over on his side, away from her.
Scully watched him settle down, anger bubbling up again. "How dare you?" she cried. "I try to do something *for* *you* and all you can say is --"
"You only did it because something about that tattoo repulses you even more than blowing me does," he interrupted, his voice somewhat calmer now. "Face it, Dana, cocksucking just isn't one of your natural talents."
"I'm starting to wonder if getting it up is one of yours!" The words were out before her better judgment could stop them.
He turned slightly. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me," Scully fumed. It was out now; might as well run with it. "You can't get it up unless you're playing one of your little head games!"
"What the hell...?"
"You have me on my knees in front of you, and nothing happens until you start messing with my mind," she continued, quickly analyzing now. "And it's not only tonight, either! It's happened every single time we've had sex. You've twisted and manipulated every single encounter so far. No wonder you've never had a real relationship -- normal male-female interaction wouldn't arouse you, would it? I may not be good at blow jobs, but at least I don't need psychological help to correct that!"
She stopped, suddenly realizing what she'd said. If he was angry before, how much worse would it be now?
Krycek only sighed heavily. "I seem to remember a completely unsolicited hand job. And I'm pretty sure *you* jumped *me* when you came back from your trip. Then there was your birthday..."
"Oh, come on, this entire deal is one gigantic mind game! Do you honestly think I would've done any of that if you hadn't manipulated me into it?"
"I never said a word on any of those occasions."
"You didn't have to. You laid the groundwork *very* well, right at the beginning."
He turned over to face her now. "You've had choices. You didn't have to agree to the deal. Once you did, *you* picked the times, not me --"
"The bar?" she shot back. "I certainly didn't pick that time!"
"Is it my fault you got addicted to the sex? You're doing a pretty good job mindfucking yourself, plamennaya malyishka."
"So what if I did get addicted to the sex?" Scully asked, only vaguely aware of the admission she'd just made. "That doesn't matter. You're still playing your little games, every time. Why? I'm not fighting you. Why play the games unless you can't perform without them?"
His eyes locked on hers for what felt like a long time. Finally he said, "I don't need any mind games to perform. You have no idea what you're talking about." His tone had an air of finality to it.
"Denial is an ugly thing, Alex."
He sighed and turned over again. "End of discussion, Dana."
"What, just because you say so?"
Krycek burrowed deeper under the covers and declined to answer.
When it became apparent that the discussion really was over, Scully put on some pajamas and slipped into bed herself, as far away from him as she could get. He turned away from her, and again she wondered what was going on inside his head. Had she struck a nerve with that accusation?
He'd never let on if she had. And nothing would change.
<You can't get it up unless you're playing one of your little head games!>
Scully's allegation hung there in the still air of the bedroom as if the words had just been spoken. Krycek shook his head. He'd tried his best to ignore her utterly baseless accusation, but it wove a very bizarre undercurrent through his dreams. And now that morning had come and he was awake, it refused to go away.
He rolled onto his back in bed and stared up at the ceiling. His head felt oddly fuzzy, there was a terribly annoying tickle in his throat, and he just didn't feel like concentrating on anything, but the only way to make the accusation go away was to give it some thought. Where had she gotten that idea, anyway? Did she really mean it, or was it just something she came up with to turn his attention away from her own inadequate performance?
His hand slipped down his body and gently stroked the site of the bite. She was right about one thing; there didn't seem to be any permanent damage. It wasn't even especially sore. Sensation seemed to be intact...
Lazily stroking himself, he let his mind drift back over the seven weeks since the start of the deal. Just how often had he mindfucked Scully, anyway? Definitely on that first night -- he'd had to to get things moving. The first encounter once the deal was agreed to? Sure, he'd left the video out on purpose, just to push things along, but he'd had no idea how she would react to it. She could've read him the riot act and thrown him out the door -- in fact, he sort of expected that. Instead he hit the jackpot. Was that his doing? Couldn't be. She mindfucked herself into that one. And that hand job was all her idea.
Still, Krycek did have to admit that he'd done a lot of mindfucking. A *lot*. Maybe even created an atmosphere of it, as she'd said. Sure, it enhanced the sex. Very much. But he was certainly capable of getting aroused without it. He held concrete proof of that in his hand at that very moment. No mindfucks to be found; Scully wasn't even home. She'd gone to work. He was just lying there, thinking and stroking, and wouldn't you know it, there was a perfectly serviceable erection. He didn't *need* to mess with anyone's head to get off. She was completely wrong.
<Why play the games unless you can't perform without them?>
Obviously he could perform without the games. So why *was* he still playing them? He'd achieved his objectives. Scully had more than surrendered to her baser instincts; she all but embraced them now. And he was having lots and lots of regular sex with the woman who'd been the star of countless jack-off fantasies since the first time she blew him off. Why still play games?
Mind games were second nature to him; had been since he was a child. Mind games allowed him to keep a distance, assured that he was always in control. And wasn't this whole exercise really about control?
Maybe that was what she was picking up on. Even when she initiated, she was acutely aware that she was never really in control. That had to bother her; maybe it was why she lashed out. But most times she didn't seem to mind being manipulated. She was enjoying the deal now.
Did she truly enjoy it? Or had he really mindfucked her that thoroughly? If so, then he was indeed playing head games every minute of every day. That couldn't possibly be the case, but even if it was, there was nothing really wrong with that. Yeah, he got off on the head games. But it wasn't like he couldn't get off without them. It wasn't even important enough to call a fetish. How the hell could she say he *needed* it to perform? Just because he did it all the time? So he enjoyed it. So what?
If he really needed to mindfuck somebody to get aroused, he wouldn't be so close to coming now, would he? And he was; it would happen any minute now, any second, he was so close...
But it didn't happen. That feeling of impending orgasm quickly faded, and the erection right along with it. Krycek closed his eyes and groaned. <This can't be happening. She's not right, she can't be right...>
What was happening? This was by no means the first time he'd masturbated since the start of the deal, and he'd never had any trouble getting off before. It was always so easy. He'd just conjure up fantasies of Scully, or watch one of the videos he'd made, or mentally relive one of the great mindfucks --
<No!> They were just memories and fantasies. Every guy in the world used something like that for jerk-off purposes. He wasn't mindfucking himself. He was just as normal as the next guy. Right?
The fuzzy feeling in his head had turned into a dull, throbbing headache right above his eyes, and the tickle in his throat was now a pronounced soreness. < A cold coming on,> he thought. <Just what I need.> But the reason he couldn't finish what he'd started had nothing to do with mindfucks or an impending cold. He wasn't paying attention. His mind was occupied elsewhere, and his train of thought wasn't especially conducive to jerking off.
With a sigh of relief, he started gently stroking again, this time letting his thoughts turn in a more pleasant direction. Those were his Little Red's hands on his cock, not his own, and she knew exactly where to touch, how to touch, how to tease and please...
Release came a scant few minutes later. Krycek moaned softly and relaxed, satisfied, for a good fifteen minutes before getting up to face his day. First order of business: a shower.
The second? It might be a nice idea to change the sheets.
Scully sighed and pressed the play button on the remote, setting in motion another one of the videos Mulder had once said weren't his. It was either a new acquisition or not a particular favorite -- the cardboard of the box was crisp and sharp, as was the picture on the screen.
She wasn't sure exactly how, when, or why she'd decided to investigate Mulder's tapes, but in the wake of the oral sex disaster, it seemed like a good idea. Yesterday, the day after the fiasco, she'd spent the morning cleaning up paperwork that Mulder had left for her while he went chasing after Bigfoot, and then she'd found herself with nothing to do. No more paperwork that she knew of. No reports. Nothing she could add to any pending cases. Not that there actually were any; the manhunt for Krycek was their primary assignment, and that was undergoing a reorganization. There wasn't even a disk to go over -- apparently biting cancelled out rear-entry sex on the kitchen table. That left her with no work, an empty office... and a lot of videotapes.
When she opened the drawer with the tapes, the first thing on her mind had been Krycek's challenge regarding universal male fantasies. It didn't take her long to figure out what the answer was, and she now also had an idea which tape had been his favorite. But as her viewing went on, she found herself paying particular attention to the oral sex. She noted how each actress did it, wondered if it was real. She was surprised to find one gay porn in the drawer, but just chalked that up to Mulder's open- mindedness. That one was rather informative, too -- judging from that tape, men seemed to blow other men somewhat differently than women did. Scully filed mental notes for later use.
On her way home that night, she wondered why she was even researching oral sex. It wasn't like she was planning to ever do that for Krycek again. He probably wouldn't let her. She almost wondered if he'd even talk to her again. That was a pretty heavy accusation she'd thrown at him; true or not, he surely wasn't happy about it.
He was pretty quiet that night, only speaking when spoken to, generally answering in monosyllables, and going to bed early. At first she thought he was still angry with her, but then she found over the counter cold medicine and throat lozenges in the bathroom medicine cabinet. Maybe it was better that he was feeling under the weather. She could spend the night in peace without him bringing up discussion topics she'd rather avoid.
So there she was, the next day, going through videos again. She didn't expect Mulder back until tomorrow, which gave her free rein to continue her research. As she watched, she realized that she was doing the research for herself, not for Krycek's pleasure. He'd also said some things that hurt, things that her mind translated to "you're not good enough." Her competitive spirit had been aroused; somewhere deep down she needed to prove that she was good enough.
Scully settled back in her chair, absently toying with the remote. The tapes were mind-numbingly similar: lame attempts at some sort of plot that was really just an excuse to set up the many sex scenes, lots of scenes of rear-entry sex and women in submissive positions. And oral sex. Turning the sound way down helped, but she still felt very odd watching these. She squirmed a bit, getting a little uncomfortable. These tapes were made by men, for men, and were terribly degrading to women. Why, then, did she find herself getting strangely aroused?
She leaned a little closer to the TV. More oral sex coming up, time to pay attention.
She paid such close attention that noises in the office went unnoticed... until Mulder's voice registered. "Hey, Scully, what's up?"
Scully jumped a little, the remote slipping from her hand and clattering to the floor under the desk. <Damn, damn, damn!> she mentally berated herself. She couldn't reach the TV or the VCR to shut them off; she needed that remote. At least the sound was down; maybe Mulder didn't hear it...
"Mulder! I didn't expect you back until tomorrow," she stammered, desperately searching under the desk with her foot. If she could just find that remote and pick it up...
Mulder dropped his overnight bag next to his own desk. "You were right, Scully," he said. "It was just a grizzly bear. No reason to stay." He was to the side of the TV now, leaning against his desk. He still couldn't see the screen, but he didn't have to move far to see it... "So, did I miss anything interesting?"
There it was! If she could just guide it back towards herself with her foot... "No, Mulder, not a thing. It's been very quiet."
She felt him watching her, knowing her actions must look pretty strange. She immediately stopped... and that was when her foot connected with the remote, sending it further under the desk.
It was at that moment that Mulder chose to come around to her desk. "You looked pretty interested there," he said. "What are you watching?" He turned toward the screen.
Scully cringed, dreading Mulder's next words, as he studied the TV screen. He watched carefully, then picked up the cardboard video box from on top of the TV and read the back.
She wished she could just disappear, sink into the floor; anything to avoid the mortifying scene that would inevitably follow. Her heart pounded, her stomach did flip-flops and she realized that she was sweating. Still, bad as the upcoming discussion would be, part of her wished Mulder would just say something and get it over with. The waiting was just as hellish as anything he could possibly say.
Mulder leaned against her desk and watched the tape for another long moment. Finally he said, "I haven't even seen this one yet. How is it?"
A small sound of surprise escaped her. Of all the things he could've said, that was about the last one she expected. She took a deep breath and composed herself. "Maybe you'd better judge for yourself. I suspect we'd have a difference of opinion."
"Mmm." Mulder bent down and picked up the remote, which had ended up on the floor in front of the desk, but he didn't stop the tape. He turned back to her and stared at her with a funny look for what felt like a long time. Finally he asked, "Expanding your horizons, Scully?"
"No, it's more like..." <Think, think! If he knows it's personal, you're in big trouble...> "...a study of sorts," she finally said, unable to meet his eyes. "General research."
"Research? About what?" He didn't say it, but she heard it in his voice anyway: <Yeah, suuuure...>
"It's, um... a theory I'm working on. Sort of..." That was so lame. Like he wouldn't ask about the theory now?
The question came right on cue. "Care to share?"
She managed a small smile. "Maybe when I have more conclusive evidence."
"Whatever you say, Scully." Mulder turned the TV cart so that the screen could be seen from both desks, then went to sit at his. She saw him scanning the desk surface -- looking for a disk? She was suddenly very glad that she didn't have one. Mulder thinking that this was personal was bad enough; how could she cope with it if he thought her video viewing had to do with her informant?
She tapped her fingers lightly on the desktop. She had to say something. Was it really better to let her partner think it was personal? Probably. Best to keep it on an intellectual level, though. She cleared her throat, drawing Mulder's attention away from the TV screen. "I was thinking, Mulder... maybe my research would move faster if you allowed me to pick your brain a little."
His full attention was on her, his eyes dancing, like he was just dying to make a comment. He ran his tongue across his lower lip, then said, "Sure, why not?"
Scully took a deep breath. There was just no easy way to get out of the situation, was there? Hypothetical, she reminded herself. Keep it on an intellectual level. Nothing personal. "Well... I was wondering..." She gestured toward the TV. "Is this what the average man looks for in oral stimulation?"
A sly smile spread across Mulder's face. She could practically read his mind: <Taking blow job lessons, Scully?> She knew he couldn't resist asking. Controlling the urge to curl up in a little ball under her desk, she waited.
But the expected question never came. Instead she heard, "Just what kind of theory is this, Scully?"
"Well..." Her mind raced, trying desperately to come up with something that didn't sound completely lame. "If you must know, I'm researching the role of pornography in domestic violence; how tapes like this create unrealistic expectations in a relationship." She could've done better with more time, but that wasn't bad for such short notice. "So tell me, Mulder, is that what John Q. Public really wants from his significant other?"
Mulder watched the tape for a long moment. "Sure, Johnny would love that," he finally said. "But he's not likely to get it. His girlfriend Jane Doe probably couldn't do that. That actress is a professional, after all..." He tilted his head slightly and leaned a little closer to the TV. "Not to mention uncommonly flexible..."
"I can see that." Scully shifted uncomfortably and unbuttoned her suit jacket. Why was the basement suddenly so warm?
Mulder shook his head a bit, stopped the tape, and turned his attention back to her. "Yeah, John would really like that, but let's face it. He'd be happy with just about any oral stimulation he could get... unless she bit him or something."
Scully sank a little lower in her chair.
He moved toward the drawer that held the tapes, and she suddenly noticed something on the floor. She leaned closer, not sure what it was. Something she'd dropped? Something he had? Maybe it fell from the video box? From her angle it looked like a hand lotion sample she'd been carrying around. It must've fallen out of her bag at some point. She scooped it up into her jacket pocket as Mulder returned to the TV with a different tape.
He put the new tape in the VCR. "Jane's a lot more likely to be able to do..." He held down the fast-forward button on the remote for a few minutes, stopping it at yet another oral sex scene. "...this. It's a lot simpler. See? And John, being the average kind of guy he is, would gladly settle for that. But his friend Joe Schmo the wife- beater is another story."
Scully almost regretted lying to Mulder. He was in teacher mode now, getting into the discussion. He seemed even more interested in disseminating information than in watching the visual aids he was providing for her. Part of her was fascinated, but another part wished he'd just shut up and let her watch in peace.
"Joe watches these videos, then goes to bed with his wife Mary Sue. He's always rough with her, but he really beats her up if she doesn't perform like the women on the tapes. Like... he expects."
Scully couldn't help but smile. Mulder would've made a great teacher; undoubtedly the favorite of every student. "So what you're saying is that the videos simply enhance the sexual experience for the average man, only engendering violent behavior in those already inclined toward it?"
Mulder winked at her. "Gold star for you, Scully! Anything else I can help with?"
The action on the screen had progressed to standard intercourse now. Two days of watching the videos was starting to take its toll -- she could definitely use some of that herself. She squirmed a little in her chair, the familiar ache making her uncomfortable. It was time to gracefully remove herself from the discussion. "That's only a small part of the theory, Mulder, but I very much appreciate your help. Thank you. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an appointment."
She gathered up her things and had her hand on the doorknob when Mulder's voice stopped her. "Hey, Scully?"
Digging in her pocket in search of her car keys, she turned. "Yes, Mulder?"
"I just wanted to apologize about the other night. I'm really sorry about the phone call."
"Oh, that's --" She stopped as her hand fell on the small plastic bag in her jacket pocket. It couldn't be hand lotion; there was something hard in the bag. She deftly transferred it from her pocket to her handbag for a better look.
She examined the item through the clear plastic of the unopened bag. It was a metal circle, maybe half an inch wide, approximately two inches in diameter, and adjustable. It could almost be a little handcuff, but there was only one.
"Something wrong, Scully?" Mulder asked.
She looked up, startled. "What? Oh, no, everything's fine." Was the little handcuff something of Mulder's? Something he'd miss? Obviously he hadn't used it... She could always place it right back where she found it tomorrow, when he wasn't looking. Stuffing the item down into the deep recesses of her bag, she drew out her keys. "Couldn't find my keys. You were saying?"
"I was just saying I'm sorry about bothering you a few nights ago. I hope I didn't interrupt anything."
From the look on his face, Mulder knew exactly what he'd interrupted. Was this a new tactic in the boyfriend information search? Mulder seemed to expect a reaction, but she wasn't sure what he was looking for. Her best course of action was to not give him a reaction. "No need to apologize. You didn't bother me at all," she said, opening the door part way, eager to get out of there.
"Okay, if you're sure..."
"I'm sure. See you tomorrow, Mulder."
It wasn't until she was halfway home that she realized what the little handcuff really was.
Scully stood just inside the door of her apartment, dismayed at not finding her business partner there. Just like him to go out when she wanted him around. She closed the door and hung up her coat, slowly becoming aware of the sound of running water.
Shedding her shoes and suit jacket, she padded toward the bathroom. The sound was much clearer now; the shower was running. She hadn't expected to find him in the shower in mid- afternoon, but it might actually make things easier. A plan began to form in her mind.
Skirt, blouse, and pantyhose were left on the bed, and Scully stole into the bathroom in only her underwear. The hot, steamy air enveloped her and she could see him now, silhouetted behind the shower curtain. He stood motionless, and she couldn't help but wonder what he was doing.
No matter. Bra and panties landed on the floor and she gently pulled back the shower curtain. "Boo!"
Krycek didn't move. He just stood there, arm braced against the wall, head resting on that arm, letting the hot water beat down on his shoulders. He didn't even look up when he heard her, but after a moment, he did answer. "What are you doing here?"
"I live here." She ran a finger down his back. "What are you doing in here?"
"Steaming my sinuses. Close that curtain, will ya?"
He sure sounded like he needed the steambath. She stepped into the shower behind him and closed the curtain again. "Maybe I can take your mind off that," she purred, reaching around and gently caressing his penis.
He sighed softly and arched into her touch. "Came home just for this?"
"No... I've been doing some research."
"Okay, I'll bite. What kind of research?"
She started stroking with both hands now. "What do you think?"
He sighed again. "I hope this isn't a request, because I really don't feel up to it right now."
"That's not what your body says." She had the hard evidence right in her hands. His obvious arousal only heightened her own, and it fleetingly crossed her mind that her accusation of a few nights before might not have been entirely correct.
Krycek coughed. "That part of my body is a pathological liar."
Scully laughed lightly. "I think this may be the only part of you I can count on to tell the truth. Actions speak louder, after all." She let her fingers roam over spots she knew were especially sensitive. "Go ahead, try to say no."
A small groan escaped him. "Mmmyeah, right, like I can when you do that..."
"See what I mean?" She maneuvered herself around him, squeezing between him and the wall, and resumed stroking. "Besides, you're not allowed to."
He shifted position, one hand now braced against the wall next to her head, the other gliding down her body. "Even on my deathbed, I wouldn't be allowed to say no?"
"You're hardly on your deathbed..." Her breath caught in her throat as his hand settled between her legs. A few light strokes in just the right place melted her insides and turned her legs to jelly, and she had to hook one arm around his neck to keep herself upright. "...and you're obviously capable of fulfilling a request," she finished breathlessly. "So don't argue and just do it, okay?"
That drew a soft laugh from him. "What's the magic word?"
She let out a long, low moan as his finger slid inside her. "Nooooooowwwww...."
"Nope, wrong word..."
How did he manage to always get the upper hand in these situations? She reached down and swirled her palm over the head of his penis. "Now," she repeated.
His knees buckled this time. "Guess it is the right word," he gasped.
His hand moved down her leg now, prodding at the knee. Getting the idea, she lifted that leg and pressed it close against his hip, opening herself to him.
He stepped closer to her, and she could feel his rigid organ trapped between them. "Here?" he asked.
"Here," she breathed. "Now."
"You didn't want to in the kitchen..."
She took his erection in hand and guided it between her legs. "Here. Now."
The words were barely out when she felt him push inside her, filling her. He held for a moment, then started moving, settling into a slow, steady rhythm. "What research?" he asked again.
Scully took a few deep breaths, finding her voice again. "Videos," she breathed. "Mulder's videos."
Feeling him inside was so good, but she knew she wasn't going to come that way. His hands were occupied; one braced against the wall, one holding her leg. She had one arm clasped around him, but the other... Her free hand found its way down and she started stroking herself. "I... know..." she gasped.
"Fantasy. Second fantasy."
He gave a harder thrust. "Well?"
"Two... women... maybe more... oh, God, Alex, harder..."
His rhythm increased slightly. "Versions?" he panted.
"With... a man... or without. You... you men... pigs..."
His rhythm slowed again. "Want me to stop?"
"Don't you dare!" She stroked herself faster. "Said it yourself..."
Krycek increased his tempo again. "I did. So, which... which tape?"
Back in the office, she'd thought she knew which one -- the box was well worn around the corners and the tape seemed grainy, maybe from overuse. But the current activity drove the title from her brain. The only thing her mind registered was how unbelievably good her lower body felt; how much better it was going to feel any minute... "'Sub... Suburban Dykes'?" It was the only thing that floated into her brain; she didn't know whether or not it was correct.
He slammed into her harder and faster now, nipping in the bud a nascent thought about their own tapes. "Know?" he panted. "Or guess?"
She bit back a cry at a particularly hard thrust. She almost couldn't stand it when it was like this, she was always sore afterward, but while it was happening she couldn't get enough. It might have scared her that she thought nothing of leaving work in the middle of the day just for this... if it didn't feel so damn good. "Guess," she breathed. "Educated guess."
His only response was a groan as he came.
With a moan of frustration, she tried to stroke faster, but her hand met resistance. Krycek was no longer holding her leg up, and his hand now drifted to where their bodies were still joined. She had no problem letting him take over; he seemed to know better how to make her come than she herself did, and she could feel the results of his effort almost immediately. Her orgasm was building quickly, it wouldn't be long now...
"Educated guess," he said, still breathing hard. "I always knew you were a first-rate agent. You're good at putting all the evidence together."
"So it... it is... that one?" Another minute, just one more minute...
"Mm-hmm. One of ol' Spooky's favorites. If I were a porn watcher, it would probably be on my 'guilty pleasures' list too."
Finally she crashed over the edge, clinging to him and crying out against his shoulder as the spasms of her climax swept through her. They remained in that position, spent, for a few minutes, until Krycek abruptly backed away from her. "Congratulations. You probably just got my cold."
Scully leaned against the wall and reached over to turn the water off. If a cold was the price for sex like that, she'd gladly pay. "We should save some hot water for the neighbors."
He nodded and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. His breathing was still labored, and he made no move to get out of the shower.
"Why that tape?" She couldn't do anything about the cold, but she could keep his mind occupied.
He leaned against the wall, resting his head on his arm again. "It was hot."
"Pig," Scully muttered.
He shrugged. "Sometimes something hits you in ways you don't expect. You saw the tapes; damn near everything under the sun on 'em. Don't tell me there wasn't something a little out there that got to you."
All of it had gotten to her, a little at a time. But Mulder's tapes didn't hit her the same way Krycek's tapes had. "I do know what you mean about the difference between amateur and professional tapes now," she said. "I like the ones you made better."
She was almost expecting something along the lines of "told you so," and it seemed a little strange that she didn't get it. He had to be feeling under the weather to not pounce on that. Maybe the time was right for another admission. It was sort of unfair not to tell him, and she could probably get away with it now without getting too much grief. Scully cleared her throat and said tentatively, "Alex, about the other night... what I said..."
"Forget it," he mumbled.
Definitely not a Krycekian reaction. How very odd. "All I wanted to say is --"
"Drop it, please?" His voice was still low, and he didn't look at her.
She took a deep breath. "I just wanted to say that... I may have exaggerated a bit when I said that."
She could barely hear his response. "Ya think?"
"I never should have said it." She stopped short of saying she was sorry. She did believe that his head games played an integral part in most of the deal encounters so far, but he'd just proven that, if nothing else, her accusation was badly phrased. Probably badly timed too -- the aftermath of the blow job disaster was hardly the time for the subject to be brought up.
He cleared his throat and coughed. "You were hurt," he said softly. "You lashed out. It happens. Now just forget it, okay?"
Under normal circumstances, Krycek would gloat unmercifully if she admitted she was wrong about something. It was very strange to see him so subdued. She ran a hand down his left arm, marveling again at its construction. She couldn't even tell where flesh ended and synthetic material began. "You really don't feel good, do you?"
He flinched away from her touch. "Just a cold. No big deal."
"Are you sure?" His skin looked flushed. Was that from the hot water, or a fever?
"It's not life-threatening. Chill, will you?"
The tinge of annoyance in his voice held her back from touching him again. "Then do us both a favor," she said. "Dry off, get dressed, and go lie down somewhere."
Krycek reached for a towel and slowly shook his head. "Can't. Gotta work."
"Can't it wait?" If he pushed himself, he'd be dragging around the apartment looking miserable for longer than he otherwise would. Which meant dragging out the deal...
He dried off quickly, then dropped the towel on the floor. "Nope," he mumbled. "Can't wait."
After Scully dried her hair and cleaned up the bathroom, she expected to find Krycek in the living room, working on his computer. He was there, all right, but the laptop was on the floor next to the sofa. Krycek was stretched out, asleep.
Scully drummed her fingers on the car door and sighed. Her day had started badly enough; the last thing she needed was a stakeout. Especially this particular stakeout.
Overall, the two weeks since her mother's visit had passed rather pleasantly. Her mother had made no secret of the fact that she liked Krycek very much and she was happy to see her little girl in a healthy relationship with such a charming man. The words disturbed Scully and part of her wanted to set the record straight regarding the true nature of their relationship, but it was probably better not to burst her mom's happy little bubble. Let her think what she wanted. Too much baggage - - baggage neither Scully woman wanted to disturb -- went with the truth.
She managed to avoid catching Krycek's cold, which he recovered from without incident. He was more or less his old self again within a week. She thought she detected an effort on his part to be less manipulative, which made her think that there were reasons other than illness for his reluctance to discuss her accusation. She could've been wrong -- the changes were subtle -- but she didn't think so. It was possible that he'd thought about it and come to the conclusion that she had a point. Not likely, but it wasn't beyond the realm of extreme possibility. Of course, she'd also thought about it, and realized that maybe he had a point too.
Scully held off on any deal activity while Krycek was under the weather, but once he was feeling better, they spent a very informative night exploring the difference between amateur and professional porn. Naturally he used one of their tapes, along with a tape she assumed was a rental, to illustrate his points, and Scully surprised herself and him with her reaction. She didn't think she'd ever be able to look at her coffee table the same way again.
But this day had the makings of a nightmare from the very beginning. She'd awakened at 4:30 a.m. with a nosebleed. It was a bad one which took half an hour to bring under control. By the time she finally did, she was weak, trembling... and just about ready to wake Krycek up to ask him about the cure for this wretched disease. She didn't really believe he knew anything about any cure, but a little part of her now wanted desperately to believe. If he could stop the nosebleeds, stop the debilitating headaches that always followed, shouldn't she at least ask?
But she didn't ask. She crawled back into bed beside her sleeping business partner, careful not to touch him so she wouldn't wake him. He couldn't possibly have a cure. It would be pointless to ask and just get her hopes up. It was terribly unfair of him to dangle the cure in her face, knowing he couldn't deliver. Living with the disease was one thing. Being teased about a cure was something else, something cruel. No matter how smoothly her association with Krycek was going, she couldn't help but hate him for that.
She woke feeling achy, weak, and with a pounding headache. She seriously considered calling in sick, but got dressed and went in anyway, slogging through the late-March rain. Big mistake, she soon realized.
Before she even dried off, Mulder informed her that they had an emergency meeting with Skinner. Scully thought the meeting might have something to do with a new case, or the hunt for Krycek, but instead she found herself faced with paperwork. Rather, the lack thereof. She spend the next half hour trying desperately not to sink into the chair and let it swallow her up while Skinner chewed them out about the fact that he'd seen only minimal paperwork from either of them for weeks.
Scully knew that was her fault. Mulder and paperwork just didn't mix, and she'd been doing the majority of it for their department for years. She often took it home with her, sometimes working in bed. But since January, her nights had been occupied. When faced with a choice between boring paperwork and great sex, with information helpful to her job, how many women would actually work?
On the other hand, she and Mulder hadn't been especially busy since Krycek had come into her life. How could there be that much work backed up? Still, she couldn't help but feel guilty.
She couldn't even look at Mulder once they left Skinner's office. He didn't say anything, but she knew what he had to be thinking. <Blowing off work now that you're blowing the boyfriend, Scully?> He'd never say it, but how could he not be thinking it? She just knew that if Mulder said anything, it would be difficult not to lash out at him. She hated feeling like that.
That was Krycek's fault too. And she hated him for it.
So she spent the next hour doing paperwork. Mulder graciously offered to handle some of it, especially after admitting that there was still work from January, around the time of her diagnosis, and other work he'd held back from her. Work she could've been doing weeks ago instead of getting caught up with Mulder's tapes. Hearing about that made her feel a little better, knowing it wasn't all her -- or Krycek's -- fault, but there was still a lot of work to get through.
She weathered another nosebleed, not as bad as the one earlier, and was just getting into a groove with the work when they were called back to Skinner's office. This time the meeting was about the hunt for Krycek. He'd been sighted going into a building, Skinner said. That building was to be surveiled. Mulder and Scully would be part of the first shift.
So there she was, sitting in the car, watching the comings and goings around the target building. The activity pattern suggested to her that it was a crack house; not anything Krycek would be involved with. She hoped he wouldn't be involved, at least. It wouldn't make sense, but the possibility still existed. After all, she didn't know what he did all day, where he went, what he worked on. He could very well deal drugs for pocket change, and be in the building she watched.
She held her breath each time someone came out, half expecting that it would be Krycek. What would she do if it was? Her stomach was in knots, and she was unable to eat the fast-food lunch Mulder had bought for her. He ate with gusto, further turning her stomach with his generous offer of fries. Her head throbbed, and she just sat there wishing she could be anywhere else when Mulder's voice broke through her thoughts.
"Heads up, Scully. Looks like something's going on in there."
She rubbed the condensation off the car window and looked out. The weather was miserable; cold with wind-driven rain. This was the fourth straight day of rain, and it was starting to depress her. Everything always seemed worse when it was cold and rainy. "Nobody's coming out, Mulder," she said. "There's no activity." Why would somebody go out on a day like this anyway?
Mulder leaned over her shoulder and peered out. "Looked like something was happening. Sorry." He leaned back into the driver's seat and shook the cardboard fry container. "Sure you don't want any, Scully? Last chance."
"No thanks, Mulder. Enjoy." She stared out at the building's entrance again. "What on earth would Krycek be doing in there?" she wondered aloud.
Mulder slurped his shake. "Consorting with other rats and assorted lowlifes?"
"Think about it, Mulder. That's obviously a crack house. If Krycek is really involved in a conspiracy for global domination, wouldn't using or dealing street drugs seem pretty trivial?"
Mulder shrugged. "There's an awful lot of money in drug dealing."
"More than can be made selling government secrets? Besides, last time you saw him, did he look to you like he had any money?"
"So he doesn't flaunt the wealth. You have to admit it's possible."
It certainly was possible. That was the problem. "I suppose, but it doesn't really add up." Her cell phone rang, and she was happy to direct her attention to that instead. "Scully."
"Agent Scully, it's Agent Kowalski. Sorry it took so long to get back to you, but I have an answer for you about that translation."
Frustrated that all the Russian dictionaries she could find were in Cyrillic, Scully had finally taken Krycek's nickname for her to one of the Bureau's language specialists. She knew the answer might be embarrassing, but any momentary discomfort she felt was worth knowing what it meant. Krycek's constant use of it was starting to drive her nuts. Besides, knowing what he was calling her might be helpful in determining what was going on in his head. "Oh, hi. Thanks for getting back to me on this. What did you find?"
"A few questions first. How well does this guy know the language?"
She frowned. That had to mean there were multiple translations for the phrase. "As far as I know, he's fluent. I believe it was spoken in the home he grew up in."
"And how well does he know you? You said he's a friend?"
That sounded even more ominous. "Yes..."
"Friendly enough to be playful?"
Playful? Designed to piss her off, undoubtedly. "I guess so. The word 'cute' was used."
"You'll have to make your own judgment on that. Okay, 'plamennaya malyishka' translates literally to 'fiery little one'."
Scully mulled that over. Krycek had called her spirited once; that could've been what he meant. "Does it have another meaning?"
"The first word could also mean 'red,' or 'red-haired person'."
That sounded much too generic for Krycek. "What's your guess?"
"My best guess? He's been calling you the Russian equivalent of something like Little Red."
Scully gritted her teeth. "And grinning like the Cheshire cat each time he says it." The only trouble was, her Cheshire cat would never disappear...
"Anything else I can do for you?"
"Not now, thank you." Scully clicked her phone off, silently fuming. Krycek had to know his pet name would piss her off. Of course he did; that was why he used the Russian version instead of English. If she was in an actual relationship with a man who called her Little Red, it just might be cute, but coming from Krycek...
"Language problem, Scully?"
She looked up into Mulder's curious eyes. "Yes, um... my, uh... my neighbor's been calling me something in another language..."
She smiled sweetly. "Nothing I can't deal with, Mulder."
"You're not going to eat this, are you?" Mulder picked up her now cold chicken sandwich and dug in. "What language was it?"
"Urdu," she lied smoothly.
A voice crackled over the car's radio. "No activity for the last fifteen minutes. Looks like it's time to go in."
The next twenty minutes played out like some kind of nightmare. Her heart was in her throat the whole time; worried that something would happen to someone on the team, terrified that Krycek was there and would be arrested or maybe killed.
Mulder was in the first wave of agents storming the building, but she wasn't, so she held back, trying to remain calm. She stifled a scream when the first shots came, but training took over and she managed to perform her role in the raid without a hitch. Nobody watching her would ever know that inside, she was a mess.
Once the dust settled, a quick look around convinced her that Krycek wasn't there, and relief flooded through her. She took a few gulps of air, letting the information sink in. Krycek wasn't there. She was safe. He was safe.
Leaving the cleanup to the other agents, Scully wandered slowly down the second-floor hallway until the adrenaline rush subsided and her legs gave out. She slumped against the wall, trembling uncontrollably.
<Oh, God, I can't do this anymore,> she thought. <How many more times is this going to happen? How many more stakeouts? How many more operations until we do find him? I can't live like this anymore, I just can't....>
The gentle word and the hand on her shoulder brought her back to reality, and she looked up into Mulder's eyes. "Scully, are you okay? You're white as a sheet."
She took a few deep breaths and managed to stand upright again. "I'm fine, Mulder," she murmured softly.
"Come on, sit down before you fall down." He steered her to the nearby stairwell and sat down with her on the top step. "What happened?"
"Nothing; I just... haven't eaten anything since breakfast."
"Don't move. I'll see what I can scrounge up."
Scully collected herself while Mulder was gone. Exhausted now that the adrenaline rush was over, she nonetheless felt better. Her stomach was calm now, and her headache was even starting to subside. Just amazing, the effects anxiety had on the body.
Mulder rejoined her and offered her a box of animal crackers and a Coke. "Best I could find on short notice," he said. "Sorry."
"It's fine. Thank you." She offered him the crackers, which he declined, but he did take a sip of the soda. "So, what happened in there?"
"What happened in there was, we stumbled into a pretty significant drug bust. We should be high on the DEA's Christmas list this year -- turns out they've been looking for this guy for the last six months."
Scully briefly contemplated a tiger-shaped cracker, then bit its head off. "Who is he?"
"One Eduardo Escobar, mid-level drug dealer and all-around bad dude. I think we have a file on him, too. The jurisdictional fighting over this one could go on for months."
"Was anyone hurt?"
"Sheldon got winged, but it looks like he's okay. We took out Escobar's enforcer, but as far as I know, nobody else was hit."
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Did anyone escape?"
"The agents outside detained one guy they pulled off the fire escape..."
Scully held her breath. Krycek?
"... and they said he's been babbling at them in Spanish since they slapped the cuffs on. Let's just hope he knows something."
She let her breath out slowly. "Sounds like a successful operation."
"Successful, maybe," Mulder said, "but not the way we expected."
"No," she agreed as a sudden idea struck. Sending the investigation in a new direction could help take the heat off her. "Honestly, it was pretty unlikely that we'd find Krycek in there. If he smuggled anything, it would more likely be diamonds, don't you think? We know he was in Russia; I've heard that diamonds are cheap and readily available in Siberia."
"Good thinking, Scully." Mulder was already mulling over her words. "We'll have to start checking jewelers..."
Not bad for a spur-of-the-moment thought. "New York seems the most likely market, Mulder. There's a Diamond District there, isn't there? And... don't the smoking man and his group meet in New York?"
"Sometimes, at least. The old Brit seems to be based there..."
"So there are still avenues to pursue."
Mulder gave her a half smile. "That should keep Skinner from kicking our asses too much over this."
"He should kick whoever gave this tip," Scully muttered.
"What's that, Scully?"
She just smiled and shook her head.
"Ready to go yet? Come on, I'll drive you home. I'm sure Skinner won't mind if you file your report tomorrow."
Home? Yes, she wanted to go home. She needed to... but not with Mulder. "Take me back to the office instead? My car's there, and I want to pick up some things."
"Sure you're okay to drive, Scully? You're still pretty pale."
"I know, I know, white as a ghost. I'm fine, Mulder. Really."
Mulder gave her a long look. "Well," he finally said, "technically, spectral manifestations aren't white..."
Scully sighed. "Let's go, Mulder."
One look at Krycek once she got home was enough to bring back everything she'd felt during the day. All it took was one simple question to push her over the edge.
There wasn't even anything provocative about his tone or what he asked. It was just a friendly question. "How was your day?"
She couldn't help it. She'd been through too much that day, too much that ultimately traced back to him. "My life is falling apart all around me," she fumed, "and it's all your fault!"
Krycek put down his newspaper. "Sorry you feel that way."
She watched him get his jacket and pick up his keys. And she watched him walk out the door without another word.
It took a moment for her to realize what she'd just done. "Alex?" she called. "Alex, wait! Come back!"
She yanked the door open and called to him again, but he was already gone.
It took fifteen minutes for Scully to calm down and start to think rationally. Krycek went out often; he knew how to take care of himself. He'd be fine... and he'd come back. She was pretty sure he'd eventually come back. She couldn't help but worry about him a little -- she still felt a tickle of anxiety -- but she was pretty sure he'd be fine, and he'd come back.
More than three hours later, he did. By that time she had changed clothes, had dinner, and gotten through a sizable pile of the paperwork she had to catch up on. The work helped her focus her mind, driving out thoughts of that awful day. She was calmer, more relaxed, and headache- free. For the first time that day, she was starting to feel like herself.
She heard the door close, and a second later Krycek leaned into the kitchen, where she had her work spread out on the table. "Is it safe in here yet?" he asked.
Scully heaved an inward sigh of relief. He was safe. She put down her pen and turned around. "Alex, where were you? It's not safe --"
"Chill out, I'm fine. Nobody saw me. Is it safe here?"
She sighed. "It's safe now. I'm sorry, Alex, I had no right --"
"Your day sucked. You don't need to apologize for that. Want to talk about it?"
She silently shook her head. It was still too fresh; she wasn't ready yet.
"Okay, suit yourself." He ventured further into the kitchen and looked over the forms. "Y'know, I wasn't with the Bureau that long, but I still remember how to do that stuff. Need any help?"
Help would have been lovely. She started to accept, but stopped herself. "Alex, you can't. You know that."
He shrugged. "Just thought I'd ask, but it looks like you have it under control. So c'mon, take a break." He turned and headed toward the sofa. "I have a surprise for you..."
Her interest piqued, she followed him into the living room. "What?"
He was settled on the sofa now, feet up on the coffee table next to a videotape and a bag on his lap. "The best medicine for a sucky day," he said, now offering her the bag. "Cookies and comedy."
Scully just blinked at him. "Cookies? You know I don't eat --"
"It's comfort food, Dana," he broke in. "It's not supposed to be good for you." He shook the bag a little. "C'mon, they're the best -- Mrs. Field's. You'll love the milk chocolate chip. And they're still warm."
She eyed the bag for another moment, then gave in, dipping into the bag as she sank onto the sofa. What the hell? It wasn't like she couldn't afford an extra pound or so.
Krycek was right; the mini-cookies were very good. She quickly devoured the few she'd taken, and met his eyes when she went back to the bag for more. "Want to talk about it now?" he asked softly.
She hesitated for a second, but then, against her better judgment, the whole story came spilling out. Everything, including the headaches and nosebleeds, which she never intended to tell him about. By the time she was finished, she was curled up in the corner of the sofa, hugging a pillow, and crying; shedding the tears she hadn't allowed herself all day. She hadn't intended to cry in front of him either, but she just couldn't help it anymore.
Krycek didn't interrupt during her story, but once she was done, he did speak. "I'm so sorry," he said quietly, gently. "About all of it."
She looked up then, trying in vain to wipe the tears from her face. The look in his eyes was so gentle and sympathetic that she knew he meant it. That was probably what prompted her to say it; to utter words she never in a million years thought she'd ever say to Alex Krycek. The words were more difficult to say than the ones she'd used the night she watched the video he'd made, but at that moment, she just needed it so much... "Alex?" she whispered. "Hold me?"
He held out his arms to her, letting her snuggle against his chest. She'd never admit it under any other circumstances, but right then, the feel of his strong arms around her made everything seem a little bit better. She closed her eyes and felt a few more tears slip down her cheek, but it was okay now. Krycek held her and murmured soothing words to her, and now all the dragons were slain and everything was right with the world again.
After a while the tears stopped, and she just listened to the beating of his heart. It was a strangely comforting sound, and his arms around her felt so good. She felt safe. At any other time she might find it troubling that she felt so safe and protected in the arms of... this particular person, but not now. Now it just felt... right.
"My life is falling apart because of you," she sighed, "and you're the only one even trying to make me feel better."
"Is it working?"
She smiled slightly and curled closer against him. "You know, I think it is."
"Good." He lightly stroked her hair. "You don't have to deal with that stuff alone, y'know. Any time you need to talk -- about anything at all -- I'm here." He tilted her chin up so that she was looking in his eyes. "I mean it, okay?"
Scully nodded. "Okay." She lay her head on his chest again. After a moment, she asked, "Alex, were you out today?"
"Mmm-hmm. Picked up a few things at the supermarket, and went to the hardware store. I spent this afternoon fixing the garbage disposal." He lightly tapped the top of her head. "You have some kind of tipster problem over there in Fibbieland. I was never near that building."
"I know." And she did know. That was the stupid part; deep down she had known all along that he wasn't there. She'd let the suspicions of Mulder and others overshadow her judgment. "I know, I just..."
"I know. Spooky can be pretty persuasive."
She smiled a little. Only a partner of Mulder's could understand, and this ex-partner of his, who still enveloped her in his arms, understood well.
Krycek shook the cookie bag. "Still plenty left," he said. "Did you get a peanut butter one yet?"
She took a few more cookies, now mulling over the suggestion she'd given Mulder. "Alex, you don't have any diamonds, do you?"
He brushed off the crumbs she'd dropped on his shirt. "Diamonds? Where'd that come from?"
She told him about her suggestion. "I just want to make sure I'm really sending them off in a different direction. I hope I'm not getting you in trouble with that."
He slowly shook his head. "Nope, don't think so. I wasn't planning on selling them yet anyway."
Surprised, Scully looked up at him. "So you do have some."
Krycek shifted a bit. "Yeah, I, um... invested in some Siberian diamonds when I was over there. And that's all they are -- an investment. If I were smuggling, I would've sold them --"
"Did I say anything about smuggling?" Scully asked quietly. "Are they in this country?"
A slight hesitation, then, "Yes."
"And you were going to sell them?"
"Only if I have to."
If he wasn't going to sell them, what on earth was he going to do with them? "Just... be careful when you do, okay?"
He ruffled her hair. "Of course, plamennaya malyishka."
She smiled. "You don't have to say it in Russian. Why don't you just call me Little Red?"
Now he looked surprised. "You'd let me?"
She settled her head on his chest again. "Today, maybe. But I reserve the right to get annoyed any other time you use it... Comrade."
Krycek laughed softly and ruffled her hair again. "Agreed." He shook the cookie bag again. "Only one left. Want it?"
"It's all yours." She sighed deeply and relaxed against him. Being with him like this shouldn't feel so comfortable, but it did. He seemed to feel comfortable with it, too. Which of them did that say more about? And what exactly did it say? "Alex?"
"Is there really a cure?"
Again he hesitated, but the answer came, softly. "Yes. The cure is out there." A pause, then he asked, "Are you asking?"
Was she? It would've been so easy to, and she was sure, at least at that moment, that he could get it, but something held her back. Why? Why couldn't she just ask? "Not yet," she murmured.
"Okay. When you're ready, let me know. Are you at least ready for some classic comedy?"
He got up to put the tape in the VCR, breaking the spell. Scully didn't think she'd be able to recapture that feeling of comfort and protection if she resumed her position when he came back, but he took her in his arms again and the feeling was there. She allowed herself to fully relax for the first time in what felt like a long time, and the Marx Brothers movie was exactly what she needed to lift her spirits the rest of the way. By the time the movie was over she felt refreshed, restored.
All because of Alex Krycek.
It wasn't the note that made her good mood fizzle. It wasn't the file. It wasn't even the pictures. It was the phone call.
Scully started out the next day in a good mood, thanks to Krycek's actions. Amazing, that a night with Krycek that didn't involve sex could do that to her. Sure, she felt a little weird about the previous evening, but it was easily dismissed. She'd had an abnormally lousy day, and he tried to cheer her up. No big deal. And if her silly brain continued to insist that she was right to feel weird about it, then it was easy enough to... counteract last night. Get things back on their established course. She planned to take that action as soon as she got home.
All this ran through her mind before she got to the office. Once there, she found a file and photos on her desk, with a note from Mulder. He was meeting with the DEA people about the drug bust; could she do him a little favor while he was gone? The photos were from the park ranger in Pennsylvania who'd called about the Bigfoot sighting. Mulder wanted her to look at them and offer a medical opinion about the victim's cause of death.
Being dragged into Mulder's bogus Bigfoot case annoyed her, but she could handle it. A cursory glance at the pictures was enough to convince her that the dead man had been killed by an animal, probably a bear. She put them aside without another thought, and settled down to her report about the drug bust.
She was just finishing up when the phone rang. Her mind more on the report than the call, she picked up the receiver and identified herself.
"Hey, Scully, feeling better today?"
Mulder, actually concerned for her welfare. "Much better, thanks."
"That's good. Did you get a chance to look at those pictures yet?"
That, of course, was his main concern. If she hadn't said she was better, would he have cared? "It's not Bigfoot, Mulder. Any first year med student could tell you that man was killed by an animal. How's it going with the DEA?"
"Just great. They haven't even read the reports yet. We've spent the last three hours fighting over who gets to prosecute this guy."
Scully sighed. "Typical."
There was a brief silence on the other end, then, "You're *sure* it was an animal, Scully? You put the pictures up on the projector and took a close look?"
"Mulder, I didn't need to. It was so obvious --"
"Would you, Scully? Just look. That's all I ask. Just look and call the ranger back."
She sighed again and drummed her fingers on the desk. Didn't Mulder learn anything? The last time he threw an assignment like this at her, she ended up getting a tattoo... "Mulder, I'm not going to continue to feed that man's delusions. Or yours. I gave you my medical opinion. If you don't trust it, get a second opinion somewhere else, and *you* call him."
"But Scully --"
"I have to go, Mulder." For the first time in their partnership, she hung up on him.
She sat there for a moment, quietly seething. Mulder knew the case was without merit. He'd already told the ranger the perpetrator was a bear. She had no idea why he was continuing with it, or why he insisted on dragging her into it.
But she knew he'd continue to insist. Fine, then, she'd look at the damn pictures on the projector. She'd make absolutely sure that the killer was an animal. She'd figure out the bear's height, weight, age, and birthdate if that was what it took. Still fuming, she set up the projector and put the first photo on it. Then the phone rang again.
It had to be Mulder. She didn't know why it took him so long to call back, but it had to be him. She snatched up the receiver and barked, "Now what, Mulder?"
"Y'know, it's a good thing I'm not your boss," Krycek said.
Scully took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Alex, I just..."
"I know, Mulder did something to piss you off. Guess I don't have to ask how your day's going."
She sat on the edge of her desk and quickly ran through her memory. Krycek had never called her at the office before. Why now? "Is that why you called?" she asked.
"Yeah. You were such a wreck yesterday, I wanted to make sure it didn't happen again. What'd he do?"
"He's dragging me into this stupid Bigfoot thing, and --"
"Isn't this the thing *he* said wasn't an X-File?"
"The very same. I already gave him my opinion, but apparently that's not good enough anymore," she fumed. "You know, I have half a mind to - -"
She stopped herself in time. No, she couldn't. The action she planned to take was best left at home. She couldn't possibly do it at the office. Too dangerous, not to mention an uncharacteristic stoop to Krycek's level. Absolutely not.
"Half a mind to what?" he asked.
She hesitated for a second. No, she couldn't do it. Bad, bad idea. They'd be caught for sure. "Nothing. Nothing I haven't thought about a thousand times before, but I can't do it."
"Quit?" Krycek asked. "Sure you could, if you really wanted to."
Boy, was he off the mark. "I can't quit. Not until we unravel all this information of yours."
"Poor Little Red," he said. "I guess Spooky's not there... want me to drop by with more cookies?"
Drop by? Was he reading her mind or something? She'd already dismissed the idea. But if he could make it work... No, she couldn't let him. "Are you crazy?" she cried. "If anybody caught the slightest glimpse of you --"
"But do you want me to?"
She shook her head. "It doesn't matter whether or not I want you to, you can't! You could never get in here!"
He laughed softly. "You'd be surprised at the places I can get into. And you obviously want me to, so I'll see you in a little while."
Fear sent cold tendrils up her spine... but there was a touch of excitement too. "Alex, no!" she cried, but she was talking to a dial tone.
Stepping into that office was like passing through a time warp. Krycek moved slowly around, picking up this thing, touching that one. Every atom in the basement office screamed out that it was Mulder's. That the whole place was overwhelmingly Mulder's. He'd never been in the basement office before, but it still brought back uncomfortable memories of a difficult time in his life; a time he preferred to keep buried.
His intention in coming here was to set things straight; get the deal back on track. What had happened the previous night was an aberration. He knew that all Scully's troubles weren't his fault, but something about the way she'd said that had gotten to him. Guilt had reared its ugly little head, at least for a short time. About the same time he went for the cookies, he realized that the comfort food and sympathetic ear could be considered a mindfuck; thus, part of his overall plan. What wasn't part of the plan was the genuine emotion Scully's distress brought out in him. He was as unprepared for that as he was for the realization that just holding her felt... good.
Much too good.
The fact that it felt so good was weird, and definitely *not* in the plan. The best way to rectify things was with intense, hot, sweaty sex, as quickly as possible. Deal sex. He knew his excuse for showing up was weak, but it didn't matter anymore. He needed sex... and was fairly sure that Scully did, too. He should have no problem goading her into initiating, especially if she really was annoyed with Mulder.
But he was unprepared for the office's effect on him. He knew that if he stayed for any length of time, he'd be crushed under the weight of the oppressive... Mulderness of the place. If he could throw that weird feeling, fucking Scully here would be enormously satisfying; a true "fuck you" to Mulder. If, if, if...
Krycek took a deep breath and glanced around the office again. Definitely Mulder's place. There was hardly a hint of Scully here. "How can you stand it here?" he asked.
She raised an eyebrow at him. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, look at this place! Everything in here is Mulder's. I'm surprised you haven't suffocated in here yet. You don't even have a nameplate on the door."
"I have a desk," she said quietly.
"Aren't you the lucky one." Obviously that had been a bone of contention in the past. He tossed the bag of cookies on her desk and took notice of the photo projected on the screen. "You did his scut work anyway, huh?"
She stiffened. "I had to make sure --"
"Looks pretty damn clear to me," he interrupted, studying the picture. "Last time I checked the lore, Bigfoot didn't have fangs and claws." He shut off the projector. "Now, how 'bout a cookie?"
Scully sighed and leaned against Mulder's desk. "Alex, why are you here?"
<To lull you into submission with small talk and then fuck you. What'd you think?> He shrugged. "You wanted me here."
"I want you to go home! What if Mulder or Skinner comes in?"
Krycek locked the door and then made his way toward Scully's desk, where he picked up the note that was on top of the other photos. "Says here Mulder's meeting with the DEA. And I'm pretty sure Skinner would knock first."
"Somebody else could come in. What happens then, when you get caught?"
"Dana, this is the basement. Nobody comes down here."
"How do you know they didn't already see you? What is so important that you had to take the risk to come down here?"
Krycek looked up from the desk and studied her. She was flushed, breathing slightly faster than normal. Exasperation, or was she feeling what he felt? Only one way to tell. He hadn't planned to tell the truth, but he could see now it was the best way to go. "I'm here about last night," he said.
She stiffened. Looked like another gamble was about to pay off... "Last night was... very nice," she stammered.
He fixed his eyes on hers. "Exactly."
It took a moment, but she finally got it. She gasped and turned away, nervously twisting her hands together. "I was going to... when I got home..."
Krycek stepped up behind her, enfolding her in his arms. Oh, how different it felt now; worlds different than it had felt last night. No comfort now; just need and want. This was what it was supposed to feel like. "What were you going to do when you got home?" he breathed into her ear.
Scully sighed and relaxed against him. "You know what..."
He pressed closer against her, leaving her no question about the reason for his visit. "Tell me. Show me."
"No, I can't..."
"You can," he assured her. "You know you want to."
"Of course I want to. But not here. Home..."
"Are you sure you can wait?" She obviously felt the same way he did. He was hardly touching her, and she was trembling.
"I... I can wait. Can't... not here..."
"Dana, the door's locked," he purred. "Nobody's here, nobody can see us, nobody can hear us. You can do whatever you want. Now... tell me what you were going to do later."
"I... I..." She took a big gulp of air. "I... can't. Not here, Alex, not here..."
"Okay, if that's the way you want it." He stepped back from her and moved toward the door. Sometimes, after all, a strategic retreat was the best move. "I'll go home and leave you alone here. Alone with all Mulder's stuff. It'll be just you and Mulder's scut work. Have fun with Bigfoot."
His hand was on the doorknob when he heard her voice. "Alex, wait."
Krycek turned to see her perched at the side of Mulder's desk, suit jacket now off. She bit her lip, glanced down at the desk, then back at him. She was definitely breathing harder now, and he could see the indecision in her eyes. He waited, trying hard not to push her in either direction. If she still told him to go, so be it. He'd be ready when she got home. But if she asked him to stay...
With a sudden movement, Scully pushed files toward the center of Mulder's desk, away from the edge, and sat on it. "This has to be quick," she said, reaching toward the button on her pants. "I mean it. Really quick."
He was before her in an instant, helping her with the pants. "It was going to be quick whether you said that or not," he admitted. "It has to be."
"Has to be," she agreed breathlessly, now working at his jeans.
An instant later he was inside her, and it was just the way he wanted it to be. Fast, hard, and intense; a momentary burst of sensory overload. They both came hard and quickly, and when it was over, he felt much better. Calmer. The tension that had built up since the previous night had eased.
He figured that Scully's tension had eased too when she laid her head on his shoulder and started to giggle. He couldn't help it; he rested his head on hers and laughed too. He wondered idly if she too appreciated the symbolic nature of their chosen locale.
A few moments later she raised her head and looked him in the eyes. "You have to go now," she said.
"But I --" The absurdity of what he was about to say hit him, and he couldn't help but laugh again. "But I just came."
Again she bent her head and giggled. "And I did too. But you have to go. Mulder might be back soon."
Mulder was already there. His presence in the office was palpable... right up until the moment they started having sex. Since then, though still there, it seemed to have receded somewhat. Krycek grinned, wondering if Mulder would've liked to watch. "Okay, okay, I'll go. But first..." He dug in the pocket of his jacket, extracted a disk, and slid it into Scully's bra cup.
She pulled it out and looked at it, then looked up at him. "You planned...?"
"Not planned. Hoped. I wasn't sure you felt the same way I did. I'm glad we, um... came to an agreement." He held his breath, waiting for her tirade to start.
It never came. She took another long look at the disk, then at him. Then she put the disk down, got off the desk, and started putting her clothing back together. "So am I," she finally said. "Now please go before somebody sees you?"
"If that's what you want. You might want to spend some time cleaning up after I leave, too."
She raised her eyebrow, and he pointed behind her. Files, pushed around during their frenzied movements, were now all over the floor.
Scully laughed and bent to her task as Krycek, whistling, slipped out the door.
The whole plan was turning into one big mess.
Krycek rubbed at his achy shoulder and sighed. Nothing was going the way he'd planned anymore. He couldn't get a lead on the person he'd been trying to find. He couldn't get the FBI off his back. He suspected that the smoker and his cronies knew he was alive. And he couldn't stop thinking about Dana Scully.
Thinking about Scully was getting to be a big problem. Having sex in the basement office a few days before had helped for a while, but dangerous thoughts started creeping in not long after. Thinking about fucking Scully was okay; he'd been doing that for years, and it was what had led to the whole deal. But thinking about Scully, Dana Scully the person, was... not in the plan.
Also not in the plan was the damn pain in his shoulder. There was always some pain; a constant ache that he was usually able to ignore or control with aspirin. But the aspirin wasn't working this time. He'd already taken four pills, and they had no effect whatsoever.
Maybe they just needed more time to work. He pushed the pain out of his mind with other thoughts.
His latest lead on the person he wanted to find turned out to be a dead end. There were a few other leads he could follow, but any one of them would likely bring him too close to the smoker's group. In fact, they had to know already that someone was sniffing around. They might also know who. It had been almost five months since the Tunguska incident. More than time enough for them to figure out what happened there and conclude that he wasn't dead. He knew they'd check, too. Old Smokey was amazingly thorough.
Krycek knew he couldn't hide from the group forever, but he had hoped the group would be fighting its own battles by now. Mulder didn't seem to be taking the information Scully fed him seriously. He hadn't, to Krycek's knowledge, gone on any fact-finding missions other than the one in mid-February. Was he just gathering data, waiting for more pieces? Typical pain-in-the-ass Mulder. He'd spent the last four years trying to pick apart the group and the conspiracy, and when he was handed the means to do so on a silver platter, he didn't follow up. It just figured.
Another, sharper stab in his shoulder sent Krycek in search of something to dull the pain. He tore through every closet and cabinet in the apartment, looking for something alcoholic. If he couldn't get rid of the pain, he could at least get himself into a state where he didn't care whether or not it hurt. Some part of him knew that was dangerous, but it didn't matter anymore.
That plan didn't work, either. There was nothing alcoholic in the apartment. Not even a beer.
That left the medicine cabinet. The sharp pain was constant now, a thousand hot knives driving into his shoulder with every little movement, making him nauseous and dizzy. Nothing in Scully's medicine cabinet could help pain like that, but he had to do something. He'd already tried the aspirins; the only other choice was ibuprofen. He washed down half a dozen pills and stumbled back to the sofa.
Trying to find something, anything, to focus on to take his mind off the pain, he found his thoughts coming back to Scully, but this time the deal came to mind, too.
The deal, like everything else, was a mess. Sure, the basic principles were working the way he'd planned -- he was getting sex and giving information, and that office tryst went a long, long way toward satisfying the "strike against Mulder" part. But he never thought he'd end up thinking so much about Scully.
The way he'd planned it, the game had a definite end. When he'd given out all his information, or when Scully got completely fed up and sicced the Feds on him (or shot him), he'd leave. No strings, no regrets. That way the Consortium would go down, Mulder would (somehow; he hadn't really planned how) find out what St. Scully had been doing behind his back, and he'd escape, having fucked his fantasy woman for a significant chunk of time. Though no subsequent partner could compare to her, he'd known at the beginning that he'd eventually have to leave. He accepted it as part of doing business.
But now, thinking about Scully was starting to turn the whole plan inside out. Suddenly, he didn't want Mulder to find out -- ever. And a little part of him didn't want to leave.
He'd already begun working toward that end, he realized. Even though there was still plenty of information to give, he found himself cutting it into smaller and smaller chunks, just to prolong the deal. He'd started tailoring his behavior in response to her wishes. He hardly felt like himself anymore. In his mind, the game no longer had an end. He didn't want it to be over.
That realization scared him deeply.
Suddenly the pain came to the forefront again, stabbing into his shoulder with a white-hot intensity he hadn't felt in months. He found himself doubled over, rubbing frantically at the shoulder, tears escaping from his eyes. He couldn't breathe anymore; every breath just sent another jolt of agony through him, and it just kept pounding, pounding, pounding, never-ending pounding...
The deal suddenly didn't matter anymore. Nothing mattered but ending the pain. One thought broke through the pain; one image manifested itself in his brain. This thought hadn't come to him since he left the hospital in Russia, but it came now; demanding that he act on it. He knew he had to, as it was the one sure way to end the agony. Permanently.
The silence that greeted her seemed strange to Scully. Normally Krycek greeted her when she got home, but she heard no greeting. Maybe he was out. Great, then she'd have to worry about him again. With any luck, he at least left a note.
She moved through the apartment to the kitchen, where she found the table bare. No note. Just lovely. Now she had no idea when he'd be back.
A low moan from the living room drew her back there, and that was where she found Krycek. He was lying on the sofa, and it took a moment for her mind to register what she saw.
The gun in his hand.
The hand he lifted toward his head.
Even as she lunged toward the sofa, she heard the scream tear through her own throat.
A cold lump of fear settling in her stomach, Scully lunged toward the sofa, toward the gun in Krycek's hand, crying, "Alex, no!" She didn't know if it was her shout or his own mental state, but his reflexes were slow and she was able to get to him and ease the gun from his hand before anything happened.
She placed the gun on the coffee table, out of his reach, then turned her attention back to him. He was curled on his side now, breathing fast, his right hand clamped hard on his left shoulder. His left arm hung motionless, like so much dead weight.
<Which is exactly what it is,> Scully reminded herself. She'd known this could happen, but somehow never expected it to. Krycek always seemed so strong, so in control of everything. If he was in pain, he almost never let her see it. There was only one time she could remember when he hadn't been able to cover it, but she was nonetheless sure he hadn't let her see the depth of what he was feeling. Seeing him like this now, so obviously in pain, unnerved her a little. Would he even let her help?
She gently touched his real hand. "Alex?"
He jerked away from her and buried his head in the sofa pillow, murmuring something unintelligible.
"Alex, I know it hurts," she said gently. "Did you take anything for it?"
More muffled words. Was he even speaking English? She wouldn't be at all surprised if she learned that the words were Russian. "I need to know," she continued. "I don't want to give you more of something that's not working."
He moaned something that sounded sort of like "aspirin," but when she checked the bathroom, she found the ibuprofen bottle sitting open on the counter. That meant that all pain-relief possibilities had already been exhausted.
Scully hesitated, unsure of what to do. The pills she carried in her bag had been prescribed for headaches. Cancer-related headaches. They would work on amputation-related pain, but she felt funny about giving them to someone they weren't prescribed for.
They had one thing in their favor -- they were strong. She'd only taken the drug once, not long after she was diagnosed, and it had put her out of commission for most of a weekend. Her headache went away, but she never used the pills again. She couldn't afford two days of down-time for every simple headache.
Her pills could be just the ticket for Krycek. If nothing else, he'd probably sleep, which in itself would likely help. It went strongly against her better judgment to give him a drug that had been prescribed for her, but the moans coming from the living room made the decision for her. She had to help him, and she probably couldn't hurt him any more than he was already hurting. She went back to the living room with a cup of water and one of her headache pills.
"Here, take this." She pried his hand off his shoulder and put the pill in it.
He curled up tighter and almost dropped the pill, but she turned his head and put the cup to his lips. "Take it," she urged, gently but firmly. "It'll help."
He finally did, then curled up again, muttering unintelligibly when she asked if she could look at his arm. What he was feeling was probably some sort of phantom pain, but she couldn't discount the possibility that the stump was infected.
Rolling up his sleeve, she felt around for the prosthetic's release. She hadn't seen him take the thing off since that first night and wasn't sure quite how to do it, but after a brief search, the prosthetic dropped onto the sofa.
A thorough examination revealed no problems with the arm itself; no obvious structural problems that could cause such severe pain. She took an even longer look at the stump, but again nothing seemed amiss, other than some minor irritation around the attachment site. There was no doubt that Krycek's pain was real, but its origin wasn't clear.
By the time she finished her examination, Krycek had quieted; his body was relaxed and his breathing was more even. He was asleep. With any luck, he'd be out for a while, allowing Scully time to go about her business.
Two hours later, fed, changed, and with a load of hand-washables drying in the bathroom, Scully settled down in the living room, watching Krycek. Less than four months ago, it would've been inconceivable for her to do what she did for him tonight. Less than four months ago, she would've been the first to say that he deserved any pain that came his way. How could things have changed so much?
The deal was an obvious, and convenient, explanation. There were still two major questions outstanding. Though she didn't believe he really had the answer to one of them, she was determined to get whatever answers existed. But that was only part of it.
Somehow she'd gotten used to having Krycek around. Not just on a sexual level, either. Though she'd never considered him anything more than a partner in a distasteful business deal, somehow he'd wormed his way into the atmosphere of her home to the point where it would now feel a little odd without him there. She couldn't put her finger on why she felt that way, but one thing was becoming clearer. Though she considered her solitude a precious thing, she had to admit that her existence was sometimes a lonely one.
She had her mother, she had her brothers, her friends, and of course Mulder, but somehow none of them seemed to fill that void the way Krycek did. She didn't understand it, couldn't explain it, but somehow it was enough just knowing that she had someone to talk to when she got home, and that he was that someone.
It hadn't started out that way. In the beginning, virtually all of her contact with Krycek, physical or verbal, was sexual. That had slowly changed, but she didn't realize how much until the night he brought her cookies. Since then, their interaction was different. A smaller percentage of what he said and did was sexually charged, and she thought his different treatment of her might stem from looking at her in a new way. And she had to admit she was starting to look at him in a new way, too.
She'd started opening up to him, just a little, almost without knowing she was doing it, but she still knew little about him. The difference between now and four months ago was that now, she wanted to know more about him; what he thought, what he wanted, what made him tick. Occasionally, if she lay awake at night, her mind started to stray to a question unthinkable four months ago. <If he weren't what he is, if he weren't always playing mind games, what would he be like? What kind of relationship would we have? Could I be friends with a man like this? Could I date him?> She stopped herself there, unwilling to speculate further. It wasn't worth thinking about; Krycek was what he was and nothing would change that. As long as the deal existed, the best she could do was to try to understand him. The key to understanding him, she realized, was in finding out why he was the way he was. What his story was. And she was growing very interested in discovering that story.
It could never go any further than that. Eventually the deal would be over and Krycek would leave. Scully knew now that she'd miss him, but probably not for long. Her life would continue as before; she'd find something else... or someone else... to occupy her time. The only evidence of this portion of her life would reside solely in her memory... if she even chose to remember it.
No, she decided, Alex Krycek would hold no permanent place in her mind once this was over. He couldn't. As long as he was with her she could forge a workable, even pleasant, relationship with him; could gently probe for the key to unlock his mystery, but that was it. Once he was gone, he was gone for good. It had to be that way.
Further thought was cut off by a soft moan from the sofa. Krycek slowly rolled over, rubbed at his eyes, and attempted to focus on her. His eyes seemed glazed; did he even see her? "Hi," she ventured. "How do you feel?"
He pushed himself into a sitting position, leaned back against the pillow again, and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "Drugged," he finally said. "What the hell did you give me?"
"Demerol. It's for my headaches, so I carry it with me. That's why you didn't find it. Did it help?"
He rubbed at his left shoulder, only then fully noticing that his arm wasn't there. "Yeah, it helped. Thanks." His eyes settled on the coffee table; first on the gun, then on his prosthetic arm. His gaze moved back to the gun again, and Scully wondered momentarily if he'd make a grab for it. But he just lay back and closed his eyes. "Pretty stupid, huh?"
She allowed herself a brief sigh of relief. "Under the circumstances, very stupid," she agreed. "Surely even in Russia there are better methods of pain management?"
Krycek shook his head. "Morphine, if you're lucky enough to get it. Even if you are, it's never enough." He glanced at the coffee table again, then up at her. "Can I have my arm, please?"
She got up and handed it to him, then rolled up his sleeve. "Here, let me."
He jerked violently away from her, so she wordlessly retreated to her chair and watched him struggle with it. The arm was still a taboo topic, and she could understand that, but the pain could no longer be. "Alex, how many times has this happened?" she asked.
He clicked the prosthetic back into place and rolled his sleeve back down. "It hasn't. Not since I left Russia."
She blinked, unconvinced. His lies weren't usually that obvious. But if he was lying, wouldn't she have noticed the pain at some point? "How many?" she repeated quietly.
He took a deep breath, met her gaze momentarily, then closed his eyes again. "Damn, I hate narcotics," he murmured, then breathed deeply again. "Once or twice," he said softly. "But it was never this bad before."
Scully mentally doubled that figure. "And what did you do then?"
"Took whatever was around. Aspirins, mostly, some ibuprofen." A pause, then, "Finished that bottle of vodka once, too."
She sighed deeply. "Alex, there are doctors who specialize in pain management --"
"You want me to get hooked on painkillers?" he interrupted. "I can handle this myself!"
"You'd rather risk an ulcer taking all that aspirin or drink yourself into oblivion?" Scully shot back. "Some way to handle it, don't you think?"
Now Krycek sighed. "Okay, I admit the vodka was stupid, but I know what I'm doing when I drink, okay? I know what it's going to do to me, and I can control it a hell of a lot better than I can control a narcotic."
She raised an eyebrow. "You can control the hangover too?"
"I grew up in a Russian household, Dana. Vodka was like water. I know how much it takes to dull whatever needs dulling, and I know how to avoid the worst of a hangover. Besides, drugs cause hangovers, too." He rubbed his eyes again. "I'll still be feeling this stuff tomorrow."
"So when the over the counter things and the liquor don't work, the gun is the only answer?"
"Got a better one?"
"Yes, I do. A pain management specialist. They do have alternatives to drugs for chronic pain, you know."
Krycek shrugged. "The gun's cheaper and faster."
"What happens next time if I'm not here to stop you from using it?"
"Then I'll be dead and it won't matter."
"How can you be so cavalier about killing yourself?" she asked, horrified. "I always thought you were a survivor. You're probably the last person I'd figure to be a suicide risk."
He drew in a long breath and let it out slowly. "Ordinarily, you'd be right," he said quietly. "I've spent most of my adult life just trying to survive, and most of the time I much prefer living to dying." He closed his eyes and his voice became much softer. "But pain's a funny thing. It does things to you... I hope you never have to find that out for yourself."
Scully sat back, stunned. It had to be the drug talking; he'd never talk like this unless something knocked his defenses down. "Please see someone," she said quietly. "I have friends in the medical community; I can get you a name..."
Krycek sat up a little more and fully met her gaze for the first time. "Why do you care?"
<Why, indeed?> "Excuse me?"
"It's a pretty simple question, Dana. Why'd you stop me? Why do you want me to get the pain under control? Why do you care?"
<I guess on some level I care more than you do, if you're so willing to end it all...> "I took an oath, the Hippocratic Oath..."
He shook his head slowly. "No oath pulled that gun out of my hand. Why?"
<Why? I can't even explain it to myself...> "The deal," she stammered. "Once it's over and you're not here, you can go ahead and do whatever you want. You can shoot yourself then if you want to. But as long as you're here and this deal stands, I need you alive and healthy. If that means taking care of the pain, then that's what we'll do." She paused and took a breath. "Besides, if you're going to be selfish enough to blow your brains out, I'd prefer that you not blow them all over my sofa."
That brought the ghost of a smile to his face. "You really wouldn't stop me if I chose to blow my brains out after the deal's over?"
That sounded more like the Krycek she was used to. It was a subtle mind-game question, but hearing it relieved her greatly. She was learning how to handle his mind games. She wasn't sure she could handle an introspective Krycek. "How could I?"
"Your Hippocratic Oath wouldn't save me?"
<Cookie night might save you...> She managed to squash the thought before it went any further. "After the deal, you won't be here. I wouldn't know where you were, so I couldn't possibly stop you, even if I wanted to."
<Here it comes now: 'Would you want to?'> She didn't know how to answer that, but she didn't have to. She heard only a soft laugh. "That's my Little Red." He stretched and stood up slowly, unsteady on his feet. Scully stifled her natural instinct to help, and remained seated. If he didn't want her help with the arm, wouldn't he just swat her away now if she tried to help him? "That pill of yours wiped me out. I'm going to hit the sack." He made his way to the hallway, then turned. "Thank you," he said. "For everything."
Scully waited until she heard the bedroom door close. Then she whispered, "You're welcome." And she meant it.
<The knife flew everywhere, slashing at his shoulder, his chest, his abdomen, arms and legs. He screamed, but no one heard him. The cuts got deeper and deeper and there was blood, so much blood; it hurt and he screamed and screamed but it didn't stop and no one came. Then his head was jerked back and he saw his attacker, saw the blue eyes and the red hair, just before the blade sliced across his throat, cutting off his scream. But he still heard it echoing in his ears -- "NOOOOOOOOO!!!!"...>
Krycek woke with a jolt, screaming, clutching his throat and gasping for breath. His heart hammered in his chest, his head throbbed... but there was no blood. No knife. No wounds.
Those facts barely had a chance to register in his brain before he found himself in the bathroom, hunched over the toilet, violently retching. When he was done he just lay there on the floor for a moment, pressing his face to the cool tile. <God, it was just a dream, only a damn dream...>
He managed to pull himself to his feet, only to slump against the sink. He washed out his mouth and splashed water on his face, clinging with one hand to the side of the counter. The nausea had passed, but the world was still spinning. <Why?> he asked himself. <What the hell was so different about that dream?>
He flinched as something brushed against his arm. All it took was the flash of red hair to send him back to the toilet, but this time it was only dry heaves. What made it worse than the first round of vomiting was that now Scully was awake. He didn't need her seeing him like this, and he sure as hell didn't need her touching him.
But touching him she was. She was gently stroking his back, and he couldn't pull away from her. He struggled to his feet again and hung over the sink, eyes closed, breathing hard. <God, oh God, it was just a damn dream, why why why...?>
"Alex, are you all right?"
He turned slightly, but the world started spinning again, so he closed his eyes. "I'm fine. Just wonderful." The words sounded terribly weak, even to him.
"Alex, you were screaming."
"Yeah, so?" After two deep breaths, he turned to face Scully. The image from his dream came back and nausea welled up again, but he managed to beat it back down. Scully had no knife. In fact, she looked concerned. "It was just a dream. No big deal."
Her eyes flicked to the toilet, then back to him. "Must've been quite a dream."
She reached out to him, but he instinctively recoiled. "Just don't, please?" He leaned heavily against the counter and rubbed his face. "Goddam pill." What else could bring on such a nightmare?
"If you want to talk about it --"
"It was just a damn dream, Dana!" he snapped. "I don't need to talk about it."
"Alex, it obviously had a dramatic effect on you," she said quietly. "It would help to talk about it."
Krycek brushed past her, somehow making it to the bedroom on legs that felt like rubber. His head throbbed, he still felt weak and sick, but now he needed to think, and he always thought better on the move. He started to slowly pace around the bed, trailing one hand along it as a guide in case he needed to sit. Three slow circuits helped the strength seep back into his legs, and allowed his mind to drift back to the dream.
After his bout with the pain earlier that day, he'd expect the nightmare to be about the forest, but he knew this one wasn't. It felt different, and had vastly different after-effects. After a forest nightmare his shoulder would hurt, and it felt fine now. The forest dreams didn't make him dizzy and nauseous, as this one had.
Then there was the Scully element of the dream. He didn't associate her with the Tunguska incident; why would she show up in a dream about it? Any halfway competent shrink would probably point out the symbolism of Scully cutting him to pieces, but in this nightmare, Scully wasn't Scully. At least, he didn't think so.
Head down, hands raking through his hair, he paced the semi- circle around the bed with growing agitation. There was something about this dream, something he knew was important, dancing just at the edge of his consciousness, but the harder he tried to grasp it, the farther away it floated. <Think, think! There's something there, something I need to remember, something important...>
"It was a dream about Russia, wasn't it?"
Scully's voice cut through his thoughts, and he stopped pacing and stared at her. "What?"
"You were dreaming about what happened in Russia, weren't you?" she asked, leaning against the door jamb. "Alex, I know what happened there. You don't have anything to hide; you can tell me --"
"I said I don't want to talk about it!" He pushed past her and went out to the living room, where he resumed pacing. <What is it? Something about the knife? The cuts? Does it even have anything to do with a knife? Or Scully? I gotta be missing something...>
"Talking about it could help."
Krycek looked up to see Scully standing just inside the living room, a folded blanket in her arms. What would it take to make her shut up? "Will you just leave me the hell alone?" he snarled.
He paced in silence for another few minutes, but couldn't concentrate because he knew she was still there. "Go away, would you?" he finally said.
She remained there for another moment, then placed the blanket on the sofa. "It's chilly out here," she said quietly. "I'll leave this in case you get cold." Then she padded off toward the bedroom.
Krycek paced for a while longer, but it didn't help. A thousand thoughts flitted through his head, and he couldn't concentrate on any of them. He needed to organize his thoughts... or just forget them. He brought his laptop to the coffee table, plugged it in, and booted it.
Scully woke the next morning in an otherwise empty bed. Any other day she might've worried about where Krycek was, but she was fairly sure that he hadn't gone out. Not the way he looked when she left him.
Why couldn't he open up to her? Though she didn't know exactly what happened in the forest in Russia, she certainly knew the outcome. If the dream was about that, why did he feel the need to hide it from her? If it left him nauseous and screaming, could she continue to let it be a taboo topic?
Unless, of course, the dream wasn't about the forest. Maybe it was about the silo, or something else she knew nothing about. Either way, something was troubling Krycek greatly, and she had to find out what it was.
Sharing her home and bed with Alex Krycek was one thing. Sharing her home and bed with a mentally unstable Alex Krycek was a different matter entirely.
She showered and dressed, then ventured out to the living room, where she found Krycek asleep on the sofa under the blanket she'd left for him. Even in sleep he looked troubled. She sat on the edge of the coffee table, watching him.
A flicker caught by the corner of her eye drew her attention to the laptop next to her. She must've moved the mouse when she sat, turning off the screen saver. The desktop was visible, with no programs open.
Scully sighed. The damn computer again. What the hell was he doing with it?
Burying the dream, she realized. He obviously didn't want to talk about it; he probably didn't even want to think about it, so he immersed himself in his project. Why was he so intent on running away from the nightmare?
He might... if he didn't even know what was bothering him. Maybe something in the computer would help her gain some insight. Her hand inched toward the mouse.
Movement from the sofa stayed her hand. Krycek's eyes were open now, and he was watching her. "Good morning," she said.
He stretched and rubbed his eyes. "Time's it?"
She glanced at her watch. "Just after seven-thirty." She paused, then, "Rough night, huh?"
He draped his arm across his forehead and said nothing.
"Are you okay?" she ventured after a moment.
"Last night..." he said softly. "Won't happen again."
"You can't guarantee that."
He shrugged and closed his eyes.
"But... you have a better chance of avoiding all that if you talk about it." She cringed a little, waiting for him to yell at her like he had the night before.
But Krycek just shook his head slowly. "Can't."
"Do you even know what the dreams mean?"
Ignoring her, he sat up slowly, reached around her, and shut his computer down.
Whatever it was, he was hiding it even from himself. What kind of effects could that have on the deal? "It'll only get worse if you keep it all to yourself..." she ventured.
"Don't start," he sighed wearily. "Just... don't."
"But the deal --"
"Won't affect the deal."
"How do you know that? You don't know what this thing'll do to you next."
Krycek rubbed his eyes again and turned to her. "Look, Dana, I'm not going to blow your brains out in the middle of the night, if that's what you're worried about."
"No, you're more likely to blow your own brains out. Yesterday --"
"That was different," he cut in. "I'm not about to put a bullet in my head over a damn dream, okay? Can you give me credit for a little more sanity than that?"
Scully bit her lip, considering. How mentally stable was he? Was it worth pushing this any more? If left alone, he might tell her in his own time, in his own way. Until that time, she'd just watch her back a little more. "I'm sorry," she finally said. "I was just trying to help."
"I don't need any help. I'm fine."
She knew he was far from fine, but she didn't think it wise to push him any further. "Okay, if you say so." She touched his arm, a little surprised that he didn't pull away from her. "You look exhausted. Why don't you go back to bed for a few hours?"
He nodded and stood up slowly. "Just so you know," he said, "this has nothing to do with the deal. Everything there is status quo."
"If you say so," Scully repeated, watching him shuffle off toward the bedroom. He might think the deal wasn't affected, but she wasn't so sure.
Krycek idly clicked through a web page, not even paying attention to what was on it. He wasn't looking for anything in particular. He'd done as much research as possible; all he could do now was wait. Just wait for the little beep that signaled incoming e-mail.
That e-mail was about the only thing that could take his mind off the nightmare. It was safest not to think about that at all if he could avoid it. The very thought of it made him queasy.
He had to focus his energy on something else. Since the start of his deal with Scully, he'd made only cursory attempts to find the person he was looking for, but the need was much more urgent now. Over the past week his search had kicked into high gear, and he thought he might be close to success. Everything depended on one e-mail.
The computer beeped, and he immediately clicked his mailbox open. Hope evaporated as soon as he saw the subject line: "XXX TOTALLY FREE HOT BABES NOW!!"
He shook his head. Sure, he'd browsed a few sex sites -- what else was there to do for hours online? He wasn't really interested in pictures or videos, but now he'd be deluged with spam offering just that. He fleetingly considered forwarding the mail to "email@example.com" before deleting it. Mulder probably already had a thousand bookmarks for sites just like that.
A few more clicks brought him to a research paper on a subject he'd studied in college. He was just getting immersed in it when the computer beeped again. This time the subject read, "FYI."
The message was short, stating only a place and a time, but it was enough. Krycek printed the mail, shut everything down, and was out the door in under two minutes.
The apartment was empty. Scully didn't think much of it, speculating over her dinner that Krycek had errands to run. Despite her warnings, he still went out during the day. Something probably took him longer than expected, and he'd be back shortly. No big deal, really, as long as he didn't mind that she'd eaten all the leftovers.
In fact, she was almost glad that he went out. His behavior had been sort of scary since the night of his dream. The one word she could think of to describe it was driven. He obviously had a mission, and he poured all his energy into that. There was no more pain (at least none that she could see), no more nightmares, but somehow this mission was worse, more frightening than any other aspect of his behavior. At least the dreams and the pain gave her opportunity to talk to him, to figure out what was going on in his head. Over the last week he'd pretty much shut her, and everything else, out, and was glued to his computer.
Attempting to slow down his unhealthy obsession with the computer, she'd propositioned him three times during the week. Though the sex was good, she knew his head wasn't in it. Normally he was acutely focused on her pleasure. Over the last week, it was almost like he didn't care, even about his own pleasure. He seemed to perform almost mechanically, and she knew his mind was still online even while he was inside her.
That alone was enough to unnerve her. Whatever he had going on had to be pretty important if it could make him lose his focus on sex.
Maybe his absence signaled an end to the mission. Maybe he'd found what -- or who -- he was looking for. He'd be home whenever he was done conducting business.
It didn't even bother Scully that Krycek wasn't home by the time she went to bed. Meetings of the kind he was probably arranging usually took place under the cover of darkness, right? Surely he'd be in the bed next to her when she woke up in the morning.
But the other side of the bed was empty when she woke up. There was no sign that Krycek had been there: no rumpled sheets, no imprint in the pillows, no clothing thrown on the chair. Slightly perturbed, Scully went to work, sure that Krycek would be there when she got home.
The second night, Scully was annoyed. How dare he run off like that without telling her when he'd be back? Every other time he went out, he left a note, even if it was only a scrawled, "Be back later." This time he'd left nothing. Just like Krycek to go running off somewhere with no thought for anyone but himself.
She prepared and ate her dinner while mentally rehearsing what she'd say. Just let him come home now, she thought. He'd get an earful for sure. Hadn't they talked numerous times about the manhunt? Not only that, he still had to worry about the smoker and his group. Didn't Krycek even bother to think about that before going off on his little joyride? Didn't it matter to him how much trouble they'd both be in if he were caught?
She wouldn't cover for him. This stunt was just too ridiculous. If he were caught, he'd sink or swim on his own. Let him try to blackmail her. Scully thought she could probably convince Mulder and Skinner that the videotapes were fake.
It wasn't until she was lying in bed, alone again, that a different thought struck. What if something had happened to him?
She considered that for a moment, then dismissed it. If something happened, he'd call, right?
Unless the smoker got to him.
Unwilling to entertain that thought, but unable to completely banish it, Scully closed her eyes and fell into a fitful sleep.
Krycek waited in the alley, nervously looking around him in search of his informant. The guy was late. For all he knew, he wouldn't show at all.
The first meeting had gone well, all things considered. People would do and say just about anything for cash, he knew, and that informant was no different. He didn't even demand as much cash as Krycek thought he would. The simple arrangement of a second meeting wasn't worth all that much, but Krycek was happy to pay. And once he was sure the informant hadn't had any communication with the smoker, he was happy to end the transaction with a bullet to the head.
The best thing about cash transactions was that cash was refundable.
This second meeting, Krycek knew, wouldn't be as easy. This informant likely had the new lead he desperately needed, but he hadn't had a chance to feel this one out. He wasn't sure he could get away with a simple cash-and-kill this time. Decision time: how far was he willing to go for what he wanted?
Krycek spun around, suddenly face to face with his informant. He could tell nothing by the man's non-descript face; nothing indicated how this might go. A careful approach was called for. Strictly business. "You know why we're here?" he said, hoping his voice didn't betray the unease he felt.
A curt nod. "Yes."
"You know where the subject is?"
No. Fucking figured. "Thanks a lot for wasting my time." Krycek turned to go, but felt a hand lightly touch his shoulder.
"I know how to get in touch with him," the informant said quietly.
Krycek stopped, but didn't turn. "Why the hell should I trust you?"
"You have no one else."
"There's always someone else."
"No one else with the package deal I'm offering."
Krycek mulled that over. This was all a calculated risk; there really wasn't anyone else he could go to. Not now, at least, and not as safely. All other contacts would bring him even closer to the smoker than this did. He turned around slowly, figuring he should at least listen to the offer.
"What's all this going to cost me?" he asked.
Now the informant smiled; a humorless grin that sent a chill down Krycek's spine. He could feel the man's gaze crawling over his body, and he was suddenly very sure this deal wasn't going to go down. He took a step back, realizing with some surprise that he was trembling.
The informant matched the step, closing the distance between them again. "Cost? I think you'll be pleasantly surprised."
Krycek took another step back, realizing that he'd backed himself against a wall. Stupid, stupid, stupid! How the hell had he lost control of this meeting so quickly? He knew his trembling was noticeable now, but he didn't care. His mind was already racing toward getting out of this alive, even if it meant losing the information.
"Why..." The word betrayed his nervousness; not the image he wanted to project. Making a conscious effort to stop trembling, he took a deep breath and tried again. "Why would you want to help me?" His hand inched toward his gun, but the man grasped his wrist firmly before he could grab it.
"Because, Mr. Arntzen," the informant said with a smile, "I like you. And I think you're going to learn to like me too."
By the third night, Scully was worried. All she could think of was Krycek lying dead in some alley somewhere, the cigarette man standing over him with the smoking gun.
She was sure she'd know about it by now if the FBI had caught up with him. Mulder would waste no time in inviting her to the interrogation. But Mulder had spent the day doing research on the information on the last disk she'd given him, so she was pretty sure Krycek hadn't run afoul of the FBI. Yet.
What if something else happened to him? What if wasn't even the smoker? What if he'd gotten hit by a car or something? Maybe she should call the hospitals. She couldn't call the police; that would just be asking for trouble. But maybe the hospitals...
But wouldn't someone have called her if he'd been in an accident? He usually carried the Alan Keller ID with him...
The thought trailed off as another one hit. Scully opened the closet and there, just as she'd thought, was Krycek's jacket. She leaned in and ran her hand over the butter-soft leather, searching for the pockets. She couldn't help but inhale the aroma of the leather, mixed with a scent that was uniquely Krycek, and suddenly his absence hit her on a much more visceral level than it had up to that point. She swayed for a moment, grabbing onto the closet bar for support.
The scent brought memories rushing back; the most prominent one, oddly enough, was of cookies. Cookies and leaning on Krycek's chest, inhaling the same scent that was embedded in the leather. It was a memory of feeling safe and protected, and right now she missed that.
She missed him.
The realization struck her like a lightning bolt, and she had to grab for the closet bar again. Missed? Alex Krycek? How could she possibly miss a man who'd made her life a wreck from the moment he stepped into it?
No, she didn't miss him. It wasn't possible. Her concern was business- related only. Reaching into the pocket of the leather jacket, she brought out a slim wallet. Inside the wallet was sixty dollars in cash, the Alan Keller ID, and a small photo of herself.
Scully stared at the photo. What was he doing carrying around a picture of her? Was it just window dressing, to go with the identity she'd had him set up, or was there deeper meaning to it? And where had he gotten it? She didn't even recognize it.
After a long moment, she shook her head and closed the wallet, replacing it in the jacket pocket. She now knew that Krycek was out without any sort of ID, without any contact information. She wouldn't get a call if he wound up in a hospital or a morgue.
He was out without his jacket, too. It was only mid-April; the nights were still very cool. This was now his third night out. Even if he came back, he'd probably end up with pneumonia or something.
Scully sat at the desk, feeling utterly helpless. Her hands were tied; there wasn't anything she could do.
Then her eyes fell on his laptop.
If this disappearance was related to the research he'd been doing, maybe his computer would shed some light on things. Sending up a silent prayer, she booted the laptop.
Just when she thought it was finished booting, a small box popped up with the message "Enter password."
Password? Scully's fingers hesitated over the keyboard. What might Krycek use as a password? For all she knew he used something Russian, but she had to try something. It had to be something he thought a lot about; something that had some meaning for him.
She typed "Little Red."
The dialog box popped up again, telling her, "Invalid password. Please enter password again."
"Hmph." She sat back, gazing at the screen with narrowed eyes. What else held meaning for Krycek? She had no idea, and suddenly wished she'd bought one of those Russian dictionaries. She started randomly typing words and phrases, but she was only guessing. Each entry came back with the same box saying "Invalid password."
Scully closed down the computer, even more worried now. Where the hell was he?
Krycek gave the alley a quick once-over before moving quietly down it. So many alleys, he mused, and they all looked pretty much the same. Another alley, another town. The story of his life, it seemed.
At least this alley was in D.C., the first time all day he'd been in the city. The last informant's lead had taken him out of town, chasing down a connection that turned out to be a dead end. The information wasn't a total loss, though. There were still leads to be followed through the computer.
At least the meeting, bizarre as it was, had ended as it was supposed to, though Krycek did feel just a tiny bit guilty about putting a bullet in the man's head.
No time for guilt now, though. He had a viable lead. Now all he wanted was to go home and indulge in the simple things. A long, hot shower. Clean clothes. A hot meal.
It suddenly occurred to him that he probably should've called her at some point. He wasn't used to answering to anyone when he had business to conduct, and it had completely slipped his mind. She'd probably be pretty pissed by the time he got home.
No matter. She'd get over it.
Something suddenly whizzed past him, and he immediately dropped behind some crates. He knew that sound, from long experience.
Someone had just taken a shot at him.
Silenced, of course -- he hadn't heard the shot, just the whine of the bullet as it streaked past him. He hunkered lower, eyes sweeping the area, looking for the shooter. He saw no one, but became aware of a stinging in his right arm, and a warm trickle of liquid down it.
"Shit!" He probed his right bicep, stifling a hiss of pain. There was blood, but he wouldn't bleed to death from it. The bullet had just grazed him. It hurt, but he could deal with it. He had to, with a still-unseen shooter lurking around. He drew out his gun and waited.
He caught a flicker of movement on his left and immediately fired... but nothing happened. He squeezed the trigger again, but there was still nothing.
<Fuck fuck fuck!> Krycek jammed the useless gun into his waistband. Just what he needed; hand to hand combat with an armed assailant. He'd have to lie low and try to get the shooter's gun.
Definite movement on the left now. The shooter was looking for him. Did he know his first shot hit? Maybe not. Best to play dead until the guy was close enough to deal with.
Krycek waited, coiled in readiness, until his attacker was practically on top of him. Only then did he spring, launching himself at his attacker full-force. They both hit the ground hard, and Krycek saw the gun fly out of his assailant's hand. A couple of quick rights to the guy's face gave him the seconds he needed to dive for the gun.
He caught sight of the gun and was reaching for it when he felt someone grab him and shove him forward. There was no time to prepare for impact, and fireworks exploded inside his head when it made contact with the brick wall.
He came to a few seconds later, now prone on the ground, his vision blurred and his head pounding. He moved to get up, but screamed as pain suddenly exploded in his back, once, then again. The only thought in his mind was that he was shot, that he'd never move again, that the next bullet would be fired into his head. But he managed to turn his head enough to see his attacker raise his foot.
Twisting away from the next blow well enough to pull the assailant off- balance, Krycek kicked at him, and the guy went down. <Gun,> registered in Krycek's mind. <Gun's still lost.> He made an effort to get up, but his attacker was up again, viciously kicking him. He curled up, protecting himself as best he could while his dazed mind tried to work out an escape plan.
Gathering his strength, he twisted away from his attacker's foot and lurched to his feet. He managed to swing, but it was a glancing blow the other man easily sidestepped. Krycek wasn't fast enough to sidestep the man's answering blow.
The next left to his chin dazed him even more, enough that he was almost powerless to avoid having his head slammed into the wall again. But a split second before impact, he saw it.
The gun. Lying right there in the garbage, not six inches from his foot.
His head hit and again he dropped to the ground, fighting with every inch of his being against the darkness that wanted to claim him. He could barely feel his attacker's kicks, so intent was he on getting the gun. Another kick, and he could feel something give inside him, could hear a rib crack, but his hand closed over the gun.
<Steel-toed boots,> floated through his mind as he rolled over. He couldn't focus on his attacker, everything was too blurry, sometimes there were two or three of him, blood dripped in his eye and he couldn't see, but it didn't matter.
Krycek closed his eyes and fired.
By the fourth night, Scully was practically frantic, and extremely frustrated. She was an FBI agent, for heaven's sake; she ought to be able to find somebody when she needed to. But there really wasn't anything she could do.
She tried to distract herself with the television, but none of the programs interested her. She paid attention when the news came on, just in case. An item came up that she was sure Krycek would have a unique view of, and not being able to debate it with him just drove home the point that she missed him.
There. She finally allowed herself to entertain the thought. She did miss him, and it had nothing to do with business. She missed having someone around that she could talk freely with; missed the way he challenged her intellectually in their news debates.
She missed having someone there to lean against and share cookies with.
The news ended and Scully shut off the TV. She couldn't go to bed; she knew she'd only toss and turn for hours. She curled up in corner of the sofa, pulled a pillow to her chest and hugged it. "Alex," she whispered, "where are you?"
The pain told him that he wasn't dead.
Krycek lay amid the trash in the alley, wondering why he wasn't dead. Then the pain kicked in for real, and he almost wished he was dead.
Every movement brought on a new wave of nausea, but he managed to roll over and get up on his hands and knees before vomiting. After that, the nausea subsided a little, but the buzzing in his head was still there. Everything was spinning before his eyes and he couldn't focus on anything.
He tried to stand up, but sharp pain lanced through his abdomen, dropping him to his knees again. Content to stay that way for now, he crawled toward the shape two feet away from him.
It didn't matter that he couldn't see straight. It was easy enough to tell that his assailant was dead. Krycek's shot had blown the top of his head off.
Shot. Krycek focused on the word. Shot meant... gun, which was right there where he had fallen. He retrieved it and tucked it away as another thought came.
He had to get back to Scully, call Scully, do something. Pulling himself up with the aid of the piles of trash, he managed to stand, but almost immediately slumped against the wall. He was too dizzy, he hurt too much, and blackness was starting to intrude on his field of vision. He couldn't possibly move.
But move he did. Slowly, painfully, hunched over, he made his way to the mouth of the alley, but when he got there he had no idea where he was. Nothing looked familiar, and he couldn't remember the location. Couldn't remember why he was there. Didn't know how to get home.
Krycek turned the corner and stumbled along the wall facing the street. It was still dark -- dark again? -- and he couldn't see anybody around. He was alone.
Krycek slumped into a doorway and finally surrendered to the welcoming blackness.
The soft sound woke Scully and she sat up, momentarily disoriented. It was a second before she remembered turning off the television and curling up on the sofa, clutching a pillow. She must have fallen asleep.
Faint light came through the curtains and the VCR clock read 7:06. Had she really spent the whole night on the sofa? She put the pillow down and ran her hands through her hair. If she'd slept all night, why didn't she feel more rested?
Another sound, louder this time, and it seemed to be coming from the hall. One thought raced through Scully's mind: Krycek. Didn't he have his keys with him? Not that it mattered; he knew how to pick the lock.
Now there was a prolonged knocking at the door. Krycek definitely wouldn't knock. What was going on here? "Okay, okay, I'm coming," she muttered. Her hand on the knob, she glanced through the peephole.
A middle-aged Arab man was outside, furiously knocking. Scully quickly searched her memory, but the man's face didn't register. Curious, she started to open the door. "Can I help --"
Her words died in her throat when the door fell open and a figure tumbled through it. She tried to break its fall but she wasn't fast enough, and the body tumbled to the floor.
"Oh, my God," she breathed, bending to the moaning figure on the floor. This face she recognized. "Alex..."
He was breathing, but each breath was shorter and more shallow than it should have been. Pressing her fingers to his neck, she found a weak, rapid pulse, and his skin was very pale.
"You know him, Miss?"
Scully looked up to find the man who had knocked leaning into the apartment. "Yes, I know him. Where'd you find him?"
He waved a hand, generally indicating his find wasn't local. "Southeast..."
"Yes, yes, I know," she murmured.
"I tried to take him to a hospital, but he wouldn't go," the man continued. "Kept saying to bring him here."
"Of course." Scully stood now and reached for her purse. "Thank you very much for getting him here. I'll see that he gets medical attention." She pressed some money into the man's hand. "Thank you."
He took the money, but held her eye and kept his foot in the door. "He puked in my cab."
Anxious now to get back to her patient, Scully handed him more money. "Get it cleaned on me. Thank you again and I'll take it from here." She practically pushed the cab driver out the door, then closed it and bent again to Krycek, lying motionless on the floor.
She gently turned him over and took his head into her lap. His right arm, forehead, and the right side of his face were caked with dried blood. He was completely unconscious, and didn't respond at all to her touch.
Scully quickly went through in her mind the procedures for evaluating a trauma patient. He was breathing, so she moved on to the next step, checking for obvious bleeding. The scrape on his forehead, near his right temple, was still trickling blood, as was the wound she found on his right arm near the shoulder. That one would need stitches, but it looked relatively superficial and she could see no other wounds.
Pulling her purse off the table, she dug her penlight out of it and checked his eyes. The pupils were equal, which was a good sign, but it bothered her that they were somewhat sluggish in responding to the light. The light did, however, bring him back to some semblance of consciousness, which Scully took advantage of. He had to have been coherent enough to tell the cabbie her address; time to find out if, or how much, that had deteriorated. "Hi there," she said. "Can you tell me your name?"
He mumbled something she couldn't make out.
"I couldn't hear you," she said. "Tell me your name?"
He mumbled again, something sounding like "Arnsen." Scully sat back, now thinking that that was probably not the right question to start with. Krycek almost certainly didn't use his real name when conducting his shadowy business. If he'd been using another name for the last four days, it stood to reason that he still thought of himself that way. She tried something else. "Do you know who I am?"
His eyes opened slowly, and he focused on her for the first time. "Dana," he murmured softly. "Little... Red."
Scully never thought she'd be happy to hear that nickname, but now she smiled. "That's right. Do you know where you are?"
Krycek rolled onto his side, grimacing in pain. "Home," he gasped. "Asked... take me home..."
"Alex, you are home." She carefully slid out from underneath him, pulling a pillow off the sofa to rest his head on. "Do you know where home is?"
"Okay, who did you ask? Do you know how you got here?"
"Don't... remem..." A groan cut off the rest of the word.
"Do you know who did this to you?"
"Dead," he murmured. "All dead..." His voice trailed off as consciousness left him.
She moved to his side now and lifted his shirt, a little surprised to see two guns in his waistband. Two? One she recognized, the other was unfamiliar. The second must have belonged to his assailant. Or was there more than one? Who exactly was dead? Temporarily shelving those questions, she put the guns aside and continued her examination.
Her gentle probe of his abdomen brought him awake again, shaking his head and groaning in pain. He wrapped his arms protectively around himself, his breath coming in sharp gasps. Scully let him rest for a moment, then tried to move his arm to continue her examination. He made a weak attempt to push her away and cringe from her probing hands, but she wouldn't let him. "I'm sorry, but I have to," she murmured. "I need to know how badly you're hurt."
"Hurts..." The word trailed into a long moan.
"I know it hurts. I'm sorry," she said gently, her mind racing. She couldn't manage a complete exam, but she'd seen enough already. The left side of his abdomen was rigid and distended, indicating internal bleeding. The left side of his chest was also rigid and over- extended, meaning that air had escaped his lung. Adding to that a probable concussion -- if not worse -- made her course of action clear. He belonged in a hospital.
Her first thought was to call 911, but she dismissed that quickly. A DC hospital would probably be more dangerous to him than his injuries were. Too much potential for him to be found. There was another possibility, a hospital she knew of in Silver Spring, Maryland, at which an old friend of hers worked. Dealing with a doctor she knew and trusted was a big plus, but getting Krycek to the hospital required a drive of at least a half hour. Did he have that much time?
"Alex?" she asked. "Still with me?"
"Do you know when this happened? Was it dark out, or light?"
"Mmm... d.... dark," he gasped. "Couldn't... see..."
Dark. That put the time of his injury anywhere from two to twelve hours ago. Still-fresh bleeding from his shoulder and forehead suggested it was less than twelve hours, but maybe not much less. He might be able to stand another half hour, but the faster she got there, the better she'd feel. At least she'd be going against traffic.
Scully shook Krycek's shoulder. "Come on, Alex, I'll help you up. We need to get you to a hospital."
His eyes opened wide and he shook his head. "No... no hospital..."
"Yes, hospital," she said firmly. "Now."
It wasn't until she was in the emergency room of her targeted hospital, relating her own findings to the young physician examining Krycek, that Scully started to relax a little.
The last forty minutes had been a nightmare. She still didn't know how she'd managed to get Krycek into the car, but was pretty sure that whatever she did had only made his injuries worse. She made it to Silver Spring okay, but got lost once she turned off the highway and had to waste time asking for directions. By the time she pulled up at the emergency entrance of Jackson Memorial Medical Center, Krycek was breathing in short, shallow little gasps and his skin was deathly pale, almost gray. He wasn't getting enough oxygen, he was likely losing a lot of blood, and she was terrified that time had run out.
Now, she found the recitation of her exam results to have a calming effect. She started to notice details around her, primarily how young the doctor looked. Probably a resident, she figured. He nodded occasionally during her speech but didn't ask any questions, and she wondered if he were really listening.
"Two more things," she said, watching the nurse place an oxygen mask on Krycek. "First, IVs in the right arm only; the left one is prosthetic."
Another nurse immediately moved around the gurney to Krycek's right side to place the IV the doctor ordered. "And two," Scully continued, "please have someone page Dr. Keith Manning."
That got the doctor's attention. "I assure you I'm completely qualified to treat your friend," he said, and Scully detected a hint of annoyance in his voice.
"I've no doubt you are," she said, choosing her words carefully, "but there are... extenuating circumstances here."
"Somebody get a chest tube over here!" the doctor barked, then turned back to Scully. "What extenuating circumstances?"
"Dr. Manning knows what they are," Scully lied smoothly. "He's familiar with this patient, and would want to be notified."
"I bet," the doctor snorted. He swiftly prepared and draped the tube insertion site on the left side of Krycek's chest, then administered local anesthetic. "Do you mind? You're not supposed to be here, especially while we're doing this."
She crossed her arms over her chest. "I'm a medical doctor. I'm as qualified to do that as you are."
"Qualified or not, you don't belong here."
Scully watched the physician make the incision and widen it with a clamp. "Page Dr. Manning and I'll move," she said firmly.
To the young doctor's credit, he kept his attention firmly on his work, even through his annoyance with her. He carefully inserted the chest tube before barking at her, "Do I have to call security?"
"Page Dr. Manning and I'll move," she repeated.
The doctor connected the tube to suction and sutured it in place, then turned to a nurse. "Let's get a chest X-ray here, then we need head and abdominal CTs. I'll be right back." Then he took Scully aside. "Look, Manning's a surgeon. He doesn't work the ER."
"I'm well aware of what Dr. Manning does," Scully said, trying her best to remain calm. It didn't matter if they thought she was a pain in the ass. Krycek was being treated, and that was the important thing. She took a deep breath and continued, "I know you're doing good work here, and I appreciate it. But if you want to offer full and complete medical care to your patient, it would be in everyone's best interests if Dr. Manning were called."
The young physician just stared at her for what felt like a long time. Finally he threw up his hands and made an exasperated sound. "Okay, fine, have it your way." He tapped a passing nurse and said, "Page Manning."
Scully allowed herself a sigh of relief. "Thank you."
"Until he gets here," the doctor said testily, "I'll continue treating my patient, if you don't mind."
"Please, do whatever you have to. I'll wait."
Scully watched as Krycek was whisked off for the requested CT scans, then moved slowly toward the ER's waiting area. She paced for what felt like an hour before she saw the familiar figure of her old med school buddy stride into the ER. A nurse pointed him in her direction, and seconds later she found herself enfolded in a big bear hug.
"Dana! Great to see you, stranger! What brings you to this neck of the woods?"
Scully pulled back from his embrace. "Keith, I need your help," she said quietly. "I have a... situation."
A flicker of concern crossed her friend's dark eyes. "Situation?"
"I brought in a witness who's in unofficial protective custody. It would be to everyone's advantage to keep this... discreet..." Her voice trailed off, and she realized that she probably sounded like an idiot.
But Manning nodded. "You want a doctor you trust to take over your witness' care. Right?"
"Yes, exactly." She took a deep breath. "I know you're busy, but could you...?"
"Dana, do you really have to ask? Of course I'll help. Just fill me in."
She gave him a summary of what had happened that morning. "You were the first person I thought of," she finished, "but I had to tell them that you know him before they'd page you."
"I'm surprised they bought that." Manning gave her a long look. "Unofficial protective custody, huh?"
"Not Bureau-approved," she said softly.
"I can see the need for discretion," he said with a wry smile. "So let's go see what's going on with... what's his name? I'm supposed to know the guy; it would help if I had a name."
Scully thought back. What had Krycek said the first time she asked if he knew his name? "Arnsen," she said. "Al Arnsen."
They made their way to where Krycek was, Scully hanging back while Manning approached the ER doctor. "How's it going?" he asked casually.
"This your patient?" Scully thought the ER physician still sounded a little defensive.
Manning nodded. "Mr. Arnsen. Looks like he got himself in a whole lot of trouble. Care to give me a rundown?"
The younger doctor looked a little surprised, probably figuring that he'd heard the story already, but he gave a quick, complete briefing. Though his account was virtually identical to Scully's, Manning listened carefully and asked questions as if it were the first time he'd heard it. Scully smiled, grateful that her friend was able to smooth the feathers she'd ruffled.
"Chest film's up on the viewer," the ER doctor finished, "and we should be getting CT prelims any time now. He's all yours."
Scully drifted to the viewing box to join Manning, who was intently studying the X-rays. "Pneumothorax," he said. "And four... no, five rib fractures."
"Six," Scully said softly, lightly tapping the X-ray where she saw each one. "Five on the left, one on the right."
"You're right, six. Lucky guy," Manning commented. "Could've done a hell of a lot more damage to that lung."
<I could've done more damage,> she realized suddenly. <His breathing was much worse after I moved him. Oh, God, I could've killed him myself...> But she said nothing, retreating to the corner and leaving Manning to his patient.
She wasn't allowed to brood for very long. Manning, studying the preliminary results of the head CT, interrupted her thoughts. "Dana, how long ago did you say this happened?"
"I don't know," she said. "Anywhere from three to about twelve hours ago. Why?"
"Was he conscious at all?"
"In and out, mostly out --"
"Was he at all coherent when he was conscious?"
"Somewhat, but he was pretty confused and disoriented. Keith, what are you looking at?"
Manning motioned her over to the computer and lightly circled one spot on the display with his finger. "Subdural hematoma," he said, echoing the words already running through her mind. "Small, especially if it happened twelve hours ago. It probably won't be a major issue, but I'd like to have neuro take a look anyway. What do you think?"
Scully stared at the spot on the computer screen with a sense of dread. There was bleeding in Krycek's brain. Not much -- she knew that there could've been much more after all that time -- but it didn't take much to cause problems. She could just see him waking up with no memory at all of the deal, or of the information he was supposed to give her. The scientist in her knew that was very unlikely, but she couldn't help but worry that that was exactly what would happen. "I think a neuro consult is a very good idea," she said after a long moment.
Manning didn't appear to notice her hesitation. "That'll have to wait, though," he went on. "I'll stick around for the prelims from the abdominal, but I can tell you already that from here he's headed straight up to surgery. It's pretty clear that there's significant abdominal bleeding, and getting that stopped is top priority."
Scully didn't even look at the other CT preliminaries as the images came up on the computer. She retreated to the far corner of the room, her mind filled with questions, many about her own actions. Had she made a mistake bringing Krycek to a hospital so far outside DC? If she'd hit traffic, or had a flat tire, or had taken longer to get directions, would Krycek still be alive now?
Manning's voice interrupted her thoughts. "We're done here, Dana. In a few minutes we'll be heading up to surgery."
"How does it look?"
"It looks... like he really needs to get to surgery. I'm just going to call upstairs and make sure everything's set, then we're outta here."
While Manning was on the phone, Scully drifted toward Krycek's gurney. For the second time in a very short time, she was surprised at how vulnerable he looked, and on some level it scared her. Now that she was counting on him to provide all that information, what would she do if he wasn't around?
A slight movement from the gurney caught her attention, and she found herself looking down into Krycek's half-open, pain-filled eyes. "Everything's all right," she murmured, lightly stroking his hair. "You're going to be just fine."
"For... you..." he gasped.
Scully stood there, stunned. For her? Whatever he did, he did it for her? What exactly did he do? Did he even know who she was? She started to ask, but her chance was gone. Krycek had lost consciousness again, and the gurney was being moved.
Manning took hold of her elbow and guided her along behind it. "Care to observe, Dr. Scully?" he asked.
It took a moment for his question to register. Watch someone poke around the internal organs of the man she was sleeping with? Not a very appealing idea. "No, thanks," she said, her mind still half- occupied by what Krycek had said. "I, um... have to break the news to my partner."
"Okay, then, I'll see you later." Manning and the gurney disappeared into an elevator, leaving her alone with her thoughts and worries.
Shortly thereafter, Scully found herself pacing a well-appointed waiting room just outside the surgical suite. She'd been handed admissions forms to fill out, which she had done to the best of her ability. Filling out forms with vague information was harder than it looked, especially for a woman who, until recently, had prided herself on her truthfulness. <Just another lie,> she thought, <to add to the ones I've already told everyone... and the one I'm about to tell Mulder.>
Before she could lose her nerve, she dialed Mulder's cell number. Too quickly for her comfort, he picked up. "Mulder."
Words suddenly froze in Scully's throat. What could she say that he'd believe? He was already suspicious enough...
"Hello?" Mulder's voice prompted her. "Anybody there?"
"Mulder, it's me," she said weakly.
"Scully, are you feeling all right?" There was obvious concern in his voice. "You don't sound so good."
"I'm..." He just gave her an opening; if she had any sense, she'd run with it. "Actually... no, I --"
"Say no more," her partner broke in. "I'm not surprised. You haven't been yourself the last few days."
She'd been worried, distracted, and inattentive ever since Krycek went missing, and that was all he could say? Mulder, master of understatement. "Well... it's time I saw some doctors," she said in a small voice. That wasn't a lie, exactly. She was indeed meeting with doctors. "There will probably be tests, and... maybe the start of a new treatment..."
"Go ahead and do what you gotta do, Scully. I can hold down the fort here for a while."
Typical Mulder, avoiding her illness again. But in this case, maybe it was better that he not ask too many questions. "Are you sure, Mulder? This may require, um... several absences..."
"No problem. Take whatever time you need."
Her mind raced, trying to figure out what her partner was up to. She knew he was hugely suspicious, and he hadn't confronted her in a while. Was he just giving her enough rope to hang herself with?
No, Mulder wouldn't do that. Not to her. Of course, he probably thought that she'd never use her illness to cover other activities. What if they were both wrong? "If you really need to reach me, call my cell," she said, shaking the other thought from her head. "I don't know exactly where I'll be today..."
"Will do. Take care of yourself, Scully, and I'll see you when you get back."
Scully clicked her phone shut, feeling horribly guilty. Technically, none of the words she'd said were lies, but was it really fair to let Mulder believe she was the one receiving treatment? She was doing this in large part for him, but did the end justify the means?
The door of the waiting room opened, interrupting her thoughts. Someone wearing scrubs leaned in and handed her a large plastic bag. Scully opened the bag to discover what looked like Krycek's personal effects, so she sat down and began to pick through them.
First there was clothing that was in desperate need of a run through the laundry. Underneath that were boots that had seen better days. In the bottom corner of the bag was Krycek's watch, and that was all. Nothing else; nothing to tell her where he'd been or what he'd been doing.
She considered the bag for a moment, then picked up the shirt. Pockets, in most cases, were the male equivalent of the handbag. She knew men who carried their lives around in their pockets. While that was hardly likely to be true of Krycek, it wouldn't hurt to look, just in case.
The shirt yielded nothing, but she found two wads of what appeared to be cash in the back pockets of the jeans. One had a ten on the outside, the other a twenty. Both folded wads felt fairly thick, making her wonder both how much money he'd been carrying and how he'd managed to avoid having it stolen. She snapped the rubber band off the first pack, expecting to see more tens, but gasped when her eyes registered that the bill underneath the ten was a thousand.
Where did someone get thousand-dollar bills these days? As far as she knew, they'd been out of circulation for years, yet here was one, right in her hand. She stared at it, her first thought being that it was fake, but that didn't make sense. This came from the pocket of a man who bought her lingerie costing hundreds of dollars, just on a whim. She knew the bill was real.
So, then, was the one underneath it, and the one underneath that. All in all, between the two bundles, there were fifty of the large bills. Fifty thousand dollars.
What kind of information was Krycek after that would cost so much? How much more had he spent over the last four days?
Krycek's words in the ER came back with surprising force. Had his trip had something to do with the cure he said he knew of? With that head injury, did he have any idea what he was saying, or who he was saying it to?
"Well," she sighed, "at least I know now how his hospital bill's going to get paid." Scully tucked the wads of cash into her bag and settled down to wait, many questions swirling around in her mind.
The next thing she knew, she was startled awake from a doze by a knocking sound. Keith Manning was leaning against the open door, knocking on the frame. "Sorry to wake you," he said. "Didn't expect you to be asleep."
Scully hadn't thought she'd be relaxed enough for sleep. Maybe it was just the last four days catching up with her. "'S okay." She sat up and ran her hands through her hair. "What time is it?"
"Almost noon. You okay, Dana?"
"Fine, fine. I just haven't been sleeping well." She sat up straighter as Manning came into the room. "So...?"
"Relax. Your witness is going to be okay."
"Thank God," she sighed. "You were in surgery longer than I thought you'd be."
"Well..." Manning sat down opposite her, laying an x-ray envelope on the table between them. "I won't lie to you. It got a little dicey. He lost a lot of blood, his pressure bottomed out..."
Scully couldn't mask a tiny, very soft sound of alarm.
"Don't worry; I told you he's fine. He came through it okay."
"You gave him blood?"
Manning nodded. "Two units. If he's a Jehovah's Witness, now's not the time to tell me."
Scully smiled. "No, far from it. I was just thinking, he had a minor anemia problem a few months ago..."
"No sign of it now. So... want the gory details?"
She nodded. "Please."
"Okay... well, we tried to repair the spleen, but the thing was pretty much shredded. Too much bleeding; we had to remove it. There's bruising and a nasty little laceration on the left kidney. We repaired it, but I'll be keeping an eye on his renal function for a few days just in case. Everything else looked okay; just some bruising that shouldn't be a problem. We patched up the lung, cleaned up the external wounds, stitched the one on his shoulder, and... that's about it. The shoulder wound... looks like he was grazed by a bullet."
Scully remembered the two guns she'd found on Krycek. "I wouldn't be surprised."
Manning took a deep breath. "Your friend there's one damn lucky guy, Dana. He took a hell of a beating, but it could've been a lot worse. Matter of fact, it was probably the broken ribs rather than direct hits that did most of the damage."
A mental image of Krycek in the car, deathly pale and barely able to breathe, sprang into her mind. "Probably happened... through moving him?" she ventured.
"Let's put it this way..." Manning paused, weighing his words carefully. "He couldn't possibly sustain that level of bleeding for twelve hours and still be alive. Had to have happened over a much shorter time."
"Of course," Scully said quietly. "It was that bad?"
He nodded. "It was bad. Likely got progressively worse while he was down in the ER. And not only that, there's the lung. Highly unlikely that he could survive for twelve hours with lung capacity diminished to that degree. So yeah, it's probable that something happened to exacerbate the injuries shortly before you brought him in here. He moved, or someone moved him."
"I did," she admitted. "I moved him. It's my fault."
"Doesn't necessarily have to be what you did, Dana. He might've moved on his own."
"No, it was me," she said, feeling a sudden stab of guilt. "He wasn't as bad as that when I found him, but I could see how much worse he'd gotten by the time I got him here. I made the choice, and I could've killed him."
"You must have him in, er.. unofficial custody for a reason," Manning said. "Did you really have a choice?"
She'd nearly killed him, but couldn't shake the feeling that she'd done the right thing anyway. DC hospitals were just too dangerous. "No, I didn't."
"Then don't beat yourself up over it. He'll be fine. Really." Manning pulled an x-ray out of the envelope on the table. "By the way, here's something the CT didn't show us downstairs." He handed the image to her. "What do you see there?"
Holding it up to the light, Scully studied it. She saw what she expected to see -- a small subdural hematoma. But there had to be something else there...
It took a moment, but she spotted it. "Skull fracture," she said softly, tracing it with her finger.
"Hairline fracture, not large but definitely there." Manning took the x-ray back and replaced it in the envelope. "Takes a lot of force to crack a skull. It's a wonder there wasn't more bleeding."
<Thank God there wasn't,> she thought. "Like you said, lucky guy."
"I had one of the neurosurgeons take a look, too," Manning said. "He agreed that the subdural hematoma shouldn't cause any major problem, but we're going to do a follow-up CT tomorrow morning. As long as it hasn't grown, it should reabsorb, no problem. In the unlikely event that it has, then we'll examine our options."
Scully closed her eyes. "My God, brain surgery."
"It's not going to come to that, Dana," he assured her. "You know that as well as I do."
She sighed. "Yes, Keith, I know that. It's just that a very big case depends on information he has, and at this point there's no known written record of that information. Serious brain injury would be disastrous, in more ways than one."
Manning sat back and studied her. "Y'know, Dana, I don't think I've ever seen you quite like this."
She realized that he was right. She'd always been cool and calm during medical crises in the past; worse ones than this. Why did this one have her so rattled? "I suppose... it's the stress of the last four days catching up with me." She paused, then admitted, "That's how long he's been missing."
"Missing?" Manning repeated. "This guy's in federal custody, and he goes missing? For four days?"
"Unofficial custody, Keith," Scully said quietly. "Without the full resources of the Bureau behind us, we can't keep him under round- the- clock watch." She took a deep breath. "We've been using an honor system of sorts, and it's worked quite well for a while. This was the first real incident..."
"Why..." He suddenly stopped and shook his head. "Never mind. I don't want to know. If I don't know, they can't torture it out of me."
She smiled. "The government doesn't do that anymore. Besides, it's only a temporary situation. We're... negotiating a deal involving official protection." She rose. "Can I see him now?"
Manning stood too. "He's still in recovery. Might be better if you waited until we get him up to ICU."
"Please, humor me. I know you said he's fine, but I just need to see for myself."
"Fine, fine, if you insist."
In a moment they were in the recovery suite, and Scully was gazing down at a sleeping Alex Krycek. His color was vastly improved since the last time she saw him, and he was breathing much more easily. Gauze bandages covered the right side of his forehead and his upper right arm. She lightly touched his right hand, the warm skin reassuring her that he was alive and most likely okay. Only then did she allow herself a sigh of relief. "He's really all right," she whispered.
"Told you." Manning accepted a chart from the young doctor on the other side of the gurney. "He's --" He stopped and looked closer at the chart, then pointed something out to the other doctor. "Is this right?"
The other doctor, who Scully figured to be a surgical resident, nodded. "BP's still down, heart rate's still up."
"Hmm." Manning flipped through the chart. "Hope we didn't miss a bleeder."
"You sure?" He passed the chart to Scully. "Must have a pretty good crystal ball, then. Maybe later you can tell me what the winning numbers in Saturday's lottery will be."
Chastened, the resident mumbled, "Sorry, Dr. Manning."
Scully opened the chart to see a set of vital signs that, while not exactly alarming, weren't what they should've been, post-surgery. "Maybe he just needs a little more time," she suggested, handing the chart back.
"Maybe." Manning scribbled a note and passed the chart back to the resident. "Monitor him," he said. "If it gets any worse, page me immediately."
He led Scully back out into the hall. "How 'bout I treat you to an early lunch?"
Her mind was still occupied with Krycek's condition. "Are you sure he's all right?"
"Pretty sure. In any case, Parsons'll keep a close eye. He's a good guy; he'll let me know right away if anything goes wrong." He slipped an arm around her shoulders. "So, what d'you say? Care to spend some time catching up?"
Her stomach was reminding her that she'd missed breakfast, and there was nothing else she could do but wait. Might as well spend that time pleasantly. "Lead the way."
"Heard some disturbing news over the Momvine not long ago," Manning said once they were settled in the cafeteria.
Scully spread light dressing over her salad. She was pretty sure she knew what he was going to say, and the fact that he knew irritated her. Her mother and Manning's mother were good friends who talked and saw each other much more than their children did. Naturally, information was passed back and forth, and their respective children often heard news of each other first from their mothers. She and Manning had been calling this motherly grapevine the Momvine for years, and were usually able to laugh about it. Not this time, though. "Oh?"
"Cancer," he said softly. "Dana, why didn't you tell me?"
She put down her fork. "It's not just you, Keith. I've hardly told anyone, and it bothers me that my mother --"
"Don't blame her. She's just worried about you." He placed his hand over hers. "Is it really that bad?"
She nodded. "Nasopharyngeal tumor. Inoperable."
"I'm so sorry. How do you feel?"
She picked up her fork and dug into her salad. "Actually, not bad. I have the occasional headache or nosebleed, and sometimes I feel a little weak, but overall I'm feeling fairly well."
"Is this why you're the one doing the witness-sitting?"
"Partly," she said, "but mostly because Mr. Arnsen and my partner would likely kill each other if left alone in a room together." On Manning's look she added, "Long story."
"I'll bet. So, are you undergoing any treatment?"
"I was on chemo for a while, but I stopped. So far that seems to be the right decision for me." Scully concentrated mightily on her salad, wishing he'd just drop it.
Manning was silent for a long moment, and she looked up to see him gazing thoughtfully at her. "Y'know," he finally said, "we have one of the top oncologists in the state right here. If you wanted a second opinion, I'm sure I could persuade him to give you and your records a look."
She considered that. Was it worth getting a second, or third, or fourth opinion? Maybe a different doctor would have some different treatment options. "I think I might take you up on that," she finally said. "Another opinion couldn't hurt, right? I'll just have to get a copy of my records sent over. Now could we please talk about something else? Something happier." She seized on the first thing she could think of to steer the conversation in a different direction. "How are things with you and Liz?"
Something dark came into Manning's eyes. "Over," he said flatly.
That was something she hadn't heard from her mother. "I am so sorry," she said, truly surprised. "I thought she was The One."
"So did I," he sighed. "She apparently thought our plumber was The One. They ran off to Mexico and got married."
Scully nodded in sympathy. "I can understand why this didn't come through the Momvine."
"I'll survive," Manning said. "Mom's in denial. I'd expect her to start leaning on me again to hook up with you if it weren't for the other thing I heard over the Momvine recently."
Scully inwardly cringed. He had to be talking about her "new boyfriend." She'd never known her mother to be much of a gossip; most of the news she passed on related to Dana's professional achievements. What was up with her mom suddenly sharing pieces of her private life?
"How's it going with this new guy?" Manning asked, confirming her suspicion.
"It's..." Suddenly put on the spot, she had no idea what to say. "... going," she finally answered.
"Doesn't sound too encouraging."
"Well..." She took a moment to think about it. She was confused enough about Krycek's place in her life. Trying to put into words what she felt only made it worse. "It's just that he's... not like any other man I've ever dated." That, at least, was the truth. "He's... not the type of man I'd ever thought I'd be with."
Manning asked the obvious question. "So why are you with him?"
"Because he appeals on a level that..." Her voice trailed off as she thought back. She had always been the one to remind Mulder of what exactly Krycek was every time her partner looked like he was buying into anything Krycek said. She kept Mulder grounded; made him see what really was instead of what Krycek wanted him to see. That was why the incident in Queens after the militia arrest was so strange.
Never in her short acquaintance with Alex Krycek had she seen him as anything other than a liar and murderer; someone standing in the way of their pursuit of the truth. But on that night, as she watched him sitting there in the warehouse playing mind games with Mulder, something else had clicked. It lasted barely a moment, but it frightened her deeply. In that moment, that tiny rebellious voice inside her, the one that prompted her to sneak her mother's cigarettes and, more recently, to get a tattoo, piped up: <The bad boys are always good in bed. Wouldn't you love to find out how good he is?>
She'd silenced that inner voice immediately, but its words echoed in her mind. For a moment she couldn't help but wonder, <what if...?> Then her usual, rational thought patterns took over and she never thought of that moment again... until the night Krycek came to her.
At the time she'd called the action of that night rape, and when faced with indisputable evidence that it wasn't, blamed it on alcohol and cancer-imposed isolation. Only now did she realize that it was more likely the suggestion of that little inner voice that had made her give in so easily that night. On some level, known more to her body than to her mind, she had wanted Krycek months before she had ever known she did. She could tell herself that the deal was all for Mulder, but she knew that wasn't true. From the beginning, she wanted the sex as much as the information... and now, over the last four days, she'd discovered other things she wanted just as much.
"He appeals to me in a way that no other man ever has," she finally finished. "He seems to have tapped into needs I only recently found out I had."
Manning was silent for a long moment. Then he sighed and said, "I hate it when you're cryptic like this. Let's try an easier one. What's he like?"
"He's..." She paused to think. What was easier about that? "He's smart, handsome, an excellent cook... he's well-read and well- traveled... my mother seems quite taken with him..."
"None of this is exactly a glowing review, Dana," Manning commented. "You sound like you're describing the class valedictorian, not your boyfriend."
"This isn't easy for me, Keith," Scully said quietly. "It's not as simple as all that. He's brought out a different side of me that..."
"That you're not comfortable with?" he finished for her. "Sounds that way to me."
"A side that I'm having a little trouble coming to terms with," she corrected. "It's not that I'm uncomfortable with it... at least, not anymore... it's just that it's so new to me and it takes some getting used to. There have been a lot of new experiences in my life lately, and they're mostly due to him."
"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"
She considered the question for a moment. "Mostly good, I think. He's broadened my horizons and I think, for the most part, the new experiences have helped me to become more... well-rounded." How harboring a fugitive made her a more well-rounded person she couldn't say, but she was willing to ignore that for the moment.
"Sounds like a very... odd... relationship."
"It is," Scully agreed. "And he's an... unusual man. There's still a lot I don't know about him. What was it Churchill said about Russia? A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. That's him."
"Okay, bottom line. Are you happy?"
"Not entirely," she said quietly.
"Then why are you still with this guy?"
"Because..." She paused for a second, suddenly aware of the truth of what she was about to say. "Because I'm not entirely unhappy either."
Manning shook his head. "Complex relationship, huh?"
"And you, Dana Scully, are a complex woman. I've never been able to understand your choices in men, and I guess that pattern still holds."
"There's only one thing you need to understand. Yes, this man may have changed my views on some things, may have changed me, in ways that I'm still coming to terms with, but the bottom line is this. My life has been... pretty messy lately, and he's been there for me, more than anyone else." <For... you...> echoed in her head again. "Maybe much more than I've realized until now."
Manning gave her a long, speculative look, then said, "I hope everything works out the way you want it to."
Just how did she want things to work out? She had no idea, but she did know now that there'd be an empty place in her life -- probably temporary, but still there -- without Krycek in it. "Thank you. Now, there's something else we need to discuss; something about your patient."
"Something else I should know?"
"You may know already... if it was noted in the chart and if you read closely enough. Did you see anything there about a prosthetic arm?"
He nodded slowly. "Yeah, I remember... the left one. That's prosthetic?"
"Yes. I know what you're thinking, and all I can say is... advanced technology was used." The design of the arm ran through her mind. "Very advanced."
Manning's eyes narrowed. "How advanced are we talking?"
Scully weighed her reply carefully. It probably wasn't smart to get people too focused on the arm itself. "I couldn't even begin to describe the technology," she said. "All I know is, it was made... abroad, and the design, though more functional than any I've ever seen, appears to have some... side effects."
He shook his head. "Damn if I could tell the difference. What kind of side effects?"
Once Krycek found out what she was doing there'd be hell to pay, but she couldn't let the opportunity pass by. "He goes through periods of excruciating pain that he has a lot of trouble handling. Though he doesn't like to talk about it, I'm pretty sure there's always some degree of pain, but these periods are much worse. One time I got to the safe house just in time to pull a gun away from his head." The memory sent a slight shudder up her spine.
Manning considered that for a moment. "Phantom pain?"
She shook her head. "No, I don't think so. This pain seems to be localized in the shoulder." She'd given the matter some thought since that day with the gun, and had something of a theory. "I'm thinking it might be nerve-related. He hasn't said much about the design, but he did tell me that the arm is somehow connected to the existing nerve network in his shoulder. If the nerves become irritated, couldn't that trigger such extreme pain?"
He nodded. "Certainly possible. You want to find out if you're right?"
"What I want is for someone to teach him something about managing that pain. Surely there are better methods than vodka and firearms."
"Sure, I can have one of our pain management people drop by when he's feeling better. Any idea how he lost the arm?"
She finished the last bits of her salad. "Like I said, he doesn't talk about it much. The impression I get is that he might've been in a truck accident somewhere in Europe." That sure sounded better than saying the patient jumped off a truck stolen by her partner and then had his arm hacked off, most likely by Russian peasants.
"Somewhere in Europe..." Manning mused. "Where in Europe do they have technology advanced enough to hook a prosthetic into the nerve network of the human body?"
Scully shrugged. "You'll have to ask him. Which reminds me, when do you estimate he might be awake? I really need to talk to him."
"I wouldn't expect much before later tonight, maybe even tomorrow," he said. "Not much point in hanging around, I'm afraid."
A very faint alarm rang somewhere in the back of her mind. "Keith, are you trying to get rid of me?"
"Not at all." He placed his hand over hers. "I can see how tired you are. If I were you, I'd go home, get some rest, and stop worrying. Your witness is okay, and he'll still be okay if you're not here. Take care of yourself for a change and come back tomorrow morning."
He had a point; she could surely use some rest. It didn't feel right to just leave Krycek, but if there was anyplace she could do that, it was here. She'd known and trusted Keith Manning since medical school; there was no reason to think differently now. "Okay," she sighed. "You win. I'll go. But if he wakes up and doesn't see anyone he recognizes --"
"I'll call you the minute he wakes up," Manning promised. "I swear."
Scully stood. "I want to see him again before I leave."
"Dana, he's fine. Don't you believe me?"
She did, but it never hurt to make sure. "Of course. But I still want to see him."
"Y'know, maybe that boyfriend of yours wouldn't be so mysterious if you paid this much attention to him --"
"Never mind, not my business," he muttered. "Let's go."
Scully stood before the chest of drawers in her bedroom, debating with herself. It looked like Krycek would be in the hospital for a while, making it necessary for her to bring him a few things. With his penchant for keeping secrets, he'd likely be pretty upset if he knew she went pawing through his personal things, but she resolved to cross that bridge only if she came to it.
Krycek had looked even better the second time she saw him. His blood pressure and heart rate had finally recovered and he was resting comfortably in ICU. She really didn't feel right about leaving him, but she didn't have much choice. Besides, it looked like Manning was right and she wouldn't be able to have a coherent conversation with him for a while. There were a million questions shooting around in her mind, but since she couldn't yet ask any of them, it was best for her to go home.
Her urgent need for rest resulted in a three-hour nap once she got home, and now, awake and refreshed, she put her mind to the task of preparing for Krycek's hospital stay.
Clothing was relatively easy to gather. T-shirts and boxers were essential, but that was about all she could think of. For anyone else she'd pack pajamas or some other sleeping clothes, but since Krycek generally slept either nude or in his underwear, that was already packed. She added some sweats, figuring that he'd prefer to have some sort of clothing. A couple of books went on the stack, then she moved into the bathroom to gather his more personal supplies.
One of the things she found most surprising about Krycek was his neatness. It was probably a function of his lifestyle -- it seemed likely that when you were on the run, you needed to know where all your things were at all times.
Or you needed to be able to gather them fast when you had to leave quickly...
She shook that thought out of her head. Krycek wasn't going anywhere for the foreseeable future, but it was nice that he kept his things neat enough for her to find everything. In some ways it reminded her of the sense of order instilled in her father and brothers by the military. All of his personal grooming supplies were in the same place in the bathroom cabinet, and she mentally checked them off as she transferred them to a bag. Everything moved along smoothly until she went to put the shaving supplies in the kit she found at the back of the cabinet.
The kit, which she had presumed to be empty, held three prescription bottles. The first one she picked up had a label from a local pharmacy which identified the pills inside as Zoloft. She didn't find it particularly surprising that Krycek should be taking the antidepressant. Though he tried not to show it, she knew he was having a hard time dealing with the loss of his arm, and some depression was almost inevitable in a situation like that.
The label indicated that the prescription was for a month's worth of pills. It was dated early February, more than two months in the past, but the bottle was almost half full. Krycek must not be taking the pills, and she wondered why. Had he stopped and then started again, or had he just stopped recently? She cast her mind back, examining his behavior under the microscope of this new knowledge, but the only time she could pinpoint when it seemed plausible that he wasn't taking them was the last week or so before he disappeared. Were his uncommon drive and his recent increase in nightmares due to lack of necessary medication?
Shelving those questions for the moment, she took out the next bottle. This one came from the same local pharmacy and was labeled as the anti- anxiety drug Xanax. Again, not terribly surprising for someone who'd suffered a recent trauma, but apparently Krycek was even less inclined to take these. The bottle was practically full, and the date on the label was early January, even before he appeared in her apartment.
Scully took the bottle out to the bedroom and jotted down the prescribing doctor's name. She had no doubt that the prescriptions were legit, and the bottles contained what the labels said they did, for no other reason than the fact that Krycek had hidden them from her. If the prescriptions were real, it seemed likely that he had made at least one visit to a psychiatrist. She would've given anything to be a fly on the wall during that session; that likely being the only way she'd ever find out what was going on in his head.
That was, of course, assuming that any therapist was able to get into his head. It also assumed that Krycek himself knew what was happening in the darkest corners of his mind, of which she wasn't at all sure. Had he gone because of his arm? That seemed likely, given the short time span between the accident and the earliest prescription. He may even have gone back a second time, or at least gotten a renewal on the Zoloft, but she didn't think he was going regularly. If he was, his nightmares wouldn't be increasing in frequency and intensity, nor would he continue to refuse to talk about whatever was bothering him. Without therapy, the pills could do only so much, and now he wasn't even taking those. Why? Why start treatment and then fail to follow through?
Going back to the bathroom, Scully drew the third bottle out of the shaving kit. This one had a hand-written label taped to it, and it was a moment before she realized why she couldn't read it. It was written in Cyrillic, in a runny ink that wasn't very dark. She turned the bottle over in her hand, noting that it was full, with only a few, if any, pills missing. What was it? It couldn't be pain medication -- Krycek would likely use that, even if it was a narcotic. She had to believe that he'd use the hated narcotic before putting a gun to his head during his pain episodes. Besides, he'd said that pain meds weren't readily available in Russia.
The fact that the bottle was tucked away with other drugs that might be prescribed for someone suffering from post-traumatic stress sent her thoughts in another direction. If the mystery drug was an antidepressant or an anti-anxiety agent, why would Krycek get new prescriptions when he entered the U.S., especially if he wasn't even going to take the drugs? What kind of drugs were used in Russia for PTSD?
If she really wanted to know, she could always ask Agent Kowalski to translate the label, as he'd translated Krycek's nickname for her, but that led to another dilemma. She didn't trust herself to properly copy the label, which meant she'd have to lend the bottle to the language specialist. If she left the shaving kit with Krycek, he'd notice that there was a bottle missing. And no matter how many bottles were in it, he'd know that she knew about the drugs. He likely wouldn't volunteer any information, and she wasn't ready to bring the subject up yet.
The obvious solution was to pretend she'd never seen the shaving kit and present Krycek with his supplies in another bag, freeing herself to get the Cyrillic label translated. That was a nice neat solution to the immediate problem, but now she wondered even more about Krycek's mental state... and what effect his injuries would have on it.
<He was suffocating. His lungs were constricted, no air coming through. Every breath he managed to draw in filled him with pain. It wasn't worth the effort. He'd just stop trying, stop the pain, let oblivion take him if it wanted... if only he could figure out what that brightness was...>
Krycek slowly opened his eyes, the light intensifying the pounding in his already aching head. Little by little he took in his surroundings: lots of white, stark decor, machines. Hospital? A faint alarm bell went off in his mind, but his head hurt too much to deal with it. With a groan he lifted his left hand to shield his eyes from the light.
A voice came from his right. "Light hurting your eyes? Sorry about that; somebody left the overhead on." There was a click and the offending brightness was gone.
He let his hand slide from his head down to his chest and turned slightly toward the voice. "Dana?"
"I'm here." Scully moved into his field of vision. "I'd ask how you're feeling, but I think that's fairly obvious."
"Headache..." he murmured. "Can't breathe..."
"You can't breathe? Or it hurts to breathe?"
He tried to pull in a deep breath, but cut it short when pain lanced through his left side. "Hurts," he coughed.
"That's the broken ribs," she said, coming closer to the bed. "Do you think you need pain medication?"
He shifted slightly and moaned as pain assaulted him from a new direction. The ribs made themselves felt, and now there was sharp pain in his abdomen. His hand moved to the spot, but Scully gently removed it. "Do you need something for pain?" she repeated.
He nodded and let his eyes slip shut again. When next he became aware of his surroundings, the pain had faded to a warm heaviness in his chest and abdomen, and a male voice was speaking.
"-- looks pretty good; all we need now is the CT."
"When is that scheduled?" Scully's voice.
"In about an hour. You said he was conscious before?"
"Before the morphine, yes. We had a coherent exchange, which I gather is a big improvement from last night."
"Huge. With that kind of progress I'd almost say we don't need the CT, but I'd still like to be sure, and I expect you would too."
"Of course. I --"
Scully's voice abruptly went silent, and a second later he felt her hand on his. "Hey there," she said gently. "You're awake. How's the pain?"
"Okay," he rasped. "Water?"
She held a cup for him, and once he finished drinking, the white- coated man cleared his throat and moved closer to the bed. "Mr. Arnsen, I'm Dr. Manning. If you don't mind, I need to ask you a few questions to make sure everything's all right. Is that okay with you?"
"Okay, then. Do you know where you are?"
He glanced around again. "Hospital," he said. "Don't know where..."
"Keith, he couldn't know," Scully put in.
"True enough. Do you know who the President is?"
He said the first name that came to him. "Boris Yeltsin."
Manning looked up from his clipboard. "Yeltsin?"
Scully squeezed Krycek's hand and smiled. "You didn't specify country, and that's not an incorrect answer."
"This country, okay?"
With a second's thought, he came up with the name. "Southern guy... annoying wife. Clinton."
"Close enough." The doctor scribbled something on the clipboard. "Remember who won the Super Bowl?"
Krycek blinked, trying to clear his vision. "Packers. Won a lot of money on that game..."
"Where?" Scully asked sharply.
Krycek dismissed the question with a weak wave of his hand. His head hurt too much to think about money, or anything else, now.
"I've been apprised of your situation," the doctor continued, "so I know there are certain things I can't ask you. But this should be a safe one." He gestured toward Scully. "You know who she is, right?"
His tongue found the Russian words first. "Plamennaya malyishka..."
Krycek glanced at Scully, who smiled and squeezed his hand again before moving closer to the doctor. "Again, not an incorrect answer," she said quietly.
"Yeah, but what the --"
"Don't push it, Keith. Trust me, he's not wrong."
"You may know that," the doctor said, "but I don't."
Scully weighed that for a moment. "You have a point." She gently tapped the bed. "English, please?"
"Scully," he murmured, his head starting to clear a little. "Special Agent Dana Scully."
"Thank you," the doctor said. "I told you my name when I came in here. Do you remember it?"
"Doctor Manning," Krycek said. "Is this over yet?"
Manning studied him for a moment, then clipped his pen to the top of the clipboard. "Yes, we're done. In an about an hour someone will bring you to radiology for a CT scan. You took quite a shot to the head, and although it seems pretty clear that everything's okay in your brain, we just need to make sure. Until then, rest, buzz if you need anything, and I'll see you later."
Scully waited until he was gone before pacing back toward the bed. "I really hope you intended those responses to be amusing," she said. "If not --"
"Arnsen," Krycek interrupted. "Where'd he get that?"
She sat down next to the bed and gave him a long look before answering. "From me," she finally said. "And I got it from you."
His thoughts had been clearing a little, but now they clouded over again. Had he ever used his business name in front of her? "Me?"
"Yes, you. Do you remember the cab driver bringing you home yesterday?"
He shook his head slightly, even that small movement causing the world to spin before his eyes.
"I was trying to assess the severity of your head injury," she said, "and I asked you if you knew your name. You mumbled something that sounded like Arnsen. When I had to come up with a name for the admissions forms, that just came to mind."
"No memory of that," he sighed. "None at all."
"Not surprising, really. I don't suppose you remember waking up here last night?" When he shook his head again, she went on, "The nurse said the only coherent thing she heard from you was something about pain."
Krycek closed his eyes. "Head injury," he murmured . "Broken ribs. Pain. What the hell happened?"
"I was hoping you could tell me," Scully said quietly.
Fighting against powerful drowsiness, he opened his eyes again and met hers. "No idea..."
"What do you mean, no idea?"
"No idea," Krycek repeated, a faint chill of alarm suddenly going through him. "Can't remember..."
End Of Part Twelve