Title: 'The Safety of Distance'

Author: phyre

Fandom: X-Files

Pairing: M/K. This is *slash* so you know what that means: men doing men, men thinking about doing men and/or men talking about ... you guessed it ... doing men.

Series: 'These Men of Honor'

Rating: R for the occasional curse and a few steamy images. Lite angst, medium schmoop.

Disclaimer: Mulder and Krycek aren't mine. They belong to CC & Co. and the folks at 1013.

Fairland Davis and Christian Dubretsky were born of the blood, sweat and tears of Rachel Lee Arlington.

Archive: TER/MA, All Things Rat, Ratfic Library, Kingdom of Slash and Archive X/. All others, I'm easy, just ask.

Feedback: gratefully accepted at phyre@prodigy.net

Homepage http://pages.prodigy.net/phyre/phyre.html

Author's notes: This started out as my answer to another list's challenge but grew a little bit and took on a life. It falls in place about two months after 'The Moment of Truth' and an unspecified amount of time before 'Powerplay'.

The running order for the 'TMoH' series is now 'Absolution- Prologue', 'Absolution-Act One', 'What Friends Are For', 'The Moment of Truth', 'The Safety of Distance' and 'Powerplay'. All can be found in various archives and on my page. Just click the homepage URL and follow the links.

I've recycled an earlier snippet I posted to a few groups. Some of you may remember it when you see it.

Heartfelt thanks and virtual roses go out to Sue Ashworth and Karen-Leigh for their meticulous and gracious beta work. You two kept me honest and on track. A daunting task, to be sure.

A tip of the hat also goes to the divine Sue Ashworth for the use of one line from a private email exchange.

'The Safety of Distance'
by phyre

Sudden ringing from the nearby telephone marred the otherwise perfect clap of thunder, pulling Mulder back from his thoughts.

Jesus. What time is it?

Lightning split the darkened sky. Reaching for the receiver, he checked his watch, 2:15 a.m. Another lightning strike illuminated the faint shadow of a smile across his tired face.

Guess I'm not the only one who can't sleep.

"Mulder," he answered, not bothering to switch on a light.

"Hey, it's me." The sound of Krycek's quiet voice erased the 500 miles of road, water and bad weather between them. "Did I wake you?" Continuing without waiting for the response, "what are you doing?"

"Hey yourself. I was just sitting here, thinking."

"Oh yeah? About what?"

"Things."

"Things?" Krycek snicked out a laugh, "hmmm, sounds even more cryptic than your usual cryptic. What kind of things?"

"Just *things*, Alex." Sighing heavily, Mulder replied, "if you must know ... you. I was thinking about you, okay?"

"What about me?"

"Dammit, Krycek, you're not making this any easier, you know."

"I'm sorry. I didn't realize there was a problem."

"I was thinking about ... " his voice faltered.

Say it stupid, say 'about how much I miss you.' He swallowed hard and continued.

"I was thinking about how sorry I am with the way I handled things." A thin grimace pulled at his mouth. Well, *that* went badly.

Krycek's voice tightened with concern. "Mulder, is everything okay?"

"Yeah. Everything's fine. At the moment we're having one of New England's celebrated storms. I have to say, the light show is incredible, but I could do without the noise. Damn wind's rattling the windows and shaking the walls of this hovel. I give the power at the most another hour before it goes out. Cable's gone. Went out a while ago." He drew in a long, quiet breath and released it as a silent sigh.

Bullshit small-talk, that's all this is. We both know that's not the real reason I'm still awake.

A soft whistle sang through the telephone line. "Sounds like quite a night, although I can't imagine how *any* place up there could be called a 'hovel', Mulder."

"Trust me, it's a hovel. It's amazing how much money tourists will pay in the summer for this kind of real estate. There ought to be a law." He paused a moment before adding, "where are you?"

"Home."

"Oh."

"Why?"

"I just wondered."

Krycek snickered before answering. "Right. You and Dubretsky. Studies in subtlety."

Mulder groaned, "oh fuck. What did he have to say? I'm assuming he already knows about us."

"Of course he knows. He didn't get this far in the business by not reading the signs. Relax, Mulder. He's okay with it, as long as it doesn't interfere with the job, which I assured him it wouldn't," Krycek's voice softened as he continued. "He tried dancing around why I wasn't going up there with you. Finally I had to put him out of his misery before he tongue-tied himself into a corner."

"What did you say?"

"I hinted it was your choice."

"I'm sorry, Alex."

Krycek tried to sound convincing. "I know you are."

Silence widened the invisible chasm, all but swallowing them. Mulder couldn't stand it any longer. "So ... what did you do tonight?"

"Davis and I went out after work for a pizza and a few beers then I headed home."

"Davis." Mulder couldn't keep the animosity out of his voice and the name came off as a curse. He added a muffled 'sorry' as an afterthought.

Krycek's quiet laugh was warm and forgiving. "You know, Davis isn't as bad as you'd like to believe. He's really a good guy once you get to know him."

"Yeah. Right. And Jack the Ripper was merely misunderstood. Get serious, Alex. Davis is a feral killing machine who views me as a waste of time, space and tax payers' money and has ever since--"

"Don't, okay? Just don't. I shouldn't have to make a choice between my lover and my friend." Krycek's tone was dangerously flat, allowing no room for argument. "I was doing my job, just like he would have had he been in the same situation. He doesn't hold you responsible. He knows you didn't know." Softly he added, "we're not going back there tonight, Mulder. Not again. We've got more important things to talk about."

An irrepressible chill shimmied up Mulder's spine. Opting for more time, he played dumb. "We do?"

The edge was back in Krycek's voice. "Yeah, we do."

Mulder bit his lip. Oh yeah. You're pissed. Let's just get it over with. "Alex, I'm sorry. This is just something I need to do alone. Somehow, I don't think Mom would appreciate you being around when I tell her about me ... about us. I'm sure she always imagined me marrying a 'Stepford' kind of wife, having the appropriate 2 point however many kids, living the white picket fence sort of life, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. This is going to shatter that dream." Lightning splintered the sky. He continued quietly, "I just want the dressing down done in private."

"You could have told me that in the beginning. It would have made things much easier." Krycek's voice was gently reproachful.

"Yeah, I know I should have."

"You've used 'us' twice in the same conversation. I think that's a record."

Mulder's stomach lurched. "Does that bother you?"

"No. God, no, not at all, it's just that you never said it like that before, at least not that easily. It sounded natural. Real."

A warmth spread through Mulder, replacing the chill. "It is real, Alex. Please don't doubt how I feel about you. I'm not good with words. I'm not good with allowing people to get close or even allowing myself to care. I never felt ..." He stopped abruptly, then added, "I have to learn how to feel comfortable with that."

Krycek listened quietly to the admission, offering a soft sigh as comment. "You never felt what? Worthy of love? Is that it?" He listened for an answer but heard none. "Mulder, why do you feel comfortable now? Why is it easier to tell me over the phone than to my face? What do you think I'd do or say?"

"I don't know, Alex, I really don't. Maybe it's the safety of distance. You can't see my face, I can't see yours so I just keep going until..." He drew in a deep breath, "Until I step in shit. I'm sorry I hurt you. I just couldn't handle you seeing me through *her* eyes."

"Did you really think I would give a damn about anything that woman had to say? About anything she thought? I deserve more credit than that." Then, swallowing the harsh edge, he continued. "Look, I know this is still new to you. It's tough but we'll manage, right?"

Mulder heard the almost wistful sound in Krycek's voice and wished for all the world he could relive the last 12 hours differently.

"We'll be fine. Hey, we all have 20/20 hindsight, and I know I fucked up. Am I forgiven?"

"I forgave you as soon as you answered the phone."

Mulder settled back against the pillows and watched another jagged lightning bolt rip the sky. "I don't think I ever told you how much I appreciated the way you never pushed me. Hell, you never even nudged. Not until that day you kissed me in the office. You told me it was safe and I wanted so badly to believe you."

"I was right too, wasn't I?" Krycek smugly offered.

Mulder heard the smile and answered with his own. "Yes, you were right ... for once." He continued, his voice more serious. "You know, when I found out about everything, about the whole operation and all, I was so pissed but after all the angry posturing was done I was left with these ... feelings. I was so confused. I spent a lot of time on the couch trying to figure them out."

"When did you finally figure it out, Mulder? I mean, you handled that kiss much better than I thought you would."

"Truth? I had a dream. Actually I had a couple of them. Blow jobs. You were giving me these incredible blow jobs only I didn't know it was you. I couldn't see you. When I finally figured it out, I almost lost it." Mulder felt his face grow warm with the memory. "I thought about it nonstop for about a week. It was maybe 2 weeks later that you kissed me."

Krycek laughed. "The look on your face that day was priceless. You looked like you didn't know which way to turn. That kiss in the office was just a tease, so was the elevator for that matter, but when I got you home ... now *that* was incredible. You were so scared but so willing to try. And I wanted it to be good for you, I wanted you to want it again and again. The first time is always a test, a trial. I wanted it to be so good that you didn't even have to think about coming back. It would just be a natural response."

"Want to know something?" Mulder asked quietly, catching his reflection in the window, his bottom lip trapped tightly between his teeth. Go on, he admonished the image, you can say it.

"Sure." Krycek's voice was just as quiet.

"Before it happened, before you kissed me. I had thought about what it would be like."

"Thought about it?"

"Yeah. Just once or twice, maybe a little more. It wasn't at all like I had imagined. It was gentler, slower, much softer than I expected. You have a tenderness about you that I never thought existed. You know, to see your ability to switch personas, to do your job so well, and then watch you drop to your knees unexpectedly in an alley or the office or home and blow me is just eerie. Mind altering. It's like sleeping with Dr. Jekyll."

"You complaining?" Krycek's voice was soft with a sensual edge.

"Hardly. It keeps things pleasantly interesting." Mulder tried to stifle the yawn that followed.

"You need to go to sleep Mulder, and I need a cold shower."

"I'm sorry, Alex. It's the thought of facing her tomorrow. I just want to get it over with and get home but I guess really need to sleep first." Another yawn. "It was so good to hear your voice. I miss you." The words slipped off his tongue with such ease he smiled.

"I miss you too, Mulder, come home soon."

"I'll be back on Sunday. Keep a light on for me."

"I will. Goodnight."

"'Nite, Alex."

~~~~

It wasn't the bag dropping on the living room floor, or the sudden glare from the hallway light, it wasn't even the sound of the slightly warped bathroom door closing, in the end it was the gentle kiss that woke him. A swift, featherlight graze of warm, dry lips brushing his cheek so quickly Alex briefly wondered if he had only dreamt the feeling, until the bed shifted from the added weight. He felt the moist heat of Mulder's breath signaling the return of his mouth and turned his head, taking the next kiss on half-parted lips.

"Mmmm. You're home," Alex breathed the words with a contented purr, "and early at that."

Mulder dipped his head, his soft snick of a chuckle nearly lost in the folds of warm, rumpled bedclothes. "Yeah, well, these visits to the old homestead aren't quite what they used to be, Alex."

Turning to face him, Alex questioned. "That bad?"

"Let's just say, 'not that good' and leave it at that."

"O.K. Want me to take your mind off it?"

Mulder felt cool fingers caress the sensitive skin on his neck. Untold promises of ecstasy were born of that simple request. Mulder caught and held Alex's thumb between parted lips, sucking and running his tongue over the tip, mimicking motions of primal moments shared.

"Yeah--"

The word had barely left his lips when Alex's hand pulled him down. Their lips met and parted, their tongues moved in perfect sync with each other while the events of the weekend, with its bitter words and angry accusations, began to fade to a distant, unpleasant memory.

This was right. No matter what anyone said, Mulder knew in his heart, this was right.

finis