A Boy and His Rat - Part 12

By C. M. Decarnin

12.

Alex spent an unhappy morning having his wound treated hourly by Mulder, a
phalanx of cremes and gels and sprays doing not enough to keep it from
smarting constantly.  Mulder forbade him to touch it or pick at the thin
crust that would form, or to scratch it if it itched.  In return, Krycek met
amorous advances with a sullen stoicism that was dampening.

There was nowhere to sit down.

Well there were the two wooden chairs if you wanted to sit bolt upright
looking at nothing.  No tv.  No books.  A bed.  Mulderchow.

Alex prowled.

Mulder sat on the floor against the wall, watching Krycek pad in and out of
the room like a leopard with big plans for the adjacent herd of kudu if he
could once get out of this cage.

It wasn't the idyll Mulder had pictured.

He hadn't factored in just how much Krycek hated pain.  Hadn't really
thought about the fact that he would be in pain.  And there was something
else wrong.  Alex with tears balanced on his lower eyelids, in the shower.
Alex looking at his tattoo, and then looking away quickly, as if nauseated,
or fearful.

Alex pacing.

He'd thought it would be like Falls Church, where he'd begun to learn to
make love to a man.  Out here in the trees they didn't have the suburban
creature comforts, but he hadn't thought Alex would miss them.

Note to self:  Never attempt to take Krycek camping.

But it wasn't only that.

He got up and intercepted Krycek's next pass, catching his arm and waist in
his hands.

And just stood, looking questioningly into his eyes.

He saw all sorts of stormy, anxious, miserable things in Alex's mouth and
eyes and the little lines on his face.

Suddenly, he knew.

"You're thinking about Tunguska."

The naked look Krycek gave him made his heart contract and his veins tingle.
He hardly breathed.

"Not --"  Krycek stuck, and cast wider for words.  "It -- things came back."
Instead of the usual desperation of the hunted creature in his eyes, Mulder
saw a stricken horror, as if whatever chased him had him in its claws.

"You never told me just how it happened."

Krycek jerked away from him, shuddering.

"Did you tell anyone?"

"No."  He shuddered away again.  It was an involuntary attempt to shake off
horror before it could touch him.  "Yes.  But not --"

"You couldn't let out a story of a group of madmen cutting off arms without
it leading straight to the camp and what was happening there.  And letting
that out wouldn't endear you to either of your employers."

"They surrounded me in the woods."  Alex's eyes turned utterly haunted.  "I
told them the wrong lie."

It was, Mulder could see, a fear that filled his life, the way a misstep
comprised death in the mind of a tightrope walker.

"They said they could protect me.  When I fell asleep that night they jumped
on me.  They had a red knife.  Red hot."  There was fine sweat on Krycek's
face.  "I can still feel the first cut.  I can feel it all.  How they broke
the bone."  Under Mulder's hands, Krycek's body was stiff with resistance,
and sudden tremors.  "A chisel against a stone.  I couldn't stop screaming.
A patrol finally found me.  In the hospital I had nightmares.  My father.
All the others."  He looked up at Mulder with wildness in his eyes.  "If I
weren't on this planet myself I'd say give it to the fucking aliens!  Burn
them all..."  His voice died on a breathy gasp.

He expects people to hurt him.  With the slow-motion suddenness of a levee
letting go, Mulder underwent the revelation.  And I see that...  I moved in
on it.

He doesn't want it, but he lives in it, doesn't really understand there is
anything else.  The only kind of attention he's ever had, the only thing
that verified his existence, has been brutality and exploitation.  He wants
me to be different, but I speak to him in the language that he understands.

He wanted all of them to be different.

But no one ever was.

Jesus, not even that priest.  The emblem of purity turned to dross at his
touch.

Now he's wondering...

Mulder reached up and touched the end of Krycek's stump.

"I want you to be mine," he said levelly.  "Not my patsy, not my fling, not
my affair or my source -- just...  Mine."  He traced his fingertip just
under the garland.  "I didn't mean for it to call up bad memories.  I don't
want it to mean that."

He could see Krycek wanting to say something hurt and belligerent, and not
saying it.  Muttering instead, "It just hurts."

"And you're flashing back."

He put his hands on Krycek's shoulders.  Krycek shrugged back from him
again.  Mulder repeated the gesture, shoving when Krycek twisted his
shoulders away, pressing Krycek's retreat till his back hit the wall and he
had to stop, looking down, away.  Lips set.

"You don't want to think of me like that," Mulder said softly, low as a
threat.  "You don't want any of them to come into what we have.  Well,
they're part of your life, Alex.  And I'm part of your life.  But they never
had you the way I have you."  He slid his palm down onto Krycek's chest.
"I've got your heart right in my hands."

Krycek's eyes were closed, his mouth open, submitting.  Mulder slid his
other hand around the back of Krycek's neck, pressed thighs and crotch and
belly close and took his mouth. Warm, wet entry.  "I've never felt this
way," he whispered into the soft lips.  "I'm so jealous over you."

"Because you don't trust me," Krycek said.

"You think?"  Mulder hadn't meant it to sound so bitter.  He blurted, "I
can't think of one good reason why I want you.  You can destroy me, you make
me crazy.  You take everything I am and turn it into everything I'm not.  I
don't know how or why."  He squirmed himself against Krycek.  "I want to
fuck you and hurt you and make you beg me.  To do it some more.

"I don't feel like I have any... bonds on you.  You can just go, and
disappear, any time."

Alex groaned, and laughed breathily at the same time.  "Oh Mulder.  You are
so wrong.  Baby, you put chains on me that day before you ever got out your
handcuffs.  You kissed me on the mouth and I was so yours."  He shuddered
under Mulder's movements.  "Oh god.  Mulder.  Ah --"  The hard length
against Mulder's hip jolted a few times and Krycek came.  He went boneless
between the wall and Mulder's body.  The defenseless softness made Mulder
grind into him, their moans mingling.

"How come all our conversations end up like this," Mulder panted, tremoring
with restraint against the tenderness of Krycek's flesh.

Krycek gave a high gasp of laughter.  He thrust his hand down between them
and stroked down over Mulder's stiffened cock and balls.  He clasped the
genitals gently.  "Because the truth is in there," he said in a voice of
velvet and smoke, and Mulder couldn't answer with anything but inarticulate
sounds.

After a druglike need to nap pulled them both down and paid off an hour of
their sleep debt, after a murmuring and kissing awakening in a strange place
in still crispy-clean sheets, they went for a walk in the woods.  Fall
colors were starting, and enough yellow and scarlet leaves had fallen to
carpet as well as roof their way with transparent fire.  Surrounded with
such sudden glory, they would remember that walk as long as they lived, even
if everything else about the weekend might grow dim.

On their way back Alex suddenly said, shyly, glancing at Mulder and away,
"So what were you doing at Steel?"

Contracting the same awkwardness, Mulder put his hands in his pockets and
admitted, "I thought... I should... do some gay stuff."

Krycek looked at him amazed.  "You mean because of what I said?"

Mulder nodded.  "I thought if I was going to walk the walk, I should learn
to talk the talk.  Or something."

Krycek was staring at him.

"What?" Mulder said half teasing, half defensively.

Krycek still looked half-stunned, but seemed to come back to himself a
little.  "And you decided to start with Steel?  That's not exactly the bunny
slope, Mulder."

Mulder described his forays and final random selection of a bar.  "The funny
thing is, I was actually scared to go in.  But everyone was really nice.
The guy at the door talked to me, asked me if I'd ever been there before.
Probably I looked petrified.  And this other guy I accidentally bumped into.
Friendly crowd.  But then right away I saw you, so..."

Lightning-fast expressions shot across Krycek's amazement before he burst
out laughing.  He backed up through leaves until he hit a tree-trunk, and
pointed at Mulder with a wavering hand.

"What?" Mulder asked, half curious, half affronted.  Krycek had tears
running down his face.

"Mulder -- they -- you -- "  He gasped in breath.  "They were hitting on
you!  Jesus -- Jesus Christ -- before you even got in the door!"  Krycek
howled some more while Mulder stood thunderstruck.

It couldn't be.  Why he had even dressed like --

-- like someone innocent and fresh and harmless.

A sacrificial lamb.

But still -- surely --

It wasn't as if he was -- well -- hot; like Krycek.

Krycek was the expert.  But he must be mistaken.

Krycek had stopped laughing, and in fact was looking at him with a little
sadness, a little perturbation, in his eyes.  "What?" Mulder asked,
concerned.

Krycek looked down.

Leaves riffled around Mulder's feet.  He closed the distance between them.
His hands caressed the sides of Krycek's hips, his waist.  "Tell me."

Alex looked up at him and away, ashamed.

"The truth," Mulder urged, softly.

And Krycek confessed, "I don't want you to meet other gay guys."

Astonishment suffused him.  "Why not?" he blurted, before his brain caught
up with his mouth, and Alex's face was flushed with shame.  "Oh," he
finished stupidly.

"It's a whole world out there," Krycek said painfully.  "Thousands and
thousands of men."  His eyes closed and he whispered, "Almost all of them
better for you than I am."

"Wow," said Mulder after a moment.

Krycek glanced at him miserably.

"First of all... you make it sound like vitamins.  I'm not looking for Mr.
Granola-Bar."

Krycek didn't smile.  "You don't know what it's like.  Sex on demand.
They'd eat you alive.  And you'd love every minute of it.  Pretty soon --"
Krycek looked down again.

Vulnerable and real, he stood not able to meet Mulder's eyes.

"I'd forget you?  Live happily ever after with all the other fish in the
sea?"  Mulder took his face in both hands.  "Alex."  He leaned close.  "You
may be a lot of things.  Forgettable is not one of them."

A shade of a smile fled across the sad lips, but the look that accompanied
it was wise and worldly.  "All that attention?  Everyone making a fuss over
you?  You'd be gone before you knew which way was up."

"Mm."  He let his hands come down onto Alex's shoulders.  "Maybe."  He let
his eyes twinkle.  "But with you, Alex, I always know which way is up.  I
have a little reminder."

Krycek's smile was a bit less theoretical.

When did I start caring if Krycek was unhappy? he thought suddenly, and
felt a frisson of danger that made him pull back a little.  He had held
Krycek in his arms, felt him laugh and come, and the human revelations were
now overlaid on the dark palimpsest that had been the almost mythic,
ever-fleeing traitor.  Krycek felt more real, dimensional, but did that make
him less of a threat?  He had always been exactly this real, a flesh and
blood creature, when he pulled the trigger, stole evidence... betrayed his
partner.  The same man.  The boy with experience of being a sleeper for
years, the youth who seduced the world's biggest secrets out of men for
money or need, the man who killed on command.

Socrates had once said that eros and hero were almost the same word.  What
bravery would it take to discern if Krycek really was his lover, or if it
were all some trap that would redefine the bounds of "Byzantine"?  He had
told Alex that time was the key to trust between them, but in practice he
could not wait.  The world needed them to trust one another, to be lovers
and heroes, now, before it was too late.

He had cast his lot with a killer, out of needs he himself did not
understand, Krycek, for good or bad, was his responsibility, he had claimed
him and marked him, more importantly had mingled the desire of his soul with
him, like one-celled creatures exchanging DNA.  Wherever Krycek went now,
there he would have to go also; there, he realized, was the only place he
truly wanted to be; lead him to what fate it might.

Mulder began to spend less of his spare time working and more of it with
Alex.  When Krycek's spook schedule conflicted, Mulder drifted restlessly
through his apartment unwilling to settle and lose himself in the Internet
or even watch videos.  The thought occurred to him that if the Powers of
Darkness wanted him distracted from the X-Files, they'd come up with a hell
of a good plan.  Monsters came and went, none had the fascination of his own
Creature from the Black Leather Lagoon, none of the UFOs that dutifully
trolled the skies wherever camcorders roamed held a candle to his Sex-Rat
for exotic thrills.

"Have you ever wondered," he asked Scully one Friday as they mulled over a
pile of recent sightings, "why the pilot of an alien stealth vessel on recon
over a world with ground-to-air missile capability would zip around the
night sky with his running lights on?"

"Because otherwise no one would ever know he was there and his existence
would remain a complete secret?" Scully suggested.  Mulder glared at the
folders.

He was going to have to tell her.  Someday when the work was all done, and
the moment was right and he could think how to lead up to it in
conversation.  "No new leads on the Annandale Strangler.  Oh, and speaking
of unconvicted killers --"

He still hardly knew how to admit to himself what he was doing, let alone to
Scully, and there was no way to be certain whether it was ignorance or
knowledge that would put her in the most jeopardy; but it felt wrong to let
it go this far without giving her the option of distancing herself from his
latest insanity.  Sometimes when she looked at him her eyes were so
sorrowful, so troubled, that he knew he must be showing something in his
behavior.  Sometimes in the past he had thought she returned some of the
enormous attraction he had felt toward her.  Knowing it could never work,
valuing her partnership beyond anything he had ever had in his life, and
being so set in solitary ways, it had not even been that hard for him to
leave his wish unexpressed.  But Scully -- they had found each other, thanks
to one of the Smoker's hugest mistakes, and it had been the prize of his
existence, but she must not be allowed to sacrifice more than she had
already.  He felt selfish reluctance to cut off his options with her, but
those options had always been illusory.  Sexually it could not work.
Emotionally -- he had not the generosity she deserved, and he knew it.
Socially -- she wanted a home.  What he had to offer in that line was less
than a joke.  She was still young enough to adopt children, but only with a
real husband to help her.

He blushed inwardly to think how he might merely be flattering himself, but
if she did -- think of him that way -- now, when he had thrown his life into
Krycek's power, was the time to set her free.  He should have done it long
ago.  Maybe already he had held onto her too long.  Where now would she find
the wonder-man who could deserve her?  She had grown too much like him, her
stout pretence that she had a social life of her own had long since withered
and died.  Hm, maybe Skinner, now that his divorce -- oh god no, just what
she needed, another Bureauholic.  And definitely not another driven M.D.
Someone with brains, a scientific bent, a job that didn't involve sidearms.
An academic?  Maybe a nice... botanist.

Well, he couldn't very well choose worse for her than she did for herself.
She had a history of not exactly healthy attractions.  Himself not even the
worst example.  Okay, the vampire sheriff maybe not a fair case in point,
with his more-than-mortal charisma beamed at her.  But that low-life with
the talking tattoo?  And that writer?  No wonder she was so good on the
X-Files, she clearly had radar for weirdness, whether she would admit it or
not.

But his matchmaking thoughts were bringing him no closer to having told her.
And once he did -- the lonely-hearts advice of a man who mated with Alex
Krycek might not carry much weight.

He was afraid she would leave him.

It would be the best thing she could do for herself, but oh god, he didn't
see how he would survive it.

He wondered if she had noticed he wasn't around quite as much.

Mulder not being around quite so much was something of a relief.  Much as
she loved him, it was luxurious to have a little leisure, to visit her
mother, email her brothers and sister-in-law, read a few of the medical
journals that had stacked up so embarrassingly she'd finally quit renewing
her subscriptions.  Sign up for some badly needed CME courses before the
Board yanked her license.

She didn't know if she wanted Mulder to tell her or not.  He looked at her
so guiltily sometimes.  But she didn't know if he could take her knowing
such a thing about him, and still be able to face her as a partner.  He
might find the tension intolerable.  And as long as he said nothing, she
didn't have to openly face her own feelings, decide how she ought to feel.

She loved him.

For many years she had been in love with him.

Repressing it so they could continue to work together, but gradually giving
up on her ridiculous attempts to "date" in the face of the fact that she
didn't care two pins for anyone but him.  Mulder was her world.

He still was.  But, she couldn't say how it had happened, one day she had
just realized she was no longer in love with him.  Maybe it was all she had
been through.  Her body the plaything of humans and aliens, her chance to be
a mother ripped away, death almost embracing her.  The unspeakable loss of
her sister, her anguish when she thought Mulder himself must be dead.  And
maybe -- well, maybe her shrewd, quiet center had added up everything it had
learned about Mulder over the years and just said, "Uh-uh."

He couldn't give her what she'd always wanted; but she had known that after
a week with him.  Maybe her subconscious had just grown bored with paradox
and the unobtainable.

Mulder of course adored her.  He had even decided to sell his soul to the
Smoking Man if it could save her life.  Mulder would do anything for her.
Except be with her.

He would abandon his mission, to keep her alive, yes.  But he'd never leave
it merely to live with her.

Her obsession was with Mulder.

His obsession was his quest.

He'd looked at her with that look, sometimes.  As at something he could
never have.  Knowing the reason lay in him, not her.

Hard questions there.  Would she love him without his obsession?  It sure as
hell took pressure off her, and she liked that, the chance to examine him
minutely when he wasn't paying attention to her.  His never putting the
moves on her had gradually transformed him into a knight in shining armor.

On another level of course he was an irremediable twit, but that was
baseline guy.  That wouldn't change no matter where you looked.

And now there was this gay thing.

Scully sighed.

Couldn't Mulder ever do anything the easy way?

She personally knew several perfectly nice, eligible gay bachelors with
respectable jobs, kinkless sex lives, and no unsolved murders clouding their
recent past.  The one who taught at Georgetown U. was even strikingly
handsome.

If Mulder was going to all of a sudden decide he was gay, was he so unaware
of his attractions that he thought he could do no better than Alex Krycek?

And Krycek had gone back again, to wherever it was he went when Mulder let
him go.  The tactile memories so strong it was as if he still felt Krycek's
hand on the bare skin of his shoulder, Krycek's naked body against him.
Stopping him in his tracks sometimes, bending him with a breathy
exclamation, in his chair.  It became a torture at times, not knowing where
Krycek was, not being able to locate him, lay hands on him.  The softness of
his poochy sac while he squirmed under Mulder's curious touch, too sensitive
there to endure that stroking lying still, welcoming Mulder's lips and wet
tongue as a soothing relief.  Holding Krycek's wrist down on the bed so he
couldn't interfere.  God he loved torturing that man.

"Mulder."  Scully was looking across the office at him with a strangely
determined, yet highly uncharacteristically shy expression.  "I'm having
dinner with a friend of mine Saturday night, and I'd like you to come too."

Mulder looked at her blankly.

"He's a very old friend and I'd like for you to meet him."

"Dinner?"  ("Him"?)

"You know -- forks, napkins -- table?"

"Oh yeah," he stalled, "where you kill and skin your own moose instead of
getting it delivered to your front door."  No, Krycek wasn't available
Saturday, he'd said.  ("A guy's got to make a living," was exactly what he'd
said.  "You keep kidnapping me on my busiest nights.")

"Angelhair pasta, baby greens, home-made cheesecake," Scully said, dangling
it.  "Kevin is a great guy.  And you might even want to consult him on a
case someday."

Mulder raised his eyebrows.

"Of course his work is in taxonomy more than forensics, but you never know.
He teaches botany over at Georgetown."

Botany?

Mulder felt a slow upswelling of hatred for Kevin and all his works.

"Sure," he said, smiling.  "I'll be there."

Kevin lived in an apartment building far too ritzy for a botany professor.
Of course he was single, without a family to support, but he would have to
seriously rearrange his priorities if he expected to support Scully and a
couple of adopted kids.  Did he have any idea how much it cost to put a kid
through school these days?  And if they were going to stay in Georgetown,
those kids would not be risking their lives going to D.C. public schools,
thank you very much.  Good lord, there was artwork in the lobby.  A
wall-fountain.

Mulder shifted his grip on the wine bottle and smiled at Scully in the
elevator.  She had with difficulty steered him away from the Asti Spumanti,
so he had clung determinedly to his next choice, a Beaujolais, saying
airily, "Relax, Scully, red is the new rosé."

Like anyone would want to drink pink wine.  Except maybe Kevin.  He had
heard more about the wonders of Kevin in the past few days and on the way
over than he'd thought Scully could possibly know about anyone, let alone
some guy Mulder had never heard her mention before this week.  Kevin's great
cooking, Kevin's (totally impractical for groceries or taking the kids to
the dentist) sports car, Kevin's taste in books, movies, clothes, decor, and
even Kevin's interest in the possibilities of extraterrestrial plantlife.

Mulder had always had to drag Scully, kicking and screaming, into any
discussion of little green aliens.  Whether they had legs or leaves.  Now
she couldn't shut up about the subject.  Had brought it up twice.

Mulder had dressed with quiet elegance.  No one was going to say he acted
like a churl at Scully's beau's home.  He would give him the benefit of
every doubt and would not say a word against him until he had given him a
fair hearing.  He would be on his best behavior.

"Hi, Dana."  Kevin gave Scully a hug.  "Mulder, good to meet you.  I hope
you don't mind me calling you that, it's the way I hear Dana saying it all
the time."

Mulder displayed as many teeth as possible and stuck out his wine bottle.

It was an agonizing evening, the more so because he couldn't let any of it
show, and because he began to suspect that Kevin really was a great guy.  He
got Mulder's jokes, treated Scully with affection and respect, gave an
excited tour of his own plant collection with histories and anecdotes
leaning distinctly toward the risqué.  He had the South American bat flower
that Mulder had only heard of before.  It might have creeped out a lesser
man, thought Mulder stalwartly, taking care not to possibly injure it by
brushing against, or anywhere near, its long black tentacles.  "It was left
at the lab at the end of a semester," Kevin explained fondly.  "I found it
all dried out and dying.  I never could resist an orphan."

Kevin's food and drink were excellent.  Panic seized Mulder with the
cheesecake.  Anyone who could make this from scratch had a decent shot at
keeping Scully, or anyone else, happy for life.

The man could keep houseplants alive.

He was so good-looking Mulder felt dowdy and mortified.

Scully kept looking brightly between them as if hoping, against all odds,
that they would like each other.

Mulder smiled so much his cheeks hurt.

He excused himself and inspected the bathroom medicine cabinet for
prescription drugs.

Aspirin.  Aftershave.

Astroglide.

Mulder wanted to fling himself across the bedroom door, wedging his feet and
freezing to the jambs with both hands.

Better yet, burn the bed.

A small conflagration that would damage nothing else, but would leave the
mattress a smoking husk.

Not his Scully.

No matter how good he looked on the surface, there had to be something
deeply flawed about a man who was still single at thirty-eight.  He would
pinpoint the underlying fault if it took him all night.

Botany.  What kind of murkily hidden proclivities would be characterized by
a love of leaves and flowers?  A distaste for human interaction, attraction
to the chthonic, need for total power over his subjects... helpless against
him there in their little pots, green hands raised pathetically in
supplication --

Put that way, the man was a monster, his balcony greenhouse and his
laboratory dens of horrors.

Put that way, so had been his Great-Aunt Ruth, watering her zinnias and
portulaca and the parsley planted in upended cinderblocks.

Scully deserved a good man.  Mulder would never try to come between her and
the right suitor.

It was just that he was certain, objectively and impartially, that Kevin was
not that man.  He might be okay for an ordinary woman.  Mulder's newly honed
gay sensibilities could even detect that Kevin might be attractive.  If you
liked that kind of thing.  Tall.  Dark.  Sinfully handsome.  Smart.  Funny.
Tenderhearted.  Employed.  Single.  All of that might appeal to some
women.

Depth.

He probably lacked depth.  Probably shallow as rain pooled on a salt flat,
under all that surface charm.

Scully would never go for that.  She liked hidden deeps, profound
attachment, unfathomable capacity for pain.

At least, he thought she did, though he wasn't sure where he had got the
idea.

When he came out they had moved into the living room and were talking
quietly, some Mose Allison playing softly in the background.  The lights
were low, and as he came around the corner, a glimpse of the faintest,
slightest shadow of beard on the side of Kevin's face reminded him
unexpectedly of Krycek.  A pang of loneliness.  Here Scully was with her
guy, Alex was out with god knew whom, both of them, in their way, leaving
him behind, alone.  When he sat down and they didn't immediately turn to
him, engrossed in their discussion, Mulder felt truly excluded.  This was
how it would be, now.  Mulder the fifth wheel, obligatory guest at
Thanksgiving and other warm family gatherings, outside looking in on the
happiness Scully had found.

He reminded himself that before that could happen they might be colonized by
soul-sucking aliens.

The thought cheered him considerably.

Kevin turned to ask his opinion, and drew him kindly into the conversation.
Mulder had to admit, the guy was well-intentioned, sensitive to others.

Sensitive...

Oh.

My.

God.

Late thirties.

Single.

Good taste.

Cooks.

Doesn't come across as an emotional cripple with the peculiar lifestyle
choices of a crank, like, well, himself or the Lone Gunmen --

Oh no.

Scully.

Like forked lightning, a half-dozen feelings had shot through him at once:
Pity and horror for Scully.  Ignoble thrill at not being about to lose her.
Self-congratulation for making the connection with his new range of
awareness.  Awareness of how murderously Krycek would look at him for his
stereotyping.  Terror at having to tell Scully.

Why the hell hadn't the man told her himself?  "Old friend"?  What kind of
old friend didn't tell you he was gay?

He could be wrong.

The guy didn't have a mustache.

As they walked out to the car, Mulder, allowing as how Kevin "seemed like a
nice guy" in answer to Scully's happily tipsy questioning, wondered how he
could tell her.  He was almost sure.  Spending four years in the mountains
of Peru and Patagonia, and another two reclassifying the plants of the
Arctic Circle was really no excuse.  Your ordinary straight guy got married
no matter what.  He knew he had to warn her, to save her from a terrible
mistake, but why should she believe him?  Would she guess he was saying it
because he had -- experience?  And would that lead her scientific thought
processes to the weirdness of his partnering up with Krycek, and --

Or, she might think he was just saying it out of jealousy.

Argh.

Maybe he could find some other way to let her know.

Scully looked over at Mulder slyly, smiling more broadly than she really
meant to.  That was darn fine bubbly they'd finished up with.  She was
thrilled that her plan had gone so well.  Only one hitch.  Mulder hadn't
seemed to have a clue that Kevin was gay.

Maybe she should have told him at the start.  But Mulder was so intuitive.
She was terrified he would somehow deduce that she knew he was having sex
with Krycek.  Moreover, that she was trying to split them up.  Even now, if
she point-blank mentioned Kevin's orientation, Mulder might make one of
those lightning leaps of translogic and then she'd have to explain.  The
tape --

Argh.

Better to let them get to know and like each other first.  If Mulder knew
what motivated her he would probably turn around and reject Kevin out of
hand.  Mum's the word, she thought, and giggled delightedly at her cunning.

Mulder was looking at her with the tolerant superiority of a designated
driver.  Well, next time she would drive, and maybe Mulder would get so
sloshed Kevin would invite him to stay the night, and --  Who knew?

It was all working out very well, one way or another she was going to save
him from a terrible mistake.  And any way you looked at it, "terrible
mistake" was the very definition of Alex Krycek.

When he was laired up somewhere, Krycek always had Cheerios for breakfast.

He figured there was calcium in the milk, and oat bran was good for you,
and, with the sugar, it only needed three ingredients, none of which had to
be peeled or sliced.  Though he sometimes cut up a banana onto it, if he had
any.

If a client had somehow trapped him into staying the night, he ate whatever
he was offered.

Today it was hashbrowns, eggs over easy, toast, butter, bacon, orange juice
and coffee.  His trick made him hide in the bathroom until Room Service had
left.  When he came out and saw that they were having a celebration of
National Cholesterol Day, he felt a lonely pang for Mulder.  He smiled
politely, ate everything on his plate, did the trick again and pried a
couple more state secrets out of him, took a graceful leave, and shuddered
all the way down in the elevator.

It was getting harder and harder to let them touch him.  Stuff that had come
back to him after Mulder tattooed his arm.  It wasn't so bad when they were
total strangers, but the ones he knew well, and detested...  Maybe he would
need career training after Mulder released the Mother File.  A
matchbook-cover course in landscape design.  He was getting a little long in
the tooth to be a rent boy.  One day they would look at him and just not
bite.  Of course he had... skills... that had kept him going long after the
typical hustler was washed up.  But it happened to everyone sooner or later.
Mulder wouldn't like it if he took on a hit, nor did he want to have to flee
the country, an all-too-common aftermath of such employment.  Besides, he
had never killed a non-political.  It didn't seem like a good idea to start
now.

What else did he know how to do?  Law enforcement would not be an option,
with his prints and Skinner's candid remarks generously shared among several
national databanks.  He felt as if his past were slowly closing him into a
corner.  Without protection at Cancer Man's level, his work was a lot
harder, and he could never be sure he had all the pieces, these days.  And
he was constantly having to take time to earn money.

When he got outside it was pissing down rain.  He'd ridden in the trick's
car to the hotel last night, so he caught a couple of buses and walked the
last twenty crooked blocks to Mulder's place, doubling routinely to clear
his trail.  He liked walking in rain.  A secret vice.  It messed up your
clothes and your hair and made you just another animal in the world, washing
off the civilization and motive and work like dirt.  It reminded him of the
days, cold and alone except for Kolya, when he had tasted what it meant to
be free, and to love, something he had never been allowed.  Before or since.
The streets here didn't have that Russian smell, that had hit him and taken
him straight back, when Mulder had kidnapped him to Tunguska.  The scent of
Russian airports and streets and back roads that had seeped into his
awareness of Mulder, as if the two of them were on the road together,
escaping, instead of following a black rock back to the hell it had come
from, Krycek washed in alternate tides of desire and fear at Mulder's hot,
dangerous body close beside him, night and day.  Moments he'd thought about,
afterward.

Now he held his face up to the rain and let it rinse off the touches of last
night's trick, and bring him down to the earth of cold water, wind, late
dawn on a Saturday, no one else around, the streets his.  The back way, of
course, to Mulder's building.  He had to stop coming here so much.  If
anyone even saw him in this neighborhood...  At first, they would think he
was doing just what they were, surveilling Mulder.  They wouldn't get any
chance for second thoughts, if he could help it.  Still it was a foolish
risk --

Someone was out in the hall in their bathrobe picking up the morning paper,
so he was forced to knock without hesitation on Mulder's door, instead of
boinking the lock.  The look of surprise he got to savor when Mulder
answered the door wasn't quite the same erotic taste as when he slid into
Mulder's bed or grazed against him unannounced in the little kitchen or
breathed on the back of his neck as he obliviously watched tv on the couch,
but it would do.  He never got over the little thrill of seeing Mulder look
happy to see him.

"You're dripping," Mulder complained, trying to cover up that embarrassing
instant as always.  Krycek knew Mulder wouldn't much care if someone had
sluiced down the hall with buckets, in fact it might have been an
improvement.  Mulder went to push the leather jacket back off his shoulders
to hang it up to dry.  Instead, Krycek, soaked and cold, pushed up against
him, flattened him to the wall, making his rain chill soak through the
boxers and tee Mulder had been sleeping in so that he yelped; and covered
Mulder's mouth with a cold, rain-tasting kiss.

The strong vanilla ambrosia of morning-Mulder drew the line sharply between
warm, cozy indoors and cold wild morning where hustlers got turned out onto
the sidewalk and animals of the night went home to their dens.  If they were
lucky, having caught something tasty.

Mulder squirmed sexily, sandwiched tight.  Trying to get his arms out from
the chrysalis of Krycek's pressure, stopping when Krycek slowly, cautiously,
entered his mouth with his tongue.

Mulder made a sound down in his throat.  But kept still, allowing the
touches on his inner surfaces, the filling and withdrawing.  Krycek fucked
his mouth tenderly, aggressively, and ended lunging his crotch hard into
Mulder's hip six times, a seventh -- and breathing out long, slow, a silent
moan across the peaks of his ecstasy.  He shuddered hard, like a badly tuned
car.

Then softened all over.  Mulder got his arms free and around him, and he
rubbed his face blissfully in and over Mulder's soft, soft hair.  He too had
a home now, and he was wrapped in it.

"Well," said Mulder carefully after a moment.  "And good morning to you,
too."

Krycek laid his head on Mulder's shoulder.  "Can I sleep in your waterbed?"

Krycek was so worn down from his past two days' and nights' activities that
he was still asleep when Mulder looked in at him at noon.  He had started
out curled up warmly in the covers, but had gradually thrown them off until
he was lying heavy and vulnerable in Mulder's oversized sleep-boxers and a
big button-front shirt of thinnest cotton he'd unearthed at the back of
Mulder's closet.

Even asleep, Mulder thought, he looked dangerous.  He set down the little
pile of Krycek's clothes he had annexed from where they were not noticeably
drying in the bathroom; he'd run them through the washer and dryer while
Alex slept.

Dangerous.  Yet yummy.  Mulder drifted closer.  He saw Krycek's eyes slit
open, identify him, and close.  Mulder had had to make do with low-sound PBS
all morning, patient yet aware of his lover's body sprawled in the next
room, a hot solid presence in his mind while the Kratt brothers imitated
leopards and Teletubbies did everything twice.  Awake, Krycek was fair game.

Mulder slunk across the bed on hands and knees, eyes fixed on his big,
sleepy prey, straddled him with one arm and sank down to whuff his shirt.
"It's a beautiful day."  Mulder worried one buttonhole off its button with
his teeth.  "In this neighborhood," he growled, running his hand over
Krycek's groin, not pausing at any of the shapes under the cloth.  He
breathed, in a hot little song close to his body, "I have always wanted to
have a neighbor just like you."  And insidiously, shifting his crotch over,
"Always wanted to be in a neighborhood with you..."

"And people think I'm perverse," Krycek mumbled, letting his eyes fall shut
again.

"A beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor..."
Mulder's breath was soft on him, his hips weighted.  "Would you be mine --"
Mulder rocked a slow one on Krycek's sleep-hard.  "Would you be mine --"
Another slow rock.  "Oh won't you be..."  Mulder's mouth worked its way up
under Krycek's ear, and breathed:  "-- my neighbor --" as he started to drag
slow and hard, Krycek's thigh, hip, and loin muscles responding, harder at
every stroke, Krycek's head whipping right.  Left.  Krycek seized up under
him, but he didn't stop, driving hard to a climax jellied by every shake
Krycek gave, every cry and gasp, his still sleep-soaked mews and moans
endearing and touching in a way that made Mulder want to both protect and
hurt him.  He settled for finishing the dry-hump with solicitous kisses he
knew Krycek would like.  "Enslaving him," he thought consolingly, "to my
will."  He was rewarded with Krycek's hand on the back of his neck, gentle
adoration.

And then he heard the words, barely breathed:  "I love you."

It sent a chill down his spine, at the same time the phone rang, a weird
double sensation.  He let the answering machine get it, as he lifted up to
look into Krycek's still sex-flushed face.  The eyelids were lowered, but
the expression told him he hadn't imagined the wisp of sound.  Was he right
that Krycek had never, till now, said the words?  Did it mean something
special had happened to him, or was it just the result of gradually getting
used to new feelings, stealing through him like regenerating nerve-endings,
till they finally were familiar enough to find their name?  The words
whispered through him, like white ghosts.  The way Krycek said them, so shy
and proud, made them sound holy.

He let his lips touch Alex's.

Nothing he could say back could mean as much.  It came over him that he was,
in a very real way, Alex's first lover.  He stroked his cheek against
Krycek's.  Love had a way of showing everything at once, like
Englightenment; you knew what to do, which way to go, the rules and
regulations and priorities, as if you'd been born with a guidebook.  Yet
each step was an unknown quantity, and Krycek must feel himself on very
shaky ground offering himself to Mulder, the totality of himself, for it to
have taken so long for him to dare to say the words.

Mulder rolled him enough to get his arms under and around him, in the way he
knew made Krycek feel loved and safe.  After a minute he slid right, to free
Alex from his weight.

It had taken time for him to learn he couldn't lie with his whole weight on
Alex without shutting off his air supply.  Because Krycek was male, because
he was solid, in a way that Mulder wasn't, he had started out assuming an
invulnerability that wasn't there.  The lubricious sense of that solidity,
the meatiness of that ass and cushiony thighs, the undeniable strength he
was mastering -- inside the monument of masculinity was flesh easier to hurt
than he had imagined.  Fit, but not athletic, looking at hand-to-hand combat
as a last resort only for emergencies -- Alex had looked at him like he was
a simpleton when he expressed surprise at Krycek's lack of black belts and
secret moves; a serious man used a gun, end of story -- he was not as strong
as Mulder, who ran and worked out.

Krycek looked over at his own left arm -- his expression saddened, as if
what he saw symbolized more than one lack.  His eyes were dark when he
looked up at Mulder.

"I wish I could hold you.  So much sometimes.  Like I wish..."  The eyes
fell again.

"What?"

"I wish I were someone who... deserved you.  Someone..."  He shrugged
slightly, and wouldn't look at Mulder.  "Different."

"I don't want someone different," Mulder said quietly.

Krycek's eyes closed.  "You don't know."

"I don't know what I want?"

"You don't know what I am."

Mulder slowly kissed Krycek's chest through the shirt.  It was true.  There
was much he didn't know, much it was probably best if he never found out.
He stroked the thin cotton material.  Krycek lived as a pariah, and knew it.

"Did you ever think, Alex, you might be the hero of this battle?  That you
might be the only one who can do what has to be done?"

"I'm the fucking toilet brush of this battle, Mulder.  I clean up the
shit."  Mulder felt the single hand smooth up the side of his ribcage.
"That's what I do."

"You see everything in the big picture.  Except yourself."

Krycek lay looking at him, his big shoulders seeming more bulked up with
Mulder's narrow fingers on them, his face darker in Mulder's shadow.

"I'm a thug."  His only hand found Mulder's face.  Mulder sensed the
wistfulness of the touch.

He returned the caress on Krycek's cheek.  "You're my thug."

He moved away slightly so he could touch the tattoo on Krycek's stump.  It
had lost its first shiny brightness as the color had sunk deeper into the
skin, permeating him cell by cell.  "Mine."

Krycek looked away, as if knowing he had failed to make his point.

"Don't kill anybody," Mulder said.  "Don't beat anybody up.  And we'll be
fine."  Krycek didn't say anything.  "I mean you don't have a compulsion
to do that stuff, right?"  Krycek shook his head, still not looking back at
Mulder.  Mulder thought he probably shouldn't ask the next question, but he
did want to know.  "How... how do you feel, when you do it?"

Krycek was silent.  Finally he said, "I don't feel anything."

It was an appalling answer.  "Not angry?"

"Sometimes I'm pissed that I have to do it.  If it's -- unexpected."

"Scared?"

Krycek got a peculiar look on his face.  "No more than always."

Well, he'd known that.  Krycek existed on an adrenaline plane that would
give most people a heart attack.  Did he live always in hyper-aware slow
motion, like those seconds when your car went out of control and you knew
you were going to hit something?  The wide eyes and hard breathing --

Was that what attracted him?  It hadn't been there, or only in subtle form,
when Krycek had been his partner, but in every encounter afterward panic had
blasted off him, heightening Mulder's response.  Now, the murderer could
sometimes lie in his arms, at peace, love in his eyes, a shining look of
happiness and adoration, or sleepy content.  Intoxicating too, in a
different way.  The tamed affection -- for him alone -- of a wild thing.

"As long as you're here, you want to stay till dark?"

Krycek's arm went around the back of Mulder's neck.  "Yeah.  Okay."

Krycek rolled slowly to the side of the waterbed after Mulder had wandered
off to see about lunch.  The sensation of the rolling water, soft sheets,
and Mulder's nearness combined into an ambrosial sense of luxury and
reluctance to leave.  He lay with his arm hanging over the edge of the
soft-side, letting the bliss cling to him.

He hadn't been able to get across to Mulder the foreknowledge he felt, that
his kind was not meant for a mate, especially not with the parfit gentil
knyght, Fox Mulder.  He knew he was missing some of the emotions other
people felt.  Or rather, the response of feeling them in the same situations
other people would.  He was the monster the perfect knight should slay.  He
giggled.  With his long, hard lance...  Why dontcha come up and... slay me
sometime...  He giggled again.  He felt Mulder's mouth, in memory, warm
around his member.  Oh god, the gift that life had given him.  As if to show
that all the rest was only a contrasting setting for this one, this perfect,
treasure.

With a groan of reluctance, limb by limb he disjoined himself from the
waterbed and stood up.  He used the bathroom and got into his clothes.  The
smell of soup or something had percolated to this end of the apartment, and
he went looking for Fox.

From the hall he heard the beep of an answering machine playing back, and
instinctively stopped, not to barge in on Mulder's private messages.  But he
could hear the strong male voice clearly when it came on, and what it said
drew him to the edge of the door, where he could see.

"Hi, Mulder, it's Kevin Logan.  I enjoyed meeting you at dinner the other
night, I thought you might want to grab a beer."  While a phone number was
recited Krycek very, very slowly raised his eyes to Mulder.  Trying to cover
any expression that might hint at how his heart was shattered, the shards
cutting slices through his chest and his whole being.

Mulder was writing down the number.

Mulder came out of the bar laughing at one of Kevin's plant stories.  He'd
let Kevin pick the place, but it turned out to be just a dark, quiet,
neighborhood kind of bar -- Kevin's neighborhood, so it pained Mulder to
pick up the very upscale tab for every other round.  Not a noticeably gay
gestalt; and Kevin had made no comments or overtures, though Mulder had
attempted to emit vibes.  He just wasn't sure what frequency he should try.
He didn't want to come on too strong, he just wanted Kevin to feel safe to
open up around him.  Maybe it was too much to expect that someone who was
closetted to a longtime friend like Scully would come out to him on only a
second meeting.

He got the clear feeling, though, that Kevin was scoping him out, making
decisions on every word he said and weighing him in some balance of his own.
His eyes were sharp, considering, even when he kept up a string of weird and
funny anecdotes.

Maybe Mulder just wasn't picking up the signals.  Like at Steel.  Maybe he
had gone out with one too many videos and could no longer recognize what a
real-world come-on sounded like?

Straightening from his laugh he caught something out of the corner of his
eye, a sort of black reflection.  And then Krycek was standing there, black
on black in the shadow across the street, a look on his face Mulder had
never seen before.  Like he might look with black sclera.  A calm, dead,
deadly look.  No, not deadly.

Death.

And Mulder realized Krycek wasn't aware he had been seen, because he wasn't
looking at Mulder.

He was looking at Kevin.

"Listen," Mulder said, "I have to call somebody before it gets any later and
I forgot my cell phone.  Why don't you go on down and order.  I'll be there
in a couple of minutes."  They had decided to put their faith in the
beer-absorbing qualities of pizza before driving home.  Kevin had said the
place was only two blocks down.

Mulder sprinted across the little-trafficked street and Krycek had no time
to do more than fade further into his shadows.  Mulder saw his eyes follow
Kevin, still with that all-black look, and then fall as Mulder came up to
him.

"What?" Mulder panted.  Krycek neither spoke nor moved.  "What did you
want?"

Then he saw Krycek was trembling from head to foot.  Almost still, like a
wire that had been struck at high tension.

"What's wrong?" he said instantly.

Krycek raised his chin toward where Kevin waited at a red light.  "Who's
your friend?"  His voice was silk and satin.

"Kevin Logan.  Friend of Scully's.  What did you want me for?"

Krycek's eyes raised to him, black in the darkness.  "Scully."

"Hey -- I know you only got a glimpse of him, but do you think he could be
gay?"

Krycek looked at Kevin crossing with the light and back at Mulder.  "Of
course he's gay."

Mulder punched his fist halfway in the air, near his chest.  "Yes!"  He
folded his elation away at Krycek's look, and only boasted sotto voce, "See,
I'm getting gaydar.  So, what did you need me for?"

Krycek's eyes moved across his, and back.  "I need you for everything."

Mulder's lips twitched.  But Kevin would be waiting.  "You weren't looking
for me?"

"Just curious."

"Are you coming down with something?  You sound congested."  Krycek said
nothing.  "You got pretty soaked the other day.  Man," he said half to
himself but vehemently.  "I knew he must be gay.  Man."  Krycek was
completely silent.  "Um..."  He hesitated.  But Krycek was an expert.  In
more ways than one.  "What do you think I should do?  This woman is, like,
seeing him, maybe even thinking of getting married -- not knowing he's gay."
Krycek sank back against the wall.  He looked like his current had been
switched off.  He smiled at Mulder.  Mulder asked, "I've got to stop it,
right?"

"You want me to kill him for you?"

"Would you?  I mean if it's not too much trouble."  He looked at Krycek's
curious limp posture.  Boneless looked good on him.  "Joke," he added.  Just
in case.

"I got that."  Krycek was still smiling at him.

"I gotta go."  Mulder took a half-step away.

"Yeah."

"You think I should talk to him?"

"I think you should talk to her."

"What if she doesn't believe me?"

"Run him.  Background check.  Known associates.  Pictures.  Bug his
bedroom."

"You don't think I should just get him to make a pass at me?"

"Not unless you're wearing a wire.  If she won't believe you."

"Oh, she'd believe me.  If something actually happened that I could tell her
about.  Instead of just an impression."

"So tell her."

"Lie?"

Krycek looked back at him encouragingly.

Mulder hesitated.  Embarrassed.

Krycek peeled himself slowly forward off the wall, gently put his arm around
Mulder's neck, and leaned his cheek on Mulder's.  He mumbled, "God.  I
should know better."  His embrace tightened.  He stood there a moment before
he pulled back.  "You should go."  He was looking at Mulder almost as if
he'd never seen him before.  Intent.  Ardent.

"Are you sure you're not sick?  You looked kind of pale and feverish a
minute ago."

Krycek gave his breathy laugh.  "No one ever said I'm not sick, Mulder."
His hand roughly caressed Mulder's face.  "But I'm fine."  He was still
studying him as if he had found some strange, alien artefact.

Mulder still wasn't totally convinced.  Krycek had looked downright weird.
But Kevin would probably have their pizza by now, and he still had to get
him to make a move.  He pulled Krycek's head to him, matched lips, swiped in
once with his tongue, and took off.

Krycek's eyes burned black as he watched Mulder trot away across the street.
When he was sure he was out of sight, he let himself slide down along the
wall.

Oh god.

What had he nearly done.

Just from not thinking to remember Mulder's integrity.

And if he had done it, then Mulder really would have broken with him, and
he would have brought it all entirely on himself.

Shaking, he pulled his knees up tight to his body and hid his head on his
arm, crunching as small as he could.

Mulder had never dreamed why he was here.  Mulder believed in him.

Oh god.  Oh god.

He had to learn this.

To be Mulder's.

To do only what Mulder would want him to do.

Or he would lose him.

To no imagined lover of Mulder's native class, but to his own underworld
assumptions.

Oh god he had come so close.  He saw the thousand-foot cliff at his feet and
pulled his toes in tighter.

When Mulder was jealous he had seared a tattoo into Krycek's skin, staked
his claim harder.

Krycek had never felt jealousy before.  It had simply mutated immediately
within him into something he knew.  Absolute removal of a problem.

Except it wouldn't have.  It would have made everything hundreds of times
worse.  It would have destroyed him.  It might have destroyed them both.

And neither of them had had any actual cause to be jealous.  It came over
him as a revelation.

The other difference was, Mulder immediately told him what he felt.  He
smiled, still, a small secret smile.  Mulder possessive.  Of him.  Maybe
Mulder too would have liked it, knowing how he was coveted.  But... it
wasn't the same.  He had chosen Mulder after a lifetime of sex.  If you
could call it choosing, that utter surrender of all he was, at Mulder's
single kiss.  But he was Mulder's only man.  What were the odds you'd get
what you wanted, needed, first time out of the gate?  It tore at him,
knowing Mulder could take his pick, in a field of infinite choices he hadn't
even seen yet.  When he did see... what chance would dirty little Alex have
for his heart?  He had spent too much of his life up against alley walls for
the grit ever to wash out.

The first time he met Mulder, he'd known the man had been raised with
wealth.  That innocence, that only the rich could afford, underlay all of
his thinly acquired cynicism.  True wealth lay in knowing you had never done
anything wrong.  Because your life had been arranged so that you never had
to.

Within days he'd also seen how Mulder had grown up with pain.  It soaked off
him whenever he became aroused by any emotion.

Krycek had drifted closer...

What if he couldn't control this?  Panic swept him.  He had to.  He had to.

He raised his head and sucked breath in.

He'd never killed anyone just because he felt like it.

No, but you've killed so you could survive.

Wrestling that militia moron for his gun when he wouldn't stop the truck;
firing when he realized the guy was stronger than he was.

This felt like the fight of his life, but he wouldn't be allowed to hit
back.

He pictured Mulder sending him to jail for murder.  Mulder would do it.

It would probably be the thing that finally put Mulder in an asylum.

And -- Jesus.  FBI's Gay Love Triangle Killing.  Mulder's career would be
just another grease-spot on the Beltway.

These were the kinds of factors that normally came to Krycek like the air he
breathed.  It terrified him to see how totally control had slipped away
without his even realizing it, and how irrevocable a mistake it would have
been.

He pulled his toes back still tighter to his body.

He knew what irrevocable felt like.

You knew you couldn't really have him, right from the start.

Fuck.

He'd been swinging through the trees faster and faster ever since he'd met
Mulder, praying for a vine, a branch, falling, saving himself or being
caught and pulled back into the canopy -- the Black Oil, the silo, Mulder
nearly fucking shooting him, Tunguska, capture on the Star of Russia, pure
luck he wasn't burned to death in the hangar with the others --

Maybe he'd been out of control for a long time.

What else was there to do...  The only way to be safe would be to rule the
fucking world.  He laughed a hysterical short catch of breath.  Oh yeah.
That would be safe.  Wouldn't be in anybody's crosshairs then.

He hated it.  Had hated learning there was no level you could be at where it
all ended, and you were safe, no side you could be on that could protect
you, no point to the fucking struggle.

The only point was the beautiful square shape where the back of Mulder's
thumb jointed to his hand, the hesitant look that never really left his eyes
except in extremity of passion, that matchless lucent satin curve from the
backs of his thighs to the small of his back, and the curve of his back
above that...

Mulder was his power.

Mulder was his safety.

He could face anything, be anything.  If Mulder stayed with him.

"Fox."  He whispered it.

Another thing a one-armed man couldn't do:  put his hands together and pray.
 
 

When he got up and left the shadows at last, he knew what his next job would
be.  Something he hadn't exactly been putting off, but that he wasn't
completely sure he could accomplish.  Now he knew he had to.

Mulder walked into the pizza place slowly, checking table by table till he
spotted Kevin.  He had had four beers in a little over two hours, knew he
shouldn't drive, knew he was going to anyway.  The kind of thing people did
every day.  Cars don't kill people, morons kill people...  Maybe you should
have to take a breathalyzer test before your ignition would work...  He just
felt a little mellow but in fact his reaction times were probably down
twenty percent...  Though it felt as if some of his responses were actually
faster, closer to the surface.  Recognizing Krycek from just the way the
light hit his black leather.  Strange running into him here.

He plunked into the plastic chair opposite Kevin and reached for pizza, his
half the side with the anchovies on it.  The first bite was succulent; his
eyes closed.  Mmmmm.

When he looked, Kevin was smiling.  Liked to see a man enjoy his food,
apparently.  Mulder laughed back and all of a sudden Kevin looked really,
really good, eyes sparkling, face kindly, hair shining, body warm and shaped
well, it would feel good to hug him, feel good to --

Mulder jerked himself back with a visible start from that precipice.

Fuck!

He was drunker than he thought.

And Kevin had noticed.  He could see it in his eyes.  Acknowledgment.  And
something else.  Thought.  While he ate his slice of pizza, from the half
that had green pepper, which Mulder couldn't abide.

When he put the crust down, Mulder could see he'd made up his mind.

"Are you involved with anyone?"

It wasn't a question Mulder had been expecting.  His thoughts stalled out.
His hand stopped, pizza slice half-raised. Caught!

Kevin laughed.  "You look like Bambi in the headlights.  Listen, all I meant
was...  Dana is a really good person.  You've been all she could talk about
for years.  When she brought you to meet me I thought you and her finally --
But it seemed like you were more interested in me than in Dana."

Mulder's thoughts had snarled up like kitten-tangled yarn, only the one
point standing clear.  "Scully talks about me?"

Kevin sobered.  "What's the deal, Mulder?  Are you bi, or what?"

"I -- I guess."

"Oh."  Kevin looked suddenly enlightened, worried, exasperated.  "Oh man."

Mulder's faculties came back on-line:  he could see what Kevin was thinking.
That Mulder was a longtime straight guy who'd just discovered his gay
feelings and was stumbling around like a bull in the china shop of Scully's
emotions.

"No -- I mean -- I thought Scully was introducing me to you.  I thought
you and her..."  He wasn't supposed to be confessing all this stuff.  He was
supposed to be investigating Kevin like a suspect, not getting drawn in,
telling the guy his deepest secrets.

Kevin was shaking his head.  "No.  No.  Dana and I are old friends."

"She knows you're gay?  I mean -- you're gay, right?"  Oh great.  Subtle.

"Sure she knows."  He sounded the tiniest bit indignant.  Then suddenly the
words seemed to echo again in the air.  Their eyes locked.

Scully knew Kevin was gay.

Scully introduced Kevin to Mulder.

Scully had been trying to get them together.

Scully had decided Mulder was gay.

Krycek had been going to kill Kevin Logan.

The realizations opened in him like a silent, tiered firework.  He gasped.
The final blossom brilliant over the others.

The delayed intuition, interpretation of that look, that eery,
black-liquid-in-the-soul regard.

Reflexively he jerked to look over his shoulder and search the room, the
road outside the window, but already he knew the exact word and instant when
Krycek had changed intent, given Logan back his lifetime, like a toy no
longer of any moment to Alex.

A hot chill rained down into his gut.

Oh god.

For the thousandth time he understood he wasn't playing with some merely
neurotic darling of a middle-class mess of a family like his own.

Alex was other.  Ancient, animal, and archetype.  In his soul the old,
primordial water deep and black, underground, Apsu, slumbrous, unmoving, yet
containing all chaos, torrent, creation.

"When, on high, heaven had not been named,
When, below, earth had not been brought forth as a name..."

Old words he hadn't thought of since Oxford.  In the oldest mythologies the
father of waters always plotted the deaths of his children.

But it was the children who always won.  And the primordial became the
comfortable basis on which all else was established, a home fashioned out of
the corpse of what had gone before.  As indeed the earth all lived on had
been fashioned.

If such a death was not to be the fate of Alex Krycek, some force would have
to be brought to bear to change his very nature.  And yet... they needed
that nature.  He was certain of it.  Knowing what Alex had done already, how
far he had come, the range of his knowledge and implacable line of his
intent, the trace of him in the world's course discernible though he had not
yet even made what he would consider any overt move, he was a far from
random factor that few, if any besides Mulder, even knew to include in their
calculations.

"Dana set us up."

Mulder jerked back again to look at Kevin.

"So it would seem."  An incredibly weird crack in his world that already
teetered on the brink of extinction, it gave every sensation bizarre savors.
A strange treachery.  Well-meant, and yet -- dishonest.  Scully...
embarrassed, it must be, to outright ask -- taking a flyer that maybe his
interest in women had just... gone west, as it were.

"So I guess we're back to that deer in the headlights moment.  Are you with
someone?"

No would sound like he was in the market, yes was unthinkable.

Kevin saved him the trouble.  "Okay.  I've lived in D.C. most of my life.
That's the look that goes with 'I'm not at liberty to say.'"

Jeeze.  The guy was sharp.  He'd better get out of here before he spilled
any more eyes-only data.

But not till after he'd finished his pizza.  It would look too strange.

And he was really hungry.

And he had to figure out what he would say to Alex.

Krycek put his arms around Mulder.  The fake one loosely, the real one
tight.

And hung on.

Mulder didn't need the choked whisper to know it was an apology.

Mulder still didn't know, all these weeks later, why he had even first
kissed this man.

Just that he had looked, or felt, under him, so ultimately fuckable.  That
Mulder hadn't had sex in so long the gender of a body beneath him had
stopped being a factor?  That he wanted to fuck with Krycek's head as
Krycek's kiss on the cheek had fucked with his, maybe.  That he sensed need;
lust; and a well of love he wanted to fall into.

I didn't mean to.  I didn't mean to!  Krycek was whispering and it almost
echoed his own thoughts.  It just took over --

He could feel the panicked heartbeat, how scared Krycek was.

He pushed him away.

"You stupid fuck."  He walked three steps away in the black alley they had
met in, and already could barely see Krycek, it was so dark.

"You do something like that you think I'm going to be able to just kiss it
and make it better?"

He walked two steps back.

"You know what an enabler is, Krycek?"

Breathing, faster than Krycek's norm.  "Like... Scully?"

His left lashed out before he knew he was going to do it, an open smack so
hard Krycek's head hit the wall.

"Don't you say her name!  Don't you say it!"

Had Krycek pushed that on purpose?  How would he ever be sure he knew what
was going on in that freezing lunacy, or know how to influence it?

God, it was hopeless.

"I'm not going to be that for you.  You're done, Krycek.  You ever touch
someone like that, you're done, you understand me?"

"I know."

He did.  Mulder could tell by his inflection.  He knew.  Had thought it all
out to the end, all the horror implicit.

Just not nearly in time.

God.  How did you love a killer?  Someone whose idea of working on a
relationship involved a really high-end silencer?

How could you ever control him?

Was that what it was?

Did Mulder want something in his life that would do "crazy" for him?  Nutjob
wacko acts he wouldn't be personally responsible for?

Was Krycek enabling him?

Or was it just fate that the two of them, being what they were and knowing
what they knew, would come together?  Across half a world.

Krycek was trying to ease him back close, and when he wouldn't budge,
moulded himself along Mulder's front, their whiskered cheeks sandpapery
together.  "It won't happen again."

He sounded sure, rather than desperate.

Whatever that meant.

"I never did anything like that before.  I never felt it.  Now I know."

Great.  Hit him once with a rolled-up newspaper and he knows not to murder
your dates.

Well, hell.  It was more than you could say for a lot of slow learners in
the Bureau's databanks.

He stroked the quiescent head with gentle despair.  Krycek flinched.
Delicately his fingers touched a swelling lump in the scalp where it had met
the wall and he felt Krycek tense at the pain, but not jerk away.  Mulder's
eyes prickled.

I shouldn't have hit him.  He was only telling the truth.

He pushed down a little on Krycek's shoulder.  "You want to get down there
and show me you love me?"

He felt Krycek's knees start to give, and then stiffen.  He heard his
breathing become distressed, and saw his head shaking slowly.  A strained
whisper:  "No.  Not like this."

He ran his hands down the leather jacket, feeling the torso beneath, holding
him between his palms.  Krycek worrying again for Mulder's immortal soul.

"Then I will."  He moved Krycek back against the wall and sank down on his
knees.  Shifted one off a stone.

"No."  Krycek's hand felt down gently and lifted his chin.  "I don't have
any condoms."

Mulder stared up in the dark.

"You came to me without condoms?"

The hand stroked his face.  Fingers touched down his neck.  Finally:  "I
knew you were really pissed off."

"When has that ever stopped us?"

Touching.  Smoothing his hair.  Loving fingertips.  After silence huge as
the night:  "I didn't want to presume."

Mulder's butt sank down on his heels.

Good lord.

Imagining Krycek dressing to come meet him after his furious one-word signal
call.  Looking at the condoms.  Touching the strip of little packages.

Keeping Mulder sacred in his mind.

Knowing what he had done.

Understanding the magnitude.

He really would never do it again.

"Luckily..." Mulder said huskily.  He sat up onto his knees and fished a
gold disk out of his pocket.  "I came prepared."  Though the things had
proved damnably difficult to open, they were supposed to be a good brand.
If he could do this in the dark.

He heard a hard breath above him.  At last in a shaky, would-be dubious
tone, "How long has that thing been in your wallet?"

"No wallet.  Don't carry ID when I come to see you, Sugar."

"That wasn't my point."

He got his fingernail in the right spot and the disk bent open.  He reached
up and pulled down Krycek's zipper.  Krycek's body flattened back against
the wall.  He heard harder breathing.

"Don't worry, I change it regularly once a year."

Krycek's hand came down in front of his zipper opening.  Mulder kissed the
backs of the fingers. Curled his tongue around one.

He whispered, "I just bought this.  Special for you."

He pulled down Krycek's jeans and underwear together.

Sproing, he thought.

Hard as a fucking I-beam.

It never seemed worth the effort, putting a condom on Alex, but he had
gotten smoother at it.  Krycek whimpered trying to control himself.  Failing
rapidly as always.

He had tried letting Krycek just wait untouched, but it only turned his Rat
on.  Everything Mulder did to him turned him on.

The condom coated Krycek's length.  Mulder spread his tongue against the
bottom of it, and worked, warm, up to the top.  Closing his hand around as
he scrubbed on the head of Krycek's cock with the bend of his hot tongue.
Krycek pleading with god.  He slid the fingertips of his other hand up along
Krycek's crack.  The hips jerked forward, the cock in his mouth pushed hard
in, he let go of it with his hand and caught the scrotal sac, rubbing his
thumb over the front.  Krycek's hand grabbed the back of Mulder's head, hard
cock lunged through his mouth to his throat, pubic bone hit his teeth.

"Fox --"  Anguished whisper.  "Oh --"  he was totally filled with the
thrusting, swerving, lusting length and the body moving against his face and
the hand holding him to it, and the voice quivering to a whine, Krycek
jerking up hard and coming as Mulder remembered to move his tongue again
under the rod that packed him full.  "Fox!"  The groin hit his lips hard
again, jerked and jerked and jerked, held paralyzed, and Krycek was folding,
whimpering and panting, down over him, he had to pull back to take the
weight on his hands and shoulder, till Alex slid down to sit on the ground
ragdoll-like, against him.

He played his fingers in Krycek's hair, and down along his throat, and under
his jacket, smoothing the cloth of his shirt there, holding him.  Krycek
just lay breathing against him, moaning under his breath every few minutes
with the aftereffects.  Mulder watched over him.  It was so unusual to have
Krycek anything but alert and aware, that he gradually realized how much his
simple lovemaking had meant, to Alex's shamed state of mind.  He had been so
overcome he hadn't been careful of Mulder's mouth, which he always was.
And now here he is like a puddle in my arms.

You'll be my master, Krycek had said.  It had begun to seem like just a
phrase.  Tonight he had smacked him and rendered him helpless with sex.  He
kissed Krycek's forehead, and Krycek looked up at him, eyes dimly reflecting
nonexistent starlight.  It seemed love and tenderness were definitely the
way to go, if you wanted to completely break Alex Krycek, and bring him down
resistless at your feet.

Too bad he wasn't better at those things.  He could get used to this.
Peace.  Darkness.  Krycek in his arms.

Though actually the alley pavement was cold and hard.  Smelled none too
good.  Krycek stirred, sat up, murmuring, "You'll freeze your butt off."

Mulder helped him up.  Made sure he was steady on his pins.  "Is your head
okay?"

"No," Krycek said caustically.

"Let me kiss it and make it better."

"Jesus Christ," Krycek grumbled, but let him, and only said "Ow" in a very
small voice.  Mulder transferred the kiss to his ear, and then over onto his
cheekbone.  His hands spread wide over Krycek's back, trying to hold as much
of him as he could.

"I don't want to lose you," he whispered.

Krycek had draped himself around him as much as possible.  He clung there a
long time.  Finally he said, "I might have to kill."  Mulder didn't say
anything.  "It won't be like this.  I swear to you.  But the places I go,
the stuff I do..."

"Take me with you," Mulder whispered.

Krycek's hand petted down over his hair.  He laughed silently.  "Then I
really would have to kill, anyone who saw us together."  More silence.  "You
know I can't."

Mulder finally said, "Yeah," knowing Krycek was unpersuadable about work.

"Can I come over Friday?"

"Yeah."

Just for a little.  There's something I have to do after."

Krycek never told him when he was going on one of his expeditions, until
afterward.  Why was this time different?  Or maybe he was just meeting some
-- some John.  Mulder's hackles rose.

"Okay," he said.

______

End of Part 12, "A Boy and His Rat"

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