Title: Crescendo

Author: Jill

Email: halfchild@geocities.com

Rating: Part IV is unapologetically rated NC-17 for m/m interaction, parts I-III, & V are rated R for violence and friendly language.

Archive: At ArchiveX, of course, Shael's page and The Ratfic Library. Please let me know if you'd like to put this somewhere else.

Alternate Home:
http://www.crosswinds.net/russia/~alexkrycek/den1.html

Spoilers: If you haven't seen "Tunguska" yet, you'll be reciting it in your sleep after this outing.

Many Thanks To: Raven, for reading it first and providing unending moral support and chocolate. Also, my deepest regards to Shael, who betaed and begged for this to see the light of day, and muchos gracias to mab, who can sight more mistakes (grammatical or otherwise) at a mile away than I can shake a stick at. Also, great love to my sister for the world's fastest beta read; even I couldn't tackle this sucker in a day!

Notes: This story has been two years in the writing, and will probably have a sequel, if my fingers quit hurting and my brain starts working again. I've tried to stay as close to the ep as I can, so please don't kill me, CC! It's still yours, but remember, sharing means caring. Lyrics to "Stinkfist" cheerfully appropriated from the Tool album Aenima.

Do I even need to bother begging for comments? By all means, please send 'em my way!

Crescendo Part I
By Jill

~Something has to change.
Undeniable dilemma.
Boredom's not a burden
Anyone should bear.~

Patience. Depending on whom you talk to, it's either something I have too little of or something I have in overabundance. Of all the attributes ascribed to me over the years, the jury is still out on this one. Right now, I don't feel particularly patient at all, but will myself into stillness nonetheless. This is too important to blow by moving quickly; my sixth sense has been in overdrive since the whole damn thing started weeks ago. My sixth sense is rarely wrong.

Activity swirls around me, men and women armed and clothed in black monitor computer screens and various pieces of surveillance equipment. Silence reigns, an odd juxtaposition against all the movement. I don't feel myself slipping away from everything going on around me, but it happens nonetheless. In the space of a second, I am removed from all of it, carefully weighing the facts against the odds in my head, trying to make sense of what is going on. Even now, as we're so close, it just doesn't add up. For months, I'd been receiving the receipts - ammonium nitrate, diesel fuel, and finally those for rental trucks and storage space. It's obvious someone's making a bomb. Even more obvious is that that someone involved wants to spoil the party. The question now becomes, Why would they send the information to me? The person or people involved obviously know a great deal about the FBI; that they were aware of my presence at all is an X-file unto itself. Why, though? Why was the information sent to me, and not to the counter-terrorism division? Whose brain spasm decided that a pain-in-the-ass agent, "The FBI's most unwanted," would be the right person to contact with the news of an explosive?

Without ever leaving my dream state, I hear Scully asking me the same question, followed by my mechanical response. Scully. We're so different from one another, yet still able to work together. At first I thought our compatibility was a result of the respect we have for each other. But it really has more to do with the fact that our minds work the same way, even if we rarely come to the same conclusions. I love Scully; she keeps me on my toes.

Nearby, someone's head snaps up from a computer monitor. "We got traffic," he says in a grim voice. My heartbeat races and for a minute I work hard to make sure that no external sign of my discomposure shows. It took me years to perfect this facial expression; it's one of the best assets available to me in the course of a typical day. Besides, there's nothing like a good sneer to preserve one's complete lack of a social life.

Around me, the atmosphere changes, subtly, as boredom shifts into alertness. The other agents freeze for an imperceptible moment, then return to their tasks with a new sense of focus. Finally, after hours of waiting, just as they were beginning to lose what interest they had, just when it was starting to look like a hoax, a false alarm, I'm born out. A rental truck pulls into the alley, and across from our position a door to one of the storage units opens, revealing the men it seems we've been waiting for. My heart enters my throat as I realize they've been there the entire time.

Sweet Christ, there are a lot of them.

One of the agents slides the door open, and suddenly our presence is exposed to the bombers.

All hell breaks loose. Gunfire erupts on both sides. Our people hit the ground for cover just as the bombers grab their own weapons and retreat back into the storage unit. I barely have time to notice the canisters of gas go sailing in after them before Scully's voice cuts through the noise.

"Mulder!" There's a note of urgency there that I respond to instantly. Thank God for Scully. While everybody was busy focusing on the men in the garage, the driver of the rental truck apparently decided that it was time to beat a swift retreat. Not that I could blame him. I join Scully as she tears after the van, which is currently making its way out of the alley at warp speed. Fast as I am from years of morning jogs, I have to admit to myself that I'll never be able to outrun a speeding vehicle. But this time luck is on my side. The driver is obviously panicked, and he swerves madly across rainslicked pavement. Adrenaline surges through my veins; the bomb is inside that truck, and evidence disappears far too often on me. There's no government cover-up involved here, and I don't intend to lose it this time. Gritting my teeth, I pick up the pace.

A part of me is still with the other agents at the storage unit, and it registers in the back of my mind that the gunplay has stopped. So the single shot that rings out now is all the more distinct. Wheels shrieking, the truck in front of me swerves wildly to the left, then stops, crashing against a pile of debris beside one of the buildings.

Heart racing, I move up alongside it cautiously. That shot hadn't been fired by one of our men. Scully's somewhere beside me, her rifle at the ready, steady as always and prepared for anything.

"Cover the driver's side," I tell her, and then, louder, "Federal agent, I'm armed. Exit the vehicle now!" Nothing happens.

"Get out of the truck!" I demand, and my voice sounds strange in my own ears, the combined pressures of the long wait, the hard chase, and the fear of what's to come roughening it into something completely unfamiliar. Scully's footsteps stop short on the other side of the vehicle, and I wonder what she's found. Just as I am about to ask if she's all right, just as my fear for her peaks and I think I'm ready to scream, I hear her voice.

"The driver's dead." Even under these conditions, her voice is calm, level. Now more than ever I appreciate her brevity, how she always relates facts without wasting time on emotion or other such embellishments. Another thing I require of a partner, another reason why we work so well together.

"I counted two men." At those words, my sixth sense reappears with a sudden, almost painful stab. There's no reason I should be feeling this panic, not now. When it looked as though nothing was going to happen, that I'd wasted Bureau time and money on a false alarm, I should have been afraid. When we were being shot at with high-powered rifles, I should have been afraid. But not now, not when whoever's in that truck isn't going to go anywhere, and I so clearly have the advantage, but my sixth sense is rarely wrong. It's telling me that I won't like whatever's coming.

"Let me see your hands! Hands in the air!" I continue to advance toward the truck. The faint outline of a face appears in the rain-spattered rearview mirror. It can't be. A minute later a gun sails out of the window, and the door begins to open. No, it *can't* be. Two hands appear outside of the truck, and he steps out, slowly. Oh God, not *him*.

"You son of a bitch!" The words come from my throat but sound as if they've been spoken somewhere far, far away. Once again, I'm transported into that place where I watch myself interact without being *there.* And in a sense, I'm thankful. Because now, here in front of me, is my chance to finally end the thing. It's tortured me, and as I aim my rifle, I reflect upon how much easier life will be without Alex Krycek, and the distraction he's left me with for several years. So much easier....

"Mulder!"

Damn Scully. Damn her and her voice that always manages to bring me back to reality no matter what's occupying my mind. Oh, she won't stop me, of course. But now, I reflect wryly, she's going to give me the Scully glare after I shoot him.

Meanwhile Krycek's eyes have been darting back and forth between us, bright and completely impenetrable in the faint gleam of the streetlight. As if possessed by a sixth sense of his own, Krycek does the only thing that will keep me from shooting him at this point. He speaks.

"I handed you this bust, Mulder."

"Oh come on, Krycek." My voice again, sounding cracked and strained.

"Who do you think sent you those receipts?" he hisses.

I lower my gun and stare at the man lying prone on the pavement before me. Alex Krycek stares back, eyes glittering, slitted against the bright light shining in his face, panting from the blow I gave him. *I gave him?*
I don't even remember hitting him. So I stare at him lying on the ground, and am reminded once more of how beautiful he is. He doesn't try to say anything else, and I turn my back on him and walk away. It's starting again.

~~~~~

It was easy, relatively speaking, to get him away from the rest of the agents. After all, they were busy arresting the other men, who, as it turned out, were members of a government-hating right wing militia. And Alex Krycek was one of them. How perfect. The atmosphere changes again, a sense of calm replacing the restless unease of an hour earlier. //And why not?// I wonder. //We have them, now all that's left is the clean-up.// I walk past several agents leading dogs trained to sniff out explosives. From what I can tell, the animals are having a field day.

The air is pressing even more heavily on me, and I wonder why none of the other agents sense it too. Then again, none of the other agents are blessed with my particular problem, are they? And he is my problem now. I, who with the exception of Scully, am the only one who has any idea of the content of this man's past, now have to pretend as though nothing is wrong. Scully and I are also the only ones who have any idea as to why those receipts were sent to me in the first place, which is why we couldn't let the bastard be arrested with the others and wash our hands of it. Alex Krycek doesn't foil plans to wreak havoc on innocent society out of the goodness of his heart. He's not the type.

"Explain yourself Krycek," I say, shoving him into the back of the truck. We're surrounded on all sides by barrels, wire, crates. The working innards of a bomb. I want to know what this is all about, why this has anything to do with me. Why he had to contact me, now. He always does this to me, reappearing just as I'm getting used to not thinking about him all day, and wondering whether he....

I come back to reality when I realize he's started to talk.

"Most of the detonation cord was stolen from a construction site, and some of the explosives were just taken from a military base. I mean, security's so lax it's a joke...."

His voice rises in pitch as I push him roughly onto a crate toward the back of the vehicle.

For a second, I think I see something flash in his eyes, but he merely continues in the same conversational tone of voice.

"Most everything else was over the counter. Two thousand kilos of boom-boom." He's looking at me as if he expects something.

"How did you get involved with these men?"

Thank god for Scully, and the way she always cuts to the chase. I smile to myself as I realize just how much mileage I'm getting out of that sentiment tonight.

He hasn't taken his eyes off of me. I don't sweat, but my pulse races even faster, and I wonder where the oxygen went.

Finally his gaze shifts, and he looks out of the truck toward the rest of the militia, who are now being loaded into cars. Swallowing, he speaks. "They found me in North Dakota. They liberated me on a salvage hunt."

One of the men turns as he's forced into the car and nods at us. He has the same feral gleam in his eyes that Krycek gets sometimes, and I start to understand why they might have fallen in together. Still, I wouldn't want to be the recipient of *that* gaze. Neither, apparently does Krycek. Turning back to me, his voice drops to a whisper.
"Hey, you go underground, you gotta learn to live with the rats...." This with a supplicatory grin that only serves to egg me on. I move to punch his face, then remember Scully standing behind me and settle for knocking his hat off.

His hair is buzzed into the most ridiculous military cut I've ever laid eyes on. "I'm sure you had no trouble adapting," I tell him.

Gotcha. His head snaps up at that one, and the look he gives me is far from kind. //What, Krycek,// I say silently. //Were you expecting my thanks for this?// But he speaks again, and the lock his eyes have on mine intensifies.

"These men are pathetic revolutionaries." A pause as he measures the effect that's had on us. "Who would kill innocent Americans in the name of bonehead ideologies." His pace picks up. It's all very poetic and makes me want to vomit. I have to stop him.

"That's bull crap, Krycek. You're an invertebrate scum-sucker whose moral dipstick is about two drops short of bone dry." I've waited years to use that comment. I've always hated obscenities. They make one sound so inarticulate. And a simple phrase like that has more power to enrage than any imprecation I've ever heard on a crowded street.

It sure has enraged him. He stands up, his nose about an inch from my face. //How can anybody with such angelic features be so twisted?// I think.

"I love this country!" he intones, and it's just too much. That little shit! If I could only beat the crap out of him. But I can't. I don't, however, have to take any more of this, especially not from Krycek. One quick, violent shove, and he's on his ass, all his patriotic sentiment evaporated in the space of a moment. I turn to go.

It seems its Scully's turn to drag this torture out. "What do you want, Krycek?" she asks. Her voice is ice cold.

"The same thing you do," he answers, voice so soft I barely recognize it. "To find the man who tried to kill me. The same man who's responsible for your father's death."

"You mean *you*," I start to say, but he continues, and his words make me want to rip his face off.

"Your sister's."

He jerks his head in her direction, *still* not taking his eyes away from my face. Oh, he's got balls, that's for sure. To say a thing like that in front of Scully while just barely acknowledging her presence. To act as if it had nothing to do with him, as if it was the weather we're discussing, to *not take his eyes off of me* as he says it.

I have a headache. I hate him for what he's done. And something about the way he's tilted his head and looked at me makes me continue listening. He sits there as if he has all the time in the world, is just waiting for me to see the light, and has absolutely no doubt that I will bite, eventually.

And eventually, I do. So far, Alex Krycek is the only man who can tell me not only the truth about the deaths of Melissa Scully and my father, but, out of all the assassins who've ever worked for *him,* he's the only one whom I've ever been able to talk to.

The only one that's survived.

So I let him talk and hate myself for it because of all the things he's done to me, to Scully, and to who knows who else. I need to know who these people are, and the fastest way to get that knowledge is through Alex Krycek. I may hate him, and what I'm doing, but that doesn't stop me. The need to know far outweighs any pain this might cause. And I hate that too.

I wonder how Scully's handling it. As if on cue, she turns to him and says, "You mean you want these men brought to justice?"

That stops him cold in whatever scheme he was planning on using. His mouth drops open, and not for the first time I notice that his bottom teeth are crooked. I'd be laughing at the look on his face if it wasn't directed toward Scully and myself.

"You can't... You can't bring these men to *justice!* The laws of this country protect these men under the name of 'National Security'!" Krycek's voice rises even higher in a mixture of scorn, amusement, disbelief, and he *giggles*. "They... they know no law."

Once again I have to concentrate as I feel my face twist out of its perfectly controlled mask. //Perfect, Krycek. Wonderful. You know exactly what I want to hear.// Immediately, my mind goes into overdrive, trying to find fault with this argument, to force him into a corner where he'll have to lose that self control that pisses me off so much. When Krycek is scared or upset, I can handle him. But once his face gets that look on it, I'm lost. I'm tempted to hit him, but if I do, I'll get nowhere.

Ahh, here it is. "Then why didn't put a bullet in his head like you did that man out there?"

"These men, they fear one thing - exposure." He pronounces it like it's news of the Second Coming. Tell me something I didn't know, Krycek. You're starting to bore me.

"You expose *him*...." A pause to see how I'll react to that. I give him nothing. "You expose his crimes...." His voice has dropped down to a husky whisper. His eyes flash. He's realized he'll have to work for this. "You destroy the *destroyer's* ability to *destroy.*" He sits back, pleased with himself.

"The only thing that will destroy these men is the truth," I tell him.

"The truth, the truth...." He rolls his head from side to side as if talking to little children who refuse to understand. "There is.... There's no *truth!* These men, they just make it up as they go along." He swallows once, hard. "These men are the engineers of the future. They... They are the *real* revolutionaries." His voice sinks into an intimate whisper, the bastard thinks he has me! I feel the rage rise in my throat, begging to be let out.

"I can get them for you too." All the while, those eyes, staring me down, holding me as if I were a deer caught in headlights. He uses them in the same way I use my deadpan; it's impossible to read what's going on behind his face, yet you have to look anyway. Once more I feel myself fading out of the present to somewhere else....

And fading back in as the force of Scully's stare once again brings me back from... wherever I've gone. And to think, he's the only man alive that can do that to me. Suddenly, the urge to hurt is back like it hasn't been since I first laid eyes on him coming out of that truck. It flares up like wildfire and burns away just as quickly, leaving only disgust in its wake.

I turn to leave, tossing a halfhearted "We can't help you, Krycek," over my shoulder as I go. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Scully sigh heavily and pick herself up to follow, the same disgust evident on her face as well. And he's still sitting on that barrel, like nothing's happened. //Let the rest of the team take care of him,// I think.

"Mulder."

One word spoken with such calm assurance that I *have* to turn around.

His eyes. So huge and luminous, I can't break mine away from their embrace. Hypnotic. I stare at them and lose touch with everything happening around me. His face is slightly upturned, completely free of the shadows which cloaked it until now. He's staring at me again, and despite myself, I wait to see what he has to say.

A corner of his mouth quirks up, and I realized he'd planned this too. "This is just one bomb I'm sittin' on here." He swallows. "You didn't ask me how many more I know about."

I look over to Scully and see my thoughts reflected in her eyes.

-Part I Finis-

~Constant over stimulation numbs me
And I would not have it
Any other way.~

~It's not enough.
I need more.
Nothing seems to satisfy.
I don't want it.
I just need it.
To feel, to breathe, to know I'm alive.~

We make the walk back to my car in stony silence. I'm on Krycek's left side, Scully flanks his right. Under our coats, we both have our guns pressed into the small of his back.

"One move, Krycek," I mutter, "and you'll give me all the reason I'd need." But he's perfectly behaved, as he has been since he first came into our custody, and I have no immediate reason to kill him. I fight back relief with more ease than I'd like to admit.

I stop under the shelter of an awning and wait with him as Scully goes around the corner, making sure no one is there who'd notice us loading a felon into our car. The coast is clear and we head out after her. She's put that hat back onto his head, and it throws his face into shadow. I have no idea if he's watching me, and I don't like it.

Stopping to unlock the door, I realize that Scully's already inside the car, and if Alex Krycek decided to brain me and run for it, there'd be no one to stop him. But he stays put. //Of course,// the functioning part of my brain tells me. //His hands are cuffed. If he ran, he wouldn't get very far.//

And that gives me an idea. As I open the door, I reach around, intending to shove him hard into the seat. A petty thing to do, yet under the circumstances....

But he's anticipated me. With one quick, unbelievably graceful fluid movement, he's inside, and I'm left batting at thin air.

Trying to regain my composure, I walk up to the driver's seat and get in. I put the key into the ignition and check the rearview, more out of habit than anything else. My mind quit functioning a while ago. He's looking at me *again*, but this time there's nothing in his eyes except fear. I'm sure that if he knew I was watching it would be a different story. A small glimmer of triumph shoots through me //He hadn't planned on this part happening at all!// but is quickly gone as he speaks.

"Where are we going?"

Oh, this is too good to pass up. Scully gives me a look as I smile at her and say,

"I don't know, Krycek. Where are you taking us?" I'm all innocence.

It's classic. He gives me that patented "What the *fuck* Mulder?!?" look of his - mouth agape, eyes dilating. I grin at him in the mirror. God, he is going to *hate* this.

"Krycek," I say to him, "You were going to lead us to another bomb."

After all of that preparation, the opening he's made available to me is so glaringly obvious, it's funny. He notices too, and he's furious about it. Instantly, I relax. When he's upset, I have the advantage, hands down.
It's just when that blank angel's face is looking back at me that I feel as though....

He's started talking again.

"Dulles airport. There's a man there who'll be able to tell you everything you want to know." Resignation is clear in his voice. For whatever reason, Alex Krycek had not wanted us to learn about this man. It's all the encouragement I need. After making sure Scully meets my glance, I start the car and head for the freeway, and Herndon.

~~~~~

Several hours later I turn into short term parking at the airport. Scully's been asleep beside me, and for a minute I wish I'd let her drive. I need sleep too. Then again, the shock of finding Krycek in the car with me, alive and well after everything that's happened, would not have made for a very satisfying nap.

Scully and I get out of the car then turn and wait for Alex to follow. It takes us both a minute before we realize he's planning on staying inside. Our eyes meet over the hood, and I can tell she's just as angry as I am.
Turning back to the door, I yank it open and violently shove the bastard out.

"What the fuck, Mulder?" He's angry enough, worried enough, or both, to swear at me to my face, and now I *know* finding whatever he doesn't want us to discover will be worth the effort of dragging him inside.

I've readied my next line, but Scully beats me to it. "*We* don't know who to look for, Krycek. You do." I applaud her, silently, even though she delivered that phrase with less bile than I would have deemed appropriate.

"But you can't take me in. The minute this guy sees cuffs, he's outta there." Alex helpfully holds up his hands in illustration.

//No way we're taking those off,// I look over to Scully.
I can see silent agreement in her eyes. But there's a way out of this bind too. "Take off your coat and shirt," I say to Krycek, undoing the cuffs. He looks at me as though I've lost it, but complies readily enough.

While I'm busy making sure he doesn't try anything stupid, Scully looks him over, being very obvious about it. Then she allows a tiny, nasty smile to grace her lips. I grin outright. Maybe I was wrong about the lack of bile.

"Surprised you don't remember this from your FBI days," I say to his look of surprise as I cuff him again and drape the shirt over his wrists. "Standard procedure for transporting criminals." He's still for a moment, and then we walk into the airport. We're silent until Scully helpfully inquires as to what flight this other militiaman is on.

Staring at the ceiling, he answers. "There's an international charter that originated in Russia. Turkish airline."

//Not your everyday militia member, then.// We've come to a stop below the arrival/departure board. "There it is. Air Lacayo." My mind works to translate military time into standard. Funny how something so basic has become so difficult. "Got in at 6:45. That was 15 minutes ago. Come on." We move as a unit toward the gate. People are streaming off of the plane, and for a minute my mind occupies itself with ways of torturing Krycek if his contact isn't on board.

Scully speaks next, directing her remark to Krycek though it's in answer to my silent question. "He'll still have to go through customs."

Krycek shakes his head and makes a small sound of negation. "He'll be carrying a diplomatic pouch."

//Nope,// I think to myself. //*Definitely* not your average militia member.// Krycek's stopped by a set of doors, staring at the arrivals gate. "That's him," he says, motioning with his chin. God damn. Even cuffed he still manages to be the most elegant creature I've ever set eyes on.

But now I see him too. Not your average militia member *at all*. He's wearing a suit, for one thing, and he walks as though he's very important; head up, holding the pouch out before him like a medal. It is a real diplomatic pouch; the bright orange is unmistakable, even from this distance. Krycek, what have you gotten us into?

Once more, Scully has moved ahead while I'm lost in rapt contemplation. She whips out her badge in one neat, economic movement. "Sir, Federal Agent. Don't be alarmed - I just need to speak with you."

Honestly, if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't get anything done half the time....

People are turning to gawk, but the man doesn't waste any time. Backing up two steps, he wheels around and takes off as fast as his legs will carry him. Scully doesn't miss a beat. "Stop, stop right there!" She's almost caught him when he darts through the doors and they close in her face. I hiss an imprecation under my breath as I lose the key to the cuffs in my pocket. No way I'm bringing Krycek along with us while we go after this goon.

"Mulder!" Scully's wheeled around to look at me, wondering why I haven't given chase. I can't. I'm too busy trying to lock Krycek's cuff onto a nearby railing. Haste makes my fingers slip again, and then I have it and I'm charging toward the doors. I look back at him once over my shoulder, making sure that he's not going anywhere. I catch one glimpse of him, teeth bared, grimacing at me as he moves his shirt to cover the handcuffs. Tension reads in every line of his body.

Then there's no time to think because I'm running again. In a few strides, I've caught up to Scully. Even with her short legs, in *heels* no less, she's a formidable runner.
But the courier does have one thing in his favor - fear. He's knocking people over right and left, out of desperation to get away as much as in any attempt to block us. I hear various creative obscenities being leveled at the man as he heads back up toward the plane.

Scully and I are gaining on him nevertheless. She's still in the lead, so when I turn the corner, I almost knock her off of the ramp onto the ground. My stomach clenches in anger as I see Krycek's contact tearing off down the runway, weaving in and out of sight. There's no way we'll catch him now. I turn to say as much to Scully, but find I don't have the breath for it.

Panting heavily, she still manages to gasp out, "Mulder. Look." I consider becoming religious. The pouch lies abandoned on a truckbed of luggage, its orange vinyl contrasting sharply with the muted hues of suitcases and garment bags.

There's a member of the airport personnel below, staring vaguely after the courier. "Hey!" I bark down to him. He's about as perplexed by this whole incident as I am, and jumps in surprise at the sound of my voice. It's my turn to whip out the badge. "Federal Agent. I've dropped that orange pouch; could you toss it up here?" The man's mouth lowers about another two yards, but he complies readily enough. Climbing onto the truck bed, he picks it up and hefts it toward us. Apparently it's heavy. Not papers then. I feel my curiosity pique. Hands not quite shaking, I undo the zipper and stare inside, holding my breath.

I don't need to. I'm looking at a rock. Anger begins to radiate off of me in waves. "That fucking bastard!" I choke out, not caring anymore if Scully hears me. But she's already turned back down the ramp.

~~~~~

By the time we've reached Krycek, Scully's anger rivals mine. I can see it in the set of her shoulders, the way her strides have lengthened. She's pissed.

On some level he must recognize it too. He's been leaning nonchalantly against the rail, (//probably smiling at pretty girls//, a voice in my mind adds), but when we turn the corner he straightens and his expression changes.

Scully speeds up and reaches him first. Too bad, for me *and* him. "Is this some kind of joke?" she demands.

"What?" His tone of voice is disgusted. I'm sure he's planned this from the beginning, and I'm not getting any less upset thinking about it.

"Show him." They're the only words I can manage.

"What is it?" He looks truly perplexed.

"*Expose* it for him, Scully...."

Scully nearly rips the zipper off the pouch.

"What did you get for Halloween, Charlie Brown?" I snarl, and he looks at me as though *I'm* the one who's gone off the deep end.

I stalk off before I'm tempted to beat the shit out of him. Stopping to stare out of a window, I watch cars pull out of the parking lot into the rain. Breathing deeply, I turn around and wordlessly uncuff him from the railing. He doesn't say anything either, and his body posture has become defensive, withdrawn. I wait until he puts his coat on before recuffing his hands. Putting my hand on his back, I guide him out of the airport, but do nothing further. I have no energy left to abuse him, even if the urge had still been there. I'm drained now, and I need to plan my next move.

~~~~~

We return to the car, again in silence. I shut Krycek into the vehicle and turn to talk with Scully. "How do we explain this?"

"Mulder, I've been thinking," she says, and I can tell by the tone of her voice that whatever's coming next is very important to her. "This rock may be more important than we realize. I don't think Krycek has the intent, or the means to orchestrate this kind of scheme. For whatever reason, this rock is very important to someone, and it came here for a purpose."

There are many reasons why I disagree with this statement, but right now I'm too tired to stand here, debating their merits with Scully. "Maybe so, but right now what we need to worry about where *he's* going to stay for the night." I jerk my head in Krycek's direction. He's sitting in the car, leaning his head against the window. He looks tired; his eyes are closed and his breath mists on the glass.

"Mulder, why can't we take him to your apartment?" she asks, surprised. Oh Lord. Not that. If Krycek spends the night with me, there's no telling what I'll be tempted to do to him.

"Scully," I say, flashing her my best smile, "So many people have broken into my apartment over the last few years that we can't even *pretend* he'd be safe with me." I let Scully come up with her own explanations for that statement. It doesn't matter that they're undoubtedly different than the ones *I'd* give. He still wouldn't be safe.

"Well, I suppose we'll have to take him to Skinner's then," she says, sighing. I don't particularly want to deal with Skinner right now, but there doesn't seem to be much choice at the moment. A small voice in my head notes somewhat maliciously that *she* isn't offering to room Krycek. Not that I can blame her.

We neither of us can come up with anything else to say, and that seems to settle it. I get into the car and head for Skinner's.

~~~~~

Midway there, I turn the car around and go to Scully's place instead. She seems so small and tired, leaning back in the seat, her face pinched and drawn. I know how she must be taking this - not only finding Krycek, but having to harbor him as well. And since it *was* my idea to do it in the first place, it's only fair that I let her get some rest. That and the fact that I want to be with Krycek alone.

If only to talk to him.

The thing is, so far I've been content *not* to do any talking, just letting him move up into the seat beside me.
He smells sweaty; not that I can blame him after what he's been through tonight. Although it has been due entirely to his own manipulations.

I'm wrapped up in these thoughts, so when he speaks, I'm startled.

"What are you gonna do with me now?" His voice is low, defeated. He's looking out the window, away from me for once, and for a moment I wonder what he *thought* I was going to do with him. But only for a moment, before I remember that I'm angry with him.

"You'll see when we get there," I snap, and we drive the rest of the way in silence.

~~~~~

We reach Skinner's apartment complex around eleven, by my car clock, and go in through the maintenance door. I've put Krycek's cap back on. It cuts down on the chance of anyone unfortunate recognizing him, and besides, if Skinner gets one look at the bastard's faux-military haircut, he'll go through the roof. I don't want Krycek to spend the night as my guest of honor; I'm not taking any chances.

He's been quiet ever since we got into the building, and I don't blame him - I've heard about his last meeting with Skinner. Krycek's shoulders are hunched up so high it's almost funny. Although he can't, or *shouldn't* know this building, it seems he has a better idea of where we're going than I'd formerly imagined he would.

I make him wait out of eyeshot while I knock on Skinner's door. If Skinner sees Krycek first thing when he opens it, you can bet he'll slam it shut in my face just as quickly. I'll have to trap the A.D. in a position where he can't back out once he understands what he's getting involved with - the same way Krycek trapped me. I smile grimly and then Skinner's voice comes muffled through the door.

"Who is it?" He does not sound pleased.

"I need to speak with you, Sir." I shoot a glance over at Krycek. If he'd been hoping the A.D. wouldn't answer the door, he's out of luck. I can always count on Skinner to hear me out.

I hear Skinner sigh heavily and then the door opens and he's standing before me, shirtless, with his belt undone. I've woken him up to dump Krycek into his care. This is *not* going to be pretty for any of the parties involved.

Schooling myself to keep my face black, I reply, "I need your authorization to provide a safehouse." Suddenly I want to laugh.

"A safehouse for whom?" His expression darkens, and it's an ideal time to show him exactly what I've brought along.
I take Krycek by the collar, and drag him into the light. My mouth twitches as I say, "This man has information about extreme right militia that could save the lives of innocent Americans." God, that was fun.

The look on Skinner's face is priceless, but he merely nods, moving back from the door. "He'll be safe here."

Krycek tries to give Skinner a weak smile, but it doesn't really work. I shove him into the apartment. He looks like a cornered animal; his eyes gleam as they dart around the room. I'm about to say something to Krycek when Skinner hauls off and gives him the most vicious punch to the gut I've ever witnessed.

"Relatively safe." Krycek is doubled over, wheezing for breath, and I stand back, waiting to see how this will play itself out. //Something interesting to tell Scully in the morning.// Where the hell had that thought come from?

Skinner yanks hard on Krycek's coat collar, not allowing him the luxury of falling to his knees. "We're not finished yet, boy," he hisses. "That's a start!" Krycek isn't even trying to resist; breathing seems to demand all his concentration at the moment. Skinner looks over at me. "Give me the keys," he says, and this time I don't fumble for them in my pocket.

Grabbing them, he hauls Krycek by the jacket collar to the back of the room, then out onto the balcony. Once outside, Skinner shoves Krycek roughly to the ground, in the way I've wanted to do all evening. Krycek pulls himself up onto hands and knees, feet scrambling for purchase on the smooth tile. Before he's able to get up, Skinner hauls him to his feet and cuffs him to a corner of the railing. Immediately Krycek slumps back down, still doubled over. Shit, that must have been one hell of a blow. Then again, if it was me being manhandled by Skinner, I wouldn't act stoic either.

Krycek turns to look over his shoulder at the seventeen-story drop behind him. "You can't... You can't leave me out here; I'm gonna freeze to death!" He tugs violently against the chain. I stand in the doorway, looking on impassively, yet secretly jealous of Skinner, that he can so easily provoke a response from Krycek.

Skinner, meanwhile, has crouched down in front of him. Wiping his nose with one hand, he stares Krycek down. "Just think warm thoughts," he tells him. I can't quite disguise my smile at that one.

So I'm still smiling when he turns to me. I don't think it improves his mood. "Agent Mulder," he says, "Will you step inside, please?" My turn. I move back, allowing him to follow me in and close the door.

"Just what do you think you're doing, Agent Mulder?" he hisses, and it *is* terrible. If I hadn't sympathized with Krycek before, I do now. "This man is wanted by *several* very powerful law enforcement agencies yet you have chosen to bring him here. Why is that, Agent Mulder?"

I open my mouth to speak, but he continues. "Let me inform you right now that I will claim no responsibility for this man's actions while he is here and that anything he may do while in my custody falls on your head."

Once more I begin to say something, but suddenly Skinner looks as tired as I feel. "Look, Agent Mulder," he says, his voice no longer so harsh. "You'd better be able to explain this to me tomorrow."

"Thank you, Sir," I say, and head back out to the car before he has a chance to change his mind. Once on the street, I look up. It takes a moment, but I'm able to make Krycek out, his form silhouetted against the light streaming out of Skinner's apartment. Then the light goes out, and I get into the car.

~~~~~

I wake up with a headache the next morning. It worsens when I realize I'll have to wash my sheets. Why had that happened? I was too tired for a video; the fact that I even made it to my *bed* is amazing....

I take a shower, find a tie that isn't *too* heinous, and stare at the contents of my refrigerator. Looks like I'll have to get something on the way over to Scully's.

I don't; I'm in too much of a hurry to get there. She's had that pouch all night, and I worry that someone might want to give her trouble over it. The last thing I need right now is for Scully to be hospitalized. At the very least, it'd mean I'd have to explain Krycek to Skinner on my own.

I've been thinking about what she said to me last night: //For whatever reason, this rock is very important to someone, and it came here for a purpose.// It *does* make sense. Krycek would *not* have had someone pose as a diplomat carrying that pouch in order to send us on a wild goose chase. There'd be no sense to it - he'd gain nothing by pissing us off. No, there's some other reason.
Inadvertently, my foot presses down harder on the gas pedal. I think I know what's going on.

-Part II Finis-

~Finger deep within the borderline.
Show me that you love me and that we belong together. Relax, turn around and take my hand.~


~I can help you change
Tired moments into pleasure.
Say the word and we'll be
Well upon our way.~

"Mulder!"

After making a phone call en route, I'd picked up Scully.
As soon as she clears her front porch, I start detailing my theory to her. She's not buying any of it. "You have no concrete evidence to support your allegations, Mulder! And besides that...."

"But listen, Scully, it *makes sense!* We know Krycek had the digital tape. We know that he was selling secrets contained on it to various world governments. I'm sure that rock has something to do with those secrets. Krycek used the militia to contact us in order to relay the information to us...."

"Mulder! Listen to yourself! I have no idea why Krycek contacted you, but you can rest assured that his reasons are entirely for his own benefit! Anything this man tells you is liable to be just so many lies and half-truths...."
She's ready to go on, but we've reached our destination. Scully turns into the lot of the NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center. "We'll talk about this *after* we meet your Dr. Sachs," she tells me.

The Dr. Sachs in question doesn't keep us waiting long. In fact, the man seems about as eager to get to the bottom of this as I am. I can also appreciate his hideous tie.

Scully hands him the rock, which he puts into a large glass container, then motions for us to follow him. "Agent Mulder," he says, "If your beliefs about this rock are valid, we could be on the brink of the biggest scientific discovery of the century!" But then he pauses, shooting us a look. In a slightly less enthusiastic tone of voice he says, "I know I've asked you this earlier, but you have *no* idea where this came from?"

I'll leave this one up to Scully. I like hearing her respond to these sorts of questions without either validating or refuting my claims. She doesn't disappoint.
"Not its origin, no."

"But you have an idea, don't you?" I offer hopefully. Please say yes, good Dr. Sachs.

I thought that one would get him going again. "This rock contains what are known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons fitting the approximate description of those in fragments of meteorite found in the ice fields of Antarctica." Not exactly what I was expecting, but close enough to require my sending the *look* over to Scully.

Her expression astonishes me. God, if what this man said can have this effect on *Scully* that rock must be important!

"Are you saying...." She still has no explanation for it.
If it can make a believer out of Scully....

"What you're looking at is quite possibly from Mars. Over four billion years old." The good doctor's really getting worked up over this. NASA must not give him enough toys to play with.

"Is it valuable?" I ask, if only for Scully's benefit. Of course it's valuable, but I don't want to leave any doubt in her mind.

"Beyond adding evidence to the debate over the fossilized remains of alien bacteria, it's relatively worthless." Thank you, Doctor Sachs. Now she has an opening. Of course, she jumps on it.

"*Does* this rock contain fossilized remains, Dr. Sachs?"
As always when we work together, we're pitted against one another, each trying to make the other see the opposite view. It's one of the reasons I love working with Scully.
She keeps me on my toes.

"Well, I won't know that until I'm able to take a core sample, which I very much hope you'll allow me to do." Was that a quiver in his voice? Poor Dr. Sachs, he's acting like a kid in a candy store. After the obligatory eye contact with Scully, I reply.

"I think we'd all like to know what's in that rock." His grin is worth it. I nod quickly in his direction, and Scully and I head back out to the car. She doesn't speak until we're both on the highway, heading back toward the Hoover building.

Sighing, she begins. "Look, Mulder, I have *no* idea what that rock is, but I still don't think it's what you believe it to be. As it is, I need to clean a few reports up, then we can talk about what to do next."

~~~~~

While Scully finishes whatever needs to be done in order to make my reports presentable, I go to work, namely on a not-so-quick call to the State Department. I've been on hold long enough for another ice age to come and go, but I need to know who that man at the airport was. Just as the canned music makes me suspect I'm at the end of my rope, a chirpy female voice answers.

"Hello?"

"Yes, this is Special Agent Fox Mulder, I'm with the FBI.
I was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me." After a second of silence, I continue. "A diplomat we were expecting was supposed to have passed through Dulles International Airport yesterday. Can you give me any information on this man?"

"Let me check the database, Agent Mulder. I'll be right with you."

The canned music begins again as I'm put on hold. My sixth sense appears once more, and this time I agree with what it's telling me. This *can't* turn out to be as easy as it seems. Especially not with Krycek involved....

"Sir? *Sir?*" Damn. I have *got* to stop slipping off into other worlds.

"I'm here, sorry. What did you come up with?"

"Sir, were you supposed to meet with the Russian Georgia courier carrying the toxic soil sample?" I'm barely able to grunt out an affirmation. Russia? *Toxic* sample? I shelve that into the back of my mind and concentrate on what she's saying. "....you must have been confused about the particulars of your meeting. The diplomat arrived in Honolulu two nights ago."

"Do you know where I could reach him? It's very important."

"I'm sorry Agent Mulder. There was an unfortunate accident and your contact was hospitalized. I don't know where. I'm sorry I can't help you further."

"No, no," I tell her. "That was what I needed to know. Thank you." Perfect timing. There's a knock at the door.
Scully must have finished with those reports.

She walks in as I'm hanging up the phone. "Got something?"

I summarize my conversation for her. One thing in particular seems to surprise her.

"Toxic?" I work well with Scully. Our minds work the same way.

"Yes," I answer, "Which leads me to believe what's in this rock we intercepted are answers beyond the existence of extraterrestrial life..." I'm more excited by that phone call than I care to admit. It only serves to corroborate everything I've suspected.

"...even beyond the conspiracy to cover up that existence," I finish.

Of course Scully understands what the phone call means to me. Our minds work the same way. And yet we seldom draw the same conclusions. I cringe at her exasperated expression. "Mulder, that rock contains fossils of what is believed to be alien bacteria, and even that is under intense debate." //Scully, why can't you see what this means?//

"Why all this effort to get it onto U.S. soil? I think what Alex Krycek has given us is the pivotal piece to an even larger plot."

//Scully, why can't you *listen?*//

But she refuses to hear me out. "What he's given us, Mulder, is a *rock.* Alex Krycek is a liar and a murderer."

"Who wants to expose the same men that we do and will go to any lengths to succeed!" I'm not so sure about my opinions of Krycek anymore.

I stare her down, but she refuses to break eye contact. Finally she speaks.

"What I'm worried about is you, Mulder, and how far you'll go. And how far I can follow you."

//Scully, even if you can't follow me, I need to do this.// Since I can't say it to her, I turn to leave.

"We can talk about it in the car. Right now we've got to get down to NASA-Goddard and warn Dr. Sachs about that rock."

~~~~~

In the car, our conversation, continued from my office, is interrupted as my phone rings. Thankful for the interruption, I stop and answer it, eager to hear what Sachs has found. It takes a moment before it registers that it's Skinner on the line. "Agent Mulder, where are you?" This in the same tone of voice he'd used last night.

"I'm with Scully, Sir. We're on our way out to NASA-Goddard." Probably not a good idea to tell him about the toxic rock.

"Well, I suggest that you turn around and head home. I don't know how I'm going to explain myself to the police."

Krycek! But I keep myself calm.

"Explain yourself about what?"

"The police are at my place with a dead body. They want to talk to everyone in the building." He cuts the extension.

It's him. Oh God, no!

"Pull over here." I'm surprised at how even my voice is.

"What are you doing?" Scully doesn't wait for an explanation before complying.

"I'm gonna take a cab." I get out of the car as I'm speaking to her.

"I want you to find out about that rock. Call me as soon as you do." I'm dialing a taxi service before she even manages to drive away.

~~~~~

I get to Skinner's building and spend ten agonizing minutes waiting for a chance to slip in without being noticed. The body bag's being wheeled into the coroner's van as Skinner stands on the sidewalk talking to an official-looking type. I don't miss his small nod in my direction. //Let me inform you right now that I will claim no responsibility for this man's actions while he is here and that anything he may do while in my custody falls on your head.// I can hear his voice now: //Consider yourself advised, Agent Mulder.// There's going to be hell to pay for this.

I take the elevator up to Skinner's floor. I'm watching the numbers on the display over the door: eleven, twelve, thirteen. What the *fuck* am I gonna do once I'm up there? The fact that I haven't considered my options is a pretty accurate indication of my emotional state at the moment.

I let myself into the apartment and look around. I don't know what I want to do up here, I don't know Skinner wants me to do up here, either. ; The police already have the body; perhaps someone needs to vaccum. Movement on the balcony startles me, and then I'm so angry I can barely see straight. It's Krycek, and he's very much alive. I rush onto the balcony and uncuff him. Then it hits me: if Krycek *isn't* dead, who were they loading into the coroner's van a few minutes ago? There is, of course, no doubt in my mind that Krycek's responsible.

God *damn* that man. Even chained to the seventeenth floor balcony of the Assistant Director's apartment, he *still* manages to kill people! I've given up trying not to be violent with Krycek. Shoving him roughly inside, I let all the tension of the past two days out.

"You walk out of here like nothing happened, got that? If anyone speaks to you, you say *nothing!*"

He holds up his right hand. There's a bloody welt where the handcuff circles his wrist. Jesus Christ! Did he hang off of the railing? "I got no problem!" he snarls, apparently done kissing up. "You put me up here, man, I'm looking forward to seeing how you get me out."

I'm closer to losing it than I've been in ages. I try grabbing him by the hair in order to break his neck, forgetting that all of it is gone. My fingers slide ineffectually along his smooth forehead. I say the first thing that comes to mind. "Stupid-ass haircut!" When I realize how idiotic it sounds, it only serves to further enrage me. I grip the bastard's coat tightly, meaning to throw him off the balcony, but his words stop me from killing him for the second time in as many days.

"I got news for you, Mulder," he chokes out, as angry as I am. "When they find out who's dead on the ground down there, there's gonna be no question whose apartment he was pulled out of."

"Who is he?"

"Same guy with the pouch." This time, his voice is calmer. He's already gaining control of himself. I'm still pissed as shit. I'm just not pissed enough to kill him.

"Let's go," I say, fighting for the same amount of control.

"I say follow the pouch." He nods at me, teeth still bared. My phone rings and I release my grip on his jacket to answer.

"Yeah?" I ask, steadying my voice, already certain who's on the other end. Scully still doesn't know why I got out of the car this morning. If she hears how upset I am, she'll be over here before I let her know how dangerous it is.

"Mulder, it's me. Listen to me. Whatever's in that rock, it appears to be lethal."

"What is it?" //Not another death?//

"It's Dr. Sachs. He's... I don't know, Mulder. I've never seen this before. I don't know if he's dead or alive."

That short description helps, as she knew it would. "I think you better find out. I want you to get me an address in New York. You're going to have to go through the Bureau to do that. Scully, I need to meet with my new contact."

~~~~~

The drive up to New York takes several hours; it's about midnight before I'm able to locate the address Scully had given me. It's actually amazing; I'd planned on another day at least before we'd even be able to locate her building. I shouldn't have. Scully's always performed miracles. It'd taken her all of half an hour before she got back to me with that information. In the meantime, I'd gone through a drive-up window and gotten food for Krycek and myself. I was in a better mood; at least I wouldn't have to share a hotel room with the bastard.

I park in a back alley near the building. Krycek is pretending to be asleep in the seat next to me, which is just as well because I have no intention of taking him inside. After pondering for a moment, I chain his arm to the steering wheel, which is the nearest restraint that presents itself. The corners of his mouth tighten, proof that he's only feigning sleep. So he wants to avoid talking to me. He needn't worry. I shut the door quietly and stalk into the apartment complex.

My contact lives in apartment 22 on the first floor, and I don't have to walk very far. Even so, it's very late. Usually I don't care much about social conventions, but it really wouldn't do to piss off the only person who is willing to help me. Knocking on the door, I wait in the hallway for an answer.

"Who is it?" Once again, I wonder exactly where the woman got her accent.

I answer simply. "Fox Mulder."

I don't have long to wait before the door is cracked open. She's standing on the other side in a white satin robe. Alone. I resist the temptation to snort. "What are you doing here?" she says, staring.

"I need your help," I tell her. Don't refuse me now, this is too important. And don't ask me any questions either. I don't have the time.

"How do you know where I live?" The door is still chained shut. Damn. That was the question I did *not* want to answer.

"FBI database." I launch quickly into an explanation, hoping to distract her from the fact that I'm here at all.
I've found that if you act as though you're in the middle of a very important, urgent matter, people pick up on your mood without consciously thinking about it.

"I'm sorry," I say. "It's a matter of extreme urgency. A diplomatic pouch left Russia and arrived here in the U.S. Two men are dead. I need to know why."

It works. Marita unchains her door and motions me to a chair in her living room. She doesn't waste time with pleasantries, or even an explanation of what *she* is going to do. She just heads into another room without speaking a single word to me. I hear a door close and after a pause, her lowered voice speaking into a telephone.

~~~~~

I don't mean to fall asleep, but the tension of the past two days catches up to me. The only thing that awakens me is Marita's voice. She's on the phone again. I concentrate on the conversation, trying not to give any indication that I am awake. Perhaps she'll give away clues as to who she works for, who is behind this.

"Do you have its destination? And its routing directories? Thank you." She's speaking very softly and it's hard to determine what she's saying.

I watch her approach through half-closed eyelids. She kneels down in front of me and touches my arm.

"Agent Mulder?" she asks hesitantly. Good. She doesn't know I've been listening then. I make a show of waking up.

Looking me straight in the eye, she speaks. "The diplomatic pouch traveled an apex route to the Russian province of Krasnoyarsk." Her diction is impeccable and she pronounces the word without hesitation.

"Krasnoyarsk?" I repeat. I've encountered the word somewhere before. My brain goes into overdrive trying remember where.

"The point of entry was the city of Norilsk."

Norilsk. Ahh, now I've got it. "That's just north of Tunguska."

It's her turn to try and jog her memory. "Tunguska?"

"Yeah," I offer. Marita, Marita, will you take the bait.

"What are you looking for?" As much as she's done for me, I can't help giving her a hard time.

"My cell phone. I gotta book myself on a flight to Krasnoyarsk, Russia." Russia.... For some reason it seems as though that should be significant. More significant than the fact that the rock came from Tunguska.

"I can help you, Agent Mulder," she says out of the blue.

I give her an innocent smile. "Find my cell phone?"

"No." She's chosen to ignore that. "With cover credentials. A diplomatic passport. A visa."

Seeing as she's decided not to reveal anything herself, I'm forced to take the direct route. I *hate* the direct route. "Why? Why are you helping me?"

"Because I can. Because there are those of us who believe in you... believe in the search for the truth." I don't buy it, but I'm also too tired to argue at this hour.

"How long will it take?"

"How long do you have?"

It's 3:12. I look at my watch and make a point of not going anywhere. Marita takes the hint and disappears into the other room again.

~~~~~

//She rivals Scully in efficiency,// I think to myself as I walk back to the car. Of course, Scully would kill me if she had any inkling a thought like that had occurred to me, but it *is* the truth. In the space of a few minutes, I've been given a visa, a passport, the promised diplomatic papers, and plane tickets for two to Norilsk.

It hadn't occurred to me to include Krycek at first. I'd originally intended to dump him back at Skinner's and leave well enough alone. But I hadn't been able to shake the fact that the rock's Russian origin was significant for reasons other than that it came from Tunguska. I've always been fascinated by that place. A huge explosion was witnessed there around the turn of the century, and nothing anyone might say could convince me that the explosion wasn't extra-terrestrial in origin. But space rock can be found all over the world; why is Tunguska space rock any different?

For lack of anything better to do, I begin to review all the facts in my mind. And then it hits me.

Krycek. Alex *Krycek.* I exceed my target heart-rate for the second time in twenty-four hours. I briefly consider contacting Scully, but decide against it. If I'm right, I won't have the time. Just one quick test and I'll know for sure.

Unlocking the door to the car, I slip inside. Krycek is awake, as I thought he would be. He raises his head and stares straight out of the front windshield. "Where have *you* been?"

"Making travel arrangements." His tone of voice has pissed me off again. As if he has any right to ask. I start the engine and prepare to back out onto the street.

"To go where?" It's the first time he's made eye contact with me all night.

I'm even more upset now, if that's possible. Worried too. If Krycek doesn't ask the right questions, I won't be able to test my theory. I give him as little as I possibly can in the hopes that he'll slip up. "To follow the pouch."

"You're gonna keep me in the dark?"

*That* one enrages me. Keep *you* in the dark, *Krycek*?
You know where the pouch came from! You were the one who told *me* to follow it! And besides, you....

My train of thought derails neatly yet again. I can't be sure of that. I content myself with punching him in frustration.

"Yeah."

He grunts, leans his head against the window, and doesn't say anything else. I back out and head for the JFK Airport.

~~~~~

Krycek's feigning sleep again, but as soon as I stop, I see his eyes crack open. Trying not to be obvious about it, he surveys his surroundings. It doesn't matter because as soon as he notices the sign proclaiming "C - Long Term Parking" and the planes in the background, his eyes snap open and he drops all pretense of sleep.

"Mulder, you're not...."

I'm in a great mood now. I'm *sure* Krycek knows where I'm going, just as sure as I know he's very worried that he might not be coming with me.

Smiling, I answer him. "I'm leaving the window rolled down. If I'm not back in a week, I'll call Agent Scully to come bring you a bowl of water."

I catch a glimpse of Krycek's face as I turn and walk toward the terminal. He's scared *shitless* and I know, I *know* that I'm right, that I'm closer than I've ever been. Just a few more seconds and I'll have the bastard.

I've left the car window open a few inches, and I can hear him screaming at me even from this distance.

"Mulder! You're not gonna leave me here! I've got information, Mulder! About a second bomb! Time, date, and place!"

His voice fades to a dull roar in my head. I try desperately to choke down the joy which I'm feeling at the moment. If I don't play this just right, it'll all be for nothing...

I wait for an appropriate reason to justify stopping. Eventually I hear an obscenity - that's good enough. I pause, turn around, and look back toward the car, pretending to be pissed. I'm not.

Krycek's still screaming like a banshee. I see his lips moving through the rain splattered glass. "Son of a bitch!" he mouths. "Get back here!"

I stroll leisurely back to the car. Krycek stops yelling as soon as draw even with the fender, but he's panting like he's just run a mile.

I bend down to grin at him through the window. "What did you say to me?" Try as I might, I can't keep from grinning at him.

"What?!?" Krycek is *adorable* when he's angry...

"You called me a bad name." God, he must be frightened. This is like taking candy from a baby. There's a split-second pause and then I feel like I'm gonna cum in my pants. Krycek has started swearing at me. And not in anything that sounds like English. It makes me happier than I've been in ages. Everything I've suspected these past hours is verified in one effortless second.

"You speak Russian, Krycek?" Krycek. Alex *Krycek*. I knew it, with a name like that. I *knew* and it still feels incredible to be right. The bastard's Russian intel. And right now I've got his balls in a vice.

His eyes glint ferally at me in the dim parking lot lights. He's breathing heavily, but the Russian invective has stopped. Not that he isn't pissed. I watch as it hits him - in one unguarded second, he's given everything away. His eyes dart back and forth as he tries to cover his tracks.

"My parents were Cold War immigrants; what's it to you?"

My smile widens and I nod my head. Cold War immigrants my *ass,* Krycek. You're a spy and now we both know it.

-Part III Finis-

~Blend and balance
Pain and comfort
Deep within you
Till you will not have me any other way.~

~It's not enough.
I need more.
Nothing seems to satisfy.
I don't want it.
I just need it.
To feel, to breathe, to know I'm alive.~

I settle into a seat and lean back against the headrest. The bustle of the plane continues even after I've shut my eyes. What had once started out as a great idea now seems a good deal less appealing than it had those few hours ago.

There's no way out of it now. I'm heading over to St. Petersburg with a lying, murdering Russian mole as my only companion. I hazard a glance in its direction. Krycek has settled back into his seat, head leaning against the window in a now familiar pose. His breath mists on the glass, obscuring my view of the world outside. Turning his back to me, Krycek takes a last glance at the land of the free before shutting his eyes as the plane begins to taxi down the runway.

Five hours later, a slab of cooling airplane food sits untouched on my tray. I've been staring at it in morbid fascination for quite some time. You wonder if any of the stuff on these trays actually ever lived and breathed in the natural world. It occurs to me that if I look at my "food" another minute longer I'll be in grave danger of vomiting. I divert my attention elsewhere, and for some reason it's drawn to Krycek. He's asleep, and has been for the past several hours. Moisture from his breath beads on the window as he leans against it, the tiny droplets sliding down to rest on the sleeve of his jacket.
His nose is smashed up against the glass, and when he finally wakes one side of his face is going to be rather pink. The thought makes me chuckle to myself.

The man sitting between us is staring at me; with a shock I realize that he thinks I'm looking at *him*. To be fair, I have been staring over him at Krycek for... I'm not sure how long.

I'd put Krycek in the window seat on purpose. With a passenger between the two of us, and with me between him and the aisle, it would be harder for him to try anything.
It was an idea which had worked admirably well so far, considering what the situation gave me to work with. After all, I couldn't very well lead the bastard onto the plane handcuffed to me, not when my diplomatic papers listed him as my translator. Then again, I could have told people not to worry, he's only my sub....

*Sub?* Risking death at six miles above the Atlantic, I laugh out loud, hoping my friend in the next seat over will humor me. The outlook isn't good; he's spent the last half hour trying to bore a hole through my head with his eyes. Poor man doesn't know it's made of solid rock. There's no other explanation for why I always manage to land myself in these situations. In any case, he's turned toward me, lifting his eyebrows in an expression which should be much less aggressive than it is.

"I could have told them he was my sub," I tell him, as if it explains everything.

His Look-of-Death expression changes so fast I want to laugh all over again. He quickly stares straight ahead of him, and something tells me he's not going to look at *either* me or my charge for the rest of the flight. Two seats down, Krycek sleeps peacefully, blissfully unaware of what I've just said.

By hour seven, I'm ready to sleep myself. As many reservations as I have about taking my eyes off of Krycek for even a minute, I know I'll need to be as alert as possible once we arrive in Russia. Krycek is soon going to be my only means of communication, and the only way I can keep him from snowing me is by accurately interpreting his every gesture and expression. And all I have to go on is what I remember of our brief time as partners, and those other instances where he's lied his head off to me.

My head hurts suddenly. To hell with it, it's time to sleep. And as far as I'm concerned, once my eyes are shut Krycek is free to get up and move about the cabin. It's not as if I have to worry about him *going* somewhere. Then again, if he wants to jump out of the nearest emergency exit, he can be my guest. It *would* save me a lot of trouble in the long run.... I smile and shut my eyes.

~~~~~

When I open them again, I find myself staring into luminous round eyes framed by thick black lashes. It takes what can only be chalked up to superhuman willpower to keep me from screaming out loud. Even so, I jump about a mile into the air. Krycek leans back, chuckling at me all the while. Suddenly his lips part in a wide grin, displaying those crooked bottom teeth. I can't decide if the fact that they're crooked bothers me or not. I ponder over it for some time before I realizing what a stupid concept it is to begin with.

When I finally come back to myself, I realize with a jolt of pure fear that I'm sitting in the middle seat next to Krycek, and that the man formerly seated between us is nowhere to be seen. Krycek puts a finger to my lips before I have a chance to frame with words the question tugging at the corners of my mind.

"He got up and left a while ago," says Krycek, "While you were asleep." A quick glance around the plane serves to reinforce the fact that our seatmate really has disappeared.

Something about this situation isn't quite right, but my mind is still muddy from sleep, frozen with confusion, so I can't figure out what it is.

Ducking his head, Krycek shakes it back and forth, chuckling.
"You... You really should have handcuffed me, Mulder." Staring at some far away spot near his feet, he reaches over with one hand and places it on my knee.

"*Had* we been handcuffed," he says, "I'd only have *looked* like a sub."

My eyes are frozen in my skull, and all I can think to say is "*How the hell did you know that, Krycek?"* My vision is riveted on his hand as one finger slowly traces down my shin, along the ridge of bone, then slides back up to my kneecap. I watch lines appear at the corners of his eyes as he smiles, still staring at that enigmatic spot on the floor. It's those lines which betrayed him to me first; *they* were what made me suspect all those years ago that he wasn't as young or inexperienced as he tried to pass himself off as.

But Krycek isn't thinking about the past. Flattening his hand, he moves it further up my leg, palm curling around my thigh. I can feel the gentle pressure of it through my jeans.

I'm absolutely frozen until his fingers reach the region where thigh meets hip, and the jolt of friction on sensitive skin knocks me into action. I yell something, then smack the offending hand away.

In a heartbeat he's slumped over in his seat, head against the window again, his breathing low and deep. And I'm left with the eyes of twenty passengers in various staes of irritation focused on me and an equally irate stewardess who wants to know if there's a problem. By tomorrow, I'm sure I'll have a witty explanation prepared.
I mutter a rather incoherent response before turning to study the seat in front of me.

In an uncommon display of courtesy, Krycek waits until my five minutes of airplane fame have passed before smoothing his hand back over my thigh. The skin on the back of my neck crawls at his touch. I open my mouth, ready to repeat the entire performance if neccessary. Just let him try to touch me again. If Krycek wants an encore, I'm more than willing to give him one.

"Mulder," he hisses. "You sit still unless you want the entire plane to know who we really are, and what we're doing here."

He's got me pinned and he knows it. My papers got us out onto the plane and out of the country, but they'd never hold up under close scrutiny. I shut my eyes and try to ignore everything that isn't occurring in the world beyond my eyelids. The stroking of Krycek's hand has resolved itself into a slow, soothing rhythm. He seems content with just this small movement, relaxed as he is, leaning back in his seat smiling at me, eyes and teeth glinting. He looks like a cat, and he's ready and willing to wait me out in this little game.

I'm rapidly discovering that you can only hold muscles tensed for so long. Krycek presses his hand hand onto my leg, and the friction-iduced heat radiates into my muscles, writhing snake-like through my veins. My breath hisses out in a stunted, dry whimper. His touch makes me feel completely naked, exposed to anyone on this plane who'd care to look. There's no way I can pretend I don't know where this is leading. Desperately, I search through my brain, heavy and clouded already with the sensations traveling through my body, looking desperately for a way to stop this. It's *Krycek* for fuck's sake!

Well *that* thought takes care of the waffling, replacing it with a disgust so thick it's smothering. But it does leave me with enough lucidity to see an out.

My hand clamps down on Krycek's wrist with enough force to make him gasp. The satisfied cat look is gone, to be replaced with something completely feral.

"Mulder...." he warns.

Sorry Krycek, but the tables have turned again. I wonder briefly why I enjoy sparring with this man so much, why I get such a rush every time I one up him. But I banish the thought as quickly as it appears. I can think about it later. Krycek has started into his spiel again.

"...You know, *Mulder*, it's gonna be pretty easy for the proper authorities to verify that I'm not a U.N. transaltor...."

"Krycek, it's not gonna be easy for *you* to explain what you're doing with your hand on my thigh when our friend returns."

"The friend formerly seated between us?" Krycek asks in a mock-announcer tone of voice I've never heard before. He grins, but it's not the grin of a human being. It resembles what I imagine a wolf might look like before leaping to the kill. Throughout this entire mess, I've been irritated with Krycek, angry at Krycek, prepared to *kill* Krycek, but never, ever afraid of Krycek. I'm afraid of him now.

His smile widens. "He won't be back."

And that hand is back, stroking, rubbing, touching. I shut my eyes again as sensation takes over, overriding all the sirens going off in my head. What would normally be a pleasant sensation instead brings the bile up in my throat.

Heat warms me, spreading from my crotch out to my thighs, threatening to melt me as it suffuses taut muscle and frayed nerve endings. And it goes on and on and on. I slouch down in the seat, letting my mouth fall open as my pulse increases. Soon I'm squirming back and forth, pushing up into Krycek's greedy palm as I would my own. I don't know where the other man has gone, and I don't care anymore. My head falls forward as though the bones and tendons in my neck have turned to rubber. I strain against the confines of my jeans; they're too tight, I'm dying. My pulse is racing, my blood pounding through my veins. I lean my head back in the seat, moaning softly under my breath, and all the while *his* hand is there, and I can't force myself to make it stop.

It's mounting now, and I brace myself against the seat, shoving up eagerly into Krycek's hand, rubbing against it.
I'm sure that I'll be physically sick at some point when the realization of what I'm doing finally hits me, but all that matters is that that point is not now. My breath comes out in strangled gasps. The pressure continues to build against my jeans.

Suddenly the hand moves away, leaving me swollen and aching for release. My whole body is throbbing, and I moan out loud, but nobody seems to notice. "Krycek," I rasp out through clenched teeth. He's won, and now I'm begging. My gasp of protest turns into one of pure anguish as Krycek slides his fingertips up under my shirt, then back down again, flirting with the waistline of my jeans before they smooth back up across my chest. He's leaned back into his seat. I can't see the expression in his eyes, and there's no way I can let him know *what* he's doing to me. I'm too far gone for words.

His hand stills over my heart, and I wonder if he can feel its hectic, sporadic beats. His palm smooths down my chest yet again, circling around my navel, and then there's a bright burst of pain as his fingers swoop up to my nipple, clamping down with iron hard force. I cry out and double over, not able to distinguish the pain from the pleasure as he releases me, soothing the ache away with now gentle fingers. My nipple is hard under his touch, and I twist my head in the seat, trying to escape without moving away. My muscles tense immediately as his fingers move over to the other hardened nub, massaging with a deceptive gentleness, and even though I know it's coming, the pain as they clamp down yet again sears through my body with the force of something totally unexpected.

He whispers my name, running his hand down my stomach yet again, then smoothing it out over the top of my pantleg, and around my erection. My heart hammers against my chest, ready to burst through my ribcage at the slightest touch from him. The muslces along the my legs, my neck tense painfully. He's pressing down with more force now, and I can feel my balls tightening into my crotch, the desire in my groin is coiling....

I'm not surprised when Krycek removes his hand. I can almost say I was expecting it. So I shut my eyes and will myself to take deep, even breaths. Sooner or later he'll touch me again.

I wait.

And wait.

And finally look over to meet his eyes, their green depths darkened to an indescribable pitch black shade. His lips peel back from his mouth, exposing those crooked teeth in something that couldn't really be termed a smile.

"Mulder," he says, injecting a wicked cackle into the words. "You can wait all you'd like. I'm not going to touch you again." His skin is flushed, highlighting his cheekbones, his eyes dark under their severe brow. He's absolutely beautiful, and absolutely inhuman. "If you want anything, you'll have to do it yourself."

I remember snarling a profanity at him then, but my hand was straying to my groin even as the words escaped my mouth. I cup my hand over the bulge in my crotch, caressing, smoothing, feeling his eyes boring a hole through my head. I rub harder, knowing *he's* watching. Against my own will my fingers swirl over my cock; the slightest touch sends an ecstatic jolt of feeling through my body and I press down harder, the sensation wringing a strangled gasp from my mouth. I hear an answering snick of breath from the seat beside me. Focusing my eyes, a painful act in itself, I find him staring at me, tongue protruding from his lips as he watches my every move. My glance moves lower; he's hard too. But he's ignoring it, the attention of his entire being focusing on me like a laser, and I've shut my eyes again, and I'm rubbing desperately now, arching up into my hand, shifting wildly in my seat, closer, closer....

"My God," he whispers reverently, and I barely have time to wonder //How did *you* know, Krycek?// before I'm shooting into my own clothing, wave after wave of seed pouring out of me, my skin tingling and crawling across my body, and then he reaches over, and I scream....

...And jerk forward in my seat, the harsh sound of my own voice echoing in my ears.

"God *dammit!*" the man next to me snarls. "I didn't pay for this flight to sit next to some insane fuck with bad dreams!" He gets up and shoves past me roughly, purposefully, into the aisle while two seats down, Krycek wakes up, staring balefully at me through sleep clouded eyes.

-Part IV Finis-

~Knuckle deep inside the borderline.
This may hurt a little but it's something you'll get used to.
Relax, slip away.~

~Something kinda sad about
The way that things have come to be.
Desensitized to everything.
What became of subtlety?~

Sunlight filters through the trees in small, swirling shafts of light. I estimate the time to be around midday, or a little later. The thick evergreens had formed a nearly impenetrable wall of shadow and deeper shadow almost as soon as we get off of the truck, making any method of navigation difficult in the monotonous scenery. This has grown more worrisome than it first appeared to be. After all, I have spent the last two hours tramping through the Siberian wilderness with Alex Krycek as my trusted companion. For all I know, he plans on walking me around in circles until I starve to death. Scully, if you ever find out about this, please don't kill me.

The scenery rolls on, more trees, more rocks, more drab green and brown wherever I look. //He says it's about five kilometers down those woods along there,// Krycek told me earlier, after his brief conversation with our erstwhile chauffeur. Two hours, and we should have been there by now... but then again, it's slow going through this terrain. For the first few minutes after I'd gotten off of the truck, I headed straight into the forest, not caring where I was going, or even if Krycek was following me or not. I was, as always, too carried away in chasing after the X-File to worry about the practical side of things. That's why I need to have Scully around.
The encompassing silence of the forest is starting to get to me. Even creepier is the way Krycek moves through the bracken behind me as silently as a wraith. Only an occasional crackle as he snaps some dry twig underfoot alerts me to the fact that he still follows behind me. If I hadn't known that he'd followed me off that truck, I'd think I was the only living thing in these woods.

I wonder, and not for the first time, why Krycek has decided to follow me here, or even to cooperate with me at all. Scully did have a point; what's in it for him? I run ten or so scenarios through my head, quickly rejecting one after the other. If he was trying to kill me, he could have done it long before now without endangering himself in the least. We've been in these woods for hours, and the only obvious sign of human presence is my own breath frosting on the air as we walk. He could have killed me a few miles back without any fear of a witness. There could always be an ambush waiting for me up ahead, but then again, it would be impractical to try something this deep in the woods when it could have been done more easily elsewhere. And besides, when would Krycek have had the opportunity to set something up? I've been near him for just about every waking hour since apprehending him those light years ago. If he was trying to redeem himself for God knows what reason, well, let's just say there's been a dearth of wisdom thrown from the mount as of yet. //Maybe,// a voice in my head suggests, //he's just as interested in this X-File as you are, Mulder.// But that only presents an entirely new set of problems.

I fight through the undergrowth for a few more feet, then stop completely, letting the chill fall air tingle against my skin. After a moment, Krycek pulls up beside me. His breath mists in front of him, little white puffs of ice borne away from his mouth by the same breeze. His eyes are lowered, lashes casting long shadows across the planes of his cheeks. He leans down, resting his hands on slightly bent knees, and takes several more deep breaths. Finally, he looks up and makes eye contact with me for probably the first time today, and raises his eyebrows in a //what now?// expression.

I consider knocking him over with one well-aimed punch, but, unfortunately, he hasn't done anything to annoy me today. "You're spared, Krycek." The words are out of my mouth before I realize I've spoken them. His head snaps up again in that slightly overdone 'I'm surprised' mannerism I've seen so frequently over the past few days, and if he's not careful, he'll give himself whiplash. Then again, I shouldn't worry. He's probably practiced it in front of mirrors.

My mind wanders again. I've seen pictures of Tunguska of course, tinted plates in muted shades of grey and black showing miles upon miles of trees flattened to the earth in a radial pattern. I think I first encountered the image in an issue of "The Lone Gunman," only to file it away into the back of my mind along with the pictures of crop circles it so closely resembled. Of course, those pictures were taken almost a century ago; the site must have been explored and picked over countless times in the years since that I'd first heard of it. Yet the diplomat had returned with a piece of space rock, and if he had been able to find it here, it's just as likely I'll be able get one as well. Then again, I'm probably the last person on earth who knows what's going on here; even Marita knew more about it than I did....

When I emerge from my inner contemplation, I find Krycek frozen in a position roughly akin to his earlier one. Only this time, he doesn't know I'm watching him. The transformation is incredible. He's rubbing a hand wearily over his eyes, and the expression of fatigue and confusion on his face is genuine for once. His breath hisses slightly as he realizes I'm watching him, and this time, I'm the one who glances away. I have a sudden sense of shame, as if he, or *I,* was naked. It's an intensely uncomfortable feeling, and I wonder how much of it he notices in my eyes before I turn away.

The silence suddenly seems deafening, and I wish, of all things, that Krycek would open his mouth and say something stupid. There are so many questions I need answers to, but if I have to start asking, I lose. *Everything* is a power struggle with Krycek. I've always said that, just like I've always said that I would find proof of alien existence on earth. But for the first time, I'm actually starting to comprehend the substance behind what used to be empty words.

Christ, Mulder! When did you start getting so goddamned poetic? //Since the plane ride,// a voice answers. //Since you've had time to think.// Which is, of course, true, as well as being a completely incorrect observation.
I realize, rather belatedly, that Krycek isn't the only one who's tired.

And I wonder why it never occurred to me before.

While working in the VCU, you'd hear stories, nonregulation, unorthodox cliff notes on how to get the job done better, faster. One of the best weapons at your disposal during interrogation is, of course, sleep deprivation. And here I am, the happy idiot, letting Krycek get a full eight hours or so of sleep a night. I, however, have not been so lucky. Still, it's worth a shot. I sit down, gracelessly, and lean back against a nearby tree while damp from the earth beneath me soaks into my jeans.

Krycek stares at me, eyes narrowed, and his body posture immediately takes on a defensive stance. I can't help laughing. I'm sure any minute now I'll wake up, on my couch, the TV screen playing snow because the porno in the VCR is over. Everything that's happened over these past days has been nothing more than a dream, and I'm right back where I started. Story of my life. But for the moment, I'm still asleep and we're both in Siberia.

"Christ, Krycek," I tell him. "I don't stand a chance against you while I'm sitting down." //Not as long as you don't try to fight back, at least.// But I don't say that.

He shoots me an intensified version of his earlier wary glare, but finally realizes it's useless and sits too. The brim of his baseball cap throws his face deep into shadow, but I can still see the gleam of his eyes as he watches me. "What?" he asks at last, and there's a note of vulnerability in his voice that I really haven't heard since that night at Skinner's.

"Why don't you tell me?" I respond. After all, Krycek, you are the spy; you should know why we're here. He doesn't answer me, but I can't say I was expecting him to.
His eyes shift, dart away into the deepening shadows of the forest, and I wonder if he knows I have him pinned. We sit in silence for some minutes. Finally, he shifts nervously and begins to speak.

"We should probably... probably go now, Mulder. We've gotta be pretty close, and I don't want to get stuck out here after nightfall." He looks intensely uncomfortable.

"No, Krycek. Let's talk." His eyes shoot back to me, rivet on my face. *That* one caught him off guard.

"'Bout what?" The tension in his voice increases. I can see the muscles in his body tightening.

"About why we're here." I want to say something that will total him, but to my surprise, it doesn't seem worth the effort. I'm tired of beating around the bush with this man. "God *damn* it, Krycek. For once in your life, just give me an answer! What's going on here that's so damn important to everyone?"

He blinks. "I don't know, Mulder." He watches my face, then makes a sudden, exasperated gesture, as if throwing something away. "I mean, it should have been pretty obvious to you by now - this wasn't supposed to have happened!" He seems surprised by the heat in his own voice.

"What wasn't supposed to have happened?"

"This whole thing! The goddamn rock, the man I killed, the road trip to Siberia. I was *set up* and I don't know what the fuck's going on!" He stares at me, eyes wide, the picture of righteous anger.

"Tell me you couldn't see this coming to you," I say, and the bitterness in my voice could have withered flowers.

"No, Mulder. I didn't. I never did, okay? Drop it."

"So you're not here right now to redeem yourself? This whole thing hasn't been your own choice?"

The guarded look in his eyes doesn't change. I wish I could see the rest of his face, but the shadows have only deepened since we got here. "Christ, Mulder! What other choice do I *have?* At least you're keeping everyone else off my back."

So that, it appears, is it. He's been cooperating because he knows I won't betray him. "You really have a fucking overdeveloped sense of self preservation."

I can't tell for sure, but I think I catch him smiling slightly in the gloom.

"I suppose we could always go back," I say at last.

"Yeah, and then what? You gonna let me loose on an innocent and unsuspecting population? After everything I've *done?*" He emphasizes the word in such a way as to let me know that he doesn't think he's 'done' anything.

"And what haven't you *done,* Krycek? Aside from lying, murdering, and being an all-around first class son of a bitch."

His fist snaps shut around the twig he's been playing with, snapping it neatly in half. His jaw clenches, and he slams his closed hand violently into the ground. I'm so startled, I jump. "God *dammit,* Mulder! We've had this conversation before!" The venom in his voice makes me jump again.

Before I know it, we're both on our feet. He stands across from me, shoulders squared, hands clenched, and he's *shaking.* I can't believe it. Alex 'my middle name's composure' Krycek is reacting to something I've said. His mouth opens, shuts, then opens again. "How the hell, Mulder. How the hell can you say any of that? You haven't been there, you don't know if and why I've done *anything!* You don't know anything *about* me, so don't pretend like you do." He stares at me, breathing heavily, but doesn't move aside from that. I realize that he expects me to hit him for this.

Instead, I sit back down. A few minutes later he sits back down as well. But I can tell by the defeated tone to his movements that I've won this battle, for once. I take a deep breath and school my voice to be calm and reasonable, even though I'm anything but inside. "Alright, Krycek," I say. "Fair enough. So why don't you tell me about yourself?"

~~~~~

He brings a hand slowly up to his face and rubs his eyes.
I can't believe it; the man's actually showing me a small sign of wear. He takes a few deep, hurried breaths, sucking the air in as if he can't find enough of it to sustain him. I can tell that he's trying to remain calm too, but when he speaks, his voice wobbles. "What do you want me to *tell* you, Mulder?" Something in the way he's shaking his head makes me ache for him, even though I choke the feeling back as soon as it appears.

"Your life story," I respond, and I'm not joking.

"What do you want to know, Mulder? If you're expecting stories of alien abductions and secret government loyalties, you're going to be very disappointed with me."

"So you're not a spy?" I ask finally.

He actually laughs aloud at that one, then buries his head in his knees. After awhile he looks at me again, and the dull, glassy look is gone from his eyes. "No Mulder," he says shaking his head. "No, I'm not a spy." His mouth keeps twitching into a smile, as if the idea itself amuses him.

"So," I prompt.

I can see him debating what, and how much, to tell me, but it doesn't look like he's preparing one of his elaborate stories for once.

"I was born in America, raised by my mother and my sister. My father worked for a small law firm on the East coast. I graduated from high school, applied to four colleges, got accepted to all, chose one, graduated, got a job for three years, then worked for the FBI. That's *it,* Mulder. Okay?"

Well, he's done it again. Out of all the things I was expecting to hear, not one of them would really have unnerved me. *This* unnerves me.

"That's it?" I ask, even though he's just told me it was.
I can't believe that's the sum of Alex Krycek's life.

"Yes, Mulder. That's it. All of it." Before he sounded angry. Now he just sounds tired.

I know that I'm about to make an ass out of myself, but I can't keep the words from spilling out of my mouth. "You mean you're *normal?*"

He's on his feet again, and the expression on his face could truly be described as dangerous. It's kind of amusing, actually. Call Alex Krycek a murderer, a thief, a bastard, a liar, and just *try* to catch him batting an eyelash. Suggest that he's not a normal human being and watch the fireworks go off.

"Yes, *Mulder,*" he says through clenched teeth. "I'm *normal.*"

Everything about his body language is warning me to stop, but this is just to intriguing for me to let it go. "So you weren't abandoned as a child?"

"No." Krycek squeezes the word out from between clenched teeth.

"And you didn't plan on your life becoming what it is now?"

"No."

"And you never did something illegal before you knew me?"

"No."

"And you haven't worked as a spy?"

"No." That glimmer of amusement is there in his eyes again.

"And you weren't a professional assassin?"

"No."

"And your parents didn't abuse you?"

"Jesus, Mulder!"

He's staring at me with wide, incredulous eyes, as if it's the most outlandish thing he's ever heard. Looking back on it now, I can't believe I had the nerve to respond the way I did, but I was on a roll, and I've never been known for my subtle interrogation style. "Really?" I ask.

"No, Mulder! My parents never touched me... Jesus!" A sheen of sweat begins to creep across his cheeks, and his eyes are still dilated like saucers.

"Well, did they die before they could?"

That one actually makes him choke. A violent red flush flares up across his face, and he makes a half-lunge toward me before checking himself. "*No* Mulder! My parents are, to the best of my knowledge still alive and happily living in...." His voice trails off. "You son of a bitch," he whispers. "You almost had me."

It takes me a moment to understand what he's thinking, and then it's *my* turn to be enraged. "Christ, Krycek! I'm not looking for your fucking parents. I don't go on revenge killings, you bastard." I turn away in disgust.

"Who said I killed your father, Mulder?" His voice follows me as I turn away, forcing me to acknowledge him.

I stop and half turn. "You just did, Krycek," I tell him. He stares at me for a moment, the hard look still in his eyes, trying to think of something to say. I can read it on his face. //You have no proof, Mulder.// But he's given himself away, and he knows there's no way out. I think of my father lying cold on his bathroom floor, and this is the man responsible. At least now I know.

"It's getting late," I say, and move off into the woods.

~~~~~

We trudge through the woods in silence as the endless progression of trees peels back to reveal more trees. Animosity crackles between us for the first half hour our so after we start, but it's gradually replaced by a calmer, even *friendlier* atmosphere. I'm thrown by it at first, but then it starts to make more and more sense. By suggesting his childhood was horrible, I've apparently handed Krycek the worst possible insult. He, in return, has not denied responsibility for something which, in all fairness, I can't actually prove he's done. But I saw it on his face, and in his fear that I wanted *his* family dead. Not to mention the fact that he all but admitted it to me, anyway. So now I know. I think that sense of closure, more than anything else, is what's finally calmed me down. I'm in a daze.

Krycek no longer walks behind, but beside me as the terrain allows. I hazard glances his way as often as possible without becoming obvious. Try as I might to read his face, his body language, there's nothing there I can latch on to and use. I'm not even sure how much of what he's told me I'm actually willing to believe. He's all but admitted to killing my father, yet at the same time, he doesn't appear to be worried about any physical threat of violence from me. In fact, I think that attitude on his part is the only thing which kept me from strangling him before. That and the fact that I have hope now. I've managed to crack his surface. I keep protecting Krycek because I keep hoping he'll tell me something I want to know. Only he was so damned hard to crack before. Not now, not that I've gotten to him. More than ever before, he intrigues me. What on earth makes him *work?*

And aside from that, there's something about the way he moves that just begs for an audience. The words 'lithe' and 'catlike' spring to mind, even though I'm not a fan of either. His movements are so fluid they're mesmerizing. We trudge on.

Krycek's been glancing over at me more and more often, eyes shimmering in the pale light of early evening. My heart skips a beat. He looks absolutely feral. The sun, made invisible by the heavy canopy of trees, must be close to setting by now. The air has grown noticeably colder, and I can feel my cheeks and the skin along the back of my neck tingling. I wish I had Krycek's hat. Maybe I should smack him and take it away. But then again, maybe not. What would Scully say? The thought makes me smile.

"What, Mulder?" Krycek asks, a hint of an edge creeping into his voice. "What is it?" He slows to a stop and faces me, waiting like he expects something.

"What?" I ask back.

He throws me an exasperated stare. "You keep looking at me, Mulder. What is it?"

Christ. How am I supposed to answer that one.

I start off again, hoping he'll drop it and follow, but when I turn around, he's still standing there, waiting for an answer. "Krycek," I say at last, "How long do you think we've been in these woods?"

"You've got the watch," he retorts. He's smiling, and before I know it, I'm smiling too. "Well," he asks, after I've checked it, "What time *is* it?"

"Past your bedtime." I really shouldn't be talking to him like this, as if he were *Scully,* but I can't help myself. "No, it's actually probably better you didn't know. Krycek," I add as a afterthought, "Tell me why the fuck I'm doing this...."

He regards me for a moment with beautiful dark eyes. "Because you're a fucking insane bastard," he responds evenly, flashing that smile at me again. Funny, I can't remember ever seeing him smile before today. It makes him seem a lot friendlier, more approachable. It makes him seem human.

Human, but no less dangerous. I'm carefully considering my next comment, and so, it appears, is Krycek. He gets there first.

"Look, Mulder," he says, staring me straight in the eyes without that 'I implore you' look he always wears when he tries to bullshit me. "It's getting late. Whatever you're hoping to find out there," he makes that incredibly graceful gesture with his shoulder, "you're not gonna find it in the dark."

"Krycek, I never thought I'd say this, but you're right."
There's an almost playful tone to my words. Christ, how does he always manage to get my guard down like that? And why the hell do I want to trust him?

"Well," I say, as much to cover my own confusion as to convey something really important, "What do you suggest we do now?"

He responds quickly, as if he'd already had an answer prepared before he even asked the question. "It's too late to go back now, and since we've spent the last several hours trooping around the wilderness we might as well camp out like the good little Boy Scouts we are."

Krycek the Boy Scout. I almost gag.

"Really, Krycek? I had you pegged as the Brownie type myself."

He shoots me an absolutely withering look that makes me smile despite myself.

-Part V Finis-

~How can it mean anything to me
If I really don't feel anything at all?~

~I'll keep digging
Till I feel something.~

A few hours later we're sitting around a small, smokeless fire, trying our best to fight off the increasing chill of a Siberian evening. I hadn't been prepared to spend the night out here, (or even *be* here, a renegade voice in my head whispers) so there's nothing to eat. Aside from that, I have the cheery prospect of a long night spent with nothing more weather-resistant than a windbreaker before me. It doesn't make me particularly happy, at the moment.

Conversation dries up somewhere between building the fire and gathering leaves for bedding, and I've been left, uninterrupted, to my own thoughts for quite some time. I wonder about Scully, and if she's found an explanation for whatever was in that rock yet. I can imagine with surprising clarity the way her face must have looked when she realized I'd taken off on another wild goose chase without choosing to include her. Poor, all-suffering Scully. I have no idea why she still bothers to put up with me. I wonder about Skinner, whether he's still a bit shaken when he sees the stain below his balcony, whether he's managing to keep Scully in line while I'm gone. I wonder about the blast site an Tunguska, and what I may or may not find there tomorrow. Other thoughts, I don't care to think about.

Throughout all of this, I slowly become aware of the fact that Krycek is watching me. It sends a strange, dark pulse of satisfaction moving through my veins. I wonder if he has as hard a time figuring me out as I do him. I don't react, but merely sit, reveling in the pleasure of being observed.

"Mulder," he says finally. "When we get back from... wherever you're going, what are you going to do with me?"

There's a painful honesty to his question that I respond to immediately.

"I don't know, Krycek," I tell him at last. And it's not a lie; I *don't* know.

"Listen, Mulder," he says. "If I get you there, and out again, will you let me go? I'll disappear in St. Petersburg, and you'll never know I existed." His voice heightens in pitch and speed as he talks, and I can tell he's really frightened. So he's finally learned that out of everything he does, I'm least equipped to defend myself against complete openness. Meanwhile, he's still watching me with those hypnotic eyes.

"Krycek, I can't answer you, you know that!" My voice really shouldn't have sounded that desperate.

"Will you at least think about it?" he asks carefully, not looking at me any more.

"I'll think about it," I reply, rolling into my nest of leaves.

~~~~~

I awake, several hours later, to a disturbance in the bedding behind me, followed by the heat of Krycek's warm body pressed against my back.

I can't, for some reason say that I'm upset by it. "What the hell are you doing, Krycek?" I murmur, already half asleep again. For some reason I don't think he's going to hurt me tonight.

"What the hell do you think, Mulder? It's fucking freezing out here." His teeth clatter together in my ear.

I want to say something else, but that would take to much effort in this mind-numbing cold. Instead I rock back into his pool of warmth and fall asleep to the sounds of his stomach gurgling against my back.

~~~~~

When I wake the next morning, I remember my dreams too vividly to pretend they didn't occur. My stomach hurts, and I want to cry. I can't ever remember being so shaken by my own emotions before.

By the time I manage to get Krycek up and going, my mouth is dry and my hands and feet are tingling. //Great Mulder, just what you need right now. Let's have a fucking panic attack in the middle of the Siberian forest.// But no amount of sarcastic self-abuse is going to change what's happened to me. For once, I'm glad Scully isn't here.

Needless to say, I'm not exactly in the right mood to be a brilliant conversational partner, and after a few cautious attempts, Krycek gives up entirely on trying to make me talk. I can't say I'm sorry for it.

We spend the next hour working our way through the forest, and to a certain extent I'm able to numb myself with the monotonous, constant scenery.

I've just settled myself into a deeper rhythm, slowly drowning conscious thought in the sensation of the blood moving through my veins and the rhythmic pull of my muscles as I walk when he shatters it all by stopping abruptly in front of me.

"Look!" he says, and there's actual excitement in his voice. In a minute I notice why. The trees thin and die away to reveal a wide, rolling plane crowned on the horizon by a hill. And the top of that hill is similarly crowned by what appears to be barbed wire.

Before I can think of something to say he sets off toward it at a brief trot, and my eyes follow every move of his body. I'm too tired, and too shaken by the events of the past few days to even question my own responses. Another moment passes, and then I set off in his footprints.

//Oh God, Krycek,// I think. //Out of every man on earth, why *you?*//

//Because he *is* Krycek,// a voice answers. But I'm not ready to deal with that yet. Which isn't a problem really. It hasn't gone away for four years, and I doubt it will disappear now.

~~~~~

It had taken us another fifteen to twenty minutes to move across the plane and up the hill. The going was steep, but virtually free from undergrowth, so we made good time.
And now, at least, I have something else to occupy my mind.

When we get to the summit, we move along the edge of the fence for several yards. A gate or other type of entrance is nowhere in site, so we finally settle on digging under the barbed wire itself. The whole setup is rather primitive; I figure it's nothing more than a precaution against casual trespassers on the site. I'm not a casual trespasser.

Krycek's been hurling questions at me during various intervals along our climb, but I haven't bothered to answer him. He was smart enough to know that this is what I'd been looking for as soon as he saw it, but he still doesn't know what *it* is. And apparently, he's growing tired of my tight-lipped attitude after last night. I can hear him exhale angrily beside me. "You're really gonna keep me in the dark, aren't ya?" he asks, voice slightly unsteady. His entire body is tense, and I'm intensely aware of it.

His fist slams into the ground beside me, but because of yesterday, I'm prepared for that type of reaction. It doesn't phase me at all. For the first time I wonder if I'm in shock. It's a distinct possibility.

"What are we *doing* here, Mulder." His voice is rough, angry. I can tell he's not playing around anymore. I search his face carefully, then begin.

"June 30, 1908." I'm surprised at how even my voice is. "Tungus tribesmen and Russian fur traders look up into the southeastern Siberian sky to see a fireball streaking to Earth. When it hit the atmosphere, it created a series of cataclysmic explosions that are considered to be the largest single cosmic event in the history of the world," A picture of miles upon miles of leveled trees flashes briefly in my mind. "two thousand times the force of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima."

He's looking at me with huge, childlike eyes. God, his attention's been riveted on me ever since I started talking. My heart skips a beat when I understand his reaction. Why the *fuck* hadn't I realized it before?

"What was it?" he gasps.

Relishing my captive audience, I continue, the quintessential male, preening, showing off his knowledge. "It's been speculated that it was a piece of a comet, an asteroid, even a piece of anti-matter. The power of the blast leveled trees in a radial pattern for 2000 kilometers." He continues to dig, but he's slower now, as if he doesn't want to take his eyes off of me. "No real definitive evidence," I take a vicious stab at the loose dirt under my fingers, "has ever been found to provide a satisfying explanation of what it was."

It's only a few more moments before the hole is big enough for me to fit through comfortably. Lowering myself onto hands and knees, I shimmy through. I can't help but add one more comment.

"I think somebody found that evidence... And the explanation is something that nobody ever dreamed of." And with that I move toward the center of the compound, not bothering to check if Krycek's even behind me. I don't need to. I know he'll follow.

~~~~~

We move quickly and silently through the loose scatterings of trees which grow on the hilltop. An almost unsurpassable excitement has overtaken me. Soon, I'm going to know completely and entirely what is going on in this place. I'm exquisitely, almost physically aware of Krycek's presence as he moves alongside me.

He reaches out with his hand, fingers just barely grazing my windbreaker, but it's enough to stop me in my tracks. "Mulder," he whispers, "There's something down there." A small, neat movement of his chin gestures toward exactly what he means. People. I can see them too.

We move quickly and carefully down a small incline, falling to our stomachs in the shadow of some nearby rocks. I reach into my windbreaker and pull out my binoculars. It takes a moment to focus correctly on the men below, and when I do, I don't really believe what I'm seeing. My mouth falls open.

Krycek, without binoculars of his own, shifts restlessly beside me. "What are they doing?" he hisses at last.

I pan the binoculars across the tableau below me. Men, dirty, tired, and thin, move slowly among the rocks of what appears to be a dry creekbed. Several others on horses seem to supervise their actions, barking out instructions. "Looks like some kinda mining camp," I tell him. I turn back to the binoculars. As I watch, one of the more haggard looking members of the group falls over, exhausted. An overseer rides up to him, and I expect to see him help the man onto the back of his horse, or at least back onto his feet.

Instead, he begins viciously whipping the man. His body jumps and writhes against the rocks. A small, strangled noise escapes my lips.

Krycek shifts again, and makes a half-grab for my binoculars. "What?" he hisses again.

"I don't think they're miners," I tell him, in a moment of inspired eloquence.

Suddenly I hear the sound of horses approaching, much closer than they should be. I struggle to hands and knees, and beside me, Krycek does likewise. His strangled gasp of breath does nothing to calm me. The binoculars lie forgotten on the ground.

I turn to see several horsemen bearing down on us as we crouch in the dirt.

"Run!" I gasp, and there's no time for anything else as I'm up and moving along the ground in escape.

I quickly lose sight of Krycek as I speed down the hill. My heart races and pounds against my chest, echoing the louder sounds of mounted pursuit. Even after years of morning jogs, I'm no match for mounted men as I slip and stumble along treacherous footing. With every step, the ground reaches up with loose rocks and roots to grab at my feet.

But in the end, it is a whip that brings me down.

The first lash cuts across my calves, tangling between my legs and sending a sharp burst of pain through my body. Voices scream and answer in harsh syllables, and then the lash is followed by another, and another, and another, until my entire body is on fire.

I try once more to struggle to my feet, knowing that it's worthless, and a pair of strong, booted legs approaches my vision until a sharp blow collides with my head and I see only black....

~~~~~

I awake in the jolting confines of a truck, with my hands bound behind my back and something filthy gagging my mouth. Krycek lies beside me, his head resting against my chest, and as my vision clears and focuses I catch site of his eyes riveted to my face.

I meet them and hold their gaze until the truck comes to a shuddering halt. I can read so much in their depths, and I wonder if my gaze is as transparent to him. People outside the truck shout, talk, and argue, but their voices echo distantly in my bruised head. My vision doubles once or twice. Finally, a face appears at the mouth of the truck, and then a myriad hands are reaching for us, pulling us down and out until our feet rest on solid ground. I sway slightly and even Krycek has trouble keeping his balance beside me.

A gun jabs into the center of my spine and then we're being marched into a long, low building.

~~~~~

Once inside we're locked into a small, dark room, and I listen as the footsteps retreat into silence down the hallway. I'm afraid to look at Krycek, to see how badly he's been bruised, but finally my eyes move in his direction. He's huddled on the floor in a corner, rocking slightly, small bruises forming on his face.

"Krycek," I say, and take a step toward him.

He's on his feet in a moment. "No, Mulder," he puts his hands out in a distancing gesture. "Don't. They said they'd kill us if we talked." His voice cracks on the last word and he turns away, swaying slightly before burying his face in his hands.

"Oh, Christ," he whispers silently. "What are we gonna *do*?" I've never heard such hopelessness in anyone's voice. Ever.

Carefully, I reach a hand out and touch his shoulder. He allows me to turn him, ever so gently, until he's facing me. My grip tightens on his shoulder, moves in to curl around his neck. "Krycek," I whisper. "You look terrified."

A giddy light glows in his eyes. He looks absolutely crazed. "*Terrified,* Mulder? Do you know what they *do* to people in places like this?" I smooth my hand up his neck, into his hair, and back down again, tracing along the tense muscles. His back feels like iron beneath my palm.

Funny, at this most important point, that I don't know how to begin. "Krycek," I whisper, "Krycek, we could always...." My mouth dries and I am unable to continue.

"Always what, Mulder? Do what?" I can't speak, so instead I bring my hand up to trace along the high bones of his cheek. My other hand rests lightly on his waist. I meet his gaze squarely, eye to eye, and there can be no question that he's able to read what I cannot say in my own eyes.

He pulls in a deep lungfull of air. His lips part slightly, and a rose blush steals across his cheeks. I've never seen this expression in his eyes before.

"You... sick... *fuck,*" he whispers, and the bile rises in my throat at his tone of voice.

"Krycek," I start, unsure of what to do now. "*Krycek*...."

His hand rises, slaps me viciously across the face and knocks my arm away. "You *fucking pervert,*" he gasps, his voice rising with every word. "Get the hell away from me!"

I hear the footsteps pounding down the hall briefly through the roaring in my ears, and before I can do anything else the door bursts open and figures enter the room. There's a sharp burst of pain as something collides with my forehead, and fall to the floor. The blows continue as they drag me out of the room until my vision spirals into blackness and I lose consciousness.

-Crescendo Finis-

~Elbow deep inside the borderline.
Show me that you love me and that we belong together. Shoulder deep within the borderline.
Relax, turn around and take my hand.~

Jill Made This!
halfchild@geocities.com

Let me know what you guys think!