by Louise Wu

Chemistry Book 3: Defended (Chapters 1-5)
Pairing: Mulder/Krycek
Rating: NC-17 for male/male sex.
Spoilers: Season 7: Orison. Takes place after the Red and the Black. Canon altered at this point.
Warnings: Mild kink.
Note 1: I like my Krycek with one arm and my Mulder not color blind so he can fully appreciate those beautiful green eyes.
Note 2: I altered the episode Orison for my own purposes and used dialogue from the episode.
Note 3: I didn't want to deal with HIV issues here, so I didn't. Too bad real life isn't so simple.
Beta Thanks: Loren Q, Ness, Zoe Takashi, Lyrical Soul.
Inspiration Thanks: Aries' Admission. And Tatalya in These Men of Honor inspired my original character, Natalia. Thank you, Phyre and Rachel!
Disclaimer: Krycek, Mulder, Scully, Skinner and other X-Files characters belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. All others are mine. No infringement of rights is intended.



Chapter 1

7 January 2000

** Krycek **

Now that I knew I was getting out of prison, I started to worry again. Exceeding my expectations by about twelve months, Mulder was still visiting me every week when he was in town. But I couldn't allow myself to think that nothing had changed between us.

He wanted me and I wanted him. Sounds simple, but I'd never been in a relationship. I didn't even know how.

I was due to be released on Tuesday. Friday morning came and so did Mulder. He was grinning like he'd just received his first kiss. He took one look at me and his smile faded. "You're leaving here on Tuesday. What could possibly account for your bleak demeanor?"

"Believe me, Mulder, I'm looking forward to getting out of here."

"But?"

"What happens to... to us when I get out?" Why was it so hard to say that? Us.

"Well, we get to touch each other for the first time in over a year." Mulder's tone was testy. "Won't that be nice?"

"Nice doesn't begin to describe how it feels to touch you."

A hint of a smile showed through the irritation. "I'm glad we agree on that. You said you'd live with me. Have you changed your mind?"

I hesitated.

"What's bugging you, Alex?"

I made myself look at him. "Mulder, our... this rela-" Another tough word. I repeated it to myself in my head. Re-la-tion-ship. "I don't know if I can do this, Mulder."

"Do what?"

I ignored his question, as I struggled to find something to say to him. "I... You know, other men... they... I haven't exactly been uh... faithful in here."

That made him look at his shoes. "I didn't want to think about that, but it's okay. I...I hope no one forced you, but it's okay either way. It doesn't change anything."

God damn his perpetual state of optimism! "That's just it, Mulder. You want to believe that nothing has changed, but I... Things have changed."

"I know." He closed his eyes for a moment. "I... my feelings haven't changed. Have yours?"

"How can you know your feelings haven't changed? That's my point. I'm a fantasy to you now, not real anymore."

"You didn't answer my question, Alex." His tone was flat, but his voice wavered.

"I don't know the answer. I... I'm-" I stopped myself... couldn't say it. I was afraid.

Mulder just gave me a hurt puppy look. I didn't know what to say. No, I knew exactly what to say. I just couldn't say it.

He sat silently for a long time. I was lucky he didn't just get up and walk out on me.

Finally he asked, "Do you even want to try? To be with me?"

"Yes." I wanted it very badly. "I'm just not very good with people."

A look of recognition passed over his face. He suddenly seemed more sure of himself. "I love you."

That took courage on his part. To say it when I was acting so... distant and difficult. He had more balls than I did. "You haven't even been around me in over a year. How can you say that?"

"It's a feeling, Alex."

"But how will you feel in a week or a month?"

"I don't know, but I'd like to find out. I want you in my life if we can make it work."

I could barely force myself to speak, but I had to say something before he gave up on me entirely. "That's what I want, too."

"Then try not to be so afraid."

"I'll try." My eyes were getting wet. I never cried before I met Mulder. My life used to be so simple.

After a beat, he replied, "It'll be okay, Alex."

He put his hand on the glass and I laid mine over his. We were both thinking there would be no glass between us the next time.

Mulder left some clothes for me so I didn't have to depart in prison wear. Tuesday morning, they gave me the bag he'd brought. New Jockey briefs felt good on my ass. He'd sent my best, charcoal gray suit. It fit perfectly at one time, but I guess I'd lost weight skipping prison meals. Still, it was my suit, not orange prison garb. The cotton of the white T-shirt he'd sent was a deliciously soft knit. The white dress shirt--not mine, must have been Mulder's--was the finest textured cotton with a band collar. I had to ask the guard to fasten the right cuff button for me--a minor humiliation I was willing to endure to look good getting out of here. Brand new black loafers slipped on without a fuss.

In my new clothes I felt like my body belonged to me again. I was getting out.

I had to fill out a form, then meet with my parole officer in a dingy holding room. I was determined to keep a good relationship with the man who could send me back to prison on a whim. Jason Holly was a tall skinny man with black hair and blue eyes. He looked about twenty years old at first glance, but the lines around his eyes suggested he was really in his thirties. I shook his hand, not knowing what to expect.

"Alex, I'm Jason."

"Hi."

"Congratulations on your parole."

I nodded.

"A lot of cons see me as the enemy, but I'm really here to help. We both want to keep you out of prison.

"I'm glad to hear that you have a job waiting for you. That's one of the best things you can do to stay out of trouble. You're required to meet with me once a week for the first six months of your parole. I've scheduled our meetings for Tuesday at 9 A.M. If there's any problem with your employer, you need to contact me in advance so we can reschedule. Okay?"

"I understand."

"Do you have a place to live?"

"Yeah."

"Is it a safe place? Living with other criminals or drug users is going to make it harder for you to go straight."

"That won't be a problem."

"Here's my card, Alex. I want you to call me if you have any questions or any problems."

I took the card.

He shook my hand. "Welcome back to society, Alex."

Resisting the urge to roll my eyes, I gave him an earnest nod.

I was left in the holding room for forty-five minutes, not sure what would happen next. Eventually a C.O. came in to tell me that some FBI guy was coming to see me before my release. Twenty minutes later the door opened and I stood, anticipating his touch with a shiver.

As I waited for the face I most wanted to see, the door opened and the face I least wanted to see greeted me. Walter Skinner. I shrank back as he came toward me.

"I'm here to give you some advice, Krycek."

Gee, I'd really been wanting some advice. Nice of Walt to stop by. I scowled at him and muttered under my breath, "I can hardly wait."

He took several deliberate steps until he was close enough for me to smell his aftershave. "You're going to make me a promise before you leave here. One you're going to keep if you want to remain breathing."

His baritone was classic alpha male. I could see his broad chest lifting with every steady breath. If he got nasty, he was going to win. I doubted I could take him, even with two arms. I felt my body automatically tense, ready to defend myself. Then I remembered if I hit him, I wouldn't be going home today. He had to know it, too. Smug son of a bitch.

I said nothing, but met his eyes to try to hold my ground the only way I could. His jaw was rigid. Someone might describe his brown eyes as warm. Not now. Not for me anyway.

"You're getting off easy, boy." His eyes never left mine as he took my left shoulder in one massive paw. I didn't like him touching me there, but I tried not to show it. Maybe if I didn't start something he'd leave it at that. "You're going to stay away from Mulder, Scully and me. And our families and friends."

His fingers dug painfully into my flesh. It would have hurt even my right shoulder, but I made my body go rigid against a flinch.

"Say it, Krycek. You're going to stay away from us. All of us."

"Fuck you, Skinner."

I should have lied about it to get Skinner off my arm and out of my life. However, it pissed me off too damned much that the bastard wanted to take away the only good thing in my life.

He wrapped a hand around my throat--not tightly, just letting me feel the pressure. I could feel my body twitching, ready to strike out and break his arm. Instead, I could only struggle to not fight back. I was minutes away from being free of this place.

His voice dropped even lower when he continued, "Repeat after me: I will stay away from Mulder and Scully."

"It doesn't matter what you do to me, I won't make that promise."

A giant fist slammed into my gut. I fought to remain on my feet. My right arm rose to return the blow, but he blocked my countermove. He hit me again in the ribs and I slumped down on to the floor. "Just say it and know that I'll kill you if you don't stay away."

"No," I panted.

"Or maybe I should just kill you now? You think they won't believe you attacked me?" He kicked me hard in the belly. As I tried to squirm away, I saw the bottom edge of the door swing open.

Then there was a voice. "Get your goddamned hands off him!" Mulder's voice. I looked up and saw him grab Skinner from behind and forcibly rotate him away from me.

Skinner allowed himself to be moved and assumed a conciliatory tone. "What is it, Mulder? I'm just trying to make sure this bastard keeps away from us."

Mulder seethed, his chest heaving, hands ready to strike.

Skinner stood there stupidly, probably too confused to take a fighting stance.

My petulant lover couldn't shut up. "Leave him alone. Get out of here, god dammit!"

A guard watched through the open door.

Skinner looked bewildered, then a light went on in his face. Like he was starting to connect the dots. It made me afraid for my lover. "All right, Mulder," he said, his voice cold. "Krycek, do what I said or I'll make you a corpse."

Mulder kept his body between Skinner and me, as I lifted myself cautiously to my knees.

The big man didn't even try to approach me. He gave Mulder a dangerous glare, then turned and stalked out.

Mulder kicked the door shut and knelt beside me. He was still breathing hard as he looked me over, his face part anger, part concern.

"I'm okay."

Mulder reached for me and I fell into his arms. He was touching me. After so long. His body felt so warm and real. I felt safe in his arms, like I'd never felt before.

My eyes stung. "You shouldn't have done that. Skinner's going to cause trouble. Don't out yourself to him."

"I couldn't let him hurt you."

"I appreciate your concern, but he knows something isn't right."

"We'll deal with that later." He helped me to stand, with an arm around my waist. "Let's get you out of here. Do you need a doctor?"

I shook my head, adjusting my shirt and coat. I extracted myself from his grasp as we exited the room.

The C.O. escorted us through the corridor and into some rooms I hadn't seen in over a year. A clerk asked me to sign another form. I didn't read it. I would have signed anything to get out of there.

Mulder stood next to me while the warden gave a short speech. "You've done wrong and you've paid for your crime. I don't want to see you again." He shook my hand. It was a surreal little ritual to remind me that I was a citizen again. "You're free to go."

Mulder led me through the visitor's lobby and out to the parking lot. The air felt cool on my face. It seemed fresher than anything I'd breathed in 14 months, even though it was just around the corner from the prison yard. I ran my hand across my chest, feeling the rich texture of my shirt. A wet spot caught my attention, and I looked down at a few drops of my own blood on Mulder's clean white shirt. I searched my face with fingertips and found a cut at the side of my lip.

He asked, "Are you sure you don't want Scully to check you out?"

"I'm sure. Nothing's broken."

Mulder led me to his car and held out the keys. "Wanna drive?" he asked with a coy smile. Apparently, Skinner couldn't ruin his day. Mine either.

I shook my head and went to the passenger side. He followed and opened the door, shutting it behind me. I had to laugh at his over protectiveness.

I looked out at the world as he drove. It seemed tackier than I remembered. Advertisements everywhere. Noise. Too many cars. I felt overwhelmed and oddly unsafe.

When he finally spoke again, his voice was warm. "How about I take you out to breakfast? Anywhere you like."

"Just take me to your place."

"Fourteen months in prison and you want to go to my apartment?"

"Yeah. Can we just... I want quiet."

"'Kay, Alex." He accelerated the car onto the expressway. "I took the rest of the week off."

"I'm glad. Let's just stay home and... and... be together."

He rested a hand on my thigh and squeezed. I was beginning to feel embarrassed by his attention.

I don't know if it was the beating Skinner gave me or if I'd have been like this anyway, but I felt afraid of the world. My head had been kept busy for over a year calculating the many dangers of prison life. But now I hardly remembered how to assess the dangers of life outside.

Mulder entered the door to his apartment first, then turned and waited for me. I closed the door and he took me into his arms. "Welcome home, Alex," he whispered. He kissed me hard. I was glad to discover that his mouth still had the same familiar taste. Tangy. Sweet. Mulder.

His hands ran down my back to my butt and I could feel my cock responding. But I didn't want sex. Sex still seemed like some ugly prison encounter.

I kissed him on the forehead and pulled away to sit on his sofa. When he joined me, I put my head on his shoulder. I wanted to stay like that for a long time. He let me. There wasn't much to say.

Eventually, I got up to piss. His bathroom seemed pleasant. I shut the door, because I could. The rug under my feet was cushy and soft. All cotton towels seemed luxurious. I opened the medicine cabinet and found my old brands of deodorant, shaving cream and after-shave. At first, I thought he was using the same brands, but the caps were off. Like I always left them. He'd gotten them for me. I sniffed the after-shave and it reminded me of me. From a previous life.

He was waiting when I returned to the living room. "You must have some food cravings. What do you most want to eat?"

"Pizza," I offered without hesitation. I'd been dreaming of the night I seduced him. "Pepperoni and onions. From that place. You know."

So, Mulder had lunch delivered. He ordered two giant pizzas with pepperoni and onions, not sure how much I would want.

I didn't stray from the apartment that day. I stayed close to Mulder, too, our sides touching on the couch as we watched his three non-porn videos. We kissed a lot, but when the heat started to build, I backed off. It was obvious I didn't want sex. I was grateful he didn't ask why.

We had leftover pizza for dinner and there was still one whole pizza left.

A couple hours after dinner, there was a forceful knock on the door. Mulder checked the peephole.

"What do you want, Skinner?" he barked through the closed door.

"We have to talk, Mulder."

"I'm on vacation. Leave me alone."

"Now, Mulder." Skinner's baritone was tense; Mulder was going to get his ass kicked.

"He's your boss," I whispered. "I'll go in the bedroom." With a sense of dread, I disappeared down the hall.

** Mulder **

Skinner barged in past me. "Where is he?"

I gave him a hostile glare. "You said you wanted to talk."

"Okay, Mulder. I'll talk. You listen." He helped himself to a living room chair. "I went to Annapolis today and talked them out of a copy of that tape--the Schweck killing."

I had no idea where this was going, but anything having to do with Alex made me apprehensive. I sat down on the sofa and crossed my arms.

"After this morning, I remembered something on that tape that bothered me. So I took it to the FBI and showed it to Agent Karlsson. You know him, the deaf guy who works for Kersh?"

I nodded, trying to keep my shoulders from knotting up.

"He reads lips, Mulder. I finally found out what Krycek was saying on that tape."

I was certain that the bastard had another crime he could pin on Alex. I had to try to head that off. "What do you want from me?"

"I want you to tell me it isn't true."

Having no idea what he was asking, I didn't respond. I had never seen the tape.

"Tell me Alex Krycek isn't your lover."

Oh, that. I was quite relieved.

Until I heard Alex's voice from the hall. "It's none of your fucking business."

Skinner rose and charged toward Alex.

I followed, grabbing my gun from the desk and pointing it at my boss. "If you can't keep your hands off him, I want you out of here. NOW." I clicked off the safety to demonstrate my sincerity.

Skinner's eyes blazed. "Well, I guess that answers my question. You'd shoot me to keep me from getting rough with that fucker?" The A.D. held his body in a fighting stance, facing Alex even though I held the gun.

I kept it pointed at Skinner's chest, but said nothing.

Alex appeared stricken, but said nothing.

"What has happened to your judgment, Agent Mulder? I don't care if you're queer. Let's even forget about the fact that I could fire you for associating with a known criminal. What I really can't believe is--could you have picked a bigger louse to invite to your bed? This man you say killed your father..."

Both Skinner and I watched as Alex carefully and slowly moved around to stand behind me. He touched my shoulder gently and said, "Mulder, put the gun away."

"No, I don't have to listen to this in my own home. In our home."

"He's your boss." I'd never heard such a placating tone in Alex's voice. "Don't make this any worse than it already is."

Skinner appeared stunned by what passed between us.

Fuck. Eyes glaring at Skinner, I reluctantly and slowly clicked on the safety, tucking the gun into my waistband. "Don't touch him again," I said venomously. "This is about your own anger. I've dealt with mine. And yours is not my problem."

"Mulder, you can't really want this... this thug in your home?"

Alex's hand found my shoulder again, trying to soothe. "Calm down, Mulder. He's right. I am a thug and you know it." The nervous energy in his body contradicted his conciliatory words.

"I do want Alex in our home. Thug or no, he's mine." Suddenly, I felt very tired. "If you honestly think that this relationship is going to compromise my work, then do what you have to do. Otherwise, butt out of my life."

Skinner's eyes flashed back and forth between Alex and me. Finally he said, "I'll see you in my office on Monday. 7 A.M."

"Yes. Sir." I replied icily.

Skinner's trench coat swooshed and he was gone.

"I'm sorry." Alex's voice was small. He stroked my chest.

"It's okay, Alex." I pulled the gun out of my pants and placed it on the desk. Turning, I took him into my arms.

"Mulder, you have to listen to me. Skinner's treatment of me is not unjustified. You've hurt me worse yourself, even after we became lovers."

It didn't help to be reminded of that. Since I didn't want to ruin Alex's first night free, I went to the bathroom to be alone and calm down.


Chapter 2

** Scully **

My doorbell rang around ten. I let Skinner in and offered him a drink, which he declined. He was obviously upset, but not his typical angry self. I could see something else in his eyes. Frustration? Disappointment?

We sat on my sofa.

At first, the man couldn't bring himself to speak, but he finally said, "I assume you knew Mulder was having an affair with Alex Krycek?"

Oh, that. I wondered how he found out. I nodded.

"How long has this been going on? Why didn't you tell me?"

Not wanting to give Skinner more information than he already had, I thought carefully before speaking. "I didn't tell you because it wasn't any of your business."

"How could it not be my business? The man and his friends assaulted me. One of them tried to kill me. How can you take this so lightly? These men abducted you and murdered your sister."

He was directing his anger at me, but I forced myself to stay calm. I might be the only person who'd try to stop him from ending Mulder's career at the Bureau. "I wasn't--I'm not pleased about it myself. But I've seen them together. I want Mulder to be happy and his feelings for Alex are very strong."

"How could he have feelings for that killer?"

"They're feelings, sir. Perhaps they can't be judged rationally. Mulder didn't plan this. It just happened."

Skinner looked down at me, a grim expression shadowing his face.

"Look, I know Krycek's not the kind of man you'd want a friend to pair up with, but I've been watching him. I think he's trying to clean up his act because of Mulder. It doesn't make everything right, but it's something."

"So, what? Killing Schweck was part of some self-improvement program?"

"Schweck ordered the attack on Mulder. When he was shot at the supermarket."

Skinner offered me an exasperated sneer.

"I'm not saying what Krycek did was right, but he did it to protect Mulder."

"This is just too sweet." His tone was anything but sweet. "Mulder drew a gun on me to keep me from hitting Krycek. Krycek went to jail for Mulder. I think I'm going to be nauseated."

"Well, you think about it, sir. Think long and hard when you're home in an empty apartment and have no one to share your life with. Think about what you'd sacrifice for someone to be close to. I know I've thought about it. And maybe I'll never forgive Krycek, but I've forgiven Mulder."

His surly frown told me my argument hit the target. He rubbed his forehead. "Even if I did forgive Mulder, I'm his boss. I may have to dismiss him."

"You and I both know Mulder would never compromise his search for the truth in any investigation."

"Hasn't he already? What about the interrogation of Krycek last year? Didn't Mulder back off because of his feelings?" He said the word 'feelings' like it was a disease.

My voice came out hard, my words terse. "For your information, Mulder asked me to prepare all the questions myself, because he was concerned about his bias. He was there for the interview, even though he was still weak from the shooting. We both asked Krycek a lot of hard questions. Mulder followed the script, asking every question I wrote--exactly the way I wrote it." I shook my finger at him accusingly. "You were there. You know Krycek wasn't talking. And you can be sure he was properly threatened--excuse me, motivated to talk, because you did it yourself. By the way, you returned him to lockup unable to defend himself with a serious injury to his only hand. Maybe Krycek isn't the only thug."

Skinner opened his mouth to speak, but I interrupted. "And don't you ever question Mulder's integrity again. He may violate a few Bureau procedures, but he is an honest and decent man. And you know it." I got up and paced the room a few times. "Are we done?"

Skinner's voice was leaden. "Yes, Agent Scully. We're done." He left without another word.

I picked up the phone and dialed.

"Mulder."

"Mulder, it's me. Skinner just left here."

"Spreading happiness wherever he goes?"

"Did you really draw a gun on him?"

"Hey, you got to point a gun at him without losing your job."

Mulder's flip tone just made me crankier. "Yeah, well, I hope it works for you, too."

"Somehow I doubt it." For the first time, he sounded defeated.

"Are you okay?"

"I'll probably be unemployed by this time next week. On the other hand, the man I love is lying in my arms. Things could be worse."

That a depressive like Mulder could see the bright side of life because of Krycek affirmed exactly what I'd said to Skinner. And made me more than a little envious. I shrugged away the feeling. "Should we be talking about career plans?"

"Dammit, Scully. What else would I ever do for a living? At least you're an M.D."

I knew it wasn't time for a real talk about his career, so I faked a serious tone. "Lots of things, Mulder. Consider your skills. You could be a faith healer. Palm reader. Abductee counselor. Science fiction author. How about a psychic? You could apprentice to the Stupendous Yapi."

I could have gone on, but he broke in with, "Night, Scully," and hung up.

** Mulder **

Alex and I lay on the sofa, tucked together like spoons. I used the remote to turn off the TV. "Bedtime?"

"Mmm."

I took his hand as we walked to the bedroom. Once there, he tensed up a bit and pulled away from me. He undressed, leaving on his briefs. He never wore clothing to bed. The message was clear. He didn't want to have sex with me. It hurt. Maybe he didn't find me attractive any longer?

My own cock responded to the sight of his bulge trapped by the white cotton. I remembered buying those shorts and thinking about how good he'd look in them. He looked even better than I'd imagined.

I undressed completely and joined him in bed. He tensed a little when I wrapped my body around his back. "Shh. It's okay. I just want to be close."

He made an odd snort of frustration. I held him for a long time, but I could tell he wasn't asleep. One of my arms became stiff and my lower back started to grab. But I didn't want him to fall asleep alone his first night free. Finally, I heard his breath take on the fondly remembered sounds of sleeping Alex. I held him a little longer just for my own need.

Sleep didn't claim me for several hours. I lay thinking, trying to understand why he was pulling away from me. When I wasn't reliving adolescent insecurities, I was certain Alex wanted to be with me. I remembered that our intimacy had scared him before. But at that time, he'd used sex to distance himself from the intimacy.

I made myself consider what I'd refused to think about before. The entire 14 months, I'd been in denial about Alex having non-consensual sex in prison. I told myself over and over again that he'd miss sex and relieve himself with some other inmate. I made that okay in my mind, so I wouldn't feel threatened by it, but mostly so I wouldn't have to imagine some convict raping him. It was what I had to do to endure his incarceration.

Now that he was free, it was still unbearable to contemplate, but I had to. If he had been raped, it would explain his disinterest in sex.

Putting on my psychologist's hat, I knew he might need some time to feel safe again before having sex. Assuming he was raped, he was most likely penetrated anally, an act that Alex did not like under any circumstances.

I had to let him know that he had plenty of time and I wouldn't pressure him. But if I could get him to talk about it, he'd feel much better.

I knew I could be patient. Besides my own hand, I hadn't had sex of any kind in 14 months. Before the night Alex seduced me over pizza, it had been almost two years since I'd had a sex partner. So I would wait for him to be ready. His emotional well being was more important than my hard-on.

But the touch and scent of him were incredible turn-ons. I vowed to jerk off in the shower as much as possible, so he wouldn't feel pressured by my inevitable erection.

In the morning, I awoke to find his arm around my waist. It was good reassurance that he still wanted me. I snuggled closer and whispered into his ear. "Alex, it feels so good just to have you here." I kissed his ear lobe. "There's no hurry about sex. Whenever you're ready, you let me know. 'Kay?"

I saw his eyes close tightly as I spoke. Too tightly. He rolled onto his side, away from me. I spooned him and stole a look over his shoulder at his body. His cock was hard. Very hard. I knew he had to be hurting to ignore that erection.

I got out of bed sooner than I'd have liked to keep him from detecting my own hard-on. I went directly to the shower and mentally rehearsed giving him the best and longest blowjob of his life. I climaxed while imagining his hot cum in my throat.

Soon, Alex.

When I returned to the bedroom, he was still hard. I felt a pang of sadness that he'd chosen to let himself suffer. I pushed the feeling aside, determined to give him an enjoyable day.

"There's a handsome man in my bed," I squealed, embarrassed by how camp my voice sounded. "I wonder if he'll let me take him out to breakfast."

I could tell by the look on his face that he really preferred to lie around and mope, but he pulled himself out of bed. "Okay."

The bathroom door shut loudly behind him. Then I heard the shower go on. When he came out of the bedroom, his erection was gone, but I still had a feeling he'd chosen not to jerk off. Cold shower?

He reached for his clothes from the night before. I took him by the hand and led him to the dresser. "We'll get you your own dresser, but in the meantime these top two drawers are yours." I opened the first. I'd stocked it with underwear, socks and T-shirts. The next drawer had sweaters, shirts and jeans. "I thought we could go shopping together for the rest."

Alex got that pained, uncomfortable look on his face like he had the last time I'd bought him clothes. It tore at my heart, but I pushed those feelings away, too. I had to be strong for him right now.

"I knew that if I didn't buy you a few things, you'd just be raiding my stuff."

"Thanks." He barely managed to push the word out. He pulled off his briefs and selected a fresh pair, still in the package.

I stuck one hand in the drawer and found a different pair. "How 'bout these?"

Even moody, he couldn't hold back a smile at the green polka dots. "God, Mulder. The tie thing... it's spreading."

"I couldn't resist."

"You really expect me to wear these?"

"Yes."

He hesitated.

"Who's going to see them besides you and me?"

Shaking his head and muttering, he put them on. I knew he wouldn't have done that for anyone else.

I showed him where I'd made space in the closet. A shelf for his prosthetic arm. A heavy wooden hanger for his leather jacket. He idly stroked the sleeve, greeting it like an old friend, before he slipped it on.

Suddenly his freedom and our planned life together seemed so real. Seeing Alex in my apartment wearing his leather jacket. Restored to his previous identity. I wrapped my arms around his waist and smelled the scent of clean Alex and leather.

It was a gorgeous sunny day, so I took him to a sidewalk cafe, thinking the sun would boost his mood. It seemed to work. He ordered a huge breakfast and ate all of it. Afterward, he let me take him shopping. I'd never been shopping for clothes with anyone except my mother. I told him we could use my credit card, but he refused until I agreed to let him reimburse me. I knew he had some money offshore, but I didn't know how long it would take him to get to it. And I really just wanted to treat him.

I waited on Alex hand and foot as he selected clothes for his new job. A half dozen dress shirts. I made him buy two with band collars, and had to work to convince him how good they looked. He made me buy one, too.

His taste in ties was much better than mine, so I let him pick those, urging him toward anything with a green that would complement his eyes. During the fitting, Alex was not the least bit embarrassed being seen in the polka dot shorts. But suits were painful, even though the clerk was smooth as silk. I could feel Alex tense as the young man fitted the suit coats around his arm.

"Any special instructions for the left sleeve, sir?"

"The same as the other one."

The salesman nodded, having earned his commission.

After the fitting, Alex whispered something to the young man and sat down again to wait.

In a few minutes, the clerk returned with a very dark gray, almost black, Armani. The solicitous employee held it up to me.

"I don't wear this color."

"You should," both of them replied in unison.

I bought the suit. I'd have purchased a yacht to see that simmering look in Alex's eyes.

On the way to the cash register, Alex selected two more ties, holding each up to my suit, so I knew they were for me.

I observed the salesman watching Alex and could tell he knew we were lovers. I smiled at him, proud to be the man on Alex's arm figuratively, if not literally.

The clerk winked at me.

For lunch, Alex requested Cuban food. So I took him to Mija, the littlest, dingiest restaurant near the Capitol. The superb food was home cooking without any pretenses. It was a busy, noisy part of town, but Alex seemed to have relaxed since the day before. He enjoyed the meal, and we both ate way too much.

It felt so good to be doing such ordinary things with him. No aliens. No guns. No law enforcement. It was the kind of day I wanted to go on forever. Unfortunately, I ruined it.

After we begged the waitress to take away the chips, I had a question for Alex. I chose my words carefully. "Alex, my great aunt died last year and left me a little money."

"Uh-huh..." He looked at me with suspicion as only he can.

"You're going to need a car. I was hoping you'd let me buy one for you."

His face became guarded. "Given all the goodies at the apartment, I guess I'm lucky you asked me first."

I just waited.

"Thank you for offering, but no. I have money."

"This is something I want to do, to help get you started in your new life."

He bristled at that. I think 'help' was the man's least favorite word. "You need to invest that money for your retirement."

"After taxes the inheritance is almost $50,000. I can buy a good car and invest the rest."

"Mulder, I've seen your Quicken data. You need the investment."

That, I hadn't expected. I'm not sure what kind of look I gave him, but he gazed back at me almost sheepishly.

"I hope no one paid you to examine my financial background."

He frowned, that delicious crease forming at the top of his nose. "No. Why?"

"You didn't do a very good job." I painted on my best smart-ass look, before continuing. "My father left me a trust. I haven't touched it, but it's enough to support you, me, Scully and the pizza delivery kid if we all retired today and lived to be one hundred."

His face tightened into a grimace. I shouldn't have told him. When he spoke, his voice was shaky. "I didn't know that, Mulder. I swear I didn't know."

I should have foreseen that he'd feel accused. "I believe you, Alex."

"I didn't worm my way into your bed because you're wealthy. I wouldn't..." He just gave up, looking away, his head dropped into his hand.

"I know that."

We were both silent for a long time. Finally, he spoke. "I don't want your money. I especially don't want your father's money. I'll buy my own damned car."

He rose to depart, but I grabbed his wrist. "I'm sorry, Alex. This was just something I wanted to do for you."

Yanking his arm free and giving me a lethal glare, he left the restaurant. I followed quickly, afraid he'd disappear. An elusive creature is the man I love. Relief flooded my system when I saw him leaning against a pillar in front of my car.

Neither of us spoke as I drove.

Back at home, Alex planted himself in the chair by the bookcase. He found my old copy of Dune and started reading it again. I could tell he was agitated, because some of the page turning was in the wrong direction.

"Alex, I'm going to run a few errands and give you some time alone."

"Sure." His face was grim, but his voice gentle. "Thanks."

** Krycek **

I knew I was being a complete asshole, but it was probably a good thing he gave me some time alone to think.

My desire to be with him was frighteningly strong. I wanted him--and not just for sex.

And yet, I'd spent 32 years worried only about myself. Keeping Alex Krycek alive, reasonably healthy and sane, was no minor assignment. Now I had to consider how my behavior affected him. It seemed impossible. Half of the time I was confused about my own feelings. His were no less baffling.

It was way more than I felt ready to handle, but there weren't any good alternatives. He'd waited 14 months for me. If I wanted this, I had to do it now. I'd done some difficult things in my life, but this felt like the challenge that would undo me.

Mulder came back around dinnertime. He smiled at me and took a chair near the sofa. "I have something for you."

I grimaced a little. What now?

He shook his head. "Not a gift. It's already yours." From his pocket, he withdrew his key ring and removed something from it. The silver fox.

I'd completely forgotten about it.

He slid the fox onto a plain silver ring and added a few keys. Placing it on the table in front of us, he separated the keys. "These are for the apartment. This is a spare set for my car."

I rubbed my thumb over the fox charm. "Thank you."

He nodded.

Fuck. I'd been giving him such a hard time. "I don't mean to be ungrateful."

Mulder slipped onto the sofa next to me. "Shhh. 'S'okay." His arm wrapped around my waist. I was already forgiven and I hadn't even apologized.

That night, I slept in those awful polka dot shorts. I was starting to get blue balls. I wanted him. Badly. But I also felt so many intense things I couldn't understand. Pressure. Fear. Loss. I was a jumble of emotions I couldn't make any sense of. I wanted to be with Mulder, but I needed to be alone. So I shut him out.

Neither of us slept much.

I woke up around 3 A.M. thinking about what he'd told me. I'd made Mulder a rich man when I killed his father. It almost made me ill that something like that would turn around on me, punishing me through my relationship with him. It was crueler punishment for my ill deeds than my prison term.

Thinking back to before Mulder... it was a loser's life. I was a loser. Only two days out of prison, things seemed so totally different. Who was this Alex Krycek in this strange life? Surely not Mrs. Fox Mulder?

I couldn't cope. And when Alex couldn't cope, he ran. I'd run from far less.

The only thing worse than being depressed when your life was total shit, was being depressed when you just got what you wanted.


Chapter 3

**Krycek**

There was something I needed to do. My second morning out of prison, I phoned Scully while Mulder was out jogging.

"Scully."

"This is Alex Krycek."

"Is Mulder okay?"

"Yeah." I took a deep breath. "I was wondering if you'd meet me somewhere this afternoon." I thought to suggest lunch, but that was too civilized for the conversation I had in mind.

"Just you?"

"Yeah. I... I want to talk about... your sister's death."

"What?" I could hear a sharp edge in her voice.

"If you want to hear it."

"All right."

We met a couple of hours later at park in Alexandria. Out of habit, I got there an hour early to make sure we didn't have an audience. I dreaded the conversation and sat sweating in the cool air until she arrived.

She sat across from me at the picnic table. Neither of us bothered with the niceties of 'hello' or 'how are you.'

"I'm going to tell you about your sister's death, because I think you need to hear it."

Her blue eyes were cold as she nodded.

"You can ask questions, if you like. I'll answer if I can."

"What's to stop me from hauling your ass off to jail?"

"Mulder. Maybe nothing." I met her eyes and held my breath for a minute. "Are you wearing a wire or a recording device?"

"No."

I took a deep breath and began. "Luis Cardinal and I were sent to find the DAT tape. And to kill you."

"Who sent you?"

"I can't offer you that information."

"Then why are we here? What's the point?"

"You can't arrest these men. If you go after them, you'll only get yourself killed."

"And you care?"

"Because of Mulder. If you want to hear what I can tell you, I'll continue."

She offered a brusque nod.

"Cardinal and I entered your apartment, looking for the digital tape. Melissa came in and Cardinal just shot without thinking."

"That's extremely convenient since Cardinal is dead." A toss of her head flung a lock of red hair away from her eyes. "You're a liar, Krycek. Why should I believe anything you have to say?"

"I know you don't trust me. You have no reason to. But I'm trying to come clean here."

"I don't believe you." Her voice was low, with a murderous edge. I knew she wanted to hurt me, but she wouldn't. She was above that. I'd never understood how women could endure so much without getting violent.

"Did you even know that I'd been there before today?"

She didn't answer, just glared at me.

"I'm not trying to pretend I'm a good guy here. I've killed. Okay? But Cardinal shot your sister. By mistake. Believe me or not, that's what happened."

I saw the wheels turning in her head. She was considering the possibility that I might be telling the truth.

"I went to her. She was unconscious. I turned her over and saw it wasn't you." I paused, having to force myself to name my real responsibility. "We left her there."

A tremor of anger flickered across her face. She was silent for a long time. I waited. Finally, she hissed at me, "You bastard. You have no remorse, do you?"

"I didn't at the time. No."

"So now you're going to apologize?" Her voice was bitter.

"No. I'd apologize if I stepped on your foot. I don't think 'I'm sorry' is appropriate for what happened to your sister."

She frowned at me, but the look slowly dissolved into an apathetic disgust.

I had one more thing to tell her. "I don't expect to be forgiven."

"This would be a lot easier for me if you weren't Mulder's lover."

"Believe me, I know. For that, I'm sorry."

Scully used her fingers to pull back a lock of hair. Then she got up and walked away.

I was relieved. And grateful. Grateful she hadn't shot me or arrested me. I knew she must want to. She truly loved him.

As I walked back to my car, I realized I'd have felt better if she had done something violent. When Mulder beat me, he also gave me absolution.

Mulder was watching TV when I got back to his apartment. "Where've you been, Alex?" he asked in a soft voice.

"I had to run some errands. Nothing important."

Woeful bluish-gray eyes flashed up at me.

"Nothing really." I sat down next to him.

He slid in closer and put his head on my chest. I could almost hear him worrying. I petted his hair and we watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Something I never would have done if I'd hadn't felt guilty.

I never felt guilty before Mulder. But he was giving me the world right now, and I was barely hanging in there with him. Evasive and moody. No sex. And he's so fucking loyal anyway. I've got to try to do better. He deserves more.

But when the program was over, he turned it off and immediately asked, "Why don't you want to tell me where you were?"

I pushed away from him and rose. "Dammit, Mulder. Quit treating me like a perp! I think I'm entitled to a little privacy." I stood by the fish tank, watching the trapped little animals swimming in circles.

His flat voice came from behind me. "I'm concerned, Alex."

"Yeah, well, don't be."

When his hand rested on my leather-jacketed shoulder, I pushed it away.

Mulder slept on the couch that night.

The next morning, he greeted me in bed with coffee and a cautious smile.

"Morning," I offered tentatively.

He kissed me on the forehead. "What would you like to do today, Alex?"

I wanted to touch him, but I didn't. "I need to contact my bank and buy a car."

We showered separately again.

He followed me around like a puppy all day, while I opened a local bank account and arranged for a transfer of funds from the Caymans.

Mulder pouted when I reimbursed him for my new clothes. I also paid for the suit and ties we bought for him. He didn't check the math, so he probably didn't even notice.

In the afternoon, he drove me to a couple of used car dealers and I bought a white pickup truck.

We drove back separately, and I stopped to get a haircut.

By the time I returned to the apartment, Mulder was in a funk. He inspected my haircut, sighed and turned up the volume on the TV. He was obviously hurt. Probably because I went somewhere without discussing it with him first.

Fuck. Even as a child, I never told anyone where I was going.

Hanging around in his vicinity, but not really being with him and enjoying his company, was worse than being alone.

I couldn't fix it. I just wanted to be alone. Mulder felt like a dead weight I had to carry around with me and I didn't know how.

Mulder joined me in bed that night. He curled up right next to my back and whispered. "I love you, Alex."

I wrapped a leg over his, just to let him know that I was still there.

** Mulder **

Things were still tense Saturday morning, but he agreed to let me take him out for breakfast. There was a long wait for outdoor seating at the pancake house, so we walked the neighborhood. Downtown Alexandria was brimming with families and dogs on the surprisingly warm January day.

Alex seemed bored by the shops, so I turned down a side street and we walked through the residential part of town. Most of the houses were forty or fifty years old, but well maintained. A fat orange cat m'rowed at us and wound her body between Alex's legs. He bent over to stroke her and she purred contentedly. Her affection for him was much like my own--inexplicable but intensely sensual. Alex rubbed her belly and chuckled at the cat's sluttishness. Then he rose and abandoned his feline suitor.

I watched him observing the neighborhood. His glance lingered on the more unique homes. He stopped to feel the leaves of an odd, tropical looking tree. A deflated basketball and other junk in a front yard sparked some sort of unidentifiable emotion in his deep green eyes.

I wanted to hold his hand, but was unsure how either of us would feel about the public display of affection.

Sound came from behind us and Alex reached for me, pulling me out of the path of a child on a bicycle. My lover's vigilance saved me from a collision with a grade-school-aged girl who saw us as easy targets. We laughed at the girl's ferocity and reclaimed the sidewalk behind her.

We circled the neighborhood, looping back in the direction of the restaurant. Three adolescent boys tossed a football in the street while two younger girls watched. As we passed, a red-haired girl called out, "Hey, Mister. Did a shark eat your arm?"

Alex squatted at eye level, his face a parody of insanity and his voice taking a maniacal tone. "I've never heard that one before, so I've decided to let you live."

Darting across the street, the girls shrieked at a pitch that made my ears burn.

We continued on our way for a few minutes before I asked, "What would you have done if you had heard that one before?"

"Jeez, Mulder. Killed them and eaten them for breakfast, what do you think?"

Later that afternoon, I found Alex in the kitchen going through the cabinets.

"What're you doing?"

His lips twitched and his eyes narrowed. "What does it look like?"

"Doing an inventory?"

"Yeah." Withdrawing a dusty box from one shelf, he held it out to me. "Pineapple upside down cake mix?"

I shrugged. "Don't know where that came from."

He jettisoned the offensive object into the trash. "If I'm going to cook anything, there are a lot of supplies we need."

"Okay, just make a list. I'll pay for whatever you need."

His hand froze on a cabinet door. Then suddenly, he turned to face me.

Involuntarily, I flinched and backed away from him.

"You know, Mulder. I have money and a job. I'm not some homeless charity case."

"Fine. You pay for the damned cooking stuff." I stomped into the living room and turned on the TV. As I flopped onto the sofa, my foot knocked a stack of magazines onto the floor. I kicked the pile to disperse it.

What was wrong with him? I tried to help a little and he got all pissy.

I mulled over the situation during a particularly bad Star Trek rerun. Maybe he was irritable because he wanted sex and wasn't getting any?

When he appeared in the living room an hour later, I decided to broach the subject. "Alex, sometimes when sexual feelings are repressed, it's stressful to deal with everyday problems."

He squinted at me with the most aggravated look I'd ever seen on anyone's face.

"Why don't you talk about whatever is bothering you. I'm sure I can help."

"What is your goddamn problem, Mulder?"

"My problem?"

"Yeah, your problem." He began to pace. "Christ, can't you cut me a little slack here? You've been all over me since I got out of prison. I just need some down time, dammit."

Standing, I walked over to him, but he did an about-face and paced faster in the opposite direction. I practically chased him across the room. "Something is bothering you and you need my help. I can't just ignore it."

His hand rose and pushed my shoulder. "I will decide when I need help."

No way, Alex. I tried that already. Didn't work. "If you'll just talk about what happened in prison, we can work through it."

"No." His mouth snapped shut with an audible clicking of his teeth.

"Were you raped, Alex?"

"I said 'no,' Mulder."

"You can't just bottle it all up inside. I'm your lover, you have to discuss it with me."

"No. I. Don't." Before I could blink, he'd grabbed his leather jacket and headed for the door.

I ran to him, my hand reaching for his shoulder. "Alex, I can help."

He slid out from under my grasp and out the door.

Fuck!

** Krycek **

I drove to Stingray Point. Off-season, there weren't many people at the beach. A few folks walking dogs. A jogger.

I walked on the sand and gravel, cursing Mulder. The man was an Olympic-caliber irritation machine. After I calmed down a bit, I cursed myself. I didn't think I wanted to go back. This was too damned difficult.

Too much pressure! The weight of Mulder's needs and demands felt like it would crush me into something no longer identifiable as Alex. Trying to make this relationship work seemed destined to fail. Best to get out before I humiliated myself.

The gentle sound of the tiny waves lapping the shore soothed me. And after a few hours, I decided to return. Because... Why? Mulder was an infuriating, arrogant asshole, but he was also damned sweet and sexy. And no other life I could imagine had anything that nice in it.

Once I'd made my decision, I still didn't head back. I walked half the night, because I couldn't psyche myself up to face him. Finally, when the clouds started to spit an ozone-smelling drizzle, I gave up and headed for the truck.

Walking down the hall to his apartment was a trial. After I shut the door behind me, I went to him immediately, before I could chicken out. "We need to talk." Fuck, I did not want to talk.

He nodded and we sat down next to each other. It was ominous sitting on the couch with a fucking psychologist to try to talk about my feelings.

"Since I got out of prison, you've done nothing but try to take care of me and I've treated you like shit."

The corner of his mouth turned up as he suppressed a grin.

"Getting out is... difficult. And being in a... relationship is... I don't know. I've never really been in a relationship. It's always been sex." I chewed on my thumbnail. "I've always done everything I wanted to, when I wanted to, only for me. And now... shit. I feel so... dependent."

Mulder just listened, barely moving.

"Before I went to prison, I had my own life, job, car, apartment, clothes... Now, I live in your apartment. You picked most of my clothes. And every fucking decision I make affects you. And this relationship is probably going to cost you your job." I closed my eyes, unable to continue.

I felt a warm hand on mine and I could hear his mouth open.

"Shut up, Mulder," I growled at him. "I don't want to cause you more pain. Part of me is hoping you'll throw me out. I can think of ten good reasons why you should and none why you shouldn't. I've even thought I should just leave, but you're the only thing that really matters to me right now." I squeezed his warm fingers. Opening my eyes, I discovered sad grayish-green eyes looking back at me. "You may speak now."

Mulder gave me a momentary glare. "I was lonely before we got together. I'd put everything I had into my work and the rest of me was dying." He looked away for a moment to pull himself together. "I've been in a few relationships, but no one ever got through to me the way you do. And I decided that I deserved to have you care about me."

My eyes were burning. Fuck. I despised this shit.

"Even with you in prison, I felt less lonely. Maybe I couldn't touch you or even see you very often, but you were there for me. I don't mean that you went to prison for me, even though you did." Mulder gave me a glance, as if to way 'and we both know it.' "I mean, even if we weren't together, I knew you cared. And that meant more to me than I had ever imagined."

I put my arm around him and we just sat there for a long time. Even though he was the sole reason for my anxiety, his presence soothed me.

After a long time, he spoke again. "Isn't there something else, Alex?"

I nodded and pulled away a little. "I didn't know I made you a wealthy man when I killed your father." This was so difficult I had to stop and just breathe for a while. "I never wanted to hurt you. Even as I betrayed you, I didn't want to hurt you. I'm sorry."

Mulder opened his mouth again, but I stopped him. "Let me finish."

He nodded.

"It's painful for me, too, Mulder. Every day I'm with you, I remember what I did to you--to you, not him." God, saying those words out loud felt like the emotional equivalent of having my arm hacked off. "And the idea that you might spend his money to... help me is just intolerable."

"The money came from my great aunt."

"But without the trust fund, you'd have the good sense to invest it."

Mulder accepted defeat on that argument with a reluctant nod.

I wanted to stop talking and not ever have to discuss feelings again, but I didn't want to wimp out on him either. "I was a lot more comfortable with this relationship when I thought you had less money than I did. I knew you came from money, but except for your suits, I never felt outclassed. Now, somehow, I feel like your adopted third-world child. Or maybe your own pet needy ex-con..." I was about ready to crawl under the sofa at that point.

Mulder didn't speak until he was certain I was finished. "I'd like to try to convince you that some of what you've said is wrong, but I guess they're your feelings." He gazed at me in a gentle way. "Money doesn't mean much to me. As long as I have enough to pay the bills and keep Armani in business, I'm happy. I know it's easy to feel that way with a guaranteed retirement fund in my pocket. But what matters to me is my work, the truth, my friends and you. Money's just a thing. I have some and I want to share it. It doesn't matter where the money came from. It's just a thing."

We both sat quietly for a while. Just accepting each other's feelings was so intense it was scary. No argument, just listening. It exhausted me.

"Let's get something to eat."

"Sure," he replied, but his eyes said he knew we weren't finished yet.

** Mulder **

Alex Krycek wasn't the classic macho man by any stretch of the imagination, but I was still surprised by his candid discussion of his feelings. I could easily see how difficult it was for him, but he didn't give up. It was the clearest proof of his love for me. That felt good, but the sight of him in pain still hurt. Wasn't it my job to make sure he was never unhappy?

I heated some frozen leftovers and we ate, watching a Bogart movie until about 3 A.M. Afterward, I was in the kitchen trying to wash the dishes when he stepped into sight.

"What the fuck are you doing?"

He'd caught me at the sink with my left hand behind my back. My face must have looked like a kid caught with dad's Playboy. "Uh... washing dishes?"

I watched his scowl dissolve into a smirk. The sound of his hearty chuckle reassured me that everything was going to be okay between us. "Jesus, Mulder, you moron." He nudged me aside with his hip and showed me how a real one-armed man washes dishes. In less than half the time it would have taken me, the dishes were done. I wondered how quickly he could have done them without me wrapped around his waist.

I woke late to the smell of bacon and found Alex in the kitchen making breakfast. There were only three strips of bacon in the pan.

"Did you make enough for me?" I asked in a sleepy, whiny voice and wrapped my arms around his shoulders.

He slipped out of my grip and pulled a plate out of the oven, covered with bacon and two plump omelets. "I didn't forget about you."

The table was already set with fresh fruit on salad plates and a basket of muffins. The most astonishing touch was a beer bottle with daisies in it.

I buttered a blueberry muffin and stuffed half of it in my mouth. "Di yu mke theees yurslf?"

"Just for you, lover."

A spaceship landing on our front lawn couldn't have made me any happier.

I finished chewing long enough to bring up something I'd been thinking about for a long time. "Alex?"

"Hmm?'

"Would you call me Fox?"

His green eyes flew to mine. "Are you sure?"

"Yes. It's my name. Maybe I could get used to you calling me that."

"Okay, Fox."

"You can still call me 'lover,' too."

"Whatever you want, lover." His broad smile revealed pearly white teeth.

"Um, Alex?"

"Yeah?"

"How do you floss your teeth?"

He gaped at me. "What?"

"With one hand, how do you floss your teeth?"

He laughed in my face. And then realized I was waiting for an answer. "I don't."

"Ever?"

"Never."

"But what about your gums?"

"Christ, Mulder. You find the strangest things to worry about." He shook his head at my incredible folly. "When you've spent years dodging aliens, hit men and police, gum disease isn't a big priority."

Afterward, I washed the dishes, using both hands. Chef Alex read the paper.

"What do you want to do today, Alex?"

He glanced up, face turning serious, but he didn't speak for a long time. Finally he said reluctantly, "We should finish our talk, so it's not hanging over my head."

"Okay."

When I wrapped up the last of the dishes, I joined him at the kitchen table. He tossed aside the paper and psyched himself up by stretching his arms above his head. "I guess you noticed I've been avoiding sex."

"Uh-huh."

He looked at me as if he was hoping I'd tell him what was wrong, so he wouldn't have to. Finally he said, "I had sex in prison."

"I told you that was okay."

"Yeah, but..." He trailed off, an unpleasant expression on his face.

"Okay..." I said, stalling so I could think. "Was it consensual sex? I mean, it's fine if it was. I told you that."

His tone got flat. "Do you need to know? Does it matter?"

I felt this sudden pressure in my chest. "God dammit, Alex! I'm your lover. I care if someone hurt you. I need to know."

It took an effort for him to meet my eyes. "It... I did not consent."

I reached to put a hand on his shoulder, but he jerked his chair back away from me. "Don't, Mulder! This isn't about me being your needy little ex-con rape victim."

I sat back in my chair. My stomach churned at the thought of what other men had done to Alex. Maybe it was me who needed comfort. "This is very painful for me too, Alex."

Alex sighed. "I need you not to make a big deal out of it. I'm over it. Worse things have been done to me."

He intended to reassure me, but it only made me feel worse. What could be more horrible than being raped in prison? Having your arm chopped off? Being possessed by the black oilien? I could only hope being beaten by your lover didn't qualify.

He sat there silently while a myriad of emotions flowed through me. Hurt for Alex. Frustration that he couldn't handle my pain. I was holding the biggest emotion at bay--rage at his rapists. I was grateful I didn't have a mental picture of what happened. Even so, I knew if the men who'd done this were here, I could coldly pull a trigger at least once for each of them. The moral differences between Alex and I were not a great as he thought.

I blurted out, "Don't give me any details, unless you need to."

He nodded.

Alex was the one who had been violated. I had to shove down my feelings and be there for him. "What do you want from me, Alex?"

"I do not want to talk about it. I just thought I should tell you." We sat silently for a long time before he spoke again. "Fuck, the last few days, I feel like... I don't know. Can we just do something mindless today?"

"You want to go bowling?"

He frowned and shook his head.

"Watch golf on TV?"

"I'd rather go bowling."

"Wash my car?"

He groaned and threw a roll of paper towels at me.

We drove to the sports center and played basketball. I introduced him to all the regulars. Maybe they could tell he was my lover, but no one seemed to care. We played until we could barely stand anymore.

Alex didn't play that well with one hand, but he compensated by being aggressive.

We stopped at a burger joint on the way back.

After we ate, I steered the car toward home. Alex seemed more relaxed than he had since getting out. I slipped a hand onto his thigh and squeezed.

He slid over to the middle of the front seat. Thank god for good old American cars with bench seats. Alex's warm lips found mine and I could barely see to drive.

"Hey, I'd rather not drive off the road."

He took away his mouth, until the next stoplight. Then he kissed me long and hard until a horn started honking behind us.

Back at the apartment, he threw the gym bag on the floor and me on the sofa. Straddling my lap, he kissed me some more. Was he okay now? Perhaps, but I felt intuitively that I needed to let him be in control.

During a breathing break, he unbuttoned my shirt and lapped at my nipples. His shapely lips were parted, still moist from the kissing.

"God, Alex. I've missed your mouth."

He emitted a wicked laugh. "I missed all your body parts, Fox, but I especially missed your cock." He tore open my fly and helped himself to my erection. Before I knew what hit me, he was on his knees between my legs. He opened and lowered his jeans, then pulled out his hard-on. He left it hanging and started licking my shaft. Nibbling around the head, he worked his way down until I was gasping.

"Don't make me wait, Alex. Please... I've waited so long."

In one quick motion, he wrapped his mouth around my cock. He gnawed on the middle of the shaft briefly before sucking me into his throat.

I groaned the groan of the long suffering.

He removed his mouth and chuckled at me. "Fox, take my head in your hands. I want you to fuck my face."

My hormone-addled brain struggled to form a command to move my hands, but they eventually reached the back of his head. The look of abject lust on his face as he relinquished his mouth to me almost made me come instantly.

I slid my cock into his mouth more slowly than he would have done, but he relaxed into it and lowered his hand to his own erection.

I knew he was 98% top-man, so it meant all the more that he was giving me this. Even though I controlled the thrusts, his mouth and tongue worked feverishly on my cock.

"So... fucking... good, Alex."

He couldn't answer with his mouth full, but I heard a muffled groan from deep in his chest.

Wanting him for so long, I knew I couldn't last. I stopped resisting and let his sweet mouth take me over the edge. Inspired or through ruthless control, he came right behind me as I shot into his throat.

It was just like our first time together. I wondered if he'd done it that way on purpose.

Minutes later, we both regained consciousness. I was hoping to pull him back onto my lap, when he stood up and headed for the bathroom.

I was grimy and sweaty, so I followed him. "Shower?"

"Definitely," he replied.

We soaped each other thoroughly, but I tried to keep it lighthearted. He was making a good attempt at being okay, but the crease in his brow gave him away. I ticked him under the armpits until he pinned me to the tiles and told me--in a voice that left no room for argument--that I wasn't going to do that anymore.


Chapter 4

** Krycek **

The sex was damned good. Always was with him. That chemistry thing... he made my blood boil.

I got a bit morose again as he washed me. I couldn't help but remember the time when I freaked out in the shower. Every day that I'd been out of prison, it felt the same--like I was a hair away from self-destruction. Could I really do this with Mulder?

Why does he even want to? He says he loves me, but what does that really mean?

We both love the sex. And I truly like him. He's funny and generous and quirky and passionate. And I respect him. But he can't possibly respect me. And now, I'm living his life in his world. Can I even respect myself anymore?

Before, I believed in myself... in my cunning, my knack for survival, my willingness to do what I had to. But now, I was just an amoral, loser ex-con.

In this world, I had nothing except the insane love of Fox Mulder. And where was I going to be when I lost that?

Monday, I made a light breakfast for Mulder while he showered and dressed. I walked him to the door and kissed him goodbye.

It was surreal.

Afterward, I sat on the sofa and stared into space for a few minutes. The wife gig would be up tomorrow when I started my own job.

I puttered around the apartment, trying to convert his den of disorder into something a little more livable without messing up anything he seemed fussy about. After an hour or so of tidying and cleaning, I realized I was in a good mood. For no apparent reason. Maybe it felt a little like it was my place, too.

** Mulder **

Kimberly wasn't in yet, so I knocked at his open door. Skinner frowned at me. "Come in, Agent Mulder."

I took a chair in front of his desk.

Skinner glowered at me for a long time before speaking. "Your partner gave me some things to think about this weekend. I don't approve of your relationship with that man. And it's not the gay thing. He's a criminal."

"An ex-con, sir," I corrected.

He shook his head. "Don't delude yourself, Mulder. We both know he got off easy on the only crime that was prosecutable."

My mouth opened to defend Alex, but I had nothing to say that would change Skinner's opinion, so I said nothing. His glare was so direct it almost made me squirm. Just a surly look from this man, and most people would probably confess to crimes they never committed.

He finally continued, "The X-Files needs you, and I believe in your work, so..." He hesitated, as if not liking his conclusion. "... I'm not going to fire you. But I am going to disclose your relationship to the Director. He may terminate you. But, even if he doesn't, the potential exists for conflicts of interest or blackmail." He stood and walked around the desk to peer down at me. "You will immediately report to me any case, investigation or event in your work that has any connection whatsoever with Alex Krycek. I expect full disclosure and no surprises. If you value your position with the Bureau, you will follow these instructions to the letter. If you don't, I will have no choice but to dismiss you. Do you understand, Agent Mulder?"

I nodded.

"That will be all."

I walked back to my office, relieved but also pissed. Skinner's such a drill sergeant. Never got over the Marines. Loves to boss people around. Damn him!

I phoned Alex.

"Yeah?"

"It's me. I've got bad news. I won't be lying around the house getting horny for you during the day. I'm still employed."

"Fox," he replied in a warning tone. "Did you misbehave with Skinner?"

"No, I was the perfect, obedient little agent."

"Why do I find that hard to believe?"

"Because you know me," I replied.

Alex sighed heavily. "Skinner's just doing his job."

I scowled at the receiver. "Damn him! I wish he'd just leave us alone."

"Not that it's my strong point, but didn't anyone ever teach you how to show the proper respect to your superiors?"

"Actually, no." I snickered. "Maybe you could put me in my place when I come home tonight?"

He sighed heavily into the phone. After a long pause, he replied in a sexy, low voice. "All right, Fox." The way he said my name was pornographic. "When you get home tonight, I want you to shut the door, stop in the entryway, take off all your clothes, get on your knees and wait for me. Got that?"

Suddenly, the conversation was a lot more interesting. My cock was throbbing. I could barely speak, "Uh, yes, Alex."

It took a lot of willpower not to go to the men's room to take care of the problem in my pants.

Scully arrived twenty minutes later. She eyed my badge on the corner of my desk. "You still work here?"

"Yeah. Still at the top of the FBI's most unwanted."

She stood by my desk. "What did he say?"

"You know the usual Skinner ass reaming... called Alex a criminal. Rubbed my nose in it. Said he wants to micromanage anything that might involve Alex. Same old bullshit."

"Mulder," she began before cutting herself off. I could see the wheels turning in her head. "Were you your usual arrogant self? Or did you act nice to prove that you can behave?"

"Gee, Scully. Which do you think?"

"Dammit, Mulder. I almost side with Skinner in this matter. You're damned lucky to have your job."

"Thank you, sir. May I have another?"

"How many times has Walter Skinner saved your ass?" Her voice rose. She was genuinely angry. "I think he's earned your respect nine times over, but if you don't get your way on everything, you act like a spoiled child."

"Alex has done much more for my ass that Skinner ever has!" That useful outburst rather proved her point.

Scully rolled her eyes.

I decided to sulk. I picked up a file and stomped off to the library.

Unable to think of anything besides Alex that afternoon, I left work at 5:05 and drove home 20 miles over the speed limit.

When I got home, as instructed, I stepped inside the door and secured it behind me. I didn't see Alex. Not a sound in the apartment. Maybe he wasn't expecting me this early? Maybe he wasn't home?

I decided to undress anyway. It couldn't hurt. I could always jack off. Tossing my briefcase on the floor, I piled my clothes on top of it. As I tugged off my boxers, I shivered. The room was a bit cool. Alex was just my idea of the perfect body warmer.

"Alex?" I called out.

"Patience, Fox," replied the familiar husky voice from the vicinity of the bedroom.

My dick rose at the sound. Standing there, I wrapped my arms around myself. What was he going to do with me?

He made me wait a long time. It had to be at least four minutes. Finally, I felt the vibrations of his footsteps in the hallway. He appeared, wearing only a pair of forest green silk boxers I'd bought for him. I admired his muscular chest and legs. Yum! He looked good enough to eat.

And I was very hungry after a hard day at work.

Alex stopped at a distance and gave me a mild glare. "Fox, you didn't completely follow my instructions."

"Huh?" I played back the phone conversation in my head. "Oh." I abruptly dropped to my knees, deftly landing one of them on the corner of my briefcase, which made me teeter before righting myself.

Alex chuckled softly at my folly, then nodded his head and came closer.

"You look very sexy, Alex."

He smiled down at me and then rubbed the side of my face into the silk of his boxers. His fingers stroked my hair. His crotch smelled inexplicably of cinnamon.

"What are you going to do with me?" I asked his groin. My hand wandered over, as covertly as possible, to check out his erection. Very hard. Very nice.

He pulled on my hair a little and massaged my scalp. "I haven't decided yet."

"Fuck me?"

He put a finger over my lips. "Shh. I'll decide, Fox."

Soon, please!

With his hand at my armpit, he guided me upward, then pressed my body against the wall. He gazed into my eyes, with an intensely serious look that made my knees weak. Such a beautiful man is my Alex.

His hand stroked my cheek, toyed with my ear and caressed my neck. Oh, great. I'd been horny since 7:30 this morning and he was going to take it slow. I was starting to regret that I'd ever sent him that damned tape. No doubt he thought I liked to be made to wait. I rubbed up against his body to demonstrate my impatience.

Suddenly, his hand pressed into my hip, forcing my ass back against the wall. He gave me a stern glance, eyes burning like green fire. The sight made my cock enlarge to epic proportions.

I exhaled suddenly. It was an incredible turn-on when he told me what to do, but waiting was just so awful. My cock needed attention and my cruel lover didn't seem to care.

Alex, please. Do something.

His hand stroked upward from my waist, stopping to pinch my nipples. He watched every move of his fingers, his face entranced. Those fingers lightly traced the curves of my pecs. He tweaked the sparse hairs in the center of my chest, sending tingles of sensation down my spine.

"You have no idea how much you excite me," he whispered softly as the fingers found my flank.

I groaned, but held myself back from trying to rub against him this time.

He put two fingers in my mouth and I sucked them eagerly, but they were withdrawn too quickly. The wet fingers passed over one nipple and then the other. He blew on my nipples, one at a time, and I shivered again.

"Alex, please," I muttered.

He kissed my forehead. "It's okay, Fox. I'm going to take care of you, but not quickly. You're going to have to wait."

I made a face at him to show my displeasure.

Alex responded with just a hint of a smile. Cocky bastard. His body pressed into mine and he said softly in my ear, "Spread your legs, Fox."

Oh, Christ.

Then he backed away, standing six inches from me. I lamented the loss of his heat.

I opened my legs and met his gaze, pleading with my eyes.

He touched my abdomen with teasing fingers, walking them down my hip onto my thigh.

Fuck, he hadn't even done anything and I was dying. It took every ounce of willpower I had not to reach for my cock.

With seemingly endless patience, he explored my thighs, fingers trailing lightly across my skin. I looked at his crotch again. He was definitely hard. There was even a tiny wet spot at the tip of his dick, seeping through the silk. But his breathing was slow, eerily calm. His thumb brushed along the inside of one thigh, sending sparks up to my crotch.

At last, just a tease, his fingertips passed across my balls. Oh, yes. Touch me, Alex. I need you so badly. My head was filled with images of him throwing me on the floor, and me on all fours as he shoved his cock into me. But the telepathic link wasn't working. The bastard had his own agenda.

His hand gripped too gently around my balls, squeezing, but it wasn't enough. Touch my cock, dammit!

Then his index finger reached out and swiped my cock head. I stopped breathing for a moment, but then the finger was gone. I grimaced at him.

He raised the finger to my lips. "Taste yourself." His velvety voice made my brain turn to Jell-O. My tongue touched the tip of his finger. This time he let me suck it. I pulled the entire finger into my mouth, slurping and gnawing. The expression on his face was transcendent, as if having me suck his finger was a spiritual experience.

As the finger was withdrawn, I allowed myself to believe he would touch my cock. Instead, he stepped into the hall.

I whimpered.

"Bedroom," he commanded.

Well, that was progress at least.

I stumbled into the bedroom on lust-weakened legs, appalled to discover Alex sitting on a chair at the foot of the bed. The sheets were drawn back, ready for action, but he was on the damned chair. I looked at him in abject grief.

"Lie on the bed, on your back," he ordered.

"What about you?"

"Do it, Fox." His tone had an air of menace. It only made me need him more.

I crawled onto the bed and, as ordered, flipped onto my back.

He eased the chair forward so it was close to my feet. "Put a pillow under your head, so I can see your face."

I complied quickly, hoping to move the action along.

"Touch yourself."

I reached for my cock, but before my hand even got close, he spoke again. "No. Your chest."

My face crinkled into a look I hoped properly conveyed my discontent. But somehow my hands ended up on my chest, open palms rubbing my torso. My cock was standing straight up. I had to concentrate to keep from reaching for it.

"Your nipples," he said.

I pinched them. Not as much fun as having him do it, but it still felt nice.

"Hurt yourself a little."

So I squeezed harder and winced at the results.

"More."

A dim voice in my head cried, 'No!' but my fingers didn't listen. I gripped with my fingernails and pressed into my tender flesh. It hurt a lot, but something in my head shifted. If he wanted it, I wanted it... wanted to hurt myself for his pleasure. I pressed harder, and whimpers tore from my throat. My hips bucked off the bed, futilely seeking contact.

"Beautiful, Fox." Fuck, that sexy voice was killing me. "Now, touch your thighs."

I slid my hands south, planning to pass my cock on the way.

"Uh-uh," he said gently.

My hands traveled down my sides instead. I brushed and polished my thighs, fingers tickled by the hair on my legs.

"Spread your legs."

I opened my legs for him. Again. God, I felt so vulnerable, but it was so fucking hot. If I got any more turned on, I was going to come spontaneously. The way he teased, I might have to.

I rubbed my sensitive inner thighs, loving that I was on display for him. But how to make him lose control? I thrust my hips upward on the bed, as if to offer him my ass. I let my desperate need for him show in my face.

His face didn't change, except his eyes grew darker. They were almost black in the soft bedroom light. Good to know he was suffering, too. This time when he spoke, his voice was weak, as if he wasn't getting enough oxygen. "Do you have any idea how sexy you are?"

A hoarse chuckle came from my mouth. "It makes you want to touch me, doesn't it?"

A smile on his lips... "Yes. But I can wait."

Bastard!

"Tell me how badly you want it, Fox."

"Oh, Christ." I groaned and thrashed my head helplessly on the bed. I didn't want to beg. He'd already made me suffer. It was enough. But when the pleading words came out of my mouth, I knew I'd do anything he wanted. "Please, Alex. I need you so badly." My body shook with need, my hands clutching my thighs, unable to conjure up any new moves. "Please fuck me, touch me... anything."

"And if I don't?"

"I'll die, Alex. I need you."

"I need you, too, Fox," he replied, all too calmly.

I pouted. "Then touch me. It's lonely here on the bed without you."

"But I love to look at you."

"Touching me is good, too, isn't it Alex?"

"It's wonderful. I'm holding out for the best part."

Damn him! He must have jerked off all afternoon or something. How could he be so patient? I slid my ass down the bed, closer to him. "Please, Alex. My balls are starting to hurt."

"You may touch your balls, but not your cock."

Fuck! But it was something. My hands glommed onto my nuts, rubbing furiously, hoping against hope to somehow make myself come this way.

Alex grinned at me from the foot of the bed.

Bastard. I whined, "You like to see me suffer?"

"It's so beautiful, Fox." He was not the least bit ashamed of himself.

I emitted a pitiful moan, brushing my ass from side to side on the bed, trying to get some sort of stimulation.

My heart almost stopped when Alex stood up. He shucked the boxers, revealing his own needy erection. And then he just stood there.

"Please, Alex."

He grinned wickedly. "Take your hands off your balls."

I complied, eagerly anticipating his next order. He's got to do something here or I'm going to explode.

"Roll onto your side."

I rolled.

"I'm going to get on the bed, but I don't want you to touch me yet. Can you do that, Fox?"

I frowned at him. "Maybe."

He cocked an eyebrow at me. "I'll wait until you're sure."

"Dammit, Alex, I'm losing my mind."

"Soon, Fox. You'll get your release soon." He walked to the side of the bed. "Can you avoid touching me?"

"I'll try," I replied petulantly.

He lowered himself to the bed. Facing my feet. Oh, god. I was going to like this. Keeping himself a good six inches from me, he slowly eased in toward my body.

I could feel his breath on my cock. I couldn't prevent my hips from pushing forward.

"Not yet, Fox." He kissed my balls. It was almost enough to make me come. "Now do exactly what I do." He shifted closer to my body, his arm wrapped around my waist.

I grabbed him around the middle and yanked him closer. His tongue lapped at my balls, so I licked his. His smell was masculine and intoxicating. It made my head spin. The tiny sensations on my balls were still just a tease.

Then I felt his tongue glide down my shaft.

Praise god!

My tongue found his thick cock, licking gratefully.

His lips nipped and held the tip of my cock. It took my last shard of self control not to thrust into his mouth. I needed to come so badly.

My body trembled as I wrapped my lips around the head of his cock.

His prolonged needy groan made me smile around the generous mouthful.

When he sucked my cock into his throat, it felt like the happiest moment of my life. I was a hair away from coming, but I had to concentrate to remember to swallow his cock. Each simple movement seemed to require thought, distracting me from the pressing matter of my own erection in his mouth. Somehow I managed to take his cock down and work it with my throat. When his hot mouth put searing pressure on my cock, my brain imploded.

Sheer pleasure burst through me like a flame in gasoline. My entire body seized in an orgasm that was certain to be the final moment of my life. Not that I cared. I no longer had body parts, just raw flame and a brain that could do nothing except enjoy it.

Consciousness eluded me, but a dull thought tried to penetrate my flaccid brain. Warmth was near me. I reached out. Alex.

He lay next to me, but his face was close to mine. I tried to remember and muttered, "Glurf."

Alex chuckled at me. "You okay?"

"Oh, god." I closed my eyes and it all came rushing back. "I think I just had a near death experience."

Warm lips found mine as he stole a kiss. Lacking the mental acuity to comprehend kissing, I just opened my mouth and let him do it. Eventually, my tongue wiggled a little.

At that moment, I was perfectly happy. Peaceful even. Alex was home for real now.

He pulled back and loomed over me with a cocky smile. If his life's goal was to turn Fox Mulder into Jell-O, he'd achieved it.

But what about...? "Alex, did you... I didn't bite off your dick or something, did I?"

His body shifted next to me. He took my wrist and moved my hand. I felt soft cock.

"Did I do that?"

"Not entirely." His fingers found my hair and he curled up very close. "You owe me one."

"Sure. Anything," I replied vapidly, slipping onto my side and pressing my body even closer to his. As I snuggled my face into his shoulder, I mumbled, "Why do your boxer shorts smell like cinnamon?"

He chucked weakly and gestured toward the bedside table, where I saw a bottle of aromatic massage oil. Good idea. Later. Too tired.


Chapter 5

** Krycek **

Tuesday was my meeting with my parole officer and the first day of my new job.

I went to the closet to dress and discovered Mulder had tied my ties. Each of them neatly done with the neck loosened, so I could pull them over my head. I bristled at the image of him doing it for me, but it was a big help.

Standing in front of the mirror, I had to admit I looked good in my suit. I kept my hair natural, unlike my geeky hair gel days at the Bureau. I wore the prosthetic with a black leather glove. I'd miss my leather jacket.

After a tedious meeting with my parole officer in D.C., I drove to Susan Peterson's office in downtown Alexandria for my first day at work. The small suite of offices was unpretentious, but tastefully decorated.

Peterson gave me my own office with a hardwood desk. It was a tiny room, but a pleasant one. There was a brand-new PC, still in cartons. And a ficus tree by a small window.

Sitting there filling out payroll tax forms, I felt like I'd entered the twilight zone.

I spent over an hour setting up the PC, stopping once to marvel that I was being paid for this. My new boss gave me a couple of assignments, so I drove back to D.C. to the IRS to retrieve copies of a client's tax records. From there, I stopped at George Washington University to track down a potential witness.

All in all, it was a pleasant day filled with simple goals, none of which had earth-shattering consequences. Rather like doing crossword puzzles--entertaining, but not important. Maybe this was a good thing?

The next couple of days, I spent my lunch hours trying to track down my missing friend, Ming Li. Finally, on Thursday, I reached a mutual acquaintance who told me she was dead. Killed by a rival gang's hit man outside her Manhattan apartment.

Ah, Ming.

I wasn't exactly surprised. When I couldn't reach her message service from prison, I'd assumed the worst. And even though I hadn't seen her in a couple of years, just knowing she was no longer alive was a crushing blow.

Ming and I went back a long way. In my entire criminal career, she was the only person I could ever trust completely. And me for her. It was the sort of intimacy that transcends sexual relationships. In a life when everyone may be out to kill you--or worse--nothing can beat the safe haven of a trusted friend.

And it was me--the real me--who Ming loved. Alex, the criminal. Alex, the immoral rat. And I had loved Ming. We'd even slept in the same bed a few times, but never fucked.

Ming was a short, chunky woman. One glance and no one took her seriously, mired in Asian stereotypes, until it was too late. She could kick my ass when I had two arms.

When I told Peterson I'd lost a friend, she responded favorably to my request to take Friday off.

I didn't mention it to Mulder.

The next morning, I flew to New York. First thing, I went to an old pawnshop that I knew. I recognized the proprietor, an elderly Jewish lady. She sold me a Glock and a dozen rounds. Plus a holster.

Next stop, a bank, where Ming and I both had safe deposit boxes. I opened mine and retrieved a stack of files. Inside hers were a few items she wanted given to her brother, plus my failsafe letter and key. Identical to the ones I'd given Mulder.

I followed Ming's simple instructions per her last wishes, delivering some cash, an offshore account ledger and a personal letter to her brother. There was a brief note for me.

--

Alex,

Hey! I guess if you're reading this, I'm gone. Sorry about that, pal.

Don't make a big deal about it. Just get on with your life. Go get laid or something... but not one of those dumbass boring Wall St. boys you keep picking up. You can do better than that!

There's something I gotta say to you, ratboy, so listen to your buddy, Ming. You're not getting any younger and the heavy stuff keeps getting worse, so maybe it's time to clean up your act and get your sweet ass into a safer line of work.

I can hear you saying 'what the fuck else am I going to do?' I don't know, but please stop before it's too late, Alex. You only have nine lives, and we both know most of those have already been used up.

I wish ratgirl could be there to ease your transition into a nice catering career, see that you find a decent man and remind you to get your leather jacket cleaned when it gets raunchy. You'll just have to let someone else take care of you.

I love you, ratboy.

Ming

--

My face ached as I read it. Missing her.

Ming and that life were gone. Most of it I was better off without. But Ming was my friend when no one else would be. I had no other friends. Hadn't since I was sixteen.

My life would never be the same. And I was scared. I knew how to succeed as a criminal, but as a citizen, I felt like the odds were stacked against me.

I took a cab to Cherry Hill and got out over a mile from my destination. Avoiding witnesses. I walked to the warehouse. But when I stood outside, watching the day shift come and go, I could hear Ming's voice in my head. "... stop before it's too late, Alex. You only have nine lives..."

I thought of Fox at home, waiting for me, not even knowing where I'd gone. How he'd feel if something went wrong.

It wasn't a moral choice. For me, it never would be. In fact, my moral code told me to do the crime. It was a lifestyle choice.

I walked away from the warehouse and caught another cab. I walked away from Ming's killer. I'm sorry, Ming. I'd do it if it would bring you back.

After selling the gun back to the old lady, I returned to D.C., carrying only a small box of files, which I cached at my bank in Alexandria. One of the files was a Consortium profile on Bill Mulder, but I couldn't give it to Fox. Not now. Maybe never.

I got home before dinner, so Mulder never knew I was gone. If he noticed I was subdued over the weekend, he didn't say so. I never told him about Ming, because I didn't want to talk about it.

** Mulder **

It took me over a week to accept that Scully was right about A.D. Skinner.

Damn her endearing little soul. I'm usually right about X-Files, but she's usually right about everything else.

On Tuesday morning, Kimberly called me to Skinner's office.

"Agent, I have spoken at length with the Director. Twice, he told me to terminate your employment, but he finally decided to leave it to my discretion. Therefore, you are still employed by the Bureau. However, it would be very wise of you to behave yourself for a little while."

I did my best to look humble. "Thank you, sir." It was as much of an apology as I could give.

"You're dismissed."

** Krycek **

Tuesday night, Fox asked me, "You know the Gunmen are coming here tomorrow?"

"Yeah." I gave him an impassive face. "You want me to disappear?"

"No. This is our home."

"So what do you want?"

"Why don't you join us?"

"Do your friends know who I am?"

He nodded. "They knew about you before we got together. And while you were in prison, I brought them up to date."

"Think they're going to be comfortable hanging with you and your gay lover?"

"I don't think that will be a problem."

"Oh. The problem is my illustrious career."

Mulder looked uncomfortable. "Well, I think they are a little nervous about spending the evening with the very dangerous Alex Krycek."

"Fine, I'll go out."

He put a hand on my shoulder. "No, Alex. I don't want you to hide from my friends."

"You'd rather intimidate them?"

"I'm sure they'll get over it, once they have a chance to get to know you."

I laughed at him, shaking my head. "You're so damned sure that everyone will like me if they just get to know me. It's sweet, but rather deluded, Fox." I kissed him between the eyebrows.

"Maybe, but I think they deserve a chance."

I gave in with a shrug. "Sure. Whatever you want. Want me to cook something?"

"We usually order pizza."

"I can make pizza."

He shook his head. "Maybe another time. Let's keep the same ritual for now."

The next night, I was in the bedroom when the doorbell rang. I finished tidying up and joined them a few minutes later.

Three pairs of unfamiliar eyes watched me cautiously. They definitely looked like an assembly for Sci-Fi night.

Fox jumped up. "Guys, this is my lover, Alex Krycek." He gestured toward a tall, bearded, Ken-doll type in a suit. "This is John Byers."

It didn't seem like a hand-shaking crowd, so I just nodded and repeated the name. "Byers."

"And Ringo Langley." A blonde with stringy hair, Langley's face was white as a sheet.

"Langley." I tried to say it gently, convinced he was about to break for the door.

Last, a short, dark haired man. "This is Melvin Frohike."

"Frohike," I repeated, with a nod.

The little man eyed me excitedly. "Hey, Krycek. Killed anyone interesting lately?"

Fox's face froze in a parody of alarm.

Don't worry, lover. I stepped closer to Frohike and put my hand on his shoulder. "Not in the past five or ten minutes, but, you know, I'm just starting to get that itch."

Frohike emitted a choked laugh. Then he bolted from his chair and wandered into the kitchen, muttering something about beer.

As I took a seat, Fox glared a non-verbal chastisement in my direction.

I shrugged at my embarrassed lover.

The movies were awful. Mulder and Frohike could not shut up. Both had to call out the lines, or a crude bastardization of the lines, at the same time the cast said them. I was positive the actor did not say, "The marshmallows have landed."

The instant the movies were over, Langley whispered into Fox's ear and practically crawled over him to get to the door without passing me.

Byers rolled his eyes, nodded to me and joined Langley at the door.

Frohike tentatively came over to me. "Um... well... it's been, you know, a pleasure. Just don't... um. Well... be nice to Mulder, okay?"

"Sure," I replied calmly to the weird little man.

I heard Frohike say quietly to Fox, "Thanks, man. I can't wait to tell my e-pals I spent the evening in the home of a professional assassin." A chorus of "night, Mulder" rang out, and his friends were gone.

Fox locked the door and came over to sit on the arm of my chair. He gave me a grim smile.

"That went well," I said sarcastically.

He leaned over and kissed my jaw, saying nothing.

"Maybe if they come a few times and I don't kill any of them..."

"I don't know whether to give you shit or apologize."

"'S'okay."

He kissed my ear.

I had to say something. "I'm sorry it's so difficult for you to integrate your friends with, uh, me."

Fox shrugged and lowered himself into my lap. If I petted him a lot, he'd probably feel better.

When I got ready for bed that night, I discovered an odd device in the bathroom, next to the sink. A closer inspection revealed that it was some sort of electric dental flossing machine. The loony man was worried about my dental health. That made one of us.

He was asleep when I crawled into bed. I threw my arm around his waist and whispered, "Mulder, you are such a doofus."

"Sna ferf yu," he replied and went back to sleep.

The crossword puzzle analogy held; my job was fun. I spent most of my time seeking evidence to support Peterson's cases, which usually meant facts that suggested her clients hadn't committed murders they had actually committed.

Another man would have found that disturbing, but it didn't bother me. It would have been the height of hypocrisy if it had.

So one day I was chasing down a man named Cleophus Woods, a potential witness to a murder. The police had interviewed him and he had nothing to say, but it was conceivable I could get him to talk to me.

I rang the bell on a dumpy little apartment just off Florida Avenue. When the door opened, Scratcher was standing in front of me. Impossible to say who was more surprised.

"Scratcher?"

"Krycek?"

"Shit." I shouldn't have been shocked, but I thought a guy like him would still be in prison. Seemed like a pretty good idea, actually.

He gave me a big grin. "How'd you find me?"

"Uh... I didn't. I was looking for Cleophus Woods."

"That's me," he said proudly. He opened the door and escorted me into his one room apartment. He had two pieces of furniture: a bed and a table. "Want a beer?"

"No, thanks. I, um, well, I have a job now. I work for an attorney. She's defending Marcus Raymond for the McDonald killing."

"Oh, yeah? That's tight." He looked impressed.

I tried to squelch my memories of the big black man. "I heard you were there. Did Raymond kill McDonald?"

"Nah. Dude was killed by a muthafucka Petey something--a white guy who sells dope over on Fourth Street."

"Would you be willing to testify about that?"

Scratcher pondered it for a moment, then replied in an upbeat tone, "I'm on it. Say the word." He smirked at me. Caramel brown eyes flicked down my body with interest. "Wanna fuck?"

"Uh, no thanks." The man scared the crap out of me.

"All right then," he replied with a shrug.

I made an appointment for his deposition and departed. My hands were shaking as I tried to put the key in my car's ignition. Back at the office, I made sure everyone knew that Cleophus Woods was a very dangerous man.

** Scully **

Mulder invited me to join the two of them for dinner. "It's take out, but we're doing Bistro Americana, so it's real food. I'll even get salad and ask for the low fat dressing."

I thought to say no, because of Krycek. Because of what he'd told me. And because of what he'd done. But I couldn't avoid him forever without hurting Mulder, so I went.

Mulder and I brought home the food. Krycek greeted us at the door. His dark green eyes flicked to mine. "Scully," he said carefully.

"Krycek."

He briefly kissed Mulder on the lips.

Mulder set down the food bags and tapped me on the wrist. "I think you can call him Alex now, you know. You two are practically old friends." Without waiting for a response, he disappeared into the kitchen.

Mulder's lover and I eyed each other cautiously. Obviously in agreement that we were not friends of any kind.

As we ate, Mulder prattled on about ancient Egyptian curses.

I watched them together, like I had every time since I'd learned they were a couple. Green eyes flicked to Mulder's glass as he drained it. Mulder didn't seem to even notice when Krycek rose and refilled it.

The affection between them seemed almost unconscious. Reaching for a second helping of potatoes, Mulder's fingers stopped to squeeze Krycek's hand. Krycek brushed back an unruly strand of Mulder's hair and stroked him absently, as if petting a cat.

If I could forget what he'd told me, it would be touching. But I couldn't reconcile this man walking away from my sister as she lay dying, with his apparent sweetness toward my partner.

On my way home that night, I stopped by the church in my neighborhood. Sitting quietly in the pews, I thought about good and evil. And Melissa. And Alex Krycek.

** Mulder **

About a month after Alex got out of prison, we were having Saturday lunch at the Groovy Café in Georgetown. I was taking a bite out of my BLT, when Alex's body suddenly went rigid. He turned his head abruptly, his face blanched with terror.

My hand slipped inside my jacket and, in an instant, my fingers were on the butt of my gun. I scanned the room frantically, trying to identify the threat, but I couldn't see anything or anyone menacing.

He reached across the table and his hand rested on my forearm. "'S'okay." His voice was oddly flat.

"What is it, Alex? You're pale as a vampire."

He gestured with his head toward the front of the restaurant. "The woman in the green sweater, waiting on the table at the end of that row."

I looked over the attractive twenty-something. A tall, elegant auburn haired woman. I saw no reason for alarm. "She's hot, Alex, but you're taken."

"She's my sister."

My eyes bugged open, gazing first at the young woman, then at my lover. "Your sister?"

Alex nodded. Then why the tension on his face? "Why don't you say hello to her?"

"She thinks I'm dead."

"So, she'll probably be glad you're not."

Alex shook his head as if to declare the futility of arguing with an idiot. He watched the young waitress out of the corner of his eye. When she entered the kitchen, he stood. "I'll meet you at the car." Before I could object, Alex had slipped out the side entrance.

I quickly finished my lunch and wrapped the remains of Alex's sandwich in a napkin. Leaving a twenty on the table, I exited in search of my skittish lover.

Alex was leaning against my car, looking a little grouchy. I handed him the sandwich. We drove back to the apartment in silence.

It was perverse. I've spent my entire life looking for my sister, and Alex just ran away from his.

Back home, I couldn't remain silent any longer. "Why don't you tell me about her?"

Alex sighed and moved to stand by the window.

I closed in behind him, a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Did you like her?"

"Yeah," he replied softly as if delivering bad news.

"Did she feel the same way about you?"

"I guess so."

"I'll bet she'd be thrilled to see you."

"I'm not exactly a prize, Fox." He shifted into my arms. "Except to weirdoes like you." Kissing my cheek, he laid his head on my shoulder.

"How long has it been since you've spent time with her?"

"Years." He closed his eyes for a moment, as if remembering. "The last time was when I was your partner at the Bureau."

"Why does she think you're dead?"

"I had someone call her and pretend to be my Bureau supervisor."

"But why?"

"For her safety. At least that's what I told myself, but..." He buried his face in my shirt. "Maybe I didn't want her to know what I'd become."

"Is there anyone else in your family you care about?"

Alex snorted to show his disgust.

"I think you need her, Alex. You need people in your life."

Alex pulled out of my embrace. "Well, thanks for the free psychoanalysis, Mul-der, but did you consider what she needs? Being a part of my life is dangerous. Besides... what's she going to think of me?"

"I don't know, Alex, but I think you need to find out."

"This isn't Samantha, Fox. I wish it was." He sat on the sofa and switched on the TV.

Later in bed, he lay silently in my arms. "Contact her, Alex." I kissed the top of his head. "I have a feeling it'll turn out fine. My intuition is usually right."

"Yeah, you thought I was an irredeemable scum."

"I said 'usually,' Alex." I kissed his neck. "Call her."

"I can't. I just can't."

"You must want to, or you wouldn't be brooding about it."

"Maybe I do want to. I know what's in it for me, but what's in it for her?"

"If your family is like you let on, you might be the only one she'd want to hold on to."

Alex was silent for a long time as my lips wandered across his shoulders and the upper part of his chest.

"Would you do me a favor, Fox?"

"Of course."

He turned onto his side and faced me. "Go see her. Don't tell her anything, just try to find out if she'd be glad to see me or not."

"Alex, why don't you just-"

"I can't. This is the only way, Fox."

There was no point in arguing with him. "'Kay." I kissed him hard on the lips and pulled him close again. "What's her name?"

"Natalia. Natalia Elaine Krycek."

I bumped him rather deliberately on the hip. "I figured out the Krycek part, Alexander Richard."

"Yeah, what else do you know about me?"

"A girl named Susie had a crush on you."

His jaw fell open. "Was that a lucky guess?"

"I'm a trained investigator, sweetheart."

"Hmpf. So you're not going to tell me how you know?"

I leaned over Alex's body kissing him on the forehead. "Nope, you'll have to torture it out of me."

"Right," was his dubious reply. "You'd enjoy that too much."

I slid my body down his. "But so would you," I pouted.

He eyed me coolly. "Withholding sex would be far more effective."

"Bastard." I flopped next to him, considering my options. "I read 'Susie loves Alex' off the inside front cover of one of your Cyrillic books, in what looks like grade school girl's printing."

"Yeah, second grade. After-school Russian classes. She was cute."

"Not as cute as me."

A warm hand crept around my middle. "Let the torture begin," replied the gravelly voice of my lover.

He flipped me onto my belly and shifted his weight on top of me. His thick cock hung between my thighs, teasing my balls. "You want to get fucked, Fox?"

"Mmm hmm," I replied, spreading my legs and bouncing his weight off my ass.

He rolled off of me and came back with a bottle, but it wasn't the lube. It was the massage oil. Starting at my neck, he poured on some oil and rubbed it in with strong fingers.

I could smell the cinnamon, which reminded me of being on my knees in the entryway. Doing anything and everything he told me to do. And hating it. And loving it.

Working his way down my spine, he massaged the spicy oil into my skin. As my muscles released, I wanted to relax, but the aching in my groin made it impossible.

When he reached my ass, he worked the muscles hard. His fingers seemed to know where the tension lay, because he quickly honed in on the trouble spots, working them almost painfully.

He tossed the bottle on the floor and went to the bathroom to wash his hand. When he came back, he had another bottle. Scorching red letters spelled out, 'Cinnamon Hot Lube.'

"Yikes."

Alex grinned at me beatifically. He sat down by my legs.

"Uh, Alex? Cinnamon? Hot? Isn't that a bad idea?"

"It's completely edible, Fox."

"But it's going to sting."

"I tried it out on my own ass. It's more of a burn, actually."

Then a warm wet finger teased my anus.

I slammed my legs together, starting to feel a tingle on the tender tissue of my asshole. "Get the regular lube."

He smacked my hip. "Open up, Fox. Have a little faith."

"It's my ass on the line."

"It's going on my dick, too."

"You sure about this?"

The only answer was another smack on my ass cheek.

Reluctantly, I spread my legs again. Using more of the stuff, he briskly rubbed my anus. It did burn, but it wasn't too bad.

When two of his fingers slipped inside me, I couldn't detect a burn at all. Just the satisfying feeling of being stretched open. A brush across my prostate made me shiver. I thrust backward with my hips, impaling myself on those wonderful fingers.

Alex withdrew the fingers, then kissed a path across my ass cheeks. After waving the condom in front of my nose so I could see, he poured a few drops of the lube into it. Then he rolled it on.

"Lift your ass, Fox."

I eagerly raised my butt, pushing it up and back at him. Fuck, I am such a slut.

Alex positioned himself over me and pushed his cock into my rectum. The sensation of his thick cock filling me up had to be my favorite feeling. And the weight of his body as he pressed me into the mattress was oddly comforting.

"Do it. Fuck me, Alex."

I listened to him regulate his breathing for a moment, then he braced himself and began to thrust. I loved the way he fucked me... with a steady rhythm and a lot of force. I could feel the power in his body as he used graceful hip action to pound into me.

By squirming my hips, I could get the friction my cock needed. It didn't seem to affect Alex's ability to keep nailing me.

Suddenly, I could feel an intense burn deep inside me. "Fuck, Alex."

"Feel that?"

"Fuck, yes!" It burned and I feared it would get worse, but it didn't. Nerve endings I never knew I had seemed to awaken in the path of the searing piston inside me. Every touch of my prostate seemed to be hyper-intense... surely more than I could take, but I couldn't bring myself to object. It felt too damned good.

"Your ass is so hot, Fox."

It felt like flame. I was certain Alex's cock would melt.

He picked up the pace, fucking me faster. I could feel the smoldering sensation of each thrust. His respiration accelerated rapidly. I humped the sheets faster and slipped a hand under me. The touch of my own fingers on the head of my cock was enough to bring me off.

I bucked violently with a flesh searing orgasm.

Alex struggled to stay on top of me, lost his rhythm and then found it again. He fucked me hard through the last spasms of my climax. And began his own. Hips pounding into me, he cried out nonsense words and expired on my back.

We groaned in unison.

"Fuck, that was incredible."

"Yeah."

After a moment, he pulled out of me. His hand reached for my shoulder. "We should wash up."

"Soon," I muttered, too lethargic to move.

"Now, Fox. We should get this stuff off."

"Yes, master," I grumbled, as I pulled myself to my feet.

**
END Chapter 5

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