A Star in Hell, Krycek/Other slash

NC-17 for m/m sex, and general bad language.

Archive: Nowhere without my permission.

Disclaimers: Krycek belongs to CC and company, Eugene Sands belongs to theTouchstone Pictures (I think.) Anyway, they're not mine. If they were, they'dboth have permanent rugburn. I just put them in the same universe to seeif they'd play nice together.

Synopsis: Alex Krycek meets Dr. Eugene Sands. X-F/PLAYING GOD crossover.

A slightly different version of this story was posted on the M/K list lastyear. Revised for reposting here. Hope y'all like it.

Feedback may be addressed to: dnivling@redshift.com

A Star in Hell by Sugar Rush

He got the call around two a.m., the phone's ring slicing through his murkyfentanyl haze like an ice pick rammed straight into his eardrum. "H'lo?"

"Got a job for you, my friend."

It was Raymond. Shit, it was always Raymond whenever the phone rang at twofucking a.m. He should've been used to it by now. "Same hotel as lasttime?"

"Yeah. I'm sending Cyril to pick you up. Be ready in twenty."

Click.

He stared at the receiver, then hung up, heading for the bathroom, yankingopen the shower door, twisting on the water until it was just a hair aboveicy, stepping inside, teeth rattling as the spray sluiced over him. It helpeda little, though his brain was still half-foggy when he emerged, towelingoff quickly, padding into the other room, pulling on a relatively cleanpair of jeans and t-shirt, looking around, looking for his pills.

They were on the kitchen counter, right where he'd left them last night.All he needed was one, just one to get him level, keep him flying straight.

He shook one into his palm, staring at it, caressing it with the pad ofhis thumb, chalky-feeling, smooth except for the tiny indentation down itscenter, sweet euphoria right here in his hand...

And he halted, nanoseconds from popping the pill into his mouth. He hadn'toperated stoned since Ray had recruited him, and he wasn't starting now.If this one died, it wasn't going to be his fault. Not this time.

The ride to the hotel took about twenty minutes and, luckily, Ray seemedto have anticipated his need -- there was a Thermos of coffee waiting forhim in the car, hot and black and sweet, just the way he liked it. He'djust downed the last sip when they pulled up in front of the tall smoky-glassedbuilding and he climbed out, heading for the elevator, pressing the buttonfor the thirtieth floor.

Same drill, different night. Same hotel suite, same nurse monitoring theIV and heart monitor, same gleaming chrome stretcher.

Different guy lying on the stretcher -- early thirties, dark hair, skinashen, papery. A wound high on his right shoulder was still slowly oozingblood, but on closer examination it didn't appear all that serious; thebullet had passed all the way through, leaving a round, relatively cleanexit wound on the other side.

"What d'you think, Eugene?" Ray's voice came from a darkened corner,startling him, but only for a moment, only until he saw the other man getup from the couch in front of the big-screen TV, start to saunter over."This one worth saving?"

He assumed Ray was joking, but with Ray sometimes it was hard to tell. "Theredoesn't appear to be any extensive tearing of the tissue or nicked bonesor blood vessels," he replied, still leaning over his patient, pullingon rubber gloves, probing the wound with his fingertips. "Looks likea quick rinse n'stitch. A couple hours, tops."

"Shall I prep him, doctor?" the nurse asked. Off his nod, sheadded, "local or general anesthesia?"

"I'll do it," he said, grabbing a vial of painkiller and a syringe.Not that he harbored any doubts as to the nurse's competence, but he would'vefelt more sanguine about the situation if they'd had a qualified anesthesiologiston hand. He wasn't taking a chance on anything going wrong here. Drawingout the correct dosage, he flicked the syringe with two fingertips untilall the excess air floated to the top where he could shoot it from the needle,then, nodding at the nurse, waited until she straightened the patient'sarm, finding a nice plump vein popping up right there in the crook of hiselbow. He pierced the vein cleanly, pushing down on the plunger, slowlyinjecting the drug.

The man on the stretcher's eyes flew open at that precise same moment, greeneyes, green like jade flecked with gold, wide, terrified. Luckily, the painkillerhad already started taking effect, so his feeble attempts at thrashing diedstillborn. "Wh-what the hell're you...doing here..."

"Take it easy," he said, finishing the injection, withdrawingthe needle, "you've been shot. We're here to take care of you."

His patient began chuckling softly. "Y-you been taking...s-surgerylessons from...S-Scully in your sp-spare time?" His head fell backon the stretcher a second later, eyes drifting shut.

He tossed the syringe aside, hand at his patient's throat, feeling for apulse, finding it, jerky, thin, thready. "You been monitoring his pressure?"he asked the nurse. Her reply was to hand him a chart. "Finish preppinghim and start him on a unit of plasma while I wash up," he said, handingthe clipboard back, heading for the bathroom.

Ray followed, leaning in the doorway, a cigarette hanging from the cornerof his mouth, watching him scrub. "He seems to know you, doc."

"Well, I don't know him."

"You sure?"

Ray was starting to get under his skin, though that in itself was nothingunusual. He just wasn't in any mood to deal with this bullshit now. "What'reyou insinuating?"

"Nothing," Ray replied, grinning, all false ingenuousness. "Iwas just...well, wondering if maybe he'd wandered into your emergency roomonce upon a time...y'know, back when you were a *real* doctor."

Flicking off the hot water with an elbow, he grabbed the towel Ray heldout to him. "You want me to patch him up or not?"

"That's why I called you."

"Then get out of my way and let me do it."

As he'd suspected, it was an easy job, a simple cleaning and sewing up ofthe wound. He was finished even sooner than he'd anticipated and, with Cyril'shelp, moved his patient to the king-sized bed in the next room.

"Good work, Eugene," Ray said, pulling a plain white envelopeout of his jacket pocket, holding it out to him.

He counted it, fingertips whispering over crisp green bills. Ten grand,his usual fee. He didn't even know why he was counting it; Ray was a lotof things, but tight-fisted wasn't one of them. He'd always been paid well,and promptly.

"How long till he comes to?" Ray asked.

"A few hours. I'll be back this afternoon to check him."

"You don't need to. I'll call if there're any complications."

"Like you did with Vladimir?"

Ray's smirk faded. "How'd you know about that?"

"I read the newspapers. Funny, but when I left him Vladimir was inno condition to wander back on down to the beach and get another bulletblown through him." He waited a second for that one to sink in, forthe glassy twinkle in Raymond's eyes to go hard, flat, humorless. "Itake a certain pride in my work, Ray. When I fix 'em up, I like 'em to stayfixed."

"Oh, he'll stay fixed. I guarantee it."

"Why don't I believe you?"

"Look, Eugene, you're my employee, remember? You do your work, youget paid, no questions asked. What the hell do you care what happens tohim now anyway?"

He had a momentary flash of the look in his patient's eyes when he was lyingthere on that stretcher. The guy'd been scared, scared out of his mind,and not just by the prospect of undergoing surgery.

//Ray's right, this isn't your fucking problem...you did your job, you gotyour money, now just walk out of here and go home and get stoned and forgetabout it.//

He wanted to. Jesus, he wanted to walk out of this fucking hotel suite morethan anything, wanted to go back to his shitty apartment and mix up a littlefentanyl in a glass of milk and lie down on the couch and fall into anothersweet, sticky pit of black oblivion...

"I'm staying until he wakes up," he said, going back into thebedroom, pulling a chair over by the bed, flopping into it, slumping down,head resting on its back cushion.

He thought for sure that Ray would send Cyril in to eject him by force,but minutes passed and it didn't happen. He didn't know why, and right nowhe was past caring. Might as well get some rest while he could.

His lazy gaze drifted over to the bed, to the dark-haired man lying there,chest slowly rising and falling under the pale blue sheet. Hauling himselfout of his chair, he went over, leaned over, fingertips pressed to the pulsein his patient's throat. It was steadier now, stronger; obviously the plasmahe'd received had helped. His color was better too, still pale, but withoutthe pasty grey undertone he'd had before. Given time and antibiotics, he'dmake a full recovery.

He sat down in his chair again, propping his feet up on the foot of thebed, trying to get comfortable, finally giving it up as a lost cause. Aftera few minutes, though, exhaustion finally took its toll, and he felt himselfstarting to doze.

Who the hell was this guy? He'd only been working for Ray himself for acouple months, but he didn't remember seeing him before. Maybe he was anew recruit. It wouldn't surprise him; Ray'd been going through thugs likeKleenex lately. Only this guy didn't look like Ray's usual brand of thug.

He looked like a kid who'd gotten locked inside the carnival funhouse andcouldn't find his way out.

* * *

His vision cleared gradually, like he was rising through deep water, reachingout for the light near the surface--

He blinked once, twice, but the room still looked gauzy, all soft-focus,like everything was wrapped in a wispy white baby's blanket.

Squinting, he tried to take in his surroundings. The room was lavish, almostoverdone, dark blue walls with matching curtains, a big-screen TV the sizeof Rhode Island in the far corner.

Black-lacquered, angular furniture -- including the bed he was lying on,he realized, one hand grabbing the sheet, letting the soft cotton pour throughhis fingers. There was just one thing he couldn't figure out, though...

How the hell did he get here?

//She saw him saw him watching her and she turned pulling out her gun aimingit and he tried to move tried to get away but she fired and he slammed thepavement so hard he thought he'd broken every bone from neck to waist--

//And the last thing he saw was her looking down at him gun still in herhand and then the whole fucking sky went black--//

"Oh, Jesus...oh, sweet fucking Jesus..." He knew where he wasnow. Ray's hotel suite.

And ten to one Ray was waiting for him in the next room. Waiting for himto wake up so Ray could have the pleasure of killing him himself. He hadto get the hell out of here, and right now--

But pain tore through him when he tried sitting up, a hot, jagged bladelancing his chest, leaving him breathless, forcing him back down on thebed.

The room tilted, whirled, even behind closed eyes, and his right arm feltlike somebody'd tried to twist it off. His left hand traveled upward, skimmingover fever-hot skin, tracing the edge of a small, sticky ring of moistureseeping through the heavy white bandages swathing his right shoulder.

He tried getting up again, but the pain hit him, harder this time, immobilizinghim. After a little while he managed to roll onto his left side, tears stinging,burning the insides of his eyelids.

He didn't know how long he lay there, the pain slowly subsiding to a dullbut bearable throb, but the next thing he was aware of was the edge of themattress dipping down, a hand gently touching his side, rolling him overon his back again.

He didn't, couldn't resist, had no strength or even desire to anymore, hejust let the hand move him, eyes screwed shut, bracing himself for the worst.

"Lie flat on your back, okay? You'll rip out your stitches."

Not the voice he was expecting. Not Ray's voice, or Cyril's. He let hiseyes float open by tiny degrees, blinking to clear the teary haze stillremaining.

"You okay?" came the same voice he'd heard a second ago. Mulder'svoice.

Mulder's face a scant inch away from his, leaning over him, peeling backhis bandage, examining his wound. "It's still bleeding, but that'snormal," he said. "Just try to lie still, all right?"

He stared, heart pounding, head spinning, breath coming in rapid, jerkyspurts. This wasn't real, it couldn't be, he was dreaming, hallucinating--

His left hand reached up, fingertips touching, stroking the cheek rightthere above him, tracing the other man's jawline, bristly stubble scratching,tickling the pad of his thumb.

"Jesus...oh, Jesus..." he breathed. "You're real. You'realive..."

Mulder grinned, that same quirky, lopsided grin he remembered from theirbrief time together as partners, the same grin he'd been seeing in his dreamsfor months. "Thanks for confirming that," he replied, sittingup. "Some days I'm not so sure."

"What're you doing here?"

"I work here."

"In LA, you idiot."

"You mean, beautiful downtown Hell?" Leaning over, he reachedinto a large green bag sitting on the floor, pulling out a stethoscope anda blood-pressure cuff. "Looks like I'm taking care of you."

"Damn it, Mulder, will you just give me a straight answer for once--"

"I thought that's what I was doing."

"C'mon, Mulder, quit joking. I'm not in the mood--"

"Wait a minute, what'd you call me?"

He tried to laugh, but it hurt so much all he got out was a strangled chortle.

"Look, I'm not who you think I am."

"Oh, yeah? Then who are you -- Mulder's clone?"

Puzzlement flickered, lingered in deep hazel eyes. "My name's EugeneSands. I'm a surgeon. I stitched up your wound."

Oh, this was just too fucking rich. But if Mulder insisted on carrying itthis far, he'd play along. "Prove it."

"How?"

"Take off your shirt."

"*What*?"

God, the look on his face was classic stunned Mulder -- eyes wide, lipsslightly parted. Full, moist, gorgeous lips...too bad he was in no shapeto fully appreciate them. "Mulder got shot in the left shoulder a fewmonths ago. If you're really not him, you won't have a scar."

Mulder stared at him, then got up, yanking his t-shirt up and over his headin one fluid motion--

Revealing pale, lightly-furred skin, still slightly golden from a fadingsummer tan, slender hips flaring up-ward to a lean yet well-defined chest,his own gaze lingering on the subtle, almost imperceptible tug and playof muscles there, moving slowly upward--

To his left shoulder. His perfectly smooth left shoulder.

He'd had plastic surgery to remove the scar; that was the only logical explanation.This was Mulder, it had to be. He had Mulder's face, Mulder's voice. Mulder'sbody.

And he remembered all three in intricate, intimate detail.

"Guess we're not a matched set after all," Mulder said with aweak smile, pulling his shirt back on. "You believe me now?"

No. It simply wasn't within the realm of possibility for two different mento look that much alike. But there was no time to argue the point now. Sittingup, he braced himself for the pain, dragging in a shallow breath beforeit smashed into him like a sledgehammer, waiting for it to recede, swinginghis legs over the edge of the bed.

"What d'you think you're doing?" Mulder asked.

"Getting dressed," he replied, spying his jeans and leather jacketdraped across the foot of the bed, making a grab for them, "and gettingout of here."

"The fuck you are. Get back under those covers."

"Who died and made you my mother all of a sudden?"

"Look, you've just had surgery. You're in no condition to be goinganywhere."

"So I should just lie here and wait for Raymond to come kill me?"

That halted whatever reply Mulder was about to make, but this time his expressionwasn't shocked or stunned. It was more like realization had come crashingdown, like his own worst fears had just been confirmed. "Why wouldRaymond want to kill you?"

He didn't bother answering, just pulled the jeans on as best he could withonly one working arm, gasping, gritting his teeth, black spots dancing beforehis eyes, a hot fist pulsing, tightening in his chest, choking off his air--

Lurching to his feet, he tried to grab hold of the bedside table to steadyhimself, but he missed, wobbling, teetering--

And Mulder's arm was there in the next second, looped across his back, underhis uninjured arm, holding him up until he could stand on his own.

He swung around, still trembling, glancing down at the leather jacket danglingfrom his left hand, idly wondering what had happened to his t-shirt, eyeslocking on Mulder's again. "You gonna help me get out of here?"

"You still haven't answered my question."

"Christ, Mulder, do we have to get into this now?"

"Why does Raymond want you dead?"

"Because Claire's the one who shot me."

There was the stunned look again, but this time he managed to make a quickrecovery. "What's Ray's girlfriend got against you?"

"Ray got a little, um...nervous after what happened with the Russians,hired me to be Claire's bodyguard. Claire wasn't too hot on the idea, butshe went along with it to keep Ray happy. Last night she gave me the slip,got out of the house without me seeing her. I tracked her, found her carparked a few miles down the road at this seedy bar. She was sitting theretalking to someone I recognized...and who recognized me."

"Who?"

"Gage."

The name shot a visible tremor through the other man, and no wonder. ThomasGage was FBI, and a more ruthless sleaze than Raymond Blossom ever thoughtof being. "Y-you know him too?"

"Jesus, Mulder, will you drop the fucking mind-games? Yeah, I knowGage and he knows me and he must've told Claire because she followed meout to the parking lot and fucking shot me. And once she tells Ray whatGage told her, he's gonna come back here and finish the job."

Mulder looked at him for a long time, hazel eyes boring a hole through him,weighing his options. "All right," he said finally, "I'llhelp you. Just let me go out and check the lay of the land, then we candecide how we're gonna do this."

"Okay," he said, dropping back down on the edge of the bed witha grateful sigh.

Mulder reappeared less than a minute later, car keys dangling from his fingers."Ray's not here and Cyril's sacked out on the couch. Let's get going."

"You're coming with me?"

"You're my patient," Mulder said, flashing him a tiny half-grin,"and I'm not letting you out of my sight until you're fully recovered."

"Whatever," he grunted, getting up, working his left arm intohis jacket, trying to lift his right arm high enough to get it into thesleeve, fresh sweat breaking out slick and slimy all over his face and neck.

"C'mon, let me do that," Mulder said, grabbing the loose halfof the jacket. "Fold your arm across your abdomen...yeah, like that."Pulling the jacket over and around his injured arm, he zipped it up, tuckingthe free-hanging sleeve into the right-hand pocket. "Can you walk byyourself, or d'you want me to help?"

"I can do it," he snapped, then, off Mulder's half-startled, half-cautionarylook, added in a lower tone of voice, "we'll attract less attentionthat way."

He half-lurched, half-staggered down the hall to the elevator with Mulderleading the way, somehow making it all the way down to the parking garagewithout encountering anybody. Mulder steered him over to a sleek black RangeRover, helping him in before getting in the driver's seat himself and openinghis green bag, rummaging around in it, pulling out a syringe and a vialfilled with a clear liquid. "Roll up your sleeve," he ordered.

"What's that for?"

"It's a painkiller. You're gonna need it."

"I'll decide when I need it."

"Look, we're gonna be on the road awhile, and believe me, it's notgonna be too much fun for you with that shoulder getting jostled--"

"*No.*"

"God, will you just listen to me, you--" Dropping the vial andsyringe back in the bag, Mulder hurled it into the back seat. "Y'know,this'd be a lot easier if you'd tell me your name."

A low, throaty sound escaped his lips; he dimly recognized it as a chortle."Shit, Mulder, you know my name."

"Pretend I don't."

His head spun, blood pounding, roaring in his temples. He couldn't be sittinghere next to Mulder, next to the one person he was sure he'd never see again,the one person who could rip his heart out with a single hazel-eyed look...

His world had tilted onto its side, a once-full glass now dripping its lastdregs onto the floor.

This couldn't be happening. Mulder couldn't not know his name. It wasn'tpossible. But then, he'd seen a lot of things that weren't possible in thelast few months.

"Alex," he whispered finally, staring out the Range Rover's windowat the parking lot's grey-green asphalt. "You used to call me Alex..."

"Look at me, Alex. There's something I want you to understand."

He didn't want to, but he did, meeting the other man's gaze, green lockingon hazel. "What?"

"You call me Mulder again," he said, giving the ignition key asavage twist, "and I'm gonna deck you."

* * *

He got on the Pacific Coast Highway heading north and kept driving untilit got dark, pulling off at a town he'd never heard of, finding a smallbut clean-looking motel, pulling into the parking lot.

Alex had been dozing, having reluctantly choked down a pain pill a couplehours before, but he revived a little just as Eugene came back from themanager's office with the key.

This time Alex needed help walking, so he looped his own arm under Alex'suninjured one, helping him inside, letting him down gently on the edge ofthe bed. "Slip off the jacket," he said, opening his bag, pullingout fresh gauze and tape, "and lie back. I need to check you."

For once Alex was too groggy to put up an argument, leaning back on hispillow with a jerky hiss of breath, eyes drifting shut. "How's it look?"

He peeled back the blood-smeared bandage, examining the wound. The stitcheswere intact, with no sign of undue redness or swelling that would indicatethe onset of infection. "So far, so good," he answered, openinga fresh gauze pad, "the bleeding's stopped, at least. Just take iteasy for the next few days, and you should be fine."

"Thanks," Alex mumbled, already half-nodding off.

He finished changing the dressing, reaching back in his bag for a syringeand vial, filling the syringe, turning Alex's uninjured arm so he couldfind a vein.

But Alex jerked his arm away, eyes snapping open, startled, hazed-over."What the hell're you doing?"

"Giving you an antibiotic shot."

"Get that fucking needle away from me."

"Look, Alex, you need this. A wound like that's an open invitationto infection--"

"Then give me a pill."

"I don't have any antibiotics in pill form. Sorry."

Alex's jaw worked, eyes finally closing, holding out his arm. "Do it."

He gave the injection as quickly as he could, tossing the syringe and vialin the trash can under the bedside table. "You should've told me you'reafraid of needles."

"I'm not. I just wasn't sure you knew what you were doing."

That stung, but he wasn't about to let Alex see it. "I haven't killedyou yet."

"Lucky me."

His stomach chose that moment to start rumbling. He wasn't sure whetherto be relieved or irritated. "There's a fast-food joint a couple milesdown the road. You want something?"

"Yeah...burger and a shake'll be good."

He got in the Range Rover and started driving, stopping first at a K-Martthat was in the same parking lot as the fast-food joint, picking up a couplethree-packs each of men's t-shirts and boxers and two pairs of jeans, figuringhe and Alex were about the same size. Best to be prepared, as he had noclue how long they'd be on the road.

Alex wasn't there when he got back, but his jeans were, thrown across thefoot of the bed along with his jacket.

And then he heard it, the soft patter of water hitting tile, coupled withwhat sounded like a moan of pain.

The bathroom door yawned half-open, steam blanketing the air thick and hazy,though not enough to keep him from seeing Alex's blurry form on the otherside of the fogged-up shower door, standing under the spray, a spot of somethingsuspiciously dark dotting his right shoulder.

He flung back the shower door, Alex's head snapping up in shock and surprise,almost losing his tenuous one-handed grip on the slick tile. He looked terrible,mouth slack, face pasty as fresh bread dough, eyes glazed, cloudy, likedark jade.

He flicked off the water with one hand, grabbing a towel with the other,draping it over Alex's shoulders, an arm going around him, helping him outof the shower. "What the hell did you think you were doing?"

"I, um...felt sick to my stomach...thought a shower'd make me feelbetter..." Shrugging, he flashed a wan smile. "Sorry."

"Nausea's a normal side effect of the painkiller. C'mon over here aminute." Flipping down the toilet lid for Alex to sit on, he gentlyworked off the bandage, wet gauze and tape pulling at Alex's torn, bruisedskin, making him gasp and wince.

"Did I rip anything?" Alex asked.

"No, but you came damn close. Next time you want a shower, let me helpyou, okay?" Off Alex's nod, he added, "let's go back in the otherroom. I need to put a fresh dressing on that."

He tried to offer Alex his arm again, but the other man shook him off, grabbingthe edge of the sink with his good hand, pulling himself up, wobbling, weavingon his feet--

And he caught him, a mere split-second before Alex lost his balance, armgoing around him so tightly it made them both momentarily breathless, soclose he could feel his clothes growing damp in patches from contact withAlex's wet skin--

So close he could feel Alex's warm breath feathering his shoulder, the hollowof his throat, making him shiver.

Alex's hand came up, cupping his cheek, just like he had when he'd firstwoken up back at the hotel, fingertips caressing, stroking. "I've beenwanting to do this all day," he whispered, smiling, leaning closer--

Mouths touching, so softly at first he barely felt it, light, silky as butterflywings beating together, lips parting under Alex's gentle insistence, allimminent protests promptly fleeing his mind. Alex's tongue met his, entwining,dancing, sweet and tart and bitter, seducing and raping at the same time,a raw blast of sensation exploding inside his brain, white-hot and blinding,flooding his nerve endings--

He heard himself moan, actually moan in disappointment and frustration whenAlex pulled back, breaking the kiss, stepping back to give them both roomto breathe, gripping the sink's edge again to hold himself steady.

"You okay?" Alex asked, tone so smoky-rough it was an effort tohear him, fingertips still playing gently on his own skin, tracing a smooth,soft path all the way down the line of his jaw. "Mulder..?"

That single word acted on him like a bucketful of ice dumped down his back,shocking him back to reality in a second. "I told you not to call methat," he snapped, falling back a step, then another, until he feltthe reassuring solidity of the doorjamb against his back.

"C'mon, I know you didn't mean--"

He turned away before Alex could finish, trudging back in the other room,dropping into a chair at the table near the window, rubbing a clammy, tremblinghand over his face, through his hair, breathing deeply, trying to quellhis heart's pounding, the steady, singing surge of blood between his temples.He hadn't felt anything like this in months, not for anyone; he couldn'teven remember the last time he'd jacked off. And the hell of it was, hehadn't even missed it. He'd started to think all the drugs he'd been takinghad finally fried his brain, burned every last shred of sexual desire outof him. Maybe it was just a momentary aberration, borne out of pure exhaustion.He hoped so. Either way, there was no denying what his body was tellinghim now, much as he wanted to. The persistent, throbbing bulge in his jeanswas evidence enough of that.

He looked up when Alex came back in the room, towel wrapped around his waist,still unsteady on his feet, stumbling over to the table, grabbing the fast-foodbag, pulling out his burger and shake, easing himself back down on the bedto eat it.

His gaze flicked over the other man quickly, almost guiltily, taking inslender, muscled legs, smooth, toned chest and abdomen in a single glance,looking away at the precise same moment Alex looked up.

He choked down his own cold burger in silence, staring blankly out the window,not letting himself think, not wanting to. Finally he started digging throughhis bag, pulling out a map, spreading it out on the table.

"Where are we?" Alex asked, sliding off the bed, coming over.The mottled purplish-yellow bruise covering his right shoulder looked evenmore stark and livid in direct light.

He pointed to a spot on the map about three hundred miles outside LA. "Here,I think."

"Where're we going?"

He'd been wracking his brain about that all afternoon, with little success.There was his parents's summer house just outside Santa Barbara, but they'dalready passed it by, and besides, it'd be too damn easy for Ray to findthem there. Best to take a turn nobody was expecting.

Apparently Alex took his silence for the equivocation it was, for he leanedover the map, running two fingers over it, halting at a spot another twohundred or so miles north. "If we leave early in the morning, we shouldmake it here by noon."

"What's there?"

"A place I used to go as a kid."

"And you're sure it's still there?"

"Yeah, I'm sure," Alex answered softly. "It's my grandmother'scabin. She died last year and left it to me. I haven't been there sinceI was fifteen, but it's still there, and it's mine, and it's in an isolatedenough spot that nobody should see us, especially at this time of year."

"Okay," he said, fighting the urge to glance up. He was stilltoo damn close to losing it. "Sounds good. Not that we've got muchchoice otherwise."

Alex just shrugged, going back to lie down on the bed, pushing his burgeraside. He'd only taken two bites out of it. "Could you, um...fix mea new bandage?"

He brought his bag over, kneeling beside the bed, steeling himself inside.He could do this. It was his job, damn it, and Alex was his patient. Hecould do this, he had to.

He worked as quickly and efficiently as he could, this time smearing thewound with an antibiotic ointment before taping a new gauze pad in place,never letting his gaze wander even a few millimeters from Alex's shoulder."That should hold you until morning," he said, pulling a vialof pain pills from the bag. "Take another one of these. You probablywon't be getting much sleep otherwise."

He tried to get up, but Alex's hand on his arm stopped him. "Look,I'm sorry about...what happened in the bathroom," Alex murmured. "GuessI kinda caught you off-guard, huh?"

"Yeah," he answered with a chuckle, though he still didn't lookat him. He couldn't. "Yeah, you could say that."

"I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised...I mean, after the way I leftand all, I know I've got no right to ask you to forgive me--"

God, this was too much. He couldn't stand it anymore. "You need toeat," he said inanely, getting to his feet, nodding at Alex's abandonedmeal.

"Um...my stomach still doesn't feel so good..."

"Drink your shake, then. You need something on your stomach beforeyou take another pill. I'm taking a shower," he added, grabbing hisbag and his own shake, ducking into the bathroom before Alex could say anythingelse.

He got in the shower and rinsed off quickly, gratefully, trying to keephis mind a blank, though one part of him had ideas of its own, the partthat was slowly stiffening as he stroked it with one soapy hand. Reachingfor the cold water knob, he twisted it on full blast, relief jetting throughhim as his arousal subsided under the icy spray.

Climbing out, he toweled off, his mind replaying Alex's words from a fewminutes ago over and over until they were a knife twisting in his gut, threateningto rip him open. He wiped steamy residue from the mirror, staring at himself,at his face, his body...

His face, his body, and somebody else's. Somebody named Mulder.

Jesus, the whole scenario would've been laughable if it wasn't so fuckingpathetic. Here he was, a new hard-on rising with each beat of his pulse,his mind spinning back to what had happened in here not half an hour ago.A hard-on for a guy he hadn't even known existed this time yesterday. ForAlex.

And the bitch of it was, Alex didn't even want him. He wanted this guy wholooked like him, this guy Mulder. Whoever the fuck he was.

He ripped through the bag until he found it, a sealed plastic baggie tuckedin an inside pocket, a dozen clear glass ampules within. His stash. Nectarand ambrosia. Liquid nirvana.

Pulling out one precious ampule, he held it up to the hazy light, shakingit slightly, flicking the end off with his thumb. He took the lid off whatwas left of his milk shake and dumped the contents of the ampule into it,eighteen, nineteen, twenty beautiful, perfectly clear droplets, stirringthem in with his straw, bringing the plastic cup to his lips slowly, almostreverently--

Gulping the whole thing down in three greedy swallows.

He waited, breathing slowly, deeply, gripping the edge of the sink withboth hands, waiting for it, for the glorious numbness that blotted out everything.No past, no future, just a sweet, sticky now.

Half-stumbling back to the other room, he landed on the mattress with allthe grace of a sack of flour, his gaze lingering momentarily on Alex lyingthere on the other side of the bed, eyes closed, mouth slightly open, deadasleep.

He saw, he acknowledged, and he didn't care. He didn't care about anythinganymore, didn't want anything but this, just this hazy blackness.

And maybe when he woke up, he'd get what he'd been wishing for for the pastyear.

Maybe he'd wake up inside somebody else's skin.


* * *

They left the motel a little after eight the next morning, and, as Alexhad predicted, arrived at the cabin around noon. It was a tiny place, two-storied,all stone and redwood and half-overgrown, nestled in a green, woodsy thicketwithin walking distance of the beach, the only road leading in paved witha homemade mixture of dirt and gravel.

It was isolated, all right. From what he'd been able to glean from the map,he figured they were about thirty miles south of Big Sur. Alex said theplace had its own well and generator, so they wouldn't have to go withoutmodern conveniences, and the neighbors -- if you could call somebody wholived ten miles away a neighbor -- wouldn't be alerted to their presence.So far, so good.

They climbed out and went in, Alex fumbling one-handed for the key in hispocket, the door sticking momentarily, finally swinging open. Musty, staleair hit them both square in the face the second they stepped inside, andhe crossed to the double doors on the opposite side of the room and openedthem, letting in fresh air and sunshine.

It was a nice room, he saw, turning to look at it in the light, a comfortableroom, with a huge fireplace, hard-wood floors covered with thick rugs, furnitureoverstuffed, sagging and even a little frayed in places, but no TV or radio.Strangely enough, though, he found himself not minding; in fact, a few dayshere without the outside world encroaching was just fine with him.

The kitchen was surprisingly well-equipped, with a four-burner gas stoveand a refrigerator-freezer that looked like it could've stored an entireside of beef with no problem. Good thing they'd stopped for provisions ata little Mom-and-Dad grocery store about ten miles down the road.

"The generator's out back," Alex said, his soft tone slicing throughthe silence so unexpectedly it made him jump. "I'll get it started."

A protest rose to his lips, dying stillborn. Alex was a lot better today,much stronger and more alert than he himself had hoped. Best let him getin as much physical activity as he could. As long as he didn't try movingor lifting his injured arm too much until it was time to take the stitchesout, he'd be fine.

And it would happen soon. A week, ten days at most, and Alex would be ableto get by on his own. Not a hundred percent, but certainly well enough notto need a doctor anymore.

That's when he'd go. He'd decided in the car, on the long drive up heretoday. Ten days, and he'd be out of here. He'd figure out where he was goingwhen the time came.

He heard a loud crunch, rumble and whirr, like the sound of a car engineturning over, realizing a second later it had to be the generator. Alexwas starting back towards the house, so he headed out to the car to getthe groceries.

They put everything away, packing all the perishables in the sink with abag of icecubes they'd bought until the generator got the fridge cold enoughand trudged upstairs, Alex trailing a few steps behind him, slightly breathlessyet still shrugging off his offer of help.

There was a good-sized bathroom with both a shower and a tub, and two bedrooms.

Yes, thank God, *two* bedrooms. His relief must have shown in his expression,for Alex shot him an unmistakably crestfallen glance. "You mean we'renot going to--"

"You're still not well, Alex, and I don't want you doing anything that'sgonna tear out those stitches--"

"So that means we can't sleep in the same bed together? God, Mulder,we don't have to fuck like bunnies every single night, I can control myself--"

"Will you just lay off?" he cut in a touch more sharply than he'dintended, the half-stung, half-angry look on Alex's face combining withhis own embarrassment, flooding him with heat from head to toe. "Look,we'll see how you feel when the stitches come out, okay?"

"Yeah, right," Alex retorted, turning, marching down the hallwayto the other bedroom, "don't do me any favors."

* * *

The weather inside and out remained the same for the next several days --overcast and cool, if not downright frosty. He and Alex did their best tostay out of each other's way, with the exception of dinnertime and the twobrief times a day, morning and evening, when he checked Alex's shoulderand administered his antibiotic injection. He supposed it wasn't so bad;at least this way he didn't have to listen to Alex calling him Mulder allthe time. He'd long since thrown in the towel on trying to convince himhe wasn't Mulder at all.

Not that it mattered much at this point anyway. Alex's wound was healingquickly, with no apparent sign of infection. Wouldn't be long now untilhe could leave.

And that's what kept him locked in his room every night, mixing up anotherampule of fentanyl in a glass of milk, slugging it down, lying back on hissoft, solitary bed, waiting to feel nothing again. Waiting to feel anythingbut what he'd been feeling ever since that night back at the motel, likehe was being roasted over a slow flame and all it'd take was the right word,the right glance from Alex to tumble him headlong into the fire.

So he closed his eyes and waited for the darkness, where there was no fire.

* * *

He woke the next morning to find sunshine streaming in through his windowand elves playing a drum symphony inside his head. The latter wasn't unusual,though the former was, and that was the only thing that got him up and dressed.No more darkness until tonight.

Alex was already in the kitchen, sitting at the table, working on a plateof eggs and toast. "Feels a lot better today," he said, indicatinghis shoulder. "Take a look?"

He nodded and went back upstairs for his bag. Alex was standing at the sinkwhen he came down again, and for some reason this time he noticed somethinghe hadn't before -- namely, what Alex was wearing. Cut-offs and a grey tanktop.

Tight cut-offs that made his ass look like a ripe juicy apple, he noted,mouth going dry -- and if Alex had any underwear on, he didn't know wherehe was hiding it. The top had an insignia on it, he saw as Alex swung aroundto face him, and lettering too, circling the insignia, reading "NavalPost-Graduate School."

Alex's eyes met his, following the line of his gaze, then, fingering theshirt, explained, "they're my Dad's clothes, found 'em in a drawerupstairs. It's finally getting warm, might as well dress to enjoy it, right?"

Swallowing hard, he waited for Alex to sit down again, then peeled the gauzepad from his shoulder. It came off clean and easy, revealing a small roundhole ringed by fading purplish bruises. Something inside him clenched atthe sight of it.

"Looks like today's the day," he said, reaching in his bag forsuture scissors. Four, five snips at both entry and exit wounds and thestitches were out. "Move your arm a little," he instructed. "Iwant to see how high you can lift it."

Alex's eyes looked like somebody'd lit a torch inside them, but he barelygot his arm raised up to shoulder level before sweat pearled on his foreheadand upper lip, and he let it drop with a pained, disgusted sigh. "Jesus,I can't do anything like this--"

"Take it easy, you'll be stiff and sore for awhile, that's normal.To be honest, I'm amazed you're able to do this much." Alex glancedup at him then, shoulders slumped, expression so disappointed it threatenedto rip his heart out. "You got shot, Alex. You can't expect to justbounce back to your old self, it's gonna take time. Be grateful for whatyou can do today."

"Okay," he said finally, getting up, staring out the window, intothe sunshine pouring down through the trees. "I'm gonna take a walkto the beach. Come with me."

That sent a hot chill straight through him, though somehow he managed totamp it down. Now was his chance; he'd decline the offer then, while Alexwas gone, he'd pack up his stuff and go. No arguments, no messy complications.He couldn't ask for a more perfect escape. "I'm, um...not really thatgreat a swimmer," he mumbled, hoping it didn't sound too much likea lie, "and you'd better not--"

"I didn't say we had to go in the water. Jesus, Mulder, it's gonnabe eighty-five degrees today, and I'm not spending it cooped up in thishouse. What's the point of having a house near the beach if you never goto the beach?"

"Um...no, sorry," he said, zipping his bag back up and headingfor the stairs, standing alone in his room until he heard the back doorclose. Peering out the window, he saw Alex ambling down the path that leddown to the beach, a towel slung over his arm.

He crept back downstairs on tiptoe even though he knew it was ridiculous,slipping out the front door, throwing his bag and extra change of clothesin the back of the Range Rover. He could still see Alex from here, paddingdown the dirt trail, sun glinting off his hair, turning his skin golden.

He was heading back inside the house in the next second, marching straightto the kitchen door and out, finding the path, still marked with Alex'sdusty footprints, picking up his pace with each step until he was running,nearly stumbling over all the brambles and tree roots sticking up out ofthe ground, not stopping, not even slowing down. The forest thinned abruptly,opening out on a wide expanse of beach, sand so white it almost blinded,the sea laid out before him like a cerulean platter.

And there was Alex, right there in the middle of it all, spreading his towelout on the sand, strolling toward the water, stopping just as he reachedthe point where the surf rolled up over his feet and ankles, throwing hishead back, eyes closed, sun bathing him.

He wanted to go forward, wanted to join him, but his feet wouldn't move.It was too beautiful, Alex was too beautiful, too peaceful, right at thismoment. Something in him wouldn't let him ruin that, the simplicity, thebeauty of it. It belonged to Alex. He had no right to intrude.

He ventured as far as Alex's beach towel, sitting down, toeing off his shoes.Alex hadn't turned around. He would watch him, just for another minute orso, then he'd go. Alex would never have to know.

He dug his toes in the sand, soft and fine as baby powder against his skin,feeling the sun beating down, warm and comfortable, but with a steely backbonethat promised higher temperatures later on. Alex was right; it was goingto be a beautiful day.

Alex moved, pulling his top up and over his head, unbuttoning, unzippinghis cut-offs, shimmying out of them, letting them drop to the sand, walkingnaked into the waves.

He wanted to move, wanted to get up off the towel and run down to the waterand stop him, but he didn't. All he could do was watch, fascinated, paralyzed,as Alex went in up to his waist--

And stopped, splashing his arms and chest, burying his face in the waterand blowing bubbles like a little kid in a bathtub, water streaming fromhis nose when he finally flung his head back, laughing.

The sound went right through him, a fine silvery blade thrust straight intohis heart. They'd been together a week, and he'd never heard Alex laughbefore, not like that, anyway. It was a happy, joyous sound, the sound ofa man who was glad to be alive.

He couldn't recall the last time he'd heard that sound coming from his ownlips.

Alex bobbed, teetered in the waves's soft rhythm like an overgrown sea otter,lying on his back to float, water flowing, kissing his skin, green-blueliquid silk. He stayed that way for what seemed like a long time, finallystanding back up, turning, moving slowly through the water, heading backto the beach.

It was too late, he knew that the second he saw green eyes narrow, catchingsight of him sitting there on the towel, he'd stayed too long, he was caught,no point in running away now.

Then a high wave smashed Alex right in the center of his back, tumblinghim sideways into the surf--

And he was on his feet, racing down to the waterline, relief surging throughhim when he saw Alex surface, climbing to his feet as the breaker subsided,waving him away, emerging from the water with a wide, exhilarated smile.

"Glad you decided to come down," Alex said, walking toward him,scooping up his shirt and cut-offs, though he made no move to put them on."You might want to wait till later to go in, though. The water's aboutfifty degrees and it can be a shock if you're not used to it."

"Don't tell me about shocks. Christ, Alex, what the hell was that?I thought you were drowning out there!"

"Take it easy, I'm not gonna drown in four feet of water. I've stillgot one good arm, remember?"

"You said you weren't going in."

"I didn't say *I* wasn't going in. I said *we* didn't have to. Andwe don't," he said, grinning, sweeping a few wet strands of hair outof his face, starting to walk over toward the towel. "You coming?"

He stared after him, gaze sweeping him from foot to scalp and back again.Droplets gleamed like new diamonds on Alex's naked skin, all ivory-smooth,the tiny dimpled indentation at the small of his back dusted with dark hair,sloping downward into firm, rounded flesh.

He followed, feeling like the air had somehow thickened in the last tenseconds, he couldn't breathe, could barely move, he wasn't going to makeit over to the towel, he'd die first, he was sure of it--

And suddenly he was there, standing in front of Alex, staring into his eyes,those deep green eyes that looked like jade and moss and the sea all puttogether, eyes drawing closer even as he felt Alex's hand on his shoulder,sliding up to his throat, his cheek--

Alex's lips on his, warm and soft and insistent, teasing him open, tonguestouching, a molten shock sailing straight through him. He jerked back, gasping,trembling, pulse beating a wild tattoo between his ears. "Al-Alex,I d-didn't come here for--"

"I know what you came here for," Alex murmured, smiling, "takeoff your shirt."

"Wh-what?"

"Take it off or I'll take it off for you."

He wasn't sure which one of them did it, but he was standing there bare-chesteda few seconds later, shivering despite the warm breeze.

"Lie down on the towel," Alex ordered.

"Don't you want me to take off my pants?"

"Later. Lie down."

It felt good, spreading himself out under the sun's heat, the sand cushioninghim better than any mattress. It felt good looking up at Alex, seeing Alexlooking down at him, seeing Alex slide down on the towel next to him, feelinghis fingertips trail down his shoulder, down to his chest, raising goosebumpseverywhere he touched.

"You cold?" Alex whispered, dipping down, breath tickling hisear, "you're shaking all over."

"J-Jesus, Alex..."

That made him laugh, low and throaty this time. "Yeah, well, I thinkthis'll warm you up..." And he started with his ear lobe, flickinghis tongue, nipping, dusting his skin with tiny catbites, moving lower,down his chest--

Palming one nipple, taking the other in his teeth, alternately stroking,sucking them to hardened little nubs, sensation flooding him like chainlightning, pooling in his groin, making him twist and writhe until he washalfway off the towel.

Alex rolled on top of him, pinning him under his weight, tongue markinga long, squiggly stripe all the way down to his navel, stabbing, dartinginto the soft puckered hole, moving downward, cheek rubbing against thecrisp, springy hair on his belly. He felt his fly button popping loose,fingers fumbling with the zipper, easing it down, gasping in mingled reliefand dismay as his rising erection sprang free.

"Yeah, I'd say you're getting warm," Alex purred with a grin,tugging at his jeans one-handed. "Lift up."

"I-I don't want to--"

"The hell you don't. Lift up."

"But...what if somebody..."

"This is a private beach, always has been. Nobody else around for miles."Their eyes met, Alex's expression suddenly turning serious, even gentle."You've never made love on the beach before?"

He shook his head.

"Looks like you're in for a treat. Lift up," Alex repeated. Thistime he didn't resist, raising his hips to let Alex slide off his jeans,scooting back down the towel. Alex grinned, moving up a little, mouth descendingin another brutal, dizzying kiss. "Relax, you're gonna love this."

"Look, I don't want you hurting yourself--"

"Jesus, Mulder, give it a fucking rest. I'm not gonna break."And the next thing he knew he was flat on his back on the towel, Alex ontop of him again, sliding down to where he was before, picking up wherehe left off, mouth tracing warm, wet, mind-shattering spirals on his belly,gently parting his thighs with one hand, moving lower, nipping and lavingthe soft, hypersensitive skin at the juncture of thigh and groin.

He wasn't sure if it was the sound of the name that wasn't his or Alex'sfingers closing around his erection that did it, but his hips arched rightoff towel at that exact moment, pulse thundering into overdrive--

//You don't belong here shouldn't be here he's not doing this for you hedoesn't even want you he wants Mulder--

//Push him away get up grab your clothes get the fucking hell out of here--//

And then something hot and wet enveloped him like a furnace, knocking himback, draining his will, swallowing him whole--

It was Alex, Alex's lips and tongue flicking over the tip of him, Alex'smouth opening, engulfing him in one long, soul-ripping stroke, he knew itwithout looking, but he looked anyway, couldn't help it, he had to see,had to know for sure--

Eyes met, locked, hazel on green, green like jade and moss and the sea meldedinto one, so intense it blotted out the sun--

And he moaned, throwing his head back as Alex took him deeper, as deep ashe could go, hitting the back of his throat, his own hand drifting down,fingers winding in silky dark hair, holding him there, urging him on--

//God oh God it's been too fucking long can't hold back I'm gonna lose it--//

And he thrust and kept thrusting, screaming, moaning, spurting hot and stickyinto Alex's welcoming mouth.

He floated for what seemed like a long time, drifting in the ether untilhe slowly became aware of the ground's solid presence beneath him again,the sun's warmth growing more intense, and something else, something heavyyet strangely reassuring lying across his belly.

Alex stirred the same time he did, glancing up, eyes still slightly hazy,pressing a soft kiss to his midriff. "Guess you liked that, huh?"

He smiled in reply, tousling dark hair.

"Wanna go for a swim?"

He shook his head.

"You lose your voice?"

He shrugged.

Alex just laughed, snuggling closer, falling silent.

The silence continued as they lay there half-dozing, holding each otherin gauzy afterglow until the sun hung directly overhead.

"Um...I think we'd better go back," he said finally, sitting up."We forgot an essential at the grocery store the other day."

Alex rolled onto his back, squinting up at him. "What?"

"Sunscreen. If we lay out here much longer, we're gonna be toast."

"Oh. Okay," Alex said, sitting up, reaching for his cut-offs."By the way," he added, pulling something from the pocket, "what'sthis?"

He stopped with one leg of his jeans halfway up, glancing at the empty glassampule Alex was holding in his hand, staring at it, going completely, instantlynumb. "Wh-where'd you get that?"

"Found it on the floor in your room, near the foot of your bed."

"What the hell were you doing in my room?"

"Looking for my dad's clothes. They were in the bureau--"

"Bullshit. You went in there to look through my stuff, to fucking *spy*on me." Yanking his jeans the rest of the way on, he zipped them up,started walking away.

"Fentanyl citrate."

That made him turn around. "What?"

"That's what this says. Fentanyl citrate," Alex repeated, standingup to face him, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was still naked."Shit, Mulder, this stuff's next door to heroin. But then," hewent on, coming closer, "you're not really Mulder, are you?"

His life had just taken a sharp left turn into the land of utter absurdity.He didn't know whether to laugh in Alex's face or smash him across the jaw."It's, um...synthetic heroin, actually. My drug of choice," hemurmured. "When'd you finally figure it out?"

"I think I knew the second I saw you didn't have the scar on your shoulder,I just didn't want to believe it. I mean, you responded when I kissed you,and after that..." Maybe it was because the sun was behind him now,but his eyes were darker now, steely, flinty as slate. "You look likehim, you sound like him, you even act like him...it was easier to just letit go, not question it. But after I found this...I had to know for sure."He tossed the ampule onto the sand, one corner of his mouth quirking up."You don't taste like him."

"Oh, Jesus..." he breathed, "oh, Jesus Christ..." Thiswas it, too much, too goddamned much for any sane man to take--

And he ran, back to the path, into the trees, branches whipping at his face,not caring, not looking, running faster--

Tripping, falling, hitting the dirt with a hard, bone-jarring smack, goinglimp, rolling instinctively into a ball.

Alex was there a moment later, hands on his shoulders, moving him gentlyonto his back, stroking, caressing him until the pain faded and he couldmove and think on his own again. "You gonna be okay?"

He nodded, sitting up slowly, head still ringing, running one hand overboth feet and ankles in turn, all the way up to his thighs, then, satisfiednothing was broken, did the same with his arms and ribs. "Got the windknocked out of me is all," he mumbled, standing up with Alex's help,taking a couple tentative steps. He was sore, and the whole left side ofhis body would be a mass of bruises by tomorrow morning, but otherwise he'dbe fine.

They started up the path together, back towards the house, neither of themsaying anything. There was nothing left to say. He'd do what he should'vedone in the first place -- get in the Range Rover and leave.

It wasn't until they were back in the kitchen again that something struckhim as strange, then, looking at Alex, he finally realized what it was.Alex'd put his cut-offs back on. Part of him couldn't help feeling disappointed.He'd gotten used to seeing him naked.

"So...you blowing me out there on the beach, that was, what, just a*test*? Just your way of finding out if I was really him? That's the onlyreason you did it?"

"Yeah," Alex replied softly, leaning against the sink, staringout the window, "that, and because I wanted to. It'd been so long...I'dgiven up on ever seeing him again, and then I woke up in that hotel roomand saw you there and I thought it was a miracle, that somehow I'd beengiven a second chance. No way was I gonna fuck it up this time."

"What happened?" Off Alex's half-pained, half-questioning look,he added, "with him, I mean. How'd you fuck it up?"

"I got his trust, seduced him, betrayed him, exactly what I'd beenassigned to do. Guess I just wasn't prepared for all the...ensuing complications."

"You fell in love with him."

He hesitated, then nodded. "Yeah...I guess I did."

There it was, hanging out there in the air between them. He didn't needto hear any more. Turning, he headed for the front door--

And stopped not two steps away from it, Alex's hand on his shoulder. "Itold you the truth," he said, "now you owe me a truth."

"I don't owe you a fucking thing," he snapped, jerking away.

"How'd you end up working for Ray? Was it because of the drugs?"

"What the hell do you care?"

"Tell me."

His fingers had closed over the door knob, but something in Alex's eyeskept him from turning it. "Yeah, it was the drugs...indirectly."

"How, indirectly?"

His eyes drifted shut momentarily, memories flickering, coming into focus."I was in a bar making a buy one night a couple months ago when oneof Ray's buddies got shot. I kept him alive long enough to get him to ahospital. Claire saw the whole thing, told Ray about it. He dropped tengrand and a job offer in my lap. I think I hesitated all of five seconds."

"So you really are a doctor?"

"No," he said flatly. "Not anymore. Not since...Jesus, it'sa year ago next month."

"So why aren't you anymore?"

"Because I performed surgery when I was so fucking high I couldn'tsee straight, and I lost my patient. Then I lost my license."

"You lost more than that," Alex said softly.

He looked away, the silence between them crawling under his skin like amillion ants. "Look, your shoulder's healed, you don't need me anymore.I should just leave."

"Don't."

"Why?"

"Maybe because I don't want you to."

That made his head snap back up. "Because you want me to be Mulderfor you again? That's what you really want, isn't it?"

"No," Alex said, drawing closer, so close he could feel his breathfeathering his skin, "I want you."

Their lips touched, soft, warm, so briefly he wasn't even sure it had happened,and then he felt it, Alex's fingers trailing up his jaw, down his throat,finding the gently thrumming pulse there, stroking it with the pad of histhumb.

"Stop it," he rasped, pulling back, pushing him away. "Ican't do this, Alex."

"You were doing it just fine back there on the beach."

"You thought I was him then."

"And now I know you're not him, and you know I know...and we're bothstill standing here."

He tried to move, tried to back up, but he couldn't, he was pressed flatagainst the door. No escape, nowhere to run.

He went limp, all the energy draining out of him, Alex's lips on his throat,his cheek, gently kissing each lowered eyelid in turn, tongue darting, licking,tasting, leaving moist skin and spiky lashes in his wake--

"Alex..." he half-groaned, half-gasped a split-second before theirmouths made teasing, fleeting contact again.

"C'mon," Alex murmured, taking his hand, "let's go upstairs."

End Part Three...A Star in Hell by Sugar Rush, Part Four
Disclaimers attached to Part One.


He followed, his last shred of resistance flying away like a scrap of paperin a breeze, all the way up the stairs, down the hall to Alex's room. Morningsun poured in through the curtains, bathing the walls and floor with palegolden light.

Light fell across the bed too, and so did he, when Alex gave him a tinypush that landed him flat on his back, Alex landing beside him in the nextinstant, staring down at him, dipping down for another kiss.

It was calm, sweet at first, the way they lay there together, touching,exploring each other's bodies with a maddening, leisurely thoroughness thatsent the blood roaring in his temples, surging straight to his groin.

Then Alex broke away, sliding to the edge of the bed, half-standing to slipoff his cut-offs, yanking open the bedside table drawer, throwing a slimgreen tube and some shiny silver packets onto the bed.

He saw Alex's lips move, realized he was saying something, but all he coulddo was stare, gaze sweeping him, drinking him in, lighting finally on thestiff, rosy wand nestled in that dark thicket of curls between his thighs,long and slender and beautiful, just like the rest of him.

Leaning forward, he brushed Alex's velvety-smooth tip with the barest whisperof his lips, sucking it into his mouth, a dizzying mingled burst of saltand bitter musk exploding onto his tongue--

Alex's fingers winding deep in his hair, gently but firmly lifting him offand away. "Top or bottom?"

"H-huh?"

"Do you want to be top or bottom?"

Part of him realized the question was significant; the rest of him couldn'tquite figure out how. "I, um...dunno, I mean, I've never..."

Alex's smile froze, faded. "Y-you're kidding, right?"

"No."

"Oh, Jesus..."

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing, I just...wasn't expecting you to be, um...you know--"

"A virgin?"

"Well...yeah," Alex replied with a short laugh, easing back downon the bed next to him, "I mean, you were really getting into it backat the beach--"

"I've, um...been sucked and jerked off before, I just haven't..."God, this was ridiculous; he could feel his face flooding with a fresh waveof heat, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't suppress the reaction.

"Would you rather just do that? I don't mind."

"I do. Look, Alex, I may not have a lot of experience, but I know whatfeels good," he said, "and I know what I want."

That made him grin again, eyes alight. "So I guess the question remains...topor bottom?"

"How'd you usually do it with--"

"Forget that. What do you want?"

"You," he answered, surprised that he didn't even have to thinkabout it. "You do me."

"'Kay," Alex whispered, tracing the line of his lower lip withhis thumb, leaning in for a kiss, rolling him on his side, wrapping himselfaround him so they spooned. His own hand drifted down, started fumblingwith his fly button, but Alex's hand closed over his, stilling him witha touch. "Not yet," he said softly, "relax...just let ithappen..."

His eyes drooped shut and everything faded away, everything except Alex'sfingers massaging the skin at the nape of his neck, brushing through hishair, tilting his head back, Alex's mouth on his throat, nipping at hisearlobe, trailing a slow, wet path all the way down his spine, alternatelylicking and biting every little dip in his vertebrae, finally reaching thesmall of his back, fingers soothing, whispering over the skin there, slippingunder the waistband of his jeans, into his hot, moist crevice, searching,finding his tight opening, gently rubbing.

Bright red flashed behind his eyes and he tore open his fly, half-sobbingas cool air wafted over his erection, Alex's hands on his hips, easing thejeans down over his ass, skinning them down and off--

Rolling him onto his stomach, face-down in the cool white sheets, Alex movingaway for a few seconds then coming back, Alex's hands cupping his ass now,lips softly kissing that warm flesh, fingers sliding back where they'd beenbefore, slippery now, resuming their slow, insistent action until the ringof muscle finally relaxed, one finger gliding in up to the first knuckle,then two, opening, stretching him.

It felt weird, strange, pain and not pain, Alex's fingers delving, stroking,raking across his prostate--

Starburst clusters going off inside his head, biting, grabbing the sheets,hips bucking, jack-knifing--

"You ready for me?" Alex whispered, lips close to his ear.

"Y-you bastard..."

"Guess that's my answer," he laughed, brushing a quick kiss acrosshis throat. "Be right back." There was a sharp rip and crackleof foil, followed by Alex's tiny half-groan as he rolled the condom on,and then he was back, hands kneading his ass, spreading him open.

He sucked in a deep breath, feeling Alex start to enter him, just the tipat first, slowly exhaling as he pushed forward as gently as he could, sweetpressure building with each thrust, going deeper, all the way in.

Sweat broke through his skin like a thousand tiny needles, bathing him,Alex falling forward, draping himself over his back, mouth at the nape ofhis neck, biting, laving, teasing, one hand at his hip, holding him, onehand reaching up to cover his, fingers entwining, nails digging into hispalm.

They moved, finding their rhythm together, slow like honey at first, liquidand golden, just like the sunshine pouring across them, anointing them withits light, urgency inevitably building, going faster, Alex's weight holdinghim down, holding him prisoner, bodies slapping, sweaty, sticky, Alex'ships pumping, driving like a piston, shoving him deeper into the sheets.

He couldn't breathe, he couldn't think, he was dying, he knew that now,he was dying right here in this bed with Alex on top of him, impaling him,fucking him to death--

And Alex was dying too, he heard it, heard his moans and cries echoing hisown, felt his teeth at the curve between his neck and throat, biting down,biting hard, release searing through them, brutal, insane, ripping themboth apart from the inside out.

He wasn't sure how long he was out, but he woke up in Alex's bed alone andwith a pounding headache. Judging from the sunlight's shifted slant acrossthe bed, he guessed it had to be mid-afternoon.

Every muscle in his body screamed when he finally sat up, swinging his legsover the side of the bed, nausea washing over him like a tidal wave. Hisfall back in the woods was finally taking its toll; that, coupled with thefact that he hadn't taken anything since last night.

Some pills would do it. He'd still be sore and bruised, but by the timethey started working, he wouldn't care.

He stumbled down the hallway toward the stairs, stopping abruptly outsidehis room, his glance caught by his bag and extra clothing piled there onthe bed; Alex must've seen it down in the Range Rover and carried it allback upstairs. Rummaging around in the bag, he found what he needed quickly,measuring out a dosage, staring at it, rolling it in his palm, savoringthe moment. Two little pills that'd wipe away all the pain, inside and out,make everything perfect.

He held up the pill vial, counting what he had left. Twelve. They'd lasthim three more days, maybe four if he was careful. Fortunately, he hadn'toverindulged on amphetamines while he and Alex had been here, or he would'verun out a long time ago. Digging in the bag again, he pulled out his plasticbaggie, panic twisting through him when he saw only three ampules left.Three more nights of darkness.

But where could he get more? He didn't even know where the hell he was,much less where to hook up with a new connection. Maybe if he called hisregular guy back in LA, he could put him in touch with someone, give hima name, a contact--

And the nearest phone was at that grocery store ten miles back.

Yanking on jeans and a t-shirt, he got up, grabbing his bag and keys, headingfor the door--

Almost running smack into Alex. "Where the hell're you going?"

"Out," he snapped, trying to get around him, but Alex was toofast, hand going up to grasp the doorjamb, blocking his way out. "Look,I need to go somewhere."

"Where?"

"Alex..."

"When're you coming back?" Green eyes locked on his, going throughhim like twin sunbeams, dropping down to his hand, to the vial he was stillclutching. "Or are you?"

"I don't know," he croaked, throat suddenly, completely dry, "justget out of my way, all right?"

Alex just looked at him, then stepped back into the hallway.

He couldn't believe it. Alex had given in too fast, too easily, but rightnow he didn't care. All that mattered now was getting out of here, gettingto that phone.

"I just want to say one thing," Alex said softly, "if youwalk out that door, don't bother coming back. Ever."

The words stung him like a jagged blade, stopping him, turning him backagainst his will. "C'mon, Alex, stop it--"

"What, stop you from killing yourself? Why would I want to do that?Go on, get out of here, do whatever the fuck you want."

"I'm not Mulder, Alex. You can't expect me to be him."

"I don't. I already told you I don't--"

"This is who I am," he cut in, holding up the vial. "Acceptit or don't accept it, but this is me. I don't know how to be anything else."

"So what're you saying, 'love me, love my dope.'?" Alex spat."I'm not letting this slide, Eugene. I can't. I'm not getting in bedtonight with a fucking drug addict."

His name. It was the first time Alex had called him by name, his name, notMulder's. He hadn't heard anyone say it in so long it sounded strange, foreign.

He wanted to turn around, wanted to walk down the hallway, down the stairs,but his feet had turned to lead. He couldn't move, all he could do was standthere, staring at Alex, into sea-green eyes that seared him straight tohis soul.

And suddenly he could move, and did, back toward Alex, glancing into hisroom, into the shadows bathing the four walls. It was dark in there, darkas dusk, no afternoon light coming in through the window, like there wasin Alex's room. He wondered why it hadn't bothered him before.

He dropped the vial back in the bag, holding it out to Alex. "Here.Take it."

"What d'you want me to do with it?"

"Hide it, bury it, run over it, I don't care. Just don't let me getmy hands on it again," he replied. "I'm gonna be sick for thenext three or four days. If you don't think you can handle it, tell me now."

Alex swallowed hard, then nodded, green eyes meeting his straight on, unwavering."So what should I expect -- cold sweats, the shakes, hallucinations?"

"And vomiting, and screaming fits. For starters."

"You took care of me. The least I can do is return the favor,"Alex replied, smiling, reaching out to rub his shoulder, trail his fingertipsalong the side of his throat. "C'mon downstairs, I've got lunch ready.You're gonna need to keep up your strength."

* * *

He felt something warm and wet touching his forehead, and slitted his eyesopen just long enough to catch a blazing, stinging glimpse of afternoonsun. "Wha' time's it?" he slurred, lips and tongue swollen, thickas wet wool.

"About four," Alex replied, lifting a glass of water to his lips,holding it while he took a sip. "You've been asleep most of the day.That's a good sign."

"Says who?"

The only answer he got was a digital thermometer being shoved under histongue, then pulled out when it started beeping a minute later. "Yourfever's gone down a little. Maybe tonight it'll stay down."

"Maybe." It hadn't for the last two nights, but he didn't sayso. He didn't have to; the memory was permanently engraved on both of them.Even lying here in Alex's bed, his head still pounded, spun, stomach roilingat the same time, mouth dry, sour, metallic-tasting. His body ached allover too, still sore from both the fall he'd taken in the woods and theluscious, wonderful strain of his and Alex's lovemaking two days ago. Andto top that off, the temperature outside had been hovering somewhere inthe low nineties since early that morning.

He grabbed the top blanket, pulling it over him, sweating and shiveringat the same time, one hand flying up to catch the moist washrag on his headbefore it slid off onto the pillow. Fingers brushed, collided with Alex's,and he opened his eyes again, smiling. "Thanks."

Alex smiled back, wiping down his face, throat, shoulders and chest withthe rapidly cooling rag, refolding it, putting it in a basin of water sittingon the bedside table. "Wanna try to eat something? I could make somesoup."

Just the thought of food was enough to send his guts into fresh spasms."Unh-uh, no thanks..."

"You should try. Water's all you've had today."

"Later, okay? You give it to me now, it'll come right back up."

"Okay."

They fell silent, and he let his eyes drift shut again, gratefully blankingout the too-bright sunlight, his breathing slowing, steadying, feeling Alex'sfingers close over his hand, lying there by his side, on top of the damp,wrinkled sheet.

He rolled over, giving Alex's hand a tug, pulling him along with him, ontothe bed, feeling the mattress's soft dip as Alex slid down beside him, armsgoing around him, cradling him from behind.

"Feeling better?" Alex asked, softly kissing his shoulder.

"Compared to what?"

"Maybe I should get up, let you go back to sleep."

"I'm not sleepy," he answered, one hand tightening around bothof Alex's, holding them there at his waist. "Don't go. Please."

He sensed Alex's rising protest, sensed him tamping it down, felt Alex finallyrelaxing against him, chin hooked over his shoulder, mouth close to hisear. "How'd all this start for you?" he asked.

"Wh-what?"

"The drugs. Why'd you start taking them?"

The question echoed, reverberated, ringing his brain like a struck bell.It was a question he'd always expected Raymond to ask him, but he neverhad. Most likely there'd been no need; he was pretty damn sure Ray'd knowneverything there was to know about him before they'd ever laid eyes on eachother.

"I, um...experimented a lot in college, tried just about everythingthere was to try, but nothing heavy, nothing I couldn't handle. I wasn'tan addict, not then anyway. I got through med school taking uppers duringexam weeks, then crashing, sleeping it off for a few days afterward, butother than that, I never used. I graduated, did my internship, residency,and I was clean the whole time...then one night around two, three a.m. Igot called in to assist in surgery. The patient was...she'd been in a carwreck, her chest and abdomen were shredded up like hamburger. We workedon her for almost five hours, but there was nothing..." His breathcaught, snagged, voice cracking, breaking. "She was just a kid, justsixteen years old and she was the first patient I ever lost and I had towalk out to that waiting room and tell her parents she was gone. God, thelook on their faces...I went home blitzed but I couldn't sleep, all I couldthink was if I hadn't been on 48-hour call that night, if I hadn't beenso fucking tired, maybe I could've saved her. I got some amphetamines thenext day and every time I felt myself getting tired on the job, I took afew. Wasn't much longer before I had to start taking fentanyl to come down.Turned out I liked fentanyl a lot better...pretty soon I was taking moreof it than the pills. But I didn't care. After awhile it didn't matter ifI was up or down, all I wanted was to be numb. That way, nothing would hurt,nothing would scare me. And I was scared, Alex, scared of everything..."

Silence fell, but only for a moment, until he felt Alex's lips brushinghis earlobe. "C'mon, finish it. Tell me the rest."

"Both my grandfathers and my father and mother were doctors, so itwas always sort of...I dunno, taken for granted that I'd be a doctor too.I can remember sitting at the dinner table when I was ten, twelve yearsold discussing where I'd go to med school, and I told myself it was whatI wanted, what I was meant to be...but when I got there, I felt like a fraud,a liar, like any second somebody was gonna find out I'd ridden in on myfamily's coattails, that I didn't deserve to be there. That's when I startedgetting scared. Scared I wouldn't be able to cut it. Scared of letting downmy mom and my dad and everybody else who'd ever believed in me."

"You still scared?"

"Yeah."

"Do *I* scare you?" Alex persisted.

"Sometimes."

"Why?"

"Because you've taken me away from...everything, from the drugs, fromLA...it's all been my security blanket, my numb little cocoon for as longas I can remember. I'm not sure if I can live without it."

They lay there together, silent and unmoving, watching the sun slowly fade,casting long shadows across the floor and bed. He was starting to doze offwhen he felt Alex pull away, soft lips dusting his throat with a kiss, onehand stroking his shoulder until the rest of the world finally seeped away.

* * *

It was another gorgeous day, warm, cloudless, the sea smooth as glass. Itwas the kind of day he wanted to bottle, keep with him forever.

The sand squished its gritty heat between his toes as he ducked out of thewoods, heading down to where Eugene had laid out his towel, sitting downon it to wait.

He could see Eugene out there in the water, arms and legs slicing throughthe waves with expert precision, diving and resurfacing, blowing water outthrough his nose, grinning with delight. He swam like a dolphin. Just likeMulder.

He wasn't Mulder, though. He looked like him, talked like him, but Eugenewas a different man entirely, with different wants, different fears. Alexhad learned to treasure and delight in those differences, give silent, ferventthanks for them. For the first time in months, he could breathe easy. Thepast was wiped away, everything new again.

They'd been here a month now, just four short weeks, long enough for themboth to recover. Long enough for Alex to start thinking about what had tohappen next. Long enough for him not to want to think about it. A secondchance, that's what he'd told himself he wanted. And now he had it -- foranother few days, anyway. He wouldn't tempt fate by asking anything morethan that. Clinging to happiness only made it slip through his fingers allthe more quickly.

After a few minutes Eugene saw him, started walking out of the waves, grinning,naked. Gloriously naked.

They'd spent a lot of time at the beach lately, now that they were bothwell enough to enjoy it. Eugene's new tan looked good on him, skin kissedlight bronze, muscles taut and toned from swimming. He looked healthy now,healthy and happy, for the first time since they'd met.

"When'd you get here?" Eugene asked, flopping down on the towelnext to him.

"Few minutes ago. How's the water?"

"Freezing. Why didn't you come in?"

"Later. I'm not in the mood yet."

"Something wrong?"

He thought about not saying anything, not telling him, but something insidewouldn't let him. It would be a lie, and he didn't want lies between them.He'd learned the hard way the kind of hurt that engendered.

"I, um...went out to sit in the Range Rover, listen to the news,"he said softly, staring down at his hands. "Ray and Claire are dead."

"*What*? How?"

"It happened last night, they said it looked like a mob hit, execution-style,everybody in Ray's house wiped out. It was the Russians, it had to be, thoughthey didn't mention that on the radio."

Neither of them said anything for a long time, just sat there, staring atthe sea, at the strip of cobalt blue sky hovering above them. Alex shivered,and told himself it was because the breeze had turned chilly.

"You can go back, you know," Alex said finally. "Back toLA. There's nothing to keep you away from there now."

"No."

"Why?"

"I can't. If I do, I'll fall right back into the same vicious circleI was in before, I'll start using again--"

"I don't think you will. You went through four days of hell gettingoff that stuff. I don't think you ever want to go through that again."

"Look, I'm not going back, so just drop it, okay?" he snapped.

The flat finality of that statement shocked him; he hadn't expected thiskind of reaction. He'd thought Eugene would have jumped at the chance togo home. "Look, you're off the junk now, you can get back your license.You can be a doctor again."

"Just because I've gotten myself clean's no guarantee they'll givemy license back. I may never get it back."

"You can't think like that. You're a surgeon. You've got a gift forsaving lives. You can't let that go to waste."

He laughed, but it sounded rueful, resigned. "You know, when I firstwent to work for Raymond I knew I was stepping right into hell, but I didn'tcare; I mean, I figured I'd had one foot planted there for years already,so what difference did it make, right? Better to be a star in hell thana slave in heaven. That's what I told myself anyway, except..." Helooked up then, gazing right at Alex, hazel eyes deep, intense. "Inever really knew what heaven was, till now."

Alex stared back, feeling as if he'd just smashed headlong into a wall.Eugene couldn't mean what he thought he meant. He just couldn't.

"LA's not the only place I can be a doctor."

It took a second or two for that to seep in through his shock. "Wh-whatd'you mean?"

"That I'm keeping an open mind, okay? And that's all I want to sayabout it right now." He lay back on the towel again, pulling Alex downbeside him. "Y'know, I think you're the one with the real gift forsaving lives. You saved mine."

Their lips touched, sweet and slow and warm as the sun bathing them; Alexcould barely breathe when they finally broke apart. "So, um...if thisis heaven, are you my slave? Or am I yours?"

"We can take turns. But for right now..." Eugene grinned, kissinghim again, "how 'bout one of your beach-blanket specials?"

-- END --