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Alex Through the Looking Glass: Day Two


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

Pairing: Mulder/Krycek/Krycek

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


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


Alex woke up slowly, still raddled by strange dreams he couldn’t quite recall, with a horrible taste in his mouth and the edges of a headache and a cold, empty feeling in his stomach. It wasn’t quite a hangover, but it made a good approximation of one. His sinuses burned. The sheet beneath him felt like sex, but there was no warm body close at hand. He reached out to find his pillow and his hand hit the wall. On the wrong side of the bed.

Oh hell. So it wasn’t just a bad dream. He clenched his fists and forced his breathing to slow. No more hysterics. No burying his head under the covers and hoping it would all go away, either. Just take a deep breath and deal with it. He was alive—that was the main thing. He was alive and unbound and he’d been allowed a whole night’s sleep and had a blanket over him and his captor had treated him very kindly last night after he’d fallen to pieces. Brought him juice and held him while he bawled like a baby and told the whole horrible story over and over….

But that was all part of the game, wasn’t it? Tie him up and drug him and fuck him and scare him within an inch of his life, then when you’ve reduced him to a gibbering idiot, be kind and gentle and pretty soon you’ve got a helpless little slave who’ll do anything to hang onto that kindness and keep the scary stuff away. Stockholm syndrome. Classic hostage behavior. Trouble was, knowing it didn’t help. He was already half in love with Alex Krycek, the ruthless interrogator, the fierce lover, the gentle caretaker. And it didn’t help that the man in whose bed he was now awakening was so many of the things he wished he was—cold and determined and utterly in control. Still, if you knew the reasons behind the feelings, sometimes you could refrain from making an idiot of yourself over them. It hadn’t helped with Mulder, but presumably one could learn from past mistakes.

He took another deep breath and opened his eyes. There was his doppelganger, chair drawn right up beside the bed, watching him with a concerned look that had no trace of threat in it.

Liar, he thought, and stared back, waiting, refusing to be drawn out this time.

Krycek smiled. “Hello, Alex.”

Damn. Damn, damn, damn. “Hello, Krycek.” So he was at a disadvantage the minute he opened his mouth. And what could he say? He was the one who’d chosen how they’d refer to each other. Under the influence of drugs and flaming need to get fucked, but there was no way out of it now. Now every time they called each other by name, he made himself subordinate.

“How are you feeling?” The smile had a touch of amusement in it.

Shitty. Used. Fucked up. “Fine. Is there any more of that juice?”

“Pear cider. Yes.” He handed over the bottle. “Chinese food, too, if you’re up to it.”

He was, in fact, so hungry he wanted to eat it right out of Krycek’s hand. How long had it been since he’d actually eaten? Not since… before he came to New York. Barely anything the day before. Or the day before that. He quickly drained the cider bottle so he could hand it back and take the carton of shrimp lo mein and a pair of disposable chopsticks. He pushed himself up so he could sit cross-legged, leaning against the wall with the sheet across his lap, and began to eat. “The condemned man ate a hearty meal,” he muttered, in between bites.

“Alex. I am not going to kill you. I told you. I wouldn’t waste the food on you if I were.”

“Make me believe it.”

Alex continued to eat, while Krycek considered. He wasn’t really frightened any more; well, not terrified, anyway. He knew he was still in trouble, but at least he was untied and Krycek was not being immediately threatening. He did not feel entirely helpless. But he’d like to have a reason to think that he wouldn’t casually be discarded the moment he lost his captor’s interest. He had no place in this universe; he wouldn’t be missed. Why shouldn’t Krycek kill him, if the whim took him?

“I kill to protect myself. Sometimes to protect other people. I kill for my job,” Krycek calmly ticked off. “Sometimes I even enjoy it.” His smile was very cold. Then, abruptly, it warmed. “But I don’t kill casually. I believe your story, Alex, and I believe the fingerprints. I don’t think you are any threat to me. So there’s no reason for me to kill you. I haven’t yet reached the point where I kill people because I don’t like their taste in clothes.”

Alex let himself laugh and nodded. It made sense, and he did believe it. And the relief was so thick he had to stop eating for a moment and let his stomach adjust. All right, it was no guarantee, and he still intended to be very, very careful. But maybe he could stop worrying every second that it might be his last. “Speaking of clothes… ?”

Krycek smiled and gave him an elegant, heavy silk robe of rich, midnight blue that had been hanging on the arm of the chair. Alex held it gingerly in his greasy fingers and stared at it as if he had been handed a large, bad-tempered ferret to wear. He felt slightly queasy.

“Not your color?” Krycek asked.

“I….” He looked up, then hastily looked for somewhere to set his carton of food down, started to put it down on the bed, then held it helplessly in his hand.

Krycek reached out and took it from him, shaking his head. “Honestly, Alex, I’m not going to shoot you for getting the sheets dirty. Or the robe. There is such a thing as laundry, you know.”

Suddenly, Alex had to blink back tears. Well, obviously he had a way to go before his jangled nerves truly relaxed. To cover his shakiness, he slipped into the robe, pulling it tightly around himself. It felt much better to finally be wearing something. Even a robe so obviously expensive it scared him. Krycek handed him a different carton—fried rice this time—and Alex went on eating. “What about my suit?”

“That did go into the Hudson.”

He laughed in spite of himself. “You executed my suit.”

“It didn’t deserve to live,” Krycek laughed with him.

“So, are you going to keep me around as your naked houseboy or something?”

“Would you like that?”

He bit his lip. And was very glad his lap was covered. “Maybe. Not on a regular basis.”

Krycek smiled. “I’ll give you some things of mine to wear. If you can fit into them.”

Without thinking, Alex threw a chopstick at Krycek, who ducked, laughing. But when he sat back up with the chopstick in his hand, his smile had gone cold. “All right, that’s enough. Give it here.”

Well, he was full anyway. And it was just a game. But he felt like a chastened child as he handed the food carton and the remaining chopstick back, and there was a cold pit of fear in his stomach. When was he ever going to learn to think before he did things? Throwing things at a man who had recently threatened to kill him was incredibly stupid. He pulled the robe tight and stared into his lap.

Which was Krycek’s cue to go into comfort mode again. He stood, and took Alex’s arm gently. “Why don’t you go take a shower? I’ll get you some clothes.”

He nodded, and stumbled into the bathroom.

* * *

He dialed up the hot water until it was as hot as he could bear it, and let the hard, needle-like spray redden his skin. Well-fed, rested, and finally washing the residue of fear and drugs and sex off him, he tried once again to convince himself that everything was going to be all right. Krycek liked to scare him, but he wouldn’t actually hurt him. No more than he wanted him to, anyway. He’d promised him clothes and was capable of coming up with gentleness when the situation warranted it. No doubt it was all calculated to keep Alex off balance and dependent, but he was a master manipulator himself, and as soon as he got a little of his strength back, he’d be able to play the game right along with him.

The aches in his muscles gradually eased under the soothing massage of the shower spray. The food and cider had settled his stomach and his head had cleared. Except for the slight residual soreness in his wrists and ankles, which he didn’t find unpleasant, he actually felt quite normal. There was still that burning in his sinuses, though….

Duane Barry. Implants. Oh god. He put his hands to his face, feeling for any sign of an incision, any lumps under the skin, any indication that there was something other than flesh and bone under his fingers. Then he inspected his belly. No sign of any implants. That didn’t mean they weren’t there. He suddenly wanted to run out of there screaming, demand to be taken to a surgeon at once, get them out of him….

He leaned a forearm against the shower stall wall and rested his forehead against it. Yeah right, I’m fine now. No problem. I’ve been abducted by aliens, dropped into a strange universe, kidnapped by a mad homicidal version of myself, and even if I do somehow manage to get back home in one piece, Mulder will hate me and I’ll probably be killed anyway.

Never mind. Never mind. One thing at a time. He was alive, clean, fed, relatively safe—that was enough for now. Just put the rest aside. Just get through the day, that was enough.

He finished his shower and stepped out into the steamy bathroom. The towels were wonderfully thick and soft—no less than he would have expected. He rubbed himself dry with a plush black one, then stepped up to the bathroom mirror.

“You look like shit,” he told himself. But he didn’t, really—no worse than after a long night with Mulder. His hair was a mess. He had no hope of finding anything he could use to plaster it into shape, and a search of the medicine cabinet confirmed that. So he toweled it and ran his fingers through it as best he could and prepared himself for Krycek’s ridicule. Then he put the robe back on, took a deep breath and went back into the bedroom.

Krycek was waiting patiently in his chair. There was a small pile of clothing on the bed. A well-worn pair of Levis, a soft dusky-blue tee shirt. And bright red bikini briefs. He picked up the briefs and sighed. Another one of Krycek’s little jokes. At least the jeans and tee shirt were nice. He could feel comfortable in them. He’d been afraid he’d end up wearing some thousand-dollar silk shirt that he’d be terrified to move in. He pulled on the clothes, a bit unnerved to have Krycek watching him, thinking, I’m a toy to him. A little Alex Krycek doll he can dress up and play with. What really bothered him was that the thought was not entirely unappealing.

The jeans were a bit snug, but not uncomfortably so. He wasn’t really that much heavier than Krycek, just a little less hard-bodied. So he didn’t have time to work out as much as he’d like any more, and he let Mulder feed him too many pizzas and chocolate bars. He was still in good shape. He sighed. Just one more thing for him to feel inadequate about, and of course Krycek had zeroed right in on it.

He turned to Krycek and held out his arms. “Well, what do you think?”

“Not bad,” Krycek told him appraisingly. “You clean up reasonably well. You need to let your hair grow out a little. And get to the gym a little more often.”

Well, that was humiliating. “Thanks a lot.”

“You did ask.”

“Yeah. Remind me not to ask you any more questions.”

“That’s fine. I’ll be asking the questions anyway.”

Suddenly his stomach hurt again. “Oh. What now?”

Krycek stood and walked over to him. They were the same height. The same build. (Well, practically). The same eyes, same mouth. So why did he feel so much smaller? Krycek looked him over thoughtfully.

“Are you feeling all right now?”


“Do you think I’m going to kill you?”


He nodded. Then, “You’re a pathetic little idiot, aren’t you?”

Alex flinched, took an involuntary step back. His face burned. Jesus, what was this guy trying to do to him… ? Then he recognized the smooth velvet in the voice, and the hazy look in the eyes. And the heat was in his cock, as well.

He put on his cocky grin, just for a moment, just to show that he understood. Then he lowered his eyes, replaced his grin with a look of submissive obedience. He would be good—for a while at least.

“Yes,” he agreed.

The game was about to begin again.

* * *

He barely had time to notice Krycek’s hand as it swept through his limited field of vision. Then there were fingers at the base of his chin, gently raising his head again so that he could look Krycek in the eye. Jesus, this guy moved quietly. Have to remember that, he wouldn’t know where Krycek was unless he was actually looking at him. “Mistake number one,” Krycek said. Alex could feel the heat of his body, the faint movement in the air caused by his breath. “You are not a pathetic little idiot. So stop acting as if you thought you were.”

Now, what the fuck was this? “It’s a game, dammit,” he snarled. “You don’t want me to play, it’s easy. Just stop dealing me the cards.”

He half expected to be hit for it. That would go with the game, too. But Krycek just stayed where he was and went on grinning. “Sure it’s a game. But you believe it, don’t you? Or part of you believes it, is scared it might be true. We need to fix that.”

This was making no goddamned sense at all. “What do you care?” he said roughly. Did he want defiance, was that it? Well, Alex could do that, too. He held Krycek’s eye, making his stare hard and challenging.

“Simple.” Krycek’s voice was gentle again, and so were the long fingers now stroking his damp hair. The fingers paused at the back of Alex’s head, drew him closer. “If you’re a pathetic little idiot, why should I be bothered with you?” The voice was very soft now, pitched to carry no more than an inch or two: like a voice in his head. “Why should anybody? Why should Mulder? —You’re in love with Mulder, aren’t you?”

“No.” He pulled back angrily. Stay calm, Alex, he told himself. He’s a manipulative bastard, just like you, remember? He’s got some reason for this. But once again, knowing it did no good. Krycek had had a decent reason to think Alex was a threat to him when he showed up: all right. The kidnapping, the drugs, the interrogation were all fair, in their way. But his private feelings—what the hell business did Krycek have demanding that? “Mulder was the mark,” he said. “That’s all.”

“That wasn’t all.” Krycek didn’t even make it sound like a question, damn him.

He gave Krycek his best cool shrug. “Yeah, I fucked him. Big deal. He’s beautiful and he was eager. Why the hell not?”

Krycek smiled. Something changed in his expression: for the first time, there was something in his icy counterpart’s eyes that looked very much like approval. It was disquieting to realize how pleased he was to see it there. “No damn reason at all,” Krycek said mildly. “But you are in love with him.” Then the edge was back in his grin. “Don’t lie to me, Alex. It’s stupid and it’s counterproductive. And we talked about Mulder last night, remember?”

“I never said I loved him.” Alex hoped, anyway. He didn’t remember everything he’d said, but he was pretty fucking sure he’d never have said that, no matter how drugged he’d been.

“No, you didn’t,” Krycek agreed. “You told me how vulnerable he was, how in the end he needed you and you couldn’t help him. You told me how gentle he was with you in bed, how he was always afraid of shocking you or hurting you. How annoying it was that he never did quite get it through his head that you weren’t that innocent, that it wasn’t the next thing to rape; but at the same time he wouldn’t get rough enough that you could play at rape. About all the things you wanted, that he wouldn’t do to you.” Krycek had closed the distance between them again. He was touching Alex now, exploring his body through the borrowed clothes: his shoulders, his ass, the curve of his neck. He felt his breath quicken at it. The touch was something out of his own fantasies, measuring and precise, inflicting pleasure as though it were a kind of torture.

* * *

Not like Mulder: Mulder, lonely and hungry, could be gentle but never detached. Angry, sometimes, but passionate. Never cold, never deliberate. Mulder…. He could feel himself trembling. That was lust, yes, or at least part of it was lust: his cock ached now, swollen hard against the tight jeans. But it wasn’t all lust. The rest of it was pain, bitter and deep. Not the familiar, welcome pain of rough sex, of a spanking, of a whip; this was real. Mulder, lost forever—Krycek’s mouth was on his now, and he welcomed it, welcomed the stimulation of his senses, welcomed Krycek’s body now hard against his. It soothed the Mulder-thoughts, a little, made them itch instead of burn. But the itch….

He needed more. Needed to be fucked, to be tied, to be beaten: that was what would ease it, turn it to pleasure and let him rest, at least for a little while. A little peace, that was all; and that was enough. He broke the kiss and looked at Krycek, breathless. It was odd and disorienting that he did not have to look up to meet his eyes. And he had, extraordinarily, no idea at all of what to say.

But it seemed that he was not going to have to say anything. “All right, Alex,” Krycek said. His voice was still soft, and it still had that odd quality of seeming to come from inside his own head. “Take off those clothes. Let’s see about a few of those things that Mulder won’t do to you.”

He was still for a moment, frozen as though he’d lost command of his own body. “Poor Alex,” Krycek said. “You like it rough, but you don’t have a lot of experience of real cruelty, do you? Very sane of you, really…. You wouldn’t like for me to take my time with you, I don’t think.” Alex had no idea what he was talking about, didn’t want to have any idea. At least the words had broken the weird paralysis. He pulled the shirt off, stepped out of the jeans. Krycek hadn’t taken off the robe he was wearing, but the sash had come undone, and it hung open from his shoulders. His cock was as hard as Alex’s own. “You’ve got a nice tight ass,” Krycek said. “Now let’s see about your mouth, shall we?” His hands were on Alex’s shoulders now, guiding him to his knees.

“Here’s what I want,” Krycek said. His voice was cool now, and perfectly even. “I’m going to fuck you a little later. I want you to make it hard for me to wait. And I don’t want a condom between my cock and your tongue, so keep your mouth away from the head of my cock. If the condom thing gets to be an issue, I want you to stop. Got it?”

“Got it,” Alex said. He looked up and risked his old confident grin. And got you, too, Hotshot. Maybe. This, now—this was something he understood. And this was something he could do, maybe a lot better than Hotshot expected. They’d have the same nervous system, after all. The same wiring. And Alex knew, as well as he’d ever known anything, exactly what felt good on his cock.

It was a neat evasion of the condom problem, too. Alex appreciated that—it had been a long time since he’d had flesh instead of latex in his mouth. He braced himself against Krycek’s legs and leaned forward to run his mouth over the shaft of Krycek’s cock. Krycek had obviously had a chance to shower, too: the delicate skin under his tongue tasted clean and faintly sweet. He heard Krycek sigh in obvious pleasure, and felt his own mouth curl in a satisfied grin; and set himself to concentrate on making this last.

* * *

Krycek smiled to himself and settled back onto the bed, moving slowly and carefully so that Alex could move with him. It was just as he’d expected: Alex knew precisely what he was doing. And Alex intended to take the opportunity to drive Krycek straight out of his head, if he was any judge. That was good, exactly what the situation called for—he could use the distraction from his own worst instincts, and Alex could use the chance to be in control for a few minutes. His worst instincts had come too close to taking over for a moment back there.

He could still see Alex staring at him, stripped and open, eyes wide, while Krycek talked to him about Mulder. Beautiful, God he’d been beautiful. (And was Krycek himself really that beautiful? It seemed unlikely, somehow.) It had been hard to pull back, not to follow that pain all the way upstream to its source, not to let himself have the pleasure of breaking him. It wouldn’t do, Alex was too vulnerable right now, there was too much risk of doing him real harm. He had to keep this simple.

Alex was pushing it now, moving him a little too close—but no. A wicked little maneuver with his tongue, one last blaze along Krycek’s nerves, and he was pulling back again, moving neatly away from the danger zone. He let himself laugh a little in pure appreciation. “Oh, yeah,” he told Alex. “You are every bit as good as you think you are.”

An answering evil chuckle from Alex. You could almost hear Alex fighting back the urge to stop for just long enough to tell him, Hey, you haven’t seen anything yet. Stick around. But then, he didn’t have to; he was making a very effective demonstration of it.

Better than Mulder? That was an interesting question: he considered it as Alex shifted his approach a little, began to push him back toward the heights. No, not better, the two weren’t really comparable. But every bit as good. Mulder was great with his mouth, and no wonder: after all, he’d had Mulder’s training from the very beginning. And Mulder loved it: the symbolism, being allowed to kneel for it, having to learn it as a new physical skill. Mulder always loved having to work to please him. From Mulder it was as much a pleasure of the mind as of the body: you could always feel his fierce joy in the act. Krycek wondered what Alex would make of that. Not what he’d been getting from his Mulder at all, have to remember to make Mulder give him a demonstration, see whether Alex got the taste for it….

The pleasure had spread beyond his cock now; he could feel what Alex was doing in his thighs and guts. His balls ached, but pleasantly: Alex knew how to give them just the right amount of attention. His cock was a pillar of fire. If you considered the body, and the body alone, then yes. Better than Mulder. Better than anybody. And it was time to put a stop to it. He groaned a little, in brief regret at the decision, and leaned over to push Alex away. “That’s enough,” he told him.

Alex just looked up at him and grinned. Oh, yes: the cockiness was back in that grin all right. “You sure?” Alex asked. His voice had a faint, mocking edge in it.

“I’m sure,” he said. Let him have that edge in his voice, it wasn’t going to last. Krycek was already lifting Alex, guiding him into position underneath him on the bed. “Let’s just be sure I’ve got this right,” he told Alex, a little breathlessly. “Mulder liked you under him, he had you just lie there, spread your legs and relax so he could make it good for you, so you wouldn’t get hurt.” He let his weight rest on Alex’s back, pressing him into the pillows. He brought a knee down between Alex’s legs and parted them, spreading his thighs as though they were a woman’s, reaching down with one hand to caress the tender skin. Alex gasped and made a little choked noise. Krycek smiled at it, then kissed the nape of Alex’s neck. He kept his touch gentle, careful.

“He was slow and careful with the penetration, because he thought you were scared and inexperienced; is that right?” The condom and lubricant were ready by his hand, there when he reached for them. He played the role out as he spoke. Be his Mulder. A gentle man with a core of private darkness, not quite sure he was being fair to the junior partner he’d recklessly seduced, the lovely innocent he couldn’t force himself to leave in peace. He would be exquisitely gentle, this man, his concern for his partner’s pleasure so intermingled with guilt and helpless desire that the strength of his feelings would almost hurt him, even in the pleasure of the act. He would be tender, tender and slow…. Krycek’s hands moved softly and gently, the other man’s hands now, opening Alex, exciting him, positioning his own cock for entrance. Then his hands were free again, free to run over Alex’s body, to stroke his nipples, his cock, to give Alex pleasure while his own cock pressed slowly into him. Make it good for him, don’t hurt him, don’t scare him. Pause in the midst of it, before you’re all the way in, let him catch his breath while you kiss his neck, turn his head around to kiss his mouth, his eyelid, his cheek. Say silly pretty things in his ear, how good he feels under you, how good your cock feels inside him. Tell him he’s beautiful, tell him he’s doing fine…. It was easy to find the words, he listened to the flow of reassuring soft nonsense fall from his lips, almost as though he were an observer, and it were another man who spoke. His cock was all the way in now. He moved his head to kiss Alex’s cheek and found it wet with tears. He licked it dry, the clean salt taste pleasant on his tongue.

The tears only added to that illusion of exploited innocence. For the man he was being, they would be the final damning touch. He would barely be able to see the real man, the real Alex, under him at all; he would see only evidence of his own guilt. He’d need Alex’s pleasure, need it with a frightening desperation, need it for his own redemption.

Now he had it, could feel the way this man would use his body. He let himself move inside Alex’s body, making the strokes gentle and careful, calculated to give pleasure. Alex had buried his face in the pillows, but Krycek could still hear the muffled gasps of pleasure, feel the tremors in Alex’s hips as he fought to keep himself from thrusting back onto Krycek’s cock. “And when he finally fucked you, he was slow and gentle and patient,” he told Alex. “For as long as he could control himself, for as long as he could bear it. And when he couldn’t stand it any more, when he couldn’t hold back, you could still feel him trying to. As though you were the most precious thing in the entire world, and if he weren’t careful you might break. Is that right?”

No answer from Alex. It didn’t matter, he knew he was listening. “And 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, give you the kind of fucking you wanted. It was a blind spot for him, he just couldn’t see it. It wasn’t the way he thought about you.”

It all seemed very obvious—when you thought about it, it was positively Victorian. Alex had been trapped by his early decision to let Mulder believe in his inexperience. If he’d corrected that at the beginning, things would have been simple. But then it was too late, there was nothing he could say: Mulder would never understand why he’d lied to him.

The man he was being, that gentle and guilty lover: he could give Alex what he said he wanted. If you shattered some of his illusions, that man could be harsh, could take out his pain on his lover. Too harsh, given Alex’s current vulnerability? Perhaps not: he wasn’t a cruel man, just hurt and angry. Alex, lying beneath him looking exactly the same as before, the same beauty, the same lying look of fragile innocence—he’d want to make him stop looking like that, to rip away the mask, make Alex look like the lying slut that he was—

“Now,” Krycek said, letting his voice chill a little. “It’s time you got what you were looking for.”

He still had the feel, the physical sense of the Mulder he’d conjured in his body. It was easy. This man wouldn’t make the transition gradual; he’d throw a switch. No real warning: and now the gentleness was gone, and he was using the man beneath him roughly, pounding into him. He lied, he knows how. Yes, it was true, Alex was taking it easily, moving with it, groaning and panting, enjoying it. There’d be a kind of angry satisfaction at seeing that; but at the same time it was a provocation, it fed the anger. His Mulder-construct wouldn’t be content with just this.

He pulled himself up, away from Alex. Alex tried to move with him, but Krycek shoved him back, down into the sheets, and brought his open hand down hard on Alex’s ass.

The slap echoed through the room, sharp and hard, and Alex cried out at the blow. The mingled sounds were delicious, at once soothing and exciting. The red flush on Alex’s butt where his hand had come down was profoundly satisfying. He gave Alex a moment to recover and did it again, watched the mark appear, listened to Alex try to choke back another yell. He wanted to talk to Alex, make sure he understood, that he was there with him; but that might be too much for him. Just give him this, this was what he wanted…. He concentrated on it, spacing the blows, playing with pace and intensity, until Alex’s cries of pain had turned to muffled sobs.

Time to finish it. Past time: the pleasant ache in his balls had become actual pain. He positioned himself over Alex again, lifted Alex’s hips to get the angle he wanted, and thrust into him in one harsh motion. Alex threw his head back and groaned at it; but now it was a groan of unambiguous pleasure and need. Krycek reached around for his cock, caught Alex’s rhythm and gave it back to him, giving him what he needed the way he knew he liked it best—Alex deserved it, certainly deserved better than the sheet under him this time. He barely needed to move his hips. Alex was doing the work, thrusting back hard and fast, fucking himself on Krycek’s cock. Krycek let it happen, gave way to the sensation at last. It built and built again, and then exploded; and he and Alex collapsed together into the sheets.

* * *

Krycek lay where he was for a few minutes, enjoying the intricate weave of sensation: the cool softness of the tangled sheets against his leg and under his out-thrust left arm; Alex’s body still shuddering underneath him, smooth skin over resilient muscle, radiating heat; the tension draining out of his own muscles; little air currents playing over his body. Alex was still crying: he must have come reasonably close with his Mulder-construct. He brought his attention back in, focused it on Alex, moved to take him in his arms and help bring him down from it.

Alex stiffened under his hands and pulled away. The sobs were louder for a few seconds. Then Alex had them muffled again, back under some kind of control.

They were the wrong kind of sobs. Not the easy tears of release from unbearable tension: these were hard and painful. Alex was crying as though his heart were broken; and he had made a major mistake in his analysis. Same fingerprints, same body, same name, some of the same history; but this wasn’t him. Same potentialities, maybe, but not developed the same way. Alex was missing something, that thing in his own head that let him step away from his own reactions and treat them as just another set of facts. Alex would have the potential for it; he could teach him, probably, if he were given long enough. Hurt him and guide him until he saw the trick of it, and then help him hone it through practice to a perfect balanced weapon—no way to be sure how long it would take, but probably six months would see the process well on its way. Yes, it could be done; but then, perhaps it would be no favor to Alex to do it. Innocence had its own value.

In any case, he’d hurt him, in a way he hadn’t intended. Until now, nothing in Alex’s behavior had warned him that he might be inflicting unwanted pain, either. That suggested another issue. Time to make a small experiment. He reached for Alex again, closed his hand over his shoulder and pulled Alex around to face him. And yes, there it was: Alex moved as he directed and flopped into his arms, lay there unmoving and unresisting like a child’s doll. It was a pity to have to waste this, really—but no, that was not what he wanted from this man. He pressed Alex’s shoulder once, making the hug as reassuring as he could, and began to gently disentangle himself from Alex’s body. “Okay, Alex, listen,” he said. “You don’t have to look at me, but you have to listen, this is important.”

Alex’s face was hidden in the pillows again, but he’d stopped crying. His body looked good: some muscle tension, but not too much. He was strong enough, he wasn’t going to crumble. “Okay,” Krycek said again. “You’re a professional and a grownup, and you know the score. I’m not going to apologize for bringing you here or keeping you here, and I’m not going to apologize for the interrogation. You know why I did it, and you know I was right. You with me so far?”

He waited, giving Alex time to think about it, time to find his voice again. “Yeah,” Alex said at last. The voice was a little shaky, but there was expression in it; it wasn’t a rag doll voice.

“Good,” Krycek told him. Proximity was important here, and he wasn’t sure he had it judged right. Too close and Alex would feel threatened. Too much distance and you lost the connection, the assumption of intimacy. Nothing to do but stay where he was, take his best guess. “So far, no apologies. But if what just happened here was rape, I am apologizing. That’s not part of the deal. I’m not interested in forcing you.”

He gave it a pause, long enough to let it sink in, not long enough to invite an answer. “But Alex, you’ve got to make it clear to me, all right? Because it didn’t look like you didn’t want it, not until just now. We’ve got a charged situation here anyway, and you know how it is with this stuff. I have no way of knowing if you don’t tell me.”

He could see Alex relaxing as he talked, putting it into perspective. He liked being tied up, he’d said. With that kind of experience, he’d be able to think of this as just a scene that had gone bad. These things happened: they were trivial, unpleasant but not threatening. He should be able to dump this into that category in his mind, shove it there and forget about it for a while. This time he waited, letting the words do their work.

Alex sighed and propped himself up on his elbows. “Would you really have stopped if I’d told you to?” His face was still turned away from Krycek’s, but his voice was cool and steady, back to normal.

“Probably not, once we were in the middle of it,” Krycek told him. “But before we’d really gotten going, yes, I’d have stopped. If I start something and you tell me no, that’ll be the end of it.

“But you’ve got to tell me at the beginning,” he said. “You know why.”

“Yeah. I know why.” Now he did turn, to meet Krycek’s eye. “Look. It wasn’t rape. Things just got a little heavy in the middle there.”

Krycek nodded. “Just remember I mean it, okay? You can say no. The idea here is just to deal with the situation, not to make you as miserable as possible while we do it.” He rolled to the side of the bed and retrieved his robe from the floor.

Alex gave him a skeptical stare. “Don’t tell me you care.”

Krycek grinned. The bravado was coming back, that was nice. “Of course I care. You’re me, remember? Besides, I think I may have a use for you.”

“Great, that helps. Now I feel really safe.”

“No, you’ll like it,” Krycek told him. He would, too. If the timelines were as right as they looked, if they could figure out how to get Alex home, if it all came together. “You and I have some major interests in common here, I think. Come on, I’ll tell you all about it.”

” ‘Come on’?” Alex hadn’t moved.

“Yeah, come on.” He found the robe he’d lent Alex earlier and tossed it at him. “I’m letting you out of here. Into the big wide world of the rest of the apartment. Adventure of a lifetime.”

Alex managed, at last to laugh at that. “Mind if I shower first?” he said.

“As a matter of fact, yes,” Krycek said. “I’m ordering out for dinner. Ethiopian. Come look at the menu and find something you can stand to eat first, so I can get the order in. Abyssinia takes at least an hour to deliver, and I’m starving.”

* * *

“Fair warning,” Krycek was telling him, an hour and a half later. “I think you were out cold when I called Mulder. This universe’s Mulder. He’s probably going to be here within the next hour or so.”

Alex felt something in his stomach turn over. “Yeah. Okay.” It seemed strange, though. Krycek hadn’t seemed to want to draw official attention to this—hell, here they were hiding in Krycek’s apartment, when Krycek could presumably have made a couple of phone calls and had his doppelganger in custody. So— “Why bring Mulder in?” he asked.

“We need to figure out what’s going on here,” Krycek said. “I’m not an investigator. Maybe you are, but you don’t have access to your support facilities and you don’t have much experience. Paranormal investigations are Mulder’s goddamned job, seemed like a good idea to make him do it.”

The food had arrived, and Krycek was unpacking it as they spoke, pulling out flat cardboard containers, peeling lids off, and shoving the containers to the middle of a bar-height counter that he seemed to use as a kitchen table. Alex leaned over and inspected it with some caution. The menu exercise had been a little pointless. There had been nothing listed there that looked even remotely familiar, and he’d finally given up and let Krycek choose for both of them. The stuff looked just as weird as it had sounded on the menu: it seemed to consist of half a dozen identical-looking stews, each one heaped on its own pile of some sort of pancakes. But it smelled good, and there was beer. And he was clean and dressed, and he was sitting on a normal kitchen stool in an almost-normal kitchen. It felt so good it was almost disorienting. It didn’t even bother him too much that the counter appeared to be polished granite, and that the damned apartment looked to be the size of an aircraft hangar.

He realized suddenly that he had no idea at all of Krycek’s background. Alex knew it couldn’t be anything like his—not with that soundproofed room and access to interrogation drugs, and certainly not with this apartment—but somehow he’d still gone on thinking of Krycek as FBI, just like him. A special division, maybe. That was obviously wrong. “You’re not an investigator?” he said.

“No. Not FBI at all. I’m just a humble ops guy.” Krycek tore a strip off one of the pancakes, scooped up a bit of one of the stews with it, and popped it into his mouth. No forks or chopsticks seemed to be forthcoming: that had to be how you ate this stuff. Alex reached for the carton. “You probably won’t like that one,” Krycek told him.

Too late. He had a mouthful of something that tasted like ground hot peppers and had the texture of raw meat. He winced and swallowed. “Thanks,” he said drily. “Is there anything here you recommend?”

“Any of the rest of it.” Krycek was leaning against the counter, hogging the awful stuff Alex had just tried. He showed no inclination to sit down. “I think it’s time I told you a story.

“You’ll recognize parts of it,” Krycek said. “Big parts. A lot of the stuff you told me about last night—Mulder and the X-Files, the Marines who’d gone through the sleep-deprivation experiments, Duane Barry, Scully’s disappearance—they happened here, too. Only they happened a little over a year ago. I was there for most of it, just like you.”

Alex realized that he was staring, and forced himself to stop. “What were you doing?”

“I was Mulder’s junior partner. Again, just like you. They shut down the X-Files, reassigned Scully, and put me in to watch him.”

“I thought you said you’re not FBI.”

Krycek shrugged. “I’m not,” he said. “But the same guy that sent you in on Mulder sent me in, too. Well, this universe’s version of the same guy. Your friend and mine, Cancerman.”


Krycek laughed. “Sorry. Mulder calls him that. So does half the intelligence community, now: it was too perfect not to stick…. Sentinel. U.S. One. The guy with no name and no manners, who chain-smokes.”

Alex managed to swallow before he choked on the food in his mouth. Cancerman. That was perfect. Classic Mulder, too—no, don’t think about that. “Yeah, okay. They didn’t give me a code name, but I know the guy.”

“Right. The Bureau here doesn’t have that neat covert ops group that you got recruited for. Scully was Cancerman and his group’s big attempt at deflecting Mulder by going through channels, and it was a disappointing experience for them. Cancerman wasn’t willing to try the same trick again with another ambitious young special agent, because hell, the next ambitious young special agent might turn out to have some personal integrity, too.”

Krycek’s voice was cool and mocking. Once again, Alex had a strong impulse to hit him. Personal integrity, huh? Krycek’d done exactly the same things to the Mulder of this world, he’d just said as much.

“So Cancerman got you, instead.” He made his own voice as cool and ironic as Krycek’s.

“Right,” Krycek said, ignoring the insult. “His group makes a practice of borrowing any help they need from other organizations and services. They borrowed me. I spent a couple of weeks learning what I could about how to impersonate an FBI agent, and then I went in. You know what happened from then until the Duane Barry thing, because it happened to you, too.”

“The same things?”

“Yeah, in general. From what you told me, anyway. Some of the details vary a little, but I didn’t catch any significant differences. Until we get to the inquiry into Barry’s death, and there things do diverge. Obviously.”

Alex shot him a look. “You mean you’re not an example of what happens to you when you get abducted by aliens?” He was sorry the instant the words were out of his mouth. He was doing it again, damn it, and did he really have to repeat all his mistakes every time Krycek gave him a moment when he could feel safe?

“Nope,” Krycek said mildly. It was all right, he’d gotten lucky: Krycek just wasn’t interested right now. “It’s an interesting set of convergences, what happened. You got pulled out because Cancerman had heard you were going to have to take a polygraph test, you said. Now, the dates don’t mean anything, because we know we’re not on parallel time tracks, here. But I pulled out the day that they’d decided to do polygraph tests in the Barry investigation, too. We can check the time line more carefully to be sure, but it looks to me like as a functional matter, we pulled out on the same day. We both did it because the investigation was getting too close, but we were reacting to different things—”

Now he was interested in spite of his nerves. “You weren’t told to get out because of the lie detector thing?”

“No. In fact, I wasn’t told to pull out. I just did it. Cancerman gave me a lot of trouble about that, but it had to be done.” He shrugged. “And here it gets interesting again. It had to be done, but not because of the polygraph—I can beat a polygraph.”

He looked over at Alex. Their eyes met for an instant, and Alex felt the ends of his own mouth curl in a faint almost-smile. Krycek chuckled. “And you can too. Of course. But Cancerman didn’t know that. You didn’t tell him, either, because you knew it was time, when the pullout order came. You could feel Mulder getting close. Right?”

Alex nodded. ” ‘Feel’ about covers it. There was nothing wrong, nothing I could identify. But I knew.” And that had been one of the things he’d wept for as he packed, hadn’t it? That as bad as this was, leaving now, it would be worse if he waited? Talk to Krycek, don’t think about that. “That’s why you pulled out?”

“No.” There was something new in Krycek’s voice, a kind of bitter exasperation. “I had to pull out because I couldn’t convince the stupid bastard not to sit around and smoke in my goddamned car.” He stabbed his fingers into one of the cardboard containers, apparently hunting for some bit of food at the bottom. “I asked him. I asked politely. But no, he had to keep doing it because he was an Important Man, and we all needed to know that he could smoke wherever he liked… he did it to Skinner, too. You just couldn’t convince him that you might have some rational objection—” He looked at the food in his hand, and then at Alex, and suddenly, weirdly, he was leaning against a cabinet and shaking with laughter.

“Sorry,” Krycek said. Alex realized that he had been staring at him. “Every so often I get these little flashes of—oh, I don’t know, perspective. Detachment. And I wonder: do I really have to stand in my kitchen eating raw meat with my fingers when I talk about Cancerman and his fucking cigarettes? And if there is a God, is he laughing at me too?” He shook his head as though to clear it.

“Anyway. That’s all background,” Krycek said. “The interesting thing, for our purposes, is what happened later. I pulled out, and there was a fight over it, but there was no undoing it. Things were pretty quiet for a while, but a little less than a year after that things got interesting again. One of Mulder’s connections found something, pulled it off a computer at DOD. It was something that wasn’t supposed to exist—a record of all Cancerman and his little group’s activities, from the early 1940s on. Evidence. ‘The Holy Grail,’ Mulder called it.”

Alex stared at him. Krycek was still smiling, but something in his face had changed: his eyes were wide and dark, as though Krycek looked out over infinite distance from some dream. “Cancerman brought me back in then, to try to contain the situation. Some stuff happened, there was a big compromise: nobody else died and the evidence went back into limbo. In this world, that evidence isn’t on that computer at DOD any more.

“But in your world, it’s probably still there. Between Mulder and me, I think we can tell you how to find it, how to get to it without tripping the alarms. It would be enough to buy you what you want, I think. If we can get you back to your own world…. Bring that to your Mulder as evidence of good faith, I think you’ll have your chance.”

* * *

A chance to make things right with Mulder.
Or, maybe not right, but something to give Mulder in return for the pain he’d caused. They’d finished eating and were sitting in what might pass for a living room if you lived in a museum, waiting for Mulder to arrive. He’d taken a book from Krycek’s library and was sitting with it in his lap, trying to pretend to read. He couldn’t even seem to retain the title, much less the words on a page. The Holy Grail. Bring down “Cancerman” and give Mulder what he wanted. He tried to wrap his mind around it but couldn’t seem to grasp it.

Well, no wonder. It was overload, pure and simple. Too much too soon; he couldn’t process it. Overload. God. Less than a week ago he’d been in Montana with Mulder, on that horrible serial murder case. It was Behavioral Sciences work; he wasn’t trained for it and the photographs of those poor mutilated murdered women had really gotten to him. Never mind, Mulder had told him. You’re just overloaded. Everybody’s inexperienced sometime. Then Mulder had made love to him, easy and slow and so tender he thought he’d die from the pain. Overload. I love you, he’d told Mulder. Stupid, stupid thing to say but the words just poured out of him like a bucket with a hole in it. Never say them again, ever. Stop feeling so much. Please somebody please tell him how to stop feeling so much….

Overload. The word started spinning around in his brain. Overload, overload. It was like those computers in the cheesy science fiction movies that got caught in a logic trap and self-destructed, with much rattling and shaking and belching smoke. Or HAL, in 2001. Dave. Dave. I’m feeling much better now. Really. A small, squeaky laugh escaped his throat.

Krycek stared at him.

“Core dump,” he said. “Information overload.”

Krycek’s laugh was easy, friendly, with just the right touch of understanding in it. Comforting without being threatening. “You’re a nerd.”

“No, just… god, I wonder what’s happening with my e-mail.”

“I’d let you borrow my computer to check it, but I don’t think we’d be able to make the connection.”

“Interdimensional Internet. Tunneling through on the quantum superhighway.”

“You know physics.”

“No, I’m just a dilettante. I read Scientific American and Gregory Benford and watch bad science fiction movies. Quantum mechanics, by way of Plan Nine from Outer Space.” He was riffing now; he couldn’t stop it. At least it was the obnoxiously clever riff, not simply the obnoxious one. And Krycek was just sitting there smiling good-naturedly, like they were old friends and Alex was being terribly clever. Not competing, just feeding him his lines.

“What did you study in college?” And that was just right, too: pick a nice neutral subject, well before the current pain.

“My degree’s in poli sci, but I took all kinds of classes. I loved college—I’d probably still be there, but after seven years my father told me to pick something and get my damned degree or he’d make me join the army. So what did you study?”

“Math. Four years, straight through.”

“Yeah, I bet you knew you wanted to be a mathematician from the time you were two.”

Krycek laughed again. Not too hard—just a soft, easy chuckle. Sharing jibes, like old buddies. “Not quite two. Where did you go to college?”

“Dartmouth. You?”

“Yale. Hey, did you ever have a girlfriend named Cathy Martinelli?”

Alex stared. “She wasn’t a girlfriend, just a friend. But a pretty good one.” God, he hadn’t thought about Cathy in years. She wrote stories about these male TV characters having sex with each other. He was her consultant on the technical details. Cathy, nobody comes that much. And nobody I ever sucked off tasted like cream. She’d hinted that she’d like to watch him with another guy sometime. He’d thought about arranging it, but it never quite came off.

And he could tell from the knowing grin on Krycek’s face that she’d done the same with him. Suddenly, he burst into helpless giggles. “Did you ever let her watch you?”

“Sure. Didn’t you?”

He shook his head and giggled some more.

And this was just right too: Find some shared experience to make them feel like college pals talking about old times. Krycek was good—there wasn’t a flaw in it anywhere—no way to say it wasn’t genuine. But Alex was uncomfortably aware that if he were sitting in Krycek’s place, he’d be doing exactly the same thing, regardless of the treacheries he might be planning. He still didn’t trust Krycek, not one bit. Mindfuck a guy till he’s a total wreck, then make him agree it wasn’t rape. Couldn’t tell you didn’t want it. Suppose you always make people cry while you fuck them. Suppose invoking a guy’s betrayed lovers is what passes for S/M in this universe. You can always say no. But saying no was the problem, wasn’t it? Alex had never been able to say no. Not to Mulder, even though he knew it was going to be a disaster. Not to this guy either. Now he’d been told it was his responsibility to stop it before it got too heavy by saying no at the outset—so next time he got screwed, he’d have only himself to blame.

And to top it all off, his butt was sore from being spanked and it was making him horny again. He tried not to move in his chair too much but that set off the frustration response and that made him horny too. God, he’d been in a blaze of sexual heat from the moment he’d met this guy. Not exactly conducive to clear thinking. So did that mean he had the hots for himself? He didn’t think so—Krycek was gorgeous in a way he wasn’t and could never be: he oozed self-confidence and command and cold intelligence, and that was what Alex found so attractive. Plus the guy fucked like a demon. Admit it, being swept up and carried off and tied to a bed and abused was every bottom’s secret sex fantasy. And admit it, if Krycek asked him right now if he’d like to go back in the bedroom for a replay of the last scene, he’d say yes in a minute. Pain and punishment and all. And he was going to go on saying yes. He knew it, he hated it, and he loved it, and just like every other damn thing there was nothing he could do about it.

So why was he worrying about it? Why did his damned mind insist on going round and round until he was so sick of it he wanted to scream? Why couldn’t he just concentrate on what he could do something about, and let the rest of it go?

He sighed. “Do you ever wish your brain had an off switch?”

There was a tiny spark behind Krycek’s eyes—a sudden recognition, an empathetic pang that was intense and present and real. It was gone so quickly Alex could easily have told himself that he’d imagined it. But he hadn’t. He’d struck a nerve—for just an instant there was a connection with the real Alex Krycek of this universe. A True Fact. It seemed like nothing now, but Alex filed it away carefully. That was one of the rules of the game, and he’d better start playing as if his life depended on it. Never ignore a True Fact.

And he should be gathering other facts. He should forget this college rap and start asking questions about the here and now. Find out what Krycek’s relationship with Mulder was, that he could just call him up and bring him in on something and trust him to keep it quiet. He should be asking a million questions. But he couldn’t bring himself to say Mulder’s name. As though you were the most precious thing in the entire world…. Shame twisted in him. Oh, god, Mulder, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I never meant to let it happen….

Stop it. Stop. Don’t think about Mulder. Don’t think about it.

Mulder’s coming here. He’ll be here any second.

Don’t think about it.


* * *

The doorbell made him flinch so hard his stomach hurt. Alex jumped from his chair, the book falling unheeded to the floor, and backed away from the doorway, eyes helplessly fixed on the front door as Krycek went to answer it. Maybe it was someone else. A delivery boy. Someone who had the wrong apartment. Please be anyone, anyone, give him just a few more minutes, before….

Then Mulder walked in. Alex felt it like a physical blow—the pain was shocking torture, the perversity of it beyond anything he could have imagined. It was Mulder—beautiful and elegant, even in a casual shirt and jeans. The same soft, sad eyes; luxuriant mouth; slightly ironic smile. Alex felt himself gasp; felt a rush of desire and shame and hopeless longing. Yet it wasn’t his Mulder—that was also obvious from the first moment. There were subtle differences in body language; this Mulder was harder, darker, deeper. He’d learned to embrace his pain, rather than suffer it helplessly, as Alex’s Mulder did. This Mulder knew heavy secrets.

And this Mulder was looking at the other Krycek with with the casual intimacy of a long-time lover. Krycek offered his hand, and Mulder took it and kissed it, smiling acknowledgment of Krycek’s ownership. This Mulder and this Krycek were bound with barbed wire. And Alex was completely irrelevant.

Then Mulder glanced across the room to where Alex was standing. He froze. His eyes widened with shock, disbelief, fascination. And distrust. What he was seeing wasn’t Alex Krycek—it was a monster, a mystery, an X-File.

Alex felt his hands go cold. Time slowed to a molasses crawl. He seemed to have forgotten how to breathe. He noted the feeling with detached interest: his chest had turned to stone; no air would go in or out. Vaguely, he thought that it would be amusing if, after all his worry about Krycek killing him, he simply stood here and died, struck down by the cruel irony of a Mulder who neither hated nor loved him, to whom he meant nothing, except a puzzle to solve.

His vision was beginning to go white. Something that might have been a voice echoed in his ear like a sound underwater. But he ignored it; it didn’t seem to have anything to do with him.

Then a hand struck his face hard, in an openhanded slap. The blow sent him reeling, to be caught in two strong hands that gripped him by the shoulders and propped him upright. He gasped for air that wouldn’t come.

“He’s hyperventilating,” Krycek said calmly. “Mulder, go get a paper bag.”

Mulder paused, eyes narrowed slightly, for just a moment before disappearing into the kitchen.

Krycek turned to Alex. He smiled indulgently. “You spoiled my surprise. He was supposed to be the one who freaked.”

Alex couldn’t speak. His throat would only allow short, gasping, desperate breaths. It still wasn’t enough; he was suffocating. He clawed at his chest.

Krycek took him by the arm and pulled him over to the couch. “Sit,” he ordered, pushing Alex down. “Put your head back. Try to relax.” Then Mulder returned with a paper bag. Krycek put it over Alex’s mouth and nose, and Alex held it to his face.

Gradually, his breathing returned to normal. Krycek sat beside him, hand on his shoulder. And Mulder stood by, arms crossed, looking on with a mixture of incredulity and impatience and maybe something like irritation.

Alex was irritated too. He was irritated with himself. Well, all right, coming face to face with an alternate universe Mulder was just one more shock to his system that he couldn’t take after everything else he’d already been through in the past couple of days. He could tell that to himself logically, and intellectually he could believe it, but he still felt ridiculous. Now he was acting like some damned Victorian damsel, having fainting fits in the drawing room when gentleman callers came. And he was so tired of crying and panicking and falling apart. When was he going to get a break? Just one day, just half a day, with no shocks, no threats, no mindfucking, no pain. Just a little breathing space so he could pull himself together and not feel like such a fragile, helpless fool….

Krycek was playing with his hair. Which would be nice, except that Mulder was staring at him like he was some sort of noxious bug. Which was probably why Krycek was doing it. And it wasn’t his Mulder, but it was his Mulder’s face. And he didn’t much like being looked at like he was a noxious bug by anybody. And now he wanted to cry again, and he was so frustrated he wanted to scream.

Alex dropped the paper bag and pushed himself to his feet. Too fast. He wobbled a little—but he would have caught himself, if Krycek hadn’t been right there, taking him by the arm. “Poor Little Brother. You’ve had a rough day, haven’t you?”

Suddenly, it just all boiled over. All the frustration, the fear, the misery, the horrible crushing pain. He rounded on Krycek, jerking his arm free, shouting,

“Damn you! I’m not little and I’m not your brother so just go to hell, you son of a bitch!” And he swung wildly, aiming his fist at that insufferable other face that looked so much like his own.

It was hardly a calculated attack. He telegraphed, his aim was off, he spent most of his energy just flinging out his arm. He knew how to fight, but he wasn’t even trying this time, he was just lashing out. Krycek stepped easily out of the path of the blow, leaving him to throw himself half off his feet with the momentum.

He came up gasping, and froze in shock, staring at Krycek. He couldn’t speak, couldn’t apologize, couldn’t even cry. He could only stand and wait to be struck by lightning.

Krycek stared back. Something cold and hard flickered in his eyes. Something that made Alex’s gut twist. Now he was dead. Well, just let it happen, he hurt too much to care any more.

Then Krycek’s gaze softened, and he stepped back up to Alex. He spoke calmly, as if nothing at all had happened. “Would you like to go into the bedroom and have hysterics for a little while?”

God. The soundproofed room. Just go and scream and pound the walls until he exhausted himself. Embarrassing how tempting it was. He put his hand over his face.

“Yes. But I won’t.” He pulled himself up and stared, past Krycek, past Mulder, to the city outside the vast wall of window that made up one side of Krycek’s loft. You could almost forget that it was out there, here in this closed-off hothouse of manipulation and mind games. But there was a whole world beyond these walls, another universe, full of people who were just people, not crazy bastards in your own body and doppelgangers of lost lovers. Just walk out the door and into that city. Leave all this madness and find some other place to stay.

But he couldn’t. It was a whole universe that wasn’t his. He didn’t belong here—he wanted to go home. He wanted his own universe with his own Mulder in it, even if that Mulder hated him. And the best chance he had to ever get home was with this universe’s Mulder and Krycek. Besides, he didn’t have a dime to his name, or any ID, or even a stitch of clothing to call his own. How far would he get? Would Krycek even let him leave? No, he was here for the duration, however long that was, and however much pain he had to endure. And he wasn’t going to have hysterics, he wasn’t going to cry or faint or drop dead on the spot, he wasn’t going to beat Krycek up and he wasn’t going to run away. He was going to deal with it, damn it. He was going to find a way to make this bearable.

All right, all right, he’s going to hurt me, I know that. The guy’s a heat-seeking missile for vulnerability, he doesn’t even think about it, he just does it, like it’s hard-wired. And you’re a walking vulnerability right now, nothing you can do about it. Tell him no—yeah, right. While he’s got all the cards and you’re one step away from being a basket case. And it looks like he’s going to do his best to see that you stay that way—nice and soft and on the edge, so he can push you over whenever he wants, and then prop you up to do it again, like one of those punching dolls with the weighted base that keep popping back up to be hit again whenever you knock them down. You could try to pretend he doesn’t get to you, but he’ll see right through that and take you apart anyway, so don’t even bother to try. The only thing that makes him stop is when he’s reduced you to rubble—then he’s won and it’s no fun any more, so he backs off to let you catch your breath so he can have another go at you.

So just stay rubble? Cry and faint and whine and don’t even bother to try to pull out of it? Then maybe he’ll stay in comfort mode and at least you’ll get stroked a lot, even if you can’t stand to look at yourself in a mirror. Trouble is, you can’t keep it up, and he’ll see through it if you fake it, and I don’t even want to think about what the punishment for that would be.

So let him have it, go ahead and hurt for him, it’s not worth the energy to fight him. Or fight when you have to, but recognize that he’s going to win, and accept it. He’s got you by the balls—just be glad sometimes he likes to stroke instead of squeeze. And pick your battles a little more carefully. “Little Brother”—what the hell, I always wanted a big brother anyway. Not this guy, though—he’s a pain vampire, he feeds on it. Pain and control. Wonder if he gets any joy out of anything else? What does he feel in that cold, dark heart of his? Does he know compassion, or simple friendship, or what the hell—love? Is any of that stuff he puts on for real, or is it all just a game to find more pain for his hunger? Maybe I’m too emotional, but he’s missing something. Big chunks of whatever it is that makes you human and alive.

I’m glad I’m me and not him.

It surprised him to think that. And even more, to realize that he meant it. He would not trade places with the other Krycek if he could, even if it meant releasing all the pain and horror and shame. Even if it meant being strong and sharp and in control. He would rather be Alex.

It gave him a kind of peace. Not that Krycek wasn’t going to hurt him any more—he knew that he would, just as long and as hard as he wanted to. But Alex didn’t have to worry any longer that Krycek could do it because he was better than him.

Krycek and Mulder were both staring at him. Krycek wore a faint smile that had a glint of understanding and approval in it. Alex warmed in the approval even as he thought, What the hell, he’s just glad I’m putting it together because it’ll make it more fun to take me down next time.

Mulder’s stare had many things in it—curiosity, wonder, anger, and yes, paranoia. Suspicion that Alex was some sort of clone or ringer sent to cause trouble. Well, that was all right—at least Mulder wasn’t going to pull a gun on him and run off with him. Not with Big Brother standing by looking proud as punch of his little toy.

Alex took a deep breath, gave himself a slight shake. He spoke matter-of-factly. “Well. Are we going to figure this thing out, or what?”

* * *

“Yes,” Krycek said. The crisp, businesslike tone was a huge relief. Sure, it was probably calculated, what Krycek had decided he needed right now. But it was what he needed. So it was manipulative; why argue with it? “Mulder, you’ll like this. You may be looking at one of the things that happens when you get abducted by aliens.”

“They give you plastic surgery?” Mulder’s voice was as hard as his face. He moved abruptly, swung around and stalked over to the window. “Come on, Krycek. What is this?”

“That’s what we need to figure out,” Krycek said. If he was surprised or displeased at Mulder’s reaction, there was nothing to show it.

“This isn’t one of your little jokes?”

“Afraid not.”

Mulder was still for another moment, and then something in his shoulders seemed to relax a little. “Yeah, okay,” he said, and moved back toward the living room. “I guess you’d better tell me about it.”

“Why don’t I do the briefing,” Krycek said. “Alex, let me know if I’m leaving out anything important—look, Mulder, did you ever get dinner?”

“No,” Mulder said. “That’s okay, it doesn’t matter.”

The weary distaste was clear in his voice and body. It made Alex want to flinch. But Krycek was looking hard at Mulder, something new and unreadable in his face. “All right,” Krycek said. The tone was gentle and very calm. “We’ll deal with that.”

Mulder met Krycek’s eyes. He was silent for a long moment. “Yeah,” he said at last. “Okay, tell me about this thing.”

* * *

There was little enough for Alex to add. Krycek laid the information out well, organized and concise, like somebody who’d had a lot of practice doing briefings. It was the same information he’d have presented if he’d been doing it himself: fingerprints, shared and divergent memories, the pending DNA analysis. He left out the sex part, and Alex was relieved. It probably would come up some time, but he did not want to sit here and listen to Krycek run through either their own activities of the past day and a half or Alex’s relationship with the Mulder of his world as though he were presenting tactical information for a coup d’etat.

“All right,” Mulder said at last. “And you’re telling me you really believe this alien abduction/alternate reality thing?”

“Provisionally,” Krycek said. “It fits the information available better than any other explanation I’ve come up with. I mean, when you ignore the presumption that it’s impossible.”

Mulder shook his head. “Okay, so I’m the one who wants to believe. But don’t you think that impossibility thing is a pretty significant presumption to ignore?”

“Maybe. But there’s some theoretical support for the idea of alternate universes. It just hasn’t been popularized the way the theoretical support for alien life has been.”

“And the impossibility problem doesn’t go away if you assume I’m lying,” Alex said. It was hard to keep the tone of cool analysis, when what they were discussing came down to whether he was lying or not. Particularly when you remembered that if they decided he was lying, Krycek could still decide to shoot him. “Look. What about the fingerprints? What about when the DNA comp comes back with a match? That’s as impossible as this fucking alternate universe thing; so where does that leave us?”

“Exactly,” Krycek said. “And the other thing is, leaving aside the fingerprints and our assumption about the DNA—that’s still an assumption, remember—it just doesn’t feel like a setup. The feel is all wrong on this.”

“Well, that’s solid and reassuring,” Mulder said. He stood abruptly, went pacing across the apartment to the window, turned on his heel and came back again. “You’re handling this thing privately, you think there’s some kind of alternate reality out there, because a setup feels wrong?”

Krycek caught his eye and held it. “Do you think I’m wrong?” he asked.

Mulder broke the gaze. “Look,” he said. “I just really wasn’t ready for this tonight, okay? It’s kept this long, it’ll be the same problem in the morning.” He gave Alex a sideways look. “With all due respect to your guest, I think he could probably entertain himself for a few hours.”

“Fine with me,” Alex said. This time he didn’t have to work to get the cold edge in his voice. Christ, you’d think he’d asked to be here.

Krycek glanced at him and gave him a knowing half-smile. As though they were conspirators, for Christ’s sake, or as though they were old friends who had an understanding about the unreasonable person in front of them. Then his attention returned to Mulder. “I’m sure he could,” he said. “Are you suggesting I let him do it?”

Mulder’s hand clenched for a moment. “Damn.” He relaxed the fist with obvious effort. “No. No, of course not. Do you want to take this in shifts? What’s it been, forty hours on for you now?”

Krycek smiled slowly. One of the bad smiles: Alex was momentarily relieved that it wasn’t directed at him. “Fox,” he said. The voice was gentle and cold. “Are you being deliberately stupid?”

Fox. Jesus. He could see Mulder react to it, too: a little hiss of indrawn breath, a ripple of tension through all the muscles that spoke of pain and fear, and then the beautiful eyes darkening with arousal. It was gorgeous, utterly compelling. Alex felt his own eyes stretched wide, was caught for an instant in a shocking rush of desire. Make it happen again, see a whip come down across that sweet ass, watch Mulder’s lips part, his head fall back in pain and ecstasy…. Christ, where did that come from? He’d hurt Mulder enough; he’d never wanted to add to it. This wasn’t his Mulder, but it was close, too close for him to be feeling this.

“No,” Mulder said. The edgy detachment was gone now. He looked like he might be more afraid of Krycek than Alex was himself. “Not deliberately. I’m sorry, I should have expected this.” He came back from the window. Alex saw him glance for an instant at the chair he’d been sitting in, then turn to come sit on the floor at Krycek’s feet. He leaned into the back of the couch, letting his shoulder press into Krycek’s knee. “Like the chewing-gum commercial, huh? ‘Double your pleasure, double your fun.’ ”

“Something like that,” Krycek agreed. His right hand came down to stroke Mulder’s hair. “Come on, Mulder, let’s have the truth here. How long have you had major fantasies where I showed you off to somebody else?”

Mulder’s laugh was a little choked. “A while. Since that damned meeting in Skinner’s office right after the Idaho thing.”

“Yeah, I thought so.”

Mulder was leaning back into Krycek’s legs now. Alex caught himself staring, unable to make himself look away from Krycek’s hand where it stroked Mulder’s face, his neck, the line of his jaw. It was not the way he’d touched Alex—that was friendly and playful compared to this. Krycek handled Mulder as though he owned him. Not as in some overheated lover’s cliche, but with a rock-solid reality that was frightening in its understated power. Krycek’s fingers moved over Mulder’s lips, and Mulder caught the hand and kissed it, as he had at the door. Alex heard him gasp. He bent his head to kiss Krycek’s hand again, moving now with a kind of ceremonious deliberation; and then he was kissing it over and over, crushing his lips against the knuckles. No game: the emotion blazed off Mulder like corona flares. Another cliché, sprung to life with hideous and unexpected power when you saw it for real. Mulder was worshiping Alex’s cold counterpart.

“I knew you’d like it,” Krycek said. There was an undertone of laughter in the cold voice. “I’m sorry I couldn’t get you Skinner for it, is all.”

“No, it’s good,” Mulder said. “You, but not you. Safe enough to let it happen, and still enough not-you to hurt me.” He swallowed hard, and his eyes fell shut for an instant. “It does hurt. Christ, it hurts.”

“It gets better,” Krycek said softly. He looked up, smiled across at Alex. “You see? No reason at all for you to feel unwelcome. Come on. It’s time to move this party.”

* * *

Alex trailed across the loft behind Krycek, feeling like an idiot and doing his best not to meet Mulder’s eyes. Damn it, what was he supposed to do? Volunteer to be tied to the bed in the other room for the night, as a matter of courtesy? Hey, I know you folks could use some privacy. If Krycek would even accept that: he clearly had his heart—or whatever he used for a heart—set on having him stick around and watch Mulder in action. And he hadn’t mentioned tying Alex up as an alternative. Hell, maybe it wasn’t an alternative. Maybe he wanted the cuffs to use on Mulder.

Krycek’s bedroom didn’t help his nerves, either. That made him feel like an idiot too, though: surely he should have been prepared for this by now. But he wasn’t. This was like walking into a fantasy. There was a sinister sensuality about it all: the mere size of the room, big enough for there to be a sofa and a couple of wing chairs in a corner; the opulent fabrics everywhere; the big sleighbed with its curves of glowing, polished wood; the cut-glass decanter and brandy glasses on a table; the severe silver candlesticks. Mulder was moving around the room, arranging things, turning down the bed, lighting candles. Lots of candles: Krycek must have a taste for firelight. Krycek leaned against one of the chairs and watched him.

Mulder turned from the last candle and looked at them: first at Alex, then at Krycek. The gaze was cool, deliberate; Alex had to force himself not to look away. Mulder broke the stare and began to undress.

He made a nice show of it, too, Alex thought. He’d have to remember it so he could use it himself. Nothing elaborate: just a nice undercurrent of awareness that he was putting himself on display, all the natural motions faintly exaggerated. He was in good shape under the clothes, better than Alex’s own Mulder. There was just a bit more definition, and a little more muscle over the shoulders—Krycek had probably done that, made him add a little resistance work to all the swimming, to tailor his body exactly the way Krycek liked it. Nice, hard cock—that part was the same, anyway.

“You’re welcome to participate, if you like,” Krycek told Alex. He held his right arm out to Mulder as he spoke. Mulder undid the buttons at the shirt cuff, and stepped around him to do first the other sleeve, then the buttons at the front. “But don’t feel obliged.” Mulder finished unbuttoning the shirt, slipped it off Krycek’s shoulders. “You can just pull over a chair, pour yourself a drink, sit back and watch.” Mulder knelt before Krycek and began to unbutton his jeans. “Pretend you’re Cathy,” Krycek told him, grinning. “Or you could just stake out some territory on the bed, it’s big enough.” The jeans were down around Krycek’s ankles now. He stepped out of them, not bothering to look down. Mulder was kneeling naked at his feet; and Krycek was ignoring him and talking about the goddamned seating arrangements.

It didn’t seem to surprise Mulder. He was back on his feet, across the room again, hanging Krycek’s clothes, taking out his robe and laying it out across a chair. He stopped to pour a little of whatever was in the decanter into one of the snifters, brought the glass back and put it into Krycek’s hand. A faint smell of wood and apples rose from the glass.

Mulder’s eyes flicked to Alex for an instant. Just long enough for Alex to see it: Mulder might know all these moves, but this wasn’t some invariable ritual. This was about Alex. Mulder was showing off for him.

Krycek saw it too. His smile widened a little. “Having fun, Agent Mulder?” he said; and turned the grin on Alex. “Can he help you with any of those clothes?”

Shit. All he had to do was say yes. One word: and it would be Mulder’s hands at his chest and shoulders, slipping the shirt over his head; Mulder kneeling to help him out of his jeans; Mulder doing all he could to invite Alex to touch him, kiss him, take him to bed; and damn Krycek, how was he supposed to resist this? Not my Mulder— “No,” he forced himself to say. His voice sounded strangled and odd in his ears. “Thanks anyway.”

To his surprise, Krycek accepted it at once, gave him a grin and a shrug. Then, at last, Krycek was not looking at him, not paying any attention to him at all. It was like having a physical weight removed from his chest. “Mulder,” Krycek said. “I’ll want your gun for this. Go get it.” His voice had changed again, gone hot and caressing. Alex could almost smell the smoke in it.

Mulder’s eyes were wide as though he were trying to see in a room without light. “Yes, Alex,” he said; and went and came back with it, put it carefully on the night-table with the condoms and the lubricant, just as if it belonged there. As if it were the most natural thing in the world.

“Sit,” Krycek told Alex gently. “You’re going to fall over.” And Krycek was right about that; so he forced his eyes away from Mulder, and took the glass of brandy from Krycek’s hand, and sat.

* * *

Mulder was aware of Krycek II—Alex—watching him. It had been like that from the moment he’d walked into Krycek’s apartment tonight: Alex had been focused on him as though Mulder were the only real thing in the world. But the tone of that unwavering attention had changed: now he could feel Alex’s arousal, and Alex’s shock at Mulder’s behavior, in that stare. It was almost like being touched, like having Alex’s hands on his body.

It was Alex’s shock, he thought, that made it so maddeningly good. Whoever he was, whatever he’d been to any Mulder in his own world (if he really had his own world), he’d never thought of Mulder this way. But he knew how to respond to it. Mulder could feel the desire, and its undercurrent of anger, flare with every new demonstration he made. This is what I am, Alex. His toy. His whore. Like it?

The anger, the lust, the hot eyes on his body. All of that: and for once Krycek was letting him indulge himself, make all the classic gestures that were the stuff of pornographic fantasy. He was conscious, beneath the easy lust, of an overwhelming sense of gratitude. It was not quite enough to blot out the rest of the world, not yet: but it would be. Alex watching him; all the things he wanted, that Krycek would never let him have enough of…. He’d already spent more time on his knees tonight than Krycek would usually allow him in a whole weekend. And he could have more: for once Krycek was just letting him go with it, not setting limits, not rationing it. He set the gun down where Krycek would be able reach it, and let himself kneel again to wait for his orders.

“Up.” Krycek’s voice, somewhere over his head. “On your back.” He did it, starting to move even before Krycek had finished speaking, and arranged himself along the side of the bed nearest to Alex so that Alex could look at him, see everything Krycek saw. This was better, finally, thank God and his evil bastard of a lover; Louisiana receding in his mind at last, the scents of smoke and burnt flesh and salt water fading out, the voices of the local police and the victims’ families dissolving and blowing away. Krycek stretched out along his side; and then Krycek’s hands were on his balls, his nipples, the insides of his thighs. And this was going to be rough, he could tell already: slow and delicate, nowhere for his own hands to go, no way to touch Krycek or to feel his weight on him without blocking Alex’s view. He tried to regulate his breathing; but Krycek laughed at him and brought his mouth down over his left nipple, played it hard with his teeth and tongue. He felt himself buck into it. Krycek’s hand closed around his shoulder, holding him down. Then it was the right nipple, and the left again; the nails raking along his skin; the hot tongue working its way down his body to his cock and toying with it, delicate flicks of Krycek’s tongue against the shaft. Enough to make him shudder and thrash, enough to force meaningless noises from his throat; not enough to let him come.

And that was what he needed, too. To see my therapist, he’d said, when the local cops who’d driven him to the airport asked him where he was headed. They were decent guys: they’d been generous enough to laugh at it. They didn’t blame him for what had happened—hell, none of the locals did. They were too busy being grateful he’d seen it in time to save anyone. That was all right now, it wasn’t important. That pain was Krycek’s: he’d decide what to do with it. What was important now was what Krycek was doing to him, what Krycek expected from him: hanging on, making a pretty show of this for their audience. He felt his body stiffen and arc upward under Krycek’s hands and tongue, begging for completion; and then Krycek was pulling back, letting him come down a little.

“Okay,” Krycek said, as Mulder’s breathing evened and slowed. “Time for part two of the briefing.”

He nodded, not wanting to try to speak. No surprise yet: with Krycek there was always something he wanted to talk about. My therapist. “Think back to the Duane Barry thing,” Krycek told him. “The end of it, when Scully’d disappeared and you were trying to get a straight answer from the Army people doing the autopsy.”

It was not a time he liked to let himself think about. But the suggestion was enough to call up the memory, even if he had been willing to refuse. Exhaustion and anger and pain; the underlying bitter fear that he had no way of running from, because the fear meant that there was still hope, too— He nodded again, to tell Krycek he had it.

“Okay,” Krycek said again. “Now. It all went down that way in Alex’s world, too. But there was one big difference. In his world, Alex was your lover.” Krycek was touching him again, petting him and stroking his hair. “Your idea. You’d seduced him within the first month he was assigned to work with you. You can imagine it easily enough: he was a lot like the way I seemed to be then. More competent; but the same eagerness to help in your crusade, to look honestly at the facts. The same air of earnest innocence. He was like that with you in bed, too; made you feel all wicked and knowing by comparison. The person I was pretending to be, sort of. Remember?”

“Yeah,” Mulder said. It was the truth, and horrible: he could see Krycek now with a kind of double vision: the junior partner who’d stood by him, whom he’d reluctantly come to trust. Krycek reached across him to the table. When the hand returned, his gun was in it, the index finger laid carefully along the barrel, far from the trigger, as it always was supposed to be until the moment you made the decision to shoot.

“Think about it,” Krycek said. He was stroking Mulder with the barrel of the gun now, using it the way he used his fingertips. “Think about the way it felt when you borrowed my car that last day and found the cigarette butts there, and knew what I’d done. Think about what it would have been like if we’d been lovers. If you’d seduced me, kept pushing when I tried to back off. Been more than half in love with me, eaten up about what you were doing to me by drawing me into a homosexual affair. Been slow and gentle and tender in bed with me, afraid I’d get hurt because I had no experience with it, hating yourself for not having the decency to stay away from me. And then to realize, all at once.”

It was too easy to do it. He could feel the tears in his eyes, the tension of rage and betrayal in his body, feeding his arousal. “I’d have killed you,” he whispered. “That night after my father died. Scully wouldn’t have had time to stop me.”

Krycek laughed softly. “Not you.” The gun moved over his face, cold and hard and oddly gentle. Mulder could smell the oil and cordite on it. “You’d have needed to talk to me about it first, tell me what you were going to do before I died. You’d have wanted me to answer your questions, just like the way it went down for us. You’d want me to pay attention, know all about what was happening.”

He was shaking uncontrollably. Krycek leaned closer and kissed him on the mouth. The trembling was worse, and his cock felt like it might explode. Krycek raised his head, breaking the kiss. “I’ll tell you a secret, Mulder. I saw the monitor tape from that business on the train last year, the last train out of the old Hansen’s disease facility that you stowed away on. It was interesting to watch you with the Consortium’s assassin.” Another kiss, this time gentle and shallow. “You smiled when you told him you’d shoot him in the guts. And you smiled while you reminded him of how it would feel.”

He didn’t want to think about that, not now. “It’s not like I had much choice,” he said. It sounded weak, even to him.

“No. But I saw that smile, Mulder. You’re not a very good actor. You enjoyed threatening him, and you enjoyed seeing his fear. Ever think about whether you’d have liked it as much if you’d fired that shot?” Now Krycek was leaning into him, resting his weight on Mulder’s chest. The gun moved slowly over his lips. “That’s how it would have been with me that night,” Krycek said. “Your traitor ex-partner, ex-lover, pinned against that damned car, body under yours, your gun in my face… you’d have made me open my mouth and suck on the gun barrel. Wouldn’t you?”

He was right, damn him. “Yes,” Mulder whispered. The memory had risen around him, clear as a hallucination. “Yes. I’d have wanted to feel you being afraid. We’d been intimate, I’d have my whole body pressed into you so I could feel it all. I’d want answers to my questions, and I’d want you to know I was going to kill you, and I’d want to fuck you. Rape you, before you died. If I’d been getting drugs in my water, I’d probably even try it.” He could hear his voice trembling. He fought to clear his head, bring himself back to reality. “Except that Scully would have shown up and shot me long before I got beyond the part where I stuck the gun in your face and yelled at you.”

“That’s right,” said Krycek. He bought the gun back to Mulder’s lips; and now he was smiling his terrible smile. “Open your mouth, Mulder. I want to see you suck it as though you were in love with it. The way you’d have made me do it.” His left hand moved on Mulder’s body now, stroking his collarbones and nipples and face. Mulder sobbed and opened his mouth for it, kissing the end of the barrel before Krycek thrust it between his teeth. “Good,” Krycek told him. “And when I’m finished with this, we’ll turn you over, and I’ll fuck you the way you would have fucked me.”

* * *

Alex felt frozen in his chair. No, not frozen. Frozen was cold, and he was not cold, he was blazing with unbearable heat. And utterly paralyzed. He could not have moved, or uttered a sound, if the world around him were about to explode in a holocaust of acid fire.

As indeed it had done. Mulder took the gun in his mouth, as reverently as if it were a gift from heaven, his full, ripe lips caressing the barrel, his eyes squeezed shut in ecstasy, while the tears still dripped down his temples. And he made love to it, sucking it deep into his throat, working it with his tongue. Alex could almost taste the gunmetal himself. And Krycek smiled down on Mulder with terrible power, holding the gun easily in one hand, letting Mulder pull it deep into his mouth, while with the other hand he held Mulder’s face, feeling his jaw and throat work.

Think about what it would have been like, if we had been lovers…. Alex couldn’t stop thinking about it. Scully’s abduction. The horrible betrayal. Mulder’s true and righteous anger. Played out before him like some bizarre sacrificial rite, while Mulder took Alex’s punishment for himself. And, oh, how Mulder revelled in it—the utter, abject joy of surrendering to pain—Alex knew how that felt, and he wanted it so badly he thought he’d die, but not this pain, it was too real, it would destroy him.

And when Krycek finally whispered “That’s enough” and drew the gun, barrel glistening with saliva, from Mulder’s mouth, it was no better. Because now Krycek was drawing away, and ordering Mulder to turn over, and Mulder was moving as if in a trance to obey. It seemed at once so right and so wrong that Alex wanted to weep. I fucked Mulder, he’d told Krycek, but of course he never had. Always Mulder had fucked him. His guilt had never allowed him to be on top. And as Krycek settled himself over Mulder’s body, pushing Mulder’s legs apart with his knees, here in this opulent candlelit den, the image took on a perverse surreality, as if these were not human beings at all, but demons come to mock him by twisting whatever had been good in his relationship with Mulder to dust and ash.

* * *

“We were outside your apartment building,” Krycek said, and his voice was cool and thoughtful. “You had me thrown over the hood of a car. I don’t think you would have used any lubricant, would you, Mulder? You wouldn’t have had any on you, and besides, you would have wanted it to hurt me. But then, it’s not easy to get into someone dry. You’d have used saliva, at least.”

He brought his hand to his mouth, sucked on his fingers and spit on them, then reached between Mulder’s buttocks. Alex watched his hand move, as his fingers worked in Mulder’s ass. He was not gentle. But Mulder’s response was to throw his head back and gasp, and lift his hips to the invasion. Krycek brought his hand back for more saliva several times, working Mulder into a frenzy, before finally taking his cock and holding it between Mulder’s buttocks. “This is going to hurt,” he said calmly, and Mulder pounded the mattress with his fists and sobbed.

Krycek fucked him. With a series of short, sharp thrusts he entered Mulder. It would hurt, Alex knew—he’d been taken this way before. But it wasn’t excruciating pain. It was rough, stinging friction, and it could be good, it could be wonderful, if you were experienced and hot and ready for it, as Mulder surely was. The saliva would mix with sweat and precum and ease the initial harshness. Afterwards, there would be nothing more than a pleasant sting in his ass.

And Krycek’s semen. They didn’t use condoms—but Krycek wasn’t careless, Alex had already seen that. So they’d been tested, and they trusted each other. Tears dripped from Alex’s eyes, even as his cock throbbed. It wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t right—so much anger, so much cruelty, betrayal—and trust? He couldn’t understand it, and it hurt him in ways he couldn’t explain.

He flinched, shaking, from their orgasms: Mulder’s first, head thrown back and hips pumping, then Krycek’s shortly after, powerful and glorious, a final triumphant thrust. Alex pulled up his knees and ducked his head, surreptitiously wiping his face while they shifted, Krycek pulling Mulder over onto his back and settling on top of him again, gazing down on him like a benevolent god.

Alex sat, frozen. This time the word was right. He was cold right down to his bones.

* * *

Mulder opened his eyes to see precisely what he’d expected to see: Krycek, propped up on one elbow to take some of his weight off Mulder’s chest and grinning down at him. He felt his own lips curve in an answering grin. “Thanks,” he said in his best old-movie voice. “I needed that.”

Krycek laughed. “That’s all right, son,” he said, picking it up. “You just need to remember, your mind can play tricks on you, out here.”

“Yes, sir,” Mulder said, laughing with him. He realized abruptly that he was very hungry. The world had somehow assumed its normal shape again—amazing, even after all these months, how much better Krycek could make him feel. And it was just as remarkable how Krycek’s beauty could still take him by surprise. Especially up close, like this: the dark hair fallen into his face, setting off the pale skin; the startling blue-green eyes; the fine bones and long delicate hands—he brought his head up to nuzzle Krycek’s collarbone.

Hard to believe there could be two people in the world who looked like that. He glanced over at Alex. Not as beautiful as his own Krycek at the moment, but that was hardly a fair comparison. Not with Krycek relaxed and glowing with satisfaction, while Alex sat rigid in his chair, knees drawn up to his chest, his face grim and set. Not surprising, Mulder thought: this was not exactly the world’s easiest social situation. Miss Manners probably didn’t cover what to say to someone who’d just watched you get fucked. Someone who unaccountably looked just like your lover.

Which wasn’t to say that some old classics didn’t seem horribly appropriate. “What’s a nice boy like you doing in a place like this?” he tried, starting to giggle again. “Come here often? Hey little boy, any more at home like you?” He could barely get the words out around the laughter.

“Billions and billions,” Krycek said, in a passable imitation of Carl Sagan. “You know, I’m worried about that, actually.” He sat up, straightening his back as though he were beginning a briefing. “What if this is really the opening act in some sort of cosmic situation comedy? What if from now on, every time you walk through my door, you’re going to find yet another new guy who looks just like me waiting for you? Saying, no doubt, ‘Hello, Mr. Mulder, I’ll be your Alex Krycek tonight—’ ”

“Krycek du jour,” Mulder managed. His sides hurt. ” ‘Today’s specials are bondage and group sex—’ ” Today’s specials. He wasn’t just hungry, dammit, he was starving.

“Until the inevitable night when you get the one who screams ‘faggot!’ at you and spends the night barricaded in the back room, defending his virtue—well, hell, the universe is infinitely various, there’s gotta be one.”

“It’s a possibility I guess we need to consider,” Mulder said, reaching for the flat tone he used for Bureau presentations. “Damn it, you’re right. We need to get this situation under control.” He gave it a dramatic pause. “What have you got to eat around here?”

“Nothing. Beer. We’re going to have to order out.” Krycek turned to look at Alex, and his eyebrows lifted a little. “You can’t be comfortable,” he said.

It was a serious understatement, Mulder thought. Alex hadn’t moved: he was still curled in a fetal knot in the chair, and his face was hard and closed. “I’m fine,” he said tightly.

Krycek’s eyes narrowed for just an instant, the way they sometimes did when he was considering something; and then the expression was gone, so quickly that Mulder could barely be sure he’d seen it. “Okay,” Krycek said. His face and voice were open and pleasant. He rose, crossed the room to the closet, and began to dress. “I want to see about getting you checked for implants tomorrow, assuming you agree.”

Shit,” Alex said. His fetal curl tightened, if that were at all possible, and one hand went to the bridge of his nose in what looked like an unconscious gesture.

“I’d do it tonight, but there’s too much of a risk of attracting undesirable attention,” Krycek told him.

“Fine,” Alex said, getting to his feet. His voice was still hard.

There was plenty of anger there, but no revulsion: Alex’s erection was obvious—and painful-looking—through the tight jeans. But it was clear that he wasn’t going to welcome an offer to do something about it, not now. And it was not Mulder’s business to make the offer in any case. Better to follow Krycek’s lead, put on some clothes, give the poor bastard a break. He reached for his jeans. “Alex,” he said. “What do you want to eat?”

* * *

“No, no, wait,” Krycek said. “You guys are just not appreciating the true beauty of this situation.”

“Lizard Tortilla,” said Mulder. They were back in Krycek’s stage set of a kitchen, and Mulder was leafing through an enormous folder of takeout menus, stopping occasionally to make a suggestion. They were insane, Alex thought. A couple of raging lunatics. First to force him to watch Mulder—not his Mulder, but a Mulder—kneeling and groveling to a Krycek—not him. And then to throw his betrayals in his face and use them as a prop in their S/M games, like he was so much empty leather and latex and not flesh and blood at all—it had been sheer torture. He was furious. Maybe Mulder hadn’t known how it would affect him, but surely Krycek had known what it would do to him to hear those words—I’d want you to know I was going to kill you, and I’d want to fuck you. Rape you before you died—in Mulder’s voice. That terrible whisper, trembling with hatred—real rage, not just role-playing—this was how Mulder felt—how his Mulder would feel about what he’d done. The cruelty of it was astonishing in its deadly precision.

And now here they were laughing and being silly and chatting about alien abduction and takeout like it was all perfectly normal. Like they always kidnapped innocent interdimensional travelers and tormented them and used them as fodder for their sick games. It was unbelievable. And he couldn’t look at them without seeing that image, burned into his brain like it had been etched in nuclear fire, of Mulder on his stomach, clutching at the mattress, hips arched upward, groaning in ecstasy while Krycek, dark and grand and dangerous, drove his cock between those lean buttocks. He wanted them both desperately. He couldn’t even tell whether he’d rather be Krycek, pounding into Mulder writhing beneath him; or Mulder, dissolving helplessly beneath Krycek’s powerful assault. His cock was a burning agony, constricted against the rough denim of his jeans. He hadn’t thought it was possible to be in this much pain and still be hard. And if either one of them touched him, he’d kill them.

“No. Last four meals at the office,” Krycek said.

Four?—No, don’t tell me. So what is the true beauty of this situation, Doctor?”

Krycek grinned. “Look at it. Alex, you may regret the way you played things; but once you take out the purely emotional factors, it’s clear that your Mulder is actually better off for your decisions. Always assuming we can get you home, that is.”

Well, sure he’d think so. Take Scully away from Mulder, plunge him into despair, soften him up to move in for the kill….

“K.C. Jones Barbecue,” Mulder said.

“You complain about their sauce.”

“Oh yeah. So how’s his Mulder better off?”

Krycek leaned back against the counter and looked at Alex. “Okay. First of all, he hasn’t done his Mulder any harm.”

“They took Scully,” Alex said. In trying not to scream, his voice emptied of all emotion. He didn’t want to think about Scully. And whatever the hell this new game was, he didn’t want to play it.

“Yeah, what about Scully?” Mulder said. He’d stopped looking at the menus, and there was a bitter edge in his voice.

Krycek held up a hand. “Not Alex’s fault. At least, not if it played out in his world the way it did here. First, Cancerman didn’t give me any warning about the plans for Scully. I didn’t get any information or instructions until Duane Barry was halfway to the mountain. So if I’d wanted to, I couldn’t have warned you in time for you to catch Barry in a populated spot—and Alex couldn’t have warned his Mulder either. Alex, have we got any discrepancies here?”

Alex forced himself to shake his head.

“I could still have gotten to her before they took her. If you hadn’t sabotaged the tram,” said Mulder evenly.

“And then they’d have taken you too,” Krycek said. His voice was just as even. “It was an obvious contingency, Mulder; it was planned for. Do you really think you could have prevented it, alone? You and I together couldn’t have prevented it, as a simple matter of firepower. And if they’d taken both of you, there would have been no pressure on them over Scully’s disappearance. Or yours, for that matter. Your supporters egg you on, but they’re not real big on taking stands themselves, in case you haven’t noticed.”

Mulder was looking hard at Krycek. Krycek met his eye, and after a long moment Mulder nodded and looked down. “Yeah,” he said. “I’ve noticed.”

“So,” Krycek continued. “Say Alex decides to let his Mulder get to the top of the mountain in time, or even to go with him and help him. The result is total disaster. Mulder’s taken, Scully’s taken, Alex is taken or dead. There’s no pressure to return the abductees, so the chances are they’re never returned. Alex’s actual action in delaying his Mulder gives a much better result. Mulder stays free and is able to create enough pressure to force Scully’s return. And Alex is alive and free himself. Even if his life’s gotten a little strange.”

“Just a little.” Mulder was smiling again: he must be buying it. But—

“Wait,” Alex said. Scully’s return? “Scully’s going to be all right?” Every muscle in his body had gone rigid, as though his flesh had turned to marble. It was uncomfortable, but somehow not unpleasant. It must, he supposed, be hope.

Mulder looked him in the eye. “Yes. It’s not—it’s not easy. But if it happens there the way it did in this world, she’ll be returned, and she’ll recover fully.” The words were measured and cool: as though Mulder had not decided whether Alex deserved to hear them; or as though he did not know that they were almost the most important words in the world.

Alex realized that he was staring. Mulder broke the gaze and looked back down to the file of menus in his hands. “Ray’s Pizza,” he said. Krycek was silent. “Alex? That sound okay to you?”

“What? Oh. I don’t care.” He was struck with it all over again: These people were insane. They tossed off that bit about Scully, and now they expected him to think about food?

“Give me a break here, Alex,” Mulder said. His voice was pleasant and blessedly normal. “If I can’t get a second vote on something decent, God only knows what he’s going to decide to make me eat.” Alex felt a strange dislocation: Another late night at the office—You don’t have anywhere you have to be, do you, Alex? Why don’t we order a pizza? And he heard himself answer, as if in a dream.

“Okay. Yeah, I could go for pizza. Pepperoni and extra cheese?”

“Shit, maybe you two are the same guy,” Mulder muttered. He reached for the phone. “Anything else?”

“No sunflower seeds,” said Krycek. Mulder glared at him; and then he was placing the order.

The dislocation ended. And Alex was back in Krycek’s kitchen with a crash. “I know that look, Krycek,” this Mulder was saying. “Let’s have the punchline.” He still sounded disconcertingly like Alex’s own Mulder, late at night, teasing Alex into telling him whatever far-fetched theory Alex was playing with. Funny the way Mulder could always see it in his eyes, even before he said a word.

But this Krycek didn’t blush and giggle and look at the floor. He was looking straight at Mulder, and smiling just a little, like a man contemplating a difficult but rewarding job. “It’s obvious, isn’t it?” he said. “Alex and I have already talked about it a little. He’s here, he’s met up with us. If events are running more or less parallel in our two universes—and from what he’s told me, they seem to be—then we’re almost two years ahead of him in the time stream. That’s two years’ worth of significant information about the Consortium’s secrets, and about its current activities.”

Mulder nodded slowly. “Two years…. The Japanese experiments, the MJ files—it might be enough. If I’d had all that when Scully recovered—if I’d had proof—” Alex shut his eyes for an instant against that voice, with its memories of pain and fierce desperation. This was his Mulder again: the bitter edges blurred by time and the knowledge of Scully’s ultimate safety, but still the way his Mulder had sounded through those terrible last two days. But if he could help, if he could spare his Mulder some of what this one had suffered, that would be worth having. Erase his own betrayals, make Mulder’s life better for his presence in it…. If that was really what these lunatics were offering him, that would be something worth enduring for.

“Exactly,” Krycek was saying. “I thought the MJ file, for starters. He should be able to download and make secure copies, if we coach him. They’ve forgotten the files are still there, it’ll be relatively easy. If we do this right the Consortium won’t even know it’s happened. Which means no murders over it. Alex and his Mulder never have to live through that night you stuck a gun in my face and told me you were going to kill me. Just as a fringe benefit, mind you.”

The tension in Mulder’s body altered. “You are a fucking menace to society,” he said softly. Alex felt the hot rush of desire as though it were his own. A new bolt of pain stabbed through his groin and mercifully receded.

“It’s harder than it looks,” Krycek said. “We can’t assume exact correspondences. And execution is going to be demanding. Alex is going to need very detailed information, as much as we can give him. Every damned thing we can remember, because details will make the difference, and we can’t know which details are going to be the important ones in advance.” He smiled at Alex, and for once the smile was collegial, completely nonthreatening. “And you thought you had an overload problem before.”

He found himself responding to the normalcy automatically. “That’s okay. It’s real-world information. Not this shit that makes you feel trapped inside a Kafka novel.” Knowing how a strategy works…. He was still angry. But still, he supposed, there was a reason the strategy always worked: you got to a point where your mind just needed the rest, the same way sooner or later your body needed sleep.

“You mean it,” Mulder said. “You really are convinced this isn’t some kind of exotic setup. Want to tell me why?” He reached into the refrigerator, pulled out a bottle of iced tea, and waved them in the direction of the living room. Krycek nodded, and they followed Mulder.

“I told you before, you just were too busy suffering to listen to me.” Krycek settled into one end of the sofa, and Mulder curled up next to him. Alex found a chair a safe distance away and tried to look out the window. “It feels all wrong. Leaving aside the fact that I’m just not important enough to be worth this kind of effort, there are all of those little random discrepancies in Alex’s and my pasts. Yeah, if you wanted to convince me that this alternate-universe thing was real, you’d set some of those up. But they’re too good. Different schools; a woman we both knew, who I slept with and Alex didn’t—sure, you could check that. But the likelihood that I’d find out about a massive investigation into my past goes right off the scale at that point. And I haven’t picked up a hint. Then there are discrepancies as to things only I would know. But I think my favorite detail of all is the D.C. apartment.”

“What about it?” Alex asked. He had forgotten the way Krycek had focused on that when he’d questioned him. It came back to him now, though: the drifting sensation, Krycek’s voice murmuring in his ear, asking him what his apartment had looked like, where the closets were, how the sun fell across the floors in the morning; asking about other things, just talking idly, and then suddenly coming back to it again: which floor was it, what was the carpet like (trick question, he’d giggled, there was no carpet), which floorboards creaked. He’d started to feel like he was actually there at one point, like he and Krycek were somehow lying in his own bed in his own apartment.

“You knew it,” Krycek said. “You knew it like somebody who’d seen it—better, actually. Most people don’t know a place that well unless they’ve lived there.” He looked down at Mulder. “So what, I hear you saying. Big deal, whoever planned the setup took the obvious step of getting their imposter a look at my D.C. apartment, or at least gave him a good description. Right?”

“Right,” Mulder agreed.

“So here’s the good part,” Krycek said. “I never lived there. I looked at the place, and I was ready to take it. But the building burned to the ground before I ever signed the lease. My name was never even on management’s records. And even if it had been, if there were any way for somebody to find out that I’d considered the place, that apartment hasn’t existed for two and a half years in our world. Alex couldn’t have done a walkthrough. You know about the reliability of eyewitnesses—what are the chances that you could have even found someone who could brief him on the place, two and a half years after it burned?”

“I wouldn’t give it much of a chance,” Mulder said. “Not impossible, but it would be a goddamn lucky break.”

“More than that. You’d have to be looking, because you’d have had to think of the whole structure.” Alex caught a flash of movement, reflected in the window: Mulder had swung his legs onto the couch and was stretched out now with his head on Krycek’s thigh. Krycek’s arm came down from the back of the sofa to fall casually across Mulder’s chest. “You’d have to have anticipated that I’d be looking for just that kind of discrepancy, and gone on a real hunting expedition through my past to find a suitable event you could use—something I’d almost done, a decision I’d almost made, where some external event had changed my plans. Then you’d have to construct an internally consistent chain of events for a universe where the critical event hadn’t happened. It still isn’t completely impossible. But it would be a gorgeous piece of work. If this is a setup, a real artist did it.” There was genuine enthusiasm in Krycek’s voice. A real artist. He was probably saving this up to use himself some day, damn him. “And that’s another thing.”

It was getting to be hard to keep his eyes on the window. Krycek’s hand was moving idly over Mulder’s chest as he talked, and Mulder was making little purring noises like a cat. Alex felt another vicious spike of pain from his cock and balls. “I don’t know whether it’s like that with investigations, whether individual investigators have recognizable styles. You know, so that you could go back and look at how an investigation was handled three years or ten years later, and be able to say, yeah, this one’s a Fox Mulder, or that’s a Walter Skinner. You can with good ops people—the best of them are as recognizable as poets or painters. The people who’re good enough to do something like this are people whose styles I’d know. This isn’t any of them. Okay, maybe there’s a great unknown artist out there—but then, we’re adding another improbability. How many serious improbabilities are we stacking up now?”

“And after a while, the odds of all the improbabilities being true at once begins to approach zero,” Mulder concluded.

“Right. I think we’re there. Not to mention: you’re the trained psychologist. Have you seen a reaction that looks fake yet?”

Mulder chuckled. “You mean, besides pretending that he hasn’t wanted to fuck me senseless for the past hour? No, I haven’t.”

Alex heard himself breathe in sharply. He couldn’t tell whether this was some twisted come-on, or whether Mulder was laughing at him, and either one was intolerable; and damn, if it was intolerable, why couldn’t he just stop responding to it? Instead of this, the pain in his groin getting worse and worse, and his cock just stubbornly getting harder?

Krycek was laughing with Mulder, but there was iron in that laugh. “Low blow, Mulder. He’s a guest, more or less, you’re supposed to be nice to him.” Krycek’s voice had that hazy, charged quality now. Alex could feel it working in his blood like a drug. So easy, so tempting to go with that voice, give it what it wanted…. Krycek looked up at him, and now that hot focus had opened to include him, to make him part of whatever was happening. “Alex. Would you consider doing me a favor and allowing him to apologize properly?”

He felt dizzy and a little sick. Lust or anger, he wasn’t sure which. Mulder had gone tense, a little replay of the reaction he’d shown a few hours ago when Krycek had brought him to heel. It was as effective now as it had been then, too; even now, when Alex knew too much about what lay behind it.

“Jesus,” Mulder whispered.

Krycek smiled down at him. “Yeah. Right on that border between doing me and entertaining my guest. Go on, Mulder. Tell me you don’t want it.”

“I can’t,” Mulder said. His voice was rough.

That stung. “Am I supposed to be touched by the hospitality?” Alex managed. “I don’t want it, Krycek, okay?”

Krycek turned that hot stare on him. “It’s okay if you really don’t want it,” he said. “But I think you do. There’s no point in self-punishment, Alex; and this one isn’t your Mulder. You don’t have anything to atone for with him. He’s my Mulder, and he’s here to be enjoyed.” Krycek laughed softly. “He’s got a sweet mouth. He’s never had another man besides me, and I taught him to suck my cock exactly the way I wanted it sucked. You’ll never train a man to please you, the way I’ve trained him to please me: it’s not your game. You and I have the same body, the same nerves: he’ll be as perfect for you as he is for me. This is your chance to find out how that feels. Why not? Your hand won’t be nearly as good.”

* * *

Alex shut his eyes tightly and fought back tears. God, it hurt. A man with the body of the man he loved, trained for the pleasure of a man with his own body. And Alex was to be that man’s humiliation, for the amusement of the man’s owner. “You don’t get it, do you? I don’t want him to do anything he doesn’t want to do. It just isn’t fun for me the way it is for you.”

“He wants to do it if I tell him to. Mulder?” Krycek didn’t bother looking down.

Mulder said, “Yes.” And yes, Alex could see that he wanted to. But he wanted it to please his master, not Alex. It was a game between the two of them, and once again Alex was only a pawn in it. Alex’s eyes brushed past Mulder uncomfortably, took in the brief image of Mulder lying on the couch, head resting against Krycek’s thigh, apparently relaxed. Watching him back.

Like he was under a microscope. Alex turned back to Krycek. “Thanks anyway.”

Krycek sighed, as though Alex were being deliberately tiresome. He glanced down at Mulder and a look passed between them; neither of them spoke, but Mulder got up and walked over to where Alex sat. Alex recorded that through peripheral vision: the graceful walk, hurtingly familiar from when Mulder was most at ease—no, not this man, his own Mulder. Try to think of it as a coincidence they walk the same way. The bones and muscles were laid out on the same pattern, they couldn’t avoid it. It wasn’t like it meant anything.

Fingers touched his face and he had to look up from his stubborn perusal of Mulder’s black shirt. “Come on, Alex.” There was no trace of hostility in the voice; it was soft and gentle, as gentle as the touch, which was enough to undo him by itself. Not my Mulder, his mind repeated like a mantra, until it was reduced to meaningless babble. “I want to. Let me.”

He swallowed. This was grossly unfair, but surely that should come as no surprise. The touch of the hands, the lean, elegant body, even the vague scent of male musk were so familiar and so desired that he could no longer think. Not my Mulder—only the body; but the body was perfect, and his own body responded with undeniable demand. “All right,” he said hoarsely.

Mulder knelt. Alex reached for his zipper but Mulder put his hands over his—just touched them, and he froze. He felt his hands removed from the zipper and they went where they were directed, just as if they weren’t attached to his body. He let his hands lie at his side and leaned back in the chair.

He didn’t think the sensation of a zipper coming down slowly over his cock could be this good. His poor tortured cock sprang free of the constricting denim, and his whole body shook with relief. A second later a hand cupped his balls and then, Christ, he felt the first touch on his cock; Mulder’s lips, gentle and precise, on the midshaft; a kiss like the opening of some kind of ritual, an unmistakable signal that this was going to be as precisely and lovingly and intensely performed as a Japanese tea ceremony. Alex felt his mind spinning away into a hot red haze; what was he getting into? And whatever it was, maybe he shouldn’t get used to it.

From somewhere Mulder came up with a condom—did he carry them around in his pockets, just in case Krycek might change his mind and want one? An old bit of training that died hard? In any case, here it was. He rolled it over Alex’s cock with gentle skill, making the motions caressing and fine, all part of the ritual.

Apparently Mulder began with him as he meant to go on; nothing was hurried, or coarse, or neglected; strokes of tongue and hands reminded him absurdly, even as he was melting under them, of the ballet—inhuman ease and grace born of harsh discipline, willingly embraced. Alex hadn’t planned on moaning, not in front of Krycek, but he did.

It wasn’t as though this had never happened to him before. Nameless tricks, one night stands, long-ago boyfriends…. His own Mulder had done this, done it lovingly, but innocently; these same precious lips, untrained and sweetly clumsy. This was more like the invasion of Europe. The concentration was palpable, and irresistible.

But of course it had to be this way. Naturally Mulder knew what to do; he’d been directed by Krycek, who had the same nervous system, although not all the same preferences—well, in this area, maybe he did. Alex probably wasn’t going to find anybody better in the world unless Krycek did him himself, and somehow he thought this wasn’t a service Krycek was going to offer, and certainly not to him.

Oh, god. Breath hissed between his teeth. This was incredible. And he had to make it last; there was no telling if Krycek would ever let it happen again.

“Slower,” he managed to say, and he heard that familiar nasty chuckle from Krycek.

Mulder obliged. But now it was half-torture, half-pleasure; his whole body felt like a thunderstorm about to happen. He couldn’t stop it, though, he couldn’t tell Mulder to finish him; it was just too good.

Mulder understood what he wanted; he took him down a few degrees, as carefully as someone controlling the descent of a balloon, whenever it got too hot; but flesh and blood were only designed to endure so much.

Finally he came. It was a small word for what he felt; in the back of his mind he almost expected helicopters whirling over the ocean from Apocalypse Now while the “Ride of the Valkyries” burnt out the nervous system. Part of him was still operational enough to think that image was funny, even as he pumped uncontrollably into that silken mouth.

If you got that on a regular basis, it would either keep you young forever or kill you within a year.

He slumped down bonelessly, deliberately letting Mulder see the effect he’d had; and said openly what he was thinking. “That wasn’t a blow job, that was an act of god.”

A glow of pleasure from Mulder, where he sat back on his heels. The darkened eyes were lit somewhere, back so far it was hard to tell where it came from, like a light off the side of the road on a rainy night. Well, Alex owed him that—for whatever reason Mulder had done it, he’d just given Alex the blow job of a lifetime.

The doorbell rang. Krycek got up from his chair. “That will be the pizza.” Mulder stood up and sauntered back over to the couch, while Alex struggled to zip up his jeans.

* * *

Alex had given up even trying to assimilate everything that was happening to him. He felt like he’d fallen into some bizarre and perverted Alice-in-Wonderland dream, and there was nothing to do but wait until he woke up. Day before yesterday he’d been kidnapped by aliens. Yesterday he’d been kidnapped by himself. And he’d just watched someone who looked just like him punish and humiliate and fuck someone who looked just like his Mulder. And then the other Mulder had given him a blow job. An incredible blow job. The great-fucking-grandmother of all blow jobs. And now they were sitting here having pizza and discussing quantum mechanics and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Whitley Streiber meets the Marquis de Sade meets Albert Einstein.

He couldn’t take his eyes off this Mulder, sitting here with pizza grease on the corner of his mouth that Alex was dying to lick off, reeling off physics and conspiracy and science fiction like it was so much nursery rhyme—a man with a brilliant, questing, intuitive mind who never forgot a word of anything he read. That was his Mulder, so real it would be torture if he had any pain left to feel. But then there was that blow job. No way in a million years he could have mistaken that for his own Mulder, who was sweet and kind and had generosity and enthusiasm but no damn technique at all. Who got all his experience from videos and his own imagination, and barely knew what to do when he got a real cock in his mouth. Who opened wide and still tried his best to please him, just like this Mulder did his Krycek. Well, he was quite relieved that Krycek’s Mulder didn’t fuck like his. That would definitely be his damnation.

And thinking about sex was not going to solve the problem. So he took another bite of his pizza and tried to concentrate on what Krycek and Mulder were discussing, which seemed to be theories about how the aliens managed to travel between universes.

“They’ve got an improbability drive,” Alex interposed darkly.

Krycek stared at him. Mulder laughed.

His Mulder’s laugh. Sitting late at the office, punchy from too much coffee and too little sleep, case forgotten hours ago, neither of them quite able to say good night and go home….

“What?” Krycek asked flatly.

Alex had completely forgotten what he had said.

“It’s from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Mulder laughed again. “You know, it makes just about as much sense as anything else we’ve considered.”

Krycek shook his head. “Yeah. We’re getting nowhere with this.”

This Krycek didn’t read silly science fiction books, Alex realized, or consume B movies on late-night TV. He and Mulder didn’t giggle over the twin fairies in Mothra, or argue about what Plans One through Eight from Outer Space must have been, or extrapolate the evolutionary conditions that would give rise to the beach ball alien from Dark Star. What did they do besides fuck? Not that Alex had any objection to a relationship based solely on hot sex, but there was so much more to Mulder than his mouth and his ass. Of course, there could be more to this relationship—Alex was not exactly in the best position to judge right now, but…. You should love him, he thought. Give him pain if he wants it, but give him love, too. Nobody ever loved him enough.

Did he think he’d run out of pain? It seemed there were always fresh springs of it welling up.

“Alex, I asked you what you think.” Krycek was glaring at him impatiently.

Alex thought it was terribly unfair of Krycek to expect him to think. “About what?”

Krycek shook his head. “Never mind.” Then a wicked grin lit up his face. “Let’s go back to the bedroom. I have an idea.”

Alex and Mulder got up and followed obediently, like well-trained puppies. ‘Two masters can give a single slave a heavy workout,’ Alex’s mind quoted to him from The Joy of Gay Sex, ‘one master and two slaves is not a very amusing combination.’ Obviously the authors had never met this particular Alex Krycek. Perhaps that comment had been edited out of this universe’s edition of the book….

* * *

Krycek turned to Alex, once they were standing by the enormous bed. There was still a terrible glint in his eye. Well, Mulder had borne the brunt of their earlier activities; Alex supposed it was his turn now. Perhaps he’d be forced to return the favor. He wouldn’t mind that—he’d always wanted to blow Mulder, but it had never happened. His Mulder had just wanted him to lie still and let himself be fucked. Whatever Krycek had in mind, he reminded himself, he could say no if he didn’t want to do it. Krycek had told him he could do that. No matter if his throat froze and his balls went on fire and his body moved helplessly to obey every time Krycek smiled that hazy, charged smile….

“I know you like to bottom,” Krycek said. “Do you ever switch off?”

“Yeah, sure,” Alex answered absently. The question seemed irrelevant. Surely Krycek never switched. At least he wouldn’t with him.

“I want to see you top Mulder. I think he needs a workout from another perspective. And I could use the rest.”

Alex stared. God, he was serious—he actually expected Alex to do the same thing to Mulder that he’d done. It was impossible.

“I can’t.”

“Sure you can. You and I can’t be that different. You’ve never been in Mulder’s ass, have you? Chance of a lifetime.”

Damn, he’d never told Krycek that. But he supposed it was obvious enough. No, he’d never fucked his Mulder. And never would, as long as he was betraying him. But god, yes, he’d wanted to.

He glanced over to where this universe’s Mulder stood staring slack-jawed at the two of them. Alex recognized the look on Mulder’s face—that combination of sick humiliation and delight and lust-fueled need. Krycek had thought of a new way to hurt him, and he was reveling in it. Mulder would not refuse. And Alex’s own cock was pressing him to accept. Yes, he liked to switch sometimes, if the guy really wanted it, as Mulder obviously did.

But Alex was still not convinced. He turned back to Krycek. “I don’t think I can do what you want me to.”

“You don’t have to do what I want you to do. You’re the top, do what you want to do.”

“Look, I don’t play the way you guys do. I’m just an old-fashioned leather boy. Even if I wanted to work Mulder over, I don’t have the equipment.”

Krycek looked at him for a moment, then nodded. “Wait.”

Alex knew even before Krycek had crossed the room to the closet what he was going to bring back. Of course. The restraints in the soundproof room—it was hardly necessary to keep bondage gear just to tie someone up when a simple rope or some duct tape would have done the job just as well. Krycek had the equipment, though apparently he didn’t use it any more—the small black leather suitcase he brought over to the bed was layered in dust. He blew on it, and wiped the shiny leather with his hand before clicking it open.

The sight of the suitcase’s contents hit Alex like a drug rush. Stupid, he knew, to invest such fetishistic value in the ritual objects of rough sex. But they were his icons—reminders of past pleasures, charged with meaning and emotion, invoking whole scenes and intricate relationships with leather and latex and chrome, like the ceremonial objects of some dark, ancient religion. And they were familiar and reassuring now, when he felt so lost and out of his depth. He felt the switch turn on in his mind—the one that put him in control, that made him feel sure of himself, that gave him the power to dominate. It felt good.

He felt, rather than saw, Mulder creep up beside him to peer into the case. He shooed him away like a puppy, assuming command without conscious decision. “Go over there and wait, Mulder, while I discuss this with your owner.” Then he looked up, and saw the helplessly stricken look on Mulder’s face. Saw him staring in awe at the case, straining to know what was in it. Alex smiled. Sometimes you wanted the trick to see what you had—let him catalog the objects in his mind, mentally test them against his own limits and desires, wonder, Will I feel this one? Or this? But if the trick was imaginative, as Mulder surely was, and capable of providing his own mental torment, then it was better not to let him look. Give him some time to think about it. His own mind would conjure instruments of torture far beyond anything the real case could contain.

“Get your clothes off and lie down on the bed,” Alex ordered easily. “Think about it for a while.” As soon as Mulder moved to obey, Alex returned his attention to the case.

A beautiful crystal-clear dildo lay on top of the pile. Alex stroked it lovingly. Expensive, that was, but that should be no surprise. He imagined it within himself and shivered slightly in pleasure. Then he moved his hand over the other objects. More leather cuffs, like the ones in the soundproof room, comfortably lined so as not to cut or damage struggling wrists and ankles. Chains to bind them, and long leather straps for tying or spanking. There was a dog collar with shiny square chrome studs. Tit clamps and ball stretchers and cock rings. A selection of whips—braided and loose and knotted. He picked up a riding crop and tested the heft, bringing the lash down sharply into the palm of his hand.

The crack of the riding crop echoed through the room. Mulder, who had finished undressing and was starting to lie down on the bed, flinched and stared. It was a deer-caught-in-headlights stare; at once frightened and horrified and fraught with anticipation and helpless need. Alex knew that look very well—it had been on his own face many times. Part of the joy in using these things on someone else was knowing exactly how they felt when used on oneself. Did Krycek know that, he wondered? Perhaps that lack of knowledge was why Krycek had stopped using them. But Mulder was obviously dying for it, poor guy. Well, if one Krycek wouldn’t give him what he wanted, then the other one would.

Alex grinned at Mulder, who swallowed and turned to arrange himself on the bed. He lay face down, legs parted, his cock and balls nestled attractively in the crook between thigh and buttock. His arms were bent at his sides, fists near his shoulders. He was posed like a beautiful model in a gay men’s magazine. Had he arrived at this display himself, or had Krycek instructed him in it? The view from the foot of the bed was most gratifying. Alex nodded to Krycek, who smiled a satisfied, proprietary smile.

Then Alex put the riding crop back in the case, and continued his inspection. A lovely selection of butt plugs—some of Alex’s own most favorite toys. He picked up one huge one—it had to be ten inches long from the tapered, rounded tip to the base, and its conical shape flared out to nearly four inches in diameter before narrowing back down to meet the base. It looked like some rounded, obscene Christmas tree. Intimidation factor, for sure—Alex didn’t see how anyone could absorb that thing. He lifted an eyebrow at Krycek, who grinned nastily. Alex had the sudden uncomfortable feeling that if Krycek still felt inclined to play these kinds of games, Alex might just find out whether or not it was possible. He took a deep breath and dropped it back into the case.

Mulder had already begun to sweat. There was anticipatory tension in his back and buttocks and legs. Alex wondered if he really had any idea what sort of things were likely to happen. Did this Mulder while away his evenings with porn videos, like his Mulder did? Probably even more so, considering his choice of playmates. Surely he’d rented S/M tapes and had a basic knowledge of the game. But watching and playing were two different things, as any football player could tell you.

“Does he have any real experience with this sort of thing?”

“Very limited,” Krycek said. “I gather there was a girlfriend with a strap-on and possibly a few other implements at one time. Better to just assume it’s all new to him.”

Alex nodded. He found a butt plug of a more comfortable size—maybe two and a half inches at its widest, the size he liked himself. “How stretched is he? Can he take something like this?” Knowing that Mulder would be imagining some huge object that would make even the big plug look tame.

Krycek fished about in the case and came up with a smaller plug—a beginner’s plug, barely wider than the average cock. Alex took it and grinned. Neither of them spoke; let Mulder wonder whether Krycek had given his approval for the larger object.

He set the butt plug on the bed beside the case. So many pretty toys—but poor Mulder was a novice, better not get too carried away. Alex liked a fairly simple scene, anyway. Too much started to feel like kitchen-sink sex. Just some penetration, some bondage, a nice whipping—that ought to give Mulder a pretty good workout. The damn bed was too big to spreadeagle someone, and in any case he wouldn’t have wanted to damage the wood by wrapping chains around it. That was all right. Alex didn’t want Mulder spread flat, anyway. He wanted that lean, firm ass high in the air, and he knew just how to tie him to achieve that. He picked out four of the leather cuffs. Chains or straps? How about some of each? A short length of chain to join the cuffs at the wrists, and leather straps to run from the wrists to the ankles.

Then the whip. Alex liked the braided kind for himself, with six or eight lashes, each with a hard little knot on the end to bite at the flesh as it struck. It was a delicious combination of sensations: the flat width of the braids spreading warmth as they struck, while the knobby texture of the braids teased at the edges of the blow, and the knots on the ends added hot, sharp little points of pleasure. But it was an acquired taste, probably too intense for the beginner. With a little sigh of regret he put the braided whip back, and chose a flogger with long, loose fringes of leather lashes. The blows would still be painful, but more diffuse and even than with the braided whip. It would be enough for someone who was unused to being whipped. And certainly, he would not turn down a whipping with it himself. Too bad he was unlikely to get one, unless Krycek decided to go slumming later. Or perhaps Krycek would decide to give Alex to Mulder for a turnabout. Alex’s cock, already burning hard in his jeans, stirred painfully at this thought. He smiled, feeling a warm, hazy anticipation settle over him.

He dropped the whip onto the pile with the butt plug and restraints, then smiled at Krycek and nodded. “I think I’ll go with these. If you approve, of course.” There was an ironic flourish in his voice that dismissed any real need for Krycek’s approval.

Krycek regarded him inscrutably. Alex wasn’t worried—at least not for the moment. If Krycek wanted this scene to go on, he would not undermine Alex’s command. Later, if it pleased him, he’d exact whatever punishments he required. But until it was over, Alex was untouchable.

Krycek nodded, closed the case and lifted it to set it aside. Alex turned away from him—he would not look at Krycek again until it was ended. His attention was concentrated now on Mulder, on providing Mulder with sensations he’d never known.

A cold, hard clarity settled over him, and he felt a terrible grin form on his face. Oh yes, there was going to be hell to pay. Let it come. Let it come.

“All right, Mulder. Let’s see about a few of those things that Krycek won’t do to you.”

* * *

Alex picked up the restraints and walked around to the side of the bed. “Let’s see if I’ve got this right. He likes to order you to hold still, so he can do what he likes and you have to just lie there and endure it, depending on your self-control for your obedience.” He reached across Mulder to grab his wrist, and pulled it down and behind Mulder’s back. He began to buckle one of the cuffs around it. “And even though you feel you’ve sold your soul to him, deep in your heart you know that you still have the option to move, to get up and leave if it gets too heavy, if he crosses the line and takes you somewhere you don’t want to go.” He buckled a cuff onto the other wrist, then fed the chain through the loops on the cuffs to bind them together. Not too tight—give him some slack so he won’t feel too constricted. Maybe eight inches. The chain fastened with a simple spring clip. Mulder could work his hands around to unfasten it if he tried, but he didn’t know that and he wasn’t going to try.

“I’m going to take that option away from you.”

Mulder was breathing heavily, fighting down panic. It was good to have him frightened, but not too frightened. Alex stroked Mulder’s back, kneaded the muscles in his neck. “Don’t worry, Mulder. It’ll be nice not to have to fight it.” He moved down and buckled the other two cuffs to Mulder’s ankles. The leather strap was about three quarters of an inch wide, and about eight feet long. He tied one end to an ankle cuff, then fed the other end through the loops on the wrist cuffs, and back down to attach to the other ankle cuff. Then he started to pull it tight.

“Up on your knees, Mulder. I want your ass in the air.”

Mulder struggled to obey, awkward with his hands bound behind his back. There were tiny squeaking noises emerging from him with each breath. But he managed to get his knees under himself, and lifted his hips as Alex had instructed.

Alex leaned down and spoke near Mulder’s ear, his low voice barely audible. “He makes you spread your mind out for him, so he can touch and poke and pinch all your secrets, all your doubts, all your vulnerabilities. Well, I don’t care about your mind, Mulder. To me you’re just another hungry slut who needs his ass whipped. Spread your legs, Mulder. It’s your body I want.”

The words scored; Mulder gasped and twitched. Alex could see the struggle as Mulder forced himself to obey—moving one knee, then the other, just a few inches at a time. Yes, he was used to having his mind invaded—but the accompanying physical invasion was not much more than plain vanilla fucking and sucking. Horrifying enough for a man who considered allowing himself to be penetrated the ultimate act of submission, but obviously he had no real experience with physical humiliation. So don’t scare him too much; leave some slack in the strap so he doesn’t feel completely trapped. He’s not going to struggle anyway. Alex waited until Mulder got his knees spread far enough to suit him, then pulled the strap snug at Mulder’s ankle and tied it off.

And what was Krycek thinking of all this? Was he enjoying watching his Mulder being trussed up and abused by his other self? Was he angry that Alex had appropriated his rap to use on Mulder? Alex was not even sure of just where Krycek was—sitting in the chair Alex had sat in to watch Krycek work his particular brand of domination on Mulder? Standing near the foot of the bed?

Alex put these speculations firmly aside. Krycek didn’t matter right now; all that mattered was giving Mulder a thorough taste of the other side of submission. He moved around behind Mulder to enjoy the view he had created for himself—Mulder’s sweet ass high in the air, cheeks spread, exposing the dark, puckered flesh of his anus. Alex leaned forward and blew gently on the anus, to remind Mulder of just how vulnerable he was. Mulder flinched; his buttocks flexed in helpless reflex, trying to protect himself; but bound as he was, his efforts were useless. His cock twitched and jumped.

Alex knew this feeling, too, although it no longer shamed him so to yield his body’s secrets to another. Mulder was lucky, in a way, to have all this so new to him, to be feeling this delicious embarrassment and exposure so deeply for the first time. It made Alex a bit envious, and it also made him feel terribly tender. He brushed his lips gently against Mulder’s anus, felt the muscles tighten under the kiss. It was all so sweet. This was his Mulder, at least—the bodies were identical. His own Mulder’s anus would feel exactly like this.

At the foot of the bed were condoms and lubricant. Krycek must have put them there; Alex didn’t remember them. He took them back up to where he’d piled his toys. The butt plug was next. Alex wondered for a moment—would it be too much for Mulder? Maybe he should skip it and go right to the whipping. But Krycek had given his approval for it, and Krycek knew his Mulder better than Alex did. You could ask Mulder, but the way he’d been trained, he’d probably say yes whether he thought he could handle it or not. Or say no out of nervousness, when he really did want it. So help him through it; take it slow, and show him what you were going to stick into him before you did it.

He moved slowly into Mulder’s line of vision, holding out the butt plug and stroking Mulder’s hair with his other hand. Mulder’s face was dark and glowing with sweat; his eyes had already glazed over. But he was steady; so far, he was handling it. Alex spoke softly.

“This is a butt plug. I don’t know if you’ve seen these before.”

Mulder closed his eyes for a moment, then stared, wide-eyed and open. It was just an acknowledgment that he understood what Alex was saying, and gave no indication of whether he recognized the object. Better to continue as if he didn’t. Well, Alex wouldn’t mind having a butt plug explained to him under these conditions himself.

“I know it looks a little weird, but it’s really not that different from a dildo.” If he’d had a girlfriend with a strap-on, he knew what being penetrated with a dildo was like. “It’s just got this constriction here at the base, so that after it’s in you, your rectal muscles tighten around it and hold it in.”

He allowed himself to smile. It was no good getting silly and spoiling the scene, but he didn’t think they were in any danger of that here. Just a friendly, reassuring smile to remind Mulder that this was all for his pleasure. “It feels good. You like taking it up the ass, you’ll like this.”

He didn’t wait for a response from Mulder, just sat back and picked up one of the condoms to roll carefully over the plug. It probably wasn’t really necessary—it looked like Krycek kept his toys clean. But condoms made the cleanup easier, and the plug wasn’t going to mind. He took his time with it. He wanted to make this a slow, leisurely scene. Mulder was surely the kind of guy who’d appreciate having plenty of time to think about and adjust to what was happening to him. And Alex himself was enjoying watching Mulder in his bonds. He was still holding his bottom high in the air, as Alex had instructed, even though the straps didn’t really require this position. His thighs strained inward, as though he was fighting the urge to close his legs. They’d train that urge out of him eventually, but there was no hurry. These little resistances added spice to the session, for both of them. Being up on his knees with his arms tied behind his back forced his chest and face into the mattress. His head was turned to the side, one cheek buried in the pillow. He looked so beautiful, Alex hardly wanted to touch him. Just sit here and drink in the sight. Imagine it was his own Mulder, yielding everything to him….

No. That was a path he didn’t want to follow. It was not his Mulder. Not even Krycek’s Mulder. Just a beautiful male body, a receptacle for his desires, an instrument of pleasure. And it was time for the next step.

He took the butt plug and lubricant and moved behind Mulder. Mulder’s cock was hard and tight against his body. Alex ran one finger along the underside of the shaft, from root to tip, gently touching the slit, just for a moment. Mulder bucked and squirmed. Alex smiled. He wasn’t going to work on Mulder’s cock now—they had a long way to go, and he didn’t want him peaking too soon. It was just a reminder that Alex could possess anything he wanted of Mulder’s. He traced circles around each testicle, then let his finger approach the puckered entrance, teasing first around the edges before playing with the opening itself. Just a few hours ago, Krycek’s cock had entered here, with only saliva to ease its passage. Was Mulder still a little tender? Alex spread him wide with his hands, and inspected his anus carefully for any signs of damage, relieved when he didn’t find any. Well, obviously, Krycek knew what he was doing, and was careful even when he was rough. Good. Mulder shifted uncomfortably, his buttocks twitching under Alex’s hands, embarrassed to be spread so wide and inspected so closely. Alex smiled. That wasn’t why he’d done it, but it was a happy side benefit.

In any case, it would be best to use plenty of lube. He applied it generously and worked it in carefully. Mulder’s sphincter muscles flexed around his fingers as he probed. His hips made tiny thrusts. Alex couldn’t quite tell whether the reaction was eagerness or skittishness. Perhaps some of both. Mulder would be feeling quite thoroughly invaded, and still a little resistant. He would want to protest, to lower his hips, to assume a more comfortable and relaxed position. He would be ashamed to hold himself exposed like this, offering his anus like a whore with her legs spread wide, allowing his most private passage to be explored and handled. And the shame would be piercing him with the most achingly sweet desire. Poor Mulder. And they’d barely even begun. Alex himself was aching with empathetic pangs.

Finally, he held the butt plug to the slick entrance. Mulder flinched; and Alex just held it there snug against Mulder’s anus, waiting for him to relax before beginning the penetration. Slow and careful—whenever you were inserting something into someone that wasn’t part of your own body, you had to be doubly careful, since you couldn’t feel the muscles within tightening or opening for you. You had to watch the buttocks and thighs for signs of tension, and use only the gentlest pressure to push the object in. He made small, easy thrusts with the plug, turning it to help it slide in.

Now was not the time to force Mulder to hold himself still. The tension of trying not to move would only make the penetration more difficult. “Move with me, Mulder,” Alex instructed. “Help me get this in you.”

Mulder obeyed, tentatively at first, reluctant to seem eager for this. Then suddenly, his resistance crumbled, and the pure intensity of the stimulation took over. He moaned and pushed back hard, and began to thrust his hips back into the plug, seeking to take it within himself. Alex let him have a little, then held it back, playing with him, forcing him to beg for it with desperate thrusts of his hips, and pleading moans. “That’s good, Mulder,” he encouraged. “You know you want it. Go for it.”

Mulder was nearly weeping with need when Alex finally held the plug still and let him have it. Mulder groaned as it slipped in, stretching him wider and wider as it entered him, the groan turning to a tiny squeak of surprise when his muscles tightened around the narrow part near the base and it lodged within him.

Alex sat back on his heels, then let himself fall back onto his elbows, panting for breath, and watched Mulder squirm and fret, like a pony being trained to the bit, as he tried to accommodate himself to the plug in his ass. It would be a little frustrating—he would want to feel it moving inside him, but the plug did not fuck, only fill. Its bulk was heavy and comfortable, more an accessory than an act of sex itself. A person could wear one all day without coming, just enjoying holding it inside. That feeling was what Alex wanted for Mulder. He didn’t want it to distract from the upcoming whipping, just to accent it.

Alex closed his eyes and sighed. His own cock was burning hard against the rough denim of his tight jeans. Not wearing any underwear had probably been a bad idea, even though he didn’t like the briefs Krycek provided. He hadn’t quite gotten up the nerve to ask if Krycek had any boxers. But the jeans were, let’s face it, too tight, and the denim scraped uncomfortably against his cock even when he wasn’t hard as a rock. He lay back and unzipped his jeans, pulling his cock free. He held it in a loose grip and stroked it a few times. There was still a way to go before he had his own cock worked on, too. But he’d leave it out of his pants until he was ready.

He released himself and sat up. Mulder had settled down and was quiet again, although he was gasping for breath and his buttocks still twitched. The view from behind was even more satisfying now, with the narrow pink base of the plug jutting between Mulder’s buttocks. Add a warm, rosy glow from a whipping, and the picture would be complete. He stroked Mulder’s bottom, feeling the flesh quiver beneath his hand. Poor Mulder. He tried so hard, and somehow things always eluded him. His quest for the truth was a series of dead ends and disappointments. Was that one reason he felt compelled to drive himself to accept this? Did it mean so much to him to succeed at something, even if it was utter degradation? Or was it the giving up of control that he craved—afraid that the responsibility for his own pleasure would be too much for him? Or was he just so used to pain that he didn’t know how to react to anything else?

Alex rested his cheek against Mulder’s buttock, and stroked the base of the plug, giving Mulder that slight bit of motion to feel inside him. Did his own Mulder have this need in him? Could a strong, commanding Alex bring it out of him, punish and train him as Krycek had this Mulder?

It didn’t matter. Alex didn’t have the corresponding dominance in him, to put his Mulder through what this Mulder had been through, even if he had come eventually to accept and crave it. He’d rather throw himself at Mulder’s feet and beg for punishment himself.

Suddenly, Alex met Krycek’s eyes, sitting in the chair across from the bed. He almost jumped. It was as if a light had been switched on, and Krycek emerged in that instant from the shadows. It was because he’d let himself come out of the power trance, he knew. He’d get back into it in a moment, as soon as he picked up the whip. It was easy with Mulder—he responded so perfectly, with such an appealing mix of need and shame. He made it so easy to hurt him.

Meanwhile, he was caught in Krycek’s brilliant stare. His eyes were like chips of black glass, hard and sharp and bright. Alex couldn’t read that stare at all. It could be anything from burning rage to raging lust. Or nothing at all. He could be mentally balancing his checkbook. Strangely, Alex wasn’t afraid. It wasn’t just that he knew in his bones that Krycek wouldn’t interrupt the scene unless imminent destruction were at hand. He wasn’t afraid for after either, not really afraid. Something else had changed, but he didn’t know quite what it was.

And he didn’t want to think about it now. Mulder was lying here, bound, with a butt plug up his ass, waiting patiently (or not, but waiting nonetheless) for his whipping and fucking. Alex gave Mulder a kiss and a pat on the bottom, and returned to Mulder’s side to pick up the whip.

As before, he would show him what he was going to use on him. “Time for your whipping, Mulder,” he said softly, holding the whip where Mulder could see it. Mulder blinked at it and his breath caught. He stared at it wide-eyed.

“Time to give you the pain you crave,” Alex continued. “Not the emotional pain of having your failings exposed, or the humiliation of having your control taken away, or strain of providing complete obedience. Just the pure, physical pain of having your ass beaten while you lie here all tied up and helpless. And it’s going to hurt, Mulder. It’s going to burn and sting and you’re going to feel it long after I untie you and give you back to your owner.” He lifted the whip and let it trail along Mulder’s cheek. “This isn’t the most painful whip I could use on you. That riding crop would have you bleeding. This one is just going to make you swollen and tender. But it will give you a good workout. You’ll know you’ve been whipped.”

Mulder’s eyes were barely focused. He was breathing the deep, strained breaths of someone who’d been through heavy physical exercise. Sweat was dripping down his jawline. Alex was not sure Mulder was even hearing him. That moment back there when Mulder had surrendered and begun to work with him—certainly Mulder had been broken before, but never quite like this. And now, with the whip dangling in his face—Alex set it aside, and stroked Mulder’s cheek reassuringly—he’d gone below, to that deep, trancelike place where heavy physical stimulation sometimes took you. It was a place where command and obedience and humiliation no longer meant anything, only bodily sensation. Pain and punishment and pleasure all blended to a vast, overwhelming stimulation of the senses. You couldn’t get there with the sort of cerebral torture that Krycek provided, at least Alex didn’t think so. So Mulder wasn’t likely to know what was happening to him.

It was a good place. Alex craved it himself—it was the only real relief from the neverending torment of his own relentless mental processes. But it was heavy going for a beginner—especially one who was under the control of a man who was essentially a total stranger, even if it was a stranger with the body of his lover. Krycek was here to protect him, but he might be beyond awareness of Krycek’s presence. He might even have forgotten that it wasn’t his own Krycek doing this to him. Should Alex try to bring him out of it? But if he was able to handle it, it would be a shame to deprive him of the experience. Asking him would be no good—he was probably unable to articulate right now. But there were other ways of communicating.

Alex stroked Mulder’s shoulder, then ran his hand down Mulder’s arm, over the cuff, to grasp his hand. He squeezed it firmly, twice, then said,

“Mulder, I want you to squeeze my hand if you’re okay. Twice if you want me to go on. I’ll stop if you don’t.”

He waited. He’d decided, regretfully, to start untying Mulder’s bonds when the answering squeezes came. Perhaps a little shakier than he’d like, but definite. Mulder wanted it all. Well, he’d be all right. He’d have two Kryceks to help him sort it out afterwards.

Alex took the whip and positioned himself by Mulder’s hips. Nothing too fancy, just a straightforward whipping across the butt. He stroked Mulder’s bottom, pressed the base of the butt plug, then took a deep breath and lifted his arm.

He brought the whip down hard across the rounded mounds of Mulder’s buttocks. The slap of leather against flesh sounded in the air. Mulder bucked and cried out. There was a sharp intake of breath from across the room. The rosy print of the leather lashes began to rise on the creamy buttocks. Alex took another breath and struck again.

Alex could very nearly drift below himself like this: just sinking into the feeling of the rise and fall of his arm, the impact of the whip on Mulder’s increasingly reddened ass, the sound of the blows, Mulder’s choking groans…. It was hypnotic and intense and charged with dark significance. He didn’t bother to count the blows, just continued until he knew it was time to stop. Then he dropped the whip and sank down onto the bed, gasping and twisting the sheet in his hands. His own buttocks throbbed with remembered pain of the spanking he’d received only a few hours ago. It was so good he nearly cried.

Then he crawled around to lay beside Mulder, looking into his face. Mulder was completely gone now. His eyes were clouded over, and his breath came in short gasps through slack lips. His hair stood up in sweaty spikes around his face. It was time to bring him back a little, and finish it off. But Alex wasn’t quite present himself. He stared at Mulder, trying to make sense of this. Why was he here, in some grand museum-like bedroom, being watched by himself as he played out an S/M scene with a Mulder who was not his own? There was some grandly baroque and perverse design in the whole thing, if only he could find it.

“Do you wish it was him doing this to you?” he said softly. He had no idea whether Mulder was capable of answering him, and he didn’t care. He was talking to the universe at large, and didn’t expect a response. “I wish you were my Mulder. But I wouldn’t do this to him. My poor Mulder is so innocent and sweet—he doesn’t even know how to be rough. When people hurt him, he doesn’t enjoy it, he just hurts. It breaks your heart to see him suffer like he does. I wonder what he would think if he could see you like this? Would he recognize anything of himself in your submission, or would he just be horrified? And what would he think of me, knowing I’m capable of doing things like this? Not that he needs another reason to hate me. But you forgave your Krycek eventually, didn’t you? Or did you? Do you still keep your hate inside, to make your humiliation more complete?”

Alex reached out to stroke Mulder’s face, trailing his fingers down that distinctive jawline, then across the full lower lip. Mulder sucked Alex’s fingers into his mouth and worked them with his tongue and lips. It was a trained reaction, not a conscious decision. But the spark was coming back into his eyes.

Alex gently pulled his fingers free, then leaned forward to put his mouth on Mulder’s. Mulder answered the kiss eagerly. Did he taste like Krycek, Alex wondered? How would Mulder categorize their kisses in his mind? And did this Mulder taste like Alex’s? No, he didn’t quite. The lips were the same, and the intensity, but there was too much pain in his flavor. But Alex kissed him anyway, with all the love and desperate need he felt for his own Mulder, until he started to lose himself again and had to pull away. He stared dully at Mulder, who looked at him strangely, with something like real pain in his eyes. The kiss had been a bad idea. Never mind, it was almost over now, anyway.

“I’m going to fuck you now.”

No answer was required, and none given. Alex first moved to gently work the butt plug free. He stripped off the condom and threw it in the trash, then set the plug aside. He found another condom and rolled it over his painfully hard cock. He pushed his jeans down and threw them into the floor. He didn’t bother to take his tee-shirt off. He was moving steadily, but by rote. Even the hardness of his erection meant nothing to him. He was tired of the game and just wanted it to be over.

So end it. They weren’t playing by the rules here anyway. He reached for the leather strap that ran from Mulder’s legs across his back, and untied the knot. He pulled the strap loose from the cuffs, then unsnapped the chain from the wrist cuffs.

“Lie down, Mulder. Get comfortable.”

Mulder moved his freed limbs gingerly, stretching out his strained legs and arms with tiny sighs and moans. Alex made sure the lubricant was close at hand, then lay on top of Mulder, stroking his back and shoulders. Tenderness could be the worst pain of all, he knew. But there was nothing between him and this Mulder that would make it mean anything. So he kissed Mulder’s shoulders and the back of his neck, tasting the sweat and soft skin, stroking the lean, strong body. How could it be Mulder, and yet not Mulder? How could this be happening? He applied lubricant between Mulder’s burning buttocks and guided his cock into him. The body was identical to his Mulder’s, right down to the DNA. His Mulder might not react like this, but he would feel just like this. He slid his hand beneath and gripped Mulder’s cock. His mind was lost in a haze of pain, but his body knew what to do. He noted Mulder’s response with detached interest, adjusting his thrusts and the strokes on Mulder’s cock to give the greatest possible pleasure. He hardly felt his own reactions.

Mulder moaned and thrashed in the sheets, his cock pumping into Alex’s hand. Like a lemming following its brothers over a cliff, his own orgasm followed. It was sweet and hard and painful, and he knew he would never do it again. No, Krycek, he thought dizzily. I don’t want to do it. I’m saying no.

As always, far, far too late.

* * *

Mulder woke just in time to see the flash of Alex’s bare bottom as he crept out the door of the bedroom. A moment’s panic was quickly put down—the guy was still wearing nothing but a tee-shirt; he wasn’t going anywhere. Probably just wanted a midnight snack or something. Still, he’d better keep an eye on him. He glanced over to where his own Krycek was sleeping soundly on his other side—Mulder in the middle of a Krycek sandwich, and wasn’t that an experience. It was his turn on watch: Krycek hadn’t really slept since Alex had arrived, and they’d agreed that Mulder would take this shift. He slipped out of bed as quietly as he could, grabbed a robe from the chair and went on the trail of the wayward extra Alex Krycek.

An Alex Krycek from another universe. It all seemed so ridiculous—yet it was the only explanation that made sense. An Alex Krycek who was very different from his own, with his own Mulder—and how different from that Mulder was he? Alex had been sleeping with his Mulder, Krycek had said. While they were partners. Mulder definitely wanted to know more about that.

But first, he’d better find him. Alex wasn’t in the living room, or in the kitchen. One of the bathrooms, maybe, but he just could have gone to the one off the master bedroom. Damn, had the idiot actually taken to the street dressed only in a dirty tee-shirt? Was he going to have to get dressed and go after him? Visions of Jeffrey Dahmer taunted him. He’s my boyfriend, officer. He’s just drunk. We had a fight and he stormed out. I’ll just take him home now. No, that wouldn’t do at all.

Mulder sighed. Check everywhere, do it thoroughly. Alex surely wouldn’t go back to the bedroom where Krycek had imprisoned him on his arrival, but….

But there he was, curled up on his side in the bed, already asleep again. Mulder sighed with relief. Of course, the poor guy probably just wanted to be left alone for a little while. Too bad he couldn’t just let him stay there.

Mulder watched him for a moment in the dim light from the hallway. His own Krycek never looked so innocent, even in sleep. The slight extra weight made his face look smoother, younger. Yes, he could imagine a version of himself who wouldn’t be able to leave this fallen angel alone. After all, he’d been attracted to his Krycek right from the start, hadn’t he? Or was that an illusion, all his images of Krycek from that time retouched with a new glow of sexual fascination? No way of knowing: even eidetic memory could lie, the unchanged information could be colored with new emotion. Certainly, it was an attraction he’d never admitted to himself. And even if he had, even if he’d wanted Krycek then, there had been a coldness, a self-sufficiency in his Krycek that would have made it impossible to even think of trying to do anything about it.

But this Krycek…. He bent over the sleeping form, stroked the unshaven cheek with the back of his fingers, then squeezed his shoulder gently.

“Alex,” he said softly.

Alex stirred, muttering to himself, blinking sleepily. “Mulder….” With a sweet, loving smile he reached out, slid into Mulder’s arms, and clung to him tightly. “Mulder, what… ?”

Then he was pulling back, the sweet smile fading, turning to hopeless longing and regret, sick realization, fear, and aching misery. “Sorry,” he mumbled, and pushed himself away from Mulder to sit back against the wall, the sheet gathered around him. A sullen look replaced the open heartbreak on his face.

He’s not lying, Mulder thought. Nobody could have faked that. He’s in love with his Mulder. “It’s okay,” he said gently. “But you can’t go wandering off like that.”

Alex shrugged. “I kept having these dreams and waking up. I just wanted to be by myself for a while. Jeez, I’m hardly likely to go escaping in nothing but a tee-shirt, am I? What the fuck does he think I’m going to do, call up the gang and throw a party in his library? Where is my evil twin, anyway?”

Mulder chuckled. “He’s sleeping. I’m responsible for you just now. —So he’s the evil twin, does that make you the good twin?”

“Pfft. Hardly. I’m the stupid twin. The annoying brat twin. The can’t-fucking-stay-in-his-own-universe twin.”

Mulder settled himself cross-legged on the bed with Alex. Which reminded him that his butt was burning, courtesy of this wide-eyed innocent. There were similarities between the Kryceks, apparently, although they expressed them in different ways. You’ll know you’ve been whipped. It would be good to stretch out next to Alex, slither under Alex’s hands and tell him, yes, I still feel it….

Mulder cleared his throat and pulled his robe tighter around himself. Not a subject to be thinking about right now. “What were you dreaming about?”

“Bright lights. Suffocating. Little grey guys with big eyes. You know, the usual.”

“Do you remember much of it?”

“No, not really. It’s all just a lot of jumbled images. I’m not even sure what’s real memories and what’s Duane Barry’s ramblings, your—that is, Mulder’s—stories, or some of the stuff that’s happened since I’ve been here.”

Since he’d been here…. Kidnapped at gunpoint, tied up and interrogated, and—I know you like to bottom….

“He fucked you, didn’t he?”

Alex frowned. “Yeah. You going to get all jealous and beat me up?”

“No.” Mulder smiled reassuringly. “Come on, does it look like I’m in any position to tell him who he can sleep with?” It was a good question, though: how did he feel about his Krycek setting up a cozy little love nest with his captive “Little Brother?” It wasn’t as bad as Scully, nothing like as bad. And a good thing: if it hurt the way Krycek’s affair with Scully hurt, he could count on Krycek to see it and use it on him, the way Alex had used that whip. But still… he’d just been assuming, hadn’t he, that Krycek saw women, but there were no other men?

No, it didn’t bother him if Krycek fucked his alter ego. Other men would bother him, but somehow Alex didn’t really count, not that way; and anyway it wasn’t Alex’s fault. No point making him even more uneasy than he already was. “We don’t have an exclusive relationship,” he added, trying to soften it. “I see other people, and so does he. Anyway, it’s sort of all in the family, isn’t it?”

“All in the family. Jesus. This is all just too fucking weird.”

There was something in his voice that made Mulder think of Alex’s reaction to seeing Krycek fuck him. Mulder remembered the way Alex had kissed him. And that desperate little speech about his Mulder. “Are you okay with what we did?”

Alex gave a sad little laugh. “I should be asking you that.”

“I think we can ask each other.”

“I’m okay.” Another small laugh. “Hell, maybe I’m not. But it’s not your fault.” Suddenly Alex looked Mulder in the eye, his face open and sincere. “I tried to make it good for you.” Then he looked away again. “I don’t know, it’s probably not very sophisticated compared to what you’re used to. I suppose you were pretty bored with the whole thing.”

Mulder couldn’t help laughing. The guy ties you up, shoves a plug up your ass, whips you and fucks you, then apologizes for being boring? “Alex. I wasn’t bored. In fact—and don’t you dare ever tell Krycek I told you this, or I swear I’ll kill you—I’ve been after him for something like that practically since we got together.” He thought of the suitcase again and shook his head. “I can’t believe he has all that stuff just sitting in a closet. Bastard’s been holding out on me.”

“He’s got some great toys. I wonder why he doesn’t play with them any more.”

“Maybe he thinks he grew up.”

Alex giggled. It was weirdly disorienting to hear that charming, breathy giggle in Alex Krycek’s voice. His own Krycek never giggled like that. Mulder laughed with him for a moment, then paused, considering. “No, that’s not it, really,” he said. “It’s probably that weird way he has of standing outside things and watching himself. Too much gear, too much ritual, and maybe it turns into Rocky Horror Picture Show. And—hell, you know. You can’t laugh at it, not while it’s happening. If it’s not serious, it doesn’t work.

“It’s sort of strange, isn’t it? I always used to think sex was supposed to be funny. It was fun and ridiculous, and you were supposed to be able to laugh at yourself.” He was talking too much. He stopped and looked over at Alex.

“Maybe.” Alex shrugged. “It doesn’t always have to be serious, unless that’s what you’re into.” He frowned. “But you like that, don’t you? That heavy emotional trip….

“That’s why he never used his toys with you. He’s keeping you on the edge,” he said, suddenly earnest. “He wants you hungry and desperate and unsure, so you never get used to what he does to you. It’s a long-term strategy. Because he knows you’re too smart and too imaginative to stay satisfied with the same old thing all the time. Face it, Mulder, a couple of weeks of getting tied up and whipped and it’d lose the thrill—you would get bored with it. And there’s only so far you can go with the physical stuff. The way he mindfucks you—he can keep that going forever.”

It was like watching someone strip off a disguise. Mulder had to make a conscious effort to keep his mouth from hanging open. So very different—and yet that cool analysis was his Krycek: at some core they really were the same person. And just as with his own Krycek, the analysis made perfect sense.

If Alex really did think like his Krycek, this wasn’t an opportunity Mulder wanted to waste. “What about the physical stuff, though?” he asked. Talking about it reminded him again of how his ass felt right now. He heard Alex’s voice again: You’re going to feel it long after I untie you and give you back to your owner. Well, he felt it now, and he’d feel it the next time Krycek fucked him, too. His ass would hurt, and it would hurt because he’d been whipped for Krycek’s pleasure, while Krycek watched. He wouldn’t be able to help thinking about it: the pain would remind him. He shivered. Hard to believe that was something you could get bored with; it was like walking around with a constant erection. “You’ve been where I was, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, lots of times. You mean, why don’t I get bored with it?” Alex said. Mulder nodded. “It’s different for me. I don’t need a lot of mindfucking—I like the physical sensation for its own sake. That’s what sends me where I want to go—that place where there are no words, and you just stop thinking…. I don’t think that’s what you’re looking for. For you, it’s all about your mind, your emotions—look at the way he keeps you talking, makes sure that you’re thinking what he wants you to think. Right up until you come, almost.” Alex chuckled. “You know, Mulder, most guys couldn’t talk at that point if they wanted to. You can’t get that just from being tied up and whipped. It’s kind of a one note thing emotionally. He proves he can hurt you, fine. Then what? He makes it more painful, it’s still the same old lesson.”

Mulder considered it. “Yeah, that makes sense.” He thought about the suitcase again and shook his head. “But dammit, I’m not bored yet. How many whips did he have in there, anyway?”

Alex grinned at him. “Oh, don’t worry,” he said. “I bet you find out. There’s nothing wrong with showing you he can hurt you, as long as he doesn’t overdo it. No reason he can’t pull one of those whips out and give you a few strokes now and then, make sure you don’t forget.”

“That long-term strategy again?” Mulder said. Long-term strategy—it had had a nice ring to it the first time Alex had said it, too. “Shit, don’t answer that. Stupid question.”

“It’s not a stupid question if you’re worried about it, Mulder. Look, I’m not him, I can’t tell you what he thinks. But come on, isn’t that how it looks to you?”

“Yeah,” he said. Christ, this was embarrassing: he felt like a teenage girl. But at the same time, it was a huge relief to be able to talk about it. “It makes sense. It fits the facts, and it fits the way he thinks. But still—” Shit. He caught himself before the rest of the sentence escaped. Still, I have to wonder just how long I’ve got before he gets bored with me and throws me out. It was definitely time to shut up. Past time.

“Still?” Alex asked.

“Nothing. Forget it. So, what’s his strategy for you?”

Alex sighed. “I’m his little Alex Krycek toy. He’s fascinated, like I’m some kind of weird bug that flew in his window. He’s got this vague feeling that he ought to be nice to me, at least sometimes, because after all I am him, but he can’t resist poking and prodding and pulling the wings off his little bug. ‘Does that make you jump? Oh, I’m sorry, let me kiss it and make it better. Now, how about this?’ ”

Mulder laughed. Definitely not the stupid twin. “I see where you’re getting that,” he said. “But I think you’re wrong, actually. I don’t think it even occurs to him that he might be hurting you.”

“No? How could he think the things he does don’t hurt?”

Mulder shrugged. “He thinks you’re him,” he said. “Nothing he’s done would bother him, so he doesn’t believe it bothers you.”

“Despite evidence to the contrary.” Alex didn’t sound remotely convinced.

“He’s not seeing it clearly. I don’t know why not. Maybe it’s something about the two of you really being the same person, maybe he just can’t see the ways that you’re different. If he really saw that you were another person, he’d be doing his best to make you like him. You know, just in case he might find you useful later.”

“For Chrissake, Mulder, I know that,” Alex snapped. “I know how the game works, I do it too. Just like he does. And if I were treating him the way he’s treating me, I’d be doing it because I meant to.”

“But look at what you’re doing,” Mulder said. “You’re assuming he knows how you feel, just like he’s assuming he knows how you feel. You guys aren’t exactly the same, maybe he doesn’t know. —Although, I think you’ve got a point with the ‘let me kiss it and make it better’ part.”

Alex seemed to be considering it. He nodded, and then sighed. “You’re probably right. I mean, I can’t read him at all, or figure out what he’s going to do from one minute to the next. So why should he know what’s going on in my mind?” Then he grew thoughtful. “But, you know, I can see things in him, and I can see how, if things had gone just a little differently for me, I could have been like that too. Sometimes I wish I could be more like him. Steady and cold and in charge. But he gave up something to get that way. Something I don’t think I want to give up.”

“You’re a lot more emotional than he is. A lot more willing to get hurt. Hell, I’m not sure he can be hurt.”

Alex stared off into the distance. His eyes grew dreamy. It was a look he’d seen on Krycek’s face—but usually under very different circumstances. It gave Mulder a strange chill. “I wonder if he was like me when he was a kid? Getting hurt over everything. Crying when the butterflies died. And somewhere along the line he decided he couldn’t stand the pain and figured out how to turn it off. I used to think it would be great to be able to do that, to stop feeling. But then something good would happen, and it would feel so good. Every once in a while something good still happens. I wouldn’t want to miss it.” He looked at Mulder and smiled that same sweet, adoring smile that had greeted Mulder before Alex was fully awake. “It will never be the same for you guys as it was for me and my Mulder, just for a little while….” Then the smile was fading again into sadness.

“You’re in love with your Mulder, aren’t you?” And you still betrayed him, you little fool, he added mentally, with more bitterness than he’d expected.

“No.” Alex’s voice was tired; more a refusal than a denial.

“Alex, I see the way you look at me. And I’m not even your Mulder,” Mulder said gently.

“They why ask?”

“All right.” Obviously, it meant something for him to hold onto that denial. So let him have it. “Will you tell me about him?”

Alex shrugged. “Not much to tell. It’s pretty much the same as you and him, up until Duane Barry.”

“I never slept with him while we were partners.”

Alex looked like he’d been punched. His voice was pained. “He’s going to kill me. If I ever get back. He’s going to shove a gun down my throat and shoot me.”

“Alex, that was just… a story for us to use. It wasn’t about you: it was about something that happened between us a lot later. Something that probably won’t ever happen in your universe, not now. And even if it had been about you, I’m not your Mulder. I can’t tell you how he’s going to react. I would never have made a pass at him. That’s how it happened, isn’t it? He seduced you?”

“God. Seduced.” Alex leaned his head back against the wall. “It makes me sound like some damned high school virgin. But yeah, that’s how it was.” He leaned forward again. “Did you ever call him up in the middle of the night, just to talk? Pretend you had work to do and keep him at the office until all hours, drinking bad Bureau coffee and talking about nothing?”

Mulder shook his head.

“Mine did. I should have seen it coming, I should have… I should have just said no. I should have told him the same thing Scully did—it’s late, you’re tired, this isn’t a good idea, go home. Hell, I did tell him that. Why wouldn’t he take no for an answer from me, when he would from her?”

“Maybe he knew she meant it.”

“I meant it, too. But I couldn’t tell him why. So he figured out his own reasons, and his own ways around them.”

“He thought you were inexperienced and shy.”

“Yeah. He made up his mind how it was, and there was nothing I could do.”

“You could have told him the truth,” Mulder said softly. “He trusted you.”

“And that would have ended real quick if I’d told him. ‘By the way, Mulder, I’ve been working for your enemies, but I’ve changed my mind since you fucked me.’ Yeah, I’m sure that would have gone over real well.”

“So you went ahead and betrayed him.” Mulder’s voice was unnaturally calm.

“Mulder, I had no choice. He had to be kept away from it, or they were going to kill him. What else could I do?”

What else could he do? Mulder could have thought of any number of things Alex could have done. But maybe Alex had done the best he could. Made the wrong decision for the right reasons. Anyway, it wasn’t for him to judge, it was for that other Mulder. Hell, his own Krycek had done far worse things than sleep with him, and they’d found their way back to each other. Strange—one Krycek had fallen in love with him, and one had calmly recommended that he be killed after their first case together. And the result had been exactly the same in both cases. How many Kryceks in how many universes had been assigned to work with Mulder? Had any of them stood by Mulder and refused to let Scully be taken? “Maybe you’ll get the chance to explain that to your Mulder some day.”

“If I even get a chance to open my mouth before he shoots me. Or no—my mouth will be open, it’ll just have his gun barrel in it. Hard to explain anything through cold steel.”

But he didn’t sound so upset about it now. It was almost as though he was enjoying the thought. Perhaps picturing himself in Mulder’s place, and his own Mulder in Krycek’s? Mulder grinned. “Maybe he’ll decide he likes it so much he doesn’t want to kill you.”

“He should have had the gun in his mouth, you know.”


“Krycek. That was how he set it up, anyway. You should have taken the gun away from him and shoved it down his throat.”

Mulder grinned. “He said you liked to bottom, didn’t he. What’s the matter, you want to have all the fun in every possible universe?” But still, it was an interesting question. “I didn’t have to,” he said softly. He was thinking out loud now, not watching for Alex’s reaction. “Because I’d already done it. There was the part of it that really happened, when I caught him that night after my father died and almost did kill him. And when he reminded me it, and of what happened on that train—I could feel myself doing all the rest of it. I didn’t need to do it again. I needed to be punished for doing it the first time.” He realized that Alex was still listening, and threw him another grin. “Not to mention, I wouldn’t dare.”

“Why not? If he’s anything at all like me, he’d probably like having the tables turned on him. Two sides of the same coin, you know.”

Mulder just shook his head. “You are a subversive little character, aren’t you? Come on, it’s time we went back to bed.”

Alex frowned. “Can’t I just stay here? I promise I’m not going to do anything. I just want to sleep in a normal-sized room.”

Mulder looked at him. “Sure. But I’m responsible for keeping you safe and out of trouble, I’ll have to stay here too. If you don’t mind that, and don’t mind if your Evil Twin wakes up and wonders where the hell we are and thinks he has to come looking for us.” He stood.

Alex heaved a great sigh and followed.

* * *

Krycek’s eyes opened when they returned to his bed. His smile made Mulder’s gut freeze. “Have you two been having fun?” he said gently. There was no trace of sleep in his voice.

“Just talking,” Mulder replied, trying desperately to keep his voice even. “We didn’t want to wake you.”

Krycek said no more, but Mulder knew his sleep was ruined for the night. And Alex would not be able to sneak out unnoticed again. Perfect. Mulder almost laughed. Perfect.

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