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Alex Through the Looking Glass: Day Four


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.


It would have been nice, Krycek thought as he turned his back on the World Trade Center and headed north for home, if he could believe that there was no crisis waiting for him there. He felt a peculiar certainty that there was. Not a big crisis: no death or disaster, but nevertheless some kind of unpleasantness that required his attention. There was no reason for the feeling, but it was there, and impossible to ignore.

It was annoying: he was in no particular rush to be indoors again. A front had come through during the night; he’d felt the winds just after midnight, felt the floors rock a little under his feet (about 14 inches of sway in the structure here on the sixty-fourth floor, more than enough for the body to perceive), heard the noise of it outside the great glass walls. Then there had been the sunrise: sharp golds and violets on the East River, the bluffs far north on the Hudson visible and precise in the clear blue air, puffy fair-weather clouds riding the upper winds: mountain weather, down from New England. New York City only got this a few times a year, and it always made him want to drop everything, get a car and just start driving north… and failing that, he at least wanted to be outside.

The light, the hard clear air, made a perfect counterpoint to the night he had just spent. It had been an exhilarating eleven hours, watching the situation balance just on the sharp edge of emergency. It was intricate, absorbing work: you needed to get a solid feel for what was happening, fast, and then to hang onto that feel as information came in, changing your options, turning the sensible contingency plans of ten minutes ago into formulas for disaster. You needed to respond to every bit of information instantly, and to get it right the first time: a single error would infect the whole model, multiply itself as time went by and your decisions took you further and further away from it; and you couldn’t know whether you’d gotten it right unless the worst happened and you had to act. It was the kind of work he loved, the real reason not to give this up in favor of something that wouldn’t get him killed some day. (Nice that Dowling had called him, too. If Dowling wanted you, that was proof enough you were on a fast track.)

—On the other hand, he was on his way home to a harem that was more than sufficient compensation for the weather. And what had the harem been up to while he was hard at work? Fucking each other senseless, he’d hoped. It had seemed safe enough to leave them to it: they’d looked happy and comfortable with each other when they’d come back from their shopping trip. Certainly Little Brother had been more comfortable with Mulder than he’d ever been with Krycek. He’d thought that having to leave might even be a lucky break. With Krycek not around to frighten Alex out of his wits, perhaps Mulder could get him to relax, make him feel safe enough that he could get himself under some kind of control. It would be nice to have seen the last of those screaming fits.

But if he believed his nerves, things hadn’t worked out that way. And Krycek normally believed his nerves—just because you couldn’t articulate a conclusion, or the reasons behind a set of anxieties, didn’t mean that the less articulate parts of your mind hadn’t been looking at the information available and come up with an accurate appraisal. Less articulate didn’t mean stupid; trusting his nerves had saved his life more than once. Still, it was hard to see why he should be getting the warnings now, when he hadn’t had a hint of them when he left his apartment last night.

Unless there hadn’t been anything wrong when he left, in which case either he was so tired he was jumping at ghosts or he was reacting to something that had happened since he left. The former looked more probable on its face, but he didn’t normally start seeing imaginary dangers when he was short on sleep. And if the latter were impossible, well, so was Little Brother, wasn’t he? There was that feeling of connection that Alex had talked about: if that were real, perhaps it was a channel for information, and that was where he was getting whatever he was reacting to.…

He was coming up on The Urban Bird. As always, he paused for a moment to watch the parrots and macaws, uncaged and sleek and looking exceedingly improbable here on West Broadway, with nothing between them and the street but a sheet of plate glass. (If they were to escape, would they become naturalized into the city’s ecology, as Chicago’s monk parakeets had? He could see it clearly, flocks of four-foot-long birds colonizing the parks, screeching and dive-bombing children. People would love them; the Parks Service would never be able to get rid of them, no matter how much of a disaster they were for the urban ecosystem.) He made a mental note to find out whether the birds would survive a New York winter; someone at the office would know. Then he was off again, moving fast, cutting around endless little knots of slow-moving people (it was like being a racing car on an Autobahn filled with 18-wheelers and Honda Civics; and why did New Yorkers walk so bloody slowly, anyway?)

—That connection with Alex. Alex was sure it was real, and while he might be scared and jumpy and inclined toward melodrama, he was far from stupid. Hell, Alex hadn’t been able to spend the afternoon away from the apartment without wanting to run home to Big Brother. Krycek’s own reaction to the afternoon’s separation could be explained without recourse to paranormal phenomena: it was obvious why he’d worried about sending Alex out into the world, and why he felt easier when he returned. But perhaps Alex was right after all, and the logical explanation was wrong. Because tonight, when Alex was safe at home and Krycek was hard at work, there was still something. Not an urge, exactly. Not a desire to run home, not a worry about what Alex might be up to. What was it, exactly? He worried at it, trying to define it. An awareness, at odd moments, that he was not alone. A sense that part of him was elsewhere. A stray emotion or feeling that popped up for no real reason. Like that sudden rush of arousal that hit him at around four A.M.—just the briefest flash of black leather and bondage and a sensation of physical fullness. It wasn’t him; it had to be Alex.

And if there was a psychic connection, what then? The mental link was all very well for now, but it would be dangerous for both of them in the long term. He needed to know that his mind and senses were telling him the truth—his own truth, not somebody else’s. This might very well wind up being a long-term problem, too. How likely were they, really, to able to figure out a way to send Alex across the dimensions to another universe? He could follow the discussion he’d had with Mulder about the theoretical basis for the existence of alternate realities (and Alex had seemed to understand it without even half listening—there was a clever mind under all that melodrama, and damn, he’d like to see him start using it), but none of them had a clue as to how any of it might actually be applied to a practical solution. Chances were good that Alex was stuck here.

In which case, the psychic connection, if it existed, wasn’t going to be the only problem. If he were trapped in this universe, he’d need a whole new life. That could be done: it was done, and fairly routinely. Establishing an identity for him would be no problem—that was the sort of thing Krycek could do ten times before breakfast. Get him a job, a place to live—too bad he couldn’t work for the Bureau, but even if Skinner and the handful of others he’d dealt with during his masquerade as a G-man could be persuaded to look the other way, his own current status as the Shop’s FBI liaison made that impossible—none of this would pose any sort of difficulty.

The hard part was Alex’s appearance. No one was going to look at the two of them and believe that they weren’t related. So, either establish an identity as some sort of long-lost Krycek—which wasn’t quite so easy and never mind trying to explain it to his mother or his sisters—or send him away somewhere where Krycek wasn’t known and the resemblance wouldn’t matter. Which was really the most sensible solution. But Krycek didn’t like it. He was sure Alex wouldn’t like it. And even if he did—

Even if he did, what are you going to do about the fingerprints? And there was the core of the matter, the issue he didn’t want to think about. He couldn’t let Alex go far. Alex had his body; Alex could impersonate him, and every objective test would confirm the borrowed identity. Give him a few months to study Krycek, and he’d be able to get the personality more or less right, too, and no one would even question him. And how long would Krycek be willing to live in the shadows of Alex’s life, if their situations were reversed? Yes, he trusted Alex, more or less; but the stakes were too high for both of them. So what the hell was he going to do? Yes, and by the way, his mind whispered to him, once you’ve got that one figured out, how do you intend to protect him from the Consortium and the Shop both? He’ll need to be protected all the time he’s here, remember?

He remembered. But he was getting ahead of himself: there were a lot more immediate concerns to deal with. Like getting those damned implants out of him—and Krycek was sure that was going to be another crisis, considering how upset Alex had gotten just talking about it. Finding a way to deal with Mulder’s contacts without compromising either Mulder or the contacts themselves. Deciding whether to bring Dana in on it. And what were the chances they were going to be able to get through this without stirring up Cancerman and his group again? He wouldn’t mind it for himself—hell, he’d love to have the chance to try to take that bastard down. But again, it would be dangerous, and a danger he didn’t want to expose Alex to. He’d be damned if that black-lunged son of a bitch was going to have another Alex Krycek to harass.

And besides all that, there was Alex himself. He was going to have to stop making assumptions about what Alex wanted and learn who this Alex Krycek really was before he’d reduced the man to a gibbering idiot. Maybe, if he were lucky, Mulder’d picked up some useful information tonight. It might help to know what Alex was like in bed when he wasn’t hopelessly intimidated. Too bad they’d had to start out the way they did—a certain amount of fear was quite enjoyable where there was strength underneath it. But it was useless to have him at such a disadvantage he was in constant terror of his life. You wanted him to be able to talk to you. You wanted to know that he could stand up for himself. And if he couldn’t, you wanted to stop playing games with him, because it was dangerous and unfair.

Except that Alex wasn’t going to let him stop playing games with him. Every time Krycek began to back off, there Alex was, practically sitting in his lap. He wanted Alex, yes, that wasn’t the issue—but Christ, he hadn’t been able to fuck him yet without causing some kind of crisis. And it was just too goddamn tempting to eat up all that pain and helplessness, take control, play it his way. Tempting, and easy: Alex responded to all the cues, and there were never any danger signals. Alex never showed any reluctance once things had started; he never drew back or tried to redirect the game; he handed Krycek everything he asked for: you couldn’t know anything was wrong until it was over and suddenly Alex was sobbing into a pillow and refusing to look at you. You could tell yourself that Alex would wind up stronger for it, and it was true; but it wouldn’t be the kind of strength Alex wanted. He knew it; and he thought Alex knew it, too. He and Alex were going to have to find some other way to live with each other.

So he was going to have to teach Alex to trust him, which meant he was going to have to make himself trustworthy. He had to figure out what hurt Alex, so he could stop doing it. And he was going to have to do all this while the guy was so jumpy and scared he wouldn’t tell you a thing, and so damned impulsive he wouldn’t stop throwing himself at your feet, despite the pain he kept putting himself through. You could tell him you weren’t going to fuck him anymore, at least until he’d pulled himself together, but you knew he’d take it the wrong way and assume he was being punished and it would just make things worse. Or you could forget the domination and just fuck him—but he wanted the domination at least as much as you wanted to give it to him, you just had to figure out a way to do it so it wouldn’t make the guy completely miserable, and damn it anyway, he wasn’t going to just go through the motions of sex because he was afraid of doing the wrong thing. He took pride in being able to tailor the emotional and sensual experience to his lovers’ particular needs, and damned if he was going to let himself be defeated by one scared man with the same body as his.

And he was going to have to get some sleep. He’d had, what, maybe six hours altogether since Alex had arrived three days ago? He was running on adrenaline and sheer willpower, and even though he didn’t feel in the least bit sleepy, he knew his thought processes were beginning to crisp around the edges, his natural tendency toward restraint was crumbling, and if he didn’t crash soon, he was likely to do something that would have both his pets cowering in the corner. He smiled slightly to himself at the image. And what a pretty pair of pets he had—Mulder, lean and elegant, complicated and sensual; and Alex, earthy and impossibly innocent, fey and exuberant. He’d considered, briefly, putting Alex’s eating habits on his list of lessons—work off those extra pounds, uncover the muscles he could feel beneath that slight layer of fat. But he’d decided fairly quickly that the body was right for Alex. The padding made him look younger, enhanced his apparent innocence. And his butt was round and comfy and just made for fucking. It would be nice to think Alex had tailored his body that way on purpose, just for that deliciously fuckable bottom. But he didn’t see Alex as having enough self-discipline to do something like that deliberately. More’s the pity. Make that one of his lessons, anyway.

But lessons would have to wait, he thought, as he turned into the front doorway of his building and headed for the elevator. The first order of business today was to find out what arrangements Mulder had made for getting Alex’s implants removed. He’d thought they’d have time to settle that last night, but first Alex’s “apology” had intervened, and then this other crisis had called him away. He leaned back against the wall of the elevator and smiled. One thing Alex didn’t need lessons in was sucking dick. He’d made a good effort, too, letting Krycek see how hard he was working to please him. And he gave Mulder a good ride while he was at it. But he’d also scared himself to tears before he’d been able to settle down to his blow job, and Krycek didn’t like seeing him work himself up like that.

Anyway, implants first. Then get Mulder cracking on studying the UFO literature, see if there were any other reports of abductees being returned to the wrong universe. He, himself, would see about finding a physicist to consult, someone who really knew what this quantum theory nonlocality stuff was all about. Sit Alex in front of his computer and get him searching the Internet for relevant information. Get some of that ozone crackling in here, get the team moving, start solving some problems.

He stepped off the elevator into the apartment. And sure enough, you could read the sad story from the little tableau in the living room: Mulder stretched out on the couch on his side staring glassy-eyed at the small television, which was blaring away some random sports event that he couldn’t possibly be interested in. Alex sitting with his knees drawn up in the easy chair farthest from the couch, book open in his lap, obviously not reading. So much for them getting each other relaxed and saving him some of the work.

Mulder immediately got up and went to turn off the television—he knew Krycek didn’t like it on, and rarely let him watch it while he was here. But there was a sullen look in his eyes as he did so. Mulder was definitely going to need some attention soon—Krycek had only had the one chance all weekend so far to work on him. And he’d already been in bad shape when he’d walked in on Friday. It was rotten timing all around. But there was nothing to be done about it. Mulder was strong enough to wait, and so he was going to have to go on waiting for at least a little while longer. Alex had to come first for the time being. When Mulder’d been kidnapped by aliens, fitted with implants, and dropped into the wrong universe, he could have all the attention.

Mulder came up to Krycek. There was a strange look in his eyes; intense, questioning and slightly bruised. It reminded Krycek of early days with Mulder, when he was still horrified and thrilled and shocked by every touch, frightened by the strength of his desire. He took Krycek’s hand in his and kissed it; gently at first, as if not quite sure what it would feel like, then pressing it hard to his lips. Then he stood next to Krycek, ranging himself at Krycek’s shoulder, like a first lieutenant at his commander’s side.

Ranged against poor Alex, who had put down his book and stood, a pained and uneasy look on his face.

Things had obviously not gone well here last night. No one’s fault. It looked like Mulder had been thinking again—not at all surprising, with an extra Alex Krycek around to fret over, someone to make him doubt and question and overanalyze everything. He’d come to some sort of crisis himself, and it would have to be dealt with. But not now. “All right, we’ve got work to do. We’ve wasted enough time.”

“You had time to go shopping, apparently,” Mulder muttered.

No, Mulder wasn’t happy. The tone, as well as the sarcasm, begged for a reaction. But Krycek would let this one pass. He kept his eyes on Alex, still standing unhappily across the room, while he spoke to Mulder. “You wouldn’t have liked for me to come straight home,” he said mildly. Actually, it was good that Mulder had reminded him: he’d managed to forget the shopping bag in his hand. Yes, he needed sleep, and soon. He caught Alex’s eye and smiled. “Bought you a present,” he said, and tossed the bag across the room.

Alex caught it one-handed, and pulled out the black leather jacket from the bag. His eyes widened until it seemed they’d consume his whole face. He reddened. A tight little smile hardened on his mouth. He stared at the jacket, biting his lips.

Krycek turned back to Mulder. “Actually, I was working,” he said. “You don’t keep your alliances in order, people send you to work in the basement. You of all people should know that.”

And that was only the truth. Even if he weren’t fond of Sheila—and he was—she was a good, powerful ally, with connections to people he couldn’t talk to himself. She hadn’t had time last week to tell him all about her latest Relationship Disaster, and she’d wanted to go spend some money. So they had made the inevitable trip across the street to Century 21; and there the jacket had been. Beautiful supple deerskin, clean lines, removable lining in a kind of dark shearling that might as well have been fur. His size, all of $325 at the classic Century 21 eighty percent discount; and he had known Alex would love it. It was a moment’s impulse, but it made perfect sense—Alex did need a jacket, and it would be a way of showing Alex he really was not the enemy.

Alex was still turning the jacket over in his hands. He looked up at Krycek. “I… I can’t take this.”

Krycek walked over to him. “Yes, you can. No arguments. Now put it on and let me see.”

Alex nodded obediently and slipped into the jacket. The feel was dead right, simple and classic and quietly expensive. It was something you could wear every day, almost everywhere. Something you could live in.

And Alex looked like he intended to live in it. He’d pulled it tightly around himself, hands stuffed in the pockets, hugging it like a lover. He stood a little taller in it. His eyes shone. The smile was still tight, but a little wider.

Krycek put his hands on Alex’s shoulders. “You look good in it.” And he did, too. Black was a good color for him—how could it not be? It was one of Krycek’s favorites. It set off his pale skin and dark hair. The shiny leather enhanced his fey innocence, brought out the spark of danger, which in Alex was more sensual than scary. Yes, it had been a good purchase. He smiled at Alex, letting his approval show. He didn’t usually lavish praise on his lovers, preferring to make them work hard for their treats. But Alex had been beaten down too hard by the events of the past few days. His submission had a little too much of real fear and desperation in it. He needed to be pampered and petted for a while, built up until he was strong enough for rougher games. “You look good, Little Brother.”

Alex’s lip began to tremble. His eyes filled with tears. He opened his mouth to speak several times, but no words came out. Krycek watched him struggle against the tide of his unruly emotions. Then the tears spilled out, and he fell into Krycek’s arms.

And that was the reaction he wanted: Alex crying for him, sharing his pain. Tears that drove him into Krycek’s arms, not away from him. He stroked Alex’s back, inhaling the tangy scent of the new leather. Even through the leather he could feel the heat of Alex’s body. Alex’s erection pressed against his thigh. He smiled in amused affection. Alex didn’t do anything in moderation, did he? Every touch was a hard-on. Every emotion was a stormcloud. Yes, he needed that discipline badly. But he needed it to help him get himself under control, not to drive him farther out of it.

And even Alex could be indulged too far. Gently, he began to disentangle himself.

“I thought you were in a hurry to get to work.” Mulder’s voice was harsh and laced with sarcasm. “I didn’t know fashion shows were part of the job.”

Krycek didn’t turn to look at him right away. First, he smiled gently at Alex, taking his time to make sure Alex was all right. He’d flinched when Mulder spoke, but recovered quickly, smiling back at Krycek, wiping the tears from his cheeks with his fingers. Good.

Now Mulder. That first remark he’d been willing to dismiss—they were all feeling the strain of the situation, and he’d thought that putting in some time making progress on dealing with it would be the best course of action. But this new jab could not be let pass. Mulder was begging for attention. Perhaps it was time he got some.

He turned, still smiling, but he let his smile go cold. Mulder saw it immediately: he froze, eyes darkening in a mixture of arousal and fear, breath catching in his throat. It was, as always, a beautiful sight. He let himself savor it, but only for a moment. He didn’t want to give Mulder a chance to say anything.

He stepped up to Mulder and without warning slapped him, hard, across the face. He watched Mulder’s body reel from the blow, watched him struggle to keep his feet. Behind him, he heard Alex’s gasp of shock—and was there something besides shock in that inrush of air?—but he ignored it. Soon enough, Little Brother, but this moment is for Mulder. He loves it when I slap him, begs me to beat him. I don’t give him this pleasure often, but I love to watch him when I do.

Mulder stood, his entire body trembling in response, eyes gone almost completely black, rosy handprint developing on his cheek. His voice was a rough whisper. “I’m sorry.”

“Yes.” Krycek reached out to stroke the red mark on Mulder’s face. He could see Mulder forcing himself not to flinch, then the slight shiver passing through him as he offered himself to Krycek’s touch. This would be enough for Mulder—he could safely leave him standing here for hours now, in ecstasy on the strength of that one slap. But Mulder’s response to being hit was too good to pass up. With the palm of his hand pressed against Mulder’s cheek to feel the heat of the slap mark, he slid his other hand around the back of Mulder’s neck, pressing his thumb into Mulder’s throat, and pulled Mulder to him for a long, deep kiss. He added just enough pressure from his thumb to restrict Mulder’s breathing, give him a little taste of asphyxiation along with the kiss. Mulder whimpered a little into his mouth, then his eyes fluttered closed and he gave himself up to it.

It was delicious; as heady as fine champagne, and Krycek let it go on far longer than he should, drinking in Mulder’s surrender, sweet and delicate and fine.

Finally, he pulled away. Mulder stood with his lips parted, reddened and moist from the kiss, his eyes hazy and unfocussed. Krycek looked over his shoulder at Alex, who was staring with eyes impossibly wide, his own mouth open, erection obvious in his jeans.

Well. He’d meant to settle Mulder down, get Alex happy in his jacket, then put the team to work. But what the hell. He’d told Mulder he was on vacation this weekend; maybe they could all use a little vacation. Mulder was obviously on edge; Alex had never stopped being stressed; and he—well, he knew perfectly well that they’d all be better off if he came down from the adrenaline with a little fucking and then got some sleep, rather than pushing everyone to work.

It would be tricky. He needed to master his own impulses and make himself think. If it were not for the situation, if he had only his own gratification to consider, he would play out this thing he had started with Mulder. Mulder stimulated the imagination: you could toy with him, watch him respond to all the little nuances of whatever you did to him, and count on inspiration to strike. But his inspirations (particularly in this mood, particularly with Mulder) had a cruelty to them that would probably frighten Alex, and undo whatever progress he’d just made. (They would frighten Mulder, too, but that would be all to the good. Mulder loved and needed to be seriously frightened from time to time: it kept his lesser, day-to-day fear of Krycek fresh and real, and it had probably been too long since he’d last had that.)

It was a pity: this was something he’d like to be able to share with Alex. He could sit down, have Mulder lie with his head in his lap, play with his throat, talk to Alex across his body while Mulder groveled under his hands. And then, in a little while, he would know what he wanted next, and how he intended to take it.… The picture was becoming too clear, too tempting. He pushed it aside, with some effort. Perhaps Alex could come to appreciate that sort of thing, in time, but unsteady as he was right now, it was out of the question. Better stick to the game Alex knew; something he’d feel comfortable with.

There were possibilities there, after all. Mulder had been pushing to be shown some of the classic S/M moves practically from the beginning. Krycek didn’t really blame him: he’d never had Krycek’s chances to explore, and the whips and restraints and ritual words of the leather scene held a powerful archetypal appeal. He’d wanted to preserve that magic for Mulder, the way you’d preserve a child’s belief in the power of a stage magician’s wand, by not letting him get close enough to see the thinness of the tricks, the strings and wires and tawdry artifice behind the illusion. But if he were careful, maybe he could show Mulder some of the classic game and still hold the illusions in place for him. Satisfy him, and give Alex what he wanted, too. Alex would have to get the lion’s share of the attention, but Mulder was used to being teased and denied—he could make that part of the experience, and Mulder would be content. Yes, he thought he could manage it. He smiled slowly to himself. It was a challenge, and yes, he liked being made to work for his pleasure, too.

“All right, Mulder. This one is a classic, and you’ve dropped enough hints about wanting the classic treatment. I’m not sure how well you’ll like it, though.” He let a little affection back into his smile. “Uhm. I did say that you were on vacation, right?”

“Yeah. You did.” Mulder’s lips quirked just a little, returning the smile. Krycek felt the reestablished connection settle solidly into place. Good: whatever happened from here, Mulder would be fine.

“That’s all right, then,” he said. He let his face harden again, put the chill back into his voice. “Actually, maybe you will like this. Considering your video collection, and all. I’m not going to let you come. I’m not going to touch you. I’m going to let you stand here and watch while I fuck Alex.”

He turned abruptly and returned to Alex, not waiting to see Mulder’s reaction. The casual cruelty would be another slap, and Mulder would enjoy it just as he had the physical blow. Now, any lack of attention to Mulder would be seen as part of the scene, rather than neglect.

Alex’s eyes were still wide. “It’s all right, Alex,” he said gently, taking him into his arms. He turned Alex slowly, until he could see Mulder over Alex’s shoulder. He wanted to watch Mulder’s reactions; there was no need for Alex to. He wondered what it looked like to Mulder: two Alex Kryceks in each other’s arms.… They would look like twins embracing. Did Mulder find it arousing? There had been a photo spread in Playboy some years back—identical twin women; sisters holding each other, touching each other’s naked bodies. It had a special and exotic erotic appeal. Perhaps it was the ultimate sexual fantasy—being able to make love with yourself, knowing exactly what you wanted, and having another body to give it to you. Masturbation, between two people. Well, wasn’t that what Alex had said, the moment they met? But it hadn’t worked out that way. They hadn’t known what the other wanted; they had both made mistakes. So, if it wasn’t masturbation, what was it? Incest? He kissed Alex’s hair, smiling, mulling it over in his mind. Alex pressed his face into Krycek’s neck, making pleased little mewing noises.

No, it wasn’t quite incest, either. Incest would be sleeping with one of his sisters, which wasn’t the same as having sex with Alex at all. This was some completely new category, something without a name. And, as sex between alternate universe doppelgangers wasn’t an every day occurrence, it wasn’t likely to acquire one. He and Alex would have to name it themselves.

Not masturbation—but there was something of masturbation in it. Something about the instant heat between them, the fact that having sex was never questioned, the way the roles had been established without discussion. The basics of the relationship had been there from the start, it was in the details that they’d failed.

But he had access to some of the details, too, didn’t he? That moment early this morning, vague and hazy as it was, seemed to have been a direct look into Alex’s mind and Alex’s desires. If he could connect with that moment, experience it, study it, perhaps he could understand exactly what it was that Alex wanted. If it had been a true moment of connection, and not just a sleep-starved mind’s drift into pornographic fantasy, based on what he knew about Alex’s tastes.

“What were you doing at four this morning?”

He saw the reaction in Mulder’s eyes, at the same time he felt the twitch in Alex’s body. Surprise? Curiosity? Something had been going on here at four A.M. Had the two of them been fucking?

“I was thinking about you,” Alex said.

Not fucking, then, or Alex wouldn’t have said that. Alex was a generous lover; he did his best to please, in his own way, and would never announce to Mulder that he was thinking of someone else while they had sex. But it wasn’t just a wet dream or a private fantasy, either, or Mulder wouldn’t know about it. Had Alex awakened with a hard-on, and decided to do something about it? Gone solo, not wanting to wake Mulder, not realizing that Mulder was already awake? Yes, that seemed likely. He’d check with Mulder later, privately, to make sure, but for now, he’d assume he was right. And what he’d gotten this morning was a true flash of Alex’s masturbation fantasy.

“I was thinking about you, too. I thought of you in black leather.…” He stroked the leather on Alex’s back, concentrating on the images in his mind. “With your hands tied behind your back.” He pulled away from the embrace slightly, so he could take Alex by the arms, sliding his hands down to Alex’s wrists, then put his arms around Alex, holding his wrists together behind his back. It was a slight risk—what Alex wanted in fantasy might be too frightening in reality. But it was all right—Alex leaned into him, sighing, making no attempt to free his arms.

Then he was going to need his bag of tricks. Time to let Mulder play.

“Mulder, go to the bedroom and get my case out of the closet.” He stepped away from Alex to speak to Mulder; Alex remained exactly as he left him, wrists crossed behind his back, eyes wide, completely malleable and accepting. There wasn’t the rush of pain in it that made Mulder’s surrender so poignant, but Alex’s open submission had its own appeal.

“Oh, and Mulder.” Mulder stopped in his tracks, tensing. “Undress, if you like. Try to make me change my mind about touching you by being as beautiful and desirable and obedient as you know how to be. We both know it won’t work, but you’re welcome to try.”

Mulder nodded, swallowing hard, the rest of his face reddening to match the handprint on his cheek. Of course he would do it. It would be especially effective since Krycek had no intention of undressing either himself or Alex. He wanted Alex in his pretty leather jacket, and the rules of the game as Alex played it said that the top must not wear less clothing than his bottom.

It was tiresome, all those rules. All that sameness, unvarying ritual, bagsful of equipment, the uniform—it was absurd and tacky; it left no room for imagination, for individuality, for discovering your lover’s deepest secrets. He’d tired of the leather scene quickly, himself, and moved on to invent his own game. Somehow, he’d assumed that it would be the same for Alex—if he was into leather, it was because he hadn’t yet discovered anything better. But perhaps that was wrong. Perhaps Alex had found exactly what he wanted in the rules and rituals of the S/M scene. He’d like to ask Alex to describe to him exactly what it was he got out of it—the restraints, the whips, the ritual words—but it was clear that Alex had difficulty talking about what he wanted. So for now, at least, he would have to watch Alex carefully and depend on these little flashes of Alex-ness he received.

Mulder returned with the case, and yes, he’d taken off his clothes. His body was fine; lean and firmly muscled, sculpted just the way Krycek wanted it. A rich, complex play of emotions described his face: pain and longing, reluctance and desire, need and denial. Mulder was a vast and vital vein of psychological ore, difficult and challenging and endlessly rewarding. He smiled.

“Bring it over here.” Krycek put a hand on the back of Alex’s neck and led him behind the couch. “Put it down and open it.”

Mulder carried the case to the couch and set it down where Krycek had indicated. He’d brought the lube and condoms as well, and laid them beside the case, tenderly, almost reverently. His hands trembled slightly as he opened the case.

Krycek leaned forward, resting his forearms on the back of the couch. “Go ahead, look through them.” He watched as Mulder handled the objects. Krycek doubted he knew what all of them were. He picked up one of the butt plugs and handed it to Mulder. “This is the one he used on you.”

Mulder’s eyes widened. He held the plug in his hand, turning it, stroking the smooth, fleshy silicone object. There was fascination in his face; hot desire, and yes, disappointment. Poor Mulder, with his fevered fantasies all out of proportion with any kind of reality. He would have been hoping to find that it was some huge, Brobdingnagian object, not the smallest of the plugs in the case. Nevertheless, Mulder would be begging him for it now. He wouldn’t let him have it; at least not until he’d put him through a nice, long tease. But it would be fun to hear him beg.

Still, he had told Mulder that he was on vacation. Krycek reached into the case, and found the dog collar. Black leather an inch wide, covered with square chrome studs. Gaudy and ridiculous. He handed it to Mulder. “Put it on.”

But there was nothing ridiculous about the way Mulder’s hands trembled as he buckled the collar around his neck; or the inky darkness of the pleasure in his eyes. He tightened it a notch past comfort, sighing roughly through the constriction at his throat. Krycek drank in one long look at his favorite lover and possession, then turned his attention back to his black leather other self.

Still wrapped up tight in his new jacket, as though it would protect him from all wrong. Blinking and staring, already damp with sweat, the heat poured off him. Excitement was evident; so was fear. And pain. He couldn’t take his eyes off Mulder, naked in a dog collar. No good hoping he’d get over seeing his own Mulder every time he looked at Krycek’s; he’d just have to learn to deal with it. Try to help him to stop feeling that he’d betrayed his Mulder. Give him some hope they’d be able to work it out, if he ever managed to get home. That was all they could do; Mulder couldn’t help being Mulder.

And get his mind off Mulder, right now. Krycek slid two fingers into the waistband of Alex’s jeans.

The reaction was instantaneous and complete. Alex turned to him with a moaning sigh, open and unresisting. Alex was his. It was more than game; more than personality dynamics; more than the precariousness of Alex’s situation. It was something primal and basic—something on a cellular level that made Alex’s existence his. That couldn’t be helped, either, any more than Mulder could help being Mulder. And it was an interesting dichotomy: while Mulder longed to be owned, and was doomed to be unable to achieve the reality, Alex struggled to stake out a little space of Alex-ness, which could exist only on Krycek’s sufferance.

And he must allow Alex that space; more, he must give it to him, insist on it, convince Alex that it was his and he would not take it away. Regardless of Alex’s insecurities and sexual tastes, he must be convinced that Krycek would not usurp his autonomy.

So, every move must be carefully calculated to give Alex what he wanted, without taking too much. Krycek reached out to stroke Alex’s face, thoughtfully, while he worked the buttons of Alex’s jeans open with the other hand. Eyes half-closed, he concentrated on connecting with that brief early morning flash of Alex’s fantasy.

There was bondage in it; tight, constricting leather that held him immobile. Alex liked being tied up, that much was clear. Hell, it was one of the first things Alex had said to him, under the influence of drugs and with no reason to lie about it. So give him a little taste of it—not enough to frighten him, just enough to give him the feeling he liked.

He turned Alex around, then, with a hand on Alex’s neck, urged him to bend over until his chest was resting on the back of the couch. No resistance here; no tension or reluctance. But that wasn’t always a sure sign with Alex. So take it slow, and tell him what you were doing.

No. Tell Mulder. Keep Mulder involved, and take the pressure off Alex. “Mulder, hand me a couple of those cuffs, and one of the straps.” Mulder complied, and Krycek began to buckle the cuffs onto Alex’s wrists. “Alex likes being tied up. So I’m going to let him have a little bondage.” He held Alex’s wrists together behind his back and wrapped the strap around the cuffs, then reached over Alex’s shoulder to stroke his cheek. “It’s his turn, I think, to have things the way he likes.” Then he pushed Alex’s jacket up over his waist, and pulled at the waistband of his jeans, working his pants down to his thighs.

Alex leaned forward, burying his face in the cushions of the couch, whimpering slightly. He shifted his weight—but he was trying to spread his legs farther apart, not to protect himself. And—I like being fucked was the other thing Alex had told him, when he’d been bound to the bed in the small bedroom, drugged and frightened out of his mind, but hot and desperate for sex. And from the images of this morning—a full, wide feeling of penetration. Too big to be a cock—at least, any normal-sized cock. He remembered the way Alex had handled the butt plugs and dildoes in the case. He’d shivered with pleasure when he’d touched the clear lucite dildo. It was a beautiful object, for a change—something that had an aesthetic appeal beyond the fetishistic associations of the other items. He’d bought it for its beauty; he’d never actually used it. Perhaps it was time he did.

Krycek knew the dildo was clean. But Alex didn’t. Alex had been scrupulously diligent about condoms; Krycek respected him for that. If he was going to be around for long, they’d have him tested and maybe they’d be able to dispense with all these precautions; but for now, it would be reassuring to Alex to know his toys were safe. Krycek didn’t want to put a condom on it, though. He thought Alex would appreciate being touched by the smooth lucite itself. “Mulder, take the clear dildo into the bathroom and wash it with soap and hot water. We’re going to give Alex a special treat.”

Was there something just the slightest bit unnerving about seeing his own body, bent over the back of a couch with hands bound, wearing black leather and blue jeans, smooth white buttocks exposed? Absently, he stroked Alex’s butt, considering, while Alex breathed raggedly into the upholstery. Krycek had taken his turn playing the submissive role; hell, he’d tried it all. Well, one would want to know what it felt like. He hadn’t any objection to it; it just didn’t give him what he needed. Alex got something from it, though, and it wasn’t the same thing Mulder got out of it, either—it was something else entirely, something he couldn’t seem to explain, and Krycek couldn’t quite understand.

Damn, he wanted to talk to Alex about it! He wanted to make Alex tell him everything—his relationship with his Mulder, who was apparently not into dominance games at all; his sexual history—past lovers, favorite memories, worst fears; his reaction to all the sexual activity that had gone on here since he’d arrived. And he wanted to talk to Alex about his insecurity and pain and fear, find out where it came from and how to help him deal with it all.

And he wanted to spank the soft white bottom quivering under his hand. He remembered the way the heated handprints had risen on those creamy buttocks, the way Alex had squirmed and gasped and cried as his buttocks reddened under the sharp blows, and the heat from the swollen, tender cheeks warming Krycek’s groin as he’d fucked Alex afterwards. It was clearly something Alex wanted—and wanted badly enough even to ask for, although he asked in all the wrong ways.

Keeping one hand on Alex’s butt, Krycek reached across the couch to retrieve the jar of lubricant. Yes, that would definitely be one of Alex’s lessons, he thought, as he slid two slippery fingers between Alex’s buttocks. Not this time, though. Now was not the time for lessons, or physical pain. He wanted to show Alex that he could rule him without hurting him, no matter if it was good pain or bad, physical or otherwise.

Mulder returned with the dildo. He’d had the foresight to bring a towel, too: clear thinking, or else Mulder had been entertaining fantasies about this couch himself, and for long enough to have gotten to the stage of imagining the practical details. He’d have to remember to give Mulder his own turn at this one of these days.… He took the towel and straightened Alex for long enough to drape it over the couch, then settled him into place once more. Mulder stood at his side with the dildo in his hand, holding it ready. Krycek was reminded, absurdly, of a surgical nurse, waiting to hand the doctor his implements. Surgical nurse, with dog collar and dildo. It was a particularly bad porno flick. He had a sudden image of himself, covered in latex and thoroughly sterilized, reaching out a gloved hand with the curt request: Dildo.

Dildo, Nurse Mulder would reply as he slapped the instrument into his hand.

Krycek suppressed the urge to chuckle. Well, you just couldn’t take it seriously, could you? Another reason these kinds of scenes didn’t work for him. Never mind. This one was for Alex—the serious games would come later.

“He’s got some bad habits,” Krycek told Mulder, as he took the dildo and stroked it along the crevice between Alex’s buttocks. “But it’s not his fault. God knows who trained him. But he tries hard, and learns fast. We’ll soon whip him into shape.” It was mostly game talk, fairly harmless, despite the truth in it. He didn’t think it would trouble Alex. And there was one sobbing breath from Alex, and a shudder, and then he relaxed into the couch with his butt upturned and offered. Krycek spread Alex’s cheeks with one hand, and guided the large, round head of the clear dildo to Alex’s anus. Even the head was a good inch and a half in diameter; he hoped Alex could take it, with only two fingers for preparation. You could ask him, but he would only say “Yes, please,” no matter what you proposed to shove into him. But Alex knew how big the dildo was, didn’t he? And he was leaning into it as best he could, chest braced against the top of the couch back. Krycek would just have to rely on Alex’s reactions, although they’d proved unreliable in the past, and the sweet feeling of fullness he’d received from Alex’s fantasy.

And one more thing—the way Alex had held Mulder’s hand while he’d worked him over, and asked Mulder to squeeze his hand to let him know he was all right. Apparently, in Alex’s world, this was an acceptable way to communicate one’s real feelings. So he took one of Alex’s bound hands in his and squeezed it gently, while he pressed the dildo into him with his other hand. Alex’s hand tightened around his, and he understood at once: I’m all right. Please go on. Krycek nodded. It was so simple, once you knew. The hands don’t lie—and that was a very good thing to know.

* * *

There was really something very pleasant about it, even though he was still fully clothed and only his hands, so far, were involved. But there was plenty of sensation to concentrate on and enjoy: the sight of the beautiful clear dildo sliding in and out of Alex’s widely stretched asshole; the glistening sweat gathered on Alex’s flexing buttocks, trickling down his hips; the feel of the smooth, hard lucite in his hand, overcoming the slight resistance as it plunged into Alex’s body, and the grip of Alex’s sphincter muscles on it as he pulled it out; Alex’s hand, also slick with sweat, clinging tightly to his; the animal heat pouring from Alex’s body, steaming inside his leather jacket; the musky scent of sweat and lube and leather and sex; Alex’s moaning cries muffled in the back of the couch, and the ragged counterpoint of Mulder’s heavy breathing beside him.…

He was even a little surprised to find himself so aroused by it. He had tended to wonder why you would want to penetrate someone with silicone or lucite, when you could use your own flesh. The control over the bottom was part of it, of course, and being able to stand back and observe the reactions more carefully than you could when your own reactions were involved. And Alex’s reactions were a joy to behold: his pleasure in it was open and intense and unashamed. But there was something else, too, something in the dildo itself. A sense that sex was more than the body; that it went beyond physical limitations; that it was anything and everything that one could use to touch another. It was not a new thought, but it had a different feel when it came from Alex. And that was something he was going to want to consider more fully later.

Meanwhile, his cock was complaining of neglect, and it was time to give his own flesh some satisfaction. He slowed the thrusting of the dildo, leaving it fully impaled for a few moments before withdrawing it completely, and handed it to Mulder with brief instructions to clean it as he had before. Alex sighed sweetly, shifting his weight, making himself comfortable for the next stage of the action. Krycek stroked his back and let him rest, waiting for Mulder to return before he went on.

“Have you fucked him?” he asked Mulder, as he rolled a condom onto his cock.

A little widening of the eyes there, a little stiffening that was almost a flinch. “Yes.”

So. Mulder had done it, but he was nervous about having done it without specific permission. Good: let him be nervous for a little longer. He let Mulder wait while he applied more lubricant to Alex’s anus. Alex was already thoroughly stretched—in fact, more than Krycek would really have liked—the dildo was considerably wider than his own cock. But that couldn’t be helped. It was tempting to leave Alex to recover for a while longer and play with Mulder a little. Perhaps tease him with the case of toys—describe the uses of the more exotic items, make Mulder tell him which ones he’d like used on him, and why. God, he’d be beautiful—beautiful enough, Krycek realized, that he wanted to be awake for it, and to give it his full attention. It would have to wait. He could feel the impending crash from sleep deprivation teasing at his muscles and nerves, like stormclouds gathering on the horizon. He’d better finish this soon, before he collapsed in the floor and left all three of them frustrated.

“Good,” he told Mulder at last. “I’m sure he loved it.” He heard Mulder draw a single long breath at the release of tension, and was reaching out to stroke his mouth before he remembered his own rules. He caught the motion and changed it, guided his cock to Alex’s anus and thrust into him hard, sliding easily into the well-opened passage. And Alex groaned and thrust back, tightening his muscles on Krycek’s cock, working him, giving back all he could.

“You won’t find anyone better,” Krycek said, hearing the roughness in his own voice. His mind was starting to spin, ever so slightly. He leaned over, bracing himself on the back of the couch, and let his belly rest on Alex’s lower back, as he pounded steadily into him. “No fault with his training here.”

It was the perfect mental state for fucking, if he could catch it just right: on the verge of unconsciousness, mental processes disintegrating, muscles unraveling, pure sensation for once triumphant. The wet, pulsing friction on his cock was intensely satisfying, and nothing interfered with his enjoyment of it.

And suddenly there was another awareness: cock pounding into him, groin slapping against his buttocks. Hands bound. Couch pressing into his chest, body leaning against his back. It was Alex. Was he dreaming this, or was it real? Never mind now, analyze it later. It was a wonderful sensation: timeless and free, floating in warm dark. He wrapped one arm around Alex’s chest, holding him tightly, reached beneath with the other hand to grip Alex’s cock, and fucked him as hard as he could.

They built to it together, and came together, and he wanted to laugh at that—We’re a porn writer’s cliche, Little Brother, he wanted to say, but nothing was working, his whole body was orgasming, and dissolving, and he collapsed across Alex with an exhausted groan.

* * *

It was some moments before he could gather himself up enough to drag himself off of Alex and regain his feet. His knees felt like jelly, and he was not at all sure he’d make it to the bedroom before he passed out. Which he had to do now, or else he’d begin to wake up again, and if that happened they were all of them going to have one seriously bad day.… Alex remained draped limply across the couch, hands still bound loosely behind him. He would have preferred to be there with Alex for a little while longer, to help him come down from it, make sure he didn’t feel abandoned; but that was dangerous just now. He unwound the leather straps as gently as he could, massaging Alex’s wrists below the cuffs. It would have to be enough. He drew a deep breath, found Alex’s hand for a reassuring squeeze, then turned to Mulder. “Take care of Alex, and help him clean up.”

That ended the formalities, he decided. He ran his fingers gently over Mulder’s face, and watched Mulder’s eyes fall shut. Mulder looked painfully hard. “I’m sure he’ll be happy to help you with that hard-on, as soon as he’s had a chance to recover,” Krycek said. The words were pitched for Mulder, but Alex would undoubtedly hear, and take it as a command. He glanced over at the case and felt his smile harden. “You’re free to use the toys, if Alex feels like furthering your education.” Mulder nodded, accepting his instructions, no sign of resentment in his sex-dark eyes. He’d had a good time, no doubt about it. “Or wait for me, if you want, but it’s going to be a long wait. I plan to sleep… for a very long time.”

He was losing the words. If he’d forgotten anything, Mulder and Alex would just have to cope. He dragged his drained, weary, but utterly satisfied body off to the bedroom, already dreaming.

* * *

Alex lay limply across the back of the couch. He smiled into the upholstery. He could feel the gentle air currents cooling the sweat on his naked butt, and the pleasant sting in his ass. Now, that was a fucking—he felt it right out to his toes. He was sweltering in his leather jacket—his gorgeous, beautiful, wonderful leather jacket—but he didn’t care. He didn’t care that he was lying here with his butt in the air, and he didn’t care that his shoulders ached from having his arms tied behind his back. Alex was so happy, he just wanted to lie there forever, remembering: Leather and handcuffs. Reassuring hands on his body. The beautiful crystal dildo filling him. It probably wasn’t going to happen like this again—he had a feeling Krycek was just softening him up for the real games to come. He didn’t care about that, either. This was damn good, and he was going to lie here and enjoy it as long as he could.


Of course, forever rarely lasted very long. Alex groaned, pulled his sore arms down from behind his back and let them flop onto the couch cushions, then pushed himself slowly upright. Mulder was standing at his side, observing him curiously, head cocked, hazel eyes glowing. And totally naked, except for a dog collar. God, he was beautiful. “Mulder.”

“Are you okay?”

Alex laughed gently. “Mulder, I am well and truly fucked. And much more than okay.”

Mulder smiled—that same dreamy half-smile that made Alex’s throat go dry when his own Mulder smiled it. Unbelievably, Alex felt his cock stir.

But it was still far from the condition of Mulder’s cock, hard as stone and looking badly in need of attention. Attention which, once again, Alex had gotten while Mulder was left out in the cold.

Alex sighed. “Look, Mulder, as soon as he wakes up, I expect to develop a splitting headache, and then I’ll creep off to the small bedroom and put a pillow over my head for a couple of hours, give you guys some privacy. I’m sorry about… taking up all his time.”

Mulder nodded. The smile grew a little warmer. “Thanks. I’d appreciate that.”

“Meanwhile, of course, he’s right—I’d love to help you make the wait a little easier. In whatever capacity you’d like.”

Mulder’s smile didn’t fade, but it turned slightly unsure. “You don’t have to.”

Alex sighed. “I’d like to. Mulder, about last night—I’m okay now. It won’t be like that.”

“You want to tell me what that was all about?”

No, but what the hell. It didn’t look like Mulder was going to let him play until he got some sort of explanation. “Sure, Mulder, but do me a favor? If you want to talk instead of fuck, put some clothes on—you’re going to drive me nuts standing there like that.”

Mulder folded his arms across his chest and grinned—making no attempt to hide his rampant erection. “If I can take it, so can you. Now give. What got you so upset last night?”

Alex made a frustrated noise. “This is torture, you know. You’re worse than he is.”

Mulder just grinned.

“Okay. It was.…” Alex took a deep breath. All right, maybe he owed Mulder the truth—or anyway, some part of it. Something that looked and smelled and felt like the truth. But he wasn’t going to tell Mulder that he’d duplicated his own Mulder’s lovemaking so precisely that his touch was heartbreaking agony. He leaned back against the couch and closed his eyes, frowning. The key was to make yourself believe it first.… “You told me you were doing with me what you do with him. And then, when you fucked me like that—I mean, it was great and everything, but I thought you were jerking me around. Trying to make me screw up, so he’d kick me out of bed. I know that wasn’t what it was. I know what you were trying to do, what you were trying to show me, but it just got me so frustrated… it wasn’t what I wanted to be told. I acted like a jerk, and I’m sorry.”

Mulder looked like he was buying it. For the most part, anyway. But it had made him no more eager to take his chances with Alex’s unpredictability.

Alex sighed again. “Jeez, it’s like you need a note from your psychiatrist to get fucked around here.”

Mulder laughed. “Well, I’ve called him my therapist before.”

Alex grinned with him. “I don’t want a therapist. Okay, a physical therapist, maybe.” He glanced back at the couch, at the towel hanging down, wet spot in the middle. “I wouldn’t mind getting therapy like that a little more often.”

“It did look like you were having a good time.” And wasn’t there a touch of envy in his voice? There should be, for god’s sake, as his lover had just made him stand there and help while he fucked someone else.…

“You know, Mulder, you’ve got to be the most generous guy I’ve ever met. I can’t believe it doesn’t bother you having some stranger come in and throw himself all over your boyfriend. And you’re cheerfully trying to help me figure out how to please him, while I’m acting like a total jerk.”

Mulder shook his head, smiling. “You’re not exactly a stranger. Or a jerk. Come on, Alex, anybody could see how hard this has been for you. Is it so weird for me to want to help? Especially when you look exactly like my… boyfriend.”

The slight hesitation in his voice; a moue of embarrassment in his smile; even the faintest hint of a blush—all from referring to Krycek as his “boyfriend”—to saying the word out loud. God. And here Alex had been calling him “slave” and “whore” and all the game words, just like he was some kind of leather faggot, which he obviously was not. And suddenly he felt a cold chill of fear for what he’d said to Mulder yesterday—it wasn’t just that he’d stepped out of role and used the game words in anger, he realized—these people didn’t play the game at all; they told each other the truth, and made it as real as they could. And Alex had made a very, very bad mistake. He had to bite back another apology. Mulder didn’t want to hear it.

Instead, he found his cocky grin and turned it on Mulder. Mulder thought he was shaky and unpredictable; all right, show him he wasn’t. Show him he was a happy boy who just wanted to share his happiness right now. In fact, he was rapidly becoming a very horny happy boy, with a brand new leather jacket, a gorgeous naked man, and a suitcase full of toys to play with.

And Mulder wanted to play the game, too, that was clear enough. He was fascinated by the toys; he’d wholeheartedly taken on the role as Krycek’s “assistant” in the previous scene; he showed no sign of wanting to take the collar off. In fact, he’d even showed initiative—

“You were helpful, all right. That was really clever of you to bring a towel—I never would have thought of anything like that.” Of course, the people Alex usually played with liked getting dirty.

“Well, I’ve thought about doing something like that often enough. I already had all the details worked out in my mind.”

“You mean, he never… ?” Another clunk inside Alex’s gut. You’re always hinting about wanting the classic treatment, Krycek had said to Mulder. But apparently he’d never given it to him. And then Alex came along, and in three days Krycek had brought out his toys, bought Alex leather, played the game with him.… Poor Mulder.

Alex stepped to the side, and gestured grandly toward the couch. “Well, Mulder, step right up. Take your turn at the bar.”

Mulder grinned, but still he hesitated.

Another realization (and wasn’t it funny how a really good fucking could clear your mind?)—Mulder needed to be told what to do. He always played the submissive role. He and Krycek didn’t switch—it wasn’t a game to them, it was how it was. And Mulder had taken the submissive role with Alex, too—even when he’d fucked Alex, he was doing it from the bottom, serving Alex’s desires. Well, that would have to be fixed, eventually. Alex didn’t want to be Mulder’s master, at least not all the time. But for now—

For now, Alex was feeling just frisky enough to think that having his cock up Mulder’s ass would be a very fine thing indeed. And after all, Mulder was the one in the collar. And he looked damned good in it. He should be made to wear it all the time.

And maybe it would just serve Mulder right to have the tables turned on him from last night, at least a little. If Alex could manage it. It wouldn’t hurt Mulder like it had Alex—after all, his own Krycek was sleeping right down the hall. But it might add a little spice to the proceedings, and get Mulder over his reluctance to let Alex help him. He closed his eyes for a moment, and took a deep breath. Let a deep stillness settle over him. Cool. Contemplative. Confident. A touch of irony, a sense of standing outside himself, observing. Easy assumption of the power to rule. Then he opened his eyes.

To see a shock of recognition on Mulder’s face. His beautiful mouth hung open; his deep, dusky eyes stretched wide. His impossibly hard erection twitched.

Alex let himself smile: gentle, yet with a kiss of steel. “Mulder, get over there.” Low and silky; no harshness, no threat. Not necessary—his orders would not be questioned.

Mulder obeyed instantly. He assumed the position in front of the towel, legs apart, hands clasped behind his back, bent over so that his chest rested on the back of the couch. His back heaved. Already, he’d broken out into a sweat.

Lovely. He was absolutely lovely. You would want to be careful with this one; not let him get jaded or coarse. Keep him isolated, protected, tended like a hothouse flower. Alex stroked Mulder’s firm, lean buttocks, careful to maintain the role he’d taken for himself, keeping his caresses precise and deliberate. Mulder’s hips quivered. Just as his own had done. Alex’s cock began to fill, tingling pleasantly. It would still be some time before he was hard enough to take Mulder—but there were plenty of toys he could use to keep Mulder happy in the meantime.

Mulder had crossed his wrists behind his back. “You want to be tied, don’t you, Mulder?”

“Yes.” That rough silk voice, heavy with need: Alex wanted to hear it begging him.

“Ask me nicely.” His own voice was still low and gentle, slightly teasing.

“Please… Sir. Please tie me.”

Sweet. Mulder really wanted to play. “Very good.” He reached into the case for the strap Krycek had used to tie him. He still had the cuffs on his own wrists. There were more cuffs, but never mind. He’d already cuffed Mulder once; let him have something different this time. He wrapped the strap around Mulder’s wrists three times, not too tight, no knot. The ends trailed down Mulder’s flanks. “How’s that?”

“Good. Thank you. Sir.”

Alex chuckled. And who’d trained Mulder? He’d be eaten alive in your average leather bar. He stroked Mulder’s neck, running his fingers along the edge of the collar. “You look so good in a collar. If you were mine, I’d have you in a collar all the time.” Mulder had buckled it tight. Maybe too tight. He’d have to keep an eye on it, be ready to loosen the collar if it looked like he was having trouble.

Alex found the lubricant and began to apply it between Mulder’s legs. “Too bad you couldn’t wear it to work, under your shirt collar. J. Edgar wouldn’t like that, would he? Even though he probably wore one.” Alex suppressed a giggle. No, that wasn’t Krycek. No silliness. Concentrate, Alex.

Another deep breath. Cool darkness. Like the Forever Place, but a discipline of the mind, not the body. Serene control. And if you’re going to tell a story, make it stylish and delicate and real.

“A thin gold chain, that would be better. Not too tight, but snug around your neck.” He stroked Mulder’s skin at the edges of the collar with his other hand, while continuing to work his fingers between Mulder’s buttocks. “Something pretty and elegant, like you, Mulder. You’d wear it all the time, day and night. A constant reminder of the one who put it there, like a brand of ownership. Or a wedding ring. You’d feel it caressing your neck, a gentle pressure against your throat, while you were having lunch with Scully. Or sitting in Skinner’s office, listening to him tell you all the things you’d done wrong, you’d be thinking about the chain around your neck, that only your lover could allow you to remove.”

Yes, that was working. On him as well as Mulder. Picturing his own Mulder, wearing Alex’s chain around his neck. Not as a sign of ownership, but of love and commitment. Or was that really the same thing?

“When you’re stretched out on your couch late at night, watching your videos. Or lying in your lonely hotel room in some generic town in the middle of nowhere on the latest horrible, frightening case. You’d reach up and finger the chain around your neck, and the images would form in your mind, and he would be there with you, touching you, reminding you that you belong to him always.”

He reached over Mulder to the suitcase, and found what he wanted: a shiny black dildo, not large, but beautifully proportioned and detailed. He didn’t want to use anything big on Mulder, anyway. He wasn’t trained for it, and it wasn’t for Alex to give him that training. Perhaps his own Mulder some day, if he wanted it.…

He let Mulder see it as he brought it out of the case. “It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it, Mulder? Your lover’s cock. Not flesh and blood, but his just the same.” He stood behind Mulder, rolling a condom onto the dildo, frowning thoughtfully. He reached inward, concentrating on the presence of the man sleeping just down the hall, trying to find that part of himself in his own mind. How would he use this with his Mulder? Not with the loving reverence Alex would feel; not with affection for the object itself. There would be that inevitable sense of irony, of standing outside oneself observing. The reduction of the image to its elements: a man standing behind another man, inserting a piece of rubber into his ass. When you looked at it like that, it was ridiculous. Tawdry and pointless. Then why would he do it? Why had Krycek done it for Alex?

Because Alex wants it. Because it means something to him to be taken this way, and I want to show him that I can give him what he wants. Alex felt tears start in his eyes. Thank you, Big Brother. And a slow, gentle smile grew on his face, that wasn’t his smile. His hands began to move in ways that weren’t Alex’s ways, deliberate and precise; but which seemed natural and inevitable nonetheless. And he observed Mulder’s need and Mulder’s reactions, and worked the dildo into him, responding with a clarity he’d never known.

His awareness of Mulder filled his senses. The sight of the shiny black dildo sliding between Mulder’s lean buttocks was almost overwhelming. As if in a trance, he watched his hands find the precise motions to drive Mulder gasping and shaking to the brink. It was shocking how intimate it was, despite the strange feeling of detachment. It was as if he’d opened a channel right to Mulder’s hungry soul. This was what Krycek had been trying to do with him, he realized, and Mulder, too, last night. But he’d found the intimacy too painful, and he’d run away. It was still painful, but not so bad when he was protected by his Krycek-presence. Maybe he could learn to take it.

He withdrew the dildo and set it aside. A deep breath, and another condom for his cock, and he was ready to take possession.…

Not my Mulder came the inevitable refrain. But he was being Krycek; this was his Mulder. Beloved and obedient, worshiping at his feet, there for the taking.… Alex sighed, and his cock throbbed. He could have this, if he wanted. And—Hands pinned to the mattress, cock driving into him.… He could have this, too. His Mulder. Krycek’s Mulder. What was the difference? This Mulder wanted him, and he wanted this Mulder. He didn’t have to be Krycek to take him.

He watched his cock slide in where the black dildo had been. This is mine, he thought to himself. He closed his eyes. Yes, it felt right. His hips began to move as if of their own volition. You couldn’t really go to the Forever Place when you were in control—at least Alex couldn’t—but he caught the edges of it: that warm, sweet darkness, where the mind drifted, and all sensation was reduced to the wet pull on his cock as it moved inside Mulder’s body. He gripped Mulder’s hips and thrust, slow and deliberate. Mulder was on the edge; it wouldn’t take much to push him over. Carefully, Alex moved him forward, until just the tip of his cock was brushing against the towel draped over the back of the couch. A whimpering gasp, and Mulder’s anus twitched on Alex’s cock. And Alex kept up his steady rhythm, letting the sensation build slowly, feeling Mulder’s ass work on his cock, listening to Mulder’s rough breathing, gasping through the collar around his neck.

Then Mulder thrust forward, and Alex could feel the spasms of Mulder’s orgasm on his cock. Groaning, Alex leaned in and took Mulder by the shoulders, and pressed into him with short, pulsing motions of his hips, until his own orgasm took him.

* * *

Sweet. Fucked by Krycek, Mulder fucked. New leather jacket. Warm and happy. His mind drifted pleasantly. He could almost fall asleep right here, on top of Mulder, over the back of the couch. He’d done such things, and been very sorry for it later. It wasn’t worth the aches and soreness. Best to clean up here, and then go join Krycek in bed. Neither of them had gotten much sleep last night. There were still things to be dealt with; things to talk about. But they’d all still be there when they woke up. And a good night’s sleep, for a change, would improve the situation considerably. Sighing, Alex pulled himself upright, and began to unwind the strap from Mulder’s wrists. He squeezed Mulder’s hand, and gave his shoulders a brisk rub. “Mulder, you okay?”

Mulder chuckled into the back of the couch, and pushed himself up, just as Alex had done earlier. He leaned back against the couch and grinned. “Alex, I am well and truly fucked.”

Alex giggled. He glanced back toward the bedroom. “Well, that’s two of us.”

Mulder shook his head, trying not to laugh. “Alex.…”

“I think the two of us could probably hold him down, don’t you?”

“Alex!” Mulder laughed helplessly. “Even supposing it was worth being killed for,” he put a friendly hand on Alex’s shoulder, “I don’t think either of us could get it up right now.”

Alex heaved an exaggerated sigh. “I suppose you’re right.” He fell forward into Mulder’s arms, nearly knocking them both into the floor. “We’ll just have to fuck each other blind, I guess.”

“Sounds like a deal,” Mulder mumbled into Alex’s hair.

A very good deal.

* * *

It was late afternoon when Krycek woke. He woke completely, as he always did, with no discernible transition between sleep and full waking. Mulder, lying across the foot of the bed scanning documents on his computer, felt it at once: a snap of awareness lashing out from Krycek toward the edges of the room and echoing back, palpable as a sonar pulse. On the far side of the bed, Alex shifted and made a single sharp noise in his sleep, as though he had sensed it too. Mulder closed the program and shut down the computer, and looked up toward the head of the bed. Krycek’s eyes were still closed, his breathing unchanged; but that was routine too, Krycek always took a few moments to absorb the situation around him before he let his body display the obvious physical signs of waking. (And what was the point? Mulder found himself wondering. If Krycek were captured, knocked out or drugged, would he really be able to feign sleep when consciousness returned? Would not that vivid blast of attention communicate itself to any watcher? or would you let it go if you didn’t know the man as Mulder did, tell yourself that weird flash must have been your own mind playing tricks on you?)

Krycek’s eyes half-opened. They glittered behind the long lashes. “Anything interesting?” he asked. As always, the voice was clear, without any trace of sleep.

Mulder drew a long breath, abruptly very conscious of the rough leather at his neck. He’d loosened the collar a notch, making it comfortable enough to sleep in, comfortable enough almost to be a bit of ordinary clothing. But with Krycek looking at him, it clung to his neck like a live thing. “Not much so far,” he managed to say. “Some new physics work that would support the theory we’ve been going on. Nothing on the kind of abduction experiences we’re looking for; but it would be early to hear on those, if there are any, since I couldn’t put the query out over the net.”

“Right.” Krycek stretched and sat up. “Sneaking around always does mean incurring heavy transaction costs. I suppose it’s probably a good thing for life as we know it, if it weren’t so damned expensive everybody’d do it.”

There was a muffled groan from the pile of sheets across the bed. “Not transaction costs,” Alex’s voice mumbled from somewhere in the pile. “Please, no, anything but that.”

Krycek looked in his direction with mild curiosity. “What do you have against transaction costs?”

Alex groaned again. The sheets moved, and then he sat up too, blinking groggily. “Nothing, never mind.” Krycek went on looking at him. “Okay, my economics professor. Sorry I mentioned it.”

They made an appealing contrast, Mulder reflected; it was a pleasure to watch them. There was Krycek, poised and graceful and dangerous, a fantasy vision of exactly the right kind of trouble. And there was Alex, rumpled and gorgeous and heavy-eyed, looking like he was created solely for some sensible person to take advantage of, right now, before he could even think about getting out of bed. In fact—Mulder let his thoughts linger on Alex for a moment. It would be good to push him back down, hold him still under the tangled sheets, to feel the long body struggling underneath him to get free; to wind his hand in Alex’s hair and kiss the fight out of him.… Hell, of course the other Mulder wanted him. How could anyone not?

And why, now that he was presumably about to get what he had been waiting for since Friday night, was he suddenly half-hoping that Alex had forgotten all about his plans to have a headache about now?

Because he’s beautiful. What’s the big mystery?

But that was wrong. Alex was beautiful, but whatever this was, it wasn’t that simple. Any minute now, Alex would make his excuses, and then—All right. Because I’m frightened.

That was better, that didn’t bring a chorus of howling derision from the recesses of his own mind. So: take a look at it. Frightened of what?

I don’t know. And I don’t want to know. He shivered, hard.

But Krycek was watching him now, and smiling one of his inward-looking, no-good-to-someone smiles. “I see you kept your toy,” he said gently. It took Mulder an instant to realize what he meant; and then he felt himself flush. “It’s time to put it away now,” the soft voice said.

He put a hand to the buckle, reluctantly. “I liked it,” he said, speaking just as softly. “Let me keep it?”

Krycek’s smile broadened just a little, and his eyes went wide. “Modest little bitch, isn’t it?” Mulder could hear the laughter in his voice. “I want you naked, Mulder. Take it off.”

He drew a long, shuddering breath, and nodded, and worked the clasp. Somewhere outside, in another world, he heard Alex gasp as if in sudden pain, felt Krycek’s attention shift for a moment, heard Alex explaining about his sinuses, and would it be okay with Krycek if he sat this one out?

“It’s okay,” Krycek told Alex. His tone was different to Alex, gentle and half-mocking: Mulder suspected that he knew exactly how real Alex’s headache was. “Do one thing for me, though. If the pain gets bad, or if you have a nosebleed, come get us. Don’t worry about what you might be interrupting. Okay?”

“Okay,” Alex said, a little shakily. Then he was out of the room, and the door was closing behind him.

His departure left a little silence in the room. Krycek gazed out toward the door, his eyes wide and distant as though he were looking through walls. Then the focus narrowed, came back to the room. The corners of his mouth quirked a little in an almost-smile. “Come,” he said. His voice was light, as though he were talking to a pet.

“Yeah. But I was sort of hoping we could fuck, first,” Mulder said. He could hear the faint edge in his own voice. Nerves again: he felt naked, horribly exposed, as though the collar really were clothing, and in taking it off he had lost some last measure of protection and privacy. He gave Krycek an uneasy glance. The delicate eyebrows were raised a little, but Krycek did not seem inclined to answer him. The reaction would come later and from some other direction, then: in the mocking patience of Krycek’s hands, or in some unexpected refinement of cruelty in Krycek’s use of him. He felt himself shiver. Then he moved, set the computer carefully on one of the nighttables and came to lie at Krycek’s side.

Krycek was still for a long moment, watching him. At last he moved, stretching one arm across the little space between them to where Mulder lay. The tips of his fingers traced the curve of Mulder’s neck, where the collar had been. The touch was gentle and shockingly invasive. He gasped at it. His eyes fell shut, and he tipped his head backward, straining his throat up into Krycek’s hand.

“You see,” he heard Krycek say. A pause, while the fingers finished their circuit of his neck. Then the voice spoke again in his ear, soft and burning cold. “I prefer that your throat be available to me. Instantly, and at all times.” The fingers tightened for just an instant. “Besides, I like seeing your neck exposed. I like it in bed, and I like it out of bed. It’s sexual display on you, and I enjoy having you on display. Content yourself, Mulder. I will never keep you in a collar.”

“Yeah,” he whispered, although it was not clear that Krycek required an answer. The fingers went on stroking his throat. There was purpose in that touch, but no urgency. He could almost read Krycek’s thought in the way his hands moved: Patience, Mulder. I want you; and I intend to have you. And I mean to take my time about it—you weren’t in a rush, were you?

“All right,” Krycek said. “Now. Just what the hell did you and my doppelganger do to each other last night?”

He drew a long shuddering breath. He did not want to think about last night. But there was no point in fighting it, or trying to evade the issue: Krycek would insist, would pin him down and make him talk about it, insist on Mulder’s staying cool and rational and coherent while Krycek toyed with his body. It would be a game to Krycek, setting himself the two tasks at once, figuring out what had upset Alex while he pushed Mulder precisely to the edges of his tolerance. “Shit,” Mulder said, doing his best to match Krycek’s tone. “Would that I knew.” He paused, collecting his thoughts. “Okay. It started out with us talking about you. He was complaining that he couldn’t figure out what you got off on, what you’d like from him. Or what it is you like from me. We talked a little, but I didn’t seem to be giving him anything he could make sense of. Finally I had a clever idea: I decided I’d show him. If he’s a version of you, I thought maybe if he were getting the right sensory and emotional cues he’d be able to put himself in your place, know some of what it felt like to be you. And that would answer his question.”

“Makes sense,” Krycek agreed. “But I take it that it didn’t work as planned?”

“Not as I planned, anyway.” Krycek was running his hands along the length of his body now. The touch was still relaxed, casual. “He doesn’t really like to talk in bed, you’ve seen that. I had to go on his physical reactions to figure out what he wanted from me. Maybe it shouldn’t have taken me as long as it did to work it out. I tried a bunch of other things first. Things you like. But what he really wanted was to get fucked.” He looked at Krycek, feeling a sudden twinge of uneasiness. “It was what he wanted. So I did it.”

“Still nervous about that, are you?” Krycek did not sound displeased at the thought. “How did you like it?”

Alex under him, beautiful, panting and twisting with need, wanting Mulder’s cock— He groaned at the rush of memory. “I loved it. God—” His voice sounded hoarse to him.

“I thought you might.” Krycek’s hands moved on his buttocks, spreading them a little. The fingers of one hand slid down to toy idly with the sensitive flesh around his anus. He sounded amused. “It’s all right, Mulder. You’re allowed. You were perfectly right: what he wanted was more important than your notions of propriety. Although I suppose I would have been a little disappointed if you hadn’t been nervous about it.” The fingers reached, trailed delicately across his testicles. “And now you know a little of how it feels to me when I take you.”

The words stabbed through his cock. His body arced forward into Krycek’s before he could force himself to be still. “Only a little,” he said. He had begun to tremble. “You don’t lose control. I almost did. Any longer, and I would have.”

Krycek shrugged, dismissing it. “And he was enjoying it as much as you were.” He seemed to hear Mulder’s unspoken question. “Because if he hadn’t been, you would have stopped. You’re good, Mulder, you always pay attention. If it hadn’t been working for him, you’d have noticed, no matter what your own body was telling you.”

Mulder nodded. Absurd, to be so pleased, and at this: it was a compliment with fangs in it. A compliment—Christ, yes—for Krycek’s whore.… He drew another long breath and forced himself to speak. “Yeah,” he told Krycek. “More than enjoying it, I would have said. It wasn’t until afterward there was a problem. I got up for a minute, and when I came back he’d completely freaked. He went rigid, wouldn’t let me near him. Made a couple of nasty cracks about our not having a normal kind of perverted relationship.” He paused, shaking his head against Krycek’s arm. “I knew he had to be hurting. But I didn’t know what I was supposed to do about it. All I could think was, shit, if I have to get my self-image completely fucked by turning out to have a thing for men, wasn’t I supposed to at least get an exemption from the relationship conversations in exchange? —We sniped at each other for a couple of minutes, and then we pretended not to notice that we were still pissed with each other and went to sleep.”

“Until, I take it, about four in the morning?”

“Right. I slept, that was sort of a surprise. Something woke me up around four—didn’t take long for me to realize what. And it wasn’t anything he needed me for. I pretended to be asleep, it seemed like the least I could do for him.”

“Good show?” Krycek asked.

Mulder grinned at him. “Might have been, if he’d been inclined to roll over in my direction.”

“Right.” Krycek’s hands moved along the insides of his thighs now, leisurely and relaxed as though they stroked a cat. And as purposeful: the caress designed to give pleasure, refined a little with each repetition of the long lazy stroke. It was hard to keep still under it, not to spread his legs a little further with each stroke, not to thrust forward against Krycek’s body; not to let the occasional whimper turn into a moan. Krycek was talking again. “And so it was I found you this morning, still trying to pretend nothing was wrong. Anything more after I went to bed?”

Mulder managed a chuckle. “After you went to bed, there was a lot less wrong. But he still wasn’t talking. He tried to sell me a story about thinking I’d been running a scam on him, so he’d try to fuck you on the next round, you’d toss him out, and I’d have you all to myself. Maybe he really had believed that for a minute or two at some point; maybe it wasn’t a complete lie. But it wasn’t the real issue.” He was losing focus. Krycek had noticed, too, damn him: one of his hands slid back to his ass, teasing, rhythms and pressures almost as though Krycek were getting him ready to be fucked. He was damned if he was going to lose control now, not yet— “I take it you have a theory?” he asked Krycek.

“I’m beginning to.” Krycek’s cock was as hard as his, but his voice was as even as ever. “He freaked at me, too, the first morning he was here. Same deal, almost: a touching display of enthusiasm for the proceedings, followed by tears and a good impression of catatonia. But only that one time. Not the time before, and not the times afterward.”

“And the difference that time was?”

Krycek smiled one of his gentle, faraway smiles. “He’d told me—well, more than he probably knew he’d been telling me.”

“I’ll bet he did,” Mulder said. The memory flashed out at him: Alex in the kitchen yesterday morning: “That’s what he was talking about, wasn’t it?” he said to Krycek. “You questioned him under some kind of interrogation drug.”

“Of course I did.” He sounded amused and almost surprised, as though Mulder had asked him whether he’d thought to use a condom the last time he’d fucked a stranger. “Reasonably effective; reasonably conservative. When he came to, he was obviously missing his Mulder. So I gave him to him. To the extent I could, based on available information. I thought at the time that I’d managed to get it reasonably right, based on his reaction. And you, of course—”

“Being Mulder to start out with, I had sort of an advantage. I could be Mulder without even trying.”

“And likely did. His Mulder liked to fuck him, but he didn’t have a lot of experience. So he was careful and very gentle. ‘Did it like a straight guy,’ Alex said.”

“It fits,” Mulder said. “I was careful, too; it’s been a long time for me, and I was afraid of hurting him. Shit, I should have seen him spinning out.”

Krycek shook his head. “I didn’t see it either. Which probably means he didn’t. The sex was something he wanted, as long as it was actually happening. As long as he could lose himself in the sensation. There wasn’t a problem until he came down from it and we weren’t his Mulder after all.”

Something in his chest ached. “He’s in love with his Mulder.”

“Seriously in love, poor bastard,” Krycek agreed. “And with somebody who may hate him for the rest of his life. ‘There is no greater pain than to recall the happy time in misery; and this thy teacher knows—’ Second circle of Hell: he was entitled to have hysterics.”

“I’m surprised at you, Krycek.” The ache was worse now, and he could hear the hard edge in his voice. “You almost sound as though you cared. As though you might know what it felt like.”

Krycek laughed softly. “ ‘It is not so. Nor it was not so. And indeed, God forbid it ever should be so.’ ”

He was trembling violently. “Scully was wrong. She should have let me shoot you.”

Krycek laughed in what Mulder recognized as pure pleasure. “Should she have?” he said. His voice was very soft. “Maybe so.”

His hands moved, slid up to Mulder’s shoulders and closed hard on them. Then Krycek was rolling him onto his back, pressing him down into the sheets, letting him feel some of the weight of Krycek’s body on him. “And to follow:” The voice was still soft, unmoved and relentless. “You could hardly have avoided killing me, at that range. Two counts of murder; two trials. No death penalty in Massachusetts, and there’d be evidence of emotional distress in the Virginia case: odds are good the prosecution wouldn’t ask for the death penalty there.” Krycek’s right hand moved to Mulder’s face as he spoke, tracing the lines of his mouth and eyelids as though he were learning them for the first time. “So, say a nice long stretch in one or another state prison. Information doesn’t stay secret in prisons, even if the authorities were inclined to try to protect you: best case, say two weeks before the other inmates made you for former FBI. If you were lucky, somebody with some power would take a fancy to you, keep you for himself and protect you from the others. More likely, you spend the rest of your sentence getting passed from hand to hand for the price of a cigarette.”

Krycek leaned his head down for a moment and ran his mouth softly over Mulder’s eyebrows. He was letting Mulder take more of his weight now. Mulder’s cock, pressed hard into his belly, throbbed and burned and sent up little shrapnel-shards of pleasure with every shift of Krycek’s weight on him. “—I imagine you might learn to like it,” Krycek said. “Vividly real, in any case. No outside law to appeal to when the game got too rough, no way to walk out of it, no meaningful check on what could be done to you.” Krycek’s left hand made its run down the length of his body once more, lingered briefly along the curves of his ass, and finally reached under his thigh, spreading his legs a little further.

It was too much, finally. The hard muscle of Krycek’s upper thigh rubbed against his balls. “Please,” he whispered. Even the whisper was roughened, unsteady.

Krycek just smiled. His right hand left Mulder’s face, travelled down the length of his neck to linger on his collarbone. “Or better: put you out on one of those work camps. The rules get looser out there, and there are no cameras, no monitors. It could be nice for you: the warden’s special pet, maybe, his consolation for being stuck out there in charge of a campful of lowlife scum, in a place he wouldn’t let his wife set foot in even if it weren’t six hours’ drive from the nearest hint of civilization. They’re turning back the clock in some of those places, have you been following the stories? Scandal in Arizona only last year: overseers on a work gang didn’t have the usual disciplinary actions available, so they’d gone back to the whip. Put a stop to it there, of course; but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were still happening in other places. Perfect for you, now I think about it. Forced sex, and the whole camp knowing, punishments measured in dozens of lashes.… You’d work to please your owner, though, because you’re intelligent enough to know that the consequences of it ending would be much, much worse. And then the final damnation, your own pleasure in it. —It’s a little gothic, of course, but you like gothic. Well, Mulder? Is it an improvement? Would you rather have shot me?”

He shut his eyes and took a long moment to savor it. But Krycek had asked him a question. He drew a long breath and forced himself to speak. “No. I don’t know. Do I get another version of you, for my master there?”

“No,” Krycek said. “You killed me, remember? Only one of me to a universe, except under special circumstances.” His lips brushed Mulder’s mouth for just an instant.

“What if I didn’t?” Mulder said, a little breathlessly. The picture was beginning to take shape in his mind. “What if— Say you somehow survived the shooting, but it was expedient for you to be seen to ‘die.’ Nobody’d bother to set the criminal justice system straight; Cancerman and his friends would be all too happy to see me in prison. You’d be a while recovering; and then you’d need a whole new identity. And maybe a place to hide for a few years, wait until the world had really forgotten the old identity. I wouldn’t know anything about it, locked away deep somewhere in the prison system, doing what I could to survive.

“Until the day the new warden showed up,” Mulder whispered. He could see it now, almost feel the damp heat of the camp, late summer somewhere in the deep South, green scent all around him, and sweating men. Rumors travelling down the line, old warden gone at last, new guy due in tonight, no, nobody’s gotten the word on him yet; and what’s dinner tonight? The car arriving, everyone taking surreptitious peeks, but nobody getting a good look, not yet. Only a bare-bones description: he’s young, the new guy. Carries a cane, but doesn’t seem to use it. A little nervousness among the guards, there’d been rumors about scandal, about the new warden coming in to clean things up; but that nervousness would be gone by dinner, they’d have had their first staff meeting by then. He could see the meeting, too, hear Krycek starting to talk to them, reassuring them.… Mulder felt himself grinning at the thought; and then he was giggling, clinging to Krycek and trying not to choke.

“What?” Krycek asked.

“You,” he gasped, in between giggles. “As a prison warden. I can see it: ‘Guys, okay, go ahead and rape the prisoners if you want; but when you do it, for Chrissake use a condom—’ ” His voice rose to a squeak, and then he was giggling too hard to talk.

Krycek widened his eyes. “Well. You don’t know where a prison population’s been. Wouldn’t want to have to explain any tragedies to wives and mothers, would I?” He shook his head and ran his fingers through Mulder’s hair. “You’ve got the whole story worked out already, don’t you? I think that may be a record, even for you.” His voice suddenly cooled, snapped like a whip. “Christ, Mulder, you’re a wreck. Now, give. Who’d you shoot, back in Louisiana?”

The sensation was so intense that it took him a moment to identify it as pain. “You are a fucking artist,” he managed to say, very clearly, before he felt it hit and the giggles dissolved into racking sobs. His body shook with it, rubbing his trapped cock up against Krycek’s belly; and waves of pleasure crashed through him in time with the sobs, sweet and terrible.

“Mulder.” Krycek’s voice was distant and amused. Mulder realized that he was clinging to him, his fingertips digging into Krycek’s upper arms. He forced himself to loosen his hands.

“Thank you,” Krycek said. His weight shifted a little, sending another jolt of pleasure through Mulder’s body. Then he was moving, fast and fluid like a snake, and his open hand crashed down across Mulder’s face.

Heat and a slow blossom of pain in his face; a matching peak of luscious sensation at his groin; and then it was gone, and he was thrusting up into empty air. “Not yet,” Krycek said. His voice was rough with pleasure. “I asked you a question.”

Mulder nodded, still unable to speak. He fought down the sobs, taking long, deliberate breaths. “Yes,” he said finally. “It—the case was nothing. Scully told you that, right? I got there, and it was one of those mass hysteria things, a whole town full of people who’d persuaded each other that their teenager’s beer blasts were some kind of satanic rituals. There’d been two deaths, an unpopular high school teacher and a McDonald’s manager who the kids had had some run-ins with, but there turned out to be nothing unnatural about either one of them.” He was talking around it. Leave the background, that didn’t matter. “I was done with the case on Thursday, when you talked to me. The whole thing was a waste of time, I wanted to get back, do some real work. But just because I’d proved that nothing was going on at those parties didn’t mean that the town suddenly went sane. It didn’t, not all of it. But I wasn’t paying attention.

“I was supposed to fly out early Friday. I got a call from the sheriff around five in the morning, though. All these kids were missing. So we got everybody we could together and went out looking. Nothing, no trail, no clues. So we hit the woods, where some of the parties had been, fanned out on a standard search pattern.

“There was nothing for a little while, but then I got a squawk on the handset. The sheriff’s secretary, Alice. She was the next person over from me on the pattern, and she was having some kind of attack, gasping into the set. She sounded like the victims had on the distress calls. I listened to her, and something just clicked together. The way it does, you know. I dropped the pattern and ran, and hoped I’d get there fast enough. And I did. Only something clicked in her head when she saw me, too. She looked at me—and it was like, she knew. She went for something in her purse, dove at it.”

He took another set of long breaths, willing the tears down. Krycek was silent, waiting. “So I shot her. I was afraid it was the detonator. I knew it was the detonator. She wasn’t fifteen feet away, even I couldn’t miss.”

Krycek stroked his face, his hand as gentle now as it had been hard before. “And was it?”

He blinked away tears. “The detonator was in her purse. But so was her inhaler—she had asthma. We’ll never know.”

“Mulder, Mulder. You are not going to tell me there was anything else you could have done, are you? I know that all the evil in the entire universe is really your fault; but this is pushing it.”

Mulder laughed, a little shakily. “A real hero would have tackled her instead of shooting, don’t you think? It was only fifteen feet, I might have made it. —No, I’m not going to tell you that.” He felt himself shiver, and the incipient tears prickled behind his eyes. “But I might have seen it sooner. I knew there were people who really believed in this Satan shit, really thought that the sheriff’s office was refusing to protect them. And Alice was around, I saw her every day. Looking back—she was a little shaky. She claimed to be convinced, but you could see she didn’t really believe it.

“But I didn’t see it. She was odd, but she was sharp and funny, and—you know. I liked her.”

“Okay. You identified with her a little. And you didn’t see it coming, and you killed her; and it follows that you’re a potential crazed murderer, and as guilty as she was: is that right? And of course, you deserve anything I do to you, not that it comes close to evening the balance.” Mulder felt Krycek move, and then felt his lips, mocking and tender, first on his left eyelid and then on his right. “You can’t resist hurting yourself with it, can you? Christ, Mulder, you’re insatiable. A dozen of me couldn’t hurt you enough. Not enough to satisfy you.”

“That’s facile, Krycek, and you know it. Do I get a free pass on any responsibility for what I do, on the grounds that I’m exaggerating because it might be good for my sex life?”

“God, I enjoy you,” Krycek said. The voice was low again, thick with delight. “Keep your head still, Mulder. I’m going to hit you again.”

His cock jumped, and he heard his breath hiss between his teeth. He remembered that formula: Krycek’s second night with him, the command coming out of nowhere: Be still. Why? Mulder had asked, not yet used to taking orders without question. Because I’m going to hit you, Krycek had said. And if you move, you’ll fuck up my aim. Yes, I thought you’d like that. I’m going to hit you. Now do as you’re told and make it easy for me. And yes: this was the same blow he remembered, light and careful across his lips, to bruise them for later kissing. Krycek had told him afterward that he liked the texture of Mulder’s mouth when it was bruised, liked the extra softness, the ripe-fruit pulpiness. And of course, liked knowing that it hurt Mulder to be kissed. Another thing that Krycek hadn’t done to him since then, rationing it as though the pleasure might run out some day—but Krycek was talking to him again.

“On this one?” Krycek said. “Yes, you do get a free pass. This woman was functional, you’d already determined no crimes had been committed, you weren’t looking for a perpetrator. You have no jurisdiction to go investigating people because they seem to be having emotional problems, even if you had noticed something wrong. Any more than you have any business trying to tackle somebody you think may be about to hit a detonator and blow people up when you’ve got a gun in your hand and a clean shot. And you know that, Mulder, every word of it.

“But it doesn’t matter, does it? Because you get off on the pain. If you didn’t have me, you’d do it to yourself. Or goad somebody else into doing it, the way you pushed Skinner into doing you when Scully was taken. Anything, so long as you get your fix.” Krycek was touching him again, playing with his mouth and nipples, running one hand down along his thighs. “All those fantasies about Skinner,” Krycek whispered. “He doesn’t know it, but he’s already had you, and more than once, in all the ways that matter to you. He’s good, isn’t he, Mulder? You always enjoy it from him, I’ve watched you.”

“Not as good as you are,” Mulder said. His vision was blurred. It was peculiar: he didn’t feel as though he was crying, but he could feel tears leaking steadily from his eyes, running down along his temples. It was becoming hard to talk. Krycek’s hands were focused now, purposeful, as though Krycek intended to strip his mind down to essentials at last, his vocabulary down to the only words that mattered: yes and more and please. But Krycek was right: it wasn’t enough, not yet. There was something more out there. Something else he wanted, or something more he needed to hide from.…

“Alex,” he said. “The drug. The stuff you used on him—the other Alex—when he showed up. Have you got any more of it?”

“’Be prepared,’” Krycek said. “Sure I do. Are you about to suggest what I think you’re about to suggest?” His breathing was unsteady, but it evened as he spoke.

It distracted him from a moment, even through the haze of fear and lust and pain. “Jesus, Krycek. I know you rub coke on your dick before you touch me, I know it. One of these days I’m going to catch you at it. Either that, or you are the result of alien experiments.”

Krycek smiled and leaned down, tipped Mulder’s head to the side and ran his tongue delicately around the curve of Mulder’s ear. Then his teeth tightened on Mulder’s earlobe, worrying at it a little, and his left hand closed for a heart-stopping instant around his cock. “Are you objecting?” he murmured.

“No,” Mulder said. “No, you know that. —It was one of the fun ones that you used on him, wasn’t it? The kind that people make jokes about using on dates who won’t put out? You fucked him, and he doesn’t hate you. Come on, Alex. Let me play too.”

Krycek took his chin between his fingers and turned his head a little, forcing Mulder to look at him. “You know the next question,” he said.

“Yeah. ‘Why?’ ” He shook his head as best he could in the little slack between Krycek’s fingers. “I don’t know.” He could hear an edge of desperation in his own voice. “I don’t know. Because it feels extreme, maybe. Or maybe just because then I could ask you to play out that prison camp fantasy, and not be sick with embarrassment when you say no.” He felt himself flush as he said it, the rest of his face turning as hot as where Krycek’s slap had landed. That much was true, then. “Too late for that, I guess,” he muttered.

“Maybe for your birthday,” Krycek said, grinning. “Although—hell. If we were going to do it at all, I suppose we really ought to do it while Alex is here to play the third part.”

“What third part?” Mulder demanded.

Krycek’s grin got wider. “Come on, Mulder. This is one of your fantasies. Are you going to try to tell me that you haven’t already included a bit where I have you whipped?”

Mulder felt the flush deepen. “Yeah. I have.” And Krycek would insist on hearing it, there was no point in waiting for the question. “Before I even know it’s you, the day you arrive. Not a heavy whipping, just a few lashes so that you can see the stripes on my back when they bring me to you later.” He was starting to tremble again. “Damn it, Krycek. You know me too well.”

“So I do,” Krycek said. “What else?”

It was the interrogator’s voice, patient and relentless. Mulder flinched at it. What was it he really wanted from this? The embarrassment thing was important. It wasn’t the answer, but the answer was somewhere down along that road.… “Because I’m afraid,” he whispered. “I’m afraid, and I don’t want to go on fighting you, and holding things back; and I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t. That’s why, Alex. Because I’m tired, and frightened, and I don’t want to be afraid of anything but you.”

It was a ridiculous thing to say, he thought. When had he ever fought Krycek, even for a moment? But Krycek seemed to know what he meant. “So you want help letting go of that last layer of resistance,” he said.

Mulder inclined his head a little: yes. “Some of it’s an illusion, I know that,” he said. “I only hold back now because you still let me. You’ve never broken me, not all the way. You could do it any time you wanted to, it’s not a lot for me to hang on to. But you haven’t. And I think I can guess why, and I agree with you. But I want it, Alex. Drug me, give me an excuse, let me stop being scared, stop fighting. Just for a little while.”

“And in the morning?”

Mulder gave him a choked laugh. “If I’m lucky, in the morning I won’t remember. But if I do—in the morning, I promise you I’ll deny everything. Please, Alex.”

Krycek’s eyes were very dark. “Christ, it’s tempting,” he said. His voice was thick, and not perfectly steady. “But—”

“Please,” Mulder whispered again. That was good, too, that helped the fear: it was good to beg, good to let the responsibility go. Good to know that whatever he wanted, the matter was out of his hands, that Krycek would decide whether or not this choice was right.

“But,” Krycek repeated, slowly. “Not without going over your medical records first. I won’t put you at that kind of risk.” His voice had cleared again. “Probably a good thing I don’t have them on file. Or I might do it, and then I’d likely be sorry in the morning, however careful you were to deny everything.” He released Mulder’s chin and trailed his fingers over Mulder’s mouth. Mulder could feel the soreness now: his lips felt hot and swollen. “You’re right, of course,” Krycek said. “I mean to have that from you some day. And I mean to have you sober for it, so that you’re making a conscious decision every step of the way.

“But not yet. Faciles decensis Averni—it’s easy enough to take you down that road. But there are no guarantees of the road back.” His fingers trailed through Mulder’s hair. “I’m going to love breaking you, Mulder. Although not as much, I think, as you’re going to love being broken. But not yet. When you know you want it. Not before.” His lips brushed lightly across Mulder’s. “But I’m getting ahead of myself. You’re frightened.”

He managed to nod an acknowledgment. “Yeah. Well. That didn’t exactly help.”

“No,” Krycek said. “I don’t suppose it would, would it?” His hands slid down from Mulder’s face, and then he was gathering Mulder in at last, drawing him close, and Krycek was kissing him, one of his rare serious kisses. Mulder sobbed at it, and his arms closed hard around Krycek’s shoulders. Krycek’s hands and forearms were strong and steady along his back and behind his head, locking their bodies together. There was no pain: the ache in his bruised lips had become heightened sensitivity, a further refinement of pleasure. The intimacy of it was terrifying, realer and more inescapable even than Krycek’s cock in his mouth or ass: possession, perfected and undeniable. And the fear, finally, was good fear, fear of Krycek and what Krycek would do to him, sweet and shattering.

Krycek’s mouth left his, letting him breathe. He closed his eyes against the sting of new tears and buried his face in Krycek’s neck while Krycek stroked the curve of his ear, the touch gentle and affectionate. “But then, I like you frightened,” the soft voice said.

He shivered, and his arms tightened around Krycek’s shoulders. “I’m glad,” he whispered. “Take it. Master—” He drew a sharp breath. Christ, he hadn’t meant to say that out loud. He was losing even the control he needed to follow the rules of their game: what the hell was wrong with him?

“Fox,” Krycek said. His mouth was soft against Mulder’s ear. Another shudder went through him, sharp and hard as the convulsions of fever. Then Krycek’s arms were loosening, and Krycek was moving back just a little. “Fox, look at me,” he said.

It was hard to make himself do it. His eyes were wet, and he had to blink a few times before his vision cleared. “Good,” Krycek told him, still gentle and implacable. “Now. When you tell me you love me, you do it with your eyes open. That’s a rule, Fox. Remember it.”

The pleasure was like an explosion behind his eyes and at the base of his spine. He heard himself cry out, and fought to keep his body still: his balls were tight, and his cock throbbed and twitched. The words themselves had almost been enough; anything more would send him over the edge, and he was not ready to end this, not yet.

Krycek was enjoying his performance, that was clear and comforting. Mulder could feel the strung-up exhilaration in Krycek’s body, in the controlled tension in all his muscles, in the precision of his hands as they moved on Mulder’s head and back and ass.

“Fox,” Krycek said at last. His voice was oddly steadying. Mulder took a long breath, and then another, and turned his head to look at Krycek.

“Alex, I—” His voice caught, and his eyes squeezed shut again. No good. “All right. I—shit.” His chest heaved again.

“Fox,” Krycek said once more. This time he moved, disentangling Mulder from his neck, pulling away again to look Mulder in the eyes. Mulder stared back at him, waiting.

“I can’t make you any promises,” Krycek said, very gently. “You know that. But think it through. Scully is alive.”

Something was happening to him. His eyes were open, stretched wide, but he could not move, could not breathe. His heart pounded. Then Krycek moved, brought his hand up to caress Mulder’s face, breaking the spell. “ ‘Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them,’ ” he heard Krycek say. “But not because you loved them.”

“Yes,” he managed to say. He clung to Krycek, beyond control at last, and let the tears take him.

Krycek let him cry for what felt like a long time. There was no more need to fight: there was a kind of serenity in these tears. It was not unhappiness that made his body shake like this, but something else, something he could not put a name to. It was good, though, whatever it was, clean and bright like the Saturn boosters he had watched as a child, taking the long leap into space.

It was good; but it did not blot out his awareness of his body. His cock throbbed in time with his heartbeat, sending little shivers of pleasure through him. His face was wet, and so was Krycek’s neck: it made him think of conductivity, as though the salt water that could carry electricity between their bodies had opened some other channel between them as well.

Krycek must have felt some change in his body. He moved then, slid his right hand up Mulder’s spine and then forward, along his hairline and jaw, and down at last to close around Mulder’s throat.

The touch was precise, not harsh but cold, detached and commanding. It went through him like an explosion, turning all the bright serenity to hunger in that instant. Mulder felt his eyes snap wide at it, felt himself gasp for air. His balls were hard and burning hot like stones that had been heated in a fire; his cock was filled with molten flame. The tears stopped as abruptly as though Krycek had reached into his body and thrown a switch; and he was arcing his throat up into Krycek’s hand and sobbing out his pleasure.

The mocking voice sounded in his ear. “Very pretty, Fox. But I hope you have some self-control left.”

“No,” he whispered. It was almost defiance, he realized: as much horrified rejection of the mere idea of self-control as it was an admission that there was nothing left.

But Krycek just laughed. “You’re going to have an interesting time of it, then,” he said. He pulled out of Mulder’s embrace, still laughing, and rolled Mulder over onto his belly. Mulder moaned at the flash of friction against his cock—or perhaps it was at the touch of Krycek’s hands on his back and shoulders, guiding him down, it was hard to know which. He wriggled a little, parting his legs in appeal and anticipation. He felt Krycek’s knees between his thighs, felt the warmth of Krycek’s body leaning over him. Then Krycek’s hands slipped under his arms and up around his shoulders, and Krycek was lifting him onto his knees. He fell backward, caught himself even as he felt Krycek steadying him; and then another wave of pleasure broke over him as he settled back against Krycek’s body and felt the head of Krycek’s cock press into his scrotum.

Krycek settled his right arm more firmly under Mulder’s, and his right hand moved back to its place at Mulder’s throat. His left hand moved between Mulder’s buttocks. Mulder could feel the lubricant on his fingers. The hand withdrew, and for a dreadful moment he was sure that this was just another tease. The thought forced an odd whimpering sound from him. “Please,” he whispered.

Krycek laughed again. But that was all right: he was doing what Mulder needed, guiding his cock into Mulder’s body. Mulder tried to be still, but the relief was too much for him: his hips moved in sharp involuntary jerks, impaling him on Krycek’s cock. Krycek’s left hand left his ass then, travelled up the length of his chest to slide at last under his left arm, completing the hammerlock.

Mulder rested there against Krycek’s chest for a moment. It was exquisite to be held this way, supported, free to think of nothing but the rising tide of pleasure in his ass and groin. He could hear Krycek growling softly with his own pleasure.

“Now,” Krycek said at last. “I want to borrow your hands.” There was a little gasp on the last word, and Krycek thrust deeply into him. One long stroke, a blaze of molten delight in its wake; a pause, and then another; and then Krycek was still again, leaving Mulder sobbing and fighting for control.

He did not trust his voice, but finally he managed to nod.

“Good,” Krycek said. He took a long breath himself, and then he steadied. “You know the way I touch you. My hands are full, so I want you to do it for me. I want those hands on your nipples, on the insides of your thighs, on your belly. But not your cock or balls, no matter how much you want them there.” Krycek’s left hand brushed over Mulder’s lips in a kind of mocking emphasis. “You are listening to me, aren’t you, Fox?” He thrust into Mulder’s body again, the stroke slow and deliberate.

He moaned into Krycek’s fingers. “Yes,” he said, when he had breath again. “I’m listening.”

Krycek’s head dipped for a moment, and Mulder felt his lips against his shoulder, a kiss that turned into an oddly gentle bite. “Because you don’t need it,” Krycek said softly. “You love to be fucked. I’m going to show you just how much you love it. I’m going to fuck you to orgasm; and when you come, I want you to know that it’s my cock in your ass making you do it. Nothing else. Got it?”

“Yes,” he whispered once more.

“All right. Then show me how well you know me.”

A hard shiver went through his body, and his hands were suddenly trembling. Mulder fought to still them. It was shame, and he knew it, even through this haze of pleasure and urgent need. And this was a hell of a thing to suddenly be embarrassed about—it was ridiculous that he could still be embarrassed about anything with Krycek. Krycek had had the use of his ass and his mouth for more than a year; he had seen Mulder kneel to him, listened to Mulder beg for the touch of his hand. But somehow the shame was still there, still fresh enough to open new wounds, to add to his degradation—and his pleasure. Of course he knew how Krycek touched him. Krycek knew that; he knew how Mulder conjured his presence when he was alone in D.C., how he touched himself in the familiar patterns. Krycek’s hands… they would be harsh on his nipples, now that Krycek had finally ended the tease and condescended to fuck him; harsh enough to be sure that Mulder would feel it, that it was not entirely swallowed up in what Krycek was doing to his ass. He took a long breath and brought his hands up to his chest. He stroked his nipples, then pinched them hard, ran his fingernails roughly over the tips.

The strength of the sensation took him by surprise. His body arced back hard, and his throat felt raw, as though he had shouted. His hands were moving without his conscious thought, toying with the soft skin above his cock, teasing, raking his inner thighs. And Krycek was right again; the pleasure was still building, dissolving thought, control, everything that was not this conflagration at his body’s core. He surrendered to it, no longer able to think; seized Krycek’s right hand and rested his face against it, trusting to Krycek to support him; and rode the building wave for what seemed like an impossibly long time, until the final pleasure crashed over him.

* * *

Later, he lay with his head pillowed on Krycek’s chest, floating in the afterglow. He could still feel his fear, somewhere beneath the moment’s contentment, but that was all right now: it had become one of Krycek’s toys, something Krycek was doing to him for pleasure, a part of being owned. And as such, something proper and necessary, something that he should not be released from until it pleased Krycek to end it. Had he told Krycek that? Not that it mattered: Krycek would know it, to say it aloud would be pure self-indulgence. He felt himself smile a little. “Alex,” he said without moving. “Do something for me?” It was his own voice again, steady, with the familiar roughness in it.

He felt Krycek’s half-chuckle. “What did you have in mind?”

“Make sure I give you anything you want from me.” He felt a little shiver go through him as he spoke: there was part of this that was a matter of the spirit and not merely of the body; and the spirit’s capacity was not dulled by the body’s satisfaction. No: the spirit still craved its pleasure. “Anything,” he whispered again, tasting the word on his lips. “I’ll do anything you want me to do; I’ll take anything you want to do to me.” Another hard shudder went through him. “I’m yours. Jesus, I’m yours. Please, Alex—”

Krycek ran one lazy finger over his mouth, silencing him. “Trust me,” he said. His voice was relaxed too, but there was a lingering trace of burning delight in it, a mirror of Mulder’s own mood. “Haven’t I brought you this far?”

“Yeah,” Mulder told him. “You have.” He let out a long breath and closed his eyes, and they lay for a few minutes in silence.

“You need your chains tightened a little, I think,” Krycek said at last. The hot, lascivious undertone was still in his voice. Then Mulder felt his body alter. “But,” he said, his voice suddenly clear. “Not just now. I want to be awake for that. And right now, I propose to go back to sleep. If you want any more, you are going to have to go pester Alex for it.”

Mulder groaned. “More? You think I’m capable?”

Krycek grinned and reached for a pillow. “Oh, I think you could be persuaded to be,” he said. The intent, dreamy look crossed his face for a moment. “If I wanted to wake up and really focus on it.” Then the look was gone, and Krycek was stretching out, muscles melting into the sheets. “Now shut up and go to sleep,” he said. “Or else get out of here and find something else to do.”

Mulder laughed, and kissed his fingertips, and left him.

* * *

Alex was dozing pleasantly, not really asleep, enjoying the feel of the cool cotton sheets snugged around the length of his body, and the soft pillow cradling his cheek. He liked the small bedroom; he felt safe and cozy there, despite the terror of those first few hours. And it was nice to have a little time to himself. He hoped Mulder and Krycek were having a good time, and that Mulder was getting himself thoroughly worked over, in just the way he liked. He amused himself for a moment by imagining them together: Krycek whispering cool, hypnotic orders into Mulder’s ear; Mulder groaning and gasping under Krycek’s controlling touch. But then it started to look too much like another Krycek whispering adoring nonsense into another Mulder’s ear, and he had to stop. Well, he’d been thinking too much about sex anyway. Just empty out his mind, drift in the pleasantness of the cool sheets and soft pillow.…

There was a quiet tap on the door. Alex twisted around, propping himself up on his elbow, wincing at the sudden jab of pain in his shoulder. He’d strained it again, which was no surprise, but it didn’t really bother him. Just another of those little twinges that reminded him of really great sex. Mulder peered around the door, smiling tentatively.

“Hi.” Mulder crept softly in and stood by the bed. “How’s your ‘headache’?”

Alex rubbed his temple. It actually was a little sore. Power of suggestion. Or just three days’ worth of accumulated stress finally working its way out. “Fine. How are you?” Mulder looked pretty wiped out. His eyes were red and swollen from crying; he had a fragile, run-over-by-a-truck look. But he was smiling. So it had been a good session. He’d worked off his own tension and found a little peace.

“I’m okay. Not exactly ready to run a marathon, but.…”

Alex pushed himself up, working his shoulder around in circles and giving it a brief rub—he’d slept wrong on that shoulder, damn it, and made it ache worse—then pulled Mulder into his arms.

Mulder sat on the bed beside Alex and gave him a solid hug. “What’s with your shoulder?”

“Nothing.” Alex laughed into Mulder’s neck. “Old football injury. It gets sore sometimes.”

“Like when you get your arms tied behind your back?”

He loosened the embrace and leaned back to offer Mulder an embarrassed smile. “It was worth it.”

Mulder’s returning smile was accompanied by a slight shrug, as if to say, Who am I to judge how people get their pleasure? Then, suddenly, the smile brightened. “Jacuzzi.”

“Mm. Sounds good to me.”

* * *

Mulder raided the kitchen for champagne and strawberries and chocolate truffles—ridiculously expensive things that Mulder had insisted on getting when Alex had tried to buy some Hershey bars. They lay back in the tub, hot water bubbling around their bodies, sipping champagne and nibbling strawberries and chocolate and sighing with pleasure. Alex felt incredibly decadent. It was heaven.

For a long time, they just sat in contented silence. This was so perfect, or it would be perfect, if only.…

What was his own Mulder doing right now? Working late, in dull misery, searching hopelessly for some clue in Scully’s disappearance? Planning painful revenges on the junior partner who’d used and betrayed him? Or lying on his couch alone, trying to numb his tortured mind with well-worn videotapes? Alex sighed.

“What?” Mulder was leaning back, eyes closed, one hand around a champagne glass. But obviously he’d heard the change in tone in that last sigh.

“Just thinking. Wondering.” If it hadn’t been for the champagne, he might have left it at that. Or maybe not. Maybe it was time to talk about it. “Wondering about my Mulder. What he’s doing right now. It doesn’t seem fair, somehow, that I’m lying here in a jacuzzi drinking champagne while he’s suffering alone.” But maybe he shouldn’t be talking about those days. This Mulder had gone through the same thing, more or less, and it would still be painful, even though it had been several years ago for him. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to bring that up.”

Mulder sat up. He looked relaxed, now, and content, if still a little ragged around the edges. “No, I don’t mind. Tell me about him.”

“Well.…” Alex leaned back now, and let his mind drift back to that day, just a few months ago for him, when he’d walked up to Fox Mulder’s desk and handed him his 302 and wormed his way into Mulder’s life. “Practically the first thing he did was send me off to requisition a car and ditch me. God, it was humiliating. Did you do that to him?”

Mulder just grinned.

Alex grinned back. “I thought he was a jerk. But it was my job. So I brought him coffee and candy bars and sucked up and played the good little Krycek-puppy. And he ate it up. Christ, you’d think nobody’d ever been nice to him before.” He took another sip of champagne and leaned back against the smooth tile of the tub, letting his mind drift back to those early days. He’d assiduously avoided thinking about any of that since the day he’d been told to pull out—but he couldn’t go on avoiding it forever. And who better to talk about it with than another Mulder, who’d understand better than anyone else what had happened between them?

“The first time he called me up late at night was about two weeks after we started working together. I’d just gotten home from the opera. He went on about nothing for a couple of minutes and hung up and I didn’t think anything more about it. Just a pathetic, lonely guy with nothing better to do than wake people up in the middle of the night, I thought. I don’t really know when things changed. When I started believing in it. When I started bringing him coffee because I wanted to, and looking forward to those phone calls. I didn’t really know it until after we slept together for the first time, but it happened a long time before that. Maybe it was that first phone call. It just felt like he needed me.”

He could see this Mulder worrying at it—remembering that time, trying to fit this into his experience with his own Krycek. Alex couldn’t imagine Krycek being anything like as solicitous as he’d been, even submersed in the role of the green junior agent. And Mulder said it hadn’t been like that for them. So when the betrayal came, it wouldn’t have been quite so painful. “I’ll never forget the way he looked at me, that day after Scully disappeared.” His voice had gone quiet, barely more than the bubbling of the water. He leaned his head back, and stared at the ceiling.

“He was in pain, but it was more than pain. He looked so lost, like the entire universe had just turned upside down. Like he just couldn’t comprehend the idea of a world without Scully in it. He hadn’t slept all night, and he was all rumpled and unshaven and most of the time he was just swimming along in a haze of pain, working like the world would end if he stopped for just a second. He’d look at me, and it was like he was begging me to make the world make sense again.”

His head was spinning. He didn’t know if it was the champagne, or.… He sank down deeper in the water, until the bubbles foamed around his lips as he spoke. “All I wanted to do was help him. Hold him and tell him everything was going to be all right. Bring Scully back to him, never let anything hurt him again.” He wasn’t sure, himself, whether the moisture on his face was water, sweat, or tears.

“But I couldn’t help him. I couldn’t help Scully. Next thing I knew, they were telling me to keep him from getting to the top of the mountain, and handing me poisoned water to give to Duane Barry, and telling me to pack up and get out. And I just did it, I didn’t know what else to do. —God, I hope Scully’s all right.…”

He forced himself to sit up. This wasn’t good, he was just going to get Mulder upset. “I’m sorry, Mulder.” But he was saying it to his own Mulder. And apologizing for a lot more than talking too much.

Mulder regarded him sadly. “We’ll get you home, Alex. If there’s a way, we’ll get you home.”

Alex sniffed and nodded and forced himself to smile. “Meanwhile, we’ll lay around in the jacuzzi and have lots of great sex. Nothing to complain about.” And that reminded him of something else—and, as long as he was being honest, he might as well tell Mulder the truth about that, too.

“Mulder, about last night. It was my Mulder—the way you touched me, and fucked me, even some of the things you said—it was so much like him.… It was good, really good, but it hurt, too. I couldn’t handle it. That’s why I freaked. That other stuff I told you was true, too, sort of, but it wasn’t the main thing. I just didn’t think it would do any good to tell you. I mean, I knew you weren’t doing it on purpose, you can’t help being Mulder, and I didn’t want you to think we couldn’t have sex without me freaking out.” He laughed shortly. “Although so far there hasn’t been much evidence of that. Anyway, I’m sorry.”

Mulder nodded. “That’s what we thought, but we weren’t sure.”

Alex laughed again, nervously. “God, you were comparing notes. Well, of course you were. I guess he told you I did the same thing to him when he played Mulder for me.”

“Yeah. Actually, it made me feel a little better about it, to know that he couldn’t tell either that you were freaking until it was all over.”

“He doesn’t like that, does he? Not having people play their parts the way they’re supposed to. Not being in control of every little detail.”

“No. But that isn’t all it is. He really does care about you, Alex. And you should have told me. If I’d known how you were really feeling, I’d have done something different.”

Alex shrugged, relaxing again, enjoying the way the water tickled his shoulders. “It felt good. I didn’t want to stop. I guess I didn’t know myself how bad it was affecting me till it was all over.”

“Well, you should have told me after, then. I didn’t know what to think. It… it was a long night.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

Mulder frowned at him for a moment. Then, suddenly, the frown turned to mock severity. “Alex, you know what this means.”

Alex forced his own voice to be serious as he fed Mulder his line. “What?”

“You’re going to have to describe everything you’ve done with your Mulder. In detail. So I can avoid doing the same thing.”

Alex giggled. “Sure, Mulder. We can trade. You give me the play-by-play on some of the things you’ve done with your Krycek. Or no, you don’t mind when I do the same thing as he does—tell me some of the things you wish he’d do, and doesn’t. Then maybe I’ll do them for you.”

Mulder grinned. “That’s pretty much what you’ve been doing. Anyway, you already owe me one from last night. You were supposed to tell me about leather bars.”

“Okay, so which do you want, the story about leather bars or the story about my Mulder?” It was so easy to fall into: that comfortable, friendly teasing banter. Well, of course—it was Mulder. Any Mulder would be like this. Why fight it?

“Both. I want them both.”

“Well, then you’re going to have to come up with a story, too. Story for story, Mulder. You’ve got a vivid imagination, and all those videotapes and magazines for inspiration—I’ll bet you’ve got some great fantasies spinning around in there.” He let his own voice fall into the low, hypnotic tone he used for telling stories, quiet and inviting and intimate. “It doesn’t have to be anything real, or anything you’d ever really want to have happen. Or even anything that actually could really happen. Make it as wild and excessive and outrageous as you want. Tell me a story, Mulder.”

“Like you did this morning?”

“This morning?”

“The story about the gold chain. Which I really liked, by the way. You started out to tell me something else, though, didn’t you? You changed gears all of a sudden. What were you about to tell me?”

Alex shook his head. “You don’t want to hear that one, Mulder. That’s why I didn’t tell you.”

“How can you be so sure? Why don’t you tell me and let me decide.”

“No. Believe me, Mulder. It was crude and sleazy and disgusting and.…” Alex stopped, grinning. This wasn’t helping, it was just making Mulder want to hear it more. But he knew it wasn’t Mulder’s style at all. Just brief, over-the-top vision of Mulder in Skinner’s office, as he had been that morning, handing in his resignation in an unequivocal and irrevocable way, afterwards to be taken home and slave-trained by Krycek. Too much Drummer and Mr. Benson. “Look, Mulder, you wouldn’t have liked it. It just would have grossed you out.”

“How do you know?”

“Because it grossed me out.” He giggled again. “Trust me, Mulder. Anyway, you’ve already got two stories of mine stacked up, and you haven’t come up with anything to tell me yet.”

Mulder actually blushed. Alex loved it. “I don’t know… I wouldn’t know what to tell you.”

Okay, it wasn’t going to be easy for him. But he didn’t seem resistant, just embarrassed and unsure. He needed a little encouragement and help to get started. What about the Skinner idea? A man in authority, an ex-Marine, and who wouldn’t notice those shoulders? Alex had had a thought or two in that direction himself. It was a fair bet that Mulder had a story about his boss in him somewhere. “I was wondering what Skinner would do if he found out what kind of things you like. I bet you’ve thought about that yourself.”

Mulder went beet-red. “Maybe.”

“ ‘Maybe’,” Alex teased. “I bet you could figure something out on pretty short notice, anyway. How about that? A Skinner fantasy, for one of my stories. Take your pick.”

Mulder took a deep breath, and a sip of champagne. “You first.”

Alex nodded. “That’s fair. Which story do you want?”

Mulder regarded him thoughtfully. “Your first time with your Mulder. If that wouldn’t be too hard for you.”

Alex held himself very still. His first time with Mulder: he brought the image into his mind, and tested his reactions against it. Would it be too hard? It would hurt, no way around that, but the pain seemed to be manageable. But he’d better make sure. He didn’t want to say he could do it, and then freak out about it afterwards.

He forced a small smile. “Okay. But it’s not much of a stiffener. No complaining about it after, though—I still get that Skinner fantasy, okay?”

Mulder’s returning smile was just as forced. “Agreed.”

Alex let himself sink into the hot water again, and leaned his head back against the tiles. It was better to cuddle up close for this sort of thing, but this was a story about Mulder, told to another Mulder—he didn’t think he could handle lying in this Mulder’s arms while he told it. So he closed his eyes and let the swirling waters hold and caress him.

“It was a couple of months after we’d started working together. There had been those late-night phone calls, and nights we’d stayed at work until late, eating pizza and talking about nothing and not getting any work done. I never thought there was anything sexual in it at the time, but looking back on it, I guess it was really pretty obvious what was happening. Even if I’d seen it then, though, I’d have thought it was just a harmless flirtation, not likely to go anywhere.

“Then one night, around three in the morning, he showed up at my door. He hadn’t been to my place before, although he’d called me that late, or later. He came in, trying to pretend that everything was okay and he was just dropping by for a visit, which was ridiculous, of course. I asked him what was wrong, and finally he told me—he’d just been at Scully’s. He’d made a pass at her and she’d turned him down. He was obviously pretty upset about it.”

Had the whole relationship with Alex just been an attempt to escape the pain of being rejected by Scully? There hadn’t been enough time to find out. He knew Mulder loved Scully; trusted her and needed her. Counted on her to keep him steady. But was it sexual love? Perhaps when—if—he returned home, he’d find Mulder and Scully married and the brief affair with Alex forgotten, or relegated to that place one has for disastrous mistakes made on the way to true love.

And couldn’t he go ten minutes without finding something new to worry about? Scully didn’t want Mulder; she’d made that clear. And so Mulder had come to Alex.…

“I put my arm around his shoulder and said I was sorry. And he just fell into my arms, and hung on for dear life. Well, nothing wrong with that—that was what he came for, I thought, just some comfort and sympathy before he went home. Even when I felt we were both hard, I didn’t worry about it. I figured it was just the heat of the moment, or something, we’d just enjoy a little free thrill and that would be it. Then he was pressing his thigh between my legs, and finally I figured out he wanted more than just a friendly hug. And then he kissed me.” The words were hopelessly inadequate to describe what had happened when he’d tasted Mulder’s mouth that first time. That was the moment he knew he’d crossed the line; that his definition of himself had changed—he was no longer Alex Krycek, alone, but Alex Krycek (he could admit it to himself although he wouldn’t say it to anyone else), in love with Fox Mulder. Every moment since then had been merely a vain attempt to deny that awful truth, to find a way back over that line.

“He wanted to go to bed. I tried to say no, I knew it wasn’t right. But he wouldn’t give up, and… I wanted him. He said he couldn’t be alone, and I let him talk me into it. So I took him to bed.

“He was so wound up it didn’t take much. He came on top of me, just rubbing himself off on my crotch. I was hoping he’d let it go, then. Be satisfied with that and go home and we’d pretend it never happened. But he wouldn’t stop. He… he started to blow me.” Alex laughed a small, choked laugh. “I’ve had better blow jobs. But god, he tried. And I didn’t take much either. He was so sweet… I thought I’d die. Afterwards, I pretended to be asleep. I just couldn’t face him. So he tucked me in and went home.”

Mulder had been edging closer, and was now only a few inches away from Alex. But he didn’t cross the final distance—probably afraid of freaking Alex out again—and Alex was grateful, both for the closeness and the small space left between them. Alex heaved a ragged sigh, and reminded himself that he’d promised not to let this get to him. But it was hard, and it took a couple of deep breaths before he could force himself to look Mulder in the eye and smile. “See, I told you. Not much of a stiffener.”

Mulder returned the smile, more out of sympathy than amusement. “But what happened after that?”

“Oh, the next day was pretty awful. I was pissed as hell—mostly at myself, for letting it happen—and he was worried and sorry and scared. First thing he did was ask me if I’d seen Skinner—probably thought I was going to bring him up sexual harassment charges or something. I didn’t want to talk about it but eventually he forced the issue. Pulled right off the damn freeway and insisted we had to work it out before we went any further. And he was right, I suppose—we couldn’t have gotten any work done the way things were. That’s when he told me it wasn’t just Scully, and I’d been making him crazy. I called him a fucking liar and said it wasn’t going to happen again. And things were okay then, sort of, although we were never quite as comfortable with each other after that.

“And that’s how things stayed, until we went to Montana on a case. Which was, Jesus, barely a couple of weeks ago on my timeline.… But that’s another story, and you owe me one before you get any more from me.” His grin was almost natural this time.

Mulder nodded. “In a minute, I promise. But may I ask you something first?”

So damned polite. And that was Krycek’s training, no doubt, and one very big difference between the Mulders—Alex’s own Mulder wouldn’t ask permission, he’d just ask his questions, and demand answers. Oh, he’d be nice about it. He’d make jokes and tease and his demands would be gentle. But he’d insist on having his way with Alex, and Alex would melt like chocolate in his fingers and give him whatever he wanted.…


“You said your Mulder wasn’t into the rough stuff. Did that bother you?”

And how to answer that? Their relationship had been so short, and so drenched with guilt and regret and fear—for both of them, although over different things—they had never reached a point where they could sit down calmly and talk about what they liked. But it certainly wasn’t as if he’d been lying there bored because his Mulder wasn’t whipping him. Nor could he imagine finding sex with Mulder unsatisfying, regardless of whether he ever got the punishment he wanted along with the gentleness.

“No, it didn’t bother me. Sure, I would have liked it if he was, but it didn’t really matter. The leather scene is great for casual sex and anonymous quickies, because everything’s ritualized and the rules are laid out and you don’t have to worry about figuring out what the other guy wants. But when you’re with somebody regular, somebody you’re with because of them, and not just for sex, well, then it doesn’t matter so much what you do.”

“I’ve been wanting to ask you about that.” Mulder was suddenly intent. “If the game you play is so ritualized, why does it really matter who you’re with? But you’re saying.…”

“It doesn’t,” Alex finished cheerfully. “I mean, it does, to a certain extent. You don’t want somebody gross and horrible. And some guys play the game better than others. But it’s a game thing, not an emotional thing. Hell, Mulder. There’s recreational sex, and then there’s sex with someone you care about. They’re two different things, Mulder, you know that.”

“Okay,” Mulder said, frowning. “So S/M is for casual sex, and for real sex it doesn’t matter… then why are you so intent on having your Evil Twin do you that way? I don’t think he’s what you’d call casual sex.”

“Jesus, Mulder.” Alex laughed nervously. Well, he was a Mulder wasn’t he? He wasn’t going to let you get away with generalizations and sloppy thinking, he wanted to know the truth. “Okay. Well, first of all, that’s the way he wants it, isn’t it? Does he even do vanilla? If that was what he wanted, sure, I’d go for it. But it isn’t. He’s a major top, who wouldn’t want him that way?”

He stopped and sighed. He wasn’t making much sense. Time to back up a little. “Oh, god, Mulder. You know I haven’t exactly been my usual self since I’ve been here. I’m not a hysterical, sex-crazed idiot by nature. I have a job—or I had one, up until a few days ago—and I’m good at it. I had a pretty normal life. I went to work, I read books, I went to the opera, I hung out with friends. Every couple of months, I’d pack up my leathers and head for New York for a wild weekend in the clubs and baths, but I could have lived without that if I had to. Mostly I needed it when I got scared or worried or upset.” He laughed. “You know, like I’ve been ever since I got here.”

He reached for another truffle, and watched the chocolate slowly melt on his fingers. “First thing he did was pull a gun on me and knock me out. And I wake up naked and chained to a bed, and he proceeds to shoot me up with drugs and fuck me. Not exactly a vanilla beginning. And, Christ, look at me, Mulder—I don’t have a single thing in this entire universe, except what he’s given me. I haven’t seen my wallet since he snatched me, I don’t even know if he’s got it stashed somewhere or if it’s gone the way of the clothes I had on when I got here. We can pretend he’s not holding me prisoner, but we all know how far I’d get if I tried to leave. Hell, he could kill me any time he wanted to, and nobody’d ever know the difference—I don’t even exist in this world. So he’s trying to be nice to me right now—I guess he’d rather not have me throwing screaming fits every time he turns around, it’s easier on his nerves to try to settle me down. But that could change in a minute, and we both know it—he can do any damn thing he wants with me, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.

“So I turn it into a sex thing. Well, that’s how I react to that kind of power and control. I guess it makes the rest of it more bearable, to just go into heavy submissive mode and use the situation that way. Except… he doesn’t want it that way. I think I’m finally figuring out what it is that he wants.… He doesn’t want me groveling at his feet. Or, no, he does want me groveling—but he wants me doing it because I want to, not because I feel like I have to. He wants.…” God, he was no good at explaining these kinds of things. And he barely understood it himself. But there was something about the way Krycek had taken him that morning that was beginning to seem terribly important—even though it had been wonderful and soothing and sweet to be taken that way, there was also something deeply humiliating about it—Krycek had been kind and careful with him because he’d known Alex couldn’t take anything rougher. He’d been holding back, because Alex wasn’t strong enough for what he really wanted. “He wants strength. And I don’t have any right now. I don’t know if I’ll ever have enough for what he wants.”

And now he was going way, way too far. “Never mind, Mulder, I’m just telling stories again. It’s your turn now.” He slid next to Mulder, and draped an arm around his shoulder. “Time for that Skinner fantasy.”

* * *

Mulder settled himself into Alex’s arm. Dammit, he’d promised himself that he wasn’t going to try to explain the two Kryceks to each other any more. Alex sounded like he meant what he was saying: he still believed that Krycek was likely to shoot him at any moment. It wasn’t true, but how could you explain the truth to him? Look, Alex, he’s not a complete sociopath. He’s just got the sociopath mode available, like those utility trucks that have four-wheel-drive available. He doesn’t go around killing people once he’s put them in his little mental set of real people. At least, not unless he has to. So you don’t need to worry, unless you do something incredibly stupid, or something to make him move you back into the category of not-real people, okay? No. Even if Alex believed it, he’d only start worrying about what might make Krycek stop considering him a real person. It was pointless: Alex and Krycek were were just going to have to figure out a way to talk to each other. Better to let it go, and give Alex the story he’d promised.…

He shivered. This was going to be hard. Of course he’d had fantasies about Walter Skinner. He could make a new one up, give Alex that instead of one of the real fantasies, and that would be easier. But that would also be cheating: Alex might not see it that way, but Krycek certainly would. So give Alex the truth, give him the real thing. It would be frightening to make the confession, and humiliating; and it was precisely the sort of confession that his own Krycek might require from him.

And Krycek would certainly require him to give Alex what he’d asked for; and Mulder was in no position to balk. Anything— He could hear his own voice, from barely two hours ago, soft and chastened. Do what you like, do anything. I’ll do anything. Please. It helped, to think of it that way. Take this for what it was: Krycek’s will, and Krycek’s power working on him. Alex wouldn’t want Mulder’s obedience offered to him; his feelings about his own Mulder were difficult enough for him to deal with, without the complications. He would want Mulder to tell his story in the same spirit in which they’d made the bargain: a game between buddies.

But that could be even better. Tell the thing so that Alex could see it from behind Mulder’s eyes; so that he could taste Mulder’s pleasure in it. It might not work any better than the last few attempts at explaining it to Alex, but there was a chance.

“Okay,” he told Alex. “This one—” It was still hard. He took a deep breath and tried again. “This starts off from something that really happened. So I need to tell you about that first, to set it up.”

He looked sideways at Alex, half waiting for permission. Alex was grinning, obviously enjoying his embarrassment. “Then tell me about it,” he said. “You’re dodging, Mulder.”

“I’m easily embarrassed,” Mulder told him. “Okay. I told you a little about the case in Idaho yesterday. Obviously, it was over eventually. So we all picked up our toys and went home. There was no mention of seeing each other again—not even the classic ‘I’ll call you’—and that was fine with me. Or at least I told myself it was.

“One afternoon there’s a memo telling me I’ve got a command performance on the Idaho thing scheduled for the next morning. I figured it was going to be the usual—a whole lot of anonymous guys in good suits, looking for somebody to blame for a mistake they weren’t going to identify. I still figured it that way the next day, when I was waiting outside the conference room for Scully to come out and tell me it was my turn.” He felt his lips stretch in a grin that was really more a show of teeth. “When Scully came out, she gave me this long look, like she wanted to tell me something and couldn’t. So I suppose I half knew even before I walked in there and saw him, sitting there down toward the end of the conference table with all the other nameless authorities.”

He had the memory now, in his body as well as in his mind. He could almost feel the shock of the moment, half pleasure and half terror: his mouth suddenly dry, his heart racing, the faint dizziness; all the little symptoms of the rush of adrenaline in his blood. He let his head settle back against Alex’s arm. “God, he was smooth. He looked up and nodded to me when I came in, just the right degree of public acknowledgement that he knew me, that we’d worked on this thing together, without giving anything else away.” Mulder stopped himself. That was all perfectly true; but whether it was true wasn’t the point. He was slipping, making this too easy for himself. Giving Alex facts, as though this were a briefing, without the emotion that gave the story its meaning. Krycek would not permit the evasion, if he were listening to this, and Mulder had no business allowing it to himself. He took a long breath and tried it again. Go back to the frightening parts, what it felt like.… “He was beautiful,” Mulder said. “I’d managed to forget how beautiful, in the time I’d been back—I remembered what he looked like, but not what it felt like to be in the same room with him, to actually look at him. Beautiful, and terrifying. He had this high polish, this aura: it was like being in a room with an enormous hunting cat.

“I managed to keep the surface up. I nodded back to him, and started taking questions. It was hard to talk for the first few minutes—it was like having a goddamn junior high crush, I kept thinking my voice was going to break—but then I got it under control. By the time I did, by the time I was focused on the damn questions, it was obvious that there was something going on. I was getting hit with all these things that made no sense at all, I couldn’t tell what the point was. And the whole room tensed a little more with every one I answered. I couldn’t figure it out, but I could feel Skinner at the head of the table, getting ready to go way out on a limb to put a stop to it. Whatever the hell it was.

“Then, finally, Krycek spoke up. He asked me a question—it doesn’t matter what it was, it would take all night to explain—but it made a point that these people obviously hadn’t considered. I answered it, and he asked one followup question; and by the time I’d answered the second one whatever the hell had been going on in there was over. But I knew, at the same time I was answering him, that that wasn’t why he’d asked me the question. Or it wasn’t the only reason.” Mulder paused, smiling at the memory.

Alex stirred beside him. “Which was… ?”

Mulder chuckled. “You know the protocol for those things,” he said. “You stand there at the head of the table like a schoolboy, all formal and polite and correct, while they all lounge back in those chairs and look as if they’re considering whether to send you to Siberia to work in a reeducation camp.… He called me ‘Mr. Mulder’ when he asked his question. And he knew perfectly well that when I answered, I was going to have to stand up there and call him ‘sir.’ In front of them all.” He called up the memory: he could see Krycek sitting at the long table, watching Mulder with the barest hint of a smile on his face, could feel the little frisson as he realized: Krycek had created this moment deliberately. “His pleasure, and our private little joke. It’s still the only time I’ve ever called him ‘sir.’ It was good, I liked it. I hope he’ll let me have that again some day.”

He was drifting off the point again. Too damn easy, to talk about Krycek. “Skinner saw some of what was happening,” he told Alex. “He was angry, I could see that. I knew what he had to think—as far as he knew there was still a feud, and Krycek was just taking the opportunity to needle me in public. But what had happened was too subtle for him to call Krycek on it, even if he’d thought it was worth it, so as far as I knew he just let it go.” Mulder stopped and stretched, shifting against Alex’s side. Alex’s hand tightened a little on his shoulder.

“That’s all the background,” Mulder said. “You with me so far?”

Alex nodded.

“Okay. The next part’s the fantasy.”

* * *

“It’s maybe an hour after I’ve been excused from the damn meeting. I’m on my way up to Records, and I use it as an excuse to kind of wander by Skinner’s office. I don’t know what I’m looking for, exactly: Cancerman, men in black going through his desk, something. And when I get to the hall outside his office, I can hear him talking to somebody all right. He doesn’t sound happy, either.

“I slow down, try to pick up some of what he’s saying. The hall’s clear, but I still don’t want to be too obvious about what I’m doing. There’s a spot just outside the door where the acoustics are good enough for me to hear. And it’s clear right off that the guy he’s talking to is Krycek, and this is about me.

“At this point, I’m afraid to move, like if I take a deep breath they’re going to notice me. Skinner’s chewing Krycek out, very quietly and calmly: whatever interagency arrangements have been made, he’s not going to tolerate Krycek coming in here and abusing his agents. It’s harder to hear Krycek’s answer—his voice has gone very quiet, like he’s being careful about how far he’s projecting. But I can get enough of it to follow what’s going on. He’s very reasonable, not at all hostile: he agrees that it would be inappropriate of him to harass Skinner’s agents; but, he tells Skinner, that wasn’t what was going on. Skinner doesn’t sound exactly convinced, though.… And then suddenly I can hear Krycek’s voice very clearly. He’s moved toward the door, without making a sound, you know the way he does; and now he’s saying, ‘But fortunately, Agent Mulder is right here. Why don’t we ask him?’

“Now I’m completely trapped. Krycek is standing to one side and ushering me into the inner office—almost herding me, really. It’s the closest I’ve been to him since Idaho; I feel like I’m blushing, and I don’t know whether it’s from being caught listening or just from having him there. Now all three of us are in Skinner’s office, and Krycek closes the door behind us and grins at me, and says, ‘It’s lucky you came by, we need you to answer a question. Mulder: do you feel I was harassing you in that dog-and-pony show this morning?’

“As a matter of fact, I don’t. I know he was playing games in there, and some of those games were directed at me, but I’d been more or less playing back. It hadn’t been what it looked like to Skinner. So I look at both of them, and then I tell Skinner, ‘No. It wasn’t out of line.’

“My voice sounds all right to me as I say it. But the instant it’s out of my mouth, I know something’s happened. The way Skinner’s looking at me has changed, just enough so I can tell something’s off. My reactions are all too slow: it takes me too long to turn and look at Krycek, too long for me not to have given some of it away right there. And when I do look at him, his smile has changed, too, and he’s holding his body just a little differently. And then I know for certain: I’ve blown it. The only question is whether Skinner’s going to acknowledge what he’s just found out.

“Not that it’s a question I have a lot of time to worry about. Because Krycek’s already making the situation worse. He’s got the situation sized up, all right: he’s wearing one of his completely open, confiding expressions, and he’s focused completely on Skinner. And he says to him, ‘All right, this is probably fortunate. I wouldn’t want for it to go any further, but it’s information that you should have.’

“I can’t tell what Skinner thinks. He’s nodding a little, he obviously agrees that it’s something he ought to know about, but that doesn’t mean he’s happy with the situation. Or that he isn’t. There doesn’t seem to be anything more to say about it. Only I’m wrong about that: Krycek’s talking again. He’s almost running his game on Skinner—there’s that subtext in his voice, the one that says, I respect you, everybody else is a moron but I can tell you’re different, we’re in this together. He says, ‘As long as we’re putting things on the table here—’ Now he does look at me, for just a second; but it’s long enough for me to feel it, as though he’s reached over and touched my face. I can’t quite stop the shiver, I know they can see it. And Krycek nods to himself and goes right on, ‘I know how unlikely it is that you would find him at all to your taste. But in case I’m wrong. He is completely at your disposal, if you ever find you want him. —It’s a real issue, actually. I’m in New York; I can’t give him all the attention he needs.’

“He’s smiling now. I can see something in that smile, too: I don’t know where he’s getting his information from, but that business about not thinking Skinner would want me is a lie. A polite social fiction. He thinks there’s a decent chance Skinner’s going to go for it.”

Mulder paused. “You have to understand,” he said carefully, “I didn’t say no to him. I was afraid to. After that first night, I spent a lot of time worrying it over; and I made a decision. That this was something I wanted, that I didn’t want it to stop. I didn’t know where I stood with him; I didn’t know whether he’d just give me that smile and walk out the first time I refused him anything. There were times when I thought it could be fun to say no, put up a fight, see just how long it took him to knock the rebellion out of me, and how he’d go about doing it. But he’s not a rapist. I couldn’t rely on him knowing that when I said no, I meant yes.”

He stopped again, and the silence stretched. “So I didn’t say no,” Mulder said at last. “And I don’t say it now, even with him handing me over to my boss like a box of chocolates, or like a book he’s not going to have time to read this week. I’m blowing what’s maybe my only chance to get out of this situation, and on some level I know that. But I still don’t say anything. Partly I’m too stunned; partly I’m scared. But mostly, it just feels so damned good, to be possessed like this. To be owned so completely that he can do this to me. My body isn’t waiting for me to figure it out, anyway. I’m already hard, my skin’s so sensitive that all my clothes hurt. I’m afraid to even look at Skinner.

“I don’t know whether either of them has noticed my reaction. Krycek’s way too smart to have slowed down and given Skinner a chance to think about what’s happening, or even a chance to say anything. He’s looking at his watch before he even finishes making the offer, and then he’s telling us that he’s late for a meeting across town, if the Guys In Suits get out of hand again Skinner knows how to get in touch with him; and then he’s out the door. And I’m standing there in Skinner’s office, and I still haven’t managed to say a word, and Skinner’s looking at me. It’s just like a dozen other times in that office. It doesn’t even seem possible that the last five minutes have happened. They shouldn’t have happened, anyway. That’s all I can think of to hang on to: it shouldn’t have happened, we can say it didn’t. So I nod to Skinner and turn toward the door myself, just like nothing’s happened, nothing at all.

“He stops me before I get two steps, of course. ‘Agent Mulder,’ he says. His voice is flat, not giving anything away. The way it always is, whether he’s getting ready to chew me out about something or getting ready to put his career on the line backing us up on something. So I turn around and come back to stand in front of his desk.

“He’s been looking down at the papers on his desk, but now he raises his head and looks me in the eye. He holds the look for what feels like too long. Then he says, ‘First. I want you to know that this information is not going to go any further.’

“So he’s going to handle this as a professional issue. ‘Thank you, sir,’ I say. ‘I appreciate that.’ And I do, but at the same time, I realize I’m disappointed. More than disappointed: I am now, to repeat a phrase, well and truly fucked. Because up to now, I’ve been able to tell myself that Krycek’s a unique phenomenon, that wanting him doesn’t mean I have to reevaluate my own sexual orientation. I can’t tell myself that any more, though, because I want Skinner. Worse than that. I want Skinner’s cock. I want to feel myself stretched around it, want to feel it, taste it. Maybe I want it because of Krycek’s offer, but that’s not enough to let me duck the issue.

“But Skinner’s still giving me that look. And now he says, ‘And I want you to know that there’s no need for you to worry about the consequences of Krycek’s offer.’

“I’ve been meeting his eyes all this time. I nod just a little. ‘I wasn’t worried, sir,’ I tell him. The words are neutral enough, but as I hear it come out I know that it’s clear enough what I mean. His eyes open a little wider, and his back stiffens—he’s heard what I’m really saying, too.

“ ‘Agent Mulder,’ he says. ‘There’s no need—’

“ ‘I know there’s no need,’ I tell him. ‘I want to.’ Then I lose my nerve a little. It’s like I’ve stepped back, I’m looking at this as though I were seeing it on surveillance tape or something; and I realize what I must sound like. It’s not a picture I’m proud of; but at the same time that’s exciting, too. ‘That is,’ I say, ‘If I don’t disgust you.’ I’m really talking to myself, not just to him.

“He gets up from the desk then, and comes around to where I’m standing. He takes the long way around, and I realize a moment after he’s done it that he’s locked the office door. Then he’s standing next to me, and saying, very quietly, ‘No, Agent Mulder. You don’t disgust me.’ I turn toward him just a little, but it’s enough: he takes me in his arms and kisses me.

“He’s tall, you know that. Taller than I am: tall enough to bend my head back to kiss me, tall enough that my body’s arced backward into his. I feel small, and fragile. It’s a possessive kiss, but not like Krycek’s: this is less deliberate, rougher and more urgent. He takes his time, but it still hasn’t lasted long enough to suit me when he pulls away and tells me to undress.

“I do it, of course. He stands back a few feet and watches me, half-smiling, not giving much away. He’s taken off his jacket, and now he unbuckles his belt, unzips and takes his cock out. I can’t tell whether he’s ever planning to take the rest of his clothes off—it sure doesn’t look like it. But it was his cock I wanted, after all, and there it is.

“He chuckles, and I realize that I’ve been standing there staring at it and licking my lips. But I also realize—well, there’s a way I’m in luck here. The thing about all those adult videos—you see enough dicks in them, enough really unnatural, gigantic mutant dicks, that when you meet up with real ones: well, they may be big enough to impress you, but they’re not going to be big enough to scare you. Skinner’s is, ah, impressive. Matches his shoulders. But it doesn’t scare me, just makes me hungry for it.

“I’d sort of half hoped to use my mouth to get things rolling, get down on my knees and taste it and feel it grow in between my lips; but that’s not going to be necessary. I’m standing there, waiting for the next move—and his damn intercom buzzes.

“He turns and hits the button on it, perfectly businesslike. It’s his secretary, asking him if she can put this call through. I can tell listening to this that it’s important, there’s no way he can get out of taking this. He sits back down at his desk, completely unflustered, and takes the call. And two minutes into that, I can see that this is a complex problem, he’s going to have to deal with it, and it’s going to take longer than just this one phone call. All of a sudden this has turned into a bad sitcom. I figure I’d better just get dressed and slip out of there, leave him to it. So I catch his eye and make the relevant gestures; but instead of nodding he shakes his head, pretty emphatically, and gestures for me to stay.

“So there I am, standing naked with a hard-on in the assistant director’s office while he moves from one conference call to another. He’s perfectly cool, like I’m not even there. But every so often I catch him looking at me. And I finally figure out, this is at least partly a tease. So I decide maybe I can tease back a little. I move away from the desk, over to the couch by the wall, so he’ll be able to see me, so the desk won’t be in the way. I sprawl out on the couch. I can feel him watching me now, so I spread my legs just a little, let him see some inner thigh. And he reacts, all right. He doesn’t really do anything; but now he’s more than watching me: I can feel the attention. But he still doesn’t put the goddamned phone down. I’m pretty sure that this isn’t something that really can’t wait any more—he’s just running a game on me now. So I give it a few minutes, and then I take my cock in one hand and start working it for him. Nothing heavy: I’m not going anywhere with this, just keeping it nice and hard for him.…

“That finally gets him, thank god. He drags it out another couple of minutes, but then he’s getting off the phone, telling his secretary he doesn’t want to be interrupted unless there’s an emergency. He comes out from behind his desk, and now he’s slipping off his belt as he walks across the office to me, winding it around his right hand. He looks down at me and says, ‘Do you think your behavior is appropriate, Agent Mulder?’

“ ‘No, sir,’ I tell him. It’s hard not to smile at him—I’m excited, pleased he’s letting me have this.

“ ‘I don’t either,’ he tells me. ‘Step over here.’ He’s walking me over to the conference table, bending me over it. I know what’s coming. I rest my cheek against the table, brace myself on it. He doesn’t have to tell me to spread my legs, I know enough to do it. He’s somewhere behind me, I can’t see what he’s doing; but I don’t have long to wait before I feel the belt come down across my ass.

“It’s great. Everything about it is great. He’s only using the last six or eight inches of the belt, not hitting me hard. It’s just enough to sting and tease, redden my ass a little and make me even hotter than I was. Even the sound, the crack of it coming down, is perfect, the sound the whip makes in my dreams. I spread my legs a little wider, and try not to wiggle too much under it.

“Krycek would be talking to me, making sure I was right there with him: by itself, this wouldn’t be intimate enough for him. Skinner doesn’t talk. But there’s still a kind of intimacy there. And this way there’s room for my mind to drift a little, to think about Krycek as well as Skinner. It’s like having both of them with me, enjoying me, at the same time: everything Skinner’s doing is Skinner, but what he does to me is also what Krycek’s doing to me, because all this is happening under his command. It’s not just an intellectual thing, it’s like I can feel both of them, every time the belt comes down.

“It feels like this could go on forever. The pleasure is perfectly balanced, sharp little points of sensation that don’t seem to push me further toward orgasm. But I’m more than ready when I finally feel his fingers exploring my ass, then lubricating me. I don’t need much preparation by then, and he doesn’t make me wait: he holds me steady and gives me his cock where I need it the most.

“I’m moaning at the friction, and at the feeling of his body against my swollen ass. He gives me a few gentle strokes, and then he pulls me up, so that my back nestles into his chest, so that he can use his hands along the front of my body. It’s good; but it’s hard to stay on my feet. He can feel that, too: he moves us down, carefully, so that we’re kneeling on the carpet. I stay impaled on his cock the whole way down; and then I’ve got some stability. I feel the carpet against my knees and shins, and I lean back into him. I feel his hands running along my thighs, his teeth on my shoulder. And then he settles in and starts to fuck me.

“He’s rough with me. Rougher than Krycek. He pinches my nipples, my belly, the insides of my thighs. Hard pinches: I know I’m going to have bruises later. He tugs on my balls, even gives them a few light slaps. It hurts, but it’s good, too: I’m too deeply aroused for it to completely register as pain. Besides, I like it that it hurts, I like what the pain means: that I belong to him and to Krycek; that he’s entitled to take what he wants from me. Everywhere he touches me, it’s like a little jolt of sensation straight through my cock. I can’t hold still on his cock, I’m gasping and writhing around on it—but that seems to be okay with him. He doesn’t try to stop me, just goes on doing the things that make me moan and wriggle. Then he eases off, and I settle down a little. He waits for it. Then, when I’m still, he holds me in place and gives me a set of fast hard thrusts. I can feel myself trying to move with him—and then he lets me go again, changes the pace, goes back to teasing and playing with my nipples and balls. He goes on like that, alternating between the two: letting me settle down, then taking over the motion and giving me a series of those long hard strokes—maybe just one or two, for a tease, one time; and then the next time enough to have me on the brink before he eases up. I want to come that way, with him fucking me hard in the ass, without even a touch on my cock. I want him to work my balls and nipples so that it hurts now and I’m still feeling it tomorrow; I want to feel his teeth on my shoulders; I want the fucking to last forever. And I suddenly realize that I’m talking to him, saying every word of this out loud: telling him how much I love the way he’s fucking me, how I never want it to stop, how I want it so hard he hurts me.

“I don’t know whether he’s listening. But he gives me what I want. I feel myself starting to come, and having my body convulsing around him finishes him, too. I sag back into him; he lets me stay there for a few minutes, wraps his arms across my chest and lets me lie back and not worry, not think. Then he kisses my shoulder, very gentle, and disentangles himself, helps me stand up. I still have my back to his chest, I can’t see him. We don’t have to ask each other whether we’re all right: I can tell he’s okay about this from the way he’s helped me up, that combination of strength and gentleness in his touch. I bend my head and kiss his forearm, to let him know I’m all right too; and he pulls away from me. I hear him zipping up his pants; and I shake myself and look around for my clothes. When I finally look over to him, he’s perfectly formal again, a veritable J. Edgar Hoover poster.

“So I smile just a little, and put on my clothes, while he tells his secretary that he’s ready to start taking calls again. And finally he ushers me out of the office, just like any other time; and as we’re standing there in the doorway, he tells me, ‘We’re not finished with this, Agent Mulder.’ Just like every other damn unpleasant meeting I’ve ever had with him. It’s perfect.

“So I try to make myself look as sullen as I always do coming out of there, and I say, ‘I didn’t imagine we were. Sir.’ And off I go, trying to remember just what the hell I was doing before all this happened.”

Mulder shook himself and settled back against the side of the jacuzzi. “And that’s the end,” he told Alex. He reached around for the champagne; his mouth and throat were dry from talking.

* * *

Alex leaned back, sighing. Now, that had been a beautiful fantasy—elegant, stylish, and so real he could easily believe it had really happened. Richly detailed and sensual. If you ever quit the Bureau, Mulder, you could make a living writing gay porn.… But he didn’t think that was quite what Mulder wanted to hear. I’m jealous. Your fantasies are better than mine. He almost giggled at that.

Mulder was sipping nervously at his champagne, obviously still embarrassed. So stop being silly, and tell the man what a fine fantasy he’d spun.

“Wow, Mulder, that was really nice. Thank you.”

Mulder smiled. Relief was evident on his face. And even more embarrassment. “I’m sure yours are much better.”

Alex shook his head. “No, that was really special. You practically wrote yourself a damn movie. I bet you worked really hard on that one.” Which just embarrassed Mulder further. “No, I mean, it showed a lot of imagination. No wonder he—” Alex stopped abruptly. Damn it, he was babbling again. Damn champagne. And a growing case of terminal horniness wasn’t helping either. But Mulder still looked like he’d been run over by a truck, and Krycek was dead asleep. But another fantasy like that, and he’d be putting on a one-man show for Mulder.…

“No wonder he what?” Mulder seemed to be enjoying Alex’s flustered state.

So what the hell, let him enjoy it. He’d earned it. “No wonder he’s crazy about you.” And why he even wants to bother with me when he’s got you here, I have no idea.…

Mulder’s beautiful eyes widened, and his smile deepened with pleasure. “Thanks. But I’m willing to bet you’ve got some really good Skinner fantasies yourself.”

“Nah. Mine are nothing special.” Skinner, sitting at his desk, looking up at him sternly, fingers steepled together, drawing out the long silence until Alex’s knees began to weaken. Your behavior is unacceptable, Agent Krycek. —Yes, Sir. Trying to keep his voice even. Knowing what was coming next. Skinner standing, slowly, unbuckling his belt. You know the drill, Agent Krycek. —Yes, Sir. Lowering his trousers as he walked over to the conference table, assuming the position.… He felt himself redden. “Just your classic schoolboy discipline scenario. You know, called on the carpet and bent over that conference table.” He giggled. “That conference table sure gets some heavy fantasy use, doesn’t it? And Skinner’s belt. I wonder if he knows how many imaginary faceprints are on that table? How many daydream butts have felt his belt come down?”

Mulder seemed to be relaxing, finally, his embarrassment softened by Alex’s own. “Do you think there are a lot? Besides ours, I mean.”

“Sure.” Alex pulled his arm free—his shoulder was getting sore again—rubbing his wet body against Mulder’s like an affectionate cat to soften the retreat. So, if Krycek was a powerful hunting cat, Alex was a back-alley stray nobody wanted.… “Pendrell in forensics, for sure.” —A timid, bookish agent with a penchant for puns.

Mulder laughed. “Overton in fingerprints.” A thin, blustery man with a chip on his shoulder.

“Dietrich in bank fraud.” Recently divorced, spent far too much time polishing his gun.

Mulder’s smile faded slightly. “We don’t have a Dietrich in bank fraud.”

“Oh.” And why that should upset him so much, Alex didn’t know. Different universes, of course some of the personnel would be different. Dietrich was in a different division here, or another field office, or maybe he’d never become an FBI agent at all. No big deal.

But it was just so damn easy to forget. Every damn time he got relaxed and comfortable—and then something would come along to remind him. Not his world. Not his FBI. And not his Mulder.

Mulder gave his arm a friendly rub. “Maybe I’ll ask for one of your Skinner fantasies for my next turn.”

Alex tried to smile, but he felt his face grow tight. He couldn’t quite look at Mulder. “Sure, Mulder. If you want to waste your turn on it.”

“Well, I know what I’d really like to hear about, but.…”

“You want the Montana story.” Of course. Mulder was fascinated by Alex and his Mulder, just as Alex was fascinated by Krycek and this Mulder. Two different universes, two different Kryceks and Mulders. Yet somehow, against all the odds, two pairs of lovers. A perfect fit of their sexual pathologies, Mulder had said. Not at all the way it was for him and his Mulder. Still, they’d wound up in bed together, and it had been perfect in its own way, despite the lies and guilt and misconceptions and pain.

Mulder was watching him intently. “I would like that story. But only if it’s not too hard for you to talk about. I don’t want you to tell me if it’s going to upset you.”

Alex stared back. “If I were you, and you were him, he’d make you tell it, wouldn’t he?” His giggle sounded a little choked, even to himself. “That didn’t make much sense, did it?”

“No, you’re right. If I had something hurting me the way this is hurting you, he’d make sure I told him all about it. Or, actually, I wouldn’t have to tell him. We’d talk around it, and he’d be observing me carefully—the tone of my voice, little tell-tale reactions in my body, the things I didn’t say—until he’d figured it all out. Then he’d tell it to me, in exquisite, shattering detail.”

There was a relish, a gleam in his eye, as he calmly related how Krycek would root out and expose all his most terrible secrets, that made Alex shiver. How could he bear it? To be stripped of all his defenses like that, his secret pain used and offered up for Krycek’s pleasure? Not only to bear it, but to invite it, to revel in it?

“Mulder, why do you like that?” The words were too rushed, too intense. He hadn’t wanted it to seem that important.

But Mulder recognized the need in his question, and settled down to give him a serious answer. A slight frown creased his brow, and his lips pursed, as he considered it.

Not a flippant answer to avoid having to think about it. Not a surface explanation, tossing out the least he thought he could get away with. Not a frantic rush to escape the cause of his pain, as Alex would do. Nor Alex’s Mulder, either, who’d clung to the convenient fiction that Alex was an inexperienced child, despite all evidence to the contrary. Where did this honesty, this brutal self-examination in this Mulder come from? Was it Krycek’s doing, the result of those painfully intimate sessions, teaching him to face unflinchingly the dark places in his mind?

If so, here was part of his answer already—the lessons he learned from Krycek were helping him to deal with the pain life had dealt him.

* * *

“I’ve thought about this a lot. I don’t know if I have the answer, but I do have theories.” Mulder settled in, shoulder pressing against Alex’s, his champagne glass in his hand. “First of all, of course, there’s the pleasure of knowing that he controls me so completely that there’s no part of me I can deny him. And that he knows me so well I couldn’t hide anything from him if I wanted to. Sometimes, I can’t help but try, and he catches me at it every time. So there’s no need to worry about ‘Should I tell him this? Or that? What would he think if he knew… ?’ Because I know he’ll have it all, if he wants it. I can just put myself into his hands, and he’ll guide me through it, until I’m where he wants me.

“And that’s part of it, too—the confession. I know there’s a terrible irony to casting him in the role of the father-confessor, but that’s how it feels. I tell him my sins, and he… absolves me of them. Or perhaps it’s more like the role of psychiatrist to patient—I reveal my secrets to him, and he shows me how to deal with them. He shows me my pain, makes me understand it, turns it into something we use for our pleasure, and then it loses its power to hurt me.”

A hand touched Alex’s chin. Alex nearly jumped; then forcefully held himself still as Mulder lifted his face to look at him. “Is any of this making any sense?”

Alex had to hold his breath a moment to stop the tears coming to his eyes. “Yeah. Sure.” His voice was ragged and barely audible. He pulled his face away to stare into the water. He’ll have it all, if he wants it. That first time with Krycek, after he’d awakened from drugged sleep: You’re in love with Mulder, aren’t you?… Don’t lie to me, Alex. It’s stupid and it’s counterproductive. —I don’t have to tell him. He’ll figure it all out, and then he’ll tell me.— You couldn’t even convince him that you weren’t going to break like a piece of glass, let alone convince him to be a little rough with you.…

Yes, Krycek would have it all. Alex had no more ability than Mulder to deny him. But the pain didn’t lose its power, it just got stronger, and sharper, and deeper, until it threatened to destroy him. Krycek couldn’t make it go away, not with his cold, cruel words and his implacable insistence on the truth. Only with his hands; his fists and his cock, his whips and straps and plugs. Beat him and fuck him until his mind slipped away, into the warm dark of the Forever Place, where pain didn’t exist and he could find a little peace.

“Aren’t you ever afraid of it?”

“Of course I’m afraid. Every time.” Mulder’s voice had a puzzled note. “I’m terrified. That’s part of the pain, and part of what makes it so good.”

“No.” Alex shook his head helplessly. “I don’t mean that. Not afraid of telling him, afraid… it won’t work. Afraid he won’t be able to… absolve you, and the pain will still be there.”

Mulder’s hands slipped onto Alex’s shoulders. “No, it’s not like that for us. He’s never failed me. I know that’s not how it was for you, but it works for us. I trust him.”

“I want to. I try, but it doesn’t work.”

“Alex, you don’t have to like the same things I like. He won’t make you do anything you don’t want to do. Not deliberately, anyway.”

“But, Mulder.” Alex’s fists clenched in frustration. He should stop now. Why was he telling Mulder all this? Because he was too afraid to tell Krycek. “I still have to trust him. Because he does have that power over me, and he’ll have it whether I trust him or not, and it’s just too unbearable for him to have it and not to trust him. I have to be able to take whatever he wants to do to me. I have to, Mulder.”

Mulder found the sore spot in Alex’s right shoulder and began to knead it with his thumbs. It was painful, and intimate, and good, and the feeling streaked through Alex’s whole body, down his spine and into his groin. There was a sudden release of tension, and with it the barrier against his tears, and they began to stream down his cheeks. He kept his head down, hoping Mulder wouldn’t notice, and relaxed into the massage. “Unh. Thanks, Mulder.” He spoke in the barest whisper. He doubted Mulder could even hear him, but he couldn’t find his voice for anything more.

“You need to talk to him,” Mulder said softly into his ear.

And Mulder was right, of course. He could go on about this all day, and it wouldn’t do the least bit of good unless he told it to Krycek. And he was still too damned scared of the man, although less so after this morning—Krycek had bought him a leather jacket. And then fucked him in it, bent over the couch with his hands tied behind his back, like a proper little slave. God, that had been good—and all for Alex. Thank Krycek for that, anyway, tell him how good it had been, and then—well, he’d see what happened after that.

And now, he owed Mulder another story.

* * *

“Okay. Montana.” He took a deep breath and settled back against Mulder’s chest.

Mulder shifted around a little, and slid his arms around Alex’s waist. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah. It’s time I told somebody.” And be honest about it, like Mulder had been with his Skinner fantasy. Tell it all, and don’t gloss over how it felt. And maybe, by the time Krycek got around to demanding it, it wouldn’t be quite so painful.

“Okay, I told you about the first time. And after that, things were a little strained, but still okay. We worked a couple more cases, nothing special. We were still good working together—that wasn’t a problem. I was learning a lot from him, and he—I think he was beginning to count on me, to think of me as more than a pain-in-the-butt junior agent. I was trying real hard to forget about the fact that I was turning in reports on him to his enemies. I’d changed sides after we slept together, but nobody knew that but me. I thought about it and thought about it, but I just couldn’t think of anything better to do. I knew he’d hate me if I told him the truth. At the very least, he’d refuse to work with me any longer. I’d get reassigned and my boss would be pissed and they’d just put somebody else in on Mulder anyway. If I tried to quit, same thing. They’d pull me off Mulder and he’d find out and I’d lose him and for what? At least, if I stayed with him, I could try to help him. I’d know if they were planning anything—at least, I thought I would—and I could try to protect him. So I went on with it. But I was determined not to sleep with him any more. I knew that was wrong. And for a month or so, that was how it went.

“Then Mulder got called in on this serial murder case. Guy out in Montana called the Kafka Killer—did you have him here?”

“No.” Mulder’s voice was soft and friendly in his ear. “Not yet, anyway. What was his signature?”

Alex took a deep breath. This was hard, too. He’d never worked a serial case before, and never wanted to again, for all that Mulder’d kept telling him he’d be good at it. “He’d take these women and cut them up, slowly, with hundreds—thousands—of cuts all over their bodies. He’d tie them naked to this rack he’d built and slice them into hamburger. They’d die maybe eight hours into it, from blood loss and shock.” His stomach began to ache. The photographs of the victims swam in front of his eyes.

He cleared his throat and gave himself a little shake. “Mulder didn’t want me to go with him. I was too green, I hadn’t had the Behavioral Sciences training, he figured I’d just get freaked and I wouldn’t be any help anyway. And he was absolutely right. But I wanted to go, and Skinner wanted me to go, and my other boss wanted me to go, so I went. We arrived in Montana in the early afternoon, and spent the rest of the day with the Bozeman chief of detectives, looking at case reports and crime scene photos and talking to the local cops. And I felt so useless. I didn’t know what questions to ask, I didn’t know what to look for. I didn’t even want to hear about the killings, much less try to figure out who the guy was who was doing them.

“It just tore me up inside, Mulder. Just looking at the photograph of the latest victim—not the crime photo, the picture of her as she was, before. She was a Native American woman. She reminded me of that woman, Marilyn, on Northern Exposure. She seemed gentle, and good-natured. Somebody who’d never had a bad thought in her life. She was a schoolteacher. Her students loved her. And she was just out there, living her life, not hurting anybody, and she ends up on some goddamn meat rack being carved up by a psycho, just because she walked her dog in the wrong place at the wrong time.…” And then he was sobbing too hard to talk any more.

Mulder’s arms tightened around him. “It’s all right, Alex. You don’t have to tell me.”

Alex wiped roughly at his face and swallowed his sobs. “I’m all right. I can do it.” Jesus, he hadn’t even made it to the sex. It had just all happened so fast. Horrors piled on top of horrors, and never time to deal with one before the next one happened. He’d damn near forgotten about the Kafka Killer, with everything else that had happened. But it was all fresh in his mind when he called it up.

“Anyway,” he continued, “We had dinner at this local steakhouse, only I was too sick to eat, and then we went back to our hotel. It was already late, so I just took off my shoes and lay down to read a little bit, to try to relax before I went to bed.” He laughed shortly. “I’d bought The Silence of the Lambs at the airport newsstand in D.C. Not exactly the best choice.

“Our rooms had a connecting door, and pretty soon Mulder was knocking on it. He had the case files, said he wanted to go over some things. I didn’t really want to look at it any more, but I let him in anyway. I was determined to handle it, to be whatever help to him I could. So we talked a little about the case. He had all the autopsy reports. That’s when he springs on me this little gem—all the victims were menstruating at the time of their deaths.”

He had to stop again, but tried to cover it with a sip of champagne and another piece of chocolate. And damn, couldn’t chocolate like this make just about any situation better? Mulder stroked his chest and waited. Alex guided Mulder’s hand to his nipple, and left it caressing the round nub while he went on with his story. “I really freaked at that. I mean, I know it’s a perfectly normal biological function and all, but it’s just not something I want to have to know a whole lot about. And it was just too gruesome to think about some serial killer guy, out there hunting down bleeding women, to make them bleed more.

“Mulder was trying to calm me down. And one thing he said was something about, hadn’t I had girlfriends? Because whenever you’re with a woman for more than three weeks, it’s something you have to deal with. And I didn’t know what to say. Because, yeah, I’ve had sex with women before, I’m not a total virgin, but I haven’t really had a regular girlfriend since high school.” He grinned over his shoulder at Mulder. “And I was a perfect gentleman in high school. The parents all loved me, I never groped their daughters. They didn’t know what I was doing with their sons.

“Anyway, so I’m just sitting there, and Mulder suddenly gets it. I’m not some scared little straight boy having a homosexual panic over getting laid by my partner. So he goes for it again. But all gentle and sweet and undemanding. ‘I want you. I don’t think it has to be a bad thing,’ he says. ‘You tell me, Alex. Stay or go.’

“I told him to stay. I shouldn’t have, I know that. I knew it then. But it had just been such a goddamn awful day. I felt like total, useless nothing. I just wanted him to fuck me. And he did. But slow and gentle.…” Like you were the most precious thing in the entire world.…

Pain stabbed through him. And he was skipping parts of it, he’d better back up. “First we just lay together on the bed with our clothes on, kissing and holding each other, like a couple of high school kids.” He managed to smile at that—god, Mulder was so sweet. “Then he put his fingers between my legs and said, ‘I want to be inside you. Will you let me?’ ” He felt this Mulder’s hands tighten on him. Yes, that was one of the things you did, he thought. “I asked if he had any condoms, and he pulled one out of his coat pocket.” He giggled. “Damn fool came prepared. He had the lube, too. He knew what he wanted, all right. Guess it was better than getting to that point and having to make a quick dash for a drugstore. But I felt like… I don’t know, like I was being swept up by the tide of the inevitable. I’d become one of Fox Mulder’s obsessions, and I might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

He was starting to get silly about it, which meant his mind was refusing to deal with it any more. And he hadn’t even finished the first night. “I’m sorry, Mulder. Anyway, so I let him strip me. He was so sweet about it all, like he was being terribly forward to presume to want to put his cock in me. He even asked whether I wanted it front or back. It was obvious enough that he wanted me from behind, and anyway, that’s how I like it, so I rolled over onto my stomach.

“He was still being so gentle I could barely stand it. It was clear he still thought I was some sort of inexperienced innocent, or at least he wanted to think so, because he was being all gentle and firm and guiding me along.…” He drew a deep breath, and hesitated for a moment. Should he tell Mulder… ? But of course he should. Tell him everything, he’d decided. Especially the hard parts, the embarrassing parts. Especially how Mulder made him feel.

“Mulder, I know I told you my Mulder wasn’t into the rough stuff. And it’s true, there weren’t any whips and chains, no classic S/M moves. But there was a definite dom/sub thing going on with us. He really liked being in control, running the show. He definitely wanted his cock up my ass, and he wanted me just lying there under him, letting him fuck me. He liked playing the older, wiser, more experienced partner—whether it was true or not—and he really wanted to think of me as a scared little virgin he had to coddle along. I’m not sure how much of it he knew was game, how much he’d managed to convince himself was real, but I know he was really getting off on it.

“And I loved it. It made me crazy. It made me melt into a little puddle of mush. I love being controlled like that—gentle and sweet—it makes me feel taken care of and protected. I love the rough stuff, too, but I love it best when I can get both together. You know—” He turned around and draped his arms around Mulder’s shoulders, smiled a sweet and knowing smile, then murmured into his ear, “ ‘Be good now, and lie still, while I give you your spanking. Don’t be afraid, you know it’s for your own good.’ ” Then he released the red-faced Mulder with a giggle, and leaned into him again.

He sighed. He just couldn’t help it, the defenses were too strong and too ingrained to keep down for long. Krycek could knock them down if he wanted, but Mulder wouldn’t even try. So just finish the first night, and then let it go. “Okay, so Mulder’s got me on my stomach on the bed, and he’s rubbing my back and kissing my neck and getting me ready. And I’m loving it—but I’m also hating myself because I know it’s wrong. He’d be so angry if he knew. He’d never forgive me.” And now he does know, doesn’t he? And he won’t ever forgive.… “And he fucked me. And I lay there and cried while he did it. He kissed the tears off my cheeks, and came before he’d barely got started. He asked me if I wanted to fuck him, but I couldn’t do it. It just seemed like that much more of a betrayal, and I could at least avoid doing that to him. He didn’t really want it, anyway, he was just asking to be polite. Then… he pulled me onto my side, and curled up behind me, and took my cock in his hand, and slid his thumb into me, and finished me. It was so good, Mulder, and I don’t even know why, but being thumb-fucked by him felt so damned good.…”

He sat up, abruptly, and turned to look at Mulder. “Don’t ever do that to me, okay, Mulder? I think I’d die.”

Mulder nodded solemnly.

“So then he wanted to spend the night. I was afraid someone would see us together, but he went and messed up his bed, and put the Do Not Disturb signs on the doors, and put in a wakeup call for six A.M., so I let him sleep with me in my bed. And he slept like a log, while I lay there the whole night, so damn worried about Fox Mulder and my damned other job, I forgot all about the godawful case.”

* * *

Alex reached for his champagne and downed the entire nearly-full glass in one gulp. “I’m sorry, Mulder, I have to stop now. I’ll tell you the rest of it later. I just can’t do it any more.”

Mulder slid his arms around Alex’s waist and gave him a solid hug. “It’s okay. You didn’t have to tell me any of it. But thank you for telling me what you did.” He kissed the back of Alex’s neck.

And it was too bad Mulder was so wiped out from his session with Krycek, Alex thought, because he could really use a good working-over right now. Never mind. He wriggled around until he was half in Mulder’s lap, then he wrapped his arms around him, put his head on Mulder’s shoulder, and closed his eyes.

* * *

Mulder held him tight, stroking his slick back, pulling him farther into his lap, murmuring soothing nonsense into his ear. Alex sighed, relaxing into it, so sweet, so warm and soft and wet, with the water gently burbling around them, bouying up his weight, so that he was almost floating. He felt small and safe and so well taken care of that it was a little while before he really began to listen to what Mulder was saying, to recognize the game in his voice, the edge of playful humor. “Don’t be afraid, little boy,” Mulder said softly. “Everything will be all right. Uncle will take care of you.”

Alex giggled and squirmed, trying to make himself smaller, gripping Mulder tightly, pressing his face into the hollow of Mulder’s shoulder. “Ooh, Uncle. That feels good. Make it better, Uncle, please.…”

He could feel Mulder’s grin against his hair. The arm around his back slid down over his hip, tantalizingly near the crack between his buttocks, then along his thigh. “Hush, now, be good. Be a good boy for Uncle.”

Alex’s breath had gone ragged, and his hips twitched under Mulder’s hand. His cock stood up in the swirling water, hot and hard, already stimulated from the tease of the fantasies, and the closeness of Mulder’s slick hard body, streaming and delicious as the flesh of a fine ripe peach. And now, from the special honeyed charge of this game, his secret delight, one that could still make him blush and stammer and helplessly melt. He was already on the brink.

“I’ll be good,” he whispered hotly. “Make me be good, Uncle.”

The hand slid now into his lap, fingers threading through the wet hair over his groin, teasing circles around his belly button, lightly touching the base of his cock. Alex jerked uncontrollably in his hands. “Oh, Uncle! Feels so good.…”

“Baby Alex likes that, hmm?” Mulder’s voice was a gruff parody of a dirty old man’s. It sent stabbing pulses of heat through Alex’s cock.

“Mmm.…” Alex opened his mouth on Mulder’s shoulder, sucked eagerly at the wet skin. “Baby Alex.…” The words were another hot lick at his cock, briefly stopping his attempt to speak. He spread his legs, trying to rub his balls against Mulder’s thigh. “Wants it, Uncle. Wants it bad.”

Mulder slid his hand under, and took Alex’s balls in his hand, rolling and squeezing them. His hand moved back, fingering Alex’s anus. Alex struggled, pinned by Mulder’s other arm and the water’s resistance, trying to thrust into it, his helplessness only feeding his need. “So good.…”

“It’s all right, baby,” Mulder soothed. “Uncle will give you what you need.” Then, finally, his hand gripped Alex’s cock, and stroked —

And Alex yelped, and came hard, thrusting desperately into Mulder’s hand, arms tight around his neck, semen streaming away into the swirling water.

* * *

He held on until the last of the spasms faded away, then settled back into the water at Mulder’s side with a satisfied groan. Mulder grinned at him, and he grinned back. “Yeah,” Alex growled. “That’s how I like it.” Mulder chuckled and slid a friendly arm around Alex’s shoulder.

Alex could hear his own Mulder whisper, It’s all right. I just want to make you feel good. And, You need something to help you relax, as he slid onto Alex’s back, preparing once again to take him.

Alex stared into the water. Montana. A special time, a special circumstance. Four short days that would never happen again. That’s how I like it.

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