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Alex Through the Looking Glass: Day Eight


Contains explicit male/male sex, BDSM, and disturbing themes.

Pairing: Mulder/Krycek/Krycek

Summary: Alex Krycek finds himself face-to-face with another version of himself in an alternate universe—a very dangerous and seductive Alex Krycek. Alex quickly realizes he may not live to see the morning, much less ever return to his own world.


Disclaimer: The X-Files belong to Chris Carter and Ten-Thirteen Productions. No infringement is intended.


Alex woke to the morning sun streaming through the curtains, dappling the lazy clouds painted on the ceiling. He stretched, and turned to the side where Krycek had slept, burying his face in the sheets, imagining the faint scent of his brother. Krycek was in the apartment somewhere; Alex could feel his presence like a shift in the currents of air wafting through the room. If he tried, he could reach out and slide into his brother’s mind, see through his eyes exactly where he was and what he was doing, and offer a morning greeting. But he was content to leave the contact tenuous, the merest awareness of the other’s presence.

He stretched again, and moved farther onto Krycek’s side of the bed, pulling Krycek’s pillow close. He’d get up in a little while, as soon as he woke up a little more. No hurry—it was warm and pleasant, curled up here in the big bed, and there was nowhere he had to go. (An image of his Mulder flitted through his mind, and the hotel room in Montana, the first morning of their waking together. Alex had refused to get up for breakfast, preferring another hour’s sleep; Mulder had teased that he was in no danger of starving, and left him in bed. The memory was full of pain, but it was sweet pain, and Alex smiled at it.)

The bedroom door opened, and there was Krycek, dressed in a silvery-grey shirt and charcoal wool slacks, with his hair slicked back and a chunk of toast in one hand. He smiled as Alex blinked at him happily.

“I thought I’d go into work for a while, if you’ll be all right here on your own.” Krycek came in and sat on the edge of the bed.

Alex nodded. “I’ll be fine. Stay as long as you want.” And in fact, the thought of a day to himself sounded like just what he needed. A little breathing space to process at least some of what had happened to him over the past few weeks, now that he was no longer frightened out of his wits or blind with misery and could actually think about it. He pushed himself to a sitting position and reached out his arms. “Give me a hug before you go.”

“I’m not leaving right this instant,” Krycek teased, but he took Alex in his arms anyway, stroking his hair affectionately, and squeezing his shoulders before letting him go. “What will you do today?”

Alex let himself fall back into the pillows, staring thoughtfully into the blue-sky ceiling. “I don’t know. Read, I suppose. Study the codes. Get some groceries.” He propped himself up on his elbows and looked at Krycek hopefully. “I’d like to go to that gym you were talking about. Do they have a sauna?”

Krycek smiled. “Yes, I think they do. —So, you need money for groceries, directions to the market and the gym, and gym clothes. Anything else?”

Alex shook his head, already a little breathless at Krycek’s ready agreement. It had an indulgent quality that warmed Alex’s belly, and would soon have him wanting Krycek to stay, if he allowed himself to dwell on it. “I’ll be fine. You’re only going across town.”

“I’ll leave you my phone number. Unless it’s an emergency, I’d rather you use that if you need to get in touch with me.”

Alex nodded. Naturally, it would be distracting to have Little Brother popping into his head right in the middle of some intense strategy session. “I’ll be fine.” It seemed to be the only thing he knew how to say. He giggled suddenly, astonished all over again to be here, in this place, in this universe, with this other version of himself, planning a day on his own—something at once so mundane and so extraordinary, he had no idea how to think about it.

Krycek nodded slowly. “It is extraordinary. I don’t forget that.” His fingers brushed Alex’s cheek, and then he stood up and walked out of the room, leaving Alex to stare at the ceiling in wonder.

* * *

It was the first time Alex had been alone in the apartment. It seemed bigger, somehow, and even more imposing, with no one but himself in it. He almost felt that he could hear his breath echoing off the walls and the wide picture windows as he wandered from room to room, trying to get the feel of the place. It was not an apartment he could imagine owning, or decorating in this way, yet in a way it was his apartment; there was something familiar in it, something that felt like home.

He prowled his way to the kitchen, and began rummaging in the refrigerator for leftover bits of cheese, and put some chunks of bread into the oven under the broiler for toast. Alone. Already it had become strange to him, in the few short days he’d been here. At home in his own universe, he’d lived alone and liked it well enough. And he’d be alone again once he returned—even if he convinced Mulder of his sincerity, and won his way back into Mulder’s heart, they wouldn’t live together. And that was fine. But he would miss that big bed, and the comforting warmth of a lover’s body next to him every night. He poured a cup of that morning’s leftover coffee, and put it into the microwave to heat.

Then, as he turned away from the microwave, it hit him: every muscle in his body clenched. There was a wrenching feeling, as if giant unseen hands grabbed him and twisted. A surprised squawk caught in his throat, and then it was over, except that his knees had given way and he was falling towards the floor.

An athlete’s reflexes saved him from the worst of it. He tucked and rolled and wound up on his back, gasping for breath and staring at the ceiling. And Krycek was there, in his mind, startled and fierce and concerned.

I’m all right, Alex sent immediately, as he pushed himself upright. He took a deep breath and blew it out. And another. Really, he felt fine, if a little bruised. It was no worse than a rough tackle in football. Sorry to interrupt you.…

There was a brief impression of an office with a blond desk and a vast window with a view from a great height. That’s the second time this has happened. I don’t like it.

I’m fine, Alex insisted. And he let his mind open, so that his strength and steadiness could flow along the link.

Krycek was not appeased. His thoughts roiled; possibilities boiled up and swept away without conclusion. Do you want me to come home?

No, of course not. I just got dizzy for a minute. Probably just need something to eat. They both knew how unlikely that was. And trying to spin the truth when speaking directly into someone’s mind was an exercise in futility. Alex sighed. There’s nothing you can do. Go back to work. That, at least, was true. They had no way of knowing if the spell, whatever it was, would recur, and even if it did, it happened so fast it would be over before either of them could do more than begin to exclaim. And if something worse did happen—if Alex lost consciousness or hurt himself falling—Krycek would know about it the instant it happened, and could have an ambulance on its way just as quickly from work as from home.

And Krycek knew it as well as Alex. He didn’t like it, but he knew it. Reluctantly, he withdrew.

* * *

Alex went on fixing his breakfast, then took a plate of toast and cheese and a cup of coffee out to the living room, where he sat in Krycek’s easy chair with the plate in his lap. The strange dizzy spell, or whatever it was, continued to prey on his mind. It could just be stress, he insisted to himself. He’d certainly been under enough of it lately—physical as well as mental—first being abducted by aliens and subjected to whatever they had done to him, including the placement of the implants, then being dropped in another universe, subjected to interrogation drugs, then an operation to remove the implants, and a major whipping. Maybe his overtaxed body had reached its limit, like an overloaded circuit, and just had to cut out every once in a while.

But what kind of reaction to stress was that? One sharp jolt to the system, over almost before it had begun. He’d never heard of anything like that, and he’d certainly never experienced it, even during his most strenuous days playing football. Could it have something to do with what the aliens had done to him? A reaction to the tests? Or perhaps it had something to do with being in the wrong universe—perhaps there was something in the air here, or in the food, that his body didn’t like. Some kind of allergy? Well, he supposed if the spells continued, he’d have to see a doctor about them, although explaining the circumstances surrounding them might prove to be an interesting puzzle. Krycek would probably want Scully to check him out. She, at least, wouldn’t have to be told stories, although she wasn’t a practicing physician and wouldn’t have access to all the equipment and facilities she might need for a thorough examination. Alex tried to be objective about the possibility of another examination by Scully, but the truth was he was still feeling contrary about the whole Scully situation, and sincerely hoped it wouldn’t be necessary. If he could manage not to have another of the spells—but that was the thing, wasn’t it? He had no idea what was causing them, and no idea how he could prevent another one.

Sighing, he shoved that worry to the back of his mind and headed for the gym.

* * *

It was a sweet relief to settle into the routine of working out, to narrow down his focus to the weights and the exercises, concentrating only on counting out the reps and maintaining his form and straining his muscles against the resistance. It was something like the pleasure he got from S/M sex—the endorphin rush of working his body, the satisfaction of testing his physical limits, the emotional and mental discipline of submitting to the iron weights and machines. He could tell he was not at his best, though—the last few days had taken their toll. Perhaps more than the last few days—he couldn’t really know how long it had been since he last worked out. He felt as though it had been months, although he hoped it was just because of the physical strain he’d been under, the implants and the operation and Mulder’s whipping, from which he was still covered in fading bruises. Krycek had looked him over that morning and judiciously chosen long sweat pants and a short-sleeved tee-shirt for him to work out in.

In any case, he spent a good hour and a half with the weights, another half an hour on a stair climbing machine, and finally a blissful twenty minutes in the sauna, followed by a long, hot shower. And he left the gym feeling much better.

* * *

Next stop was the grocery store. Alex dutifully stocked up on all the sorts of foods he and Mulder had bought the time before—cheese and meats and green olives and a crusty round loaf of bread. He was halfway to the checkout counter when he paused. Then, feeling slightly subversive, he made one more trip through the aisles to pick up a loaf of soft white bread, a package of American cheese slices, a Hershey bar and a bottle of Coke. If Krycek didn’t want any of this food, he’d eat it all himself. And today, he had a craving for an old-fashioned grilled cheese sandwich.

* * *

Back at the apartment, sandwich in hand, he settled in on the couch to study the codes. Line after line of cold black print, between which images of Mulder formed. His Mulder, prickly and vulnerable, pushy and diffident. Young Mulder, watching in frozen horror as his little sister was taken away. Determined Mulder, ignoring the ridicule of his colleagues to pursue his quest for the truth. Grief-stricken Mulder, staring helplessly up at Alex with pain in his eyes, searching for his lost Scully. Could these lines of code heal Mulder’s pain for him? And what would Mulder’s world be like, if his quest were satisfied? Would there be any room for Alex in it? Had Alex ever been any more than a brief fling, a conquest pursued because he was conveniently at hand and susceptible to Mulder’s charms?

There must be a way to work it out, that was all. Alex must get home somehow, and use this code to help Mulder find his truth. And Mulder must forgive him, and let Alex love him.

But first he had to know these codes inside and out, so that no matter what happened he could reconstruct them and use them. So he went over them again and again, studying them as though his life depended on them, which of course it did.

* * *

So engrossed he was in the vital lines of code that the sound of a key scraping in the lock of the front door startled him out of his seat, scattering the printouts across the floor. Someone was coming in. It wasn’t Krycek; he would have known his brother’s presence before he stepped into the elevator. Some enemy of Krycek’s, or of his? The aliens? His hand grabbed at his belt, and then at his ankle, reaching automatically for the gun that wasn’t there. He swore under his breath. Krycek must have weapons here, but there was no time, the doorknob was already turning. He sprinted across the room, taking up a position beside the hinged side of the door. His hands flexed, waiting. Then the door opened, and he stood alert and waiting for whoever was on the other side—

* * *

Mulder. Foolish with relief, Alex slumped against the wall.

Startled by the movements behind him, Mulder whirled. “Alex! What are you… ?” He stopped, staring, looking suddenly as if he were seeing a ghost. Or—perhaps as if not quite sure which Alex Krycek he was looking at. And the absurdity of it all struck Alex all over again. He giggled, and Mulder broke into a grin.

“Sorry, Mulder. I forgot you might be coming back this afternoon. I was busy studying the codes, and when I heard the key in the door I just freaked.”

“That’s okay.” Mulder’s grin faded, leaving a thoughtful gaze. “I should have knocked. It didn’t occur to me that you might be here alone. —Where is he?”

“At work. He’ll be home later. —Where’s Scully?”

“Back in D.C. I convinced her you’d be better off without so many people hovering around you.”

“Good.” It was out before he had time to think about it, and he hurried on. “Nothing against Scully, I like her, but it was just too weird having her here. That whole thing with her—well, you know how I feel about it. Anyway, I just didn’t know what to say to her, I was afraid of saying too much.”

Mulder nodded slowly, the look on his face seeming to suggest that that worry had also crossed his mind. They moved into the room. Mulder sat on the couch as Alex began to pick up the scattered printouts.

“Alex, I know that the situation with her must have seemed terrible to you. And I guess… I had some things I had to work out of my system. But it really is all right now.”

Alex paused to look up at Mulder, so earnest there on the couch, so eager to please the man who was another universe’s version of his lover. Not my Mulder. The thought had ceased to be quite so painful, but it was ever there. He sighed again. “Look, Mulder, I don’t have to approve of what you and he do. That’s your business. I just don’t want to have to be involved.” He put the pile of papers on an end table, then settled in Krycek’s, and his, favorite chair.

“But it wasn’t what it looked like, not really. I’d like you to understand.…”

“Mulder, I understand it. I just don’t like it.” His voice was sharper than he meant it to be. And this Mulder flinched from that sharpness. And more: there was a sharp intake of breath, jaw slackening, eyes going soft and unfocussed. He was reacting to it like the crack of a whip. Feeling a little ill, Alex softened his voice and continued. “Krycek and I talked about it yesterday. He couldn’t convince me it was all right, so I doubt you can either.” Alex tried to smile reassuringly. “But we came to an agreement.” (And would Mulder be pleased to know that Alex had Krycek’s okay to tell Scully whatever he felt was all right to tell her?) “Mostly we agreed to drop it. As long as it’s not in my face, I can deal with it.” He clearly wasn’t making things any better.

It was odd, in a way. It was Mulder’s face, and Mulder’s lean, elegant body; Mulder’s sad eyes and pouty lips; Mulder’s form and movement. And yet it wasn’t Mulder—not Alex’s Mulder, anyway, and for once “not my Mulder” was not a sad and desperate reminder to a heart that insisted on seeing his lover in this man’s every nuance, but a simple statement of fact. This was Mulder, certainly. A beautiful and intelligent and caring man, too burdened with guilt and self-doubt to express that caring without lacing it with pain. But not the Mulder Alex loved.

He felt a rush of affection, though, for this man, himself dealing with the unimaginable reality of a carbon copy of his own lover here in front of him, the same and yet so different. Alex got up and went to sit by Mulder on the couch, taking him in his arms and giving him a good hard squeeze, and a kiss on the cheek.

Mulder returned the hug, looking a little flustered. Alex kissed him again, for good measure, then, stroking Mulder’s cheek, he said, “Never mind. Anyway, if she were here, Krycek would probably want her to examine me, and I really don’t want any more physicals.”

Mulder was quick to run with the change of subject. “Why? Has something happened?”

“Yeah, sort of. It’s happened to me twice, I don’t know what it is—I had these spells, like dizzy spells sort of, except it happens really fast and it’s more than being dizzy. It’s like… being turned inside out, or something. But it only lasts an instant, and then it’s gone.”

“When did this happen?”

“The first time was yesterday morning. I was listening to the stereo, lying in the floor in front of the speakers, which was probably a good thing, because I didn’t have anywhere to fall. Scared the heck out of me, and Krycek, too, but it was all over before we had a chance to do anything about it. Then the second time was this morning. I was in the kitchen, heating up a cup of coffee in the microwave. This time I was standing, and I did fall over, but I wasn’t hurt. It was just that for a second it was like every muscle in my body had turned to water. And by the time it was over, I was already on my way down.”

Mulder frowned. Alex could almost see the pages turning behind those deep hazel eyes, as Mulder searched his prodigious memory for any information stored there about similar spells. “Sounds like some kind of seizure.”

Alex’s stomach did a little flutter. “You mean epilepsy? I don’t have epilepsy.”

“You didn’t before, you mean,” Mulder corrected gently. “Seizures can be brought on by various types of trauma.”

Alex’s hand went involuntarily to his face, where the incisions were still healing. “Yeah, but… epileptic seizures… they last longer than that, don’t they? And do more… ?”

“There are all kinds of seizures. But that’s only one possibility.”

“I thought maybe it was stress.” It sounded lame, even to Alex.

“I don’t know, that seems pretty strong for a stress reaction.”

“It’s been pretty strong stress.”

Mulder’s half-smile offered agreement. Then, for a moment, the inner encyclopedia was consulted again. “It could be something the aliens… something that happened to you while you were gone. Or something about this universe that your body is reacting to.”

“You mean, like an allergy or something?”

“Or something. Let’s face it, Alex, we don’t really know what we’re dealing with here. Probably what you need is a full neurological workup. And no, not from Scully.”

Alex grimaced. Hospitals. Needles. Strange medical equipment. It was even less appealing than another round with Scully. “I’m fine now,” he insisted.

Mulder looked at him thoughtfully for a moment, then nodded. He wasn’t about to press.

But Alex knew that denying the situation wasn’t going to make it go away. He sighed. He was having a serious medical problem, and if they couldn’t figure it out, it would be back to the hospital.

So go back to the beginning and think about it. “It happened in the morning both times. Here in the apartment, not when I was out, fortunately.”

“You were out?”

Alex grinned. “Yeah, he let me out of the house, all by myself. Yesterday I went to the CD store, and to a coffeeshop, and today I went to the gym and did some grocery shopping.”

“And no problems?”

“No. Just the usual, having to keep my feet from taking me off to wherever he was.”

“So let’s assume it’s something in the apartment. The first time, you said, you were listening to the stereo. Show me exactly where.”

And suddenly, they were on a case, and it was just like being in the FBI, being partners. Alex bit his lower lip and shook it off, the not my Mulder almost a reflex. He got up and went over to the stereo, knelt down in front of the speaker where he’d lain the morning before. “I’d just gotten back from the CD store. I was listening to Mahler’s Ninth. For the second time.” Alex smiled at the memory. He’d known exactly how much of Krycek’s indulgence remained, and was ready to switch to headphones as soon as it wore thin. “I was playing it pretty loudly.”

Mulder came over and stood beside him, head cocked, gazing at the speaker, letting the scene imprint itself in his mind. Absently, he rested his hand on Alex’s shoulder.

And Alex found himself kneeling in the floor. At Mulder’s feet. With Mulder’s hand on his shoulder. He sucked in air, the sudden rush of heat to his groin making him dizzy.

Mulder looked down at him. “Alex?”

“I’m all right.” Alex giggled, feeling the flush spread over his face. “Little too much serendipity all of a sudden.” He pushed himself to his feet. “Let’s remember that for later, okay?”

Shaking his head, Mulder grinned. “I think it’s my turn. —The second time was in the kitchen?”

“Yeah.” Alex led the way, and stood by the microwave, going over the exact sequence of events in his mind. “I’d just put the cup of coffee in to heat, and turned the microwave on. I turned away, like this,” he said, demonstrating, “then, wham, I was in the floor.”

“Microwave.…” Mulder mused. “Stereo… EMF.”

“EMF?” Electromagnetic frequency radiation—Alex knew what it was, but what did it have to do with… ? “It’s affecting my body because… it’s something about being in the wrong universe.”

“Your atoms are somehow slightly different from the ones that make up this universe—”

“A different quantum signature—”

“At a different energy level—”

“Oh my god.” Alex had to stop to take a breath. His heart had begun to pound wildly. “The implants. The bronze-colored one, the type you’d never seen before—maybe it was keeping me stable, holding me here in this universe. And without it—”

“Your body is trying to return to its own universe. But it’s stuck in an energy well. It doesn’t have enough energy to tunnel through.” Mulder’s eyes were bright, and his breath was coming fast, almost as fast as Alex’s own.

“And the extra doses of EMF are pushing it up the well. But not quite enough to get out.”

“Maybe, eventually, without the implant to hold you here, you’ll just naturally pop back into your own universe.”

“Or maybe one big dose—if we could find a really strong source of EMF radiation, maybe it would send me back.” Could it be? Could it really be that they’d found the answer? Click your heels together three times and say, There’s no place like home?

Mulder nodded and paced back and forth, twice. “An MRI,” he announced. “Magnetic resonance imaging. That should do it, if anything can.” He grinned at Alex, face lit up with pure excitement. “Looks like you’ll be going back to the hospital after all.”

Alex fell back against the granite counter, knees suddenly gone wobbly. He took a deep breath, and then another. “It’s just a theory. A wild theory.”

Mulder chuckled. “I’ve based cases on less.”

“It’s worth a try, anyway. I mean, if it’s even remotely possible—there’s no way to know except to just give it a try.”

Mulder took Alex by the shoulders. “It makes sense. It fits all the facts as we know them.”

“We could try… what else around here puts out a lot of EMF radiation?”

Mulder dropped his arms and considered. “A hairdryer?”

Alex giggled. “I haven’t needed one since you chopped all my hair off. Let’s try it. If I get that same reaction again, we’ll go for the MRI.”

* * *

Three minutes later, Alex was slumped in Mulder’s arms in the bathroom, trembling from the shock of that sudden, wrenching feeling, and from the overwhelming thrill of having come so close to finding what he was looking for.

Krycek was there, too, in his mind, trying to absorb Alex’s wild jumble of thoughts. Alex. Are you all right?

I’m all right. I’m more than all right. He sent a wave of pure happiness to his brother. I’m going home.

* * *

“We figured each universe has its own quantum signature,” Alex said excitedly to his brother.

“It’s what keeps the matter in each universe separate,” Mulder explained.

“Because, after all, they all occupy the same physical space—”

“And somehow never bleed over into one another—”

Mulder and Alex suddenly looked at each other. “I wonder.…” Alex began.

“Perhaps the most similar universes do have some overlap.”

“Yours and mine—the closer they are, the easier it must be to travel back and forth—”

* * *

Krycek, standing between them, shook his head, smiling. They’d crowded around him as soon as he came in the door, pelting him with their theories before he could get his jacket off. Alex giggled—had either he or Mulder actually managed to finish a sentence since their discovery that the hair dryer, like the stereo speaker and the microwave, had induced that strange, wrenching feeling in Alex’s body?

“Anyway,” Alex continued, “we think the bronze-colored implant was putting out some sort of energy field that was keeping me stable in this universe.”

“And without it, every time he gets near a strong EMF source, the atoms in his body take a jump, trying to get back to his own universe’s energy level.”

“So we think one really big dose, like from an MRI, might be enough to send me back home.”

Krycek’s face was a careful blank, but Alex could see the smile pulling at the muscles around his mouth. He glanced at Alex, as though aware of the scrutiny, and gave up. “It’s thin, guys,” he said, and now the edge of laughter was obvious in his voice. “You know it’s thin. You’ve gone and reconstructed an entire ancient city here out of one fallen-down column and a shard of painted pottery.”

“Aw, you’re just saying that,” Mulder said. If Krycek’s objection had made any impact on him, he did not show it. “Because you know Scully would want you to.”

“Anyway, there’s no reason not to try,” Alex added. “It’s only an MRI. If it doesn’t work, we’re no worse off than when we started.”

“I didn’t say it wouldn’t work,” Krycek said. “I said you had insufficient hard information to support the conclusion. But that’s true of probably two-thirds of Mulder’s conclusions, and the fact is, the less supported by actual evidence his certainties are, the more frequently they seem to turn out to be right. I don’t know how it works, but I’d be a fool to ignore it.

“I’ll tell you this, though,” he added, as he moved off toward the kitchen. “Knowing Mulder gives me a whole new perspective on all the theoretical physics work that suggests information may not be entirely bound by the physical laws applicable to the rest of the universe.”

You’re going to eat now? Alex couldn’t quite help the impulsive thought that blasted off toward his brother. And with Krycek, it didn’t even help that he’d managed not to say it out loud.

Krycek merely looked at him, eyes still dancing with amusement. But Alex didn’t need words to tell him what that look meant: Were you planning on doing this in the next half hour? If not, we do have time for dinner. And Alex, who’d gone the whole day and a heavy morning workout on one grilled cheese sandwich and a Coke, felt his own stomach tighten.

But he was still so excited he couldn’t even stand still, much less calm down enough to eat. “Mulder thought he might be able to arrange it for tomorrow night. There’s a hospital here in New York where they owe him and Scully a favor. We’d do it late at night, when there’d be the fewest other people around.”

“And the least chance that someone else was using the MRI at the same time in Alex’s universe,” Mulder added. “Assuming he pops through into the same physical space.”

Krycek stopped, one hand on the refrigerator door, and turned to stare at them both, all humor gone from his face. “Alex. I know you’re eager to try this, but the more likely it is to work, the better an idea it is to slow down and make sure you’re adequately prepped. If it works, you’re going to be running a high-stakes operation without backup from the instant you make the transition. Another day or two here might make all the difference.…”

“But we don’t know what the situation is like in my universe,” Alex protested. “We both know I’m going to have to improvise everything once I get there. There’s nothing to prepare for, beyond what we’ve already done—the codes, some weapons and money, and a few things to help prove to my Mulder where I’ve been.” (My Mulder. Would he ever get used to not saying that? It would make for some rather odd conversations, back in his own universe. Especially if he didn’t manage to reconcile with Mulder.)

“We don’t know how much longer he’ll be here, anyway,” Mulder added. “If our theory is correct, any source of EMF he stumbles into might send him back at any time. We don’t know how close he came with any of the episodes he’s already had. Better to get him back as quickly as possible, under controlled conditions, than risk having him pop off unexpectedly, completely unprepared.”

Krycek shook his head, some of the humor back in his voice. “It’s a point. Or it would be, if you weren’t overlooking one small issue.” ‘We are now no longer the knights who say “ni.” ’ For an instant, Alex was not sure whether Krycek had spoken the words aloud, or whether he had merely heard them float through Krycek’s mind. “If we know it’s EMF that’s doing it, we can control his exposure, at least in the sort term.”

“My Mulder needs me.” Alex was a little surprised, himself, at the intensity with which that came out. But his fist had tightened, and his voice had gone hot, and he knew with a certainty as strong as if he’d heard his Mulder calling to him that he was right. “I don’t know what’s happening to him, if he’s gotten his Scully back or not, but I do know that the longer it takes for me to get back, the harder it’s going to be to fix things. The more chance that something irrevocable is going to happen before I can stop it. That whatever happened here with those DOD files is going to happen there. I have to go.”

“I understand that,” Krycek said. “But. You know that ubiquitous movie scene, where the hero discovers that his friends are in danger? The one where there’s training he has to finish, or information he needs, before he can reasonably try to get them out of danger, or work out how to approach the rescue, or even whether they need rescuing or whether this is all a trap? But instead of thinking about any of that, he proclaims that his friend needs him, and goes rushing off into badly-thought-out action from which he is only saved by his status as the protagonist? I hate that movie. I refuse to be even a minor supporting character in that movie. That movie ought to be eradicated, like smallpox. Okay, Alex? I’m not arguing with you doing this as soon as you reasonably can; I just want to be sure you don’t do it before that.”

But there was something about the look on Krycek’s face—something that wasn’t just his operative’s need to plot and plan and prepare for every contingency. Something that almost felt like—he was just plain reluctant to see Alex go, that was all, although he would never say it, much less ever let his feelings affect their plans.

He didn’t want Alex to go. Alex suddenly felt that he couldn’t bear it—after everything they’d been through, to come to this only now, when it was time for Alex to go. To find someone he felt so utterly in sync with, so close that they were heart and soul and body one person—but only because they were a universe apart, and never meant to meet. Alex took a deep breath, then took Krycek in his arms, burying his face in his brother’s neck. “I fell in love with you the minute I saw you,” Alex whispered. “Everything that’s happened since then was just teaching me to know that.”

His arms tightened around Krycek, and he squeezed with all his might. Then he pulled away, taking Krycek’s hands in his. “It’s time for me to go. You said so yourself.”

Then he let Krycek go, and stepped back, at once all business again. Krycek was right, and there were plans to be made. “Look, it’s not like I’m running off this very instant. I know there are still things we need to do. But we’ll have the rest of tonight and all day tomorrow to get ready, even assuming Mulder manages to arrange the MRI that soon. It will be enough time.”

Krycek’s look was long and thoughtful. Whatever was going through his mind, Alex caught only the edges of it—cool reason flowing over the small eddies of turmoil, dipping through them, shifting, moving away—but he made no effort to go deeper. This was all he wanted: the comfortable mental touch of his brother’s presence, while Krycek sorted things out in his own mind and made whatever accommodation he had to make with his Little Brother’s leaving. It wouldn’t be the same as Alex’s, but it would be close enough.

“All right,” Krycek finally said. “As long as it’s understood that if the time comes and we’re not ready, we’ll postpone the experiment. We won’t rush it through just because we’ve decided that tomorrow’s the day.” He smiled, and it was a pure Krycek smile: cool contemplation, a hint of a tease, but beneath it, the brightness of real affection. “Not even if it means saying our goodbyes more than once.”

Alex smiled back, and he supposed his own smile was pure Alex: it was his cocky grin, overlying pain, saying, The world hurts me, but I don’t mind. I’m alive, I can feel, and that’s all that matters.

* * *

Alex was too wound up to do more than pick at his food. He and Krycek stood in the kitchen, leaning against the granite counter, absently swallowing bits of bread and cheese between discussions of weapons and boltholes and contingency plans. “I’d rather have a revolver than an automatic,” he told Krycek. “It just feels more solid, somehow. And it’s what I trained on.”

“Smith and Wesson Thirty-eight Special?” Krycek asked, grinning.

“Yeah. Standard police issue. Never could get used to the Bureau’s Sig Sauer.”

Krycek cocked his head slightly, as if listening to an inner voice. His grin softened in concentration. “But you dropped Augustus Cole at twenty yards with two rounds of that Sig.”

Alex stiffened for a moment. Cole. A man armed only with the ability to cloud other people’s minds. The only man he’d ever killed.

But that wasn’t what was in Krycek’s mind. There was the memory, disorientingly like his own, of walking slowly up the loading dock in the back of the trainyard, with Mulder ahead of him and to his right, and Augustus Cole standing at the end of the dock facing them, arm outstretched, gun in hand, pointed at Mulder. And in Krycek’s memory, also like his own, he held the Sig P220 solidly in front of himself, finger resting lightly on the trigger, calculating distances, measuring Mulder’s proximity to the line of fire, the gun’s pull, the surest location for a kill shot. Except that in Krycek’s memory, he was glad for the appearance of the gun in Cole’s hand, because he intended to kill the man anyway to prevent him from talking about what he knew. In Krycek’s memory, he was not afraid or reluctant, but quietly exhilarated. And this was not his first kill, and he had no desire for it to be his last.

But in spite of that, the two fingers in two memories squeezed two triggers with precisely the same relaxed pressure, at precisely the same moment, and two shots rang out in quick succession at exactly the same time, striking Cole’s chest in exactly the same locations.

* * *

Alex smiled faintly. He was vaguely aware of Mulder’s eyes widening, as he stood to the side, watching the two Kryceks. Did they suddenly seem to converge into one man to him, as they had in Alex and Krycek’s memories? “Yeah. I’d still rather have my Colt Python.”

“You’ll have it. And the nine millimeter, too, if you want it. Or would you rather have something else for your ankle holster?”

“No, the automatic’s fine. Can’t walk around with a Three-fifty-seven Magnum on your leg, you’d end up lopsided.”

Mulder’s look of shock had turned to a bemused smile. Have I been that much of a wreck since I’ve been here that the sight of me on top of things for a change freaks him out? Alex thought. Well, he probably had.

“All right. I’ll get the ammo tomorrow. We already talked about the money.… For ID, you can take the driver’s license I gave you yesterday. I have a passport in that name I’ll give you, too. It’s fortunate, because I don’t think there would be time to have papers made for you. You’ve got clothes. That should take care of the basics. Can you think of anything else?”

Alex shook his head. “I have a feeling I shouldn’t try to take too much stuff from this universe with me. If Mulder and my theory is correct, matter from my universe will try to return to it, but matter from here will want to stay. Too much stuff from here might weigh me down, prevent me from getting back. I should probably only take the clothes I’m wearing, the weapons and money I brought with me, and a few carefully selected items to help convince my Mulder of what happened.” He grinned suddenly. “Too bad I don’t have the suit I was wearing when I came.”

Krycek’s eyes rolled. “That suit.…” Then he laughed. “Sorry, Alex. If that suit’s the magic talisman to get you back home, I’m afraid you’re stuck here. —But your clothes came here with you; I think it’s safe to assume that our clothes will follow you home.”

“Yeah.” He had a moment’s amusement at the thought of himself falling naked from the sky into his home universe, a la Arnold Schwartzenegger in the first Terminator movie. It was true that his poor suit had arrived in this universe intact, but— “The aliens brought me here—they might have brought my clothes, too. Who knows how it will work when I go back? But there’s nothing we can do about it. If I end up there with nothing but my skin, I’ll just have to deal with it.” It was even possible he’d show up nowhere at all—none of them had mentioned the possibility that the MRI would simply scatter his component atoms all across the multiverse. But Alex didn’t want to think about it. The only way to avoid it was not to try the experiment, and he wasn’t about to give up the only chance he had to go home.

“Have you memorized the codes?”

Alex nodded. “I see them in my sleep. But I’ll go over them a few more times tomorrow.”

“We should also run down a few scenarios of what might happen when you get back, depending on how much time has passed, and what the circumstances are.”

“Yeah.” Alex frowned, chewing on his lower lip.


Alex looked at Mulder for a long moment—a beautiful man, with the hint of a cruel twist to his sensual mouth, and darkness behind his soulful hazel eyes. A Mulder who’d chosen a relationship with a man he hated, for the raw excitement of pain inflicted and self-will stripped away. Mulder who took Krycek’s gun in his mouth, in punishment for wanting to hurt Krycek—the night my father died, Mulder had said. Things that had happened here—and Scully said, They were right not to tell you. But.…

“I wonder,” he began. There was a catch in his throat. He swallowed and started again. “I know there are things that happened here after Scully’s abduction. And you haven’t told me about all of those things, because you thought it would upset me. I wonder—we don’t know how much time will have passed in my world when I get home. And events there won’t necessarily have anything to do with what’s happened here. But maybe I should know what’s happened this past year in your universe. If there are parallels in my world—or even if there aren’t—it might help. It’s… information. You never know.”

Mulder stepped up to Alex and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Are you sure about that, Alex?”

Alex reached out, smiling, let his hand brush across Mulder’s chest. No, of course he wasn’t sure. He didn’t know what they might tell him, but he did know that they’d already hurt him terribly with things they tossed at him casually, not expecting him to be troubled. How much worse would something be that they considered too disturbing to tell him? But after all, regardless of anything that had happened, here they were, together. Scully was alive and well. How bad could it be? “I think so. If there’s a chance it can help my Mulder, I should know.”

Krycek nodded. “Yes, I think you’re right. —But finish your dinner first. Then Mulder and I will tell you the whole story.”

* * *

Alex settled into Krycek’s easy chair, while Krycek and Mulder took the couch—Krycek at the farthest end, Mulder a comfortable ten or so inches away; not presuming to touch his owner without permission, but within easy reach if his body should be required. There had been a time when it might have troubled him—to be excluded (even though he’d chosen the easy chair himself, and could have joined them on the couch if he’d wanted to); to be faced with a relationship between a Mulder and Krycek that he didn’t understand, and couldn’t himself be happy with (he wasn’t clingy, he didn’t think, except maybe when he was feeling exceptionally weak and beaten-down, but if he was going to sit next to his lover on the couch, he’d want to be touching him, or if he wasn’t in a touching mood, he’d be flopped down on the opposite end of the couch, leaning against the arm); to be reminded that he was in the wrong universe, separated from a Mulder who, it seemed, couldn’t keep his hands off him (although these days that Mulder might be just as likely to punch him as put his arms around him). But the last few days had made an enormous difference in his outlook. He was finally getting his bearings.

Which was a good thing. Because he had a feeling he’d just opened himself up to some things that he really couldn’t have taken a few days ago. He’d seen the look that passed between Krycek and Mulder as they sat down: Mulder was already going under in anticipation of the pain to come—not deeply, but Alex recognized the softening of his mouth, the slight haze across his eyes. And Krycek studied Mulder carefully, measuring out a look that managed to be stern, indulgent, pleased, and concerned all at the same time. No doubt he would have enjoyed teasing Mulder with the story, playing him with it, spinning out the most painful details to work him into a fine crucible of lust—if he hadn’t known that it would also hurt Alex terribly, in ways that he wouldn’t enjoy at all. So he couldn’t allow the tale to turn too obviously into a game between him and Mulder. Yet he wouldn’t want to do it in such a way that it was unpleasant to Mulder, either.

Back to the problem of pleasing both members of his harem at once, when those members had very different needs. Alex laughed shortly to himself. Damn it, this wasn’t a game. He wasn’t asking this for fun. “Mulder, I think I need to hear most of this from you. At least the first part. I’d like to know what happened with you after the Duane Barry affair—after Scully was abducted, and he disappeared—the point where, in my universe, the aliens took me. The cases you worked on, especially the ones that seemed to involve the Consortium or the man you call Cancerman.”

He turned to Krycek. “You were off doing Shop stuff during that time. Unless you crossed paths with the Consortium somewhere along the way, it doesn’t have anything to do with what might be happening with Mulder in my world.”

Another look between Mulder and Krycek. Then Mulder nodded, and began.

* * *

There was a woman into blood sports who thought she was a vampire. Los Angeles burned, and it was a long hot summer without rest, while Scully was gone. Then in the fall, Scully was at last returned—to a hospital bed, near death, with alien substances in her blood. It wasn’t easy, but she recovered fully. Not before last rites were given.

Then there was a deadly creature that lived in volcanic fire. A serial killer with a fetish for hair and fingernails. A devil’s familiar in the form of a substitute school teacher.

And then Samantha returned—only it wasn’t his sister, it was an alien hybrid clone, pursued by a shapeshifting hit man. Mulder’s voice caught once or twice while he told how his father had come to confront him when he traded the clone, who he still thought was Samantha, to the shapeshifter for Scully. But it was anger, not pain, that made his voice shake. “I didn’t know it then, but he’d known all along that it wasn’t Samantha. But he came all the way down from the Vineyard just to tell me how badly I’d hurt my mother by making her lose her daughter again.”

* * *

Alex felt his hands tighten into fists. But there was no time to dwell on it, for Mulder had gone on. A diseased ship on which everyone died of old age—nearly including Mulder and Scully. A carnival freak whose deformed attached twin was a killer. A deadly virus, another black government experiment gone wrong. A man whose shadow had become a black hole.

And then there was the digital tape with all the DOD files concerning the existence of extraterrestrials. “They were feeding me some kind of mind-altering drugs,” Mulder said. He licked his lips. The haze was beginning to come back into his eyes, and his breathing quickened. It was distress, yes, but you could see the flicker of enjoyment in it, if you knew where to look. “They’d doped the water supply to my whole building. I couldn’t sleep, I’d been acting erratically—even got into a fight with Skinner. Then my father called, and wanted me to come to see him. I was already on the edge, but what could I do? I went.” He shrugged helplessly. The pain was sharp on his face. Alex felt his face blaze, and he shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “It was late by the time I got to his house. He started to tell me something—nothing that made any sense—and then he went into the bathroom. He’d been taking some medication, he said. He—”

He stopped, took a deep breath, staring at the floor. And Krycek picked it up and continued smoothly, “I told you that Cancerman brought me back in for one last job, to recover the tape and clean up some loose ends. One of those loose ends was Bill Mulder. He was, as Mulder said, part of the Consortium—he’d been there right from the beginning, but lately he’d become a liability to them and a danger to his son, and they wanted him taken care of. I was there that night when Mulder went to see his father. I was waiting in the bathroom, and when he came in, I shot him.”

* * *

He could see it all so clearly: standing in the bathtub, behind the shower curtain, waiting, hearing the bathroom door open, watching through the curtain as the shadowed form entered (and it was clearly not the younger Mulder, even seen in shadow, just from the sound of the footstep and the way the shadow moved), stepping out into the room, eyes meeting in the mirror on the medicine cabinet. The old man froze, his face gone blank, the bottle of pills falling to the floor.

It only took a few seconds. He took one step, bringing the gun up at the same time, aiming at the old man’s right temple. One shot through the head, then quickly out the window and gone, before the body even hit the floor.

“No,” Alex whispered. But it wasn’t his memory, it was Krycek’s. Not my Mulder, not my Mulder’s father, not me, I didn’t do it. Frantically, he pushed the memory away. “I didn’t do it,” he protested.

“No, of course you didn’t,” Krycek replied smoothly, as if it were perfectly natural for Alex to deny what his brother had done. “And there’s no reason to suppose you ever will.”

So bloody calm, Alex thought, sitting there talking about killing his lover’s father. God. Alex felt the anger well up, that he hadn’t felt since his first few days here. How dare he hurt Mulder like that? And then force him to like it. And Alex had thought his sleeping with Scully was bad.… But no, they hadn’t been lovers then, he had to remind himself. It hadn’t been that way here. No heady nights in Montana, no rejected Mulder on his doorstep at three in the morning, begging for a little comfort. Krycek had just been a man doing a job then. It was a job that Alex had once been willing to do. And Mulder—there was bitterness in his eyes, and anger—but was it directed at Krycek, or the father who’d betrayed him?

And if it had gone another way in Alex’s world, if the aliens hadn’t come for him, could Alex have found himself doing the same thing? He was terribly afraid that he might have. If his Mulder’s father turned out to be the enemy, if he was a danger to Mulder—wouldn’t he do it still, regardless of the consequences to himself?

He was barely aware that Krycek had gone on talking: something about a confrontation outside of Mulder’s apartment building the next night, when a still-drugged Mulder had accused Krycek and beaten him, thrown him against a car and held a gun in his face. Mulder had been about to fire when Scully had shown up and stopped him the only way she could—with a round from her own gun.

—And this was the confrontation they had talked about that first night Mulder had been here. When Krycek had made Mulder take his gun in his mouth, while a terrified and furious Alex had been forced to watch. After my father died, Mulder had said, but what he’d meant was, After you killed him.

How would it have felt if we’d been lovers? Krycek had asked, using Alex’s experiences with his own Mulder to crank up the intensity of his torment of this Mulder. Not fair, Alex wanted to protest. I never did that to him. And how—how could this Mulder stand it? How could he love this man? How could he find any pleasure in that sort of pain? Because god, yes, he was enjoying it, though it was tearing him apart. His eyes were bright with it, his lips parted as if begging to be kissed. He was practically on his knees.

Still there was more. Skinner had taken possession of the digital tape, until Krycek met him in a stairwell at the hospital and relieved him of it. And the Consortium had decided to get rid of Scully, too, but that attempt was bungled (there was contempt in Krycek’s voice when he spoke of it, and the clear implication that if he’d been in charge, the assassination would not have failed), and Scully’s sister was killed instead. Then, apparently, Cancerman and his cronies decided the Consortium had no more use for Krycek, and attempted to rid themselves of him with a car bomb, from which Krycek had barely escaped.

“That was the end of my involvement with the Consortium,” Krycek said, with the hint of an ironic smile. “And, I think, at this point our histories diverge enough that it would be no use to tell you any more. —Mulder, will you get us some brandy? I think we could all use it.”

* * *

Mulder assented quietly, and moved to fetch the drinks. Alex watched dully. Mulder’s father. Scully’s sister. Death and betrayal and pain. Was this what was in store for his Mulder? Had it already happened, while Alex languished in the hands of the aliens?

God, he wanted to go home.

* * *

He waited until Mulder had poured each of them brandies and returned to his seat, a short but respectful distance from Krycek’s side, before he spoke. “Well,” Alex said, a little too brightly. “It’s good that I know that. If anything similar starts to happen in my world, maybe I can do something about it.”

“If you can get that tape for your Mulder,” this Mulder said quietly, “chances are good none of this will ever happen.”

He looked as if he wanted it almost as badly as Alex did. And perhaps he did. A world where some version of himself would never have to suffer the worst of the pain he’d been through… all of a sudden, the things Alex had done in his world didn’t seem quite so unforgivably bad. He took a deep breath, then a long swallow of brandy, feeling it burn his throat all the way down to his belly. “Yes,” he said softly, almost to himself. “It’s good to know.” And this time he meant it.

“Yes,” Krycek said. He let the moment stretch, and then his mouth quirked a little. “You see now why we’ve had trouble right along with that concept of your evil being second only to that of the Antichrist.”

Alex felt for the mental contact, but there was nothing more than a feeling of Krycek’s presence: this was parallel thinking, not mindreading. “There is one aspect of this you’ll still need to think about, though,” Krycek said. “Foreknowledge should be enough to change the sequence of events, and that should be enough to ensure that the attempt on Scully’s life is averted. She’s never been a primary target. That one attempt was a result of blind panic; it’s not likely that the same problem will recur from a different direction. Bill Mulder, though—”

He reached over toward Mulder then, and Mulder ducked and slid his head up into Krycek’s fingers, like a cat demanding to be petted. “Shit, that’s right,” Mulder said. “My father—your Mulder’s father—presents an endlessly fascinating array of potential problems.” Some of the edge was gone from his voice now; he sounded the way Alex’s Mulder had always sounded when he spoke of his invisible enemies.

“Well, there’s a chance he won’t,” Krycek said. “Your universe, it has seemed to me, is in some ways a kinder, gentler place than ours.” He was looking at Alex, but Alex sensed that his words were nevertheless directed at Mulder. “So it is possible that in your universe Mulder’s father is not a longtime member of the Consortium; is not implicated in his daughter’s abduction; has not encouraged his son to blame himself for what happened to his sister, for his parents’ divorce, for his father’s officially-nonexistent drinking problem, or for anything else that might be wrong with the world since the dawn of time. He may not be using your Mulder as a pawn in internal Consortium politics; or if he ever has, he may conceivably have a change of heart and try to use what he knows to help your Mulder. It’s not impossible.

“If he’s followed the same path he followed here, though, eliminating this crisis point isn’t going to make the long-term problem go away. All it means is that the Consortium won’t eliminate him over this particular crisis. He’ll go on manipulating Mulder for his own benefit, as long as he can. You won’t be sent to take him out, but the Consortium does have other employees: your Mulder may still have to deal with his father’s assassination. And in our universe or yours, Mulder is an investigator: sooner or later he’ll figure it out. If he does that at a point when he can’t spare any attention to deal with it, that by itself will be a danger to him. I can’t tell you how to handle that. I can only tell you to be alert for it.”

Alex nodded slowly—well, of course, just because he wouldn’t kill his Mulder’s father didn’t mean somebody wouldn’t, and his Mulder would be just as hurt by it. He could hope his universe’s Bill Mulder wasn’t the same man this universe’s was—and wasn’t there some evidence for that? “I have a feeling my Mulder’s father might not be quite as bad as yours… but I’m not sure why I think so.” That wasn’t true; he knew perfectly well why he thought so, but saying that his Mulder didn’t seem as damaged or cruel or as consumed with guilt as this one might not be such a kind thing to say. Still, even if his universe’s Bill Mulder hadn’t done quite such a splendid job of damaging his son, that didn’t mean he wasn’t a member of the Consortium, or ultimately his son’s enemy, it only meant that he’d done a better job of hiding it, which would only make it more painful for Mulder if and when he finally found out. “But if, for whatever reason, the Consortium decides it wants him dead, I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about it.” Or even whether he should do anything about it—if Mulder’s father was a danger to him; if he was bent on using and punishing his son for imagined sins, perhaps Mulder would be better off without him. —Another thing he wouldn’t say in front of this Mulder.

Alex sighed. “You want to protect the people you love from all harm—but there are some kinds of harm you just can’t do anything about, and I suppose having a son of a bitch for a father is one of them. But I’ll do what I can. Whatever my Mulder will let me do.”

* * *

Krycek had pulled Mulder close, and Mulder leaned into him, mouth curled into a contented smile, like a cat enjoying a warm lap. Alex smiled, too, their closeness warming him, reminding him of the cat games of the day before. Too bad they couldn’t play their game with Mulder. At least, not mind-to-mind—but they could always tell each other stories. How would the three of them play? Would Krycek stroll down the streets of his fantasy city with two handsome panthers striding side by side on silken ropes? Feline, maybe, but somehow Alex couldn’t see Mulder as a black panther. A spotted leopard, perhaps? Or maybe a cheetah: long and rangy, capable of powerful bursts of speed. Would he be more truly catlike than Alex’s devoted pet? Independent, resisting his master’s rule, needing the wizard’s power and dominance to control him?

And how would the two pets interact? Would there be jealousy? Would they be rivals, as male cats often are? So many possibilities, so many games—

But no time. Not if the experiment worked; not if it occurred on schedule. If all went as they hoped it would, tonight would be their last night together.

* * *

One more night. It was a sudden shock. Alex’s heart twisted. No, it wasn’t enough time—there was so much he still wanted to do! How could he leave them so soon? There had been so many misunderstandings to work through; they’d just barely begun to really know each other. There was still so much they could learn from each other. He’d wanted to show Mulder more about topping. And what about his game plan with Krycek? Something for Alex, just for him. It made his heart quicken just to think about it—but now it was too late. They had only one more night, and everything should be perfect, but he was still too confused, he didn’t know what to do.

But perhaps it wasn’t up to him to decide what to do. Let Krycek be in charge; let Big Brother decide. Just try to be good and follow orders—but that was what he had tried to do all along, and it hadn’t worked. Krycek wasn’t satisfied just to give orders and watch his pets scramble to obey. He wanted you to work for it. He wanted you to play the game with him, to anticipate what he wanted and give it back to him. But Alex still didn’t know how to do that. It was too soon, damn it! They needed more time.

But there wasn’t going to be any more time. This was all there was, and if Alex was going to show his brother that he’d learned anything, he was going to have to do it tonight.

Alex sighed. Sex was supposed to be fun, damn it, why did it have to be a test? He just wanted to make love with Krycek and Mulder, to make them both feel good and let them make him feel good, and not have to worry about succeeding or failing at some mysterious game with no rules. He wanted a nice, uncomplicated whipping with that beautiful braided whip Krycek had languishing away in his closet. And he wanted to be fucked and he wanted to suck somebody off. Maybe even at the same time. He wanted the old familiar rituals, safe and reassuring.

But that wasn’t what Krycek wanted, and more than anything else, he wanted to please Krycek. So think about it; work it out. I have told you what would please me, Krycek had told him. Repeatedly. You just haven’t been able to hear it. So listen to him: What I want from you is for you to stop believing in your own worthlessness.

Easy enough to say, but what did it mean, when it came to sex and S/M? What did a bottom who didn’t believe he was worthless do? Wasn’t being worthless the whole point of being a bottom? Your needs were irrelevant; you served your top. You did what you were told and you took what your top dished out and you kept your mouth shut, except when you were ordered to open it. Because you were nothing but an object, a lump of flesh with holes for your master’s use.

Except it wasn’t really like that, and Alex knew it. That was the game they played, not the reality. The reality was men who respected and cared about one another, who wanted to satisfy each other’s needs, and it was a foolish bottom who wouldn’t define his own limits and give his top some guidance in what he could take and what he couldn’t and what would send him soaring. Men who had been together a long time, who knew each other well and trusted each other, could dispense with the negotiations and the overt trappings of the game; they could even convince themselves that the game was reality, if it gave them pleasure. But Alex and Krycek, only a week together and still sensitive from too many miscues, were far from ready for that—if in fact it would ever be right for them. Perhaps the reality of who they were gave them so much dominance over each other’s lives already that the games they played were better kept firmly in the realm of fantasy.

Then a man who wanted to play bottom should say so, and perhaps he ought to just ask for that whipping, if he wanted it that badly. Respectfully, of course, and accepting that his top could always say no.

Alex made a move to get up, quickly aborted. He felt his face grow hot, and he stared into his lap, afraid to look across the room to where Krycek and Mulder were sitting. Did they know what was in his mind? Krycek, at least, should have no problem reading him. For a moment, he was frustrated, even a little angry. They knew it was hard for him to make the first move—why did they leave him floundering here, on what could very well be their last night together?

Because it was their last night. And they wanted it to be special for him. Without really reading Krycek, Alex could feel that from him. They wanted him to have what he wanted, and they didn’t know him well enough to give it to him without being asked. He could feel something else from Krycek—a sense of patience. Happy patience; a feeling of waiting for a carefully tended plan to come to fruition. It wasn’t a cruel feeling, though, as Alex would have thought in the early days, before he knew Krycek better. It wasn’t that he enjoyed watching Alex suffer, it was more that he was happy to see Alex figuring things out, and was in no hurry to interrupt the process. Happy patience. It was—it was the same joy he had in Mulder, watching him struggle with the things Krycek was teaching him.

Alex felt a sudden burst of pleasure, a warmth that filled his whole body and left him breathless, even a little dizzy. He was doing exactly what Krycek wanted him to do. It was their game plan, and he was wrong that there was no more time for it. Until the last moment they were together, as long as Krycek allowed him time and space to think things out for himself, and as long as he fought through the haze of emotion that always clouded his mind to make sense of things, they would be playing their game together. It made him unutterably happy.

* * *

But there was still one last piece of the puzzle to figure out. He’d been about to go over to Krycek, kneel at his feet with his eyes cast down, and beg, Please, Sir, may I have a whipping? What stopped him had been the memory of all those toys lying unused at the bottom of Krycek’s closet, and the realization that had struck him from the first time he’d seen Krycek and Mulder together: he doesn’t play games. He wants it to be real. The rituals of the leather world didn’t interest him; Alex had to find some other way to ask for what he wanted. Some way that would be real. Some way that would please Krycek as much as it would please Alex—and he had no idea what that way would be. How could he ask for that whipping, without playing the leatherboy? How would Mulder ask for a whipping?

—But no, that wasn’t the right way to go about it. He wasn’t supposed to try to emulate Mulder. He couldn’t do it, in the first place, and it wasn’t what Krycek wanted, anyway. But how to make it real, and still make it good? It didn’t make any sense to him. If it was real, it wasn’t any fun. Real was being knocked out and tied up and drugged and interrogated against your will. Real was rape and terror and the kind of pain that didn’t feel good. And Krycek knew that too, damn it. He played the game; he played it with Mulder, even if Mulder refused to admit it. But Krycek knew the difference between game and reality. It wasn’t reality he wanted, it was—it was honesty. It was real feelings he wanted from his partners, not coverups and pretense. He didn’t allow Mulder to use the trappings of the leather world, because for Mulder it would be a way to hide, to avoid his real feelings.

But not for Alex. For Alex, the leather rituals were real. They were the easiest and most honest way he knew to express himself with someone he really cared about. The reverence, the depth of emotion, the desire to please, to elevate his beloved, to allow himself to be filled with all the sensation he could take, and then to take a little more: it seemed only natural and right to kneel, to beg, to open himself up and make himself humble and vulnerable. Mulder might like to feel that his obedience was being forced from him, but Alex found his greatest joy in offering himself freely to his lovers.

So it had been the right thing to do after all. Alex found that a huge smile was splitting his face, and Krycek was smiling right back at him, just as widely. And Mulder was smiling, too, not really understanding what was going on, but glad to see both his Kryceks so happy.

Alex stood, then, and confidently walked across the room, and sank to his knees between Krycek’s legs and Mulder’s, resting his cheek on Krycek’s thigh. For a moment he just sat there, smiling, rubbing his face against Krycek’s leg.

Krycek stroked his hair. Alex knew without looking that he was beaming softly down at him. “Pretty pet,” Krycek said, and there was a brief flash of yesterday’s game, bright spires and sparkling cobblestones, and a sleek black panther on a silken lead.

Alex giggled, and turned to look up at Mulder. “We played wizard and cat-familiar yesterday. It was fun. Maybe he’ll tell you all about it sometime.”

“You look just like the cat who ate the canary,” Mulder said, grinning.

Alex snuggled, catlike, between his two lovers’ legs. “He’s been teaching me things.”

“Ah. Well, that explains it.” Behind Mulder’s light tone, there was genuine understanding.

Then Alex turned back to Krycek, rising up onto his knees, looking up into his brother’s face because he knew that was what he wanted, and letting all the barriers of convention and fear and self-doubt fall. “Please, sir. Please, may I have a whipping?”

“Well, now,” Krycek said, velvety-smooth and thoughtful, the hand stroking Alex’s hair suddenly turning cool and possessive, “I did say I’d consider it. Once your bruises had healed. Let’s have a look at them.”

Alex turned, sinking back down onto his haunches, pulling his tee-shirt up and over his head to expose his back. He felt Krycek’s fingers slide lightly down his spine, measuring him, and he saw through his brother’s eyes the smooth, muscular expanse of his back, just the faintest remains of the stripes of the whip across it, fading into pale skin.

“Is this where you want to be whipped?” Krycek asked, fingers tracing one of the stripes, the hint of a smoky tease in his voice.

The question turned Alex’s belly to water, and sent a tingling lick of heat up his cock. Of course, he wanted to be whipped on his ass, and that meant—he unbuttoned his jeans and pulled them down over his hips as he gathered his feet under himself and stood, bending over to rest his hands just above his knees, with his bare bottom offered for Krycek’s inspection. He might not have had the benefit of Krycek’s thorough training, but he had been trained, and he knew how to do this: to keep his head down when turning his back on his top, to know when his top wanted him to strip and to do it without hesitation, and to move into position with an athlete’s strength and ease of motion. And to stand obediently still with his jeans down around his thighs, waiting for his master to decide if his ass was worthy of a whipping.

Krycek’s hand touched him again, thumb and fingers stroking one buttock, measuring, judging. The cool impersonality of it somehow made it frighteningly intimate: casual as if he were touching his own body. Alex felt his breath quicken to shallow gasps, and his cock rise, hanging unfettered in the air between his legs.

“There are still bruises,” Krycek commented thoughtfully. And perhaps it wasn’t just tease, but some real concern that it might be too soon, and Alex might suffer real damage. Which was wonderful and kind of him, but just too frustrating if it denied Alex what he knew he could handle. And even this lapped at his cock, ratcheting up the need another notch.

“It doesn’t hurt any more,” Alex insisted. “It’s healed enough.” Perhaps in any ordinary situation, he’d wait another day or two, but this was no ordinary situation, and there were no more days to wait. He’d be sore, but he could take it. Krycek’s whipping on top of Mulder’s—oh god, he had to do it, please.…

“What do you think, Mulder? Shall we let him have it?” There was an undercurrent of lazy amusement in his voice—this time it was tease. And something else—he was inviting Mulder to play.

And Mulder was happy to join in. His hand touched Alex’s other buttock, doubling the maddening strokes. Alex gripped his knees desperately and repressed the urge to turn and fling himself on them. Patience. Patience.

“I don’t know,” Mulder said slowly. “Should we send him home to his Mulder with another man’s bruises on his butt?”

God. Alex hadn’t thought of that. Mulder turning him over, demanding angrily to know who had touched his property, his own hand coming down on him hard, punishing him, marking him as his own.…

But no. In the first place, there were other things to do when he got home, before confronting Mulder—days would have passed and whatever bruises Krycek’s whipping left would also have faded. Besides, by the time they ever got to the point where Mulder was seeing Alex’s naked butt, he’d already know Alex had had other men in the meantime, another universe away. He had no intention of hiding anything from Mulder; and it was already far too late to play the virgin. “It doesn’t matter,” Alex gasped, frantic in his heat. “He’ll know anyway.”

Suddenly, he was pulled back, and he fell onto the couch between the two of them, his naked bottom scrunched into the narrow space between them. His eager cock stood up in his lap.

He didn’t know which of them had pulled him back, but it was Mulder who had one arm around his shoulders, and held his face in his other hand, staring intently into his eyes. Mulder! Ah, he wanted so badly to kiss him.… But Mulder had something to say. “Will you tell him about everything we’ve done?”

The question seemed to be important to him. Alex had a vague notion that maybe he should think about his answer. But he was lost in a haze of lust, and could only speak the absolute truth. “I’ll tell him everything.” His voice was a husky whisper, thick with emotion. “Anything he wants. Never hold anything back from him again.”

That earned him the kiss he wanted. He felt Mulder’s arms come around him, and he responded eagerly, pressing his body into Mulder’s, wrapping his arms tightly around him, closing his eyes and abandoning himself to the deepest, wettest, most passionate kiss he had in him.

When they broke, some endless moments later, Mulder’s own voice was husky as he spoke over Alex’s shoulder. “I think we should give him his whipping.”

* * *

Krycek’s hand trailed down his back. “I suppose we’d better.” His voice was a velvet murmur, as sweet as a caress. “Mulder, why don’t you take him into the bedroom and get him stripped? I’ll be along in a little while.”

Alex pulled away from Mulder, only for a moment, to offer his mouth to his brother for a brief, soft kiss. It was clear enough what was in his mind: they had all night ahead of them, and time for everyone to play. Alex would get his whipping—in Krycek’s own sweet time. It was not something to rush into. Meanwhile, “Be good for Mulder, and do what he says.”

That was more for Mulder than for Alex: Alex was eager to follow orders, whether Mulder’s or Krycek’s. It was Mulder who needed a little reassurance that Krycek intended to share his toy for the evening. And Mulder was delighted with his new role. Grinning, he took Alex by the hand and pulled him to his feet, and began to lead him to the bedroom.

Alex was not to be allowed to stop and pull his pants back up. He shuffled along as best he could with his jeans sinking further down his legs at every step. The constriction of movement, the embarrassment, the effort to keep up with Mulder and not to trip over his falling jeans, were all delicious to him—especially with the view from Krycek’s mind of his own bare back and bottom, and stumbling footsteps from jeans bunched around his ankles following him down the hall. He was almost deliriously happy already: two gorgeous tops, a promised whipping, and just the kind of physical humiliation he liked. Perfect.

In the bedroom, Mulder let go his hand and stood back to look at him, still grinning like a kid in a candy store. There was a pause, as Mulder took him in. Alex stood straight, hands at his sides, his nearly naked body on display—somewhat the worse for wear, with fading bruises and fresh pink scars on either side of his nose—but still strong and eager and ready for more punishment, the picture of an obedient boy, waiting for his orders.

Mulder drew a breath, suddenly, with a bit of a catch in it. “Strip.” Softly, almost wonderingly, a comment rather than an order.

But good enough for Alex. “Yes, sir,” he said, then he sank to one knee, in a pile of his jeans, and began to pull off his shoes. It would be easier to sit on the bed, or a chair, but an obedient boy didn’t use the furniture without permission, or try to make things easier for himself. He made himself as humble as possible, for his master’s pleasure.

Still on his knees, he lined up his shoes carefully at the foot of the bed, then laid his neatly folded jeans and boxers on top. He’d left his tee-shirt on the floor in the living room; naughty of him, but he’d forgotten it. Perhaps Krycek would add a stroke or two to his whipping for that oversight. Probably not, but Alex could pretend.

Then he stood up and returned to his former position in front of Mulder, now completely naked. It was a bit tricky, getting to his feet without permission, but he hadn’t been ordered to his knees, only to strip, and it was safest to go back to where he’d been before the order had been given. If this had been a heavy punishment scene, no doubt his top would use it as an excuse to give the boy another swat. The same as he would have used the boy’s decision to remain on his knees.

But poor Mulder, while quite happy with his new toy, didn’t seem to know quite how to play with it. Alex would have to give him a little help.

“What are your orders, sir?”

Mulder liked it, there was no doubt of that. His face had gone pink, and his grin softened to a hazy, charged smile. But there was a quick glance toward the door, and the living room beyond—he was concerned that Krycek would enter any minute, and take the toy away. Alex knew better—Krycek was, at that moment, sitting happily on the couch, sipping his brandy, watching the scene unfold through his vantage point in Alex’s mind. Would it help Mulder to know that Krycek was in fact already there, or just intimidate him further? “He wants you to use me,” Alex said. “That’s why he sent us in here ahead of him. He wanted you to have the chance to have me all to yourself for a little while.”

“I know, but.…” Mulder lifted his hand to touch Alex’s cheek. “It’s his scene. His whipping. I wouldn’t want to… take more than my share.”

Krycek’s whipping. And Mulder left second best again. Alex stepped forward, suddenly, to take Mulder in his arms. Face pressed against Mulder’s neck, he whispered, “Mulder, I’m sorry.”

Mulder took him by the shoulders and held him at arm’s length, with a laugh. “Now what are you apologizing for?”

Alex shrugged, with a sheepish smile. “You know, I’d really love to have another whipping from you, if there were time. And maybe there will be time, who knows. But tonight––”

“Tonight you want it from Krycek. Don’t worry about it, Alex, I’m not offended. I’m glad, really. I’m looking forward to watching him whip you. Maybe you’ll get him started, and he’ll decide to whip me sometime, too.”

Alex giggled. “I hope so. Meanwhile, though, he really does want us to play. And there’s plenty of me to go around. I’m the insatiable slut, right? A real bottom pig.” He let his voice go low and silky. “Go ahead and dish it out to me, sir, I can take it. You won’t use me up before he gets his chance.” He stepped closer to Mulder, took Mulder’s hand in his and brought it to his face, rubbing the knuckles against his cheek, and placing soft kisses on the fingertips. “Shall I kneel for you, sir? Shall I grovel at your feet?”

A slow smile began to form on Mulder’s face—not the deep-eyed smile of surrender, but the heady, powerful smile of a man assuming control. He reached out, fingertips brushing lightly across Alex’s left nipple—a delicate little shiver of erotic charge. Quietly, in a cool voice very like his master’s, he ordered, “Kneel for me.”

“Yes, sir.” Gratefully, Alex sank to his knees. This was just what he needed, at last: to make himself low, subservient, to give up everything. To Mulder. Not his own Mulder, but one who, like his counterpart, was a good, strong, beautiful man. One who could understand that power was a wonderful gift to give, and to receive. If only his own Mulder would allow him this some day.… But for now, this Mulder was his master, and he had orders to follow.

He settled into position, upright on his knees, back straight, hands at his sides, eyes respectfully downcast. It might not be what Mulder was used to, but there was a reason the positions were what they were, and any man with a feel for dominance and submission would surely know how to respond to them. “Please, sir. Please.” What was he begging for? He didn’t know. Just for the pleasure of begging. He leaned forward, hands still at his sides, and softly kissed Mulder’s groin through the denim of his jeans. He rubbed his cheek against the stiff column of Mulder’s cock, already hot enough that he could feel the warmth through the fabric. Tonight, if permitted, he would suck Mulder’s cock. He would make him writhe and moan and come.

Later. It was too soon for that yet—and if Mulder were a proper top, he might well have slapped Alex’s face away for the importunity of touching his master’s cock without permission, even through his clothes. Never mind—if Mulder was inclined to be permissive, still, Alex knew what to do. He sank lower, letting his cheek rub along the rough denim over Mulder’s thigh, placing kisses as he went, until his mouth was at Mulder’s knees, and it was necessary to use his hands to balance himself. So he held Mulder’s legs around the calves and continued to kiss and stroke ever lower until he was completely bent over, elbows on the floor and hands around Mulder’s ankles, butt held high in the air, face pressed to the carpet between Mulder’s feet.

“Please, sir,” he continued to whisper, as he placed one careful, worshipful kiss atop the arch of each of Mulder’s strong feet in their white canvas running shoes.

He felt Mulder shift and bend down, one hand patting his upraised bottom. “Wait a minute, Alex,” Mulder whispered thickly. “Let me get undressed.”

Obediently, Alex released him and sat back on his heels, heart pounding in his chest. It was so good, it was such a relief he almost wanted to cry—to worship Mulder, to be allowed to do it, to have Mulder understand and accept it from him—he almost couldn’t bear it. He wanted to thank him, but that would probably be too much. But perhaps he could let Mulder see it in his face. Ordinarily, it would be against the rules, but Mulder didn’t know these rules, and anyway, ordinarily there would be no need to tell his master how good it felt to kneel before him. So he lifted his face and looked up at Mulder, letting the adoration in his eyes tell Mulder how he felt.

And Mulder stared down at him, red-faced, almost stricken. Perhaps it was a little too much for him, too—to be the one standing, looking down at a lover on his knees. Especially one who offered everything freely, without the need for threats or intimidation or mind games, who surrendered for the simple joy of it.

Alex was frightened for a moment. Had he made a mistake? Perhaps he shouldn’t have indulged himself and kissed his master’s feet. Perhaps he should have just knelt as he’d been ordered and waited for more instructions. Was Mulder disgusted with him?

Then Mulder’s face softened into a gentle smile, and he reached out to stroke Alex’s cheek. Alex’s eyes closed, and he sank into the touch. Happily, at the back of his mind he felt Krycek beaming at him, and the quiet whisper of encouragement: Play your game, Little Brother. We’ll adapt.

And now Mulder’s smile was beginning to harden into something else. Alex could see the rush, the light in his eyes, as it swept through him, and Alex felt the responding rush vibrating through his own body: it was power. Mulder had found his power, and it was a gorgeous, electrifying sight.

Mulder continued to gaze down on him, in happy contemplation of the slave quivering at his feet. Planning how he would use him. Fingers curling in heavy anticipation.

Almost without will, Alex rose up off his heels and returned to the proper position: up on his knees, back straight, arms relaxed at his sides, eyes downcast. His heart beat so hard it sent tiny tremors through him with every pulse. His cock stood up in front of him, burning. And he waited.

* * *

Mulder went over to sit on the bed, pulling his tee-shirt over his head as he went. He tossed the shirt at Alex, who closed his eyes and winced and let it catch him in the face. Turning on his knees to face Mulder on the bed, he pulled the shirt down and began to fold it carefully, then held it in front of him, not wanting to put it on the floor, but unable to reach the bed or any of the chairs from his position on his knees.

Mulder reached out and took it from him, and set it at the end of the bed. His face screwed up for a moment, in that charming way that it did (or at least, Alex’s Mulder’s did) when he was puzzling out a particularly interesting and convoluted problem. He pursed his lips, then, with an earnest intensity that was quite endearing, “I think you should take off my shoes.” And no, it wasn’t that he had any hesitation about giving the order, only which of the many orders he had at his command to give first.

“Yes, sir.” Alex moved forward on his knees, then bent again to Mulder’s feet, and began to untie the laces of his shoes.

Mulder patted his head as he worked. “So, you were a cat-familiar yesterday? Did you wear a pretty jeweled collar?”

“Yes.” Alex smiled, but kept his head down, and continued to loosen the laces of Mulder’s shoes. “I was a sleek black panther with big, heavy paws, and a long, thick tail, and I walked beside of my master, the wizard, on a silken lead.” He sat back on his heels, lifting one foot and holding it to his chest for a moment before pulling the running shoe off and lining it up at the side of the bed. Then, holding the foot in his lap, he began to slide the white sock down Mulder’s ankle. “My master took me to his castle, and worked a magic on me that gave me human form. I was confused at first, and missed my whiskers and my tail. But it was my master’s will, and I lived only to serve him, so I did my best to please him with my new body.” He pulled off the sock, folded it, and placed it atop the shoe. Then he bent to Mulder’s other shoe, and began the same process with it.

“My master was gentle and kind with me, and he showed me pleasures that only this human body could feel. He let me touch him, in ways I couldn’t with fangs and claws. And he laid me out on the bed and touched me, all over my body, and took me. It was wonderful magic.” Mulder’s other shoe was lined up beside the first, and the other sock folded on top of it. Alex rose up on his knees, back in position. “Would you like me to be your pet?”

Mulder reached out to stroke Alex’s hair firmly, as he would a cat’s. He grinned, and his voice was a slinky purr. “You are my pet.”

The words worked their own magic on Alex’s submissive body. He shivered with it, feeling Mulder’s ownership like caresses on his naked skin.

Mulder stood, and began to unbutton his jeans. “Get up on the bed.” His voice was strong and authoritative now; firm but kind. The way a man would give an order to a pet. Alex scrambled to obey, climbing up on hands and knees, then lying as he had for the wizard, face down, arms and legs outstretched.

There was a long moment while Mulder pulled off his jeans, folded them and placed them, and his tee-shirt, on one of the wing chairs. Alex lay still, waiting, letting the moment stretch out, feeling the mattress beneath his chest and belly and groin; and the gentle currents of air on his back and butt and legs. Then Mulder came to stand by the edge of the bed.

There was a sharp slap on Alex’s butt, and “Up!” Mulder commanded. The stinging kiss of the slap streaked through Alex’s body, a small promise of what was to come. He worked his knees under him, lifting his bottom as ordered.

“Your master will be here soon to take care of you,” Mulder said evenly, “but maybe I’ll just warm you up for him.”

And the hand came down again on Alex’s upraised bottom. One hard, hot, tingling blow, and then another, alternating from one buttock to the other, warming him, filling his cock, making him bury his face in the pillow and moan and dig his fingers into the mattress.

All too soon, the spanking stopped. Alex panted into the pillow, feeling the heat continue to rise in his sore bottom.

“That’s enough, I think.” Mulder patted Alex’s butt gently. “I know you’re an insatiable slut, but I’ll leave the rest to your proper owner.”

As if on cue, Alex felt the presence of his brother in the doorway, in a sudden blast of awareness, a pulse of pressure, like the shock wave from an explosion. There was a slight gasp from Mulder at his side. Alex flinched—not in fear, but simply from the intensity of that presence, so like and yet unlike his own, as if his own being had been fed through a centrifuge until all the weaknesses and faults had been stripped away and the purified essence that remained amplified to unbelievable strength. Unwittingly, he turned to look over his shoulder towards the doorway, where a backlit shadow stood, a being of darkness, an anti-Krycek. Perhaps, like matter and anti-matter, when they touched, they would annihilate each other.

Krycek’s amusement tickled in Alex’s mind. Then he stepped into the room and out of the shadow, assuming human form. “Thank you, Mulder. I’ll take over now.”

* * *

Mulder stepped back from the bed, as Krycek slowly walked around. Alex returned to his position, heart suddenly pounding. He hadn’t been given permission to move. Krycek had only just come into the room, and already he was making mistakes. He would disappoint him, on their last night together, when he wanted everything to be so perfect. Idiot, played through his mind. You never do anything right. And even though he felt Krycek’s calm reassurance as solidly as he felt the mattress beneath him, he couldn’t help being afraid. It was an old reaction, he knew, nothing really to do with the situation he was in now, just the leftover training of an old master he couldn’t break. But he had a new master now, whose game plan was for Alex to listen to him, not all those old voices. He forced himself to take deep breaths, and wrapped his mind around Krycek’s cool presence for comfort.

Krycek sat on the edge of the bed. Fingers touched the back of his neck, and drifted lightly across his shoulders. He spoke softly, dreamily, as if to himself. “I remember not so many nights ago, I was working late at the office. It was around four in the morning, in that timeless moment just before night turns into day. I had a vision of you.” His hand trailed down Alex’s spine to run lightly across his buttocks. “You were up on your knees,” he said, cupping his hand under Alex’s bottom to urge him up, “and your legs were spread.” Alex moved to match the image in Krycek’s mind, which he had found in Alex’s mind. Then Krycek took hold of his wrists, and drew them slowly up to fold them across each other at the small of Alex’s back. “Your wrists were tied behind your back.”

His brother’s strong hands were the most satisfying restraints Alex could imagine. He felt himself relax into it—the guidance of firm hands, the warmth of lying secure and comfortable in the position he most loved, the soothing wash of cool words that seemed almost to speak inside his own head, as Krycek recounted Alex’s own fantasy back to him. “There was a bar holding your legs open, here,” and now one hand came down to press against the inside of each thigh, just above the knee, while the other hand still held his wrists together behind his back. “I was there with you.” He paused for a moment, and Alex could feel him concentrate, trying to reassemble the threads of the vision, imperfect and fragmented, from a time before their link had fully formed, when Alex had been frightened and unhappy in the big bed. Or perhaps he took it from Alex’s memory now. “I said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Little Brother. I’ll take care of you.’ ” Alex felt his smile.

And Alex was under, floating gently in the warm dark, no longer afraid, no longer even a separate person, but a piece of his brother. It was his fantasy—the details didn’t matter, it was the feeling of connection that mattered: of being safe from all harm, finally able to let go of all the torment and worry, to feel his mind go quiet, leaving only sensation.

He felt Krycek’s hand stroking him, fingers running over his bottom. He felt himself rising on his knees, pressing himself into the hand. His wrists were released, but he didn’t move them, wanting to hold onto the feeling of being motionless, weightless, within his brother’s care.

“I think Alex needs the cuffs,” Krycek said, and his voice was a quiet, gentle thread drifting through the warm dark. “Mulder, will you get my case?”

He heard Mulder move, heard the closet door opening, and the black leather case being retrieved. All those beautiful toys—he wanted to feel them all. The bite of that beautiful braided whip, the tightness of the restraints, the penetration of the plugs, the pinch of clamps—like a greedy child, he wanted it all. He wouldn’t get it all, he knew. Krycek would choose, and Alex would be grateful, for what he was denied as well as for what he was given.

He closed his eyes, and saw the image of himself from his brother’s mind: kneeling over submissively, hands behind his back, and his bottom, still pink from Mulder’s spanking, raised up and spread, presenting his anus and genitals for the taking. And he could feel the pleasure in his brother’s mind at seeing him this way. Could he really be as beautiful as Krycek seemed to think? In his brother’s eyes, at least, he was. His eyes brimmed with tears. Hurt me, he begged. He knew he shouldn’t, but he couldn’t help it—not when his need was so strong, and flowing directly into his brother’s mind. Make it hard for me, make it hurt. Please. I need it.

“Mulder, help me tie him up.”

And then he could feel two pairs of hands on him, touching him, arranging him, putting him in restraints. He didn’t have to see himself in Krycek’s mind to know that it was Mulder buckling the cuffs around his wrists—those hands were trembling in excitement, fingers tightening on the leather, edging over into roughness before pulling back to stroke and soothe. Mulder hadn’t yet learned to temper and control his desires, to understand that tenderness and roughness can sometimes be the same thing. Would his own Mulder be like this? Already Alex had seen signs of it—the way his Mulder would pull him close, holding him so tightly he could barely breathe, before forcing himself to loosen his grip. One day, perhaps, Alex would be able to teach him that he didn’t always have to let go.

And that was Krycek at his back, another unmistakable touch, precise and possessive on his thighs. And, oh god, there was a spreader bar in that case—a sleek, black, adjustable metal bar with supple leather straps at each end. Alex saw Krycek lift it out of the case, felt the cool touch of metal as Krycek measured it between Alex’s knees. Then he felt one strap being fastened snugly around his leg, just above the knee, and he gasped, so eager for it he nearly couldn’t bear it, and he whimpered as Krycek fastened the other strap, and adjusted the bar to stretch his legs wide. He shifted, squirming, trying to press his legs together, straining against the bar, as if to protect himself, testing the feel of it between his legs. The little struggle excited him: the delicious thrill of helplessness, exposure, and even a little tingle of fear, as the bar held him open. His breathing became quick and hot, and his shameless cock rose between his legs, twitching. More, he found himself begging. Please.

Perhaps if he was going to beg, he should be begging out loud, for Mulder’s pleasure as well as Krycek’s, but the connection with his brother was so strong he was lost in it—he barely remembered how to speak to anyone else. His mind felt wide open, as open as his legs. Krycek was right there with him, deep inside, invading every corner and crevice of him. Brother, he called out. The answer came back, not in words, but in waves of warmth and caring, and the firm dominance he knew Alex craved. And something else: a sense of pure pleasure, and even wonder, in a little brother so eager and willing to give himself up, to absorb the fullest measure of sensation.

* * *

Mulder threaded a leather strap through rings on each of the cuffs at Alex’s wrists and tied them tightly together. Then he and Krycek each took one of the long ends of the strap hanging down, and tied them through rings on the straps at Alex’s knees. Krycek pulled his tight—past comfort, sending a jolt of pain up Alex’s thigh to his spine, where his wrists now strained against the small of his back. Alex gasped and jerked against his bonds, his heaving chest pressing heavily into the mattress. Sweat began to trickle down his sides and under his armpits. There was a smell of fear in it. Well, he’d asked for it—begged for it—Make it hard, make it hurt, he’d pleaded, and if this was what Krycek wanted from him, he’d have to find a way to endure it. So he tried to slow his breathing, to relax his muscles, to let the pain flow through him.

Then Krycek eased a little slack into the strap, and a little more, until the pain slipped away and bonds were only satisfyingly snug. With their minds joined, it was no trouble for him to find just the right tightness for the straps, holding Alex firmly with just a hint of discomfort, but no outright pain, and after he’d tied off the one on his side, he adjusted the other one to the same pressure.

It was truly something no one else could ever give him—not without trial and error and asking: Too tight? Not enough? and getting directions from Alex he preferred not to have to give. Only his brother, who could feel the straps right along with him, and knew exactly when he’d found the pressure Alex craved the most. But no, there was no time to begin to worry about that, because Krycek was standing back, inspecting his bound little brother thoughtfully, and saying,

“He needs something up his ass. Mulder, would you like to plug him?”

And it was good to have that connection with his brother so he could see Mulder’s reaction through his eyes: the little gasp, the color rising in his cheeks, the liquid passion in his eyes, the jump in his hard cock. His huskily whispered “Yes” was redundant—his body had already answered. “Are you sure? I’ve never.…”

“I’ll show you what to do,” Krycek told him. He searched through the case for a moment, and brought out a shiny black butt plug, about two inches in diameter at its widest—not quite the largest Alex could take, but enough to give him a good stretch. He handed it to Mulder. “Alex is an experienced bottom, so you won’t have much trouble getting this into him. You don’t need to open him with your fingers, but he’ll certainly enjoy it if you want to play with his ass for a while first. Put a condom on the plug and use plenty of lube and slide it in slowly. It’ll go in easier if you turn it as it enters him, rather than trying to push it straight in. Then, just watch his body for signs of tension, and if you see his muscles tightening, ease up. You might want to keep your other hand on his back or his butt so you can feel it if he begins to strain. But if you take it slowly, everything should be fine.”

He stepped back from the bed to give Mulder room, and began to unbutton his shirt. “I’m going to get undressed while you take care of him,” he said. “But don’t worry. I feel everything he feels, so I’ll know exactly how you’re doing.”

Which had the effect of terrifying Mulder, rather than reassuring him, as Krycek had well known it would. But he just couldn’t resist it—and with Mulder’s fear such a beautiful thing to behold, Alex couldn’t blame him. But had it been too much? Both Kryceks watched him for a moment, waiting to see whether knowing that his master would feel every touch would frighten him out of penetrating his master’s doppelganger.

No. Mulder took a deep breath, smiled and nodded. The fear was still there, but he’d taken it in and made it something to enjoy. It was perfect for him, really—and Alex suddenly understood this. Every slightest movement would be a test; his master’s enjoyment inextricably tied with Alex’s. He would work to please Alex as if his life depended on it.

Alex took a few deep breaths, and shifted within his restraints, getting himself as comfortable as his bonds would allow, preparing himself for the plug. He felt his chest and the side of his face driving into the mattress; his wrists cuffed together at the small of his back; his legs forcibly spread by the bar attached just above his knees; the straps from his wrists pulling his knees up under him; his butt in the air; his anus and genitals displayed. Gently, he withdrew his awareness from Krycek’s mind, and opened his eyes to watch Mulder approach the bed from the vantage point of a bound and helpless bottom. It was Krycek’s turn to see through Alex’s eyes.

Mulder sat on the bed beside him. His fingers trailed down Alex’s cheek. “I remember,” he said softly—and Alex knew he was talking about that first night, when Alex had topped him, and their positions had been reversed.

Alex smiled as best he could with his face pressed into the mattress. “That’s good.” His voice came out ragged, his throat stretched against the bed. He swallowed. “Give it to me, Mulder. I need it.”

Mulder stroked his hair. “I will.” Then he turned the other way, resting his arm along Alex’s spine, over his bound wrists, fingers playing lightly along the top of Alex’s butt, teasing under the tailbone. He took his time about it, stroking Alex’s buttocks, feeling the heat still remaining there from the earlier spanking, playing with his anus, even handling Alex’s balls and running his fingernails up and down the underside of his cock. And it was good to lie there and take it, unable to move except for the most helpless wriggles, unable to resist, to buck or to thrust, able only to moan and to feel his body used. Mulder teased and toyed with him, tickling and twisting his balls, flicking his cock with his fingertips, pinching the insides of his thighs. He spread lubricant generously over Alex’s anus, sliding just the tip of his finger in and out. Alex squirmed and whimpered.

“Please.” The word squeezed out of his throat. Mulder let his finger slide in up to the first knuckle, then took it away again. He slapped the soles of Alex’s feet, then the backs of his thighs. “Please,” Alex begged again. This time, Mulder’s finger entered him to the second knuckle, rested there for a moment, then fucked him, in and out. Then it was gone again, and he was pulling sharply on Alex’s balls.


Nothing. Alex waited, panting for breath. Mulder’s arm, still lying along his spine, moved soothingly over his back.

Then the butt plug was at his asshole, round tip pressing into him. Alex couldn’t help trying to lean back into it, useless as that attempted motion was. He would get it only as quickly as Mulder decided to give it to him. And Krycek had told him to go slow.

And he was straining at his bonds, which was no good. Alex forced himself to relax, to quiet his breathing. Despite the frustration of the plug resting unmoving against his anus, he held still, unclenching his muscles, waiting, until only his cock still throbbed.

Then Mulder began to work it into him. Slowly, turning it gently as Krycek had told him. Alex’s moan was pure pleasure now, as he felt the plug slide into him, opening him farther and farther as it entered. Mulder’s other hand stroked the small of his back while the butt plug filled his ass, deeper and deeper until suddenly its greatest width slid past his sphincter and his ass closed around it, lodging it tightly within him. A pleasured “Oh!” escaped him.

Mulder, a little shakily, got up from the bed. Alex didn’t have to see him to know he was looking expectantly at Krycek, awaiting judgment. Or to know that Krycek was grinning at him.

“Yes, you know you did a good job,” he heard his brother say. And he heard the tease in Krycek’s voice, and slipped back into Krycek’s mind in time to see the rush of embarrassment and pleasure in Mulder’s face.

Then Krycek turned to the bed, and Alex struggled to lift his face to see him with his own eyes. Krycek was smiling down at him, and his smile sent a chill down Alex’s spine. It was a cool, contemplative smile, lit with power. Yes, he would give Alex the pain he’d asked for. And he would make it hard.

“My Little Brother,” he said, his voice a velvety, possessive caress. “I’m going to whip you now.”

* * *

The pleasure broke over him in waves, making his whole body throb, and his muscles turn to jelly. At last, at last, Krycek would whip him, and he was so ready, he could almost feel the rough tang of leather already spanking him, hear the thud of the braided lashes crashing against his buttocks. At last… and Alex suddenly realized he was only now truly ready for it, as much as he’d wanted it before. Krycek had been right to deny him until now. Now, he could truly accept it, revel in his bondage, give himself up to the pain that would stretch and test him, without doubt or fear. Now he was ready. He felt that he was about to feel something brand new, though he’d been whipped many times before. Friends, lovers, one-night-stands whose names he’d never known; with floggers, slappers, riding crops, canes. Even now, he still had the bruises of this Mulder’s whipping on him, and they were cherished bruises. One day, if he was very, very lucky, he might lie bound like this before his own Mulder, and receive a whipping from the man who truly owned him. But this was special in a way no other whipping would ever be.

He was glad for the cuffs and straps holding him firmly in place, forcing him into the proper position. He was glad for the plug in his butt, not only because it felt good, but because the base would protect his anus from the lash, allowing Krycek to hit him harder, directly across his asshole, without worrying about injuring the tender flesh. He was glad for Mulder’s presence, and the privilege of sharing this experience with him. And he was terribly glad, for this moment, to be here in this universe with this other incarnation of himself, feeling the wonder of the connection between them.

* * *

Krycek brought the braided whip out of the case and stood before the bed, holding it in his hand. He ran his other hand through the lashes, feeling the thick leather braids. He swung the whip easily back and forth in front of him, then began to swing it in figure eights, feeling its heft, accustoming himself to its weight and balance. How long since he’d used this whip on someone? Or had he ever used it? He knew what he was doing, though, Alex had no doubt of that. He moved with ease and confidence, controlling the whip smoothly. Alex watched him, face crushed into the mattress, feeling the anticipation grow. His hands twisted in their cuffs. Sweat began to slick his body.

Then Krycek stepped forward, letting the whip fall still. His cool gaze measured the man bound before him. “I’m going to hurt you,” he said calmly.

Alex sucked in air. Without conscious intent, his legs tried to close, straining against the spreader bar.

“It’s what you want. And what you deserve.” He swung the whip, and let the lashes slap across the palm of his hand. “It’s a good whip.” He smiled, and it was one of the bad ones, cold and diamond-hard. “I’m going to enjoy this.”

“Yes.” It was a plea and an entreaty and a surrender all at once. Alex flexed his buttocks, took a deep breath, and waited.

Krycek lifted his arm, and the whip came down.

* * *

The heavy leather braids slapped across Alex’s buttocks. The thick lashes burned and bit. Alex cried out, in relief as much as pain, and his body jerked with the blow. It was a hard hit—not the hardest, not yet, but Krycek was not going to begin easy and build, he was going to strike hard right from the start. That was his pleasure, to work his lovers hard, but that was also what Alex had asked for, and what he needed. Alex took another deep breath, and forced his body to relax.

The whip came down again. Hard across his lower buttocks, Alex felt the blow, felt the heat rising in his ass. Again and again, the blows came, punishingly hard, burning, sending shock waves through his whole body. He heard the slap of leather against flesh ring in the air, and the moans of pain being forced from his throat. He felt the sweat pour from his body. The heavy lashes pounded his butt, hitting the base of the butt plug, driving it harder into him, sending jolting vibrations deep inside him. It was hard, and god it hurt, and it felt so incredibly good he was nearly beyond his senses.

The blows grew even harder. How much could he take before his body would fail? But there was no desire to stop, or even to ease the pain. He was riding on top of it now, rushing along like an arrow in flight, drawing energy from the whip hitting his ass. He felt as strong and jubilant as the sky. The pressure built in him from the blows on his ass, through the butt plug vibrating inside him, to his cock swinging with each jolt, until at last it exploded, and he was screaming and coming and emptying his balls onto the mattress.

* * *

The blows eased at once, turning to slow, gentle strokes as the spasms in Alex’s cock faded. Then Krycek lowered the whip, wiped his forehead with his forearm, and sat on the bed beside Alex. He stroked Alex’s tender bottom, enjoying the heat he’d put there. His mind was full of sparkling, happy thoughts. “I didn’t know you could do that,” he said, and there was pleasure in it, and warmth, and affectionate amusement.

Alex grinned up at him as best he could. “Only for the best.” He shifted and squirmed, feeling his muscles already beginning to stiffen, and the drying sweat chill his skin.

There was no need to ask to be untied. Krycek rubbed his back briskly for a moment, then began to unknot the straps. “Mulder, give me a hand here.” And Mulder—redfaced and panting as if he’d been the one getting whipped—came to sit beside Krycek to work with him on the straps. Soon Alex was stretched out flat on his stomach, limp and warm and happy. Krycek eased the butt plug out of him and stripped it of its condom, while Mulder put the whip and restraints back into the case.

Alex was warm and happy, but the night wasn’t over yet. He was the only one who’d had an orgasm so far, and he wanted his lovers to be happy, too. So as soon as Mulder finished putting the things away and came back to the bed, Alex snagged him around the waist, and pulled him close. “C’mere,” he said lazily. “I want to suck your cock.”

Mulder fell to the bed, laughing. “I suppose that could be arranged. But what about… ?” He gestured towards Krycek, still sitting by Alex’s hips.

Alex turned to look at his brother, smiling. “I was kind of hoping he’d fuck me.”

Krycek leaned back on his hands and drawled, “I suppose that could be arranged.” He stroked Alex’s sore butt, kindling fresh heat in his cock. Alex didn’t think he’d be able to reach another orgasm—not that he minded, after the climax he’d just experienced—but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t enjoy feeling his ass and his mouth filled with his two beautiful lovers’ cocks.

* * *

Mulder sat at the head of the bed, legs curled around Alex’s sides, while Alex held his hips, and plunged his mouth over Mulder’s cock. Krycek lay on Alex’s back, one arm around Mulder’s knee and the other gripping Alex’s shoulder, thrusting into him with long, deep, strong strokes. Krycek’s groin pressed into his tender buttocks. Mulder’s cock bumped at the back of his throat. Krycek’s hot breath hissed in his ear. Mulder’s stomach quivered against his forehead. Alex was in heaven. And when Mulder stiffened and groaned and his semen filled the condom over Alex’s tongue, and Krycek’s thrusts grew more forceful until he, too, groaned and thrust hard and came, collapsing onto Alex’s back, Alex drew a shuddering breath and laughed softly, and sank into happy oblivion.

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