Prime Time

by dossier

Notes & Warnings

Prologue: Old and Wise

I knew he was there, and I couldn't do anything about what was happening to him now. He had been taken out of my care years ago, and I'd had to let him go then in order to concentrate on staying alive.

I had been in and out of the loop; currently I was in it. The data Kritschgau had stolen from Scully was part of my ascendancy. Too bad for Mike, I took the laptop and covered my tracks. I hadn't been in the loop long enough to have this kind of access. Next time keep a closer watch your handbag, the card key was very handy, thank you Diana. I'll be back for you later, bitch.

Remorse was not a feeling I could ever afford to wallow in, but I had a twinge of regret when the door slid open. The sterile medical theater was bright and chill. Mulder was spread-eagle naked, strapped down to the table and although he appeared to be unconscious, I knew he was awake. Ultra awake, every single cell in his brain in gear and functioning. Scully had wanted to know why they'd operated on Gibson Praise; soon she would find out. Right now Mulder had more in common with that boy than the rest of humanity. The great white hope of mankind.

His skin was pale and smooth, he moved faintly in his dreams, limbs contracting, throat working and eyes rolling under their lids. I pulled the glove off of my hand and ran my fingers over the gelid, marble texture of his shoulder, his throat. I smoothed my hand over the hair on his chest, and down his arm. I clasped his hand and leaned over and kissed his lips, chastely. "I'm sorry Fox. I wish it didn't have to be this way, but you'll understand some day soon enough."

~~~~~~~oo(O)oo~~~~~~~

I sat quiet in the chair. My hands were folded in my lap, as my mind ranged over the memories of the extraordinary events of my life: The FBI, Diana, and the children. Why didn't the boys come visit me? It seemed as though Spender was the only one who came to see me any more.

The door opened, and I didn't bother to open my eyes, but I could tell it wasn't Spender (my father?). The presence was familiar, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it- my eyes flew open, and Alex Krycek appeared in front of me. Was he an apparition?

Oh God. He was as I remembered him. Tall, proud, and straight. Beautiful and dark like the avenging angel Azrael, as he looked down at me. I smiled up at him, just so very glad to see him after all these years. It must mean it's over; he said he'd be back when it was over. I thought about what he had put me through; what he'd put us all through-- Scully, Skinner. Especially Skinner. I wonder what happened to Walter?

He stood in the doorway, diffident of his welcome. He radiated hunger, lust, guilt, love, and regret. It suddenly seemed right; all those emotions were Alex essentialized.

"Come in, Alex"

"Hey, Mulder."

"I have to admit that I didn't expect you to come"

"You never know what garbage your mind will dredge up in a pinch, Mulder."

"There was a time I would have agreed with that, yes. But time and age does strange things to a man's perspective. "

He softly closed the door behind him and walked closer to me. "What perspective is that?"

"That I loved you."

Alex smiled that brilliant, sweet smile and knelt down next to me. He was close enough I could smell the leather; smell him.

He said nothing but took my hands in his, the contrast and number of them was shocking to me. Strong, tanned hands with long fingers, he wasn't wearing gloves. They traced the spotty, knotted, withered, veined hands mine had become in the intervening years. I didn't wonder at the difference between them; it seems that it was supposed to be that way. His downcast eyes watched as he caressed the twined hands in my lap.

He whispered, low, rough and graveled. "I love you, Fox. I'm sorry it had to go this way."

"Yes, Alex." Alex, my sweet beloved, how did I not see what was in your heart before?

"Yes, what?" His face lifted, luminous green eyes reflected the realization that was awakening in me, like dawn gleaming over the deep green ocean.

"The answer to all the questions in your heart, the quest in your soul."

"Fox, I… " Alex paused, and swallowed hard. "…Thank you." He rose from where he was crouched at my knees and leant in with a soft delicate kiss. His young, smooth lips were like a lightning strike, an electric spark on my dry withered mouth. It didn't matter; the truth between us was transcendent.

Alex stepped back, our hands still clasped across the gap. "I can't stay."

"I know. Au revoir, mon ami."

"Not good-bye, Fox?"

"Never good-bye, Alex, never good-bye"

~~~~~~~oo(O)oo~~~~~~~

I stepped back from Mulder, and I let the pain I had held back wash over me. I blinked the forming tears away, with a new resolve. Mulder had to play his part; I had mine. I just hoped for some absolution in the end, but at the moment I had a card key to pass on and plans to polish.

~~~~~~~oo(O)oo~~~~~~~

I stood at the window of my apartment, looking down at the street. It was a cold, January day with no relief in sight from the dreary DC winter. I reflected on the memories and images I had accrued while in the grip of the alien artifact. What was real? What was a hallucination? The phantasms that had inhabited my dreams had all seemed real, but when I had awakened, it was hard to rectify the two overlapping realities. Which was I to believe in?

A car pulled to the curb in front of the window and parked, but the driver didn't exit. He stayed seated in the vehicle-- the dull, grey afternoon shaded his features, but I instantly knew without any doubt that it was Alex Krycek.

Indeed, in which reality should I believe?

Chapter One: Part One

I sat waiting in his living room, lit only by the fish tank with its few lovely specimens. They looked serene and peaceful, drifting in their tiny world. I floated along with them in a reverie; able to relax here in a way I could not anywhere else. I'd returned from a business trip in Azerbajain to hear astounding rumors about his family, and although I had considered going Raleigh for the memorial service for Teena Mulder, too many blue flamers and consortium types were likely to be there for my tastes.

The key turning in the lock brought me to alertness. I assumed a submissive air, gun on the table. He came through the door preoccupied and unaware; I shifted slightly but perceptibly, identifying my presence by the rustle of leather and denim.

He turned toward me, and I saw his face in the bluish, fluorescent light. He wore a mosaic of pain and relief; the tightness around the eyes telegraphing it. How did I come to know those eyes so well? Rimmed by a tiny sliver of hazel, the huge black pupils gave them a captivating appearance; smooth deep pools to drown in.

I tensed waiting for the obligatory attack, but he just wearily laid his gun and keys on the table next to the door and tossed his trench coat across the back of a chair. He sat on the sofa across from me, rubbed his eyes and held one hand over them, propped the other loosely across his knee.

"What do you want, Krycek? I'm in no mood for your games tonight."

"I can tell. I came to help."

"Oh, yeah sure right! You, Alex Krycek, traitor-cum-murderer, rat-bastard-assassin, are going to help me… What? Send me to the boneyard with the rest of my family?" The harsh words held no malice, just a rote recital.

"I've been where you're at, Mulder. We're alike in that respect. I have no family left; the Consortium destroyed them all, one by one, just like yours. You can't just add up the pains, they multiply exponentially."

His hands had come away from his face, and he was staring at me, slack jawed.

"What? You think that slick, white-bread American background they conjured up for the FBI was the truth?" The head went back into the hands, and his voice was soft, and muffled.

"Why? I know so much, and the picture just keeps getting bigger and uglier, and my heart keeps breaking, over and over."

I was startled by this personal admission, but I held my hope in check. "You know the why, Mulder, but it doesn't make it any easier to accept the pain, does it?"

He started shaking and keening; he was crying. Seeing him this way opened all my own wounds afresh. Without thinking about it too much, I went to him and sat - touching side to side. My arm gently snaked around his shoulders, and after a moment he leaned into my embrace. There was nothing I could say; nothing any one could say to this hurt. The heat of his anger and fear seeped through his clothes, and the smell of tears and pain was sharp and bitter. I pulled him close and held him through wracks of agony, my tears for him dampening his hair.

"It's nearly over," I whispered into his ear.

He nodded roughly, and stood up abruptly, scrubbing his eyes with the back of his hand. He went to the bathroom, and closed the door, leaving me without a word.

I'd known our history was an insurmountable barrier, despite the careful work I had done to repair the damage. My only mission here tonight was to offer some solace through shared pain, and I had done that. I picked up my gun and was nearly out the door, when he was suddenly and silently behind me. His hand touched my shoulder tentatively. I froze facing the door, electrified by the sensation.

"Good-bye Mulder," I said softly to the door. //I wish things had been different between us, god knows how I wish that.//

"Don't go Alex. Stay for a while." The hand dropped to his side, and I was freed from my paralysis.

I turned, and we stood, nearly face-to-face in the dim light. I nodded mutely.

He stepped back, "Offer you a cup of coffee?"

"I'd like that," and I followed him to the tiny, familiar kitchen. I leaned in the doorway; hand shoved in my jacket pocket and watched the sure, graceful way he went through fluid, practiced motions, completing the task.

He wiped his hands on a towel. As he leaned his hip on the counter, unconsciously mimicking my position in the doorway, he looked at me with an odd expression on his face.

I ventured, "Would you like to talk about it?"

He smiled wanly with amusement at my role as analyst.

"Finally knowing the truth is definitely a two-edged sword. I've been given hope and had it yanked away from me so many times. I keep expecting to be told that the diary was a plant; my mother's not dead; I'd been given a hallucinogen, and the whole thing was another bad LSD trip."

"What happened out there?"

The coffeepot gurgled its announcement that it was ready, and he turned away with his signature ‘impenetrable' look on his face. "Cream and sugar, right?"

"Yeah, that's fine, I'm not as picky as I used to be."

That elicited the genuine smile I had hoped it would. "Sure, ‘Krycek The Fussy'."

I took the proffered cup and sat at the table in the still, dark living room. Mulder sat across the table from me. The cover of dim light made it easier for him to talk, it seemed - not that Mulder had ever had a problem stringing words together. The brilliant mind that had powered him through decades of torment, deceit, and lies, was like a razor, and his flat, lyrical voice held me mesmerized for hours as he recounted the events of the last fortnight.

He came to the end of the tale and paused.

"Incredible," I said softly. "Absolutely in-fucking-credible. You are amazing, Fox Mulder, to have the power to free your mind to believe."

"There's the rub, Alex. After all these years of seeing, Scully still won't believe. She is so anchored, despite all of the things she's experienced, all of times I was right. She actively refused to open herself to the possibilities when I needed her to."

"That cuts the deepest, doesn't it? Years of being contradicted by someone you trust and love, in spite of the proof you've laid at her feet."

Vaguely, he nodded in agreement, looking into the bottom of the empty coffee cup, as if the answer could be read in the grounds like tea leaves.

"I believe you, Mulder. I always did. I understand, and I know."

We stared at each other in the dim light. He seemed to be taking my words and weighing them for their value. "You have the capability to see the dead, Mulder; to extrapolate the whole truth intuitively from mere shreds of evidence. You've been betrayed by others, and you believed *them*, Can't you open yourself to the possibility that I'm more than just a ‘traitor-cum-murderer-rat-bastard-assassin'?"

His eyes almost glowed with anger; the grief and sadness were flaring into an ugly dark thing that I recognized from long experience. I was not going to defend myself: I never did. I prepared myself for the inevitable blows, but they didn't fall. The expression had transmuted into a passion that I hadn't dared hope ever to see in his eyes again.

I stayed still, waiting for a reply. Dawn was pressing against the windows, and the pale light gave him a cold demeanor, as his expression morphed into glittery humor.

"Krycek, you are so full of shit. Do you think that I'm going swoon back into your arms, excuse me, arm, just because you're sympathetic?" The words were vicious but the remark was part of a pavane, a ritual. I was used to his cracks about the state of my limbs by now, anyway.

"I can't stop hoping, Fox, just like you can never stop your quest for the truth."

He snorted, "In your dreams, Krycek. That's it."

"Does that mean I'm not invited back?" The tension let up with the joke, and he smiled.

"If you ever stopped breaking into my apartment, Alex, I would know the world had really finally come to an end."

"Can I take you to breakfast at least? I know this great place out in Falls Church," I said hopefully.

"I'll pass, thanks. I have to drive to Greenwich, close up Mom's house, and see a realtor in a few days, tomorrow. I mean today. Hell, I don't know, soon."

I stood to leave, "OK, take care of yourself, Mulder. Get some sleep before you go. You know the statistics…"

He finished my sentence "…On sleepy drivers, I remember."

"If you want some company, call me." I scribbled my cell number on the closest scrap of paper. "I have no plans, not for a few days anyway." I left without waiting for another rebuff; closed the door quietly behind me and walked rapidly down the hall towards the elevator.

I heard his door reopen. I looked behind me; he was standing in the hallway with a strange look on his face. "Krycek!"

We stood at opposite ends of the familiar hallway staring at each other. This was the perihelion of our orbits, the crystallization and epitome of us.

"Thank you."

I raised my hand in an aborted gesture of half greeting, half farewell and smiled, as the door started to close.

"Sure, Mulder, anytime."

Chapter One: Part Two

I stood staring blankly at the elevator doors for a moment after they had closed before stepping back into my apartment.

It had been a long night, at the end of a long day, finishing up a long week. I lay down on the couch; arm shielding my eyes against the morning sun that streamed obnoxiously in through the window. The pot of coffee we'd drunk was blowing through me full steam; the ramifications of Krycek's visit had my mind in turmoil. Sleep was not an option, so I mulled over Alex-fucking-Krycek and the intertwining of inexplicable relationships. It had been a bizarre trip down a rough road from the first day I met him in his cheezy suit and slicked hair; I didn't want to want him again. He was the picture of marred beauty, and intriguing as ever. There was a time when I had wanted, no *required* him, but I had moved past that, and buried the hurt of that betrayal under the myriad other pains I had suffered.

The self-torture moved on to Samantha. She was safe at last, but the relief commingled with the pain of knowing how she had been terrorized in her last days. Enough to turn a happy girl-child into the wreck of a young woman who had needed to end her own misery.

I took out the diary and read a few pages. The hot salty tears traced burning trails down my face as the conflagration that was my heartache flamed with the realization that my mother and sister, in the end, had suffered the same fates. They could no longer face or fight their own futures, and cut free the thin webs that had held them anchored to the earth. I cried, hard, wracking sobs shaking me, until I was empty of every feeling. I had become a hollow shell that had no meaning or reason. The sad, misguided quest for the supposed truth, begun in the dark past, had determined my fate from the very beginning. I, we, never had a chance; my fathers' truth had become perverted into my own blind crusade. I had, in the end done the same thing he had-pushed my mother away until she faded to black.

I set the diary on the table; my hands laid flat next to it. I stared at it for a few empty moments, before shoving back and going to shower.

The hot water sluiced and steamed over me as I continued to ruminate, returning to the Krycek Problem.

Damn him, anyway. There had been other overtures, tense mini-Yaltas', made to convince Scully and me of his true contrition. I nearly believed him; Scully wasn't so generous. He was as embroiled in this mess as I was. As she was. True, he wasn't so much a victim as a perpetrator, but everyone had to have something they were good at, I said to myself with not a little sarcasm.

The water in the shower had run to lukewarm, so I turned it on cold, and let the chill water cool my scalded flesh. I dressed, and went to the kitchen, in hopes the Refrigerator Fairy had visited along with Alex Krycek. They were about equally probable.

No dice. I closed the door, and contemplated the coffeepot, but man cannot live on Java indefinitely, despite my repeated attempts to prove that theory wrong.

I left the kitchen a little despondent that the ‘fridge X-File I was hoping for had failed to materialize. I was over-tired, jittery and horribly depressed. I looked around the apartment, hoping something had changed and noticed that an envelope had been slipped under the door. I already knew that whoever had made the drop was long gone, they always were, but I opened the door and looked up and down the hallway out of sheer human nature.

Empty, as expected. I shook my head at myself, as I inspected the envelope. The short note was typewritten, itself indicative of its author.

The future, the path is set. She knew that, they both knew that. You will know it too, at the proper time.

Reflexively, I crumpled the note and then threw it on the table; the taunting tone pissed me off. I picked up the diary from the table, and uncovered the discarded envelope with the phone number scribbled on it. Pausing for a second, I considered the convergence of my mother's suicide, the unraveling of Sam's fate, Krycek, and the note. The uttered phrase, "I have no family left; the Consortium destroyed them all, one by one, just like yours," echoed in my head.

Alex Krycek had turned into a cardboard cut out figure -- a plot device -- in my head, years ago. Yet, here was tantalizing evidence that the opaque front the bastard presented was just that, a shield. Was his assertion another lie? Was the sympathy act just that, an act? I didn't want to, I had to. I seized my cell phone and dialed his number; if there was more he could tell me about my own tribulations, I had to know it, and I was not above using the tools that were presented to me. The tiny, straggling stirring of fond recollection of halcyon days whispered and curled around my heart. I shoved it back into its relegated shell.

He answered on the first ring. "Hello, Mulder."

Showoff asshole. "I got a love note from Smoky after you left." Silence for three heartbeats.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. Short and to the point. Scully was only partly right, there was more than cancer involved, I think it was more like Cancer Man." Would his reply reveal complicity? The black thought was, that he was likely to lie, so what ever he said was probably useless.

"Probably so, Mulder. He had a strange obsession with Teena Mulder."

The truth? God damn him, he never did the expected. I decided on a whim to drop a bomb of my own into the skirmish.

"I'm going to scour my mother's house, there has to be something the forensics team missed. Would you like to come with me?"

"Sure, Mulder. Are you certain you can trust me?"

As always, Krycek had a way of getting to the heart of the matter without giving anything back. "Not really, but we have to start somewhere, right?" If the declaration of his feelings wasn't just another lie, then that would hook him.

"Right, a new beginning, eh?" He sounded almost amused. He saw through the transparent parry. How did he always manage to get to me this way?

"Right." My voice dripped with the irony of it all. "So, are you going to come with me, or not?"

"I'm coming, Mulder. But, I'm driving. No way am I making that trip on an airplane with you, and no way I'm going to be caught dead driving around in another Bu-car. Besides, I drive better than you do, even with one arm."

Pushy bastard. "I'm sure I could arrange that. Fine, Krycek. Your car, you're driving. When are you picking me up?"

"I can be ready and back there in two hours."

"Two hours, see you then." I ended the call before he scored any more points. Krycek had an annoying habit of consistently getting to me, and here I was, throwing myself back in the fray. The lure of the possible information he might have was too bright; it glittered out of reach like the proverbial brass ring. Krycek reminded me of a comet - he would swing by, his course seeming at odds with the gravitational forces, and then streak off to the nether regions. I was betting what I wanted was packed inside that icy exterior, and that I could blowtorch my way to it. The whole idea was akin to lazing a stick of dynamite.

I had already arranged weeks' leave with the FBI. I called Scully -- to lay in a little insurance that my body would be eventually found, if things went very wrong. So, I had to ask myself why was it that I had just made plans for Krycek to accompany, nay drive me, to Connecticut? Scully would have come just as easily. She had a huge stake in this too, and she would have been a far less worrisome traveling companion than the company of someone who could be construed as my mortal enemy. No, I was not rewarding Krycek; I was punishing Dana. She had given me conditional assistance at a time when I needed her total support. I love her dearly, but that ‘Science is All' motto was getting a little tiresome right about now; and for what ever else Krycek was or did, it appeared that I needed him for this.

God forgive me, I needed Alex Krycek, although I think I would have died to keep that fact from him.

"Scully."

"Hey, Scully."

"How are you, Mulder? You looked pretty bad yesterday."

"Thanks, I love you too."

"You know what I meant. Did you get any rest last night?"

Insert the sound of me tap dancing around the question. "Yeah, some." If you counted the thirty minutes I laid on the couch. "I feel better. Look, I'm going to go to Greenwich for a few days, close up the house, see a realtor. This time, don't clean off my desk while I'm gone."

"Why, Mulder, I'm shocked that you would think such a thing about me. Not that it doesn't need it though."

"Clean off your own desk, Dana."

"And that would be where exactly?"

"Oh, yeah. Right. Just don't throw anything away, okay?"

"Are you sure you don't want any company, Mulder?"

No sidestepping this one, it would have to be an outright lie. "I'm just going to go get this done. I'll be back in a few days." There would be a scene, and hell to pay, when she figured out that I had taken the company of Alex Krycek over hers, but I hoped that I could eventually explain my reasons why to her satisfaction.

"Mom is going to be disappointed."

I had totally blown off the dinner invite from Mrs. Scully. "Tell her I'll come another time. I'm sure she'll understand. Scully, I'll call you tomorrow from Greenwich, all right?"

"Okay, Mulder, sounds good. Take care of yourself."

"Bye, Scully."

I packed quickly and efficiently from long practice. I cleaned and loaded three guns, packing one. I grabbed the folder of papers from my mother's estate and charged cell batteries, adding them to the collection in the bag. Frowning, I looked at the number Krycek had left; and I slowly added it to the speed dial on the phone. I would never have thought, in a million years, that I would be doing so again. My life is strange, and I never get over the weird synchronicity that rules it.

A soft knock at the door, and I steeled myself to answer. I opened the door, and again, I didn't know whether I should smash in, or kiss his face. I settled for opening the door wide, with a butler-ish sweep of my arm, and a polite bow. "See how nice it is to knock?" He had changed clothes to wool trousers and a silk and cashmere trench coat, the picture of dangerous elegance.

He smiled faintly, "I think I prefer to break in. Can I come back in through the window?"

"From four floors up? With one arm?" I couldn't resist, I never could. I had to get my digs in somehow.

"Can't reveal the tricks of the trade, Mulder." He was smooth and unconcerned by my usual jibe.

"Shall we get this show on the road?" I grabbed my bag and made a quick scan to see if I had missed anything, then locked the door behind me.

As we walked to the elevator he asked, "Sort of a futile gesture, don't you think, Mulder?"

"One has to keep on trying, in the face of the impossible odds. Besides having you with me is the best way to keep the B&E's to a minimum." I punched the button for the first floor.

He laughed that chocolate-over-velvet laugh. "Have you ever considered moving to a more secure facility, like Fort Knox?"

"But then I would never have any company. I'm pretty sure the only reason anyone ever comes over, is to break in; how could I deprive them of that particular joy?"

He had a remote starter; the Lincoln was running and open almost before we left the building. The trunk was opened and the contents of a single suitcase along with its more sinister companions, weapon and rifle cases were arranged neatly inside. The sight of them brought it home to me again that I playing a dangerous game here; I was taking off with a known assassin, and no one was any the wiser.

"Did you bring all your toys?"

He snorted, "It's not nice to tease known felons, Mulder. Shall we go?" I nonchalantly tossed my bag in next to his, as if I took a road trip with Alex Krycek on a weekly basis.

The dark blue sedan with the handicap plates was spotless, and was certainly a far sight more comfortable than my Pontiac. The single modification was an unobtrusive turning knob installed on the steering wheel. I guess he was finally coming to terms with his disability.

"Nice ride, Krycek."

"Yeah, a little chachki left over from my chauffeur days. The former owner seemed to suddenly not require it or me any longer."

Buckled in, Alex powered the car away from the curb smoothly. He really *was* a better driver than I was.

"OK, Mulder, have you eaten today? How about yesterday? I'm placing my bets on probably not."

"Pegged in one, Krycek." His concern was a little disconcerting to me.

"We could junk food it all the way up there, it's nearly a tradition, but I'd much rather stop at this great little truck stop on 95 north of Baltimore. Great burgers, real fries, and the waitresses weren't too hard on the eyes, last I checked."

"Then Truck Stop Burgers it is." I inquired hopefully, "Real Fries? Cherry Coke?"

He glanced at me and grinned. "Cherry Coke, the Real Thing. They make the fries fresh when you order them-- the last of a dying breed, in my estimation."

"I may have to move to Baltimore."

"Oh, please don't." He seemed on the verge of adding something else, but he refrained and I let it drop.

The conversation stayed light and genial through lunch, and we avoided the subject of the letter by unspoken compact. Back in the car, I meant to close my eyes for just a moment, but fell asleep instead. I woke up as he pulled into New Haven for gasoline.

"Hey, feel better?"

I rubbed a hand across my face and glanced at my watch as I yawned, it was nearly seven PM. "I guess I so, look at the time! You shouldn't have let me sleep so long."

"I didn't try very hard to get you to wake up at the last gas stop. You looked like you were actually sleeping for a change."

I kept a bland demeanor as I considered the implication that he would be familiar and concerned with my sleeping habits. "I'll get the gas. Would you like me to drive?" I didn't want to know if he knew the way to my mothers' house. One of those things best left unsaid.

"Sure, that would be great. I'm going to go stretch and abuse the facilities."

I stood in the cool dusk, watching the last tiny remains of the day disappear. I paid for the gas, and picked up a few soft drinks, and took my turn with the key.

I slid behind the wheel, and Alex was already in the car. "Thanks for the Coke, that's just what I needed."

We had agreed to skip dinner and drive straight through. There was a timeless magic in driving at night, as if we had been swallowed by a black hole. The radio was on some Oldies AM station that was skipping out from Chicago and we said nothing of consequence for the hour it took to drive to Greenwich.

I pulled into the driveway, next to the car that stood there. Mom's car. It was going to take some time before I could forgive her for leaving me, definitely not until I had tracked down the party guilty for her torment. Not till I forgave myself.

Krycek retrieved a gun with a silencer from the trunk of the Lincoln, and we stood in at the front door, the darkness covering our drawn weapons. I don't think either of us expected to need them, but past experience had proved us both paranoid. I unlocked the front door, and shoved it open, waited for the wash of emotion to flood over me, nothing.

I turned the lights on; no point in arousing the neighbors' suspicions of a break in. We quickly searched every room on the first floor. Krycek looked like he was cataloguing and committing it all to memory, a stone-hard expression on his face. We met at the foot of the staircase, and I followed him up. Upstairs, the prowl continued through each room, touching nothing. I had briefly lived in the house after my return from Oxford, so it was the last place I had known as home, cold as it was. I opened the door to the room I had occupied, a shrine to my late youth. Looking around the room, it had not changed; my mother had always been a little sentimental. I remembered the room she had put Sam's things in when she moved here. I tried the handle, but it was locked.

"It's locked, I don't remember her locking a door, ever. She has, *had* a thing about locked doors."

"You want me to open it?" Krycek stood close behind me, gun still drawn. I nodded absently as I watched him put away the pistol, and attempt to pop the lock with his ice pick. It should have opened easily; it looked like a standard interior doorknob. He switched to the feeler pick, and after a minute had it open. "Were you a Boy Scout, Krycek?"

"Shut up, Mulder." He managed to sound amused, despite the words. He turned the knob and shoved the door open to reveal a perfectly empty room. I flipped on the light switch, and the room wasn't just empty-- it had been scrubbed clean, and painted. Recently.

I walked in, turned around in the middle of the room, inspecting the blankness. "He did it again, he's mocking me."

"Yeah, he is, Mulder, did you expect any less from him?"

Chapter One: Part Three

Mulder shoved past me out of the room, and down the stairs. I went to the kitchen, and found him standing in front of the open refrigerator door, a blank look on his face.

"Some kindly neighbor cleaned out the refrigerator, Krycek."

"Probably a blessing. Think it was Spender in a domestic mood?"

A sudden fury over took him; he slammed the refrigerator door hard enough that it bounced back open and banged him in the knee. "Fuck! Goddammitall, I am so fucking tired of that man screwing my life over!"

He stormed out the back door, leaving it to swing back and forth in his turbulent wake. I was surprised the neighbors weren't turning up as spectators on the lawn.

I stood there for a minute; I had learned the hard way to avoid Mulder when he was in this state. I closed the door and decided that perhaps dinner would be in order. I was a little hungry, and it was a normal everyday routine that would soak up some of what was going to be a very long night. I rummaged through the drawers. There were a found a few take-out menus, but nothing that sounded very good. I finally located the yellow pages and a place that looked to be both decent and open late. I called, ordered some of everything on the limited menu (hey, a growing boy has to keep up his strength).

I spent a few minutes making closer inspection of the downstairs. Teena Mulder had made this her home, a clean break from Bill Mulder on the outside, but I was betting that she'd had the heart of a conspirator, and there was information or clues hidden in the nooks and crannies of the house. I had been working the angles for a long time; it was hard not to think in terms of collusion. I personally intended to go through every shred of paper.

How prepared are you, Agent Mulder, for the answers you might find?

I scoped out the spare bedroom, retrieved the rest of our bags, and as I finished, the doorbell rang. I paid the delivery boy, with a hefty tip for the quick service then set the box down in the kitchen and started sorting through it.

The front door opened, and in drifted Mulder, red-faced from the chill sea breeze blowing off the bay, his demon somewhat abated.

"Just in time, Mulder. Dinner is served."

"I wondered who was driving away from the house."

"I thought you might be in the mood for a nosh, and once I started ordering I just kind of went overboard." I smiled a little, hoping to reassure him, "Come on Mulder, stop over-analyzing, sit down and lets eat."

The meal was a tense affair. Mulder was still sulking; and the inroads I had made the previous evening seemed to have evaporated. I wasn't sure what to do to break the ice. I would take Mulder and his mood swings no matter what, because I needed, required him. A nice, light non-threatening topic seemed to be in order.

"When is your appointment with the realtor?"

He looked at me with a calculating eye, "Tomorrow at three." He appeared to be marshaling his forces; considering his next gambit. It would never do to underestimate Fox Mulder. Despite the temporary truce, he still was a powerful opponent; he had more than just the obvious weapons at his disposal. "Why did you come here with me?"

No one ever said that he wasn't direct and to the point. "I guess the answer isn't ‘because you asked'?"

"Stop with the wisecracks, Krycek. I want the truth, you know what's at stake."

"That is really the answer, Mulder. You called; I came. Why did you call me?"

We sat across from the table again, in mimicry of the positions we had sat in the night before, but the mood was angrier, less anguished. Lunge, feint, and parry.

His unexpected answer came in a whisper; "I need to know why, Alex. I need to know."

Like a knife blade straight to my heart, I understood in an instant the topic had changed. The rotting wounds we had tried to conceal all these years were to be unwrapped, and displayed for the benefit of each other. The truth was all that would debride our injured souls, causing the gush of blood and puss, so necessary for the healing. But how much of the truth I told him was tricky.

"Same as you, Mulder, family. I was tied to the Consortium, and I had a job to do. They needed to know if Scully would compromise them."

Mulder was boiling, Pompeii about to self-destruct. I had to hurry.

"Listen to me, Mulder." I leaned over the table awkwardly, to grab him, shake his arm. "Listen to me, hear me out." He tensed at the touch, but didn't jerk away.

"When they put Scully with you, they had hoped to turn her into an informant, but the plan failed. Instead, she became your most loyal supporter. So, when they took her away from you, I was there to determine if she was a threat to them. All I could do was tell the truth. Blevins and Smoky were in a power struggle, both Teflon as hell. They kept fighting over her, she stays, she goes, she stays, and she goes. Blevins saw her as a dangerous element, and he wanted her out of the way. Smoky knew a martyr for the cause when he saw one- if Scully was killed, then all bets were off. You would be unstoppable."

"You're telling me that Cancer Man *rescued* Scully?" His face was an icy mask of disbelief.

"Yeah, he did. Blevins had arranged for the snatch. He got to Barry, made him believe that Dana was the One. Blevins was going to kill her outright to prove a point to Smoky. He had it in for Scully, had it in for you, and had it in for your father. I think the only one who escaped his jaundiced eye was your mother. But when I got sent in to provide damage control, I was screwed from the word go. I had no choice in the matter."

Mulder had visibly disheartened while I ranted on, I had successfully distracted his attention away from my intentions; the truth, how ever edited, had served its purpose.

I let him stew for a moment. I picked up the debris and stashed the leftovers in the abused refrigerator. Having dinner with Mulder was a scene of twisted domesticity, and I had to smile at the irony of finally being able to get him on the run for a change.

Unfortunately, smiling was the wrong thing to do at that particular instant, because it was definitely misinterpreted-- he sucker punched me out of the blue, then pinned me up against the refrigerator.

Fuck-- I had hoped we were past this, but Mulder still had a passionate rage burning inside him. My jaw throbbed, and I was tensed to deflect the worst of the blows, but I could not fight back, could not bring myself to strike him. It was a righteous vengeance, and I would not deny him that.

My acceptance of his wrath must have shown in my face, because his anger wavered and flagged, but he didn't release me. I paused for only a split second, before swiftly leaning into kiss him.

I started it chaste and sweet, but Mulder finished it dark and deep-- before he jerked away, stepping back. He flushed red; his lips were shiny wet, and eyes open wide in a look of sweet surprise at his own reaction to the kiss.

It didn't last long- revulsion sank in, and he distanced himself even further, by physically stepping back.

I dared not breathe lest the force of my exhalation blow away the mirage in front of me. Mulder was staring at me, taking my measure, and I returned the favor. I could look at him for hours-- the veiled eyes, the mouth I could well imagine wrapped around my cock. I licked the taste of him off of my lips, and remembered to close my mouth this time.

I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. I cleared my throat. "Its okay, Mulder." I quashed the coiled feelings in my gut, as they threatened to spring forth, and I changed the subject to an even touchier topic. Nothing like going for broke with a non-sequitur.

"When you left, Mulder, I expected you to go charging off to confront Cancer Man."

He snorted and jerked his head. "Scully tried to convince me Mom may have committed suicide, but it was to escape. How coincidental is it that she had cancer? Now I've been given reason to believe that she was a victim." A deranged look gleamed in his eye.

I stepped forward and grabbed him roughly, "Get a grip, Mulder, a note full of innuendo under your door, and a cleaned-out bedroom aren't ‘evidence'."

He deflated a little but the gleam was still there. "Krycek, he may as well have sent me a signed confession. I plan on taking him down, and what's left of the rest of the group with him."

"Then I would say we have a similar goal, Agent Mulder."

Fox William Mulder smiled at that. I think it was the first genuine smile I had received from him in nearly seven years, and its brilliance filled me up near to bursting. How could have time dimmed and tarnished it?

"Krycek. You and me, with a similar goal." His smile was at odds with the slightly derisive tone on his voice.

I diverted my eyes, shuttered away the deserved hurt from my eyes and feigned a nonchalance that I didn't feel. I turned back to him with a defiant attitude. "You might be surprised, Mulder."

"I would be more than surprised, Krycek, I would be stunned."

"And here I thought you were open to extreme possibilities."

"Only in that which is possible." He was smirking a bit, but his eyes glimmered with only the tiniest spark of humor. There were two ways to go here: I could go the Mulder way and lighten the moment with a little well placed levity; or I could go the Russian way, and make the moment mine. I returned the conversation to the serious.

"You and I are bound together in ways I cannot explain further, Mulder. I've told you before, we are the front line in this war." Standing face to face with him, I punctuated my next statement with my finger on his chest. "You need me Mulder, and I need you." I let my voice drop to a whisper at the last, and let my hand rest on his chest. "I need you."

Mulder made a wry face and pulled back, walked to the back door and leaned his head on his raised arm as he peered into the dark.

I was suddenly exhausted, didn't want to go on with this any farther tonight. I thought I had made my point, and there was nothing more I wanted to say. The roller coaster ride for the day was over.

"Good night, Mulder." I left him standing in the kitchen as I went upstairs.

Chapter Two: Part One

Morning had dawned, and I slept through it. I heard bells tolling, and I dreamt I was at another funeral with Scully. The clamoring became louder and louder, the noise more insistent, begging for my attention. I struggled awake and off the couch, as I realized it was the doorbell. I answered the door and was confronted by brilliant sunlight, and a petite young woman I finally recognized as my mothers' next-door neighbor.

"Uh, Hi. I didn't mean to wake you up, it's nearly eleven, I thought, uhm you'd be up by now…" She trailed off, uncertain as to what to say next.

I smiled, and rubbed a hand over my face, "Hi, Moira, right? Don't worry about it. Come in."

She positively glowed when I remembered her name. I didn't have the heart to tell her it was congenital.

"I saw the car in the driveway. I knew you might be coming up from the city, and so I wanted to bring back the house key Teena gave me."

"Is it you I have to thank for cleaning out the refrigerator?"

"Yes, I didn't know how long it would be, and I didn't know what else to do." Tears filled her pale green eyes; they were nearly lime-colored. I don't know how that detail had escaped my notice before.

"I appreciate you doing that, it was very kind." I smiled at her.

"Mr. Mulder, I am so sorry. She was my friend, but your mother. It was so unexpected, I had no idea that she was so unhappy."

I just nodded, I wasn't sure what to say to this young woman, I had yet to deal with my own demons, and wasn't sure how much I should tell her. I was considering the issue when Alex appeared at the top of the staircase. We both turned to watch him slink down the stairs, leashed power personified. He stopped at the bottom landing, dressed in soft fleece shorts and a dark blue T-shirt with the Air Force insignia on it. I barely noticed; the irony would have been humorous, except for the fact that I hadn't ever seen him without his prosthetic arm before. I looked at him, and The Sleeve. The very tip of the amputated limb was peeking out of the T-shirt sleeve. I was very curious; I wanted to look at it and touch it, but that would be giving in to him, and that long-dead need that maybe wasn't as dead and gone as I had pretended. Besides being extremely rude to Moira.

I watched him interact with Moira. He smoothly ignored her reaction to his arm-less sleeve, as he stepped forward introduced himself. "Alex Krycek."

"Moira Phillips, pleased to meet you." She swallowed nervously and looked at me diffidently for some sort of support or information.

"Mr. Krycek is an associate of mine, he offered to come help me with closing up things here."

"Oh, what happened to your other partner, the red headed lady?" I could see that she instantly regretted saying that, chagrin replacing her diffidence.

I smiled at her to put her back at ease; I almost wanted to pat her on the head to calm her down. "Scully is still my partner, she's at the office holding down the fort. Alex is on a, uh assignment. As a courtesy."

"Assignment…" Her eyes flew open, and she looked back and forth at each of us. "Your mom, she didn't commit suicide, did she?" Moira had seen something to color her opinion, or had a pretty intuitive grasp.

Alex cleared his throat, and put on his best FBI persona. It was almost scary to see him transform. "Mrs. Phillips, did anyone question you about what happened here?" He and I were thinking in same vein.

"I had to give a statement to the local police, because I had found her. But no, no one else came to talk to me, Agent Krycek."

There was an exchange of glances as he looked at me, then back at Moira, turning up the charm dial a little with his graveled voice. "Mrs. Phillips, perhaps we can rectify that situation, and ask you a few questions. Will this afternoon be satisfactory?"

She seemed to be responding. "Sure, that'll be fine, the boys won't be home from school until after three-fifteen, so it would be better before then. They tend to monopolize my attention when they are home. Why don't you come this morning?"

"Give us an hour or so, and we'll be there."

Moira Phillips looked tremendously relieved and brightened considerably. "Oh, great! Well, I'll get out of your hair, and nice to meet you, Agent Krycek. I'll see you next door in a few minutes, OK?"

I escorted her to the front door, and waved her off as she bounced on her way back home. I returned to the kitchen where Krycek was making coffee. He spoke without turning around. "The FBI is on the scene inside an hour, and the woman who found her is never questioned. It just gets better and better doesn't it?"

"I'm feeling a lot more philosophical on the subject this morning. It could be that she had nothing material or pertinent. And how are you going to pull off the Agent Krycek routine without a badge, or do I want to know?"

He turned around and speared me with a sharp eye, "I don't think it'll be necessary. With *your help* she assumed I was with the FBI. I don't see any reason to dissuade her of that notion. Keep the ID routine out of it, and we'll get what we're looking for, courtesy of the neighborhood network." I don't think he was very happy with the role he'd been forced to assume. Good.

"Well, ‘Agent' Krycek, I'm going to go take a shower."

"I'll bet you a dollar that she serves us something freshly baked when we get there."

"Sucker bet, Krycek. It's almost a given."

He shoved me a cup of coffee. "Are we dressing formally for the occasion?"

"If you mean am I pulling out the Armani for the next door neighbor, that's a negatory."

He nodded absently, as he frowned, stirring sugar into his coffee, and I cheerfully left him to his thoughts, black, damned or otherwise. I wasn't giving in to last nights' Sara Bernhardt act.

Krycek and I walked next door to the residence of Moira Phillips. He rang the doorbell, and she answered the door immediately, my suspicion was that she had been standing just behind it, waiting.

We were ushered into her formal living room, and seated in the place of honor, on the replica Louis the Fourteenth sofa. I caught his eye and smiled what I thought was my most innocent smile, as she brought out a tray with still-warm cranberry muffins and coffee, chatting away about the tribulations of suburbia. He shot me back a dark look, as we allowed her to go through the motions of pouring us a cup of coffee and passing out plates with muffins. She finished playing mother and looked expectantly at us.

"Mrs. Phillips, I'd like to start with what you remember about the circumstances surrounding the death of my mother. " I had hoped to catch Krycek off guard, but instead of the expected notepad and pen he produced out of his jacket with a flourish a tiny electronic recorder. Moira looked a bit panicked, but he was quick with a reassurance.

"I hope you don't mind, Mrs. Phillips, its just easier for me than pen and paper, and probably more accurate than Mulder's presumably eidetic memory."

Moira looked over at me with a wide guileless look. "Oh, Teena mentioned that, Agent Mulder. She was always talking about you. She was very proud of you."

I looked at the coffee cup, the floor, the muffin-- anywhere but the two pairs of green eyes trained on me. It sliced me to shreds to hear these things from her next door neighbor. Regaining my composure, I looked up at Moira, "Thank you." I cleared my throat. "Can you tell me what you remember?"

She took a little breath, "Well, we were supposed to go on one of our shopping expeditions that day, make a trip into town. I would pick her up in the van, drop the boys at school and go from there. She was quite fond of them, you know. They would come and rake her leaves for her, and she would reward them with cookies." I shifted uncomfortably, but indicated she should continue. Krycek, intentionally avoided looking at me, listened attentively to Moira's tale.

"I pulled out of the driveway, stopped in front of the house and honked once or twice, but she didn't come out. I had to get Kit and Jules to school on time, so I went on and came back after I dropped them off."

She took a sip of coffee, and sighed. Her eyes were glittering and she sniffed gently. " So, I came back and knocked, but she didn't answer. I tried the front door, but it was locked. I thought that was a little odd; you know she never locked the doors." Moira fidgeted in her chair, and toyed with the muffin on the plate in her lap.

"I went around back, thinking that would be open, but it was locked too, and I saw her on the floor through the curtains. I didn't have the key with me-- I had to run home to get it, so I called 911 from there. I grabbed the key and rushed back over there to unlock the door, but she was already gone, had been for a while." The tears ran down her face, and she dabbed at them with the napkin she'd been mangling.

"So the door wasn't chained?"

She shook her head, no, and continued. "The paramedics arrived shortly after I did, and they called it in to the police. I guess they knew she was your mother, because the FBI was here in an hour. You and Agent Scully got here later."

"I'm truly sorry you had to go through that, Moira. I know it was a terrible shock."

"Thank you, but I should be saying that to you. They wouldn't let me back in afterward, when you came. I wanted to pay my respects."

I took her hand and patted it. I knew my mother had lived here long enough to be a fixture in the neighborhood, but it was surprising to realize the extent of the relationships she'd built as her surrogate family to replace that which had been taken away from her by deceit, murder, and anguish.

Alex took over the conversation at this point.

"Mrs. Phillips, did Mrs. Mulder have any visitors before her death?"

"You mean besides her gentleman caller? Not that I can recall, no. Although it was odd, I hadn't seen her friend in a couple of months, and he used to come pretty regularly, oh at least twice a month or so, for about a year."

The hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I knew immediately of whom she was speaking. I watched Krycek's' reaction to this. He seemed to recognize the reference as well, because his face took on a fierce, hard edge.

Krycek continued, "Could you describe him?" Moira was an unmitigated gossip, and he was going to give her all the rope she wanted.

"Oh he was an older gentleman, about her age. I guess. Smoked a lot, which was always puzzling since she didn't allow any one else to smoke in the house at all, I guess she was humoring him. He never stayed long, if you know what I mean. He always left at a decent hour..." Moira's voice trailed off as if she wasn't certain as to how the information might be construed by me. Alex encouraged her along.

"Did Mrs. Mulder ever talk about this visitor?"

"No, I teased her once about her new boyfriend, and she got very miffed, so I never mentioned it again. The thing was, she would always go out and pick up all of the cigarette butts he left in the yard. She was very particular; she would scrub and clean like a maniac after he left, too. I don't know why she just didn't tell him that he couldn't smoke in the house."

Krycek had a look of disgust verging on triumph on his face.

We asked her a few more questions, but it appeared the bulk of the interesting information had been uncovered.

We said our good-byes and thank-yous as we extracted ourselves from the house and the clutches of Moira Phillips, fending off dinner invitations.

The clear cold spring day was brilliant -- a little at odds with the way I felt; thick black thunderclouds were crowding my internal grey landscape. I ignored both the sun and Krycek, as I stormed back to the house. He touched my shoulder and stepped in front of me. "Don't look now but I think we're being watched." I looked at him; the sun in his eyes almost made some of the lies worth believing. Jesus. He cocked his head slightly toward the white Astro Van parked at the end of the street. He and I slowly continued the short walk to the house.

"So we're being watched."

"Probably have the house bugged."

"Likely. Suppose we were followed last night?"

"I would have noticed them following us. Did you see them last night when you went out before dinner?"

"No, I didn't see them then. So is it your phone or mine that's been tapped again?"

"We'll have to do a sweep. Your phone Mulder, it couldn't be mine. I don't have a phone, other than the cell."

"That's a given. Unless it's Scully's."

Krycek stopped dead and gave me the most stunned look I had seen on his face in years. "You called Scully and told her we were coming up here together?"

I chortled, "Alex-chill. She only knows that I'm here."

"So, the fact I'm here is a bonus for them, huh?"

"I guess so. Don't you feel lucky."

"Very."

Chapter Two: Part Two

The house was chill and dark; it had a menacing feel that hadn't been there when we'd left, not an hour ago. I threw my jacket over the back of the chair, and retrieved the sweep from my tool kit upstairs.

Mulder was searching the living room, prowling intently. I started a cover conversation as we searched out and marked the listening devices. "So you said the realtor was coming at three, right?"

"Yes I did. How about some lunch before she gets here?" He thrummed with tension, and I was almost sure that I detected an undercurrent of mischief.

"What did you say her name was?"

"I didn't, and you're not going to believe this one-Starr Meadows."

"No shit, Starr Meadows, Real Estate Agent. I bet she wears a hat?"

"Big enough for two roosters to nest on. Her picture's on her business card." Mulder pulled her card and a notepad out of his jacket. "Here. See for yourself."

I whistled and returned the card to him. "That's some hat, all right. What did you say about lunch? We have leftovers from last night."

"Sounds great." He scribbled down a single word ‘video?' and handed me the notepad, and I shook my head, no I don't think so. "Are you doing the honors, or are you going to trust my skills with the microwave?"

"That might be construed as a suicide attempt by my insurance company, Mulder, forget it. I'll do it."

He laughed and followed me to the kitchen. Our goal was to torture the men in the white van with the inanity of the discussion; and it caused us to have a civilized conversation between us. The shared amusement and the scintillating repartee were warm and familiar, and I had a little shocking glimpse of me with Mulder as a partner for the last eight years. The Alex that could never have been; my fate had been sealed to the Consortium long before my birth. Like Fox Mulder and Jeffrey Spender-the sins of the fathers are visited upon their sons.

We finished eating, and waited for the realtor to arrive. Mulder had thrown himself down on the coach full length, legs crossed at the ankle, and arms folded above his head. He looked like a sybarite at rest. I sat in the recliner next to him, and daydreamed lying against him; pressed against him, indulging in a bit of old fashioned necking.

I must have been staring. He opened an eye and in his driest tone of voice, "Krycek, close your mouth-- you're drooling.'

Oh that was going to go over well on the other end of the tape. Just then the doorbell rang, saving me from any further humiliation.

Starr Meadows was all her tiny picture made her out to be, and more. Flamboyant and fifty, she wore a vivid fuchsia suit, with pink faux alligator shoes and matching handbag. The hat du jour was big and black, its wide brim ornamented with droopy black ostrich feathers.

Fortunately, I got to hang back and watch with amusement, as she fawned over Mulder. She glanced nervously at me, then ignored me afterwards. Mulder and Ms. Meadows went through the house, and I trailed along, making mental notes of a sort different than the room measurements and photos she was taking. We combed the house thoroughly from attic to basement, inspecting every closet and cabinet in every room. When the inspection was over, I browsed through the bookshelves in the living room and let Mulder and Meadows negotiate and sign their papers.

I discovered something about Teena Mulder that hadn't been in any file-she had a thing for French novels and poetry. I flipped through the pages of a few different volumes, thinking that would be too obvious a hiding place. She was smart and well educated, but the time and circumstances had forced her into the life she had led with Bill Mulder. I felt a kinship with Teena Mulder, and as I looked through more books, I was woolgathering on little fantasies of her as my mother, then as my mother in law. What summers at Quonochontaug would have been like as a family.

Any life but the one that I had led to this point. And what was past is present, is future.

Roughly, I slammed shut the book in my hand and shoved it on the shelf, as Mulder escorted Starr Meadows, Real Estate Agent, to the front door. He gave me a pleading look as he went out the front door with her. I smirked, and followed him outside. Starr Meadows, Real Estate Agent had planted a sign near the curb, and was walking back towards us with a lock box.

"Thank you for listing with us, Mr. Mulder, I'm confident this lovely home won't stay on the market for very long."

"No, thank you for taking care of this for me, I hope to hear from you soon." Mulder was wearing that lopsided sardonic grin, which said how much he was enjoying this. They shook hands, and Ms Starr Meadows Real Estate Agent, drove away.

Dusk was falling, and it was getting cooler. We stood together on the front lawn, surveying the neighborhood. The white Astro van was still parked down the street and we watched it for a moment.

"We need to go somewhere and talk, Mulder. Away from the little pictures."

"We need to dunk those ‘little pictures' in a bucket of water. There's no way we can get done what we came here to do with those things running. Besides after today's performance, I'm pretty sure they know we know they are there."

I agreed. "Shall we get to it then?"

"Let's get it on, Krycek."

Chapter Two: Part Three

I decided there was no way I was going to let Krycek loose in my mother's house without me to keep an eye on him. Ms. Meadows had asked that we leave the rooms furnished as they were, and not box up anything until the house was sold, it would help sell the property. That left the attic and basement to go through in the next two days.

We pulled all the listening devices, and rendered them inoperative. Krycek brought his scanner down to the basement.

"Just like home, eh, Mulder?"

"Smart ass."

"What are you looking for, Mulder?"

"I want to look for the reasons, I want to know what my mothers' involvement was in this. I want to find out the truth about her relationship with Spender."

"Do you think her cancer was caused by an implant?"

"She didn't have one when she had her stroke, I had her checked very carefully for that. The shape-shifter that cured her wouldn't tell me if there was anything else."

"You spoke to him then?" Curiosity virtually oozed out of Krycek over that one.

"Later, much later. I think that it would be too much to hope for a diary with names, places and dates; the least I'm hoping for is old papers -- notes, or similar -- from my fathers library. The house at Quonochontaug had nothing more in it, I've been over it a thousand times."

"We should look for an item of a highly personal nature, likely a memento. It may be correspondence, but it won't look like it's anything related to you, Sam or Bill."

Krycek casually dropping my families' names in the familiar caused my gut to tighten. I reached for the nearest box and savaged it as I opened it, imagining that it was Alex Krycek in my hands. He seemed to understand that talking to me now was a fools' errand, and moved to the other side of the basement to start going through boxes. The silence stretched into hours, as we methodically went through box after box.

The whole exercise was torture for me. Years after he was dead, I still had trouble identifying the dad that had been an Indian guide with me, as the Evil Mastermind of the Consortiums' genetics program. It had been a stormy relationship, many times I doubted his liking me very much, but I had always thought he was my father and that he loved me. What would my life have been like if he hadn't died at that very moment? I had intimations that perhaps that was a sham. CancerMan had poisoned my mind with doubts about something that was so basic to my core, the foundation; was William Mulder my father? Was this the way CancerMan was going to neutralize my mission?

I had to question myself again, what was I doing here with Alex Krycek in my mothers' basement? I would almost get used to the idea, and then it would strike me how fucking weird it was. To be here and now with him, side by side, shirtsleeves figuratively rolled, looking for evidence that would possibly illuminate Krycek's tainted motives. And how did I know what motives he truly had? Was he still part of the formula, part of the conspiracy? I just didn't know how much, or how deep yet. But I would know, eventually. If it came from his dying lips, I would know.

"So, Alex, tell me again why you are here?"

He paused in his task and stood up straight in the dim light. "I thought we covered this ground last night?"

"No, you deftly avoided the subject."

He lowered his head and pursed his lips; hand down straight at his side. Inhaling deeply, he released the breath slowly, and then his eyes fixed on mine. "You're the key, Mulder. Smokey knows that now, but he always did have a soft spot for you. Why do you think you got away with half of the crap you've done? Any other FBI agent with your record of arrests and misbehavior would have been dismissed years ago. Is this what you wanted to hear, Agent Mulder? Hadn't you already figured this out?"

The truth rang in my ears and reverberated through to my heart. I recognized it instantly, however it was a truth that was oblique enough that it didn't reveal his true intent.

"For arguments sake let's say that is true, what does that mean to you?"

His voice dipped low and raspy, his glance flickered from me to the floor and back to me again. "I need you."

I wasn't going to drop the subject, but I would let it lie for the moment. I had to respect that he'd given me a piece of himself and a little truth, but what he needed me for was still an open question. Considering the probability that Alex Krycek was pathologically incapable of coming right out with an unexpurgated version of the truth, I had gotten what I was going to get on this tack.

"I'm sick of these boxes. Can we pick it up later, or in the morning?" I felt unaccountably gentle towards Alex, sympathetic to his revelation. That little voice speaking to me from the primal depths of my mind was whispering vague, misty notions. I didn't want to examine this emotion too carefully, wanted to wrap myself with the standard of betrayal and deception. Krycek had kept me off balance for the last two days; it was time to return the favor.

Chapter Three: Part One

I hadn't lied to him.

I did need him. Over the course of the last seven years I had hated him or loved him, but god help me; I needed him. The need I had for him was at war with the way I needed him. I vacillated between the emotional need for him, and the desire for the tool that he had become.

Nodding in assent I turned toward the stairs and met his eyes. What I saw within them was frightening; Mulder's intense, focused persona had been replaced by a wild fanatic, somehow unbalanced by events beyond his control. The files that I had maintained at some cost intimated at this possible conclusion and the spectre before me bore out that deduction.

Mulder had always been like the rock in a stream for me, he stood, implacable while people and earth-shattering change flowed past him. To envision Mulder somehow transmuted shocked me into a snap decision.

I felt as if I was falling into a black hole that had been drawing me closer and nearer my whole life, disoriented by the physical response to the realization that I could not continue to toy with his heart. I firmed my resolve-- this was business, and I tucked away my dainty fantasies of love and redemption, they were not for me, never were, couldn't be.

Closing my eyes against the glare of the bare bulb, I took a shuddery breath in a vain attempt to regain some equilibrium. The tremor passed through me and left me a little weak and light headed.

"Are you all right?" Mulder looked at me with the first glimpse of real concern I had detected in ages.

Oh God, I'm so fucked. Once again-- great idea, too late.

"Yeah, I'm great, fine. I could use a shower and a drink, though."

Mulder being solicitous of my well being was like that rock in the river crumbling into a million tiny pebbles. The currents and eddies were now unfettered in their journey downstream, and they threatened to wash me away. I had the uncomfortable feeling that he *knew* how I was feeling, and I was going to ride the rapids as far as I could go.

I preceded him up the stairs without a second thought of my sweetest rival being at my unprotected back. A sign of how off balance I was --- or was there trust welling up from some deep place I had hidden away until now?

I avoided his eyes and ducked off to the upper regions of the house to shower. I ran the water as hot as possible, and let it burn away the uncertainty. I mused on the last two days. Was it only two days? I had been in the company of Mulder for little more than fourty eight hours, and it had changed me somehow. It had started merely as a comfort thing, and then I realized what the possibilities were here at Mrs. Mulder's; it all dovetailed in so beautifully, how could I resist? Now I was against the wall with my heart in my hand. I had let my own impetuous nature ruin me-I should never have visited Mulder at the DOD surgery lab.

It was likely he had ransacked my mind, and I was ambivalent about that. One half of me was relieved at the possibility there would be no more secrets; the other half of me was entirely disgusted at the whole scenario of Fox Mulder pussyfooting through my memories, hopes and dreams.

Fuck it all. Could he still do it? Had he retained that capability? There had been no cure for his ailment; it had simply remitted into a state of non-being. When did I stop thinking clearly about objectives, benchmarks and security around Mulder?

Maybe I could take this and turn it to my advantage. He seemed pliable and concerned; perhaps I could get something I needed from him.

The shower in the master bath was running. I went downstairs and rambled around a bit, as a niggling thought in the back of my head struggled to make its way to the surface.

I stood in front of the bookcase, and I pulled the copy of Les Mis from the shelf, it was inscribed ‘Happy Mothers Day, Fox' on the flyleaf. It was not a particularly valuable copy, but it was in French, printed in France--a thoughtful gift from a son trying to connect with a distant mother. I leafed through it slowly, and was surprised by the discovery of twelve thin, delicate slips of paper nestled between the pages. The sheets were old onionskin papers, the type they used to use for international airmail. The poems were in written in small neat handwriting, and were also in French. Except:

It wasn't poetry.

My French was a little rusty, but even I could tell the disguised poetry was Teena Mulder recounting the days and tales of a Housewife in the Consortium. Perhaps she thought that Fox would have some sentimental attachment to the book, and had left these in plain sight for him to find if he cared to look. Bingo.

They had laid concealed here for a while; the ink had become glued to the book in spots. I couldn't just take the pages without ripping them, or leaving their ghostly imprint to be deciphered. I would have to take the whole book. I heard a door open upstairs, and I quickly returned the book to its empty slot. I would have to find time later to retrieve the book and cover its disappearance.

Time to apply subterfuge, and distract Mulder. I took another book off another shelf and flopped onto the couch, sighing loudly.

He sauntered down the stairs, wearing jeans and looking decidedly refreshed. He looked askance at the book, but said nothing. I looked and it was upside down. Shit, great cover, Alexei.

Sirens shrieked in the night and shattered the moment.

Mulder pulled the drapes away from the front window, and took a look out into the falling night. The blue and red lights from a police cruiser flashed into the room. He was out the door a heartbeat later, with me hot on his tail, checking my weapon at the table on the door. No point in stupidly being caught with a gun in my possession.

Mulder waded into the thick of the scene, flashing his badge. There were four police cruisers screeching to a halt next door, lights blazing. An ambulance pulled into the fray.

"Fox Mulder, F.B.I, what's going on here, Officer," he paused to look at the man's badge, "Waltermier?"

The local constable was a hard, square man; his blond hair shaved down to the skull. He looked at me briefly, as I tried to look small and inconsequential. He dismissed me as he replied to Mulder.

"There was a hit and run here on the street a few minutes ago. The woman across the street said she saw a white van run down Mrs. Phillips as she was retrieving her mail. Did you see anything?"

Mulder visibly blanched, but managed to reply calmly. "No, we were in the shower." The constable looked slightly disgusted; he had drawn his own conclusions. Mulder walked to the body as he spoke and crouched down to lift the newly laid shroud. Mulder always had to look, as if he was required to witness the devastation personally. I had no such need-- I looked away as he stared at the crumpled form of the woman who had just this morning fed us muffins and coffee, as she had spilled her story.

Coincidence? No way in hell.

Moving aside as the EMT pulled a stretcher next to the dead body of Moira Phillips, I looked around the neighborhood. It had probably been an instantaneous death, and it was certain that the van hadn't slowed down at all.

Chapter Three: Part Two

Krycek had moved back up the driveway, and was leaning against the trunk of the car. I had spoken to the witness, but carefully avoided revealing to Waltermier that I had seen the van there earlier in the day, or that the senseless accident was a warning: a warning to me, to us, to back off. I supplied my card to him with a promise to be available the next day, if he had any further questions.

Full darkness had fallen, and the temperature was dropping rapidly; Krycek looked not at all discomfited by the chill. I leaned next to him on the car, as the ambulance pulled away slowly, colored lights revolving and bouncing off the houses.

His breath was a puff in the air. "Can we considered ourselves suitably cautioned, Mulder?"

I looked at him, and there was no trace of a smirk on his serious face. He looked at me briefly then looked back at the mop up operations going on the street, at the residents standing in small knots up and down the street, as Officer Waltermier was talking to Mr. Phillips. He was standing with the small boys clinging to his legs, trying to console them as the officer consoled him.

I wiped my eyes on the edge of my sleeve, I felt raw and empty. There had been so much death and damage that trailed in the path of my search for the truth, and this latest mortality was just another lash of the whip.

Alex touched my elbow, and looked at me intently.

"You gonna be okay?"

There it was again, that disconcerting concern. I straightened up, and pulled my elbow out of his grasp. His hand was warm on my arm, and caused a shiver of goose bumps down my spine. "Yes, I'll be fine."

I walked to the front door of the house, and Alex stayed out in the driveway, continuing to watch the circus of lights and vehicles with its morbid audience.

The house was obscenely empty. There was nothing here but another dead-end. Even if there were papers, it would take weeks to sift through everything to find them. I was deluding myself. What did it matter if my father was that smoking bastard, Spender? That was my dead mothers' business, now concluded. I had let my emotions lead me here, thinking I was going to get Alex Krycek to spill his secrets, and I knew for a fact if he had any concrete evidence that would aid me, he would never divulge it to me. Or, he would lay the cards on the table in his own good time, if it suited his own purposes. There was nothing that I could do to hasten the process.

The front door opened interrupting my contemplation and Alex stepped through the door. He closed it quietly, and stood there a moment. He walked toward me, his eyes never leaving mine.

He didn't stop until he invaded my space, and we stood face to face, no anger or threat between us. The absence of ire allowed me to look at him unclouded for a brief moment.

The years had aged him as they had me. He wore maturity well, and the anxious cocky boy that I had been saddled with had turned into a cocky man with surety of mission at his core. I raised my hand, aborted the move. Alex saw it and smiled dangerously, then threaded his own hand in mine.

"Holding hands, Krycek?" I had to attempt to keep him off balance.

"No Mulder, holding hand." His smile changed into one of humor; he had one-upped my sniping at the one-armed rat bastard assassin. His smile dissipated into a serious look, and, as he leaned toward me, I thought ‘Jesus god, he's going to kiss me'.

But he didn't. His face touched my cheek, the skin chill from the night air, then he retreated. He let go my hand, stepping away and looking around the room.

"Are we though here, can we leave?"

"I told Officer Waltermier I would be here tomorrow."

He nodded as if that was what he expected to hear.

"So, we're here for another night."

"Looks like it."

"The stakeout won't be back with the heat on out there."

"One could safely assume that."

"Let's get out of here. Get a drink-- I know I need one. Maybe some dinner." He paused and looked at me.

"Life is for the living Mulder, and nothing can change that."

Chapter Three: Part Three

A gentle reminder to Mulder that he shouldn't wallow too deep, or else he'd never get up again. I knew that all too well.

He looked at me with that flat curious look, but agreed. "Yeah, let's get out of here."

Mulder and I went through an oddly comfortable routine of picking up car keys, locking doors, and getting jackets before leaving.

It was time to remind ourselves that though we had been left behind again, it was our duty to continue on; we owed it to those that had passed.

I recalled the Russian restaurant I had seen last night in the yellow pages, and drove us there. I nearly missed it; it was in the basement, with a stairwell down into the establishment.

It was a small, family-run café, with the teenaged offspring as the waitress and busboy, Mother at the cash register, and Papa in the kitchen. The tiny room was walled on one side with mirrors, with vinyl booths lining the wall opposite the lunch counter. An attempt had been made to set the mood for the dinner hour, and the Formica tables were decorated with small candles.

Choosing a booth with my back to the mirrored wall, the waitress brought menus to the table. I spoke to her in Russian, and she blushed, replying in a halting dialect only slightly worse than my own.

I smiled, flirting with her as I ordered a bottle of vodka for me and Mulder, and told her we'd have what ever her Papa felt like cooking tonight. Some places you ordered; some places you went with the flow.

The vodka arrived, and I set about the task of reeling Mulder back into reality, such as it was. The best way had always to get Mulder to start talking about himself, his work, whatever. He steered away from topics that were best not discussed in public, like the recent murder of Mrs. Phillips, and the letter that had brought us to this place. We drank our way through dinner, both of us forgetting that Mulder was a lightweight drinker -- until he stood to leave.

I caught him, and he laughed as he let me drag him to the car. I poured him into the front seat of the car whereupon he appeared to fall asleep immediately, or maybe pass out was a better way of putting it.

I hadn't had as much as him, but I was definitely feeling altered. I get paranoid when I get drunk. The short drive back to the house was a careful trip, and I saw the smoking bastard in every car, on every corner. I had to resist the impulse to run over the pedestrians in an attempt to rid the world of that scourge.

We made it to the house and I opened the passenger door, starting to pull Mulder out. He came alive at that point, and like most drunk men, managed to get his hands all over me. He was like an octopus, whenever I would remove one hand he had another grabbing me.

It was comical, in a way. I had a sudden sympathy for women with drunken dates. I managed to get him to the couch, dumping him unceremoniously onto it, and went to get a glass of water. I drank it down, then filled it up and returned to the couch. Sitting down next to him, I handed him the water. He took a sip, then handed it back to me. "Ugh, water, I never touch the stuff." I set it down on the coffee table, and turned back to Mulder.

I learned long ago that an impulse was merely the subconscious acting on subtle clues and decisions. It was my night for impulsiveness, I couldn't resist the need completely. I reached up and dragged my thumb across his lips, his cheek, and his ear. Clasping my hand around the back of his head, I pulled us together gently, and we kissed, eyes open, each looking at the other.

I could have Mulder-- here he was, drunk as a slut and just as willing. I didn't want him this way, though; I hated taking advantage of intoxicated men or women -- unless the job required it, and this particular man fell outside that category. I had to draw the line of opportunism somewhere. In a way I was setting myself up for failure-if I held to a standard that Mulder come to me sober and of his own free will, then I would have him on my terms, and it guaranteed that it would happen sometime in the next millennium.

Mulder made an inebriated attempt to return the kiss, but it was obvious that he was too far-gone. I grabbed the crocheted afghan off the back of the sofa, and tossed it over him.

"Mulder, you're sloshed. Go to sleep."

"'M not that drunk, Alex."

"Yeah, you are. Sleep it off, and you won't regret it in the morning."

I went upstairs to the room I had co-opted, the frilly yellow guestroom. I stripped down and climbed into the almost too small, twin daybed, then lay awake thinking of the book I had to pinch, and the conundrum of Mulder. Love/Hate/Yes/No, and all the colors of the rainbow in between.

I came awake instantly, and stayed still until I had determined that it was Mulder who was standing at the door. That thought galvanized me as I considered the reasons why Mulder might be standing in my bedroom door; or was I just hoping?

Mulder had the answers this time. He crossed the room decisively and slid into the twin bed with me. It was a tight fit, but I wrapped my arm around him and dragged him closer and then under me.

The questioning look in his eyes now reflected my desire, and with a slow single nod, he agreed.

Permission granted unleashed me. I took hold of his face and kissed him again, this time his tongue like hot silk took command of my mouth and left me breathless. I straddled his legs with my knees, and knelt over him, wrapping my arm around his neck until he was pressed tightly to me, whispering sotto voce to him in Russian. I felt our cocks hard against each other between us.

Fox was not idle, spurred on by adrenaline, or alcohol, he grasped my ass with both hands and ground us together more tightly. He began to rock, and he released my mouth to capture my ear, tracing hot lines that blew to cool, gently biting my neck. I strained up against his hot, hard length, imitating his rocking motion, shoving his T-shirt up out of the way to feel the hard muscle slide under his skin. He ran a hand through my hair, then, seeking and finding a nipple, the bullet-hole puckers and knife scars barely distracting him, he pinched the hard bud in his fingers, sending a jolt straight to my cock.

I kissed him hard; bruising his lips with the force of a passion kept locked away for too long. I slid my hand under the waistband of his shorts, and ran it down his ass, to his inner thighs and up through the crack, tickling the soft hair there. I slid off of him, and stripped his willing body of its garments, wondering briefly why he had chosen to leave them on. A kink? Uncertainty? If it was, I didn't hear him saying no.

I enclosed his balls and the base of his cut prick with my hand and licked the slit clean of its weeping fluid, clear and bitter. It was alike worshipping at the Temple of Mulder; I had finally reached my Mecca. This is what I had waited for.

He groaned, and thrust up with his narrow hips. "God Alex, slow down, you're gonna make me cum."

"Yeah, I know, that's the point, Fox. Shut up and enjoy it." My mouth reclaimed his cock, and I pinned his undulating pelvis to the bed, determined to be in control. The relentless onslaught was overwhelming him, and what guy ever refused a blowjob? None that I ever blew. As promised he came, presaged by sharp jerking thrusts, the spasm causing him to curl up around me. I watched white ejaculate drop onto his stomach, and I slowly stroked down, stretching tight the skin on the head. I slid back up to kiss him, trailing my finger in the cum on his abdomen, drawing tiny figure eights.

As we kissed, Fox shifted so that he was lying beside me on his side, his leg threaded between mine, then he took my still hard cock in his hand, and slowly began to pump. Usually it's difficult to bring off another man by masturbation unless you've had some practice with that individual-but I guess Fox was the pro at this. He watched me carefully until he had what I needed nailed, then he kissed me. I would've been happy with just the knowledge that I had blown Fox William Mulder, but this, the fact alone that it was his hand on my dick was nearly enough to get me off.

I panted into his mouth as I felt myself explode in his hand. We lay silent for a few moments, quivering and damp from semen and sweat. Wedged between the daybed frame and Fox, I wrapped him around me and pulled his leg over me, as I nuzzled between his neck and shoulder. If this was all I was ever going to get, I was damn sure going to take it all.

We kissed, this time slow and languorous, and he began to bathe my face with his tongue in long gentle swipes. I turned my head and presented my neck to him for laving, as I smoothed over his arm, neck and thigh. The sameness was intoxicating, the scent of cum and sweat rising up to envelope us. I traced the lines of his face, now so familiar and yet strange with the uncomplicated sweet bliss showing there now. I wrapped him tighter to me, wondering how this newfound intimacy would change the face of the war.

Chapter Four: Part One

I didn't sleep at all. I'm pretty sure that Alex Krycek, the man whose bed I was currently sharing, didn't sleep either; but we lay together for a while, each politely ignoring the others state of wakefulness.

I thought that I must still be drunk. I had succumbed to the pull of his dark Neptune and let him draw me into the stygian depths of my need. There would be no forgiveness for past transgressions, but they might be burnt from our minds in the pyre of passion that threatened to ignite us both unless tamped down and banked under the ashes of a new paradigm.

The faint dawn of the third day of our adventure limned the room with pale gray light. The changeable early spring had begun the day with drizzly rain. Could I deprive myself of the shocking heat of Alex Krycek? Or, would I go back to the well, dipping in again and again as the need arose?

I moved to get out of bed, and he resisted briefly, then let me slide out. I bent over to pick up my discarded clothes, and Alex put his hand on my ass, rubbing gently.

"We should have left last night." I turned to look at him, and he was sitting on the edge of the bed, an expression that could be mistaken for passiveness, if one missed the tiny, telltale signs of tight control around the eyes. He could not hide it when I wounded him; he never could-- the eyes gave him away every time.

Touching his face, I looked at him with far more compassion than I ever thought I'd have for him and left to go shower off the dried spunk from my belly.

Again, I reconsidered the strange circles my life moved in. I had consummated the long fuse of desire that had sparked and sputtered for nearly a decade, but to what advantage? What would it gain me except carnal knowledge of the man that had murdered my father, or at least the man I considered my father? No good could come of this, but I didn't necessarily regret it. Could I put it behind me now that I had tasted the poisoned apple? There was doubt in my mind about that. Having Alex force me into snuggling like a kitten or a child had fired some instinctive urge inside me.

I finished my shower and heard the other bath running. I stood outside the bathroom door, imagining Alex folding his long, lean form into the hot water, the droplets beading on the smooth, hairless skin. This was not helping at all. I shoved the mental image aside and went to make coffee.

Scrounging around in the kitchen, I found nothing new. I looked around the house, and the enormity of the task of closing it up became suddenly overwhelming. Tears welled up unbidden, and I wiped them with the heel of my hand. The furniture, the clothes, the personal belongings to be packed up or sold off, it was a monumental chore, and I had no siblings to share the pain or to work with. Considering the people in my life to whom I could bequeath these things, I found pen and paper in a drawer, and started a list of things to be done.

Alex came down into the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee and sat next to me at the table, a diffident expression I hadn't seen on his face since he was my erstwhile partner. I looked up and nodded. "Good morning."

He almost smiled and sipped from his cup. "Morning, Mulder."

I had a feeling that with any other sexual encounter he would have been long gone by now, avoiding the small talk and uncomfortable silences. I could have taken Mom's car home; I wouldn't have been stranded. Krycek had never been short on courage, or shirked away from difficult situations. The only conclusion I could draw was that he wanted to stay. It had taken him years to get us to this point why would he bail now?

"What list is that, Mulder?"

"Things I should do to close up the house."

"You should have help with that, Mulder, at least moral support." He was looking at me with such hope-he had grasped the shred of comfort taken last night and was doing his best to weave it into today's whole cloth. I considered the suggestion, tapping the pen against the table. Another bizarre turn in the Byzantine labyrinth.

"What did you have in mind?"

Alex eagerly leaned toward me. "I don't have anywhere I have to be for another day or so, I could help."

Who was this person, and what did he do with my rat bastard traitor assassin? I shoved the tentative list towards him.

"The realtor said to leave the furniture in place, but a mover could take the other things. Salvation Army is always willing to take clothing. We could call an estate dealer to come appraise the lot of furniture, but you'd need to mark that which wasn't included. Don't think a garage sale is a good idea, considering the events of last night-the neighbors are already too freaked out, and it's hard work."

I looked at him in amazement. I had done none of this when my father died; I had been too wrapped up in The Conspiracy to notice that it had fallen on the shoulders of my mother to handle the details of his final affairs.

"So, I gather you've had some experience with this."

"Some." He cocked his head and looked at me. "You've really never had to do anything like it, have you?"

I was suddenly rushed by the onset of emotion-grief, confusion, and something else that I couldn't pinpoint, but I think might have been relief. I couldn't speak, so I shook my head no and tried to keep the tears at bay. Relief that Alex was here to save me? That was pathetic.

He picked up on this, and the expression on his face turned from curiosity to something softer. His right hand stole into mine and squeezed gently, as he continued to look at the list. "I'll get the phone book, see if we can't get some people in here today."

Alex Krycek, man of action. Within the hour he had the Salvation Army, a moving company and three appraisers scheduled to appear the same day.

"Mulder I have to go to the grocery store, this is driving me crazy." Alex muttered to me as he peered over the empty refrigerator door.

"You think we'll be here that much longer?"

"The movers may be coming today, but that is to give us an estimate, and leave boxes. You didn't think they would pack things today?"

Us, he used the word us in that sentence, and he wanted to go to the grocery store. I really didn't know Alex Krycek at all. "No, I guess not."

"Why don't you wait here, and I'll go get a few things; we'll eat in tonight."

Alex left to go to the grocery store, and I was alone here in the house. Very strange being alone after two and half days of constant companionship. I suddenly realized I hadn't talked to Scully since Thursday. She would call me if she was worried, but she had no idea that I was camping out and fraternizing with Public Enemy #1. I called her on the cell phone.

"Scully."

"What are you wearing?"

"Sweat suit. Gym shoes, Eau de Sweat. How about you? How are you?"

I'm fine, Scully- I just had sex with Alex Krycek, how are you? "I'm fine, just waiting on appraisers and the Salvation Army to come to the house."

"I'm impressed, Mulder, I was sure you were going to call me in a panic sometime yesterday."

"Things seem to be okay. I might be here another day or two, depending on the movers. I'm going to have most of the papers and things sent down to DC and deal with them there. The rest I'm leaving until after the house sells."

"You sound like you have it all under control. Mom says hi, sorry she missed you, but she understands."

Actually Scully, Alex has it all under control, and I'm trailing in his wake, and let's not mention the dead next-door neighbor. "Good. Scully, can you do me a favor, and look up a few listings for storage places in Alexandria?"

"Sure Mulder, hold on a minute."

She rattled off a few numbers, and I scribbled them down. "Thanks Scully, that's great. I'll see you later."

"Bye, Mulder."

I ended the call, and immediately the phone rang; the real estate agent wanted to show the house this afternoon. I mentioned the other appointments Alex had scheduled, but she didn't think it was a problem. I didn't mention to her either that the next-door neighbor had been run down and killed last night.

Chapter Four: Part Two

I left Mulder behind gaping like a fish out of water. I mused on the events of the last thirty-six hours, any time spent with Mulder always seems as if it's paradoxically compressed and distended at the time.

I couldn't let myself be hurt by his rejection of me this morning. I understood when he had climbed into my bed that it wouldn't-couldn't-- last past dawn. Drifting over the few moments I'd had in his arms, I reveled in the warmth and safety of his embrace, the few intimacies I'd been allowed. I had wanted more, but my intuition told me that although Mulder could blow off a simple case of fellatio (pardon the pun), more than that his psyche couldn't handle. Top or bottom, male sex changes the way you think about yourself, and Mulder still had to function out there in the real world, or at least, function as much as he ever did. Assuming that he hadn't already been initiated into the lifestyle, something I didn't really want to think about particularly.

The fact the Mulder had come to me of his own free will, just as I had hoped, meant he might do it again. Or of course it was even odds he would shoot me on sight when I returned. I was going to hope for the former and avoid the latter, if possible.

I had taken the book this morning while he was in the shower, and carefully rearranged the remaining volumes to fill the gap, not disturbing the light layer of dust. I had no idea what might be revealed by those texts, but I wasn't going to leave it behind and find out later there was crucial information in it.

I also had no reason to believe that despite our truce, Mulder wouldn't be pawing through my stuff while I was gone, so I took it with me, and started to shove it under the drivers' seat. I remembered other documents found in a similar position, an uncomfortable reminder of the bad old days and I was going to do my best to make sure that Mulder never realized it was missing, until I was ready for him to know. I cruised by the local post office, and mailed it to myself-out of sight, out of mind -- leaving me free to deal with Mulder.

I desperately wanted more--I had wanted him to stay in that tiny bed, to explore him and learn all of his idiosyncrasies, then have him discover mine. It had been a good decade since I had been safe and warm in the arms of a lover, and I was suddenly addicted. A vision rose up, of us snuggled on the couch watching a video, with popcorn and a beer. I smirked, where would I find any pornography to suit his exotic taste? Gay Porn? I laughed out loud at the look I imagined on his face.

The afternoon was spent with a parade of appraisers and movers coming through the house, when an unexpected Ms. Starr Meadow, Real Estate Agent pulled up to the house in a gleaming maroon limousine that disgorged a family with children in tow. She must have called when I was gone. I retreated to the kitchen, ostensibly to cook, but essentially to escape.

She and the family greeted Mulder, and he chatted with them for a moment before they began their tour. I was arm deep in beef stew and ready-to-bake bread, when they breezed through the kitchen.

I don't know why I made Ms. Meadows nervous, but she avoided eye contact with me. The parents smiled politely and moved along with her, but the children were quite curious about my left arm, until I dispensed cookies from a package I had splurged on, and urged them to follow their parents.

I glanced up to find Mulder laughing at me from the doorway. I grimaced at being caught, and felt a flush rise up the back of my neck.

"Krycek, how cute."

"Would you rather I shoot them with the 9mm?" I gave him a dark look, warning him to not fuck with me.

"Not at all, Krycek, I'm serious, it was cute. You looked very happy."

I resisted the urge to slam and bang the pots, and then shoot Mulder with said 9mm. I approached him menacingly. "Mulder there are some things about me that I refuse to have you besmirch with your sarcastic humor." I looked down and realized I was threatening him with the wooden spoon in my hand.

That sent Mulder into gales of laughter. Chagrined, I shoved him out the door and locked it. "And stay out!" I yelled to the retreating laughter on the other side.

I had just finished the few things I had going in the kitchen, when I heard the doorbell ring. I was curious, and unlocked the door, peering out just in time to see Mulder go out the front door. Walking to the window, I saw him in conversation with Officer Waltermier on the front lawn. I had hoped to keep a low profile despite the events of last night, so I stayed put until he specifically asked to see me.

Which he didn't; Mulder came in unaccompanied, as the black and white pulled away from the curb.

"How did you fend him off from questioning me?"

"Neither of us is a material witness-we went outside just as they drove up, minutes after the accident. He just came by as a courtesy since he had asked me to stay."

"Kinda had you hanging on a string all day."

"Probably was busy, I could've called him at any time if we were going to leave."

Ms. Meadows and the prospective buyers came down the stairs as we were standing in the foyer. I drifted into the other room to let them conclude their visit, and they left shortly after.

"Supper will be ready in a while." I was leaning on the counter having a much-needed beer. I offered him one, and he accepted it gratefully.

"Smells good. I'm seeing a whole other side of you today, Alex." His tone wasn't sarcastic, but there was a hint of humor lurking in his face. "What gives with the Mrs. Cleaver thing you have going here?"

I really didn't want to give him any more ammunition than he already had.

Mulder walked over to me, and stood in front of me, straddling my thighs with his legs. He gave me that look-the one I had dreamed about for years, and had set aside with all the other fantasies I had been playing with all day. My heart leapt into my throat. I had always thought that phase was meaningless until this moment. Standing here, it struck me that we kept coming back to the same places and poses.

I leaned in and kissed him. The only contact between us was our thighs where the heat was seeping into the denim, and our mouths that were ardently intertwined.

"I want another, Mulder." I put my beer down on the counter and reached my hand around his head, pulling him back to me for another kiss. I tasted his mouth, beer and Mulder, slid my tongue over his. I could get lost in this feeling.

I nearly did-I started when the timer on the oven went off, reminding me the bread was done. Mulder grinned and stepped aside, sitting astride a kitchen chair watching me as I took the bread out and removed it from the pan.

"I'm not kidding, you should have seen the look on your face when you were talking to those kids."

"They just reminded me of some," I paused, "some family, that's all."

"I liked it. It was a very different Alex than I'm used to seeing."

If the Donna Reed act was what it took to get Mulder in my pocket, I would have done it years ago.

"This whole scenario has a surreal feeling, don't you think, Krycek? You me, this house, the last three days?" Mulder was making Mulder conversation.

"Sure it is, Mulder, let's eat."

"You sure know how to kill a conversation; that's for sure."

I made a face at him as I ladled the stew into bowls and sliced the warm bread into thick slices, setting it on the table. I slathered the bread with butter and began to salt it.

"What are you doing?"

"You should try it." I handed him the piece of bread in my hand, and prepared another for myself.

He looked at it. "Where did you get this idea?"

"James Beard. ‘Theory and Practice of Good Cooking', very enlightening book, you should read it sometime."

"Will wonders never cease."

I shot him a glowering look. "Look, Mulder get over it. I have a life, and that includes cooking and family. Like any other human being."

He shook his head and took a bite of the still warm bread, with butter and salt. "Hey, that is good."

"See? Don't knock it ‘til you try it."

We finished the quiet meal-at least tonight Mulder wasn't sulking. His good-natured sniping wasn't to be taken to heart, and I felt on top of the world. I was going to forget the envelope, Moira Phillips, Spender, the book-- all of it for a few hours while I basked in some long overdue Mulder-indulgence.

I hadn't quite had the balls to rent pornography, gay or otherwise; and I had no intention of getting one of Ed Wood's greatest hits with which to amuse Mulder. We'd just have to entertain ourselves.

Mulder had stretched out on the sofa, and I was looking over the small stereo. There was a turntable, and vinyl, and I dug through the stack, and found an old black slipcase-Jackie Gleasons' Music for Lovers. You had to wonder what *he* thought that should be. Out of perverse curiosity, I put it on, and skimmed through a couple of tracks.

"No, not that. Mom used to drive me nuts with that stuff, she loved it." I turned around and Mulder had his arm over his eyes, I couldn't see if that was upset crazy or annoyed crazy.

I hadn't considered that, of course, he would be familiar with it. Seeing nothing else of interest in the collection of old lady albums, I switched on the radio, and found a Chopin piano Etude; the exact one escaped me momentarily. I left it after hearing no complaints from the audience.

Standing across the room I surveyed the unaccountable cozy scene-- dinner, me playing with the stereo, and Mulder lying there looking at me. I took it as an invitation. He didn't move as I walked toward him, so I lay next to him.

It was damned uncomfortable with the prosthesis underneath me, squirming to shift it and find a place where it wasn't jabbing me.

"Can I take it off you?"

He wanted control of the situation, and I gave it to him, put myself in his hands, He sat up and pulled me upright next to him, then pulled my shirt over my head, undressing me like a rag doll. The straps were manipulated one by one, until the artificial limb slid to the floor.

There was a moment of panic, I was fine with it and okay without it, but the unveiling scared me. Mulder pulled off the tee shirt I wore under the straps, and explored the amputation site.

It was strangely amatory. His curiosity was power of its own, and I sat still, letting it and him wash over me. Other lovers had ignored the missing limb, but Mulder focused on it, included it as a perverse erotic zone. Was I sick for enjoying it, or was he the one with the problem?

Mulder drove on, spiraled into frenzy, some demon need fueling his attack on me-for that is what it was-an attack. Some part of me accepted this passionate violation, but it was too reminiscent of other tawdry liaisons that I didn't want to bleed into this the culmination of years of dreams.

But there was no dissuading him from his intent. I bore the calenture with as much grace as possible, but it never occurred to me to say ‘no'. In the end he twisted my arm behind me, rode me hard; the sharp nip of his teeth not quite drawing blood. The physical wounds were painful, but not serious enough to warrant professional attention. In the past, rough trade was a commodity I had engaged in and managed to live through. I was a vessel into which Mulder poured his ire, and I needed it as much as he did. The blood and pain were endured, but the real torment was Mulder's corruption of emotion; the perversion of my dreams into something ugly was more than I could bear.

Chapter Four: Part Three

"Mulder, I have to go."

Krycek shifted uncomfortably, he appeared to be in some pain. I can't say his wanting to leave was any surprise; I knew he was eventually going to take off. The surprise was that he told me in advance rather than disappearing without comment. I looked at him; he was looking for permission to leave.

I honestly didn't know if I wanted him to stay, or not. The sex had the added benefit of knowing that it was Krycek I was fucking into submission. Beyond the sex, I'd had an opportunity to see a trace of the other Alex; the one who fed cookies to small children with a smile, cooked dinner and offered his support to me when I needed help.

I should feel like a heel- using sex as a tool of retribution. I had been more than a little rough, but at the time it felt right, he had responded to the mistreatment. Should I examine my motives for wanting to assert dominance over him, or should I investigate his submission to the pain?

If he left, I would be forced into introspection, and though I could ascribe my motives all too easily to punishment and revenge, there were deeper, uglier interpretations of those needs.

"Mulder, did you hear me?" His voice was raspy like cigarettes and whiskey, or sleep and sex, rubbing over me.

"Are you going because of this?" I traced the bite marks and the faint discolorations that would soon become bruises. He hadn't complained at the time.

He shrugged off the caress, and gave me a disparaging look. "I told you I didn't have to be anywhere for a few days, it's just that those few days are up--that's all."

I licked a bite mark and slithered closer to him, gathering him closer to me and rubbing my nakedness against him. "Do you have to go right now?"

He half smiled at that, his dangerous smirk had returned. "I can stay a little longer, I think."

~~~~~~~oo(O)oo~~~~~~~

A week, two-- a month passed. The comet Krycek had completed its course through my orbit and had taken off to the nether regions of space; the icy core reduced by proximity to heat, but essentially untouched-- though I had been burnt by his passage. His essential being and my need for him had been seared into me, like the afterimage of a light imprinted onto a retina. Krycek had disappeared without a trace, no bubbles rising to the surface of slimy ponds, no scent of sex and leather curled on the incipient breeze.

Until today.

The plain brown package had been hand-delivered. The square, block letters and the fact that it was inside on the apartment floor boldly announced the author as Krycek. I tossed the keys on the table, and my coat over the back of the chair as I sat down and inspected the package, turning it over in my hands.

I ripped the brown paper, and looked at the book. I opened it to the flyleaf, and a packet of folded papers fell onto the table. Son-of-a-bitch. My mothers' copy of Les Mis-I hadn't thought of that book in years. I'd found it in a used bookstore at Oxford and sent it to her, then promptly forgotten it for nearly two decades.

It annoyed me that he had taken the book; surely he hadn't read it. I opened the folded papers and read the note, his distinctive handwriting screaming at me from the paper. His note to me allowed as his French had been rusty, and he hadn't wanted any of his contacts to read this, which is why it had taken him a month to brush up and find out if the papers were important or not.

I shuffled through the remainder of the sheaf to discover the thin, brittle pages with my mother's handwriting on them, accompanied by his presumed translation. When had he taken the book, when had he found it? Had he let me abuse him because he felt guilty? That was actually a given-but in his mind, for which transgression had I been punishing him?

Shit. The master of deception had taken me in, again. I had been fooled by his entire act, used again. No wonder I had not accomplished anything that weekend, again I had been subverted by that rat bastard traitor, distracted and duped. There was no way I could be certain he hadn't twisted the translation to subtlety change the meaning of my mother's letters.

I knew I couldn't trust him-There we were, scrounging through the basement and all along he knew what we were looking for was in the bookcase upstairs. Never mind it would have taken me months longer to translate it than he had taken… I suppose if it'd had any real information within its leaves, I would never have seen the book again, never realize it was missing.

Oh damn it all to fucking hell. Alternate Scenario: he understands what's in the diary, translates it faster than I could have, and returns to me intact with no one but him the wiser.

Alternate Scenario Two: He leaves it on the bookcase, I never find the book, and it gets sold off as part of a lot to a used book dealer.

Alternate scenario Three: I find him with the book, and I kill him then and there. Finis, the end, kaput.

I couldn't think about that. I had wanted to bring him to a violent end for a long time, and it was possible I would want to do that again in the future.

Right now all I could do was remember the look on his face as he reveled in the joy of playing house that day in Greenwich, and how I had made certain to debase that memory for him with my own arrogant compulsions.

I had known Alex Krycek, and had discounted the man I found under the façade. The passion that could have burnt the doubts to ashes had failed to burn brightly enough to melt the chains of guilt.

Epilogue: I'm Alive

And so it comes to this.

It is the kind of a day made for a fairy tale, or a movie: Camelot could be over the next hill, with the Knights of the Round Table streaming forth, standards flying in the brisk wind.

But that's a fantasy from another century. This tale is about the future apocalypse: famines, disease, war, take your pick. They are all paradigms for tomorrow. Too little, too late, too bad.

A tableau is posed thus: Two men face one another at fifty yards. The incandescent sun shines down on them, and the winds ruffle their hair, but their aim is rock steady. Sig Sauer VS Glock. Professional facing Professional, the anger, hate and bile of betrayal and abuse, poisoning the wellsprings of their souls.

Neither holds the high ground here, their karmic equilibrium has been met. They are each sick with the fear the other was right, hate the emotions engendered by their counterpart, until they have no choice but to ritualize their mutual destruction.

Joint Sepukku by post-modern ronin.

There are no seconds, they have only themselves to rely on -- or their beloved adversary. They are the epitome of their beliefs, and they are ironically aware of how fine a line separate their philosophies.

At some imperceptible signal, they fire, hoping to obliterate that which they had seen in themselves, and found untenable.

One bullet rockets forth and finds its new home in the fevered hot flesh of the intended target. He staggers and falls, scarlet fluid oozing onto the dry grass, staining it dark and black.

The shooter gapes in disbelief: his opponent had not even attempted to fire. He runs to the other, falling on his knees as he reaches the prone figure of his victim. He pulls the injured combatant into his lap roughly, smoothing the ashen forehead and cradling him close.

Purification. He had finally done that which he had threatened to, needed to do for so long, and that horrific realization flamed his soul, cleansing it of the ichor. Carbonizing desire into sharp diamond pricks, clarifying his need for the broken dark man that lay at his feet. The sacrificial lamb to their struggle.

Catharsis. The pain laved his injured soul with the cool waters of redemption. This wound had released him from his tattered bonds, and if he could heal, he would now be able to go forth and seek his shining fortune, his future. He turned his head to cough, and saw his blood blotting the sod.

The shooter stroked the face of the other as he struggled to open his eyes, to look upon the face of the archangel bending over him.

"Oh, Mulder. God, I am so sorry."

"Yeah, Alex. Me too."

Their lips met in an invocation of faith and hope, which cried to the beloved future.

~fini~


Notes

Fandom: X-Files

Category/Rated: Slash, Adult

Year/Length: 2002/ ~20,900 words

Pairing: Mulder/Krycek

Spoilers: Sure, why not. Assume everything up to and including "Closure"

Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit, only having fun.

Warning: Possibly some non con, if Krycek weren't a subby bitch.

Summary: Alex and Mulder crash into each other, and around New England.

Author's Notes: This is basically my first fanfiction, took me nearly 2 years to write (and is still deeply flawed), and the prologue was previously posted as a test, foot in the pool as it were. The POV swings wildly back and forth, in the first person. "Old and Wise" and "Prime Time" are titles borrowed from Alan Parsons Project, and "I'm Alive" from Seal-- all three were the inspirations used to write this.

Beta: Thanks to Sue for her relentless nagging, and superlative beta. It literally would have never been finished without her dire threats. :o) Thank you to Jami as well, and she knows why.

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