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The Lateness of the Hour
by Cody Nelson


Alex Krycek shifted slightly, trying to ease the pain in his lower back. The movement only sent sharp pains radiating from his spine. He swore silently to himself and tried to relax. He wasn't used to lying on his side—his left side, especially, on top of the ruined stump of his left shoulder. In the early days after the accident (he called it an "accident" even though it had been no accident, because he didn't like to name it what it really was: his maiming. His disfigurement), when the stump was still healing and tender, he'd learned to avoid lying on his left side at all costs. And even now, when it was nothing but hard, scarred flesh, with less feeling than his undamaged shoulder, he still didn't like to lie on it. It was, well, a hard lump of flesh—it was uncomfortable, it was like lying on a baseball, and he didn't like the too-obvious reminder that there was no arm attached to that shoulder. And besides, it had been a long flight back from Russia, in coach, his back already aching when he arrived. And getting his butt thoroughly reamed out from behind, while it had felt absolutely wonderful in a hundred other ways, had not exactly been kind to his poor back.

But, oh god, he did not want to move. Because Fox Mulder was curled up behind him, the length of his lean, strong body pressed into Krycek's back, arm wrapped around his waist, with an elbow pressing into his belly and two fingers curled tantalizingly close to his left nipple, and warm breath tickling his ear. And this was only the second time he'd ever lain with Mulder, hazy and content in the afterglow of sex, and while twice was so much sweeter and more wondrous than once, he was still wary of it, still half-expecting Mulder to turn angry and cold and order him out of his bed and out of his life, sneering at him, voice heavy with hatred, saying, No, I don't want you, I lied, this is betrayal, how do you like it? The feel of Mulder, flesh and skin and the soft fuzzy hairs of his chest and groin, the sinew of arm and thigh and shoulder—it was magic, and Krycek did not want to break the contact, did not want to move away from Mulder, for fear that the spell would be broken and he would never feel it again.

But his back was killing him. Sighing, he shifted again, hoping to move slowly and easily onto his stomach, to keep Mulder's arm around him, not to wake him. But the movement sent shooting pains down his spine, and he gasped and jerked and flopped over onto his belly like a landed fish.

He brought Mulder over with him—arm now trapped, in a way that must be uncomfortable, under Krycek's chest, one of Mulder's thighs jammed between his legs, chest squarely on top of the stump of Krycek's left arm. It had been a vain enough hope to try to move at all without waking a light sleeper like Mulder; this would surely wake the dead. And Mulder was moving, now, pulling his arm free, lifting himself from Krycek's collapsed body.

Gentle fingers brushed the hair at the back of his neck, sending pleasant shivers down his spine. Mulder whispered, "Alex? You okay?"

Alex. Oh god, Mulder hadn't called him Alex since—since the day he'd borrowed Krycek's car keys and driven straight into Krycek's betrayal. Since Krycek's final, horrible day in the FBI. Alex.

"Yeah," he managed to whisper back. "Back's a little sore."

"Where?" Mulder's hand drifted down his spine, to lay flat and warm over the precise spot where strained muscles still twitched. "Here?"

"Yeah."

Mulder settled half on top of him, one leg curled comfortably across Krycek's thighs, the stump of Krycek's lost arm tucked into the hollow of his armpit. He brought his cheek down to rest on Krycek's shoulder, and began to move his hand, fingers and thumb kneading, working the sore muscles.

"Ooh—" It felt good. It felt too good, too gentle, too generous—tears filled Krycek's eyes. He wanted to tell Mulder to stop, but he couldn't possibly. He pressed his face into the pillow and bit back sobs.

Deep breaths, he ordered himself. One, two, three. Count to ten; relax. Yes, that was better. Mulder's hand stroked, massaged, and Krycek settled into it. Thumb and fingers pressed firmly into the muscles alongside Krycek's spine, into the hollow at the small of his back, the upward curve of his backbone as it led to the crevice between his buttocks....

Eventually, Mulder's hand strayed lower, no longer massaging, but stroking, teasing, cupping the round buttocks as they met sturdy thighs. Krycek smiled into the pillow and relaxed further, feeling the first pleasant tingles of arousal in his groin. Surely Mulder was too spent to want him again so soon—and that was fine; Krycek was, too—but let him play, let him enjoy the body he'd taken. Being used for sex Krycek understood, or at least he thought he did, where nothing else between him and Mulder made the least bit of sense. He hardly knew why he was here, except that Mulder had wanted him to come back after his errand to Russia, and it had seemed important to give Mulder what he wanted, as long as it didn't do any harm. That was the thing, though—what harm would come of it? You never really knew, where Mulder was concerned. Pain could come streaking out of the strangest places without warning, where Mulder was concerned.

Still, he'd come back, despite the risk, to see whether they might somehow exorcise the demons of the past. And there were two reasons he'd thought that risk was worth taking.

The first was what had happened after they'd had sex the first time. It had been a revenge fuck, plain and simple—he and Mulder both knew it. And that was fine with Krycek. Mulder was still searching for some way to take out his anger on Krycek; some way to ease the burning in his soul for the betrayals, the murders, the lies, the pain. In other days, Krycek had let Mulder hit him, hoping that would assuage his need to even the score, until it had become clear that no amount of beating would ever be enough, and Krycek had finally put a stop to it. So then Mulder had wanted to try sex—well, fine. At least it wasn't violent. Oh, there had been a little dirty talk. A yank on the balls. And a good, hard fucking. Not even what Krycek would call rough trade. And afterward, if Mulder had thrown him out of bed and sent him on his way, he'd have gone away satisfied that just a tiny bit of penance had been paid.

But Mulder hadn't thrown him out. Nor had he gone to sleep the rest of the night in the other room, or even moved away to lie on the other side of the bed. No, Mulder had flung his arm across Krycek's back, settled down half on top of him, and gone to sleep. And Krycek didn't know what it meant, but he did know that it hadn't seemed quite so much like a revenge fuck any more.

And the second reason was Mulder's reaction to the accident—Krycek's lost arm, and its prosthetic replacement—which was pure Mulder, and a balm to Krycek's wounded soul. Curious, as he was about everything. Practical. Matter of fact. Do you want to take it off? he'd asked about the prosthesis. And, I don't mind it. I just thought you might be more comfortable without it. And tonight it had been: How do you get this off? I want you naked. Really naked. The prosthesis now lay on Mulder's chest of drawers, of no more interest, after a brief inspection, than the shoes and underwear lying in the floor. No shock, no horror, no pity. No cruel taunting, which was what Krycek had really expected. So they cut off your arm—well, you deserved it, you murdering rat-bastard. At least you're still alive, which is more than you can say for my father. How many times had he heard those words from the Mulder in his mind? How many accusations, how many confrontations, in which Mulder saw the stump for the first time, grinned viciously, and laughed? Now your body's deformed, just like your black soul.

But, as it turned out, those were Krycek's accusations, not Mulder's. What did it feel like? was what Mulder had asked. And he had listened to Krycek's answer; his hopelessly inadequate attempt to explain what it had felt like to be held down on hard, frozen ground by half a dozen one-armed men, and to have his arm hacked off with a knife. And then Mulder had kissed him, and made love to him, and the lost arm had been insignificant, of no concern at all.


So Krycek had come back. After seeing Dmitri safely to his new home in Russia, he'd come back to D.C. and straight to Mulder's apartment, scared shitless that Mulder had come to his senses in the meanwhile and would just slam the door in his face. But no—Mulder had pulled him inside, trembling like a schoolboy who can't believe the Prom Queen wants him, and taken him to bed for another fucking even harder than the first. And despite the fact that it made his back ache, he couldn't be more glad.


He could nearly drift off to sleep like this, being stroked and petted. The shooting pains in his back had eased, leaving only a little stiffness. A good night's sleep in a comfortable bed and he'd be good as new.

—And then Mulder's roving fingers slipped between Krycek's buttocks, sliding through the lubricant that remained from the time before, teasing at his anus. Krycek squirmed and giggled. Randy devil, Mulder, he thought.

Mulder brought his mouth next to Krycek's ear, and whispered softly, "I want to fuck you."

It was the third time Krycek had heard those words from Mulder. The first time, three weeks ago, they had been harsh, almost a curse. Tonight, when Krycek had first arrived, a desperate plea. Now, a heated whisper, a come-on, an invitation. And each time, an electric current through Krycek's body. He could feel his hips rising in response.

But. "Love to, Mulder. But my back is killing me. I don't think I can take another fucking like that tonight."

Mulder's finger pushed in, wriggling. Krycek's fingers curled, digging into the mattress.

"I'll go easy this time," Mulder offered. Still in that hot, smoky whisper, moist words directly into Krycek's ear. So. Offer Mulder a blow job? Tell him to go to sleep? Or... ?

Hips tipped up, half on his knees, hand braced against the wall to keep himself from being slammed into it by Mulder's thrusts, cock driving into him, so deep he could almost feel it in his throat....

"Easy, huh?"

"Promise."

Alex sighed. "Fuck me, Mulder."


And that was one of the dangers—it was just too easy to say yes to Mulder. Yes, I'll let you fuck me. Yes, I'll stay. Yes, I'll make things right between us. Too easy. Too tempting to let it go too far, to cross the thin, thin line he was walking between Mulder and his employers. Yes, I'll tell you what your enemies are up to. Yes, I'll help you fight them. Mulder would ask for too much, not knowing what it could cost them, and any answer Krycek might give could make it all fall apart. Yes, I'll risk my life and your life and the lives of everyone on the planet to make you feel good.... Too damned much was at stake for him to let his guard down. He'd made too many mistakes already.

—Oh, god, that felt good. Mulder's long, slender fingers, cool and slick with lubricant, eased into him. He was still relaxed from the time before, warm and happy, ready for it to happen again, and again—

And he could try, but there was really no hope he could prevent the Syndicate from finding out he was seeing Mulder. They'd try to stop him, or worse—they'd expect him to spy on Mulder. It would be like the FBI all over again, except that this time around he would know better than to trust them. And Mulder—would he want Krycek to tell him what he knew? Would he be satisfied to leave Krycek's work out of whatever it was between them? No doubt there would be questions. Demands. Recriminations. They hadn't even begun to settle things, not really. Did he really imagine that Mulder might ever forgive him for everything he'd done?

But the man kissing the back of his neck certainly wasn't acting like a man with an unforgivable grudge. And Krycek was finding it harder and harder to worry about it.


Mulder kept his promise, with a pillow under Krycek's hips to ease the angle of entry, with long, slow, strokes of his cock, and hands that continued to massage and knead Krycek's shoulders. So slow, so sweet and good, that Krycek felt himself drifting away, lost in a haze of pleasure, relaxed and motionless—not because he was tired, but because it was all too perfect to move.

Unimaginably, he felt the heat begin to build again in his groin, spreading through his belly and thighs. Surely, he'd thought, he wouldn't come again tonight—just lying under Mulder, feeling Mulder's cock sliding in and out of his ass, was pleasure enough—but his cock had other ideas. Without conscious intention, his hips began to move, ever so slightly, pushing back into Mulder's thrusts, rubbing his throbbing cock against the pillow under him. And the rush of arousal continued to build, spreading throughout his body, until even his fingertips tingled, and the gasping breaths that echoed in his ears were his own.

His orgasm, when it came, was the clear, sweet peal of a bell, ringing through him in waves, spilling out of his cock in bright pulses, vibrations lingering in his body for long moments after. He could feel his sphincter throbbing on Mulder's cock, and Mulder's fingers digging into his shoulders, and Mulder's hot breath on his neck. And then, with a groan, Mulder drove into him, and again, and again, moving his hands down to grip Krycek's hips, still thrusting with long, slow strokes, but deep and hard, until he gasped and pulled Krycek's hips up and emptied into him.

Mulder collapsed on top of him. Krycek sighed, and turned his head, trying to reach around for a kiss. Mulder obliged him.

"You're going to wear me out," Krycek whispered, his consciousness already dissolving into sleep.

Mulder's only response was a papery chuckle, fading half into a snore. Then he groaned, and lifted his body off of Krycek's, reaching down to roll the condom off his softening cock. "God, I hate condoms," he muttered, as he reached over the side of the bed to find the wastebasket. "Tell me you've been tested."

Krycek pushed himself onto his side—his right side, fortunately, so he had an elbow to prop himself up on—and regarded Mulder warily. "I have. Last time was when I was in the hospital. I'm negative. Don't tell me you trust me."

Mulder stared back at him. Even in the half-dark, there was a strange, hard glint in his eye. "Maybe. About this. You're in more danger than I am, anyway."

Well, that ended that pretty little interlude. "Assuming I'm always going to be on the bottom. And that I trust you."

It truly hadn't occurred to Mulder that Krycek might worry about Mulder infecting him; Krycek could see it in his face. It was endearing, in a pig-headed sort of way. "I'm negative." There was a slightly reproachful tone in Mulder's voice. "You don't believe me?"

"I believe you. But let's just use the condoms, okay? I hate them, too, but, hell, we've got enough to worry about. At least we don't have to use Russian ones."

That brought a tiny smile to Mulder's face. He nodded. "Okay. I see your point." He settled back in bed, began to pull Krycek towards him.

Lying on Mulder's chest, Krycek sighed deeply and tried to relax. He was on the wrong side, with his arm jammed under him against Mulder's side, and his stump where he would have wanted an arm to curl around Mulder's chest. He tried not to think about it. All right, they'd had the Condom Talk, and come to an agreement, and everything was all right. It was a good sign, he insisted to himself. They could talk things over without disaster. This thing between them, whatever it was, wasn't going to crumble up and blow away at the slightest hint of conflict. Which was good, because there was no way they were going to avoid conflict.

Still, there was a slight adrenaline flutter in his stomach as he lay there, a niggling impediment to the hot, sticky pleasure of having Mulder's arms around him, Mulder's chest under his, and the memory of Mulder's cock in his ass. He told himself it was foolish to let it upset him; they hadn't even raised their voices. But things between them were so damned fragile, any tiny crack was a potential crisis. And it wasn't only Krycek's paranoia—he could feel Mulder's heart beating against his chest, rapidly enough to tell the tale of Mulder's own anxiety.

But they were here, together, in Mulder's bed. For tonight, that was enough. In fact, that was a miracle.


It was hours later when Krycek awoke. The night had gone full dark; it was, perhaps, three a.m. His temples were tight with exhaustion, but his mind was spinning. Jet lag, he thought. What time was it in Moscow? He tried for a moment to calculate it, then gave it up as a bad job. Mulder had rolled over with the blanket, leaving Krycek uncovered and cold. He didn't feel inclined to do anything about it, though—any attempt to retrieve the blanket would wake Mulder, and besides, he was accustomed to sleeping through various kinds of discomfort. He just needed to get used to the time difference, that was all.

Although... maybe he could slide over a little, and warm himself against Mulder's body. If he was slow and careful, he might not wake Mulder. Too bad he was still on the wrong side of Mulder—well, the wrong side for lying facing Mulder and putting an arm around him, anyway, which would be a nice thing to be able to do. But he wasn't about to try to switch sides, not even if Mulder had been already awake and willing—it was just too damned humiliating to have to crawl over a bed partner to accommodate his missing arm.

But it was the right side for facing away from Mulder, and pressing his back and butt against Mulder's body. Which was also a nice thing, and seemed to be the way Mulder preferred him, anyway. He shifted carefully onto his side, and began to edge back towards Mulder.

He had barely come into contact with Mulder's hip when he heard the change in Mulder's breathing, felt a hot hand on his shoulder.

"You're cold," Mulder said, voice muzzy with sleep. Krycek felt Mulder moving behind him, rearranging the blanket over him. "I've been hogging the covers." Then Mulder was pulling him close, tucking his warm body up behind Krycek's, encircling him with one arm. "Better?"

Better? It was unimaginable. Why was Mulder being so damned nice to him? It scared the shit out of him. There had to be a catch. Krycek shivered once, violently, then his whole body seemed to melt into the soft, sweet warmth. "Yeah," he managed to answer, his voice ragged. He hoped Mulder would think it was only the lateness of the hour.

This couldn't be for real, Krycek thought. Where was the angry Mulder, the bitter Mulder? The one who took potshots at him, dragged him around in handcuffs, hurled insults with every breath? He wasn't gone, Krycek knew. Not even the best sex in the world could make a man forget the kinds of things Krycek had done—helping abduct Mulder's partner and best friend, nearly getting her killed, helping to kill her sister, killing Mulder's father. He had reasons for doing all those things; reasons he hoped one day to make Mulder understand, but he expected it to be a long and arduous process, full of recriminations and pain. He didn't expect Mulder to just put the past aside, as if it had never happened. Either Mulder was deliberately faking it, trying to earn Krycek's trust in order to return the betrayal later, or else he was in major denial about the past, and would avoid dealing with it until it was forced on him. Either way, there was a major blowup waiting for them down the road, and it was not going to be pretty.

So he supposed he ought to be grateful for whatever small comfort he could grab along the way. And, despite his suspicions, he couldn't really believe that Mulder might be faking all this. Mulder, who wore his heart on his sleeve, could never hide his real feelings from anyone, with the possible exception of himself. Which meant it was denial, and it was going to be all the worse for Mulder when he was finally forced to confront the full range of his feelings towards Krycek. But it also meant there was hope that once those feelings had been worked through, there might be something left for them to build on.


When Krycek woke again, it was morning. Or, at least, the external evidence told him it was morning, although his body didn't seem to think so; but the room had grown light, and Mulder was disentangling himself from the covers and getting out of bed. Krycek forced one eye open. His attempt to say "Good morning" was just a low rattle in his throat.

Mulder stopped, just out of bed, a tentative smile half-formed on his mouth. "Don't get up. I'm just going out for a run." His face dissolved into uncertainty. He nibbled on his lower lip. "I'll bring back breakfast?"

This was all the farther they'd gotten the first time, Krycek thought. One night, and then Krycek had had to leave for Russia, to take Dmitri home. So now was the test: this time, would they get any farther? He nodded. "Okay."

Mulder's smile widened slightly. He proceeded to pull on sweats and sneakers, and then slipped out the door.


It was McDonalds' takeout for breakfast: Egg McMuffins, hash browns, orange juice and coffee. They sat down to eat in Mulder's kitchen; Mulder still in his sweats, face flushed from his exertion, hair damp and spiky, while Krycek was freshly showered and dressed, having been unable to sleep after Mulder left, despite his continued exhaustion. They ate mostly in silence, their only conversation consisting of "Sleep well?" "Good run?" and other such small talk. Finally, when there was nothing left but empty cups and paper wrappers, Mulder sat back, frowned, and nodded.

"Well. I've got to get ready for work. You can stay... if you'd like."

Krycek tried to smile. "I'd like. But I need to check in with my people."

"Haven't you done that yet?"

"No. I came straight here from the airport."

Mulder's face brightened for a moment. Then his mouth tightened. "What about... later?"

"I don't know. I'll call you. What time do you think you'll get home?"

Mulder looked around, shrugged. "I don't know. You have my cell number, don't you?"

"Yeah." Krycek stood up, ran his tongue over his lips. "I'll call."

Mulder nodded. But his expression was bleak. The image of Mulder in his dirty sweats, sitting at his kitchen table surrounded by the wreckage of their fast food breakfast, staring blankly up at him, lingered in Krycek's vision long after he left the apartment.

###

The Englishman's New York apartment was as crisp and elegant as the man himself. The breakfast nook, where they were now seated, was light and sunny, with white eyelet curtains framing the tall windows brightening two walls of the corner room. The breakfast table was well-polished white pine, carefully set with a clean white crochet-trimmed cloth, on which lay a silver tea service and porcelain cups. Krycek had been offered boiled eggs and toast and jam, which he'd declined, although he had accepted a hand-painted cup of Earl Grey tea. It was quite a contrast to the formica table in Mulder's kitchen, with its litter of McDonalds wrappings. Krycek wished he were back there.

The Englishman had told Krycek to call him Smith. John Smith. Krycek had wanted to laugh, but had only nodded. Smith. Jones—that was what his former patron, the cigarette-smoking bastard, had wanted Krycek to call him. What was this obsession with aliases and titles, instead of names? Well, no matter. If the man wanted to be Smith, Krycek would call him Smith.

"You've seen Mulder," the man commented, in his smooth, cultured voice.

Krycek looked up, startled, nearly spilling his tea. "What makes you think so?"

"I've no objection to it. Your relationship with him may be of some use."

"Relationship?" Krycek could feel his face grow hot. "I don't have any relationship with Mulder." He was surprised by his own bitterness. No relationship? After he'd just spent the night with him?

Smith's brief smile was rueful, almost gentle. "Of course you do. That's why I sent you to talk to him about the rebel alien, rather than attempting to do it myself. I knew it would have more effect coming from you."

"He hates me." And that was undeniably true, regardless of what had happened between them since.

"Yes, he does. His hatred for you is quite intense. Rather startlingly so, considering the number of other, worse enemies he has, for whom his hatred is far less. It makes one wonder what else he feels toward you, besides hate."

That's what I'm trying to find out, Krycek thought. He said nothing.

"As I say," the Englishman continued, "I have no objection to it. As long as it doesn't interfere with our work."

"It won't. It doesn't have anything to do with our work. And...." He paused. He should just leave it at that, he knew. But, hell, in for a penny, in for a pound, as his colleague would say—"That goes both ways. Our work shouldn't interfere with whatever happens between me and Mulder. It's... personal."

The man smiled. Something in his face softened, ever so slightly. "Yes, of course it is. Don't lose that, Mr. Krycek. It becomes too easy in our business to forget that the personal is, ultimately, what we are fighting for. But you must be careful. Mulder is not exactly a disinterested party to our cause."

"I know." God, he knew. It was a very fine line he was walking. A knife edge.

"Well, we'll keep it our little secret for now. I have it in mind to bring you back into the group. Since your previous patron disappeared...."

"Disappeared? I thought he was dead." Word had come all the way to Russia, when that man had been reported dead. Krycek had celebrated with a bottle of Stoli. Krycek wanted him to be dead, that cigarette-smoking bastard.

"There was a great deal of blood found in his apartment, but no body. I believe we've located him, in Quebec. I may want you to go there and bring him back at some point. But there's no hurry. As long as he believes he's safe, he'll stay where he is."

"So let him stay there." Hiding out in Canada, was he? The fingers of Krycek's prosthetic hand dug into the table, unnoticed.

"He may be useful. He's a weapon, Mr. Krycek, and you do not discard a weapon lightly. Especially not when the odds are against you, and you have so few weapons available to you." The man's gaze hardened. He lifted his napkin to his lips. "Just as I did not discard you, after I got the vaccine."

Krycek felt his face go red again. The nerves in his right wrist still tingled with the memory of long hours handcuffed to a bulkhead deep in the hold of the Star of Russia, where the Englishman had kept him, until he'd finally given up the vaccine. "You said you wanted to bring me back into the group."

"Yes." The Englishman's smile was hard, but there was a glint of amusement in his eye. "Now that we have the vaccine, and have lost one of our most hard-line collaborationists, not to mention the appearance on the scene of the alien rebels, the lines of power are shifting within our group. There has even been the suggestion that we might want to reestablish contact with our Russian counterparts. You could be very useful there."

Krycek laughed shortly. "I'd think I'd be the last one you'd want to contact the Russians." After he'd stolen the vaccine from them, and left one of their doctors hanging from the rafters....

Smith just shrugged. "Things change. Not long ago, you might have laughed at the idea of rejoining our group, and yet here you are. You've just come back from Russia; how did you find things there?"

This time, the shock was too deep to hide. Krycek put down his cup, slid his chair back, hand poised to go for his gun. "You knew about the whole thing."

His hand waved dismissively. "Relax, Mr. Krycek. Yes, we knew the boy had survived the attack on the bridge. And that you took him back to Russia. It's not a problem. If we'd wanted to stop you, we would have."

"How did you find out?" Krycek let his hand drop, but he didn't move his chair back to the table.

"Information is my specialty. You know that. Please don't concern yourself—I was glad to see you do it."

"Why?"

The man paused to sip his tea, staring thoughtfully out the window at the crisp spring morning. "Your former patron was a man who thought that any show of sentiment was a weakness. I believe he did his best to teach you to think that as well. If I thought he'd succeeded, I wouldn't be interested in bringing you back into the group. It's my belief that our emotional ties are our greatest strength." He turned back to Krycek, setting down his teacup with a self-deprecating laugh. Then his face grew serious. "I have grandchildren that boy's age."

And children mine, Krycek thought suddenly, though he didn't say it. "Then why didn't you do it yourself?"

"It seemed important to you to do it. Besides, you were much better equipped to find him a home in Russia than I would have been. You did find him a good home, didn't you?"

"As good as any in Russia these days."

Smith nodded briskly. "Good. Now, before I make any further plans for you, I think perhaps we ought to discuss the matter of your... physical limitations."

For the third time, Krycek's face blazed. His mouth tightened grimly. "What limitations?"

"Please don't be angry. I know you're still quite capable. But I don't wish to ask you to do anything that might require physical abilities you no longer have...."

"I can do anything I could do before," Krycek insisted hotly. He was lying, and he knew it. "So don't worry about it."

The man regarded him for a moment, then nodded. "Of course. Forgive me."

Krycek tried to force himself to relax. His heart pounded. He nodded back.

"Well," Smith said, "I think that's all for now. I want you to come back here this afternoon at three o'clock. There's a meeting I want you to attend. Do you have a place to stay in town?"

"Yes." He didn't, but he'd find one. He pushed himself to his feet. "I'll see you at three."


Krycek sat in a booth at a diner, taking his time with a bowl of soup and a large glass of milk. There was plenty of time before three o'clock, and he was a bit at loose ends in New York. He probably ought to call Mulder; it was looking highly unlikely he'd make it back to D.C. tonight. But perhaps he'd wait until after this meeting the Englishman wanted him to attend. It might not last long; there might still be time to catch the shuttle back.

But perhaps that wouldn't be such a good idea. Perhaps he ought to give Mulder a little time to get used to the idea that Krycek had come back at all, before he showed up again. Give them both a chance to think about how they wanted to proceed. He had to admit he was still a little rattled about the way Mulder had come on to him, as if nothing bad had ever happened between them. He didn't trust it. He worried that Mulder was setting them both up for a fall. And he was rattled about Smith knowing about his visit with Mulder, too. Not that he'd expected to be able to hide it for long, but damn it, he hadn't expected the man to know about it before he'd even called to tell him he was back. Sure, he seemed okay with it for now, but Krycek just didn't like knowing he couldn't make a move without the Syndicate's watchdog finding out about it.

Idly, he shifted his spoon into his prosthetic hand, and dipped it into his bowl of soup. The spoon flipped out of the plastic fingers and clattered to the tabletop. And I can do anything I could do before, he mocked himself angrily. Jesus.


It was nearly midnight when Krycek settled into his cheap hotel room, so exhausted he was crosseyed, after spending all afternoon and half the night at a meeting in which everything had been said in the first hour, and the rest of the time had been spent saying those same things over and over and over again. Krycek had been introduced, looked over, accused and questioned, and then discussed at length, while he stood by, stiff and humiliated and glared down whenever he tried to speak for himself. He supposed it was necessary, as his new patron had repeatedly told him on the drive back to his apartment, but to Krycek it had felt like a colossal and painful waste of time. Clumsily, he shrugged out of his jacket, letting it fall to the floor, and then he collapsed across the bed. It had been a long day, and his head still ached. He was going to sleep all day tomorrow.

—Damn. Mulder. He'd promised he'd call. He rolled over and scrabbled for his jacket on the floor, pulling his cell phone from the pocket. He punched in Mulder's number with his thumb, too tired to try to manipulate the prosthetic arm.

"Mulder," came the answer.

"Hey, Mulder." He rolled over onto his back, yawning. "How was your day?"

"It was all right." Mulder's voice was tentative, wary. "How was yours?"

"Long. Tiring. Look... it looks like I'm going to be pretty busy for the next couple of days. I'm not sure when I'll be able to get back to D.C."

"Oh." It sounded as if someone had let the air out of him.

"Maybe this weekend. I'll keep in touch. Okay?"

"Yeah. Sure."

Krycek cursed silently. Mulder obviously wasn't buying it. Krycek wanted to protest, You can believe me, Mulder. I came back, didn't I? I kept my promise. But that would be pointless. Mulder needed more time. He needed more chances to see that Krycek would do what he said he was going to do. But Krycek couldn't bear the hopeless tone in Mulder's voice. "Here, let me give you my number." He firmly put down the stab of reluctance to give up this private information. If he wanted Mulder to trust him, he was going to have to give him a little trust in return. He read off his cell phone number.

Mulder repeated it. Then, "So... maybe this weekend?" There was a little more animation in his voice.

Krycek allowed himself to smile. "Yeah. Sooner if I can. I just have to get some things settled."

"Okay. Well. I'll talk to you later."

Krycek switched off the phone, reached out to let it fall onto the nightstand, already drifting into sleep.


He woke again in the deep chasm of the night, still in his clothes on top of the bed covers. Krycek shivered and groaned and curled up on his side, trying to get comfortable enough to go back to sleep. The image from the night before suddenly filled his senses: Mulder pulling the blanket over him, tucking his body around him, circling him with his arm. Warmth and softness and safety. He gasped with the strength of his desire, felt his arm reaching out for the body he wanted so badly it surely must be there. Mulder. He clawed for a pillow, pulled it to his chest. He felt desolate in his lonely bed.

Then he pushed the pillow aside, struggled upright, and swung his legs over the edge of the bed to sit with his fingers pressed to the bridge of his nose. What a fool, he told himself. He was acting like a man who'd had a lover and lost him. When in fact he didn't have Mulder at all, but in time, if all went impossibly well, he might. And he would see Mulder again soon. He would sleep again in Mulder's bed, with Mulder's body next to his. Soon.

Meanwhile, if he wanted to be covered, he was going to have to cover himself. Krycek forced himself to his feet and undressed, dropping his clothes carelessly onto the floor, and laying his prosthesis on the chest of drawers. Then he crawled under the covers. He lay on his back for a moment, staring up into the dark. Then he sighed, stuffed one of the pillows down under the covers, and leaned his back into it.

He was still cold. But he was used to being cold. He closed his eyes, and slowly found his way back to sleep.

###

"What do you know about the Russian vaccine, Mr. Krycek?"

Krycek nodded to the group, then stood up to address them. He'd returned with Smith to another meeting—of the full group this time. He was officially welcomed back into the fold, and now it was time for his brain to be picked.

Half the Elders sat attentively in their elegant leather wing chairs and silk-upholstered easy chairs. The other half, including the First Elder, a thick-necked Canadian with a voice like Marlon Brando's, stood here and there around the room, some moving restlessly, others conferring privately in corners. Some, Krycek thought, had been against his being allowed to rejoin them, and were deliberately ignoring him. He did not intend to make it easy for them.

"The vaccine provides protection from a single exposure to the black oil in eighty percent of the cases. More than fifty percent are protected from multiple exposures. Some have remained immune for up to ten exposures."

That got their attention. There was a collective intake of breath from around the room, then a quiet murmur of voices.

"We had no idea they'd been so successful!" the Elder from Germany exclaimed. "Why do they withhold the vaccine, and continue to experiment, if they've come so far?"

"It's not good enough, in their opinion. Twenty percent of those inoculated still have no protection at all. The colonists have a pool of six billion humans to draw from, after all. And twenty percent of six billion is more than enough for them to execute a takeover. Also, even among the test subjects with the strongest protection, the vaccine fails eventually after repeated exposures."

"You mean they become susceptible to invasion by the black oil?" asked the Italian Elder.

"No, in most cases, they die. Their immune systems can no longer withstand the assault. The Russians have been unable to develop a vaccine that protects permanently from infection."

The murmurs now had tones of disappointment in them. "But at least, they are not all colonized?" the German Elder said.

"No. The Russians estimate that around seventy percent of those vaccinated will eventually die before being colonized by the black oil. And some will stay alive and protected through many repeat exposures. It's an encouraging result—but not good enough to ensure our survival."

The First Elder nodded. His quiet voice brought silence to the room. "What is their goal?"

"At least some measure of protection for close to one hundred percent of those vaccinated. Complete, permanent protection for some substantial proportion of test subjects—twenty to thirty percent or so. So that none will fall to the colonists, and at least some will survive indefinitely. They believe that that will enable them to have some chance of success against the invasion." Krycek crossed his arms, and looked around the room with grim satisfaction. He had everyone's attention now.

Finally, Smith joined the discussion. "What about delivery?"

Krycek nodded. "They have a separate division working on the problem. I wasn't as closely involved with them, and don't know the details of what they're working on. It would be easier for the Russians to institute a mass inoculation program with no questions asked than it would be for us. But, of course, it would still be a major undertaking to get enough of the population vaccinated to protect themselves against an attack before the aliens found out and put a stop to it. I don't believe they have an answer yet."

"Perhaps the answer is to use the vaccine offensively, as a weapon of attack, rather than merely as passive protection." This was from a small, bird-like man near the back of the room whom Krycek didn't know.

There were murmurs of agreement with this. Then, Smith said, "But first, we must have the weapon."


The discussion moved on to the subject of their own tests with the vaccine, and Krycek settled in one of the easy chairs to listen. He couldn't help the twinge of vengeful pleasure when he learned that Marita Covarrubias had barely survived her own encounter with the black oil, and was now being sequestered and subjected to more tests. But it was only a slight twinge, and quickly put aside. He hadn't any real right to be angry with her, he knew. He'd been using her as much as she'd been using him. And, ironically, her intention had apparently been to turn Dmitri over to Mulder. He couldn't really fault her choice of men to betray him to. If he'd known of her intentions, maybe they could have worked out something satisfactory to them both.

"But why were the Russians so determined to destroy our vaccine program?" the German Elder asked in sudden exasperation. "Surely, they would be as happy if we developed a successful vaccine."

Krycek decided there was no need for him to stand this time. "They weren't trying to destroy our program—they just wanted to eliminate any possible connection between their program and ours. They worried that the hard-line collaborationists within our group would betray them to the colonists."

"And now?"

"They abandoned the Tunguska site immediately after Agent Mulder's escape from the facility, and moved their program to another location. There are only a few researchers finishing up at the Tunguska installation now." He felt a strange little lurch in his stomach at saying Mulder's name out loud in this company. He glanced quickly toward Smith, but the man's expression was bland and noncommittal. He hoped that meant that his brief reaction had gone unnoticed, not merely that Smith was better at disguising his feelings than Krycek.

"Do you know where their new testing site is?"

"No." Actually, he had a pretty good idea. But, he decided, it would be better to hold a little in reserve. He'd only been back in the Syndicate for one day—he didn't want to outlive his usefulness too quickly. Besides, he wasn't sure the Russians weren't right to hide their vaccine program from their former associates. Krycek was himself of the opinion that some of the collaborationists in the Syndicate—including his former patron, the nicotine-loving "Mr. Jones," were far too quick to curry favor with the colonists, and would not hesitate to betray the Russian program to them if they thought it would gain them personal advantage.

Several of the Elders frowned, as if they suspected that Krycek was holding out on them. But they said nothing. Krycek gave them his most wide-eyed look of sincerity and settled back in his chair.


That night, in his spare hotel room, he lay in his bed and stared at the ceiling, any hint of sleep far away. The events of the past few days continued to play over in his mind. It was all happening too fast: the new relationship with Mulder, rejoining the Syndicate, the partially successful vaccine, the rebel aliens—but then, when had events not run fast and furious? Krycek had always been able to hit the ground running, to think on his feet, to narrow down his focus to what was vital right now and act without second thoughts and overanalyzing. He would continue to do so. Yes, the stakes were rising, and so was the level of complexity, and the urgency—but he would handle it all, as he always did.

But the one thing that continued to niggle at him, to make him question and wonder, and even to fear, was something so tiny, so seemingly insignificant, he could almost convince himself it had never really happened—except that when he thought of it, he felt his face flush and his heart pound and his palms begin to sweat.

It was the moment he'd spoken Mulder's name aloud in the Syndicate meeting. He told himself over and over again that no one had noticed the slight flutter he'd felt in his gut when his lips had formed the name of the man whose body had so recently covered his. His voice hadn't cracked; the tone hadn't changed. His hands had remained still and calm at his sides. If his heartbeat had quickened momentarily, it had been a brief and invisible reaction.

And even if any of them had noticed the almost imperceptible intake of breath, or the tiny glance at Mr. Smith, what could they have made of it? It was well known that he and Mulder had a history of an intense and personal kind. Anger, vengefulness, rivalry—these were passions, too, and could easily be the cause of any flicker of emotion on his part.

But. That there had been any reaction at all, however unnoticeable or unattributable—that was what unnerved him. That he had not been able to shut down that part of himself to concentrate on the business at hand. That the warm, sensual vibration of Mulder's name in his mouth had suddenly and unstoppably evoked the presence of the man himself, enveloping him with the sensation of velvety skin, hot mouth, hands and hips and cock.

When had it happened? When had that passion overtaken him, become something he could no longer put away when it was time to think of other things? He'd always found Mulder attractive, there was no question of that. The sad, soulful eyes, the full, cupid's bow mouth, the lean, graceful form: yes, Mulder had always been easy on the eyes. He'd considered it one of the perks of the assignment, back when he'd been playing the FBI-puppy; a nice bit of scenery, a pretty man to look at. And certainly, he'd enjoyed Mulder's company, as well—the quirky, self-deprecating sense of humor; the sharp wit, the intelligence and curiosity. He'd amused himself with the occasional fantasy; even wondered whether he ought to make a move—after all, getting close to Mulder was what he'd been hired to do—but he hadn't. He'd told himself that Mulder was straight and there was no telling how he'd react to sexual advances from his male partner—although Mulder was charmingly non-judgmental, and there were even hints of youthful experiments with the boys at Oxford, so the idea didn't seem entirely fanciful. But the truth was that Krycek hadn't really wanted to take Mulder as a lover back then—not as a spy doing a job, not with the betrayal he knew was to come. He'd been content to enjoy the man's presence, the shared smiles, the hand on his arm, the shoulders pressed together as they hunched over some computer monitor or microfiche reader, and wanted nothing more.

So it hadn't been then, not when they were partners and perhaps something could have been done about it before the betrayals colored everything with dark anger and pain. And after that, Krycek was on his own and caught up in far more than he'd ever dreamed. Soon he was running for his life, and Mulder had become a bittersweet memory, and even the fantasies had gone by the wayside. Their few brief encounters—outside Mulder's apartment the night after Bill Mulder's murder, Hong Kong, Tunguska—were highly charged, to be sure, but only with madness and fury. The face leering into his with hatred, the fists smashing into his face, were not objects of desire.

But then had come Russia, bleak Siberian autumn, and he'd been held down onto the cold, cold ground, assaulted with fists and knees and hard, terrible faces, and a hot knife sliced into his shoulder with a crushing pain beyond anything he could possibly have imagined. And then fire had come from the sky in Kazakhstan, destroying the abductees the colonists had so carefully prepared for the takeover, leaving one frightened and desolate boy alive among the rubble. The damaged, one-armed man had taken the Russian orphan and begun to formulate a wild and desperate plan that led from Kazakhstan to Vladivostok to New York and improbably—yet somehow inevitably—back to Mulder.

Was it the loss of his arm? The hopeless pleading on the violated face of a young boy? Something had changed him. Something had cut him open inside and set free things he'd kept locked away for years. Because when he'd seen Mulder next, that night in Mulder's apartment, nothing was the same, not the feel of the floor beneath his feet, or the shadows moving along the walls, or even the air filling the room. The gun he'd held on Mulder felt huge and almost alive in his hand. The breath from Mulder's lungs had floated between them, caressing his face. And, as he delivered his message, everything had seemed to shift and reform until he felt that he was in an absurdist play, and he'd wanted to laugh and put down his gun and sit beside Mulder and say, What a mess we've made of things.

What he actually had done was barely any less ridiculous: he'd leaned forward to kiss Mulder's cheek. Then he'd handed Mulder his gun and turned his back and walked away, as if there had never been any threat between them.

And now here he was in a hotel room, back in the Syndicate, with a war raging between alien factions and the first promise of a vaccine against the black oil, and his life in as much danger as it had ever been, and all he could think of was Mulder, and the hot desire rising in him. It was going to be a disaster, he thought. He was going to get himself killed.

###

Several more days passed. He didn't call Mulder again; he wanted to give himself a little space to think. Besides, he had nothing to say except that he wasn't able to return yet, which would only mean more disappointment and awkwardness for them both. He'd told Mulder perhaps the weekend, so he would wait until then to check in again.

He spent his days in discussions with his new patron: about the vaccine, the Russians, the rebels and the possibility of an alliance. Neither Mulder's name nor Krycek's handicap were mentioned again, but both subjects remained just below the surface, conspicuous in the careful way they talked around them.

Smith gave him money. Krycek felt odd about that, since in his opinion he hadn't done anything that warranted payment yet. But there was no denying he needed it—he'd used up all his reserves and favors getting Dmitri out of the country, and would have ended up at the YMCA if he hadn't found another source of income. So he took what was offered as an advance against future services, and used it sparingly, continuing to stay at the same cheap hotel, buying only a few changes of clothing for himself, and the occasional meals he didn't eat at Smith's. He made himself useful in whatever ways he could, acting as Smith's driver and running errands for him, knowing at the back of his mind that he was doing it to prove that he could, as much as to earn his keep.

When Friday came, he told Smith he was going back to D.C., steeling himself against the Englishman's reaction. But the man only nodded agreeably and told him to keep in touch; he hadn't any particular assignments on tap, and could stay in D.C. until needed. Unspoken was the suggestion that having someone in close contact with Mulder might turn out to be useful. Krycek frowned, but left his own warning that he would do nothing to compromise Mulder unspoken as well.

Back in his hotel room, he threw his few belongings into a duffel bag, and sat on the bed contemplating his cell phone. Now that the moment had finally arrived, he found himself strangely reluctant to call. It was mid-afternoon, and Mulder would be at work. If he called Mulder's home number, he'd have to leave a message on the machine, and he didn't want to do that. If he called Mulder's cell phone, though, he might catch him in the middle of something, busy at work or with people around, in a situation where he'd find a phone call from Krycek inconvenient and distracting. He could just wait and call Mulder when he got to Washington. But he didn't want to call at the last minute; he wanted to let Mulder know he was coming.

Krycek sighed, and dialed Mulder's cell number. Two rings later, Mulder answered. His voice was at once heartbreakingly familiar and utterly shocking. For a moment, Krycek sat frozen, unable to speak. Then he sucked in a breath, and said softly, "Hey, Mulder."

Now, it seemed it was Mulder's turn to freeze. Or perhaps he was just moving out of earshot of his company. "What's up?" Mulder said brusquely.

"I'm on my way to D.C. I'll be there in a couple of hours." He looked at his watch, made a mental calculation. "Probably be at your place around eight. That is, if you don't have other plans."

There was another pause. "No. I mean, yeah, okay. I'll see you tonight." He disconnected without saying goodbye.

Krycek switched off his phone, lips pressed together, heart pounding. He shouldn't have called Mulder at work. He'd obviously caught him off guard. Perhaps Mulder didn't really want him to come, but couldn't talk in front of Scully or whoever was there, and agreed just to get rid of him.

Or perhaps Mulder did want him to come, just as badly as ever, but found himself as tongue-tied and out of breath at the sound of Krycek's voice as Krycek was at Mulder's. And Krycek was going drive himself crazy fretting over it. Just go, he told himself. Once he got to Mulder's, and they'd had a chance to get used to each other again, everything would be fine.


But when he got to Washington, a new dilemma arose. Should he bring his duffel bag with him to Mulder's, or find someplace to stash it until he was sure of his welcome? He hoped he'd be spending the night, of course, but it might seem presumptuous of him to show up at Mulder's door with his luggage in hand, and he didn't want Mulder to think he was taking the situation for granted. But there was nowhere convenient to leave it: there weren't any lockers handy to Mulder's, and he didn't want to waste the money on a hotel if he wasn't going to stay there.

He worried at it all the way to Alexandria, then finally sighed and cursed himself for a fool and slung his bag over his shoulder. He had to stop this. If he were only any ordinary thirty-three-year-old man who found himself acting like a lovestruck teenager, the situation would be merely laughable, but as it was, it was dangerous and stupid. He was an adult; Mulder was an adult; if they couldn't get past these minor awkwardnesses, how in heaven could he hope they'd ever get past the real horrific obstacles between them?


He tapped on Mulder's door with the knuckles of his prosthetic hand; a flat, plastic sound. His other hand was sweating.

The door opened. Mulder stood there, in jeans and a pale rose-colored tee-shirt, with white athletic socks on his feet. He looked like ice cream, Krycek thought. Cool and creamy and delectable. Krycek realized that he was grinning foolishly.

Mulder grinned back. "Hi," he said, and stood aside to let Krycek come in.


They stood in the living room staring at each other. This is where I came in, Krycek thought. He saw Mulder's gaze travel down his form, linger for a moment on the duffel bag hanging from his shoulder.

"I came straight here," Krycek hastened to explain. "I'm not trying to move in on you—I can check into a hotel later, if...."

Mulder smiled. "No, you can stay. Why don't you... ?" He reached out, stopped in confusion, then reached again for Krycek's bag. "Here, I'll put it in the other room."

Krycek gave up his bag, and Mulder disappeared with it for a moment. His face was as pink as his tee-shirt as he emerged from the bedroom—where later they'd lie, and touch each other's bodies, and sleep wrapped around each other. Krycek felt his own face heat. He wanted to step forward and put his arms around Mulder—and damn the arm that couldn't feel the body pressed against it—but he hesitated. It was too soon. If they were ever going to stop feeling awkward with each other, they would have to slow down and talk to each other.

"Are you hungry?" Mulder asked.

God. He hadn't eaten since breakfast; and though he hadn't given it a thought all day, his stomach was suddenly painfully empty. "Yeah. I'm starving."

"Me too. Let's go out."


There was something comfortable, and even familiar, in the routine of finding a place to eat, settling in, and ordering. For all that they were both men who'd eat whatever was put in front of them and never complain, they still managed to argue about their choices, and cheerfully insult each other's tastes. Years ago and better times for them both, it had been an almost daily ritual. By the time they had chosen a secluded booth in a quiet neighborhood restaurant, sent the waitress away with their orders, and sat back with their glasses of beer, they had both relaxed and lost their initial hesitation.

"So," Mulder began. He paused for a sip of beer, licked the foam from his lips. "You've been out of D.C."

Krycek nodded. "New York." It was a big city; there was no harm in telling Mulder.

"I don't suppose there's any point asking what you were doing there."

"Working." Krycek shrugged. "It was boring. Meetings, mostly. Errands. Nothing important." Which was mostly true, if evasive. But Mulder surely wouldn't expect him to tell him everything. Still.... "I think I should tell you—my patron knows I was here. He knows I'm seeing you. I didn't tell him; he's got better sources than I thought. But he won't interfere, and he won't tell the others."

Mulder frowned. "He knows... everything?"

"Well, he doesn't know we were sleeping together." Or so Krycek sincerely hoped, although it wasn't out of the question. Which brought up another point—"When did you last have your apartment swept?"

Mulder took another sip of beer, then smiled. "Right after you left. It's clean. I have it done regularly; I haven't found a bug since last spring."

Krycek nodded, returning the smile. It didn't bother him a bit that Mulder had had his apartment checked for surveillance devices after Krycek had been there last. In fact, he'd have been disappointed if Mulder hadn't. "Good. Well, then, I think we can assume that no one knows what went on behind closed doors. He probably has someone watching your building, though, and I was spotted going in. Or else I was being followed—he knew I'd been to Russia. He might have been checking the flights from Russia for me."

"Should I be worried?"

"You should always be worried," Krycek responded promptly. "But no more than usual, I don't think. I told him it was personal, and to leave it alone. I think he will. For the most part."

Mulder nodded, slowly. It wasn't good news, but there was a faint, grim smile on his face. Krycek wondered about it for a moment, then suddenly realized—he'd told Mulder something private, something he hadn't expected to be told, and he liked it. A little curl of pleasure warmed Krycek's belly, and he fought down a smile. Mulder went on, "I don't suppose you want to tell me who this patron of yours is?"

The curl of pleasure teased. It felt so good, it was very tempting to go right on telling Mulder things. Maybe he shouldn't, but damn it, his patron knew about Mulder—it was only fair that Mulder should know about him. "You've met him, actually. Englishman, very proper. He's told me to call him Smith, but that's not his real name, of course."

Mulder nodded again. "Yeah, I know who he is. You're working for him now? I like him better than that cigarette-smoking bastard, anyway."

"I'm working with him," Krycek corrected. Then he smiled. "I like him better, too."

"So. Do you know how long you'll be staying in D.C. this time?"

Krycek shrugged. "I'm not sure. I hope for a while." He paused a moment. "Look, I didn't know... if it's a problem for me to call you at work...."

Mulder's face turned pink. "No, it's no problem."

"I didn't want to leave a message—I wanted to make sure you were going to be around."

"I know. You just caught me by surprise, that's all. I couldn't really talk."

"Was Scully there?"

"Yeah." Mulder's flush deepened. Krycek felt a sudden urge to lean across the table and lick Mulder's face. His own cheeks grew hot.

Mulder seemed to consider for a moment, then continued, "She knew it was you." He smiled as he said it; a small, private smile, gentle and full of affection. Krycek knew that smile well from the old days, when they were partners, whenever Mulder had talked about Scully: how she questioned his theories, insisted on following procedures, rolled her eyes at his wild leaps of intuition. There would be an undercurrent of: She knows me. She doesn't let me get away with anything. She takes care of me.

Krycek had been jealous then, and he felt a little pang of jealousy now. Not sexual jealousy—he knew Mulder didn't sleep with her, although sometimes it seemed astonishing that he didn't. He was envious of their closeness, their acceptance of each other's idiosyncrasies, their faith and their trust. Had Krycek ever had a friend like that? Not since he was a child, anyway. Betrayal had come early to his world.

"You've told her about us?"

Mulder shrugged, a little defensively. "Not everything—I just told her you were going to be around, sometimes. I told her we were trying to work things out."

Trying to work things out: that had a nice sound to it. "I don't mind what you tell her. She's your friend, tell her whatever you want to." He had to cringe a little, inwardly, over the unintentionally sharp tone of those last words.

Mulder nodded, thoughtfully. "It will be okay. She doesn't necessarily like it, but she'll leave it alone."

Krycek hid in his beer, thankful when the food arrived a few moments later. They ate a while in silence; both, it seemed, glad for the respite. There was so much to talk about, so much to work through—and even as they fumbled at the small, mundane details any new relationship must deal with, the much greater problems they must inevitably face loomed. Krycek was at once nervously eager to jump directly to the heart of the matter and get it over with—to say, Look, I killed your father, and I'm sorry, but I can't do anything about it, will you ever be able to get past that or shall I just leave now?—and reluctant ever to mention what must surely put an end to this beautiful illusion. After all, if Mulder could bury it so easily and act as if it had never happened, why should Krycek be so keen on bringing it up? And, realistically, he knew that it would be better to wait. Let them find a little peace together first, build the beginnings of something that would be worth suffering all that pain for. They might as easily find themselves breaking up over the cap on the toothpaste tube, or late-night television, or some other completely ordinary bone of contention, and never need to worry about the deeper, more painful differences.

At last, they pushed back their plates, and faced each other across the table again. Mulder forced a brief, tight smile, then began to play with his napkin, and spoke without looking up. "I've been thinking about what you said last time. About not always being on the bottom."

Krycek shifted, a sudden heat in his groin. "Yeah?"

"I don't want to always... I mean, if you want to switch...."

Krycek sucked in air. Well, of course he wanted to. The very thought of Mulder on his belly, legs spread, ass in the air and available for the taking brought a rush to Krycek's groin that nearly had him ready to come on the spot. "I want to," Krycek said, a little breathlessly. But Mulder looked more nervous than willing. Obviously offering out of some sense of obligation, not out of desire. "Not yet. It's too soon, I think. We should wait."

Mulder couldn't help the look of relief on his face, though he tried valiantly to hide it. "I don't want you feel... that you're not getting what you want."

Krycek smiled ruefully. It was sweet of Mulder, if foolish, to offer himself this way. Perhaps it was his way of trying to make things better between them. Or some sort of macho need to prove he could take it as well as dish it out. It would be a disaster, of course, Krycek had no doubt. Mulder couldn't have much experience with receptive anal sex—and even if he did, he was clearly far too nervous about the prospect of taking it up the ass from someone who'd lately been his worst enemy to be able to relax and enjoy it. He was much more comfortable being in control, at least for now. Which was just fine by Krycek—he preferred being fucked, and while he certainly wouldn't mind trading places now and then, he wasn't going to feel deprived if they didn't.

"It's okay, Mulder, really. I don't want it that badly. I like being fucked. —You know that first time, when I was here before? When you were a little rough? Called me names and ordered me around? I liked that."

"Yeah?" Mulder was smiling now, biting his lip. His chest rose and fell under the pale rose cotton of his tee-shirt, and his deep hazel eyes had gone dark. "You like it rough, huh?"

"Yeah. You could be a lot rougher than that, too, if you wanted to."

Mulder looked as if someone had given him a present. "Did it just get hot in here?"

Krycek grinned at him. "Let's get the check."


The ride back to Mulder's apartment was accomplished in heated silence. Krycek tried to stay collected, to think carefully about what was happening, but his mind had become a red haze of lust. They were going to fuck. Soon. They were going to Mulder's apartment in order to fuck. They'd slept together before, but Krycek had never known for sure until the moment Mulder's hands were on him that it was really going to happen. This was different, this wild tease—to sit here beside Mulder and know: to feel that knowledge like a hot stroke up his cock. It was overwhelming and electric.

It seemed to take forever, but at last they were at the door to Mulder's apartment. Mulder stepped aside to usher Krycek in, a hard smile on his face, hot delight with a sinister hint of cruelty. It made Krycek hesitate for a moment, a slight shiver of fear trickling down his spine. Warning voices whispered at the back of his mind: this man's cruelty was not to be taken lightly. Determinedly, he shut them up. The shiver of fear settled in his cock, making it jump painfully against the rough denim of his jeans. He stepped past Mulder through the short hallway into the living room.

The hard muzzle of Mulder's gun jabbed him in the small of his back. Long fingers dug into the back of his neck. He stopped short, the shiver of fear turning into a cold splash in his gut. He let his arms fall loosely to his sides, hands spread, surrendering. His voice caught in his throat. "Mulder... ?"

The gun pressed into him, harder. Then Mulder shifted his weight and shoved, forcing Krycek to take two heavy steps across the room. He fell against Mulder's desk, bent over, with Mulder lying heavily on his back, gun now pressed into the side of his neck. He grabbed the edge of the desk to steady himself. Sick horror turned his belly to water. He cursed himself viciously. He'd been caught thinking with his dick, and he'd blown it big time. So Mulder had been faking it all along, lulling Krycek into a false sense of security, biding his time until he could take his revenge right when it would hurt the most. And it had worked just as he'd intended—Krycek had been caught off guard, his gun uselessly packed away in the other room, and no way to escape. It was a mistake he was very likely to die for.

Mulder's crotch ground into his butt, and he heard Mulder chuckle wetly in his ear. "So you like it rough," Mulder whispered. "I'm so glad to hear it." The muzzle of the gun trailed down Krycek's neck, over his shoulder, to press into his side. The fingers at the back of his neck scraped roughly through his hair, then slapped the back of his head.

Krycek let out a little moan. Confusion mingled with his horror, a curl of hope threading liquidly through his nerve endings. His cock throbbed. Could it all be a game? Was this Mulder's idea of playing rough? Or if not, could it be turned to Krycek's advantage?

Mulder showed no sign of relaxing his hold on the weapon. With his other hand, he reached around to the front of Krycek's jeans. The heel of his hand pressed into Krycek's stomach, while his fingers worked at the waistband of Krycek's jeans, and his hot mouth was on the back of Krycek's neck, sucking, biting his shoulder.

Krycek remained crushed against the desk, braced on his elbows, with Mulder heavy on his back, hips grinding into his buttocks. His whole body was throbbing now, dissolving, surrendering—but he clung desperately to what was left of his senses and tried to think. Surely Mulder would be distracted, too, if he kept this up. Just a moment's hesitation, the slightest relaxing of his guard, and Krycek would make his move....

Mulder had unbuttoned Krycek's jeans, and was now slowly pulling the zipper down, a tantalizing stroke over the hard bulge of his cock. Krycek swallowed hard, and leaned back, working his butt against Mulder's crotch. He could feel the stiff throb of Mulder's cock through both of their jeans. Mulder's breath was ragged in his ear, his movements sharp and heavy with passion. The pressure of the gun in Krycek's side was beginning to relax. Soon, Krycek thought. He began to gather himself for the desperate attempt....


Abruptly, the gun fell away from his side. Mulder released him and stepped back with a chagrined laugh. "Aw, fuck."

Krycek felt his stomach lurch, heart pounding with adrenaline and the shock of hope. He glanced over his shoulder. "What?"

Mulder was standing with his arms at his sides, gun hanging loosely in his hand, a foolish look on his face. "I don't have the lube and condoms."

Krycek laughed, a short, coughing sound, giddy with relief. Suddenly, his knees went weak, and he lowered his head into his arms on Mulder's desk. It was a game. Only a game. Not betrayal and death after all, but only the blood haze of lust.

And now that Krycek knew it was a game, he didn't want it to stop. "Order me to stay like this while you get the stuff," he urged. "Tell me you'll punish me if I don't." Even in his own mouth, the words made him hard.

There was a long pause. Krycek remained as he was, waiting. Would Mulder want to play it this way, with only his orders, and not a gun, to keep Krycek in his place? The moment stretched out, heady and pure.

At last, Mulder stepped forward and covered Krycek's body with his own, enveloping him. The gun had been put away; Mulder's two arms slid around him, one beneath his chest, the other under the waistband of his briefs to cup and squeeze his aching balls. He nuzzled Krycek's ear, then bit his neck. "Don't move," he ordered, his voice a slick murmur in Krycek's ear. Then he moved back, took hold of the waistband of Krycek's jeans and briefs, and with one sharp motion, pulled them down over his buttocks.

Krycek gasped as the cool currents of air hit his naked butt. His fingers scrabbled at the edge of the desk. The sudden exposure was shocking, exhilarating. He let himself shift helplessly, feeling the vulnerability of his position as a stiff jolt to his cock. He could feel the eager drops oozing from its tip.

Mulder stood back. "Don't move," he repeated, the smoky delight evident in his voice. "If you do, you'll be punished." He punctuated his order with a sharp slap to Krycek's right buttock. Krycek jumped and squealed. He heard Mulder chuckle. "I may just punish you anyway."

Krycek felt the heat grow in his face. His fingers curled into a fist. "Yes, Sir," he answered, his voice muffled against his arms. Then he heard Mulder move away to the bedroom.


Krycek waited. Bent over Mulder's desk, jeans down around his thighs, bare butt outthrust and ready for the taking. He breathed raggedly into the sleeve of his jacket, waiting.

At last he heard Mulder come up behind him; quietly, but not so quietly that Krycek couldn't hear the soft pad of his footsteps, or the hot sighs of his breath. He felt himself tense up, his buttocks squeeze together, his balls tighten against his body in anticipation.

Fingers slipped between his buttocks, cool and wet. Krycek moaned and gripped the desk, hips making small thrusts, desperate for the feel of Mulder's hands on him. His cock twitched between his legs, responding to every slight motion of the fingers pressing into him, working him, lubricating him. He pushed back, trying to impale himself further onto Mulder's fingers. His breath seemed to burn in his lungs.

"Hold still," Mulder admonished. Krycek forced himself to obey, thigh muscles tightening in frustration. "Hold still," Mulder said again, his voice sleek and velvety with pleasure. "Scum-sucking worthless bastard. Hold still and take what's coming to you."

Krycek's gut tightened. Waves of pleasure crashed over him: the searing heat in his cock, the fingers deep in his ass, the lube trickling down like tears over his balls. He managed a deep-throated, "Yeah...," that turned into a breathless squeak when Mulder slapped his butt with his other hand. "Do it to me, Mulder."

Mulder fucked him with his fingers, slowly but deeply, the full length of his long, strong fingers thrusting in and out of Krycek's ass. "Filthy slut," Mulder said softly, almost wonderingly, rolling the words around in his mouth like fine wine. "I'm going to fuck you raw."

Mulder paused for a moment, two fingers shoved all the way into him. Then he withdrew, slowly, with exquisite deliberation. Krycek could feel the slight tremble of the fingers inside him. He could hear Mulder's heavy breathing, almost feel the hot breath on his back. Then Mulder stepped away, and Krycek could hear the small motions as he prepared himself: jeans unzipping, condom package opening, more lube being spread over Mulder's cock.

Mulder stepped forward again. One hand gripped Krycek's hip. The other guided his cock between Krycek's buttocks.

Krycek clenched his teeth, trying hold still as Mulder entered him. He could not hold back the hot, whimpering noises in his throat. He pounded the desktop with his fist, nearly mad with need.

Mulder worked his cock into him, inexorably, until his full length filled Krycek's ass. He paused for a moment, took a deep breath, then pulled almost all the way out and thrust back with a single, demanding stroke. Sobs of grateful laughter tore at Krycek's throat, as Mulder settled in and fucked him hard, crushing his thighs against the desk, their balls slapping together. Krycek knew he would have bruises the next day. It hurt like hell, and it was sheer heaven.

Finally Mulder leaned over Krycek's back, wrapped his arms around Krycek's chest and pulled him upright, all the while continuing the hard, deep strokes of his cock into Krycek's ass. He took Krycek's cock in his hand and began to pump it. Krycek groaned and squirmed and came with a shout, spurting all over the front of Mulder's desk. Mulder thrust even harder, faster, until he fell forward, collapsing with Krycek down onto the desk, and came, laughing in Krycek's ear.


It was too uncomfortable to stay that way for long,tangled in a heap on top of Mulder's desk. So, still watery-kneed and wobbly, they pulled themselves to their feet and stumbled their way to the couch. Somehow Krycek ended up on Mulder's right, with his plastic arm between them. He groaned, but didn't feel like getting up again. Mulder giggled at his side.

"What?"

"You came all over my desk." He seemed rather pleased about it.

"You were aiming," Krycek pointed out. Then he sighed. "I'll clean it up." He pushed himself upright and headed for the kitchen to find a sponge and some paper towels, pulling up his jeans along the way.

When he returned to the living room, he found Mulder sprawled bonelessly across the couch, looking lazy and sated, hazel eyes creamy with satisfaction, languidly pulling on his still half-hard cock. Krycek stopped, staring. God, he was beautiful. A vision of pure sex. Someone ought to paint a portrait of him, just like that.

"Don't just stand there," Mulder ordered smoothly, a pleased smile on his full mouth. "Get to work, boy."

Krycek felt his face go red, as a hot lick of arousal tickled his cock. Not enough to be ready for more play just yet, but enough to give him a sensual glow. He took a deep breath, answered, "Yes, Sir," and went to kneel before the desk. I've created a monster, Krycek thought, grinning to himself. Mulder was enjoying his little adventure in dominance; let him have his fun.

But when Krycek had finished cleaning up his mess, and turned back to Mulder, he found his erstwhile master sitting up again, jeans zipped, face pink with embarrassment. So Krycek smiled, went back to the kitchen to discard the towels and toss the sponge in the sink, then returned to settle himself at Mulder's side and give him a solid hug.

"That was fun," Mulder said, a somewhat tentative lilt in his voice.

"Yes, it was," Krycek replied firmly. At least, it ended up being fun. His nerves were still a little raw from having had a gun shoved in his back. "You know, you scared the shit out of me at first."

"Yeah?" Mulder grinned.

"I thought you were going to kill me."

There was a pause while Krycek's words sunk in. The grin slowly faded. "You're serious."

"I wasn't really sure it was a game until you stopped to go get the lube. I was just getting ready to make a break for it when you backed off."

Mulder shook his head, confusion giving way to distress. "I can't believe you thought I was really going to hurt you."

Krycek could only stare. That wondrous Mulder denial: it was almost charming, in a thick-headed sort of way. Krycek could still count the bruises Mulder had given him, the number of times he'd stared down the barrel of Mulder's gun. Could Mulder really believe the past all wiped away and forgotten?

He could see the acknowledgment of those days reluctantly creep into Mulder's eyes. "Well, all right, but that was before. Things are different now."

"Are they really, Mulder? The past is still there. We haven't really dealt with any of it."

Mulder's expression grew hard. "I don't want to talk about that."

"I know," Krycek said softly. He reached out, tentatively, to stroke Mulder's arm. The muscle was tight and unyielding under his hand. "It's too soon. But some day we're going to have to."

Mulder shifted, a brief motion of shoulders and knees, with a small noise of frustration. "Why? What's the point? You can't make what happened go away."

"I know. But we have to find a way to accept it, and get past it."

Mulder shook his head, mouth pressed into a tight line. "Accept it? That you... ?" He stopped, mouth twisted in barely suppressed fury. "I can't even think about it. I just want to forget it ever happened."

"Mulder." Krycek shook his head wearily. "Can you honestly tell me you'll ever be able to forget everything that's happened?"

Mulder was very still. "No. I'll never forget."

"Well, if you can't forget it, and you won't deal with it, what's the point?" Krycek heard the pain, the desperation, creep into his own voice, and he hated himself for giving way to it, this helpless need for Mulder's forgiveness. "Why go on with this, if you already know it's hopeless?"

It was too soon. He knew it was too soon. Krycek cursed himself for a fool for continuing to push, when he'd already said it was too soon. Just let it be, let Mulder pretend he'd forgotten all about the past. He was going to push them past the point of no return, and lose whatever chance they had to work things out.

Mulder stood up, took two agitated strides across the room, then turned to Krycek with fists clenched and eyes like chips of flint. The look on Mulder's face sent a heavy chill down Krycek's spine. He'd seen that look before: after Mulder had found him in Dmitri's hospital room and brought him here to talk. Krycek had hoped to enlist Mulder's help in protecting Dmitri from the forces of the Syndicate, or at least to convince him not to interfere with Krycek's plan to rescue the boy. But Mulder had stalked around the apartment in a fury, unable to listen, almost mad with rage. Finally he had thrown himself on Krycek, kissed him, open-mouthed and hungry—but it had been a cruel hunger, full of black passion and the need to punish, and when he'd raised his arm to strike, Krycek had broken away and left, intending never to come back.

Now here was that black passion again, all the anger and pain, never far away, just temporarily pushed aside. "I don't know!" Mulder's voice rose, and there was a tremor in it, nearly breaking. "I don't know what else to do. You make me so... crazy, I just don't know what to do. Sometimes I just want...." His fists worked, his knuckles gone white as his fingers dug into his palms, and he spoke in a harsh whisper. "Sometimes I want to rip you to pieces with my bare hands, every last cell of you, until there's nothing left." He stopped, drew a deep, ragged breath. "But I can't. So I fuck you. It's the only thing that makes it at all bearable. It lets me forget, for a little while."

Krycek found himself standing, heart pounding, sick dismay twisting in his belly. Was that going to be it? Should he give it up and leave? But surely there was more to Mulder's passion than hate and an unfed need to strike out. There was tenderness, too. There was Mulder curled contentedly around him after sex, Mulder rubbing his back when it was sore, Mulder buying him McDonalds' for breakfast. There was caring, too, and it was this that made the hate and anger so difficult for him to bear. Surely, in time, there would be a way to work through it. They wouldn't be here at all if there weren't at least a chance.

Krycek went up to Mulder, close but not quite touching. "I'm sorry." He said it softly, tentatively, poised to flinch away. But there was no hostile reaction from Mulder, no anger, no rejection. He only stood there, frozen, staring at the floor.

"I'm sorry I make you feel that way. I wish there were something I could do to change things." Mulder looked at him strangely, eyes wide and shot through with pain, mouth working. It occurred to Krycek that he had never really apologized to Mulder for anything before. He hadn't thought Mulder was ready to hear it. Perhaps now he was.

Krycek reached out to touch Mulder's cheek, just a light brush of his fingertips down the angular jawline. "I'm sorry," he repeated.

Suddenly, Mulder pulled him fiercely into his arms, and buried his face in Krycek's neck. Major denial, Krycek thought: Put the hate back in its box and pretend it isn't there. Although, was Krycek himself really any better? So convinced that everything would be all right, if only they sat down and talked about it?

Never mind. He wrapped his arms around Mulder and held him tight.


Later that night they lay in Mulder's bed, curled around each other in the tangled sheets, sated and drained. They had made love again, slowly this time, carefully, as if they were made out of glass and ready to shatter. They had kissed for what seemed like hours—Krycek's lips were still a little tender, but oh, Mulder's mouth had been so sweet, he just couldn't get enough.

It was madness, Krycek decided, as he shifted onto his back. Mulder rolled over with him, sliding one knee across Krycek's thighs, and laying his head on Krycek's chest. Mulder's body was warm and velvety-smooth and satisfying next to his. He put his arm around Mulder's shoulders and held him close. —Madness to think that this rapturous sexual haze, no matter how glorious, could overcome the problems between them.

Then perhaps they were both mad: because here he was, and it seemed he believed it, too. I came back, Krycek thought. And I'm not going away again.

###

Cody's Fanfiction

codyne@netwizards.net


Rated NC17 for explicit m/m sex.
Sequel to Restitution: After Krycek returns from Russia, he and Mulder struggle with their new relationship.
Mulder and Krycek belong to Chris Carter and 1013. No infringement intended.
Feedback: codyne@netwizards.net

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