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All My Sins Remembered
by Garnet


"Well, if you told me you were drowning,
I would not lend a hand."

Phil Collins, "In the Air Tonight"

Fox Mulder huddled deeper beneath his blanket, his eyes never leaving the muted flicker of the tv screen in front of him. He had turned the sound off some time ago, preferring to watch the old black and white picture with only the soft bubble of his fish tank, the sound of the rain slanting down across the window, for company.

It matched his mood better.

But, God, he hated rainy Saturdays. He would have just damn well gone into work anyway, except that Skinner had been insistent to the point of rudeness about him taking a three day weekend. He had spent all of Friday doing things that he had let slide for days or even weeks, but it had been a half-hearted effort at best.

Nothing mattered anymore. Now that Scully...

His mind skittered away from the thought, so fast that the little red warning lights had hardly had time to flash before it was gone again.

Frohike had called late last night—about two in the morning, he thought—but it had been a courtesy call more than anything. No new information on the homefront of paranoids-are-us, not even a dropped tidbit about microchip-controlled rats or bugged breakfast foods to brighten his day. Just the sense that the little man had been hurting and didn't want him knowing that, but hadn't been quite able to keep himself from calling the next best thing anyway.

The only man who could really commiserate.

So, after he had hung up, he had turned back to his computer. To surfing the Net for any information, odd or rumor or otherwise, that could give him something to go on. Something more than what he already knew. But there had been nothing—just the same old sites, the same innuendoes. The same sketches of big-eyed insectoid beings and ships and MIB's, supposed excerpts from top secret government documents, and, as always, the rambling accounts of all the helpless and terrified victims.

It had been about four when he'd finally tried to turn in, only to find that eluding him as well. Not that that blissful state had ever really been his best friend, nightmares not withstanding. He had quite often gone for days without much sleep, but never this long before. Never three goddamn weeks. Nearly four, if you counted the days that preceded it. The days when it had all gone to Hell.

And left him behind.

Slowly, he rolled over onto his back, the worn leather of his couch creaking beneath him. Still holding the remote, he brought his arm up across his face and pressed it down over his eyes. He couldn't remember ever being so very tired before and that was scary. Thursday,

he had thought to read a file, only to discover that he'd been doing nothing but staring at the pencil in his hand for the last hour and a half. The black words and numbers engraved in the bright yellow paint had been etched deeply into his mind—flickers of yellow-white on black—a negative of themselves. It had taken a good half hour before the vision entirely cleared and by that time he had been called up to Skinner's office.

Watching as the flickering image flashed itself repeatedly across his boss's face, a distraction from the seriousness of the moment. Not that he could have exactly missed Skinner's mood, the sharpness of his eyes behind those glasses. The harsh tone that masked concern. And the man had alternated between being hard-assed and sympathetic, sweeping over all his protests with the ease of long practice.

He had felt handled in the end. Angry and resentful and yet grateful at the same time. Almost cringingly grateful that the man hadn't forced him to entirely drop the search yet. Though, on Monday, that would change somewhat. On Monday, Skinner was expecting—no, demanding, put the proper tone to it—that he focus on other cases. He had tried to sweeten it by telling him how much the Bureau needed him right now, though that had almost made him laugh instead. He had choked the reaction back though, knowing it was certainly not what Skinner would have expected or liked to see in him. Especially right now. But it was a joke; if they needed him so damn much why had they all but hung him out to dry over and over again. Buried his reports. Disbelieved him. Tried to discredit him.

Sent him Scully...

Fuck, fuck fuck. He pressed down even harder, exploding geometric patterns behind his eyelids. Still, the pain inside him expanded, a great hollow where his heart should be, echoing blindly, and nothing could seem to fill it. Not his work and not his movies, not even the ones that he jerked off to so resolutely, hoping against hope that it would wear him down enough to sleep. Instead, each time he had finally forced himself to come, it had made his place seem even more empty as a result, made his life feel even more pointless.

Not even the thought that Cancerman must be laughing up his ass right about now could seem to rouse him. And, when it came right down to it, he wasn't sure which scenario was better—that she had been taken away from him by Mr. Stinking Morley Man and his cronies or by something else...something other. Neither offered him much in the way of options or hope these days. Neither could make him feel any better, could lessen the fact that it was his fault.

His fault for involving her. His fault for not protecting her. For making his enemies, her enemies.

His fuck-ups, her punishment.

Mulder sat up abruptly and his head spun at the too-quick movement. For a moment or two, he stared at the screen, at the dark shadow of the monster stalking across the screen towards the oblivious victim, then turned the remote towards it and flicked it off. Spun the little device onto the top of the mess on the coffee table. Somewhere, off in the distance, a siren wound up into being and faded off and away. The rain continued to flood down the window, unheeded, unstoppable.

Without really thinking about what he was doing, Mulder leaned down and yanked his running shoes out from under the edge of the couch, pulled them on. He headed towards the door, pausing only to slip his keys out from his suit pants. He locked the door behind him, stuck the keys into the pocket of his sweat pants, and started down the dimly-lit hall. His body felt somewhat remote from him, his lower back and joints aching a little with each step he took

down the stairs, as if warning him that he was too tired and on edge to really go for any kind of run, but he pushed it all away from him.

Let that hollow place inside him eat it up.

He pushed the front door of the complex open and walked out, down the steps, and into the rain. It was cool and he turned his face up to it, feeling the drops landing hard on his closed eyes, on his cheeks. He opened his mouth to it and drank some of it and it tasted of nothing, of liquid nothing.

He lowered his head, then, and began to run, automatically turning in the direction that would eventually lead him to his favorite park. At first, he ran a touch awkwardly, almost as if he had forgotten how, but then old impulses took over and he fell into an easier gait. Instead of avoiding the puddles of water, he ran right through them and felt a dull twinge of pleasure at how high they splashed. It was childish, but he didn't much feel like caring.

Only a few other people were out on the sidewalk with him, most of them scurrying along beneath raised umbrellas—businessmen with plain black or grey, one woman with a shopping bag hooked over one elbow and a brilliant red umbrella to match her brilliant red purse. Two little girls being encouraged along by an older girl, holding a single large blue and pink and white and yellow floral umbrella high above them.

He passed them along one side, then ducked across the street and into the park that they had probably been retreating from. The grass looked greener than usual, despite the faded grey light of the sky, and the trees were dripping heavily. He kept to the walks, knowing the grass would no doubt be rather slippery, and took the steps down towards the lake at the middle of the park two at a time. The ducks that lived here nearly year round were crowded down at the opposite end, some of them up on the grass snatching up crumbs of bread that some old man was tossing them from a bench. Part of him wondered if they preferred them this way, sodden by the rain and the wet grass as opposed to three days or more dry.

He turned to the left and jogged around the edge of the lake, then took the next turn off. It passed beneath a thicker clump of trees, where the rain thinned out for a moment or two, and then down a slight hill towards the playground beyond. The sand looked thick, almost like wet clay, and there was no one on the swings or slide at all. Not even under the open-sided pavilion that lay just beyond.

For a second he through about going inside it and getting out of the rain for a little while, but since he was almost totally soaked through already there didn't seem to be much point to it. Instead, he ran on past it and back in amongst the trees, heading towards the little bridge. Another place where people sometimes came to feed the ducks that gathered there on the stream that flowed beneath it's low arch.

As he approached it, he realized that there was somebody standing in the center of it, leaning over the left hand side, though they didn't appear to be doing anything else. Not that there were any ducks below today, not even in the small pool that lay to one side of the bridge. Probably, they were all up by the old man, scarfing down the treats he was offering them.

The wooden slats of the bridge sounded beneath his feet and he slowed down slightly as his shoes threatened to skid out from under him. The man standing in the middle didn't glance at him as he passed by and he caught only a glimpse of a grey woolen cap pulled low to meet the turned-up collar of a rain-darkened coat, the even quicker impression of blue jeans and dirty sneakers below, before he was past and heading down the other side.

The walkway forked just beyond the bridge and he instinctively turned to the left, stepping out onto the more narrow path that followed the creek down through an actual patch of woods. He pushed himself to pick up speed again—his heart pounding now almost louder

than the sound of the rain around him—only to almost stumble over a crack in the cement. It threw him off completely and he slowly wound himself to a halt a few steps further on, breathing hard. Harder than he really liked or expected.

He bent down to stretch out his legs, but that made his heart pound even worse, a raging ocean sounding its fury in his ears, and made him feel a little sick to his stomach. He realized that his legs were shaking slightly, that his knees were on the verge of collapse.

"Fuck," he hissed through clenched teeth, suddenly furious with himself, with his lack of stamina. He should be able to do a simple run like this in his sleep, no sweat, no problem. It shouldn't have exhausted him like this, except that he was already exhausted. Not that that was anybody's damn fault but his own, and none of their damn business either, assistant director or not.

He could take care of himself. He always had. It was only when others were involved that things fell apart and was it really his fault that they were the ones who always ended up falling through the cracks. He had never asked for them. He had never wanted or desired or let it be known that he was angling for them get close to him, to matter to him. If people mattered to you then they were just hostages to fortune and he couldn't afford that, not in his line of work, not with his interests.

Especially not considering those who would like to stop him or see him misled or even dead.

Dead, as Scully even now might be dead. Or dying...

"No," the word came out garbled, broken with all the pain he didn't want to admit to, and he turned blindly away from the path and the creek. His hands touched the rough bark of a tree and he pressed the side of his face to the damp surface, dug the tips of his fingers into it to keep from simply falling.

He would sense that—he would know that—if it were true, wouldn't he? The only answer was the sudden rush of stinging hot tears to his eyes, a great twist of pain in his chest that threatened to crush his lungs, and a feeling of being alone, so goddamned alone that he couldn't hardly stand it.

"Mulder," a calm voice said behind him. A familiar voice.

He yanked himself away from the tree and turned, automatically reaching for a gun that wasn't there.

Alex Krycek didn't move. Only his eyes flickered at the other man's abortive motion. Eyes as green as the wet grass, as dangerously slippery. Just a hint of his dark hair poking out from beneath a damp grey cap. And Mulder realized with sudden rage and shame that he had been the man who'd been standing on the bridge, who had kept his face carefully averted as he'd just jogged right on by, oblivious to how close he was to one of his enemies, to the man who'd betrayed him, who'd helped them kidnap Scully.

"You son-of-a-bitch," he snarled. And made for his second gun, the familiar weight just above his right ankle.

But the other man was already moving as well and took him hard in the side, knocking his head back against the tree, a dull explosion that momentarily turned his thoughts grey. Somewhat distantly, he felt himself hit the ground, a heavy weight landing on him. Fingers

fought roughly with his over the small gun, but he managed to rip it away, to get it up in the narrow space between them. His finger tightening down on the trigger even as his thumb tried

to take off the safety.

This time, Krycek swore—a string of harsh words that he didn't quite catch—before he grabbed his wrist and ruthlessly turned it back on itself.

Mulder gasped as a sharp twinge of fire shot up his arm, but he didn't let go. The safety came off at last and he struggled madly to push the barrel back over towards the other man. To pull the trigger.

"Fuck, Mulder," his ex-partner spat, then his other hand came in out of nowhere and the clenched fist took him hard on the side of the head, snapping his head back against the solid weight of the tree trunk once more. This time, the greyness that followed was leaden, laced with jagged black bits of pain and dizziness, and he felt himself sinking down beneath it. Beneath the sheer effort of it all. Too much, it was all too much...

Still, he made a small sound of protest as he felt the gun ripped out of his hand. As he felt it come to rest against the side of his throat, the metal cool, almost as cool as the rain had been. Then those green eyes were right in front of him, boring down into his, and they were angry as he had never seen them before, so sharp, so hurtful, and he couldn't stand the sight of them. These eyes had lied to him. They had watched Scully being taken away from him and never let on to the truth.

Murderous eyes, so bright and yet so very very dark.

Like the man who lived behind them.

The man who was about to kill him with his own gun.

All the black and jagged edges began to stitch themselves together then, sealing him away inside with them, pulling him down, and he felt himself smiling, smiling as though it were the greatest joke of all.

###

Krycek frowned as he felt the body beneath him go limp, as Mulder's eyes closed and his head lolled back. Shit, he hadn't meant to hit him that hard, but the man just wouldn't stop. Not even after he'd nearly broken his wrist.

Though that really hadn't been all that strange or unexpected considering what Mulder must feel towards him, what he must blame him for—what had been strange was that last little smile just before he'd passed out, a rueful and yet teasingly sweet expression as if what had just happened, what was happening, was all for the benefit of some private amusement all his own. But, then, Mulder had never thought like normal people, which was part of what made him charming and part of what made him annoying. And so very dangerous to the men he worked for.

He stroked the gun barrel along the line of Mulder's jaw, then up the side of his face. There was no reaction; the man was out cold. He pulled the gun away and sat back on his haunches, grimacing as he felt cold rain dripping down on his neck through the narrow space between the bottom of his cap and the top of his coat. Only Mulder would have thought to go running on a day like today, and only he would have thought to be out there in the same damn

rain waiting for him.

Disobeying his orders. Or, rather, reading between the lines of them. They had never specifically told him to stay away from the man, only assumed he wouldn't be that stupid. Or suicidal.

If Mulder didn't kill him for it, then they would be glad to, especially if he ended up with his ass in prison over it. They couldn't afford to let him spill even what little he knew. It wasn't policy and policy was everything. To deny. To discredit. To destroy if necessary.

And it became necessary an awful damn lot, especially where his boss was concerned.

Abruptly, he stood and, flicking the safety back on, shoved the little gun away in his coat pocket. He bent down then and lifted the other man, pushing him up over his shoulder, stumbling a little sideways with the weight as he stood back up again. God, Mulder was heavier than he looked, heavier than he should be considering how little he had been eating lately, how little he was sleeping.

All part of the plan. The plan he had helped start into motion.

The plan he was beginning to deeply regret.

As he regretted so very much these days.

###

Mulder came awake slowly, his head aching, his mouth dry, a sensation of movement making him feel faintly sick to his stomach. He opened his eyes and slowly lifted his head a little, but there was nothing but blackness and a sense of being closed in, and he realized that he must be in the trunk of a car. A car moving at high speed from the sound of it, from the feel of the vibration.

Carefully, he took stock of his situation. His hands were tied behind him with what felt like some kind of nylon rope, his ankles similarly bound, his shoes and socks missing. A balled up piece of cloth had been inserted into his mouth and also tied into place. All of it tight, almost to the point of discomfort. Past the point of discomfort when it came to his wrists, especially the wrist that had gotten wrenched in the fight. His right arm also seemed to be asleep from his weight pressing down on it and his legs were expressing their disapproval as well.

He tried to stretch them out a little, but the movement only made them ache more. Made him more aware of the helplessness of his position.

Mulder closed his eyes again and got a quick flash of the image the police car camera had captured of Scully, similarly bound and gagged and trapped in the trunk of car, and a small sound escaped him before he could stop it. She had looked so scared, so damn scared.

And now she was gone.

His chest ached as he fought back sudden tears, a wave of dizzy fear and despair and denial, and he turned his face back down to the floor beneath him. Swallowed several times, feeling as if shards of glass had been somehow lodged in his throat. His head started to throb as well, making him feel even more sick. Desperately, he fought the nausea down, all too aware that if he actually threw up he would be in danger of choking on it.

He had seen it before. Not a very pleasant way to die, though, of course, there were far worse. He had seen that before, too, both with his work on the X-Files and in his years before. Serial killers could be nothing if not inventive.

A moment later, he felt the car slowing and then it turned and the sound changed. The road grew abruptly rougher and he heard the occasional ping on the frame beneath him as a stone was tossed up by the tires. He fought to contain his stomach as the vehicle shook,

speeding up again, probably way too fast for the condition of the road it was on, and now he could hear the faint scratch of tree branches across the side of the car as well.

Krycek must be taking him to the fucking back of nowhere. Which didn't bode well, despite the fact that if he had just wanted to kill him he could have damn well done it back at the park. Or maybe it didn't bode well precisely because he hadn't just killed him them. It implied there was some sort of plan involved, that yet another game had been or was about to be set in motion, and he simply wasn't in the mood for that. Had never been, actually, but even what little bit of patience he was normally capable of mustering was pretty much bone dry right now.

As were most of his other resources if he was going to be perfectly honest with himself.

Not that the man who had kidnapped him was likely to much impressed by any pretensions to honesty.

The car took a couple of sharp turns, then seemed to be going down an incline. The scrape of the branches grew even louder for a moment or two, and then the vehicle turned yet again, an even quicker move that set the back of his throat to burning. He swallowed hard several times, then winced as the car abruptly stopped and he was tossed forward with the sudden cessation of movement.

The engine roared up once, then died, making the silence and stillness that followed even more shocking. He lifted his head a little, straining his eyes despite all hope, but saw the same nothingness as before. He heard a quiet sound, though, which he identified as drops of water landing on the lid of the trunk over his head. It was a soft, almost comforting sound—trees weeping raindrops after a heavy shower, a heavy storm.

Mulder strained his hearing past that, but there was nothing more for a long time. Then, when he was about to let his head fall again, his neck muscles screaming at him, he heard a car door open. Felt the vehicle move slightly. The door slam shut.

He tensed, but nothing else happened. Finally, he let his head sink back down, but kept his eyes open. His first real panic stirred inside him at the sudden thought that maybe Krycek wasn't going to let him out of the trunk, after all. Maybe he was just planning on leaving him in here to rot—just an abandoned car down some dead end road, one that no one would find for days or weeks or even months. Long after he had died of hunger and thirst if he didn't suffocate himself first, leaving a bloated and twisted pretzel of a corpse for some local coroner to pour over.

They might even have to identify him from his dental records; he hadn't had any ID on him when he'd set out on his little run.

The only perverse bit of relief was that at least it wouldn't be Scully who they'd call in to identify his remains.

His only warning was the click of the key in the lock and then the lid was being yanked up. Water dripped down on him, cooler even than the air that rushed over him. At first, he could see nothing but a shadow looming over him—dark against a deepening dusk—and then the man moved a little, leaning inwards, and a last little touch of light caught his face. Caught on the gun he was holding loosely in his free hand.

"Well," Krycek said, his pleasant tone belying the impassive look on his face. "Look what Santa Claus left me. I must have been a really good boy this year."

###

To his surprise, Mulder didn't fight very much as he wrestled him out of the trunk and hefted him back over his shoulder again. But then, the man had looked only a step or two away from collapse when he'd passed him in the park let alone now, after several hours locked up in the trunk of his car.

Then again, maybe he had been just too distracted by trying not to throw up; he had caught an involuntary shudder or two running through Mulder as he carried him, had seen him clenching his jaw, his breathing coming increasingly shallow and harsh as he walked him down the path and up to the house. Not that he wasn't breathing a little heavy by then as well. He would have parked closer to the house, except that the ground got a bit swampy in places back here in the best of times, let alone after a whole day of rain. At least, the place didn't have a real basement to speak of, otherwise it would probably be in constant danger of being flooded.

Krycek yanked the screen door open and edged in past it, half-turning to maneuver his way through. It slammed shut again behind him, a sound that was as familiar as it was loud. He had gotten yelled at often enough as a kid about constantly letting it slam as they raced in and out of the living room. Not that anything would actually come of it until his uncle would start to rise up from the sofa, a beer in one hand, sweat banded across his forehead. His cousins would be for it, then, and him as well. If they were lucky, his mom or his aunt would smoothly intervene and send them off down to the lake to play. If they were unlucky, his dad would get into it as well and the day's play would come crashing to a resounding halt.

At least until they could swallow their tears and creep out of the house and down to the lake on their own, or over to the treehouse his uncle had built when he had bought the place and first started taking his young family there for weekends during the summer. A good American by then for nearly twenty years, with an American wife, their kids spoke little Russian, knew even less about where their dad had come from.

Not what his father had expected from him at all.

He walked across the living room without looking at anything and down the narrow hall beyond, turning into the bedroom at the far end. At first, he thought to just drop the other man down on the narrow bed there, but then reconsidered and let him down more gently when he realized it might be too much for him and his stomach for the time being. If he hadn't thought it would have garnered him anything other than abuse, he would have simply removed the gag before hauling him down here.

Krycek let go and stepped back, watching Mulder taking in as much of the room as he could see by the light of the one lamp he'd switched on. It only took a second or two, then the FBI agent looked back at him and rolled over as an obvious precursor to trying to get off the bed and back to his feet, only to wince in obvious pain as his legs came off the side and hit the floor. The gag muffled the sound he made and he hesitated there, precariously half on the bed, half off, his head down. Breathing hard.

He thought about just letting him fall the rest of the way, then let out a sharp breath through his teeth. Damn the man anyway.

"C'mon, Mulder," he said. "Don't be difficult. You're in no shape for it."

Still, when he approached, the other man jerked back from his outstretched hand, his head snapping up and away, hazel eyes glaring.

Krycek paused, part of him amused by the savage rage on the man's face, another part sending a small twinge of sadness and regret through him at the sight.

"Or we can do it your way," he said and it came out without betraying either emotion. Without betraying anything at all. "That was the hard way, wasn't it, Agent Mulder? I seem to

remember that, even from our so short time together."

Mulder just continued to glare at him, then that jaw tightened again and the man slowly, carefully, levered himself back up and to a sitting position on the edge of the bed. He closed his eyes, his head slightly turned away, obviously struggling with himself. Struggling not to be sick.

Krycek shrugged and finally let his hand drop. "Never disappointing," he said quietly.

That head snapped back around again and, despite how he must be feeling, those hazel eyes flashed at him, telling him in simple terms what the other man wanted to do to him right then and there. How much he wanted to hurt him.

And for a second or two, Krycek remembered with acute clarity what it had felt like to hit him back in the park and he felt a vicious and almost overpowering urge to do it again, to take his fist to that defiant jawline, to hear the smack of flesh against flesh, to watch those eyes close in shock and sudden pain. Perhaps even hitting him hard enough this time to draw blood.

After all, Mulder hated him already—blamed him for things he had had no real control over—what did it really matter?

Except that it did. He hadn't brought him here to beat him around, though that might end up being inevitable at some point knowing the man. Knowing his stubbornness.

No, he had brought him here because he had no choice in the matter anymore. Because he hadn't been out there in the rain waiting for him on just this one special day, but on numerous days before. Days and nights and hours in-between—anytime he could snatch a moment away from the man who ruled his life these days—thinking about Fox Mulder, dreaming about him, wishing and wanting like hell to see him again and yet fearing it at the same damn time. Hating what he felt and what he wanted, hating the man who'd somehow come to make him feel that way, and yet not being able to simply turn away.

His desires and his foolishness had screwed his life over once before, had stripped him of his freedom, he didn't want to make the same mistake again. He couldn't afford it; the kind of people he worked for now had no compunction about killing and failure was one of their cardinal sins. Still, when he saw the result of their handiwork...saw Fox Mulder falling to pieces before his very eyes, the rest of it didn't seem to matter so very much. Not his life and not his death.

Not that either of them really belonged to him anymore.

Nothing much did. Nothing but...this.

"If you promise to behave," he said at last, only a hint of sarcasm escaping into his tone. "I'll take the gag off, at least."

For a long time the look in those hazel eyes didn't change, didn't soften at all, then they flicked away. Mulder nodded, the sharp motion conveying a curious blend of reluctance and gratefulness.

Krycek approached slowly, more than half anticipating an attack on the other man's part despite his acquiescence. Still, Mulder didn't move, though his body was tense almost to the point of trembling, as he reached behind him and undid the knots there, pulled the strip of cloth away. Reached towards his mouth and the ball of cloth that had been forced inside.

Only to have Mulder pull back suddenly and shake his head.

Krycek raised his hands and stepped away, watching silently as the FBI agent worked the cloth out of his own mouth and spat it onto the floor between them. As Mulder coughed and swallowed heavily over and over again, before finally catching his breath and his

composure again.

Before looking back up at him.

"You're welcome," Krycek said, forestalling the first word out of the other man's mouth, which would obviously not have been any kind of thank you.

Mulder shook his head slightly. "Where's Scully?" he asked, his voice rough. "Is she...?"

"I don't know," he replied, cutting him off. Not really surprised by the question.

"Damn you, Krycek."

That came out with an edge that almost made him smile. "Too late, probably," he said. "I would tell you if I could, but I can't. It wouldn't do you any good. Or me, for that matter."

Mulder let out a sound that only remotely resembled a laugh. "Like I give a shit about that."

"That's clear enough."

Mulder cursed, closing his eyes for a moment. "What the fuck do you want?" he asked, his voice suddenly tired more than anything.

For a second, he thought about answering that honestly, baldly, directly, just to see the reaction on the other man's face. Just to shock the hell out of him. It was tempting, even more tempting than the sudden desire to haul off and punch him had been. But as satisfying as it might be to use the truth against this man in this moment, he forced himself to dismiss the idea, knowing it would just complicate things and Mulder was more than capable of complicating matters all on his own as it was.

Far better to stick to the plan. The one that might end up with both of them living. That one that would finally purge this man out of his mind, out of his dreams. Leave him free to walk away.

Leave no one who could...

Ruthlessly, he squelched the thought. Anger followed in its wake, anger at himself and at the man sitting in front of him. How someone so brilliant could be so obtuse, so blind to the effects he had on those around him, he didn't know. He had never been able to figure out in those short months they had spent together as partners of a sort, let alone in the infinitely long and painful months since.

Not that it could have been different even if Mulder had known. If he had known and had responded—if he was even capable or interested in responding in that fashion to any man, let alone to his somewhat annoyingly green new partner—it would have ended up the same anyway. It was...had been...his job, just a job. He would have still reported as he had and they would have responded as they had and Scully would still be gone and Mulder would be exactly as he was right now, teetering on a razor's edge over the abyss.

Letting his obsessions pull him apart. Letting Scully's loss destroy him.

Maybe even thinking about eating his own gun in his darkest hours, oblivious to the fact that a man, an enemy, a betrayer, was standing across the street from his very window, a gawker waiting expectantly for the fucking accident to happen. A ghoul watching for them to come and remove the broken and bleeding body of the man he wanted so much to taste, to touch, to goddamn eat when it came right down to it, that he couldn't hardly stand it anymore.

To have it denied him. To have it ripped away. Everything that never was.

"What I want," he repeated at last and his own voice seemed suddenly almost as tired. "Is for you to listen to me, for once. To hear what I have to say."

Mulder shook his head again. "And why should I have to listen to more lies," he said. "From you, of all people."
"Besides the obvious reason?" Krycek commented dryly.

The other man shot him a sharp look. Then he seemed to slump down further on the edge of the bed and his eyes nearly closed again. "So what are your orders today?" he asked quietly. "To threaten me some more? To warn me off? Or did they just think the sight of your friendly face would somehow magically alter my perceptions, make me think that they really do know best? That they only had my best interests at heart all along."

"They have their interests," he replied and a hard edge crept into his tone before he could stop it. "You're paying right now for ignoring them, for balking them. Like Scully's paying." Like he had paid and was paying still.

This time, there was no overt reaction to Scully's name, though he thought the other man's shoulders twisted momentarily. It might simply have been a reaction to the awkward position he was in, but he doubted it.

"Mulder," he said, a little softer. "These men. You have no idea what they can do. What they have done. They could have destroyed you a hundred times over by now if they really wanted to, if it suited them. Their agenda. At most, what you've caused them is some frustration, a set-back here and there, easily remedied, easily fixed. While, what has it earned you? A dead end career. An office hidden away in the basement where they used to keep the copier supplies, for God's sake." He took a half step closer and his voice dropped even more. "I wasn't lying when I said I'd admired your work back at Quantico. But I can see what they saw, why they used to talk about you in such disparaging terms at the same time. Wondering why you'd let it all go. You could have—could be—doing so much more. Instead of just chasing shadows."

"You're not a shadow," Mulder said, his own voice low, expressionless. "And neither is he. Or his damn cigarettes."

"But we are," he replied. "Shadows and rumors and questions that can never be answered. Questions that can't even be asked."

Mulder looked up at him and his eyes just looked tired now, betraying that the man himself was far past the point of exhaustion. Still, they caught and held his easily and a slow wash of emotion swept through him, making the room suddenly seem far too small. The other man far too close. And he didn't want to hit him anymore, didn't want to punish him with taunts or even the naked truth—he just wanted to hold him, to feel that skin pressing against his, that heart beating beneath his hands, to taste those lips, that mouth, and let himself sink down beneath it all. Let himself sink so far inside that they could never be separate anymore.

They could never be alone.

"Give it up," Mulder said, his voice whisper-thin. So very weary. "I'm not in the mood."

For one mad moment, he thought the other man had known what he was thinking, what he was feeling, even what he was planning, but then it passed and he only felt tired as well. He shouldn't have even started this conversation. Shouldn't have removed the gag until after it

was too late. He had forgotten how much the man drove him crazy in other ways. Hadn't wanted to think that he could hurt him with a word or just a look. One soft, bone-drained, exquisitely precious look.

"Okay," he replied. Keeping it simple, keeping it neat.

###

Mulder heard the response with mingled relief and disbelief. He let his head fall again, squeezing his eyes tightly closed. The man was a liar and a traitor, but what he had said still hurt. Not so much because it wasn't true, but because it was. He had just learned to live with it, to block it out of his mind whenever he could, but over the past few weeks that had gotten harder and harder to do. If he hadn't been who he was and done what he had done, then Scully would still be here. Pursuing her own career. Maybe even teaching back at Quantico by now. Maybe even married with a couple of perfect little red-haired kids, the sweetest husband this side of the Bureau.

He wished that if Krycek was going to kill him or torture him or whatever that he would just damn well get on with it. He didn't know how much longer he could sit here, straining to remain upright, barely able to keep his balance anymore, his wrist throbbing, his head aching, his whole damn body complaining about what it had been put through. Too many days of little food and less sleep and being knocked around and crammed into a tiny compartment for what must have been hours.

Maybe a shot to the head back at the park would have been better. At least it would all be over now. No more waiting, no more worrying, each thought twisting and winding back on itself until it had grown so tangled and torn that he couldn't hardly see anything else, let alone feel anything else. Nothing but the long fall of empty space that lay beneath him—smooth-walled and bottomless, no purchase, no release, no way out or back, it was the void pure and simple and he knew it well. It was the self-same place that had beckoned for him when he was a kid, when Samantha had been taken from him. When his parents had turned away from each other and from him. The place he had sometimes glimpsed on his worst days in Violent Crimes, when what he did and what he saw no longer seemed to touch him anymore. When nothing could seem to touch him.

Scully had been the first person to get inside once he'd finally left, left before it killed him. The first and practically the only and he missed her so damn bad it was all he could not to just break down and cry, right here, right now, in front of the man who had helped take her away from him. Who had lied to him and almost, almost, gotten inside as well. Just a foot in the door, but it had been enough to make his betrayal all the more unexpected and painful.

The only person in the world he had learned to trust, who had never abused that trust, was gone and he was alone again, no one to guard his back, no one to sharpen his wit on, to drag across the country and back on one mad quest after another. To keep him safe and—reasonably—sane. To haul him back time and time again, kicking and screaming sometimes, from the edge of that void.

God, he missed her blue eyes, her voice, even her own brand of sarcasm. Even her sometimes blind faith in science to have all the answers.

Even the way she had sometimes hurt him, without really meaning to.

"Mulder."

He didn't look up, didn't respond, as that voice said his name. He didn't want to listen anymore, didn't want anything but for it to be over. At the very least, he should be able to count on Krycek for that—he didn't even much care about painless anymore, just quick. Just soon. Just for there to be an end at the last.

Krycek was a killer. Why didn't he just get on with it?

"Mulder, look at me."

The voice was closer this time, but still it almost seemed to come from further away at the same time. As if the void was sucking pieces of it away.

"Shit."

He sensed the movement a moment too late. Rough hands pushed him back on the bed, pushed him flat, and his right wrist was twisted again beneath him, white-hot pain banding and expanding up his arm. He gasped, his eyes snapping open despite himself, and the shadows tumbled and spun and released a face, trapped him with a pair of green eyes that had gone almost black with frustration and anger and something else he couldn't quite place.

Something that only resolved itself when that face drew abruptly even closer, when a pair of hard, yet unutterably gentle, lips pressed against his own. A breath passing between them, an even gentler sigh of air, and then a slight withdrawal before they came down with even more force and parted further and a tongue suddenly pressed for entry into his mouth. Into him.

And he was struck dumb, frozen by disbelief, mute horror and fear. What kind of fucking game was this...?

Only to have that tongue force its way inside, sending an even greater shock through him as he suddenly found himself tasting the man who was kissing him so roughly and so very tenderly at the same damn time. A dark taste, musky and salty and yet sweet all at once, as of strong whiskey and rainwater and leather and earth, a hint of the blasted ozone smell that a storm left in its wake.

And it was so real—so completely and utterly real and there and impossible to ignore—that he couldn't hardly stand it.

Hadn't felt anything like it in what felt like forever.

Then the other man was drawing back a touch, looking down at him, and though there was no expression visible on his face, he couldn't seem to hide what was in his eyes. There was excitement there and trepidation, determination and desire—breathless and almost blinding desire—nothing he had ever quite seen in anyone before, even in someone who had just kissed him. Let alone in someone who had just came out of nowhere and knocked him down and kidnapped him and kissed him as if it was all that stood between him and starving to death.

Someone who should hate his guts as much as he hated his.

Didn't he realize?

Somehow, he managed to catch his breath. "What the fuck? What—have you lost your mind?"

That garnered him a smile, slight and tight and a bit mocking. "Maybe. I'll let you know."

He blinked and through several responses occurred to him, they all ran straight into each other, a major pile up that he couldn't manage to find a way over or around.

Krycek tilted his head, obviously reading his confusion. "I could tell you it was just an

attention getter, but I'd be lying. And you'd figure it out anyway, once I'd kissed you a second time."

"You...?" He cut himself off, a laugh rising unbidden. A laugh that threatened to choke him. That turned to an exclamation of pain as the wrist pinned beneath him sent another lightning bolt through him, this time all the way up to his shoulder.

Krycek must have caught the change, because a frown appeared and he pulled back even further. "Sorry," he mumbled. "Here, let me help you."

"Just leave me alone," Mulder responded, part of him appalled at the tone of desperation in his voice, then pressed his lips tight together as his wrist twinged again, the pain sharp as broken glass. "Shit, shit, shit."

"Well, at least you're alive again," the other man commented.

Mulder let out a long breath. He tried to shift over, to get some of the weight off his bound hands, and Krycek was suddenly there again, one hand closing on his shoulder, one on his hip, and he was being turned onto his right side. Quickly and firmly, as if the other man knew that any other way would only prolong the agony.

This time, he managed to keep silent, holding his breath for the worst of it. The hands shifted their grip slightly and he felt Krycek leaning over him a moment, before he withdrew again. Not touching him now, but staying close. Too close.

"Mulder, there are several choices you have to make now," Krycek said quietly, evenly. "I'd like to untie your hands and I'd like you to promise not to try anything. I don't have to do this. It's just for your comfort. If you do as I ask, I can even get you some aspirin and some ice, something to take the edge off."

"Don't do me any favors," he responded through clenched teeth. "You twisted son-of-a-bitch."

There was a long pause, long enough for him to worry about what the other man might be up to, but Krycek didn't move. And when he did finally say something it was even quieter than before, so quiet that he almost had to strain to hear it.

"If that's how you want it. I guess it doesn't really matter that much."

And then Krycek was moving closer again and though he was making no obviously threatening motions, Mulder found himself automatically retreating from him before he could stop himself. Involuntarily glancing up. And was surprised to find an actual line of concern etched between the other man's eyes, belying the hard look of his mouth. As if he didn't know it was there.

A moment later, it wasn't, as Krycek's eyes caught on his. And that derisive smile returned.

"You probably have no idea how long I've wanted to do that," he said. "But then, as you know, I'm a liar and I'm good at it. At pretending to things I don't feel and don't believe. At least, well enough to fool even you. For a time."

"What do you want me to say?" he asked. "Congratulations?"

The smile hitched up a notch. "I want you to be reasonable, but maybe that's asking too much. I want you to stop beating yourself over the head for all the things you can't change. I want you to stop blaming yourself that she's gone. There was nothing you could have done. There's nothing you can do. I wouldn't have thought you'd want to let them win so damn easily."

That made him want to laugh again. Almost.

"What do you fucking care?" he responded. "You are them."

Krycek's expression didn't change, but his eyes did. Again they turned dark, green fading almost to black, cold and bleak and burning for all that. Nearly the same look as he had been seeing in his own eyes as of late, when he could stand to face himself in a mirror at all.

"Your call," was all he said, though.

For a second or two, Mulder held his gaze, then he felt an almost uncontrollable wave of exhaustion sweep over him, its familiar tendrils digging into his thoughts, pulling them thinner and thinner, unraveling at the edges like he was going to pass out again. He suddenly felt far too frail for all this, lost and spent and rather uncaring. He let his eyes fall, knowing it was a concession of sorts, but unable to care right now.

"Go on, then," he said, his voice flat, dulled.

He closed his eyes and the greyness was right there before him, reminiscent of the walls of the void, all glassy-slick and polished, thick and solid and indescribably tangible, closing in on him, compressing down on all his thoughts as if the inside of his own skull had been replaced by some kind of exotic metal. A smashed piece of an alien spacecraft, perhaps, bent all past recognition by its impact with the earth.

It should have been frightening—it always had before, the veil slowly coming down, growing thicker and harder until all that was left to him was this pressure, all the rest of the world locked out—but this time he felt almost detached from it, from himself. There were only echoes of things, disjointed and distant and meaning nothing to him, as he realized that Krycek was touching him again, moving him. Not even the startling bright bursts of pain as his wrist was handled got through completely. Certainly not enough that he cared about it. Let alone about the slightly duller pain that followed as arms were moved apart, as the other man came even closer and lifted him slightly, far enough for his right arm to slide free under his body as he was turned to lie flat on his back. As his legs were pressed down gently to the bed.

Part of him only began a protest as his left wrist was abruptly captured again and stretched up over his head, but it faded away as he ignored it. Noting only clinically as pressure tightened down on the wrist once more, as his arm was pulled taut at a slightly different angle, one that informed him that it was being made fast to part of the bedframe.

He sensed the other man leaning over him then, close enough that his breath brushed across his face, and mild panic finally began to stir at that...no, he didn't want to be touched, why couldn't they all just let him be, let him go...but it quickly succumbed as the greyness closed ranks against it, its little spark of fear sucked out as if by a vacuum, dimmed down to nothingness before it disappeared entirely.

"I'll be right back," a voice said and that meant even less to him. Barely registered.

And then he was alone, truly alone, and somehow that wasn't better at all. It was worse. Impossibly and relentlessly worse. Because now, he felt himself beginning to really slide and knew beyond hope and beyond bearing that there was no one left anymore, no one at all, who cared enough to try and catch him. To hold him back. To make him matter. To matter to him.

He tried to cry out, to make even one single small sound, but it only rebounded off the walls. He had to be silent. He was silent. Like he had been the night Samantha had been stolen from him—standing there frozen and terrified beyond imagining, only able at the last to

move, to call out, once she had vanished out the window. Vanished from his life forever. The only good thing, the best thing, from his life up till then. Maybe forever. Except for Scully and she was gone too now, a sacrifice to the uncaring gods of his life. To the coldness that lived between the stars. That lived in his heart.

That wanted him all to itself.

He began to slide faster, wanting this time to let himself go...

###

Krycek walked back into the bedroom and hesitated there, looking at the man stretched out before him. Lying on the quilt that his aunt's mother had made out of old curtain remnants a good forty years ago. He had sat watching tv sometimes with that quilt wrapped around him, occasionally with one of his cousins tucked in beside him, kicking him in the leg at the more exciting bits in the show as if for some kind of emphasis or maybe just for the hell of it.

His father hadn't approved of television very much, but his mother had felt differently. Not that they had ever came right out and fought about it, about anything for that matter, but she had done things on the sly on more than one occasion once his father had decided against it. Sometimes, those things had been with him or for him, for which they caught hell if they were caught. Or, rather, he had caught hell for being the one who should have known better. His father raising him to be a man, for God's sake. Not a womanish boy.

If he wasn't dead now—dead for nearly ten years, along with his mother, who he hadn't deserved to take along with him—he would have been absolutely appalled by what he had just done in this room. By what he was planning on doing. It would have justified his suspicions in the kind of man his one and only son was turning out to be, justified his belief in the evil influences of America. As if there were not and had never been any fucking queers in Russia.

Shoot em, yeah, but never suck em.

And never, ever, let them fuck you.

At least that little bit of sorry advice he had taken to heart, though not in the way his father had obviously intended. The nasty part of it, though, was that if he had kept his nose out of the rest of it—if he had only stuck to screwing women as his father had believed God, or at the very least the State, had intended—he might not be where he was now. They might never have approached him all those years ago and given him a choice that wasn't a choice and he could have been a FBI agent for legit and the man right in front of him might have been his partner for real and for good, or as long as for good ever lasted.

He might have been clean.

And Fox Mulder might have liked him.

Finally, he moved forward again and set the glass of water down on the bedside table. Put down the little dark glass vial next to it—not aspirin as promised, but pain-killer of a sort anyway. The folded towel of ice he kept as he went to stand by the edge of the bed.

"Mulder?" he asked.

The FBI agent's eyes were closed, his face turned away slightly, but the hand tied to the bedframe twitched minutely.

Krycek frowned. Mulder was acting similar to before, as if he were only one fine step from being out of it entirely.

This time, he didn't bother with his name again. He reached out and brushed his

fingers across one shoulder, following the line of bone towards the neck. Mulder didn't move, didn't respond at all, not even a flinch, and now he noticed how shallow his breathing was, how pale he looked. As if he'd been badly hurt. Was hurting. Somewhere inside where it didn't show, except that it was killing him anyway.

Krycek let out a long slow breath, his stomach feeling as it had been turned inside out.

God, what they had done to him. What he had helped do to him.

They had taken his life and remade it into what they wanted it to be, but this man they were destroying. Slowly and irrevocably. By taking Scully away from him they had torn out some kind of supporting wall, something necessary to him, and the whole damn thing was coming tumbling down.

A bullet would have been kinder.

But when had they ever been kind.

He leaned over and set the cloth and ice down on the bedside table as well, then turned back to the man in front of him. He sat down on the edge of the bed, staring at that face—so quiet now, so expressionless. So far beyond the sense of cool humor it radiated in the best of times, the almost magnetic rage it broadcast during the worst. When he was hating him the most.

He had been doing this for himself—little thought for the man who was going to help him do it, who he was going to purify himself in, purge himself from—but now he realized that it was much more than that. If that one kiss hadn't taught him that lesson, looking at him now certainly did. He didn't want to see him like this; that had been no lie, much as he'd said all those things in order to get the other man. Mostly.

But maybe he had been lying, only to himself this time.

Maybe he had something to offer as well, to give as well as to take.

He pulled himself gently further onto the bed and put his hands down to either side of the man's body. Leaned in even closer—longing for the mouth, that mouth, again—but kissing him on one closed eyelid instead. Softly, so softly. He followed with the other, then trailed across one cheek to Mulder's left ear and licked the swirl of it, delved inside, then pulled back a touch to bite gently at the earlobe below.

The other man's eyes still didn't open, but his whole body shivered once.

Krycek chose to take it as encouragement. Not that he really needed an excuse. He sat back and reached down the bottom of the sweatshirt, began to peel it slowly upwards, baring the flesh below. Without its protection, Mulder looked thin, thinner than he remembered him from the time he'd caught him at the pool.

He left the sweatshirt bunched up under his arms and bent down again, running his tongue along the rim of his navel first. Then tracing upwards to lick one of those little brown nipples, swirling that as well, tasting salt and skin, teasing at it until it rose up all on its own. Nipping at it. Taking the other one between his fingers and tweaking it. A matched set, that's what he would give the man—rose-rubbed tender from his attentions, betrayer of his body, of the desire he would raise in him.

The desire he would pour into him.

He caught another shiver running through the man and glanced up, hoping and fearing all in one that his eyes would be open now. That he would know what was being done to him. Who was doing it.

But those hazel eyes remained hidden—lost in whatever hell he was intent on pursuing, as he had always pursued his cases, his theories, those who had wronged him. Still, his mouth had come open somewhere along the line and now that he was paying close attention to it, he detected a slight hitch in Mulder's breathing, subtle but enough.

Not completely gone. Not enough that he couldn't be resurrected. At least, this time.

And he suspected he knew what would do it.

Resting most of his weight on his left arm, he ran the other hand down the length of the other man's body until he reached the waistband of the worn sweatpants. He hesitated, glancing back up at the quiescent man's face, then went forward and slid his hand beneath and down. And where the rest of Mulder's flesh had felt almost cool, this was hot, smooth skin contrasting with sudden crisp hair, soft cotton yielding immediately to his insistent fingers, allowing him at last to touch, to stroke, to cup that which they had held.

Then he circled his fingers around it—around him—and slid them carefully from root to tip and back again, not using too much pressure yet, just enough to make sure he would be feeling it. Up and down, slowly increasing his grip now, and to his pleasure he felt the member beginning to stir, to twitch as Mulder's hand had twitched when he had said his name. Swelling a little now, making the little pocket of darkness and heat that he was sharing with it all the more intimate.

God, he wanted to see it, to lick it, to taste it, to take it into his mouth and watch Mulder rising up to meet him as he worked at his cock with teeth and tongue, driving him to the point of utter loss and beyond. To swallow down the last of him, his final outpourings, the first fruits, the last of the summer wine.

Mulder's breathing abruptly caught, transformed, and he looked up, his hand stilling without thought.

Hazel eyes stared back at him, bright as they had been dimmed before, but he couldn't read the expression in them. Not quite shock, not quite horror. Not like quite anything he had ever before seen in them.

"I don't..." Mulder seemed to stumble on his own voice. "Oh, God." The last word died almost before it passed his lips.

His hand tightened slightly on what he held as he lifted his head, meeting those eyes directly. As directly as he could stand it.

"It brought you back, didn't it," he said and it was not a question in the least, not an excuse either. "I doubt a simple kiss would have done the trick. This time."

Mulder blinked, a look of confusion crossing his face momentarily, before it was banished by a quickfire flash of anger, before his face twisted into some unspeakable combination of fear and disgust. "Let go of me," he hissed. "You sick fuck."
"You're in no position to make the rules around here, Mulder," he reminded him, his tone as calm as he could make it in that moment. Because a dark anger all his own was lapping at him as well—an anger he had not anticipated nor expected, anymore than he had expected Mulder's rejection to really be able to hurt him. "But I did, and I will, offer you a choice. So let me lay it on the line, Agent Mulder. And no pun intended, but do you want to do this the easy way or the hard way?"

"I don't want to do this at all," the answer came snapped back.

He felt the anger tighten, form into a solid little weight inside him. "Not an option."

Mulder's chin went up, his eyes narrowing, his lips compressing, and then he was suddenly bucking beneath him, fighting with an almost manic strength to get away, to kick out at him. To get his arm free of its restraint. To take him apart.

Krycek reacted automatically, not allowing himself to think about what he was doing. He reached out and snatched the right arm flailing at him, grabbed that wounded wrist and pinioned it back down to the bed, his fingers tightening on it ruthlessly.

Mulder gasped and swore, but continued to fight and he was forced to let go of his cock—part of him wondering at himself, wondering at why he simply hadn't used it as a tool against him, so close to hand, so very sensitive—and instead he swiftly brought his now free arm up and caught the other man's shoulder, shoved it down into the bedclothes as well. Twisted his whole body up and onto the bed, intending to use his weight to hold the struggling man down.

Despite having his ankles still tied together, Mulder tried to knee him in the groin in the process, but Krycek avoided it easily, brought his knees down on top of the other man's legs, pinning them in place. Still, Mulder didn't stop, so he ground his teeth together and quite deliberately tightened his grip on the man's wrist even more, began to bend it back into the quilt. Further and further, hating doing it, forcing himself to continue anyway.

He would break it for real this time. If he had to...

Mulder suddenly froze beneath him and a small sound, half-whimper, half-protest, broke from him. Krycek held the brutal grip for a few heartbeats longer—just three simple seconds, but they trickled by as if trapped in honey, knowing all the while it had to be agony for the other man—then relaxed the pressure and the angle just a hair.

"I make the rules," he repeated, his voice low, a harshness to it that he hardly recognized. "You get it. Fox?"
"Don't..." The other man's voice was equally rough, tinged with pain and frustration. Sweat glimmered on his forehead and those hazel eyes were like mirrors of themselves, reflecting back jagged pieces of shadow and pale lamplight.

Krycek blinked and the anger inside him was transmuted around the edges by a humor almost as black.

"All right," he said. "I won't call you Fox. And you'll let me fuck you. Sound like a respectable deal? It better. It's the only one in town."

Mulder threw his head back, rolled it to one side, arched up beneath him again as if in prelude to another attack. Krycek simply held on, knowing the man's wrist still had to be hurting, hurting bad. The remnants of anger and the amusement inside him suddenly gave way to an even stronger force, as achingly familiar as it was resented. He leaned forward, down until his face was only an inch or two from Mulder's, down until he could all but smell him. The scent making him abruptly dizzy, making him want to kiss him again, to taste him, to lick those beads of sweat right up off his skin.

"But I'm not a heartless bastard," he whispered. "Whatever you may think. I have something to make it...better for you, if that's what you want. If that's what you need. Think of it as a heavy duty painkiller. Better than aspirin, any day. But you have to tell me you want it. Ask me for it."

Mulder let out a long shuddering breath and turned his head back. He didn't seem

surprised in that moment to find their faces so close together and though his eyes were full of hate, they were full of something else too. Something less defined.

"Why?" he asked. His voice cracked a little on the word, but those eyes held firm, staring up into his with all the force of his personality—that dry wit, that shocking rapier thrust of intellect, the sometimes almost overpoweringly hungry and simple wish to believe. And more than that, those slightly clumsy little expressions of sympathy and almost-affection that he had shown to him after he'd shot Augustus Cole on that very first case together. All that he remembered from the few and fragile days of their partnership, when he had pretended to be what he almost could have been, when the cool ice in Fox Mulder's eyes had begun to melt if only around the edges, enough to afford him a glimpse of the lonely and somewhat lost man inside.

Everyone else, even Agent Scully he suspected, thought Mulder's obsessions were driven by what had happened to his sister so long ago, but he suddenly knew otherwise. It wasn't really his sister, but what she had meant to him. The one stable place in a sea of misfortune and chaos, the one person who had cared for him as him alone, and not for what he was or what he could do.

In that, perhaps, they were alike.

Alike, but not the same.

And as he stared down into those hazel depths, so hard and yet so deceptively gentle at the same time, he didn't know if he could lie to them anymore than he could tell the truth.

"Ask me again later," he finally responded, knowing it was no more an answer to the man who had asked the question than to himself. And, suddenly, the closeness was too much for him, for his control. He crossed that last little distance between them and placed his lips lightly to the other man's, an almost chaste kiss, undemanding. Less than a lover and more than a brother.

The cynical part of him was waiting for the other man to struggle again, to even try and bite him, but most of him simply didn't care. He felt like he'd been waiting so long for this, for all of this, for him, and now that he had him he wanted to make the most of it. And though Mulder's lips remained closed this time against him, he brushed his own lips over and over against that stern mouth. Descending and then retreating and then returning yet again, allowing the tip of his tongue to paint across that lower lip, the one he had always considered so damn bitable.

When Mulder still didn't move, he let his right hand move up from his left shoulder, his fingers coming to slide in along the man's neck, stroking smooth skin and soft hair, then finally curving around at the back where the hair was almost damp. Damp with sweat from fear and from pain. He circled his fingers there gently, soothingly, and felt Mulder jump a little. Felt those lips give a little.

He didn't press his advantage, though, just continued stroking the back of his neck, twining his fingers in and out of that soft hair, kissing him in that half-teasing, half-reassuring way. "It doesn't..." he breathed against that mouth. "Have to be...all bad..."

There was no response, but then, when he finally gave in and nipped at that lower lip, he felt a long shudder run through the man beneath him. He glanced up and saw that Mulder's eyes had gone half-closed, a strange expression on his face, and then those lips parted, just a touch but it was enough. Enough to make him immediately move to engulf them, to send his tongue skimming along the edge of teeth just inside, then to probe tentatively beyond.

To touch the tongue and heat waiting there for him, tasting that same impossible

admixture of sweet and salt and spice as before, a seemingly volatile fusion of cinnamon, of blood and silver tears. Like mercury, swift and gliding and deadly. And he wanted to eat it up anyway, to touch every part of the man, to claim him, to bathe in his juices, to climb right in there with him in that brilliant-dark mind of his. To melt that ice one last time, all the way to the center if he could. If Mulder would let him.

If he didn't kill him first.

He moaned softly into that mouth as he felt a wave of liquid heat wash over him, as he felt himself begin to harden, and his breath caught. Caught and was held as Mulder's tongue abruptly pushed back against his, paused, and then did it again. As his mouth parted a shade more, and his head turned slightly upwards, allowing freer access. Almost seeming to encourage it.

Krycek deepened the kiss without thought, ignoring the slight twinge of concern, of wariness, that followed in the wake of the man's behavior. Oh, God...

But Mulder didn't bite him, didn't seem to be trying to push him away anymore, and he took advantage of that. Kissing him as he had only before dreamed of kissing him, all hard tongue and slick mouth, bruising force and then tenderness, using his grip on the back of the man's neck to lift his mouth deeper into his. And, dimly, he realized that Mulder seemed to be kissing him back just as hard, just as needfully.

That he had gone limp beneath him, no longer fighting. Not even trying to rescue his wrist from that unrelenting grip.

Krycek paused, pulling back, trying to catch his breath. Mulder's eyes had gone completely closed now and his breathing had quickened as well. His mouth looked slightly swollen, making it even more irresistible.

"Mulder?" he asked softly, uncertain if he should say anything at all, especially if it would only serve to shatter this moment of accord, of sudden and overwhelming submission, but equally unwilling to proceed any further without some surety it was how Mulder wanted it. He had promised him his choice, a voice at least in his seduction, and part of him wanted to keep that promise, to prove the man wrong for once about his faithlessness.

Those eyes opened slowly, unfolding rich liquid color before him, what he could only wish to be lust, to be need, shining in them. What he feared was something far removed.

"Are you gonna talk or are you gonna screw me?" The words came out clear, but there was a trembling edge to them, a brittleness, bitterness turned not on him as he was used to, but obviously inward—self-directed, self-loathing, despairing. Krycek despised the sound of it instantly; this was not the man he remembered, that he wanted to remember. That he wanted. This was the empty husk that they wanted him to be, that they wanted to make him out to be. So worn-out that someday he would be a hair too late on some assignment someday, or a hair too quick at home alone on some dark night, and so remove himself from the equation for them. No fuss. No trouble. No hitman to have to pay or clean up after.

Not even regretting it this time, he deliberately twisted hard on that wrist again—captured the sharp gasp that followed with his own mouth—and then let go of it as abruptly. Let go of the man completely, swinging himself back off the bed and away. He stopped there, a pace away, standing with his back to Mulder, unheeding the choked sound he made. Deflecting it before it could touch any part of him.

"I'm not going to be your instrument of self-abuse, Mulder," he said and somehow he managed to keep it expressionless, cool. "That's your trip, if you want it. But I'm not playing that game. Not today. I've already offered you the only kind of oblivion I'm going to. Your decision to take it or leave it."

There was the faint sound of a long indrawn breath and then Mulder was talking, tranquilly, eminently casually, as if they had simply met somewhere on the streets and got caught up in discussing the weather or the latest Knicks game, rather than an incipient act of sex. Of rape, if you wanted to call it that.

He wasn't sure anymore what he wanted to call it.

"Krycek, do you have any idea how long it's been since I've gone out to see a movie, gone to dinner, gone anywhere with anyone in anything even resembling a normal evening in a normal man's life. How often I've driven by their windows, glanced inside, and wondered. Wondered how they did it. How they lived it. How they kept going. The ignorant. The guiltless. Those who sleep the sleep of the just. Who...sleep."

Mulder paused, then the voice got even quieter, more hollow, though the words still poured out of him. "But, sometimes, I couldn't even see that, you know. I could only see the terror that stalked them, that stood outside their little circle of light and goodness, looking in as I looked in, and waiting. Wanting. Wanting to destroy them, to leave them bloody in their homes, in their warm beds. And I...I was that killer. Some of the time. And, after a while, it was all I knew. All I could see. I couldn't just put it away on a shelf anymore. Couldn't shrug it off. And I knew I had to get out or I would be there in that dark for real some night and it would be their blood on my hands and someone else would be looking back at me from outside, someone who would only see what I had done and not what I was. Who I had been. What I had lost somewhere along the way."

Krycek heard a soft creak as the other man shifted on the bed and had to resist turning to look at him. He knew about Mulder's time in Behavioral, about how they had used him to track down and stop the ones no one else could. That no one else could touch. But Mulder had been able to touch them, to get into their heads, no matter the toll it took on him. The price that they let him pay for it. If a man was good at something, especially something no one else came even close to matching, then he was a tool. And tools got used. Sometimes used hard.

They had almost broken Mulder in those years, nearly broken him beyond repair if what he was saying now was any indication. Which made it all the worse that he and the people that he worked for were trying to finish the job. Because he was just too damn good at what he was doing these days, as well.

Too good for his own good.

He opened his mouth, but then closed it again as Mulder went on, each word so careful, so well-placed, as if he was hoping to build something from it. As if he had built something.

"And then there was my chance, you understand. The last one I'd thought I'd ever get. And I took it and damned the consequences. Ignored the snide comments and the pity and the disappointment and being sent down to skulk in the basement like some troublesome child. An idiot-savant, maybe, brilliant, but flawed. And though I knew this was what I wanted, what I needed, that night was still there and those windows just as incomprehensible. Just as alien. Until..."

And that voice paused, skipped like a bad record, and Krycek knew without a doubt

what was coming. Whose name and face hovered just out the other man's reach, threatening that odd, somewhat frightening, composure.

"Until they sent me Scully." The emphasis on her name was slight, but there, a crack slowly widening. "And then, at least, I wasn't alone anymore. Insane, maybe, but not alone. And she kept me in line, if you will, kept me clear. At least some of the time. Enough to feel like I was getting somewhere at last and maybe I was because then he was there and you were there and she...she was taken away. And it was no big deal to any of you, was it. Just use a man, a psycho, to kidnap her and haul her across half the state to some secluded mountain. Then kill the man when you were done with him—he was just a puppet, after all. A poor befuddled lunatic who actually believed that little grey men had been coming to get him over and over. Taking him away with them. Drilling his teeth, his fucking teeth."

Finally, Mulder's voice began to get away from him, rising slightly, roughness creeping back in. "And who was he? An FBI agent. An ex-FBI agent, for God's sake. How much more blatant do you have to get. And why her? Why not me? I'm the one who started it all, who committed the crimes they'd like to punish me for. Why didn't they just fucking shoot me in the head or blow up my car or slip me something to make it look like I'd choked to death."

Krycek almost—almost—winced at that.

"I asked him that once," he said, then almost instantly regretted making that admission.

"What?" The word pinned him, compressed his world down to this one tiny room. To all that stood between them, spoken and unspoken. Murder and betrayal and what was there left anymore? How could there be anything else?

Did he even wish it...could he...?

Still, he lifted his head and turned slowly around, though he couldn't quite bring himself to meet the man's eyes yet. To face what he would see there. "I asked him once why I shouldn't just kill you and he told me that he didn't want to make a martyr of you. That it would only help your cause."

There was no response, no sound, and he wondered if Mulder was holding his breath. Against his better judgment, he shot him a glance and saw that the other man was half-sitting up now, his right arm lying cradled across his waist. Those hazel eyes glimmering, even in the dim light.

Then, as he watched, Mulder closed his eyes and his head fell forward slightly. His shoulders shook, as if he was fighting back something. Tears, maybe. Maybe a scream.

Maybe nothing.

Nothingness.

###

The solid weight of the veil, even the threat of the void, was better than this. That simple confession from one his enemies that while his life, even his death, was worth something, Scully's was not. That she didn't even mean that much to them. Only what she could do to him. Only what she meant to him.

Her life for his destruction.

For his childish little quest. One that she didn't even really believe in. One that would end up killing her anyway.

His heart constricted and he couldn't breathe anymore, didn't want to breathe. Didn't want it to go on. She meant nothing to them and they would simply kill her when they were done with her, kill her as they had killed Barry. And all because of him, because of a man she didn't know half the time what the hell he was talking about, let alone agree with him. But who had backed him anyway, much as she could, whenever she could, because she trusted him anyway. Despite it all. Despite how he had tried to shut her out at the first.

Despite the fact that he had wanted to believe. To believe that he could trust her. That he could trust...

Bitter heat filled his head and his eyes suddenly stung. He wanted to cry, but he couldn't and not just because of the man standing in the room with him. If he cried it would be an admission that it was all over. Finit. Finished. Her life and his. And much as it hurt sometimes he didn't want it to be over. Not this way, anyway.

With all the edges so fucking jagged they tore his fingers open even to touch them.

"Mulder..."

He didn't bother looking up. Didn't want to bother with the man at all. Even the thought of what he wanted from him seemed remote—remote as the kisses, as his touch, had not been remote, but he didn't want to think about that either. He was just insane, that was all, finally and completely. And it was kind of funny in a way that Alex Krycek and some perverted need of his would have proved the final straw. He should fight it, fight it as she would fight it. If only for her sake.

But there would be nothing more for her. She was dead or as good as. Not a martyr to the world like he would be, but certainly one to him. And he didn't deserve that from her, not at all.

He sensed more than saw the other man step closer. "Leave me alone," he hissed, knowing the futility of it even as he said it.

If he touched him again he would fight him, would keep in fighting him until one or the other of them were dead. He didn't want to admit to himself that he had a preference.

"Mulder..." Again that voice and it was soft, so soft he couldn't hardly believe that it could come from him. A killer and a kidnapper and an all around traitorous bastard. A man who wanted to fuck him and was willing to drug him to do it. Willing to allow him the chance and choice of drugging himself.

Cool oblivion and maybe even worth the cost when it came right down to it.

Especially if he thought he might not ever wake up from it.

"Here, take this," Krycek was saying now and he looked up at last, looked to see a hand in front of him, a half-filled glass of water. It looked murky, tiny spirals of something else, something not, shimmering in the midst of the clearer liquid. "Drink it, Mulder."

And suddenly he was parched, parched and terrified and petulently wanting to just haul off and smack the thing out of the other man's hand. To give in and accept it and drink it on down, all of it, sweet blank nothingness where he would no longer be responsible, where it wouldn't hurt him anymore, even the indignities that would follow. Krycek naked and touching him, weighing him down beneath him, opening him wide for that final obscenity, that

final consummation and consumption of his spirit.

They had taken everything else from him, why not this as well?

The glass was cool, smooth, and he took it gingerly, as if expecting it to be yanked away from him at the last moment. He stared down at it, watching the swirl of that muddy-gold drug and found himself wondering how it would taste—like dirt in his mouth, like crushed leaves, or would it be more smoky than that. Would it taste like the man who had given it to him. The man who thought he was doing him some small favor.

He raised it to his lips, lowered it again a touch, then lifted it again, tilted it and drank. And there was no taste to it at all, just liquid and coolness and a sudden relief that he didn't want to consider. He finished it off, thought about throwing the now empty glass at the other man, then simply let it slip though his fingers. It landed on the bed next to him, rolled towards the edge and over.

He let it go and Krycek didn't bother to catch it. Didn't even bother to move.

It hit the hard wood floor, spun out, but didn't shatter. He found himself vaguely disappointed by the fact.

"Good boy," Krycek said. His tone was indifferent, though. As if he was disappointed too.

"So, what now?" he asked softly. "You wait for me to pass out and have your wicked way with me?"

"Not exactly," came the somewhat wry response. The tone changed again, became businesslike. "Why don't you let me put some ice on that wrist of yours."

Mulder felt a hint of sour amusement at the polite request. "So solicitous," he said. "Why roll out the charm now, Krycek? I'm a sure thing, after all. Or so you keep telling me."

"It's the least I can do. Wouldn't you think?" And, as if he had already agreed to that as well, the other man went over to the bedside table and picked up something from it, headed back in his direction.

Mulder suppressed a flinch as Krycek sat down on the bed next to him; hell, this man had had his tongue in his mouth, his hand on his cock already, what was this tidbit of closeness next to that. Next to what was going to happen. And his mouth was suddenly dry again, his stomach turned leaden with dread. It was not that he had anything against men in general, but he had everything against this man in particular. His offhand cruelty. His offhand kindnesses. As if one could counterbalance the other. As if the honest—and when had Alex Krycek ever really been honest—desire in his eyes, in that mouth of his, could justify everything if he would only let it.

Still, he couldn't deny that it meant something, that it had proved itself searing and strong and overwhelming enough to wring a response out of him.

And, fuck, despite himself, he had kissed the man back. Had felt...something. Though, maybe, it had only been because he had felt so very little for so long. Sublimation could work in more than one direction. As could hate. Depression.

Despair.

A hand reached out towards his, then hesitated. He looked at it for a long moment, blunt fingers, strong-looking, a hand that had killed, that had slid around the back of his

neck and held him so very carefully. So casual in its contradictory nature. Like the man himself.

He nodded at last and those fingers moved to catch his, enclosing them as Krycek draped the folded towel across his wrist. It was damp, chilling, and the coolness shocked him as much as the sudden pressure hurt. His right hand jerked involuntarily, but Krycek held it easily, fingers curved around his.

Mulder closed his eyes, then opened them again and finally looked up.

Krycek wasn't looking at him. His head was down, as if he was totally involved in what he was doing. As if it was the most important thing in the world to him. Obviously, another lie. Still, he studied the man's face, his profile in the soft light, and wondered that it didn't show—the men he had murdered, all the betrayal, the collusion. The ruthless quality that he had hidden so well when they had first been put together, hidden behind brashness and a hint of naiveté and young ambition. None of it showing, even now, even when he knew beyond any doubt that it should be there.

Something slipped sideways in his head, then righted itself again and he realized that he was a little dizzy. He licked his lips and they felt a bit numb. Krycek's hand shifted, wrapping the towel of ice tighter and the small hurt of it didn't seem to bother him near as much. His enemy's cocktail must be starting to kick in.

His enemy. His betrayer.

His soon to be lover.

"Are you gonna kill me?" he asked and was mildly surprised at how much effort it took to make the words clear. To say anything at all.

Krycek's head shot up and those green eyes gazed right at him. Right into him. And he realized that, like the man's hands, he had never really seen them before, never really bothered to look at them before. To see how very bright they were, how expressive they could be. How evocative.

Didn't they say that a man's soul lay exposed in his eyes, if nowhere else.

"Why would you think that?" the other man asked, an easy question that belied the intensity of his gaze.

Mulder shook his head a little and the dizziness rose again. His head felt loose on his neck, like it could roll clean off it he wasn't careful.

"It's what you do, isn't it?"

The reply, when it came, was quiet, thoughtful even. "Sometimes."

"Do you like it?"

Krycek's eyes flickered. "Sometimes I don't hate it."

Mulder swallowed, felt his eyes trying to drift shut, and resisted it.

Krycek must have caught the movement, though, because he tilted his head at him. Smiled that private little smile of his. "You'll feel a bit sleepy, Mulder," he said. "But don't worry about it. The dosage I gave you won't take you all the way out. So just let yourself go. Don't fight it."

And then he lowered Mulder's hand back to his lap, the towel tucked around it, and reached out to him. Touched him, two fingers across his lips. As if he was shushing him. "Why don't you lie down," he said. "Here, let me help you."

He slid those fingers down, cupped his face up towards his.

"Okay," Mulder managed to say, those eyes expanding to fill his world. Green as grass after a storm, electric, terrifying, so comforting for all that. It suddenly seemed like the best idea he had ever heard. The dizziness was growing stronger and the bed was so very soft beneath him, so very solid. It would stop his slide. Or, if it didn't, if it couldn't, those fingers would. They could hold him; he could feel the strength of them, the determination.

His wrist twinged again as he shifted, was shifted, but the pain was distant. He could feel it, but it didn't bother him.

Didn't bother him anymore than the hand suddenly trailing down his neck, across his chest, burrowing in under his sweatshirt. Sliding lightly over his bare skin. Fingers so warm, and so very gentle. They swept to his side, across his ribs, and he tried to pull away from them as the motion tickled.

"Sensitive, Mulder," a voice said. "Maybe I've been torturing you in the wrong way, after all."

"No," he mouthed, but the man took mercy on him and took those fingers away. Brought them up instead to rub back and forth across one of his nipples. The sensation was pleasant, almost soothing in a way, and he relaxed into it. Then, abruptly, they tightened down on the tender nub, twisted a little and a sharp pain shot through him, dragging him back to himself. A pain, but not a pain; it hurt, but it felt good too. Like the slow throb of his wrist. The pressure of the bed on his back. The rope around his other wrist, even the angle his arm had been forced to by his new position.

Then the bed tipped down beneath him and that mouth was on his again, hard and tender, demanding, teasing. Transfiguring.

He closed his eyes, then opened them again as the dizzy feeling returned, spiraling upwards, making the sensation and taste of the other man's mouth too intense that way. With only the dark to share it with. Fear stirred again, fear and something more. A sudden and overpowering sense of his own helplessness and his mind berated him sluggishly, brutally. What in the hell must he have been thinking? How could he ever have agreed to this, come to this? Any of this?

Scully would be appalled. Would be ashamed of him.

He should have died first...

"No," he breathed out, feeling as if he were shouting, but hardly able to hear the word in his own ears. Unthinking, he lifted his right hand, the wet towel falling free, and shoved at the other man. Tried to push him away. Push him off him.

But it was like trying to move a solid wall. An impossible weight.

After a moment, Krycek pulled back on his own, paused there, staring down at him. "No what, Mulder?" he asked. "It's getting a little too late for these kind of regrets."

"No," he managed to say again, a bit louder this time. "No...please..." That last word was wrung out of him, torn from some far depth, and though it hurt him to say it hurt him more not to. Not to try.

"Well," Krycek's voice was abruptly icy. Cold as his mouth, his touch, had been hot. "That's a new one. Too bad it's too little too late." And he caught that wrist again—sharp flutters of pain from where his fingers gripped him—and effortlessly forced it down to his side, leaned back into him. Pressed his groin up against his thigh, letting him feel the heavy curve that lay within his jeans, the hardness of it, the need. "Much too late."

###

He couldn't hardly stand it anymore. He wanted him so damn bad it was all he could do not to just rip the clothes off him, to take him hard and fast. To drive himself into that body until he could finally let go of it. Let go of it all...

The need and the rage and the resentment that burned in his chest, in his cock, in the pitiful excuse for a life that he had left to him. And if he was damned, then he wanted him to be damned as well. Damned for being who he was, for having made him want him. For having turned out to be the one man in the whole fucking world that he wanted least to betray, the one he would be forced to do just that to.

Krycek closed his eyes a moment, struggling for control, for the ability to take things slow. Take it easy. Not to just haul off and smack him across the face. To bend that swollen wrist yet again. To cause him pain, deliberate and constant and unrelenting, all the pain that he had caused him unheedingly. Knowing he would only have more regrets if he did let himself go, let that anger and that need dictate his actions. It would only justify what Mulder felt about him already, what he thought of him. What he thought him capable of. More than capable of if the fear in his eyes was any example.

Fear that was overcoming even the soothing effects of the drug in his veins.

He stared back into those eyes and somehow schooled his voice to softness again. "Mulder, just let it go, okay? I promise, I'll try not to hurt you."

The other man swallowed and his head tilted back slightly on the bed, his eyes tracked slowly across his face, dazed but still sharp for all that. Then, amazingly, Mulder smiled, an obscene twist of those lips that he had kissed, that he still wanted to kiss. "You promise...?" he murmured, and even slurred as his speech was now the sarcasm of it still stung.

Krycek hurriedly damped down the anger that washed over him again. It was his own fault to expecting, for hoping to expect, anything else.

"So don't believe me," he said, leaning forward, close enough to feel the other man's breath on his face. Just an inch or two between them, a distance he could breach at any time. Whenever he wanted. However he wanted. "It doesn't matter. ŒCause you know what? This is where it ends. You don't have a choice anymore. I'm gonna kiss you some more and then I'm gonna suck you and fuck you till you come, and it's gonna be the best you've ever had. Something you're never gonna forget." He laughed at that, watched as Mulder blearily flinched away from it, probably quite despite himself. "Oh, I forgot. You never forget anyway, do you? Not a damn thing. So you're gonna remember no matter what. Remember this..."

And he bent, crossed that last little bit of distance, and pressed his lips to the other man's, forced his mouth open beneath his, forced his tongue inside, hard and deep. Deep as he could take it. Hard as he could make it. Demanding and devouring him, that quicksilver mouth, the one that hated him so much, that could it seemed hurt him so easily in turn, and then releasing it as abruptly. Pulling back to stare down at him.

"And remember this..." He said again, bending this time to the man's throat. Scoring his teeth across the tender flesh, across the pulse that beat there just below the skin. Just below the surface. Nipping and biting and sucking and just barely resisting the urge to bite down even harder, to actually draw blood. Simply marking him would be enough. It would have to be enough.

Then he pushed up the sweatshirt again with his free hand, lowered his head and ran his tongue down the center of the man's chest, down the hollow shadows of his bones. Dipping into that little circle of his navel briefly before continuing on downwards. Finally letting go of

the other man's wrist.

Mulder shifted away from his attentions, from him, trying to escape. He pushed at him

once more with his now freed arm, but the motion was disjointed, slow and even weaker than before. His fingers skittered uselessly off his shoulder and away. "No..." he whispered.

Krycek reached the waistband of the sweatpants and paused there, lifting his head again. "And most of all," he said, looking up at Mulder's face, deliberately meeting those eyes with a twisted smile of his own. "Remember this. Remember how it felt to have me touch you here." And he ran his hand over the bulge between the man's legs, lightly at first, then harder, before slowing and stopping, spreading his fingers to enclose the weight of what lay beneath the soft material. It didn't react, this time, not even a twitch at the touch, but the lack of response didn't worry him. He could and would change that soon enough.

Mulder tried to pull away again, but there was nowhere for him to go.

Krycek shifted then on the bed, moving off the other man completely, reaching for the ropes that still bound his ankles together. Mulder tried to jerk them away as well, but he put a knee back up on his lower legs and held the man down easily. Carefully, he undid the knots and pulled the rope free, tossed it to one side, only then grimacing as he saw how deeply the tight bonds had rubbed at the skin. Worse than at his wrists.

He would have liked to kiss the raw flesh there, except he knew that it would only earn him an attempted kick.

Instead, he reached for the waistband and began pulling, taking off both sweatpants and briefs in the same motion, stripping Mulder of this last protection. The FBI man did try to kick him during the process as he had anticipated, but it was a lackadaisical effort, an empty gesture of defiance. He tossed the clothes after the rope and pinned those long legs back down to the bed. Started in just above the knees, licking up the tender flesh of his inner thighs, only nibbling here, not actually biting this time. Slowly, slowly, moving higher and higher.

Mulder shuddered beneath him, a soft sound of protest breaking up out of him. Then he went silent again, though Krycek could feel the whipcord tension in his body, the thin, almost continuous trembling. Fingers stitched themselves across the top of his head, trying and failing to push him away.

"Remember," he breathed against that skin, then felt crisp hair brush his face, smelled the musky-dark scent of him, as he bent to take that heated, still-soft member into his mouth. The head just inside his lips, touching his tongue to the tip. Tracing the narrow slit there.

Mulder's hips flinched, back and then forward, as if at least that part of him couldn't make up its mind what it wanted.

Krycek took more of it in, then shifted and ran his hands upwards, skimming his fingers over Mulder's belly, smoothing and stroking. Circling up and back, up and back, before finally returning to the sharp points of his hipbones. Using them to hold the other man still beneath him as he worked and worked on him, constantly alternating the pressure on the sensitive flesh, switching back and forth from gentle licks to an almost total engulfment. Stabbing with the tip of his tongue at the tenderest portion just below the head.

Then, finally, unable to suppress a sound himself at the sweet-sharp thrill of pleasure that moved through him when the cock in his mouth began to twitch, to swell, to harden. When Mulder made another sound, one only nominally of protest this time. And Krycek felt himself hardening even further, as if in response. As if it were some joke that they were both sharing.

Still, he wanted to taste Mulder's desire. Wanted to make sure the other man knew how very aroused he was, how very aroused he had made him. He closed one hand around the base of Mulder's cock and began to pump him—tight compressive strokes up and down the length of him—swirling his tongue over and around the head each time his fingers reached his lips. Using his teeth on him, carefully, each time they reached the root.

The cock in his mouth slowly thickening, lengthening, until it began to stand up on its own. To arch up towards the other man's stomach.

And Mulder was making even softer sounds now, his breathing strained. Fingers slid down his head again, caught in his hair this time despite how short it was. And the other man was no longer trying to make him stop, trying to push him away—that grip, weak though it was, was trying to push him down further, trying to make him take the cock deeper into his mouth.

He obliged, changing his angle to take the member in as far as he could. Feeling it scrape across the top of his mouth before it centered into the back of his throat. Sliding his own fingers down to cup the balls below, to fondle them, to squeeze them slightly. And Mulder was pushing up into him now, or attempting to at the very least. Even more obliging, Krycek slid his other hand down off the man's hip and around beneath him, cupping the firm muscle there, using the hold to lift Mulder in a slow but steady rhythm up off the bed. Deep and deep into his mouth.

And now he could taste him at last, the bitter salt, the slickness, tiny explosions of it across his tongue. Even more mercurial, hot and hungry, and suddenly he wanted more, wanted to take him all the way. To feel that tightening, that release of unbearable tension, the fiery flood of him down his throat. To hear that voice break as he stole it all away. To drink every last little drop of it as he had been forced to eat this man's relentless hatred, his rage, his pain. All that he had accused him of. All that he blamed him for.

Krycek narrowed his eyes and abruptly pulled back, off of him, pulled free of that hand in his hair. For a second or two, Mulder's hips continued their struggle, then they stilled and the only motion in the room was the quick rise and fall of his chest, the only sound his shuddering breath. And Krycek saw that the other man's head had been thrown back, his mouth come undone as his composure and his denial had come unraveled.

And suddenly he couldn't wait anymore, couldn't resist. He sat up and unbuttoned his jeans, twisted them down over his hips. The release from the tight material was a relief, the cool air a balm. It took some of the edge off, for which he was grateful; he wanted it to last, for him and for Mulder. A short-lived grapple in the dark wouldn't be worth it, worth what he had done and what he was risking. Besides, he had never thought of Mulder as a quick fuck.

No matter what he knew about the man's video collection.

He stripped his jeans off the rest of the way and threw them onto the floor, then took his shirt off as well. Half-way through the process he felt eyes on him, but resisted glancing up until he was completely naked. Bared to the other man's view.

Even then, he took his time, glancing slowly up Mulder's legs and over his groin—unable to stop a ghost of a smile at the sight of that glistening cock—then on and over that flat stomach and chest, even that slight smile fading at the sight of how his ribs showed, hollow on each breath. By the light of the single lamp Mulder's skin looked pale, almost gleaming, the gathering shadows in the room emphasizing every angle and plane and the man was mostly angles and planes.

Thunder rumbled abruptly far in the distance and Krycek heard the soft shush of rain as it began to fall again, tracing faint lines down the glass of the single window over the bed. It had gone dim outside as well, that smoky shade of a storm on the edge of nightfall. It made the

room they were in feel even more dark and enclosed, more private. As if there were no world left outside. It was a lie, but he took a deep breath and let himself sink down in it, let himself believe in it.

Let himself imagine it was actual seduction, mutual passion, maybe even something more that had brought them both here, both to this moment.

Krycek finally looked up and met Mulder's eyes. They looked almost black, impenetrable, all murky depths, and he couldn't read them at all. Couldn't begin to decipher the expression on his face.

"You're not a killer, Mulder," he said at last, not sure where the words were coming from, why he suddenly felt compelled to say them. To reassure him. "Much as you feared becoming one. You're stronger than that, than them. Even though I seriously doubt you feel that way right now. And I don't just mean because of...current circumstances. Such as they are."

Mulder's mouth opened, but he said nothing and a moment later those eyes sheared off, half-closed. He suddenly looked tired again, bone-weary and defeated. Only the still-straining erection between that long loose sprawl of legs undermined the impression of distance. Undermined the illusion that the man simply didn't care anymore.

Krycek let his own eyes close for a moment or two—listening to the rain, listening to his heart beating, counterpoint to the steady pulse of pain and need in his cock—then opened them again and moved, carefully sliding over and across the other man, one hand to either side of his shoulders. His knees encompassing the man's slender hips. He hesitated there, but when the other man didn't move, didn't react, slowly allowed himself to sink down on top of him, feeling his cock pressing down between them. Feeling Mulder's cock sliding across his own flesh, so hot in comparison to the rest of him, before finding a hollow and a place all its own.

Only then did Mulder's breathing hitch, those shoulders tensing, before he swallowed heavily and slowly relaxed again.

Krycek just laid there, watching the other man looking away, looking at nothing. Perhaps even pretending to himself that this wasn't happening. That they weren't skin to skin like this, so naked, so vulnerable. That he couldn't feel his enemy's cock laying across him, couldn't feel the sticky little trail it had left as it had slid across his belly.

"Mulder," Krycek whispered. "Look at me."

Those eyes flickered, but didn't turn. Didn't return.

"Mulder," he said again and moved just a little, lifting himself slightly, sliding gently up and down, sending little tingles of mingled pain and pleasure through his cock. Feeling the other man's cock sliding as well, a heat and a tiny spot of wetness across his balls, across his inner thighs. "Look at me...look...at me..."

There was still no response to his request, even though a small shudder suddenly ran through the body beneath him. And Krycek, resting most of his weight now on his left arm, took his right hand and ran it up Mulder's neck, closed his fingers on that unrelenting jawline, and brought his mouth down once more on the other man's. He made the kiss harsh, plunging his tongue in as far as it could go in one brutal stroke, taking all he could take. His fingers tightening, hard enough almost to bruise, and in that moment he wanted to do just that. To bruise him, to punish him, to make him acknowledge him.

And the man was shaking even harder when he finally let him go again, when he

pulled back to stare down into that face, the one that he himself had tried and been unable to forget.

"Now, crazy, that might be a different story," he said quietly. "But I have to tell you, I don't mind. I don't mind at all."

And he kissed him again, soft this time, just a light touch of lips to lips, no real pressure, and then turned the tight hold on his jaw into a caress, running one finger along underneath and up along the line of it, trailing off at last across the ridge of his eyebrow. Down that long, unusual nose. Pausing at last on his lips, still slightly parted. Still moist from his own mouth.

"But then," he went on, half to himself, not even sure if the other man was listening. Not sure if he cared. "I'm probably just as crazy, so maybe that doesn't count for much." Exploring that pouting lower lip with that same finger, tracing it over and over again. "Not that I expect you care what I think. Or even wanta know."

Hazel eyes finally angled back towards him and, without any other warning, he tried hard to bite him. Krycek quickly yanked his finger away and found himself angry with both Mulder and himself; if the FBI man's movement hadn't been slowed by the drug he had given him he might have actually managed to succeed, which didn't excuse the fact that he should never have let himself get so very complacent in the first place.

Should never have tried deceiving himself that this man wanted this. Any of this.

"Well," he said. "If that's how you like it." And he gripped Mulder's shoulders hard, ground himself down against the other man. Lowered his head to the base of that throat again and, this time, didn't bother with niceties. He bit him over the bone, bit him hard, and felt a bright coppery flavor fill his mouth. Mulder gasped, trying to jerk back, but he caught him and held him. Moved down to scrape his teeth across his left nipple, then lapping with the tip of his tongue at the same exact spot. Feeling it rise to his attentions, despite how the other man tried to get away from it, to get away from him.

And Mulder was struggling in earnest now, obviously as hard as he could, his free arm coming up to push at him again. Hazel eyes flaring, his mouth a thin angry line.

"No..." he breathed, a harsh, demanding sound.

Krycek looked up, right into that angry stare, turning suddenly even colder inside as the tone more than the actual word sank in, knowing suddenly the depth and the breadth of the desperation the other man must have. How very much he must dislike him, despise him. Hate him almost beyond measure.

He grabbed the man's arm, held it easily, as contradictory impulses moved through him—suddenly wanting to backhand the man, to send him careening into next week if he could, to bloody him up even more, to tear him apart. While, at the same time, wanting to hold him even closer if that was possible, to meld the two of them together and kiss him sweet and sweeter until that shaking finally slowed and, until Mulder truly surrendered to him. But, more than anything, he realized—his hand tightening down on that forearm, tightening until the other man actually winced—he simply wanted to fuck him, a pure and simple and unvarnished fuck that would, more than anything else, make him his own. Mark him where no one else could see, but where Mulder would always feel it, always remember it. Always know who had had him.

No matter the hate. No matter the disgust.

Krycek shoved Mulder's arm back down to the bed, leaned into it, into him. Entirely aware that, despite the numbing effects of the drug, Mulder would be feeling it. Would be in at least some small amount of pain.

He lowered his head a touch then to stare right into his hazel eyes, so close he almost imagined he could see himself in them. In each furious facet. A thousand broken little Kryceks, each one a trial and a torment to this man.

"No more foreplay," he whispered roughly. And then added, deceptively soft, all the darkness in him spilling over, pouring out into that one last little word. "Fox."

Moving swiftly then, he got up off the man and roughly forced him over onto his stomach. Mulder immediately tried to twist his right arm loose from his grip, tried to kick out at him, but he ignored the half-hearted efforts, and just pressed him back down into the bed. Held him there as he looked at him, the straining line of his left arm twisted up over his head at an odd, probably unpleasantly odd, angle. At that straight expanse of back, the shadowed line of his spine also turned, straining a little. And, finally, the double curve of his buttocks, so round, so perfect. Firm with a tension all their own.

Krycek realized that his blood was pounding so hard behind his eyes at the sight that he thought he might go blind from it—God, the man was incredible, so long, so lean, with such a fine little ass—and he wanted to hold it tight enough to turn it black and blue with just his fingers, to feel the struggle of muscle as it was clenched against him, against him using this man as he was so obviously meant to be used.

So finely fashioned for the desire of others and then only ever taking advantage of himself, of his own good hand. It was a fucking shame. One that he should thank him for putting right. One that he probably would never forgive him for.

Unable to help himself, Krycek bent down and put his mouth to the small of that back, feeling the other man flinch slightly at the sudden touch, the tender kiss. After a moment, he continued on downwards, licking that smooth skin, probing with his tongue down between those firm cheeks. The flinch occurred again, sharper this time and his cock throbbed, almost as if in response.

Without warning, Mulder attempted to push himself up off the bed, to turn back over again. Krycek instantly knocked him down again with a hard slap to the back of his head, an arm across his back. Pressing his ribs into the bed beneath them. Feeling the air wheezing in and out of the man's straining lungs.

"What makes you think," he hissed into the other man's hair, tasting it in his mouth. "That you're going anywhere. Especially considering what I have for you. Right...here..." And he pushed his erection into the man's side, let him feel the strength of it, the steel.

Mulder only tried to curse, the sound even more muffled by the bedclothes beneath his face.

Krycek kissed the back of his head. Stroked down his arm until he could hold his wrist again, the flesh hot from hurt, from the abuse he had given it. Slipping on from there to tangle their fingers together, his grip hard, possessive.

"I've been wanting to do this to you for long time, too," he continued, breathing the words out into that soft brown hair. "I've fucking dreamed about it, Special Agent Mulder. Almost from the moment we met. You remember that...when you tried so hard to ditch me. To let me know in no uncertain terms that I was not your partner, that I would never be your

partner. It's almost funny, in a way, now. Don't you think? You didn't trust me and you were right not to trust me. But you did a little anyway, didn't you? After a bit. And that was your mistake. Not going with your guts in the first place. Not believing..."

He kissed him again, even lighter this time, then let go of the man's right arm, shifted his grip to his shoulder instead and lifted him up slightly, enough to slide his other hand around beneath him and pull a pillow out from under the quilt. Mulder turned his head to one side in the process and hazel eyes glared at him, a sharp sideways look, rage and panic mingled. Sweat gleaming on his face, in his hair.

The tang of it growing in the room, in the darkness that surrounded them.

And Krycek found himself wanting to drink that in, too. To taste it as he had tasted the sweet-salt texture of Mulder's ever so reluctant arousal.

He lifted the man and tucked the pillow he'd stolen in under his hips. Reached far back across him to the bedside table and yanked the single drawer open. The tube inside was small, but he saw Mulder's eyes tracking it as he sat back again. Widening slightly.

Krycek forestalled the struggle that he saw building by leaning back down again, almost close enough to touch that swirl of an ear he had licked before. "Would you rather do without?" he asked, quiet, so quiet.

Mulder's eyes closed, then finally he shook his head. A slight gesture, but Krycek was watching for it. Waiting for it...if Mulder didn't start to give in, to give up, he would be forced to break him and, pleasant as that seemed to some part of him—as right as it felt to the dark and merciless part of him that he called on, relied on when he did what he had to do, what they ordered him to do—the greater part of him wanted it to be more than that. Wished it so damn hard it hurt almost as much as wanting him had hurt.

"Good choice," he said.

Krycek unscrewed the cap on the small tube and let it fall. Squeezed it and felt coolness spread across his fingers. He set the tube down on the quilt and immediately ran his index finger down the cleft he had just tasted. Smooth skin made all the smoother by translucent lubricant. A wave of hunger breaking over him at the feel of it, at the thought of it.

Mulder lay still for the touch, until his finger slid lower and reached its goal. He let out a sharp little sound then as Krycek probed the tight opening gently, circling it, stroking. Still, he didn't fight, didn't even flinch this time, as if he was finally growing resigned to the idea. Or maybe was merely afraid that he would do him without after all if he continued to make a fuss about it. Krycek didn't trust either reaction or the possible reasoning behind it, but he simply continued the motion. Pausing only to claim a touch more of the cool gel. Slowly, slowly, working it in, working it deeper, until finally his finger slipped inside.

Mulder's breathing stopped, then started up again with a quiet hitch.

"Felt that, did you," Krycek said softly. He pushed the finger in gently, watching for another reaction. But the only one he got was his own cock twitching—God, the man was so tight inside, so very hot. It was like his finger was in a vise. A wickedly wet, wonderfully narrow vise. It was all he could do not to pop that finger right back out and supplant it with a much greater tool. One that was aching so damn hard right now he was almost afraid to touch it for fear it would be all over. And he didn't want it to be over, not like that.

He deserved more than that. Mulder deserved more than that.

More lubricant and he began the careful process of inserting a second finger. Working them both in as deep as he could go, before beginning to thrust them in and out, slowly at first, then faster and faster. Mulder made another small sound as the speed increased, tried to clench himself against him, against the motion. Krycek immediately shifted, bringing a knee down

between the other man's legs, used it and his other hand to spread them apart. To open him up before him.

Krycek leaned down over him then, all but smelling his sweat, his frustration, his fear. He began working him again, fast, plunging even harder, twisting a little when his fingers were in as far as they could go.

"Tell me," he hissed. "What do you think of this, Mulder? Can you feel my fingers up your ass? You wanta try and bite them now? Or maybe I should just make you lick them, suck them, when I'm done. Suck my cock, too, while you're at it. ŒCause I'm about ready to put that up you too and you're sure gonna feel that. Feel a man for the first time, isn't that so?"

Without any warning, he changed the angle and raked his fingers across the other man's prostate. Mulder jumped and his eyes shot open again.

Krycek did it again, a little less roughly this time, then slowed and stopped, his fingers still buried deeply in the other man. "Answer me..." he said, bending down even closer, resting more of his weight on him. "Tell me you're glad I'm gonna be your first."

Mulder's only response was to turn his face slightly, down into the quilt below him. An obvious denial, a dismissal.

Krycek gave one last little thrust—hard again—then pulled his fingers free. He looked at them a moment, considering, then wiped them on the other man's back. He shifted over, settling further on top of Mulder, pushing his legs apart even wider. He felt Mulder's resultant wince throughout his whole body.

But then his cock was sliding down between them, down cool slickness, until it finally reached a hotter core. And it was all he could do not to make a sound himself, not to shudder, as he paused there. As he attempted to get himself back under some semblance of control. Desperately, he concentrated on his breathing, on slowing it, deepening it, on damping down the sensations shooting through him, threatening to send him over.

Finally, he let out one last long breath, swallowed, and reached down to touch himself, to guide himself to that tight little opening. Closing his eyes as he pressed himself up against it harder and harder, unable to restrain a gasp at the last as it eventually gave a little before him. He hesitated again, feeling his legs trembling with the effort not to just ram himself home, then gave a little shove. Withdrew a heartbeat and followed it with a stronger one, rougher this time, driving the head fully inside.

Mulder immediately tried to pull away, a mumbled cry tearing up out of him. Wordless this time, but with an unmistakable meaning. Unmistakable pain. He twisted beneath him, trying to escape, but Krycek snaked his hands up and caught his upper arms, held him. Used his grip to pull him back towards him as he thrust again, even harder, further into that blinding heat, that incredible tightness.

And Christ, he couldn't hardly stand it. It was so sweet, so fucking sweet...

He didn't know he'd said it outloud, until Mulder mumbled something. Until he saw the man was digging his fingers down into the bedclothes, twisting them hard into the quilt, almost tearing at the old stitches. Fingers white with strain above a badly swollen wrist. And Krycek realized that Mulder was attempting to match pain for pain. The pain he was causing him. The pain that was making him almost insane with the urge to thrust yet again, to force himself further up inside the man, far as he could go. To rip him apart if he had to.

To rip himself apart.

Krycek bent his head and kissed Mulder's shoulder—the skin stretched so thin there over the bone—and kept on kissing it even as he pushed again. Withdrew a touch and pushed, withdrew and pushed, each time a little farther, that smooth back quivering beneath him now, as the rest of him slowly gave way before his cock. As that skin opened up beneath his teeth and he tasted blood again, fiery as the flesh surrounding his member, wet and slick, a shattering, shearing brilliance that tore at his hard-won control. All of temptation and a whirling furious power suddenly, irrevocably possessing him; to have this man of all men beneath him like this, lying helpless, suspended on his pulsing cock. And he felt massive, swollen monstrous with need and blood and seed, and it was so good, so unbelievably good—the taste, the feel, and most of all the trembling reluctant submission.

He thrust again and finally felt his balls hit home. Realized that he was rammed inside Mulder as far as he could go.

"Sweet," he said again, deliberately this time, breathing the word directly into the other man's back. Almost apologetically then he kissed the place he had bitten, kissed the side of Mulder's neck. The other man's hair was even more damp now, sweat gleaming on that smooth pale skin. His breath coming in short little gasps beneath him.

Krycek unwound those fingers from his aunt's quilt and pushed the arm up, flat on the bed beneath his. Laid his palm over the back of Mulder's hand, fingers threaded with his fingers yet again, and made the other man grasp the bedframe. Grasped it with and through him.

He lifted himself back up again, withdrawing nearly all the way this time, then thrust back in, slamming the two of them back tight together. Driving Mulder down beneath him. Driving the air out of him. He did it again, raw pleasure surging through his entire body as he plunged deeply, plunged hard. And he had never felt anything like this before, never felt so very alive, so wild, so fucking huge.

One more long push, one that won a brutal sound out of his very core, and then he couldn't stand it anymore, couldn't wait, couldn't go slow, even to make it last. He arched up and began pounding into him, grinding into him, an uncompromising, unstinting pace. Reveling in the sheer physical sensation of it, of having, of taking, raging and riding close and closer to that razor's edge.

Closer to having what he had always wanted. What he couldn't see past wanting anymore. What he couldn't bear to not have.

###

Mulder breathed in dust, the sharp-musky scent of his own sweat, and tasted bitter defeat, thick and sour at the back of his throat. His eyes burned too and his wrist was fire. But all of that was nothing compared to what the other man was doing to him. Compared to the feel of Krycek's weight on his back, the impossible, unremitting, unrelenting intensity of his cock pistoning in and out of him.

It hurt, but more than that it horrified him. It made him want to scream, to curl up around himself, to hide, to die. Made him long with reluctant grace for the quiet and emptiness of the void.

The drug was only making him dizzy now; it wasn't even touching the pain. The pain and the building pressure behind his eyes, behind his skull, deep within his chest—like a piece of rotten fruit about to explode. To scatter its sweet-sour juice and broken seed across the walls, all over this dark and trembling room.

And then Krycek was fumbling, reaching beneath him, and cool, slick fingers curled around his own cock. A fierce grip, sliding up and down with precise strokes, and beyond belief he felt himself responding to it, his member tingling, even beginning to tighten in the first faint throws of excitement. But, as if that wasn't enough, Krycek suddenly grunted, harsh in his ear, and shifted over some more and the next thrust inside him wrung a bolt of intense pleasure out of him, a jolt of white-hot sensation that dazzled him. That threatened to convulse him.

Again a sharp withdrawal, an even sharper push, and he couldn't stop the gasp this time, the matching thrust down between those hard fingers. Desperately, he turned his face further into the bedclothes, muffling the next sound that was forced out of him. The sickness rising inside him as he dimly realized his cock was rising as well, rising to Krycek's touch, to his relentless scraping across that sensitive gland.

Then it all came together in one grand lightning strike, slammed together, puzzle piece to puzzle piece and they were rocking together, each shove from the other man's cock pushing his own down into building pleasure. The pain slowly surrendering to it, subsumed by intense fire, blinding hot and licking at him, attempting to consume him. And it was just as full of jagged pieces and he couldn't resist it anymore than he had been able to resist what came before.

And he couldn't stand that Krycek was doing this to him. And he couldn't stand for him not to. Wanted him to stop. Wanted him to never stop. To just go on and on, to drive him down into that rising ocean, those crashing white-tipped waves, far into that brutal undertow. Foaming darkness and he wanted to scream now, wanted to cry. Wanted the other man to touch him even deeper, to crush him, to destroy him. To break him apart with steel, with iron, with blow after blow of that rigid cock. To make him atone.

Then even sound was fading, washing away, the labored breathing of the other man as he worked over him growing dim. The little sounds of effort he was making. And he couldn't hear his own breathing either. Couldn't hardly hear the constant quick slap of their bodies as they came together, slick and slick, as Krycek slammed them together over and over again. Deep and deep and so goddamned hard now he couldn't hardly believe he wasn't going to kill him after all, wasn't trying to split him open. Wasn't trying to kill himself.

But then he felt him shudder, felt him push home one more time and hold himself there, arched up against him. And there was a sudden and complete silence—icy pure and shocking—followed by a strange rippling sensation somewhere deep inside him as Krycek's cock seemed to stiffen even further, to twitch, and an abrupt heat flooded through him. Filled him. Rolled him down beneath it.

Then Krycek thrust again, and once more after that, his hand pumping him hard in time to each distinct stroke, and he felt himself start to go as well. Spilling out fire and pain and bitterness and pleasure so strong he couldn't hardly bear to let it go. Couldn't contain it anymore. Sound rushing back in without warning, crashing breakers in his head, shattering him to a thousand pieces on the rocks below.

The bedclothes suddenly wet beneath him. One hand clenched, the other trying to bend the frame. A scream bottled up in his throat, almost a solid thing, choking him.

And then it was pouring and pouring down and out and through him, hard rain on a fragile window. Liquid trails on the glass. Pounding the grass flat. Huge and hot and hurting and frightening beyond belief.

His heart straining as if to catch up to something.

Krycek collapsed on top of him, sharp staccato breaths stirring the back of his hair, his hand still tight-wrapped around his cock. For a long moment, they just laid there, then he felt other man's death grip slowly loosen on his fingers, releasing them from the bedframe. Felt his other hand begin to move in tiny, circular motions up to the head of his still-hard cock, sliding gently in the stickiness there, as if he wanted to feel his come. Wanted to catch as much of it as he could.

Mulder managed to turn his head to the side again, gasping for air, and saw Krycek looking down at him from just a few inches away. Saw the sweat on his face, his own struggles for breath, the luminous glitter of his eyes. And he wasn't smiling and he didn't look triumphant or self-satisfied or mocking at all, not in the least, not in any part, but the look that was there hurt him anyway. Turned his stomach abruptly hollow. Made him entirely aware that the other man hadn't even begun to move to get up off him, that he was still buried deeply inside him, pinning him in place.

Krycek turned his head then and kissed him on the shoulder, lightly, gently. Put his forehead down to rest against his skin. "Fox," he heard the other man whisper between one hard gasp and the next. "Oh, God. Fox..."

And that hurt, too, made the hollow feeling grow. And, just when he thought it couldn't get any worse, the other man lifted his head again, his eyes half-closed now, hiding their color, hiding their true depths.

"Sorry," Krycek mumbled, correcting himself. "Mulder."

He kissed him again, even more softly, then was pulling back, pulling off and out of him. Warmth trickling down his thighs in his wake. And he felt abruptly empty and abandoned, as if he were only something to be used and then as easily discarded. Though, just maybe, Krycek would actually get on with killing him now, now that he had had him. Now that he had marked him and scoured him out with his lust.

But Krycek was turning him over, careful of his right wrist, careful of all of him, as he had somehow grown fragile with what had happened. With what he had done to him. Pulling the pillow out from under him and tossing it aside. Moving up to lay right beside him, tucked in next to him, one arm heavy across his stomach, his fingers making soft little soothing motions across the back of his hand. And he could see his own come on those fingers, could feel it, could almost imagine how it would taste.

Bitter and sweet at the same time.

And, of all things, he never would have expected this. Would never have expected the other man to act as if what he had just done to him was anything of kindness, of consideration, rather than rape pure and simple.

No matter than he had gotten off on it. In the end.

Could still feel Krycek's cock, still half-hard, against his leg and feel its loss from inside him. As if it had imprinted its shape there forever. Formed and reordered that part of him to fit it.

Not able to even begin to look down at his own cock, no doubt busy softening as well between his legs this instant, the traitorous thing, as much a personal betrayer as the man holding him. To have given him away like that. Right into the cup of Krycek's hands. As if it didn't care for whom and how it came, just that it did. Just that it could.

Not that it had—not like that anyway—not in what seemed like years, like forever.

Another thing to hate this man for.

He closed his eyes and tried to tune out the feel of the other man next to him. Tried to reach for the void, but it eluded him. Skittered away before him like a swirl of leaves in a storm. Dimly, he realized that he was shaking. That the only part of him that was warm was where Krycek was holding him.

Then that warmth moved, brushed his cheek, and he knew the other man was kissing him again. Murmuring words and comfort against his lips. As if that mattered anymore, as if it ever could have mattered to him.

"Mulder...you okay? I didn't...hurt you...much, did I?"

He sank down into himself, away from that touch, those sounds, reaching for the lingering numbness of the drug in his system. Trying to wrap himself up in it.

Trying not to feel the stinging heat behind his eyes. On his face. In his heart.

Trying not to feel.

###

Krycek stared down in disbelief as Mulder started crying. No sound, no warning, just sudden quiet silvery-pale trails running down his face, welling up from beneath his tightly-closed eyes. He tasted it on his lips before he drew back, salt and liquid pain.

The sheer suddenness of it scared him, scared him almost as much as the silence. He thought he had been careful—or as careful as he could possibly manage to make himself be. He hadn't thought he'd seriously hurt the other man. Certainly not enough to have made him cry. Mulder was tougher than that. Stronger. Wasn't he?

"Fuck," he breathed. He started to sit up, only to have a shock run right though him, center itself on the back of his neck. Someone was coming...shit, they were almost here...

He didn't pause to deny the thought, to consider it; such instincts had saved his life more than once already. He had grown to rely on them.

Hurriedly, he reached out and untied Mulder's left hand from the bedframe. Rolled off the bed and snatched up his jeans. He pulled his pants back on quickly, not bothering to fasten them shut, then bent and gathered the man up, quilt and all, lifted him. Staggered to the doorframe.

Mulder's eyes opened a crack, but Krycek looked away from them, from their startled expression, as bright lights sheared down the hall from the living room windows beyond. He sank down, laying his burden on the floor. Leaned over the other man to slip his fingers

beneath the edge of the carpet and pull it up, throwing it back. The trapdoor beneath was just as he remembered it, the rough wood edges catching on his fingers as he slid them through the hole in the near end and yanked that it up as well.

Quickly, he shoved Mulder forward, the other man's eyes finally opening completely as he tumbled down to the cement floor a few short feet below, landing hard on his side. He twisted, one arm coming up, coming loose from the folds of the quilt. He mumbled something that sounded remotely like "What the fuck?"

Ignoring the question, Krycek turned away and snatched up the ropes and the remaining articles of the FBI man's clothes—leaving the bed stripped down to the sheets behind him—skidded back across the floor and to his knees, tossed them in after him.

"Whatever you do," he snapped, staring right into those confused eyes. "Be quiet. Don't make a fucking sound, okay. Or we're both dead."

Mulder was still struggling with the quilt, trying to sit up, when Krycek threw the door shut again. Slammed the carpet back down on top of it. He got to his feet, part of him taking note of the sound of car doors closing in the distance, shooting one last glance into the room behind him. He realized that it still smelled faintly of sex, but there wasn't anything he could do about that right now.

If they found the FBI man he was screwed. If they somehow already knew, he was screwed. But if they didn't know, if they only suspected, or were simply pissed off at him for not turning up when he should have, for not reporting in as he'd been ordered, then there was a chance that Mulder, at least, would be safe. As long as he stayed in that crawlspace. As long as he was smart enough to listen to him. To keep his mouth shut.

Krycek began walking down the hall towards the living room, was starting to cross that space as well, when the pounding started. One, two hard knocks and then they were slamming the door open and were on him, sharp beams of flashlights crisscrossing the room. Flashing in his face, blinding him. Then one figure had grabbed him and was spinning him around, yanking his arms up behind him, high enough to hurt. Another taking him by the shoulder. The two of them wrestling him down towards the floor.

He fought, trying desperately to stay on his feet, but another man stepped in immediately and he only caught a brief glimpse of movement in the darkness before a fist smashed into him. Somehow, at the last possible moment, he managed to roll with it a little, but his jaw still exploded. Sudden blackness dizzying him. Distantly, he tasted blood. Blearily hoped it didn't mean that a tooth had gone.

This time he didn't see it at all—the impact taking him directly in the side, knocking all the air out of him, knocking him back into the men restraining him. He tried to bend around the pain, to pull away, but those hands yanked him back straight, held him open for the next blow. And this one was worse, far worse, and he dimly realized that whoever it was wasn't going easy on him at all. That there had been metal in those hits, the unmistakable hard edge of a pair of brass knuckles.

Maybe they weren't even going to bother asking him any questions at all. Maybe they were just going to pound him right down into the ground, beat him to death. They had done it before when the situation called for just that kind of action.

When it had been ordered.

Then the third blow took him a little lower, shattering even the vaguest ability to think, and they were pressing him hard to the floor beneath their combined weight. A knee coming down directly on his back. The rough strands of the shag rug abruptly filling his mouth. His arms being wrenched even tighter. And he was still unable to get a breath at all; his side felt like it was on fire, all but shattered to pieces, and every time he tried to suck in some air, any air, please God just let him be able to breathe, the pain expanded to fill his head. Expanded to stark and unrelieved blackness.

"Enough," a voice said somewhere over his head. Unfamiliar. A hint of a strange accent. "Get him up."

The hands obliged, yanking him back up. Holding him when his legs refused to do the job. He finally managed to suck in some air and it was incredibly sweet. As much as it hurt like hell.

"And turn on the fucking lights."

Krycek sensed movement to one side and then the overhead light came on, old and dusty and yellow. It still stung his eyes and he looked at the other men from beneath a bowed head. Four men. Two currently holding him. One over by the light switch. One standing almost directly in front of him, quite likely the one who'd been hitting him.

The man obviously caught his glance, because he suddenly smiled. Crossed his right arm in front of him, even that dim light catching across the polished metal that framed his fingers.

"That's better," he commented, again with a hint of that foreign accent, and Krycek wasn't sure if he meant the lights or that he had gotten his attention.

He swallowed, raised his head a little more. "What the fuck...do you want?" It was hard to get enough breath to speak.

"Why, you, of course," the man replied. He moved a half-step closer, dark eyes narrowing. "The old man's been worried about you. Sent us to find you when you didn't report in like you should have."
"I did the job," he spat. "So I wanted...to take a couple of days off, so what?"

"So," the other man said. "You didn't ask, that's what. You didn't even call in. God knows, anything could have happened to you. We have to look after our own."

Krycek let out a laugh that turned even sharper as it pulled at his side. His breath caught and he was suddenly unable to keep his eyes from wincing half-closed.

He sensed more than saw the other man turn away. "Search the house," he ordered.

Krycek let his eyes sink fully shut. Fuck. God, please, let Mulder keep shut. Let them miss him. He wasn't entirely sure what they would do if they found him—after all, their boss hadn't seemed too keen on taking him out in the past—but it wasn't likely to be a pleasant scene. At best, they might just knock him out, haul him off and dump him somewhere closer to home. If it was his lucky day. If it wasn't, they might overreact. Might not even recognize who he was until it was too late; none of the men he had been able to see so far had ever been assigned to Fox Mulder in any capacity as far as he knew, but he could be wrong about that. And being wrong about that could get the FBI man killed. If they found him, he'd have to tell them who he was. If he got the chance. Please God, he would get the chance...

Before they killed him. Before they killed Mulder.

Opening his eyes again, he worked to steady his breathing. Keeping it as shallow as he could manage. Ignoring the pain. Fixing his eyes on the feet directly in front of him.

Carefully, he shifted a little, taking more of his own weight on his legs, leaning a little forward at the same time, not enough for the men holding him to immediately notice, but maybe just enough to pull them a little off balance. Not likely, but it was all he had work with for the

moment.

He thought longingly of his gun, still in its shoulder holster, hanging off the corner of the wooden chair in the far bedroom, right next to his jacket. The jacket that held Mulder's little gun as well. He should have snatched one up before coming out to the living room, but that would only have made matters worse. Would have made it obvious that he was up to something.

The man came back into the room and shook his head. Tossed that self-same holster and gun at the man standing right in front of him. He caught it easily. Looked at it a moment, before slipping the gun out. Letting the holster fall free to the floor.

"Nice piece," he commented casually, studying the weapon. Clicking off the safety in plain sight. "I hear you even know how to use it. If you don't seem to fucking know how to use a phone."

"I didn't know it'd be...such a big deal," he said. "I guess...I should have read the rule book...a little closer."

"He said you could have a smart mouth, sometimes," the foreign man replied, his eyes still not leaving the gun. "Rather like your overblown sense of self-worth, it could cause you more pain than it's worth, don't you think? If you're not careful."

"So I'll try to be more careful, all right?"

The other man tilted his head. "Too little, too late, I'm afraid." He turned the gun around, the barrel pointing directly at Krycek's face. Then, slowly, continued lowering it until it was aimed at his stomach.

"Cuff him," he ordered.

The man who had retrieved the gun immediately reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a pair of handcuffs, began to move forward. Krycek twisted downwards, pulling the men holding him further off balance, then managed to get a sideways kick off that swept one of them off their feet. He twisted again, straining to get his arms free, but then cool metal pressed hard into his forehead and he instantly froze.

"That's enough of that," the foreign man said. He didn't sound too perturbed, though, as if he had been expecting it. He pulled the gun away, but kept it pointing at him. He nodded, a quick sharp gesture.

They lifted him again, even more roughly than before, and pulled his wrists together behind his back. He tried to keep his panic from showing as they clicked the cuffs home, but he was afraid the man saw it anyway. No doubt he knew, as the old man knew, how much he hated restraints of any kind.

The man who'd cuffed him came back around, lifted an eyebrow at the other man. The foreign man nodded at the front door and he headed towards it, disappearing back out into the gathering night.

The foreign man turned back to him. "Bring him," he said. He turned on his heel and walked into the dark hall at the other end of the living room.

They half-carried, half-shoved him forward. For a moment, he thought they were taking him back to the bedroom and the sense of panic grew. But then a light came on from another doorway—bright florescent light, this time—and he realized they were headed towards the bathroom.

The foreign man was bending in past the cheery floral shower curtain even as they pushed him inside. One of them following him in, the other standing in the doorway behind them. Ready to stop him if he tried to escape again. Not that he really had anywhere that he could go.

Water began running, splashing heavily down into the tub below. What the place had never lacked was water pressure, not even in the driest years. Maybe he was going to regret that now. The man behind him gave him another shove and his lower leg impacted with the lip of the tub. He grabbed his arms again then—the movement sending pain shooting through his side—and bent them up behind him slightly.

Krycek wrenched at the grip a little, testing it, but the man's hands were relentless.

"Hey, c'mon," he said. "I get the idea, okay? I won't be...do it again, all right?"

The water was starting to fill the bottom of the tub already, a couple of bits of grit and fallen grout floating on the surface. Obviously it hadn't been used in a while, hadn't been cleaned out recently. Despite the bottles of shampoo and conditioner sitting on the shelf along the inner rim, the yellow sponge hanging on an equally yellow cord from the showerhead above.

The foreign man ignored him, only reaching down to test the water, letting it run through his fingers. "That's true," he said, soft, as if to himself. "You won't. You won't be allowed the chance." Then, even more softly. "There's no forgiveness."

Suddenly, he stood back straight and something seemed to pass between him and the man holding him. Before his dark eyes finally returned to stare directly into his, his face impassive. Betraying nothing. "I could just hit you some more, I suppose," he said reasonably. "Maybe even break your nose for you. It's an unforgettable sort of pain. But it's so unimaginative, don't you think? It doesn't really inspire the correct amount of fear. Doesn't leave as lasting an impression as you might hope for. And we want to leave a lasting impression."

Those dark eyes flickered then, an emotion passing through them so quickly Krycek wasn't sure what it was before it was gone again.

"It's for your own good," the man added.

As if that had been the cue, the man holding him abruptly slammed him forward, knocking him off his feet. Knocking him right into the tub, ice cold water splashing up and over the sides of the tub, washing one of the bottles of shampoo down from its perch. Krycek let out an involuntary sound, tried to get his feet back under him, but a weight came down on his back and his right leg slipped. His shoulder hit the inner side of the tub and then those same hands were moving on him, forcing him even further down. Shoving his head directly into the rising water.

Krycek swallowed some of it before he could stop himself, struggling madly, but the grip was implacable. He closed his eyes. God, it was so fucking cold...so fucking... Then he was fighting again, dark panic sweeping over him as his lungs lurched and contracted on nothingness. Pressure quickly mounting—faster than he would have believed—behind his eyes, in his chest. His side aching with his efforts, but nothing compared to the increasingly desperate need to breathe.

Then he was being yanked back up again, his face just barely out of the water, and he gasped hard. It hurt, hurt bad, but he couldn't stop himself. He was allowed one breath, half of another, and then the weight came crashing down again. Forcing his head even deeper this time, almost to the bottom. Threatening to mash his nose against the scratched white surface.

Narrowing his world down to a tiny, frigid little pocket. The sudden thought that they were going to kill him after all. That, this time, they weren't going to let him up. That he was going to drown. And, despite himself, he suddenly found himself thinking of Mulder, thinking of him down in that similar little space, that tiny speck of darkness. Where he had thrown him. Where he had hidden him away. Hazel eyes staring blindly at nothing. Silver tears. Smooth skin. The smell of dust and mortality. The taste of the man's despair and hurt...

And, God, he couldn't stand for it to end like this. He didn't want to die. He didn't want to die.

His lungs were burning, crying out to him. The pressure mounting again, past the point of discomfort, past the point where he thought he could stand it anymore. Past even that. He tried to slip sideways in the tub, to get out from under the grip holding him there, but it only shoved him down even harder. He opened his mouth and cold water flooded in. And his mind was beginning to move in jerks now, disjointed little thoughts, black around the edges, shot through with red as frantic as fresh blood. And it was swallowing him up, eating him alive...

God, please.

Please...

Mulder.

He almost cried as he was pulled back up again, not caring how much it hurt to breathe this time, not caring about anything but the air itself. The world flooding back in with it, an explosion of light and color and intensity. Another hand abruptly tangling with his hair, yanking his face roughly upwards to meet a pair of cool dark eyes.

They studied him a moment, wavering in and out as he tried to blink water out of his own eyes, as his whole body shook with his gasps, then moved away again.

And he was being shoved down once more, plunged fast into the deepening water. This time, his head actually struck the bottom and he lost some of his precious air before he could stop himself. He fought grimly then, fought though he knew it would only steal away what time he did have left to him, though he knew how useless it was. That familiar blackness sweeping in on the heels of his struggles, leaving him limp in their hands, suddenly weak and wasted and so very tired. His thoughts slowly spinning down to dizziness, his head buzzing, his heart pounding loud and louder, pounding as if to deafen him...

An abrupt scream, a laugh, and he saw, felt, remembered the sun beating down on a warm beach. His cousin running past him, knocking him almost sideways in the water, off his feet, the lake stretching away before them, the distant sound of motorboats racing past out in the middle. His mom standing far back in the shallows, that slight smile of hers on her face, momentarily making her lovely, making her look a little less lonely.

His father coming down the path from the house behind them. His worn face stern. The sun suddenly going behind a cloud, leaving the whole world cold. The waves rocking him. Deep water just beyond. A sudden drop-off.

They had warned him, over and over they had warned him...

And still he had gone out, far past the point of safety, of surety, and it had sucked him down. Into mud and into stillness and the waters had been black, deathly cold.

He had been so very empty and they had filled him. Tried to drag him down with them. Tried to keep him.

Then his mother was crying as his uncle made him spew it up all again, black water on the sand, all over himself. His father's eyes even colder.

As he turned away...turned away...

He coughed, convulsing from the sheer tearing effort of it, and light and life slowly twisted back into being around him. Wrapped itself around him. Steel cuffs cutting into his wrists, his shoulder twinging, and he was so cold, so goddamned cold, and sick to his stomach, his feet slipping across the floor of the tub as they raised him. Pulled him back out of the water and onto the tile floor beyond.

That other man finally smiling a little as he leaned in past him to shut off the water. "Waste not," he mumbled. "Don't you agree."

Krycek just hung there, breathing hard between the coughs, unable to stop wincing when it hurt. And it kept on hurting.

"Get him up," the foreign man finally said. Krycek was yanked to his feet and a hand came up, caught his chin, forced it upwards. Again, his eyes were studied, appraised. After a long moment, he made himself look back, was able to manage a glare of sorts. They might kill him for it, but it would be worth it. Wouldn't it?

"Leave us," the other man finally added.

Krycek almost fell as he was abruptly released. At the last moment, he caught himself, tried to stand up straight. Or as straight as his side would allow.

The man who had been holding him left. The foreign man followed him, carefully closing the door behind him. He looked back at him then and now there was an expression on his face, one that made Krycek almost wish for a return of the blankness. An expectant look. Almost pleasant. Far too pleasant.

"What? Did you think we couldn't find you?" he said, that accent growing slightly stronger. "That we don't know about you. Everything about you." He took a step closer and his hand came up slightly, revealing that he was still wearing the brass knuckles. "Well, the old man knows you've been a bit...reluctant, shall we say, lately. So he sent me to inspire you. To remind you that he is the one who owns your ass."

Those dark eyes narrowed. "On your knees now, queer boy."

Krycek felt a shock hammer through his guts. He shook his head without thought.

The other man moved fast, faster than he would have believed, hitting him hard on his right shoulder, knocking him backwards. The edge of the sink caught his back and then he was falling. His knees screaming at him as they struck the floor. He almost went over all the way, but then hands were on him, roughly dragging him back up.

One of them immediately let go of him to fumble with a zipper, and he caught a quick glimpse of the weapon that had just been used on him sparking in the light, the metal polished as if it had seen a lot of use. Then cloth was slithering down, the man moving in even closer, a massive red-rimmed cock presenting itself. Black hair and throbbing veins and the sudden faint smell of old urine.

And then the hand was back, yanking his face right up to it, holding his head between metal and ruthless flesh.

"Swallow it, mi bonito," the man said sharply, clearly. "Let's see how good you are."

The sickness inside him grew, but he opened his mouth. Entirely too aware that if he didn't do as asked it would only be the worse. That this man would be all too happy to beat him up some more and then stick it down him anyway. Maybe even go further than that. He could so easily call the others back in to watch, to hold him for him if he had to. To take their own turns when he was done. They might not all like it or even want it, but he could make it an order.

Could make them obey as he was making him do the same.

The man thrust in without preamble, without care. Krycek almost gagged on it, on the taste, the sheer physical size of it. It stretched his mouth, filled up his throat, making it impossible to breathe.

"Ah, yes," the man whispered. "That's it. That's it."

Fingers tightened down on his skull and the man withdrew and pushed in again, harder even than before. And Krycek tried desperately to open up for it, just managed to draw in a shallow gasp of air before he thrust in yet again. Trying not to think about what was happening, trying not to think at all. He hadn't even attempted to make Mulder do this for him. Hadn't wanted to be so cruel, so heartless.

Hadn't wanted to hurt him.

And the man was rocking him with his motions, with his efforts, black eyes staring down at him, an actual smile growing on his face. That cock slamming into his mouth over and over again, slamming into the back of his throat, a choking horrible pressure. A crude salt-sick taste.

Krycek let his eyes close to it, close to it all. Let the man simply move him, fuck him. Use him. Only half-hearing as he began to speak softly, what sounded almost like swear words or maybe they were words of encouragement, half in English and half in some other language. A strange mixture of Spanish and something even more guttural.

Then the man was pounding to a close, shoving his head forward onto his cock even as he shoved himself in as far as he could go. Hot liquid suddenly gushing into his mouth, down his throat, the sickness rising to meet it. And, God, he didn't want it. Couldn't bear to have it inside him. To be forced to swallow it. But it was either that or drown. And he'd had quite enough of that already.

Still, some of it spilled down over his lips as the man just as abruptly withdrew. Released his hold on his head. He went to spit the remainder out, but the other man grabbed his chin again, lifted his face.

"No," he said, shaking his head slightly. His dark eyes were slightly glazed, but still sharp for all that. Menacing.

Hating him, hating himself, Krycek swallowed down the rest of what was in his mouth. The man gave him an approving look, still not letting go of him.

"Now you understand," he said. "Now you listen." He let go of Krycek's jaw with a snap of his fingers. "Clean me up, nino bonito."

Krycek closed his eyes for a second, suppressed a quick shudder—knowing what the price would be for that breach of etiquette—then slowly opened them again. He bent forward and did as he was asked, licking the other man's still hard cock clean of the rest of his come. Wincing inside at the taste of it, the taste of him, at the thought of what he was doing. Was this who he was now? No wonder, Mulder couldn't stand the sight of him. No wonder he would rather die than have anything to do with him.

"Enough," the man finally said, jerking back from his mouth. He pulled up his pants, precise little movements, and his face went cool and distant again.

"By the way," he said easily, casually. "You must forgive me. In the heat of the moment, I forgot to introduce myself. I'm your new partner, Luis. We're going to be working together from now on. Very closely together, comprende?"

Krycek didn't answer. Feeling suddenly so very tired, unbearably tired.

The man's mouth thinned out. "Did you hear what I said?"

Krycek heard the threat. He mustered as much energy as he could and stared into those dark eyes.

The man—Luis—gave a little shake of his head. "Say my name, Alex. Tell me what I'm going to do to you the next time I see you screwing up. The next time you don't follow your orders like a good little soldier."

Krycek swallowed. His whole mouth felt sticky, unclean. "Luis," he rasped out. "And...you're going to...fuck me over."

Luis actually smiled at that, a full blown grin. "Exactomente. You're a quick one, after all. I like that." He backed away a couple of steps, the smile fading away as quickly as it had appeared. "You have two days to report back in. After that, I'm coming to get you and it won't be as easy as my cock down your throat if you disappoint me. If you disappoint him. I'll fuck you and I'll hurt you and I'll fuck you some more. Because you're my whore now. And you're going to get the job done and you're going to like it or you're going to be a dead man. Eventually. When I'm through with you, mi bonito."

He tucked himself back inside and zipped up his pants. "But, in the meantime, as long as you do as you're told, who knows? Maybe you'll grow to like me. I can be a very likable fellow. Very...generous."

Without warning, he stalked back over to him, bent down and kissed him hard. Krycek tasted blood again, tasted darkness and disgust and self-hatred. Was unable to stop the impulse that sent his head jerking back, away from the other man's mouth.

This time, Luis only smirked at him. Not even angry at the reaction. As if he had been expecting it, even wanting it. He stood up straight again, reaching into his jacket pocket. Silver light spun as he held a handcuff key directly in front of him. As he turned and pitched it at the far wall. The tiny key hit the tile and fell with a loud plunk into the tub full of water.

Krycek watched it go, then turned his eyes back just in time to see the kick coming at him. He tried to pull away from it, but the boot took him hard in the stomach, sent him smashing to one side. Down to the floor. Pain twisting sharply in his guts, yellow light and vomit burning at the back of his throat. He curled up around himself, unable to stop the sound

this time. Unable to keep this last pain inside.

Only dimly realizing that the other man had turned on his heel, had gone to the door and yanked it open. Had walked out.

Leaving him alone.

* * *

Utter darkness fell in on him before he could clearly comprehend what was happening. Mulder tried to sit up again, but the ceiling was too low—he hit his head and the shock of it, the dizziness that immediately followed, spun him back down again. He closed his eyes against it, holding his breath as he waited for the worst of the sensation to fade, waited for his stomach to come back under control, then finally moved again, twisted around slowly, trying to get at least his knees under him. Unfortunately, the one leg he managed to untangle from the quilt hit a wall before he could even half extend it—the side of his bare foot scraping across cool cement—and he was forced to curl back up again.

He froze then as he heard a distant crash, Krycek's admonition abruptly ringing through his head. Maybe he was just being stupid or gullible, but he found he believed the panic he had seen. Krycek had been scared, and not just for himself.

Still, he carefully extended his left arm, reaching upwards, trying to figure out where he had been put. At first all he felt was rough wood, but he followed it until he discovered what felt like the corner of a pipe. Then what felt like part of an air duct. He ran his index finger along it, then paused again as footsteps suddenly sounded overhead—approaching rapidly, passing directly over him, then moving on. His rational mind was busy arguing that it could be his own people, finally on the rescue, that Krycek was only lying to him yet again, that anything would be better than to remain here, to remain in the man's control. But his guts had already constricted, his breath dying unborn. Somehow he just knew it wasn't. That he was in danger. Even more danger.

Mulder let his hand fall. Clenched it in a fold of the quilt. The feel of which had grown only entirely too familiar in the course of the last hour or so. Almost comforting. Almost.

Vaguely, he realized that it smelled of him, of the two of them, of what they had done, a strong scent almost more powerful than that of the tiny space around him. The smell of mold and dirt, old dust and damp.

The footsteps returned, disappeared into the distance again. Still, he didn't move, though he began breathing again. Lightly. Shallowly. Krycek had been scared and he hated to think of what would scare the man. Hated the fact that he wasn't up to fighting off much of anything right now, though he felt a bit better, stronger, more in control than before. The drug must be wearing off a little, running down at last.

If only it wasn't too late.

Mulder closed his eyes again, then opened them. There was no discernible difference between the two.

Still moving carefully, he unclenched his hand from the quilt and began feeling around once more, this time for the clothes he knew Krycek had thrown in after him. He didn't know if he'd be able to get his pants back on, especially in this tight space, especially and still be quiet about it, but he was willing to try. No, make that eager.

If he was going to found by God knew who and taken out and shot, the least he wanted was a little dignity.

At last, his fingers tagged familiar softness and he dragged it over to him, struggled to put the sweatpants on, trying not to use his right hand anymore than he absolutely had to. He got his feet into it somehow, glad he had always been limber, then began pulling it up, arching his body to try and make it easier. He had almost succeeded when as he tried to turn to make those last few inches, his elbow spanged out and hit a cement corner hard, scraped over the

bone. Desperately, he swallowed down a few choice words. Shit, how in the hell could that hurt almost as much as his wrist?

Mulder laid back again, blinking hard—black and black and black, no change, still nothing to focus on—then realized it was cold. That he was cold. Especially the part of him that had somehow ended up lying on the stone floor beneath him.

His stomach started up a minor protest again when he shifted once more, straining to pull some of the quilt back around him. The resultant dizziness wasn't nearly as bad, though, for which he was grateful. In fact, he was starting to feel marginally better all round, though maybe that was partially the effect of having his pants on again.

He contemplated making another attempt to get out of here, at least to try and find out what was going on, find a weapon, do something, anything but just lie here wondering and waiting, but then there was another distant series of sounds—nothing he could seem to place—and then footsteps once more. This time, they didn't approach his hiding place, but turned off before. And a moment or two later, a far closer sound started up. Running water in one of the pipes over his head.

Mulder frowned. What the hell was going on? Had Krycek been fooling around with him after all? Was he, in fact, up there right now taking a shower and laughing about the thought of him lying here in the dark with no idea about what was going on. No idea what was going to happen to him. He would have almost started to believe it, except that he began hearing voices as well, quite obviously more than one. He turned his head, straining to hear, but could only catch the tone, not any actual words.

Certainly not enough to be able to tell if one of the voices was Kryceks.

Or what kind of trouble he may or may not be in.

Instead, he concentrated on his breathing, on staying calm. On trying not to feel any of his increasing aches and pains now that they were busy emerging from the last dregs of the drug he had been given. Trying, most especially, not to feel the soreness in his ass, where he had been touched by alternating rough and gentle hands, where he had been stretched out and finally fucked. The flood of the other man's semen had actually soothed away some of the pain, but he found the thought of that even more disconcerting in a way. The thought that Krycek had left something of himself inside him. Maybe so deep he could never rid himself of it again.

The bitemarks, painful though they had been, painful though they were, would at least heal given enough time. Would fade and finally vanish. He wasn't so sure about the rest.

And he still didn't understand. Maybe that was the worst of it. He could have understood the man just hauling off and killing him, even beating him around some first, taunting him, spitting in his face. But this... He could have taken a punch to the face far better than a kiss. A bullet better than a cock. Hatred, instead of a sudden and unexpected and disarmingly tender concern.

Without Scully his life had come undone and maybe that was all it was. He was adrift in that dark ocean at last, lost to its strange currents, and there would be nothing from now on that would be sure and real and reliable. Nothing that he could count on. Nothing he could hold on to.

Not even the enmity, it seemed, of his enemies.

Those who should hate him as he hated them.

He realized that he was crying again, tears trickling down his face with slow ease. Almost effortlessly. Almost as if it were someone else who was crying. Someone else who was hurting. And he was simply too numb yet inside to be able to figure out just who and what and why, let alone to try and make any kind of sense out of it.

But then even Krycek had said, albeit somewhat jokingly, that he might be more than a little crazy. Not that that was any surprise. His training alone could have told him that, even if he didn't have all the sideways looks and comments of his years in the Bureau to back it up. He had been—was—useful and so they tolerated him. Tolerated his little insanities for the results that it produced. Nothing to do with him, with the man who was forced to live inside the box, inside that life. Not that he didn't enjoy it at least in some perverse ways some of the time, even a few of the jokes at his expense, the better ones anyway. Not that he didn't hate it too and wonder just where he'd taken that sharp turn, if there had been any way he could have avoided it. He rarely bothered imagining, though, that there was any way back, any way to undo it all, at least any way that didn't involve Samantha in some fashion. And that none of them had ever totally understood, not even Scully, though she came close sometimes.

Not even Scully...

Mulder closed his eyes, but the tears continued anyway, seeping out from around the edges. All his tattered edges. His emptied life. His useless dream, which more than anything marked him as a man gone over the edge. To think that one thing, no matter how wished for, how longed for, sacrificed for, could make it all come right in the end. And now his one, his only companion along the way was gone as well, no matter that he had never asked for her to be there in the first place, had never looked for her.

Missed her like a piece of his own soul.

The sound of the water gurgled to a stop and he opened his eyes again. Scrubbed at his cheeks, rubbing the dampness there away into the quilt. It already had his semen, his sweat, maybe even his blood, why not this too.

And, suddenly, he couldn't hardly stand it anymore; he wanted, no, he needed to get the hell out of here. To get back, get home, where at least he knew where everything was, how everything was, even if it was shitty. Even it was almost unbearably shitty.

Footsteps sounded again and, despite himself, he strained his eyes upwards, trying to see, to follow them. His breath stopped as they paused, as if sensing his notice of them, paused seemingly almost directly overhead. Hesitated a long time, too long to be a coincidence surely. And Mulder was abruptly and absolutely aware, without really knowing where the knowledge came from, that if whoever it was up there found him he was dead, no questions asked, no chances given.

Finally, the man shifted and then began moving off, his footsteps passing into the distance. Still, Mulder didn't move, didn't hardly breathe, not until everything was silent overhead. Until he sensed the house had gone completely still.

Then he took a long breath and reached upwards. Ran his fingers along the wood, searching this time for the edge of the door. When he found it, he twisted around again in the restrictive space and, this time, succeeded in getting one leg partially under him. He put his good hand to the door and shoved, grimacing as it proved heavier than he had anticipated. He shifted over some more and managed to put his shoulder to it as well and, this time, it actually moved a little.

Mulder paused, gathering himself, then shoved upwards as hard as he could. The trap door flew up and over, dragging the carpet that had lain over it with it. He caught himself on the edge and hung there while his vision swam in and out of focus, waiting while it slowed and finally came to a rest again. The dizziness threatened to come back, though, when he hauled himself out, finding the procedure difficult with only one working hand to help him. When he was finally out, he just laid there on his back for a little while, breathing hard, lightly holding his throbbing wrist across his stomach.

Staring up at the play of light across the ceiling.

Finding the floor here was cold, too, though not as cold as the one down below.

Finally, he pushed himself up to a sitting position and then used part of the wall to lever himself completely to his feet. He glanced back into the small bedroom behind him, but it was empty, the lamplight casting the shadows of the iron bedframe across bare white sheets. The only sign of what had happened was the black t-shirt lying on the floor near the foot of the bed, half covering a wayward pair of equally black boots.

Krycek's t-shirt. Krycek's boots.

Mulder turned away, staggering a little, more than he really cared for, as he began to make his way down the hall, skirting the open hole in the floor. There was a light on in the room at the far end—where he could see brown shag carpet, the corner of a black leather recliner—but an even brighter line of light was coming from behind partially open door just a little ways down. He paused as he came up to it, glancing around the corner, catching a glimpse of a toilet, blue and grey-flecked tile.

Hearing the slow plunk of dripping water.

He glanced briefly back down the hall at what was most likely the living room, then edged himself up to the doorframe in front of him, He gingerly pushed the door wider, revealing an old-fashioned free standing sink next to the toilet, yellow towels folded across the bar between them, a large mirror above. He took a half step inside then, pushing the door ahead of him, and saw a brightly flowered shower curtain hanging around a huge old footed tub.

A man wearing only a pair of jeans was lying on his side next to the tub, legs drawn up close to his body, face turned down into the tile. His eyes were closed, his arms pulled taut behind him, and Mulder caught the glint of handcuffs on them.

Krycek.

Another wave of dizziness swept over Mulder as he stared at the man, but it owed nothing to the remnants of the drug in his system. His jaw tightened as he restrained the urge to walk over and kick that lax body, to mash that face down even further against that cool tile floor, to hammer that dark head down over and over again. To make the other man beg for his life, for his forgiveness. To have it denied him.

He stepped fully into the bathroom, only then bothering to take note that the tub was nearly full of water, that more water was spilled out across the floor. That Krycek, himself, looked to be totally soaked. Maybe his idea about a shower hadn't been completely off base, though it didn't explain anything either. Certainly not the handcuffs. Especially the handcuffs.

The other man stirred, lifted his head a touch, then let it fall again. Slowly, his eyes came open, looking more green if possible than he had ever seen them before. They fixed on him almost immediately and Krycek's mouth twisted, blood on his lips. It was a wry look, edged with pain, that disappeared again a bare second or two later. Leaving his face carefully blank, those eyes hooded.

Krycek opened his mouth, took in a breath, was unable to completely hide the resultant flinch. "Mulder," he said, hardly a whisper.

"What the hell is going on?" he asked. "Who were those men?"

Krycek ignored his question. "Keys," he mumbled. "My...coat pocket. Take Œem. Take...my car..." As if to spite his obvious current state, he gave him a singularly hard look. "Go on." His eyes skittered away then, looking off into the distance, looking at nothing. He seemed to sink back down into himself.

Mulder thought about questioning him further, thought about the even more favorable plan of following through on his first violent impulses, but the man just looked too damned defeated. It might have been an act, but if it was it was a good one. A positively inspired one.

"What are you...waiting for..." Mulder heard Krycek add, his voice, if anything, sounding even weaker. "An...apology?"

Mulder took a half step towards him, but the other man didn't react, didn't even bother to look up at him. He had closed his eyes again, turned his face back towards the floor. Mulder stared at him for a long moment, then turned and walked away, out of the bathroom. He made better time back down the hall this time, kicking the trapdoor back shut as he passed it.

The dark grey rain jacket was folded almost neatly over the arm of the chair in the corner of the bedroom. He yanked it off with an impatient gesture, rummaged through the pockets. He found his gun first, which made him feel instantly more agreeable, which wasn't much. He checked it over, briefly wondered where the holster was and whether he would find his shoes and socks in the same place, then tucked it into the waistband of his sweatpants instead. Not the best place for it, but it would have to do. Another search yielded a little leather folder containing what he recognized as a lock-picking kit, a pen flashlight, a set of black leather gloves, and a plain silver clip full of money. A Maryland driver's license was tucked in with it, as well. Krycek's picture was on it, but not his name. Not that he could really count on knowing what the man's actual name was, all things considered.

He memorized the name and address anyway before sliding it away again.

The car keys were in an inner pocket, attached to a keychain which also held several other keys, including one that looked like a mailbox key. His keys were there too and Mulder palmed them all and let the coat drop to the floor. He avoided glancing at the bed as he walked back out of the room. Avoided looking into the bathroom as he passed that as well.

The living room also had a long grey, blue and white fabric couch in addition to the leather recliner. A wooden rocker was tucked in next to it, an old console television placed directly across from the couch, a dried floral arrangement in a pottery vase sitting on top. Both end tables and the coffee table were of dark wood, battered about the edges, and contained a scattering of paperbacks, magazines, and cork coasters. A green glass candy dish sat in the center of the coffee table, empty except for a light coating of dust. In fact, everything had dust on it.

A phone sat on one of the end tables, but when he picked it up there was no dial tone. He set the receiver back down with more force than necessary, then turned away, glancing through the open archway to his right. It led into a kitchen, where he could see a few equally battered wooden cabinets, an 1970's avocado green stove and matching refrigerator speckled with an assortment of different colored and shaped magnets, and a white-painted baker's rack that held a small microwave and a half-full shelf of cookbooks. A large multi-colored rag rug lay in the center of the wooden floor, also looking a little worse for wear.

A clock shaped like a fish hung on the far wall and he stared at it. It was quarter to eight. Early in the evening, yet nearly six hours since he had first gone for his run in the park. It was frightening how much could happen in just six hours. How much could change.

Pain cut into the palm of his hand and he realized that he had clenched his fist around the keys. He turned away from the kitchen and went to the front door. It was closed, but when he pulled it open he saw that the lock had been forced, the wood scraped and torn. The screen door beyond was in better shape and it closed with a quickness and a slam that almost made him jump as he stepped out onto the porch beyond.

The night had closed in, a wet night, chilling. It was nearly pitch dark outside, too, the only light coming from the living room window behind him. The steps were slippery and he took them carefully, a light rain landing on him the moment he emerged from beneath the edge of the porch roof. Sharp bits of gravel stung his feet as he began walking down the path from the house and he finally moved over a little, deciding to continue on the grass. Still, the ground was squishy, a little muddy in spots, and he hurried over it as quickly as he could. It grew even darker around him the further he came from the house and he realized, with the same mild surprise that he always felt, just how used he had gotten to the brighter night of the city. But then it had been years since he'd been up to Quonochontaug.

The dark bulk of the car sat beneath a tree and a heavy spill of rain from the leaves above landed on his neck and shoulder the moment he stepped up to it, shockingly cold. He suddenly wished he had taken Krycek's coat as well. The other man certainly owed him. Owed him more than he could ever be expected to pay back. At least and still remain alive.

Mulder felt along the side of the car until he reached the door, put one key to it and then a second one when it didn't work. This one turned and the interior light came on in the vehicle when he opened the door. He slid inside and pulled it shut behind him, put the key to the ignition, fumbling it a little in the dark with his left hand. He started to turn it, only to pause. One of his running shoes was poking out from beneath the passenger seat.

He twisted in the seat and leaned over, pulled it the rest of the way out. A sock had been stuffed into it. He set it down on the seat next to him and leaned over further, hating the awkwardness his injury forced him to, and found first the ankle holster and then his second shoe.

It hadn't been a very good hiding place, but then maybe Krycek had been rushed. Thinking of other things. Like fucking his ass, for instance.

Mulder sat back, dropped the second shoe into his lap and let out a long exceedingly sharp breath. He felt like pounding his good hand into the steering wheel and only the thought that he might accidentally hurt it more than he would have liked stopped him. Shit, he hated this. Couldn't handle it. Not like this, not with Scully gone. Stolen from him. Paying the price for him.

Maybe even dying for him.

And his only lead was back at that house right now, lying there on that bathroom floor. Having been tortured in his own way, he had no doubts about. Having tortured him, albeit in a way he never would have expected or suspected, let alone anticipated participating with to some

degree. But was it any less a rape since he had gotten off on it? Had actually found himself enjoying some of it?

Mulder slowly slumped forward, let his forehead come to rest on the steering wheel. It was all so fucking confusing and he simply wasn't up to figuring it out. Not right now. Not when he was so goddamned tired. The facts remained that Krycek had attacked him, knocked him out, kidnapped him. Tied him up and stripped him and taken him. Hurt him. But the facts didn't cover all of it. Couldn't disguise the gentle way he'd held him afterwards, the real concern in his voice. The seductive nature of his kisses, at least at first, before he began actively trying to fight him. To fight what was coming.

Maybe Krycek had only been trying to save his own butt when he shoved him down beneath the floor, but it had likely saved him as well. Which didn't excuse the fact that he wouldn't have been here at all if it weren't for the other man, but did indicate some level of thought for his continued well-being.

A concern seemingly reflected in his urge to give him his own car keys, his own car. To let him go. Not that he really had any choice about the matter right now. After they had done with him, whoever they were. After they had beat him around, cuffed him, played with drowning him in the tub.

Mulder swallowed hard. He hadn't wanted to think about that, but obviously part of him was still working, still putting two and two together. Coming up with conclusions that he wanted little or nothing to do with.

Conclusions that were definitely not a comfort, certainly not in his own time of need.

Roughly, Mulder yanked the keys back out and opened the car door. He got out, briefly leaned back in to snatch up his shoes and gun holster, and then slammed the door back shut. His mind started up a litany of curse words as he walked back across that wet grass, that soft ground, heading towards a distant square of light, but he ignored them. Concentrating instead on just what he was going to do if Krycek didn't cooperate. Didn't want to tell him what he wanted to know. Didn't know what he needed to know.

Which would only leave payment due—for his part in Scully's abduction, for all the lies he had told, all the trust he had broken. For what he had done to him.

Mulder left his shoes in the living room and stalked down the hall, walked into the bathroom without a word.

Krycek was sitting up now, his back against the side of the tub. His head down, panting hard. Or as hard as the pain he obviously was feeling would allow. His head shot up, though, as Mulder came in and his expression blanked out again. Only to be transformed a moment later to a scowl.

"Why?" he asked, the word still a trifle breathless.

"Why what?" Mulder replied, amazed at his own mild tone. The curse words still continued unabated.

"Why...are you still here?" Krycek clarified, the scowl deepening.

Mulder cocked his head. "You kidnapped me. Remember?" He didn't know the words were going to come out so full of echoes, so mockingly, until it was already done, already hanging in the air between them.

Krycek's eyes seemed to flinch, but there was no other immediately obvious reaction.

"What happened?" Mulder asked, pressing his advantage.

The other man amazingly tried for a smile, but it failed before it was even half-formed. "Maybe..." he said softly. "I...slipped in the shower."

Mulder shook his head. "Was that before or after you handcuffed yourself."

It took a while, but that smile finally appeared. It looked pained, but it was there. He tried to shift over then, to sit up straighter, only to stop abruptly, a sharp gasp escaping his control.

"I think they might have cracked a couple of your ribs," Mulder commented dryly. "Nice friends you have there."

Krycek's eyes went shut. "Fuck, Mulder. Don't...make me laugh."

"You didn't tell them I was here, did you?" he pressed. "This...this wasn't part of any of their plans, of his plans, at all."

Krycek didn't answer, but a nerve jumped beneath his left eye.

"Which leaves the question why," Mulder went on. "Why bring me here. Why risk it. I can't believe it was just to get your rocks off. You'd have to be insane or desperate or both for something like that."

"Do I...get to pick?" Krycek mumbled, his eyes still closed.

Mulder took another step into the room. His head suddenly went still. "Maybe I should just finish what they started," he said, hardly recognizing his own voice in that moment, the icy chill of it. "It's no more than you deserve. Less, probably."

Krycek let out a breath, caught it back at the end with a wince. He opened his eyes, but didn't look up, didn't look at him. "Go on, then," he murmured. "Hit me. Fucking kill me. Whatever. Just do it...and get the hell outa here."

"I could," Mulder said, still feeling cold inside. "I should...arrest you. Haul your ass off to jail."

"Then you will be...killing me," came the quiet reply.

"Fuck, Krycek. Don't make me cry," he said, perfectly mimicking the other man's tone.

That got a reaction when nothing else had. Green eyes came up and met his, all the hardness, the control, washed out of them. Leaving that naked look again, those naked depths, pain and longing and regret and fear all tangled into one indissoluble piece.

"Didn't mean to," Krycek said, so soft only the movement of his lips gave it away. Gave him away.

"And you honestly think that absolves you?"

"Maybe..." the other man replied, almost as soft. "I didn't think."

Krycek's head went back down then and he let out a quiet sound. "The handcuff key," he said. "It's...in the water. I...can't get it. Mulder..."

He frowned. "If you think I'm taking those things off you, you're further gone than I thought."

The other man began to slump down the side of the bathtub, slow at first and then faster. His shoulder hit the tile floor first, then the side of his head. "Please..." Mulder thought he heard him whisper, and then even that slight voice was lost. Green eyes slid shut and his breathing bottomed out.

"Shit," Mulder said, the word sounding abruptly far too loud in the small room.

He almost could have welcomed the curses again in the next few minutes as he

retrieved the handcuff key, pulled the plug on the tub, flinching at how cold the water was. Dealing with the unconscious man was a little more difficult. In the end, he got the quilt back out from beneath the trapdoor and used it to drag Krycek back into the little bedroom. Getting him up onto the bed itself was harder, but he managed it with only a few additional dings to his bad wrist.

The whole time the other man didn't move once, didn't even make a sound when he turned him and lifted him. Mulder took the time to examine him more closely once he was back on the bed, finding Krycek's whole right side was swollen, already beginning to turn black and blue. He didn't think any of the broken ribs were so bad they might puncture a lung, but it couldn't have been pleasant regardless. There was another bruise forming on his right shoulder and one along the line of his jaw as well. Nothing necessarily life-threatening, but they had certainly done a number on him.

He found himself wondering vaguely what Krycek had done to deserve the beating. Or whether it had just been for being himself, which seemed potentially likely from what he knew of the man. If the world was taking turns on him, he wanted his fair lick as well.

Finally, he tucked the quilt in around him, deciding to keep him on his good side for the time being, and stuck one of the pillows up against his stomach to help cushion him. Again, he tried not to consider his actions, his doubts about what he was doing. Why he seemed bent on helping the very man who had hurt him. Who had hurt Scully.

Trying hard not to think much at all.

Krycek was shivering now, despite the quilt laying over him.

Mulder frowned. He toyed with the thought of just ignoring it, ignoring him, then his hand crept out anyway. He touched Krycek's forehead, laid his palm across it. The other man was cold to the touch, slightly clammy even.

Then those eyes suddenly opened again and Mulder snatched his hand back, feeling unaccountably guilty. As if he'd been caught doing something he shouldn't. A surge of anger followed quick on its heels. Something of it must have shown in his eyes or face, because the other man abruptly flinched away from him. An abortive gesture that his bonds and his ribs cut short. His eyes closed again, briefly, then reopened, a slightly withdrawn cast to them this time. As if he were expecting the worst.

"Mulder..." he said, his voice rough, sounding exhausted as Mulder felt. "Thought...you'd gone..."

"Obviously not," Mulder replied.

Krycek's eyes closed again, as if even that one question had been too much for him. "Cold..." he mumbled a moment or two later. "So...cold..." He tried moving again, as if attempting to curl up around himself, only to stop with a sudden hiss. A quick sound of pain that shocked even Mulder to hear it.

"Krycek," he said.

There was no reply this time, not even a flutter of eyelashes.

"Fuck," Mulder mumbled. He let out a quick breath of his own, resentment mingling with a twinge of reluctant concern. The other man was obviously worse off than he'd thought, quite probably going into shock.

He went over to the closet and pulled the door open. There were a couple of shirts and a plastic-wrapped dress on hangers inside, a scattering of shoes on the floor below. On the

single shelf above, a pale blue blanket lay folded over a stack of shoe boxes and he reached up and yanked it down. He spread it over the other man, wincing each time he inadvertently turned his wrist in the least. Maybe it would have been better if the drug hadn't worn off quite so quickly, after all. He'd have to try and hunt up some aspirin.

He lightly shook Krycek's shoulder but the man didn't stir, didn't react at all.

Mulder frowned down at him a moment longer, then turned and went back out into the hall. Quickly, he explored the rest of the house, finding three more bedrooms, one just as small as the one Krycek was in, the other two larger with full size beds. There was no dining room, but the kitchen proved to be more than roomy enough to accommodate a large table. Six chairs were shoved beneath it and another candy dish, yellow glass this time, sat in the middle. Still with no candy. Everything there was a little dusty too, as if no one had been around in months. An opinion that was backed up by the state of the refrigerator. Just a door full of assorted condiments and some cans of pop and beer, a jar of peanut butter and a half full container of rather old looking spaghetti sauce.

The cupboards yielded more odds and ends, including a mis-matched set of dishware, cookware, and glasses that included a good half dozen plastic cups from several different fast food establishments.

Nothing unusual. Nothing that told him anything much about the people who used this place, who owned this place. Nothing that told him what Krycek had to do with them or this place either.

Habit almost made him turn on the tv set in the living room, but in the end he just checked the closet there as well, finding several coats in sizes ranging from kid to adult sizes and a shelf full of games, most of which he remembered from his own childhood.

He was being foolish. He should just go back to the bathroom, find some aspirin, and then go home. He had the keys to the car. He had his gun and his shoes and his own keys again. Once he got out on the road he could find another house or a gas station. Find out where he was. Get some help. Have them haul Krycek off to jail where he belonged. Or maybe to a hospital first and then on to jail.

To be honest, he couldn't understand his impulse to stay. To return to the house. To Krycek. He certainly couldn't understand why he felt in any way that he owed him anything, especially the least little bit of mercy. He should have just left him...could have...

But Krycek had wanted him to go. Knowing he would be left behind. Beaten and helpless and bloodied and in pain and still he had wanted him to go. Had tried to protect him.

Had fucking kidnapped him in the first goddamned place.

Had...

Mulder closed his eyes tightly and lowered his head, letting the closet door swing back shut again. Rage shook him, rage and something more. Something he had no name for. Didn't even know if it could be given a name.

He walked back down the hall and into the bathroom. The medicine cabinet was behind the mirror and he found a nearly full bottle of aspirin there. Shook out three and took them with him back into the bedroom. Krycek was lying just as he'd left him, but when he approached he saw that he was still shivering despite the extra blanket. His breathing sounded worse as well, too shallow, too quick.

A little less reluctantly than before, Mulder felt his forehead. There was no response this time from the other man and his fingers came away damp with sweat.

Mulder felt like swearing again, then suddenly even that seemed like just too much effort. More effort than this man was worth certainly.

More effort than any of it was worth anymore.

The last lingering traces of anger faded to a ghost of itself. The room suddenly seemed to swim in and out of his vision, such a normal room, such a normal house. No relation to his life as it had become. Nor, would it seem, should it seem, to the life of the man lying on the bed in front of him.

And he didn't like it. Didn't like the thought that Krycek had had anything of the sort—a childhood, favorite tv shows, maybe even a brother or two. A sister. That he might have been anything other than what he was. That circumstances might have been different for him, too.

Krycek didn't move, didn't make a sound, as he crawled over him. Settled in next to him, pulling part of the blanket, the quilt up over himself. Mulder swallowed the aspirin dry, making a face at the taste, then put his left arm up and over the other man, tucked his other arm in between them, his hand carefully resting on his own side. He pressed a little closer then and found to his sudden shock that the wet jeans, Krycek's bare skin, were cold even through his own clothes. He should have stripped him first, he guessed, should get up and do it now. But he was just too damn tired. It would simply have to do.

Mulder let his head fall to the single remaining pillow, stared at the face of the man right before him. Felt his almost continuous shivering all through his own body. Maybe he should have taken the handcuffs off, too, while he was at it. Except that it was an advantage and he didn't want to give that up, especially not to just make the other man more comfortable. He may not really want Krycek to die—at least not right now, not like this—but that didn't mean that he owed him comfort as well. Certainly no more than he had ever given him.

Mulder closed his eyes and, as it had been for the past few weeks, her face was right there before him. Her blue eyes frightened, calling to him, begging him to help her. Bright light surrounding her, sundering her away from him. Tall shapes standing over her, wavering in and out like moonlight in the mist. Lost in a puff of smoke, stinging at his eyes. Burning him with blue eyes, with silent screams. It was all there in his head, where it was inescapable. Relentless. As relentless as the shadows, as the even greater darkness that waited just beyond it all.

He let himself be dragged down by it, hoping to find her this time, despairing of ever finding her. Ever seeing her again, except in his dreams. Except in his nightmares.

* * *

Krycek woke with a start, closing his eyes again instantly as light stung them. He opened them again though, squinting through the glare, when he heard the creak of a chair, sensed movement nearby. Automatically, he tried to sit up, to roll to his feet, only to be brought up short by an incredibly sharp pain in his side.

He must have made some kind of sound, though, because the creaking came again and then a figure was moving forward, leaning towards him. Passing out of the brightness and into clarity no less shocking.

Fox Mulder, a calm, almost diffident look on his face. His hazel eyes were sharp, though dark shadows lay beneath them. If anything he looked even more tired than he had

when he'd seen him in the park, though if that lack was on his mind it didn't show at all.

"Awake at last," he said, his tone also giving nothing away. "And here I was beginning to think I was going to have to resort to the traditional method to wake you and I've had quite enough of that, thank you."

"What are you..." Krycek said, then stopped, suddenly not wanting to betray his confusion to this man.

"Doing here?" Mulder finished for him anyway. "We've already had this little discussion. Don't tell me you don't remember."

"Okay," Krycek commented, but the sarcasm came out weak. "I won't tell you."

Mulder gave him a funny look, perhaps amused despite himself. Perhaps not. "I suppose that means that you're feeling better this morning."

He shifted again, more cautiously this time, trying to sit up a little. His ribs and the cuffs still on his wrists made the operation difficult, if not impossible. The man watching him didn't move, didn't volunteer to help in the least. He just sat back in his own chair, picked up the paperback folded over his leg and closed it, tossed it carelessly to the floor.

Krycek finally looked back at him, realizing that the FBI man was totally dressed now, down to his shoes and the bulge of the small gun by his ankle. And Mulder may have looked like shit, but he felt like shit. His side hurt worst of all, but his shoulder ached as well and everytime he moved his mouth a twinge of pain went up his jaw. He wasn't sure if it was from the shot to the mouth he'd taken when they had first burst into the house, or from having been forced to accommodate his new partner in last night's blowjob. Whichever it was, he wasn't looking forward to repeating either experience.

"So," Mulder said. "Tell me. Who were those men and what did they want from you?"

He deflected the question. "You gonna take these cuffs off?"

"No," the other man said shortly. "Spill it, Krycek."

He looked down, unable to bear the regard of those eyes for the moment. "No names, but they work for the same people as I do. One of them..." He flashed on his face, the feel of hands holding his head for that massive cock, the taste and smell of him, and his stomach turned over queasily. "He's your replacement, I guess. My new...partner."

"Looks like you're off to a fine start," Mulder commented dryly. "So why'd they beat you up, then? Did you bring them a bad cup of coffee or what?"

Krycek shot him a quick glance, felt a sudden heat move over him. During the brief time they had worked together, Mulder had accused him more than once of being able to sniff out the worst coffee shops in town. It had been the first real joke between them, the first glimpse of the man behind the cool condescension, behind the brilliance and the practiced diffidence. The occasional even outright intolerance.

It had also been the first time he'd ever heard him laugh, just a chuckle, but he had prized it even then. Even before he'd realized the full extent of his feelings. A realization that had come too late. Which proved that there probably there was some truth to the old adage that you sometimes never knew what you had until you lost it, never really appreciated it until it was gone.

"No," he said. "Not exactly." He hesitated. "I guess I just haven't had my mind on my work lately. And they came to..."

"Show you the error of your ways," Mulder offered.

He couldn't help but laugh a little at that, restraining the wince that went along with it. "Yeah. You could put it that way, I suppose."

"It's nice to know there's fuck-ups on both sides."

"Hey, thanks."

Mulder sat back in his chair again, his features vanishing behind the glare from the window once more. "Anytime."

"Fuck you." It came out harsher than he had anticipated, harsher than was probably prudent considering the situation, but he just couldn't help himself. Despite all he'd seen, all he'd done, this man's regard still seemed to matter to him. More than anyone's had in years. Not since his parents had died, certainly. He could handle the hate and the anger directed at him—at least, most of the time—but he simply couldn't stand that Mulder might think of him as some kind of loser, as well. He could take orders. He could kill. He had. Despite his feelings on the matter, despite his reservations. He got the job done. At least, they couldn't take that away from him.

"You already did," Mulder said quietly, and somehow Krycek knew he wasn't just talking about what had happened between them last night.

He looked up, but the other man's face was still hidden. He opened his mouth to snap back another sharp retort, then slumped a little instead. "I'm sorry, Mulder," he said, all but whispering. "I don't know where she is or I would tell you. Even if they killed me for it. Which they would."

"Don't lie to me." Mulder's voice was hard, unforgiving.

"I'm not..." Krycek cut himself off. He looked down again, twisted his hands in the cuffs. They cut into his skin, but he suddenly wanted the pain, almost needed it. "Shit, why the fuck do I even bother. For someone who claims to be open to Œextreme possibilities,' you sure as hell have a closed fucking mind."

He knew it would annoy the man that he was using his own words against him, but he didn't care. Almost wished the other man would attack him, at least it would be some contact between them. Some way of breaching that huge empty space Mulder had sewn himself back up tight inside.

But the FBI man said nothing, did nothing, for a long moment. Finally, slowly, he got up out of the chair and moved towards him, stood next to the bed and looked down at him. And his hazel eyes were no longer ice, but fire. White-hot depths illuminating equally bottomless shadows, a gaze of death and life and all the furious forces in-between. A gaze that seared Krycek, turned his mouth dry, his tongue to powder.

Abruptly, Mulder bent forward and kissed him, lightly at first and then increasingly demandingly. It was so sudden, so impossible, at first he could do nothing. Just sit there, just let the man—oh God, let Fox Mulder—kiss him. Then he surrendered and a long shudder of hunger and want and sheer release washed over and through him, turning him inside out. It made the rest of the world fade to insignificance, even the pain in his side, the bonds on his wrists. His uncertain and probably unpleasant future.

He opened his mouth and almost moaned as Mulder's tongue instantly swept inside, touched him, licked at him, savaged him. And he let himself be taken, let the other man have him, take control of him, relinquishing more than he would have thought himself capable of. More than was really comfortable. Safe or reasonable.

But there was no reason anymore, no safe harbor, not from this—only the heat of it and the indescribably relentless power of that mouth, even better than the air had been to him when they'd been busy drowning him, far richer, more damning, draining, electrifying beyond belief. Blinding light behind his eyes, a firestorm in his mind. His guts hollowed out, emptying themselves, aching to be filled again. Christ, but he wanted this man, wanted him to hold him, to crush him beneath his weight, to bury him. To take him...

Without warning, Mulder broke the contact, drew back, and looked at him, studied him, his face expressionless. The only sign of what had just happened the quickness of his breath.

"Well," he said softly, thoughtfully. "I guess that answers that question."

"What?" Krycek tried to say, but only half the word managed to make it to clarity. He felt dazed, unaccountably hurt by the sudden withdrawal. Unable to keep that pain from his face, his eyes.

Mulder didn't answer. Instead, he turned away, walked over to the bedroom window and looked out. His back was straight, his whole posture stiff and controlled. "It'd almost be funny," he said, his voice still soft, but clear for all that. "If it wasn't so..."

Krycek closed his eyes, fought for control, as he felt an bleakness as strong, as overwhelming, as the hunger had been wash over him. And it all came crashing back down on him in that moment—the pain, the slightly panicked feeling the handcuffs gave him, the sheer reality of Mulder's hatred of him, of what it meant. Of how he had fucked up. Of what could never be between them. Aside from a fleeting taste, like a swirl of cotton candy bitten into, melted away on the tongue before it was even fully realized, leaving nothing worthwhile behind. Just a sweetness that was an illusion, bare and bitter.

"Mulder...?" he asked. He opened his eyes, but didn't look up. Couldn't look at the other man. To see what he could not have.

"Shut up." The words lost their softness, were abruptly sharp. "Just...shut the fuck up."

Krycek felt his world folding in around him, narrowing down, leaving only dark and familiar pain. His throat closed up until there was no way he could say anything, even if he wanted to. Even if Mulder would have let him.

He heard the other man draw in a deep breath. "So," he said. "If this is how things are, why did you do it? How could you have...betrayed me like that. Or is it just..." He stopped, seemed to swallow down what he was going to say. "Go on, tell me your reasons. If you have any. Give me all your sugar-coated little excuses."

If anything, the pain intensified. Krycek closed his eyes, felt it beating against his eyelids, fighting to get out, a massive conflux of black wings and salt and guilt, disgust at himself as he had been and as he was still. He said nothing, knowing nothing he said would matter. That Mulder would only use it against him.

"Well?" the FBI man asked, impatience edging into his tone. "Where's all those lies of yours now? Aren't you going to put them to good use? Aren't you going to tell me once more what you want to do to me? How you've thought so much of kissing me, of taking me to bed with you. Or was that just your game? Your...trip?" The word was snapped out, sharp as a knife's blade.

"No." He said it before he realized he was going to, before he could reconsider.

"No," Mulder repeated, breathy and disbelieving. "Well, I'm disappointed. I've come to expect so much more of you. It should be easy for a man of your talents to concoct another few lies. To pretend to be something other than you're not. To even pretend..." And he stopped again, even more abruptly than before.

Krycek squeezed his eyes tighter shut. "That wasn't..." he said, then hesitated, trying to get his voice back under control. "It wasn't all pretense. You have to know that."

"Why do I have to?" Mulder replied, but it was a half-hearted protest at best. "You fucked me but good, fucked Scully..." His voice broke over her name and he sucked in another breath. "If I could kill anyone. Just...kill them, then it would be you. What you've done. Christ, you have no fucking idea."
"Then do it," Krycek said, quietly, almost casually. He opened his eyes and looked up at last, didn't bother with trying to hide what he was feeling. Let Mulder see it. Let him see it all. And then let him stick that little gun of his into his mouth and blow it all away, make it all go away. In that moment, he just didn't care. Didn't give a damn.

The other man turned around slowly. Stared back at him. And slowly those hazel eyes filled with the grim realization that he meant it, that he meant what he had said. That generous mouth thinned out, giving him a harder look than he normally wore, than he seemed even normally capable of. His eyes iced over, turned flat and dead.

He took a half-step back towards him and Krycek suddenly believed that he was actually going to do it. Unconsciously, he braced himself, his fingers twisting together, holding onto themselves.

But then Mulder's whole face transformed again, sank back into familiar sadness and a weariness that seemed all too consuming. He slumped a little. "And people think I'm freaking loony-tune," he commented, a hollow ghost of his usual wit.

"You wanted to know why," Krycek said. "Well, now you know."

The other man shook his head, his eyes falling away. "Maybe there are some questions better not to be asked," he said, almost as if to himself.

"Maybe," Krycek admitted. "But I think it's too late for this particular one, don't you think? There's some things after which there's no going back. Much as we might like to. Prefer to. Even need to."

"Yeah..." He said it softly, and Krycek knew somehow he wasn't just thinking about what had happened between them. That he was thinking about her again, his long-lost partner, the person he had never really replaced, probably could have never really replaced even if he had been on the up and up from the first.

"Hey," he said, a touch louder.

Mulder looked back up, looked uncertain.

"I hate to break up this little party," he went on. "But I really do need to use the bathroom and unless you're gonna hold it for me..." He trailed off, tilted his head at the other man.

The FBI man scowled at him. "You just don't know when to quit, do you," he said.

Krycek let the corner of his mouth edge up. "Let's just say—I was just getting warmed up when we were...interrupted."

Those hazel eyes actually thawed some more at that, whether appalled or amused he really couldn't tell. Maybe a bit of both.

"Well, I guess some things don't change," Mulder commented. "Like your ego, for instance."

Krycek let his smile widen a bit more. Now, that was a lie, but it wasn't one he ever planned on letting on to. Better the man think him confident, if not downright self-centered, than to give him that key as well. He already held too much over him, more than enough to hurt him. To make him wish the hurting would stop.

Mulder sighed. "All right," he said reluctantly, all for the world the sound of a man agreeing to a root canal. "But you try anything and I will shoot you."

Krycek gave him his best innocent look, knowing it would go to waste anyway, but unable to resist.

Mulder dug into the pocket of his sweatpants and pulled out a tiny key. He moved forward and took him by the shoulder, his face gone still, almost clinical. Masked. He turned him slowly, carefully, but Krycek still caught his breath as the movement pulled at his side. He tensed.

"Sorry," the FBI man mumbled, probably out of habit more than anything else. Then strong fingers were on him, shifting the cuffs around. Unlocking the one from around his right wrist, fumbling a little since it was his left hand having to do most of the work.

Then Mulder was backing away, palming the key again. He bent down in one quick move and pulled the gun from his ankle holster, aimed it at him.

Krycek slowly brought his arms around in front of him, gritting his teeth as both his side and his shoulder registered their separate complaints. The marks on his wrists were too tender to touch and he saw that the metal edge had actually drawn a little blood, at least on his right hand.

"Shit," he mumbled. "You gonna take the other one off or what?"

"What do you think?"

Krycek cursed under his breath and moved to sit up, to get his feet out off the bed. It hurt more than he expected, even knowing the state of his ribs, and for a long moment he just sat there, half-bent over, trying not to breathe too hard, wishing he didn't have to breathe at all. About a futile a plea as wishing the man standing just a few steps away from him would push him back down into that bed and kiss him again. Kiss him like he had really meant it and not as a test of some sort this time, but because he really wanted to. Really wanted him.

Maybe he was simply crazier than Fox Mulder, after all. When you came right down to it.

Mulder stood back even further as he levered himself to his feet—though the gun didn't waver even once—and began heading towards the doorway. The FBI man stayed a good distance behind all the way down the hall as well, as if he honestly expected him to try something. He supposed it was a compliment of a sort, especially since he didn't feel capable of taking on much of anything right now, let along trying to overpower a man in currently much better shape than he was. A man with a gun pointed right at his back.

He didn't even bother asking for a little privacy—what was the point? Just went right up to the toilet and fumbled with his jeans, the still-dangling handcuff slapping against his leg in the process. As if he needed a reminder of just who had the upper hand right now.

Mulder stayed in the doorway behind him until he was done and made his way over to the sink. The handcuff got in the way again as he washed his hands, wincing a little as the soap stung at the scratches on his wrists. Some of them started bleeding again when he scrubbed them dry with one of his aunt's yellow towels.

Krycek glanced up then and was caught by his own reflection, his own eyes. They looked as tired as Mulder's, maybe even more so. Their color faded almost to a greyish-green in harshness of this light. He took a handful of water and, bending back over the sink, drank it. Swiped at the tiny line of dried blood at the corner of his mouth. It was a little tender, but strangely he hadn't even felt it when Mulder had been kissing him.

He took another drink, then ran some water around the back of his neck, across his face. The whole time entirely too aware of the man standing behind him. Watching him.

"You can put that gun away," he said quietly. "I'm not going anywhere."

"That's not why I have it," Mulder replied, just as quietly.

Krycek's head came up. "What?" he asked. "You think I'm going to try one on with you again? You think you're so fucking irresistible?"

"You tell me."

Krycek turned around at that, was half-amused, half-relieved to see that Mulder had let the gun fall, was just holding it at his side now. The other man was leaning up against the door frame, his face displaying little to no emotion for the time being. For a second, Krycek let himself imagine what it would be like if he had been there of his own accord, was lounging there just to watch him, having just emerged from bed himself. Tousled and tired from a long night of sex, seeking him out for a good morning kiss and maybe a cuddle. To share a shower with him. To have it lead to other, even more mutually pleasurable things.

Then Mulder hauled himself back upright, directed a cold look at him, and the moment was gone.

"Come on," the FBI man said. He backed away and Krycek did as he was directed. Mulder gestured him towards the living room this time, again following him though he didn't raise the gun this time.

Krycek went to the middle of the room, then turned around slowly. "So what now?" he asked. "You want your turn at me or what? I'm sure I have a few ribs on me left to bruise."

###

Mulder stared at the other man, finding the vision of him—somewhat damp around the edges once more, his side and shoulder a mottled black and blue, dressed in only a pair of worn jeans, steel dangling loosely from one wrist—oddly incongruous against the room they were standing in. Krycek's eyes just continued to meet his directly, a controlled look, watchful, wary.

He deliberately took another step closer to him and the other man's head came up a touch, not much, and if he hadn't been looking for it he might never have seen it, but there it was. Krycek was afraid of him. Afraid where he had not been afraid that he had been about to shoot him, to kill him. Maybe, he had known when it came right down to it he was right about Mulder not being a killer, that he wouldn't be able to do it—much as he might threaten to or even want to in some small dark part of himself—but somehow he doubted that was it exactly. Krycek wasn't afraid to die at his hands, but he was clearly afraid...afraid...

Mulder suddenly felt the whole world lurch sideways on him; fuck, he didn't want to think about that, to consider that. He certainly didn't want to be forced to acknowledge what the other man must obviously feel about him. Sure it had been there when he had kissed him, but he could have written that off to simple lust if he had to. A lust that Krycek had already admitted to, even taunted him with.

But it was more than that. It was there in the tension in those shoulders, the defiant angle of his chin. The too-bright glitter of those incredibly green eyes.

Eyes that abruptly fell before his.

"What happens if you don't go back?" he asked, not knowing where the question came from. Feeling as if he already knew the answer, but wanting to hear it anyway. Wanting to hear it from him.

"If I don't go back, they'll hunt me down. They'll find me and they'll kill me," Krycek answered matter-of-factly, but Mulder heard a hint of something else behind the words, the tone, something the other man was hiding.

"And?"

Krycek's eyes shot up again, full of defiance. "And what? Isn't that enough?"

Mulder kept his own gaze steady and, after a moment or two, Krycek's eyes dropped once more. He let out a sigh and swallowed.

"Okay," he said quietly. "So it won't be as simple as that. That's been made...quite clear to me."

"They'd torture you?" Mulder found it hard to keep the disbelief out of this voice.

Krycek let out a sharp breath and only a flicker of those green eyes betrayed the pain that the sudden movement gave him. "Yeah," he said. "Is that what you wanta hear, Agent Mulder? All the grisly details? It's your dime. Go ahead. Ask away. After all, you keep telling me how much I owe you. It's the least I can do."

Mulder squelched the surge of anger that raced through him. Squelched the urge to just haul off and hit the man. Instead, he stared at the other man, stared hard, until Krycek finally glanced up again, met his eyes. Looked back at him, into him. And his eyes were like black emeralds, cut to display every thought, every emotion in that moment. Reflecting it all back at him in such a brilliant-dark flash of fury and pain and naked, unrestrained longing that it almost hurt to look at them. To be the regard of them.

And before he knew he was going to, before he could think and dissemble and be appalled and stop himself, he stepped forward and put his lips to the other man's. Just a light touch, hardly a kiss at all, but still it shook him, made his knees go suddenly weak, his stomach fluttery with nervous tension and something else as well. Something decidedly more. It scared him, making him pull back for one heartbeat, one quick silent breath. Before it washed over him again and made him shift once more. Deepening the kiss, this time. Lingering.

And Krycek let him kiss him. Let him control it all. Let him tease his lips apart and put his tongue inside his mouth, run it along the sharp edge of his teeth. All the while, just standing there, though he thought he was trembling just a bit. Mulder suddenly found himself savoring both the sheer taste of him and the very submissiveness of the act, the thought that it was forbidden fruit he was biting into here, strong and strange and seductive for the very fact that it was wrong, was twisted as all hell...

Abruptly, he jerked his head back, began to turn away. And Krycek's hand shot out to stop him, a gentle grip, but sure for all that. Softly demanding.

"Mulder," the other man said, his voice low, a little breathless. "I'm not asking for any kind of forgiveness. I'm not asking for anything from you that you don't wanta give. Not today, anyway. If you wanta stay, then stay. If you wanta go, go. It's in your hands. I'm...in your hands." And those fingers tightened a second, almost imperceptibly, then released him.

Mulder didn't move. He couldn't hardly believe what he'd just done, anymore than how good it had felt at the time. How difficult it had been to stop, to turn away from it, from him. Almost fucking impossible if he thought hard about it and was honest about it. Which was, of course, insane, well and truly and maybe even irrevocably this time.

The man had raped him and...what? Now he was begging for more from him? No matter how long it had been for him since he'd been with anyone, it just didn't—couldn't—make any sense, couldn't be anything other than nuts.

But Krycek was turning away himself now, as if he had already heard or already knew what his answer would be. What reaction he would get.

"Just leave the key to the cuffs, would you?" he asked. "And don't worry about the car. It's just an old junker. Dump it, sell it, whatever. It's clean."

Krycek sat down on the sofa then, or more accurately half-sat, half-fell onto it. Let out a soft sound of weariness, of pain. He laid back and closed his eyes.

Mulder stared down at him, stared as if he'd never really seen him before. The silky sheen of his short dark hair, how it contrasted with his pale skin. The lean, yet muscular build that those horrible suits had hidden away when he'd first met the man, worked with him. And he found himself remembering without really meaning to just how smooth that skin had felt, the strength of those muscles, the scent of him and the taste, most definitely the smell and the taste of the forbidden. Of liquid darkness. Green fire, searing to the touch.

So he was insane to even be thinking of it. To be looking at him like this, to at all consider...to consider him. No matter that it might be better, for just this moment, to being both insane and alone. Still, all he knew right now, all he seemed capable of knowing, was that he wanted, he needed...something. And Krycek seemed more than willing to allow himself to be used in that regard. Eager, even. Even if he had to know just as well that it would change nothing between them—not which side they were on, not the extent and shape and form of his hatred, Krycek's guilt. Krycek's more than transparent feelings towards him. His own ambivalence about those self-same feelings.

Krycek had hurt him and he had protected him. He had used him and he had told him he wished he could help him. Which could have been a lie, of course, but somehow he doubted it. At least this time. Somehow he sensed that if Krycek could trade his life for Scullys, in order to get her back for him, he would do it. And he didn't know how he felt about that either, how he should feel about it.

"Krycek," he said at last.

The other man glanced up, his expression restrained, eyes dimmed.

"Here," Mulder added. He tossed the handcuff key at him and Krycek caught it out of the air instinctively. Stared back at him. "I'll take the car. Later. If that's all right with you."

Krycek blinked, an uncertain light shimmering back to life in his eyes. "Yeah," he said and his voice had turned abruptly husky. "That'd be all right."

Now it was time for Mulder's eyes to slide away. "I don't know about you," he said, faking an easiness he didn't feel in the least. "But I'm hungry. And I'd like to eat something before I take any more aspirin. You could do with both too, probably."

"I don't think there's much around," Krycek replied. "But there should be something. I'll be glad to take a look."

Mulder shook his head. "You just sit. I'll look around."

And before he could regret and reconsider, he walked away from the other man, leaving him alone in the living room. He came back to himself a little in the middle of the kitchen, realizing that his hands were shaking badly, that his mouth was dry. His heart pounding through the roof. Hurriedly, he set the gun down on the closest counter and turned to the nearest cupboard, taking his time exploring them this time. He found some dried soup mix at last and pulled it out. Set a pot of water on the stove to boil and a couple of bowls and spoons on the table. He felt a bit more in control of himself by the time he was done—the dull domestic duties having calmed him—though no less confused.

It should have been simple; he hated Krycek and Krycek should hate him back. If he feared him as well, that would be a bonus. Nothing more. Nothing less. Reluctantly, though, he had to admit that if everything was simple as that, as obvious and easily explainable, there would never have been any need for the X-Files in the first place. And he would still be in Behavioral Sciences, if he wasn't dead or locked away by now. Drugged to the eyeballs to keep him manageable for some over-worked under-paid staff. When they didn't have him in his own personal straitjacket, that is, his own personal padded cell.

All the while, his lucid moments growing fewer and father between. And when he was in them, knowing he would never get out again. Knowing in every last little detail about how he had snapped and that there was no going back from it, not this time. That there was nothing left to him, not even his work.

It was something he feared worse than dying, when it came right down to it. And sometimes he thought—he feared, he expected—that it would.

###

Things seemed to grow a little less stained between them while they ate, though maybe it was because they said nothing to each other the whole time, just concentrated on the bowls in front of them, on each separate spoonful. Or, at least, that's what Krycek felt he was doing. What Mulder was doing and thinking, he had no idea. Which alternately worried and excited him. Just as the kiss in the living room had done. Mulder's actions in giving him back the handcuff key. In telling him that he was staying... for a little while anyway.

Leaving him to wonder if anyone, even Dana Scully, ever really knew or could ever really know Fox Mulder. If those who thought they did were just fooling themselves.

He finished about three-fourths of his bowl, then set his spoon down. It made a louder noise than he had anticipated and Mulder glanced up at him.

"Sorry," he mumbled, hesitated, then made himself go on. Made himself say it. "Look, Mulder, you don't have to do this. Any of this. You can just go, okay?"

The other man's eyes narrowed. "Getting cold feet, Krycek? Now that the...ball, shall we say, is in my court?"

"Yes," he said, then a moment later. "No. Shit."

Mulder put his own spoon down. "Maybe I shouldn't even bother giving you a choice. Just like you didn't give me one."

Krycek felt a dull shock run through him. "You mean you'd drug me?" He had hidden the vial away, but still. He glanced down at the soup bowl in front of him.

Mulder just shrugged. "It'd only be fair, wouldn't it? After all, I can only trust you as much as you trusted me."

He looked back up. "I didn't wanta hurt you."

The other man suddenly slammed his good hand down hard on the table. "Well you did."

Krycek was acutely aware that Mulder wasn't just talking about last night. He swallowed, trying to keep the soup he'd eaten down where it belonged. He seemed to feel the slow burn of the aspirin he had taken beforehand, as well, though maybe that was just his own anger, his own grief.

"Look," he said. "No matter how many times I tell you I'm sorry it won't be enough. Tell me that isn't true? Tell me that if I let you hurt me—really hurt me—that we'd ever be even. Able to move on. To forget."

"I don't forget," came the quiet reply. "Remember?"

"Oh, yeah," he said, just as quietly. The anger faded off again and he pushed the rest of his soup away, the smell suddenly making him more than just vaguely nauseous. "All right. Let's get on with it then. You can tie me up, if you want. Slap me around. I'll even give you a blowjob, if you like."

"A blowjob," Mulder repeated, his tone full of false wonderment. "And that'll make you feel what? Vindicated?"

Krycek almost shoved away from the table at that, almost ran. "No," he said, the word half-strangling him. "That's not what I'll feel. Not in the least."

Mulder said nothing to that.

Krycek finally found the strength to look up again, to face the other man. To meet that merciless gaze. "I shouldn't have brought you here," he said quietly. "I should have left it alone...it was stupid. A stupid thing to do."

"I won't argue with you there," Mulder replied, but there was no real force behind the comment. Then those hazel eyes seemed to sharpen further. "But if you hate it so much—hate them—then why do you work for them? You could have told me the truth."

"I don't have your faith in the truth, Mulder." The words hurt to say, but it was true. That part of him had been broken long ago, before he had even met the men who'd come to rule his life. They had only seen an opportunity, one he had made, and taken advantage of it, of him. "But if you must know, they found out about a little...affair of mine when I was just starting at the Academy. Threatened to expose it, to expose me."

He paused, swallowing hard, unable to believe the pain that was still there even after all these years. After all he'd done, all he'd been trained to do. "Then...to clinch the deal, you might say, they had him killed. Showed me the evidence they could produce to prove that I'd been the one to do it. Evidence they would withhold as long as I agreed to work for them, as long as I did as they asked to me to do. And now, of course, it's gone far beyond that. What would one murder I didn't commit matter against those I have. All the things I've done for them. Can you answer me that one, Agent Mulder? Can you tell me what choice I have anymore?"

"You could turn yourself in," came the soft reply. "Testify against them." Mulder said it earnestly enough, but Krycek heard the hollowness behind the words. That Mulder more wished to believe it, rather than actually believing it.

"You know it'd never make it that far," he said. "I'd never make it. But maybe that's what you'd prefer."

This time, Mulder's eyes dropped. "Did you love him?" he asked, suddenly changing

the subject. The question was carefully neutral.

"He was my first. What do you think?" Krycek didn't volunteer the information that Mulder himself was only his second; better the FBI man think him a slut and a shit, rather than know the truth of that as well.

He let out a long breath of air that twisted as much with dark humor as it did with pain. "It's funny in a way. If I had stuck to women. If I'd gone on denying, lying to myself, then maybe they would never have noticed me. Never thought to use me. So, in that way, I guess, the truth is part of what made me. Part of what...ruined it all. So maybe that's why I don't seem to have much respect for it these days. For which you'll no doubt never find it within yourself to pardon me."

"There's always a choice." Even more neutral.

Krycek bit back a second half-laugh. "Oh, yeah. Let's see. Prison on the one hand. Death on the other. ŒCause you're really naive if you think they'd have left me alone if I'd told them to go fuck themselves. That I'd take my chances. Drag my family straight into a scandal and then not even have the courtesy to stay alive long enough to finish the damn trial. Though, maybe, they would have gone and let me rot in jail for a while first at that, make sure I made a few...friends there, before having one of them shove a homemade knife into me some day rather than his dick."

He thought Mulder might have winced a little at that, though he didn't know if it was inadvertent sympathy or the too-clear memory of having been on the receiving end himself. Having been the receiving end. It might have been a little of both.

"Family?" Mulder appeared to latch onto the word as if to pull himself back from some greater precipice.

"Yeah," Krycek replied. "Family." He said the word harshly, uninvitingly. Knowing that Mulder would pick up on the fact that that was all the further it was going to go.

He had already told him too damn much. More than he had told anyone in years. It scared him, but what the other man said next scared him even more, unnerved him. Disarmed him.

"Sorry," Mulder all but whispered. "About your friend, I mean."

"Yeah, well," he replied, trying for a lightness he didn't feel. "You probably would have liked him. He was always curious about the weirdest shit, too."

He didn't expand upon the thought that the difference between them was that one had been a hobby and the other more of an obsession. He was feeling a bit too obsessive right now himself for that.

Mulder pushed his own bowl away. He had eaten even less of his soup, maybe through nerves or maybe because it had been simply taking him longer with his left hand. Still, at least he had put the gun aside for the time being. It was still sitting on the kitchen counter behind them. Behind Mulder to be more exact. Mulder had watched his reaction to that when he'd called him into the kitchen. He suspected it had been yet another test of sorts, but still wasn't sure if he'd passed or failed it.

Krycek got up, using the edge of the table to help himself as unobtrusively as possible, and Mulder's eyes immediately fixed on him. "You done?" he asked, his tone as neutral as Mulder's had been.

The other man nodded. Krycek picked up his own bowl and spoon first and took them over to the sink. He came back for Mulder's, was reaching for them, when the other man put out a hand, caught his wrist. "If there're any bandages or anything around," was all he said, though. "You should let me bind up those ribs for you."

"I'm okay," Krycek answered shortly, without thought. But Mulder continued to hold his wrist and something softened in him. "Thanks, anyway," he added.

Beyond hope, beyond belief, long fingers began stroking his wrist, slowly smoothing over his skin. It hurt a little on his abrasions, but he didn't pull back from it, didn't protest.

"You sure?" Mulder asked, almost a whisper. A breathy sound, one that send a shiver down his spine. And the other man looked up at him, lips parted a little, his hazel eyes unguarded, looking almost black they were so dark, revealing sadness and longing in equal measure.

Later, Krycek wasn't sure of just who moved first. Because suddenly Mulder was up out of his chair and they were pressed tight together. And Mulder's mouth was on his again as if it could be nowhere else, and he simply didn't know how he had lived so long without it. The kiss hadn't even started off tentatively this time, not in the least—it consumed him from the very start, insatiable, almost violent in its sheer demand. Bruising his lips. Threatening to unbalance him, to make him fall over backwards, until Mulder's good hand snaked around to his lower back to hold him steady, each separate finger warm on his bare skin, sinking in, forcing him back up hard against him.

But that was as nothing compared to the heat of the other man's mouth, the way it took him over and over again, barely allowing him time enough to breathe between attacks. Not that he really cared much about breathing anymore. This was the fire he needed. The heat he wanted to surrender to. He found himself melting into it, into the other man. Unable to get enough of him, unable to even consider holding his own beneath the onslaught. Just, for once, wanting to let it all go.

He moaned and Mulder suddenly softened the pressure, made of it something gentle. Almost tender. The other man drew back a touch, their breath mingling together between them, and gazed into his eyes, his own having gone half-closed. Hazy with a desire that struck Krycek to the core. He stared back and dimly realized that part of him was purely begging that the other man please not realize what he was doing...not close him out again. He couldn't stand a return of that hatred right now; he felt it would have destroyed him.

But Mulder didn't withdraw, just looked at him for a long moment, before smiling. Just a small smile, but it send an answering one to his own face without conscious thought. And Mulder shifted just a little, bringing his groin more fully into contact with his. The smile fading as his eyes closed even further, as he made a sound of his own. One that seemed to shoot right through Krycek, turning his stomach weak, making his cock ache even worse within the tight constraint of his jeans.

More than that, he could feel Mulder's own cock, a hard knot within the softer material of his sweatpants. Feel it throbbing against him. Wanting as he was wanting. Wanting him...

He buried his face into the other man's neck, put his own arms around him as tight as he could, ignoring the pain it caused his side. Ignoring everything but the feel of him, the strength, the smell, all the pieces he thought never to have. At least not this way. Desperately savoring the heat that had built up quick, so quick, between them. Wishing against hope that he could stay there forever in this moment, in these arms. Never go back.

But Fox Mulder obviously had other ideas, for which he couldn't seriously blame him.

"C'mon," he said quietly. Then, as if to spite his own plan, he bent his head and kissed him on the shoulder. Ran his tongue down the bone there, ending it off with a soft bite, more lips than teeth.

Krycek raised his head and Mulder immediately kissed him again, his tongue going in hard and deep. This time, Krycek fought back, stroking his own tongue along the other man's, trying to capture it with his teeth, gently, half-teasingly. Mulder pulled back, gave him a patently-false look of surprise, then began kissing along the line of his jaw, tilting his head further and further back in the process. Moving in afterwards to suck at his exposed neck, making him feel suddenly incredibly vulnerable.

Hard as hell, too.

"Shit, Mulder," he somehow managed to say, unable to slow his gasps as the other man began moving slowly downwards, heading towards his chest. "Can we...please take this somewhere else?"

Though the FBI man must have heard his plea, he ignored it, continuing to lick his way across his skin. Down until he had reached his left nipple. And Krycek forgot about talking when he sucked the nub into his mouth, swirled that tongue around it. Bit at it, a little less gently this time. Not hard enough to draw blood, but near enough.

Krycek jerked, but Mulder's grip on his back was relentless. Firm enough that he would have to seriously fight in order to get lose.

He didn't want to get lose.

Just a little less vertical.

But Mulder was methodical, at least in this. He kept on alternating licking and biting at his nipple until Krycek felt he was trying to work it right off. To keep it as a momento, perhaps. Put it on a shelf right next to his "I Want To Believe" poster. Somewhere between his plaster-of-paris Bigfoot casting and the even cheaper reproduction of an Aztec medallion guaranteed to win you big at Bingo or your money back.

"Mulder..." he tried again.

This time, the other man listened to him. He gave the other nipple a dulcitory lick, more a promise than anything else, as if he didn't want it to be left out, and straightened back up. Looked at him.

"Wanta try a real bed this time?" he asked, his voice gone as smoky as his eyes.

Krycek let out a shallow breath of air, before attempting his own voice. "Sure," he said just as softly. "Whatever you want. However...you want."

If anything, the heat in those hazel eyes intensified, further deepening their color. "Unless," he continued. "You'd still prefer the room you used to sleep in."

Krycek felt as if someone had slapped him hard across the head. "What?"

Again that smile was hinted at. "Once I thought about it, it was pretty obvious really. Why else pick that one? The smallest in the place. It couldn't just be for the ambiance, the metal bedframe. Though that was a possibility, I suppose. You did used to come here as a kid?" It was half a question, half a statement.

For a second or two, he didn't answer. Didn't know what to say. No wonder they found this man so damn dangerous. No wonder they had thought him some kind of wonder in both Behavioral and Violent Crimes.

"Spooky" wasn't the word for it. At least, not when it was aimed at you.

He pulled back and Mulder let him go, a slightly quizzical expression etched between his eyes. "Hey," he said. "What's wrong?"

Krycek shook his head. "Nothing."

Then Mulder seemed to realize what he had said, that it had obviously overstepped the boundaries that Krycek had tried to set. His voice lowered. "I didn't mean anything by it. Just an observation, that's all."

"Sure," Krycek replied, his own voice soft as well. Soft as he could keep it. He glanced back up, into the other man's eyes. Despite everything he had done to Mulder, despite how much right Mulder had to hate him and more, he seemed sincere enough right now. He seemed almost genuinely sorry to have pushed. Not that Mulder could ever resist the temptation of pushing; it was as much as part of him as breathing, as those wise-cracks he was always making.

He forced a smile to his face, surprised to find it easier than he had expected. "Okay," he added and it must have come across as natural to a certain degree, because the tightness on Mulder's face eased a touch at the sight of it.

"Though I don't know why I should care," the FBI man commented, his tone a curious mix of annoyance and wry amusement, though a certain harshness underlying it warned of the thinness of that particular veneer. Abruptly, he turned away himself this time, his whole posture stiff, uncertain.

Krycek steeled himself and approached him, wondering if he was chancing a punch to the face or much worse. Cautiously, lightly, he put one hand to the other man's shoulder, ran it down his arm, feeling the plushness of the worn material, the corded muscles underneath. The tension that was being held there. He stepped in even closer and bent his head, kissed that same shoulder. A kiss that asked nothing, only promised.

"Mulder," he said, breathing the word into his hair. Feeling the softness of it on his face, restraining himself, just barely, from burying himself in it. From pulling the other man back hard into his arms. "I'd say I was sorry about what happened last night, but I'm not. Not about some of it, anyway. Not about being with you. Just about how. I guess, I wish..." And, daring himself, he slid his arm across Mulder's chest, began a light circling motion. Just touching at those nipples, feeling to his surprise and pleasure that they were taut already, hard little nubs.

"I wish," he continued. "It could have happened differently. That it could have been...different. Between us. Better. Honest. From the beginning."

Mulder's good hand suddenly moved, reached up and took his, flattened it, stopped it in mid-motion. His head came up a little. "Don't..." he said, a sound that hurt as much to hear it as it must have to say it.

"Don't say it?" Krycek asked. "Or don't wish it?"

"Just...don't."

That hurt, but he figured he deserved it. More than deserved it.

He started to pull back, to withdraw, but Mulder caught a hold of his hand and didn't let him go. His thumb stroked across the angle of his wrist, making it tingle. He looked down at it, then used his grip to turn it, to lay the palm open before him. Slowly, he bent down to kiss it, right in the center. A gentle, yet entirely possessive gesture.

Krycek felt suddenly both hot and cold. He closed his eyes briefly, opened them again, trying to still the shudder threatening to break over him. The shiver of anticipation, of need. Of fear. Of himself and of the man holding his hand so carefully, yet so firmly. Who continued to kiss him on that tender flesh as if he had all the time in the world, as if he would never stop. Would never let go again.

"Mulder?" he asked, heard the shaking he would not give in to revealing itself in his voice.

The other man didn't answer. Unless the sudden lick of tongue across his palm was an answer.

Krycek couldn't stop the shiver this time, especially when Mulder followed it up by sucking two of his fingers into his mouth. Liquid heat and swirling pressure, tiny imprints of teeth, closing on his skin almost to the point of pain, but not quite. Not quite.

He closed his eyes and immediately found himself imaging that same heat, that same pressure, being focused on another part of him. A part that was already straining for touch, straining to be released.

"Mulder," he somehow managed to say. "Please."

The FBI man bit down once more, then let his fingers go. Let his whole hand go and turned around to face him. And Krycek was relieved to see that he hadn't been the only one affected; Mulder's eyes were hazy, heated, even a shade cruel-looking. As if he wanted to take him apart. As if he wanted to finish him off in whatever way possible.

"What's the matter?" the other man asked, a husky whisper that held a hint of that same note of almost-cruelty. "Can't handle it? What? Would you rather I did tie you up, force you as you forced me? Is that it, Krycek? Is pain your thing?"

He shook his head, but couldn't find the strength to dispute it further. Could hardly even stand to look into those eyes. Couldn't bear to look away from them.

Mulder closed the distance between them again, put his lips to his, just held them there a moment before moving on. Feather-light kisses up along the line of his cheekbone, up over the arch of his eyebrow. Moving down then, forcing him to close his eyes as they continued onto his eyelids, down to the tip of his nose and, finally, back to his mouth. Suddenly turning harsher, more demanding, guiding his own lips apart with a wicked flick of tongue, an almost-jarring clash of teeth, before proceeding to consume him. Hard little jabs and swipes that seemed to be everywhere at once, a hot dark flavor pouring into his mouth, that sent all his thoughts scattering.

Made him moan yet again.

This time, Mulder ate the sound. Abruptly matched it with one of his own. And then they were chest to chest, hip to hip yet again, no space between them, no space possible. Hardness grinding on hardness, sliding and pushing and retreating only to return yet again even more forcefully, almost a struggle in itself. A fight for dominance. And Krycek couldn't decide—didn't want to decide—whether he wanted more to push the other man down to the floor and bury himself inside that warm body yet again or whether he wanted Mulder to knock him down and take him, take him hard, without preparation, without anything to make it easier.

Maybe Mulder was right. Maybe he was a sick bastard. But he wanted the pain, almost more than the pleasure.

Wanted Mulder to make him scream.

Make him cry.

Maybe just to see if he still could.

He broke away first, yanking himself back from the other man. Gasping for air, clutching at his side as each breath pinched him, forcing him to shallower ones than he really needed.

"Fuck," he mumbled. He couldn't tell which hurt worst—his ribs or his cock. Or the fact that he felt Mulder had just won that particular skirmish.

"Maybe you're not up to this," he heard the other man comment dryly.

He looked up and those hazel eyes were truly amused now, though Mulder was panting as well. Looking a little strained around the edges.

"Oh, I'm up," he replied.

To his pleasure, that amused look grew a little. "Guess I couldn't really tell." Even drier, an edge so sharp it cut him before he was barely away of it.

The pleasure vanished as quickly as it had appeared. "God, Mulder..." he ground out, looking down, looking away. Anywhere but at the man in front of him.

"Hurts, doesn't it?"

And before Krycek could reply, before he could even begin to think about what to say, Mulder stepped over to the counter and reclaimed his gun, brought it around to point at him. Clicked the safety off. "Move," he said coldly.

Krycek's head shot up, but he could read nothing in the other man's eyes. Even the haze of desire was gone, as if it had been firmly set aside. Though the bulge in the front of his sweatpants served to contradict that opinion.

"Mulder," he tried again.

The only reply was a slight tightening around the FBI man's mouth. A mouth swollen even past its usual pouting appeal by the power of their kisses. His eyes remained steady, unblinking. The gun unwavering.

Krycek felt something tear apart inside himself, a dullness and a weariness washing in to take its place. He raised his hands a little. "Okay," he said, his voice just as tired.

He began walking towards the living room and, as before, Mulder stepped in behind him. Instead of staying several steps behind, though, this time the other man came right up to him, pressed the cool barrel of the gun into his back. Urged him on with it. Turned him down the hall beyond.

Krycek couldn't hardly think over the racing of his heart, the pressure in his throat, in his head. As if Mulder's words had been prophetic, his cock had wilted, the heat and pleasure draining off, leaving only an aching almost-bruised sensation behind.

"Stop," the other man ordered. "In here." To emphasize the point, he dug the gun deeper into his back, pushed him through the open door.

The room beyond had been his parents' when they had stayed here, not that Mulder could have known that. Not by any means you would have thought normal, anyway. It hadn't changed much over the years—the same faded blue curtains, the tall oak dresser with the white doilies and the frilly-shaded lamp sitting on top, the one with the porcelain lady and dog

romping together, the tip of the dog's tail long broken off. A tall free-standing oak mirror in the far corner. One wide end table placed right next to the bed, the same old Zenith radio sitting at the back of it, the one that only got in a.m. stations. On a good day. The flowery white jewelry box that had been his aunt's when she was a kid sat on the single shelf below, all but blocked in with a whole jumble of hardcover and paperback books. More books rested in a small bookcase placed just below the double set of windows.

The heavy wooden bedframe was as he remembered it, too, though the bedspread on it was new. The old one had been just a plain blue crocheted spread, unraveling a bit around the edges. This new one was an actual quilt made up of interlocking ring patterns, mostly in cool colors, blues and greys and soft greens against a cream background. The same blue pillows where there, though, along with a couple of round pale rose-colored ones. His mother would have liked those; pink and red had been her favorite colors. Roses her passion.

Krycek paused at the foot of the bed and the gun was abruptly withdrawn. Before he could turn his head, though, Mulder was walking out from behind him. He went to the left side of the bed, placing the corner of it between them. The other man glanced briefly down at the bed, then back up at him.

"Strip," he snapped. "Now." He gestured with the gun.

Somehow, Krycek managed to meet his eyes the whole time. Moving slowly, but not so slowly as to get him in trouble, he zipped down his jeans, pulled them over his hips and let them sink down. It took a little more effort to get them off his legs without bending over, especially and try and do it somewhat gracefully, but he managed. He kicked them away with a negligible gesture, half under the bed.

Again, Mulder's eyes flickered. He shook his head slightly. "What's the matter?" he asked, his tone almost bland. "You don't find me...desirable anymore? Maybe I just don't appeal to you without being helpless, is that it? Do you want me to get the cuffs for you? The ropes? A glass of water that you can put your friendly little cocktail in?"

Krycek shook his head. He brought his hands back down, though kept them clear of his body. "No," he said. "I don't want any of those things. Unless...you want them?"

Now, it was Mulder's turn to blink, to look taken aback. "Do you really want me to hurt you?" he asked. There was disbelief there, but it was muted, subdued. As if he somehow already knew the answer to that question as well.

Krycek said nothing for a long moment. Just stared back at him, feeling longing stirring deep inside him again. And part of him did want that. Did want Mulder to threaten him, to make good on those threats. To force him down to the bed beneath his weight, to use that gun to make him take his cock down his throat. Just like last night with that man...that man he already hated. Hated as he didn't hate Mulder. As he had never, could never, hate Mulder.

He licked his lips without thought and Mulder caught the motion. And his eyes narrowed. "Get on the bed," he said, his voice harsh. Almost strident. "On your back. Hands over your head."

Krycek didn't hesitate. He moved onto the bed and crawled into the middle, turned

around and laid down. Stretched out, began to put his hands up as he'd been told. Only to

wince to a halt as a sharp pain twisted in his side. Still, Mulder said nothing, so he swallowed and continued, making himself hide the pain it caused him this time as he slowly slid his arms up high over his head. Clasped his fingers tight together.

"Close your eyes," he heard the other man add, a touch softer this time. But no less demandingly.

Desperately, he shot a sideways glance at Mulder, but couldn't see his face, only his form. Only a flash of the gun when it caught in the angle of light coming in through one of the windows.

He held his breath—trying to still the uneasy clenching of his guts—and closed his eyes, hearing soft movement in the room with him. Not sure of what to make if it, of any of it. He was pretty sure that if Mulder was going to kill him, he would have done it already. Not that he thought, by any means, that this was just a game to the other man. Mulder may want him, but he also hated him and if this was the form that that desire had to take for him to give in to it, Krycek was willing to let him do what it took. Take what he had to take from the other man. Make due with what small pleasures he could get out of it.

Somehow, though, part of him wasn't getting that message. Was only acknowledging his fear and his uncertainty.

The fact that the FBI man still had a gun trained on him.

The bed suddenly dipped down and something cold and hard touched him on the upper arm, began trailing its way down. He jumped a little, then restrained himself. Clenching his jaw as the gun barrel continued—just lightly enough so as not to scratch—past his elbow and in along the line of his shoulder. As it pressed into the side of his neck, harder now, forcing him to turn his head sideways on the bed.

And a mouth came down on his exposed ear, a hot tongue, hot breath, following the swirl of it first, slow, almost delicately, before moving to delve inside. His breath caught at the strangely intimate act; it tickled a little, but it also inflamed him, both easing and further expanding the fear at the same time.

Then the gun was moving again, sliding down the center of his chest and off to the left. It hooked on his nipple, began a gentle see-sawing motion around and across it, even as that mouth moved as well, homing in on his neck this time. The same spot the gun had pressed against. A brusque kiss, almost a bite, that immediately clarified his feeling of vulnerability.

He couldn't quite repress the shiver that moved through him.

Both the gun and the mouth moved away and the bed dipped down even further, a weight coming down on his legs. He felt the pressure of the other man's thighs against his own, felt the softness of his sweatpants on his skin, the hardness that they disguised. And then the gun was back, stroking across his other nipple, a little rougher than before. He jerked back from it instinctively and pain immediately lanced through his right side. He gasped, held his breath.

The gun was withdrawn almost instantly. And, as if to apologize, the weight on him shifted and that mouth suddenly came down directly on his, teasing it open, tearing the breath back out of him. Giving him back one that tasted like tarnished silver, of hunger and terror and a tenderness so sharp it was almost an exquisite torture all in itself. Still, he hung onto it, opened to it, to the tongue that stroked across his own. The lips that played on him, soft, then hard, then soft again. Mercurial as the man himself.

"Open your eyes," they impressed into him, more a movement than a voice.

He did as he was asked. To find hazel eyes right before him. Staring down into him. Not truly an unreadable look now, more of an unbearable one—as if this man had taken and distilled and poured all of his essence down into them. Was trying to pour it down into him.

"This time," Mulder said quietly, yet with a brutal snap to his tone. "I'm going to fuck you. Do you hear me? Agent. Krycek." He made each word a separate mockery.

Krycek hardly heard the sarcasm. Didn't care. The only thing that mattered to him was the first statement, the first threat. The promise. God, he wanted it. Wanted this man inside him as he had not wanted anyone else since...

Since they had stolen his first real love away from him. Since they had methodically destroyed who he had been by the sheer pressure of who they wanted him to be.

And there had been no one since he had allowed to touch him that way. No one he had allowed—could even consider allowing—himself to surrender to that way. No one he had fucking wanted, let alone wanted to have take him rather than the other way around. Just women he had bought with a few drinks and dinner. Light conversation, a casual dusting of charm. Women he had used. Some of which who had used him, too, which he hadn't minded. Some of which had wanted more and he had dropped the moment he suspected the truth of their expectations. Their tentative affections.

Sometimes, they had complained that he had been a little rough with them, but they hadn't known the half of it. And, sometimes, he had lost interest half-way through the process and simply walked out on them, leaving them in the bar or restaurant or even in their own goddamned beds, wondering what they'd done wrong. No doubt, calling him every kind of shit.

While he drove home, or to whatever motel or cheap short-term apartment he was currently calling home, and tried hard not to think about what he really wanted. What he missed so damn much it was actually making him sick to his stomach.

"Yes," he whispered to the man on top of him. "Mulder..."

"Yes—what?" The voice was implacable. As implacable as the eyes.

Something flipped over inside him, slowly and agonizingly. "Fuck me," he pleaded, heard himself pleading, and in that moment didn't care how it sounded. "Mulder, please...I want you to...I want you. Please."

A deadly kind of humor abruptly transfigured Mulder's eyes, darkening them to a shade more like his own. Making them look as far from morose as they ever got, as he ever imagined they could get. They frightened him. They thrilled him. Sent a vivid flood of heat down to the spot pinned just below the other man's own groin.

And Mulder must have felt the sudden leap of interest, because he smiled. All lip, no teeth, the planes of his face looking even more angular in that moment, hollowed-out. Not a friendly grin at all. Not even approaching a friendly grin.

"Well," he said. "Then you better continue to cooperate. Do what I say. Exactly what I say and when I say and how and maybe, just maybe, you'll get this." And the FBI man thrust that hardness down at him, ground it against his own growing length, wrenching a soft moan from the back of his throat.

If Mulder felt anything of the same, though, he was hiding it far better. At least for the moment. He bent down again and kissed him on the chin, licked along the line of his jaw,

slowly pushing his head further back. And Krycek felt the gun glide back across his chest and to the other side of his neck, angling upwards to press just behind his ear. It was as cold as Mulder was hot. Both equally insistent.

"I'm going to fuck you," the other man paused to whisper directly into his skin. "Fuck you...hurt you for every goddamn lie you ever told. For taking her place. For taking...her away from me. You understand? You understand me, you shitty little bastard?"

Krycek could only nod, feeling the gun digging momentarily deeper into his flesh as he did so.

"Good," Mulder said. And he pulled back to stare down at him again, traced the gun barrel up to the edge of his mouth. "So, suck this then," he hissed. "Suck it like you sucked me. Make me think you want it."

Krycek swallowed heavily, staring up, staring back. Sure that the other man meant it and almost equally sure that he couldn't do it. Not that, not now, not like this...

"Mulder..." he started to say, but the FBI man immediately slid the gun barrel into his mouth a second after he opened it. Slid it in deep and hard. And Krycek almost choked on it, gagged as it pinned his tongue down, as the metal hit his teeth in an impact that he felt all the way to the back of his head. Tasting slickness and oil and blackness all at once. Blackness abruptly beating behind his eyes, threatening to blind him.

He twisted up beneath the other man without thought, without hope, as panic shook him, ripped through him. The pain of his ribs as they twisted with him a distant annoyance, meaningless. But Mulder only pushed the gun in harder, ignoring his efforts, and Krycek forget everything else as he arched up even higher, his arms coming back down, reaching, wanting desperately to shove the other man off him. Beyond caring anymore about obeying him. Seeing only his own dim face in a steam-fogged mirror, eyes swollen bleak and red, his lips stretched around the barrel of his own service pistol, his finger on the trigger...feeling the dull weight of it in his mouth...the dull weight of his heart...wanting it all to end...

And, without warning, the gun was gone, pulled back out of his mouth so quickly it struck his upper teeth this time with glancing pain, the bright taste of blood.

"Hey?" Only dimly, he heard Mulder's voice. "Krycek?"

He slumped back, half-turned beneath the other man, bending around his ribs as he gasped and gasped for air. Unable to get enough. Unable to see.

"Shit." It was snapped out, all the woes of the world in one short little epithet.

And the weight on him shifted, gathered him up—another twinge of pain making him wince, one little sound escaping—and held him. An arm around his back, pulling him against warmth and surprising comfort. Shocking comfort. He felt even warmer breath in his hair, against his cheek, then a kiss. Again surprisingly light, comforting.

"What is it?" a voice asked. "What's wrong?"

Before he knew it was going to happen, he was clutching at the other man, pulling him even closer. As if he was trying to burrow in under his skin. And the shudder finally broke over him, his vision sundering in its wake, slamming him back to the present. To what was going on. What had just happened. To the fact that Fox Mulder was curved around him, holding him just as tightly, whispering things to him that made little to no sense but helped none the less.

"Sorry," he managed to mumble, wasn't even sure if the other man could hear him. "Sorry..."

Those arms only tightened around him. Mulder's breath so warm, so steady.

Krycek closed his eyes, then opened them again as he flashed once more on his own face in that mirror. The taste of the gun. And, worse still, on the moment he'd walked through the door and smelled blood, had seen a trail of it leading from the kitchen to the bedroom. Had seen that familiar figure sprawled out on the bed they had shared so often, one hand lying half-curled on the side he'd always slept on, on his pillow. Scarlet drops on white silk sheets.

How his face had been so perfect, as if he were merely sleeping.

And how he hadn't been...he hadn't been...

And they had come for him the very day of the funeral—where he had had to pretend to be a friend, only a friend, dry-eyed and polite of grief—and pounded their own particular nails into the coffin his life had been sealed up with. Knowing he would be weak. Knowing they would get what they wanted from him.

Knowing they had taken away what he wanted. What he needed.

Krycek pushed at the man holding him now and, after a moment, Mulder let him go. Those arms fell away from him as he slowly laid back flat on the bed beneath the other man, though hazel eyes continued to watch him closely. And Krycek could only turn away from that regard. Only to have, a moment later, Mulder shift over on top of him, as if he were about to move away. To leave him alone.

He shook his head. "No, please...Mulder."

The FBI man paused, then sank back down, the weight holding him down to the bed a strange comfort. One Krycek really didn't want to think about.

Krycek slowly let his gaze shift until he could see the gun lying abandoned on the quilt just a few inches away. Where Mulder must have dropped it. He sucked in a deep breath as he stared at it, held the air deep in his lungs, clamping down on the sickness that stirred inside him at the sight. At the memory. His heart still racing. A trickle of sweat trailing down the back of his neck.

"Some hard ass I turned out to be," Mulder said, his voice oddly hollow.

Krycek glanced back up at him before he could stop himself and saw that the FBI man had a mildly self-disgusted, rueful expression on his face, as if he too had been shocked back to himself by what had just happened. Shocked back from some edge.

Hazel eyes caught his abruptly, held him. "Do you wanta talk about it?" Mulder asked softly.

Krycek shook his head. He did not want to go there, and he definitely did not want to take Mulder with him. Dark as his life was now, that place was still darker. Terrifying and frighteningly seductive in equal measure—the depth of that pain, the jagged edges of the trap he had found himself in, the finality it had almost driven him to. That he had barely pulled himself back from, so like the nothingness that obviously haunted the other man. That seemed to be leading him down the same road.

But Mulder seemed prepared, at least, to let this go. A rare first. He gave a small laugh, more of a snort really. "And people think I'm enigmatic."

"When they're being kind, you mean?" Krycek said, half a beat too late and way too weakly, but at least it was a try.

For which he was rewarded. The rueful look on Mulder's face faded to one of falsely-offended humor. It looked a little strained as well, but the other man must have been trying too.

"You really shouldn't piss me off," the FBI man commented. "I can still haul your ass in, you know. Skinner's got a few unfinished words he'd like to share with you and, who knows, I might even get a raise out of it."

"I'll give you a raise." This one came out better, quicker off the mark, and Krycek realized with relief that he was starting to feel a little more in control again.

Now the humor nearly looked real. Those hazel eyes glimmered.

"Too late," Mulder said. Then the look changed in an instant to one rather more serious, as if someone had sucked the life and light back out of him. "I...don't know," he said slowly, falteringly. "Maybe I am crazy." The word broke a little somewhere in the middle. "Otherwise, how the hell could I be here. With you. Like this. Especially after...after all you've done."

Krycek instantly detested the look of confusion, the bleakness of those eyes. That voice. "I don't have any answers," he said quietly. "Not to this. Not to anything, maybe." He hesitated, then admitted it himself. "I don't understand either, Mulder. I don't know...why."

But Mulder's face didn't change. His gaze had turned even more remote, clouded, out of focus—as if he wasn't even seeing him anymore, wasn't seeing anything. As if he had just taken a little half-step out of himself, leaving no one behind, no one home. And Krycek felt a twinge of worry run through him as he wondered if he'd even heard him, was listening to anything other than some distant voice. A voice he suspected he would know. A voice he had had a hand in stealing away from this man.

The voice of his partner. The voice of his guilt.

It was for this express purpose, to try and make this man come unhinged, that they had taken her away from him. And he was so close. Krycek had seen evidence of that last night—an almost near catatonia, to be exact—the secret of which he had absolutely no intention of passing along to his superiors this time. No matter what it might cost him.

"Mulder?" he asked.

The other man's face flickered a little.

"Mulder?" he tried again. "Fox?"

More than a flicker at that. A rage of life and emotion suddenly streamed back into hazel eyes, striking a heat into the man's face. That plush mouth compressed.

"Stop it," Mulder said, biting the words off.

"I know, I know," Krycek replied.

"No," the other man said. "You don't."

###

Mulder stared down at Krycek's face, felt anger moving through him like a tide, all dark currents and deep swirling pools. He would have just loved to haul off and smack him as hard as he could, imprint his hand on that pale skin. Maybe even break his nose for him. Let him try saying his name through that.

But something held him back, maybe the very force of the need itself. Maybe the fact that, in this moment, it seemed too just too damn close to what he had just done to the other man unknowingly. The petty cruelty he had inadvertently inflicted in the name of desire and revenge that had turned out to be not so petty after all. That had send Krycek into the beginnings of a real panic attack.

One from which Krycek still looked shaken, though his breathing had finally slowed to something approaching normal. Sweat gleamed on his face, however, as he looked back at him, his eyes dizzyingly green, his mouth slightly parted.

"If you're crazy," the other man responded, his voice mostly even. Mostly. "Then I'm crazy, too, Mulder. Either way, whether it started with me or started with you, it really doesn't matter. At least, it doesn't matter to me."

"Well, hooray for you," he replied sourly. The urge to smack that face spiked again.

Krycek narrowed his eyes. "One of these times you're going to go too far," he said in a suddenly hard tone.

"So I've been told." And, damning the urge to hit the man beneath him, he reached out instead and played his fingers down his chest. Lightly. Slowly. Flicked the nearest nipple and watched it harden beneath his touch.

"Maybe you should listen sometimes," Krycek responded shortly. But he was responding to that touch as well—his breathing had caught, tightened up again, and his head lifted slightly, exposing his throat. Exposing how hard he suddenly swallowed. If he was having any other reactions, though, he was hiding them better, though he couldn't hide the fact that his cock as still at nearly half-mast.

"Maybe you should shut up," Mulder mumbled. And he bent to kiss him, a stern kiss, uncompromising, almost brutal in its intensity. A kiss that Krycek met with a harshness of his own—with teeth and tongue and searing hot breath—as if neither could stop until blood had been drawn. Until or the other of them had backed down.

Surrendered to the other.

Mulder felt his thoughts, his worries, his uncertainty, disintegrate into the heat and taste of the mouth below his. Felt the void fading back to a mere echo in his mind. Felt even the anger sinking down and back. He lowered himself completely onto the other man, his good hand sliding up to dig into that short-clipped hair. To feel the skull beneath. Its strength. Its fragility.

And maybe he was damned as well as crazy, but he just couldn't care right now. Couldn't stay away from it, from him. Not when the other man was fire beneath him, using up all his air, searing away his misgivings. Making his whole body tingle and ache and burn. He let out a gasp as hard arms moved up to enfold him, one cool hand sliding in under his shirt to splay itself on the small of his back, fingers pressing and scratching and stroking. Krycek's teeth catching and pulling at the same time at his tongue, his lips. Moving on to bite at his chin, to work their way below to his throat. Hips arching up into his, hard cock probing, just a thin layer of soft material between them.

A thin layer too much.

Mulder pulled back and Krycek made a small sound of immediate protest. Only to smile up at him, a sweetly predatory look, when he saw him reach to pull off his shirt. It was a bit awkward with his incapacitated right hand, but he managed. His reward was a deepening of that grin.

"Wanta let me do the rest?" the other man asked, his voice husky.

Mulder tossed his shirt to one side and leaned back a little more. He tilted his head back to watch, remaining silent as Krycek's hands went to his hips, hooked into the waistband of his sweatpants and began to strip them down at a slow, almost leisurely pace. Trying not to let anything reach his face as Krycek's thumbs slid down bare skin in the process. Trying not to betray himself to the bright eyes fixed on his face.

Krycek raised one of his eyebrows slightly and he lifted up immediately, kneeling down into the bed, until the cloth had mounded up around his knees. Then the other man's eyes fell, shifting slowly downwards. That smile thinning out until it vanished.

"Why, Agent Mulder," he said in a low voice, almost drawling the words out. "If you wanted me to suck something, why didn't you just offer me the real thing to begin with?"

Mulder shook his head; Krycek must definitely be feeling better, more his old self, if he was capable of making a joke like that.

"I'd say twist my arm," he replied, surprising himself with the lightness of his own tone. "But you already did that."

"Sorry," Krycek whispered.

"No, you're not," Mulder said and reached down to strip his sweatpants the rest of the way off, glad he had already taken off his shoes and ankle holster. He kicked them back behind him, not caring where they ended up. Lowered himself back down on top of the other man. Felt their cocks bump and slide against each other, a shower of liquid-bright sparks.

He swallowed a gasp. Hid a smile as Krycek did the same.

"Okay, I'm not," the other man admitted, a throaty whisper. "But let me make it up to you."

"My thoughts exactly," he whispered back.

Green eyes flashed. And Krycek abruptly shifted, sliding himself out from beneath him, pulling himself up to a sitting position directly in front of him. He didn't even wince this time, though the effort must have hurt. He stared back into his eyes for a long moment or two, then took him by the arm. Raised that eyebrow again. Mulder nodded and let himself be gently guided to lie down on his back, stretching himself out slowly. Suddenly not sure if he felt more like a primitive sacrifice or some kind of entrée.

Krycek licked his lips then and the color of his eyes seemed to deepen. He slid down next to him and put an arm lightly over his thighs, leaned in over his erection. Gave him a sideways glance from beneath lowered eyelids that caused Mulder to feel suddenly flushed, that made his cock twitch.

Then those lips came down on him, a quick kiss directly on the crown of his cock. It was followed by a lick, a swirl of that tongue around the sensitive area just below the head. He jumped and Krycek drew back again to look at him, a sly smile on his face. The smile faded a moment later, though, as he bent back over him. And didn't tease at all, this time, just took him in deep, deeper than Mulder would have thought possible. Lips tightening down hard, the tip of a tongue probing him, as Krycek began moving his mouth up and down in long slow strokes.

Mulder closed his eyes and gave himself up to it. To the feel of that tongue, those lips, the heat and the gentle seductive rhythm. To the knowledge of who was doing this to him—no drugs now, no bonds, just something he wanted, something he was owed. That Krycek seemed more than willing to give to him. And, somehow, that simple fact was making it all the better, more exciting than he would have ever imagined.

Fingers folded themselves around the root of his cock, began squeezing in time to each movement of that mouth, and he arched up into them. Into that wetness. Feeling familiar heat beginning to build inside him, washing over him. His breath quickening.

He opened his eyes and looked down, watching that dark head move, those lips stretched wide over him, as Krycek took his length in over and over again. And the sight of it

sent a surge of even greater heat through him. Made his heart pound in his throat, behind his eyes. Made his balls feel as if they were throbbing. Made him feel as if he were drugged again.

And, suddenly, he couldn't stop himself. He began pushing himself up, trying to speed up the exacting rhythm the other man had set. Krycek allowed it for a moment or two, before those fingers tightened down on him. Squeezing almost painfully tight this time. Teeth scraping over him abruptly on the next upstroke as if in punishment.

Mulder winced and subsided reluctantly, realizing that Krycek wasn't about to let him get the upper hand, despite the fact of who was going down on whom. And, much as he didn't like not being the one in control of the situation, it was also seductive in its own fashion. Still, he wasn't sure of how much more he could handle. He wanted, he needed more. For it to be faster and harder, hard enough to choke the other man if it came to that.

As if Krycek had read his mind, he finally started to pick up the pace. His mouth quickened on him for a good half-dozen strokes, then paused just as abruptly over the head, playfully taking his time with it, his tongue swirling and swirling over the tender flesh. Moving to lick across the slit, alternately rough and gentle. And then his fingers began to pump him instead, moving up and down his length much faster than before. Much harder. Quite seriously now. As if Krycek were done with teasing him.

Mulder bit back a moan as the other man worked at him. Tension rising quick, so quick in his stomach, his legs, a trembling sharp-edged pleasure. Wet mouth and strong fingers working together, driving him towards a boundary he was starting to all but taste it was moving in so fast, skating on an almost raw yearning. Blinding darkness gathering behind his eyes. A dull roaring in his ears.

He arched up again, unable to keep still, and Krycek let him this time. His grip tightening even more, working him higher and higher. And Mulder could feel it coming now, could feel it gathering deep inside him. So hot it was almost cold. Tender-sharp sensation spiking through him, drawing in, drawing up, centering...

Without warning, Krycek stopped. Just stopped. Those fingers gave him one last squeeze and fell away. That mouth pulled up off of him, cool air rushing in to replace the heat that had been built between them.

Mulder let out a gasp and lifted his head, tried to find voice enough to curse him. To order him to go on, to finish him off, but he could only manage a garbled version of the man's name. For which Krycek only grinned back up at him, those green eyes amused. Those lips poutingly wet.

"Sure," he said, a rough whisper. "I can do it that way, if you really want me to. But I thought...maybe..." And he paused, uncertainty and desire warring in his eyes, darkening them.

"You thought...?" Mulder managed to spit out.

Krycek tilted his head and his gaze fell. One of his fingers moved to trail over Mulder's inner thigh, and though it could have been teasing sensation there was somehow something entirely too serious about it. It continued moving, slow and soft, a light caress, as he finally looked back up. Looked directly at him, the ghost of a fine line between his eyes.

"Mulder," he said, his voice still low, a tone that almost seemed to vibrate it was so full of unspoken tensions, unspoken need. "Were you serious? About...fucking me, I mean. ŒCause, if you were, if you are..."

Mulder let out a sound that could only remotely be connected to a laugh. He shook his head, hardly able to believe what he was hearing. Sure, he had threatened it, taunted him with it, to which Krycek had amazingly responded in the positive—asking, almost pleading for him to do it—but that's all it had been. Then. As for now, now that it was placed before him again, he suddenly found the idea vividly, almost shockingly real. Too real for words.

"Krycek..." he started to respond, but the other man was already turning his face away, closing down. His jaw tightening. That finger stilling.

"Never mind," Krycek said, all expression drained from his voice.

"Hey," Mulder said then, when the other man didn't seem to be paying any attention, he sat up. Leaned in towards him. Caught his chin with his hand and turned him back up to face him. He frowned as he saw how hard those green eyes had gone, how uncaring.

"Krycek," he started again. "You just surprised me, that's all."

"Sorry," the other man mumbled. His expression didn't change.

Mulder narrowed his own eyes. "Kiss me," he demanded.

Krycek's eyes flickered and then he obediently was moving, lifting himself up on the bed. Mulder met him half-way, their lips coming together with a clash that was almost palpable. And Mulder pushed his tongue inside immediately, tasting sweetness and salt, Krycek's own darkness and bright bits of himself. His fingers slipped down, caught on one of the other man's nipples, circled and stroked. Pinched and probed. Then continued on downwards until they encountered an even greater hardness.

He grasped him roughly, ran a finger across the tip of him, collecting the wetness that had gathered there. Bit at his lower lip until he thought he tasted blood. Until Krycek was gasping into his mouth. Pressing into his hand.

He wrenched his mouth away then. Stared into shuttered eyes. "Okay," he whispered. "Tell me what to do."

###

Krycek couldn't hardly believe it. To be promised and then to have it yanked away from him, only to have it offered back yet again. He gazed deeply into those hazel eyes, looking for the catch, for the amusement that would betray that it was just a joke—just a way of this man getting back at him, of taking advantage of the situation—but there was none. At least, none he could see.

Finally, he allowed himself a slight smile. One that faded a moment later, as he realized the enormity of what he had just offered. What had just been accepted. That, as much as he did want it and wanted this man to do it to him, it terrified him as well. Mostly, because it would leave him vulnerable to Fox Mulder, even more vulnerable than he already was. He wasn't sure that he could afford that, but he was equally sure that he couldn't not afford it. It had been so long, so terribly long, since he had let anyone else inside, physically or metaphorically.

Krycek swallowed, pulled himself back from that consuming gaze. "I'll be right back," he said.

The other man gave a brief nod and released him. As Krycek made his way off the bed and to the door, he saw Mulder lay back again on the bed, close his eyes. He stared at that long, lean body for a long moment, stared at that sharply jutting cock, and felt an almost painful surge of longing move through him. Roil and tighten in his own cock.

He went to the back bedroom and was frustrated when he couldn't immediately find the little tube of lubricant anywhere around the bed. Finally, he yanked open the drawer in the table next to the bed, not really expecting to find it there, but hoping against hope, only to discover that's exactly where it had disappeared to. He frowned at it, then picked it up and slammed the drawer back shut. Mulder must have put it away sometime during the hours he had been out of it. It made him wonder what else he had gotten up to. As well as what the man had been thinking when he had found the little tube, let alone decided to put it away.

Mulder wasn't normally any kind of neatness freak from what he had seen of him and his office. The single brief glimpse he'd had of his apartment.

Krycek palmed the tube and started back down the hall, his curiosity folding away under a far greater urgency.

Mulder had put his forearm up over his eyes, but otherwise hadn't moved. Krycek paused just outside the room to take another, longer look at him. Trying to understand what it was exactly about the other man that he found so desirable—it wasn't as if Fox Mulder was handsome in the classical sense. He certainly wasn't buff. If anything, he was entirely too thin right now, especially for someone of his height. Not that he didn't look almost as if someone had just strung him together the rest of the time anyway, all loose-limbed and long-fingered and slouching down in his chair, in the driver's seat of his car, with all the ease and odd grace of someone who didn't quite care where all his parts were, let alone what they were up to. Still, it worked somehow, worked for him. That long nose that heightened his morose nature and that lower lip that challenged it. The changeable, sometimes whimsical, always articulate gleam of those hazel eyes, as if no color could ever suit him for long. But, more than that, he had to admit, it was simply the man who looked out of them that he had found himself attracted to, almost from the beginning. From the first cool brush-off to the grudging respect of just how he had played him for a fool by actually managing to ditch him for a little while to the less grudging respect at just how brilliant and, more than that, how positively fucking inspired the other man was when working on a case.

Which, when teamed up with his basic paranoia, made it all the more amazing that he had lasted even as long as he had before being found out.

Before having to vanish, having lost the last slightest claim he could make to being a real FBI agent.

Mulder lowered his arm and looked at him and Krycek felt the gaze strike him almost like a blow. He suddenly felt fevered, it spun him down so quickly, heat swirling, making him feel weak inside. Weak and empty.

"Changing your mind?" the other man asked.

Krycek shook his head. He walked into the room and over to the foot of the bed. Mulder's eyes followed him the whole time, no particular expression on his face. Not until Krycek tossed the tube directly onto his stomach. He frowned a little, then, as he picked it up and looked at it. Set it aside on the quilt next to him.

"What about you?" Krycek asked.

Those eyes came back to pin him. "What do you think?"

Krycek suppressed a smile. He climbed back onto the bed, wishing he could move a little more gracefully himself at this particular moment, that his ribs would have allowed him to just throw himself right up and onto the other man. But Mulder didn't seem to notice the lack;

his eyes never left him as he made his way back up next to him. As he reached out and touched him on the stomach, ran his hand down until it framed the erection just below, leaned forward to kiss him once again.

It was intended to be a light kiss, but Mulder pushed back immediately. Opened his mouth, demanding more. And Krycek felt himself giving way before it, before him. He melded their lips together, plunged his tongue into that hot mouth and felt the fever inside him rising up to an ever higher pitch, overflowing, pouring down into the man below him. Only to have it returned, tempered by a fire even more incandescent and explosive, much like the man himself.

Mulder's left hand came up, laid itself on the side of his face and Krycek drew back a little, captured one of those fingers with his lips. Sucked it into his mouth. Bit down on the knuckle just a little, enough to hold it. At the same time, he finally shifted his own hand further down, grasped the other man's cock, began to pump it gently. Smoothly. Spreading the wetness that had seeped out from the tip up and down the entire length.

"Shit," the other man mumbled. His head fell back completely to the bed, his eyes closing.

Krycek smiled just a little at that. He released the finger, then began licking and stroking it with his tongue in time to his movements on Mulder's erection. And after a bit, to his pleasure, the FBI man began moving the finger in and out of his mouth of his own accord. He pursed his lips tight around it in response, entirely aware of what it would feel like to Mulder. What echoes it would raise in him.

What echoes it was raising in himself. Long fingers, long cock. Delicate and bone-strong and so very responsive.

Abruptly, Mulder pulled his hand away, that finger popping free. "Stop," he whispered. "Krycek..."

Instantly, Krycek stilled on him, though he continued to hold him. And, after a long moment or two—during which Mulder fought with his breath, obviously fought not to come—the other man finally relaxed again.

Krycek released his grip then, leaned in close to him. "So you really do wanta top me," he said softly.

Mulder's eyes opened, met his. A puzzled look. A hazy pleasure-veiled look. "It was a question?" he asked.

Krycek shook his head a little. "Just thought maybe I'd give you an out, after all," he said. "You didn't have to stop me."

"Yeah?" Hazel eyes narrowed. "But I did."

He didn't even try to stop the grin that followed. "Good." And he bent over him, snatched one last kiss from those lips, then turned away. Turned onto his stomach and spread his legs, the fabric of the quilt momentarily cool against his heated cock. As if to counterpoint it, his ribs immediately started up a complaint, one that he knew would only get worse in the next few minutes, but he didn't care. In a way, he even wanted it. "Then fuck me, Mulder. Do it. Now."

There was silence and nothingness for a long time, then soft movement, soft sounds, ones that still didn't quite prepare him for the sudden feel of a cold-slicked finger sliding down his ass. Sliding right down to his center. Sliding up into him, hard and quick and relentless. And, somehow, he knew it was that same finger he had had in his mouth.

As the finger started a slow roll, probing deep and deeper, he felt warm breath on his shoulder. "Tell me again," he heard Mulder say, his voice low. "Tell me what you want me to do to you."

"Fuck," he breathed into the quilt below his face, then as that finger twisted again and a second one was suddenly added, he broke and it all came pouring up out of him, each word pounding blood-hot as his cock. "Mulder...I want you to fucking fuck me, all right. I want your fucking cock inside me...I want you inside me...shit!" That last word came rocketing out of him as those fingers were suddenly withdrawn.

Krycek started to turn his head to one side, to raise himself up a little, but then the weight of the other man came down fully on his back, slamming him back down into the bed. Pain shuddered through him and he stopped breathing, wondering if he was going to end up puncturing a lung after all. If he cared all that much if he did. Then, to his relief, the pressure lightened up as Mulder shifted back a little. And the feel of the other man's cock trailing down between his legs made him ignore the remaining pain.

"Sorry," the other man muttered. "Forgot."

"Thought...you didn't," Krycek responded, each word sending another stitch through his side.

"Maybe," Mulder whispered as he began rubbing himself up and down against him. "I'm a bit...distracted. Right now."

"Okay," he whispered back, whispered into the quilt. He closed his eyes and gave himself over to the feeling, to the knowledge of what was coming. He tried to relax, but the lingering pain made it difficult. As did the fear that suddenly was rising up in him, as well. God, what if this was a mistake? This man hated his guts. Had every reason in the world to hate his guts, to want to see him dead. How the hell could he surrender himself to that? It was one thing to fantasize about it, another thing entirely to actually do it. To give what he had only ever given once before and that to a man who had loved him. Who had taught him what love was.

Who had been destroyed because of him.

He felt the first pressure and tightened up, despite himself. Despite knowing better. The pressure continued, hard and hot and determined, and he finally felt himself beginning to give before it. It hurt, but he accepted the hurt. Accepted the feel of the other man's cock as it forced its way inside him. As Mulder began to force his way inside him.

Krycek swallowed, took a couple of long breaths, and managed to get those muscles to relax, if only a little. He felt Mulder slip in an inch or so in response, the first hint of familiar fullness making him gasp.

The other man stopped instantly, though it must have been difficult for him. "Krycek...?"

"Go on," he hissed. Let out a third breath, this time through his teeth. He couldn't hardly believe how considerate the FBI man was trying to be. He hadn't done nearly the same for him. Couldn't have blamed him if he had turned it right around on him.

Still, Mulder didn't move. Not until he had lifted his head a little, turned it to look at him out of the corner of his eye.

The other man was looking right at him, his face strained, his jaw clenched. He

nodded as their eyes met, then snaked his left arm down and around his waist. Shifted up a little and pushed. It was a hard thrust, one that drove him several more inches inside. That drove Krycek back down to the bed, unable to stop another gasp as both pain and pleasure twisted inside him, mingled red and black behind his eyes. Mulder didn't pause this time. He withdrew a touch and then shoved back in with even more force, his length going in further. One more withdrawal and a third deep thrust put him in all the way, until Krycek could feel his balls, his thighs, trembling against him.

And Krycek felt his heart hammering in his chest and couldn't breath before the power of it. Before the feel of the other man's cock inside him, the weight on his back, the sensation of being possessed, being caught, held back by that straining arm onto that insistent pressure. His own cock throbbed beneath him, as if in counterpoint to the one that had been thrust into him. The one that he could have sworn was growing larger, impossibly larger, with each twitch. It had never felt like this before, not even the first time he'd experienced it. That time it had hurt more than anything else, despite the care the other man had taken, and he had been unable to get past that until the very last. When he had started to feel something...something good, little tingles of it anyway, and then it had been over. It had gotten better, of course, over time. With practice. But still, he had ended up preferring it to be the other way around more times than not.

Which didn't explain his need to have this man do it to him. Not at all.

Or how it was effecting him.

Krycek felt Mulder suck in a deep breath. Then that arm around his waist tightened and he twisted against him. "Fuck..." the other man mumbled, disbelief in his voice.

Krycek finally managed to draw in some air of his own. "Yeah," he mumbled back. Well, he knew just how hot and tight another man was, especially in comparison to a woman. Suffocatingly hot. Almost terrifyingly tight. Just to press home the point, he compressed his muscles, just a touch, but it was more than enough.

Mulder instantly bucked against him as if he couldn't help himself and maybe he couldn't. Fingers spasmed against his skin, as if trying to catch hold of something, then dug themselves in. Holding him as the other man pulled back and shoved home again, pulled back and shoved, long slow grinding thrusts as if he wanted to touch every part of him as intimately as possible. For as long as possible.

Mulder groaned in his ear and the sound sent an instant shiver through Krycek. He found himself arching up to meet the next thrust, ignoring the pain it caused his ribs. Wanting the man even deeper, wanting him even harder. Half-scared by the feeling of being trapped beneath him like this, half hurting and hungry for more. A hurt and a hunger that only grew as Mulder continued his slow pace, pulling back nearly all the way now and sliding in again as if he had all the time in the world. All the self-control.

Teeth scraped at his back and then those fingers were moving, curving around his erection, tight, so tight. And Mulder began to move faster, his thrusts coming on the tail end of each sharp gasp for air. He began to pump him in time to the thrusts as well, his grip relentless, almost brutal, as if he were trying to force more and more blood down into his cock.

Krycek bit back a moan, his face suddenly feeling as if it were on fire, his chest and groin tightening up, knotting around themselves. Knotting up around the hard cock ramming into him over and over again. Mulder moving on him easy and quick now, almost gliding on the

slickness and a heat that was rising fast between them, rising from mingled sweat and skin. The fingers on his cock were wet, too, working that wetness thoroughly into him with each stroke. And he wanted to push down into those fingers. Wanted to push back onto the hardness inside him. Found himself wanting to cry with the intensity of it all.

"Krycek..." he distantly heard Mulder say then, his voice shaking a little with effort. "God...oh, shit...I'm gonna come....I've gotta come..."

The words, the tone, the desperation of the other man rocked him, shattered through his last defenses, and Krycek felt the next push tear its way even deeper. Felt almost as if he could taste it on his lips. Feel it working to stop his heart. And then he was spinning, falling, tumbling downwards towards some incredible depth and dimly realized that he was screaming. Calling out. Crying the other man's name.

That Mulder was responding as if that had been what he had been waiting for all along—shifting up on top of him, ramming hard down into him over and over, no finesse now, no words anymore, only the overwhelming drive to find release. And he was thrusting back with equal force, equal need. Wanting and wanting and wanting...

Feeling as if there were no ground beneath him anymore, nothing he could hold onto, and simply not caring anymore. Not being able to care.

And then Mulder was shuddering against him and heat poured into him, molten quick and trembling, that hard member held implacably still and flush against him. And he was coming as well, squeezed out between those slender-strong fingers, a fusion of pleasure and need so strong it convulsed him beneath the other man. Convulsed him on that cock. Hitting a bottom he hadn't known had been there until now, until after he had crashed into it full force.

The other man collapsed slowly on top of him, as if each joint at a time was coming undone. He was crushing his ribs, crushing the breath right out of him, but Krycek didn't care, couldn't raise the energy to protest. His cock was still pulsing, long thready pangs of pleasure banded by hard fingers, that echoed brilliance behind his eyes. A brilliance that only expanded as he felt a matching throb inside him, felt it against his core.

Heard Fox Mulder's steady gasps for breath.

Heard him whisper his name, the one he had never used since that last fateful day.

He would have loved to stay here forever, have the sweat and semen slowly dry on their bodies and paste them together, but the pain in his side was becoming rapidly insistent. So much so that he couldn't hide it anymore.

He bit at the bedclothes, but a moan seeped out anyway.

Mulder immediately shifted, lifting up on him. His cock slid partially free and Krycek moaned again, this time with incipient loss. Then those fingers let go of him—reluctantly, it seemed—and the other man was pulling back completely. Krycek felt suddenly empty without him and half-turned on the bed despite the pain it caused him.

Hazel eyes met his, full of a clarity he couldn't quite bear. That angular face still somewhat flushed, though not as much as the still more than half erect cock between his legs. Even as he stared back, the look on Mulder's face changed, hardened.

"Don't ever call me that again," he said in a cool tone.

"What...?" Krycek shifted over some more.

Mulder didn't even blink. "I don't like it, you understand. Anymore than I like you."

Belatedly, Krycek realized just which name he had cried out in the throes of his panic, his need. "Hey," he started to say. "Mulder, I..."

The FBI man just shook his head. His tone softened a touch, though his eyes didn't. "How're your ribs?"

"Okay," he replied. The pleasure was draining away quickly beneath this cold stare, the sudden withdrawal. "Mulder?"

Finally, those eyes looked away. And Krycek realized what it was that they had been hiding—pain and uncertainty. Mulder's mouth was turned under at one end with what could only be self-disgust, with guilt. Obviously, he was already regretting what they had just done, regretting his part in it. Reminding himself of just how much he hated this man, that there was nothing good between them and never could be.

It hurt him to see it and Krycek quickly wrapped himself up in coldness as well. He had let the ease with which Mulder had begun to treat him to influence him, to lull him, and now the price for that lapse was coming due. He fought to sit up, then could only lean back against the headboard and clutch at his side, waiting for the pain to loosen its grip on him. Not that all the pain was coming from his side; an even greater pain seemed to be centered right inside him, one growing with each layer of coldness he managed to place around him.

Mulder said nothing the whole time, though at least he didn't get up off the bed, didn't pull any further away physically. Just sat there, his own legs now folded up against him, his good arm tucked in around them. Looking off into some distance that only he could see.

When Krycek had finally caught his breath again, he looked at him, stared at that bowed head, that self-enclosed posture. Felt the slow trickle of the other man's seed out of his body to the quilt below. Felt all the places where he'd been gripped and pressed and quite probably bruised.

Felt the silence increasing between them.

"Sorry," he said at last, the word dropping with all the weight of a stone. "I didn't mean to...why do you hate your name so much, anyway?"

At first, Mulder said nothing. Then he abruptly released his own legs and raised his head. Glanced back at him, his eyes flat, expressionless.

"I just don't like it," he said.

Krycek knew it was a lie the second he heard it. He played with the idea of pushing the other man on it, but decided to let it go under the steady gaze of those eyes. He shrugged slightly. "Okay."

Mulder held his eyes for a few more moments, then looked away again. His shoulders slumped. "I should go," he said.

"Okay," Krycek said again. It wasn't okay, but he didn't know what else to say. What wouldn't only end up making it worse. Moving slowly, he made his way to the edge of the bed and got to his feet. Stood there, looking at the wall, hearing the other man also moving around, the unmistakable sounds of him getting dressed.

When he finally turned back around, Mulder already had his sweatpants back on and his shirt, was sitting on the bed in order to fight with his shoes. Obviously, a slower process than usual with only one working hand. Before he realized what he was going to do, Krycek found himself walking over to him, kneeling down and pulling them on for him. Tying them. Attaching the ankle holster lying on the floor next to him. All without looking up at the other

man.

He stayed there then, his hands lightly resting on Mulder's legs. Unable to let go. Wondering if the other man was going to kick him any second. When nothing happened, he raised his head at last and found hazel eyes fixed on him. An open look, a pained look. A look of honest confusion.

Krycek swallowed, felt his own cool control slipping under that regard. "I really do wish, you know," he said slowly. "That it hadn't happened this way. If there's anything...anything I can do to get your partner back, I will."

Mulder blinked. For a moment, the confusion grew, became mixed with grief and anger and other more caustic emotions, then they all faded away. Were replaced with a pure and simple exhaustion. One of spirit, just as much of body. "I believe you," he said quietly. "I know I shouldn't...but I do. Alex."

Warmth suffused him, driving back the coldness even further. He fought with a smile, then gave way before it. Knowing it was crooked, knowing it was a dead giveaway for everything he would have preferred to keep hidden. From this man and from himself.

"Let me get dressed," was all he said, though. "I'll drive you back to D.C."

Mulder nodded, slumping even further. His eyes slid half-shut.

Krycek slowly pulled himself back to his feet. He stood there, staring at the man in front of him, then leaned forward and touched his chin with a finger. Tilted his head up and kissed him softly—soft as he could make it, soft as he could keep it. Knowing this taste of him would have to last. Knowing the next time they met Mulder would be quite likely be back to hating him, no other emotion allowed, no other action considered. Knowing how likely it was that he could be dead even before that could happen. Or, more likely, wishing he were dead.

He pulled back and looked into those eyes and they looked back into him. So long and so hard it was all he could do not to turn away from them. From the feeling that they saw more than he had ever expected, more than he could stand to have revealed.

And then Fox Mulder leaned forward, curved his good hand around the back of his neck and pulled him back towards him. He kissed him as well, gently, almost tenderly. As if he, too, wished to imprint the moment into his mind. To imprint something, anyway. Maybe just one good memory in all the bad.

Krycek was shaking slightly when the other man finally pulled back, releasing him. His eyes burned and he quickly turned them away, deliberately took a deep breath, deep enough that a sharp pain shot through his side. Reminding him of the reality of the situation, of his life. That it did not and never could include a man like Fox Mulder. Only men like Luis, cruel and heartless and ultimately vicious. Only men like his employers, urbane and even more deadly. Men whose souls were dead or dying inside them. Who cared only for the bottom line and not how many had to die to get there. How many lives had to be ruined.

He backed away from the FBI man and picked up his jeans. Slipped them on and went out into the hall, back down to the small bedroom, for his shirt and coat. His boots. By the time he was fully dressed again, he had managed to find that cold again. Had managed to start the process of shutting himself down. Of letting go.

Mulder was standing in the living room by the time he was done. He held out the keys to him as he walked into the room, not looking at him at all this time. Krycek took them and

the other man immediately turned and went out the front door and down the steps beyond. Started across the lawn towards the car. A faded grey figure against the blue sky, the still-wet green of the grass, the achingly brilliant sunlight pouring down on him.

Krycek locked up as best he could, grimacing at the state of the door. He would have to call someone to come and fix it. Put on a better lock, this time. Not that it would have probably mattered. Not that it would matter again. He doubted he would ever be back here.

He didn't look back as he made his own way across the lawn. Mulder was already sliding into the passenger seat, looking back out the window, his right arm cradled across his lap. Krycek got in next to him, slipped the key into the ignition. Paused there, knowing he should say something. Apologize again, maybe. Something.

###

Mulder let himself slump down further in the seat. He was terribly aware of Krycek sitting next to him, of the fact that the other man was struggling to come up with some words. Words that he was equally sure he didn't want to hear. Anymore than he had wanted to hear those last ones, that dreadful promise of help. As if Kryck, himself, didn't want to admit that it was hopeless. That Scully was gone for good.

That it was all over.

That it had all been over the moment he had reached the top of Skyland Mountain—late, too late—only to find it empty. Duane Barry raving, relieved beyond belief, apologetic, but not nearly enough to have done any different. And, despite his rage at the man, he had somehow known that he hadn't murdered her. That she was gone just as his sister was gone, taken from him by forces no one could fight, no one could understand.

No one else believed in.

But he did. He had to. He had no other choice.

It was either that or let them lock him up.

But maybe he should be locked up. He had fucked this man, after all. Had kissed him. Caressed him. Wanted him. A murderer and a liar and a kidnapper. A rapist. It was insane. He was insane. There was no going back.

"Mulder?" So tentative. As if the other man really fucking cared.

"Just..." he said, his own tone harsh by comparison. "Just take me home, okay? I'm tired."

He would have liked to laugh at that—tired, the word covered a multitude of sins. Tired of being alone. Tired of his job. Of his life. Of pretending towards sanity. Of pretending he didn't care what others thought of him.

For a moment, he toyed with the idea of taking out his gun again and simply shooting the other man. Knowing Krycek wouldn't be expecting it. Knowing somehow that he wouldn't even fight it. Just a little panicked jump, a sharp retort in this enclosed space, the smell of burning, of powder, and it would be all over. He could sit here and watch him slide down, watch him bleed, watch him die. Those terribly bright eyes sinking shut, taking with them everything he had never wanted to think about. Never wanted to see in them.

He looked at the other man out of the corner of his eye and frowned as he saw that Krycek still hadn't moved. Was still gazing right at him.

"What's your problem?" he asked before he could stop himself.

Something crossed those green eyes and was gone again. "You," the other man said, a subdued word, a subdued tone.

Mulder shook his head. He went back to looking out the window. Maybe a bullet really was the answer. At least, it might garner him a little peace. "Give it a rest," he said. "Just goddamn take me home or give me the keys and get the hell out of here. I've gotta go to work in the morning."

"Yeah," Krycek replied and the softness in his voice was suddenly gone, gone as if it'd never been. As if Mulder had only imagined it. "Me, too."

The car engine abruptly roared to life and Krycek backed the vehicle up, spun it around until it was facing the lane again. He stepped on it, then, taking the road beyond roughly. Not bothering to follow the ruts in the mud, to steer around any of the fallen branches.

Mulder ignored it. Ignored him. Not even wincing back as leaves and twigs scraped across the glass in front of his face. Suddenly, only remembering how it had felt to be inside this man. How it had felt to possess him, to have him crying out to be possessed. The moment of joy that had shook him at the last, one brief exquisite moment before he had come back to himself. Come back to the realization that he was buried inside his worst enemy. His betrayer. The man who had helped take Scully away from him.

Who had drugged him and raped him and made him want more.

Made him want him.

And he'd never forgive him for that. He could never forgive him for that. Even if he did, somehow, get Scully back for him. Even if he could forgive him for everything else. Because when he looked inside himself now, he no longer saw just the void, just those cold grey walls, but green and warmth as well. Heard his childhood name being called out in wonder and in need and knew what emotion lay behind it all. Knew that he couldn't stand it anymore than he could say it.

That things were not and never could be different. And not because of who Krycek was, but because of who he was.

Because he was always on the outside looking in.

Standing alone in the dark, looking up at the indifferent stars.

A voice screaming his name, crying out for help he couldn't give.

Mulder closed his eyes, laid his head back against the seat. Distantly, there was a click and then country music filled the car, followed by static and then more music, classical this time. He drifted on it for a long time, rousing only when Krycek stopped the car once about an hour and a half later. Asking him if he wanted anything before heading in to pay for the gas, bringing back a cup of coffee for him even through he hadn't asked for it, for anything. True to form, it was a singularly bad cup of coffee, but he said nothing about it. Only sipped from it and watched the world go by, his eyes mainly unfocussed, leaving only passing blurs of color and shape to disturb him.

By the time his surroundings had turned familiar again he had finished the cup, set it down by his feet on the floor. And Krycek had shut the radio off, driving in silence for the last hour as the traffic began to pick up around them. His jaw tight. His face carefully blank.

Finally, he slid the car over and parked. And Mulder realized that he was only a few

blocks away from his apartment building. Almost home. Almost back.

"They might be watching," was all the other man said, a flat comment, his eyes still fixed out the front of the windshield. His fingers were almost white on the steering wheel, though and his breathing was just a little too even. Too controlled.

Mulder nodded. His hand went to the door, then he paused. "Don't come near me again," he said, but it was no more than a whisper.

Krycek's head fell. "Or what?" he asked, just as quietly. "You'll kill me, Agent Mulder? Well, maybe I might want you to. Did you ever consider that?"

"Yeah," Mulder replied. "I have."

Then he opened the door and was sliding out, sliding free, before the other man could do more than look up, stare at him. Raise a belated hand, as if to catch him, to stop him. Only to let that hand fall back to his lap.

Mulder slammed the door back shut and stepped back, away from the car. Up onto the curb. Green eyes stared back at him—looking as vulnerable as they had when the man had been writhing beneath him—and then were hooded. And Krycek's face went hard, almost a stranger's face. He nodded once at him and then the car was pulling out, sunlight catching across the glass, hiding the form of the man inside, and was gone.

Mulder watched it go, then turned and began walking. Each step was an effort, but he made it all the same. He had nowhere else to go. Not now. Maybe, not ever.

###

Mulder was lying on the couch, the tv on, but not really watching it. He was unable to take in anymore than a few minutes at a time before losing the thread of it, losing his interest in it. So far, he'd rewound this last scene at least three times, but it wasn't getting any better.

It wasn't making him hard, not the slightest twitch.

Even the fact that the main female looked a little like the vampire wannabe girl from California, the one he wasn't sure anymore why he'd fucked, wasn't doing anything for him. Of course, now, he couldn't seem to figure out what the original had done for him either—maybe it had just been the blood, the ever-present fires, the danger. Or maybe he'd just done it to prove that he could. Whatever. It didn't matter anymore.

Nothing did.

Not even the fact that he still couldn't sleep. Could hardly keep an interest in his work, even after Skinner had opened the X-Files again for him. To get back at them.

Mulder shifted, the leather creaking softly beneath him, and stopped the tape, began to rewind it yet again. He pressed play again, settling back, but the woman's quiet sighs were suddenly drowned out by the ringing of the phone. He let it go for a while, not sure he had the energy, let alone the desire to answer it, but habit finally kicked in.

There was a low voice on the other end, urgent and shocking in its sudden familiarity. Its import.

"Mulder," Alex Krycek said. "North East Georgetown. She's alive. You hear me? She's alive."

The line went dead before he could rally to say anything—to think of anything to say—and then he was moving and nothing else mattered.

###

garnetgyre@hotmail.com
Garnet's Page

FANDOM: X-Files
PAIRING: M/K
RATING: NC-17
FEEDBACK: garnetgyre@hotmail.com
DISCLAIMER: Okay, rightŠso I was dreaming one night and there they were and, like, they SAID it was okay and I should trust em and who's gonna argue with that, I mean, I'm not stupidŠ
SUMMARY: Krycek kidnaps Mulder while he's grieving over the loss of his partner
WARNINGS: A bit of non-consensual and a bit of consensual; takes all kinds
SPOILERS: "Sleepless" and "Duane Barry"
COMMENTS: Takes place just after the events of "Duane Barry," while Scully is missing and Mulder is slowly falling apart. This story previously published in X-Plicit Fantasies 4.

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