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Purgatory
by Garnet


Park City, Utah—August

Leaving the country would have been the smart thing to do. The sane thing to do. But then I'm not feeling particularly smart or sane right this minute. In fact, I'm trying not to feel anything at all. Even though it's taken me nearly three quarters of a bottle of vodka to even get close to it.

I had abandoned the glass after the first few drinks, despite the fact the coolness of it felt soothing to my scraped hands. I'm bruised as well, from where I took my fall. From when the bomb that had been meant to kill me knocked me to the ground. I hadn't felt any of the pain at the time—shock can do that to you—but I was feeling it now. Or had been until I'd started in on my friend here. It's not as good as Russian vodka, but then I'm not sure I'd want that anyway. Too many reminders. Too close to home.

The room is squeezing down on me as it is. Paper-thin walls of false security, false calm, the sound of the TV set I'm not even pretending to watch hiding the sound of my own rough breathing. Despite the bedspread I've wrapped around me, I'm shaking as well, can't seem to get warm. My throat and stomach are burning, but still I'm still cold. Bone cold and scared and hopeless, so goddamned hopeless. I've got nowhere left to go now, no place to be safe. Everyone and everything's turned against me and even though I have the tape, have the threat of it, of revealing all of them and their plots, I feel as if I have nothing. As if I am nothing...

But then that's right. Exactly and damning.

I am nothing.

I lift the bottle again and swallow down another mouthful of forgetfulness. Of numbness. Still, the room I'm in reminds me of another, another cheap and artificial room somewhere on the road to DC. It was decorated in shades of pale blue instead of brown, but no matter. This room is all I can afford at the moment, at least until I can get to one of my stashes. I had hitched a ride here as it was, ditching the last car I'd stole down some little dead end road off the highway about fifty miles back. The police might be looking for it by now. And they would most certainly be looking for me.

And their orders would be simple. Recover the tape. Remove anyone who got in the way. Luis would probably jump for the job, for the chance to off me. He liked to kill people, though he seemed to be doing a piss poor job of it lately. I had felt a twinge of regret over the mistake, but he never had. At least, none that I'd ever seen. Not that I had exactly wanted to kill Scully, let alone Scully's sister. Not because I liked her in any way or even, God knows, respected her, but because it would have been one more betrayal.

Perhaps, even a more unforgivable one.

So, I had held back, let Luis take the shot. Make the mistake.

Still, it had been me they tried to blow up, me they tried to murder. No doubt, they'd planned on pinning the kid's death on me—the one who'd hacked the tape in the first place—and, possibly, Scully's sister as well. After they'd scraped my charred and smoking remains out of the damn car...

More vodka—I'm so fucking cold. I don't know how I made it through the trip here, less than half a day, but it was still almost more than I could bear. I shouldn't have called him from the airport, but I had been unable to stop myself. Besides, he would have expected me to get the hell out of dodge, not to stick around. He would have his men checking the international flights, not the domestic ones. Not that I'd used a name he'd recognize. Certainly none of the ones they'd given me to use.

Still, I was almost out of cash and there was no way I could use credit. Maybe, not ever. They had their fingers in everything; they'd probably find me in the end, anyway, why put up a flashing neon sign.

Nearly twelve hours later and I'm in the middle of Nowhere Fucking America, having caught three different flights and stolen two cars. Thumbed three rides. Only my bottle of cheap vodka for comfort and my gun for protection. Only twenty bucks and some change away from destitution. One thin line away from despair.

One fucking razor-thin achingly sharp line.

Of course, I felt as if I'd been walking it for a while. Ever since my boss had told me that Mulder was dead...

Fuck, no. I do not want to go there. No, no and no.

Hurriedly, I took another pull of the bottle, then let it fall. It hadn't been true, of course. Wishful thinking on his enemies part, more like. But that didn't mean that it hadn't hurt, that it still didn't hurt. Didn't scare the crap out of me how much it had goddamn hurt. More than the attempt on my own life, certainly—that was almost to be expected, the line of work I've found myself stuck in.

I had had a bitch of a time hiding my true feelings about him though. Even after years of practice. And there had been no time to fall apart. Only beating up on Skinner had made me feel marginally better. But, by then, I'd known it was a lie, that Mulder was still alive, and had had to hide my reaction to that news as well. Beating up on anybody was a relief after having to keep all that inside. To keep it all from Luis and from the cool appraising eyes of my boss.

He would use that information against me if he knew. If he could. And, knowing him, he damn well could. And I would suffer for it and, no doubt, Mulder would suffer for it as well and I owed him too much already. I couldn't let them use me against him anymore. Not even to save my own pitiful neck.

I couldn't stand it.

It had been so damn good and now it was so damn bad, worse even then I had expected, then I had feared it to be. But, then, I hadn't known—couldn't have known—at the time that I was going to be called upon to shoot the man's own father. To try and shoot his partner. To stand by and watch my boss try and kill him as well. To almost succeed.

Worst of all, if I had known, I might have done it anyway and how sick is that?

As sick as imagining him punching me around, threatening me...raping me...and getting off on it?

I had tried to repress that particular night, that particular...sordid fantasy of mine. But it refused to go away; I could remember it almost as clearly as pulling the trigger in that dim bathroom. As clearly as I remembered Mulder throwing me up against the wall, the feel of his fists, the sound of his voice. The same voice that had once asked me, no, pleaded with me, to take him down, to finish him off. To suck him dry.

The floor hard beneath us. The darkness near complete. Just the sense of his skin, the strength of his body, against mine, and how vulnerable it had made me feel. To be naked with him. To let him please me as I had pleasured him. To let myself get so out of control—to want to be so out of control—that I had felt adrift for days afterward. Like the world just didn't fit right anymore. One night, just a few hours, with him having spun it out of balance. Only the catch of his eyes across mine as we had passed in the hall enough to set me off again.

Threatening to send me flying out of myself.

It had had to end. And it did.

But I still hated it. Hated myself. Hated...

No, I didn't hate him. Couldn't hate him, even when he had been beating the crap out of me. Even when he had held a gun on me and I had known he was going to pull the trigger.

Even though he had lost me everything. Cost me my future, such as it was. I was as good as dead now. They would see to that. He would see to that—one raise of the eyebrow, one wave of that cigarette, and my life was forfeit. After I had given them what they wanted, of course, that little tape of their misdeeds. Their collusion. Their guilt.

It laid there on the bed in front of me right now. Looking so innocent, so inconsequential. One would never think it was far deadlier than the gun lying next to it.

One would never think a kiss deadlier than a bullet, but there that was too.

Slowly, I sank down on the bed, pulled the spread close around me, clutched the bottle even closer. I didn't want to close my eyes, certainly didn't want to sleep, but the liquor pulled at me. Exhaustion dragging me down, dragging me to the place I desperately didn't want to go. My dreams were not my own these days, either. He haunted them. And sometimes he cursed me and kicked me and stuck a gun into my face and sometimes he held me close and kissed me and kissed me until I could barely breathe for wanting him. His arms making a warm little place in all the cold and all the darkness.

Both dreams made me want to cry, made me want to scream. Made me hate the man that looked back at me from out of the mirror. I hadn't even bothered tonight. I already knew I wouldn't be able to stand it. A shower might have warmed me up better than the vodka, but I didn't want that either. He was already too close tonight—the thought of him, the hunger for him, the pain and the accusation and the bleak incomprehensible hurt of it all. What I had done to him and what I had done to myself. Twisted together and knotted up so tight together it was no wonder I had trouble thinking straight anymore.

I had to do something and I would do something, there was no way around it. Problem was, I didn't know what. Keep running, yeah, that was simple enough. Get some cash, some new ID, yeah sure. Easy things. Obvious things. Decode the tape and that might be a little more difficult, but I had no doubt I would manage it. What I would do with the information after...well, that would require a little more thought, but it would come to me.

Which left the stickiest problem of them all. Fox Mulder and what I wanted to do with him. What I wanted from him.

What he might want from me. Information, sure. Revenge, most probably. Another kiss, another night together...and just how cold was hell anyway? I was likely to find out, sooner or later.

I might be damned by it, but there was no way I'd be able to stay away for long. No way circumstances would likely let me even if I managed to dredge up the self-control for it. The denial. Certainly, I'd never find enough oblivion in a bottle of vodka for that. Not in a dozen bottles. Not even half a continent away.

The darkness seemed to gather, to stir and spin in the room, to surround me, and I let it this time. Let it take me. Let it consume me, deathly cold and still.

###

San Francisco, California—October

The noise of shrieks and explosions woke me. I opened my eyes and slowly raised my head a little. Even that slight movement seemed too much—my head felt as fragile as an eggshell—and I let it fall back to the pillow even more slowly. I had left the TV on and it must be morning now, likely early morning, as a rather bemused Bugs Bunny was up on the screen using the idiocy of Elmer Fudd to help destroy a wildly gesturing Daffy Duck. Saturday morning cartoons and I remembered them all from when I was a kid. My mother had never quite understood it—her grasp of English had never been perfect, even after all these years in her new home—but she used to watch them with me anyway. My father had thought they were a waste of time, but then he had thought most American things were. Anything that didn't put food on the table or a roof over your head. He had learned to speak English perfectly, as he had taught me to speak Russian perfectly. Several dialects of Russian, to be exact. And he always was exact.

I used one of those words he had occasionally said but never actually taught me as I struggled to raise my head again, to push myself up slightly on the futon. My skull tightened down immediately, sending needle-thin shards of pain through me, piercing my eyes, but I gritted my teeth and waited it out. Some of the bedclothes felt sticky and wet and I wondered for a moment if I'd been sick during the night, then realized that the bottle of bourbon I'd been working on last night had just spilled over. It looked like there were only a couple of mouthfuls left in it—how much there had been before it spilled I had no way of knowing for sure except that I knew that I had drunk a lot.

Last night, oh yeah, I'd been drinking and drinking hard. After I had read what was in those files, at least the pieces that I had managed to have translated, the pieces that I had managed to make myself go through. After I had put two and two together and found it made five instead of four. Because they had been lying to me and not lying to me. So many deaths, so much pain, and though they obviously thought that their end goal was noble, that it more than justified the means, it still had turned my stomach. Had made my most recent tiny efficiency apartment, the night security job I had taken to help tide me over, seem a lie as well.

A frivolous and mind-numbing game.

The files had ripped back the skin of the world to reveal the guts and gore beneath, the bones of those who'd died to make slaves of us all, the blood of those innocents they had tinkered with in experiment after experiment, birthing grotesque upon grotesque in endless pursuit of their goal. Millions catalogued. Thousands of women kidnapped, mapped, their ovaries plumbed of all life in order to bring about even more thousands of alien-human children, if children was even what you could call them. Beings conceived in laboratories, grown in comatose bodies, birthed, studied, more often than not terminated, autopsied, burned or buried. Some others made into drones, speechless slaves, no thought given to them other than the work placed before them.

The work...the work...

And they were traitors, all of them. Saving their own necks at the expense of everyone else on this stinking planet. As if that wasn't the greatest dodge in the world, the greatest joke. They thought to reign in hell, rather than fight...for the earth, for humanity. For our last bit of paradise. And they were blind if they couldn't see there was no way they'd be allowed even that.

Invasion...

And, for once, I hadn't dreamt of Mulder last night. I had dreamt of his sister, of Scully, and what they had done to them. What they were still doing to them.

What they used them for.

It had made me angry at first and then sick. Half-glad—almost—that I had shot William Mulder after all. Furious that I hadn't had the chance to pop my own ex-boss at the same time. That I hadn't killed all of them, the whole cruel crew in their expensive little nest in New York City. They were monsters, far more than the poor things they worked so hard to create.

And I had helped them...had killed for them...

Had ruined what little bit of life I had left to me in keeping them and their agendas safe and hidden.

Hidden from men like Fox Mulder.

The worst thing was that I couldn't even just turn over this information to the man. They would only kill him for it. They'd kill me, too, but that was inevitable. I was almost used to thinking about that—how I'd catch the eventual bullet or end up in a convenient car accident—though that didn't mean that I'd stand still for them. They'd have to catch me first. And I'd make them pay for it, if I could.

I smothered a moan as I slowly rolled off the futon, glad for once that I didn't have far to go. The remote was on the floor a few feet away and my head threatened to come clean off as I tilted it a little too far while picking it up. I flicked off the TV, cutting off Bugs as he dove with all his usual grace for his rabbit hole, then let the remote fall again. Even more slowly, I pulled myself to my feet, swallowing heavily at each twinge of pain.

Sunlight was pouring into the tiny kitchen area from beneath the half-pulled shade and I winced away from it as I headed past to the bathroom. At least there was no window here—only the bleak glare of the row of lights over the mirror—and I was mutely grateful for the small favor of it. My reflection was less grateful. Certainly not at all flattering. I looked tired. No, more than that, exhausted. The fact that I hadn't shaved in the last three days didn't contradict the initial impression. My new boss didn't much care what I looked like on the night shift and I certainly didn't care. I could hardly get myself to eat sometimes, let alone bother to do more than run a quick comb through my hair. At least, it was still short enough that it didn't matter much.

I leaned over the sink and turned on the cold water, splashed some over my face, ran it across my neck. The posture, the movement, made me feel nauseous for a moment, but I fought it off grimly, dragging in a few long breaths of air. When I finally straightened up again though, my reflection unfortunately looked just as wrung out as before, only a little wet around the edges now. I grimaced at myself. Right now, I doubted Fox Mulder would be much interested in me even if he didn't have good reason to hate me. I wouldn't want me right now, not with those dark shadows around my eyes, that pasty thin-looking skin, and still stinking of long hours of sweat and spilled bourbon. God, what had ever possessed me to drink the stuff last night? Besides, what I was reading, of course. Besides, it was all I'd had around—a gift from a woman I'd met in a bar, slept with a few times, before I realized it just made my mood all the darker. Made me realize what I really wanted. Who I was missing so damn hard.

That I had been frighteningly disappointed every time I'd looked down at her and expected hazel eyes instead of brown. Then ended up fucking her harder and harder as if to make up for the thought, hard enough that she complained afterwards. She had gone and bought me the booze a few days later as if she had reconsidered the evening, as if giving me a present I'd never asked for and certainly didn't want would make me want to screw her again. Softer, this time, as if I really cared.

And I have to admit that I had tried. God, I had tried to want her and not see someone else in her eyes. Had tried to be gentle, only to find it only made me more angry. Angry at him for not being there and at her for not being him and, most of all, at myself for being so fucked in the head in the first place. I would have picked up a guy, instead—after all, San Francisco was certainly the place for it—but I feared that it would only be worse that way. Make my problem all the more acute. As it was, it was tearing me apart. My reflection this morning told me that. The fact that this was the fourth—or was it the fifth?—time I'd tied one on so hard in the past two months that it hurt even to think, let alone to try to remember.

At least, I had woken up alone this time. At least I hadn't gotten drunk out at the bars again and gone home with some girl like in Vegas, when I had stopped to pick up my cash, my new identity. She had had red hair almost as bright as Scully's and that had shocked me. Had made my breath catch in the back of my throat as I woke the next morning, prying my eyes open only to see it spread out on the sheets next to me like some kind of bloody offering. Melissa Scully had had hair almost that same color as well, though I'd only seen it briefly. All too fleetingly. Hair the color of wine, brilliant and explosive.

The girl who gave me the bourbon had short brown hair, but in some ways that had only made it worse.

Turning away from the mirror, I stripped off my briefs and stepped into the shower. Let the hot water wail away at my face, my head, for a long time. Scrubbed myself clean as I could. When I finally shut the water off I felt marginally better, which wasn't saying much. I grabbed a bottle of Tylenol out of the medicine cabinet and took it back out to the main room with me. I went to the fridge, opened it, and found only a box of pizza left over from a couple of days ago, some rather desiccated looking apples, a few cans of Coke and one lonely can of beer. For a moment, I contemplated the Coke, then thought about water instead, only to find myself letting the door swing shut again, found myself heading back over to the bed. The bottle of bourbon was lying on its side on the tangle of sheets and I picked it up and studied it—my best friend of late, it seemed, and wasn't that just fucking disgusting.

Probably as fucking disgusting as Mulder must feel when he remembered what we had done together. If he even let himself remember.

Still, maybe he did remember. Maybe he pictured me every time he went down to the gun range, imagining those bullets pounding into me. One to the head like his dad. Or one to the heart. Yeah, one right to the heart.

Finally, I sat down on the edge of the futon and put the bottle on the floor next to me. Popped open the Tylenol and shook out some pills, not bothering to count them. I tossed the container on the bed and picked up the bourbon again, washed the tablets down in one quick snap back. It burned, but I welcomed it. Welcomed the heat that followed.

My stomach threatened to rebel again though as I let the now empty bottle fall free out of my hand to the thin rug and laid back. I rode it out as best I could, closing my eyes tight to hold on to what little control, what fragile balance, I had managed to reclaim during the shower. I had to stop doing this. There was no choice about that. Of course, it was what I had promised to myself before, after the incident in Vegas. After I hadn't been able to remember what we had actually done that night, let alone her name or where we had met and whether she was a hooker or simply a girl who had needed somebody and had the bad luck to fall into my graces. There had been bite marks on my shoulders that morning. Similar marks on her from what I'd seen as she'd ducked in and out of the bathroom. At least, beyond the hair, she had had no obvious other resemblance to Dana Scully, for which I had been supremely grateful.

Still, it had kept me to my promise...for a couple of weeks anyway. Long enough for me to make my way to Frisco and find a job where they didn't ask too many questions as long as I turned up on time and didn't rip off the merchandise.

I was due there tonight, in fact. And, despite how I felt right now, I would have to go. It was payday and I needed the money. The junker of a car I had bought was low on gas and my fridge was obviously low on groceries and rent was due in a couple of days. Normal things. An ordinary life with ordinary problems.

Such shit.

I laid my arm up across my eyes, took a couple of careful controlled breaths. I hadn't remembered dreaming last night, but now I got a quick flash image of something. Hazy and soft, but still the sharp spike of fear that accompanied it made me tense. Figures standing around me, looking down at me. Tall, too-thin and predatory. Brilliant light searing my eyes and a high buzzing sound that cut through me like a knife. The feeling of not being able to move, of being helpless. Completely and utterly helpless...

I snapped back upright again on the bed and leaned forward as my stomach pitched inside me. Red-hot pain and nausea skewed, crawling up the back of my throat. I swallowed it back down again and pressed my fingers hard into my eyes. If this was what Duane Barry had experienced—if this was what Fox Mulder dreamed of, over and over again—no wonder he had gone crazy. Had been so damn desperate. My boss had taken Scully, sure, but what had happened to her before then? Had it been a helicopter that night on Skyland Mountain or something else? How much of what was in these files was true, how much could I believe?

How much dared I believe before I completely lost it as well...

"Goddamn fucking shit," I mumbled, then added a few more choice words, in Russian this time. I wished I hadn't read the damn thing. I wished I could have remained in sweet ignorance. But I hadn't and I couldn't and if I went nuts in the end as Duane Barry went nuts and as Mulder was on the verge of going nuts then maybe someone poisoning me or shooting me was the best possible thing to have happen after all.

I didn't think I could live with that kind of fear. With the thought that some...things could come for you at any moment and take you away and...and...do stuff to you while you could do nothing but watch and hope it wouldn't hurt too much this time and know that it was going to anyway.

Hurriedly I got back up, one of my feet catching for a second in the tangle of sheets, almost making me fall. Roughly, I tore it free and stepped off the bed and, this time, I did fall to my knees as a sudden wave of weakness, of grinding pain, shot through my guts. I crouched there on the floor for a long moment, unable to move. Then, as the pain intensified, I backhanded the empty bottle of bourbon away from me, out across the floor to smash against the wall, and pulled myself back to my feet. And half-bent over, clutching my hands hard to my middle, I made a mad dash for the bathroom.

###

I was tired and still feeling a little sick when I got home early that morning, but not too tired to notice that my door had been tinkered with, my early warning system disturbed. I slipped my gun out of its side holster and held it up before me, leaned back against the wall next to the door. They would be waiting for me inside, waiting as Luis and I had waited for Scully. The sound of the key in the lock would alert them and, when I opened the door to step inside, I would be silhouetted in the light from the hall behind me. A perfect target. One would assume anyway.

I should just leave; I couldn't risk a confrontation. There was nothing inside the apartment that I couldn't do without. I had learned to carry everything of necessity with me at all times, or to keep it stashed away where only I could find it. Like some of the pieces of myself, locked away for my own safety mostly. Not that bad memories—or good—were as easy to stuff into some bus station locker and forget about as tapes or other incriminating evidence. The lid to the strongbox that held Fox Mulder, for instance, kept on coming open no matter how hard I slammed it shut, no matter how many chains I wrapped it up with.

I should just leave, but as I turned to do just that, a shadow passed across the floor and I knew it was too late already. I fired even before catching a clear sight of my opponent, before he could get his own gun aimed properly, the noise of the gun almost deafening in the small hallway. His own silenced shot took out a wall light, sending sparks and glass flying, and mine took him in the neck. Sent blood flying.

He flinched back, automatically clutching at the wound for all the good it would do him, and I hit him again, this time square in the middle of the forehead. He was dropping as I leapt over him, hearing my own apartment door being wrenched open behind me. Raised voices. The soft almost inconsequential sound of other silencers doing their job.

One of the bullets plucked at my sleeve in passing, but then I was around the corner and running headlong for the stairs. Heading for the emergency exit and the alley beyond. Heading for my junker of a car and the hell outa there as fast as it could take me.

The California day outside was as sunlit and beautiful as I remembered it from the drive home, but there were more big unamused uglies waiting in a Mercury across the street and I had to duck down behind a dumpster before they saw me. Unfortunately, my own vehicle was out there with them and since there was no way they could have avoided seeing me sauntering up to it, let alone peeling off in a burst of smoke and tire rubber, it meant a change in my immediate plans. And yet another loss that I would have to make up when I could afford it.

Looking in the opposite direction, though, I could see the old Ford truck that belonged to the apartment caretaker. The back was full of 2X4's, pipes and other building supplies, but it would have to do. I smashed the passenger window in with one of those convenient pieces of pipe, then ducked down inside. Hot-wiring it took only a few seconds, but my pursuers were already crashing out into the alley by then.

Unfortunately for them, as I pointed myself and my new truck right at them. I hit one dead-on—had just time to see his shocked open-mouthed face—before clipping his buddy and sending him spinning off as well. I didn't recognize either of them, but I recognized their type. Bland-faced, cool, fit into a crowd kinda guys. Just like my boss had tried to make me, after I'd been pulled out of the FBI.

A remorseless killer. Just like Mulder thought I was.

After everything else I was had been socked away inside some bus station locker. Or left behind in some raunchy motel room somewhere between DC and perdition

And as I turned the corner at the end of the alley, checking behind me for signs of pursuit and letting out a breath I hadn't known I'd been holding as I saw none, nothing but two unmoving bodies behind me, I found myself envying them just a little. Wishing it could be that easy for me; that I had it within me to have just shrugged and walked into that room anyway, knowing what was waiting for me, knowing it would all be over in a moment or two. That the pain couldn't last forever.

The physical pain, anyway.

###

She was a bitch and one of the coldest women I'd ever seen. Eyes, face, mouth, an ice sculpture made to order. Made to make money any way she could.

I needed her, but that didn't mean I had to like her. Or that she had to like me, which she didn't. Or about as much as she trusted me. Which was probably about as long as she would tolerate a hangnail.

"This all you have?" she asked.

"For now," I replied, matching the cool tone exactly. I didn't trust her either, not for an instant. but it wasn't as if I had much choice in the matter right at the moment. She had the right connections, was in the right business, and she was willing—almost eager, if I read her right, though she hid it well—to do almost anything, including fronting for me. For a price. A rather exotic percentage.

She took the papers I'd given her and squirreled them away. "Okay," was all she said, though I could tell she was disappointed, a trifle annoyed even. Probably already trying to find a way to get around me.

"Get a good deal on those," I added. "And we'll see about some more."

"Sure thing," she replied. "Do you care who...?"

I shook my head. "Highest bidder, that's all I'm interested in. Though, I am a little strapped for time..."

"And cash," she said, those sharp eyes taking in my appearance. I didn't have to imagine what she saw; I knew it all too well. I was wearing the only clothes I currently owned and my last "bath," if you could call it that, had been in the sink of a restroom at an all night gas station. Just before I ripped off a pale blue Pontiac from the parking lot of the night club across the street.

She was right; I needed some quick money, enough to get away. Out of the country this time, if I could. Which meant not only airfare, but enough cash to requisition the required false passport and a visa.

I had the name and address of someone who could do the work, but they didn't come cheap.

Which meant working with the woman sitting across from me now, a speculative gleam in her eyes, a calculating tilt to her head. A gun under her desk aimed right at my gut.

And I thought I had trust issues.

"You have a number?" she asked. "A way for me to contact you?"

Stupid questions. Condescending. She didn't seem to care.

"No," I said curtly. "It's the usual drill. I'll call you. Friday." That should give her enough time. And for me to get a deal going with the man I needed, though putting a downpayment on the work would take pretty much all the cash I had left on me for the time being.

"Okay," she said again. "I'll be waiting for it."

I almost said 'I'm sure you will,' except that I needed her for the time being and antagonizing her wasn't going to get me what I needed. It's not good, as a rule, to piss off those you need.

Something I'd learned far too late.

"See you," I said and turned and walked out. Feeling the barrel of that gun on me the whole way, wondering if she was going to take a chance on me having what she wanted on me. Not that I did. That really would have been stupid. Suicidal.

The stairs outside her office were slick with rain and the ground below scattered with puddles. I trudged right through them; my shoes were soaked already, what did a little more matter. It had started raining the afternoon of my escape and looked to drizzle all day again today. At least, the sky overhead was a flat grey, clouded low, and it was already getting dark, despite the earliness of the hour. It was a cold rain, straight off the ocean, and almost tasted of salt. It added a strange and chilling texture to the day.

Almost as chilling as what lay hidden beneath the depths of the ocean half a world away—the location of which I'd just handed out to be sold on that secret market that specializes not so much in guns or drugs or even money, nothing so very obvious, but in information. The real power. The only thing that they really feared. The only thing that I had over them. Over him.

Not that it would keep me alive. Not in the long run.

But what else could I do?

The occasional depressing impulse aside, I wasn't quite ready to pack it all in and die already. Not without seeing a few other old friends of mine shuffle off this mortal coil first, that is.

My car was cold as well, still smelling of the cheap perfume left over from whoever I'd appropriated it from. It mingled disagreeably with the half-eaten McDonalds I'd thrown on the floor. Despite having felt like I was starving last night, I'd only been able to get down half the burger and a handful of fries before my stomach had threatened revolution. I hadn't even dared to try breakfast this morning, even if I could afford something more decent than fast food. At least, the Cokes I'd drunk yesterday and today were still staying with me, though a sugar high couldn't keep me going forever.

My nerves were just about shot already as it was.

I drove off slowly, having nowhere in particular to go. Though I kept an eye out along the way both for any tails and for another chance to switch vehicles. My sweet Jeraldine was sure to have seen this one and I tried not to keep them longer than a day anyhow, two days if I switched plates as well. At least, this car had had an old quilt stuffed into the trunk; I had slept wrapped up in it in the backseat last night and, though it had smelled faintly of mothballs, it had been better than the perfume. Than the smell of my own shirt and pants and skin. My hair was starting to itch and I would need new clothes as well before trying to board a flight for anywhere.

The ocean today looked grey and unwelcoming. Slivered with white edges from some storm further out to sea. The ships in their berths looked washed out as well, rusty and worn and aging. Idly, I wondered how many of them my "business partner" owned, what kinds of cargo they had smuggled both in and out of the country for her. If I had to, if the airport proved too hot for me and mine, I might have to find myself a place on one of them and put myself even more at her tender mercies. It wasn't a pleasant, nor a particularly uplifting, thought.

They were just as likely as not to leave me off in the middle of the Pacific as on a dock in Hong Kong. More likely, actually. Jeraldine would probably see it as a shrewd business move.

I ended up finally in a park down by the Bay, but it was too cold to brave the beach for long. The car wasn't much warmer and, no matter how tired I was, I couldn't afford to simply cuddle down in my friendly stolen quilt and have a nap. So, instead, I spent the afternoon watching people as they came and went. Old folks strolling through the park and a couple of brave souls sitting on the benches. Rollerbladers and joggers passing by, most never giving either me or the old folks a second glance. A few teenagers who were probably supposed to be in school, but were more likely looking for trouble or drugs or both.

Life moving on like it always did.

And I didn't want to leave America when it came right down to it, but it was getting way too hot for me here. Figuratively speaking, of course. Russia was equally closed to me right now, for different reasons, but I didn't particularly want to be there either. Too many old debts in need of payment and not enough old favors to rely on. Besides, the reach of the Consortium was long and they'd suspect I'd go there.

Certainly I didn't need or want to bring that down on the heads of my family's old friends. Or help dredge up their old enemies. My ex-boss would quite probably know just who to call to make things difficult all round for anyone in the old country who helped me.

No. Hong Kong was my best bet, at least for the time being. Kallenchuk Shipping had another office there and besides, for a price, a man could easily lose himself in those streets. If I could get my ass over there I might actually have a chance of living for a little while longer.

Not well, but longer.

I closed my eyes and laid my head back, too tired all of a sudden to keep watch anymore. Even if it killed me. God, I needed a drink or a good meal or both. Somewhere warm and quiet to sleep. A couple of days should do me. Not that either drinking or sleeping had ever managed to keep the nightmares away, the pain, the regrets. It could never make me forget.

No, I couldn't conveniently forget that the end of the world was coming anymore than I could forget that I had hurt Fox Mulder. Somehow, the two almost seemed one and the same thing on some days. Though, sometimes, I didn't think I would miss the world if it just damn well went away and as for Mulder...well, I couldn't seem to not think about him. Especially on rainy nights—of which Frisco had more than a few—when I couldn't seem to help remembering walking across the street towards his apartment. The pavement sparkling wetly under the streetlights and my heart pounding and the taste of cheap whiskey in my mouth.

When I had played a drunk and a fool and walked back out of there, out of his arms, just the fool.

Because I had known better and I had gone and done it anyway and now I only had myself to blame for how much I missed him. How much I missed the man I had been to him, as well, lie though he was.

That green agent, so young, so lonely, so in need of comforting after killing for the first time. Turning to the kindnesses that Mulder offered like a starving man. Greedy for the slightest crumb. And it hadn't been part of my job or of that green agent to seduce his older partner, but it had ended up my pleasure and Mulder's. Though with a damn fucking huge price tag attached to it that only one of us had known about.

And I had gone ahead and done it, anyway. And then I had left and Mulder had been left alone at the one time in his life he was in most need of friends, of people who would stand by him no matter what. Even if they thought he was kind of nuts most of the time.

Still, he'd gotten Scully back, if rather worse for wear. Though that didn't make up for drugging him nearly into true madness or murdering his father with him right there in the same damn house.

For all of which he blamed me. You can't fault him for that. I did have a hand in Scully being taken away from him and I'd been the one to kill his daddy and to help beat up his boss and I'd even been there when they'd shot down Scully's sister, innocent that she was. And though I hadn't pulled that particular trigger, I might as well have. As least as far as Mulder was concerned most days.

On days like today, for example, when everything was so damn grey and dead and the cold was seeping into my bones no matter how thick the quilt wrapped around me. When I couldn't keep my mind from flashing on the taste of his skin and the smoothness of it and how it had felt to have my cock between those lips, deep in that mouth. When I couldn't help contrasting how his eyes had looked then and how they had looked that night he'd attacked me outside the same apartment building and nearly killed me.

And how I would have let him.

Yeah, so I'm still a fool.

I opened my eyes and nothing had changed—not the sea and not those joggers and definitely not the old folks waiting out the last of their lives on a chilly park bench on the edge of an seemingly endless expanse of water. I turned on the car and then the heat and waited for it to warm up, knowing I was wasting gas but unable to bear the cold another moment more.

Watching, just watching, the waves until I finally stopped shivering.

It took a long time.

###

Hong Kong—November

I was losing it.

No, I had lost it.

Hong Kong was loud, crowded, and way too expensive for my rather limited budget of late.

I had been on the edge of burn out by the time I got here—driving first to Houston to avoid the people planted at the Frisco airport, and then taking planes east rather than west, which would have been faster and cheaper but also more predictable—running on too little sleep and too many of those goddamn packages of peanuts. And now that I was actually in Hong Kong I found I couldn't easily sleep here, either.

That when I did, I kept dreaming. Of Mulder. Of our one night together, which should have been no surprise. But I even dreamt of doing fucking reports for him. Of the cheap coffee we'd drank at cheap truckstops and of how he could take over a motel room in just a few minutes—sprawled out on the bed with autopsy reports and lurid photographs and Chinese food. Using the chopsticks as pointers. Tapping them against his forehead when he was deep in thought.

His tie already on the floor and the top buttons on his shirt open and me thinking I'd like nothing more than to join him on that bed and tumble him right then and there, bloody pictures, fried rice, duck sauce and all.

Not that I had. We'd never touched each other after that night. Never even talked about it. Because though it had changed everything, it had changed nothing. Or, at least, that's how Mulder obviously had wanted to play it. And I'd taken my cues from him, knowing it was a good idea at the heart of it. I hadn't been supposed to climb into his bed in the first place and if Mulder didn't want a repeat then that was all for the better, wasn't it?

Except that I had sometimes caught those hazel eyes on me and known it wasn't for the better. That he still wanted me. Even though he wouldn't let himself have me.

Maybe his instincts had been trying to tell him something.

Same as mine.

Ah, hell...

We'd had just three months together, one summer. Three months of heaven and three months of hell all wrapped up in one heart-wrenching long, lean and somewhat loony package. And now that I had run away to the ends of the earth I found I missed those days even more than I had before. I found myself wishing more and more that I could turn back time and have them—have him—back again and do everything right this time. Talk to him, tell him how I felt. Tell him the truth, even if it ended my life all the sooner.

Three months. And they had been just like Mulder. So bright they had blinded and burnt me and so dark you couldn't even cry it hurt so bad. Not that I had ever cried. Not anymore.

So when I felt those traitorous tears gathering now, I looked up at the ceiling over my head and forced them back. I rolled and wrapped my scant bedclothes tighter around me and tried to tune out the sounds of my neighbors in their own tiny apartments. The sounds from the street below. Sirens and shrieks and music and the sound of planes coming in low over the city, bringing in more refugees like me. Businessmen like my sweet Jeraldine. Maybe even a few of Cancerman's hired killers for all I knew.

And knew that when and if I slept tonight all my dreams would be of him. Of the man who had stood back and invited me into his home and shared a drink with me that I hadn't wanted and kiss that I did. Forgiving me my presumption of his sexual tastes. And of his loneliness.

Likely, the last thing he'd ever forgiven me of or ever would.

Still, I wished that he were here now, even sweating himself to death and half out of his head on drugs and hatred. I would have let him beat me if that's what he wanted, if only he would kiss me and fuck me afterwards. Like I'd always wanted him to do.

Even if he ended up killing me after that.

It would be worth it. Worth more than my miserable life, or what was left of it.

Worth more than a moment of silence in a city that had none to share. Nor, it seemed, any peace.

###

I guess you can get used to just about anything if you put your mind to it. Or if you really have no other choice.

Bad food, a scuzzy one room apartment with walls so thin they might as well be paper. Another language. Or a scattering of them. Hearing English had become a treat, a welcome little slice of home, much as the couple of CD's and magazines I'd splurged on when I couldn't hardly stand it anymore. A man can't live by noodles and rice alone.

Still, it had been a mistake. The money was going fast, faster than I'd even thought it would, and Jeraldine was being a shit and demanding more and giving less for ever bit of information I handed over to her. Like she knew I had very little choice.

None at all, more like. If I couldn't hide myself here then I couldn't hide myself anywhere. But here cost a hell of a lot of money even if you ate the cheapest food you could stomach and lived in a box where you had to share the antiquated toilet facilities with a dozen or more strangers and never went out and never did anything.

Still, after nearly two months here—with Christmas just around the corner and wasn't that a fucking kick in the teeth—I had gone far beyond looking for a little simple peace and quiet. 'Cause I'd started losing it big time.

The first time that I think it happened I'd just come from another snarling match with Jeraldine and suddenly found myself standing, just standing, in the middle of some street and staring up at nothing. At the non-existent sky. Cars and bikes zooming around me and horns blasting and people yelling at me in half a dozen languages, probably nothing any too nice, and hadn't known how I'd gotten there, let alone what I'd just been thinking or feeling.

If anything at all.

I'd gotten my ass out of there quick as I could once I'd realized what had happened, but then it'd happened again. And again. Once in a noodleshop and that must have been a small one, because no one else had seemed to have noticed and the only reason I did because between one mouthful and the next my steaming hot noodles had grown stone-cold. I'd splurged again that night once I'd gotten home. On a bottle of cheap booze, this time. Not that that form of unconsciousness had been very much better.

I'd only ended up tossing my cookies the next morning in that fucking communal bathroom and huddling under my blankets afterwards and holding the gun I'd also bought my first week in town to me like it might have the answers to my dilemma.

Maybe it did, but I wasn't quite ready to go there yet. I really wasn't.

But things always go from bad to worse, don't they? Because it was only after my third "absence" that Mulder turned up. Vicious little Jeraldine in tow and ass deep in trouble like usual. Dropping into my world like God's favorite practical joke. Looking at me with those accusing eyes and sniping at me like it was old home week and hadn't you gotten the invitation, you asshole, and completely ignoring that I was the one with the gun and he...wasn't.

In control. On his own turf. Anybody that mattered to me anymore.

Except that was a lie. And such a big whopper of one that it was all I could think about as I looked back at him in the dark office, my fingers tightening on the gun as if it could save me from this as well, from the hurt that wore his face. That wore my own.

So I ran. Like the coward he probably already believed me to be. Crashing out of that room and leaving him to the killers who followed him—like I really didn't give a damn, which was another lie, wasn't it?—and running and running until I had no more breath for it and stumbled to a halt at the mouth of some alley that smelled of fish and rancid oil and other things even my two months in Hong Kong couldn't yet identify.

My heart screaming at me and my throat closed up and my knees giving out, tumbling me down into a puddle of dirty water. Feeling not fear or anger or even regret in that instance, but sheer loneliness. Emptiness. Hopelessness that threatened to tear me apart, right down the middle. Where the wound had never healed.

Mulder...

All it had taken was one moment of his face, his eyes, that voice and I was undone. I was lost.

I was kneeling in a puddle of mud and stinking fish oil half-way round the world from home and with nothing left to look forward to but a bullet in the back. Wanting him so bad I couldn't stand it and hating him for having made me want him—the one man I could never have had. Hating him for having followed me here, to the scene of my desperation and shame.

Where he had sent me as much as the man who'd ordered me to betray him the first place.

And, suddenly, I was furious instead. The gun in my hand was just a gun again and not my last refuge, my last choice. And I surged back to my feet and turned around, heading back the way I'd come. Letting the sound and the fury both inside and out carry me along.

If he wanted to play games then I could spin the dice, too. If he wanted to follow me, then I could track him down and make him realize what he'd gotten himself into for once. Make him pay as I had paid.

Make him see...

The truths he had always most tried to avoid.

###

I came up behind him as he stood looking lost and pissed-off in front of a used bookstore. One hand up on the glass and staring hard into the window as if he could find me hiding inside by sheer will alone. Probably tucked away somewhere right between "Crime and Punishment" and a tattered copy of "The World's Greatest Cum Shots."

He froze in front of me as my gun barrel pressed seductively into the back of his neck.

"What do you think you're doing here, Mulder?" I hissed, unable to keep the anger out of my voice. Not even caring to.

"Arresting you."

"With what?" I pushed the barrel forward sharply, emphasizing the question. "Your good looks?"

I shoved at him then, guiding him around the corner of the building and into another one of those friendly alleys. At least this one didn't smell half as bad.

"You son-of-a-bitch," he ground out. His voice cracked. The sound of his own barely-restrained anger made mine flare even higher. I dug the gun deeper into his flesh.

"In case you're not aware of it, Agent Mulder," I said, keeping my voice low. "We're not in Kansas anymore. You have no jurisdiction here. No weapon. No badge that means a shit. I could just kill you right now. No questions. No sweat. No trouble."

"Like you left me back there?" he asked and the accusation was clear and it hurt because it was true. "Left me—like you left your partner—to die."

Again, his voice was nearly out of control, his emotions bleeding all over.

I shrugged, even though he couldn't see me. "She was ripping me off anyway."

"And that justifies it," he returned. "Oh. But that's right. You don't need any justification for murder, do you?"

The stung even worse, though I should have been expecting it.

I stepped back. "Turn around."

He did as I asked, though he didn't bother to raise his hands. No conciliatory gesture at all. He only glared at me, the pulsing blue light from the neon sign just past the mouth of the alley catching across half his face. It made him look pale and I wondered when he had last had a decent night's sleep. When he had last ate.

If he had as much trouble as I did lately doing either.

But he had been looking me over too and his appraisal was even less kind. "You look like shit," he said. "What's the matter? Life getting you down? Maybe you should try something different for a change. I know several people who'd be more than happy to help you out."

"You, for instance?" I couldn't help but ask. "Why, Mulder, I wouldn't have thought you so kind."

He didn't know quite how to respond to that. Several things passed over his face at the same time, then blanked out as if they had somehow canceled each other out.

I stepped back even further, getting my back to the wall. "Get going," I said, nodding down the narrow length of the alley.

He didn't move, though his gave flickered from the weapon in my hand and then, almost reluctantly it seemed, back up to my face. "Why?" he asked, so very quiet. "Just shoot me now and get it over with."

I smiled, though it cost me. "Thanks for the suggestion."

There was no smart-ass response to that, though I could see that had cost him in turn. Confusion swirled in those hazel eyes and I angled my own gaze away, not wanting to see it. Not wanting to let him know I was seeing it.

"Just move," I snapped. I brought the gun up a fraction, making the threat clearer.

He did as I asked this time. Not looking at me as he walked past where I stood. I followed him with the gun, then stepped in behind him. Close enough to make sure he wasn't going to run, not close enough for him to try and grab the weapon or do something else stupid. I was being stupid enough for both of us as it was.

Fifteen minutes later, I ushered him into the lobby of the building where I was staying. I had had to hide the gun once we'd entered the crowds, but he still hadn't tried anything. Maybe, he was just too tired. Or maybe that impetuous curiosity was still getting the better of him.

I punched for the elevator and, for once, when it got here it was empty. Mulder walked inside without a word, went to stand at the back. I kept my eye on him as I pushed the button for my floor. The broken mirror that lined the wall to his left cut the profile of his face into a thousand pieces and his eyes looked dark now in the subdued light inside the tiny compartment, even more hostile than before.

The tenth floor smelled, as it always did, of rice and fish and other, less savory, things. We passed the bathrooms on the way down the hall and Mulder shied a little away from it as he went by. One of the toilets looked to have overflowed again.

I ordered him to stop a few steps past my apartment. He started to turn around automatically, but went back to standing with his back to me when I shook my head at him. I almost expected him to try something when I fiddled with the key—it always had to be jiggled and fussed with—but he did nothing. Said nothing for once.

"Inside," I said then, stepping back to let him go in first.

He turned around and, not looking at me, walked into the room. I followed, knocking the door back shut behind me with my hip. I turned the lock without taking my eyes off him. But he only stood there, looking around the place. Not that there was much to look at, despite how much I had to pay for the damn thing.

One room, dimly lit by a low series of windows half covered over with ripped bits of paper. They let in the light from the street beyond in tattered shapes and colors, sharp flickers of neon. My make-do kitchen was in a slightly recessed area along the left hand wall. It held only a table, a couple of mis-matched chairs, a small fridge and a microwave. The rest of the room consisted of a long low table with a boombox, a small collection of CD's scattered next to it, a couple of paperbacks and magazines that had cost more than they should have. There was no closet and the single dresser I had acquired to replace that loss sat just beyond the top of my bed. Or, rather, my mattress—the side of it pressed hard up against the narrow stretch of wall just beyond the recessed area, my single pillow half-knocked off the top end, the sheets bunched up at the bottom. I hadn't bothered to make it up this morning. In fact, I hadn't bothered much in the last few weeks to be precise. My only lamp sat on the floor next to it, shadeless, the brass finish tarnished and dull.

I headed over to it, skirting around Mulder, and quickly bent and flipped it on. I stood up again and stared at the other man, my prisoner.

Mulder gave me a cool look in return. "Charming," he commented dryly. "Crime really does pay."

"Sit down," I said, gesturing with my gun at the mattress.

He shot me a quick unreadable look, then quite deliberately headed in the opposite direction, skirting the low table, before sinking down on the floor there with his back to the wall. There was a still, cold look on his face, complete defiance in the press of his lips, as if he were daring me to make something out of his disobedience. Daring me to start something. And when he glanced back up at me his eyes were anything but cool now—they wanted me to start something, to give him some reason to release the rage and the bitterness that glimmered in their depths.

Those eyes flickered when I shifted the gun off him, but he didn't move otherwise.

"What are you doing here, Mulder?" I asked.

"My job," he replied. He raised an eyebrow. "And you?"

I shook my head. "Just staying alive."

"Shame," he replied, mockingly, softly.

"You just don't get it, do you, Mulder?" I said and my voice was sharp and I hardly recognized it. "You're out beyond the edge here. I could bury you and no one would ever find you. No one would ever know what had happened to you. Not Skinner. Not your precious little partner. No one. This is my world."

Again those eyes swept the room, pointedly this time. "Obviously."

I didn't want to feel judged. I didn't want to feel ashamed of my surroundings, of my life, but somehow he did it to me anyway. But I was quickly realizing that I'd made an even bigger mistake than that by bringing him here. Now that he was actually in front of me again, now that we were alone together, all my good intentions were rapidly turning out of be false and flimsy things, lies that I had told myself. Lies that couldn't begin to bear the sheer physical reality of meeting those eyes again, seeing that face. Because I was remembering what it had felt to be touched by him, to touch him in turn, to kiss that angry mouth. To be enfolded in it, as deep as he could manage to take me—all sharp teeth and tender liquid heat and hurtling onwards towards a sweet oblivion that I had hardly imagined existed, let alone that I might deserve some of it.

He would bite it off if I tried that now.

"Do you want something to drink?" I asked, almost surprising myself with how pleasant I managed to make it sound. "Tea?"

He didn't bother to answer. Just sat there on my floor, glaring at me.

I sat down slowly, cautiously, on the edge of the mattress. Moved to rest the hand that held the gun across my knee, still not pointing it at him.

"Not in the mood for polite conversation then, I presume," I said. "So why don't you answer my first question then. Why don't you tell me why you're really here. What you were doing handcuffed to our Ms. Kallenchuk. Unless it was some kinky little sex game I was interrupting between the two of you."

"Fuck off, Krycek," Mulder snapped back.

"I tried that," I said in a half-way reasonable tone. "You followed me here. I didn't go looking for you." Which was a lie, but I wasn't going to give him that.

God, it hurt just to look at him...

But those self-same eyes had narrowed. "You're the one behind her, aren't you? You're the one that gave her that information. Information..." I could almost see the wheels spinning in his head, putting fact and conjecture together. "Information that she sold to those men, the ones who fronted for the expedition. The same men who were after her now. And you. Not very satisfied customers, were they? What did you do? Screw them, too?"

I felt as if I'd been punched hard. Fast and dirty. Somehow, though, I managed to turn my gasp for air into a laugh. A choked laugh, but a laugh all the same.

"Thank you so much. Mulder." Still, I couldn't look directly at him for a moment, not and see the pleased look that would be there—the triumph and the satisfaction that he had caused me pain. What the hell had happened to my control? What the hell had happened to my common sense. I didn't owe this man a thing; I should have left him to be robbed or murdered, left him to the streets.

As I had left him to be killed by the men who had come after me?

No...I hadn't wanted that...had I?

Ruthlessly, I pulled the shreds of my thoughts together, placed a coolness and a distance around me. Between the two of us. Only then, did I look back at him. And he wasn't looking pleased at all. Not in the least. He looked vulnerable and hurting and, even as our eyes met, his own walls slammed tight shut again, blocking out anything but the anger and the hate I had seen before.

"What do you want me to say?" I asked, then instantly regretted it. The road to ruin and, God, I was a fool for starting down it. "Do you want me to tell you I'm sorry? Well...we'd both know that's a lie, wouldn't we?"

"I don't want anything from you," he replied tightly.

I shook my head. "Well, that's a surprise. What's the matter with you Mulder? Not feeling well lately?"

Now he shook his head, laid it back against the wall with a sharp out rush of breath. "Nothing changes for you, does it," he said and it wasn't exactly a question. "Nothing matters to you except maintaining your own miserable little life a few seconds longer. Not how many fucking lies you tell, who you hurt, how many innocent people you kill. Nothing. All that means anything to you is precisely and only what furthers the cause of Alex Krycek. If that is even your real name."

I knew he was trying to make me angry, but the words and, even more so, the tone they were said in, betrayed something he probably didn't want me to hear, didn't want me to know. 'Who you hurt...' was what he had said, buried in all the rest of his words, but they were the ones that had stuck out at me, had struck me. The words that matched what was in his eyes.

"My," I said finally, and somehow I kept my voice remote. "What a bad opinion you have of me, Agent Mulder. It's almost enough to make me cry."

His face hardened even further, but he said nothing.

I got to my feet again and aimed the gun at him. "Get up," I said. "Turn around. Hands up on the wall."

He stared up at me for a long moment, then those hazel eyes blanked out. He slowly got up and faced the wall, placed his palms flat on the surface.

I moved up behind him and felt a sudden surge of pleasure move through me at seeing him stiffen slightly—obviously afraid, obviously trying to hide it—then was half-appalled at my own reaction. When had things gotten so out of hand? When exactly did I start to want to see him so scared of me?

"You didn't have to go to all this trouble," I suddenly realized he was saying, softly, though very clearly for all that. "Besides, blood's a horrible thing to have to try and clean up off the walls. Brains, even worse. Not that they're all that clean to begin with."

"Fuck you, Mulder," I said, but it came out mildly.

That earned me a tight little laugh of his own, one that he bit off just as sharply. His head came back a little. "Isn't that what you promised me once," he said, so quiet I almost could have thought I'd imagined it.

"Shut up," I said. "Close your eyes and don't move."

I watched him do as I said, then slipped back towards my dresser and yanked open the second drawer, delved around inside without turning my eyes away from the man leaning against the wall. Beneath a couple of t-shirts, I felt cool metal and swiftly grabbed it up. When I was behind him again, I tucked my gun into my jeans and before he could start to struggle, to protest, yanked one of his hands down from the wall and back. Snapped the handcuff closed on his wrist.

Mulder half-turned at the familiar sound, at the feel of it, and I quickly shoved him down to his knees. Still, he managed to get off a punch with his free hand, taking me hard in the ribs. It hurt and the sudden pain—the feel of him beneath my hands—made me press down on him even harder, bowing him towards the floor, and I yanked the arm I did have high up behind his back. He stifled a gasp, shifted, trying to throw me off, but I pushed down even harder on his back and somehow managed to snag his other arm, to twist it up behind him and snap the second cuff on his wrist. I let go of him then and stepped back.

He stayed there on his knees for a second, breathing hard, then straightened and looked at me. Looked right into my eyes and his own were vicious, murderous even.

"You son-of-a-bitch," he said.

"So you've already said," I answered, trying to keep my own tone light and failing. "You should have took the tea, Mulder. We could have kept this...more civilized."

"I'm going to kill you."

"I've heard that before, too. Funny how you keep never getting around to it." I pulled my gun back out and stepped to one side. "On your feet."

He put his head down for a moment, then pulled himself back up and, without looking at me, got his feet under him. I wanted to see his eyes again, but they were carefully averted now.

"Over here," I said. "Sit on the bed."

I almost expected him to look at me at that, to have some kind of reaction anyway, but he said nothing. Instead, he walked over to the bottom end of the mattress and turned, let himself slide down the wall until he was just barely sitting on the edge of it. It should have been an awkward move, but somehow he made it look almost graceful. Almost dignified.

He tilted his head at me.

I looked right back at him. Hardly able in that moment to believe he was really here. On my bed. Cool eyes and attitude and all. Maybe I was dreaming again, or maybe I'd flipped out in the middle of traffic again and had been hit by a car and was really dead right now. Dying.

Alone in a sea of alien voices.

Speaking of which.

"I could gag you," I said, faking a conversational tone. "I should gag you. Give me a reason not to and we can dispense with it, at least for the time being."

For a long moment, Mulder just glared up at me, then he nodded. Reluctantly, like he was agreeing to his own torture, but he agreed.

I made my tea and brought out one cup. Not making a point of it, but making a point of it. Disassembling and cleaning my gun in front of him, taking my time with it even though I could normally do it in just a few minutes, made even more of a point. One that I hoped he also appreciated.

I was nearly done when I glanced up once more to see Mulder's eyes were open, looking at me. They immediately sheered away as if he'd been caught doing something naughty.

I finished reassembling the gun, laid it down next to me, and picked up my tea. It was almost too cool now, but I drank the rest of it off anyway. When I lowered the cup, Mulder's eyes were on me again, or rather on the cup, following it down.

"You sure you don't want some?" I asked, even more gently than before. "I have more. If you want some."

He closed his eyes—a negative reaction—then swallowed heavily and opened them again. He gazed at me and his eyes were half resigned, half resentful. He nodded.

I got to my feet and slid my gun back away. Picked up my cup and went back to the kitchen. I refilled it with water and popped it into the microwave to heat. I only had enough tea left for a couple of more cups, but it didn't really matter. Tonight was the last I would see this place. If Mulder had found me here, then they wouldn't be far behind him. I would have find another hiding place, another country to hole up in. Preferably one with my own running water, my own shower this time. I had a sudden overpowering craving for a hamburger and fries as well and touched the tips of my fingers to the cheap little table I'd bought when I'd first moved in. It would be good to be home, even if it did put my enemies back on my doorstep.

The microwave beeped and I opened it, took out the hot cup. I put the tea in and some sugar—remembering that Mulder liked his coffee sweet—and realized I was running low on that as well. Just as well I was leaving. I stirred the tea for a while, watching it swirl from clear to pale brown to golden-dark, then set the spoon to one side and picked up the cup. It was hot, but I held it tight anyway, ignoring the dull pain. Mulder didn't bother to look up at me as I emerged and his distance was beginning to worry me. To bug me as well. It made me feel like shaking him, shoving him, smacking him—anything to get a reaction out of him.

I got down on the floor next to the mattress, next to him, and thought that his shoulders hunched up a little.

"Here," I said, holding the steaming cup out.

His eyes flickered at it, then his jaw tightened and somehow I knew, now that it was here, that he was going to refuse it after all.

I sat back, let the cup drop a little. Kept my voice calm and even. "This only has to be as difficult as you want to make it, Mulder. In the morning, I'll be gone. If you're good, I'll call in, get someone to stop by, let you go. If you're not...well, the rent here is paid up till the end of next month. Either way..." He was looking at me now and I faltered for a moment, then cursed silently at myself for it. "Either way, there's no reason you have to go thirsty, is there?"

Again a series of warring emotions, warring thoughts, flashed across his face, then he seemed to slump down a little again and he nodded, quick and short. As if acknowledging something that had to be done no matter how much he didn't want it and get it over with fast, if you would, if you please.

But I didn't want it to get over with. No matter, that it was the right thing to do, the smart thing. No. I had chosen to pull him into that alley. I had chosen to take him back with me. To hold him here. I had kept him close rather than putting space between us, rather than disappearing myself. There was nothing here I had absolutely needed to come back for. No reason I couldn't have just headed right to the airport, tried to fit myself onto a flight right out of here. Leaving Mulder two steps behind me, scouring Hong Kong for a man already half way back to the States.

No reason. And all the reasons in the world.

I lifted the cup and he tilted his head back a little, opened his mouth slightly. And, maybe, it was still a little too hot because he took a sip and immediately jerked his head back, almost knocking the cup out of my hand. "Shit, Krycek," he sputtered, liquid spilling down over his chin, onto his shirt.

"Sorry," I mumbled.

He glared at me as if it was something I'd done on purpose. As if I would actually do such a petty thing. He opened his mouth as if to snap something else at me, then abruptly closed it again. He turned his head away slightly, his eyes downcast.

I looked at the cup of tea in my hand, then set it down next to me on the floor. "Mulder," I said softly, then frowned at my own tone. Deliberately, I made my voice harder again. "Mulder, about what happened between us, I..."

That got his attention. He glanced back at me and those hazel eyes sharpened again. Quickened. "You what? What makes you think I'd want to hear anything you have to say. That I could possibly believe anything you have to say." His voice had been steadily rising, but it suddenly stopped again, went quiet, almost as if collapsing under the weight of his own anger. He looked away. "Anything at all."

I looked down at the cup. Picked it back up off the floor and took a long gulp of the still-hot tea. It burned my mouth but I drank it off anyway, more than half-emptying the cup. When I lowered it again, Mulder's eyes were on me. Resentful. Speculative.

"So, what was the plan?" he asked, ignoring the fact that he'd just said he didn't want to know, didn't want to hear. "Shoot a few dirty pictures? Try and blackmail me off the X-Files? Or, better yet, right out of the Bureau?"

I said nothing for a long moment, not knowing which answer would make it better or worse, if there even was any answer that could possibly make it better. But my hesitation—or maybe it was something in my face—gave me away.

"He didn't know, did he," Mulder said smoothly. His eyes were shocking in their intensity, boring into me. Then, as if that were too much even for him, he blinked and turned his face away a little again. Still, I could see the struggle in him and felt a trickle of embarrassment over it, a tiny flare of guilt. But it turned to anger a moment later when he focused on me once more and his mouth was turned down with disgust, with all the distaste of a man who'd just bitten into something rotten.

"So, Krycek," he said, his voice low and tight. "What did you do it for then? To get even more of a sick pleasure out of betraying me?" And he let out a short laugh, then seemed to catch that back as well, and all the emotion in his face faded, as if all the color had been leached out of him.

I opened my mouth, ready to give the quick answer this time, the answer he was so obviously expecting, then shut it again. I didn't have to explain myself to this man. I didn't have to give him anything. I should have just damn well gagged him after all.

I glanced away, down at the half-empty cup of tea in my hand, and something twisted inside me, icy cold and yet hot at the same time. His eyes looked so dead right now and I didn't want them to be dead, didn't want...couldn't stand for him to be dead inside. Dead as I was dead sometimes. A lot of the time. Even hatred would be better than that, even his fists pounding into me. His screams and his threats.

And, suddenly, I couldn't stand to be even this close to him. I backed away and got to my feet, started to turn away, to head back towards the tiny kitchen area. Where he wouldn't be able to see me. Where I couldn't see him. But somehow I felt his eyes following me and glanced back. Only to have them trap me after all, drag me to a halt.

"Krycek." Soft, so soft. Deceptively soft—the velvet before the blade. My fingers tightened on the cup, as if so fragile a thing could keep me from the chasm opening up before me. So deep and black and cold, bone-numbing cold. A depth no one should be forced to know, let alone live with.

"Alex," he said this time, and that was even worse. "What was the lie you told yourself then? C'mon, I want to know. I want to know what can make someone so fucking cruel." Again, a bare hint of a laugh, not humorous in the least. Not even coming close to touching his eyes. "What? Did your daddy beat you? Did he lock you away in a closet for hours at a time, no food, no water? Or did he just force you to suck him off night after night?"

None of it was true, but it hurt anyway, sucked all the air out of me. And the chasm grew even larger in response, a great echoing empty space before my feet, and now I could see myself at the bottom of it, could see my death there. Some alley like the one I'd grabbed Mulder in, reeking of garbage and piss and stagnant water, and I was lying in it, dying in it. The side of my face resting on the cold ground. My eyes filled with bleak pain. One hand pressed hard to my stomach, restless fingers slick with blood. More blood on the ground beneath me, pooling beneath me.

Shuddering, too tired to even cry out anymore and I suddenly couldn't stand it...couldn't bear the thought of dying like that...so empty inside, so alone...so goddamned alone...

I turned back around slowly to face him directly and Mulder's eyes immediately went to my own. His expression changed minutely, but it did change.

"No," I said, then ground to halt as I heard how strange my voice sounded, how ragged and hollow. I drew in a couple of long breaths and somehow—at a costly tearing effort—managed to get some measure of control back. Still, my stomach was a hard knot and I ached so damn bad inside that I felt as if I had really been shot, was right this moment lying there in that dark place, lying in a pool of my own blood.

But Mulder's face had gone quiet, expectant, and obviously he was hoping to twist the blade now that he felt he had gotten it into me. And, despite the fact that I had the gun here, that the man before me was restrained, I was the one suddenly who felt powerless. Like those eyes could simply peel my skin right off me if they so desired, expose the fragile nerves beneath to air and pressure and pain.

"The lie...the lie that I told myself," I repeated finally, hardly able to get it out, let alone hear it. "It was...that it would mean nothing to me. That it meant...nothing...to me."

I paused then, struggling with myself, with impossible discordant impulses—to stop right there after already having said too much, to go on and make it even worse, to get the hell out of here, to just pull out my freshly cleaned gun and kill the man sitting there and looking at me, staring up at me...

"You expect me to believe that?" he asked and his voice was stripped down as well. His eyes were burning. "When you were working for him the whole time. Reporting to him. Spying on us. When you arranged to have Scully kidnapped. When you murdered my father. And you ask me to believe that?"

My mind flashed to that night in back of his apartment building—to when those same eyes had poured into me as he held me down beneath his weight, his anger. When he had screamed at me over and over again, railed at me to admit that I'd killed his father. And I had thought that that mad fury had been drug-induced at the time, but here it was again and it was Mulder after all. Mulder's exquisite hate for me and everything to do with me. And I couldn't blame him and I couldn't face him and, please, why wouldn't it stop...just stop...I couldn't...

"No." I heard a strangled voice say.

"No," Mulder echoed, a sharp staccato sound. "You're such a work, Krycek. I'm going to be so glad when somebody finally blows your head off. Hell, maybe I'll even get lucky enough to watch."

"I wouldn't trying dancing on my grave quite yet, Mulder," I somehow managed to get out in response. A feeble rejoinder, but the best I could do right at the moment.

But he was relentless. "It's just a matter of time though, isn't it? Or do you manage to lie to yourself about that, too?"

Something ground down then—all broken teeth and jagged gears in my head—and I looked at him, right into those eyes, and knew that my face, my own expression, had finally come back under control again, that it had gone flat and emotionless. "Yes," I said, and my tone was cool as well, almost pleasantly cool. "It's just a matter of time. The least I can do for you, don't you think."

He blinked at that, slightly taken aback despite himself, then recovered just as quickly. "Well," he said. "At least we agree on something."

This time, when I turned away, he let me and it was only once I was out of his sight, back in the kitchen alcove, that I was caught by what had just happened, by what I had betrayed to him, betrayed about myself. All the calm I had somehow succeeded in forcing upon myself vanished like a cool dream. Desperately, I slid the cup onto the top of the table before it could fall out of my hand. Then grabbed the edge of the table myself as my knees went weak, started to spill me down to the floor as well. And I realized that my arms and shoulders were shaking so hard they could hardly hold me up. That my mouth had gone dry, my throat closing up.

The taste of blood and the taste of despair, thick and sickening, mingling into some solid mass that threatened to choke me.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. God, I really didn't deserve to live much longer. Didn't deserve...

I pulled out one of my chairs and managed to lever myself down into it. Bent over and gasped for air as quietly as I could, dimly aware that I did not want him to hear me. To know what he had done to me. Not that I hadn't been on the edge already, even before seeing him walk into that room. Being on the run can do that to you. Being alone so much of the goddamned time.

Having so many people around who want to, as Fox Mulder so succinctly put it, "blow your head off."

I had an almost overwhelming longing for something stronger than tea, something to numb me up, make me stop feeling. But I had nothing and, anyway, I had done that far too often lately. Drowning myself in the stuff as if it could make me forget...

That I had chosen to seduce the man in the first place.

That I had chosen to pull that trigger.

That I had brought him here now, stolen him for my own personal hell, dirty window dressings and all.

And there was no way out of any of this, no way to truly escape no matter how much whiskey or vodka you could drink. As if they could ever do more than cloud the inevitable. They certainly couldn't stop it.

A soft rhythmic thumping sound from around the corner brought my head back up. Made my heart jump. For a second, I flashed on the thought that they had found me as Mulder had found me. I got to my feet in the next instant and slid my gun back out, went to peer carefully back out into the main part of the room. I half expected to see various dark-dressed men pouring through the window. Something. Anything but what was really going on.

Mulder was banging his head back against the wall, his eyes tight shut, such a look of concentrated agony on his face that it almost didn't look human.

But, even as I watched, the movement slowed and stopped and his head fell forward. A long shuddering breath ran up out of him. His shoulders abruptly hunching forward as well, as if he was only one short step away from curling up completely.

And I dimly realized that he was running too and if I thought I'd known pain before, I was wrong. It wrapped itself around me, around my chest, tight, so tight I couldn't hardly breath. While the whole room seemed to darken, leaving only one sight, one vision clear anymore—that bowed head, those hands twisting and twisting in the handcuffs, his shoulders starting to shake a little now too.

My first impulse was to go to him. My second to fade back again, leave him alone, leave him to compose himself. But, in the end, I just stood there, unable to move forward, unable to go back. Then, without warning, he lifted his head again and turned it and looked right at me. Looked right at the gun still in my hand and whatever emotion that had had him in its grip faded away so rapidly I would have thought it had never been there at all. Except for the slight sheen of tears in his eyes.

As that look was replaced by one of dull resignation, of weary acceptance. And he straightened a little, minutely, as if readying himself for something.

For me to shoot him.

And then I really couldn't breathe. Couldn't do anything by stare back at him. A moment passed, two, an eternity, and then he blinked and slowly, so slowly, as if all his joints ached, he turned his head away again and just sat there, silent, unmoving.

"I'm still a little thirsty," he said, his voice far too gentle right now. "If you have some more of that tea."

"Yeah," I said, my own voice sounding like I hadn't used it in days. "Sure."

He said nothing this time as I gave him the tea. Said nothing when the last of it was gone, only let himself sink slowly down the wall to lay on his side on the edge of the mattress. His face had gone still as well, unreadable, and his whole manner was muted, withdrawn. He was staring at the row of windows at the far end of the room as if it was the more fascinating thing in the world and the chaotic flash of the neon lights outside reflected back in his own eyes, were dimmed.

I set the empty cup down, then went to sit on the opposite end of the mattress from my prisoner, shoving my pillow up against the wall to lean against. Laying my gun down next to me, between us. Let my hand rest right next to it. And, God, I was suddenly so tired. Tired right up to the edge of haziness, of unreality. Not that I could sleep. Not that I felt I could ever sleep again.

Somewhere outside my closed door, voices approached and then passed on down the hall. A man said something and there was the answering sound of a woman's laughter and something about it made me suspect that she'd had more than a few already tonight. It was just a little too high, a bit out of control. I wondered if she was somebody out there's sister, their girlfriend. Their whore.

"You're wrong," I said when the sounds had faded away again, when a door had closed in the distance. "Not everything has to be complicated. There aren't always ulterior motives, dark purposes, malicious powers at work. Sometimes, people just make mistakes. Sometimes...they just want to forget for a little while."

For a long moment, I thought that he wasn't listening, wasn't going to respond, then I felt more than saw his eyes on me. "So that's what I was," he said quietly. "A distraction? I'm flattered. Really."

At that last word, there was a hint of his usual dry wit, but still I didn't look at him, didn't even glance over at him.

"No," I said. "You were a mistake. My mistake."

"Even more flattering," he said. "Keep it up and I might be so overcome I'll forgive you everything."

"I'm not asking that," I said and had to fight to keep my voice calm. Reasonable.

"Then what do you want?" he snapped, losing the fine edge of his own temper again.

The answer was one word—one dreadful appallingly mind-numbing and gut-wrenching word—and I couldn't say it. Shouldn't even be thinking it. But at the same time, I couldn't quite stop myself either—found the very insanity of it appealing—anymore than I had been able to resist going to him that first time. Our only time.

And I did want to say it. Wanted to believe it. Wanted more from him, no matter the cost.

But still I stalled. I fought blindly with that impulse. And it tore at me, threatened to rip me right down the middle, and I found myself breaking under the weight of it. Being ground down and down until all I could think of anymore was the thought that I was going to die soon anyway—die as Mulder had so darkly predicted, as he had delighted in taunting me—and so what point did that leave anymore in playing things safe. Far better to be damned for what you've done than for all that you haven't.

To be damned for what little good as well as the bad.

I took one long careful breath, feeling almost as if it were my last, and finally turned my head, looked right at the man at the other end of the mattress.

"What I want...?" I repeated. "What I want, Mulder. Right now. Is you."

He didn't respond for several seconds, not even a flicker in the depths of those incredible eyes, and then his jaw tightened.

"Is that the truth," he said and I couldn't read his tone at all. Not quite sarcasm, not quite shock.

I lifted my head slightly, feeling oddly relieved, a little angry, almost defiant. I stared right back into those hazel eyes of his—so bright, so sharp, so discerning—and knew I was daring him, was daring myself, and still couldn't back away from it.

"You're the expert," I said. "You tell me."

He started to say something, but cut himself off. His mouth thinned out and if I had thought his look intense before I was wrong. I felt pinned down by him, analyzed and catalogued, a specimen laid out under the merciless gaze of some scientist. The way Dana Scully must look at her corpses before she cut them open, dug her hands deep into their guts.

"You aren't..." he said, then paused to swallow, to steady his voice. "You aren't lying, are you? Not about this anyway." He shook his head, but still his gaze didn't relent. "You're even sicker than I thought. How can you...?"

"Justify it?" I cut in. I shook my own head.

"No," he said. He laughed, a quick unpleasant sound, and looked away at last. "No, I don't imagine you spend much time in justifying it. Justifying anything. You were just there to follow orders and it meant nothing to you. Not some old man. Not my partner. Not letting me think you were vulnerable, that you needed...needed somebody that night. That you needed me." That last was said so soft I almost could have thought I'd imagined it.

"You're right there," I said. "I don't need anyone."

Something flickered across the other man's face and I knew he heard that for the lie it was.

But I couldn't even leave that alone. "I wasn't following orders that night," I said, laying it all out in plain sight. Giving him the rope to hang me. The poison to stop my heart.

The key to my dark prison.

His jaw tightened again, then released. His eyes flickered, not settling on anything too long. Not looking at me.

I fought not to get up, to retreat back to the kitchen area. Or, better yet, to just pick up my gun and disappear out that door. Back out of his life. To simply accept my own doom and let it go at that. No witnesses. No mourners. Nothing but the cold. Acceptance of my fate. Of the fact that I had nothing left to hope for.

Least of all this...this untenable...this impossible...downright fucking painful thing that had come to lie between us.

"Krycek, you..." I heard him say at last, his own voice tired. "You don't...you can't..."

"I can't?" I said. "Why, Agent Mulder, wasn't that enough truth for you? What more do you want? An engraved invitation? A public apology? For me to pick up this gun and blow my own damn head off for you?"

That got his attention. And I realized that my gun was in my hand, though I wasn't yet pointing it at anybody. Not at him. Not at myself. Though I could.

Because I wouldn't have to be alone when it happened. I wouldn't have to face that alley and that lonely death, not if...

"Go ahead," he said. "Don't let me stop you."

I narrowed my own eyes, but let nothing else touch my face. Now he was pushing me as I had pushed him and I couldn't fault him for it.

And I had a quick flash of seeing my face in that mirror, in that dirty little motel bathroom, and how I had imagined him holding a gun on me. Making me submit. Making me pay for that I had done to him. And how I had gotten off on it—Mulder's cruelty and his cock, the thought of the pain he could give me. The pain that I, somehow, wanted. As if it were better than nothing.

I lifted the gun to the side of my face, stroked the cool length of the barrel down my cheek, and then raised my hand higher and turned the weapon—a quick, smooth-sharp gesture—until it was lined up with my forehead. Metal to bone.

And I could feel how little it would take to pull that trigger, such a small effort for so fatal a result. I had done it before. I had killed with even less reason than this. Killed and walked away as they had taught me—don't ask questions, don't dwell on it. Don't think you were anything other than theirs to do with as they wished. To use and then throw away. Just a blackened corpse in some rented car. A body to be cut open, identified, then quietly buried.

Perhaps with bright little Agent Scully and her laconic partner come to stand over the open grave after all. Just to make damn sure I really ended up in it.

Mulder's eyes never left mine, though somehow I knew he saw my finger tightening on the trigger, just a little pressure, not quite enough. Not yet. But so close, so close I could almost taste it. Could feel what it would be like—the impact, the sharp sheering of pain, then nothingness. Blackness and an emptying out into an even greater blackness. And would it bring me peace at last, or nothingness, or damnation after all?

Not that I really wanted to believe in that, but if it was real I most certainly deserved it.

If only for what I had done to this man.

This man that I...that I...

Something must have changed in my face, shown in my eyes, for Mulder's head suddenly shifted a little, tilted up, and his own eyes softened slightly. "No," he said, hardly more than a whisper. "Alex..."

His tone pulled at me, dragged me back from the edge, spilling sharp little pieces of hurt and disbelief and anger all through me—anger at myself for actually letting myself get this close to actually doing it, hurt at him for pushing me to it. Still, I didn't let the gun fall, though my finger loosened a hair on the trigger.

"Regret, Mulder?" I said, my voice harsh even to my own ears. "Or is it just that you'd really like the honors yourself?"

He didn't respond, though several emotions chased across his face before he closed it down again.

I fought not to snarl something cold and unforgiving at him, then fought an equally caustic grin. Finally, I just settled for letting the gun slip down the side of my face, slid it along the line of my jaw towards my mouth. "Or, maybe," I said. "You'd just like to see me suck on it first. What do you say, Mulder? Should I do that for you? Or should I do something else for you? Something a little less fatal. Something we both might enjoy."

He swallowed and I thought it was an involuntary response. Because the look in his eyes didn't change, though the hardness didn't come back at least.

"Do I have a choice about it?" he asked at last and the almost relaxed tone of the question, so casual, so easy, sent an uneasy feeling through me.

I let my hand fall slowly, spill over to my side and the gun was loose in my fingers now. Almost resting on the sheet all by itself. Mulder's eyes followed it down, then looked back up at me.

"What do you think?" I said and the words came out sharp, bitten off. "God, Mulder, you must really imagine me some kind of monster. But, then, maybe that makes it all the easier for you. Makes you feel...justified...in knocking me around."

His eyes flickered at my deliberate use of the word he'd denied me earlier. Still, the rest of his face was carefully blank as he slowly and carefully managed to push himself back up to a sitting position. Part of me wanted to reach out to help him, but part of me feared getting too close. Feared seeing his withdrawal from me. A return of that explosive rage.

Finally, he leaned back against the wall, his head turned away slightly, his handcuffed hands knitted together behind him. "It would...it is easier," he admitted, his voice subdued. "And when I don't see you, it seems even simpler. Matter of fact. Your death for my father's, for Melissa's. For every damn thing that's gone wrong."

"I didn't kill Melissa," I said softly.

He shook his head a little. "You were there, though, weren't you."

I didn't answer, which was an answer.

He let out a sharp breath.

"I almost did it, though," he said at last. "That night. I was out of my mind, but I almost did it. If Scully hadn't been there. If she hadn't stopped me..."

"I'd be dead now," I said. "Yeah, I remember." I also remembered wishing she hadn't interfered.

I sucked in a long breath of my own, let it out roughly.

Mulder glanced over at me, but I refused to meet his eyes.

"Which brings us to my cozy little bachelor pad here," I said. "And you still haven't answered my question."

For a moment, I thought he'd try and pretend he didn't know what I was talking about, but he never forgot anything.

"Just..." he said finally. "Just drop it, will you, Krycek."

"But I don't want to," I replied, then shrugged. "You could consider it payment if you like. I realize it's for something I can never pay off really, but what the hell? It's better than the gun. Better than what's waiting for me back home. Or for you, I imagine. Isn't that the real truth, Mulder?"

"You don't know me," he said. "You never knew a damn thing about me."

It was a futile protest. I think he knew it even as he said it and said it anyway.

"I know one thing," I said softly. In almost a whisper. "I know I still want you."

Despite the softness of my voice I saw him flinch. Saw the flash of pain in his eyes. He took in a shallow breath.

Before he could speak, I added one more damning sentiment.

"That I...regret, Mulder. That particular betrayal the most."

They say that confession is good for the soul. I just wish I knew if I still had one. But it definitely seemed as if I was on a roll—for good or for bad—since he still wasn't saying anything. Hadn't yet spit in my face...

"That...if anyone, Mulder," I added and that was even softer, so soft I wondered if he could even hear me. "If anyone it would be you. It...would have been you."

He blinked then and I watched as his face twisted, as the hate and the pain pulled it out of shape. Made it almost ugly.

"Bullshit," Mulder ground out and that was even uglier. Harsh and unremitting. "You expect me to believe...fuck you, Krycek."

"Believe what you like," I replied. "You usually do." And, suddenly, I was too tired to do this anymore. To face down that anger and that shame, here where I was the most vulnerable to both. Mulder's fists I could have took again—they could only break my body, after all—but I had risked everything at the last. Told him the truth and, though most of me could have seen it coming, the reaction still hurt.

Maybe I should have just pulled that trigger.

There was nothing here. Nothing in those eyes but hate. Nothing between the two of us but more hate. Hate and lies and illusion.

I rolled off the mattress and to my feet. Feeling Mulder's gaze on me the whole time, I went back over to my dresser and put the gun down on top of it, then dug around in the same drawer as before.

"Here," I said, my voice still amazingly calm-sounding, flat. I turned back around and pitched the handcuff key right at him. "Get out of here, Mulder."

It landed in his lap and he stared down at it a second, then maneuvered around until he had it in one hand and could unlock the cuffs. Getting to his knees as he fumbled the key to the lock and got the metal bracelets loose from his wrists. His eyes on me the whole time, more dark now then hazel, watching me as if he expected this sudden turn of events to be some kind of trick.

Finally, the cuffs dangled from one thin finger and he was pushing himself to his feet and I turned away at the sight. Laid my right hand on the dresser top, right next to my gun, but not quite touching it.

If he tried to cuff me in return I would resist. But if he tried to take the gun I didn't know what I was going to do. I wouldn't go back with him no matter what, but I didn't want to fight with him anymore. He would either have to kill me or leave.

Both options felt pretty much the same right now.

I sensed his presence behind me one moment before I saw his hand. It slid around me, almost but not quite touching me, and settled on the gun. And, despite my resolve, my weariness, I felt myself tense. But that tension gave way to a different kind of breathlessness as Mulder's hand only hesitated there, then moved again. Sliding on top of my own hand this time, fingers matched to my fingers, his thumb folding into the depths of my palm. Like it knew it had a home there.

He squeezed my hand, gently but firmly, and then I felt the rest of him move to press up against me. His other arm pushing beneath my own and taking me around the chest. Tight and tight, pulling me completely into the length of his own body. To all those angles and bones I remembered from so long ago.

Suddenly, shockingly, I was dizzy. My vision blurring and my stomach clenching hard around the nothingness that had been fed to it in the last couple of days. The floor shifted beneath me and then seemed to fall away completely. Dumping me down the full ten stories below and me screaming all the way. Though no one ever seemed to hear me. No one but the man holding me now.

"You should have killed me, too," Mulder breathed into my ear. Close, so close. Then his hand compressed mine to the point of pain and he shoved at me, spinning me out and around to face him. I was thrown off balance and he was forced to catch me at the last moment, to pull me back to him. Gripping the back of my neck now and the sleeve of my jacket.

Fingers digging in to both places as he kissed me, his mouth hard, uncompromising. Bruising my lips as he forced them apart, as he pushed his tongue inside deep as it could go.

I tasted blood and Mulder, salt and copper and cheap jasmine tea, and a desperation almost as ragged as my own.

Like no one could hear Mulder screaming either. Never had. Never could.

No one but me and maybe that was the root of it all and the simplicity. That the darkness fed into the light and the light was devoured by the dark and that we were but mirrors of each other. Bound by lies and need and truth and terror and very little else. Certainly not by kinder things.

Still, I didn't struggle, not even when I felt like I was about to suffocate. Because I could feel his hard cock riding up against my thigh and that was the best illusion in the world.

Nearly as good as the ones that my own mind had come up with for me—getting knocked around by him, getting dragged out of a shower and damn well raped by him. And if that's what Mulder wanted right now then I wasn't going to fight that, either. I would bend over. I would bare myself.

After all, I'd done it once already tonight and at least I might get some pleasure out of this more physical surrender.

He couldn't hurt me any less.

It was Mulder who finally pried his mouth away from mine. Panting hard and glaring at me as if I'd been the one to kiss him.

"Bastard," he gasped. "Why did you have to...?"

He stopped then, his head going down to rest against my chest, breathing hard and fast, his shoulders shaking a little. His hands pinched at me, tore at me, and then slowly released me and began to slide away. As he started to back away. Still not looking at me.

I caught his arm at once and pulled him back a half step. Pressed his fingers, his palm, flat to my chest. Right over my heart. His fingers were trembling, too. Long-boned and fine and strong as they were.

"Mulder," I said. And there was that pitiful nakedness again. Still, I couldn't stop. "Don't do this to yourself. Just go. Please."

That last word hurt most of all and I saw it hit Mulder hard. Harder than he probably liked, let alone would admit to. His shoulders bunched up and he turned his head further away, the tendons standing out rigidly in his neck. His pulse racing against mine, ricocheting fast and faster.

"Or stay," I went on and that was even more naked. But I couldn't help myself. I couldn't help him. "Just for tonight if you like. It doesn't have to mean anything. Mulder."

He gave a short painful-sounding laugh at that, still not looking at me. "Like it ever did?"

I didn't answer and, after a long moment, he finally raised his head again and looked at me. And there was a hint of humor in his eyes oddly enough, buried beneath a bleak resentment and a brittleness that I had never noticed before. Or, maybe, I'd never wanted to notice it.

To think I could break this man as he had broken me. With just a couple of kisses. One short night. One fragile word.

Unspoken. Fucking obvious.

But his eyes were already dropping, as if he'd realized he'd gone too far.

"I can't," he said.

"You can't what, Mulder?" I asked reasonably. "You can't stay? You can't go? You can't just...kill me like you think you want to."

"No," he breathed and it was in answer to all three.

"Then take me," I said and now my hand closed tight on his. Drew him even closer. "Take me. Fuck me. Hurt me. Whatever it takes. I've been dead, Mulder, and it's no place to be. And there's no going back, you know. Hell, there's probably no going forward. Which leaves now, Mulder. Just...now."

I leaned forward that last little space that remained between us and whispered it to his closed mouth, to those stern swollen lips.

"Now. Please."

He didn't flinch, this time, but I felt his hand twitch beneath mine. Felt as well as saw a tiny shiver run all through him.

He lifted his head slightly, pulling his mouth away from mine, and looked at me. And I had seen that look in his eyes before, that emptiness and that need. It was the expression of a man who was about to hit the pavement, who had just taken that fucking long drop, and now knew that there would not only be no one there to catch him at the bottom, but that no one would even care that you had fallen at all.

And that hurt worse than having every damn bone in your body busted up.

"You think I won't kill you?" he asked.

I kissed him quickly, lightly.

"I think you will," I replied. And he would—not with a bullet or a gun or a bomb or even a well-placed blow, but with this.

With these lips that I bent to kiss again and was pleased to feel them open for me this time, to feel Mulder's tongue questing out to stroke along my own.

With these hands that escaped from my own grip to touch me, to slide along my back and mold me tight and tighter to his body. To that ever straining cock.

Yeah, he would kill me. He would kill me with his flesh and with his fire and his unstoppable drive to find answers to all his questions, no matter how deadly the cost. Because that's the way he was; Fox Mulder would unravel the mysteries of the universe if he could, no matter that it might kill him in the process. That it just might end up killing all the rest of us.

My own life—such as it is—wouldn't be such a loss when you came right down to it, and as for the rest...

But I couldn't bring myself to give up on Mulder, no matter how much he claimed to hate me and how often he hurt me. None of that seemed to matter when I was with him and I couldn't seem to walk away from him for long and, certainly, had never been able to stomach the thought of actually killing him. He haunted my sleep, had hacked and burned his way right through my best fantasies. Hell, sometimes I swear he lived in my good right hand.

The one that infrequently pummeled and punished my cock into sweet oblivion when I absolutely couldn't stand it anymore. When even a whore was too much pain. Or that damn bottle too near.

Maybe I should tell Mulder about my "black-outs" and then he could climb in there, too. Have the bit of me that even I couldn't have.

"Mulder..." I began, but he only closed up my mouth with his tongue. With the harsh demand of his lips. And then I was being rocked back, being pushed down, and I felt my bed at my back and was being laid out on those rumpled sheets. His weight coming down on top of me, pressing me into the folds. Into the pair of handcuffs that he had left abandoned by my pillow.

It cut into my shoulder and I squirmed away from it slightly. He must have caught the movement, though, because one hand slid under me and reclaimed it. Hazel eyes looking at both it and me for one long moment, before he flung the offending object across the room.

I didn't know if what I was feeling was relief or disappointment, but then even that thought went away as he simply pressed down on me again, his mouth snaking in to bite at my exposed neck. Hard enough to leave marks, nearly hard enough to make me bleed. I moaned but he was already moving to lap along my collarbone, to poke the tip of his tongue into the vulnerable hollow of my throat.

This...this was what had been missing from deep inside me. This was what had left me a ghost among the living, already dead and yet unable to die. According to the info on that stolen tape, our world was on the edge of Armageddon, the Last Judgment, annihilation, extinction, and yet none of that mattered to me anymore. None of it could matter as long as Mulder was touching me, was with me, and if that was sad and sick and selfish and wrong then so be it.

I'd never claimed to be a saint.

I couldn't even make much of a claim of being sane these days.

Which, even more than having him lying on top of me and kissing me like he was—as if I was his own Armageddon and his own annihilation—put me right up Mulder's twisted little alley.

He began to rip at my jacket, trying to get it off my shoulders, and I half sat up and obliged him. His own coat and shirt came off at the same time, followed by my own overly fragrant t-shirt. Mulder didn't seem to care. He simply chucked the offending pieces of clothing off in the general direction that the handcuffs had taken and then pushed me back down. His mouth going directly to my chest now, teeth sinking in around my right nipple and then my left. It hurt, but the pain was delicate, a liquid heat that had me lifting up into his mouth. Begging for more.

For the tongue that swirled and soothed the bitemarks, that tracked down the center of my chest. Mulder's hands moving to hold my shoulders tight to the mattress as I automatically tried to squirm away from the tickle at my stomach. At my navel. Drinking there as he had drunk from my throat. As if two-days old sweat and salt were a fine wine.

I stared down at the top of his head as he tortured me, wanting to touch him in return, to pull him back upwards for another taste of that mouth, but unwilling to fight him for the privilege of it. Unable to risk him changing his mind and leaving me alone once again. Leaving me to the dark and the cold and the uncertainty.

So, instead, I laid my own head back down again and did nothing, even as his hands unwound from my shoulders and began to trace their own way down. Those short nails pressing in so hard that they actually left scratches on my bare skin, livid red marks to match the ones around my nipples. Like he couldn't bear the smoothness of my flesh and needed to scar it, to ruin and ravish it.

To make me less than perfect.

Not that I was. One look in my eyes on a bad day, when I couldn't find the energy, let alone the desire to hide anymore, and just anyone would see what I really was. What they had made me and what I had allowed myself to be made. They would be able to see the dried black blood and all the jagged glass bits and the haunted ruins that I walked in. All the lives I had taken and the lies I had told.

And I suddenly wanted him to scar me. I wanted him to fill his hands with that broken glass and all those rotting black bits and rip them right up out of me. Even if it killed me. Especially if it killed me.

"Mulder..." I said, but I was choking on the taste of my own despair. On the feel of his fingers opening my jeans. Reaching inside. Curling around my cock and squeezing it hard enough to hurt, making me gasp and arch my hips. Wanting to pull away. Wanting to thrust up. Unable to do both at the same time, even if Mulder often made me imagine I could do anything if I wanted it bad enough.

Or, maybe, that was just him.

"Mulder..."

"Shut up," he mumbled, squeezing down again. It was a powerful deterrent.

He must have known it, too, because he didn't let go of me even as his other hand worked to strip my jeans down off my hips. I lifted up slightly to help him, only to have his fingers tighten on my cock again. Just a warning, this time, but one that made me catch my breath and sink back down again.

I felt cool air cross my groin. I felt my jeans roughly pulled down my thighs and left to catch on my knees, inside-out and bunched up so tightly that if there were any blood left in my legs I would have been in trouble.

If there was any blood left anywhere but in my cock. Which was even now leaping into his hand as if it had any real hope of getting away. Not from those long fingers and, certainly, not from the lips moving to imprison the head. Heat battling heat. Teeth abruptly closing on me, as if he intended to scar me here as well. To leave his mark.

I jerked—away, definitely away, this time—but he held me easily. His own hissed warning making me aware, as if I already wasn't, that any hurt I suffered in the process of trying to escape would be of my own doing. And it was difficult, impossible really, but I forced myself back to stillness. My stomach clenched tight as a rock inside me and my pulse deadening my ears and every damn nerve in my body seeming to twitch and shiver at once. Like an electrical charge gone wrong.

But then it all suddenly went right as his mouth moved down again and my cock slipped in past those lips and deep, deep inside. Deeper than I would have thought possible. His throat shivering around me. And then just as quickly forcing me back out again, leaving just the head inside at last. His lips compressing themselves to hold me there, even as his tongue drove again and again into the most sensitive spot like a sharpened blade.

And I myself crying out. As I realized the fatality of the attack, the sheer mortality of skin and blood and breath.

The futility of dream versus reality.

As Fox Mulder went down on me, his head beginning to bob as he forced my cock between teeth and lips and throat over and over, making it do what he wanted it to do. Making it touch what he wanted touched. Making it feel what he wanted it to feel. Half-biting, half-licking, swallowing my length one moment and then nearly squeezing it out of existence the next.

Using it. Using me. As if he wanted to destroy me, but couldn't quite decide if he wanted to do it with pain or with pleasure.

And I might have come anyway, if he hadn't pulled back at the last and took my balls in his other hand and squeezed them as well. Hard enough to force a soft scream from me, to force another instinctive, though half-hearted, attempt to push away from him.

"Shhh..." he whispered, the bastard. His hazel eyes were gleaming up at me as his lips were gleaming. With spit and my own pre-come. And, as I watched, he licked at it. Sucked it back into himself. As if he enjoyed that taste as well. Of what he had taken from me.

And, as if that experience had sparked the thought of another, his eyes narrowed and seemed to darken. All the golden-hazel highlights disappearing little by little, like the stars being snuffed out.

"Turn over," he said, his voice also gone dark, low and threatening.

I stared back at him a long moment, feeling that stone inside me become a rock, a fucking ice and snow-bound mountain, then down at where my wet cock was still clutched in his hand. White fingers framing scarlet pain and swollen pleasure.

Little toothmarks looking like a mottled ring just below the head. Like I'd been playing with barbed wire.

But, God, I needed this. I didn't think I could go on for much longer without this.

Even if it wasn't really what I wanted.

I dropped my eyes and felt him give my cock one last firm squeeze and then let go. The mattress shifted and I knew he was kneeling back, giving me room, and I rolled over as he'd told me to do. Forcing my tender cock at a sharp angle between the rumpled sheets and my own belly, giving it something else to think about but those hands and that mouth. Making it ache even more.

I wanted to close my eyes. I wanted not to look. But I couldn't help myself. I twisted my neck around and watched as Mulder finished undressing. Moving methodically to remove his shoes and pants and underwear. Black briefs, like something I would wear when I bothered to wear any at all. His own cock springing free like a wild thing, long and glistening at the tip. Just as I'd remembered it. Just as I'd dreamed of it.

Only then remembering that it wasn't like in a dream and I didn't have anything—not a condom, not a single tube of KY or any other kind of oil. Just gun oil and I definitely didn't want to go there.

Which meant that this was going to hurt—hurt bad—and, maybe, I did want to go there. After all, I'd dreamt about that, too. Fantasized about it. His gun behind my balls and his teeth in my shoulder and his cock slamming me into tiny pieces, like a shattered mirror. Like the tile around a cheap shower.

After all, blood was slick.

Blood was what I owed him. And I had promised him he could hurt me.

And, certainly, condoms and KY seemed far from his mind, because once he was completely naked he simply knelt down again, yanked my jeans completely off at last, and laid himself out on top of me. His additional weight compressing my cock even more. He reached down and grabbed my wrists and forced my arms upwards, then continued to hold them as he bent and licked at the back of my neck. At the juncture of my shoulder. Then bit down again, sharp enough that I knew he had really drawn blood, this time. I jumped, even though part of me had seemed to know it was coming.

He bit again, more gently this time, then drew back slightly and I heard him whispering something, something I couldn't even begin to understand. But I had to ask.

"Mulder?"

He lifted his head at my own whisper and looked me right in the eye. And there was no more light left at all, as if the darkness had swallowed it up entirely. Like the silvering of an old mirror, eaten away entirely by time until it left no reflection at all anymore. Not even my own.

"Krycek," he said and his tone gave nothing away.

I wanted to speak, but I couldn't. Not with him watching me like that. Not with my own memories pinning me down.

I shook my head. "Nothing."

Mulder stared at me, long enough for a trickle of sweat to run down the side of my face. For salt to burn the corner of my mouth. Then he raised his hand and ran his forefinger down along the path it had just taken, the tip ending up in the same spot. Angling for its own place in my mouth.

I opened for it and he let me lick his finger, let me suck it inside as he had sucked me inside. Until I could feel the nail pressing on the upper part of my mouth. It was a little sharp, a bit ragged, as if he'd been biting it lately and hadn't done a good job of it. The salt of his skin had a different taste and texture to it, one that I belatedly recognized; he'd been holding my cock, my balls, with that hand, torturing them, trying to tame me with them.

I licked it off. Licked it clean. Curled my tongue comfortingly around it, until he pulled it free with a restless gesture, something bright shining in his eyes for a single moment before the dark put it out again.

"Fuck," he breathed, anger abruptly tingeing his voice again. "Fuck you, Krycek. How could you...you..."

"If you like," I replied, ignoring the second half entirely, what he hadn't been able to complete. It wasn't as if I didn't know my own sins.

His eyes grew even colder, even as his face was suffused with blood. With something far beyond embarrassment or even propriety. Not that Mulder had ever much cared for the latter.

"On your knees," he hissed. "On your face. I don't want to look at you. I don't want you looking at me. You get that, Krycek? Or do you just want to go ahead and leave right now? Run away like you ran away that night. After you shot my father. After you tricked me into believing in you, in him...Agent Krycek. A man who never really existed. Who never could have existed. Isn't that right?"

Cold eyes and a burning icy voice and a hot cock laid across my upper thigh, leaving a sticky path on my skin. The emptiness inside me clambering for it, begging me not to care just what I had to give up to get it. One last time, if never again.

"No," I said and turned my face away. "Yes. Just do it, Mulder. Just go ahead. Fuck me. Fuck me."

Inside, some part of me was crying "fuck him..." but Mulder was right, there never was a him. Agent Krycek as Mulder had known him—as he had wanted to know him—had been just one more lie. A game. A profile. A policy.

No more real that I was anymore, if he'd ever been real at all. Simply a ghost of a ghost, faltering around in the dark and making a fool of himself on that dark rainy night in DC. Pretending drunkenness on cheap whiskey and learning the true meaning of the word on the impossibly perfect taste of Mulder's mouth.

Still, I shivered when I felt his hands close on me again. Rough and unforgiving. As I moved as he dictated me to move, getting on my knees and my face. Making myself just a body for him to fuck, though I doubted, when you got right down to it, that he was really capable of forgetting just who it was he was about to stick his cock into. Mulder never forgot anything. At least, when left to his own devices.

I didn't envy him that talent.

His hands were cool on my flesh, or maybe I was running a slight fever. I wondered if I felt hot to him. If he felt anything at all as he touched me, running his fingers up my legs, along the inside of my thighs. As he urged me to spread myself even wider.

And then I felt true heat as he reached beneath me and took my cock again, closed his fist tight around it and began pumping it quickly, firmly, fixedly. It wasn't gentle by any means, but the pleasure of it scored and burnt me anyway. Made me moan softly into my unwashed sheets. Because it was Mulder's hands, Mulder's breath on my back...and the feel of his own cock bobbing against my leg with every stroke he took me on. Making me weak in the knees, making my mouth water with want and emptiness.

I hadn't lied. I needed him. I needed him inside me. Even if he found it one more reason to hate me afterwards. But then I wouldn't have minded dying like that. Imprisoned in his arms and having him fill me up with his hurt. At least it was something. At least I wouldn't be alone anymore.

As long as Mulder was there in the dark with me.

And then I could feel it coming, could feel my whole body tightening, and Mulder must have felt it, too, because his hand slowed and stopped and squeezed again. Holding me right around the root, holding me far past the point of pain, and I couldn't help but flinch. My legs quivering and my heart pounding so loud behind my eyes that I swear I was on the verge of a true black-out this time.

"No," he said and his voice was absolutely calm, as normal as if he was in some conference room back at the Hoover and not in a scuzzy room in middle of Hong Kong, having it off with his most personal Judas. "No. Not like that. Not that easy."

And I could have told him that it wasn't easy—that I was dying here, really—but it was all I could do to go on breathing. My cock felt like it was about to explode into tiny bits any second now and I was shaking apart inside with the effort of holding still and black bitter sweat was dripping down into my eyes and I couldn't see at all.

He was in control here and I had given him that control and now I had to live with it, that's all. Or die with it, if it came to that.

We stayed like that for long moments, long enough for the urge to come to slowly back off, for pain to return to the forefront, and then he finally released me and leaned back. Cool air rushing in between us and my knees giving out at the last, tumbling me down into the bedclothes.

I dug my hands down into the sheets and resisted the urge to curl up right then and there. My cock throbbed and ached beneath me accusingly, but I didn't try to touch it. Didn't dare comfort myself.

That wasn't what this was about. We had done that once and look how it had turned out.

"Up," Mulder said then and still that voice was as cool, as controlled as I'd ever heard it. It was almost the voice of a stranger.

But the fingers that probed me once I got back to my knees were anything but strange. They were sure and certain and slid into me deeply as they could go—two fingers at once and then a third one even before I was really ready for the first two. I knew the slickness on them was my own and his and that made it seem oddly more wanton. Had made getting jacked off by him even more an exercise in humiliation.

Not that I had much left to pretend humiliation at.

Not even the soft cry that escaped me as he finally pushed his cock up against me and began to force his way inside.

I tried to relax for it, but it was pretty much a lost cause, especially since something deep within me wanted the hurt and wanted it to be rape and worse than that. Part of me wanted the pain that grew and grew as he worked his way into me.

Still, I couldn't help the wince as something finally seemed to give—a sharp burning spasm making me swallow my next breath rather than cry out again—and then the head of his cock was inside and he wasn't hesitating at all, not even giving me time to get used to it, before shoving himself deeper. One hard blow after another, ramming that long cock of his up as far as it could go. Driving it right into the back of my throat.

As if trying to rip me apart.

And he felt huge inside me, hard as steel and as unforgiving. Nothing of pleasure about it at all, especially as he pulled back again, almost all the way out, and then slammed into me again. Holding himself there, this time, as if he wanted me to feel every bit of him. Every inch of his anger and his hatred and his hurt. Of the desire that he had so wanted to hide and that I hadn't let him.

"Shit," he hissed and by the sound of it his teeth were clamped tight shut and he was just barely hanging on himself. I felt his cock twitch somewhere far inside me and, of all things, that was pleasurable. It made me cry out softly again, moaning at the tickle and the sweet intimacy of it.

And I felt myself relax a little and it didn't hurt quite as much suddenly. Going with the feeling, I angled my hips up even higher and that felt even better. Like something I might actually enjoy, rather than just endure.

"Now," I said, spitting the word through my own teeth. "Now."

I wasn't sure Mulder was listening, let alone if he would listen to me, but then I felt him shift as well, his weight shoving me further down into the bed. His skin nearly as hot as mine now, sweaty and as slick as the cock still buried inside me. One arm sliding down around my throat to pull my head back.

As he began a slow, steady grind in and out of me—nothing at all like his earlier urgency, except for the sheer determination of it.

I found myself breathing in time to it, my eyes closed tightly, so tightly that bright lights on the back of my eyelids contested with the darkness. God, it was like nothing I'd imagined. It was so much more real and solid and naked and I was so very aware of who it was who was fucking me that I swear I could hear what he was thinking in that moment, feel what he was feeling.

And I knew how good it was for him and how dreadful; that he could find such pleasure in my body and yet be so very disturbed and disgusted by it at the same time. By the realization of what he was doing, what he so wanted to do—to hold me and to touch me like this and, most of all, to want to come inside me so bad that he thought he might otherwise die.

Not that I could help him to see past all those contradictions. Hell, I was just as fucked when you got right down to it. Just as insane. Wanting something I could never have and telling myself that it didn't matter. None of it. Because the world was doomed anyway. Or I was.

Doomed and dead and yet writhing on the cusp of life and unbearable pleasure, filled and emptied and filled yet again. Mulder's body slapping and sliding against mine, his arm all but choking me now. Not that I could breathe anyway, at least without completely losing what remained of my dignity and betraying myself all over again. Without sobbing out my discomfort and my ecstasy and begging him to ignore both and just fuck me, harder, faster, rougher. To call me Alex again and mean it this time, really mean it.

And the heat was building once more inside me, my cock molten hot and impossibly, painfully rigid at the same time, as each of Mulder's thrusts sent an answering echo right through me. Like he was trying to fuck my own come out of me. My hands dug down into the sheets, just holding on as he rode and rode me, and I wanted his hands on my cock again, but I knew I couldn't ask it. That I couldn't ask for any more than what he was already giving me.

Even though the emptiness inside me cried out for more. Screamed that I wanted him to know me, to acknowledge me, to make everything good and right and possible again. To turn back time and have the world be as it should have been, with me his true partner in all things. At work, at home, in bed. Clasped together in the dark with all our limbs entangled. All soft conversation and teasing in the morning over hot coffee and danish and grumbling over the never-ending reports and meetings that made up our days, and guarding each other's backs out there from all the crazies who would seek to tear us apart. Not that they ever could.

Only we could do that.

Only we...had.

And tears burned my eyes, or maybe it was just sweat, because Mulder had pulled me back even tighter against him now and was angling up, pushing in harder, and hitting just the spot. Hitting it dead on and with everything he had until I knew he was coming and that I was coming and that it was one and the same. My whole body convulsing around his cock as heat poured into me and as heat poured out of me, assuming an unbroken circuit. A moment I could never reclaim again.

Because I was the darkness and I was the night, and yet I was being claimed by fire and by the feel of this man all around me, by the sensation of that fierce cock so far inside me. Only Mulder's grip on my throat keeping me from collapsing down into the mattress as he frantically pulled out again and slammed back in, his cock leaping a second time, releasing another brilliant ecstatic surge. And I was shaking in his arms, not caring that I was blind, that these tiny sounds were coming out of my mouth.

Little hiccups, like I'd been crying for hours or days or forever.

Forever...and those ten stories down had never looked so far and the pavement below so damned welcoming. Hell, all my bones were already shattered and battered and my life was spattered on the sheets in front of me—what was some more destruction in the face of that. What was a little thing like insanity.

As somewhere, distantly, so far away that I could have almost thought I'd imagined it—hands moved to caress my still-swollen cock, traced their way up along my ribs and shoulders and then finally moved to turn me over. Holding my face between long fingers for the mouth that came down to finish me off. A terribly sweet kiss. A pure and gentle one. One that made no sense at all.

I didn't open my eyes and he kissed me again just as carefully, as if expecting some miracle to happen any second now. But I could have told him that miracles never happened. That fate was always cruel, and that bad guys really did win in the end and that it was no use fighting at all when you got right down to it.

Except that it was just as hard to give up.

And now Mulder was mumbling something, his face buried in my neck and his hands stroking down my arms, but I couldn't hear what it was he was saying. I wasn't sure I wanted to hear what he was saying.

'Cause no good could come of it. Of any of this.

When he lifted his head again, I took his face between my own hands before he could stop me. Before I had to look at his eyes and see if the light had come back or if the dark had taken it forever. Kissing him back hard, roughly, not letting there be anything of kindness or gentleness about it.

Showing him the depth of his own illusions.

I tasted blood before I let him go again, shoving him off of me and rolling away in one motion. Not letting myself care about his gasp of mingled surprise and pain.

"Was it good for you too, Mulder? Was it everything you expected it to be?" I asked. Before he could answer, I was already walking away from him, heading for the windows for a moment—thinking I needed some fresh air, that I needed to look at that long drop—and then forcing myself to veer away. Instead I headed back over to my dresser to reclaim my gun. Not that it had ever seemed to do me much good before.

Behind me, I sensed more than heard him get to his feet as well. Begin to move towards me.

I picked up the weapon, but he still wasn't stopping. And, maybe, he was right because I hadn't yet managed to shoot him. No matter how much he might have deserved it. Or how it might have made my life less complicated.

"Krycek..." he said. I felt his hand close on my shoulder again—asking, this time, not taking—and couldn't help but stiffen at that familiar touch. Still wanting it, but hating it as well right now. Hating him for making me need what I could never have.

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

So fucking soft. It made me want to knock him away from me, to slam him into the nearest wall. It made me want to turn around and rip myself wide open for him at the last and show him all the blackness and the rot and the horror that he had just fucked. That he had just damn well stuck his dick into.

But I did none of those things. Because I had the gun in my hand and all the control again and still he didn't care. Wasn't backing away or leaving me alone, but was sliding his hand down my arm now and asking me again if I was all right in that same concerned voice and I wasn't, I wasn't, but I could never tell him that.

I could never let him know how much this had hurt me.

Because if that one night in DC had been a simple mistake, then this was a deliberate cruelty.

Mine. His. Ours. And he had to go before I did end up killing him or I let him kill me, after all.

"Get out of here, Mulder," I said and my voice was soft as well. But not kind. Not generous. Just soft and hollow and dangerous. I could only hope Mulder knew how dangerous. "Go home. There's nothing for you here."

His hand stilled on my arm, but didn't let go. "Krycek...Alex, look at me." A wave of dizziness, of thankless joy, spun through me at the way he said my name, but it was way too late after all and half a lifetime short. Because the darkness ate that up too and then it was gone and I was turning around as he'd asked me to, but with my gun between us. My finger on the trigger and the cold gathering around me like a shroud.

"Satisfied?" I asked. I looked into his eyes, but I still couldn't see them. I couldn't see anything but that dark alley and me sprawled out in it like the prodigal son. Bleeding to death slowly and alone, always so alone, and it didn't matter if it was Hong Kong or DC or some other city rotting away under the stars. Ignorant of the terrors that moved in the night sky above them, that had come to take them home.

What was even Fox Mulder to contend with that? He hadn't been able to save me and he never could. Even if, right this moment, some misguided impulse of his insisted that he should try.

This was my world and he didn't belong here.

"I will shoot you," I said coolly. Still, his hand didn't move away until I'd actually cocked the gun. The sound sharply undercutting the rasp of his breathing and my own.

But then I finally looked, really looked at him, and the expression on his face was as bad as I'd thought it would be, his eyes looking right at me—right through me—and they had gone completely flat, colorless and cold.

As colorless as his voice.

"Like you shot my father? Like you shot Scully's sister?"

"If you say so."

It wasn't exactly a confession, but close enough of one to make me nervous.

Mulder shook his head. "I wanted to believe you that night. I guess that made it easy for you. But what I can't figure out is what you wanted to believe. Why you lied to yourself then. Why you're lying now."

I stared back at him; as usual, Mulder had cut right through all the bullshit, every last bit of protective wall and coloration that I had left in the world. I wish I could have hated him for it. But I didn't want to give him even that much. Not right now. I just wanted him to go.

"Maybe you only saw what you wanted to see, Mulder. Better than realizing that you've been played for a fool. That they had your number from day one. That I did."

Nothing showed in his eyes, but I knew that had hurt. It had meant to.

But his head was going up and his mouth was narrowing out and I knew that he was about to hit me. So I shoved my gun into his stomach, giving him good reason to reconsider.

"What?" I asked. "You actually thought I felt anything for you? You thought that there was ever anything...ever could have been anything between us?" I shook my head, somehow managing to keep both gun and voice steady. "Go home, Mulder. You don't belong here."

I slowly backed away then until I hit the wall and simply stared at him until he finally showed some of those brains for which he was so famous for and turned away from me. He began gathering up his clothes and getting dressed.

"I want that information, Krycek," he said, not looking at me.

"So does half the free world, Mulder. Get over it."

And then he was standing there, all put together—his fine suit slightly rumpled and bits of his hair standing up and, no doubt, still smelling of what we'd just done together—and I knew this man. Far better, it must be said, than the one who'd thought me capable of any kind of redemption.

And here I was still entirely naked and holding a gun on him, with something wet beginning to run down the inside of my leg now and the feel of it threatening to undo me when the vicious look Mulder was giving me could not.

I knew this man...but at least hatred I could deal with. It was the other that I had severe problems with. Much as it really was the only thing that might have saved me. Once upon a time.

Before I found out who really ran the world and what they were running from.

What Mulder insisted on running towards.

"Forgive me if I don't see you out," I commented dryly. "I'm a little underdressed right now."

His eyes flickered over me at that—as if he always had to see for himself—and then his gaze pinned me again, looking so far inside me that I felt stripped even more bare before it, was made nothing.

But I knew if he didn't what it was to be nothing, to feel nothing, to have nothing.

"Give it up, Mulder," I said. "You can't beat these people. You'll just get yourself killed."

"And you care why?"

I shrugged. "Consider it a friendly warning. A favor. For services rendered."

That got his attention. His eyes turned even colder and he took a half step towards me despite the gun. A hot flush spread over his cheeks and his hands clenched.

"You're the one who's been bought and sold," he said roughly. "Don't blame me if the price was cheap."

"Life is cheap, Mulder. Don't you know that?"

The flush was fading already, but that just left the cold. "Is that your excuse? Or is that just what you want to believe?"

"What I want has never had anything to do with it."

"And whose fault is that?"

I almost laughed at that, except that I thought he might actually rush the gun and I wasn't betting that I could shoot him. Not now, not ever. In the end, I just leaned back against that wall as if I hadn't a worry in the world and gestured towards the door.

"Just get out of here." Even to my ears it sounded tired. "Get out before I forget why I shouldn't just shoot you in the head and walk away." And it was my turn to hold his gaze, one long slow moment dropping down after another, until I saw painful realization fill those changeable eyes. The acknowledgment that what I had just said was as real a confession about what had happened that night at his father's house as he might ever get.

"It's not over," he said then and he could have meant anything by that or nothing at all. I didn't dare speculate and I didn't dare reply, because he was moving at last. Turning away from me and heading for the door, sending it crashing open before him and then slamming shut behind him and he was gone somewhere between the two. Just like that. Easy in, easy out.

Except that it wasn't that simple. Because it was sometime later that I realized that I was indeed all alone and that I was lying there, shivering and cold and curled up against the wall like I didn't have a perfectly serviceable bed right over there. That I was still naked and Mulder's come had dried on my inner leg some time ago and my gun was at my mouth again. Just touching my lips as if politely begging entrance.

And I didn't know how much time had passed between one moment and the next.

Though I'd realized one thing in the interim, at least—that this place couldn't possibly be hell, because hell would be somewhere.

###

Blood was trickling down my nose and he had a gun on me—my own gun, at that—and I was still shivering inside as if I'd never learned warmth at all, not even with his own lingering inside me. It had happened so fast, and yet it had seemed to take forever. To last a lifetime. Having him grab me and spin me around and smash me in the face with a convenient phone and then drive me up the same phonebank afterwards with the weight of his own body. That was the quick part. The slow part—that part that I never would have admitted to enjoying, especially not to him—was having him pressed up against me again.

Feeling the erection that he would no doubt deny. That he might not even be completely aware of.

Feeling my own and looking down into those eyes and seeing there only the darkness that I feared I would someday find had claimed the last of the light—and wanting, in that moment, for him to just finish the job. To choke me or shoot me or whatever. To end it all before I dragged him down to the same slow destruction that I was facing.

Because, though I was expendable, he was not.

So while he was hissing threats at me and familiar accusation, I was begging for him to do just that. I let him hold me there and jam that gun into my gut and simply pleaded for him to get on with it, to get it over with.

But he didn't. Just like always—he couldn't.

I think I knew it before he did. Before he shoved me away from him and I felt that blood on my face like the old friend it was and offered him what he wanted most if it wasn't me. My life. My death. My...heart and soul and hope.

I offered him that damn information, that damn tape, even though it was the only advantage left to me. Not to save my life, like he seemed to think. Not for him to let me go...but because he was drowning here as much as I was and it was the only thing I had left to give that meant anything to him.

And if he actually thought that it could save him, save any of us, then...hell, why not? I didn't want it anymore. I couldn't stand it anymore.

Being caught in the middle. Being more alive than dead and more dead than alive.

Knowing the lies and knowing the truth and not knowing anything at all.

Not even why I didn't just walk away and let him shoot me as he ordered me into the bathroom to clean up like some kid who'd gotten his nose bloodied in a schoolyard tussle. How I could still listen to him and want him so bad, when he should have been the last person on earth I should go to or trust or, God forbid, want in my bed.

But my cock was so hard it actually hurt, and as I went into that still room and began to wash off my face like he'd told me to do, I avoided looking too closely at myself in the mirror over the sink. Too afraid of what I might see. Afraid of the darkness in my own eyes and the confusion and that increasingly bleak resignation.

My face hurt, too, but I was used to the bruises. To the taste of blood and dust.

Because what other choice was there for me but to go back out there. To go back to DC with Mulder and face the music. And end up dead for it. For him. For that fucking tape that I hadn't even wanted in the first place and should have never looked at, let alone let it steal away the last few pieces of my careless innocence.

Because when it came right down to it, we were all blind and lost and lonely, weren't we? We were all wandering around this pitiful little planet as if we really owned it, ignorant to the inevitable future and careless of our memories.

Denying all those places where the truth came closest to the surface.

Like just how good a gun could taste in your mouth, when you couldn't hardly eat anything else anymore. Denying the sweet soreness of your body where the mute echo of another man's pleasure lingered, where his pain remained. Claiming that the tears that must have belonged to someone else because you never cried.

That you never whispered a name to an empty room and then let it carry you away.

And you most certainly had never let him fuck you, since you never let anyone fuck you.

Because you never let anyone in, did you?

You never told the truth if you could help it.

Not even to the man in the mirror. Who still wasn't looking back at me. Who was avoiding my eyes even as I turned away from him and went over to the closest urinal and unzipped my jeans in the vain hope of pissing away my desire for the man waiting outside for me. Even more deliberately not thinking of what it had felt like at the last to have him kiss me that last time. To have him hold me so close.

And say my name like he really cared and actually knew—deep down and bone sure as a man as spooky as him sure as hell knew what sure was—that when all else failed that I could be saved.

If only he and I...if only he...

She...? What? No...get away from me...get...no...

Oh God, the darkness hurts, Mulder.

Mulder, I'm sorry.

It hurts...no...it...please...

Fox...

###

garnetgyre@hotmail.com
Garnet's Page

FANDOM: X-Files
PAIRING: M/K
RATING: NC-17 (cripes, so what else is new?)
FEEDBACK: garnetgyre@hotmail.com
DISCLAIMER: I don't claim nothin', 'cept that they don't belong to me like official or nothin', but one can dream, all right?
SUMMARY: What else happened when Mulder and Krycek met up in Hong Kong. 4th story in series.
WARNINGS: Angst, oh God yes, angst.
SPOILERS: Everything up through the Silo
COMMENTS: 4 story in series that includes "Truth, Lies and In-between," "Duty," and "Guilty Pleasures" previously published in X-Plicit Fantasies 3, but can—hopefully—be read all on its own. But just in case: In this series, Mulder & Krycek had a one night stand just after the events of "Sleepless" and Krycek later fantasizes about Mulder taking revenge for the murder of his father by surprising him and raping him in a motel bathroom. All else is taken from canon. This story previous published in X-Plicit Fantasies 4 (hi, JoAnn!)

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