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The Best Lies, Part Five: A Perfect Life


Contains explicit male/male sex.

Pairing: Mulder/Krycek

Summary: A DNA test sends Mulder on a quest to discover the truth about his sister, leading to a mysterious database and an old enemy. Follows “Anasazi.”

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

a perfect life

Alex Krycek paused outside the door to Mulder’s basement office, his hand trembling slightly on the doorknob. He hadn’t seen Mulder since that night five weeks ago, when Mulder had ransomed him from the Smoking Man. He’d called Mulder a few times, but their conversations had been strained and brief. It seemed obvious enough that Mulder wanted nothing more to do with him. He hadn’t pursued it—he’d had enough on his plate, trying to convince the Bureau’s paper-pushers to let him back in the FBI. The last thing he needed at the time was to get caught up again in the emotional shredder that was his relationship with Fox Mulder.

But now he was back, officially reinstated in the FBI. It had taken some pretty serious explaining, groveling, and string-pulling to get him back into his job. Amazingly enough, his ex-boss had helped. Five weeks ago, the man had almost had Krycek killed for leading Mulder to his secrets. But he didn’t hold grudges. It seemed to amuse him to use his influence to induce the Bureau to take Krycek back. Perhaps the Smoking Man thought he’d be able to call in the favor some day—not that Krycek would ever consider working for him again.

Krycek pulled out his badge and looked at it again. His breath caught at the sight of the eagle and blind justice on the shield. All his life he’d wanted this. When he’d had to flee rather than face a lie-detector test after Duane Barry’s death, he’d thought he’d lost it forever. He was unbelievably happy to have it back. And he wanted desperately to tell someone who’d know just how much it meant to him. Strangely enough, Fox Mulder was the only person he could think of. Surely Mulder couldn’t object if Krycek just stopped in to thank him for his help. He’d never have made it if Mulder hadn’t been willing to withdraw the report he’d made against Krycek, even with the Smoking Man’s behind-the-scenes finagling. He took a deep breath and stepped through the door.

Mulder was seated at his desk, and Scully stood by the filing cabinet. They both stopped what they were doing and stared at him in cold silence. He forced a tight smile onto his face and held up his FBI ID.

“I’m ba-ack….” It was a very feeble attempt at a joke, and it fell quite flat. Krycek stood frozen, wondering if he should just turn tail and run.

Then, finally, Mulder leaned back in his chair and smiled faintly. “Congratulations.”

Scully’s lips also twitched in a brief smile. “Yes. Congratulations.”

Krycek shifted nervously. “Skinner said you recommended me. Thanks. I… I’m really grateful.”

Mulder shrugged. “I just told him the truth. I couldn’t prove anything in the report, so I withdrew it.”

“Well… Skinner made it sound like it was more than that. But I guess you don’t want it to get around that you helped me. I understand.” Without thinking, he reached up and ran a hand over his hair. It was a nervous habit he’d tried to break himself of many times, but it always came back under stress. His hair was short again, FBI conservative, and felt strange under his hand.

Mulder chewed his lower lip, as uncomfortable as his visitor. “It’s just… I didn’t do that much.”

“Well, I just wanted let you know.” He gestured with the badge again. “And to thank you. And you too, Scully.” He might as well instigate a little good will with Scully, if he could. He certainly wasn’t getting any from Mulder.

“I didn’t really do anything. But you’re welcome anyway.” Her smile was slightly less frozen than Mulder’s.

“So. I guess I’ll see you later, maybe….” Krycek turned and fumbled for the doorknob.

“Krycek.” Mulder’s voice stopped him. He turned back, hand still on the doorknob. Mulder cleared his throat before continuing. “I’ll take you to lunch. To celebrate.”

Krycek tried not to let his smile grow too broad. Mulder taking him out to lunch? He didn’t quite trust it. “Great.”

Mulder stood, pulling his suit coat from the back of his chair. “Scully, you coming?”

Krycek’s smile went cold. It figured. Mulder was probably never going to want to be alone with him again. But it didn’t do to be unfriendly to Scully. That would be the quickest way to turn Mulder off. “Yeah, Scully. Come with us.”

A slight smile quirked at the corners of her mouth. “No, you go ahead. I’ve got some work I want to finish up.”

Krycek thanked her silently. Mulder shot her a look, which she blithely ignored. Then he forced a smile, and ushered Krycek out of the office.

* * *

Given free rein to choose any restaurant he wanted, Krycek nearly panicked and asked to go to McDonald’s. He didn’t know what Mulder liked, or how much Mulder was willing to spend on this little “celebration.” He felt like he was walking a mine field. There were too many ways to make mistakes with Mulder. Too many ways to break this brittle truce between them.

But it was just lunch, damn it. “Do you like Japanese?” His voice was at least half an octave above normal. He cleared his throat, and swore at himself under his breath.

“Sure. I know a good place.”

It just happened to be Krycek’s favorite restaurant. He crossed his fingers that this was going to be a good omen.

Over green tea, Krycek tried to relax a little. “I start on Monday. Check fraud. We have a man under surveillance.”

“Wiretap, huh?” Mulder’s smile looked pasted on. His voice was a little too hearty.

Nervous as a couple of kids on their first date. At least he didn’t feel so bad, if Mulder was going to be nervous too. “Yeah, I know, it’s the Bureau’s equivalent of ‘drop and give me twenty.’ I don’t care. I’m just glad to be back. I’d scrub the floors if that’s what it took.”

“Well, my office floor could use scrubbing.”

“Too late, I got my badge now. You should have taken advantage while I was sweating it out.”

“You mean I could have held my recommendation for ransom?”

“You could have had a lot more than your floors scrubbed.”

Mulder’s face turned pink at the innuendo, and he covered his discomfort with a sip of tea. Swearing inwardly, Krycek hurried to change the subject. “So what are you working on these days?”

“Nothing special.”

The silence lengthened. Krycek was reminded of a line in a movie. Having nothing better to say, he quoted, “‘Don’t you hate uncomfortable silences?'”

It was not a very specific quote. But Mulder’s face lit up. “Pulp Fiction. I loved that movie.”

Finally, something they could talk about. “Isn’t Tarantino great? I loved that scene with the adrenaline hypo….”

Gradually, Krycek’s grip on his teacup loosened. He was actually sitting here chatting with Mulder. And it was actually pleasant. They carefully avoided any reference to work or to their explosive past history, which put a slight cramp in the conversation, but he could live with that. Just once, let them get through a meeting without any accusations or recriminations flying. By the time the miso soup arrived, Krycek’s jaw had stopped aching and his voice returned to normal.

They managed to get through the entire meal talking inconsequentially about cop movies and cosmic strings and who was going to win the Series. Over a final cup of tea, Krycek made a stab at paying half the check, and got his hand slapped. He settled back in his chair, biting his lip and trying not to feel like he was on a date.

“Thanks, Mulder. I really appreciate it. I hate to admit it, but I’m broke. This may be the last meal I have till I get my first paycheck.”

“What, didn’t he pay you?” Mulder stopped suddenly, features frozen in the realization that he’d crossed the unspoken line.

Oh damn. We were doing so well. Come on, think of something fast. Krycek put on a grin. “The pay was great, but the benefits sucked. No health plan.” He reached up to trace the path of the still-fresh, inch-long scar that ran into the hairline at his right temple.

Krycek loved the way that slow smile spread across Mulder’s face. Like something unexpected and nice had happened. For once, that smile was for him.

Mulder nodded. “Is that why you didn’t want to go back to the hospital?”

“Nah. I just didn’t like the nurses.”

Mulder counted out bills to pay the check, and stood. “I’ve got to get back to work. Are you going back?”

“No, I’m done for today. It’s just paperwork until Monday. I think I’m just going to go home. Clean my apartment.”

“I’ll drive you.”

Mulder’s continuing generosity was beginning to unnerve him. There’s got to be a catch. But he was going to take it anyway. “Thanks.”

* * *

Mulder had only been to Krycek’s apartment once, but with his photographic memory, he didn’t need to be told again how to get there. They were mostly silent during the drive. Krycek sat back in his seat and smiled to himself. It had been a very pleasant lunch. Now that the ice was broken, maybe there would be more such lunches. Krycek didn’t have any illusions that there was ever going to be anything more between him and Mulder than a casual friendship. The occasional lunch or dinner. Possibly a movie or a baseball game. He’d already had sex with Mulder twice—that was twice more than he’d ever thought would happen. He didn’t expect it to happen again. He wasn’t sure he even wanted it to. Well, okay, of course he wanted it to—but he knew he’d be better off if it didn’t. He finally had his job back after months of being trapped in the covert nightmare he’d stupidly stumbled into—but he had it on sufferance and at the first little mistake he’d be out on his ear. He didn’t need any angst-ridden affairs with Fox Mulder to confuse things. He just wanted to be able to spend a little uncomplicated time with the man every once in a while. He wanted to know that past mistakes were forgiven, and that Mulder didn’t hate him any more.

They pulled up in front of Krycek’s apartment building. Krycek turned to Mulder, smiling, ready to say thanks for the meal and see you later. But the expression on Mulder’s face made the words dry up in his throat.

Mulder was looking at him intently, eyes liquid, leaning forward slightly. Krycek’s breath caught. Suddenly, all bets were off.

Then Mulder reached out his hand, and touched the side of Krycek’s face. Just three fingertips brushed lightly against the skin. With his thumb, Mulder stroked the scar that creased Krycek’s temple.

“It was close,” Mulder said quietly.

Krycek had to swallow several times before he could speak. “You saved my life.”

“You know what that means, don’t you?”

“It means my life belongs to you.” As if it ever didn’t.

Mulder’s palm flattened against Krycek’s cheek, and fingers slid into his hair. “That’s right. You belong to me.”

“Mulder….” God, why did he have to be doing this in the car? On a public street, where anybody could see them?

“I’ve lost too many people, Krycek. I lost my sister. My father. I lost Scully for a while, but I got her back.” Mulder stroked the other man’s cheek, then ran his thumb over the lower lip. Krycek’s eyes closed, and his lips parted.

Mulder continued to speak softly. “I don’t want lose any more people. If you’re back, you stay back.”

Krycek licked Mulder’s thumb, then closed his mouth around it. Mulder’s eyelids fluttered as Krycek’s lips and tongue worked on his thumb.

“You don’t do this to me again. You’re mine now.” Mulder’s voice was a husky whisper. Then he withdrew his hand, pulling his thumb slowly from Krycek’s mouth.

Krycek took a deep breath. “Okay, Mulder.”

Mulder smiled. Then, not taking his eyes off the other man’s, he slid his thumb, still wet from Krycek’s tongue, into his own mouth. He sucked on it for a moment before withdrawing it. “Good. I’ll see you, Alex.”

Mulder turned around and put his hands on the steering wheel. Krycek swallowed hard, fumbled for the doorknob, and clumsily got out of the car. He stood on shaky knees and watched the car pull away.

* * *

There were forms to fill out and interviews to endure. Loose ends to be cleaned up, before he actually started his first assignment. Krycek was kept sufficiently busy that he managed to put the strange encounter with Mulder out of his mind. Most of the time. Late at night he lay in his bed and wondered what that little episode had been all about. He doesn’t care. He’s just using my attraction to keep me in line. Still, he went ahead and put his thumb in his mouth right after I’d been sucking on it…. Damn you, Mulder. You’re just trying to make me crazy. And succeeding.

* * *

The listening post was a third-floor walkup in a marginal part of town, down the hall and one floor below the apartment being bugged. His subject was suspected of running a counterfeit payroll check scheme, which had already defrauded banks in New York and New Jersey, and was now setting up shop in D.C. The man, Darin McCarthy, had frequent late-night meetings in his living room. Krycek pulled the six A.M.-to-noon shift—the shift during which anything of interest was least likely to happen. It was six hours of subject sleeping, with the occasional trip to the bathroom to liven things up. Yes, this is what I live for. This is what I dedicated my life to. Sitting in a room for six hours listening to paint peel. After four days, he was beginning to think that doing grunt work for a man with no name wasn’t such a bad job after all.

On the fifth day, the midnight-to-six agent, Ross, slapped him on the arm as he left, saying, “Hey, Squirt—this may be your lucky day. There’s a meeting scheduled for seven A.M. Stay awake.”

“Yeah, right.” Squirt. It was one of the less offensive new nicknames he’d acquired since his return to the Bureau. The FBI was the worst bunch of gossips he’d ever seen. He was sure that, by now, every agent from Miami to Seattle knew all about his little disappearing act and five-week grovel to get back in the Bureau. Some of the names were used only behind his back—but he heard them. He was almost nostalgic for “Skippy.” At least no one called him “Spooky Junior” any more.

Anyway, he didn’t care what they called him. There was only one FBI agent whose opinion mattered to him—and he’d already done a pretty good job of making that one hate him. So to hell with the rest of them.

There was a coffeemaker with a few cups’ worth of coffee left in it on the counter by the sink. Krycek found a mug that didn’t look too dirty, rinsed it out, and poured a cup. He sipped it and grimaced. It had been sitting on the burner for hours. Damn Ross. Krycek always made a fresh pot for the next shift before he left at noon. He emptied the carafe into the sink and started another pot brewing. Then he settled into the chair and put the headphones on.

He could hear his subject, McCarthy, moving around in the apartment, muttering under his breath. McCarthy seemed to be alone in there now. If Ross was right, there would be others arriving at seven. There was still almost an hour to go.

Krycek yawned and leaned back in his chair and prepared to wait.

* * *

Promptly at seven, there was a knock on McCarthy’s door. Krycek sat up, turned over the page of the legal pad he’d been doodling on, and listened.

McCarthy opened the door, and his guest entered. Krycek made notes on his pad.

“Morris. Good to see you.”

“Never expected to see you at this hour.”

Laughter. A pause. Sounds of someone walking around.

“Morris, what are you doing?” The tone was amused.

“I was in New York yesterday. O’Donnell got whacked. I’m still a little spooked.”

Hmm. A murder? This might be interesting. It’s not check fraud, but….

“O’Donnell? What happened?”

“It was the weirdest thing, man. He just dropped dead. But right before he did, people said they heard this noise, a scream or something, so loud the windows rattled. And then, poof, he was dead.”

Mysterious scream? No cause of death? Sounds like an X-File. He wondered if Mulder knew about it.

“Pretty spooky, man.”

Spooky, indeed!

Suddenly, McCarthy shouted, “Who the hell are you? How did you get in here?” Then both men were shouting. Chairs scraped. The shouts turned from anger to panic. Gunshots rang in Krycek’s headphones.

He jumped to his feet, one hand on his gun. Should he call for backup now, or… ?

A scream split the air, so loud it knocked Krycek back. The surveillance equipment rattled, then buzzed, then shrilled with feedback and distortion, which shattered and expanded the strange, ululating cry. Swearing and stumbling against the chair behind him, Krycek ripped the headphones off and threw them down onto the table. He stood with his hands over his ears, shaking and sweating. He could still hear the wailing scream emanating from the headphones, even through his hands. Moaning in pain, stomach churning, he fumbled for the volume control on the receiver.

Then the scream stopped. Gasping for breath, he fell back into his chair and gingerly reached for the headphones. He hesitantly put them back on and carefully turned the volume control.

Nothing. The equipment was dead. His ears were ringing, but there was not a sound from McCarthy’s apartment. He turned the knob all the way up. There should at least be a slight hiss, or a crackle of static… nothing. The surveillance equipment was destroyed.

Krycek pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and called headquarters to report the equipment failure.

“Sounds like they had a bugsweeper in there.”

“Yeah, but they were right in the middle of a meeting,” Krycek protested. “They were talking, then they started shouting at someone else who came in, then the scream started.”

“Well, the new arrival was probably the bugsweeper. That’s how they fry the bugs, you know, with high-frequency tones. They’ll go right through your head if you’re listening when they do it.”

“I know,” he said patiently. “But they were shouting at whoever came in, and I heard gunfire….” Never mind, no one was going to pay any attention to anything he said. “All right. But regardless of what happened, the equipment is gone. You might as well send somebody over to collect it. And I’m going to check out McCarthy’s.”

“Careful. If it was a bugsweeper, they’ll be expecting you.”

“I know. I’ll be careful.” Krycek hung up in disgust. Everyone still treated him like a wet-behind-the-ears plebe. Well, he couldn’t exactly tell them about the experience he’d gotten working in black ops. But he’d show them he knew what he was doing.

He pulled on his suit coat and stepped out into the hall. Others doors along the hall were open, and several people stood together, talking animatedly about the Noise.

A middle-aged man in an undershirt and stained slacks turned to him. “Did you hear it? What the hell was it?”

“I don’t know. I thought… maybe it came from upstairs.” If the whole building had heard it, it was no bugsweeper. That would only have affected the surveillance equipment. This was a genuine, huge, loud Noise.

Uneasily, Krycek continued up the stairs. On the upper floor, people were also milling about the hallway.

“Are you the police? I called the police,” said a sharp-featured woman with curly, steel grey hair.

He shook his head. “I was downstairs….” McCarthy was not out in the hall. His apartment door was closed. “Is everyone all right? It sounded like it was coming from up here.”

They looked at each other. A small, mousy woman nodded towards McCarthy’s door. “I heard them in there before, but nothing since. They were shouting just as the noise started.”

Krycek bit his lip. “Maybe we should check.”

The curly-haired woman stepped up to McCarthy’s door and rapped sharply. “Are you all right in there?”

There was no response.

Just then, two uniformed police arrived. The hallway crowd all tried to explain at once. Krycek took a deep breath, then pulled out his FBI badge and stepped forward. Everyone fell silent.

“I’m Agent Krycek. I was here doing surveillance when the noise occurred. We think something happened to the men in this apartment.”

More confusion. More explanations. Eventually, the hallway crowd was sent back to their apartments, and the super was located and instructed to open McCarthy’s door.

Krycek and the two officers stepped inside. The two men lay in crumpled heaps, as if dropped carelessly to the floor by a giant hand. Their eyes were open and staring wildly, faces frozen in terror. A few drops of blood trickled from McCarthy’s nose. It was the only blood or sign of trauma on either of the bodies. But they were quite dead.

The rest of the morning flew by in a flurry of activity. Krycek was not equipped to work a crime scene, so he just stood by, making notes on his pad while the police did their job. He stayed until the coroner arrived to collect the bodies, then he headed back to FBI Headquarters to start organizing his notes and filing reports.

He smiled to himself as he sat at his computer, typing up the morning’s events. There had been another similar death in New York yesterday—that made it a serial killing across state lines, and that made it the FBI’s jurisdiction. And as the agent on the scene when McCarthy’s death occurred, Krycek was already on the case. If he looked sharp and did everything right, he might be allowed to keep working on it. A strange, ear-splitting noise and three mysterious deaths. It was as good as an X-File. And it was all his.

Just before noon, he was notified that he was wanted in Skinner’s office. He collected his notes and headed there at once.

“You’ve got your notes with you, good,” Assistant Director Skinner told him, after he instructed Krycek to sit. “You can leave them with me, I’ll give them to the agent in charge.”

“Sir? I was on the case already, I’d like to….”

“Your assignment was surveillance. This is homicide. Thank you for your good work, Agent Krycek. Your part in this investigation is over.”

Damn. “Have you assigned the case yet?”

“There was a request filed for it an hour ago.”

Krycek gritted his teeth. “Sir, may I ask who requested it?”

“Strange noises, blown surveillance devices, unexplained deaths—you know who requested it. It’s an X-File. It’s Agent Mulder’s case.”

Krycek opened his mouth, then closed it. Mulder. Damn. Of course it would be him. “Sir, I….”

Skinner stared. Krycek’s voice trailed off. Skinner’s expression softened slightly as he said, “Your notes, please, Agent Krycek.”

Reluctantly, Krycek handed over the file.

“Take the rest of the day off. You’ll have your new assignment in the morning.”

Krycek nodded once, then stood and walked stiffly out of the room. He went straight to the basement, straight to Mulder’s office. Scully looked up, surprised, as he stormed into the room. Mulder wasn’t there.

“Where’s Mulder?” His voice was husky and barely audible.

“He’s not here.”

“I can see that. Where is he?”

“He’s working. Why don’t you call him?”

“He’s working on my case,” he exploded. He knew he shouldn’t be unloading on Scully. But Mulder wasn’t there, and she was, and he was just too angry to let it go. “Why did he do that, Scully? He could have at least told me he was taking my case.”

She shook her head slightly. “I don’t know what you mean. We’re investigating the deaths of three men….”

“Who suddenly dropped dead with no apparent cause of death, preceded by a loud, piercing noise….” he rattled off, hotly.

She looked at him curiously. “How did you know that?”

“I was there, Scully. I was sitting downstairs listening to the whole thing on the wire. That scream, whatever it was, blew out my equipment and nearly took my ears with it. I was first on the scene, with the two police officers called by a resident of the building. Don’t tell me you didn’t know that.”

Scully shook her head. “I didn’t know that. Mulder said there was a police report. He didn’t say anything about any FBI involvement. Maybe he didn’t know.”

“He knew, Scully.”

She pursed her lips thoughtfully, then went over to Mulder’s desk and picked up the file lying there. As she read, her mouth tightened. Krycek went to stand behind her. He reached over her shoulder to point at his name in the report. FBI Agent Krycek was on the scene….

Scully closed the file and returned it to the desk. “Well, you know Mulder. It’s an X-File. Of course he was going to want the case.”

“I know. But, damn it, I was right here in the building. Why didn’t he talk to me about it? Why didn’t he at least tell me what he was going to do?” His frustration was making him behave badly, he knew. He clenched his fists and tried to restrain his temper.

Scully was calm, as always. “I don’t know. You’ll have to discuss it with Mulder.”

“I will. I will.” He turned to go. A wave of nausea hit him as he touched the doorknob. He leaned against the door for a moment, waiting for it to pass.

“Krycek, are you all right?” Scully asked.

“Yeah.” He turned back to her. She was watching him with a look of concern. “I haven’t eaten yet today. Do you want to go have lunch?” He was as surprised as she was at his spur-of-the-moment invitation.

She stared for a moment, then abruptly smiled and nodded. “All right.” She gathered up her purse and coat and walked over to join him at the door.

“Where do you want to go?” he asked, as they started up the stairs.

“Mulder said you like Japanese.”


She smiled impishly. “He won’t eat Japanese with me.”

Krycek felt himself coloring. “It was my celebration. He made a big deal of telling me I could eat anywhere I wanted.”

“Do you mind going there again?”

“No, I don’t mind. It’s my favorite restaurant.” Well, that was easy. All his lunch decisions should be made so smoothly. “I’ll drive.”

* * *

He looked at the menu with a mental sigh. He hadn’t planned on going out to lunch today. And he’d asked Scully, so he should pay. He’d have to use his credit card, already close to the limit. Well, he wasn’t really that hungry anyway. He settled on soup with buckwheat noodles and agreed to share a California roll with Scully.

“You’ve lost weight,” Scully told him, running an appraising eye over him.

He shrugged. “Have I? I guess I haven’t been eating much. Too much going on.”

“Mulder said you were having money problems.”

He started to raise his hand to his hair, then stopped himself and fiddled with his chopsticks instead. “No, it’s… just a little cash flow problem. I’ll be fine once I get my first paycheck.”

“I’ll get lunch, then.”

“Scully….” He fidgeted in his chair. “I’m fine, really. I was just joking with Mulder. I’ll get lunch, it was my idea.”

“Call it another celebration lunch. My welcome back to the Bureau.”

He shrugged, too embarrassed to go on arguing about it. “Okay. Thanks.” Then he grinned. “You should have told me before I ordered.”

She smiled back. “It’s not too late to order more.”

“Nah. I’m not that hungry, anyway.”

“I thought you said you hadn’t eaten today?”

“I have a splitting headache. That damn noise, whatever it was. My ears are still ringing.”

She dug in her purse, and came up with a small bottle of aspirin, which she handed to him. He took it gratefully. She watched him as he swallowed two of the pills. “Did you see a doctor?”

“What, me? No, it was just a noise. No worse than your average rock concert.”

“Krycek—loud, high-pitched noises can cause nausea, headaches, dizziness….”

“Okay, okay. I’m getting sick just hearing about it. I’m fine. Can we just eat lunch?”

She pursed her lips, looking him over with studious blue eyes. “All right. But if you’re as wobbly after you eat as you were on the way in, I’m going to drive back.”

The sushi arrived, and Krycek decided he’d rather eat than continue to protest that he was fine. Wobbly? He’d never wobbled in his life. At least not sober. But he was hungry, once he started eating, and he began to wonder if he should have ordered more food after all.

They discovered a common interest in opera, and spent most of the meal discussing favorite performances and singers. It was nice to be able to talk about it with someone—it was not a very macho interest, and Krycek usually kept it to himself. But Scully already knew about him, thanks to Mulder’s compulsive need to tell her every detail of what had happened with Krycek, so it certainly wasn’t going to do any harm for her to know that Puccini made him weak in the knees.

It still made him very uncomfortable knowing that she knew that he’d had sex with Mulder. Not that the sex hadn’t been good. In fact, that was the problem—it had been so good, and it didn’t mean anything to Mulder, except another way to control him. It was more than a little humiliating to know that he’d melt into a pile of helpless mush any time Mulder touched him, and Mulder knew it, and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it. No doubt Scully knew it too. Cultivating her friendship this way was at least partly self-defense—if people were going to know your vulnerabilities that intimately, it was better to have them as friends. And she was nice to talk to. She had a wonderful way of mulling over everything you said and responding to it with care and intelligence. It made you feel very clever and taken seriously. No wonder Mulder was crazy about her. Calm and thoughtful. Mulder certainly didn’t get anything like that from Krycek. He laughed hollowly.

“What?” Scully asked.

“Nothing. I just… Scully, do you think he’s ever really going to forgive me?” He hadn’t meant to bring Mulder up at all, but the words just tumbled out.

“You have to be patient with him. This isn’t easy for him.”

It isn’t easy for any of us, sweetheart. “I can be patient. I’d just like to know there’s something I’m being patient for.”

“He wants to like you. I think it scares him.”

“I know that. I just want to know if he’s so scared he’s never going to get over it.”

She shrugged helplessly. “I can’t answer that, Krycek.”

He sighed. “I know. I shouldn’t be asking you about this, anyway.”

“No, it’s all right. Mulder needs friends— people who are on his side; people he can count on. I’ve borne the burden alone for a long time. I think you could be someone like that. But with your history with him, it’s very difficult. He has to know that you’re not going to let him down again.”

“I won’t. But there’s no way I can prove that.”

“It just takes time. Be patient with him, Krycek —Alex. Be patient.”

He nodded, smiling tightly. “Well. Thanks for lunch, Scully. I’ve had a good time.”

“Me, too.” She smiled sympathetically. “How’s your headache?”

“Better.” Now it only felt like one guy with a jackhammer working on the inside of his temples, rather than six. He was glad he didn’t have to go back to work. “Are you going to let me drive?”

She laughed. “I think I’ll trust you.”

Now, if only Mulder would.

* * *

Krycek shrugged out of his suit coat and loosened his tie as he walked into his apartment. It was only three in the afternoon, but his head still ached and he was exhausted. He’d just take a short nap before trying to do anything else with the day.

He stumbled on a pile of magazines in front of the couch, then sat down to pull off his shoes. In the sleeping alcove, he managed to hang up his suit and tie, but his shirt he flung into the floor before crawling into bed in his underwear and pulling the covers up over his head. He was asleep in an instant.

* * *

The door buzzer jerked him awake. He struggled loose from the tangled covers and pushed himself out of bed, yawning. It always made him feel strange to sleep during the day. He padded out to the hallway, swearing as he stumbled over the pile of magazines again, and pressed the speaker button. “Yeah?”

“Krycek. It’s Mulder.”

Oh, god. He pressed the door release, then looked around wildly. The place was a mess. He was a mess. Well, there wasn’t time to do anything about it before Mulder got to the fifth floor except pull on a pair of pants. He hurried back to the sleeping alcove and found a pair of jeans at the bottom of the wardrobe that didn’t look too dirty. He nearly put his foot through the hole in the knee as he pulled them on. More-or-less clothed, he sat on the bed and rubbed his face in his hands. His heart was pounding, and not just from being so suddenly awakened. Mulder was here. He was not ready for this.

There was a knock on the door. Running his hands through his hair—and belatedly realizing he should have combed it —he went to open the door.

Mulder was impeccable, as usual, in an elegant, perfectly-fitting grey suit. It made Krycek feel twice as sloppy. “Hi, Mulder.” He stood aside to let Mulder in, then followed him into the apartment. “Sorry about the mess.” He scooped up a pile of papers from the couch and dumped them onto the desk.

“Don’t worry about it. I guess I should have called. Scully said you wanted to talk to me…. Are you all right? Scully said you were sick.”

“I’m all right. I fell asleep. I didn’t mean to.” He looked at his watch—nearly seven o’clock. He’d slept for four hours. “Must have been more tired than I thought.”

“We can do this later, if….”

“No, now’s fine. Just give me a minute to wake up.” He suddenly felt the need to have a shirt on. He went back into the sleeping alcove, grabbed his white shirt from the floor and pulled it on, buttoning a few buttons at random.

“What did you want to talk to me about?” Mulder called from the other room.

Krycek came back and stood before Mulder on the couch. “Mulder….” Maybe he really didn’t want to do this now. He struggled to clear his head. “Why did you steal my case?”

“What case?” Mulder seemed bemused. “It wasn’t your case.”

It was the casual dismissal in Mulder’s tone that sent his blood boiling.”Yes, it was. Or it could have been. If you hadn’t been so quick to grab it.”

“Skinner wasn’t going to let you keep the case. You’re surveillance, not violent crimes. You’ve been back in the Bureau less than a week, did you think he was going to hand over a multiple homicide like that?”

“He might have.” Krycek bit his lip. “Anyway, you could have at least told me you were going to take it.”

“Why? What good would that have done?”

“It would have made me feel like a little less of a fool when Skinner told me to hand over my notes.”

Mulder shook his head slightly. “All right. If it happens again, I’ll tell you first. I really didn’t think you’d be so upset about it.”

“All right.” Well, that was too easy. And not very satisfying. Mulder was just humoring him. “I suppose it never occurred to you that we might work the case together.”

“I already have a partner, Krycek.” Now Mulder was openly amused.

“I know that, Mulder,” Krycek snapped. “You don’t have to treat me like a child. I’ve been watching McCarthy for a week. I know the background of the case. I was there when it happened. I might have been able to help you.”

Mulder stood and put his hand on Krycek’s arm. Krycek jerked away. His head was pounding again. And he wanted nothing more than to push Mulder down on the couch and kiss him senseless.

Mulder spoke placatingly. “I was planning to talk to you. I want to find out everything you know about the case. I want all the help you can give me.”

“Well. You should have talked to me sooner, that’s all,” Krycek mumbled.

“Okay, I’m sorry,” Mulder said softly. “I really am sorry.”

Krycek nodded. Now he felt stupid, like he’d overreacted about the whole thing. “Look, Mulder, it’s just… I don’t know what’s going on with you. One minute you’re nice to me, and then you act like you don’t want anything to do with me—if you just told me to get the hell out of your life, I’d go, and forget about it—but then you go and do something like what you did in the car the other day—I don’t know what you want from me.”

“I don’t know, either.”

“Well, just don’t screw around with me, Mulder. I’m not asking for much. Just a little consideration.”

“I know.” Mulder took Krycek’s arm again, held on tightly this time. “But you can’t expect too much from me, after everything that’s happened.”

Krycek tried to pull away, but Mulder wouldn’t let him go. He didn’t have the strength to really fight him. His eyes burned. “You’re never going to be able to forget all that, are you? I’m going to have to pay for it for the rest of my life.”

Mulder shook his head. “I’m not trying to make you pay for it. But I can’t just pretend it never happened.”

The words caught in his throat; he could barely force them out. “Just tell me what you want, Mulder. What do you want from me?”

“Honesty, for one thing. No more games.”

“Honesty about what?”

“About what’s going on with you.” He hesitated for a moment. “About how you feel. I asked you once before and you wouldn’t tell me.”

Krycek had a sinking feeling that he knew where this was leading. Oh, yes, I’m going to have to pay…. “Tell you what?”

Mulder hesitated again. His fingers bit into Krycek’s arm. There were going to be bruises. “How do you feel about me, really?”

Krycek jerked his arm away again. This time Mulder let him go. “You already know.”

“I still want you to tell me.”

He tried to swallow, and couldn’t. “Why? Why should I say it?”

“You lied to me right from the start. You’re still lying to me, whenever you think you can get away with it. You twist things to make everything come out to your advantage. I’m sick of trying to figure out what’s real and what isn’t. For once in your life, just tell me the damn truth!”

“Damn you. All right. All right! I love you. Does that make you happy?” He whirled away from Mulder and stood shaking. “I love you,” he repeated, softly.

So Mulder had done it to him again, just like that first time. Forced him to give up everything. Turn over and shut up and take it. And he just let him do it. He felt used and sick to his stomach. He wished to hell he’d never met Fox Mulder.

Mulder came up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder. “I can’t give you the relationship you want.”

He turned sharply, throwing Mulder’s hand off. “What the hell makes you think you know what I want?”

Mulder stood silent, unhappy and helpless.

Krycek turned away again, and spat out the words in a low monotone. “Mulder, I’ve known from the start that working for the Bureau meant that I was going to have to make certain sacrifices in my private life. I was not going to be able to live with anyone, or have a relationship out in the open, or even spend the night more than every once in a while. But my job is important to me, so I’m willing to make those sacrifices.” He turned and faced Mulder, staring him right in the eye. “So, no matter how I feel about you, I don’t want to marry you or anything like that. All I want is to be able to spend a little time with you, like that lunch we had the other day. I’d like to know that you forgive me for what I did, and that you don’t hate me any more.”

“I don’t hate you.”

Ridiculous that those four words should make him feel so good. “So how do you feel, Mulder? Honesty goes both ways.”

Mulder nodded. He sat back down on the couch, staring at his hands.

That’s how it always is with you, isn’t it, Mulder? You can dish it out, but you can’t take it. Krycek’s couch was small—if he sat beside Mulder, he’d be touching him. Mulder looked like he needed a little space right now. Krycek pulled the desk chair around and sat in it backwards. And waited.

Mulder loosened his tie. “I, um… I’m not sure how I feel.”

“Come on, Mulder, it’s not that hard. You don’t hate me. You don’t love me.”

Mulder closed his eyes and looked away.

Krycek hammered away. “You’re not indifferent to me. What’s left? You like me, but you wish you didn’t? You’re attracted, but it makes you feel weird, because you think you’re straight? You like knowing you can get me going, but it scares you, because it gets you going, too?”

Mulder offered a very tentative smile. “Something like that.”

“I’m sorry it scares you, Mulder. It scares me, too. Sometimes I think… it would have been better if we’d never met. It was a lot easier when you were just a picture I was carrying around in my wallet.”

Mulder grinned, suddenly, and reached into his back pocket for his wallet. “I’ve been meaning to give you this.” He pulled a strip of paper from his wallet and held it out to Krycek.

Krycek took the paper. His heart lurched. Four badly-posed black-and-white photos of Mulder—the kind that came four-for-a-dollar from booths at fairs and amusement parks. They were cracked in the middle from being folded in Mulder’s wallet. “Jesus, Mulder.” He couldn’t look at them; he was going to cry. He reached blindly behind himself to drop the photos onto the desk.

“Well, I just thought… since I made you lose the one you had….” Mulder mumbled, embarrassed.

“Mulder, this is just the kind of shit… you do that….” Krycek stood up suddenly, and pushed the chair aside. He stood before Mulder, fists clenched, simultaneously wanting to fling himself onto Mulder, bawling, and scream at him to get out and never come back.

“I didn’t mean….”

“You never mean it, do you? Mulder, you either know exactly what you’re doing to me, and you’re cruel, or you don’t know, and you’re stupid.”

Mulder smiled faintly. “Well, given the choice, I think I’d rather be stupid.”

“You are not a stupid person.”

He sighed. “When it comes to you, I am. I don’t mean to hurt you, Alex. Honestly.”

“Then what do you mean to do?”

Mulder stood up. Several times he seemed about to speak, but no words would come out. Finally, he said, “If I thought we could have any sort of normal relationship….”

“We haven’t really tried yet, have we?”

Mulder stared at him, hazel eyes searching intently. Krycek could see him weighing, considering, wondering, trying to decide—what? Then he reached out a hand and touched Krycek’s cheek. “Do you remember what you said to me, when I brought you here after… ?”

Krycek drew a deep, ragged breath, and tried to get his throat working. “I was pretty out of it, I don’t remember much of anything.” Except you undressing me and putting me to bed.

“You said it might be nice to see what it’s like, just once, when we don’t hate each other.”

“Well, that was stupid.” Then Krycek grinned. “Why just once?” His heart was in his throat. Was Mulder really asking him to bed?

There was that slow, sweet smile again—the one that made Krycek dizzy. Mulder said softly, “Why don’t we just start with once, and see how it goes?”

“Sounds like a deal.” Krycek wanted to fling himself onto Mulder, to take him in his arms. But no—let Mulder make the first move this time. Don’t let him think that somehow Krycek had maneuvered him into it again. Let him know, without a doubt, that he’d chosen to do this.

Mulder took Krycek’s face in both hands. Tentatively, delicately he brushed his lips against the other man’s. Krycek held himself still with great effort, allowing Mulder to explore his face with his fingers, to cover his mouth with light kisses. He could barely breathe, and he felt himself grow light-headed under Mulder’s gentle caresses.

Then Mulder wrapped his arms around him, and held him tightly, and pressed his lips firmly over Krycek’s. Their tongues met in a long, slow, leisurely kiss. Krycek could feel his own heart pounding as he pressed his body against Mulder’s, and allowed himself finally to respond, to slide his own arms around Mulder’s back and return the kiss. It was sheer perfection. He wanted this moment in time to go on forever—Mulder holding him, kissing him; not angry or hateful, just wanting him. He knew it wasn’t going to last, and maybe it would never happen again, but this once in his life he had everything he wanted.

His hands curled in the luxurious fabric of Mulder’s suit. How did Mulder afford suits like this? They were gorgeous and elegant, like the man himself. He wanted Mulder’s clothes. He wanted Mulder. He wanted not to be such a hopeless, helpless fool. He wanted to stop thinking and go on kissing forever.

But everyone had to breathe sometime. It was Mulder who pulled his mouth away, still holding Krycek tightly, stroking Krycek’s back. He smiled. His eyes held an invitation, which Krycek gladly accepted.

“My room’s a mess,” Krycek couldn’t help warning.

“I’ll keep my eyes closed,” Mulder murmured, and he did so, then demonstrating his ability to find Krycek’s lips without using his eyesight.

“Better not, you’ll trip over something,” Krycek said, when his mouth was free again.

“As long as there’s room in the bed.”

“I’ll make room.” And, still embracing Mulder, he began to move toward the sleeping alcove, walking backwards, punctuating each step with more kisses.

At the bed, Krycek took Mulder’s coat by the lapels and slid it off over his shoulders. It was too nice to be tossed onto the floor. He turned to the wardrobe to look for a spare hanger. Of course, there weren’t any. He pulled his leather jacket off its hanger and tossed it into the bottom of the wardrobe, then started to put Mulder’s coat on it. He was distracted by Mulder’s hands on his waist, and Mulder’s warm breath as he whispered in Krycek’s ear, “What are you doing?”

“I’m hanging up your suit. Or would you rather have it in a wrinkled pile in the floor?”

“You’re my valet now?” Mulder kissed his ear, and rubbed his crotch against Krycek’s hips. Then he started working on the buttons of Krycek’s jeans.

Krycek fumbled the hanger onto the pole, and turned around. “Hang up your own damn suit.”

The rest of Mulder’s clothes eventually made it onto the hanger; Krycek’s were added to the pile already in the floor. Naked at last, he was suddenly too impatient to wait for Mulder to take the lead, as he meant to do. Krycek pushed the other man down onto the bed and climbed on top of him. Kissing him frantically, Krycek tried to bring himself under some sort of control. He was too desperate; he was going to lose it. He wanted this to last and he wanted it to be good—so good that Mulder would want to do it again and again. Or, if this was going to be just once, he wanted it to be the best possible “just once.” He wanted to do everything. And nothing. He wanted to coax Mulder into taking him again like he did the first time, rough and hard. And he wanted to turn the tables, and tell Mulder to lie there and shut up and take it. He wanted so much he couldn’t think.

With a despairing groan, he pushed himself off of Mulder and lay beside him, gasping for breath. Mulder turned on his side, head propped up on his elbow, and took Krycek’s chin in his hand. “What’s the matter?”

“I’m just… confused.”

“Confused about what?” Mulder stroked Krycek’s lower lip with his middle finger.

“I don’t know. I think too much. I want everything to be perfect, but it never is.”

“Perfection doesn’t exist, Alex. I suppose we should have talked about this a little more before we jumped into bed again.”

“No, I….” Krycek took Mulder’s hand in his, and kissed the tips of his fingers. “Just tell me you’re not going to walk away afterwards and pretend it never happened.”

“I won’t.”

“Because I think I can live with it if you don’t want to have sex again. But I don’t want to pretend it didn’t happen.”

“Alex.” Mulder sighed. “This isn’t a test, you know. Take it easy.”

“Isn’t it?”

“No. Look….” He paused, biting his lip. “If I could walk away from you, I already would have. But I’m here. And it doesn’t look like I’m going anywhere real soon.” Then he smiled. “And I already know you’re good in bed. You don’t have anything to prove to me. So relax.”

Krycek took a deep breath. All right, it wasn’t exactly a declaration of undying love, but at least Mulder wasn’t going to run off the minute it was over. And it was very nice to be told that he was good in bed. He rolled over on top of Mulder. “What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. You’re the expert.”

Krycek grinned. “Oh, right. No pressure.”

Mulder chuckled. “Just shut up and do something.”

“Mmm, that’s what I want to hear.” Krycek purred, rubbing his body against Mulder’s. “Get tough with me, I like that.” Mulder’s cock was hardening beneath him; he lifted his hips and stroked his own cock against Mulder’s.

Mulder’s eyes glazed over, and those beautiful full lips were parted. They needed to be kissed. His whole face needed to be kissed, in fact—and Krycek proceeded to do just that, trailing wet kisses from forehead to chin. Then he ran his tongue along that generous lower lip, biting and sucking gently, then kissed him deeply.

He was going to wear the lips right off his face if he kept this up, but he just couldn’t get enough. So he kissed Mulder until he thought he’d pass out, then he moved down between Mulder’s legs and began to kiss his erect cock. From the underside of the shaft at the base, all the way up to the firm head, where he paused to tickle the crown with his tongue—to gratifying little gasps and squeaks of pleasure from the cock’s owner—then down the other side, he planted moist kisses. With one hand he cupped Mulder’s balls, squeezing gently, and with his fingers he traced patterns on the quivering belly. He began to lick and suck the silky skin of the hard cock, but did not yet take it into his mouth. Until Mulder, moaning, tightened his fingers in Krycek’s hair, pulling hard and demanding more. Then Krycek slid his lips around the shaft, circling the base with his fingers.

Mulder squirmed and thrust, still clutching Krycek’s hair. Yeah, that’s right, Mulder, go for it…. It would be very nice to bring Mulder off this way. Sometime he would, but not this time. This time he wanted more. He let Mulder’s cock slide out of his mouth for a moment, just long enough to spit on his fingers so he could work them up Mulder’s ass. Mulder cried out when his prostate was stroked, pulling Krycek’s hair so hard it brought tears to his eyes. Good thing he didn’t mind a little pain. He could have Mulder now, like he did last time. Turn him over and plough his sweet ass. But he didn’t want that either—not this time. He didn’t want to have to be careful with the less-experienced man, he wanted to let himself go and stop thinking. He wanted Mulder to let go, too, and to feel free to do whatever he wanted.

He eased his fingers out of Mulder’s ass, gave his cock a last lick, and pulled himself up to the head of the bed. He stopped for a few more kisses before reaching into the nightstand for a condom and lubricant. Mulder watched him as he brought out the small, foil-wrapped package and blue-and-white tube. Krycek smiled. It’s not what you think, Mulder. Then he unwrapped the condom and began to roll it onto Mulder’s cock. Mulder let his head fall back onto the pillow with a hazy smile, as he realized what Krycek was going to do.

Krycek straddled Mulder’s thighs and uncapped the tube of lubricant. Before he could squeeze out any of the gel, Mulder took it from him and squirted the gel onto his own fingers. Then he reached between Krycek’s legs and pressed his wet fingers into Krycek’s anus.

Krycek whispered “Yeah… ,” and moved forward onto his knees so that Mulder could reach him more easily, bracing himself on his hands, and moaning with each breath. Yeah, this was what he wanted. Mulder’s fingers thrust into him, shiveringly sweet. He was ready almost as soon as Mulder touched him. He lifted his hips. “Okay, babe,” he said, and Mulder let his fingers slide free. Then he reached down to grip Mulder’s cock in his hand, guiding it to the entrance of his body. He closed his eyes and moved his hips, squirming to find the easiest angle of entry, gradually lowering himself onto the shaft. Mulder thrust gently, working with Krycek’s movements, helping him to settle himself onto Mulder’s cock.

Finally he had it all the way inside him. Krycek relaxed, letting his body weight push the shaft even deeper into him. He took a deep, shuddering breath. Mulder gripped his shoulders and pulled him down for a kiss. He took Mulder’s face in his hands and returned the kiss with passion, moving his hips up and down, fucking himself on Mulder’s cock.

Krycek liked being fucked. But it was awkward being on top. It soon grew uncomfortable bending forward on his knees like this. He couldn’t get the motion he wanted. And Mulder couldn’t fuck him properly from underneath, either. Time for a change in position. Perhaps Mulder would like something a little more adventurous.

Krycek wrapped one arm around Mulder’s shoulders, braced the other on the mattress, and began to sit up, pulling Mulder up with him, until they were both sitting upright. Mulder drew up his knees, and Krycek leaned back on them, warm and comfortable with Mulder’s thighs against his bottom. Now he wasn’t quite so cramped. They could kiss, and he could slide himself up and down on Mulder’s cock.

But Mulder had even less freedom to maneuver in this position. He was moaning, fingers digging into Krycek’s shoulders, trying to thrust. Sweat beaded his face, and he grimaced with the effort. Deliberately, Krycek slowed his movements. See what a little frustration would encourage Mulder to do.

Mulder groaned; his teeth bit into Krycek’s shoulder. Then he spread his legs and pushed Krycek back. Without the support of Mulder’s knees, Krycek fell back onto the mattress, his bottom still resting on Mulder’s lap. Mulder wriggled out from under him, pulling his cock free a little more suddenly than Krycek liked, to sit on his heels between Krycek’s legs. Krycek whimpered a little when Mulder’s cock slid out of him, but he lay still and waited to see what Mulder would do. Mulder stared down at him, the expression on his sweat-streaked face grown suddenly hard. For one heartbeat, Krycek thought that Mulder was going to hit him. But then Mulder drew a deep breath and hooked his arms behind Krycek’s knees, lifting the other man’s hips off the mattress, and reentering the already-stretched entrance with one swift thrust of his cock. Now Mulder was on top, holding Krycek quite helpless with his legs in the air, pumping hard and deep.

Krycek squirmed, trying to regain some sort of equilibrium, but Mulder was holding him tightly, and he was bent in half and his head was hanging half off the end of the bed and he couldn’t quite seem to breathe and he tried to protest but all his throat could produce were these little squeaky noises…. And who wanted to protest, come to think of it? Every hard thrust of Mulder’s cock was sending shivering waves of fire through him. He’d been trying to shake Mulder out of his passivity, hadn’t he? He hadn’t expected quite such a sudden and complete reversal of fortunes, but he was quite willing to have Mulder ravish him. The discomfort of having his knees jammed against his chest was all part of the thrill, now. He stopped struggling and wrapped his arms around Mulder’s shoulders, yielding to Mulder’s desire.

But as soon as he relaxed, Mulder stopped thrusting, holding him still for a moment, then withdrew agonizingly slowly until just the tip of his cock pressed against Krycek’s anus, and reentered just as slowly, sliding almost fully in before giving a short, sharp thrust. Apparently, turnabout was fair play—and Krycek was going to get the slow torture now. Mulder continued this way, with long, slow, frustrating, wonderful strokes, and Krycek gasped with each thrust, muttering incoherently, wriggling helplessly, almost sobbing with need.

He was going to go mad. Mulder must take pity on him and stop this. But he still couldn’t get a coherent word past his lips. He buried his face in Mulder’s neck and prepared to expire from exceedingly slow fucking.

Finally, Mulder withdrew completely, and released him, collapsing onto his side. Krycek immediately took the opportunity to roll over onto his stomach, legs parted in invitation. Enough fooling around, now he wanted to be fucked properly.

Mulder found the tube of lubricant and applied more between Krycek’s buttocks. Krycek’s body was so sensitized now that he shivered and jumped at Mulder’s touch. The cool gel felt good on his burning ass. Then Mulder settled between Krycek’s legs and began fucking him in earnest. He clutched at the end of the mattress and lifted his hips to Mulder’s pounding cock. He was not going to last long now. And from the urgency of Mulder’s rhythm, he would not either. Krycek shifted slightly, so that his cock rubbed the mattress with each thrust of Mulder’s hips into his ass.

Krycek shouted his release, grinding his hips into the mattress. Mulder followed, driving into him hard. Wave after wave shook them both. Finally, they collapsed into an exhausted heap. Krycek could feel Mulder’s heart pounding against his back.

Now, the moment of truth. Mulder had said he wouldn’t run off, but would he be happy about it? Would he regret having given in to his passion again? Would he pretend it hadn’t meant anything and try to shrug it off? In his position, Krycek couldn’t see Mulder’s face or put his arms around him. At least Mulder wasn’t scrambling to get away from him, like he had that first heartbreaking time. It was nice lying here with Mulder on top of him. Very nice. He could get used to this, and he’d probably better not. He sighed, part contentment and part wistful regret.

Mulder stirred, kissed him between the shoulderblades, and rolled off. He peered over the edge of the bed, obviously looking for a place to dispose of the condom. There wasn’t one, of course.

“Just throw it in the floor,” Krycek advised.

Mulder looked at him, laughing. “You’re disgusting.”

Krycek shrugged. “Never thought I’d need a wastebasket in here. You’re the first lover I’ve had up here.”

Mulder’s smile suddenly turned very sweet. “Nice save,” he said softly. Then he got up to go find the bathroom.

Krycek lay like a lump, letting his arms flop over the end of the bed. He was never going to move again. He was going to walk funny tomorrow, too. Well, that was all right. He kind of liked having that little twinge the next day to remind him of a particularly good fucking. He was going to have to show up at Skinner’s office first thing in the morning, though, to get his new assignment. He hoped he could keep the silly grin off his face.

“You look like somebody killed you.” Mulder stood in the doorway, looking at him with a self-satisfied smile.

“Somebody did.” Krycek rolled over onto his side and looked up at his lover. He felt a tiny illicit thrill at thinking of Mulder as his lover. “Want to kill me again?”

“Not right now. I’m hungry.”

“Me too.” Of course there was nothing there to eat. Damn. He didn’t want to go out, and he didn’t want Mulder to leave. “Want to order a pizza?”

“Okay.” Mulder went over to the wardrobe and found his suit, and pulled his cellular from the coat pocket. “What do you like on your pizza?”

“Whatever you want’s fine.”

Mulder hit two buttons and waited for the number to dial.

“Mulder, you’ve got pizza delivery on your cellular speed dial… ?”

Mulder grinned. “Of course.” Then he spoke into the phone. “It’s Mulder… Yeah, the usual. Make it a large…. No, I’m at a friend’s house.” He gave Krycek’s address and disconnected. “It’ll be half an hour.”

“So I’m your friend, huh?”

Mulder set the phone down on the nightstand. “Well, what do you want me to call you?”

“No, I don’t mean that. I like hearing you say I’m your friend.”

Mulder went to sit beside Krycek on the end of the bed. He stroked Krycek’s back. His face was thoughtful. “I wanted you to be a friend. When Scully was taken, you were there for me. You helped me. Then you disappeared too, and I found out you’d helped them take her—I don’t know if you can understand how much that hurt.”

Krycek buried his face in his arms. He didn’t want to hear about his betrayals again. Wasn’t it ever going to be over? But Mulder continued to rub his back, with slow soothing motions. And he didn’t sound angry. “As much as it hurt, that’s how much I wanted to like you.”

“Mulder….” His voice was muffled in his arms. Then he looked up, sadly.

Mulder smiled reassuringly. “I’m glad I don’t have to hate you any more.”

Krycek sighed, shifted onto his side, slid his arms around Mulder’s waist and put his head in his lap. “Me too.”

Mulder stroked his hair. “Think we should get dressed before the pizza gets here?”

Krycek hugged him harder. “No. Not yet.”

Mulder smiled down at him. “Okay.”

Looked like Mulder was going to indulge him right up to the limit tonight—he’d better take full advantage; he had a feeling it wasn’t going to happen very often. On the other hand, maybe he shouldn’t. Mulder could still wake up in the morning wondering what the hell had come over him last night, and it wouldn’t do to have him feeling too overwhelmed by what they’d done. Sudden storms of passion were one thing, one could always rationalize them away, but lingering naked in bed over pizza was the province of lovers, and he didn’t think Mulder was quite ready to deal with that kind of emotional attachment.

Krycek sighed and detached himself, then pushed himself off the bed, gave Mulder a sloppy kiss that mostly missed his mouth, and went into the bathroom.

As he washed his hands, he stared at himself in the bathroom mirror. God, he looked dissipated. His hair was going every which way, his eyes were puffy, his lips were red and chapped. He ran damp hands through his hair, trying to flatten it into some sort of shape. Are you sure it’s just Mulder who’s not ready to deal with this? he asked the image in the mirror. He’d just gotten his job back, damn it, he should be concentrating on that, not on seducing Mulder. He was going to screw things up again, he always did, and the more he wanted something the worse he screwed it up. Now he wanted his job, and he wanted Mulder, and he was going to lose them both. He wasn’t sure how, but just the fact that he wanted them so badly was enough to make him sure he couldn’t have them.

Then to hell with it. Mulder was here, tonight, and he didn’t seem to be agonizing over tomorrow, so why should Krycek? And as long as they were reasonably discreet, he and Mulder could fuck each other senseless without any danger to their jobs.

He splashed some cold water on his face and went back to the sleeping alcove. Mulder had straightened out the covers and plumped up the pillows in Krycek’s absence; he was now stretched out languidly on the bed with the sheet up to his waist. He looked relaxed and content and absolutely gorgeous. Krycek smiled and went to get in beside him. Mulder tucked his arm around the other man’s shoulders and pulled him close. Krycek slid an arm around Mulder’s waist and rested his head on his chest. It was just too perfect; it couldn’t possibly be real. I’ll make you fall in love with me, he thought. For just one moment, he was ready to say to hell with the FBI and become a happy housewife. But only a moment. He’d meant what he said to Mulder about being willing to sacrifice relationships for his career. And even if he weren’t, Mulder certainly wasn’t going to give up his work for love. Why on earth couldn’t he just be happy with what he had and stop wanting the world?

“How are you doing?” Mulder asked, interrupting his reverie.

“Mm. Fine.”

Mulder stroked his hair. “I can see the wheels turning in there. They never stop. I wonder what’s going on in that busy little head of yours?”

He snuggled closer. “Nothing.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“Nothing worth talking about.”

“So, I can get into your pants, but not in your head?”

Krycek took a deep breath. “Mulder… I just don’t want to say anything that’s going to wreck this.”

“What are you thinking that’s going to wreck this?”

He stroked Mulder’s chest and sighed. He was definitely not going to start babbling about undying love, or whining at Mulder to stay with him. Pathetic. Mulder had already dragged one confession out of him today, he wasn’t going to get another. But if he didn’t say something, he was going to come off as keeping secrets, and that wouldn’t do either. “Mulder, you know how I feel. I just don’t want to go on about it. What’s the point?”

“I never feel like you’re being completely honest with me. Even if you do tell the truth, you’re selectively picking which pieces you’re going to tell me, putting the best possible spin on it. You never let your guard down.”

“Everybody does that.”

“Yes, to a certain extent. Not the way you do. Alex, you don’t have to be afraid to talk to me. You’re not going to scare me off.”

Krycek sighed. “Yeah, right.”

Mulder was silent.

Great. No matter what you do, you screw things up, Krycek told himself in disgust. So maybe he should just go ahead and start whining. “Are you going to regret this tomorrow?” he asked suddenly.

Mulder hugged him close. “No.” He paused. “Maybe a little. I haven’t… done anything like this in a long time.”

“Like this? Like hang around in bed naked with a guy?”

Mulder chuckled. “That too. But I meant, have sex with somebody who wasn’t just a one night stand.”

Not just a one night stand. Oh, that was sweet to hear. “So, how long has it been?”

“Oh… college, I guess.”

Krycek laughed. Mulder curled his fingers in the other man’s hair, and tugged gently. “Well, it’s probably been since college for me, too. Of course, college for me wasn’t nearly as long ago as it was for you.”

That resulted in a sharper pull on his hair, to which he responded by pinching the nipple that was conveniently under his hand, and a brief wrestling match ensued that ended with Mulder on top of him, holding his wrists to the mattress, and kissing him into submission.

Unfortunately, before he could properly express his complete surrender, the door buzzer rang. Mulder pushed off of him, laughing. Krycek reluctantly got out of bed, muttering.

“What timing. Why couldn’t he have been late, like they usually are? Another fifteen minutes….” He went out to the hallway and buzzed the pizza delivery boy in, then back to the sleeping alcove to find a pair of jeans from the floor to pull on. Now, where had he left his wallet? Not in these pants. He started searching through the clothes on the floor.

“Alex.” Mulder was propped up on one elbow, smiling at him. “Get my wallet out of my pants. There should be enough there.”

“Mulder, I can afford a pizza.”

“Not if you can’t find your wallet. Go on— you can take me out to dinner after payday.”

That sounded nice. And anyway, there was the doorbell, and he still had no idea where his own wallet was. He found Mulder’s wallet and went to pay for the pizza, tipping generously. Well, Mulder had nearly a hundred dollars in his wallet. He could afford it. He tucked Mulder’s wallet into his back pocket and carried the pizza back into the main room.

Mulder stood, naked, at the doorway of the sleeping alcove. “Where are we going to eat?”

“In bed, I guess.” He didn’t have a table. When he ate at home, he just sat on the couch with the plate on his lap. They could do that, he supposed, but he didn’t want to get dressed just yet. He wanted to play out this cozy post-coital scene as long as possible. Maybe after the pizza, they could finish that little wrestling match.

“There will be grease all over the place,” Mulder commented.

“Mulder, I’m going to have to wash those sheets tomorrow, anyway. Don’t worry about it.” He handed Mulder the pizza box. “I’ll get something to drink.”

Mulder laughed. “Alex, you are a pig. I never knew this about you.”

Krycek just grinned at him over his shoulder as he headed into the kitchen. He had a nearly full two-liter bottle of Coke in the refrigerator. He grabbed that and a roll of paper towels and went to rejoin Mulder.

They spread paper towels on the end of the bed to put the pizza box on—Mulder seemed a bit relieved to find that Krycek wasn’t a total slob—and Krycek pulled his jeans off, pulling Mulder’s wallet out of the back pocket. He held up the wallet and grinned. Mulder nodded, and Krycek sat on the edge of the bed, inspecting the contents. Mulder lay on the bed behind him, rubbing his back while he went through the credit cards, receipts, and other miscellaneous bits of paper. There was a photo of a little girl—this must be his sister, Samantha. She had long dark hair and an impish smile. And a generous, Mulder-shaped nose. It looked as adorable on her as it did on him. Krycek had no brothers or sisters himself. He tried to imagine having, and losing, one, and failed utterly.

There were no other photographs. He was slightly relieved to find that there were no pictures of Scully—though he hadn’t really expected any. No pictures of himself, either, of course. He made sure to check every space carefully. No hidden treasures. Mulder wore his obsessions quite publicly—too self-absorbed to care about anyone else’s opinions.

Mulder tapped his shoulder gently. “Come on, put it away and let’s eat.”

Krycek smiled over his shoulder at Mulder and got up to obey. Being allowed to go through Mulder’s wallet was another intimacy that soothed and reassured him. Of course, considering that Mulder had demanded to inspect his wallet months ago, he could hardly refuse to let Krycek see his now. Still, he wasn’t at all hesitant or uncomfortable about it. Krycek replaced the wallet in Mulder’s pants pocket, grabbed a slice of pizza and jumped back into bed.

“So,” Mulder said, “Tell me about McCarthy.”


Mulder looked at him with an amused smile. “You know. The case you came crashing into my office today to yell at Scully for stealing from you.”

“Oh. That.” He felt his face go red. God, he’d totally forgotten about the case. It seemed like ages ago now. “McCarthy was a setting up a major counterfeit check scheme. He’d done it all over the Eastern Seaboard. He was expecting someone at seven A.M. When the other man arrived, he called him Morris. But neither of them said anything incriminating before they dropped dead.”

“Did you know who the other man was?”

“No, I didn’t know. I presume he’s been identified by now?”

“Morris Bloodworth. He’s from Chicago. He has a record of arrests for fraud, extortion, various con games. There’s no previous connection to McCarthy that we know of.”

“What about the man O’Donnell, who got killed in New York yesterday?”

“Another medium-level hood. He’d worked with Bloodworth before.”

“Did you get a cause of death yet?”

“Cardiac arrest, for all three of them.”

Krycek frowned at him. “Come on, Mulder. All that means is their hearts stopped.”

Mulder shrugged. “I know. So far, that’s all we know happened. Tell me about the noise you heard.”

“It was loud. Too loud for me to really tell anything about it. Everybody in the building heard it, you should talk to some of them.”

“I have. Mostly, they said it sounded like a woman screaming.”

Krycek shook his head. “Loud enough to blow surveillance equipment? Not unless she had a P.A. with her. What about trace evidence? Anything on who the third person in the room was?”

“Not yet. No one saw anybody else come in or out, either. Although, in the confusion….”

“The neighbors upstairs said that no one had come out of McCarthy’s apartment.”

“The person might have left before people came out of their apartments.”

“Maybe.” Krycek paused to take another bite of his pizza. Now that he’d finally started to eat, he found that he was ravenous. He really hadn’t been eating enough lately. “I bet you don’t discuss cases with Scully like this.”

Mulder tried to glare at him, but ended up smiling. “No. No late-night pizza in bed with Scully.”

“Don’t you ever want to?”

“I doubt Scully would let anyone bring greasy pizza into her bed.” Mulder grinned, deliberately misinterpreting the question.

“Mulder. You know what I mean. Did you ever want to have sex with Scully?”

“Of course. But she’s my partner. It wouldn’t be right.”

“Still, you must have been tempted….”

Mulder sighed and shook his head. “Alex, Scully is not your competition.”

Krycek colored. Why did Mulder have to assume he was jealous of Scully? “I know. I like her. We had a nice lunch today. Are you going to tell her about this?”

“I don’t know. Do you want me not to?”

Krycek shrugged. “I don’t care. It’s just kind of weird, knowing she knows.”

“She’s not going to tell anyone, if that’s what you’re afraid of.”

“I didn’t think she would. She’d be hurting you as much as me.”

“She doesn’t want to hurt you, either. She likes you.”

“Did she say that?”

“She said you were smart and funny and interesting and… oh yeah, something about eyelashes from hell.”

Krycek couldn’t help grinning. “Maybe it’s Scully I should be going after… ?”

“Not if you want to live through the night.” Mulder’s smile had a touch of coldness in it.

Krycek’s reply was quick. “Mulder, you know I’m just kidding. There’s nobody but you.”

Mulder smiled reassuringly and gave him a one-handed hug that left pizza grease on his shoulder. They ate a while in companionable silence. So, he doesn’t want me messing around with Scully. But is he jealous of me, or of her? Would he care if it was anybody else I’d joked about? Krycek picked up the last piece of pizza and chewed thoughtfully for a moment before speaking.

“You know, I still can’t help wondering why you’re here.”

Mulder looked at him questioningly.

“You know what I mean. A couple of weeks ago, you didn’t want anything to do with me. I know you don’t love me. You’ll probably never really be able to forget about what happened. I don’t think I’m your usual type. So why?”

“It’s been a long time….” he said quietly. “I gave up on trying to have relationships with women a long time ago. They all expected… to have a relationship.” He gave a short, sad laugh. “I didn’t have time. My work came first. But then you said your work came first with you, too. You didn’t want anything to interfere with that. I like that. And I like the way you want me. I guess… you’re crazy about me, and you don’t ask for much. Kind of makes me sound like a jerk, doesn’t it?”

“Sounds great to me, Mulder.” And it did. It was something plain and simple; something he could understand. It told him right where he stood, and it told him that he could go on having this, as long as he didn’t make too many demands. That was fine with him. He finished his pizza, perfectly content.

Mulder finished his, too, and began to lick his fingers. Krycek took Mulder’s hand and pulled it to his mouth, and began licking and sucking the fingers, one by one. They tasted like pizza and sweat and Mulder. Delicious.

Mulder giggled. “I think you have a hand fetish.”

“I have a Mulder fetish,” Krycek corrected, between fingers. “I’ll suck any part of you I can get in my mouth.”

“I can think of another part I’d like sucked.”

Krycek grinned up at him, releasing his hand and sliding down the bed, kicking the empty pizza box off the end of the bed. He ignored it. Hooking one knee over Mulder’s leg, he eased himself between those strong, lean swimmer’s thighs. Mulder was already hard. Krycek massaged the thighs, stroking with his thumbs, working his way closer to warm, heavy balls and hard cock. He cupped Mulder’s balls in both hands as he took the head of the cock into his mouth, fluttering his tongue over the tip, causing Mulder to groan and lift his hips.

Mulder was still sitting up, leaning back against the wall on a couple of pillows, as he had been while they were eating. He drew up his knees slightly and took Krycek by the shoulders, thumbs digging into the hollows beneath the collarbones. Krycek stroked the base of the cock with his hand, sucking and working as much as he could into his mouth, prepared to take him all the way like this. His own cock throbbed, but he didn’t concern himself with that just now. He’d settle for a hand job after Mulder was satisfied, if the less-experienced man wasn’t ready to blow him. Right now he just wanted Mulder to come in his mouth.

But Mulder, it seemed, had other ideas. He tugged at Krycek’s shoulders, urging him up for a pizza-flavored kiss, then took Krycek by the upper arm, pushing him to the side.

“Lie across my lap,” Mulder instructed, his voice low and husky.

Krycek obeyed, willingly enough, but curious about what Mulder had in mind. He turned over and lay on his stomach across Mulder’s lap, squirming his cock into the crevice between Mulder’s thighs, his bottom propped up and vulnerable to whatever Mulder wanted to do.

If he didn’t know better, he’d think he was about to get spanked.

Did he know better?

Mulder’s hand stroked his buttocks, fingers trailing lightly up the crack, probing gently, tickling his anus with a flickering touch. Krycek squirmed in pleasure.

Then Mulder’s hand lifted, and came down hard on his bottom, stinging, sending sharp tendrils of pain and hot delight through him, making him gasp and jerk. His cock throbbed, instantly rock-hard.

“Like that?” Mulder asked, his voice a soft growl. His hand stroked the hot, tender print it had left.

Oh god, Mulder, you’ve got a sweet little kinky streak—I should have known, the way you like to control…. But he certainly hadn’t expected to be introduced to it this early in their relationship. Inexperienced, like hell. It seemed Mulder had a few things to teach him, as well. “Yeah,” he managed to answer. “Oh, yeah.”

Three more sharp slaps came in rapid succession. He gripped the mattress and gritted his teeth, bucking and thrusting his cock between Mulder’s flexing thighs, as Mulder’s own rigid cock jabbed into his pelvis. He could feel his buttocks inflame under the blows; the heat streaked through him, hitting nerve endings he didn’t know he had.

Mulder stroked his bottom again, briefly; the respite only allowing the pain to develop and grow before the spanking was resumed. These were no friendly little pats—Mulder was hitting him hard, bringing tears to his eyes with each strike. Soon he was sobbing helplessly, overwhelmed by the sensations as Mulder alternately stroked and spanked his tormented buttocks. Yes, he wanted it. It was glorious being taken like this —dominated and controlled and driven to helpless ecstasy—it was the only thing that could stop his churning mind, quell his self-doubt, empty him of everything but steaming passion. He’d never have dared to ask Mulder to do this, even if he’d known it was exactly what he wanted Mulder to do—but he loved it.

Then Mulder took his hand away. As he lay gasping and choking for breath, Krycek felt Mulder reaching out to get something from the nightstand, and after a short pause, felt slick, wet fingers slide between his burning cheeks and enter his throbbing anus. A shuddering moan burst from his throat as Mulder massaged his prostate. Tears still dripped from his eyes. With two fingers, Mulder fucked him. His hips jerked uncontrollably in response. Dizzily, his mind went blank, and he knew only what he felt.

The fingers withdrew and the spanking continued. Now the slaps were interspersed with brief sessions of penetration. Krycek writhed and sobbed and stroked his cock in the sweat-slick crevice between Mulder’s thighs. Gradually, the blows decreased in frequency and intensity and the finger-fucking lengthened and deepened. Finally, the spanking ceased, and the fingers thrusting into him assumed a rhythm he could follow to bring himself towards climax. He came, lying across Mulder’s lap with the other man’s fingers up his ass, his buttocks sore and burning, screaming and crying as his cock spurted its seed into the space between Mulder’s legs.

Oh god, Mulder, what are you doing to me? Every time I think you can’t destroy me any more, you find a new way to smash me to pieces. Please, please don’t ever stop…. He lay limp and panting, waiting for the spasms to subside. Mulder slowed the strokes of his fingers, finally sliding them out of Krycek’s body. His stiff cock still poked at Krycek’s side, reminding him. Yes, there was something Krycek had to finish.

Groaning, he dragged himself off of Mulder’s lap and crawled back between the other man’s legs to take the hard member into his mouth. Mulder was hot and ready; the spanking had excited him as much as it had its recipient. He curled his fingers in Krycek’s hair and thrust forcefully into his mouth. Krycek barely had time to suck him wet before semen was jetting into his throat. He shut his eyes and swallowed.

He’d have been content to lie with his head on Mulder’s hip, cuddling the wilting cock next to his face. But Mulder was tugging at his hair and shoulder again. He pushed himself out of the warm haven between Mulder’s legs reluctantly, and waited while Mulder scooted down to lie flat, then pulled Krycek into his arms. Of course, his back must be killing him after sitting pressed against the wall like that for so long. And Krycek’s buttocks burned and throbbed. The things we do for great sex…. Of course, it was worth every last little twinge. He kissed Mulder, ignoring the slight hesitation that came when Mulder tasted his own semen in Krycek’s mouth. He thrust his tongue in deeply, probing Mulder’s mouth until the other man relaxed and returned the kiss. I don’t blow anybody who won’t kiss me after, Krycek warned silently. If I can take it in my mouth, you can take it in yours. But Mulder wasn’t hesitating any longer—in fact, he was getting into it, sucking and licking with abandon. We’ll have you giving blow jobs yet, Krycek thought, sighing as the kiss ended. He lay his head on Mulder’s shoulder happily.

“You okay?” Mulder asked softly.

“Mm. More than okay.”

Mulder chuckled. “I thought you might like that.”

“Like it? God, Mulder, that was incredible. I didn’t know you had it in you.”

“I didn’t either. You seem to bring out… the animal in me.”

“Lucky me.”

Mulder reached out and found the Coke bottle where it had been jammed in the corner. He uncapped it and took a long swig, then handed the bottle to Krycek, who had to let go of Mulder briefly, shifting onto his side to take the bottle and finish it in one long draught. He tossed the empty bottle over his shoulder into the floor. Mulder chuckled again as Krycek snuggled back into position, arm tightly wrapped around his lover’s chest. I might let go of you some day, he thought drowsily, but not tonight. Then he drifted to sleep.

* * *

The cellular phone shrilled in his ear. Swearing, Krycek disentangled himself from the warm body next to him and fumbled for the phone on the nightstand.

“Yeah? Krycek,” he muttered into the phone.

There was a moment’s silence. Then, “Krycek? What are you… ?” It was Scully.

“Shit.” No wonder the phone hadn’t felt quite right. He dropped it onto Mulder, now awake beside him. “It’s your phone, Mulder, it’s Scully, I’m sorry….” Without waiting for a response, he levered himself out of bed and stumbled into the bathroom.

He almost jumped back up when he lowered his tender bottom onto the cold toilet seat. Serves you right, he told himself. You are an idiot. Of course it was Mulder’s phone—he’d left it on the nightstand after he ordered the pizza. Krycek’s own phone was… somewhere—in his coat pocket probably, or buried under the magazines in the front room. No one called him in the middle of the night any more, not since he’d quit working for the Smoking Man. Thank god it was Scully, not Skinner or someone like that who’d called. Now he didn’t have to worry about whether Mulder would tell her—he’d told her himself, answering Mulder’s cellular at… whatever the hell time it was in the morning. Mulder’d be furious, and he had every right to be.

He was tempted to stay in the bathroom all night. But he’d better go out and face the music. First, he’d clean himself up a little bit. He washed his hands and face, and brushed his teeth, quickly, before stepping out into the hall—where he met Mulder, waiting for his turn in the bathroom.

“There’s been another death, preceded by that same noise,” Mulder told him. “I’m meeting Scully there. Hurry up and get dressed if you want to go.” Then he went into the bathroom and closed the door.

If you want to go? “Okay,” he said to the bathroom door. Then he hurried to get himself dressed. God, he needed a shower. But there wasn’t time. Thankfully, he had clean underwear. One clean dress shirt—he’d definitely have to do laundry tomorrow. Red tie and grey suit. Nowhere near as good-looking as Mulder’s grey suit. He fingered the fabric of Mulder’s suit enviously. Mulder was thinner than he was, and taller. But not by much. He wondered if Mulder’s clothes would fit? Maybe someday he’d find out. But not tonight.

“It won’t fit you.” Mulder’s comment, echoing his own thoughts, made him jump back, pulling his hand away from the suit. He turned and glared at Mulder, who stood grinning at him, naked and gorgeous. “I borrowed your toothbrush, I hope you don’t mind.”

“No, of course not. Mulder, I’m sorry.” He sat on the edge of the bed, watching Mulder get dressed. “I didn’t mean to answer your phone.”

“Don’t worry about it. It was my fault for leaving it on the nightstand like that. Next time, I’ll put it back in my pocket.”

“Next time?” Krycek grinned at him.

“You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, you mean next time you spend the night you’ll leave your cellular somewhere I won’t be able to grab it by mistake. Perfectly clear. Hey, I hope Scully wasn’t too shocked.”

Mulder chuckled. “Not as shocked as you were.”

“I’m just glad it wasn’t Skinner or someone like that.”

Mulder stared at him, his smile slowly fading. Obviously he hadn’t really considered what might have happened if the wrong person had been on the other end of the phone. “That… would not have been good, would it?”

“What do you think Skinner would do if he found out?”

Mulder shook his head. “I don’t know. I don’t want to know.”

“We’ll be more careful from now on.” Krycek was suddenly afraid. Was Mulder now rethinking the danger to his career?

Mulder finished tying his tie. “Come on, let’s go.” His expression was inscrutable. All right, let him think it over. There was danger in their being together, and if Mulder decided he didn’t want to risk it, that was up to him. He was still willing to take Krycek along on his case, anyway.

Krycek was going to get in on this X-File after all.

* * *

There was only one body this time. Other than that, the situation was very similar to yesterday’s. The man, identified as Don Kincaid, a businessman of dubious legality, lay crumpled on the floor of his second-floor apartment. The body’s eyes stared wildly, but there were no signs of struggle or external trauma. Neighbors claimed to have heard a sound variously described as a siren, electronic feedback, and a woman’s scream. One said he thought it was some sort of car alarm. No one saw anyone enter or leave the dead man’s apartment.

Scully, already on the scene, had greeted them both brusquely, with only the slightest lift of that expressive eyebrow in Krycek’s direction to indicate that there was anything at all unusual in finding Mulder at his apartment in the middle of the night, or in Krycek tagging along on Mulder’s case. Krycek nodded back to her and pulled out his notepad. He had no intention of exchanging sly looks with her or sidling suggestively up to Mulder or anything like that. He was here to work.

Mulder immediately went to Scully’s side, letting her fill him in on the details she’d already gathered. Like a well-oiled machine they fell into their routine—wasting not a word, communicating in half-sentences and meaningful looks. Krycek stepped back with a sigh, trying not to feel excluded. Let them get on with it. He looked around for something to do to make himself useful.

A small, wizened face peered in from the hallway, darted looks all around, then disappeared. Curious, Krycek followed her out into the hall. A small form in a cotton print dress and shawl was hurrying away.

“Excuse me, Ma’am,” he called softly.

The figure turned and stared at him with bright blue eyes. With a shock, he realized that she reminded him of his mother, with several decades added. He pulled out his FBI badge and showed it to her.

“I’m Special Agent Alex Krycek, Ma’am. May I talk to you for a few moments?”

“And what’s so special about you, then?” Her mouth was grim, but there was a twinkle in her eye. He voice had a lilt that spoke of barrowlands and borderlands.

He smiled at her. “Not so much yet, Ma’am, but I’m working on it. Do you live here?”

“Apartment Two-oh-six, lad. I’m Margaret Murphy.”

“Mrs. Murphy, did you see or hear anything unusual this evening?”

“That’s Miss Murphy, lad, I never married.”

“Sorry, Miss Murphy. If I’d been around about thirty years ago, I might have done something about that.”

Her laugh was bright and clear. “If you think flirting with old ladies is going to get you anywhere, young man, you’re probably right. You’ve got a bit of the Blarney about you—what did you say your name was?”

“Krycek. Alex Krycek. My mother was Molly O’Connor.”

She smiled and nodded. “O’Connor, is it? Bit of black Irish. That’s where you get those eyelashes.”

He grinned. “Yes, Ma’am. Now, about this evening?”

“Aye, I heard it. Call of the banshee.”

“Is that what it sounded like?” Suddenly he realized—she hadn’t said it sounded like a banshee. She said it was a banshee. And the way she was saying it…. “What makes you think it was Baen Sidhe?” He tried to add the lilts and accents to pronounce it as his mother had taught him.

Margaret Murphy look at him approvingly. “Heard her call once before, back home, the night my mother died. There’s no mistaking her wail.”

“But I thought… the Baen Sidhe announce death, but they don’t cause it.”

She shrugged. “Aye, lad. But times change. The barrows fall.”

“What would one of the Sidhe be doing in Washington, D.C.?”

She frowned thoughtfully. “Trying to get home, I expect.”

“And how would she do that?”

“Well, lad, I suppose that would depend on how she got here.”

“I know the Sidhe were sorcerers, but….”

Her eyes suddenly went cold. He stopped speaking, aware of someone at his shoulder. He knew who it was before he turned to look. “Mulder. This is Margaret Murphy….”

But Miss Murphy was no longer standing there. She’d turned and scurried away down the hall, and was disappearing behind the door of her apartment before Krycek could find his tongue again.

“Who was that?” Mulder asked. There was an amused expression on his face.

“One of the neighbors. I wonder why she ran off like that?”

“I guess she didn’t like my looks. Did she say anything?”

Krycek shrugged. “Said it sounded like a banshee.”

Mulder laughed softly. “Well, that’s more original than a car alarm.” He patted Krycek’s shoulder and turned to go back to the crime scene.

He should have told Mulder the truth. Well, it wasn’t a lie, exactly. But he didn’t make it clear that she really believed it was a Sidhe. Mulder was the one person who would take something like that seriously. He’d probably want to investigate it. Krycek should have made sure Mulder understood.

But Mulder could have pursued it. He could have asked whether Krycek thought she’d really meant it. Instead, he brushed it off, like nothing the rookie agent learned could possibly be of interest. Well, let him think so. Krycek would just keep that information to himself for now. Do a little poking around on his own. If anything came of it, he’d let Mulder know.

He went back to the apartment where Kincaid had died. O’Donnell, McCarthy, Kincaid… there was a definite Irish connection here. Could the Sidhe have come here after them for some reason? But then, why would she have killed Kincaid and the others? Was it some kind of vendetta? The barrows fall, Miss Murphy had said. For centuries, the Sidhe had slumbered under the hills of Ireland, after their race was conquered by the invading Milesians. What would one do if his or her barrow was destroyed? The most famous barrows, Krycek knew, were sacred places that would never be harmed. But there must have been many others; unknown hills, inhabited by lesser sorcerers. Ireland was susceptible to the advantages and ills of progress, like all modern countries.

He needed to know more about Kincaid’s activities. He stepped up behind Mulder’s shoulder. “Mulder, have you found a connection between Kincaid and McCarthy or O’Donnell?”

“Not yet. He was probably in on the check fraud scheme, but there’s no solid evidence of it yet.”

“Can I see your files on McCarthy and the others?”

Mulder regarded him thoughtfully for a moment. Regretting asking me along? Krycek wondered. He apparently hadn’t intended for Krycek to become actively involved in the case. “All right. I’ll have copies made for you. When we get back to headquarters.”

Headquarters. Krycek looked at his watch. “Damn. I’ve got to be in Skinner’s office in less than an hour.” There was no time to go back home and shower. He hadn’t even shaved. He ran his hand through his hair. It was tangled and dirty. “What do you think, Mulder? Will he be less disgusted if I show up dirty and unshaven, or if I show up late?”

“Better not be late. You can explain to him that you were assisting me on a case.”

“Without proper authorization? That will just make him madder.”

“Sorry, Alex. I didn’t mean to get you into trouble.”

“No, it’s my fault. I should have been watching the time better.” I should have stayed home in bed, is what I really should have done. “I’ll catch a cab. Don’t forget about those files. I’ll call you later.” He waved a quick goodbye to Scully and turned to go.

Mulder caught him by the arm. “Do you have money for the cab?”

Krycek swore again, blushing furiously. Possibly he could cover the cab ride, but it would clean out his meager supply of cash. Payday was still days away.

Taking his reaction for an answer, Mulder pulled out his wallet and handed the mortified agent a couple of twenties. “You can pay me back after you get paid,” Mulder told him gently. Unable to look Mulder in the eye, Krycek nodded, gripped the bills and hurried away.

* * *

He was in for one piece of good luck—one of the night-shift agents still at work when Krycek arrived kept an electric razor in his desk, which Krycek was able to borrow before his meeting. He shaved quickly, splashed cold water on his face, smoothed his hair, and managed to show up looking slightly more like an FBI agent than a skid-row bum. Then his worst problem was trying not to yawn in Skinner’s face while he received his next assignment. More surveillance —midnight-to-six shift this time.

“Agent Krycek, I know this work isn’t as exciting as, say, working on an X-File—but it’s important work.” Skinner’s mouth was a tight line of disapproval.

“Yes, sir.” Krycek shifted in his chair, wincing slightly, and tried to look attentive.

Skinner’s glowering gaze burned through him. But finally, the assistant director nodded slightly and returned his attention to the papers on his desk, signalling that the meeting was over. Relieved, Krycek got up and left the office.

* * *

If he had any sense, he would just go home now—forget about mysterious deaths and shrieking noises and banshees, get some sleep and be ready to go back on shift at midnight. But the case tugged at him and would not let him go. He remembered his mother telling him tales of ancient Ireland when he was a child. He loved to hear about the Tuatha De Danann, the mystical race of wizards and warriors who had ruled Ireland for two centuries, until the Milesians invaded and defeated them. They’d agreed to split the land in two —the Milesians above, and the Tuatha below. The Tuatha then became known as the Sidhe—the people of the hill—and lived beneath the barrows in a magical world, where they remain till this day. While other children were playing cowboys and Indians, Krycek had played Tuatha and Milesian, calling himself Lug or Nuada of the Silver Hand, making magic swords from cardboard and tinfoil, and raiding his mother’s jewelry box for talismans with which to cast spells. If there truly was a Baen Sidhe—a woman of the hill—loose in Washington, D.C., he had to know, and he had to be involved.

He made his way down to Mulder’s basement office, thinking he would just pick up the files Mulder had promised him and take them home to study. But the office was empty. He stood just inside the door, staring at Mulder’s desk thoughtfully. Mulder had told him he could look at the files. He could just save Mulder the effort and copy them himself. He went over to the desk and started thumbing through the files there. McCarthy —there was nothing new there. Bloodworth—an ordinary Chicago hood. Nothing. He sat at Mulder’s desk and rubbed his temples with his fingers. He was so tired. He should just go home now.

The office door opened, and a woman with an FBI ID clipped to her blouse stepped in. “Agent Mulder? I have the file you requested.”

“No, I… is that the Kincaid file?”


“Okay, I’ll take it. Thanks.”

Well, he hadn’t lied—exactly. And Mulder had told him he could look at the files. No doubt he hadn’t meant that Krycek could read it before he did, but he wasn’t here and Krycek was and so was the file. He’d just glance through it, see if there was anything interesting in it.

Assorted arrests, a few convictions—money laundering, extortion, fraud, drug dealing. Here was something very interesting —Kincaid had just gotten back from a trip to Ireland less than a week ago. His primary legal business was an international real estate development corporation —Green Isle Properties.

International real estate. Ireland? There were no details in the file. He picked up Mulder’s phone, and went to work.

* * *

Half an hour later, he was on the Metro—having counted the money Mulder had lent him, and deciding he’d better not spend any more on cabs, especially since he was on his own and not likely to be reimbursed for this—heading toward Foggy Bottom and the offices of Green Isle Properties. Green Isle’s most recent development deal was an industrial park in Ireland near Galway. Groundbreaking had begun the day before Kincaid had left Ireland. O’Donnell and McCarthy were investors—no doubt a way to launder dirty money. So, suppose that groundbreaking had disturbed the barrow of a Baen Sidhe. Cast back into the above-ground world after so many centuries, the angry Sidhe had followed Kincaid to Washington, D.C. to wreak vengeance on him and the men he worked with.

Krycek reached under his coat and fingered his cellular phone. He should call Mulder and tell him about this. For all he knew, Mulder had already discovered the Green Isle connection and investigated, and he was just wasting his time. But maybe he hadn’t. If he was concentrating on the check fraud scheme, it might not have occurred to him to look into the real estate business yet. Anyway, the whole thing was just a lot of wild supposition and speculation. He’d check out Green Isle’s office himself first. If anything turned up, then he’d call Mulder.

* * *

It was a fifteen minute walk from the Metro station to Green Isle’s address. The morning was already growing warm. Krycek was glad he hadn’t bothered to go home and shower before coming on this little expedition—he’d have just gotten sweaty again. He loosened his tie and kept going.

The address was on a small side street. The front window of the office was dark. He stepped up to the doorway and reached for the doorknob.

The door swung in, before he had a chance to turn the knob. It hung loose on its hinges, the latch sprung. Krycek unholstered his gun and pushed the door the rest of the way open, peering in cautiously.

“Hello? Is anyone here?”

No response. The room was empty. With his gun in front of him, he stepped into the office. There were no other obvious signs of a break-in—no file cabinet drawers open, no papers scattered about. The phone was still on the hook. But someone had been here who didn’t belong.

Now he should call Mulder. Kincaid’s office had been broken into. Mulder would definitely want to know about this.

But maybe he’d just look around a little more first. Check out the back room. He opened the interior door and stepped into what appeared to be a storage room. There were stacks of banker’s boxes along one wall, storage cabinets in the back, an old desk and a ratty couch on the other wall. This room didn’t look disturbed either. He prowled the length and width of the room, looking for anything of interest. He lifted the lid of one of the banker’s boxes and sneezed. There was nothing here but dust.

The door slammed shut behind him, plunging the room into total darkness. Krycek whirled towards the door, hitting his knee on the desk. He couldn’t see a thing. Swearing, he felt his way along the wall to the door. It was locked.

“Damn.” He slammed his palm against the door. This was no door swinging shut in the wind—someone had locked him in. The door was heavy, probably metal-core. There would be no breaking it down. He could shoot his way out—maybe, but he couldn’t aim in the dark, and who knew what he’d end up actually shooting. Or what was outside the door waiting for him. He turned and leaned back against the door. Now he’d call Mulder. He pulled out his phone and laboriously punched out Mulder’s cellular number by touch.


“Mulder, I’m at Kincaid’s office in Foggy Bottom. Green Isle Properties. The front door was broken in, and somebody just locked me into the back room.”

There was a moment’s silence. “Alex, what the hell… ?” Mulder sighed audibly. “All right, I’ll be right there. I guess I don’t have to tell you to stay put.”

“Ha ha. Hurry, okay? It’s dark in here.”

He put the phone back in his pocket and felt his way to the couch to sit down and wait for Mulder.

There was a shimmer in the air by the door. Krycek pushed himself to his feet and stared with his mouth open as the shimmer resolved itself into a tall, strikingly beautiful woman with long silver hair and the bluest blue eyes he’d ever seen. She was wearing a flowing gown of silvery-grey velvet, and her pale skin was translucent as fine porcelain. The room was faintly lit by her glow. She was the most beautiful thing Krycek had ever seen. And the coldest.

She took one step toward him. Krycek backed up, until he ran into the cabinets behind him. His heart pounded wildly. She was magnificent and powerful, and she was going to kill him. “Please….” he said, his voice barely a whisper. “I’m not one of them. I haven’t hurt you.”

She took another step toward him. He pulled out his gun and pointed it at her, without much hope that it would do any good. She cocked her head slightly, looking at the gun as if wondering what it was. Then she stretched out her hand and the gun fell from his grip to the floor. His hand tingled. “Please,” he begged. “I don’t want to hurt you. I’m not your enemy, I’m a federal agent. I’ll help you if you let me. If I can. Please.”

She didn’t appear to hear him. She took one more step. Then she opened her mouth, and began to moan. At first it was just the faintest tone, pure and clear and quiet. But gradually it became louder, more piercing. Krycek jammed the heels of his hands over his ears. He’d heard this sound before, only much, much louder, and his stomach was already churning over the anticipated pain. “Please….” he whispered, sinking slowly to the floor, pressing his hands as tightly as he could over his tortured ears.

The moan increased to a wail, bleeding through his hands into his ears, right into his brain, painfully loud now, but still a single clear tone, far from human. He began to hum to himself, trying to block out the sound. At first it was just nonsense noise, but then it gradually turned into a song his mother used to sing to him when he was afraid. It was a Gaelic song—he hardly knew what the words meant, but they reminded him of home and safety and helped keep the terror as well as the Baen Sidhe’s wail at bay. He sang, tears streaming down his face, waiting for the Sidhe’s voice to destroy him.

He was not sure how long it was before he realized that her wail had quieted, and was no longer piercing his head with pain. She was singing along with him. Slowly he lowered his hands from his ears, continuing to sing in a wavering voice. Her singing was strong and clear and so achingly sweet he continued to weep until the song ended and she fell silent. Then he sat and stared at her in wonder. He was in the presence of a magical being, who could kill with a sound, and she had decided instead to sing with him.

She said something to him in Gaelic. He shook his head regretfully. “I don’t understand. I only know the song.”

She nodded. “So quickly the old ways are forgotten.” She spoke as she sang—with sweetness and strength.

“That’s what happened to them, I’m sure. Kincaid and the others—they didn’t know about the barrows. They had no idea they were destroying your home.”

“And what about you, little human? Why have you come here?”

“I was investigating the deaths. You—you’ve got to stop killing now. They didn’t know what they were doing.”

“And what will you do, little human? Put me in your jail?”

Krycek swallowed. Arrest a Sidhe? What nonsense. He began to understand the trouble Mulder had writing up his cases. “What would be the point? You walk through walls.”

“So I do.” Her face grew suddenly sad; so sad it broke Krycek’s heart. “There will be no more deaths. Except mine.”

“Yours? You can’t die. Can’t you just go home? Find another barrow?”

“Shall I go rooting about the countryside like a boar? Until another ignorant human comes along to dig me up?”

He shrugged helplessly. She was too beautiful; she couldn’t die. “What about Avalon? Why don’t you go there?” Legend had it that some of the Tuatha De Danann went to live on the fabled island paradise of Avalon, instead of going beneath the hills.

She smiled sadly. “I don’t know where it is. Even we forget.”

“But there must be somewhere you can go….”

“Times change. All things come to an end. I no longer have a place in this world, or the other. I’ll seek a new one.” She stepped closer to him, and reached out her perfect white hand to brush her fingertips against his face. He shivered at her touch, like ice. “But I thank you for the song, little human. I was already centuries old when I first heard it, but still it reminds me of other days.”

He nodded. He’d sung with a Sidhe. He’d like to tell his mother, but she wouldn’t believe him. Perhaps Miss Murphy would.

“Shall I give you a gift before I go?” she asked.

The legends were full of warnings against accepting gifts from fairy folk. Some of the fair ones were truly spiteful; some merely didn’t understand how their gifts could affect mortals. “You already have,” he answered her. And it was true.

She laughed—a tinkling sound of summer wind in crystal chimes. Then she touched his face again, one delicate finger tracing the tracks of wetness on his face. “Farewell, then.”

She stepped back and began to shimmer again. Her glow increased. He barely noticed the door behind her open, and sunlight streaming into the room as Mulder and Scully stood in the doorway, guns pointed at the apparition. The Sidhe laughed again, then began to wail; a pure, clear tone that increased just to the point of pain to human ears before both it and the glowing woman faded from the room.

Mulder and Scully stood still for a moment. Then Scully rushed to kneel at Krycek’s side, gentle hands feeling for his pulse and brushing the hair from his eyes. “Krycek, are you all right?”

“Yes.” He started to struggle to his feet. Scully took his arm and helped him to stand.

Mulder walked over to them, holstering his gun. “What was that?”

“A Baen Sidhe. One of Kincaid’s development projects destroyed her barrow, so she followed him here for vengeance.”

“A banshee?” Mulder asked. Then the light began to dawn. “That woman this morning. She told you it was a banshee.” He did not look pleased.

“Yes—I had an idea what might have happened. I decided to check it out.”

“Without telling me,” Mulder said flatly.

Oh, he was going to be angry. Krycek sighed. “It was just an idea. I wanted to get something solid before I bothered you with it.”

Mulder frowned and bit his lip. “All right. Let’s get back to headquarters and get this sorted out.”

Krycek nodded, exchanged a rueful smile with Scully, and prepared to go back and face the music.

* * *

Mulder herded Krycek into his office as though he were a skittish and exasperating colt Mulder was training. Krycek was reminded uncomfortably of the spanking he’d gotten last night—he had a feeling Mulder would like to administer one for real right now.

Mulder pushed him into a chair. “All right. Let’s start with this morning. Obviously, that woman told you it was really a banshee she heard. Why didn’t you tell me that?”

He squirmed uneasily. “I did, Mulder, you just didn’t….”

“Don’t, Krycek.” He held up a warning finger. “You know damned well you made it sound like she was just using it as a figure of speech.”

So I’m “Krycek” again, he thought miserably. He’d really blown it this time. “I was tired, I wasn’t thinking….”

Mulder’s mouth tightened. No, that wasn’t going to work. “I just wanted to check into it a little before I told you.”

Mulder paced in front of him. He looked across at Scully, standing by the door with her arms folded, beseeching a little sympathy from her. She stared back inscrutably. She wasn’t livid, like Mulder was, but she was going to give him nothing. He sighed and turned back to Mulder.

“So you were going to look into it. What then?”

“After my meeting with Skinner, I came back down here. I wanted to get those files you promised me. But you weren’t back yet. So….” He paused and swallowed. “I just thought I’d take a little look at them.”

Mulder stopped pacing. He’d gone past livid, to blank fury. “You came in here and went through my files.”

“Well, you said I could see them. I didn’t think….”

“I said I’d make you copies. I didn’t say you could come in here while I was gone and rifle through my desk.”

There was no hope. He might as well just get through his story and get it over with. “I saw that Kincaid owned Green Isle Properties. And that he’d just come back from Ireland. So I thought maybe he’d done something in Ireland to make the Sidhe angry. I checked and found out he’d just started groundbreaking on a development project in Galway.”

“And how would that make the Sidhe angry?” Mulder had softened slightly, his fascination with the case mitigating his fury.

“The Sidhe live under the hills, or barrows, in Ireland. The groundbreaking destroyed her barrow.”

“So you had evidence, and a working theory. Why didn’t you call me then?”

Evidence? He looked at Scully helplessly. The corner of her mouth twitched slightly. “Mulder, it was just speculation. I didn’t have anything solid. I decided to go to Green Isle first and check it out. Then I’d call you.”

“Why would the… Sidhe come here? Why wouldn’t she just kill him in Ireland?”

“She wanted to get the other men who were part of Green Isle as well. McCarthy and O’Donnell were both investors in the Galway project.”

“You found a connection between McCarthy and O’Donnell and Kincaid? That was evidence.” Mulder was grim again.

“I was going to call you as soon as I’d checked out Green Isle,” he repeated. “Then when I got there, I saw that the front door had been broken in.” He steeled himself for another outburst.

“But you thought you’d just check around a little first before you called me,” Mulder mocked harshly.

“Yeah,” Krycek answered quietly. “Nothing inside looked disturbed. I went into the back room. That’s when the door slammed shut and I was locked in.”

“Then you called me.”

Krycek just nodded.

Mulder paced. It was Scully who asked, “What happened in the back room?”

“The Baen Sidhe came. You saw her. She was angry at first—she started to wail. I was sure she was going to kill me.”

“Why didn’t she?”

“I don’t know.” Should he give Mulder the whole thing? He really didn’t want to share what had happened between him and the Sidhe. But he supposed he owed it to Mulder. “I started singing a Gaelic song I knew. I was really just trying to block the sound out of my ears. But she liked it. She stopped wailing and sang along with me.”

Mulder stared at him. “You know Gaelic?”

“Just a few songs. My mother’s Irish, she taught me all the Celtic legends.”

Mulder exchanged an incredulous look with Scully. “And the song stopped the Sidhe from killing you?”

Krycek shrugged. “I don’t know. I think she was just tired of killing. She knew I wasn’t one of Kincaid’s men. She just didn’t know what else to do.”

“Where did she go?” Mulder asked.

“She’s gone, Mulder. Out of the world.”

“What, back… under the hills?”

“No, not there. Somewhere else, if there is anywhere else. Nowhere, if there isn’t. She said her time was over.”

Mulder sighed. “I wish I’d had the chance to talk to her.” An accusing told told Krycek that he would have had the chance, if the other agent hadn’t interfered.

Krycek stared at the floor. “I’m sorry, Mulder. I screwed up. It won’t happen again.”

Mulder frowned, thinking. His fury had abated a little, but he was still angry. “All right, look. You write it up just as you told me, and I’ll include your report with mine.”

“Skinner’s going to be furious….” Krycek’s voice was pained.

Mulder just looked at him, mouth set in a firm line.

“Mulder, couldn’t you just leave me out of it?”

“I’m not going to lie in my report. You’re going to have to tell the truth for a change, and deal with it.”

“I could get kicked out for this,” he said miserably.

Mulder just stared.

Krycek sighed. There was only going to be one way out of this. “All right.”

* * *

It took him forty-five minutes to write up his report of the day’s events. He sat at Scully’s desk and used her terminal, while she pulled up a chair beside Mulder to help him write their half of the case report. He struggled for a while with how to start—how to explain what he was doing at the crime scene to begin with. Truth was all well and good, but he wasn’t going to write that he just happened to be lying beside Mulder when the call came that morning. He settled for “At Agent Mulder’s request, I accompanied him to the crime scene….” How and where that request was made, he’d leave to Skinner’s imagination. From there on, it was a straightforward recitation of events, raiding the files on Mulder’s desk and all.

He printed the report, signed it, and handed it over to Mulder. Mulder read through it, nodded, then instructed Krycek to stay put while he went to report to Skinner. “I’m sure he’s going to want to talk to you as soon as he’s done with me.”

* * *

After Mulder had gone, Krycek offered a tentative smile to Scully. “He’s pretty mad.”

Scully pressed her lips together and nodded. “Yes.”

“What about you?”

“Me?” Her eyebrow lifted curiously.

“Well, it was your case too. Are you mad at me for screwing it up?”

She smiled faintly. “You didn’t screw it up. You solved it.”

“Well.” He shrugged.

There was a pause as those blue eyes regarded him. “I’m wondering how you ever got through the Academy’s ethics course.”

He laughed sickly. “I’m not that bad, Scully, really. I just tend to… go overboard sometimes. Anyway, I’m sorry.”

She nodded. “Apology accepted.”

“I wish it were that easy with Mulder.”

“No you don’t.” She smiled. “It’s hard with him because he cares so much.”

“And I just keep screwing it up.”

“That’s something you’d better give some serious thought to, don’t you think?”

He stared back at her. She cut right to the chase, didn’t she? With that calm, non-judgmental tone that made you sit up and listen. Made you feel like an idiot, spinning your wheels when the right thing to do was so obvious. Made you think she really cared about whether or not you worked things out with Mulder.

He sighed. “Yeah. I guess I should. Except I’ll probably get kicked out of the FBI for good this time, and Mulder will never want to see me again anyway.”

This time she smiled. “I don’t think it’s quite that bad. Solving other people’s cases for them isn’t exactly a major offense. And Mulder was supposed to have assigned you to the case anyway, if he’d ever gotten around to doing the paperwork.”

“He what?”

“We needed someone from the surveillance team to bring us up to date on the background of the case. And since you were the one on the scene when the deaths occurred, you were the logical choice. It’s standard procedure, Krycek. Mulder’s not exactly famous for following the rules, himself.”

Krycek opened his mouth and closed it several times, then gave up and laughed shortly, running his hand over his hair.

Scully smiled. “Don’t ever tell him I said this, but I think you and he are actually a lot alike.”

“Which probably just means we’ll be at each other’s throats most of the time.” When we’re not in each other’s pants….

“Probably.” The sparkle in her blue eyes told him she knew exactly what he was thinking.

He flushed. But it could be a lot worse, couldn’t it? Mulder could have some uptight straight guy for a partner who’d have blown a fuse if he’d called Mulder in the middle of the night and a half-asleep Krycek had answered the phone. “Scully… I think I’m glad you’re Mulder’s partner.”

She seemed genuinely surprised. A pleased smile spread across her face. “I’m glad you think so.”

“I owe you lunch after I get paid.” It might be the one-and-only paycheck I get.

She nodded. “Maybe we could go to an opera sometime.”

“Sure. That would be great.” Yeah, great. Mulder hates me, and now I start dating Scully. Next thing you know, I’ll be answering her phone in the middle of the night when Mulder calls. He’ll kill me for sure. He sighed and buried his face in his arms. On her desk. Well, if she wanted it back she could just ask him to move. He was exhausted and miserable and he needed a bath and he still had to face Skinner before he’d be allowed to go home and collapse. Then he was back on-shift at midnight —if he was lucky. If he wasn’t, it was the unemployment line and hope his landlord would take pity on him and wait a while for the rent. Maybe Scully would take him in.

* * *

When Mulder returned, there were red spots high on his cheeks, and a white line around his lips. He clenched his fists as he walked to his desk, and spoke without looking at Krycek. “He wants to see you now.”

Krycek stood uneasily, decided for once to let discretion be his guide, and left without speaking.

* * *

Skinner glowered at him from across his desk. “Agent Krycek, I don’t know what’s going on between you and Agent Mulder, and I don’t want to know. But you will leave your personal rivalries at home. I will not deal with them in my office again. Is that understood?”

“Yes, sir.” Krycek closed his eyes and swallowed. Well, if he was being warned not to do it again, that meant he’d be around to do it. Skinner was going to let him stay. He was going to make him grovel —that was all right, he’d lick Skinner’s boots all day and all night—but he wasn’t going to kick him out.

“One Agent Mulder is enough for me to deal with. I think we’d both be happier if you went to some other field office. There’s an opening in Los Angeles I think would be appropriate for you.”

Transfer? Oh, god, no. “Sir, please—I’d rather stay here.” He stopped and took a deep breath. His eyes burned. Should he let himself cry? No, he didn’t think Skinner would be swayed by tears. “I know I made a big mistake on this case. It won’t happen again, I promise.”

“Agent Krycek, I’m sure you know that with your track record, your promises don’t carry much weight.”

Begging wasn’t going to work, either. “I only wanted to help. I know I went about it the wrong way, but….”

“But you solved the case. Yes, I know.” Skinner sat back, steepling his fingers, and sighed. “You do good work. I’d be happy to have an agent of your caliber on my team, if I thought I could depend on you.”

“I’ve made mistakes. But I really want to be the kind of agent you can be proud of.” He put on his most sincere look.

Skinner considered for a moment, then leaned forward and nodded. “All right. I suggest you go home and get some rest. You’re on duty at midnight.”

He closed his eyes and sighed with relief. “Thank you, sir.”

He was at the door when Assistant Director Skinner spoke again. “Agent Krycek—don’t make me regret this.”

Something in the tone sent a chill through him. He nodded, and practically ran out the door.

* * *

Six hours of sleep and a long, hot shower later, Krycek felt ready to face the world again. Now, was he ready to face Mulder? Maybe he just ought to steer clear of Mulder for a few days. Concentrate on his new assignment, and let Mulder cool down a little. He prowled around his apartment. He really should spend a couple of hours cleaning the place up. The empty pizza box was still on the floor of the sleeping alcove, and there were spots of grease on the sheets. He still tripped over the pile of magazines in front of the couch whenever he walked past.

But he was hungry, and there was no food in the place. He was going to have to go out anyway, he might as well stop by Mulder’s, just to see how things were between them.

* * *

“Hi, Mulder.”

With a disgusted groan, Mulder stepped aside to let him in, then stood glaring at him.

“I guess you’re still mad.”

“Yeah.” Mulder shook his head. “I’ll get over it. How did it go with Skinner?”

“I’ve still got my badge—barely. He wanted to transfer me to Los Angeles. Said one Mulder was enough to deal with.”

He knew Mulder would not appreciate that. And he didn’t. He put his hand to his forehead and frowned fiercely. “But you’re still here.”

“Yeah. He yelled at you, too, huh?”

Mulder nodded.

“I really didn’t mean to take over the case. I just thought I’d find something for you, to help you solve it.”

Mulder gave him a sour look. “I don’t believe that for a minute. You wanted that case right from the start.”

“I wanted to work with you. You were the one who didn’t want me involved.”

“I took you along this morning, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, but you wouldn’t have, if I hadn’t….” Been lying beside you in bed when the call came. Somehow, he couldn’t bring himself to refer to last night’s lovemaking. It wasn’t likely to happen again. He’d managed to ruin things so quickly. Why didn’t he ever think about what he was doing before he charged into it?

“Maybe.” Mulder sighed. “We can’t let this… whatever it is affect our working relationship.”

Krycek laughed ruefully. “Whatever it is? That’s a good question, Mulder. What is it? Are you sorry you spent the night?”

“No, but I can’t deal with that right now. You damn near got me fired.”

“You? Come on, Mulder. You’ve done a whole lot worse than forget to assign a liaison to your investigation. Skinner likes to yell, but he lets you get away with anything.”

“Maybe. I still don’t like getting yelled at.”

Krycek sighed. “Mulder, if it had been anybody else but me on the case, would you have done the same thing?”

Mulder shrugged. “I don’t know.” He shook his head. “Probably not. I don’t know. You make me so crazy, I still don’t know what I’m doing with you half the time.”

“Look, Mulder… maybe we did jump into this too fast. Things have been so horrible between us for so long—we don’t even know how to act like normal people with each other.”

“We’re going to have to learn.”

“Yeah. Let’s just hope we don’t have any more overlapping cases for a while.”

Finally, there was a slight smile from Mulder. “You’re right. This whole thing was my fault as much as it was yours—almost,” he corrected with a grin. “I should have talked to you in the beginning. I should have put you on the case.”

Krycek smiled back at him. “Let’s just forget about it. I’m glad you’re not mad any more. I’ve got to get going now, I just wanted to stop by and see how things were.”

“You’re leaving?”

Mulder’s obvious disappointment was very gratifying. It was tempting to say to hell with the food and the apartment, and stay for at least a quickie before he had to go to work.

But he’d just got done telling Mulder they were rushing things. Better to give them a little breathing space. Show Mulder he could use his head every once in a while, not just his hormones. “I’m doing midnight-to-six now, I’ve got to be at work in a couple of hours. And I have to get some groceries and the apartment’s a mess. Why don’t we plan on this weekend? We can talk. And whatever else comes to mind.”

Mulder laughed and pulled Krycek into his arms. “I’m looking forward to it.”

They kissed. It’s got to be a record, Krycek thought. Two days and he’s still here, despite my best efforts to ruin things. Maybe everything’s going to work out all right this time after all. Maybe my luck has finally changed.

But it wouldn’t be luck that made things work, it would be hard work and paying attention and following the rules. He was hanging on by a thread, and it would still be so easy to lose everything. But right now, he had his job. He had Mulder in his arms.

For Alex Krycek, that was as perfect as it got.


back to part four