Admission Part III : Painful Repercussuions by Aries

 

Fandom: XF

 

See Disclaimer in Part I

 

Summary: All the poor boys want is to be together but DAMN, if fate willlet em be...

 

Author's notes: I said this at the begining of Part I, but I thoughtI'd give one last warning. Serious Schmmop from here on out. My boys arein love. And that means tons of agony and sweetness and..and....sweetnessand... If that kinda stuff bothers you, delete *now*. And away we go...

 

***********************

 

I'm thinking of you

In my sleepless solitude tonight

If it's wrong to love you

Then my heart just won't let me be right Cause I'm drowned in you

And I won't pull through without you by my side

 

I'd give my all

To have just one more night with you

I'd risk my life to feel

Your body next to mine

Cause I can't go on

Living in the memory of a smile

I'd give my all

For your love tonight

 

I'd Give My All ~ Mariah Carey

 

****************************

 

 

 

Wednesday 8:15 a.m.

 

 

Scully looked at her watch for the fourth time in the last twenty minutes.

 

Late.

 

She couldn't believe it. Couldn't ever recall a time in the last fiveyears that Mulder had *ever* come in to the office after her. She shouldnever have gone along with this. What the hell was she thinking, lettingMulder take Krycek home with him?

 

//Oh, and what were you supposed to do, keep him at your place?//

 

She pushed away from her desk and paced as much of the length of thecluttered office as she could.

 

//He's all right. He's fine. Nothing has happened to him. He'll be inany...//

 

She stopped and dropped heavily, back into her chair. Who was she kidding?Mulder's safety was not her primary concern at this point. She was fairlycertain that Krycek wasn't going to kill him, but thoughts of what elsehe might be doing to her partner, was like an icy dagger, twisting in hergut.

 

Her head jerked up as the door swung open and Mulder entered.

 

"Good morning," she said, making a point of looking at herwatch, then back up at him.

 

"Morning," he tossed back, ignoring the silent accusation.

 

"How are you?"

 

"I'm fine." He removed his jacket and hung it over the backof the chair. "Anything I should be brought up to speed on?"

 

"Nope. Been quiet. I've just been catching up on stuff that I'dlet go for a while."

 

Mulder nodded. "Okay, well I guess I could do the same, then."He walked over to one of the filing cabinets and paused, his hand on thedrawer. "Unless we've got any meetings this morning?"

 

"There's one on the missing wife of some diplomat, but that's nottill eleven."

 

Mulder pulled the drawer out and rummaged through it, removing two files.He shut the drawer quietly and seated himself at his desk. As he did so,Scully took notice of the slight wince that would have escaped the casualobserver. She chose not to say anything about it, not at all sure if shereally wanted to know the reason for his discomfort. But there *was* somethingelse she wanted to know.

 

"Everything okay over at your place?"

 

"Fine."

 

"I mean, you had no problems with coming in, today?"

 

"Scully," Mulder looked up from his desk. "My guest hasleft."

 

Hope surged into her chest. "Oh?"

 

Mulder shot her down. "For the time being."

 

"Oh."

 

"What's the matter, Scully? You don't look as perky as you did tenseconds ago."

 

Scully gave no answer. Her eyes merely darted back to the report in frontof her.

 

Mulder fell silent as well and each went about their own business, untilshortly before eleven.

 

 

 

4:42 p.m.

 

Scully entered the office and began organizing her desk. Mulder watchedher over the rims of his glasses. His voice stopped her movements.

 

"Do you have plans for dinner, Scully?"

 

"N-no. I just thought I'd dig something out of the fridge and doa little reading." She waved a forensics report through the air.

 

"Let me take you out. We'll go anywhere you want."

 

Scully hesitated.

 

"Please, Scully. Can't we talk?"

 

She was about to refuse - to come up with another excuse why she couldn't,but a little voice chastised her.

 

//Are you really going to be that rotten? He's your best friend and heneeds to talk. Stop being so damned selfish.//

 

She sighed. "Okay, Mulder."

 

He gave her a half smile. "Where do you want to go?"

 

"How about Abercrombie's?" she suggested, trying to come upwith a place that would afford them some privacy.

 

"Don't you need reservations for that place?"

 

"Yeah. Why don't you call and see if you can get us a corner table?"

 

Mulder made the call and got reservations for six o'clock. It was a Wednesdaynight and he'd had no problem at all. They left the office at five-twentyand arrived at the restaurant fifteen minutes early. They took a seat atthe bar while they waited for their table.

 

"So," she said, trying to sound casual, "I bet this wasa long day for you."

 

"How do you mean?"

 

"The first day back, after having a few days off, is usually prettylong."

 

"Oh. Yeah. I guess I really hadn't noticed."

 

Scully nodded and peered down into her drink. Mulder spoke next.

 

"So what do you think happened to that woman?"

 

Scully threw him a puzzled glance.

 

"The diplomat's wife."

 

"Oh! Oh, I don't think she's disappeared. At least not in the waythey think."

 

"I know, me either. I think that hubby is going to have to faceup to the fact that she may have found the groundskeeper more to do thanjust trimming the hedges and mowing the lawn."

 

Scully smiled. "You can't blame the guy for wanting to think thatthere was foul play. I mean, who'd want to believe a thing like that abouttheir spouse?"

 

For those few moments, they were Mulder and Scully again. Completelyat ease. No walls, no doubts. Then they were seated at their table. Theuneasiness returned immediately. Mulder picked up his menu and pretendedto study it.

 

"What are you going to have?" Scully asked, glad to have somethingto talk to him about.

 

"I don't know. So many things look good."

 

After a few moments, they ordered. Scully decided that now was a goodtime to get the ball rolling

 

"What did you want to talk about, Mulder?"

 

//Okay, here we go.//

 

"This situation between us."

 

Scully lowered her head. "What is there for us to say?"

 

"I don't know. There's just...you can't deny that things are strainedbetween us."

 

"I don't know what to say about that, Mulder. It's true that youand I don't see eye to eye on this Krycek thing..."

 

"To me, it's not *this Krycek thing*. He's become part of my life,Scully. Now, I'd never in a million years have dreamed that this would happen,but it has, and I'm not sorry."

 

"I don't understand, Mulder. Not more than a few days ago, you feltdirty. Sub-human. Now you act as though you'd never had any of those feelings,at all."

 

"I did feel that way. The feeling was real. But then I saw him atyour apartment and other real feelings surfaced. I can't explain it to you.I would if I could."

 

"This is just so *unreal* to me. I keep thinking that I'm goingto wake up and everything will be back to normal."

 

"What's normal in our world?"

 

"Normal is you hating Krycek with a passion, wanting to kill himevery time you see him or even hear his name..."

 

"You'd prefer the anger, to this?"

 

"It's what I knew. It's what I was comfortable with. I'm sorry Mulder,I know this isn't about me."

 

"It's about all of us. You, me and Alex."

 

Scully twitched at the sound of Krycek's first name on her partner'slips. Mulder went on.

 

"He left because he didn't want to be the cause of any rift betweenus."

 

Scully lifted her eyes to his.

 

"It's true. I was feeling pretty bad when you left my apartmentthe other day and we had a talk. Actually, he did most of the talking. Hesaid that I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I lost you as a friend,because of my relationship with him. And he couldn't live with *that*. Sohe said he was going to leave."

 

Scully listened in silence.

 

"I didn't want him to go, Scully. If it was up to me, he'd stillbe there. He left for me. And for you."

 

She interrupted. "And for himself?"

 

"Yes, for himself, too. He couldn't stand the thought of me turningagainst him, if our relationship," his hand motioned back and forthbetween them, "was ruined. I'm not trying to make him out to be a saint,Scully. I'm just trying to tell you that he has a conscience and he doescare."

 

"Okay, so now what? You said earlier, that he'd left for the timebeing. What does that mean?"

 

"He wants me to work this out with you and to be sure that I canlive with whatever understanding we come to."

 

"And what if we can't? Because I'll tell you Mulder, I just don'tsee myself warming up to this man."

 

A look crossed Mulder's face, so deeply pathetic that she was immediatelysorry for her statement.

 

"Listen, this is *your* life. Whatever decision you come to aboutKrycek, is yours and yours alone. What I think or feel on the matter isirrelevant."

 

"But it isn't, Scully. Our lives are intertwined. Whatever one ofus does, affects the other."

 

"Well, this will just have to be one part of our lives that we'llhave to untangle. I promise, I won't let my feelings for Alex Krycek comebetween us. Just don't expect that I'll ever want to go out for pizza anda movie with him. I'll be civil if I have to be in his company, but that'sabout all I can muster, I think. Can you live with that?"

 

There was that pathetic, little boy look, again. She reached for hishand.

 

"It'll be okay, Mulder. You and I won't change. I promise. If AlexKrycek is what you really want, far be it from me to make waves." Shepaused, trying to read his expression. "Is he?"

 

"Is he what?"

 

"Really what you want? Have you given it serious consideration?"

 

"Yes, I have. I want him in my life. He's only been gone less thana day, and I miss him already. But...I've got a whole week to think aboutit some more. And I *will* use the time. I wish you would, too. If you haveany questions or doubts, please tell me. I need to be able to deal witheverything."

 

Scully squeezed his hand. "Okay."

 

She released him as their meals arrived. When the waiter had gone, sheturned back to him. "He'll be back next Wednesday to let me take thestitches out?"

 

Mulder eyelids slid closed. "Yes."

 

"You don't seem quite sure."

 

"I'm just afraid."

 

"Of what?"

 

"Of something happening."

 

"Like?"

 

"Like them finding him. They could kill him."

 

Scully tried to reassure him, even in the midst of her own selfish thoughtson the matter. "Krycek has got nine lives, Mulder. You don't need toworry about him."

 

Mulder acknowledged her with a tiny nod.

 

"Mulder, can I ask you something?"

 

"Sure."

 

Scully took a deep breath and released it. "What if this is alla setup?"

 

His face took on an impatient look.

 

"Hear me out, please."

 

He lifted a hand. "Go ahead."

 

"What if..." she lowered her voice. "What *if*, this isall deliberate? Something concocted between Krycek and the people he worksfor, to bring you down?"

 

Mulder shook his head. "No..."

 

"How do you *know*, Mulder? It wouldn't be beneath him to pull somethinglike this. And I'm sorry, but I've really got to question your judgementin this situation. "

 

"What, you think it's clouded by lust?"

 

"You said it, I didn't."

 

Mulder leaned back in his chair, watching his fingers drawing designson the pale yellow tablecloth.

 

"Mulder...what would you do if you found out that it was true? Thathe'd committed the ultimate betrayal?"

 

"You weren't there, Scully. You didn't see the Krycek I saw. I nevertold you how we wound up where we are."

 

"No, you didn't."

 

"I found him in my apartment. He was getting ready to plant a camera.We fought. He managed to get my gun from me. He had the perfect opportunityto kill me, but he handed the gun back." He searched her eyes for somesign of understanding, but she was unreadable. He continued. "He toldme a lot of things I didn't want to hear. He made me furious. I wanted tokill him and I wanted to give in to him, and I wanted...I wanted to killmyself for wanting to give in. And all of a sudden I was on overload. Icame apart, and he was there. He put his arms around me and held me together.He...got me into bed and spent the night in a chair, nearby. He *did* thatfor me."

 

"Well, that sounds wonderful Mulder, but then why was the air sothick in my apartment when you two locked eyes for the first time in overfive weeks? Which, by the way, leads me to my second question. Why hadn'tyou seen each other in all that time?"

 

"It was just like I told you, Scully. I couldn't face what we'ddone." He skipped back to where he'd left off. "I woke up at aroundfour that morning. He was asleep, still in the chair. First of all, it amazedme that I was able to sleep with him in my apartment, and secondly, it wasa surprise waking up at *all*, with him in my apartment. Another perfectopportunity to get rid of me and he didn't. He woke up shortly after meand we started to talk. He started pushing my buttons again, and I got pissed.We ended up in yet another scrape, and before I knew it, we were..."

 

Scully flushed and looked away.

 

"Well, there's no need to go into detail. I think you remember whatI'd told you a few days ago. Anyway, just as I'd said, after it was over,I couldn't...I couldn't face it. When I came out of the bathroom, he'd gone.He hated himself for what he thought he'd done to me and he thought it wasbest if he just left. He didn't know...*I* didn't know...not right away,that it was the worst thing he could have done. But under the circumstances,I probably would have done the same...I don't know. We should have talkedit out. It might have saved us both a whole lot of sleepless nights andarguments."

 

"Arguments?"

 

"We spent a lot of time over the last couple of days, arguing overwhether or not he should stay."

 

"I guess he won that argument."

 

"I don't think he saw it as a victory. He made a real point of lettingme know that he was only leaving because it was what was best for me andnot because he *wanted* to go."

 

"And you believed him."

 

"I kept waffling on that. Just this morning I accused him of bullshittingme. Something he said hit me the wrong way, and I was off. But he explainedhimself and I felt better."

 

"Sounds to me Mulder, that all I keep hearing, is how he's donesomething or said something to upset you."

 

Mulder managed a lopsided smile. "There's no getting around thefact that Alex and I together are about as volatile as a keg of gunpowderand a lit match. Even when things are calm, there always seems to be *something*simmering just beneath the surface."

 

"I don't understand, Mulder. If that's the way it is with you...why?"She struggled to make her point. "I mean...*why*?"

 

"Because there's a lot more to us than just that. We understandeach other...mostly...we're good together. And it just...it feels right.Comfortable."

 

"I'm not going to pretend to understand this, Mulder. I still don't."She rested her chin in her palm for a moment, then asked another question."That morning in my apartment, he said something about ëholdingsome cards'. Can he help us?"

 

"He could. But I won't ask him to."

 

"Why the hell not?"

 

"Scully, he can't. The minute he gives away any of that information,he's as good as dead. I won't take any chances with his life."

 

"This is harder to believe than anything I've heard, so far. Thisguy could hold the key, Mulder. He may have the answers to everything we'veever wanted to know. This has been your quest...your obsession, for *years*!And you're just going to give it up?"

 

"Scully, if there was some way to get that information without riskinghis life, I'd do it. But there isn't."

 

Scully shrugged. "So, that's it? You're just going to let it go?"

 

"That's the way it has to be. At least for now."

 

"I never thought I'd see the day when anything or any*one* tookprecedence over your search."

 

"That's not fair, Scully. I've never put your safety at risk forany reason..."

 

Scully sighed. "You're right. I'm sorry." She looked down ather half-empty plate. "I've about had it with this. It was good, but...it'sgetting late and I've got some stuff to do before I turn in."

 

Mulder nodded. "Oh. Sure. Just let me get the waitress over here,and we can take off."

 

Once the bill was paid, Mulder walked Scully to her car and stood byas she unlocked the door and swung it open.

 

"Thanks for dinner."

 

"Thanks for agreeing to talk."

 

"Even though I didn't really say anything you wanted to hear?"

 

"I didn't expect miracles right away."

 

"You know I'm a believer in miracles Mulder, but in this case, Iwouldn't hold my breath if I were you. I'm sorry, but I'm just trying tobe as truthful as I can."

 

Mulder looked past Scully. "I appreciate that."

 

"See you tomorrow."

 

"Goodnight, Scully."

 

He watched her start her car and pull out of the parking lot, beforewalking to his own vehicle. Once inside, he leaned his forehead againstthe steering wheel and closed his eyes. He sat that way for twenty minutes,before he raised his head and decided that it was time to head for home.

 

 

Thursday, 2:39 a.m.

 

"Sonofabitch."

 

Mulder threw the sheet off and got out of bed. He'd been tossing andturning for three hours now, and he'd had enough. He went to the kitchenand pulled a carton of milk out of the refrigerator. He rifled through thecabinet under the sink and pulled out a small saucepan. He slammed it downon the stove and poured some milk into it. Once it was heated, he pouredit into a glass and threw the pan into the sink.

 

"See Mom, I *did* learn something from you."

 

He took a few gulps, grimacing all the while, then proceeded into theliving room. He turned the small lamp on at his desk and flipped the computeron. Since he was up, he might just as well try to get something done...atleast until the milk took effect. He raised the glass to his lips once more,and drained it of it's contents, then went to work.

 

 

4:50 a.m.

 

Still wide awake.

 

Mulder looked over at the empty glass. "Oh yeah Mom, real good shit.Works like a charm."

 

He tilted back in the swivel chair and closed his eyes. He consideredthe conversation that he and Scully had the night before.

 

No miracles.

 

Even though he hadn't expected any, he was hopeful. Desperate, almost.It was a fine line, to walk between his partner and his lover and he didn'tknow how long he'd be able to do it. If Scully never accepted Krycek, hedidn't know what the hell he was going to do. One thing was for damn sure.Life was going to get a lot more difficult. In reality, it already had.

 

//Don't try to rush things. It's only been a few days. Just relax andlet things happen. You may be surprised.// He laughed. A short, bitter sound.//Who the fuck are you kidding?//

 

He pushed away from the desk and practically ripping his t-shirt fromhis body, headed for the shower.

 

 

8:21 a.m.

 

"Mulder? You okay?"

 

Mulder raised his head from his desk and tried to focus on the concernedface of his partner. He blinked twice and the haze began to fade.

 

"Yeah. Fine."

 

"Are you sure? You look kind of worn out." The thought thatAlex Krycek may have paid Mulder a visit last night, flitted across hermind.

 

"Yeah, I just didn't sleep very well last night."

 

"Any particular reason?"

 

"Just...thinking...you know."

 

"Oh. Well. Uh," she held a folder up before him. "Gotsomething that might get your mind off of things for a little while."

 

"What is it?"

 

"Skinner was on his way down with it, when I ran into him. He thoughtyou might want to have a look."

 

Mulder took the folder from her and laid it open on his desk. After afew minutes of reading, he scrunched his lips together and nodded. "Thiscould be interesting. According to this, three furniture delivery men fromthe same company in Gainesville, disappeared on the same road all withinfour days of each other. Each truck was found, furniture undisturbed, andall three cabs had the same strong perfumy odor.

 

"If it was new furniture," Scully rationed, "the smellcould be from whatever chemicals they use to stainproof the material."

 

"Eau de Scotch Guard, Scully?"

 

She rolled her eyes.

 

"No really, that might have been an explanation if the smell hadalso been in the back where the furniture actually was, but it wasn't. Andwhat about the disappearances? Three furniture delivery men, all workingfor the same company, decide to take a powder on the same stretch of highway?More than just a coinky dink, dontcha think?"

 

Scully sighed. "I take it we're going to Gainesville?"

 

"Not that far a drive."

 

"Okay, let's go."

 

She didn't put up much resistance. The truth of the matter was, she wasgrateful for the distraction. She'd have gone anywhere, to investigate any*thing*,as long as it kept his mind off of Alex Krycek.

 

 

Sunday 8:04 a.m.

 

"Hello?"

 

"Hey Mulder...you sound a little out of breath."

 

"Yeah. I just came through the door. Went for a run."

 

"Ah."

 

"What's up?"

 

"Nothing much, I'm meeting my mom for breakfast and we wanted toknow if you'd like to join us?"

 

Mulder smiled into the phone. "Scully, what are you doing?"

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"You're trying your damndest to keep me busy. First, you go to Gainesvillewith me without a fuss, then yesterday, you invite me over for twelve gamesof Scrabble, *now* it's breakfast with you and your mother. What's the deal?"

 

Scully's tone was indignant. "Hey, if you don't want to go out,just say so."

 

"Scully. I appreciate what you're trying to do...I think. I'm justgoing to stay in today, okay? I've still got that report to write. Thatshould take me the better part of the day..."

 

"Okay."

 

"..so you don't have to worry about me being here alone with nothingbut thoughts of Krycek to keep me company."

 

"Mulder..."

 

"Have a nice breakfast. Tell your mother I said hi."

 

Mulder disconnected and headed for the kitchen and a glass of orangejuice.

 

 

5:56 p.m.

 

Mulder removed his glasses and stretched. He'd finally completed hisreport and now, he realized, he was hungry. Too bad there was no food inthe apartment. He glanced at his watch and decided that it wasn't too lateto do some shopping. He shut the computer down and grabbing his jacket andkeys, headed out to the market.

 

On the short drive, his mind began to wander. He'd done exceptionallywell today, in that he'd accomplished what he'd set out to do, with verylittle distraction. He'd managed to keep thoughts of Alex Krycek to a minimum.Silently congratulating himself, he pulled into the parking lot and enteredthe store. He zipped quickly up and down the aisles, throwing this itemand that into the cart, then headed for the checkout. There was only oneperson in line ahead of him, but of course, there was a problem with a priceon one of the items, so he grabbed a magazine and started to read.

 

A voice yelled from the back of the store.

 

"I can't find it!"

 

The cashier called back.

 

"It's there, in aisle two!"

 

"I don't see it!"

 

The cashier sighed impatiently.

 

"Maybe it got moved, then! Tell Alex what you want, he'll help youfind it!"

 

Mulder's head snapped up.

 

//Tell Alex what you want.//

 

All the progress he'd made during the day, went right out the window,just then. The magazine in his hands, curled into a tight spiral as he heardthe voice of his lover, whispering to him. Taunting him.

 

All at once, it was much too warm in this place. Too confined. He neededto get out of here, and he needed to get out, soon. He looked up and foundthat the cashier was once again, scanning the items belonging to the womanin front of him. Soon she was gone, and he was able to pay for his own purchases.He practically snatched the three plastic bags from the packer, and headedfor the door. The air hit his face as the door slid open and he breatheddeeply, filling his lungs. He threw the bags into the car and got behindthe wheel.

 

//Concentrate on what you're feeling and the sound of my voice.//

 

The sound of his voice. It resonated in Mulder's memory, until he couldhear nothing else. He gripped the steering wheel and turned the key. Hereached over and turned the radio on and up, hoping to drown out the soundin his head. Minutes later, he turned it off. What was the damn point? Nothingwas going to help and he knew it.

 

Sunday night.

 

Two days to go.

 

Three nights.

 

If he showed up, at all.

 

The tires spun, kicking up a bit of sand, as Mulder threw the car intodrive and roared out of the parking lot.

 

 

Tuesday, 6:48 p.m.

 

Mulder entered his dark apartment. Not bothering to turn any lights on,he removed his jacket and turned immediately in the direction of his bedroom.There, he turned on the small bedside lamp, and removed the rest of hisclothing. He walked into the bathroom and turned on the shower. As soonas it was warm enough, he stepped inside and let the water flow over him.He moaned aloud as the spray pulsed over his tense muscles.

 

What a goddamn pisser of a day.

 

Everything that could go wrong, did. First up, an early morning reamingfrom Skinner, regarding Mulder's ëunorthodox' method of interrogatinga serial kidnapping suspect. Second, it was hotter than hell today, andthe damn car's air conditioner wasn't working. Third, while doing sixty-fiveon the highway, his eighty-seven dollar pair of Ray Bans, slid off the dashand out the window, before he or Scully could catch them. And fourth, thelater the day got, the more pensive and withdrawn Scully became. He knewshe was thinking about the fact that tomorrow, Alex Krycek could once againbe in her partner's life. And his bed.

 

He was wondering about that, himself. Alex had promised him that if therewas any way possible, he'd be here tomorrow. Mulder chose to believe thatpromise. Now he had nothing to do but wait and see.

 

He stepped out of the shower and dried off. Donning a pair of faded jeansand a loose t-shirt, he grabbed a quick bite, then sat down at the computer.Nothing like work to help the time go by.

 

By nine o-clock, he was surprised to find his eyes closing. He stubbornlyworked on, typing until the words on the screen started to jumble. At nine-forty,he gave up and shut the computer down. He pushed away from the desk andtrudged slowly to his bedroom.

 

 

2:55 a.m.

 

Mulder floated in that fuzzy area between sleep and wakefulness, thrustthere by a dream that in consciousness, he would not recall. A presence,very nearby, beckoned silently to him, drawing him up through the darkness.Up to the surface. The tranquil ocean of slumber broke and he opened hiseyes.

 

Sleep was gone, but the presence remained. Warmer. More definite. Thethought that he should be afraid never crossed his mind. He turned his headto the left and focused on the dark figure sitting at the edge of his bed.

 

"Don't you know it's bad manners to break into a guy's apartmentin the middle of the night, while he's asleep?"

 

"Sorry," Alex Krycek spoke, "I failed deportment in charmschool."

 

"What time is it?"

 

"Just about three."

 

"How long have you been here?"

 

"Fifteen, twenty minutes."

 

"What have you been doing for fifteen, twenty minutes?"

 

"Nothing much. Watching you sleep...wondering."

 

"About?"

 

"Whether or not I'd be welcome."

 

Mulder studied his shadowed face. "You know what *I'm* wondering?"

 

Krycek's answer came in a hoarse whisper. "Not a clue."

 

"I'm wondering what the hell you're doing in my bedroom, sittingon the edge of my bed, fully dressed." He moved to the left side ofthe bed and flipped the sheet back. A clear invitation.

 

Krycek's eyes slid closed briefly, then re-opened as he shrugged outof his jacket. He pulled the edges of Mulder's borrowed shirt out of thewaistband of his jeans and peeled it off. He got to his feet and strippeddown to his underwear, then slipped under the sheet.

 

Mulder moved over him, straddling his chest with his arms. At this newangle, he could see more clearly, the dark circles under Krycek's red-rimmedeyes. Mulder's tone immediately took on a concerned edge.

 

"You haven't been sleeping, have you?"

 

Krycek hesitated a fraction of a second too long. "Sure I have.Been sleeping like a baby."

 

"Don't lie to me, Alex," Mulder responded in that soft monotonethat said he meant business.

 

"Okay, so I had a few restless nights," Krycek answered, refusingto give one inch more than he had to. Mulder allowed him to get away withthe understatement.

 

"Did you take the antibiotics the way you were supposed to?"

 

"Yes, Mom."

 

"And aside from the exhaustion, you feel all right?"

 

"I'm fine."

 

Mulder held his gaze for a few moments, then satisfied that he'd toldthe truth, lowered his head and brushed Krycek's lips with his own.

 

"Been a long week."

 

"Yeah," Krycek whispered in answer.

 

Mulder hesitated, searching his eyes. He lifted himself off of Krycekand rolled onto his back. He pulled the other man into his arms and strokedthe soft dark head, tucked under his chin. "Go to sleep," he murmuredsoftly.

 

Feeling real exhaustion for the first time in a week, Krycek obeyed themuffled command and soon fell into a deep sleep. Mulder closed his eyesand offered up a silent ëthank you' to whomever might be listening,then dropped in unconsciousness.

 

8:10 a.m.

 

"Morning, Mulder."

 

"Morning. How was dinner with your mom?"

 

"Fine. Same old, same old. She brought along some new pictures ofmy brother's baby. Told me about two cousins who are getting married...droppedsome hints as big as boulders..."

 

Mulder smiled and turned his attention to his computer.

 

"How was *your* evening?" she asked, full of hope and dread.

 

"Quiet. Did some work. Watched t.v."

 

"Alone?"

 

"Yeah."

 

Relief.

 

"You're coming over later, right?"

 

"Do you really think I'll need to?"

 

"You *do* need to."

 

"He's there?"

 

Mulder nodded.

 

//Shit!//

 

"When?"

 

"Early this morning."

 

//Shit!!//

 

"I see."

 

Disappointment radiated from her every pore.

 

"After work?"

 

Scully nodded curtly and turned to pour herself a cup of coffee. Mulderwatched her, noting the increased stiffness of her posture and quick, jerkymovements. Oh yeah, she was definitely upset. He decided not to pursue it.Maybe as the day went on, she'd cool down and work it out on her own.

 

 

1:22 p.m.

 

Alex Krycek wandered around Mulder's apartment, marveling at the factthat he was here alone, with Mulder's knowledge. Life certainly was fullof some strange twists. He dropped into the chair at Mulder's desk, andlooked down at the cluttered surface.

 

"What a damn mess. How the hell do you *find* anything in this?"

 

He thought maybe he'd straighten it out, but then decided against it.As big a disaster as it was, Mulder probably knew exactly where to findevery last paper clip. Besides, he really wasn't sure if it would be appreciated.Mulder might think it a bit too presumptuous, or worse, he might think thathe'd done it just to snoop. He wanted Mulder's trust. One hundred percent,unquestioning trust.

 

"What the hell are you thinking about? The man gave you his *weapon*,for Christ sake."

 

His eyes grew heavy as he thought back to this morning. Mulder had takena huge leap of faith. One that Krycek was determined, he'd never regret.

 

 

5:06 p.m.

 

"Ready to go?"

 

Scully looked up from her desk at Mulder, who was standing in front ofit, jacket and car keys in hand. Her stomach lurched at the thought of Mulder,ready and anxious to start his evening with Krycek.

 

In actuality, she'd been ready to go for well over half an hour. Shewas just killing time. Stalling, but it was obvious to her now, that Mulderwasn't having any more of it.

 

"All right Mulder, let's go."

 

 

6:20 p.m.

 

Mulder inserted the key into the lock and opened the door to apartmentforty-two. He strolled in, sniffing appreciatively at the smells waftingfrom the kitchen.

 

"I'll uh, be right back," he told Scully, trying to suppressa smile as he moved in the direction of the kitchen.

 

"Uh huh," she tossed over her shoulder, as casually as shecould. In truth, she was seething. "Cooking," she mumbled underher breath. "He's actually *cooking* for him."

 

The moment Mulder was out of sight, Scully began moving around the room,lifting lamps and feeling around under furniture.

 

 

Mulder entered the kitchen and approached Krycek, whose back was turnedto him. He ran a hand lightly across the span of Krycek's back, and leanedback against the counter. Krycek smiled at him.

 

"Hi honey, how was your day?"

 

Mulder smirked back. "Brutal. What's for dinner?"

 

"Pirozhki. Sorry it's not done, but I had to pick up your suitsat the dry cleaner, wash the floors, then there was an emergency PTA meeting..."

 

Mulder's shoulders shook with silent laughter. "So, where'd youlearn to do this, what'd you call it?"

 

"Pirozhki. My grandmother used to make it for me when I was a kid.She taught me to make this and a whole bunch of other things."

 

"Wow." Mulder looked around. "I didn't have all this stuff...didyou go out?"

 

"No, I brought it with me, this morning."

 

"You didn't have to do this."

 

Krycek shot him an impatient sidelong glance.

 

Mulder held one hand up. "Okay, okay...Scully's here. Can you leavethis?"

 

"Yeah. In a couple of minutes?"

 

"I'll go stall her."

 

"Good luck."

 

Mulder headed toward the door, then turned around, hand on the swingingdoor. "Hey...this is it, isn't it?"

 

"This is what?" Krycek asked over his shoulder.

 

A smirk twitched at the corner of Mulder's mouth. "*This* is howyou're going to kill me. You're going to *poison* me."

 

Krycek flipped him the finger, without having turned around.

 

The smile faded from Mulder's face as he passed through the door andcame face to infuriated face with his partner.

 

"It was a joke," he offered meekly.

 

"I see nothing funny about it," she snarled, and stalked away.

 

//Nice going. Now she's really ticked.//

 

"He'll...he'll be out in a minute."

 

"I'll go wash up. When he's ready, send him into the bathroom."

 

 

Krycek entered the living room as Mulder was removing his suit jacket.

 

"Where is she?"

 

"She's waiting for you in the bathroom."

 

"Well," Krycek looked in that direction. "Let's get thisover with."

 

By the time both men reached the bathroom, Scully was ready.

 

"Hi," Krycek offered, not knowing what else to say.

 

"Please remove your shirt," was the only reply Scully gave.

 

He looked warily at Mulder, who had since folded his arms across hischest and leaned against the door frame. Mulder gave him a reassuring nod.

 

Krycek undid the first three buttons, then having a sudden thought, reachedbehind him and hiked up the tail of the shirt. Shock and anger filled Scully'seyes as he pulled a gun out of the waistband of his jeans, and laid it gentlyon the counter. Scully's head snapped around and glared accusingly at herpartner. Mulder gave her nothing more than one of his famous deadpan expressions,then glanced over at Krycek, who was also looking at him, but with profoundregret. To him, Mulder gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head, thatsaid, ëDon't worry about it.' Krycek finished removing the shirt andlaid it to the side.

 

Scully swallowed down the huge lump of rage that bubbled up in her, andset about the task of removing Krycek's stitches...as quickly as possible.

 

As she worked, Mulder watched, his eyes darkening as they caressed thebare torso of his lover. Krycek felt the heat of Mulder's stare and wascompelled to look his way. Their eyes locked, saying things to each other,making silent promises. Scully noticed Krycek's deepened respiration.

 

Mulder came to attention as Krycek winced and drew slightly away fromScully.

 

"Oops," she said with mock sincerity. "Sorry."

 

Krycek said nothing, only drew a deep breath and allowed Scully to continue.

 

The muscle in Mulder's jaw clenched tightly, then relaxed. "I'mgoing to go change," he announced, as he pushed away from the doorframe and disappeared.

 

Not long after Mulder had gone, Krycek called up the courage to speak.

 

"Scully?"

 

"What?" she said, without looking up.

 

"You mean the world to him," he said softly. "Your opinionof him, of what he does...it matters."

 

"And you'd be telling me this, because..."

 

"Just because I thought you should know."

 

"I *know*, Krycek. There's nothing you can tell me about my partner,that I *don't* know." She completed her work and proceeded to cleanup.

 

He was silent while he put his shirt on, then spoke again. "Here'ssomething you may *not* know. You can end this."

 

"End what?"

 

"This. Us."

 

She spun to face him.

 

"All you have to do is tell him that you can't live with it. Tellhim that it'll affect your relationship with him, personally and professionally.Force him to choose. He'll choose you. Or better yet, say nothing at all.Just keep walking around with that chip on your shoulder. Let it fester.He'll start to resent me. If you're lucky, he may even get to the pointwhere he can't stand to look at me. Wouldn't that be great?"

 

He pushed away from the counter and exited the bathroom, leaving Scullyto ponder his statement.

 

 

Scully met up with Mulder, who had also just entered the living room.He was comfortably dressed, wearing faded jeans and a loose-fitting mossgreen shirt. He busied himself, rolling up the long sleeves.

 

"Finished?"

 

Scully cleared her throat. "Yeah."

 

"Is he still alive?"

 

She answered his question with a completely different one.

 

"You knew he was armed, didn't you?"

 

"I gave him the gun."

 

"You *what*? You *gave* it to him? Oh, you've *really* gone aroundthe bend, Mulder."

 

"He didn't have a weapon. I couldn't leave him here with no meansof protection."

 

"So you gave him one of your guns. That's great. That's just..just..brilliant."

 

"And *still*, I live. Are you sensing a pattern here, Scully?"

 

"So, what. Are you testing him?"

 

"No. I'm not. These situations just come up. And in every one ofthem, he has proven himself to be trustworthy."

 

"Mmm. Yeah. And oh boy, you just trust the hell out of him, don'tyou?"

 

Mulder paused and looked up at the ceiling, pretending to be giving itserious thought. "Uhhhh....yeah."

 

"Lovely." She picked up her bag and started for the door. "I'llsee you in the morning...have a good night."

 

"Oh, I intend to."

 

Mulder stood his ground, until the door closed behind Scully. Then hewalked toward the kitchen.

 

 

Krycek had just shut the oven door and was removing the oven mitts, whenhe felt Mulder's hands at his hips. He pulled Krycek back against him andwhispered into his hair.

 

"You okay?"

 

"Yeah. She didn't mean it, Fox."

 

"Sure she did. But thank you for trying to cover for her."

 

"Don't be upset with her."

 

"Too late."

 

"It's *my* fault." He turned to face Mulder, who immediatelybacked him against the counter and pressed against him.

 

"Really."

 

"Yeah. I should've known she'd lose it, when she found out thatI was armed. I mean, why *wouldn't* she? I'm the enemy. How does she knowthat I'm not just biding my time, gaining your trust, so that I can blowyou away later and break with all your stuff?"

 

"Because I *told* her that you wouldn't."

 

"It's not enough, Fox. As far as she's concerned, I've completelyblinded you. You can't *see* what's going on." He brought a hand upto Mulder's face and swept his thumb back and forth across his cheek. "Andafter today, I'm not so sure that she'll ever come around."

 

"I don't care."

 

"Yes you do. You're just upset with her right now. But you care.You care very much."

 

"Is that food done, yet? I'm starving."

 

"Avoiding the problem isn't going to make it go away."

 

Mulder abruptly released Krycek and moved a few steps in the other direction."Alex, can we *please* not talk about this anymore?" His voicewas filled with tension.

 

Krycek watched as Mulder's rigid frame suddenly went slack. He turnedback to face him, his expression, apologetic.

 

"I want to have a nice evening with you. Alone. No Scully. No problems..."He let out a long breath. "I missed you."

 

Krycek approached Mulder slowly. One arm went around his back, as theother cupped his head, pulling it down to his shoulder. Mulder's arms encircledhim and his hands clenched in his shirt. Krycek's hand swept up and downthe length of his back and he spoke softly.

 

"I missed you, too. Okay, no more problems. It's just you and me."

 

Mulder lifted his head but would not meet Krycek's eye. Krycek slippeda hand under his chin and lifted. "Just you and me," he whispered.

 

Their lips met. Gently, at first, then with increased intensity.

 

It had only been a week, but Mulder felt the need for this man, as keenlyas he did after *five* weeks...more so. He broke the kiss. His breath camein short, agitated gasps.

 

"Alex..."

 

Krycek shushed him. His eyes darkened to the deepest green. "Dinnerfirst. Then dessert."

 

"You enjoy torturing me, don't you?"

 

"Nooo," Krycek insisted. "But if you think that all myhard work is going to go to waste, you're out of your mind. Now, let's eat."

 

Fifteen minutes later, they were sitting at the kitchen table. Kryceksmiled as he watched Mulder eat.

 

"This is really good," Mulder said between mouthfuls. "Ican't believe you can cook."

 

"There's a lot of stuff you don't know about me, Agent Mulder."

 

"Anything you'd care to share?"

 

Krycek shrugged. "I was a choirboy from the ages of eight to ten."

 

Mulder dropped his fork. "Get the hell outta here."

 

"I played little league and was the editor of my high school newspaper..."

 

Mulder picked the fork up again. "I'm impressed."

 

"Did you think that I was *born* a felon?"

 

Mulder's smile faded a bit. "I don't...I guess I don't know *what*I thought." He stared across the table at his dinner companion. "Yousurprise me."

 

"Good surprise, or bad surprise?"

 

"Good surprise. Definitely, *good* surprise."

 

They finished dinner and after cleaning up the kitchen, adjourned tothe living room. Krycek dropped onto the sofa and pulled Mulder down afterhim. He shifted into a reclining position, back across Krycek's legs, hishead resting on the arm of the sofa.

 

"Thank you," Krycek said flatly, raking his fingers repeatedlythrough Mulder's hair.

 

"What for?"

 

"This morning."

 

"No big deal."

 

"To me, it was. Giving me your gun took a hell of a lot of trust,on your part."

 

Mulder stared up at him and raised a hand to his face. With the tipsof two fingers, he traced the line of Krycek's jaw.

 

"Tell me more."

 

"About?"

 

"Yourself. What it was like when you were a kid."

 

"You're *really* interested in that stuff?"

 

"Sure. Do you have any brothers or sisters?"

 

"No. A few cousins. We used to spend the summers together."He smiled. "Victor...he was the oldest...thought he was really hotshit. Always trying to boss the rest of us around. He and I used to fightall the time. Actual fist fights. He was about five years older than meand a lot bigger, so he'd always get the better of me. I'd cry, but I nevergave up. My grandmother would usually come and split us up. Then Victorwould get in trouble, because he was older and should have known better.I can still hear her, in that thick Ukrainian accent, telling Victor toëleave the baby alone'. That's how she referred to me, even thoughthere was one more cousin...Maria, who was younger."

 

"Sounds like you were her favorite."

 

"I was. She'd always sneak me special treats and stuff, when theothers weren't around. My mother died in a car accident when I was twenty,and my grandmother took care of me and my father. Well, not so much me,cause I was in school most of the time. But when I came home on vacationsand whatnot, she catered to me, round the clock. She died of a heart attackwhen I was twenty-two. My father didn't know what to do. He'd been takencare of all his life. First by my grandmother, then my mother, then againby my grandmother. I had graduated and was home again, and I sort of tookover the cooking and cleaning. It didn't last long, though. My father hadbecome a miserable person to live with, and I couldn't stand it. I joinedthe Academy less than a year later. My father remarried quickly, and wejust sort of drifted apart. He had his life and I had mine."

 

Mulder covered the hand that rested on his chest and gave it a reassuringsqueeze. Krycek continued speaking.

 

"My grandmother's death hit me hard. I don't mean to take anythingaway from my mother, she was my *mother*, you know? And she loved me, butshe just wasn't very demonstrative. My father wasn't, either. Grandma *showed*me love. She always made me feel like I was special. She always told methat I could do or be anything I wanted." His eyes glittered with remorse."As much as I miss her, I'm glad she's not here to see how badly I'vescrewed up my life. The one thing I never wanted to do was disappoint her.She probably knows anyway, huh? She's probably up there right now, wringingher hands and crying... ëAlexei, what have you done? What's happenedto my baby?'"

 

Mulder rubbed the back of his hand. "Don't do that to yourself.You can't change what's happened. All you can do is move ahead and makeher proud of you, *now*."

 

Krycek smiled sadly. "*This* from the crown prince of self-condemnation?"

 

"Yeah, you believe it? It's always easier to tell it to someoneelse."

 

"You should take a little of your own advice."

 

"Never happen. I like that title. ëCrown prince of self-condemnation.'I'd hate to lose it."

 

Krycek shook his head. "What about you? You're not very close toyour mother, are you?"

 

"I became an outsider in my own family, the night my sister disappearedand through the years, the wall has just gotten higher. Not all that longago, I overstepped my bounds and my mother just shut me out. I called herfor her birthday, a couple of months ago, and I'm surprised the phone linesdidn't freeze up. I haven't tried to talk to her, since."

 

"A couple of outcasts."

 

"Yeah. For a long time now, Scully has been my only family."

 

Mulder saw the sadness wash over Krycek's face.

 

"What?"

 

"You can't alienate her. You can't lose your only family becauseof somebody like me."

 

"Is there something wrong with wanting you both?"

 

"No, but you can't *have* us both. Not for long, anyway."

 

"I disagree."

 

"Fox, she's already pissed as hell at you. How long are you goingto be able to deal with long, uncomfortable silences, the snide comments...thearguments..."

 

"I thought it was just going to be you and me, tonight?"

 

Krycek came to an abrupt halt and looked down into intense hazel eyes.

 

"No Scully, remember?"

 

"You started it," Krycek said weakly.

 

"Fine, I started it. Now I'm ending it."

 

He reached up and brushed Krycek's lips with his fingers. Krycek openedhis mouth slightly, touching them with the tip of his tongue.

 

"Ready for a little dessert?" Mulder asked softly.

 

Krycek stroked his hand over Mulder's chest, then began to undo the buttons."Yeah."

 

Mulder closed his eyes and sighed audibly as Krycek finished unbuttoninghis shirt, then ran a gentle hand from the base of his throat, downward.When Mulder's jeans stopped further progress, his hand worked it's way backup, then repeated the process.

 

"I love touching you."

 

Eyes still closed, Mulder let his head fall to the side and breatheddeeply.

 

"I love the way you respond to me." He teased one brown nippleand smiled as Mulder expelled a hard breath. "I spent the whole weekthinking about you. I did little else. At least half a dozen times, I hadto talk myself out of coming over here..."

 

Mulder's eyes snapped open. He turned them up to Krycek. "I wishyou hadn't. You weren't the only one who was ready to climb the walls, youknow."

 

"Did you really miss me?"

 

"How many times do I have to say it before you believe it? You wereon my mind, constantly." His eyes slid shut again as Krycek's handresumed it's lazy exploration of his bared chest. "I drove Scully nuts,brooding all week. She tried everything and anything to keep me occupied."

 

//Here we go, again.//

 

"Yeah?"

 

"Yeah." He pointed a finger up at Krycek. "Don't everplay Scrabble with me unless you don't mind getting an ass whoopin'."

 

"I'll take that under advisement...I hope Scully was at least partiallysuccessful."

 

"Yeah, partially. There were some days when I just wasn't in themood though, you know? I wanted nothing more than to come home, grab a quickbite, and brood. Nothing she could do or say was going to change my mind."

 

"Must have frustrated the hell out of her."

 

"Uh huh."

 

"Bet she was pretty damned disappointed to find out that I was here."

 

"Yeah. She didn't say it, but it was written all over her face."

 

"She wants to protect you."

 

"I don't need protection."

 

"Not from me directly, no. But from circumstances that could arisefrom your being involved with me. It's because of those circumstances thatI shouldn't be here."

 

Mulder opened his eyes and looked back up at Krycek. "Then why areyou?"

 

"Because I'm weak. Because I've gotten a taste of what it's liketo be with you, and I need more. I'll always need *more*, and that's a realproblem. I'm so afraid that someday it's all going to crumble...in a verybad way. If it's me alone that the bad stuff happens to, that's all right.But if it's you..."

 

"Why would it be all right if something happens to you?" Mulder'stone reflected a simmering agitation. "If you got killed, how do youthink that would be okay? Do you think that I'd just shrug it off and returnto the life I had before?"

 

"It'd probably be the best thing for you, if you did."

 

Mulder bolted off the couch, startling Krycek. "How is it that youcan presume to know what's best for me? You're just as bad as Scully! Whatthe fuck is so wrong with *my* judgment? I'm a grown man for crying outloud, and perfectly capable of making my own decisions. Now, for the last*fucking* time, I *know* what the risks are. If I was unprepared to takethem, you wouldn't be here, right now. But *please*, by all means, if *you*can't deal with them, far be it from me to ask you to stay. You know wherethe door is."

 

And with that, he stormed out of the room and slammed his bedroom doorbehind him.

 

Krycek sat dazed for a moment, then leaned forward and buried his facein his hands.

 

Mulder sat on the floor in the far corner of his bedroom - the same spothe'd sunk down into, twenty minutes before. He'd gone as far away from thedoor as he could, so he wouldn't hear Krycek leave. He folded his legs upin front of himself and wrapped his arms around them. His head dropped forwardand rested on his knees.

 

He didn't hear the bedroom door open, nor did he feel the soft footsteps.Only when Krycek spoke, did Mulder's head jerk up.

 

"I never said that you weren't capable of making your own decisions,"he began evenly. "But you're a passionate man, loyal to your last breath.And if that loyalty puts you in danger...it's just not a good thing, Fox.I don't want you hurt. It'd kill me if anything happened to you."

 

No response.

 

"And as if that isn't bad enough, your loyalties are being dividedbetween your partner and me. It's not right that you should be caught betweenus." He hesitated for a moment, then went on. "Sometimes I'm veryclear on what I should do. I make the decision to leave you alone. I convincemyself that it's the best thing for all concerned, but then you'll lookat me that way that you do. Or you'll touch me. or I'll touch *you*...andall my good intentions go straight to hell. You gave me the perfect opportunityto leave just a little while ago, and for the last twenty minutes or so,I sat out there, trying to will myself to do the right thing. But here Iam."

 

Still, nothing.

 

"It's my fault. I *wanted* your trust...did everything I could togain it. And now that I've got it, I'm thinking that I've made a terriblemistake. One that I don't want to correct, because it means never seeingyou again. That's so goddamned selfish, but I can't help it." He squattedin front of Mulder. "Say something, would you?"

 

Not a word.

 

"At least look at me."

 

Slowly, Mulder's eyes shifted in his direction.

 

"Something in my gut tells me that this is something that one orboth of us will end up regretting, but...I can't leave you. I mean...I stilldon't think that I should stay here all the time, but I can't walk awayand never come back. Of course, you're so pissed at me right now, that'sprobably exactly what you want, huh?"

 

"That's the deal," Mulder whispered more to himself than toKrycek.

 

"What?"

 

"You're too much of a wuss to make the break on your own, so youfigure that if you piss me off enough, I'll throw you out."

 

It was Krycek's turn to be angry.

 

"You really are a piece of work. Not a single word of what I saidhas filtered through that thick head of yours, has it?" He emphasizedhis words by pushing against the side of Mulder's head with two fingers.Mulder's jaw began to tighten.

 

"You're just hell bent on believing what you *want* to believe."He pushed again. "Aren't you?"

 

With no warning aside from a clipped growl, Mulder lunged at him andthe two tumbled across the floor, wrestling for control. With no small amountof effort, Krycek managed to pin Mulder face down to the floor, holdingeach wrist alongside his body.

 

"Who's the wuss, now?" He taunted, breathing heavily into Mulder'sear.

 

Winded and angry, Mulder strained against Krycek's weight.

 

"What's the matter, baby? Can't get loose?" He licked the outeredge of Mulder's ear. Or do you just not *want* to?"

 

"Fuck you."

 

"Come on Fox, admit it. You *like* this."

 

Mulder summoned every last bit of strength he had, and broke free ofKrycek's grip, at the same time, rearing back and catching his jaw withthe back of his head. Krycek fell back, grunting in pain. Mulder wastedno time in pressing his advantage. In a nanosecond, he was on Krycek, straddlinghis waist and closing one hand around his neck.

 

"Now, *this* I like," he hissed.

 

"Well, why didn't you just say so?" Krycek wheezed. "Wouldhave saved a lot of trouble, don't you think?"

 

Mulder glared down at him. There was definite rage there in his eyes,and something else. That identical look burned in Krycek's eyes as he returnedthe stare.

 

"Make a move, Fox."

 

Except for the rapid rise and fall of is chest, Mulder remained still.Krycek could see a tinge of uncertainty in his expression. He needed help.

 

"You disappoint me, Fox. I thought you were more of a man."

 

Mulder's hand fell away from his throat.

 

"I thought you were a man who knew what you wanted and went afterit. My mistake. Too bad. I really wanted it to be you, but I guess I canfind another easily enough. Maybe two or three. Now why don't you get thefuck off me, so I can do just that?"

 

Krycek's heart thundered in his chest as he waited to see if his insanegamble paid off.

 

It did.

 

In spades.

 

A furious roar ripped from Mulder's throat as he grabbed the front ofKrycek's shirt and yanked it apart, sending a shower of buttons throughthe room. He hauled Krycek off the floor, and threw him onto the bed, thenproceeded to half pull, half rip the rest of his clothes off. He backedaway from the bed for all of the twenty seconds it took him to remove hisown clothing, then fell onto the mattress beside him. Mulder moved overhim, half covering Krycek's upper body with his own. He gripped the youngerman's jaw in his hand and jerked his head to the side, so that their eyesmet.

 

"Now," he rasped. "What was all that bullshit about findingtwo or three others?"

 

Krycek shrugged. "Man's gotta do what a man's gotta do."

 

Mulder scowled down at him. "You know, you're *so* right."

 

He shoved Krycek onto his stomach. Grabbing his hips, Mulder roughlyhoisted him high enough to thrust a couple of pillows under him. He pulledthe nightstand drawer open and grabbed a new tube of lubrication. Krycekclosed his eyes, trembling with excited anticipation. He felt Mulder settlebeside him and the very next thing he felt was a cool, slick finger workingit's way into the tight anal muscle. Mulder's breath was warm and sweetagainst the side of his face.

 

"You're mine, Alex," he hummed seductively into Krycek's ear.

 

The finger which had begun a steady movement in and out of Krycek's ass,was joined by a second.

 

Krycek winced at the initial discomfort, but soon relaxed and began tomoan softly.

 

"Do you understand?"

 

Krycek nodded, afraid to trust his voice.

 

"There'll be *no* others."

 

A small whimper pushed past Krycek's lips.

 

Mulder removed his fingers and again reached for the lube. A few secondsof movement and then he was behind Krycek. Over him. In him.

 

Krycek bit back a sob as he felt the tip of Mulder's engorged cock beginto force the ring of muscle to yield to it.

 

Mulder's head throbbed. A violent ocean storm was raging through hisbody and the fierceness of it only increased as the man beneath him, throughsound and movement, encouraged his assault. He wrapped an arm tightly aroundKrycek's shoulders and in one hard thrust, buried his entire length insideof him.

 

Krycek's harsh groan was absorbed by the mattress and completely ignoredby Mulder, who was so utterly immersed in this new, shattering sensation.

 

//Oh God, yes. Jesus...//

 

He pulled out more than three-quarters of the way, then plunged backin. Krycek cried out, the painful pleasure, almost too much to take.

 

"Who do you belong to?" Mulder's voice was like sandpaper inhis ear.

 

Krycek didn't answer. He was pushing it, he knew. But this was just toogood. //Tick him off just a little bit more.//

 

Again, Mulder pulled out and slammed back into him.

 

"*Who!?*"

 

"You!" He was almost sobbing. "Jesus Fox, fuck me. I'mso close, I can't hold it anymore. *Please*..."

 

Mulder wanted so badly to prolong his agony. To make him grovel and beg.But his own body was telling him that there was no way. He quickened hispace, repeatedly pushing Krycek's hips into the pillows with each powerfulthrust. In no time flat, both men were hurtling out of control, toward thescreaming finish.

 

If no one called the police to report a murder in apartment forty-two,it would be a miracle. The wails that had to have echoed into the surroundingapartments surely sounded as though someone was being killed.

 

The deafening sound faded away and Mulder collapsed onto Krycek's back.The sweat trickled off of his body onto that of the man beneath him, minglingtogether and soaking the sheets.

 

They stayed that way for a time, until Krycek gained enough strengthto gently roll Mulder onto the mattress. He pulled himself up alongsidethe virtually unconscious man, and kissed his damp forehead. "Onlyyou," he whispered, kissed him again, then fell soundly asleep.

 

 

Thursday, 2:12 a.m.

 

Krycek woke slowly. His eyes had not yet opened, but he had the distinctfeeling that he was being watched. He turned onto his back and looked up.Mulder sat quietly, leaning against the headboard of the bed, staring athim. He reached over and stroked one sheet-draped thigh.

 

"You okay?"

 

"I don't know. Are *you* okay?"

 

"Fine."

 

Mulder continued to stare, uncertain whether or not to believe him.

 

"*Really*."

 

Mulder nodded and looked away.

 

Krycek sat up and brushed Mulder's shoulder with his mouth. "Youwere unbelievable."

 

"I was furious," Mulder whispered, refusing to look at him.

 

"I know. It was great."

 

Mulder glanced his way, confusion creasing his brow.

 

"Hey, I was more than a bit irritated with *you*, too. But rememberingour conversation last week, I decided to see if I couldn't make the angerwork for us."

 

"You...you didn't mean it when you said..."

 

Krycek cut him off. "I just said that to provoke you. You've *got*to know by now, that you're the only one I want....ask me again."

 

Mulder gave him a questioning glance.

 

"Go ahead, ask." He smiled. "This time, when I answer,it won't be under duress."

 

Mulder chewed the inside of his bottom lip, considering Krycek's request.Then he asked the question, softly.

 

"Who do you belong to?"

 

Krycek answered without hesitation. "You."

 

The corners of Mulder's mouth turned up in a trace of a smile. "Onlyme?"

 

"Only you."

 

Mulder leaned in and bestowed a tender kiss on his lips.

 

"Why do you put up with my shit?"

 

The answer was on the tip of Krycek's tongue, but he choked it back.Instead, Mulder heard, "Because I can't resist a man with a badge anda gun."

 

Mulder raised one eyebrow.

 

"And," he concluded, "the sex is fantastic."

 

"Is it?"

 

"Oh, *yes*."

 

Mulder's eyes darkened. "Alex."

 

"Hmm?"

 

"I want to make love to you."

 

Krycek's heart hammered in his chest. "What did we do just a fewhours ago?"

 

"That was hard, angry sex. It was earthshattering, don't get mewrong, but I don't want to do it like that, this time."

 

"It's very late," Krycek reminded him. "You have to goto work."

 

"I know." Mulder drew his fingers down Krycek's cheek. "ButI need you so much right now, there's no way I'd get to sleep."

 

Krycek studied him.

 

Those eyes.

 

So beautiful. So honest. So...goddamned sexy.

 

Not to mention, completely impossible to resist.

 

"When your ass is dragging tomorrow, I don't want to hear aboutit."

 

"You won't hear any complaints from me," Mulder promised, claspinga hand to the back of Krycek's head and pulling him forward.

 

Open mouths met. Tongues mated, caressing, teasing. Stoking the firewhich had been so easily ignited, just moments before.

 

Mulder broke the kiss and moved to the light bruise that had formed onKrycek's chin. He licked it gently.

 

"I'm sorry."

 

"Don't worry about it lisa," Krycek whispered, reassuring him.

 

Mulder kissed the bruise and proceeded to move downward, along the softskin of his throat, then to his chest, where he lingered, paying specialattention to the sensitive nipples.

 

Krycek gathered up fistfuls of sheet as Mulder continued to tease andtorment. He clenched his teeth in an effort to maintain his silence, butwhen Mulder's head moved lower, a small whimper of anticipation made itpast his lips.

 

Mulder eased the sheet away from his hips and grinned up at him.

 

"For me?"

 

"All for you."

 

"You shouldn't have."

 

"I'll remember that, next time," Krycek countered between shallowbreaths.

 

"*Sure* you will."

 

Krycek emitted a surprised gasp as Mulder took his entire length intohis mouth. He drew up slowly, continuously sucking, as he did. When he reachedthe tip, he relaxed the suction and swirled his tongue around the head.Krycek moaned impatiently and tried to push his cock back into Mulder'smouth.

 

"Problem?" Mulder smiled sweetly up at him.

 

"My lover is trying to drive me out of my mind. Now, why shouldI have a problem with that?"

 

"Beats the hell out of me." His tongue inched out and lappedgingerly at the head of Krycek's twitching cock, drawing from the otherman, yet another moan. With no warning, Mulder opened his mouth and againengulfed Krycek's entire cock, right to the base. He raised his head a littlemore than halfway, then sank back down.

 

Krycek combed trembling fingers through his hair. "*God* baby, that'sso good."

 

Mulder released him and grinned. "I've got something better."

 

"Yeah? What is it?"

 

Mulder grasped Krycek's slim hips and pulled until he was flat on hisback. He snatched the lube off of the nightstand and straddled Krycek'schest. His eyes sparkled with golden light, drawing the object of his attentioninto their heat, directing him, without word or motion.

 

Krycek took the tube from Mulder, squeezed a generous amount into hishand and wrapped it around his lover's straining cock. He watched the golddisappear as Mulder's eyelids dropped shut. Slowly, he stroked the lengthof the rock hard shaft, taking care not to miss a single spot.

 

Mulder breathed deeply and willed himself to move away from the teasinghand. He positioned himself lengthwise along the lithe body beneath himand hooked his hands under Krycek's knees, pulling them up. He bit gentlyinto the flesh between Krycek's shoulder and neck, smiling at the responseit brought.

 

Krycek's fingers dug into Mulder's back. His neck arched. He pushed upwith his hips, seeking fulfillment.

 

"Please," he panted heavily, his head now rolling slowly, backand forth against the pillow. "Fox, please."

 

Mulder released one of the legs he still held on to. He caressed theyounger man's cheek lovingly. "Shh. It's okay." The same handdipped down, grasping his cock and guiding it to the place Krycek was beggingfor it to be. He eased the head in, fraction by excruciating fraction. "Isthis what you want?"

 

"You *know* it is."

 

"I know."

 

Mulder pulled away, leaving Krycek writhing in frustrated agony. He whisperedto the man smiling down at him, through gritted teeth.

 

"Mulder, you and I are going to fight, if you don't..."

 

"*Mulder*? Are you upset with me, Alex?" He leaned down, nuzzlingKrycek's neck. "Don't be upset. You know I'm going to give you whatyou need."

 

"Sometime while I'm still young enough to enjoy it, would be nice."

 

"Okay, okay," he murmured against Krycek's lips, just beforehe covered them completely.

 

Krycek moaned into Mulder's mouth, his previous threat forgotten, ashe lost himself in the long, sweet kiss.

 

Mulder released Krycek's mouth and slid off of him. Gently, he turnedhim onto his side and wrapped an arm around his chest. The feel of Mulder'serection against his backside, sent a fresh surge of desire rocketing throughhis body. Krycek gritted his teeth, fighting to remain still, as he waited.He sucked in a breath as he felt Mulder's warm, wet tongue tracing the distendedvein along the side of his neck. Squeezed his eyes shut as the hand thathad been stroking his chest, left it momentarily, to help the stony erectionfind it's way in through the snug opening.

 

Once the entire head was in, Mulder's hand moved back up to Krycek'schest, stroking the light scattering of dark hair.

 

"I...I have to stop for a minute, Alex," he breathed heavilyagainst Krycek's shoulder.

 

"It's okay. Take as long as you need."

 

Mulder kissed the hollow of his shoulder, then gently prodded the insideof his ear with the tip of his tongue. Krycek shivered.

 

"You like that?"

 

"It's like a straight line of electricity, right down to my cock."

 

"Yeah?"

 

He could hear the satisfied smirk in Mulder's voice.

 

"Yeah."

 

Mulder pushed into him, just a fraction more.

 

"Mmmm...."

 

"More?"

 

"If you're ready."

 

Another fraction.

 

Both men let out a long sigh.

 

Mulder's hand crept across Krycek's chest, barely skimming the flat nipples.He teased them, again and again, until both had constricted into hard peaks.The man in his arms trembled violently in response.

 

Mulder raised his head just enough to watch Krycek's face contort withpleasure as he gently squeezed one of the nipples.

 

"Fox..."

 

"Hmm?"

 

"Touch me...please."

 

"I am touching you," he whispered into Krycek's ear and pinchedhis nipple a little harder.

 

Krycek's lips parted on a silent gasp. As soon as he regained some ofhis composure, he reached for Mulder's hand. "Not there." He guidedthe hand down to his cock. "Here."

 

Mulder closed his hand around Krycek's twitching erection and strokedit slowly.

 

"Like this?" He asked, as if he really needed to.

 

His answer came in a low moan.

 

Mulder rocked against Krycek, pushing himself deeper.

 

"Christ." Krycek found his voice. "Fox..."

 

"I know." Mulder worked his right arm under Krycek, pullinghim snuggly to his chest and drove deeper, still.

 

Krycek arched his neck, laying his head back against Mulder's shoulderand wishing that they could stay in this world they'd created. That theugliness that had been such a huge part of his existence over the last severalyears, would never touch them. That...

 

The thought dissolved and a look of pure ecstasy washed over Krycek'sfeatures, as Mulder completed their connection.

 

Mulder kissed Krycek everywhere his lips could touch heated skin. "Beautiful,"he murmured against the stubble-roughened cheek.

 

"Who?" Krycek's voice was barely audible.

 

"You. You're so...*into* it. You're beautiful to watch."

 

Krycek rubbed the back of his silky head against Mulder's shoulder, virtuallypurring with contentment.

 

Mulder rewarded the affectionate gesture with another long stroke ofhis cock. When he reached the flared head, he found it slick with fluid.He smiled as he ran a finger around the tip, then brought it up to Krycek'slips.

 

He needed no coaxing. His lips parted slightly, allowing his tongue tocreep out and taste himself. Mulder kissed the top of his head and slippedhis finger between Krycek's lips and past his teeth. Krycek moaned softlyand sucked Mulder's finger into his mouth.

 

Mulder tried to pull his finger away, but Krycek protested, graspinghis hand and holding it where it was. Mulder chuckled softly.

 

"Greedy."

 

He forced his hand away from Krycek's mouth and quickly dipped back downfor more. This time, he used two fingers, skimming away as much fluid ashe could and once again held them up in offering. Krycek fastened his lipsaround both fingers, feeding hungrily.

 

Mulder began to move inside him, establishing, a slow, easy rhythm. Hecould feel the vibration of his lover's moans on his fingers, still trappedwithin that moist, warm mouth.

 

"Ohhh, *God*. Alex. Mmmmm...my Alex..." He increased the speedof his thrusts just a bit. "Come on," he persuaded softly. "Letme have my hand back."

 

His answer came in the form of a stubborn grumble.

 

"I promise you, if you do, I'll make you feel *so* good."

 

Reluctantly, Krycek allowed Mulder to slip his fingers out of his mouth.

 

"That's better."

 

With his right arm, Mulder hugged Krycek tightly and grasped his cockwith his left.

 

Krycek emitted a choked sob, as Mulder began long, firm strokes to matchthe steady tempo of his hips. Jesus, and as if this leisurely double fuckwasn't making him crazy enough, Mulder had to go and talk to him.

 

"God, you're so tight." His uneven breaths fanned across Krycek'scheek. "I've wanted so..." he paused in mid-sentence, strugglingfor composure, "..so long to do this to you. Now, I never want to stop.I want to do you again and again and..."

 

The ability to continue speaking escaped him. Rational thought, lost.The demands of his body and those of the man in his arms, took over, forcinghim to move faster, drive deeper.

 

Krycek grasped the arm wrapped tightly around him, with one hand andreached behind him with the other, clenching it in Mulder's hair. His respirationcame in shallow gasps and his muscles contracted involuntarily. The presenceinside him moved faster. Harder. He bucked against Mulder in an attemptto speed things along.

 

"No."

 

The hoarse command slowed his frenzied movements.

 

"I'm right *there*," Krycek whimpered.

 

"I know you are," Mulder nuzzled his perspiration dampenedhair. "And I'll take you all the way. Just relax and let me do it."

 

As difficult as it was, Krycek stopped squirming and gave complete controlover to Mulder.

 

"That's right," Mulder crooned in Krycek's ear as he thrustinto him, "I'll take good...good care of you. Just trust m-me."His hand worked Krycek's aching cock. Stroking, caressing, promising relief.His words tumbled out in clipped tones. "Do you...do you trust me,Alex?"

 

"*Yes*," came the gasped reply. "Mmph...oh....*Christ!*"

 

Krycek's body tightened. The convulsions began, coming in violent succession.His cries pierced the air as Mulder continued, unrelenting.

 

Krycek's convulsing muscles squeezed tightly around Mulder's cock, jerking,milking it. Robbing Mulder of every last shred of sanity. A long, sobbinggroan tore from his throat, picking up where his lover's dying cries leftoff.

 

Seconds later, all was quiet, except for the sound of two men strugglingto drag the air back into their lungs.

 

Finally, Mulder summoned enough strength to release Krycek's exhaustedcock from his sticky grasp. His arm wrapped around his lover's still heavingchest, joining the other, hugging him close. Refusing to let go. They fellasleep that way, neither one moving until dawn came, just a couple of shorthours later.

 

6:14 a.m.

 

Mulder awoke to a shower of tender kisses all over his face. He smiled,reaching up blindly, to thread his fingers through the freshly washed hairof his lover.

 

"C'mon sleepyhead," the low voice coaxed. "Time to getup."

 

"Don't want to."

 

"Oh. Tired are we?"

 

Mulder opened his eyes, to see Krycek hovering over him, an amused grintilting the corners of his mouth.

 

"No."

 

"Then, get up. Unless you plan on calling in sick."

 

Hazel eyes sparkled. "I will, if you come back to bed."

 

Krycek fought the urge to accept Mulder's challenge.

 

"I'd bet good money, that you've never been out sick a day in yourlife."

 

"You'd lose that bet."

 

"I'm not talking about gun shot wounds and poisoning and all therest of your on-the-job mishaps. I mean the garden variety stuff. You know,colds, headaches, upset stomach..."

 

Mulder shrugged. "In that case, I guess not."

 

"And I'm positive that you've never taken a day off for somethingas indulgent as spending the day in bed with a lover."

 

Mulder pulled Krycek down to his waiting lips. "There's never beenanyone I've *wanted* to spend the day in bed with before. Till now."

 

Their lips touched, but only briefly. Mulder pulled back, hit by a suddenrealization.

 

"Why are you dressed?"

 

"I have to go."

 

The change in Mulder's voice was immediate and unmistakable.

 

"Alex..."

 

"Wait, wait. Hold on." He cupped Mulder's face between hispalms. "I'll be back. Just give me a couple of days to take care ofsome stuff."

 

"What stuff?"

 

"I'm going to see if I can't buy a little breathing space."

 

Mulder didn't much like the sound of that.

 

"What are you going to do?"

 

"Gonna see about making those sons of bitches work for *me* fora change. I mean, it *is* in their best interests to make sure that I stayhealthy and happy."

 

"So, you're going to ask them to see what they can do about whoeverit was that tried to knock you off."

 

Krycek arched one dark eyebrow. "Ask?"

 

Mulder cocked his head and gave him one of those, ëI hope you knowwhat you're doing' looks.

 

"Don't worry." Krycek teased Mulder's lower lip with his thumb."It'll be okay...now come on, get up. If you get into the shower now,there'll still be time for breakfast. I put your clothes out for you, already."

 

Mulder touched the tip of his tongue to Krycek's thumb. "Thank you."

 

Their eyes locked for long seconds. Krycek let out a sharp breath androse from the bed. He clapped his hands as he moved toward the door. "Let'sget a move on."

 

Mulder grinned and tossed the sheet off. He headed for the bathroom anda nice, warm shower.

 

 

6:52 a.m.

 

Mulder walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table.

 

"Wow." Krycek nodded appreciatively. "You are *gorgeous*."He place a steaming cup of coffee and a bagel in front of Mulder, who lookeddown at himself.

 

"Are you sure about this?" He was wearing the combination thatKrycek had put together for him. A black suit and a coacoa brown shirt,with a silk tie that was two shades darker than the shirt, with a bit ofa black design running through it. "I feel like I should be carryinga violin case instead of a badge."

 

"You look great. You've got some good stuff in your closet, youjust have no idea how to put it together."

 

"Well, thank you Mr. Blackwell, but I chase bad guys for a living.I don't generally give much thought to how I'm going to look while doingit."

 

He could have kicked himself when he saw Krycek's smile fade.

 

"I-if you don't like it, you don't have to wear it. You won't hurtmy feelings if you want to change..."

 

"No, I don't want to change. I didn't mean to..." Mulder sighed."I'm sorry, I know I sound like a grouch. I just hate it when you leave..."

 

Krycek nodded. "I know, but if we're going to have *any* peace,I have to do this. I'll be back on Saturday."

 

"Have any idea about what time?"

 

"I'm not sure. Probably late though, like yesterday."

 

Mulder said nothing, only reached into his pocket and produced a key.He held it out to Krycek. Surprised green eyes flicked from the key to hisface. Mulder gave him a boyish grin.

 

"Now you can stop breaking in."

 

Krycek continued to stare.

 

"Do you want my arm to fall off?"

 

He reached across the table and gingerly took the key.

 

Satisfied, Mulder went on to his next question. "Have you got thegun?"

 

"N-no. I put it in the nightstand drawer."

 

"You can't leave here, unarmed."

 

"I'll be fine. I promise, I'll make that the first order of businesswhen I drop in on my friends."

 

Mulder blew out a long breath.

 

"You're such a worrier."

 

"I never knew I was."

 

"You mean, I should be flattered?"

 

"...Yeah, I think you should."

 

Their eyes met and locked, filling the room with a raw heat. Krycek pushedhis chair away from the table and stood, stuffing the key into his pocket.Slowly, he walked over to Mulder and kneeled in front of him. His handsslid back and forth over the crisp black fabric that covered his thighs.He could feel the muscles rippling beneath his fingers.

 

"How long before you have to leave?" he asked softly.

 

Mulder raised his trembling hand to have a look at his watch. "Fifteenminutes."

 

"It's enough."

 

Mulder swallowed hard as Krycek's hands moved to his belt, deftly unbucklingit, then to his pants, undoing the button and drawing the zipper down. Heparted the material and reached into the slitted fold of the stark whiteboxer-briefs. Mulder gasped softly as Krycek's fingers curled around histhree-quarters erect cock.

 

"A little something for the road," Krycek whispered, then quicklyand expertly sucked him into his mouth.

 

Mulder's head fell back and his mouth dropped open. "Oooohhh....."

 

Krycek brought him along quickly. No time to tease. Within a few shortminutes, Mulder was twisting in his chair, moaning and gasping. His fingersclenched in the dark hair and his body stiffened as Krycek moved faster,creating an intolerable pressure that began in the pit of his stomach andspread up and out to his extremities.

 

Krycek heard the increased groans of his lover, and knew that he wasvery close. He quickened his pace and took Mulder over the edge.

 

"Jesus....*Jesus*....oh....nnnnnnhhh....Alex!" Mulder criedout, arching into Krycek's mouth, shooting hot, bitter fluid down the youngerman's throat. Krycek swallowed as much as he could, and pulled away quickly,afraid that some of it would leak out onto Mulder's pants.

 

As Mulder slouched in the chair recovering, Krycek disappeared into thebathroom and returned with a warm, damp face cloth. He gently cleaned Mulderup and rearranged his clothing.

 

"Time to go."

 

"I don't think I can walk," Mulder murmured.

 

Krycek smiled indulgently. "Sure you can. Come on...up."

 

With a little help, Mulder rose to his feet and moved toward the livingroom. By the time they made it to the door, he was moving normally. He cuppedthe back of Krycek's head and leaned in for a kiss.

 

"That was nice. Thank you."

 

"Any time. I'll see you on Saturday, okay?"

 

"Be careful."

 

"I always am."

 

Mulder hesitated. "I can't bring myself to walk away from you."

 

Krycek smirked. "Need a shove?"

 

Mulder quirked the corner of his mouth. "No.....I'm going."

 

"I'm going to clean up in the kitchen, then I'm gone, too."

 

Mulder nodded. "Well..." He planted a tender kiss on Krycek'smouth and stepped out into the hall.

 

Krycek watched as he walked toward the elevators, admiring that smooth,confident stride that he'd come to know so well. When Mulder was out ofsight, he closed the door and walked smiling, into the kitchen.

 

 

8:30 a.m.

 

Scully strode into the office and dropped her purse down onto her desk.She glanced over at Mulder, who had his nose stuck in a file, then did aquick double take.

 

"Mulder?"

 

He looked up at her.

 

"Morning."

 

Flat. Unaffected.

 

What the hell was this? He looked fabulous. Not that he didn't alwayslook great. He did. He was just one of those men who didn't have to try.Even with those ridiculous ties and some of the color combinations....thatwas it. It was his clothes. It was a stunning combination. Since when didMulder.....Krycek. Had to be.

 

//Great. Now he's dressing him. Okay. Nevermind. Talk to him. You can'tlet things stay the way they are.//

 

"Mulder. About yesterday..."

 

"Why'd you hurt him, Scully?"

 

"I...I'm sorry about that. I just couldn't believe that you woulddo something so foolish. I mean, come on Mulder, giving him your gun?"

 

"There was no *way*, I was leaving him alone without protection.I trust him, Scully. If that's not good enough for you, I don't know whatto say."

 

Scully sighed. "Then maybe we'd just better not talk about it."

 

"Fine." Mulder snatched a file out of the second drawer anddropped into his chair.

 

And that's the way it went. For most of the day, silence sat like a raincloud over the small basement office.

 

 

5:21 p.m.

 

Alex Krycek entered the thinly lit room. The smoke swirled around him,choking him with it's acrid scent. A large, smarmy-looking man watched himfrom a corner of the room. Krycek walked up to one of the overstuffed wing-backchairs and looked down at the man who occupied it.

 

"Alex. So nice to see you. It's been a while."

 

"Let's dispense with the niceties. I want something from you."

 

"Really? And what would that be."

 

"I'm sure that by now, you know that an attempt was made on my life,a few weeks ago."

 

"I heard something to that effect. Surely you don't think..."

 

"I don't think it was anyone in the immediate group. I know you'resmarter than that. But obviously, someone within this organization has theirown agenda. You'd do well to find out who that is. What I need from youfirst of all, is a weapon. Mine was taken from the place I was staying,along with my clothes and everything else that was in my motel room, afterI was thought to be killed."

 

"Done. And second?"

 

"Second, when you find out who it is that wants to get rid of me,and I know you will, I want something done about it. I don't appreciatehaving to look over my shoulder all the time."

 

"Kinda puts a damper on your sex life, don't it?"

 

Krycek snapped his head around, to confront the man belonging to thevoice.

 

"You didn't think that we wouldn't find out about your pretty petFox, did you?"

 

"Shut up, Phil."

 

"Aw c'mon, Krycek. Tell me. Is his skin really as soft as it looks?"

 

Krycek's jaw clenched and unclenched.

 

"You know, I had me some bitches in the pen, but none of them were*that* pretty. What do you say? Wanna share with your old pal, Phil? I promise,I won't mark him up, too much."

 

Krycek spun to face him.

 

"Fist of all, you're not my pal. Never were, never will be. Second,if you so much as cough in his direction, I promise you, you'll never bedead enough."

 

"Phil is only pulling your leg, Alex. Aren't you, Phil?"

 

Phil leered at him. "Oh, yeah. Sure. Just yanking your chain, buddy."

 

"There was something else you wanted, Alex?"

 

"Two more things."

 

"And they are?"

 

"Mulder and Scully fall under the same blanket of protection thatI do. Any threats to their lives, I want removed. Permanently."

 

"And?"

 

"Last, I'm out. No more traveling, no more jobs. I'm retiring."

 

"I don't know if that's do-able, Alex. You're one of our best men."

 

"It's do-able. I just did it. Don't worry about what I know. Aslong as you leave me alone, the information is safe. As long as you leaveMulder and his partner alone, it's safe. You have nothing to fear from me,as long as you don't push me. Do we have a deal?"

 

There was a brief silence, then, "We have a deal. The threat againstyou will be found and removed as soon as possible."

 

Krycek nodded. "Make it real soon."

 

"Of course. You see, we take care of our own."

 

"I'm not yours."

 

Krycek brushed past Phil and closed the door quietly, behind him.

 

"I don't understand. Why do you let him boss you around like that?"

 

"Because, my obtuse friend, Mr. Krycek has us by the proverbialshort hairs. It doesn't exactly thrill me to bend to his whims, but unfortunately,it's all I *can* do. At least he doesn't make impossible demands on us."

 

"I'd just kill him."

 

"Yes, you *would*. If you could. Alex Krycek is a dangerous man.You're lucky you're still standing there, after the comments you made. Nowgo see about his request for a weapon, and keep the jibes to a minimum.I've a feeling that his good humor will only stretch so far."

 

 

6:02 p.m.

 

Mulder pulled into his parking spot in the garage under his apartmentbuilding.

 

What a day.

 

The silence between him and Scully was really working on his nerves.And every time someone noticed and commented on his new look, she seemedto sink deeper into her anger. She knew. She had to know. Just one morething to piss her off. Damn, he hated this. Well, at least he had the weekendto look forward to. Maybe he'd go out later and pick up some groceries.Maybe some wine...and some whipped cream.

 

He smiled to himself as he stepped out of the car, deeply involved inhis plotting and planning. He never saw the black car that drove up behindhim. Never saw the window open just far enough to allow room for the gun.There was a single soft pop and he fell to the floor of the garage, bloodquickly pooling around him. The car door opened and a dark figured emerged.Mulder was turned roughly onto his back and his wallet and weapon were taken.The figure returned to the car and it quickly disappeared from the garage,with nothing more than the faint squealing of tires on the pavement.

 

 

Saturday, 1:12 a.m.

 

The lock clicked softly and the door swung open. Krycek peered into thedarkness of the room. No sense in turning any lights on. He was headingstraight in to bed. To his Fox. He smiled as he anticipated curling himselfaround his lover's lean, hard length. He dropped his bag onto the floor,next to the chair.

 

The click of a gun brought him to startled attention.

 

"Say goodnight, Krycek."

 

He peered into the darkness. "Scully?"

 

Pale light flooded the room, making him blink. Scully stood by Mulder'sdesk, looking like she'd been to hell and back. She held her gun, pointeddirectly at him.

 

"Scully, what the hell is going on?"

 

"I knew you'd come back here. Sooner or later, I knew you'd comeback."

 

"Scully..."

 

"I warned him. I *knew* you weren't on the level, but he wouldn'tlisten."

 

Fear crept into his voice. "Scully, where's Mulder?"

 

"Like you don't know," she hissed.

 

"I *don't* know." His voice rose, barely concealing his controlledpanic. "Tell me where he *is*."

 

"He's where you put him, you dirty son of a bitch!"

 

//Breathe, Alex. Calm. This is getting you nowhere.//

 

"Scully," he began softly. "I have no idea what happenedhere. And as far as I knew, when I got here, I'd find him asleep in hisbed. Now, are you telling me that he is *not* in this apartment?"

 

"What was the point of picking out his suit, Krycek?"

 

She wasn't answering his question. Gun or no, he just about two beatsaway from tackling this woman and wringing some answers from her tiny neck.

 

"Did you get some kind of perverse thrill from soaking it with hisblood?"

 

Krycek issued a strangled whimper. He felt as though someone had justhit him in the gut with a steel two by four. "Blood?" The roomstarted to spin. "Scully...*please*..what *happened*?"

 

"Ballistics report's not back yet, but answer this question forme. Did you shoot him with his own gun? The one that he *trusted* you with?"

 

Shot.

 

Krycek pitched forward, grabbing onto the back of the chair in frontof him for support. "Scully," he began, squeezing his eyes shut."Scully, is he..."

 

"Is he what? Dead?" Venom dripped from her every word. "Yeah,I suppose that's something you'd like to know, isn't it?"

 

He turned glazed eyes to her. "Scully, if he's dead, I want youto pull that trigger."

 

Scully flinched, stunned by his words. She stared long and hard at him,trying to find the slightest trace of insincerity. It disturbed the hellout her, that she could not.

 

"What?"

 

The glaze turned to a shimmer. He made no attempt to hold back the tears."If he's not in this world, then I don't want to be either. Pull thetrigger."

 

What the hell was *this*? The voice in her head, the one that she *wanted*to listen to, told her that this was a trick. A ploy to get her to dropher defenses. Her ëMulder' voice, the one she struggled to suppress,told her to take a good look at the man. *Listen* to his tone. See the painin his eyes...goddamn voice.

 

"You didn't shoot him?"

 

"I told you that I wouldn't hurt him Scully, and I meant it."

 

She paused for a moment. Two. Three.

 

"He's alive."

 

Krycek looked as though he would faint from the relief.

 

"But he's in bad shape."

 

The relief seeped away. "How bad?"

 

"It's still touch and go. He was shot in the back. The bullet missedhis spinal cord, but did all sorts of other internal damage. The surgeonsdid the best job that anyone could do. Whether or not it's good enough,remains to be seen."

 

Krycek clasped his hands behind his head and turned away, trying to gainsome composure. When he turned back, Scully was still standing in the samespot, but her gun hand was hanging limply by her side.

 

"I want to see him."

 

She shook her head. "No."

 

"Scully, I *need* to see him."

 

"*Your* needs are very low on my priorities list. You may not havepulled the trigger, but you're still responsible for what's happened tohim."

 

"You're right. I am. It's all my fault." He swiped at a freshsurge of tears. "I should have been stronger. Right from the beginning.If I had been, none of this would be happening." He took a deep, shakybreath and let it out. "I need to see him, Scully. I need to see...toapologize."

 

"He's unconscious. He won't even know you're there."

 

"Maybe he won't. But maybe he *will*. I need for him to know. *Please*."

 

Scully contemplated quietly. Then, "We have to go now. While there'sno one around."

 

Krycek closed his eyes and nodded.

 

"Just for a few minutes," she warned.

 

He opened his eyes halfway and stepped aside, allowing her to precedehim out the door.

 

2:39 a.m.

 

Scully slammed her door shut, just as the small black car pulled up besideher. The rumbling motor was cut and Alex Krycek emerged from behind thegleaming black door. She turned and started for the hospital's back entrance.Hell fell into step beside her.

 

"What about the guard?"

 

"No guard."

 

"*What*?"

 

"His wallet and gun were taken to make it look like a robbery. Untilit's proven that this was a hit, I can't officially ask to have a guardposted."

 

"So he's been *alone* all this time? Scully, I can't believe..."

 

"Of course, he's not alone," she cut him off, abruptly.

 

"Well..."

 

"Don't sweat it. He's with good friends."

 

They rode the elevator in silence and stepped out at the fourth floor.Krycek began to slow his pace, sensing that they were near the room.

 

Scully reached the door and paused, waiting for him. As he walked upbeside her, he began to tremble.

 

"Are you ready?" she asked, just above a whisper.

 

He held a hand up as he took deep, shaky breaths. He turned into thewall, leaning his forehead and both clenched hands against it. Scully allowedhim a few more seconds, then swung the door open.

 

"Let's go."

 

The bearded man looked up from his book and grew wide-eyed, as Krycekentered the room. He rose from his post by Mulder's bed and pointed. "Hey.I know who *you* are. Get out of..." He stopped short, when Scullyfollowed Krycek in.

 

"Miss Scully. What is he..."

 

She held up a hand. "It's okay, Byers."

 

Byers jerked his head back in the direction of the dark man, who hadsince pulled a stool up to the bed and was staring red-eyed, down at theunconscious Mulder.

 

"*What* is going on, here?"

 

"I'm sorry, Byers. I can't explain. Not now. I have to ask you tojust trust me. You know that there is no way in the world, that I'd everdo anything to hurt him."

 

"Of *course*, I know that. But...I *know* about this guy."

 

His eyes grew wider still, as he turned his attention back to the bed,just in time to see Fox Mulder's mortal enemy, tenderly stroking his face.

 

"Byers."

 

His eyes didn't leave the scene. "Huh?"

 

"Go get some coffee or something, okay? We won't be too long."

 

Byers backed toward the door. "O-okay, but if you need me, I'llbe just down the hall."

 

"Don't worry," she reassured him. "Everything is fine."

 

Byers shot one more look at Krycek and Mulder, still not quite believinghis eyes, and slipped out the door.

 

Scully sat quietly in the corner and watched, as Krycek leaned in andkissed the side of Mulder's mouth. He picked his head up and looked forthe first time, at all the hardware in the room. Listened to the beeps ofthe monitors and the more disturbing sound of the respirator, pumping airinto Mulder's lungs. He turned his attention back to the man in the bed.He opened his mouth to speak, but no sound would come out. He cleared histhroat and tried again.

 

"Fox....baby, it's me. It's Alex." He stroked the cool skinof Mulder's cheek. "This is it. This is what I kept trying to tellyou that I was afraid would happen. But you were so damned stubborn andI was so damned weak, and now look at you. Laying here with this thing downyour throat, needing a machine to breathe for you...all torn up inside.I wasn't worth it." Tears began to slide down his face. "I'm notworth a fucking hangnail. I tried to tell you, and you wouldn't listen.I should've made you listen. I should've..I should've *left*. So many times,I should've left...." He paused and laughed bitterly. "Listento me. Who gives a damn now, about all that. It's too late. All I can donow, is tell you how sorry I am. How sorry I am for starting what I did,that first night in your apartment." His voice began to crack. "Andbeg you, to *please* fight. Don't die. Scully needs you. Don't leave her."

 

Scully thought that she was beyond tears. She was sure she'd cried allshe could, the night before. But her eyes welled up, listening to this heartbreakingspeech.

 

"I need you, too. I need to know that wherever *I* am, you're somewherein the world, alive and well and still making a difference. As long as Iknow that, I'll be fine. But..." he brought the back of his hand tohis mouth, in the effort to stifle a whimper. "If you're not here,I can't. I can't...I don't want to..." His head dropped to the flatpillow, alongside Mulder's, burying his face in the thick brown hair. Hisshoulder's began to shake and he cried. Openly wept. Pitiful, childlikesobs, that brought Scully to his side.

 

She couldn't help it. She placed a hand on his shoulder and stood quietlybeside him, as he continued to cry.

 

When his sobbing finally quieted, she skimmed her hand gently, back andforth across the span of his shoulders. "Are you all right?"

 

He sniffed and attempted to dry his eyes with the back of his hand. Henodded, almost imperceptibly.

 

"Krycek...Alex... I'm not going to kid you or myself. This is bad.Mulder's been wounded before, but..." she shook her head. "Butif I've learned anything from my years with this man, it's this. Never underestimatehim, and *never* count him out. Just try and have a little faith, okay?"

 

He nodded again. "I have to go."

 

"Where are you going?"

 

His expression turned stony. "I have some business to take careof."

 

"Listen, don't *you* go and get yourself into trouble. I do *not*want to have to explain to Mulder why *you're* in the hospital, or on aslab in the morgue."

 

"I'll be all right." His face softened immediately, as he focusedon Mulder. "Baby, I've got to go, but I'll keep in constant contactwith Scully. You sleep a while longer. Rest is the best thing for you now,but you can't keep those beautiful eyes closed forever, you hear me?"He combed his fingers tenderly through Mulder's hair. "I promise youlisa, I'm going to find out who did this to you, and take of care of them."He lowered his head to the pillow once more and covered Mulder's still handwith his own. He scattered kisses over the stubbled cheek, then whisperedinto Mulder's ear. Scully couldn't make out the sounds, but could read hislips very well.

 

I love you.

 

Fresh tears pricked her eyes.

 

It was no act. He meant it. She knew that as sure as she knew her ownname.

 

He picked his head up and looked down at the face that he would neverforget. Every line, every curve and tiny scar was burned into his memory.More tears welled up and spilled over. Reluctantly, he rose from the stooland moved away. Scully followed him out the door.

 

"Alex."

 

He stopped in his tracks and turned to face her.

 

"Listen, I want a piece of this."

 

"No."

 

"Yes. He's my partner and my best friend. I want who did this tohim, as much as you do."

 

"Scully, I'll take care of it. He'd never forgive me if anythinghappened to you."

 

"Give me a break, Krycek. My life is on the line, everyday. It'swhat I *do*."

 

"I understand that, but this is different. Just please, stay hereand take care of him. I'll be in touch."

 

Scully sighed heavily. "Wait." She reached into her pocketand pulled out a card. She handed it to him. "This is my cell phonenumber." I want to hear from you, *often*. If not, I'm going to comelooking for you, do you hear me?"

 

Krycek reached out a still trembling hand, and took the card from her,depositing it into the breast pocket of his jacket. "I'll be in touch."He took one more long look at the door he'd just exited, and walked away.Farther down the hall, he brushed past Byers without a word.

 

"Can you tell me now, what's going on?" he asked as he approachedScully, who was still standing in the hall.

 

"Not now Byers, I'm sorry. I really am. What time is Langly supposedto get here?"

 

He checked his watch. "My shift is over in about half an hour. Gohome. You look exhausted."

 

"I am. It's been a long night. I'll just go in for a second andsee him, then I'll go."

 

Scully entered the room and occupied the seat that Krycek had recentlyvacated. "Hey," she said, as lightly as she could. "You'regoing to love this...I'm sorry. I was wrong about him. Really wrong. I knowthat you'll make me say this again later, when you're able to give me griefabout it...you know what? I'll be glad to do it. Just please, wake up. Pleasebe okay."

 

She kissed his cheek and turned to Byers, who was more confused thanever. "Call me, if there's any change."

 

He nodded mutely and watched her leave. Not knowing what else to do,he reclaimed his seat beside Mulder's bed and picked up his book.

 

 

6:19 a.m.

 

"What was so important, Alex, that you had to come here at thishour of the morning?" The man looked Krycek up and down. "Youlook like hell, by the way. Rough night?"

 

"They got him."

 

"I'm sorry?"

 

"Mulder!" he shouted. "They *got* him!"

 

"Yes, we heard. Is he dead?"

 

"No, but he's critical."

 

"Goodness. We found the problem and took care of most of it. Toolate, I suppose."

 

"No shit. What do you mean, *most* of it?"

 

"The shooter. We've had a bit of a problem tracking him down. Butwe *have* found him, and he will be dealt with."

 

"Call your men off. He's mine."

 

"I thought you didn't want to get your hands dirty anymore."

 

"This is a special circumstance. Tell me where he is."

 

The man smiled. "I knew you couldn't suppress your instincts forlong."

 

"You're wrong."

 

"I see. All right, Alex." He handed a piece of paper to Krycek."You'll find him here. Would you like any backup?"

 

"No." He folded the paper and stuffed it into his pocket. "He'sthe last of it?"

 

"Yes. After he's taken care of, you will not be troubled again."

 

Krycek nodded and started for the door.

 

"Alex."

 

He stopped, but did not turn around.

 

"I hope everything turns out well for you."

 

Without answering, Krycek turned the knob and left.

 

 

7:34 a.m.

 

Scully opened her eyes and blinked. She immediately sat up and lookedat her watch. No phone calls from the guys. There must be no change in Mulder.No calls from Krycek, either. She wondered where he was and what the hellhe was doing.

 

She hauled herself off the bed, and taking her cell phone with her, headedfor the bathroom.

 

 

7:49 a.m.

 

The click of a gun.

 

Wally Moran would know that sound anywhere. And damn, it was close. Tooclose.

 

He opened his eyes and immediately wished he hadn't.

 

He recognized the man at the end of the weapon and began to shake.

 

"So, it's you." A voice so cold, it froze his heart.

 

"Krycek. Listen. I was just doing my job. No hard feelings, huh?You know about this stuff. You're hired to do a job, you do it. I didn'tknow you from a hole in the wall. I was told to blow the place up and Idid it. It was nothing personal."

 

"Oh, I've forgotten all about that. Actually, I'm here for anotherreason. You did something else. Something I can't forgive. You shot someoneI care for, very deeply."

 

"What? Who?"

 

"Think back a couple of days. Do you remember an apartment parkinggarage? Do you recall shooting a man in the back?"

 

Wally Moran remained silent.

 

"Sure, you do. Tall, handsome FBI agent. What was his name?"

 

No answer.

 

Krycek barked at him, making him jump to a sitting position. "Whatwas his *name*?"

 

"F-Fox Mulder."

 

"That's right. You know that, because you took his wallet and hisgun. So it would look like a robbery. Didn't you?"

 

He nodded.

 

"*Didn't* you?"

 

"Yes! Listen Krycek, I had n-no idea. I mean, how would I know?Was he your brother or something? If he was, I'm really sorry..I'm really...comeon, man. You know how it is."

 

"Don't use the word ëwasn't'. He's not dead. And he isn't mybrother, you sorry sack of shit. He's my lover."

 

Wally Moran had only enough time for a wide-eyed stare, before Krycekclosed them for good.

 

 

11:12 a.m.

 

Scully snatched the ringing cell phone from her bag.

 

"Scully."

 

"It's me."

 

"Where are you?"

 

"How is he?"

 

He was avoiding her question. She wondered why.

 

"The same."

 

"No change, at all?"

 

"No. I'm here with him, now. What about what we talked about earlier?"

 

"It's taken care of."

 

"What did you do?"

 

"What I had to do. Now forget about it, it's done."

 

Scully closed her eyes and sighed. "What time do you want to comeback? I think later is better. I'll make sure it's clear for you."

 

"I can't."

 

"Why not? There aren't more problems, are there?"

 

"Not the ones you think. He's safe."

 

"Good. Then why can't you come?"

 

Silence.

 

"Alex?"

 

"I'll be in touch."

 

Before she could argue, he'd hung up.

 

Oh, she didn't like this. She didn't like this, at all.

 

 

Thursday, 10:11 a.m.

five days later

 

The faint sigh caught Scully's attention. She peered over the foldershe held, at her partner. He was struggling to open his eyes.

 

"Mulder?" She moved to the edge of his bed. "Hey. Comeon, wake up." She buzzed for the nurse. His eyelids fluttered and tearssprang to her eyes. "That's it, you can do it. Come back."

 

Finally, he tried to focus his fuzzy hazel gaze on her. He opened hismouth to speak, but winced at the pain of the effort.

 

"Take it easy. You've been intubated for a few days. It's goingto hurt for a while." She stroked his hair. "You were shot Mulder,do you remember that?"

 

His eyebrows drew together in a frown and he shook his head, slowly.

 

"I don't mind telling you, that I was really scared this time. Youreally had us going."

 

The nurse entered and smiled. "Well, now. Look who's here."

 

Scully smiled back. "Yeah, he finally decided to rejoin us."

 

"I'll go call the doctor."

 

"Thank you." She returned her attention to her partner. "You'vebeen here, almost a week. It happened in your parking garage. You reallydon't remember?"

 

Again, he moved his head back and forth. A few seconds later, somethingvery close to terror washed over his expression. He tried to speak, butno intelligible sound would come out.

 

"Wait, Mulder. Calm down. Let me get a pen and paper." Sherummaged through her purse and came up with what she needed. She handedhim the pen and held the pad down on the bed, in front of his hand. He scribbledout an A......L....... He tried to form the third letter, but he droppedthe pen. She could see the frustration in his eyes as he felt for it. Herhand covered his. "It's okay, Mulder. I think I know what you want.Is it Alex?"

 

He grimaced with the effort it took to nod.

 

"He's okay, Mulder. Nothing has happened to him. He was here early,Saturday morning."

 

His eyes slipped from hers and moved around the room. Looking.

 

//Damn.//

 

"Mulder, we'll talk about this when you're better, okay? Right now,you've just got to concentrate on getting your strength back. Everythingis going to be fine. I promise."

 

He looked at her. Through her, trying to read what was in her eyes. Shehated when he did that. She glanced away.

 

//Stupid thing to do. Now he *knows* something is up.//

 

To her relief, the doctor entered and she was asked to step out intothe hall, while he examined Mulder. As she sat in the waiting room, Langlypassed by.

 

"Langly!"

 

He backed up into the doorway. "What're you doing in here?"

 

"He's awake."

 

"Cool! When?"

 

"Just a little while ago. The doctor is in with him, now. I...hangon." She snatched the ringing cell phone from her pocket, as Langlystepped back out into the hall, to give her a little privacy.

 

"Scully. *Yes*, I've been waiting for you to call. He's awake."

 

Alex Krycek closed his eyes and said a silent ëthank you'. "Ishe all right?"

 

"The doctor is looking at him, now. Alex, are you coming? He wasvery upset after finding out what happened. He can't talk yet, but he triedto write your name on a piece of paper. He thought something may have happenedto you, too."

 

"You told him I was okay?"

 

"Yeah. I told him you were there Saturday morning. His mind is going,Alex. I can hear the wheels turning. Can I tell him that you're coming?"

 

Krycek clutched the phone, turning his knuckles white. "I...I can't."

 

"Why the hell not?"

 

"Look what I've done to him. He's much better off without me."

 

"Alex, listen to me...I was *wrong*, okay? He needs you, here."

 

"No, he doesn't. And you weren't wrong. I can't hurt him anymore,Scully. I almost got him killed, for Christ sake. He doesn't need me. Tellhim whatever you need to tell him to help him get over it. If he ends uphating me, so much the better."

 

"*What*? That's insane! Now listen....Alex? Alex! Shit!"

 

She punched ëend', and practically threw the phone down onto thetable in front of her.

 

//What the hell am I going to do, now?//

 

Langly poked his head back into the room. "Scully, the doctor saidwe could go in, now. Are you okay? You look kinda pale."

 

"No, Langly, I'm not okay. Not by a long shot."

 

"Something I can help with?"

 

"I wish you could. Come on, let's go."

 

Saturday, 7:34 a.m.

 

"Frohike?"

 

The small man jumped up from his chair and hurried to Mulder's bedside.

 

"Hey, buddy. Finally decided to talk, huh?"

 

"Still hurts."

 

"Yeah, but that'll go away. So how do you feel?"

 

"Been better. Where's Scully?"

 

"She'll be here in an hour or so. Is there anything you need?"

 

Mulder's eyes grew distant. "Nothing you can get for me."

 

"How do you know unless you ask? Name it."

 

Mulder closed his eyes and shook his head.

 

"Come on...."

 

"Thanks Frohike, but there's nothing you can do," he croaked.

 

"Okay, if you're sure."

 

Mulder nodded and turned his head toward the door.

 

Where was he? Why wouldn't he come? He couldn't understand.

 

Today. He could talk without much pain today, and Scully was going toanswer some questions.

 

 

8:45 a.m.

 

"Morning," Scully called cheerfully, as she came through thedoor.

 

"Hi."

 

"Hey! You talked! That's great!"

 

"Well," Frohike piped up. "I'm gonna get going. Don'tforget now, Mulder. If there's anything we can do for you, just give usa holler, okay?"

 

"Thanks, Frohike."

 

As soon as he was gone, Mulder turned back to his partner. "I wantto know what happened, Scully. Starting from the night I was shot."

 

"How about some breakfast, first?"

 

"Scully..."

 

She threw her head back and rolled it along her shoulders. "Okay."

 

Half an hour and the entire truth, except for one small detail later,she fell silent, waiting for some kind of response.

 

He lay quietly for a moment, taking it all in. Then, "I don't understand.We'd been through this half a dozen times."

 

"Yeah, but it was different this time. You were *shot*. He's eatenup with guilt. Maybe after he's had time to think about it a while, he'llcome. Maybe he just needs a little time. You didn't see him, Mulder. ëUpset'doesn't even begin to cover it. He put his head down next to yours and criedlike a baby. And I knew...are you listening to me? I knew he was who youkept telling me, he was. That alone, should make you smile."

 

No reaction.

 

"Come on Mulder, don't brood. It'll be okay. He'll come back. Hecan't stay away from you, he said it, himself. Just give it a little time."

 

 

Wednesday, 2:12 p.m.

two weeks later

 

The door to apartment forty-two swung open. Scully entered, followedby Mulder. He moved slowly, gauging each step. When he was in, she closedthe door behind him.

 

"Come on, I'll get you into bed."

 

"No." He would not allow her steer him in that direction. "Thecouch."

 

She put up no argument. She could see that he was clearly disturbed atthe prospect.

 

"Okay."

 

Once he was settled on the sofa, she perched on the edge of the cushion."So...you hungry?"

 

"No."

 

"Mulder, you have to eat better than you have been. You just aboutmade it out of the hospital on what you ate. Any less, and you would'vestill been there."

 

"I'm not hungry, Scully. I can't eat if I'm not hungry."

 

"Mulder. I understand. Really I do..."

 

"How *can* you, Scully? *I* don't understand."

 

She wished she could find a way. Some magic words to say, to comforthim, but she knew that nothing short of Alex Krycek appearing on his doorstep,was going to help.

 

"Scully?"

 

"Hmm?"

 

"I appreciate everything you and the guys have done, but can I...I'dlike to be alone for a while."

 

"Mulder, it's not good to brood."

 

"Please, Scully. I need to be by myself."

 

"All right. But you call if you need anything at all, you hear?And if I don't hear from you in three hours, I'm going to call to checkon you."

 

"Okay."

 

Scully leaned over and dropped a light kiss on his nose, then headedfor the door. She turned just before she exited, and called to him. "Don'tforget."

 

"I won't."

 

The door closed softly, leaving him alone with the silence and his thoughts.

 

 

3:12 p.m.

 

Alex Krycek reclined on the sofa in his new, scarcely furnished apartment.A shot glass balanced precariously on one bent knee. He stared at it, watchingthe amber liquid shimmer.

 

//Fox must be home, by now.//

 

He knew that, not because he'd spoken to Scully, he'd been out of communicationwith her since the day Mulder had regained consciousness. He knew, becausehe'd kept a close watch on him. Never far away, but always unseen. ëStealth'was his middle name.

 

He plucked the glass from it's perch and tossed the contents to the backof his throat. He grimaced as he snatched up the beer bottle from the coffeetable and took a long swallow. His eyes glazed over as he thought of Mulder,alone and hurt, wondering why things had turned out this way. Hopefully,Scully had been merciful enough to lie about why he'd disappeared from hislife. Quick and painful was better than the alternative.

 

He took another swallow.

 

Nah. She'd told him the truth. He just knew it. She'd figure that thetruth was best. Goddamn Scully and her fucking morals.

 

 

3:27 p.m.

 

Scully sat at her desk, trying to get some work done. Since Mulder hadtactfully thrown her out of his apartment, she had nothing else to do butgo back to work and wait to talk to him.

 

She thought of him trying to sleep on that damned sofa, and wished thathe'd come to his senses, and realize that bed was the best place for himto be.

 

//Shit! The bed!//

 

Panic seized her as she realized that the bag that Alex Krycek had leftat Mulder's apartment, over two weeks ago, was sitting on Mulder's bed.When she'd come back to feed the fish, she'd noticed it on the floor, nextto the chair. She moved it into the bedroom, positive that Krycek wouldbe back. She thought, he'd even stay there, while Mulder was in the hospital,but he never went back. And the bag stayed right where she'd left it, onMulder's bed.

 

"Oh, damn. Damn, damn, damn!" Well, she couldn't very wellgo running over there, *now*. How the hell would she get the thing out ofthe apartment without him seeing? She buried her face in her hands. "Oh,I am *so* screwed."

 

 

3:33 p.m.

 

Mulder rose stiffly from the sofa. He was exhausted, and that couch justwasn't getting it. His back just couldn't take it. The wound was healingnicely, but it was still very tender.

 

He moved slowly into the bedroom, attempting to convince himself alongthe way, that it was ridiculous to never use the bed again, just becausehe didn't want to deal with the memories of Alex. Hell, the sofa held somememories, too. And the kitchen. Unless he moved into a new place, therewas just no way to look at the bed, or the floor, or the kitchen chair,or the bedroom *wall*, and not remember.

 

He sat down on the bed, bracing himself against the rush of emotion thatrolled over him. He took two deep breaths and turned onto his side. He satup again, immediately.

 

Where did this come from? This wasn't his.

 

Alex.

 

He looked around the room.

 

"Alex?"

 

No answer.

 

He looked back at the bag. When had he left *this* here? And did it meanthat he'd soon be back? Sure, it did. Why would he leave it here, otherwise?He unzipped the bag and began pulling out Krycek's clothes.

 

He was coming back. He was.

 

The ringing phone drew him out of his desperate wish.

 

"Hello?"

 

"Mulder, it's me. I know I said I'd wait about three hours to call,but I need to tell you something."

 

"What?"

 

"There's a bag in your bedroom."

 

"Uh-huh." He smiled as he fingered the worn leather.

 

"It belongs to Alex."

 

"I know."

 

"You've seen it?"

 

"Yeah. His clothes are in it."

 

She could hear the lilt in his voice.

 

//Oh God, Mulder. I'm so sorry.//

 

"Mulder, he left that bag there, the night after you were shot.The night I took him to see you at the hospital. He never came back to getit. I think he either forgot about it, or he just didn't want to come backto your apartment, for it."

 

"No, Scully."

 

Oh Jesus, he sounded so pathetic.

 

"He left it here, because he's coming back."

 

"I...I don't think so, Mulder....I'm sorry. I meant to take it beforeyou came home, but I forgot about it."

 

Silence.

 

"Mulder? Are you all right?"

 

"Yeah....yeah. Fine."

 

"I'm sorry."

 

"It's okay. Don't worry about it."

 

"Are you sure, you're all right?"

 

"Yeah. I uh...I was just about to try to take a nap. I'll talk toyou later, okay?"

 

"Okay. Call when you wake up, please?"

 

"Yeah. See you later."

 

He dropped the phone into the cradle and looked at all the clothing he'dpulled out of the bag. He gathered the things up in his arms and fell ontohis side. He stared sightlessly in the direction of the wall, clutchingall that he had left of Alex Krycek, to his chest.

 

 

 

End Part III