The Fox's Den
M. Beecher

There was a heavy pounding on the door. Mulder frowned slightly, annoyed at
being interrupted in his reading, and went to answer it. Who and what he saw
caused his jaw to drop slightly. "Oh, Jesus."


"Care to invite me in?" Alex Krycek asked sarcastically, his hand covering
his nose. Blood dripped from between his fingers.


Mulder shuddered at the sight of the blood on Krycek's face, remembering the
nosebleeds Scully had had during her cancer. He stepped back from the door.
"Come in."


Krycek moved inside the shadowy apartment. Mulder went into the kitchen and
wetted some paper toweling with cool water. He then tore some more dry towel
from the roll and went back out to Krycek. "Here," he said, handing Krycek
the dry towel.


The bleeding man brought the crumpled wad of white paper to his nose, and
Mulder was astonished at how fast a red blossom spread through it. "What
happened to you?"


"I didn't get punched in the face, so don't ask. It just started bleeding,"
Krycek answered.


Mulder felt a sickening sensation in his stomach. "Alex...have you had these
before?"


"Once," he replied, "on the ship from Vladivostok."


Mulder took the wet red towel from Krycek. It was soaked in blood, and was
warm and heavy in his hand. "I'll get you more towel," he whispered. Krycek
followed him into the kitchenette. Mulder disposed of the used paper, and
ripped off more, handing it to Krycek. "Why did you come here?"


"Wasn't anywhere else I could go," Krycek said simply, pinching his nose
slightly, while carefully using his prosthetic arm to hold the towel under
his nostrils. "Wish this damned fake arm moved faster."


Mulder saw now that the front of Krycek's blue t-shirt was covered in blood.
"Jesus, Krycek, I'll get you a new shirt."


"No," Krycek said, reaching out to stop Mulder. "Don't go to any trouble.
I'm already wasting your paper towel."


"You're not wasting it, Krycek," Mulder sighed. Raking his gaze over the
younger man, he said, "On second thought, maybe you should take a shower
before I give you that shirt."


"Yeah, get me naked in your shower then call the feds while I'm in there. Be
serious, Mulder, I'm not a fool."


"Alex," Mulder stated, "I will not call the FBI or the cops or the U.S.
Marshals. Honestly. You need a shower."


He could see the weariness in Krycek's green eyes. Then they narrowed
suspiciously at him. "Why are you being so nice to me, Mulder?"


"I'm merely being civil, Krycek," Mulder snapped. "Take it or leave it."


Krycek sighed faintly, then looked at Mulder, his expression hard. "I swear
to God, Mulder, if you call the cops, you won't live to your next birthday."


"I'm not calling the cops, Alex!"


His outburst must have convinced Krycek, because he carefully took his
jacket off. The bleeding in his nose had stopped, and Mulder stepped forward
with the towel wet with water. Krycek flinched away from Mulder's touch.


"Goddamnit, Krycek, I'm not gonna hurt you!" Mulder snarled. "Stop thinking
that my only intent is to kill you."


There came from Krycek a dry chuckle. "Maybe I was hoping you would want to
kill me."


Mulder froze with the towel millimeters from Krycek's face. "Have a death
wish, do we?" he asked softly.


"Maybe I do," Krycek challenged.


Mulder wiped away the smears of blood on Krycek's cheeks, then carefully
cleaned the dried blood from his nose and upper lip. He tossed the towel in
the trash. "Go get cleaned up," he commanded.


Krycek turned away, but Mulder laid a hand on his shoulder. "I'll put some
clean clothes out for you on the dresser, okay?"


Krycek nodded, then bit his lip. "Mulder..."


"Yeah?"


"Thanks."


Mulder nodded, and turned towards the sink. As Krycek left the kitchen, he
turned on the hot water and washed away every trace of his former partner's
blood. A moment later, he heard the shower start. He went into the bedroom
and found a pair of sweatpants and a heavy long-sleeved shirt. He laid them
on the dresser along with a pair of gray boxers and a pair of socks, then
left the room.


He was idly flipping through channels when Krycek came out of the bedroom.
He looked up at the man leaning in the doorway. The beard growth had been
shaved away, leaving smooth olive skin, and his hair was tousled like he
hadn't combed it after drying it with the towel.


Green eyes met hazel. "Is this a private party?" Krycek asked, indicating
the television with a tip of his head, "Or may I join you?"


Mulder's response was to move over on the couch. He didn't trust himself to
speak, fearing that he'd say something that would cause Krycek to bolt,
namely, "Why the hell did you kiss me four days ago?"


It was the question that he hadn't been able to get out of his head. After
Krycek had left that day, he'd sat and pondered until Scully came and let
herself in with a key. And then he'd told her he was thinking about curve
balls. Just didn't say what kind of curve ball.


Krycek sat down on the other end of the couch. His useless left hand lay on
the cushion beside him, his right along the arm of the couch. He tucked his
feet up underneath him in an almost feminine manner. But Mulder saw
underneath Krycek's move a insecurity, and a need to draw his legs as close
as possible to him in a futile attempt for warmth. It must have been a cold
winter in Russia, he thought to himself.


Krycek looked over and saw Mulder watching him. "Mulder..." he began. "I'm
sorry I pointed a gun at you."


Mulder merely nodded.


Then he started slightly, remembering something. "Alex," he said, "this is
going to sound strange. But would you mind letting me look at your neck?"


Krycek knew what he was thinking. "I don't have any implants."


"Are you sure? They're easy to miss, Alex. Let me look."


Krycek shot him a unintelligible look, and moved closer to Mulder, turning
his head away. Mulder gently pulled down the collar of the shirt. There,
right below the knob of bone, was a small half-moon scar. And another an
inch below it. His heart sank. Goddamned Consortium and their fucking
implants!


Mulder moved to lift the back of the shirt, but Krycek whirled around. "What
are you doing?"


"What I said I was doing," Mulder replied.


Krycek slowly turned back around, and Mulder lifted the shirt. As he had
expected, there were more of the tiny half-moon scars. One two inches below
the second one he'd found, and one three inches below that, and one four
inches below that. Then there was a long scar, still red, crossing where the
next implant should have been. "Oh, sweet Jesus, no..." Mulder whispered to
himself, his finger tracing it lightly.


Krycek flinched, an almost imperceptible movement. "What is it, Mulder?"


Silence.


"Mulder?"


Mulder let the shirt drop. "You have five of them in your back, Alex. And
there might have been a sixth but I'm guessing if it was there, it got
ripped out when you cut your back."


There was a short, heavy, deadly silence.


"Alex, if it's missing, there's a strong possibility that you are suffering
from a terminal illness, or will be soon."


"The nosebleed," Krycek murmured. "Fuck. Damn fucking Consortium assholes."


Mulder turned the younger man to face him, so that Krycek could see the
compassion and understanding on his face. "I only said that it was a
possibility, and only if there was a sixth implant."

Krycek closed his eyes for a long moment, the long eyelashes heavy and dark
against his cheeks. Mulder swallowed, feeling like this was all his fault.
Then Krycek opened his eyes and looked into Mulder's, the deep forest green
of them both startling and welcome, questions flashing across his face.
"They've made you their tool in the literal sense," Mulder stated.

"I can see that." Krycek punched the back of the couch with his right first.
"Goddamnit!"

The silence lay heavy between them for a moment. Then Krycek spoke. "Is
there a way I can find out without having to go to a hospital?"

"We could ask Scully."

"She hates me," Krycek stated bluntly.

"A lot of people hate you."

Silence. Wrong thing to say, Mulder. Good going.

"So do you want me to call her or not?"

"Fine," Krycek said in a wounded tone, refusing to look at Mulder.

"Alex," Mulder said, feeling like he was speaking to a concrete wall. "Let
me help you."

"I'm not going to take your pity."

"You have to trust me!"

"Trust works both ways, Mulder," Krycek said and moved back to his end of
the couch.

Mulder sighed and picked up his cell phone. Scully answered on the second
ring. "Scully."

"It's me."

"Evening, Mulder." There was splashing noise. Then, "Damned soap."

"Care to come over for awhile?"

"Well, I'm rather indisposed at the moment."

"Just come over when you get out of the tub, okay?" He looked over at
Krycek, who was staring out the window.

"What's so important?"

"Not what, but who."

Scully sighed almost inaudibly. "All right, Mulder, I'll be there in an
hour."

"Good. Bring some medical supplies."

"What?"

"Just bring them." He hung up. To Krycek he said, "She'll be here in an
hour." That gives you an hour to walk out, he thought.

"Fine." He was still staring out the window.

Mulder stood up, feeling slightly uncomfortable. "Are you hungry?"

"No."

"You sure?"

"Well, maybe a little." Krycek's tone softened.

Mulder went into the kitchenette. "I've got leftover Chinese and some Greek
thing Scully convinced me to try."

"It doesn't matter what you make."

Mulder took out the Chinese and stuck it in his old microwave. He found two
plates in the pile of washed dishes in the sink.

Krycek picked up the remote and changed the channel idly. "Nothing on but
the news."

"Are they saying anything about the burn sites?"

"Not as of yet."

The microwave chimed, and Mulder took the cardboard container out. "Ow.
Hot."

"Careful," Krycek mumbled.

Mulder shot him a look he didn't see, then spooned the food onto the plates.
Grabbing two forks, he carried it all into the living room. "Here," he said,
handing one to Krycek.

"Thanks."

Mulder sat down and began to eat. They watched the news in silence. There
was no mention of the previous staging sites, nor were there any new ones.
"What do you think happened at the bridge in Pennsylvania?" Mulder asked
when he'd finished eating.

"Exactly what Agent Scully described on her regression tape."

"How did you get a hold of that?"

"How do I get a hold of anything, Mulder? I steal."

"That's really what happened?"

"Yes," Krycek said. "I think it's time for you to rethink your beliefs.
Again." He looked over at Mulder. "Why did you stop believing in
extraterrestrials?"

"There was too much evidence pointing to the government, Krycek."

"But does that mean there's no aliens? Mulder, you've seen them with your
own eyes. You've been infected by them."

"You have to admit, Krycek, that it is a fantastic idea. Colonization of
Earth by an alien race. Fantastic, but fiction."

"Prove it, Mulder," Krycek challenged. "I've heard the Consortium talk.
Marita talked. I know what's happening. You can't deny it, my friend. The
time has come. And if you don't stop it, we're all going to die."
He'd said the same words four days before.

"What am I supposed to do about it, Alex? Why am I the one who has to stop
it?"

"Because you are the one who will resist."

"Resist what?"

"The MIB who keep things like these locked up in the Pentagon. The
government agents sent out to quite literally change your mind. The
Consortium themselves."

"What's your excuse for not trying to stop it?"

"And if I have cancer?"

"Scully didn't just curl up into a ball and...and die when she was
diagnosed."

"I'm not your precious Agent Scully."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

They were nose to nose now. Mulder could feel Krycek's breath against his
face as he spoke. "Come off it, Mulder. You know you're in love with her."

"I am not in love with my partner." Mulder felt lightheaded, not knowing if
it was from the accusation or the closeness this man whom he'd hated for so
long.

"Then why are you blushing?"

Mulder didn't answer, and Krycek leaned back in satisfaction. Mulder felt
like he was playing a game that he could never win. "I love Scully," he
said, closing his eyes and swallowing, "but not like that."

Krycek touched his cheek, whisper-light. "Then why this fine pink on your
cheekbone? I don't think you're one for wearing makeup, Mulder."

Mulder opened his eyes to find Krycek only millimeters away. He pulled back
and stood up. "Excuse me."

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Krycek reach up to rub his temples. The
man looked exhausted. He went into the bathroom, closing the door behind
him. Jesus, what the hell is going on? I will not allow myself to get
rattled by Krycek, he thought, I will not let myself do that. I let him
close once, and he betrayed me. From now on, he sits on one end of the
couch, and I sit on the other. And I hope Scully gets here soon.

Mulder wet a washcloth with cold water and held it to his face for a long
moment. Then he patted his face dry with a towel, and left the bathroom.
Krycek had taken the plates into the kitchenette and was washing them
one-handed in the sink. "You don't have to do that," Mulder told him.

Krycek shrugged. "I felt like helping a little."

"Do you have a place to spend the night?" Mulder asked, leaning against the
counter.

Krycek shook his head.

"You can stay here," Mulder said.

"I don't want to impose on you, Mulder."

"You're not."

A key turned in the lock. Scully stepped in, her wet hair pulled back in a
clip. "Mulder?"

"We're in the kitchen, Scully," he called.

Scully looked around the corner. "Oh...Krycek."

"Agent Scully," Krycek said by way of a greeting.

"Mulder," Scully said tightly. "May I have a word with you?"

"Sure," Mulder said, glancing quickly at Krycek, who did not look up from
the dish he was drying.

Scully pulled him into the bedroom. "Mulder," she hissed, "why is Krycek
here?"

"You have to examine him, Scully."

"No way."

"He's got five implants and there's a possibility that a sixth might have
been ripped out when he injured himself."

"Mulder, I said no!"

"Dana."

Scully stared at him, her eyes wide. "That man is a cold-blooded killer,
Mulder," she whispered fiercely. "He killed my sister and your father. Or
have you forgotten that? His life means absolutely nothing to me. I don't
give a damn if he lives or dies."

Mulder looked away from her for a moment, his eyes not focusing on anything.

"Scully," he said finally. "Even if you don't give a damn, I do. And I want
you to examine him."

"Have you gone insane?" she asked, her tone incredulous.

"According to my last psych evaluation, I haven't."

She sighed and smoothed her hand over her hair. "All right, Mulder. I'll do
it for you. But I don't understand why you want this."

"Resist or serve, Scully."

"What?"

"The colonists. Resist them - or serve them. If you don't examine Alex,
you're serving them."

"Since when do you call him Alex? And what colonists?"

"Since he brought to light a lot of things, Scully. And never mind the
colonists right now, just go out there and help him."

"What did he bring to light, Mulder?"

"Look, just get out there and look at the man, all right? He came here with
a nosebleed, and I'm afraid he's got the same type of tumor you had."

Scully bit her lip. "I'll do it out there, since you have no bed. Maybe you
should stay in here. I don't know how comfortable he'll be having both of us
around," she said, and exited the room.

Mulder ran a hand through his hair, and sat down on a folding chair that was
against the wall. He heard Scully speaking to Krycek in a low tone, but
couldn't make out what was being said. Then Scully came back in. "He wants
you out there for some reason," she whispered. "He won't tell me why."

He stood and followed her out of the room. Sitting on a kitchen chair, he
watched as Scully had Krycek remove his shirt and the prosthetic arm. The
stump was lined with scars, the scar tissue pink and shiny in the low lights
of his apartment. Mulder bit back the sounds of sympathy that suddenly rose
to his lips. Krycek was keeping his eyes averted, staring at the back of the
couch was Scully poked and prodded, asking about tender flesh. When she
asked about the cut on his back, he mumbled that he'd done it on the ship
from Vladivostok.

After about half an hour, Scully tossed Krycek his shirt again. "There's one
test you'll have to do yourself," she said in a low voice. "The testicular
exam." Her voice was hard as she leaned over near him. "I don't want to
accidentally rip your balls off, Krycek."

"Fine," Krycek said. "I know what to do."

Scully straightened. "Other than that, I don't see any reason to believe you
have cancer. The nosebleeds might have been from exposure to dry or dusty
air. Who knows what you breathed in on that ship. However, I couldn't give
you a precise answer unless I could examine you in a medical facility with
the proper equipment." She handed him a small tube. "Put this on that cut on
you back. You don't want it getting infected."

Mulder stood up. Scully came over to him. "Is he staying with you?" she
whispered.

"Yes."

"Make him do that exam, and keep putting the anti-bacterial ointment on the
cut."

"You got it, Dr. Scully."

There was a harsh cough from the living room. Scully looked over her
shoulder. Krycek was struggling for breath, coughing into his hand. Mulder
wordlessly poured a glass of water, and quickly took it him. Krycek took a
long drink, his olive-skinned throat exposed as he gulped down the water.
"Thanks," he rasped.

Mulder nodded and went back over to Scully. "Get him to go see a doctor if
you can," she said.

"I'll try."

She put her coat on. "I'll see you Monday, Mulder."

"Bye."

She let herself out, and Krycek stood up from the couch. "I'll, uhm, be in
the bathroom."

Mulder nodded. He grabbed a bottle of juice from the fridge and flipped on
the television again. News. News. In Living Color reruns. Matlock reruns.
Bionic Woman reruns. He decided on the Learning Channel and the special they
were showing about rats.

Hardly ten minutes had passed before Krycek exited the bathroom. Mulder
looked at him, and he shook his head.

"You know," Mulder began, "my apartment isn't the safest place for you to
stay."

"It's the safest place I have, Mulder," Krycek said softly. "If I go back to
Russia, I'll be shot for stealing the black oil vaccine and giving it to the
Consortium in exchange for my life. If I go out onto the streets, I'll be
dead by morning."

"Krycek, I'm pretty sure that this apartment is bugged. And it's not the
hardest building to get into. Or shoot someone in."

"Where else can I go?" Krycek asked desperately. "Christ, Mulder, you're the
closest thing I have to a friend and even you can't stand me."

Mulder sighed. "I don't hate you, Alex. We just don't see eye to eye on
certain things."

Krycek laid a hand on Mulder's wrist. "Mulder, I have to tell you...I didn't
kill your father."

"If you didn't - who did?"

"The shot came through the window. I don't know who it was."

"Then why were you there?"

"CSM sent me to warn him."

"Doesn't he have a real name?"

"If he does, no one knows it. Look, Mulder, I didn't shoot your father. And
it was Luis who pulled the trigger on Melissa Scully."

Mulder pondered this for a long moment. "Krycek, you're not lying to me?"

"I swear on my grandmother's grave."

Mulder raised an eyebrow at him. "One more thing."

"Yeah?"

"Do you know anything about the disappearance of my sister?"

Krycek drew in a ragged breath. "You're not ready to hear what I know, Fox,"
he said quietly. "I'll tell you, I promise. But now is not the time."

Mulder bit his lower lip.

Krycek watched as he drew the pink flesh between his teeth, biting down a
little. The look of concentration that flashed across his handsome features
made him look ten years older. "Mulder," he said after a while. "If I can't
stay here with you, where am I going to go?"

With you. The words burned into Mulder's brain.

An idea raced through his mind. "Come on, Krycek. We're getting out of here.
Get whatever you brought with."

Mulder fetched a duffel from the bedroom and stuffed some clean clothes in
it, enough for several days. Then he tossed Krycek another bag, along with
some shirts. "Here."

"Where are we going?"

Mulder turned to look at him, his hazel eyes clouded. "We're going to
Chilmark. To the house where my quest began. No one would think to look
there."

Krycek stood and looked at the older man for a long moment, then turned and
left the room. He had his leather jacket on when Mulder came out. "You have
to call Scully, or Skinner," was what he said.

Mulder nodded and picked up his cell phone. He hit a speed dial number.
"It's me."

"Of course it is," Scully said wryly.

"Look, I'm gonna take a few days of vacation time and head out of town."

"And you want me to cover for you."

"Yeah."

"Okay, Mulder. Where are you headed?"

"Chilmark. I think it's time to exorcise some demons, don't you?"

"If you think it's time, then it's time. Is Krycek still there?"

Mulder glanced at Krycek, who shook his head no. "No, he left a little while
ago."

"And you weren't able to convince him to go to a clinic, were you?"

"No."

"Well, all right. I'll tell Skinner what you're up to. We can reach you by
cell phone, right?"

"Yep. But not unless it's an emergency, okay?"

"'Kay, Mulder. I'll see you in a few days. I'll feed the fish like usual.
Take care."

"Thanks, Scully. Bye."

He hung up. To Krycek he said, "All set."

"Is there food and water and everything up there?"

"We should stop at a convenience store on the way."

"Okay. Mulder..."

"What is it, Krycek?"

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

God, he makes it sound like I told him I wanted to have sex with him, Mulder
thought wryly to himself. "I just don't want to get anyone hurt."

"I handed you a gun four days ago and gave you the chance to kill me then.
I'm giving you a chance to do it now. And you're refusing. Why?"

Mulder stared into Krycek's green eyes. The honesty he saw there was almost
unsettling. He took a breath. "You have...defied death...more times than I
can count. I respect that. And I respect the fact that you took a major risk
coming to me, both four days ago and today. The respect I have for your
strength in the face of danger far outweighs the compelling rage that I've
experienced toward you. I've wanted you dead more times than either of us
could count, Krycek. But I don't want to kill you anymore. I think you've
been killed enough."

There was silence as he picked up his service revolver and removed the clip.
He handed the clip to Krycek, saying, "I'm going to bring this with. But it
will not be used for any acts of violence, only if the need arises for
protection."

Krycek nodded and put the clip in an inside pocket of his jacket. "I
understand."

Mulder picked up the bags. "Then let's go."

It was three hours from Alexandria to Chilmark, and the majority of it
passed in silence. Mulder only broke it once.

"Krycek."

"What?"

"Are you planning on telling me about Samantha?"

"When the time is right, Mulder. When the time is right. For both of us."

"All right." Mulder decided not to push the issue.

Silence draped itself once more like a heavy velvet curtain between them.

"Mulder," Krycek said suddenly.

"Yeah?"

"I can't say that I'm sorry for what I've done."

Mulder glanced over at his passenger. "What?"

"I don't feel any remorse for the things I've done. I'm not sorry for
shooting Augustus Cole. I'm not sorry for beating up Skinner. I'm not sorry
for being there when your father and Melissa Scully were shot."

"Don't tell Scully that."

"I wouldn't dream of it. But she knows that it was Luis Cardinal."

"I never knew what to believe about that," Mulder admitted. "So, I want to
know, why aren't you remorseful for what you've done?"

"I'll put it this way. During the Nuremburg trials, a lot of the Nazi War
Criminals said they were innocent because they had been following orders. It
was follow orders or be removed with the Nazis, it was the same policy with
the Consortium. I regret that I followed orders, but not what I did to carry
out those orders."

"Orders given to you by the Cigarette-Smoking Man?"

"Yes, him. And some from the Well-Manicured Man, but not many. When...when
your father was shot, CSM sent me to warn him. Bill Mulder had been his
friend. But the Man got his henchman there before I could save your father.
That's part of the reason for the drugs in your water supply. They wanted to
make you think it was me. If you'd have shot me, then they wouldn't have had
to worry about Alex Krycek anymore. Your partner saved more than my life
that night, Mulder. She saved me from becoming an indispensable Consortium
thug, which is what I would have been immediately degraded to had I been
killed. Alive, I was more than that."

"You were a spy, Krycek!"

"But it was necessary. I was the first to successfully infiltrate the
Consortium. Not the first Consortium spy - or Russian spy, for that matter -
in the Bureau. But I never knew all their secrets. Some were easy to find
out. Remember that damned digital tape? I listened to every word of that
thing. You know, Mulder, I would think that in a way you'd be proud of me,
spying on the Consortium."

"You could have shared what you learned with the American people instead of
with the KGB."

"It's not the KGB anymore. Furthermore, Mulder, I think you've missed the
most important lesson anyone has ever strived to teach you. Some things
cause a panic, Mulder, but some more than others. They cover the cover-ups,
haven't you learned? Roswell was a cover-up from something even more deadly,
information which I was not privy to. But the trick is to cover the CU
because the CU was what the American people will go after, not the real
event behind it."

"The CUs are leaked for precisely that purpose, am I right?"

"You are correct," Krycek said. "You catch on quick."

Mulder spied a grocery store up ahead. "Ok, we're stopping there."

"Just what I've always wanted Mulder, to go grocery shopping with you."

Mulder flashed a grin. "I always suspected you had a urge to go shopping
with me, Krycek."

"Well, we'll say it makes up for that time you ditched me."

"Like a bad date, no less."

"A date to the grocery store isn't much more exciting, I'm afraid," Krycek
said in mock-sadness.

Mulder parked the car. "Stop blubbering and get out."

"How long are we staying up here?" Krycek got out of the car.

Mulder shrugged. "How long do I need to babysit you before you can stay up
here alone?"

"You're letting me stay in the house?"

"Sometimes, Krycek, you're really dense. Look, if you don't have anywhere
else to go, you can stay there. I'd let you stay at my apartment except that
it's small enough as it is, plus I don't own a bed - or a spare couch. And
I'd be worried they'd come looking for you there."

Krycek let a small smile tug at his lips, the first one Mulder had seen from
him all evening. It lights up his eyes, he thought. Then he mentally slapped
himself. You promised yourself you wouldn't let Krycek rattle you, Mulder!
They shopped quickly, getting only the necessities. Frozen dinners, macaroni
and cheese, bread, butter, and milk. "There's electricity and everything?"
Krycek asked.

"Yeah. There was the last time I was up there. I know Mom goes up
occasionally to check on everything." Mulder paused to tie his shoelace.
They went through the checkout, Mulder paying with cash. He grabbed the bag
and they left the store.

The house was dark and cold, but Mulder and Krycek soon had it lit up, with
a fire burning in the fireplace. Krycek went into the kitchen and put away
the groceries while Mulder searched the house for blankets. He found a stack
of thick warm ones in the cedar chest at the end of the bed in the master
bedroom, and dragged an armload of them into the living room, spreading them
out on the floor. Krycek came out of the kitchen and looked at him
curiously.

"It's too cold in the bedrooms," Mulder explained, "so we should probably
sleep out here in front of the fire."

Alex Krycek was not believing what he was hearing. "Mulder, I keep thinking
you're being nice to me now so that you can slit my throat while I sleep."
A tiny look of hurt rippled across Mulder's face, illuminated by the fire.
"Alex," he said gently. "For the last time, I'm not going to harm you in any
way."

Krycek sat down beside him. "Why?" he asked in a soft tone. "If I was you,
I'd kill me in an instant."

Mulder patted his knee awkwardly. "I refuse to help you in your search for
death. I don't care to add myself to a list of people who would like you
dead."

"I just don't understand you, Mulder."

"Sometimes I don't understand myself," Mulder whispered. He looked up at
Krycek. Firelight played across his face, making his green eyes flash,
making his hair look like onyx streaked with red gold. His hand was still on
Krycek's knee, laying there heavily and purposefully. Mulder finally knew
why he'd brought Krycek here, a reason he would never have admitted to
himself if he wasn't here and didn't have the chance.

But Krycek saved him from taking that chance by leaning over and brushing
Mulder's lips softly with his own. It lasted for only a few seconds, too
short for Mulder to respond the way he would have liked.

His eyes were glued to Krycek's lips as he opened his mouth to speak.
"Mulder...I...I'm sorry."

Mulder's throat was dry, and his tongue snaked out to wet his lips. "Don't
be," he said hoarsely.

The expression on Krycek's face only made the butterfly feeling in Mulder's
stomach increase. "Fox," he breathed, only having time for that one word
before Mulder kissed him softly and hesitantly.

"Have you ever kissed a man before this?" he asked as Mulder's lips moved
away from his own.

Mulder shook his head wordlessly, no. Krycek brought his right hand up, and
carefully pushed Mulder down on the thick layer of blankets. He went without
struggle, laying his head on the feather pillow, looking up at Krycek like
he was the only other person in the world.

And at the moment, they were the only people in the world. Mulder's head
swam as Krycek kissed him purposefully, deeply. He parted his lips for the
welcome invasion of Krycek's hot tongue. He slipped a hand up to caress
Krycek's chest as Krycek explored every part of Mulder's mouth with his
tongue, seeking, tasting, feeling.

They were breathing heavily as the kiss ended, Mulder's hand still resting
on Krycek's chest. "If there was a reason behind ever punch I threw at you,
it was the uncontrollable hidden desire to be with you like this," he
whispered. "I just didn't understand it then."

"For such an educated man," Krycek responded, "there's certainly a lot that
you don't understand."

"I hope you don't hold it against me," Mulder teased.

Krycek closed his eyes as he chuckled, his long lashes sweeping his
cheekbones. Mulder brushed a finger across Krycek's eyelids. "The only thing
I regret, Mulder, is that I didn't have the courage to show you what it was
you were fighting until now."

"Don't regret it." A pause. "You know, if we hadn't been in such a public
place when I caught up with you in Hong Kong, I might have taken you the way
I really wanted you."

"I wondered if it was another gun or if you really were happy to see me,"
Krycek chuckled. He dropped his head to Mulder's, kissing him passionately,
then trailing tiny kisses over his jaw and to the collar of his shirt. He
felt Mulder quiver with each touch, quickly turning to clay in his hands.
Mulder let himself be laid back on the blanket, and felt Krycek's heavy
weight lean against him. A calloused hand slid underneath his shirt and
brushed against his nipples. He moaned against the lips that came down
roughly on his own. "See now...what you do to me?"

The hand slid out from under his shirt, and brushed over the bulge in his
jeans. A low chuckle issued from Krycek's throat. "I don't need to see it,
Mulder. I can feel it."

Mulder grasped the bottom of Krycek's shirt and pulled it upward, over his
head. Krycek turned away for a moment and removed the prosthetic arm. Then
he turned back toward Mulder, half expecting to see disgust in the other
man's eyes. But all he saw was raw need.

Mulder's fingers had found the waistband of Krycek's pants, and he was
untying the drawstring. "Could you help here?" he murmured. "I can't get
your pants off if you're lying on top of me."

Krycek moved to the side and slid the sweatpants down in one fluid motion.
The outline of his erection was clear against the boxers. Then he looked at
Mulder. "I think you're overdressed."

"I agree," Mulder said, and pulled off his shirt. His pants followed, with
the boxers tangled up in them.

Krycek looked down at Mulder's nude form. "Are you sure, Mulder?" he asked
softly.

Mulder nodded. Krycek's hand was carefully working his boxers off. He raised
his hands to help. "It's a hell of a lot easier to do with two hands,"
Krycek said.

Then they were both naked, and Krycek leaned forward just enough for their
skin to touch. Mulder gasped at the heated contact. "I used to imagine
this," he whispered. "A long time ago. Before...before I knew what you
were."

Krycek kissed his neck. "Does it matter?" he asked softly. He slid his hand
down Mulder's body and wrapped it around Mulder's erection.

"No," Mulder groaned. "It doesn't matter anymore. All that matters..."

"Is what we are right now," Krycek finished for him, then leaned in for
another kiss. Mulder raised a hand and caressed his cheek. Their lips had
barely brushed when a shrill ringing caused them to jump.

"Fuck," Mulder whispered, reaching for his cell phone and flipping it open.
"Mulder," he growled.

"Mulder, it's me."

"What time is it, Scully?"

There was a tiny pause. "I'm sorry if I'm disturbing you, Mulder, but I had
urgent news."

"What is it?" he asked, suddenly worried that something had happened to her.

"There's been another staging," she said wearily.

Mulder swore under his breath. "Where?"

"A bridge in New Brunswick, New Jersey. You haven't seen anything on the
news about it?"

"I don't have the television on,"Mulder replied.

"Well, I'm sorry to interrupt your vacation, but Skinner's determined we're
going to get to the bottom of this one way or another. On top of that, he's
assigned Jeffrey Spender to work with us."

"Christ."

"So, um, Skinner suggests that you drive back tonight."

"It's eleven fucking-P.M.!" he exclaimed.

"I know that, Mulder. And I'm sorry. But it wasn't my call or I'd have left
you alone."

Mulder sighed. "I know you would have, Scully."

"Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. Cassandra Spender's body was found two
hours ago, eight miles from the bridge where she was...abducted."

"Damn," Mulder swore.

"That's what a lot of us said when we heard. And get this - I was the lucky
agent who got to inform her son."

Mulder looked over at Krycek, who was leaning against the couch, his
eyebrows raised. "How'd he take it?"

"Well, he was upset and angry, and then after he calmed down he finally
realized that maybe it was for the best." Then she said in a rush, "Then he
let me take him to dinner."

"You he what?" Mulder sputtered.

"Dinner, Mulder. Food? You eat it?"

"I know what it is, Scully. But why?"

"Why not? He obviously wanted to talk to someone, and I was there..."

Krycek looked like he couldn't wait to find out what Scully had done. Mulder
waved his hand at him. "So I have to drive back tonight?"

"That's what Skinner says. Sorry."

"I'll call you when I get in."

"Okay." Scully hung up, and Mulder looked at Krycek.

"You have to leave," Krycek stated.

"Yeah. There's been another staging. I'm sorry, Alex. I want to stay."

"I wish you could," Krycek said in a wistful tone. Then he tossed Mulder his
clothes.

Mulder reached out and grabbed his hand, raised it to his lips, and kissed
it softly. "You know, you're starting to mean a lot to me."

Krycek grinned. "Thanks. It's been a long time since I meant anything to
anyone."

Mulder released his hand. "How am I going to know you're still here if we
finish up this case before the year 2000?"

"I'll be long gone before then, tovarish. Have to keep moving."

"I won't be back soon, you know."

"I know."

Mulder stood up and put his clothes back on. Krycek didn't move from his
place by the couch, just sat and watched. "Do you think we'll ever get the
chance?" he asked finally.

"I don't know, Alex," Mulder replied. "But I want you to stay here for as
long as you feel safe."

"How will I reach you to tell you I'm leaving?"

Mulder opened his wallet and took out a picture. "Leave this under my door."

Krycek took the photo and turned it over. It was a picture of Mulder's
long-lost and long-found sister, on a swing. He looked up and met Mulder's
eyes. "I will."

"How about a kiss before I go, then?"

Krycek rose, and traced a line down Mulder's face with the edge of the
picture. "You're beginning to mean a lot to me, too," he whispered, then
kissed him deeply.

They lingered, touching, for a moment, then Mulder picked up his jacket from
the couch and put it on. "Bye," he murmured, opening the front door.

"Bye," Krycek murmured in return, watching as the door closed behind Mulder.
He heard the car start, and listened until the sound was gone and all that
was left was the sound of the wind, and the sound of his breath as it fogged
the glass pane in the door. "Da svedanya, Fox. Ya tebya lyublyu."