Lavender And Lye
by Dawn Pares and Te
10/98

Disclaimers: Not ours, and it makes us very sad indeed.

Spoilers: Little ones for Sleepless, Fire, and Tunguska. This takes placesomewhere in the midst of all that missing time between airport and gulag.

Summary: Mulder and Alex play a game.

Ratings Note: NC-17 for poor language and smut.

Authors' Note: Alicia sent Dawn a present, and her whole existence has beena present for Te... so we worked our fingers to the bone to handcraft agift especially for her. Does anyone else want to send us presents? <g>With a deep salaam to Jane Mortimer, for giving the world the ultimate gulagstory. One more thing -- the * marks denote POV shifts from Mulder to Krycek.

Acknowledgments: To Di, for the title, and to Spike and Justin for finebeta. To Sister Blue just because.

Feedback: Yes, yes, yes. You don't wanna see us cry. SkaLab6066@aol.comand Daddy793@aol.com

*

Mulder knew when he was getting screwed.

One-fifty American was bullshit for one night in a bedstead above a teahouse in the township of Lassic.

One room, one bed. At least it had a claw-foot tub and hot water.

There was a sink and toilet in a small, curtained alcove in the corner ofthe room. However, for no reason Mulder could fathom, the bathtub was inthe middle of the bedroom. That fact didn't seem to faze Krycek in the least.He'd drawn a bath, stripped wordlessly and lowered himself into the steamingwater with a hissing sigh.

Mulder, sitting on the creaky twin bed, watched the flush of heat creepup Krycek's spine; even his shoulders were reddened, the cool air makingthe skin tighten, marble, even in a steaming tub.

"Jesus, Krycek! You trying to scald yourself?"

*

"It may surprise you to know that most balconies don't have hot andcold running water."

"This is where I should be throwing in some platitude about how a ratlike you will never be clean, isn't it?"

Alex snorted with surprise, turned awkwardly to face the other man. He caughtMulder's expression just as the older man wiped a wince from his face.

//Well, if I'd known all it would take was a little gratuitous nudity...//

"You're asking me? You *must* be tired. Don't think I'm gonna let youhave the bed, though."

"Krycek, the good guys *always* get the bed. You are, at best, thesidekick on this trip."

"Sidekick, hunh?"

Alex turned away, reached for the small, greyish hand towel with a moueof distaste.

"Yeah, Tonto. Sidekick."

He could hear Mulder settling on the creaky mattress. Staking a surreptitiousclaim. Alex could appreciate a good use of stealth, but hell...

He wrung the cloth out, pleasantly surprised to see the water run out clean,and ran it over his chest, not bothering to stifle his pleased sigh at thefeel of days of grime and sweat being scrubbed away. Alex could feel Mulder'seyes on the back of his neck, a solid weight, a heat. Glass marbles in thesun.

"You know, Mulder..."

A broken yawn. "What is it?"

"There are some interesting theories about superheroes and their sidekicks."

*

Mulder chose to ignore that.

"I hope you like your mattress extra firm, Al." Mulder proddedat the thin fold of blankets on the hardwood floor with the toe of his boot."And I sure hope you don't have any allergies." Eyeing his dustytracks on the hardwood, Mulder pried off his boots and let them fall tothe floor. "You don't snore do you?"

Krycek didn't reply, taking a stronger interest in soaping one broad shoulderwith the foaming washcloth.

A faint scent of -- lavender? reached Mulder's nose.

"What the hell kind of soap *is* that? You're gonna smell like my grandmother."

*

"You've spent a lot of time sniffing your grandmother?"

"Your mind is a marvel of perversion, Krycek. I'd like to cut it rightout of your head and give it to Scully to play with."

Alex couldn't quite hold back a shudder at that thought. The image of Muldersmirking behind his back was an irritating one.

"In case you haven't noticed, the toiletry selection here is not *quite*up to that of the Hilton."

A noncommittal snort from the bed, and Alex chose to believe that meanthe'd won the point, however narrowly.

//It's not fair to bring up Scully.//

He ducked himself briefly to rinse, came up spluttering with a moderatelyunpleasant burn in his nose. The soap might *smell* like Grandma, but itburned like lye.

He wouldn't share that fact with Mulder.

He *would* share...

//Not like I have much of a choice.//


.. the sight of himself petting his bristly hair into order,

knowing the shift and roll of muscle -- gilded by the one dim, buzzing overheadlight -- would shrug its way into Mulder's subconscious.

Life in the militia had been kind, fratboy rituals of buzzcuts and bingedrinking aside. Lots of food, central heating... Alex had lived in luxury,true, but far more of his life had been spent in meaner settings.

He could've wished for better bread, though.

Mulder's breathing was starting to slow behind him, and that couldn't beallowed. Alex had every intention of getting that bed.

//Dreams get smaller...//

"I have a proposal for you, Agent Mulder."

*

"A proposal? If it's a marriage you have in mind, I'll have to decline.My mother insists on a nice Jewish girl." His sarcasm was bored, automatic.Mulder hoped it hid his increasing awareness of the fact that the man hewas speaking to was completely naked and within arms' reach.

He'd leaned back against the solitary pillow, stretched out. Still, hiseyes rested on the back of Krycek's neck.

Krycek splashed lightly, wringing out the washcloth and then dipping itagain, clear streams of water running down his back and shoulders.

"You're getting water everywhere, Mr. Bubble. Be sure you wipe it upwhen you're done with," a yawn, "your bath."

"Mulder, don't you even want to hear me out?" No answer. "AndI'm not the only one who could use a bath, buddy. You were rank in Vladivostok.You stink now."

Snuggling into the rather musty pillow, Mulder turned his back to his companionand tucked his knees up.

Irritation edged his voice.

"Sorry my hygiene isn't all you'd hoped for. And as for wanting tohear you out, no, I don't actually. I *want* to get some sleep."

"So do I, and I'm gonna sleep like shit on the floor."

"Poor baby. Just remember who has the gun. And the handcuffs."

"Come on, Mulder. How about we flip a coin for it?"

Mulder favored him with a short, dismissive laugh.

*

Alex added a pout to his posture, a bit of a whine to his voice. "Mulderrrrr..."

"Christ that's annoying. How the hell did your parents keep from stranglingyou in the crib?"

Alex smirked to himself. "I'm told it was a near thing." Alexbriefly considered trying to splash Mulder, but decided it was a bad idea."You know..."

"What?"

Nearly a yell. Better and better.

"When I can't sleep well I tend to do... irritating things."

"The human waking and sleeping states aren't nearly as different aspopular culture would have you believe."

"Yes, professor, I'm aware of that. Same case, remember?"

Alex could almost *feel* the wince, and wondered if he should be regretful.He gave Mulder another few minutes to relax again.

"But, Mulder..."

"WHAT?"

//Must. Not. Giggle.//

Alex ran the cloth over his toes in a fashion not-quite- leisurely enoughto get him punched. "If I can't sleep well I kick a lot and thrash..."

"Good thing we're not sharing a bed, then. I'd have to shoot you ifyou kicked me."

"I also tend to talk in my restless slumber."

"I'll get the tape recorder."

"I also... snore."

*

Mulder debated throwing the pillow at the man in the tub, but that wouldonly get it soggy, and a soggy pillow certainly wasn't going to improvehis mood.

"Krycek, I swear to God, I'll handcuff you to the doorknob and makeyou sleep in the hallway like a fucking *dog* if you don't shut the hell*up*."

The man in the tub turned his upper body to face him, sloshing water onthe already warping floorboards.

"The way I see it, Mulder, I'm doing you a favor by--"

"And I'm doing *you* a favor by not putting a bullet in your head likeyou deserve."

A long, cold silence.

Mulder could practically hear the bathwater chilling.

At least it was quiet.

"You want answers, Mulder? You want to know "the Truth,"is that it?"

Mulder didn't trust himself to do more than stare.

"Do you want me to tell you I killed your father?"

Mulder would have thrown a lamp had one been handy. Instead, he sat up andflung an answer at the man still soaking in the no doubt tepid tub.

"*Yes.*"

"I want the bed, Mulder. You want answers. Do you want to hear thatproposal now?"

*

Alex let the silence hang. If they were going to get anywhere at all itwould have to be Mulder's choice. Even if he couldn't quite remember whyhe'd wanted this beyond the constant low-grade urge to fuck with the olderman's head.

The water was getting colder. Good bread or not, Russia tended to lose alot of charm when you could watch the soap congealing.

Alex took a chance, and caught Mulder's eyes. Glittering some odd shadeof grey-blue in the dim light, focused wholly on him. He felt his stomachdip alarmingly, felt his cock twitch even in the increasingly disagreeablewater.

//Trouble.

//So what else is new?//

Mulder's voice, when it came, was a flat, dangerous purr. "Yeah. Iwant to hear it, Krycek."

For a moment he was at a loss as to just how to phrase his response. Glib?Innocent?

Alex saw the way Mulder's gun hand was twitching toward his holster, anddecided serious was the most prudent way to play it.

"Truth or Dare, Mulder. You'll win either way. Chances are good I'lltell you *something* you want to know. And if I win, I get the bed."

As an afterthought, he added, "And you take a bath." He gave Muldera sour, pointed look.

*

The air was humid, almost clammy with evaporated bath water. Mulder cockedhis head at Krycek, half laughed.

"I've hit you, threatened you with a gun. You're going to tell me thatfor a decent night's sleep, you'll tell me everything you've previouslywithheld? And I'm supposed to believe that?"

Krycek gave him an odd look, strangely naive.

"Yes, you're supposed to believe it. At this point, your life expectancyis even shorter than mine. You probably won't live long enough to do anythingwith any information you might gain from me."

"You're a true philanthropist, aren't you, Krycek?" Mulder shookhis head in disgust.

"I'll tell you what, Al, I'll take a bath and think about it. Out ofthe tub."

He stood up and slid his gun and the handcuffs off the little bureau.

Mulder handed the younger man a threadbare towel that had once been white.

"Myself, I prefer a little privacy with my bath, so I'm going to haveto ask you to stand outside."

Krycek stood, and took a moment longer than was necessary to wrap the towelaround his waist, first drying his hair and wiping down his glistening armsand chest.

Fuck.

Krycek was-- *golden* with water and reflected light. Mulder found himselffollowing the streaming water downwards, as it glazed Krycek's skin andskated down his smooth chest, the heavy muscle of his belly, glistened inthe narrow channel of dark hair beneath his navel and dripped from the endof Krycek's thick cock. Swallowing, Mulder closed his eyes.

He climbed from the tub, and Mulder closed one cuff around the other man'sthick wrist. Even tepid, the bathwater had been warmer than the air. Faintwisps of steam curled from the man's fresh, lavender scented, petal softskin.

Mulder led him to the door and opened it, locking the cuffs and leavingKrycek to shiver in the hallway with a cheery wave.

*


"You fucking *bastard*." Alex ground the words out through histeeth, unwilling to let Mulder know just how pissed he was. He had everyintention of making Mulder pay for this in the game. Or maybe just finda way to take it out in trade. This was, after all, *his* turf.

Perhaps it was time to remind Mulder of that fact. No, no 'perhaps' aboutit. It was well past time. For now, though...

He waited until he'd heard Mulder drain and refill the tub, then anotherfew moments until he was just about sure the older man would be hoveringover the steaming water. "Oh, Mulder..." His voice was a paragonof good-natured amusement.

"Yes?"

"Are you actively trying to give me a cold?"

"What the hell are you talking about now? I'm slow, Krycek. I'm stillturning over your oh-so-generous proposal."

"Well, I was just thinking of that "urge to nurture" thing.You remember that case... the woman we were chasing down for tax fraud whohad been kidnapping and stuffing other people's children?"

Silence. Alex wondered if Mulder was picturing *him* stuffed and mounted.

//Tsk. They'd never get the eyes right.//

"I'm wondering if this whole "hang Alex out the window, toss Alexinto a draughty hallway naked" thing is part of an unconscious desireto get me--"

"I've long since acknowledged and accepted my desire to hurt you."

"To get me sick enough so that you'll *have* to take care of me. Pamperme." Alex backed away from the door as much as possible, and raisedhis voice. "Or maybe you just want to cuddle up with me, read me stories,feed me..."

There was an intriguing quiet coming from the tea room downstairs. A lesseningof drunken boister. The slosh of water and angry-sounding thumps from insidethe door were *far* more intriguing, though.

Mulder yanked the door open hard enough to send Krycek stumbling and tumblingback into the room. As he fell he *just* missed ripping away the towel fromMulder's waist, though he did manage to get another fascinating inch oflean hip.

"What the *hell* are you trying to do?"

"Hey, if you're going to lock me outside the least you could do islet me have my pants. Even *Walter* let me have my pants."

//Most of the night...//

Mulder only stared at him, and turned back to his bath, gun firmly in hand.

"No pants?"

"I. Am. Going. To. Take. A. Bath. You, Tonto, are going to sit thereand shut the fuck up."

"You're going to take a bath with the door open?"

Alex could see Mulder's shoulders tensing up, but he'd really only meantto point out the potential awkwardness of having a half-naked man cuffedto an open door while another man was bathing a few feet away.

Russia wasn't all *that* chaotic after the "fall" of Communism.

Mulder heaved a sigh, and went back to his own pants to rummage for thekey. He then came back to Krycek and leveled his gun to his forehead. Alex'sentire field of vision was made up of tiny towel and Mulder legs.

He began to experience some happy memories.

"Be. Good."

"Yessir."

*

Mulder pulled the handcuff chain taut and closed the door on it. The otherman would have less room to move, but hell, *he* didn't tell him to bitchabout the hallway arrangement. "And keep your face to the door."

Krycek nodded.

Mulder put his gun on the last of the towels, dropped the scrap of cottonthat barely reached around his hips and clambered back into the tub.

[All I need now is to slip and knock myself out cold. I'd drown in my ownbathwater while Krycek stood by and snickered. Bastard.]

He resettled in the warm water, and found the bar of soap. It did, in fact,smell like his Grandmother Dinah.

But Jesus! It's *burned*... nice of good ol' Krycek to mention that. He'dbrought his usual bundle of toiletries with him in his travel bag. Had Kryceknot been sharing the room, he'd have had time to use actual shampoo...

Cursing, Mulder lathered his hair with the harsh soap.

[I'm going to smell like fucking Truman Capote.]

Ducking under the now grayish water, Mulder rinsed his hair and reachedagain for the soap. He'd wanted the washcloth, but it made him wrinkle hisnose to think of using someone else's bathing accessory... best not to thinkabout stray hairs just now...

The soap was smooth and slick, and it glided along his skin as he rubbedit into a filmy foam on his chest and shoulders. He couldn't bring himselfto turn his head and see if Krycek was watching him; he didn't want to know.Not really.

His skin prickled, tightened across his chest, the cooling air making hisnipples harden painfully. Not since middle school gym showers had he feltso... exposed.

Before Krycek had started mewling in the hall, Mulder had been planningon a quick jerk off session, courtesy of the soap. Harsh or not, after theinitial sting, it was actually kind of... invigorating.

Perhaps invigorating wasn't the word, but Mulder's budding hard on was goingto be a problem with Krycek in the room.

Probably sensing weakness, Krycek chose that moment to speak.

"Have you decided to take me up on my offer, Mulder?"

Mulder ground his teeth together.

"Look, asshole, if we play this game at all, I'm certainly not goingto start it naked. Shut the fuck up and I'll give you my answer when I'mdone here."

He took a deep breath and surreptitiously wrapped his hand around his stiffeningcock. Biting his lip, he quickly weighed the pros and cons.

[There'll be splashing. I'll moan. I always moan. God *damn* it!]

Mulder got to his feet, and climbed out of the tub, dripping liberally onKrycek's scattered clothing.

"Fine. You wanna play games, Krycek? Then we'll fucking play a game."Mulder rubbed himself dry so feast his skin almost burned. "I'll gofirst," he said, yanking on a clean tee shirt and a pair of sweats.

He closed a hand on Krycek's shoulder and spun him around.

"Truth or dare, cocksucker?"

*

//Likes it rough, hunh?//

Mulder was strung tight, obvious even through the loose clothing. Lean,taut muscle and the silent hum of carefully banked rage. For a moment, Alexwondered if a carefully placed knife-point -- just a brush of the tip --would cause anything to snap irrevocably. The image made him happy, andAlex flashed what he honestly believed was his most annoying grin. He waswrong -- he really did have quite a few -- but this was clearly one of hismore affecting expressions. "Dare."

"Did you -- dare?! You're starting the game with a dare?"

Alex shrugged, not appreciating the lopsided quality still being cuffedto the door gave it. Alex had a love for symmetry. "Dare."

Mulder was visibly upset, and in games like these it was dangerous, butAlex was feeling a bit... prickly.

"You don't have a dare for me, Agent Mulder? Tsk. Poor planning onyour--"

Alex was cut off by the feel of Mulder yanking the door open again justlong enough to uncuff him. And drag him to the truly frightening bathtub.

"Take a drink, Krycek. A great, big mouthful."

"Oh, *man*. You sick bastard!"

//*I* wanted that one...//

"Passing on a dare? This game is going to move rather quickly... Whatwas the rule? Three passes and you're out?"

Alex had played the one-spanking-per-pass version, but he chose not to sharethat fact.

He wrinkled his nose ostentatiously and started to bend, Mulder immediatelyreleased his hold and he came *that* close to falling in face first.

//Oh, you, asshole.//

Alex tossed a dirty look over his shoulder and took the aforementioned mouthful.And promptly spat it out.

"Hey--"

"You said *nothing* about swallowing, Mulder."

"Sneaky little prick, aren't you?"

Alex arched an eyebrow at the other man, but Mulder's expression was onlyblandly amused.

"It's worth it to think of all that dead skin and soap scumming yourtongue."

Alex, who had just about managed to forget that, felt his stomach roll.It apparently showed on his face, because Mulder's smile was truly happy.And evil.

"Your turn, *Alex*."

Alex swiped a hand over his lips, reached to rub it on Mulder's sweats tooquickly for the man to jump back. "Lemme brush my teeth first."

Not bothering to wait for a response he snatched Mulder's toothbrush outof his kit, crossed to the grimy little alcove, and performed extensiveoral hygiene. Ran the water, but didn't bother to rinse out the brush beforereturning to a scowling Mulder. "Truth or dare?"

*

"Truth," Mulder answered, too quickly. Then he gave Krycek a slowsmile. "I figure you've already read any files old Smokey has on me.I guess I'm just an open secret."

Krycek gave him a shit eating grin of his own.

"You're right. I have a pretty good idea of what went on with you andStevie Goldman when you were both fourteen."

Mulder felt his face go white.

Krycek's smile grew wider, genial.

"But there are enough gaps to make a few questions worth while."

[Those. Fucking. Bastards.]

"Did you go down on him, Mulder? Or did he just touch you, with thosewide knobby hands of his?"

[You can't have the childhood I *can* remember, you fuck. I won't let you.]

"Pass," he said distinctly. His eyes burned. [It's just the soap.]

*

Alex felt like crowing, but he also distinctly regretted not bringing uprules for passing.

As innocently as possible he asked, "Did we ever decide what you haveto do if you want to pass? We could always pay for a bottle downstairs..."

"I don't drink."

//Anymore...//

"Too bad, too bad. There's nothing quite like *real* Russian vodka."

"Whatever, Krycek. What the hell's wrong with the 3 passes you're outrule?"

"Boring."

"I have no intention of being your entertainment for the evening, asshole."

"Asshole, cocksucker... I want another turn, Mulder."

"What? Those aren't the rules."

Alex invaded Mulder's space, intrigued by the brief flinch, the darkeningeyes that may have been no more than a s ymptom of the questionable light.He wondered if the older man ever dreamed of the Goldman kid. "Therules, the rules. Don't lie to me, Mulder." He lowered his voice toa whisper. "You must have had to do *something* to pay for those passes."

*

Mulder swallowed, an audible click in his suddenly dry throat. He almostwished for a shot of vodka.... Vodka would disguise the burn in his stomachas nausea.

"I played at parties, Krycek. There were no... consequences. We werejust kids," he said, and he wondered if he'd tell Krycek after all.

"This isn't really a game, Mulder. You know that. Here, there *will*be... penalties."

Mulder was suddenly distracted by the past, by the green glow of light throughthe wavy plastic in the Goldman's cabana, of the close and humid air, sharpwith chlorine, thick with mildew. Stevie's hands at his waist. Trembling.

"What if I call the fucking "game" off, then? I don't thinkyou have anything worth giving to me."

"How will you know for sure if you don't play?"

"I won't." He smiled at Krycek. "But I can live with that."

"Can you?"

Mulder was making his way toward the bed when Krycek threw another hookat his guts.

"I can't believe you're going to pussy out like this, Mulder."

Mulder felt his lip curl, and pivoted to face Krycek again. Krycek, who'dmade no move to dress. A man wearing nothing but a smirk and a towel.

"Fine. You must have an idea. What do you think the consequence shouldbe, tough guy?"

*

Alex started to congratulate himself internally on having pulled Mulderin so well... but then he realized that any answer he gave would probablytell the other man far too much about himself.

"I'm willing to negotiate, Mulder."

Mulder snorted in disgust. "Nice pat answer there, Krycek. What's thematter? Not willing to let me in that fuzzy head of yours?"

"Not unless it's a game question."

"But you've already established that it's not my turn yet."

"Fine. Why don't you tell *me* what you played for? Punches? Pedicures?"

Mulder nearly growled at him. "Not unless it's a game question, fucker."

"Mexican standoff, O Mysterious Masked One."

"Seems like, Tonto. So how do we get around this?"

//We've got problems, baby, that's OK...//

"We could skip the theatrics if we just disallowed passes. Which wouldmean you'd have to answer the question."

"You're a fucking pervert, Krycek."

"So I've been told. Well?"

"I seem to recall you asking several questions. Pick one."

Alex smiled happily, and pursed his lips in a parody of deep thought.

"You're wasting time."

"No, no, I really do have to consider this. There's so *much* I wantto know."

"I declare a 30 second limit on question/dare choice."

"What?"

And then he started humming the Jeopardy tune.

//Tip me over and pour. Me. Out.//

"Time's up. My tur--"

"Fuck off, Mulder. Did you blow him?"

*

[Stevie had tasted like sweat. His kisses were shallow, clumsy, anxious.Mulder could remember the slip of Stevie's tongue over his lips... The wayhe could feel Stevie's heart beat against his own bare, tanned chest, Stevie'sboner digging into his hip as Stevie tried to hold him still, those knobbyhands curling at his hip, against the slick fabric of his swim trunks.

Mulder had been almost crying, terrified, but exulted, too.

Stevie had taught him his hookshot.

Mulder had loved him.]

Mulder foundered, hit with a rush of nostalgia so strong it made his eyestear. Could Krycek even understand it? Could he really give this to him,just for some possible scrap of promised "truth?"

[He'd jumped when Stevie had slipped a finger into his waistband. He rememberedlooking up, Stevie's face weirdly naked without his round gold rimmed glasses,still about three inches taller than Mulder had been.

"Is.. is this okay, Fox? Do you want me to--" He'd looked miserable,afraid, tempted.

"Yeah. It's okay, Stevie. Can I...? Can I touch you too? You know,there?"]

Krycek looked impatient.

"Don't tell me you can't remember?"

Mulder had little doubt he'd be hearing the Jeopardy theme song again beforelong.

[Make up your mind, dammit. Give it up or keep it. Don't fucking *dither*.]

[Stevie had nodded, Adam's apple bobbing. He'd frozen when Mulder grazedthe other boy's erection with his fingertips through the purple, drippingfabric of Stevie's swimsuit. Before he knew what he was doing, Mulder hadgotten to his knees. He just wanted a closer look... He'd tugged Stevie'sshorts down, saw the flushed curve of skin as Stevie's hard on bobbed up,freed from the elastic.]

Mulder closed his eyes.

[Stevie had never seemed so tall. And he'd never looked as terrified, notsince his old house had burned down, and they'd spent the night up keepingwatch for looters. The flesh beneath his dark eyes was pale, soft looking.Like the skin of his penis. It looked so smooth...

"Can I... Could I kiss it, Stevie?"]

"Yeah," Mulder said finally, sounding tired. "I blew him.Truth or dare?"

"That's *it*?"

Mulder didn't disguise his contempt.

"I answered the question. Prurient pedophiliac detail isn't required,Uncle Al."

*

//Not yet it isn't.//

All right, Mulder. Your turn."

"Is it really? I hadn't noticed."

"You're sounding a bit bitter for someone who made me sweat for a fourword answer."

"I already asked truth or dare, Krycek. Procrastinating?" Theworld-weariness in his tone was truly a work of art. Alex resolved to gethim to do it enough that he'd be able to emulate it.

"Truth, Mulder."

"Did you kill my father?"

"No."

"You lying sonofabitch."

"So what? If it isn't the answer you wanted to hear I'm automaticallylying?"

"If someone asked you if it was raining outside you'd say no even ifyou were dripping on the motherfucking carpet."

"A good line, but ask yourself: How many times have I lied to you?Really lied? How many times have you ever even asked me a *question*?"

"That doesn't sound like a game question."

Alex threw up his hands and sat on the bed, considered drawing his kneeup to get comfortable, but decided it was just a bit too obvious. "Fine,Mulder. Truth or dare."

*

[The truth can't hurt you. The truth is always beautiful, always right.And if these are the *questions*...]

"Truth," Mulder said, calmly.

"Tell me, in prurient, pedophiliac detail, about your first time, Mulder."

[Of course.]

Sighing, Mulder pushed his drying hair out of his eyes, hating the sicklysweet scent of lavender.

"You'll have to be more specific, Krycek."

Krycek, perched indolently on the bed with his legs stretched and crossedat the ankles, had to know he was stalling as well as he did, but it waspart of the game.

"And Jesus, Krycek, would you do me a favor? Would you put on someclothes? It's weird to have a conversation with someone wearing a towel.Even for me."

Krycek gave him a long, smug look.

"It's not your turn."

"It wasn't a dare, you stupid bastard. Simple decorum."

"I want to know everything, Mulder, " Krycek intoned, leaningin, arms crossed primly against his chest. "I want you to tell me howit felt, what it tasted like, what you said to him..."

Mulder glared at him. His fingers bunched.

[Why take the high road, Mulder. He'll still be able to translate with brokenribs...]

*

"Stevie smelled like his pool. Too much chlorine. We were in the cabana,getting changed and he... he touched me."

"Where?"

Mulder glared for a few moments, but Alex merely gazed back as innocentlyas possible.

"You are such a fucking *vulture*!"

"Passes aren't allowed, Mulder. Or are you forfeiting?"

Mulder's eyes went cold, just a shutter-drop of ice over the burning green.Alex started to relax a little more obviously on the bed, fluffing the pillowin a mostly futile attempt to give it some life.

"No."

"No, what?" Alex looked up absently to find Mulder advancing onhim.

//Uh oh.//

"No, I'm not..." The mattress dipped alarmingly when Mulder knelton it, nearly causing Alex to fall over. He threw out a hand to brace himself,brushed the soft cotton of Mulder's sweats. "Forfeiting."

//Or maybe not uh oh.//

"Then what *are* you doing, Mulder?"

"You wanted to know what I did with Stevie, right?"

"Yeah..."

Mulder's voice was cold, professional. "Words can't express... everything,Krycek."

Alex swallowed once, licked his lips, and told himself it was purely forMulder's benefit. "I think you're right, Agent Mulder."

"For some things..." And Mulder brushed a hand over the towel.Alex gasped -- he had no idea when he'd gotten that erection. "Forsome things actions speak louder than words."

"Mmm..." Alex raked Mulder with a glance, found himself regrettingthe fact that the other man had dried too much for the tee shirt to clinginterestingly to his chest. "I thought I'd have to wait until you werestupid enough to let me *dare* you."

"Shut up, Krycek. Stevie didn't do much talking."

*

Stevie hadn't actually been in his graduating class, due to skipped grades,but he'd run into him at his High School reunion anyway. He'd come as GailPfeiffer's date.

He and Mulder had spent the night grinning at each other like fools, elbowstouching.

Then Stevie ["Stephen, now."] had given him a hug and left withGail.

Mulder heard later that they'd married, that Stevie... Stephen Goldman hadtwo kids.

Both he and Gail were orthodontists; they had a practice in Connecticut.

Stevie's adulthood hadn't changed him; he was still sweet, a little clumsy.

Mulder had never forgotten their time in his father's cabana.

"Stevie smelled like the pool," Mulder repeated. "He wascool to the touch; it was early in the season and the water was cold, alittle green. Mr. Goldman could never get the proportions right."

Mulder slipped off the bed again, knelt on the floor in front of the manhe'd dragged across countries.

"Mrs. Goldman was at the hair stylist with my mother."

Gently, Mulder lifted the towel from across Krycek's lap.

The room was cool; Krycek's nipples were taut and pink.

"Stevie never got tan. But he never burned, either. He was smooth.Taller than me."

Mulder studied the rosy erection curving up slightly from Krycek's thighs.He stroked the head with one fingertip, heard Krycek's indrawn breath. Themuscles in Krycek's thighs tensed; his toes flexed. Mulder almost smiled.

"He didn't... Stevie didn't kiss you?"

Frowning, Mulder looked up and met Krycek's olive drab gaze...

"Stevie had brown eyes."

Kneeling up, Mulder took Krycek's hands and rested them on his hips.

"He never moved his hands when he kissed me. He'd hold still... sohe could," Mulder leaned in and breathed softly on Krycek's chin. "Concentrate."

A soft caress of humid breath, then a slip of tongue, lapping at Krycek'slips. A pause, then the light press of lips against the younger man's.

When Krycek opened his mouth, Mulder drew away.

"Not like that. There was no deep kissing."

Krycek looked disgruntled; his hair was drying in random spikes.

"But he must have--"

"But this is the first time, Alex." Softly.

"Dammit, Mulder--"

"Shut up," Mulder ordered blandly. "Stevie could hardly standup, let alone talk."

His gaze had dropped back to Krycek's cock, now straining upwards, silentlybegging to be touched.

"I asked him if I could touch it. If I could kiss it."

Krycek's eyebrows had climbed to his hairline, and he nodded tightly.

Mulder bent briefly and touched his lips to the purpling head of Alex Krycek'scock. The dream of a time of tenderness years past made the kiss sweet,simple. And nowhere near enough.

Mulder sat back on his heels and looked up at Krycek searchingly.

"Truth or dare?"

*

Alex couldn't quite make his brain work. The best possible outcome to thissituation would involve that cocksucking mouth stretched around him, buthe didn't know how best to achieve that.

Mulder was staring down at him, bland as ever. No, that wasn't quite right.The lines that had seemed to be etching themselves on the older man's facefor the past several days had smoothed out again. Mulder didn't look anythingat all... except, perhaps, younger.

Alex watched the rise and fall of his own chest, tried to slow it down.

"Do I need to hum the Jeopardy song again?" The voice was dry...but still much too calm.

"Please don't, I'll be good."

"Liar."

A little better, but nowhere near enough.

Alex smiled, appalled by the shaky feel of his facial muscles. "Maybe,Mulder, maybe. Truth."

He didn't trust the other man not to send him to the tub again. Not by along shot.

"Your truth is worthless, Krycek."

"Your dares are truly disturbing. Besides, it's my choice."

"Fine. Tell me..."

Another pause, and Alex had to wonder what he was missing out on by notchoosing the dare.

"Yeah?"

"Tell me, in full, prurient, and -- if necessary -- pedophiliac detailwhy you were chosen to spy on me."

There were a lot of implications to that question and Alex couldn't quitehold back a wince.

Mulder just cocked an eyebrow at him and settled more comfortably on hisheels. Alex tried to search the older man's eyes for something to latchonto, some cue to tailor his story to.

"Tick tock, Krycek."

Alex rolled his eyes and decided on a tack. He turned his face away andtried to work up a blush.

//C'mon, you remember what it was like... too much gel, too little experience.Mulder showing you up *again*...//

The flush was more of anger than embarrassment, but he doubted Mulder wouldbe able to tell the difference.

"I already know you're no kid, Krycek. Stop fucking around."

//Busted.//

Alex turned back to face him, gave him the full benefit of his anger, figuringthat, at the very least, Mulder would appreciate the turnabout.

Mulder rocked a bit, seemed to be trying pin Alex like a bug on his gaze."A forfeit, Alex? Tired enough to deal with the pallet?"

"Fuck you."

"Not tonight."

Alex arched an eyebrow, chose to ignore the twist of scorn. He was happyto have *his* Mulder back, anyway.

"They decided the subtle approach wasn't working. That your games withMr. Goldman were, perhaps, more than just teenaged experimentation. Or maybethat Scully was just getting too fat."

Alex treasured the flash of anger.

"You had protection overseas, Mulder. No one was quite sure *what*you were doing until that rather... public... mess with Phoebe Green."

"So you were supposed to be my new fucktoy."

Alex nodded once, waited.

"They might have shown a bit more faith in my taste."

*

Something about the set of Krycek's mouth suggested he was trying not tolaugh, but it may have been sheer pique. Mulder was prepared to believethat Krycek was vain.

"You haven't really answered the question. That much I *knew*. Whywere *you*, Alex Krycek, chosen for such a mission?"

Krycek narrowed his eyes shrewdly.

"I'll allow that as the same question, but on a technicality."

Mulder rubbed his forehead with the heel of his hand.

"Just tell me."

"I volunteered."

Mulder, startled, blurted, "Why?"

Krycek slid off the bed, knee to knee with the older man, and still hard.

"Truth or dare?"

"Truth," Mulder answered, hands spread on his thighs. He madeevery effort to seem calm.

"Did you want me before you were sure I was a plant?"

"Yes," soft, but with too much air behind it.

"Do you want me now?"

Krycek's snub nose was inches from his face, the other man's breath warmand close.

Mulder shook his head. "Truth or dare."

Mulder wondered who was winning. He felt light-headed; maybe it was thefact that he was cutting off the blood supply to his legs.

He got to his feet, reeling slightly, legs numb. He reached out, found Krycek'sstrong shoulder. For a heartbeat, two, he rested there, steadying himself.

Then he snatched his hand back as if he'd touched something sharp.

*

There was no way in hell Alex was going to let Mulder get away from him.Not now.

As soon as the older man was fully turned away Alex got to his feet, wincingat the pop his knee made, loud in the otherwise silent room. He told himselfit had been a difficult few days and ruthlessly stifled all thoughts aboutencroaching age.

Alex moved up behind him, but Mulder didn't react. It didn't matter.

He knew Mulder could feel his heat.

"Truth."

Mulder was silent, gripping the fabric of his sweats. Alex wondered whatthe other man was thinking, what he smelled like under that soap, tastedlike...

"C'mon, Mulder, you can't be out of questions al--"

"What was it like to have the alien inside you?"

//Going for cruelty... No way I'm letting you win.//

"Exceedingly unprivate and messy. Truth or dare, Mulder?"

*

Mulder was suddenly weary of the whole premise. He'd learned nothing, andKrycek was using Truth as a hollow shell game. Oblique. Circumspect. Goddamn it.

He'd given up the sweetest kiss in his life for Krycek to leer at?

Fine. He wouldn't find shelter in pretense anymore.

"Dare."

*

Alex head was pounding. There didn't seem to be any oxygen left in the room.

Mulder was still, but the thrum of tension was nearly palpable.

"Turn around, put your arms around me, and kiss me. Deeply."

"I never would've figured you for a romantic, Krycek." The tonewas flat, but Mulder was thrumming like a tuning fork just beneath the skin.Beautiful.

"If it makes you feel any better you can tell yourself I just wantyour mouth."

Mulder didn't say another word, just turned and slipped his arms over Alex'sshoulders, melded his body to Alex's own. Alex groaned at the feeling ofheat and muscle trapped behind cotton, but it was only a heartbeat beforeMulder's tongue slipped into his mouth.

Sugar, buttered bread, a tongue--

A tongue trying to learn every secret of his mouth. For a whimsical momentAlex wondered if the older man was searching for implants but then Mulderbucked against him and he felt his thoughts burn away.

All he could do was kiss. All he was tried to express itself through lipsand a tongue he could do nothing to control.

And then Mulder pulled away, color high and eyes blazing.

Alex caught his limbs before they could grab for the other man again, buthe knew Mulder had seen the aborted movement.

//Fuck!//

"Truth or dare, Krycek."

Alex tried to search Mulder's eyes again, but it was just as useless asbefore.

//What the hell.//

"Dare."

*

Mulder deliberately wiped his mouth with his palm, spat meditatively.

"This is bullshit, Krycek. Worse, this is a waste of time. The gameends when I say it does, and whether you win or not I can still make yousleep on the floor. You knew all that going in.

"So I dare you to tell me what you really want."

*

"You're daring me to *tell* you something?"

"I'll admit it's a cheap ploy, but at this point..."

"All right, Mulder. You wanna know what I really want?"

"You're stalling. Forfeit?"

"Not a fucking chance." Alex moved deliberately into Mulder'sspace. Let himself hiss as his cock brushed against soft cotton. Grabbedat the bulge in Mulder's sweats gently but with little subtlety and treasuredthe aborted buck. "This is what I want."

"I should've known --"

Alex cut him off with a finger laid against Mulder's mouth, crushing thoselips against the smooth wall of teeth, not hard enough to be painful. "Ialso..."

Alex leaned in to kiss, catching more of his own finger than anything else,but did not miss the sight of Mulder's eyes fluttering closed. SqueezedMulder's cock through the sweats with his other hand and felt the moan inhis toes.

"I also want this, Mulder."

"Krycek--"

"Shut up, Mulder. You asked me what I wanted, and I'm gonna tell you."

"So talk!"

"Actions," Alex reminded, leaning closer.

A move, more awkward than he would've liked but just as fast, and he hadhold of Mulder's hips. Alex ground them into his own and when Mulder archedhis head away he took the opportunity to attack the pale, elegant throat.

"I want this, too..."

*

Mulder felt wild, pinned. His heart was slamming against his ribs; theywere so close that Krycek's heat soaked through the fabric of his shirt.Mulder got the unsettling impression he could have counted every hair onKrycek's broad chest, even through the cotton. He tried to swallow, struggle,but his limbs seemed to be acting of their own volition.

The other man ground his thick, hot flesh into Mulder's belly and the weird,heady fragrance of strong lavender soap invaded his senses.

Teeth were nipping at the soft skin under his chin, closing now on the boneof his jaw.

"Krycek, this--"

[This can't happen. Won't.]

Mulder pried the other man's hands off him, stumbled backwards.

Breathing hard, Mulder propped his hands on his thighs as if he'd just runup six flights.

He lifted his head and saw Krycek, naked, rampant, *dripping*, eyes wideand glazed, little mouth wet and inviting...

[Fuck it.]

He straightened up, strode across the room, hooked an arm around Krycek'swaist, and flung him to the bed.

Krycek looked shocked, but his heaving chest would not have looked out ofplace on the cover of a romance novel, or a girl taking it from behind ina porn flick.

The small bed creaked, a complaining whine that made Mulder wonder if they'dbreak it. Krycek's body draped the mattress, straining, inviting his touch.

For a long moment, Mulder merely looked at him, the younger man's smooth,muscled body, the mink lashed eyes.

He could feel the blood pound into his cock, feel it throb against his belly,chafe against the cloth of his sweats...

"Close your eyes," he ordered.

*

Alex swallowed hard, longed to take his cock in hand and stroke. Longedto leap off the bed and tear Mulder's clothes off with his teeth.

He settled for closing his eyes, and tried not to writhe at how the suddendarkness made the room so much colder.

//Please...//

*

His lowered lashes nearly swept his cheeks; Mulder suddenly regretted hisrequest. Krycek looked every bit as young as he'd pretended to be.

Mulder found himself kneeling, and brushing his lips against those flutteringlashes.

Then he shifted, and pressed a gentle kiss on that prim, pink mouth.

"Alex."

He kissed him again, teeth behind his lips, increasing the pressure.

"Alex. Open your eyes."

He straightened up again, watched the other man follow his directions.

*

Alex breathed deep and followed instructions. Mulder was gazing down athim. Again. Mulder had stopped touching him. Again.

He wanted to be blindfolded. Vision had become a privilege within that brieftime of darkness and Alex wanted to work for it. Mulder was flushing --a slow creep of red out from under his shirt that made Alex want to warmhimself against blood-heated skin. An animal search for comfort and pain.

But there were rules to be followed.

"What next?"

*

"Now you open your mouth," Mulder replied. He tried not to soundas tender as he suddenly felt.

"Not so wide, Alex."

He nodded his approval, and then leaned over Krycek again, hands flat oneither side of his head. He draped his body across the younger man's, broughthis knee up to hook it around Krycek's hip, and dipped his head to kisshim.

He let his tongue steal in, glide against Krycek's teeth, the smooth glossof his lips, the soft wall of the inside of his cheek...

*

Alex didn't know what to do. Clearly, Mulder wanted to retain some measureof control. Contrary bastard. Alex had been perfectly willing to let theother man tell himself he was being swept away by the moment.

But this...

This was intoxicating. Mulder was a solid weight, and the hard cock pressinginto him was reassurance and tangible frustration.

//Just let me...//

But despite the earlier bravado he really didn't know what he wanted todo. Mulder was a wealth of riches...

This was temptation, torment; Krycek gave in and took Mulder's flickeringtongue into his mouth and *sucked*.

*

The moment Alex started sucking on his tongue, Mulder knew there was noturning back. Moaning softly, he rocked his hips against the man beneathhim with every sweet pulse of pressure. Beneath them the bed complainedavidly.

His hands tightened in the sheets, and his cock felt heavy and hot.

[Jesus, I'll come in my pants this way.]

*

Alex heard needful, continuous moans, and with a bolt of horror that wentstraight to his cock, he realized they were his own.

//I can't take this.//

He broke the kiss, feeling the tug of Mulder's teeth on his lower lip, feelinga haze lower over his vision. He was blind with lust.

"Mulder... Mulder, please let me touch you I have to--"

Mulder bit him again, ran his hands down Alex's arms, tangling his fingerswith Alex's own and squeezing for a moment before bringing them decisively-- if awkwardly -- to his ass.

Alex gripped him hard, tossed his head back to avoid the kiss he knew wouldmake him lose his load much too fast. He slid his hands under the waistbandof Mulder's sweats and gasped at the feel of silky skin under his palms.

//How did I ever--//

*

Mulder surprised himself by laughing. Krycek was groping him like a kid.

He kissed Krycek's temple, enjoying the way the younger man writhed desperatelybeneath him. Krycek's hands settled, smoothing under his shirt, up and downhis back in long maddening strokes.

Kneeling up, Mulder crossed his arms and dragged the hem of his tee shirtup over his head.

*

The sight of Mulder's chest shouldn't have made another load of pre-cumshoot down his cock, but it did. He'd seen this before, but this... thiswas material from his favorite fantasies. Mulder, hard and aching and strippingfor no one but himself.

//You want this just as bad as I do. And I'm gonna make sure you get it.//

The process was moving in odd ways, fast as the rake of his nails over Mulder'snipple, slow as the sea roll of Mulder's hips over his own as the olderman arched and moved at the feel...

"Come back down here, I want to suck your nipples." And he sincerelyhoped the hoarse rasp of his voice did as much for Mulder as it did forhim.

*

Mulder straddled the other man, rubbed his jutting cock against Krycek'sand shook his head.

"Come up here," he murmured, and curled his hands around Krycek'supper arms, dragging him upright, setting the other's lips against his chest,and pressing the back of his dark head.

"If you bite me, you'll be sleeping on the floor, Alex," he warned.But he could hear the threat softened by his own broken rasp. Not as hotas Krycek's husking purr, but then nothing could be.

*

Alex wriggled a bit for better position, gasping against Mulder's chestwhen he lost precious contact with the other man's cock.

Mulder, thankfully, was having none of it, pulling Alex's head in tighterand rocking them back together, hip to hip. Alex wanted it harder, wantedto be bruised by those fine bones, but for now there was sweat-tangy fleshin his mouth and he had to

//suck it more taste so good I want--//

Mulder rubbed continuously over Alex's head, began to work his hips faster.

//So good--//

Alex nuzzled back into the teasing palm, tried a graze of teeth. Mulderarched into his mouth and Alex felt himself pulse with wave after wave oflust. This was too much and he never, ever wanted to stop.

*

Mulder felt like he'd saddled a bronc; Krycek's hips heaved beneath his,and his mouth was everywhere. The bed was groaning now, and it wasn't theonly one.

[jesus. jesus. fucking. christ.]

Mulder screwed his eyes shut and arched into Alex's maelstrom, that teasingmouth...

"W-w-watch the teeth..."

He hid his face in Alex's hair, scrubbed the fine bristle against his cheek,coughed out a sobbing breath.

[Fuck. Fuck. I'm gonna come--]

With a lurch, he bowled Alex over, rolling him back to the mattress, strokinghis swollen cock against the smooth hot flesh of Krycek's belly.

"Alex," he moaned, afraid to lose it. "Alex lemme get outof the sweats. Let go, Alex."

*

For a long moment Alex *couldn't* make himself comply. The logic was beyondhim, he only wanted to bite and lick and suck until his jaw seized up. Orhe died. Whichever came first.

"Alex, please--"

The desperation in Mulder's voice was a blade in his soul, though, and Alexthrew himself back to the mattress with a stifled scream. He already missedthe feel of tightening flesh between his teeth, and wondered dimly if Mulderwould ever hold his head like that again.

//I want so much...//

"Mulder please hurry I can't..."

He couldn't finish the thought, Mulder was tearing at the sweatpants wildlyand his cock was hard against his belly. Alex felt his mouth flood and launchedhimself at the other man with a growl.

The taste was just what he wanted -- sweat and need -- and Mulder's handsshaped themselves to hold him close.

//Perfect.//

*

He couldn't laugh this time. Couldn't breathe, either.

[How the hell did he--?]

But coherent thought was erased in the hot swallow of Krycek's greedy mouth.

[but swallow me whole how can he take it take it take it let me fuck yesfuck yes fuck]

He jabbed his hips into the welcoming heat, cried hoarsely as Krycek's handsqueezed his balls.

The ancient bedframe was squealing like a rusted swingset; Mulder thoughthe was going to lose his mind.

"Alex, Jesus--" He was going to lose it completely. Cry. Shout.Come.

All of them.

*

Alex felt Mulder's cock thicken in his mouth. He was stretched with it,aching, thrusting wildly against one silk-scratchy calf. He knew this wouldn'tlast long and he took his hand away from Mulder's balls and caught the baseof his cock instead. Stroked and squeezed while he pulled back just enough--

//Oh sweet Jesus the *taste*--//

He could hear Mulder's screams but they were irrelevant to the thick, hotrush of tasting him come in his mouth. Salty and bitter and wonderful andhe only wished he could hold it all...

*

Mulder was sure he was nearly gibbering. Unintelligible endearments filledhis head and no doubt left his lips.

"Alex. Alex," he murmured, pressing kisses against all the overheatedflesh he could reach.

"Lay back, Alex... That's right. Close your eyes," he whisperedagain, covering the other man, sucking at the crest of his ear.

*

Alex groaned at the feel of sharp teeth at his ear lobe, felt his whoreof a body try to press up and rub against the older man. He was wild withneed and couldn't take the tease.

"Please touch me suck me something--"

Mulder continued pressing kisses all over Alex's face, only stopping tomurmur --

"Shh... shhh..."

-- briefly against his swollen mouth.

"I can't I can't--"

*

He could feel Krycek tremble, pant, all along his skin. Nuzzling the youngerman's throat, Mulder curled his hand around Krycek's stiff cock, and cuppedhis other hand against the back of his shaven skull. He licked Krycek'sear, kissed it, hummed against it, squeezed his slippery cock once, thenagain.

"Come for me, Alex. I want to feel you..."

A long stripping stroke, his practiced hand urging Krycek's hips to snap,his eyes roll back in his head...

He could feel Krycek's muscles tense, feel him arch off the bed.

Mulder knotted his teeth in the heavy ridge of muscle that sloped from Krycek'sneck to his tensing shoulder, and took another long, stroking pull at Krycek'sweeping cock.

*

Alex pushed back against Mulder's hand at his nape, the sensual rub andbrush of his hair driving nearly as insane as the clever hand on his cock.

//Jesus God Mulder is jerking me Mulder--//

"Mulder!"

His hips snapped mindlessly into the rough pleasure of Mulder's hand andhe tried to hold back but when Mulder bit down harder there was just nohope.

He felt his whole body tense for a split second and then he was nothingbut the rush of himself down and out, wordless cries echoing meaninglesslyaround the room.

*

Mulder wondered if he was heavy enough to smother the man beneath him, butlanguor had stolen his bones. He kissed the chewed, bruising skin of Krycek'sshoulder, attempted to shift his weight.

Krycek wrapped his arms around him.

"No. Stay there."

Nodding sleepily, Mulder shaped his mouth into a kiss against the new patchof shoulder he was now nearly drooling against and made a grab for the blanket.

Krycek, no doubt noting his complete lack of coordination,

[who spiked the punch?]

fished for the coverlet and drew it up against Mulder's sweat slick shoulders.

"Alex," he murmured, before he forgot, or the impulse passed."Thanks."

*

Alex was too fuzzed to acknowledge the unfamiliar sound of gratitude withmore than a moderately frustrating failed attempt to reach any of Mulderwith his lips.

Alex smiled in the dark, sated and self-satisfied. Nuzzled Mulder's armbefore falling back against the pillow. He'd won the bed, after all.

He wondered if Mulder would still call him Alex in the morning.

*

Beneath him, he could feel his heart thud in counterpoint to Krycek's, asit had to Stevie's all those years ago. Nestling close, he inhaled the fadingscent of lavender, and the sweet, fresh spice of new sweat.

Their putrid little room suddenly seemed almost cozy, and he was nearerto peace than he'd been in at least a year.

I could get used to this, he thought dreamily, relaxed enough to forgetto be snide.

Absently, he kissed Alex's shoulder, the bruise already darkening, and closedhis eyes.


*

End.

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