Title: The Harmony of Lesser Gods

Author: Michelle Roy

Email: missmr94@aol.com

Rating: NC-17 for sexual situations, strong language and violence

Category: Krycek/other (female, non-slash)

Disclaimer: The characters of Alex Krycek, CSM, Strughold, and any others you might recognize belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and FOX, and no infringement is intended. The character of Katya Fedulova, on the other hand, is all mine (and I'm not sharing CC :-p ). Also, the quote from "To Make You Feel My Love" is taken from a beautiful song written by the great Bob Dylan.

Spoilers: References to events in "One Son," "Tunguska," and "Terma"

Time Frame: Story takes place shortly after events in "One Son"

Archiving: Anywhere but let me know where my baby ends up.

Summary: Alex Krycek and his Russian counterpart are forced by circumstance to rely on each other for their survival. In the process, Alex discovers the meaning of the word 'trust', and has the revelation that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Acknowledgments: I wish to gratefully acknowledge the contributions of many people who were kind enough to take time out of their lives to help me with this monster. First, my beta reader, Sara Laipis. Sara, your edits and suggestions were absolutely essential to all aspects of this story, and I can't thank you enough. You are beyond fabulous and I hope you'll allow me to utilize your talents in the future. And Alexa, what can I say? Your contributions were priceless, and your suggestion of a certain tequila scene...all the glory and honor to you! Sandie, lest I forget, your read-throughs and overall opinions were appreciated beyond measure (now get cracking on that Spenderfic!). Thanks for the encouragement. Tyen and Yana, your help with the Russian language was essential to the advancement of the story. Spassibo.

My undying gratitude to you all.

Dedication: Jim, honey, this one's for you. And Toddy, wherever you are, I hope you're smiling. I miss you.

Note: In my little X Files world, Alex Krycek never met up with the band of one - armed men. He just slept peacefully through the night and woke up refreshed and still able to give big bear hugs. Hope no one minds the departure from "reality".


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

I spoke to you in cautious tones
You answered me with no pretense
And still I feel I said too much.
My silence is my self-defense.

And every time I've held a rose
It seems I only felt the thorns.
And so it goes, and so it goes
And so will you soon I suppose.

And this is why my eyes are closed
It's just as well for all I've seen.
And so it goes, and so it goes.
And you're the only one who knows.
-Billy Joel

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

Alex Krycek's stomach constricted tightly and demanded he remember that it had been nearly twenty-four hours since he had last eaten real food. In his mind the miniscule, dry piece of meat and bits of shriveled vegetables that the airline called food hardly counted as sustenance. The scents of sharp Italian spices and delicious, heavy sauces that permeated the air throughout restaurant were so thick and so spectacularly delectable that he thought they were nearly edible themselves.

Alex studied the menu and scowled. He wished this meeting could've taken place in a country where French wasn't the predominant language. He detested the language and had only a working knowledge of it. Germany had been his choice for the meeting since his German was more than passable, but his suggestion had been quickly swept aside. Geneva, Switzerland, it had been argued, was symbolically and strategically the perfect destination for the mission at hand.

He threw back another long pull from his second vodka and glanced impatiently at his watch. His contact was appallingly late for their 4pm rendezvous. He'd been sitting here suffering the wrath of his empty stomach for nearly an hour and he'd had it. Waving the waiter over, Alex attempted his best pronunciation of the most expensive meal on the menu. He concentrated so intensely on the menu and on his stumbling attempt at ordering his meal that he didn't even see her approach.

A woman Alex had seen previously only in photographs abruptly jerked the menu from his hands and, before he could protest had scanned the menu for his selection. She gave Alex a cold glance of disapproval and then looked at the waiter with a smile of sympathy.

"Aghellotti a de calmar, farcis aux fruits de mer et pistils de safran." She paused and looked as though she thought this seafood dish sounded too scrumptious to pass up. "Et pour moi, la meme chose."

The waiter's pained look disappeared into one of relief and he smiled at the woman's perfect pronunciation. He scribbled furiously on his order pad and headed to the kitchen with yet another tale of a ridiculous American mangling the language.

Alex scrutinized her as she slid into the chair across the table from him and gingerly placed her attachÈ case on the floor close to her. The photo he'd been shown was obviously out of date. She had been a brunette then, with soft, shoulder length hair. Now her bright, champagne colored hair fell to her waist and was pulled harshly back into a tight ponytail. Her face was as delicate as her hair was harsh and was just as he remembered from the photo, though her skin seemed paler.

She leaned back into her chair, crossed her long arms, and stared at him with disapproving gold-green eyes. Alex watched her incredulously. She was virtually scowling at him. This woman was over an hour late and yet she had the audacity to sit there and look at him with disgust. Alex folded his arms as well and matched her scowl. "You're late."

"And you are a moron."

Even the woman's heavy, Russian accent, which Alex usually found familiar and comforting, couldn't soften his burgeoning dislike for her. A moron? Alex ginned knowingly at her. He saw right through her little power grab. She was all piss and vinegar and badass attitude and obviously had no idea who she was dealing with. "I'm a moron? I'm not the one who's over an hour late. You've put the entire timetable in jeopardy and it's me who's the moron?"

Katya sighed heavily and spoke to Alex as if addressing a child. "Only an idiot arranges a meeting in a country where he doesn't know the native language." She paused and recanted a bit. "My plane was delayed and my tardiness could not be avoided. I'd offer an apology if it were something that could have been averted."

"Apology accepted." He extended his right hand over the table. "Alex Krycek."

His hand was powerful and yet possessed an elegance that betrayed the brutality that had, on occasion, been delivered by it. Alex's fingers wrapped themselves around her slim, graceful hand and engulfed it completely. Despite this, her grip was as firm and steady as his was. "Katya Fedulova." She smiled resplendently at him. "Durak."

To the unknowing this would've sounded like a Russian greeting. Krycek knew better. She called him a moron. Again. He squeezed her hand tighter and plastered as warm a smile as he could muster across his face. He nodded toward her slightly. "Suka."

Katya's face flushed with the realization that her counterpart knew Russian. She continued to hold his handshake and fought desperately with the corners of her mouth, which insisted on attempting to turn upward in laughter. Despite her best efforts, she couldn't stifle a small smile from escaping. "Bitch, eh? You have no idea."

Krycek pulled his hand from hers. "I believe you've given me some idea." His thoughts went to the briefcase that sat at her feet and he felt his eyes harden and his mouth draw taut as it always did when business was at hand. "You have the data?"

"Of course. As do you?"

"Yes. We have very little time since you decided to arrive fashionably late. DÈtente between our two groups is a plausible and attractive option, one I think should've taken place long ago." Krycek glanced at his watch and was shocked at the time. "We'll have to hurry to finish the job."

Katya opened her attachÈ case and removed her laptop. "Give me your disk."

Alex drew a minidisk from the inside pocket of his worn, black leather jacket and sat it on the table between them. Katya slid the disk into the computer, brought up its contents, and scanned the data quickly. Satisfied, she popped it out, put the disk in her case, and reached casually into the opening at the neck of her crisp, white, buttoned shirt. She pushed the gold locket that she wore on a long, gold chain out of the way and pulled out a disk. Alex nodded nearly imperceptibly as Katya showed him her disk, slid it in the laptop and handed the computer to him.

Alex knew the reaction she'd wanted to get from him when she pulled the disk from her shirt and he hoped his complete lack of one didn't disappoint her. Christ, he wasn't a sorry, hormone-crazed teenager who buckled at the mere hint a woman's tease. Still, he found that he had to stifle a shudder that ran down his spine.

He'd caught the faint glimmer of the gold locket that peered out from the recesses of her blouse and wondered for a quick moment about what photos the charm might hold.

He scanned the data on the screen and read the Cyrillic words, seeing the formula for the latest version of a familiar vaccine among other bits of information. He popped it out, put the disk in his jacket pocket, and handed the computer back to her. "Fine. It's done."

The waiter approached their table loaded down with their steaming entrees. Krycek eyed the platter placed before him. God, he'd never been this hungry. He looked at Katya who stared just as ravenously at the edible delight in front of her. He knew they had to hurry. "Eat up Ms. Fedulova. We have an appointment to keep. Strughold has a temper, and you don't want to be on the wrong side of it."


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

Alex was in dire fear for his life. Katya drove through the streets of Geneva like a NASCAR driver who was in the home stretch of the Daytona 500. There was no escaping the fact that they were late, but it had taken them no more than ten minutes to eat and they were certainly making up time now. Alex figured they'd be no more than fifteen minutes late.

The meeting itself shouldn't take long. Another simple exchange of information with Strughold who supposedly had some important data to share with surviving members of the Russian and US consortiums.

Katya swerved viciously to avoid a child who had darted out from between two cars and Alex heard the sharp, crushing sound of metal scraping metal as their car sideswiped a parked one. Katya's pace didn't waver.

Alex looked around for police and luckily saw none. "Slow the fuck down Fedulova! Now!"

"E"b tvoju mat'". Again the insults flew at him, this time 'fuck you'. Her voice was determined; her eyes firm and fixed on the road. Alex knew by the focussed look on her face that he wasn't going to rile her.

He stared at Katya and felt the cold, black savagery that hovered near the edge of his consciousness make its presence known. It converged in his chest and coalesced his eyes. He directed his controlled rage toward her in a murderous glare and swore to himself that if he ever met this woman in any other circumstance he would kick the shit out of her. He had committed many acts that most civilized people would look upon with revulsion or pity but he had never hit a woman. Yet.

Beating the blackness back to a safe distance, he looked out the window at the blur of Geneva flying past. "How far to the Hotel Du Midi?"

"We are almost there." Katya hadn't failed to sense the ferocity that Alex directed toward her. Her own superiors in the Consortium had warned her of his aggressive tendencies. They warned her not to trust him. And she did not.

She did not despite what her true, clandestine superiors revealed to her.

She'd learned to not trust anyone, to count on no one but herself. And if these hard won lessons ever strayed from the immediacy of her every thought, the warm gold of the locket that hung over her heart snapped them violently back to the forefront.

Katya beat the watery images the locket held back behind the iron curtain she'd constructed especially for them. They were nearing the hotel. She spotted a vacant parking place on the street about four blocks from it. Katya pulled in and as she turned the ignition off she looked at Alex and smiled. "You see, I delivered you here safe and sound." She looked at her slim watch. "Only twenty minutes late when it could've been an hour."

Alex just stared at her. He shook his head exasperatedly as he got out of the car, slammed the door shut, and began walking purposefully down the sidewalk. Katya's long legs carried her to Alex's side in a few quick strides. He noticed that as she came up alongside him, their footsteps fell in exact rhythm. They looked likes a couple of soldiers in search of a review. Quickly Alex broke his stride and set a pace separate from Katya's.

"Look, if there is ever a reason that the two of us must occupy an automobile together in the future, I'm driving. You'll have plenty of time to commit vehicular homicide on your own. But if I am ever in a car with you, I'll be behind the wheel."

Katya looked at Alex and this time she didn't even try to hold back her laughter. Its vivacity and warmth surprised Alex and no matter how hard he fought it, her laugh was infectious. He gave her a sidelong glance and surrendered to a quiet laugh.

As they approached, Alex took note of the striking hotel. Immense plate glass spanned the entire length of the building and made the interior of the first two floors visible from the street. He watched as people milled about inside the lobby and ate their meals in the restaurant on the second floor.

Unexpectedly the clouds that had hovered overhead parted and a small ray of sun reflected directly into the windows of the hotel, sending a paralyzing light careening directly into Alex's eyes. Blinded, his hand shot up to shield his eyes from the glare.

Without warning, the light that pierced Alex's vision shattered into a million shards of lethal projectiles. They glistened as they lacerated the air, escorted by flame, smoke, and the shriek of death.

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

Katya found herself propelled fiercely backward and thrown full force into the concrete by the explosion that ripped the Hotel Du Midi apart. Alex lay sprawled beside her.

They lay stunned on the sidewalk, gasping desperately for oxygen. The thunderous concussion had driven the air from their lungs and each battled frantically to fill them. Katya sat up tentatively and the horror of the scene filled her senses. The stench of smoke and burning and death hung motionless in the air. Car alarms, fire alarms, and police sirens sliced through the screams of the injured and dying. She looked at herself. She was covered in glass; it was imbedded in the fabric of her clothes. She figured there must be microscopic bits of glass in her hands.

Her hands. They must've saved her eyes when she shaded them against the glare of the sun.

She looked at Krycek motionless on the sidewalk. His forehead had a gash along the hairline and blood slowly drained into his dark hair. He was conscious but barely. She examined his wound and determined he'd live. Katya stood slowly over him, not sure if her legs were steady enough yet to support her. She teetered a bit as she gathered her bearings.

Something across the street caught her eye. Survivors were just starting to rouse themselves so it was the deliberate, quick movements that drew her attention. She felt a rush of panicked recognition sweep across her face and she quickly bent down and removed the disk from Alex's jacket.

She'd seen this formidable figure before. He materialized every now and then whenever the Consortium had a particularly vile task to carry out.

She bolted as he leveled his gun at her.

It seemed her extermination was his current assignment.

His explosion failed. His bullets wouldn't.

She reached into the pocket of her coat as she ran, deposited the disk she's given earlier to Alex, and grabbed her gun. Katya's finely honed instincts took over as she ducked into a nearby alley and threw her back against the wall. She held her gun at the ready and slowly glanced around the corner.

Katya watched as her assassin stalked intently toward her, dodging debris as he approached. She felt the muscles in her legs tense as she prepared to break down the alley, but then watched in amazement as the executioner drew his gun and took aim at the now unconscious form of Alex Krycek.

Alex Krycek was to be slain as well.

Katya turned to run, but as she did she caught a glimpse of the assassin falling over a piece of wreckage. She stopped dead in her tracks.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

She did not need this baggage. Let him die, she told herself. What was Alex Krycek to her? Nothing. A rival, a hothead, a potentially violent man who could not be trusted.

He was a moron. She smiled.

Fuck, fuck, fuck!

The assassin got up and cursed at the large piece of debris. He took aim at Alex.

Katya beaded a shot to his heart and fired.

Police sirens were only blocks away but apparently were being delayed by the wreckage. She knew they only had moments to get out of there. Frantic to rouse him, Katya ran to Alex and shook him hard. "Alex, come on! Alex you must get up now! They tried to kill us! Get up!"

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

Alex slowly sat up and Katya tugged at his right arm, pulling him upright. He shook his head once he was standing and he slowly became cognizant of the situation. He winced as he touched the gash on his head. Feeling woozy but sharper by the moment, he scanned the area and noticed the assassin sprawled backward over a large piece of wreckage. A large patch of blood surrounded the bullet hole in his heart. He looked incredulously at Katya.

She just shrugged and blew on the end of her forefinger as if it were a gun barrel. "Mudak, we have to leave! When they find him they will know we are alive."

Christ, she had just saved his life and now it was back to the insults. Alex couldn't be sure if the sharp, pounding ache in his head was caused by his near scalping or by Katya Fedulova.


Alex reached in his jacket and felt the reassuring presence of his gun in his shoulder holster. Following Katya's lead, he took off at a fast walk dodging debris and broke out in a run as soon as they got to the alley. Katya seemed to know just where she was going and Alex followed her closely. They ran through the alley, turned left on the adjoining street, and ran nearly seven blocks before Katya stopped. Alex bent down, put his hands on his thighs to steady himself, and cursed his unstable vision. He may have just been unconscious, but he didn't have time for this dizziness. He looked up slowly and found that they were at the exit of an underground parking garage. Alex glanced into the garage, and seeing no attendant, he grabbed Katya's arm and pulled her inside.

They began pulling on car doors like common street criminals, looking for one that wasn't locked. Alex found one first, a Mercedes CL500. A bit more flamboyant than he would've liked, but what the hell. He deserved a bit of luxury. Kneeling down, he called to Katya as he tore at the wires under the steering column and touched the two essential ones together. As the engine started, he stood to get in the car and saw Katya standing across by the open passenger door. There was no mistaking the pleading look on her face. She glanced toward the steering wheel.

No way.

Never again.

"Just get in the car."

Alex couldn't believe their luck. He was sure the attendant would be waiting for them at the exit with all the requisite law enforcement, but as they approached the exit there was no sign of the attendant and Alex and Katya slipped quietly out of the garage.

Alex drove through the streets of Geneva not really knowing where he was going. His eyes darted from one road sign to the other and he attempted to read every one. For the second time that day he cursed the goddamned French language. He felt Katya looking at him, staring really, and saw a self satisfied smile on her face.

"You have no idea where you're going do you?" He could tell she loved this.

Alex steeled his eyes on the road ahead. "I'll figure it out." He paused and remembered her familiarity with the Geneva streets. "You seemed to know your way around."

"I've spent some time here." Katya's inherent mistrust of everyone on the planet prevented her from going into detail about her connection to Geneva. "So where are we going?"

Alex wanted to get the fuck out of this country and back to the US as quickly as possible. He knew that he needed to disappear and he knew exactly where to go. His attempted assassination made it clear that his true agenda had become known. Well fuck it, he was glad. He knew this day would come eventually.

Now just to get home.

But the course home wound its way through France.

"We're going to Dijon, France. From there you can go wherever you want."

Alex watched a wistful look cross Katya's face as she watched the Geneva skyline diminish in the rear view mirror. "Fine. And so I shall". She grinned. "You realize that your French is horrendous. You should let me speak for you if you want proper treatment."

"I couldn't care less how I'm treated. I'll want a meal, a bed for the night, maybe a shot of vodka and then I just want to be left alone. Proper treatment is not required."

"Fine. I will sleep in satin and you can sleep in burlap."

Alex felt his head begin to throb again. He looked at the wound in the rear view mirror. It wasn't that bad. Head wounds always bled quite badly regardless of their severity. Once he got it cleaned up it would barely be visible since it was just inside his hairline. He rubbed at the dried blood with his thumb, trying to rub some off. The wound began to bleed again.

Katya watched him and rolled her eyes. "Durak!" She tore a small piece of the lining of her jacket out and held it on the gash. "You drive. Let me do this."

Katya's gesture was simply one of assistance, but even the minor bit of tenderness involved made Alex uncomfortable. Her fingers pressed carefully down on the wound, and though her compassionate touch didn't hurt him, he felt himself tense up. His life had been devoid of gentleness for so long, and now he had no idea how to react even to this.

So he did what he always did.

He pulled away.

"I'll be alright."

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

A starless night settled around them as they passed uneventfully across the Swiss border into France. They had the road virtually to themselves, passing just two or three cars in the previous hour. Alex sat stoically behind the wheel and wondered how to broach the subject that had been playing through his mind since they left Geneva. It was obvious to him that Katya had saved his life when she killed the assassin, but Alex couldn't come up with a good reason why she should've done this. Reverse their roles and he would've gotten the hell out of there and not looked back. It was just business. Business and self - preservation. It was all he knew; it had been his life for an eternity now. Katya had unnecessarily risked her mission by not turning and leaving him.
Inconceivable.

He glanced over at her out of the corner of his eye. It was obvious she was tired. With every blink her eyelids stayed shut just a little longer, her head bobbed a bit, but then she'd shake it off and stare directly ahead, watching the road roll endlessly on.

Neither of them had spoken since they'd left Geneva, since Alex had pulled away from her. When he spoke, his voice shattered the peaceful silence and Katya nearly jumped out of her skin.

"Who was the hit man?"

"What?" She sounded groggy and confused, like someone awakened out of a particularly vivid dream.

"Who was the hit man? I've never seen him before. One of yours?"

Katya stretched her arms behind her head and yawned. "He is no one of consequence now."

She wasn't about to give anything up; not that this surprised Alex. He actually was quite impressed with her despite her risking the assignment to save his life. But that opinion would have to be dragged out of him kicking and screaming. He could hear her saying 'Of course you are impressed. What is there not to be impressed with.' His lip curled a little at the thought. Christ she needed to be taken down a notch or two.

Still, she'd saved his life. It was worth a mention.

Alex opened his mouth to speak, then hesitated. He closed his lips, opened them again, and closed them. Fuck, why was this so hard? "Hey look, just...umm, you know, well when I was unconscious...Well, you're a pretty good shot. How far away were you?"

She looked bemusedly at him. "I don't know, about one hundred fifty meters."

"Yeah, well that's pretty good and..."

"Yes I know it is."

Alex sighed. Why was he even trying to do this? "You don't think too much of yourself do you?" He paused and wondered how long it had been since he'd last felt this vulnerable. "I guess I want to know why you stuck around."

Katya's eyes fluttered a bit and she looked down at her lap. "I nearly did not. I was in the alley ready to run. Then I saw the murderous ...pizd'uk...aim at you. You just were lying there pathetically and I felt sorry for you."

Christ-all-fucking-mighty! Pity! She saved him out of pity. Alex turned to glare at Katya and saw her staring at him. Even in the dashboard light he could see her eyes twinkling and her not very successful attempt to hide a grin was just as impossible to miss. Alex couldn't stop the rancorous taste in his mouth from coming through in his words. "You realize that sympathy can be a liability."

"Yes, so I am finding out."

Alex heard her suppressing a giggle. As hard as he fought it, Alex was finding her ingratiating charm harder and harder to resist. "Well, anyway I just wanted to say...ah hell, ya dolzhen tyebe."

Katya smiled and reached over briefly grasped his hand on the steering wheel. His use of Russian actually seemed to touch her. "You owe me eh? So you do. Someday I shall collect on this debt, perhaps sooner than you realize."

Alex smiled. He could think of worse things than being indebted to this woman. He watched her cross her denim-clad legs, admiring the way her jeans clung tightly to them, and immediately thought of several ways that he could pay her back. "You have something in mind Ms. Fedulova?"

"Yes I do in fact."

He smiled. "Name your price."

"Take me with you."

Alex nearly choked. "What? You want to come with me?"

Katya looked out the window at the blackness of space above them. "I need to get to America. At the moment I have nowhere safe to go to in Russia. There is a place in the US that offers me protection."

"Where is that?"

Katya hesitated and bit her lip. Alex could see that she didn't trust him.

"El Rico Air Force Base." Katya closed her eyes tightly and began biting her lip again.

Alex slammed on the brakes causing them both to lurch violently forward as the Mercedes screeched to an abrupt halt in the middle of the road.

"Alright Fedulova, what the fuck is going on? El Rico? You know goddamned well what happened there! The death of all the elders, of their families..." Alex pivoted in his seat and let his eyes pierce hers. "What the hell makes you think you can get protection there?" He hoped he sounded convincingly shocked and angry.

Well, he really was shocked. Shocked that anyone else on Earth knew about the protection afforded at El Rico.

"It is just something I know. I've overheard many conversations - they are so stupid you know. The men that I work for. They know all that I've done, all that I can do, and still they do not ever make sure that I cannot hear them." Katya paused and looked at Alex. He heard a bit of resignation creep into her lowered voice. "I just know that I will be protected there."

So she knew about El Rico. Unbefuckinglieveable. Her knowledge of this betrayed her true allegiance and Alex couldn't keep his mouth from dropping open. He tried to say something, but he couldn't think of what to say. He just stared straight ahead, shook his head, and laughed at the irony.

They were both in bed with the Rebels.

Katya stared at him with a dumbfounded look on her face. "What is so funny?" She paused. "Perhaps you suffered brain damage from the blow to your head."

"I must have because I'm letting you come with me." Alex continued shaking his head as he released the brake and stepped hard on the gas.

"Spassibo Krycek." Her voice was quiet, almost a whisper. "Thank you."

Alex knew of no other way to say it, so he just said it. "We're working on the same side."

"I figured as much."

His mouth fell open slightly again. "How did you know?"

"I knew there were others. I figured you were a traitor as I am." Katya paused and looked at Alex. "I was told by the men I work for not to trust you. But the others...my contact with the others told me I should."

"Do you?"

"No."

"I don't blame you. But you should. For now."

Katya sighed heavily, closed her eyes, and leaned her head against the window. "I don't know how to."

As Katya dozed, Alex wondered about her true motivations. What had prompted her to betray the Russian Consortium? Did she think the Rebels offered the only answer? He was working with the rebels, but ultimately he was out to be on the winning side.

He had his own answers.

Alex glanced over at Katya. A peaceful calm had settled over her as she slept. Her delicate features glowed in the dim luminescence cast by the dashboard light. The tight ponytail had loosened and strands of hair fell loosely across her cheek.

She looked almost angelic.

He quickly snapped his attention back to the road and shook his head. Christ he was getting tired. Or perhaps he was still feeling the effects of being knocked unconscious.

Or maybe it was something altogether different.


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

Katya lay on her bed at the Hotel Continental in Dijon and stared at the ceiling. The shower she'd taken had revived her to the point where she couldn't sleep. Perhaps the fact that she'd slept with her head against the car window for the last hour and a half of the drive had something to do with it. Or maybe thoughts of Alex Krycek were denying Katya her precious sleep.

She'd been thinking of Alex constantly since she had been alone in her room. There was no doubt that she was relieved that he knew they were working toward the same goal. She grinned as she remembered his shock at the realization.

She thought back to the day that she'd overheard the true objectives of the Consortium. The discovery of the decades - old plan was the final push she'd needed in her decision to betray them.

Katya remembered the violent trembling that racked her body in the days after she'd found out about the colonization of the planet, about the extermination of the human race, about the hybrid program. When the trembling stopped, Katya had gone numb, unable to concentrate, incapable of caring about anything. As Katya sat and watched children playing in a park one day, a switch flicked inside her, she snapped alert, and Katya knew she had to fight against this.

She'd continued to carefully eavesdrop and heard panicked talk of a resistance, an alien race that was fighting against colonization. Katya had contacted an intermediary, the only person on Earth she trusted, for a rendezvous with the resistance. Thinking about it now, she fingered her locket absentmindedly. The contact the Rebels had sent her assured her that there were others in each branch of the Consortium that had turned against the deal made with the Colonists and were now working with the Rebels.

The names of the traitors were never revealed for their own protection, but Katya had figured that Krycek was the traitor to the US Consortium. There had been rumors floating around regarding his capture in Tunguska; how he had eventually commandeered some authority there. Of how he then turned against his Russian allies, stole some vaccine, and turned it over to the US Consortium. There were still more rumors of his avowed hatred of a man known only to the Russians as C.G.B.Spender.

Katya sighed heavily and looked at her watch. It was nearly 10pm. Perhaps a quick drink in the lounge downstairs would soothe her to sleep. She swung her legs out of bed and warily eyed her clothes that were thrown over a chair. She had no choice but to wear them. Her trip to Geneva was to have been a one-day affair and she had packed nothing. As she slipped on her filthy jeans, Katya told herself that first thing in the morning she would quickly indulge in some new clothes.
******************************************

Katya sat at the bar and sipped her Merlot. The chatter of the other patrons filled her ears, and she wished that the place were a bit less crowded. Smoke swirled around her and the temptation to light up a cigarette was too strong to resist. She turned to the man sitting next to her and pointed to the pack of cigs that lay in front of him. "Might I have one please?"

The man tore himself away from the girl he'd been talking up and looked at Katya. He shoved the pack at her, obviously annoyed that she'd interrupted his attempt at seduction. Katya withdrew a cigarette and searched in vain for a lighter. Hell, it was just as well. She didn't know why she kept trying to quit. It was impossible.

Katya swiveled her barstool around and looked about. In a far corner, patrons clustered near a fire that blazed in a small brick fireplace. The walls were painted a deep green and were covered with paintings depicting the countryside. Thick, darkly stained wood beams crossed the vaulted ceiling and fans spun slowly overhead. An exquisite, old jukebox sat against the far wall and bluesy rock played just above the chatter.

The wine was not having the desired tiring effect; it was instead making Katya feel pleasantly relaxed. She smiled as she thought of Alex's endearing attempt at gratitude for saving his life. It had been obvious by his stumbling words that he wasn't used to feeling vulnerable or indebted to anyone. Katya thought that perhaps she should've helped him by quickly brushing his words aside before he could get them out, telling him that he should forget it. She smiled slightly and was glad she hadn't chosen this option. It had been irresistible seeing someone so clearly hardened, so unmistakably inured to hardship, fumble for a declaration of gratefulness.

Katya turned back to face the bar and reached for her glass of wine. Suddenly a hand reached around from behind her and slammed a lighter on the bar. She whipped around and saw Alex standing behind her.

"Those things will kill you."

"Perhaps." She handed him the lighter. "I can think of worse ways to die." He smelled of fresh soap and vodka with a whiff of leather.

Alex picked up the cigarette and put it between his lips. He flicked the lighter and flame shot from it, illuminating his face in the low light. He cocked his head and brought the tip of the cigarette to the lighter. Katya watched the tip begin to glow as Alex inhaled against the flame. She watched his cheeks draw in as he dragged deeply. He plucked the cigarette from his lips and handed it to her, exhaling blue smoke over her head. Katya found her legs crossing of their own accord and felt her pulse race as she inhaled and realized the filter of the cigarette was slightly damp from his lips.

She would deny it to her dying day, but at that moment Alex Krycek lighting a cigarette was the sexiest thing she'd ever seen.

He took the seat next to her and ordered a shot of vodka. Katya turned to look at him. "And how many vodkas does that make tonight?"

Alex stared straight ahead at the beveled mirror behind the bar. "Three." He turned to her and met her gaze. "So what are you doing down here? I figured you'd be out before your head hit the pillow."

"I couldn't sleep. The shower revived me." She dragged on her cigarette. "I was just lying in bed staring at the ceiling and came down here hoping that a glass of wine might tire me."

"Is it working?"

"No."

Alex's dark eyes pierced Katya's. "I know something that will."

I'll bet you do, Katya thought to herself. "Really? And what would that be?"

"I have a sleeping pill I'd be willing to part with. For a price of course." He tipped his head back and downed the vodka in one swallow.

"I think your price would be too high," Katya smiled. It wasn't the answer she'd expected. "So you have trouble sleeping from time to time Alex? It seems we have something else in common." In the mirror Katya saw a couple get up from a table near the fireplace. She quickly got up, grabbed her wine, and glanced at the obnoxious man to her left. His pack of cigarettes sat unnoticed in front of him. She quickly snatched them and turned to Alex. "Let's get some privacy."

Katya went to sit at the table but Alex remained at the bar for a moment. She watched as he struggled to tell the bartender what he wanted. Katya just shook her head. She'd offered to help him with his French and he'd turned her down, so she let him fend for himself. Eventually he just pointed exasperatedly at Katya and finally walked over with a bottle of wine. He refreshed her glass, and poured himself one. "I hate waiting for refills from the waitress."

"An impatient man."

His eyes darted around the bar, taking in every movement. "I can be patient when I want something badly enough." He looked at her and winked.

Katya couldn't help but smile at his charming little wink. "And is there something that you want badly enough now that you are willing to wait for?" She couldn't believe her brazenness.

"As a matter of fact there is."

Of course there was. "And what would that be Alex?"

He took a drink of wine he pointed directly at her chest. Katya felt herself flush as she hadn't expected such a direct response. Alex sat his glass down, waited a beat, and grinned slightly. He was obviously reveling in her shock.

"Your locket."

Katya felt the blush deepen at the realization that he hadn't meant her body. She fought the urge to smile at her misinterpretation. "My locket."

"Yes. Your locket." There was a trace of laughter in his voice.

"You want to know about my locket?'

"Yes." Alex's eyes, though dilated from alcohol, were steady and penetrating.

Katya leaned back in her chair and took a long drink of wine. "What do you want to know?"

"What's inside it."

She reached for a cigarette, which Alex immediately lit for her. She shifted in her chair and remained silent for a moment, contemplating whether she wanted to share such a personal thing with him. Her uneasiness must have been apparent.

"Don't worry about it. I told you I was willing to wait."

Katya looked down at her lap. "My son. It has a picture of my son." He didn't have to know about the other photo. Horrified, she fought back the tears that welled in her eyes and quickly caught the one that threatened to roll down her cheek.

Alex took another drink and looked away. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..."

Katya looked up and saw Alex staring off into space. He didn't meet her gaze when he spoke a whispered contrition. "Look, I'm sorry I brought it up. None of my business."

Katya heard his feet scuff against the wood floor. An uneasy silence settled between them until Alex abruptly reached for the bottle and knocked Katya's glass over, spilling the red wine into her lap.

"Shit! Ah, dammit..." He looked around for something to wipe it up with. Katya heard him quietly cursing at himself. "Fuck. Stupid moron.."

She sat there mopping the wine up with a napkin that had been left at the table. "Yes, that is what I've been trying to tell you."

Katya felt him eyeing her and she looked up from her drenched jeans to meet his stare. Alex rolled his eyes at her and acquiesced, "I guess I have my moments, though they are few and far between."

She smiled sarcastically. "Let us hope so for my sake."

Alex walked to the bar and returned to the table with a small towel. He stood over Katya and pressed the towel onto her wine-soaked jeans. Katya struggled to breathe at a normal rate as Alex intently pressed the towel against her thighs. The hypnotic pressure, the gentle way that he slightly parted her legs to soak up the wine that had trickled there, caused Katya to forget about how cold the wine had been. Heat radiated from his fingertips. Katya looked up at him and was surprised at how close his face was to hers. His eyes drew her in and took complete control.

She usually didn't surrender that easily.

This time she had no choice.

He leaned in closer to her, so much so that Katya felt his breath in her ear. "Are you going back to your room?"

"I...should." Katya glanced toward the wine. "But there is half a bottle of decent Merlot left. I think I will have one more glass." Alex reached for it but Katya grabbed his wrist before he could. His skin was cool to the touch, but all she felt was heat. "I'll pour it Alex."

He raised his eyebrows. "Alright. I understand that." Alex walked back to his chair and fell heavily into it. "I should get back to the room. I need some sleep." He rubbed his eyes. "Tomorrow we'll drive to Paris and catch a flight to Washington. You have your passport I hope."

Katya patted her jacket pocket. "It goes everywhere with me."

"Good." Alex paused. "If they're checking passenger manifests - which we can be sure they are - we won't have much time. I'll come up with an alternate plan in case the do the math and El Rico becomes unfeasible." His voice was one of cool authority.

Alex shifted in his chair and as he turned to face Katya, his leg brushed against hers. She glanced at him and their eyes locked in charged silence. Katya watched as Alex reached over and slipped his finger under her hand and lifted it. He gently trailed his finger along her palm, then over each finger, and moved his finger over to the top of her hand and over her knuckles. His fingers gently fondled her hand, eventually turning her palm up. His thumb softly stroked her palm and traced down to her wrist. He lingered there, caressing the thin layer of skin.

Katya knew he could feel her driving pulse.

She was breathless and did not attempt to hide it from Alex. The sensuality of his touch went far beyond what she'd thought him capable of. Katya began to feel her hand tremble, and as soon as it did Alex's hand closed tightly around it. He stood while still holding her hand.

"Don't move."

Katya didn't even try to respond for fear of not being able to form words. She just watched him walk to the bar and point to a bottle. The bartender poured the drink and handed Alex something. Katya couldn't tell what it was until he was nearly back to the table.

Alex set a shaker of salt on the table and took a slice of lemon from the edge of the short tumbler. He took the chair next to Katya and his proximity made her shiver. When he looked at her his green eyes smoldered and his voice was a husky, velvet murmur. "My last drink."

Katya watched as he reached for her hand. He turned her palm up and leveled her wrist. The realization of what was to come caused her breath to come in shallow bursts. Alex softly rubbed his thumb one last time across her wrist before he bent his head toward it. She felt his lips part and his tongue graze across her skin.

Katya was stunned by the luxurious softness of Alex's lips. Their touch branded her flesh. His tongue lazily stroked her wrist and Katya felt a slave to its sensual rhythm. She felt his lips caress her wrist, caught a glimpse of his tongue stroking her, and then finally watched as his eyelashes swept open and his gaze silently dared her to turn away.

Alex raised his head only slightly, reached for the salt, and sprinkled some over her moistened skin. He returned his mouth to her wrist, and Katya felt his tongue sweep across her salted skin.

Her embedded urge to pull back from such a powerful display of sexual authority melted away and Katya found herself wanting to offer all of herself to this man.

Alex continued to hold her wrist as he threw the tequila back. He massaged it with his thumb as he sucked on the lemon slice. Only when he was through with the lemon did he pull his hand from hers.

Katya was speechless.

Alex stood to leave and as he walked behind Katya, he leaned in until his lips brushed her ear. "If you need that sleeping pill, you know where to find it."

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

Alex hated flying when he had a hangover. In the past, the cabin pressure always seemed to worsen the constriction in his head. The tabs of aspirin he'd taken in Dijon that morning had helped to alleviate most of the symptoms and the dull throb that remained at the base of his skull was bearable. Alex reached around and rubbed the back of his neck idly, wishing for the support of a firm pillow.

They'd driven from Dijon to Paris in a Fiat they'd "borrowed" from the hotel's parking garage. He'd had his taste of luxury with the Mercedes and Alex wanted to make sure they didn't call undue attention to themselves. Katya had given him that same pleading look as she stood at the passenger door of the car, but Alex had meant it when he told her never again. If he'd let Katya drive, he'd have no one but himself to blame when he died a horrible, mangled death.

Alex looked sidelong at Katya as she stared out the window of the 777, her eyes focussed toward the Atlantic below. She hadn't said a word about what had passed between them in the bar last night. Her demeanor hadn't changed in the slightest. If he hadn't woke up with the taste of lemon, salt and the essence of her skin still lingering in his mouth, Alex might've thought he'd dreamed the whole incident.

Whatever. He wasn't going to lose any sleep over the fact that Katya Fedulova wasn't the putty in his hands she'd appeared to be last night.

She wasn't yet anyway.

Alex smiled to himself. Ok, fine, he'd admit it - he loved the challenge of her. He closed his eyes as he thought of Katya and found himself slipping into reflection.

Alex wasn't usually given to introspection. He thought of himself as a man of action, a man who had neither the time nor the inclination for self-analysis. Waste of time to spend precious moments trying to understand yourself, in his opinion. Get over it and get on with it.

But as he remembered Katya's infectious laugh, the suicidal way she drove a car, her sweet taste, suddenly Alex felt a tremor race through him.

He felt the foundation of every wall he'd constructed around him tremble and crack. Long dormant feelings rushed into the breach, paralyzing Alex as he came to the realization that he wanted to let someone in.

Alex wanted to spend precious time not getting over it, but rather getting into it. With her.

He found himself caught up in a terrifying current of emotion and every time he managed to struggle to the surface, an unfamiliar emotion pulled him back under. And yet, in the calm beneath the torrential surface, Alex came to understand that he wanted to let Katya in. He wanted her to know of his youth, his desires, his triumphs and failures.

He needed her to know why he made the decisions he did.

He wanted to find his absolution in her.

There was no denying it. Alex's desire to be with Katya had revealed itself and it raced through his mind, destroying everything in its path. A violent chill surged through his body and he began to visibly shake.

"Alex, are you cold?" As Katya looked at him, concern spread quickly over her face. "You are so pale!" She grabbed the airsickness bag and held it in front of him. "Are you going to be sick?"

Alex quickly grabbed the bag and threw it to the floor, hoping no one had seen. "No, I'm not going to be sick! I'm just cold." He folded his arms over his chest, hoping to hide the trembling. "Too many vodkas." Alex gave Katya a rueful glance. "One too many tequilas."

Katya gave his hand a quick squeeze and Alex felt her thumb gently stroke the underside of his wrist. "No, just enough tequila."

Alex's safe, familiar response to pull his hand away from the invasion of her touch was joined by a new desire to surrender himself to the warmth of Katya's hand. Momentarily confused by this dangerous impulse, Alex hesitated but chose to tread new ground.

He laced his fingers through hers.

Katya looked into Alex's eyes and he sensed a silent conduit open between them. He felt unable to stop the contents of his heart and mind from being laid bare before her. Alex waited for the hammer to fall. He waited to for her to look away, to break the connection. He waited for complete and utter rejection.

Somehow, Katya wordlessly conveyed to Alex that she sensed that this was the most vulnerable Alex had probably ever been. How he could sense this, he couldn't be sure, but she seemed to understand the leap he'd just taken. For the first time in his life Alex had left himself vulnerable and not regretted it. He was stunned.

As Katya leaned toward him, Alex felt the warmth of her other hand as it rested on their intertwined ones. In the past, he would've felt violated by so much physical contact. Now her touch only reassured him. And if her steady touch hadn't emboldened him, the words murmured in his ear would have.

"Trust me lyubemitsa."

Alex couldn't suppress a little feeling of victory as she stood and squeezed past him into the aisle. He'd gone from moron to darling, but something told him that he'd be back to moron eventually. He watched Katya talking to a flight attendant and winked as she caught him looking. As she walked back down the aisle she rolled her eyes at him.

"You cannot take your eyes from me for even a second?"

"Do you want me to?" Alex became painfully aware of her slender waist and the graceful curve of her hip as she slipped past him to her seat. The cramped conditions as she passed gave him an excuse to shift in his seat.

"Answering a question with a question is rude durak."

Alex smiled as he laid his head back on the headrest and settled into his seat. "At lease I'm back in familiar territory. Darling to moron in less than three minutes. Make up your mind." He rolled his head toward her and raised his eyebrows questioningly.

"I don't have to. You can be my darling moron." Katya chuckled.

The flight attendant appeared at the end of their row and handed Katya two small, blue blankets. "I hope this will do. They aren't very big, so I brought two of them."

Katya took them from her and unfolded one. "These will be fine."

As the flight attendant moved further down the aisle, Katya began to spread one of the blankets over Alex. He felt like a little boy being put to bed. "Do I get a goodnight kiss?"

Katya spread the other blanket over herself and looked at Alex with dancing eyes. "You aren't going to bed. You were cold so I got you a blanket." She pulled the fleecy cloth over her shoulders.

Alex watched her snuggle under the small, blue cover, wondering if her skin felt as soft as the fleece. "So you're cold too?"

"I'm tired."

"No you aren't." Alex pulled the blanket up over his shoulders as well, hoping to see her smile again before she drifted to sleep.

"Yes I am." Katya tried to sound forceful, but Alex could hear a faint shadow of laughter in her voice.

"All right, go to sleep then."

"If you'd let me..."

Alex watched as Katya reclined her seat back and closed her eyes. He waited a few minutes before he overlapped his blanket to hers. Carefully, he felt his way under the blankets, slipped his arm over the armrest, and let his hand gently come to rest on the curve of her thigh. Katya didn't move, although Alex suspected she was still awake. The muscles in her thigh were tight and constricted, not relaxed as they should've been had she been sleeping.

He slowly pivoted his hand so that his fingers nestled between her legs near her knee. Touching her felt natural, a physical extension of their shared emotional connection. Alex wanted to hold onto the pure nature of that intimacy, but found that it was impossible to separate his physical desires from his emotional ones when it cam to Katya.

Alex felt his cock grow uncomfortably hard, pressing firmly against the rough denim of the new jeans he'd bought that morning in Dijon. He shifted carefully and wished he would've remembered to buy a pair of boxers.

Katya stirred and a quiet, contented sound escaped her lips. Alex felt her right leg lift and cross over her left one, pinning his hand to her thigh. He tightened his fingers and stroked her thigh with his thumb. He turned to look at her as she "slept" and found himself fascinated.

Alex stared at her.

She was beautiful.

He gingerly pulled his fingers from the soft grip of her thigh and slowly raised the armrest that separated them. Alex let his fingers blindly search under the blanket, quickly finding Katya's left hand resting on her left thigh. Her skin felt cool, thin, and delicate. Alex covered her hand with his and felt Katya extend her fingers just enough so that his fingers fell between hers. As they did, she tightened her fingers and drew his hand firmly to hers.

Alex reclined his seat back and suddenly felt exhausted. Beyond the exhaustion, though, there was something else, a long forgotten emotion. Alex thought back to a dinner when every member of his family was at the table. Normally one dinner wouldn't stand out from any other, but this one distinguished itself by the complete lack of animosity between his father and the rest of the family. Alex must've been about fifteen years old. His parents, brother, and twin sister - who was still alive at that time - all sat together, the pickings of a huge meal left on their plates and no one wanting to rise from the table. There was quiet laughter, murmured complaints of being "too full", expressions of gratitude to his mother for a wonderful meal, and hesitant stares at all the dirty dishes to wash. Still, no one got up from their chairs. No one wanted to move, lest the perfect contentment be shattered and real life force its ugly existence back upon them.

Contentment.

Alex felt Katya's head drop wearily to his shoulder. Perhaps now she slept.

Alex tightened his grip on her hand.

He didn't move.

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

Alex and Katya were the last passengers to leave the plane. They'd waited until the last moment to emerge from under the blankets.

Alex spotted the men the second he and Katya walked out of customs. It was 10pm and the airport was unusually deserted except for a few passengers mingling about. The two men stood by a bank of pay phones about twenty five yards to the left. They looked like a couple of hit men, the awkward way they attempted to nonchalantly blend in with the small crowd, the way their eyes darted around, hell even the ridiculous trench coats screamed hit men.

Alex figured there would be a consortium welcoming committee waiting.

He grabbed Katya's wrist and directed her attention to the men. Alex recognized one of the two men as someone he'd worked with before, and as he made eye contact with Wressell, Alex flashed him a smug grin.

The thugs left the pay phones and began walking purposefully toward Alex and Katya.

Alex felt his the muscles in his legs tense as he readied to spring forward. "Run Fedulova! Move!"

Alex felt Katya on his heels as he bolted ahead of her. He wished he had a gun, but that situation would be remedied soon enough. He had grudgingly left his in a locker at the airport in Paris, knowing that it would be impossible to board a plane while carrying a gun.

Alex heard the dull thud of someone falling behind him. He turned his head to see Katya sprawled on the floor, the unknown goon lying behind her, holding her ankle. Spinning around toward her, Alex caught a flash of movement in his peripheral vision. He saw the punch coming from his left and caught the familiar thug's fist in his hand, squeezing it harshly. Alex stood nose to nose with him. "You're getting slow Wressell. I saw it coming a mile away."

Alex threw a vicious jab to Wressell's nose, feeling the bone crush beneath his fist. He tensed his arm and hit Wressell in the stomach with as much brute force as he could muster. It was enough to double Wressell over, and Alex grabbed his shoulder, heaved him up, and lashed a wicked right cross to his jaw.

Alex stepped over Wressell's limp body in time to see that Katya was stilled sprawled on the floor and kicking at the head of the other goon. His face was a bloody mess. She'd obviously broken his nose. As Alex watched, Katya rolled onto her back and delivered a crushing kick to the bridge of the man's nose, knocking him out. She stood and brushed herself off as she walked quickly toward him. "His blood better wash off my boots."

Alex smiled as Katya walked past him.

What a woman.

Alex knew airport security would be there in a matter of moments. He caught up to Katya and grabbed her hand, leading her down a hallway. The few remaining passengers parted, giving them a wide berth. Alex glanced behind his shoulder, making sure no one was following them. "Follow me this way."

They walked hurriedly down a dimly lit corridor to a long row of lockers that stretched floor to ceiling. Alex reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and noticed two things at once.

The locker key was there.

The disk Katya had given him the day before wasn't.

The panicked look that spread across his face as he dug through his pockets must have alerted Katya. Alex looked at her accusingly and saw Katya holding up the disk. He snatched it from her.

"I took it in Geneva when you were unconscious. I saw the assassin and took the disk so he wouldn't gain possession of it."

Alex put the disk back into his pocket and slid the key into locker number 622. "Smart girl."

"I know." Katya smiled ingratiatingly at him.

Alex tensely opened the locker and felt a wave of relief as he removed the only item that it contained. He quickly examined the SIG sauer 9 mil, popped out its clip to make sure it was full, and pushed it back into the handle. He shoved the gun his jacket pocket and instantly felt empowered, secure.

Katya was staring at him admiringly. "I am impressed."

"It's about time." He paused. "I have these stashed all over."

Alex shut the locker door and put the key back in his pocket. He and Katya continued walking quickly down the long corridor.

"Alex, aren't you supposed to leave the locker key in the locker when you are through with it?"

"Not this key." She doesn't miss a trick, Alex thought to himself. Old habits die hard, and though he trusted her, he wasn't about to tell her that that key opened many lockers.

As they walked cautiously back into the main corridor, three security guards ran past Alex and Katya toward customs. Alex knew they weren't far from the exit and he grabbed Katya's arm, hurrying her along. "We'll take a cab to a garage downtown. I have a car there. I'll make a call to my contact and we'll head to El Rico tonight." He looked at Katya. "You should make a call to your contact with the Rebels as well."

"And if the consortium has people to welcome us there as well?"

"I'm working on it."

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

The parking garage was dank and cold and Katya shivered as she dialed the numbers on the pay phone. The reassuring weight of the .22 caliber revolver in her pocket made her feel much more at ease. Alex had given her the small gun he had stored in the trunk of the car.

Alex sat in the idling car. He'd just finished his phone call and told Katya that the Rebels would be waiting for him at El Rico. They expected the disk she had given him.

Alex said that he hadn't mentioned her to his intermediary with the Rebels. He said that he didn't trust anyone other than the Rebels themselves. Katya didn't blame him.

She listened to the telephone ringing and fingered her locket, looking forward to hearing the familiar voice on the other end of the line. Alex might not trust anyone on this Earth, but she did. She trusted this person with her life, with the life of her son. She thought that others might question her loyalty to him if they knew of this man's past deeds, but she knew that his only motivation was her safety, her future.

Finally an answer.

"Father, its Katya..."


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

The SP at the gate of El Rico Air Force Base knew Alex by sight and waved him through. Alex glanced at the guardhouse in the rear view mirror as he drove into the base. The guard was on the telephone, watching him intently. The hairs on the back of Alex's neck began to stand on end. His pulse began to race. Something was up; he could feel it.

Katya was silent. They both were tense. They were about to leave this earthly plane for the first time. Alex had dealt with aliens for years now, but he'd never actually gone with them. He had no choice now, as it seemed the most powerful forces on Earth wanted him dead. They wanted Katya dead as well.

They had no choice but to turn to the ones they'd put their lives on the line for.

Alex wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans. Thankfully, it was his only outward show of tension. He thought about how many times he'd put his life on the line. Too many times to remember. Fuck it, he'd done what he had to do to survive. The consortium used him and then tried to dispose of him years ago. He'd gone underground, sold secrets to the highest bidder and been left for dead in a fucking missile silo. He'd gotten involved with the Russian Consortium. That's when the big picture revealed itself to him. He'd stolen vaccine, blackmailed his way back in with the US Consortium, and used his position to fuck them over. The Rebels hadn't been entirely forthcoming with him regarding their plans to fry the elders and steal the alien fetus, but if he had been in their position, Alex would've held that back as well.

They kept him alive on that dark night. They protected him by alerting him of impending danger at El Rico once all the Elders had gone there. Though Alex knew they held the entire plan back from him, he still believed they thought of him as an asset and he believed they'd keep him alive again.

Alex thought of Mulder.

Poor, misguided bastard. Alex had lost track of how many ass-kickings he owed Mulder. Still, he couldn't deny a grudging respect for him. Alex thought of Mulder as yin to his yang, constantly at odds, constantly pushing each other, and yet there was a perfect balance somehow. He was the dark evil to Mulder's great, white light. Without the existence of one, the other took on less significance.

Hell, whatever.

He drove into the massive hanger and the first thing Alex saw was the car.

Goddamn it. He knew it. He fucking knew that bastard would be here.

He stopped his car within fifty feet of it, and looked at Katya. "Stay here."

"Who is it?" She sounded intense and focused.

Alex watched the door open and a haze of smoke swirl out from the car. "It's the fucking prince of darkness."

He saw Katya pull the gun from her pocket and pull the slide back. "I...umm..." She hesitated for a moment. "I have your back."

Alex would've smiled if he could bring himself to. "Glad to hear it."

They both opened their doors at the same time. Alex stood and saw Katya standing behind her door; her gun aimed at the bastard. Emboldened by the cover, Alex strode confidently toward him. The repugnant scent of stale smoke filled his nostrils as he stood within inches of the cigarette smoking man.

"You have nine lives, Alex." He inhaled on his cig.

Alex slapped the cigarette out of his mouth. "Too bad you only have one. I can think of a lot more than nine ways I'd like to kill you, you son of a bitch."

The slap seemed to unnerve CSM for the briefest of moments. He lit up another. "Not a very nice thing to say Alex." He paused. "I would've expected a bit more loyalty to our cause, considering the state of the Consortium at the moment."

Alex laughed. "The state of the Consortium? What Consortium? You, Fowley, and me? Give it a rest, you're through. You can only hope that the Russians take you in. At least they still have strength in numbers."

The cigarette smoking man took a step closer to Alex. "You think you have the answers Alex. You thought you were in." He smiled. "You took us for fools. There are as many unseen to you as there were seen. Our numbers may be deteriorated, but you can't honestly think it was just the three of us?" He put the cigarette to his lips and dragged deeply. "Who is the fool Alex?"

Alex raised his hand to slap the other cigarette from his lips, but the cigarette smoking man caught his hand, gripping it tightly. Alex seethed; his rage visible. He felt his blood pounding hard. Every muscle in his body coiled in rage. But it was the blackness, the uncontrolled, vicious part of him that he felt overcoming him.

Alex stared at the cigarette smoking man and set the blackness loose in his gaze. Alex felt the ferocity burn in his eyes and let it bore into CSM.

The grip on Alex's wrist loosened, but only when a shot was fired over his shoulder did CSM release it completely.

"Never try to intimidate me Alex." He paused. "And I'll save you some time. Don't bother waiting for your cavalry to come out of the sky. We've taken care of that. They are quite through with El Rico."

Fuck. Alex would never trust a word that came from that bastard's lips, but it made sense that a detected threat would be neutralized.

Fuck.

Alex drew his gun on the cigarette smoking man and began backing toward his car.

"And Alex, the information on the disks is quite useless. You have nothing." He paused. "Nothing to die for."

FUCK!

Alex reached the car and saw Katya still rigidly aiming at his adversary. "Get in the car Katya. Now."

Katya slid in the car, still pointing the gun at CSM through the windshield. She turned the key in the ignition. Alex heard one last thing before he dove into the car and screeched out of the hanger.

"A pointless death is the fate of a failed man Alex."

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

The half - hearted attempt at stopping them as they fled the base had shocked Katya and it must have stunned Alex as well. She'd expected the full power of the Air Force to be waiting for them at the gate. Instead the only resistance they'd met with were a couple meager, wooden barricades that Alex promptly decimated into toothpicks. A feeble attempt at a chase was made - a couple of humvees barreled down on them for maybe 10 kilometers. Then they'd turned back.

Katya couldn't figure out why they'd go to such lengths to kill them in Geneva and then let this opportunity slip through their fingers. She wanted to ask Alex about this, but thought better of it now. He hadn't said a word in an hour and a half.

Katya turned her head and looked at him. His face betrayed no emotion as he stared out the windshield, wrist slung casually over the steering wheel.

"What?" Alex's quiet voice punctured the silence, startling Katya.

"It is nothing." He must've felt her stare.

"Fine." His voice was clipped and angry. Katya sensed his frustration and could relate to it. She had come to this country for sanctuary only to be denied it. Now the odds that she would see another sunrise had drastically decreased, and Katya had no idea where to go.

She knew she had to call her father. She had to find out what had happened to the Rebels. What exactly had that smoking man meant when he said the Rebels were 'quite through with El Rico'? Perhaps her father could arrange something. Perhaps a rendezvous could be set up in Russia.

Katya knew this was unlikely. The Rebels were leery of making contact in Russia. She'd never been told why.

Increasingly, she felt that her chances for survival depended on Alex Krycek.

Katya thought back to her father, the only person she'd ever let take care of her. Her mother had disappeared when she was ten years old. The only explanation her father offered was that mother had to go away, but that Katya would see her with the angels one day. Katya had become angry with God that day and swore she'd never let another soul into her heart. She sealed herself off from the pain and became fiercely independent in the years since, learning to take care of herself and to rely on no one. The only constant in her life had been the love of her father. He'd guided and molded her, teaching her how to defend herself. He'd laughed after she'd accidentally bloodied his nose as they sparred one day, telling her proudly that no woman he'd ever seen was as powerful as his Kat.

Slowly he'd introduced her to the concepts of his work. She'd heard his bedtime stories of "angels" and "visitors" since she'd been a child. When she discovered the truth, it hadn't been much of a stretch for her to believe the visitors were real.

Katya thought of the day she was introduced to the Russian consortium in full by her father. Her self-confident attitude had impressed many of them and they'd taken her in on the word of her father that she would not disappoint them

And now she thought of her son, the product of an experience she wished she could eradicate from her memory. Her father would go on a murderous rampage if he knew who the father of his grandson was. Thankfully, he never asked. During her pregnancy Katya wondered if she'd be able to separate her child from the memory of his father, but the moment he was laid in her arms, she felt nothing but pure love.

Katya felt tears welling in her eyes as she thought of her son. He had changed her entire world. It was for him that she betrayed the Consortium. It was for his future that she had sold hers.

Katya was startled back to the present by a low, gurgling sound she heard from Alex's side of the car. She looked at him quizzically. "Alex?"

"What?" His voice wasn't quite as angry.

"Is there something wrong with the car?"

Alex checked the gauges on the dashboard. "No. Why?"

"I heard something that did not sound right. A..." Katya searched for the right word. "...bubbling sound."

She watched Alex struggle to keep a grin from his face. "That was my stomach."

Katya laughed at herself and saw that Alex let his grin break through his stony expression. "I see. My lyubemitsa is hungry. We should stop to get something to eat." Katya looked outside at the darkness outside. "Where are we?"

"The last sign we passed said we're a few miles from Peales Crossroads, wherever the hell that is. Middle of fucking nowhere."

Katya smiled. He was getting tired. "That is right where we want to be Alex."

Alex sighed resignedly. "I know." Katya was surprised to see him reach toward her and grasp her hand. "I'm... um, sorry. For this not working out tonight."

Katya was deeply touched by the sincerity of his unnecessary apology. He obviously felt responsible for the events of the evening and perhaps, Katya thought, he felt responsible for her as well. "Alex, lyubemitsa, do not apologize for things that are not your fault." Katya tightened her grip on his fingers. "Now, let us stop in Peales Crossroads and get something to eat. At this time of night the only place we might get some food is a bar."

Alex nodded his approval.

Katya allowed herself to gaze at Alex for a moment.

His moonlit beauty was breathtaking.

Katya raised Alex's hand to her mouth and brushed her lips against his graceful fingers. "Besides Alex..." She lightly kissed the rough skin that covered his knuckles. "...it is my turn to drink a shot of tequila."

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

No one would ever enter a fantasy world by walking through the doors of the Looking Glass Lounge. All that waited for its customers was reality in all its coarseness. Alex's eyes darted around the small bar as he and Katya walked to a table, taking a quick inventory of the dive and its patrons. The requisite beer mirrors hung on chipped wood paneled walls. Ceiling fans dangled motionless above, obscured partially by a thick layer of smoke. Shit-kicker music blared from a 1970's era jukebox. A lone pool table with duct tape along one bumper took up most of the floor space in the middle of the bar. Rickety looking wooden barstools lined the long bar, most of the seats empty.

There were ten patrons in the place; two women who Alex thought probably put their makeup on with a spatula, and eight men. Alex took fleeting note of the four men standing at the bar. All of them were strapping, flannel-clad men who were boisterously drunk and hitting on the women.

He and Katya stuck out like sore thumbs.

They took a table near the back and Alex felt all eyes on them, but he couldn't have cared less. He just wanted some food and then some sleep in the motel they'd passed a couple miles from here. Besides, Alex was preoccupied with questions that he had no answers to. Questions about the ease of their escape, of what to do next.

"Alex, do you think they serve escargot here?" Katya smiled and Alex felt her boot stroking his ankle. His cock took eager notice.

"Don't all backwoods dives serve it?"

"Just the nice places like this one." Katya craned her neck. "Do they have waitresses here?"

Before Alex could answer, Katya was up and walking toward the bar. He watched as she talked to the bartender, presumably ordering for them. She looked irresistible dressed all in black. Her knit shirt clung to her, revealing smallish, firm breasts with nipples that protruded delectably through the fabric. Katya's close-fitting jeans showed off her long, coltish legs.

Alex's eyes walked all over her. He thought of the last time they were in a bar together. Was it just last night? He thought of how her tongue felt on his wrist just a few minutes ago. Hot and wet, Katya's tongue held the promise of rapture.

Fuck the goddamned hamburger. He wanted his nourishment in another form.

Alex had been eyeing Katya so intently that he hadn't seen the man approach her until he was nearly on top of her. One of the men that had been hitting on the two women was now trying to ply Katya. Alex knew that she could handle herself, but he watched her with undeviating readiness.

Katya was trying to rebuff him politely. Alex watched her smile at him and try to turn away, but he only leaned closer to her. Alex felt his blood run cold as he watched the ogre put his meaty hand on Katya's ass as he whispered something to her.

She spun and slapped him. Hard. Alex heard the crack as loudly as if it had been his cheek that endured the strike. He found himself instantly standing, his fists clenched, ready to take the fucker down. All he needed was a reason.

He got one.

The fucker backhanded Katya.

Alex saw black. His world went deathly silent as he saw Katya sprawled on the floor. Pure rage careened unbridled through him. The untamed blackness possessed him as it never had before. He heard a growl escape his throat as he ran toward Katya, picking up a chair and throwing it out of his way as he lunged toward her assailant.

Alex was close enough to smell the fucker's rancid breath when he felt two arms lace through his, barely restraining him. Two of the men who had been drinking with the soon-to-be dead man held him back. Alex strained vigorously against the men, shoving one of them off. He pivoted and viciously jabbed his fist into the other man's stomach, doubling him over.

Alex hadn't taken a step toward Katya's attacker before he saw him go down. Katya had swiped her leg along the floor, knocking his feet out from under him. Alex watched with pride as she kicked the bridge of his nose, breaking it.

He made a mental note to stay away from the business end of her boot.

Alex never saw the third man. He came out of nowhere and clocked Alex on the chin, sending him backward into the grasp of the man he'd shoved off. All three men held Alex as he shook the punch off and struggled violently to break loose.

They barley contained him.

Stupid goddamned, motherfuckers, Alex thought. They'd all bleed tonight.

Katya stood and hovered over her attacker who was on all fours, bleeding from his broken nose.

Alex caught a blur of movement. "Katya, to your right!"

His warning came too late. In one smooth motion, one of the pool players came up behind Katya, wrenched her arm behind her back, yanking her head back to his shoulder as he pressed a butterfly knife to her throat.

The silver blade gleamed. Alex wanted it dripping with the blood of these motherfuckers.

"Hey Bob, lookie what I got. She's a fiesty one."

Alex struggled so intensely to free himself he thought his arms would pull out of their sockets. The three men were huge, and they held him securely. The few other men in the bar had taken front row center seats for the show as well. Alex knew they were completely outnumbered, but he continued to struggle. Fuck his arms. If he got loose, he'd rip the bastard's jugular out with his teeth.

Bob teetered as he stood and got within inches of Katya's face. "You're a stupid broad ain't cha? You broke my fucking nose, bitch! If you weren't so pretty I'd have no problem letting Ken slit your throat."

He slapped Katya again.

Alex knew he'd crossed the line to insanity. He snarled as he continued to struggle, knowing that nothing would bring him more pleasure than carving a hole in Bob's windpipe and listening to the breath of life drain from it.

Katya didn't say a word, but seemed to know better than to look Bob in the eye. Instead, her eyes turned down toward her feet.

Alex watched as Bob's line of vision dropped to Katya's breasts. Without a word, he cupped her left breast and rubbed it harshly.

"Your tits are kinda small for my tastes." He cupped her right one as well. "Yeah, I like 'em bigger than this. But they stand up nice and hard."

Alex watched Bob lift her shirt and put his unclean lips to Katya's left nipple.

He lost it. Any sanity that remained departed and Alex was left with nothing but raw, uncontrolled emotion. He watched as Katya passively endured this terrible humiliation and for the first time in decades something bubbled up to the surface and manifested itself in his eyes.

As he watched Katya endure silently, Alex's eyes filled with tears.

Fuck it, he didn't care. He needed to get to her.

He needed to impale that fucker's head on goddamned stick.

Alex saw Bob take notice of Katya's locket that hung between her breasts. "Well, isn't this pretty. Got room for my picture in there darlin?"

Katya's eyes filled with horror as he opened her locket. "No, please do not do that. Please. I'll do whatever you want. Just please leave it alone."

Bob looked at the pictures. "Aw, he's a cutie." He looked at Alex, pointing to Katya's father. "And you better hope this is her daddy."

Alex couldn't speak. He attempted to lunge at Bob and was pulled back by the three men holding him.

Bob turned back to Katya. "Ok so seems to me that you're willing to give it up so I won't take this stupid necklace. So you know what?" He grabbed the locket and yanked it from her neck. "I'm takin' it and you can keep yourself pure." He regarded her with disgust. "You're to skinny for me anyway."

Bob walked over to Alex. "And just so you won't try anything stupid..."

Alex saw him draw his arm back and put everything he had into his punch. It was the last thing he remembered seeing before the crushing blow knocked him unconscious.

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

Consciousness slowly enveloped Alex in a murky fog.

He cautiously opened his eyes and still saw blackness. Not the deathly blackness of rage, but a softer, moonlit darkness.

He was lying in a bed, of that he was sure. The cool air chilled his bare chest, the blanket only covering him to his waist. Alex moved his legs a bit and his jeans caught against the fabric of the blanket, pulling it down slightly.

His chin hurt like hell.

Alex felt a stirring next to him. He turned to see Katya sleeping next to him; the blanket pulled up to her chin.

God had they...?

Alex struggled to shake the confusion that shrouded him. No, they hadn't. Memories came to him quickly; he remembered the bar, watching Katya get hit, being restrained by three men. Alex remembered Bob daring to put his mouth on Katya. He remembered feeling a crushing punch.

Alex remembered the rage that had consumed him.

How the fuck had he gotten here? Where was here? The pain coursing through his chin told him he wasn't dreaming. Alex sat up slowly and managed to see the motel's sign through the slats in the blind. He recognized it from driving past it earlier in the night. Alex lay back down, relieved at least to know where he was.

He watched Katya breathe. She looked peaceful. Moonlight filtered through the blinds on a window behind him, giving a luminous glow to Katya's face. Alex wanted to hold her, to protect her. He wanted to feel her against his body. As she stirred again, the blanket slipped and revealed her bare shoulder.

Christ.

She was nude, at least partially.

Jesus.

Alex felt a wave of heat spread out over his body. Gallons of testosterone pumped through his veins as he stared at that bare shoulder. He wanted to peel the blanket down inch by inch, taking time to let his eyes devour each sensual revelation. Alex wanted to bring his mouth to her, to taste the sweetness of her flesh on his tongue.

He shuddered.

He was so close to her that he could feel her fucking body heat.

Alex unwaveringly reached out his hand...

...and abruptly pulled it back when Katya turned onto her back. Christ almighty, what the fuck had he been thinking? Jesus, what this woman had just been through...Alex closed his eyes and shook his head, hoping the effects of the unconsciousness would wear off sooner rather than later.

Then it struck him. She was naked. He'd been knocked out. If those fuckers dragged her back here, if they'd stripped her and....

Alex began to shake, his hands balling into tight fists of their own accord.

As Katya turned, Alex saw what he had thought was a faint shadow on her upper right cheekbone. He could see now that it was a small bruise.

He felt a bitter fire start in the pit of his stomach.

The flames fanned hotter as he remembered how the fuckers had taken Katya's locket. He looked at her neck. The chain wasn't there.

As Alex carefully got out of bed, he knew it was time to make someone bleed.

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

He parked the car in a hardware store parking lot about a quarter mile away and walked the remaining distance to the Looking Glass Lounge. As he neared the bar, Alex heard the unmistakable sound of a man's body rejecting the massive quantities of alcohol he'd obviously consumed.

There was only one man that Alex could see, a man on all fours retching loudly. He remained alert to the possibility of others lurking around.

As he approached the man, Alex made him out to be Bob, Katya's attacker. He took a bit of pleasure seeing the fucker on his hands and knees.

Picking up his pace, Alex reached into his pocket and took out his gun. He waited to pull the slide back, wanting Bob to hear it as it was aimed at his head.

He stopped two feet in front of Bob and pulled the slide back, the unmistakable sound causing Bob to look up in shock.

"Get up, you goddamned, motherfucking hillbilly." Alex heard his voice low, menacing, and firm. "Get any of that regurgitated mess on me and I'll kill you like the fucking simian you are."

Bob slowly looked up and Alex saw the terror in his eyes. He also saw that Bob's lips were lined with bile and God knew what else. Alex's lip curled. "Christ, wipe your fucking mouth off."

Bob stood slowly, wiping his mouth with his shirtsleeve. He spoke loudly, though his thick southern accent couldn't hide the fear in his voice. "Look mister, I was drunk. Fucking hell buddy..."

"I am not your buddy." Alex leveled the gun at his forehead.

"Aw Jesus Christ. Goddamned, you could take it as a compliment that your woman - what did she say her name was - Kat something, is so fucking beautiful..."

Alex was sickened to hear her name come from his mouth. "Don't say her name you fucking son of a bitch. For that matter, I want every thought of her out of your head. I want you to concentrate on the gun barrel pointed at your empty head, and on the bullet inside it that has your name written all over it. Think you can do that Bob?"

Alex heard the sound of someone approaching. Feeling the reassuring weight of Katya's .22 caliber gun in his pocket, he grabbed the weapon and pointed it toward the footsteps.

Ken, the man that had held Katya - the man with the butterfly knife - came into Alex's view. "Hey Bob, you gonna live or what?"

"That's debatable." Alex aimed his 9 mil at Ken's heart, his eyes darting back and forth between Ken and Bob.

"Holy hell!"

"Brilliant deduction motherfucker. That's your destination tonight. Now throw that fucking butterfly knife over here, and I want whichever one of you backwoods simpletons that has the locket to throw it over here too."

Alex watched as the hulk that was Ken reached into his pocket and tossed the knife toward him. It landed at his feet, and as Alex covered it with his foot he heard the sound of Ken sobbing.

"I've got a wife and kid. Let me get back to 'em." Ken sobbed loudly. "I'm sorry, and you apologize to your lady for me and we'll forget tonight ever happened."

Bob chimed in and Alex's attention pivoted to him. "C'mon Ken, Jesus Christ!"

"Fuck you Bob! You don't have a kid you gotta look out for. Just give him the goddamned necklace and let's get the hell out of here."

Alex just shook his head. "Where's your car?"

Ken pointed to the one they stood next to. "Right here."

"Alright, get your pathetic ass into it and drive home to wife and child."

Alex put the .22 he had trained on Bob in his pocket and quickly switched the 9 mil to his right hand to cover him. Leaning down, Alex picked up the knife while keeping his eye on both of them. Alex thought of that same knife being pressed into Katya's throat and felt anger rising in him. He felt obliged to give Ken a taste of the blade.

As Ken passed him to get into the car, Alex flipped open the knife and wordlessly sliced his cheek. Ken stifled a scream and turned menacingly toward Alex. Pointing the blade at him, Alex virtually dared him to approach. "Give me a reason."

Alex watched unsurprisingly as Ken backed down, got in the car and drove away. He turned his attention to Bob. "Alone at last."

"Yeah, you probably swing both ways, dontcha pretty boy?" Bob spoke tough words, but his eyes betrayed his fear. "You're a big man behind a gun. Lose the piece and take me on like a man, asshole."

Alex regarded him contemptibly. "Like a man? Like you took me on in there? Three guys holding me back and then you take your shot. You're no man, motherfucker."

"Your girl thought I was."

Alex felt the blackness in him rising and he beat it back, knowing the fucker was just pushing his buttons. He needed all his control to keep from killing this son of a bitch. "Give me the fucking locket."

"Come and get it."

Alex rushed Bob, pressing the barrel of the gun under his chin. "Let me spell it out for you, you ignorant bastard. You can give me the locket and live or I kill you and take it. Personally, I'd love to see the pavement stained with your fucking blood. But it's your choice."

Bob dug through his pocket and threw the locket to the ground. Alex shoved the gun deeper into his chin, feeling it press against bone. "Back away slowly Bob."

Alex kept the gun steady on the fucker as he backed away, not trusting a step he took. As he leaned down to get the locket, Alex saw Bob charge at him.

Alex didn't hesitate. He fired.

The gun jammed.

Fucking son of a bitch!

Alex tightened the grip on his gun to no avail. The kick to his wrist was swift and hard and Alex felt the gun fly out of his hand. Muscles tensed, he quickly stood, reaching for the .22 in his pocket. Before he could get a grip on it, he turned directly into Bob's fist. It connected in the exact spot on his chin as it had earlier in the bar. Sharp pain cut through Alex's jaw, but he shook it off as Bob threw a left at him.

Alex blocked it and reached into his pocket.

He felt the knife first. Thinking it was better to make as little noise as possible, Alex grabbed it.

In one smooth movement, he flipped the knife open. Alex grabbed Bob's scalp, pulled his head back, and sliced his throat.

As the body fell, Alex wiped off the drops of blood that had spurted on his face.

He bent down and first retrieved the locket, then picked up his gun.

Without a backward glance, Alex walked to his car.

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

Despite what some people might think, Alex Krycek didn't enjoy killing.

But then, he didn't scorn it either. After so many years of playing the game, he just didn't care anymore.

Alex pulled up to the motel, parked, and turned off the ignition. The faded blue door to room number 23 was directly in front of him and he thought of what lay on the other side of it. Alex thought of Katya as she was before he left, her eyes closed, her face relaxed and serene. It dawned on him that he'd never really watched anyone as they slept. It had never entered his mind that it might be something he'd want to do.

As Alex thought of Katya lost in slumber, he could think of nothing he wanted more than to watch over her as she slept.

Well, there might be something else.

Alex smiled as he thought back to the first time that he'd seen Katya in the restaurant in Geneva. The way she ripped the menu from his hands; her stare of disgust at his terrible French. Alex realized she'd captivated him from the first moment they'd been together. He thought of her shocked expression upon discovering that he knew Russian. Alex thought of her laugh and found himself laughing as well.

He suddenly became aware of what he was doing and snapped back to reality.

Christ, he thought, pull yourself together. You're acting like a stupid, fucking, lovesick idiot.

Lovesick.

The word floated in and out of his consciousness.

Alex put his hand in his pocket and grabbed the room key. He felt the locket on the tips of his fingers.

Lovesick.

Alex put his hands on his forehead and leaned his head back on the headrest. The word wouldn't go away. He knew it should terrify him, but it didn't. It did confuse the hell out of him.

Alex hadn't thought of himself as being capable of...that. Hell, for as long as he could remember, he didn't even want the burden of it. Now it seemed he had no choice.

As he got out of the car and walked toward room number 23, Alex rolled his eyes skyward and couldn't stop himself from resignedly uttering two words.

"// Fuck me. //"

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

Katya was lost in a dream.

A dream of warmth and security.

The warmth enveloped her body and permeated through to her soul. For the duration of that reverie, Katya had no reason to run. Those she loved surrounded her. Her son, her father, even her mother were there with Katya. There was someone else as well. Someone standing by her side.

The warmth was intoxicating.

Or maybe it was just the blanket.

Katya felt the dream slipping away. She kept her eyes closed, desperate to drift back to sleep and join her family in the bliss of her dream.

It was gone. Damn. Katya lazily reached for her locket and was briefly confused when she found nothing around her neck. She sighed deeply, remembering the hellish events of a few hours ago. Katya wished she'd had the opportunity to fight back, but with a knife to your throat and a bar full of enemies, the options are limited. The humiliation she'd felt was deep but bearable.

She had every intention of making them pay for what they'd done. The thought of revenge kept the humiliation endurable.

Katya remembered how they'd literally been thrown out into the parking lot. Alex had been unconscious and Katya had dragged him to the car, hauled him in, and driven to the motel a couple miles away.

She smiled as she remembered laying him in bed. Katya had contemplated stripping him naked, but it didn't feel right. In the end she just took off his boots, jacket, and shirt, allowing herself the brief luxury of trailing one hand down his chest. Katya shivered as she remembered the feel of his smooth skin under her fingers. She'd lain there staring at him for a few minutes, hoping he'd come to and see that she was naked under the blankets.

He would eventually, she remembered thinking before she'd drifted to sleep.

Thinking of it now, Katya realized that all she'd wanted was some tenderness; someone to hold her close and tell her that it was going to be all right. In her fragile mindset at the time, she must've thought that was the way to get what she needed from Alex.

Katya rolled onto her back and slowly opened her eyes.

Maybe she still was dreaming.

She saw Alex sitting at the foot of the bed, watching her. He was fully dressed. The scent of his leather jacket filled the room, and Katya couldn't imagine a sweeter aroma to wake to. She propped herself up on her elbows, the blanket covering her from the chest down. "Alex, what are you doing? Why are you dressed?" Her voice was a horse whisper.

"I'm watching you." He spoke with quiet force.

"Why?"

"Because I want to."

Katya was concerned, but the sensual way he stared at her was not lost to her. "Do you not trust me, lyob'emay?"

Alex looked out toward the window. His gaze became trance-like, taking him a million miles away. Katya saw Alex's lips move and a whispered word, barely audible, escaped them.

"Beloved." He'd spoken it incredulously, as if he didn't quite know what it meant.

Lyob'emay.

Katya grabbed the blanket and, holding it to her chest, sat up. She spoke a bit louder, hoping to snap Alex out of it. "Alex, what is it? What is the matter?"

He turned his focus to her, his eyes bright and shining. "Nothing. It's nothing. I've got something for you."

Katya smiled, touched, and wondered what he could possibly have for her at this time of night. "Oh, how wonderful! I hope it is a big plate of escargot."

Alex got up from the bed and walked behind her. He sat on the pillow she'd just been sleeping on, and Katya felt her frame of mind change completely as she realized that the blanket that covered her fell wide open back there, revealing her bare back to him. She was completely nude, so the curve of her hips revealed itself to him as well.

Katya made no effort to cover herself.

She felt him behind her, felt his eyes all over her. A chill ran down the length of Katya's spine as she fought the urge to fall back into him. The sound of his breathing was deafening; all other sound disappeared.

An eternity passed in the span of seconds.

And then, Katya felt the warm smoothness of gold around her neck. She couldn't suppress a squeal of delight as she felt Alex slide her locket around her neck.

"I'm sorry Katya, the clasp is broken."

Of course she knew it would be, but she hardly cared. The chain could be replaced. Quickly opening it, tears sprang to her eyes as she saw her father and son smiling up at her. Katya held the blanket to her chest and spun around to face Alex, knowing that he'd taken care of any revenge due her.

Her hero.

"Angelchra n'etyel...Alex..."

God, he was so intoxicatingly close to her. The room was so still.

Alex whispered to her. "Guardian, yes. Angel, no."

Katya reached over to the nightstand, setting the locket there. "Alex, did you..."

He whispered, barely audible. "Katya, don't speak."

His words silenced her and an erotic charge sparked between them. Katya wanted to reach over and touch his lips, kiss his eyelids, run her tongue along his ear, but she remained motionless. She watched his lips move as he spoke the words. The thought of the pleasures they were capable of sent a shot of adrenaline straight to her heart, causing it to pound wildly.

But it was his eyes. God, it was his eyes. They were hard and soft, cruel and merciful, penetrating and hypnotic - impossible to look away from. Katya felt herself submerged in them.

Their message was unmistakable.

Katya felt Alex's fingers tangling in the hair near her face. She closed her eyes and tilted her head into his hand, shocked at the depth of trust she felt in him. He pulled his fingers through her sleek, gold hair and Katya opened her eyes to see him watching her.

He looked at her right cheek and gently touched her where a small bruise had formed. It hurt a little, but the pain melted under his touch. When his lips softly brushed the wound, Katya felt something from him that she dared not hope for. There was tenderness in his kiss, in his touch. She could only compare it to the gentle way she handled her son when he needed love from his mother.

Love.

No. Stop it. Katya let the word slip from her consciousness.

Katya sat staring at Alex, unable, and unwilling to look away. She felt the pull of his eyes, his lips. As his hand slipped to the back of her head, pressing her forward to him, Katya felt the passage of time slow and she wished it would stop completely. She wished this moment of sweet anticipation would hang in time forever.

Katya couldn't breathe, couldn't think.

Alex, please...

A hairs breadth separated them when Katya felt Alex pause. His head was tilted to hers, his lips parted and glistening in the moonlight. Katya felt lightheaded, her body trembling. She opened her eyes to see Alex's closing.

"Katya..." She felt him breathe her name against her lips.

His mouth came to hers softly, tentatively, almost a tease. His lips' quietly sensual touch left Katya trembling. His mouth's slow, arousing rhythm left her weak.

Katya felt Alex's mouth leave hers and she opened her eyes to see him staring at her. His eyes, dripping with desire, darted over her face; his breathing coming in short bursts. He was losing control.

He wasn't the only one.

The passion between them overcame her. Katya was powerless against it. She felt like a lit fuse.

Alex abruptly brought his hand to her face, his fingers pulling her roughly to his open mouth. There was nothing gentle about this kiss; it was all unleashed craving, untamed want, and animalistic desire.

Alex's tongue feverishly parted Katya's lips and slipped into her mouth. It circled the tip of her tongue, teasing it, stroking it. Katya rolled her tongue lightly around his, then let it dart between his lips. His mouth was hot and slick and tasted sweeter than wine.

Katya let the blanket fall, offering herself to Alex. She pivoted her body to fully face him and sat on her knees, her arms sliding around his neck. She felt Alex's arms encircle her, his hands sear into the small of her back, pulling her hard into him.

His passion was overwhelming. Katya felt utterly possessed by him; a feeling that had driven her from the arms of other men. In Alex's arms though, Katya felt more than possession. She felt safety, she felt...

Let it go Katya, she managed to tell herself.

Her long hair became tangled in his fingers and Katya felt her head pulled slowly backward. Alex held her lower lip between his, biting it gently, letting it out slowly as he pulled her head back.

Katya was sure she was in the arms of the most erotic man on the planet. She inhaled deeply as Alex's mouth left hers and trailed down her chin to her exposed neck. Her head held back, Katya felt his lips part on the taunt skin of her throat, his tongue swirling between them. Alex slowly kissed his way down to her left shoulder, his hands releasing her hair and softly stroking the length of her back.

Katya, coherent but lost to reality, marveled at the softness of his lips, at the skill of his mouth. Alex's kisses were moist but firm. As his mouth explored her, Katya felt as though she was being kissed for the first time.

Katya pushed away from Alex a little as his mouth traveled to her chest, giving him full access to her breasts. His lips didn't fly to a nipple as she'd expected, but they drank in the fullness of each breast, kissing around each one. He guided her further back so he could bend and let his tongue stroke the underside of each breast.

Shivers traveled up Katya's spine. Did he know that was one of the most sensitive spots on her body? She put a hand on the back of his head, holding him there momentarily.

His short hair was as soft as sable.

Katya moaned when Alex's mouth finally took a nipple, fire shooting through her body from his flicking tongue. His lips alternated between her nipples, but his mouth never left her body.

When he gently bit them, Katya nearly screamed in rapture.

She held onto his shoulders as she sat on her knees before him, feeling his hands gripping the small of her back. Alex pulled her erect on her knees and leaned her back. Katya, her arms shaking, put her hands on the bed behind her, arching her back. As Alex's mouth traversed the tight expanse of her stomach, as his hands stroked her waist and hips, Katya wondered if this erotic, sensual man had just maimed or killed in her name.

Her guardian angel. She didn't care if he thought of himself that way or not. To Katya, that was what he always would be.

His tongue dipped sensually in her navel every time his lips traveled over it. Katya arched her stomach toward him so that his tongue might delve as deeply as possible. She closed her eyes, feeling her body readying itself as his tongue circled the outside edge of her navel. As his tongue dipped in, she couldn't help but wonder what his tongue would feel like entering her...elsewhere.

Alex had set Katya's body on fire. Every nerve ending was alive under his hands and mouth. She grasped at his shoulders, and feeling the leather there, she became aware that Alex was still fully clothed.

Oh dear God, she had to feel this man's flesh next to hers.

As difficult as is was to pull herself from Alex, Katya managed to stand up at the side of the bed and, grabbing Alex's hand, pulled him up next to her. She intended to disrobe him if she could manage it without losing all control of herself, but as they stood staring at each other they were drawn magnetically together in a soft, sweet kiss.

As they kissed, Katya slid Alex's jacket down his arms and began to let it drop to the floor. Alex caught it sight unseen, and she felt him throw it toward a chair in the corner. Katya smiled, breaking the kiss as she did. She wrapped her arms firmly around his body, feeling his sinewy muscles through his t-shirt. Alex's arms held her strongly to him.

"My angel doesn't want his jacket dirty." She spoke to him quietly, but the hint of a smile in her voice was apparent.

Katya felt the muscles in his arms flex against her. A brief flash of a smile came and went from his lips, his voice a throaty whisper. "I love that fucking jacket."

They stood silently wrapped in each other for a moment until Katya pulled away from him.

She wanted to see Alex's body as she undressed him...

As she pulled his t-shirt from the waistband of his jeans, Alex leaned in close to her, his lips grazing her ear.

"Krasivaya."

Katya smiled as she pulled the shirt over his head, thinking it was Alex who was the epitome of the word beautiful. She ran her hands over the smooth skin of his chest, letting her fingers draw through the small wisps of hair that grew over his sternum. Alex's stomach was flat and rippled and as Katya brought her mouth to it, she let her tongue flow over the waves of flesh.

She lightly kissed the length and breadth of his chest, wondering if she'd ever get enough of his taste as it flavored her tongue. It was impossible to describe - sweet and salty, as addicting as any drug.

She was already hooked.

Katya took his nipple in her mouth, her tongue fondling it. She was surprised at the depth of Alex's reaction. A guttural moan emerged from his lips as his fingers wrapped themselves in her hair. She sucked each one lightly, but at his urging she took each one between her teeth, biting them until Alex groaned loudly.

"Goddamn Katya, I fucking need you now." His hands went to his belt and undid the buckle.

"Shhh. Alex, let me." Katya pushed his hands aside and grasped his erection through his jeans. God, the man was well endowed. Katya closed her eyes and shivered, imagining impaling herself on him. As she massaged him, her other hand slowly undid his jeans and she dropped to her knees as she pulled the tight denim down his legs.

Alex wore no underwear.

She glanced up at Alex, eyebrow raised.

"Oh Christ Katya, don't start."

Suppressing a smile, Katya eased his jeans from his legs after Alex kicked off his boots, catching his socks as she pulled them off. Bringing herself to his hips, she pressed Alex's impossibly hard cock flat against his stomach and brought the tip of her tongue to his balls. His musky aroma filled her as the tip of her tongue curled around them.

At the first touch of her mouth to his balls, Katya felt Alex's body stiffen, his back arching slightly as a low moan escaped his lips.

She liked having this effect on him.

As Katya drew her tongue up the length of his cock, she opened her eyes to see Alex watching her. She winked at him, bringing a sexy grin to his lips.

Katya wondered how his cock would feel inside her. She wondered how he tasted.

She shivered.

As her lips encircled the tip of Alex's cock, Katya tasted his incredibly sweet pre-come. She let it linger on her tongue, stunned that it tasted so sweet - like the juice of a peach. As she took all of him into her mouth, she heard him groan softly, his hands in her hair again, his hips rocking slightly.

Katya didn't usually like being in this position. It always carried an implication of servitude. Well, it always had.

No longer. If she let it, this position with Alex could become one of power. But so far beyond that, it was much more. Katya wanted to give Alex everything he wanted. She wanted Alex to experience every feeling she was capable of giving him.

She adjusted her position and took Alex's cock into her throat, feeling his grip on her hair tighten. Katya heard him mumble something inaudible.

God, his entire body tasted luscious. Alex was like ambrosia to her; the food of the gods. She wondered how long she could survive on just his taste alone.

She wanted to make love to him for a million years.

Katya felt Alex pulling her up. She held his cock in her mouth as long as possible, reluctantly letting the tip leave her lips with a soft sucking noise. As she stood she saw that a thin haze of sweat coated his face. As he brought his lips to hers in a deep kiss, she tasted the saltiness of it on his lips.

Katya wondered if he could taste himself on her tongue. She wondered if that was the point. She felt his tongue stroke hers.

Alex broke the kiss and flashed the briefest smile. He grasped her hips. "Don't move."

He stepped behind her and pulled Katya into him, molding himself to her. His arms went around her; one snaked around her waist, the other around her chest. Katya felt his cock pressing hard against her ass and thought that it was the most erotic thing she'd ever felt.

Her hands went to the cool skin of his narrow hips as he held her tightly to him. She ran her hands along his hips, feeling goosebumps rise under her fingertips. She smiled, thinking of ways she might warm him.

Unexpectedly, Alex began to sway slightly, guiding her to a rhythm only he heard.

Katya's knees buckled and she thought she might come on the spot.

She nearly did when Alex began a whispered serenade in her ear.

Katya had no idea what the song was, but as he whispered the words in his rasping voice, they became indelibly etched in her mind.

"The storms are raging on the rolling sea.
And on the highway of regret
the winds of change are blowing wild and free.
You ain't seen nothing like me yet."

Katya smiled as he whispered the last line. She knew of no truer words. "Alex, I..."

"Laszhit'sya."

Katya brought his hand from her waist to her lips and kissed it, taking a finger in her mouth briefly. Alex moaned as her lips encircled it, as her tongue teased it, but then he pulled it out and spun her slowly around to face him.

"I told you to lie down." His sexy wink made Katya a bit flustered. He never really relinquished all of his control, she thought to herself. She smiled.

She liked it.

He eased her onto the bed, laying her on her back. Katya parted her knees, allowing him to finally lie above her. She stared up at him, feeling his body cover the entire length of hers. Their sweat mingled. Their breathing fell into exact synchrony. Alex bent, kissing her forehead, letting his lips softly massage her eyelids. He left her breathless. Again.

Katya was continually shocked at his capacity for tenderness. She was beginning to think his brutal reputation was an exaggeration.

Well, perhaps not.

Feeling the urgency of his cock pressing between her legs, she attempted to maneuver her hips so that he might slip effortlessly inside her. Katya was tempted to reach down and guide him in, so desperate was she to be one with him. She smiled at Alex and snaked her fingers between their hips.

Alex smiled back at her, obviously aware of what she was attempting to do. He tightened his hip to hers and brushed a stray strand of hair from her forehead. "Not yet."

Oh God, she liked it. She'd never trusted anyone enough to give them this much control over her. Not until Alex Krycek.

With that utterance, Katya felt Alex lower himself down the length of her body, his mouth trailing kisses. She felt his eyelashes sweep across her stomach, tickling her with butterfly kisses as he continued to move down. Her breath caught in her throat as his tongue stroked her inner thigh.

Oh God.

She felt his breath light on her inner thigh as Alex kissed her there. When he turned his head and touched his mouth to her, Katya felt a shriek rise from the center of her soul. She fought the urge to scream out as his tongue stroked her labia, allowing only a low moan as her hips raised against his mouth.

As his tongue found her clitoris, Katya's arms shot out from her sides, her fingers grabbing fistfuls of blanket. Lightning shot through her spine, delivering an erotic spark to every nerve in her body. When his tongue entered her, Katya heard herself calling out his name. It sounded soft, as if she were pleading for him to finish her.

"Alex, please..."

Oh God, she was so close.

Alex's masterful mouth brought her to the brink several times, each time pulling back just as Katya thought there was no stopping her orgasm. She wondered which of her telltale signs signaled him to slow his pace. Her breathing becoming fast and ragged? Her back arching against his mouth? Or perhaps she thought that her taste might change as she neared the edge.

Whichever it was, she thanked God Alex had noticed it. But enough was enough.

She had to have him.

"Alex, lover, lie down."

Katya watched as he rose slightly from between her legs, holding her as he rolled onto his back, bringing her with him, positioning her on top of him. Katya's legs straddled him and she felt his cock pressing at the rim of her vagina.

All she needed to do was lower herself.

She felt his hands on her hips, guiding her down.

Katya smiled. "Not yet."

Looking at Alex, his lips slick, and wet, she couldn't resist tasting herself on them. She bent her body to kiss him and as she did, the taste on his lips blended with his that lingered on her tongue. Katya thought their intermingled flavor was sensuality incarnate.

The passive grip Alex had on her hips became much more insistent. His fingers dug into Katya's flesh, the downward pressure harder to fight. Katya broke the kiss, sat upright, and while staring into Alex's impossibly hazel eyes, she guided his cock into her.

They moaned simultaneously. Alex's eyes closed, his face revealing the pleasure he felt. Katya took him deep inside her, not believing how perfect, how right, how fucking incredible he felt there. She rocked slowly, satisfied for the moment just to be joined to him.

Alex raised her slightly and began to thrust rhythmically below her. Katya tightened her muscles around his cock, and then released, matching his rhythm.
Her back arched and her head flew back as a spasm rocked her body.

Katya stifled a scream as Alex's thumb went to her exposed clit, stroking it lightly. She undulated against him; small waves of pleasure emanating from his finger and from his cock deep inside her. She thought that she might as well have been a virgin until this moment.

Taking control yet again, Alex pulled her back to him, wrapping an arm tightly around her as he rolled on top of her. Katya flattened her back on the bed as Alex began to thrust slowly between her legs.

Katya watched him above her.

He was so breathtaking. The sweat that glistened over his body coated her own. She felt drops of his sweat fall to her body from his eyelashes.

She was on fire as Alex's cock continued to penetrate her. Katya brought her knees up to her chest and he grabbed each ankle, placing one on each of his shoulders.

With the next drive into her, Alex thrust deeper into her than any man ever had.

A scream flew from her lips before she could stop it.

Alex's quickly shrugged her legs from his shoulders and clamped his hand over her mouth. He smiled.

"Felt good, didn't it?" Through panted breaths, he spoke. "Let's not alert the entire state we're here."

Katya nodded.

Alex continued thrusting as Katya wrapped her legs around his back, his voice ragged. "Can I take my hand away?"

Katya shook her head, letting her tongue slip between her lips, tasting the sweat on his palm. She tightened her muscles around his cock, feeling his cock answer her with a twitch.

"Katya, you are so fucking sexy." Every other word was punctuated with a lunge of his cock. He took his hand from her mouth.

Katya raised her hips slightly and matched his increasingly fervent rhythm. "And Alex, any after you will live only in your shadow."

Alex brought his lips to hers, kissing her hard.

As he pulled back he whispered against her lips. "Who says there'll be any after?"

Alex lifted himself up above her, and began driving into her with even more urgency. God, if he kept this up...

Katya felt herself nearing completion.

His cock filled her, driving deeper, deeper.

Faster, faster.

She felt him growing harder.

Sweet release was within sight. Katya felt an inner light warming her, spreading out from where Alex became her.

Where she became him.

Oh God.

Katya's back arched as the light flashed through her entire body. She screamed out as spasms racked her body. Her neck arched against the pillow. Her vagina constricted tightly around Alex's. Something wet flowed from her, coating his cock. Oh God, never before...

She came and came and came and was sure that this must be the first time.

She opened her eyes, spasms still rolling through her body, just as Alex's body stiffened. His eyes clamped shut as he rocked into Katya, groaning. She felt him come. It filled her; it warmed her, like hot chocolate on a bitter, winter day.

Alex collapsed onto her, his sweat-soaked body heaving as he attempted to catch his breath.

Katya held him, her hands lightly stroking his back, feeling his cool sweat.

She wanted to bear his weight forever.

Katya felt Alex kiss her shoulder. She heard him breathe deeply.

It was with all honesty that she admitted to herself that Alex had breathed new life into her being. She desperately wanted to tell him.

"Lyob'emay?"

"What?" His voice was muffled against her shoulder. Katya felt him kiss it again.

She reconsidered. "Nothing."

"Kat?"

God, he called her Kat. Just like her father did. She smiled. "What?"

Alex raised himself onto his elbow. His eyes penetrated hers, searching. He brushed sweat-covered hair from her face.

"Me too."

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

Katya didn't have to say the words. In fact, Alex preferred she didn't. But he knew what she'd wanted to tell him, and he knew that she was aware of his feelings. That was enough.

That was plenty.

As they lay next to each other, hands entwined and Katya's right leg crossed over his left under the blanket, Alex had a million thoughts racing through his mind. Thoughts of satisfaction and sleep mingled with questions that he couldn't let go of. Questions that had gone unanswered for as long as two days ago and as short as hours ago. Sleep, as desired as it was, was a fruitless pursuit.

Alex brought her hand to his lips, kissing it. He took in its scent as he spoke against it. "Kat, how did you know Geneva so well?"

"What?" She sounded so tired. Her eyes remained closed as she lay on her back.

"Geneva. You ran through the streets like it was your hometown."

Katya rolled to her side, sidling up close to him. Alex's arm slid around her, her head ending up on his chest. "I went to school there. I spent many years roaming those streets." She laughed lightly. "Finding hiding places where I could smoke."

"You've come a long way baby."

Katya paused, wistful. "They were good years though I hated it at first. My father sent me there after my mother died."

Alex glanced to the nightstand and saw her locket there.

"Do you want to see the pictures?" Katya spoke very quietly. She must have seen him looking at it.

"Yes I would."

Katya raised herself up on her right elbow and took the locket from the nightstand. She opened it gently, handing the charm to Alex. "My mother gave this locket to me the last time I saw her alive. She told me it was my grandmother's before that." Katya paused. "It is the only thing I have of hers."

Alex looked at her son. He wasn't one to fall over himself about anything, children included. But her son was a cute child. He must've been around two when the picture was taken. It surprised Alex at the darkness of his skin and hair. His mother's skin was so pale, her hair a completely different shade. He must have taken many more of his father's physical traits, although there was no denying he had Katya's mouth. "What's his name?"

"Nikolai." She smiled as she spoke the name.

Alex turned his attention to the photo on the other side of the locket.

His eyes went wide in shock.

Alex closed his eyes tightly and opened them again, not believing whom he saw in her locket.

"Katya, this man is your father?"

"Yes." Katya stared at Alex obviously concerned at his reaction.

"*THIS* man is your father?" Alex was stunned. He held the locket, unable to take his eyes from the picture.

"Yes! Alex, what is wrong with you?"

"Vassily Peskow is your father." His head sank deep into his pillow and Alex rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. "I do not fucking believe it."

Katya was prying his hands from his eyes, frantic. "Alex, you know my father? How? Tell me Alex!"

"What about your last name Kat? Fedulova?"

"My mother's name. I took it to honor her."

Alex was still incredulous. He was in...bed with Vassily Peskow's daughter. "Your father and I have had...business dealings in the past."

Katya was astonished, but Alex could tell she didn't quite believe him. "What? You and my father...? Alex, my father never told me of any business dealings with you."

"I'm sure there's a lot you don't know about your father Kat."

She acquiesced. "True enough. But Alex, when did you and he...?"

"A few years ago. He buried some loose ends for me." He turned his head to look at Katya. "Kat, your father is a very great man." Alex paused, shaking his head. "A very great man who would take very great pleasure in slicing me up if he knew I was in bed with his daughter. Jesus Christ."

Katya smiled. "You do know my father. But Alex I believe he would approve of you."

"As someone to do business with, yes. As someone to fuck his daughter, no." Alex instantly wished he'd used gentler language.

It blew right past Katya. "Ah, but he would approve if he knew how well you fucked her."

Alex had to laugh. "You think? Katya, call him and let me speak to him. 'Comrade Peskow, this is Alex Krycek. I'm sure you remember me - the backstabbing, lying, violent son of a bitch who urged you from retirement. I'm lying naked with your daughter Katya. We just finished fucking like wild banshees. She said I was incredible.' " Alex shifted and rolled on top of Katya. 'Comrade Peskow, do I have your permission to do it again?' "

Katya giggled under him and reached for the telephone on the nightstand. "Oh Alex, we must call him!"

Both their eyes shot to the phone as it began to ring suddenly.

Alex looked at Katya apprehensively. No one knew they were here. He reached for the phone. "Yeah?"

He didn't say another word. In a matter of less than two minutes Alex hung up the phone and got out of bed, dressing quickly and mumbling a phone number over and over, committing it to memory.

He couldn't fucking believe this.

Katya started to swing her legs out of bed. "Alex what is it? Who was that?"

"Kat, stay here. Get dressed, but stay here." He handed Kat her gun from the table. "Keep this handy." He slipped his boots on and grabbed his jacket. Leaning down, he kissed her gently on the lips and whispered against her forehead, "I'll be right back."

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

Alex drove through Peales Crossroads to a darkened gas station. Spotting a pay phone in the back corner of the lot, Alex pulled in, parked, and quickly went to the phone booth. He dialed the long number he'd so hastily memorized, hoping he got it right.

"Mr. Krycek, so good of you to call with such rapidity."

Alex refused to let his anger show in his voice. "How did you find me Strughold?"

Strughold chuckled lightly. "You know our network is vast Mr. Krycek."

"I know you're a double crossing son of a bitch. Blow apart an entire city block in Geneva and you can't even manage to kill the two people you targeted. You'd better think about getting some competent help." Alex kept his voice cool and low.

"That is what I intend on doing Mr. Krycek. You should know that I had no prior knowledge of the attempted assassinations of yourself and Ms. Fedulova. That was arranged in an alliance between the US and Russian branches of the consortium behind my back." Strughold paused. "They are fools Mr. Krycek. I've known this for a very long time. They bicker and argue over that which we should all be working together toward. We in Tunisia keep much from them for that reason."

Alex allowed himself a smile. He'd capitalized on that bickering in the past, playing the two branches against each other and reaping the benefits of being an agent for both. He thought about Strughold's comment regarding competent help.

"Are you making an offer?"

"You've worked for me very effectively in the past Mr. Krycek. Though the passage of SR 819 didn't go as we'd hoped, you performed efficiently." Strughold paused and Alex wondered if he knew with whom he and Kat had allied themselves with. For the moment anyway. Life was a fluid thing and Alex knew better than anyone that you had to go with the flow.

"The men who tried to have you killed have no idea of your potential Mr. Krycek. They are short sighted and heavy handed. We in Tunisia are very interested in your services, and in Ms. Fedulova's. She possesses rather substantial abilities and her gender could prove an asset to us."

"Meaning?" Alex knew exactly what Strughold meant.

"Meaning she is a very charming woman. Men fall prey to her charms, they tell her things."

Alex closed his eyes. Fucking bastard.

"Mr. Krycek, I am no fool. I know that in the past you have, on occasion, followed your own agenda. There is a part of me that admires that. But if you work for me - for the uppermost echelon of the consortium - I must insist on your loyalty."

This was his only fucking way out. Goddamn it, take the opportunity.

"You'd have it." For now.

"That is most gratifying to hear. But make no mistake; you must earn my trust. I have taken certain measures to insure your loyalty until it can be proven."

Christ, what the fuck did that mean? "What measures?"

"Patience Mr. Krycek. Tell Ms. Fedulova to call her father in the morning at 7am sharp. He will enlighten you both." Strughold paused and Alex could hear the burn of a cigarette. "I believe you have met Mr. Peskow, correct?"

No use denying it. "Yes."

Alex didn't like the smell of this arrangement. He didn't trust a word that fell from Strughold's lips. But did he have a choice but to go along with this? "Mr. Strughold, what assurances do I have that my plane to Tunisia won't explode the second it's over the Atlantic? What assurances do I have that I won't meet with a violent end in your employ?"

"No assurances Mr. Krycek. The world is a dangerous place. But a man of your talents, and a woman of Ms. Fedulova's talents, would be important assets to my group. Keep in mind, Mr. Krycek, as you deliberate that the position I speak of offers some power. You would have certain controls over the men who attempted to assassinate you."

Alex salivated, though the thought of revenge was too sweet. He wouldn't let it get in the way now. "Certain controls over what? A ragtag group of desperate men?"

Strughold sighed. "The circle of our interests is wide and deep Mr. Krycek. You know but the very tip of the iceberg. Much lurks below the surface." He paused and his tone became deeply ominous. "You don't seem to realize that your options are quite limited. Doesn't everyone else in the world want you and Ms. Fedulova dead? The world must seem a hopeless place for you tonight."

Alex relented, for it did seem rather hopeless. "If we decide to accept your offer, what are the instructions?"

"You will go the Detroit Metro Airport. Tickets will be waiting at the Lufthansa counter for a Flight number 443 to Frankfurt. From there you will board flight 4048 to Tunis. The reservations are under the names on your current passports. The flight is currently scheduled to leave at 10pm tomorrow evening."

One last show of defiance. "And if we aren't on it?"

"You will be Mr. Krycek. And remember Ms. Fedulova is to call her father at 7am sharp. I believe that is only three hours from now. Rest up while you can Mr. Krycek. You have a long day ahead."

Strughold hung up.

Alex walked to the car telling himself that this was why their escape from El Rico was so easy. Telling himself that this was a godsend, that this was the best opportunity that had ever fallen into his lap.

He could toy with that cigarette smoking bastard until he died of fucking lung cancer.

Alex told himself Katya would be safe.

He threw himself in the car and sat there.

He told himself to buy a fucking clue.

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

Katya's hands shook as she picked up the phone, dialing her father's number.

When Alex told her about Strughold's "offer", she had resigned herself to the fact that there really was no other way out of this for now. Alex had been straightforward with her, telling her that Strughold expected her to use her "charms" as his employee to gather information. From whom, she had no idea.

Whatever.

Katya wasn't a stranger to Strughold's tactics.

She wasn't a stranger to him at all.

It was when Alex told her of the threat; of the mysterious "measures" Strughold had said he'd taken to assure their loyalty, that she began to worry. When Alex mentioned the instructions for the phone call, Katya had nearly panicked, but didn't let on to Alex. She maintained her cool exterior.

She knew he could see through it. He watched her hands shake. He saw the sweat on her upper lip.

She sat on the bed listening to the ringing. Alex sat next to her, his ear close to the receiver.

The phone continued to ring.

Katya sighed in relief as he picked up his phone.

"Yes?"

It wasn't her father.

Katya's heart beat faster, her thoughts a jumbled mess. "Who is this?"

"This is Detective Malenkov. Who is this?"

Katya closed her eyes, preparing for the worst. She knew what was coming and when the words were finally said, she hoped she could handle herself with enough dignity to make her father proud. "This is Katya Fedulova, Vassily Peskow's daughter."

She could hear the detective cover the mouthpiece of the phone. She heard muffled conversation, quick and loud. When the detective came back to her, his voice was soothing, but concerned. "Ms. Fedulova, do you know your father's whereabouts?"

Katya's cool exterior foundered as she buried her face in her hand. "No, I have no idea where he is."

Detective Malenkov continued, speaking gently. "Your father's apartment was violently broken into within the past 24 hours. I'm sorry to say that there is no sign of him."

A tremor ran through Katya's spine and she paused, afraid to say the words. "He was taking care of my three year old son, Nikolai. Is he...all right?"

The detective spoke slowly, compassionately. "We knew there was a child here, but Ms Fedulova I'm very sorry to say that the child is missing as well."

The receiver fell from her hand.

Face in her hands, Katya didn't try to stop the tears. Her body went limp as agonizing fear paralyzed her. Her son was gone.

No. No, no, no.

She watched Alex pick up the phone; watched him talking to the detective.

Her angel, her protector. Taking care of her while she lay there weak and ineffective.

Katya realized that she wasn't helping her father or her son by lying here, wrapped in fear and sorrow. She struggled to remember all her father taught her. Self-reliance. Strength. Control the situation Kat; don't let it control you.

She thought of her son, needing to try to justify her reasons for putting him in danger. When she chose to betray the consortium, Katya knew that if her betrayal was discovered, her son's life might be put in jeopardy. But her son - and indeed the entire human race - had no future if the consortium's plans were seen through to fruition.

Katya knew her profession could easily orphan Nikolai, but as gut wrenching as that knowledge was, she couldn't live with herself if she just sat idly by, waiting for their inevitable death when colonization began. At least she was attempting to protect his future.

Still, Katya was wracked with guilt.

She heard her father's words. Control the situation Kat.

Wiping the tears from her eyes, Katya slowly pulled herself up from the bed and took the receiver from Alex, grasping his hand as she spoke. Her voice still quivered, her fear and sorrow impossible to hide behind strong words.

"It's all right Alex. I can handle this."

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

Alex hit the power window button and let the driver's side window move down a couple inches. The chilly March air swept in the car and Alex hoped it would revive him. He'd only gotten around three hours sleep and he was sure Katya must have gotten less.

After she'd hung up with Detective Malenkov, Alex had insisted that they try to sleep. He was exhausted and knew Katya must be as well. She resisted the idea, saying that it was impossible for her to rest, but she eventually agreed to at least lie down. Her eyelids started to droop immediately and she was out within a minute.

Alex was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. He woke once and felt Katya turn stirring next to him. He liked knowing she was there.

It was with some urgency that they'd left Peales Crossroads around 11am. Alex had committed murder in that tiny town and all it would've taken was a third-rate cop to track him to the motel.

Six hours later they driving down a highway in northeastern Ohio, passing through vast tracts of farmland. Alex glanced at Katya. She was lost in thought, staring out the side window at the empty fields speeding by. She hadn't uttered a word in quite a while, but just then she turned and spoke to him.

"I am not going to Tunisia Alex. Not yet. I have to go to Russia first."

He knew that was coming.

"Kat, that might not be a wise thing to do. Strughold has your father, your son. Do what he wants for now. It may insure their safety. If you go to Russia..."

Katya sighed. "Alex, please do not question this. You do not understand, I have to go home for a while. Alex saw the faintest flicker of a smile cross her lips. "As you know, my father is a very thorough man. A few years ago something came into his possession that is of great value to us now. It would give us leverage against Strughold. If only I can figure out where father put the...nevermind Alex. It is better that you do not know."

Alex's curiosity was peaked. "How did your father gain possession of this item?"

Katya smiled proudly. "He borrowed it."

Vassily Peskow stole something from the consortium, something exceptional if it was worth his time to take it. Alex smiled. He'd have expected nothing less from the old man.

"And how do you know that Strughold won't kill your father or son when you don't show up?"

"He will not." Alex thought she sounded too sure of herself.

"How do you know?"

"I've been thinking. He will not."

She wasn't going to share this with him. Fine, her prerogative. Like she'd said, perhaps it was better he didn't know at this point.

"Alex, when you reach Tunisia, tell Strughold that I needed to go to Russia for a while. Tell him the police needed me there to question me. Lead him to believe that they suspect my involvement if you want. I trust you will cover me."

"Of course." He paused, feeling more confident. "I'll find them Kat." Alex was certain he could convince Strughold of the necessity of Katya's stop in Russia and her intention to be in Tunisia shortly, regardless of the story he decided to go with. And he would find her father and son. But first, he wanted a little leverage of his own.

"You know that eventually I'll have something to hold over Strughold's head. I don't remain vulnerable for long and I don't do subservient."

Katya grinned. "I'd have expected nothing less from you lyob'emay."



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

Near Toledo, Alex had pulled off the highway to refuel the car and grab a quick lunch to go.

He and Katya had just parked the car and were walking into a diner, when a small storefront across the street and down a block caught Alex's eye.

He hurried Katya inside the restaurant, whispering to her, "Grab us a table. I'll be right back."

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

Alex had been looking over his shoulder since they entered the terminal, but he hadn't noticed anyone taking an interest in them. Regardless, he would've been surprised if they weren't being watched.

Alex had picked up his ticket at the Lufthansa counter without incident. While he checked in there, Katya had gone to the KLM counter and booked passage for a flight to St. Petersburg that departed in thirty minutes.

As Alex took a seat next to Katya at the nearly empty KLM gate, he glanced at his watch. Her first boarding call would be announced any moment.

He didn't like this. In fact, he hated it. Alex told himself again that Katya was perhaps the most capable woman he'd ever met. She could handle herself, and she'd managed to get this far in life without him.

That didn't make this any easier.

They sat next to each other in silence.

Katya reached over and grasped Alex's hand. Her fingers were chilled and Alex wrapped his hand around hers. "Why are your hands so cold?"

"It is cold in here." Alex listened intently to her think accent, letting every word implant itself on his memory.

"Get a blanket on the plane. Get a blanket and a pillow and try and rest Kat."

Katya shook her head. "No blanket Alex. I will have no one to tuck in; no one to give a goodnight kiss to."

Alex smiled at the memory. "You never did give me a goodnight kiss."

The first boarding call for Katya's flight echoed through the nearly empty gate.

Alex stared at the floor, not wanting to look at her. This was harder than he thought it would be. He glanced over at her from the corner of his eye and saw Katya staring at the floor as well.

"Alex, I will contact you in Tunisia by telephone as soon as I can, hopefully within a few days."

Alex managed to look at her. How the hell was she going to do that? "And you have a phone number?"

Katya hesitated. "I know a phone number for where you will be."

Alex was certain now that Katya had some other ties to Tunisia, but had no idea what they were. "How do you know the number?"

Katya sighed. "Alex, I just do. Please don't ask questions."

OK, so she wasn't going to share that either. Once again, her prerogative. Alex stood up and reached for her hand, pulling her up next to him. "Kat, I'll take care of Strughold. You'll be covered."

Katya's arms snaked around Alex's neck. "I know that Alex." She paused, staring at him. "I trust you."

How long had it been since those three words had been told to him? Had they ever been? He stared at her remarkable face, unable and unwilling to look away. Alex brought his lips softly to hers, kissing her tenderly.

"Thank you lyubemitsa." He whispered the words against her lips.

Katya tightened her grip around his neck and pulled Alex back into the kiss. She kissed him with a gentle passion, and when she broke from him, Alex didn't want to let her go.

He watched her pull back just a bit, keeping her eyes closed. When she spoke, Alex could feel her breath on his cheek. She hesitated, obviously struggling with what she wanted to say. "Alex, I...I don't know."

"I know." Better not to say the words. He extricated one arm from around her waist and reached into his pocket. "Here Kat."

Alex handed her a small box with a tiny gold ribbon around it. Katya's eyes lit up as she took it, shaking it near her ear.

Alex smiled. She was just like a kid on Christmas morning. "Don't do that! You'll guess what it is." He took the box from her and put it in her jacket pocket. "Open it on the plane."

Katya put her hand on his cheek. "Alex...lyob'emay...you did not have to do that."

"I do what I want. You should know that by now." He slipped his arms back around her waist, pulling her into him.

Alex hoped Katya liked the new gold chain that lay in the box in her pocket. He hoped that, as she slipped the locket on it, she would think of him. Perhaps, as she found herself toying with the locket, she might become aware of the chain around her neck and think of him.

The last call for boarding blared through the public address system.

They stood there unmoving, arms around each other, each staring unwaveringly at the other.

Alex didn't want her to go without him.

"Be careful Kat."

Katya smiled.

"Practice your French, durak."

Alex smiled. He tightened his arms around her.

"Learn to drive, suka."

Katya's smile broadened.

Alex put his hands gently on the smooth skin of face, guiding her to his. One arm slipped down her back, holding her against him. He was aware of every breath she took. He let the feel of her lips, the curve of her back, the touch of her fingertips on his neck, burn into his memory.

Katya pulled slowly away from his mouth, resting her forehead to his. Her eyes were cast downward. "I will see you again lyob'emay."

Alex stroked the length of her hair. "Count on it."

He tilted his head up, bringing his lips to her forehead. She was beautiful. Alex spoke the word in his kiss. "Krasivaya."

Katya put her hand to his face, smiled, and turned. Alex watched her walk down the jetway.

He told himself she'd be all right without him.

It didn't help.

Alex fell into a chair and watched the plane.

It was beginning to get foggy.

He leaned back in his chair, threw his arm around the seat next to him, and stretched out his legs, crossing them at the ankles. So this is what it was like to miss someone.

But he'd see her again.

Alex smiled, thinking she'd probably already opened the box.

Watching the fog swirl around the plane and thinking of their situation, a thought came to him.

He thought of her unexpectedly coming into the hotel bar in Dijon, of how he'd been surprised to see her down there.

'Of all the gin joints in all the world..."

Alex smiled.

He thought of sitting on the edge of the bed, watching her sleep, watching her as she stirred and awakened.

'Here's looking at you kid.'

He didn't feel much like Bogie.

Alex stood and walked to the glass, watching the plane back away from the jetway. As it disappeared into the foggy mist, Alex whispered a promise to Katya.

"Ya budu na strazhe."

I will be watching over you.


*******************
End, book one
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