Waiting for the Axe to Fall by Tarlan 30th Sep 1998

E-MAIL ADRESS: TarlanX@aol.com

SPOILER WARNING: This story starts after 'The End' and finishes after the XF
movie 'Fight the Future'. It is one of many possible futures for our boys but I
sincerely doubt it will be the one CC has chosen.

RATING: NC-17 - Krycek, Mulder, slash (Don't you just love those words together.)

CONTENT WARNING: Pretty graphic M/K, some violence, not much swearing.

SUMMARY: Mulder and Scully are assigned some 'help' on a new case.

COMMENTS: If you don't like slash then stop right here and go elsewhere for
'entertainment'. Thanks to Aqualegia for all the encouragement, advice and beta
reading. Oh yes... it's all your fault!! Any and all comments gratefully received
via Aqualegia - as long as its constructive. Flames will be used for making
toast.

DISCLAIMER: Fox Mulder, Alex Krycek and all other X-Files regulars belong to
Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and FOX Television. No copyright infringement
intended. Any characters you haven't heard of before, are copyrighted to me.

Waiting for the Axe to Fall

by Tarlan

There are those who fail
There are those who fall
There are those who will never win
And there are those who fight for the things they believe
These are men like you and me

*** Snows of New York by
Chris de Burgh

Krycek sneered at the retreating back well aware that yet another chance to kill
that smoking bastard had slipped through his grasp and he wondered how many more
times he would have to hold back on exacting his revenge. He gave a sideways
glance at his silent 'patron' then flicked his gaze to the rear view mirror to
find a large pair of eyes staring back at him from a young boy's face.

The Well-Manicured Man had not told him what he wanted with the boy but Krycek
knew it must have something to do with the man's continuing efforts to find a way
to resist the colonisation of Earth. This single-minded devotion to Humanity's
future was the only reason he had allied himself to this man - that and the
greater possibility of becoming the executioner of the person Mulder referred to
sarcastically as Cancerman.

He set the car in motion picking up speed quickly, perversely aiming for his
betrayer but pulling the car aside at the last moment sending a small shower of
stones that must have caught the back of Cancerman's legs. In the rear view
mirror he thought he saw an almost imperceptible slackening of posture before the
man continued to walk away - relief? - perhaps Cancerman had been expecting to
feel something high-speed slamming into him; a bullet or a car.

"Why do you want to kill him?"

Krycek glanced back in to the rear view as memories flooded into his mind of
being left to die in a dark place with no food, no water and only an alien
spacecraft with its sinister occupant for 'company'.

"....Oh."

A frown crept across his forehead, crinkling the skin over his nose and with it
came realisation: telepathy. Krycek raised a shield around his mind, just as he
had been shown by the alien who had once taken over his body, and watched as the
boy's eyes widened when the cacophony of voices fell to the single thoughts of
the Well-Manicured Man.

Gibson Praise opened his mouth to ask Krycek how he did it but remained silent
when he saw an unmistakable glitter in the green eyes. If there was one lesson he
had learnt in his young life it was that there were times when he had to keep
another's thoughts to himself.

The car pulled back onto the highway and Gibson spent the remainder of the ride
with only the unspoken words of the old man and his own fears for company.

His new apartment was small and impersonal. It wasn't in the most fashionable
part on the Upper East Side but it was close enough to ensure he could be at his
Employer's beck and call, night or day. The Well-Manicured Man had given him the
keys within moments of him handing over the stolen Russian vaccine as if he had
known all along what Krycek would do.

At first he had hesitated, unsure whether he wanted anyone to know where he
slept. Trust No-one. It was a motto he had lived by since going on the run but
the Well-Manicured Man had told him the apartment was there if he wanted it. To
be honest, his current financial situation left him little choice; the apartment
or a bed in some flea-bitten hostel used by society's dregs and dropouts. Of
course, he could have used his innate talents to part some unwary individuals
from their money but, despite everything, he still believed in law and order and
could not face the thought of breaking the law merely for personal comfort
especially when he had already been offered somewhere clean and respectable.

He remembered the first time he crossed the threshold. The rooms were tidy, the
bed made-up with fresh linen and the kitchen had been freshly stocked. It was
obvious someone had been there earlier in the day preparing the place especially
for him. Why else would there be half-a-dozen imported Czech lagers in the
refrigerator alongside a bottle of Russian Vodka.

Krycek frowned, deep lines drawing across the bridge of his nose. Somehow or
other he had managed to land on his feet again. When he had arrived on the
Uroff-Koltoff (Star of Russia) he had been hoping to buy his way back into the
Consortium's favour but events had not gone according to plan following his
betrayal by Marita Covarrubias. Yet, despite everything, the Well-Manicured Man
had decided to take him back into the fold - and to prove he was willing to trust
Krycek he had taken him on as his personal driver/bodyguard much to the annoyance
of the First Elder.

At first the absence of the Cigarette-Smoking Man had unnerved him but a few
words here and there had revealed the attempt on the man's life but no-one knew
for certain whether he was dead or alive. The body had disappeared although the
amount of blood at the scene had convinced most that Cancerman was dead.
Secretly, Krycek had hoped he was alive so he could have the pleasure of ending
the man's foul existence and, sure enough, Cancerman had turned up like the
proverbial bad penny.

Over three months had passed since his return from Russia and so far, in return
for the Well-Manicured Man's protection, he only had to chauffeur the man around
and perform a few relatively simple collections and deliveries. Not that a one-
armed man parachuting into a remote part of Quebec could be considered that
simple especially as his team-mate had paid the ultimate price for carelessness.
He wondered whether the simplicity of these tasks were because he was not trusted
with more delicate operations - or whether the Well-Manicured Man kept him apart
for another reason. Whatever the case, he owed the man his life and would be
willing to do almost anything for him. He sneered at himself. If the
Well-Manicured Man had told him to drop his pants and bend over he would have
done so without a struggle. He owed his Employer much more than his body but that
was unlikely to happen. If anything, he felt as if he was being treated like an
errant child, being brought back under control through extensive homework and
short, sharp shocks. He often wondered whether the Well-Manicured Man had
children of his own or whether he had decided to become a surrogate father to his
new agent. Whatever, Krycek felt he was being primed for more important things...
but what?

Krycek stared around the small apartment. The faded wallpaper had seen better
days but overall it was quite opulent compared to some of the places he had
stayed. The phrase, comfortable but practicable, sprang to mind. It's muted
colours, mainly of neutral beige and white gave it a clean, airy feel - a far cry
from the small, dark and dirty cabin he had onboard the Uroff- Koltoff but if
there was a single word that could describe his present accommodation then it
would be 'impersonal'. Krycek was in no hurry to fill it with personal
possessions. There was little point when he might have to leave at a moment's
notice. He thought back and realised that he had not remained in one place longer
than a few months since the day Duane Barry had kidnapped Dana Scully. His gut
twisted and Krycek frowned when he realised how much he blamed the diminutive
woman for the path he had been forced to take in the intervening years.

He laughed softly to himself, deprecatingly. How could he blame her? She was just
as much a victim of circumstance as he - no, it was unfair to make such a
comparison between them. He had brought about his own downfall through sheer
naivet*. Alexei Krycek; green, idealistic, out to save the World....believing he
was a cross between James Bond and Superman. That Morley smoking bastard must
have been pissing his pants in laughter when he recruited him out of College,
barely able to believe that he could find someone so gullible that they would be
willing to do just about anything for their country.

By the end of this, Krycek wanted him to be pissing his pants for a far different
reason and had gained some satisfaction over the past few weeks especially when
he had fired that warning shot and then, perversely, aimed his gun at the man's
head when sent to find him in Quebec.

//Take your shot, Alex// he had said trying to deny the fear that was so obvious
to the younger man. God, how he wished he could have pulled that trigger but he
had his orders to bring the Cigarette-Smoking Man back alive.

His thoughts returned to the brief conversation he had with his Employer after
Cancerman had delivered the boy. He had a clear shot and had offered to kill the
Cigarette-Smoking Man there and then but the Well-Manicured Man had told him
'no'. The words which followed had puzzled him for his Employer was usually very
precise. Not 'we' but 'you' might need Cancerman one day, however, Krycek could
not imagine any scenario involving that black-lunged bastard that didn't include
the man's death.

He threw himself onto the couch drawing deep breaths to get his emotions back
under control. Every time he thought about the Cigarette-Smoking Man he could
feel his chest tighten and his blood boil but there was nothing he could do
except avoid the man at all costs.

He slumped down, head thrown back and stared at the ceiling.

The hardest part about this job was the waiting. Whenever he was in the country,
Krycek would be called upon to ferry his Employer from his residence to the
'Club' at East 46th Street. The remainder of the time was spent reading the
highly sensitive material he was sent, although there had been several side trips
to DC and, of course, the assignment in Canada, to collect the Cigarette-Smoking
Man. Mostly, he stayed near the apartment, although sometimes, when the need for
human contact overwhelmed him he would haunt the local bars, but never in search
of company. Alone in a crowd, he would watch normal people get on with their
normal lives. He was not unaware of his good looks and, often, one of those
normal people, male and female, would try to strike up a conversation but if a
cold look didn't scare them off then the sight of his prosthetic arm usually did
the trick. He sneered. It was about the only advantage the loss of his arm had
given him and even that was a mixed blessing.

Most nights he would stay in and read wondering whether any of the other members
of the Consortium knew about the amount of data he had become privy to.
Sometimes, the sheer scale of the Plan and its implications became too much to
cope with and he would spend an evening vegetating in front of the TV. This was
such a night.

He settled down into the corner of the overstuffed yet comfortable couch and
flicked on the TV, surfing the channels for anything that even slightly
interested him but nothing did until a close-up of Lt Tom Paris filled the
screen. Star Trek; practically an institution nowadays but at least it provided
some escapism from his present existence. He just hoped it wouldn't be too much
of a moralistic episode as the last thing he needed to hear right now was Janeway
spouting about loyalty and justice.

He'd heard a similar speech from most of the people he had ever worked with but
very few had deserved such loyalty although most had attained some form of divine
justice by his reckoning. Mulder had been one of the exceptions. It still pained
him that he had been forced to betray the begrudging bond that had started to
form between them. If only.... His entire existence seemed to be full of 'if
only'.

The Well-Manicured Man listened to the debate in silence. He had heard it all
before and shook his head slightly in barely concealed disgust as the First Elder
re-emphasised the need to follow the Colonist's agenda to the letter. The men in
this room were supposed to be some of the most powerful people on the face of the
planet yet they milled around and argued pitifully about the consequences of any
opposition to the Colonist plans for Earth. They had bought the 'party line' fed
to them by the Aliens ignoring the truth like lambs waiting for the slaughter.

He thought again how fortunate he was that Alex Krycek had been in Kazakhstan and
had recognised the implications behind the mass murders at the Staging. More
importantly, that he had chosen to bring the sole survivor and a vial of the
Russian vaccine back to America as a bartering piece.

Until then no-one had any idea that Marita Covarrubias had been 'consorting' with
the enemy - in more ways than one. Somehow, she had managed to inveigle her way
into becoming Alex Krycek's associate, probably using her UN connections to help
him escape Russia with the boy. How else could she have known where to find
Krycek?

It was just as fortunate that when she decided to double-cross everyone for
Mulder, she had betrayed Krycek's whereabouts to the Consortium rather than to
the FBI Agent and, through sheer luck, she had chosen him to be the recipient of
that information. The Well-Manicured Man assumed the reason was to have Krycek
eliminated so he could not go after her. Of course, she could have told Mulder
but he had a habit of letting Krycek escape.

The Well-Manicured Man smiled slightly as he remembered the stunned look on the
young man's face as he searched around an empty room deep in the bowels of the
Russian ship. It was only then that he realised Covarrubias had betrayed both of
them and had taken the boy. Krycek had whirled round to continue his search only
to find himself being watched by the man he had disparaged on the phone only a
few hours earlier. The Well- Manicured Man had made sure Krycek spotted the gun
held loosely by his side and his expression made it obvious that he would only
use it if the younger man made any stupid moves.

Handcuffing the renegade agent to one of the many pipes that ran through the
storage room seemed the proper course of action for, without the boy, that left
only Krycek with the knowledge of what had happened in Kazakhstan.

It took most of the day to trace Covarrubias. She had managed to travel to the
outskirts of Washington DC before stopping to contact Mulder but the woman had
unwittingly allowed the stitches sealing the boy's eyes, nose and mouth to dry
out making it possible for the alien-controlled boy to remove them. The weakened
alien had transferred to the woman before she could complete the call to Agent
Mulder but the ever present tap on Mulder's so-called secure line at the Bureau
had led his people to her long before Mulder could arrive on the scene.

Convincing Krycek to part with the vaccine had turned out to be relatively easy
once he had explained the situation to the recalcitrant man. Fortunately, Krycek
had not called his bluff when he had proposed to let the Russian ship return to
Vladivostok with him still onboard. He contained another smile at the petulance
displayed as Krycek stated he had no intention of saving Covarrubias. His
statement had merely confirmed his possession of the vaccine.

By rights he should have extracted the information from Krycek and then killed
him but, instead, he had taken pity on the young man. He knew most of Krycek's
chequered history and had watched his fall from grace with a certain amount of
regret. The boy had shown great potential and he had hoped to entice him into
working for him instead of his cigarette smoking associate but the inexperienced
agent had been too clever for his own good. He had started to question the
methods and reasons for the actions he was being ordered to take, deliberately
going against those that did not sit well with his own sense of right and wrong.
When he had escaped the car bomb and gone on the run there was little that could
be done to rectify the situation. Krycek was on his own - or so it must have
seemed.

The Well-Manicured Man smiled slightly, wondering whether Alex Krycek had any
inkling of the hard covert work it had taken to keep him safe from the
Cigarette-Smoking Man over the past few years. Well, his time and effort had paid
off. If Krycek had not survived then it was unlikely the Americans would now be
in possession of the Russian vaccine. Also, if he had not converted Krycek to his
cause then he would not have been able to get a message to Mulder to save the
life of the Rebel leader.

Marita Covarrubias had recovered from the Black Oil, having unwittingly become
the guinea pig to prove the Russian vaccine worked. It had taken longer than
originally estimated probably because the Russians vaccinated first and then
exposed the victims to the Oilians. He had still not decided what to do with the
young woman. The others had wanted her 'taken out of the picture' but her actions
were no different from those of Alexei Krycek. Or were they? Someone had paid her
quite handsomely for passing sensitive information to Agent Mulder. The same
could not be said for Alexei Krycek who had given information to whoever could
cause the most damage - free of charge in most cases. So who was the more
trustworthy - the woman who could be bought or the man who truly believed in the
cause?

Yes, he mused, Alex Krycek's return had been most fortuitous giving him more hope
than he had felt in three decades. With the vaccine and with the Rebel Aliens on
his side he finally had the chance to turn the tables on the invading Colonists.

He sighed once more in annoyance. Despite all this, here they were, arguing
feebly about the consequences of using what they had gained, too afraid the
Colonists would withdraw their promise to spare the lives of them and their
families yet never considering how worthless such promises were. These frightened
old men had become the Planet's greatest enemies but he could not change that.
Every action had to be thought through carefully with no room for mistakes. If
they ever discovered he had aided the Rebel's escape and had been undermining
their attempts to end the Alien war then he had no illusions as to where the next
car bomb would be placed. All he could do was battle on quietly, leaking
information to the right people whenever possible - and hope he didn't get caught
before his work was done.

"She has produced results worthy of our respect. Her attempts to create a new
variation..."

"But her methods are questionable..."

"The results speak for themselves..."

The Well-Manicured Man decided it was time to speak.

"Her research is no longer of any relevance. We have a vaccine. She has become a
liability that must be removed."

The Cigarette-Smoking Man sucked hard on the ever-present Morley and exhaled a
cloud of blue smoke.

"You mean eliminated."

"My God, Man. Must everyone be murdered. Too many inexplicable deaths or
disappearances will put the World's media onto us. She knows nothing beyond her
genetic experimentation. She has no link to us or to our knowledge of
extra-terrestrials. Let her fall foul of the known laws of this land and its
consequences."

The First Elder spoke softly.

"And how do you propose to do that?"

"Agent Mulder." The Well-Manicured Man glanced around and the puzzled yet
intrigued faces. "Tell Agent Mulder there is more to the girl's death than has
been revealed. The man is tenacious and has superior deductive skills. With a few
pointers in the right direction he will uncover her vile experiments and have her
taken into custody. The Court will ensure she receives a punishment to fit her
crime."

Silence followed until the First Elder made his decision.

"You will make the necessary arrangements?"

"Yes."

He glanced around the room as each nodded their agreement to his plan. As the
last person left the room he smiled. The renegade Doctor had worked quite closely
with his dead lover, Dr Bonita Charne-Sayre and Bonita had hated her, constantly
questioning her inhumane approach. It felt good to be the one to bring about her
downfall.

The smile faltered. In his own way he had loved Bonita and her murder had caused
him much personal grief. At first he had tried to locate the assassin, Vassily
Peskow, but knew the man was just doing a job. Further investigation had provided
him with the name of the man who had ordered the assassination: Comrade Arntzen
and his contact - Dr Martha J Hudson.

At first he had been mislead into believing that Alexei Krycek and Arntzen were
one in the same but it soon became apparent that they were two separate people.
Krycek had sent Peskow to America to dispose of the Black Oil rock not realising
that the assassin had received additional instructions from the Krasnoyarsk
Controller, Arntzen, to eliminate the intended recipient, Dr Charne-Sayre and
destroy her work. Arntzen was well aware that America and Russia were in a race
to be the first to produce a vaccine against the Black Oil with World domination
the prize at stake. By eliminating Dr Charne-Sayre and her work he would set the
Americans back by more than a decade.

A half-smile lifted the corners of his mouth. He had already set the wheels in
motion that would ensure Comrade Arntzen paid for what he had done and now he
would deal with Dr Hudson.

His thoughts returned to his new prot*g*. It was time to re- introduce Alexei
Krycek to Special Agent Fox Mulder and his partner. If his plan worked then, not
only would he be rid of Dr Hudson but he would have created a formidable trio
that may just make the difference in the coming fight for the future. Fox Mulder,
highly intelligent, determined, a crusader. Dana Scully, an expert in Forensics
and Alexei Krycek, currently being primed with all the knowledge he possessed on
both the Colonists and the Consortium's involvement - past, present and future.

The Well-Manicured Man reached for the telephone and dialled a familiar number.

The phone rang pulling him away from the depressing thoughts and he debated
whether or not to answer but then realised that only one man had this number: his
new Employer.

"Yes."

//Mr Krycek, I want you to feed some information to Agent Mulder.>

Krycek felt his breath catch. There were so few opportunities to indulge in his
favourite pastime: Mulder watching, that it gave him a feeling close to ecstasy
when he was actually given a task that would bring him back into contact with the
FBI agent.

He listened carefully, almost gratefully, as the Englishman stated his
instructions but left the delivery method up to the younger agent. Krycek smiled.
It was fortunate his superior rarely questioned his methods otherwise he might
have found it strange that Krycek went to such lengths to deliver the goods
face-to-face when a telephone call or cryptic note would suffice.

The smile faded. Despite his new alliance, Krycek knew it would be foolish to
allow his private hopes and dreams to become known. After all, his alliance with
Cancerman had left him sitting on top of a car bomb and, later, left for dead in
an abandoned missile silo in North Dakota. Who knows what use his present
Employer would make of Krycek's attraction to the FBI Agent should it become
known. No, despite everything he owed to the Well-Manicured Man, he would have to
be very careful not to reveal anything that could jeopardise his safety - or
Mulder's.

He pushed aside his concerns knowing the chances of anything happening were very
slim and focused his mind on the task ahead, wondering how best to approach the
other man.

His thoughts raced back to the first time he had contacted Mulder since their
return from Tunguska. He had waited behind the door and watched as Mulder walked
slowly towards the piece of paper he had left lying where the light from the
outside corridor would catch it. Mulder had crouched over and picked it up and,
for once, that paranoid mind had not connected anything overly sinister to that
scrap of paper, just puzzlement at what it could be doing lying on the floor just
there.

On reflection, Alex decided he must have assumed it had fallen from his own
pocket as he left his apartment that morning but Krycek had taken full advantage
of the other's distraction, getting his own back for some of the uncalled-for
punches that Mulder had dealt during past encounters.

With Mulder cornered, his own gun pressed against his chest, Krycek had delivered
his Employer's message with all the sincerity he could muster. Hoping to convince
Mulder that he was being handed something of great importance rather than being
used once again revealing more than he should but knowing how necessary it was
that Fox Mulder believed him. However, at the time, he could not explain the
sudden urge to kiss the other man; an urge he had acted upon. Nor could he
explain the nonchalant way he had handed over the gun after delivering the
message.

Even now he wondered at the indifference he had felt, unconcerned whether or not
Mulder would take the opportunity to avenge his father's death but no bullet had
slammed into his unprotected back. Instead, his thoughts still lingered on those
few seconds when his mouth had grazed Mulder's stubbled cheek and, in his mind's
eye, he almost believed Mulder had accepted the kiss, turning his face towards
him rather than away in disgust.

Since then, he had met with the FBI agent on two more occasions under the orders
of his patron, passing snippets of information that would both arouse Mulder's
curiosity and expose elements of the Plan that would have a detrimental effect on
the one true goal: to rid Earth of the invading Colonists. On both occasions he
had snuck up on the Agent unawares; once by waiting in the back seat of his car
in a darkened parking lot, the second time by waiting in the shadows beneath the
supposedly impenetrable FBI Headquarters.

Each time he had felt desire course through his nerve endings as he breathed in
the very real scent of this man; the fresh citrus tang of soap and after-shave
that drifted above an earthier smell which was unique to Fox Mulder. In the semi-
darkness, Mulder's eyes had seemed almost black, his golden skin tones washed to
sallow in the bleaching yellow parking lot lights but Krycek had his memories
garnered from watching Mulder from afar whenever the opportunity arose.

He barely withheld a smirk as he remembered one occasion when he waited in the
park in full view of all the early morning joggers. Mulder had run past without
even glancing in his direction, the sharp, incisive mind absent from that
athletic frame as it pondered the mysteries of the Universe. He was, after all,
just one more newspaper-concealed office worker taking a quiet break before the
start of another day. Krycek's eyes had followed the lean, almost lanky, figure
hungrily as the long legs carried him off into the distance, marvelling at the
sight of muscles bunching and releasing with each stride.

For a moment he considered leaving his assigned task until morning and waiting
for Mulder along his jog route, mentally visualising the muscular frame soaked in
sweat, hair dampened by the exertion but sighed in weary disappointment. The
message had to be delivered quickly.

Alex glanced at the clock on the wall. Following the destruction of the basement
office, Mulder and Scully had been reassigned to more mainstream FBI cases but,
if Mulder was running true to form then he would continue to work until late into
the night on a more personal case, that of trying to piece together the burnt
remains of the X-Files, giving Krycek plenty of time to get down to DC.

He decided on his plan of action and pushed himself off the sofa, tugging off his
white T-shirt as he moved towards the bedroom. Once there he strapped on the
prosthesis and re- dressed choosing a dark shirt, black denims and his black
leather jacket. He wasn't a vain man but quickly assessed himself in the full
length wardrobe mirror, running a hand through short, cropped hair before pulling
a dark leather glove onto his right hand. The artificial hand was already
covered. He paused once at the threshold, glancing back into the flickering
lounge but decided to leave the TV on. It might deter the local street gang from
breaking in if they thought the place was occupied.

FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder stepped inside his apartment, pushed the door closed
and shrugged out of his raincoat. He shook some of the rain from his head before
making his way across the room into the bathroom, switching on a table lamp on
route. He splashed water over his face and then stared at himself in the shaving
mirror. He'd made so little progress today despite his photographic memory. He
lowered his head as he felt the sting of tears. When had his life turned to total
crap? If not for Scully then he felt he would go mad. His existence seemed to be
spinning slowly round, aimlessly, except for those few occasions when Alex Krycek
popped his head out of the woodwork like the rat he had named him. Ratboy.

Mulder sighed. Why was it so impossible to stop thinking about Alex Krycek? Even
his dreams, once overflowing with erotic images, dredged up from his vast porno
collection, were filled with the dark presence. He couldn't even escape from him
while jogging, feeling almost certain he had seen Krycek, or at least someone
very like him, on one occasion but that couldn't be possible. The other man knew
better than to come out into the open anywhere near lest he find a bullet placed
neatly between his ears but Mulder could not shake the feeling that he had run
past the... the...

How should he describe Alexei Krycek? Ex-FBI Agent? Double, no, Triple Agent?
Traitor, Murderer, Russian Agent? Ratboy...? But none of these truly encompassed
the man, there was so much more to him, so many layers that he could spend a
lifetime peeling Alex Krycek down to the core. The Psychologist in him wanted to
try.. and so did another part of him that ached when he found Alex Krycek in his
thoughts.

His mind replayed the moment of the fatal kiss that had turned his life
upside-down. The sudden pressure of soft lips, the cool air against his damp
cheek as Alex pulled away. Why? Why did Alex kiss him? Did Alex know how it would
affect him? Was it some mischievous repayment for that stupid comment about
beating himself with one hand? A reminder that it didn't have to be that way -
for either of them?

"This is stupid. Stupid." Mulder castigated himself as he reached for a hand
towel.

He returned from the bathroom scrubbing his wet hair with the towel,
concentrating so intensely on the task at hand that he almost missed the small
shuffle as something moved in his apartment. Instinct took over and brought an
instant reaction as Mulder drew his SIG Sauer; the towel dropping to the floor in
a small insignificant heap.

"One of these days it won't be a friendly visitor."

Mulder relaxed slightly as the husky, well remembered voice reached him. Knowing
that, if Alex wanted him dead then he would already be quite dead, yet, at the
same time, wondering whether he had somehow conjured up this man while he was
thinking of him in the bathroom.

"You're no friend, Krycek."

Krycek grimaced as a heart-rending sadness crushed his chest and watched as
Mulder lowered the gun but make no effort to holster it. At least they had
reached a point where they could talk without needing to hold a gun to each
other's head. His own was lying near his right hand on the couch; a dull metallic
gleam in the lamplight.

"I assume your Master has some dirty linen he wants me to wash and air."

Krycek refused to be lured into a slanging match instead he pushed a cutting from
a newspaper across the coffee table towards his one-time partner being careful
not to move too far into the weak light emanating from the side-table. Mulder
picked up the cutting, his eyes never leaving the shadowed face, wishing he had
flicked on the overhead lights rather than the concealing lamp. It had been so
long since he had seen Alex Krycek in full light. He gestured to the piece of
paper in his hand.

"What is it?"

The silence lengthened until Mulder was forced to move towards the lamp where he
could quickly scan the paper to satisfy his curiosity. Krycek stayed deep in the
shadow, unmoving except for eyes that followed the tall agent as Mulder crossed
the room, casting long shadows that touched him as the Agent moved between him
and the lamp's meagre light.

"Jennifer Lewis, age four, drowned after wandering into the Everglades." Mulder
glanced back to where Krycek sat as if made of stone. "Tragic but?"

"Poor little Jennifer isn't the only accidental death in Christchurch, Florida."

Mulder scanned through the print once more, this time trying to read between the
lines of text.

"You're implying this wasn't an accident." Mulder watched as Krycek pushed
himself up from the couch. The former agent walked towards the door without
looking back but Mulder wasn't about to let him go and crossed the room in two
quick strides. The sudden grip on his arm swung Krycek around to face Fox Mulder.

"What's going on, Krycek? Is this another Emily?"

For the briefest moment, he thought Mulder was going to resume his habit of using
him for a punch bag and was half prepared to defend himself as he shrugged off
the hand that still clung to the sleeve of his leather jacket, but Mulder made no
move, despite the aggressive body language. He turned back towards the door
throwing one more sentence Mulder's way before shutting it behind him.

"Maybe I'll see you down there."

As he walked down the hallway his thoughts were in a turmoil. He had done it
again; turned his back on Mulder and walked away in a manner that could only be
perceived as arrogant. He wondered if Mulder would ever realise how much he
offered him... that if he had to die then death at Mulder's hand would be a far
better fate than any other he could imagine.

He turned up the leather collar and buried his good hand deep into the pocket of
his jacket as he entered the rain-drenched street. It had started to rain while
he had been waiting inside for Mulder, the pitter-patter of droplets striking the
window pane lulling his body into much needed sleep. Only the sound of the key
turning in the lock had awakened him but he had the sense and experience to
remain still, knowing how the human eye tended to catch motion.

Krycek paused mid-step, tempted to look back to see if Fox Mulder was watching
him from the window that overlooked the street but savagely pushed down that need
and carried on. He had left his car two blocks away to avoid Mulder becoming
suspicious of an unknown vehicle parked close by, wanting the total element of
surprise but now, as droplets forced their way down the back of his neck he
regretted that decision. His step increased slightly as he spotted his rented
Chrysler Neon in the distance.

As he crossed the last intersection he noticed a car drawing up beside him. His
first thought was that this might be a red- light district, the driver cruising
around looking for some paid company to shut out the chill of a cold, rainy night
but he had seen no sign of prostitutes or rent boys on the walk to Mulder's
apartment. His next thought was to run until a well- hated voice cut through the
night air.

"I assume you have passed on the information as instructed."

Krycek stood beside the car door, refusing to look towards his personal nemesis,
the rain running in rivulets down his face. So, this particular assignment was
not set up by his Employer. The Consortium must have made the decision to use Fox
Mulder and left the details to the Well-Manicured Man.

"Was he interested?"

Krycek pursed his lips, not wanting to speak lest it gave the other man some
right over him but he had no option. He had to work with this man no matter how
much it cut him up inside.

"I believe so."

"Very good, Alex."

The smug voice grated on Krycek's nerves and it was all he could do to stop
himself from turning and spitting directly into the man's face but, fortunately,
the electric window rolled back up before he could lose control. The dark sedan
pulled away smoothly, disappearing into the night leaving Krycek alone on the
dark, wet street, wondering whether he had somehow betrayed himself to Cancerman.

As his car sped away, the Cigarette-Smoking Man lit another Morley and smiled.

It had not taken him long to discover how Krycek had managed to ingratiate
himself with the Consortium once more although, at first, he had declined to
believe the rumour that his ex- prot*g* had been sleeping with Marita
Covarrubias. Sex could be a powerful weapon in the right hands and he had felt
momentary disappointment with Krycek for allowing her to deceive him so
effectively. No, he could not believe the agent would be so foolish as to trust
her implicitly and, sure enough, when he learnt that she had turned up infected
by the Black Oil he had felt an almost paternal pride in the younger man's
ingenuity.

He knew from personal experience that Alex Krycek was not averse to using sex as
a means to an end and had probably used her to provide a means of escape from
Russia with the Kazakhstan boy. It was one of the many reasons he had recruited
him rather than search for some other idealistic young man. He also knew Alex had
a preference towards males and someone willing to bed either sex was a much
greater asset to him in a game where blackmail and subterfuge played such a vital
role, plus, Alex Krycek was a very good-looking man.

His thoughts turned to the reason why he was driving through the streets of
Washington DC in the pouring rain so late at night. To his knowledge this was the
third time Krycek had chosen to visit Mulder personally to deliver information
rather than use more discreet methods.

He took a long drag, the red tip glowing brighter in the darkened interior of the
car. Perhaps Special Agent Fox William Mulder had become such a preference. He
exhaled softly. That would be a shame as he had renewed designs on the young man
for himself.

Alex Krycek had preyed on him from the very beginning. In the early days, Alex
had been more than willing to ensure his Employer wanted for nothing, his
response both wanton and energetic but gradually he had changed. Cancerman
realised too late that he had allowed personal lust to overcome discretion.
Krycek had too much intelligence to remain in such a state of naivet* forever. He
had started to question and the answers he found did not match the facts.

Partnering him with Fox Mulder had been a mistake although, at the time, it had
seemed an excellent way of controlling the inquisitive FBI agent but it was
inevitable that Krycek would be seduced by the other's quest, not understanding
why it was so important to keep Mulder from the Truth.

Several disobeyed orders had caused embarrassment but, even so, the decision to
remove his young prot*g* had not come lightly and, if truth be known, he was glad
the attempt had failed.

If it had been Krycek alone then he might have conveniently neglected to hunt
down the younger man, hoping he would disappear until he was forgotten by the
others but Krycek had taken with him the DAT tape containing more information
than any one person had the right to know. Even so, he had a strong suspicion
that someone had helped to keep Krycek safe.

Krycek's reappearance at his apartment as the host body to a strong Oilian had
presented him with a dilemma and he had no choice but to follow the Oilian's
request and return it to its ship. He needed the safe return of the DAT tape to
prove to the others that he could handle his job. The hardest part had been
waiting in the corridor outside Silo 1013 listening to Alex as he pounded on the
door, screaming, pleading to be let out and his resolve had almost weakened but
his orders from the Colonists were clear. No interference, so he had walked away
and tried to forget the beautiful green eyes and soft mouth, convincing himself
that there would be other more desirable bodies to warm the cold nights.

Against all the odds, Krycek had turned up once more to thwart plans to steal
samples of the Russian Black Oil that had been found within a meteor at Tunguska.
How he knew remained a mystery but the reason became clear when Cancerman
discovered how Krycek had infiltrated the Russian Consortium.

He thought back to his hiding place in Quebec. Somehow he had given away his
location - probably through those letters sent to his estranged son. The
Well-Manicured Man had sent Alex Krycek to collect him. He had spent several
hours seated next to his ex-lover on the journey back to the States, feeling both
elated and tormented by the nearness of the warm, familiar body, but Krycek had
sneered at every attempt to remind him of those early days and, by the end of the
journey, he had decided to take the arrogant young man down a peg or two and
slake his own renewed desires at the same time.

Yes, a real pity about Fox William Mulder but possibly the leverage he needed to
get Krycek to do his bidding and share his bed again, willing or not.

Krycek sighed as he shut the door to his apartment behind him.

The journey back to New York had been slower than he would have liked. Delays at
Dulles had added two hours to the trip and it was well after four by the time he
reached the small apartment. During the journey, most of his thoughts had
travelled back in time to a flight from Quebec with Cancerman. He had spent much
of that trip remembering a relationship he would much rather pretend had never
happened and when the older man had pressed his hand firmly on Krycek's thigh,
suggestively, he had barely managed to control the impulse to kill him and be
damned. He had made it abundantly clear that the cancerous old fool would never
touch him intimately again and, for one moment, had seen something very cold and
dark in those rheumy, blue eyes. Cancerman was not the kind of person you wanted
to cross unless you were willing to pay a high price.

This trip had been filled with similar dark thoughts, much to the concern of the
unwary business traveller seated next to him. Eventually, the man had moved away
to another seat, rather than remain within the crackling aura of cold menace
emanating from the handsome stranger.

Krycek took a long, hot shower, hoping to shake off more than just the chill
caused by cold rain seeping down his back. He had been careless - and he had
thought he was being so discreet. Cancerman had not reached such a high position
through lack of attention to detail and the very fact that he was in Mulder's
street waiting for him to leave Mulder's apartment proved he had already figured
out something of importance. How he used that knowledge against his former
employee was the concern.

The hot water eased away the stiffness from the cold, damp air but did little to
warm the chill that had crept into his soul. With a sigh of despair, Krycek
pushed his fears away. There was nothing he could do except wait for the axe to
fall and hope that he would be ready when it did.

He climbed between the cold sheets, pulling a blanket up to his shoulders and,
with the ease of a man who has had to sleep under the most difficult of
circumstances, he surrendered himself to the remainder of the night, hoping that
his dreams would not be filled with the same despair.

10:56 Upper East Side

New York

Krycek yawned. His sleep had not been peaceful. He had suffered from nightmares
ever since his confinement in Silo 1013 but last night they had altered to
include the menacing presence of his ex-Employer. In his dream, Cancerman had
been watching him through the small window in the silo door - he could see the
tip of the ever-present cigarette glowing in the darkness beyond. He had cried
out and seen the old man smiling at him before drifting away in the gloomy
shadows, leaving him to his fate.

His mobile phone trilled, dragging him away from the unpleasant memory.

Krycek smiled as his informant gave him the information he needed. He jotted down
a few details and then punched in the number he had memorised.

"Krycek."

He waited patiently for his Employer to take the call and was rewarded by the
sound of a clipped British accent.

"He's interested. Sources indicate he has already booked two tickets to Florida."

//So he's taking Agent Scully with him.//

Krycek didn't bother to confirm even though the partnership had been disbanded
following the destruction of the X-Files. For some reason, AD Skinner made every
effort to keep Mulder and Scully together using Dana Scully's expertise in
Forensics as justification although it helped that the Well-Manicured Man was in
a position to nudge those higher up in the FBI in the direction he wanted. Of
course it was also easier to manipulate the others when the case seemed to
involve 'normal' rather than 'paranormal' investigation.

//I want you to follow Agents Mulder and Scully. Provide them with direction as
necessary but do not make direct contact with them without my authorisation.//

Krycek nodded to himself, all the time wondering at his parting words to Mulder
and how prophetic they had turned out to be, yet, at the same time, concerned at
his sudden orders to keep a personal watch on the two FBI agents. How much had
Cancerman told the Well-Manicured Man about their past association? Was this a
set-up? Or was he being primed for something more?

Krycek waited until he had received all the information and then took a deep
breath as he exposed the cause of his latest nightmare.

"What about our cigarette smoking associate?"

There was a pause, short but noticeable.

//A difficulty but unavoidable.// Another pause. //I must be kept informed of all
progress. You have your instructions.//

The line went dead. It was clear his patron had not anticipated Cancerman's
direct involvement and yet was not surprised nonetheless. Krycek recognised the
emphasis on 'I' and 'all', well aware of the implication. The Cigarette-Smoking
Man was going to be a problem but his Employer had made it clear he was to report
directly to him rather than to any other member of the Consortium.

It gave him hope that he might be offered some protection from his former
employer but it was short-lived. Krycek could not shake off a feeling of dread as
something he had overheard came back to haunt him. When his Employer had told the
small boy there was no need to be afraid, Gibson Praise had called him a liar,
bundling him into the same package as Cancerman. He wished he had the ability to
read minds, to be able to separate the lies from the truth. To be able to place
his full trust in the man who had taken him under his wing.

For purely selfish reasons, Krycek wondered where the boy was now. Perhaps he
ought to make discreet enquiries.

20:35 Dawson Motel

Christchurch, Florida

The sun was very low in the sky by the time they pulled into the parking lot of
the small motel. After booking in at Reception Mulder watched as Dana Scully
retrieved her luggage from the rental. They walked in silence to their respective
rooms, lingering on the threshold to make arrangements for an evening meal before
each retreated into their temporary new home to freshen up.

As the doors closed behind them, Alex Krycek stepped out from the deep shadows
opposite and leaned against the wall. Scully's presence would make life difficult
but then again, maybe Mulder would stop threatening to beat him to a pulp if he
had an audience... unless she came from the Skinner School of Hard Knocks.

Krycek grimaced as he remembered that night spent on Skinner's balcony - and the
hard punch in the stomach that had preceded it. The AD had told him it didn't
make them even and Alex believed him. If only the man realised that the
incapacitating blows on the hospital stairwell were the only reason why Luis
Cardinal had not put a bullet through the Assistant Director's skull. Cardinal
had been a hot-headed Hispanic, far too willing to shoot first and then ask
questions as he had demonstrated when he killed Scully's sister, Melissa, and
then later when he had gut-shot Skinner - plus his orders from Cancerman had
been; 'If he tries to follow then kill him'. Only Krycek's intervention had kept
the AD alive.

Alex smiled. Cardinal was one of those men who had demanded loyalty, displayed
none and had been shown divine retribution... and Krycek was more than thankful
the sadistic bastard had ceased to be a problem.

His thoughts moved back to the job in hand. Whatever happened he knew he had to
keep a close eye on the two Federal agents and help them as much as he could
without them knowing. He sighed, wondering how much harder this job would turn
out to be now his paranoia was in full swing. If only he could guarantee
Cancerman was fully occupied elsewhere but he had little hope. There was a rift
within the Consortium and the Well-Manicured Man and Cancerman were on different
sides of that ever widening gap.

For a moment he re-considered letting his new employer know of his attraction to
Mulder but he quickly put that thought out of his head. He was just a small cog
in a very large mechanism - easily replaceable. The Well-Manicured Man would have
no reason to protect him in spite of all he had done in putting the Black Oil
vaccine into his possession. No, the axe was poised and he would have to find a
way to dodge it when it fell.

He gazed up into a beautiful starlit night and shivered despite the warmth of the
evening. The stars no longer seemed friendly. He had learned too much to ever
look up again and feel that sense of awe knowing now that humanity's
insignificance had become its downfall although some hope remained; a hope that
was tied up with the rebel aliens.

He paused for a moment wondering exactly who they were and why they wanted to
stop the colonisation. Could they truly care about the people of this planet?
Their extermination of abductees at Kazakhstan, Skyland Mountain and the Ruskin
Dam belied their good intentions but then, without the test subjects, the
Colonists would find their plans set back by many years giving the humans more
time to prepare defences. Or were the Rebels after this planet for themselves?

Krycek felt his head begin to spin with contradictory thoughts. Who could he
trust? His Employer? The Rebels? Mulder? During one candid moment the FBI Agent
had told him he trusted no-one. Krycek sneered, since the Piper Maru incident he
no longer even trusted himself.

He dropped his gaze to focus on the ground and walked back to his rental which
was standing a short distance away in the parking lot attached to a Denny's diner
debating whether to make a quick stop for a burger and fries. Thoughts of being
chanced upon by Fox Mulder as he waited for his order pushed that idea out of his
head. There was bound to be another diner closer to his own rented room.

He opened the windows fully on the short drive to his motel, hoping the fresh,
warm air would invigorate him, pulling him out of the blue funk he had sunk into
since the previous evening.

Mulder threw his suitcase on the floor by the side of the bed, dug around for his
toiletries and entered the small, impersonal bathroom. He glanced around. He
hated bathrooms ever since he found his father dying on the floor of one but for
all the wrong reasons. If his father had lived then perhaps he would have the
full truth about Samantha that he had been seeking for so long. Perhaps he would
have been able to put this one-man crusade behind him and start his life over.

He sniffed at this thought trying to imagine a different life to the one he had
led for the past decade. Perhaps, with his skills in psychology, he could have
been earning a fortune in Beverly Hills pandering to the delusions of movie stars
rather than staring at his reflection in the cracked bathroom mirror in a cheap
Motel in Nowheresville. How different his life might have been. Hell, he might
even have had a social life.

His mind replayed one of the scenes from his porno collection; two men pumping
together at the edge of a beautiful heart- shaped pool, the Californian sun
beating down on their golden tanned torsos as they writhed in ecstasy, with
alternating groans and cries of pleasure rising to a crescendo as the camera
zoomed in for a slow motion visual of their cum arcing across their perfect
bodies. He let himself become one of those men, imagining his voice, soft and
gentle, assuring the other man that this was the right way to deal with the
anxieties and stress of the fast lane. He pushed an errant lock of sweat- soaked
hair back from the high forehead and gazed into sated, deep green....

His eyes snapped open as the image of the other man blurred into Alex Krycek.
Shame and anger burnt his cheeks as yet another of his favourite fantasies fell
beneath the wheels of his desire for the dark-haired, green-eyed fallen angel.

Holding his temper in check, Mulder shook out a couple of Tylenol to forestall
the familiar headache that was threatening to grow behind his eyes and then he
glanced at his wristwatch before returning to the small bedroom. He had agreed to
meet Scully at Denny's in one hour but there was no reason why he could not go
earlier. Rather that than remain in the rundown motel room counting the number of
flowers on the peeling wallpaper - or thinking of Alex Krycek.

As he left the room a distant figure caught his attention. A familiar, muscular
frame walking across the nearby parking lot. Mulder moved off slowly then
increased his speed as the figure climbed behind the wheel of a dark vehicle. He
angled his run to try and intercept the car at the exit but slowed down when he
realised it was too far away. He jogged to a halt and stared at the receding tail
lights and then shook his head in annoyance. Why did every shadowy figure have to
remind him of Alex Krycek?

After he had placed his order for coffee, his thoughts turned back to his
ex-partner. It wasn't beyond the realms of possibility that the Consortium Agent
should be here. After all, Krycek's last words had implied that he might be
around but...

As he took his first sip the door opened and Dana Scully walked in. She slid into
the seat opposite.

"I called on you early and figured you might come here."

Mulder smiled, welcoming the company. Dana Scully raised a quizzical eyebrow as
Mulder's expression changed.

"Penny for them?"

He studied her face, tempted momentarily to inform her of his suspicion that Alex
Krycek was in Florida but decided not to. She did not know about his unasked for
contact with the ex-FBI agent and he could imagine her response if he let on.
No... Some things were best left unsaid.

08:32 County Sheriff's Office

Christchurch, Florida

The first point of call for any Field Agent had always been the Sheriff's office.
It was a common courtesy to let the local authorities know you were in their neck
of the woods. It was also the natural place to start the investigation on this
case but Sheriff Davis had 'gone 'gator hunting' and was unobtainable. The
covering Deputy was a little reluctant to release the file on Jennifer Lewis
especially when he saw the legend 'Accidental Death' stamped in red across the
front.

Mulder threw his head back in disgust. It was always the same whenever they had
to deal with the local cops but Mulder couldn't explain that their petty fears
were groundless. He was not there to tread on any toes, intentionally or
otherwise, or to prove they couldn't do their job... He was there because he
believed there was more to the case than others were willing to believe... and
because it was better than sitting behind a desk wondering where his lifework had
disappeared to, even if the assignment had been instigated through Alex Krycek.

The Deputy did a pretty good job in trying to persuade Mulder to come back later
in the day after he had managed to contact the Sheriff but eventually realised
that this was one Federal Agent that was not going to be put off. He listened
carefully to the Agent's reasoning and, finally, relented.

//What harm could it do?// he thought to himself as he handed over the file. He
had worked on the case himself and knew they had covered all angles. It was a
tragic accident and nothing more.

Mulder and Scully spent the remainder of the morning reading through the
statements from various notables: Dr Martins, the Coroner; Dr Hudson, attending
Physician; the men who found the dead girl and the Deputy who attended the scene.
All in all there were around a dozen reports and statements to sift through.

Scully leaned back and rubbed her hands across tired eyes.

"I can't find anything irregular here, Mulder. The autopsy shows fluid in her
lungs so to all intents and purposes, Jennifer Lewis wandered out of the grounds
into the Everglades, fell into the water and drowned."

"There has to be something we're missing. Pass me the statement from Dr Hudson."

"You've read it through twice, Mulder, and so have I. There's nothing there. The
girl slipped away from her supervisor and was dead by the time they found her.
Investigating cases of negligence is not up to the FBI. The local Sheriff's
Department has...."

"Done nothing. No inspection of the premises, no check on procedures. That's it."
Mulder looked up at Scully triumphantly as if he had just placed the last piece
in a jigsaw puzzle.

"What's it, Mulder?"

"Where's that Pathology report?"

"Mulder! I think you're making something out of nothing."

Fox Mulder scanned back through the Pathologists report. The autopsy revealed
very little except that the girl had fluid in her lungs. There was no Toxicology
report, no X-rays. He pointed this out to Scully.

"That's not unusual in clear cut cases such as this...."

Mulder threw his head back in exasperation.

"I don't get it, Scully. Why send us down here? There has to be something..."

An hour later and no further forward, Mulder threw down the report and buried his
head in his hands. He rubbed tired eyes before running his hands backwards
through his hair. He glanced up at his partner. Dana Scully sat across the narrow
desk, her small hands wrapped around a cold mug of coffee; a faint look of
boredom and frustration etched across her tired face. She reached for another
sandwich and grimaced. The edges had curled up in the heat and the cheese within
had started to sweat making it both look and smell unappetising.

"You're right. There's nothing here." A moment passed. "Wait a minute. He said
she wasn't the only accidental death..."

"Who said...?"

"There's a terminal next door. I wonder if they're linked to the Coroner's..."

"Mulder!" Scully allowed her exasperation to escape in a single word before
admitting to herself that it would be easier to go along with his train of
thought than fight him. "I'll check the records for the past two years. With a
town this small it shouldn't take more than an hour." //Then maybe we can get out
of here// she added to herself. As she left the room she could hear him
murmuring, "there has to be something here."

Three hours later they had sifted through a dozen more Death Reports and had
visited both the Coroner and the men who found the girl's body. Apart from a
nasty moment when one of the men had described in glorious Technicolor how an
alligator liked it's meal there was nothing new to learn... only that the girl
had not attracted any alligators. It was unusual but not unknown in these parts
but it set all the alarms ringing in Mulder's head.

"What are the chances of getting the body exhumed for Toxicology tests?"

"Nil. We have no justification. No new evidence to put forward..."

"The alligators, Scully."

Dana Scully brushed the hair back from her face. "Maybe they didn't like the
colour of her dress. Let's call it a day, Mulder. I could use a shower..."

Mulder sighed in acknowledgement.

"And a decent cup of coffee," she added, grimacing as the cold, bitter liquid
like sludge found at the bottom of a river slid passed her taste buds.

Back at the motel, Mulder placed a handful of ice into a towel and then lay down
on the bed placing the ice-filled towel over his face. In the background he could
hear the dissonant sounds from the TV and beyond that the steady hum of an
ancient air conditioner. He sighed as the ice cooled his sweating forehead. The
trilling of his cell-phone phone caught him off guard but he reached for it
quickly.

"Mulder."

//Dr Martha J Hudson.//

"Krycek?"

//She 'supports' a local institute for children with special needs....that's all
I can tell you.//

"Alex!" Mulder almost shouted his name but Krycek had already hung up. He drew
the mobile away from his ear and stared at it in frustration then switched it off
before dropping it onto the bed beside him and murmuring to himself.

"Dr Martha J Hudson."

Krycek had to have had a good reason for giving him that name. He leapt up from
the bed and walked the short distance to Scully's door.

"Scully, it's Mulder."

The door opened to reveal his partner wrapped in a bath robe, her hair caught up
in a towel. He didn't wait for permission but wandered passed her into the room
and sat down on the easy chair.

"I just had a call from my informant. He gave me a name: Dr Martha Hudson."

"The attending Physician?"

Mulder nodded. "Have you got the details from those other files?"

"No, but I could get them in the morning. You want me to check for the Doctor's
name?"

Mulder nodded again. "He mentioned the Institute. We need to check how many of
these deaths involved patients from the Institute?....I'm gonna make a call to
Frohike."

Scully sat back on the bed in exasperation as the large whirlwind that was
Special Agent Fox Mulder pulled his cell- phone from his jacket pocket.

"It's Mulder. I need a favour. What can you get on a Dr Martha J Hudson?.....
Yeah, the interesting stuff.... Yeah, I'll hold on."

The minutes passed in silence and Scully spent the time watching the variety of
expressions that moved across Mulder's face and then the dawning of
understanding.

"I'll bring you back a gift from Disney World." Then Mulder laughed in response
to something, disconnected the call and turned to his partner. "He said Disney
was an anti-Semitic fascist and they'd prefer something from the Cape."

Scully didn't bother to point out that the Cape was a fair distance away, knowing
that, somehow or other they would end up at Spaceport USA.

"Maybe I'll get the chance to take in a couple of IMAX: The Blue Planet or..."

"I didn't realise they showed that kind of film there."

"Scully, I'm deeply offended...."

"What did Frohike have to say?"

"Martha Jean Hudson. Biochemist. Spent nine years in Genetics Research at UCLA,
twelve years working for the Military before her 'resignation' two years ago.
Been working at this Private Institute since then...only the company paying her
salary seems to be connected to the Pentagon. The name Dr Charne-Sayre came up."

"You think she's experimenting on the patients?"

"Way to go, Scully."

"Mulder, you can't be serious..."

"Why not. They've been testing the Black Oil in the Old Folks homes so why not
the Children's." Mulder recognised the disbelief in her expression but thought
carefully before reminding her of the obvious. "Scully, they used Emily." He
hated to re-open old wounds but knew it was the only way to cast doubt into her
mind. "I think we should go pay Dr Hudson a visit."

"We can't go there just on hearsay. Don't you think we should wait until I've
rechecked the files?"

"If we wait too long we may lose her."

"You're taking the word of this informant a little too easy, Mulder. Have they
got some kinda hold on you? ....Mulder, what's wrong?" Scully ceased her tirade
when she noticed the strange expression cross her partner's face.

Mulder pulled himself together quickly and rose to his feet.

"Indigestion. Think I'll turn in now, check out the Pay to View channels."

Scully watched in exasperation as Mulder walked out the door shutting it firmly
behind him. She closed her eyes for a moment. Working with Fox Mulder was like
trying to lasso a whirlwind. He raced through your life, twisting back and forth
as ideas formed, were studied, plans made and discarded and then disappeared
leaving you to deal with the mental wreckage... but she loved it and, in a
sisterly way, she loved him too.

When he finally slept, Mulder fell into a strange dream. Teal green eyes, pupils
enlarged in the semi-darkness looked deeply into his own. Soft lips caressed his
cheek and he felt his body respond to the warmth that swelled within him. Strong
fingers carded through his hair, pulling his head forward until those lips met
his own. A silken tongue danced teasingly across but pulled away before he had
the chance to capture it. The wan light left deep shadows, emphasising the
generous mouth and high cheekbones but the figure continued to move back,
gradually disappearing into the darkness beyond.

"Alex!"

Mulder sat up, his breath coming in quick gasps. He spent a moment searching in
the flickering shadows within the room before realising it was all a dream.
Mulder shuddered and then lowered himself back down to the bed, his breathing
more controlled even if the rest of his body still cried out in primitive need.

An hour later, Mulder was still awake. The flickering of the TV in the darkened
room cast ever changing shadows across the ceiling but rather than having the
usual soporific effect they seemed to increase the frenetic activity in his
brain. Eventually, he realised he would have to deal with the thoughts crowding
in on him or he would get no sleep that night.

Scully had asked what hold this man had on him and he allowed his mind to drift
back to the day it had all started; when a junior agent had been assigned to the
same case. Despite the greased back hair and cheap suit Mulder could not deny the
attraction he had felt for the younger man. Krycek was his every waking dream and
his every night time fantasy. The dark, handsome looks, those beautiful green
eyes framed by long dark lashes. The mahogany hair, glinting shades of red and
gold, that fell over his face when he worked over reports. His voice soft, husky
and melodic, his body well-toned and well proportioned and that sensuous mouth -
eminently kissable.

That thought led him on to The Kiss. The feel of those warm, soft lips upon his
cheek, the rough brush against his own stubbled skin and the words that followed.

'My Friend', Krycek had said.

Mulder wondered whether Alex Krycek knew he had spoken in Russian - or if he
realised Mulder would remember the words and have them translated...but it was
more than just the words; it was the tone of his voice, the expression on his
face. There was no doubt in Mulder's mind that Krycek had meant what he said.

'My Friend'.

Since that day they had met three more times but always under cover of darkness
and there had been no repeat of that spontaneous kiss yet Mulder knew something
had changed between them. Gone was the intense hatred, barely controlled by his
need to keep the other man alive in order to solve the mysteries set before him.
Instead he felt deep anger and feelings of betrayal overlaid by desire.

But why betrayal?

Because he murdered my father! Because he framed me for the murder. Because he
helped them abduct Scully....because he left me to die at Tunguska.

Mulder stopped on that thought. Why did that hurt him so much? He had kicked
Krycek around, beat him, dragged him to Skinner's apartment, where he had been
punched and then left out on a cold balcony all night. Left him handcuffed him to
the steering wheel of the rental without caring if the man would be trapped there
until he died of thirst, then, after hearing Krycek swear at him in Russian, he
had dragged Krycek along on his crusade giving no thought to the other man's
safety. Both of them had been beaten by the guards before Krycek had convinced
one of them to take him to the people in charge.

Mulder felt his heart go cold as he realised one other truth. If their positions
had been reversed would he have made much of an effort to have Krycek freed from
the dank cell and the agony of the test? Mulder knew the answer was 'No' but,
more importantly, he recognised why.

Within a few weeks of working with Krycek he had fallen for him; if not in love
then most certainly in lust - and he had broken his own rule. He had started to
trust the younger agent and when Krycek revealed his true nature it had felt like
a slap round the face but it had not ended there. Like a miniature tornado,
Krycek had wreaked havoc through his life both mentally and physically.... but it
was the betrayal of that trust that had brought about the intense hatred. After
all, weren't love and hate flip sides of the same coin? So what had changed
between them? What had flipped the coin back into the air?

'My Friend'.

Mulder closed his eyes. He knew it could not be that simple. He carried too many
emotional scars from Alex Krycek but, deep down, he knew that he would have to
re-open those wounds one at a time before he could start the true healing
process. Unfortunately, it looked as if the bandage across one particular tear
had ripped away with a single kiss. Mulder decided to linger on the thoughts that
leaked through that old wound; the intensity in those beautiful eyes, the soft,
pliant lips against his cheek.

The anger still burned fiercely but so did his body when he thought of Alex
Krycek. He wanted to believe his original impression of Krycek was right, that
there was more to the man than a paid assassin and traitor. He thought back to
those early days when they had goofed around; the easy camaraderie as they
exchanged ideas and jokes and watched baseball. But how much had been the real
Alexei Krycek and how much had been an act to fool him into trusting. That was
the problem. That was the real reason for his anger and the true source of his
guilt.

Alex Krycek had killed his father yet it was this personal betrayal that had
mattered most.

Fox Mulder swallowed hard as he forced himself down a path he had considered
closed for a long time. His father: the reason why he had applied to a British
University when he could have had his pick of Yale, Princeton and Harvard. Even
then he had known his father was somehow involved in his sister's abduction and
the strain that knowledge brought had driven a wedge between them.

Mulder forced himself to accept another truth. Before the murder he had hated his
father almost as much as he had loved him but the knowledge he had gained since
his father's death had tipped the balance the other way. Now he could no longer
think about his father without a shudder of disgust. In fact, he was beginning to
doubt that William Mulder was his father but the alternative was almost
unthinkable.

Mulder felt his chest tighten as he prepared to think the unthinkable. What if
Cancerman was his biological father? Samantha believed it and he could not deny
that she resembled the man. What if it were true? X had shown him the photographs
of his mother with Cancerman and had implied there had been a lot more between
them than mere friendship.

Skinner had handed him a blood-covered photo found in the Cigarette-Smoking Man's
'private' apartment after the shooting - a picture of himself and Samantha. Why
would Cancerman have that particular photo? Mulder tried to explain it away as a
foster father wanting photos of his adopted daughter - but he must have taken
many far more personal photos of Samantha over the years so why did he keep this
one of brother and sister? Another thought - perhaps he wanted to be reminded of
the family he had destroyed - or lost.

Mulder knew DNA testing could confirm or deny paternity but obtaining samples
from William Mulder and Cancerman would be impossible and, to be brutally honest,
he was not certain whether this was a truth he wanted to discover.

He brought himself up short, aware of his attempt to avoid the real issue. The
true dilemma was that he felt guilty knowing he held more affection for this
murderer, Alexei Krycek, than he did for the man who had called himself his
father.

The Psychologist within him smiled and Fox Mulder took a deep shuddering breath
as some of his anxiety fell away in acceptance. It hadn't resolved any of his
feelings for Krycek but at least he would no longer transfer all his own guilt
onto the other man as well. Mulder closed his eyes and let this new knowledge
fill him and, eventually, he slept but this time without dreaming.

09:25 East 46th Street

New York

The Well-Manicured Man's seamed face creased even more as he read the report that
had been handed over to him. Activity around one of the Consortium's
pharmaceutical subsidiaries in Florida had increased alarmingly but, what was
more amusing was the number of calls placed to a Dr Martha J Hudson at the
Christchurch Institute.

He had suspected for over a month that the subsidiary had been taken over by
Colonists and he had been working to confirm or deny this suspicion by releasing
information to certain members of the Group. This new link between the various
parts of the organisation gave him the proof he needed and fulfilled his plan to
make Dr Hudson a real threat but he knew he had to act fast in case the situation
spiralled out of control. That left him one recourse, the option he had been
hoping would present itself; to authorise Krycek's direct involvement with Agents
Mulder and Scully.

He had been working to this end and was pleased that all was going to plan. His
earlier outburst against eliminating Hudson provided the desired alibi, throwing
any suspicion away from him. Her elimination - no, extermination, was now a
requirement but he had to carry on with the game-plan until the right opportunity
presented itself.

The time to be extremely careful with every word and gesture had come.

09:35 Dawson Motel

Christchurch, Florida

Krycek watched from a window booth at the Denny's diner as Mulder and Scully
disappeared off to the Institute. His eyes followed the tall, athletic frame,
marvelling at the gracefulness displayed so casually. The Florida sun caught
Mulder's brown hair highlighting the reds and golds - and then he ducked into the
rental and was gone. Krycek sighed and beckoned to the waitress. He ordered a
breakfast, ate leisurely and then waited a little longer until the small diner
had cleared the breakfast crowd before making the scheduled call at 10:00; it was
answered immediately.

"Krycek."

A moments delay was followed by the sound of a recognisable voice: the
Well-Manicured Man. His patron did not bother with pleasantries but went straight
to the point.

//The situation has taken a turn for the worse. Dr Hudson has become aware of our
displeasure and has been contacted by certain 'external' parties.//

One word swept across Krycek's mind: Colonists.

//I want you to assist Agents Mulder and Scully. Delay them as far as you can
without compromising yourself or their safety. I want the results of the
experiments but you must leave enough evidence behind for Mulder to gain a
conviction. We may still be able to salvage something from this unfortunate
affair.//

Although his expression did not change, Krycek was inwardly relieved by the final
order. He would never regain Mulder's trust if he became a party to the
assassination of the very criminal he had sent Mulder to bring to justice.

"And the 'external' party?"

//Leave them alone unless they intervene. We will deal with them by other means.
I will make the necessary arrangements for your protection. Expect to be
contacted again through more 'official' channels.//

A click was followed by the 'dead tone' as the man on the other end of the line
hung up leaving Alex Krycek lost in thought, the receiver still held against his
right ear. It was too late to catch up with the Agents, they would have reached
the Institute by now. All he could do was hope they didn't push Hudson over the
edge before he had the chance to hook up with them or it would make his job a lot
harder.

09:35 FBI Headquarters

Washington DC

AD Skinner picked up the phone.

"Skinner."

He listened in silence as his immediate superior gave him instructions.

"Sir, may I ask where these instructions originated?"

Walter Skinner placed the phone back on its cradle and rubbed a hand across the
top of his head. The instructions had filtered down from the Head of the FBI so
he had no choice but to follow them to the letter but he could not help feeling a
constriction in his chest as anger seethed beneath the surface. He called his
Secretary.

"Kimberley, I need you to take down a letter and get it faxed to the Florida
Office. Also, I need the local office to draw up a couple of Search Warrants.
Judge Wilkins will authorise. The details should be faxed to you shortly."

She entered carrying pen, paper and several sheets of Fax.

"They arrived while you were talking to the Section Chief."

Skinner drew his lips into a tight line of annoyance. Normally, when he wanted to
get anything done, the paper work and red tape took hours of preparation and
negotiation. It took him a moment to sort out the wording in his head before he
began to dictate the letter and he felt a stress headache building with each word
uttered. He didn't like this one little bit.

10:05 Christchurch Institution for Children with Special Needs Christchurch,
Florida

The driveway leading up to the Institute was well maintained with low shrubs and
flowers separating the grey gravel from the verdant grass. Mulder slowed the car
and brought it to a complete stop parallel with the wide doorway. He readjusted
his shades as he stepped out of the car and tugged at his tie to make himself
more presentable. Looking across the top of the car, Mulder caught the small
smile that crossed Scully's face.

"It could be my lucky day."

Scully deigned to reply as anything she said would probably be met with some
wisecrack or a hurt expression and she really felt too hot to play games.

"Let's just get inside."

"Heat getting to you, Scully."

Her glare of annoyance over the top of her sunglasses was met with a cheeky grin.
There was something about Mulder on a case that brought out the mischievous boy
in him. She followed him as he practically bounced up the short flight of steps.
Mulder removed his glasses as they entered the foyer but had to wait a few
seconds before his eyes could adjust to the relative darkness. He quickly scanned
the room.

On one side a counter ran the full length of the room with a hinged access flap
at the far end and behind the counter sat a middle-aged woman with slightly
greying hair tucked neatly up into a nurse's hat. She narrowed her eyes at them
in suspicion and waited for them to approach. Mulder reached into his jacket and
produced his FBI identification, holding the card before her eyes.

"Agent Scully, Special Agent Mulder. We have an appointment with Dr Martha
Hudson."

"Mulder...." The woman made quite a deal out of searching for his name on a short
list in front of her before pointing to a bank of chairs opposite. "If you
wouldn't mind waiting over there while I inform Dr Hudson."

Scully raised her eyebrows at the barely restrained hostility sharing a silent
look with Mulder before moving across the foyer to the seats.

"I have a feeling we're not welcome here."

"Well, let's hope we don't have to spend the rest of the day waiting here."

Mulder sighed, his previous buoyancy deflating as he recalled the number of times
he had been left to wait for hours on end in similar situations. However, to his
surprise the sound of purposeful steps echoing along the hallway towards them
heralded the arrival of a white-coated lady with blonde hair fading to grey
framing a face that could have been called beautiful a decade earlier. He took an
instant dislike to the woman but let his face remain carefully neutral.

Before going to sleep last night he had gone over this coming interview in his
head a dozen times. The Doctor was working for the Military and he had no doubts
where their loyalty lay. He was convinced that they were behind most of the
so-called Alien Abductions - including Scully's. On too many occasions he had
been thwarted by Military protocol and cover-ups. For starters, they had withheld
the toxicology reports from Duane Barry's autopsy and they had aided in the
destruction of the buried train refrigeration car in New Mexico.

He had decided to try and make this interview as light as possible wanting to
produce a reaction that could lead to mistakes but not so drastic that he would
lose his prey. He wanted Dr Hudson to become a little paranoid, to start trying
to cover her tracks because in doing so she might have to dig up the dirt first
and Mulder was planning on arriving with a shovel when she led him to where the
evidence was buried.

"Agent Mulder, I'm Dr Hudson."

"Dr Hudson, this is my partner, Agent Scully."

"If you'd like to follow me we can talk privately in my office."

The two agents followed the Doctor along the corridor and up a flight of stairs.
Almost opposite the staircase was a solid wood door with gold lettering etched
onto the surface: Dr M J Hudson.

Dr Hudson ushered them into the office and bade them sit while she walked around
to the other side of a large mahogany desk. She took a seat and began instantly.

"As you may well appreciate, I am a busy woman. I have patients to see so if we
could make this quick."

"We're here to investigate the death of Jennifer Jane Lewis." The Doctor raise
her eyebrows, a look of exasperation crossing her face as Scully continued.
"Perhaps you can explain how she came to be wandering about on her own outside
the Institute grounds."

"I've told all this to the local Sheriff. He took a statement from me at the
time...."

"Sheriff Davis is not available at this time so if you wouldn't mind
repeating..."

"This is most irregular." The Doctor huffed in annoyance.

As the interview progressed, Dr Hudson became more and more edgy. Questions
relating to Jennifer's escape were easily fielded but the more personal ones
relating to her work at the Institute left her feeling cold. She had been
promised protection in her work yet here were the FBI prying into her affairs.
Somehow she managed to complete the interview without betraying herself but had
the feeling that they were not completely satisfied with the answers she had
given.

From her office window she watched as the two Agents left the building and
climbed into their rental, waiting until the car had turned out of the driveway
onto the main highway before returning to her desk. She picked up the telephone
and dialled a number she had memorised many weeks ago.

"Dr Hudson. I accept your offer."

Dr Hudson sat at her desk for several long minutes, staring at the computer in
front of her before reaching forward to switch it on. She reached into a desk
drawer and retrieved a DAT tape, placed it into the zip drive and downloaded all
the important documents in compressed format. Once she was certain she had
everything she purged the hard drive, not once but several times.

She placed the tape into her pocket and moved across to the file cabinets. A
quick glance at her watch told her that she had a lot to, do but there would be
plenty of time before she was collected by her new employer.

***

When Krycek cautiously answered his hotel phone he had not known what to expect
but hearing the clipped British Accent gave him some relief.

//The corner of West Grove and Pine Street in 45 minutes. Collect the package and
deliver it to Agent Mulder personally. If he has a problem with accepting the
content then....//

Krycek listened carefully to the remainder of the message then replaced the phone
and pulled out the local map he had collected hours earlier. He pinpointed the
junction and estimated how long it would take to get there and then realised he
had at least 20 minutes to kill. He hated waiting but better that that hanging
around a drop zone too early.

15 minutes later he found himself behind the wheel of his car, having run out of
patience, pulling slowly out of the Diner's Parking Lot, heading northwards to
the rendezvous. He pulled up over a hundred metres away from the junction and
waited. Only 4 minutes to go.

A man arrived and Krycek found the corners of his mouth rising. The man looked
uncomfortable in his suit and tie in the Florida heat and had the air of someone
not used to hanging around on street corners. Probably a Fibbie. The man glanced
up and down the streets, stopping constantly to check his watch.

For one perverse moment, Krycek found himself tempted to let the man sweat it out
for another few minutes but sighed in resignation. His Employer had made it clear
that things were not going too well and Krycek knew he couldn't afford to foul up
this meet.

He stepped from his car and walked slowly toward the man, coming up behind him
stealthily, almost smirking when the man turned to find Krycek standing only a
few feet behind his unprotected back. A hand automatically jerked towards a
concealed weapon but faltered.

"I believe you have a package for me."

"Are you Krycek?"

Krycek smiled, imagining the sarcastic response the man would have gained from
Fox Mulder. The Federal Agent almost blushed as he realised his stupid mistake.
Fortunately, he had been given a description of his contact and, although the
hair was a lot shorter, the face more mature, he knew it was the same man. He
handed over the manila envelope.

Krycek nodded and waited until the other man had backed off before returning to
his car. Once inside he opened the envelope and shook out the contents. A broad
smile crossed the handsome face.

12:15 Denny's Diner, next to Dawson Motel

Christchurch, Florida

"MY room has wallpaper so old-fashioned Noah would refuse to hang it in the Ark"

"I've seen your wallpaper, Scully, and it would be classed as a modern
masterpiece compared to the cave drawings in my room."

Lunch had seemed quite a leisurely affair right up to the moment when a man
approached their table.

"Is this seat taken?"

"Krycek!"

Casually sitting down by Scully and placing his right hand in full view on top of
the table, Alex Krycek smiled as both FBI agents pulled their guns. He spoke
softly, a slight movement of his head indicating the nervous attention being
afforded the mismatched trio.

"You're making a scene."

He watched through cautious eyes as Mulder pursed his lips before placing his gun
back into its holster.

"It's OK, Scully."

"Mulder, he's a suspect in several murder cases as well as..."

"He's also my informant."

Scully regarded Mulder with incredulity.

"You came here on the word of this...liar and murderer."

"You can't deny the connections he has...."

"Had, Mulder. They want him dead just as much as..." Scully broke off, well aware
of what she had been about to say and, from the sudden closed look on the
handsome face beside her, well aware that Alex Krycek knew it too.

"Scully, we don't have to like him..."

"Well, that's good because I don't."

"...but we may need him if we want to get to the bottom of this case."

"I was instructed to give you this."

Krycek handed over a large manila envelope and then leant back before Mulder
could question him further. Mulder glanced at Scully before tearing it open and
emptying the contents on the table in front of him. Inside were several
documents: two search warrants for Doctor Hudson's office and home, a warrant to
bring her in for questioning and a headed letter legitimising their use of Krycek
in the investigation.

Mulder stared hard at the words on the paper and then handed the letter across to
Scully, both eyebrows rising as she issued an expletive that was totally out of
character.

"Scully, I didn't know a good Catholic girl like you knew such a word..."

"This is a forgery, Mulder. No-one in their right mind would assign him. We're
being set-up..."

"What's the problem, Agent Scully? As far as I am aware there have never been any
formal charges brought against me. You have no proof for any of the crimes you
allege I have committed..?"

Mulder snarled back at the younger man.

"You're not working with us, Krycek."

Alex Krycek reached over and snatched Mulder's cell-phone from the table top. He
pushed a series of buttons and listened to the dialling tone. The call was
answered.

"Agent Mulder wants verification."

He held the phone out and it was taken, reluctantly. Mulder held it up to his
ear.

"Mulder."

//Agent Mulder. I expect you have received some documents. Someone higher up
wants Krycek in on this. I don't like it but I have my orders and so do you. When
the case is over you're to cut him loose and give him 24 hours before making any
attempt to follow his trail. Do you understand?//

Mulder glanced across at Scully.

"Yes, Sir, I understand..."

//That applies to Scully too. I expect to be kept well informed on your
progress.//

Mulder pursed his lips in annoyance. Any attempt to circumvent the orders was now
virtually impossible. He disconnected the call and looked at his partner.

"Skinner. He's confirmed all this, including ...." Mulder indicated Krycek with a
dip of his head.

Scully shook her head in disbelief her expression telling him that she like it
even less than he did.

"Have you ordered yet?"

Krycek remained still as he tried to bring back some normalcy into the bizarre
situation. He continued to watch cautiously as Scully lowered her gun, her blue
eyes still locked on his, appetite chased away by the thought of eating a meal
with this man. Krycek looked over his shoulder and beckoned the waitress. She
straightened her pink-check uniform and approached the table reluctantly. Krycek
glanced at her name badge.

"Sally, I'll have the double cheeseburger with a side order of fries... and
coffee, strong and black."

Krycek looked enquiringly at his 'companions' and visibly relaxed back into the
well-upholstered booth as Mulder stated his order as if there had never been a
scene. The Agent gazed at his partner, noting the sour expression and the tension
in the blue eyes, knowing from personal experience how Scully was feeling at this
moment and knowing, also, that it would pass and she would be left feeling
hungry, and even more annoyed if she didn't order now, so he ordered for her.

"I'll also take the cheese salad, no mayo and two coffees."

Sally finished scribbling down the order and left the side of the table promptly
to relay the order to the kitchen. Mulder ignored the glare from Scully; she
would thank him later.

The silence between them grew more noticeable as conversations resumed on the
tables around them. Mulder looked across at the younger man. This was the first
time he had seen Krycek in full light since Tunguska and he had to admit the man
had become even more stunning as the years passed. Gone was the fresh- faced
junior G-Man with slicked back hair, polyester suits and a boring taste in ties.
The man who sat opposite had discarded his usual black leather jacket in favour
of denim due to the Florida heat. He wore his hair a lot shorter and his face was
slightly fuller but maturity had only added to his attraction and Mulder
wondered, for the nth time, how a remorseless killer like Krycek could be blessed
with the face of an Angel.

The green eyes caught his and Mulder felt as if he was drowning in the icy,
blue-green waters of the Baltic Sea. He looked away as the clatter of dishes
broke the spell he had fallen under, relieved that the waitress had arrived
before Scully noticed his distraction. A glance back revealed a frown on his ex-
partner's face and he hoped Alex Krycek would remain baffled by the attention he
had been paid.

"What do you know about Hudson's experiments?"

"Only that they involved exposing children to a particular disease...."

"Doesn't anyone realise what's going on? What about the Parents?" Scully
interjected and Krycek addressed his next statement back towards her.

"You've seen these kids...they've been dumped there by uncaring relatives from
birth. Most have the severe form of Down's Syndrome. Nobody cares what happens to
them... nobody visits."

"What about checks by the local authorities? Doesn't anybody..."

Scully broke off as she watched the disbelieving expression cross Krycek's face,
annoyed and frustrated by her own naivet*. Of course there would be no checks,
this was how the Consortium operated.

"So how did Jenny Lewis come to the attention of the Press?"

Mulder thought for a moment as Krycek raised both eyebrows as if he thought the
question inane. Mulder decided to answer it himself.

"My guess would be either someone was careless - or someone let her out." He
looked across at his ex-partner and saw a small smile of approval tug at the
corners of his mouth and eyes. He continued on, slowly, almost questioningly.
"Whatever, somehow she managed to get out of the Institute and the Press got hold
of the story before they could cover their tracks." Krycek nodded in agreement
and leaned back as Mulder continued. "All the evidence we need will be found at
the Christchurch Institution... but that still doesn't explain what you're doing
here."

Krycek looked deep into the hazel eyes.

"I'm your guardian angel."

Scully was none too pleased with Mulder and waited until Krycek headed for the
men's washroom before remonstrating with him.

"I don't understand you, Mulder. How can you be so casual with him? He murdered
your father. He was with Cardinal when that butcher gunned down Melissa. He's
never shown remorse for any of his actions...the man's a psychopath..."

"There's nothing wrong with his mind." //Or his body// Mulder felt himself start
to blush and quickly changed the subject before he gave himself away. "Look,
Scully, I trust him about as far as I could throw him..."

"You trusted him enough to drag us all the way from DC. This could have been a
set-up."

Mulder looked away. How could explain that this was not the first time he had
dragged them off on the word of the man he had labelled Ratboy. Worse still, how
could he explain why without betraying himself to the astute woman by his side
when everything she said about Krycek was true. No, not everything, he honestly
believed Krycek was no psychopath but didn't that make the man even more of a
monster knowing that his actions did not stem from a deranged mind?

"We'd better get a move on before Hudson flies the coop."

***

Krycek appeared, as if by magic, as they approached the car. He clambered into
the back seat as soon as Mulder activated the central locking and waited while
the two agents climbed into the front. His eyes caught Mulder's in the rear view
mirror and Mulder could swear he saw something more than just the briefest of
acknowledgements in those bright, green eyes. They had seemed to dance with an
inner radiance that gave the impression Krycek knew much more than he let on.
Mulder frowned.

//I bet the bastard does know more than he's told us// he thought to himself but
decided against meeting those eyes again. Within moments he had gunned the engine
and they were pulling away. In the passenger seat, Scully remained tight-lipped,
her head facing forward stiffly as if to deny Krycek's existence. Mulder glanced
back at Krycek through the rear-view mirror.

"Do you know what we're supposed to be looking for?"

"I'll know it when I see it."

The rest of the drive to the Institute was carried out in silence but Mulder
found those eyes watching him every time he glanced into the mirror and was
grateful when they finally reached their destination.

14:48 Christchurch Institute for Children with Special Needs

Christchurch, Florida

As the car drew to a halt, Krycek sprang out, slamming the door behind him.

Mulder sighed heavily as the afternoon sun beat down upon them. He had spent the
last 30 minutes feeling Krycek's eyes burning into the back of his head,
desperately wanting to turn around and capture them with his own.

"Should have rented one of those Fan boats. We'd have been here in 10 minutes."

The Institute was situated on a band of solid ground only a few miles beyond the
border of the town of Christchurch but the area in between was swamp, filled with
alligators. They had to travel a fair distance to reach the small bridge which
traversed a narrow stretch of the swampland.

The temperature was already beginning to rise above what he would consider
comfortable so Krycek stripped off his light denim jacket, holding it over his
shoulder like a model in a fashion magazine while he waited for the others before
deciding it would be better to dump the jacket on the back seat of the rental.

Mulder stared as Krycek walked ahead of them into the building, marvelling at the
way the tight black denim jeans contoured against the man's rear and legs but
could not help noticing the missing arm. Krycek was not wearing a prosthetic. He
wanted to ask why but shied away from initialising a conversation on such a
personal level. He didn't want to get personal with Krycek - or did he?

The interior was several degrees lower and seemed too cold compared with the
outside temperature. Mulder marched passed the reception desk, noticing that it
was still the same person on duty.

"Don't bother to get up, we know the way."

Krycek threw a sweet yet menacing smile over his shoulder as he followed the two
FBI agents along the corridor and up the stairs to the Doctor's office, ignoring
the outburst from the receptionist. She caught up with them just as they reached
the office, her cheeks bright red from the exertion, her breath coming in short
gasps.

"Dr Hudson... is at lunch. You'll have..."

"That's OK, we'll wait in here."

"I'm sorry...you can't go in..."

With a malicious grin of deep satisfaction, Mulder waved the search warrant in
front of the woman's nose and then tried the door handle.

"Key?"

When there was no reply he glanced at the stubborn set of the woman's jaw and
decided to take matters into his own hands. With one swift kick the door opened
and they marched inside. The receptionist turned on her heel but Krycek grabbed
her arm.

"I think you'd better stay with us."

He pointed to the comfy chair in the corner by the window and watched as the
woman hesitated before moving over as ordered. Scully frowned but then realised
it was better to keep the woman away from the telephone so she could not warn the
Doctor should she know of her whereabouts.

Mulder reached forward to flick the switch that brought the desktop computer to
life. He relinquished the seat to Alex Krycek with a wave, knowing the man had
greater ability with computers than himself but decided to watch over his
shoulder just in case Krycek was working to a different agenda. Armed with a list
of names taken from the Coroner's office, they began to search through the
directories for any relevant files while Scully started a manual search of the
desk and cabinets but there was nothing to be found, not even a file on Jennifer
Lewis. The computer had been purged, the cabinets emptied.

"Very clever. She's run a program to write to every byte of the hard drive. Most
people format the drive not realising that the data is still there and can be
rebuilt if you have the know- how. Her program has effectively destroyed
everything."

Mulder slammed his hand down on the desk in frustration before turning to the
Receptionist.

"Where's Dr Hudson?"

"I don't know. She left this morning, just after your meeting."

"Mulder!" Scully showed her partner the document she had found between the
cabinets. "This must have slipped down here when she was clearing out. It looks
like a biopsy report."

"Can you make sense of it?"

"No, not without knowing what they were testing for although..... Mulder, there's
something wrong with the tissue sample, its...."

"Scully?"

"I... don't know. It's wrong but I'm not sure...why." Scully looked up from the
report, her eyes narrowed in puzzlement. "The tissue sample may be down in the
laboratory - that's where we should head next."

Mulder took a step back as if he had been struck across the face. Of course the
Doctor was hardly likely to practice complicated medical procedures in her
office. Why had he not thought of this himself. The reason presented itself
almost immediately as Alex Krycek swept one hand through short brown hair and
brought those beautiful green eyes up to capture his own. Mulder felt his mouth
go dry and turned away, forcing his thoughts back to the job in hand. He turned
to the Receptionist with a questioning expression. She grimaced before giving
them directions.

"Scully, you wait here while I check out the lab. See if Dr Hudson left anything
else by mistake. Krycek, you're with me."

Alex Krycek smiled. Obviously, Mulder did not want to leave him with Scully and
judging by her reaction in the car earlier, it was a wise decision. He followed
the lanky frame out of the office and down the staircase.

"Just like old times..."

"Don't think for one moment I've forgotten who and what you are, Krycek. Your
'friends' may have managed to pull some strings to get you on this case but
you're not my friend."

Mulder swung open the door to the laboratory, his attention still on his
ex-partner and frowned as Krycek's eyes widened. Moments later he heard the
report of a gun and saw splinters fly out from the woodwork close to where his
head had been. He landed with a crash, the weight of Krycek's body driving all
the air out of his own. Krycek rolled off and was up in one smooth movement. By
the time he reached his feet he had a Glock 9mm targeting their assailant. He let
off two rounds and then checked back on Mulder. The FBI agent was still lying on
the floor, winded by the fall, so Krycek counted him out of the action. He broke
cover and leapt for a safer position behind a long bench by the wall, bullets
ricocheting off the floor marking his path. With his back to the wall, Krycek
paused to bring his breathing back under control, the Glock held barrel up before
him. He stared down at the debris on the floor behind him. Broken glass lay
scattered amongst numerous paper reports - probably those missing from upstairs.
A colourless, odourless liquid saturated the mess and he realised Hudson was
preparing to destroy all the paperwork from both her office and the laboratory.
He had to prevent her from completing this task if he was to complete this
assignment successfully. According to her military records she had never received
formal weapons and combat training so she was likely to consider surrender as a
viable option.

"There's no way out," he yelled. "You may as well put down the gun and come out."

A moment passed where he thought he may have misjudged her determination but then
a gun clattered along the floor stopping only a few feet from his position.
Cautiously, Krycek came out from behind the bench. He recognised Doctor Hudson
from his files and, using the gun, he motioned the woman to raise her hands where
he could see them and move to one side. As he went to kick her gun further out of
reach her features dissolved, reforming into someone else.

The moments hesitation was enough for 'her' to grab a set of test tubes from the
bench and hurl them at him. As he ducked, bringing the gun up to shield his face,
the shape-shifter struck a match and threw it beyond Krycek. Behind him, Mulder,
who had only just managed to regain his feet, yelled out a warning as a wall of
flames burst into life between them, cutting him off from Krycek.

The FBI Agent could only watch in frustration through thickening smoke as the
indistinct shape of the attacker grabbed Krycek, hurling him through the glass
panel that separated the laboratory from an operating theatre and then escaped by
smashing and climbing out of the ground floor window.

Scully arrived having heard shots being fired and quickly grabbed an extinguisher
but could not get the fire under control. There were too many highly combustible
materials in the laboratory.

"Alex!"

The billow of air through the window rewarded Mulder with the sight of a bloodied
but mobile body climbing back into the room through the panel but, try as he
might, Mulder could see no way through the curtain of flames. His own fear of
fire, although largely dissipated following the case with Cecil L'ively, came
back full force as he watched Krycek throw himself to the floor as the flames
became too fierce.

"The window."

Krycek held his chest with his one good arm as acrid fumes filled his lungs,
coughing hard as Scully's higher voice penetrated air thick with smoke and he
realised the window was his only escape route. He dragged himself along the floor
using the bench to lead him to the window and calling on the last of his strength
he hauled himself up and through it, barely managing to put out his good arm to
break his fall.

By the time he pulled himself to his knees on the ground outside there was no
sign of 'Doctor Hudson' but Krycek could see Fox Mulder racing towards him.

Mulder dropped to his knees beside Krycek, his arms grabbing the younger man
around the shoulders as Krycek coughed and wheezed, trying to clear his lungs of
the acrid smoke.

Alarm bells ringing and the distant sound of sirens approaching mingled with the
raised voices of men, women and children as they followed Fire drill instructions
and evacuated the burning building.

"You OK?"

Krycek nodded but did not resist when Mulder hauled him to his feet. Looping
Krycek's arm over his shoulder he half carried, half dragged him away from the
burning building, settling him back down on the verdant grass several metres
distant. Mulder dropped to the ground beside his one-time partner and handed the
man a handkerchief to stem the blood flowing from a gash in his forehead.

"Did you get a good look at who it was."

Krycek coughed, trying to take deep breaths in between to drag clean air into his
abused lungs. The question gradually sunk in and with it the realisation that
Mulder had been in no position to see their assailant, first because he had been
badly winded and then because the smoke had quickly become too thick. Despite all
this, he didn't want to lie to this man so he told a half-truth by conveniently
leaving out the shape-changing.

"Doctor Hudson."

Scully came over, her face, hands and clothes smudged by soot. She was
accompanied by a Fireman carrying oxygen equipment. The Fireman knelt down beside
Alex Krycek and strapped a mask across his face while Mulder and Scully looked
on. Krycek found his breathing ease and the desire to cough lessen as pure oxygen
filtered through.

"The lab's gone, Mulder. We can bring in a field team but..."

"Damn it!"

"There's worse. The fire crew have just intercepted another call. Doctor Hudson's
home has been raised to the ground."

"This man should go to a hospital for a check-up."

Mulder flopped back onto the grass, his eyes closed tightly. He brought his hands
up to his face, pushing the palms against his forehead before dragging them down
across his face. After a few moments of staring up into the bright blue,
cloudless sky, Mulder pushed himself back up onto his feet.

"I ought to go to Hudson's home. See if there's anything salvageable."

"Take the car. I'll stay here and hitch a lift back with the Deputy." Scully
glanced down at Krycek who had made no attempt to move. "What about him?"

Krycek dragged off the mask, thrusting it back at the Fireman as he turned to Fox
Mulder.

"I'm going with you."

15:00 1314 West Drive

Christchurch, Florida

Mulder picked his way through the rubble but it was obvious there was nothing
left. The two storey building had been reduced to a pile of blackened bricks
although parts of the wooden structure were still visible. These were smouldering
but were quickly dampened down by the Firemen on the scene.

He made his way back to the rental where Krycek waited in the passenger seat with
the air conditioning full on. Krycek coughed and swallowed painfully as Mulder
opened the driver's door and climbed in.

"There's nothing worth waiting here for. I'll drop you back at your motel."

"I'll make my own way."

Mulder stared at the other man in disbelief. In truth he had no idea where Krycek
was staying and had hoped to lull him into revealing his bolt-hole but Krycek had
not fallen into the trap. Despite the obvious discomfort, Mulder realised Krycek
was fit enough to find his own way and decided not to push the issue.

"Fine." He watched as Alex Krycek climbed out of the car and pulled on his
jacket.

"Krycek!" The younger man glanced back over his shoulder. "Thanks."

Krycek stared for a moment into the sincere hazel eyes and nodded, a slight blush
creeping across his face at the unexpected show of gratitude for saving Mulder's
life in the laboratory. As he walked away, his voice was even more husky than
usual.

"I'll catch you later."

Mulder watched until Krycek had disappeared round the corner before pulling out
his cellphone.

"Scully, anything?"

//There's very little left except some scorched labels on a couple of vials:
BioTechnics Ltd. I've run a background check but there's nothing unusual.// A
moments pause. //How's our 'partner'?//

"He's gone but I get the impression he'll be back. I expect he's gonna contact
the Group for more instructions."

***

Krycek called a cab as soon as he reached a phone booth, standing out of view as
he waited for the cab to turn up just in case Mulder should happen to pass this
way but nothing happened. He chose a circuitous route back to his motel, stopping
off at a diner on the way.

The phone booth at the back of the Diner was surprisingly private. He pushed in
the code and waited speaking only when he recognised the voice on the other end
of the line as that of his Employer.

"The Doctor has gone over to the others. How do you want me to proceed."

//You must delay Agent Mulder in his quest. Keep him away from BioTechnics until
we have the chance to deal with the Colonists. By tomorrow the subsidiary will
have been stripped clean. Take him there.//

Krycek hung up the phone, replacing it in its cradle and returned to the booth he
had selected earlier. He called the waitress over and nursed another mug of
coffee as he considered his options.

17:25 East 46th St

New York

The Well-Manicured Man checked himself in the mirror, hands moving to correct the
angle of his tie. He was as impeccably dressed as ever and knew that he could
allow no sense of elation to become apparent to any around him. Bonita would be
avenged. He turned back as the First Elder spoke.

"How could this happen?"

"Someone has betrayed us. "

"Who?"

The Well-Manicured Man barely stopped the astonishment from reaching his face. It
was obvious who had betrayed them. It had their Cigarette-Smoking associate's
fingerprints all over it. Of all those present, this man had the most to gain by
allowing the Colonists to continue with their plans unabated. He craved power -
and that was what he had been offered. However, there was no proof as yet so he
remained silent.

The First Elder understood the silence and, with a certain amount of regret that
his own man had failed in the attempt to assassinate the Cigarette-Smoking Man,
he continued.

"And Mulder?"

"It is too late to prevent his intervention. Agent Mulder is already in Florida."
The others muttered in concern. "However, I may be able to delay him while we
clean-up this mess. It appears the good doctor may have to suffer an accident
after all."

***

21:50 A Motel near Christchurch, Florida

Krycek eventually reached his motel without incident late in the evening.

He gave up trying to control the urge to cough as he wandered into the bathroom
for a glass of water. A soft click warned him that someone had entered his room
and he pulled out his gun, holding it before him as he edged back towards the
bedroom. He sucked in a deep breath and then swung himself into the room just as
the smell of a cigarette reached his olfactory senses.

"What are you doing here?"

"Is that any way to treat a guest, Alex."

"I don't recall inviting you in."

The Cigarette-Smoking Man inhaled deeply then flicked ash onto the carpet. He
patted the bed beside him, an obvious invitation that raised a storm of anger
into the sea-green eyes. Krycek had wondered when his ex-employer would try to
resume their affair, recalling the way he had been pawing him on the flight back
from Quebec. He raised his chin defiantly.

"Get out."

"Why, Alex, that's not what you used to say."

"Get out before I kill you."

Cancerman smiled and dropped the remainder of the cigarette onto the floor,
adding another hole to the threadbare carpet as he ground it beneath his heel.

"I was hoping we might... renew our association. You're still a good looking man
despite the... accident."

Krycek snorted in disbelief at the gall of this man. How he could possibly
believe he would wish to renew their affair after what he had done.. and it was
not as if he had ever loved the man. Hell, despite everything he didn't even know
Cancerman's real name.

Krycek thought back to the day when the man had first contacted him. He had been
majoring in Eastern Block Politics and was very proactive in the student union.
His outspoken views on Communism and the American way had drawn attention. This,
added to his natural fluency in Russian as a first generation American from Cold
War immigrants, had made him a desirable target.

He had not lied to Mulder when he had told him that he loved this country.
America was his home and Cancerman had played on his ardent patriotism. The young
agent had been taken under Cancerman's wing and his eagerness to please had been
exploited to the fullest extent.

At first he had idolised the older man, willing to let himself be led in whatever
direction this man wanted. Cancerman had taken full advantage, even taking him
into his bed, using and abusing his willing young prot*g* but it had all changed
after he had been assigned to partner Fox Mulder.

The increasing exposure to Cancerman's inhuman plans and the camaraderie he had
enjoyed with the FBI Agent had soured his view of the relationship - or had he
already started to grow out of the adolescent fanaticism. Whatever, he had
started to see his employer in a different light and Krycek often wondered
whether Cancerman would have ordered his execution had he not made it clear a few
weeks earlier that their sexual relationship was over.

"Get out. I'm not going to ask again."

The Cigarette-Smoking Man stood up and walked towards the door, opened it but
stopped on the threshold. He turned to face his former lover.

"By the way, Alex. When I leave here I shall be giving the order to have Agent
Mulder removed permanently. If you leave now you might just reach him in time to
warn him... but next time..." The man gave a predatory smile, letting the threat
hang in the air. "However, with a little... intimate persuasion, there need not
be a next time." He turned and walked away.

Krycek stared at the retreating figure in horror, knowing all too well what
Cancerman meant by 'intimate persuasion'. He rushed passed the loathsome man.

The Cigarette-Smoking Man lit another Morley, filled his lungs and then exhaled a
blue-grey plume of smoke as he watched his former lover race to his car. The
rental headed off in the direction of Mulder's motel, accelerating quickly. He
smiled, enjoying the little mind games he played. Alex Krycek was going to warn
Mulder of the threat to his life, thereby confirming that he valued that life. He
let ideas flow into his head, accepting and rejecting future moves in this new
game, pleased with the way he had manipulated events to his own end.

He punched out a number on his cellphone.

"After they have left the motel wait five minutes then carry out the assignment."

He was about to disconnect when his agent replied.

//What's the point if they're long gone?//

"They will know."

He switched off the phone and shook another cigarette out of the pack, placing it
between lips that were creased with age. Once lit, he took a deep drag, holding
it in his lungs for several moments before allowing the smoke to drift back out.
//More to the point, Alex will know//, he thought to himself and smiled as the
second part of his game plan swung into operation.

***

22:10 Dawson Motel

Christchurch, Florida

The screeching of tyres outside his room brought Mulder out of a light doze but
it was the frantic banging on the door and the sound of equally violent banging
on Scully's door that brought him to his feet, gun in hand. Whoever it was had
returned and was back outside his door. Mulder clicked off the safety.

"Mulder!"

"Krycek?"

The FBI agent flicked on the light and opened the door. Alex Krycek pushed passed
him and started to throw Mulder's few belongings into his case, grateful the man
preferred to live out of his suitcase rather than use the motel drawers.

"Get Scully in the car."

"What?"

"Don't argue, there isn't much time."

Mulder grabbed Krycek's arm and was taken aback by the determination written
across the handsome face and by the fear reflected in the wide eyes.

"What's going on, Krycek."

Krycek huffed in annoyance. "I'm trying to save your lives. Now get Scully."

Mulder stood still for a moment before deciding to follow the frantic
instructions and when he turned he found Dana Scully standing by his door, gun
raised and pointed at Krycek.

"Let's do what he says."

He forced her out and back into her own room where he grabbed the laptop and
quickly helped her to throw her belongings into her suitcase. Outside he could
hear the sound of his own suitcase being thrown into the trunk and hoped Krycek
had been more careful with his laptop... then Krycek was at the door.

"No more time, take what you've got."

Krycek's anxiety broke through and moments later they found themselves
frantically shoving Scully's belongings into the trunk. Mulder slammed down the
tailgate as Krycek started the car and was given barely enough time to get in
before it began moving. He pulled the door closed just as they exited the motel
parking lot and glanced over his shoulder to where Scully had been thrown
sideways along the back seat by the sharp cornering onto the highway.

"Where're we going?"

"I don't know."

Mulder glanced at the display on the dash. Only four minutes had passed since
that first frantic bang on his door and here they were speeding along the
highway. Mulder looked down at his bare feet.

"I hope you packed my shoes."

***

After driving for the almost three hours northwards along Interstate 95 Krycek
spotted a sign advertising vacancies. He reduced their speed and then turned off,
following the road down to a small motel.

"Where are we?"

"Somewhere near Melbourne."

The two FBI agents waited in the car while Krycek went into Reception. He came
out a few minutes later clutching two keys.

"We're in luck. They've got two vacancies. So... who wants to share?"

"I could use a beer." Krycek gasped through another light coughing fit. His
throat still felt a little raw from the smoke he had inhaled earlier that day. To
be honest he would have preferred something much stronger than a beer, like a
tumbler filled to the brim with a 'good' Russian Vodka...but he needed to keep
his wits about him.

"I spotted a drugstore as we came in. Looked like a 24 hour place. Want me to go
check it out?"

Krycek nodded but yelled out as Mulder started to close the door behind him.

"Pay by cash. They might trace a credit card."

Mulder walked back into the room.

"I've only got 20 bucks on me - and I don't intend to waste them on you."

Krycek dug deep into his jeans pocket and produced a 50 dollar bill.

"Will that do?"

"Is it genuine"

Krycek sighed in exasperation.

"I may do many things but I don't handle counterfeit. Too risky."

Mulder snorted in disbelief but took the offered money and disappeared out the
door.

Krycek took advantage of the other man's absence and contacted his associates. He
scowled when told the news, realising he had played into Cancerman's hands... but
he had been given no choice.

When Mulder returned he found Alex Krycek sprawled across the double bed watching
a report on the local news. Scully had met him just outside having seen a
slightly earlier local news- break but it hadn't truly registered until now as he
viewed the flowery wallpaper, shot full of bullet holes. He dragged his attention
from the screen and looked at Alex, wanting to say 'thanks' but, at the same
time, balking from accepting that the other man had probably saved his life yet
again. He decided it was better to say nothing.

"There was Bud or Rolling Rock, your choice."

Krycek grimaced imagining what he would do for a decent Czech lager or British
pint of mild. In his mind, America may one of the richest countries in the world
but it knew nothing at all about the brewing let alone the distilling of alcohol.
Either that or the Americans didn't have the stomach for the kind of gut-rot his
father's countrymen preferred.

He grabbed the can of Budweiser from Mulder's outstretched hand, gulping down the
liquid as if it were water. He belched loudly and wrinkled up his nose in
disapproval. That was the other thing he hated about these beers, always so gassy
but the cool liquid gave blessed relief to his parched throat.

"I noticed you were travelling light so I picked you up some toiletries and a
T-shirt."

Mulder threw the long-sleeved T-shirt at the reclining form and waited for a
reaction but was slightly disappointed. A slight crease across the bridge of his
nose was all he got as Krycek unfolded the black shirt to reveal the words
'Failure is not an option' printed in vivid green across the back. Fortunately,
the front had only the small Apollo 13 logo.

"Gee, thanks Mulder." He retorted sarcastically, inwardly grateful of the
consideration given.

"Actually, it was a choice between that and Minnie Mouse. So where do we go from
here?"

Krycek glanced across at the FBI Agent before responding.

"Shower. Bed."

Mulder blushed as the innocent words took on a whole new meaning in his own mind
but turned away before Krycek looked up and wondered what was going on. Krycek
grabbed the bag containing the toiletries and retreated to the bathroom. Mulder
found himself reclining on the bed listening to the small noises of movement as
Krycek used the facilities, brushed his teeth and started his shower. His
imagination began to feed him images of Alex Krycek standing naked under the hot
spray, head tilted back as the water splashed across his face. He could visualise
Krycek soaping his body, his one hand massaging across taut muscles and down.....

"What am I doing?" he whispered to himself and reached for the TV remote, turning
up the volume to drown out the imagined sound of skin sliding against soapy skin.
Krycek reappeared about 10 minutes later looking clean and refreshed wearing the
new T-shirt and a pair of boxers. He scrubbed at his damp hair.

"It's all yours."

Mulder edged passed the other man, going into the bathroom and closing the door
behind him. As he stood under the shower he thought back to their arrival. It was
obvious now that Alex Krycek had paid for the rooms either in cash or by using
one of his 'counterfeit' credit cards.

'So, who wants to share' he had said.

Deciding who should share rooms had been relatively easy. Mulder could not
imagine Scully and Krycek sharing a bedtime ritual which left him with either
Scully or Krycek. The thought of sharing with Scully had not alarmed him in any
way - they had been forced into each other's company more than a few times over
the last few years but Mulder hoped he would be able to prise more information
out of the taciturn ex-FBI agent. However, now that it had come to the crunch he
found himself reluctant to start a dialogue - and there was one other problem
that needed to be resolved; there was only one bed in the room and Mulder
wondered how they were going to decide who would have it.

The decision was taken from him moments after he left the bathroom when Krycek
clambered in. Mulder sighed at the uncomfortable looking chair, pushed aside the
urge to shove Krycek out of the bed and began to reach for the spare blanket he
had spotted earlier.

"There's plenty of room in here - unless you're one of those restless sleepers."
Krycek smiled at the worried look on his ex-partner's face and added,
sarcastically. "Don't worry, your virginity's safe with me."

//But is yours safe with me// came the silent reply. Mulder drew a deep breath,
shucked his clothes and scrambled into the bed beside him, the need for sleep
overpowering his reluctance to share the bed with this man. Twenty minutes later
Mulder was still wide awake - and so was Krycek. They lay next to each other
staring up at the ceiling, neither wanting to break the silence but, eventually,
sleep overtook them both.

The first light of dawn found a crack in the floral curtains that lay a stripe
across Mulder's left eye bringing him slowly back from the depths of a restful
sleep. The temperature had already started to climb but, at that moment, was
languorously comfortable. He could feel the heat of another body along his right
side, the heaviness of a head against his shoulder and he smiled. Such a perfect
day. Too perfect for reality. So many of his dreams had been filled with the
sight, smell and touch of Alexei Krycek but it had been a long time since he had
dreamed of waking with this warm body beside him.

He turned his head slightly so he could see the short, mahogany hair with hints
of red and gold where the pale morning sun caught it. Dark lashes fanned below
the closed eyes and Mulder marvelled at them, smiling as he imagined Scully's
jealousy. There were plenty of women who would kill for lashes like these. He
sighed and raised his hand to finger the silken strands that spilled across the
tall forehead, slightly miffed that his dream lover's hair was so much shorter
than the last time. He dreamed his eyes closed then re-opened them but the long
mahogany hair remained a distant memory of an earlier fantasy. His fingers
brushed across the lightly stubbled cheek before tracing a path around the curve
of one perfect ear, stroking down the side of Krycek's neck to the collar of
black T-shirt.

As the body stirred in his arms Mulder's eyes returned to the soft lips, slightly
parted, the barest hint of white teeth showing through. The lips curled slowly
upwards and a soft moan escaped as the warm body stretched leisurely, the head
moving back to give Mulder room to brush the lips with his own. He sighed and
closed his eyes again as the mouth opened beneath his. Yes.... he could stay in
this dream forever. His hand moved to catch the back of his lover's head,
deepening the kiss. He could feel a tingling sensation spreading through his
body, centring in his groin. He drew back and opened his eyes, wanting to see
this demon that had captured his soul, and fell headlong into green eyes,
darkened with passion.

A small noise caught his attention and he turned his head away, his eyes widening
as reality crashed in. The thumping on his motel door, the long drive through the
night. This was no dream. Mulder pulled his hand back as if it had been burned,
his body stiffening in shock at the thought of what he had been thinking and
doing only seconds before.

"Don't stop, that felt so good," came a mumble.

Mulder looked back down as Krycek pulled away until he could meet Mulder's eyes.
The soft expression and easy smile brought confusion but comprehension followed
the hand that reached across to cup his face.

"I want to kiss you... again." Krycek's hand stroked along the cheekbone then
moved until he could trace the outline of Mulder's generous mouth with his thumb.
"Here."

Mulder hesitated but could not deny the surge of lust that jolted through his
body at the thought of touching this man. He shot backwards, letting the hand
drop to the bed. His eyes studying the other man's face, looking for... what? The
expression was a shock all by itself. Never had he seen Krycek so open, so
vulnerable with no trace of malice or deceit just pure desire and... Mulder
frowned but backed away from the word his mind tried to supply. Surely there was
no place for love in their relationship? But desire... yes, he could understand
desire.. and lust.. and the need to touch this man and to be touched by him. Alex
Krycek had fuelled his fantasies and filled his dreams for so long that he could
feel himself succumbing to the temptation of turning it all to reality but... But
what? A thought leapt into his head. Perhaps reality was what he needed to rid
himself of the vivid images of this man that haunted him both night and day. With
this new resolve he found himself relaxing.

Krycek had turned his head away, his forearm covering his eyes to hide the bitter
disappointment that came with the realisation that he would never fulfil his own
fantasy of making love to Fox Mulder. Mulder pulled away the arm and smiled
teasingly as eyes, dulled by loss, met his own. He shifted his weight until
Krycek lay half beneath him then he lowered himself gently until their lips
touched. For a moment the mouth beneath his remained firm and unyielding but, as
hope flared, Krycek's hand reached up, hesitantly, before looping behind his head
and pulling him down harder, crushing their mouths together. Mulder moaned as he
felt Krycek's tongue force it's way into his mouth, battling with his own before
sucking hard to draw it across into Krycek's own mouth. The pressure eased and he
felt himself free to explore the wet haven, his tongue skimming across strong
white teeth and soft inner cheek.

By mutual agreement they parted and Mulder was exhilarated by the fine trembling
and shallow breathing of the man beneath him and by the light that danced once
more in the green eyes. He leaned onto one side before lowering down again,
nipping at the bruised lips before trailing kisses like liquid fire along the
strong jaw bone and onto the soft throat. His hand reached out to stroke the
stubbled cheek before following a parallel path down to the junction of shoulder
and neck, his fingers digging into muscle, massaging away the tension he felt
beneath the silky skin.

Krycek pulled Mulder's head up gently by the hair until their mouths met once
more. Hands moved lower to push away his T- shirt allowing the sensation of skin
upon skin. Thrusting his tongue deeply into the other, Krycek moaned softly into
Mulder, his back arching with the stimulation of fingers rubbing against one
puckered nipple before moving lower, across the flat muscular stomach and along
his flank. His own hand trailed under Mulder's T-shirt, down his back and side,
revelling in the feel of muscle moving languidly beneath the smooth, warm skin.

The mouth drew away leaving Krycek gasping for air and he stretched back,
exposing his throat as Mulder's mouth followed the path his fingers had taken,
moving down the body that had haunted his dreams. He tongued the tight nub before
drawing it between his teeth, raking the sensitive flesh, relishing the response
of the body beneath him before licking a path down the rib cage and across the
flat plain of Krycek's stomach. Krycek lifted his hips as hands grasped the
waistband of his boxers, enjoying the feel of cotton sliding down his thighs as
he was exposed to Mulder's passion-filled gaze. He kicked them off as Mulder
continued his oral assault of the body beneath him.

Krycek moaned in frustration as the tongue skimmed passed his rigid penis to
lathe the inner thigh. He froze, eyes screwed closed as Mulder's fingers and
tongue left his body, sobbing when he felt a slight shift followed by cool air
breathing over his taut flesh, suddenly afraid Mulder was going to leave him in
this state and barely containing a cry when a hot mouth descended to engulf him.

Mulder's tongue eased beneath the foreskin to lick across the glans, tasting the
pre-cum sending a frisson of heat radiating through Krycek's body. As he began a
gentle sucking, his hands held down Krycek's hips, preventing them from bucking
beneath him. Slowly, he increased the pressure, taking the cock deep into his
mouth, almost gagging as it touched the back of his throat. He could feel the
climax building in other body, sense the control slipping away until Krycek
stiffened, his back arching off the bed as he came, crying out Mulder's name. Fox
Mulder swallowed but continued sucking until the trembling eased and he had
drained the other man then, reluctantly, released the spent organ.

He raised his head and found eyes, darkened with pleasure gazing down at him.
Krycek smiled and pulled Mulder down to his side before rolling on top of the
older man.

"My turn," he said breathlessly, his husky voice sending a shiver down Mulder's
spine as the clear green eyes captured his own. Krycek swiftly coaxed Mulder into
discarding his clothing and then, without a word, he reached into the drawer
beside the bed and pulled out a tube. Mulder raised his eyebrows.

"I thought they only put bibles in those."

Krycek smiled predatorily. "They do."

Intensely satisfied by the embarrassment that filled the hazel eyes as
realisation struck, Krycek squirted a generous amount of lubricant onto his
fingers and began to stroke the gel thickly onto Mulder's engorged cock. Hazel
eyes locked onto teal green as Krycek positioned himself above his lover. He
lowered himself carefully until Mulder's cock was pressing against the tight ring
of muscle then closed his eyes, tipped back his head and let the weight of his
own body force the rigid organ inside, gasping at the pleasure and pain of an
unprepared entry. Beneath him, Mulder groaned as he felt his cock engulfed by the
tightness and heat of Krycek's body, throwing his head from side to side as he
fought back the urge to thrust up into that inferno.

"Alex", he whispered over and over again as he felt his lover's body sink around
him until Krycek's ass was pressed against his thighs.

He reached over and grabbed the slim hips, holding the man in place, never
wanting to lose that physical contact. Alex opened his eyes, his breathing
gradually slowing as the pain eased away. He smiled widely at the man held
captive below him then raised himself up until Mulder thought he was going to be
left high and dry, before dropping back down.

Mulder sobbed as the friction sent a burst of sensation radiating throughout his
entire body knowing that he could not hold back much longer and he watched in awe
as the strong muscular legs repeated the action over and over to send his mind
and body hurtling towards an explosive climax.

As his spinning senses slowed, Mulder pulled his lover into a crushing embrace,
not trusting words to explain how good it felt. He cried out softly as his spent
organ slipped from Krycek's body feeling an immeasurable sense of loss, realising
with dismay that the reality of this body had been far more intoxicating than his
fantasies.

They remained that way for what seemed a lifetime before Krycek shifted in
obvious discomfort. Mulder allowed the man to roll to his side, their legs
entwining to maintain the contact. He stared into the beautiful face, a hand
raising involuntarily to caress the lightly stubbled cheek before he lowered his
mouth to take Krycek's in a deep but gently possessive kiss.

Breaking free with a sigh, Mulder shifted position to make both of them more
comfortable.

The silence stretched between them as the warm afterglow slowly dissipated but,
as the time passed, thoughts encroached reminding him of who this man was. Mulder
picked up his watch. 6:45am. He stroked his fingers through the soft hair not
wanting to break the pleasant atmosphere but there were anomalies, questions that
needed to be asked and Mulder wondered if there would ever be a better time.. and
if there was any veracity in the old adage about sex and the truth. He spoke
softly to the man in his arms.

"Why did you lie about your connection with the paramilitary group?"

Krycek shifted, his eyes narrowing in puzzlement at the sudden question and then
he recalled the conversation he had with Scully and Mulder after he had betrayed
the group to the FBI by sending receipts anonymously to the Agent.

"I didn't lie..."

"You said they found you while on a 'salvage hunt' but Mayhew says you approached
them with supplies and details of how to lay their hands on some sophisticated
weapons."

Krycek stared at Mulder for a few moments before taking a deep shuddering breath.
"I didn't lie..."

Mulder huffed sarcastically and looked away. He had hoped to be told some of the
truth or, at least, a better story.

Krycek pursed his lips as he realised he would have to tell Mulder everything or
the man would believe he was spinning yet another lie to cover up the truth. He
sat up, drawing his knees close until he could wrap his arm around them.

"OK. I'll tell you but you've gotta promise to hear me out." He looked across at
his lover. Mulder didn't turn to face him but he didn't object either.

"They were on a 'salvage hunt' and, yes, I did approach them with supplies and
information but, just as I said, that is how they 'rescued' me from the Silo. I
spent two months in that Silo with no heat, no light, no water and no food. Do
you want to know how I survived?" He waited to see if Mulder would give any
indication that he was interested and took the slight movement as Mulder
half-turned back as confirmation. "The alien."

Mulder turned the rest of the way to face his ex-partner as the mention of the
alien piqued his curiosity..

"Three days after being locked in that room I was lying by the door, my throat
dry and raw, too weak and dehydrated to even sit up.... and then there was a
light that blinded me and I felt my body being lifted. My next memory was of
lying in a small, bright room, my arms and legs like lead. There was something
above me then I felt the alien slide across me, filling my nose and mouth... just
like in Hong Kong. When I next had control I was back in the dark by the door but
I was no longer thirsty or hungry. I don't know how long it had kept me shut away
from my own body. Hours.. days...? It was impossible to measure time in the dark.

The next time I collapsed from dehydration it happened again but this time I
remained aware a little longer before it crawled into me... probably because I
wasn't so weak from thirst and hunger.. but it was long enough to register an
examination. The next time it performed a few simple tests... and the next
time.... It didn't seem to care that I knew what it was doing. It knew I was
trapped, that I wasn't going anywhere. Then, one day, I woke up to find the Silo
door open and the alien gone. I made a run for it just in case it came back - not
so easy in the pitch black when you haven't a clue where you are or where you're
going. All I knew was I was out of that room.

I must have spent hours wandering around in the dark like a rat in a maze before
I noticed a light up ahead but I reached the exit to find there was nowhere to
go. You must have noticed those Silos are out in the middle of fucking nowhere
but I couldn't stay at the installation. Without the alien I would either starve
to death or the Consortium's men would return. Either way I was a dead man so I
decided to try and walk out.

Well, as luck would have it I stumbled on their encampment a day later and I
bought my life and a ride back to civilisation with the outdated supplies I
discovered inside the installation - and the promise of more sophisticated
weapons and explosives."

Mulder looked deep into the pleading, green eyes and knew he had been told the
truth.

"So who's Arntzen?"

Krycek smiled, remembering how he had used the name in his dealings with Mayhew.

"When I first knew him he was a high level KGB agent in Krasnoyask. He was
subsequently promoted to Camp Controller at Tunguska but not at the time we were
there. I used his name because I didn't want anyone to know I had escaped from
the Silo."

He sank back onto the bed and stared up at the ceiling as he held back part of
the truth. It was not just anyone that he feared - it was someone; The
Cigarette-Smoking Man. Cancerman had made two attempts on his life and he had
survived both through sheer good fortune. He had missed being blown apart by
seconds just because he had happened to glance towards the store as the thought
of a cold beer had trickled into his mind. His escape from the Silo was even more
miraculous and it gave him a chance to lie low for a few months with Cancerman
convinced he was dead. Also. it gave him time to lick his wounds and renew
contacts within Russia.

Mulder sank back next to him as he tried to imagine what it must have been like
for Krycek.

"Did the tests hurt?"

"Yes, sometimes, but I suffered them because it was keeping me alive." The green
eyes turned to chips of ice. "Do you want to know what really hurt? I thought,
having used this body, that it actually 'cared' whether I lived or died." Krycek
pulled himself up and stared at Mulder. "It opened the Silo door. It could have
opened that door anytime. It used me to reach its ship then it used me again...
and once I was no longer of any use it left me to die. I'm just surprised it
didn't do the job itself."

Mulder wrapped his arms tightly around the taut body and felt Krycek relax
against him.

"I was tipped off and went there that first day. I knew you... the Alien, was
there because of the irradiated bodies in the corridor but you weren't alone.
Cancerman was there. I'm still not sure why he let me live but he posted enough
military around the place to deter any further attempts.

You know, I finally got back inside over two months later. Silo 1013. That's
where the craft had been - a FOO fighter, they said, shot down during World War
2. It was gone." He paused with embarrassment before continuing. "I hated you so
much I never really thought nor cared what had happened to you. I just assumed
Cancerman had taken care of you. I'm sorry."

"What about now?"

Mulder looked away. He'd walked straight into that one.

"I... don't know."

Krycek smiled softly. At least Mulder had not told him he still didn't care or
that he still hated him. A rap at the door brought the present crashing back.

"Mulder?"

"Scully!" he gasped softly.

There was a scrabble of limbs as Mulder untangled himself from the lithe body
beside him. Mulder stared down at Krycek and his breath caught. He looked so
young, so vulnerable... so beautiful.

"Mulder?! Are you OK?"

"Scully! I'm fine. I was in the..."

Mulder decided not to bother finishing the sentence and after throwing the
blanket and a pillow over the uncomfortable easy chair to give the impression
someone had slept there he opened the door. He heard soft laughter from behind
him and felt his cheeks heat up in embarrassment as he realised he'd forgotten
his clothes.

Scully stood just outside the door and tried to peek in as it opened a sliver.
She raised her eyebrows as Mulder prevented her.

"Krycek's not exactly dressed for company... and neither am I."

The interested look on Scully's face would have earned her a come-back under
normal circumstances but only served to increase Mulder's embarrassment.

"I'll be in the Diner across the way."

"OK. I'll meet you there shortly."

When Mulder sauntered in 15 minutes later, his hair still damp from his shower,
Scully found herself smiling into her coffee. For someone who liked to joke about
his vast pornographic video and reading collection he could be extremely
embarrassed when caught unprepared. Mulder sat across from her having already run
several scenarios through his mind with answering responses, expecting her to
have guessed what had happened between him and Krycek and to remonstrate with him
for his actions. However, she remained silent.

He started a conversation about where they were and what they could do next and
was relieved to find no sign of knowledge in those blue eyes. He felt the tension
leave his body as he realised Scully must have taken the whole thing at face
value. As far as she was concerned, the only thing Mulder and Krycek shared was a
room - and a few moments of panic when Scully woke them up.

"I checked in with AD Skinner. It was our motel rooms that were broken into last
night. Both rooms were peppered with gunshot. If we'd been in there, we'd be
dead."

Mulder nodded. It seems they had cheated Death by minutes thanks to Alex Krycek.

"I hate being indebted to him." Sparks flew from Scully's eyes. "And I want to
know why he did it. Not that I'm not grateful... but him!"

Mulder sipped at the coffee that had been brought over by the waitress.

"I just don't get it, Mulder. One minute he's waiting in my apartment ready to
kill me, the next he's rushing us out of our motel to save our lives."

Mulder carried on sipping allowing Scully to get this off her chest.

"You're right about one thing though."

Mulder tilted his head in inquiry.

"He's no psychopath, which makes him unpredictable... and dangerous. He knows a
lot more than he's telling and that makes me wonder about his motives. Is he back
working for them? Is there some hidden agenda? Mulder?"

Mulder had stopped sipping his coffee, his eyes taking on a faraway look as her
words touched upon his inner fears. Was this all a game? What if the
vulnerability was just a ruse? What if Krycek used sex as a weapon, another means
to an end? As deadly as a bullet in the back.

"Mulder? Are you sure you're OK?"

"Uhh, yeah. I'm fine. Just fine."

Scully waited but nothing more was forthcoming and she knew from experience how
close-mouthed he could be when it suited him.

"Well, if you're sure then I'll head back to the room and make a few more
enquiries on BioTechnics."

"Yeah, I'll wait here for Krycek."

Krycek appeared a little later. He gave Mulder a wide grin as he sat down beside
him in the far booth at the Diner but let the smile slide when he read the
black-look in the hazel eyes. Regrets. Oh well, he knew he'd have to take what
was offered while he could, knowing it may never be repeated. At least he would
have some good memories to carry with him. Krycek forced an almost sneering smile
having decided he was not going to let Fox Mulder know how much this rejection
hurt.

"Got anything, Mulder?"

Mulder pouted in annoyance and, out of intuition rather than sound judgement, he
reeled off a name, waiting to see the reaction it caused.

"BioTechnics Ltd."

The agent was not disappointed as the hard smile turned to stunned astonishment.

"How did you...?"

"Scully found the name on some vials." //But they checked out clean.... or so we
thought,// he added to himself. "What do you know about them?"

"They supplied Dr Hudson with certain experimental drugs.....and other material."

Mulder waited but when nothing more was forthcoming he slammed his fist down onto
the table surface before retorting angrily.

"That's it, Krycek? That's all your going to say? What is this? Challenge TV? You
just gonna hand out the clues one by one and give us marks out of ten for
performance? Well, how did I do this morning?...."

"Oh, I'd give you a...."

"If this is just a game then you can go back to that Cancer- ridden bastard and
tell him we're not playing."

Krycek looked away, licking suddenly dry lips. "I don't work for him. Not
anymore."

Mulder was taken aback by the vehemence in the softly spoken words and dropped
his voice accordingly.

"So who do you work for?"

"Who isn't important. It's what that matters."

"OK, I'll bite, what do you work for?"

"Freedom." Krycek took a deep breath before continuing. "Look, we both fight for
what we believe in, Mulder. It's just the method that differs."

"Yeah, well my methods don't involve killing innocent people..."

"Neither do mine."

"Are you trying to tell me you never killed an innocent person? What about the
tram operator? What about Scully's sister?"

"I didn't kill them...and before you ask, I didn't shoot your father...."

"I suppose he just happened to fall in front of your gun as it went off ...."

"I don't deny I was there but he was alive when I left him....

"He was alive when I found him, you bastard. Why did you have to...?"

"What do I have to do to prove to you I didn't kill him? Not that he didn't
deserve a bullet... and if that had been my orders I would have done it. He was
the worst form of traitor, as dirty as they come..."

The hostility that sprang into the hazel eyes and the tensing of muscles proved
to Krycek that he was standing on unstable ground as Mulder fought against
unleashing his anger and pummelling that beautiful face. Krycek braced himself as
he continued, aware that he had to reach Mulder, try to make him understand even
if it meant taking another beating.

"His mistake was in wanting to assuage his guilt by going public...but, whether
you choose to believe it or not, all I did was explain the consequences. While
they remain unsubstantiated they will stick to their timetable and that buys this
planet time to prepare. If they accelerate their invasion plans before our
defences are in place then you can kiss the human race goodbye."

"And is it any safer in the hands of your Masters?"

Krycek laughed derisively and looked away, a disbelieving smile on his face.
Inwardly, he wished he could explain to Mulder that the consequence his father
faced had been the loss of far more than just the Planet. Cancerman had held the
son's life to ransom for father's silence. Krycek remembered the way Bill
Mulder's troubled expression had faded into the calmness of a decision made but
had not been prepared for the sudden lunge to seize the gun from his hand. Bill
Mulder had chosen to try and end his own life rather than live with himself and
had pulled the trigger before Krycek could stop him.

Knowing Fox Mulder was in the house, Krycek had panicked. He had grabbed the gun
and was out of the bathroom window and running within moments. He hadn't realised
the shot had been fatal until much later when Mulder had been prepared to shoot
him. On that occasion Scully had intervened, saving his life.

"What is it with you, Krycek? Blind patriotism or blind ignorance?"

"Me! You're the one with the problem, Mulder. So determined to find 'the truth'
and parade it throughout the known universe at any cost; even if it leads to the
extinction of all human life on the planet." Krycek turned back to look into the
beautiful hazel eyes. "No-one cares how many 'monsters' you reveal: Yeti's,
Vampires, killers like Tooms, but, for all our sakes, you must let this go."

"This?"

"The Black Oil, the Experiments ....the Consortium." Krycek closed his eyes as
Mulder continued his tirade, wishing he had been gifted with the ability to
persuade others without resorting to violence.

"What they are doing is wrong. Innocent people are being subjected to torture and
mutilation, they've had their rights stripped away from them from the most basic
right of freedom to the right to have children. Did you know they strip the
ovaries of women abductees of every egg, drill holes in their teeth, infect them
with cancers, all in the name of experimentation."

"I don't have all the answers..."

"What about Tunguska? What has it achieved? Hundreds have innocent men have died
there. And for what?"

"Tunguska has ceased those experiments....."

"And knowing that is supposed to make everything better..."

"OK, Mulder. I do agree that some of the methods used were, are...inhumane and
the end doesn't always justify the means but they achieved what they set out to
do. They have a cure for the Black Cancer albeit a weak one but that antidote is
already being mass produced and sent out through various pharmaceutical
companies..."

"Like BioTechnics..."

"...to be ready when its needed. I'd have thought you of all people would be
interested in that cure. They ran the test on you - infected you with the Black
Oil virus - and destroyed it with the antidote."

"I don't need this shit."

"Oh yes you do. It's time you stopped shouting about human rights and started
listening. WE ARE AT WAR and the survival of the Human Race depends on the
results of those experiments. And maybe it's true that in the race to save the
planet some of those scientists have become immune to the suffering they inflict
but it's those people we hand to you on a plate when the time is right." The
anger dropped out of the voice as Krycek continued more softly. "You have to
realise that some of those people are untouchable while the end result is so
vital to our survival but only until then...and every effort is made to curb
their enthusiasm along the way."

"And Dr Martha Hudson...."

"Has outlived her usefulness."

"If she is one of these once-important scientists then why is she being handed
over to me. Why am I not investigating her death or disappearance?"

"Just because she was working for the Consortium didn't mean she knew what was..
is going on or knew anyone at the top level in the Group but she had become a
liability, asking too many questions, taking too many risks which threatened to
expose everything we are working towards. They want her to get taken down for
unethical Genetic experimentation. The word 'Extra- terrestrial' would never have
got a mention." Krycek grinned cheekily. "And don't you think it will be a little
suspicious if too many top scientists get offed. You know, for such a clever man,
you can be incredibly dense, Mulder."

"You're not exactly a Chess Grand-Master yourself. Speaking of which, where's
Gibson Praise?"

Krycek looked away. This was getting them nowhere.

"I don't know. The Consortium have him, alive, but I don't know where."

Mulder nodded slowly, his anger abating as he recognised the truth. "Can you find
out?"

Krycek snorted. "I'm not that big a player, Mulder. I'm not privy to all their
plans...hell, I'm surprised I'm still alive."

"So am I."

Scully slid into the seat next to Mulder aware from the body language that she
had missed a confrontation between the two men. She waited but neither seemed
willing to air their grievances.

"What's going on?"

A moment passed before Mulder answered reluctantly.

"We were just debating modus operandi."

Krycek looked away, ignoring the puzzled expression on Scully's face. As far as
he was concerned if she wanted to know what Mulder was talking about then she
would have to speak to her partner. Scully decided not to pursue that avenue; it
could wait until later when she and Mulder were alone but one question did need
to be asked.

"So where do we go from here? BioTechnics?"

"Yes."

"No."

Scully looked from one man to the other as Mulder and Krycek stared at each other
across the width of the table. Eventually it was Krycek that broke the deadlock.

"Hudson is not with BioTechnics Ltd. They're a Consortium company and she has
'left' the Consortium."

"Then where is she?"

"With... BioTechnics."

"Krycek, if this is your idea of a joke then you'll notice I'm not laughing."

Krycek took a deep breath. He had contacted the Well-Manicured Man soon after
Mulder left their shared room to meet Scully. His new orders were to delay Mulder
and Scully by taking them to the, by now, stripped and cleaned out subsidiary of
BioTechnics. Part of him hated the idea of hindering Mulder's investigation by
leading him on a wild goose chase but his Employer was quite explicit. He felt
his feelings for Fox Mulder battle against his desire to help his Employer defeat
the Colonists but knew he had to put the future of Earth ahead of his own
desires. If only he had iron-clad proof that the Well-Manicured Man was
trustworthy.

"BioTechnics have a subsidiary about 45 kilometres north of here. They call
themselves BioTechnics Supplies. The Consortium has been a little concerned at
the way they have 'altered' their working practices over the past two months. We
believe they have been taken over by a 'less friendly' faction."

"Less friendly to whom?"

"Obviously the Consortium but also to us."

"Colonists?"

Krycek looked up and into Mulder's inquisitive hazel eyes. Keeping secrets was
impossible where this man was concerned; it was one of the reasons why he was
considered to be so dangerous and yet, at the same time, so necessary. That
incisive mind seemed able to pull the facts from the scantiest of information.
The phrase 'damned if I do, damned if I don't' trickled into his mind but Mulder
forestalled his reply.

"We've encountered Colonists before...."

"And they managed to convince you they're the good guys, no doubt, while they
stepped up their colonisation plans. Where do you think the Black Oil comes from?
It's part of them. They use the oil as a medium until they can integrate with a
host. Without full integration they can only take over the body on the surface
level. The host remains, subjugated but still present. Once fully integrated they
can destroy the host's individuality while still making use of the mental
pathways - the memories. If the Colonists win this war then the Human Race will
be no more than slaves or shells for the Alien's. As you can imagine, I've become
quite an expert on these things."

Krycek sighed. He had contacted the Well-Manicured Man just before meeting Mulder
and the man had requested that he try to convince Mulder to drop the case but
Krycek could have told him that it would not work. It would only increase
Mulder's determination. The option was to use the Subsidiary as a delaying
tactic, somehow convincing Mulder it was more important than BioTechnics Ltd....
but if that did not work

"They sent you here to take Hudson into custody but.... things do have a way of
gettin' out of control when you're around." He paused, contemplating their
options. "Look, if she's gone over to them then it's probably already too late to
take her in. Even if we caught her neither side will let her live. Not now. Let
it go, Mulder. The Truth will wait."

"You expect me to believe that? I've seen how your people operate. While we're
hanging around here they'll be stripping down that place to the last bolt. No,
we're going now. Scully, I'll meet you round front with the car in ten."

Krycek sighed as if he had been beaten into a corner rather than managed to
manipulate Mulder in the desired direction.

"It should take us just over an hour to get there if we use the Inter..."

"I don't recall inviting you along for the ride."

"You need me, Mulder. Remember, I'm your guardian angel. And anyway," he added as
an afterthought, "it's my car."

10:15 BioTechnics Supplies

Oak Hill, Florida

When they arrived at Bio Supplies Mulder hissed in annoyance and slammed his hand
against the steering wheel. The place looked empty. He turned an accusing look on
Krycek who merely shrugged in reply. They climbed out of the Taurus and walked
toward the open gates. No security guards were posted in the gate-house and
no-one tried to stop them as they walked across the small parking lot to the main
entrance. The door was padlocked but it took only moments for Krycek to pick the
lock with Mulder's assistance. It fell open with a clang and he dropped it to the
ground before pushing open the door.

Inside the room seemed cavernous due to its emptiness. Not a single piece of
equipment remained, not even a bench and there was not a speck of dust to be
seen. The whole place had been cleaned as thoroughly as a hospital Operating
Theatre. Mulder wandered off into the nearby office space but found it as sterile
as the outside area. He walked from room to room but could only guess at what
each could have been used for.

"There's nothing here."

He targeted an angry look toward Krycek before turning on his heel and stomping
back to the car.

Scully waited for a moment, staring around the empty room in the hope that
something would present itself to pull Mulder out of his black mood, until her
eyes found Alex Krycek. The Consortium Agent seemed to be doing the same but his
expression was blank. She pushed back her hair in annoyance.

"Mulder's right, there's nothing here but then, you already knew this place would
be deserted."

Krycek turned to face the perceptive woman, stared at her for a moment and then
nodded.

"Was this just a wild goose chase? Keeping us out of the way while the Consortium
cleans up its mess."

"I knew they would be gone by now but I could hardly expect Mulder to believe
me...."

"Don't feed me that trash, Krycek. You cleverly manipulated him, convinced him to
come here by telling him it wasn't worthwhile."

Krycek smiled wryly. It was true and they both knew it - probably Mulder knew it
too but...

"I had half-hoped there would be some clue left behind to appease him but they've
been as thorough as ever."

"So where do we go from here?"

"I don't know. It's a mess. If Hudson has learnt about the Colonists then the
Consortium cannot afford to let her live in case she exposes the Plan."

"I don't understand one thing, Krycek. If she was working with the Black Oil then
she must know of its extra-terrestrial origins."

Krycek smiled at Dana Scully.

"Mulder has a habit of jumping to conclusions. Often he's right but not this
time. I never said she was working with the Black Oil, that was Mulder's
assumption. She's a Genetic Engineer. She was working on a serum to counteract a
new strain of the Variola virus at the genetic level; the virus developed by Dr
Charne-Sayre before her sudden demise, but she proved herself to be as
ineffective and as unethical in her approach as her fellow scientist. She refused
to curtail her experiments even after the Consortium found a serum through other
means... so she became a liability."

"I don't understand the relevance of the Variola virus although it seems to play
an important role..."

"It's the only virus we know of that can attack the Black Oil - successfully -
time and time again. The problem is, it kills the host as well. Charne-Sayre was
adapting its genetic code to target only the Black Oil virus. Hudson was working
on a serum to destroy the Variola virus once it's done its job."

During her stay in prison for Contempt of the Senate she had spent many hours
reading Dr Charne-Sayre's treatise on Variola Viruses and knew the woman would
have been capable of developing a new strain. However, she still could not bring
herself to believe in Mulder's extra-terrestrial invasion, a theory Krycek seemed
to encourage, preferring to believe Charne-Sayre was working on Bio-weapons.
Something Mulder had said about Tunguska came back to mind.

"By why continue the research when the Russians have developed a vaccine?"

"It's weak. The vaccine protects for only a few weeks. Once its effects have worn
off the host can be re-infected by the Black Oil... and humans can only handle a
few exposures to the vaccine before the immune system produces enough antibodies
to kill it before it can destroy the invading alien virus."

He turned away to stare through the window at the car parked just beyond.

"The Variola virus offers more permanent protection."

He could see Fox Mulder sitting on the bonnet, gazing out into the distance
probably winding himself up into the deepest, darkest mood he could manage.
Krycek was not looking forward to joining him and, judging by her reluctance to
leave the deserted factory, neither was Dana Scully.

"As far as I can see, this case is closed. Even if we find Dr Hudson alive they
will never let her live long enough to face trial. Her actions have proved she
knows more than she let on but, for all I know she might be dead already."

"And what about us?"

"Us?"

"Mulder and me."

"It would be 'healthier' if you returned to DC." Krycek stared again at the
slumped figure outside. "But I doubt Mulder will let it go."

Scully sighed, almost angry with herself that she agreed with him.

Krycek walked out into the sunshine and, seconds later, Dana Scully followed. As
they approached Mulder moved into the driver's seat and once they were in the car
he moved off.

The Cigarette-Smoking Man watched the car pass by, barely acknowledging the man
who slid into the rear seat beside him.

"Did you fit the tracking device?"

"Yes."

The man fiddled with a laptop until he received the signal and then ordered the
driver to move off once the target vehicle had moved far out of visual range.

Cancerman smiled as he exhaled another plume of grey-blue smoke, leaning back
into the seat. Sometimes it was too easy. They would soon locate the place where
Krycek and the FBI Agents were 'hiding' and then the next part of the game could
begin.

***

11:15 Spaceport USA

Florida

They were halfway back to the motel when Mulder saw a sign directing them to
Spaceport USA. With a tight smile he turned off onto Highway 50. Both of his
passengers looked puzzled until the next sign brought understanding to one but
left the other still perplexed. Scully remembered their earlier conversation and
realised Mulder could think of nothing worse than returning to the motel to stare
across a table top at Scully and Krycek with no clues and no idea of what they
should do next. He needed time to think and where better than amid all the
rockets, shuttles, space art and films.

After parking the car he threw the keys at Scully and wandered off leaving her to
lock up and deal with Krycek. They stood by the car in silence, watching the tall
figure stride off into the distance and out of view, each debating internally
what to do next. Scully glanced sideways at the tall frame, taking in the red and
gold highlights in his hair as the Florida sun beat down upon them. She had never
really stopped to look at him before, seeing only a murdering traitor but her
eyes narrowed as she took in the strong, well-defined body. Considering his
disability, there was not an ounce of fat on the muscular frame which showed he
must spend a fair amount of time working out to keep himself fit. He was almost
as tall as Mulder. Her FBI training started to provide her with details: 6ft 1 to
2, 170 to 180lbs. Her eyes fell on his face, cataloguing his wide- spaced, green
eyes, high cheekbones and narrow chin. She noticed, from his profile, the way the
tip of his nose lifted. Her eyes were fixed on his mouth, the fullness of the
bottom lip, the fairly pronounced cupid's bow of the top when he turned and broke
the silence.

"I've never been here before."

She almost blushed with embarrassment at being caught staring but Krycek had not
seemed to notice - or had not been bothered. Memories flooded into her mind at
his words.

"I came here once as a kid with my family."

The thought brought tears welling up into her eyes. It had been a bright, hot day
and she had ran among the rockets with her brothers and sister while her parents
looked on in exasperation. It could never happen again. Her father was dead.
Melissa was dead. She pushed the sudden surge of hatred down. It would accomplish
nothing especially as it was obvious Mulder wanted her to keep Krycek in full
view.

"Doesn't look like Mulder is going to come back real soon."

Scully sighed. "Let's take a look around."

They wandered through the Rocket Garden marvelling at the sheer size of the ones
on display. Every now and then they would catch sight of Mulder wandering along
by himself or sitting on the grass staring into nothing. Once, when Scully made a
move toward him she felt a light touch on her arm.

"Perhaps it's better to leave him alone."

She reddened in anger, partly at him for saying what he did and partly at herself
because she knew he was right. For a moment she considered pulling away and
walking right up to Mulder out of sheer spite but instead she smiled tightly and
turned away wondering how someone who had spent such a short time with Fox Mulder
could know him so well.

They paused by a hot dog stand and grabbed something to eat as well as some
strange stuff that looked like tiny balls but was in fact ice-cream. A little
more wandering found them at the Space Mirror where they decided to stop and eat.
The highly polished surface engraved with the names of those who had died in the
name of Space Exploration moved slowly as it followed the Sun's path across the
sky.

"Tell me about your abduction."

Scully looked across at the unexpected question, half-prepared to find the
bright, green eyes fixed on her face but he was staring off into the distance.

"Why? Feeling a little guilty."

He turned, a small smile playing about his lips.

"Despite what you may believe, I didn't give Barry your address. I didn't have
to. They knew where you were because you had the locator chip. Whoever helped
Barry escape from the hospital gave him that information."

"So why do you want to know?"

Krycek shrugged. She looked away and, for a moment, he thought she had decided to
ignore both him and his question but then Scully spoke, her voice lapsing deeper
into her native drawl as emotions, normally kept well hidden, were brought back
to the surface.

"I can't remember anything at all about Skyland Mountain except being held up to
a bright light by Duane Barry. After that I have conflicting memories. Regression
hypnosis revealed little grey men yet I can recall seeing Dr Zama standing over
me. I was missing for several months which might explain why some of my memories
are of a room similar to that found in a train carriage while the rest show a
large room with other women being subjected to the same tests."

"That fits the facts. Zama started off like Mengele, the Auschwitz doctor,
experimenting on Chinese prisoners and then British POW's during the war. He was
one of the first scientists to start the smallpox 'tests' back in the late
forties. They would have moved you by rail to..." His voice petered out.

"To where?"

"Mulder knows. He went there when he went searching for a cure for your cancer."

"How do you know all this?" Krycek looked away. "Do you know what they did to
me?"

He looked back into pain-filled, blue eyes. Tears pricked the back of his eyes as
he thought of this tiny woman being subjected to the drugs, hormones and
operations.

"Yes. I know.. too much... seen too many things.. more than any man should...."
His voice had dropped to a whisper as his own memories flooded into his mind but
he pulled himself up, mentally and smiled tightly. "You're a lucky woman, Dana,
having someone so determined looking out for you."

The Cigarette-Smoking Man scowled as the blip took then onto Highway 50 and into
Spaceport USA. His companion frowned as the blip came to a halt, probably in the
Parking Lot.

"Maybe they're just taking in the sights..?" he stated, nervously, hoping the
older man knew what the hell was going on. He watched as the man lit another
Morley, wishing he had the guts to open the window and let in some fresh air but
afraid of offending this powerful figure.

"Pull into the Parking Lot but keep us a fair distance away. I don't want them
spotting us."

The driver nodded his agreement and followed the route markers until the Tracking
Agent gave him instructions to avoid coming too close to the FBI Agents.

The Cigarette-Smoking Man lowered his window a few inches, flicked out the
still-smoking butt and then took out a pair of high-powered binoculars from the
door pocket. He raised the glasses to rheumy, blue eyes and scanned the distant
facilities. He could not see Agent Mulder but spotted the figure of Alex Krycek
walking with Agent Scully towards the entrance. He change the zoom on the lens
until Krycek's face came into sharp relief.

Krycek had been a young man when he had first recruited him, barely out of
adolescence. His features and figure had a boyish quality then which he had found
most agreeable especially as Krycek had looked younger than his years making him
feel as if he was doing something very illicit when he bedded the infatuated
man-child. Now, those features had matured; age and experience had added
strength, reshaping the musculature making him an even greater prize.

The Cigarette-Smoking Man scowled as he trained the glasses down the handsome
frame, noting anew the loss of Krycek's left arm. On one level, it gave him
pleasure to see the young agent had not escaped his actions unscathed yet on
another more personal level it angered him to see such perfection destroyed. He
made a silent vow that he would ensure those responsible for taking his arm paid
heavily, not realising that they already had.

Krycek and the woman disappeared from view but it looked as if they were in no
hurry so he turned to his operative. He had never used the man in the field
before so the chances of Mulder, Scully or Krycek recognising him were very slim
to non- existent

"We may be here some time. I suggest you obtain us some refreshment."

The man nodded, eager to be out of the smoke-filled interior.

As he walked away, Cancerman hoped he had the good sense to avoid attracting any
attention to himself, especially near Fox Mulder who had an uncanny ability to
remember faces and details.

After lunch, Scully and Krycek wandered around once more until they came to the
Galaxy Theatre.

"I've never seen IMAX. D'you fancy taking in a film? I hear they're fairly
short."

Scully raised her eyebrows at the domesticity of their forced association. She'd
never seen one either but decided it was worth a go, mainly because then she
wouldn't need to talk to him. Krycek paid for the tickets, reminded at the same
time that Mulder had never given him any change from the $50 note. Fortunately,
money was not a great problem right now. The Well- Manicured Man had insured he
had plenty stashed away that he could call upon at a moment's notice.

As they sat down towards the top of the high theatre, Krycek spotted Mulder about
half a dozen seats below them but gave no indication of his presence to Scully,
feeling quite sensitive to Mulder's need to be alone. The film was stunning as
all their vision was taken up by the beauty of Planet Earth as seen from space
and after it had finished Scully was grateful for Krycek's suggestion.

When they re-entered the sunlight, Fox Mulder bounded up to them like a puppy,
having seen them leave the theatre.

"Wanna go on the tour. Krycek's paying." He gave Krycek a look that left no room
for argument.

"Sure."

Having watched the Vehicle Assembly Building loom into view then paused beside
one of the Crawler Transporters, mouth agape at the sheer immensity of both,
Mulder found himself with his back to the Atlantic Ocean staring at the distant
launch pad where a Shuttle was waiting to be launched. He turned to say something
to Krycek and found the man staring out to sea.

"Thinking of home?" he asked sarcastically.

Krycek turned and met his eyes. //Is any place home?// he thought to himself and
then realised that he never felt more at home than when he was by Mulder's side.

"Russia's that way." Mulder pointed off into the distance and Krycek found his
eyes drawn in the direction indicated before turning back to face his lover of a
single night.

The Tour Guide called them back to the air-conditioned bus for the final leg back
to the centre and they clambered back on board in silence. The silence held until
their reached the centre.

"I promised something from here." he threw over his shoulder as he wandered into
the Gift Gantry. Scully hesitated for a moment but decided not to follow and
Krycek couldn't see the point of buying anything, his lifestyle precluded the
collection of too much clutter. They headed back to the Taurus to wait for
Mulder.

Twenty minutes later Mulder arrived and threw a package onto the back seat. He
reached out for the keys but Krycek snatched them off Scully's palm and climbed
into the driver's seat.

"My car. I drive."

Scully waited to see Mulder's reaction and frowned when the expected explosion
did not occur. Whatever Krycek had done or said to upset Mulder had still not
been resolved as, obviously, Mulder was on a slow burning fuse today. She watched
as he climbed into the back and decided to take the front passenger seat rather
than join him, her hostility towards Krycek dampened by their closeness of the
past few hours.

As the car pulled away she wondered how Mulder and Krycek were going to cope
together in the same small room that night - unless Mulder had already decided to
give up and take the first available flight back to DC. She hoped she would be
able to pull him aside as soon as they reached the motel to ask his intentions,
not wanting to discuss anything in front of Krycek, despite their truce.

The Cigarette-Smoking Man had made his driver wait several minutes until the
Agents car was well out of sight before giving him the order to follow. The blip
came in strong indicating that they were no more than 3 miles ahead as the second
car headed back onto the highway away from Spaceport USA.

The day had given him plenty of opportunity to think about his ex-lover and his
own intentions.

He knew Krycek was reporting directly to his own nemesis within the Consortium,
the Well-Manicured Man and, unlike the others, he had already figured out what
that man was doing. All that remained was to give him enough rope so he would
hang himself. With luck he would be the one to arrange the execution. He mused
for a moment over all the possibilities: lethal injection, poison... a car bomb.
Another option presented itself. Perhaps he would be able to convince Krycek to
do the killing for him by bringing a certain amount of pressure to bear. That
thought made him smile malevolently. Mulder was the key.. to both Krycek and the
Well-Manicured Man. All it required was a little patience - and he could be a
very patient man.

That patience had been apparent over the past 24 hours. First he had overseen the
clean-out of BioTechnics Supplies. He had been secretly hoping Dr Hudson would be
there when the Consortium Agents arrived as he had hoped to leave her body behind
as a justification for continuing with the investigation - captured alive the
case would come to a natural close. He would not even be going against his
'comrades' wishes as the order to terminate her had finally come, just as he knew
it would, for wasn't he the one who put her in contact with their Russian
comrade, Arntzen and then with the Colonists, thereby sealing her fate?

He took another drag from the Morley clenched between his lips. Yes, the
Well-Manicured Man had reason to hate Dr Martha J Hudson and he had used that to
great effect. Once Krycek discovered this, and how he and Mulder had been used,
his trust in his new Employer would be seriously dented leaving him open to the
possibility of renewing his allegiance to his former patron. 'Better the Devil
you know....'.

That still left Fox Mulder but if the agent continued his pursuit of Dr Hudson as
planned then the order would come to have him eliminated, an order he could find
reasons to postpone given the right incentive - an excellent bargaining position.

He glanced at the man seated next to him, hunched over a portable PC and smiled
at the discomfort he saw. Krycek was the only employee who had ever challenged
him over smoking in his presence. It was one of the traits that made him such a
desirable conquest.

***

17:15 A Motel near Melbourne, Florida

To her surprise, Mulder made no attempt to pack up his belongings when they
arrived back. Instead, he headed for the Diner and ordered a large meal. Krycek
and Scully joined him but the meal dragged on in silence until, as she finished a
last cup of coffee she finally gave up.

"So where do we go from here?"

"Bed."

She sighed in exasperation.

"OK, I'll report in to Skinner and see you in the morning."

With that she pushed herself up from the table and walked away leaving the two
men alone. Mulder finished his coffee and then stood up. He didn't wait for
Krycek, leaving the other man to wonder whether he was going to find the door
locked when he reached the room.

When he entered their room, Krycek found Mulder sitting fully clothed on the bed.
Despite what they had shared earlier that day he felt awkward. He passed Mulder
without a word and closed the bathroom door behind him. When he returned 20
minutes later Mulder was still sitting on the bed but he had stripped down to his
T-shirt and boxers. The TV was on and a glance revealed a sitcom with its almost
obligatory fake audience hysterics.

He waited for Mulder to shift before reaching to pull back the covers but as he
did so a hand snapped out to grab his arm and he found himself pulled off balance
and, with no other arm to prevent the effects of gravity, he fell onto the bed
face first. A body slammed on top of his, driving the air out of his lungs.

"Is this what you want?"

The cold, angry voice whispered into his ear and seconds later he felt his boxers
being pulled roughly down his thighs. He tried to raise himself off the bed as
the weight left his back only to feel a fist impact with his temple stunning him
momentarily but before he could regain his senses the weight returned. The
sensation of hot skin against his own told its own story but he struggled more
violently at the feel of a hard shaft along the cleft between his buttocks.

Mulder pulled the slim hips back to gain a better angle before driving his shaft
into the exposed body.

Krycek bit through his lip as he stifled the scream of agony that fought for
release. He tried to relax, his body shaking in pain with each dry thrust. The
body above drove harder and faster until Mulder cried out, his semen spilling
into the abused flesh bringing both stinging pain and welcome lubrication.

Krycek held his breath as the older man's body collapsed upon his own, waiting
for Mulder to pull free before bucking backwards to dislodge his attacker. Mulder
quickly regained his footing and moments later they were a tangle of kicking,
punching limbs. Eventually, they ended up on the floor on opposite sides of the
bed, both with murder filled eyes.

"You bastard!"

"The only lying scum bastard here is you, Krycek. How could I have been so
stupid? Every time I end up trusting you I get reminded what a stinking,
double-crossing, murdering bag of shit you really are. What was the plan, Krycek?
Fuck me 'til I forgot what you are and then set me up. Who were you planning to
kill? Who was I gonna be the fall for this time?"

Krycek dragged his hand across his chin to wipe away the blood seeping from the
bitten lip.

"You're full of shit, Mulder. You're nothing to them; a slight irritation that
gets annoying now and then. If they wanted you out of the way then you'd get a
bullet through the head."

"Well, if not your Consortium buddies, then who wanted us dead last night?"

Krycek stared hard at the FBI Agent, his breath coming hard. How did he answer
that one? How could he explain that Cancerman had orchestrated that event for
purely selfish reasons, that the man was willing to use Mulder as a pawn to
coerce Krycek into resuming a former relationship. Mulder would never believe it.

Krycek had no illusions. Cancerman felt no love for him just the desire to show
who was in control. Power was the only thing that mattered and woe betide anyone
or anything that usurped this. Krycek was only too aware that he had caused
Cancerman great embarrassment over the past year and had wondered in what form
the man would take his revenge but he had never feared death. No, that would have
limited his pleasure. He would want to see humiliation first. He would want Alex
Krycek on his knees before him, to revel in the power he had over the other man.
Death would come once Cancerman had tired of the game.

Mulder snarled at the other man. "I should never have trusted a psychopathic
murdering scumbag..."

"Despite what you think, I can count the number of people I've killed on one
hand."

"Well, that's fortunate."

Krycek pursed his lips in anger, the loss of his left arm was still a raw wound
to his soul as well as his body and the anger he had contained within him for so
long spilled over.

"You did this to me," he hissed vehemently. "I had everything under control but
you couldn't wait. I have never lied to you but still you couldn't trust me."

"And why the hell should I? We weren't exactly buddies, Krycek. All I saw was a
lying rat bastard saving his own skin and leaving me to die in that hellhole."

Krycek glared at Mulder, both of them breathing heavily from the barely
controlled rage. He took a deep shuddering breath and released it slowly as the
truth of Mulder's words slowly sank in, suddenly aware that his own perception of
what had happened since their very first meeting must have been so different from
Mulder's. How could he have been so stupid to believe that a few days in each
other's company on the way to Tunguska would have swept away all the years of
distrust.

"Oh, shit."

He cursed himself. He should have found some way to warn Mulder of his intentions
and for the first time he realised what a cruel sight it must have been for
Mulder to find Krycek laughing and hugging the camp controller while he trudged
through the mud towards the waiting work trucks. How was Mulder supposed to know
that Krycek's position had been quite tenuous up to that point and that his
reason for being by the trucks was to point out his 'compatriot' and gain
Mulder's freedom but it hadn't worked out.

Mulder had attacked him, thrown him to the base of the truck and they had
'escaped'. The horses could not catch the truck and by the time they found the
overturned vehicle both Mulder and Krycek was lost in the woods.

When he was found by the locals he had no idea of their misguided intentions
until they pinned him down and produced the knife. He wished, somehow, that he
could have convinced them otherwise but what could he have said? If they knew of
his connection to the camp then the knife would have slit his throat rather than
cut off his arm. Krycek stared at Fox Mulder, bitterly angry that the man had
managed to escape intact. He had to know.

"Why not you?" he said harshly, nodding towards the FBI agents left arm.

As they stared across the bed at each other, Mulder saw resentment widen the
bright, tear-filmed eyes before they narrowed in painful remembrance. His breath
caught as his own mind raced through memories of Tunguska and, now, unshackled
from the all-consuming bitterness, he realised how wrong he might have been.

With his mind no longer clouded by hatred he remembered there had been plenty of
occasions when Krycek could have escaped from him on the way to Tunguska yet the
man had remained by his side. He had believed it was because Krycek knew the fate
that was awaiting him, not expecting to get caught up in it at the same time yet
now he was not so sure. Perhaps Krycek had been working to get him free but, with
anger fuelled by the words of the other inmate, he had blown it.

The other words came back to haunt him. It was true. Krycek had never lied to him
outright; he had bent or concealed the truth but had never lied.

He found all the rage draining out of him and he collapsed against the side of
the bed, turning away from eyes bright with unshed tears. Mulder looked down at
the ground in misery, biting into his bottom lip as if he hoped to transfer some
of Krycek's pain into himself by that action. Once he stopped to think clearly,
most of Krycek's crimes could be explained away or negated.

He had sworn he had not killed his father and, on reflection, his explanation was
plausible. Luis Cardinal had killed Scully's sister. The man had admitted to it
and the forensic evidence bore that out. The autopsy on Duane Barry had shown
that, depending on the quantity ingested, the poison could have been administered
as much as two hours earlier... perhaps by the very people who had taken Scully
from Skyland Mountain or even in the water given to him by the Paramedics. As for
the Tram Operator, Krycek had admitted to knocking him out but insisted the man
was still alive when he left the control room, yet the body had never been
recovered. Had someone else removed the man permanently after Krycek had left for
the summit?

That still left several question marks but Krycek had just admitted to, at most,
five killings - but were these premeditated murders on behalf of the Consortium
or just unfortunate incidences? Certainly he knew of two; Augustus Cole and the
right-wing terrorist truck driver that had been shot through the head.

He had witnessed the death of Augustus Cole and, instinctively, he knew it had
been the first time Krycek had ever killed anyone. Only a consummate actor could
have faked the horror that had crept into the young man's face and turned his
stomach. Krycek had been pale and shaken as he climbed unsteadily into the car
following the incident and Mulder had handed him a tissue to wipe away the vomit
after his stomach had rebelled.

Once he had accepted the possibility that Krycek was not the cold-bloodied
assassin he had taken him for, Mulder started to wonder what had happened in the
cab of the Ride-Rite truck. The driver had been the deputy leader of the
terrorist group. Perhaps he had decided to try and escape with the bomb which was
still inside the truck. They had found a second gun on the floor beneath the
driver's seat. Had the driver pulled the gun when Krycek told him to stop? Had
Krycek fired in self-defence?

He glanced back at the other man who was still waiting for an answer and when he
finally replied to Krycek's question his voice was so soft the triple agent had
to strain to hear the words.

"I was found by our Russian truck driver... the one who took us to Tunguska and I
convinced him it was better to leave the area than lose an arm. And I bought him
another truck when we reached Krasnoyask."

Mulder raised his head and turned back to face his ex-partner. More blood flowed
freely down Krycek's face and Mulder saw the fine trembling the man was unable to
conceal. He reached out mutely... but hurt, angry eyes narrowed in distrust and
Krycek pulled back, his voice cold and emotionless.

"Get out of here, Mulder. You can call this quits for all the wrongs you think
I've done to you but if you ever touch me again.... I'll kill you."

Mulder rose to his feet and moved around the bed until he stood above the shaking
figure. After a moments hesitation while he considered whether to do as Krycek
asked, he dropped to his knees in front of him and before the other man had a
chance to strike out, pulled him into a strong embrace. Krycek struggled for a
moment before stilling. He remained rigid against the warm chest as Mulder began
a litany of soft words, rocking their bodies gently.

"Shh, it's OK. I'm sorry. I'll never hurt you again. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry..."

Several minutes passed before Krycek gave a shuddering sob and relaxed his head
against Mulder's shoulder, his arm reaching around to hold them tightly pressed
together. They remained that way for several more minutes until the body in his
arms stopped shaking. Mulder raised his head from where it had lain atop Krycek's
and pulled back from the embrace. He gazed into tear filled eyes and reached up
to brush at the wetness that stained Krycek's face then rose to his feet, pulling
his lover up with him before gently pushing him back onto the bed.

"I'll get some warm water to clean you up."

When he returned with a flannel and bowl of water he found Krycek sprawled
exactly as he had left him as if the man had been too afraid to move lest Mulder
turned back into the savage attacker. Mulder sat on the edge of the bed by his
lover's side and dipped the flannel into the lukewarm water. Gently, he cleared
away the blood and tears, dabbing softly at the torn lip, wincing in sympathy as
Krycek hissed in pain.

"That's gonna need some attention. I'll get Scully to look at it once I've
cleaned you up."

Mulder went back to the bathroom to get fresh water and then, with some
trepidation, he moved his attention to the other abused area, grateful when
Krycek made no attempt to pull away from him. There was blood but, fortunately,
nothing extensive, just a few tears that would hurt like hell until they mended.
Once he had finished, Mulder pulled the covers over Krycek and replaced the bowl
in the bathroom.

"I'll get Scully..."

"No." Krycek sighed. "I've been hurt worse. It'll heal."

"OK, but I'll get you some Tylenol at least."

Krycek nodded and watched as Mulder left the room, returning moments later with a
packet of painkillers. He popped out two and watched as Krycek swallowed them
with a mouthful of water. Krycek lay back down and closed his eyes, opening them
as he felt Mulder tug the second pillow off the bed. He had thrown a blanket over
the easy chair and was preparing to climb in.

"You can sleep here."

Mulder turned back looking for revenge but finding only calm acceptance in the
green eyes. Part of him was afraid to lie too close to the body he had abused
only a short time earlier but the rest of him wanted to prove how much he had
changed in such a short time, to prove how much he loved the other man. He gazed
deeply into the green eyes looking for any sign that what had been offered was
done so out of generosity rather than need but saw no sign of wariness, just
acceptance. He nodded and moved back to the bed, clambering in but keeping his
distance from the other body despite an intense desire to reach out and gather
Krycek to him. Alex reached out to extinguish the overhead lights leaving only
the flickering of the TV to illuminate the room and then rolled over until he was
lying along Mulder's side.

After a moment's hesitation, Mulder pulled the younger man into his embrace
feeling the last vestige of hatred and resentment fade away with the feel of the
strong body in his arms.

They talked softly into the night, laying the remaining ghosts to rest before
falling asleep, exhausted as much by the violent emotions as by the revelation of
truth.

Early morning light filtered through the thin, unlined curtains and around the
edges casting soft shadows across the relaxed face. Sleep had robbed the features
of stress, smoothing out the frown lines and making his companion seem impossibly
young. The long dark eyelashes fluttered and a gentle sigh stirred from between
the slightly swollen lips. Mulder reached out and traced a line along the Cupid's
bow, smiling as the corners lifted and another soft rush of air exhaled gently
from his lover. A tongue tip traced the sensitive upper lip seeking the source of
the tickling sensation, tasting familiar skin. The smile broadened, the eyelashes
flickered as the sea-green eyes opened to the new day.

Mulder felt his breath catch as his own were captured, captivated by the wide
pupils, darkened by sleep and lust, the bright, almost iridescent blue and green
iris appearing like a corona around a solar eclipse. Without conscious thought he
found his mouth descending to place a kiss upon each eye, his pulse increasing as
he felt the soft skin and fluttering of eyelashes against his lips as the eyelids
closed. He pulled back slightly, turning to trail more kisses down the side of
his lover's nose finally placing another on the slightly upturned tip before
pulling back to arms length to rest with his chin cupped in his hand.

"Good morning."

Krycek smiled and stretched languidly then drew in his breath sharply as his body
reminded him of last night's assault. Mulder frowned, chewing his lip guiltily as
he remembered the abuse he had dished out. He felt his stomach turn over in shame
and repugnance at his actions and he turned his face away.

"Hey! I thought we dealt with that last night."

Krycek sighed in mild annoyance at the way Mulder beat himself up with guilt and
remorse but knew it was one of the reasons why he loved this man. Despite all
that had happened to him, Mulder was still a sensitive and caring human being
where many others would have hardened both mentally and emotionally. Last night's
attack had been shocking for both of them, neither believing Mulder had a streak
vicious enough to carry out such abuse on another. Although both now understood
the reason for the deep-seated anger, it had not completely erased the horror of
putting that anger into violent, physical aggression. Surprisingly, it had been
the victim that had comforted the aggressor as the anger flowed away leaving
behind a horrified Mulder.

The last time he had struck out in anger he had been under the influence of
mind-altering drugs in his water supply, courtesy of Cancerman but this time
there was no excuse. It had taken a lot of quiet discussion before Mulder could
come to terms with what he had done and accept that he was capable of such
violence. He could still not believe how quickly and easily Alex Krycek had
forgiven him until the Psychologist in him realised how much Alex had hated his
treatment of his ex- partner, finding the beating and abuse at his hands
strangely cathartic.

Krycek watched the thoughts cross Mulder's face and decided the best way to show
Mulder that last night and its terrible revelations were behind them was to prove
it. He reached across and cupped Mulder's chin in the palm of his hand, applying
a small amount of pressure to force the Agent to meet his eyes once more.

"I love you. I always have.... Shh," his forefinger sealed the sensitive mouth as
Mulder started to respond to his declaration, "you don't have to say anything."

Krycek moved his hand until his fingers were behind Mulder's head and pulled the
well-beloved face towards his own. Their lips met, softly, brushing against each
other, almost chaste. Mulder could feel soft, ragged breaths against him as he
pulled away a fraction and then he gave into the desire that raced through his
heart, body and soul, crushing his mouth against the willing lips, his hands
reaching to curl around the back of Krycek's head to prevent escape. The bruising
kiss deepened as Krycek opened his mouth to the invading tongue that pushed
insistently, ignoring the pain from the ragged tear in his lower lip, tasting
Mulder and being tasted. Soft, wet heat filled him mixed with a slight ferric
tang as the cut opened under pressure, tongues battling as he felt his own mouth
explored thoroughly, almost gagging as Mulder pushed deeper across the roof and
down...

They pulled apart suddenly, each gasping for breath, each feeling the blood
thrumming through their veins, thumping in their heads. Erratic breath gradually
brought under control as they stared at each other through lust-crazed eyes.
Mulder focused on the bright red blood, his hand brushing his own mouth and
finding traces. His non-verbal apology was accepted as Krycek licked at the
source then lunged towards him to place a kiss on his lover. Mulder edged
forward, playfully pulling away as Krycek reached for him once more, mirrored
grins reflected in bright eyes. He moved forward again, dipping his head sideways
to nuzzle against the slightly stubbled cheek, his tongue finding the shell of
one ear and rolling along the silken edge before plunging into the recess. Krycek
giggled and squirmed, pulling away from the assault, crying out softly as Mulder
nipped the lobe between strong teeth, his words heavy with lust.

"Has anyone ever told you you're a sensualist?"

"Has anyone ever told you you're sensuous?... and beautiful... and erotic...
and... oh, so hot."

Mulder punctuated his words with a series of biting kisses as he moved slowly
down his lover's throat eventually stopping to suck gently on the juncture of
neck and shoulder. A low moan was his only response as Alex arched his neck to
give Mulder greater access. He pulled back to survey his work, pleased with the
red mark that branded Krycek as his own. His smile broadened as he glanced up
into the passion-filled features, noting the closed eyes and hearing soft, ragged
gasps escape from slightly-parted bruised lips. His hand stretched down the
muscular frame until he could feel the silken, hardness through the rumpled
cotton sheet, his fingers tracing a line along the length of the shaft from base
to tip. Suddenly, he realised that he wanted to see Krycek lying naked before
him.

He moved back until he was sitting at the side of the bed, sensing the puzzlement
in his companion, and then drew the white cotton sheet aside slowly before
reaching out to push up the long-sleeved T-shirt. Krycek froze as Mulder started
to undress him, holding his breath, his erection softening bringing a frown to
Mulder's face until the Agent realised why.

"It's OK, Alex. It's OK." He crooned softly as he coaxed his lover into allowing
him to remove his shirt. Krycek schooled his features into a neutral expression
as he watched Mulder drinking in his fill of the smooth, muscular flesh lying
before him. Mulder reached out to stroke across the left shoulder, down the
remainder of Krycek's left arm, lightly skimming over scarred tissue and then
back up.

"You're still beautiful."

Krycek sighed raggedly, releasing the breath he had been holding as he found no
deception in the bright, hazel eyes. Mulder had not seen him completely naked
until now and he had been so afraid of finding repugnance on his face when he saw
the scarred stump.

Mulder leant forward and retraced the path his hands had taken with his tongue,
licking across the still sensitive tissue before moving back to capture one small
nipple between sharp teeth, raking across the puckered flesh before sucking hard.
His hand crept lower to feel the blood pulse back into Krycek, revitalising the
almost lost erection as stabs of desire coursed through his lover's body. Fingers
played down the length of the shaft, softly kneading the taut sacs before
skimming even lower. He felt Krycek's muscles tighten all over and the memory of
what he had done come searing back. Mulder stopped and pulled away in shame. How
could he expect Krycek to want him, or any man, in that way after what he had
done.

Krycek grimaced as he sat up and reached out to Mulder to try and reassure him.

"I want you to.... I'm just a little sore right now. Next time we will." Krycek
grabbed Mulder's face as he turned away in disbelief and self-directed anger. "I
mean it, Mulder. I want you... badly... but we'll have to wait a day or so. Just
take it nice and easy right now."

Krycek let his hand drop into Mulder's lap where he stroked the semi-rigid shaft
until it was fully erect, his fingers curling around the thick column securely as
he began a slow pumping action.

"Oh God, Alex."

Krycek smiled and continued his assault, eyes drinking in the sight of his
lover's arousal. The full lips parted as lashes flickered over the green-gold
eyes. Mulder threw back his head as the extra stimulation overwhelmed his already
intensified senses and cried out hoarsely as white fluid jetted from him. He
collapsed back onto the bed and watched through slitted, passion-spent eyes as
Alex licked spilled semen from his own fingers.

"And you say I'm a sensualist."

He reached out and pulled Krycek down beside him before reaching into the bedside
cabinet.

"Now it's my turn."

"You don't have to...."

Mulder bent down and snatched away the words before they could be uttered.

"Oh Yes, I do."

He squeezed a generous amount onto his fingers, dropped the tube over the side of
the bed and began to liberally spread the gelatinous lubricant over Krycek before
reaching below to ready himself. He kept his eyes fixed on the apprehensive face
below him as he guided Krycek's thick shaft to the tight ring of muscle. Sighing
softly, he lowered himself, hissing as the muscle reluctantly gave way and then
sighing as the momentary pain coalesced into sharp-edged desire. He moved up and
down slowly, taking the shaft deeper with each downward plunge. He could feel the
trembling in the limbs beneath him, marvelling at the control Krycek exercised in
remaining still despite what must have been an incredible urge to thrust upwards.

He bucked wildly, eyes and mouth wide, as the shaft rubbed across his prostate,
astonished by the incredible jolt of energy that stabbed through him and angled
his descent to discover that sensation again and again.

Beneath him, Krycek had given up trying to hold back, overcome by the intense
pressure of strong, tight muscles clenching him. He could feel his body building,
his hand clenching into the bed sheet, back arching off the bed with a final
thrust, screaming out Mulder's name as the warm, sweet sensation spread out from
the centre of his being, turning his insides to liquid, his thighs to quivering
jelly.

Mulder collapsed across the sweat-soaked body, aware of the stickiness between
them where he had brought himself to another intense climax with barely a single
touch on the now flaccid organ. He could feel Krycek's chest heaving against his
own as they both fought to regain control of their breathing. Krycek moved
slightly and Mulder sighed in disappointment as he felt the now spent shaft slip
from his body. He shifted until he could pull the other man into his arms,
placing gentle kisses along any exposed flesh within reach.

When he looked back up he smiled at the sleeping man. Mulder tightened his
embrace and closed his own eyes.

The knock on the door brought Mulder out of a deep restful sleep but it took a
few moments for it to fully register. He untangled himself from beneath Krycek
and had started to sit up when the handle turned and the door opened. Horror
filled him as he recalled how the anger and violence had drowned out all common
sense to the point where neither had remembered to lock the door behind them.

His eyes met Dana Scully's and his heart sank to the pit of his stomach at the
look of revulsion that crossed her pretty face. She knew. Even if she could not
believe the sight before her eyes, the smell of sweat and sex that permeated the
room would have given them away. Her eyes grew cold and she indicated with a turn
of her head what she wanted him to do. Mulder nodded and as she closed the door
behind her he crept out of the bed, careful not to disturb Alex.

***

She was waiting for him at the far end of the parking lot, seated on a low brick
wall. She did not look up until he was right in front of her.

"How could you?"

Mulder swallowed; there was nothing to say.

"I never even knew you.... six years we've worked together. The porno tapes, the
magazines, the calendars." She looked up. "The girlfriends. Oh, I admit they were
few and far between but I always believed work played the same havoc with your
social life as it does mine."

"I never thought you'd be prejudiced...."

"Don't change the subject. This isn't about me and, to be honest, I don't care if
you like women or men... or both. But Krycek! How could you? He murdered my
sister, and your father for God's sake!"

"He didn't kill her. They weren't there to kill anyone. They were after the DAT
tape. They thought you had it and when Melissa came through the door Cardinal
panicked. No-one was supposed to get hurt...."

"And what about your father? The bullet came from his gun, Mulder. You can't deny
that."

"I don't deny it but it was an accident... my father lunged for the gun, it went
off."

Scully snorted in disbelief, her eyes wide.

"And you believe him? That lying... murdering.... rat! He's using you, Mulder.
Playing you like a.. like a... "

She looked away, not wanting to believe that Krycek could be anything other than
a cold-blooded killer, despite the fact that he had saved her life only a few
days ago, because then she would have no-one tangible left to hate and she wanted
to hate someone, some person rather than some nebulous organisation.

Her eyes opened wider as something Melissa had once said about Customers came
back to haunt her.

During her late teens, Melissa had taken a summer job as a checkout assistant at
a local store. 'Whenever something goes wrong, they take it out on me. I suppose
it's easier to rant at some poor underling than find the faceless bureaucrat
who's really responsible.'

Is that what she had done? Had she parcelled up all her grief and anger and
posted it to Krycek just because he was a face she could identify? What if he
were telling the truth? Even the APB had stated that he was wanted 'in
connection' with events for there was nothing other than circumstantial evidence
to tie him to any of the crimes she believed he had committed.

"Scully?"

She shook her head, holding up her hand to ward off any physical contact between
them.

"I need to think." She looked up at him. "We both need to think."

"I have. It's not that I want to believe him, Dana. I do believe him.... and I...
I think I love him."

"I don't want to hear this."

"OK." Mulder backed off, casting her one more entreating look before turning away
and walking back across the parking lot to his room.

As he stepped inside he became aware immediately of a pair of listless green eyes
watching him.

"She knows about us?"

Mulder nodded. Krycek sighed in understanding, his face tightening as he climbed
out of the bed to gather up his belongings. His heart felt like it would break in
two. He had hoped for a little more time - a few more memories to keep him warm
during the cold, lonely nights ahead. Mulder reached out and took the items from
his hand.

"It's OK, Alex. It's OK."

He pulled the younger man into his arms and kissed him gently, being careful of
the bruised mouth. He pulled back, a small smile playing across his own. Words
formed in his mind that had nothing to do with extra-terrestrials, Colonists,
Black Oil or the Consortium; words of love, of wanting but they remained
unspoken. He tried to put those words into his eyes, hoping Alex would read them
there and was grateful for the answering smile that crossed the sensuous mouth,
bringing life back into those eyes. Mulder swallowed, his expression becoming
serious and was grateful when Alex accepted the change without doubt or fear.

"Tell me what you left out about the Colonists."

Krycek looked away and sighed deeply. How anyone managed to fool Mulder was
beyond him. The man seemed to have a innate ability to see through the
half-truths eventually. But where to begin?

"I wasn't unconscious or asleep when the alien from the Piper Maru took me over.
I was aware of every moment and of every thought both mine and its. It had spent
50 years at the bottom of the ocean. The body it had jumped to had died in the
plane crash and it could keep only the autonomous functions going during the long
wait. There was no other sentient being to talk to but it decided to avoid any
in-depth contact with the Diver and his wife, taking only what it needed to start
the search for its ship."

"Why didn't it jump into me?"

"Body jumping takes energy, Mulder. You didn't have the information it needed - I
did. I knew where to find Cancerman - and Cancerman knew where the ship had been
taken. Have to admit it had a good sense of humour or maybe it had developed that
from me. I can remember walking onto the plane and I was laughing so hard inside
it got quite worried until it pulled the information out of my head.

Fox Mulder, the man searching for the truth and little green men - and it was
sitting right next to you all the way from Hong Kong to the United States. It
found that pretty amusing. At least you didn't go overboard with the beatings.
I'm not so certain it would have allowed you to damage its host body."

"We spent that entire trip in silence."

"It had nothing to say to you and it sure as hell wasn't gonna let me do any
talking." Krycek barked out a short laugh. "I spent that entire trip being
mentally raped. It was only after I started to fight back, which kinda pleased
it, that it started to tell me all about Life, the Universe and Everything from
an alien perspective - and the answer wasn't 42. You see, Mulder, as the days
passed its resolve to remain aloof weakened and it became quite garrulous. It
told me all about the method it used to track me down, following the trail to
Hong Kong and then following you to get to me."

Krycek raised his eyes to meet Mulder's.

"I know everything that it knows albeit 50 years out of date but the plans had
been made. The date set only there isn't just one race of aliens out there,
Mulder. There are several; The Colonists and their clones - 'Oilians' for want of
a better name, the Kindred, the Grey ones. Other races standing on the sidelines
waiting to see what happens. Some of them, especially the Greys, have been
visiting us for millennia. Most of them are just plain nosy, others interested in
the planet and its resources. Trouble is, the race that has decided to take over
the planet is not necessarily the most advanced but it is one of the most
dangerous - and the others decided not to intervene."

"So who is intervening?"

"I don't know exactly. This is something that's happened recently but I could
hazard a guess from what it did know."

"And?"

"A shape-shifter race and some of the Clones, a splinter group, like your
Jeremiah Smith and Kurt Crawford." Krycek paused. How much did Mulder know about
the Colonists and their cloning experiments? He decided to leave nothing out.
"The Clones are human/Oilian hybrids, produced from the ova taken from abducted
women. It would have been a hell of a lot easier if they could have used human
sperm. They could have collected that from the banks without any trouble - no
abductions necessary just a few bucks handed out to the male student population
to help with the cost of education."

"Sounds like the voice of experience."

"Not all of us came from the right side of the tracks, Mulder. A scholarship only
paid for tuition. It didn't cover accommodation, food, books..."

Mulder held up a hand, this was no time to get side-tracked.

"I'm sorry. It was a juvenile remark. What are the Colonists, Alex?"

Krycek stared at his one-time partner, lips drawn into a pout. He exhaled nasally
then relaxed.

"A parasitic life-form. They need host bodies but they can lie dormant for
millennia in the right medium. The first ones arrived on a meteor that crashed
into the Pacific 70 million years ago. Most left Earth just before the meteor
that killed the Dinosaurs crashed into the Earth believing it to be an ELE:
Extinction Level Event. Those that stayed survived underground, reverting to
their basic genetic form until a host could be found. They rediscovered Earth
when some returned on a meteor that struck in the Siberian forest near Tunguska
back in 1902. A team of scientists uncovered them in 1904. Our parasitic friends
took them over, surveyed the landscape and decided the Earth was ripe for the
picking. They sent word back via our own communication equipment - radio
telescopes - by altering them to send the signal out rather than... well, you
know. The others have been arriving ever since by more conventional methods. You
know, most of their technology has been obtained through subjugating other races
- a bit like the Borg in Star Trek. Anyway, the colonisation plans were drawn
up."

"You said the date was set?"

"Fifteen years from now." Krycek stared deep into the hazel/green eyes. "Enough
time for us to build defences if we start now. At the individual level, we have
the means to destroy them without killing the host. You're living proof of that,
Mulder, but alone that's not enough. Re-infection is possible even if the vaccine
is boosted regularly... and that alone would require an immense production line
to cater for every one of the five billion people on the planet. The Variola
virus is another way forward but we'd still need to inoculate every person on the
planet.... The sheer scale will be our greatest weakness so we must take
advantage of this Alien rebellion to destroy them in space as well as here on
Earth."

"Jesus.... so where's does the Consortium fit into this?"

Krycek laughed.

"Remember what I said to you: Resist or Serve. Most are Collaborators... choosing
to serve rather than take the risk of siding with the Rebels."

"Who is on our side?"

"My Employer."

"And?"

Krycek looked down. None of the other Elders could be trusted despite divided
loyalties. Most were too afraid the Rebels would fail and that they and there
families would suffer the consequences.

"Cancerman?"

"No.. at least I don't believe so although, God only knows. The man spins so many
webs of lies that it's hard to know where his loyalties fall." Krycek's face had
hardened. "But I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him. He has his own
agenda."

Mulder nodded. Krycek had only given him the tip of the biggest iceberg in human
history but it was enough to set his resolve.

"We need to go to BioTechnics. Will you help?"

Krycek looked away. The Well-Manicured Man had wanted Mulder side-tracked long
enough for BioTechnics to be cleaned out and he knew that work may not yet be
complete. BioTechnics was a large organisation and, probably, under Colonist
control. He knew he ought to say 'No', to somehow dissuade Mulder from this path
but he read the pleading in the darkened eyes and saw how important it had become
to the other man.

Krycek nodded and whispered softly, "Yes".

Scully frowned when she saw Krycek ease carefully into the seat opposite. One
side of his face was bruised at the temple and there was a small, jagged tear
through his lower lip as if he had bitten through it. It was obvious to her now
that more than sex had taken place last night. They had argued and, judging by
what she had seen, Krycek had come off worse.

"That looks like it needs attention. I've got some suture in my case...."

She noticed he could not prevent a grimace of pain as he sat down and Scully
found herself wondering at the rest of the damage Mulder had inflicted - and how.

"Where else are you hurting?"

Krycek blushed and looked away, fuelling her suspicion that Mulder had done
something even worse to this man. Her thoughts returned to the hospital where she
had interned. The surrounding area had been a Hell's Kitchen of multiracial
groups. She had almost become immune to the steady flow of victims of clashes
between the rival Gangs: stabbings, drive-by shootings... rapes, on females and
males... and what she saw now, in the sight and posture of the man opposite,
screamed rape. For the first time, she felt real anger at her partner. No matter
who it was or what they had done, no-one deserved to be sexually abused.

Krycek recognised the angry and appalled look on her face. Somehow she had
figured it out but he could hardly believe Mulder would have said anything
especially as he had insisted they kept it between them but Mulder and Scully
were closer than most partners, closer than brother and sister.

"What did he tell you?"

"Mulder? Nothing. I'm a Doctor, Krycek. I interned in an ER. I've seen my fair
share of... I can read signs. So... do you need any medical attention?"

Krycek shook his head considering himself lucky he had not been unused to men or
the few tears she could not see would have been much worse and, maybe, required
stitches.

"No, and don't worry. We straightened it out. It won't happen again."

Scully frowned wondering whether she had misunderstood their relationship. Mulder
had implied that they were willing partners but now she was not so sure. The
answer appeared several minutes later when Mulder came in and sat down beside
Krycek. There was no malice in the look they exchanged and their body language
spoke volumes as they angled toward each other, hands and knees touching in
reassurance.

Despite this, Scully was determined to have a few private words with her partner.
To her, the act of rape bordered on the unforgivable and she couldn't let it go
without letting him know, even if he and Krycek had reached an understanding.

The Cigarette-Smoking Man frowned as he watched Alex Krycek cross the narrow road
between the run-down motel and the Diner. Through the binoculars he could make
out the bruises on his ex- lovers face and, from the careful way he walked, he
knew there were other less visible injuries. These bruises were fairly fresh as
Alex had no sign of them yesterday. He felt a surge of anger as he realised who
must have inflicted them. No-one, except he, had the right to hurt Alexei Krycek.

Krycek joined Dana Scully at a booth by the window. He watched as they talked,
reading the body language in lieu of the actual words but his gaze swept away as
another figure caught his eye: Fox Mulder.

The Cigarette-Smoking Man followed Mulder's progress with barely concealed
hostility as he walked into the Diner and sat down next to Krycek but, far from
revulsion, his ex-lover greeted the other man warmly. Whatever had happened had
obviously cleared the air between them and they seemed closer than ever..
intimately closer.

He shook a Morley from its coffin and placed it between deeply- lined lips. A
flick brought a flame and he dipped his head slightly to ignite the cigarette
before dragging in a lungful of nicotine. As he exhaled he wondered how much
longer he would have to wait before the trio started back on the road. The FBI
Agents must have back-tracked through the Companies Register by now and learnt
about BioTechnics Ltd. Krycek would have been given orders to keep them away from
there until it could be cleared but Mulder could be most persuasive.

He exhaled, eyes closing in near ecstasy as the nicotine washed through his head,
clearing his thoughts as no other drug could do. If they were to reach
BioTechnics before the clean-up had been completed then the Well-Manicured Man
would find that his back had been well and truly exposed... by his own man.

The Cigarette-Smoking Man smiled as he took another drag, closing his eyes once
more as the glut of options traced a path across his mind. The Consortium would
not have found it easy to convince the Colonists to clean out BioTechnics. They
would be most displeased at having to waste time setting up the operation in
another town. If he was careful then he might be able to 'kill two birds with one
stone'.

Yes, Mulder was the key. Mulder's presence at BioTechnics would embarrass the
Well-Manicured Man, exposing him to the suspicions of an already paranoid
Consortium. Of course, Mulder would have learnt too much and become a liability
so discovery would also put him in the right place to blackmail Alex Krycek into
renewing old associations. The choice would be simple: Come with me or Mulder
dies, here and now. All he had to do was convince the Clones to leave Mulder and
Krycek to him.

Yes, as long as they headed towards BioTechnics then everything would be going to
plan and he may even have the additional pleasure of killing Dr Hudson. Her
usefulness had come to an end. He watched as the trio left the booth and headed
back towards the Motel. A few minutes later they were placing their few
belongings into the trunk of Krycek's rental. Scully climbed into the driver's
seat and, moments later, they were heading back towards the Interstate.

He waited until the car had a good head start before giving his driver the order
to follow, his smile widening as they turned in the 'right' direction, feeling
almost giddy with the pleasure he felt at being able to manipulate and read
events so easily.

***

10:25 BioTechnics Head Office

Florida

They parked about 20 yards away from the main gate. After several minutes
watching the frenetic activity beyond the gate, Krycek leaned forward between the
front seats.

"How d'you wanna play this? Do we drive up to the front door or do we sneak round
the back?"

Mulder glanced sideways from the front passenger seat before replying.

"Both. Scully, call for back-up but wait at least twenty minutes before coming
through the front. In the meantime, Krycek and I will see if we can find another
way in."

"I think we should all wait here for back-up, Mulder. We have no idea what we're
facing...."

Mulder turned his brightest, most reassuring smile on his partner.

"Don't worry, Scully. I'll see you inside in twenty."

With that he eased out of the passenger door and shut it firmly but quietly
before pulling open the back door for Krycek. Krycek stared at him for a moment,
torn between Mulder's eagerness to confront the 'truth' and Scully's need to
adhere to FBI protocols. Finally, decision made, he slid across the seat, wincing
in pain as he climbed out. Mulder frowned, deciding Krycek's reticence was due to
his physical discomfort rather than to Scully's outburst.

"You gonna be up for this?"

Krycek nodded in affirmation and, with a tilt of his head, indicated the
direction they should take.

Another 20 yards back they found a place where a tree grew close to the perimeter
fence. It was well out of sight of the guard house so Mulder pulled himself up
into the branches and then reached down to give Krycek a hand up. He edged out a
way and then jumped, rolling as he hit the dry, scrubby ground. On reaching his
feet he looked up and beckoned Krycek to follow.

The Russian-American agent took a deep breath and hurled himself from the tree.
Just as Mulder had, he rolled to break the fall but still cried out softly as
pain flared through his abused body. Mulder helped him to his feet, his eyes
betraying his concern for the younger man, fervently wishing he had not allowed
his own anger to cause so much pain. Keeping one arm around his lover, Mulder
drew Krycek across the open space between the fence and the side of the main
building. They stopped, backs against the wall and slowly edged their way towards
the back corner.

A faint feeling of nostalgia hit him as he remembered the closeness he had felt
to this man during their trip to the Tunguska Gulag followed by guilt as he
remembered what had happened next. Mentally he vowed that this time there would
be no misunderstandings. This time he wanted Krycek to know that he loved and
trusted him.

Mulder turned to the younger man suddenly, reached out to grab his face in both
hands and then kissed him deeply and thoroughly.

"I love you."

He let go of the stunned man and flicked his head round the corner and back. It
was clear. Krycek followed him around the corner in a semi-daze then shook
himself. This was not the time to dwell on such spoken revelations, even though
he had guessed at this truth many months ago.

They stopped by the open doors of a loading bay. Another quick check revealed the
movement of several people involved in the loading and unloading of crates.
Mulder grabbed a nearby crate and hefted it onto his shoulders. He walked into
the bay with Krycek half-concealed by his side. No-one paid them any attention
and Mulder dropped the crate at the earliest opportunity.

They moved slowly as they made their way deeper into the building. Krycek pulled
Mulder back as a familiar figure came out of one of the side offices; Dr Hudson.
They waited until she had turned the corner before approaching the door. Mulder
grasped the handle. It was not locked. He eased the door open to find the room
empty. They slipped inside and started to rummage through the desk and filing
cabinets.

Mulder held up the file on Jennifer Lewis in triumph, pausing only to stuff the
contents into his jacket's inner pocket. He flicked through the cabinet looking
for other names that should not have anything to do with Hudson and was not
surprised by the result. He pulled out and opened several more files.

Krycek looked over his shoulder, reading familiar names; Scully, Dana.... Mulder,
Samantha.... then moved away to investigate another part of the office while
Mulder continued to search for his own internal list of names. The Agent paused
and added a new name to his list.... It seemed as if more than just his fingers
stopped when he found the file; his heart, his mind skipped a beat.... Krycek,
Alexei.

"Mulder!" Krycek called his lover's name softly but urgently, indicating
something he had found in one of the originally locked but now wide open desk
drawers. Mulder shook himself out of his state of shock and stuffed the contents
of the file into the inside pocket of his jacket with the rest, replacing the
cardboard folder in the cabinet. He moved across the room and reached for the
tube recognising the dark viscous fluid in one: Black Oil. He stared at it,
almost trembling as he realised what this meant. Finally, he had in his grasp the
proof of extra-terrestrial life that he had been seeking for so long.

The door swung open suddenly, bouncing back slightly from the force and Mulder
watched in disbelief as Dr Martha Hudson entered the room closely followed by....
another Dr Martha Hudson.

"Colonists."

Clone 1 smiled and addressed them both as she levelled the gun at his chest.

"You should not have meddled in things beyond your capability. You leave us no
option but to eliminate you as a warning to the Consortium not to interfere in
our plans."

"Their presence here has nothing to do with the Consortium... " Both Mulder and
Krycek turned as one as the well-hated voice reached them. "... at least, not
knowingly. I will deal with this."

Krycek snarled at the Cigarette-Smoking Man. It was a trap, probably had been
from the very beginning but why would the Well-Manicured Man set them up like
this?

"What d'you want?"

"Oh, I think you know, Alex. Don't tell me you haven't told Mr Mulder about our
'relationship'"

Krycek frowned, confused by the reference to their past that had been brought up
yet again. His eyes widened in realisation. It was a trap but not the kind he had
at first believed. The Well-Manicured Man had no part in this and, if anything,
Krycek's presence here with Mulder placed his Employer in an unenviable position.
Questions would be asked... suspicions acted upon. The Group's paranoia had been
on the increase over the last year following the deaths of abductees at the
Staging areas. They needed someone to focus their fears on... someone to blame
and Krycek had a feeling that Cancerman was setting the Well-Manicured Man up as
the scapegoat. Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do about that now.
Cancerman would have left nothing to chance and, no doubt, had already sent a
video to the First Elder of them rooting around this office in BioTechnics Ltd.
So why the reference to their past? He straightened up, mouth set firm. As far as
he was concerned, the Alex Krycek that had admired this man was long dead, buried
beneath the ashes of truth. His voice was full of hatred and loathing as he let
his former Employer know exactly where they stood.

"We have no relationship."

"Don't we?" The Cigarette-Smoking Man replied calmly with a slight dip of the
head towards Mulder.

Krycek stopped the words he had been about to utter as the true extent of
Cancerman's words sank in. The Cigarette-Smoking Man was not looking for a
one-off 'for old times sake', he wanted Krycek back permanently - or until his
unhealthy interest dimmed after which it was anyone's guess what he would do to
his former lover, though an untimely death was not improbable.

Mulder looked from one to the other, not understanding the cryptic conversation
yet knowing from the grim expression that it had a disturbing effect on Alex
Krycek. He could tell his lover needed time to think and knew of only one
delaying factor...

"So which one of you is the real Martha Hudson?"

Clone 2 adjusted the aim of her gun, belligerently, as Fox Mulder looked from one
clone to the other. Cancerman smiled, anticipating the response. The real Dr
Hudson was dead. He had killed her a few minutes previously and could still see
the look of surprise on the good doctor's face as he sent a bullet smashing
through her brain. Tiring of waiting for one or the other to speak, he answered
for them.

"Neither. She outlived her usefulness... just as you have outlived yours...."

Both clones took aim at Fox Mulder.

".... unless Alex can persuade me otherwise."

Alex Krycek looked across at the man he had come to love more than life itself.
No matter what decision he made there was no guarantee that Mulder would live.
Cancerman would honour an agreement only for as long as it suited him... and
then... but any chance was better than no chance. While Mulder lived the FBI
Agent might find a way to fight to get him back... if he truly loved him... and
if he could still want him after Cancerman had taken his slice out of him, body
and soul.

A blinding white light filled the hallway just beyond the room making the
decision superfluous and Mulder watched as two creatures entered bearing the
self-mutilated eyes, nose and mouth of the alien rebels. The two clones of Martha
Hudson swung round in alarm but were not in time to prevent the thin sliver of
metal being forced into the back of their necks.

As the Colonists fell to the ground and dissolved into a green puddle, the
Cigarette-Smoking Man took the opportunity to slip behind the Rebel Aliens and
out of the door. If was unlikely that they had even noticed his presence. They
turned their attention to the remaining two humans.

Although the room was fairly large affording them a reasonable amount of space
there was nowhere for Mulder and Krycek to go; the Aliens had taken position
between them and the only exit. As he gazed into the inhuman face Mulder wondered
whether this 'soldier' knew of his attempt to save the Rebel Leader all those
months ago.

//I am that Leader. We have been watching you, waiting for you to lead us to
them.//

The man-like creature indicated the two puddles of green slime on the floor near
his feet.

Mulder took a sharp intake of breath as the voice reverberated inside his head.
Interviews with Abductees had not prepared him for the true experience of
telepathy even though he had been told about it so many times.

"What do you want with us?"

//You will not be harmed//

A second alien rebel removed a long, thin tube from its belt. Fear creased
Mulder's forehead as he remembered Dana Scully recalling the attack on the bridge
at the Ruskin Dam. She gave a harrowing description of people being ignited with
a touch from a metal tube.

The two seemed to confer mentally for a few moments until the second Alien began
to move towards Alex Krycek purposefully. Suddenly, Mulder knew what it planned
and with more force than he intended, he shoved Krycek into the corner of the
room planting his own body in front, facing the oncoming Alien.

"What the hell...."

"Shut up, Alex."

Krycek stopped trying to push Mulder away and allowed himself to feel the weight
of the other man against the entire length of him. Mulder pressed back against
his chest, his buttocks against his groin. If it had not been for the dangerous
predicament they were in then he might have found the whole situation quite
erotic.

The Alien had stopped a few feet away from the FBI Agent at the Leader's command,
the thin metal tube raised and obviously ready to fire.

//Why?//

Mulder was not sure what the Leader was asking: Why am I protecting him? or Why
am I willing to die with him? He looked directly into the Leader's mutilated face
and put every ounce of his being into his answer.

"He's on your side. He helped me to save you."

The Rebel Leader showed no sign of caring what Krycek's part had been in gaining
his release as the other alien moved forward once more and Mulder found himself
fearing the worst. His heart cried out.

//.I want him to live! Please. I love him.//

His outburst was rewarded when the second alien halted within touching distance
of them.

//He carries the implants.//

Mulder's eyes widened in realisation; the abduction scenario in Silo 1013, the
existence of a file on Alex Krycek in this facility... Krycek was an abductee, an
information link for the Colonists. Why else would the Rebels want Krycek out of
the way.

"Can't you remove them?" //Without hurting him//

The silence lengthened and Mulder became aware of the answer as the Alien moved
forward suddenly, thrusting the tube against his arm. His world dissolved into
white searing pain followed by the blessed relief of unconsciousness.

Mulder awoke to find himself alone in the room, his arm seemed numb as if he had
been sleeping on it. He sat up, holding his head gingerly and as the room stopped
spinning the memory came flooding back.

"Alex?" Mulder whipped his head from one side to the other, searching the room as
a feeling close to horror grew in his mind. "Alex!"

"Mulder!"

The sound of running feet grew louder until Dana Scully burst into the room.

"Mulder. Thank God you're alright. I saw Cancerman enter the building.... Where's
Krycek?"

***

Two days later

Washington DC

Mulder shifted on his haunches as he rummaged through his laundry basket
searching for something to wear, not caring that it would probably smell of stale
sweat. He frowned as his hands closed around a black, long-sleeved T-shirt and he
fell back onto the floor, holding the shirt to his face, breathing in the faint
scent of sweat and after-shave that was Alex Krycek.

He barely remembered returning to DC, sitting on the bed in his apartment while
Scully unpacked both his and Alex's belongings. He could remember running his
fingers along the rumpled sheet, his mind drifting back to the motel, reliving
the way their bodies had rolled against each other, the feel of that perfect skin
beneath his hands and the soft, pliant lips that had crushed against his own.
Alex.

Since his return from Florida he had gone through the motions of submitting
reports and attending de-briefing sessions with Scully and Skinner. The files he
had shoved into his jacket pocket had disappeared by the time Scully had arrived.
There was no proof, no vial of Black Oil, only the body of Dr Martha J Hudson who
had been killed with a conventional weapon, the bullet hole looking like a third
eye in the centre of her forehead.

By day he acted as if nothing remarkable had happened yet each night, as he
crossed the threshold to his apartment, Mulder allowed the pretence to drop away.

He spent the time sitting in the dark reliving all the moments of his life when
their paths had crossed, watching as their relationship progressed from the
indifference of new FBI partners, to enemies, to unwanted allies and finally, to
lovers.

Mulder could easily analyse the path of sexual attraction...but love? When had he
fallen in love with Alex Krycek? How had the man whom he had believed killed his
father managed to crawl beneath his skin to become so much a part of him that the
pain of loss was almost impossible to bear. Where was Alex?

Common sense told him Alex was dead but self-denial placed him alive in that
limbo where Samantha also lived. Only the fact that they had taken Alex rather
than leave his charred remains behind gave him some small hope but how was he to
survive without knowing his fate for certain and while he had no proof to the
contrary Mulder knew he would carry on living in his own void, searching for the
truth, searching for Alex until he had found both.

"Mulder?"

Scully knelt down beside him and gently pulled the T-shirt away from the
tear-filled eyes. She pulled the unresisting man towards her and cradled him
against her like a small child, sharing his pain as the tears flowed freely.
Eventually, Mulder pulled away, scrubbing the back of his hand across his eyes.

"I'm sorry.. I..."

"It's OK. I understand. Don't ask me why but I do understand. He'll turn up
again. Bad pennies always do."

Mulder choked on a laugh. "He was never bad just misdirected, but he's gone,
Scully."

Scully sighed and brushed her fingers through Mulder's soft, brown hair. She
didn't really know what to believe. She had waited outside in the car while they
entered the premises to search for incriminating evidence and she had seen
Cancerman enter. However, no-one had come back out yet when she reached the
office there was only Mulder sitting dazed on the floor crying out Alex Krycek's
name.

The back-up had arrived soon after but Cancerman and Krycek must have slipped
away while she helped her partner. She grimaced. Mulder's account of what
happened was at complete odds with her own beliefs despite all she had seen since
starting her work on the X-Files but she could not deny the devastating effect
the loss of Krycek had on her former partner.

"It's OK, Mulder. I'll help you find him."

There was nothing more she could say so she gave him the only thing she had; a
shoulder to cry on.

Six Weeks later.

Fox Mulder settled back down into his old routine although he no longer felt the
same exhilaration and eagerness. The X-Files had been re-established following
Scully's report to the Internal FBI Committee. She had shown them the mutant bee
that had stung her in the corridor outside Mulder's apartment and her comments
had convinced Cassidy and the others on the Board of the importance of having a
section within the FBI dealing with cases outside of the mainstream.

The effects of those few short days still haunted him. What if Alex had been on
board that spacecraft? He had never even considered that possibility until his
subconscious mind dredged up the idea. His nightmares involved the sight of Alex
Krycek, frozen in a cryopod, hooked up to the organic tube that fed the Black Oil
organism into his body. In his dream, the organism would gestate, exploding out
of Krycek's abdomen, it's retractable claws honed and sharp as it reached to rip
out Mulder's throat. He would awake in a cold sweat, seeing the accusation of
betrayal in those frozen green eyes.

Common sense and logic told him Krycek was not onboard. He had been taken by the
Rebel aliens.... but to where?

The death of the Well-Manicured Man lay heavily upon him even though he had
witnessed the man execute his own driver only moments before. Alex Krycek had
never told him who his Employer was but Mulder had guessed and he knew that he
had lost one more source of both information and protection.

So where did he go from here?

On the desk in front of him lay the very first of the new files labelled 'Krycek,
Alexei'. It was a file that would never be put away as he devoted all his spare
time and energy investigating any paths that might lead him to the whereabouts of
the man he had come to love more than anyone else in the entire world. He opened
it, as he did every day, to gaze at the one and only photo available of Alex
Krycek.

It had been taken by a US Customs surveillance team several months previously
when they had been watching a Russian ship that had put into harbour. It had been
kept because the original photo had shown Marita Covarrubias in his company. The
Special Representative to the UN Secretary General had disappeared soon after.

The photo had been blown-up so it was a little fuzzy but Krycek was still easily
recognisable to one who knew his face so well. Mulder traced a finger along the
slightly smiling mouth but shut the file quickly as a silhouette appeared through
the opaque glass of his door.

AD Skinner entered and, after a quick nod in Scully's direction and a brief
glance around the newly painted office he settled himself on one corner of
Mulder's desk.

"I see you've found some new posters. I understand the relevance of that one", he
said, pointing at the poster of the flattened forest in Siberia. "That's where
the meteorite hit near Tunguska but what happened here?"

Mulder glanced at the travel poster showing a view across the Baltic Sea from a
liner, remembering eyes reflecting as green and clear as the icy water.

"Nothing. I just liked it. Is there something I can do for you, Sir?"

Skinner pressed his lips tightly together, recognising a change of subject when
he heard it.

"Spender has been handed a case involving a disappearance. It could be a
straight-forward kidnapping but then again... I thought you might like to be
involved."

His glance included Dana Scully so she wandered across the room to stand by
Mulder's chair. Mulder smiled wondering whether Skinner had found Cancerman's tar
prints all over the case.

"He's about to start the briefing..." Skinner indicated the door before looking
back at his best Agents and moving away. Mulder stood up and they followed the
Assistant Director out of the room.

***

Another day passed. The strange disappearance turned out to be a straight forward
kidnapping and once Mulder had discovered this he let go, leaving Spender to
clear it up by himself.

It was another Friday and he returned to his apartment to find Scully waiting for
him, ready to follow him on a new possible lead in his quest to find Krycek. She
had arrived on his door step every weekend since the disappearance, willing to
give up her spare time to help him and he was grateful.

"You should have let yourself in."

"I've only just parked. I saw your car turn into the street."

He pushed his key into the lock and pushed the door open to allow Dana Scully to
go in first.

"You don't have to do this, Scully. I spent 25 years looking for Samantha. It
could take another 25 to find Alex."

"Mulder?" Scully stopped dead in her tracks. "Someone's been here."

 

 

Fox Mulder edged passed his partner noticing small changes in the room. His heart
began to beat faster as he recognised the signs; a magazine fallen to the floor,
a door slightly ajar. Scully moved towards the bathroom and pushed the door open,
her gun held out in readiness. She looked back at him from the bathroom door, gun
still poised in hand but shook her head. There was no-one there which left only
the bedroom. They paused outside, listening for any sound within. Nothing. Mulder
held his gun in front of him and reached for the handle, levering it and pushing
it open slowly. He froze at the sight before him. Scully pushed passed him and
lifted both eyebrows in shocked recognition before checking round the room. It
was empty apart from the figure lying motionless on the bed.

"Alex?"

Mulder dropped his gun and moved forward, his eyes never leaving the beautiful,
peaceful face. Scully moved to the other side of the bed and reached for the
pulse point beneath his jaw. He was alive.

"Alex."

Mulder looked back at her, sat on the edge of the bed and then reached for the
sleeping or comatose man. As he pulled Alex into his embrace the cover slipped
down and Scully gasped in shock.

"Mulder!"

He looked down to where she indicated and dropped Krycek back onto the bed. The
man in his bed had two arms. Mulder's first thought was that this was a Colonist
or a clone of Krycek. The rough handling stirred the figure and the man moaned
softly, eyes peeling open. He swallowed, wetting his dry lips with a delicate
brush of his tongue. The teal-green eyes focused on the hazel eyes above him and
a smile lit up the face in joy and relief. His last memory had been of Mulder
crumpling at his feet just before the alien reached out to him.

"Mulder!"

Puzzlement filled the eyes as Krycek noticed the wariness in his lover's eyes and
then he became aware of something different about himself. He raised his left arm
and stared at it in stunned amazement, watching the fingers move to his command.
His other hand reached across and his new fingers curled with the sensitive shock
of contact. He looked back up at Mulder.

"How?" He gazed around the room, recognising Fox Mulder's apartment. "How did we
get...?"

"What d'you remember?"

Alex frowned at the emotionless tone.

"An office in BioTechnics.. Cancerman.... Two faceless men." His eyes widened in
remembrance. "One of them attacked you. You fell at my feet and then he reached
for me... and... nothing. I... what happened?"

Mulder reached out and took one hand in his, wanting desperately to feel the warm
flesh against his own despite the knowledge that this person may not be who he
wanted him to be.

"They said you had implants. They were gonna kill you, the same way they killed
the others at the stagings." Mulder stared into the wide eyes. "I... asked them
not to hurt you but I didn't think they heard... or cared. I hoped, though..."

Mulder pulled back, thoughts whirling around his head. If this was not the real
Alex Krycek then opening himself to this creature could be dangerous. He changed
the subject.

"I think the mutilation is self-inflicted, to prevent their being taken over by
the Black Oil aliens."

"It is."

Krycek looked down feeling guilty at what he had done to the boy he had brought
across from Russia. He had told the Russian Doctor to sew up the boy's eyes, nose
and mouth to prevent the Black Oil Alien from being able to transfer bodies. The
small amount of medium ensured that the Alien had very little power within the
host body, certainly not enough to cause the damaging irradiation effect that had
killed the crew of Piper Maru. He had done everything else within his power to
make the boy comfortable but still carried the guilt and shame of his actions.

At the time there seemed to be little choice but he had not bargained with being
betrayed by Marita Covarrubias. First she had spirited away the boy but also, at
the same time, she had betrayed him to the Consortium. It was only through sheer
luck that it had been the Well-Manicured Man rather than Cancerman that had
received her information otherwise he might have been long dead.

The Well-Manicured Man had released him after he had handed over the antidote he
had stolen from the Russians deciding to place his trust in him despite his
inauspicious beginnings. Krycek couldn't pretend that he wasn't grateful. He had
become sick of running and hiding, of being scared for his life and, more
importantly, sick of being thought of as a cold-blooded killer. Considering the
work he did, he had killed only four people in his whole life and two of those
were little more than accidents.

"How long have I been missing?"

"Two months."

Scully appeared back at Krycek's side, a bag in hand. They looked at her in
surprise as neither had noticed her leave. She placed the bag on the bed, opened
it and withdrew several different instruments.

"Lie back, I'm going to check you out."

She shone a pencil light across his eyes, noting the reaction as his pupils
contracted and dilated. Her hand clasped the new arm, feeling along the length,
gauging muscle tone and bone structure. She tested the finger tips by prodding
each with a fine stylus. All the time, her heard was shaking in disbelief.

"There's no technology on this planet that can re-grow a limb this perfect,
Mulder. This can't be Krycek. It can't be... but..."

She wished there were things she knew about him that she could use to test him
but she had spent only that one afternoon with him....

"Do you remember the IMAX?"

Krycek frowned in confusion. "The Blue Planet."

"It's no good, Scully. If he is a Colonist then he could have Krycek's memories
right up until the time he was taken over."

Mulder paused in thought. Krycek had been with him every moment from the time
they met in the Diner the night after he had raped him until the moment when he
had been knocked unconscious by the alien Rebels. The Rebels would have no reason
to produce a clone of him so, if this were the real Alexei Krycek, he would have
memories of those last moments together. Memories that only they shared.

"Something happened just before we broke into BioTechnics?"

Krycek frowned, wondering what Mulder was up to. The closed face above him
revealed nothing... and then he understood. He glanced across at Dana Scully,
heat rising in his face as he remembered the feel of those lips upon his and the
words that had stunned him to the core. If he was wrong then Mulder was going to
be very embarrassed and have a lot of explaining to do to his partner... but if
he was right.....

He looked deeply into the hazel eyes.

"You took my face in your hands and kissed me... and you told me you loved me."

Mulder let out the breath he was holding, closing his eyes in relief. He smiled
and pulled the other man into a tight embrace.

"Alex."

Scully had excused herself a little while later realising with a certain amount
of envy that she had become the proverbial third wheel. They needed time alone.
Mulder walked with her to the door, as she went to cross the threshold he reached
out and hugged her.

"I could never have survived these past months without you. I felt so alone when
I thought I had lost you as well. You gave me the strength to carry on and, no
matter what, I'll always need you."

She tightened her grip on him for a moment in acceptance before pulling back. No
more words of comfort or thanks were necessary.

"I'll call you tomorrow."

"OK."

Mulder closed the door, ensured that it had locked and returned to the bedroom
where Alex Krycek was sitting up. He stared at the vision before him, momentarily
blinded by tears as he thanked whatever god had brought Alex back to him alive
and well.

***

They stared at each other across the room until Alex reached out with two
perfectly formed arms. Mulder moved into his embrace, his head falling over
Krycek's shoulder as his own wrapped around the muscular form. Krycek's arms
encircled him and they held on tightly. Eventually, by mutual agreement, they
moved back but neither relinquished the lighter hold as if afraid the other man
would disappear if they let go. Mulder gazed into the green eyes, feeling the icy
vision of his nightmares melt away. He moved one hand upwards until he could
brush across the high cheekbone and down to tease the soft lips, smiling as they
parted and he felt the tip of a tongue against his finger tips.

Mulder dipped his head and pressed his own mouth against those lips, delicately,
like the touch of a butterfly's wing. The mood held as Krycek made no attempt to
deepen the kiss. They parted and Krycek smiled, knowingly, as Mulder stood up. He
watched as his lover started to dispose of his clothing, leaving jacket, shirt
and tie in an untidy heap on the floor by the bed. Kicking off his shoes, Mulder
unzipped his pants and let them fall to the floor, stepping out of them before
kneeling on the bed. He leant forward, reaching for the luscious mouth with its
gleaming white teeth and full lips. Krycek frowned as Mulder pulled away once
more.

"Socks." He sat down and removed them, adding them to the heap of clothing on the
floor.

Krycek took the opportunity to move until he was lying flat on the bed.

Mulder knelt down beside him and pulled away the sheet, revealing all of the
other's body. His hazel eyes traced a path down the well-toned chest, across the
flat stomach, passed the semi-erect shaft and along the strong thighs, down
passed muscular calves to the tips of his toes, marvelling at the perfection
laying before him. Thoughts came unbidden; It ought to be a crime for this man to
wear clothes... and this was one crime he believed he ought to investigate
thoroughly.

His eyes moved back up, taking in the new-found symmetry, until they rested once
more on the beautiful face with its wide- spaced sea-green eyes, darkened with
desire. Krycek's hand reached out and drifted through the spattering of hair upon
Mulder's chest, stroking lightly across one nipple, teasing it erect before
travelling onwards to the other. Mulder closed his eyes as a warm sensation
drifted from the pit of his stomach, feeling the blood begin to pulse stronger
through his veins. The hand drifted lower until he could feel the sensation of
strong fingers moving over the silk of his boxers, rubbing along the rigid shaft
that strained against the light material. Mulder eased himself up onto his knees
as he felt a hand on each side of his hips, fingers tucking into the waistband of
his boxers. He watched as the material was gently lifted and pulled down to
release him from the silky prison. Mulder stood up and pushed them off the rest
of the way and then lay on the bed beside his lover. Fingers carded through his
hair, lifting the brown strands and Mulder questioned the pensive look that fell
across the beautiful face beside him.

"You know, Mulder. I'm starved. Got any food around here."

Mulder grinned as he shook his head in the negative. "I'll dial out for pizza.
Later." He paused for effect, his eyes dancing in deviltry. "I can fix you a
light snack."

He rubbed his groin against Krycek's leg suggestively, eyes opening in surprise
as he was pushed flat onto his back. Krycek straddled his lower legs, eyes bright
with lust.

"I'll take you up on that."

He bent over, taking the full length of Mulder's erection, hands holding the
narrow hips still as Mulder bucked and gasped in shock at the sudden wetness and
heat surrounding him. The sharp edge of teeth raked up his length, halting only
when they reached the base of the bulbous tip. A new sensation, as Krycek's
tongue began to swirl across the sensitive glans, assaulted his nerve endings and
Mulder screwed his eyes closed, gasping anew as he felt his balls tighten even
further. The questing tongue dipped along the slight crevice, tasting the salty
pre-cum, brushing hard against a very sensitive place sending frissons of energy
dancing through his body as if he had been zapped by a taser gun. Mulder opened
his eyes and looked down to find a pair of green eyes, pupils enlarged with lust,
laughing up at him. He groaned as Krycek continued the assault, one hand closed
around the base of the shaft, pumping it in time with the relentless sucking.

"Alex... Alex....!"

No longer able to prevent Mulder from bucking beneath him, Alex held on tight as
the orgasm rippled through his lover's body. Moments later he tasted the thick,
bitter fluid filling his mouth and he swallowed quickly, each thrust refilling
his mouth until he was unable to swallow fast enough. Semen spilled through his
lips but he continued to suck and swallow until Mulder was empty. With a final
lick, he released the organ, his tongue skimming his lips to capture some of the
spill.

Mulder gazed down at Krycek through glazed eyes and, in that moment, he knew he
had never before seen anything or anyone more beautiful than this man. Alex moved
up the bed until they were face to face and took the other man in a deep kiss,
sharing the taste of his lover. Mulder's tongue flicked into Krycek's mouth,
licking across strong white teeth and soft inner cheek, his heart swelling at the
realisation of what this bitter taste meant, what this man had just taken from
him and now returned.

He pulled Alex into his arms, his breath gradually steadying as he crushed the
other man to him then he pushed Krycek onto his back, his hazel eyes drinking in
the sight of his highly aroused but unsatisfied lover.

"Don't move."

He reached to take Krycek's hand, moving it to his lips where he licked and
sucked each finger in turn before turning it so he could kiss the palm and gently
nip the fleshy mound of Venus beneath the thumb. His mouth journeyed up to the
wrist, licking and biting at sensitive skin, feeling the strong pulse. Gradually
he worked his way up Krycek's left arm, sinking into the crook of his elbow,
licking at the dark hair gathered underneath his armpit as his tongue and hands
moved across one broad shoulder and along the collarbone. His mouth followed his
hands as they drifted across the muscular chest, raising red marks and goosebumps
whenever he stopped to taste. He glanced down to see hands tightly grasping the
sheet as Krycek forced himself to obey Mulder's command and remain still. A gasp
of pain and pleasure rushed out as Mulder teased one sensitive nipple, rolling
the tight bud between his fingers as his mouth descended to latch onto the other.
Teeth raked across the surface eliciting another cry as Krycek rolled his head
from side to side.

"Oh, God... Mulder."

Goosebumps raised Mulder's flesh as the husky voice cried out his name and he
felt a pulse race through his body, culminating in his groin, his own cock
twitching in renewed pleasure. Krycek seemed to sigh in relief as Mulder's
fingers and mouth moved downwards, releasing him from the exquisite pain but he
cried out again, in frustration, as Mulder skimmed passed his groin to continue
his caress of the silky skin of the inner thigh, lavishing attention on Krycek's
muscular thighs and calves before sucking and licking each toe. His tongue
trailed along the sensitive sole of Krycek's foot, the toes curling in as Alex
giggled.

When Mulder started the trip up his other leg, Krycek held his breath and
released it explosively as his lover deliberately bypassed his groin once more.
Unable to take any more he raised himself up and tried to grab Mulder's head to
push him back down but the Agent gently shoved him away.

"I said, don't move."

"Mulder, this is torture..."

Desire slurred the words as Krycek gasped again. Fox Mulder smiled as the body
writhed beneath his onslaught, every nerve ending alive and radiating electrical
pulses from the tips of his fingers to his toes but centring on the one area so
far neglected. Mulder sat back and smiled at the pleading in his lover's eyes.
The dark lashes fluttered as Krycek panted in need.

Mulder sat back and grasped his own burgeoning erection, pumping himself until he
was hard and ready.

"Please...."

Krycek watched, entranced by the small pearl of pre-cum seeping from the tip. His
lover grinned and reached across to pull open the drawer in the bedside cabinet.
He pulled out a tube, unscrewed the cap and squeezed a generous amount onto his
fingers.

"Turn over."

Krycek rolled onto his stomach with some alacrity, legs parted, his breathing
erratic as he waited for Mulder to do something... anything. He sighed as he felt
fingers covered in the cool gel sliding between his cheeks, rubbing across the
tight muscle. A heavily slicked finger pushed into him and he contracted his
muscles to hold onto the invader tightly but let go when he felt the stinging
slap across one cheek. The finger probed deeper, circling the soft inner wall
until... Krycek cried out, bucking hard beneath Mulder as the finger scraped
across his prostate, igniting his nerve endings and turning his legs to jelly.

"Oh, God, Mulder... Don't stop..."

Mulder continued the assault but then pulled out. Krycek sobbed in anguish,
desperate for the release that was being withheld from him. He tried to move but
a hand pushed into the small of his back. Moments later he felt Mulder's fingers
gliding along his cheek before dipping back down into the crevice. He moaned,
arching back his head as the muscle was stretched to accommodate two fingers
which thrust in and out, moving ever deeper until they scraped across his
prostate once more.

Krycek began to thrust into the mattress beneath him but stopped when he was
slapped, the stinging blow leaving a red hand print across one white globe. The
fingers were removed and Krycek groaned as he felt Mulder move between his legs.
He raised himself, pushing backwards when he felt Mulder's fingers tug at his
hips and then steadied himself as he felt a blunt object press against the now
more pliant muscle. Mulder eased forward, pushing against the tight ring, sighing
as the head of his penis slipped inside. He waited until Krycek had adjusted to
the wider bulk then thrust forward gently, burying his shaft deeper into the
beloved body with each stroke. He reached around and grasped Krycek's throbbing
shaft. Once fully in, he paused, savouring the sensation of the hot, tight
channel and the feel of his balls pressed against the white cheeks. He pulled
back slightly and adjusted the angle of penetration to find the sensitive bulge
of Krycek's prostate, thrusting forward more vigorously, his hand mimicking the
action on Krycek's shaft. Alex screamed out as his pain dulled nerve endings
re-ignited, unable to hold back, his semen pumping out over Mulder's hand as his
lover continued to pound into his ass. Moments later, Mulder stiffened and Krycek
felt the surge of hot liquid filling him.

They collapsed in a heap, bodies exhausted, both sighing in disappointment as
Mulder's flaccid shaft slipped from its human sheath. Mulder rolled off his lover
and pulled Krycek into his arms. He kissed the parted lips and watched the heavy
eyelids close as Krycek fell into a deep sleep. He whispered softly as he nuzzled
into Krycek's neck.

"I guess pizza will have to wait."

His fingers caressed the short, dark hair.

"Still a stupid-ass haircut."

He smiled as he realised there was no longer a need for Krycek to keep his hair
cut so short. Carding his fingers through long mahogany strands was something
else he had to look forward to. He whispered into one perfect ear.

"I'll never let you go again. Do you hear me, Alex. I love you."

He closed his eyes as Alex murmured something soft and unintelligible yet knowing
from the way the other man buried himself closer into Mulder's embrace that he
must have heard.

FBI Headquarters

Washington DC

Mulder stared at the final words in the document on the screen before hitting the
print key. Seconds later the hard copy began to flow out of the printer. He
waited until all the pages were there and then retrieved them. Sitting back in
his chair, his raised his feet until they were supported by the desk and turned
to the first page.

Hypnotic regression did not reveal anything new. Alex Krycek must have remained
unconscious throughout most of his captivity but there is no doubt that he had
been subjected to medical examination. X-rays reveal no sign of any foreign
objects. His body contains none of the implants yet his health is excellent.
There is no sign of the Black Cancer normally associated with the removal of the
implants.

The other major question is the re-growth of his left arm. Krycek had lost the
arm during the Tunguska affair and there are many witnesses to this fact.

Although previous X-Files had discovered experimentation in cloning and in the
re-growing of limbs, the results were nowhere near perfect and despite the
functionality of the limbs in question, visually they were deformed. Krycek's arm
is perfectly human and perfectly proportioned for his body, almost as if it had
never been removed. No known human process could have achieved this result.

Mulder looked away for a moment before continuing.

The next question is why. When I asked them not to kill him and asked if they
could remove the implants I had not thought they cared and that, to them,
Krycek's extermination was the only recourse. However, the implants have gone, he
is healthy and he is whole again. For some reason they decided to salvage Alexei
Krycek but the question remains. Why?

Case closed.

Mulder filed the document into the folder and placed it in the cabinet. There was
so much he could have added. He could have provided several reasons why they had
saved Alex ranging from the fact that they could use a human like Krycek to aid
in their cause, to repayment for saving the life of their leader, to the most
simple reason that they had taken pity on the human who loved him. Whatever the
reason, Mulder was grateful.

He quickly typed up another letter; his resignation. He printed it off and signed
it knowing he would drop it on Skinner's desk on the way out.

It had been a relatively easy decision to make considering the number of years he
had spent in the FBI but there was no other way to reconcile this with his need
to be with Alex Krycek. As far as the FBI was concerned, Krycek was a fugitive
wanted in connection with a series of murders, disappearances, break-ins and
other crimes and Mulder could not change that even though there was no hard proof
to any of the allegations but, if caught, the circumstantial evidence alone would
be enough to damn both of them. Yes, it was better to resign now than be brought
before an Internal Inquest.

At least his pension would remain intact.

After more than 20 years of searching Mulder knew he had to let go of his
obsession to find the full reason behind Samantha's abduction in order to hold
onto Alex Krycek. He smiled. Who knows, maybe this new life would yield the
answers he was seeking. After all, Alex had worked for the very people who had
taken her all those years ago but, whatever happened, he would continue to search
for the truth with the man he loved by his side.

***

AD Skinner read the short letter, knowing what it was before he had even opened
the envelope.

"I don't accept this."

He crumpled it up and threw it into the wastebasket. Mulder nodded towards the
desk.

"One of the beauties of modern technology - infinite copies available at the
touch of a button."

Skinner sighed. "This isn't necessary, Agent Mulder."

"You don't know my reasons."

Skinner snorted. "Don't underestimate me." He pushed his glasses firmly back on
his nose as he leaned back, looking Mulder directly in the eye. "Alexei Krycek."

Mulder remained impassive although his insides had started to turn to Jell-O.
What did Skinner know?

"I've reviewed the evidence against Agent Krycek and, as far as I can see it is
all circumstantial. The only formal allegation against him is in this report."

Skinner held up a folder with the name 'Barry, Duane' written in bold type across
the title. Mulder recognised it as the report he had written following Duane
Barry's suspicious death.

"If you rescind the allegations in here then the only thing I can haul his ass in
for is failing to submit timely notice of his intention to leave the FBI." He
paused, dropping the report onto the desk. "And even that is debatable. I'm
certain Krycek's high-powered associates could easily produce 'evidence' that he
had been seconded to a special projects division during his so-called
'disappearance'."

Mulder stayed silent. It was true - all of it - but there still remained the
problem of his sexual relationship with Alex Krycek. Every Government agency,
including the FBI, stated that no person may be discriminated against on the
grounds of race, gender, religious belief or sexual orientation but, in practice,
that was never the case. He looked up, eyebrows raising as AD Skinner seemingly
read his mind again.

"Despite what you believe, Agent Mulder, homosexuality is accepted just the same
as heterosexual partnerships - as long as the individual concerned does not allow
themselves to be compromised through their sexual partner or partners. In this
case it's borderline but I'm willing to overlook it... on this occasion."

Mulder drew a deep breath. Skinner knew but....

"I don't intend to give up Alex."

Skinner's mouth tightened into a firm line of disapproval but then he relented.
Fox Mulder had already shown that he was willing to give up the X-Files for Alex
Krycek so there was no bluff to call.

"OK. I assume you want to rescind these allegations."

"Yes, Sir."

Mulder rose from his seat knowing the interview was over. He walked to the door
before his elation overflowed and he lost control of the urge to kiss Skinner. A
stern voice called him back.

"Mulder, I'll be watching you... both of you. Don't give me a reason to bring
this subject up again."

As he closed the door behind him Mulder could not prevent a broad grin from
stretching across his face. The grin stayed with him all the way back down to the
basement office where Dana Scully waited in grim silence. Her face lightened as
she took in the bright eyes and stunning smile.

"Has Christmas come early?"

"And New Year and my birthday for the next century."

"Do I take it he refused your resignation - or is this the start of a nervous
breakdown?"

"I'm staying, Scully... with the X-Files and with Alex."

***

One Month Earlier.

County of Somerset, England

The Well-Manicured Man turned away from the tank to review the tapes and smiled.
Despite several unplanned events, everything had turned out the way he had hoped.
Mulder had lead the Rebel aliens to 'Dr Hudson' and her work had been totally
destroyed. What none of the others had realised was that her antidote had not
been created for Humanity's benefit. It had been produced under Colonist control
as a way to counteract the Black Oil vaccine. With this antidote they could have
negated all of his work over the past 30 years and left Humanity totally at their
mercy. He sneered. What mercy?

Of course, he could have simply told the Rebels to go to BioTechnics at the very
beginning but what would that have achieved. Mulder's involvement had been for a
reason... to motivate Hudson into gathering all of her work into one place. Only
when he was sure that had been accomplished, after her disappearance from the
Christchurch Institute, had he involved the Rebels. Unfortunately, he had not
anticipated his Cigarette-Smoking colleague's interference but then, he had not
realised how obsessed the man had become with Alex Krycek, obsessed enough to use
both the Consortium and the Colonists to his own ends. A very dangerous man...
and one who was still a free agent.

He paused the VCR and turned to examine the reality, a finger reaching out to
touch the glass that separated him from the floating form of Alex Krycek. Had he
known about the implants he would never have assigned Krycek to this case. There
were other agents who could have assisted Fox Mulder but, fortunately, for
whatever reason - a reason he may never learn of - the Faceless aliens chose to
remove the implants from his chosen successor rather than destroy him. However,
the method was by no means repeatable with other abductees. Krycek's situation
was unique. His implants were of total alien manufacture and were 50 years out of
date having been placed by the Oilian from the Piper Maru. Nonetheless, removal
had triggered the Black Cancer but by combining Krycek's DNA with that of the
Rebel alien's they had succeeded in using a chemical antibody to dissolve the
cancerous cells triggered by the implant.

He wondered how long it would be before Krycek realised what had been done to him
and tried to experiment with his new and unique body chemistry. The Rebel alien
had hinted that Krycek might have the ability to shape-shift and heal... but to a
very limited degree. It would be interesting to watch this process but he knew
time was running out. The tape the Cigarette- Smoking Man had sent to the First
Elder of Krycek and Mulder searching through the Colonist-controlled BioTechnics
had taken a fair amount of explanation and he was convinced it had not been
wholly accepted. The others had begun to suspect he was in collusion with the
Rebels. Yes, time was running out for him.

His sight took in a naked and whole Alexei Krycek.

This was his legacy to the younger man. The alien DNA had made all the difference
to the limb re-growth. Unlike John Barnett, the limb was recognisably human
having been grown from Krycek's own cells rather than from a Salamander's. The
result was perfect and fully functional.

The Well-Manicured Man glanced up at the Rebel Leader who stood next to the tank
watching the floating form. They had a lot more to discuss, including the report
of a Colonist mothership somewhere in the Antarctic. It seems the
Cigarette-Smoking Man was working a lot closer to the Colonists than he had
suspected.

The Well-Manicured Man took one last look at the floating form before leading the
way out of the laboratory. He had given orders that Krycek be returned to Special
Agent Fox Mulder once the process was finished, knowing it was the safest place
for him. The Cigarette-Smoking Man was not the only one who had guessed how much
they loved each other. He paused. The axe seemed well and truly poised above his
own head, and he was not certain whether he would be able to dodge it when it
fell, however, with Alexei Krycek and Fox Mulder working together with the
Rebels, he knew his work to save Humanity from the Colonists would not die with
him.

End