Disclaimer: Fox Mulder and Alex Krycek are owned by Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and Fox Broadcasting. No money made, no harm intended.

Rated NC-17 for graphic descriptions of the aftermath of I.V. drug use, m/m sex, violence, foul language and what we would definitely describe as "Mature Themes". So please do consider your limits before proceeding.

This is the fourth part of the Rat's story, we would highly recommend reading the first three before this one. Otherwise, it'll be even more confusing.

Author's Note: Well, we're hoping this is the last one, but you never know.

Story titled borrowed without permission from Iggy Pop.



Perforation Problems

By Zen&nancy

I've been watching him sleep for a little over three hours. I know I have to leave soon, but I can't make myself get up. His head is tucked in under my shoulder; his legs wrapped with mine under the blanket. It's an opportunity I never thought I would have, the chance to watch him sleep, and I haven't been able to resist allowing myself this guilty pleasure. I said I would go, he made me promise him that I would leave him while he slept. Now I wish I hadn't, I don't want to. What I feel for him I can't deny. For what may be the first time in my life, I don't want to walk away.

He looks so fragile, so vulnerable. There are dark circles under his eyes, and his color is closer to a corpse than a living person's. His skin is a pasty yellowish color, and clammy. I tuck the blanket in tighter around him, and tell myself that in another hour, I'll leave. It's safe to steal a little more time; he'll sleep like this for most of the day, I'm sure. Just one more hour...

I can't see his face; he burrowed under my left shoulder and went to sleep there. He's curled up on his side, facing me, his arm wrapped around himself. I wonder if he always sleeps in this fetal position. There's a slight wheezing to his breath. More of a gurgle, actually, it sounds like he's coming down with an upper respiratory infection. That's what you get when you shoot heroin, ratfink. Why? Why does he have to do this? It frightens me; it repulses me. Needles always have. When I came in here and found him like this, it was such a shock. Heroin is one thing I never expected from Alex Krycek. I don't know why, maybe because the Krycek I know is always in motion. Fighting, sneaking, stealing, even killing, but always taking action. I could never have imagined him this still. Even now, it seems wrong. I suppose I've always wanted him to be something other than what he is, even when I wouldn't admit it. I feel as though all of this is beneath him, that he shouldn't be here at all. Even after everything I've been through with him in the last twenty four hours, everything I've seen, I still find myself wanting to believe in something I see inside him, but find impossible to name, something like nobility.

He's catatonic, sleeping as deeply as a person can and stay on this side of a coma. Watching him sleep makes me remember how young he is. Too young to be mixed up in all the shit he's in. From what I understand, everybody wants him dead. It amazes me that he's survived this long. It amazes me even more than this is how he does it, shooting heroin in a filthy weekly rent motel. It's true, even I would never have thought to look for him here, but, I didn't have to; I followed him instead. He was careful, but only enough to make it difficult to track him, not impossible.

It was educational, watching him deal with the world, but also infuriating. He's such a smooth operator, especially with women. He'll use anything, even his amputated arm, to get what he wants. A dozen times, I wanted to grab a stranger and ask them what the hell was the matter with them; didn't they realize they'd just been had? I kept wanting to tell people not to pity him, that he doesn't deserve it. I don't pity him. I don't allow myself to, just as I avoid the tendency for self pity in my own life. If I ever took the time to feel sorry for myself, I might never be able to stop.

Up until yesterday afternoon, I had no idea at all what he's really like, who he is under all the layers of deceit. What I have found is a great deal more than I ever expected. I knew about his strength, but I didn't know about his weakness. I feel so foolish; I had no idea it was me. How could I have missed such a vital piece to the puzzle?

I don't know how I lost control; I've never felt that kind of rage. I saw him lying there, looking so completely pathetic, laughing at me and the gun in his face, and then, I didn't want to kill him. I wanted to make him feel all of my frustration, my fury. I couldn't stand to let him lie there and laugh at his murderer.

He knew it, he knew I couldn't kill him even before I did. I remember him telling me that I didn't get any of him, that he'd won, and stumbling out of here in a state of adrenaline induced shock and horror. Shocked that I had actually forced myself on him, and horrified that he let me, that he didn't even try to fight me. That I did such a thing, to him, makes me want to die. I can't face the fact that I am such a monster. I did it, though, and I had it in my head to run away, to leave it and forget it forever.

I only got as far as the corner before I stopped, and had to turn around. I couldn't leave him. I couldn't leave him to wake up in this filthy place alone. So I came back, and somewhere between getting him into the bathtub and getting him clean, I gave in. I gave up, and now I can't bring myself to leave him.

Even now, I can't believe he loves me. I've spent so much time fighting this, denying it, hating it within myself. Now that I've given in, I can't force myself to walk away. He's drooling on my shirt, completely unaware of me or my crisis. What the hell am I going to do? I can't take him back to D.C. with me. I can't just disappear with him, even if he'd let me, but I can't leave him here alone, I just can't. What have I done, Alex? How am I going to find the will to walk away from this?

He's been in my head for years, under my skin, under my defenses. Even when I'm dragging him around in handcuffs, he's pushing my buttons. If I'm being honest with myself, I might as well admit it. All the times I've hit him, every time I've smacked him, punched him, thrown him up against a wall or a car, it was because I wanted to be under his skin the way he's under mine. It was a way to touch him, to connect with him, even if it was only in violence. It's a relief, after all, to admit it to myself. I'm sure he's always known, he has an uncanny ability to see right through people.

From the first minute he walked into my office, with his naive hero-worshipping attitude, I knew I was in trouble. When I discovered that he was working against me, put in place by my enemies to spy on me, it was almost a relief. It was easier to pretend to hate him than it was to fight the attraction. I tried to hate him, but I couldn't, I was afraid to. I see too much of myself in him. We have some very ugly things in common. Like him, I would give up anything, anyone, to get one step closer to winning. The game we're playing is going to kill us eventually, we both know it, and I don't think either one of us cares. Some things are more important than old age. Maybe it's because I can see that so clearly in him that I feel bound to him like this.

I think Scully might just shoot me again if she could see me now. She's going to be calling soon, to check on me. It's been three days since I talked to her, and she doesn't let me stay out of contact much longer than that before she tracks me down. I have no idea what I'll tell her. Not the truth, definitely not the truth. Even when I have to lie to her, I'm always glad when she does call to check up on me. It's good to know that there is one person out there in the world who wants to know that I'm still alive.

She's the only person I've ever trusted who has never broken that trust, never let me down. I know I let her down all the time. I disappoint her, I make her crazy, but I know that I can and she'll still care about me. She's the best friend I've ever had, probably the only real one, actually. I have no idea what she would really think about everything that's happened here, I don't think I want to. I'm used to rejection, it's an everyday part of the life I've chosen, but from her, it would hurt more than anything. Just thinking about her, how horrified she would be if she did find out, makes me want to die of shame. No, she can never know what I did to him. When she calls, I'll make up a story about chasing a case so foolish even she won't want to get involved in it.

The sun's coming up, bright light is streaming through the dirty windowpane. I feel giddy, wide awake and full of adrenaline now that I've made the decision to stay. There isn't anything else to do. He's going to be sick when he wakes up, and in pain. His face is still a mess, and I gave him a nasty lump on his head when I hit him with my gun. I feel so terrible, that he's going to suffer more because of me. I should go out, go back to the drugstore and get him something for that wheezing cough, and I'm sure he'd appreciate some whiskey, too. Watching him sleep, I am filled with the desire to protect him, to care for him. It's a feeling I can't let go of, no matter how inappropriate or dangerous it may be. When I look at him, sleeping like the dead, his face all black and blue, I don't feel the guilt, only the desire to nurture him. It's when I look away that the guilt overcomes me. The implications of this are highly disturbing.

Easing carefully off the bed, I have to laugh at myself, trying not to jar him. He's dead to the world, probably will be all day. I find my clothes and get dressed, finding the act of putting my clothes back on somewhat distressing. It feels so strange, to be here with him, getting out of bed in a hotel room while he sleeps. The reality of what I'm doing is starting to sink in.

I wonder if he'll be angry, when he wakes up and finds me sitting here? I hope not, I'm hoping that he'll be glad I stayed. At least he'll pretend to be, if I have whiskey and more sugar for him. I think I should make a list. Finding my suit coat, I pull a pen and my notepad out of the inside pocket. I drag the chair over to the rickety table, wondering if I can buy a new chain for the door at Walgreen's. Flashing my badge will get the guy at the desk downstairs off my case about the lock if he asks, but I'd like to have some privacy.

Okay, let's see, what will he want? Whiskey, definitely. Amphetamines, probably, but I'm not going to get him those. Maybe caffeine pills. More cherry slices, and some chocolate. Vitamins would be a really good idea. A warmer blanket would be nice, it's freezing in here, no wonder he's half blue, and a towel. I want a shower, and I'm not using that filthy shred on the rack in the bathroom. Another tube of Neosporin, I used almost all of the one I bought last night on his face. Gatorade, he's got to be dehydrated by this time. I smile, realizing that's Scully's common sense reminding me, not my own. Sometimes I feel like her "voice of reason" follows me around, just to make sure I don't get myself killed while she's not there to save my ass.

Okay, so, keep him warm, hydrated, feed him sugar and caffeine, and hope he doesn't shoot me for not keeping my promise. Might be a smart idea to take the bullets out his gun, though, just to be safe. I noticed it when I dragged him to the bed after I got him out of the tub last night. I didn't bother to say anything about it, he was too far gone to get a coherent answer out of him, but I did wonder why he didn't try to use it when I forced myself on him. Why didn't he just kill me? I suppose for the same reason that I didn't shoot him, it must be love.

My own cynicism makes me laugh, and I stand up, borrowing his leather jacket to put over my shirt and tie. It will help avoid stares and possible problems out on the street. This isn't a neighborhood where people are seen walking down the street in Armani double breasted suits at seven a.m., or any hour of the day, for that matter. I don't think I give off "Fed" vibes, at least not unless I'm trying to, but I'm definitely not dressed for my surroundings, and wearing his coat feels good. I feel as though putting it on, I have taken the irrevocable step, and accepted the fact that I love him.

The leather is in good condition, and it smells like him. He must take good care of it, I know he's had this jacket for the last three years, at least. He was wearing it the last time I saw him, in Russia.

Oh shit, the door, what am I going to do about that? I don't want to leave it open while I'm gone, and I certainly don't want to try to wake him up. My eyes scan the room, looking for something that will help, and fall on an inspiration. Going back to the bed, I get the cherry slices from the night table and shove two of them in my mouth, sucking the sugar off on my way to the door. I stand there for a minute, making sure I have my wallet and sucking the gummy candy until it's soft.

Sticking the lump of red jelly in the door frame, I close the door, pleased when my innovation works, and the door stays shut. Anyone can walk in on him, but at least it's not wide open this way. Walking down the hallway, I see no one on my way to the stairs. I guess all the other junkies are asleep, too. There's no one at the desk at this hour, that's a bonus. If I'm lucky, I can make my little shopping trip and get back to him without being seen at all.


The candy in the door frame solution worked perfectly. The door is still closed, the light shining from below in the dark hallway. I kick it open gently, my hands full of plastic bags. He doesn't even twitch when I come in.

I watch him from across the room as I work the load of bags off my arms, setting them down on the rickety table. His hair is plastered to his skull, his mouth open. The cracked skin of his split lip looks painful. My poor rat, I think we have a very long day and night ahead of us. I hope he'll sleep most of the day. I don't know from firsthand experience what a heroin hangover feels like, but I know I wouldn't want to wake up after a night of drinking to the bright sunlight that's lighting up the room. It's so bright in here that the shadowed parts of the room are almost impossible to see. It makes everything look dirtier.

I wander around the small space, wondering what the hell I'll do to occupy myself while he sleeps. His bag is on the floor on the far side of the bed, his walkman lying on top. I don't think I like heavy metal, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to find out. Picking up the cassette player, I put the headphones on my ears, and press play. I jump, and fumble for the volume control; it's painfully loud. How can he listen to it this loud right in his ears? Maybe he wants to be deaf. I can't see anyone listening to music at that volume on a regular basis and expecting to be able to hear in their old age. Then again, I suppose it doesn't matter, I doubt very much that Alex has any plans for his old age at all. No realistic ones, anyway, if he continues this relationship he has with heroin. It makes me so angry, but only because I know I'm helpless to stop him from doing it.

Turning the volume almost all the way down to save my own ears from the singer's shriek, I press the play button once more, telling myself that I'm a glutton for punishment.

She's got a smile that it seems to me

Reminds me of childhood memories,

Where everything was as fresh as the bright blue sky

Now and then when I see her face

She takes me away to that special place

And if I stared too long

I'd probably break down and cry

Oh, sweet child o' mine

Memories of Sam come back so strong that I can smell the shampoo my mother used in her hair, I can hear her voice so clearly, calling me. I press the stop button on the player and rub my eyes, surprised to find tears there. I've cried more in the last twenty-four hours than I have in the last five years, I think.

The chair is doing security duty on the door I broke, so there's nowhere to sit. I consider the floor briefly, and then decide that even if I do ruin a suit a month at this job, I don't need to sacrifice one to this filthy place. Laying down on the bed beside him, I lock my hands behind my head, and settle in to wait. Waiting around for something to happen takes up large portions of my existence, I'm good at it. I don't get tired, I don't fall asleep, I don't let my guard down or get careless, I just wait.

He's been coughing in his sleep for the last hour, a wet, bubbly wheeze to his breathing. He's sleeping restlessly now, turning over every few minutes, and kicking the covers around. I watch him twist from his side to his back and then onto his side again, wondering if I should get up. I don't want to startle him when he does wake up, and I'm sure me lying next to him on the bed is the very last thing he expects to see.

He's dreaming, I'm watching the muscles in his face twitch, and trying to understand the garbled words that he mumbles at short intervals. Most of it sounds like Russian, but I make out my name several times. I'm glad that even in his dreams he calls me Mulder. I wonder if it's me he's trying to get away from in his dream, he's twisting and muttering unhappily, obviously trying to escape someone or something.

Suddenly he's coughing again, sitting up in bed and throwing the covers off violently. I move a little away from him on the thin mattress, adrenaline surging though me as his eyes open. He's not aware of me yet. It looks like the light hurts his eyes, and he falls back onto the bed on his back. His hand hits my leg as it falls down onto the bed and his head snaps to the side. Squinted green eyes stare at me, and I smile, watching recognition come slowly to his features.

"Mulder... What the hell are you doing here?" He whispers, and then groans softly, turning over to push his face into the pillow.

"I didn't want to leave." I tell him quietly, keeping my voice as low and gentle as I can.

"Shut up!" He groans, his hand coming up to drag the pillow over his head.

"Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Yes. Go. Away." The angry moan comes from under the pillow. He sounds so certain that I move farther away from him, to the edge of the bed. I feel guilty for staying; I broke my promise.

"You don't want a personal nurse, Alex?" I'm surprised by how gentle my voice sounds.

"No. Get the fuck out."

"Sorry, Ratfink, no can do."

"Shut up! Please." He moans, his hand pressing the pillow tighter over his head.

"Okay, I'm sorry." I tell him in a whisper, imagining the pain he must be in.

He doesn't respond, doesn't move at all for several more minutes. He's sweating, and shivering, too. He looks exactly like every junkie going through withdrawal I've ever seen in the movies. Somehow, I thought real life would be less dramatic. I'm anxious to try to make it better, easier, but I think if I talk to him again he may just try to kick me out of here on his own. I'll wait, and eventually, he'll accept my help, he won't have any other choice.

He's shivering violently, shaking the bed frame with his convulsive shudders. I pull the blanket back up around him and he makes a loud sound of displeasure from under the pillow.

"Get it off!"

"Okay, I'm sorry, you're cold..." I pull the rough bedspread off his body, trying not to be affected by his nakedness.

"Hurts." He tells me, apparently referring to the blanket on his skin. I should have thought to buy a space heater at the store, it's almost as cold in here in the daytime as it is at night.

He's pushed off the pillow, sniffling and trying to wipe his nose on his hand. God, he looks like shit. I don't think I've ever seen anyone look so miserable. Poor ratfink, I'm so sorry. There's got to be something I can do to make this easier. Ten minutes pass slowly, he doesn't pick his head up again, and I begin to wonder again what the hell I'm really doing here. I don't know, I only know I can't leave him alone like this.

"Mulder... Please. Make it stop." The pained moan reaches my ears, and I look around, trying to figure out if he's talking about something specific, or the general state of his body.

His arm comes up, flung out in the direction of the night table, and sweeps the alarm clock to the floor. It lands with a musical crash and he cries out softly, rolling away from it and into me.

"I'll make it stop." I whisper, getting up off the bed as carefully as I can. He groans, curling into a tight ball, his arm wrapped around his stomach.

Finding the clock on the floor, I pull the battery out, and the soft ticking ceases. He sighs, and pushes his face into the pillow. That has to hurt. I'd like to take the gauze off and clean the cuts on his face again, but I doubt he'll let me. I don't want to sit down and shake the bed again, it seems as though even the slightest movement is painful for him, so I stand next to it, on the side his back is turned to. I don't want him to have to look at me if he doesn't want to.

Time moves slowly. I listen to his raspy breathing, wincing at the harsh, painful sounding cough. I'm surprised when he speaks, his voice sounds more like himself than it has since I barged in and found him here.

"Mulder... Listen to me. Please leave. I don't want you here."

I want to ask him why, but I won't. It's not an answer I'm ready to hear. "You don't have to do this alone, Alex, you can let me help you." I whisper, hoping that the need to stay with him will penetrate his messed up brain. I need him to know that this isn't something I have a choice in. I have to stay; I don't have the strength to leave him.

"Don't want your help." He groans, rising up on his arm when another coughing fit comes over him.

He's making horrible noises, and turning an even sicker shade of green. Suddenly, he moves, throwing himself off the bed and landing hard on the floor. I'm at his side before he begins to crawl, trying to help him to his feet. He shrugs my hand off his shoulder violently, pulling himself in the direction of the bathroom. I'm torn, wishing he was small enough that I could just pick him up and carry him, and afraid to try to touch him again.

By the time I've decided to let him get there on his own, he's already in the bathroom, heaving into the toilet. Oh that sounds awful, I think he must be dry heaving, it sounds like he's dying in there. I can't leave him alone, even though it's very clear that he wants me to. I go back to the table for the bottle of Gatorade and cross the room again, standing just inside the bathroom door.

He's clutching the lip of the bowl, curled up around it on his knees. He's puking up blood and bile, choking on it as he coughs and heaves, his shoulders shaking violently. He's covered in goose bumps, and all his muscles are tense and standing out on his thin frame. It looks so painful, I wish I could take him to a hospital, get them to give him some Methadone or something. He looks like he should have an I.V. in his arm, that's for sure.

I don't think he's aware of my presence at all, I want to put my hand on his back, but I'm afraid to. Finally, the heaves subside, and he begins to cough and spit, trying to clear the mucus from his throat. I break the seal on the Gatorade and squat down next to him.

"Here, drink. It'll help." I press the plastic bottle into his hand, amazed when he lifts it obediently to his lips. The yellow liquid runs over his mouth and down his neck, but he swallows twice, managing to get at least a little of it into him. He pukes it right back up, turning his head to the side to vomit into the toilet.

"Ugh. No." He chokes, trying to hand me back the bottle.

"No, come on, Alex, drink a little more. It's better than dry heaving."

He moans miserably, falling down onto the floor. "Mulder, why won't you go away?" He's crying, I realize, not able to distinguish the raspy sobs at first from his labored breath. He coughs, curling up into a fetal ball on the filthy floor.

"I want to help, I can't..." I don't know what to tell him, how to say that I can't leave him like this in a way he'll want to hear. I don't think he wants to hear it at all, and it hurts.

"Go. Don't... Don't want you to see this. Ugly."

"I know. It doesn't matter. Just let me help, please. I bought you whiskey, and some other stuff..."

"Only if you shut the fuck up," he groans, pulling himself up to his knees to heave over the toilet bowl.

I take him at his word, and don't speak again, offering the Gatorade bottle silently when he looks up at me again. He closes his eyes, reaching for it, and lets me guide his hand on the bottle to his lips. He gulps, and chokes, spitting it back up again all over his chest. I feel like I'm intruding, violating his privacy when he's too sick to tell me no. I know I am, but it doesn't stop me. I've never been able to let my conscience rule my actions. It just doesn't work that way. I need to be here with him, I need to force myself to watch this, to feel his misery. I don't care if he doesn't want to share it with me, I can't walk away and leave him alone.

Going back to the table, I search through the bags until I find the towel I bought, and bring it back to the bathroom. The Gatorade bottle is sitting on the floor near his knee, and he's dry heaving again, coughing and spitting up gobs of green mucus. I take the towel to the sink, turning on the cold tap, and hold a corner of it under the trickle of water.

Squatting down next to him, I put a hand on his back when he pushes himself up again. He's hot, burning, actually, he must have a fever.

"Shh, it's okay..." I murmur, dabbing at his mouth with the towel. He lets me clean his face and chest, shivering violently. "Are you cold?" I whisper, wiping the sweat off his shoulders with the dry end of the towel. He nods, miserable green eyes look up at me. He looks exhausted.

I go back to the bed, coming back with the blanket to wrap around his shoulders. He grabs an end, clutching it to his body as he falls forward, puking up the swallows of Gatorade I just got down his throat. When he's finished, he leans back, falling against me. I put a hand on his back to hold him up, and he lets me, asking me in a groan barely above a whisper.

"Can you get me back to the bed, Mulder?"

"You bet." I wish I could just pick him up and carry him back to the bed, but I'm afraid to try. I don't want to drop him, or get puked on, for that matter, if I can avoid it. He only has one clean shirt in his bag. "Okay, easy, let me help you," I whisper, dragging him slowly to his feet with one hand holding his elbow and one arm around his waist.

We shuffle slowly out of the bathroom; he makes small sounds of misery with each step, falling onto the bed in a ball when we finally get there. He buries his face in the pillow, moaning piteously. I want to hold him, but I'm afraid he'll push me away, so I don't try. I sit carefully on a corner at the foot of the bed instead, watching him shiver. It is cold in the room, but I think he'd be shaking like that no matter what the temperature was. I wish I could crack the window and get a little air in here, it's so stale, the room smells like death. I inspected it earlier, while he was sleeping and found that it's been painted shut. This place is one of the worst firetraps I've ever seen. We're on the third floor, and it doesn't even have a fire escape.

I sit as still as I can, watching him breathe. After about fifteen minutes, he drifts back to sleep, the slight snore as he breathes though his nose sounds less painful than the raspy wheeze of his breath when he's awake. He sleeps fitfully, tossing and turning on the bed, twisting himself up in the blanket.

I know he doesn't really want me here, but I'm glad that he let me help him. I feel as though all of this is my fault. I don't know why, he's plenty messed up all by himself, but I still feel as though I am directly responsible for his present state of misery. He's shaking in his sleep, trying to hold the blanket tight with only one hand. I wonder who did it? Peasants? Not doctors, from the look of it. How did he survive such a thing? It must have been a nightmare. Is it because of the amputation that he's turned to heroin, or did he always have this habit? I would never have believed it of him when he was my partner, he was such a naive, innocent thing, or at least he acted the part well.

He sleeps for most of the afternoon, waking up once to ask for water. I give him Gatorade instead, pleased when he doesn't throw it up. His face has turned a frightening array of blue and green, the bruises bright against his pale, sickly looking complexion. I stare at him, finding it so difficult to understand that this man suffering in front of me is the same one who killed my father, who poisoned me and tried to kill my partner, and killed her sister instead. It's not that I can't see the propensity to murder in him, I can, it's impossible to ignore. What I can't understand is how he got from there to here. The man I'm watching so anxiously for signs of life doesn't look like he has the strength to kill, although surely he has the hate. Hatred is the most easily recognizable expression in his eyes, the only one I'd ever seen that didn't look like a lie. Well, until last night. Last night he gave me everything he has, and I cherish it, even if it was only because of the heroin. It frightens me, though, to see him this vulnerable.

When he wakes up again the room is growing dark, I haven't turned either of the lights on, and the dusky light from the window throws everything into shadow.

"You're still here." He croaks, looking around the room with an apparent lack of interest.

"So are you. Gatorade?"

"Whiskey."

I move to the table to get the bottle, twisting the seal off and opening it for him before I hand it over. He scowls at me, lifting the bottle to his lips to gulp.

"I can do it myself."

"Okay. I'll remember that when I go out to get the next one." The way he's slugging the alcohol, it looks like that could be within the hour.

"Fuck you." He groans, setting the bottle down hard on the night table before he rolls over on his back.

There's more misery than fury in his remark, so I don't bother to respond, going back to the table instead to riffle through the remaining plastic bags.

"Do you want some cherry slices to go with that?"

"Thank you for the whiskey, now go away. Go back to D.C., Mulder, they need you. Go look for your truth. I've got my own; I don't need yours. Go back to Scully."

"No."

"Fuck me, what do I have to do to get rid of you? Shoot you?" He's sweating profusely, throwing the blanket back and turning angrily on his side, showing me his back.

"That's not going to be an option, I took the bullets out of your gun."

I can feel the anger radiating off of him. He doesn't say anything, probably because there aren't words nasty enough to express his frustration. If there is one thing he truly hates, it's to be powerless.

"I'll tell you what, Krycek, let's wait until you can hang on to the gun without dropping it, and then I'll give them back and you can shoot me, okay?"

"You fucked up, sadistic, power hungry bastard, what the hell do think you're going to get out this? My undying devotion? Don't hold your breath, Fox, I have more important problems than you. Go chase some little green men, Mulder, the world needs your driving insight."

I'm on the other side of the bed before I know it, squatting down to look at him at eye level. The words come out with no premeditation or planning whatsoever. "I'm planning on getting a live, healthy Alex Krycek out of it. Do you have any idea what kind of shape you're in?"

"No, Mulder, enlighten me, but excuse me first while I puke." He throws a nasty look over his shoulder as he drags himself off the other side of the bed, just to be certain that I don't get any ideas about touching him. I let him have his privacy in the bathroom this time, not really excited about the idea of watching him throw up whiskey. My stomach's still a little queasy from the last episode.

He stumbles back to the bed, stopping to tear through his bag until he finds a pair of sweatpants. Lying down on the bed, he speaks through clenched teeth, so much anger in his eyes that I can't look at him.

"Be a pal, Mulder, turn your face."

I turn around completely, standing with my shoulders squared, staring at the door. I listen to him struggling with the fleece pants, wondering how the hell he's going to tie the drawstring.

He doesn't bother to tell me when I can turn around, so after a moment of waiting, I count to three hundred and turn. He's curled up on his side, with his back to me again, and the maroon sweatpants are in place.

He's coughing and sniffling, wiping his running nose on the back of his hand. Pulling my handkerchief out of my pocket I go around the bed, offering it to him wordlessly.

"A gentleman and a rogue." He mumbles, taking the kerchief out of my hand. The very slight contact of our fingertips causes him to pull away sharply. He blows his nose, and sniffles repeatedly. When he speaks again his voice is even more nasal.

"Why didn't you go?"

"Because I want to stay. We've been over this, you know." I sit down carefully on the corner of the bed.

"Have we? I don't remember. Did I miss anything else really important?" He smiles, giving me that sarcastic look that is so hopeless endearing.

"Nothing too important, just the usual."

"Oh, good. I was afraid I missed the big love scene." His voice is a perfect deadpan, and then he swings his legs over the bed, getting shakily to his feet. "I'm going to go to the bathroom now, Mulder, and I think I may be there for awhile. If you have any sense of self preservation whatsoever, you'll stay out here. Got it?"

"Yeah, I got it." I smile at his tough guy attitude, I can't help it. The man is so weak he can hardly walk, but he's threatening my life.

I can hear him moving around in the bathroom, it sounds like he's banging his head against the wall. Suddenly, he's stumbling back into the room, coming up to me to grab me by the front of my shirt.

"Where are they, Mulder? Where the fuck are the balloons?"

"They were empty."

"Where are they?"

"I threw them out."

"No, you didn't." He speaks slowly, enunciating each word with perfectly controlled fury. "If you threw them out, they'd be in the garbage. Where are they?"

"Alex, there wasn't any more heroin in them anyway."

He manages to lift me two inches off the bed, in spite of the fact that he only has one arm. "I'm going to ask you one more fucking time, and then I'm going to tear you a new asshole. What. Did. You. Do. With. Them?" He's shaking me, which I didn't think was possible with only one hand.

"I put them in my pocket when I went out. I threw them out on the street."

"Fuck!" He let's go and I see his arm pull back. I try to block the punch that's coming, but he's a hell of a lot faster than I expect him to be, and before I know it his fist has slammed into my nose and I'm falling backwards on the bed. The pain makes it hard to see for a moment, he hit me awfully hard.

"Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!" He paces, looking around the room for something to smash. He knocks the table over, sending everything on top of it flying with a hard kick. The table gets kicked repeatedly, until it's disintegrated into a dozen pieces.

"You had no fucking right! I hate you! I hate you! Fucking sadistic bastard, you did it on purpose! That's always what you want, to make me as miserable as possible. Are you fucking happy now Mulder?" He's crying, and shouting so loud I'm sure someone is going to come up here soon to see what the fight's about. I've never seen him lose control like this before. He's having a real, five-year-old-style tantrum, falling to the floor and kicking at the metal bed frame. I watch him for a moment, a sick kind of fascination holding me still.

Finally, I can't watch him do this to himself any more. He's banging his head against the floor, over and over again. "Alex, stop it." Well, that does a lot of good. He ignores me completely. Retrieving the bottle from the night stand, I move slowly off the bed, holding my throbbing nose. Even in this condition, he hits hard. Squatting down behind him, I take his shoulders, holding him up when he tries to slam his head into the floor again. "Take it easy, it's going to be okay. Drink some whiskey, Alex."

"No." He sounds petulant, stubborn and determined that nothing could make it better.

"Come on, drink a little. It helps, right?"

He pulls away from my hands, sitting up with his shoulders hunched defensively away from me. He pulls the whiskey bottle out of my hand, taking a shaky breath before he lifts it to his lips.

"What would fucking help is the residue on the balloons, asshole. I needed that." He moans, sounding so pitiful that I wish I hadn't thrown them away.

"No, you don't." I tell him quietly, wanting to believe that he can control this disease, that it is he who indulges it, and not the other way around.

"Fuck you. You don't know anything about what I need." He twists around to look at me, desperation in his eyes.

"I know that you do this, and you're strong enough to control the addiction."

He laughs at me, and pulls himself slowly to his feet. "What do you know about it, Mulder? Nothing, you don't know anything about it." I watch him stumble back to the bed, feeling foolish and wishing I could do something more to help him. He's right, the only knowledge of heroin use I have comes from textbooks. I've never known anyone who shoots dope. I'm angry at myself, for not being better prepared for this. I hate feeling naive about anything.

He's curled up under the blanket, still clutching the whiskey. "Just go away, Mulder, you've been more than enough help already."

It's true. All I've done is cause him more unhappiness. I'm not going to leave him though, no matter what he says to me.

"I don't need a baby-sitter, Mulder."

"I'm not good company?" I ask him, joining in with his laughter.

"No, you're rotten company." He's shivering, piercing green eyes staring though me when I come slowly over to sit on the corner of the bed. He looks like a frightened animal, for all his banter and bravado, and I feel like the wolf stalking him into a corner. I try very hard to make all of my motions slow and non threatening.

His nose is running, and I hand him my handkerchief again, which is already pretty messy.

"Thanks." I look down at him, surprised, and he gives me a painful looking smile.

"You're welcome."

"So, what other goodies did you get me at the store?" He asks, curling up tighter under the blanket.

"I got you more cherry slices, and some chocolate. Caffeine pills."

"Ugh. Not yet. Let me sleep it off for awhile, then we'll talk about speed." He's mumbling, already half asleep, or at least hoping that I'll believe that he is and leave him alone. He does look exhausted. He looks like he has a really bad case of flu, actually. I wonder how long it will be before he'll let me try and put some food in him?

He's shaking, moaning quietly when he exhales and clutching his side with his arm. I move towards him, unable to watch him in pain without trying to help, and then hesitate.

"What's wrong, Alex? What hurts?"

"Stomach cramps." He tells me through clenched teeth, trying to roll into a tighter ball on the bed. "Cold. So cold. I hate this."

He brought it on himself, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to make it better. "Can I try to keep you warm?"

"Go for it." He answers, his voice shaking from his shivers.

Moving up on the bed, I lie down next to him carefully, and pull him back against me as gently as I can. He's hotter than he was before, his fever's up, and he's shaking violently. "Easy, it's going to be okay, Ratfink. Try and relax, try to sleep." I whisper in his ear, my palm moving in slow circles over his stomach on top of the blanket. My mother used to rub my stomach like this when I had the flu as a child, and I remember how it would make it less frightening, even if it didn't stop me from throwing up.

"Saint Mulder. What the hell did I do to deserve you, Mulder?" He laughs shortly, but I think I can feel him starting to relax a little.

"Something truly awful, I'm sure. Now sleep, and we can have this conversation all over again when you wake up."

"Can't wait." He whispers, his voice shaking with his shivers.

"Shh, just sleep Alex, just sleep." I'm murmuring in his ear, holding him as close to my body as I can without squeezing him. He seems to want my body heat; he presses back against me, his hand releasing its grasp on my wrist as I continue to move my palm in slow circles on his stomach. He smells like sweat and fear and sickness, and his skin is cold and clammy. It feels like I'm holding a corpse, and I don't even care.

He sleeps for the next four hours. I keep track of the time on my watch, which I can just barely see in the dark if I lean over him. He's restless, but he doesn't wake up, and it seems to me that his fever has gone down a little. It feels strangely peaceful to watch over him like this. Maybe it's only because I only have to deal with what has already happened, which I can't change, and not the future.

"Mulder?"

I must have drifted off to sleep as well, his quiet question startles me awake, and the tone of his voice makes me think he's repeated my name several times to wake me up.

"Yeah?"

"You're still here?"

"Yeah. How are you?"

"Sick as a dog. Can I have the chocolate please?"

I'm surprised by how humble he sounds, and move quickly off the bed to get the Hershey bars.

"What time is it?" He asks, not moving from under the blanket.

"Just after midnight." I bring both the cherry slices and the chocolate back to the bed, sitting down on the edge when he moves over to make room for me.

"What day?"

"Monday."

"Oh, okay, that's good. Chocolate?"

Remembering his reaction when I opened the whiskey for him, I hand over the chocolate bar, and watch him tear the layers of paper and foil wrapper with his teeth. He wolfs half of it down, chewing and swallowing with determination, as if he has to force himself to.

"Thank you for staying."

"Thank you for letting me."

He laughs a little, shaking his head. "I didn't have any choice. Don't you have somewhere you have to be?"

He looks scared, and my heart leaps in my chest. Is it possible that he wants me here? That he doesn't want me to leave? "No. Nowhere."

"Oh, that's amazing. I'm going to puke."

He's right, I can see the color draining from his face, and I haul him up off the bed without thinking, my arms going around his ribcage as if it is the most natural thing in the world to touch him.

We make it to the bathroom in time, and I rub his back while he vomits. It looks so painful, I know there's nothing in his stomach, and the half of the chocolate bar he ate is nothing compared to the long bouts of heaves that make him shudder and choke and moan in pain. My poor ratbastard, I wish I could make it stop.

Finally, the heaving subsides, and he falls back against my legs, totally exhausted. Reaching for the towel I left draped over the sink, I wipe his face, and tell him quietly, "Come on, Alex, let's get you back to bed."

"Uh, no. I don't think I can. How about you just let me suffer in abject misery here with the toilet for company for a little while, huh?"

The fact that he can laugh at himself, in spite of the pain he's in, only makes me love him more. I was in love with him before I knew he had any redeeming qualities whatsoever, and now that I'm finding them, I'm realizing just how impossible it's going to be to leave him.

"Will you let me carry you?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Mulder. I weigh two hundred pounds. You are not going to carry me. Just let me sit here for awhile. I'm really tired."

"Come on, Alex, don't you want to give me the chance to show off my muscles?" I'm not sure I can carry him, but I'm determined to try. The floor is ice cold and I don't want him passing out on it. He's a good twenty pounds heavier than I am, and about an inch taller, but if I can get him over my shoulder I think I can drag him as far as the bed.

"I don't think I'm comfortable with this, Mulder. We're going to have to have a little talk about limits and boundaries." He jokes feebly, not really fighting me when I take his arm and drape him over my shoulder into a fireman's carry. Staggering back to the bed, I dump him onto it as gently as I can, getting a hand under his back to break his fall.

"Nice service. Now how about you run down to the alley and buy me a gram?" He's only joking; I can tell from his eyes that he knows I never would.

"No? Okay, how about some food, then?"

He just puked his guts out, I can't believe he wants food. "Are you serious?"

"Look, Mulder, I'm not as stupid as your average junkie, okay? No, I don't want to eat, but I know that the faster I get some nutrition in my system the faster my body will get over it and we can move on to the next phase of this lovely little game."

"Which would be?" I'm intrigued, not only by his candid explanation of withdrawal, but his direct, almost humble attitude. I've never imagined him like this. My defense mechanisms try to kick in, telling me it could all be an act, but I tell them to shut up, the man had been through too much in the past twenty four hours to have energy left to worry about deceit.

"Wanting a shot so bad you'd gnaw off your own leg to get it."

"Sounds fun."

"Yeah. So, how about some food?"

"Okay, I don't know what's open around here this time of night..."

"There's a twenty four hour hamburger stand on the corner. Get me a cheeseburger, and some fries. And a Milkshake. Chocolate."

I'm still surprised to see him this coherent. Moving away from the bed and his smile, I get his leather jacket from the chair and put it on.

"You look like Mickey Rourke."

I laugh, amused by his assessment. I do feel like someone else in his leather, it just doesn't go with the badge and the gun.

"Come back soon, Mulder." He murmurs, rolling over to wrap himself tighter in the blanket.

"I will. Do you want more whiskey?"

"Oh yeah."

"Okay, I'll be back in a minute."

"Be careful."

"I will."


Half an hour later, I'm running back up the stairs, a bag of greasy food and another from the liquor store under my arm. I'm worried; I didn't want to leave him alone this long. The hamburger joint was packed and I had to wait forever for the order.

The door is pulled open under my hand, much too hard. It's my first indication that something is wrong. The second is the gun in pressing into my right cheek. I feel as if my heart has dropped out of my chest.

"Who's coming, Mulder? Who did you call?"

I didn't want to look, I was hoping it wasn't him. I really was, even if it meant they'd found him and he's was already dead. I'd rather have him dead than have him betray me.

"What are you doing, Alex?"

"Trying to save my goddamn life, that's what I'm always doing, Mulder. Now you're gonna tell me, or you're gonna die. Who did you call?" He's almost hysterical; the gun is shaking in his hand. He hasn't cocked it yet, but his thumb is on the hammer.

"No one, I didn't call anyone, Alex."

"Bullshit! You called them alright, Mulder, you did. Now the question is who, who did you call? Was it Skinner? Was it Scully? Who was it? Tell me!"

"Alex, you've got to calm down and listen to me! I didn't make any phone calls while I was gone. I left my cell phone in my suit coat, it's in the inside pocket, go look, you'll see."

"Shut up! Shut up you double crossing son of a bitch! I know you didn't use your goddamn cell phone, where do you think I got the bullets, Mulder? You used a pay phone. You called someone. You called them to come get me. That's why you stayed."

"No! No, Alex, listen to me! Paranoia is a common side affect of opiate withdrawal. You're wrong, you're frightened and you're allowing yourself to be deluded by your own paranoid fantasies. I went to the liquor store, and then to the hamburger stand. They were busy, and I had to wait a long time for the order. I'm sorry it took me so long to get back to you, but I swear to you, I didn't call anyone."

"You're going to die."

I can see it in his eyes, he's going to pull the trigger. I'm afraid, but the fear is overwhelmed by the irony that it is someone else's paranoia that is going to kill me. I've always known that my own paranoid tendencies worked for me, rather than against me. I just wish they'd been working when I came up the stairs. I should have been more careful. I don't think I have time for regrets, so I've decided to go for altruism instead. Maybe one last act of selflessness will help to balance the bad things I've done.

"Listen to me, Krycek. There's three hundred dollars in my wallet. After you pull that trigger, I want you to take it and get the hell out of here, as fast as you can. Don't do anything else, just grab the money and leave. Get to the airport and get the first flight you can that will take you out of the country. They don't want me dead, Alex, not now. It's too dangerous. They won't let you get away with killing me."

My eyes are closed; I'm not ashamed to be afraid. I'm afraid to look into his eyes, I don't want to see the misplaced fear and hate that's going to kill me.

"Oh god," I hear the gun drop, and then he is falling against me and I have to hold him up or we'll both hit the floor.

"Mulder..." He moans, and then he is sobbing, clutching the back of the leather and trying to bury his face in my neck. Kicking the gun into the corner, I start to move us slowly to the bed.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. You were gone so long. I thought..."

"I know, it's okay, I know. You got scared, it's alright." I push him gently to the bed, sitting down without letting go of him. His breathing is harsh and hysterical, his voice cracks when he tries to talk.

"I... I almost killed you." He sounds so frightened. I pull him to me, trying to drape him over my lap so that I can hold him closer.

"But you didn't." I press my lips to his sweaty forehead, exhaling in shaky relief. I have to admit, I'm very glad he didn't. I'm not ready to die.

"You... You really went to the burger stand?" He sniffles, wiping his nose on my shoulder, breathing in short gasps that aren't quite sobs anymore.

"Yes. I got you a double bacon cheeseburger and cheese fries and a shake and I got myself an order of onion rings."

He pushes his face into my chest, hiding his eyes when I try to look at him. "I don't know why I was so sure... You were gone a long time."

"I know, thirty minutes. I didn't think it would take that long either, I'm sorry. Do you want to eat?"

He shakes his head against my collarbone, tightening his arm around my waist. "No. Please. Just this."

"Let me put the food down," I whisper, reaching around him to drop the greasy bag with our food and the one from the liquor store on the night table. Kicking off my shoes, I take his shoulders and hold him away from me long enough to wrestle the leather jacket off. It falls on the floor next to the bed. His bare skin is cold, he's still only wearing the sweatpants.

"Are you cold?" I mumble against his temple, rubbing his arm in an attempt to warm him.

"Freezing. My bones hurt, Mulder. They ache."

My poor rat, you're so miserable. I feel so bad, I wish there was something I could do. "Let me get you another blanket, I bought one at the drugstore."

"You didn't h-have t-to do t-that Mulder." He's shivering so hard his teeth chatter.

"No, but I wanted to. I'll be right back," I know it's foolish, but I want to reassure him. I don't know how aware of his surroundings he really is. To me, he seems more disoriented now than he was when he was flying on the heroin.

Collecting the things that scattered out of the bags when he kicked the table over, I take the thermal blanket and the vitamins and the second bottle of whiskey back to the bed. Spreading the blanket over him, I sit down on the edge of the mattress.

"Can I get you to take these? They're just vitamins."

"Huh? Sure. I'll probably just puke them back up though." He sits up, drawing the soft new blanket around his shoulders and reaching for the pills.

"Do you want water? I bought a six pack of coke, I could make you a drink."

"That'd be really good. Let me swallow these first, then you can pour some whiskey in the can."

"Okay." Going back to my pile of booty, I pick up a can of coke, holding it away from my body when I open it. Sure enough, it bubbles over all over the floor, but I don't really care. I carry it back to him, amazed that he has the handful of pills out of their cellophane package and in his hand. How did he do that?

I hand him the can and he swallows the pills, handing it back to me with enough room for a double shot of whiskey.

"Thank you for putting up with me, Mulder. I'm sorry it's so messy."

I smile, shaking my head. "I'm glad I'm here." It's true, more than glad, I'm grateful, that I've managed to keep my head and pull us through this. So far, I remind myself, thinking that he could flip right back on me at any time.

"So am I." He whispers, accepting the doctored can of soda from my hand. This time, his fingers linger over mine, and he doesn't jerk away. Does he mean that? It settles the last of the fear, and I realize how badly I want to be believe him.

I watch him drink, wondering how he can still want Jack Daniels the way he's been heaving. He must be exhausted by now. He finishes it, and sighs, relaxing a little and leaning back against the wall. There isn't a headboard. He offers me the empty can, raising his eyebrows with a sweet smile. "Another, barkeep?"

"I don't know, I don't think I got a tip on the last one."

"Don't kick doors in on dope shooting spies," he tells me in his perfect deadpan, a totally serious expression on his face.

I crack up, just barely restraining the urge to reach out and ruffle his hair. "Good tip. How strong? Like the last one?"

"A little stronger. Thank you, Mulder."

"We aim to please." I tell him, bringing the rest of the six pack of soda over to the bed.

"Is that true?" He asks me quietly, a vulnerability in his voice that I don't think I've ever heard before. It sends a rush of excitement through me, to hear the wanting in his voice.

"Yes," I answer seriously. Popping the next can of coke, I drink the first quarter of it for him so that I can add the alcohol.

"Then could you... Would you lie down with me again?"

"Yeah, of course. Here you go." I wait until I'm sure he's got a firm hold on the aluminum can, my hand covering his.

I watch him drink, smiling at the face he makes after he swallows. I don't think he's really much of a drinker. Kicking off my shoes, I move up on the bed, crawling under the new blanket. I don't know if it's going to keep him any warmer, but at least it's softer.

He holds very still, looking at me with uncertain eyes. I turn onto my side to face him, one arm reaching around his back to pull him close to me. He's shivering violently, his teeth chattering when he tries to talk.

"T-thank you."

"Don't thank me, I want to be here."

He smiles, but it looks like it hurts. "Wish I could say the same."

"I know, you're miserable. I'm so sorry, Alex. How much longer..."

" 'Nother twenty four hours or so, for the really dramatic stuff."

I'm relieved, glad to know that by tomorrow night he'll be better.

"Sing to me, Mulder." He speaks coaxingly, as if all of this is only a game we are playing, and I realize he must be getting drunk.

"You don't want me to sing, I have a terrible voice."

"Yes I do."

"Why?"

"Just want to listen to your voice. Please, Mulder?"

I can't refuse him anything. I suppose I should be glad that it's only a song he's asking for.

"What do you want me to sing?"

"Anything. No, sing a love song. I want to pretend, I want to pretend this is real."

There's no spite, no artifice in his words, only longing.

"You don't have to pretend, Alex." I want to kiss him, but instead I begin, singing quietly near his ear.

I caught you knockin' at my cellar door

I love you baby can I have some more

Gone, gone, the damage done

I hit the city and I lost my band

I watched the needle take another man

Gone, gone, the damage done

I sing this song because I love the man

I know that some of you won't understand

Milk blood, to keep from runnin' out...

I seen the needle and the damage done,

A little part of it in everyone...

He lays still, his head on my shoulder, listening with a small smile on his lips.

"That's not a love song, Mulder," he tells me when I finish. The smile reaches his eyes this time.

"Maybe not for most people," I answer, daring to wrap both my arms around him and pull him tightly against my chest. I'm disturbed by how thin he is. He's all skin and muscle and bone. Nothing extra, nothing soft.

He reaches behind me for his drink, finishing it off in three big gulps. "Do you love me, Mulder?"

Now I know he's drunk.

"Yeah, I do." It's the least I can give him, the truth. We both know that it's not going to change anything. It's not going to make any of this any easier, but at least he'll know.

As if he can read my mind, he asks me, "Do you always tell the truth, Mulder?"

"As much as I possibly can."

"That must be nice. Simple." He's slurring his words a little. The wistful way he says it makes me chuckle.

"It is less complicated."

"I'll bet." He looks at me for a long minute, obviously contemplating something seriously. He's an adorable drunk, even this messed up. "What would you say if Scully asked you the same question? Would you tell her the truth Mulder?"

He taunts me softly, and I want to slap him, but I don't. Instead, I take a deep breath to get my anger under control and tell him, "Scully wouldn't ask."

"No, I guess she wouldn't," He mumbles, curling up defensively at my side. Could he possibly be jealous? I almost want to laugh at the idea, it just seems so ludicrous.

It's raining again, the sound of the drops hitting the window are loud in the silence. Lightning lights up the room, and he jumps when the thunder crashes. I don't know what to say.

"I'm sorry, Mulder, I'm an asshole."

My hand finds it's way into his hair, brushing through the short, silky strands. "No, you're not. Don't say that."

He looks up at me, shaking his head to argue. "Yes I am. No, come on, Mulder, you know I am. I don't care about anybody but myself."

"Is that true?" I look into his eyes, and I have to remind myself to breathe again when he shakes his head slowly, whispering.

"No, no. It's not true."

I feel a ridiculous grin spreading over my face, and lean in to kiss him. He holds very still, letting me, but not actively participating. He tastes like sweet whiskey.

"Are you scared?" I ask, pulling back a little to try to see his eyes.

"Yes."

"Me too." I tell him, feeling his mouth smiling against mine when I kiss him again. His lip is still a mess, and I try to be very gentle.

"Nice, Mulder, very nice..." He sighs, mumbling against my lips. "Soft..."

"Mm-hm. Am I hurting you?"

"No."

"Good." His lips are pliant and yielding. He responds to my kisses so sweetly, turning his face up to allow me deeper access to his mouth. I gather him closer in my arms, and he relaxes completely, his whole body melting into my embrace. It makes me so gloriously happy, to have him so soft and willing in my arms like this. I want to cover him with kisses, I want to tell him over and over again that he is mine and that I will never let another bad thing happen to him again, that I will keep him and protect him always. It's impossible, of course, ludicrous.

"Mulder... When you kiss me, it goes so deep... I feel you so deep inside me."

"Shh, I know, I know. I love you, Alex. I do, so much more than I should, more than I want to. What can I do for you? I don't want you to be in pain. Is there anything I can do that will make it better?"

"Just hold me."

I cuddle him closer, letting the feeling of having him this close seep slowly into every part my consciousness. It feels so good, so much better than I ever could have imagined. I'm afraid. How will I find the strength to leave him?

"This is so good." He whispers, sounding very content. He's lying on his side, his cheek resting on my shoulder. After a moment, I feel the soft moistness of his lips on my skin. He kisses me very deliberately, placing a line of gentle but distinct kisses from the back of my neck to the base of my throat, humming quietly in the back of his throat the entire time.

I can't stop my body's reaction to him, instantaneous and overwhelming. I think I can feel my body temperature rise with each soft press of his lips against my skin.

"You're so real, Mulder. So alive. Sometimes I think I'm already half dead, I hardly feel anything. Not you, you feel everything. You take me along for the ride, and all I can do is watch and wonder what the hell it's like for you, to react so intensely."

"You really feel that way?" I ask, amazed by what he's said.

"Yeah, I do." His hand moves from my back, coming up between us to pull at the buttons on my shirt. When he's unbuttoned the top three, his hand slips in to lay flat in the center of my chest, directly over my heart.

"Promise me something, Mulder."

"Of course." I have no idea where that came from; the words were out of my mouth before I thought them. I never make a promise until I know what's being asked of me, and what kind of price I'm going to have to pay.

"Promise me that we won't let them take this away from us, that you won't ever use it against me. I know you think I'm working for Cancer Man..."

"Aren't you?"

"Yes and no. Right now I don't have a choice, but that's temporary. He'll pay, Mulder, I promise. I swear it."

"So what is it you want me to promise, Alex?" I ask him quietly, running my fingers through his hair. It's so silky, I can't keep my hands off it.

"Promise you won't tell anyone... That you won't let them use it against me, or you either, because they would, in a minute. Promise that no matter what else happens, this is separate, you and me. I won't ever do anything to harm you or mislead you again, Mulder, I swear it. No matter what they tell me, no matter how they try to convince me. I won't."

"I promise," I whisper, holding him fiercely to my chest. I'm amazed by how easy it is. "I promise." I don't know why, but I believe him. I believe that he won't betray me. For me, this is so unusual it should make me doubt my sanity. I trust no one. It took me years to trust Scully, who is never anything but totally honest and honorable. I didn't trust my parents, my teachers, my superiors, no one. But now, I'll trust him. The thief, murderer, deceiver, errand boy of my enemies, the man I can't help but love, because we are so alike.

"You know time's running out, don't you Mulder?"

"Yes."

"I think they're scared."

"Maybe. It doesn't matter, not here. Just rest, get better."

"You're something else, you know that? How can you be so unafraid? You shouldn't even be here, Mulder. You should go..."

"Don't start that. I'm not leaving."

I can feel his grin against my chest. He's pulled my shirt to the side, scooting down on the bed to rest his head under my collarbone. The sweep of his tongue over my bare skin startles me.

"You taste good," he whispers, licking lightly above the line of my shirt collar.

"Do I?" I ask, pleased when I manage to keep my voice from trembling.

"Yeah," he mumbles, his head dipping down to repeat the quick caress. My hands move from his hair to his shoulders, kneading the heavy muscles there unconsciously as his tongue covers my throat with long, soft strokes. I'm afraid to move, to speak, sure that anything I do will interrupt this touch. My whole body is shaking, aching with the desire for him.

"I'm teasing you, aren't I?" He whispers against my chest, his hot breath spreading over my skin, giving me goose bumps.

"I don't know, are you?" I ask shakily, trying for humor.

"Um, maybe. I don't know. I could stop... I don't wanna be a prick tease."

"No, don't. Not if you don't want to."

"Okay," he whispers against my skin, dropping soft kisses across the top of my chest. "I don't."

His mouth is warm and wet and very soft. I try to breathe slowly, to think of anything but how much I want that mouth on my cock. It feels so heavenly. I want him more than I've ever wanted anyone.

"Oh God, Alex. Alex..." I whisper his name, gasping when the heat of his mouth closes over my nipple. Oh, God, it feels good. So good I can't stand it, I'm going to go out of my mind. His tongue is devious, quick as a snake's, flicking over my hardened nipple relentlessly, drawing quick circles around the sensitive point. He makes a small sound in the back of his throat, almost a growl, before he sucks my aching, sensitized nipple into his mouth to nibble delicately with his teeth.

"Ah, Alex. Oh, Jesus..." What he's doing feels so good I know I'm going to explode before too much longer, but somehow, knowing that it's him doing it is even more exciting than the attention itself. I don't want to, I don't want to lose control, the sensations his tongue provokes are pure heaven, too good to waste with a simple orgasm. I want it to go on forever.

"You like this, huh?"

"Oh God yes!"

He's nuzzling my bare skin, giving me kisses that feel like being branded with his mouth, his breath. He's radiating heat. For just a second, my brain kicks in and reminds me that it's probably because he has a fever, and that he's really not in any shape to be doing this sort of thing.

"You know, I could kinda tell." He teases, rubbing his thigh deliberately against my cock, rock hard and trapped in my suit pants. "That's kinda intimidating, Mulder." He's talking about my cock, which wants out of my slacks so bad it's perfectly willing to beg. His lips curve into a smile against my skin. "If I take it out is it going to be docile and mind its manners?"

"On my very best behavior. I swear, Tovarich. I'm putty in your hands, anything you want."

"Mmm, I think I'm more interested in what you want, Mulder." He croons, his fingers working the fastener on my suit pants with careful determination. He doesn't touch me once, not even the brush of the back of his hand through the cloth.

"You know, you don't have that big dick attitude that most guys who are hung like horses have. How come?"

"Um, I don't know. Because it's stupid?"

He laughs, pushing my pants down over my hips. "Yeah, I guess it is. Just seems to work that way though, know what I mean?"

I can't think straight long enough to answer him, my mind is totally preoccupied by the slow, determined work his hand is doing with my clothing. He's got my boxers halfway down my thighs, and my pants around my ankles. He doesn't take either off completely, and I wonder if it's because he feels safer knowing I'm at least somewhat restrained, or just because it's too much trouble.

He watches my face, seeming more interested in my reactions than in what he's doing. I hear myself moan when his mouth returns to my skin, leaning over me to reach the other nipple. Oh, lord, that's so good. The sensation so intense that it's impossible to keep quiet.

"Yeah, that's right, Mulder, talk to me. Tell me what it feels like."

"Oh. So good, perfect... Ah! Alex. You're going to kill me. Your mouth is so soft..."

As if to contradict me, he begins to bite and nip delicately with his teeth, holding my hard flesh for his tongue to torture with it's lightning quick flicks and lashes. Then his hand covers my cock, and I groan helplessly, giving myself up completely to his touch. It's only a moment, I can't stand much more, but the sensation of his hand's gentle manipulation of my sex will stay with me long after I come.

He lets go of me just before I orgasm, and I wonder if maybe he's squeamish about it. I keep my eyes closed for a long time, wanting to savor the idea of him touching me for as long as I can.

"That was very nice to watch, Mulder." He speaks quietly, humor that's not quite making fun of me in his voice.

"Oh yeah? Is that what you like to do, watch?"

"Uh-uh, not me. You're the one with the porn collection so big you need a catalogue to keep track of it. I like contact sports. Unfortunately, I like smack better. Forgive me while I puke, okay?"

I realize he's serious when he rolls off the far side of the bed, moving across the darkened room and closing the bathroom door behind him. I feel guilty, to be lying here savoring the memory of his touch when he's so sick and miserable. I wish there was more I could do, or at least that I was able to be less selfish, more altruistic. It's never like that for us, though, there's always someone in pain, and always one of us must pay the price for the other's pleasure. I wonder why? I suppose neither of us really deserves better.

Listening to him retch, I think about how important this is to me, that I am willingly risking everything, my job, my safety, even my search for the truth, just to be here with him, to offer my witness to his struggle. It's strange, very strange, to know that I would give up anything, for this totally imperfect, damaged love. I accept it, I embrace it. It makes me giddy, I feel as if I'm on drugs, high on the knowledge that I have never felt anything as strong or as true as this, that I will do anything I have to, kill anyone, to keep him safe.

"You look like the cat that swallowed the canary, Mulder." He's standing in the doorway to the bathroom, leaning against the wall to hold himself up. He's horribly pale, with dark circles under his eyes and twin spots of high color in his cheeks.

"Do you need help?" I ask him, hurrying to pull up my boxers and my pants and rise from the bed.

"No, I need a fucking shot. That's what I need Mulder, but you can't do anything about that, can you?" He shuffles slowly towards me, turning away from my hand on his shoulder, but not viciously.

I watch him fall onto the bed on his stomach, wanting to touch him, but very much afraid that he doesn't want me to.

"How about a back rub? It might help you relax a little." I'm watching his muscles tense and shake uncontrollably under his skin.

"No." His response is muffled by his face in the pillow, but the refusal in his tone is crystal clear.

"Come on, Alex, let me, please? I promise, it'll feel good."

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't want you to touch me." He moans harshly, rolling away from me on the bed. I feel like he stabbed me with a knife.

He's sweating, shifting restlessly from one position to another every few moments, as if it hurts for his skin to touch the sheets. He swears under his breath, his eyes closed tightly, his face drawn into a grimace.

"Leave me alone, Mulder. I don't want your mothering."

"Just rest, Ratfink, I'll leave you alone. I'm sorry." Going over to the window, I lean against the frame, looking out the dirty glass so that I won't stare at him. I'm trying not to push, not to give him more than he wants, but it's so hard.

"Mulder? I'm sorry. I'm just gonna be a total dick head now and you're gonna have to deal with it, okay?"

I laugh, thinking that this may be the most honest statement he's ever given me. "That's okay. I'm not going to hold it against you."

"You might not feel that way a few hours from now. Why don't you go out for awhile, huh Mulder? Do you think you could just possibly leave me the fuck alone for a few hours?"

"Nope."

"Fuck you."

"We tried that. It was good."

Watching him twist and curl on the bed, I have an inspiration. Going into the bathroom, which smells even more sour and stale than it did when I got here, I pull the worn thin towel off the rack and rip it in half. Holding my makeshift washcloth under the facet, I turn the cold tap on, and soak it thoroughly. Wringing it out once, I carry it back to the bed. He's lying on his stomach again, the muscles in his thighs rock hard and standing out painfully.

Deciding that silence is the best way to go, I sit down carefully on the edge of the bed, trying to make the mattress move as little as possible. Unfolding the wet cloth, I lay it gently over the back of his neck, waiting for his reaction before drawing it over his shoulders.

"Thank you." He sighs, his hand coming up to cover his face. "Feels good." He tells me, grudgingly, bending his head down to expose the back of his neck.

"Shh, it's okay." I whisper, wanting to tell him that he doesn't have to talk, doesn't have to do anything but let me take care of him.

I move the cold cloth slowly over his shoulders, wiping the sweat away as I trace the definition of his muscles. He doesn't relax completely, but his body sinks into the bed a bit, his breath coming a little deeper. I get up several times to rinse and cool the cloth, which absorbs the heat of his body quickly. He doesn't speak, doesn't seem to be paying any attention to me at all, but his body is mildly responsive, turning and stretching slightly for the touch. I don't know why I thought of a cool sponge bath, but I'm glad I did. It seems to be helping a little at least, and if nothing else, it'll keep his temperature down.

Gradually, I begin to apply gentle pressure over his muscles, waiting to see if he'll get cranky on me before actually beginning to massage him. He turns his head to the other side, away from me, the hand that was covering his face flattening limply on the sheet. Eventually, I set down the cloth, manipulating the rocks over his shoulder blades in slow, circular motions.

I take my time, working each group of muscles patiently until I can force them to relax before moving on. I work my way slowly down his back, lightening my touch when he complains, moaning quietly and tensing under my hands.

"I'm sorry, not so hard, I got it. Just relax, try to think of something else."

"How?" He groans, surprising me when he speaks.

"Is it that difficult?" I feel totally out of my element, I know nothing about what he's going though, not in any kind of useful way, at least.

"Yes."

"I'm sorry." I tell him quietly, paying careful attention to his lower back, where the muscles are bunched up painfully.

He's quiet for a long time, letting me touch him without showing any sign of either pleasure or displeasure at the attention. When my hands have worked their way slowly back up to his neck again, he turns his head, speaking quietly and without emotion.

"Mulder? Could I please have the whiskey?"

"Yeah." I reach to the floor next to the bed for the bottle and hand it to him. "Isn't it going to tear up your stomach to drink more?"

"Yeah, but my digestive system's not real high on my priority list right now. I'm more interested in trying to do something about the shakes and the pins and needles."

That makes sense, I guess. I suppose it doesn't really matter how much he drinks, if he's going to be throwing up anyway.

"Get drunk with me?" He's giving me that bright-eyed, half-innocent, half daring look that I can't resist.

"Alright." I reach for the bottle, taking it from his hand to lift it to my lips. The whiskey is warm and sharp. He watches me, smiling.

"I've never seen you drunk."

"I don't drink that much."

"No, Mulder, you just drink alone."

"How come you know so much about me?"

"Because I watch you."

"I see." That takes a little time to digest. I drink again, knowing it will put him at ease and relax his defenses if I get drunk with him. I want that.

"Do you want to talk about it?" I ask him carefully, trying to keep a mild, neutral tone to my voice.

"Talk about what?"

"Heroin."

"Hell no."

"Why not?" I ask him, reaching forward to brush a few strands of hair out of his eyes.

"Because, Mulder, I am trying very, very, very hard not to think about it. Okay?"

"Oh, right. Okay. I'm sorry Alex."

He laughs, and takes the whiskey bottle back. We pass the bottle back and forth, not speaking. It's true, I always drink alone, it seems strange to be getting drunk with him. I didn't think I trusted him enough to let my guard down this far. I guess I do, because when he laughs, it's easy to laugh with him.

"You're a head case, you know that Mulder?"

"Yeah. At least I'm not a junkie."

Where did that come from? I hurt his feelings; I can see it in his eyes. Damn, just when he was starting to trust me a little. Why do I always put my foot in my mouth with him? It's as if my brain has a secret agenda to sabotage each and every one of our conversations.

"I'm not a junkie, Mulder."

"Could have fooled me."

"Listen to me, Mulder, open up that paranoid mind of yours and listen. If I'm a junkie, then you're a rapist. Do you think you're a rapist Mulder?"

"No. Do you?" Even with the liquor for insulation, I'm almost too afraid to ask.

"No, I think your dick gets hard when you're angry. Like I said, you're a head case."

"Are you calling me sadist, Alex?"

"Yeah, I guess so. A repressed sadist maybe." He laughs, and passes me the whiskey. "Don't sweat it, Mulder, I like you that way."

How can he say such a thing, after what I did to him?

"Come on Alex, you can't mean that."

"Sure I do. Get over your guilt thing, okay? I'm not interested in feeding your dysfunctional sex drive."

"Oh, great, now I'm dysfunctional. What does that make you?"

"Easy."

I crack up, leaning over the space between us to kiss his forehead. "I love you, Alex."

"Why?" His question challenges me, a defensive tone in his voice that says there has to be a motive, a reason.

"Because you understand me. Because there isn't anything else to do. I can't hate you, I can't kill you. I've tried."

"You're such a comfort, Mulder. I love you too."

He's only being sarcastic, I think, but I let myself believe it anyway.

"Why don't you believe me Mulder?"

"I hurt you..."

"Yeah, you did. Are you going to do it again?"

"No, of course not!"

"Good, then I forgive you."

"Alex! It's not that simple. You're drunk."

"Yes, I am, and yes, it is. I forgive you, let it go. I'm not interested in a starring role in your nightmares Mulder. Your wet dreams, maybe..."

"You're already in them, smartass."

"Really? Tell me about them."

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because. It's embarrassing."

"Mulder. In the past twenty-four hours, you've seen me high as a kite, puking, crawling on the floor, and crying. How much more embarrassing can we get? Tell me."

"It's stupid."

"That's no excuse."

"Okay, okay. Um, I have this dream..." I can't believe I'm going to tell him this. "I have this dream where we're in the cell, in Tunguska, and you tell me that if I suck you off, in front of the guards, they'll let us both go." Just as in the dream, a cold, clammy sweat breaks out over my chest and stomach, and I can smell the cold, foul air of the prison cell.

"Do you?"

"Yeah." I know I'm blushing. How embarrassing. I didn't think I could blush anymore.

"Do I like it?"

"Well yeah, of course you like it."

He chuckles, and sets the almost empty bottle down. I'm rather shocked when he reaches for my hand, but I let him take it, returning the slight pressure. It feels like such an intimate thing to do, hold his hand.

"You have a very high opinion of your sexual skills, Mulder. From what I've seen so far, they may be overrated."

"Is that an invitation, or just your average cut down?"

"Oh, I think it's a dare."

"Are you serious?"

"Sure. Come on, Mulder, help me take my mind off my misery. I know you want to."

"Um, okay, I guess... You really want me to?"

I don't know what I've done, or said, but he looks angry, and hurt. Maybe he's unhappy because I'm hesitating? I hope he knows that I'm only worrying about his physical condition.

He sighs heavily, and pulls his hand from my grasp, his arm coming up to cover his face.

"No, forget it. I don't think I do, not really." His voice is flat, I can see the walls going up behind his eyes.

He rolls over, showing me his back. In spite of the rejection, I feel gratified by the implication of his trust. I won't let myself look at him, I'm afraid to. I'm afraid that the sight of his bare skin will be more than I can handle right now. I'm determined to do what he wants, only, but I wonder if he knows what a close thing it is. How hard it is to stop myself from just taking him. He's so very vulnerable right now, even moreso than he was when he was stoned.

After a moment, he kicks the blanket up over his shoulders, and I feel a little more at ease. His forehead rests in the crook of his arm. He takes a deep, measured breath, and closes his eyes. He doesn't open them again to look at me when he speaks, a few seconds later.

"I'm going to try and sleep some more, okay?"

It's as polite a way as he can ask for me to leave him alone. I feel awkward.

"Okay."

"Mulder?"

"Yeah?"

"You can leave if you want to. You don't have to stay here with me. I'm gonna live, honest."

"Are you trying to get rid of me?"

A whisper is all I can get out of my throat. I haven't made myself think about leaving, not yet.

"No, I don't think I am. I just don't want you to feel like you have to stay here."

"I'd rather stay." I tell him, feeling even more foolish.

"Suit yourself, Mulder." He sounds like he's trying not to smile.

He's quiet for a long time, and finally I decide that maybe he has gone back to sleep. Stealing one of his cherry slices, I chew it thoughtfully, remembering what it felt like to feed him with my mouth. I don't want to leave him. It's all I can think of.

My cell phone rings, startling me so badly I jump straight to my feet. I think my rat must be immune to the sounds of electronica, he doesn't move a muscle. I get to my phone in my suit jacket pocket before it can ring again.

"Mulder, it's me."

"Hi. What's up?"

"Are you still chasing Krycek?"

"Um, no, not at the moment. Why?"

"I just thought I'd let you know that you could have spent your vacation in some sort of hedonistic pursuit instead of tracking Alex Krycek halfway around the world."

I wonder what she would say if I told her following Alex is a hedonistic pursuit?

"He'll be here next week."

"What? When?"

"Tuesday."

"Why? How do you know this?"

"Skinner chose to share some highly classified information. My guess is that it was in the hope of getting you back here early. He's less than thrilled with the way you've chosen to spend your vacation time. Frankly, so am I."

"How does Skinner know what I'm doing?"

"He called me into his office and asked me where you were. I'm sorry, Mulder, he did that thing with his eyes."

"What happened to "I don't know Sir"?"

"I tried that, Mulder. It didn't work. I'm sorry. Are you furious?"

I let us both think about it for a few seconds, and then I have to let her off the hook. Of course she did her best to cover for me, I know that.

"No, Scully, I'm not upset. It's my fault for staying away so long. How is everything back there? You holding down the fort?"

"Yep. What's going on Mulder?"

Oh shit. "What do you mean?"

"Did you find him?"

"Why would you think that?"

"Because you're being evasive, and you never ask how things are going. I'm doing paperwork. Your paperwork. That's why you never ask. You didn't kill him, did you?"

"No!"

"Good. I don't think his bosses would appreciate it if you jumped the gun and spoiled all their plans."

"What are you saying, Scully?" There is a cold pit forming in my stomach.

"He's walking into a trap. Save your energy, Mulder. He'll be dead by Thursday."

I've never heard her sound happy about the idea of someone being murdered before. My heart is going triple time.

"Thanks for sharing. I'll see you Monday morning."

"Be careful, Mulder."

I press the button to disconnect the call, looking quickly over to the bed. I'm not nearly as good at all this spying and lying as I should be by now. I wasn't very careful, I'm sure I said her name at least once. I'm lucky, he's sound asleep. Explaining a phone call with Scully to a paranoid, detoxing rat is the last thing I need. How am I going to save him? I won't let them take him, I won't! I'm so angry I can't stand still, I'm pacing the length of the room, going back and forth from the window to the door. For the past 48 hours this room has felt like the entire universe. I hate it when the real world barges in and destroys my fantasies, even when they're as messed up as this one. It shocks me back into myself a little, realizing how happy I've been here, taking care of him.

I should be packing, waking him up, calling for plane tickets... I'm standing at the foot of the bed, watching him. He's smiling in his sleep. What am I going to do if he doesn't believe me, if he doesn't want to let me help him?

I'll handcuff him to my wrist and drag him out of here, that's what I'll do. I'll do anything I have to, but I'm not going to let them kill him.

"Mulder?"

My pacing has woken him. He's sitting up in the bed, watching me with wide awake eyes.

"What's wrong? Did I miss something?"

"No, I'm sorry. How are you feeling?"

His hand comes up, reaching for me, and another little burst of adrenaline rushes through me, this time one of pure joy. Going to him quickly I sit on the side of the bed, giving him my hand.

"A little better. Are you getting stir crazy?"

"No."

Swinging my legs up onto the bed, I lay down, pulling him close. The news from Scully gives the contact a new hunger. He will leave me soon, I will have to live without this.

He presses his forehead against mine, closing his eyes.

"I should go..."

It's only a whisper, so quiet I could pretend that I didn't hear it if I wanted to. I wonder if that was his intention.

I don't know if he did hear my conversation with Scully, or if fate just works that way for us. Both seem likely.

"Where?"

I can't do much better than a hoarse whisper myself. I'm glad his eyes are still closed, and that he is still so close. I wrap my arms more tightly around his shoulders, pressing his body to me hungrily.

"D.C., I'm expected... More bullshit."

"No."

"No?"

"It's a trap." The words fly out of my mouth, and I can't make myself let go when he tries to pull back to look at me.

"How do you know?" His voice is still quiet, but now I can hear the control there.

"I didn't. I just found out. Skinner told me."

I don't know why, but my instinct has always been to keep him as far away from her as I can, and vice versa, even before I knew he was working for Cancer Man.

"He's telling the truth. It's a trap, they want to kill you, along with the others."

He doesn't say anything for a moment, and then he sighs, pressing his skull harder against mine. "It's convenient... Fuck."

He opens his eyes, and my stomach lurches painfully when I realize they are full of regret.

"I have to go."

"No." My arms tighten around him reflexively, although he hasn't tried to move out of my embrace yet.

His hand strokes down my back soothingly, while his mouth covers mine, making little shushing noises.

Alex trying to comfort me, to ease a pain that cannot be comforted, soothed or placated, is too much. I want to cry. He feels so good, so very good. I don't care what the next words out of his mouth are, I'm not letting go.

"Mulder, please, let me go, just for a moment. I need to think, tovarich."

So gentle. I never would have known he had this much gentleness in him.

He moves easily out of my arms, twisting out of my hold on him so easily that I have to remember how good he is at getting away. It's been easy, here, to delude myself. Now his movements force me to remember who he really is, how he lives.

"You're sure about this? I don't trust Skinner as far as I can throw him."

I can't help remembering. I feel myself smile, asking him, "How far's that?"

"Pretty far." He grins back, before his eyes turn serious. "You know?"

"Yeah. Tell me about the job?"

He shrugs, looking very casual about committing the act of murder. "Get some guy. Some bank president. Used to be one of them. I don't know the whole story, they don't tell me. He won't play, I get to take care of the problem."

"So you blow the whole place up? That's crazy."

"No, Mulder, that's an act of Middle Eastern terrorism. Hamas will claim responsibility, and within twenty four hours Arafat will be decrying the action. Then the Israeli soldiers on the West Bank will kill a few more little Arab boys and the bastards will get away with the whole thing.

"And this is foreign policy."

"Yep. They notified Hamas last week."

"You're not going."

He laughs, and leans in to kiss me. It's a promise kiss, and doesn't last nearly as long as I want it to.

"No, I'm not. But I think I like you all macho and protective. You got a plan, Mulder?"

"Yeah, or at least a place... Are you going to get out?"

He gives me a look that says I should know better than to ask such a thing, but what he says is, "Yeah. I don't really have any choice, do I?"

"There's a place Langley told me about, in Oregon."

"The great Northwest. I hate it already."

"Yeah, well, they're probably a little short on places like this, but it's safe."

"No place is safe, Mulder." His eyes say plainly, "you're being foolish."

"This place is, even from them."

"That's impossible."

"Not when you don't have social security numbers, or cash, or any traceable records whatsoever."

"A commune?"

"Uh-huh. Started by a bunch of hackers. They think the millennium bug is going to cause mass hysteria, bank rushes, food shortages, the whole deal. So five years ago they started this high-tech independent community up in the mountains. They've got digital modems, AK47's, and enough food to last through the crisis. I think they grow crops up there, too."

"Well, they're right."

"Yeah, I know, but that's sixteen months away. Can we worry about staying alive through next week?"

I get another one of those dangerous smiles. "Yeah, sure."

"So does that mean you'll go?" He hasn't actually agreed yet, and I'm still afraid. Afraid that he'll decide to do something foolish. I already know how little he values his life.

"I don't have a whole lot of choice, do I?" He doesn't look happy about it.

"You should leave as soon as possible, take a bus or a train out there, no planes, and use a false name for the ticket."

He interrupts me before I'm finished. "Mulder, I know how to do this, remember? I'm the slick rat you've been chasing."

I have to laugh, "Yeah, well, you weren't very careful."

"No, I was careful, you were obsessed," He argues, still smiling. It doesn't seem to bother him, that I came here to kill him. He is such a puzzle. I don't think I'll ever get tired of it.

My brain is already working on the list of things to do before taking him to the train station, but I need to steal just a little more time. I need to have something to take back to D.C. with me, at least the hope that I'll be able to see him again.

"Alex..." There is so much I want to say to him, and the words won't come. I can't think of anything, only that I'm about to lose him. There's an uncomfortable lump in my throat, and I have to take a deep breath to be certain that I'm not going to cry.

"Shh, It's okay, Mulder." His lips move against mine, the words spoken softly over my mouth before he kisses me. This time, he doesn't pull away, he lets me kiss him deeply, pulling him tightly against me to search his mouth again and again. His arm around my waist squeezes back, holding me just as hard.

The pain in my chest is sharp, more real than this dirty room littered with soda cans and the remains of his tantrum, more real than this precious space we've created. Many, many times I have been forced to accept the unacceptable, to go on when it seems that there is nothing to make the struggle worthwhile, so why can't I face it now? Where's all that detachment that's so important to me? Not here, not with him. I never have been. He has always evoked the strongest emotions in me.

I hold him as tightly as I can, as if I can refuse the reality of his world by will alone. Even as I'm starting another list for the drugstore in my head, I'm wishing desperately for just a few more days with him. It's impossible, I need to get him out of here as quickly as possible, and safely on his way somewhere else, pretending to be someone else, someone harmless. The funny thing is, I know he can pull it off.

He lets me hold him for a long time, but finally, he pulls gently out of my arms, green eyes staring seriously into mine. "I should get ready to go..."

"I know." Neither of us makes a move to rise from the bed.

"Mulder..." He stops, and shakes his head slowly. I understand. He does love me, and there's nothing more to say. The regret I see in his eyes doesn't make loosing him any easier to bear, but I'm going to cherish it, when he's gone.

I take a deep breath, and clear my throat, glad when my voice comes normally. "Why don't you take a shower and pack up? I want to run back to the store and get you a few things for the trip."

"That's okay, you don't have to spend money on me, I'll be alright. Greyhound's nothing new."

"You're going to be on a bus for two days, I want to make sure you get there alive, okay?"

He laughs a little, as if he's not one hundred percent sure of that outcome himself. "Okay, have it your way. Can you get me some chocolate bars?"

"Sure, anything else?" I'm only stalling, delaying the moment when he'll move out of my reach.

"Not that I can think of. You decide."

"Okay. I'll be back soon."

He smiles, and I wonder if it's because the last time I came back he pulled a gun on me, or if it's my over protectiveness he finds amusing.

He sits up slowly, pushing himself off the bed and to a standing position, his hand on the night table for balance. It will be a few more hours before I can get him ready to leave and to the Port Authority terminal and on a bus, but I feel like I've already lost him.

"Alex." His name comes out sharply, stopping his slow progress to the bathroom. He turns to look at me, and I see my own pain in his face.

"What?"

"Don't forget."

"I won't, Mulder, I promise."

He turns his back on me to finish the trip across the room to shower, and I have to wait until he's closed the door before I can make myself get up from the bed. I'll make sure he has my cell phone, and the number at the apartment, and my email, I'll buy him a long distance calling card at the store, but I don't know if he'll call me. As painful as it is to think of not seeing him again, it may be the safest thing to do. I know he'll think of his own survival first, at least, I can be grateful for that. Maybe I can use the badge to talk the pharmacist out of a few painkillers for him, at least make the two day bus trip a little less painful. I'll make him take the blanket, too. Buy granola bars, and bottled water, too, and a supply of his cherry slices. I don't know if he'll be able to get them, where he's going. I wish I could just go with him, just throw it all away. I can't, he wouldn't let me. I won't even ask, I know what the answer would be. He'd tell me somebody has to stay here and fight the future.

He's right, but it doesn't make it hurt any less to lose him. I try to comfort myself, telling myself he has always been my fate, my catalyst, surely I'll see him again, fate wouldn't be that cruel. More than anything I've ever hoped for, I hope I'm right.

The End


I got a secret you can live and learn

I got a secret you can live and learn

You don't know me but I burn

You don't know me but I burn

Deep in your gut you know the right way out

Deep in you gut you know the right way out

Not like those guys who mess around

Not like those guys who fake it, now

Perforation problems not alright

Hangin on a needle out of spite

Perforation problems

No one home

Stumblin' like dirty slave

In anger

I got a worm down in my troubled soul

I got a worm down in my troubled soul

Now I'm all right but there's still holes

Now I'm all right but there's still holes

Every time I think it was my last

Every time I hoped it was my last

I watched my future become my past

I watched my future become my past

Perforation problems not all right

Hangin on a needle outta fright

Perforation problems no one home

Stumblin' like dirty slave

In anger

I still get angry when I look back

I still get angry when I look back

When I look ahead my bags are packed

Perforation problems not all right

Hangin' on a needle out of fright

Perforation problems no one home

Stumblin' like a dirty slave

Perforation problems not all right

Perforation problems every night

Perforation problems no one home

Stumblin' like a dirty slave

Perforation problems

Fright


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