Series Title: Brothers by Choice

Instalment: III

Title: Don't Let Those Teardrops Rust Your Shining Heart

Author: The Riticulan Amanuensis

Pairing: M/K

Rating: NC-17

Disclaimer: If you recognize any of these characters, I don't own them. The ones you don't recognize are mine. This was written for my own fun, and for the select enjoyment of a few like-minded people, no copyright infringement was indented. Please accept this as high praise for your creative accomplishment.

Summary for Archiving Purposes: Alex lives up to his commitment to help Mulder in the fight, but it might surprise him when he finds out the source of his information. No good deed goes unpunished.

Archive at will, just let me know where my babies' end up. Other parts of the series available at:
http://members.tripod.com/~mace_/riticulan/

I want to say a very special thank you to Mace, the webmistress, for a very special page.

I would also like to thank CK for the great beta on this, of course, all mistakes of any nature, are mine alone.

A slashketeer just lives, breaths, dreams, eats, and hopes for feedback. I'm no exception, so please let yourself be heard at Riticulan@hotmail.com Pretty please! All emails answered.

Brothers by Choice III

Don't Let Those Teardrops Rust Your Shining Heart


The rancid stench of grease had become a part of this place, oozed itself into the rough wood covering its walls and melded itself onto the carpet covering the floor. This odoriferous presence, perhaps not as noticeable to its patrons as it was to its staff, had become second nature to Jeanne by now.

She could never have imagined, when she was young enough to still have hopes and dreams, that she'd end up her days slinging hash in a fried chicken joint; serving breakfast to a group of people who were barely awake or sociable at this ungodly hour of the morning. She put on her most pleasant, servile face and prepared to meet the day.

The sun still slept with its golden rays just barely cresting the mountains beyond the highway. "Another hot one," she thought - to be added to all the rest of them that she had endured that year. The heat of the previous day still clung to her as she swiped a napkin across her brow and wiped the sweat from it.

"Mama! She gave me grape juice," a very small girl whined. "I don't like grape; I like orange."

Her mother looked at her, resignedly, as though she has been through this particular scene many times.

"Just drink the grape juice, Mary."

"But Mama, I won't."

Jeanne swooped in and exchanged the offending juice with another more to the girl's liking. Her mother smiled sweetly as though exchanging some secret, mystic communication between mothers. Jeanne thought, and not for the first time either, how glad she was that she hadn't had any children of her own.

"Jeremy, be careful with that glass before you spi..." Too late. Jeanne saw the tumbler spill over, as though in slow motion, and empty its contents into the clumsy child's lap.

She saw how the mother felt like screaming, and wouldn't blame her if she had.
She passed the mother a towel; the milk and child were speedily and expertly cleaned up. As she retreated from the happy family, her face bore an expression of extreme pity that only the other waitresses of this establishment were able to recognize for what it really was.

Her duty called to her and she continued to take orders and deliver food to the quickly filling up eatery. Just like any - every other morning - in fact. Already, after only an hour on shift, she felt tired and used up. Her back ached and the soles of her feet were screaming at her; she felt the beginning of the dreaded headache she usually felt at this hour of the morning.

She sensed that something was different, very different. The sun had barely crested the mountains and Jeanne could feel the mood change in the restaurant; all sound seemed to disappear for a moment. The quiet only lasted a moment before pandemonium broke out.

"My god, John," the young mother yelped, "on the side of the coffee shop, look it's...I don't believe it."

Jeanne didn't hear her finish her statement when the scream from one of the old ladies sitting at the counter next to the window reached her ears. She felt the patrons move, as one body, to the window or out the door to see what was happening.

She turned to make her way to the door when she saw him - she noticed first the broad, white smile and then the greenest eyes she had ever seen.

"That should make the afternoon edition," the man said, as he watched the moving clientele.

"I think you right, dear, I think you're right!" was Jeanne's reply.

Seven Days Earlier
==================

Alex Krycek drove his late-model car along a busy street in an equally busy large city and pulled into the parking space in front of the tobacconist's shop that he used as a mail drop. The tobacconist provided this service to people such as him - people engaged in slightly less than legal activities. He lolled around the shop until all the regular customers had left and he received a nod from the owner. He walked up to the counter and passed over a small envelope full of cash - the high price required for providing this service. The tobacconist took the envelope from Alex's hand, quickly checked its contents and smiled. Without saying a word, he reached under the counter, retrieved a large manila envelope and passed it to Alex; the look on this face clearly stating that their business was concluded.

So few people knew his nom de guerre, but there it was typed on the envelope. As the people who used this service to reach him rarely typed, he felt a chill run up his spine, a foreboding - a feeling he's often felt, a feeling that'd saved his live on more than one occasion. He got back in his car and immediately ripped the package open and took out the letter addressed to Alex Krycek in a neat hand he didn't recognize. His blood ran cold; chilled and solidified in his veins. All of his contacts were barely literate, not the type of people used to writing. They usually issued him barely readable directions for the dirty little jobs he did for them. This letter was different; this letter was written by a person of considerable education - the care given to its content and form told him that. He quickly turned over the envelope and the postmark of a city he had recently visited. But he knew, as surely as he knew his own name, that the origin of this letter was not that city.

His heart pounded, the flesh on his arms pricked, and a thin sheen of sweat coated his forehead. He felt panic; he felt fear - the writer knew his real name. He had to physically control his breathing to bring himself back under control. He read his own name again, read the word 'attachments', saw the phrase 'I know you will do the right thing'. He put the letter aside and took up the bills of lading for a shipment to be delivered to Luxor Industries in Richmond, Virginia in fourteen days. The letter drew his attention to the copy of the fake bills that would be used to get this shipment into the country. He took up the letter again and re-read the phrase 'I know you will do the right thing'.

"Damn!" Alex said as he started his car and carefully merged into the steady stream of traffic.


Mulder and Scully's Office, Nine Days Later ===========================================

Scully had enjoyed her lunch of a salad and designer water, but what she enjoyed the most was just getting away from him for an hour or so. Mulder was in such a bitchy mood; something had to come across his desk to interest him soon or she feared she'd throttle him.

The annoying sound that she heard was the sound of her little heels striking the concrete floor of this confined space. Even over this clatter she could hear the whirring of the slide projector coming from behind the closed door of their office, and she smiled hopefully.

In the office, when she saw the image projected on the screen the wind was knocked out of her lungs; she just stared unbelievingly. That image etched into the brick facade of a building looked so real. Mulder thrust a file folder of newspaper clippings at her with the terse instruction, "Read!"

"But Mulder," she said haltingly, "this can't be true...it just can't be!"

"Why not, Scully?" He looked up at her, through his glasses, as though she had just said something extremely silly. "The literature is just full of this stuff, Scully. Take Father Pele, for example..."

"But, Mulder..."

Mulder went on as though he hadn't heard, "there is documented proof that he was in two places at the same time, plus he had a stigmata for most of his life. No one could prove that he was faking this."

Mulder looked up at her to see the impression his words were having on her, and as expected, they were having quite an effect - she was speechless. "And there have always been crying Madonna and bleeding statues, so why not this?" He added.

This stuff scared her - it really did. Of all the weirdness they had to deal with in the X Files, she was emotionally unprepared to deal with something like this. It went to the very root of who she was, and what she believed.

"Your not serious!" Scully stared at him as though he were a misbehaving child.

"Dead serious, Scully!"

"This is not an X File, Mulder, Skinner will never approve this, never. Another country, Mulder, we have no jurisdiction - and I'm not asking him to approve it."

"Already taken care of, Scully, we leave in an hour." He couldn't keep the smile out of his voice or the smirk from his face.

"What! How!" She stammered.

"Well, a few years ago I was called to Chicago to help out on a murder investigation and I met a Constable Benton Fraser, RCMP."

"A Mountie...in Chicago?" Scully looked even more disturbed.

"Yes, he first came to Chicago on the trail of the killer of his father...." Mulder's voice trailed off as he thought of the almost childlike naivete of his Mountie friend, and his willingness, when no one else could, to accept extreme possibilities.

"...never mind," he said as his mind came back to the present. "Anyway, I called him and had him request our services as consultants in the case - they are treating it as a possible case of commercial fraud. He called Skinner and it's all been arranged."

He couldn't help himself; he was enjoying her discomfort too much. She looked to him like a Guppy that had been left out of the water far too long.

"So," he said, "why don't you got home and pack a few things and meet me at the airport in an hour? It shouldn't take us more than a few days."

With Mulder she always knew when she'd lost an argument. She looked at him pleadingly for a few more moments, hoping he would - somehow or other - change his mind. He didn't.

"Okay, Mulder. I know that I'm going to live to regret this."

She turned then, collected her things and left. Mulder took up the file once again and read all the clippings and looked at all the pictures it contained. He still didn't know how this information got to him - it was delivered by a private messenger service earlier in the day and no one seemed to know anything about it. This, of course, only fueled his curiosity.

He placed the file in his brief case, shut off the slide projector and left the office.

******

As they left the airport they were hit by a solid wall of heat and humidity; the feeble air conditioner in their rented car did little to elevate their comfort level. Whether Scully was pouting or really mad at him, Mulder couldn't decide - he only knew that she was very quiet.

As he neared his destination mind flashed back to two verdant eyes and he heard again a voice filled with pain, shouting at him from a distance. To him now, Alex was such a part of this place that he would forever think of it as Alex's own - inseparable in his mind, too, with the smell of the dark northern forests.

"Mulder," Scully decided to break the silence.

"Ahum," Mulder replied, his fingers nervously drumming on the steering wheel.

"You look like you know where you're going, you haven't taken out a map, you haven't asked for directions." It wasn't an accusation but she did turn her face toward him to await an answer.

"Yeah, Scully, I've been here before."

"You have?" She sounded very surprised.

Mulder couldn't turn toward the fire of her gaze. He didn't want to see what she might ask next.

"Why would you be up here, Mulder?" The question seemed so sang-froid on her lips, but Mulder dreaded the implication heard in her voice.

"Yea, a few weeks ago...met an informant."

"Up here! You never mentioned it, Mulder." Scully turned he eyes toward the road again, but the silence in the car turned her statement into a question.

"It was on my own time, Scully, nothing came of it."

She seemed to be satisfied with the answer, at least for the moment. Mulder breathed a silent sigh of relief. There was a sharp curve in the road that Mulder negotiated easily. When they were a position to see the coffee shop and the image on it, he felt Scully gasp, turned toward her and saw her face visibly pale. He expected this reaction, but wasn't prepared for it nonetheless.

"Why don't we go in the chicken place and see if we can question the waitress they mentioned in the newspaper clipping," he didn't expect an answer, but he turned his face toward her again to gauge her reaction to the image.

"Okay." Simple answer, no emotion.

******

For the middle of the afternoon the parking lot was unusually full and in the restaurant there were a lot of people sitting around, mostly at window seats staring at the apparition on the wall of the building across the highway.

"What can I get you folks?" a petite waitress asked them.

"Coffee for me, thanks." Mulder looked to Scully waiting for her to speak.

"OJ will be fine," Scully informed her without taking her eyes from the window.

The waitress smiled sweetly, seemingly used to this reaction, and went to fetch their orders.

"Mulder, it looks...it looks so real. God, Mulder, the face of Christ on the side of a donut shop." The words sounded so ludicrous on her lips, even to Mulder.

"Yeah," was Mulder's reply, instantly wondering why he made the trip here.

The waitress placed their orders in front of them and was about to leave when Mulder stopped her. "Are you the waitress who was here when that happened?" Mulder waved his hand in a flourish towards the window as though to emphasize his question.

She chuckled good-naturedly, "No, not me, I didn't come in till that afternoon, drove by that shop and damned near had an accident." The smile she wore looked good on her plain face. "You'll be wanting to see Jeanne. She was here then?"

"Is she here?" Mulder asked, barely concealing the excitement in his voice.

"Out back, busy at the moment. She'll be out in about twenty minutes. I'll tell her your looking, shall I?

"That would be great," Mulder said.

Scully raised the juice to her lips and immediately put it down again untouched. "I can't believe this, Mulder...I just can't believe it."

"Neither can the Mounties, Scully. They're treating this as a possible case of commercial fraud," he said, idly tracing the rim of his cup with one long finger. Bringing the cup to his lips, he took a large draught of the warm liquid. "But you never know, stranger things have happened."

The look she gave him could only be described as cold.

She looked at the image and spoke as though to it and not to Mulder. "We might as well head there now and come back and see this waitress later." She got out of her booth, not waiting for Mulder's reply, and headed for the door.


***

The parking lot of the coffee shop, so opposed to the restaurant, was practically empty. Inside, Mulder immediately got a caffeine and sugar rush from the smells. They sat at the counter and were immediately greeted by a surly looking young man. "What can I get you folks?"

"I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder," he nodded in Scully's direction, "and this is Special Agent Dana Scully, we're with the FBI. He waited the usual two beats for the smart-assed comment about his first name; the only reaction he got from the kid was a nasty smile. "We'd like to ask a few questions."

Their waiter didn't seem at all surprised, simply raised one eyebrow and said, "About that," he looked at the wall as though he could see right through it. "I'll have to get the manager." He turned and left them alone.

"Hello, I'm Mr. Meyer, can I help you," the manager said without offering them his hand.

"I'd like to ask a few questions about the image," Mulder said.

The manager looked like he would have rather been a thousand miles away. "A little outside you're jurisdiction, aren't you?" He asked cockily.

"Well, we're assisting the R.C.M.P," Mulder told him, refusing to back down.

"Well like I told them," the managers eyes flashed just a bit, "we just came to work and it was there, been there ever since. So if you folks don't want to order, please leave." The defiance in his voice was palpable and told the agents that he meant business. He turned and went in the back of the shop.

Mulder gave Scully that look - the look that told her that he was determined to get to the bottom of this, no matter what.

When they got outside Mulder heard a small female voice coming from the back of the building, "Mr. Mulder!" He turned and saw what was obviously a cook.

"Mr. Mulder...sorry. We're part of a chain, you know, and we are under strict orders not to say anything - to anyone," she said. She seemed nervous, somehow, unsure of herself. "But what he told you is the truth...it just suddenly was there and has been there ever since, and it gives me the willies."

Mulder smiled at her sweetly. "Thank you", he said.

Scully had strayed away from him and was standing in front of the image of the face of Christ. She seemed transfixed, mystified. She reached out her hand to touch it and Mulder could see a shiver run the length of her arm.

"Mulder, there is something here, I felt it...." She stopped suddenly as she pulled herself together. The mystical look was gone from her face now, replaced by her cool professional look - the look of the medical doctor who shouldn't believe in such things.

"Let's go see Jeanne," she said, not waiting for his acknowledgement.

****

"Darlin', it's just like I told the newspaper," she smiled sweetly at Mulder, motherly almost, "it was just a morning, like any other morning - we get an early crowd in here for breakfast, couples commuting to the city with their kids, the old crowd, who don't get much sleep anyway. The sun was just coming up and I heard a couple of people gasp and an old woman shouted and everyone moved to the door to see what was going on."

"And it was there," she continued with a dreamy look in her eye, "wasn't there when I drove into work, I'm sure of that."

"Strange," Scully said.

"I haven't been able to get a lick of sleep since," Jeanne said in agreement. She looked at Mulder, drumming his fingers on the tabletop, staring as though lost in thought into his coffee cup.

"Nothing else strange happen that morning," Scully asked hopefully.

"Well, I wouldn't call it strange, you know," she stopped, wondering if this was worth mentioning.

Mulder looked up at her, seemingly loosing interest in the tiny speck of curdled milk floating around in his coffee.

"Not strange, but odd," she continued, "like I said, everyone moved to the door or the window, all except one man. Don't know his name, but he's been in here off and on all summer. A real nice fellow, big tipper, too."

"What did he look like," Mulder asked.

"A real looker, big, beautiful teeth," Jeanne blushed and looked down at her feet. "Sorry, I always notice a person's teeth. Green eyes and he always wore a leather jacket, in all this heat, never took it off. Makes me sweat just thinking about it. And boy, could he pack the grub away"

Mulder looked at her as if this was perfectly natural. "I like teeth too, Jeanne. Nothing else, unusual about him, at all," Mulder asked.

"Not that I can remember."

She turned, as if to leave, "Wait, there is one more thing, I almost forgot that. He only had one arm. I only saw it once or twice, he most always kept himself turned to the side, but I did see a fake arm," she said hopefully.

Mulder's fist came crashing on the table, the spoons clattered and the coffee nearly spilled. Jeanne wondered if she should get out of his way, just in case.

"Alex-fucking-Krycek!" Mulder said, looking at Scully.

"Thanks, Jeanne, that was very helpful," Scully said to the shocked waitress.

After the waitress had left them she looked at her partner. The effects of his outburst were still visible. "You think Krycek is responsible for this?" She asked Mulder with a sweep of her hand toward the coffee shop.

"Yes!" A simple answer.

"Buy why, Mulder, why? Why would he do something like this?"

"I don't know, Scully."

She collected herself sipped her drink and thought. "He's your mysterious informant isn't he, Mulder?" She couldn't keep the dripping accusation from her voice. Her sense of personal betrayal just rose through her and spoke with her voice. "How could you!"

"Yes." He couldn't look at her, couldn't stand the look of hate that filled her face.

"Mulder!" She repeated her question, "How could you?"

He wouldn't look at her - he couldn't.

"He's a murder; he's a liar; he's a cheat." She repeated each of these accusations with vigor, stopping between each one to give it a chance to sink into Muldler's brain. "How can you trust him, Mulder, how many more betrayals do you need?"

He reacted physically to the sting in her words. How could he explain it to her? How could he explain to her things he had no conception of himself; things that kept him sleepless and awake at night?

He avoided her gaze. Instead, he stared into his coffee cup as though seeking answers. "He contacted me, wanted a meeting. At first I wanted to kill him, Scully, but in the end, I just listened."

"What did you get out of him, Mulder?" She didn't really want to know; she didn't want the thought of Krycek and her sister in her head again. "I don't understand you Mulder, I just don't understand you."

"Nothing, Scully, nothing really. Please! I don't want to talk about this."

Scully wasn't satisfied with this, not by a long shot.

"Okay, Mulder, I'd say this case is over. Might just as well go back to the motel and catch the first flight out in the morning." She didn't really believe it although she wanted to. Krycek was up to something, but what?

Mulder agreed.

A Lonely Country Road, That Night
=================================

Alex screwed the silencer on his gun as he walked slowly up this country lane, carefully avoiding the over-hanging branches, which threatened to scratch his face. The heat of the day was still clinging to the air, the sound of the crickets and frogs, in their nightly symphony, was filling his ears, their song rising and falling in rhythmic beauty. The night was as black as pitch, not even a moon to light his way. But he didn't need it; he remembered every dip and rise of this path. He remembered the last time he was here, remembered following Mulder, weeks before, when the agent stormed out of the cafÈ in a huff. He remembered being dazed by the look of Mulder's bare back as he trudged on in front of him, the field of flowers that they had trampled underfoot, and the old barn where Mulder stopped and turned and he remembered, too, the kiss that claimed his soul. And he remembered, with shattering pain, what happened next.

He gently patted the gun he had carefully tucked in the waist of he jeans, as though to reassure himself with the feel its stolidity.

He carefully stepped up to the hole in the barn that at one time been a window. He saw the little toad of a man, sitting at a small table with a lantern on it, drinking whisky.

"Giorgio," he said.

The small man spun around quickly, adjusting his glasses and almost spilling his drink.

"Alex, it's about time, I've been waiting for hours."

"Well you know, Giorgio, things to do, people to see," Alex said with a tight smile on his lips.

Alex entered the building and Giorgio watched him very carefully as he paced across the room, standing directly opposite the man.

"You got my money, Alex."

Alex looked at him now. He couldn't believe that this little speck of a man had paintings hanging in all the best museums in Europe, only they didn't know it. The originals stolen by the consortium and sold for hard cash.

"Sure, I got it. How'd you do it, Giorgio?"

"Secrets, Alex. Secrets." Giorgio stopped for a moment as though gauging his next statement. "Sure I'll tell you. The paint was chemically treated, as soon as the sun rose, the sunlight reacted with the humidity in the air, and presto - like magic - the painting appeared." He made a sniggering, ugly laugh and Alex shivered. "The owners of the building think it's a trick with the lights, they are going to have them replaced in the morning. What they don't know is that when they put in the lights I've arranged for them to use, another chemical reaction is going to occur, all traces of the chemicals will disappear, as will the picture."

He looked extremely pleased with himself Alex noted. Krycek had to give him credit; it was ingenious.

"You got my money, Alex, twenty thousand, we agreed."

"Yea, sure, Giorgio, keep your pants on."

This little man made Alex's skin crawl and he turned around to face the wall.

"This is a private operation, isn't it, Alex?" He doesn't know, does He? The Smoker doesn't know anything about this!"

Alex froze for a moment; he knew that Giorgio was a greedy little pig, knew that he wouldn't let one opportunity for blackmail get by him. If Giorgio suspected him, then the Smoker would know. And if he knew this, he would suspect the level of the treachery Alex was planning. He wouldn't be safe, and neither would Mulder.

Alex made his mind up in a flash. Reaching for his gun, he quickly snapped the safety off, spun on his heels and placed the tiny little hole between Giorgio's eyes that effectively ended his artistic career.

Alex thought that with any luck, in this secluded and lonely place, they might not find the body for months - if ever found at all. Alex crossed the few paces to the body, removed the glasses, put them in his pocket and knocked the corpse to the floor. He picked up the bag of salt he had noticed before lying up against the wall; sprinkled the body with it to help control the smell, tucked the still warm gun back in the band of his jeans, blew out the lantern, and left the building.

Much Later That Night
=====================

Alex approached the two-story motor hotel built into the side of a hill. All was quiet and still. The heat and humidity was still oppressive, and as a concession Alex left his leather jacket unbuttoned. The manila envelope could be seen tucked into his pants.

He kept to the shadows, inching ever closer to his destination. Alex was thankful that he was in the country where the overuse of outside lighting wasn't much in favour. He finally found what he was looking for - motel unit 1013. He stopped and listened at the door, realizing, as he was doing so, how utterly useless this action really was; it's almost always impossible to tell is anyone is in a room by just listening at a door. He smiled wryly to himself at his own folly.

"He'd come this far; he might as well finish the job," he thought. Reaching for his tools he quickly had the door unlocked. "Stupid, Mulder," he said quietly, "you should always use the security chain." He placed his hand on his gun, just in case, and inched his way into the room closing the door behind him.

The room was deathly quiet, the only sound being the rhythmic in and out of Mulder's breathing. The room smelled of Fox, sweaty, earthy. Alex was surprised to notice that even the TV was still and quiet; this was odd as Mulder nearly always slept with it on. Even the whir of the air conditioner was missing giving Alex the reason for the heat in this room.

He stood with his back braced against the door to give his eyes a chance to adjust themselves to the lack of light. Slowly his vision cleared and he was able to see some details. He saw Mulder's sweats and t-shirt thrown haphazardly on the chair by his bed - Mulder's only concession to the heat. The sheet on the bed had slipped down and was barely covering the man's groin.

Alex smiled and was barely breathing when he noticed what little covering Mulder had on his groin was being tented by one impressive erection. "You must be having one hellofa dream, Mulder," Alex whispered.

Alex quietly crept to the bed, realizing what he had in mind was really selfish and devilish, even to his standards. He eased his weight carefully onto the foot of the bed, lying between Fox's legs. The only response he got from the man was a slight groan from the friction of the sheet on his cock.

Slowly, carefully, like peeling an over-ripe banana, Alex peeled back the sheet revealing the prize in all its glory. Alex feasted his eyes on it, licking his lips.

As soon as the sheet was pulled back, Alex was assailed by the smell of the man - his dark, musk scent making his own cock jump in response. He took his finger and easily, gently traced the large vein up to the tip getting a sigh from Fox in his sleep, as the erection grew even larger.

Alex looked at the trim stomach and the thin line of hair leading down, like a pointer, to the riot of pubic hair beneath and the engorged rod standing up straight and proud. He couldn't restrain himself any longer; he had to taste.
He took his tongue and gently licked Fox's scrotum, enjoying the tickle of the fine hair on his tongue, and enjoying the unique taste of the man.

Mulder slept on, oblivious to the reason for his groans. Alex licked at the base of Mulder's cock, with his hand gently playing with his balls. Mulder arched his hips, slightly, but didn't awaken. Alex continued up, placing his tongue in the slit, prying it open. Fox sighed happily. Alex opened his mouth wide and tasted the head, closing his eyes in pleasure. He started to take Fox deep into his mouth, thrilled by this silky pleasure.

Fox began to move, to groan. He thrust himself deeper into Alex's mouth.

"Oh, God! June, that feels so good!" Fox said in his sleep.

Alex spit the cock forcefully from his mouth as though it were poison and Fox awoke. Alex felt some part of himself being ripped from his body, and watched as it withered and died. In one swift movement Alex threw himself on the body of the awaking man, nose to nose with him.

"Who's June?" Alex shouted.

Fox had seen dead men's eyes before, and he saw them looking at him now from a face gone parchment pale.

"Alex, I've met someone. Scully introduced us." Fox decided to play it cool.

Alex removed himself from Mulder's body and stood up "I'm happy for you, Mulder," Krycek said sarcastically. He was surprised he was able to speak at all with that huge lump in his throat and a stomach that felt like one big knot of pain.

He looked at Fox for long minutes, neither of them blinking or saying anything. He finally reached in the band of his jeans and threw the envelope at Fox who was making no attempt to cover himself.

"What's this?" Fox asked.

Alex looked sad and in a voice small and defeated he said: "I told you I would help you."

Mulder reached his hand out and turned on the bedside lamp. Opened the envelope and looked at the pages. "Where in Richmond Virginia is this warehouse, Alex?"

"You're the detective, you figure it out." Alex said. "It won't stop them, Mulder, but it might slow them down. There's only so much money then can siphon off from their black ops budgets you know. It takes a lot of money to keep that operation afloat." Alex stopped then to gauge the effect his words were having on Mulder."

"But, Alex, two hundred and fifty million in gold. How did they get it into the country?"

"Illegally," Alex said, as if he were speaking to an idiot child. "It was pre-cleared through customs by some faceless bureaucrat at the State Department. Look at the fake bills of lading, Mulder, it's listed as heavy machinery parts."

"You're sure about this, Alex!"

"Dead sure, Mulder." Alex sounded weary as he turned to the door. "You get a warrant, Mulder. You search that warehouse and you'll do them some serious harm, at least in the short term."

He turned to the man once again, a look of loss and quashed dreams on his face. "Good-bye, Mulder." It sounded so final. "I wish you luck."

He made it to where Fox's car was parked before the first tear drop fell and splashed on the pavement. His arm clutched at the pain in his guts and he fell to his knees, raising his head to the heavens in a silent scream of loss.
In years to come, he still wouldn't be able to decide which was the more painful: tonight, when a piece of his spirit was ripped from his body - the good part, the part where Fox had lived, or the day the peasants took his arm.


He knew that Fox was standing naked in the window watching him and he didn't want Mulder to have the satisfaction of seeing him like this. He hoisted himself onto his legs and stumbled off into the night.


********

The next morning Mulder gave all the documents to Scully with instructions that she was to only place them into Skinners hands, no one else, with the specific instructions that Alex had given him - to be followed to the letter.

"But, Mulder," Scully asked, "what are you gong to do?" She was clearly confused at this turn of events. She could clearly see the look of determination on Mulder's face and questioned him no further.

"I'm going to take a few days to think things out. I'll call you tomorrow to see how things went. Don't worry, Scully, I'm all right. I just have to think."

After waiting until Scully's flight left, he hit the highway and drove and drove and drove. He didn't notice the details of anything he passed or where he was headed. By the time evening fell he just had to get out of the car and run.

He ran, and he ran, and he ran. When exhaustion finally overtook him he found himself next to a small public park and collapsed onto a bench. With a verdigris statue of Robert Burns behind him and the CafÈ Mozart across the street, he let his mind go blank.

He sat there for hours it seemed, just thinking of Alex and himself and what they actually meant to each other. The cool salt breeze from the harbour was finally cooling him down and he looked up into the sky. It was another moonless night and it amazed him that he could see so many stars sitting on a park bench in the middle of a large city.

"Come out, Alex. I know you're there."

Alex showed no surprise at his discovery. He walked slowly to the bench and stood behind Mulder, placing his hands on the wood, framing the man.

"Alex, do you ever wonder where they come from?" Mulder's voice was misty and far away.

Alex paused for a moment and looked up at the sky. "When I was a kid, I grew up in the country. On hot summer night's I used to lie in the fields on my back looking at the sky, my heart filled with wonder. Now, whenever I look up, and it's not often, I look up in horror. The horror I know is coming if we're not able to stop them."

"We'll stop them." Mulder said.

"I wish I was that sure." Alex replied.

Mulder turned and looked into Alex's face. "I lied, you know. There is no June"

A wave of pain crossed Alex's face as he looked at Mulder. "Doesn't make any difference. You said last time that you couldn't do this, not with me." He paused remembering, "I guess you meant it."

"Get that gold, Mulder. I'm counting on you." Alex turned and slowly walked away.

As he watched Alex become smaller and smaller in the distance, Mulder felt a sudden sense of emptiness he couldn't explain and one of loss he didn't want to think about.



Authors Note:

Gentle Reader: As strange as this may seem, parts of this story did actually happen. Not far away from where I live, the face of Christ did appear on the brick facade of a donut shop. I've seen the TV coverage and the clippings from the newspaper. Sadly, I didn't make the trip, but from friends and relations, I've heard that it was really something. Even some of them reporting a metaphysical experience gazing at or touching the image. The owners of the donut shop, the Wendy's hamburger chain, issued orders, I believe, that no official comment was to be made. The picture was there for three or four days, the restaurant in the story did a bumper business but the local chicken population fell dramatically. The donut shop changed the outdoor lighting and the image disappeared. So you may think what you will. I thought, at the time, what an X File it would make. The forgoing was my humble effort.

Riticualn


Feedback please at Riticulan@hotmail.com