Well, here it is folks! The story you are about to read (aka, the Novel) is the selfsame text I have been bitching and moaning about finishing for the better part of a year.

Here it is, served up in its final form for all to enjoy. I'll be posting the first five parts tonight; parts six through eleven will appear tommorrow. So without further ado...

TITLE: Another Side

AUTHOR: Halfchild


SPOILERS: Anasazi, Terma, Patient X, other than that, you got me...

DISCLAIMER: Actually, it's all been a ruse. Chris Carter doesn't own them, I do. Oh, btw, I can't seem to find my medication anywhere...


http://www.crosswinds.net/russia/~alexkrycek/den1.html THANK YOUS: Go out to the ever-suffering Raven, who put up with me whining about this story for the better part of its nine- month-long gestation. You really are a dear, you know that? Gentle reader, please be sure to keep Leanne and mab in mind when you read this, as they are almost solely responsible for this story being presentable. Woe to anyone who would have tried to read it before they betaed it! And of course, deep and never-ending gratitude to everyone who had the foresight to keep this story on their computers, thereby salvaging both the text and my sanity after *my* puter ate it. COMMENTS: Are shamelessly solicited. *Please* let me know what you think!

OTHER: Kudos to anyone who can name the songs quoted in this story, especially the second one.

Another Side

By Jill

*Now my suspicion's on the rise

I have known, I have known your kind.*

~I've had a recurring dream for months now. I'm walking across a field. Everything is charred and blackened, and the stink of rotting bodies rises from the earth in waves. I move over the plain, permanently stooped, my hands reaching down, rolling corpses over, always rolling. There's grime and blood on my skin, my face, my fingers, my clothing, and I'm ankle deep in gore.

Body after body, each face so different, and yet there is something universal to them all, sort of a stock death grimace. I'm looking for you, and I know you're lying here with them, only I can't find you. But I need to find you so that I can...what? Resurrect you? Bury you? Call me Antigone. There's really no hope. Once they realize I'm looking for you, I won't be able to protect you anymore, and this makes no sense, because you're already dead. I wonder, Mulder, if you'd think of me differently were you to know about my dream.~

The street shines black in the night, slick with rain and gasoline. Bright neon lights reflect off of the pavement in a broken rainbow of reds, yellows, and blues. The door clicks open, and I slip into the driver's seat next to a glaring Mulder. The leather upholstery creaks as he leans over to remove the steaming bag of food from my hand so I can shut the door. He sniffs gingerly at the bag before his nose crinkles in disgust.

"If you're going to be like that," I tell him, "give it back to me." I reach for the bag, but he's holding it just beyond my reach. That's Mulder - determined to annoy. It doesn't bother me; I've been putting up with it for months.

"I asked for burgers," he grumbles at last.

"Yeah, I know. Remind me to pick up some of those microwavable Whitecastle Burgers next time I'm in a grocery store. Oh, and while you're staring a hole through my forehead, the food's getting cold." This little speech has no appreciable affect on Mulder's expression, and I smile despite myself.

Finally, he rips the staple from the brown paper, and begins removing the cartons of food. The smell of garlic is heavenly, and I can feel the blood begin to circulate through my veins as its aroma fills the car. Propping a random carton between my legs, I pry the lid open and attack it with my chopsticks. I'm about halfway done before I notice that Mulder hasn't touched his food.

"Something wrong?" I inquire, ever so politely, around a mouthful of crab rangoon.

"Yeah, Krycek. I wanted a burger."

I can feel my mouth split into a grin, even though I know it shouldn't be. "That's a shitty excuse, Mulder. You've been pissy for months." I'm sorry; I really am, but you have to understand. I can't help it.

He shoots me a look that could shatter glass before turning his attention to the meal before him.

There's a few more minutes of silence while we're both busy chewing. Cars whiz by outside, and I doubt any of their occupants notices the two men huddled in a Ford Taurus by the side of the road, wolfing down Chinese as though there were no tomorrow. At least I hope they don't, if only for his sake. That thought reminds me. "So," I ask casually, as if I were about to discuss the weather, "What're we gonna do now?" Shitty weather, by the way, it's been raining for weeks.

"Eat," he says, giving me one of his patented sullen stares.

I sigh. "After that," I respond, and it's there, a slight little expression of shock, barely visible. He still hasn't gotten used to it then. It's understandable, really. When the United States government is after your ass, every little aspect of life changes. The fact takes some getting used to. "Well, we can't stay here, anyway," I continue. "We've been in this part of town for a couple of weeks. We'd better move, just on the off-chance that they've heard something."

He graces me with a slight snort at that last one. "They've heard something." I can hear him mimicking it in his head right now, even if he's learned not to say anything out loud. There's a momentary prick of irritation on my part. I don't enjoy living like this any more than you do, Mulder, but that's how it is. Then I smile again. I can hear myself lecturing him in scholarly tones, a sage hand on his shoulder. //The first couple of years are always the worst, Fox. It's hard learning to deal with five o'clock shadow and bags under your eyes. But in a little while, it'll become your second nature, and you won't even remember that you're a former FBI agent on the run from your employers.//

Finally he shrugs. "Whatever's best." It's not much, but at least he's speaking to me. I finish chewing my Hunan chicken before reaching for the ignition. The motor turns over soundlessly, and we move into the nighttime traffic.


About three or so blocks before my apartment, I park my car, get out and walk. It's a pain in the ass, true, but it allows for a certain amount of security. Ever try to trail someone on foot before? I have; it's fucking difficult and I hate to do it. Yeah, I'm just trying to give my former co-workers a break. The thought makes me smile slightly.

There's something about this evening, the way people are driving, the way the crowd hurries down the sidewalk, that bothers me. It's nothing overt, and looking back I'm not even sure it was anything I was *conscious* of at that point. But I would have died a long time ago if I hadn't been able to pick up on atmospheres like I do. And I hadn't felt this unease since the last time I was in Hong Kong. Funny I should think about that tonight, but then again, when have my thoughts ever *not* circled back to Mulder? Especially now. I don't know where he's gone, now that I'm off the X-Files yet again, and I have no reason to be hanging around his apartment, keeping tabs on him.

Each day, I get a little more concerned. I don't have the most desirable profession on earth, but there are fringe benefits, such as a wide assortment of contacts and associates. None of who, incidentally, have been able to find Mulder for several months. The man has disappeared without a trace, and I'm a little worried about this turn of events. Since the disappearance of my benefactor, it's only gotten harder to come by any amount of relevant information. So, as the months drag on, I've been hearing less about any developments. It's getting more and more difficult to make sense of any fragments that happen to come my way, but I'm not getting a decent night's sleep from what I *am* hearing.

It's started to drizzle, and I pull my leather jacket closer around my neck. You wouldn't think it, but it's rather hard to dry yourself off one-handed. In any case the weather matches my mood. Mulder, where the hell *are* you? It's been months since I've heard any thing about you. I can't do this on my own. You see, I've been guaranteed my survival no matter which way this all pans out. But if there is any remainder of me not completely concerned with my own continued existence, Mulder draws it out. And if I can't find him soon, I don't think I'll care any more. There is a great liberating power in not caring what others think of you, and I stopped doing that a long time ago. With one exception.

By the time I get back to my apartment, all I want to do is sleep. I drop my jacket onto the floor, watching as it becomes a dark, shadowy puddle against the pitted wood. When I looked up, he's there, standing in the open doorway, face half hidden in shadow by the flickering hallway light, eyes dark and beautiful. It just goes to show the effect he has on me, that I just stand here, staring at him, feeling my pulse quicken every time his lips flicker into view. I consider drawing my weapon, but can't quite get my arm to work. So I continue to stare, he continues to stare, and then I laugh.

He's thrown completely off balance by my reaction to him, and I use the time that buys me to draw my gun, slam the door in his face, and head for the fire exit. I value my life as much as the next man values *his*, although I may not value *the next man's* life as much as my own. And although Mulder may be beautiful, I won't be able to appreciate that if I'm dead.

At any rate, I've bought myself a little time, though not as much as I might have hoped for. I'm still struggling, one handed, with the window as the door opens.

I can hear Mulder crashing through the apartment, and my heart is in my fucking throat. I brace myself against the sill and push, but I live in an old building, and the window is rusted and jammed with disuse. There's a sound of shattering glass from the hallway, and then the apartment falls completely silent. Fuck you, Mulder! I thought only assassins knew that trick. When you're trying to find someone in dark, unfamiliar surroundings, stay completely still, and listen for any sounds your target might make. It's the one infallible way to locate where he is, and Mulder's pulling it on me. I either sit still till he comes and finds me, or continue to pry at the window, alerting him to my exact location in the process.

Christ, Mulder, I really don't want to kill you, but I can't let you sell me to the Boys in Virginny, either. Slowly, as quietly as I can, I begin moving back toward the entranceway. I have the advantage of knowing my way in the dark, but it's still damn hard to feel your path out, aim a pistol, and keep your balance one handed. Fuck you, Mulder; you're to blame for that little number as well. If I concentrate on that fact, I might not feel as much remorse over taking you out. And to think, I would have been paid for my efforts a mere year ago. That's what you get for trying to spare someone, I suppose.

I pause before turning the corner to the entryway, and I can hear him breathing. By the sound of it, he's crouched two, maybe three feet back from the doorway. He must have bumped into the hall table; that would explain the sound of breaking glass. He's about six feet tall, so if he's crouching, he should be three, four feet up from the floor. If I'm careful, I can take him out in two shots, at the most. *If* I'm careful. Two shots, then I'm out the door, out of the city, and, hopefully, Mulder will be effectively out of commission, and my mind as well. I try to convince myself it's worth it. The crime scene photos of Luis Cardinal hanging by his shoelaces, neck broken, go a long way toward convincing me.

Much as I'd love to sit and reminisce, I do have my personal safety to attend to. I lower myself onto one knee (God, this was so much easier to do with four limbs) and prepare to swing round the corner. I take a deep breath, center my weight on my forward leg, and launch myself around the wall, firing.

I see him, briefly, in the illumination of the gunshots. Of course, he's chosen the same moment I have to make an attack, so my shots go wide entirely. Of course. Within a moment, he strikes me full in the chest and I'm knocked onto my back, wheezing and wondering why my lungs no longer work. My gun goes skittering across the hallway floor, to be lost in the further recesses of the room. God dammit. I hate strangling people.

I manage to get one upper hook in before he knocks me on my back, pinning me by my one arm. I still have the use of my legs, and take full advantage of them. My heel collides with his unprotected gut, and he grunts, reeling back from me with an expression on his face I can't really describe. Yeah Mulder, I know I don't normally fight back, but really, you should be better prepared than this.

He lets go of my arm, and in a moment I'm pressing myself back up, twisting out from under him toward the door. He's back on me in a moment, pulling me around onto my back and slugging me in the face. I can feel my chin start to swell immediately, and I've got a feeling my corpse isn't going to look very pretty when they find me tomorrow morning.

In any case, I put up as decent a fight as I can at the moment, but without the element of surprise, I'm no match for Mulder, or anyone else with two hands. It's just a matter of time before he manages to pin down all of my three remaining limbs. Somewhere, some small part of my brain realizes that he's talking, though it takes a while before the words start to make any amount of sense.

"Krycek, *Krycek!*" he says, then smacks me in the face. I see stars. I'm still struggling wildly against him, thrashing about, trying desperately to get my arm loose from his grip. "Krycek! I need your help!"

Now I *know* I've lost it. "What?" I say, and blink stupidly.

Once he realizes I'm too shocked to move, Mulder sits back on his haunches and sighs, regarding me with a highly annoyed and amusing expression. "I need your help," he repeats.

"Yeah, okay, and I'm the Queen Mother."

His brows snap together. "Krycek..." he begins.

"Oh *nooo* you don't," I interject before he has time to speak further. "Mulder, I know when you're going to hit me, and if you even *think* about doing it now, count me out for any favors." That stops him stone cold. He gets this expression on his face, and I really wish he could see it; it might give him something to think about.

Finally, he deliberately unclenches his hand, and with much show, removes himself from my chest. After reacquainting my lungs with air, I draw a final deep breath, haul myself into a sitting position, and prepare to listen.

I sit and stare at Mulder. He stares at me. By the look on his face, I'd say he was in deep body pain. Finally, the corner of his mouth jumps, and he looks me straight in the eye. "Krycek," he says evenly, "I want you to tell me everything you know about this alien invasion."

Great. Fucking great. Now I *know* he's going to hit me. Why situations like these always seem to happen to Alex Krycek and not someone else is beyond me. "Mulder, six months ago I could have answered that for you, but now, I'm as lost as you are, buddy."

He doesn't like that answer, oh he *really* doesn't like that answer. If he goes for his gun, I'm a dead man. I hope to shit that he just wants to chat. I've learned that if we're talking and not throwing punches, I have *nothing* to worry about. As long as my mouth is working, he gives me free rein to speak on the off chance I'll stop lying. If Fox Mulder ran hell, I could talk my way into a free ticket to heaven.

I try to think of something to say, but for once in my life the easy excuses don't come, and I realize that I just don't want to *fight* with this man any more. His presence drains all of it out of me. It's disgusting, really.

By the look of it, he's disgusted with me as well. "Krycek, six months ago you were offering me just about everything but the date when Armageddon will occur. You said you'd help me. I'm gonna take you up on that offer."

His face is pressed up so close to mine I can feel his breath on my skin. "You came to me, Krycek. You owe me."

"No, Mulder," I tell him. "You came to *me.*"

Well he can't really argue with that, not really. In fact, he looks slightly confused by the whole fiasco. As long as he's not concentrating on me, I figure I might as well use that to my advantage.

"Mulder," I ask, trying to keep my voice level, "How the *hell* did you find me here?"

He looks at me for a moment, and his eyes don't quite focus correctly. "I looked for you," he says finally, and I know that even when he's distracted he's too smart to let anything slip. Damn him. Finally, he looks up.

"Are you gonna help me or not?" he asks.

I sigh, I nod my head. It's Mulder; what else can I do? I don't even know what kind of help he wants yet, but why the hell not? At the very least it promises to be more interesting than anything you'll hear the average American family discuss around the dinner table.















_________________________________________________________ DO YOU YAHOO!?

Get your free @yahoo.com address at http://mail.yahoo.comDate: Sat, 5 Jun 1999 21:05:31 -0700 (PDT) From: Jill Morrison <mind_control@rocketmail.com> Subject: X/STORY NEW: Another Side (2/11) To: xslash-stories@squidge.org

Sender: owner-xslash-stories@squidge.org Reply-To: xslash@squidge.org


*Please don't talk, don't make me think. Order up another drink.

Let me, let imagination drive.*


He takes me to, of all places, a bar. I swagger in behind him, taking in the smoke filled room, the aged newspaper articles and sports memorabilia on the walls, the patrons, who are either drunk and fighting or drunk and passed out at their tables. "Hmm. *This* is original, Mulder."

He shoots me The Look, in lieu of actually hitting me, I suppose. "Don't mess with me, Krycek," he tosses flatly over his shoulder. "Just stay quiet and don't talk to anyone unless I do first." He moves toward the back of the bar.

Now, Mulder's been fairly good about not hitting me, and I suppose I should do everything within my power to encourage that, but I can't let him go on believing that he can get away with this kind of thing. The bar's rather crowded, and it's slow going as we shove our way toward the back, but the first moment Mulder's shoulder swims into view, I grab it and wheel him around.

"Hey," someone complains as we grind to a halt in the middle of the aisle, but I ignore whoever it was. A dull roar of angry voices rises following the first complaint as people pile up behind the obstruction we're creating, but I ignore them too. "Mulder," I say, raising my voice to make sure he hears me *very clearly* over the din of the room, "You have not arrested me, kidnapped me, or otherwise taken me into custody. I am here of my own free will, and I am under no orders to follow your instructions. Got that?" I can tell by the angry look in his eyes that he does.

We stand there a moment longer, surrounded on all sides by the angry glares of patrons who want to get by. Finally, Mulder turns and heads toward the back of the room, motioning me to follow with a cock of his head. Since it was a gesture and not an order, and since I'm intrigued, and since I have various and sundry other reasons to want to be in Mulder's presence, I follow him.

He chooses a booth for us in the far left corner. I wonder at first how he knew it would be available, but that question soon answers itself as I slide into the bench across from him. There's barely enough room to move in here; you can tell immediately that the booth was squeezed into the last amount of remaining space in the joint. The benches are set too close to the table, and I barely have enough room to get my legs underneath without kicking Mulder squarely in the shins. All the noise from the upper half of the bar finds its way back here and bounces off of the corner, amplifying itself to an ungodly volume. The booth itself is like a cave, low and cramped and dark, filled with stale cigarette smoke that never gets circulated out on a breeze. My nose crinkles in disgust.

He notices and snorts slightly in response. "What's wrong, Krycek? I thought you'd be used to the scent by now." That doesn't really warrant a reply, but I grace him with one anyway.

"You know what, Mulder? I've even been told you can have too much of a good thing..."

"True enough." He regards me for a moment before continuing. "Krycek, I need you to tell me everything you know about this alien invasion."

"Mulder," I sigh, "I believe you asked me that exact same question not two hours ago, and I already told you - I *have* nothing to tell you. I'm out of the loop now! All of the information I receive is exactly what you've been hearing, if not even less. I can't help you anymore." I get up to leave, but I'm halted in my tracks by a waitress approaching our table. They have waitresses in this place? I sit back down.

She's very obviously a bottle-blonde, and her eyes have sunk into dark, puffy bags above her cheekbones. Deep lines cut furrows around the corners of her mouth. She can't be more than 35. I feel a brief stab of pity over that. I decide to be nice to her until she stops and stands, elbow cocked, arm resting on one hip, and regards us sullenly, banging her pad against her wrist. Bitch. I turn toward Mulder, awaiting his cue.

He knows her apparently, or has at least had her wait on him before, judging by his smile. "The usual," he says, and then looks at me. My turn. I'm sorely tempted to just sit and stare - after all, Mulder *did* tell me not to talk to anyone except him, but then again, I want a beer.

"Hefeweizen," I tell her. Poor Mulder, if he was expecting me to drink some cheap, crappy beer because he's buying, he's just shit outta luck. If they even serve Hefeweizen in this hole, Mulder might be shelling out upwards of $8.00 for it. The thought makes me smile. I may not hit back, but I have my own petty ways of getting revenge.

But I digress. I would have dearly loved to gloat over my little victory with the beer, but I've got other business waiting. I ask Mulder what the hell we're doing here, but he silences me with a wave of his hand. "Wait till the beer comes," is all he says.

And so we sit there, two people who have every known reason to hate each other, as well as a few reasons I know for a fact remain hidden. We play the eye game for a bit - I want to know what Mulder's thinking, but I don't want him to catch me watching him. So I glance away every time his eyes shift back in my direction, and I stare at him pointedly when I feel his eyes moving toward my own face. It's a very uncomfortable game to play, as well as being a fucking waste of time, so I can't say I'm sorry to see the waitress stalking back over to our booth.

"Hefeweizen." She slams the beer down in front of me, making the ashtray at the corner of the table jump.

"Killian's." That must be Mulder's beer.

"Check." Palm flat, she slams the piece of paper down onto the center of the table, as if she were about to karate chop it in half.

"Smile." That comment was mine.

The barely contained cackle that bursts into full-fledged laughter is Mulder's. He's sitting there, hand half over his mouth, trying to disguise his amusement and failing miserably.

The waitress shoots me a look that lets me know exactly where to stuff it, and I smile back politely. Having lost both the battle and the war, she stomps off.

"Jee-sus, Krycek," Mulder drawls, a stray chuckle escaping every now and then. "Try not to be so hard on her, okay? She brought you a beer."

I consider this for a moment. "True." I feel like I'm back in college again, hanging out in one of the bars, heckling the waitresses because I'm 22 and I own the world. God, things were so different then. I turn back to Mulder.

Indeed. So very, very different. Mulder sits, placidly sipping his beer as if this were the most normal situation in the world. As if we came here, the best of friends, every day after work to unwind and share some beers. As fucking if. We didn't even do that when we *were* partners. I've got my guard up again instantly, but it *is* too late, in a way. //What the fuck is going on with you, Krycek? He ambushes you at your goddamn apartment, and you settle down because he quits hitting you and buys you a *beer?*// I have got to get my fucking act together; for all I know he's having fun before he takes me out back and blows my head off. I wouldn't put it above him, with his background, with *our* background. And no, I've never trusted psychologists.

Well, I said I was gonna get my act together, and since now seems as good a time to start as any, I think I'll begin. No more dicking around; an assassin's time is valuable, especially when he's unemployed and has to scramble for every bit of news. I admit, I did follow Mulder here because I want to know why he showed up at my apartment, or even how he *found* it in the first place, but that might have been more of a coping skill to keep me from doing something stupid and pissing him off. Now that I know my life is in no imminent danger (and when, honestly, has it ever been around *him*) it's time to find out if this is all really worth my while. But first thing's first.

"Mulder," I say, taking a sip of my beer and enjoying the sharp bitter taste as it numbs my throat. "Where the hell is Scully?"

His attention's been directed at a TV across the bar, intent on the progress of some obscure college basketball game, but when he hears my question, his head snaps back to me so quickly I fear he's given himself whiplash. "Krycek, *I* ask the questions here!" he snaps.

"Not this time, Mulder." I've dropped all pretence of friendship in my voice. I've used this tone with him before, namely when *I've* been the one holding the gun. I'm pretty sure the "good friends" act is gonna be dropped like a bad habit when he hears it.

I'm right.

He gets that chilly, hard look in his eyes again, now that he's realized I won't play along. "Not here." My, my. That was insightful.

"Mulder. Where is she *now?*" The last thing I need at the moment is an ever helpful Scully sending in the SWAT boys while I sit with Mulder, the happy idiot, sipping beer.

Mulder's mouth is set in that 'Now, you listen to *me,* Krycek' expression, so when he does talk, it's a bit of a shock.

"Scully's at some conference in Boston. Otherwise I would never have tracked you down."


He must really want my help after all.

"Well, Jesus, Krycek, say *something!*" he says finally. I blink a few times, take a sip of beer to cover my confusion. He sits patiently throughout this fiasco, waiting until I can make eye contact with him. We're really a piece of work, Mulder and I. Both of us try so hard to out-think and out-maneuver the other that neither of us can figure out what the hell to do next once we do get the upper hand. It's the only rational explanation as to why he hasn't killed me yet, as well as the only way to explain why *I* haven't killed him yet. Don't get me wrong; I love Mulder as much as the next guy, but I love myself even more. If he threatens me, I'll take him out, crowded bar or no.

"What are these, Krycek?" He shoves a manila folder across the table at me.

I have to hand it to him; his timing is

impeccable. Lost in rapt contemplation of our twisted relationship, I'm unable to do anything beside meekly accept the proffered folder. Annoyed that he's caught me off-guard *again,* I flip the cover open. Photographs spill out. *Lots* of photographs. It's hard to make them out in the hazy interior of the room, but gradually the images shift and separate themselves into coherent bits of information capable of being processed by my smoke-dried eyes. I blink, stare harder, and blink again.

"I have no idea what this is, Mulder," I tell him. Of course, I have every idea what this is. I've never stepped foot inside *this* particular location, but that doesn't really matter in the end. I've been in enough clinics like it to know exactly what's going on in this facility. No, no, no, it can't be. There's no way Mulder could have gotten his hands on anything like this. They guard this documentation too closely.

He doesn't slam his fist down onto the table, he doesn't threaten to hit me, or to turn me over to Skinner again. "Where, Krycek," he asks, and I know by the very flatness of his voice that there's no way I can lie my way around this one. There's more violence implicit in his tone than in any threatening gesture he's used so far. And anyway, it's useless now to pretend as if I don't know what these are pictures of, or what Mulder wants from me.

I look up from the photos scattered across the table before me, shake my head no. The roar of the bar recedes into a dull buzzing at the edge of my hearing. There's *no* way I can get out of this, none. Not now.

He picks one up, an especially gruesome picture of a young child lying spread-eagled on an examination table, hooded, suited figures surrounding him with scalpels and other instruments, and waves it in my face. "Look at this, Krycek!" His voice is angry, but carries that anguished scrape to it that I can't help but respond to.

For some reason, I can't meet his eyes. "I know what's in them, Mulder. I know what they're doing." There. I've done it; I've said the words to him. But instead of dispelling their burden by being spoken out loud, they settle down between us, an even heavier weight than before.

The color flares into his face. He's pissed as hell, and I understand in an instant. She gazes, as if from a photograph, out of his eyes. Of course, I've never seen her, and he's never once spoken her name in my presence. But I've read the files and I'm a bright boy. Samantha. She might as well be sitting at the table herself. No wonder he's not gonna let me out of this. Christ, he thinks that he can get into this place, and he'll have his baby sister back. And he was what, eight, nine years old when it happened? But that's not important. What *is* important is that I've been inside enough of these clinics to know that you don't get in or out of them if they don't want you to. I shake my head again. He waits.

"Mulder, buying me a beer isn't even enough to make me *consider* doing what you're asking."

His vision darkens, and damn, I have got to learn to control my mouth. Unfortunately, that's something I've never been good at around Mulder. He braces his hands on the table edge and half stands, half leans across the booth, and by the look on his face, it's a wonder he hasn't strangled me yet. "Krycek," he says, and his voice is murderously silky, "I'm not *asking* you to do anything."


*Imagination come alive


Tonight, I'll dream tonight.*


I think that night was probably the first time I had the dream, but I don't remember well enough to be sure. What I do remember is waking up to the sounds of Mulder moving about in his bedroom, and glancing balefully at my wristwatch. It was 6:32. I curse, I roll back into the couch, but I make a point of staying awake until I hear the shower running. I give Mulder a reasonable amount of time to wrap a towel around his waist and head out here to retrieve anything he might have forgotten, and when he shows no signs of emerging, I make my move.

I slip down the hallway, careful to walk alongside the walls so the floorboards don't creak, but all in all, I'm being less cautious than I normally am when I visit. I come to the bedroom door, which at one point I knew to only conceal mounds of junk. I turn the handle and slip in side.

By God. He does have a bed.

Feeling devious and slightly silly at the same time, I take a running leap from the doorway and land squarely in the center of the mattress. It lurches and rolls beneath me. Jesus *Christ,* Mulder! A waterbed? Who's pants were you trying to get into? I lie there for a moment, spread-eagled, enjoying both the sensation of an actual bed beneath me, and the thought of what Mulder would do if he found me in here, lying on his mattress.

Not wanting to test the more probable of my theories, I slide off of the mattress and head into the kitchen, hoping there's a better selection there than there was the last time I was here. Of course there's nothing in the fridge, so I dig around in the cupboards until I find the half-decomposed box of Chex I remember from my last sojourn here. I'm shaking bits of cardboard from the cereal pieces when Mulder emerges from the shower, rubbing a towel across his hair.

He snorts when he notices my choice of breakfast foods.

"Hey, it's your food, Mulder. I wouldn't be eating it if it wasn't here already."

He grins wickedly. "Maybe I just use it to beautify my kitchen. Seriously though, Krycek. I don't even remember *buying* that, so I wouldn't eat any more if I were you."

I consider my meal with a slightly less

enthusiastic eye. "Mulder, if I can't eat this, what can I possibly do in your apartment that'll keep me out of trouble?" I'm not quite sure why I feel so damn playful this morning, but apparently Mulder's picked up on my mood.

"Well," he says, nose crinkling. "You can always take a bath. You stink."

"I wouldn't have thought you'd be able to tell the difference from the normal stench in this place."

He actually throws his towel at me. "Of course I can; I'm a connosuier." I offer him his towel back, but he backs away, both hands up, grinning like a weasel. Or a fox. "As long as you're going back that way you can hang that up for me," he says, still grinning.

"Ja wohl," I respond, and head toward the bathroom.


When I emerge half an hour later, much cleaner and much, much happier, I find Mulder back in his living room, hunched over what appears to be a new delivery from his source. He looks up briefly, acknowledging my presence, then returns to his scrutiny of the photographs. Having nothing better to do, and rather curious myself, I step up beside him and look for myself. The scent rises from his body to mingle with the residual scent of him still on my skin. Did I forget to mention? It appears Mulder only owns one towel.

I reach around him and begin to flip through the pile of photos he's already discarded. There's really nothing remarkable about these pictures, nothing to set them aside from the last. In fact, I think I've seen some of these rooms four or five times already. It appears someone's giving Mulder photos of the exact same locations again and again, and in each new batch of photos the compound looks slightly closer to being completed.

I say as much to Mulder. He looks me square in the eye, nods. "I thought that myself," he says.

Now, I can fish around and spend the next few minutes, (or even hours) planting ideas in Mulder's mind, hoping that he'll decide on the same course of action I've already plotted out for us. I've got a skill for doing it; it's one of the things that makes me good at my work. But then again, the last time I tried it with Mulder I ended up walking away from the experience with a new Russian enemy and a hunk of plastic hanging from my shoulder.

No, I think the direct route is called for here if I want to hold on to the rest of my body parts. And they claim that *I'm* a fucking loose cannon.

I flip through a few more photos, trying to keep my voice detached and disinterested. "I think someone wants you to shut this place down before it opens," I say slowly.

He jumps slightly, only slightly, and turns to face me, somewhat surprised. "That's what I was thinking, Krycek," he says, "How'd you guess?"

"Wasn't hard. Being a double agent's like being a psychologist without needing to know the big words." He actually cracks a smile at that one, and I'm quite pleased with myself.

"So you've got a new friend who's seen the light and wants out. And you don't feel that this person is setting you up for something?" I ask, trying a new angle.

"No, why would he?" Mulder's voice is petulant. He doesn't want to think about that possibility.

I shrug, keeping all emotion from my voice. "You said yourself - all your other contacts called you, spoke to you face-to-face. This level of anonymity is something of an anomaly."

"Yeah, all my other contacts met with me, and all my other contacts are dead. This person's probably wised up." He has a point. I could mention here that *I've* met with him and haven't died, but I'd only be setting myself up. And besides, my continued existence in this coil isn't for lack of trying on his part.

Suddenly the conversation's going a little too slowly for my tastes. I grab his arm. Tightly.

"Mulder, I can help you if you want to shut this place down." I can help you, *and* I can help myself. I want that damn fetus; I want the vaccine again.

He stares at me for a long moment, a lock of hair falling over his forehead. I want to brush it back out of the way, but I don't think he'd act too kindly to that, so I wait. "No, Krycek," he says slowly, I don't think that would be a good idea."

I don't think I could be more shocked if he'd whipped out his gun and shot at me. "*What?*" I say, face drawing into a scowl.

"It's just...not a good idea," he finishes lamely.

I'm pissed off, and too tired of trying to hide it around him. "Mulder," I hiss. "You came to *me,* remember. You *asked* for my help."

"I know," he says. "I'm sorry." He cuts me off with a gesture before I can protest. "I spent a lot of time this morning thinking about it, and it's just not a good idea. If either Skinner or Scully knew you were here they'd turn you into a corpse before you could blink, whether or not you were offering 'help'. And besides, it would be too risky for either of us to work together anyway. *Especially* now that you're not under anyone's protection."

I can't believe this. "Fuck you, Mulder," I hiss. "Asshole."

That catches him off-guard. That's right; I've never sworn at him to his face before, have I? In a second he's as pissed as I am. "Christ, Krycek! I could have taken you into custody the second I knew where you were. I could have *killed* you on the spot and no one would have raised more than a minor complaint. I didn't, all right? I'm letting you go! Don't fuck it up for yourself."

"You really are something, Mulder," I say darkly, the blood receding from my face. Getting this visibly upset in front of him is never beneficial. Calm down, Krycek. It's when you're aloof that he doesn't stand a chance. I take a deep breath and continue. "Mulder, I'm the only person you have contact with who understands how these guys work. I can find this place for you in half the time it'd take on your own." He knows it's true, I can tell. I've hit a nerve here. I continue, stepping toward him until we're almost standing chest-to-chest. "Mulder," I say, voice dropping to a whisper. "If you let me help you, you won't need to make excuses to yourself for letting me go." It takes a lot to keep me from swearing in victory. I have him. I know all his weak links. I never should have doubted my ability to manipulate.

"All right, Krycek," he says heavily, but I can tell he's relieved.


Seeing as there's no food in the fridge, I make him take me out for lunch. We're sitting in a little Korean restaurant in a slummy area downtown, eating pickled cabbage and a whole lot of other stuff I can't identify. Since he's been quiet for far too long, and since I've never been good at not picking at scabs, I set down my chopsticks and say, "Mulder, we need to plan out how we're going to do this."

He doesn't bother to look at me while replying. "I thought you said you knew how these guys worked, Krycek." Ah, I see. He's still bitter that he wasn't able to make himself abandon my help. Well, Mulder, you've never stood a chance against me. Live with it. I let a smile flit across my lips before continuing.

"Of course I know how they work, Mulder. And so do you. At least enough to know that you can't just go up to their door, knock, and ask that they quit helping the aliens out because you don't think it's a nice thing to do." He sighs in response. I try again. "First of all, we need to find out where this place is."

He rubs a hand over his eyes, a small gesture of stress. "Can we even *do* that in two weeks, Krycek?" he asks.

"Two weeks? Mulder, trust me, that place is going to be in operation for a little while longer."

"Two weeks and Scully comes back, at which point you won't want to be around helping me unless you've got a really good healthcare plan," he says. Damn, that's right. Scully. I'd almost forgotten why I've had such an easy time working him over so far.

"Well she's gonna have to know about it at some point, Mulder. I mean, when have you ever kept something from her?" Was that a note of bitterness in your voice, Krycek? Why yes, I believe so.

"She doesn't know." If possible, he sounds even more sullen.

"What?" If possible, I sound even more incredulous.

"She doesn't know. She thinks I'm on vacation in Jamaica. I'm supposed to be, only I got the first set of pictures the night before I was supposed to catch my flight. I stuck around to see if anyone would contact me."

I'm liking this less and less - it's just *too* perfect in too many ways, but I don't want to say anything now. I've put too much effort into making sure I'd be allowed to stick around in the first place. And besides, the last time I had Mulder to myself I was serving as the tenement for an alien and not quite up for the occasion. Still, too many pieces are falling into place way too early. "Mulder," I say, trying to figure out how to put this to him. "This is working out far, far too easily. I think we're gonna need to scope this place out for awhile before you try to do anything else." Please, allow *me* to scope for traps as well as the occasional alien fetus and vial of amber liquid.

"I *know* that, Krycek," he says, and he's actually amused that I'm spelling this all out for him. I smile back, glad that his mood seems to be lifting. "I think what I'm going to do..." he says, spears a vegetable-like substance from his plate, and continues, "...is visit some friends of mine and ask if they can analize those photos, see if there's anything noteworthy we might have missed, anything that would make them stand out. While they're doing that, you can go back to your apartment. I'll come get you when something's up."

"Uh, Mulder," I say. "I can't go back to my apartment."

"For Christ's sake, Krycek," he says, loudly as he dares, "I already told you you could work with me on this; I'm going to get you when we find something. I'm not going to refuse your help now."

I'm shaking my head, chuckling slightly to myself. "Mulder, I'm not afraid that you won't keep your word. Honestly. But I'm going to be staying at your apartment from now on." Oh yes, indeed. The expression on his face is priceless. "I *can't* go back to my place, Mulder! I fired shots at you, in case you've forgotten. The police have been crawling all over the building since last night, and when *they're* gone, our 'friends' are gonna be crawling over it in their place."

He snarls an obscenity under his breath. "I hadn't thought about that," he says.

No, Mulder, you hadn't. "Looks like you're stuck with me, *hon*." I couldn't resist. I couldn't. And the look he shoots me is worth it.


We spend the next four days emmeshed in argument. It starts as soon as we leave the restaurant, when I slide into the seat next to him, and say, "I know someone who can tell me exactly where those photos were taken."

He jams the key into the ignition. "Great," he says, pulling out into the street. "When do we talk to this person."

"Uh-uh. Mulder, there's not going to be a 'we' in this situation. I'm going by myself."

"No, you're not, Krycek." His voice is level, but he's already got that

'You-killed-my-father-and-I'm-still-pissed-at-you-so-don't-try-anything' expression on his face. "I'm not leaving you alone with those pictures for a second."

"Aw, come on Mulder, you can try harder than that," I say, adding a mock disappointed tone to my voice.

"You've left me alone with those pictures several times, and besides, I've already called and had someone pick them up while you were paying for our meal."

"TouchÈ," he says, a grin wiping his previous expression away. I wonder for a moment, as I always do, at the way we fall into this easy habit of flirting with one another whenever we're together. It's been happening ever since Hong Kong, with varying levels of violence thrown in for good measure.

"Seriously, Mulder, I'll need to go in there on my own. This guy gets one whiff of you and he'll be off before I can even shoot his door down."

"Well in that case," he says, "I suppose I'll just have to have the Gunmen look at those photos for me instead."


And so the argument continues into the night, and the next day, and the next. Not only does Mulder not let me take the pictures to my 'friend' but he fails to let me out of his sight. Which means that the Gunmen come here, the take-out guys probably have his number on instant redial, and we both go slightly stircrazy from being shut up together.

Nice as it is being cooped up with Mulder, I'm not sure how much more of it I can take. I'm usually pretty good at separating myself from my work, but I've been somewhat lazy of late. Still, if I have to sleep on that damn couch for one more night, I'll go nuts and put my former co-workers out of business by shooting Mulder myself. I have got to get out of here. Since no amount of complaining on my part seems to do any good, I switch to plan B.

I read everything that looks remotely like an X-file. I fiddle with the tuning on Mulder's radio. I beat all his top scores in Minesweeper, then improve my own until there's no way he'll ever be able to erase my name. I rifle through his mail. I read the paper first. I borrow his porno mags. I'm wondering if I'm gonna have to move on to the videos when he finally capitulates.

I'm sitting at his computer, changing the soundscheme yet *again,* when he comes storming out of the bedroom. "Go, Krycek," he says, irritated and amused at the same time. "Pay Skinner a visit, take over the world, do whatever you want as long as you get out of my apartment!" He *sounds* pissed, but his grin says otherwise.

I smile, take a few representative photos from the folder, and grab my gun from the place he's hidden it on his closet shelf. I'm out the door before he can change his mind. Of course, he's gonna realize that I'd chosen those pictures almost minutes after we'd arrived home from the restaurant all those days ago, which means that he'll eventually realize that I *knew* he was going to break in the end. I half wish I could be there to see it when he does.

Bet he didn't know I'd found my gun, either.


*Can't you see?

I need nothing too deep.*


He calms down once I'm in the car with him, God knows why, but I'm thankful for it all the same. Since Scully's a no-show, I've got shotgun, but I'm not really enjoying it, all things considered. Mulder's thoughtfully left the folder in my lap, and I spend most of the ride worrying the corners dog-eared with my one hand. I'm sure he wants me look at the pictures, to punish myself with what's taking place in them, but I'm not really up for it.

I stare out of the window instead, remembering the other times I've taken long, lone car trips with Mulder. At least this time he hasn't handcuffed me to anything.

Not that I would have resisted much. That's the problem with Mulder. For various reasons, I can't really fight back when he's concerned.

Yeah, for various reasons, none of which I am going to think about now. Christ, I can't stand much more of this silence.

"I'd ask you where we're going, Mulder, but I don't really want another black eye." I've got my flinch pre-prepared, but I don't need to use it after all.

He shrugs, never taking his eyes off the road. "My apartment." He falls silent again, mouth tightening to a knife's thin edge. You wouldn't think he was any more annoyed with me than he normally is, but the white edges of his knuckles as he grips the steering wheel give him away.

I sigh heavily. "Look, Mulder," I start, a little more aggravation showing in my voice than is probably good for me. "I could try to pull something on you right now - you're tired and you're pissed, and it has a chance of working." I wait to see what effect this has on him. His expression doesn't change. "What the fuck is going on, Mulder?" Still no reaction. Fuck this, I've played this game too many times. I grab his arm, and he takes his eyes off the road, briefly, his hazel eyes flash once in my direction. I sigh and try again.

"You *hint* that you'll hurt me, but so far you've haven't actually threatened me." A corner of his mouth jumps involuntarily. Ah-ha! I continue. "So why the hell *haven't* you hit me yet?" Now, I'm either going to get hit, or get information. Guess which one it is.

Surprise. He takes a deep breath himself, and shifts slightly. "Because if I hit you..."

A long pause. I wait.

"...you wouldn't listen to me."

"Bullshit, Mulder. You know that's not true," I say before I can think about it. Fuck. I didn't need to give him that bit of information, true though it may be. But I can tell from his expression that he knows it anyway. So why observe this formality, all of a sudden? He's never bothered before. Not only that, but I have no clue as to what the hell is going on. Every now and then I think I know what's rolling around in his head, but then he throws me another curve and I'm back where I started. Given my line of work, ambiguous situations of any kind don't make me happy. Being in one with Mulder is close to a worst-case scenario.

"What do you *want,*" I try again, somewhat helplessly.

"Wait till we're there." I can tell from his tone that no amount of begging, bitching, or any other form of normally annoying behavior on my part is going to get anything else out of him, so I shut up. We spend the rest of the ride in silence, Mulder watching the road, me watching Mulder.


Half an hour later, I find myself standing uneasily in the hallway as Mulder fiddles with his keys. I'm actually glad it's so late now; the chances of other tenants being out and about at such an unlikely hour are, well, unlikely. Still, I don't particularly care for standing around like this. I've always made a habit of not being conspicuous while I'm in this building.

Finally there's the crunch of metal on metal, and Mulder's door creaks open. We step inside. I shut and lock the door while Mulder gropes around for a light switch. Light floods the foyer as he finds it, and we both stand for a moment, blinking like idiots. "Home again," Mulder mutters darkly under his breath.

"Yeah, you *and* me," I mutter myself.

He stops, turns around, a quizzical expression on his face. "What?" he says, confused. Shit, Mulder, you weren't supposed to hear that.

"Nothing," I tell him, smiling despite myself. Jesus, here stands the most paranoid man alive, probably checks his clothing for bugs, and when I came here every day for a month and ate all the leftovers in his fridge, he never suspected a thing.

He stares at me for a moment, trying to figure out what's so amusing, then gives up and takes a few more steps into the room. He stops, opens his mouth, shuts it again and stares some more. I shift my weight onto my right foot and wait for him to tell me what the hell is going on. Or at the very least hit me and bring up that shit about his father again. And I've had a chance to prepare myself this time around. But he does nothing but stand there as if waiting for *me* to tell him what he's supposed to do. And I know why he's acting like that too.


"Don't worry," I tell him. "It must be hard figuring out what to say to me while you're trying to be my friend."

He doesn't like that one, and if he *wasn't* trying to be my friend, I'm pretty sure I would have found myself against the wall with his arm across my neck. Or worse. I make an effort not to mouth off around Mulder when I no longer have a weapon, regardless of what I might be thinking, but it seems I can get away with it tonight.

He walks over to that hideous sofa and sits down, folding his long legs beneath him, leaving me standing in the foyer. I suppose he's trying to make me uncomfortable, but unfortunately, I'm not that nonplussed.

Sorry Mulder, try again next time. I'm about ready to say something slightly less obnoxious when he sort of crumples over himself and puts his head in his hands. It's oddly touching; I've never seen Mulder act like this in front of me. Of course, bastard that he is, he spoils it.

He looks up, face composed into that perfect marble mask he shows to the world. "What happened to your arm?"

Of course he'd wait till he's safe inside his apartment before pushing my buttons. My teeth grit involuntarily. "You know what happened to my arm, Mulder." Damn you.

"Yeah. I want you to tell me." He looks up again, and sits straighter. There's this strange gleam in his eyes, almost predatory.

"Tunguska," I say. I don't really need to explain anything else. And then, "Christ, Mulder, don't look so disappointed."

He *does* look disappointed, that's the bitch of it. I can't figure out *why.* He can't be feeling sorry for me. Mulder might like hurting me himself, but I have yet to see him get upset when someone else does the job for him.

"You're not upset by it?" he asks. Ahh. I see. And this is where Fox Mulder, Psychologist takes over for Fox Mulder, Man of Law.

I shrug, I do my best to look nonchalant. "I live with it." He seems to accept that, which is surprising given that it's a lie. I don't live with it, I try my damn hardest not to think about it. I think about my recent "promotion" from soldier to chauffeur. I think about trying to uncap a beer. I fucking think about tying my shoe. No, I'm not ever going to live with it.

He stands up suddenly and goes into the kitchen. When he returns he's got two cans of beer, one of which he hands to me before stalking back over to the sofa. The snick of the carbonation being released reminds me of the joys awaiting me if I ever want to drink the damn thing. I set the can inside the crook of my elbow and prepare to begin the long set of contortions necessary to open it. I don't need to. He's already popped the tab for me. Jesus.

He takes a sip and I follow suit, more out of habit than anything else. The liquid slips down my throat. Hopefully the temperature will numb my tastebuds quickly, I've never liked the taste of canned beer.

"Krycek," he says wearily, "You're free to go if you want." He's smart; that's probably the only thing he could say to get me to stay and listen. I sit down in the nearest available chair. He nods slightly. "Good." He glances down at his beer for a long moment before continuing. "Krycek, I narrowly avoid being killed by you in your apartment, I drag you as close as I can to the place where the Englishman died," and I start here; I hadn't known that. "I threaten you, I wait, I wait, I catch you off-guard, and you still don't tell me what the hell is really going on in those pictures!"

And I thought he'd *known* a lot more about what those pictures were, or at least guessed. Apparently not.

I'm a little upset by this - I'm not used to misreading people, and it doesn't happen often. At least - and this is very, very good - he doesn't think it has to do with his sister. Or if he does, he's as good at hiding it as I would be.

"Mulder, why do you care?" I ask, more to stall than anything else. Only a moron wouldn't know why he cared.

He gets up, paces for a moment, then retrieves the folder from the hall table where he'd left it. "Someone is mailing me these damn things!" he says, and the distress in his voice is palpable. "Every few days I get this pictures in the mail, and I don't know why..."

I shake my head. "You have contacts, Mulder."

"Yes," he says, clearly agitated now. "But they've always left me something, a phone number, a contact site, an explanation. These things..." he drops the folder onto the coffee table, a small gesture of defeat, "...these things just come." There's a pause. "You came to me and offered help once; I figured you would know," he continues weakly.


"What about your contact?" I say, gesturing toward the film of tape on his window.

"Marita?" He sounds tired now. "She doesn't answer her phone. I asked three friends to monitor her apartment a few weeks back; she's not there."

Marita was Mulder's contact? I hadn't known about that one. I file the information away, thinking of the pale, grimy phantom I encountered in the compound a few months back, blonde hair hanging over a bruised, emaciated face. No, she wouldn't be at her apartment, would she?

"No, not *her,*" I say, pretending as if I was overly familiar with *all* of Mulder's contacts. "Him, the black one." I point toward the window, making the gesture more obvious this time.

"Krycek," Mulder says, an edge to his voice. "He's dead, remember? They shot him two years ago."

Shit. I hadn't known that either. It makes me glad that I was out of the loop back then too; evidently my former employers had engaged in one of their periodic housekeeping efforts. I file this piece of information away with the others I've collected tonight. I can mourn later. Maybe when I'm on my own deathbed.

He picks the folder up, carries it over to where I'm standing, and drops it on top of the bookshelf I've been leaning against. "Can you tell me what these are pictures of, Krycek?" He's trying so hard to keep his voice level and unthreatening.

"Since you asked nicely..." I say, flashing him the ghost of a smile. Since he *has* asked nicely, I set my beer down and flip through the mound of pictures. The place seems to be in the final phases of construction. Medical equipment, storage freezers, patient cells, (*dorms,* I correct myself automatically), test subjects, the test takers - it's all here, neatly documented on fine quality prints, so reminiscent of the way the Nazis recorded *their* experiments. I shiver involuntarily.

"Yeah, I know what this is Mulder," I say slowly. "The hybrids, the clones, the vaccine, they're all tested in these...facilities." I pause, flipping through some more pictures, searching for any clue that I've been inside this place before. "You don't know anything else about these?" I ask.

"No," he says. "I told you, Krycek, they didn't think to send the Visitor's Center brochure." I snort at that one.

"Mulder, all I know is that I've been in places like this before, and I can't tell you anything else. I'm sorry." And I genuinely am.

He gives me an incredulous look over that one. "Mulder," I protest, "I *am* sorry! I don't like what they do to those people any more than you do!" The look persists. I sigh, shoot him an exasperated look of my own. "What the hell could I have done about it? That kind of stuff isn't on the job application, and once you're hired, you learn really fast not to complain. Or you die."

He chews on that for a moment. "There was..." he says, moving over to stand by me. "There was one thing, hold on for a minute." He takes the folder from my shocked hand and leafs through it. "It's here in one of these..." He mutters darkly under his breath for a moment. "Ah. Here it is." He hands me one of the pictures.

I stare at it for a moment, but he could have chosen it blindfolded for all the good scrutinizing it does me. It's a shot of one of the examining rooms where they take potential test subjects to make sure they're strong enough for the gene splicing. I've seen a million rooms like this one before; why it stands out in Mulder's mind is beyond me.

I tell him as much. "No, *look,*" he says, pointing at a window in the corner of the picture. "Out here, see that bus? Look at the advertisement on the side; it's for a D.C. paper. Wherever this place is, it's somewhere in the city."

"No, they were never gonna put one of these in D.C." I still can't believe it, but there's the proof, right in front of my eyes. "They swore up and down, it was too close, Mulder, why didn't you show this to me earlier?"

The question catches him off guard. "Because, Krycek," he says, fishing around for an answer, "I had to know..."

"That I wouldn't run back and tell them that you knew," I finished for him. I have to give him credit; he doesn't deny it. I nod slowly. "I told you, Mulder. I'm unemployed."

"How the hell did you manage that?" he demands, and I laugh out loud.

"Got back on their good side," I shrug finally. "Waited till they had me driving them around and flipping charts and PowerPoints at their meetings, then I just took off one night on a coffee run."

*He* laughs at that one, and I soon follow suit. "Grande 2% cappuccino with vanilla," he says, and I'm surprised and somewhat gratified that he actually remembers that.

"God, that bitch drove me nuts," I say. "Whatever happened to her?"

"Damned if I know," he says, still smiling. And then, more seriously, "So you'll help me on this?"

I have to think about this one for a moment. "So you think this has something to do with the alien invasion?" I say, knowing that he does. Knowing that *it* does. If they've got a new facility going up...they must be using it to store everything! I could shoot myself over that one. //There's never to be a facility within D.C.,// they'd said, always in my presence. I never would have thought to look for it on their own doorstep. Of course.

"Yeah, Krycek, you said as much yourself."

I nod. There *are* definite benefits to bowing out now, especially while Scully's still gone and he hasn't taken it into his head to avenge his father. A picture of the missing alien fetus flashes briefly across my vision. And that decides it for me.

"Yeah, Mulder. I'll help you." Smile and thank me, Mulder. Don't you dare think this gives you a license to bitch. Bring up the old man once and I think we're gonna have words this time. I've kept my mouth shut on that subject for too long as it is.

He nods. "Good," he says again. "I'm going to sleep. You should too." And with that he turns and heads out of the room. It's pathetic I know, but I'm flattered that he trusts me enough to let me sleep here without putting me under guard for the night. Wait a minute.

"Mulder, where are you going?" I ask.

He turns, halfway down the hallway. "To *bed,* Krycek." He's irritated by my question; I have no idea why. Well, that's okay. I'm as confused as ever myself. "Where am I supposed to sleep?" I ask when no directions on his part appear to be forthcoming.

"The couch." He stares at me strangely.

"Then where are you going to sleep?"

He's got the most exasperated expression on his face. It's really endearing. "In my *bed,* Krycek."

"You have a bed?" Once again I've spoken before I've had time to think about my words. I can't help it; this is a very interesting development. "You didn't have a bed last time I was here," I almost add, then check myself in time. As far as Mulder knows, I've only been here once, and I never really had time to look then.

But, in the end we're both silent, and he finally shoots me a last, highly-annoyed glare before stalking off down the hallway. I plop down onto the couch.

He's back a few minutes later, standing in the hall, obviously bothered about something. I prop myself up on my elbow and wait. I could always *ask* him what's wrong, but if I've learned one thing tonight, it's that Mulder supplies his own answers if you wait long enough. His hands clench and unclench at his sides.

"I can get you a blanket, you know," he says finally, obviously flustered. It takes me a moment to understand, and then I flip back onto the couch, pulling the black leather closer around my body. "I sleep in my jacket all the time, Mulder." He's clearly unimpressed by this answer. "Mulder, I *like* doing it. It's comfortable." He stares at me for a few moments then heads back down the hall, unsatisfied, but unwilling to get into an argument over it.

I sigh, settling back down into the couch. The couch leather is old and pliant, its natural scent almost completely subsumed by the stench of the sweat and stale food that must be lurking just below the cushions. I stick to the surface every place where my skin lies exposed, glued either by my own sweat or some other agent, I can't be sure which. I roll over onto my back, I count the dots on the ceiling. Damn you, Mulder. Now that you've got me thinking I won't be able to fall asleep for a long time. My body is dead tired but my mind races ahead of me, going about a million miles a second. I didn't *always* sleep in my jacket, and I didn't always enjoy it when I had to the first several times. No, contrary to what Mulder might think, I wasn't born into the life of an assassin, I wasn't even drawn to it on a romantic level. No, far from it. I chuckle to myself bitterly. The places our lives take us sometimes.

My father used to say that.

I groan and roll back over again. Try as I might, I can't get comfortable now. I wonder if I should have taken that blanket from Mulder. I wonder if it was pride or just habit that kept me from accepting. And the part I'm kicking myself over is that I really don't know. It finally becomes too painful to think about, and I fall off to sleep, wrapped up in my second skin.


*Listen to the devils in my ear.

Tell me what, what I want to hear.

That I never had an opportunity to hide, No I never had a chance.*


I step out of Mulder's apartment, blinking as the full glare of the sun hits me squarely in the face. I walk briskly down several alleyways until I find a sizable crowd to blend into. This exercise serves two purposes. First of all, I've found that it's much easier for a one-armed man to melt into invisibility when there's a large group of people on hand. This is especially important when your prosthetic arm has been abandoned in an apartment now occupied by your enemies. //Damn you, Mulder,// I think, but I can't quite get the fire into it.

Secondly, and most important of all, when Mulder tries to follow me, (which I fully expect him to do, being Mulder and therefore stupid) he won't be able to fit his car down some of these places, and I'll know in a second if he tries to follow me on foot.

As luck would have it, he gives up fairly early on, at which point I go down two more alleys for good measure, then switch to the main streets. I remember an exercise I did in high school once, for a theater class, I think. They had all twenty-some students line up into two groups and walk between each other. Good little sheep that we were, we filed between one another without complaint. Of course, this set our teacher into a planned round of hysterics: "Look at you kids, you're not actors! You filed right by one another. Actors don't do that, actors don't look at the spaces between people, *real* actors interact with everyone!" Wrong, I think as I slide neatly between the crowds. The *real* actors interact with *no one.* At least in this game.

I pass by a bus stop, and the crowd of people gathered to wait overflows from the small shelter, spilling out into the street and obstructing the sidewalk.

I'm sorely tempted to join them. After all, it's going to take a good amount of time for me to reach my destination on foot, even at the pace I've been going, and besides, I'm confident of my abilities. I could lounge around in this group of super-absorbed businessmen and tired single mothers for *hours.* No one would remember that I talked to them, or that a man in a leather jacket was even there. Then again, I thought I was going to blend in during my last stay in New York.

I blended in so well I found myself handcuffed in the hold of my own fucking ship.

I think I'll walk.


Evening has fallen by the time I draw close to my destination. I've always loved cities at night, well, *American* cities at night. There's just something about the way they light up, forcing the sky to reflect their own neon illumination back at them that's just so self important. I can relate. I turn the corner, grinning to myself.

The crowds haven't thinned out, but they've been replaced by the evening set. The white-collars and the teens have disappeared, making way for the goths and the bikers, both of which I can pass for if the shadows are right. Perfect. This is just what I need to keep my visit unannounced.

The tenement is so run-down I almost miss it myself. But it is there, marked by a certain color combination of spray paint that only means something to the footsoldiers and street thugs. Through all the petty infighting our bosses instigated counting on it to keep us divided, this was the one thing that we successfully kept secret from them. Bracing my back against the dumpster that just *happens* to be leaning against the building, I push with all my might. And this would have been so much easier to do with two arms, but no, I don't hold grudges, do I? It's just not good policy. And it makes you so much more dangerous when you're not acting out of anger.

In any event, I manage to move the damn thing enough to gain access to the battered, dented door shut up behind it. It's just an old, beat up entrance to an old, beat up building. That in itself shouldn't arouse any suspicion, until, of course, you notice the sophisticated electronic lock on the door.

Which, I might add, I installed myself.

It takes me a few seconds to disarm it, and then I'm inside. Cockroaches skitter away from me as I slip down the hallway, eyes scanning the darkness ahead for any bobby traps. But there don't appear to be any. I'm a little concerned now. You could say many things about the hood I'm going to pay a visit to shortly, but that he is a kind, unsuspecting man is not one of them. I ruminate on this for a while. Then I smell the blood.


I've found some people to be absolutely disgusted by the smell of spilled blood. I'm not one of them. To me, blood has a very clean, metallic, coppery scent. Nice and warm. Which is good, given my profession. And given how much of it is splattered around the room here. I've only used the nanotechnology to kill one person so far, and that was from a nice, clean distance. From my vantage point then, it was cool. Here, it's just messy.

I rub a hand over tired eyes. I did *not* come here to do this. Still, I can't go back to Mulder's house empty-handed. For some reason. I draw a leather glove out of my pocket and go to work, rifling through Max's possessions, looking for *anything* that he might have written down, knowing that there will be nothing. But still, I might find something invasion-related to bring back to Mulder. //I'm sorry, Mr. Krycek, but you're *not* today's lucky winner. Please step into the carnage and choose your consolation prize.//

I've gone over the corpse four or five times and moved on to the desk when I hear it. Which isn't to say that I'm especially attentive or even have good luck. Whomever is making that noise isn't trying to disguise his presence, which means only one thing. Housekeeping's here. I can feel *that* smile spreading across my face as I straighten slowly from the floor.

The fucker never knew what hit him. Well, not the first time, at least. The heel of my hand collides with the side of his face. Blood flies from his mouth. He whimpers. "Where is it?" I ask, smiling.

His head shakes loosely on his neck. He doesn't answer, not yet, but he will. My hand flies across his face again. There are so many textures in beating someone, so many different sounds. For instance, his flesh was taut when I first pistol-whipped him, unyielding against me as I deposited him in Max's erstwhile chair, the corpse slumping slowly off onto the ground. Now, however, his flesh is soft, puffy, bruised. Soon there's going to be chips of broken bone beneath it; a new sensation. And to think, the first time they told me to beat someone, I vomited on him instead.

Of course, what no one explains is that you never, never want to beat someone the first time. If you do, you don't get hired. But it's like the first time my father made me apologize for stealing something. The anger built and built until I stole again, just to release it. This works the same way. I enjoy hitting because it's retribution for being made to do it in the first place. I land an especially brutal blow. The housekeeper howls. I smile. "Where is it?" I ask.


Mulder actually *hugged* me when I handed him the address the next day. I couldn't believe it. I kinda stood there in his arms and swallowed, then cautiously brought my hand up to his back, wondering if I should thump it or just grab tighter. He eventually solves the problem for me, grabbing my shoulders and holding me at arm's length so he can grin into my face.

"Krycek," he says, grinning like an idiot. I've never seen him this supremely happy before. His smile stretches even wider, if that's possible, and he just grins and shakes his head at me.

"Mulder," I say, "You oughta be careful; if your face freezes like that and you spend the rest of your life with that smile I might start to forget what an asshole you are." It's amazing, but if anything, his grin *widens* at that one. Good God, I am *going* to forget that Mulder's usually pissy.

Or maybe not. His face darkens suddenly. "Mulder, what is it? What's wrong?"

"Did you look?" he asks, and I can tell from the careful way he phrases the question that he's feeling me out, he thinks I might have fed information to someone else. Ah, it's wonderful to have the real Mulder back. This new one was starting to spoil me.

"I was there," I admit, breathless as he is, but for entirely different reasons. "I was there, but I didn't go inside." His eyes light up again, the proverbial kid in the candy store. "There were still construction workers hanging around when I got there, but they left at sundown." I pause for breath. He's about to interject, so I hold my hand up for silence. "They've got some security thugs out there, trying really hard to look like bums and failing miserably. Wait, wait. Mulder, I know these guys. I know exactly when they'll sleep, when they'll piss, and when they'll take off early for coffee. Give me fifteen minutes to brief you on them and you won't have any trouble getting inside."

For a moment I think he's about to hug me again, but he just sort of lurches forward, movement aborted, and stands there looking at me and smiling. I smile back; Mulder's grin is infectious, and he flashes it so seldomly in my presence. "Fuck," he whispers softly.

I know exactly how he feels, and I'm not quite sure if this is a good thing, or a bad thing. But whichever way it ends up, I sure am enjoying it right now.

He takes a step back from me, suddenly, and exhales as if he's been holding his breath forever. "It's really gonna happen, isn't it?" he asks reverently.

I nod, and my stomach does a weird little flop. I shouldn't be surprised by that; after all, this does signal the...well, the end of life as I know it. If I don't have the Consortium trying to kill me and Mulder trying to beat me every time he sees me, what am I gonna do? I'm not sure I remember what life was like before all of this started. And it's entirely Mulder's fault that this has become the norm for me. I feel my face darken as memories swell to the surface. But no, if I'm on his side, if I'm going to help him, I can't think about what he's done in the past. What he's probably forgotten by now.

"So are you actually gonna do something, Mulder, or just stand here and look pretty?"

"What time is it?" he asks, completely nonplussed by my remark, and still grinning away at nothing. I think I could ask him to tie me down and whip me right now and it'd probably fly right over his head. I chuckle and glance at my watch.

"7:30 right now. If you can stand to wait another hour, *and* you walk slowly, you should be able to get there with only a minimal wait until the thugs leave. But I doubt you'll have that much patience."

"Me neither," he says, already ducking out the door.

I stare after him briefly, shaking my head. But I can afford the luxury. This is, after all, the one situation I never would have dreamed I'd find myself in.


If it was difficult for Mulder to be patient, I have it twice as bad. After all, he gets to go out and *do* something, even if it involves prowling around poorly lit alleyways, waiting for the "guards" to get tired.

I was crawling up the walls about two minutes after he left. If there's still surveillance going on in Mulder's apartment, I must look like a crack fiend to whomever's watching the video feed. I'm currently pacing the room for the 500th time, checking my watch about every three seconds or so, twitching like a maniac.

I collapse onto the couch at around midnight, too tired to keep pacing, to wired to fall asleep. For the first time, I understand how Mulder could just lie here, staring blindly at a TV screen blaring nothing but snow. My eyes are glazing over but they won't stay shut. A low, painful thrumming moves through my muscles, which are both tense and rubbery at the same time. Any more of this and I'll go mad. I wonder how Scully stands it.

At 4:30 A.M. I get up again and stumble over to the window. The sky's lit up, pale shades of yellow and sickly pink thrown up against the clouds from the city lights below. I count all of the white cars I see driving by (34 by the time I'm done) and watch as assorted bits of garbage blow across the sidewalk.

At 6:00 he's still not back. The muscles in my back have condensed into one solid, brick-hard mass, and I'm about ready to start pulling the hair out of my head. This wouldn't be so bad if I had something else to do, somewhere to go, but for some reason, I can't leave the apartment before he gets back. I lurch into the kitchen and pull one of the chairs over to the phone. He'll call, he has to call. He's gotta be at Skinner's apartment by now, at some rich Senator's house, at the Hoover building, showing all the right people what he's found. He won't have time to come back here and tell me what's happened, of course not. But he'll call, he'll be too elated not to.

So I'll wait here until he does. My vigil has to be kept.

In the end it's not a phone call, but the fucking morning paper that clues me in to Mulder's success. I stumble out of the kitchen when I hear the thump against the front door, thinking it might be him, and finding a paper instead. It's there in the headlines for all to see. "FBI Agent Arrested for B&E, Assault." I stagger back until I'm fetched up against the wall, a picture frame biting into my back. My eyes find the article again.


"FBI Agent Fox W. Mulder was arrested late Monday night on breaking and entering and assault charges at the Southern Metro Women's Clinic. Police were alerted to a possible burglary at the location at 3:32 this morning when Mulder activated a security alarm upon entering the building.


The floor drops from beneath me. They're good. They're fucking good. I never saw this one coming. I read on:


Mulder was described as being in a highly agitated state at the time of his arrest. According to a statement released early this morning, Mulder was found inside the building, threatening a doctor at gunpoint. The unidentified hostage was in the clinic inspecting the building, which is nearing its final stages of completion. ------

Oh Christ, and he never knew either. I can't read anymore, I can't, but my eyes still skip across the page.


...SMWC is slated to open...late this month...will continue despite massive protest from the Silver Spring Christian community...first abortion clinic in the area. ------

So fucking good. He found the first clones in an abortion clinic. They take him down in an abortion clinic. And somewhere the fucking smoker is laughing right now. Mulder, it doesn't matter what you've done to me anymore. I'm through being petty over it. I'm gonna get this guy.

I feel fucking sick.


...unsure as to whether Agent Mulder has expressed any anti-abortion sentiments in the past...facing probation, possible discharge from the FBI...hearing to be held on the 17th.


And there it is, the demise of Mulder, the demise of the X-files, the demise of the Resistance in a neat, three-inch column of newsprint, and hardly anyone out there will realize what it all means. I suck the breath into my body until I can't hold anymore.

"*FUCK!*" I howl, letting it out, not caring anymore *who* hears it, *who* knows I'm here. I've got Mulder's computer chair in my arm, and I swing it in a wide arc, watching as it careens across the room, smashing into his bookcase. The cheap wood splinters, slivers of dry plank cracking into kindling. I should have seen this coming. I should have. I sit down where I stand, back against the chipped plaster of the wall, and wait for Mulder to come home.


Of course, Scully comes back early. I'm currently in Mulder's bedroom, slumped against his waterbed, the steel bedframe digging into my lower back, listening to her angry voice, and his tired one.

God, he sounds *so* tired.

"Scully," he says, imploring, "Scully, I didn't *know* it was an abortion clinic, it *wasn't* an abortion clinic! Don't you see? They set me up! They were doing the tests in there!"

"Mulder," she retorts, obviously upset, "I've heard this from you before! And regardless of whether or not I believe you, regardless of what was actually *happening* there, you've really dug yourself into a hole this time! An abortion clinic? Mulder..."

There's a long moment of silence that stretches into forever, and I can just *see* the look on his face, even though we're separated by a wall. It's painful.

"Look, Scully..." he begins again, but she cuts him off.

"Mulder, no." Another pause, and then, "I *know* you had no idea what you were getting into, I know it was a trap, I *know* you got set up. But you can't talk your way out of this one, Mulder! You broke into a clinic and threatened a doctor in an area that's already experiencing protests from anti-abortionists. This goes beyond me, beyond you, beyond anything Skinner can solve, and you're not just answering to the FBI anymore. I don't see that there's any way I can help you on this."

She doesn't mean it, although she thinks she does. She'll cool off soon - I've seen it happen many, many times over grainy computer monitors upstairs. At one point, my job pretty much consisted of watching them, listening to every conversation, waiting to see if any exploitable cracks developed in their relationship. I've seen this scenario a hundred times over. Eventually, she'll be back at his side, no matter how pissed she gets.

Or how hurt *he* gets.

"Scully, don't say that!" he says, and he sounds so anguished. I shut my eyes. Mulder never asked me if I could help. I can't believe I'm upset about that. But I shelve that thought for later, and concentrate on making out their words.

"Mulder!" she says, exasperated, and I can imagine her gesturing violently as she speaks. "You've been told to leave the FBI, and I don't see that you'll be reinstated at any time in the near future. You should be fucking glad that that doctor isn't going to press charges..."

//Not an issue, Scully,// I think, //they told him not too.// That that was the plan all along. But those kinds of things don't matter to her, never have. She's talking again.

"...*my* career, Mulder? I'm not even supposed to have *contact* with you any more..."

"I *know* Scully," he chokes out, and oh God, it sounds as if he might be crying, "but don't you see, they *set me up!*"

"I know that Mulder," she says softly, and I can hear the click of the door as she closes it behind her.

He comes into the bedroom then, and his eyes are completely empty. It's like staring into the embodiment of hopelessness. I don't hold him, but it takes all that I've got.


*My eyes are blurred,

My sights are limited.

Am I sensing a familiar twinge?*


And so that is how I have come to find myself driving around Washington D.C. with Mulder as my trusted companion. Oh, it didn't happen immediately after Scully walked out his door, no way. He spent about two weeks lying in his bed while I stalked around his apartment, bitching at him, trying to get him to eat. Of course, nothing I said helped. But when the Consortium thugs tried to pull a hit on me, he revived himself real quick.

Oh, did I forget to mention? Not everything went according to plan. Mulder didn't mention me at all during the hearing, which I think they were counting on him to do. He didn't even tell Scully. I couldn't believe it. At that point, I was as sure as my ex-bosses that he'd go in there crying my name from the rooftops and trying to divert attention from his own actions. Yeah, I don't even know why the fuck he trusted me enough at that point to believe me when I said I *hadn't* set him up. It truly is a mystery; if I'd been in his shoes, I would have put every ounce of myself into convincing those cops that it was Alex Krycek, known felon, that they should be after.

But in any case, with me being a key witness to any number of transgressions on their part, *and* not being in jail where I'm an easy target, I posed several problems for the good 'ol boys club. Even I knew they had to take me out somehow. In a way, I'm glad they tried.

You see, the fact that they tried and *failed* proves that I'm not losing my edge.

When it does happen, I'm in the kitchen, of all places. Just because Mulder's not eating it doesn't mean that *I* should be damned to a life of takeout Chinese and rubbery Pizza Hut creations, especially since that's pretty much been my staple diet every time I go on the run. As long as Mulder's indisposed and I've got free reign of his bank accounts, I might as well make the most of it. About six or so days after I came here I found a little grocery downtown that was willing to deliver at just about any time of the day. Since then I've spent about a hundred dollars a week at that place. Which isn't to say that I've been making out like a bandit; that's about what it'd take to feed me on takeout, and you get a hell of a lot more food this way.

It's kinda scary; I'm becoming quite the cook. Wouldn't that just give the Smoker a shock! I mean, it's not as if I've been living off of cold canned chili and frozen Poptarts all my life until this point. I knew all the quick stuff - bagel pizzas, cheese fajitas, all of the things you learn how to make in the microwave during college. But now I'm actually using an oven. Of course, my Home Ec teacher would still have fits over the results, but it's better than anything I've ever seen Mulder come up with, and he's about the only stick against which I can measure myself at the moment.

So anyway, here I am in the kitchen, the happy moron, scrambling eggs, when I hear this strange sound coming from the foyer. Strange, that is, in the sense that I doubt Mulder's found either the inspiration or the desire to drag himself out of bed and into the hallway, of all places. So I finish washing the carrots I'm gonna stick in an omelet, and reach into the drawer for a peeler. I could be wrong about this, (oh, God, don't let me be wrong about this) but I doubt I am. Even so, I mutter a quick prayer to my mother as my hand strays from the peeler to the object right beside it.

"Hey, Mulder," I say conversationally as my hands close around the grip, "Glad to see you up." The footsteps, which paused as soon as I'd spoken, now resume their trek across the apartment. He's walking quietly, whoever it is. "Decided to join the realm of the living again?" Drawing a deep breath, I whirl around, leveling the gun and firing before I even have a chance to look at my target.

"Or maybe not," I say, as he slumps to the ground. The crack of the gunshot is still echoing off the walls as Mulder's bedroom door slams open, answering it. My breath escapes in a loud burst. I guess I really was worried it might have been Mulder. Can't understand why though. Killing him would have gone a long way toward getting me my old job back.

I am so conflicted.

"What the hell are you *grinning* for, Krycek?" he snarls. There are dark circles under his eyes. He hasn't shaved in ages, and I'm willing to bet that's the same undershirt and boxer set he was wearing a week ago. I can't help it, I start to chuckle.

"Glad to see you up, Mulder," I tell him, only this time I don't fire.


We jumped ship fairly quickly after that incident. In a way, I'm still rather glad it happened. It forced Mulder out of his goddamn room, and what's more, if we *had* to bail out, at least we did it together. My eyes narrow, I have to concentrate pretty intensely to navigate the alleyways of D.C. in the night darkness. Mulder, I notice, has condescended to eating a little of the takeout. That's good - he's getting over his pissy attitude. I say his name, softly, giving him warning that I'm about to perform the shoulder maneuver that will allow me to hit the turn signal without taking my hand off of the wheel. He shifts slightly in his seat, moving out of the way of my one remaining arm. Yeah, last time we jumped ship, we went our separate ways, and look where that one landed me.

He's been pretty constantly pissed at me since we left his place, but I can handle it, especially since he's using it as an excuse to not be pissed at himself. I mean, Christ, I even disposed of the body on my own, just so Mulder needn't get his hands dirty. He was, as he is now, pissily grateful for it. We both know that he wouldn't have lasted a week without my help.

He hadn't even wanted to leave his apartment! I couldn't believe it.

"Krycek," he'd said, "You got rid of...him...why the hell do we have to leave!" He certainly wasn't looking very far into the future, but I didn't blame him for not thinking straight at that point. After all, I'd be pretty upset about the mess if someone'd been killed in my kitchen too. The Smoker, however, wasn't going to show any mercy on us because Mulder wasn't in his best mental state.

"Look, Mulder," I said, grabbing him by the shoulder, my face inches from his own. "That guy was sent to kill me and quite possibly *you* as well, so as of right now, two things are gonna happen. He's either gonna call his captain and recite a list of code sentences to let him know we're dead, or he's gonna *be* dead, which means no phone call and then they'll fall upon this place with the wrath of God. Since he's dead, guess which is gonna happen!" Mulder's face was angry, flushed, but then again, so was mine. He can be so damned hard to get through to, and no one knows it better than me. That's why I was trying so hard.

He shakes his head, disbelief clear on his face. "So they're just gonna show up in here, guns blazing, and not even *try* to disguise our deaths? Not fucking likely, Krycek." He crosses his arms on his chest. His jaw is set.

"No, Mulder," I say, "Like hell it isn't. Listen to what you're saying! They put a goddamn chip in Scully's neck to give her cancer. They stuck nanites in Skinner's system to make it look like he was ill. They locked me in the subbasement of a military installation with an alien. They got you arrested for attacking a fucking *abortion doctor,* Mulder! Do you have any idea how much planning goes into making those situations feasible? Those aren't the kinds of things you can orchestrate around the lunch table! And they do it because, when all's said and done, it's safer than hiring a hitman, especially if something might go wrong. So when they stoop to your basic shoot-and-run tactics, they want you *dead.* They weren't kidding today, Mulder. They sent someone to shoot us, in your own *house,* Mulder and they *never* do that."

His voice is cold. "They shot my father in his fucking bathroom."

No, Mulder. *I* shot your father in his fucking bathroom. But how is that any worse than what you did to me?

"They were pretty goddamn pissed when that happened, Mulder. It wasn't on the program. And once they try something like this, they *keep* trying until it works. No breaks, no rests, no respites, no reprieves, so I suggest we get out of here. *Now.*"

Something works deep in his throat, and for the first time in weeks, I was actually worried that he was about to hit me. What a strange sensation it was. But he settles for grabbing me by the arm and dragging me down a fire escape.

We didn't move a moment too soon. Once we were outside, I broke into a car parked across the street and had Mulder wait inside. It wasn't fifteen minutes before the building was swarming with cleaners. He swore softly a few times, and then a little louder and more vehemently a few minutes later. It *was* quite a show. I even felt a little residual pride, watching my former team at work. We were the best the underworld had to offer, and for the first time Mulder was truly starting to understand what we were capable of.

"Where are the cops?" he asked at one point. "Someone *had* to have called that gunshot in."

I remember snorting slightly. "Waiting for these guys to tell them it's okay to show up." The look on his face is one I treasure even now...

"*Christ,* Krycek, watch out!"

I slam on the breaks just in time, narrowly avoiding hitting some asshole yuppie in an expensive car.

"What the hell were you thinking?" Mulder shouts. "That was a red!"

"It was *green,*" I say, even though it probably was red. But it isn't a good idea to let Mulder know I've been thinking. He might want to know what about.

"Fuck," I say a few minutes later. "We're probably gonna have to ditch this car, just to be safe.

I glance at him from the corner of my eye. Mulder's mouth has tightened imperceptibly, as I knew it would. Amazing. He doesn't object to me taking care of him while the freakin' government is after him, but he throws a fit every time I steal a new car. It's not *right,* apparently. He really owes me now; he wouldn't have survived a day out here on his own.

He's quiet now because he's finally learned that no amount of complaining on his part will get me to change my mind. I'm calling all the shots now. It's strange, but I feel obligated to at least warn him about what I'm doing, even when I don't allow for any discussion beyond that. I've never had to alert anyone to my plans before. When I was employed, I maintained only the most basic, grudging, and perfunctory contact with my superiors. It didn't leave much room for communication.

I suppose I could be the same with Mulder, but I'm not. Now that he's completely within my power I blow caution to the winds. I laugh at the idiotic things he says, I bicker with him, I flirt outrageously. Not that he's aware of any of it. He's been so focused lately, I doubt he'd notice if I brained him with my Glock.

I pull up at the hotel we've been staying at for the past few weeks. Last night two of the neon letters on the sign were still glowing; tonight, they've gone out. Something crunches under my feet as we head across the lot toward our room. Broken glass. Evidently, someone's thrown a rock at the light. Yup. *Definitely* time to leave.

Mulder knows the drill well enough by now. He enters the room ahead of me, wordlessly shoving the clothing and other personal effects we've collected over the past month into an empty pillowcase. I clean out the bathroom pretty quickly, (there wasn't much there to begin with) then head over to the office to check us out.

The man behind the desk is asleep, so I just leave the keys on the counter and slip back out of the room. No need to pay for the last couple of days we've been here anyway; it's about time for me to get some new credit cards as it is. Mulder's bugged me a few times about this, but that happens less and less frequently now as he adjusts to the internal clock of the fugitive.

Oh, did I not mention? That's what Mulder is now that we're on the run. The FBI had kindly scheduled some more hearings for him, some shit over the whole clinic incident not two days after the hitman came to pay us a visit. Needless to say, Mr. Mulder was unavailable at those times. His absence in defiance of Federal orders, on top of the residual bloodstains they found in his kitchen and the bullet holes in the walls, have led them to put Mulder's likeness in the wanted ads. I admit I savored his shock those first few days; now he knows exactly what it's been like for me all these years.

But I didn't savor it for too long - survival won't allow time for that. I head back over to the new car I've chosen to find Mulder already waiting inside.

"You have a real future, my boy," I tell him cheerfully as I slip into the driver's seat.


It's about 3 A.M., we've checked into another shitty motel, miles away from the first but identical in all other respects. We're busy unpacking, which basically means unloading all of the items we've stolen from other dives and storing them in the room. Later on, we'll dig out some laundry detergent and wash our clothing in the shower-tub, but it might take hours, or even days for one of us to work up the energy. Bringing the last load of pilfered motel sheets inside, I glance over at Mulder, standing in the middle of the room, glaring vaguely at nothing.

I fall backwards onto the bed, rubbing my hand over tired eyes. "What is it, Mulder?" I ask.

He doesn't even pretend to be startled by my question. "I'm fucking sick of this, Krycek." Delivered in a perfect monotone. This can't be good. I'm about to ask him to elaborate, but he anticipates me. "I can't stand this, sleeping all day, driving around at night, living in shitheaps like this..." His voice trails off and he stares into space for a few moments, eyes unfocused. No, this is definitely not good.

He stands up so suddenly I jump. "Dammit, Krycek! I want out of this!" His eyes burn holes into my head. I'm ready to tell him there is no way out, no escape from "this" until either you die, or your oppressors do.

"No, Krycek. Don't even say it," he snarls at nothing in particular. "I'm not going to kill anyone. I'm going to clear my name."

I blink at him for a few moments. There is, for him at least, that way out. But since there's no conceivable way I could clear my name, I've never really considered it. At least now I know what's been eating at Mulder.

"How're you going to do *that?*" I ask, perhaps a little more harshly than necessary, but Jesus... I never had the option of coming clean. I never will.

He glances over at me, a sly, mercenary look in his eyes. "I can prove it was a setup."

I sit bolt upright at that, hand clutching the sheets beneath me. "What proof?" Depending on its date, its place, or even Mulder's general disposition toward me at the moment, I could be going down with the ship after all.

"The pictures, Krycek!" his voice has dropped to a deadly whisper. "They must have thought they got them when they went through the apartment, but they didn't! I had copies made, not of all of them, but enough. If I've got pictures of what they do to those *children* in what everyone thinks is an abortion clinic, then there won't be any way they *can't* clear my name."

My head hurts. "Why the hell didn't you think of that earlier, Mulder?" He completely ignores my question.

"I'm going to go back and get them, but I need your help to--"

Go back and get them? Like hell you are, Mulder. "Over my dead body."

"Listen, Krycek! They're in my photo album, they won't ever have looked for them there, it's too obvious."

I rise from the bed, a sharp, violent movement, turn, slam my fist into the wall. "Mulder, even if they *haven't* found them, and don't fucking count on that, how do you think you're gonna get them back? Just stroll on through the doors and take the elevator up to your floor? As if no one's been there since we left? You had *copies* of those pictures? Jesus, how could you have been so stupid?"

He regards me coldly for a moment. "Stupid, Krycek? I thought it was pretty fucking smart."

"Smart? Smart is not storing something that'll save your ass where you sleep, Mulder." I stop, gesture at nothing, but I'm still pissed, so I start in again. "Never, *never* keep anything important in the same place you sleep! I don't do it, and I've had much more important things in my hands than those fucking pictures, but I actually considered what might happen to me! What are the chances, honestly, of me waking up at 3:30 in the morning just *needing* the file that details the entire waking life of my target, right down to when he shits? Why would I need that near me, *especially* if I anticipate I might run into trouble?"

I break off suddenly. Mulder's been looking at me as if I were some exotic form of animal life, and it's because of something I've said.

Oh, fuck, I know what it is too.

"File? They gave you files on the people you were supposed to target, Krycek?" He's standing on top of me before I'm even aware that he's moved. His breath tickles across my face, raising goosebumps all over my skin. I stare back at him, at his eyes, and all I can think is //hazel.//

"You have a file on me, don't you, you bastard?" He's got that old expression on his face again, and something in my stomach drops down into nothingness. No, no, no. He hasn't looked at me like that in *months.* I can't meet his eyes.

"Wrong, Mulder. I *had* a file on you. I don't any more." Just leave it at that. Let it sit and we can go back to driving around D.C. all night, eating cheap fast food and living a relatively good existence. By my standards, at any rate. But he doesn't let it sit.

He grabs me by the arm, an old, violent gesture I know all too well. I flinch away, but he follows me, invading, pushing at my space. I look at his face, distorted by anger, and I still can't bring myself to hit him. I never could. Christ, I didn't want it to come to this again.

"What do you mean, *had,* Krycek."

"I mean, I don't have it anymore," I spit back. You want to go back to how it was between us, Mulder, so can I.

I should have never helped him. Not the first time, not now.

"Why not?"

"Because the Smoker takes them back when your assignment's over." He's not convinced by this. "Someone else might have it now, for all I know."

"So they don't destroy them?" he asks, and his eyes gleam.

I turn away, swearing softly in Russian. I've tried to avoid using that language around him, tried to keep from reminding him, but what does it matter now? No matter what I do, I just end up digging my grave deeper and deeper.

"They do keep them, don't they, Krycek?" There's a world of triumph in his voice.

I turn away from him, I lie back down. "Yeah."


*Well I think I see another side, maybe

Just another light that shines.

And I look over now, through the door

And I still belong to no one else.*


Within a week we've moved out of the motel and into an actual apartment, although an equally accurate description of the place might be 'dump.' It's basically two rooms - you walk into the living room (couch, couple of chairs, stand for a TV if you were dumb enough to own one in this neighborhood) which has a little railing-type obstacle that sets it apart from the kitchen (broken stove, leaky sink, semi-cold fridge, battered table). A door in the left-hand corner of the room leads to the bedroom. This glorious chamber contains 1) lumpy bed, 1) dented nightstand, 1) even more dented dresser, a small closet, and wallpaper that might have been pretty at one point but is now too faded and torn to tell. Even though it's no better than our previous accommodations, the fact that we're here at all worries me. Mulder's no longer concerned about mobility, money, or cover. He thinks it'll all be over soon. I just have a persistent headache.

He hasn't brought the subject of the files up again, but I know that's not for lack of thinking about it. I'll glance up from reading the paper, or dicking around in the kitchen, or staring at the wall, to find him looking at me with that detached, measuring expression on his face. I've been demoted from fellow human back to 'them' status in his mind. I'm someone to be observed, tested, dissected so that he can figure out how best to make his next move. I fucking hate it.

At least he lets me sleep in the bed most of the time. But I think that's more so he can keep an eye on me if I try to slip out the front door. His staring is starting to suffocate me. I get up and move back out into the living room.

He follows me as far as the doorway. "It's getting dark out," he says.

"That's what happens at night," I reply testily.

He doesn't snap at me, which means that

something's up. "I think I'll go to bed," he says. Something *is* up. He never tells me shit like that. It's one nice thing about living with Mulder - he hates wading through the boring sludge that makes up the majority of human conversation as much as I do. 'I'm hungry,' 'I need to piss,' 'I think I'll watch TV now,' - you never get that kind of crap from Mulder, which is why I know he's not going to bed. And people go to college to learn to interpret shit like this.

"Yeah, whatever." I may sound detached, but my entire being is trained on the sounds he makes as he retreats to the bedroom and shuts the door. I wait two minutes. Waiting another two more would be the smart thing to do, but I've never really done the smart thing when Mulder's concerned. Without even looking up, I reach over and remove the phone from the cradle.

Luck is on my side tonight. He's actually called her already. I would have thought he'd wait to make sure I didn't suspect anything.

As if.

She's given her initial yelp of surprise, and now her voice drops about 40 decibels. I strain to hear the words. "Mulder, where *are* you?"

"It's okay, Scully. *I'm* okay - "

"*Mulder!* I've been calling your cell phone for *weeks!* I went down to your apartment; Byers picked up a police report on the radio of shots being fired at your address, but you weren't there!" There's a long, long, pause, and I can only imagine what they're communicating to each other during it. "Mulder, are you alright?"

"Listen, Scully. I can't tell you where I am. I'm okay though, don't worry. I'm gonna find the bastards that did this to me, and I'm gonna clear my name."

"Mulder do you really think that's possible? Or even intelligent?" She sounds doubtful. Good.

"What else have I got to do right now?" he asks, and there's no way she can argue with that statement. Much as I hate it, neither can I.

She sighs, exasperated, and I think I can hear her punch something - a wall, a table, I can't be sure.

"I wish you'd let me know where you are, Mulder, or just leave me a way to contact you!"

"I can't do that, Scully." There's a world of pain in his voice, and it makes *me* hurt. She sucks her breath in, clearly audible across the line. "I'll stay in touch," he says hastily, before she can reply, and cuts the connection.

By the time he comes through the door, I'm sitting across the room, composed, nowhere near the phone.

"Couldn't sleep?" I ask nastily, and then regretting it almost instantly, "You still look tired."

"I *am* tired," he says and there's no anger in his voice, not because he isn't pissed at me, but because he actually *is* tired now. He misses her. I feel like hitting something.

"Anything I can get you," I ask, trying to sound like it was an offhand request and failing miserably. That, perhaps, is contrived, but the concern in my voice isn't. I...care about...Mulder.


I've said it.

The funny thing is, it wasn't difficult. I'd always thougt that if I was ever forced to admit that, it would be accompanied by a gnashing of teeth and great, anguished sobs - like the horrible gothic romances my mother used to read. But it was natural, easy.

And in a way, I suppose that makes sense. It takes effort to lie to yourself day in and day out, especially if you're doing it so well you believe it. But once you've admitted the truth, it doesn't take any energy to go on believing. None at all.

Christ, I'm starting to sound as bad as Mulder does when he gets philosophical.

"No, there's nothing I want. Thanks." He adds it like it was an afterthought.

My head hurts. "I'm going to bed," I tell him, and stalk into the bedroom before he can say anything.


Needless to say I don't wake up chipper and refreshed the following morning. I had the dream again, and the shock of waking to find myself lying in bed, in a pool of cheery sunlight, after being convinced I was searching for Mulder in a field of corpses, was somewhat jarring.

But now I'm standing in our tiny living room, twice as upset as when I woke up this morning. Mulder's gone.

Not for good, oh no, he'll be back. But he wasn't here when I got up, and from the looks of it, he wasn't here while I was asleep either. The note on the kitchen table is timed at 10:37, but I know he's been gone all night. Fresh groceries my ass, Mulder. Like you ever cared before.

He's off seeing Scully.

I entertain myself for a few minutes, going back over the dream, replacing all those faceless corpses with *her* likeness. Not that I would ever cause Scully harm in real life, in fact, I'd most likely do everything I could to keep her safe if she was in danger, (if only for his sake), but daydreaming can be nice. It helps me to be civil to her.

He's gone almost the entire day. I wash the dishes, he doesn't come back. I ditch our old car, he doesn't come back. I walk down to a bookstore, he's not back by the time I return. I settle down in the living room, try to read a magazine, he doesn't come back. The visions of dead Scully are gradually being replaced by something much worse, try as I might to keep that from happening. So help me God, if she touches him...even though I know she won't... Well, I know that when I'm rationalizing about it. But I'm not being very rational at this point in time.

What? Me? Jealous of Scully?

You bet your ass I am. Blindingly jealous.

And so I spend the evening hours sitting in the living room, wishing I had a television set, or even a radio to drown out the silence with canned laughter and fake, chirpy voices. Come to think of it, I should probably go out and rip one off eventually. But in the end, I calm myself down listening to the roar of cars passing by on the street outside, and I actually do get a little reading done.

I check my watch when he comes through the door; it's only 8:14. Christ, I thought it was much later in the evening, but then I'd stopped checking it at all after I'd looked down to find some 20 seconds had passed since the last time I'd looked. Guess the time still dragged anyway.

I risk a quick glance at him. God, his hair looks beautiful in this light. "Hi," I mumble somewhere toward his general direction, and wait for him to go into the bedroom. When I glance up again, he's still standing there, shoulder's squared to their full length, watching me intently.

"You don't care where I was, Krycek?" There's a petulant, disappointed note in his voice. He's looking for a fight, trying to bait me into one.

"You're a big boy, Mulder. I trust you kept out of trouble."

He stares at me for a moment, then that smile breaks out across his face, and he moves across the room and crouches in front of me. "This is it, Krycek," he tells me.

"You really want to go through with this?" I ask, knowing the answer anyway.

"Krycek..." he warns in that 'don't you *dare* test me' tone of voice.

"If we even manage to get into that place, grab the file, and it does clear your name, are you sure you want other people reading what's written in it?"

"How bad can it *be,* Krycek?"

I resist the urge to take his face in my hands, to force him to see how bad this actually *is.* "You want to know how bad it can be, Mulder? You still have no idea of how good these people are, do you? Just because you can't see them, it doesn't mean they aren't there!" His eyes narrow, he shakes his head. "They'll have *eveything,* Mulder!" Medical records, school records, employment records, insurance records, what videos you rent, what library books you return late, what you say on the telephone, when you masturbate, it's all in there, and they won't stop with just you. They'll have every recorded mention of your name from Scully, from Skinner, from Kersh, Spender, Fowley. Every time your mother talks about you on the phone, they'll have a record of it..."

And on top of that, they'll also have one recruitment record for a Dmitri Alexei Krycek, but for some strange reason, I forget to mention that.

"Mulder, are you ready for *everyone* to know those things just to get your old life back?" Is it really worth it, Mulder? Was it really such a good life?

He considers this for a moment, at least he gives me that much. When he looks back up at me his eyes are cold, hard prisms of color that reflect my own empty face back at me. "Yes," he says.

I nod, stand, stare down at the top of his head for a moment. Not having much else to say to him, I douse my insomnia with several cups of warm milk and go to sleep.


"Christ, Mulder, *no!* You do that and you'll be dead within five minutes." He tosses the bundle of wiring down with a scowl of disgust. My mood isn't much better, truth be told. "We've gone over this before - you can't disable it like that!"

Mulder and I have spent the past week and a half hunched over the kitchen table while I build various specialty bombs, tripwires, and alarms, then show Mulder how to disable them. Again and again and again.

He shoves his chair back from the table. "Why the hell am I doing this? I'm warning you, Krycek, if I've spent the last twelve days sitting in this kitchen only to get there and find that they've cleared out while you keep me in here, I'll kill you."

Now it's my turn to get pissed. I stand abruptly, chair clattering to the floor, and stalk over until I'm standing nose to nose with him. It's enough to make him retreat until his back hits the wall, but I follow. "Listen, Mulder," I hiss into his face. "You want to get in there, I'm gonna make sure you're capable of getting past anything they might throw at you. And don't think you can do it alone, because you have *no* idea what kind of security systems these people are capable of creating. So you're gonna shut up and listen to me. Otherwise this isn't worth my time." I shift my slightly on my feet and stare him down. His pupils expand until there's only a sliver-thin rim of hazel around the black centers.

"They don't sell shit like this at Radio Shack," I remind him. He takes several deep breaths, stomach heaving, before he calms himself. But his jaw is still set and no matter what front I may put up for his benefit, internally, I'll be walking on eggshells around him from now on.

"Alright," he says carefully, and sits back down. It's as close to a peace offering as any I'll ever wring out of him, so I don't look it in the mouth. I pull the wreck of circuits and wires he's created back over to me and try put it back together so he can rip it apart once more. You know, that could be a really fitting allegory for something, but I don't think I'm going to go there now.

"God, I'm sick of this," I mutter under my breath.

His fist slams down onto the table. "If you're sick of it, Krycek, don't do it! I don't give a damn about the bombs you can build!"

"Then I'll drive you down to the Office tonight, and you can go in there and die."

"Dammit, Krycek! We've talked about this before--"

"Yeah, Mulder," I cut him off, "We have. You don't trust me enough to go in there and get the file for you."

"No, I don't. I'm not even close to trusting you to do that, Krycek. But you gave me the address to a place once before. Why the fuck can't you do it now?"

Mulder doesn't trust me to get the file, I don't trust him not to split on me the moment he knows where the Office is. And even though I'm no longer employed there, I sure as hell don't want him wandering around that place, picking up random files that may or may not have anything to do with me. What's in the one I'm letting him take is bad enough.

I shut my eyes. "And what do you propose to do with this address, Mulder?"

"Case...the...building." He speaks it as if talking to a little child.

I allow myself a short, bitter laugh. "Mulder, I hate to break it to you, but you're not gonna case the Office. It's impossible. You show up, you go in, and if you're lucky and you know what you're doing, you get out again. You spend a mere twenty minutes looking around outside, they're gonna know something's up."

"So?" he asks. "I can get away before they get to me. If I look around now, I'll get in faster, I'll get out faster. Last time I tried this, I knew the place. You made sure of that."

My hand clenches around the alarm, slams it down onto the table. Even our conversations always involve violence. "Yes, Mulder. I cased the clinic. I let you case the clinic? Well here's something you never thought about. That alarm, the one you set off before you were arrested? The one you had no idea about? Neither of us missed it, Mulder. It *wasn't there.*"

The blood drains from his face at that one.

"Yeah," I continue. "Surprised? I doubt it was ever there. They saw one or both of us near the clinic, and when you went inside, they called the cops. It was as simple as that. We played right into their hands." I give him time to mull that one over while he looks at me with that beautiful, lost expression in his eyes. I'm going to bed.

I've turned to leave the room when his voice arrests me at the doorway.

"You've got one week to show me everything you know."


*Maybe I hold you to blame

For all the reasons that you left.

I close my eyes till I see your surprise And you're leaving

Before my time.*


~Dark clouds rolling over a sunless sky, and I'm the only thing beneath them that's moving. God, someone, somewhere, has to have survived, and please God, let it be Mulder. My hands dive into the pile of corpses, two or three deep in some areas, roll them over so I can see their twisted faces. But I can't tell one from the other.

Death leaves the same expression behind wherever he visits - a calling card of sorts. The clouds roll and tumble and spill over each other above me, and beneath them are the corpses, an unbroken mound of death stretching to the horizon. Mulder's body is buried somewhere beneath it. I have got to get to it before...what? The vultures get it? There's nothing living here except for me. The sun burns it? There's no sun here either. Nothing worse can possibly happen now, but I have to find his body before...~

I snap bolt upright, chest heaving, body covered in sweat. I sit there for a moment, panting widly until my eyes adjust to the dull light of a D.C. morning. Yes, I'm still in the apartment, I can see the cheap dresser, the dented bureau, the door leading to the kitchen, and beyond that, the living room.

"Fuck," I snarl quietly.

I let myself fall back into the welcome embrace of the sheets, the worn springs of the bed creaking loudly as the full weight of my body descends upon them. I lie silently for a moment as my heartbeat slows back down, listening to Mulder toss and mutter in the living room. I woke him up?

Good. If I haven't been sleeping well, neither should he.

I roll back over onto my side, bury my face in the pillow, and pray desperately for sleep. It doesn't come. I haven't slept for three days straight now, and when my lost arm starts throbbing, I'm close to tears. This only happens when I'm tired, and if Mulder wasn't so goddamn set on getting that file, I'd be sleeping a full nine hours a night.

There's no way I can get him to stop. Not without telling him why. Even that might not stop him in the end.

Yeah, I killed his father, and I poisoned his drinking water, and helped them abduct Scully, and did several other things to him that he doesn't even know about. And I moved heaven and earth to keep him from finding out why.

By tomorrow night, he'll know all of my reasons.

And once he does, I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do.


I must have fallen asleep after all, because I wake up to find Mulder leaning over me, face inches from my own. "Krycek," he whispers. "*Krycek.*" I'm tempted to just lie there, feigning sleep, and watch those lips form my name for a few more minutes. But given the level of self control (or lack thereof) in my possession after such little sleep, I don't think that would be a good idea.

I lift my hand, pushing his face back from the bed so I have room to sit. His skin is warm and smooth beneath my fingers.

"Whadissit?" I mumble.

"It's time." he whispers silkily, eyes brilliant.

"*What?*" No way is Mulder talking about having sex with me. No way that can be happening.

"To get the file!" He's trying hard to suppress the excitement in his voice. It isn't working.

Yeah. No way is Mulder talking about having sex with me. Christ. I have got to get control of myself. I fall back down into the sheets.

"Give me fifteen minutes," I say.


I take twenty, which really upsets Mulder. Hell, it upsets me too. I was shooting for a full half hour. And the bitch of it is, from the second I rolled out of bed, I put *effort* into delaying this moment. I made my bed, I folded the jeans and cotton shirt I'd tossed onto the floor last night. I even repeated my early experiments with toothpaste before concluding that my present method for extracting it from the tube is, indeed, the most effective. And it only bought me ten extra minutes.

Yes, my week is up as of today. I've briefed Mulder on *everything* - what the security alarms are going to be like, how to successfully negotiate the heating ducts, where the file's gonna be, how to get it out without triggering every imaginable type of booby trap and alarm.

What I still have yet to tell him is what that file says about me. If I'd been smart, I reflect darkly, I would have done that right off the bat. Hell, I would have done it before he even knew there *was* a file. But I kept hoping that things would change, that that would never be necessary.

Well things changed. Silo to gulag to boiler room to conference room. Things always change. I guess I should just stop hoping that that will ever be to my benefit.

I'm maneuvering the car through the backroads of Northern Virginia, and in a few hours Mulder's going to have his precious file in hand. After that, I'm not sure what's going to happen. If, that is, he ever gets to the file. The way things are going, he'll be dead long before we reach the Office. In fact, he'll be dead pretty damn quickly if he...doesn't. Shut. Up.

Unaware of his impending demise, he's busily chattering away in the seat beside me. "...going to be a fucking Judgment Day for them, Krycek!" he chirps happily.

"Once I get this file, they'll *have* to take me seriously."

I grit my teeth and clench my hand more tightly around the steering wheel. It'll only be a few more minutes, and then I'll have the car to myself.


On second thought, I think I had the better deal when Mulder was in here beside me, babbling away. At least then I knew he was safe. Now, I have no clue. It's an overcast, moonless night, which means that with no streetlights, and with no stars, you can't see much of anything. The only sign that Mulder even existed once he stepped from the car was the dry sound of his steps on the gravel, and that disappeared quickly as he moved toward the building. Since then, I've been sitting in total silence, total darkness, left to my own dark thoughts.

Mulder's been gone for several minutes now, and I have no fucking clue if he's even alive. I'm starting to twitch.

The Smoker couldn't have picked a better place for his Office. It's in the middle of nowhere, really, just far enough from the last town to justify it's classy exterior, multiple floors, high class security systems. For all anyone in the town cares, it's just a regular branch office for some arcane city firm. And for all practical concerns, it is, give or take a rather small room on one of the lower floors, which contains some very interesting files. The employees don't have a clue, probably never will. I check my watch; five minutes, no sign of Mulder. I'm getting a little nervous, so I fuck caution and pull the car close enough to the building to see the entrance.

I've been waiting for about ten minutes when I see him come tearing around the corner as if Satan and all his devils were in close pursuit. He must have it then. My palms start sweating, and I try to swallow, but my mouth's gone completely dry. He must have it, and now he'll know.

I feel slightly dizzy.

I floor the gas pedal before he's got both feet inside the car, I'm so nervous. Those documents are gonna bring about Judgment Day, all right, just not the same one that Mulder thinks they will. We're deep in the backroads, doing a comfortable 75 mph before I can work up the nerve to glance over at him.

"So, what have you found?" I ask, hoping my voice is steady. It isn't.

"Huh?" he responds brilliantly.

"What have you found? In the file?" Mulder, don't toy with me.

"I didn't get the file," he says simply.

I bring the car to a screeching halt, and he flinches ever so slightly. It must have had a nice effect, even though I hadn't done it consciously. "Mulder," I ask, very carefully, "What do you mean, 'you didn't get the file?'" I stare straight out of the windshield. I'm not quite sure what I'd do to him if I was to actually see his face at this moment.

"I didn't get the file," he repeats.

I carefully turn off the car, and carefully remove the key from the ignition. I draw a deep breath, and it doesn't help. It's a pretty difficult feat to unbuckle yourself and exit a car one-handed, but I do it in record time. It's chilly outside now that the dew is falling, and I can feel the damp air clinging to my exposed skin. I'm still in shock as I start walking away down the road. Let Mulder do what he wants; I'm done helping him.

The frantic crunch of gravel under his feet as he follows me carries like a gunshot through the air. I walk faster. "Krycek." He's saying my name now. "Krycek!" I wheel around to face him, only to find him nearly on top of me. He was running after me, then. For the first time since we've left the Office, I stare him straight in the face. He looks almost contrite.

"What the *fuck* were you thinking?" I spit, and I can't keep the anger from erupting in my voice. "I risk my life getting you in there, Mulder, and you can't even be bothered to take one damn file?"

"There was a night watchman," he says, and the hopelessness in his voice takes me by surprise.

"A night watchman?" I repeat. "You didn't take the file because there was a *night watchman*?" The sheer stupidity of it makes my head hurt.

"What did you *want* me to do, Krycek? I couldn't just walk past him and take the file!"

"So you *shoot* him, then walk past him and take the file." The answer's simple enough, but somehow I doubt he's going to accept it. I'm right.

"*Shoot* him? Krycek, I can't just..." his voice dies off, and I'm not sure, but it's probably in reaction to what he sees in my face.

"You can't just what, Mulder? Can't just shoot him? That's your problem - you have to think everything through, make sure every action you take has some deep and resounding significance to it. Well that doesn't always *work!* It doesn't! You can't survive on *thinking* alone Mulder, not entirely. Sometimes you just have to be organic, act without thinking at all."

The look he's giving me could kill a water buffalo. "Krycek, the closet Taoist," he snarls, and I know this can only be heading in one direction. Serves me right for trying to teach someone like Fox William Mulder how to survive in the real world.

"So were you just being organic when you killed my father Krycek? Or Scully's sister? Were you just going with the flow when you *kissed* me?"

That one stops both of us cold. I can't see my expression at the moment, but I'm pretty damn sure it's similar to his; cheeks flushed, mouth open, your basic, everyday ëMy God, I've just been hit by a speeding trainí kind of expression.

"What?" I manage at last.

He tries to cover, starts to speak again, but he can't think of anything to say and the words just hang in the air between us. //Were you just going with the flow when you *kissed* me?// Oh, God, Mulder. You've said it.

What are we going to do now?

"You son of a bitch," I hiss at him in Russian. And then, in English, "Fuck you, Mulder." I wheel around before he can say anything, and take off down the road. To his credit, he gives me a 30 second head start before coming after me.

"Krycek! *Krycek!*" His voice precedes him by a few feet, but he catches me quickly enough. God damn him.

I would have been so much faster if I'd gotten more sleep.

"Krycek! Get back here!"

Fuck you, Mulder, I think. I've been taking orders from you all along, even if that's not what either of us wanted to think they were. I'm done with that. That thought gives me a small measure of determination, and I break into a full-fledged run.

It really doesn't matter, in the end. By the time I hear his feet pounding behind me, he's already got his hand on my shoulder, dragging me to a stop. I whirl around to face him, head lowered, teeth bared like some feral animal's. He doesn't back off.

"What the hell is *wrong* with you, Krycek?" he snarls, and he doesn't just mean my anger at him because he came back without the file. The bastard wants to know what made me who I am.

"Fuck you," I tell him again. "Get your hands *off* me."

His grip on my shoulders tightens. It's not so bad until it moves lower, his right hand closing tightly around the ruined stump of my arm. I'm not sure if it's actual sensitivity, or just the sensation of his hand on my broken limb that makes me cry out, but I do, and I hate myself for it.

"Hurt, Krycek?" His face is some horrible, twisted parody of itself, flushed, distorted. I stare at it as all the tension that's ever existed between us bubbles to the surface and emerges. I spit in his face, his hand relinquishes my arm, collides with my eye. Red bursts across my vision.

I try to pull my own arm free, but I'm no match for him, not with both his limbs. I snarl something in Russian again, and then all my energy is gone, and I fall slack in his grip.

He recognizes his victory immediately.

"What is it, Krycek?" he snarls again. "Why are you like this?"

I've lost, not just a battle this time, but the entire war. There's nothing left for me to do but tell him. "Do you have any idea, Mulder, what it's like to *want* someone who's done something so horrible to you that it can't ever be forgotten? You don't have any fucking clue, do you? Wanting someone and wanting them dead at the same time..."

The blood drains from his face. "*Don't* you joke about that, you son of a bitch. Don't you even dare. I'm not someone you can fucking laugh at!" I've never seen him get this upset so quickly before, but I have good reason not to care.

"Joke about it, Mulder? What the hell would I be joking about? How is any of what I've just said a *joke?*"

"Because of all the things you've done to me, all the people you've killed that I cared about, and *yes,* god dammit, I still want you."

No. I squeeze my eyes shut, dizzy now. Shaking. I can hear his voice, but it's muffled as if by a great distance. He's repeating my name, over and over. Eyes still shut, I twist my head, pressing away, not wanting to hear him. Physical pain bursts through my confusion, he's got me by the shoulders now, shaking me until my teeth rattle. I lift my arm from my eyes and lash out at him, blindly.

He catches my hand easily and clamps it tightly at the wrist, cutting off my circulation. My eyes open. His face is mere inches from my own.

"Mulder," I hiss, voice no more than a whisper, "If you have any idea of what's good for you, you'll *step back.*" He lets go, moves away. I land a vicious punch to his gut.

He snarls and stumbles backward, and in an instant I'm off, running from him as fast as I can move. It's not a moment later before I hear his feet slamming down behind me. I run faster.

I jerk to a stop, suddenly, as his hands find my shoulders once again, neck slapping forward with my halted momentum, then snapping back, the shock of whiplash splitting through my body. I'm whirled around to face him. A flesh-colored blur of movement shoots across my vision, and it's a moment or two before I connect it to the sharp stinging pain in my cheek. Damned if I'm not wearing a bruise in the shape of his hand for the next week or so.

"Krycek," he snarls, drops of spit hitting me in the face. "I should kill you now, you sick son of a bitch!" His eyes follow me like a hypnotized bird's follow a snake.

A choked laugh escapes my lips. "You honestly thought I was talking about you back there, didn't you?" Christ, Mulder, what have you gotten us into?

"No, Krycek, I thought you were fucking talking about my grandmother. Don't toy with me, you bastard. I'm warning you."

"Toy with you?" I repeat dully. What a many-sided expression. What a phrase for him to use at a time like this. "God, Mulder, you really *don't* know, do you?"

"Know what?" he asks tersely. He's still pretty damn upset. Well, so am I.

I can feel my face flaring a bright, burning scarlet. It takes a lot to make me change colors like that.

"I'm supposed to *pity* you, Mulder?" I whisper. "Because you have feelings for the man that killed so many of the people you cared about?" I can tell he wants me to keep talking so he can hit me again, and I fall silent, just to piss him off.

He starts shaking me again, shouting something about how I better talk myself out of this one, fast.

"Hazel eyes," I snarl. "Hazel eyes, just like yours."

"What?" he snarls back. "What the fuck does that have to do with anything?"

It takes me a while, but I do reply. At least he's not shaking me anymore.

"How many, Mulder?" I gasp between breaths, around the tightness in my throat. "How many people have *I* killed, and I *still* fucking see their faces!" I stare at his face for a moment, suddenly exhilarated as if surrendering to this blind rage has finally freed me completely. I'd spent so fucking long fighting it. Not any more.

His face has gone black, his eyes burn. He thinks I'm bullshitting him. No, you never liked feeling like you were at the butt end of a joke, did you Mulder?

"Krycek," he hisses, gun drawn and shoved against my face "I'm going to give you one last chance to talk before I pull the goddamned trigger. What... The... Fuck. Are. You. Talking about?

He really is going to shoot me, so I do my best to answer him. "Hazel eyes, Mulder. He had hazel eyes and and dark hair, and he was about this tall." I shake my arm free from his grip and gesture, waving it vaguely at some indeterminate height in the air. Details aren't important now, but it doesn't matter.

"He was wearing a red sweater and jeans. And he had brown hiking boots on. You'd think it would be hard to see blood on a red sweater, but it isn't..."

The gun drops, and he stares at me, more confused than angry now. The threat of violence has passed. "*What?*" he says again.

"Jesus, Mulder! You really don't get it, do you? Why do you think I was so desperate to work with you? Why, Mulder? Did you think I was just some fucking innocent the Smoker grabbed off the street, fresh out of the Academy and wet behind the ears? Christ!" I kick viciously at nothing, not knowing what else to do. "Mulder, I heard rumors about him, him and his people, what they were trying to do to you and your X-files, and once I found them, I fucking begged to be assigned to you.

It wasn't a goddamn accident!"

He brings a hand to his face for a moment. It's shaking slightly as he smoothes his hair back. "Krycek," he says, and his voice is uneven too. "What the fuck are you talking about?"

Funny, the more worked up he is, the calmer I get. But then again, it's been like that since the beginning. I take a deep breath, stare him straight in the eyes. "Let's see if this helps. It's a spring day in downtown D.C. and a man in jeans and a red sweater has just stepped up to a little corner store to buy some cheap groceries. Around this same time, several members of the FBI's illustrious Violent Crimes Unit are moving into position around the same store." I pause for effect here, but I don't need to. Mulder's gone completely white. I allow myself a brief, wobbly smile of satisfaction before continuing. "At an opportune moment, a few minutes later, one of them stands up and shouts into a megaphone 'Michael Schallhorn, you're wanted for the murders of Robert Allen, Matthew Williams, and David Riker. We have you surrounded. Exit the building now or we will use force.'"

I pause again, draw another breath. Mulder watches me, mesmerized.

"Well, Mulder, no one comes out, so they sit there in a stalemate for several minutes, until... Until one of the agents sees movement in one of the windows and shouts 'He's at the window; *shoot!*' and then all hell breaks loose. When the gunfire dies down, they go inside. Meanwhile, an APB comes out on police radio, something to the effect of Michael Schallhorn had been spotted in an alley several blocks away. Whether or not he was ever actually in the store that day has never been determined. But they went inside. And there *was* a body there, after all."

My whole body is trembling slightly so I stop, draw a deep breath. When I continue my voice shakes so much even I have a hard time understanding it. "When they couldn't find my mother, they sent me to the morgue to identify him. I had about two more years to go until I graduated from the Academy at that point. The talk about it was all over the halls, Mulder. Some hotshot in the VCU, some *Agent Mulder,* Profiler Extrodinaire had taken a chance on some second hand information, had pulled a fucking false alarm over the assumed whereabouts of a wanted criminal. And I had to identify the body. God, Mulder, *God* I was out for your blood."

He's completely silent, staring at me as if he's never seen me before, or, conversely, as if he's just truly seen me for the first time.

"And you thought I was talking about you," I finish lamely.


*It's like I told you

I'm over you somehow.*


We draw up short before the building. It hulks over itself, half buried in shadow, crouched over its kingdoms of empty parking lots. He nods slightly with his head, gesturing to a service door half hidden near a corner. "That's our ticket in, if we can get rid of the light."

I nod myself, all business now. I can turn my feelings back on later. "Allow me," I whisper, too low for him to hear, but he knows anyway. Checking the silencer, I raise my gun and shoot. There's a shimmering metallic tinkle as broken glass hits concrete, and then the door is plunged into darkness. We move across the lot like wraiths, boots hitting the pavement soundlessly.

It takes me a moment in the dark, but I'm able to disarm the lock. The incentive of Mulder pressing his body heat close to me does a lot to hurry my fingers. I press the door open a crack, peer inside, and then finally slip past it, arming the lock again once we're both inside. His breath is hot against my ear.

"What now?" he whispers.

"We get your damn file," I say, and slide down the hallway. It's slow going in the dark, but we're making progress. And, more importantly, no one knows we're here.

We round corner after corner, sliding efficiently through the dark. "Krycek," Mulder whispers, "What the hell is this?"

"Is what?" I pause, fetching up against the inner wall of a trash alcove.

He's speaking quickly, urgently. "This, Krycek. This whole place is dark - there's not a damn person anywhere, no motion detectors, no alarms..."

I struggle to suppress the laugh threatening to escape my throat and end up choking back coughs in the process. "You were expecting something more impressive, Mulder. Lasers, maybe? Killer robots? An interactive MacGyver episode?" I holster my gun, rub a gloved hand over my eyes. "They save that shit for the office area itself. Remember, this is a legit place of business come daytime."

He makes a quick, impatient gesture in the dark. "You mean you sent me through boobytrapped *air ducts* when I could have walked a couple floors?"

He's got a point. "You want to bother memorizing the floor plans?"

I've got a point. There's a quick, dry noise, from his general area. He's laughing. "I see what you mean."

"Good. Let's move."

I lead him down a few more empty corridors, the sterile white walls of office cubicles gleaming a hazy white in the near darkness. They cluster together on either side of us, a faintly luminous, geometric mass in the shadows. We turn a final corner and I lead him up a small, cramped flight of service stairs. I pause on the landing, hand closed around the handle to the door, and wait for him to catch up.

"Listen," I say, leaning in close to him, "This is near where you came in, and once we get past these doors, we're back to dealing with security systems that'll make Langly look like a doggie door."

He nods and swallows. I turn and begin disarming the laser lock. It takes longer than I expected, and by the time I'm done, Mulder's almost hopping up and down behind me. I suppress the urge to turn around and clock him. God damn, he can't have any idea how distracting he's being. My teeth grit.

Finally, the thing's disarmed and we slip in, quickly, before the alarms go off. Yeah, not only are the doors alarmed, but the alarms *themselves* are too - they'll go off if those on the doors are disengaged for over 40 seconds. Definitely not your average doggie door.

From there on out, our progress is much, much slower, but eventually we do get to the Office proper, unscathed and undetected. Oh, and I think Mulder's gained a new respect for the ease with which one can navigate the airducts. I haven't heard a complaint out of him since I dismantled the temperature-sensitive alarm system in the main hall.

We slip into the Office and I punch him, just hard enough, on the shoulder. "Get your damn file, Mulder. I'm gonna see if any more of the help is hanging around."

He turns immediately, eagerly, to the massive filing cabinets that line the walls. "Don't worry," he mutters in my direction. It's all the cue I need. He hasn't forgotten the things I taught him, then - how the cabinets are alarmed, how to pick the locks on the file drawers without getting us killed in the process. Good boy.

I slip into the hallway I had Mulder use as his first route in. The sudden brightness - they *never* turn off the lights in this area of the building - blinds me, but only momentarily. What kind of operative would I make if *light* incapacitated me? Slinking against along the wall, I peer cautiously around the corner. There's no sign of Mulder's night watchman, though a chair sits vacant next to a nearby door. Satisfied, I head back into the Office.

He's bent over one of the cabinets when I return, hard at work on dismantling one of the alarms. I move to stand over his shoulder until I'm practically breathing down his neck. He flinches slightly, a minute movement of the shoulder, as one would make to brush off an insect. "Dammit, Krycek," he mutters, not looking up from his work.

I don't move. "God dammit, Mulder, hurry..." I don't know why I'm being so obnoxious all of a sudden, except...

It shouldn't be this easy.

It *was* this easy, a couple of months ago, at a construction site in downtown D.C.

Now it's my turn to stand in his peripheral vision and twitch.

He sucks his breath in, a quick, hopeless sound, and *I* can't breath either. I didn't think muscles could clench this tight, but my throat seems to have sealed itself into a solid lump of skin. Then there's a small, soft click and he pulls the drawer open. No alarms go off.

I shut my eyes, swaying slightly on my feet. His voice breaks through my reverie.

"It's here," he says.

I open my eyes, meet his. The look on his face makes my heart beat faster. And why wouldn't it? We've done it! We've got what we need to bring these shitheads down. And it was *we,* not him, not Scully, not me. We. Us.

"This is the file," he says, and I can hear the happiness in his voice. He turns toward the door. "Let's get the hell outta here."

"Wait." My voice stops him in his tracks. "Get over to the door Mulder, this won't take long."

"What the hell are you doing, Krycek?" he whispers urgently.

"Nothing," I throw over my shoulder. "But as long as we're here..." I step over to a protruding section of wall. This is it, it has to be it. My fingers slide lightly down one corner, then the next, until they find a hairline crack in the plaster. Prying it back, I expose the round surface of a safe's lock, the metal gleaming dully in the faint light. I fucking hope I remember this.

Lessee... It's after Christmas, so the combination would be...

The door clicks open with a faint groan of protest. I slip my fingers around the interior of the door, find the smaller keypad I'm looking for, and punch in a few numbers. A door in the back of the safe slides open soundlessly, airlocks propelling it up into the wall.

I'm not dressed for this, but it's too late to worry about that now. Gritting my teeth, I reach into the depths of this new opening, hoping that the leather of my glove is enough to protect my fingers. They close around the cold, smooth steel of a handle, and I can't keep a small exclamation of triumph from escaping my lips.

I turn to go, almost colliding with Mulder as he cranes his neck to see over my shoulder. "Get the fuck back," I hiss. "I told you to stay at the door."

"What the hell is it, Krycek?" He's not in the least bit concerned with not obeying my orders.

I hold the object up briefly for him to see, and his slight gasp signalling his knowledge of what this is. "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown," I mutter, tightening my grip around the unit and the decidedly *not* human fetus it contains. "Let's get the hell out of here."

"Which way?" he whispers.

"New one," I hiss, moving in front of him. "Never leave the way you came in."

"There's only two ways out, Krycek."

"Yeah, we'll take the old one first. We'll just make a slight detour toward a car I stashed nearby a couple months ago."

His snort of laughter follows me as we round the corner. It takes that long to hit me.

"Fuck," I snarl, no longer caring whether or not my voice echoes off the walls. I stop dead in my tracks. Mulder, of course, doesn't notice in the pitch blackness, and stumbles on top of me for the second time this night. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, *fuck.*

We're dead.

"*Krycek!* What the hell are you doing - move!"

"Why? They know, Mulder. It doesn't matter."


God dammit! How could I have been so *stupid?* "The lights, Mulder! *Fuck!*" I try to calm down, catch my breath. It doesn't work. "The lights! They're out. They don't ever turn out the lights. Not in this area."

I can feel his confusion even in the darkness. "The lights, Mulder. They weren't out ten minutes ago, and they are now." Perfectly, the end of my little speech coincides with the sound of booted feet pounding down the hallways.

*Fuck!* The venom in his voice echoes mine. He turns, small, tight circles, looking desperately for a way out. There is none. And all I can think is, I've done it again, I've missed something, I've forgotten something. I've let them play me twice with the same goddamn trick.

I'm about ready to sink to the floor when Mulder turns on me, and for a minute I think he's going to kill me himself. But he doesn't, he's not, he's pressing something into my hands instead, almost making me drop the fetus, saying something I don't have time to listen to. The pounding gets louder. They'll be here any moment.

His aim is perfect. His fingers collide perfectly with the bruised flesh they left behind on my face last night. Pain clarifies my jumbled thoughts. I blink, listen to what he's almost shouting at me.

"Dammit, Krycek, take it, *TAKE IT!*" He's shoving the file folder into my hands, and I accept it dumbly, giving him a wide, vacant stare. He snatches the unit from my hands, and I cringe involuntarily at the way the fetus shakes in its container.

"Now, *go,* Krycek!"

Pounding. Louder.


"Get the fuck out of here! Take the file - go to my apartment. Go! Do it!"


"You have a chance of getting out of here. *You* know this building, I don't. They won't touch me - now go." He shoves me roughly with his free hand, a smear of sweat glittering on my jacket as his palm slides down my chest. "Go!"

I stare at him for a long, bleak moment, then slip back into the Office room. I know an old heating vent, by the '79 cabinet...


*Baby, won't you change your mind?

Surely, don't stay long, I'm

Missing you now.*


"So you wanted to kill me before you'd ever met the Smoker," he says finally. His voice is quiet, and I struggle to catch the words. We're both sitting at the edge of the road, our car a small black silhouette on the horizon. We must look like bums.

"Yeah," I say quietly. "I swore to God I was gonna take you out." My head is resting on his shoulder. He turns to look at me, his chin grazing my forehead. A small tremor moves through his body.

"Then why are you helping me?" he asks, and the despair in his voice makes me want to crawl away to somewhere dark. A drop of moisture pools on my temple, joined by another, and then another. Is he crying? No, thank God. It's just rain.

"Because of what those men are doing to the world?" It's a question; I'm asking if he can live with that for an answer.

He can't. Figures.

"Krycek," he hisses softly, shaking me as best he can, given the position of our bodies, "I asked for an answer, not another fucking lie."

I close my eyes, but it doesn't shut any of this out "Because, Mulder," I say, something in my voice matching his own. "Because I think that once I killed your father you weren't any different than me any more. I couldn't hate you when you weren't any worse than I was."

"Ahh, fuck," he whispers, even more quietly than before, if that's possible. "What are we going to do now?"


You know, I shouldn't be so depressed by all of this. I really shouldn't. After all, it's not as if I've never been disappointed before. The last nine years of my life have been one string of them after another.

So why is this minor incident getting to me so badly?

I'm not sure, but I think it was Mulder's complete and utter silence toward me on the drive back. I was so damn sure that if Mulder ever discovered the truth, I could take comfort in the fact that he would suck it dry for all he was worth. It's what he's done with every other piece of meat he's cut from me before. I was prepared. That was the one thing that could get me through this - that I was prepared. For threats, for blows, for the possibility that I might finally have to make the choice between him killing me, or me killing him.

I was ready for any of that. But I was completely unprepared for his reaction.

So I sat there with my head resting on his shoulder, waiting with some vague sense of unease for whatever he chose to do to me. When he brushed me aside and stood up I sat calmly, as I always do, and waited for his fist to find my body. After all, I had consolation in the fact that I never hit back, I was fucking above that. We both knew the dance. But he didn't hit, he didn't do anything except stand there beside me and wait for me to rise. And then we got in the car and came here.

Right now, I'm curled up on the couch because as soon as we got inside, Mulder locked himself in the bedroom, and he hasn't been out since. I think *that's* where the disappointment plays in - I had expected so much *more* from him. More of anything but this.

A car passes by outside, headlights casting slits of light over me as they move through the blinds. My eyes narrow, any intruding illumination seeming too bright after the pitch blackness of the room. Another car passes by, then another, and I groan softly in protest, pulling the blankets tightly around me. They smell like him.

The bed gives a loud creak, and I think, Christ, it really is loud out here. I shift restlessly, still taking all my cues from him, even now. My movements stir up more of his scent, pungent but stale. But that doesn't matter. I had my head on his shoulder; I *know* his smell now.

I should probably retrieve my jacket, but I don't give enough of a fuck to make the effort.

More scent. I've got to keep still.

I wanted him to hit me so badly. I wanted that kind of contact - touch that doesn't have to mean anything beyond the fact that it was offered. He might be interested in knowing that I never let them pair me with another soldier, Cardinale notwithstanding. They never needed to. I was the ideal employee; once I started working for the Smoker, I never let anyone convince me I was still human. Mulder just did it without even trying.

I shut my eyes, but the room doesn't get any darker, and my thoughts are as random and disconnected as ever. I should have ripped off a TV while I was thinking about it. Background noise would help me sleep. Each creak of that goddamn mattress reminds me how alone I am right now. Believe it or not, it's a strange sensation, one I haven't experienced in a *long* time. One I learned to shut off in order to do my job effectively. Like everything else, I adapted, I got good at it. I got especially good at detaching myself from my own feelings.

//*Yes,* god dammit, I still want you,// he'd said, every skill I'd worked so hard to perfect crumbled. And he knew, he *knows* that it happened. I let him open me up and poke around inside, and there's no way he could mistake my love? passion? any longer.

And for a brief second I'd almost hoped that it would be enough for us to change. I wasn't stupid enough to hope I'd ever be forgiven, but I thought he wouldn't think I was such a monster anymore. His chilly silence in the car taught me otherwise. Nothing that happened between us out there means anything. His Alex Krycek doesn't have reasons and justifications. He's not just ignoring me. I no longer exist.

Oh, God. Mulder, no.

I bury my face in his blanket, clutching the fabric to my nose, and inhale deeply. My body responds, a deep, slow ache in my groin to counter the throbbing in my muscles. My hand brushes down, beneath the waistband of my boxers, and I masturbate slowly, mechanically, and with little comfort, until I fall asleep.


The night has progressed little when I wake up, and it doesn't matter that I'm wrapped in his blanket because my sex smell has leached away any scent he left behind. The apartment is deathly quiet. I could get up right now, walk out the door, and he wouldn't know I was gone until tomorrow morning. And because of what happened last night, I'd be under no obligation to help him, to fear him, or to care about him when I hear his name. He's left me that. I could walk out the front door, and he wouldn't have a fucking clue. I just don't care enough to bother.

My hand brushes against the dry, flaky semen coating the couch, the blanket, my clothing, and I'm struck with a sudden, crippling wave of shame. My hand curls around the blanket, revulsion moving through my body. I ball the fabric up and shove it as far from the couch as I'm able. Stomach heaving, I stand swaying unsteadily in the dark, and prepare to search for my jacket. I can sleep in the car.

I left my coat slung over a chair in the kitchen, where I'd sat for awhile, waiting for Mulder to emerge from the bedroom and acknowledge me. Hopefully I'll be able to find it without making too much noise. I'm not going to risk turning on the lights, because I'm sure as hell not giving Mulder any more advanced notices before I do something. Blinking, I perch on the edge of the couch for several moments, watching the shadows flicker and dance on ceiling until my eyes become adjusted to the dark. I stand slowly...

...And almost break my neck as I trip over him.

"Jesus, Krycek!" he exclaims, and there's something strange in his voice. It takes me a moment to place it for what it is. He's amused.

"What the hell are you *doing* down there, Mulder?" I lurch dangerously on my feet for a moment, unable to regain my balance in the pitch blackness of the room. The streetlight pours through the greasy curtains, garishly illuminating the cracked plaster of the walls, but the entire lower half of my body is lost in the shifting darkness of the room. Supporting my weight on shaky knees, I bend, flailing with my hand until it grazes the soft hair of his head. "Why are you here?" I ask again. Apparently he's sitting, or kneeling at the base of the sofa, right where I'd swung my feet. He shifts slightly under my touch, the silk of his hair giving way to a cool, braod expanse of forehead beneath my fingertips. Only a few moments have gone by, but the night has already closed around my words, which ripple back from the corners of the room, startling us both. I can't hear him breathing, and I think even the walls must be listening for it.

"You didn't come for me," he says finally.

I may have blinked. I may not have. It makes no difference anyway. "Mulder?" I whisper, wishing desperately that my voice was steadier.

He exhales, bows at the neck, his head slipping from beneath my fingers. "I'm *sorry,* Krycek," he says, the disgust thick in his voice. But for once, for this time, it's not directed at me. I don't know what to do, so I stand there, sucking down air as if there was no tomorrow. I can't see him, but I can feel the weight of his eyes on me. He expects me to *say* something?

I let the silence spiral out into forever. When have I ever been expressive when he hasn't pissed me off first?

I have to say something now, I have to take advantage of this opening he's left me. But before I can, before I know exactly how the hell I need to respond to that, he speaks for me, and the moment is lost.

"Krycek," he grits out, and it's so obvious that he's trying to cover up something in what he's just said, "I want to go back and get that damn file."

I nod dumbly, unsure whether I'm angry or relieved that I didn't manage to say something before he did.

"You mean that?" I ask. He nods. Since there really isn't anything else to be said, I slip into the kitchen and retrieve my coat. We head out to the car in silence, an eerie mirror of our actions last night. Only this time no threat of violence hangs in the air, and the silence between us is more uncertain than angry.

Our footsteps crunch over the dry gravel of the parking lot as we head toward our newest vehicle. So strange, to be thinking of this little expedition in terms of "we." I'm not sure I've felt this unity with Mulder at any other time so far. But at every other point up until now, there's always been a division between us, no matter how often we pretended it wasn't there. Mulder was milking me for information, and I was doing my best to keep it from him, while we both acted as though we were helping each other. Not any more. There's no division of purpose now, and without ever having asked, I know that Mulder's going to let me into the Office with him this time around.

I slide into the driver's seat, flip the headlights on, and back into the street.


We make good time now that nobody's out on the roads. Mulder sits passively beside me, playing with the rounds in his gun, a nevous tick I've never seen before in all my years of surveillance. He must work hard to keep that one from appearing; maybe Scully doesn't like it.

By the time we're close to our destination, my eyes ache from straining into the darkness. I'd cut the headlights as soon as we cleared the D.C. limits, and I've only had the scant illumination of the stars to guide me. We're getting pretty damn close, so it's now or never. My fingers clutch the steering wheel tightly. "Hold on," I mutter at Mulder, then turn the wheel sharply to the right. The car careens off the road, down a ditch and plows through several feet of underbrush before I can bring it to a stop.

"Jesus, Krycek!" Mulder snarls, but with the good sense to keep his voice down. "What the hell did you do that for?"

"Mulder," I say, calmly unbuckling my seatbelt and motioning for him to do the same, "You can't honestly believe I was just going to drive and park near the front doors, especially for the second time in two days. Besides, anyone from the Office finds this car, they're gonna have it checked out." He doesn't seem to grasp the significance of this, so I sigh and spell it out for him. "They see a strange car in the ditch near the Office, they're gonna want to know whose it is. They call it in, find out that it's stolen, and think 'joyriders.'" I crack the door open and slip a leg out, cautiously testing the ground. It's dry, so I hop out. Mulder follows suit.

"A sneak appearance by us will never cross their minds."

We scramble up the ditch and then sprint across the road, even though there aren't any other cars in sight. Descending into the ditch on the other side, we strike off through the brush in the direction of the Office, but then his hand shoots out and grabs me, long fingers curling around my shoulder.

"I don't know personally, but one would assume that the polite thing to do is warn any passengers before you try something like that." I let his hand stay there, firm and warm, a smile toying at my lips.

"I *did* warn you, Mulder," I say, and the smile's in my voice now too. And I *did* warn him, but his look tells me that he thinks otherwise. I shrug it off. "If I had told you anything else, you would have tensed up, and there's a greater chance you would have been injured if that had happened."

"Do they teach you that in Assassin School," he grumbles, but he knows it's a weak argument. My smile widens, and I lean slightly into his space, enjoying being this close without the threat of violence. He's so solid next to me. It really is intoxicating.

He smiles too, a brief flash of his eyes, acknowledging that he's lost this time, but that the battle is far from over. His hand slips from my shoulder, and we head off toward the Office.

We both know that silence is our best bet against detection, but we still hold sporadic whispered conversations as we slip through the brush.

He stops abruptly at one point, and I have to go up on my toes to keep from crashing into him. "What, Mulder?" I hiss, eyes frantically scanning the undergrowth for any sign of the danger he must have seen.

Turns out he just wanted to talk.

"Krycek," he whispers, face pushed close to mine so that he can keep his voice down, "If you got involved with these people to avenge yourself on me, and now they have no control over you, why are you still here?" His voice is hurried, honest, brows knit closely together in the murky light. He really wants to know the answer.

I take a moment before responding, just enjoying the play of his breath across my face. "Mulder, if you want to get anywhere working for these people, you do everything they ask you to. And you don't complain, and you don't ask questions, and you *do* do a good job. And even when you're a favorite, you don't get to pick and choose your 'assignments.' I wasn't just sipping Martini's on the beach when I wasn't dealing with you."

He tilts his head to the side, slightly, an expression I've only seen him use with Scully before.

"Mulder, they didn't just call me up one morning and say, "Mr. Krycek, you have a decision to make. Do you or do you not want to know about the impending alien invasion of this planet? Speak now, or forever hold your peace."

"So you've done all of this because you're worried about the aliens?"

"Christ, Mulder! Yes. I'm terrified of it!" I tear my eyes from his face, stare out into the black panorama of the landscape. "If you knew the dreams I've been having..."

//Rolling corpses over, always looking for your face...but then again, those dreams weren't ever about the invasion, were they?// And I hadn't realized before.

He nods slowly, chewing on that for a moment. Mulder may be a son of a bitch to rival all others, but he does respect what it means to have bad dreams. We strike off toward the Office again.

It's reached that point, somewhere after midnight, that the sky starts to brighten. Not because it's anywhere close to sunrise, but because it simply can't get any darker. Stars flicker and twinkle high above us, and the soft, dry crunching of our footfalls in the dead winter grass is the only sound in this empty field. We're close now, it won't be another hour before we reach our destination.

We slid blindly down ditches, stumble up weed-covered hills, and at any moment I expect to see the silhouette of the Office come rising up over the horizon like some menacing black rock. But as we scramble up this most recent embankment, the only break in the flat landscape is a small copse of trees.

We glance perfunctorily at one another, a small, needless gesture, and then we're both tearing across the flat open space for all we're worth. Once we're back under cover we pause, leaning wearily against the backs of nearby trees, catching our breath. I don't think he needs me to tell him this is our last opportunity to rest before we're at the Office. I crane my head back, looking at the wide curve of sky through the trees. There's a slight rustling beside me, and I turn my attention back to earth; it's time to go.

We step from the tree cover, moving, as always, toward our goal. The air's getting heavy; it's probably going to thunder tonight. Good. It'll keep any blue flamers from showing up early, and hopefully send anyone still in the building back to the comfort of their own homes. I quicken my pace. His hand clenches around my shoulder, stopping me yet again.

I turn to face him, wondering what he wants to talk about now. I'm about to ask him when his hand leaves my shoulder, fingers threading through my hair and then his mouth descends over mine.

We stand like that for a moment, awkwardly, and then my lips open for him and my body presses itself into his arms. He grips my shoulders, my back, hands restless, moving over me. It's bright and gorgeous and over so very quickly.

He pulls back from me, violently, and I stumble back as well. We stand there for a moment, panting, mouths half open and limbs slack, staring wildly at one another. His face works for a moment and then he turns, moving off across the field as if a million devils were after him. I follow.


*Before you close the door, I need to

Hear you say goodbye.

Baby, won't you change your mind?*


I go back to one of my old apartments first. I desperately need a beer. My hand's shaking so badly that when I finally *do* open it, I end up wearing the first few ounces on the front of my shirt. The file, the famous file, sits where I left it on an old, stained sofa cushion in the corner. I'm much too wired to read it at this point - the escape from the building, and then the dash to the car was one of the most fucking harrowing experiences in my entire life. And coming from a guy who's been locked in a silo with a hostile alien, that's saying a lot.

I pace, I neurotically peek through all the windows, searching for tails. But in the end, I'm safe. I don't think they know where this apartment is, and if they do, I've got about four others I can run to. It eats up a lot of your income, renting multiple places, (even dumps like these) but it gives you a place to lick your wounds if something like *this* should ever happen.

Mulder wanted me to go to his apartment. What the hell am I going to do?

I suppose I can start by looking at the thing that started this whole fucking mess.

Falling heavily beside it on the cushion, I pick it up, weighing it in my hand for a moment. It's pretty damn heavy. I wonder. I could disappear with this thing now, get a little insurance of my safety from my employers... Mulder would have no idea where the fuck I was. I drop the file, try to massage the headache out of my forehead. It doesn't work. The bastard son of a bitch just *had* to kiss me, didn't he?

He wanted me to go to his apartment. What's gonna be there? I guess I'm supposed to figure it out when I get there. Okay, Mulder, I'll do my best. But first thing's first. Picking up the file, I flick the top cover open with a slight twitch of the wrist.

And flip through page after page after page of blacked out text. There's an article here, a paragraph there, but I can tell at a glance that all the important stuff, the really crucial information, is gone. The file slips through my hands, and I have to concentrate on not crying. I don't cry, not ever. Not even after they cut off my arm. But God help me, I'm going to now.

I have never once in my life given a shit about the concept people refer to as "fair." It made no sense to me. But I care about it now. My head falls against the wall behind me with a *crack.* Bright flash of pain across my vision, pounding in my temples intensifies. I've managed to evade these people, along with law enforcement agencies from three governments, on my own, no friends, no allies, no help. I make peace with Mulder, and they fucking outmaneuver me twice. The same way, both times. And I've brought Mulder down with me, which was never, never supposed to happen.

I slump there for a few minutes more, comforted a little by the muted roar of traffic outside the window. What the hell can I do now? Everything I've tried, all my plans, all fell to shit.

It occurs to me then, somewhat dully, that since my plans don't work, maybe it's time to try someone else's. I pick myself up off the floor and head for Mulder's.


It take me about 45 minutes to get there, then another hour spent outside, making sure no one else is around. So, all things considered, they've had him for at least three hours. At least.

I slip up the stairwell, not trusting the elevator, and peer cautiously around the door before entering the hallway. I stop short for a moment, distressed by my surroundings. It's almost as if I expect something to be changed, different because I know he's in danger. But it's still the same - same dark, cavernous hallway, same bad lighting, same nicked wood paneling on the walls.

I slide down the hallway, the chipped feel of the plaster beneath my fingers somewhat reassuring. After all the locks I've had to disable in the past two days, his is child's play, and I'm in before I can blink.

She's there, waiting for me, red hair glowing slightly in the dusk of his apartment, as if luminescing on its own. "Krycek." She doesn't look up.

"Should have known that's why he sent me here," I mutter darkly.

"Yeah? Well I'd like to know why he was sending you anywhere but jail, Krycek!" She almost tries to control the temper in her voice.

And I'd forgotten that all these months I've been with him day in and day out, she's had only the vaguest of contact with Mulder, the slightest idea where he was, and she never once knew I was with him.

What a way to find out. I almost pity her.

My voice is cold, mocking. "Do you want this file or not, Scully?"

The firing pin clicks almost lovingly as she cocks her gun. "*Don't* mess with me, Krycek."

She has no idea what's happened between me and Mulder, and she has no reason to be nice to me. It's a testament to my mental state that this hasn't occurred to me earlier.

I hold up my hand, a gesture of peace, even though there's no way I could hold both the file and a weapon. But, seeing the gesture for what it is, she lowers her own weapon. I'm suddenly aware of the lines around her eyes, the way the skin draws tightly around her mouth, and I realize how old she's gotten, how tired.

"Look," I say, nodding slightly, waving the folder randomly around the room, "If we had time, I could explain this to you, but we don't. You'd like to get this folder, and I'd like to get out of here alive. Agreed?"

She runs her tongue around the inside of one cheek, eyes not quite focused. "Tell me one thing, Krycek." Eyes focused full-force on me. "What the *hell* happened tonight?" And finally, the thing the anger in her voice has been hiding comes to the surface for air. She's scared. And confused.

"You don't *know?*" I ask, not trying to disguise my disbelief. "He didn't *tell* you?"

She turns to the side, makes an abrupt gesture of impatience with her hand. "Tell me *what,* Krycek? What happened tonight? And what's this goddamn file everyone's so worried about?"

"You *don't* know." Not a question any more.

"*No!* I get a phone call from Mulder at 3 this morning telling me to go to his apartment and get the file. *The* file. And then he hangs up and won't answer my calls."

I got to hand it to you, Mulder. You're smarter than I was in that situation. "Okay," I say slowly, digesting this for a moment. "I'm out of here."

She's on her feet, advancing until she's almost standing on top of me. Even at this close distance she barely clears my chest. So ballsy for such a little thing. "Listen, Krycek." Her eyes are two flinty globes in the semi-darkness of the room, mouth set in a perfect little line. She knows I'm bigger; it hasn't fazed her for a moment. No wonder Mulder loves her. "Mulder sent me here for that file and if I have to step over your corpse to leave with it I will."

I'm smiling despite myself. Heaven knows it's not improving her temper any. "With friends like you..." I say, handing her the file.

"I'm not your friend, Krycek, and don't forget it." She snatches the folder from my relaxed fingers, a strong, confident gesture like a man's. Come to think of it, I've never seen Scully without Mulder nearby for support. She's much braver than I give her credit for. The expression in her eyes darkens immeasurably as my smile increases. I wonder how pissed she'd get if she knew I look this way because of the newfound respect I have for her. Maybe I should tell her.

Then again, I need the arm they left me with.

I glance back down at her again, wondering how my chuckle has altered her expression. But she's no longer paying me any attention. A strand of hair slips over her forehead and she brushes it back, absently, behind her ear. Her brow is knotted, and I follow her gaze down to the file. She's flipping quickly through the pages, eyes skimming across the lines of deleted text.

She notices my attention and looks up, eyes narrowed. "You son of a bitch, I'm going to..."

It takes me a minute, but, to my credit, I understand eventually.

"Christ, Scully, *I* didn't black that stuff out!"

"You didn't?" The flinty look is back. I swear, this woman could scare the piss out of my Russian grandfather. But after everything that's happened tonight, I only find it funny.

"No, Scully, I didn't have a clue." I'm

dangerously close to hysterics - I can feel a laughing fit coming on. "Just humor me here. Before you decide to kill me, ask Mulder if he thinks I'm innocent or not."

Her look tells me what she thinks Mulder's answer to that will be, and I'd love to see her face when he informs her otherwise. As it is, I'm trying to figure out how to gracefully remove myself from the apartment without Scully trying something stupid (like putting me under arrest) when the her cell phone rings, solving the problem for me.

"Yeah?" Her voice is calm, attentive, and she never takes her eyes off of me. She shifts her weight from one foot to the other, obviously hoping the speaker will cut to the chase. He does, and her whole body shows it.

"Sir? They do? Where?" Her mouth drops open in that incredulous expression she wears so well. Her eyes narrow, her face evincing even more disbelief at whatever's being said on the other end. "He *is?* I'm sorry, Sir, but what the hell was he doing down there?"

She falls silent for a moment, and her whole manner changes.

"Yes. Yes I do have a file. No, I... No. Well, no Sir, I got it fr-... Yes. Krycek *was* here Sir," and this with a very sharp, pointed look at me, "but he's gone." I don't miss my cue. Throwing Scully a mock-military salute, I head for the door and get out of the building before she has a chance to change her mind.


Cut off as I was from any source of intelligence within either the FBI or the Consortium, it still wasn't fucking hard to pick up what went on in the weeks following our little escapade. All I had to do was look at a newspaper. For someone who rarely generates results on a case, Mulder manages to get his share at press time. But I'm not thinking about Mulder any more.

Not since I got into the Hoover building two weeks ago and waited for him. That night, he'd been picked up by the black ops, (of course) taken to a military installation, (of course) and then handed over to the FBI with nothing to show for his efforts except for a new story to tell about an alien fetus he'd seen. After this latest stunt, following so closely on the heels of his last failure, he'd been guaranteed to be wiped off the map. Or so they'd thought.

Enter, from stage left, Special Agent Dana Scully, bearing a very interesting, albeit, very altered file. It's government issue, but no one was aware of giving the government the right to do any of what was described in those documents. And they fucking erased the good stuff.

So, after proving that *something* unorthodox went on, Mulder was reinstated to the FBI, much as Kersh must hate that one. And he's back there with Scully, right now, slaving away over some pile of cow shit that's making the government nervous. I hope he's happy.

After it was all over, after he got his job back and the mock-investigations wrapped up, everyone was pretty much quiet. What can I say? I'm always taking shit for my remarkable sense of self-preservation, but if anyone had paid attention, they'd I never had one to begin with. How else can you explain the fact that after this whole thing died down, right about when I could have been boarding a plane to Tahiti, I felt the need to fuck things up?

I think I've demonstrated over and over that this is nothing else than sheer stupidity. You'd think I'd learn not to expect any breaks in my life, but I still do anyway.

Going into the Hoover Building was not a brilliant idea in itself. But why stop there? I went into the restricted areas, just to see if I could do it, I told myself. But it was more than that. And what did I have to lose at that point anyway?

I wandered around the halls for a bit, a blue flamer in an anonymous suit and everyday tie, and no one paid me any more notice than they had when I worked here. I waited around for the better part of a day...

(and what could possibly happen to me, even if someone *did* notice)

...until he finally turned the corner, caught my eye, and stared at me with the most empty, direct expression I've ever gotten out of him.

He knew I was there. He knew why I'd come, and he didn't *care.*

I'm not sure what I did after that - I know I didn't wander out immediately - but I ended up in another stolen car which I drove to another cheap Chinese joint. And I really shouldn't feel this sense of betrayal because we both knew this dance. We'd done it before. He gets information, I get to live. I don't know why I'm surprised. Nothing changed.

It's not like I'm any worse off than I was before.

That's bullshit. He's got all the cards now.

I snort, look out the window. I'll live. It's what I'm good at, after all. Rolling up the bag of Hunan Chicken, I shift slightly in my seat, start the engine, and pull out onto the street. All that's missing this time is the rain.

Time to clear my shit out of the apartment and get the fuck outta Dodge. There's a real market in the Balkans for mercenaries these days. I wonder how hard it'd be to get a plane ticket over...

By the time I reach the apartment, it's close to 9 P.M., which means that everyone who lives in this dump is either gone for the night or too drunk to move. Good. It'll make things so much easier.

I slip my key into the lock and push the door open, hinges groaning angrily in the humidity. I stand in the foyer for a moment, letting the warm outside air pour in around me, carrying out a bit of the stale apartment atmosphere. I haven't been in here for weeks.

Of course, the first thing I notice is his blanket, balled up on the floor. I wonder if I should leave it for him, then decide against it. He's got blankets enough. And fuck him, if he won't talk to me, the least I can do is get my petty meaningless revenge. Same as always.

So I round up everything that can conceivably be moved from the place - dishes, bedding, even the cushions off the fucking couch. Might as well take it if it can be moved. I've got the bedroom half cleared out when I come back to find *him* sitting on the goddamn bed like he's never left.

"What the fuck are you doing here, Mulder?" It's a moment before the irony hits me - the same fucking words I'd used nights ago.

He smiles slightly at that - he's realized it too, and shrugs his shoulders. Silence. I wait.

"You didn't come for me."

I should shoot him. I really should, and just get it over with now. "You son of a bitch," I whisper, but I can't quite get anything except tenderness out around the words.

"You know, Krycek," he says, "I really don't want to hit you again."

I really should shoot him. But I just stumble over to where he is and put my arms around him instead.



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