RESTITUTION
by Cody Nelson <codyne@netwizards.net>

 

Rated NC17 for explicit m/m sex.

Summary: Krycek comes back from Russia to pay some debts.
Follows "Patient X"/"The Red and the Black."

Disclaimer: X-Files characters and situations are the property of Chris
Carter and 1013. No infringement is intended.

 

* * *

 

 

The boy appeared to be about sixteen. No one knew for sure; he hadn't
spoken a word since he'd been brought to the hospital. His battered body
was long and thin, making barely a lump under the hospital blanket, and
there was a weary look in his pale, bruised eyes, at once wary and
resigned, as if he knew the world was a bad place but had not quite yet
learned to accept its pain.

Mulder stood at the boy's bedside, staring down at him, fists
clenching and unclenching unnoticed at his sides. He'd tried talking to
the boy, just as the nurses and doctors had done, and received the same
silence. The boy wasn't deaf--he responded to sounds, but he didn't seem
to understood what was being said to him, and he made no attempt to
communicate. So there was no point trying to question him about what had
happened on the bridge--the same bridge where Scully, standing now at
Mulder's side studying the boy's chart, had nearly been lost--but he
couldn't quite pull himself away just yet. Perhaps it was that sad look in
the boy's eyes, that reminded him of another boy, whose world had come
crashing down one November night, over twenty-four years ago.

"His nose is broken." Scully's voice was even, but there was an edge
of anger to it. No matter how jaded one got, one never got used to seeing
these things happen to children. "And these punctures around his mouth and
eyes--he didn't get these on the bridge."

"It almost looks like...." Mulder couldn't quite bring himself to say
it.


"His eyes and mouth had been sewn shut." Scully, however, said the
unspeakable. "According to his chart, there were still sutures in his lips
and left eye when he was found with the other survivors. The broken nose
and other facial trauma predate the burns by at least a week." She looked
up from the chart, her mouth a hard line. "He also hadn't eaten in days."

Eyes and mouth sewn shut. Mulder's hand reached out for the boy, who
shuddered away, fear sparking in his bruised eyes. Mulder let his hand
fall. The men on the bridge, who killed with fire, described by Scully as
having no faces--eyes and mouths sealed shut by seams of scarred flesh.
That image haunted Mulder, too--in the barely-remembered jumble of bright
light and guns and the semi trailer of a military transport. There was a
connection, a common thread running through it all, but what it was eluded
him.

"There's something else." Scully paused, and Mulder looked down at
her. There were still traces of the burns on her own face, reminders of
her own experiences on the bridge. They were hard to look at, too. "There
were traces of some kind of oily black material in his mouth. It hasn't
been identified."

Mulder remembered another boy, in a small village shack outside a
camp in Tunguska, with an empty sleeve where his left arm would have
been--extreme measures to save him from the tests with the black oil. "I
wonder if the sutures might have been an attempt to protect him from the
black oil."

Scully sighed. "If they were, they didn't appear to work."

"Does he have an implant?"

Scully consulted the chart again. "Yes. Same as the others." <Same as
herself> hung unsaid in the air between them.

Mulder stared at the boy, lying tumbled among the sheets, with his
wide pale eyes and thin bruised face. Implants and black oil and men with
no faces.... "Who is he?" he said softly, almost to himself.

Literal Scully looked again at the chart. "He was carrying no ID, no
money, bus tickets, anything at all. The clothes he was wearing had no
tags in them. He doesn't match any known missing persons reports. They
think he might be foreign, but he hasn't responded to any of the other
languages they've tried, either--Spanish, French, German. He hasn't said a
word, so they can only guess at what he might understand. Or he may simply
be too traumatized to speak."

They needed to know what had happened to this boy. They needed to
know who had beaten him and why, who had sewn his eyes and mouth shut,
exposed him to the black oil. And how he had ended up here, in a
Pennsylvania hospital, survivor of a mass burning, the victim of men with
no faces, who just might be alien rebels trying to stop the colonization
of the world by alien invasion forces.

They needed to know, but the boy lay silent in his misery, staring up
at them with his pale, wary eyes.


"Mulder?"

He started. How long had he been standing there, staring at the boy,
as if his very need alone could make the boy speak? "Yeah." He sighed. "We
might as well leave him alone."

"What now?" None of the other survivors had been any help. They just
couldn't remember what had happened. Any more than Mulder could remember
more than scattered images from his experiences at Wiekamp Air Force Base,
where, if Krycek were to be believed, an alien rebel was being held.

"Nothing. Unless this kid decides to talk, or Krycek shows up out of
the blue with more...." The boy had flinched, hard, and shrunk away to the
other side of the bed. Fear shone on his burned, bruised face. At the
mention of Krycek's name.

"Mulder?" This time, there was an edge of impatience in Scully's
voice.

"Sorry. Let's go."


"Has anyone tried speaking Russian to him?" --The boy knew Krycek and
had reason to fear him. And Marita Covarrubias had told him of a similar
burn site in Kazakhstan, and said she had someone with her who'd been
there. But when he went to meet her, she was gone, and there was black oil
on the phone booth. It was another of those intuitive leaps that were the
hallmark of his investigative brilliance--that, and his near-perfect
memory: countless bits of random knowledge, assembled into whole pictures
with only the barest framework to connect them. It was this that had been
the source of his nickname "Spooky" back in the FBI Academy--not his
belief in UFOs, which had come years later, with his interest in the
X-Files. Had this been the boy Marita had spoken of? Had Krycek brought
him here from Kazakhstan?

The boy's doctor shook his head. "Did he say something to you?"

"No, but I think he might be Russian. Or Kazakh. What do they speak
in Kazakhstan?"

The bewildered doctor shook his head.

"Well, if the Russian doesn't work, find out and try that. And get a
description of him in the paper, see if anyone comes to claim him.
And...." Mulder pulled a business card out of his pocket and pressed it
into the doctor's hand. "Call me immediately if anyone comes to see him.
Immediately."


Krycek. Mulder sat slumped on his couch, just as he'd sat all night
the night Krycek had come to him. <If he hurt that boy--> There was no
conclusion to that thought, only angry insistence. <If he hurt that
boy....> Over a year had passed since he'd left him in Tunguska, jumped or
fallen from the back of the truck in the woods outside the gulag. Well,
Krycek was the one who spoke Russian--he'd be better able to handle
himself there than Mulder was, and he made it out of Russia all right.
But--<I can beat you with one hand,> Krycek had told him, and wasn't there
an edge of bitterness in that taunt? Krycek's left arm had hung at his
side. It had been dark in the apartment, lit only by the streetlights
filtering through the blinds, and Mulder had been distracted by other
concerns, to say the least. It was not easy to concentrate on someone's
unthreatening left hand, when the right hand held a gun to your chest. So
he couldn't say for sure--but if Krycek had the use of his left arm, under
those circumstances, one surely would have expected him to use it.

So assume Krycek had lost his arm to those Tunguska rebels, who had
almost taken Mulder's arm. You might say he deserved it, after all the
pain he'd caused and damage he'd done. But you might also say it was
Mulder's fault, who'd dragged him handcuffed halfway around the world,
attacked him and drove off with him bouncing around helplessly in the back
of a truck. But wasn't it Krycek who'd betrayed him yet again, leaving
Mulder to his fate in the gulag while he cozied up with the camp guards?

Mulder heaved a sigh. No matter. He could make himself crazy worrying
at whose fault was whose, after so many years of parry and feint, hidden
agendas and lies. If Krycek had lost his arm in Tunguska, he didn't seem
inclined to blame Mulder for it. Or at least, not to make an issue of it.
He seemed to think there were more important matters at hand than either
of their personal grudges. Like alien invasions from space....

The laughter bubbled up inside Mulder's throat, strained and
humorless. Just when he'd finally been convinced that it was all a lie,
and not even Scully's own experiences could make him believe again, along
comes Alex Krycek with a gun and a missing arm and a wild story and....

A hot mouth on Mulder's cheek.

Krycek had just been messing with his head. He'd known how badly it
would shake Mulder, to be kissed by his worst enemy. Or maybe it truly was
some sort of misguided goodwill gesture. A Russian kind of kiss, between
men working toward a common goal. <Tovarish,> Krycek had called him, as he
left. <Comrade,> Mulder knew that meant. Friend, compatriot. He'd spoken in
Russian, as if to himself, not knowing whether Mulder would understand, but
surely expecting that likely he would not. (But had he known that Mulder's
prodigious memory would record the words, as reliably as a tape recorder,
and as soon as it was convenient, work out their meaning? And had he known
that words spoken thus in Russian would carry more weight than English,
easily assumed to be a lie?)

But the tip Krycek had given him--the lead to Wiekamp Air Force
Base--there was something to that, even if Mulder couldn't put it all
together into a coherent whole. And even that was evidence--lost time,
bright lights, disrupted memories--something had happened to him in that
semi trailer that was no ordinary military action. A man with no face. It
was just one disconnected image, but it was strong and real, and combined
with the other flashes of imagery, it was enough. Krycek had been telling
the truth.

And Mulder didn't know how to deal with that. Every night since
Krycek had come, Mulder had sat on his couch in just the same way, for
long hours into the night, unmoving except for the clenching and
unclenching of his fists, replaying the sequence of events in his mind. He
was no longer even sure what he was trying to learn from what had
happened--no matter how he worried at it, no further understanding was
forthcoming; no easing of the sharp, hot pain that the memory of Krycek's
presence brought him; no relaxation of the tension in his mind. It was as
if it had become ritual; compulsion. He sat and thought about Krycek
because he had to. Just as he had to eat and breathe.


It was near midnight when Mulder's phone rang. It was the boy's
doctor. A man had come, whose name, he'd said, was Tolstoy. He was in with
the boy now.

Mulder was out the door almost before he'd hung up the phone.


And there was Krycek, sitting on the side of the boy's bed, talking
to him quietly but urgently in Russian. <Don't you dare hurt him,> was
Mulder's immediate thought, and he was almost through the hospital room
door with his gun in Krycek's back before he stopped himself. The boy
didn't look frightened; he lay on his side staring intently into Krycek's
face, his wide eyes unblinking. Now and then he answered softly: "Da." He
was talking at last, with someone he didn't seem to find a threat. It
would only frighten him needlessly to march in and take Krycek away at
gunpoint.

So Mulder stood in the doorway and waited. Presently, Krycek turned
and shot a wry smile at Mulder over his shoulder. Then he turned his
attention back to the boy, reaching out to gently touch the boy's arm.

Mulder flinched; the boy didn't.


He waited until the conversation ended, watching in uncomfortable
fascination. Oh, yes, Krycek could be gentle. Mulder knew that. He knew
that tone of voice: <How'd you sleep? Sure you don't want something to
eat? Come on, I'll drive you home.> He wanted to take the boy by the
shoulders and insist, <Don't ever trust him. He'll stab you in the back.>
If he could speak any language the boy would understand, he might have
even done it. But there was nothing he could say to the boy, nothing he
could do now that wouldn't just frighten him more. If Krycek could ease
his suffering, let him do it. Tomorrow, though, he'd make sure another
translator talked to the boy. Just to make sure.

At last Krycek stood, patting the boy reassuringly on his arm, then
leaning down to kiss the boy's cheek.

Mulder stiffened, feeling the heat streak through his face. <You
murdering bastard. Leave him alone.> He couldn't say why it made him so
furious. Or why he felt ashamed.

He swallowed it down, nodding shortly to Krycek as he came to the
door. They started down the hall together. "What did you say to him,
Tolstoy?"

Krycek watched the floor in front of him as he walked. His right hand
was jammed into his jacket pocket; his left arm hung at his side. He took a
deep breath. "Let's go somewhere and talk."


There was an all-night diner a couple of blocks from the hospital.
Krycek ordered apple pie and ate like a starving man, while Mulder nursed
a cup of coffee and waited. He'd always eaten like that, Mulder
remembered--as though he never knew where his next meal was coming from.
Mulder used to tease him about it, just to watch him blush. Now, it made
Mulder's face hot. He held his coffee cup tightly in his hands. Finally
Krycek laid down his fork and leaned back in the booth.

"What did you say to him?"

"His name is Dmitri," Krycek said slowly, staring into his coffee
cup. "We found him in Kazakhstan. The only survivor of a mass burning,
just like the one on the bridge. And the one on Skyland Mountain. I needed
him. It wasn't his fault."

He cleared his throat, and looked up at Mulder. "I told him I was
sorry. That I hadn't wanted to hurt him, that there were reasons I had to
do what I did. But it's over now. His part in it, anyway. I told him he's
safe now, that no one will hurt him any more. I told him I'd protect him,
and help him get home."

"And he believed you?"

Krycek shrugged, smiling faintly. "I've never lied to him."

"You're going to take him back to Kazakhstan?"

"I don't know. He's Russian, not Kazakh. Russians aren't very popular
in Kazakhstan these days. His family's dead. He might be better off
somewhere else."

"Like?"

Krycek smiled again, brief and sad. "He has relatives in Russia. He
doesn't know if they'd take him. And I'm not very popular in Russia these
days. But we'll figure something out."

"We can take care of him," Mulder said. "The State Department will
make sure he's taken care of."

"No." Krycek said flatly. "I'll take care of him."

Mulder sipped his coffee. He barely wanted to ask the next question,
but it had to be asked. "You did that to him, didn't you? Beat him up,
infected him with the black oil. Sewed his...." He couldn't get the words
out.

"Yes." His face was calm, his dark eyes cool. But his hand trembled
on his coffee cup. "He doesn't remember much of it, after the black oil.
That's a blessing." His chin jutted out defiantly. "It was rough on him,
but he'll be fine. He's young and tough. The worst thing for him is losing
his family. The rest of it he'll get over. He's already getting over it."

"You're the only person he can talk to right now. He's lost and alone
in a foreign country, and you're the only familiar face he sees. As soon as
we find someone else who can speak Russian to him, you might find he's not
so eager to put his life in your hands again."

The thick dark eyelashes came down over Krycek's eyes ever so
slightly: a protective gesture, warding away pain. "Maybe. --They told me
he was dead, you know. Maybe they really thought so, or maybe they were
just trying to make me think I'd lost my bargaining chip. They may well
intend for him to end up that way. Or they may have other plans for him.
I'm not going to let that happen, regardless of what he thinks of me. He's
just a kid, and he's been through enough. I'm going to see him safely home,
outside of any official channels they might be able to follow to go after
him."

Krycek looked directly into Mulder's eyes, as intent as he'd ever
been. "Will you help me?"


Mulder lay on his couch, arms tucked across his chest, staring at the
ceiling. He'd changed into sweat pants and a tee shirt when he'd gotten
home, in a vain attempt to kid himself that he might actually get some
sleep, but he lay painfully awake, just as he'd known he would, while the
thoughts whirled around in his head like leaves in a storm. <I'll think
about it,> was all he'd been able to say. Although thinking seemed hardly
an option for him, at least where Alex Krycek was concerned. And he'd
watched Krycek walk away again, with no attempt to arrest him. He'd felt
paralyzed, helpless and stupid, too full of conflicting needs and desires
to act on any of them.

And if Krycek felt the need to make amends for some of his crimes,
should Mulder try to interfere? Or, forgetting about Krycek for a moment,
was it true that the boy, Dmitri, was in danger from the Consortium? If
that were so, then for the boy's sake, if no one else's, it would be
better to help Krycek slip the boy quietly out of the country, with no
official government involvement. And deal with Krycek later. He wasn't
going far, not while Dmitri was still in the hospital. Mulder found that
he believed Krycek that far: he cared about the boy, and was determined to
help and protect him. Maybe it was only a guilty conscience, but at least
that meant he had a conscience. So Mulder could afford to let the matter
rest, for the moment, to give himself time to consider what to do, to try
to get his roiling thoughts under control.


In the morning, Mulder and Scully went back to the hospital, this
time with a Russian interpreter in tow. The boy lay still in his hospital
bed, thin body barely rumpling the blanket, IV dripping liquid into his
left arm, wide eyes blinking up at them. He spoke slowly, hesitantly, as
if measuring each word before letting it go. His memories were a jumble of
fire and death, pain and fear. He'd gone to the site in Kazakhstan with his
parents, and had been playing in the woods with another boy when the bright
lights came. They'd run back to find everything in flames. His parents' car
was a fireball. Everyone was dead. He remembered running and running
through the woods, and the soldiers the next morning. He couldn't remember
coming to America, or the second burn site on the bridge. Or he wouldn't
speak of them. Yes, he'd been beaten--by soldiers, he thought. It was dark
and he couldn't see their faces. There was something about an experiment,
and a big dark room and a table covered with chickenwire and something
black that fell from the ceiling. There was a ship, and lots of water, but
for some reason he was still very thirsty.

But everything was all right now. His cousin had come for him, and
would make sure everything was all right.


"Krycek just wants to get the kid home." Mulder sat perched on the
edge of his desk, arms folded across his chest, trying to keep the
defensive tone out of his voice.

"And you believed him?" Scully's tone said plainly that she did not.

"Dmitri does." The boy had insisted that it had been "soldiers" who'd
beaten and experimented on him, and that Krycek was his cousin. And with no
identification to prove otherwise and no one else to claim him, it seemed
that the story would hold--as long as Mulder and Scully were willing to go
along.

"I'm sure Krycek was very persuasive. He seems to have that effect on
people." There was just enough sharpness in her tone to make it an
accusation.

Mulder felt his face grow hot. "He was just a kid who was in the
wrong place at the wrong time. Now that it's all over, why shouldn't
Krycek want to help him?"

"How can you be so sure it's all over?"

She was angry. She always seemed to be angry with him lately. He'd
screwed up big time, and he wasn't even sure what he'd done. He supposed
he should ask; but then, in his experience, asking people why they were
angry with him just gave them the opportunity to find more reasons. His
shoulders slumped. "I can't be sure of anything. But I believed him."

Scully pursed her lips and regarded him thoughtfully for a few
moments. "Did Krycek ever tell you why he did what he did to the boy?"

"He said he had reasons. Beyond that, I didn't ask. I didn't think I
was ready to hear about it."

"Mulder... did you ever stop to consider that you're not really
rational when it comes to Krycek?"

His weak exhalation of breath was half laugh, half groan. "I think
about it every day. But he did try to help me. And he seems sincere about
wanting to help Dmitri. I think we should give him the chance."

Scully just frowned at him.


There was other work to be done, and Mulder tried to turn his
attention to it. But there was Scully, with her expression tight and every
comment an accusation, and he didn't want to think about that. And there
was Dmitri in his hospital bed, heartbreakingly damaged, clinging to the
man who'd beaten him with the pure intensity of the innocent, and Mulder
couldn't get him out of his mind. And there was Krycek, who'd broken into
Mulder's apartment and shoved a gun in his face, and tried to make him
believe things he'd already made up his mind not to believe, and kissed
his cheek as though they were no longer enemies, as though somehow he
wanted to make amends. And it made Mulder angry to think of all these
things: Scully angry, Dmitri forgiving, Krycek--Krycek alive and tangled
up in Mulder's life again.

<I'll be in touch,> was all Krycek had said when he'd left the diner
last night. Mulder had no idea where he was staying, or under what name,
so it was useless trying to get in contact with him. He wanted Mulder's
help, though, so he'd be back, but Mulder chafed over not knowing when or
where. The only acceptable way to have Krycek around was to have him under
control--in handcuffs, preferably, or at least in sight and doing what he
was told. But Krycek could somehow never be controlled--like quicksilver
he slipped through your fingers, like a force of nature, no matter what
you did you turned around and he was gone, only to reappear three months
later, six months, a year, bloodied but unbroken, to turn your life
upside-down again. It was maddening. It was completely unacceptable. And
it was unacceptable that he should take a young boy, beat him and infect
him with unspeakable organisms, sew his eyes and mouth shut, and then sit
down and tell that boy he was sorry and he didn't mean to do it and be
forgiven, just as though anything he'd done were forgivable. And most of
all it was unacceptable that he should enlist Mulder's aid in stealing
that boy away and sneaking out of the country with him, and that Mulder
should feel obligated to do it.

It was all unacceptable, and Mulder stalked around his office
avoiding Scully's angry eyes and pretending to work until he couldn't
stand it any longer, and then he told her he was going back to the
hospital to talk to Dmitri again, and grabbed his jacket and left.

Mulder paused a moment at the door to the boy's hospital room, not
entirely sure what he was doing there. He hadn't brought an interpreter
with him, and so couldn't ask any more questions, even if he had any to
ask. Still, for some reason, he felt irresistibly drawn here, as if this
small, bruised Russian boy could somehow give him the answers he needed.

The boy lay still, staring out the window. Why was he always so
still? A boy that age should be a whirlwind of energy. Of course, not
necessarily when he was recuperating from first- and second-degree burns
all over his body, a severe beating, and infection by an alien substance.
Did he look depressed? Perhaps he was just bored.

Dmitri turned and saw Mulder in the doorway. For a moment, his face
brightened; then just as quickly fell. Probably wishing it was Krycek,
Mulder thought, as he walked into the room. Or at least someone who spoke
Russian. The boy watched big-eyed and silent as Mulder took the chair by
his bed, then offered a tentative smile.

Mulder smiled back. Poor kid, he must be terribly lonely. So lonely
he had to lie here and hope for Krycek to come. "Hi, Dmitri."

"A-- Agent Mulder." The boy's soft accent and slight stutter made an
exotic sound of Mulder's name. Mulder was impressed that the boy
remembered. Not that he had a whole lot else to think about.

And that was pretty much the extent of their available conversation.
Mulder tried a slightly bigger smile, and said, "I know we can't really
talk. I'm just going to sit with you for a while, all right?"

The boy nodded earnestly, just as if he'd understood what Mulder
said. Well, he could hear the tone of the words, at least. And he really
did seem pleased to have Mulder's company. Mulder once again felt sorry
for him: no one to talk to, nothing to do--he couldn't understand the
television; there were no books or magazines he could read. Only one dry
FBI agent who could do nothing but sit here and nod at him.

Only now did it occur to him that he should have brought something
for the boy. Should he go back to the gift shop now? And what would they
have for a sixteen-year-old Russian boy?

Mulder dug in his pockets. What did he have for a sixteen-year-old
Russian boy? A dime-store pen? A business card? Wait--what about that
keychain he'd bought at Heuvelmans Lake with a picture of Big Blue, the
legendary sea serpent, on it? It was cheap and tacky, but it was the best
he could do. Mulder retrieved the keychain and worked the keys off of it,
sliding them loose back into his pocket, and hoping he didn't lose any of
them before he could get a new one (would they have any in the gift shop?
With cheerful kittens and puppies on them, perhaps). He pressed the
keychain into Dmitri's hand.

Too late, it occurred to him that perhaps a souvenir of a man-eating
sea monster was not the ideal present for a child who'd been assaulted by
aliens. But Dmitri grinned happily over it, and rattled off several
sentences in Russian, among which Mulder assumed were thanks. He held the
keychain out to Mulder, pointing at the picture, his eyebrows raised in
question.

"Big Blue," Mulder said carefully. "Big Blue."

Dmitri furrowed his brow. "Big. Blue."

"That's right," Mulder nodded, thinking, <The first words of English
this kid learns, and it's the name of a nonexistent sea monster.>

"Big Blue," Dmitri repeated to himself, gripping the keychain as if
it were precious metal.


Mulder sat with Dmitri for another hour, sometimes in one-sided
conversation, sometimes in companionable silence. He left when Dmitri had
begun to yawn repeatedly, exhausted but determined not to nap while he had
company. The boy was asleep before Mulder reached the door, keychain still
clutched tightly in his hand.

Halfway back to the office, Mulder changed his mind and headed home
instead. It was still early, but he wasn't quite ready to face Scully
again yet. She'd ask him if he'd found out anything at the hospital, and
he'd say no, and eventually he'd end up telling her that he hadn't even
brought an interpreter with him, and all he'd ended up doing was giving
away his keychain. She'd think he'd wasted the entire afternoon. And
probably he had, but he felt a little better about the whole situation
anyway. It was good to see the boy recovering from his injuries and in
good spirits. Mulder couldn't really tell, of course, without being able
to talk to Dmitri, but he didn't see any signs that the boy was frightened
or in any way being coerced by Krycek. Krycek might be a liar and a
murderer, but he'd convinced the boy he was his protector, and as long as
he never did anything to make the boy think otherwise, that was just fine
with Mulder.

Occasionally, he liked to say that he was cursed with a photographic
memory. At times, he felt that it truly was a curse. Like now, as he
entered the front door of his apartment, and his eye was uncontrollably
drawn to that exact spot on the floor where the square of white paper had
lain, the night Krycek had come to tell him that aliens were invading the
world. <Things are looking up,> had been written on the paper, and as he'd
bent to pick it up, Krycek had jumped him from behind and shoved him into
the floor across the room by the desk. Mulder tried not to look at that
spot in the floor; tried not to think about what had happened that night.
But the image was burned indelibly into his mind; he saw that small square
of paper lying there still, every time he walked into his apartment.

And there was where he'd lain on the floor in the dark, with Krycek
bending over him, gun muzzle pressing into Mulder's chest. <You must be
losing it, Mulder. I can beat you with one hand.>

<Isn't that how you like to beat yourself?> Mulder's face burned as
he remembered the foolish comeback that had popped out of his mouth.
Whatever had possessed him to respond to a life-threatening situation with
his worst enemy with lame cracks about masturbation? The gun muzzle had
poked roughly into his chest. Mulder had felt his heart pounding back, as
if straining to meet it. His hands and feet had tingled and gone numb, and
there had been a faint buzzing sound in his ears. When he'd opened his
mouth to speak, the unbidden image of the gun muzzle sliding into it had
risen, threatening to choke him. Sweat had dripped into his eyes. <If
those are going to be my last words, I can do better.>

<I'm not here to kill you, Mulder. I'm here to help you.>

Lies. Lies. But then Krycek had handed over his gun and walked away,
leaving behind the small square of paper with the name of an Air Force
base written on the back. An Air Force base where an alien was being held;
where Mulder had seen... bright lights and a man with no face and other
things he couldn't remember, but which had given Mulder his faith back.

And--Krycek had ordered him to sit up, then, with surprising grace
for a one-armed man, had leaned over and pressed his mouth to Mulder's
cheek. It was shock, Mulder was sure, that had caused him to start, and
not some perverse impulse to turn his head toward Krycek's and capture
that kiss on his mouth. It was adrenaline that had caused that spark to
race through his body like an electric current. It was the heightened
sensitivity of fear that had made those lips burn into his cheek, and left
him feeling as spent and helpless as if Krycek's bullet had indeed pierced
his heart and left him bleeding on the floor.

With an exasperated groan, Mulder turned on his heel and strode
angrily to the stereo, turning the radio on and cranking up the volume. He
was home early; he'd make use of the time and clean his apartment. Maybe if
he scrubbed hard enough, he'd be able to wipe the memory of Krycek's
presence away.

He'd finished the front room and the kitchen and was in the bedroom
pulling the sheets from the bed when he turned to find Alex Krycek
standing in the doorway. Grimacing angrily, he dropped the sheets onto the
floor.

"I did knock," Krycek said, before Mulder had the chance to ask the
question. "You didn't answer. And I wasn't about to stand in the hallway
pounding on your door." The radio still blared.

"Come on in," Mulder muttered. "Everyone else does." He really should
change his locks. Not that it would do any good.

"Need a hand with that?" Krycek indicated the pile of fresh sheets on
the chair by the bed.

"No." Krycek helping him to make his bed? God, no. Mulder felt his
face grow hot. "Look, would you get out of here? Go wait in the other
room."

Krycek shrugged. "Sure."

Mulder stood staring at the empty doorway, breath coming in shallow
gasps. His hand shook as he bent to pick up the sheets he'd let fall. God.
Krycek in his bedroom. He'd never sleep in his bed again. Hurriedly, he
gathered up the dirty sheets, and jammed them into a ball at the foot of
the bed. Then he began to spread the clean sheets over the mattress. Of
all the times for Krycek to show up--at least he hadn't made any cracks
about Mulder doing housework. <You're the who makes smart remarks about
everything,> Mulder reminded himself. <Not him. Anyway, he wants your
help. He'll be good.> And Mulder had promised he'd think about helping
him. Well, he'd thought about it endlessly, and come to no good
conclusions. Now he had to go out there and try to talk rationally with
him. He'd rather just crawl into this freshly-made bed and pull the covers
over his head.

Krycek was standing by the end of the couch, staring at the framed
print of a typewriter on the wall. He turned to greet Mulder with a
tentative smile. "Nice picture."

"Thanks." It had been a gift from Mulder's mother. He wasn't about to
tell Krycek that he hadn't had the heart to tell her he found it only
marginally more interesting than bare wall. But since he'd never gotten
around to buying anything he actually liked, he left it up.

"Well." Krycek turned towards Mulder, folding his arms across his
chest. Fascinating, the way he casually slipped his hand under his left
arm and pulled it up, tucking the hand under his elbow. If you weren't
watching for it, you might not even notice the left arm was a prosthetic.
"Dmitri liked the keychain."

"You were at the hospital today?"

"I just came from there. He said you were there for a couple of
hours. Thanks."

"I didn't do it for you. And if I decide to help you get him out of
the country, I won't be doing that for you, either."

Krycek shook his head, a slight smile curling his mouth. (Soft, round
mouth. Mulder looked away.) "I never expected you to, Mulder. So, have you
thought about it?"

Mulder didn't know how to answer that. "Do you want coffee?"
Ridiculous, offering the man coffee. But he had to have something to do,
before he began to scream.

"Sure." Krycek looked like he needed coffee. He looked like he needed
sleep, actually. His face was pale and there were dark circles under his
eyes. He shoved his right hand into his jacket pocket and followed Mulder
into the kitchen, leaving his left arm to hang at his side. He'd been busy
the past few days. Where had he slept, if he'd slept at all?

Mulder shook his head and busied himself with the coffee pot. "Is the
boy really in danger?"

"I don't know. Truthfully, I hope he isn't. But I'm not taking any
chances."

"What exactly is it that you want me to do?" It made it a little
easier, being able to busy himself with the coffee. He didn't quite want
to smash Krycek's face in, or throw him up against the wall and demand to
know why he did it.

"As much as you're willing to do. Don't tell them I'm not really
Dmitri's cousin, for one thing. Keep him out of your reports."

Mulder nodded. "And...?"

"I'm trying to arrange some ID for both of us. Transport to Russia. I
can manage that if I have to, but I wouldn't mind some help." Krycek leaned
against the counter, eyeing the coffeepot as if expecting gold from it.

"You mean money."

A slight shrug. The prosthetic arm swung at his side, a dead weight.
"Among other things." He laughed, a short humorless noise. "He took
everything before he let me go. Trying to keep me on a short leash. I
don't even have a change of underwear."

Definitely not something Mulder wanted to know. "What about a place
to stay?"

"I'm fine."

"When was the last time you slept?"

"I went to see Titanic this afternoon. I had a nice nap."

Mulder swore to himself. Repeatedly. "You can't afford a room at the
YMCA or something?"

"I don't want a room. I need to keep moving."

"Fine." Mulder suddenly remembered Los Angeles, the summer of the
fires, when Scully was gone, and he went long days on nothing but catnaps,
refusing to check into a hotel. Because Scully was gone, and there was
nothing he could do but keep moving, because stopping would mean seeing
the emptiness that was there. He understood the need to keep moving.

So what was it that was keeping Krycek moving? Was he worried about
the boy? Consumed with guilt? But if he cared so much, how could he have
done the things he did in the first place? "Why did you do it?"

"Do what?"

"What you did to Dmitri."

Krycek looked away, grim and silent. His eyes narrowed and his mouth
trembled, then pressed firmly shut. Pain twitched across his face, was
determinedly rejected, then washed back again, stronger than his stoicism.
Mulder stood and watched him, fascinated, even pleased. Time seemed to
telescope down, till there was nothing but Mulder's kitchen, the coffee
perking gently in its pot, and Mulder's enemy, struggling with a great
pain. It was soothing, somehow, even comforting, to watch Krycek
suffering, to know that the things he did had consequences for him. Mulder
had punished Krycek before--handcuffed him and beat him, but it had never
truly satisfied. Not like this. Krycek had refused to be brought down by
it; he'd absorbed Mulder's abuse and given nothing back. If only he'd
suffered like this....

The coffeepot fell silent. Krycek looked at it expectantly; the spell
was broken. Mulder got mugs from the cupboard and poured coffee into them.
Krycek liked sugar in his coffee, Mulder remembered, and pulled the box of
sugar down before he had time to think about it. Then stopped, suddenly,
flustered and a little angry. Krycek reached for the sugar, all the time
watching Mulder warily, as if expecting him to snatch it away.

God, Mulder thought. Had things become so hopelessly complicated
between them that even a cup of coffee became a test? Exasperated, he
jerked the silverware drawer open, and slammed a spoon down on the counter.

Krycek grinned crookedly as he picked up the spoon to stir his
coffee. But his bravado was betrayed by the tightness at the corners of
his mouth and the liquid pain in his eyes.

They returned to the living room. Mulder sprawled into the middle of
his leather couch, arms spread along the back, claiming it as his
territory. Krycek pulled out the desk chair and sat with a little whoosh,
as if his knees couldn't quite wait for his haunches to hit the chair
before giving out. Pure exhaustion, Mulder thought. He'd lose his
concentration soon and make a mistake that could be fatal. Which would be
only just--except for Dmitri.

"Why did you do it?" he asked again. He didn't even care if Krycek
answered; he just wanted to see that pain again.

But several sips of strong, sweet coffee and a chair to sit in had
given him back his composure. This time, Krycek stared off into the middle
distance with the trace of a sad smile, and began to speak softly.

"He was my Trojan Horse. I told them he had information about the
burn site in Kazakhstan--important information that no one else knew. And
he did, at least until the same thing happened at Skyland Mountain and
Ruskin Dam. But really, that was just to get him alone with them. They'd
be horrified by the way I'd treated him, of course, and they'd rush to get
the stitches out before they stopped to think why those stitches might be
there. And the black oil would come rushing out--it wouldn't have affected
Dmitri, because he'd had the vaccination--same as you did, Mulder, which is
why it didn't hurt you--and one or more of them would be infected. If it
got to enough of them, it could ruin them. Or at the very least put a very
large monkey wrench into their plans."

Mulder nodded slowly. A desperate plan, and by no means a foolproof
one. But the payoff would have been worth the risk. To him. "What about
Dmitri? What would have happened to him?"

That shadow of pain was back in Krycek's face. "I hoped to be able to
recover him afterwards. But if I couldn't... I thought the stakes were high
enough that the sacrifice was worth it." He finally looked Mulder in the
eye, grim and defiant. "I didn't like doing it." His gaze broke, and he
stared into the distance again. "I've had to do a lot of things I didn't
like. And sometimes it wasn't worth the price I had to pay. But this
time... poor Dmitri was forfeit the minute he survived that holocaust. At
least with me he had a chance."

It was horrifyingly believable. And Krycek's regret, too, spilling
reluctantly out of him, was sweet balm to Mulder's anger. But where did a
broken nose fit into this seductive tale?

"Then why did you beat him?"

Krycek gave a slight shake of his head. "I had to know what he knew.
I had to get him to talk to me, but he was afraid of the soldiers, and of
me, and he tried to run away, and he lied pathetically about everything. I
had to find out what he saw, and I couldn't afford the time it would have
taken to be kind and win his trust. It wouldn't have been any favor to
him, anyway, considering what came after."

"So you beat him." Mulder found that he was angry again. <I had to
know, and so I beat him.> Then he put on that pretty look of repressed
pain, and said that he was sorry, and expected his crimes to be justified.
Sometimes sorry wasn't enough. Sometimes it wasn't anything at all.

Krycek looked at him dully, as if he knew what Mulder was thinking,
and had suddenly given up trying to explain. "Yeah."

And the boy forgave him. How could he forgive it--the terror, the
pain, the assault? "It's Stockholm Syndrome, you know."

The dull look disappeared, to be replaced by wariness. "What?"

"The boy. Dmitri. You've terrorized him into depending on you, and
now he'll do anything to please you, to keep you from hurting him again.
It's fear, not forgiveness."

Krycek shrugged. Something in his face hardened. "It really bothers
you, doesn't it? The idea that anyone could forgive me."

Mulder found himself leaning forward on the couch, hands clenching
into fists. "He's a scared kid."

"Or maybe he's just more forgiving than some people."

Mulder was on his feet, and had taken two steps towards Krycek before
he could stop himself. "Some people you never bothered to ask for
forgiveness."

Krycek had also jumped to his feet, into a fighter's stance, hard and
ready. But his voice, when he spoke, was quiet and intense and full of
sharp little needles. "Would it have done any good?"

Mulder closed the distance between them, and stood eye to eye with
him, staring hard, as if the force of his gaze could give him the answers
he wanted. But Krycek gave him nothing, as always. Only his presence, so
close, that filled Mulder with a terrible need, that he had no idea how to
satisfy. Mulder forced a deep breath, and then another, and then a harsh
smile. He whispered, "Try me."

Breathing hard, Krycek tried to step back, but his foot hit the chair
behind him and he stopped, huge eyes glittering. His tongue came out and
licked his lower lip, leaving it shiny. For a moment, he was open wide,
and the pain rushed out of him, and flowed over Mulder like an offering.
Then it was gone, and his only response was a slow shake of the head.

No! It was unacceptable. He couldn't be allowed to get away with it.
He had to pay--for what he did to Mulder, or for what he did to Dmitri, or
for something, but he had to pay. Mulder's hand swiped out and caught
Krycek by the back of the neck, pulling him close, and Mulder's mouth came
down hard on Krycek's.

They both froze for an instant, Mulder just as shocked as Krycek by
what he'd done. But only for an instant. Mulder felt a blaze erupt in him,
a horrible satisfaction that made him feel huge and powerful and almost
unbearably good. He pulled Krycek closer, pressed his mouth harder,
forcing Krycek's mouth open and pushing his tongue inside. Krycek's soft
lips stretched wide. Inside he was hot and sweet. Mulder wrapped his arm
around Krycek's back and pressed his thigh between his legs. Strong,
muscular legs, now straining to keep their balance as Mulder kept pushing
forward.

It was dizzyingly good. Gasping for breath, Mulder broke the kiss,
grinning terribly, intoxicated by the sight of Krycek's lips, wet from
Mulder's mouth, and the hazy look in his eyes. God, it was sweet.
Unthinking, his fist drew back to strike--

Krycek at once pushed forward, forcing Mulder back, then turned and
rolled out of Mulder's grasp and away.

They stood staring at each other. Mulder's sense of overwhelming
power burst and dissipated, like a punctured balloon, leaving him shaking
and horrified. Krycek looked no better. He was red-faced and breathing
harshly. His mouth worked, but no words came out. Then he shook his head
and turned towards the door.

It couldn't be left like this. Mulder struggled for words, but none
came. His feet felt rooted to the floor. And he could do nothing, nothing
at all, while Krycek slipped away without looking back, closing the door
quietly behind him.

Mulder's hand shook as he shaved the next morning. Too many sleepless
nights, sitting on his couch until sheer exhaustion took him, dozing a few
hours in his clothes before getting up to go through it all over again.
Last night had been no different. Krycek had been here and then he was
gone. Mulder got nothing from him but aggravation and lies. Another kiss
that meant nothing, just more power games and maneuvering between them. It
was no different. Except that the feel of Krycek's plush lips were on his
mouth now, not just on his cheek. Except that he'd shoved his tongue down
Krycek's throat--hard to call that a comradely Russian kiss. And if he
hadn't gone ballistic and lifted his arm to strike, who knew how far he
would have gone? Or how far Krycek would have let him go? Or why? More
questions; that was all Krycek brought, or ever brought. More questions
and confusion and sleepless nights.

And now Krycek was gone again. Would he come back this time, after
what had happened? Or was he gone for another six months, another year,
until the next time he showed up out of nowhere, to disrupt Mulder's life
and his sleep one more time?

The razor slipped, and Mulder jerked his hand away, swearing. Two
small drops of blood welled along his cheek. He put the razor down and
closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. He couldn't let Krycek do this to
him. It would be just as well if he didn't come back. Then maybe Mulder
could forget, wipe the memory out of his mind, at least until the next
time....

He managed to avoid Scully for most of the morning by burying himself
in the Bureau's endless files, digging up obscure records only marginally
related to the case they were working on. But his head ached from the lack
of sleep, and his eyes kept wanting to cross, and even if he had stumbled
across anything useful he'd have been too fuzzy-headed to recognize it. So
eventually he sighed, and sneezed in the dust, and went back to his office.
He paused at the door, fingering the lock, then shook his head in
self-disgust and left the door unlocked. It was ridiculous to hide from
her--she was his best friend, his only friend, the only one who understood
anything, even if she was feeling irritated with him these days for some
reason. Hell, he was irritated with himself--no reason Scully should be
any different. And he'd only alienate her further by running away from
her. Besides, locking the door would be a useless gesture--if she came
down here and found the door locked, she'd knock, and he'd have to let her
in, and then he'd have to try to explain why he'd locked the door, and he'd
only end up making things worse. Better just to accept the inevitable.

He was on his fourth cup of coffee when Scully tapped at his door and
poked her head in. The caffeine had made him jittery and sent his scattered
thoughts racing uselessly around his head, but hadn't made a dent in the
searing exhaustion that wrung out his senses. He jumped at her knock,
nearly upset his cup, and swore to himself as he gestured her in, feeling
his shoulders tense, angry with himself for letting things get so
strained. She stood before his desk, watching him, worrying at her lower
lip.

She looked tired, too, he thought. The burns on her face stood out
sharply against her pale skin, and there were violet smudges under her
eyes. How long had she been like this? Had it been days, and he just
hadn't noticed? She was always so calm, so controlled--it was too easy to
assume that everything was all right with her, that none of this affected
her as it did him, but of course that was selfish and absurd. She was the
one who'd been abducted, experimented on, implanted, made sterile, her
sister murdered, given cancer, nearly led to her death in a fiery
holocaust. All because of him, and his pointless quest. If he really
allowed himself to stop and think about it, he'd drown in guilt.

"Hey, Scully." He could hear how tentative and awkward he sounded.
"You look tired."

"So do you. Did you find out anything more from Dmitri?" She
continued to stand in front of his desk, arms crossed. She was hard as
stone, an alabaster statue before him.

He swallowed. "No, not really. I didn't-- It wasn't--" He lowered his
gaze suddenly, unable to look at her. "I thought I would just stay with him
for a little while. He's so alone--" (A lonely teenaged boy, sister lost,
no one to talk to--) "I didn't want him to have to think that Krycek was
the only person here he could depend on. I didn't want him to be so
scared."

Scully's voice softened. "That was probably a good idea." He looked
up at her again. She wasn't smiling, but she was no longer made of stone,
either. He felt something loosen in his chest. "And what about Krycek?
Have you seen him again?"

He hoped she couldn't see his face growing hot. "Yeah, he came by my
apartment last night. We talked. He told me he'd been planning to use
Dmitri as a kind of Trojan horse, to expose his enemies to the black oil.
Dmitri was safe from it, because he'd been vaccinated. He hoped to be able
to recover the boy afterwards, and send him safely home."

Clearly, she was not appeased. Mulder didn't know that he was,
either. The stakes were high, no doubt of that--if Krycek had been telling
the truth, or believed that he was telling the truth, the entire human race
was in danger. Was it justified for him to use and torture one teenaged
boy, if the future of humanity was at stake? Mulder didn't know, and he
didn't want to know--what if some day someone told him that Samantha's
sacrifice had been necessary for the survival of the human race? His own
pain and suffering, and Scully's? His father's death? He wasn't ready to
face those questions yet.

"Then what happened? How did Dmitri end up on the bridge?"

Mulder felt his face blaze again. That was part of the conversation
they hadn't gotten to. "I think someone stole Dmitri away from him before
he got the chance to make the trade." Marita. "But then the black oil got
to whoever it was, and the boy got away. He had the implant; he was called
to the site in Pennsylvania, just like he was to the one in Kazakhstan." He
hadn't heard from Marita since her phone call telling him she had someone
from the Kazakhstan site. Her office said she'd been called away. Was she
dead, a victim of the black oil?

Scully shook her head in amazement. "He survived two of the mass
burnings, a severe beating, infection by the black oil--it's a miracle
he's still alive."

Mulder nodded. "We have to help him. Even if it means helping Krycek
too."

Scully sighed. "All right, Mulder. What do you want to do?"

He wasn't prepared for her agreement. He felt his face go red a third
time, as he shrugged helplessly. "I don't know."

There wasn't really much they could do--Mulder needed to talk to
Krycek again, and he wasn't eager to tell Scully he was not at all sure he
would even see Krycek again, after assaulting him last night. But assume
that Krycek was desperate enough for help that he'd be back, and that they
would manage to keep their hands off each other long enough to make plans.
Meanwhile, all they could do was keep an eye on Dmitri and make sure he
was safe and comfortable.

To that end, Mulder headed back to the hospital after work to check
in on the boy.

He really shouldn't have been so surprised, Mulder thought. He should
have been prepared for the possibility that Krycek might be here with the
boy. But the sight still sent his heart into his throat--Krycek sitting on
the edge of the boy's bed, all leather and heat and purposeful intensity,
trying valiantly to smile while Dmitri tugged at the left sleeve of his
leather jacket. Mulder froze in the doorway. It was a private moment; he
shouldn't intrude--but he couldn't take his eyes off them: Krycek, holding
himself stiff and tightly controlled; Dmitri, with his swollen, bandaged
nose and crusted burns and fading bruises, curiosity bright in his pale
eyes, talking softly in Russian as he pulled the jacket down off Krycek's
shoulder. He wanted to see the prosthetic arm, the stump of the
shoulder--and Krycek was allowing it. What had Krycek told him about it?
Had he told Dmitri about Tunguska, and the gulag, and the men who cut off
their arms to avoid being infected by the black oil? There was a strange
sort of symmetry to it: Krycek's amputated arm, Dmitri's oil-invaded body.

Intent on the boy, Krycek appeared not to notice the intrusion--but
Mulder was convinced that Krycek knew he was there, just the same. Krycek
hadn't flinched, hadn't sent even the beginning of a glance toward the
door; but somehow, Mulder could feel Krycek's awareness of his presence,
just as he could feel Krycek's. It was something in the air, heavy and
dark and almost sweet, like the tinge of ozone that presages a storm.

The leather jacket slid down Krycek's left arm. He wore only a
short-sleeved white cotton tee-shirt underneath, exposing the smooth
flesh-colored plastic of the prosthetic. Dmitri stroked it, handling the
jointed elbow and fingers, his brow furrowed in concentration.

Krycek was holding himself still as
death, answering Dmitri's
questions in a voice too measured to tremble. Perfectly controlled, Krycek
offered his disfigurement to the boy, and it made Mulder unreasonably
angry, as just about everything else about Krycek made him angry. It hurt
Krycek to let his false arm be exposed, but he let the boy have it, the
pain only showing in his unnatural calm.

Then Dmitri raised his hand to Krycek's shirt sleeve, IV tube
trailing from his arm, and began to push the sleeve up. He wanted to see
the whole arm, right up to the ruined shoulder, where the prosthetic met
flesh. Still motionless, Krycek sucked in air, as if the boy had plunged a
knife into him. But when Dmitri blinked at him, he nodded for him to go on,
and even shifted to allow the boy easier access to his shoulder. His
breathing had quickened, though, and he licked his lips shiny and wet.

Mulder barely suppressed his own gasp. He felt a flush that seemed to
streak through his entire body, leaving him hot and shaky. It was a
horribly intimate moment, and Mulder couldn't bear it. Unbidden, the
thought streaked across his consciousness: <I'm going to have to fuck him
or kill him.> Mulder was shocked by his own thought. But it was as
undeniable as the heat in his belly. Dmitri ran his slender fingers along
the edge of the prosthetic, sliding his thumb beneath the elastic strap
that attached the prosthetic arm to Krycek's body. <Kill him or fuck him.>
But he couldn't kill him, not now, with Dmitri and the aliens and the
FBI... so that meant he had to fuck him. Fuck him raw, fuck him into the
ground, fuck him senseless... Mulder felt the words repeat, almost ringing
in his ears, like a mantra, a chant, that somehow eased the terrible
roiling in his mind. It was a plan, whether it made sense or not: a way to
deal with the unbearable feelings Krycek aroused, and he had to do
something or he'd go mad.

He was sure he could do it. Krycek hadn't resisted Mulder's kiss last
night, he'd only broken away when Mulder had turned violent. He hadn't
really responded to it, either, but then Mulder hadn't given him much
chance to respond. He'd gotten away easily enough, though, when he wanted
to. If he'd felt the need to break away from the kiss, he could have done
that too.

Mulder could have done it last night, and everything would have been
settled--if only he hadn't lost control and tried to hit him. Now, it was
going to be more difficult. Krycek would be wary. He wasn't willing to let
himself be abused. So Mulder would have to be careful. Make his move
slowly, with no violence or roughness. Maybe even make Krycek believe he'd
forgiven him. It didn't matter what he had to do, as long as he got Krycek
to drop his pants and bend over. Then maybe, at last, Mulder would find a
little peace.

Dmitri smoothed the sleeve back down over Krycek's shoulder, and lay
back in the bed, his inspection over. "Hello, Mulder," Krycek murmured
softly, not looking up, as he pulled his leather jacket back on. Dmitri
looked toward the doorway, a pleased smile spreading across his battered
face, and repeated, "Hello, Mulder," in his soft Russian voice.

Mulder put on a friendly smile, struggling to regain his composure.
"Hi, Dmitri." Then he turned to Krycek, letting the smile fade, biting his
lip. "We need to talk."

Krycek nodded, still gazing down at the boy. Was he unwilling to face
Mulder, with his arm's naked display still looming large in the room? He
put his hand--his flesh and blood hand--on Dmitri's shoulder, and said
something that sounded like leave-taking.

The boy stretched out his arms, and Krycek gathered him up, holding
him with his flesh and plastic arms, kissing him briefly but firmly on the
lips. Mulder shifted uncomfortably. He told himself it was custom, and
purely innocent, but still it made him cringe to watch Krycek kiss this
child, his victim.

Then Krycek stood up from the bed, and Dmitri turned to Mulder,
reaching out his arms to him, smiling hopefully. Krycek said something
softly, in Russian, and Dmitri's arms fell, and his smile turned to
disappointment.

Krycek started toward the door, but Mulder stepped in front of him
with a minute shake of his head. Krycek shrugged and moved to stand by the
wall. Probably he was only trying to give Mulder a few moments alone with
Dmitri--but he might also decide to take the opportunity to slip away, and
Mulder wasn't ready to lose track of him for another night. So Krycek
watched while Mulder went to the bed and stood over the boy, who looked up
at him with a tentative smile.

So now what? Shake the boy's hand and take his leave, in the way his
restrained New England upbringing had taught him? Dmitri was clearly used
to easy physical expressions of affection, and Mulder's distance would
seem like a rejection. And there was no way to explain it to him. If
Mulder truly wanted to help the boy, he would have to offer him the sort
of friendship he would understand. So he put away his own discomfort, and
sat down on the bed, bending over the boy to embrace him.

Dmitri's response was eager and warm. Slender fingers dug into
Mulder's upper arms, and a hard little mouth, still cracked and scabbed
from sutures and fists and fires, pressed briefly into Mulder's. It was
over in a moment, nothing troubling about it. Still, Mulder felt his anger
flare again. The boy seemed so thin and fragile, the burns and bruises so
heart-wrenching on his face. Mulder wanted to touch them, to stroke them
away, but the throbbing pulse in his groin made mockery of his tenderness.
It was Krycek's fault--for kissing him, for kissing the boy, for twisting
it all up until everything good seemed evil, and evil seemed like the only
sensible thing to do. He felt that the boy was being used as a pawn in some
sort of horrible game between them, but there were no rules and no sense to
it, and no way out.

Except that he would fuck Krycek, and everything would be all right.
The thought was an immediate balm to his troubled mind. He managed to
smile at Dmitri, saying, "I'm glad to see you're feeling better. I'll
visit you again later." He couldn't quite resist brushing his fingertips
across the boy's temple, ever so lightly. Dmitri just beamed at him,
uncomprehending.

Mulder took a deep breath and stood up. Krycek remained by the wall,
regarding them with a strange, almost unhappy, expression. Mulder wanted
to be angry again--what did he have to be unhappy about? But it was an
absurd question, and even Mulder knew it--the plastic left arm under that
leather jacket was one obvious answer.

He nodded to Krycek and headed for the door. Krycek peeled himself
from the wall and followed. Did he seem slightly unsteady on his feet? Was
it all taking its toll on him, too? He'd been exhausted yesterday, and
wasn't likely to have gotten a good night's sleep in the meantime, if he
was staying on the move. Good enough, he'd have less energy to resist.

They walked in silence to the elevator, and remained in silence
throughout the ride to the ground floor. Mulder closed his eyes and leaned
heavily against the side wall of the elevator, shoulder and forehead
pressed against the plastic paneling. He was going to have to get some
sleep soon, or he'd just fall over unconscious where he stood. It wasn't
until they stepped out onto the sidewalk that Mulder spoke.

"We'll go to my place."

Krycek stopped. "Why don't we just go back to that diner?"

It hadn't occurred to Mulder that he would be wary of returning to
Mulder's apartment. This was going to make things more difficult. He had
to get Krycek alone somewhere. Well, never mind, say anything, just get
him there.

"Look, about that... last night." He paused, struggling for words. He
couldn't quite force himself to say he was sorry. "It won't happen again."

Krycek looked away, his mouth tight. It hurt him to hear Mulder's
attempts at apologies, which Mulder found darkly satisfying. He went on,
"Look, I'm tired, I want to go home. Just come, all right?"

Krycek made a small, exasperated noise. "Yeah, okay."

Mulder couldn't quite believe how relieved he was. It would happen
now, he was sure of it. And everything would be all right.


By the time they reached be apartment, though, Mulder could feel
himself crashing hard. The relief of finally having a plan for dealing
with Krycek had robbed him of his nervous adrenaline, and the long string
of sleepless nights was at last catching up to him. His hands trembled as
he fumbled for the key to his door, and he nearly stumbled across the
threshold. Ignoring Krycek, he staggered into the living room and fell
heavily onto the sofa.

Krycek stood wavering in the doorway. His eyes were red-rimmed and he
was having trouble keeping them open. Sleep. They both needed sleep.

No help for it, Mulder just managed to think. The body had reached
its limit. "Go to bed," he ordered weakly, not caring how his instructions
sounded. "I'm going to sleep here. You can take the bed. We'll talk about
it...." He could barely keep track of his sentences. "Later." He was
already half asleep. Forget about changing clothes, just get a pillow
under his head... and he sank inexorably into darkness.

When Mulder woke, daylight had faded to deep night, and he was cold
and uncomfortable in his work clothes, half-lying on the couch, his feet
still on the floor. But he had slept deeply for what must have been hours,
and although he knew it would take more hours before he'd truly made up his
sleep deficit, he felt reasonably rested and able to cope. He pushed
himself to a sitting position, yawning, shrugging at his coat and
loosening his tie. For once, he'd slept without troubling dreams, without
constant starts to wakefulness, without Krycek haunting him--

Krycek. Mulder was on his feet before he had time to think. Where was
he? Had he gotten away again, to leave Mulder in torment? Damn his
exhaustion, he'd almost had him.

He rushed to the bedroom. Ridiculous to expect Krycek to be here--but
there he was, lying sprawled across Mulder's bed in his tee-shirt and
jeans, leather jacket crumpled beside him, sound asleep. He lay on his
back, face pale in the street light spilling through the unshaded window,
prosthetic arm emerging from his shirt sleeve, lying at his side, shiny
and lifeless. Mulder stepped into the room, staring down at him, his heart
suddenly pounding. Krycek in his bed. So close.... Did he look innocent in
his sleep? Mulder couldn't say that he did. Not with a week's stubble, and
that plastic arm--or the betrayal that Mulder knew lurked behind that
deceptively youthful face. But there was something ethereal about him,
lying here in the dark, his round lips slightly parted, long lashes almost
unnaturally thick and black against his pale cheeks. Or maybe it was just
that, having made the decision to fuck him, he was now seeing Krycek in a
new light, measuring his sexual attractiveness, like a wild animal
selecting its mate. Krycek was certainly fine specimen, physically,
despite the lost arm. Strong and graceful and even pretty. What would he
look like naked, lying on his stomach, legs spread for the taking? Mulder
took an awkward step, shoe hitting the floor harder than he'd meant it to,
and Krycek stirred.

No threat, Mulder warned himself, forcing a gentle smile. "Hi. Didn't
mean to wake you."

Krycek pushed himself up onto one elbow, blinking. The other arm, the
false one, hung from his shoulder like a dead thing. "What time is it?"

"I don't know. Late. Or early, depending on how you look at it."

Krycek nodded, as if he'd actually gotten an answer. He yawned,
craning his neck down to his side, so that he could rub his eyes with his
fingers. "I feel like that's the first sleep I've gotten in years."

"Me too." Mulder felt his smile coming more easily now, even
naturally. Krycek was relaxed, suspecting nothing. Everything was going
fine, if only he didn't spook now. Mulder moved toward him and sat on the
edge of the bed.

Krycek shifted, moving his prosthetic arm as if he'd just now noticed
it was there, trying to get the elbow under him for more support. He was
making no attempt to hide or cover the arm, so Mulder supposed he'd lost
his shyness about it that afternoon. Tentatively, Mulder reached across
him to touch it, watching for signs of resistance. But Krycek remained
calm, even indifferent. Mulder stroked the arm above the jointed elbow. It
was just smooth plastic, slightly cool to the touch, nothing more. Could
Krycek feel that he was being touched? Did the pressure of Mulder's hand,
however light, transmit itself to the flesh above? He ran his hand up the
arm, beneath the sleeve, until his fingers met warm skin. He stroked
absently for a moment, watching Krycek's eyes drift closed, like a sleepy
cat being petted.

"What did you tell Dmitri about it?" Not, perhaps, the topic of
conversation most conducive to Mulder's ends, but he'd already betrayed
his interest in the arm, and besides, he wanted to know.

"That it happened while I was fighting the same enemy that had
destroyed his family."

Clever. And not even necessarily a lie. "What have you told him about
it all? The black cancer and the mass abductions?"

"I've tried not to tell him too much. I want him out of it--he should
be able to live his life in peace, without having to worry about alien
invasions and the end of the world." Krycek sighed, and smiled a little.
"I've told him it was secret projects and spy stuff. Hell, he was a
ten-year-old Russian living in Kazakhstan during the breakup of the Soviet
Union--he knows all about governments and their games."

Mulder smiled back, still caressing Krycek's shoulder under the
sleeve. The skin was soft and warm and pleasant to the touch. Strange to
feel it end here, in cold, hard plastic. He felt himself drifting, as
lulled by the quiet intimacy of the moment as the other man. He moved his
hand away, then, and smoothed Krycek's sleeve down, feeling the ridge of
the prosthesis pressing against flesh beneath the thin cotton. He
remembered Tunguska, and the man in his cabin, holding a huge machete in
his hand, ready to chop off Mulder's arm to save him from the tests with
the black oil. No hospitals, no anaesthetics--just desperate men doing
what they thought they had to do to survive. Krycek had suffered what
Mulder had barely escaped. He couldn't imagine it, although in his
nightmares he'd tried. The huge knife, slicing through muscle, severing
arteries, crushing bone.... "What did it feel like?" he found himself
asking, in a voice low and husky--and instantly regretted it.
Demonstrating his sick fascination with the man's pain was not the way to
seduce him.

Krycek stared. His mouth worked, and his eyes were like chips of
stone. Mulder thought for a moment he was going to get up and leave. But
then he drew a ragged breath and lay back, closing his eyes briefly, then
staring at the ceiling thoughtfully. "It was huge," he said at last, "the
pain...." He paused, frowning, searching for words. It occurred to Mulder
that perhaps, after all this time, he wanted to talk about it. "So huge...
it was everything, forever. It was deep and thick and sharp, all at the
same time. It was so horrible...." He paused again, and took a deep
breath. "It felt like death." He closed his eyes again, and swallowed,
bringing his hand up to his forehead. Mulder could feel the heat coming
off him.

All sense, all cunning cast aside, Mulder bent down and let his lips
meet Krycek's. A brief kiss, chaste, no more than he'd given Dmitri. But
his heart was pounding. He kissed Krycek's mouth again, as he had before,
then pulled back far enough to see Krycek's expression.

Calm. Accepting. It was--god, it was the way he'd offered himself to
Dmitri, in penance for his sins. Was he now offering himself to Mulder the
same way?

Strangely, Mulder now felt a twinge of reluctance. Although, wasn't
that what he wanted him for? Penance? Krycek's guilt and pain, in return
for his betrayal? But he hadn't quite gotten as far as thinking that the
act of his submission might bring a measure of ease to Krycek, too. <Some
people you never bothered to ask for forgiveness,> he'd accused, and,
<Would it have done any good?> Krycek had asked. Not, <I don't want your
forgiveness.> Not, <I don't care what I did to you.> Willing to make
amends, as long as the effort was not a lost cause. Unwilling to take on
more pain, but willing to share what he had, if it would bring comfort to
them both.

No. Mulder wasn't ready for that. It implied forgiveness, and there
was no forgiveness here. No forgiveness--only a burning need that demanded
satisfaction. He only had to be gentle enough to make Krycek lie still for
it. If the man mistakenly assumed it meant more than it did, that was his
problem.

Mulder bent down again, and pressed his mouth to Krycek's, this time
letting the kiss linger, becoming unmistakably sexual. He stretched out
his body, drawing his knees up onto the bed until he was lying next to
Krycek, and brought his elbows down on either side of Krycek's chest. And
he kissed him slowly, exploring the feel and taste of those plush, round
lips, letting his tongue flick between them, dampening them.

Krycek groaned, and his arms came up to encircle Mulder's back, one
warm, firm flesh, the other hard, cool plastic. It was an odd feeling, but
not an unpleasant one. The living fingers dug into his back, and Krycek's
upper body lifted to meet his, heaving chest pressed against him.

Mulder let his mouth roam over Krycek's face, nuzzling the unshaven
cheeks, nibbling the lobes of his small, neat ears, then returned to his
lips, hungry now, demanding, forcing his tongue into the wet cavern of his
mouth. Krycek took him in, opening his own mouth wide, as if he would
swallow Mulder up. Mulder almost laughed at the limitless abandon of it,
but instead he gripped Krycek's upper arms--both real and fake, like the
man himself--and bore down harder, sent his tongue in deeper, until his
jaws ached and his head spun.

At last he pushed back, sitting up on his knees, gasping for breath,
and began to unbutton his shirt. Krycek looked up at him, mouth shiny and
wet, eyes bright. His expression was strange, almost grim, as if there
were serious work to be done. Mulder almost laughed again, turned it into
a grimace, and pushed himself to his feet to finish undressing. It seemed
that neither of them was in this purely for the pleasure of it.

Krycek worked his prosthetic elbow under himself, and reached down to
unbutton his jeans with one hand. Mulder had never considered how awkward
it must be to dress and undress with only one arm. Should he help? But
that would probably only embarrass him. Instead, Mulder turned away, under
cover of draping his clothing across a chair, and left Krycek in
semi-privacy to get his pants off.

Presently, he heard the sound of Krycek's jeans hitting the floor. It
sent a flush to his face, and he hurried to finish getting his own clothes
off, scattering socks and underwear like wind-blown leaves. When he turned
back to the bed, Krycek was sitting up, naked below the waist, attempting
to get a grip on his tee-shirt hem with his prosthetic hand. Too impatient
to coddle Krycek's sensitivities any longer, Mulder knelt beside him on the
bed and pushed his hands aside, then pulled the tee-shirt over his head.
Krycek cooperated as best he could--the prosthesis was not as maneuverable
as the real arm, and the shirt tangled over it for a moment, but Mulder
just took him firmly by the shoulder and worked it free, tossing it in the
floor with the rest of his clothes. Krycek allowed this, as he'd allowed
the rest of it, only the tightening of his mouth betraying any ambivalence
about having his damaged arm handled. He rubbed his shoulder briefly.

Mulder sat regarding the prosthesis. "Do you want to take it off?"
Krycek looked away, frowning, with a slight shake of his head. He
gripped the arm just above the elbow, as if afraid Mulder would try to
take it from him
"Okay. It's okay, Krycek, I don't mind it. I just thought you might
be more comfortable without it." He didn't have to make an effort to put
the gentleness in his voice. Hell, tormenting the guy about his disability
was not what this was about. In fact, he was impatient with it already.

Krycek closed his eyes briefly, took a breath. A visible wash of calm
settled over him, the grip on his arm loosened, and he looked back at
Mulder, a faint smile on his face.

It was beautiful the way he did that: a deep breath, an effort of
will, and his perfect control was back. Mulder was tempted to envy
him--although he knew quite well that self-control had never been one of
his primary goals. What would it take to shatter that control? Mulder had
a sudden desire to see him thrashing, twisting, squirming, out of control.
His cock jumped at the thought. Twisting and squirming with Mulder's cock
up his ass. He smiled back, amused to know that Krycek had no idea why he
was really smiling.

And now what? Lay him down and kiss him some more? That had been
nice. Touch him all over, feel his cock and balls, pinch his nipples, work
him up into a nice frenzy before turning him over and shoving it into him?
Make him suck it for a while first? Such a nice round mouth, just made for
cocksucking. How many other cocks had been down that throat, up that ass?
He was far too accepting of all this to be a virgin. Too pretty not to
have been approached. Probably a slut who'd sit on it for anybody.

Mulder's breath grew hot and sharp in his lungs. The terrible need
was back. And now, at last, he could fulfill it.

"I want to fuck you."

Krycek's smile turned ironic. "Why does that not surprise me?"

"Good. It wasn't my plan to surprise you." Mulder put a hand on
Krycek's shoulder, and pushed him back down on the bed. Another leisurely
kiss, even better now that he could press his bare body into Krycek's,
feel skin on skin, let his full cock slide over Krycek's thigh. The feel
of the prosthetic arm on his back was stranger now, with no cloth between
it and the bare skin of his back. But the other arm... hand massaging its
way down his spine, stroking his butt, fingers drifting over his tailbone,
teasing, then sliding back up to dig into the back of his neck, through his
hair--Mulder didn't know if he'd be able to take two arms working him like
that. The man was a menace. And he was kissing back, now, too--hungrily,
using his tongue as deftly as he used his hand, and his thigh was
squirming between Mulder's legs, rubbing against the underside of his
cock, threatening to push him over the edge here and now.

Mulder pulled away, growling in his throat. "Turn over, bitch."

Krycek chuckled softly. "Like to talk dirty, huh? Get that from your
phone sex habit?"

Mulder clutched at Krycek's thigh, ran his hand between Krycek's
legs, scooped up his balls, kneading them, just on the edge of roughness.
"Bitch. Cunt."

"I'm not impressed, Mulder." Still maddeningly controlled. But there
was a hint of breathiness in his voice.

"Cocksucker."

"Better. Work for it, sweetheart."

Mulder gave Krycek's balls one last pull, making his hips jerk, then
released them to take hold of his cock, squeezing it hard, pressing his
thumb over the tip. Krycek gave a squeaky moan, his back arching off the
mattress.

"You goddamn lying bastard. Murdering treacherous son of a bitch."

"Yeah," Krycek whispered. His hand slid up the back of Mulder's neck,
tightened in his hair.

"Whore. God, I want to fuck you."

Krycek pushed away, heaved himself over onto his stomach. "Do it. Do
it."


There was a red haze behind Mulder's eyes as he scrabbled in the
nightstand drawer for a condom and the plastic bottle of lubricant he used
for masturbating. Biting his lip, cursing under his breath, he tore open
the condom and rolled it over his cock with trembling hands. Then he
flipped the top of the lubricant bottle and poured a generous amount into
his hand. Still swearing to himself, he touched Krycek's tailbone with
slick fingers, slid his hand down between firm, round buttocks, drawing in
a sharp breath when his fingers found the bud of Krycek's anus. He stroked
it, letting the lubricant run down his fingers and drip into the tight
depression of Krycek's ass. The flesh here was hot and tender. He pressed
one finger in, and felt the ring of muscle give, felt his finger slide
within.

Krycek moaned, and gripped the pillow, digging into it with his
fingers. The muscles in his back twitched. Mulder pushed his finger in
deeper, up to the last knuckle, moving it inside him, feeling the heat of
him, the moist give of flesh, gasping with the pleasure of it. He pulled
out and went in with two fingers, and he slid in easily, meeting no
resistance. How many cocks? Enough. Enough--and now one more.

He pulled his fingers free, and knelt back to pour more lubricant
into his hand, and spread it over his aching cock. Then he mounted
Krycek's back, pushing his legs apart with his knees, and guided his cock
between Krycek's buttocks.

Despite the ease with which his fingers went in, Mulder was prepared
to go slowly, but as soon as his cock found the puckered entrance, Krycek
pushed back, making noises like an animal, growling, "Give it to me,
fucker, give it to me," and Mulder was only too glad to oblige. He held
himself in check only until Krycek had worked the head of Mulder's cock
past his sphincter, then he thrust hard and drove it home. Krycek squealed
and pounded the mattress with his fist; Mulder felt a triumphant shout
welling up inside his throat. Krycek was magnificent--thoroughly impaled
on Mulder's cock, squirming and growling, his beautiful control gone. His
ass was tight and hot and Mulder was up to his balls in it, pounding him
hard, and it was perfect, and Mulder wanted it to go on forever--

And then he was gripping Krycek's shoulders as tightly as his fingers
would hold, jamming his cock in to the limit, and the shout tore loose from
his throat, as he pulsed out an orgasm so strong his ears were ringing.

Too soon. Too good to be over so soon. Gasping, Mulder started
thrusting again, and Krycek moved with him, lifting his hips, arching them
up to take Mulder's thrusts at their deepest angle. Laughing softly with
pure joy, Mulder worked his arms around Krycek's body, one hard across his
heaving chest, the other sliding down to grip Krycek's cock. Wet with
sweat, and then with precum, his fist became a slick channel for Krycek to
pump into, and brief moments later, Krycek gasped and came, collapsing onto
the mattress with a strangled cry.

Mulder barely had the strength to pull out and strip the condom from
his softening cock and toss it into the trash. Rapidly spiralling down
into sleep, moving without thinking, he pulled up the covers, threw one
arm over Krycek's back, and let the darkness take him.

It was sometime in the early morning, with predawn light beginning to
brighten the room, when Mulder once again drifted awake. He lay still for a
moment, unused to waking in his bed. Unused to waking with someone else in
his bed with him. They weren't touching, but he was keenly aware of
Krycek's presence--the soft sounds of his breathing, the gentle depression
in the mattress from the weight of his body. Alex Krycek, sleeping in his
bed. He remembered the brief, frantic coupling of a few hours ago,
replaying the actions and sensations in his mind: Krycek lying beneath
him, his strong body hot and slick with sweat, thrusting back onto
Mulder's cock, desperate animal sounds in his throat. His breath quickened
even as he thought about it. So good it had been; everything that Mulder
thought he wanted--and yet, had he really imagined that this would solve
anything? He looked over to where Krycek lay sleeping, curled up on his
side, back to Mulder. He was still the same man as before: capable of
horrible things, yet determinedly carrying out small acts of restitution
along the way; full of contradictions, beauty and evil; whatever core
there was of him elusive quicksilver, that Mulder would never touch.

So the seduction had brought him one burst of wild pleasure, a few
hours of rest--a physical release, nothing more. Well, let that be good
enough, and send the man on his way, and hope for Dmitri's sake that they
got out of the country safely. He might as well go back out to the living
room and spend what was left of the night on the couch. But he felt
strangely reluctant to move. It was warm here, and comfortable, and the
bed was big enough.

Mulder turned on his side, facing Krycek's broad back, and watched
the sleeping body. Krycek lay on his left side, the prosthetic arm tucked
under him, out of Mulder's sight. He was solidly built, with the
appearance of quiet strength. His skin was smooth and creamy. The sheet
draped across his hip, revealing only a teasing glimpse of the dimple of
his tailbone. That faint sheen might be a trace of lubricant still
clinging, but was probably only a trick of the light.

Mulder reached out his hand, placed the palm flat between Krycek's
shoulderblades. Just the lightest touch at first--he didn't want to wake
him, he just wanted to lie here quietly with him and think. But Krycek
remained motionless, dead asleep, so he pressed his hand more firmly
against Krycek's back, stroking a little, enjoying the heat of him, the
softness of his skin, the hard muscle beneath.

How could it feel so good to touch him? Just to lie here, with his
hand pressed against the middle of Krycek's back? He didn't know, and he
was fairly sure he didn't really want to know. There was just something
touchable about Krycek, and there always had been, right from the start,
although Mulder didn't like to think about those days now. But if he
ignored everything else and just remembered the physical Krycek, the
starched white shirts and cheap suits and long slender fingers and
dazzling smile, he remembered pressing his shoulder against Krycek's as
they sat huddled in front of a computer screen, putting a hand on Krycek's
shoulder or forearm to make a point, taking him by the elbow to hurry him
along; and it had felt so right, so natural that Mulder had never even
thought about it. And he remembered later days, when the hand had turned
into a fist, and the pat on the shoulder into a shove--and while the
contact was now driven by rage and hatred, there was still that
uncontrollable need to have his hands on him.

And now here he was in Mulder's bed, and Mulder had fucked him, and
far from seeming as it should like some unnatural aberration, there was a
strange inevitability about it, as if every touch from the very first time
Krycek had brushed passed him, leaving his heat imprinted on Mulder's arm
and his scent lingering in the air, had been leading inexorably up to this.

Mulder edged closer, still careful not to wake him, and let his hand
slip around Krycek's side and across his firm stomach. His body always
seemed to be several degrees hotter than Mulder's--he could feel the
delicious heat rising off him. Mulder eased himself forward, until he was
pressed tightly against Krycek's body, chest to back, groin to butt, thigh
to thigh. Krycek stirred slightly, making little sleep noises and settling
back against the body cradling him from behind. Still, he didn't wake. Did
he feel safe here, Mulder wondered? A man like Krycek didn't live long
falling defenselessly sound asleep in an enemy's stronghold. So did that
mean Krycek didn't think of him as an enemy? The image came back to Mulder
with the force of a blow: Krycek, bending down to him on the floor, soft
lips pressing against Mulder's cheek, then, unbelievably, uncocking his
gun and handing it over, and calmly walking away as if nothing at all had
happened.

Without thinking, Mulder bent his neck forward, and pressed his lips
to Krycek's cheek. <Now we're even,> he thought, and although he knew full
well the absurdity of it, he settled back with a faint smile on his face,
and went peacefully back to sleep.

When he woke again, it was full morning, and Mulder was alone in bed.
There was a moment of panic--visions of abandonment and betrayal and
endless nights of wondering: how long this time?--then he glanced across
the room, and there was Krycek, standing by the window, back to Mulder,
still undressed. Even more so, in fact--he'd taken off the prosthesis. It
lay on Mulder's chest of drawers, looking strangely formless, a thing of
plastic and metal and straps. Krycek was stretching, twisting his back,
rubbing the stump of his left arm. There were indentations where the
prosthesis fitted to the stump, and across his back where the straps had
dug. It must be uncomfortable to sleep with it on, Mulder thought, and so
much for Krycek feeling safe here, if he'd kept it on regardless. On the
other hand, he'd gone out like a light as soon as he'd come, and possibly
hadn't awakened to take it off until now. He must have been wearing it for
days now, never stopping long enough to rest, much less holing up anywhere
safe enough to risk stripping down to his skin. Mulder found that he was
glad that Krycek had the chance to do it here.

"Good morning, Mulder," Krycek said matter-of-factly, without turning
around. He lowered his arms--one whole and one cruelly shortened--and
reached out to snag the prosthesis from the chest of drawers. Then he
turned, looking sleek and content, and smiled benevolently at Mulder.
"Sleep well?"

Mulder propped himself up onto his elbow and nodded. "Want some help
with that?"

Krycek shook his head, mouth tightening briefly. Then, in a series of
smooth, practiced motions, he slipped the strap over his head, tucked his
arm through it, and pulled the prosthesis over the stump with a slight
wriggle to set it in place. He walked back over to the bed, adjusting the
buckles, and sat down with a satisfied smile.

Mulder grinned at him. "What are you going to do today?"

"Finish arrangements for the ID and visas. Try to get money for the
plane tickets. Check in with my current employer and see if I can figure
out a way to do this without burning my bridges behind me. Again." He
ticked it all off in that same matter-of-fact tone, as if he were talking
about picking up his laundry.

"What can I do?"

Krycek frowned thoughtfully at him for a moment. "I need a photo of
Dmitri for his passport. Preferably one where his face isn't all messed
up."

He could take a Polaroid at the hospital, and get the Lone Gunmen to
work their digital magic on it. It wouldn't look exactly like Dmitri,
probably, but the boy would still have bandages all over his face when he
left, so it should do. He thought Frohike had a digital camera he could
borrow--that would be even better. "I can do that. What else?"

"He needs clothes. His own things were ruined. A couple of pairs of
jeans, tee-shirts, underwear, things like that."

"Okay. What about you? Do you need underwear?"

Krycek smiled faintly. "I'll take care of my own underwear, thanks,
Mulder. Just take care of Mitya, all right?"

"Mitya?"

Krycek's cheeks went pink. "Short for Dmitri. Call him that when you
see him, will you? It will make him happy."

"All right. Anything else?"

"Just whatever he'll need for the trip. Toothbrush and things like
that. A duffel bag to put it all in."

"Russian comic books to read on the plane...."

Krycek chuckled. "If anybody could come up with something like that,
it would be you, Mulder." He stood, then, and began gathering up his
clothes from the floor. "Do you mind if I use your bathroom?"

"Help yourself," Mulder said, sitting up and untangling himself from
the sheet. "Just let me in there for a minute first, then it's all yours."

An hour later, they were both showered and dressed and ready to go to
work. Mulder smiled to see his houseguest, fresh-scrubbed and clean-shaven
and bright-eyed, armored in his leather and gloves, looking dark and
dangerous and stunningly beautiful. He wanted to take him in his arms, but
felt shy all of a sudden. Last night was already taking on the quality of a
dream, something he wasn't sure had really happened.

"I'll get the things for Dmitri--for Mitya--today. Will you come back
here tonight?" They'd take things slower tonight, Mulder thought. Just as
intense, but not quite so frenzied--

A shadow passed across Krycek's face. "Mulder...." He paused, chewing
on his lower lip. "We're leaving tonight. Dmitri's being released from the
hospital today--I thought you knew."

Mulder's stomach lurched. He could feel the heat rush to his face,
the sinking feeling in his gut. <No!> he wanted to protest. <You can't
disappear on me again, you can't leave me like this.> But that wasn't
fair, and he knew it. He'd always known Krycek was leaving as soon as he
could arrange to get himself and Dmitri out of the country. He'd agreed to
help him do it. He'd known Krycek was leaving, why should it be such a
knockout blow to him now?

But he hadn't spent the night with Krycek before. He hadn't known
that having his hands on him was all he needed to make the madness Krycek
induced go away. He hadn't known what it felt like to ride him, to feel
him bucking beneath him, to revel in his heat. He knew Krycek had to
leave, he just hadn't been prepared for it to be so soon. He was somehow
never prepared for Krycek to leave, even though he always did.

He forced a smile. "No, I didn't know. That's good. Are you sure
you'll be ready in time?" He knew the shock and dismay was plain on his
face, but he wilfully pretended it wasn't. What would be the point?

Krycek nodded shortly, as if to say he understood. "I'll be ready. If
you can get the photo and the things for Dmitri, I'll do the rest."

It would only take a few hours, Mulder thought, to arrange for the
photograph and buy some clothes for the boy. "I can do it. Where should we
meet?"

Krycek looked away, blinking, his mouth a hard line. His control was
better than Mulder's, but he was unhappy, too. This time, however, his
pain was not pleasant to watch. "You can bring the stuff to the hospital.
I'll be picking up Dmitri around three."

Mulder chafed. At the hospital, in public, with the boy watching, and
all those false Russian kisses. He didn't want it to be there, it was no
good, there had to be somewhere private, and they had to have more time.
There were things that had to be said. Mulder had no idea what those
things were, but even if he managed to figure them out, there would be no
chance to say them at the hospital. He could go with them to the airport,
maybe--another public place, and stretch the inevitable out even longer,
with no hope of accomplishing anything but making himself more miserable.
No, whatever goodbyes were to be said had to be here and now.

"All right. I'll meet you at the hospital at three."

Krycek nodded, and turned to walk to the door. With his hand on the
doorknob, he turned back. "Mulder. Thanks for... everything."

Mulder returned the nod, his heart in his throat. He had to say
something, damn it, but the words wouldn't come. He could only stand in
frozen misery while Krycek went out the door.

It was necessary to sit for a while on the couch after Krycek had
gone, to remember how to breathe, and to let his mind return to some
semblance of order. Eventually he reminded himself that he did have things
to do today, not the least of which was to make some sort of appearance at
the office and try not to annoy Scully any more than he already had. So he
forced himself up off the couch, and set out.

First stop was the Lone Gunmen offices, to talk Frohike into giving
up his digital camera for the morning, and extract his friends' promises
to help him with the photo, amid rude comments about kiddie porn and
Russian-American relations. It was good to be with them for that short
time, among people who weren't angry with him for unfathomable reasons,
who didn't drive him unreasoningly crazy, who didn't make him feel guilty,
who didn't ask him unanswerable questions. They just kidded him and made
stupid jokes, and if they noticed that Mulder was painfully unhappy, they
were kind enough or confused enough to pretend that they didn't. It was
tempting to stay there all morning, but he had too much to do. So as soon
as he could, he collected the camera and took his leave.

Still, he was seriously late for work, which did nothing to soften
Scully's attitude towards him. She cornered him only a few minutes after
he'd arrived at his office, pulling up a chair in front of his desk that
she neglected to sit in, and chewing on her lip in that way that she did
when she was trying not to tell him what an idiot he was.

"Have you had any news?" she asked.

"I saw Krycek last night." <Naked.> He shook his head and tried to
will his heart to stop pounding. If he were to tell her what had really
happened, was there the slightest chance that it wouldn't sound as if he'd
completely lost his mind? "He was at the hospital with Dmitri. Did I tell
you they cut off his arm in Tunguska?"

Her eyes widened. "Krycek? They cut off his arm?"

"Remember, I told you about the men in Tunguska who cut off their
left arms to avoid the tests with the black oil?" He was babbling, and he
knew it, but at least he wasn't saying, <I fucked Krycek last night,>
which was what seemed to keep wanting to come out of his mouth.

She nodded slowly. "How horrible. Even for Krycek."

"He was showing it to Dmitri when I got there. He has a prosthesis.
He's good with it--you'd hardly know it's not real." <Except when you're
stripping him, and it gets tangled up in his tee-shirt. But when he's
lying on his stomach getting fucked, you barely notice it. Except for the
strap across his back.> Next time, they'd take it off before they--

Next time? <There's not going to be any damned next time,> Mulder
told himself furiously. Krycek was going back to Russia tonight, and god
only knew when or if he'd be back, or under what circumstances, and Mulder
had just better put all thoughts of next time right out of his mind.

"It's a wonder he's alive at all, if it happened to him in the way
you described that it almost happened to you--no proper medical
facilities, no anaesthetic--it's barbaric." That was the doctor in her,
now, disapproving of it as a medical procedure.

"He said it hurt so much, it felt like death."

One eyebrow lifted. "He talked to you about it?"

Mulder shrugged, embarrassed for no reason he could fathom. "He
didn't seem to mind. It was over a year ago--I suppose by now he's dealt
with it."

"What else did you talk about?"

Not much, Mulder thought. Once again, they hadn't done much talking
at all. "He asked me to pick up some things for Dmitri. He's getting out
of the hospital today, and they're leaving tonight."

"Good," she said, in a tone that plainly meant, Good riddance.

It hurt. Mulder was honestly surprised by how much it hurt. And it
must have showed on his face, too, because Scully's expression instantly
turned to one of dismay.

"It's not good?" Despite the irritation that never quite left her
face, in the set of her jaw and the slight narrowing of her eyes, she
tried to understand him. But he didn't understand it himself--how in hell
could he want something so badly that was so clearly a disaster?

"Scully, why are you mad at me?" It came out without thinking: a
sudden refusal of his mind to think about Krycek any longer. Even Scully's
anger was preferable to Krycek's imminent departure.

She shook her head. "I'm not mad at you."

"Yes, you are. You've been angry with me for days now. Come on,
Scully, I'm dense, but I'm not that dense. What is it?"

She looked at him, considering. Reluctant, despite the tension at the
corners of her mouth. "Mulder, are you sure you want to go into this now?"

No. He laughed, a short pained noise, more an exhalation of breath
than a real laugh. "Is it that bad?"

She heaved a deep breath, staring at the wall, and nodded. "All
right." She turned, then, and walked over to the door, back across the
room to stop for a moment, her fist tapping twice against the file
cabinets wherein the X-Files rested, then finally settled against the end
of his desk, arms folded, glancing at him sidelong as she spoke. "Mulder,
do you remember our first case together? Teenagers were disappearing in
the woods in Oregon. You told me they were being abducted by aliens." She
gave a strained laugh, and Mulder managed to smile with her. "Then there
were mysterious lights in the sky over an Air Force base, and a test pilot
whose wife insisted he'd returned from being missing a different man. UFOs,
you said, and alien involvement. A serial killer you insisted was some sort
of genetic mutant who could stretch his body thinner than a baseball bat,
who lived on human livers. Need I go on?"

Mulder shook his head, but Scully had already turned away, to move
around to the front of his desk, where she stood facing him with a grim
look on her face. " 'Why can't you believe?' you asked me. 'Open your mind
to extreme possibilities.' With no solid evidence, no scientific basis, no
sensible logic, you've asked me to take you on faith, to follow you on
your quest for the truth. And I have. I've put my career, my life, my
health on the line for you, time and time again.

"And now...." She paused, looked away for a moment. There was pain in
her eyes--pain he'd put there, and he hated to see it. "Now, you've changed
your mind. It was all a hoax, everything we saw, everything we learned.
Because some total stranger pops up with a plausible story, you're ready
to throw it all away. Never mind all the times I tried to tell you that
the theories you were so eager to believe didn't make sense. And when
things started happening to me--things I saw with my own eyes--men with no
faces, and fire, and a craft covered with lights moving over the
bridge--all the kinds of things you've been trying to tell me were real
for the past five years--you still don't believe me. Until Alex Krycek
comes along and shoves a gun in your face and hands you a piece of paper,
and now you're ready to believe again. Why is it, Mulder, that your
enemies and total strangers can spin any story and you'll take it as
gospel, but nothing I say, even when it's my own personal experience,
means anything to you?"

Oh god. Was that how it seemed to her? Mulder wanted to shrink in his
chair, until he was as small as he felt. His face burned with shame, that
he'd been so blind and stupid, to let Scully think she meant so little to
him. "Scully... it's not like that."

"Then how is it?" Her voice was still rough, but it had softened a
little, now that she'd said her piece. She was upset, but she would listen
to him. It was enough to make him feel a little steadier. Now all he had to
do was figure out how to explain it to her. It wasn't something he was good
at, and he had no faith he'd be able to make things right. But he owed it
to her to try.

"I remember our first case," he said, still not knowing what he was
going to say, but needing to say something. "You told me I was crazy. The
first of many times." They both smiled unhappy smiles. "I remember all the
times you looked at me when I told you about our next case, exasperated,
obviously thinking, there he goes again, off on some wild goose chase. The
way you'd stand there, embarrassed, wishing you could pretend you weren't
with me, when I was trying to explain my theories to some local officials.
What about you, Scully? 'Open your mind to extreme possibilities'--but you
never could." He stopped, shook his head. "But it didn't matter to me.
Because, whether you believed or not, you stood by me. You kept me from
going off the deep end. There have been times when having you disagree
with me has been the only thing that's kept me sane. I guess... whether we
agreed with each other has just never seemed that important to me."

Miracle of miracles, he'd gotten it right. Her face cleared, and the
hurt drained away. "I suppose you're right. If our partnership depended on
our believing each other's theories, we wouldn't have lasted two weeks."

The hard knot in his chest loosened. "So we're okay?"

Scully nodded, offering a conciliatory smile. "What about Krycek?"

He flinched. For that short time, he'd managed to forget. The knot in
his chest began to form again. "I'm meeting him at the hospital at three. I
need to get some things for him--for Dmitri. They'll probably go straight
from there to the airport. I don't know what time their flight is...."

"Mulder," she said patiently. "What about Krycek?"

The knot was becoming a crushing weight. <No,> he insisted to
himself. <I am not going to cry over Alex Goddamned Krycek.> But he had to
tell Scully the truth. Except that he didn't know what the truth was, and
it made him blind crazy even to think about it. "I don't want him to
leave."

"Why not?"

"I don't know... as bad as it is to have him here, it feels worse to
have him leave."

She sat down, finally, looking at him thoughtfully. "Mulder, that
doesn't make sense." It was a familiar look on her face: part frustration,
part confusion, part honest effort to puzzle her oddball partner out. But
at last no anger.

"I thought we were finally beginning to work some things out. Maybe
it wouldn't have come to anything. But now there's no time to find out."

"After everything he's done, why would you even want to work anything
out with him?"

It was a good question. One he wished he had an answer for. "I don't
know, Scully. There's something between us... it gets crazier every time I
see him. If I could just get him out of my life, I would, but we seem to be
fated to keep stumbling over each other's paths. I don't want to go through
this every time it happens. There has to be another way." <Kill him or fuck
him.> Too close, she was getting too close to things he couldn't bear to
think about.

She sat for long moments, pressing her lips together, nodding
slightly to herself. He found himself tensing against her next question,
not really wanting to know what conclusions she was drawing.

But all she said was, "He'll come back, though, won't he? Is he
planning to stay in Russia?"

Mulder let out a breath he hadn't known he was holding. "I don't
know."

"Don't you want to ask him?"

Mulder shook his head helplessly. "Scully, I can't--it's no good. I
can't put my faith in believing that he'll come back."

Scully nodded slowly. "I understand. But Mulder--if there are things
you need to say to him, you should say them. You've still got this
afternoon."

He could only shrug miserably. "I don't know what to say."


Next stop was the hospital: another small relief to his nerves, to be
able to sit for a while with Dmitri--boisterous and giggly today, just
another teenaged boy, except for the bandages and the bruises fading to a
riot of purple and green and brown on his face. Mulder had greeted him as
"Mitya," to the boy's delight, and been called something he thought was
"Mulyosha" in return. He wondered whether he wanted to ask Krycek about
that. They chattered inconsequentially to each other, each in his own
language. He didn't know if Krycek had explained to Dmitri about the
photograph, but in any case the boy was happy to sit up and pose for
pictures, and fascinated by the images of himself on the camera's little
monitor screen. Mulder ended up posing for a few shots himself, all the
while dreading what would become of them in the Lone Gunmen's computers.

"I have to go now," he told Dmitri at last, pocketing the camera and
straightening Dmitri's sheets. "I'll see you again this afternoon. I'll
have some new clothes for you then."

Dmitri let out a furious burst of Russian, at which Mulder could only
nod, and flung his arms around Mulder as he tried to stand. Mulder gave the
boy a quick kiss, again feeling a little uneasy about it, but liking the
wiry strength in the boy's thin arms gripping him, and the pleased smile
on Dmitri's face as he lay back down in his hospital bed.

<Funny,> Mulder thought as he left, <the person I get along with best
these days, and neither of us can understand a word the other says.>

The next few hours passed easily enough, as he concentrated on his
errands, and tried to forget everything else. He retrieved Dmitri's
tattered, scorched clothing from the nurses, to use in determining what
sizes he wore, dropped off the camera with the Lone Gunmen, then went
shopping. He hated shopping for himself, but he found that he enjoyed
picking out things for Dmitri--imagining the boy wearing them, picturing
the smiles on his face. He bought three pairs of jeans, three tee-shirts,
a sweater, a denim jacket with flannel lining, half a dozen pairs of
underwear and socks, handkerchiefs, sneakers, even a baseball cap; along
with toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo and soap, and a large canvas
duffel bag. He stopped at an international newsstand and bought all the
Russian magazines and papers he could find. No comic books, but at least
the boy would have something to read.

By then it was time to go back to the Lone Gunmen's office and
collect the doctored photos--they'd done a stunning job, as usual, and
Mulder would never have guessed that the boy in the photos had ever had
plaster across his nose, two black eyes, and needle punctures all around
his mouth and eyelids. He wondered whether the uninjured Dmitri really
looked like that--and felt a little sad that he'd likely never know.

And then it was time to go back to the hospital, and Krycek.

Krycek: black leather and heat. Firm, solid muscle. Wide, liquid eyes
and soft, full lips. One arm lost to bright, sharp metal.

<It felt like death.>

The taste of his mouth, hot and smoky.

Moist, yielding flesh inside.

<Do it. Do it.>

Krycek: say what there is to say to him now, or spend endless nights
lying awake, wondering. Kill him or fuck him. And then what? Fuck him
again, and again, and again, until everything had dissolved, all the hate
and betrayal and painful loss, until nothing was left but hot, spent
bodies clinging together in the night.

By the time Mulder opened the door to Dmitri's hospital room, he was
finding it difficult to get quite enough air into his lungs, gasping as if
he'd run all the way up the stairs. The first glimpse of Krycek standing by
Dmitri's bed was such a shock he had to close his eyes for a moment. When
he opened them, he concentrated on Dmitri, who was sitting up, all the
tubes gone from his arms, a fresh bandage across his nose, and a big smile
on his face.

"Hey, Mitya," Mulder said, trying to be jovial in a voice that barely
made it above a whisper. He unslung the duffel bag from his shoulder. "I
brought you some clothes."

Krycek came to stand by him, while Dmitri took the duffel bag and
began digging through its contents, with small, excited exclamations.
Mulder felt, impossibly, that he could feel Krycek's heat from here.

Krycek put a hand on his arm. The prosthetic hand, under a black
leather glove. Mulder's breath came out in short puffs. He was relieved
not to be touched by Krycek's flesh hand, even under gloves. It was
difficult to force his neck to turn, to look into Krycek's face.

Krycek blinked. His wide eyes were troubled. Tension formed a white
line around his mouth. His voice, when he spoke, was dark water tumbling
headlong over rocks. "Let's go out, and let Dmitri get dressed."

In the hallway, Mulder dug in his pockets for the photos, and handed
them to Krycek. Krycek looked at them and nodded. "Good. These are good."
But he frowned at them, and Mulder wondered why, until he realized--Krycek
knew what the boy looked like without the broken nose and bruises. When he
had first found him, the boy had been unharmed.

"He's feeling a lot better today," Mulder offered. "You were right,
he's a tough kid. He's bounced back quickly."

Krycek nodded shortly. "Now all I have to do is find a home for him,
in a country where most people can't afford their own kids."

"You said he had relatives."

"I hope they'll take him."

"What will you do if they won't?"

Krycek shrugged. "That's my problem. I'll take care of him." He
looked Mulder in the eye, grimly determined. "I won't let him down,
Mulder."

Mulder believed him. It was an odd feeling, and a disquieting one. A
Krycek who could be believed. Who tried to make up for the pain he'd
inflicted. Who slept peacefully in Mulder's bed....

"What time is your flight?"

"Six-thirty. We should get there in plenty of time. I just need to
make one quick stop along the way."

Dmitri's passport. Krycek must have a lot of faith in his forger, to
leave it so late. But then, he'd been cutting it close all along, trying
to get Dmitri out of the country with all possible speed. A good idea, if
Dmitri really was in danger. And no way to know if he wasn't, without
exposing him to risk. So they'd have to leave soon, and not take any time
for lingering farewells. "I'll drive you." He made the offer without
thinking, knowing it was a bad idea, but unable to let go.

"Sorry, Mulder. My contact won't appreciate the uninvited company."
He truly did sound sorry.

"I'll meet you at the airport, then." God, he was making a fool of
himself.

Krycek's face darkened with pain, but only for a moment. "I... I
don't think that's a good idea. You might be recognized. It's an added
risk."

Mulder bit his lip and nodded. He supposed it was true. He also
supposed it was possible that Krycek just wanted to get it over with.
Unlike Mulder, he didn't seem the type to deliberately prolong his agony.
"I guess this is it, then."

Krycek tried to smile. Mulder suddenly saw him as he'd been the first
day they'd met--impossibly young-looking and awkward in his off-the-rack
suit and bad haircut, fresh-faced and green and eager to please. Could
that naivete have been entirely an act? Or had he truly been a child-agent
then, hardened and honed by the dangerous years that followed? Mulder
wanted to hold him down, strip him of all his defenses, and find out.

"Thanks for your help. Dmitri thanks you, too."

Mulder shrugged. "I didn't really do that much."

Krycek seemed surprised. He eyed Mulder curiously. "You did enough.
You could have stopped me, and you didn't. I appreciate that. I needed to
do this."

Mulder nodded. The knot in his chest was back. "Well. Tell Dmitri
good luck, and safe journey." In a barely audible voice, he added, "You
too."

"Thanks." Krycek touched his arm, briefly--with his right hand, the
real one. Then he turned to go back into Dmitri's room.

Krycek's hand was on the door handle. "I don't want you to go,"
Mulder choked out, shocked at his own words.

No more than Krycek. He turned, eyes wide. "Mulder...."

Mulder shook his head, took a step back, his face burning. "No, never
mind--"

"Mulder, I--you know I have to--"

"I know," Mulder interrupted. Krycek's face was frozen pain; Mulder
couldn't bear it. Or the way his own heart churned, wanting something he
didn't dare believe in. "Forget I said anything."

"I'll come back. After I get Dmitri settled."

"No, you won't."

"It may only be a week or two. A month at most."

"Goodbye, Krycek." His voice rose, insistent.

Krycek stood, staring at him. There was a wild look in his eyes. His
fist clenched and unclenched at his side. Long moments passed, in which
Mulder felt that anything could happen, anything at all.

Then Krycek took a deep breath, and his mask of calm settled over
him. But it was brittle, and looked about to shatter. "<Dos vidaniya,>
Mulder." And he slipped away, through the door of Dmitri's room.

Feeling blank and empty, Mulder turned and walked away.

Mulder went home that night, undressed, and got into bed--something
he hadn't done in ages, until last night. He lay in bed staring at the
ceiling, waiting for the desolation to go away, as if Krycek's presence
still clung to the sheets, as if by lying where Krycek had lain he could
somehow conjure him up again, as if he could push himself back into
yesterday and Krycek wouldn't really be gone. But there was no comfort
here--the bed was cold, the mattress unyielding. For a long time Mulder
lay in the dark, telling himself that there was no reason to be unhappy.
Krycek was gone, the madness was over--at least for now, at least until
the next time--and nothing had really changed, so there was nothing to
regret. Until at last he turned onto his stomach, buried his face in the
pillow, and wept.

Days passed, and turned into weeks. Mulder determinedly turned his
mind away from whatever it was that Alex Krycek was doing in his life, and
back to his quest for the truth: his lost sister, his broken family, and
the damaged teenaged boy in his own life, who was himself. Scully was
there, calm and strong, and with the relief of two people who'd gone
through a rough time and come out the other side, they treated each other
with extra care and gentleness. Once again, he thought that he wouldn't
have made it without her, and that perhaps he should tell her so, but
there seemed no pressing need for it, so he let it go. He threw himself
into his work, and when there was nothing left for work, he visited the
Lone Gunmen, and watched his videos, and his life gradually returned to
something that was, if not normal, at least not on the edge of insanity.

But alone in his apartment after the day was done, he still sat on
his couch in the dark, waiting out the sleepless nights, fists clenched
against the images that refused to be banished from his mind: Krycek
bending over Dmitri in his hospital bed, kissing away the boy's pain.
Krycek lying in Mulder's bed, staring at the ceiling, whispering, <It felt
like death.> Krycek on his stomach, legs open, demanding, <Do it!>

And Krycek standing in a hospital corridor, face intent and eyes
sparking with pain, insisting, <I'll come back.>

<No, you won't,> Mulder always answered that image. <I don't want you
to. You're a liar, and a murderer, and I never want to see you again.> (And
now who's the liar? whispered in the back of his mind, another voice he
tried very hard not to hear.) Inextricable relationships, for which there
were no explanations and no answers, and no relief. And Krycek, weary of
being disbelieved, turning away, saying, <Dos vidaniya>--which Mulder knew
meant, <Until we meet again.>

It was around ten o'clock in the evening, nearly three weeks after
Krycek and Dmitri had gone. Mulder lay on the couch, absently watching a
video that, for all its panting and grunting and sweating, left him cold.
He yawned and rubbed his eyes and wondered if he should turn off the
television and go to bed early for a change, when there was a knock on the
door.

He sat up, instantly wide awake, heart pounding. With unreasoning
certainty, he knew who it was. He nearly stumbled in his rush to the door.

Krycek. The familiar image was like a blast of tropical heat: black
leather, black jeans, bright white tee-shirt. A tentative smile that grew
reluctantly but uncontrollably to joy. Big eyes wide and eager, but head
lowered, with the slight tension of wariness. Krycek.

Mulder grabbed his arm and pulled him inside, as if he were shining
too brightly to leave standing in the hallway. His fingers tightened
painfully around Krycek's bicep (but it was the prosthetic he'd grabbed,
hard and unyielding). He brought him into the living room, then abruptly
let go, and stood staring at him, unable to think.

"Hi," Krycek said softly. The smile had turned into a grimace, gone
through fear, pain, resignation, hope, wonder, and back to joy, all in the
space of a few heartbeats.

"Hi," Mulder responded, trying desperately to find his tongue. "How's
Dmitri?"

Krycek blew out a small breath of relief: something to talk about.
"He's fine. He's going to be fine. We found some cousins to take him, a
young married couple. Their place is small, but there's only the three of
them, so they'll be all right. They took to him right away--the woman,
Svetlana, especially. She thinks he's adorable."

Mulder smiled. "She's right. What about Dmitri? Does he like them?"

"He will." A shadow passed across Krycek's face. "It's hard for him,
after everything he's been through. Losing his family... he thought he
wanted to stay with me, but of course.... And how could I explain it to
him?"

"I'm sure he understands. He's a smart kid. He was just... crazy
about you."

Krycek laughed ruefully. "So much the worse for him." The laugh
turned to dismay. "I didn't mean that."

An uncomfortable silence descended. Finally, Mulder said, "It was a
good thing you did for him."

Krycek nodded. More silence. It wasn't that they had nothing to say
to each other, Mulder thought. They had too much to say; they couldn't
wrap their minds around it.

Krycek stared at the floor. Carefully, he worked the glove from his
right hand. Then he lifted his arm, suddenly, and touched Mulder's face;
gentle fingertips just brushing his cheek.

Mulder froze. It was as if an electric current shocked through his
body.

"I told you I'd come back," Krycek said, in that cool water voice.

Mulder felt tears sting his eyes. "I didn't believe you."

"I know." The hand left his face.

He wanted to snatch it back. His fingers went involuntarily to his
cheek. Then he drew a ragged breath, and said, "Why did you?"

There was another silence. Krycek took his time, searching for the
words. "Because you wanted me to," he said finally. "Because I wanted to.
Because of the way you held onto me, after. Because--because I don't want
things to be the way they have been between us any more."

"Do you think we can change them?"

"I think we already have. Just a little, but it's a start."

No, nothing had changed, Mulder wanted to protest. But everything had
changed: Krycek had come back. He'd said he would come back, and he had,
and here he was, all heat and leather and wanting things to be different.
Mulder tried to think about what that meant, but his mind spun away from
it, refusing to accept that Krycek might be trusted, that he could be
anything but an enemy.

But he was here, dammit. Things had already changed: that was true,
just because Krycek was here.

"Will you stay?" Mulder asked. It was a hard thing to ask, and he
wanted to take it back the moment it came out of his mouth, but he gritted
his teeth and stood his ground, steeling himself against the inevitable
hurt.

"When I can." Mulder didn't like that--he tucked his chin and took an
abortive step back, and Krycek hurried to continue, "Mulder, I have a job.
And so do you. I have things I need to take care of. I'm not going to make
promises I can't keep. But when I can, I'll be here."

It was, Mulder realized, a true answer; moreover, it was the only
answer he would have believed. And even more than that, he realized that
he'd expected a true answer. He'd thought Krycek would be straight with
him--what he was steeling himself against was not a lie, but a truth he
didn't want to hear.

And that was different, too--somehow, he'd come to expect the truth
from Krycek. And Krycek would be here--maybe not every day, maybe not
whenever Mulder took a notion to wanting him around, but when he could. No
more waiting for six months, a year, wondering if he'd ever see him again.
Another change.

And that opened up a whole world of possibilities: if you could ask
him questions, and feel confident you were getting honest answers, you
could talk to him about things that had happened, and maybe find out what
had really been in his mind all those years. And if he wasn't going to
disappear before you'd gotten a chance to ask all your questions, then
maybe--

It all made him dizzy; it was too much to think about, too soon. But
there would be time, that was the important thing. They would make their
changes a little at a time, and meanwhile--

Meanwhile, Krycek was here. Living, breathing, flesh and blood (and a
little bit of plastic), dark eyes and soft mouth, leather and heat. Mulder
reached out to touch him, the flat of his palm on the upper part of
Krycek's chest, fingers overlapping his collarbone, hand half under the
leather jacket. Through the thin cotton of Krycek's tee-shirt, he could
feel the heat rising off him, and it made Mulder's breath quicken.

He stood like that for a moment, just touching him. Krycek didn't
move, but Mulder could feel the rise and fall of his chest, and he knew
that Krycek's breath was quickening, too. So he took a step closer, and
pulled Krycek tight against him, wrapping his arms around leather and firm
muscle and warm body. It felt good, and for the moment Mulder didn't care
why, only that it did.

He nipped Krycek's earlobe, making him jump and giggle, a moist
exhalation of breath against Mulder's cheek. "I want to fuck you," Mulder
said, for the pleasure of saying it.

"I was hoping you would." The words came out hot and breathy. Fingers
dug into Mulder's back.

He stepped back, one arm still around Krycek's shoulders, and began
to lead him into the bedroom.

 

end.