Words Left Unspoken
Disclaimer: They aren't mine. No money changed hands. No disrespect intended for property not my own.
Feedback: Indulge me ... please--phyre
Summary: I can't think of one that won't compromise the story line.
Acknowledgments: Grateful thanks and heartfelt admiration go out to Sue and Fox's Girl for their flawless and tireless betas, to the many pairs of eyes that read this over in its various stages of infancy and offered advice (you all know who you are) and to Tyler for giving me encouragement when my confidence waned.
NC17 - M/M Sex and Disturbing content
For RG, whose scenario started it all
Corner of Madison and N. Washington Street
The sound began quietly, softly. A distant bee's hum growing louder with each passing moment until it became a deep, deafening, predatory snarl. Stepping from the late night shadows into the harsh, white glare of the streetlight Mulder waited, his face unreadable. The motorcycle whipped past him so closely the air currents ruffled his hair, then its winking taillight disappeared into the blackness and the empty silence returned.
Not him. Dammit. He's late again
Disturbing images of his wayward lover flashed through his mind; Alex tangled in cooling sheets, a fine sheen of sweat on his skin; Alex kneeling chest down, begging to be taken; Alex, sticky semen trickling down his chin, a hard cock shooting load after load into his hot, waiting mouth. Anger fired the blood in Mulder's veins before allowing a tight smile to work its way over tighter lips at the sound of footfalls in the dead night air. Instinctively, he placed his hand on his gun and slid the safety off.
"Muul-derr," Krycek purred.
Turning toward the direction of Krycek's voice, and for a span no longer than a heartbeat, he felt the whole meeting a mistake. Dear God. What the hell are we doing? What am I doing?
He met Krycek's intense stare with his own. Jesus. I'm drowning in those eyes again. Why?
Replacing the safety, he regarded the man with cold indifference; silently admitting he had his answer.
Because I want him.
We all have addictions.
"You're fucking late." The bitter smile never reached his eyes.
"Bad mood tonight, eh, Fox?"
"Don't start, Alex, let's just go." Mulder walked away.
"Taking me some place special, honey?" Stinging sarcasm laced Krycek's voice as he followed in step.
"Your place? Jeez, why all the secrecy? I could have just met you there. I hope you changed the sheets."
"Who said we were using a bed?"
The silence screamed volumes.
Stealing a sidelong glance at Krycek's face Mulder saw how his eyes had widened, how the set of his jaw had hardened. He saw fear and smiled again, this time allowing it to reach his hazel green eyes. Gotcha.
Turning abruptly, giving Krycek no time to think beyond the reflexive movement of pulling his hands up to deflect whatever blow might land, Mulder looked at the poised hands and nodded coldly. Oh yes, black leather gloves. Good boy. His cock twitched in response. They were his favorite accessories in Krycek's wardrobe. Soft, black leather that hugged like second skin, warm, supple, nearly alive, marking every tendon, elongating already long, slim fingers, concealing a world of strength, talent and dexterity. A ghost of a smile crossed his lips. What those hands could do--covered or exposed, real or plastic.
Cocking one eyebrow, Mulder pursed his lips and blew a kiss.
"Jesus Mulder, you are one sick fuck."
"You should know, Alex. You should know." Turning, he walked away leaving Krycek the choice to either stay or follow. Satisfied with the sound of footsteps, he picked up the pace. Good. Very good.
The short walk to Mulder's apartment building was steeped in a silence that, to the casual passerby, might have seemed companionable; but closer inspection, by a less casual eye, would prove that silence to be a tense one, radiating friction, dissension and enmity. A silence that seemed to say they knew all there was to know about each other, rendering small talk unnecessary and unwanted.
Mulder slid the key into the door lock, granting them access into the darkness. Krycek's fingers walked the wall, feeling for the light switch, only to be held in check before they found their mark.
Shivering at the touch of warm lips against his ear, Krycek listened to Mulder's soft, barely there whisper. "Not yet."
The rest of the word was swallowed by a harsh, searing kiss. Grabbing Krycek's hands and pulling them up, Mulder pinned him tightly against the wall.
Krycek didn't fight the move, though they both knew he could have, had he been so inclined. He stayed against the wall docile, expectant -- a well-rehearsed scene in a greater play.
Tongues danced and stroked soft, then hard. Teeth clashed. Their kiss was savage, giving release to too much time spent apart.
Quickening his pace at first, then slowing, Mulder's mouth roamed from Krycek's lips to the stretched skin of his throat and finally up to the ear that bore a tiny silver hoop. Latching on, he sucked and nipped just past gently -- the ensuing low moan fueling him. Encouraged, he captured the scorching mouth again, slowly savoring the taste, the feel; and for one precious instant he almost believed it all was real.
Momentarily satisfied, he freed Krycek's mouth but held fast to his hands, relishing in the sensation of the warm, soft leather; his cock rising a few notches in response. Fuck I've missed this. I miss it ten minutes after you leave me; miss it at night in my sleep. Turning his head, he closed his eyes. How did we allow it to get this far? And what is it? A game? A punishment? What? We've lost sight of why we started this. Do you remember? Do I?
Finally releasing Krycek's hands, he flipped the light switch, chasing the darkness with low light from the ceiling fixture.
"God damn Mulder, why did you wait so long?" Drawing in a shaky breath, Krycek set his jaw at a determined tilt and watched with cold, dull eyes. Tell me I'm the only one who feels this. Just once, why don't you tell me what you feel?
"You were late. I was angry." Mulder kept his voice flat and carefully empty.
"Are you still?"
"Does it matter?"
"Yes it matters. I hate it when you're angry." Chewing the inside corner of his mouth, he looked away. Jesus. Tell him the truth. Tell him you love it when he's angry. Tell him how it scares you, then turns you on and takes you beyond your limits, and he fucks you harder, deeper, and Christ, it feels so good, better than anyone -- anything, when he's angry. Swallowing a sigh, Krycek ran his palm over his face. Shit. It's gotten way out of hand. It's not just a simple fuck anymore. Nothing's simple any more.
"No, I'm not still angry," Mulder lied. Yes I am. At you, me, what we've become, this whole sordid relationship, one cheap fuck after another. I'm pissed. I'll bet you were out whoring around, maybe lost track of time. I don't care that you did it, but you did it on my time. He gave a quick shake of his head. Bullshit, I do care. It hurts and I wish it didn't. I never wanted to care, not like this. Caring scares me, makes me angry, so I hurt you, scare you, you let me and ...
Soft sigh. "OK. I was late, look I'm sorry about that I--"
"--on your knees."
Their voices overlapped, one not hearing, the other not listening.
"I said, 'Get on your knees'"
With graceful execution and no hint of hesitation, Krycek dropped gently to one knee, then the other. Back straight, head held high, his eyes never left Mulder's face, but his mind raced. Oh fuck. He really is pissed.
"Who were you with?" Mulder's voice was calm, almost too calm, too quiet.
The slap came from the left and caught Krycek full force, rocking him to the right. Slowly, he turned his head back to look at Mulder. To his credit, he kept quiet, knowing anything he said wouldn't be enough. A half shrug was his only visible reaction. His eyes told the story for him. I just needed the contact of another human being, someone who saw me but didn't judge, someone who was probably more honest about his feelings than you and me put together.
"I hate it when you lie to me Alex, so we'll try this one more time. Who were you with?" Each word quietly over emphasized. Tell me, he thought, and tell me why.
"It's not important." Shaking his head, Krycek looked down. A stupid mistake; not the first, probably not the last. Steeling himself, he closed his eyes and waited for the next blow to land.
Krycek felt nothing, but at the sound of the soft click he raised his eyes, apprehension dancing in the clear green as they met stormy gray. Gun play? You sick fuck. Fear chilled him. He opened his mouth to speak, only to feel the barrel of Mulder's Sig forced into it. Coughing around the metal, he looked into Mulder's eyes. You really are crazy and I'm getting hard over it. Who's the sick fuck now?
"I can smell him on you Alex. Hell, I'm surprised I didn't taste him. Did you blow him? Did you enjoy it? Did he? Tell me the truth. A simple nod of the head will do just fine."
Dipping his head slightly in response, Alex stared hard.
Excuse me? A questioning look was Krycek's only reply.
"I'm so sorry, Alex. I didn't make that clear enough for you, did I?" Mulder's voice dripped sarcasm as he pulled the barrel back a fraction of an inch then pushed it a little deeper into Krycek's mouth. "I want you to show me."
Gun oil stung Krycek's tongue and he wished he could swallow. The barrel jabbed once more at his soft palate, making him wince and gag. His only response was a silent glare. Fine. I'll show you and we'll see who blinks first.
Bringing his hands up, then slowly, sensuously wrapping his right one around Mulder's hand and gun, holding the left stiffly in place but leaving it no less involved, Krycek caressed the tense fist, and began to suck gently, languidly moving the barrel in and out. His thumb worked the fleshy muscle just under Mulder's thumb, stroking it while his mouth pulled in inch after inch of cold, gray metal. His eyes never faltered, they only darkened with unspoken questions. You getting off on this, Mulder? I am.
Watching Krycek's mouth work the gun, Mulder forced himself to look in the unwavering green eyes. Bedroom eyes with all the promises they could hold and so many secrets locked behind them. Sighing, he closed his own against the traitorous thoughts. Lost in the feel of warm supple leather as it softly stroked his hand, he wondered just how long he could hold out against this need. Memories of how those leather-clad hands could obliterate him, how even the hard lifeless one had wrenched screams from his lips and how it felt the first time a gloved finger entered his body, only to be followed by another. How completely different the butter soft texture feels when it's scraping the tender tissue and raw nerves deep inside. How he begged for more, then ruthlessly took what he thought he deserved. He drew his lips tight. Damn you, Alex! Damn you for getting under my skin and damn me for wanting you there.
"Enough! That's enough," Mulder commanded. "Did you enjoy it that much with him as well?"
"It doesn't matter." Krycek whispered before swallowing hard to rid his mouth of the taste of gun oil.
Grabbing the worn collar of the rough leather jacket and pulling fast, Mulder yanked a stumbling, shocked Krycek to his feet. Effortlessly, he slammed the dazed man against the wall.
Groaning as his head connected with the hard surface, Krycek held eye contact. Oh, it's going to be a rough night, isn't it, Mulder?
"It happened on my time, Alex, so yes, it does matter."
"So? You lied when you said you weren't angry." The words hung in the air. A thin grimace played over Krycek's lips, his eyes reflecting his frustration and betraying his thoughts. Shit, this is turning into a first-rate pissing contest.
"Yes, I suppose I did. Lying isn't a new development in our relationship, Alex. It's been around us since day one under a different name: Self preservation."
"So where do we go from here, Mulder?" His words were soft, his mind already whirling with unspoken questions. What are you going to do? Lecture me? Send me home hard and empty? Or maybe make me scream in pain? No, you won't go there. Not again. That night scared us both. I caught the look in your eyes after you saw the blood. A defining moment for us if there ever was one.
Staring at a faint white scar circling his right wrist, the bittersweet memory lured Krycek back in time to another room. One where he was kneeling naked on a bed facing a wall, muscles burning, long past the point of cramping from the strain of no movement, sweat stinging his eyes and dry cracked lips drawn tight. Bright red beads dripped from his raw wrist leaving ghoulish inkblot patterns on the white sheet. The chain from the restraints tethering him twisted taut through the steel bar of the bed-frame, up to the metal cuffs binding his wrists. He smiled coldly at the memory of Mulder's voice telling him, 'keep the prosthesis on, you'll need it for balance'. Again, he felt those long, slim fingers wrap tightly around his scrotum, holding his aching, swollen balls down and away from his body, leaving his cock hard, throbbing painfully with every beat of his heart.
He smelled the thick pungent air, once again heavy with stale sex, old sweat and the wasted breath of countless hoarse whispers that used to be, tried to be, screams. He could hear the moans, half sobs and outright begging that had broken the quiet; small gasps and harsh sounds that had held neither meaning nor offered relief.
Skin to burning skin. Krycek could feel Mulder's hot, sweat-coated body fusing with his own, thrusting hard without care or rhythm, one hand holding him hostage by his balls, the other digging into his shoulder. Hot breath, moist on his neck; Mulder's strained voice hissing unintelligible words in his ear when suddenly the hand was gone. The sensation too much, every muscle contracting at once in a blinding orgasm, two harsh screams blending into one.
One moment frozen in time; pain and pleasure had been united as one.
Krycek sighed. Whose pain? Whose pleasure? When I came, dragging you with me, it eclipsed the hell I'd been through. I went home ragged and sore but I'd do it all over in a minute just to come that hard again, to feel that ache once more, suck your cock that hard, that deep, feel you fill me so thoroughly, I swore I'd split in two. It hurt. Oh shit, it hurt so much. You drew blood, more than once. It was a night to remember. You held me longer than five minutes before the coldness set in, before your self-imposed distance pulled us apart. He gave a short, soundless, bitter laugh. The first -- no -- the only time you ever said 'I'm sorry' and I knew you meant it.
The memory faded leaving him to stare into Mulder's angry eyes, aided by the too tight hold on his jaw. Shit. What's he saying?
"--and I'll fuck the memory of him out of you. Him and every other son of a bitch you've ever been with. Do you hear me, Alex?"
Mulder's voice was nothing more than a harsh whisper, his grip on Krycek's jaw white-knuckled. Looking down at his hand, he considered his hold. Too tight. He'll have bruises there tomorrow if I don't let up. His eyes narrowed. Too bad. Fuck it, I broke the rules. My rules. I started to ... to what? To care? That wasn't supposed to happen. His quiet sigh broke the silence. It eats at me, fucking taunts me at night. No escape from your voice, your face, the memory of your touch. Looking into Krycek's eyes, he implored silently. Don't you see? We know too much, each other's weaknesses, how to hurt and make it count, how to make it last. Dangerous, deadly knowledge.
"Shut up Alex, I don't want to hear your mouth, I just want to feel it. Give me what you gave him."
"And what do I get?"
"You get what you came for. You get what you need." Mulder spat the words, clamping his mouth shut to keep from baring his soul. Do you still need it? Like before? When it was new and felt real? At least as real as it could?
"Not until I lose the taste of your gun." He pulled out of the vise of Mulder's fingers and walked past him to the bathroom.
Mulder watched the retreating broad back until it disappeared. Sighing, he shook his head slowly. It's not love and it sure as hell isn't trust, so what is it and how do I stop it from killing me ... or him?
Slowly he walked to the wall, flipped the light switch and shrouded the room in familiar inky shadows.
Behind the refuge of the closed door, Krycek looked at his reflection in the mirror. Why do you do this? Why do you put yourself through this? He never forgets, never forgives; not you and certainly not himself. Is this what you really want? Haven't you paid enough? Knowing the answer, he looked away. The weight of his head too heavy, he dropped it low and slowly worked the kinks out of his sore neck, rolling it from side to side; long fluid motions that stretched the muscles and gave him strength.
Lifting his head, Krycek faced tired bloodshot eyes. Tiny lines around his mouth had creased a little deeper, tighter, making him look worn, older than his years. Grabbing a bottle of mouthwash, he poured himself a shot, swishing twice, spitting once. After splashing cold water on his face, the cool liquid sliding off his chin to land on the soft cotton of his shirt, he groped for a towel to soak up the remaining drops and ran a shaky five-finger comb through his hair, smoothing the unruly spikes. He looked back in the mirror. Not perfect but it'll do.
Switching off the light, he drew in a deep breath and rested his head against the doorframe.
It doesn't matter anyway.
Krycek walked back into the semi-darkened living room; eerie silver-white light from the corner street lamp casting jagged patterns around the room, giving the illusion of broken glass surrounding him. Stopping cold, trying to adjust his eyes to the change, he caught the scent of Mulder's cologne lingering in the air and with it the subtle characteristics it takes on after lengthy, intimate contact with warm skin. Mulder's warm skin. Its musk was seductive, making him uneasy and hard. The short hairs on the back of his neck prickled under new sweat. His stomach lurched with anticipation -- or was it fear? His silent question went unanswered.
"Mulder?" Silently he damned the tremor in his voice and waited for a response.
Snapping his head sharply to the left at the sound of Mulder's low tenor, he sucked back a short, shaky breath and silently chided himself. It's not like I didn't know he was here.
"Conserving energy?" Hoping the question sounded casual enough, he edged toward the wall with the switch plate.
"Don't touch it, Alex. I turned it off because I wanted it off," he paused for a moment before continuing. "I want you to leave." Mulder kept his voice low and cold, biting back the words screaming in his head. No I don't, I want you to stay so I can fuck you senseless, hear you scream my name and hear the echo resound against the walls. I want to push you so far past your limits you'll forget you ever had any. I want to mark your soul somehow so you'll know you're mine. I want to own you, spoil you for anyone -- and everyone -- else, but I don't want to love you because then I'd have to forgive you, and I won't do that. I can't do that.
"I don't want to leave." Krycek's harsh whisper edged that thin line between anger and desperation. I can't leave, not now, not without feeling you drive inside me one last time, only this time you have to know it's me. You have to look at me after and see me for who I am, not who you want me to be. It's not just about you anymore. I'm part of this, too. I always have been. If this is going to be the final fuck then you're going to have to do it with both eyes open.
"Fine, Alex. I gave you the chance, don't forget that." Mulder's voice held no warmth, just the bitter tinge of feigned anger masking the relief he felt but knew he shouldn't. The worn leather couch groaned in relief as he got to his feet.
Hidden by darkness, Krycek's eyes shone with satisfaction before they were overshadowed by apprehension as he watched Mulder move toward him. He flinched at the soft touch of Mulder's open palm when it came to rest gently against the side of his face in an uncharacteristic show of affection. Apologizing with sad eyes and a half smile to match he turned his head slightly, allowing his lips to gently kiss the hand that had stung that very same cheek not 15 minutes before.
When the brief caress turned to a fresh memory, Krycek slowly slid his tongue over his lips, savoring the taste. In the dim light he silently pleaded, don't be angry, don't think, just feel. C'mon Mulder. You want it; I want it. What's so different now than last time? It's just sex, right? That's what you keep telling me. What's changed and why are you so afraid to tell me? He snicked out a neat, soundless laugh at the hypocrisy of his thoughts. Why am I? He knew the answer. Because it's just sex. It only feels good for the moment and then we have to face each other again and everything we represent. You can't do that and I don't blame you. So I'll take it this way and carry the memories home ... until the next time. But it's not love. It's not love. You don't care and neither do I. He shook his head and wondered how long it would take before he started believing his own lies.
"You remember that time in the alley, Alex? Last summer? That's how all of this really started, where we finally admitted, no ... I finally admitted ... " His voice faltered. "It wasn't like that awful night in Tunguska. It was different somehow and yet, even in that cell, under all of that anger there was a fire, a need. And that night in the alley ... Jesus, the air was thick with it. Remember?" Mulder's voice was calm, almost gentle. Please remember, he begged wordlessly. Neither of us knew what the other was thinking and we didn't care. That need was so strong, it hung in the air. We tried to ignore it, fight it, even walk away from I, but it clung to us, fed us ... drove us. We didn't care that the gun was loaded or the hate was so visible on our faces. It--the need--took control. We were out in public and it didn't matter, we never even gave it a second thought. There was feeling to it, there was emotion, there was ...
"Yeah." Krycek's lips curved in the hint of a smile. Oh yeah, how could I forget? Back street sex. All that danger, all that anger and rage. 45 minutes in a stink filled alley and everything changed. It didn't make us equal, not with that gun jammed in the back of my neck. It didn't even offer us absolution; we just found common ground, a start.
"Yeah." The single word came out sounding wistful, barely louder than a sigh. A melancholy smile softened Mulder's features and eased the pain in his eyes.
For the first time that night, Mulder relaxed.
And remembered how it all began.
8 months earlier
Just outside the Rathskellar Bar
The residual heat of sun-drenched asphalt and cement burned through the soles of Mulder's dusty wingtips. Well past 9:00 pm, with the sun long set beyond the horizon, Alexandria's heat and the humidity of late August were baked into the charming streets, warming every step he took.
Pulling open the doors of the Rathskellar, Mulder felt a blast of cool air instantly chill the sweat on his skin and shirtsleeves. His thoughts skittered fleetingly to his suit jacket carelessly banished to the back seat of his car along with his tie. Suppressing a shiver he walked in, nodding to the bartender as he took the just drawn draft that was offered. Smiling his thanks he made his way through the Friday crowd and found an empty booth off to the side. From his vantage-point Mulder could see most of the patrons, yet remain hidden enough to enjoy his solitude.
Rolling his head to loosen the knots, he caught the dancing reflection of the front door glass as it swung open and watched with unguarded surprise as Alex Krycek sauntered in and leaned against the worn wooden bar.
Mulder's eyes narrowed.
You're a long way from home. What are you doing in this neighborhood?
Sitting too far away to hear the order, but close enough to see a longneck and a few crumpled bills change hands, he saw Krycek salute the bartender with the bottle, taking a long pull as he turned away.
Watching the motion with more fascination than he should, he saw how Krycek's lips slipped over the opening of the bottle, tightly sealing it; how his eyes half closed when he tilted his head back, allowing the liquid to flow, Adam's apple bobbing with the swallow.
It was at that moment, with his lungs burning in rebellion, that Mulder realized he had been holding his breath. The subsequent flick of Krycek's tongue across wet shiny lips caused the tired agent to exhale slowly while his dormant cock twitched to life, chafing against the texture and weight of his clothes.
His eyes stung from the dry air, but he wouldn't close them, not when Krycek's stare caught and boldly held his own, not even when the wet tongue returned to parted lips, slowly slicking them while they curved into a cruel caricature of a smile.
Swallowing against the sudden dryness, he finally looked away, angry thoughts surfacing.
Bastard. You should be miles away from here ... away from me. Wasn't Tunguska enough? You lost an arm and I lost ... I lost whatever morality I may have had.
Recapturing the image of the cold, dark cell and with it, the rank scent of sweat, blood and semen, he closed his eyes and remembered how the air hummed with harsh guttural grunts and pleas. Half a lifetime of anger and rage bottled up in a seven-inch muscle so hard it hurt to touch it. Near rape disguised as payment-in-full for transgressions of the past.
Near rape. Not the actual act but close ... too close. He had wanted to hurt Krycek, shame him, show him, and yet, there was something more, something alive ... and he knew he wasn't the only one who felt it. Krycek could have stopped him ... but he didn't.
Turning back in time to see the dancing reflection of the front door glass gently slow to a halt, he saw Krycek was gone.
Within seconds, Mulder was outside. Stopping just in front of the doorway, he turned toward the sound of footsteps, listening as each one grew softer than the last. Following the noise, quietly placing each step so as not to draw attention to himself, he started his search.
Watching with empty, flat eyes, he saw his prey turn onto a side street. Quickening his pace, he followed but found the alley empty. Pulling his weapon from its holster and silently sliding the safety off, he swallowed the metallic taste in his mouth, silently screaming 'Where the fuck did you go?'
"Looking for me?"
In the half-light he aimed his weapon at the voice, but didn't squeeze the trigger when he had Krycek in his sights.
"As a matter of fact, Krycek, I am. We have unfinished business."
Krycek easily deflected the first blow but hit his knees with the second. The barrel of Mulder's gun stole the smile from his face, leaving it seamlessly blank. Blinking slowly, he deliberately pinned Mulder with a cold stare. Fuck you. This is no different than any other time we've met up. You hand me a beating, I go home and heal and I'm back out on the streets in less than three days. You won't kill me, you don't have it in you, so let's just get it over with and call it a night. Or do you have something else in mind? He snapped a leash on his thoughts and waited a moment before he spoke.
"It wouldn't look good on the report that you killed an unarmed man, Mulder. I have no gun." Krycek's voice was quietly emotionless.
"I'll cross that bridge when I come to it."
"I see. So ... is this how it finally ends? Me dying on my knees? Bet that would give you tremendous satisfaction, wouldn't it?" Watching the anger blend with something more base in Mulder's eyes, he allowed a tight-lipped smile, congratulating himself on a direct hit before leaning in for the kill. "Admit it. You still want me on my knees, don't you? For a man with so little control left in his life it's one helluva power trip." Narrowing his eyes, Krycek continued softly, a seductive edge weaving its way into his voice, "What are you thinking right this minute, Mulder? You've got hate in your eyes but that bulge in your pants is telling me something different. Bet it aches, doesn't it? Why is that? Why are you so hard right now? Tell me something, do you think about it? Do you remember it like yesterday? Did you really think you got the best of me?"
"Fuck you, Krycek." The words had a hollow ring to them as they echoed off the tall buildings.
Slowly, Krycek rose from his knees and stared at Mulder. "That could be arranged."
Krycek figured that bit of witticism would cost him dearly and he was right because while size was on his side, Mulder had speed and a gun, although not for long. With anger blazing in his green eyes, he landed a powerful kick to Mulder's hand knocking the gun from his grip, sending it across the alley. "You want to fight me, then fight me, don't hide behind the false strength of a gun. You don't want to kill me, Mulder, you never have. If you did, you'd have done it long ago. This ..." he waved his hand, "is all just a game. So play, but fucking play fair."
The perverse ballet went on for nearly 15 minutes, each dancer landing solid punches and kicks until Mulder put Krycek in a choke hold that brought him back down to his knees. Panting hard, he grabbed a handful of dark, sweaty hair and said, "Fair enough for you, asshole?"
"Probably the most fair thing you've ever done in your life."
A hard blow to the back of his head sent Krycek sprawling. Dizzy, he turned back and watched Mulder pull a gun from his ankle holster and take aim. You won't do it, he thought. You won't because I have something you want. And you have something I want. You can feel it. I know you can.
"Now, we're going to play my way. You want to gamble? You want to prove your theory that I won't shoot you? Get up. Go ahead," he gestured with the gun. "Get up and turn your back to me, then walk away and see how far you get."
Krycek gave a barely perceptible shake of his head. You don't want me to leave, you know you don't. And I don't want to go, so keep your precious control ... just stop me. Rising unsteadily to his feet, he started to walk out of the alleyway.
A flying bullet tore through a chunk of asphalt.
Krycek stopped cold in his tracks, turned and leered. "What do you want from me, Mulder?" He wanted badly to say; because, you're going to have to say it before I'll do it, but kept quiet knowing it was better this way.
"Though it pains me to admit this, I think you're right. I think I liked the sight of you on your knees the best."
"And why is that?"
Tension swirled around them.
"Because that's how I want to remember you."
Krycek ate the words and laughter that threatened to escape. No, because you just can't justify what you're feeling any other way. We've been down this road before, so why don't you just admit it?
He walked back to Mulder, slowly licking his lips he dropped to his knees. Nodding to the leather belt buckle, he asked, "May I?"
Mulder felt torn between granting permission and thereby silently admitting his growing desperation, and giving Krycek the opportunity to add another point to the invisible score card; or giving into his anger by shooting him where he knelt, forever wiping the smile from his face.
And you from my life.
In the end, he gave tacit consent by standing motionless, and closed his eyes when he felt Krycek's talented fingers and mouth set to work first on the belt, then his half-hard cock.
"No teeth, Krycek, or you'll be spitting them out through the back of your neck," he jammed the gun a little harder to prove his point.
Krycek hummed his affirmation, and Mulder felt a knife-like shiver cut through him from the sensation. Chewing the inside of his cheek until he tasted blood, he fought hard to suppress the groan that threatened to escape at the feeling of the warm mouth vibrating around his cock. He remembered an incident from his youth involving dry ice, by the time he had realized just how badly it had burned him, his fingers were stuck. He hadn't experienced this feeling since then.
Not until now, he thought, squeezing his eyes shut and tamping back a groan. Not until now. Oh dear God, I'm stuck to this man's tongue ... to his mouth and it burns. Oh fuck, it burns so cold.
Allowing the gun to slip from his fingers, his right foot kicking it far away from Krycek's reach, Mulder grabbed at the other man's head and fucked his wet mouth, deeply forcing his hard cock down the open throat. He felt himself spiral higher as Krycek swallowed him bit by bit
Krycek heard the metal slide across the asphalt and relaxed, knowing they were on as close to equal ground as possible. He continued to suck and lick, running his gifted tongue up the length of the shaft, swirling the tip then moving back down to mouth the heavy balls. His own cock strained and pressed within the tight bonds of his jeans. Minute movements of his hips did nothing to relieve the pressure, serving instead to intensify it. Wondering if there was any way he was going to be able to get off in Mulder's presence, he swallowed deeper and deeper until Mulder grabbed at a length of hair and pulled hard.
Krycek yelped in pain and abruptly let the hard cock fall from his mouth. "What the fuck, Mulder?"
"You enjoying this, Krycek?" Mulder asked, pointedly looking at the bulge in the well-worn jeans.
"And if I am?"
Mulder's mind rushed toward an angry red haze. He knew he wanted to hurt this man, hurt him in the basest way he could think, but didn't know if he could bring himself to cross that thin line, having walked so close to it before. He just wanted ...
"You want some, Krycek? Is that what you're thinking about right now? How much you'd love to be able to get your rocks off?"
Krycek's blood turned to ice. The words didn't scare him, not even the tone of voice. It was the look in Mulder's eyes: Murderous, angry and far too dangerous. He wondered if he could get to his feet in quick enough time to make the fight as fair as possible.
His eyes strayed back to the exposed, engorged cock. He wanted it, there was no doubt in his mind. Nor was there any doubt that Mulder did as well. All of the angry posturing they were going through was just a show, but knowing how it felt under the worst possible conditions, Krycek pictured himself torn, bloody and in agony. Resolutely, he decided if that was going to be the case once more, he wanted Mulder to suffer as well.
"Get to it, Mulder. How are we going to do this?"
"Get up very slowly."
Krycek did as he was told.
Mulder frisked him; roughly running his hands up the strong legs and ass, over the hard cock then back down the legs.
"Mulder, I told you I have no--"
"Shut the fuck up. I'm looking for supplies. I know a slut like you will drop your pants for anyone but I certainly don't care to catch whatever disease you may have picked up along the way. So, where are they?"
"Inside my right boot."
Mulder looked down at the boot, then back up to Krycek's face. "Get them out, and if you even think of trying anything stupid, I'll kick you into a coma."
Krycek retrieved the lube and condom from his boot and, still down on one knee, held them in his outstretched, open palm.
Mulder studied the offering then said, "Put the condom on."
Krycek considered doing it with his mouth, just to show Mulder what he could do, but decided against it. A grim smile crossed his lips. Maybe next time, if there is one.
Rolling the latex down over the rigid cock, he felt it swell with his touch while the heat seeped through. His own cock chafed uncomfortably, begging for release.
"Slick," Mulder said. "And do it right the first time or you're the one who suffers. I don't plan on doing anything that involves touching you."
Krycek blinked hard past the shameful sting of Mulder's words. Again, the hard cock bobbed with his touch as he put a thick coating on it. He wondered what would happen if he tried to leave. His smile was cold. It would show that motherfucking cocktease, crank things up a notch or two.
Krycek stood up and, wiping his hand on his jeans, said, "Done. Now ... feel free to go fuck yourself." He turned on his heel to leave, only to feel Mulder's hand grab at his hair, wrenching a cry of pain from his mouth.
"No fucking way. Do you really think you can pull a stunt like that then walk away? Not a chance. Get over there." He pushed Krycek in the direction of an overturned garbage barrel.
"When are you going to admit it, Mulder?"
"That you want to fuck me."
Giving away nothing about his emotions, Mulder finally responded in a quietly cold voice, "When are you?"
Looking down, Krycek felt a blush of shame rise to his cheeks. The scene in the bar, the fighting ... all of it was a ruse, a pre-game show to the main event. He knew Mulder was going to be there, he had watched him go in. It wasn't that their last meeting had been so warm and friendly; it was the raw sex combined with the anger that sent him in search tonight. He knew all of that, but gave nothing.
Instead he walked over to the barrel, dropped his jeans and briefs, bent over the rusty metal and waited for what seemed an eternity before he felt the long fingers curl in his hair once more and the warm moist breath caress his neck before sharp teeth sank into the bunched, fleshy muscle of his shoulder. With no warning, two fingers roughly sank into the tight hole leaving Krycek to bite his lip until he tasted blood. Swallowing the groan, he waited for the blinding pain to subside. Mulder's cockhead stabbed quickly through the tender opening, and Krycek's scream echoed off the damp, dirty brick. Again and again, Mulder drove repeatedly into the tight channel, his balls slapping flesh with a ragged rhythm, hissing through his teeth in counterpoint to Krycek's loud groans.
"Shut the fuck up, Krycek, and be thankful it's not my gun."
The cold words, combined with the imagery they spawned, forced another unchecked groan from Krycek, and he felt himself grow hard once more and wondered what it was about this man biting at his shoulder that could make him want this kind of humiliation. Riding out waves of pain from the second reaming of a lifetime, his right hand strayed to his cock and pulled the growing organ, squeezing and coaxing it back to full life.
"Let go of it, Krycek, or I promise, I'll cut it off the first chance I get." But Mulder's voice held no real threat. Instead, it bore the edge of a man ready to explode. His thrusts were as frantic as his words, and he was close, so very close. Mulder fought hard to keep control, to stoke his anger even higher, to ignore the tight muscle trapping his cock, how good it felt and how bad it felt.
"No, you won't," Krycek said, his fingers milking his aching cock. And he wanted to believe.
Under the glare of the streetlight, in an open alleyway, they cursed, raged, groaned and begged until they reached mutual, yet singular, release.
Mulder withdrew quickly, exacting still another groan from the man beneath him. He pulled the used condom off and, almost as an afterthought, squeezed his seed out over Krycek's skin.
Hearing the sharp intake of breath, he smiled a bitter smile and, slapping the bare ass, said, "Was it good for you?" before he tucked his limp cock back in his shorts. He then zipped his fly, retrieved his weapons and walked out of the alley without so much as a backward glance.
Dragging himself up, Krycek felt his skin pull with the sticky
semen and his face flush once more with shame when he quietly
admitted to no one, "Yes."
Somewhere in the distance a clock struck two; Mulder's soft exhale whispered over the eerie echo. Hands tightly fisted and jammed in his pockets, he wandered restlessly around the room absorbed in thought. That was the beginning of the end and look where it's brought us. Here, with me all but hating the sight of you; and yet the thought of losing you to another is nearly too much to take. Finding Krycek's face in the semi-darkness, he studied it.
So what the hell am I supposed to do now? Love you?
No, I can't. I won't.
Let you go?
I can't do that either.
So what's left other than this game, this ... punishment? That's what this is really all about, isn't it? Your guilt gets so damn heavy that you crave this as punishment to grant you some type of personal absolution. I have no problem meting it out, but other than that, you don't want to be here, do you?
His face softened as he searched for answers in the darkened green glass that searched his in return.
Shaking his head, he looked away.
And I can't look beyond the surface to find out just how badly I want you here. Yours is a punishment, mine ... an addiction. This just can't go on. Something has to give.
The quiet chuckle startled him; an answer to his earlier question.
"Yeah, it was a night, wasn't it?" Krycek gave a semblance of a sigh, a quiet whistle between parted teeth. "C'mon, Mulder, let's finish what we started. If not way back then, at least what we started tonight."
Watching him shrug out of his jacket, Mulder felt he should make some token gesture; give him one more chance to leave. Tension seethed just below the surface of his skin, scraping over every raw nerve in his body. It scared him just how quickly the anger came up, the uncontrollable itch to strike and draw blood, to lay that physical mark so that here would be the only place left for Krycek to go, because here was where he belonged. When had the game turned real? When had it begun to matter?
"I don't think you should be here, Alex," he replied softly, quelling the urge to say 'it's not safe.'
"Maybe not," Krycek answered evenly, walking toward him. "But I am, so let's do it. Call it a 'final fuck' if it makes you feel any better." Seeing a shadow slip over Mulder's face, he questioned with soft words that hid a razor's edge of hope. "What's the problem? What makes this night any different from the rest of them? It's just fucking. It doesn't mean anything." His tone bore faint traces of sarcasm while his thoughts carried the brunt. It can't, right? That's the way we've always done it. Because if it actually meant something, then we would have to mean something, wouldn't we? And we can't have that, can we? A tight-lipped scowl sharpened his gaze. Can't have the idea that we could have somehow gotten beyond the anger and pain that brought us together in the first place. No ... that's too frightening to imagine. So you'll fuck me, maybe hurt me, and I'll take it, because this way is better than no way at all. No way at all is ... unthinkable.
Mulder's cold eyes glittered in the half-light. "It's just fucking. It doesn't mean a thing."
The words hung in the air, mocking them both.
The slight lift to Krycek's left eyebrow was nearly imperceptible, but it was there. He turned and took a few steps toward the bedroom before he heard Mulder speak.
"Hold on. Come back."
Krycek stopped and desperately tried to ignore the cold trickle of sweat trailing down between his shoulder blades. "What?" So close. He closed his eyes and waited. So close. Don't you dare take this from me. I've worked hard to get to this moment; I've earned it. He remained still, weighing his next move. He could keep walking, knowing full well Mulder would eventually follow and the coupling would be even more brutal, or he could turn back and listen to words he may not want to hear.
Silent seconds ticked by before he turned and walked back. They stood facing each other for one long moment, each holding his own ground, eyes shining brightly with an odd combination of fear and anticipation.
In a surprising move, Mulder broke first and watched how Krycek's eyes widened as he steeled himself against the instinctual move of back-stepping. Reaching out slowly, he pulled Krycek close, purposely using more gentleness and care than he could ever remember in their relationship. The hardness of the other man's erection through the rough denim as it met with his own drove him to capture the cool lips; he barely stifled a groan when their tongues touched. Sinking into the kiss, he tried to forget the anger, the bitterness and betrayal this man had caused, choosing instead to remember the all too rare moments when they fit together so perfectly, when reality meant nothing. He willed those memories to calm him, to give him strength to see the man in place of the villain, if only for a moment.
Unprepared for kindness, Krycek didn't know how to handle it, and didn't know how long it would last. Kindness was unheard of in their relationship. He waited for the punch to land, the slap to sting, the words to scar, something. He felt nothing but the slick, satiny mouth roaming the well between his collarbone and shoulder, strong arms pulling him even closer. He wanted to lose himself in the sensations, because they felt more real now than at any other time; he just couldn't bring himself to let his guard down. Not yet, the quiet voice told him, not yet. You know what he does, how he strikes, how he lulls you into that false sense of security, then strikes cobra-quick, leaving you to slink off, lick your wounds and swear never to return. In silent reply, his body remained rigid even as he threaded his fingers through Mulder's hair and moaned into his ear.
Mulder felt the tension under his lips, under his fingertips as they ran the length of Krycek's back. Every muscle bunched, coiled as if waiting to strike. Black thoughts tickled the edges of his mind. You're thinking about him, not me, not us. You're just going through the motions. Increasing the pressure of his mouth he deepened the kisses against the pale skin, tightened his hold, and felt Krycek's body tense even more in response. Hopeless; it's all a lie. He pulled back roughly leaving Krycek dazed and flushed, motioned toward the bedroom with his chin, "Let's go. Let's finish it," and thought he saw a flash of emotion in the hard green eyes.
He looked again and it was gone.
In the darkened bedroom they undressed in silence.
"How do you want to do this?" Krycek's words echoed the past. How many times had he asked that?
"Straight. And take that off," Mulder nodded to the prosthesis as he dragged the covers back, leaving them in a heap on the floor.
Naked, Krycek knelt heavily on the bare white sheet, balancing himself as best as he could on his arm and stump, and waited until he felt the bed dip lower. Several seconds later he looked over his shoulder and saw Mulder staring blindly at him, half-hard cock held absently in hand. His words were quietly measured. "This is the best invitation I can offer, Mulder."
"I want you ... " For a moment Mulder looked shocked, as if those words couldn't have been spoken by him; then masked his confusion with off-handed indifference. "On your back ... I want you on your back."
Of all the things Krycek could have expected to hear, those words were not among them. "Why? You never did before."
"Don't read anything into this. It's just a different position." Mulder looked away, unable to keep his face impassive. I've never seen you come before. It's okay to want to because they're my rules and I can change them if I want. It's just fucking. Right? Looking back at Krycek's questioning expression he wondered who he was asking. His head began to hurt.
Krycek stretched out on his back, his eyes wary. "It's up to you."
There was no real foreplay beyond the perfunctory prepping. That in itself caused Krycek's cock to swell and stiffen. His skin flushed pink and sweat beaded his upper lip as he felt Mulder move in and, using one quick jab, push his cockhead through the tight ring of muscle. He shook his head hard against the pain, but endured rather than move from it, because it felt too good to shrink away. Riding the merciless thrusts, he fought to keep control over the sensations coursing through his body, all but ignoring how good it felt, how right it felt, refusing to allow that single pleasure, because to do so would give the act more credibility than it deserved. He wished for strength to break free of his lies, but instead, Mulder's words rang over and over in his mind. 'It's just fucking. It doesn't mean a thing.'
Mulder tried not to think about how good Krycek's body felt beneath his. All he wanted to do was fuck him, because fucking was impersonal and he couldn't risk anything other than something impersonal. Yet the texture and scent of Krycek's skin assaulted his senses, drawing him deeper and deeper into a dark tangle of misplaced emotions. They were good together, and why isn't that enough, he questioned. It should be enough. He's mine. The idea of monogamy in their relationship struck him as obscenely funny until quick flash images of Krycek swallowing another's seed invaded his head. He felt the anger bubble up once more and fought a losing battle against trying to tame it. It streaked through his body before finding its rightful place in his balls. Surrendering to the sensation, he silently admitted his need for the anger, for the pain, before he allowed himself the exquisite pleasure of release. "Moan, goddamn you," he insisted. Following it with "show me you like this."
Finding his swollen cock, Krycek held and stroked himself higher while Mulder battered his ass mercilessly. Giving in to the white-hot need, his thoughts wrapped in a gauze of muted reds, oranges and yellows, he spilled his seed over his fingers, his low growl ending with a whispered sigh. They lay together for a few moments, tangled limbs sticky with sweat and semen, until their breathing calmed, their heartbeats slowed and reality crashed through the quiet. Mulder moved away and felt cool air dry his skin, leaving it tight and uncomfortable. He wanted a shower, clean sheets and daylight. But oddly enough he knew he didn't want to be alone.
Krycek leveled a hard stare. "I guess I should go, huh?"
Returning the stare, Mulder replied, "You can do what you want." 'Stay,' was his silent prayer.
Tell him, whispered the voices in his head.
"What do you want, Mulder?"
Unable to give a truthful answer, he stalled. "What makes you think I want anything?"
Looking away, Krycek snicked out a soft chuckle then rose stiffly from the bed. "Nothing. My mistake." Always been my mistake, he berated himself. Been my mistake from the getgo. Time to move on.
"Where are you going?" Mulder's voice was flat.
"To the bathroom, I won't be there long."
"That's not what I meant. I meant after."
"What's it matter?"
Mulder positioned himself between the doorway and Krycek. "It doesn't."
"Then move out of the way and let me by."
"Are you going back to whoever you fucked earlier?"
Krycek's answer was soft, his eyes cold and unreadable, hiding the dam of emotions cresting beneath the quiet facade. "For the record, he fucked me, and it doesn't concern you. Nothing I do outside of your presence concerns you. Do I ask you who you've slept with? Do I ask you where you're going when you leave me? No, I don't. You don't want me here. I don't want to be here. So stop with the third degree and just let me shower and leave."
All of the voices that Mulder tried so valiantly to ignore screamed in unison--Stop him!--and he did.
The hard right caught Krycek by surprise, nailing him squarely in his chest, slamming him against the wall; another blow, and the old plaster cracked under the impact of his body. With unerring accuracy, Mulder laid in four more fierce punches in the same spot until he felt a harsh breath whistle past his ear and saw unspoken accusations and unabashed shock in Krycek's eyes before they squeezed shut and he slid down the wall to the floor, his face contorting in agony as wet, spastic coughs wracked his body.
Listening to the labored breathing, Mulder fumbled for the phone. Oh shit, I broke his ribs. I broke his fucking ribs.
"It's okay," Krycek wheezed through the pain in his chest, closing his eyes to slow the curtain of red threatening to steal his vision. "No, don't call ... I'm okay ... just winded ... just need to ... rest.." Willing his body to move, to carry him the few feet to the bed, he tried and failed to push through the blanket of pain. He felt strong hands pull him up and an arm slip around his waist. He leaned heavily into Mulder's body and, in spite of his agony, relished the contact.
As he helped Krycek to the bed, Mulder withdrew further and further into his anger and embraced the throbbing in his head, and the sneering voices that laughed at him. He listened as they told him that he was poison and hurt everyone he ever cared about.
I don't care about him, he countered silently.
Yes you do, they answered. Yes you do, but he doesn't care about you. When he feels better, he'll let someone else fuck him and you'll be alone.
Krycek lay against the pillow, his skin paling, his hands clenched into tight fists, his eyes trained on Mulder's back. He fought for air, but the pain was stronger, reducing his breaths to shallow pulls. He tried to move his lips in an effort to form words and felt his strength wash away in subtle waves. Summoning every ounce of energy left, he whispered "Mulder."
The gentle sound pulled Mulder back from his angry red haze. He turned to see sightless eyes pinning him.
Fear replaced the ebbing rage in a single heartbeat. Oh dear God ...
His solitary wail of pain echoed off the walls.
In the end he should have called the paramedics, even though he knew it was too late.
In the end he had no way of knowing he had caused irreparable damage by the futile attempt to administer CPR.
In the end the punches should never have had the force to kill.
But he didn't.
But he had.
But they did.
So he lay there watching, because watching Krycek seemed so normal to him. After all, he'd spent enough years of his life watching him in one way or another, and he wanted so badly to immerse himself in something normal, something routine, anything to remove the bitter ache that he didn't fully understand. Refusing to surrender to sleep, he lay still on his side staring at the peaceful face until late night changed to early morning and the shadows shifted over the ashen skin.
Using his lips he traced the stubbled jaw, dragging them lightly over the cheekbones up to the eyes, gently so as not to disturb him.
The ache returned, making his head hurt and his stomach churn. He knew what it was and, more importantly, what it wasn't. Not love, not in the traditional sense, but a type of twisted love that only made sense in the warped, dark, downward slide of his mind, the part that equated love with ownership. Now it was gone.
Earlier words he had spoken came back to haunt him--I want you to leave--making his head hurt even more. I should have made you leave, Alex.
In the back of his mind he heard the hollow answer, "You never would have let me go", and knew it to be true.
The silence angered him until he couldn't stand it any longer, the resentment bubbling to the surface from deep inside. Holding Krycek's face in his hands, smoothing the spiky hair, he stared hard into the too-pale, flat eyes, and thought about how this man should never have lain with another, and about how his own rage had finally gotten the better of them both. His expression changed to one of grief as waves of regret crashed through his barrier, eroding his defenses, forcing him to relive every thrown punch, every hurled curse, every instance of degradation that had brought him to this moment.
The stillness echoing off the walls told him it was too late to atone, but he wouldn't listen. Instead, he slid down the bed to nuzzle the quiescent penis. Mouthing it, sucking it, raining gentle kisses, finally pulling the length deep into his mouth, but the soft muscle remained dormant. Inhaling the musky scent of hair and skin, he broke the quiet with a tortured groan.
Crawling back up to stare into vacant eyes, he thought about how good they had been together earlier and wondered why it hadn't been enough. From unmoving lips he heard the words, "You never told me how you felt" and felt his body stiffen as his mind screamed, I thought you knew. I thought I knew, but recognized it as a lie.
Horror etched lines on his face while the tears flowed unchecked. Squeezing his eyes shut, he gently laid his head on the right shoulder and lightly ran his fingers over scar tissue on the opposite side. Moving his attention from the arm to the flat nipple, he stroked it lightly, allowing his tongue to snake from dry lips and taste the dusky skin. His throat tightened around a suppressed scream, the strain of holding it in raising the tendons of his neck.
Violently shaking his head, tears spraying over himself and Krycek, he blindly groped the bedside table behind him, his fingers finally closing on an elusive object.
Lifting his head, Mulder stroked the cool cheek, his mouth moving with soundless words, and kissed the colorless lips before placing the barrel of his weapon in his own mouth. After casting one last look, he closed his eyes and squeezed the trigger.
The unmistakable sound of a hollow gunshot rang out in the still morning air, leaving them forever entwined in death, just as they had been in life.
I am fully aware I asked you to suspend belief for the final portion of this story. Let me try to make amends here.
The proper medical term for the event I described in Krycek's death is called 'traumatic aortic rupture.' In layman's terms it is a tear through all three layers of the aortic wall causing a 'high-pressure internal bleed'. It is considered fatal unless medical aid is administered quickly. The major cause is blunt trauma to the chest and usually occurs in a motor vehicle accident (where the sternum is compressed and fractured between objects such as a steering wheel and car seat) or in a severe fall. It can occur with a blow to the chest, usually with a blunt object such as a bat or a rifle butt. In rare instances it can also be occur with a punch where the victim is against an immovable surface such as a brick or cement wall, but it has to be an extremely hard punch where the sternum is broken. It would take two blows -- one to break the rib(s) and the other to compress and rupture the aorta. Any compressions after that fact (such as CPR) would force even more blood out through the tear, hastening death.
Upon reviewing this last part with my husband, who has had extensive training in emergency medical services, he advised against writing the scene as I did saying it was highly unlikely (although he stopped short of saying 'improbable') that Krycek would die in this manner. He maintained that Mulder is not strong enough to break the sternum. I believed that with the rage Mulder was feeling he could have done it and chose, for the sake of dramatic license, to ignore his warning.
I beg forgiveness for that only.
I'd like to thank Krysa for pointing out that if Krycek's sternum had prior blunt trauma damage it could have left it weakened and more susceptible to breakage. My husband and I had also discussed this option. I felt it too difficult to work it into the story but fully recognize its place in the end notes.