RATales Archive

And Pull Us Through

by Flutesong

Title: And Pull Us Through
Author: Flutesong
Email: Flutesong@hegalplace.com
Website: http://www.hegalplace.com/flutesong
Category: Story/Relationship/Post Apocalypse
Spoilers: Canon ends with the Tunguska/Terma and the Alien Invasion begins soon after
Warnings: Eventual M/K slash - mentions of Het Sex - NC17 and many known characters die/are deceased - not M and/or K
Disclaimer: CC and Co owns all the original ideas. I made these
July 2004 War of the Worlds Lyric Wheel
Great Lyrical thanks to Tarlan
Notes: I confess to writing quite a lot of this story previously, along with several others in partial completion that are currently on my hard drive. It has never been posted in part or in full before now.

(1) Over and Done

It's been over for years when I find him. Only then, before I walk up to him, do I acknowledge to myself that I have been looking. I've had access to all their records and several long conversations with Mr. Jeremiah Smith, before he too perished. So, I knew he wasn't dead. At least he hadn't been dead at the end of it all, but that was years ago. When I saw him in that billowy, loose, dark blue shirt, clutching a grocery bag in one arm, I knew I'd been seeking him all along.

It wasn't as if we'd ever made peace or even had a truce. It wasn't as if he hadn't murdered Bill Mulder, or sold Scully down the river for advancement in that fetid group of megalomaniacs, none of that had changed. It wasn't as if I believed that the help he gave during the war, hadn't saved the day and helped us win war wasn't true either. It was. But, we, he and I, had never hashed it out and something in me was still waiting.

He was curiously unsurprised and surprisingly nonviolent when I tapped the shoulder of his empty sleeve and he turned around. His face was clear, although there were lines at the corners of his eyes and around his mouth. He was thinner than I'd ever seen him, the bones of his face pushing sharply against the taut pale skin. He looked the forty I thought he had to be by now, and somehow, that did surprise me. I hadn't aged him in the intervening years.

I suppose I was staring, because his "What do you want, Mulder?" woke me up, recalled me to the moment at hand and almost surprised a laugh out of me because it sounded as if I'd seen him an hour ago and not after a gap of four years.

We were on a street corner in Carlisle, Vermont. It was one of those small New England towns that stubbornly resisted invasions by McDonalds, Walmarts, Interstate exits and Aliens. The Green Mountains were growing back, new green fuzz covering the acid burns and napalm fire lines.

We'd stopped the ships here, in New England, but almost every country on Earth had its own scorch marks. There were no defeated enemies left to make reparations, the Earth would have to renew itself or die trying, just as it always had.

I realized, except for him, my own recovery had been sufficiently underway, as well.

He began to walk, not away, just toward wherever he'd been going before I stopped him. I took a quick double step and caught up. "Skinner's dead. Scully's dead." I said.

He shifted the bag against his side. "A lot of people are dead." He replied.

"You're not," I said. I could see him tighten his lips and it made the side view of the groves by his mouth deepen.

"Neither are you," he said shortly and we walked on.

"Has it always been that simple for you?" I ask as we walk, "Dead, not dead, I made it happen or it was out of my control? Don't you feel anything, Krycek?" He sighs impatiently and with a small huff, shifts the package again, and turns into a pitted driveway. We walk to a small cottage, which survived intact, behind what must have been a larger, grander home. The ruins of the big house are a tumble of brick, concrete and new vegetation. Thorny wild roses climb around the uppermost piles; they have a sharp sweet scent.

He puts the bag down by the door on a long, flat plank supported by a couple of sawhorses. I realize the table is the right height for a one armed man to relieve a burden, open the door, and retrieve it. I don't help him, just watch, as he does exactly this. Inside, he repeats the exercise. The table here is a scarred, but still a lovely antique buffet. The top half, which once held fine china and silver in its glass front, is missing. He pulls the door shut behind us; picks up the bag and goes to the small kitchen. "You want a cup of coffee?" He asks me and thumbs the on-button. The coffeemaker is an early eighty's model and the first drips hiss as they land in the bottom of the Pyrex pot.

The aroma of coffee masks the scent of the roses while I watch him put away the groceries. There is no meat, of course, there is no meat to had for less than a hundred dollars a pound, but there is a piece of filleted fish. He unwraps this right away and puts it in a bowl, covers it with a variety of spices and a small amount of clear oil. He puts the bowl in the refrigerator. It too is an old relic, a rather hideous green. I remember they used to call it avocado in the seventies. I can hear a generator in the background and wonder where he gets the precious gas to run it.

I wander around the small rooms as he finishes in the kitchen. There isn't much in them and the furnishings are a hodge-podge of styles from a variety of decades. All of them would have been at home in a yard sale or a thrift store a few years ago. Now, their presence is testament to either his ingenuity as a thief or that he had a lot of ready cash at the end of the war. The bedroom door is closed and I don't open it.

In the living room, there is no couch, but there are three chairs, each with a lamp on a side table. One chair is a stiff wingback, upholstered in a muddy brown. It would have been very elegant, once upon a time, in a Vermonter's law practice. The second is another wingback, covered in pale gold with faded green leaves. It is softer and has a matching hassock. A pair of old running shoes, with no laces, is on the floor, half hidden under the hassock's ruffle. The reading lamp on the end table is incongruously modern and a small pile of books is scattered on the tabletop.

The last chair is, well, I think a joke of some kind. It is a lime green, molded plastic, low backed half-length chaise lounge. I think I even remember the blonde model in a 1995 Purrfection magazine displaying herself on a similar one, and another picture of another blonde going down on the first, since the arms of the thing were conveniently spaced for a wide spread of open thighs. In fact, the chair had been used throughout that issue and at least once in every issue for sometime.

I hear him pouring coffee in the kitchen. The last drops of the brew hisses loudly as they hit the bare hotplate. I remember thinking that the models should have been redheads against that green. I snort softly to myself. I really hadn't known Scully very well at all, back then.

He comes out of the kitchen. Two cups and a pile of cookies are on the small tray he carries balanced in his hand.

I think, Marita is dead too, and I wonder if he ever knew I slept with her while he must have been in agony and despair to find himself a cripple in a cold, cold land.

I want to ask him why he stopped wearing the prosthesis, but I don't.

He lays the tray on the small dining room table. It only has two mismatched chairs. He sits down in one of them and tilts his head at me in invitation to join him there. I go to the table. What had I asked him as we walked? I snort again and he looks at me with one raised eyebrow. Oh yes, I asked him if he ever felt anything.

The coffee is exactly how I like it. His is black. The cookies are simple sweetened baked dough. They are irregular in shape and some are crisper than others. I wonder if he baked them himself. I smile. I don't think I'll waste a question asking Alex Krycek if he bakes cookies.

"This is a comfortable place," I say. The walls of the dining room are lined with shelves of canned goods, boxes of nonperishable foods and gallons of water. A lot of them are meal-in-a-box type stuff. I remember the brands well; they were what I usually ate, when I bothered to 'cook' at all, back when I lived at Hegal Place.

Krycek nods, "It's fine. The strange part is not being on the move all the time. I've been here for almost three years, never been in one place that long before."

"Even when you were a kid?" I ask. He blinks is surprise and seems to think.

"Yeah," he answers, "lived in Florida for, umm, five years, yeah five years," he says almost musingly, "but at three different Air Force Bases, one of them twice because we moved away and then back again."

"Your dad was in the military?" I ask.

"No," he answers, "My uncle, my mother's brother. In the late fifties, she and my dad were Soviet scientists doing fieldwork in East Germany. They made it out and into the West. Her brother, half- brother, was born here is the US. He was a lot younger. Her father was still alive at the time. He'd gotten out soon after she was born, right after the 'war to end all wars'." He says this with great irony. "Her mother had a hard time with the regime after he left, but my mother was a brilliant student and they educated her anyway, at an institute and not at home. She was born in forty-four. Her brother, born in '56 to a new wife, was twelve years younger. After her father and second wife died in a car accident, she took him in. I was born in the US in nineteen seventy. He joined up when he graduated high school, did a tour in a few hot spots and decided to stay in."

Krycek got up and brought the rest of the coffee to the table. It was lukewarm. I sipped the cup he poured for me anyway. He'd forgotten the milk this time. "My mom and dad worked for them." I knew who 'them' was without him needing to elaborate. "We moved around back then too. Born in the US, I learned Russian and German in Europe and French in Tunisia. Spanish I learned in American high schools after I went to live with my uncle. He was not one of them."

I bit into a particularly crisp cookie. It crumbled into my hand. "Why'd you go live with him?" I asked, but I was pretty sure I knew the answer. The Syndicate had killed off a whole team of scientists, along with a diseased batch of clones at a European facility in eighty-one.

Krycek would have been eleven, his uncle twenty-five and his mother and father still young and in their thirties. The same age he was now, not forty yet as I had presumed, but thirty-five.

I would have been twenty, at Oxford, pissed at my dad and thankful to be far away from my mom, who blew hot and cold, possessive and distant since I'd reached adolescence. I would have been in the midst of young love and its all-consuming anxieties with Phoebe.

Krycek looks at me knowingly, but obliges me with an explanation anyway. "I went with them to a post in West Germany. I was in the local boarding school, you know? The kind they have in Europe where the kids go home on weekends and holidays, or sometimes just for dinner. It was that nearby. One afternoon she came to the school unexpectedly. She was worried, scared, and made me pack my favorite things in a hurry. She had another case already in the car. She took me to a private airfield. She was shot in the head as she was leading me to the plane. I was putting up a fight. I wanted to know what was happening. It slowed her down."

They left her in the dirt and grabbed me, shoving me up the steps of the loading ladder. I flew to the US on the same plane as her assassin. When I got back to the states, my uncle was waiting. He'd only heard that the lab my parents worked in had been the target of a terrorist bombing. The man who killed my mother didn't have to warn me not to tell him anything different." Krycek rubbed his forehead and took a sip of coffee.

"When I finally opened the second suitcase, it was also full of my stuff. I realized she never intended to leave or knew she was not going to get to come with me."

He got up and brought back a small cardboard and felt picture album. Inside were pictures of turn-of-the-century Russians, a lost looking woman with her arm around a thin teenage girl circa the 1960's, university graduation pictures of the same thin girl, a few years older, and a very handsome, laughing young man.

There were two baby shots of a fair chubby boy with curly hair and freckles. They were the first of the color pictures. The baby had large green eyes. One picture was the baby, just able to stand, on a couch next to the young woman. She was smiling. The other was the baby on the same couch being bounced on the laughing young man's knee. There were a few others, the baby, now a toddler, then on a trike and again, front tooth missing, by a crouching, serious seeming teenager. A couple of grade school pictures of the boy ended the collection.

Folded under the felt flap were university degree certificates and one American birth certificate, a few yellowing Pravda articles and, in a small velvet bag, two plain gold wedding rings, one for a slender woman's finger and one for a larger man's hand.

The cookie crumbs on the table looked like golden-brown ashes. What was it that I had asked him on the walk to his house? Oh yes, I remember, I asked him if he ever felt anything.

I put everything in the small book and closed it. He got up and put it back in the drawer of the end table by the pale yellow chair.

"William Mulder shot my mother," he said from the distance, half a room and a lifetime away. Krycek was in the shadow of the sunlight that streamed from the window by the chair. In this light, the green leaves on the upholstery looked black.

I dug deep and kept my voice steady, "An eye for an eye?" I asked my father's murderer.

He turned to face me and the bones in his face gleamed starkly white in the sunlight. "He said, 'it's your turn, boy'. And it was, Mulder, my turn, and I took it."

I carefully brushed all traces of the cookie crumbs from my fingers and stood up. I asked him, "Did you bake the cookies yourself?"

"Yeah," he answered his face once more in shadow.

"They were good," I said, "sweet."

He didn't call me back as I left.


(2) One Step Forward - Two Steps Back

The sharp sweet smell of the roses made my throat ache as I walked back up the rutted driveway to the street. There was a lilac bush by the stone fence as I got to the end of the lane, I paused and leaned on the fence. It was in full bloom and the lavender-blue clusters gave off a heady scent of their own.

My grandmother sent Samantha a large bottle of lavender cologne for her eighth birthday. Samantha sprayed the stuff everywhere, including my baseball shoes and jersey. I'd been furious, but she'd been unrepentant. She'd thought she was doing a good thing because my stuff was stinky. She'd pinched her nose, miming a bad smell, and giggled. I'd gone to practice in that jersey and hoped for rain. My mother had made me wash them when, still complaining, I got home. I left them in the dryer too long. The rubber shoes melted and the jersey shrunk.

My mom gave the jersey to Samantha after that. I was still mad at them both about it when Samantha disappeared.

I studied psychology to find the answers for my continuing sadness and guilt over Samantha's loss and my family's disintegration. Even at twenty, I had known, intellectually, that I was not responsible for what had happened. I knew I'd been a kid and things happen to kids that they cannot possibly control. My mistake was thinking that adults could control everything.

When that myth had been destroyed, I went into law enforcement. I thought I could compel someone, somehow, to take responsibility for their actions. That conceit was soon ameliorated in the deals that were made and justice denied for all sorts of reasons, including career enhancement or actual subversion.

At that point, I became interested in what was behind the crimes. I found my real place in the murky, less-defined arena of insanity, crimes of passion or mistaken recompense for pain or past suffering. The miasma of the mind and its ways of acting out or coping by committing crimes was fascinating and my successes as a profiler, undeniable.

The lure of the paranormal, seemingly present too many times not to have some small possible validity came next. The FBI and the law enforcement community were not amused when I began to insist these elements were present in otherwise defined criminal activity. I used the cache my success had gifted me with, and a few connections in academia and the political arena to get the X Files assigned to me. The 'new age' influence went a long way, as well.

The evidence that a conspiracy existed and possibly had proof of alien visitations came last and with it, the faint ache in my heart over Samantha's loss began to burn brightly again. It's hard for me to think, now, how long I really suspected my parents were part of it. Certainly, my father's ill-defined role in the State Department was a clue I ignored for a long time. I was an employee of a similar governmental institution and I knew his 'job' had been like nothing I'd ever heard of, or witnessed.

Our estrangement didn't help me. The few times we spoke and I asked questions, he either answered with more double-National Security- speak or not answered at all. He'd said he'd taken early retirement, his years in the military counting up as a full career, but I once opened his mail, by mistake, and found a large current pay statement long after that date.

I know now, of course, what he'd been and what his role had been, as well. Along with most of the Americans in the Syndicate, they'd held protected 'jobs' all their lives. These jobs gave them virtually unlimited access to all government concerns and immense power to order Special Forces when they needed visible muscle. The others had held similar positions in their own countries of origin. Moreover, no one ever simply retired. I had inherited a hell of a lot of dirty money, gold and other negotiable materials after my mother's death, in ninety- seven, at the beginning of the war.

It had served the Resistance well, and that money had gone a long way to making sure I was accepted. My previous work and attempts at revealing the truth were less important once the actual invasion began. The guerilla fighters, including Krycek who'd been one of the bad guys, cared little for who had known what or suspected what in the 'Before'. The 'Now' was all-important and you put up and shut up and got a weapon or did Intel and busted ass.

Scully had been horrified. She'd wanted us recognized, I think, and lauded for being right. It never happened.

Skinner was less surprised and knew this is what happens in war. God, he'd been tough. He'd gone with Krycek and a force of former Viet Nam Vets, Gulf Vets, a few former prison inmates and various other brigands on an early raid and destroyed four downed, but not out, ships. It wasn't until I saw them returning that I realized almost all of them were gimps of one sort or another.

Later, over whiskey and an increasingly rare cigar, he and the men had laughed at my observation. Skinner had qualified, they joked, because he was bald and that was a real handicap. Their missing pieces hardly compared. Krycek, who'd been on the fringe of the group with a few other of the younger men, had not laughed.

Later, Krycek and a slender, sort of fey, but fierce young fighter, left the company and went out into the night. It was the first time I realized he was gay or bi or simply expedient. The other young man was missing his right arm. Skinner met my eyes and held them steadily for a long time. My impulse to go find Krycek and continue our private war, however, continued to simmer.

I remember wondering about Krycek and that young man. I wanted to know what they were doing. Did they fuck? Did they talk to each other? Did they bare their wounds and their souls? The sum total of what I knew about homosexual sex whizzed through my brain, but I couldn't imagine Krycek sucking cock or being fucked by another man. If he did, it changed our private war in ways I didn't want to think about.

I gulped two whiskeys down way too fast and felt sick.

Skinner told me to get up. It snapped me out of my half drunk - half- sick misery and I followed him into the canteen. I was surprised that he was angry. "Don't you dare," he started and stopped, rubbed at a burn on his cheek and scowled at me.

I got pissed. He wasn't my boss anymore and I wasn't a Private to his Sergeant. "Don't tell me what to think!" I yelled at him.

He grabbed my shirtfront and pushed me up against a cabinet. It was no contest. I was woozy and he was stronger and it was too ingrained in me that he was AD Skinner. I didn't hit him and calmed down.

He let go and stepped back. "Listen to me, Mulder. Whatever the bastard did, or was, can matter again later, if there is a 'Later'." He said it like people were saying Before and Now. Like they whispered After. "There are only two sides now. Them and Us. Do you understand?" I nodded sullenly. "You will not ignore this for the sake of your personal grievances or anything else."

I glared at him. "My father was murdered. He murdered my father!" I said it imperatively.

"Thorne committed perjury in a bank scandal. Bellamy killed his wife. Parker raped a fourteen-year-old girl. Simmons was a Priest and Johnson was an English teacher. Giorgio was part of the Mafia and Jones was a dentist. You and I were Federal Agents. We all 'were' something. Now we 'are' part of this unit. Later, when law and order are restored, the survivors will decide how to deal with criminals. Now, we keep watch and keep little girls away from Parker if the need arises. If and when someone commits a 'crime' as part of this unit, we will probably kill him. There are no brigs in this war, no Geneva Convention, no trials and no juries and, Mulder, no one appointed you judge over Krycek or anyone else. Today he fought as we all fought. Could've died like any one of us and be just as dead as Morse and Henley. So you take your anger and your righteousness and use them against the Enemy."

I slumped against the cabinet. He was so wrong and so right. I hated him, Krycek, and myself. I nodded and he nodded back. I went to my cot in the Communications tent.

Two things came of that evening. I insisted on being with the unit on raids and on the front line and I began to watch Krycek for more than a possible double-cross. We seldom spoke, Krycek and I, but I watched him closely and he knew it.

Sometimes, on nights when the unit fought a bloody battle and took casualties, one or another of the younger men would sit beside him and eventually get impatient. He would meet my eyes. Most of the time the other man would wander off, but once in a while, Krycek would go too. In those moments before he came to a decision, I could see despair tauten his features and make the bones in his face sharpen.

I would go to bed sick with a queasy, victorious feeling if he stayed. If he left, I couldn't sleep at all and paced the length of the tent until dawn. There were no women in our unit or in any of the small units manned with former mental patients or criminals. In our way, we tried to preserve some small measure of civilized norms.

We came across women willing to sleep with anyone for clean water, rations or medicines. Sometimes camp followers attached themselves to our unit for a few days or a week or two, until we got too close to the front or they found a better-supplied contingent.

Krycek never seemed to sleep with any of them, although they all came on to him. A fewer number came on to me, but I didn't go with them into their makeshift dwellings either.

On a temporary reprieve at Central Command, after we'd suffered a large number of causalities and need to rearm, recruit and replenish our supplies, I bunked with Scully and we became intimate. She'd evolved into an even stronger, more committed woman than before. Action seemed to suit her. By the time I saw her again, almost seven months later, she'd found a steady companion and I slept in my sleeping bag with the rest of the troops.

Those three weeks were the only time Krycek and I shared close quarters during the entire war, and although there were hundreds of troops in those tents, I bunked next to him and he never ventured off.

Less than a month after that bivouac, Central Command was hit and Scully died. Krycek and I were on different teams that week and he returned to the unit, with his men, several days later. I never told him about Scully and never knew if he'd been informed of her death. All I did know was that for remainder of the time we spent on the front lines, he never went off with anyone again.

In ninety-nine, he told me, just after he returned from a Recon mission, that Marita was dead. It was the only time in the entire war he got drunk. He threw his prosthesis into the campfire, but a quick- witted soldier fished it out before it burned.

Skinner made it to one of the final battles and died in an acid barrage. His bones, indistinguishable from all the others, were buried in a mass grave near Lake Placid. It's a memorial now, the names of the dead etched on red-veined white marble.

For almost three years, Krycek and I fought as part of the same unit. We ate the same food, shared the same latrines and the smells of death, heard the same screams, sweated, and froze as the seasons changed and changed again. We never made peace and never declared a personal truce. Nevertheless, as long as I knew he was alive, I hoped for a Future when I could have my vengeance and make him pay for what he'd done in the Before.

As the afternoon became dusk, I remained stopped by the lilac bush. Night-blooming jasmine seeped into the scented sweetness of the coming evening. It was dangerous to walk about at night, but I lingered anyway. I saw a small light come on, back down the lane, inside his cottage. I imagined I could smell cooking fish and pungent herbs, could see him bring a plate to the table and slowly eat his dinner.

There was no one left. The Syndicate was gone, Skinner, Scully, my parents and friends. The Gunmen had survived and were rebuilding Silicon Valley. Mail was infrequent, but Byers had married, Frohike had a hot prospect in the wings, and Langly lived in a commune. I was a professor in the Modern History department at Harvard. My students were much more interested in my early research and cases into the paranormal than the recent history that shaped the world community and their lives. I was constantly being taken to task for filling their heads with nonsense.

Finally, I allowed myself to answer the question for Krycek and for me. "Yes", I said aloud to the night, to the stars that were clear in the sky once more, "yes, Krycek, you felt something, maybe too much and you couldn't bear it, didn't bear it any better than I did."

I made my way carefully through the night to the train station, by noon I was back in Boston at my desk.


(3) Past is Prologue

On October 13th, two-thousand-five, my forty-fourth birthday, I went to the finest restaurant in Boston and ordered a steak. It'd been so long since I eaten meat that I felt overfull and the blood seemed to rush to head and stay there.

I watched the satellite feed on the large screen at the bar in the restaurant. Few of us owned electronics anymore, electricity was still iffy, and batteries were precious and expensive. Most of the Earth's satellite systems had been destroyed and while the dregs of a new program was forming; as yet no successful launch of new ones had taken place. Public places and the very wealthy were the only ones to be able to receive broadcasts.

As a testament to human spirit, theater, concerts and performances of all sorts, happened everywhere and at all hours of the day and at night in the safer districts. Soapbox orators and other assorted crazies made their presence known too.

I left the restaurant and watched a young violinist play in the square. His left hand, as it fingered the notes, was so dexterous tears came to my eyes.

I'd thought and I'd hoped the odd encounter with Krycek, last summer, was the end of my obsession. True, I'd reread files and transcripts from the thousands of Syndicate documents. True, I'd looked up and listened to endless war-stories from surviving members of our units. Also true that I'd found the other one-armed man.

We'd met in an outdoor cafeteria off Malcolm Street in Cambridge. He worked in a food distribution center and the only time he had to spare was lunch hour. We talked about the war and laughed about how Skinner kept harassing all of us about foot rot and the need for clean socks. When he'd finished his frugal meal, the man looked at me wisely and rubbed the part of his arm where the stump ended. "You wanna talk about Alex now?" He asked me boldly and with no small amount of scorn in his voice.

I flinched at his tone and my transparency. "Yes," I answered gruffly.

He relented, marginally, and looked around at the ruined buildings, which lined the square. I looked at him. He was heavier than during the war, his hair mostly gray instead of light brown, and like Krycek, his face was set in deep groves around his mouth. "It hurts all the time, you know?" He began to speak softly. I leaned in to hear him. "The arm," he elucidated. "I had state of the art surgery and it hurts. Alex was butchered. It drove him crazy sometimes, especially after a long stretch without the ability to remove the prosthetic or when he had been crawling on his belly and dragging it along. I used to watch you watching him. I always wondered if you hated him or loved him, certainly you were obsessed with him. He never said anything about you, but he was always so aware of you, attuned in some special way." He laughed to himself. "I was hot back then, you know? Arm or no arm, war or no war. Alex, well, he was hotter. Every queer-boy and a lot straight guys came on to him. You probably won't understand this or more likely, pretend you don't, but Alex was beautiful. I always wondered what he would've looked like dressed GQ style. I spent a lot of time imagining getting him out of a tux."

He smiled ruefully and stopped talking. "Please go on," I said.

He looked away, "His first choice wasn't guys, but the pain, you know? Not just his arm, all of it, the blood, filth, and the screams. Sometimes he just needed to be touched so bad, so bad, and I was willing to do anything, be anything he wanted, just to be the one with him. He was kind. I know that'll sound strange to you, but he was kind. We'd sit afterward, I'd lean against his chest and pretend his good arm was my own and I could wrap myself in them again, scratch my chest and head at the same goddamned time. He would let me use him like that, you see? But Alex, he never pretended anything, and quickly, too soon, he get just as crazy being touched as he'd been needing it so badly before. After some chick he knew died, he never went walk-about again. He shut down and stopped needing anyone."

He ran his hand down the material of his pant's leg, wiping the sweat off. "He still watched you all the time. About a year after it was over, I got a delivery. It was a huge box of chocolates and a pair of silk pajamas." He laughed a little, near tears, "There was a note that said he hoped I would find a real lover, one who'd appreciate me. But he was, you know? A real lover. 'Cause I loved him." The man stood up and drew a packet from his coat pocket. "He wrote that if you ever came looking for me, it would mean he was dead or if I heard he was dead, I should give you this." He stuffed the packet in my hands. "Fuck you!" He said angrily as he began to walk away. Then, he stopped and faced me. "What were you to him anyway? That no matter what, the pain, the blood, the impossible loneliness, you never had a kind word, never smiled. How the fuck much would that have cost you?" He glared at me and I had no answer. He stalked off.

The packet contained documents I'd seen before. Copies of DNA records, William Mulder's signature on many test and death orders and a list of abducted who had been confirmed dead in eighty-three, Samantha's name among them. The only item I'd never seen before, was a picture of Sam and my mother, in seventy-nine, on a garden bench. Sam looked weak and thin, but she and my mom were smiling. Taped to the back of the picture was a note from Krycek, it read: Found this in Tunisia/02. Was in Strughold's office. Thought you'd want to know, AK.

I watched the violinist play seemingly impossible numbers of notes, very fast.

The war had lasted from late '96 to nearly the end of 2000. I saw Krycek at a meeting a few months later and not again until last summer, a period of almost four years. He'd sent this to his friend in November of 2002. Like his mother, so many years before, he'd expected to die before he saw me again. I didn't find it at all ironic for him to know me so well or trust his friend so much that he was sure I would see it eventually.

I remember my mother telling me at a concert, a year after Sam was gone, that when a soloist played a rapid number of notes in a brilliant flurry, it was called pyrotechnics because the audience could imagine the instrument bursting into flames.

I thought again how my mother had known all along. The rich dinner burned in my stomach and I reached an alley just in time to lose it. I retched unceasingly, until weakly; I came back to my surroundings to find myself on my knees in the muck.

For the first time I was entirely hollowed out. There was no more for me to discover about the depths betrayal can reach, no more grief to spend on the hope that I'd held so long. The hope that my mother had been spared my father's infamy, Samantha's fate and had been unable to tell me the truths I'd spent my life searching for. She'd known all along.

After all my animosity and vengeful punishment to Alex Krycek, how he must have known I begrudged him any human comfort or companionship, even fucked the woman with whom he'd been involved, when I couldn't punish him directly. And still, in the end, he'd wanted me to know the real truth so I could find a lasting peace.

What 'was' Alex Krycek to me? What is he still?

I walk back to my apartment. The sweet clusters of musical notes gently fade the farther I go. The night smells of the ruined city are complex and varied. Here - decay, there - fresh sawed lumber, but nowhere do I get a hint of roses, lilacs or jasmine.


(4) For Every Season

The snow was white and piled high. It covered the small town of Carlisle and made the narrow lane to his house hard to find. How well could a one armed man shovel snow anyway? And why bother when he had supplies enough to last to first thaw.

I tramped up his driveway hoping I wouldn't break a leg in some rut or trip over some random brick. The very tops of the naked rose vines stuck out of the big mound of snow-covered ruins. Against the snow, the shadows of their plentiful thorns loomed larger than life.

I had a pack full of perishables on my back. They would keep in the snow if he had no power, but I was sure he wouldn't want to freeze the beer no matter what.

The door opened before I made it to the first, freshly shoveled, step. "I stopped believing in Santa a long time ago, Mulder," was how he greeted me.

"Get real, Krycek," I answered. "I'm Jewish and it's February."

"There's coffee," he said.

"There's beer," I replied.

"If there's a steak in there, you're Hanukkah Harry for sure," he said, reaching for my back as I knelt to remove my boots.

"The last steak I ate made me sick. There's fresh fruit, today's bread and chocolate," I enumerated, as he dug each item out. He held the six- pack to the light as if savoring the taste by just looking at it. When he found the pretzels and peanuts, he began to grin.

"Fuck, Mulder," he said in mock disappointment, "there's no game on TV today."

I shrugged out of my coat and hung it on the peg. "Today's lineup, playing center field for the Yankees..." He laughed and signaled me to keep going. I did, I knew every play by heart. I was hot and heavy into the bottom of the third inning by the time he had veggie burgers frying and was dubiously trying to read the expiration date on some old packets of fast-food relish, mustard and ketchup.

"Those never expire," I broke into my reiteration of the game to tell him. "By definition, anything in packages from take-out restaurants last a minimum of a thousand years. The roaches know this and collect them in vast underground warehouses."

"Okay," he said and with a totally deadpan expression, dumped a huge bag full of everything from soy sauce to motel-sized freebies of hair conditioner on the table. Some of these products had been old 'before' the war. It was like Christmas as I happily sorted through the pile of stuff: shampoo, hand lotion, perfumes and colognes, mouthwash, ketchup, mustard, duck sauce, tampons, "Tampons?" I questioned and he shrugged. I grabbed some bowls from the shelf and tossed edible products into one of them and personal care stuff into another.

"God, you're so easily amused, Mulder," he said and returned to the burgers, they almost smelled like meat.

There were little packets of nails, screws and curtain hooks. I began to understand that this wasn't just some kind of weird survivalist's bounty, but that he must have collected them all along. Had he planned a crime that depended on having a supply of day-glow orange fish tank rocks handy? Had the secret to alien resistance been in tube of cheddar- flavored processed spread all along?

He startled me by reaching, over my shoulder, for the tube. "Cheeseburgers!" He said happily.

"Not on your life!" I yelled and grabbed for the tube. He danced away holding the tube to his mouth and attempting to twist off the cap with his teeth.

I managed to get hold of it just as the cap came off and it spurted in a slimy, chunky, truly repugnant smelling mess down the front of his shirt.

We both stared at the bright yellow goop in stunned amazement.

He recovered first, swiped his hand across the lumpy spillage, and collected it in his fingers. He stared at his hand and began to smile again, evilly. I backed away. He advanced. I backed away some more. "It's cold out there, Mulder," he intoned. "Very cold and you have no shoes on."

"The food is burning," I tried as an opening gambit.

"Fuck the food," he said and raised his hand.

"I brought the beer!" I implored.

He wiped a line of the stuff across my forehead. I gagged, piteously. He was unmoved.

"I brought chocolates!" He paused, considering, and then wiped another line down my right cheek.

"I brought condoms that haven't reached their expiration date," this was my final plea.

"What for?" He asked softly and painted my other cheek.

I thought fast, but he was smearing the stuff on my nose and it tickled. Stank too. It distracted me. His mouth was damp and slightly open and he was breathing rather heavily. That distracted me more. "So you could show me?" I said stupidly.

"Show you what, Mulder?" He breathed. I dropped the tube I didn't know I was still holding.

"You." I said even more dumbly.

"You want me to demonstrate how to use a rubber?" He laughed very low in his throat. "You haven't learned how to do that yet?"

"No. Yes. Krycek!" It was all I could manage to say.

Very calmly, he rubbed the goop on my neck, wiped the remainder off his fingers onto my shirt and stepped back. "My name is Alex and the burgers are done." He went into the kitchen and left me standing there stunned, aroused and painfully bereft. And smelling vile, as well.

I took off my shirt and scrubbed my face and neck with it. I went to the kitchen door to ask where the john was and he was standing there with his back towards me. He'd taken off the long sleeved thermal and was washing it in the sink. A broad expanse of bare, pale skin, stretched over powerful shoulders and tapering to a compact waistline filled my eyes. I'd never found a man's back sexy before. I'd admired good physiques on athletes and actors, but I'd never wanted to touch them.

"Alex," I said, lost in discovery.

He shut the water off and turned to face me. He leaned arrogantly against the cabinet. He waited.

"This isn't a game," I said more to myself than to him. "I'm not playing a game," I said a little louder.

He waited.

"How could I know?" I asked him. It was a stab in the dark, but I was sure he understood.

I gathered myself together. "Where's the john?" I asked.

"Through the bedroom," he answered and led the way.

He opened the bedroom door and turned on the light, walked to another door and opened it. He tossed his damp shirt over the shower curtain rod and stepped out. I went in and washed my face and neck, halfheartedly scrubbed at my shirt and flung it next to his.

Dinner was on the table. The beers were in a tarnished silver ice bucket, filled with snow. We ate companionably and had two beers apiece. I cleared the table and while he washed the few dishes and the frying pan, I got the package of condoms and the new tube of KY from my pack and laid them on the bare table.

He came out of the kitchen and saw the display. He nodded, raised an eyebrow questioningly and sat at the table. "What do you want, Mulder?" He asked, handed me a third beer and took the last one for himself.

The beers had given me a pleasant buzz, it'd been a long time since the last time I'd had any, but I wasn't in the least drunk. Neither was he. "I think you've asked me that question a thousand times," I said.

"Maybe not a thousand," he answered seriously.

"I've wanted a lot of things from you. I wanted you to be a supportive fellow agent, someone young and strong and on my side. I wanted to kill you for what you did to Scully. I wanted to know why you did it. I wanted to torture you and kill you for the murder of my father and for being a traitor. I was sure you were evil. I wanted you to suffer, Alex. I wanted you to suffer a thousand deaths and rot in hell each time." He did not look away and I remembered he hadn't looked away in the firelight of a hundred campfires no matter what he'd suffered in action, or how hungry he was or how tired.

"I wanted to hurt you. I wanted to know how you dared to find solace by fucking men. I wanted you to be alone and ostracized and spat on." The words came faster and faster, spewing out ten years of hate, anger and denial. He did not flinch and he did not look away.

"I wanted, no, I needed you to be a coward, a liar and beneath contempt by all. I wanted to hate you for having a soft mouth and big eyes that dared to show pain. I needed to hate you for the feelings I had when I watched you walk, when I saw you swallow, when I watched you sleep." I broke off just as my voice broke.

We sat in silence. I finished my beer to ease my sore throat.

He turned off the light and the house settled into evening. I thought I could smell the very faint scent of roses, as if it came from the cottage walls themselves.

"When you fuck a man, Mulder," he began quietly.

I made a move, to stop him, in discomfort, or fear. I didn't know which.

"Shut up," he said, although I hadn't made a sound.

He talked it out, explaining about preparation and penetration. He explained positions and reciprocity. His voice was amber honey, but it was passionless and cool. He finished his lecture and drank the remains of his beer. "We're not going to do it, Mulder," he said. "We're not going to fuck, you are not going to fuck me and I'm not going to fuck you. Not tonight and not anytime soon, maybe not ever." He got up and collected the bottles, took the ice bucket and dumped the melted water in the sink. He returned, locked the door and stood behind my chair.

"Sshhh," he said, although I hadn't made a sound.

He touched my hair, smoothing it back from my forehead and stroked his fingers down the back of my neck. I shivered. "Sshhh," he whispered. He caressed my face and neck, pulled off my undershirt and massaged my shoulders, one at a time. He stroked my chest, ran his fingers through the hair on there, and rubbed my stomach, soothingly. I missed his hand when he pulled off his own undershirt, but the warmth of his belly against my shoulders more than made up for the brief absence. He ran his hand down my arm and took my hand, tugging it gently and I stood and went with him into his bedroom.

He drew the quilt back and removed his shoes, socks, pants and underwear. He was only half-hard and breathing easily. His body was smooth, firm, and powerful. I tugged off my socks, pants and underwear. He smiled, pleased, and got on the bed. He motioned for me to follow, but when I headed for the opposite side, he shook his head. I crawled over his leg and sat in front of him, my back against his chest.

He did everything over again: my hair and face, neck and shoulders. He fondled my stomach and smoothed his hand down my arm. He took my hand and put it on my erection. Keeping his hand over mine, he began to move it. I jerked hard into my hand and against his chest. He moaned softly and I felt him harden next to my butt. He kept the pace slow and I panted, but let him lead. He was teaching me something important. Whether it was about him, or me I didn't know, just that it was important.

I reached the edge too fast. He squeezed my hand hard and I panted, but did not come. He took my hand and we caressed my balls. My fingers, his fingers, it was bliss and oh, so intimate. "Keep touching," he whispered. He adjusted himself against my lower back. I felt him stroke himself and my mouth watered as if I was about to take a bite of a ripe fruit. He pulled me closer, he was very hot and hard, and the head of his erection was damp against my back.

The scent of his skin and mine, of sex and roses made me dizzy. He brought his hand back to mine and to my penis. This time we stroked to get there. He undulated against my back. We panted in unison. I started to come and he came first, hot against my back. He cupped my chin with his hand sticky from me and, as I hit that perfect moment, and I came hard, he turned my chin and kissed me.

I opened my mouth and moaned into his. He kissed me wildly, gently, and fiercely. He kissed me, moaned, kissed me, and whispered wet, slurred words into my mouth. He kissed me, I was lying on the bed, he was on top of me, and still he kissed me. He kissed me until I stopped panting and he kissed me until I wrapped my arms around him and turned us over and I was kissing him.

Finally, he laughed and I pulled up and looked down at him.

He was entirely beautiful. His face flushed, his eyes lazy, his chest moving quickly as he took rapid breaths and chuckled. I smoothed my fingers across his eyelids, his cheeks and dipped into his red, red mouth. I kissed his neck and rested my face in the ruin of his shoulder. He shuddered. "Hush," I whispered into neck.

I sat on my knees, between his legs and feasted my eyes. I touched him everywhere: the soft hair of his armpits and the curly hair on his groin. I licked his flat nipples and didn't find any lack by comparison. I cupped his sex in both hands. I touched him gently as if I were a child with a butterfly on my palm. He hardened and I encouraged him. I ran my thumbs more strongly up and down his penis and he began to burn, to fill and flush a deeper hue of red. "Mulder!" He exclaimed, but softly.

"Hush," I said again.

I was learning something and it was for both of us.

I bent to lick him, "No," he said, but I understood it wasn't to stop me for himself, but to protect me, to allow me to pretend this wasn't real when tomorrow dawned.

"Shut up," I growled, and he shivered and his cock was hot in my hands. It was hotter under my tongue and scorching in my mouth. I dared more. I cupped his sac and found the stretch of smooth tight skin beneath. He cried out and I tasted his fluid in my mouth. I didn't stop and he thrashed about, raising his knees and I fingered his small opening.

"Oh, God! Mulder!" he cried, "Don't hurt me." And, I was lost, burned to ash, vaporized. I sucked harder and he came in my mouth, into me, and fucking Christ, I finally understood.


(5) When the War Is Over

We had the remains of yesterday's bread, dipped in egg and fried for breakfast. He was up and dressed long before I awoke. The steps were freshly shoveled and the house warm.

"How long are you staying?" He asked me.

"The school is shut down until better weather," I replied. Energy was too precious to use in old drafty buildings like the few that remained on the Harvard campus. He went into the bedroom and began to change the bed linens. I helped and asked quietly, "May I stay?" He didn't reply immediately.

He brought out another set of sheets from a small cubbyhole closet; they smelled of lilacs and roses. "This whole place smells like flowers," I said hurriedly.

He smiled and tucked in the bottom sheet. They were very old fashioned without an elastic edge. "These are original to the house," he said, "and the cottage is over 100 years old. There are sashes tucked and hidden everywhere. At first, I threw out the ones I found. After a while, I realized they suited the place. If it continues to survive, I won't be the final occupant. I found these sheets too and on the bottom shelf, dozens of little bags for more petals. All the supplies were there; threads, needles, rose-oil and bits of lace and velvet bows. Everything but the petals." He smoothed the sheet, "I can't sew, of course," he fluttered his one hand, "and I doubt it would've ever been my kind of thing, but I like to think the next tenant will someday." We shook out the quilt and laid it on the bed. "Yes, you may stay, Mulder. I'd never thought this could happen, you and me, at the end of the war."

He sat on the freshly made bed. I sat beside him. "You were surprised last night," he said. I nodded. "I think, you thought that sex with me or maybe with another man had to be less that this was. Perhaps something more aggressive or less intimate? You're right, of course. Sex with anyone can be intimate or not, emotionally, I mean." I nodded again. "But Mulder, we have a long history between us. We've been intimate all along."

My throat hurt again.

"It was just combative. Now, it's become something that I truly hope isn't combative at all. There is no need to define it. I don't particular feel an overwhelming need to do that. If you stay, we'll take it as it comes. Just know Mulder, you can still hurt me. Maybe I could still hurt you too. I would like very much for us not to, not any more."

He got up and left the room. I thought about what he'd said. I could stay, I would stay, and we would take it as it came. I got to my feet and from under the corner of the sheet I had so poorly tucked in, I saw a little, plump bag fall to the floor. I picked it up and walked to the cubbyhole closet to return it, but thought better of it and tucked it back under the edge of the bed between the mattress and the box springs. I would know where this one was hidden and it would be my talisman.

We spent the day rather quietly; I looked through his books and was delighted to find he had an old IBM Selectric typewriter, round font- ball intact. He had a journal, of sorts, and a large expanding folder beneath it. He made a self-deprecating shrug when I held it up, but he said I could read it.

I was absolutely fascinated. I mean, how much did I really know about Alex Krycek anyway? None of the pages were bound. He had handwritten dates on them at some point. Since the war, I thought. Many pages were computer-generated printouts and some were written by hand. There were magazine articles, newspaper clips and other small flat mementos in between the pages.

He'd run track in high school, a couple of letters, never sewn onto a sweater, fell out of a stack when I picked them up. His high school and undergraduate transcripts were there. He was a good student, only an occasional 'C'. There were no yearbooks from any of the schools he'd attended.

He had a Master's Degree in Political Science and I saved his thesis to read later, more interested in his personal notes. I was amused and a little sad to see he addressed himself as Hey JA, when he wrote actual journal entries. JA, when I asked him, stood for Jack Ass. He did get a laugh when he said for every alias he'd used; he chose names starting with J or A.

He wrote to JA about many topics. Some of them clearly showed that the nerd side of the young 'agent' I'd first met was real. He'd liked or disliked professors and other students in completely normal adolescent ways, taking small slights and incidences too personally and way too seriously.

He mentioned Troi and Riker as fantasy material until Riker got fat and ruined the delightful ménage-et-trois he'd enjoyed. His description of a car ride back from watching a field and track event with the first boy he'd succumbed to was riveting. He would have been nineteen and here in this long, furiously written entry, he'd attempted to come to terms with himself and the possible reaction of the only person he loved and trusted, his young and extremely homophobic uncle.

His first heterosexual encounter had been, a few years earlier, in fact, due to the uncle's lifestyle. The man would bring home parties of young officers and their wives after a few drinks at the Officer's Club. More liquor would flow and coming home late one night from a friend's house, he'd found a woozy young wife in his room, in tears because her husband had gone off with someone else. He'd gotten the woman coffee and a washcloth and tried to find his uncle. The man was occupied in his own room, the rest of the party continuing without its host.

She'd seemed to sober up and calm down and they talked, in the intimacy of his room, for a long time. She convinced him he would be more comfortable talking while sitting on the bed, with her, instead of the distance he'd kept by sitting on the floor. Ruthlessly, he noted in the journal that he'd hoped for a better view of her body in her low cut party dress. He was fifteen and very easy to seduce. She was gone when he awoke in the morning and simply never acknowledged him again when they passed on the base.

He'd told his uncle who'd laughed, took him to the PX, bought him a variety of condoms and let him hang around when his buddies came over and watched porn.

His journal entry made passing reference to two other experiences of intercourse and a few more, more age appropriate attempts at girlfriends and dating. Oral sex was a revelation to him and he enjoyed it, finding the girls willing to do that, and avoid the complications of full intimacy and think the date was successful.

The boy, in the car ride home, set a scene, like the wife of a few years earlier, that Alex hadn't resisted too strongly. The boy talked about how horny he was and no chance, this late of hitting up one of the girls in his dorm. He talked about his successes with girls and Alex had been thoroughly aroused. The boy parked the car, a few miles from campus, on a private road. They both got out taking a piss, in the undergrowth, and the boy kept talking. He made his move when they got back in the car. Convincing Alex that a hand job was desperately needed. Alex admits he knew the boy didn't mean jerking off by himself.

He let the boy touch him and touched back. It had been brief and hot. His teenage angst, written so emphatically on that long ago night, was partly fear of disappointing his uncle and part understanding, that for him, an important kind of innocence was lost.

He handed me a cup of coffee and glanced at the pages I was reading. "Trust you to read about the sex, Mulder." He said wryly.

I shrugged, "You had a dossier on me, no doubt, back when." I said.

"True," he replied and after a moment smiled. It was that irritating smirk he used to do.

"What?" I asked, quickly trying to remember if anything particularly salacious could've been in that file.

"Tsk, tsk, tsk." He answered and went back to sanding the chair leg he had in a vice on the table.

Thoroughly engaged and amused, I put down the journal and followed him to the table. Making the first overture, I touched the back of his neck. We hadn't touched since I'd fallen asleep the previous night.

He laughed. It was a carefree laugh and one I'd never heard him make before. "Wouldn't you like to know?" He baited me.

"I can convince you," I murmured into his ear and his bit neck lightly. He laughed again, but I heard the small gasp he made. He leaned his head against my abdomen, "You can try." He invited.

I did to him what he had done to me the previous night. Taking off his shirt and batting his hand away as he reached for me, "splinters, Alex," I chided and he laughed.

I wanted to touch him more than I wanted to get off. I had a moment of disorientation when I realized I was lightheartedly fondling the man who'd been my adversary for so long. I must've clutched him somehow and he turned, rubbing his face on my stomach in a comforting manner.

"They knew, Spender and the rest. They read all my stuff and had been watching me for a long time. There is nothing about them, written down, until after the war started and I was sure they were dead." I continued rubbing his shoulder, forgetting in his speech, the truncated arm and caressing it as well. "They sent people to seduce us both. That was in your file and mine too, when I found it. Not the Syndicate's official files, Mulder. Not the ones you saw. These were the private ones and we weren't the only young people they tracked. They were very thorough." He sighed in resignation. "You know, when I found those files, after everything I already knew about their corruption, I was surprised. I was still so young, I guess never saw them as Peeping Toms getting off on watching." He laughed bitterly now. I kept rubbing.

For a brief moment, I thought how little I'd known about my father. I waited for the flash of anger, pain, or sorrow. There was none. The old adage every child flings at their parents, at one time or another that they hadn't asked to be born, and the truism that you can't chose your relatives, did run through my brain. I hadn't chosen my enemies either, but I could chose my friends and did chose this man for more than that.

"Did they want you to seduce me, Alex?" I asked him.

'No, they never indicated that. What they wanted was for me to let you know I was in the closet, they thought it would make you more sympathetic and bond over being at odds with the establishment."

"Yeah, that makes sense. Outcasts and all that." I replied. He nodded against my belly.

Very quietly, he said, "I didn't have relations with anyone for ages. You think you lived by a 'Trust No One' maxim, shit Mulder, you have no idea. Marita set me straight, made me understand that whatever they thought or saw, it was beyond our control. Perversely, it did give me a sense of freedom and a fuck-them attitude."

"You had a real relationship with her then?" I asked. "Something you counted on and meant something to you?"

"Yeah. She got by my defenses and I think it was the same for her. We never talked about feelings. She was as solitary as me," he paused, "or you, for that matter. She wanted to know if I was attracted to you or Scully."

"Were you?" I had to ask.

He laughed, less bitterly and with real humor is his tone. "I was so paranoid, Mulder, that I didn't even jack off for weeks after I found out. After I was assigned to you, I saw Marita a few times and made sure we got into bed. I hid it well enough from her and Spender's notes have nothing in them to indicate I wasn't successful there too."

He slid off his chair and was on his knees before I could take a breath and when he unzipped me, I couldn't breathe at all. "Was I attracted to you?" He pulled down my pants; I looked down at his head as he rubbed his cheek against my erection. "Yeah," he said and took me in his mouth.

Forty-four. I was gonna die of a stroke at forty-four. Nothing had ever compared. I lost the power to stand, the power to think and I heard him chuckle as I collapsed. He followed me down and never let up. Now, he'd come for a second time last night when I did this to him, but the difference between that 'this' and this 'this' was a lot like saying a hurricane was a spring shower.

I came with a roar. I reached down to see if I still had a dick and he laughed until tears ran down his face. "Oh my god," I said wonderingly.

"Well, duh, Mulder," he said and chuckled some more, "that's just the beginning."

I struggled to my feet, went in the bedroom, kicked off my pants and fell on the bed. It was dinnertime before he came to wake me up.

I stayed and began to join him in rebuilding and refinishing the furniture in his house. I noticed he never sat in the lime green monstrosity. I almost did once, but thought better of it. We played cards and chess and I learned how to caulk tile. We got radio reception once in a while and we listened to records on a stereo.

We didn't fuck and there was no penetration at all. I learned, inch by inch, what pleased him and he reciprocated.

I finally asked him about the chair. He looked at it and shrugged, "I got it cheap," he said. "I couldn't manage to drag a couch and I had this idea that only two chairs was weird, like, what if people really visited, where would they sit? So, I bought it."

I looked at him and tried to discern if he was putting me on.

"It's not comfortable at all," he said in answer to my stare.

I got up and straddled his lap. I'd never done that and I didn't do it now to be sexy. I wanted to get right in his face and try to know if he was putting me on.

He frowned at me and tried to adjust to the weight and pressure of my body. Finally, he got irritated, "What?" He asked angrily.

"You," I said and poked my finger in his chest, "are putting me on!"

He was totally puzzled, thought for a second and asked, "Is this about the damn chair?"

"Damn chair, my ass," I said and poked him again. He tried to shove me off his lap.

"What about the fucking chair," he yelled in my face.

"Exactly!" I yelled triumphantly and poked him again.

He made a mighty effort and spilled me on the floor. "You are certifiable," he said and prodded me, hard, with his foot. "It's an ugly green chair. From a teenager's Saturday Night Fever fantasy or something. I agree," he said, "it's tasteless and all that, but what the fuck bothers you so much about the chair?"

He wasn't kidding. He wasn't kidding, I said it to myself a second time. "You 'are' a queer," I said.

He looked startled. "Did you hit your head, Mulder?" He asked in genuine concern.

I began to laugh. "Alex, the chair is famous for being in a 1995 issue of Purrfection Magazine. It was commonly called the 'Fucking Chair" and had women displaying themselves, with abandon, throughout."

"No way," he said and eyed the chair askance.

"Way," I replied laughingly.

"You thought I bought an old pussy chair?" He asked indignantly.

"Purrfection," I gasped.

"Whatever," he said and looked more closely at the chair. When he began to move his hand and tilt his head as if positioning the view, I really lost it. I got up and grabbed his shoulders trying to get him to sit in the chair. We tussled. He won, and I was on the floor again. He kneed me in the thigh, "Listen to me, Mulder." When I didn't answer he kneed me a little harder.

"What?" I asked.

"We, as in neither of us, is ever gonna use that chair. Not to sit in, not to 'display' in and not to fuck in. You understand?"

"Can I blow you in it?" He nudged me hard. "Once?" I begged facetiously.

"No sex in that chair," he said flatly.

He got up once more and walked around the chair, turned and addressed me, "If I'm a queer, what does that make you, boyfriend?" He sneered and left the room.

I had to acknowledge it was a great exit line. He didn't touch me for two days and moved away when I reached for him. I sanded a lot of furniture and bided my time.

After lunch on the third day, I cleared the table and removed his unfinished coffee. "Hey, I wasn't done," he exclaimed. "Shut up," I said.

I sat opposite him and put my right arm on the table in arm wrestling position. "You've got to be kidding," he sneered and made to get up.

"Sit down," I said softly, but imperatively. "Add your arm, Alex."

His face closed and that blank look from yesteryear was back. He maneuvered his stump onto the table and put up his right arm, grabbing my hand. I put my left arm on the table, for leverage, and grasped his hand. "On three and two out of three wins," I said tonelessly.

He nodded, his lips flattening into a tight line.

He was strong and got me easily the first time. I eked out a victory on the second try. We were both sweating and I was panting for the third round. This is what I wanted, what I hoped for when I'd thought it through. All or nothing, an equal match. I'd learned a lot of lessons from him over the days I'd been here as his friend, lover, and companion, from this time of truce. But, a truce was only a temporary halt in a conflict, not a stopping place.

It was time to end the war forever; we could both win or lose. It wasn't possible for one of us to be more than the other, or less. This was something I had to teach him. I had to make him see he had to stop protecting me from him and from myself. We each had to pull on through for each other and ourselves.

He'd been ashamed of his parting shot the other day. I knew at great cost the terrible, painful price of shame. It had to end or we would never be at peace.

The third round lasted a long time. I got stronger as I realized he wasn't going to cave in, wasn't going to give away his own hard fought autonomy. He'd paid too much for it too, along the way. It was time he knew it, for the last time.

The sweat poured off us and he was panting now. My arm was trembling from the strain and I saw a small trail of blood course down his chin from biting his lip. "Yes, yes," I whispered breathlessly, not even realizing I'd spoken aloud until I heard my own voice. I had him; his hand was two inches from the tabletop, at most.

He groaned, hissed "bastard," and with a concentrated, teeth grinding push, laid my hand down.

He cried then, his face in the crook of his good arm. He cried silently and motionlessly. I let him, making no move or sound of comfort or intrusion.

When I could stand, I went to the bathroom and washed up. I brought back a towel and wiped the sweat from his hair and off the back of his neck. I left the towel hanging there.

I finished our evening chores, took a long shower and went to bed. I waited.

A long while later after his own long shower, he joined me. "Why'd you force the contest, Mulder?"

"It seemed to be the right thing to do," I gathered my thoughts, "the greatest gift you've ever given me, I'm calling it a gift because I can't think of another word that encompasses so much. Was the gift of an equal adversary. Sure, you were on the inside and I thought you knew more about the secrets I wanted to uncover. Sure, you seemed to appear here and there, now and again, having done some kind of spectacular action. But, Alex, face-to-face we met and fought as equals, or at least I have always seen it that way. Basically, I beat you up and you bled. You offered me possible chances at getting to them and I ended up screwed. I was unrepentant about what I did to you and I always thought you were the same regarding me." I turned on my side to watch him in the moonlight. I fancied I could smell my sachet. "It took me a long time; way into the war, to realize your continued survival meant a lot more than that. You, Alex, well; you were my talisman. If you could keep going even though you were a cripple, then, for god's sake, I could keep going under the weight of my anger, pain and guilt. I could keep going no matter what, if only to even the score with you someday."

Alex sighed heavily and rubbed his head. I took his hand and held it to my chest, "Once the war started, I felt confident and superior. Surely I would be the better fighter, the better strategist, and recognized for all the work I'd done in the Before. It didn't turn out that way. What I'd done in the Before hardly mattered and what really pissed me off was that what you had done in the Before didn't seem to matter at all. I missed the personal connection. With you to be able to hate and blame personally, I could keep my guilt and shame at a distance because you knew, you Alex, knew and were part of it. If we both survived I could, and would prove I was the better man, once and for all." I laughed sadly. "But you broke the rules I'd made. You fought bravely and without special consideration. You never overstepped your position or insinuated yourself into anyone's graces for favor, least of all mine. I had to face it; you were a fine soldier and very possibly, a man of equal standing to me." Alex shook his head and I squeezed his hand tightly. He winced slightly and I realized his hand must be bruised from our contest and held it more gently.

"Yes," I said, "and Skinner was only the first to insist I understand. He confronted me the first time you went walkabout with the other one- armed young man. I was furious you know. How dare you be able to find companionship and solace? How dare the other guy trust you? How dare you be gay? It changed everything. I thought about the times I beat you up and you held me off, defensively, but never harming me in return. I thought of you lying down for another man and was furiously jealous. You were mine. I owned the right to make you 'take' it, no one else." I rubbed my face against his shoulder; he was holding himself very stiffly.

"It took me a long time to realize my jealousy was also about desire and the hurt was also about my need to be all important to someone, just once, for once, in my life. It took even longer for me to understand you did put me in that position. I was so important to you that you stopped having even the vestiges of physical comfort with anyone. I was so important to you that you never transferred out of the unit or took a promotion to stay near me. It took me a long, long time to understand I held so much power to hurt you. Alex," I whispered, "Alex, it took me the lifetimes of almost everyone I'd known, cared about, or depended upon to realize whatever had happened in the Before and everything that was happening in the Now that the connection between us wasn't hate or based on reciprocal vengeance. We needed each other to be whole. After the war and without you in my life, I couldn't settle. I was left incomplete."

"Mulder, Mulder," Alex turned and wrapped his arm around me.

We slept, my best and last enemy and me, together.


(6) Pull on Through - EPILOGUE

I stayed. Eventually we got a couch, but we never got rid of the ugly green chair. The neighborhood grew up around us and children visited and played on that chair, but we never sat in it. We managed to purchase the large lot, including the ruins. The wild roses grew into an encompassing mass and became a small mountain of rich, sweet fragrance. The prolific thorns prevented anyone from cutting it back, lots of small animals and birds found safety under those vines, safe from human interference.

We became lovers in all ways and friends; it seemed to me, even more.

Eventually society rebuilt and both of us became footnotes in the history texts. My early work into the paranormal garnered me more fame and, from time to time, there was a resurgence of interest and reporters or students would come and talk to me about it. Alex would let them in, smack my back and say, "I did see Cole with a gun," and go make coffee.

The sachets, my talisman, never lost their faint smell and I often thought, blessed the house. Alex was right, we were only temporary occupants, and the next people would be welcomed as well.

The End


Apocalypse Please
by Muse

Declare this an emergency
Come on and spread a sense of urgency
And pull us through
And pull us through

And this is the end end
This is the end
Of the World

And it's time we saw a miracle
Come on it's time for something biblical
To pull us through
And pull us through

And this is the end, the end
This is the end
Of the World

Proclaim eternal victory
Come on and change the course of history
And pull us through
And pull us through

And this is the end the end
This is the end
Of the world