D.C. Rain

By Aries
Rated NC-17 m/m sexual situations and colorful language

Summary:  Think back to April. The birds are singing, the air is humming is with signs of spring, and a challenge is issued. Write a story about Alex as a hooker. Great! As usual, though, I'm months behind. In this case *seven* months. What can I say after I say I'm sorry?

So, here's the story. The alien foolishness is over. The good guys win, and everybody's happy. Almost everybody. With no conspiracies to break, and all his favorite enemies gone, Mulder's feeling out of sorts and decides he needs a long vacation. He ends up in Los Angeles *still* feeling lost, but not for long. For one fateful night, just before he goes and does something he'll end up regretting, he looks across a busy avenue and sees a familiar face. And finds one infinitely more lost than he...

Disclaimer: Dammit to eternal, flaming hell, they're *still* CC's. Not that he cares. Any characters you don't recognize are mine and of little or no importance. ::sigh::

Props to Nic for beta and for not freaking out when I call her weird little food names, and likewise to Ori, who...well, she actually does freak a little when I start singing Bee Gees songs to her. heehee  Love to you both! Mwwwah!

Permission to archive: Sure, just let me know where

Me like feedback. Feedback good. You can find me at MMCUSN@aol.com

http://www.squidge.org/terma/aries/aries.htm
http://www.slashcity.net/~denofsin/aries/ariestitle.html
********************

I had a good life before you came
I had my friends and my freedom
And I had my name

Still there was sorrow and emptiness
Till you made me glad
Oh, in this love I found strength
I never knew I had

And this love is like nothing I have ever known
Take my hand love
I'm taking you home
Taking you home

Taking You Home
Don Henley

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

The wail of sirens and thump of bass from the passing cars vibrated the partially open window, muffling the grunts and moans of the man lying flat on his back on the hotel room bed. His sweaty head rolled back and forth across the flat pillow as his thick hips pushed upward, holding to no particular rhythm as his stubby, latex-sheathed cock wobbled in and out of the mouth of the fully dressed man lying between his legs.

Sighing to himself, the younger man grabbed the other's hips and again attempted to guide him into a more controlled motion. It worked for all of five seconds, and the man was again bucking erratically.

//Ah, fuck it. Just finish already, would you?//

As soon as his thoughts were completed, the tub beneath him stiffened, his beet-red face contorting as he came noisily into the condom. He collapsed in a clammy heap on the bed, panting and wheezing while the other man quickly slid off the mattress and retreated to the bathroom.

Not bothering to turn on the light, the man pulled his toothbrush and a travel size tube of toothpaste out of the small bag he'd brought with him. He thoroughly scrubbed the taste of the latex out of his mouth and spit in the general direction of the facebowl. Rinsing, he returned to the bedroom, where the other man was just peeling the rubber off of his shriveled cock. He closed his eyes against the repulsive, sucking squishy noise and didn't open them until he heard the condom hit the inside of the waste basket by the bed.

"God, that was good," the man on the bed spoke at last. "My wife never wants to," he explained as he began to pull his clothes on. "She thinks its disgusting."

Dark eyes took in the abundance of pasty white flesh and listened to the breathless grunts as the man dressed himself, then they quickly darted away.

"Can't imagine why..."

The deadpan statement when right over the man's head. He pulled his shoes on and stood up, reaching into his wallet.

"Seventy-five, was it?"

"Yeah."

"You know, I can get the same thing from any of the others for forty." He held the bills out, but the other didn't reach for them. Instead, he nodded to the nightstand. The man dropped the money down beside the bed and folded his wallet.

"Then, why didn't you?"

The man shrugged. "I heard you were worth the seventy-five. You're sure a lot prettier than any others I've seen. That alone is worth a little extra."

The other stood his ground and said nothing.

"Well..." The man looked at his watch. "Better get outta here. The wife'll have a bird if I'm much later. But uh...I'd like to see you again. Maybe spend a little more than fifteen minutes together."

The other stifled the shudder that passed through him. "Whatever."

"Okay...see ya."

The man ambled out of the room leaving the other alone.

He walked slowly to the nightstand and fingered the bills for a moment before picking them up and sitting at the edge of the rumpled bed.

Seventy-five dollars for fifteen minutes.

Fifteen revolting minutes with a fat, sweaty lump of a man whose wife, for reasons unknown only to him, refused to give him head, so he decided to come on down to boys' town and take a walk on the wild side.

Not exactly the easiest or most pleasurable way to make a buck, but hell, there were worse ways too. And he knew them all.

Neatly folding the bills, he shoved them into the front pocket of his jeans then rose from the bed, and picked his jacket up off the nearby chair. He checked his watch and sighed softly.

Still relatively early. He could probably get a couple more in before calling it a night.

Willing his stomach to cease its nightly protestations, he donned the worn leather jacket and slipped back out into the sticky Los Angeles night.

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

The office door squeaked open with no notice, and the petite redhead walked in and stopped midway to her partner's desk. She shook her head and completed her trek, laying her hand on the golden-brown cushion of the sleeping man's hair.

Pens and sheets of paper scattered as the man sat bolt upright, squinting up at the woman.

"What?"

"Sorry, Mulder, I didn't mean to scare you, but do you know what time it is?"

The man shook his head, rubbing one eye.

"Almost eleven."

"What're you doing here, then?"

"Looking for *you*. Did you forget you were supposed to check in with me on the Santa Fe case?"

"No."

"Then, why didn't you?"

"Because I didn't find what I was looking for." Mulder pushed away from the desk and stretched his six foot frame out to its full length. "Guess I fell asleep while I was still researching. Sorry 'bout that." He looked up at his partner. "I don't get it though...why didn't you just call me?"

"I couldn't reach your cell."

Frowning, the man reached into his pocket and checked his phone. "When did I turn this off?"

Scully sighed heavily. "You've been doing that a lot lately, Mulder. Where the hell's your mind?"

Mulder leaned back in his chair, not making any attempt to respond.

"You haven't really been here for months now," Scully continued. "Not since..."

"I know," Mulder interrupted softly then shrugged. "I'll live." He gave his partner a half hearted smile. "Weird, huh? We've been working for years to bring Smokey and his friends down, and now that we have, I feel so...I don't know. Like it's all over. There's nothing more for me."

Scully pulled up a chair and dropped into it. "I understand that. It's not just the thrill of the chase that you've lost either." Scully eyed the man behind the desk. "Your mother's gone...now you're sure about your sister. It's a hell of a lot to lose in such a short time." She leaned forward, making sure she had his attention. "Maybe you should take a break. Go on a long vacation and just relax."

"Why?" the soft monotone asked. "It's not like I'm up to my neck in work anymore."

"Yet, you're here at eleven at night. Mulder, go home. Worry about this tomorrow."

"Yeah." Mulder rubbed at the inside corners of his eyes then looked around at the mess on his desk." "Yeah, I guess so."

Not bothering to tidy up, Mulder rose, plucking his jacket off the back of his chair. He shut the lights off and followed his partner out of the office, closing the door softly behind him. They walked in silence for a while, and when they reached the parking garage, he turned weary eyes to her.

"You know, maybe I *will* take some time off."

Cerulean eyes widened in surprise. "Really?"

"Why the hell not?" Mulder threw up his arms, walking toward his car. "I guess I *could* use a little down time."

Scully stared at the man as he opened his car door. "Okay, that was just too easy. Do me a favor, Mulder, and don't do that to me too often. I'll start to think something's really wrong with you."

Mulder gave his partner a hint of a smile and folded himself into the front seat of his car. "See you tomorrow, Scully."

The two left the parking garage, parting company as they had every night for seven years. Scully to her apartment, Mulder to his.

It could have been an X-file. As puzzling as any mystery the duo had investigated.

Seven years together, and nothing. Not a hint, not a speck of romance. There *was* love between them, no doubt of that. But not the kind most would expect. Their affection for each other was born of respect and trust and the quickly learned knowledge that they could depend on no one but each other. That solidarity, forged in the fires of distrust and corruption, kept them alive and earned them victory over those who sought to obliterate all humanity.

And now that the danger had passed, they could relax. Celebrate even, but neither had found much cause for celebration. The toll that the years-long battle had taken on both their lives was too great. The losses suffered too profound, and now all either could do was move on.

There was still a job to be done, and they did it. Though, Scully had noticed, with infinitely less enthusiasm on Mulder's part. No case, regardless of how bizarre held the appeal for him that it once had. He was always thorough and expeditious enough in his investigations, but the spark, that sometimes infuriating, ever present Mulder-flair with which he had attacked each case had all but vanished.

He definitely needed a long vacation. Not that time off was going to restore his lost vigor, but perhaps it would help clarify things for him. Maybe he could get his thoughts together and decide if he even wanted to continue on with the X-files anymore.

Or with the FBI for that matter...

Mulder pulled up to his apartment and exited the car, dragging himself up the steps and into the lobby of the building. Proceeding up to apartment number forty-two, he inserted the key into the lock, thinking as he did, about the countless times this very lock had been picked. Entering the apartment, he dropped onto the sofa and ran his fingers through his hair.

//Don't have to worry anymore about *that*.//

Unless he was actually being robbed, he'd never again have to concern himself with walking in and finding uninvited guests rummaging through his belongings or pointing weapons at his chest.

The golden-brown head dropped back against the cushion of the leather sofa, and he sighed.

"All the fun's gone out of your life, Mulder. All the intrigue...all the challenge."

He shifted, stretching himself out and closing his eyes.

"What the hell's left?"

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

Two men walked slowly down the sidewalk, checking out tonight's offerings.

"Holy shit, Jason, would you look at that one?"

"For God's sake, don't *point*," the other man warned. "Some of these guys may *look* like femmes, but a lot of them would slit you open as soon as look at you."

Scott broke into laughter then choked it back, noting the serious expression on his friend's face. "You're not shittin'?"

"No, I'm not. D'you know Bobby Martin?"

"Bobby with the limp?"

"Yeah. You know where he got that limp?"

Scott shook his head.

"He messed with some scrawny little guy down on Sunset. Was making fun of the way he was dressed, and the little shit pulled a blade on him. Put a five inch gash in his arm, then knocked him to the ground and he and a friend of his started stomping on him. Broke his leg in two places."

"*Shit*. So why the hell did you bring me down here if it's dangerous?"

"It's only dangerous if you fuck with one of them. Hey...speaking of dangerous." Jason motioned with his head. "Look at that one."

Scott let out a long, breathy moan and turned to his friend. "You don't think *he's* one, do you?"

"Nobody hangs out down here unless they're looking or advertising."

"He could be looking."

Jason shook his head. "No. No, he's just sitting there. He's selling."

"God, I can't believe it."

"C'mon, let's go."

Scott put on the brakes as his friend walked in the direction of the green bench. "Whoa. Go where?"

"To talk to him."

"You shittin' me?"

"No."

"Jason, don't you think there's a reason he's still out here and not in some rich guy's Mercedes?"

"Won't know unless we talk to him. Now, come on."

The two approached and looked down at the man sprawled on the bench.

"Uh...s...s'cuse me."

Long, dark eyelashes lifted, and a laser-green stare fixed itself on the two young men.

"I. I uh...*we* w-were wondering if you..."

The eyes shifted to the street, watching the rush of late night traffic.

"Spit it out, boys."

Jason gulped in a lungful of warm air. "We were wondering....h-how much?"

"For what?"

Scott touched the other man's arm. "C'mon, Jason, let's go."

One corner of the perfectly bowed mouth slanted upward. "Your boyfriend's copping out, Jason. Sure you don't want to reconsider?"

Jason pulled his arm away from Scott's grasp. "No, I...I'd...how much?"

God, the eyes were on him again.

"I repeat. How much for what?"

"Straight fuck." Jason breathed deeply, proud of himself that he was able to get the two words out with some semblance of confidence.

"Just you? Doesn't look like your friend is in any condition."

"Uh, no..both..."

"Jason..."

Jason turned in Scott's direction, mumbling. "Come *on*, Scott. When the hell are we ever gonna a chance like this again? *Look* at 'im."

Before the other could protest again, he turned back to the seated man. "Both."

Sharp eyes sized the two up then looked to the spokesman. "Five hundred."

"*Five*..."

Shrug of one leather-covered shoulder. "Take it or leave it."

Jason turned to his friend, who had already begun to back away.

"Where are you going?"

"What d'you mean, where am I going? You're not actually thinking about it. Damn, Jason, that's *way* too much."

"You have two fifty, Scott, I know you do."

"Yeah, I got it, but..."

"Gimme it."

"*No*."

The low, gravel and honey voice drifted in the direction of the arguing young men, stopping all conversation.

"Could you two take this someplace else? You're not exactly helping business, you know?"

The two walked a few feet away and picked up where they'd left off.

"Scott, you're never gonna get this opportunity again, and you know it!"

"I'll live with the disappointment," Scott snapped back. "That's too much money to spend."

The other man laughed. "Really? And how much did you spend on Kevin, huh? Over the span of three weeks you can't tell me that you didn't blow at least a grand taking him here and there, wining and dining him, and what did you get out of it?"

Scott sighed heavily. "He dumped me for that asshole Richard."

"That's right. At least *this* is a sure thing. Less expensive, and he's twenty times finer than Kevin could ever even dream of being." Jason bounced up and down for emphasis. "Come *on*, Scottie. You'll live to regret it if you don't..."

The green eyes flicked up to the two men as they again approached the bench, then slid away.

"You two look familiar."

"Yeah. Uh...five hundred, right?"

"Waste any more of my time, and it'll go up to six."

"We got a deal," Jason said quickly, reaching into his pocket.

"Not here," the smoky voice commanded, stopping him in mid-reach. Wait till we get to where we're going."

"Okay, uh...where *are* we going?"

The man lifted himself from the bench and looked down at the other two. "Don't you have a place?"

"No. Uh...we thought you would..."

"That's not my job. You secure the place. You *pay*."

"*More* money?" Scott wailed, incurring a censoring glare from his friend.

"Yeah, okay," Jason answered, "but...can you recommend a place?"

The tall man blew out an exasperated breath and stalked away. "Come with me."

The two men followed at a safe distance as the other moved with feline grace through the maze of people. They followed him to a building not very far from the bench where they'd found him, and, to prevent an argument between his companion and himself, Jason put out for the cost of the room. The three walked down a long corridor to room twenty one, and Jason unlocked the door, allowing the tall man to enter first.

"Hey, by the way," he called, tossing the key down on the nearest chair, "we don't know your name."

"No, you don't," the other answered, stopping in the middle of the floor and staring at the two.

"Well, I'm Jason, and this is Scott."

Still, nothing but a cool, emerald stare.

"So...uh..." Jason looked around. "What do we...how do we start?"

"It's your money."

"Yeah. Yeah, I guess so."

"Which, by the way, I'll take now."

"Before we do anything?"

"Well...in case your very white friend over there passes out in the middle of it, I don't want you getting any ideas about stiffing me for half of our agreed price. I hate having to hurt nice young men like yourselves."

"W-we wouldn't do anything like that."

"No, you won't. Now...cash on the table or this is all off."

Jason quickly pulled the money from his pocket then turned to his companion. Reluctantly, Scott handed his half over, and the five hundred was dropped on the table. The other man walked over and picked the pile up, turning each bill so that it was face up and in order according to value. He then folded the wad and put it in the front pocket of his jeans. Giving the young men a mocking glare, he glided away, slithering out of his leather jacket.

A soft whimper arose from one of the pair on the other side of the room as the man dropped his jacket over the back of a chair then, in one fluid movement, pulled his white t-shirt up and over his head. Letting it fall on top of the jacket, the man turned and looked at his customers.

"The night ain't gettin' any younger, boys."

Jason nudged Scott forward and followed close behind and they cautiously approached the other.

"You gonna undress?"

"Huh?"

"Take your *clothes* off. Unless you'd *rather* come in your pants. By the way...you've got rubbers, right?"

"Yeah." Jason pulled a couple of packets out of the back pocket of his pants.

"Okay, let's get on with it."

He watched the two fumble out of their clothing while he slowly peeled off his jeans, and when they had finally stripped, he sank down on the bed and pulled himself back against the pillows.

"We doing this or what?"

Hearing the impatient snap in the other man's voice, the two lay down on the bed, flanking him. Jason hesitated for a moment, then lifted one shaking hand and let it rest on the man's chest. Slowly, he let it wander over the virtually smooth surface, and sent a smile in his companion's direction.

"Come on, Scott," he encouraged softly. "God, he feels like silk."

Bored, green eyes rolled up into the man's head, and he dropped them back down to stare at a picture across the room.

Timidly, Scott touched the hard abdomen, forcing himself to stroke the warm flesh.

"You're gorgeous," Jason commented softly as his courage built, and he moved closer.

"I've been told."

"I'm sure you have," Jason whispered, his face moving closer. Before his mouth could touch the bowed lips, the other stopped him with a firm hand on his chest.

"I don't kiss."

"With a mouth like that? Seems a shame."

"Yeah, whatever. I don't do it."

"Maybe you've just never kissed the right man before."

"And you think you're him?"

Jason backed off at the irritated tone.

"Listen, skippy. You wanna fuck, fine. But that's all you get. I don't kiss. Not you, not anybody. Okay?"

"Okay. Sorry."

"Don't apologize, just do what you paid me for, and hurry up about it. It's getting late."

"All right. Uh..." Jason ripped one packet open and rolled the pre-lubed condom on then gently separated the prone man's thighs. After a bit of fumbling, he finally managed to work his cock into the other. As he began to thrust, Scott began to whimper.

"Oh, God. I can't...I can't believe you're actually.."

"Shut up, would you?" Jason ground through clenched teeth, cutting his friend off in mid sentence. "You're screwing me...oh...oh, *shit*..." His body spasming erratically, Jason came then fell forward onto his hands, gasping for breath. "Oh, God, that was fantastic..."

//Oh, yeah. All twelve seconds of it.//

Jason pulled out and fell onto the bed, dragging a satisfied gaze up to his companion. "Come on, Scott. Your turn."

"Yeah, come on, stud," the man droned. "Let's see if you're as...good...as your friend here."

Shaking violently, Scott took the place previously occupied by his friend, and struggled to hold himself together while he pushed his cock into the man beneath him.

Once the second man was inside him, the other decided to have a little fun. As the young man began to thrust, he tightened his muscles, squeezing Scott's cock.

"Oh, *God*!" the young man shrieked, losing all control and collapsing onto the hustler's chest. Before he could draw a steadying breath, the other man rolled him onto the bed and sat up.

"Well, that was interesting." Hopping over Scott, the man landed without a sound on the carpeted floor. Quietly, he dressed and looked down at the two had just pulled themselves off the bed and were reaching for their clothes. "You boys have a nice night."

The young men watched as the other draped his jacket over his shoulder and stalked out of the room, leaving them alone. There was a moment of quiet, then Jason looked to his companion and smiled.

"You believe we just fucked that?"

Scott returned the smile, chest puffing with pride. "Yeah. *Damn*, Let's go tell somebody."

"Who?"

"Anybody we can find!"

The two finished dressing and, already blowing the story they would tell way out of proportion, bounded out of the room in search of their friends.

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

"A month?"

A.D. Skinner leaned back against his desk, arms folded across his chest, focusing a surprised gaze on his agent.

"Yes, sir."

"God knows you've got the time accumulated, but..." Skinner shook his head. "It's just very....well, quite frankly, I'm shocked."

Mulder nodded and said nothing.

"When do you want the time off?"

"Immediately."

The A.D.'s eyebrows rose above the rims of his glasses. "If that's what you want."

"It is."

"Very well, then. Effective immediately, you're on leave for one month."

Mulder rose from his seat and met the other man's eyes. "Thank you sir. Uh...why don't we make that five weeks?"

"Five weeks," Skinner repeated flatly.

"Well, I need a week or so to plan..."

"All right, Mulder. Five weeks it is."

As he turned to leave the office, Skinner's voice followed him.

"Do you know where you're going?"

"I don't know." Mulder stopped at the door and opened it before he turned around. "I was thinking someplace warm. Maybe California. Scully and I were in L.A. last year, and I thought then that I'd like to go back for a visit. You know, see Hollywood and all that."

Skinner nodded. "Well...have a good trip."

"Thank you, sir."

Mulder exited the A.D.'s office and made straight for his own, cleaning up the mess on his desk and dropping a few files on Scully's. His partner walked in moments later and immediately noticed that for the first time in ages she could actually see the top of his desk.

"Got your time off, did you?"

"Yeah," Mulder answered absently. "Scully, I put a couple of files on your desk. Would you handle those for me? It's nothing big, but they really should have some attention."

"Yeah, sure." Scully picked up one file and perused the contents. "So, are you going someplace?"

"Hmm?"

"Are you going to take a trip anywhere? Don't tell me you're just going to hang around your apartment for four weeks."

"No. No, I'm not. I was thinking about California."

"Hmm. Any particular reason?"

"Not really. I've just never seen it aside from those two days we spent there last year, and I think I'd like to."

"Oh."

"In fact, I was just getting ready to call the airline and see if they've got any specials."

"Don't be a cheapskate, Mulder. The way *you* live, you've *got* to have a good chunk of change stashed away. Splurge for once. Pamper yourself."

Mulder emitted a soft laugh.

"Seriously. Go shopping on Rodeo Drive..."

"I don't shop."

"Visit a spa..."

"I don't sit in mud."

"For God's sake, Mulder," the redhead huffed. "What the hell are you going there for, then?"

"The scenery? Celebrity stalking?"

"Wonderful. God, Mulder, you're impossible."

Mulder dropped down into his chair and picked up the phone. "Yeah, and just think. You don't have to deal with me for a whole month."

"Ah, heaven." Scully sank into her own seat, grinning. "Hurry up and get the hell out of here, would you?"

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

Three-ten a.m.

The man dragged into the small apartment, removing his jacket as he entered. Not bothering to turn any lights on, he walked straight into the bathroom, stripping off his shirt as he moved. He tossed the garment into the open hamper then removed the rest of his clothes and turned the shower on.

While the water ran, he brushed his teeth then stepped under the spray. Gritting his teeth, he endured the pounding of the hot water as he squeezed some bathwash into the sponge and began to lather his skin.

A good night.

All in all he'd made just a little over twenty five hundred dollars, and he didn't even have to work very hard for it.

There were some nights though, when he really had to put out. Nights when he'd known as soon as a customer approached him that he was in for a hard time.

Fucking middle-aged men. They were the worst. Especially the ones with money. He'd make them pay through the nose, but they expected a lot for their money. He'd come home bruised and sore many a night, but hell, those things faded. And the money he'd made would go a long way in getting him the hell out of this hole one day.

He turned his face up to the spray, laughing bitterly to himself.

Today, a major player in a global game, tomorrow, a whore, living hand to mouth and fucking anyone who waved the right amount of green in his face.

Didn't seem a fitting reward for someone who had had a key role in saving the world.

Well, at least there were still streets for him to walk. The world was still here, and he was still in it. But who the hell knew it'd turn out like this?

Somehow, that smoking bastard had gone behind his back and gotten his wrinkled hands on all of his assets while he was working behind *Smokey's* back to destroy him and all his plans. Only when it was all over did he discover that he'd been cleaned out and left with nothing. All he had in the world was the contents of his apartment and the little bit of money he'd stashed away in it. When it was time for him to disappear as he'd agreed to do, he'd had no choice but to take what little he had and go. Alex Krycek may have been a murdering low life, but he never went back on his word.

So, now he was here. Clear across the country, alone and doing what he had to do...what he he'd always been good at, to make as much money as he could, as *quickly* as he could, so he could get the hell out and go live a quiet life somewhere.

Alone.

Like he'd always been...

He rinsed off and stepped out of the shower, drying himself with a thin towel and stopping in front of the full length mirror on the back of the door. Watching his hand move the towel across his chest and arms, he sighed softly.

//Not bad at all for a guy who's been through all the shit you have. Too bad it's been wasted on people who really couldn't appreciate it.//

'People' being all those men who cruised boy's town looking for that which they couldn't get at home or anyplace else. Horny bastards with more money than brains, who could work their kinks out without all the guilt.

And then there were the others.

The shriveled old queens he worked for back in the day...the men who took full advantage of his looks and talent while he was too young and stupid to object.

He came to hate those fuckers...shuddered at the hunger he saw in their watery eyes when they looked at him. Vowed, even as he kneeled in front of any one of them, that one day the tables would be turned and he'd bring *them* to their arthritic knees.

Oh, yeah, and of course there was Walt Skinner.

It had only happened once...while he was cuffed to the A.D.'s balcony. There was no removal of clothing and no premeditation involved, but still...

After Mulder had brought him to Skinner's apartment and left, Skinner came back and beat him some more, and he could tell from the other man's expression...the way he'd touched him and growled his words so close to his face that he'd been possessed by something more than anger.

Unable to go anywhere, he could do little more than curl himself up into a ball and take the blows. When Skinner wrapped an arm tightly around his neck and began to hump his back as he spat obscenities at him, he'd simply closed his eyes and waited for it to be over. When it was, Skinner fell away from him, looking very dazed. Realizing what he'd just done, the older man got up and stumbled away, leaving him alone for the rest of the night...

Tired, green eyes fell away from the image in the mirror, and Alex walked into the bedroom. Pulling a pair of underwear out of the dresser, he put the black boxer briefs on and fell onto his bed. Staring up at the ceiling, he began to wonder why he'd even bothered.

//Double crossing assassin helps save world full of lecherous assholes and gets a big kick in the ass for his trouble. Film at eleven.//

He laughed out loud then fell into a pensive silence as another passed into his thoughts.

Fox Mulder.

The only man in this whole mess who'd ever touched him and not shown even the slightest bit of sexual interest in him.

With good reason, Mulder had beaten his ass on more than one occasion, even attempted to kill him. And he'd never fought back. Never so much as tried to defend himself, and he'd always asked himself why. The only answer he would ever give himself was that he'd known he'd deserved it. He'd earned every bit of the man's hatred, and maybe it was the guilt he'd felt that made him always lie down at take whatever Mulder had to dish out...

And, if he was finally going to be honest with himself, maybe it was that little thrill that he'd always felt whenever he was in the man's presence. That shot of electricity that buzzed his nerves with every encounter...

The day he'd surprised Mulder in his apartment, his entire body felt like a spring, wound tighter than he could ever imagine. And every snide word, every glare that the other man had leveled on him felt like a serrated knife skittering along his jagged nerves.

He hadn't known what the hell had possessed him to kiss Mulder just before he'd left, but he couldn't help himself. He'd known that the action might well get him killed, but he had to, he...

The shock of Mulder's non reaction nearly knocked him back on his ass, but he'd pulled himself together and regained enough of his cool to get up and glide out of the apartment. He'd managed to get all the way to his place before he'd sunken in a boneless heap on the floor in front of the bed and let thoughts of what could have happened run wild.

He'd jerked off three times that night as his mind ran through scenario after scenario.

Himself...the aggressor, holding Mulder's own gun on him and forcing Mulder to submit and eventually enjoy himself...

Mulder...shooting a hole in the wall by his head with his returned weapon, threatening to kill him if he didn't do as he'd said, and fucking him right there on the living room floor...

The two of them...eyes locked, each attempting to stare the other down, but somehow winding up crawling naked all over each other...

And when a few hours sleep and the cold light of day snapped him back into reality, he picked up, pushed thoughts of beautiful green-gold eyes and that mouth that was just made for sin, to the back of his mind and went on with his business...

Alex turned onto his side and closed his eyes, letting his thoughts continue to drift. He wondered what Mulder was up to lately. Wondered if he'd finally found some peace now that it was all over...if now that he and Scully didn't have so much else on their minds, they would actually discover each other.

He flipped onto his stomach and groaned into the pillow.

God. Mulder and Scully?

//No. She's not the one. Not what he needs. He's too passionate. Too unstable. She can barely handle him in a work relationship. She wouldn't know what to do with him sexually, I know it. He'd be way too much for her fine, patrician senses to take.//

He was sure of it. One look into those furious, gilded eyes many years ago had told him all he needed to know about Fox Mulder. And if things had been different...if Mulder had swung that way, he would've...

"Knock it the fuck off and go to sleep, would you?"

He flipped onto his back and settled down for what would turn out to be a commonly restless sleep.

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

//What the hell was I smoking?//

Mulder walked into the Regent Beverly Wilshire, looking around the lobby, knowing now why he was paying two hundred and fifty dollars a night.

//You let Scully talk you into it, remember?//

//Yeah, yeah. Could be worse, I guess. I could be staying here the *whole* month...//

He had decided to spend two weeks in the city and two in the country, hiking maybe, and just spending some quiet time alone with his thoughts. Scully had asked him if he was insane, wanting to spend time in a sleeping bag when there was so much to do and see in the city, but he'd made up his mind, so he'd booked a cabin in the mountains for the last two weeks of his vacation.

"Fine, Mulder," his incensed partner had snorted. "But I'll tell you this. You go get lost up there, you're gonna *stay* lost, 'cause I'm not looking for you!"

Mulder smiled as he remembered the good natured taunting, and was still smiling when he approached the front desk.

An attractive brunette woman with medium blue eyes returned the smile, looking the new arrival up and down.

"Good afternoon, sir. Can I help you?"

"Yes, thank you. I made reservations about a week ago. The name's Mulder."

The woman tapped a few times at a computer keyboard, and her smile widened. "Ah yes, here we are. Mulder....Fox Mulder?"

"Right."

The woman raised her perfectly plucked eyebrows and continued to tap at the keyboard. "All right, Mr. Mulder. You're in room twelve-fourteen." She completed his check in, summoned a hovering bell hop, and while she handed Mulder's key to him, the man placed all of his bags on a cart and stood waiting for him.

"There you go, sir, and I hope you have a lovely stay at the Regent."

Mulder smiled and nodded, and followed the bell hop to the elevators. The two boarded alone, and a few seconds after the doors closed, Mulder turned to the young man and struck up a conversation.

"So...I've never been to California...not on vacation. Do you recommend anything?"

The young man smiled and shrugged. "Well, there are all the usual tourist attractions. The movie studios, Rodeo Drive, tours of the star's homes..."

Mulder nodded and said nothing as the doors opened, and they stepped out into the hall.

"...restaurants galore...nightlife is jumpin'...any kind of club you're interested in, you can find it here. You'll find a complete directory in your room."

The two stopped in front of room twelve-fourteen, and Mulder unlocked the door and stepped inside. "Nice," he commented looking around the lavishly appointed room.

"If there's anything else you need, I'm here till eleven," the young man pointed out. "Just call down and ask for Rudy."

Mulder pulled out his wallet and handed the bell hop a bill. "Thanks, Rudy."

The young man left, closing the door softly behind him, and Mulder picked up the largest of his bags, depositing it on the king-sized bed. He got halfway through unpacking and quit. He lay down across the bed and yawned, vowing to close his eyes for just a few minutes, but wound up falling asleep for more than three hours. The ringing of his cell phone startled him awake.

"Mldr."

"Mulder, where the hell are you?"

He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and sat up. "Where'd I tell you I was going, Scully?"

"You're at your hotel?"

"Mmm hmm."

"How long have you been there?"

He looked at his watch. "'Bout three hours. Started to unpack, and I guess I fell asleep."

"Is that why you sound all groggy?"

"Guess so."

"Well, I won't keep you then. I just started to worry. You can call me tomorrow when you're settled, okay?"

"'Kay."

"Night, Mulder."

"Night."

Night.

Not really. It may have been ten o'clock in Washington, but it was only seven here.

And, he'd just realized, he was starving.

Deciding on just staying in his room tonight, Mulder found the directory and menu, and called down for a fried chicken dinner, then set about unpacking the rest of his clothes. By the time he'd put everything away, dinner had arrived, and he settled down with the remote and started flipping through the channels.

Passing by all of the garden variety news and entertainment programs, he found the pay movie channels and started looking for something interesting. Speeding by a blonde woman in a bathing suit two sizes too small for her, lying on the hood of a silver sports car, he stopped and backed up, memorizing the channel.

"Hmm. Maybe. Let's see what else is on."

Four adult channels later, he happened upon a brief scene of two men by a pool. One was lying on a chaise, wearing a pair of gauzy white pants, and the other, approaching from his left was working a black t-shirt out of his jeans and pulling it over his head. As the man in jeans began to kneel beside the one in the chair, the scene froze and an order number appeared on the screen.

Mulder stared for long seconds, his thumb caressing the order button. Then, biting down on his lower lip, he changed the channel. When he'd completed his search, he found himself back at the channel he'd paused on. There was a different ad on now, though still involving two handsome, half-dressed men.

Mulder's leg began a spasmodic bounce, and he sucked insistently at half of his lower lip.

Been a long time.

The last time he could remember being with a man was just after Diana Fowley had left for her new job. He was in Chicago working on a case and butted heads with the agent he'd come to help. They'd argued constantly and pissed each other off on a regular basis, and days later found themselves tangled together in the sheets of the other man's bed. They'd never seen each other again after the case had concluded, but Mulder had always remembered the encounter.

He'd been attracted to other men over the years, but nothing had ever come of it. He'd never been the sexually aggressive type...not when it came to his own gender. Maybe it was his job that stopped him from going after an attractive male...perhaps it was the fear of Scully's response. He wasn't quite sure, but whatever the reason, he'd kept his homosexual attractions to himself...

Mulder closed his eyes for a moment, taking a long, deep breath.

Though, in one exceptional case, they'd always seemed to get the better of him. And it pissed him off to no end that he'd never been able to remain in tight control.

Thus, the violence.

It had served him well; even the object of his fury had not suspected that it was lust that had boiled in his veins alongside the anger, but the encounters had always left him feeling empty and regretful. Yet, he knew with all certainty that whenever they'd met again, the process would be repeated. And it had been. And when it had all ended...when it was all over, in those moments when he'd allow himself to be a little morose, he'd not feel the relief that he thought he should.

As agreed, his favorite adversary had disappeared...vanished, completely and forever, and those brief, confusing moments that had followed, he'd wondered what would have happened if he had asked him to stay...

No.

Good.

It was all for the best that he had gone.

One more huge source of stress removed. Deleted from his life as quickly as he had been inserted...

Mulder groaned softly, feeling the dull throb in his pants, and before he could think about it further, pressed the order button. Minutes later, he was watching two beautiful, well-built men visually devouring each other across the room in a smoky, crowded club. In record time they were in the back seat of the dark-haired man's car in a secluded spot, grunting and sweating as one drove into the other with as much force as their cramped quarters would allow.

As he watched, Mulder's hand absently undid his pants and slid inside, lightly caressing his rigid cock while the man who was being fucked grasped his own erection and started pumping relentlessly.

Unable to resist the urge to do the same, Mulder's hand tightened and he began to work his cock feverishly, bringing himself to a fast orgasm as the men on screen wailed and howled their own satisfaction.

Mulder lay spent, watching through weary eyes as the two men cleaned up, refastened their clothing, and went their separate ways.

//This is nice. Lying in bed, jerking off to porn and paying two fifty a night for it. You could be doing *this* shit at home, and it wouldn't cost you more than four ninety-five for the tape rental.//

Mulder pulled himself off the bed, cleaned up and returned naked to bed, crawling under the sheet. Two hours and a movie and a half later, he'd jerked off once more and finally fell into a heavy, dreamless sleep.

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

The tall, dark figure moved effortlessly through the crowd, prowling the street he'd walked every night for several months. Sharp, blue eyes watched him from the air conditioned interior of the Jaguar, noting how he stood out amongst the herd of hustlers and customers.

"Mmm, mmm, mmm. Too, too pretty."

The man stepped out of the car, gliding through the mob and coming to stand in front of his chosen companion for the night.

"Excuse me."

Icy, green eyes assessed the man standing before them.

Casual but expensive dress. Tall, fit, not bad looking. Maybe about ten years older than he was. A good prospect.

"Yeah?"

"I'm looking for some company for the night. Are you interested?"

Alex made another show of looking the other man up and down. "Depends."

The other smiled. "On what?"

"On how interested *you* are."

"I'm *very* interested. Like a grand worth of interest."

That'd work.

Alex stepped closer, letting their bodies brush just slightly. "What exactly are you looking for?" he rasped, just loud enough for the other to hear.

The other man's mouth curved up into a salacious grin...

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

Well, that was an...interesting day.

After getting lost half a dozen times and having his windshield washed more times then he could count, Mulder had finally found the attractions he'd intended to visit. But because of the severe loss of time, he'd cut each sojourn short.

Returning to his hotel room at seven, he'd showered, shaved and changed into a pair of lightweight black pants and dark gray silk shirt. He had a light dinner in his room then headed out to some of the spots Rudy had told him about.

Spending a wasted three hours, Mulder left the fourth club with a massive headache and the suddenly strong desire to be back in his hotel room with the remote and a handful of aching cock.

//God, you're pathetic. You're on vacation, asshole. *Act* like it.//

He walked the long boulevard, attention drawn to a club just about ten yards ahead.

Men...lots of men. Some in pairs, holding hands, others in groups, and still others alone, walking through the door of the place Mulder had now reached. He sighed softly, debating on whether or not to go in, when a good looking man with dirty blonde hair brushed by him then turned around and gave him an encouraging wink.

//Come on, vacation boy. Live a little.//

Mulder moved forward, passing through the door and paying the cover charge before nudging his way to the bar.

The place was mobbed, and he had to wait a little bit for the bartender to make his way over to him, but that was fine. He entertained himself by watching several separate seductions taking place within his line of vision.

//Unreal. I never knew there were this many...//

"So, you decided to come in."

Surprised hazel eyes turned in the direction of the voice belonging to the man he's seen outside of the club. He hesitated then nodded silently.

"Are you waiting for someone?"

"...No."

The man leaned against the bar, facing him.

"Me either. I'm Shawn."

No answer.

"Can I ask you your name?"

There was another long hesitation, then, "Mulder."

"That your first name?"

"No, it's just what I prefer."

"I see. Parents saddle you with something awful like Chester or Homer?"

Mulder shrugged. "Something like that."

"Okay, Mulder. Can I buy you a drink?"

"N-no," Mulder protested, looking for the bartender. "I got it. As soon he finds his way over here."

Shawn smiled and whistled, gaining the attention of the man behind the bar.

"Yo, Vinnie! Two beers when you get the chance." He turned to the man still standing beside him. "Beer okay?"

Mulder opened his mouth to speak,  but ended up just nodding.

The beer came minutes later, and at his insistence, Shawn paid the tab

"Thanks," Mulder murmured, looking down into his open bottle, not knowing what else to say.

"You know, I like shy men," the other whispered, leaning in close enough for Mulder to hear. "Especially when they're as pretty as you."

Mulder swallowed hard, trying to get the sudden lump in his throat to move.

"Are you from around here?"

The golden-brown head shook slowly.

"I didn't think so. Can you tell me where you *are* from?"

"East Coast."

"I see. What are you doing all the way out here? Visiting family?"

"No, just. I...I'm on vacation."

"Alone?"

"Yeah. Really needed to get as far away from work as I could."

"Ah. High stress job?"

"You could say that."

Shawn nodded, staring quietly for a number of seconds. Then, "If you don't mind, could you...could you look at me?"

Mulder looked up but past the other man's face, eyes skittering around the large room, then finally settling on the dark brown eyes.

"Pretty eyes," Shawn complimented softly. "I think I could very easily get lost in them."

Golden-brown lashes swept downward, hiding the amber-flecked green irises as Mulder took a long swallow from the bottle.

Shawn watched the way the other man's lips wrapped around the bottle, and his cock, which up until now had been whispering insistently to him, was now screaming its need.

"Judging from your obvious discomfort, I'd guess that no one has ever told you how handsome you are." Not waiting for an answer, he moved even closer, daring to skim the other man's cheek with his knuckles. "You are, you know. But you don't believe me, do you? You think I'm handing you a line?"

Nothing.

"Would you dance with me?"

Mulder looked up, suddenly slightly alarmed.

"No. N-no, I..."

"Can't dance?"

"No. I can dance, I just..."

"Then, come on." The other man stood, holding out his hand. "Half a dance. Please?"

Mulder licked his lips nervously, unwittingly sending a shock of electricity rocketing through the other man. He hesitated for a moment, then reached out and took the proffered hand and let Shawn lead him through the crowd and onto the dance floor.

Gently, Shawn pulled the other man against him and began to move.

"I knew you'd move like this," the blonde man moaned, pressing their bodies together. "Smooth. Like a big cat."

Okay, that was just a bit corny, but Mulder couldn't deny that he liked the feel of the other's body brushing so intimately against his.

And then his surroundings turned a sort of reddish gray.

Cautiously, Shawn nuzzled Mulder's ear before his tongue slithered out, teasing the sensitive interior. He smiled as he felt the other's body tighten, and his breath draw sharply.

Taking advantage of  Mulder's momentary discomposure, his hand slid down to the deliciously rounded ass and pulled the slightly taller man forward, letting him feel the stony length of his erection.

"Mulder," he purred into the other man's ear. "I...I'm sorry, Mulder's just not sexy. Please tell me your first name."

A bit overwhelmed, Mulder curled his fingers in the material of Shawn's shirt and whispered shakily.

"Fox."

Shawn drew back, staring into glazed eyes. "Fox?"

The other nodded.

"Oh, God, now *that's* sexy." He moved in again, brushing the tip of his nose against Mulder's cheek before again murmuring into his ear.

"Come home with me, Fox. Let me make you feel the way your body is begging me to make you feel."

Mulder shook his head, whispering half-heartedly. "No N-no, I can't, I..."

"Yes you can," Shawn breathed. "Just take my hand and come with me. I promise, I'll make you feel like no one ever has."

//Don't do it.//

Slowly, Mulder's hand moved down the other man's back and dropped to his side, twining their fingers together.

//Slut. Easy, pathetic *slut*...//

Smiling, Shawn backed up, pulling Mulder with him. A few steps later, he turned around and led the other man through the sea of bodies and out to the exit.

As they stepped outside and the night air hit them, Mulder breathed deeply, trying to shake off the heavy lethargy that had claimed him in the thick heat of the club.

Apparently Shawn realized the possibility of losing his edge, because he stopped and dragged Mulder up against his body, laying a fast, demanding kiss on him, stealing his breath and weakening his limbs.

"God, you're irresistible," he sighed, gently humping the other man. "I've never wanted anyone so badly before..."

Far back in his muddled brain, Mulder knew it was bullshit. He knew the man had probably done this to every halfway decent looking, lonely guy he'd encountered, but at this precise moment in time, he just couldn't bring himself to care. He needed this, as temporary and superficial as it was, and he would *not* allow guilt or good sense to intervene.

"My car is just down the street," Shawn offered, nipping lightly as the lower lip that fascinated him so.

"Let's go," Mulder answered, being pulled down the street before the two words were even completely out of his mouth. He walked along with the man he'd met less than an hour ago, content to remain in his dream state until he glanced across the street.

A congregation of men. And cars. Dropping off and picking up, and he realized that those on the sidewalk were prostitutes. Male hookers doing business with anyone who would meet their price. And standing by a Jaguar, swaying against the probable owner of the car...

Shawn gasped slightly, being pulled backward by the man whose hand he held tightly to.

"Fox? What's wrong?"

Mulder gave no answer. Mainly because he'd not heard the question. He was too engrossed in watching the tall, dark, leather-jacketed man across the street.

It couldn't be.

But it looked so much like him.

//Get off it. You know how many guys there are in the world with his build and coloring, who own leather jackets?//

There could be thousands. Millions, and Mulder would be able to pick him out of the crowd.

The way he stood. The arrogant tilt of his head. Men could resemble him, but he could mistake *no* one for Alex Krycek.

The couple got into the car, the other man opening the door for Krycek's double, and the Jaguar roared away, leaving the man on the other side of the street staring stunned after it.

"Fox? Come on, babe, talk to me. All of a sudden you've just gone white. You feeling okay?"

Hazel eyes blinked rapidly, and Mulder looked back at the other man. "Yeah. Uh, yeah, I...Sh-Shawn, I'm sorry, I can't...I can't go with you."

"What? Why not?"

"I just...I can't, that's all. I'm really sorry."

"You don't mean that," Shawn drew nearer, touching his face. "You're just getting cold feet. Come with me, and it'll be okay..."

"No." Mulder shook his head. "It won't. This was a mistake from the beginning. I really am sorry. It's still early. You can find someone else."

"I want *you*."

"I can't." Mulder backed away. I thought I could, but I..."

"You wanted to. You wanted me."

"I...I know. But I don't now. Please, just let it go."

Anger finally got the better of Shawn when he realized that he would not be able to convince Mulder to change his mind.

"Fucking bitch! Goddamn cock tease," he shouted, drawing unwanted attention. "The pretty ones are all the same. Well, fuck you!" And with that, he spun on his heel and stalked off, finally leaving Mulder alone.

Without a second thought for the other man, Mulder turned and headed across the street.

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

"What's a gorgeous thing like you doing out here hustling?"

"What's a rich thing like you need a hustler for?"

The man behind the wheel chuckled. "You're quick. Not *too* quick, I hope. I like it long and slow and deep."

God, money made no difference. They were *all* a bunch of trite, phony assholes.

"How about you?"

"I like it the way you like it, baby," Alex purred, turning on the sugar as he rubbed his hand over the thousand dollar wad in his front pocket.

"I'm glad to hear that. We're going to have a good time, sexy."

//Riiight.//

The car pulled up to a darkened house, and the Jaguar rumbled to a stop inside the garage below the structure. The man alighted from the vehicle and stood, waiting for his hired companion to do the same. When Alex had stepped out, he smiled and waved him forward.

"Come on in."

Alex followed the man into the house, silently appraising his surroundings.

"Would you like something to drink? Anything to eat?"

"No. Thanks."

"Just want to get right to it, huh?"

Alex gave the man a forced smile. "Can't wait," he whispered in his smokiest tone, running his tongue over dry lips.

The other man grinned and led him into the huge bedroom, unbuttoning his shirt as he walked. As he reached the king-size bed, he turned and faced the dark man.

"You *are* beautiful. Why don't you take off your jacket?"

Not advancing an inch, Alex removed his jacket and let it drop over a nearby chair, then returned his attention to the other man.

"Now, the rest of your clothes. Slowly. Tease yourself as you do it."

Alex did as he was asked, his eyes constantly rising to those of his temporary employer. Pulling his shirt off, his hands gently stroked his skin, lightly teasing his nipples.

"Beautiful and proud," the other droned. "That's what I thought as soon as I saw you. Can't be too proud, though, can you? Letting strangers fuck you for cash..."

Oh, good. One of *those*.

Alex knew the type. Wusses at work, impotent at home in the shadow of a domineering partner, and needing someone to denigrate.

"Do you enjoy being another man's hired bitch?" the other purred. "Do you enjoy being nothing more than a cheap fucktoy?"

Alex forced his clenching jaws to relax, telling himself as he always had to, that this was just temporary. Soon enough it'd be over, and he'd be a thousand dollars richer and none the worse for wear...

Sable lashes drooped over the dark eyes, and Alex pinched a nipple, gasping for the stupid shit's pleasure. "Yes."

"Good. Because you're my bitch for the next two hours. Now, finish undressing."

Alex removed the rest of his clothing, standing in the middle of the room, fondling his cock and balls as he watched the other man watching him.

Drawing labored breaths, the man ran one hand over his crotch and stepped away from the bed.

"Come here, bitch. Get on your hands and knees and crawl to me."

The right of corner of Alex's mouth twitched, and he slowly dropped to his knees then leaned forward onto his hands. Gathering up every ounce of self-control, he crawled to the man and rubbed his cheek over the silk-covered thigh.

"Good boy," the other croaked, unzipping his pants. "Now, suck my cock."

Alex reared back on his knees and glared up at the other man, all pretense gone. "Not without a rubber."

"I'm clean."

"That's nice. No rubber, no head."

"You're spoiling the mood."

"Tough."

The other man sighed, going over to the nightstand and pulling a condom out of it. Rolling it on, he again took his place in front of Alex. "You're too damn cocky, you know that?"

"I've heard."

"I think I should turn you over my knee."

"Thought you wanted me to suck your cock?"

"I think you need a spanking more."

The green eyed man emitted a harsh laugh. "You could try."

The game had changed a bit. No problem. He was adaptable.

The other man reached forward, grabbing a handful of sable hair and pulling firmly but not so hard that it hurt. He knew that thousand dollars or no, this whore would not take it. He dragged Alex with him over to the bed and attempted to pull him up onto the mattress.

Putting up an adequate struggle, Alex allowed the man to come out on top, letting himself be forced onto his stomach on the mattress. The man kneeled above him, pinning his arms over his head.

"So," the man panted, raising his hand and letting it come down with a firm crack over Alex's ass. "You were saying?"

Alex groaned and struggled against the hands that held his wrists pinned to the bed.

God, the shit he did for a buck...

He jumped at the delivery of the second smack, and whimpered loudly. "Please, don't. God, it hurts. I'll do anything..."

Once again firmly entrenched in his fantasy, the man gave Alex another smack, this one harder than the first two, pulling a sharp yelp from him.

//Watch yourself, asshole, or the party's gonna be over real quick...//

"You asked for it, pretty bitch. I'll bet you've been asking for it for a while." He leaned down, letting his words vibrate in Alex's ear. "But no one's been man enough to give it to you until now..."

//Christ. Oh, yeah, stud. You da man.//

Alex writhed and ground his hips into the mattress.

"Look at you. You need it bad, don't you?"

"Yes," Alex choked, turning his head to look beseechingly up at the man. "I n-need it. Please..."

//Spitting distance from Hollywood and a brilliant career in acting, and what am I doing?//

The man released Alex's wrists and ordered him to turn over. As soon as he had, his customer immediately kneeled over him, straddling his throat. The idiot never even noticed that he wasn't the least bit aroused.

"Open your mouth, whore."

Holding his sheathed cock by the base, he rubbed it over Alex's lips, groaning when the talented tongue stroked over the head. With a quick flick of his wrist, he hit Alex's mouth with the rigid shaft, watching satisfied as the other man flinched.

"You didn't ask permission," he sang softly, hitting the prone man again, harder.

"Please," Alex gasped, having all he could do to keep from biting the man's dick off.

"That's better. Ane since you asked so nicely..."

Before he could take a proper breath, the cock was being shoved down his throat, pistoning in and out as the other managed to capture his hands and pin them down by his head.

Truly on the verge of choking, Alex fought to free himself, but he was in a much less advantageous position, and the sheer momentum of the older man's actions severely handicapped his coordination. He lay trapped beneath the other's weight, attempting to regulate his breathing and relax his throat, and just before he succumbed to failure, the man pulled out of his mouth, roughly rubbing his cock against his face.

"How's that, bitch?" the man gasped, fast in the grip of his own personal form of hysteria. "You like that?"

Alex squeezed his eyes shut, gritting his teeth, waiting for his chance. The moment the man's cock came close enough, he moved, clamping his teeth painfully down on the shaft.

"*Shit*! Oh..oh. shit..."

Alex tightened his jaws a bit more, drawing a pained and frightened whimper from the other man.

"Please," he begged breathlessly, doing his best not to move. "I'm...I'm sorry. Just got a little carried away..."

"Yeah, you did, Alex hissed after letting his teeth scrape along the length of the latex-covered shaft. "Get the fuck off me."

Grateful to still be fully intact, the man scrambled off the bed. Alex immediately followed, pinning him by the front of his Gucci shirt to the nearest wall.

"You blew it, motherfucker. You could have played your stupid little game and come like you never have before, but you had to get greedy."

"Sorry...I'm sorry."

"You really are," Alex sneered, letting the man go and getting dressed. When he'd finished tucking his shirt into his pants, he picked up his jacket and turned back to the man who had now slumped down in a pathetic heap on the bed.

"I'll be driving your car back. Don't worry, I won't wreck it. I'll leave it two blocks east of where you picked me up in the parking lot of Lupe's Mexican restaurant. Pick it up there after one."

The other man nodded and said nothing.

Unable to resist himself, Alex smacked the back of the other's head.

"Later, bitch."

Alex strolled out of the house, not allowing himself to breathe until he was on his way back to boy's town.

He'd been lucky, and he knew it. As he'd suspected, this asshole really was nothing more than a rich, sniveling weakling trying to play it big, but he very well could have been exactly what he had tried to be. It wouldn't have been the first time Alex had run into that kind of trouble.

It had happened not long after he'd arrived in California. He'd conducted business with one man...left the area with the same man, and when they'd arrived at their destination, there were three others waiting. They'd taken him by surprise, dragging him snarling and cursing to the floor, but far from easily.

He had put up a vicious fight, and the none of the four men had escaped the brunt of his fury, but in the end, they had managed to get the better of him, and each had a turn, brutally assaulting him.

Laughing, the group had thrown a hundred dollars at him and limped away, leaving him badly battered and bruised, and out of commission for almost two weeks. Fortunately, he'd tested negative for STDs, and the memories of that night had made him much more cautious. He'd re-employed the instincts that had kept him alive during his Consortium years, and was never again taken by surprise. In fact, his attitude had given him such a reputation that regulars down in boys' town had nicknamed him 'The Executioner'. Truthfully, he was shocked that he'd attracted as much business as he had...

He pulled into the lot of the restaurant and parked the car, throwing the keys on the floor and locking the door. Chuckling to himself, he stalked out onto the sidewalk and made his way back to his territory.

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

Weary, hazel eyes searched the throng for almost two hours, looking for the one Mulder knew he'd seen.

While he stood there in the shadows of a dark doorway, he'd been approached several times by men with tired lines and more money than brains. Generally, they just moved on when he declined, but a couple of times he had to go so far as to flash his badge. The would-be customers quickly slunk away, grateful that they'd been fortunate enough to elude arrest.

Now, he stood unbothered, searching, searching, and when he was just about to throw in the towel, a familiar figure caught his eye.

The tall, dark man in the black leather jacket. The same one who had gotten into the Jaguar with that older man.

The very same one who had tormented him for years...

Alex Krycek moved smoothly through the crowd, drawing the attention of hookers and johns alike, and the intense focus of the man hidden from view in the doorway.

Taking a seat on his usual bench, he stretched out, assuming an arrogant sprawl and was immediately approached by a man who looked to be about his age. They spoke for a short while, then Alex got up and escorted the man around the corner as unseen, a third joined the private party.

"I've never done this before," the young man whispered urgently. "I just dropped my date off at home, and it was a first date, and he didn't want to...he had these beautiful green eyes, and the way he danced. I swear, he was doing it on purpose. I was just so turned on..."

Alex shook his head, amused by the other man's anxiousness.

"Okay, slow down or you're going to hyperventilate." He backed the nervous man into a dark corner, stroking his chest. "What do you want?"

"I need...I...I just want to take the edge off, you know? And you've got the same color eyes..."

"Uh huh. All right, baby, take it easy." Slowly, his hand drifted downward, caressing the bulge in the other man's pants. "How about a nice blowjob?"

"Yeah. God, yeah."

"Seventy-five bucks."

Quickly, the man dug into his pockets, counted out seventy-five dollars, then let his head thump back against the brick as Alex dropped to his knees. He looked up at the overcome man and smiled. "You got a rubber?"

"Oh...sorry. Yeah. I uh..." the customer reached into his back pocket and pulled a packet out.

Alex took the foil wrapped condom from the young man and unzipped his pants, pulling his already weeping cock out. Efficiently, he tore open the package and rolled the condom on.

From his vantage point, Mulder watched, anger and some other emotion he couldn't name stabbing at his insides as Krycek sucked the other man's cock down his throat.

The other man pressed his lips together, fighting valiantly to keep silent while the hooker's head bobbed quickly on his cock. But his orgasm was approaching fast and furious, and Jesus Christ, it felt so good...

Alex grasped the standing man's hips, forcing him to move in a frantic rhythm, and before he knew it, the other was sobbing uncontrollably as his cock shot a bountiful load of semen into the reservoir of the condom.

The young man slumped against the wall when it was done, chest heaving as Alex rose to his feet and gave him a tolerant nod.

"Good luck with your new boyfriend. Hope he's worth the wait."

The shadows receded as Alex turned and sauntered away, and when he was safely past, Mulder slowly moved out into the open.

"Jesus."

An exclamation of dismay and arousal...and that one other emotion that he couldn't name.

Before he could even try to talk himself out of it, he stepped cautiously back out onto the street and found the object of his search prowling through the crowd, heading down the opposite way from which he had come.

Following at a safe distance, Mulder walked quietly behind the other man, ducking out of sight at the slightest hint that Krycek was going to stop or turn around. Ten minutes later, his quarry ducked into an old, three story apartment building in a rundown but comparatively quiet neighborhood. To his good fortune, he discovered that Krycek's apartment faced the street, because seconds after the other man had disappeared inside, a light went on in the second window from the north corner on the second floor of the otherwise dark apartment.

Memorizing that information, he stood for a while longer, staring up at the window until the light finally went out, then made his way back to where he'd parked his car.

For the entire duration of the twenty minute walk and the drive back to his hotel, Mulder's thoughts never left the man he thought he'd never see again, let alone see here in L.A...doing the things he was doing.

Yeah, Alex Krycek had always been an amoral low life, but *this*. Sure, he looked the same, and okay, his arrogance seemed firmly in place, but there was something. Something there behind all the attitude that tugged at Mulder's heart.

This was bad. Oh, God, this was very, very bad. He shouldn't be feeling this way. He *couldn't* be. Alex Krycek deserved no pity from him.

He shook his head as he pulled up to the hotel and handed the keys to the valet.

No, it wasn't pity. It was...God, it was a possessive kind of tenderness, that, when he'd finally put his finger on it, made his head pound and his cock throb, and Jesus God, this just couldn't be. Possessiveness? *Tenderness*?

No. Not a chance in hell. Pity was better. He could live with feeling pity. He didn't have to drive himself up the walls, asking himself how the fuck he could possibly be feeling *pity*. He wouldn't spend the entire night awake like he knew he was going to, fantasizing about what could come of these intense feelings of *pity* if he went to Krycek and admitted them...

Mulder reached the elevators and stumbled into the first available car. Thankfully, it was empty. He fell against the wall, pressing the heels of his hands to his eyes.

//God, why? Why does he continue to appear in my life and turn everything upside down?//

//What the hell are complaining about? You know deep down you missed him.//

//No. No, I...fuck! I don't *want* to. I don't want to miss him. I don't want to *think* about him. Whatever his life is now...however it turned out, it serves him right for all the damage he's done.//

//But in the end, he came through. Stop pushing that little fact conveniently to the side. He's not *exactly* who you thought he was.//

//No, he isn't. Now you can add whore to your list. He fucks and sucks other men for money, Mulder. Is that what you want?//

The elevator stopped on Mulder's floor, and he stepped into the hall, walking on shaky legs to his room. Unlocking the door, he wandered in and fell in a boneless heap across the bed, staring up at the ceiling.

//But, *why* is he doing it? For kicks? Because he *needs* the money? What would have happened that he would end up hustling on the streets of L.A.?//

Mulder closed his eyes, unable to get the image of Krycek on his knees, sucking that man's cock in that dirty alley out of his mind.

No. Something had to have gone terribly wrong before or just after he left Washington. The Alex Krycek Mulder knew got on his knees for no one.

Anger surged again, but the emotion was not directed at Krycek. It was *for* him. Mulder lay on his bed, face twisted into a scowl as he imagined the things his once brazen, cocksure adversary was forced to do for money.

It wasn't right. Alex Krycek was a beautiful, proud son of a bitch, and...

And...

And he couldn't believe he was *thinking* this stuff. When the *fuck* had he noticed that Alex Krycek was beautiful?

Mulder rolled over onto his stomach then rolled right back into his original position groaning at the pressure of his throbbing cock against the mattress.

//Are you kidding? You'd have to be stone blind *not* to have noticed.//

"Stop!" he shouted at himself, jerking into a sitting position. "So he's here. So he's out there in the street, selling himself. So *what*? It's not your fucking concern! Forget about Alex Krycek. He's out of your life. *Leave* it that way."

Good pep talk.

Too bad it was about to go over like a lead balloon.

Mulder hauled himself up off of the bed and stormed into the bathroom, turning the shower on full cold. Stripping off his clothing, he stepped under the frigid spray, attempting to freeze out all thoughts of the man who had brought him nothing but trouble since they'd met.

Teeth chattering, Mulder refused to leave the shower until his erection had completely subsided. When he had finally gone soft, he turned the shower to warm, washed quickly, dried himself and fell naked into bed. He'd barely closed his eyes when images of Krycek returned to haunt him.

Only this time, it wasn't some faceless stranger he was sucking off...

Mulder gritted his teeth so hard, he thought they'd crack, but nothing stopped his cock from re-awakening. Painfully fast it sprang to life, rasping against the sheet and screaming for relief.

Furiously, Mulder threw the sheet off and wrapped his hand around the aching shaft, jerking frantically. He came in a matter of seconds, groans strained through his still clenched teeth. Exhausted and still strangely dissatisfied, he lay there, hand closed limply around his spent cock...and his mind started to work...

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

Five-twelve a.m.

One green eye slowly opened and glanced at the alarm clock by the bed. It snapped shut, and its owner emitted a soft whine.

//Christ, what's that? Three hours?//

Alex Krycek lay quietly, trying for all he was worth to go back to sleep, but twenty minutes later he gave up and rolled out of bed, cursing to himself.

So many months had gone by. He thought that by now he would have taught himself to sleep in, but no way. No matter what time he went to bed, his eyes were usually open before six. And since his new business was generally done at night, he rarely slept for more than five hours any more.

Dragging himself into the bathroom, he showered, brushed his teeth and, throwing on a faded pair of jeans and a stretched out t-shirt, he padded barefoot into the kitchen to make some coffee.

While the coffee brewed, Alex stood at the counter spinning his Frosted Flakes around in his cereal bowl. When they'd finally gone soggy, he drained the milk into the sink and dumped the cereal into the trash. He poured himself a cup of black coffee and drifted into the living room, sitting on the wide window sill and looking down at the street.

There was some movement below, but very little. Certainly not enough to distract his attention from the thoughts that had begun to seep into his brain.

Images of himself. In some future time, sitting on the porch of a small house. Cabin, maybe. Far from the stink and the noise of the city. Fresh air. No construction, no traffic, no horny assholes waving money in his face...

Just him.

Alone.

By himself.

As always.

God, he didn't want to be alone. He wanted someone. Someone he could go to sleep and wake up with. Someone who would want all of him and not care who he had been and what he had done...

//Oh, yeah, sure. There's no such animal.//

//Well...you can dream, can't you?//

He closed his eyes and began to elaborate on his fantasy.

There he was. Sitting on that front porch. Coffee mug balanced on bent knee as he read the paper. His partner...his lover approaching from inside the house...a soft smile on his beautiful lips...such tenderness in his eyes.

Magnificent, changeable hazel eyes...

Alex's head snapped up, and he blinked rapidly.

What the hell was that? Why was he suddenly thinking about this man?

//Stop. Just knock it the fuck off. Mulder was ages ago. He's not in your life anymore. Fuck, and even when he was, it was nothing like what *you're* imagining, so, why?//

Thumping his head against the window frame, Alex moaned softly wondering what it would be like to have those gorgeous eyes looking on him with affection and not hatred. He wondered what it would feel like to have those long, elegant fingers wrapped around his cock and not his throat. And he wanted to know what it would be like to have that strong, sinuous body pushing his into a mattress instead of slamming it up against a parked car or an airport wall...

//Oh man, you've lost it, you know that? You've finally lost it. Stop this insanity. *This* is your life...at least for now, and when it isn't, it'll just be you. And a dog, maybe.//

Still, even knowing what a deranged fantasy it was, he couldn't help wondering...

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

Night.

Finally.

Mulder had spent most of the day sightseeing, but if asked what he'd seen, he didn't know that he'd really be able to say. Most of that time had been spent in a haze of confusion. The only time he'd given his full attention to anything was when his gaze caught a man resembling the one he'd watched so intently last night, weaving his way through a throng of shoppers across from the sidewalk cafe where he was sitting. By the time he'd made it across the busy street, the man had disappeared.

Moving back to his seat at the cafe, Mulder had dropped heavily into the chair, asking himself just what the hell he thought he was going to do if he had caught up with the man and found out that he was indeed who he'd thought.

Did he think he was going to talk to him?

What if Krycek didn't *want* to talk? What if he'd spit in Mulder's face and told him to fuck off?

Thinking himself right into a massive headache, he'd paid his tab, left the cafe and made his way back to his hotel room, where he'd jerked off and then had a nap before heading out again after nightfall.

Now, here he was, across from the very place he'd first seen the object of his growing obsession.

Waiting.

As it turned out, he didn't have to wait long.

Hazel eyes narrowed on the dark figure that had appeared from the south, moving through the parting crowd. Before he could reach his usual bench, his attention was drawn to a Cadillac that had just pulled up to the curb. Mulder watched, blood racing as Krycek prowled over to the vehicle and bent to talk to the driver. Seconds later, he opened the door and got in, and the car pulled into traffic and left the area.

After standing frozen for what seemed like ages, Mulder willed his legs to work, and he crossed over to the other side of the street. Not exactly sure why he'd done so, he wandered through the crowd, studying the men as they studied him. When one approached him and asked if he'd like some company for the evening, he answered the hooker's question with one of his own.

"Do you know all the guys who work this area?"

The slight blonde looked him up and down. "Maybe. What's it to you?"

"Do you know the one with dark hair and green eyes? He just left here in a Cadillac."

The other man heaved an exaggerated sigh. "You mean the Executioner?"

"The what?"

"That's what the regulars around here call him. Look, do you want to spend some time with me or what?"

Mulder shook his head. "No. No, I'm sorry, I just..."

The man threw his hand up in front of Mulder's face and turned to walk away.

"Wait."

"You're wasting my time, handsome. I'm not out here for simple chit chat."

"I'll make it worth your while."

Cocking his head, the blonde sashayed back in Mulder's direction. "Will you, now? And all you want to do is talk?"

"That's it. It'll only take a couple of minutes."

"Hmm. Okay, forty bucks."

Mulder pulled his wallet out, plucking out two twenties and handed them to the other man.

"What d'you want to know?"

"I want to know about the man we were talking about. The Executioner as you call him."

The other shrugged. "Well. We ain't exactly friends. He ain't nobody's friend. But man, the customers love him."

"Why?"

"I ask myself that same question. Sure, he's gorgeous, but he's got an attitude as big as all outdoors. Word is, he's beat the shit out of a few of his own customers. That's how he got the nickname..."

One corner of Mulder's mouth twitched into a tiny grin.

''*Plus*, he charges more than anybody else around here. Still, they flock to him."

"He must be good."

"Guess so."

"How long's he been here?"

The other shrugged. "Months. I don't know."

"So, you said he charges more than anybody else. About how much would that be?"

"I think it depends on the customer. But, like...where the rest of us are charging twenty-five to fifty for a head job, he starts at like, seventy-five. And they *give* it to him. Unfuckinbelievable."

Nodding, Mulder handed the man another twenty and thanked him for his time then moved to an inconspicuous spot.

Pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, thoughts...crazy thoughts started to spin through his pounding head. Then, suddenly, before he could count the reasons why he shouldn't, he turned and stalked off, an insane plan forming in his head.

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

"Oh, God. Oh, yeah, baby."

Beads of sweat pricked the older man's forehead as he drove harder and harder into the man beneath him. The tightening muscles around his cock as he withdrew, took him straight to the edge of desperation, and his movements turned frantic.

"Jeez. Oh...oh, Christ. Yeah. Harder. Oh, God...oh, my God..." He tried fasten his lips on the other man's, but was immediately pushed away.

"Come on, baby," Alex purred, distracting the man and clamping down as tightly as he could on his cock while kneading his back and ass. "So good. Fuck me...faster...that's it. Come on, give it to me."

Losing all control, the man slammed into Alex, grunting loudly as he came. He collapsed on top of the younger man, gasping, but the prostitute gave him no time to catch his breath. Alex pushed him onto the mattress then rolled away and, picking his clothing up, headed toward the bathroom.

Appearing minutes later, Alex approached the bed, where the man still lay face-down.

"Are you alive?"

The salt and pepper head nodded slowly, and the man rolled onto his back, staring up into apathetic, green eyes. "You're fucking amazing."

No answer.

"I don't think I've ever come so hard..."

"I gotta go."

The other man sat up, rubbing the back of his neck. "Oh. Okay, uh...just let me go get dressed." He gathered up his garments and brushed by Alex, stroking the stubbled cheek as he moved.

Alex flinched slightly, but the other man was so wrapped up in satisfaction he hadn't even noticed. Now alone in the room, he walked over to the window and drew the curtain aside, gazing blindly out at the street below. He was still staring when his customer emerged from the bathroom and walked up behind him. The light but sudden pressure of arms closing around him brought him back to startling reality.

"Shit!" the man shouted, being knocked back into the wall. "What the hell's the matter with you?"

"Why'd you do that?"

"I...I didn't mean you any harm. I just...I only wanted to...well, you just looked kind of sad."

"I'm fine," Alex snapped. "And even if I wasn't...you always go around hugging hookers?"

"N-no. It's not something I make a habit of. But like I said, you just looked...I thought you could use one."

"Very sensitive of you, but if our paths ever cross again, I'll tell you now. Don't ever do that again."

"I'm sorry," the other man apologized. "I didn't mean to upset you."

"Whatever." Alex snatched up his jacket and headed to the door. "I gotta get back."

"Yeah. Sure," the other man said soothingly, remembering what he'd heard about this guy's temper. "No problem. Come on, I'll take you back."

Less than an hour later, Alex was back at his apartment, having decided on an early evening. He was in no mood for any more bullshit tonight, regardless of how little he'd made.

He entered the small, tidy apartment as he did every night, removing his jacket and hanging it on the hook behind the door. Next, he turned on the light and faced into the living room, frowning.

Standing stone still, his eyes scanned all that he could see, determining that nothing was out of place or missing. Still, there was something.

Performing another scan, his eyes went to the envelope lying on his coffee table. Quietly passing it by, he checked the other rooms, and when he was satisfied that no one was there, he returned to the main room and sat down on the sofa.

//What the hell is this?//

Looking around once more, he gently lifted the envelope, noting that it was fairly heavy. Carefully, he ripped open the flap and peered inside.

Money. And nestled beside the bills, a folded piece of white paper.

Withdrawing the contents, he quickly counted out a thousand dollars then unfolded the paper and read the carefully printed block-style note.

A thousand now, another thousand
when you meet me at the Regent Beverly
Wilshire tomorrow night. Ten o'clock, room
1214. Another thousand if you spend an
entire two hours with me. The door will be
unlocked.

Alex stared at the note and then the money.

Three thousand dollars for two hours.

Freak.

It was the first word that came to his mind, and his immediate thought was to keep the grand he had and just not show up. But that curious little voice inside him told him to go. Just be extremely careful and go see what this was all about...

The lights in the second floor apartment went out, and though they could no longer see a thing, dark eyes continued to stare up at the window.

//He'll come.//

Mulder's heart pounded frantically in his chest at thought of what he'd just gotten himself into.

//No turning back now. Whatever happens, there's no turning back.//

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

Nine p.m.

Alex looked at the clock, drumming his fingers on his knee.

Now or never.

He'd spent the entire day cleaning, reading...anything he could find to do to keep his eyes off of the clock, but they always managed to sneak a peek at it.

He couldn't understand what all the anxiety was about. It wasn't like he'd never been in a rich man's hotel room before, but there was something about this encounter...a feeling he had that wouldn't go away. In fact, it only got stronger as the hour got later.

He'd asked himself time and time again during the course of the day if he just might not like to change his mind about the whole thing, but the answer was always the same.

You have to go.

And it wasn't just the three grand...okay, yeah, that had *something* to do with it, but not everything. He wasn't sure what the other reason was, but he did know that if he didn't go, he'd spend the rest of his life wondering. And he hated not to satisfy his curiosity once piqued.

He walked into the bathroom and checked his appearance in the full length mirror, smoothing and tucking the black clothing he'd chosen, then turned and quickly exited the apartment.

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

Nine fifty.

Mulder drew a deep breath and looked down at the busy street. Why, he didn't know. At this height, he doubted seriously that any figure would be easily discernible, but he watched anyway. When the white taxi pulled up, and a dark figure stepped out, his heart began to pound triple time. And he knew with all certainty that this was the man he'd been waiting for.

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

//Well, here you are//, Alex told himself as he walked through the elegant lobby of the Regent looking for all the world like he belonged there. Quickly locating the elevators, he took a deep breath and took the first available car to the twelfth floor. Once there, his pace slowed as he walked the length of the corridor, counting off the room numbers.

Twelve-ten, twelve-eleven....

He stopped in front of room twelve-fourteen and stood at the door, listening. Not a sound could be heard within, but he willed his hand to touch the knob and open the door. It was indeed unlocked as the note had specified, and he walked into the dimly lit room. Looking around, he found a note on the table by the window propped against a bucket of chilling wine. He lifted the small slip of paper and read.

Next to this note you will find a black
silk scarf. Please put it over your eyes
and tie it behind your head. You will
not be harmed in any way, but should
you change your mind, the second
thousand dollars is in the envelope to
the right of the ice bucket. You may take
it and leave.

Alex hesitated, passing his tongue over suddenly dry lips, then, glancing around once more, he lifted the envelope and tucked it into the inside pocket of his jacket. His fingers went down to the black silk, skimming over its softness, then closed around the material and secured it over his eyes.

Seconds passed, and he felt a presence in the room. Drifting nearer and nearer, it stopped directly behind him. A hand stroked up along one sleeve, and even through the leather, Alex could feel it trembling. Breath, warm and sweet fanned his neck as a second hand repeated the action on his other arm and his jacket was gently pulled away.

Finding his voice, Alex took a deep breath and asked, "What's with the blindfold? You butt ugly or something?"

No response.

"You gonna talk to me?"

Faintly scratchy skin brushed the back of his neck, and he felt the negative shake of the man's head.

"So, how am I supposed to know what it is you want me to do?"

A hard body pressed up against his, and the man reached past him, dragging what he assumed was a chair away from the table. Gently, he was maneuvered and pushed down into the plush seat, and a nervous hand glided over his hair before the presence receded a bit. He heard the other sit as well, and then there was the tinkle of ice, and the sound of liquid being poured. A glass was pressed into his hand, and he felt the coolness of the wine searing his extremely warm palm.

"If you think I'm going to sit here blindfolded and drink something you gave me, you're out of your fucking mind."

The presence drew near again, and from the proximity of it, Alex figured that the man was now kneeling before him. A hand wrapped around the one holding the glass and guided it to the other's lips. On his own, Alex lifted his other hand and touched the spot where the man's lips met the glass. Satisfied that the other was drinking, he pulled the glass away and tentatively raised it to his lips.

The wine soothed his parched throat, and Alex lowered the glass after a long drink, balancing it on the edge of the table. He sat quietly for long seconds, waiting for ...something, but when the other made no move, he spoke again.

"The wine is nice and everything, but...I gotta let you in on a little secret. Getting me lit isn't necessary. I'm a sure bet."

Mulder's body tensed at the utterance of the few words.

Yes, he was. Of course he was.

The man was a hooker, for God's sake. A prostitute who was only here for the money. None of this meant anything to him. He cared about nothing. He felt *nothing*.

And that knowledge saddened him as much as it angered him. Perhaps just a little bit more.

Bringing a hand to Krycek's face, Mulder stroked the creased brow then slid down his cheek and cupped his face. Slowly, he moved forward, and as his lips just barely brushed Krycek's, the younger man jerked away.

"No kissing."

Mulder froze, their lips just millimeters apart. Letting Krycek feel the caress of his breath for a while longer, he then shifted and let his mouth whisper across the other's jaw.

Quickly checking a slight shudder, Alex raised the glass again to his lips.

Mulder watched with fascination as the blindfolded man drank, still unable to believe that he had done this. Alex Krycek...hated enemy turned grudging ally, here. Thousands of miles from where they'd started. Back in his life in a way he'd never have dreamed.

"You can't possibly be paying me three grand to sit and drink wine, I don't care how rich and eccentric you are."

The other man's words jarred Mulder out of his thoughts and brought his attention back to the task at hand.

Still kneeling before the seated man, Mulder drew a hand over one tense thigh, stopping far short of Krycek's crotch and slipping down to glide over the side of his leg. Up the hand moved, over the younger man's hip and waist, then over the taut belly to his chest, stopping to tease the patch of skin visible just above the first fastened button.

Alex placed the glass on the table and sat quietly while the kneeling man gently parted his legs and moved between them. Now brushing lightly against his hardening cock, the other leaned forward and slowly undid the buttons on his shirt, his mouth touching each inch of newly exposed skin...

Alex drew an unsteady breath, trying to maintain his cool while attempting to understand why his body was reacting this way. It was just another job, for Christ's sake. Just like the hundreds of others. He'd never felt anything before; why now? He'd only had what he estimated to be a half glass of wine, so he couldn't blame it on that. He'd had men try to seduce him before...clumsily...and felt nothing.

Now there was this man. This john, this customer who had bought and paid for him for two hours, and he was making him feel like...like...

He couldn't describe it. It wasn't that the man was all that smooth. He could sense the nervousness. He could feel it. But there was something else. He couldn't quite identify it, but it was enough to turn his cock to stone and make him want to stay.

Fighting to maintain control, Mulder undid the last visible button then pulled Krycek's shirt free of his pants and unfastened the rest. Slowly, he pushed the shirt away from the younger man's chest, letting his hands move reverently over the bared flesh. His mouth soon followed, caressing the warm skin, learning its taste and texture. The nearly inaudible whimper that his touch produced swelled his cock to ridiculous proportions and gave him the courage to let his tongue flick over one tight, brown nipple.

Unconsciously, Alex's fingers gripped each arm of the chair, squeezing until his knuckles turned white. His lips parted slightly, allowing tiny puffs of breath to escape, and when he felt his unseen seducer's mouth close over the nipple he'd been teasing, the soft panting gave way to low groans of pleasure.

Somewhere in the back of Mulder's lust-fogged brain, he thought that maybe Krycek was acting...giving the customer his money's worth, but at this particular moment in time, he couldn't force himself to care. He was too far into it...too immersed in the fantasy, and he wouldn't allow any such thoughts to take control.

Slowly, he licked his way across Krycek's chest and latched onto the second nipple, this time biting gently and flicking his tongue over the very tip. He could feel the younger man's body tense as he fought to remain seated, and the reaction only served to spur him on to more daring acts.

Alex's breath caught in his throat as the warm, soft tongue traveled down his quivering abdomen, and the other's hands worked at unfastening his pants. He felt his belt and top button give, then heard the soft grind of the zipper as it descended, revealing the black silk boxers he wore. His head fell back, and a tormented sob left his throat as the other man kissed and nuzzled his rigid cock through the material.

This was too much. Too unbelievable for words. He wanted to say something. Ask the man why...*how* it was he was doing this to him, but the words wouldn't come. They couldn't. Nothing but unintelligible, needy sounds would make it past his constricted throat. And as gentle hands lifted his hips to pull the clothing away, he could do nothing but comply.

Mulder bit back a gasp as now freed, the younger man's cock sprang forth, seemingly reaching toward him.

All right, this was no act. The man was turned on, there was no doubt about it.

Mulder smiled.

And he had done it.

Not that Krycek knew who it was that was about to suck his cock down his throat, but Mulder knew. And the thought of it. God, just the thought of it...

He lowered his head, inhaling the clean, musky scent...memorizing it, and then his tongue touched the base...slid only millimeters up the thick shaft, and a hand threaded itself through his hair, stopping him.

"Rubber," Krycek panted, licking his lips. "Need a...a rubber."

But Mulder didn't *want* a rubber. He wanted to smell. To taste *Alex*. Still, he knew that the other man was right. He was clean, certainly. But Krycek didn't know that. And he couldn't deny the fact that the man here in this chair, responding so beautifully to his attentions *had* been with many more men than he cared to think about.

Mulder pulled away and waited silently.

Realizing what was happening, Alex reached down into his pants pocket and withdrew a packet, holding it out in offering.

Gingerly, Mulder took the object, kissing the other's hand before releasing it. With shaking fingers, he ripped the package open and placed the condom over the moist tip of the younger man's cock and rolled it down to the base. As Krycek began to squirm beneath him, he slid one hand over his hip to hold him still while the other grasped the latex- sheathed shaft. Gently scraping his teeth over the head, he mourned the loss of Krycek's taste and smell, but made the best of it.

Alex twitched as the other's mouth closed over the head of his cock and slowly slid down the length of it. One of the hands that had been so tightly clenched around the arm of the chair moved over the other man's shoulders and up through the silky hair, petting and combing.

"God."

He hadn't thought he'd said the word aloud, but it tumbled from his lips on a shaky whisper just loud enough for the man at his feet to hear.

Ignoring the tremendous ache of his own cock, Mulder concentrated solely on Krycek's pleasure, ever-so-slowly working his way down the rock solid shaft, relaxing his throat, taking in more and more as the hand at the younger man's hip began to move, stroking and caressing the heated flesh. The younger man rose up out of the chair, pushing the remainder of his cock down Fox's throat as he shuddered uncontrollably.

Jesus, it had been so long since he'd felt pleasure like this. He hadn't even thought himself capable any more, and yet here he was, writhing and whimpering at another's touch. Needing it more than he needed his next breath...more than the three grand promised to him as compensation for this nearly complete surrender of his body.

As Mulder gently sucked Alex into mindless oblivion, the thought occurred to him to pull away and prolong the moment, but the desperation of the younger man's reactions told him that the time wasn't right. Alex needed this badly, he suspected, and he didn't have the heart to tease him tonight.

//Maybe next time...assuming there'll *be* a next time.//

Mulder uncurled his fingers from around the other man's cock and sank down upon it, not stopping until his nose was buried in the thatch of dark hair at Alex's groin.

"God...jeez..." Alex sobbed. "It's too...please..."

Heeding the frantic plea for fulfillment, Mulder withdrew, his tongue dancing along the underside of the shaft then lashing at the flared head before again swallowing the whole of the other's length. He repeated the act only twice before increasing his speed and pressure, effectively driving Alex to the very brink of madness.

An anguished sob escaped the younger man as for the first time in he couldn't remember how long, he felt the onset of orgasm. His unseen benefactor sensed his precarious condition and moved faster, all at once milking his body and mind, and taking him screaming over the edge.

Mulder held gently to the other man as he bucked and shook, allowing his body its long denied release. The sound of Alex Krycek losing control was one he was positive that neither he nor his cock would ever forget.

As the frenzied sounds of satisfaction faded, Alex slumped in his chair, chest heaving as he attempted to drag much needed air into his lungs. While he sat too exhausted to move, Mulder slid the condom off of him and carefully discarded it. For long seconds the older man remained kneeling, admiring the relaxed pout of the mouth he so wanted to kiss, then slowly rose to his feet and disappeared into the bathroom. Seconds later, Alex felt his returned presence then the soothing warmth of a damp towel as it gently stroked his withered cock.

Fox gently cleaned the younger man up then sat a good while longer, head resting in his lap, absorbing the wamth of him. When his time was almost up, he reluctantly began to button the black shirt. He waited a bit longer then pulled the black pants up and refastened them. When the other man was once again fully dressed, Mulder remained at his feet, tenderly stroking his thigh. The urge to speak was strong, but he squashed it, positive that the shock of finding out who had just gotten him off would not be a welcome one.

//And when do you think it *will* be?//

//Don't know. Probably never.// Mulder looked up into the passion-weary face, wishing he could see the younger man's eyes. //Or maybe very soon. Maybe he'll become so addicted that he won't give a shit that it's you.//

Holding on to that wish, Mulder lifted himself from the floor and walked over to the dresser. Removing an envelope from the top drawer, he approached the still seated man and placed the last thousand dollars in his lap. He ran the fingers of one hand through Alex's hair, brushed a soft kiss over the sable strands, and exited the room.

Alex sat quietly, now breathing normally and listened to a door open and close. His hand drifted into his lap, tentatively fingering the bulging envelope.

The last of the money as promised.

"Are you there?" he asked hopefully, knowing in his heart that the other man was not. Slowly, he brought his hands up to the blindfold and untied the silk, letting it fall away from his face. Looking around the empty room, his attention again fell to the envelope in his lap. A frown creased his brow as he picked at the flap.

Why the hell would some guy pay three grand to do nothing but get him off? There were some freaks in California, and he'd hustled quite a few of them, but this one was different. No matter *how* off the others were, they all had one concern in common...their own pleasure.

Not this man.

And Alex didn't know what to think.

//What's to think about? If the nut wants to shell out that kind of green just to suck *your* cock, who are you to ask questions? Take the money and split.//

Tearing the envelope open, Alex withdrew the money and quickly counted out the correct amount. As he returned the money, he noticed a slip of folded paper inside. He pulled the note out and read the simple message:

Thank you for trusting me. If you're not otherwise
engaged, I would like very much to see you again
on Tuesday. Same time. Same arrangement.

Alex folded the note and blew out a hard breath.

"Shit."

Same arrangement.

Another blindfolded blowjob? Another three grand?

"Gee, how will I survive it?" Alex asked himself softly, his heart pounding at the thought of having this man's mouth on him again.

//So, you gonna show up on Tuesday?//

Alex rose from the chair and walked on slightly weakened legs to the door. He turned the knob and, before he entered the hall, looked around the room.

//Hell of a stupid question.//

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

Glittering hazel eyes watched as the man in black exited the hotel and flagged down a taxi. When the vehicle pulled away from the curb, Mulder turned away from the tenth floor window and took the elevator back to his own floor. Entering his room, the shock of what he'd just done hit him full force. He stumbled over to the bed and fell onto the mattress, staring dazedly up at the ceiling.

//Okay, you do realize that tonight you lured Alex *Krycek* into your hotel room and sucked his cock, don't you? *And* you paid him three thousand dollars for the privilege...//

Mulder groaned at the remembered feel of Krycek's latex-sheathed cock in his mouth. He unzipped his pants and slipped his hand inside, stroking his pounding erection through the silk of his underwear.

//Never would have dreamed that he'd make all those sexy little noises. God, I wonder what he'd do if I actually fucked him. Jesus. I wonder what *I'd* do if I actually fucked him...//

Suddenly far too warm, Mulder stripped off every bit of clothing, pulled the blankets down and lay sprawled over his bed, caressing himself and imagining that it was Krycek's hands on him.

"Alex," he whispered almost inaudibly as his hands caressed his own heated skin, fingers working their way downward and brushing the stony length of his erection. "Gonna make you want me."

Too aroused to tease himself for long or even wonder *why* he was so hell bent on making Krycek want him, Mulder wrapped his cock in a firm grip and began to jerk it steadily as he pulled at one rigid nipple with his other hand. His mind worked frantically, seeing the two of them tangled together in the sheets, the sweat dripping from their bodies as he fucked Krycek hard and fast. A choked grunt fell from his parted lips as he imagined he heard the younger man's sobbed demands for satisfaction, and he rolled onto his side, ejaculating into the cotton sheets as he envisioned them coming together, screaming with the sheer force of their respective climaxes.

For some time he lay there, the intermittent shudders that rippled through his body lessening in their intensity and frequency. But the images remained strong and vivid...
 

The two of them lying together, him behind Alex, curled around the other man's relaxed body...kissing the back of his neck while running a soothing hand up and down his chest...a contented smile gracing the other's perfectly bowed lips...

Mulder sighed into his pillow, wishing with all his heart to make his fantasy a reality, and asking himself why the hell it was so.

Goddamn it, why?

He rolled off of the bed and shuffled to the bathroom, asking himself that very question over and over, and by the time he'd made it back to bed some fifteen minutes later, he had no more of an answer than he had before.

Pulling the blankets back over the stained sheets, he fell onto the mattress, slinging an arm over his face.

//Fuck answers, Mulder. What have answers ever gotten you in the past besides more questions? Just go with it.//

//Yeah, but where the hell's *it* gonna lead me?//

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

Back in hell.

Alex stepped out of the cab and looked around at what he'd been part of for the past several months, shuddering with disgust.

//Oh, good. So because some guy brought you to his elegant hotel room, gave you expensive wine in fine crystal and paid you three grand to suck your dick, you're all of a sudden better than these twenty dollars whores out here? Get real.//

Thing was, he *did* feel better. He felt...and he knew this was plain stupid, but he felt cleaner somehow. He felt that this man, whoever he was, thought he was more than just a night's entertainment. He was so...he treated him so gently. Every touch, every caress felt like a heaven created just for him...

He wound his way through the crowd, brushing off half a dozen overtures as he made his way back to his apartment.

No more tonight. He could well afford to take the rest of the night off, and besides, the thought of ruining what he'd just experienced by letting some sleazy mother fucker touch him was not one he cared to entertain.

He walked along slowly, reliving every minute of the time he spent at the Regent, in the company of a man he could pass by on the street tomorrow and not even know. His body tingled at each remembered touch. It vibrated, recalling the feel of the warm mouth around him, and trembled at the other's continued attentiveness even after he had come.

//Jesus Christ, stop it. A rich freak, whose main kink happens to be pampering hookers targeted you. When his business, whatever his business is, is over he'll blow out of town, and you'll be nothing more to him than inspiration to get him up when his demanding bitch of a wife wants a little nookie.//

But while he was here...

Alex entered his apartment and, stripping off his clothes slid right into bed. Nothing to eat or drink, no shower. He just wanted to wrap himself around the memory of the other man's smell and feel, and pretend if only for a little while he was as treasured as he'd been made to feel.

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

"Scully."

"It's me."

"Hey, Mulder! How's California?"

"Sunny."

"Ha ha. Can I have a little more detail than that? Where've you been? What've you done?"

//Red light district. Stumbled across triple agent turned street hustler Alex Krycek, blindfolded him, sucked his dick, paid him three thousand dollars for it...//

"Uh...you know. The usual. Seeing the sights. Relaxing."

"Oh, yeah, that's so much better. Fine, Mulder, fine. Don't tell me about it. Just stay out of trouble, okay?"

"Now, what kind of trouble can I get into scoping out celebrities and sitting in mud baths?"

"If there's a way, Mulder, you'll find it."

Mulder smiled into the phone, noting the good natured sarcasm into his partner's tone. "How's everything there?"

"Under control."

"You sure?"

"Yes. Mulder, don't you dare think about coming back here earlier than planned..."

//Not a chance in hell *now*.//

"Mulder, you hear me?"

"Yeah, Scully."

"I'm serious."

"I know you are. I promise, I won't come back a second sooner than planned."

"Okay, well, I'll leave you to your sight seeing."

"All right. Talk to you soon, Scully. Thanks."

"No problem. 'Night, Mulder."

Mulder disconnected and dropped the phone onto the table by the bed. He peered into the fruit plate that lay on the bed between his legs, and plucked a large strawberry from it. Biting into the sweet, red morsel, his regard fell on the television and narrowed on his only companionship for the evening.

A muscular, dark-haired man tied face-down on a bed...his tanned body writhing as another slid an impossibly large vibrator in and out of his ass. The other man teased him, slowly rotating the latex shaft and softly demanding that he beg for more.

As he did, the other man withdrew the vibrator, hastily applied some lube, and straddled his back, brutally slamming into him. His cries rang out in Mulder's ears, further hardening his already stony erection, but he fought to keep from relieving it. Thoughts of tomorrow night and Alex Krycek naked in his arms fed his desire to remain on edge for just a bit longer.

Through half closed lids, he watched the man on the screen fuck the one beneath him...listened to the exaggerated wails of the other, his mind converting the frantic, high pitched sounds to deeper, gravely tones, and he could wait no more.

Whimpering softly, he grasped his cock, jerking desperately as the man in the movie pulled out of the other's ass and came all over his back, covering it in thick, opaque fluid.

"God," he gasped, feeling the coming explosion. "Alex...yeah, baby...so good...make me...come on, baby..."

His body began to buck uncontrollably, and he came over his closed fist and belly, still choking out the other man's name. When he recovered, he dragged himself into the bathroom, cleaned up and promptly fell into a deep sleep before the movie had finished.

As his evening had come to a close, across town his would-be lover's night was just beginning.

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

"Hey, how much?"

Bored green eyes looked away from the mountain that had just moved in front of the bench. "How much for what?"

"Half and half."

One leather clad shoulder rose and fell. "One-fifty."

"That's steep."

"That's my price."

The other man nodded. "Okay. You got it."

Alex rose from the bench, quickly determining that the man had to be about six foot five, and a good three hundred pounds at least.

If this one decided to get funny, he'd have a definite problem. But, risk came with the territory. He gave the man his best 'don't fuck with me if you know what's good for you' look and slithered through the mass of bodies, following in the other's considerable wake.

As they arrived in the man's motel room, Alex received payment then looked around, checking for unwanted company. When none was found, he turned to his customer and removed his jacket.

"How do you want to do this?"

The man nodded to the bed. "Take everything off and make yourself comfortable."

Slowly, Alex removed his clothing, giving the customer a bit of a show for his money, then slid onto the bed, sprawling seductively over the pillows.

"Heard about you," the man rasped, licking his lips hungrily. "You're fucking gorgeous just like they said."

No response.

Smiling, the other removed his clothing, pulling two condoms from his pants pocket before the garment hit the floor. Rolling it over his stubby cock, he approached the bed.

"Can't wait to feel that pretty mouth on me..."

In a move that belied his size, he swiftly swung himself up onto the bed, his knees straddling Alex's shoulders.

"Go ahead, gorgeous. Take it."

Alex looked at the organ bobbing lewdly in front of his mouth then parted his lips, allowing the man to slip inside.

"Oh, yeah. Suck me good, sweetheart."

Alex cringed at the endearment but quickly pushed it to the back of his mind as he did his job. Within seconds, the other man was moaning with unchecked lust, and, leaning forward, grabbed onto the headboard and began to thrust roughly into Alex's mouth.

Virtually pinned to the bed, Alex could do little more than endure the consequences of the man's excitement, and just when he thought his ordeal might be ending, the organ was pulled out of his mouth. Quickly, the man peeled off the used condom and put the other on. In one lightning fast move, he flipped Alex onto his stomach and drove into him unprepared.

Alex bit into the pillow beneath his face to keep from voicing his pain, and just as he recovered enough from the shock to fight against the other's brutal possession, he found his wrists pinned to his sides and the full weight of the other's body upon him. Unable to get enough leverage to throw the man off of him, Alex lay gritting his teeth and suffered the assault in silence.

"Oh, shit...oh, yeah..." The man bit at Alex's neck and shoulder, hard enough to leave bruises but not break the skin as he thrashed against him. "Pretty, fuckin' bitch..." Using all of his substantial power, he strengthened his thrusts while continuing to rasp obscenities against Alex's shoulder.

Alex squeezed his eyes shut, willing himself away from this rundown room and the repulsive hulk on top of him, and imagined fine wine, a beautiful room and the tender touch of a man he'd never seen.

//Tomorrow. You'll be with him tomorrow, and...//

//And what? Get real. Did it ever occur to you that all that sweetness was just a lure? Something to hook you and reel you in...maybe tomorrow he'll turn into someone like this guy...or worse. That's reality, baby. *Your* reality.//

The man slammed into Alex, sobbing and grunting with each cruel stroke, and when he finally, mercifully came, he collapsed in a heap on top of the hooker's back, nearly crushing him under his ample weight. Long minutes later, the man arose and, patting the still motionless man's rear, stumbled into the bathroom to clean up.

Alex lay face down in the pillows, hurting but too emotionally numb to care. In any other time and place he'd have been off the bed in an instant, and beating whoever had done that to him within an inch of their lives, but tonight he simply didn't have it in him. He lay quietly, controlling the tremors that passed through him until he heard the other man dress and leave. Then he began to whimper softly, letting the pain, if only for a few moments, get the better of him.

Minutes later, he sat up wincing then slowly got to his feet and pulled his clothes on. He left the motel and headed back to his apartment, opting to walk instead of taking a cab. Each step reminded him of exactly how sore he was going to be tomorrow, but he endured the growing discomfort, sure that it was just life's little way of reminding him of who and what he was.

Over an hour later, Alex entered his apartment and headed straight for the shower, turning the water on as hot as he could stand it. Practically tearing his clothes off, he stepped into the tub, gritting his teeth as he reached for the sponge and bath wash and scrubbed vigorously at his skin. Ten minutes later he brought his arms up to his nose and cursed as he reached for more bathwash.

//*Fuck*. Go away.// He scrubbed harder. // God, please go away. I can't let him...if I can smell it, he'll be able to...//

//Here we go again. What the *fuck* does it matter? Big hint, stupid. He *knows* you're a whore. That's why he gave you that money. You think he gives a shit who else you've been with? Tomorrow he's gonna drop the fucking pretense, screw you into next week and throw you aside and not give a damn how much it hurt.//

Dropping the sponge at his feet, Alex rinsed off and wrapped a towel around himself. He stepped out of the tub and stooped to pick up his clothes, noticing two small dark spots on the inside of his jeans. Further inspection revealed that the spots were dried blood.

The friction from the other man's unlubed cock and the force with which he'd driven into Alex had apparently wounded him to the point where he'd begun to bleed.

He stared blankly at the stained denim for a moment then carried the garment into the kitchen and dropped it into the trash. That done, he turned and wandered into the bedroom, slowly lowering himself to the bed. He lay there, still damp, towel half falling from his hips and stared sightlessly at the window. What seemed like only minutes later, he was opening his eyes, blinking in the light of day.

Wondering when the hell he fell asleep, Alex maneuvered himself under the light blanket and pulled it up to his head, attempting to shut the glare out, but it radiated through the blanket, burning his eyes. He groaned softly and pulled a pillow over his face, bringing blessed darkness to his world.

Darkness.

Night.

A few hours away.

His heart began to pound, and his palms broke into a sweat, and he cursed himself for it. He'd told himself again that it was just another job. Just another horny john with money to burn, but somewhere inside...somewhere in his deepest heart he wanted so much for it to be more than that. And in that self-loathing part of him he knew it could never be...that he didn't deserve any more...

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

"Wine...strawberries..."

Mulder looked around, knowing something else was missing.

"Oh, yeah."

Lowering the lights, he turned the pre-loaded CD player on then stood in the middle of the room with his eyes closed.

"Yeah, that's nice. Now," he whispered to himself, looking at his watch, "just breathe easy. He should be here soon."

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

The soft hum of the refrigerator in the kitchen was the only sound in the small apartment. Not even a breath could be heard as Alex sat motionless on his sofa, hands folded in front of him. Slowly, his eyes rose to his grandmother's mantle clock on top of the television. Realizing that it was time to go, he made himself stand, grimacing at the moderate amount of pain he felt. His body had stiffened during the night and made the discomfort worse than it had been yesterday, but he pushed the pain as far away as he could and left the apartment. A quick cab ride later, he was standing outside of the Beverly Regent.

"Sir? Sir..."

Alex blinked and turned in the direction of the doorman. "Yeah?"

"Are you all right, sir?" The older man with kindly blue eyes asked. "You look rather dazed."

"No. N-no. I'm okay. Thanks." He fell silent and looked up at the lit building.

"Are you a guest here?"

Alex hesitated then shook his head. "Visiting a guest."

"Do you know the room number? If not, if you'll give me the name I can find it for you."

"No, I...I know the room number. Just needed a little air first."

The man nodded and smiled, backing off a few steps. Alex thanked him again for his kindness then moved into the building. Slowly, he walked to the elevators and boarded the middle car, and in seconds was coming to a stop on the twelfth floor. The doors opened, and he stepped out, moving with false confidence to twelve-fourteen.

As it had been on Sunday, the door was unlocked, and he turned the knob, pushing it open.

Soft music greeted him, and another beautifully set table lay ahead. On suddenly shaky legs, he forced himself to move through the dimly lit room, and he stopped in front of the table. There, leaning against an empty crystal goblet was a white envelope, and next to that, the familiar black silk scarf.

Moistening his lips, Alex lifted the envelope and tore it open. He removed the entire three thousand dollars and a brief note.

I look forward to this evening. I hope you
do too. All of your money is here. I trust you
to remain with me for two hours. I think you
want to.

Alex closed his eyes, stuffed the money and note into his jacket pocket, then reached down and picked up the blindfold. He secured it over his eyes and moments later he felt the gentle caress of a hand at the back of his neck. He began immediately and uncontrollably tremble, and the other man wound an arm around his chest, holding him against his warmth.

Mulder wanted so badly to tell the younger man not to be afraid, but he remained silent, hoping that he could somehow communicate without the use of words.

Carefully, he slipped the leather jacket off then turned Krycek around to face him. A shocked gasp tumbled from his lips when the very visible bruises around the right corner of Alex's mouth came in view. He lifted his hand, lightly tracing the marks with shaking fingers.

Alex pulled away quickly, startled by the other man's reaction. As rapidly as he could, he pulled himself together and gave a nonchalant shrug. "Occupational hazard."

Mulder fought to control the searing rage that shot through him at the thought of some sleazy son of a bitch hurting this man. He'd torment himself with the whys later. Right now all he wanted to do was try and make it better somehow...and kill the fucker who did it.

Alex flinched then stood quietly shivering as the man's fingertips again brushed over the bruises in a featherlight caress. Then all at once the touch had disappeared, leaving him mourning its absence. But seconds later, he felt a hand close around his wrist, holding it in a gentle grip. Carefully, he was led to the same seat in which he'd sat two night before, and he felt the other man hovering nearby.

A soft moan escaped his throat as the other petted his hair and brought a sweet smelling object to his mouth. He recognized the texture and scent as that of a strawberry. Hesitantly, he bit into the fruit, chewing and swallowing before a chilled glass brushed against his lower lip. He took a small sip then swiped the residual moisture away from his mouth with the tip of his tongue.

"Good," Alex rasped, feeling the need to say something. "Thanks."

Mulder touched the strawberry again to his lips, gaze unable to stay away from the purple blotches...wanting so much to look into the wounded man's eyes and truly see the extent of his injury. Pushing the thought to the back of his mind, he fed at least three strawberries and half a glass of wine to Alex before drawing him up out of his chair and leading him a few feet away. Slowly, Mulder drew the blindfolded man into his arms and began to sway in time to the music.

An almost inaudible whimper sounded in Alex's throat as the other man coaxed the sable head down onto his shoulder and began caressing his back.

God.

Oh, Jesus.

What the hell was going on here? Why was he still the man he'd been two days ago? He should have turned into an asshole by now. Alex should have been stripped and laid out face down on the bed by now, taking stroke after punishing stroke...cuffed and beaten maybe...

But instead there was this. And he didn't know what to do with it. He didn't know how to...

A harsh sob drew him out of his thoughts, and he realized that the other man had since found the wounds at the side of his neck. Quickly, the other put a few inches distance between them and undid his shirt, pushing it away from his shoulders and down his arms. The garment fell to the floor, and the man inspected the rest of his upper body, trembling with fury as he found the rest of the bruises.

Wanting to string the cocksucker up by his balls but knowing that he was powerless to do so, Mulder pulled the younger man into his arms, holding him in a tender embrace and scattering soft kisses over his wounds.

"N-no..." Alex breathed so softly, even the man wrapped around him could not hear.

The kisses became more seductive, lingering over patches of skin, teasing the sensitive spot on the back of Alex's neck, and moving slowly up toward his mouth.

He wanted it. God, all of a sudden he wanted that mouth. Wanted it on his, kissing him forever, taking at once his breath and his pain. He froze, waiting for that first tender touch, but as the other's lips cautiously brushed his, he began a half-hearted struggle to put a little distance between them.

"No," he said as firmly as his broken voice would allow. "I told...told you. No kissing."

Mulder didn't need to see the younger man's eyes to know that he didn't mean what he was saying. He could feel it in the tension in Alex's body...he could see it in the hungry quiver of his lips.

Alex sucked in a soft breath as a warm hand stroked his cheek then moved to the back of his head, gently tilting it back. His lips parted on an anguished sob as the other's mouth and tongue traveled the length of his exposed throat, and he was pulled more tightly against the hardening body.

Quite suddenly, he didn't care about any fucking self imposed rules, and he didn't give a shit if tomorrow it all turned out to be a lie. He needed that mouth. Needed it desperately if only for tonight, and he'd beg if he had to, to have it.

Alex lifted his head, winding his fingers in the silky softness of the other's hair and pulled him in for a hard kiss. The force of it hurt his injured mouth, and he grunted softly at the pain, but he refused to let go. He clung to the man, protesting frantically as he was firmly pulled away, but his whines soon faded as he felt the tender brush of full, sweet lips against his own.

Mulder wrapped Alex in a comforting embrace and took his mouth as gently as he could, loving how the flavors of the strawberries and wine combined with his own natural sweetness to provide a taste that he knew he could never, ever forget. His tongue inched out, dancing over the bowed lips and coaxing them open to immediately find its willing mate.

The two men stood wrapped around each other, tongues stroking and lapping...learning taste and texture, and when Mulder slowly backed Alex to the bed, the younger man went willingly, sinking down onto the softness of the mattress. He reached up, hands searching for his temporary lover, needing to feel the comforting weight of his body. His hands were caught in the other's, kissed gently, then guided to the buttons of the silk shirt, and he knew what he was being asked to do.

Violently trembling fingers undid the fastenings on Mulder's shirt, and the older man slipped out of the garment and dropped it on the floor beside the bed. He lowered himself onto the other man, blanketing him in soothing heat and again finding his mouth.

Somewhere in the thick haze of need a voice sounded. Distant and weak, it told Alex to stop. Screamed for him not to roll over...not to give this man any more than he'd paid for, but his body and the heart that he'd thought had long been withered and gone disagreed.

//Give it to him. Let him take whatever he wants. Just for one night...know what it's like to feel safe and wanted. Feel what it's like to belong to someone...//

//Even if it's a fucking lie?//

"No..." Alex whimpered softly, shaking his head. "Don't care..."

Mulder drew back and looked down in confusion, trying to make sense of the tormented declaration. The younger man's hands reaching up and rubbing feverishly over his skin shook the curiosity from his immediate thoughts, and he brought a hand up to the smooth cheek, softly shushing and calming him.

Stopping his frantic movements, Alex listened to the soft rush of breath...lulled by the simple sound. His hands began to move again, this time in wide, lazy circles on the warm, satiny skin, and he turned his head to the side, letting his mouth brush the other man's forearm.

"Please," he whispered as calmly as he could, "I...would you kiss me again?"

Mulder's lips slanted into a melancholy smile, wondering when the last time was that this man had experienced any kind of tenderness, if ever. Thinking about it, he didn't know when the last time was that *he'd* been on the receiving end of any.

Alex sucked in an anxious breath, waiting for the presence he felt to come nearer. As the other's mouth whispered over his, he exhaled, parting his lips, inviting him inside.

Mulder accepted the invitation, letting his tongue sweep over the warm, moist interior of Krycek's mouth while his hands roamed over the expanse of the younger man's chest, gently kneading the taut muscles and teasing the already hard nipples into even tighter buds. The prostitute writhed beneath him, lifting one long leg and hooking it over his hip, and a soft groan broke from each of them.

Cautiously, Mulder pushed down, pressing their covered erections together, and Krycek let a hand slide down to his rear, cupping the rounded muscle and squeezing.

"Fuck me," Alex moaned, grinding his crotch against the other man's. "I need you to."

And he did need it. God, he needed it so much, he was sure he'd break into pieces if he didn't.

Or maybe it was that he *needed* to be broken...to fulfill the promise that this man's three thousand dollars bought and then be tossed away so he could stop having the ridiculous thoughts he was having...

Mulder quivered at the younger man's plea, choosing to believe that he actually was as desperate to have him as he sounded, and not putting on a cash induced act.

Pulling away from Alex's mouth, he straddled the denim-clad hips and began unfastening his own pants and sliding them down his thighs. As he worked, Alex's hands found the exposed silk of his underwear and tentatively brushed over the impressive bulge inside.

If Mulder hadn't already been on his knees, he would have collapsed and dropped to them.

Alex Krycek. Here. In his hotel room, half naked and lying beneath him...touching his cock...

All right, so as far as Krycek knew, he was simply catering to a faceless stranger with money to burn, but still...

Reluctantly, Mulder shifted, removing the remainder of his clothing. When he was completely stripped of his garments, he turned his attention to the man left squirming on the bed. Gently, he pulled off Alex's boots and socks, then his jeans, revealing the fact that the younger man wore no underwear tonight.

Alex twitched as the other man reverently touched his cock and bent to flick his tongue over one rigid nipple. "Please," he begged, combing his fingers through the other's hair. "God, please..."

Kissing the younger man into silence, Mulder opened the drawer of the nightstand and withdrew a condom and a tube of lubricant. He broke the kiss and ripped the package open with his teeth, then removed the rubber and carefully rolled it on over his aching erection.

//God,// he whimpered to himself, //you're going to do this. You're actually going to fuck this man...//

Mulder squeezed some lube into his hand and applied it to his latex sheathed cock then grasped the younger man's hips and pulled him forward.

Anxiously, Alex helped the man, spreading his legs and wrapping them around his waist, and he waited for that first...

Hissing sharply, his entire body tightened at the shock of pain that tore through him. He felt the other man stiffen immediately and cease all movement.

//No. No, don't...//

"Don't stop," he grated through clenched teeth. "I'm all right. Please, don't stop."

He wasn't all right. Mulder could see that in the sudden lines that etched his face.

"Fuck me. Please don't stop." Krycek reached up, running his hands over the man's face and hair. Fuck me..."

Alex's intense desperation unnerved Mulder, and to pacify the younger man, he pushed forward only to again be brought to a dead stop by a muffled sob.

//No. Oh, no. Something's definitely wrong...//

Mulder withdrew, ignoring Alex's mingled curses and pleas. Looking down, all the air left his lungs.

Blood, streaking the condom he wore and leaving small spots on the sheet.

Alex knew. He didn't need to see. He could feel the tiny trickle of blood running down one cheek, and he knew why the other man had stopped and was so obviously upset.

Upset?

"No," he gasped. "It's...it's all right. It's no biggie. Please, don't stop, I..." He could feel the adamant shake of the other man's head, and panic overtook him.

"You don't have to worry about it. You don't...you don't have to care. You're not *supposed* to care." He fought against the hands that sought to hold him still. "I'm a whore! That's all. Just a fucking whore!" He was screaming but he couldn't stop. "I'm bought and paid for, and you're not supposed to care! You're supposed to fuck me and not give a shit if I'm hurt...hurt me. Please. Fuck me raw and then send me back to where I came from..."

"I won't."

Alex's diatribe came to an abrupt halt, and he broke free of the loosened grip, pulling himself up into a sitting position...listening to the soft, emotional rasp.

"I will *not* hurt you."

Alex reached up, ripping the blindfold from his eyes and stared in mute shock at the last man in the world he ever expected to see.

"What the hell..."

Mulder looked into wild, green eyes and knew that they were in for a rough time.

"Krycek..."

"What are you..." Alex gasped, on the verge of hyperventilating. "..what the hell are you doing? Why...why are you here?"

"We can talk about that later. You're hurt..."

Alex slapped away the hand that had reached toward his cheek and pulled the sheet up around his waist. "Why are you *here*?" he demanded, voice roughened by anger and shame.

Mulder shook his head, opening and closing his mouth before any sound would come out.

"I...was just...I'm on vacation. I s...I saw you one night...downtown."

The crease between the younger man's eyebrows deepened. "And what? You figured it'd be fun to fuck around with me a little?"

"No. No, I didn't...I just wanted to..."

"Humiliate me?" Alex cut in, bolting from the bed and finding his jacket. He pulled the envelope from the pocket and withdrew the money, flinging it at the man on the bed. "*Buy* me? Did you figure that if you threw enough money my way you'd own me? Is this some sort of twisted revenge?"

"*No*," Mulder insisted, discarding the condom and following Alex to the other side of the room. "It's nothing like that."

"Then what the fuck *is* it like?" A mortified emerald gaze burned into disturbed hazel.

"I just...I saw you out there...going off with all those different men, and I knew that something must have gone really wrong for you to be..." Mulder stopped speaking, moistening dry lips with the tip of his tongue.

"*Whoring*? You can say it, Mulder. Go ahead. It's what I am. I fuck men for money." Alex shrugged. "Go ahead. Say it. You've called me worse things in the past." He glared at the mute man. "So...you knew something was wrong. And what? You figured you'd take pity on me? Throw a shitload of money at me...take me off the streets for a few days...show me the good life? *What*?"

"I just..." Mulder struggled for the words. "This...it isn't you, Krycek."

"How the *fuck* do you know what is and isn't me? You don't know *shit* about me." Alex whirled around, attempting to mask his discomfort at the suddenness of the move and began gathering up his clothes.

"I didn't," Mulder admitted, watching the younger man and reading his expression. "I think I do now."

Alex released a harsh bark of laughter. "*Do* you? I'll take that as a compliment to my fine acting skills. It's my *job*, you know? Reading the customer and giving them what they want. I admit it was a little harder being blindfolded, but I apparently pulled it off, 'cause I sure suckered *you* in. Damn, I'm good."

Mulder watched as the agitated man pulled on his clothes. "So, why are you so angry? If you're so satisfied with yourself, why all the indignation?"

"Are you kidding? You lure me up here to your hotel room, blindfold me and then fuck with my head, and you want to know *why*?"

"But you just finished telling me in different words that you'd done the very same thing you're accusing me of. According to you, all that need and vulnerability I saw was you fucking with *my* head."

Alex jerked on his shirt then, without bothering to button it, snatched up his jacket and stalked over to the older man and hissed in his face.

"Yeah, but there's one big difference, asshole. You *knew* who you were doing it to."

As he walked away, Mulder's voice followed him. "I'm sorry you're so upset about this. But really, Alex, if you'd *known* it was me, would you have come here on Sunday? Would you have come tonight?" Mulder drifted closer. "Would you have let me undress you and lay you down in my bed?"

Alex stamped down a shiver and lifted his head, holding it at a defiant tilt. "For fifteen hundred an hour? Fuck yeah."

Mulder stooped and picked some of the scattered bills up off of the floor. "Then take this. If money's all you're after, here. It's yours."

"I don't want it."

"You took it on Sunday."

"That's when I thought I was actually providing a service."

"Krycek, just take the money."

"Take your fucking charity and shove it up your ass."

"I don't get it," Mulder said softly. "You're too proud to let me give you money you obviously need, but you're not too proud to sell your body to get it."

"Fuck you."

Mulder lifted a hand to the younger man's quivering jaw. "You want me. You *need* what I can give you. You can deny it from now until Christmas and you still won't convince me that it isn't so."

Slowly, Mulder leaned forward, drawing ever closer until his lips brushed those before him. "Alex," he whispered, hypnotizing the younger man with the soft hum of his voice, "whatever's wrong...whatever's got you out here doing this...let me help you. Let me take care of you."

The words filtered through Alex's clouded brain, and he backed away, fixing an incredulous stare on the older man.

Before Mulder could take his next breath, a hard cross to his jaw knocked him back onto the bed. He lay there dazed, his face throbbing from the blow he'd just received and tried to focus on the blurred face above him.

Alex stared down at the older man, shocked at what he'd just done.

He and Fox Mulder had had many run ins in the past, and Mulder had injured him plenty, but Alex had never hurt *him*...

Clasping his hands tightly together, Alex backed up to the door and, throwing it open, fled the room.

"Alex," Mulder called, wincing at the pain in his jaw. "*Alex*." He pulled himself off the bed and dressed as quickly as he could, then ran out in search of the distraught man. He took the first available elevator down to the lobby and bolted out to the street, looking up and down.

"*Shit*."

"Don't think you're going to catch him, but he went that way."

Mulder whirled around to face the pointing doorman.

Reading the young man's puzzled expression, the doorman gave him an understanding smile. "You're looking for the man who just ran out of here, aren't you? Dark, good looking...leather jacket..."

Mulder sucked the corner of his lower lip into his mouth and nodded.

"He went that way." The man again pointed in the direction in which Alex had gone. "Looked pretty upset. I offered to get him a cab, but I don't even know if he really heard me."

Mulder closed his eyes and turned away.

I had a huge fight with a boyfriend years and years ago..."

Mulder turned back and focused a surprised gaze on the doorman.

"...I'm talking, knock down drag out."

"What happened?" The younger man asked softly.

The doorman broke into a grin. "We'll be celebrating our eighteenth year together next week.

Mulder gave the man a sad smile. "Congratulations."

"Thanks. You know, he wouldn't be so upset if he didn't care. And neither would you."

"I *admit* that I care," Mulder explained to the man, not knowing why he would do so. "I tried to make him understand that."

"And he bolted?"

Mulder nodded his head.

"Try harder, the older man urged. "He wants you to. He *needs* you to."

"He *hit* me."

The other man smiled. "Yeah, it sure looks like it. Just means he's scared for some reason. He doesn't need to be, does he?"

Mulder silently shook his head.

"Then go on. Go get him."

Mulder thought on the advice for little more than two seconds.

"Could you call the valet for my car? Room twelve-fourteen."

Smiling, the man rang the valet, and when the car was driven around to the front, Mulder turned and shook the doorman's hand.

"Thanks."

"None necessary." The man winked. "Just drink a toast to me on *your* eighteenth anniversary."

A silly if slightly embarrassed grin spread across the younger man's face as he considered the thought, then he ducked into the car and set out to find Alex.

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

//God, stop. Or slow down, at least.//

The extreme discomfort finally registering in Alex's head, he slowed from a sprint to more of a pained limp as he headed back into his part of town. He lumbered along, trying to get the smell and the taste of Fox Mulder out of his mind while simultaneously trying to erase the sound of his voice, so low and full of promise as he informed Alex of his wish to take care of him.

//It's insane//, he reasoned with himself. //He's lying. He's got to be. How could he hate me to the point of violence and then have such a sudden turnaround?//

//Ever hear of that fine line between...//

//Don't even say it. There's no fucking way in hell he could ever...it's impossible. Maybe on some distant level he's got some warped kind of respect for me, and he thinks that hooking is way beneath me. That's why he was giving me so much money. To try and help me quit.//

//Then why not just leave the money anonymously? Why the big seduction scene?//

//I don't know, I...hell, what's not to know? He found out that I fuck men, and he wanted a piece of me just like everybody else.//

//But everybody *else* never went to the trouble of making it good for *you*...//

Hands clenched in his hair, Alex tried to ward off the massive headache he felt starting.

//That's right. He didn't even fuck you the first time, and who knows if we would have *this* time if you hadn't asked him to. Shit, you *begged* him to.//

//I didn't know it was him, I...//

"Hey."

Alex took his hands away from his head and blinked to try and clear his vision. He squinted at the man standing in front of him and scowled.

"What d'you want?"

"Some company. How much?"

Alex was about to tell the man to fuck off when the slam of a car door drew his attention. His knees just about buckled as he caught sight of Mulder moving toward him. Gathering as much of his courage as he could find, he drew himself up and faced the only man who had ever managed to unnerve him.

"What the fuck do you want?"

"We weren't finished," Mulder said softly, gilded gaze burning into the younger man's.

"The fuck we weren't."

"Uh, hey..." the third man stepped forward, trying to wedge himself between the other two. "Remember me? We were in the middle of a deal, here."

Before Alex could answer, Mulder cut in.

"There'll be no deals. Get lost."

The other man stepped forward, nudging Mulder with his chest. "Who the fuck are you?"

"I'm the guy who's going to hand you your spleen if you don't get the hell out of my face." Mulder turned his attention back to the other. "Alex..."

"We're *done*, Mulder," Alex snapped, eyes flicking away from the damage he'd done to Mulder's face, and attempted to walk away, but a hand around his forearm stopped him.

"We're *not*."

"God *damn*, you're a stubborn fucker!" Alex screamed, wrenching his arm away from the older man's grasp. "Do yourself a favor, okay? Take your ass back to D.C. and forget you saw me here!"

"No!"

As Mulder moved to follow Alex, the other man stepped into his path.

"Hey. He said go away. Now, what part of that didn't you understand?"

Mulder stopped, staring blankly into the other man's eyes. "Get the fuck out of my way."

"Or what?"

Before Mulder could respond, Alex came back, moving to the man's side and rubbing a hand over his chest as he looked pointedly at Mulder.

"Forget about him," he murmured, nuzzling the other man's jaw. "C'mon. Let's go have a little fun."

A lewd chuckle sounded deep in the other man's throat. "Now you're talking."

"Alex, don't do this," Mulder pleaded. "You can't."

"I can't? Why not?"

"You're hurt. Please don't go and make yourself worse just to spite me."

"Don't think so much of yourself, Mulder," Alex hissed. "I'm gonna let this guy fuck me because I *like* it. You got me? I *like* getting fucked. And I like the money."

"Alex, please don't. If you won't let me take care of you, then go home and take care of yourself. I'll give you three times what you'd get from him if you'd just go home."

Alex trembled at the tinge of sincerity in Mulder's voice. Goddamn it, why was he doing this?

"Aww, that's sweet," the other man broke in, looking Alex up and down. "But he looks fine to me. *Damn* fine." Leaning to the side, he drew his tongue up Alex's stubbled cheek. And before he could finish, he was being snatched away from the prostitute's side.

A loud crack sounded as Mulder's fist connected with the man's face, and he fell backward into a parked car. Alex watched in stunned fascination as the man stumbled away from the vehicle and stopped dead as the muzzle of a gun met the patch of skin between his eyebrows.

"Get the hell out of here," Mulder demanded, his tone low and deadly serious, "or I'll blow your head off."

"Christ," the man gasped. "Yeah, he's pretty, but he's just a whore. No need to get violent over 'im."

"Shut the fuck up," Mulder growled. "Shut up and get out of here."

The man slunk away, and Mulder turned to the other who stood quietly watching him.

"Please, go home."

"Don't tell me what to do."

"I'm not telling you. I'm asking you. Please."

Alex fixed a confused, green stare on the older man. "You've always hated me."

Mulder stared back, unblinking. "Yeah."

"So, why? What is this?"

Mulder shrugged. "I don't hate you any more."

"Even after I slugged you?"

"I had that coming. God knows I've let you have it often enough over the years."

"That isn't why I hit you."

"I know."

"So, if you don't hate me, what the hell *is* going on in that warped brain?"

 I can't..." he took a deep breath and struggled for the words he wanted to say. "I can't really explain to you *what* I feel now. I just know it isn't hate."

"Pity's no better."

"*No*. No, I...maybe it was pity at first, I don't know. But I..." He moved closer, head held at a slightly downward angle and touched his fingers to the sleeve of Alex's jacket. "Can we talk? Please?"

The younger man's eyes closed and he stifled a sigh then shook his head. "No. There's nothing to talk about."

"I think there is. You're clear across the U.S., Alex, selling yourself to scum. Men throw a few dollars at you...some of them hurt you, and then you go on to the next one. This isn't you. I know it isn't."

"Are we back on that again? Listen, Mulder. You don't *know* who I am. This is nothing new," he said, disgust very evident in his tone. How do you think I survived the first couple of years in the Consortium? You think the old men didn't get a piece of my ass?"

Mulder shuddered.

"That's right," Alex goaded the older man. "While I wasn't training to be the best liar/cheater/thief/murderer their group had ever had, I sucked their wrinkled dicks whenever and wherever they told me to. I was on call twenty four-seven, and they called me often." He smiled bitterly. "What can I say, I guess I'm just irresistible. Even your boss couldn't keep his hands to himself."

The breath left Mulder's lungs in a rush. "What?"

"Nevermind. It isn't important."

An almost frightening gleam coated Mulder's eyes. "What did Skinner do to you?"

"Nothing you didn't give him cart blanche to do when you left me at his apartment."

Mulder's mouth opened then snapped shut. "I'm...I don't...I had no idea."

"I know you didn't," Alex answered softly and evenly. "You just figured he'd beat the shit out of me, right?"

Hazel eyes lowered to the ground.

"Go away, Mulder," Alex whispered. "Go home or finish your vacation or whatever. I don't know where this obviously misguided sense of responsibility is coming from, or this idea that you suddenly want to stop hating me and start fucking me, but forget it. Forget *me*."

Mulder wanted so much to tell him that it wasn't just about fucking, but then he'd be back to having to explain himself, and he honestly didn't know if he could.

Noticing the way the younger man winced when he shifted from one foot to the other, Mulder spoke, concern seeping into his tone.

"Will you go home and rest? I can see that you're in pain."

"I'm fine."

"You're *not*. You're bleeding for God's sake."

Alex spun away, roaring up at the sky.

"Fuck your concern Mulder! I don't need it!"

"Yeah, you do. And if you'd stop being such a stubborn ass for minute, you'd admit that you *want* it."

Alex snorted. "So, tell me, what exactly is it that you want to do? You want to sweep me off my feet? Whisk me away to your suite and make my boo boos all better? Sweet. Okay, what about after your vacation is over? You wanna take me back to D.C. with you...keep me for a pet?"

"You're being a real shithead, you know that Krycek?"

"Why? Because I want to know how honorable your intentions are?" Krycek made a show of fluttering his ridiculously long eyelashes at the other man.

Mulder sighed softly. "I just want to help you out of this situation you're in. Spend some time with you...talk...see what happens."

Alex laughed bitterly. "Gimme a fuckin' break. You're out of your depth, Mulder. Go find another soul to save."

As Alex turned to leave, a hand on his arm stopped him.

"I don't see you as a project, Alex. I don't want to *fix* you then move on. I...I don't know exactly what I'm saying, I just know that if I walk away from you, I'll regret it for the rest of my life."

Alex stared at the other man, shaking his head. "*Nothing* is going to come of what happened or *almost* happened between us. You go back to your hotel room and review the last several years. You think of everything I've done to you, and in no time you'll be asking yourself what the fuck you were thinking even getting near me."

"You think I haven't thought about that?" Mulder asked. "You think I haven't taken stock of each and every low, disgusting thing you've ever done to me? You bet your ass I have." He threw his hands in the air and let them drop to his sides. "And, Jesus *Christ*, I still want to..." Eyes dropping shut, he pressed his lips together and shook his head.

"You really *are* insane. You know what, Mulder? It's not me who has to be helped. It's you. Do yourself a big favor and find yourself a shrink. This city is crawling with them. Now...I'm going back to my life. Go back to yours and leave me the fuck alone."

"I can't..."

Alex pitched forward, shoving the older man with all his strength.

"Leave me alone!"

Before Mulder could respond Alex took off at a full sprint, leaving him staring helplessly until the younger man disappeared from his sight. He stood quietly for a while, unsure of what to do, then turned and slowly walked back to his rental car.

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

The air reeked of sweat and mold, and vibrated with the labored grunts of a nameless stranger who, with both hands clutching the headboard of a rickety bed for support, slammed again and again into the silent man beneath him.

Alex lay face down in the pillow, forcing his thoughts away from the tender fantasy he'd been immersed in just hours before, and making his body feel the pain of reality.

No soft, romantic music.

Only the screech of tires and shouting grated his raw nerves.

No gentle lover holding him close and soothing him with sweet caresses, unselfishly tending to his needs.

Only an uncaring stranger, pushing him beyond the edges of agony.

He deserved it. His previously lived life demanded it, yet for all that he'd done, especially to the man, who now for some insane reason wanted Alex in his life, it didn't seem punishment enough.

The driving pain ceased, leaving behind a steady ache, and Alex realized that the man had finished. He disengaged with a heavy grunt and fell to the mattress beside the motionless hooker, gasping for breath. When he regained enough strength to move, he rolled off the bed, and headed to the bathroom.

"Man I gotta take a piss."

Minutes later, Alex heard the distant flush of the toilet, and the bathroom door open. As the man struggled with his clothing, he looked over at the other, who still lay in the same position he'd left him in.

"You ain't dead, are ya?"

The man leaned over, placing a clammy hand on the prone man's thigh, and Alex flinched away from the touch, hissing softly.

"Guess not. 'Kay, well, I'm outta here. See you around."

A band of yellow light fell across the body on the bed then disappeared as another satisfied customer took his leave.

Slowly, Alex pulled himself off of the bed, jaw working convulsively over clenched teeth as he made his way to the bathroom. He cleaned up as best he could, ignoring the fact that he was bleeding again, got dressed, and exited the hotel room. Minutes later, he was back at his usual spot, leaning against the bench, head down, eyes closed.

It wasn't long at all before another prospective customer approached, and eyes, dark with more than one kind of hurt looked up at the sound of the voice.

"You look like you could use a pick me up."

Alex recognized the man as one that every hooker in boy's town knew and avoided like the plague. Word was, this guy liked to play rough...too rough, and there were rumors floating around...

"How 'bout it? Wanna let ol' Billy see what he can do to make you feel better?"

Good sense overcome by searing pain, Alex shrugged and pushed away from the bench, following the man through the crowd and down the street.

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

Mulder shifted restlessly in his bed, jaw throbbing from the blow Krycek had landed, and a dull, unexplainable ache in his chest. A voice in the back of his head kept telling him that he should have tried harder. He should have persisted until he had made Krycek listen and understand. But how could he do that if he didn't fully understand himself?

//But he's hurt. You shouldn't have left him there like that. You can't be sure that he would go home. In fact, you can be pretty damn sure he *wouldn't* go just to spite you.//

Mulder's heart pounded in his chest at the thought of Alex lying in a filthy, run down motel room while some stranger who didn't give a damn about him compounded his injuries, threw some money at him and then walked away.

//Stop. Stop thinking about it. How much clearer could he have made it? He doesn't want your help. He doesn't want you anywhere near him. You tried. You failed. Get over it. Why's it such a big fucking deal, anyway?//

He asked himself that question again and again, growling as he hurled himself out of bed, threw on some clothes and stormed out of the room.

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

Alex walked up two flights of stairs, keeping at least five steps behind the man in front. As they reached the third floor of the silent warehouse, he looked around the large room and took note of the four other men lounging on crates and wide window sills.

"Look what I got," the new arrival announced to his friends as he snatched a full bottle of whiskey from the closest man.

The dark haired man in the window grinned and stepped forward. "Mmm, mmm." He reached out, stroking Alex's jaw. "I seen you around. Wanted to party with you once, and you told me to fuck off." He looked to his friend. "How'd you get 'im here, Billy?"

Billy shrugged. "I asked, he came."

"Huh." The other man turned his attention back to Alex. "What's he got that I ain't got?"

Dull eyes stared for a moment then again scanned the room.

"Hey," the dark man called, snapping his fingers in Alex's face. "What'sa matter with you?"

"Aww, Mickey, he's just havin' a bad day," Billy answered. "You ever just have a bad day?" Not waiting for an answer, he turned to Alex. "But I promised we'd get you all fixed up, right? Here." He held the bottle out to Alex and waited. "Go on, it'll make you feel better."

Alex inhaled and exhaled slowly, then took the bottle. Closing his eyes, he took a good, long swallow then let Billy take the bottle back.

"This'll warm you up in no time," the other man said with a wink then took a swig of the amber fluid. He looked around at the other three men and motioned to them. "Come on, guys, where are your manners? Make our new friend feel at home."

The others came over and led Alex to an area surrounded by crates and sat him down on one of the blankets they had scattered over the floor. One of the men offered him another bottle, and he took it this time without hesitation.

A pleasurable burning sensation followed the liquid as it trailed down Alex's throat, pooling in his stomach and igniting a small fire there. While it did much to warm and then numb his body, there was an iciness...an ache deep inside...someplace that the booze couldn't seem to reach, and he thought that maybe if he drank *enough*...

While the others kept the hooker occupied, Billy reached into his pocket and pulled out a small package of white pills. Grinning at the Mickey, he dropped two tablets into the bottle, and the two men walked over to the group on the floor.

As soon as Alex passed the bottle he'd been drinking from, Billy handed him the other. Alex took a drink then held it out to the other man, but Billy held up a hand.

"Nah. That one's yours. These clowns can share the other one." He found an unoccupied spot on the floor next to Alex and sat down. "So...how much?"

Alex blinked up at the other man, only now realizing he hadn't even negotiated for a price before leaving with him.

"Uh...wh...what d'you want?"

"Well...I doubt these guys are gonna be real happy just watching you and me go at it, so..."

Alex closed his eyes and drained a quarter of the remainder of the bottle before answering.

"All of you?"

"You mind?"

Why the fuck should he?

Slight shrug. "Whatever."

"Cool. So, how much?"

Three more long swallows. "A grand."

He was on his way to being drunk, but he wasn't completely stupid yet.

//No? Mulder gave you *three* grand.//

Mulder.

Alex gritted his teeth and again raised the bottle to his lips.

"Kinda steep. No group rate?"

"That...that *is* the group rate."

While Alex continued to drink, the money was collected and placed in a pile in front of him. He stopped and started at least three times before he was finally able to count out the whole thousand, and, stuffing the cash into the inside pocket of his jacket, he finished off the contents of the bottle.

"There ya go," Billy cooed. "Bet you're feelin' better already, ain'tcha?"

Alex squinted at the other man, watching his image blur. He closed his eyes and lowered his head, mumbling something unintelligible, and Billy moved closer.

"What's that you say sweet thing? You wanna get the party started?"

Alex lifted his head and again attempted to focus on the man in front of him as a pair of hands grasped his jacket and began to pull it off. He began to voice a muttered protest as the same hands...or maybe it was another pair, started pulling at the fastenings of his shirt and jeans. Then there were more hands...everywhere, rubbing and grabbing, and he lurched this way and that, trying to move away from them.

"Mmm...wait...no, I don't...don't feel right..."

"Don't worry about it, babe," Billy answered, stroking the tips of two fingers down Alex's now bared chest and twisting a nipple. "You ain't seen nothin' yet. Taz, Wes, hold 'im."

Alex was in no shape to fight off the two men who grabbed and jerked him to his knees. He hung limply between the two, the room spinning at an increasingly dizzying pace while Billy and the remaining two men rose to their feet and began to undo their pants.

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

Mulder drove slowly down the street, quickly scanning the crowd. Not seeing the one he was looking for, he continued on to Alex's apartment building and parked outside. Noting that all the lights were out in the corner apartment, he stepped out of the car and crossed the street. He entered the building, still asking himself why he was doing this to himself, and climbed the stairs up to the second floor.

Moving to the end of the hall, he took a deep breath and raised his hand to knock at the door.

And then what?

There was no way in hell Alex would let him in.

Pulling his wallet from his back pocket, he removed a pair of slender metal picks and went to work.

Seconds later, the lock gave, and Mulder quietly let himself into the apartment. All was silent as he moved stealthily from one room to the next, and it wasn't long before he realized that Alex wasn't there.

He had to be in that crowd somewhere...or out with a customer.

"Son of a bitch."

Fox whirled around and stalked out of the apartment. Leaving his car where it was parked, he jogged down the street, searching for Alex as he moved through the mob. "Shit," he muttered softly. "Come on, come on. Where the hell are you?"

"Lookin' for him again?"

Mulder spun around and came face to face with the same hooker he'd spoken with a few days before.

"Yeah. Have you seen him?"

"'Bout half an hour ago. Looked like shit. I never saw him look like that."

"Did he leave with anybody?"

"Yeah. And I'll tell you this much. I couldn't believe it. Everybody around here knows about Billy."

"Billy?"

"Yeah. Bad news from the word go. Roughed up a few of the boys'. Put a couple in the hospital, and about two months ago a new boy was found dead in a dumpster not too far from here. He was doped to the gills and beaten to death. Everybody knows who did it including the cops, but they won't do anything."

"Why the hell not?"

The small man shrugged. "Nobody gives a shit about us. The cops just figure one less hooker, you know?"

Mulder cursed under his breath. "Do you know where they usually hang out?"

"Yeah, but I ain't tellin' you. They ever found out, *I'd* be the next to get snuffed."

"Please," Mulder begged, reaching into his back pocket. "I gotta find him before anything happens to him."

The hooker watched as the taller man thumbed through a number of bills.

"Why's he so important to you? You family?"

"No. But we've known each other a long time." Mulder pulled out two hundred dollars and showed it to the other man. "Please?"

The right corner of the young man's mouth twitched as he eyed the bills.

"Uh....ah, shit." He moved closer and motioned for Mulder to lean in a bit so he could speak into his ear. "Anybody asks, you didn't hear it from me."

"Don't worry."

"Down that way four blocks. Take your first right, go two streets down and take a left. A little ways down you'll see a warehouse. Got the name Weston on the tower. They're always in there. Maybe that's where they got your boy. Be careful Daddy, they ain't no lightweights."

Mulder slipped the bills to the man and thanked him before he sprinted back down the street to his car.

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

Long fingers curled in the glossy sable strands of the kneeling man's hair as the first of the five men shoved his rubber-protected cock in and out of his mouth.

Eyes squeezed shut, Billy grunted with each thrust, moving faster as the sound of Alex choking aroused him further. Finally, he tipped his head back, snarling as he came then pulled out of the prostitute's mouth.

"Ah, that was good. Who's next?"

"Me." Mickey shoved to the front. "Open up, bitch."

"Hey, Mickey."

He turned his head to look at the other man. "What?"

"Rubber."

"What the fuck for? Don't matter what he catches."

"No, but what about you, shithead? He's a *hooker*. How do you know *he* ain't got somethin'?"

"Yeah, didn't think of that."

Billy shook his head. "It's amazing you've lived *this* long." He threw a condom at the other man who quickly unwrapped it and rolled it onto his cock.

Before Mickey could get into Alex's mouth, one of the men holding him up began to complain.

"Hey, man, he's gettin' heavy."

"Quit your bitchin'."

"I ain't kiddin', Mickey," Taz grumbled. "We're holdin' up a dead weight here."

"Oh, for...fine. Drop him, then."

The two men let Alex thump to the floor, and Mickey kneeled beside him, shoving a hand inside the waistband of his jeans.

"Guess you're gonna have to take it up the ass instead." He grabbed a handful of hair and jerked Alex's head up. "You don't mind, do ya? Nah, I didn't think so."

Wrestling the almost unconscious man's jeans down to his knees, Mickey draped himself over his back and worked the head of his cock into his ass.

"Too bad you ain't awake for this," he grated into Alex's ear as he pushed into him. "Ain't as much fun when nobody's screamin' for mercy."

Four brutal thrusts and Mickey was done, shuddering as he came.

"Oh, yeah, you're a fuckin' stud," Wes said flatly, pushing the spent man away. "That had to be the shortest fuck in history."

Mickey lay on his back, giving Wes the finger as the third man rolled Alex onto his back.

"This'll wake you up." Wes pulled the hooker forward and drove into him then began tugging at his flaccid cock.

Quickly recovering, Mickey broke into laughter. "What the hell do you think you're doin'? Asshole, that bitch is *out*."

"His eyes are open...sorta..."

"But there ain't nobody home. You ain't even gettin' a whimper outta him."

Wes snorted and glared down into glazed slivers of green. "You ain't completely out, are you pretty boy?" He drew his hand up and brought it down hard across the other man's face. A slight twitch was all the response he received, and his anger flared as the laughter grew louder.

"Dammit, Billy, you shouldn'ta given him so much."

"I didn't!"

"There ain't nobody home."

Billy stifled a giggle. "Yeah, sorry, Wes. I know how you love to see the terror in their eyes when they get a load of your huge dick."

Wes slapped the drugged man's face again in frustration, then pulled the knife out of the back pocket of his jeans.

"Don't you dare," Billy warned as the other man dragged the blade along the prostitute's cheek.

"What difference does it make?" the other asked. "It's like fuckin' a corpse, anyway."

"Yeah, but at least he's warm. When everybody's had a turn, you can have 'im."

"Hear that?" Wes whispered, unable to resist flicking the knife across Alex's cheek and drawing a trickle of blood. He then released the weapon and, holding the prone man's hips in a bruising grip, slammed into him over and over, his agitated groans bouncing off the walls of the warehouse...

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

Sounds.

A human voice...unrecognizable...moaning.

Mulder pulled his Sig out of his jeans and backed into the shadows, trying to determine which direction the sounds were coming from.

Upstairs.

Silently, he ascended the steps, heart pounding faster as he got closer to the origin of those sounds. And now...

Laughter.

His trigger finger twitched as he was now able to make out some words.

"Ride 'im, Wes."

"Gonna fuck you...again, bitch, when you're...awake, an' I'm gonna...gonna skin you...alive while I'm doin' it..."

More laughing.

"What a sick fuck..."

"And a dead fuck."

All eyes turned to the entrance and focused on the man standing approximately twenty feet away, holding a gun on them.

"Who the hell are you?" Billy demanded starting to rise, but a bullet passing within inches of his head and lodging in the wall behind him dropped him back into place on his crate.

The gun shifted, pointing directly at Wes' head as he reached for the his knife and held it to the comatose man's throat.

"I'll slit him from ear to ear," the man threatened, fueling Mulder's rage.

One nearly black eye squinted, and the gunman's hand moved a bit to the left, zeroing in on the arm that held the knife.

"Go ahead and try it," the soft monotone dared the other man, "and we'll see which one of us is faster."

Billy laughed nervously. "Get Dirty Harry. You think you're that bad, motherfucker?"

Another shot rang out, and Wes fell to the floor beside Alex, holding his bleeding wrist and screeching in agony.

"Yeah." Mulder pointed the Sig at Billy and looked at the other three, frozen with fright. "Get the fuck out of here before I change my mind and blow all your heads off."

The others scattered like mice, leaving Billy and his wounded friend behind.

"Billy," Wes wailed, shivering as he went into shock. "It's broken, man. I think he shattered the bone. God, it hurts...oh, God..."

"Shut the fuck up," Billy grated, not taking his eyes off of the man who was slowly approaching. "Who are you? What d'you want?"

Mulder looked down at Alex, noticing the ever so slight flutter of his eyelashes and the shallow rise and fall of his chest. "Alex? Alex, can you hear me?"

No response.

"What did you do to him?"

"What does somebody usually do to a hooker? We were just having a little..."

"What did you *do* to him?" Mulder roared, his patience running dangerously short.

"We just...Jesus, man, we just gave him a little somethin' to chill him out."

"So he'd be easier to *kill*?"

"Kill? Hey, man, I don't know what made you..."

Billy choked on his remaining words as the muzzle of the gun pressed against his forehead.

"What did you give him?"

"Huh? Nothing! He just had a little drink, and..."

Mulder released the safety. "I'll ask you again. You've got until three to answer, or I'm going to hollow out your skull. *What* did you give him?"

"'Bout a half a bottle of Vodka...coupla Roofies..."

In seconds, Mulder was on the man, inflicting on him a swift and brutal beating using the butt of his gun. He broke off the assault as quickly as he'd initiated it and turned his attention to Alex.

"Alex?" He touched the bruised and bloodied face. "Alex, come on. Talk to me, please?"

Nothing.

Quickly checking the younger man's vitals, Mulder cursed softly under his breath.

"We're gonna get out of here now, okay? But you have to help me." He gently shook the other man. "Come on, wake up. Alex, you gotta wake up."

The soft whimper encouraged him to continue. He tapped the uninjured cheek, again calling the other's name.

"Alex...open your eyes. Come on. Come *on*."

The drugged man began to moan and grimace, and Mulder leaned in to plant a soft kiss on his forehead. "I'm sorry. I know you're hurting, but you have to get up. You have to wake up and stay awake."

Grunting with the tremendous effort it took, Mulder pulled Alex's clothing back into place, lifted the younger man to his feet and, not giving the two severely injured men another look, managed to half walk, half carry him out of the room. Carefully, he negotiated the stairs and made it out to the car, holding Alex up with one arm while unlocking the door. As carefully as he could, Mulder lowered him into the passenger's seat then ran around the car and jumped in.

"You're gonna be okay," he told the semi-conscious man, not at all sure that Alex could hear or even understand what he was saying. "But you *have* to stay awake." Mulder reached across the seat, rubbing and tapping his face.

Alex reacted to the sensation, grunting and attempting to move his head away, but the combination of pills and liquor had greatly diminished his motor skills. Finally, he gave up on the effort and let his head drop onto the back of the seat.

"No, Alex." Mulder started the car and pulled away from the curb, then resumed jostling the other man. "Come on, you were doing good. Wake up. Please? Open your eyes and curse at me. Spit at me...*something*. Hell, I'll let you beat the shit out of me later if you want, just please don't go to sleep."

Mulder sighed heavily, praying for a little guidance. He knew the effects of Rohypnol and alcohol, but he had nothing but Billy's word on how much Alex had actually ingested. He needed some reassurance that he was doing the right thing for him. He needed...

"Scully."

Grabbing for his cell phone, he hit Scully's speed dial number. The phone rang three times before a sleepy voice answered.

"H'llo?"

"Scully, it's me."

"Mulder? What...do you know what time it is? Is...is something wrong?"

"I'm okay, Scully, but I need your help."

"With *what*? You're supposed to be on vacation. Don't tell me you managed to fall across an x-file..."

"No. Listen to me. What do you do for someone who's ingested Rohypnol and Vodka?"

"You're *kidding*."

"Scully, *please*."

"Get them to a hospital, Mulder."

"If I could do that, Scully, I wouldn't be calling *you*."

"What the hell have you got yourself into?"

Alex moaned again, and drew Mulder's attention from the conversation. He petted the younger man's hair and cheek.

"That's it, stay with me."

"*Mulder*."

"I'm here."

"God. How long ago did this happen?"

"I can't be sure, but...half an hour to an hour at least."

"Did you check for vitals?"

"He's semi-conscious but that's actually better than when I found him. He's making a little noise now. Pulse is slow but steady. Pupils sluggish but reactive. His color's not bad, but he's a little clammy. Uh...diminished reflexes..."

"But you say he's coming around?"

"Slowly."

"No convulsions?"

"No."

"Where are you?"

"In the car. I'm taking him to the hotel."

"To your *room*? Mulder, you don't...where...how do you...you just *met* this person. The most you could have known him is a few days..."

"Not actually."

"What?"

"I knew him in D.C."

"You did?"

"Yeah. So did you."

"Me? Mulder, who the hell have you got there? ......Mulder?"

"........Alex Krycek."

"*What*??"

Mulder pulled the phone away from his ear.

"Mulder, tell me you're kidding!"

"Do I sound like I'm kidding?"

"Where the hell did you find Alex Krycek?"

"I'm sorry, Scully, I don't have the time to get into this with you. I'll be at the hotel soon. Just
tell me what to do."

"I can't even believe this," Scully muttered. "Uh...try and keep him awake and moving at least until he's lucid. Cool shower...no coffee. Keep a close eye on him, that combination could have cardiac effects that might not show up right away."

"Effects like what?"

"Mulder, he could drop from a heart attack if there's enough of that stuff in his system."

"Jesus."

"I don't think it'll happen. He doesn't sound that bad, but I just wanted you to know the possibilities. Get through the next twenty four hours, and I'd say he was home free."

"O-okay, Scully. Thanks."

"Mulder?"

"This *is* Alex Krycek. Be careful, okay?"

He didn't bother to argue. "Yeah. I'm pulling up to the hotel now. Talk to you later."

"All right."

Mulder disconnected and came to a stop in front of the door. He motioned to the doorman as he got out of the car, and ran halfway to meet him.

"I need your help."

The man looked past Mulder to the figure in the car and smiled. "Of course, sir. What do you need?"

"Is there another entrance? Another way for me to get up to my room without having to go through the main lobby?"

The younger man's anxiety washed the smile from the doorman's face. "Yes, uh...there is. It's the service entrance. For employees only..."

"I need to use it." He looked to the car. "He's sick. He's in no shape, and I don't want to bring him through the lobby...people staring. It...it's my fault...I did this to him, and I have to..."

"Okay," the older man said soothingly. "Okay, take it easy. Bring him around to the back. I'll meet you there, and we'll get him up to your room."

"Thank you," Mulder breathed, clasping a hand over the other man's arm before hurrying back to the car.

"Two minutes, Alex," he promised, again rousing the younger man as he fell into the car and pulled around the back of the hotel. "Two minutes, and we'll get you all cleaned up and comfortable, okay?"

Only the flutter of sable eyelashes answered his proposal.

As promised, the doorman met him at the back of the building, and they quickly but carefully extricated the limp man from the car. They brought him to the service elevator, and once the doorman had them up to Mulder's floor, he turned and eyed the other.

"Jeez, he doesn't look good. Somebody beat him up?"

Mulder's eyes darkened to a stormy shade of green at the thought. He eased the younger man's head to his shoulder and stroked the dark hair.

"Yeah."

"He'll be okay. I know you're going to take good care of him."

"I'm going to try."

The door opened, and the two men slowly maneuvered the third down the hall to room twelve-fourteen. Mulder let them in and thanked the older man profusely for his assistance.

"Don't worry about it. Just get him better. If you need any more help, I'm here from nine p.m. to five a.m." He turned and scribbled on the pad of paper that lay on the table by the door. "Any other time you can reach me at this number."

"Thank you so much." Fox shook the man's hand and turned his attention immediately to the man slumped against him.

The doorman walked to the exit and, sending a concerned smile Mulder's way, he stepped into the hall, closing the door behind him.

"Okay, Alex," Mulder murmured in the younger man's ear. "How about a nice shower, huh? You'll feel better when you're all cleaned up."

Soft groan.

"Come on, you pain in my ass. Open your eyes and give me some shit."

A sliver of glittering green appeared under the sweeping eyelashes then disappeared.

Mulder lowered the younger man to the bed and began to pull off his already unfastened clothing. As quickly as he could, he stripped Alex naked and, to a round of welcome albeit incoherent complaints, pulled him to his feet and dragged him into the bathroom.

Turning on the shower, he waited until the water ran to the warm side of tepid, then turned Alex's face up to his.

"Okay, you're gonna get in the tub yourself and stand on your own, right? ...You're not, are you? You're going to make me get in there with you, aren't you? God, come on, Alex."

No response.

"Son of a...okay, this should be interesting..."

With one hand, Mulder worked at the buttons on his shirt and somehow managed to get it peeled off without letting Alex hit the floor. Then, in a move that would have made Houdini proud, he kicked his shoes off, squirmed out of his pants and socks, and hefted Alex into the shower.

The younger man began to moan and writhe, but Mulder's hand moving over his back and the soothing voice murmuring in his ear, quieted him.

Quickly becoming proficient at using only one hand, Mulder squeezed some bath gel onto the nearby sponge and began rubbing it gently over the other man, thinking to himself that at any other time he would consider this some pretty hot foreplay.

But not now.

Right now this man resting so helplessly in his arms aroused in him an emotion that went much deeper than lust.

Hugging Alex to him, he pressed a kiss into the drenched hair and continued to wash away the blood, the smell of the warehouse, and that of the scum who had treated him so brutally.

They hadn't deserved the mercy he'd shown them. None of them. But there was no time for him to do to them what he really wanted to do. He had to consider Alex's condition first. But now, as he stood there clad in nothing more than his drenched boxer briefs, bathing his naked, semi conscious former nemesis, he had the time to think about it, and the rage he felt shook him to the core.

"They'd better pray I never see them again," he whispered into the younger man's hair, knowing with all certainty that if given a second opportunity, there would be nothing to prevent him from killing all five of the fuckers.

He finished cleaning Alex up, being especially careful around all of the more tender areas, then slowly eased the temperature knob over to cool.

Alex became a bit more active, shivering and fussing as the spray grew cold, and the hand that had soothed and comforted him now insisted that he wake up.

"Alex." Mulder briskly rubbed the younger man's back and arms. "Time to wake up. You're getting damn heavy, and this water is freezing." He tapped the lightly stubbled face. "Come on, I let you rest for a little while, but you gotta wake up now..."

That voice.

Not any of those Alex had last remembered hearing, but very familiar, nonetheless.

And comforting. He liked this voice.

And he liked the arms folded around him. There was a warmth in this embrace...in the body pressed against him, even though the rain was freezing.

What the hell was he doing out in the rain, naked?

Had to be a dream.

But, God, it was so real.

He lifted his weakened arms and clung loosely to the body against him, letting himself feel the sting of the water.

So cold. Felt almost like D.C. rain...

"...Very good...that's good...open your eyes..."

He was beginning to feel different. The haze was slowly lifting, and reality had begun to creep in.

He wasn't dreaming about being naked in someone's arms in the rain. He *was* naked in someone's arms...in a shower...

Mulder watched recognition slowly filter in and clear the glaze a bit from Alex's eyes. He said a silent prayer of thanks then waited expectantly as the sable head lifted a fraction from his shoulder, and Alex looked around. His eyes drifted shut again, and he lowered his head to Mulder's shoulder with a pained sigh.

"Jeez. Where am I?"

"You're safe."

Was that?

No...

"Freezing."

"I know, but I had to wake you up. They drugged you."

Drugged?

//Shit.//

It came back to him in a rush.

That asshole Billy and his cronies...a warehouse...booze...terrible pain...

Holy Christ, what the hell had gotten into him? What could've made him doing something so stupid?

Mulder.

Oh, God...

Alex forced himself to lift his head and focused a fuzzy gaze on the one who held him.

"What...what're you..."

Alex tried to push away from the other man, but his strength was gone.

"Let me go," he pleaded on a sobbing breath even as his head fell back to the other man's shoulder.

"If I do, you'll hit the floor." Mulder said matter of factly as he shut the water off. With one arm still around Alex for support, he reached for a towel and wrapped it around the younger man's shoulders. "Hold on to me so I can dry you."

"How'd you find me?"

"You're lucky I *did*. Krycek, you gotta hold on to me. I can't hold you up *and* dry you."

"*Why*?"

"Why can't I?"

Alex squeezed his eyes shut, fighting off a wave of pain.

"No. Why'd you look for me?"

"If I hadn't, the cops would've found you dead in a dumpster tomorrow."

Alex knew it was true.

"I'm going to sit you down for just a minute, okay? I gotta dry myself off."

Not waiting for an answer, Mulder carefully led Alex out of the tub, wrapped a fresh towel around him, and lowered him to the toilet seat. He removed his soaked underwear, dried himself quickly, then wrapped the damp towel around his waist. That done, he reached down to help Alex up.

"Let's get you something to wear, then we're going to walk a little."

Still dazed green eyes opened and looked up at Mulder. "What?"

"We need to clear your head a little more. I want to make sure you're good and lucid before I even think about letting you go to sleep."

Letting you go to sleep...

He hadn't said, 'letting you go home' or 'getting you the hell out of here', no. He *said*, 'letting you go to sleep'. As in, 'Nighty night,Alex, see you in the morning.'

Alex frowned up at the older man as he was lifted to his feet.

"I can't...I can't stay here."

"Yeah, you can."

"No. *No*. I'm not. I..."

"Shut the hell up, Krycek. You're staying here."

"*No*."

"Don't think I won't cuff you to the bed if I have to."

Alex stared at the other man as he was slowly walked into the bedroom.

"Why are you doing this to me?"

Mulder lowered him to the bed then walked to the dresser for a pair of underwear.

"What do you think I'm doing to you?"

Alex closed his eyes as the room began to spin. "*This*", he grated, moaning as the action just made things worse.

Mulder returned and, ignoring the incoherent protests, put the underwear on the younger man.

"If you're referring to facing down five assholes, one of which held a knife to your throat as he fucked you..."

The look that crossed Alex's face made him immediately regrets his words. He continued in a softer tone.

"...and getting you out of there before they actually killed you, I'm *doing* it to you because I care. Now, come on. You have to get up and walk a little."

"Tired," Alex replied in a small voice as he allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. "Everything hurts."

"I know," Mulder said almost inaudibly, tentatively running his fingers through the damp hair before moving them both forward. "I'm sorry. I promise you can go to sleep in a little while, okay?"

Alex nodded, silently berating himself for his sudden transformation from arrogant, self-sufficient man to vulnerable, whiny child.

Okay, so maybe the child bit was taking it a little far, but he couldn't deny that he *was* whining, and for some reason he'd never felt so vulnerable in all his life. And the thing was, he really had to admit that it wasn't as repulsive a thing as he thought it would be. In fact, truth be told, it felt good to just let go and put himself in someone else's hands.

Not someone else.

Fox Mulder.

He knew deep down that he would never do this with anyone *but* Mulder. He couldn't.

And still, in spite of all that, he was scared to death. Scared of feeling *too* good. Scared that once he felt good and secure, it would all go up in smoke.

"Talk to me, Alex."

The soft order brought him out of his reverie.

"'Bout what?"

"Anything. I just want to make sure you stay awake."

"You want to know what I'm doing out here. Why I'm doing what I do."

"Yeah, I do. But we don't have to get into anything that heavy now."

Alex struggled to keep his eyes open. "Good," he sighed. "Can't think anyway."

"Okay. So let's sing. Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall..."

"You really are insane."

"Insult me all you want, but you're not going to sleep yet."

"I will if I want to."

"No, you *won't*."

"Fuck you, Mulder."

"Look," Mulder began in an agitated tone, "you think I'm not tired? You think I'm enjoying walking your ass back and forth here? I could've been asleep *hours* ago. I *should* have been, but nooooo."

"Nobody told you to come out looking for me."

"You're right. Nobody did. Nobody else would have given a shit. But *I* do. Why does that scare you so much?"

Alex managed a pained laugh. "Been faced with scarier assholes than you."

"You haven't answered the question."

"Not scared," Alex muttered.

"No?" Mulder asked softly, stroking two fingers across the younger man's lower lip and watched it quiver. "I think you're a damn liar." He moved his fingers to the bruise and cut that it overlaid. "This hurt much?"

Silent shrug.

"They'd better pray I never run across them again."

Alex stared at the older man, trying for all he was worth to find some insincerity in his tone, but all it revealed was a deadly honesty that could not be denied or ignored. His body tingled in response, and he looked away, trying not to let the other man see what was in his eyes. But it was everywhere else; from the set of his mouth to the way he held his head, and Mulder had always been pretty damn good at reading people.

"Why didn't you go home, Alex? Why did you go off with those assholes? You knew what that Billy was about."

"H...how do you know what I know?"

"There are people out there, who, for the right amount of encouragement will tell you what you want to know."

Alex closed his eyes and sighed.

"Stay awake."

"M'not going to sleep."

"Okay. So?"

"So, what?"

"So, why'd you do it?"

"Thought we weren't going to get into a heavy conversation?"

"Okay," Mulder conceded. "You're right. How do you feel?"

"Like shit. If I don't lie down soon, you're going to be dragging me across this floor."

Mulder studied the younger man for a moment then nodded.

"I guess it's safe to let you rest now."

"Gosh, thanks."

Mulder walked the other man over to the bed, arranging the pillows into a pile then lay him back against them.

Alex winced as he shifted this way and that, then finally settled into the most comfortable position he could find.

Mulder waited until Alex's movement stilled then, "Can I get you anything?"

"No. Well..."

"Yeah?"

"I'm a little dry."

Mulder retrieved a bottle of water from the refrigerator behind the small bar and brought it over to the bed.

Alex took the bottle and drained more than half its contents before looking up at the older man and mumbling his thanks.

"Guess you *were* dry," Mulder observed as he watched the other drink down the rest of the water. "More?"

Alex shook his head and handed the empty bottle back.

"Hungry?"

"No." Alex let his head fall back against the pillows and closed his eyes, but almost immediately lifted it again.

"Shit."

"Dizzy?"

Alex nodded slightly, taking slow, deep breaths.

Mulder seated himself at the edge of the bed and rearranged the pillows so that Alex didn't have to tilt his head back.

"Okay. Now, try to close your eyes."

Alex obeyed, sighing heavily.

"Is that better?"

The low monotone washed him in warmth, calming his nerves and bringing a contentment he hadn't felt in...well, never. He moaned softly, unconsciously turning into the hand that was now caressing the side of his face.

"Sleep now. I'll check on you in about an hour."

Alex issued a barely audible sigh in response, his mind and body already drifting into the darkness.

Mulder sat quietly, watching the diminishing movements of the heavy fringe of lashes and wished for nothing more than to be able to lie down and pull Alex into the protective warmth of his arms, but he wasn't quite sure how that would go over. He was shocked enough that the younger man was lying here in his bed, letting him offer comfort.

Mulder lingered a bit longer, waiting until he was fairly sure that Alex was asleep, then rose from the bed and headed toward the bathroom. Before he could make it to the door, an agitated sound reached his ears. He turned to find Alex shifting restlessly, half open eyes searching his immediate surroundings.

Mulder walked back over to the bed and sat down, reaching out to run a hand over the top of the younger man's head.

"What is it?" he whispered, receiving no verbal answer. The other simply gravitated toward him and settled into a contented silence once his presence could again be felt.

Mulder stared at the younger man as he lulled him back to sleep.

Mystifying.

How could he shift from strong-willed and arrogant to unsure and frightened to so completely submissive and needy all in the span of a couple of days? Hours?

Mulder changed position, carefully lifting his legs onto the bed and pushing back against the pillows. He continued to observe Alex while his hand gently massaged the back, which was now turned to him.

//Maybe the confusion isn't as much yours as it is his.//

He maintained his position on the bed for over an hour then, as much as he didn't want to do it, gently shook Alex awake.

"Alex."

No response.

"Alex?"

"Hmm."

"I'm sorry," he whispered, brushing a kiss across the younger man's shoulder. "I'm going to have to keep checking on you through the night. You can sleep as long as you want tomorrow. Do you know where you are?"

"In hell."

Mulder turned the groggy man's face to his. "Does that make me Satan?"

Alex's eyelashes fluttered and lifted. "Don't you want my soul?"

Mulder let the question pass. "Where are you?" he asked softly.

"Your hotel room."

"And who am I?"

"Mulder."

"How do you feel?"

Alex's head nestled back into the pillow. "Tired." He grimaced as he mumbled into the linen-covered cushion. "Hurts."

"I know. Go back to sleep."

Mulder didn't have to issue the command twice. Alex drew a deep breath and drifted back into sleep almost immediately. He lay quietly behind the other man, fingers skimming the warm surface of his skin, learning its texture. He leaned in, rubbing his cheek over Alex's shoulder, inhaling and memorizing his scent. Ever so gently, his tongue inched out, stroking over the satiny surface, reveling in the younger man's flavor.

"I do want your soul," he whispered, caressing the sleeping man's arm.

When he was sure that Alex was deeply asleep, Mulder left the comfort of the bed and, unwrapping the towel from his waist, pulled a pair of underwear out of the drawer and wrestled it on over the raging erection he sported. Wrapping a light robe around himself, he pulled a chair up beside the bed and took a seat. Shaking off the urge to close his eyes, he reached for the remote and turned the television on, flipping through channel after channel, stopping on what had quickly become his favorite.

He watched for more than twenty minutes, torturing himself with the images on screen, seeing himself and Alex in the place of the two men...twined together, clutching at each other, kissing, almost devouring...

Gilded eyes flicked from the screen to the man lying unconscious on the bed.

Cut and bruised...eyes swollen and black with exhaustion, he was still unnervingly beautiful and more desirable than anything Mulder had ever seen.

Crossing his legs and willing his cock to stop its throbbing, Mulder changed the channel to something more innocuous. He turned the sound all the way down and leaned back in his seat, watching the steady rise and fall of the other man's chest...observing the intermittent flutter of his eyelashes, and his gaze fell away. He took long, steady breaths, his heart pounding rapidly, the intensity of it drowning out the throb of his cock.

//He's right, you know. You *are* insane. Wanting this man, knowing all that he's done and all that he's been...it's demented. it's..it's psychotic.//

His eyes again rose to look upon the sleep-softened features.

//It's undeniable.//

"Please give me your soul, Alex," he requested softly. "God knows why, but you've already got mine."

For the rest of the night and well into the morning, Mulder woke Alex every hour or so, incurring the younger man's ire each time, and finally, at around ten a.m., he watched the exhausted, emerald eyes close, and he vowed that this would be the last time. Alex had remained lucid through the night, and Mulder didn't have the heart to wake him any more. Besides, he was about ready to fall on his face too, if he didn't get some sleep.

But not in this damn chair.

Quietly, he crept up onto the bed and lay beside the other man, just barely letting their legs touch, and quickly drifted into a heavy slumber.

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

A soft but insistent sound startled Mulder out of sleep. He rolled to his right, snatching his cell phone up off of the nightstand and brought it to his ear, looking over at the man beside him.

"Mulder."

"Mulder? I can hardly hear you."

"That's because I'm whispering." Mulder carefully slid out of bed to avoid disturbing the still sleeping man.

"Why are you...oh. I guess he's still there?"

"Yeah."

"Asleep?"

"He's exhausted." Mulder looked at his watch. "Until ten this morning, I hadn't let him sleep for more than an hour or so at a time."

"So he's been asleep for..."

"'Bout three hours."

"And he's been okay?"

"Yeah. I guess they didn't give him enough to do any real damage."

"Mulder, can you tell me now? What the hell's going on out there?"

"I...I can't go into any real detail, Scully. I'm sorry. Hell, *I* don't even know the whole story."

"Well, whatever it is, it isn't your problem. You've saved that low life snake's ass. You've done your good deed. As soon as he wakes up, boot him the hell out of there and pray to God you never see him again."

"It..." //Oh, God.// "It isn't just a matter of letting him sleep it off."

"What d'you mean?"

"He wasn't just doped up, Scully. He's hurt. And...and he won't take care of himself."

"So...*what*? You're going to do it?"

"...Yeah."

"You know, Mulder, I'd ask you if you were serious, but I can hear in your voice that you are. So, my next question is, *why*?"

"I don't...I...I don't really know for sure. I wish I could explain it to you so that you could understand."

"Try."

Mulder ran a hand through his tousled hair and moved a little farther from the bed.

"You're going to think I'm crazy."

"I *already* think you're crazy, Mulder. Just tell me."

"Okay. I'm going to ask you a question, and I want the absolute truth, okay?"

"Okay..."

"We've known Krycek for years. We know he's done some things...rotten, nasty things that take all *kinds* off balls, would you agree with that?"

"Oh, yeah. I agree with that."

"Have you ever...just *once* admired his nerve?"

"Never."

"Scully, you didn't even think about it before you answered."

"What the hell's to think about? The man's...you *know* what he is."

"Yes, I know. But a person doesn't have to be a saint for you to admire a quality that they might possess."

"Mulder, the man killed your father. He was there when Melissa was killed. What's there to admire?"

"I know all that, Scully. Believe me, I haven't forgotten it. But I can't..." Mulder broke off his sentence and heaved a long sigh.

"You can't what?"

"I can't help how I feel."

"How you *feel*..."

He'd gone this far, there was no turning back now.

"He's...he's magnetic, Scully. He's arrogant, and he's confident, and he's proud. Being out here in California has dulled that somehow. He doesn't shine as brightly as he used to. But it's there, it just needs a little polishing."

"You really *do* sound like you admire him. Jesus, Mulder, what the hell's the matter with you?"

"I don't know," Mulder sighed. "But...that isn't all he is, Scully. There's more to him than what I just told you. He goes so much deeper than I thought he did."

"Mulder, I can't tell you how confused you've got me."

"He's...there's a sadness in his eyes. This soul-deep loneliness..."

"And you want to be his new best friend?"

"Scully..."

"Sorry. Continue."

"He's tired, and he's...confused. I think I did that to him."

"Confused him?"

"Yeah."

"How?"

"I gave him something he never had. Only he didn't know it was me at first. And when he found out, that's when the real confusion began."

"I'm getting a headache trying to follow you, Mulder."

"I know, I'm confusing myself....something's going on here between us, Scully, and I have to find out what it is."

"And now you're scaring me."

"I'm sorry, but this isn't going to help much...I want him."

"You..."

"Want him. Sexually, emotionally..."

"If this is a joke, Mulder, it's a really bad one."

"It's not. When I found out what had happened to him last night...I wanted to kill the men who did it. I would have if his life wasn't in immediate danger. And now, all I want to do is take care of him...hold him and make him feel safe." He turned to look at the still figure on the bed. "I'm watching him sleep right now. He's so beautiful, Scully..."

"I'm dreaming," Scully breathed. "That's it. That's what it is. I'm still asleep, and this is a nightmare."

"I'm sorry, Scully, to be saying this to you on the phone. But I can't help it, I can't...I can't explain it. It's just like I'm full up, and it's got no place left to go but *out*."

"God. I can't believe this. Mulder, come home. All that California sunshine is obviously frying your brain."

"Maybe it's just warming my cold, cold heart."

"God, that's sappy, Mulder."

"I know."

"Seriously, I'm worried about you. You *hate* Alex Krycek. You've hated him for years, and now *this*?"

"You know what they say about that fine line."

"Mulder!"

"What?"

"Don't even...I mean, you're not...God, you don't think you're in *love* with that rat bastard."

Silence, then a frightened, "Mulder?"

"I think it's a possibility. I think it's always been a possibility."

"Mulder...I don't even know what to say to you."

"You don't have to say anything, Scully."

"But," the woman on the other end sputtered. "But...Mulder, you have to know that this can't possibly go anywhere!"

"I *don't* know that. I think he wants me too."

"If he's giving you that impression, it's more than likely just to mess with your head. He's Alex *Krycek*, and he's jerking you around, as always!"

"No," Mulder answered flatly. "If you were here. If you saw...there's so much more to him than what he showed us."

"Mulder, the man is a consummate liar. He's leading you on. Don't you get it? Whatever it is you think he is now, he's faking it!"

"He didn't *fake*..." Mulder lowered his voice a few decibels and resumed his argument through gritted teeth. "He didn't fake being drugged and assaulted, Scully. The man's been *hurt*."

"Whatever happened to him, I'm sure he deserved it."

"You don't know what the hell you're talking about."

"No? Okay, well, explain it to me. Please, Mulder, I'm dying to understand."

"I don't have the time or the desire to argue with you about this any more," Mulder sighed. "I'm going now."

"Mulder, *please*."

"What?"

"Don't hang up this way."

"Believe me, Scully, I'd rather not. But I don't see you even making an effort, and I'm not going to sit here on the phone with you and argue all afternoon. I don't want to be all bent out of shape when Alex wakes up."

"Mulder..."

"Goodbye, Scully."

Mulder disconnected and walked back to the bed, where he found Alex in the exact same position he'd left him in.

Pulling the sheet up over the younger man's shoulder, Mulder spoke softly.

"It's okay. I didn't expect her to understand. Doesn't matter anyway. Nothing she says can make me walk away from you."

For the next seven hours Mulder lingered in his room, either watching television or reading, often breaking to check on his slumbering guest. Alex had moved little in all that time, and he was sorely tempted a few times to wake the younger man just to make sure he was all right. But a soft sigh or slight twitch of the other's body held him at bay.

Finally, at around eight p.m. Alex began to regain consciousness. His eyes opened and closed several times, attempting to focus on the fuzzy images around him.

Lamp.

Table and chairs.

Bellhop wheeling in a tray full of food.

His eyes flicked to the immediate left of the bellhop.

Mulder.

It wasn't a dream.

Alex turned onto his back and moaned.

God, no, it wasn't a dream.

Hearing the pained sound, two pairs of eyes fell to the figure on the bed. While the bellhop looked quickly away, Mulder's gaze remained intently focused on the man in his bed.

"Thanks." He absently handed the other man a ten, cueing him to take his leave. When the bellhop had gone, Mulder moved over to the bed and sat down.

"How d'you feel?"

Alex closed his eyes and let his head roll to the side. "Been better, been worse."

"Hungry?"

"No."

"Well, I'm starving. Had some toast earlier but that was it. Uh...where are you going?"

Alex shoved the light blanket back and pushed himself out of bed.

"Leaving."

"No, you're not."

"Yeah, I am. Listen, Mulder, thanks for letting me sleep it off up here, but it's time for me to go."

"You're not going anywhere," Mulder called flatly, watching as the younger man hobbled around the room in obvious pain.

"Yeah. I am. Where are my clothes?"

"I sent them down to the laundry."

Alex spun around as quickly as he could, glaring at the older man. "What the hell for?"

"Because there was blood on them, and they smelled like stale booze and sweat. Come on, sit down and have something to eat."

Stunned green eyes stared into tranquil hazel.

"Krycek? You okay?"

Alex's jaw worked steadily, his throat emitting no sound as he continued to stare at the seated man. Then, in a burst of energy, he moved back toward the bed, snatching up the robe draped at its foot. He struggled into the thick, white covering as he made for the door, but Mulder got there first.

"What are you doing?"

"I gotta get out of here," Alex murmured more to himself than the man blocking his path. "Can't...I can't stay..."

"And you can't go out like *this*. Now, I know there are a lot of weirdos out here, but don't you think you'd look just a bit out of place wandering the streets in a bathrobe?"

"Then get my fucking clothes!"

Mulder calmly shook his head. "You don't want to go."

"The hell I don't!" Alex winced at the pain his yelling caused in his head.

The older man moved closer, his voice a sensuous hum, slithering around Alex's frayed nerves.

"I know you don't. What I don't know is why you feel the need to fight it." He raised a hand, gently sliding his fingertips across the other's collar bone. "Stay and have dinner with me. We don't have to talk if you don't want to. It'll just be enough that you're here."

Alex stood silently, only the trembling of his body giving his emotions away. He allowed Mulder to take his hand and lead him away from the door.

"I..." he stammered, glancing toward the bathroom. "I gotta clean up."

"Okay." Not relinquishing his hold on Alex's hand, Mulder led the way to the bathroom. "They got everything in this joint. "Spare toothbrushes, combs, shoe shine kits, not that you'd need that..."

Mulder rambled on, but only half of his words were making it through the haze of confusion swirling around in Alex's brain.

"Allleeex..."

"Hmm? What?"

"I told you to call if you needed me."

"Yeah," Alex whispered breathily, nodding. "Yeah, okay."

"You all right?" Mulder asked, incurring a faint whimper as he touched the younger man's cheek.

Alex inched away, nodding.

"All right, I'll..." Mulder let his hand drop to his side, and he backed up to the door. "...I'll be out here. I'll leave the door open a bit so I can hear better, okay?"

Alex shrugged, clutching the robe to himself.

Mulder left the younger man alone and drifted back into the room. While he waited, he rang for housekeeping and asked that someone come up and change the sheets, then he sat down at the table and looked out at the twinkling lights of the city.

Maybe he and Alex could go out one night when he was feeling better. Dinner and a nice jazz club perhaps.

He smiled at the thought of the two of them out together, sitting side by side in some dark little club...so close that their thighs brushed against each other. Sharing drinks and lingering touches...

Mulder shook off the fantasy and forced his thoughts back to reality.

And reality was this:

This was one fucked up situation.

He was completely obsessed with...well, with the last person in the world he ever would have thought he'd be obsessed with...his partner wanted to have him committed for said obsession, and the object of his sudden, burning passion kept pushing him away even as his traitorous soul cried out for him...

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

Alex stepped out of the shower, patting his aching body dry with the thickest towel he'd ever seen. He peeled the plastic wrapping away from the hotel-supplied toothbrush and proceeded to brush his teeth.

Bloodshot green eyes rose to the mirror as Alex brushed, and he stared at himself, taking stock of the bruises and cuts he sported.

//God, you really do look like shit. And he *still* wants you.//

//Question is, what for?//

//Stop trying to find an ulterior motive where there is none. He isn't *you*.//

//Well, if he isn't being insincere, he's crazy.//

//Mulder was *always* a little off...you can't let him do this to himself. Can't let him...You're not what he needs. It can't work. As soon as your clothes come back, get the hell out of here.//

Alex finished brushing his teeth then wrapped the robe around himself and, resolve securely intact, stepped out of the bathroom.

All that determination began to crack as he entered the candlelit room. His gaze fell to the man slouched in the chair by the window, and it crumbled to dust.

Mulder stared out the window, knuckles pressed into his mouth, momentarily oblivious to the new presence. Then the sound of a softly drawn breath drew his attention to the one who stood on the other side of the room. Their eyes met and held for long seconds, then he rose and walked over to the other man.

"Feel better?"

Alex shrugged. "Okay."

"Do you think you can sit down for a while at the table?"

"I don't know. For a while, I guess."

Mulder led the younger man over to the table and, once he was seated, pulled another chair up next to his.

"Let me know if it hurts too much."

Alex shifted into a more comfortable position. "I'm all right."

Mulder nodded and uncovered the food. He smiled over at the other man. "Smells good." He placed Alex's plate in front of him then dug into his own dinner.

"This hotel's got some great chefs," Mulder commented around a mouthful of tender prime rib. Receiving no answer, he looked over at his companion and found him picking at his food. He waited a few minutes, and when Alex made no attempt to eat, put his fork down and slid off of his chair, coming to kneel beside the younger man.

With one hand on the terry cloth covered knee for balance, Mulder took the fork from Alex's hand and speared a sliver of meat. He brought the food to the bowed lips, silently coaxing the other to open his mouth.

Alex's lips parted just enough to allow the fork through as he watched Mulder watching him. The older man gave him a soft, encouraging smile and reached for another forkful, waiting until he had swallowed to bring the food to his mouth. He took what was offered then looked away from the warm gaze.

"Your food's going to get cold."

Mulder slid his plate alongside Alex's and ate some of its contents. "Okay?"

The seated man lowered his head and looked down at his folded hands.

"C'mon, have some more."

"Stop it."

"Stop what?"

Alex looked up, his eyes sparkling with some intense emotion.

"Stop feeding me as if I were a child."

"You let me feed you the other day."

"You were a paying, *anonymous* customer the other day."

Mulder cocked his head curiously. "So...if I give you a few hundred you'll let me?"

"Go to hell."

The older man dropped the fork into the plate, anger now beginning to seep in. "What do you want from me, Krycek?"

"I don't know," the younger man snapped, licking at suddenly very dry lips. "The truth, maybe?"

Mulder shook his head, eyes burning into the other man's. "Why can't you accept *this* as the truth?"

"Because *nobody* ever gives you something for nothing. There's always a catch."

"You know, Alex, maybe I don't live in that world."

"Bullshit."

Mulder stared at the younger man for long moments before responding. "Okay. Okay, maybe there is something I want from you." He gently but firmly parted Alex's thighs and moved between them, drawing closer to the other man. "But it's nothing I think you don't really want to give."

Alex sat frozen as one hand drifted up his arm and shoulder then threaded through the hair at the back of his head. He trembled at the feel of Mulder's breath against his lips and gasped softly as the other's mouth whispered against them.

Mulder pulled away, leaving the kiss incomplete. "You wanted the truth from me," he murmured, massaging the younger man's scalp. "I want the same. Tell me you really don't want to be here. Tell me that you don't want to be with me, and I'll believe you. I'll give you something of mine to wear, and you can leave if that's really what you want to do."

Alex stared down at the older man, chewing on the uninjured corned of his lip.

Well, there it was. The out that he'd told himself he was looking for. Now, what was he going to do with it?

"I want to know something," he whispered, staring down at the mouth he recalled wanting so badly just the day before.

"What do you want to know?"

"When you look at me..." Alex forced himself to raise his eyes to Mulder's. "...what do you see?"

The older man took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I see a man I used to despise, but who I now can't get out of my mind. I see...exquisite, sad eyes set in the most beautiful face, and they reflect such incredible loneliness and regret..."

"How is it you see all that?" Alex asked hoarsely. "Other people see me so differently." His head lowered again. "Liar. Killer. Spy...whore..."

"You can't say they're wrong."

"No..."

Mulder slipped two fingers under Alex's chin and lifted. "But no one else has looked beyond that."

An apprehensive gaze searched the older man's face. "Why did you?"

"I've known you for years, Alex...studied you even as I was beating the hell out of you, and I knew when I saw you that first night...with that man...I knew there was more. I knew there was something very wrong. And the first time you came up here confirmed it for me...mostly."

"Mostly?"

"Yeah. Well, like you, I couldn't allow myself to believe. I tried to tell myself that what I thought was real was actually an act...you giving the customer his money's worth. I couldn't bring myself to fully believe that you were what my heart was telling me you were. It's gotten me into so much trouble in the past, and *this* time, with you, I could've been in some pretty deep shit."

"You still could."

Mulder fell into a thoughtful silence then answered. "True. But I've decided I'm willing to take that chance. Can you do the same?"

He wanted to. Christ, he wanted to so much.

Mulder waited patiently, watching an internal struggle play out in Alex's eyes.

"I understand how you might think that I'm setting you up for some kind of elaborate revenge," Mulder said softly. "But all I can give you is my word that I'm not. I want you here, Alex. I want to share meals with you. I want to lie in bed beside you and talk for hours. I want you to go to sleep and wake up feeling safe and at peace."

Alex's eyes dropped shut as the older man's knuckles brushed over his mouth, and he uttered a whispered promise.

"I won't hurt you, Alex."

"You *can't* hurt me," the younger man came back in a half hearted defensive statement.

Mulder searched Alex's face for a few seconds then nodded slightly and covered the other man's hand with his own.

"Please stay with me."

Those eyes. Goddamn it, why did he have to look at him that way?

"I..." Alex stopped to clear his throat. "I guess I can hang out here for a while."

Mulder broke into a soft smile. "Good." His thumb swept lightly across the younger man's hand. "You look a little uncomfortable. Starting to hurt?"

"I'm okay."

"I don't think you're telling me the truth."

Alex offered the other man the barest hint of a smile. "Well...liar *was* first on my resume'."

Gold splashed eyes glowed with amusement. "Come on, you can eat in bed."

Alex let the older man pull him up out of his chair, wincing slightly as he straightened up, then moved back to the bed. While he settled himself into a comfortable slouch, Mulder replaced the dishes on the cart and wheeled it over to the vacant side of the bed.

"Okay, now..." Mulder lifted one plate and slid back next Alex against the pillows. "*eat*."  He brought the loaded fork to the younger man's lips, leaving him no choice but to accept what was offered.

After eating almost half of his meal, Alex refused the rest, and Mulder set the food aside, satisfied. Turning onto his side, he lay quietly, stroking the other man's hair. Alex turned to meet his eyes but soon dropped his gaze to the very slim area of mattress between them.

"Tired?" Mulder asked, gently massaging the other's temple.

"Not really. Just..."

"Just what?"

Alex shrugged. "A little freaked, I guess is as good a description as any. Keep thinking that any minute now, I'm gonna wake up. I mean...this is like one of those dreams you have, and you wake up and shake your head, saying, 'Damn, that was a weird one.'"

"I know. If someone would have told me that I'd ever be lying on a bed beside a half-naked Alex Krycek, feeding him, talking to him...wanting to touch him in a way that had nothing to do with violence...I'd have laughed in their face then shot 'em. But I've learned that life seldom goes the way you expect it to."

Alex looked up and immediately felt himself being warmed by a soft, amber-flecked gaze. "No," he grated softly. "Guess it doesn't."

Mulder fell silent for a brief time then drew a breath and asked what he'd been dying to know. "What happened to yours, Alex? How did you end up out here?"

"Not much of a story," Alex murmured, twisting the edge of the sheet in his fingers. "I was so busy helping you that I didn't watch my back carefully enough. And, the smoker pulled the rug out from under me."

Mulder shook his head in confusion. "I don't think I follow."

"He ripped me off," Alex answered simply. "Took everything I had. Made sure I was left with absolutely nothing."

"How could he..." Mulder thought better of the question and held up a hand. "Nevermind. It was a stupid question before it even came out of my mouth."

Alex nodded and went on. "All I had was what was in my pockets and hidden in my apartment."

"When did you find this out?"

"Day before it was over."

"So why didn't...Alex, you left two days *after* that. Why didn't you say anything?"

"What was I gonna say? 'Uh, hey, Mulder. Cancerman drained me dry before he bought it. Think you could float me a loan till I can find another job? I hear the Burger King down the street is hiring.'"

"We could have worked something out..."

"Who's *we*? You, Scully...Skinner...your geeky friends? What were you gonna do, pass a hat around the Bureau?"

Mulder's gaze lowered to the bed.

"I've never accepted charity in my life, Mulder. I always worked for anything I got. Okay, it wasn't always honest work, but I took care of *myself*. And that's what I was doing here before you showed up and dragged me back into your world."

"I didn't drag you," Mulder argued softly. "I might have coaxed you a bit, but the long and the short of it is, you *want* to be here. You like being able to let go and allow someone else...*me*...to take care of you. It feels good, and whether or not you ever admit it, you need it."

Alex's lack of a response encouraged him to continue.

"Why this? Why prostitution as a new career?"

"I don't intend to make it my life's work. I needed to make good money fast, and to do that, I had to be good at what I was getting paid for. Now, since I'm sick of the assassin, espionage thing..."

"But...you could do this anywhere. Why'd you come all the way to California?"

Alex drew a deep breath and released it. "...Seems like I've spent a good portion of my life in the cold and the rain. I wanted some sunshine. Some warmth. Even if it rains here, it's warm, you know?"

"That's the reason? Warmth and not a lot of rain?"

"Yeah," Alex whispered, his fingers twisting the blanket tight enough to cut off the circulation.

Mulder let that conversation thread drop and started another.

"You said you didn't plan to make this your life's work. What did you plan to do?"

Alex's mouth curved into a wistful smile. "Buy a small cabin somewhere away from civilization. In the mountains maybe. Just me and..." He cut off the statement and stared down at his hands.

"Just you and who?"

Alex shook his head. "Nobody...dog maybe."

"Dogs are good company, but they can't really hold up their end of a conversation, plus it gets chilly up there in the mountains at night."

"Yeah....well...you work with what you've got."

Mulder shifted position and cleared his throat. "I'm in L.A. another week then I'm outta here. Coincidentally, I've rented a cabin in the mountains for the last two weeks of my vacation."

"Oh," Alex said, just barely heard. "That's nice. Have a good time."

"Come with me," Mulder pleaded, pulling the blanket away and taking Alex's hand in his.

Shocked eyes blinked up at the older man. "What?"

"Well, you could...you know, you could sort of test drive the cabin. See if something like that is really what you want."

"I don't...it wouldn't be the same," Alex stammered. "It w-wouldn't have the same feeling."

"The same feeling?"

"Yeah. The...the solitude."

"No," Mulder answered softly. "It wouldn't. Would that be bad?"

"I don't know. I think...I think so. I wouldn't want to get too used to company.  You can't miss what you never had, you know?"

"You've got it now, though."

"I know. And I shouldn't."

"Because you'd miss it if it was gone?"

"When. *When* it's gone."

//You're really not getting it, are you Alex?//

Mulder decided against attempting to verbally convince the younger man; he had a feeling that he'd be fighting a losing battle.

//Okay, so talking isn't really getting it. Just stick with plan B.//

Alex stiffened as Mulder worked an arm around his shoulders and pulled him into his arms, but he soon began to relax as the older man gently massaged the back of his neck and scalp.

Mulder smiled at the sound of the soft moan and pulled the younger man more tightly against his chest.

"That good?"

Alex nodded, emitting a contented sigh as his arms wound around Mulder's waist.

//What? Stop that! *Don't* get all comfortable!//

//Shut the fuck up.//

//This is bad. It's just...it's really *bad*. Don't let him pull you in like this. You know what it's gonna feel like later when he leaves?//

"You never answered me."

"What?"

Mulder kissed the top of the sable head. "The cabin. Come with me?"

//Don't. *Don't*.//

The pleasure of Mulder's touch spoke louder than any little voice, and Alex listened with rapt attention.

"....Okay."

"Good." Mulder's hand expanded its territory, gliding over Alex's back and taking him deeper into lethargy. "Go to sleep, now."

Vaguely, Alex thought that he'd had enough sleep, but apparently his body had other ideas. Within minutes his respiration had slowed, and his hold on Mulder had loosened, indicating that he was indeed out.

Satisfied that he'd won another night, Mulder let his eyes close and, arms wrapped securely around the younger man, he drifted into sleep.

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

Morning.

Mulder blinked in the bright daylight and turned to his side, finding himself alone in the big bed. Heart suddenly pounding, he sat up, squinting around the room, and the figure of another at the door calmed him.

Alex, wrapped in the robe he had claimed, opened the door and let the bellhop in then looked warily over at the man now sitting up in bed.

"I ordered breakfast," he said uncertainly, dismissing the bellhop then taking a few tentative steps toward the bed. "You were starting to get restless; I figured you'd be waking up soon..."

Mulder treated Alex to a full, sleepy smile. "And I'm hungry. Thanks."

Alex nodded his acknowledgment then wheeled the cart over to the bed. As he uncovered the plates, Mulder crawled to the edge of the bed, pulling him down to the mattress.

"What are you doing?"

"What are *you* doing?"

"*Trying* to give you your breakfast."

Mulder pushed Alex back against the pillows and pulled the portable tray out from under the cart, setting it over the younger man's legs.

"Thanks for calling down for it, but I can take it from here."

"When are you going to get tired of this?" Alex asked, taking the offered fork.

"What?"

"*This*. This...treating me like..."

"Like you're somebody special?"

No answer.

"Maybe I think you are."

Alex looked down at the heaping plate in front of him.

"Come on," Mulder coaxed. "Let's not eat another cold meal."

They ate breakfast in silence, Alex still trying to figure out what the big interest in him was, and Mulder trying to figure out why Alex couldn't *understand* what the big interest in him was.

When they'd eaten all they were going to, Mulder stacked the dishes and shoved the cart out into the hall then came back to the man on the bed.

"I didn't ask. How do you feel today?"

"Not in nearly as much pain," Alex explained. "Head's much clearer."

"Good. I was thinking..."

The ringing of his cell phone interrupted Mulder's train of thought. Knowing who was calling, he heaved a hard sigh and snatched the phone up off of the nightstand.

"Yeah?"

"Mulder, it's me."

"I knew that."

"Mad as you were, I didn't think you'd be calling me, so I'm calling you."

"'Bout what?"

Alex watched Mulder, curious about the deep wrinkles between his brows, and the sudden irritation in his voice.

"You know what this is about. Is Krycek still there?"

"Yes."

"Mul..."

"I'm not going through this with you again, Scully."

"Put it in park, Mulder, I'm not calling to give you a bad time. I just...I wanted to ask how he was."

"Better. Why?"

"So, will...will he be leaving today?"

"No."

"No?"

"I asked him to stay."

Alex's eyebrows rose practically into his hairline. Mulder had told Scully about him? When?

Scully couldn't hide the surprise in her voice. "And he's going to?"

"Took a while to convince him, but yeah."

"Mulder," Scully called softly. "Mulder, are you sure you know what you're doing?"

"I couldn't be more positive."

There was a long sigh then a brief silence before Scully spoke again.

"Okay, look, you're a grown man, capable of making your own decisions..."

"Well, gee, thanks."

"But, Mulder, if anything happens...if you run into trouble, please remember that you can still call me."

Some of the annoyance left Mulder as his partner made her earnest declaration. She *was* just worried about him. If their situations were reversed and it was she who was getting sexually and emotionally tangled up with the one person in the world who could drive her to irrational acts of violence, he was sure he'd do the same.

"All right, Scully."

"Is that a more civil tone I hear?"

"Yeah, I guess. I know you're just concerned."

"I am, Mulder. We know who we're talking about, here. I don't have to say it again."

"No, you don't. I haven't lost my mind, though, Scully, I promise you."

Another sigh. "I've heard that before, you know."

"I know. I'm serious this time."

"Heard *that* too."

"I'll call you tomorrow, okay? Just to let you know I'm still alive."

"That would be nice, thanks."

"Okay...how's work?"

"Everything's fine, don't worry about a thing."

"Okay, good...thanks, Scully."

"Don't thank me, just keep both eyes on Krycek. If things start looking suspicious..."

"*Scully*..."

"All right, all right. Talk to you tomorrow."

"Later."

Mulder disconnected and turned his attention to the man who sat quietly looking down at the sheet pooled between his legs.

"Not real happy, is she?"

"Not especially."

"When'd you talk to her?"

"Yesterday. Actually, I originally called her the night before, when I took you from the warehouse. I needed her medical advice."

"And you told her then that it was me you were asking for?"

"Yeah."

"I'm surprised she didn't fly right out here to drag you away from me."

Mulder lifted one shoulder and let it drop. "Would've been a wasted trip. I think she knows that."

"Yeah, I'm sure no one knows better than she does how stubborn you are."

Mulder gave the younger man a smile of acknowledgment.

"You said you talked to her yesterday, too?"

"Yeah. We wound up arguing, and I hung up on her. I shouldn't have done that. I know she's worried because she cares."

"She think I'm going to kill you or something?"

"Aside from being fairly sure that I've completely lost my mind, I'm not sure exactly what she thinks."

Alex studied the other man for a moment. "Mulder, what did you tell her?"

Mulder shrugged again. "Stuff she really could have lived without hearing."

"You told her about me? What I..."

"No. I told her about me."

Alex cocked his head, giving the older man a confused look.

"I told her how attracted I am to you...how I wanted to kill those assholes for what they did to you..."

Sable lashes fluttered rapidly, and Alex again let his gaze drop from Mulder's.

"Told her I saw more in you than what we knew in D.C." Mulder moved closer, stroking the younger man's jaw. "I told her how beautiful you are, and that I want you in more ways than you or she would believe."

Alex's eyes closed, and he felt himself beginning to sway.

This wasn't real, it couldn't be.

God, but what if it was? What if all the things Mulder had done and said to this point were the absolute truth, and not just wishful imaginings on his part?

He forced his eyes to open as he felt himself being cradled and lowered to the pillows. For an all too brief instant he found himself drowning in the exquisite green and gold gaze of the one who had so quickly taken possession of his heart, and then Mulder backed away.

"Alex?"

For a moment he couldn't find the voice to answer. Then, willing his tongue to cooperate, he spoke.

"I'm okay."

"You don't look okay."

"I am, I...I am."

Mulder studied the younger man, carefully assessing his appearance, then brushed his fingers over the maddeningly thick eyelashes, coaxing the lids to drop.

"You need to rest another day."

Alex opened his eyes the minute Mulder had removed his fingers. "I told you, I'm fine."

"You looked like you were ready to pass out."

"I've never passed out in my life."

"Yeah, well, something was going on with you. Just please relax one more day, all right?"

Alex emitted an impatient sigh then looked up the man hovering over him.

"What were you going to say before Scully called?"

"Nothing," Mulder replied, brushing a few strands of hair back from the younger man's forehead. "It can wait."

"I want to know," Alex insisted, attempting to sit up.

"Okay, but..." Mulder placed a hand on his chest, gently pushing him back down. "you stay put."

Alex settled back against the pillows and waited.

"I was just thinking that maybe we could go out and you could show me around. You know, hit all the points of interest. I really haven't seen a whole lot since I've been here."

Alex shook his head. "Don't know how good a tour guide I'd be."

"Why?"

"I haven't seen that much myself." The younger man shrugged. "Didn't really have any interest in seeing the sights."

"Hmm." Mulder thought a minute then smiled at the other. "Well, maybe we can see them together?"

An answering smile twitched at the corners of Alex's lips. "I guess."

"Okay. Tomorrow, though. Today, I want you to stay put."

Not about to argue the same point repeatedly, Alex acquiesced. "All right," he whispered, nestling into the softness behind him.

Prepared for a fight, Mulder blinked in surprise.

"That's it? No cursing, no refusals?"

"No," Alex answered softly. "You're just...you're trying to take care of me. Least I can do is cooperate."

Mulder stared at the other man. "Uhhhh...yeah. Who are you and what have you done with Alex Krycek?"

"What, you *want* me to give you a bad time?"

"No, no, it's okay," Mulder answered quickly. "I'm just a little surprised is all."

Alex slid down onto his back and crossed his arms over his chest, looking up at the older man. "So, what are you gonna do, just hang around here all day and watch me sleep?"

Mulder grinned, leaning over him. "It isn't such a hardship."

"Oh yeah, you did say I was pretty."

"Actually, I said you were beautiful." Mulder traced the younger man's cheekbone with the tip of one finger. "You are, you know."

"I've been told."

"I'm sure you have."

Alex looked up into the other man's eyes. "I never believed anyone meant it."

"Believe *me*." Mulder cupped Alex's cheek and planted a soft kiss on his lips then pulled away leaving the younger man wanting so much more.

As he looked down at the prone man, Mulder's cock, which had been whispering its need for some time now, began to shout at him, demanding that they be met. He forced himself to ignore the insistent throb and directed all his energies toward helping Alex relax.

"Turn over, okay?"

The request was met with a curious stare.

Mulder snapped his fingers then waved his hand at the younger man. "Come on, let's go. Over."

Slowly, Alex turned onto his stomach and closed his eyes, waiting for whatever came next. A sigh of pleasure escaped his lips as Mulder's hands began to caress and gently massage his back and shoulders.

"You're very, very bad for me."

Mulder grinned, letting his hands glide over the smooth skin. "How d'you figure?"

"You're spoiling me."

"And this is bad?"

"It's not good."

"Why?"

"Too easy to get used to."

Mulder leaned forward and brushed a tender kiss over the younger man's shoulder blade.

"Shut up and relax, would you?"

Alex's eyes drifted shut, and he moaned softly, luxuriating in Mulder's touch.

God, if this was bad, what the hell would good be like?

A wistful smile curved the corners of his mouth.

Good would be security in the knowledge that this was his to keep. That no person or circumstance would ever take it from him. It was being able to reach heaven with this man every night and wake up wrapped around him every morning.

Good? Christ, it'd be incredible. Indescribable...

Impossible.

But it was so nice to lie here and pretend if only for a little while...

So nice.

Mulder's hands moved over the silky skin, feeling the sinews tense and relax under his touch...heard the soft sounds of pleasure, and his heart swelled in competition with his cock.

He'd never felt anything like this before. Erotic, yet intensely emotional, it was a sensation he wished to experience again and again, and if he couldn't...if Alex got skittish again and ran away from him, he didn't know what he'd do. Having this man with him was no longer just a matter of want. In a frighteningly short period of time it had become a bone-deep need.

Alex *wanted* to stay...Mulder could read it in the younger man's expression...the desire, shadowed by fear shimmered there in his incredible eyes. Somehow he had to make Alex understand that it was okay to express his desires...that he wouldn't be hurt if he gave in to them.

He looked down at the younger man, studying him. He had certainly changed over the years, the young, fresh face he remembered seeing that first day at headquarters, now matured...a bit beyond its years perhaps, but the life Alex had lived over the last several years would do that to a person.

Still, he was gorgeous. Lean, strong body...shimmering dark hair, a bit longer than he had worn it in D.C., and very lightly sprinkled with the occasional white strand...mesmerizing eyes and a mouth that begged to be kissed...

He was relaxed now, his body and his face reflecting a serenity that Mulder would be willing to bet he didin't often feel.

So peaceful. So vulnerable.

Alex Krycek...vulnerable. Two words that Mulder would never in a million years have put together in the same thought, but there it was. Asleep or awake, it showed in every way imaginable. From the tone of his voice, to the way he kept averting his gaze, to the set of his mouth, Mulder could read the depth of Alex's suffering. And though he really shouldn't give a rat's ass, he did.

And he refused to even try to talk himself out of it.

And he refused to let *Alex* try and talk him out of it...

Alex was floating.

Somewhere in that hazy in between world where everything was wonderful. And he felt good. And protected. And free.

The constant hurt he felt during the last few days disappeared....the shouting and constant blaring of horns...the hundreds of hands that had shoved money at him, paying to visit indignity after indignity upon his body, gone. All that surrounded him now was softness and quiet...clean, sweet smells, and the presence of the one man who was asking him to remain in this world...for a while, at least.

And he had been insane enough to fight it. He could call it pride or whatever the hell he wanted to call it, the facts were, it was just plain crazy.

What he *should* have been was grateful. And he would be. From here on out, until the end of their time together, grateful is what he would be...

Mulder continued to knead and soothe the other man's muscles, perfectly happy to maintain physical contact. Even after he was sure Alex had slipped into unconsciousness, he let his hands wander over the warm flesh until an idea came to him. Grinning madly, he planted a kiss on the back of the younger man's head then got up to make a phone call.

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

"Just line them up over there. Yeah, that's fine."

Alex emerged from the bathroom, freshly showered and dressed in a pair of his host's jeans and a t-shirt, expecting to find the older man talking to the bellhop, who may have been bringing in dinner. Instead he found four people, one of whom Mulder was standing by racks of clothing talking to.

Mulder's eyes lit up as he looked across the room and found Alex standing uncertainly by the bathroom door.

"Here he is now."

Bewlidered green eyes looked from the man who was now approaching him to the others. "What's all this?" Alex asked as Mulder reached him and took his hand.

"This is for you."

"Me?"

"Yeah. Well...us." Mulder led the younger man over to the racks and stopped in front of the well dressed man. "Alex, this is Leroy. He runs the men's clothing shop downstairs."

Alex nodded at the man who had already begun assessing him then looked back to Mulder. "Why is he up here?"

Mulder gave Alex a soft smile, gently skimming his chin with his knuckles. "We're going out tomorrow night, and I thought it would be nice if we had something decent to wear."

"Mulder, you don't have to do this," Alex protested softly but was quickly shushed by the older man.

"I want to."

"You've already done plenty. There's no need for you to go spending money on clothes and take me to some fancy..."

"No sense in arguing," Mulder interrupted. "You're not going to win."

Alex gave in and let one of Leroy's people measure him then Mulder, then stood uncomfortably while he was presented with suit after suit.

"That one's nice," Mulder prodded gently when he finally realized that Alex wasn't going to make a choice without some encouragement.

"They're all nice," Alex said noncommittally.

"So, *pick* one."

Wary green eyes rose to Mulder's face. "You do it."

"It's your suit, Alex. You must have some preferences."

The younger man simply shook his head.

Mulder stepped in front of Alex, winding his arms around his waist as the others turned discreetly away.

"What is it?" He whispered, one hand now lightly caressing the other's back.

Alex's eyes dropped to the point where their chests touched. "I'm not...you shouldn't be spending all kinds of money on me."

Mulder focused on Alex's unfinished sentence. "You're not what?"

"Nothing."

"Alex..."

The younger man emitted a harsh sigh. "I'm not *worth* all this."

Mulder pulled the other more tightly against him and forced him to meet his eyes.

"I'm not crazy, Alex, and I'm not stupid. Therefore, by process of elimination, I must be right to be feeling and doing everything that I am. I *want* to dress you in beautiful clothes. I *want* to take you out for a nice evening. Please let me."

Alex closed his eyes, chewing on his lower lip.

//You *did* say you were going to stop fighting him, remember?//

He opened his eyes and nodded. "I...I'm sorry. I didn't mean to insult you."

"You haven't." Mulder grinned. "Just please do me a favor and pick out a damn suit."

Alex gave the older man a wary smile and returned to the clothing that had been laid out for him. Minutes later, he had chosen a midnight blue suit and periwinkle shirt that did incredible things to his eyes, and Mulder shooed him into the bathroom to try it on for size. When he re-emerged wearing the garments, Mulder's jaw visibly went slack.

Alex tossed an insecure look in the older man's direction then glanced away.

"You don't like it?"

Still unable to speak, Mulder stepped forward. Slowly, he brought a hand up and gently stroked the lapel of Alex's jacket. "Love it," he croaked, meeting the younger man's eyes. "You look...damn, Alex, you're gorgeous."

Alex listened to the breathless declaration, and his heart fluttered.

Jesus, if he didn't mean that, Mulder was a better actor than he was.

"It's..." Alex looked down at the sleeves of the jacket, not knowing how to respond. "I think the sleeves are a little too long."

Leroy stepped forward, shooing Mulder to the side.

"Yes," he affirmed Alex's observation. "The sleeves are a smidge long. We can fix that in no time, but..." He walked around the young man, tugging and smoothing. "The rest of it is flawless. It's almost as though this suit was made for you."

Alex glanced over Leroy's head and met the eyes that refused to look anywhere but at him. He shifted from one foot to the other, suddenly feeling the temperature in the room spike several degrees.

"He looks wonderful," Leroy nodded, fussing proudly with his garments.

"Stunning," Mulder murmured, wishing at this moment that everyone would just disappear.

"Well now, Mr. Mulder," Leroy spoke up, cutting through the heat. "I believe you've yet to chose something."

"Yeah," Mulder answered softly, unwilling to look away from the vision before him. "Help me pick something?" he asked the younger man, again stepping in front of him.

"As soon as he changes," Leroy interrupted, measuring the length of sleeve to be altered. "We must get these sleeves fixed if he's going to wear this tomorrow."

Reluctantly, Mulder let Alex be herded into the bathroom, and when he came back minutes later, he was mildly surprised that the older man looked at him with the same predatory gleam in his eyes as was there such a short time ago.

"Help me now?"

Alex gave him an almost shy smile and, for the first time didn't stand passively while Mulder took his hand. He reached out, taking the proffered hand and followed the other man back to the racks of suits.

"What d'you think?" Mulder asked, standing behind the younger man, gently massaging his shoulders and nuzzling his hair.

//I think I can't concentrate with you doing that...//

"I...I don't know," Alex began, trying to focus on the clothing. "Like you said to me, it's *your* suit."

Mulder sensed his difficulty and backed off a bit. "I know, but you've apparently got very good taste. Come on, help me pick something."

Ten minutes later, the two men agreed on a cocoa colored suit and a pale sage shirt, and Mulder modeled the clothing for the younger man.

As Leroy swooped in to check the fit, Alex looked Mulder up and down.

"It's good?" Mulder asked.

Alex nodded silently, letting his eyes do the talking for him.

"The waist needs to be taken in a pinch, and the jacket too. Nothing major."

Leroy's announcement went unheard by the two who had again lost themselves in each other's eyes.

Alex wanted to speak. He wanted to tell Mulder how positively exquisite he looked, but the words couldn't make it past the lump that had formed in his throat. All he could do was stare longingly at the older man wishing that Leroy and his entourage would take their racks and their suits and get the hell out.

"You may change now, Mr. Mulder," Leroy instructed, stepping away and handing Alex's suit to the nearest assistant. He then shooed the rest of his staff out of the room, ordering them to take the racks with them then waited with Alex as Mulder gave the younger man one more smoldering look and disappeared into the bathroom.

"Very handsome," Leroy said by way of conversation when he and Alex were left alone. "You make a magnificent couple..."

The rest of Leroy's words faded as Alex considered his last observation

The man thought that they were a couple. As in partners...boyfriends. God...lovers.

He liked the thought of that.

He and Mulder...Fox...lovers.

"I'm sorry?"

Alex blinked at the man as if coming out of a trance. "Hmm?"

"You said something. It was very soft, but it sounded like the word fox?"

Alex was about to attempt to blow the man off when Mulder emerged from the bathroom, suit draped over his arm. He looked from one man to the other then handed the suit to Leroy.

"Very good, Mr. Mulder. I'll have them both up to you by three tomorrow?"

"Three will be fine, thank you."

The man left, and Mulder turned to Alex, casting a soft smile in his direction. "Looking forward to going out, yet?"

"Yeah," Alex almost whispered. "I think I am."

Mulder nodded then fell silent for a moment before changing the subject. "Would you do something for me?"

Alex eyed the older man warily. "Okay."

Mulder moved forward, stopping when their bodies just barely touched. "Would you call me Fox?"

//Shit, did he hear?//

"You hate your first name," Alex answered, unable to look the other man in the eye.

"I think I would like hearing you say it." Mulder replied in a low, smoky voice that left Alex trembling. He tried to appear as nonchalant as he could, giving Mulder a blank stare and shrugging.

"Okay..."

Mulder waited, sucking on his lower lip.

"...Fox..."

He hadn't meant for it to come out the way it did, but even to him the single word sounded...seductive. He expelled a ragged breath, watching the green and gold of Mulder's...Fox's eyes practically disappear behind discs of black.

"I was right."

Alex cocked his head curiously.

Fox's tongue crept out, swiping at the small area of flesh his teeth had been worrying before disappearing back inside.

"I do like it."

Alex nodded, dropping his gaze to the bit of carpet between them.

Damn, he was so close.

Fox wanted so much to touch him. Not the brief, relatively innocent touches that he'd confined himself to since taking Alex from the warehouse, but lingering, arousing touches. Touches that led to...

And he couldn't. Alex was still too vulnerable, his wounds too new. There was no way in hell Fox would risk re-injuring him.

"You hungry?" he asked, trying to diffuse some of the tension and get his own mind off of wrapping himself around the younger man and throwing him down on the bed. "We didn't have any lunch..."

"Umm..." Alex rubbed his sweaty palms briskly over his jeans. "...yeah. I guess I am."

"Okay." Fox gave Alex a quick smile and moved around him. He grabbed for the hotel directory and flipped to the room service menu. "What do we feel like?"

The two men spent the rest of the evening picking at dinner, making small talk and watching television. When Alex started to fade just before midnight, Fox attempted to coax him to bed.

"No," he argued softly. "Just give me a pillow, and I'll crash here on the couch."

"Uh uh. No way."

"It's comfortable enough."

"Alex, I'm not letting you sleep on the couch. Come on, up. Get to bed." He hesitated for a moment then, "I'll take the couch."

"No..."

"Don't argue."

"You shouldn't have to sleep on the couch in your own hotel room.  There's..." Alex stopped, moistening his lower lips. "There's room enough....it's a big bed and...and we shared it last night..."

A smile twitched at the corner of Fox's mouth. "I...I didn't...I didn't think you wanted to."

"Well," Alex reasoned, "You're not going to let me sleep on the couch, and I'm not going to let *you* sleep on the couch, so..."

"Oh." The smile remained. "Okay, let's get some sleep."

Minutes later the two men lay side by side, each trying for all he was worth to appear unruffled by the nearness of the other.

Finally, over half an hour later, Fox turned onto his side, facing the younger man in the darkness.

"Alex?"

"...Yeah?"

"I didn't wake you, did I?"

"No. I'm awake."

"You were so tired a little while ago."

"I know."

"What happened?"

"I don't...not sure. I just can't sleep now."

"Any idea why?"

Alex turned onto his side, facing the older man and shook his head. He paused for several seconds, then tentatively he raised a hand to Fox's cheek, tracing the general area where he had slugged him.

"I'm sorry I hit you."

Fox shrugged, smiling in the dark. "I gotta admit, you shocked me, but I guess I had it coming."

"No you didn't," Alex answered just above a whisper.

The two went quiet for a moment, then Fox again spoke up.

"You sure you don't want me to move to the couch?"

"No," Alex answered quickly, knowing that having Mul...Fox...sleeping clear across the room would be a worse torture than having him this close. At least here, he could feel the other man's warmth. Hear him breathing...smell him...

"No?"

"It...it wouldn't help."

Tentatively, Fox moved closer and wound an arm around Alex's waist, gently pulling him into the warmth of his body, petting and stroking the tense flesh.

"Will this?"

//God. Oh, God...//

Cursing himself but unable to stop, Alex turned into the older man's heat and tucked his head under the stubbled chin. "Maybe," he whispered on a soft sigh, closing his eyes. It amazed him the way his body automatically relaxed under Fox's tender care. Before he could actually realize what he was saying, he uttered a sleepy statement.

"It wasn't the rain."

"Hmm?"

"Wasn't rain or cold that made me leave D.C."

Fox remained silent, waiting for Alex to finish.

"Was you."

"Why me? ...Alex?"

Fox pulled back and looked down at the younger man.

Out.

He drew Alex back into his arms and lay pondering the meaning of his statement until hours later, sleep came to claim him as well.

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

Breakfast downstairs this morning.

Fox had coaxed Alex down to the dining room, and the two sat surrounded by elegance as the younger man shredded a croissant to bits.

Fox watched until all of the pastry was lying in tiny pieces in Alex's plate, then he spoke.

"If you're uncomfortable with being down here, we can go back up to the room."

Alex abandoned his slouch and drew himself up in the chair. "No. I'm sorry, I'm not uncomfortable." His eyes left the warm, gold-splashed gaze and settled on his plate. "Guess I'm just a little preoccupied."

"Yeah? What with?"

With the fact that he had awakened this morning to find Fox flat on his back, and himself sprawled, very comfortably, apparently, over most of the older man's body.

As his cock had swelled rapidly to attention, he'd tried to ease himself off of Fox and back onto the mattress, but before he could do so, Fox had uttered a soft grumble of protest, and his arms had wrapped stubbornly around Alex, holding him prisoner.

Left with not much of a choice, Alex had relaxed and allowed himself the luxury of enjoying the feel of their bodies pressed together so intimately. His heart had pounded out a frantic rhythm as he'd felt the other man's cock harden and push insistently against his own, and just as his hips had begun a gentle rocking motion, Fox had sighed and opened his eyes.

Alex had frozen, staring down into eyes, that in the diffused morning light looked like a soft gray. Fox had said good morning to him, and the soft, sleep-roughened voice sent a surge of warmth flooding through his interior.

He'd waited to see what Fox would do, and when the older man had simply planted a kiss on his chin and gently rolled him onto the mattress, he'd struggled to conceal his disappointment. But a second look into Fox's eyes had revealed frustration there as well.

Putting a few inches distance between them, Fox had asked how he felt, and did he sleep well, and suggested that they go down to the dining room for breakfast.

Still gripped by disappointment, Alex went along with the suggestion, and now here they sat...him ripping his breakfast all to hell, and Fox wondering what was up.

"Alex?"

Alex shook his head and smiled at the concerned man. "Nothing, just...just wondering when you're going to tell me where we're going tonight."

//Good save.//

"Got you worried?"

"No, I'm just curious."

Fox set his cranberry juice down and tilted his head to a slight angle. "Curiosity has got you mangling that croissant like that?"

The younger man shrugged.

"Well...at the risk of seeing what you do to your lunch, I'm not telling you."

Alex rested his chin in his hand, studying the other. "What's the big secret?"

"I just want to surprise you, is that okay?"

Another shrug. "I guess."

"Thank you." Fox picked up a spoon and held it out to the other man.

"What's this for?" Alex asked, taking the spoon.

Fox gave the younger man one of his patented Mulder smirks. "You'll need it for your croissant."

Though it had started out rather shakily, breakfast ended on a good note, and the two spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon exploring within the general vicinity of the hotel. They returned just before their clothing was delivered, and at around seven p.m., Fox suggested that they start getting ready for their night out.

Alex showered first then changed, checking his appearance in the full length bathroom mirror before walking out into the other room.

Fox watched Alex move across the floor, his eyes not missing out on a single detail. From the ends of his glistening hair to his sinfully expensive Italian shoes, the man was perfect. A magnificent God at whose feet Fox would gladly throw himself. But, in the interest of not freaking him out completely, Fox maintained his cool.

"You look better today than you did yesterday, and that's saying a whole lot."

"Yeah," Alex mumbled, making as little as possible of the other man's declaration. "Says your eyesight is getting worse."

Fox merely shook his head and walked in the direction of the bathroom.

"I'll be out in a few."

Twenty minutes later, he emerged from the bathroom, showered, shaven and quite stunning in his new clothes.

After a brief hesitation, Alex approached silently, making a minor adjustment to the sage neck tie then looked up and directly into the older man's eyes. Not a word was spoken, but the heat that passed between them said plenty.

Knowing how such an action would end up, Fox stamped down the temptation to drag Alex up against him and kiss him senseless. Instead, he took the younger man's hand and led him out of the room and into the hall.

Alex walked quietly beside Fox trying to understand why, when the other man's every action and expression indicated that he wanted him, he wouldn't allow himself the pleasure.

They reached the elevator and boarded the empty car, Fox pushing the button for the lobby. When the doors closed he turned to Alex, concern prompting the question he asked.

"Are you up to this?"

Alex studied him curiously, his disappointment for a moment, forgotten.

"Up to it?"

"Yeah. You're feeling okay? You're not uncomfortable? I'm sorry, I should have asked earlier."

"Oh. No, I'm fine."

"You're sure?"

"Positive. Don't worry so much."

A light went on.

He was *worried*. *That's* why he was so reticent about putting them in any inescapable sexual situations...

"It's only been a couple of days."

"Yeah, but the discomfort is really minor. I took a couple of Motrin while you were in the shower. It should start working soon, and then I won't feel a thing."

Fox shook his head. "I should have asked you, I...I shouldn't have made all these plans without..."

They reached the ground floor, and the doors opened up. Alex stepped out and took the older man's hand, tugging him into the lobby.

"I'm all right."

Fox eyed him intently, trying to decide whether or not to believe him.

Alex stepped forward, letting their bodies touch.

"Fox..."

Fox's breath caught in his throat as Alex whispered his name.

Jesus, was the mere utterance of his name supposed to do *this* to him? His cock, which had been erect for some time now began to throb, and his heart pounded in identical rhythm...

Fox moistened his lips with the tip of his tongue and cleared the gravel from his throat. "Yeah?"

Alex lowered his head until it almost touched the other man's shoulder. "You said you'd take me out. I really do want to go."

Fox brought a trembling hand up to the other man's back, stroking lightly. "Okay, but...promise you'll tell me if you get tired or too uncomfortable."

Alex lifted his head and gave Fox a slow, seductive smile. "I promise."

Fox returned the smile and led the younger man through the lobby and out the front door, where the doorman stood smiling.

"Hello, gentlemen. So nice to see you both...together..." He grinned at Fox then directed his next words to Alex. "You look well."

"Yeah, uh...thanks."

"He helped me get you up to the room that night," Fox explained to the curious man. "He also sort of talked me into going after you when you had left here a few hours before."

Alex nodded his acknowledgment.

The doorman gave them both a warm smile then walked toward the limousine idling at the curb. He opened the door and executed a shallow bow.

"Have a good evening, gentlemen."

Alex looked from the car to Fox then back again.

"This is for us?"

"Yep."

Alex looked back at the car, shaking his head. "You just went all out, didn't you?"

"Did the best I could on short notice." Fox ushered the younger man to the waiting car, and when they were both comfortably seated inside, the doorman gave them a wink and shut the door, closing them off to the rest of the world.

Planting himself in the middle of the long seat, Fox draped his arms over the leather back and smiled at the man who sat a scant few inches away.

"I think the only time I've ever been in a limo was when my grandmother died." He looked around at the lush appointments. "This is nice." His dark gaze fell back on the other man. "It looks damn good on you."

Alex accepted the compliment with a demure smile and continued his perusal of their surroundings.

"Did you order champagne?" he asked, nodding at the bottle he spotted.

"Oh yeah, I almost forgot." Fox pitched forward to retrieve the bottle, but a gentle hand on his chest settled him back into the leather.

"Let me," Alex insisted softly, reaching for the bottle.

Fox relaxed against the seat, watching every graceful move as Alex opened the bottle, located the two flutes nestled nearby, and poured the sparkling liquid. He accepted the offered glass, touching the rim to Alex's, then took a healthy sip as he watched the younger man's lips slide over the edge of the flute, wishing for all he was worth that it was the head of his cock...

//You're never going to make it through the rest of this night thinking thoughts like that. Cut it out. You know at least for a while longer, he's off limits.//

Alex drew the crystal away from his mouth, noting the look of hunger in Fox's eyes. Averting his gaze, he slowly licked the moisture away from his lips before turning an innocent stare on the older man.

"Very good," he commented almost inaudibly, again raising the glass to his mouth. Knowing that Fox couldn't tear his attention away if he wanted to, Alex closed his eyes and tipped his head back, draining the remainder of the liquid.

Inwardly dying, Fox watched that mouth. Imagined it kissing a moist trail up the inside of his thigh...grazing his aching balls before sliding down over the entire length of his cock...

//Godamn it, have you *no* self control?//

//Yes, as a matter of fact I do. If I *didn't*, he wouldn't be wearing a stitch of clothing right now.//

He tossed the rest of his champagne back and reached for the bottle.

"Yeah, it's great." He filled his glass. "More?"

Alex nodded, and he filled the younger man's glass as well, stopping just before the point of overflowing.

"Whoa," Alex purred, grinning at the other. "You trying to get me drunk?"

"What? Oh...no, I'm..."

"It's not necessary," Alex said, the offer blatantly seductive as he moved closer to Fox's warmth.

//Holy shit.//

Fox took another gulp of champagne and, before he could come up with an adequate answer, his cell phone rang.

A blessing or a curse, he couldn't decide.

Alex slumped against the seat as Fox reached into the inside pocket of his jacket.

"Sorry, I...Mulder...Scully, what do you....yeah, I know I haven't called you, but I've been kind of...yeah. Yes, Scully, I *told* you he was...yeah...I....look, Scully, now really isn't a very good time to talk...because it *isn't*. *No*, we're not..."

Though he wished with all of his heart and soul that they were...

"...We're on our way out for the evening. Okay, if you want to call it that...yes, so you've told me." Fox risked a glance at his quiet companion.

Alex sat sipping his champagne and watching the lights outside pass by as he tried to mask his growing frustration.

"Scully, listen, I really have to go now. Yeah, I'll call you later. Yeah, I *know* I said that before, but I will. Oh, for....yes, I *promise*...all right, then...yeah....goodnight."

Fox disconnected and dropped the phone down on the seat with a hard sigh. He turned an apologetic gaze on the younger man.

"I'm sorry, she just..."

"You don't have to apologize to me," Alex said, trying his best to smile. "She's your partner. She's worried about you."

"She doesn't need to be. I tell her that, but she won't listen."

"She probably would if it was anyone else you were with. But it's *me*, you know?"

"But I *told* her."

"That's not good enough."

"It ought to be."

"Well..." Alex turned to face Fox, letting his hand sweep over the older man's lower thigh. "Don't think about that now. Tonight, let's just..." He stopped in mid sentence, groaning softly as he felt the limousine glide to a stop and heard the driver's door open.

"Guess we're here," Fox announced softly, putting his glass down as the driver opened the back door. He slid across the seat and stepped out of the car, waiting by the door as Alex exited the vehicle, then the two walked side by side to the entrance of the restaurant.

The maitre'd looked over his glasses as the door opened, and the handsome young couple approached. He gave them a quick once-over then raised his head.

"Good evening," he offered, a hint of stuffiness in his tone. "Do you have reservations?"

"Of course," Fox threw back, adopting the other man's attitude. "The name is Mulder."

The man sniffed and looked down into his book.

"Ah! Yes, yes, Mr. Mulder. Here you are. The room is all ready, if you'll please follow me..."

Alex looked curiously to Fox as they swept through the main dining room.

"Room?"

Fox smiled and placed a hand at the small of Alex's back, guiding him in the maitre'd's wake to the private room at the back of the restaurant. The other man opened the door and strode into the room, standing to one side as the couple entered.

"I think you'll find that your instructions have been followed to the letter," the maitre'd announced as Alex left Fox's side and wandered slowly around the room, taking note of the strategically placed candles and elegant decor.

He stopped in front of a large, crystal bowl overflowing with full blown white roses, gently fingering the soft petals. He met the older man's eyes, too overcome to speak.

"It's perfect, thank you," Fox murmured to the maitre'd, never taking his eyes off of Alex.

"Very good, sir. Enjoy your champagne and the appetizers, and dinner will be served in approximately forty-five minutes."

Fox nodded his acknowledgment, not really noticing when the man left the room, so focused was he on his companion.

"So," he began, not moving from the spot in which he stood, "you like it?"

Alex released the rose he'd held in a gentle grip and slowly approached the other man.

Fox's eyelashes fluttered, but he fought to keep the lids up as Alex's hands slid up the lapels of his jacket and over his shoulders.

"I love it," the younger man whispered. "I can't believe you did all this."

"I just made a few phone calls," Fox breathed, drowning in the green of Alex's eyes. "Other people did all the work."

"But...that you would even think of it..." Alex wound his arms around Fox's neck, staring intently at him.

The full lips trembled into a smile. "Guess you bring out the romantic in me."

Alex laughed softly at the absurdity of the statement and turned his face away, only to be drawn back by Fox's hand cupping his cheek.

"I know that sounds crazy, not to mention pretty damn sappy," Fox said, tapping into his thoughts. "But what other reason could there be for this?"

"I don't know," Alex whispered, pulled back into the haze of sensuality that enveloped them. "But..." He pressed ever closer, letting Fox feel every aroused inch of him. "...Thank you."

He couldn't do it. He'd tried so hard, but...

Fox tightened his arms around the younger man.

Just one kiss. He had to...had to taste him...

Alex emitted a contented sigh as Fox's mouth closed over his. His fingers curled into the material of the older man's jacket as his lips were teased apart and Fox's tongue crept into his mouth. He opened a bit wider, his tongue eagerly meeting the other's, seducing it into bolder action, and then....

He opened his eyes and stared dumbfounded as Fox released his mouth and pulled away.

Fox attempted a smile as he fought to control his respiration.

"Hey, how about some appetizers?" He led the stunned younger man to the table.

Alex blinked rapidly, trying to wrap his mind around what had just happened...or what Fox had stopped from happening.

"Um...yeah," he mumbled trying to focus on the elegant display of food.

"You know, I couldn't begin to guess what half this stuff is," Fox rambled, "but it all looks really good."

Alex stood quietly, fingers drawing erratic designs on the tablecloth, eyes open but staring at nothing in particular.

Fox watched him for a bit, unsure of what to do next, then he pulled out a chair for the younger man and asked him if he'd like to sit.

As if in a trance, Alex turned and lowered himself into the chair, watching as Fox took his own seat. The older man plucked a canapé from the nearest plate and bit into it. He smiled and nodded at Alex, holding the other half in front of his mouth.

Alex accepted the offering, carefully avoiding any contact with the other man's fingers.

Fox sensed the tension that had suddenly filled the room and cursed himself to hell and back.

//You had to kiss him, didn't you? *Now* look at the spot you're in.//

Deciding that distraction was the best thing, he ventured to engage Alex in conversation.

"So...see anybody famous since you've been in L.A.?"

"Not really," Alex sighed. "Well...a couple maybe."

"Yeah? Who?"

The younger man shrugged. "You know that guy from that detective show that was on t.v. a few years ago...can't remember the name of it now...mid forties, well built, blonde...always had a flock of women buzzing around him in every show..."

Fox's brow crinkled. "I don't think I recall. I mean, that could be any one of a handful of shows."

"In this show's opening credits it shows him jumping off a roof while like, five bad guys are firing at him...he falls right into the front seat of a sports car, and he takes off with some chick in tight leather driving..."

"Ohhh, yeah. That stupid show lasted two seasons, didn't it?"

Alex nodded. "No accounting for taste, I guess."

"Where'd you see him?"

Alex's gaze fell away from the older man's. "He picked me up one night."

It was Fox's turn to drop his gaze.

"Oh."

Knowing that he had made Fox uncomfortable but for some sick reason unable to stop himself, he went on.

"Then there was the older guy from that kid's show with the life sized puppets. You know, the one who always wears the old, beat up soft hat and preaches about kind deeds and good dental hygiene. He never extols the virtues of leather masks and nipple clamps, though. I wonder why..."

Fox sat quietly, staring down at his folded hands.

//Nice job, ungrateful fuck. He won't throw you up on the table and bang you into next week, so you do *this*?//

Alex bent over, touching his forehead to his knees, and took a deep breath. He released it as he straightened up and reached out to cover Fox's hands with one of his own.

"Fox..."

Mournful, hazel eyes rose to meet his.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. You planned this wonderful night, and I just go and..."

"I asked," Fox interrupted softly, "and you told me."

"You didn't need to hear the details. I don't know why I didn't just shut up."

"It's all right." Fox drew himself up into a more dignified posture. "You can tell me anything you want to about your life out here. I can't promise you I'll like hearing it, but I won't pass judgment on you."

Jesus, was this man for real?

"Chanmpagne?"

Alex nodded, and Fox poured two glasses of sparkling liquid, handing him one. The two sat making relatively light conversation as they drank their champagne and nibbled on the appetizers until the main course came.

The harmless conversation continued through dinner and dessert, and by the time they were ready to leave the restaurant, both men were again in good spirits.

As they fell into the waiting limousine, Alex groaned, complaining good-naturedly.

"Oh my God, I don't think I've ever eaten in a whole week as much as I ate tonight."

"Good," Fox droned, slouching back against the seat as the car pulled away from the curb. "You could stand a few pounds."

One sable eyebrow arched upward. "What makes you say that?"

"You've never been this slim before. Not since I've known you, anyway."

"You're telling me you actually noticed?"

Fox closed his eyes and nodded. "Isn't much about you I *haven't* noticed."

"I don't know whether to be flattered or scared," Alex mused.

"You said I didn't scare you," Fox reminded him.

"I think I might be changing my mind," Alex told him. "Any man who notices another man's weight gains and losses is just damn frightening."

Fox opened one eye and grinned at the younger man. "If it makes you feel any better, you can chalk it up to my photographic memory."

"Somehow it doesn't. Hey...where are we going?" Alex glanced out the window then back to Fox. "This isn't the way back to the hotel."

"We're not *going* back to the hotel yet."

"Another surprise?"

"Mmm hmm." Fox sat up a bit. "Unless you're tired."

"I'm not tired."

"Would you tell me if you were?"

"Yes, I would." Alex stifled a giggle. "Besides, Spooky, wouldn't you be able to tell from the number of lines around my eyes or something?"

Fox again closed his eyes and settled back against the seat, smirking.

"Fuck you, Krycek."

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

Fox was proud of himself tonight.

Fabulous clothes, three block long limousine, elegant restaurant.

Cool jazz club that its patrons had to descend eight steps to get to...

The couple entered the dimly lit club, immediately appreciating the band playing. Fox gave his name to the host, and they were led to a reserved table at the back of the deceptively large club.

Alex looked around, taking note of the couples on the dance floor and those seated at the tables, and sent Fox a surprised look.

The older man smiled, shaking his head. "You wouldn't believe what I went through to find a place like this."

"Why *did* you?"

"Because," Fox explained, curling his arm around the younger man's shoulders. "I wanted to find someplace where we could dance and not be stared at."

"Dance?"

"Yeah, you know, like they're doing," Fox said with amusement, pointing at the two men in the middle of the dance floor, draped over each other.

"But they're barely moving."

"Okay, bad example." Fox pointed to another couple to the right of the other men. "Like them."

Alex turned to face the older man. "You want to dance with me?"

"You sound so shocked. Why wouldn't I want to?"

"I don't know," Alex murmured, turning his attention back to the couples on the dance floor. "I guess I just didn't think about it."

Fox caught a passing waiter and ordered a couple of drinks then slid closer to Alex, gently combing his fingers through the hair at the back of the younger man's head.

"They're very good," he commented, watching the quartet perform. "Been a long, long time since I've heard really good live jazz."

"Yeah," Alex breathed, eyes closed as he reveled in the other man's touch.

Fox just barely heard the response and looked in Alex's direction. A smile curved his lips as he observed the blissful expression on the incredibly handsome face. He battled the urge to lean in and kiss the slightly parted mouth, and fortunately got a little help as the waiter appeared with their drinks.

Alex opened his eyes reluctantly and picked his drink up as Fox removed his hand from his hair to pay the server. He raised the glass to his lips, perusing the scenery, and the first thing that caught his attention was a good looking couple two tables over, kissing and groping like there was no tomorrow.

"Oh, God," he whispered, continuing to watch through a curtain of dark lashes as one of the two unbuttoned the other's pants and worked his hand inside. The lucky man broke the kiss and let his drop against the back of the seat, panting and squirming as his partner brought him along with quick, firm strokes. His body stiffened, and Alex could hear the faint sounds of his pleasure above the music as he came. As his lover cleaned him up with a wad a napkins, he pressed closer, practically climbing into the other man's lap, and nuzzling his throat contentedly.

Alex released a soft, agonized moan and turned, only to come face to face with Fox, who had obviously been watching the show as well. There was an uncomfortable silence for too many seconds, then Fox gave him an almost apologetic smile.

"I guess they're very laid back here."

"Guess so," Alex croaked, glancing again at the two, who were now kissing and tenderly stroking each other. He took another sip of his drink and returned his attention to the band.

Fox watched the two for another moment, then his gaze leveled on Alex.

"Let's dance."

Alex hesitated then put his glass down and followed Fox out onto the dance floor, where the older man wrapped him in his arms and began to move effortlessly to the music.

"Pretty good rhythm for a white boy," Alex commented, trying to recapture the light mood of only a little while ago.

"Thanks, homey," Fox tossed back quickly, making the younger man laugh.

"Fox, there's white, and then there's white."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Where were you raised?"

"Martha's Vineyard. So?"

"I rest my case."

"Means nothing. Where were *you* raised?"

"I'm a ghetto rat."

Fox raised a disbelieving eyebrow.

"And believe me, American ghettos got nothin' on Russia."

"Were you born there?"

"No. I was born here. My father's work visa expired, and he and my mother had to go back soon after they had me. I came back at the age of ten with my uncle and aunt. They were able to send for my parents in the early eighties, and we all lived together in a tiny apartment in south Philly. Damn, we were poor."

"But you were determined. You had to be. You made it through school. Went to college..."

"Yeah. I didn't want for them to have to struggle all their lives. I wanted to make a decent living...take care of them." Alex's eyes lowered to Fox's tie. "They died before I could do that."

"What happened?"

"Father had a heart attack. My mother, aunt and uncle died in the apartment almost a year later. Someone set fire to the place while everyone was asleep one cold night. I was at the academy. They woke me up at three in the morning to tell me..."

By this time, Fox had stopped their movement. He stood in the middle of the floor, holding the younger man.

"I had no idea. Jesus, Alex, I'm so sorry."

Alex shrugged. "Thanks. It was tough, but I dealt with it." He looked up into solemn, hazel eyes. "This conversation isn't exactly conducive to having a good time."

Not wanting to push the issue, Fox nodded and, holding the younger man a little closer, again began to sway to the music.

Alex let the warmth of Fox's body and the comfort of his touch wash away the memories. He lowered his head to the older man's shoulder, sliding his hands up under Fox's jacket and clutching at his shirt as Fox held him tightly. Drowning in contentment, he wondered how, when the time came he was going to be able to walk away.

Maybe they could see each other on occasion. He could fly out to D.C. and...

Alex squeezed his eyes shut, burrowing deeper into Fox's warmth.

Not enough. One *night* away from this man would already be one night too many. And the longer they dragged this fantasy out, the more it would hurt when it was over.

//You can't let go now. You promised him you'd go to the mountains with him. You can't go back on your word. Besides, any suffering you do is well deserved. All the suffering you've caused *him* over the years...//

Fox was in heaven.

No murderous mutants, no expense reports to fill out.

Good music.

The one man he'd already decided he'd ever want wrapped in his arms, clinging to him as if he never wanted to let go...

He pressed a kiss to Alex's temple, his hand moving in a slow, sensuous line up and down the other man's back.

God, yeah. Paradise.

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

Dark eyes wandered around the club, checking out the inhabitants as they drank, talked, danced. They paused every now and again on a particularly attractive subject then continued to scan the crowd.

"Find one yet?"

"A few, actually. I'm just trying to decide which one'll be the lucky guy."

Loud laugh.

"This from a man who has to pay hookers to touch him."

The dark-haired man glared at his friend but said nothing.

"So," the other clapped his hands together and sat back. "Who's it gonna be?"

The dark one cleared his throat and looked around once more. "I think..."

Before he could finish, his gaze focused on a couple he hadn't seen before.

"No way."

"What?"

The man squinted, watching the handsome couple sway gently to the music, coiled around each other like devoted lovers.

"*Will*. What the hell are you staring at?"

The dark man slid back in his seat, pointing to the men he was eyeing. "You see them?"

"I see a lot of people."

The other sighed impatiently. "*There*." He pointed again, letting his friend follow the direction of his finger.

"Yeah...I guess...tall guys? One dark, one a little lighter?"

"Yeah. Look at the dark one. You recognize him?"

"Wish I could say that I did but no, I don't."

"Remember about a month ago? That trip we took downtown..."

"Yeah, I...nooooo. Is that him?"

"Sure as hell looks like him."

The other nodded to the hooker's companion. "Think his boyfriend knows what he does?"

"I don't know, but it'd serve him right for him to find out after what he did to us."

"*Us*. Hey, *you're* the one who tried to bite him." The man started to laugh. "You're lucky to have escaped with your balls intact."

"That wasn't funny, man. I couldn't get it up for a week. I was starting to get scared. I think he deserves a little payback."

"*I* think you're nuts. What makes you think he won't fuck you up right here if you try and start some shit with him?"

Will shook his head. "I don't think so. Look at 'im, Pete. Look at his boyfriend. Check out the clothes. My guess? He's a guy from the other side of the tracks, who just happened to luck out with Daddy Big Bucks there. But his man spends a lot of time out of town. He's bored out of his mind, and for fun, he goes hustling downtown."

The other man laughed louder. "Okay, Stupendous Yappi..."

Will shook his head. "Scoff if you must, but I think it's a pretty good guess. Let's see how close I am."

In spite of his friend's strenuous protests and predictions of disaster, he rose from his seat and cut through the crowd, making his way over to the couple.

"S'cuse me."

The two men rocked together, completely oblivious to the one who was trying to get their attention.

"S'cuse meeee."

Golden brown lashes swept upward, and an annoyed amber splashed gaze focused on the outsider.

Will smiled. "I'm sorry to interrupt but...it's been driving me crazy. You know when you *know* that you've seen someone before but you can't place the face? Well, I finally got it."

Realizing that the pest wasn't going away any time soon, Alex opened his eyes and raised his head from Fox's shoulder. He turned his head to glare at the other man as he again spoke.

"I know you." He smiled at Alex. "I understand if you don't remember me, what with all the men you see every night..."

Alex felt his heart skip at least two beats, but he forced a quick recovery and gave the other man a haughty stare.

"What is it that you want?"

The other shrugged. "Nothing, it's just...like I was saying to your...friend, here, I was sitting over there at my table, and I knew I'd seen you before, but it took me a while to remember where." He glanced too quickly over at Fox to see the anger simmering in his eyes. "Just thought I'd come over and say hi. Are you working tonight?"

"No," Alex said softly, evenly through gritted teeth.

"Oh. If you were, I was going to ask if when you were done here, you might like to take on one more customer before you called it a night. But, since it's your day off, I guess I should leave you alone...unless you *want* to make a quick hundred..." He looked the two men up and down. "Although it doesn't look like you need it."

Fox's arms tightened possessively around the younger man. "Leave him alone."

The third man laughed softly. "Sorry, I don't mean to laugh, but...it's just a little funny, you know? I don't know how long you've known this man, but a shrinking violet he ain't. And to see somebody getting all protective over him is just too weird. He's as good at taking care of himself as he is at fucking..."

Before he could say another word, Fox had stepped away from Alex and wrapped his fingers around his throat.

"Maybe you didn't hear me the first time," he growled, his face close enough to the other man's that the vibration of his words could be felt across Will's paled lips. "Leave. Him. Alone. If I see you so much as looking in his direction, I'll tear you a new asshole. Understood?"

Eyes bulging as much from fear as from lack of air, the man managed a tiny nod, and Fox released him.

"Get lost. Now."

The vanquished intruder slunk back into the crowd, not daring to give Alex so much as another glance, and Fox turned back to the younger man, who stood quietly, looking down at the floor. Ignoring the stares of the people dancing around them, Fox slipped an arm around Alex's waist and pulled him close. The other hand slanted across his jaw, tipping his head up.

"Sorry," Alex croaked before Fox could say a word. "I didn't think, I didn't..."

"Didn't think what?"

"About anyone approaching me." Alex shook his head and looked away, unable to meet the other man's gaze for long. "It was bound to happen." He repeated the other man's words. "What with all the men I see every night..."

"Do you remember him?"

Alex shrugged. "He looks familiar. Troublemaker, if I remember correctly."

"Well," Fox murmured, tightening his arm around the other man, "he won't be making any trouble tonight."

Alex raised his eyes halfway, looking at the older man through his lashes. "You were all over him before I even got a chance to take a breath."

"I won't let anybody hurt you."

Alex's heart skipped a few more beats then began to pound. "He was right," he droned, again looking away. "I can take care of myself."

"I know you can," Fox said softly. "I'm sorry if I made it seem otherwise. It was just...a kneejerk reaction." It was his turn to look away. "Sorry."

"No." Alex wrapped his arms around Fox's back. "You don't have to apologize. It's just that I'm not used to anyone looking out for me but me. *And*...if it wasn't for you, I might have been killed a few days ago." He gave the older man a humble smile. "Maybe I can't take care of myself as well as I thought."

"Yeah, you can," Fox said reassuringly. "But there's nothing wrong with needing a little help once in a while."

Alex rested his head on the other's shoulder.

"Thank you."

Fox buried his face in the sable silk, inhaling the faint scent of the coconut shampoo Alex had used that day.

"My pleasure."

They spent another two hours at the club dancing, talking, sipping drinks, then Fox noticed that Alex had begun to look a bit weary.

Though Alex insisted that he was all right, Fox called for the limousine, and a short time later, they were on their way back to the hotel.

The two men sat side by side in companionable silence for a long while, then Alex cleared his throat and spoke up.

"I had a nice time tonight."

Fox gave him a soft smile. "Yeah? Me too. I'm sorry that idiot at the club
marred it a little."

Alex shrugged. "He wouldn't have been able to if I wasn't what I am. I'm the one who needs to be apologizing."

Fox's brow drew down into scowl. "What for?"

"For subjecting you to that." Alex looked away, his tone dripping with self loathing. "You take me out for an elegant night and end up being accosted by some guy I'd fucked for money...probably more than once..."

"He's not important," Fox murmured, turning the younger man to face him. "You don't need to think about him."

"How can I *not*? There are plenty more men out there like him, you know. Things like that'll probably happen almost everywhere we go. You shouldn't have to deal with that. You don't deserve to."

"Alex..."

The younger man looked up at the sound of his name.

"First of all," Fox began softly, "I know what you do. It's how I got you up to my room in the first place, remember?"

"Yeah, but..."

Fox shushed the other's attempt at protest and continued.

"And second, I know there are people out there who just would like to cause trouble. And I know there are those who are going to be stupid enough to proposition you right in front of me. I don't care. I'll handle the situations when and if they arise."

Alex shook his head. "You're supposed to be on vacation, Fox. Relaxing. Enjoying yourself, and what are you doing?"

Fox broke in with the answer.

"Exactly what I want to do."

"You can't tell me you *wanted* to come out here and get all tangled up with a spy turned hooker, who just happens to have been your worst enemy."

"I never would have thought of it on my own, no." Fox grinned at the other man. "But since it's happened, I won't say I'm sorry. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that I'm glad."

Alex stared at the older man, shaking his head. "You really are cracked."

The grin remained. "Would you want anything to do with me if I was sane and boring?"

Alex returned the smile. "Gorgeous as you are, I'd still have to say, probably not."

Hazel eyes twinkled. "You think I'm gorgeous?"

The smile faded a bit from Alex's mouth. "Always have."

"Guess I'm not the only one who's a little cracked."

Alex laughed softly, knowing that the modesty Fox was displaying was not just an act. He actually had no idea.

"I'm amazed. How can anybody who looks like you be so oblivious?"

Fox was just about to answer the question when the limo pulled up outside of the hotel. The door opened for them seconds later, and Alex slid out, followed closely by Fox.

"Have a nice evening?" the doorman asked as he preceded the men to the lobby door and pulled it open for them.

"Very nice, thanks," Fox answered, placing a hand at the small of Alex's back and guiding him into the lobby.

"I'm glad," the other called after them. "Enjoy the rest of your night."

Alex nodded his thanks, and the two walked to the elevators.

Having abandoned the conversation they'd been having in the car, they rode to the twelfth floor in silence, each man immersed in his own speculations about how this night would end. When the doors opened, they walked side by side to twelve-fourteen, and Fox opened the door, letting Alex walk in first. He shut the door then passed the now stationary younger man, smiling at him as he moved, and placed the room key down on a small table. Now looking for something more to do or say, he wandered over to the huge window, looking out over the city.

"Have you really had a good look out this window at night?" He asked lightly. "The view is spectacular."

"Yeah, it is," Alex agreed, removing his jacket. Fox turned to look at him, and he held the garment up. "I'm just gonna go hang this up and..." he motioned with his head in the direction of the bathroom.

Fox nodded and smiled then turned back to the window.

Alex hesitated for a moment then walked over to the closet and carefully draped the jacket over the wooden hanger. Running a hand over the deep blue material, he sighed, storing the memory of this night away into the deepest corner of his heart. Relentless time might take Fox away from him, but he'd have the memories of every second spent with him. His smell. The feel of his arms, so strong and comforting. The taste of those incredible lips...

And if they never saw each other again, he'd always be grateful to Fox for stealing him away from the sleaze and depravity of his world. Even if just for a little while, he felt good. He felt clean and worthy of more than he had told himself he deserved for all the harm he had caused over the years.

Alex shut the door and drifted into the bathroom recalling the anger he saw in the older man's eyes earlier tonight. It was the same rage he saw just a few nights before when he pulled his gun on Alex's would-be customer. He'd never seen Fox pissed at anyone but himself, and now, suddenly it was directed at someone else...in *his* defense. The realization sent his heart into a mad flutter.

For *him*.

It was sweet, and it was exciting, and for the first time in his adult life Alex had a taste of what it must be like to be genuinely cared for.

He splashed a little cold water on his face, patted the beads away with the towel that hung close by, then took a deep breath and walked back out to the room. He stopped when Fox came into view and watched the older man quietly.

Deep in thought, Fox stood looking out the window. So preoccupied was he that he didn't feel Alex's approach at all, but rather saw his reflection in the window as he moved slowly, undoing button after button on his shirt...

Fox's heart immediately began to beat double time, and he turned around to see that it was no illusion.

Alex ascended the two steps that separated the dining area from the rest of the room, and, slipping the last button through its corresponding hole, slithered out of his shirt and dropped it over the back of the closest chair. Feeling the growing heat of Fox's gaze, he maintained his pace, stalking slowly toward the older man. When he finally reached his destination, he paused for a moment, giving Fox a good long look, then  moved past him and pressed lightly against the window, bracing himself against the glass with his hands.

"It *is* beautiful from up here," he spoke softly, his voice a smoky caress. "You can't see all the ugliness from this far up...in the dark..."

Fox stared silently, awed by a sight that far surpassed the beauty of the city below.

Smooth skin marred only by the few remaining bruises inflicted days before, lent a soft glow by the dim light in the room. The taut muscles beneath flowing with the slightest movement...hypnotizing Fox, pushing him far past hungry and straight into starving.

His tongue passed over too dry lips as he imagined those muscles flexing beneath his wandering hands...that satiny skin, damp with sweat, sliding against his own as they made love in the bed only a few yards away...

Alex did a slow spin and fixed a laser-green gaze on the older man. When Fox made no move toward him, he stepped forward, stopping when their bodies were separated by a hair's breadth. He watched his own hands slide up the front of the other man's jacket then inside, pushing it away from his shoulders.

Fox rendered some assistance, shrugging out of the garment, but his eyes never left Alex's face. Somewhere in the back of his mind a little voice insisted that he put a stop to this before it went too far to turn back, but the rest of him was screaming...begging for exactly that.

//There's not just one way to do it, shithead. Suck each other off, for Christ's sake or, *hell*...let him fuck *you*.//

His cock throbbed at the thought.

//Yeah. Oh, hell yeah. Hand him the reins. Let him have control...//

Alex's eyes rose again to Fox's face as he went to work on the necktie, undoing the knot at a leisurely pace. Once it hung loosely, he pulled it away, working it inch by inch from around Fox's collar, then discarded it.

Fox struggled to control his respiration as he felt his shirt buttons begin to pop open one by one. His eyes remained steadfastly focused on the sea of green in front of him until Alex leaned forward and ever so gently began to kiss the exposed skin of his throat and chest. A rush of breath escaped his lips carrying with it a soft curse, and his hands rose of their own accord to the younger man's hips...

Alex moaned at the sudden feel of Fox's hands on him, and the warm tingle they left in their wake as they wandered up over his hips and to his back, stroking and kneading the taut flesh. As he continued in his efforts to rid Fox of his shirt, his tongue crept past his lips, caressing the older man's skin, learning its texture and taste. He felt a low groan rumble in Fox's chest, and the sound only served to feed his courage.

Alex pulled the shirt out of Fox's pants, undid the last few buttons, then tugged it off and sent it to join the rest of the discarded clothing on the chair. He stepped back for a fraction of a minute, admiring the older man's upper body, then moved in to worship it with his mouth.

Fox's head fell back, and his lips parted on a long, coarse sigh as Alex began to lovingly bathe him with his tongue. He felt his knees weakening and his cock threatening to punch a hole through his pants, but he held on, remaining on his feet while Alex moved down to one tight nipple, gently nipping and pulling at it.

"Oh, God," he whispered, inclining his head and nuzzling the younger man's hair. "God, Alex, what are you doing to me?"

As Alex teased first one nipple then the other, he began to work on Fox's belt and zipper.

"Just trying to thank you," he whispered against the rigid, brown peak before sucking it into his mouth.

Through the haze of overpowering lust, the words made it through to Fox's brain.

"Thank me?"

Alex nodded then sank to his knees. "For a night I'll always remember."

A frown wrinkled the older man's brow as Alex worked his pants down and nuzzled the aching bulge in his underwear. He took several steadying gulps of air then a step backward.

"I...I wasn't expecting any kind of repayment from you for tonight."

"It's all right," Alex replied. "I want to."

"But *I* don't want you to." Fox grasped Alex by his upper arms and pulled him to his feet.

Confusion and hurt clouded Alex's eyes. "You did not more than a minute ago."

"Yes. God, yes, but not for your reasons. I didn't take you out tonight expecting sex as a reward."

"I know you didn't," Alex murmured. "I'd expect that from anyone *but* you." He ran his hands lightly over Fox's chest. "But I know you want me. I'd have to be stupid not to know. I also know you won't ask. You don't have to." His hands slid around to Fox's back, stroking gently as he nuzzled the stubbled jaw. "I'm offering."

"I can't accept your offer," Fox broke from Alex's loose grip. "Not on these terms."

Alex let his hands drop from Fox's back and stepped away. That dejected look had returned to his eyes.

"What terms?"

"This 'you do something for me, I do something for you' bit. You owe me nothing, Alex."

"I owe you plenty."

"*No*. You *don't*."

"I *do*," the younger man argued. "I've done so much to you. Things I'll regret for the rest of my life, and..." He lowered his head, eyelashes fluttering rapidly. "Here you are. You saved my ass when you should have killed me yourself. You took care of me even though I didn't make it easy for you to...you bought me expensive clothes, took me out...treated me like I was somebody worthwhile. And I don't owe you for that?"

"*No*," Fox answered adamantly.

"Why *not*?" Alex grated, spinning around and stalking back toward the window.

"Why do you feel you *have* to?" Fox yelled back, following in the younger man's wake.

"*Because*!" Alex whirled back to face Fox. "That's they way it works. It's what I know!"

"It might be what you know, Alex, but that *isn't* the way it works. Reciprocation isn't necessary when two people care about each other. I just...I wanted to have a nice night with you. You know...talk...get to know each other..."

Fox looked into the dulled green eyes, hoping for understanding. He cupped the younger man's cheek, letting his thumb rasp over the smooth chin. "I don't want from you what every other man wants. Well...yeah, I guess I do, but that isn't all. I want so much more."

Alex stared at the older man, genuinely confused. "What more can you want from me?"

Fox stepped forward, taking Alex into his arms. "You're a smart man, Krycek, but incredibly thick when you want to be. I want everything you've got to give me. I want a relationship with you. Whole. Not just sex."

Alex thought his heart would pound straight through his chest. "How can you say that? How can you know..."

"After only a few days with you? I don't know. I wish I could tell you. But I meant it the other night when I told you I wanted you in more ways than I could count, and I still mean it."

Sable eyelashes fluttered then dropped over downturned eyes. "I...I don't..."

"What?" Fox asked, afraid he'd gone too far. "You don't want to?"

Alex shook his head, still looking at the floor. "I don't know how."

Fox shrugged and let a tiny smile curve his lips. "Me either. We can learn together." The smile faded a bit. "If you want."

Alex hesitated, remaining silent for so long it started to make Fox nervous. Then finally he looked up into the older man's eyes.

"I think I'd like that."

Fox nodded, grinning and pulled the other against his chest. "You and me," he whispered lovingly.

"Sounds crazy when you say it."

Fox could tell Alex was smiling. "Insane. And I couldn't be happier."

The younger man's smile faded. "But...Fox, what if all I have to give you isn't enough? What if I'm just not capable of much?"

"Why would you think that you aren't?"

"I don't know, I...being out here these last months, it's...it's made me sort of..." He struggled to find a way to say it. "I'd buried what little was left of myself pretty deep."

"I don't know," Fox murmured against the younger man's cheek. "I think you've shown me quite a bit of yourself these last few days."

"And you're still hanging around? You *must* be sick."

The soft rumble of Fox's laugh sent a succession of delicious shivers down Alex's back.

"Yup. Spooky Mulder isn't that hard to spook. Besides..." He pulled back to look into hypnotic twin pools of green. "There's a lot more of you hiding in there, and I plan on seeing it all."

Alex stared intently at the older man.

"Could take a while."

Fox stared back.

"Good."

God, this was too much. It had to be a dream, it had to be...

Alex tucked his head under the stubbled chin and closed his eyes.

//I'll just stay asleep, then.//

But the inevitability that had haunted Alex from the beginning pushed its way to the front of thoughts yet again, and he lifted worried eyes to the other.

"What happens in a couple of weeks?"

"What d'you mean?"

"I mean when your vacation is over and you have to go back."

Fox grasped Alex's upper arms, putting a few centimeters distance between them and looked him in the eyes.

"*We*."

"That's what I'm getting at," Alex lamented. "Don't you think my coming home with you would be a disaster? There's Scully and...*Skinner*..."

"I'm not leaving L.A. without you, Alex," Fox vowed. "No way. I couldn't give a damn less what they think or say."

"But..."

"But nothing. You go home with me, or I don't go home."

"Fox, you've got a job."

"I could transfer. Or I could quit and do something else. Makes no difference. Just hear this. I will *not* leave you."

Alex stared at the older man, reading the sincerity of his feelings in his eyes.

"You came out here for some r and r and end up getting your life turned upside down."

"Believe me, Alex, it needed shaking up. I've been bored as hell since you left."

Alex lowered his head and smiled. When he lifted it, Fox noticed that the light had come back to his eyes.

"You're a sick pup, Mulder."

"Who?"

"Sorry. *Agent* Mulder."

"You're being a bad boy, Alex."

Alex wound his arms around the older man's neck and gently ground their hips together while licking the corner of his mouth.

"So, spank me."

"Kinky bastard."

"Only for you. Believe me, other men have tried and suffered the consequences."

"So, why am I different?"

Alex displayed a half smile as he watched his fingertips brush the swell of Fox's lower lip.

"You know all those times you smacked me around and I never fought back?"

Fox nodded.

"You'll probably think this is just *too* perverse, but it made me hot. I always fantasized about us...that one day we'd end up rolling around on the floor naked afterward. But you never even gave me a clue. I never thought that it was possible that you might want me too."

Fox caught a passing finger between his teeth and sucked it into his mouth briefly before letting it go and moving the conversation in a slightly different direction.

"You said the other night that it wasn't the cold or the rain in D.C. that made you leave. You said that it was me. And then you fell asleep before you could explain why. Would you tell me now?"

Alex shrugged. "Isn't any big explanation. I couldn't be in the same city with you and never see you. I mean, what reason would I have to drop in on you after everything was over?" His gaze grew distant. "I've endured a lot of pain...torture even. But being so close to you and never being able to ...I couldn't do it. Plus, we had agreed that I would disappear. So I did. It was the best thing for all concerned."

"I don't think it was," Fox whispered softly. "I know you never would have, but I really do wish you had come to me."

"What would you have done?" Alex asked. "*Really*."

"I don't...I don't know what I would have done in that instant, but the least it would have done was get me thinking. Maybe I would have been smart enough to admit that I felt more for you than hatred. Maybe we could have been together months ago, and you never would have had to live the life that you have these past months."

"A lot of maybe's." Alex rested his head on Fox's shoulder and sighed. "No point in stressing over them now."

"I know, but..." Fox tightened his hold on the man in his arms. "I feel responsible."

Alex lifted his head.

"No. No, no. Don't."

"But if I'd..."

"*No*." Alex threaded his fingers through Fox's hair, holding his head still. "My life is no one's responsibility but mine."

Fox opened his mouth to speak but was immediately cut off.

"*Mine*." Alex's tone softened considerably. "It's not your fault." He moved in and nuzzled the older man's jaw. "Now, let's move on to more..." His tongue traced a light path up to Fox's ear. "...pleasurable subjects."

Fox moaned softly as the younger man's tongue found its way inside his ear, teasing and tickling.

"Yeah, like what?"

"You know what."

"I have no idea."

"Fox..."

"Oh, you remember my name now?"

"Never forgot it."

"Mmm hmm. What d'you want?"

"I want *you*," Alex answered in a pleading tone. "I've been suffering all night."

Reluctantly, Fox pulled away from the questing tongue and searched the younger man's eyes.

"Alex..."

"Please, Fox," Alex whimpered, clinging to the other man. "I need you." One hand slipped down to Fox's rear, pulling him forward as Alex pushed against him. "Please."

Fox's eyes dropped shut, and he emitted a shuddering sigh. "Alex," he breathed, caressing the younger man's bare back as they rocked against each other. "God, I don't...I don't want to hurt you."

"You won't," Alex promised. "I'm okay. I'm fine. I need you so much. Please fuck me."

"No."

Alex pulled away, turning a wounded gaze on the older man, but the hurt quickly dissolved into lust as Fox began to undo his pants, slipping a hand inside to stroke his cock.

"I want you to fuck *me*."

Alex's breath left him in a rush.

He hadn't expected that one. He supposed it had something to do with the fact that it was always him on the receiving end...taking whatever the customer had to dish out...

But this was no customer. He may have started out that way, but that changed in a big hurry. This half naked man pressed up against him, licking at his mouth...gently squeezing his cock, was now his lover.

Jesus, his lover. And he was asking for what any lover had the right to ask for.

Fingers tightening in the golden-brown hair, Alex pulled Fox in for a long, breath stealing kiss as his other hand slipped inside the older man's loosened trousers and caressed the rounded curve of his ass.

"I didn't get to see you last time," he reminded Fox, just barely breaking the kiss long enough to get the handful of words out. They kissed for several seconds more, then he again broke away. "I want to see you."

Fox stood motionless except for the ragged heaving of his chest while the hand in his hair released the strands to flow down his back and join the other in his pants. Slowly, Alex worked the garment down, letting go when the waistband reached Fox's knees. The pants hit the floor in a pool of cocoa brown, and Fox stepped out of them, kicking them away, even as he rid himself of his shoes and socks.

Alex backed away, leaving Fox where he stood, and discarded his own clothing.

Now completely naked, he sat on the bed, sliding back to rest against the pillows. He gave the older man a smoldering stare and spoke.

"You're every bit as gorgeous as I always thought you would be." His gaze flicked down to the silk underwear then back up to Fox's eyes. "Take them off."

Eyes wandering over the body he so wanted to be wrapped around, Fox obeyed the soft command. When his underwear slid to the floor, he stood quietly, waiting.

A fresh surge of passion shot through Alex's body, hardening his already erect cock to a painful extent.

"God*damn*," he groaned, eyeing the imposing length of muscle that seemed to be straining toward him. He took a few steadying breaths then looked back up into twin pools of green and gold.

"Come here, baby."

*Baby*.

Fox's cock twitched at the sound of the word on Alex's lips.

Yeah, he liked that. He *really* liked that.

Slowly, he stalked toward the younger man, and when he reached the end of the bed, crawled over the mattress, straddling Alex's thighs and looking directly into passion-darkened eyes.

"Say it again."

Alex moved his head from side to side, brushing the tips of their noses together, then their mouths.

"Say what again?"

"Call me baby," Fox sighed, licking at the perfect lower lip.

"Why?"

"Because it does unbelievable things to my entire body."

Alex grinned, caught the older man's tongue between his teeth, then released it.

"Does it...baby?"

In answer, Fox drew in a ragged breath then stretched himself out, licking and kissing Alex's chest. The younger man groaned softly, slouching down against the pillows and petting the golden-brown head while Fox continued to bathe and tease the heated flesh, and when he reached one tightly constricted nipple, Alex arched off the bed.

"*Jesus*. Uh...Fox..." Alex combed his fingers restlessly through the older man's hair. "I guess...oh, God, I guess I'm a little touchy..."

Golden-brown eyelashes swept upward, and an amber-flecked gaze settled on the other man. Fox said nothing; he simply nuzzled the brown peak then closed his teeth gently over it and pulled.

Alex's teeth clamped together, and he emitted a hard groan.

"*Shit*."

Fox tugged once more then drifted downward, licking a moist path down the younger man's torso, and as he moved closer and closer to his lover's flushed cock the action roused Alex into rationality.

"Fox," he whispered breathlessly, grasping a handful of hair and pulling the other man's head up. "We need a rubber, baby."

Hearing the urgency in Alex's tone, Fox slid up, now lying face to face with Alex. He laid a tender kiss on the younger man's lips as he pulled the drawer of the nightstand open, groping for and finding the tube of lubrication and a condom. He broke the kiss as he tore open the package and began to roll the thin sheath onto his lover's cock.

"I'm sorry, Fox," Alex whispered, stroking the older man's hair. "I got tested two months ago, but..."

Fox cut him off, shushing softly. "I know. We'll talk about it later." He twisted the cap off of the lube and squeezed some into his hand. Applying a liberal amount to Alex's cock, he watched as intense pleasure wash over the younger man's face.

"So beautiful."

He discarded the lube and empty packet and sat up, running his hands over the virtually hairless chest as Alex's hands came up to touch him as well.

Sensitive fingertips slid through the sprinkling of golden-brown hair that covered Fox's chest and followed the narrowed trail straight down to the crop of darker hair that surrounded his twitching cock. Deep green eyes sparkled up at the older man with barely restrained lust.

"You know," he purred, letting his fingertips glide over the velvety surface. "I'm pretty damn good at deep throating, but I have to say, baby, I think this bad boy'd give me a fair amount of trouble."

Fox pouted down at the younger man as he fingered his parted lips. "Does that mean I'll never feel your mouth around me?"

Alex stared up at Fox, shaking his head.

"No. Just means that I look forward to the challenge."

Fox leaned in, brushing their mouths together. "I'll be gentle."

Alex pulled the older man down, feeding tenderly on his lips, drinking in each soft whimper. He broke the kiss but refused to release Fox from his grip.

"I know. I wish I could tell you how much it means to me."

"Show me," Fox whispered against the other man's mouth. "Don't make me wait."

In one smooth motion, Alex rolled them so that Fox was now the one on the bottom. He lay sprawled over the older man's body, kissing and licking every patch of skin his mouth could reach, and when he came within range of one of Fox's nipples, his mouth sealed over it, sucking gently, then he let the tip of his tongue flick quickly, back and forth over it.

Fox arched under Alex's ardent attention, and his groan vibrated throughout the room. His passionate responses only grew as Alex switched to the other nipple, giving it the same consideration, and in a very short time, he was writhing uncontrollably, demanding both physically and vocally to be satisfied.

"All right, pretty Fox, all right," Alex murmured soothingly as he coaxed the older man's legs up and around his waist. "Take it easy."

Fox's head tossed from side to side on the pillows, his anguished whimpers music to Alex's ears.

"Please," he wailed clutching at Alex's back as the other man positioned his cock and tested the degree of resistance to be overcome.

Finding Fox extremely tight, Alex paused, incurring a fair amount of protest from the man beneath him.

"How long has it been, Fox?"

Fox whined harshly in response.

"Baby, please. Listen to me. How long has it been since you've been with a man?" Alex thought a second then amended his question. "Have you *ever* been with a man?"

Fox nodded impatiently. "But it's been a long...a long time. What difference does it make? Come on, Alex, don't tease me..."

"I'm not," Alex promised, scattering a few kisses over the other man's face as he pushed ever so slowly into the older man. "Just..." He released a long sigh as Fox's heat surrounded him. "I didn't want to...to hurt you. Oh, God, Fox, you're so tight..."

Fox contracted his muscles, bearing down on the imposing presence making itself known to his body. The man above him gasped and stopped moving, afraid that even a deep breath would trigger his explosion.

"Baby," Alex panted. "Jesus, Fox, you're gonna kill me. You have to let go."

Fox clung to the younger man, planting feverish kisses over one shoulder.

"Nooo. Feels so good. Stay inside me...stay..."

"I will," Alex responded with the same desperation. "I will, baby, but if you don't stop squeezing me like that, I'm going to come. I don't want to. Not yet. Wanna...wanna fuck you. Want you to feel me for a week..."

Incredibly aroused by the thought of feeling Alex's cock inside him tomorrow as they sat down to breakfast, Fox issued a loud moan and reluctantly relaxed his muscles.

"Thank you," Alex breathed, petting the golden-brown head. He drew in a few cleansing breaths then claimed Fox's mouth in a teasing kiss as he slowly completed their connection.

"God," Fox whispered against his lover's mouth. Oh, God, so..." He grimaced, trying to adjust to the overwhelming presence within him. "So full." He hugged Alex to him, whimpering softly. "Fuck me, baby. Make me scream."

Alex's body shook violently as he began to move, the realization that after years of wanting Fox, he'd finally got his wish, hitting him like a ton of bricks.

"Mine," he rasped softly, thrusting with all the gentleness he possessed. "You're mine now..."

"Yours," Fox agreed breathlessly, stroking the younger man's damp back.

"I'm ready, Fox. I can't..." Alex wrapped a hand around Fox's swollen cock and began to gently pump it in time to his thrusts. "Come with me...come on," he pleaded moving faster, his hand still keeping in perfect time with his hips.

Fox bucked against the younger man, fingers digging into his back as the coming explosion rumbled through his body. His head snapped back, pressing into the pillows as he blew, screaming his lover's name and shooting copious amounts of semen over Alex's hand and his own belly.

At almost the same moment, Alex reached his own climax, crying out in delirium as he continued to pump uncontrollably into the other man's body. Finally, sheer exhaustion forced him to stop, and he collapsed on top of Fox, chest heaving in counterpoint to the other's. A brief time had passed, and he carefully withdrew and discarded the used condom. That done, he sank back down to the mattress, melting into the open arms of his lover, peppering his perspiration-slick chest with kisses.

"I didn't know," he whispered, licking the salty moisture from his lips. "God, I hadn't a clue."

Fox hugged Alex tightly, stroking his still very warm skin. "About what?"

"What it was like." He nuzzled Fox's throat then buried his face in the damp curve between his neck and shoulder. "Nobody ever cared enough...they never cared at all."

Fox planted a soft kiss in the ruffled, sable hair. "You know *I* care."

"It's still so hard to believe. I feel so good, Fox. I feel..." A frightening vision invaded his thoughts, and he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to exorcise it. "...*too* good." He clung to the older man as if he was afraid someone would come and rip them apart.

"Alex? What is it?"

"I'm scared..."

The sudden, distressed tone in Alex's voice made Fox turn the younger man's face up to his.

"Scared of what?"

"That it isn't real. Or that it is, and something's going to happen. Something to take it all away from me...take *you* away."

Shaking his head vehemently, Fox guided Alex's head back down to his chest. "No," he insisted softly. "Nothing's going to happen."

"I couldn't..." Alex continued, still in the grip of unexpected fear. "You screwed me up good, Fox. I couldn't stand it if I lost you now."

"You won't," Fox replied in his most reassuring tone. I told you already, I won't walk away from you. Nothing can make me."

"Promise me."

"I promise. I'm yours now, remember?"

"Yeah. And you agreed, but people say lots of things they don't mean in the heat of the moment."

"You think I didn't mean it?"

Green eyes lowered to Fox's chest. "I don't know."

"I meant it, Alex," Fox said firmly, caressing the younger man's jaw. "With all my heart I meant it. I'm yours. For as long as you'll have me."

Alex's head fell forward, resting against the older man's chest as he heaved a thankful sigh. "You might regret saying that."

"Why?"

"What if I never want to let you go?"

"Don't tease me."

Alex lifted his eyes, meeting his lover's glittering gaze. "Tease you?"

"I don't want to be let go," Fox admitted. "And I don't want to let go of *you*. If you're not as sure of that as I am...if you think you might need me just for the time being, I want to know, I..."

"No," Alex broke in. "No. When I said I couldn't stand it if I lost you, Fox, I didn't just mean for the next few weeks or the next few months. I meant ever." He shook his head, blinking away the sting that came to his eyes.

"Insane isn't the word for what this is. So much, it's so...overwhelming, but I can't help it. I don't want to. I just want to forget it all...everything I've done, and everything I've been up to now and start over with you. I don't want anyone to touch me, I don't...God, I hated it." He stared up at Fox, begging with his eyes to be believed. "I told you that I liked it, but I didn't. I hated it when they touched me. It made me sick."

"I know," Fox assured the younger man, kissing his forehead. "You didn't have to tell me any of that, baby, I already knew it."

"I'm done with it," Alex promised, curling himself around the older man. "I'll never let another man touch me."

Fox smiled, holding Alex in his comforting warmth. "Glad to hear it, 'cause you know what?"

Alex looked up into his lover's face. "What?"

Fox lowered his head, touching noses with the younger man. "You're *mine*."

Alex shivered at the two word statement.

Him. Alex Krycek...property of Fox Mulder.

He'd never belonged to anyone in his life. Not emotionally...he never wanted to. But now, the thought warmed him inside and out.

"I was yours before I even knew who you were."

Fox hoisted himself up onto his side and rested his head in his hand.

"Yeah, let's talk about that. You wanted that man. You couldn't see him...had no idea who he was, but you wanted him bad."

Alex nodded, brushing his fingers across Fox's cheek. "I did. I was so confused, though. I couldn't understand what the hell was happening. In such a short time, this total stranger made me need him more than I've ever needed anybody. And I wanted so much to be with him.

"My heart pounded like crazy when I opened up that envelope on that first night. Not because of money I'd made or the money I stood to make, but because he wanted me back." Alex closed his eyes. "Another night with the one man who'd ever made me feel like I was somebody..."

"But you were so upset the night I found out you'd been hurt. You didn't want me...him...to care about it."

"It just made it harder," Alex explained.

"Harder?"

"To walk away. I wanted what he had to offer me. I didn't know how hungry I was until the hunger was suddenly being satisfied. But I knew it had to be temporary, and I knew it'd hurt like hell when it was gone. I figured the longer it went on, the more it would hurt." He turned a heartbreaking gaze on his lover. "I'd finally made it all go away. I'd managed to numb everything, and I didn't want it back. And somehow I knew that if given the chance, he could hurt me like I'd never been hurt before. Then I found out it was you, and it made sense. *You* can hurt me. You can rip me to shreds without even really trying." Alex blew out a hard breath. "Oh my God, that's how much I belong to you."

Fox gathered Alex to him and rocked back and forth. "Don't be afraid of it."

"I'm not, I'm just...I guess you could call it shock. I never thought I'd need anyone. And here I am, needing you so much, I don't think I'd be able to breathe without you. It's unreal, it's..."

His next words were muffled by Fox's mouth, covering his in a sweet kiss.

Lips as soft as a whisper drank in every sigh, coaxing the younger man to surrender himself to his lover, and Alex did that willingly, joyfully. His arms wound around the older man as he opened his mouth, allowing Fox's tongue to sweep inside.

God, it felt so good. So right, like it had never been any other way.

This was his now. All the pleasure, all the warmth and contentment. All the security of knowing that his heart had finally found a home.  He could finally let his guard down...sleep at night when most people slept, and wake in the morning in the arms of the one person in the world he trusted...

In spite of the fierce pounding of his heart, matching the intensity of emotion that threatened to consume him, Fox fed gently upon his lover's sweetness, silently vowing to give Alex all the tenderness that his life had been devoid of for so long.

So very recently satisfied, his cock began to swell and lengthen, surprising him at the speed of its recovery. His moan of astonishment and arousal resonated in Alex's mouth, and the younger man pressed up against him, letting him know that he wasn't the only one in that condition. He broke the kiss and rested his cheek against his lover's.

"It would seem we have a situation here."

"Mmm hmm," Alex breathed, rubbing his cheek against Fox's as he draped one long leg over his hip.

"What do you propose we do about it?"

"I have a thought."

"Yes?"

Alex turned around and pressed into the cradle of Fox's body, wiggling his ass against the older man's cock.

"Nooooooope."

"Fox, come on," Alex whined, sounding much like a petulant child. "I feel fine, I really do."

"You can feel okay and not be completely healed." Fox gently grasped a handful of hair and stared intently into the younger man's eyes. "Do you know how I would feel if I hurt you? I'd feel like I was no better than the men who originally did it to you."

"No, Fox. You could never be anything like that scum."

"But that's how I'd feel. How can I do something, Alex, that I'm not entirely sure won't injure you? What kind of a man would that make me If I did? How could I claim to care about you?"

Alex turned back into the other man's arms, nestling into his protective embrace.

"I'm not going to wake up in the morning and find out that this has all been a dream, am I?"

"Hasn't happened so far, has it?"

"No, but it *could* be just a matter of time."

"I won't turn out to be a dream if you don't."

Alex laughed softly. "Deal. But uh...that still doesn't solve our little problem."

Fox reached into the nightstand, withdrawing two condoms.

"Allow me."

He opened one package and rolled the condom onto Alex's cock then did the same for himself. Then, kissing Alex once more, he turned himself so that each man's head was at the other's crotch. Gingerly, his fingers circled the base of his lover's cock, and he began to lick the entire length from base to tip.

Alex mimicked Fox's actions, groaning at the first sensation of his tongue stroking the considerable length of his lover's cock. He hated the taste of the latex...never liked it, and he especially regretted Fox having to deal with it, but there was that slim chance that his lover's life could depend on it, and therefore, it was a necessary evil.

Pushing all regret to the back of his mind, Alex concentrated on pleasing Fox to the best of his ability. He relaxed his throat and took in inch after inch, swallowing as much of the older man's cock as he could comfortably take.

Whimpering at the sensation of being encased in soft warmth, Fox opened his mouth and sucked Alex inside, his tongue gently lashing at the thick shaft with his tongue.

It was Alex's turn to whimper, his sounds of pleasure joining those of his lover. As they teased each other, withdrawing then sinking back down, licking and nipping, the sounds growing in volume, so did their impatience.

The hand around Alex's cock released the shaft and slid over his hip, cradling the younger man's ass as Fox moved forward, taking his lover in to the root. Sucking steadily, his head began to bob rhythmically, pushing Alex quickly toward release. The younger man's whimpers evolved into desperate cries for fulfillment, and he began to rock, effectively fucking Fox's mouth. Pushing and pulling on the other man's hips, he encouraged him to do the same, and Fox complied, his cock now moving in and out of Alex's mouth like a piston.

Alex breathed deeply, altering the angle at which he lay just a bit to more easily accommodate the full length of his lover's cock. Having proudly achieved his goal, Alex encouraged Fox to move faster, matching the increased tempo he had now set.

Fox thrust faster, quickly hurtling out of control. He sucked voraciously on his lover's cock, even as the pressure had increased on his own, and seconds later he flashed, his strangled cries joined by those of the other. When their bodies ceased their violent spasming, both men lay spent and purring with satisfaction, each lazily nuzzling the other.

"Wanna lick you clean," Fox moaned, running his tongue along the latex covered shaft.

The wishful statement brought Alex out of the lethargic state he'd still been lingering in, and he sat up and pivoted so that he and Fox were now face to face.

"Me to," he said softly, caressing the older man's face. "I'd give anything to be able to taste you. But until we're absolutely sure that it's safe, we can't. I refuse to take stupid chances." He stared directly at the other man, his eyes brimming with adoration. "Not with you."

Fox nodded, pulling his lower lip into his mouth and lowering his eyes.

"Fox? Baby, what's wrong?"

"Those men...the ones who...the ones in the warehouse. Do you know much about them?"

Alex caught on, realizing why Fox was asking about them.

"No. Everyone pretty much steered clear of them."

Fox nodded again. "Do you know...I know you were pretty well out of it, but..."

"I don't know how many, if any of them were wearing rubbers," Alex answered, anticipating the question.

"I know the one I shot had one on."

"You shot one of them?"

"In the wrist. The one who was threatening to slit your throat." Fox's eyes turned dark with restrained anger. "I should've killed the fucker. I should've."

"I'm glad you didn't. You don't need that kind of trouble, Fox."

"They hurt you. They would've killed you. They don't deserve to live, none of them."

Alex molded himself to Fox's body, stroking the cooling back as he rested his head against the older man's shoulder.

"Forget about it. It's done. Thanks to you it all turned out okay."

Fox hugged Alex to him, planting a soft kiss in his hair. "Which brings us back to the original topic of this conversation. We don't know if all those assholes were using condoms, and we don't know if they were all disease free. How soon before you can get tested?"

"About three months. And even if I test negative, I should be re-tested in another three months to be sure." He turned an apologetic gaze on Fox. "Until then, we really have to be very careful."

Fox hugged the younger man tightly. "The tests will turn out negative."

"We can't go on that assumption, Fox. It's too risky."

"I'm not saying it because I want to make love to you without protection," Fox answered softly. "I'm saying it because it's what I need to believe."

Understanding dawned on Alex, and he emitted a long sigh.

"I'm always very good about protecting myself and getting tested because I...I just knew I should. But I never had a real reason to *want* to stay healthy before now." Eyes clouded by remorse turned up to the other man's face. "I'm so sorry, Fox, for putting you through this."

"You're not holding a gun to my head, Alex," Fox pointed out. "I could've walked away at any time. Hell, I never even had to get involved in the first place. I wanted to."

Alex lay quietly for a moment then cleared his throat and spoke.

"Do something for me?"

"You know, I think I'd do almost anything for you."

"Almost?"

Fox grinned down at his lover. "Well, you know, unless it was really stupid or something...what do you want me to do?"

"If it gets to be more than you can or want to deal with...if it turns out that I've contracted HIV, or you find that you just can't handle the fact that I was a hooker, or...or anything else...tell me, and I'll go. I've screwed up your life for so long and in so many different ways...I don't want to do it any more."

Fox breathed Alex's name into his hair then pulled back to look down into solemn green eyes.

"You've done some rotten things in the past. There's no disputing that. But any bit of life you took from me, baby, you've given back ten fold. I've never been happier or felt more complete."

"You know Scully's gonna meet you at the airport standing between a couple of nice men in white coats holding nets, right?"

"I know she thinks I've completely lost it..."

"She's not the only one."

Fox gave the younger man a harmless swat on the backside and continued.

"I don't give a damn what she or anybody else thinks. You're mine, and nothing's going to change that. So...if they haul me away, they haul *you* away, because there's no way in hell I'm letting go of you."

"Well, that's fine, 'cause I think I'm just as sick as you are," Alex answered, a bit of humor seeping into his tone. "I could probably use a little time in a nice padded room."

"Oh, good, so instead of you trying to save me from them, you'll be helping to measure me for my straightjacket?"

Alex nodded. "Maybe I'll get a discount on mine."

"Let me remind you, sweet, helpful Alex, that if we're both wearing straightjackets, there'll be no touching..."

"Okay, wait..."

"No licking or nipping or sucking..."

"Yeah, but..."

"No fucking..."

Alex emitted a low whine. "So maybe I was a bit hasty..."

Fox snorted softly. "Thought that'd change your mind. Uh, hey, Alex?"

"Hmm?"

Fox looked down between them. "If we keep these things on any longer, they're going to become a permanent part of us."

"Ah, *shit*." Alex reached down and peeled his condom off, groaning as he did. "Christ, do you think they use semen in super glue?"

Fox chuckled as he reached down to remove his own condom, gritting his teeth as he did.

"Damn, you're right. And it hasn't even been that long." He tossed the used latex into the waste paper basket a few feet away then turned back to the younger man. "By the way," he purred, kissing the tip of Alex's nose, "that was *so* good."

Alex gave him a soft smile. "Back at'cha."

"And you rose to your little challenge admirably."

The younger man's shoulders shook with laughter. "Yeah, it was touch and go there, but I pulled it off."

"Such talent."

"Hey, I wouldn't have attempted that for anyone else, you know, talent or not. Felt like you were halfway down my throat." Sable lashes drooped lazily. "God, I was so turned on."

"Slut."

"I place all the blame squarely on your shoulders. I never enjoyed it before." Alex reached down between them and rubbed two fingers over the softened head of his lover's cock then brought them up to his mouth, sucking at the tips. "Now, I can't get enough."

Fox inhaled deeply, watching Alex pull his fingers from his mouth.

"Can you taste me?"

"Not nearly as much as I'd like to. You're already pretty dry, and then there's that damn rubber taste."

"Six months, baby," Fox promised. "Six months, and they won't be able to pry us apart with a crowbar."

Alex smiled at the thought.

"I'm going to hold you to that."

"Go right ahead." Fox looked down at the younger man just in time to see him stifling a yawn. "Tired?"

"A little."

"It's really late," The older man observed, looking at his watch. He shut the light off and pulled the sheet up around them, snuggling with Alex beneath the cool cotton. After a long, sweet kiss, both men said goodnight then fell into an exhausted silence and were soon soundly asleep.

********************
Over a week later
********************

A soft knock sounded on A.D. Skinner's door, drawing his attention from his work.

"Come in."

The door opened, and the diminutive redhead walked in, stopping only when she reached the front of his desk.

"You wanted to see me, sir?"

Skinner dropped the file folder he held, down onto his desk and looked up at the agent.

"Yes, Agent Scully, have a seat."

Scully took her usual chair and waited for Skinner to speak.

"It's been about four weeks since Agent Mulder began his vacation. Have you heard anything from him?"

Cerulean eyes looked down at the floor. "I've spoken with him a couple of times, yes."

"How is he?"

"He's fine."

Sharp brown eyes squinted at the woman.

"Are you sure about that?"

The woman looked up at Skinner but only briefly before her gaze began to wander. "Yes, sir."

"Agent Scully."

Scully's eyes stopped shifting around the room and came to rest on her superior.

"Tell me he's not getting into any trouble."

"He's on vacation, sir. What trouble could he get into?"

"Agent *Mulder*? I think we both know that if there's even the smallest bit of trouble lurking within a hundred mile radius, *he'll* find it."

Scully remained silent.

Skinner observed the troubled expression that his agent was trying so hard to hide, then sat back in his chair, folding his hands across his midsection.

"How's your workload?"

"Pretty light."

"Anything going on that can't wait a few days?"

"No, sir. Have you got something else for me?"

"Nothing but a little time off."

Scully turned a questioning gaze on Skinner.

"Sir?"

"Take some time off, Agent Scully," the A.D. repeated, staring pointedly at her. "Maybe take a little trip."

"....If you insist, sir."

"I do."

"Will that be all?"

"Yes, I believe it will be. As of right now, you're on vacation for a week."

Scully nodded and rose. "Thank you, sir."

Without a glance backward, Scully walked to the door and exited the office. She headed straight down to the basement and began putting the office in order. When that was done, she picked up the telephone and dialed the airport.

It had been a little over a week since she last spoke with Mulder, but not for lack of trying. She'd attempted several times a day, every day to call his cell phone, but the pain in the ass had obviously shut the damn thing off. When three days had passed without contact, she had considered dropping everything and flying out to L.A., but each time the thought entered her head, she talked herself out of it. He was a big boy, quite capable of taking care of himself. He certainly didn't need her help or protection.

Then she thought about who it was he might be needing protection from.

Alex Krycek.

Mulder had gone completely around the bend. What other explanation could there be for his getting involved with that snake?

Yeah, yeah, she knew that without the slimy bastard's help they never would have seen an end to Smokey and his friends as quickly as they had, but one good deed hardly negated all the dirt he'd done to them in the years before. She couldn't *believe* Mulder had forgotten that.

As she made her reservations she wondered what he would say when she showed up on the doorstep of his rented cabin. He'd probably be pissed as hell, especially if he'd brought Krycek up there with him.

//If? You heard him, Dana. He was so....oh, God, he sounded so *smitten*. There's a stupid word. But fitting. He hasn't cut Krycek loose. That rat bastard is sitting up in that cabin with him right now. But *why*? What the hell can he want?//

Deciding to save the questions till she got to California, Scully picked up the few things she was taking with her and left the office.

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

Alex closed his eyes and turned his face up to the sun.

So warm.

But the air was different.

Clear. Cool. Clean.

It caressed his skin and filled his lungs as he inhaled deeply.

The sun-warmed wood felt so good beneath him. Not like the green painted bench he was used to sitting on. This was rough and smelled like...well, it smelled like *wood*. Natural. Comforting.

He opened his eyes and squinted up at the man approaching from inside the cabin.

Faded jeans that hugged him in *all* the right places...barefoot, shirt hanging open and the sun behind him, softening the edges of his profile. He looked to Alex like some erotic, backwood mirage, as startlingly beautiful as the image he'd conjured up in the past.

Fox smiled down at the man sitting on the porch and squatted beside him, handing him one of the two cups he'd held in his hand.

"Thanks." Alex took the mug, sipping at the hot coffee before again looking up into the sparkling amber eyes of his lover.

"I can't tell you how many times I've imagined this. It's almost exactly the way I've seen it in my mind."

Fox flashed Alex a brilliant grin. "This?"

"Yeah. Me sitting on the front porch of a cabin somewhere. Warm. Content. Just me and..." He paused then made his admission. "...you."

Fox tipped his head to one side. "You've imagined the two of us together?"

"Yeah," Alex answered just above a whisper. "I didn't mean for it to be you. Just...*somebody*, you know? Some faceless lover. But he just...he turned into you."

Fox studied the other man for a while then leaned in and brushed his lips across the surface of his hair. He set his mug down and lowered himself to his hands and knees, bringing his face to within a mere inch of the younger man's.

"I'm glad it was me," he murmured letting his lips caress Alex's cheek. "'Cause for me it's been you for such a long time now."

Alex pulled back and stared into a tranquil ocean of green and gold.

"It's so unbelievable." He laughed softly. "I can't stop saying that."

"I know." Fox covered the other's lips in a tender kiss then stretched out on the porch and lay his head in Alex's lap. He closed his eyes, drowning in contentment. "So...we've been here a few days. Do you like it?"

Alex breathed deeply and exhaled as one hand busied itself  in Fox's hair. "I love it."

"Is it someplace you can see yourself settling down?"

"I don't know. Even though I'd pictured you here with me, I was prepared to live alone. Now, I..."

Fox listened, waiting for Alex to finish the sentence, but he simply went quiet. He turned onto his back and looked up at the other man.

"Now, you what?"

"I can't...I don't want to," Alex answered honestly. "Not without you."

The heartfelt response earned Alex a gentle caress.

"We'll have a place like this," Fox promised. "Someplace we can go to and be alone when life gets to be too complicated."

"Life'll always be complicated for us," Alex answered sadly. "As long as we're together, it'll be hard."

"It won't all be fun, no. But as long as we stick together, it'll be okay."

"I didn't know you were such an optimist," Alex said, brushing his knuckles across the older man's cheek.

"Neither did I. I wouldn't term myself a pessimist, but up to now I always thought I was just, I don't know....numb. Now I find myself really looking forward to life. I believe that there are a lot of good things ahead."

"I want to believe that," Alex replied wistfully. "There's been so much bad...though I have no right to complain since most of it has been my own doing..."

"You're turning it around now," Fox reminded the younger man, grasping the hand that rested against his cheek and placing a soft kiss in the palm.

"I would've thought it was too late, you know? It's been so long, and I've done so much damage. To you *and* myself. I don't know how you can lie here with your head in the lap of an ex-spy/assassin/hooker...making plans for the future."

"If it weren't for you, Alex, we might not have *had* a future..."

"I don't deserve any credit," Alex broke in. "If I had been on the right side from the beginning, so much damage could have been prevented." His gaze fell away from his lover's face. "I wouldn't have hurt you so much. I don't even know how to begin making it all up to you."

"Alex."

A sad green gaze fell back to the older man's face.

Fox sat up, looking directly into Alex's eyes.

"You already have. There's no need for you to knock yourself out trying."

"But I've done so many..."

Fox cut the younger man off, his mouth muffling the remnants of Alex's argument. When he felt the taut muscles relax in submission, he broke the kiss. Maintaining eye contact, he spoke again.

"I look in your eyes, Alex, and there's so much going on in there. I see more than I ever thought there was of you. You did a hell of a job hiding from me and the rest of the world these past few years, but it's exhausting, isn't it?"

Alex tried to lower his head, but a gentle hand under his chin stopped him.

"You're tired...keeping up the masquerade. But you let me see. You let your guard down because you didn't have the strength to keep it up anymore, and you let me see the man you've kept hidden away for too damn many years." Fox gave the other man a tranquil smile.

"He's beautiful, Alex. He's sincere, and he's intelligent and vulnerable." He pitched forward, letting his tongue dance across Alex's mouth. "And he's sexy as all hell."

Alex blew out a short, soft breath and lowered his eyes.

"He's what I want," Fox murmured, brushing his lips against the younger man's. "He's what I need."

Alex emitted an almost inaudible whimper as Fox pulled him into his arms.

"I need you, Alex. In a ridiculously short period of time you made me want to stop just going through the motions and really live. I'm alive now, and I won't go back to that walking death."

He shook his head, searing Alex with the heat of his stare.

"I'll never go back. And neither will you."

Alex wound his arms around Fox, soaking in his warmth and silently wondering what the hell he did right to be given another chance at life.

And not just any life. A *good* life. With a man in whose eyes he thought he'd only ever see hate but now saw an emotion so profound, he couldn't describe it as anything other than love.

//Whoa. Get a grip there, Trigger. The fresh air must be making you high or something.//

"Would you think I had really gone around the bend if I told you that I...God, Alex, I think I...no, that's not right. I know...I'm in love with you..."

//Or not...//

Alex lifted his head, a mixture of shock and uncertainty swirling in his eyes. He blinked rapidly then frowned at the other man, who watched him intently for some reaction.

"Fox, I...please..." Alex swallowed hard, his rate of respiration markedly increasing. "..I know I've done some rotten...awful stuff, and I...I deserve everything you could think to...." He shook his head, eyes pleading for mercy. "Not this. I can't...don't...*please* don't tell me you love me if you don't mean it."

Fox pulled the distraught man against him, holding fast.

"I swear on my life, Alex, I'm not playing any kind of head games with you. I wouldn't do that to you. I couldn't."

"I've never had love," Alex rambled as if he hadn't heard, clutching the edges of the older man's open shirt. "Had offers I couldn't refuse...customers. Used and been used, but love never entered into it. It wasn't for me. I didn't deserve it."

Fox tightened his hold and pressed a few feverish kisses into the sable hair.

"It'd be so easy for you make me believe," Alex continued on. "Want it...God, I want so bad for you to love me even though I don't deserve for you to. I shouldn't...I shouldn't...don't even have the right to *think* about it..."

"Stop. Stop it, Alex. You have to stop beating yourself up. And you have every right to want anything in the world. I'm just grateful that you want it from *me*."

"I always thought I did," Alex rasped, rubbing his cheek against Fox's shoulder. "But that day...the day I heard your voice for the first time telling me that you wouldn't hurt me, I knew. Even if it *was* just a game and you didn't mean any of it, it was too late for me. I'd fallen too far too fast, and there was no pulling me out."

"Alex, what are you..."

The younger man pulled back, purest adoration gleaming in his eyes.

"I love you, Fox. No matter what happens, you have to know. You made me fall in love with you, and I'll tell you, if it *was* revenge you'd been plotting, you'd have it, and it'd be sweet."

"You love me?" Fox asked abruptly.

"Nothing else can have me this scared," Alex breathed then set a wide eyed stare on the other. "Tell me you're not playing games with me."

"Baby, I told you..."

"Tell me again. Please, Fox."

"I'm not playing games with you," Fox assured the younger man then took his mouth in a heated kiss.

Alex melted into his lover, surrendering his body and his heart, and when Fox lowered him onto his back he went willingly, pulling the older man down on top of him.

They lay kissing and stroking each other, each man stoking the other's passion until Alex broke from Fox's insistent mouth.

"Fox," he managed to mumble before the other man reclaimed his mouth. He moaned softly, allowing Fox to engage him in a deep kiss, and when the older man had thoroughly explored the interior of his mouth, he again pulled away.

"Fox..."

Fox nuzzled his lover's neck, passing his tongue over the wildly pounding pulse. "Yeah, baby?"

Alex bit down on his lower lip. "It's...it's been a while. I'm okay now..."

Fox abandoned his current pleasure and looked down into pleading eyes. He kissed Alex once more then sat up, pulling the younger man with him.

"Come with me." He rose to his feet and held out his hand.

"Where are we going?"

Helping Alex up, he dragged the other man into his embrace and whispered against his mouth, "To bed."

Alex released a loud, gasping sigh and let Fox lead him into the cabin and straight into the bedroom.

The moment they crossed the threshold, Alex pressed himself to Fox's back, sliding his hands up under his shirt, caressing his chest.

Fox stopped in his tracks, closing his eyes and moaning at the feel of his lover's touch. As Alex's fingers whispered over his abdomen and circled both nipples, he tugged at the button on his jeans then pulled the zipper down.

The instant Alex had access, one hand left Fox's chest and glided down, slipping between his jeans and underwear. As he gently kneaded the rigid length of muscle, he nipped at the older man's earlobe then teased the sensitive interior with the tip of his tongue.

"Love me," he begged simply, afraid to trust his shaky voice with much more than the two words.

Reluctantly, Fox pulled Alex's hand out of his pants and turned to face him. Their lips met in the sweetest of kisses as he undid Alex's jeans and pulled his t-shirt up to his chest. He broke the kiss and removed the shirt, letting it fall to the floor as Alex tugged his shirt off and let it drop beside his own.

The two came together again, hands wandering over heated flesh as they kissed with restrained hunger. Fox's hands slipped inside Alex's jeans, strong fingers clenching in his ass, and the younger man began to squirm, moaning impatiently into his mouth. Fox tore his mouth away, panting softly. Cupping Alex's ass firmly, he pulled the younger man forward as his gaze held him entranced.

"It's been so hard, baby. Ever since that night...I had such a small taste of what it was like to be inside you, and since then I've wanted so badly to..." Fox bit into his own lip and began again. "Don't think for a second that I haven't suffered with this..."

"I know," Alex broke in. "I know you didn't want to hurt me. I love you for that, Fox. Nobody's ever worried about me, but now I'm fine." He pushed his own jeans down and kicked them and his shoes away, leaving himself completely bared to his lover's reverent touch.

"Make love to me," he whispered, wrapping himself around the other man and rubbing against him. "I don't want to feel them. Make them go away..."

The despair was back in Alex's voice, mixed with intense desire, and though Fox thought he had some idea what the statement meant, this was no time to delve deeper into its significance. Alex needed him. And here, not three weeks into their new relationship, Fox knew with certitude that he would give this man anything in the world he needed or desired.

Gently prying himself away from Alex, Fox finished undressing then stood quietly, not more than two feet from the other. He said not a word, but the look in his eyes drew Alex in, willing him to move closer and closer until they were pressed against each other.

Winding one arm around the younger man's waist, Fox's free hand rose to his lover's flushed lips, tracing their softness, his breath catching in his throat as Alex's tongue peeked out to stroke over his fingertips. He removed his hand and leaned forward, letting his tongue replace his fingers.

Moaning softly, Alex's eyes fluttered shut. Immersed in the sensuality of the moment, he met his lover's tongue with his own, stroking and teasing, and when Fox withdrew, he boldly followed, searching the recesses of the older man's mouth. He found his errant companion and easily coaxed it back into play, but not for very long.

Fox pulled back, catching the younger man's lower lip between his teeth and pulling gently before releasing it. Softly shushing Alex's whine of protest, he proceeded to lazily explore his lover's chest and shoulders with his hands and mouth, smiling when the other's complaints turned to sighs of bliss.

Sinking slowly into a crouching position, Fox tenderly bathed his lover, taking care to give special attention to his nipples and the insides of his thighs, and being extra careful to make sure that his aching cock received none before rising and moving behind him. By the time he'd reached the sensitive patch of skin on the back of Alex's neck, the younger man's knees were ready to give out.

"Fox," Alex whimpered, shivering at the sensation of the older man's tongue traveling down the middle of his spine. "Please..."

Having reached the tempting swell of the other man's rear, Fox bit delicately into the firm mound and sucked at the tender skin, exerting just enough pressure to produce a hard gasp. He soothed the small injury with his tongue then continued on, tickling and nipping until the pitch of Alex's cries told him that the younger man was quickly reaching the end of his rope.

Rising, he wrapped his arms around Alex and pulled him back into the heat of his body. He nuzzled the curve between neck and shoulder then left another more prominent mark of his possession.

Alex let his head fall to the side, wincing at the pain and the deep throbbing it produced in his cock.

What the hell?

Pain was pain was...pain. Wasn't it?

But somehow with this man it became intense pleasure. A wild kind of joy he'd never felt before, and now he realized that it didn't matter how many men he'd been with...how many different experiences he'd had. With Fox it was all new. Now, it was the man he wanted...the man he loved, touching him, and nothing he did was disgusting or hurtful. Each touch, every caress only took him to a higher level of arousal...fueled his desire even as it deepened his heart's need.

Acting on instinct, he plunged his fingers into his lover's hair and pushed against his head, silently asking for more.

Fox tightened his arms around the younger man, wrapping him in a vice grip, a low growl rumbling in his chest as he sucked harder at the highly sensitive flesh. Alex's pained, excited whimpers resonated through his entire body, making it vibrate, and his cock screamed its need, pushing insistently against the other man's ass.

Alex squirmed against the hardness at his rear, all rationality at least temporarily obscured by the consuming need to have that hardness driving into him, stretching and filling him completely.

"Give it to me," he panted, gripping Fox's hips and grinding his ass against the older man's cock. "Please, Fox...fuck me. Need you...baby, please..."

Satisfied that his man had been sufficiently branded, Fox released him and admired his handiwork for a few brief seconds before leading Alex over to the bed and lowering him to the mattress. He stretched out on top of the younger man, lightly running his fingers over the large reddish blotch forming on his shoulder. His eyes rose to meet Alex's, and the other shivered at the thoroughly possessive gleam in the gold splashed stare.

Never in his life had he wanted so much to belong to another. He'd always thought that total devotion denoted weakness...would make him the worst kind of prisoner, but in truth he'd never felt so strong or so free. Fox was just as much his as he was Fox's, and Christ, it was an amazing feeling.

Fox watched the deep green of Alex's eyes disappear behind fluttering eyelids, and the younger man arched his neck, offering himself to his lover. The thought to refuse such a tempting gift never crossed his mind as he lowered his head and touched his lips to the tanned skin.

A barely audible sigh escaped Alex's lips as the moist warmth of Fox's tongue slid along his throat, unerringly finding his frantically beating pulse. He grunted softly as first Fox's mouth then his teeth closed over the area, scraping gently at the tender flesh, and when the older man again began to exert pressure, his body arched, pressing more tightly against the one on top of him.

Fox's erection throbbed painfully against Alex's thigh, demanding that he knock it off with the dominance games already and *fuck* the man. The rest of his body concurred, and he released the younger man's throat from his mouth and reached for the condoms and lube. Sitting up, he tore the packet open and rolled it onto his rigid cock while his lover watched hungrily.

As he next screwed the cap off the lube, Alex's hand covered his. Taking the tube from him, the younger man squeezed some gel into his palm and gently applied it.

Fox released a long, stuttering breath, enduring the sweet torture of his lover's caress, and when Alex removed his hand, Fox tore open another packet and sheathed Alex's cock in latex as well. When that was done, he again stretched out over the length of his body.

Not waiting for Fox to ask, Alex hooked his legs around the older man's waist and tilted his hips, issuing a clear invitation.

Fox gazed down into passion glazed eyes as he guided the tip of his lubricated cock to the place where they had both longed for it to be. He watched the incredibly thick eyelashes flutter as he stretched the tight muscle, and his own respiration deepened to match his lover's.

"Are you all right?" he whispered, concern for Alex's comfort tempering his passion.

"I'm fine," Alex breathed, pushing against the presence that remained only part way inside him and stroking Fox's back. "Don't stop," he pleaded. "Please don't. God, Fox, it feels so good."

Fox pushed again, feeling more of Alex's warmth surround him, and more of his control slip.

"I love you, baby," he gasped, thrusting deeper, forcing a cry of pleasure from them both. "God...so much..."

Alex whimpered softly, desperately in response, fingers clenching in the taut muscles of his lover's ass.

"More," he choked, pulling Fox to him. "Deeper."

Fox inhaled deeply and with all the restraint he could muster, sank as far and as gently into the younger man as he could. He paused, trembling, trying to compose himself, but the man beneath him was beyond restraint.

"Can't wait," Alex whimpered, grasping Fox's hand and placing it over his cock. "Fuck me." He rocked against the older man, his muscles squeezing and caressing, and driving Fox dangerously to the edge of insanity.

Waves of pleasure rippled through Fox as his cock was frantically milked, and every little voice he'd ever heard in his life screamed for him to let go and fuck Alex straight through the mattress. His body wanted so much to do just that, but his heart wouldn't let him. And he knew it was the same for Alex. The other man's body might have been crying out for a quick, fierce possession , but it was his heart asking to be loved earlier, and Fox knew which part of him needed the most attention right now.

Grasping the younger man's hands, Fox interlaced their fingers and gently pinned them to the bed beside the sable head. Alex's whimpers of protest were immediately shushed, and Fox lowered his head, brushing the flushed lips with his own before claiming a bone melting kiss. Not releasing Alex's mouth, he began to move slowly, establishing a fluid rhythm. He released one of his lover's hands and let his hand glide down the tanned body, wrapping around the cock wedged between them.

Alex broke the kiss unintentionally, his head snapping back into the pillows as Fox began to gently work his cock. His mouth fell open, and a soft, mewling sound escaped, sending tiny ripples of electricity fluttering through his lover's body.

"So beautiful," Fox whispered, his voice shaking with equal amounts of love and desire. "So, so beautiful." He increased the speed of his strokes but maintained the same degree of tenderness, showering Alex with loving kisses and caresses, and receiving the same in return.

"Love you baby," Alex rasped then exhaled sharply as Fox changed his angle and hit the younger man's prostate on his next stroke.

"Oh, God," he moaned, arching against the older man. "God, Fox, I..." The rest of his words died in his throat and were replaced by a coarse, throaty growl as Fox pulled back and thrust again, renewing the unbelievable sensation.

"You what?" Fox whispered, breathing the words into the overwhelmed man's ear. "You want to come?"

Alex nodded, hugging his lover to him.

"Do you need to?"

"*Yes*."

Fox increased his pace, his hand moving in perfect time with his hips.

"I know, baby...me too. Come on. I'm ready...can't hold it. Come with me..."

He moved rapidly now, his cock repeatedly stroking Alex's prostate, and his hand flew over the younger man's erection. As Alex stiffened beneath him and began to wail, he felt his own orgasm hit with hurricane force. His teeth clamped together so tightly he thought his jaw would shatter, and a harsh groan tore from his throat as he came, each violent muscle spasm draining him of what was left of his strength.

His muscles turned to liquid, giving out on him completely, and Fox collapsed into his lover's arms. The two lay together, too weak to move or speak, the only signs of life being the soft, satisfied purrs rumbling in each chest.

Long minutes later, Fox lifted his head and brushed a few wild sable strands away from the other's forehead. Then, carefully withdrawing his depleted cock, he discarded the condom and removed Alex's as well.

The younger man moaned softly as the latex was gently pulled off, and he reached out blindly, searching for the lost warmth of his lover. He found it when, seconds later, Fox returned, blanketing Alex's body with his own and peppering his face with kisses.

"I think I really like all this love stuff," Alex moaned softly, capturing Fox's mouth for a teasing kiss.

The older man chuckled and returned the kiss then lay his head on Alex's shoulder. "Me too." He lifted his head and searched Alex's eyes. "Are you okay?"

Alex sighed, smiling at Fox's continued concern. "You can stop worrying now. I'm fine." He wrapped his arms around the older man's neck and stared up at him, eyes shining. "I'm better than fine."

"Yeah?"

Alex stretched and nodded, moaning contentedly.

Fox traced the swell of the younger man's lip with the tip of one finger.

"Happy?"

The smile faded from Alex's lips. "Like I never thought I could be. Thank you for finding me, Fox. If you hadn't, this would just be another afternoon spent staring at the walls, trying not to feel or think too much."

"What do you mean?"

Alex's gaze dropped away from Fox's, and some of the light faded from his eyes. "I couldn't allow myself. Not if I was going to get up and go downtown another night. I had to keep it turned off. Sometimes it was really hard depending on what the night before had been like."

Fox stroked the other man's hair and planted a reassuring kiss on his cheek.

"Alex?"

"Hmm?"

"What did you mean when you said you didn't want to feel them?"

Alex hesitated for a long while, trying to gather his thoughts, then he looked back up at Fox.

"Customers. I could feel them all. Layer upon layer of filth added with each one. It never went away, I couldn't make it." He threaded the fingers of one hand through the golden brown hair, anchoring them at the back of Fox's head. "But I knew you could. Because of you I feel human, and that's something I haven't felt for almost a decade.

"So damn strange," Alex mused softly. "The one person with more right than anyone to want to kill me ends up being the one to save me." His voice lowered to an almost inaudible level. "To love me."

Fox rolled onto the mattress, stretching out on his back, and drew Alex into his arms. "Stranger things have happened."

"To you?"

Fox thought a minute then began to laugh softly. "I guess not. But I'm not questioning it."

"Don't worry, Fox, Scully will have enough questions for the both of you."

The soft, deadpan tone revealed the depth of the younger man's concern about Fox's partner's reaction.

"Don't give Scully another thought," he said reassuringly. "I'll handle her."

"I find it kinda hard to believe that Scully takes well to being *handled*."

"Well...she doesn't. But she's my friend as well as partner. When she sees how happy I am, she'll come around."

"I don't know, I...." Alex stopped in mid sentence and lifted his head, grinning down at the older man, who attempted to look as though he had no idea that his hand was gliding back and forth over Alex's ass.

"What're you doing?"

"Doing?"

"Yeah. With your hand."

"Hmm? Oh, nothing."

"Fox..."

The older man emitted an amused chuckle. "It took your mind off Scully, didn't it?"

"Yeah, but now you went and said her name, so I'm thinking about her again."

Fox rolled over, spinning Alex beneath him.

"Forget Scully," he commanded softly, licking a moist path up the younger man's throat. "We don't have to think about her for a week and half yet, so let's not, okay?"

"Okay," Alex breathed, already feeling the stirrings of arousal. "I guess I can do that."

"You *guess*?" Fox asked, catching his lover's lower lip between his teeth and tugging.

"Yeah," Alex answered, pulling his head away and giving Fox a smoky stare. "As long as you keep me distracted. Think you're up to it?"

Fox shifted, letting his hardening cock brush against the other man's thigh.

"Yeah, I think I am."

The younger man purred softly, letting his hands rub gently over Fox's ass. "Gonna be a long night, isn't it?"

"Ah, babe," Fox answered, grinning as he pulled a handful of condoms out of the nightstand drawer. "It's gonna be long *week*.

********************
The small Chrysler wound its way up the steep, narrow path, which only seemed to get narrower in the growing darkness. The woman inside cursed softly as she searched for the turn off the man at the gas station had promised her she'd be able to find easily.

"He said half a mile from the twin boulders." She growled loudly. "Twin boulders. Is he kidding me? *All* rocks look alike."

Slowing to almost a crawl, she focused on two forms up ahead then sighed with restrained relief.

"Okay, well those look a little more alike than all the other rocks."

Almost exactly half a mile from the described landmark, she found a crude road leading into what looked like pretty much nowhere.

"Shit. All this because he decided to turn his cell phone off."

She hoped. She prayed.

Other thoughts as to why he wouldn't be answering his calls floated around in the back of her head, and those were the thoughts that had her out here, clear across the country, traveling strange, dark mountain roads at this time of night.

Alex Krycek.

Jesus Christ, what the *hell* was Mulder thinking? Well, obviously, he wasn't thinking at all. She didn't give two shits about what Krycek had done to help them. The fact of the matter was, he'd used them like he'd always used them. It just so happened that the rest of the world had benefited as well.

What the hell had happened to blind Mulder to what he'd once been able to see so clearly? What had Krycek done to change his mind?

Son of a bitch.

Liar, thief, cheat, cold blooded killer, sexy rat bastard...

What?

Scully shook her head, bringing her focus back to center.

Dead man.

If he'd harmed Mulder in any way, she wouldn't hesitate to blow his head off.

Death to the despicable low life scum.

Yeah, that's better.

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

The glow from a handful of lit candles danced across the walls of the cabin, lending only a spare amount of light to the large room. The bodies writhing together on the floor remained for the most part cloaked in shadow and took no notice of the glare of artificial light dancing in past the front window.

Beads of sweat rolled down the back of Fox's neck, swiped away by his lover's tongue before they could reach his back. His body shook with anticipation as Alex pulled him up, positioning him on his hands and knees on the plush area rug. The younger man's hands wandered over his slick skin, stroking and kneading, then moved away to pick up the foil packet and white tube lying next to them. He whined softly, impatiently, waiting to feel Alex pushing into him, stretching and filling him just past the point of comfort.

He loved that feeling of being so utterly possessed and at the same time so loved. In such a short time he'd come to need that. He craved it just as he knew Alex did, and he thought he could very happily spend the rest of his life like this, naked and sweaty in the arms of the only man in the world he'd ever want...

Finished with his preparations, Alex draped himself over Fox's back, nuzzling his lover's ear while he worked his cock between the clenching muscles of his ass.

"You know," he purred breathily as the flared head of his erection pushed past the tight entrance, "if anyone would have told me that someday I'd have Fox Mulder on his hands and knees begging to have my cock up his ass..." He pushed a little harder, drawing a coarse groan from the other man. "...I never would've believed..." He gritted his teeth, thrusting once more and fully embedding himself in his lover's clutching heat. "...never would have dreamed. But here we are..." He began to move slowly, straightening his back to watch himself glide in and out of his lover's magnificent ass. "...It's real. You're really mine." He emitted a loud gasp as Fox began to buck, moving in counterpoint to his thrusts. "Say it, Fox. Tell me you're mine."

"I'm yours," Fox practically sobbed, heaving himself back against Alex, encouraging the younger man to forget his previous gentleness. "Harder...make me feel it..."

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

Scully peered into the cabin, the light from the her flashlight not helping at all as it bounced off the glare produced by the lit candles.

There had to be someone in there *somewhere*. Who would light a bunch of candles then leave?

Maybe they were in another room.

//Like the bedroom?//

She shuddered at the thought.

//Yeah, but why would they leave the candles in this room lit? It's not the safest thing to do.//

//No, it isn't, is it? God, what if Krycek did something to him? Knocked him out or tied him up or something, and left the candles burning to make it look like an accident when he burned the place down?//

//God, get a grip, Dana. The man's a professional. I'm sure he could come up with a much better way than that.//

"Okay, so where's Mulder?" she whispered to herself.

Deciding to search the perimeter of the cabin before attempting to enter, she carefully circled the structure, peeking in all the windows but seeing nothing. When she made it back to the front of the cabin, she checked the window again. Seeing no signs of life, she took a deep breath and tried the door. She hadn't really expected to find it unlocked, but the knob turned freely, and she cautiously pushed the door open.

Sound immediately reached her ears, and her eyes widened at the shock of finding that the cabin was indeed inhabited. The moment she recovered from that discovery, she was again knocked off balance as she realized that the sounds were those of people....men, in the middle of...

//No. Oh, God, no.//

Her eyes focused on the huge, overstuffed sofa as she moved forward, and then what had been obscured from her sights while she was outside came into view.

Mulder. Oh, Christ, Mulder naked on all fours, perspiration-dotted face in the glow of the candlelight, contorted into a mask of feral pleasure as a growling Alex Krycek, one hand tangled in her partner's hair and the other at his hip, slammed brutally into his ass.

She couldn't scream. She couldn't look away. Fuck, she could barely breathe. All she could do was stand there and watch as the kneeling man continued to assault her partner.

Every muscle taut and straining, Krycek's movements mesmerized even as they horrified her, and when his hand left Mulder's hip and wrapped around the other man's cock, her knees began to shake.

Alex tugged on his handful of golden-brown hair, drawing Fox's head back at a sharper angle, and he leaned in, growling into the older man's ear as his hands and hips moved in frantic unison.

"It's coming, it's....feel it...come...scream for me, baby..."

Oblivious to the fact that they were not alone, Fox thrashed beneath his lover, loud, choking sobs growing in intensity as Alex stimulated him to the point where pleasure and pain combined, obscuring sound and sight. From somewhere deep in his body an explosion rumbled, rolling faster and faster, finally blasting to the surface, and Fox did scream. He screamed until no more air remained in his lungs, and then he collapsed to the floor, Alex falling with him, thrusting madly until his own violent climax erupted seconds later.

Still frozen in place, Scully watched as Krycek's hoarse cries faded, and he slumped over Mulder's back, moaning softly into the other man's hair. She saw a weary smile form on her partner's lips, then they parted, and a soft croak pushed past them.

"Animal."

Alex chuckled and kissed the back of Fox's head.

"You ain't seen nothin'..." He stopped in mid sentence as his senses began to recover, and he turned his head to the side, catching sight of the presence he'd detected. "Uh...Fox..."

Something in his lover's tone told Fox that things weren't quite right, and he reluctantly lifted his head and turned it, immediately meeting a pair of stunned, blue eyes.

"What the...Scully, what the hell are you..." Finding it rather difficult to appear angry in his awkward position, Fox pushed up, cueing Alex to roll off of him. When he was free, he leapt to his feet, startling the woman into motion.

Quickly, Scully spun around, facing away from her irate partner and his lover.

Heedless to his state of undress, Fox finished his question, this time a few decibels louder.

"What are *doing* here, Scully?"

"Mulder," she stammered, not sure whether she was more mad or embarrassed, "put on some clothes, would you?"

"You creep into my cabin in the middle of the woods, in the middle of the night, all the way across the damn *country*, and you stand there giving me orders?"

"Fox."

The older man felt the soft touch of his lover, who had since discarded his condom and come to stand at his back, and Fox turned around to face him.

"Come on, let's go get dressed, then we can sort this out."

Fox emitted an irritated snort and, tossing one more glare in his partner's direction, took Alex's hand and stormed out of the room, pulling the younger man with him.

Scully jumped at the sound of what she assumed was the bedroom door slamming shut, and she turned back around, eyes scanning the room.

//He's damn pissed.//

//Yeah, well so am I. He tells me he's involved with the slimiest piece of scum the world will ever know, then he goes and shuts his cell phone off, leaving me to worry and speculate. What the hell did he *expect* me to do?//

//I don't know. Treat him like a capable adult and leave him alone?//

Scully brought her hands up to her head, fingers rubbing hard at her temples.

She *would* have if, dammit to hell, Alex Krycek hadn't been part of the equation. How could she trust Mulder to him, knowing what he was capable of? God, look what he'd already done. Taken her intelligent, strong partner and turned him into a submissive, whimpering slut. Damn, and Mulder was loving every second of it.

Well...it *did* look quite enjoyable. Aside from being a consummate thief, spy, killer, etcetera, etcetera, Krycek apparently knew how to use the equipment God had given him. And some nice equipment it was...

"Oh, *God*. Stop. Stop, stop, stop." Scully took two deep breaths and sat down on the sofa awaiting Mulder's return. And tried to keep herself from remembering what she'd just witnessed here in this room...on the floor right here at her feet. She lowered her head into her hands, groaning in misery.

"Oh, Jesus, why didn't I stay in D.C.?"

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

Alex pulled two pairs of jeans out of the dresser as he warily watched his lover pace like a caged leopard.

"I can't believe she..." Fox shook his head, continuing to stalk back and forth. "...she *flew* out here. All the way out here. She found me in the middle of nowhere and..."

"Fox?"

"Yeah?"

"You're going to wear a hole in the floor. Come on, why don't we get dressed so you can go talk to her."

"I don't want to talk to her. What I *want* to do is wrap my fingers around her tiny little neck."

"You don't mean that. You're just upset right now."

"Damn right I'm upset!" Fox blew out a hard breath and approached the younger man. Despite his anger, he wrapped Alex in a tender embrace. "She ruined everything. I wanted to spend the whole night making love with you. Now I gotta come fight with her."

"Don't fight," Alex said, stroking Fox's back. Tell her it's late and that you'll talk in the morning, offer her the other room, then we'll come back here and fool around quietly."

"I don't *want* to have to be quiet. Why *should* we be?"

"Because if we're not, it's liable to be pretty embarrassing for her."

"She's not supposed to *be* here!" Fox growled, his voice getting louder.

"I *know* that. But she is, isn't she? So let's just deal with it, okay?" Alex lowered his head, rubbing it against the underside of Fox's jaw. "Don't be so upset. She was just worried about you."

Fox drew back, searching his lover's eyes. "You mean to tell me you're not pissed about this?"

"I'm not *happy*, no. But I understand where she's coming from."

Fox rolled his eyes, sighing heavily.

"Get dressed," Alex ordered softly, planting a light kiss on the other man's chin. "Then go talk to her. I'll wait here."

"Oh, no you don't."

"Fox, I really don't think it's a good idea for me to go out there with you."

"Tough. She came out here knowing that we were together. So, if your presence upsets her, that's just too damn bad. She'll get over it, or she can leave."

Knowing Fox wasn't going to back down, Alex gave in, and the two pulled on their clothes and walked together back out to the living room.

Scully lifted her head and stared wide eyed as her partner swept back into the room, followed by the man who, not more than fifteen minutes ago had been fucking him senseless. But now, in sharp contrast to their very recent positions, Mulder looked to be very much in control, striding across the room the meet her while Krycek remained quietly in the background, keeping a watchful eye on the angry man.

"All right, I'm dressed," Fox snapped, drawing the woman's curious attention away from his lover. "Now tell me what the hell you're doing here."

"You had your cell phone off, Mulder," she explained. "I didn't know what had happened. I didn't know if you were all right." She made it a point of looking over at Alex. "Did you really expect me to sit home and twiddle my thumbs when you could be in danger?"

"I told you I was in no danger," Fox rumbled softly.

"I know. But that was really hard to believe considering the company you've been keeping out here."

"So, what it boils down to is that you have absolutely no faith in my judgement."

"Reverse the situation, Mulder. What if it was me out here, and I called you and told you what you had told me? And what if it was *you* who hadn't forgotten everything this snake..."

"Scully..."

"...had done to you? Wouldn't you think I'd lost my damn mind? And, if you knew I was with the murdering son of a bitch..."

"Knock it off."

"...and you couldn't reach me after days of trying, wouldn't you go looking for me?"

Fox glared at the woman, about to speak when Alex's voice, soft and steady drifted out from the corner of the room.

"She's right, Fox."

Fox turned to face his lover, and his expression softened. "Baby..."

The younger man stepped forward, laying a hand on Fox's chest.

"She *is* right. Whether you like it or not. She doesn't understand. Why should she? Don't be upset with her for something that's all my fault."

Scully studied the dark man with narrowed eyes.

"What the hell's your game, Krycek?"

Fox spun around to confront his partner, but Alex stepped around him and approached slowly.

"I don't have one."

"You've *always* got a game."

"Not this time."

"And you expect me to believe that?"

"Expect you to? No. Doesn't make it any less true."

"Why the hell are you here? What do you want with him?"

"He's here because I want him to be."

"I know what *your* answer is, Mulder." Suspicious blue eyes shifted from one man to the other. "I want *his*."

"It's pretty much the same as his," Alex answered evenly. "He wants me to be here. I fought it, but he knew I wanted to be with him as much as he wanted to be with me. And he persisted." Alex turned a loving gaze on the other. "He's damn hard to say no to."

"God, I think I'm going to be sick."

"If you're going to throw up, Scully," Fox droned in his famous Mulder monotone, "do me a favor and do it outside. I won't get my deposit back if you ruin the rug."

"You're a real jerk sometimes, Mulder, you know that?"

"And you're being an unreasonable bitch."

Scully's eyes widened at the comment.

"This is the thanks I get for worrying about you?"

"Worrying I understand, Scully. I'm not as far gone as you think. But when I say to you emphatically that I am in *no* danger, and you choose to ignore it...then you fly all the way out here, interrupt my vacation, disrespect my privacy and start insulting my lover..."

"Your father's killer...accomplice in my sister's death..."

"Thanks for the reminder."

"Thought you could use it."

"I told you before, but for the benefit of your failing memory I'll tell you again. I've forgotten *nothing*." Fox walked over to the younger man, who stood quietly, head bowed. He pulled Alex to him, kissing his temple. "You don't understand. I'd love for you to, but it's clear you don't want to."

"You're wrong, Mulder. I *do* want to understand. But I..." She stopped, staring at the man wrapped in her partner's embrace. "I'm looking at him and I...this is Alex *Krycek* for God's sake, Mulder, and here you are treating him like...like he's...*human*."

"Could be because he *is*?"

"Not from what I saw a few minutes ago."

"Enjoy the show?"

"Enjoy...Mulder, if I weren't frozen with shock, I would have drawn my gun and shot him in the head."

Fox tightened his hold on Alex. "That's not even remotely amusing."

"It wasn't meant to be. What would *you* do if you walked in and found him doing to me what I found him doing to you?"

As Scully spoke the words she could feel a furious blush stain her cheeks, but she did her best to maintain her air of indignation.

Before Fox could answer, Alex turned to face him, raising a hand to pet the golden brown hair.

"You gotta try and see it from her side," he pleaded again softly. "She doesn't trust me. She has no reason to."

"You're damn right about that."

The comment earned Scully a hard stare.

"Fox, she's got every reason in the world to hate me. Like you should."

"Alex, we're not going to do this again, are we?"

"No," the younger man sighed, resting his forehead against Fox's shoulder. "I know what a lost cause that is. I'm simply making a statement."

"One that I'll ignore," Fox replied, tilting his lover's face up for a tender kiss.

"I can't believe you're falling for this," Scully muttered, turning away from the scene.

Fox released Alex's mouth in his own good time then cast an apathetic look in Scully's direction.

"Falling for what, Scully?"

"This ridiculous wounded, repentant act of his. Mulder, he's making a fool of you! I don't know why, but you can be sure he's got some reason!"

"Okay, Scully, you're right. He's making a complete fool of me. Once again you've saved my life. You can go home now."

The woman shook with anger.

"Great. You know what? I *am* going. And when your sweet *baby* here finally drops the bomb on you, I don't want to know about it. I won't give a *damn*."

Alex broke from Fox's grip and followed the furious woman as she stalked to the door.

"Scully, wait."

"Forget about her, Alex."

"No, Fox, you can't let her go like this."

Alex tailed Scully as she burst through the door and headed for her car.

"Stop following me, Krycek."

Alex grabbed the woman by her upper arm and spun her around, incurring an infuriated response.

Shoving the man as hard as she could, Scully snarled at him as he stumbled back a few inches.

"Get your filthy hands off me, you son of a bitch."

"Well, *stop*, would you?"

"What the hell do you wan, Krycek? Isn't one deluded sap enough? You have to try and make assholes of both of us?"

"Look, Scully, I understand that you hate me. And I understand that you're pissed about Fox and me..."

"Stop calling him that, okay? I makes my skin crawl!"

Alex sighed softly. "He asked me to use his first name."

"Well, that's really sweet, but he's not here, so you can stop."

"Okay, look, I didn't come out here to fight about names."

"I don't really give a damn *why* you're out here, Krycek. Just leave me the hell alone. Get out of here." Sarcasm dripped from her words as she spoke. "Go back inside and keep Fox baby warm...hot...whatever."

"I'd love to, but I can't. You have to go back and talk to him. Don't do this to him. You're his best friend."

"Oh, you haven't claimed that title too?"

Scully whirled around before Alex could respond and got into her car, cursing herself to hell and back for not locking the doors when Alex dropped into the passenger's seat.

"Krycek, I'm warning you..."

"Save the threats Scully, they mean nothing to me."

"Not unlike my partner?"

"He means more to me than I can tell you."

"In what way, Krycek? You never answered my question. What the *hell* do you want with him?"

Alex shifted so that he faced the woman more fully.

"Scully, I had no idea that Fox was in L.A. He saw *me*. He persued *me*. And if he hadn't, I would in all likelihood be dead now."

"Damn the bad luck."

Alex lowered his head, giving no response to the snide comment.

"So...he brought you out here to get clean?"

The sable head rose, and Alex leveled a confused stare on the woman.

"What?"

"You were high on Vodka and Rohypnol."

"As far as I knew I was drinking straight Vodka. I had no clue about the drugs."

"He said you were assaulted. What was that all about?"

Alex heaved a long sigh. "Some guys. Same ones who drugged me. They knocked me around and..." He shrugged and looked toward the cabin.

"And what?"

He might as well just tell her. Not that he thought it was going to gain him any sympathy, but he knew that she would dig until she found out, so he might just as well tell her himself.

"I was gang raped."

Aside from a tiny flinch, Scully showed no outward signs of shock.

"*Really*. Now, how would you have put yourself in such a position?"

"This is a...God, it's such a long story, Scully."

"I've got the time."

The man let his head drop and fell silent.

"You want me to understand, Krycek? You want me to go back in there and talk to Mulder like someone who hasn't completely lost his mind? Tell me why I should. Explain it to me."

"Fine," Alex said just above a whisper. "I'll give you the abbreviated version.  I'm in California because of the deal that we had made back in D.C. Before I left, and before we took Cancerman down, the son of a bitch cleaned me out. I could have lived a comfortable life but I had nothing left. I needed money. I came out here and did what I was good at, and I knew could make a decent amount of money fairly fast..."

"Hired gun?"

"No. I didn't want any part of that any more."

"Corporate spy?"

"*No*."

"Then, what?"

Alex raised his head and met a disdainful blue stare. "Prostitution."

Scully slumped back against her car door.

"You...you sleazy bastard. You're a pimp? You turn out prostitutes?"

Taken aback, Alex blinked and stared at his lover's partner.

"No. *I'm* a prostitute."

Scully's mouth dropped open.

"*You*?"

"*Was*," Alex broke in quickly, correcting himself.

"*Was*."

The man nodded. "Fox is all I want."

"What did you do?" Scully hissed. "Give him a few freebies then get him to promise to 'take care' of you?"

"No," Alex answered adamantly. "Absolutely not."

"Right. Yeah, I might believe that, Krycek. My God, I can't believe this. I can't...I can't..."

Scully threw the driver's side door open and barreled back toward the house, Alex close behind.

Fox jumped as the door crashed open and the irate redhead stormed in.

"Are you fucking *insane*?" she screamed grabbing Fox by the front of his shirt and shaking for all she was worth. "I mean, have you lost every last brain cell in your goddamn head?"

Fox glanced from the infuriated woman to his lover who had slipped in the door behind her. He grasped her wrists firmly and effortlessly pulled them away from his shirt.

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"I told her, Fox."

"You told..." he stopped and looked down into wild, blue eyes. "Oh."

"Oh? *Oh*? Is that all you have to say? Mulder, why? *Why* would you go and do this? He's a *whore* for Christ's sake! Just when I thought he couldn't possibly sink any lower..."

"Scully, stop."

"*Stop*? *You* stop! Stop acting like a bloody imbecile!" She lightly cuffed the side of Fox's head for emphasis. "He's *using* you! He's turned you into his sugar daddy and made you think it's *your* damn idea!"

"You're wrong."

"Am I?" She spun around and faced the other man. "I don't think so."

"I don't give a shit what you think, Scully," Fox grated, making his partner turn to face him once more. "He had no idea I was in California. I saw him one night from across the street and..." he paused, licking his dry lips. "I knew it wasn't right. He didn't want to be there. He wanted no part of those men. I lured him to my hotel room under the pretense of being a customer, and he didn't know it was me until the second time we were together."

"*What*?"

"I didn't tell her all that," Alex said softly. "I didn't get to..."

Fox nodded then returned his attention back to the red faced woman.

"I'd noticed on that second night that he'd been hurt. I put on the brakes and revealed myself to him..."

"Wait. Wait a minute. How the hell could he have not known it was you?"

"I'd had him blindfolded the whole time we were together."

Scully gave an indignant toss of her head and walked away. "I don't even want to know why."

"*Anyway*, he got very upset, we argued, and he ran out. I went after him. I caught up to him, and we argued again. He took off again, and I gave up briefly. I went back to my hotel room, but I couldn't sleep. I left again to find him, and I learned that he'd gone off with some guy who was known around that part of town as pretty bad news. He was upset, and he was confused. He wasn't thinking straight, and it was because of me. Anyway, thanks to one brave, greedy soul, I found him. He'd been drugged, beaten and...raped."

Scully watched her partner's face twist into a frightening mask of anger.

"Every time I think about it, I..." Fox's hands clenched and unclenched, and he closed his eyes, lowering his head.

Alex drifted quietly to the older man's side, draping his arms around his waist and resting his head on his shoulder.

"It's all right," he crooned, being drawn into Fox's arms. "I'm all right."

Fox wrapped Alex in a protective embrace, burying his face in the sable hair. "I should've killed them," he whispered, pain evident in his strained voice.

"They were *there*?"

Fox nodded in answer to Scully's question but did not lift his head.

"You could be *dead*! Mulder, what the hell ever possessed you to walk alone into someplace where a bunch of drugged out, obviously violent men were holed up?"

Fox raised his head only as far as he had to in order to meet his partner's eyes.

"They would have killed him. Do you not get that?"

"Oh, I *get* that. I also get that they could have killed *you*! And frankly Mulder, that's my *only* concern here."

"It isn't mine."

"I don't understand. I don't get this." Scully paused, trying to gather her thoughts then wheeled around, screeching, "He's a hooker! He fucks men, *any* men for money! Oh. Oh, wait. I'm sorry, Krycek, I didn't ask. Do you do women too? You know, because I wouldn't want to not give you *all* the credit you deserve."

"Scully..."

"Don't give me that tone, Mulder. This is *disgusting*! It's vile, it's...it's...*how*? How can you touch him knowing that hundreds of others have had him too? God, he's probably diseased..."

"*Enough*!"

"No, it's *not* enough!" Scully howled back. "He's nothing more than a cheap piece of ass, and I'm willing to bet that sooner rather than later he'll revert back to exactly that. Go ahead and take him home. You were planning that, weren't you? Yeah, that'll be interesting. Go back to work, go away on a case, and he'll get bored. Before you know it he'll be down on K street looking for some quick cash and thrills!"

"No," Alex murmured, turning a frightened gaze from Scully to Fox. "Fox, I wouldn't. I...I won't do that to you..."

"I know you won't," Fox said reassuringly, kissing the younger man's mouth. "I know."

"Oh, bullshit," Scully spat. "How many men have you been with, Krycek? Huh? Have you got a little tally sheet somewhere to keep track? What number is Mulder?"

"Scully, I swear, if you weren't a woman I'd beat you within an inch of your life."

Scully nodded, a humorless smile glued to her lips.

"Because of *that*?" She pointed at the man in Fox's arms.

"I love him. But I don't suppose you care anything about that."

God, Mulder, you've been in a dry spell for so long, you'd think you were in love with the first person who gave you a tumble."

"You think? How about you, Scully? You haven't had any for so long it's made you bitter and spiteful."

"Yeah, Mulder, you know you're right. What I need is a good *fuck*." She reached into her pocket and withdrew a few folded bills, showing them to Alex. "How about it whore? Wanna cure me?"

Alex pulled out of Fox's arms and walked over to the window, staring blankly out into the woods.

"That's it."

Cerulean eyes turned to the furious man who was now striding toward the entrance. Fox threw the door open and looked pointedly at the his partner.

"Out. *Now*."

Scully glared at Fox and moved toward the door.

"Gladly."

She stopped on the threshold and turned around to face the livid man.

"I'm going back to D.C."

"You never should have left."

"And I'm going to put in for a transfer. I won't stand by and watch you ruin your life like this."

Alex's head lowered, and he looked down at his fingers, watching them trace disjointed patterns on the windowsill.

He knew it wouldn't be pretty, but he'd never expected that Scully would actually transfer out of the x-files. And as angry as Fox was right now, he knew that it wasn't at all what he'd wanted. No matter how much he thought he wanted to kill her at this moment, she was his partner. His best friend. The person he trusted above all others.

And she was walking out on him.

"Fine," Fox answered after a brief pause. "You do what you feel you need to."

"No."

Fox and Scully fell silent and looked to the man at the window.

"Don't." Alex walked slowly toward the pair, eyes pleading. "Don't let her go, Fox. Not because of me. Scully, stay and talk to him. Get this straightened out. I'll go..."

Fox turned quickly and snaked an arm around Alex's waist, jerking him forward. His other arm clamped around the younger man, and he held tightly.

"The hell you will."

"Fox, Scully has been your only friend for years now. I know what she means to you. I can't come between you like this. It's not right, it's not...I'm not worth..."

"*Don't* say it," Fox growled, anger simmering in his eyes. "I won't let you go." He pulled the younger man's head down to his shoulder, petting the glistening sable hair, and turned a withering glare on the woman watching at the door.

"So you can go on home, Scully. Transfer, quit...tell Skinner what you found. I really don't care. I won't give him up. Not for you. Not for my job or anything else."

Scully shook her head in disbelief. "So this is it. This is how it's going to end." She directed her gaze to the man still wrapped in Fox's arms.

"Congratulations, Krycek. It's taken you years but you've finally done it. What I don't understand is why. It's over. There's no reason to separate us any more. What is it? Do you just not like to leave things unfinished?"

Alex lifted his head from his lover's shoulder. "I don't *want* this," he insisted then turned to Fox.

"Please," he begged. "Fox...I've done so much harm to you in the past. I don't want to hurt you anymore."

"Then stay right here. I can't tell you that it won't hurt me to lose Scully. It will." He threaded the fingers of one hand through Alex's hair, holding him motionless with the intensity of his gaze. "But it'd kill me to lose you."

"Fox..."

"I love you, Alex," Fox whispered urgently. "Don't leave me." His eyes burned into the younger man's, willing him, begging him to see the depth of his need.

What little resolve Alex still possessed turned to dust.

"I can't," he croaked, tightening his fingers in his lover's shirt. "I should, but I don't...Jesus, I don't have the strength."

As Fox pulled Alex in for a kiss, applause sounded from the doorway.

"Nice show," Scully deadpanned. "When he's sucked all the life out of you Mulder, don't come to me for comfort. I won't be there."

Fox watched, a myriad of emotions glittering in his eyes as his friend and ally of seven years walked away.

Still held firmly against Fox's chest, Alex stood quietly watching as his lover stared at the empty door. When Fox finally blinked and lowered his eyes, Alex spoke.

"I'm sorry, Fox," he whispered, remorse saturating his tone. "I'm s..."

"No."

Alex stopped, his apology cut short by the single word.

Fox cupped the younger man's stubbled cheek, his thumb making the faintest scratching sounds as it passed over the skin.

"This is *not* your fault."

"How can you say that?" Alex lamented. "It's got nothing to do with the fact that you're with a man, and it's not because *she* wants you. It's because of me. She hates *me*. She doesn't trust *me*. He bowed his head and closed his eyes. "You pushed her aside for *me*."

"Yeah, I did," Fox said softly. "And as much as it hurts, I'd do it again. I love you Alex. Do you know what an immense thing that is for me? I've never felt like this before. I like it, and I don't ever want it to go away."

"Maybe someday you could feel this way with someone else. Someone without the history between you that you and I and Scully have. And she'll approve of him, and everyone could be happy."

"Stop it," Fox grated, the anger once again surfacing. He grasped the younger man's shoulders tightly. "Look at me."

Wary green eyes rose to turbulent hazel.

"I can't be happy without you. I don't give a shit *what* Scully wants or approves of. This is *my* life." His grip gentled, and his voice dropped to a soothing hum. "Our life. Alex, do you or do you not want to spend it with me?"

Alex closed his eyes and drew a shaky breath but said nothing.

"Baby?"

"All the time I was telling you that I should go, and that you'd be better off without me, I was terrified."

"Of what?"

"Of you realizing I was right. Fox, what I said is true. I don't have the strength to walk away from you, but...as afraid as I am that you might, I need to give *you* every opportunity to do it. I love you, and I don't want you to do any more suffering because of me. I want you to have a good life."

"And I will. With *you*." Fox kissed the younger man softly then moved in for another, and then another until they were locked together, feeding hungrily on each other. Long minutes had passed before Fox finally pulled away and smiled at his flushed lover.

"Let's go to bed."

Alex took Fox's hand and started to follow him into the bedroom, but then he suddenly stopped, looking toward the door.

"Fox, what about Scully?"

"What about her?"

"I didn't hear her car start. She's probably still sitting out there expecting you to come after her."

"She's got a long wait." Fox tugged on his lover's hand. "Come on. Bed."

"It's cold up here at night. And those aren't the best roads to travel in the *daytime*."

Fox heaved a long sigh. "All the stuff she said to you...*about* you, and you're standing here worrying about her when you should be naked and in bed by now."

"You're too mad to admit it, but you're concerned, I know you are."

"How do you know?"

"Because that's the kind of man you are. Why don't you go out and ask her to come in?"

"Are you kidding? You heard her, Alex. She wants nothing more to do with me."

Alex broke free of the older man and walked over to the window. He peered outside and turned his head to face Fox.

"She's still out there, Fox. It looks like she's got her head down on the steering wheel."

"Okay, thanks for the report. Now let's go to bed."

"Fox."

"*What*? She won't come in, Alex. I know Scully. She'd rather freeze to death out there than come inside and spend the night in a nice warm cabin with the two men she hates most in the world."

"She doesn't hate you. She loves you, Fox. That's why she's so furious with you."

"She is *not* in love with me."

"I didn't say she was in love with you. I said she *loves* you. You're her family. And she's yours. Not stop being a stubborn jackass and go out there and get her."

"*Jackass*." Fox approached the younger man and gave him a swat on his rear.

"Oww! What was that for?"

"For calling me a jackass."

"A *stubborn* jackass."

Another swat.

This time Alex moaned softly and writhed against him.

"You like that baby?"

Alex nodded, pushing back and grinding his ass against his lover's crotch.

"There's more where that came from," From breathed in Alex's ear. "All you have to do is get your ass into the bedroom."

"I will."

"*Now*."

"As soon as you go get Scully."

"Christ." Fox gently shoved the other man away and stalked toward the door. "You can be a real pain in the ass when want to be, you know that?"

Alex smiled at him from the window.

"I love you."

The scowl left Fox's face, and a sappy grin took its place.

"You haven't lost it, Krycek," he rumbled, opening the door. "You still know how to fight dirty."

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

Scully shivered in the growing chill.

It was broad daylight and very warm when she started her little trek into the mountains, and she'd certainly had no intention of hanging around till nightfall. She'd planned to drive up here, knock some sense into Mulder's head then drive him straight to the airport...sans Alex Krycek.

//What the *hell* made you think it was going to be that easy?//

And now here she was. In the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, rejected and extricated from her partner's life, slowly freezing her ass off.

Why?

Because that goddamn snake Krycek had wrapped himself around Mulder's dick and refused to let go.

//Well, you knew even as you were trying to yank him away that it wouldn't work. He thinks he's in *love* with the bastard.//

Scully groaned and wrapped her arms around herself.

*Lust* she could see, but love?

She hadn't missed out on a single detail while she was standing there gaping at the two of them.

Everything from his facial expressions to that gravel and honey voice to every twitch and thrust of his hips resonated within her own body, fueling her anger and her desire to tear Mulder away from him and...

And what?

And hurl insults, spew venom, make threats...hurt Mulder.

Great. Look how *that* turned out.

She hadn't meant to hurt him. She'd had no intention. In fact, she'd done pretty well the few times they'd spoken on the phone...well, better than this, but *God*. To say that finding them the way she did shocked the hell out of her would be grossly understating the facts.

She should have kept her cool. She should have tried damn hard, but *Christ*, Mulder could be so fucking blind sometimes. And stubborn as hell.

//Oh, like you? You should have listened to him. Should have found another way to get your point across and not alienate him. Now it's too late.//

The soft tapping on the driver's side window startled Scully out of her thoughts, and she looked up to find the man she thought she'd never see again leaning against the car door. She hesitated then rolled the window down part way and said nothing.

"Alex insisted I come out to talk to you."

"Sweet."

//Stop.//

"Why haven't you left?"

"Had a hard enough time getting *up* here in the dark."

"You can't sleep in your car. It's cold, and you're not dressed for it."

"I'll be fine."

"Scully, come inside. There's an extra bedroom. You can get some sleep then pick up where you left off hating me tomorrow."

"I don't hate you. I'm pissed at you, I...I'm afraid for you, but I could never hate you."

"You hate Alex."

"Yes."

"I *love* him. And if you can't accept him or at least tolerate him, you and I...I don't see how we can remain friends."

"So you've said."

"I mean it."

"Mulder, I can't...I don't know that I'll ever *accept* this. I don't even know that I can tolerate it." Repentant blue eyes turned up to Fox's face. "I was really mad. Furious, but...I don't want to leave the x-files, and I don't want to lose you as my partner *or* my friend. I don't...I don't know what to do."

Fox shrugged, looking down at the ground. "Me either. I don't want to lose *you*, but I don't want a firestorm every time you and Alex are within fifty yards of each other. And I *won't* put up with you degrading him or making him feel guilty. He already feels enough of that."

"I don't get it," Scully whispered, head downturned. "How can you go from wanting him dead to thinking you're in love with him?"

"I don't *think*. I know I love him."

"It's only been a couple of weeks, Mulder."

"I know that. I don't think it happened as fast as that, though. I...look, Scully, it's damn cold out here. Can we please go in?"

Scully looked warily toward the cabin.

"I really don't know if that's such a good idea. I just...I look at him, and my blood boils. I wouldn't want to say anything to get us fighting again."

"Remember what your mother taught you?"

"What my mother..."

"Yeah. Same thing my mother taught *me*. If you can't say something nice to someone, don't say anything at all."

"If I follow that advice, I may never speak a single word to him, ever."

"It'd be an improvement over the insults. Now, please. It's *cold*."

Scully drew a deep sigh and opened the car door. Slowly, she followed her partner to the door and stepped into the warmth of the cabin.

The room was empty, and all was quiet as she glanced around, stepping into the middle of the room.

"Guess he didn't want to look at me either."

"Yeah," Fox answered, glancing toward the closed door of the bedroom he and Alex slept in. He walked toward the other bedroom and opened the door, waving Scully in.

As the redhead entered the room, she noticed a shirt and a heavy, white robe draped across the bed.

"Where'd that come from?"

Fox smiled. "The shirt's mine. We stole a couple of robes from the hotel. Alex must have left them in here for you. He's a thoughtful, sleazy rat."

Scully rolled her eyes and snatched the shirt up. "Where's the bathroom?"

Fox led the way out of the bedroom and pointed to the door between the two bedrooms. Scully passed him and walked into the small room, looking around. He stood in the doorway for a few seconds then cleared his throat an announced that he would see her in the morning.

"You're going to bed?"

"Well..." Fox looked longingly toward his own room. "I..."

"I thought we were going to talk?"

"Oh. Uh..." Fox opened and closed his mouth several times before finding the words he thought wouldn't antagonize her.

"I thought you might be tired, so..."

"I am, but when else are we going to be able to sit down alone and talk? Not tomorrow morning."

"N-no, I...I suppose not."

"Look, Mulder, if you don't want to..."

"I *do*," Fox insisted. "I just...I thought you'd be too tired, that's all."

"Getting us straight is more important than a little...sleep." One red eyebrow arched delicately. "Don't you think?"

Fox gave his partner a weak smile and backed up. "I'll uh...I'll just go wait in the living room."

"Okay, I'll be out in a minute."

Closing the door behind him, Fox took two steps toward the bedroom then stopped.

//Don't. If you go in there, and he's sprawled naked across the bed...and you know he *will* be, you'll never make it out of there, and Scully'll be ten times more pissed than she was.//

Groaning softly, Fox trudged over to the sofa and dropped down at one end. Dragging a throw pillow up over his face, he sat quietly for what seemed to him like forever before Scully emerged from the bathroom, drowning in the robe Alex had left for her.

Hiking up the hem so she wouldn't trip, Scully walked over to the sofa and took a seat at the other end.

"You're not asleep, are you?"

Fox pulled the pillow from his face and looked over at his partner.

"Nope."

"Did you uh..." Scully looked toward Fox's bedroom door then back at him. "Did you tell him we'd be out here talking?"

"No."

"He might come looking for you."

"Don't worry Scully, he won't interrupt."

Scully nodded and settled back against the arm of the sofa. "So," she breathed, adjusting the robe around her legs. "Tell me what happened here. Make me understand why I should smile and nod and accept this thing between you and Krycek."

"I don't really know how much more there is to say, Scully, beyond what I've already told you, but I'll say this one more time. I have *not* forgotten anything he's done. But he's genuinely remorseful. I know you don't believe that, but as you once trusted me with your life, I'm asking you to please trust that lust hasn't clouded my judgment."

"Mulder, even if it's true. Even if he really does regret all he's done...how the hell can you forgive him to the point of wanting to be sexually and emotionally involved with him?"

"I'd been attracted to him from the start," Fox explained, looking down at his hands. "Though I'd never admitted it to myself. I couldn't. First, he was my partner. Wet behind the ears, junior g-man out to prove himself worthy to be in my presence. Then he was the enemy. He was a liar, thief, killer...everything bad in the world packed into a...damn, a gorgeous six foot package, and my body reacted every time I got within two hundred feet of him. It made me crazy. I didn't want it to, but I couldn't do anything to stop it. He'd betrayed me on this really...deeply personal level..."

"Yeah, Mulder, he killed your father. Can't get too much more personal than that."

"That's not what I meant by personal."

Scully cocked her head, curious and the same time not so very sure she wanted to hear what Mulder meant.

"See, I think," Fox continued, "that in some remote part of me I thought of him as mine. And he should have known and respected that."

"That's just a little creepy, Mulder. You sound like some deranged stalker."

"I know. And though neither of us had ever made the slightest sexual overture, I couldn't help think that he might have had a thing for me too. I remember during the Duane Barry situation...when I was getting ready to go in, there was this...it's hard to explain. This look in his eyes. It looked like genuine concern. And before that with Augustus Cole...I saw it up close after he had shot the man. He thought that Cole had a gun and was going to shoot me, and he was scared, Scully."

"Scared that if you were killed, his mission wouldn't go as planned."

"I meant scared for my safety."

Scully snorted, folding her arms across her chest and again relaxed against the arm of the sofa.

"After he'd disappeared, I thought about him. I thought that maybe he'd come back after it had all blown over and talk to me and..."

"Wait a minute." Scully sat up a bit straighter, focusing an irritated blue gaze on her partner. "I was missing, you had no idea whether I was dead or alive, and you were thinking about whether or not the man who had a hand in abducting me would come back to see you?"

"Scully, finding you was my first priority. It drove me day and night. But there were times, *yes*, when my exhausted mind would wander, and it wandered to him. You gonna condemn me to hell for it?"

"Just...go on, Mulder."

The challenging edge went out of Fox's voice, and he went on, chronicling the events that had led them to this moment.

"After you were returned, and it seemed that he had dropped off the face of the earth, I put him as far in the back of my mind as he would go, filing him away as just one more failed obstacle on our way to the truth. And then he showed up all that time later and turned my life into that living hell. It totally decimated any residual hopes I might have harbored for some miracle resolution. I hated him for killing my father, and I hated him for killing for my hopes, and I hated him because I wanted him even still.

"And then after years of shit, he turned around and pieced it all together, and he helped us save the damn world. Still, when it was over I told myself I was glad he'd gone. It was all dead and buried, and I could finally get on with what was left of my life." He shook his head slowly, staring into space. "I'll tell you, Scully, it wasn't much."

"I know," Scully answered softly. "I could see it. You were just going through the motions."

"Yeah. I hoped the vacation would help. But it was just like...me...in a different setting, you know?" Fox smiled down at his folded hands. "I almost went home with a total stranger one night...the night I saw Alex."

"Mulder..."

"I know. But I was so damn depressed. I just needed something. I went to a bar one night soon after I got to L.A. There was this guy. Good looking enough but no god. He introduced himself...we had a drink, talked...actually, he did most of the talking. He was full of shit, but I didn't care. He asked me to dance. I let him seduce me I guess, and we left together. I would have gone home with him if I hadn't looked across the street and seen Alex. My whole world sort of caved in at that point and came back together in a completely different order.

"This feeling just came over me. It was so...I couldn't put my finger on it. I just knew I couldn't do it. I couldn't go home with that guy."

"You thought that you were meant to find Krycek?"

Fox shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe. I mean, figure the odds. Maybe we were destined to be together." Fox looked toward his bedroom door and went on.

"I watched him...asked questions...I started to form this crazy plan in my head. I wanted him, but I had no idea how he'd react if I just dropped in on him in the middle of a transaction and made my announcement. So I lured him to my room with a note that I'd broken into his apartment and left."

"Keep talking, Mulder. You're sounding more and more like that deranged stalker I'd mentioned."

Fox gave his partner a lopsided grin. "I'm really not, though."

"Okay, Mulder. Continue."

"Where was I? Oh, yeah. I offered him a ton of money, and he came. I blindfolded him, obviously, so he wouldn't know it was me. And then I gave him a taste of what it was to be treated gently. I took nothing. I only gave, and I knew it shocked him. I could feel the pain in him...so much despair. I knew he wasn't used to that. He was just accustomed to being used, and I didn't do that to him. At the end of our time together, I left quietly and let him go."

"I'm sorry for interrupting, Mulder, but...you didn't talk to him either?"

"No."

"How the hell did you communicate with him?"

Fox gave his partner a soft smile. "I did okay." He continued. "Along with the last of the money I'd promised him, I left another note asking him to return two nights later. I wanted to give him a little time to think about what had happened...make him want to come back, and he did.

"Two nights later he was worse than the first time. There was fear and self loathing, and this desperate need. He shook with it. I'd never felt anything so strong.

"I found..." Fox's eyes darkened, and his voice lowered. "...bruises. He'd obviously had a rough time with a customer the night before. I can't describe to you the anger I felt. I can't tell you how it..." Fox closed his eyes and took a steadying breath. "He blew it off. Told me it was just part of the job. I couldn't see his eyes, but I knew he didn't mean what he said, and I tried so hard to take the hurt away. I gave him all the attention he could handle, and he sort of...I don't know...started to fall apart. He begged me...he needed me. I put a condom on, and I...started to...but it hurt him, I could tell. He got more upset when I stopped, and I didn't know what to do. He was almost hysterical. I tried again, and this time he couldn't hide the pain. I stopped again and pulled out, and there was blood."

"Jesus." Scully couldn't help the whisper of shock that left her lips. She fell silent and allowed her partner to go on.

"When he realized how upset I was, he lost it. He couldn't take the fact that someone was genuinely concerned for him. He felt he didn't deserve it. He...he didn't want me to stop. He wanted me to hurt him..."

"He said that to you?"

"Yeah. He wanted me to use him then throw him aside. That's what he was used to. He had no idea how to handle what I was offering him. He was afraid to accept it. And when he actually found out it was me...God, it was even worse. He was sure I was after some kind of twisted revenge. He couldn't believe that I could be anything other than hostile. It wasn't until *very* recently that I was able to fully convince him that I truly wanted him."

"And how did you do that?"

"I took care of him. Made him rest. Fed him. Talked to him...I took him out one night for dinner and some music, and all that time I refused to touch him. We didn't make love until a while after we got here."

"Why not?"

"He was severely injured, Scully. He needed to heal."

"You know, Mulder, that wouldn't have happened to him if he hadn't been a hooker. Sooner or later he was bound to run into something like that."

"Maybe. But it happened because of me. Because he thought that he didn't deserve what I wanted to give him. He wanted it, but he couldn't allow himself to take it. He was so distraught that he wasn't thinking straight. He thought there was nothing left for him, and he just didn't care what happened to him."

"That's a very romantic tale, Mulder, but have you thought about it realistically?"

Fox waited expectantly.

"He was gang raped. Before that, he'd been with God knows how many men. I put it rather crudely before, but the fact remains. Mulder, you don't know if he's been subjected to any diseases."

"I know that. And he's more than aware of it. We've been extremely careful. And he'll have all the tests he needs to have as soon as he's able to."

"And what if any of them turns up positive? Mulder, what if he's contracted HIV?"

Fox closed his eyes, trembling at the thought.

"We'll deal with it if that happens."

"*We*?"

A sharp, amber gaze burned into weary blue. "You expect that I would dump him?"

No answer.

"You're still not getting it, Scully. I'm in this for life."

"That's admirable, Mulder..."

"It's *love*." I *love* him."

Scully dropped her gaze.

"Well...I guess there's nothing more to be said, then."

"What's that mean?"

Scully's chest heaved with a deep sigh. "You love him. "You're going to do whatever you want to do. No matter how insane I think it is."

"That's what I've been trying to tell you." Fox moved closer, touching his partner's hand. "Please, Scully. Try to understand? Give him a chance. Spend tomorrow with us and see who he is."

Scully shook her head, staring down at the sofa.

"I don't know, I..." She looked up into pleading hazel eyes and groaned softly. "All right. All right, I'll spend a little time with you."

A wide grin lit Fox's face.

"Thanks, Scully."

"I guarantee nothing," she said firmly, point a finger at Fox.

"I know. But you'll see, Scully. He's not who you knew."

"Okay, Mulder. I...I'm going to turn in now. I'll uh...I'll see you in the morning, okay?"

"Okay." Fox rose quickly watching the woman move toward the second bedroom as he made for his own room. "Goodnight, Scully."

"Goodnight, Mulder. Thanks for the room."

Once inside, Scully shut her door and trudged to the bed, turning the covers down.

God, she was exhausted all of a sudden.

She dropped into bed and pulled the blankets up to her neck, sighing as the tension began to slowly seep out of her.

What a day. What a freakin' long, horrifying, confusing, unbelievable day. And she'd just agreed to endure more of it tomorrow.

//Well, at least you won't walk in again and find them naked and fucking like animals in the living room.//

No, they were probably getting around to that right now.

She slung a hand over her eyes, moaning.

"God, what are my chances of this place being sound proofed?"

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

Fox slipped quietly into the bedroom, listening to Alex's soft, steady respiration. He undressed without a sound and slipped carefully into bed behind his lover, and Alex released a barely audible sigh, nestling into the cradle of his body.

"Fox?"

The older man wound an arm around Alex's chest and pressed a kiss to the side of his neck.

"I tried not to wake you."

"Late?"

"Yeah. I'm sorry, baby. She wanted to talk."

"S'okay."

Fox listened to the mumbled response and kissed the younger man once more, tenderly stroking his chest.

"Go back to sleep."

Seconds later, Alex was out again. Fox pressed impossibly closer, tightening his hold on the man in his arms. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep, but his mind wouldn't stop working.

Scully seemed to have softened a little bit, but if he was going to be realistic, he had to admit to himself that her acceptance of Alex was a long shot at best. And that was going to make life extremely uncomfortable for all involved.

He nuzzled the back of the younger man's head and brushed a kiss into the sable strands.

He hoped they could work something out. He'd hate to have to end his friendship with Scully. They'd been through the fires of hell together and survived intact and stronger in their faith and devotion to each other. It saddened him deeply to think her intense animosity toward the man he loved would tear down all that they'd built over the years. But if she forced a choice, he hoped she truly understood that without a second's hesitation he would choose Alex.

The younger man moaned softly and shifted position, now making more of his face visible in the dim moonlight that flowed in through the window. His mouth twitched into a slumberous pout, the action tugging hard at Fox's heart.

Amazing.

In just a few short weeks his entire life had been turned upside down and inside out, and his mind, body and heart had become the exclusive property of this man lying in his arms. He knew that Scully thought he was opening himself up to all kinds of hurt, but it was a choice that had been taken out of his hands the moment he realized he was so deeply in love with Alex.

He'd been vulnerable all his life. More susceptible to hurt than most, and Scully knew that and only wanted to protect him...shield him from further pain. But he wanted none of it. He only wanted Alex and everything that being in love with him brought, good, bad and otherwise. He finally had a life...a reason to *want* to get up in the morning. He had Alex, and that was all he would ever need.

"You and me," he whispered into his lover's hair, unheard by the sleeping man. "No matter what."

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

Eight fifteen.

Cerulean eyes blinked open and looked around, momentarily discomposed.

"Shit."

The soft curse was followed by a long moan as Scully sat up and stretched. She dropped her hands into her lap and listened to the silence.

//Guess they're not up either.//

Shuddering at the thought of Mulder and that...of the two of them snuggled together in the same bed, she got up quickly to shower and change.

All was quiet in the living room as she padded to the next door and slipped into the bathroom for a nice, warm...

"God, oh, *damn*!"

The razor clattered into the sink as the startled, very naked man jumped back at the surprised shriek.

"Shit." Alex grabbed for the nearest towel and wrapped it around his waist. "Sorry, I...there's no lock on the door. I thought you were asleep..."

Scully stood motionless, her eyes flitting away from the regretful, green gaze to the smooth, bronzed chest, strong arms and tapering waist. She gave herself a hard shake when she reached that which was hidden by the towel, but her mind's eye reminded her in great detail of what she had seen only seconds before.

"Scully, are you all right?" Alex took a tentative step toward the hyperventilating woman. "I'm sorry, I really didn't..."

"Don't...get away..."

Alex stopped in his tracks, clutching at the falling towel.

"Breathe, Scully. Come on, you're gonna pass out..."

"Mulder."

"He's in the bedroom. He was still..."

Scully regained the use of her legs and stumbled out of the bathroom.

"*Mulder*!"

The bedroom door opened seconds later, and Fox blinked in the bright light flooding the room.

"What're you yelling about?"

"Why the hell didn't you *tell* me the bathroom door didn't have a lock?"

"Huh?"

"I walked in on your *boyfriend*, shaving naked at the sink!"

"Oops."

"*Oops*? Is that all you've got to say?"

Fox rubbed at his left eye. "What d'you want me to say? I'm sorry I didn't think to tell you."

"Great. Well, that's just...just great."

"Relax, Scully, you probably scared him as much as he scared you. Besides..." Fox attempted to suppress a smirk. "I can think of worse things to look at."

"Thanks for the compassion, Mulder, I really..."

Scully choked off her tirade and followed Fox's gaze to the fully dressed man who had just emerged from the bathroom.

Alex glanced at Scully through a curtain of lashes as he moved to his lover's side.

"I'm sorry, Fox. I didn't know she was awake."

"It's all right," Fox comforted the younger man, dusting the smooth cheek with a light kiss.

"What are you apologizing to *him* for?" Scully cracked. "*I'm* the one who got flashed."

"I said I was sorry," Alex told her softly. "You didn't seem to be listening..."

"Well, forgive me, Krycek, if I was a *little* shocked."

"Okay," Fox cut in. "This is *not* a good way to start the morning. Scully, why don't you just go get showered and dressed? Maybe you'll feel a little better."

Scully stared from one man to the other, trying to remember the promise she'd made to her partner. Taking a calming breath, she walked into the bathroom and closed the door behind her.

"Feel *better*," she hissed, stalking over to the tub and turning on the water. "I won't feel *better* till I can get the hell *out* of here."

Stripping off Fox's shirt, she tested the water then stepped into the tub. As she washed, her mind started to wander, thinking back to what she *could* have walked in on if she'd awakened just a few minutes earlier.

*He'd* been standing in this tub. Water flowing over his body, cutting through the froth and foam as his hands slid over perfectly proportioned muscles..stroking that smooth chest...taut belly...teasing the early morning erection that Mulder obviously hadn't satisfied...

"Oh my God," she moaned. "What the hell's the *matter* with me?"

//There's nothing the matter with you. The man's goddamn sexy. You're not *blind* for God's sake.//

//But he's a murdering, cheating, lying *hooker*.//

//Yeah. And he's Mulder's.//

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

Remorseful green eyes watched as Fox pulled a shirt out of the closet and tossed it onto the bed beside the jeans he'd placed there seconds before.

"If there was a chance in hell before that she might accept me, I sure blew it."

"You didn't do anything wrong, babe."

"Tell that to Scully," Alex sighed, dropping down on the bed. "You should have seen the look on her face. She was horrified."

Fox sank down to the mattress beside his lover.

"I don't believe that." He let two fingers drift down the younger man's chest. "Stunned, maybe. Mesmerized...entranced..."

Alex squirmed as his lover's fingers skimmed the bulge in his jeans.

"You should have let me take care of this."

"Later. When she's gone."

"How about right now while she's in the bathroom?"

Alex's hips jerked as Fox squeezed him lightly.

"No. Fox...God, don't. I don't want...*shit*." Reluctantly, Alex pushed Fox's hand away. "I don't want to give her reason to hate me any more than she does."

Fox propped his head up in one hand while the other that had been teasing over Alex's crotch rose to the younger man's cheek.

"Very noble of you."

Alex smiled up at the man he'd come to adore.

"I don't know about that. I think I'm still just a survivalist at heart."

Fox laughed softly and dropped a tender kiss on Alex's mouth before he slid off the bed and finished gathering his clothes.

"It'll be okay, babe. However Scully leaves here feeling today, you and I will be fine."

Alex watched Fox move around the bedroom. Loving, green gaze tracking his every move.

"I know."

Fox tilted his head, studying his lover's face.

"You don't sound so sure."

"I am," Alex answered softly.

Fox came back to the bed and wrapped the other man in a gentle embrace.

"Stop worrying. There's nothing to worry about."

Alex wound his arms around Fox and laid his head on the older man's shoulder. He sat quietly, staring at the trees outside while being stoked and petted and reassured. He wanted to believe what Fox was telling him. More than anything he wanted to believe it. But years of experience told him that there was *always* something to worry about.

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

"Where's Mulder?"

"Shower."

Scully watched warily over her cup of coffee as Alex entered the kitchen and poured some of the dark liquid into a nearby mug. He cast an apprehensive glance at her then away, raising the mug to his lips. Taking a fortifying sip, he cleared his throat and attempted to engage her in conversation.

"Beautiful up here, isn't it?"

"I wouldn't know. I drove up in virtual darkness."

The sable head lowered. "Oh yeah."

More silence, then..."Scully, I...I really am sorry about this morning."

"Really, Krycek? I wouldn't think someone like you would be embarrassed..."

"Someone like me?"

"Yeah." Scully shrugged nonchalantly. "You know...someone who gets paid to let total strangers look at his naked body...touch it and...whatever else."

"It isn't something I relished," Alex said flatly, avoiding the sharp, blue gaze.

"Really? Well. That's interesting. Because really, Krycek, I would have imagined that you enjoyed it very much."

No answer.

"I have a question. If you don't enjoy it, what gets you up night after night, several *times* a night? Is it the money that turns you on? The power over stupid, horny men?"

"When I said to you I didn't enjoy it, Scully, I meant that in every sense of the word."

Scully cocked her head, studying the man's slumped shoulders and downturned eyes and mouth, and she went on, interested to see how much farther down she could knock him.

"You mean to tell me that you screw.."

Alex looked up at the woman. "*Used* to."

"Right...scores of men every night, and you never got any sexual satisfaction out of it?"

"No."

"Hmm. You seem to get it up easily enough for Mulder. At least I would assume that from the way you were fucking him yesterday."

Alex closed his eyes and turned his face away.

"No answer, Krycek?"

"I love Fox."

"Oh yeah, that's right. How could I forget?" Scully looked down into her coffee. "You know, even if you're not just out to get what you can get from him, which I seriously doubt...what have you got to offer him? Besides hot sex, I mean."

"He..." Alex stopped and started again. "He's got everything I have to give him. Companionship. Validation...every last ounce of my love."

"And how much is *that*? You're going to stand there, Krycek, and tell me that you've got enough love in that black heart of yours for Mulder?"

Alex stood blinking then nodded.

"You've got *nothing* for him. He's a good man. A courageous, idealistic, trusting man, who unfortunately doesn't always recognize danger to himself. He deserves more. He deserves better than the filth you want to drag him down into."

"Here you are."

Scully twisted in her seat to look at the man who had just come through the door smiling.

"There was no yelling, so I didn't think you were both in the house." A greenish-gray gaze narrowed on the man who stood silently against the counter.

"Alex?" Fox swiftly looked from his lover to his partner and back again. "Baby, you okay?"

The bowed head nodded slightly.

Fox walked over to the younger man and slipped two fingers under his chin and lifted. Glazed eyes avoided his stare.

"Alex?"

His attention snapped from his forlorn lover to the woman at the table.

"What happened in here?"

"We were just talking."

"What *about*?"

"You. Your...relationship."

"You obviously said something you shouldn't have, Scully," Fox rumbled through clenched jaws. "What *was* it?"

"It was nothing, Fox," Alex whispered in answer. "I'm j...I'm just feeling bad about earlier."

"I don't believe it." Fox slid a hand through the younger man's hair. "You're not this upset because of *that*. You can't even look at me." He spun around, the anger returning to his tone.

"Goddamn it, Scully, I thought you were going to at least *try*."

"I *am* trying, Mulder. I'm trying to figure this mess out."

"It's not a mess!" Fox barked, startling the other two inhabitants of the kitchen. He stood, glaring at his partner, shaking his head. "I thought you were going to give it a try, Scully. For me, I thought you'd try. I don't want you here. Go home."

Scully rose from her seat, shaking her head at her partner. "I still can't believe you're buying into this act of his. Mulder, this man...this...ice cold killer, this dirty *whore* is standing here putting on this emotionally fragile, contrite, sap in love act, and you're just eating it up."

She stepped toward the door and turned back once more to face Fox.

"I'm...I'm sorry, Mulder, I thought I could hang in there for a few hours at least. But I see him...I see what he's doing, and I can't control it. I want to kill him. He's got you by the dick, and he's leading you straight down into his foul, obscene world, and you're just going to roll over and let him. I'm outta here. I'd say I hope you come to your senses before you get back to D.C., but I don't think that's likely to happen."

Scully gave Alex a withering glare then walked away.

The soft whoosh of the swinging door was the only sound in the room for long seconds until Scully car started outside and drove away. When the sound had faded, Fox turned slowly around and took Alex into his arms.

"Tell me what she said."

Still avoiding Fox's gaze, Alex shook his head.

"Nothing. It's...it's not that important."

"Stop protecting her, Alex. She obviously has no qualms about sticking it to *you*."

"She's your best friend..."

"Not if this is what she's going to do to you. I won't let her hurt you, Alex."

"I'm all right."

"You're *not*. And it's because of her. Tell me what she said."

"No, I...what difference does it make?"

"Because I want to know."

"No, Fox. It wasn't important. Forget it. Please."

Fox held the younger man's eyes with his own, slowly shaking his head.

"Why can't she see?"

Alex looked away from the adoring gaze.

//Maybe she does.//

"Okay, babe. I'll forget about it. She's gone." He moved closer, lightly brushing Alex's body with his own. "We're alone again." He leaned in, touching his lips the younger man's. "Come with me," he whispered, leading Alex out of the room.

"Where are we going?" Alex asked, feeling his lover's heat envelop him and pull him along in its wake.

"Shhh."

Silently, Alex followed the older man into the living room and watched mesmerized as Fox backed away and began to remove his clothing. Seconds later, Fox stepped forward, gloriously naked and intensely focused on the man standing before him.

He slid his hands up under Alex's shirt, letting his hands skim over the warm, hard plains of his lover's chest, and leaned in, capturing his lips in a sweet kiss.

"I love you," he murmured against the bowed lips before pulling Alex's shirt off then going to work on his pants...

Jesus, if Scully was right, and he was incapable of loving Fox, then why the hell was his heart breaking right now into so many little pieces? Why did everything she said still hurt so damn much?

Why did he want this man so desperately? And why did he ache with it?

He was falling. His sight blurred as softness met his back, and it took him a second to realize that he hadn't fainted. Fox had pushed him down to the sofa, settling over his chest, and he was now completely naked.

How did that happen?

Fox nuzzled the younger man's throat as one hand caressed his leg from knee to hip

"Alex..."

God. Oh, God, that felt good.

Alex's cock throbbed, pushing up against his lover's belly, and he whimpered softly at the sensation it produced.

"Baby..." Fox lifted his head and looked directly down into tormented, green eyes.

"Make love to me."

Alex trembled violently at the sweetly passionate plea.

"Fox...God, Fox..."

Fox's mouth whispered over his lover's.

"Please."

//You've got *nothing* for him.//

Alex squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out Scully's words, but they echoed in his head, over and over.

//He deserves better than the filth you want to drag him down into.//

"Alex? *Alex*. God, baby, what is it?" Fox cupped the younger man's face between his hands. "You're shaking so much."

"Nothing, I...I..I just..." Alex pushed Fox off of him and stumbled to his feet. "I need..."

"Where are you going?" Fox asked anxiously, watching the other man head toward the bathroom.

"I just need a minute, okay? Splash some cold water on my face, and I'll be fine."

Before Fox could utter another word, Alex disappeared into the bathroom. The door shut, and he drew his fingers through his hair, clenching them in the thick strands.

"We're done, Scully," he whispered to his absent partner. "You did this to him, and you and I are all done."

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

Alex paced the bathroom, trying to get a handle on his wild respiration.

//She's right. He doesn't deserve filth like me. He doesn't...doesn't believe that, but...should've...I should've stayed away. Should've been stronger. I'll never be good enough. Never be clean enough...//

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

Fox stalked back and forth, watching the bathroom door. He exercised all the restraint he had to keep himself from bursting into the bathroom and forcing Alex to tell what Scully had said to make him come so unglued.

"This is insane, this is..." He punched the back of the couch. "*Dammit*."

He'd gone through a lot, night and day to convince Alex that they were meant to be together, and in the course of twelve hours, Scully had gone and fucked it all up.

"*Bitch*."

He paced for a few seconds more, then, deciding that Alex had had enough time, moved toward the bathroom and knocked at the door.

"Alex....Alex, come on. You have to talk to me about this. Come on, baby, don't let her do this to you."

Just as he turned the knob and pushed the door open, the sound of an engine starting snapped his head around. He glanced into the bathroom, seeing clothes scattered on the floor in front of the open hamper, and the wide open window, and he spun around, bolting to the front door.

He made it outside in record time, but not fast enough. The dust from the spinning tires of his car swirled through the air, blinding him momentarily.

"*Alex*!" he screamed after the departing vehicle, but it disappeared quickly, leaving nothing but the sound of birds and his labored breath. He sprinted into the house, cursing all the way and threw his clothes on then ran back out and did the only thing he could.

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

"Scully."

"I hope you're real happy, you miserable bitch."

"Mulder, if you're calling just to call me names, it could've waited until you got home."

"He's *gone*."

"What do you mean, gone?"

"*Gone*! A little while after you'd done your damage and split, he climbed out the bathroom window and took off in my car."

"And he just *left* you up there?"

"Yeah. Speaks to his state of mind," Fox spat with all the malice he felt. "I had to hike down into town and rent *another* car. I've been looking for him ever *since*!"

"That was three days ago."

"That's right."

"You haven't found your first rental?"

"*Fuck* the rental! Are you listening to me? He's *gone*! He's been missing for three fucking days, and I can't find him!"

"Mulder..."

"It's *your* fault! You said something to him that got him all messed up. What the hell did you say?"

"He didn't tell you?"

"*No*. I tried to get it out of him, but he said that it didn't matter. He said that you were my friend." Fox emitted a harsh laugh. "That's a hot one."

"Mulder, I *am* your friend."

"You're *not*! You couldn't be, and do whatever you did to Alex. I told you I love him. But did that make any fucking difference to you? *Fuck* no!"

"Mulder, calm down."

"I *am* fucking calm! I just thought I'd call and let you know. You know, make your day."

"Mulder, don't hang up."

"I've wasted enough time with you."

"What are you going to do now?"

"Keep looking."

"Mulder, you're due back on Monday."

"If I'm not there, tell Skinner he can fire me."

"Mul..."

The click of the phone stopped Scully from completing her partner's name, and she disconnected, softly placing the phone down on the table.

"Shit," she breathed, dropping her head into her hands. "What the hell did I do?"

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

The glare from the lights of the casinos burned his eyes as he walked toward the smiling man in the Porsche.

"Looking for some company?"

"Yeah. Saw you sitting over there, and I couldn't take my eyes off of you. What's the matter with your eyes? You're not on something, are you? 'Cause if you are, I gotta tell you, I don't..."

"I'm not on anything. It's these lights."

"Oh. You new around here?"

"Yeah. What're you looking for?"

"I'm having a party, and I need some entertainment."

"How many?"

"Fifteen."

His eyes drifted shut, and the man behind the wheel had to tap on the dashboard to bring him back.

"How much?"

"Seventy-five hundred. Cash up front."

The man issued a low whistle.

"Kinda steep."

"Take it or leave it."

"....Okay. Get in."

The man waited for the other to slip into the vehicle and pulled out a wad of cash. Counting off the right number of bills, he handed them to the other, who counted and arranged the bills neatly before stuffing them into the front pocket of his leather jacket. As he pulled away from the curb, he glanced at the somber face.

"So...you said you're new to Vegas. Where are you from originally?"

No answer.

"You're a handsome man. You could make a whole lot out here if you play your cards right. Uh...no pun intended."

Still nothing.

"But you might not do so well if you're not a little more sociable. People out here like to talk. If you'd say a word here and there, they might like you better."

"Nothing to say."

"Ah, c'mon. There must be some subject that gets you talking. Got any hobbies? Family? That one true love you left behind?"

The green eyes glazed over, and the driver winced.

"Oops. Hit a sore spot, didn't I?"

The stubbled jaw clenched with the effort it took to hold back the dam, and the other breathed deeply.

"Sorry, man, I...I was just trying to be friendly. Does he know where you are?"

The hooker snapped at the driver, startling him into silence. "Look, do you want to party or not?"

"*Yeah*, I just..."

"Then shut the fuck up and stop trying to be friendly. I don't *need* any friends. There's *nothing* I need."

The customer uttered a soft 'okay' and drove on in silence while the lights of the strip whizzed by, practically blinding his passenger.

The hooker closed his eyes and attempted to prepare himself for a very long night, but relentless thoughts crept into his mind, shaking him to his soul, and filling him with a terrible, crippling sadness that would never leave him. Not as long as his heart belonged to the one who, for a little while at least had rescued him from this life and shown him love and tenderness such as he would never know again.

Not as long as he loved Fox Mulder.

END