Disclaimer: Nope...no profit for me. The characters were unaccountably given to 1013, and not me. ::sniff::
Plot: The invasion is over, and Mulder is heading the force that mops up the aftermath. A surprise is in store. This story takes place some time after 'Cheshire Cat', and concludes the "Alice in Wonderland" series.
Rating: NC17, for M/M slash
Spoilers: Terma, Sleepless and maybe Duane Barry. Thanks: To my beta readers, Bonita and phyre, who are the best help any writer could ever have. I can't possibly ever express all my gratitude. Thanks to Ned and Leny for the beautiful picture of Alex that sparked off this story. I'm very late for the March Challenge, but this is my answer to it. Thanks also to Sebastian, whose vision of mud wrestling didn't hurt at all.
Archive: RatB, Chaelyndra, The Basement, Slashville. Ask me if you want it anywhere else.
Feedback: Please. It helps me improve. sashworth@home.com

***

 

Alice in Wonderland IV

Jabberwocky

by Dr. Ruthless

Jabberwocky

'TWAS brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

He left it dead, and with its head He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Lewis Carroll

 

 

He was cold and his left arm hurt like the dickens. His mouth felt as if it were filled with sand. The fabric that covered his face stifled him, and he was close to panic. He moved uneasily, but there was no give in the thongs that held him.

He moaned, his voice sounding terribly loud in the silence. Nothing stirred. Panic fluttered just behind his eyelids, and his mouth loaded with unvoiced screams. He felt almost ready to die from the strain of holding back his terror when the other spoke inside his head.

"It won't be long now."

"I need to get out of here. I'm afraid." His mind shrieked an answer to the visitor inside his head, but already the presence of the other had already begun to have a calming effect.

"I know. He's coming. Soon you'll be safe. Hold on."

The man lay still once again. For the time being he was pacified. This inner communion was all he needed.

***********

Fox Mulder had almost forgotten Alex Krycek. He certainly hadn't ever expected to see the man again. Had he been asked, and were he honest, he would have admitted that way down in the back of his mind, in the place that he ignored because he just couldn't change it, there remained a hurt, ragged fissure that ate positive emotion and bled rage and hate when touched.

Mulder wasn't honest, merely expedient, and he did the things he had to in order to survive. Alex had gone from his life, and at first he didn't have the time to seek him out. Later he believed Alex was dead.

When the end came and the black ops had been routed, the public vaccinated and the alien threat rendered harmless, Dana Scully and Fox Mulder had led the attack on the last stronghold of the Consortium.

It had taken them years to prove the threat to humanity, more years, much heartache and bloodshed to counter it, and now the clean up seemed almost an anti-climax. They had traced the Consortium back to this single facility in the west, and the pair of them had flown from DC to Washington State to be in at the final act of this drama. They still hadn't discovered the whereabouts of the Cigarette Smoking Man but it was hoped that he would be discovered during this raid.

"They don't call it the Pacific North Wet for nothing," Mulder observed wryly, as he waited beside his partner for the go ahead to move in.

"It will make you grow, Mulder, it's good for you," rejoined the pocket redhead as she crouched beside him, looking delectably as though being damp around the edges was the latest fashion.

The pair of them wore FBI issue jackets and hats, with kevlar vests beneath, and they carried heavy-duty weapons. When they finally got the go ahead, they would be ready for anything that might come at them.

Scully opened her mouth to whisper something to her partner, but at that moment there were shouts and her words were lost in a flurry of action. Guns fired and the door blew out from the front wall of the low concrete building that was set into the cliff face.

Pausing to don their gas masks, the two agents joined the throng of military and FBI moving in.

The rain lashed down on them with renewed force, kicking up mud and causing the ground to froth around their ankles. Mulder turned up his collar and hunched his shoulders beneath the fierce, driving sting of the water, and then sloshed his way over the waterlogged ground towards the door, his gun out drawn and ready. Scully pattered behind him, ploughing through the puddles like a tiny tank.

As the special team moved in she could see Mulder slip into the shadow that surrounded the entrance and make for the doorway that now stood open, black and mysterious, a rotting tooth in a grey-white concrete maw.

Without a second thought she followed him in, passing out of the gloom and into the smoky atmosphere of the bunker, turning on her flashlight as she went.

The powerful beam cut through the darkness to illuminate a long corridor and several other members of the task force, all wearing masks. Some propelled weeping men at gunpoint but the smoker was nowhere to be seen. Mulder was moving quickly ahead of her, striding through the melee, focused as ever on his surroundings to the exclusion of all else. Rolling her eyes, she plodded gamely after him.

Deeper inside, the corridor ended at a T-junction, and for a minute Mulder paused, allowing her to catch up with him at last. To the right the corridor opened out into a huge room, a laboratory of sorts, equipped with a number of complex machines and a row of tanks, each filled with a viscous liquid, and each seemingly occupied by a vaguely human shape. Nothing moved, and other than the sound, now faint, of the prisoners being rounded up, the only thing to break the stillness was the sound of bubbles passing through liquid.

Wordlessly, Mulder turned left to prowl along the corridor on that side. There were several doors set into the wall of the passageway, and Scully nudged Mulder, pointing at the barred grilles positioned at eye level on several of the doors.

Mulder nodded, somehow reluctant to break the shroud of silence that hung over them, though had he been asked, he'd have been unable to say why. He wasn't exactly superstitious but there was a bad feel to the place that he really didn't want to awaken.

The first door revealed a storeroom complete with janitorial supplies and a cowering old woman, who didn't appear to be rowing with both oars in the water. She babbled a few words in a language that Scully had never heard before and sank down onto the floor, a look of piteous entreaty on her face as she sat amid a dark pool that slowly spread around her feet.

"Leave her, Scully." Mulder sounded horrified as he turned away to the opposite door. This revealed an office and Mulder stepped inside to examine it more closely. As he moved towards the back of the room, Scully heard a tiny rustling sound, and, instinct kicking in, aimed her gun squarely at the center of the desk and shouted "FBI. Come out with your hands up."

Mulder cast a perplexed look at her and stood still waiting to see what would happen.

"I'm going to count to three and then I'm going to shoot." Her voice was firm. She was sure that someone was hiding behind the desk.

"One." Nothing. There was only silence.

"Two." Still nothing. She cocked her pistol and the sound was deafening in the leaden silence.

"Three." She was pulling the trigger, had almost fired when the man climbed out holding his hands away from his body in an almost apologetic manner.

Mulder gave a grunt of satisfaction and set about applying handcuffs to the man he had hated for so many years. He turned, yanking Spender behind him and headed towards the exit, and the prison cell that awaited the old man in his grip. For once, Spender was silent. There was nothing left to say.

Scully turned to follow him and then glanced back at the doors towards the end, the ones with the shuttered grilles. Sighing, she turned to go and look at them, feeling as she did so that it was probably a mistake, but unable to leave without seeing if there were prisoners.

The first door opened readily, revealing what was most definitely a cell. There was a bunk with a thin mattress in one corner, and a toilet bowl that jutted obscenely beside it. Nothing else broke the starkness of the narrow room. Ominous stains on the floor and in the mattress made the hair at the nape of her neck prickle.

Moving to the second door, she found it locked. Standing on tiptoe she peered through the grille into the room itself, and then applied her gun to the lock, firing into it. The door gave, and she yanked it open as her flashlight beam revealed a woman, lying on the bunk, arms bound to a ring over her head, and a black hood covering her face.

Stepping inside while she fumbled for her pocketknife, Scully rapidly severed the leather thongs that held the woman to the wall. As the woman sat up, raising swollen, empurpled hands to the hood she wore, Scully was torn. This woman needed help, but what if there were others like her?

"Stay there. I'll be back in a minute." Scully was back in the corridor again yelling for support, and seeing figures coming towards her she turned without waiting for a reply, moving swiftly to try the next door. It gave easily, revealing only empty, dusty desolation. Two doors left.

The next, as she slid the grille open gave her a fright. Something hurled itself against the door from within, something that raged and snarled and scrambled at the grating with claws that put her knife to shame.

She fell back, gasping, and moved away, leaving it unopened.

The fifth and final door revealed another prisoner, bound like the woman in a black hood, wrists lashed together to a ring that was set into the wall above his head. Unlike the woman she had already found, the man was bound at his ankles too. He was clad only in a white garment that barely covered him. His thighs, scattered with fine fuzz, protruded from the hem of the garment, giving way to long, strong legs. Scully made haste to get the door open, shooting out the lock once more until the door slumped open.

The man hadn't moved, and for a minute Scully thought that he might be dead, but then she saw the faint rise and fall of the man's chest. He was breathing. That meant something.

Swiftly, she made her way to him, cut the thongs that held him captive, and stood back, waiting for signs that he was conscious. There was nothing. Reaching to unfasten the hood, she began to remove it. Just as she was beginning to pull it from the man's face, there was a commotion in the hallway, and Mulder summoned her. Moving to the door, she beckoned one of the medics to take over as she raced to assist Mulder, putting out of her mind the man who had lain motionless in the fifth cell.

Once she had handed the woman over to the medical team she headed to find Mulder, pausing only to mention the presence of the man she'd left behind, lying so still.

She found Mulder in the middle of an argument with the task force leader about what was to be done with the Smoker, and when the field nurse came to her to tell her that they had found nobody in the fifth cell she was perplexed.

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

The mopping up exercise was almost over now. Mulder and Scully had seen the Smoker into the back of a prison van and watched with grim satisfaction as he set off for the local jail where he would spend the night.

The water fell in sheets that frothed up the mud underfoot and stung any exposed skin to livid rawness. Scully wondered if it had ever been other than this. She recalled sunshine, but could no longer feel it warm on her skin, and thought that her imagination was either too good, or not good enough.

They'd rounded the end of the bunker when they saw him.

Scully thought that maybe he believed he was alone, or perhaps he'd reached that point in his life where he no longer cared, didn't give a damn, knew that there was only one life, and he'd just reclaimed his portion of it.

Either way it didn't matter. He was leaning against the wall. He stood, face turned up into the rain as it sluiced down over him. Rivulets running from temple to jaw and streaming down his long neck. Somewhere along the line, he'd removed the mask that had concealed his features, and he was looking up at the grey, leaden sky, a soft smile on his face.

He must have been cold, but he showed no sign of it. All he wore was that same, loose-fitting white shirt that hung over his shoulders, adhering to the long slabs of muscle that studded his chest and arms. His bare feet were planted squarely in the thick, yellow mud, and Scully could see his toes working, curling and uncurling, cat-like in the frothing earth.

The two of them recognized him at the same time, and Scully shot out a hand to hold her partner back as he muttered an obscenity

"He was a prisoner." She said, softly as he started forward, his fists clenched.

The man was looking down now, lost in his own thoughts. The white cotton of the shirt he wore was translucent under the force of the downpour. His nipples stood proud, crinkled by the cold. Scully could see the dark, furred area around his groin, and the lighter bulge of his genitalia. The shirt stopped abruptly at mid thigh, revealing a pair of long, sturdy legs.

Mulder was virtually spitting with fury and again Scully placed a restraining hand on his arm, this time repeating, "Mulder, he was a prisoner. He was tied up, with a mask on his face. I was in the middle of taking it off when you called me." Mulder turned to her, his teeth set in a snarl.

"He probably double crossed them too." He snapped, and started towards the man trailing Scully behind him like a silk scarf.

When the man finally saw them approaching, he smiled; a sweet, guileless smile that lit his face and made his eyes shine through the dull, dark afternoon.

Krycek, you son of a bitch!" Mulder's angry voice cut the air like a pistol shot, and Scully made another small noise of remonstration.

Drawing up in front of the man Mulder leaned forward, thrusting his chin forward into the other man's face. Scully waited for the explosion of wrath that she felt sure would emanate from one or the other of the two men, but it didn't seem to be forthcoming. Alex Krycek, still leaning against the wall, raised his palms up to show them.

"Look! Two hands... " His smile was incandescent, and Scully furrowed her brow, wondering what the significance of that was, and why it seemed as if the man's smile was lighting up the lowering, greasy sky, "Two hands... "

The chocolate brown voice was soft, and it was almost as though he were talking to himself. Mulder moved back half a step and Krycek murmured something quietly to himself in a language she didn't know. Then, in a move fast enough to make her gasp, he laid his two hands against the sides of Mulder's astonished face, leaned forward, and applied his lips to Mulder's in a very thorough, very moist, very audible kiss.

Scully's jaw dropped as Mulder permitted the contact without moving, and Krycek leaned forward to press his almost naked body against Mulder. Time seemed to slip its gears and run idle. She could have sworn that sounds were muted and the rain hung in a veil, waiting to resume its downward path while she watched Alex Krycek kiss Fox Mulder.

When the tableau broke and the real world crashed over their heads like a monsoon, she found that she'd been holding her breath.

Mulder shoved Krycek, sending him to lie full length in the thick mud in which they'd been standing. As Krycek began to rise to his feet, his back slick and yellowed, Mulder moved in to hit and found himself face down in the sucking ooze of it, gasping for breath as he tried to right himself.

At that point the fight was on. Mulder flailing and Krycek - strangely - laughing as the two of them rolled about like small boys, punching at each other's backs as they tumbled and squelched in the filth at her feet.

Unconsciously Scully took a step back, and then another as the two men threatened to roll her way. Shit yellow was just not her color.

She shivered. It was beginning to grow dark, and whatever warmth the washed-out sun afforded now would soon be gone. Drawing a deep breath, she made up her mind.

"Mulder, he's going to catch his death if we don't get him covered up and indoors. He's turning blue."

On the ground, Krycek had wrapped his arms around Mulder's neck once more, and had applied himself to kissing the other man, his head still half submerged in the viscous mud.

Mulder finally struggled upright, hauling his virtually naked adversary roughly to his feet.

"Come on, move it." He yanked Krycek forward, roughly and made for the car dripping mud and fury in equal quantities and leaving Scully to trot after him feeling not only supremely irritated, but utterly confused into the bargain.

Arriving back at the car, Mulder hustled Krycek into the back, where he sat, dripping wet and laughing softly to himself, clutching to him the blanket Scully had found. Scully could hear his teeth chattering and leaned to turn the car heater on full as Mulder pulled away, turning the car for Seattle, and civilization of sorts.

The ride back to Seattle was strange, oddly dislocated from reality. Krycek had stopped laughing, and was shivering now even though the car heater was successfully turning the interior of the car into what felt to Scully like a steam bath. He seemed bemused by his hands and ceaselessly rubbed and stroked them together. Mulder, thickly caked in mud, drove grimly, a scowl plastered on under the mud, and formed his own small tribute to mud wrestlers everywhere as wet filth dripped from him like chocolate to lie in pools around his feet. Scully shuddered to think what Budget were going to say when they checked their vehicle back in.

When at last they reached the hotel they had been staying in, Krycek was shaking violently, obviously in great need of warmth and assistance.

"You're going to have to share with him, Mulder, unless you want him to have his own room."

Mulder glowered at her for a couple of seconds before nodding and then opened the door to his room. Turning, he took hold of his very oddly behaving captive to lead him inside. By this time Krycek appeared to be semi-comatose, though he still shivered. Scully placed a hand against Krycek's neck, assessing the situation rapidly. He was shocked and hypothermic.

Snapping "Bring him." over her shoulder, she rushed into room and through into the bathroom, where she began to fill up the tub with warm water.

Mulder groused for a second or two and then attempted to collect Krycek. The man appeared unconscious now and it was with some difficulty that Mulder managed to prize him out of the car where he lay slumped, limp against Mulder.

Sighing crossly, Mulder flexed his knees and hefted the sturdy body to stagger indoors with him.

Depositing the man's limp frame into the bathtub, Mulder left him to Scully while he turned his attention to his own mud-soaked person. He was cold and filthy, and he felt strange, very strange indeed.

Over the years he'd become used to Krycek messing with his head, but this was different. He knew, although Scully didn't, what the significance of Krycek's mumbled "two hands" was. He was at a loss to comprehend the double agent's insistent attempts to kiss him, but he certainly knew that Krycek had lost an arm. He'd even taunted the man about it.

// Isn't that how you like to beat yourself? //

and had wished he hadn't afterwards. Krycek had kissed him then as well. What was with the man? Krycek had always kept him guessing, and this new, strange behavior was, in a way, only to be expected. What a mindfuck. The man was a master at it, and had made a study of the buttons he needed to press in order to make him, Mulder, crazy.

When they'd actually been together, he'd disappeared in the night and left him alone to wonder where he'd gone. The following day, Mulder had woken up in the underground bunker, expecting his newfound lover to be there, sleeping alongside him. He hadn't been. He had vanished without a word, and when Mulder had ventured out to go to work on the Monday, he'd returned in the evening to find the site a heap of smoking rubble. He hadn't seen Alex Krycek again, until now.

Stripped naked, Mulder collected a towel and used it to dry off the worst of the filth. Wrapping the towel around his waist, he stepped into the bathroom to see how Scully was doing with the Ratboy.

Krycek lay in the tub exactly where he'd been placed. He still wore the thin shirt, now stained yellow-brown by the mud in which they'd been battling.

He was conscious once more, and his face had gone from blue tinged to a flushed red. His eyes were alarming, huge and bruised looking, glittering with fever.

"Mulder, help me." Scully indicated the shirt Krycek wore, and Mulder bent reluctantly to remove it, trying unsuccessfully at first to pull it off over Krycek's head before finally taking it in both his hands and ripping it away from the quiescent body. Krycek didn't seem to register the motion at all, and Mulder fell back, dropping the ripped fabric into the garbage container beside the basin.

"I'm going to wait in the bedroom, Mulder. Let me know when he's clean." Scully was moving even as she spoke, and Mulder knew it would do no earthly good to argue. Sighing, he studied the man in the tub.

"Come on, Krycek. Get moving. I need a bath too. Here." Irritated, he took the other man's hand and placed the facecloth in it, resisting the message that Krycek was genuinely sick. Krycek grasped feebly at the wet fabric, but seemed unable to do more than swipe limply. Finally, his lips moved slightly and Mulder bent to listen.

"Help... Don' feel s'good." His eyes rolled up, and he appeared to lose consciousness.

For the next minute or so Mulder swore fluently, and Scully put her head around the door, a single eyebrow raised so eloquently that he subsided, sighed, and finally climbed into the tub behind Krycek.

The warmth of the water was sybaritic bliss. Mulder felt the heat seep into his bones as he sank down, holding Krycek against him. The other man's head fell back to lie against his shoulder at an oddly uncomfortable looking angle. His breathing had become strident, and he felt furnace hot against Mulder's skin. Sighing, his skin prickling with unaccustomed worry, Mulder set to and began to wash away all traces of their encounter in the mud puddle. Somehow the bastard had gotten the better of him yet again. How dare he be sick when Mulder was spoiling for a fight?

Krycek groaned and turned his face in to nestle against Mulder's neck, and it suddenly seemed to Mulder very important that he get out of there, away from the disturbingly beautiful man who was behaving so disconcertingly.

Caked in mud as they both were, it soon became apparent that they'd get no cleaner without a change of water, and Mulder struggled with his toe to yank out the plug and drain it, before scrambling out from behind Krycek to start the shower.

At last the two of them were clean to his satisfaction, and he left Krycek in the empty tub, wrapped a clean towel around himself, and went into the bedroom in search of clean clothing. He needed to get some clothing between himself and his former lover.

"Well, Scully, he's clean now, but it looks like he's going to spend the night in the tub. I can't seem to rouse him." He flipped open his suitcase, riffling through the contents and pulling out jeans, boxers and a soft, cotton shirt. Scully rose to her feet and marched off into the bathroom, leaving him to throw on his denim plated armor.

She returned just as he was buttoning his shirt, to demand his assistance in getting his unwelcome guest out of the bathtub and into bed. He rolled his eyes to heaven, and then went reluctantly to where the apparently comatose man lay waiting.

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

Together, they wrestled Krycek, barely conscious as he was, out of the bathtub and into the bedroom. Mulder had toweled him off and decanted him, limp and shivering, into the bed. Then Scully had left to find a pharmacist that could supply her with the medication that Krycek needed, and food for herself and Mulder. Returning with a Chinese take out, she proceeded to dose Krycek, and then feed her partner and herself.

Mulder, chafing at the necessity of staying beside their undeniably sick captive, was on the phone, mercilessly haranguing the agents who had taken Spender into custody, demanding that they get him back to DC as soon as possible. At the same time he demanded to know what the Smoker had said, and abjured them from any action that might detract from his triumph later. Scully was idly flipping through a copy of Newsweek, and Krycek remained motionless within the bed, his complexion a waxen, unhealthy color.

Neither of them was aware of the sick man's increasing restlessness until he was suddenly out of the bed, tottering to stand between them.

Scully was the first to sense that not all was as it should be. She looked up from her reading to see the naked body of the former FBI agent looming over her, and gasped.

He stood, swaying slightly, his complexion heightened by fever, and his eyes... She suppressed a scream.

Black marble swirled opaque across his eyes.

"Mulder."

Mulder continued talking, and she called his name again. "Mulder, I need you."

He turned, and his eyes widened as he caught his first sight of the man who had become his bete noir over the years. Krycek stood, waiting patiently, who knew for what?

The black film over Krycek's eyes eddied endlessly, and Scully cowered back into her chair, uncertain.

"Krycek?" The voice Mulder found at last was tinged with horror. Krycek turned his head to survey Mulder, his face impassive, his eyes black pools that seemed to consume the light and radiate dark certainty.

"The one you name Krycek is a satisfactory vessel, however, my need for such a vessel has now ended. There would be a reward should you assist my departure." Lashes dipped over gleaming onyx, and Krycek stood passive and somehow incomplete, head drooping, the purity of his features breathtaking as he awaited a response.

"Where are you going?" Mulder blurted out the question with no real expectation of a reply. When the being responded, both Mulder and Scully jumped.

"This world is no longer suitable for the ones who came here to take it. The one you call Krycek has assisted me in ensuring this, and deserves now to have the sole use of this vessel. I wish only to return to my place." Again Krycek slumped, and as the breathy voice ceased he stood waiting, merely being, a statue of flesh and blood, perfectly proportioned and utterly beautiful, a living sculpture.

"How long has Krycek... have you...?" Scully floundered for the words she needed, battling to keep any expression from her voice as she asked the question.

"I have been associated with this vessel for some years. Krycek and I have shared our ideals and adopted common goals. Now they are completed, I may leave. Assist me and be rewarded."

"Wait a minute." Mulder's voice was sharp in the ensuing silence. "When did you and Krycek begin your... " He floundered for a minute. "Your association?"

"It was five years ago. Krycek was in your company at the time of our meeting. I am grateful for that. You and he have much history together." The statement was merely that, a statement, flat and disinterested. Scully, who had sat with her jaw agape at this turn of events, put out a hand to touch Krycek's flushed skin.

"Be that as it may, this man is sick and if you value your 'vessel' you need to get him back into bed." She said, tartly.

The man turned and walked back to the bed, where he sat heavily, swung his legs around, and pulled the covers up to cover himself. He remained sitting.

"It isn't my intent to cause harm to this vessel... to Krycek's body.

"Krycek has assisted in the salvation of your world. I owe him much, as do you." The black film that floated over Krycek's eyes lent him an unearthly, sphinx-like expression.

"Let me get this straight." Mulder was frowning as he stared at his former adversary. "You think Krycek has been working for the good guys?" He laughed, cynically, but his mind was racing, recalling a night spent in an underground storage shed, a bus ride, and a single night of lovemaking that had felt real until the morning, and then hurt so much he'd put it away from him.

The life form that might or might not be Krycek eyed him with a basilisk stare.

"Krycek has been the vehicle by which the invasion of your world has been countered. We carried the vaccine to your government, and only because of my ability to heal this body quickly were we able to make a difference in time. Krycek has willingly jeopardized his safety and well being for the sake of this world." The alien moved as if to speak again, and suddenly the serenity of the mask-like expression was shattered. For a moment the blackness rolled back from Krycek's eyes and his face took on a look of set determination. After a moment or two Krycek's body relaxed once more, and his mouth closed, permitting the previous placid expression to return.

"This body has suffered much in the process, but I won't leave it damaged. Krycek deserves whatever he wishes to possess." Once again the spasm flickered across Krycek's face, and when the voice spoke again, it was hoarse.

"Mulder... Fox." The sound that grated from Krycek's lips was raw, and filled with pain. "Mulder, I... " He fell silent once more, and there was a pause, then, "Help Bandersnatch get home, please."

"Krycek, what are you trying to pull here? Where are you expecting us to take you?" Scully was as succinct as ever, and the wide black eyes turned to her.

"The ship waits in North Dakota. There is where I have to go before I can free this vessel."

Mulder acquiesced. "You want us to take you back to the silo where..."

The man in the bed nodded. "We have restored the body to its former operational strength. By morning, the virus we are enduring will be gone. Now it remains only for us to return to our place, and he to his. Will you assist us in this matter?" Serene and beautiful, the being before him was a temptation that Mulder found almost too much. Almost, but there were still niggling doubts.

"If we do this, what guarantee do we have that you're telling us the truth?" Once again, Scully cut to the heart of the matter, wielding her words like a scalpel, while Mulder sat on the edge of the bed, perplexed.

"My word and my deeds are guarantee enough."

Krycek stretched out his arm for them to see. "This should be an earnest of my good intent. I could have forced you... occupied you."

Scully was still confused, and sat with her white forehead creased as a million questions bubbled beneath the surface of her brain. Mulder leant forward to examine the arm, recalling with a cold shiver the mumbled chat of 'two hands, two hands' he had heard earlier on that afternoon. Faint white scars formed a ring around the biceps, and the flesh below it was pale, almost translucent, the bulge and dip of the muscle a solid delight as slight motion caused it to slide beneath the skin.

Tracing down the scattering of dark hair to the delicacy of the well-turned wrist and the long, elegant fingers with their oval nails, all seemed perfectly normal. Mulder knew that Krycek had lost this arm. He had shared a bed with him, and made love to him. He knew this was impossible. The arm lay somewhere thousands of miles away, discarded. It had either been burned in the fire or buried in the forest around Tunguska after being severed brutally by a pack of ignorant Russian peasants who had believed that they were doing him a favor.

"How...?" The shocked whisper caused the uncomprehending Scully to snap her head round to look at them in bafflement.

"Mulder, tell me what's going on?"

In hushed tones, Mulder described what had happened, watching her eyes turn dark with horror that the story evoked. Moving over to them, she leant forward to examine the arm that Mulder designated, and then took Krycek's other arm to compare the two.

The black eyes turned to her and the full mouth smiled gently.

"The vessel was harmed for our cause. It's our duty to make restitution. This we have done. Krycek has agreed that we may find our place and depart in peace."

The two FBI agents exchanged meaningful looks as the alien ceased to speak, finally Scully moved away, motioning Mulder to follow her.

"Mulder, what do you think? It just isn't possible to grow a hand and an arm." Her voice was low, and Mulder nodded.

"Scully, I know what I saw. I know it sounds unscientific, but his arm had been hacked off, I know, I saw it. I saw the scars. I saw the stump. Krycek had been mutilated. He can't possibly have faked it."

"Mulder, there's no way he could suddenly have re-grown an entire limb. It's just not possible."

"You can't argue with the truth, Scully. I vote for taking him back to his ship and seeing what happens. You can't deny that there's something very strange going on with him. Just look at his eyes. That proves it beyond a doubt. There's no way he could be faking that." Scully pressed her lips together, but after reflecting for a minute or two, she nodded. The two of them turned back to Krycek. They'd both seen the results of black oil infection, and they were uneasy at the thought of being in Krycek's proximity.

He'd changed dramatically. He no longer sat upright in the bed, he'd slumped back against the pillows and his breath was strident as he lay, glassy eyed. The black film had receded from them and all that remained was the man they had always known, a man that appeared right then to be very sick.

"Mulder?" The croak of his voice seemed very loud in the still room. "You gonna help us?"

"We're gonna take you back to the silo, if that's what you mean, Krycek." Mulder's words seemed to have exactly the right effect on Krycek. He smiled seraphically, and closed his eyes.

"Thanks, Mulder. You'll never know what this means to me."

Mulder stood for a long time looking down on Krycek, who appeared to drift off into a doze.

"That's what you think, tovarich. Trust me. I will, oh yes I will."

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

Later that night, climbing into bed beside the still sleeping Krycek, Mulder wondered if he'd finally gone insane. Krycek had always managed to keep him completely off balance. He'd never known whether the man was angel or devil, and now he felt as though he'd somehow slipped into a looking glass world where everything had turned on its head. Years ago he'd seduced Krycek, and then learned to hate him. He'd been rescued and seduced in return by a Krycek who was infinitely worldlier and more cynical than the young man he'd learned to hate, but who had still professed to love him. That man had rocked his world, and then vanished without trace, leaving him alone to refine the hatred he had learned.

Since then he hadn't been able to keep the image of Alex Krycek straight in his head. He hadn't seen the man, or any trace of him since he'd left his safe hideout over a year ago. When he'd gone back looking for Alex, Alex had gone, and so was the hideout. The old house that had stood above the subterranean apartment had been scattered to the four winds, and the little haven where he and his lover had shared their brief respite was no more.

He'd believed that Alex was dead, because that was preferable to believing himself betrayed again. He'd even shed a tear for Alex. Now, he didn't know what to believe. He wondered if this alien had ridden the Alex that had saved him at midnight from the hunters who had come for him. From what the man said, it seemed that he had been.

He laid his hand against Krycek's face. This afternoon he'd been thoroughly kissed by this being, whatever he was. It had awoken memories in him, memories of sweet kisses in times gone by.

Krycek seemed cooler now, and his breathing less harsh. Was it the alien within, working its strange magic, or was it merely Scully's medication, Mulder didn't know. In an uncharacteristically gentle gesture, Mulder smoothed back the stray hair that lay on the other man's broad forehead. Then he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.

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

It wasn't quite day when he awoke. Something had changed, but at first he couldn't decide exactly what.

Turning, he saw that the other half of the bed was empty, and sat up with a start. Krycek stood beside the window, peering out between the drapes, his body a pale, slender flame burning against the shadows.

"Mulder?"

"What is it?"

"I never stopped loving you, never stopped caring. You'll never know how hard it was to walk away from you, knowing that you thought me dead." The flicker of pale flesh against the gloom told of Krycek's approach to the bed, and Mulder suddenly felt vulnerable.

"Krycek, I can't do anything for you, see anything coming of this. I don't know what to tell you. You've got some kind of a creature inside of you. I can't... "

"You know what?" There was the lilt of a smile in Krycek's voice as he answered. "I'm gonna miss him when he's gone. It seems really strange to think about being alone again." The edge of the bed dipped as Krycek sat down beside Mulder. "It's been a long time."

"What happened to you, Alex? Your arm...?"

Krycek laughed softly. "The creature inside me has an ally that knows a way to tip my genetic make up into re-growth. He did it for me. Unfortunately, in doing so he managed to reveal his presence to old Spender. He was very impressed until he found that there was no way to force his obedience. When Scully found me and cut me loose, I was expecting old Spender to come and slit my throat. It was a personal thing with him. I've been to hell and back in this last year, Mulder, but here I am, and look at my hands."

The man moved swiftly, lifting both hands to place them against Mulder's cheeks as he leaned forward to fix soft lips onto Mulder's as his tongue fluttered against them, requesting entry. Mulder allowed himself to relax into the caress, as sweet, half forgotten memories rushed back to stir him as he opened himself to the kiss.

Krycek moaned softly, his breath puffing from him as Mulder turned his head, angling it as he parted his lips to deepen the kiss. His strong, flexible fingers slid around to cup the back of his head, holding him still for an expert exploration of his mouth, tracing teeth and tongue with fierce concentration that demanded everything that Mulder had to give. When they finally broke apart, Mulder was shivering himself, his body recalling times gone by when Krycek had lain with him, held him and made love to him.

"Krycek, this alien you're carrying around with you...?"

"Bandersnatch? I don't know what to tell you, Mulder. He and I have been together for a long time. He wants me to be happy. He's trying his damnedest to make things right again for me. He wants us to be lovers again because he knows what I want." Alex's words were hesitant, and Mulder shivered again.

"I don't know. I don't think I can while that thing is riding along inside of you." Alex's lips were ghosting kisses from Mulder's jaw along the line of his throat and down into the hollow of his collarbone. "Too much, Alex, please... "

"It was fine between us the night I pulled you out of your apartment and took you to my little hidey-hole for safety. Where's the difference?"

Krycek turned away then, and made his way back around to his own side of the bed, climbed in, and lay still. As Mulder lay huddled in his own small space he suspected that there would be no further sleep for him that night.

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

The morning dawned, still cheerless and wet. Mulder's memory of a time when the sun had warmed him was growing dim. Sheets of cold, angry rain needled down without cease, and he decided against a run before breakfast, choosing instead to snuggle into the warmth of the bed. A sudden movement reminded him that he wasn't alone, and he jumped at the touch of warm skin, turning his head cautiously to study the man beside him in the bed.

Krycek looked better this morning. His color was good, and his breathing was back to normal, no hint of the stridor of the night before remained. He lay on his belly, one arm curled under the pillow, the other outflung to dangle over the side of the bed. Thick, dark lashes curled on his cheek, and his lips, slightly parted, showed a glimpse of white teeth. His expression was one of great content. Mulder couldn't take his eyes off him, wanted to thread his fingers through the soft, dark hair, wanted to kiss the breath from his body even as he watched him.

The memory of the black slickness marbling the eyes now closed in sleep made Mulder reconsider and he swiftly rolled out of bed, pulling on the jeans and T-shirt he'd discarded the night before.

He was searching for a single, errant sock when he became aware of Krycek's gaze on his back, and turned to find speaking green eyes fixed on him. There was no trace of black.

"Good morning, Krycek. At least as good a morning as is possible in this miserable weather."

Alex smiled faintly, then threw back the bedclothes and made his way around the bed and into the bathroom, giving Mulder ample opportunity to admire the graceful, predatory stalk that was his usual form of locomotion. The sight of him made Mulder tingle. He'd had the chance. He knew the pleasure that lush body could give, and yet he'd turned it down.

With a groan he went over to his suitcase. It seemed to him that the sooner he found something to cover up his ex partner's nudity, the less under pressure he would feel.

When Krycek finally emerged from the bathroom, damp and shining, Mulder gestured to him, passing him underwear, jeans and a T-shirt. Krycek took them with a gesture of thanks and sat down on the edge of the bed to pull on boxers and socks.

"I'm going to need to get some clothes of my own, Mulder. Feet are gonna be a problem. Your shoes are too small for me." Mulder surveyed Krycek as he sat, half in and half out of his second best pair of blue jeans.

"Do you actually have any money, Krycek? How are we going to get you clothed?"

Alex grinned, tapping his forehead. "Just get me to a bank, Mulder. I'll be okay."

Alex struggled into the jeans, fighting to fasten them. Once on they looked as though they had been spray painted on by an artist of great discernment. Mulder itched to run his hands over them, and then take them off again. With great difficulty he tore his mind from the image before him and back to fearful thoughts of alien possession.

"What's it like, Krycek?" Mulder's question broke the silence, and Krycek, struggling into Mulder's T-shirt, didn't answer for a moment.

"You mean Bandersnatch?" He spoke as his head popped up out of the neck of the shirt, and grinned at Mulder's confusion. "That's what I call him, Bandersnatch. It's from the old poem Lewis Carroll wrote. It's okay - kind of comforting in a way. There have been times when I'd have gone totally crazy if he hadn't been along for the ride." He tugged down on the T-shirt that snugged over his chest, showing clearly the small peaks that were his nipples, and the streamlined musculature of his chest and belly.

As fully clothed as possible given their limited resources, Alex reclined on the bed in a manner that pushed all of Mulder's buttons and caused the breath to catch in his throat.

"What do you mean? What did he do for you?" Mulder had found a real live alien at last, and as he began to formulate question for it he forgot the incongruity of the situation and embraced his newly found extreme possibility.

"He was... with me, I guess that's want you call it. He supported me, calmed me, helped get out of a hell of a lot of nasty situations. He's fucked up a couple, but then so have I. I'll miss him when he's gone, but at least he's given me back my wing." Krycek's right hand had been running up and down his left arm, and he smiled once again, dazzling Mulder with his radiant happiness. "Jeez, Mulder, you have no way of knowing how good it feels to be whole again. I can tie shoelaces, hold a remote while I eat popcorn, eat corn on the cob, drive a stick shift...Beat myself with both hands! " He was suddenly on his feet, sinuous and fluid in his movement, beside Mulder even as the other man blinked and stepped back. "I can hold you in both my arms, Fox. I'm going to spend a lot of time doing that."

He caught Mulder against him as he spoke, and he moved in to nuzzle against Mulder's ear, nibbling at the lobe as his breathy whisper tickled against Mulder.

"Krycek... Alex, I don't... " The words were swallowed as warm lips sought his mouth, fiercely claiming, visiting each sensitive fold with a slick and questing tongue. Sighing, Mulder gave himself to the embrace, beginning at last to return the kiss as his own arms slipped around Krycek to hold him in answer. For a few minutes no further words were spoken and the two men stood locked in each other's arms as they kissed passionately.

They were still pressed tight against each other when Scully knocked on the door.

Pulling apart at last, Mulder left Krycek, whose chest as heaving and whose every inch spoke of arousal, and went to the door to let his partner enter.

She seemed curious as she came inside the room, darting swift glances at Mulder, who was well aware that his kiss-swollen mouth betrayed his recent occupation, and then flicking to Krycek, who had turned to make for the bathroom once more.

"How did you sleep?" Was all she said as she moved to perch on the edge of the tumbled bed.

"Surprisingly well. He seems to be much better this morning."

"So I see." Her eyes flashed approval as they took inventory of the other man's skintight clothing, and the smug aura of sensuality as he emerged from the safe haven of the bathroom.

"Scully, I don't know what you're thinking, but nothing happened last night... I mean it wasn't like that... " His words trailed away as Scully fixed him with an inscrutable stare.

"Mulder, I'm not thinking anything. I'm sure you have one or two things we might want to discuss at a later date, but at the moment we need to concentrate on getting out of this... " She gestured at the seemingly never ending sheets of rain. "This hell hole. Where do we have to take him?"

"Fargo, North Dakota." Krycek's soft voice inserted itself into the conversation, making Scully jump. "There's a missile silo just north of there and that's where Bandersnatch's ship is waiting for him. Once he's home they'll be free to leave, but they won't go, can't until I get him home."

"All right." Scully's calm good sense seemed perfectly logical. "Do we drive, or do we fly?" Scully was addressing Mulder but her eyes were fixed on Krycek as she spoke.

"Fly, I think. Get that thing out of him as soon as possible, but first, we need to get him some clothes. He's got no jacket or shoes, and besides, " He gestured towards the tight blue denims. "He's X-rated in those."

"Not that you mind personally, Mulder?" Krycek chuckled softly and stretched, the ripple of movement that ran the length of his frame revealing an expanse of toned belly, his navel peeking shyly, and the hint of a scattering of dusky, silky curls below. Mulder, whose excitement had been beginning to subside, now found himself steel hard once more, praying that he wouldn't have to stand up and walk across the room in front of Scully, rigid and leaking as he was.

Scully must have realized something was going on, because she suddenly grinned and nodded to herself, and then arose to move over to the door.

Mulder snapped the lock on his suitcase, gathered his jacket, and turned to Krycek.

"I'll back the car as close as I can. Just hop in and we'll get going, okay?" The other man nodded, and for a second or two, the inky mist veiled his eyes, lending him an oriental appearance.

"Bandersnatch is excited. There's something going to happen soon, something involving you, Scully, but he isn't saying what."

As Dana Scully moved to climb into the car beside her partner, the human/alien hybrid named Alex Krycek stood to watch and the black light that shone from his eyes made the smile on his face almost mythic.

"We'll do it for her, Bandersnatch, it's the least we can do."

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

Their arrival in North Dakota was an escape from rain, but the evening was already overcast, and the sun was a fading memory in a bruised sky that tried to conceal its vast, uncaring presence with a veil of ragged clouds.

Fox Mulder gazed up at the rapidly darkening vault over his head, awaiting that first, twinkling presence as if somehow it would herald a new beginning.

Alex had completely given way, submerged in the Bandersnatch. Blackness glazed his eyes as he sat motionless, lost in his own world once they'd left the plane and picked up the rental car. He spoke only once, to Mulder, who was, of course, driving.

"It isn't time yet. We need somewhere to wait." Mulder recognized the tone from when they had been in a car together the last time they had traveled this road.

Looking down on Bandersnatch, Mulder could only nod. The other's face was as stern and inhuman as he had ever seen it. He steered for the town, stopping at a motel he half remembered from the time before, and booking two rooms, leaving Scully with her own extremely interesting thoughts.

They assembled in the double room, and Mulder called out for a pizza, which they ate without seeming to notice they were doing so.

Bandersnatch seemed disinclined to talk, his expression distant, as if he were communicating with someone, or something that was remote from them. He moved fluidly, feeding Alex's body, but his borrowed mind was apparently elsewhere.

Finally, at about 10pm, he roused himself.

"It's time. Let's go now."

The three of them made their way to the car, and this time, Alex drove, cutting the lights as he drove the car off the road and onto a dirt track. Pulling the car to a standstill 20 minutes later, he sagged back in the driver's seat.

Turning to the two agents, he paused for a minute, black roiling in his eyes as the Bandersnatch contemplated them.

"We should go. They aren't watching now, but they will come back soon enough and without me, this vessel is limited, as are you." He moved to open the door.

"What do you mean, limited, Krycek?" Scully asked the question but received no answer. Krycek and his strange passenger were already on the move.

Krycek was hurrying now; every movement was precise as he flowed through the bushes towards the bunker. The other two followed, afraid of losing him, a dark shadow against the night.

He'd clad himself in his favorite black, opting as usual for denim and a soft, roll-necked black cotton sweater over which he'd chosen a soft black jacket. With the collar turned up, all that could be seen of him was the whiteness of his forehead on the occasional time that he turned back to check their progress.

The silo loomed out of the darkness, a brooding presence that made Mulder shiver. He'd been here before, and had been hustled away before he could delve into the mystery that surrounded it.

He watched Alex Krycek open the door, and then step inside. Every bone in his body shrieked wrongness. There was something wrong here. He knew it. He didn't know what it was, but it was coming.

"Alex," he hissed, and Krycek turned to look back at him.

"Come on, we're nearly there."

Abruptly, a clattering, hissing sound came through the darkness and Alex swore faintly as the oily entity filled his eyes, turning him into an icon.

"There's a fucking Jabberwock loose. The fools have let one free in the building. Stay close behind me." He turned again, and began to make a strange crooning sound that set Scully's teeth on edge.

All of a sudden it was there, right in front of them, a vision from the pit with huge eyes, razor sharp claws, and teeth that clicked together like the bones of a hanged man. Dana Scully recalled the creature she had left locked in the bunker near Seattle, and a finger of ice ran the length of her spine, making her shudder.

Alex stepped in as the creature reached for him, knife-like nails clicking and drool sliding bright over its chin, almost iridescent in the glow from the flashlight.

"Close your eyes." He yelled, and then as the two agents did so, there was a dazzling flash, a howl that faded to a faint gurgling, and then silence.

When at last they opened their eyes, the creature was a blackened, smoking ruin, and the creature wearing Alex Krycek was grinning sardonically at them as they waited, stricken and terrified.

"Come on. There's hardly any time before the others will return and you will get away."

Exchanging worried glances, they followed the hybrid in front of them, stepping over the charred remains of the creature as they went.

Their arrival in the chamber that contained the ship was almost anticlimactic. The door was shoved open, they stepped inside, and there it was, sleek and unknowable, shocking in the gloom of the place.

Mulder gasped, and made for it, falling back reluctantly when Krycek barked out "No!"

"There's no time left. I must do what needs to be done, and then begone. You'll need to move very quickly to ensure that you return to safety. My companion, Krycek, has a blade, but you two aren't trained to it's use and it's better that you don't have false feelings of competence." The being smiled at Mulder. "I've grown fond of you, and in time you'll come to realize the things that we've done for you. Try not to feel dismay at a chance missed now. We will return to make contact with this world. You'll see us again."

Mulder shook his head. This was becoming too sci-fi even for him.

"You gonna pop in one day on the White House Lawn, and say 'take me to your leader"?" He growled.

The Bandersnatch - even he was thinking of the strange presence that way now - grinned at him unrepentantly, using Alex's face to ensure that the expression was as sensuous as it was insolent.

"Something like that, yes." The husky voice took on a tone of command he hadn't heard before. "Dana Scully, come here to me." He turned his dark eyes on the diminutive redhead, and she returned his gaze with her own level stare.

"Now what, Krycek?" She didn't move, and suddenly the alien was beside her, reaching out to hold onto her. "N... no, Krycek, don't... " There was a gasp, and the silence that followed was deafening.

"Krycek, No!" Mulder saw the man take hold of her, fold her into a tight embrace, and watched, dumbfounded as a glow suffused them both, a soft radiance that shone out from the alien to envelope his partner. There was a single, low sound, a sound that trembled somewhere on the edges of his consciousness, and which for some reason instilled in him an excited feeling of anticipation.

The glow faded, and Krycek released Scully, allowing her to stagger back the couple of paces to fall against Mulder, who steadied her.

"What did you do to her, Bandersnatch? If you've hurt her I'll... "

Krycek's words cut across the angry outpouring.

"I've restored to her that which was taken. She is deserving of no less." Mulder's attention transferred to Scully as he reassured himself that she was okay.

"What did you...?" Mulder got no further. The creature in Krycek's body stepped in, laced a hand - the left, Mulder noticed, hazily - through his hair, and pulled him in to a kiss that was hard and deep and bitter, and spoke to Mulder of regret.

Mulder was aware of a sudden warmth that bathed his limbs before he was released to fall back while Scully stood gaping at the two of them.

"All I have to give you is yours now, Fox Mulder. I leave you to Alex, who also loves you." There was a world of regret in Krycek's voice, and his face wore a curious expression. Mulder, recalling the things that he'd said to Alex that previous night, felt a sudden pang of loss for something he had never actually known.

"Must you go? I think we need you, Alex and I."

The alien had turned away now and didn't immediately respond. Then he looked back over his shoulder at Mulder.

"You had a chance last night for that which you now crave. Both Alex and I believe that it's time you began to take advantage of the fact that you are loved." The being resembled nothing more than an Egyptian God, old in wisdom, and unearthly in his beauty. He moved over the surface of the ship, and suddenly sank to his knees over a curious design etched into the otherwise smooth exterior.

"Leave it now, Fox Mulder. It's already too painful to leave this body, and this world. I must leave, and there's no way to change that. In time I may be able to return, but at this moment there are far too many things that it's my duty to do, and no time for the desires of one individual to be fulfilled."

All was still, and then suddenly Alex fell forward onto his hands, and as the two agents watched, a stream of viscous, black, oily fluid began to seep from Alex Krycek. It poured from his eyes; it oozed from his nostrils; it drooled from his mouth while he shuddered and choked. As it flowed, it gathered into a pool, and though it seemed to gleam in the light from the flashlights, it also seemed to radiate its own, inner glow.

As Krycek knelt, gasping for breath on the surface of the ship, the pool that was Alex's Bandersnatch seemed to flow slightly to one side and then, somehow, to sink down through the lines of the etched deign leaving not a trace behind.

Alex staggered to his feet and stood shivering in the gloom.

"He's gone." He said, and his voice was desolate. Mulder moved forward without even thinking, and took the other man into his arms, holding him tightly as the sobs began to escape him.

Krycek felt good in his arms, and he knew that he would never willingly let the other man go again. It had been a long time since he'd had the feeling that there was someone who needed him the way he was convinced that Alex did. He suddenly knew that he wouldn't ever let Alex get away from him again.

It seemed as though only a second or two had passed, but Krycek was pushing at him, forcing him back and causing ripples of anger to run through him as only Krycek could.

"Mulder, we have to leave. Bandersnatch said we shouldn't stay here in case they got us. There was a Jabberwock on the way in. God knows how many of them there are roaming these passages. I don't know if I'll be able to take on another without his help." Krycek had reached for Mulder's hand, and laced his fingers through Mulder's, bringing it to his lips. "Come on, baby, we have to get the redhead out of here even if we don't care for our own safety. If Bandersnatch finds that I let either of you come to harm, he'd fry me, and he will be back, I just know it."

The two men became suddenly aware of Scully, tugging at Mulder's sleeve nervously.

"Come on. He said for us to leave here quickly. I really don't like this."

Mulder smiled tightly down at her, his face full of tension.

"You heard the lady. Let's go, Krycek. You're the one with the blade." His voice was flat, but Scully could hear anger throbbing beneath the plain words, and touched his hand gently in a soft acknowledgement.

Krycek had a device in his hand of a kind that Mulder had seen before, a slim cylinder that he knew contained within it a wicked spike. He watched as Krycek satisfied himself that the mechanism worked, and then as Krycek moved towards the door, fell in behind him, nerves jangling.

The metal door had remained open, and Krycek stood there for a few seconds, listening, before gesturing them through and moving forward himself. As they stopped in the corridor, Mulder heard it, the rattling hiss coming from the passage to their left, and he very ungently shoved Scully back through the door and watches as the grey-green creature came out of the darkness, fangs and claws like so many shards of glass.

Alex let loose the same sounds that the Bandersnatch had made, a low crooning from somewhere deep in his chest. The creature paused, tilting its head to one side as Alex stepped in and raised the spike he held, thrusting it down into the spot where the animal's neck joined its shoulders. The creature shrieked, stiffened, and then crumpled. As a familiar green vapor began to bubble from the corpse of the monster, Krycek grabbed Scully's hand and jerked her forward, yelling "Run!"

After that there was no further pause. The three of them raced madly through the passageways towards the door and nothing was heard other than gasping breath and pounding feet.

As the three finally burst from the silo and out into the dank night, they felt the rumble under their feet, and Krycek yelled again, "Come on!" in anguished tones as he dragged the two of them willy nilly behind him.

Reaching the car Alex scrambled in, gunning the engine as the other two threw themselves in beside him. A figure loomed in front of them.

"Fuck," said Krycek, fervently, and put his foot down, aiming point blank for the creature and hitting it squarely as it sank beneath the vehicle with a sickening thud. Scully saw then that the creature had no face and screamed at last.

There was a bump and a lurch as the car passed over the thing that they'd struck, and Scully began to sob as the car gathered speed. Mulder put his arms around her, shushing her gently, but he too was shaking as the car plunged towards the distant road that lay beyond the rutted track on which they moved.

Trees scratched and ground against the car, and Krycek kept up a muffled litany of curses, intermingled with exhortations to the car to keep on going, and get them out of there fast.

At last the Taurus burst out onto the highway, and Alex floored the accelerator, shooting for town. Barely a minute later they felt a tremor, and Alex fought the car to a standstill as the engine suddenly died, and the lights went out.

Behind them, a glow began, faint and pulsing. The earth shook again, more determined in its ominous yawning and stretching. Scully raised her head in an effort to see what was happening, and her brow creased. As the glow grew in intensity, Mulder could see her baffled expression, her eyes tearstained, red mouth a circle that encompassed the questions that she would forever shy away from asking.

From the source of the light came a crashing rumble that spoke of destruction. The squeal and shriek of tortured metal wrote a melody that was accompanied by bangs and crashes. Suddenly there it was, Bandersnatch's ship, poised in the sky above like an exclamation point to underscore the strength of Mulder's belief in this most extreme of extreme possibilities.

"Oh, Bandersnatch." Alex's voice held such pain and loss that Mulder's attention was stolen for a second, seduced from the sight of the ship above that obscured their view of the heavens. Then as his gaze slid back, the solid, indisputable presence of the thing seemed to shrink, fall into itself, and finally to vanish with a faint pop, as though a child's balloon had just been blown up to bursting point.

Nobody spoke. The glow behind them had faded, and suddenly the engine of the Taurus stuttered, and resumed its smooth purr as the headlamps came back on. Alex started it moving and headed for the motel.

Nobody spoke.

As they pulled up to the place where they would spend the night, Scully left the car like a shot, murmuring goodnight and making for the sanctuary of her bedroom without any further attempt at communication. Mulder emerged from the back where he had been sitting with Scully, and strolled to open the door to the room that had been reserved for Alex and himself. Alex remained in the car, his head bowed as he sat, forearms resting on the steering wheel.

Mulder opened the door, clicked on the light, and stood for a second, illuminated in the pool of lamplight, hair burnished and glossy, mouth pursed as he considered. Slowly he retraced his footsteps, returning to the car to bend down and look at Krycek who still sat, a picture of dejection.

"Krycek? Alex? Are you coming? Hurry, it's cold." Alex didn't move, but merely sat huddled in his own small space and didn't respond. Mulder pulled the car door open and reached in to pass his hand over Alex's neck, stroking gently as he acknowledged the distress to seated man was feeling.

"Oh, Alex, baby, come on. Come here." The words were purely for comfort, and Mulder bent to put his arms around Alex. Awkward in the confines of the car, Mulder pulled Alex against him, slipping his arms around as much of him as he could manage.

At Mulder's urging, Alex finally climbed out of the car, and then, leaning heavily on Mulder, he stumbles into the room to stand, self-conscious and huddled. Mulder could feel a small trembling as he took Alex in his arms again and held him tight, stroking, soothing and murmuring calming words that made no sense.

The hour was late and Alex made no resistance when Mulder urged him to the bed, merely permitting himself to be divested of jacket and shoes. Reaching into his back pocket he took the ominous cylinder and laid it on the right table before seating himself on the bed. Mulder put out a hand and touched it briefly.

"His vorpal blade went snicker-snack," he murmured.

"What?" Alex looked up at him, blankly, eyes still bright with unshed tears as he struggled with the realization that he was now alone.

"Just borrowing your imagery." Mulder smiled faintly, and then kicked off his own shoes, lay down on the bed and pulled Alex into an embrace that was intended to comfort. Alex uttered a tiny, hiccuping sob, and then relaxed against Mulder's shoulder. After a brief pause, his arm stole over Mulder's chest, and the sound of Alex's breathing slowed.

They slept.

Once again Mulder awoke before the dawn to find Alex gone from the bed. This time, the other man wasn't standing by the window, and when Mulder clicked on the light he saw that the room was empty.

He leapt up, heedless of his stockinged feet, and raced to the door, flinging it wide, needing to know that Alex was still there and that he hadn't left. His sigh of relief stood out against the black of the sky, a puff of white breath in the cold air, hanging like a garland. Alex was sitting on the hood of the Taurus, his head flung back to reveal the arched curve of a throat that stood out white against the black of his clothing as he stared into the ink and glitter of the night.

Wordless, Mulder moved to stand beside him and reached to envelop Alex, reeling him in until he could touch the exposed vulnerability of his throat with anxious lips. His mouth mumbled over prickly skin, anxious to verify the reality of Alex's presence.

Slowly, Alex came back to himself, looking down instead of up as Mulder ran a delicate tongue tip over the other man's Adam's apple.

"You should be sleeping." The husky voice, warm as whisky, soft as cashmere, invaded his senses and made Mulder clutch convulsively at Alex.

"I thought you'd left me again." Mulder was quietly unhappy. He didn't know what he could do to help Alex, no matter how much he wanted to try.

"I'd come back soon enough, you know that." Alex spoke quietly, his voice small and lost in the vastness of the night. Mulder said nothing, merely waited, holding Alex tightly. After a while, Alex sighed and laid his cheek against Mulder's hair.

"Come in now?" Mulder's voice was a rustle against Alex's chest and Alex himself said nothing, merely sighed, and slipped from his perch on the car. Together they moved to the door, and at last beyond. Mulder gratefully kicked it closed, and reached to take Alex into his arms once again, this time seeking his mouth and fixing his own to it in a kiss that was part apology, and part inquiry. Slowly it gained momentum, their lips finding comfort, as they tasted each other with rapidly growing passion.

Alex, eyes closed, and chest heaving, slid questing arms around Mulder to pull him around until they stood tight against each other, belly to belly. Mulder could feel the flutter of the other man's breath as his tongue invaded the slick, warm fastness of Alex's mouth. His hand stroked the back of Alex's neck and threaded through short, silky hair to cup the back of his head, cradling it, holding it steady while he explored moist lips and recalled other times when he'd held Alex, and tasted the sweetness of his kiss.

Mulder released him finally and placed his hands at Alex's hips, stroking with his thumbs to slide under the turtle necked sweater that Alex wore, until he found flesh like hot satin beneath his eager hand. Alex, eyelids drooping, flashed him a small grin, quickly throwing off his sweater to reveal a torso that gleamed like marble in the lamplight, the small buds of his nipples a dusky rose and the hollow of his belly dimpling into his neat navel.

Mulder ran his hands the length of Alex's rib cage, bending to take a nipple between his teeth, flicking his tongue against it and listening for the answering gasp from his lover as he did so.

Alex reached down then, nimble fingers unfastening the fly of Mulder's jeans, pushing them down around his thighs so that his fingers could seize, and then knead at Mulder's taut, white buttocks. He stroked, working the muscle with hands that caressed, and pried, and sent tickling thrills rippling the length of Mulder's thighs.

Falling back to release Alex, Mulder threw off his clothes as fast as he could, grabbing at Alex as he shucked his own pants.

"Come here," He growled as he moved to press himself against Alex's skin, wanting desperately to feel him complete and eager beneath his searching lips and trembling, urgent hands.

Running his hands over slick, smooth skin, burying his mouth into the angle of Alex's neck, Mulder tasted him, and heard a groan that seemed to be ripped from deep inside his lover. He backed the pair of them up against the bed and fell, mouth still avidly sucking on Alex's tender skin as they went down. With Alex beneath him, pressing against his length, he could feel Alex thrusting against him in wicked counterpoint to his own urgent motion.

He was sure that now was the time, and that they were about to become lovers again, when he heard the sounds of distress emanating from the man in his arms, and let go, rolling away to sit up.

Alex sat too, hugging himself for a brief second that somehow gave the lie to the cold and competent killer image that he usually projected. Needy, the blood sang in Mulder's ears as he gazed hungrily at Alex. For a moment Fox was afraid to approach him, scared to disturb the aura that had surrounded him. Alex sat, apparently wrapped in a shroud of introspection and grief that muted his shine.

Mulder was going to turn away, defeated, had already turned to move around to the other bed when Alex reached a hand out to snag his wrist.

"Fox?" His name was a question breathed softly, energizing his skin like a breeze on a hot summer's day. He turned, and the cool fingers on his wrist slipped down to interlace with his own.

His breath caught in his throat as he raised his eyed from their joined hands to look at Alex's face.

Alex's eyes glowed green-gold, cut glass through which burned desire, despair and overwhelming need. Mulder dry-swallowed. His own longing suffused him as he felt himself drown in those eyes. Slowly, he raised Alex's hand up to his lips, running the tip of his tongue over the back of the knuckles before sucking the tips of Alex's fingers into his mouth.

Standing, transfixed by the wanting in Alex's eyes, Mulder could only wait. His heartbeat pounded against his ribs as he struggled to draw breath.

"Fox," said Alex again with an air of authority, and drew in his arm, reeling Mulder in along with it until he was once more seated beside him.

Alex's skin was silken smooth, cool that flashed to heat against the press of his body. Mulder took the fingers from his mouth and dragged his chin over the palm of Alex's hand, hearing the rasp as his whiskers scratched. The hand against Mulder's face smoothed around his cheek, paused briefly to caress an ear, and then curled around behind his head to ruffle the thick hair at the nape of his neck.

Mulder licked his lips and smiled, and the hand pressed him forward, drawing him down until their lips met and clung. Mouth pressed to mouth now, each molding itself into a conduit through which heat passed as Mulder melted into Alex. Tongue slid against tongue, slow and languorous becoming fierce and full of desire as each of them drank the other, gasping in breaths that filled lungs but didn't satisfy.

His arms were around Alex now. His hands roamed Alex's skin as their mouths stayed locked together, and he knew that this time he wouldn't - couldn't stop, not for anything. Alex was his, and they would be lovers. He had no choice.

He laid Alex down and began to peel the clothes from his body until at last he was naked, pale in the lamplight. Shucking his own clothes deliberately, he couldn't tear his gaze from the dark eyes of the man on the bed. Alex held his arms out to him then, and Mulder rolled to lie over him, gasping as his cock slid against the satiny feel of Alex's skin.

Mouth on mouth again, one of Alex's hands burrowed into his hair as the other found the curve of his backside and sketched it, then grasped it and molded the swelling of his buttocks as he pulled him in to lie close along the straining body.

Mulder could feel the jerky little pulses that heralded the growth of Alex's erection as it stiffened and lengthened against his own. The thought of it turned cartwheels in his belly, drawing his balls up to lie close against him as his hips flexed, driving their cocks together in a sunsparkle of sensation.

He felt Alex, moaning a little now, nipping and nibbling on his tongue. He could feel the heaving of Alex's chest as Mulder's fingers shaped around a nipple, plucking it and rolling it between finger and thumb. The groan that followed might have been from either of them. It found a resonance inside him, a fluttering that snaked through him as Alex's hand fumbled down to find and clasp their two dicks, working them together.

The world pulled in then, stretching around them like a glittering, protective bubble that insulated them from everything save each other. Mulder pulled away for a moment, studying Alex as he lay flushed and panting, lips pink and swollen from the kissing, tongue tip glistening between as he moistened them. God, he was gorgeous.

Lowering his head, Mulder licked at the side of Alex's face, scraping against his beard-stained cheek and tasting the salt from earlier tears.

He moved down by degrees, wanting to taste all of Alex, committing him to memory, uncertain whether Alex would fade from his life all over again as he had so many times in the past.

His tongue bathed Alex's neck, his shoulders, his chest, and he began to lick and suck on the small brown-pink coins of his nipples, eliciting a series of small, husky sounds from the man in his arms.

Alex gave a long sobbing sigh as Mulder slipped downwards, finding new and tender crevices to explore along the way, until at last he was level with Alex's groin, nuzzling into the damp curls that clustered around Alex's dick. The scent of him was musky and exciting. His taste was sharp and salty, and as his cock slipped between Mulder's lips to slide along his tongue, Mulder began to feel strangely disoriented, as though somehow he and Alex had become interchangeable.

There seemed to be a connection opening between the two of them, and as he sucked on Alex, he could feel the tug and pull of his own mouth drawing delicious threads of tickling pleasure up from Alex's balls, spinning it like sugar to sparkle and melt against his tongue.

Alex's eyes were wide in shock. as Mulder continued to suck, but his thought came through clearly to Mulder, a gentle stroking of fur against his inner ear.

[I can feel you, Fox. He promised me I wouldn't be alone, and he didn't lie.]

Mulder almost screamed. Only the sensation of utter bliss that radiated from Alex allowed him to continue. Confused, he raised his eyes to Alex, and felt rather than heard the joy that his lover was expressing to him.

He drew away, pulling off without warning, surprised to see the shine of tears on Alex's lashes.

Mulder suspended disbelief. Quickly he returned to his task, allowing Alex's cock to slip in and out, building tension in both of them as he did so. Soon, he could feel the ripple of sweet tingling electricity crackle along Alex's cock, and knew the man was seconds away from coming. He released Alex and climbed to his knees, stroking his own solid hardness as he spread moisture out from the eye of it.

Alex's eyes widened, and then closed. He flung his head backwards, exposing his throat and spreading his knees wide apart, drawing them up to offer himself to Mulder.

And Mulder centered himself, pressing home until he could feel Alex encasing him, the walls of his ass clasping him tightly while he buried himself as deep inside as he would go.

As they lay joined, waiting to regain a little control, it seemed only natural that their mouths should find each other once again, connecting, caressing. Alex filled his mind. Spikes of sexual arousal flickered by, crowning the complexity of thoughts and emotions his mind was transmitting as Mulder sank himself into Alex's body, wrapping himself in Alex's emotions.

He felt Alex surrounding him, opening him and nestling joyfully against him as they began to move together.

He was fucking. He was being fucked. He was himself and also his lover as fire and ice lit his cock and sent him plunging, tumbling and shuddering into a meltdown explosion that spat, consuming both of them and sending spasm after spasm through them until at last they slumped, drained and tingling. Limp at last, their bodies were sated, but their minds were full of wonder as they twined around each other in bliss.

Within a single second Mulder understood how Bandersnatch had transformed Alex's life from the drug-addicted, bitter man he had been. He saw through Alex's eyes how the wreckage of him had been ruthlessly shaped into a new, strong alliance between man and alien. Bandersnatch had formed him into what he was now. He had given him strength, hope, and a way to survive in a game that had always been too much for him before. Willingly, Mulder shared for the first time the taking of Samantha, his sister, and the subsequent fall out. His father's angry words, and later the beatings and petty cruelties that his mother had affected not to see.

Sifting through Alex's memories, Mulder understood at last what Alex had done, and felt, and lost. He saw himself the way that Alex saw him, and felt the flood of love for him answered.

[I've loved you since that day I stood and looked at you, and wanted you to shake my hand.]

[I know.]

The regret poured from Mulder even as he sensed the forgiveness. Alex snuggled in against the heat of Mulder's body and lay, fully opened to Mulder's probing thoughts. Mulder, faced by an X-file, as ever was determined to drain it to the dregs, even if the X-file were his lover. As Alex lay, permitting him to see who he was, Mulder could feel his body tighten, as something deep at the heart of him screamed that he was too close, too near to this other man, this alien.

Pulling away, he curled himself into a small, frightened space. Reassurance followed him. The flood of loving acceptance that stole into his heart from Alex rocked him to the core. He felt his body melt as his mind clung to the feeling of belonging he'd found. For the first time in his existence, Fox Mulder felt content.

He moved until he could touch Alex's lips with his own, feeling again the gutshot rush that hit him as the duality of physical sensation and emotional sharing kicked in. Alex opened his lips to receive his kiss, and the sensuality began to resonate between the two once more. It was then that he realized that he and Alex were together and would never again be separate.

As far as he was concerned, and he knew he could speak for Alex too, the world would be a better place for it.

End