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Il Traviato, Act Two


Contains explicit male/male sex.

Pairing: Mulder/Krycek

The Mulder and Krycek saga, very loosely based on the opera, La Traviata. Covers episodes “Sleepless” through “Apocrypha.”

Disclaimer: The X-Files is copyright Fox TV, Chris Carter, and Ten-Thirteen Productions. No infringement is intended.


Mille serpi divoranmi il petto…
[A thousand serpents are devouring my heart…]

il traviato, act two

They would be at Mulder’s desk. No, not the new one, out in the middle of everything—the old one, down in the basement. He’d lock the door and stand with his back against it.

I can’t stand it a minute longer. I know you want this as much as I do.

Krycek would nod. Trembling fingers would fumble with his belt—

A cold and beautiful angel. It’s not like it meant anything.

No. Make it Scully, bent over the desk, skirt pulled up to her waist. He would approach her gently, reach out to touch her soft skin—

A gentle and understanding smile. No, Mulder. It’s not for us.

Krycek, then. Warm and unresisting, gasping at his touch, mouth offered for unbearably sweet kisses. Press him back over the desk, slip a hand under the crisp white shirt. Partners in everything. Don’t hold back.

I’m mad at myself, for letting it happen.

* * *

Mulder sighed and released his partially-erect penis. Groaning in frustration, he levered himself off the couch and wandered out to the kitchen, adjusting his sweat pants. Well, this is what you get for trying to act on your fantasies. Ruin two relationships, and now you can’t even beat off. I’ll have to start doing Skinner, or something. Stupid fool Mulder. When will you ever learn?

He switched on the fire under the tea kettle. The clock on the microwave mockingly informed him that it was 3:17 in bright, glowing numerals. He was beginning to despair of getting even a few hours of sleep tonight. What ever had possessed him to move on both of his partners in the same night? And the one who responded was the one he now had to face every day, sad-eyed and wary and no longer his faithful young friend. They hadn’t spoken of it again, but that strange, almost frightening encounter continued to hang between them, charging even the most innocent exchanges with tension. He supposed they would have to talk about it again, but his continued shame had so far prevented him from bringing it up.

Yawning, he spooned instant hot chocolate into his mug and waited for the water to boil. Sometimes a hot drink helped him get to sleep, but he had no hope for it tonight. He was far too troubled for such simple measures to have any effect. He wanted to talk to someone. Maybe, just maybe, he’d be able to relax if he talked to someone for a little while. But who was he going to call now? Not Krycek, certainly. Scully didn’t want him to call her so late. Sometimes there was someone at the Lone Gunman offices at this time of night. Frohike, or maybe Langly. At least he wouldn’t disturb anyone by calling there at this hour.

He poured hot water into his mug and wandered back into the living room. He put the mug down on a magazine and picked up his phone. There was only one person he really wanted to talk to. It was late, but….

He punched out number one on his speed dial and waited for the ring. A sleepy voice answered.


“Hi, Scully….” He was suddenly tongue-tied.

“Mulder? Are you…? Is everything all right?”

“I know it’s late… I….”

“It’s okay. Is something wrong?”

“No, I just couldn’t sleep. I know you don’t want me to call this late, but….”

She sighed into the phone. “It’s all right, Mulder. Really. I told you, I’m your friend. I guess this is just part of being your friend.”

He laughed ruefully. “Not much fun, is it?”

She laughed with him, warm and friendly. “It’s not so bad.”

The tightness inside his chest started to unknot. “So, how’s it going?”

“Fine. Same old thing. How about you?”

He curled up on the couch with the phone cradled on his shoulder, in the familiar and cozy ritual for late-night phone conversations. “I’m going to Bozeman tomorrow. I’ll eat a steak for you.”

“Bozeman… the Kafka Killer?”

“Yeah.” So-called because the murderer bound his victims, then inflicted hundreds of gradually-deepening knife wounds all over their bodies, until they finally died of shock and blood loss, reminiscent of the punishment in Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony.” ” ‘You will be inscribed with the names of your crimes,’ ” he quoted. “Not a very pretty case.”

“Serial murders rarely are. Is Krycek going with you?”

“Yeah.” He sighed. And how were they going to manage a trip out of town, when everything was so crazy between them?

“You don’t sound very happy about it.”

There were several reasons he was not happy about going out of town with Krycek. The one he would not tell Scully was that he was more obsessed than ever with Krycek. The brief, unsatisfactory encounter between them had only inflamed Mulder’s need to possess his new partner completely. He didn’t know how he was going to restrain himself from making another attempt while on the road in a strange town, with only a hotel room door between them. In fact, he’d already given up hoping he would, and packed condoms and a tube of KY Jelly in his overnight bag, just in case.

But there were other reasons he could tell her. “He’s just a kid, barely out of the Academy. He hasn’t been through Behavioral Sciences training. He’s going to be way out of his depth in this. I think the only reason Skinner’s sending him along is to keep an eye on me.”

“Mulder, he’s thirty years old. He’s not a kid. And I thought you said he was good.”

“He is good. He’s smart and quick and has a good, analytical mind. But he doesn’t have the experience or the training for something like this. You saw how he reacted at Grissom’s autopsy, and that wasn’t even that extreme. How is he going to take the autopsy of a woman who was turned into hamburger over the course of four or five hours, while she was still alive? It’s not fair to either one of us.”

Scully mulled that over for a moment. “Can you ask Skinner to take him off the case?”

“I already tried. But Krycek insists he can handle it. He’s a real blue flamer, Scully.”

“Then I guess you’ll just have to let him try to handle it.”

Mulder smiled. Good old Scully. You could always count on her to cut right to the chase. “I know.”

“Staying up all night worrying over it isn’t going to help.”

“I know.”

“You’d be better off getting a good night’s sleep, so you can deal with whatever problems come up.”

“I know.” He grinned happily. No, he didn’t take Scully’s advice, but he still loved hearing it.

“Then why don’t you?”

“Why don’t I let you get back to sleep, you mean.”

She yawned. “Well, one of us might as well get some sleep.”

“Okay. I’ll talk to you when I get back. Thanks, Scully.”

“No need, Mulder. Good night.”

* * *

Mulder liked to sleep on planes. Strangely enough, though he tossed and turned in his own bed, and dozed in fits and starts on his big, comfortable leather couch, squeeze him into a too-small, back-breaking airline seat and he was out like a light. He woke when the change in the engine hum signalled that the plane was beginning its descent. His knee was pressed against Krycek’s. He peered at his partner through almost-closed eyes. Krycek was reading Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs, which he’d picked up at the airport gift shop. He remained intent on his book, seemingly unaware of the knee pressing against him. How long had they been like this? Well, Mulder’s long frame always tended to encroach on his airline seatmates’ space. And Krycek was tall, too—they could hardly sit next to each other on a plane without being forced into physical contact. It didn’t mean anything. But it was nice. Mulder closed his eyes and pretended to be still asleep.

* * *

The Bozeman, Montana chief of detectives was a thin, middleaged man with freckles on his balding forehead and a worried crease between his eyes. His face held a perpetually perplexed look as he showed Mulder and Krycek the files on the previous cases. One of the victims had been his cousin. His hand trembled when he handed them her pictures. There was a photograph of a rather plain, sandy-haired woman with a bright eyes and a fun-loving grin. Another photograph showed a body so criss-crossed by wounds as to be unidentifiable. Even the eyes were sliced through. Krycek swallowed and stared grimly at the photographs.

It was a long and depressing day, spent gathering reports and talking to various officers and detectives who’d been involved in investigating the murders. They finally broke for dinner around nine-thirty. Mulder and Krycek ate at a local steak house recommended by Hawkins, the chief of detectives, then retired to their hotel.

At the hotel, Mulder sat down with his files on the murders to go over everything one more time. He would have liked to have Scully’s opinion on the patterns of the wounds. He looked at the phone thoughtfully, then sighed and left it alone. It was already after midnight, Washington time. Maybe he’d fax her some of the autopsy reports tomorrow and see what she thought. Meanwhile, he had a partner next door. Krycek hadn’t said a whole lot about the case so far. It was about time he found out what was going on in Krycek’s mind.

He gathered up the files, then hesitated over the supplies in his overnight case. Krycek had looked awfully pale at dinner, which for him had been only a bowl of soup. The case was taking its toll on him already, and they hadn’t even gotten to the really rough stuff yet. The latest victim was scheduled to be autopsied the next day; Detective Hawkins had arranged to pick them up in the morning and drive them there. Krycek would probably be better off with a quiet night alone, without either the case or Mulder’s propositions to trouble him.

On the other hand, maybe some nice sweaty sex was just what he needed to get his mind off the horrible murders they’d come to profile. Relax him so he could get some sleep. Mulder wouldn’t press. He wouldn’t do anything to make Krycek uncomfortable. But if, by some chance, it turned out that they ended up in bed, he didn’t want to have to come rushing back to his room for the condoms and lube. Finally, he shrugged and slipped them into his pocket. It didn’t mean he was going to make a pass. He just wanted to be ready for whatever transpired.

Their rooms had a connecting door. He opened the door on his side and tapped on Krycek’s. A moment later, Krycek answered, looking a bit disheveled in his shirt sleeves and stockinged feet.

Mulder held up the files. “I thought we’d go over these a little more.”

“Oh.” Krycek looked at him bleakly. He remained standing in the doorway. “Maybe we should go somewhere, get some coffee.”

“I don’t know where we’re going to find any place open—I think this is one of those places where they roll up the sidewalks at ten. Besides, there are coffeemakers in the bathrooms. Come on, Krycek. I just want to go over the case with you.” Already he was pushing. But it was too absurd for Krycek to be afraid to be alone with him.

Krycek nodded and stepped aside. He left the connecting doors open—as if that were going to protect him—and followed Mulder back into the room. The television was playing softly, and Krycek’s paperback lay open on the foot of the bed.

The table was too small to spread the files out on, and there was only one chair. Mulder dropped the files onto the bed, moving the paperback over to the table. “How do you like it?” he asked, nodding toward the book.

“It’s good.” Krycek smiled faintly. “I probably should have stuck to Dick Francis.”

“He gets beat up all the time.”

“Yeah, well. At least he’s not skinning people.”

Krycek did look rather shaky. Mulder sighed. “Maybe we should forget about it for tonight.”

“No, I’m fine,” Krycek insisted. “Let’s get to work.”

A four-star blue flamer. He’d work till he dropped, or went into hysterics, or something. Well, Mulder would keep it short. They would just go over the basics, and then he’d let Krycek get to bed. He sat on the side of the bed, one knee drawn up, facing the pile of reports and photographs. They’d had enough of the photos, he decided, tucking them away at the bottom of the pile, and pulling the various police reports from the four previous killings to the top. The bodies had been found dumped in state parks along I-90 between Billings and Bozeman. It was rough, mountainous country, but no particular attempt had been made to hide the bodies from unsuspecting campers. One had been found by a thirteen-year-old girl. Mulder made a mental note to ask if the girl had gotten counseling.

Krycek sat rather reluctantly on the other side of the bed. Was he avoiding the gut-wrenching files, or Mulder? Or both?

“The victims have all been women between the ages of twenty-three and forty-four. No particular physical type. The first was found four months ago, near Columbus.” Mulder found the small map of the area where the locations of all of the victims’ bodies had been marked and numbered. “The succeeding bodies were found approximately at one-month intervals.”

“He’s on a lunar cycle,” Krycek commented.

“No. But his victims were.”

“What do you mean?”

“The murders were anything from two to six weeks apart. Not a regular schedule. But all of the women were menstruating at the time of the their murder.”

Krycek went quite white. “Jesus.” His voice was a choked whisper. “I don’t suppose that could have been a coincidence.”

“Five randomly chosen women? I don’t think so.”

“How… how did he know? I mean… jeez, Mulder….”

“Finding that out is probably going to be the key to catching this guy. But it could be something as simple as his being a clerk in a drug store and watching to see which women buy tampons.”

Krycek stood, walked over to the bathroom door, then turned and walked back. He sat back down on the bed, running a hand through his hair. His mouth worked. Finally, he said, “I should have let Skinner take me off this case, shouldn’t I? I’m not going to be any good to you.”

Mulder began gathering up the papers and tucking them back into their folders. “Everybody’s inexperienced sometime, Krycek. You think this case doesn’t give me the creeps? You’re just overloaded. It’s late and we’re both tired, I’ll go and let you get some rest.” He stood up and headed for the door to his room.

“Mulder.” Krycek was sitting with his shoulders hunched, staring at the floor beyond the end of the bed. “You don’t have to go. Can we just… talk about something else for a while?”

“Sure.” Mulder dropped the files onto the dresser and returned to the bed. He ached to put his arms around those tired shoulders, to kiss away the disappointed hang of the head. But he must not. He was being offered Krycek’s trust back, and didn’t want to drive him away again. “You should take the Behavioral Sciences training. I think you could be good at this.”

Krycek shrugged. “I don’t know. This isn’t really what I had in mind when I went to the Academy.”

“What did you have in mind?”

Krycek shrugged again. He continued to stare at the floor. “I wanted to find the truth.”

“The X-Files? There aren’t any X-Files any more.”

“I know. But there are still cases like those Marines who didn’t sleep. That was incredible. A guy who figured out how to make other people have his dreams? But this guy, he’s just some sick bastard with a blood fetish.”

“You don’t think he’s some kind of genetic mutant who’s allergic to menstruating women? Or maybe an alien who somehow thinks they’re supposed to be bleeding from orifices all over their bodies?”

“Jesus, Mulder!” Krycek stood, clutching his stomach. But he was also choking out helpless laughter. “You are really sick.”

“Sick humor is a necessary part of the job.” Mulder smiled up at him.

Krycek nodded, and sat down again. “Yeah.”

“This menstrual thing is really freaking you out, isn’t it?”

“Mulder, there are just some things I never really wanted to know that much about.”

“But you’ve had girlfriends, haven’t you? Any time you’re on intimate terms with a woman for longer than three weeks….”

Krycek was staring at the floor again, lips pressed tightly together.

Oh. So that’s it. Stupid Mulder. Mulder sighed. Well, he could really be dense at times, couldn’t he? Homosexual panic, indeed. I’ve had sex with men before. So maybe it wasn’t Mulder’s feelings he was afraid of, but his own? He’d thought that Mulder was a straight guy having a meaningless little fling, and he didn’t want to get hurt?

Well, Krycek was probably right. Mulder wasn’t interested in any serious relationships. On the other hand, he hadn’t wanted anybody as badly as he wanted Krycek in a long time, and the knowledge that Krycek was susceptible just made him ache all the more. He reached out and took Krycek’s face in his hand. Krycek stared at him, stricken.

“I want you,” Mulder said softly. “I don’t think it has to be a bad thing.”

Krycek just stared. His jaw tensed under Mulder’s hand.

“Just tell me to leave and I’ll go.”

Krycek swallowed but didn’t speak. His eyes were huge, liquid, the irises swallowed in inky blackness. Mulder had to clench his teeth to keep himself steady.

“You have to tell me, Alex. Stay or go?”

Krycek’s breathing had quickened. The thick curtain of lashes came down to cover huge eyes as he looked away. He spoke so quietly Mulder could barely hear him. “Stay.”

Mulder heaved a deep breath. The sudden relief threatened to make him come on the spot. He was going to have what he wanted. Krycek must let him have it. He pulled Krycek’s face to his, gave him a brief, soft kiss, then released him to stand and take off his jacket and tie, hanging them over the back of the chair. Then he sat on the bed, bending to remove his shoes and socks. The rest would come later. Slowly, this time.

Krycek had watched him beginning to undress, face pink. When Mulder finished and turned to him, he looked away, and fumbled with his own socks. His jacket and tie were already off. Mulder waited until he’d finished, then took him by the shoulders and urged him all the way onto the bed, lying face-to-face with him.

Ah, it was good. The delicious heat of Krycek’s body; the scent of whatever it was that he used in his hair; the crisp white cotton of his shirt under Mulder’s hands; Mulder’s senses were filled with Krycek’s warm male presence. They lay holding each other, stroking each other’s backs, their erections pressed together. Mulder felt like he was floating in a soft, timeless, white cloud of pleasure. He covered Krycek’s face with light, damp kisses. His hand slid down Krycek’s back, over the firm, round buttocks. He felt the buttocks flex under his caresses; felt the hips thrust, crotch rubbing hard against him.

He cupped Krycek’s bottom in his hand and pressed his fingers between Krycek’s legs. Krycek’s chest heaved against his. His lips found a small ear and whispered, “I want to be inside you.”

A tiny moan escaped his partner’s throat. Mulder looked into the other man’s face; saw desire and surrender in those beautiful, thick-lashed eyes, but also sadness and regret. He kissed each eye in turn, willing the sadness away, running his tongue along the closed eyelids, dampening the lashes, and tasting the quality of Krycek’s passion. “Will you let me?”

Krycek’s breath was hot on his cheek. His voice was rough. “Do you have any condoms?”

Mulder smiled at his partner’s practicality. “Yes.” He disentangled himself and reached for his jacket, pulling the condoms and tube of KY out of the pocket and placing them on the nightstand beside the bed.

Krycek had pushed himself partly upright, and was now staring in dismay. “God, Mulder. You were planning this all along.”

Mulder shook his head. “No.” He pulled Krycek back into his arms. “Not planning. Hoping. Wondering. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you.”

Krycek let himself be soothed and stroked and kissed. Then he groaned, “I can’t say no to you, Mulder,” and opened his mouth to the kisses, inviting Mulder’s tongue inside. Inviting Mulder inside.

Yes. Oh, yes. Mulder’s cock burned; he was so hard it hurt. He wanted it now. It was all he could do not to just jerk Krycek’s pants down over his hips and jam it into him right then. But he forced himself to slow down. Forced himself to take his time, to unbutton Krycek’s shirt buttons one by one, nuzzling at the pale throat as he exposed the soft cotton undershirt beneath. And he took his time with Krycek’s wool pants, and red pinstriped boxer shorts—which Mulder found so endearing he nearly left them on, tucked up around Krycek’s thighs, with his balls resting decoratively on the waistband and his erect cock standing stiffly above, so dark it nearly matched the red stripe in his shorts. But at last Mulder had stripped his yielding partner, who had lain quietly and allowed every touch, even the playful interlude with his underwear, even though Mulder remained almost fully dressed. Mulder lay back down beside Krycek, looking for signs of reluctance in his face and finding none, and helping himself again to those full, round lips, gratified by the sweet response. Krycek slid his arms around Mulder and held him as he kissed, but made no attempt to remove Mulder’s shirt. When the kiss ended, he glanced down, batting those dark lashes against his cheek, and asked, “Front or back?”

Mulder knew the answer he wanted, of course—he wanted Krycek on his stomach, bottom upturned, legs parted. He wanted his groin to pound into cushiony cheeks. But Krycek had been so accommodating so far, he supposed he ought to give him some choice. “What do you want?”

Krycek looked at him. He ran his tongue over his lips and smiled ever-so-slightly—that same tight little smile that Mulder used to catch on his face at odd moments, mostly when he thought Mulder wasn’t looking. He hadn’t seen it since the night he’d gone to Krycek’s apartment. Then Krycek released him and started, slowly, to turn over.

Mulder was certain that Krycek was doing it because he knew it was what Mulder wanted, not because it was what he wanted. He supposed he’d been obvious enough. Never mind, if Krycek wanted to indulge him, he’d let him.

He caught Krycek by the arm before he’d fully turned. “Wait. We’d better get off the bedspread.”

Krycek slipped off the bed and stood, one fist at his mouth, while Mulder pulled the covers back and plumped the pillows. Then he nodded, and, while Krycek arranged himself on the bed, Mulder undressed himself. He took one of the condoms and rolled it onto his aching cock, and finally lay down beside the beautiful body laid out for his pleasure.

He stroked Krycek’s back, already moist with sweat. He straddled the strong, muscular thighs and kneaded Krycek’s shoulders. Krycek lay quite still, eyes tightly shut. But the heavy rise and fall of his back and the increasing dampness of his skin told of his response. Mulder’s urgency, which had faded slightly as he took his time over the undressing, was returning now with new intensity. He moved back, bringing his knees between Krycek’s legs, and reached for the tube of KY. He squeezed the lubricant onto his fingers and bent down to kiss and nip at the smooth cheeks as he slipped his slick fingers between them, finding the tight ring of muscle and beginning to massage gently.

Krycek let out a strangled moan when Mulder’s fingers touched him. His hips made tiny thrusting motions, and Mulder felt the muscles tighten, then relax, under his fingers. Mulder eased his middle finger into Krycek’s anus, just a little way, stretching the opening gently with easy, circular motions. The inside of Krycek’s body was moist and tender and hot as a furnace. He withdrew momentarily for more lubricant, eliciting another groan from Krycek when he reentered. He worked the lubricant in, opening him up with one finger, then two, thrusting his fingers deeper and deeper. God, how he’d been wanting this! He was already so desperate he knew he wouldn’t last long once he finally got his cock into Krycek’s ass. Krycek would think he was always a quick shooter. Well, never mind. It was all Krycek’s fault anyway, for being so desirable and so hard to get. They’d have time for more leisurely encounters later. Krycek didn’t dare tell him it wouldn’t happen again now. Mulder would have his sweet ass as often as he wanted. Too bad the basement office was closed up and locked off. He’d always wanted to have someone bent over that desk.

Mulder let his fingers slide free and positioned himself with his cock pressing lightly into Krycek’s anus. Slowly, he began to push, with easy circular motions of his hips. He might not have much experience with men, but he knew about anal sex. He’d known women who liked it, and who taught him how to do it without causing pain. So he knew how to thrust gently, with just the head of his cock nudging the entrance; how to watch for signs of tension in his partner’s hips and shoulders; how to gradually increase the pressure until the anus opened for him and his cock slid in….

And he knew how incredibly good it felt to be sheathed in hot, tight flesh. There was no tension in Krycek’s body, and very little resistance to his entrance. Krycek remained almost completely unmoving; just the small, helpless movements of his fingers scrabbling at the mattress and the keening noises at the back of his throat demonstrating his pleasure. Mulder found it terribly appealing. It was just like his fantasy—Krycek quiescent, accepting, completely overwhelmed by his touch. Mulder moaned as he thrust, driving himself in to the hilt. He was already on the edge; he barely needed to move. Just small, sharp thrusts, keeping himself deeply impaled in Krycek’s ass, while he nibbled at Krycek’s ear and kissed his neck and rubbed his chest against Krycek’s back.

Tears squeezed from between Krycek’s closed eyelids, dripping down the side of his face. Mulder hoped it was passion, not regret, making him weep. Krycek was never going to come this way—not touching himself, not moving against the mattress. On another day, Mulder would work him harder, faster, reach his hand beneath to stroke Krycek’s cock, bring him off while Mulder was still inside him—but tonight he might as well give up on that thought. He could already feel the heat gathering in his groin, the delicious fullness in his balls, the tingling pressure in his cock, intimately massaged and held within Krycek’s body. Just a few more slight, precise thrusts of his hips and he was crying out his pleasure with muffled moans into Krycek’s neck while his body stiffened and waves of orgasm washed through him.

Mulder held Krycek by the shoulders and gasped, waiting for the spasms to subside. Then he gathered himself up and continued for a few moments—but he was already losing his erection, and Krycek still seemed far from his release. Sighing, he reached down to hold the condom on his softening cock as he withdrew. Krycek whimpered a little as Mulder pulled out.

“Sorry,” he whispered into Krycek’s ear. He stripped off the condom and tossed it into the trash, then settled back down at Krycek’s side, stroking his hair. “I’d ask you what you want me to do, but I’m afraid you’d just tell me to leave.”

“You don’t have to do anything,” Krycek mumbled. His eyes opened, but tears continued to stream from them.

“I want to. I like making you feel good. Why don’t you want me to? I thought you’d decided that this was all right.”

“Mulder, it’s just… everything you do takes another little piece of me. Pretty soon there’ll be nothing left.”

Mulder kissed the broad shoulders, now tense under his caresses. “I don’t want to own you.” And was that really true? But he didn’t want to hurt him, he just wanted to give him pleasure. “I want to make love to you.”

“Then do it.” The husky voice was rough with passion.

If he were really strong, if he put Krycek’s comfort and ease of mind first, perhaps he would have stopped, forced Krycek to tell him why this troubled him so, allowed him to keep the pieces of himself that he was losing. But Mulder needed Krycek’s climax as much as he needed his own, and he could not leave things half-finished this way. Maybe a little reciprocation would reassure. Mulder wasn’t terribly fond of being penetrated, but perhaps that was due to the failures of his previous partners. Perhaps he could teach Krycek as he’d been taught.

“Why don’t you fuck me?”

But this only troubled Krycek more. His mouth tightened. “No.”

“Why not? You seem to like it.”

“No, Mulder. I can’t. Please don’t ask me.”

“All right.” He stroked Krycek’s hair soothingly. “All right. Never mind.” He pulled Krycek onto his side, curled up against Krycek’s back, and slid his hand around the trembling flank to stroke the still-hard cock. “Is this all right?”

“Unh.” It was more of a grunt than a word, but Mulder decided it sounded like assent. He brought his other hand between Krycek’s buttocks and worked his thumb into the passage, still soft and open from being fucked. He liked how it felt. He found Krycek’s prostate and stroked, while his other hand moved on Krycek’s cock. Krycek relaxed into him finally, hips working between the thumb in his ass and the hand on his cock. He moaned, and gradually the keening began again, and his movements became more frantic. Mulder felt the surge in Krycek’s cock, the pulse in his ass, and suddenly he was clutching the pillow and wailing and spurting his semen into Mulder’s hand.

Mulder held him and waited until the body in his arms relaxed into a hot, damp boneless puddle. Then Mulder sighed contentedly and drew up his arms to hold Krycek around the chest, fitting himself to the length of Krycek’s back and legs. He kissed Krycek wetly on the shoulder.

Krycek drew a gasping breath. “Mulder, I love you.”

Mulder’s eyes opened. “Alex….”

“Don’t say anything. I’m not going to say it again, and I don’t expect you to do anything about it. I just want you to know— no matter what happens, I love you. Remember that.”

“Okay. I’ll remember.” Mulder’s grip tightened. Good lord, now what was he going to do? No wonder Krycek was upset. Helplessly, he held his partner, rubbing his chest and stomach, kissing his neck. Trying to be reassuring when his own heart was pounding. Well, they’d just have to deal with it somehow. Everything would be all right. They would find a way to make it all right. Tomorrow. Get a good night’s sleep and worry about it tomorrow. “I’m going to turn off the light now.”

“Mulder, don’t go to sleep.”


“You can’t sleep here. You have to go back to your own room.”

Mulder sighed again. “Alex. I’ll put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs on both of our doors. I’ll mess up the bed in my room and I’ll set the alarm for six, so we’ll be up and gone well before the maids get here. Okay?”

“They’re going to find the condom in the trash.”

“I’m sure they find them all the time. They’ll just think you had a girl in here.”

Krycek thought about it. “Okay.”

Mulder pulled him onto his back for a kiss before getting up to arrange things as he’d said. “And I thought I was paranoid.”

Finally, he was rewarded with a smile.

* * *

Mulder slept surprisingly well, wrapped around his partner. He didn’t think Krycek slept nearly so well—when the alarm clock rang, Krycek blinked and muttered groggily that he didn’t want breakfast and why didn’t Mulder just go on without him? He looked pale and worn-out. Still worrying about last night? Or anticipating the upcoming autopsy? Maybe he just wasn’t a morning person. But he’d hardly eaten last night, and he wasn’t likely to want lunch either, after watching a poor murdered woman being dissected, so he really should eat breakfast.

“I don’t want breakfast, Mulder, I want to go back to sleep. So quit bothering me and get out of here.”

Mulder slapped him on the butt cheerfully. “Well, I guess you’re in no danger of starving.”

Krycek could not entirely prevent a grin from softening his affronted glare. Determinedly, he took Mulder by the shoulders and pushed him out of bed. “Go!”

“All right, all right,” Mulder laughed. “I’ll be back in an hour. Try to wipe the silly grin off your face by then.”

A pillow caromed off the doorframe behind Mulder as he disappeared into his own room.

* * *

The latest victim of the Kafka Killer was a Native American woman from nearby Livingston who had worked in Bozeman as an elementary school teacher. She was twenty-eight years old and unmarried. In the photographs, she had a gentle, good-natured face and a full figure. Of course, none of that was recognizable now. The body that lay on the autopsy table was sliced into a pile of raw meat.

Krycek stood beside Mulder with his arms folded, saying nothing. His mouth was tight, but he seemed in control. In fact, he seemed to be handling it better than the poor local doctor who was expected to perform the autopsy. No doubt the man had never handled anything worse than a hunting accident before. Mulder sighed inwardly. Too bad he couldn’t have had the body shipped back to Quantico for Scully to work on. Too bad he didn’t have Scully with him. Too bad…. How was he going to get any real information from this autopsy when the doctor didn’t have the slightest idea what to look for? Maybe he could arrange to have an FBI pathologist flown in.

* * *

Five hours later, Mulder and Krycek were sitting in a booth at a local coffee shop having lunch. Or rather, Mulder was having lunch. Krycek was sipping coffee and staring rather sickly at Mulder’s grilled cheese sandwich. Mulder had been tempted to order French dip, but kindly refrained, knowing poor Krycek’s stomach would have been sorely tried by the sight and smell of dripping meat. Now he was beginning to wonder if he should have eaten anything at all. They still had to talk about the case. Much as he would have liked to put it all aside, they were here to do a job, and Krycek was going to have to learn to deal with it.

“The pattern is just the same as with all the others,” Mulder began. “There were rope fibers in her wrists and ankles, showing where she had been tied. She was probably suspended in some sort of frame, so he could reach all parts of her body at once. There’s no evidence of any sort of gag being used, or drugs. The histamine level in the wounds indicates that she was alive for hours after the ordeal began.

“What does that tell you, Alex?” Get him thinking. Get him looking at it like a puzzle, something to solve, not just a horrible, frightening tragedy.

“Uh… he’s got some sort of special place set up to do it. He… he can’t just grab them and kill them on the spot, he has to take them somewhere. Someplace he can tie them and… where the blood won’t be noticed. Or the screams. So it’s isolated. A place out in the woods. On his own property, where he knows he won’t be disturbed.”

Krycek’s voice had gotten gradually stronger as he spoke. Good, he was beginning to overcome his discomfort. And his conclusions were all logical and most likely correct. Of course, it was all pretty straightforward so far. Anyone could have figured this much, with simple logic. But then, that’s what it all was—logic and experience. Krycek didn’t have the experience yet, but he had a good, rational mind. Mulder could lead him through the analysis, and time would take care of the rest. “Okay. And the lack of drugs or head trauma or other injuries, what does that tell you?”

Krycek shook his head. “I don’t know. Well, he ties them up. But he doesn’t knock them out first. So he must be strong. He overpowers them physically. Or he threatens them, somehow, with a knife or a gun or something….”

“Right. And you said he’s got some isolated, private place where he does it…?”

“Oh, I see what you mean. He’s got to lure them out there somehow. He doesn’t just jump out of the bushes and grab them. Or if he does, he… he has to keep them under control until he gets them to the location where he ties them up. So… so… hell, I don’t know, Mulder. What does it mean?”

Mulder grinned. “It means he has a certain amount of self-confidence. He’s a charmer, someone who can put up a good front, someone who’s not so afraid of his quarry getting away that he has to kill them or knock them unconscious the minute he gets them.”

Krycek took a deep breath. “Okay, I can see that. He likes them conscious while he’s killing them, too. He wants to hear them scream, and watch them struggle….”

“Right,” Mulder agreed briskly. “And then what does he do with the bodies?”

“He dumps them in different locations. Oh, okay, he transports them to the dump sites. He has a truck or something.” He laughed humorlessly. “A red one, probably.”

“You’re probably right,” Mulder agreed. “A late-model pickup. A big one. And red.”

Krycek eyed him suspiciously. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Actually, I’m not. What I am doing is showing off.”

Krycek giggled. And it was very sweet to hear that charming giggle again, finally. “So, what’s the license plate number, Mulder? Let’s put this guy away and go home.”

“I wish. I’m not quite that good, yet.”

Krycek frowned thoughtfully, tracing patterns on his placemat with the tip of his spoon. “He finds them somewhere. At a store, on the street. He strikes up a conversation. He talks them into going with him. When they get to his place, he overpowers them and ties them up. He… he cuts them up. When they’re dead, he puts them in his truck and takes the bodies out to the hills and dumps them. So. Is there blood in the back of the truck?”

“Yes. But he probably hoses it down when he gets it home. There’ll be traces left for evidence once we find him, but we’re not going to be able to spot some truck with buckets of blood in the back, and arrest him that way.”

“Is there even that much blood left in them by the time he hauls them off? Maybe he leaves the bodies in the rack overnight to drain.” He had it all the way out before the impact of what he was saying hit him. His face twisted unhappily.

“Maybe,” Mulder answered quickly. “Anyway, the blood in the truck isn’t going to help us until after we’ve caught him.”

“Well, what is going to help us?”

“You left one thing out of your scenario. How does he pick them?”

“Is there any connection between the women? Do they all go to the same stores, take the same classes? Did they all recently meet a new boyfriend?”

“No, no, and no,” Mulder grinned, “But those are good questions. So far, the only thing all the women have in common is….” He waited for Krycek to fill in the answer.

“The blood thing.” Krycek’s face had a look of pained distaste.

Mulder grinned, shaking his head. “Alex, it’s a perfectly natural biological function.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Mulder sighed. “It’s also a vital part of this case. You’re going to have to deal with it.”

Krycek sipped his coffee, took a deep breath and nodded. “Yeah. Okay. So, you said maybe he works in a store where he sees them buying….”

“Tampons. Menstrual pads. That’s one possibility. Although the victims didn’t really live close enough to each other that they’d be likely to have gone to the same drug store for their personal products.”

“Then how…?”

“Think about it. How could he have known?”

“Hell. He’s a blood-sniffing alien.”

Mulder grinned. “Okay. That’s one possibility. What else?”

“Maybe… he asks them.”

“Good. That’s good. Anything else?”

“Mulder, you’re not serious.”

“Well, I’m sure he doesn’t just go up to random women and say, ‘Excuse me, but are you menstruating?’ But he could strike up a conversation, work it in somehow.”

“You seriously think a woman would tell a guy something like that?”

“Maybe. Some would. Not every woman. Not every time.”

“Yeah, but, jeez, Mulder. Okay, he’s got a twenty-five percent chance of picking one he wants at random in the first place. Then maybe, say, three quarters of those are busy or not interested or lesbians or whatever, and they just blow him off. So you’re down to, what, six percent? And of those, how many are going to say, ‘yeah, I’m menstruating,’ no matter how delicately he phrases it? Be generous and say half, and you’re still down to maybe three percent of all the women he hits on. And this guy’s doing a woman on average once a month? He’d have to be trolling pretty much constantly to be catching that many.”

Mulder grinned. You’re beautiful when you’re thinking, he wanted to say. He loved the spark in those huge stormy-sea green eyes when Krycek got on a roll. “Actually, if he tried one a day, according to your analysis, he’d catch one on average once every thirty-three days. Give him twice on Sundays, and….”

“Jeez. Do you really think that’s how he’s doing it?”

“No, not really. Something this important to him, he’ll have a better way of finding the ones he wants.”

“The ones he wants… suppose it isn’t the ones he wants. Suppose it’s the opposite. He meets a woman, he’s fine, they get along fine, and then one day he finds a used pad in his bathroom wastebasket and goes ballistic.”

Mulder nodded slowly. “Okay. That’s okay… except it means he’s picking up a new girlfriend almost immediately on killing the last one. But that could be.” He smiled encouragingly. “That’s a good idea, Alex. See, I told you you’d be good at this.”

Krycek stared into his coffee cup and smiled tightly. “Maybe. I still don’t see how it helps us catch the guy.”

“Anything can help. It’s all part of the big picture. Okay, we’ve thought about it from the killer’s point of view. Now let’s look at it from the other side.”

Krycek stared warily. “The other side?”

“The victim. To see the whole picture, we have to look at it from her point of view, too.” This was going to be harder, and he’d have to be careful not to push Krycek too hard.

Krycek blinked, then swallowed, stretching his neck slightly the way he did when he was mentally preparing himself for some task. “The victim. Okay. She’s a schoolteacher. She lives… lived in Livingston and worked in Bozeman. Twenty-eight years old. Native American… Mulder, don’t serial killers usually hunt within their own racial group?”

“Yes.” Clever boy, to have picked up on that. “There are a couple of possibilities here. One, he’s having a hard time finding the right women, so he’s had to widen the parameters of his search.”

“Or maybe he just doesn’t think of them as another race. If he grew up around here, he’s lived around Native Americans all his life, maybe he doesn’t see them as different.”

“Or he could be Native American himself.”

“Do you think so?”

“Possibly. But I doubt it, really. I think your idea is most likely to be right.”

“Really?” A hint of a pleased smile, quickly covered by another sip of coffee.

Mulder gestured to the waitress for more coffee, smiling to himself. He loved the way Krycek tried to hide his smiles, embarrassed to be so pleased by Mulder’s approval. It was terribly sweet. He almost regretted having to season that innocence out of him—he would hate to lose those reluctant smiles.

But would he? As Scully had pointed out, Krycek was thirty years old. He was fairly green as an agent, but he wasn’t a child. Perhaps those smiles were just part of his nature, a shyness he wouldn’t outgrow. “Yeah, really.” There was a rush of affection in his voice he couldn’t quite tame.

Krycek stared, then blushed a brilliant red. “Excuse me.” He jumped rather precipitously up from the table and rushed off to the restroom.

Mulder hid his face behind his hand and laughed softly. And thought about last night, and that fine, strong body naked and willing and pliant under his. With any luck, the case would stretch on for days, and he’d have more nights to enjoy and explore that sweet body….

Good lord, Mulder, get a grip! With luck—what was he thinking? This case should be wrapped us just as quickly as he and everyone else working on it could possibly do it. And leave poor Krycek alone, for god’s sake. The guy was his partner, and he was in love with Mulder, and this was tearing him apart. Leave him the fuck alone.

* * *

When Krycek returned from the bathroom, he was all business. “Okay, the victim. She was last seen Friday afternoon, right? At her last class of the day.”

“Right. She had no plans for that night that anyone knew of. She was supposed to meet a friend Saturday night, but she didn’t show up. The friend thought it was unusual, but didn’t think to report it. It wasn’t until she didn’t show up for work Monday morning that the police were notified.”

“The body wasn’t found until Wednesday. But she was probably killed Friday night, or Saturday morning. So… maybe she stopped somewhere on her way home from work.”

“She wasn’t known to frequent bars.”

“Or to pick up strangers.”

“So where did she stop?”

“Well….” Krycek leaned his elbow on the table and put his chin in his hand. “It could be like you said. She stopped in at a drug store for… tampons or something, and he spotted her there.”

Mulder nodded. “And then?”

“He struck up a conversation. He charmed her. He talked her into going out for a drink with him, or to dinner.” He frowned.


“I don’t know. It doesn’t seem right. She was a schoolteacher. Would she really go home with a total stranger, no matter how charming he was?”

Mulder grinned. “Obviously, you’ve never seen Looking for Mr. Goodbar.”

Krycek grimaced, then laughed weakly. “Okay, I’m not quite that naive. People take stupid risks. Even schoolteachers. And ninety-eight percent of charming strangers are just charming strangers, not psycho killers. But it still doesn’t feel right. Not that that means a hell of a lot.”

“It does. Instincts are important. Think about it, though. Why doesn’t it feel right?”

Krycek put his head in his hands and groaned. “I don’t know, Mulder. Look, this isn’t helping. You know all this stuff already, you don’t need me to tell you anything.”

All right, Mulder had pushed him far enough. God, he looked tired. And his hands were beginning to shake from drinking so much coffee on an empty stomach. “Alex, you’re wrong,” he said softly. “It does help to talk to you about it. But we can stop now. You really should try to eat something. Have some soup, at least.”

Krycek smiled faintly. “Okay, mother.”

* * *

Mulder was careful to keep the conversation pleasant and neutral while Krycek slowly worked on a bowl of barley beef soup. He didn’t look like he was enjoying it much, but at least his hands stopped trembling and a little bit of color came back into his face as he ate.

Finally, Krycek put his spoon down. Mulder had to bite back the urge to fuss at him to finish his soup. He waited, sipping his own coffee, while Krycek stared out the window.

“Mulder, have you ever killed anyone?” The question was abrupt. Krycek didn’t turn from the window.

“Yes. A man named John Barnett. He’d killed a lot of people, and was about to kill someone else.”

“How do you feel about it?” Still staring blankly out the window. The flatness in his voice belied the importance of the question.

“It was necessary. He had to be stopped. I only wish I’d done it sooner, before more people died.” He tried to keep the bitterness out of his voice, but was not entirely successful. Reggie was one of those people who’d died. And others, agents he knew. “Ideally, we’d never have to kill anyone, but it’s not an ideal world.”

“Would you kill this guy?”

“If I had to. But it won’t be necessary. We’re just here to help the local police do their job. What about you, Alex? You killed Augustus Cole. How do you feel about that?” It was a risk—Krycek had been very upset when he’d discovered that the ex-Marine didn’t have a gun, he was just using his ability to form images in people’s minds to trick Krycek into killing him. He’d made the mandated visits to one of the Bureau’s counselors, but he’d never spoken of the incident afterwards.

“He made me do it. He was just using me to commit suicide. He wanted to die.”

“But how do you feel about it?”

Krycek shrugged. “I don’t like being used.”

“But you didn’t know that at the time. What if he had had a gun?”

“I thought he was going to kill you. I was trying to protect you.” He stared into his soup. His tone was studied, casual—but the slight roughness betrayed his emotion. “I’d do it again.”

Mulder smiled. “I wouldn’t want a partner who wouldn’t.”

A slight, wry smile answered him. Then, “Do you believe in the death penalty?”

“Yes, in certain circumstances. For people like this. The John Barnetts and Jeffrey Dahmers and John Wayne Gacys of the world. Men like these… you can’t cure them or rehabilitate them. They are so damaged, they’ll never be able to lead any sort of normal life. And the crimes they commit horrify and violate society on the deepest, most basic levels. I think society has a right to destroy them.” Mulder found his hand tightening on his coffee cup. It wasn’t something that was easy for him to talk about. He hadn’t always held this belief—he had the greatest respect for human life, and state-sanctioned killing was not something to be taken lightly or supported without thorough thought and consideration. But he’d seen too much horror in his days with the Behavioral Science Unit. Too many crimes that made his blood run cold and filled his rare sleep with dread disturbing dreams. He’d finally come to believe that the world would just be better off without some of these people in it. “What about you?”

“I don’t know. I suppose I do. Although, if you put them away where they can’t do any harm, that should be just as good as killing them.”

“I’m not sure I think that true evil can be contained by concrete and steel. Maybe they do harm just by existing.”

Krycek chewed on his lower lip. Which reminded Mulder of the taste and feel of those round, moist lips. It was a strangely erotic situation—discussing death with the youthful partner who’d lain so sweetly beneath him last night. Sex and death and love and forbidden desire—it was a poignant and heady combination. Perhaps he just couldn’t resist eroticizing everything. With Scully, the sexual dynamic had been implicit in their relationship, just by their being male and female. With a male partner, the eroticism had to be more explicitly stated. Or perhaps he was, as usual, overanalyzing everything.

“So it’s all right to kill someone who’s truly evil,” Krycek said, frowning. He was working his way to something; it seemed he was testing his own beliefs of when killing could be justified. “Or to protect someone else. What about the classic hypothetical question—if you had the chance to go back in time and kill Hitler, would you do it?”

Mulder sat back and took a deep breath. “No, I don’t think so. How could you know you wouldn’t just make things worse somehow? Maybe if you put Hitler out of the way, he’d just be replaced by someone else. Someone who’d win the war instead of losing it. I wouldn’t want to mess around with the time stream.”

“So it wouldn’t be because you thought it was wrong to kill him before he’d actually done anything. It would be because you were afraid of making things worse.”

Mulder suppressed a grin. He loved it when Krycek got on one of these kicks. Digging, asking questions, poking and worrying at a subject until he’d dissected it to his satisfaction. “Theoretically, I’d say it was wrong to punish someone for a crime they hadn’t yet committed. But if you could time travel, that wouldn’t really apply. It would have already happened.”

“But there’d be no due process. Unless you’re talking about a time court that passes judgment after the fact, and then goes back in time to pass sentence.”

Mulder grinned. “I like that idea. But I doubt it would fly, for the other reason. You don’t know what you might be making worse by killing someone before his time.”

“So you don’t think it would be right to kill someone to prevent him from doing something horrible, unless you had certain future knowledge of his actions.”

“Well, that’s relative, too, isn’t it? I mean, when you see someone pointing a gun at someone else, you don’t have certain knowledge that he’s going to shoot. But you have a reasonable assumption that he’s putting lives in danger, and you’re justified in stopping him any way you can.”

“But what if the weapon isn’t that obvious? The guy isn’t standing there pointing a gun at someone, but he’s doing something that you know will have dire consequences. Are you justified in stopping him then?”

He looked so earnest, leaning forward with his elbow on the table and his chin in his hand. He had a way of doing that, leaning over so that he had to look up at Mulder, enormous wide eyes staring intently from under long, dark lashes. I’ve had my cock up his ass, came the unbidden thought. Stripped him of that ridiculous suit, unbuttoned the crisp white shirt, slid a hand between the firm, round buttocks. God, he wanted to do it again. Right here and now. Waitress, bring us a towel, please. And kindly close the shades. We’re going to be busy for a while. You can just leave the check.

All right, have your fantasies. Fuck him in your mind, as often as you want to. But for God’s sake, leave the guy alone. “What about due process? Why do you have to kill him? Why don’t you just arrest him?”

Krycek sat back and gave himself a shake, staring out the window. “I don’t know. Suppose there’s some reason you can’t bring him up on charges. Suppose what he’s doing isn’t even illegal. But if he isn’t stopped, he’ll set in motion a chain of events that will result in hundreds of deaths. Thousands. And there’s nothing else you can do.”

Mulder shook his head. “I don’t know, Alex, I think you’ve been reading too much Tom Clancy. This is all just too hypothetical.”

“Yeah. But do you think there could ever be a situation like that, where you thought it was justified to just kill someone?”

Mulder shrugged. “It’s impossible to say. Maybe. Why are you worrying about this, anyway? What does it have to do with our killer?”

Krycek suddenly became very intent on finishing his soup. “Nothing, Mulder. I’m just flying off on a tangent, as usual.”

“Yeah, okay. I think it’s about time we got back to work. You going to be all right?”

“Sure. I’m all right.”

Mulder was far from convinced. But there was nothing more he could do.

* * *

Five women. Ordinary women, living ordinary lives. Working, spending time with friends, participating in hobbies. They shopped, they telephoned their mothers, they watched television and balanced their checkbooks. And then one day they walked out of their jobs, or left their homes, and disappeared—only to reappear two days, four days, a week later, nude and sliced to ribbons, unceremoniously dumped behind a bush, reduced to a mass of reddened, bleeding flesh. Friends and family stood with their arms spread in stunned disbelief. Local cops, accustomed to breaking up bar fights and stopping rowdy teenagers from shooting out traffic lights, shook their heads, protesting that this sort of thing didn’t happen out here. Mulder soothed and sympathized and sifted through the evidence, mentally cursing the inadequate autopsies and careless procedures. Still, a picture began to form of the man in his mind.

A mature man. Mid-thirties. Self-confident, strong, charming. Familiar with the area. A local man; someone who blended in. He might have been married in the past, but now he lived alone. People who knew him would say he seemed nice, but he always kept to himself. Mulder could almost see the man’s smile in his mind: secret, knowing, charismatic. What are you dreaming? Mulder asked the man in his mind. What did it mean to him to make these women bleed? Bleeding women, bleeding….

Mulder found himself slipping into the mindset. He was on the hunt, testing the air, studying the tracks. His quarry was coming clearer, but it still wasn’t enough. Not enough to say, “This is the man. Here’s your killer.” He needed something more, and it all had to do with the blood.

Krycek stuck it out, face grim and set, scribbling on his notepad, sharp mind collecting the details. He didn’t have the mindset, not yet, but he was getting there. He’d settled down after lunch and appeared to be handling it well. He was doing his best, but he didn’t have the tools he needed to go where Mulder was going. He had the potential, though. Mulder had a feeling that if Krycek decided to go with this kind of work, he could be the next bright young hotshot for Behavioral Sciences. Mulder felt a kind of possessive pride in Krycek’s purposeful intensity. My junior agent. My protege. My lover.

It was late again when they finally stopped for the day. Mulder was determined this time that Krycek should eat a full meal, whether he wanted it or not. He was still pale and tended to waver at odd moments when his determination slacked. Mulder chose McDonald’s, knowing that Krycek ate there often, hoping the familiar food would appeal to his shaky appetite. And it worked—or else Krycek had gone without food long enough, or calmed down enough, to finally be hungry. He wolfed down a Big Mac, fries, and a chocolate shake, and Mulder watched him with relief while he ate his own dinner.

* * *

It was after ten by the time they returned to their hotel. Still on Washington time, and exhausted by the horrific work they were doing, they were both yawning when they reached their rooms. Mulder followed Krycek into his room, intending only to offer a few words of encouragement before going to his own room. But the moment the door closed behind him, Krycek turned and threw himself into Mulder’s arms, with a savagery that took Mulder by surprise.


Krycek pushed him away, and stood staring at him wildly. It was the cold, fey beauty again—or no, not cold this time, but red hot. Hard and strange and desperate—for what, Mulder didn’t know.

“Fuck me.” It was almost a profanity. Krycek’s eyes were wide and swallowed up by the black pupils.

“Alex, take it easy,” Mulder soothed, reaching out a hand to stroke Krycek’s arm.

Krycek shook it off. “No! Not like this. Not easy. Fuck me hard.”

Mulder took a short step back. It had all been too much for Krycek after all, and he couldn’t hold it in any longer. He wanted to drown it in sex— that was all right with Mulder, but first he needed to quiet this desperate creature. “Alex—” He reached out again.

Krycek flinched away from his touch. “Hurt me, Mulder. Hit me. I can’t stand it like this.” His eyes were unfocused. There was a pleading tone in his voice, wavering towards hysteria.

“Alex, stop it. I’m not going to hit you.” He gripped Krycek’s arm firmly this time. “I know you’re upset, but this isn’t the way. Just settle down….”

Krycek whirled away, and stepped forward to stand facing the wall. “God damn it, Mulder, why can’t you just fuck me?” He was nearly shouting.

“Shhh!” Mulder hissed. “For god’s sake, Alex, the walls are paper thin in here. Get a grip on yourself.” He stepped up to Krycek and slid his arms around him, holding him tightly, one arm around his waist, the other around his chest. His body was stiff and trembling. Mulder felt that he was gripping a quicksilver spirit; elusive and mysterious who lived within this man, outwardly a child-man, sweet and innocent—but somewhere inside was this troubled, roiling creature.

Krycek remained resistant, but didn’t try to break away. Mulder felt the chest heaving; felt the heat radiating from him. Mulder kissed the back of his neck, nibbled on one earlobe. “It’s all right, Alex. It’s all right. Just let me hold you.” He began to pull Krycek toward the bed. “I want to make love to you. I don’t want to hurt you.” He turned Krycek around and kissed him, gently at first, just brushing his mouth against his partner’s, then sliding his tongue between Krycek’s lips. Finally, the resistance collapsed.

“Oh, god, Mulder. You don’t know what you’re doing to me,” Krycek moaned, as he melted into Mulder’s arms. Mulder hadn’t planned it, and it wasn’t the way he’d have wanted it if he had planned it, but Krycek was begging to be taken. It could only make things worse to refuse him now. Anyway, Mulder didn’t want to refuse him. He wanted to hold him and reassure him and make him feel better. And he wanted to fuck him, so he would. After this case was over, they would have to talk. Sort out Krycek’s feelings, whatever they were, and Mulder’s, whatever they were, and decide if this relationship was something they wanted to continue. Meanwhile, they were already in it, and one more fucking more or less wasn’t going to change the world.

But it sure would feel good.

* * *

Krycek lay with his hands over his head, gripping one arm tightly by the wrist, while Mulder tongued one hard, brown nipple and worked two fingers within Krycek’s anus. Mulder had almost been afraid to go back to his room for the condoms and lubricant, wondering what Krycek might turn into while he was gone, but he’d found Krycek just as he’d left him—lying on his back, naked, biting his lower lip and looking up at Mulder with a strange combination of lust and weary desolation. He’d kissed Krycek until the tears ran down his face—and made up his mind to believe that Krycek just cried when he was overcome with passion—and then he’d set about searching out every sensitive spot on Krycek’s body. He was determined that this time he wasn’t going to come while Krycek was still cold. He ignored the urgency in his own cock, cupping Krycek’s balls in his palm while his fingers explored the moist, heated recesses of Krycek’s body.

He couldn’t really say why it meant so much to him to be able to have Krycek this way. Why he felt the crushing need to penetrate and possess this man; why making Krycek whimper with pleasure from his touch filled Mulder with almost unbearable desire. His cock throbbed with it; his heart pounded; his loins burned. How could he honestly tell himself he would ever be able to deny himself this?

He released Krycek and leaned back on his heels, gasping for breath. Krycek’s left nipple glistened with Mulder’s saliva. His hard cock lay along his belly, one ropy vein tracing a path along its length, swollen dark with need. Mulder wondered what it would feel like to have it inside him. Some day he would have to find out—but not tonight. Tonight, Alex had demanded, Fuck me. And there was nothing Mulder wanted more than to oblige him.

Mulder reached for the condom and began to roll it on. Front, this time, he thought. So he could watch those wild eyes while his cock plundered the body. Taste Krycek’s pleasure in it on his mouth; swallow his moans. Mulder took Krycek’s knees in his hands and lifted them, pressing them against his chest. The thick-lashed aqua eyes were wide and hazy.

Watching Krycek’s face all the while, Mulder spread more of the cool, slippery KY onto Krycek’s anus. Krycek’s eyelids fluttered shut at the touch, and his hands came up to grip his knees, holding his body open to Mulder’s approach. Then, at last, Mulder settled his body over Krycek’s, and began to ease his cock inside him.

He slid in smoothly, meeting only the smallest resistance. It troubled him, ever so slightly. He was no expert in these matters, but could Krycek really be as inexperienced as he seemed? He wasn’t sure how much fucking it took to accustom a body to being penetrated this easily, but Mulder knew that he himself was not capable of it. He didn’t like to think that other men’s cocks had been where his was now. He wanted this man for himself. Well, Krycek had told him he’d had sex with men before—Mulder couldn’t say he’d been lied to, but he’d been taken in by Krycek’s innocent appearance. Or, to be honest, he’d wanted to believe in it, despite evidence to the contrary.

Never mind that. Krycek was his now; no one else would have him. He had to resist the urge to spell it out to Krycek: No one touches you but me. Is that clear? He forced the fierceness to subside, searching out the loving tenderness he’d felt earlier, kissing Krycek’s full, round lips and moving his cock slowly within him. Krycek didn’t need a demanding lover right now, after what he’d been through. He needed to be soothed and treated gently.

He loved the little noises Krycek made when he was overcome with passion. He loved the feel of Krycek’s mouth on his neck, and Krycek’s arms around his back, fingernails digging into his shoulders. It was so tempting to forget himself and pound into Krycek savagely. He had to fight to keep his thrusts gentle and easy. It would make it last longer, anyway, and he was determined that Krycek would come while he was still inside him. So he bit his own lip and held onto his control, concentrating on the incredible feel of Krycek’s tight ass stroking the length of his cock.

He could feel Krycek’s passion growing—chest heaving, hands clutching, hips thrusting, hard cock sliding against Mulder’s sweating belly—and that was good. Finally, everything was going to be perfect.

Then Krycek cried out, with a strange, wailing moan, and arched up into Mulder’s body, and his semen flowed out between them, hot and sticky and wet. Mulder felt the tight passage pulsing on his cock, and it was so sweet he fell onto Krycek and groaned, and then finally he gave up and let his body move as it willed, plunging his cock hard and deep. Each thrust elicited another squeaky cry from Krycek, driving Mulder right out of his mind, so that nothing mattered any longer except fucking Krycek, until his own orgasm took him, fierce and hot.

* * *

They lay in a sweaty, tangled heap. Mulder never wanted to move again. But his cock was going soft, and he had to get rid of the condom, and Krycek couldn’t be comfortable twisted up under Mulder as he was, although he wasn’t complaining. He yawned and pulled himself up, peeling the condom free and tossing it into the trash. He waited while Krycek rearranged himself, then settled beside him, one arm around his chest. Krycek squirmed against him, sighing.

But the sigh was not pure contentment. There was also sadness in it. Mulder pulled him closer and spoke softly into his ear. “Alex, is everything okay?”


It was not entirely convincing, but Mulder decided not to pursue it. You asked for it this time. You can’t blame me. But that wouldn’t be fair. He kissed Krycek’s shoulder. “I guess we should get some sleep.”

“Did you put up the ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs?”

Mulder grinned. “How did that get to be my job?”

“Senior agent. Buys condoms, sets alarms. Puts up ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs.” His voice was heavy with impending sleep. And Mulder didn’t have the heart to make him stir.

“That wasn’t in my job description.” But he was already getting up to go perform the evening chores. And there was something calmly reassuring about it—on only the second evening, there was already a nightly ritual to their togetherness. He briefly considered taking a shower before returning to Krycek’s bed, but decided he wanted Krycek’s body pressed against his more than he wanted to be clean. He slipped back into bed, pulling the covers up around them. “Good night, Alex.”

“Shut up, Mulder.”

Mulder chuckled, and fell asleep.

* * *

Some time later, Mulder woke from a light doze, aware of Krycek shifting, fighting free of the tangled sheet, then settling onto his stomach with his face in his pillow. He smiled, and moved closer, covering Krycek’s shoulders with his arm. Once this case was over, and they’d gone back to D.C., they would have to deal with the reality of their situation. There would be hard discussion, some pain, perhaps some joy. They would end it, or they would figure out how to conduct a forbidden affair, with all the danger to their careers it would entail. In any case, this sweet idyll would end. But Mulder meant to make the most of it, while it lasted.

He kissed Krycek’s ear, running his tongue along the delicate folds. Krycek tried to hide his giggles in the pillow. “Having trouble sleeping?” he mumbled into that ear. He ran a hand down Krycek’s back, to cup one of the smooth, round buttocks. Front was nice, but back was better. He liked the firm cushion of Krycek’s bottom under his groin. It had to be more comfortable for Krycek, not to have his knees jammed against his chest. It gave them both more freedom of movement. And here was Krycek, already laid out for the taking. And already heating under his caresses.

“You need something to help you relax,” he murmured. Then he slid onto Krycek’s back, kissing his neck. There might well be disaster looming on the horizon, but for now, for however long it lasted, Krycek was his.

* * *

Another day, and no closer to a solution. Mulder was starting to feel useless and depressed himself. He was supposed to be the FBI’s best and brightest. He was supposed to be able to conjure up stunningly accurate profiles out of wind and will o’the wisps. He was not supposed to helplessly stand by while days passed and the probability of another murder grew. And he was most certainly not supposed to be spinning his mental wheels obsessing over his partner instead of concentrating on the case.

And Krycek was in no better shape. His mood shifted wildly, from nearly giddy cheerfulness to irritated impatience to grim horror. Obviously, the sex was only adding to his stress, not helping him to deal with it. But what was Mulder supposed to do? It was Krycek who’d asked for it last night. Mulder had tried to be as considerate as he could. He just didn’t know what else to do.

The only new development in the case was the discovery of the latest victim’s dog, howling mournfully outside the door of her house. Where the dog had spent the last five days, no one knew. If they could ask the dog, no doubt it could lead them to the killer, but the dog just whimpered unhappily and pined after its lost mistress. Watching the dog huddled in its cage at the local pound seemed to upset Krycek nearly as much as the autopsy had done. He clutched the chickenwire walls of the pen, swallowing repeatedly, leaning in toward the grieving dog, as though he were the one in a cage.

They decided to skip lunch and go on working, opting instead for an early dinner at the diner where they’d eaten lunch the day before. Krycek glared at his menu as if it were taunting him, and ordered the Blue Plate special without even asking what it was. Mulder, not to be outdone, did the same.

Mulder sipped his coffee and wondered whether either of them would be able to eat. “So wherever she was when he got to her, she must have had her dog with her.” It wasn’t much to go on, but it was another piece to add to the puzzle.

“Did the other women have dogs?” Krycek leaned forward with the heel of his hand on his forehead, speaking with a world-weary tone.

“Only one. Her dog was found at home, safe and sound.”

“At least he didn’t kill the dog. Who’s going to take care of it now?”

“Someone will take it.”

“Are you sure?”

Mulder smiled gently. “I’m sure. People will feel sorry for the dog. They’ll be lined up to take it.”

Krycek nodded. It seemed to make him feel better, and Mulder was glad. God, he wished this case was over. He’d seen worse himself, certainly, but he’d never had to watch a partner suffer through one like this. Had he ever been this green? He supposed he must have, but at least he’d had the Behavioral Sciences training before he’d worked his first serial murder case. He’d chosen this work, and he’d gone into it with his eyes open and with as much preparation as the Academy could give. And he hadn’t been sleeping with his partner, either. Damn it, he should have gone to Skinner and insisted that Krycek be taken off the case.

“Do you think he drinks their blood?” Krycek asked suddenly.

“What?” Now where the hell had that come from? “I don’t know. Do you think he thinks he’s some kind of vampire?”

Krycek shrugged. “Well, he sure loves blood.” There was something almost endearing about the flat, exaggeratedly hopeless tone of his voice.

Mulder grinned. “Probably drinks Bloody Marys.”

A slight smile quirked at the corners of Krycek’s mouth. “And eats blood sausage.”

“His favorite movie is Theatre of Blood.”

“Blood Feast.”

“Blood Wedding.” Mulder’s response was rapid-fire.

Krycek giggled. “Bloody Mama.”

God, it was good to hear that giggle again, even if there was a slight edge of hysteria to it. “Wears bloodstone jewelry.”

“Raises bloodhounds.”

“What?” Mulder froze, felt his eyes widen. Could it be?

Krycek frowned suspiciously, afraid he’d said something wrong. “What do you mean?”

“A bloodhound—he could be using a bloodhound to find the women. Or some kind of hunting dog.”

“You’re not serious.”

“A bloodhound has an extremely keen sense of smell. And can be trained to hunt just about anything.” Mulder leaned forward, grinning. “Think about it. All he’d have to do is take his dog out for a walk, and the dog would point out the right women to him.”

Krycek’s face was a mask of thrilled horror. “He trained his dog to hunt menstruating women?”

“Alex, it’s perfect. The dog runs up to a woman, barking, and he knows he’s got a target. Then he apologizes, tells her the dog doesn’t usually do that—and she can see the dog’s ignored everyone else around—so he must really like her. He’s got a great conversation starter, as well as a surefire way to identify potential victims.”

Krycek shook his head in wonder. “Yeah, but Mulder. How is he going to train the dog in the first place? I mean, he has to have… something to train it with.”

Mulder nibbled his knuckle and thought about it. He was right, he could feel it in his bones. He was this close to nailing the killer, he just had to be careful and fill in all the details. “He has to have had access to menstrual blood at one time. Mother, a sister, a girlfriend, a wife….”

“You think he’s married?”

“Not now. He needs privacy for the things he does. And the depth of the fantasy—the intricacy, the details—he’s expending a lot of energy on his hunt. Probably doesn’t have time for even the pretense of another relationship. But he’s been married, I’m sure of it. The breakup of the marriage might be the stressor that sent him over the edge and made him start killing. But it had been brewing for a long time.”

“Then he’s probably got some kind of record, doesn’t he? Or his ex-wife, at least, knows there’s something wrong with him.” Krycek’s eyes were bright—he was starting to get the feel for it; starting to slip into the mindset. Yes, he had the talent for it, if he could get over the emotional trauma of dealing with these kinds of cases. Mulder was inordinately pleased to see it.

“I don’t think he has a violent history. His method is very careful and precise. He doesn’t slash the women angrily, or beat them. He’s very controlled and ritualistic. He doesn’t get excited while he’s committing the murders, he goes into a fugue state and stays emotionally flat. And his wife probably thinks he’s a cold bastard, but would never think of him as a killer.”

Krycek sighed. “So how is it going to help find him? Around here, everybody and his brother has a dog.”

Mulder smiled. “He’s talked to the police, insinuated himself into the investigation somehow. Maybe offered to help. He’s gloating. When I take our profile to the police, someone is going to say, ‘Hey, that’s So-and-So.’ And we’ll have our UNSUB.”

* * *

And that was exactly what happened. It was Detective Hawkins who listened in something like awe as Mulder rattled off all the characteristics he thought the killer would have—early to mid-thirties, recently divorced, large red pickup truck, hunting dog, isolated home, smooth, charming personality—until finally he broke in, “That sounds just like Ed Vanson!”

Vanson, Hawkins told them, was a carpenter who lived in an old ramshackle house off of Route 89 near Livingston. He was thirty-three, had an old hound named Red who went with him everywhere, and everyone had joked about the way he’d finally cleaned up the bed of his pickup after his wife had packed up and gone home to Colorado five months ago. Just before the first of the murders had started.

“But it couldn’t be Ed. He’s a great guy, everyone likes him….”

“Except his wife,” Krycek muttered. “I wonder if she’s really in Colorado?”

Hawkins turned sickly pale. “You think…?”

“I think you should bring him in,” Mulder interposed smoothly. They had five real murders already; they didn’t need to start speculating on a sixth—yet. “And search his place. It shouldn’t be hard to come up with solid evidence. There will be some sort of rack he used to immobilize his victims, and a lot of blood on the ground beneath it. He’ll have kept souvenirs—articles of the women’s clothing, probably, since none of their clothes have been discovered. A journal or map or something, recording the murders. And, of course, the implements he used to cut them.”

“How… how are we supposed to get a search warrant?” Hawkins had a dazed look.

“Based on the profile. It’s been done before. I can cite cases for your judge in which FBI profiles have been used to obtain search warrants.”

Hawkins swallowed, and nodded. “We’d better get it in writing, then. You can dictate it to my secretary.”

* * *

It took several hours to get the search warrant. While they waited, Mulder outlined strategies for the interrogation with Detective Hawkins. “It probably won’t be vital to your case to obtain a confession, since I’m certain there will be physical evidence at Vanson’s home. But it’s always better to have one, if you can, especially with a popular, charming suspect like this, who people aren’t going to want to believe is guilty.”

Hawkins stared off into space, still unbelieving himself. “He came to us after the first girl was killed. He knew her, he said. Not well, but he’d done a couple of jobs at her place. Said it was such a tragedy, and if there was anything he could do…. It just never occurred to any of us that he might have been the one. Are you sure, Agent Mulder? I sure wouldn’t like to go out there and arrest Ed and turn his place upside down, and find out it was a mistake.”

“He fits the profile. There could be someone else who fits it just as well, but I think you’d know it if there was. And whoever it is, it’s going to be someone you’d feel that way about.”

“I remember he came in here after the second murder, too. Said he was almost glad his wife was gone, with all this going on, he wouldn’t feel she was safe. And—it was the damnedest thing—that old hound of his made such a fuss over my secretary, Lucy. Howled and tried to crawl right into her lap. He’d never done such a thing before or since. And Ed laughed and said the dog was going crazy in his old age, and had to put him out in his truck…. Are you sure, Agent Mulder?”

Mulder and Krycek exchanged a look. Krycek’s face was grim. Mulder turned back to Hawkins. “I’m sure.”

* * *

They waited it out in the hotel coffee shop, drinking cup after cup of strong coffee, too wound up to eat even though they’d never gotten around to dinner. Krycek sat tapping his spoon on the place mat, staring out the window. Mulder sat staring at Krycek, considering how impossible it was to ever really know what was going on in another person’s mind.

Mulder’s cellular rang.

* * *

Vanson had smiled at the police officers who’d come to arrest him. “So you caught me,” he’d said, and then went silent, refusing to say another word. They’d found it all just as Mulder had predicted: the rack, constructed out of an old iron bedframe, in a shed out back, the hard-packed dirt beneath it dark with blood. The women’s clothing, neatly folded, in a chest of drawers in the corner. A map on the wall, with five red-tipped pins marking spots along I 90 between Billings and Bozeman. A collection of knives and straight razors, polished and shiny, on top of the chest of drawers.

And in the freezer of an old refrigerator, five small freezer bags full of blood, each neatly labelled with the name of the woman and the date of her death.

* * *

They celebrated with chocolate sundaes. Krycek was quiet and thoughtful, but tended to burst into giggles at odd moments. The talk was desultory and apropos of nothing. Mulder was content to bask in the glow of a successful conclusion to a harrowing case, and let the silences lengthen, smiling to himself, and joining Krycek in his occasional giggling fits. They could have packed up and headed for the airport immediately, but it was already late, and Mulder was in no hurry to end their stay. One more night in Montana. One more night in Krycek’s bed, then tomorrow back to Washington and reality.

Would it be possible to continue the affair once they’d returned home? Krycek was reluctant, that was obvious, but would Mulder be able to reassure his fears, whatever they were, and find a way to make it work? There wasn’t really that much danger of being discovered, as long as they were reasonably discreet. It would actually be easier than carrying on an affair with Scully would have been—there had been gossip about them, just because they were male and female, but no one would think anything of it if he and Krycek spent time together outside of office hours. If they could refrain from kissing each other in the elevators or slipping into the broom closets for a quick grope, there shouldn’t be any problem.

The real problem, of course, was that little confession Krycek had made on their first night here. Anguished declarations of love. Krycek wanted more than he thought Mulder could give. And perhaps he was right. But if he really was gay, he’d know damn well that he wasn’t going to be able to be open about his relationships and keep his job. Wouldn’t it be better if he was with someone who was in the same position, who wouldn’t complain about not being able to live together or kiss him in public? Really, what Mulder was offering would be the best thing for him—partnership, friendship, hot sex, no demands. He’d have to see that. Mulder would talk to him about it.

Tomorrow. Tonight Mulder was sick of talking, sick of thinking. He wanted to forget everything except Krycek’s heat, Krycek’s firm body, Krycek’s sweet moans, and Krycek’s pliant ass.

* * *

He followed Krycek into his hotel room, and pulled him into his arms as soon as the door closed behind them. Krycek didn’t pull away, but he didn’t return the embrace either, he simply stood with his hands resting lightly on Mulder’s waist. He closed his eyes when Mulder kissed his cheek. His lips were pressed together tightly.

“We did it,” Mulder murmured into Krycek’s ear. He loved Krycek’s ears; small and neat and sensitive. No piercings, as Mulder’s had, from youthful fashion experiments. He nibbled at the lobe, enjoying the shivers in Krycek’s body.

“You did it,” Krycek corrected, a little breathlessly.

“No, it was both of us. I couldn’t have done it without you, Alex. Talking to you helped me figure it all out.” He ran his tongue along Krycek’s jawline, and nuzzled his neck.

Krycek’s hands tightened on his waist. “Mulder, don’t.”

He stood back then, just a few inches, so he could study Krycek’s face. Still troubled—perhaps even more so now. Although he could also read the desire there, in the hazy, half-lidded eyes. Always, there was this resistance. It was sweet, when he knew how easily it was overcome. He pulled Krycek’s head to him and kissed his mouth, just a gentle pressure on his lips.

“Mulder,” Krycek nearly gasped. “We should talk. I should tell you… I have to tell you….”

Mulder stopped him with his fingers on the trembling mouth. “When we get home, you can tell me anything you want. We’ll talk about it then, I promise. I know there are a hundred reasons we shouldn’t be doing this. Just give me tonight. Just one more night, with no case to worry about, no FBI breathing down our necks, no guilt and no regrets. Just you and me and nothing else. Please.”

Krycek fell into his arms with a troubled laugh. “God, Mulder. I bet you were a terror in high school.”

Mulder held him tightly, stroking his back, grinning. “Are you telling me my lines are high school?”

The giggle was muffled in his neck, and it sent sweet shivers through Mulder’s body. “If they are, then so am I, for falling for them.”

* * *

It was perfect, and Mulder thought he’d gladly spend the rest of his life like this, with Krycek beneath him, legs spread, face crushed into the pillow, incredible eyelashes batting against his cheek, fists curled at his sides, breathing raggedly in time to the slow, deep strokes of Mulder’s cock inside him. Mulder had achieved a lovely warm state of pure pleasure, his entire body glowing with the sweet sensations spreading from his cock.

He brought his lips to Krycek’s ear and whispered, “You feel so good….”

Krycek whimpered, and shifted on his knees, tilting his hips up to offer himself more openly. Mulder kissed his cheek, and it was salty with sweat. Tears dripped from Krycek’s huge, beautiful eyes, and Mulder tasted them, too. He added a sharp, hard thrust to the end of each stroke of his cock, delighting in the purring moans they brought from Krycek’s throat. The sweetness was almost unbearable. You are mine, he thought, and he almost said it. But not yet. After they’d returned home, after they’d talked about it, if they decided to go on with it, he’d take Krycek into his arms and let him know who he belonged to. For tonight, he’d let his body tell the tale.

Krycek squealed, and his body stiffened, and then his orgasm was squeezing Mulder’s cock. I didn’t even touch his cock, Mulder thought in wonder. How could it feel that good? He’d have to make Krycek show him. Mulder held him tightly while he gasped into the pillow, and reached underneath to feel the still-spasming cock releasing its puddle of semen into the mattress. He loved that he could cause this, with the motion of his cock in his lover’s ass. Still holding Krycek’s cock in his hand, he resumed, until his own orgasm took him, and he collapsed panting onto his partner’s broad back.

He lay there happily for a while, stroking Krycek’s arm thoughtfully, from shoulder to hand, then playing with the slender fingers briefly before going back to the shoulder to start again. How many times in one night could he manage? He wasn’t a kid any more. They hadn’t eaten dinner yet, either. They should probably order something from room service now, before it closed, and shower and eat before settling in for the next round. It had been so good last night to wake up to find a willing lover at his side—they’d do that again, too. And in the morning when they woke up—they hadn’t had the chance to try that yet, either. If he had any energy left by then.

He kissed the back of Krycek’s neck. “Alex, are you okay?”

“Mm,” Krycek mumbled. He turned his face out of the pillow and half-smiled. There was a hint of wildness in his eye. “Yeah. No guilt and no regrets, right? Everything’s fine.”

Mulder felt a sudden chill. What truly was behind Krycek’s doubts? Should he really have been so quick to brush them aside?

Never mind. He’d established the rules for tonight himself, and he’d follow them. No guilt and no regrets.

There’d be plenty of time for that tomorrow.

* * *

Mulder lay curled around Krycek, arm draped around Krycek’s waist, the firm bottom tucked into his lap. It was nearly six A.M., and they’d made love three times—Mulder didn’t think they’d make it to four. He was drifting contentedly in an exhausted, sex-drenched haze, too tired to move, but not quite willing to let go of this pleasantness for the deeper darkness of sleep.

He nipped gently at Krycek’s neck with his teeth. His partner squirmed in his grasp, trying to nestle even closer. So Krycek was still awake, too. He cast about for something inconsequential to talk about, to prolong the evening just a little longer. What did he even know about Krycek? The bare facts in his file—only child, Army brat, Political Science degree from Dartmouth, wide receiver on the college football team. He’d been twenty-eight when he graduated from college—not in any big hurry to get out into the real world, obviously. And he still had that fresh-from-college innocence. He liked sports, pizza and chocolate, silly ’50s science fiction movies, paperback thrillers.

And opera. “Tell me about the second act,” he said softly.


“La Traviata. You only told me about the first act.”

A single, sleepy giggle. “That was months ago, Mulder. I can’t believe you even remember that.”

It was the first time he’d ever called Krycek outside of work. The small beginnings of the closeness between them. Even if he didn’t have an eidetic memory, he’d have remembered every word of that conversation. “I’ve been on tenterhooks ever since, waiting to find out what happened next.”

“God, you’re a liar. Why don’t you go to sleep?”

“I can’t. Not until I find out. What happens to Violetta and Alfredo?”

“Unh. Well.” Krycek squirmed into Mulder’s lap again, settling himself firmly in place. Mulder pulled him close and kissed his shoulder. “Okay, La Traviata, Act Two. Violetta and Alfredo are living together in the country. They’re happy but they have no money, because Alfredo’s left his family and Violetta’s not working any more. Then Alfredo’s father comes to visit Violetta. He tells her… ,” he paused for a yawn, “her relationship with Alfredo is ruining his sister’s chances of marriage, and she has to leave him for his sister’s sake. So she does. But he thinks she’s dumped him to go back to her old life.”

“Why doesn’t she tell him the truth?”

“She can’t. She promised Alfredo’s father she wouldn’t tell him.”


“I don’t know. Some stupid opera reason.”

Mulder chuckled. That “stupid opera reason” was the reasonable assumption that if Alfredo knew the truth, he wouldn’t allow Violetta to leave him. And, of course, if that happened, the opera would be over before the third act and everyone would have ended up happy (with the possible exception of Alfredo’s sister), which would have been quite unacceptable. “So is that it?”

“No, then Alfredo and Violetta meet at a party and have a horrible confrontation. Alfredo… denounces her and throws his gambling winnings at her.” Krycek’s speech was beginning to be slurred; he was drifting into sleep even as he talked.

“So there’s no happy ending.”

Krycek yawned again. “Not… until the third act.”

“What happens then?”

“They go to sleep.” And he did, going limp in Mulder’s arms.

Well, nothing lasted forever. Like Violetta and Alfredo, they’d had their interlude of happiness in the country, and now would have to return to the real world. But life wasn’t opera; they wouldn’t have to let the demands of others separate them.

Mulder yawned, wrapped his arm tighter around Krycek’s chest, and fell asleep.

* * *

He called Scully from Dulles Airport, pulling his cellular from his pocket as he waited outside the men’s room for Krycek. Poor guy had been stumbling at his side all the way off the plane and into the terminal. Mulder supposed he really should have let Krycek sleep last night, instead of keeping him up all night fucking. Well, never mind—they were home now, and it was still early afternoon, Washington time. Krycek could just go home and sleep the rest of the day away.

“Scully, it’s me.” He’d called her away from one of her classes. “I’m back.”

“I heard—Congratulations. That was fast work.” There was only a slight undertone of exasperation in her voice.

“They should have called us in sooner.”

“Mulder….” The exasperation was stronger now, but affectionate and familiar. This was an old conversation. “You did everything you could. How was Krycek?”

Standing at his side, just now, leaning tiredly into the wall, watching him with a strange, guarded expression. “Fine. I’ll tell you all about it tonight, at dinner. Seven o’clock okay?”

There was a pause. “All right. Shall I meet you somewhere, or…?”

“I’ll pick you up at home. I have to go now. I’ll see you tonight.” He disconnected, offering Krycek a tentative smile as he folded the phone back into his pocket. “You look tired.”

Krycek nodded towards the phone. “Scully?”

“Yeah.” Why did he suddenly feel like he’d been caught cheating on his girlfriend? We’ll talk when we get home, he’d told Krycek. Surely he didn’t think that meant the moment they returned to Washington…?

He put a hand on Krycek’s shoulder. God, the guy looked like he’d been run over by a truck. He hadn’t slept on the plane, like Mulder had, or had a good night’s sleep since they’d left for Montana. He couldn’t be thinking clearly. “Come on, I’ll take you home.”

Krycek nodded dully and allowed himself to be led off.

* * *

They’d finished most of their meal when Mulder leaned forward onto his elbow, chin in hand, and settled in for one of his favorite pastimes—Scully-watching. She still had half a dozen French fries, and studied them as if they were slides under a microscope. When her fork descended, it stabbed precisely in the center of the selected fry, then carried it decisively to her mouth. Surgically executed. Perfectly Scully. She paused to tuck her hair behind her ear while she chewed. Her lips were wonderfully full and round. It wasn’t really necessary for her to have such beautiful porcelain skin or eyes like cool aquamarines. But there it was. An embarrassment of riches; so much to gaze at, and all of it Scully.

Scully dabbed her mouth with her napkin, and raised an eyebrow at Mulder. “Do I have something in my teeth?”

He leaned back and grinned. “Just counting your freckles.”

She smiled. “I don’t have freckles.”

“Must be ketchup, then.”

She put down her fork and sat back. “I think you’re seeing spots before your eyes.”

“No, just freckles.” Krycek didn’t have freckles. But he did have a small mole on his left hip. There was a sudden pulse in Mulder’s cock.

“So, tell me about the Kafka Killer.”

“Not much to tell. Just your garden variety psychopath.”

“How did Krycek handle it?”

Lying on his stomach, naked and squirming, legs open…. “He had a pretty hard time. But he handled it.” Mulder sighed, shaking his head. “I never saw anybody suffer through a case like that. Everything hurt him. But he held it together, and he even helped me solve the case. He’s a good agent, Scully. He should take the Behavioral Sciences training, or forensics, or something. He should—” He should stop resisting me and let me fuck him just as often as I want to.

“Does he want to take the Behavioral Sciences training?” Scully’s smile was slightly teasing.

“I don’t know. Probably not right now. Maybe after he’s had time to think about it a little.” Mulder grinned. “What he really wants is the X-Files.”

Scully sighed. “I never thought I’d say this, but I think I feel the same way.”

Mulder stared at the wall. “Yeah.”

Scully cleared her throat, then smiled brightly. “But I’m glad Krycek’s working out.”

I fucked him, Scully. The words were on the tip of his tongue. I fucked him six times, and I want to do it again. Could he tell her? He thought she’d understand. Or if not understand, at least not hate him for it. She wouldn’t report them, that he was sure of. Perhaps she’d sigh, with that determinedly non-judgmental yet slightly exasperated look she got when he was about to go off on some particularly dangerous and foolish wild goose chase. Do you think that’s wise? she’d ask, calmly, as if they were discussing whether or not to order the fish of the day.

No, it isn’t wise. In fact, it’s one of the most unwise things I’ve ever done. But you should have seen him, Scully, sitting there on that hotel bed, looking so weary and disappointed and determined. You would have had to put your arms around him, just like I did. Or standing there sleepy-eyed in his night clothes, hair all mussed, with a mouth that just demanded to be kissed. No, it isn’t wise. But it’s thoroughly wonderful.

“He’s working out a lot better than I expected.”

“I hope you’re not pushing him too hard.”

I’m pushing him way too hard. Poor guy, he told me he loves me. I didn’t know what to say to that, but he wouldn’t let me say anything. He seemed so desperate about it, as if I’d already broken his heart. I don’t want to hurt him, but it seems almost predestined, somehow.

“I’m trying not to.”

“You get on these crusades, Mulder, and you can’t see anything but what you want to see. I know you don’t mean to run people down along the way, but sometimes you just forget to look around yourself and see what’s happening. And Krycek, from what you’ve told me about him, seems like the kind of guy who’d half kill himself trying to live up to your standards.”

He wanted to tell me something last night, but I wouldn’t let him. I was so determined to have him all to myself for just one more night. Something is hurting him, and it isn’t just the sex, it’s something else. But I promised him we’d talk when we got back, and we will. I’ll be careful, Scully. I will.

“I know.” Mulder forced a half-hearted grin. “Hey, you were the one telling me he’s a big boy, that he can take care of himself.”

Scully’s answering smile was sad and affectionate. “He’s a big boy. Big boys can get hurt, too. Just don’t let your need for the truth make you forget to see other people’s truth.”

Like I did with you? Mulder felt a wave of regret and guilt wash through him. Scully was speaking from experience. Fortunately, she was strong. She was tougher in some ways than Mulder, and he’d come to lean on that strength. But it hadn’t been easy for her. No doubt she was relieved to be out of it.

“Yeah. I’ll talk to him tomorrow. Make sure he’s all right.”

Scully smiled. It was a warm smile, familiar and affectionate, yet somehow sad. As if she’d been having her own mental conversation with him, too, as he’d been having his, and she didn’t entirely like the conclusions she had drawn. What would she be saying to him in her mind, that she didn’t think she could say out loud? Some day, they would have to sit down and have one of these conversations out in the open. Some day, he would tell her everything she really meant to him.

But tonight, he was tired and strained and already had one very stressed and unhappy partner to deal with. Go to him now? It wasn’t that late. Krycek had been exhausted, though, he’d already be in bed. Just crawl in with him, and hold him close, like last night. Ask him silly questions he can’t answer with his mind so heavy with sleep, make him giggle and squirm closer. Don’t worry, just close your eyes, I’ll take care of everything….

“That sounds like a good idea, Mulder.”

He started. It took a moment to remember what he’d actually said. He almost laughed.


He grinned at her. “You actually agreed with me. I was startled for a minute.”

She grinned back. “It does happen occasionally.”

Not nearly often enough. And whose fault was that? Only his own, he knew. And it would be his fault with Krycek, too, whatever happened.

From Alex Krycek’s diary:

I have to tell Mulder the truth. He’s going to hate me and I’ll get transferred and my boss will kill me. Literally. God I really could get killed for this. But I don’t know what else to do. I can’t go on like this. Mulder just won’t leave me alone and I can’t figure out a way to say no to him that he’ll buy, when he can see how badly I want him.

The trip to Montana was a disaster right from the start. I had no business being on that case and I knew it and Mulder knew it and the only reason I was there was supposedly to babysit Mulder (as far as Skinner was concerned) or to spy on him (as far as my other boss was concerned). Only he ended up babysitting me, because I couldn’t handle it.

Okay, I killed a guy once. I thought he was going to kill Mulder and I didn’t have any choice and anyway I used a gun and I was at least twenty feet away from him. Still it shook me up so bad I went home and cried (never told anybody about that and never will). I’d do it again if I had to I guess but I sure as hell didn’t do it for fun. But this guy—this Kafka Killer—he doesn’t just do it for fun, he makes it as long and painful and horrible as he can.

You go through the FBI training and the special covert ops training and you think you know. You think you’re some hotshot like Mission Impossible—”if any of your IM Force should be caught or killed the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions”—and it’s all a game. Then one day you wake up in a cheap hotel room in Montana with color photos of piles of raw meat that used to be women lying on the dresser and your partner you’re supposed to be spying on is fucking your ass. Then you realize: you don’t know shit. And you go over and over it in your head but you can’t figure out just how you got into this situation and you sure as hell don’t know how to get out of it. Except telling the guy you love him isn’t exactly the smartest thing you could have done.

I just wanted him to know. Some day he’s going to find out everything, I thought, and he’s going to think I just slept with him because he was the mark, and that it was a lie just like everything else. Somehow, I don’t mind the thought of him hating me as much as I mind him thinking I never felt anything for him.

We were there for three days and he fucked me every night. Last night three times. God. Well, you can’t chalk that up to the heat of the moment, can you? That was one very long moment. He is so damn sweet—all gentle and tender and so determined. You could almost laugh or cry or something. He doesn’t know what he’s doing but he sure knows what he wants. What the hell must he think I am? I don’t know, but I wish I was whatever it is. He pushes buttons I didn’t even know I had. Makes me feel like I’d do anything, any fucking thing in the world, just to have him inside me again.

So I’m going to have to tell him. God, it scares me. He might even kill me, I don’t know. But somehow I’ve got to get out of this. I’ve got to make Mulder believe me, and I’ve got to get away from that bastard of a boss. Maybe somehow I can get something on him so he’ll have to let me go. I don’t know what, and I’ll probably just get myself killed, but I have to try.

From now on I’m taping every conversation I have with that cigarette-smoking son of a bitch.

And I’m going to tell Fox Mulder the truth.

The next morning, Mulder was at the pool doing laps when Krycek came in, walking around the side of the pool to meet Mulder at the end of his lap. The swimming pool fantasy of a few months ago popped into Mulder’s mind, and he grinned to himself as he swam up to Krycek. Wouldn’t it be fun to pull Krycek in, undress him and make him swim laps, swimming along beside him, slapping him on the bottom when he flagged, urging him to keep up? Too bad he was dressed for work, in one of his awful suits, and couldn’t be made to play.

Krycek was determinedly businesslike, but his face was pink as he stopped at the edge, looking down at Mulder. “Agent Mulder.” His smile was even tighter than usual.

“Krycek.” Mulder grinned at him. “What’s up?” He swam over to the ladder and climbed out of the pool.

Krycek glanced down, caught a brief glimpse of Mulder’s red Speedo, then quickly looked away. “There’s a situation going down. They want you out there right away.”

Krycek followed Mulder over to his towel. There was a slightly awkward motion in Krycek’s walk, as if he had too much on his mind to keep track of his arms and legs.

“What kind of situation?”

“Hostage negotiation.”

Mulder picked up his towel and began to wipe the water from his face and chest. “And they want me?”


“What for?”

Krycek looked at him earnestly, his huge eyes glowing liquid green. “The guy escaped a mental institution—he’s got four people at gunpoint in an office building, claims he’s being controlled by aliens.”

Mulder felt the slow smile form on his face. It was probably nothing. Just another garden variety psycho. Probably another jerkoff assignment to keep him out of trouble. A bone thrown to him to keep him from getting too agitated about losing the X-Files.

But maybe not.

* * *

Duane Barry was an abductee, a genuine one, Mulder was sure of it. The man knew things. About the aliens, about abductions, about government conspiracies…. And maybe he could have taken Mulder to the abduction site, and maybe Mulder could have seen it for himself, and maybe he could have found out once and for all what had happened to his sister, if only, if only…. But poor Duane Barry was frightened and desperate and unbalanced, and the hostages were in mortal danger, and Mulder had had no choice but to send Barry to the door where the snipers could take him out. No choice.

It was late by the time Duane Barry had been driven away to the hospital, and Mulder was exhausted and unhappy, and Scully was there, and maybe it was insensitive of him, but he told Krycek to go on ahead back to D.C. without him, he’d ride back with Scully. He wanted her calm, familiar presence; and he definitely was not ready to deal with Krycek and the feelings that had surfaced during their trip to Montana. He determinedly avoided seeing the forced cheer on Krycek’s face as his new partner nodded and insisted that no, he didn’t mind driving back alone.

But ready to deal with those feelings or not, they wouldn’t leave his tired mind alone. Mulder lay awake on his couch late into the night, in the silent dark, while the events of the past few days spun through his mind, over and over, like a stuck record. It was just all happening too fast. Duane Barry. Alien abductions. Hostage negotiations. Scully. And two nights ago, he’d been lying in bed in a hotel room in Montana, fucking his male partner just as often and as long as he was physically capable. He’d touched Krycek in places he wouldn’t even touch his own body. They’d lain wrapped together for hours, so tightly they could barely move, even when their sated bodies were unable to respond. And Krycek was right—Mulder had come on like a high school lothario, insisting on having his way, refusing to let Krycek express his doubts. He’d promised they’d talk as soon as they got back to D.C., but now he was doing his best to avoid it.

He just didn’t know what to say. One minute he was determined to end the affair immediately; the next he was fantasizing about dragging Krycek off into a broom closet for a quickie. They had to do something, but he had no idea what. And he was perfectly well aware that sitting down with Krycek and talking about it would be the best way to figure it out, but he just couldn’t manage to face it. Well, he was tired. It had been a harrowing day. Surely there was nothing wrong with just wanting to go home and rest after a day like today. (And how many days in Mulder’s life weren’t days like today? It hadn’t stopped him from knocking on Krycek’s door and fast-talking his way into Krycek’s bed.)

Mulder pushed himself upright and reached for the phone. But he’d only gotten half the number punched in before he put the phone back down. What was he going to do? Call Scully and ask her whether or not she thought he should be sleeping with his partner? Call Krycek and tell him he didn’t want to talk about what happened in Montana, he just felt like waking him up at three in the morning?

He picked up the phone again, and punched out a number.

“Mulder?” Krycek’s voice was husky with sleep.

Mulder smiled into the phone. “How did you know it was me?”

“Well, of the hundreds of people who usually call me at three o’clock in the morning, you’re the only one who does it after he ditches me.”

“Sorry. Look, Alex. I am sorry about putting you off again. Do you want to get together tomorrow night?”

“Sure. You couldn’t have asked me this in the morning?”

Mulder grinned. “I had to call you tonight. I ditched you today, remember?”

“Are you going to ditch me tomorrow?”

“No, I promise. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

“Okay, Mulder. Can I go to bed now?”

“Wish I was there.”

“Yeah, right.” But the humor was back in Krycek’s voice.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” Smiling, Mulder hung up. All right, he’d gotten back into Krycek’s good graces.

But he was going to have to talk to him tomorrow.

Mulder did not sleep that night.

* * *

Mulder punched the button on his answering machine and tossed his jacket across the back of a chair, loosening his tie as he dropped onto the couch. It was late, as usual, but he couldn’t put it off any longer. He’d avoided Krycek all day, breezing past him with the flimsiest of excuses, spending the day with Scully and the agents who’d been in charge of the hostage negotiation. He’d gone to see Duane Barry in the hospital. He’d even hidden in the library. He just couldn’t look at Krycek, with the memory of Montana scalding his nerve endings, and the knowledge that soon they’d have to talk about what had happened twisting his guts. Not in public, anyway. He’d call Krycek as soon as he checked his messages. The first was from Scully.

“Mulder, it’s me. I just had something incredibly strange happen. This piece of metal that they took out of Duane Barry—it has some kind of code on it. I ran it through a scanner, and some kind of serial number came up. What the hell is this thing, Mulder? It’s almost as if… it’s almost as if somebody was using it to catalog him!”

There was a pause. Mulder stopped, stared at the answering machine. What was that noise? Then there was a gasp, and a crash, and “Mulder! I need your help! Mulder! Mulder!”

Oh god—how long ago had that message come in? Mulder grabbed his coat and keys, heart pounding, Oh god oh god oh god Scully! and launched himself out the door.

* * *

She was gone. Her mother appeared at her apartment, crying. The phone lay on the floor, smashed. There was blood and hair on the edge of the coffee table. Red hair. Scully’s hair.

He stayed with the police all night. Her mother, he finally talked into going home. I’ll take care of her, he assured her. I’ll find her, and I’ll bring her home. He worked all night like a man possessed. He called in every favor he’d ever earned, and bought a whole lot more on credit. He cajoled, pleaded, pushed, and threatened, not caring who he woke. He did everything he could think of, and cursed himself that he couldn’t do more, to find Scully. It wasn’t until nearly five A.M. that he remembered Krycek, and finally made the long-delayed call. The irritation quickly disappeared from Krycek’s voice when Mulder explained what had happened. Within half an hour, Krycek was at his side, looking strained and red-eyed, but solidly reassuring. And his pain eased, ever so slightly, but even the slightest relief from that pain was a blessing.

Krycek brushed off his feeble attempts at apologies. Forget it, Mulder. Let’s find Scully first. We’ll worry about the rest of it later. Grateful, Mulder had gone determinedly back to work.

* * *

Late morning. At least twenty-nine hours since he’d slept. He’d drunk so much coffee his hands were beginning to tremble. His stomach churned. He despised every minute that ticked by, another minute of danger to Scully. At his desk, Mulder sat staring at the police reports, the photographs, the cassette tapes, willing them to make sense, to resolve themselves into the answers he needed. It had to be here somewhere, why couldn’t he find it? He was letting Scully down. He had to get her back. Had to. He couldn’t lose another… no, don’t think about that. Just find Duane Barry, find Scully, get her back.

Krycek sat on the edge of Mulder’s desk, chewing on a bagel. He tore off a piece and handed it to Mulder, who took it without thinking and pushed it into his mouth. He’d already swallowed it before he realized that he must have finished nearly half of Krycek’s bagel. Krycek had been feeding him all morning, bite by bite. Half of a bagel. Parts of two muffins. Never a word, just handing Mulder pieces of whatever he was eating, knowing Mulder would refuse to eat if asked, but that he’d accept casually-handed-over bits of Krycek’s food without even thinking about it.

Mulder stopped and stared at Krycek, as if he were staring at a stranger. Who was this man, who had Mulder eating out of his hand, who had doggedly followed Mulder around all morning, who didn’t even know Scully, but who was willing to dedicate himself to her safety, for Mulder’s sake? Obviously a man who had slept little last night, who had dressed hurriedly and carelessly early this morning. Usually a fastidious man, today his striped tie (and where did he get those awful ties?) was knotted crookedly, and there was a scuff on the toe of his left shoe. His face was drawn and pale and the huge eyes were circled with dark smudges. He looked like he was wearing eyeliner, Mulder suddenly thought, and it made him want to wash Krycek’s face. Had he stayed up last night, waiting for the call that never came, nibbling on his lower lip until it was reddened and swollen, wondering if Mulder would ever keep his promise? Or had he gone to bed in disgust and lain there, tossing and turning, wishing he’d never gotten involved with Fox Mulder?

Pain tightened in Mulder’s chest. Everything had gone so wrong—he’d failed Scully, and now he was failing Krycek, and he wanted so badly to explain, to make Krycek understand that he’d never meant to let him down. Everything was crazy right now, but if only Krycek would just help him get through it, then he’d make everything all right. But he didn’t know how to say any of it. He could only stare at Krycek, hoping somehow Krycek would know.

Krycek’s face turned pink under Mulder’s scrutiny, and he looked away, swallowing. “I’ll get us some coffee,” Krycek muttered, and hurried away.

* * *

It had been so close. If only they’d gotten to the top of the mountain a little bit sooner, they might have been able to save her. The hood of her car was still warm when Mulder felt it. Duane Barry was still standing with his arms outstretched to the sky, exulting in not being the one who was taken this time. And Scully was gone beyond Mulder’s reach. Only a few minutes, but in those few minutes everything changed. Scully was taken, and there was nothing more for Mulder to do, except to go home and apologize to her mother and wait and hope that somehow she’d return.

Mulder was silent during the long ride home from Skyland Mountain. Krycek insisted on driving; Mulder didn’t even make a token protest. He sat and stared out the window, feeling empty and cold and hopeless. He stared into the night, and his soul felt as black as the sky.

* * *

Krycek pulled up in front of Mulder’s apartment building. Mulder shifted in his seat, muscles stiff from sitting motionless against the car door for so many hours. He glanced across the seat at Krycek, who was watching him thoughtfully from under his lashes, so long they cast a shadow across his cheek in the pale light from the streetlamps.

“I’m sorry, Mulder.” His low voice seemed to float gently on the air between them, clear and soothing. “Are you going to be all right?”

Mulder’s throat was raw. There was a rushing noise in his ears. One hand groped blindly to catch Krycek’s shoulder; then he was pulling Krycek towards him, burying his face in the coarse fabric of Krycek’s suit. “Stay with me.”

Krycek’s arms encircled him, solid and tight. He felt Krycek’s lips brush against his ear. “Mulder, you need to sleep.”

Mulder felt his chest tighten, and the rush of misery flowed into his empty heart, like blood flowing back into deadened limbs. “How am I going to sleep? Alex, I know I promised you we’d talk….”

“That doesn’t matter—god, Mulder, do you think I’d expect you to sit down and talk about us, with all this happening? I don’t care about that.” He squeezed Mulder until the air was forced out of his lungs, and it felt so good, Mulder would have cried if he’d been able to breathe. “But there are still things we need to talk about before….”

“What things?” Mulder wanted to shake him. Perhaps he would have, if he’d been able to move. What could be more important tonight than being together? I can’t be alone tonight…. And then he remembered the first time he’d said that to Krycek—after Scully had turned him down. When he had lost her in a different way. And now he’d lost her again, and again he was expecting Krycek to fill the void left by her absence. “Oh, Alex, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to keep doing this to you, but please— ”

“Mulder, you don’t understand.” And Krycek’s voice, too, was shot through with pain. “I just have things I have to tell you. But I can’t tell you now. I want to be with you, god, you don’t know how bad I want to be with you—there are things, I just can’t explain to you now.” Krycek’s words were muffled through hot, fervent kisses to Mulder’s cheek, his temple, his ear. Mulder fought himself loose from Krycek’s iron grip— he had to grab a fistful of Krycek’s collar and forcefully pull his head back—just to get enough room to bring Krycek’s face to his, to crush their mouths together. And then, for just a little while, blessed silence: the universe stopped pounding at his brain, and Krycek’s own special sweet taste overwhelmed Mulder’s senses, and made everything all right.

Of course, it couldn’t last, although Mulder dazedly thought that he wouldn’t mind suffocating to death on the spot, putting a final end to his pain with this fiery heart-stopping pleasure. But they broke apart at last, gasping. The interior of the car had gone foggy. “Alex, please….”

“Mulder, do you remember what I said to you, that first night in Montana?” Krycek’s voice was hot and urgent.

“I remember.” And how could he ever forget?

“I meant it. I still mean it. I love you, Mulder. I always will. Never forget it.”

“Then why can’t we be together?”

Krycek kissed him again, firm lips pressing Mulder’s with dazzling perfection. “We can. We will. As soon as I’ve had a chance to explain.”

“Then tell me.”

“Not tonight. You need to rest. I need to rest.” Krycek stroked Mulder’s hair. His smile was fragile and full of pain. His eyes were inky in the dark; tiny chips of glowing obsidian. “Just remember what I said.”

Mulder nodded, then, and the terrible need drained out of him, leaving him sad and empty again. But not quite as cold. “All right.” One last kiss, gentle and tender; then Mulder got out of the car, and went into his apartment, alone.

* * *

Mulder lay on his couch, in tee-shirt and jeans, arms crossed over his chest, staring at the ceiling. It was cold, but he didn’t pull a blanket over himself. Every once in a while, he glanced at the clock on the VCR, and blankly noted the passage of the hours. His mind was a shattered vessel of images, frozen like a handful of photographs, scattered and jumbled and senseless. Scully, eyes wide, strapped to a table, surrounded by small grey aliens. Krycek lying naked on his stomach with his legs spread. Duane Barry standing in the doorway with a small red laser dot on his chest. Samantha suspended in midair, floating through the window. Scully in her apartment late at night, wearing a sweatshirt and old jeans, shaking her head sadly. His mother weeping quietly by the window. Krycek with his tie crooked and a scuff on the toe of his shoe.

Somehow, he thought, there must be a way to put them together. A way to make the puzzle make sense. He was too weary to think, and too ruined to sleep, but maybe if he just let the images play, they would at last resolve themselves into a whole picture, and he would understand.

The images played on, over and over and over.

* * *

He got up early and drove to Quantico, to see what had been learned from Duane Barry’s autopsy. Someone had killed Scully’s kidnaper— and it wasn’t Mulder. Someone didn’t want Barry talking about what he knew and what he had seen. If he could discover who it was, perhaps it would lead him to whoever had taken Scully. It was a long shot, but it was the only lead he had, and he was determined to follow it to the bitter end.

But the autopsy was another frustration, another cover-up, and another dead end. The Navy pathologist wouldn’t tell him anything. Toxicological test results were delayed, perhaps forever, and wouldn’t be available to him in any case. From there he went on to an inquiry into his own role in Duane Barry’s death. If he hadn’t been so numb by this time, he might have actually found it funny. Scully was gone. He’d seen Army helicopters on the scene. Duane Barry had been murdered, and the military was covering up the autopsy results. And all his superiors were interested in was whether he’d been too rough on Duane Barry. He answered their questions dully, not really caring if they believed him.

After the meeting had ended, he caught up with Krycek in the hall, and pestered him into giving him his car keys. Mulder had one hope left, and that was his contact, Senator Matheson. Perhaps the Senator could shake loose the autopsy results, and that might give Mulder another shred of evidence to keep going on.

But this was a dead end too. He didn’t even get in to see the Senator; his occasional informant and nemesis, X, had appeared in the stairwell to warn him off. He returned to Krycek’s car, not quite having wrapped his mind around the hopelessness of his cause, somehow sure that something would occur to him, there would be another idea, another lead, no matter how slim, that he couldn’t just go home and give up, Scully wasn’t lost forever, there must still be a way to find her and bring her home.

He sat for a moment in Krycek’s car, taking what comfort he could from the signs of his lover’s presence. The car seat, adjusted to Krycek’s height, the same as Mulder’s own. The Hershey bars and opera tapes in the glove compartment. The ashtray full of change….

Mulder stared at the cigarette butt, uncomprehending. Krycek didn’t smoke. How could this have gotten into his car? Krycek was a stickler for procedure, and would never use his Bucar for personal trips. And it was late and they were both exhausted when Krycek had taken him home last night. They had both been at headquarters all day. There was no time, no reason.

Mulder picked up the cigarette butt. Morley, only a few puffs taken before it had been stubbed out. Mulder felt dizzy, his sight beginning to go black. God, no. Not Krycek. Not his one remaining friend, his precious junior partner, his sweet innocent lover. Not Krycek, working for his enemy. Stopping the tram to delay him from getting to the top of Skyland Mountain. Slipping something deadly into Duane Barry’s water while Mulder stood in the hall imagining Scully on the aliens’ examining table. Helping them to take Scully. Lying to him, spying on him, destroying his life.

Mulder, I have to tell you….


Mulder sat in the car, and stared at the cigarette butt. Such a small, insignificant thing, to cause so much pain. Mulder blinked, and the image of the innocent, beloved man-child in his mind shattered and disappeared forever, leaving only the mysterious cold beauty in its place.

It was the final, crushing blow. Samantha. Scully. Krycek. Mulder’s forehead came down to rest on the steering wheel, and his eyes flooded with hopeless tears. He sat in the car and wept, alone.


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