by Louise Wu

 

Chemistry Book 3: Defended (Chapters 6-9)

For previous parts: http://slashfactory.com/Chem/Chemistry.html



Chapter 6

** Mulder **

The next morning, I went back to the Groovy Café. My badge got me Natalia's schedule. I returned that night just before the end of her shift.

She was seated in front of the kitchen refilling catsup bottles. Her nametag read simply, 'Talia.'

"Ms. Krycek?"

"Yes?" She eyed me warily. With the same gorgeous green eyes as Alex.

I found it difficult to speak for a moment. In a daze, my hand reached automatically for my Bureau ID. "FBI. My name is Fox Mulder. I'd like to talk to you for a few minutes."

"About what?"

"Alex Krycek."

"He was with the Bureau."

"I know. He was my partner for a short time."

Talia gazed at me, appearing interested for the first time. "Just a sec..." She stood and stepped into the kitchen doorway. "Tony, okay if I clock out?" The woman was almost as tall as I was, with long, long legs and an elegant, androgynous figure.

A male voice from the kitchen called out, "Sure, Talia. Thanks."

I watched her stick a yellow card into the time clock. She removed her name badge and tossed it into a box. Then she said, "Let's take a table in the back. Do you want a Coke or something?"

"Whatever you're having."

Talia met me at the table with two glasses of lemonade. Her shoulder length hair was red-brown, lighter than Alex's, but somewhat curly. It framed a shapely face that made Alex's almost look plain. Her eyes were even bigger than his. She had a strong jaw line, but the masculine touch was the flaw that made her beautiful. Not the bland beauty of a typical fashion model, but a more striking attractiveness that made me unable to stop gazing at her.

It seemed bizarre that this stunning beauty should be working as a waitress rather than something more glamorous.

Talia slid gracefully into the booth, facing me. "Were you with my brother when he was killed?" Her half wince told me everything I needed to know. She still cared.

"No, I'm sorry. I wasn't." The lemonade was fresh and not too sweet.

She nodded. "So what do you want?"

Although I had already accomplished my mission, I couldn't resist chatting with this woman who knew about Alex's mysterious past. "I wasn't his partner for very long. I didn't know him well. What was he like?"

"Why?" Her intelligent eyes fixed on me, certain that this was so much bullshit. "He's been dead for five years. Why now?"

"I recently found out he had a sister in the area."

She watched me and waited for me to continue.

"I'm just curious. I don't mean to cause you any distress."

Glancing away, Talia continued in a softer tone, "Alex was impetuous and sweet, although he'd never have admitted it. Smart, but easily bored. He was a loner. Intense." She had a low voice for a woman, but it was higher than Alex's.

"You miss him, don't you?"

"He taught me how to ride a bike. Read to me when I was sick." Talia became lost in her memories, so I let her be. Eventually, she snapped out of it. "Do you have a car?"

"Hmm?"

"A car, Agent Mulder."

"Yes."

"Would you drive me home?"

Without a thought, I stumbled out of my seat to obey. These Kryceks were good at having their way with me.

Talia returned our glasses to the kitchen and carefully wiped down the table.

Talia let me hold the car door for her. She was silent, except to give directions to her apartment. The apartment was in a tiny quadplex, a quarter mile from Georgetown University. She led the way up the stairs to her unit.

It was sparsely but neatly furnished. A tiny kitchenette. A couch. A desk with a PC. Next to the PC, a framed photo of a teenaged Alex. I picked it up and examined it thoughtfully.

Alex was standing in a grassy field in a track jersey, showing off long, long legs under his shorts. Probably high school. I tried to imagine that innocent boy.

Talia smiled over my shoulder. "Tenth grade. I think."

"He ran track?"

"Hurdles. He wasn't quite as fast as the other runners, but he was nimble."

"I believe it."

Talia sat on the sofa and kicked off her shoes. "There wasn't a service. Alex's supervisor, who called us, said he hadn't wanted one. And the family didn't try to put anything together." Unlike my lover, Talia's emotions passed across her face, shared unselfconsciously, as if she had no fear of them at all. It was another kind of beauty... openness of feeling.

She caught me gaping at her. Probably used to it.

I shook my head, absently. "You look so much like him. It's astonishing."

She didn't reply, but her eyes flicked back to the photo.

I was curious about what she'd been told about the disposition of Alex's body, but it didn't really matter. I had custody of the body.

It was painful for me not to be able to tell her he was alive. I could only imagine this was Samantha, and someone couldn't tell her I was still alive.

"Are you a student?"

"Yes. Ph.D. candidate in history." Talia's yawn got my attention.

"I'm sorry. I should go." I shook her hand. She had a firm handshake. "Thank you for the information."

Alex was pacing the living room when I got home. He greeted me with anxious green eyes.

I approached him and lightly held his shoulders. "She loves you, Alex."

His face tightened in pain and he dropped his head.

"You have to go see her," I said emphatically.

He lifted his gaze and shook his head. "How do you know she still, uh, likes me?"

"She has your picture on the table next to her computer." One look at Alex's face told me he still needed convincing. "She said, 'He taught me how to ride a bike. Read to me when I was sick.' You should have seen her face, Alex. She cares about you."

"You didn't tell her, right?"

"No, but I wanted to." I waited for him to admit it was time to contact her, but he didn't. "You have to see her."

Alex paced the room a few more times, before departing to the kitchen and returning with a couple of beers. He put one between his legs and deftly uncapped it one-handed, before passing it to me. He opened the other and chugged about half of it.

"Would you go see her again?" he asked in a tentative tone.

"You need to see her, Alex."

"I know, but I don't want to be a ghost. Would you go see her and tell her about me?"

"I'll go tomorrow," I replied impatiently.

"Tell her everything. What I've done. Jail. About my arm. Be sure it's me she wants to see, not some fantasy big brother."

"Okay, Alex."

The next day, I went to her house after lunch. She didn't seem surprised as she opened the door. "Are you going to tell me what you wanted to tell me yesterday?"

"Yeah."

"Then you may come in, Agent Mulder."

She offered me a Coke and we sat on the sofa. A fat textbook lay open on her table. 'China in the Modern World.'

"Your brother is still alive, Ms. Krycek."

"What?"

"He had someone tell the family he was dead."

"You can't be serious." Her face turned angry. "If this is some sort of cruel-"

"No." I touched her forearm gently. "It's the truth."

"Why?"

"Alex left the Bureau to... he... his activities weren't... "

"Just say it, Agent Mulder."

"He became a criminal."

Talia didn't seem surprised. She looked down at her hands for a minute. They were pretty hands, like his. When she spoke again, her voice was cold. "What's your real interest in my brother? Why are you here?"

She was protecting Alex. It made me want to give her a hug. I smiled. "He's my lover."

"I'm not sure if I believe you."

"It's true. He's been a criminal, but there's another side to him. I love him very much."

Talia scrutinized me carefully, trying to decide if I was telling the truth.

"Did you know he was gay?"

"Yes," she replied cautiously, glancing at the photo by her PC. "If Alex is alive and your lover, why isn't he here with you?"

"He didn't want to shock you, since you thought he was dead." I paused to consider what to share. "And he's afraid you no longer care about him."

"What did you tell him about our meeting yesterday?"

"That you love him."

"It's true. He's still my brother. I want to see him."

"There are some things he wants you to know before he sees you... in case you change your mind about wanting to see him."

"Tell me," she replied in a clipped voice.

"He committed some very bad crimes." I really didn't want to tell her, but I knew Alex would never agree to see her if I hadn't. "Treason. Murder."

She bit her lip, but met my eyes. "Go on."

"He's been in prison, for killing someone who tried to hurt me."

Talia nodded, her face placid, with just a hint of hurt showing in those pretty, pretty eyes.

"He was in an accident." What a euphemism! An accident. But I just couldn't explain all of it. "His left arm was amputated."

"Is he all right?"

"It was years ago. Yes. He's recovered. He wears a prosthetic arm to work, but usually not at home."

She nodded. "What else?"

"His life has been in danger... people trying to kill him, but it's calmer now."

"Is that all?"

"That's the worst of it."

"Fine. You've told me. I want to see him."

"Don't you want to talk about what I've told you?"

She closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them and spoke with determination. "My brother was never a good boy. I knew he'd get into trouble. But underneath the façade, he's warm and giving."

"You're right."

"When I was a child, he was the only person who loved me freely, asking nothing in return. I forgive him for whatever he's done." She brushed her curly hair off her forehead. "Is he here in D.C.?"

"Alexandria."

"Take me to him."

I really wanted to. Before Alex could object. "I think he needs time. I want to tell him about our conversation and let him think about it."

"Is he afraid of me?"

"He's not sure coming into your life again will be good for you."

"Nonsense. I insist."

I nodded. "I agree with you. Are you free Tuesday?" I already knew she wasn't working. "Why don't we plan to meet for dinner and I'll talk to Alex tonight?"

"Okay. Where shall we meet?"

"What's convenient to you?"

"Taste of Italy. It's around the corner on Livingston."

"I know it. Meet there at 7:30?"

"Fine. I'll be there." There was a solid determination in her voice... she'd be there. Woe to anyone who tried to prevent it.

Neither of us spoke for a few minutes.

Finally, she asked, "How long have you two been together?"

"Since a few months before he went to prison. He was incarcerated for a little over a year. He's been out for about a month."

She tilted her head to the side. "Loyal of you to stand by him."

"He makes me happy."

Talia smiled and looked off into the distance. She nodded solemnly and I knew it was the right choice. She needed him in her life, too.

There's so much I wanted to ask her, I didn't know where to begin. "What's the age difference?"

"Eight years. Most older brothers have no time for a little girl, but he was different." She shook her head. "I was devastated when he left. That took some time to forgive. But I think he had to leave."

"Why?"

"You'll have to ask him, Mr. Mulder."

When I got home, I told Alex everything--except about the planned dinner. I wanted him calmer for that.

"She said she forgave me?"

"Yes," I repeated for the third time. "Her exact words were, 'I forgive him for whatever he's done.'"

Alex fidgeted at the window. Then he fed the fish. "Tell me again about the other part."

"'... he was the only person who loved me freely... '"

"Okay, well, I guess I'll see her, but I want to think about it."

"Alex, I already scheduled dinner with her on Tuesday."

"What?!"

"I think we should do this right away."

"You think? She's my sister."

I stood and touched his shoulder. "I just don't want you worrying about this for days. Please, Alex. Let's get it over with."

He growled at me and returned to the window.

"Alex, you already fed the fish."

He glared, put down the fish food and went to the kitchen.

Tuesday night at Taste of Italy, Alex was a mess. At 7:15 he went to the men's room. He came out briefly at 7:25, then went back. Who knew what he was doing in there... probably intimidating other patrons.

When Talia arrived, he was still in the restroom.

"Hi." I leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek before she sat down.

"Where's Alex?"

"He's hiding in the men's room. If he's not out in five minutes, I'll go get him."

Eventually, my wayward lover returned. As he approached Talia's back, he stopped and closed his eyes for a moment. I'd never seen him like this. Aggressive as hell facing evil Tunguskan gulag-keepers, but pale as death facing his kid sister.

The look on my face must have tipped her off. She turned and watched him approach. By the time he reached the table, his face was filled with doubt and pain.

Talia's eyes were wet but smiling when she rose. She wrapped her arms around him and muttered in Russian. She stroked his hair and gazed into his face.

"Xan," she said softly, kissing his cheeks. Then she looked him over and a hurt expression came to her face. "Oh, Xan. Your arm."

"'S'okay, Tal," he replied in a gentle tone I imagined he'd used to comfort her as a child. He slowly reached up and stroked the side of her face. Turbulent eyes gave away his inner turmoil.

They gazed at each other for a few minutes before separating and sitting down. I could feel tears sliding down my cheeks. I was trying very hard not to think of Samantha, but it was impossible. Though still pained about my own missing sister, I also felt joy for Alex and Talia.

I kept looking from one face to the other. "Alex, she's even prettier than you."

He shrugged. "She got the brains and the looks."

"You have the same eyes. So beautiful."

Unable to take those eyes off her brother, she replied, "Thank you," with the casual air of a woman who is accustomed to being told she's beautiful.

Alex shook his head, as if to clear it. "So, Tal, what are you doing in D.C.?"

"I'm working on my doctorate in history at Georgetown."

"Then why the waitress gig?" I asked.

"I have a fellowship, but D.C. isn't cheap. The restaurant and tips are enough to make the difference."

Alex shook his head absently. "How long have you been here?"

"Three years. I could finish next year if I can keep cranking out the thesis."

"What's the topic?" Alex inquired.

"The origins of American criminal justice principles and practices."

I jumped in. "Are you considering a career in law enforcement?"

"Yes. I was thinking of following my brother's footsteps into the FBI."

Alex's face got this pinched look, like he'd just eaten something too tart. "Fox told you about me, didn't he?"

Talia put a hand on his forearm. "Yes. I know your career didn't turn out the way you planned."

He grimaced. "Just don't mention my name at the Bureau."

She gazed at him thoughtfully. "I'll bet you were a good agent before you got into trouble."

Alex shrugged.

I spoke up. "He was a good agent."

Alex looked away.

Talia said, "It's okay, Xan. The past is the past. Don't let it hurt you any more." I sensed that her comforting him was not a familiar pattern.

An awkward silence was broken by the arrival of the waitress.

Talia and I chatted about Georgetown and her thesis. Alex asked some questions, but didn't have much to say.

After dinner, I thought to inquire about growing up with Alex. "I assume 'Xan' is short for Alexander?"

"Yeah. When I was really little, it was the only part I could pronounce."

"So did Xan tease you a lot, like a normal big brother?"

Alex winced, clearly uncomfortable with the subject of his childhood.

"He wasn't too bad. One time when I was about six, he had me convinced I had stopped growing. I'd go to the mirror each morning and look. I couldn't see any difference, so I started marking my height on the wall. Each day for a week it was the same, so I figured he was right. Even though I was taller than all of my schoolmates, I thought I was going to be four foot two for the rest of my life."

A hint of a smile passed across Alex's face.

"I got even, though. I poured out his shampoo bottle and filled it with raw egg. And then I put tiny rocks in his socks." She gave me the smile of a six-year-old. "He learned not to mess with me."

Alex's face opened up a bit at that memory. "Yeah, an eight year age advantage and I still couldn't win a battle with this girl."

"Did you have other siblings? Or just the two of you?"

"Just us." She started to say something, but the uneasy look on Alex's face stopped her. "What about you, Agent Mulder?"

"Just Mulder, please."

"Mulder? Why not 'Fox?'"

I gave her my disgruntled look. "Alex is the only one who gets to call me that. Everyone else calls me Mulder."

Alex jumped in before she could reply. "Even I didn't get to call him Fox until recently." He shrugged, as if to comment on my fickle nature.

"Why all the fuss about your name?"

"Uh, I never liked it." That was my usual evasion, but for some reason I felt like I owed her the truth. "I hated the tone my parents used when they said it."

She nodded sympathetically. "How long have you been out? As a gay man?"

"I, um, not until Alex. I fooled around a bit in high school, but I still thought I was straight. Until your sexy brother seduced me."

"He's very handsome, isn't he? When I was nine years old, I decided I wouldn't date any boy until I found one better looking than him. Fortunately for my sex life, I moved beyond the crush on my big brother."

Alex looked faintly embarrassed.

Taking advantage of the opportunity to get information Alex wouldn't share, I asked, "Are your parents still alive?"

He mumbled, "Excuse me," and retreated to the men's room again.

Talia didn't speak for a moment. We both just watched Alex depart. Finally, she said. "Our father disappeared when I was a baby. I learned later that he was running from gambling debts. He's presumed dead."

"I'm sorry."

"Our mother is still alive, but she's emotionally unwell. Has been for as long as I can remember."

"Depression?"

"No. She's psychotic. Hears voices. Has bizarre behaviors." Unlike Alex's obvious fear of this topic, Talia seemed able to discuss it directly.

"Hospitalized?"

"Amazingly, she still lives alone in the house we grew up in. She can feed herself most days. A neighbor looks in on her. Our aunt buys groceries and pays the bills. I'm sure we'll have to institutionalize her eventually."

"What a difficult situation for you to grow up in."

"I was a very independent child."

"Alex won't say a word about his childhood."

"I know. He doesn't like to think about it."

"What happened to him?"

She took the question very seriously, mulling it over before replying. "I don't know. I was too small to remember or understand. He was a very bright boy, but mostly he kept away from other people."

"It must have hurt him when his father left."

She shook her head. "I'm not sure. He never seemed sad at the loss. And he avoided our mother as much as possible. He was always the adult in the family, even writing his own notes for school, and forging her signature on checks for our visits to the doctor. Stayed out all night if he wanted. I was the only one he paid any attention to."

"He really loves you, Talia. I don't think he'll ever tell you, so I'm telling you."

"I know. It shows."

Alex eventually reappeared and we drove Talia home. Inside her tiny apartment, she gave him a big hug. "Thanks for coming back, Xan."

"I missed you, Tal."

She kissed each of his cheeks. "Da s'vedanya." And then she kissed each of my cheeks. "Thank you for my brother."

I returned the Russian-style kisses. "Goodbye."

"Goodbye, Fox."

Alex raised an eyebrow, waiting for me to challenge his sister.

I opened my mouth, but looked into Talia's beautiful eyes and found that I couldn't object. I wanted her in our lives and, if that was the price, I'd accept it.

Alex barely said a word the rest of the night. So I tried to get him talking. "I like her. She's smart and she's got balls."

"Yeah, I guess she got the brains, beauty and balls."

I lay my head on his shoulder. "I think you have all of those, too, Alex."

He grinned at me ruefully. "Let's just be clear about this, Fox. If you leave me for her, I won't go quietly."

I chuckled. "I'm very satisfied. I got the right Krycek."

"Really?" he asked too softly.

"Yes, Alex," I replied, punctuating my remark with a kiss.

** Krycek **

It was good to see Talia again. How can she be so healthy and strong? So vivacious? From our family? It just seemed odd, that out of the rubble of the Krycek household, came this one very together woman, out bravely facing the world.

And me? I suppose I was facing the world, too. But it wasn't my first choice.


Chapter 7

** Scully **

Late one Friday afternoon, I found myself--yet again--doing Mulder's expense reports. But this time, I told him he had to answer the phone all day, and sign my name on the list of attendees at the mandatory safe gun use seminar next week. I think I came out ahead on the deal.

As I tallied the damage from our last trip to Reno, I half listened to Mulder taking several nuisance calls.

"Uh, no. The FBI does not investigate fraudulent game tokens." His eyebrows waggled impatiently. "If the White-collar Crime Section told you that, they are obnoxiously mistaken." And after a pause he said, "Mary Anne told you to call me? ... Uh hm. You know, you sound like a nice young man. Did you know that Mary Anne is single and looks just like Britney Spears? ... Uh-huh. Even has a navel ring. She told me just the other day that a video game is her idea of the perfect date."

The next call was more typical.

"Mulder." After a very, very lengthy pause, he managed to get in a few words. "You know a lot of people have itchy gums and it has nothing to do with alien implants. Have you thought to see a dentist? ... Uh, no. But there are dentists who specialize in treating alien abductees. Just look in the yellow pages. Whenever you see an ad with a sketch of a smiling tooth on it, that's the secret code for abductee dentists. ... Yes, of course. Good luck."

I was almost done with the Reno report when the phone rang again.

"Mulder. ... Uh-huh." His voice was unnaturally low. Then the volume dropped, so I could barely hear. "You know I'll do whatever you say. ... Very badly." I'd never heard that tone before. Mulder sounded so subdued... acquiescent. Then I noticed his eyelids were drooping.

I shifted my chair slightly to get closer.

"Please, Alex."

Oh, my. I had to work to keep my face relaxed and my eyes on the forms in front of me.

"You're getting me very excited here." He glanced over at me nervously, but I was watching out of my peripheral vision. "You know how badly I need it, but I'm here with Scully. ... I don't think she'd appreciate that."

What? Lord, I was getting a bit turned on myself here... imagining what Alex was saying to him.

"Okay, I'll stop on the way." His face was flushed. Mulder really was lovely when he was turned on. "Ten minutes. I promise. ... You know I can't wait."

When he hung up the phone, he looked at me again. Then he took a few deep breaths. "Uh, Scully?"

"Yes, Mulder?" I replied, not looking up.

"I think I'm going to go home early."

"It's only 4:30. Are you ill?" That was mean, but I couldn't resist.

"Uh, no. Well, yeah, maybe I feel a bit feverish. I think I'll just go home and rest."

I stood and walked to his desk, putting my palm on his forehead. "Hmm... not too warm, but you look at bit... stimulated."

He swallowed heavily and eyed me uneasily.

Forcing my voice flat, I added, "I'm sure it's nothing that Alex can't take care of."

His eyebrows went up and he suppressed an obvious frown. "Yeah, I just want to lie down."

I'll bet you do, Mulder. I shook my head as he grabbed his keys and his suit coat.

A glance at the front of his trousers revealed the truth. As he headed out the door, I called out, "Uh, Mulder?"

"Yeah?"

"Put your coat on... at least until you get out of the building."

He gaped at me like a fish, and flushed again. "Uh, yeah."

I sat down to continue my work with a smile on my face. Cute, Mulder.

A few moments later, it occurred to me how happy he was. The Mulder I used to know worked late almost every night because he had nothing to go home to. But in half an hour, he'd be in bed with his lover. This was a vast improvement over his video addiction.

His lover was not Mr. Morality, but what I'd said to Skinner was true. Mulder was lucky to have someone who cared about him. And something besides his work.

I finished the expense report and, leaving the others for tomorrow, grabbed my own coat and headed home. Maybe I could find something enjoyable to do, too.

** Krycek **

Fox and Scully went to Illinois. One of their previous captures had escaped. Some sick fuck named Donnie Pfaster. Liked to eat dead girls' fingers or something. Kind of made me wish they were on a more sane case... ghosts or vampires or Bigfoot.

Pfaster had attacked Scully once. Woe be to he who threatens Mulder's partner. I knew how badly he wanted to catch this one, so when they got back Thursday afternoon without having arrested the perp, I expected him to be in a foul mood.

He met my expectations. An irritable Fox called me from the airport. He was going to visit the Gunmen and see if they could help him with some scheme to track Pfaster.

When I got home that evening, he still wasn't home.

I hit the answering machine button as I stripped off my suit and changed into human clothes. The message was for Fox, so I only listened with half an ear. "Agent Mulder, Marshall Joe Daddo in Marion. Just talked to... wearing a red wig. Upset she wasn't a redhead..."

I hit the save button and slipped on my boots. Turning on the radio, I went into the kitchen to make dinner. In a tired daze, I pulled out a big pot for pasta.

The song on the radio was some horrid thing I'd never had the misfortune to hear before. I returned to the receiver to switch it off. The lyric called out something like, 'Don't Look Any Further' Okay, I won't.

The instant the switch disconnected the tuner, the message replayed in my head. "Upset she wasn't a redhead."

I paused, feeling an intense sense of foreboding.

** Mulder **

I was driving home from the Gunmen's house when I heard that damned song on the radio again. It gave me a very bad vibe. I grabbed my cell and dialed Scully's house. No answer. No answer on her cell either. Fuck. I was still near Baltimore. Nowhere near Scully's.

My trouble sense was in full alert, so I called our place.

"Yeah?"

"Alex, it's me. Scully's in trouble and I can't get to her apartment for another thirty minutes."

"Got my gun. On my way."

"Thanks," I replied as the phone disconnected. Alex seemed to know why I had called, before I called. That's odd. I desperately needed to be there. If anything happened to Scully... Or Alex, for that matter.

I called for backup, because I had to--to protect their lives. But I was also hoping against hope that Alex wouldn't get caught with his gun.

The drive was interminable. I violated enough traffic laws to earn a life sentence in traffic school. As I neared her house, I saw Alex's truck parked haphazardly at the curb. No sign of other law enforcement. Fuck. Twenty minutes since I called and still no backup. If anything had happened to either of them, I would garrote the dispatcher.

I ditched my car in the grass, leaped out and entered the shattered front door.

Inside, Scully and Alex sat quietly on her sofa. She was wearing her PJs, looking numb, with her head resting on his shoulder. That unlikely sight triggered my panic reflex, but both appeared to have no major injuries. Scully was clearly battered, although she did not appear to need emergency medical care. I was so damned relieved neither of them had been killed.

Her apartment resembled a tornado site. As I stepped further into the room, I saw Pfaster's body on the floor. No pulse. Shot... up through the chest. Probably Alex taking him out as he went for Scully.

I stepped in front of them. "Alex, your gun," I said in an urgent voice. I'd have to wipe his prints and say I fired the shot.

He glanced at me grimly, but passed the weapon, butt first, awkwardly, to avoid dislodging Scully from his shoulder.

Cold. It was cold. And no scent of gunpowder. My eyes flashed to his demanding an explanation.

He just shook his head, but didn't move.

I extracted a handkerchief from my pocket and thoroughly wiped the gun. Then I held it in the firing position, insuring that my prints were on it. Next, I tucked it into my waistband.

Scully stared into space.

"What happened, Alex?"

His eyes met mine and, before he uttered a word, I knew he was going to lie. "I kicked in the door. Pfaster was going after Scully as she tried to reach a gun on the floor." His voice was dead calm. "He rose and came after me. At the same moment, she got her hands on the gun." He touched her gently under the chin, to get her attention. "Since I had no weapon," he enunciated the words carefully as if teaching them, "...she shot him before he could get to me."

Scully blinked up at him.

"Right, Scully?"

She said in a weak voice, "Don't-"

I gaped at both of them as Alex interrupted her, meeting her eyes with a fierce gaze. "You shot him to keep him from attacking me."

She stared at him, and then at me, a desolate look on her face.

My eyes took in the room. Assessing. Judging. At that moment, nothing could make me believe the explanation my law enforcement brain told me was the truth. But I had to protect them. And quickly.

I trusted Alex completely, ready to support his version of the truth.

Just to be certain, I had to ask, "Alex, powder residue... are your hands are clean?"

"Yes."

Half numb myself, I nodded to Scully.

And she nodded to Alex. The lie was now agreed upon. Something inside me wanted to burst. I didn't even care to think about the truth.

I desperately wanted to get Alex out of that room, but there was no way I could explain having been present without a gun. It had to be him.

As I heard the sirens outside, I said a silent prayer to a god I didn't believe in that both of these people I loved would emerge from this intact and without facing criminal charges.

In fact, the lie was a breeze. The Bureau agent knew Scully and didn't question her word. The police saw how tiny she was and ignorantly dismissed her as purely a victim. Alex's prison record came up, but Scully and I both supported his story. He hadn't done anything illegal or parole violating.

Four hours later, we put Scully to bed on our sofa. Alex and I crawled into our bed. We lay together, in a silent embrace, for almost a half hour before I finally asked, "Alex, what really happened?"

His voice seemed eerie in the dark room. "Are you sure you want to know?"

"Yes." I snuggled in closer. "I need to know."

"Pfaster wasn't going anywhere. He was standing between us. Unarmed. We both had our guns on him. She put him down."

My breath hitched and I could feel tears trickle out of my eyes.

He stroked my hair, soothingly. "She did the right thing, Fox. The fucker had gone after her twice."

My only response was a feeble nod. Scully was my hero... but she'd done what I might have done. She was just a human being like the rest of us.

Alex held me and didn't ask for an explanation. Maybe he understood. I fell asleep in his arms.

In the morning, we sat in bed, both leaning against the headboard.

"Thank you, Alex, for risking everything to save her."

He nodded. A couple of minutes later, he spoke with an aggrieved expression. "I like her, too."

** Krycek **

I rose and showered after Fox went running. I discovered Scully in the living room, drinking coffee.

"You okay?"

"Yes," she replied in a flat tone.

I kept moving, heading toward the kitchen.

"Krycek?"

"Yeah?"

"I want to talk to you for a moment."

I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat across from her.

She bit her lip nervously, but when she spoke, her words were calm. "Why? You endangered your freedom and even your life... You did it for Mulder, right?"

I nodded. "Yes, but... I both like and respect you, Scully."

She shook her head, as if to disagree. "But I... I don't respect you, Alex. I can't."

"Okay. I accept that." I shrugged and started to stand.

"But I... um, thank you, Alex."

** Mulder **

I walked in on Scully thanking Alex. Maybe they were becoming friends. Alex found an excuse to go to the store, so I could be alone with her.

"Scully, are you all right?"

She looked proud and strong, like my Scully, but she shook her head.

"You can't judge yourself."

"Maybe I don't have to."

I knew her religion would be a problem. "The Bible allows for vengeance."

"But the law doesn't."

"The way I see it... he didn't give you a choice. Alex agrees. And my report will reflect that, in case you're worried. Donnie Pfaster would've surely killed again given the chance."

"He was evil, Mulder. I'm sure about that, without a doubt. But there's one thing I'm not sure of."

"What's that?"

"Who was at work in me. Or what... what made me... what made me pull the trigger."

"You mean if it was god?"

"I mean... what if it wasn't?"

I couldn't believe that. Neither god nor the devil made Scully kill Pfaster. He was evil and she needed to stop him. Permanently. To me, it was simple. My Scully was flawed like the rest of us. It made me sad, but it also made me feel closer to her.

I wrapped my arms around my partner and held her tightly, as if to protect her after the fact. She was so important to me. I couldn't be more grateful that she was alive. That she did what she had to, to protect herself. That another of my cases didn't hurt her again. But it did hurt her. Her integrity. At that moment, I'd have given up everything but Alex to restore it to her.

I felt her heart beating as we clutched each other, silently sharing our fears and relief.

Scully's so incredibly strong. I knew she'd make her way through it.

A week after Pfaster was killed, on Tuesday morning, I waited outside the basement office to catch Scully before she came inside.

I heard her footsteps in the hall and then, as she came into sight, she quirked an eyebrow at me. "What's up, Mulder?"

"I want to take you to breakfast." I flashed her my charm-school smile. "Because you deserve it for putting up with me."

She paused, raising her eyebrow again. "Well, that's difficult to argue. Can I at least put these in the office?"

"Uh, no," I replied, taking the medical journals from her arm. "I'll carry them for you."

Gazing at me like I was a peculiar specimen, she followed me to my car.

We ate at Rue L'Orange. Her favorite.

After the waiter took our order, she inquired, "Are you buttering me up for something?"

"No, Scully." I faked a pout. "I'm just showing my appreciation."

"Uh-huh," she replied, her stern face making her doubtful position clear.

"I haven't always been the easiest partner to work with. I'm trying to clean up my act. Do you mind?"

"No, feel free. But don't expect me to be surprised the next time you misbehave."

"You're so cynical."

"I prefer the term 'realistic.'"

"Yeah, whatever." I nibbled on a piece of toast. "So, Scully, how are you really feeling? After last week-"

She cut me off, face relaxing in an instant, for the first time certain of my intentions. "I'm fine, Mulder. Stop worrying."

"I just want you to know I'm here if you need to talk."

"I know." She patted my hand. "I won't forget. Even if you're not always the easiest partner to work with, I know I can count on you if I ever need anything."

"Anything, Scully."

When we got back to the office, I carried her journals again. Before I opened the door, I said, "Close your eyes, Scully."

"Why? You've got a porn DVD running on your computer? A revivified corpse is going to jump out at me? What?"

"No. I got you a present."

Scully gave me a vexed look, but closed her eyes.

I opened the door and escorted her to the middle of the office. "Open your eyes."

Her jaw dropped slightly as she took in the sight. "You got me a desk."

"It's the same size as mine, but I think it's better looking."

She examined the battered government desk carefully, glancing back at my similarly mangled one. "Uh, yeah. Mine's nicer," she replied in a disingenuous tone.

I watched her as she sat down and surveyed her new territory. Perched on the edge of her desk was a small vase of violets. She reached for it and retrieved the tiny card. "Thank you for being my best friend. Love, Mulder."

She shook her head, amused by me. As always. Watching her try to fight off a smile warmed my heart.


Chapter 8

** Mulder **

I got home at 5:25 on Friday, at least two hours before Alex would ever expect me. He wasn't home yet, so after changing into jeans, I turned on the TV and flipped through the week's stack of mail. They really should put a recycling bin right under the mailbox to save time.

Alex turned up twenty minutes later. "Hey, Fox. You're home."

"Yeah," I replied with a grin. "I thought you'd appreciate not having to call around hunting for your man at the end of the week."

He kissed me absentmindedly. "Yeah, I do." His suit was rumpled. His tie was crooked. He looked damned good.

I followed him into the bedroom, watching as he stripped off his tie. I added two more hands and helped him peel off the suit. Then one of those hands strayed down to the lump in his shorts.

He smiled warmly, but it was not a sexual smile. "Later, lover. I'm still out of it from work. Okay?"

"Sure, I can be patient."

"Really? When?" He cocked his head like a curious dog. "Have I ever seen that?"

I smacked him playfully on the butt and tossed him his jeans.

Ten minutes later, he was doing something in the kitchen, while I read the paper.

"Fox. Um, I'll be right back." And he was gone.

Odd. I wondered where he was going. Probably to the 7-11 to get some missing ingredient for dinner. If so, he'd be back in ten minutes.

He returned in five minutes, darting into the kitchen.

"Where'd you go, Alex?"

"Nowhere," he mumbled.

Sometimes Alex liked to be mysterious. It didn't mean he was up to anything. Just kept things to himself. I decided not to make a federal case out of it, and followed him into the kitchen to see if I could fondle the cook.

But when I entered the room, he was facing the sink, a vaguely distressed look on his face. His hand held a baggie. Filled with white powder.

Before I could even think, I grabbed his wrist and twisted, forcing him to drop it. "What the fuck are you doing?!"

He did a rapid about-face and held up his arm defensively. "What am I doing?" His tone was pure acid.

I kicked the baggie on the floor. "God dammit, Alex! How long have you been doing heroin?" Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

His eyes narrowed and his expression went from shock to outrage to just plain rage. He tried to speak but was too furious to get the words out. Finally he took a couple of deep breaths. "Mul-der, I'm going for a walk. And when I come back, you're going to apologize."

Alex shoved me out of his way. After retrieving his keys, he called out, "And be sure to taste the heroin while I'm gone." The door slammed behind him, rattling the coat rack.

Fuck. He needed me. I darted to the door, opened it and stepped into the hall, speaking to his rapidly retreating back. "Come back! We need to talk. I'll help you."

From the end of the hall, he turned and barked at me, "I need to be alone."

He didn't take the drugs with him, so I let him go. I slunk back into our apartment. Fuck.

Something was niggling at the back of my brain. "... be sure to taste the heroin..." I got a queasy feeling in my intestines as I returned to the kitchen.

I picked up the baggie and looked at it. I didn't even need to taste it. It was white crystalline flakes, but way too big to be heroin. What the fuck?

I tossed it on the counter in disgust. Returning to the living room, I sat down numbly at my desk. It took at least five minutes before my distressed brain realized that I'd falsely accused Alex of using heroin. No wonder he was pissed.

Ah, fuck! I was a goddamned idiot.

Alex showed up about two hours later, with a paper bag from our favorite Greek deli. Grimacing at me, he sat down at the kitchen table. His jaw was clenched.

"I'm sorry, Alex. I fucked up."

He muttered, "Big time," and removed one sandwich from the bag. He folded the empty bag neatly. Not in a forgiving mood, apparently.

I tried to catch his eye, but he was ignoring me. "I jumped to a hasty conclusion."

He took a bite of his falafel sandwich, chewing it aggressively... probably wishing the falafels were my balls.

"I apologize, Alex."

My masticating lover was unimpressed.

"Shit," I mumbled to myself. I got up to get him a Coke. "I suppose I shouldn't have assumed the worst. I'm really very sorry."

He rolled his eyes.

"Well, dammit, Alex! What were you doing? What was I supposed to think? You disappear for five minutes and come back with that baggie of whatever the fuck it is."

Standing suddenly, he knocked the chair to the floor. "WELL, IF I WAS BUYING A FIX, I WOULDN'T DO IT IN OUR APARTMENT BUILDING, YOU MORON."

"SO WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME WHERE YOU WENT? IF YOU HAD JUST ANSWERED ME WHEN I ASKED YOU, THIS WOULDN'T HAVE HAPPENED."

Scowling, he regulated his breathing to regain control. "I get fucking tired of telling you where I go all the time. Sometimes it feels like you're my parole officer. At least he believes me when I say I'm clean."

"You go on these stealth missions and never want to tell me what you're doing... what am I supposed to think?"

He gestured madly with his arm. "Oh, let me guess... that I'm killing your friends, selling information I hacked from your PC, torturing small animals... choose your favorite." Picking up his sandwich, he retreated to the living room.

"Have I accused you of anything since you got out of prison? Name one thing."

"Usein' he'oin," he replied around a full mouth.

"Besides that. Until today. Name one thing."

A lopsided shrug was his only reply.

I smirked at my irritating lover and stomped around the room. "Well, if you weren't doing anything nefarious, there is no reason not to tell me what you were doing tonight, and what's in the fucking baggie."

"It's not easy living with an officer of the law." He chewed for a long time before continuing. "I'm defending my right to privacy."

"Huh?"

"I don't have to tell you everything about everything." He picked at the seam of his jeans. "Do I need to have an attorney present to protect my rights?"

I glared at him. "Of course not."

"It feels like I do." His hand twitched nervously on his thigh.

"Well, you don't. But I want to know what's in the baggie."

"Repeat after me, Mul-der: Innocent until proven guilty."

I made a face.

"Fine, then you go to your grave without knowing what's in the baggie."

"Fuck!" I kicked the couch and said in a pissy voice, "All right. You don't have to answer all my questions."

He gave me a look of total disgust and threw a falafel at me.

I ducked ineffectually and it smacked hard against the side of my face, leaving a trail of salad dressing. I brushed at it with my hand, then wiped my fingers on my jeans.

Alex wrapped up the uneaten half of his sandwich and tossed it in the trash. Then he went into the bedroom.

I trailed after him, painfully aware that I was being an asshole, but still feeling angry. I tried to placate. "I'm sorry, Alex. You don't have to tell me everything. I don't tell you everything... well, maybe I do, but that's only because I can't stop babbling."

Alex's face stiffened against a smile. "That's the truth."

Fuck. Having a lover is hard work. It's not the actual work I minded so much. It's the groveling after fuck-ups. Scully was easy compared to my stubborn lover. "I really am sorry. You don't have to tell me where you went tonight." I still wanted to know, of course, but it wasn't worth losing Alex over.

Maybe if I gave him some peace and quiet, he'd calm down. I tried to smile a little and left the room.

A voice called out behind me, "I went to see Mrs. Rodinsky."

I turned around and faced him from the corridor. "The cranky deaf lady who lives at the end of the hall?"

"And you call yourself an investigator?" He shook his head patronizingly. "She's neither cranky nor deaf. She's Russian and she doesn't speak a word of English."

Well, that explained everything. I took a couple of steps toward the bedroom, my hands in my hair, ready to tear it out. "And what? She gives you a baggie full of WHAT? LAUNDRY DETERGENT?" Fuck, I was yelling again.

He hollered right back. "SOMETIMES, you have the intellect of a THREE YEAR OLD. I would think a FUCKING SPECIAL AGENT could figure out what's in the bag." Suddenly, he brushed past me.

I pursued him and we met in the living room.

He made a fuss of opening the baggie, licked a fingertip, touched it to the white fucking shit and held it to my lips.

If it was poison, I was more than ready. My tongue slipped out. Salt. "Salt? FUCKING SALT? We already have salt. It's too big for salt. Salt crystals are small and square."

"Kosher salt."

"What the FUCK is KOSHER SALT?" My fingers were going for my hair again. Someone had to die after all this suffering and it looked like it was going to have to be me.

"It's a raw form--not iodized--for cooking."

I sputtered, unable to speak at first. "Uh... we... SALT...? We had the worst fight of our entire relationship over fucking salt?" I ground the heels of my hands into my eyes.

I heard breathy sounds that had to be Alex snickering. I uncovered my eyes, rubbing my temples with my fingers.

Alex shook his head. His expression seemed to say I was the biggest fool since the inventor of Cheez Whiz.

It did seem pretty silly, in a really aggravating way. But some of the things he'd said... "You really think I have the intellect of a three year old?"

His lips quirked. "Some of the time."

I frowned.

"You're kind of cute when you're so emotional."

I exaggerated the frown.

He grinned. "And I like it when you babble... I never feel lonely when you're around."

The impact of what I'd done was just starting to hit me. I was such an idiot. Taking a single step toward him, I gently put my hand on his shoulder. "You may have to give me a spanking."

"If you insist, but keep in mind you can't make the same offer to everyone you offend. The line would stretch around the block."

I wrapped my other arm around his waist and pouted into his neck. "Are you nearly finished?"

His lips found my temple, which he kissed tenderly. "Almost." He stepped away. "Sit down, Fox."

This sounded serious. With great trepidation, I took a seat on the sofa.

He sat across from me. "In prison, the day you visited... I'd only had one hit. Remember what I was like? If I did it again, you wouldn't have any trouble figuring out that I was high. Okay?"

"I believe you. I understand." I nodded solemnly. "It won't happen again. And I'm sorry."

He brushed my cheek with his thumb.

We sat silently for a few minutes, letting the adrenaline dissipate.

"So you want to take me to meet the Russian lady?"

He shook his head grimly. "She thinks you're an arrogant yuppie."

I gave a gasp of outrage, but my dignity was too battered to carry it off. My arms wrapped around him, pulling him closer. "I love you, Alex. You owe me a spanking."

"Sure, lover."

Someday he'd tell me he loved me. In the meantime, I already knew. We collapsed in each other's arms.

** Krycek **

The next morning there was a huge vase of flowers on the kitchen table. At least eight different varieties of wildflowers in wild colors. And a small note. "I was listening. I'll try to do better about your privacy. Because you matter to me more than anything. Fox."

Sweet. No one had ever said anything like that to me.

That was one hell of an argument. Fox was an intensely emotional man. He needed more of me than I seemed to be able to give, but I was determined to try harder. The benefits were damned good.

I wasn't exactly the poster child for mental health myself. But maybe I was doing okay with him?

I had a cup of coffee and waited for Fox to return from his morning run. I met him at the door, pulling him close and rubbing my groin against his. "I have something for you, Fox."

He gave me a childish grin. "'Kay." He whipped off his T-shirt, while I pulled off his shorts. Dragging him to the bedroom, I tugged off my jeans and pounced.

He smelled incredible... musky and male. The feel of his hot sweaty skin under my body made me hyperventilate with lust.

We wrestled on the bed... a pale imitation of a battle for dominance. Pale only because we both wanted me to win. So I won. Threw a vanquished Fox over my thighs and smacked his ass.

"Ouch!"

"Aren't you supposed to say, 'Yes, sir. May I have another?'"

"It hurts."

I spanked him again.

"Dammit, Alex. That really hurts."

Whack! "Want me to stop?"

"Yes! No! Well, maybe a few more..."

I stroked his round butt gently before I spanked him again.

His hips started to move from side to side. He moaned. His ass cheeks turned bright pink.

"Damn, you have a beautiful ass, Fox."

"Mm hmm," he whimpered contentedly as my hand came down on it again.

"I think you need to get fucked."

"Defffffinitely."

I gave him another half dozen smacks on his backside, then pushed him face down on the bed.

"How you feeling, lover?"

"Do it," he mumbled into his pillow, his hips thrusting into the sheets.

I put the condom on first, so we wouldn't be interrupted later. Then I kissed down his spine to his ass. Heat rose from the reddened surface of his skin. I nipped my way to his anus. And licked it.

Fox shoved his ass into my face, nearly knocking me off the bed. But I held on and braced myself. I lapped at his anus, then inserted my tongue inside him. He groaned deeply, still moving his hips to encourage the tongue fucking.

I broke away for a moment. "Such a slut!"

"More... I want more!" he gasped.

I laughed and gave it to him. Using my tongue as a spear, I thrust inside him as hard as I could. The only sound was his breathless whimpering.

When I released him, I quickly lubed my fingers and pushed in two at once.

"Yes," he hissed. "Harder."

I shoved my fingers into his rectum. He didn't seem to be in any pain, so I removed them and positioned myself.

As I eased the head of my cock inside him, he moaned deliriously. I pushed hard, giving him the rest in an instant.

After a squeal of delight, he went silent, but his shoulders quivered as he waited for me to move. Pausing a moment to regain control, I caught my breath. Then I let my hips do what they wanted to.

I fucked him hard and fast. His body felt so good impaled on me. His tight ass was intensely hot. Like we were burning up. As I took him furiously, I thought about who he was and what he'd given me. No matter what I asked of him, he offered it generously. That was the true measure of his passion for me. Not those three little words I couldn't say, but his desire to share his body with me any way I wanted it.

I couldn't return that either, I realized sadly.

And then I couldn't think any more. We both made guttural animal sounds as I pounded my pleasure into him. He came from the friction of the sheets, and his orgasm brought me off nearly simultaneously.

Afterward, I lay on his back, holding him as tightly as I could. "Thank you, Fox."

"Mmpfh."

We both washed up and changed the sheets. Feeling lazy, I flopped on the freshly made bed and he joined me, his head nestled on my shoulder. My fingers stroked and teased along his lower back.

Neither of us spoke for a long time. Then Fox asked, "Alex, have you ever killed in anger?"

I took a few deep breaths before responding. "You come up with the most amazing discussion topics in bed."

"I know. Sorry," Fox replied sheepishly. "I've been thinking about last night and how angry I was... and what happened to Scully and Donnie Pfaster." His long elegant fingers brushed absently across my abdomen. "Did you ever kill in anger?"

I eyed him suspiciously. Did he really want to know? "Twice."

"Tell me about it."

"Robert Hamilton Schweck and the man he hired to kill you."

Fox's eyes closed for a moment. "I never thought about the shooter."

Special Agent Fox Mulder never thought about the shooter? Told me a lot about the power of denial. And how much he cared about me. The man who once accused me of every possible misdeed no longer wanted to know what I'd done.

His voice was hushed when he spoke again. "Is that why you got caught? Because you were angry?"

It was likely the truth. "Don't go there, Fox. I did the crime. I went to prison. It's over."

The sadness on his face told me he'd read between the lines.

I put my hand on his shoulder. "I had to do it. You mean so much to me, Fox."

"I know." He kissed me on the forehead. "I'm glad you didn't get caught for the other one."

"Me, too." I mussed his soft hair with my fingertips. "Why the questions? A topic you usually choose to avoid..."

Fox didn't answer and buried his face in my armpit. He didn't want to tell me. That was a first. After an eternity of silence, he sat up and looked at me. "I'm ashamed."

"Of what?"

"What I feel about..." He closed his eyes again, briefly, before continuing, "What I feel about killing."

I didn't understand, but I said nothing. He needed to decide if he wanted to tell me.

Fox glanced around the room. When his eyes returned to me they were hurt. "Envy," he whispered.

"Huh?"

"Envy. I've wanted to kill in anger. Deliberately. When it was legally unjustified. Not in defense of myself or another person. A doctor who was experimenting on a little girl. A serial killer who claimed to have murdered my sister. Another killer who was tormenting Scully. Cancerman. I've wanted to kill... because some dangerous people can't be stopped any other way. And just because I was angry..."

"What's wrong with that, Fox?"

"I've suffered from violence, when my sister was taken, but I still want to be violent myself."

I sighed. Could he really be that innocent? I wanted to hold him close and protect him from himself. From the really good, but naive, part of himself. Something I'd never had in me. Then I saw through my own denial. I'd had it once. When I'd kissed a boy in public thinking the act was too sweet to offend anyone.

My eyes teared up. For Fox. For Trevor. For feelings I'd lost. "I understand."

Fox watched me thoughtfully. "I believe you do." He was carrying a hell of a lot of shame for violent deeds he'd never performed. Snuggling closer, he added, "Maybe that's one reason why I fell in love with you, because I knew you could accept parts of me that I can't."

I stroked his back gently, soothing us both. "Your violent feelings?"

"Yes."

"But everyone has those, don't they?"

"I guess so."

"So what's the point of being ashamed?"

"I should be better than that."

"Trying to be perfect?"

Fox groaned and went silent. When he spoke again, I noticed he deftly changed the subject. "What made you kill? I mean the first time."

"The man I killed had done a lot of harm. It was justified because he was evil. Just like the ones you named, who you didn't kill. That's the difference between you and me."

"But they weren't all evil, were they?"

"No." How to tell my innocent lover that killing got easier? And that eventually, I didn't much care who or why? Better he not hear it.

The silence felt weighted this time.

I imagined heavy recriminations, but he was gentle with me. "I've killed a few evil men. I've made mistakes that caused others to die. I believe in morality, but I don't feel superior to you because of what you did." He shook his head. "I've been envious of you for a long time. It's part of what made me beat you up. Like a bratty child--how come he gets to kill and I don't?"

"You made the right choice, Fox."

"And what about you?"

I wrapped my arm around his waist. "I made the wrong choice."

Fox gazed at me sadly. "Why do you feel it was the wrong choice?"

"Because what I'd done almost made it impossible for me to be with you."

"I try to do the right thing." This was the wide-eyed innocent Fox. So vulnerable. He made me feel protective.

In a gentle voice, I replied, "And now, I try, too."

"For me?"

"For us."

Fox nodded and asked pensively, "Did you ever lose someone you cared about to violence?"

Fuck. "Yes," I replied reluctantly.

"Who?"

I met his eyes and shook my head, saying with my face what I couldn't say out loud. Don't ask this, Fox. It's more than I can give.

Fox opened his mouth, but hesitated before speaking. "Did you think of that person when you killed Schweck and the man he hired?"

"Yes."

"And it didn't make you stop?"

"It made me pull the trigger."

After a long silence, he spoke again. "I love you, Alex. The real you. The imperfect, flawed Alex Krycek."

My chest constricted with his words. I wasn't sure I should ever allow myself to be loved that way, but perhaps it was too late.


Chapter 9

** Krycek **

A week later, after Sunday morning coffee, Fox sat next to me on the sofa. "I'd like to ask a favor, Alex." His pleading tone gave him away. Whatever he wanted, it was going to be odious.

"What?"

He patted my thigh. "Would you come with me to visit my mother?"

I frowned. "Did you tell her about me?"

"She knows I have a male lover, but I didn't tell her anything else."

Oh, fuck. Bad enough to visit Fox's mother with the gay thing, but the I-killed-your-ex-husband thing was sure to put that experience over the top. To say nothing of what I knew and despised about her. Had to be the way I least wanted to spend a weekend. Maybe right after a pre-frontal lobotomy.

I did a lot of things I didn't want to, just to make Fox happy, but surely I could plead out of this. Couldn't I?

He nudged my cheek to get me to look at him again. "It won't be that bad."

"So she's comfortable with you having a male lover?"

"Um, no. But-"

"Don't say it, Mulder. Do not say 'she will like you once she gets to know you.'" I gave him a stern look.

His eyelashes fluttered. "Couldn't we just give it a try and see how it goes?"

I looked at him askance. "Why? What do you hope to gain?"

Fox thought about it for a long time before replying, "She's not exactly a warm person, but I feel like she deserves a chance to accept us. She is my mother."

"And I assume you're not planning on telling her that I killed Bill Mulder?"

He grimaced at me, always displeased to be reminded. "No. I wouldn't tell anyone that."

It made me feel bad for bringing it up, which made me feel like I should give in and meet his damned mother. Fuck. What happened to the totally selfish Alex I used to know?

After sitting quietly for a long time, I finally said, "If it's something you really want, I'll go. Once. And I can't promise to be charming."

His face brightened. I'd never be able to say no to him if he looks at me like a kid who just got a train for Christmas. "Sure. No problem. Thanks, Alex."

I had read Consortium files on Teena Mulder and didn't think very highly of his surviving parent. But I could endure almost anything for my intractable lover.

He got up right away and phoned her. "Mom, it's Fox." He nibbled his lower lip, not speaking for a very long time. The look on his face suggested a lecture. Eventually, he broke in and asked, "I was thinking about coming for a visit in a few weeks."

After a pause, he said, "If you want," in a tone that clearly said, 'I'd rather have my fingernails yanked out.'

"Okay, I can do either of those weekends. I'll call you when I have tickets. ... Yeah, um, mom, there's something else. ... No. ... Yes. ... Uh, I'd like to bring someone along. ... No, not Scully. ... No. ... Mom, I want to bring Alex. ... My lover." He winced at her reply.

I was ready to back out at this point. I'd never met the woman and I already loathed her.

"I think you should give him a chance. ... No, it's not a phase. He's living with me. ... I agree, your gay son and his lover probably won't fit in at the country club. ... He's a human being. We love and respect each other. There's nothing perverted about that."

My hackles went up.

"No, mom. ... It's your choice. I'm not coming without him. ... Okay if you need time to think about it. ... No, I'm not ashamed. You may be, but I'm not. ... Yes, mom. ... Okay. Bye."

The look he gave me was profound frustration with something else... The face of the boy who didn't get the train set.

I wanted to kill the bitch, but somehow I didn't think our relationship would survive my killing both his parents.

"She needs time to think about it."

I was relieved we weren't going, but also pissed for Fox. "To hell with her."

He sat down again, and rested his head on my shoulder. Damn, I hate it when he's sad. I wrapped my arm around him and stroked his hair.

Fox was moody for days. Days without sex. I kept hoping he'd snap out of it. I didn't know what to do or say.

** Mulder **

On Thursday, I was walking down Pennsylvania Avenue after lunch, when I heard the squeal of tires, and suddenly a van was in front of me on the sidewalk. The shrieking sound of metal and concrete exploded in my eardrums. Glass splattered on my suit.

By the time I thought to move, it was over. The vehicle had cleared my body by about three inches. I was alive.

The driver of the van was not. The van was less than half its original size, crushed like an accordion, wedged into the wall of a tiny barbershop.

Inside the shop, I found several terrified men. A few minor injuries, but no one needed an ambulance.

I phoned the local P.D. Waiting for them to arrive, it dawned on me. I'd almost been killed.

What a fucking absurdity! To have survived a government conspiracy, flukeman, vampires, liver-eating mutants, shapeshifters, mind-controlling serial killers, lethal cockroaches and man-eating mushrooms... And almost taken out by a dry cleaning van.

I laughed like a crazy man, until there were tears running down my cheeks.

And then I thought of Alex. What if I'd died? It hurt to imagine how much Alex would have suffered.

Life is too fucking short.

** Krycek **

I came home from work late on Friday night. I'd called so he knew. But when I arrived, he was sprawled on the couch wearing only his boxers, sporting a full-out erection, head stretched out languidly on the back of the couch.

"Fox?"

"Alex," he replied, his voice an urgent whisper.

"What's going on? You been watching your videos?"

"No."

"You about ready to jerk yourself off?"

"No, Alex. I was saving it for you."

"I'm here."

"I need you so badly." His hair was mussed, his eyes greenish gray in the room light, full lower lip in a pout.

By this point, my own cock was about to burst out of my pants, but I was so curious about Fox's sudden mood shift that I held off pouncing. I stood directly across from him, but too far away to touch. "You look so beautiful sprawled out like that, hard and needy."

"I need you to fuck me."

"I love fucking you."

"Then do it, please, Alex. Don't tease me."

"Soon. I promise."

Fox's head fell forward with a whimper. "Don't make me wait, Alex. Can't you see how desperate I am?" He ran his hands across his inner thighs, not touching his cotton-covered erection. His hips lifted off the sofa, but he denied his cock what it wanted.

Because he knew I'd object.

My own cock throbbed deliciously. "You're incredibly sexy when you're like this, Fox. What happened to get you so worked up?"

"Just thinking about you." He curled over onto his side and slid one hand down his crack, still covered by his boxers. "I belong to you, Alex."

All my blood rushed to my cock, leaving me dizzyingly lightheaded. "You belong to me?"

"Yes. Fuck me, Alex. I need to feel you inside me, so I know I belong to you."

I could feel my dick dripping in my shorts, but I was still fascinated by his tortured state. He'd said, 'Don't make me wait,' so, of course, I had to make him wait.

"Don't you want me?"

"Very much, Fox."

"Then take what you need from me." That hand teased his crack again through the white cotton of his boxers.

"You're not even ready for me."

Fox moaned and reached for the waistband of his shorts. He pulled them off, provocatively revealing inch after inch of his gorgeous round ass. With his boxers around his knees and his needy cock bobbing between his legs, he couldn't have been sexier. He shoved the coffee table aside and got down on his knees on the floor, leaning onto the sofa. His butt twitched and he whimpered after a moment, when he realized I wasn't already on my way to him.

"For me?"

"Yes, Alex." He ran a hand down his ass and opened his knees.

It was an incredible gift... the way he offered himself so passionately.

"Why won't you take me, Alex? Don't I make you hard?"

"I could come in my pants just watching you like that... Fox."

His head fell onto his arms laid out on the sofa. "I need you."

"Tell me what you want, exactly what you want."

"Fuck me," he replied in almost a whisper. "Take off your clothes and kneel behind me and give it to me hard."
It was plenty hard. No doubt about that. "Lube? Condom?"

He groaned and moved to get up.

"No, stay there. Just like that."

Fox nodded dumbly.

When I returned with the stuff, he hadn't moved. "Give it to me!" he cried out in a tone that tried to be demanding, but achieved needy.

I lay the bottle on the couch next to him, and backed away.

His shoulders shook a little, lamenting the waiting. He opened the lube and poured a generous amount into his hand. Looking at me over his shoulder, he slid those long elegant fingers between his cheeks and penetrated himself with one of them. If he made any sound, it was inaudible over my own moan.

Rolling on the condom, I watched him slip his fingers into his ass, opening himself up for me. His neck still twisted, eyes locked onto mine, eyelids half fallen, Fox was totally lost to the passion. If the building caught fire, I'd have to carry him out.

"Does it feel good, ckufing yourslef..." My mouth stopped working and I cleared my throat. "...fucking yourself on your fingers?"

He spoke with a sob in his voice. "I need you, Alex. Nothing else will satisfy your horny boy."

My brain was filled with such conflicting stimuli. My cock needed to fuck. Yesterday. But the sight of him lubing himself up, preparing his ass for me, was just too good. And hearing him beg for it was unbelievably hot. Coming in my pants didn't seem like a figure of speech.

He had three fingers in his ass now. The hand no longer moved because his butt was pushing back and forth onto the wet digits. "Please, Alex." The subtle movements of his glutes were nearly making me drool.

I knew I couldn't wait any longer. "Enough," I barked at him as I dropped to my knees and pulled out my cock. I pushed the head of it against his anus. I had to use my elbow to keep him from pushing himself backward onto it.

"Uhh hhh. Please!"

"Say it, Fox. Who do you belong to?"

"You, Alex. I belong to you." He sobbed pitifully. "Pleeeeeeease, Al-ex."

I gave it to him all at once, because I knew he needed it, and I was far too turned on to hold back. Wrapping one arm around his chest, I thrust into him as hard as I could.

He cried out, making nonsense sounds.

"Mine," I whispered into his ear.

His tight ass squeezed my cock into delicious oblivion. I was not long for this world, but I tried to hold on and fucked him feverishly. Seconds away from my own orgasm, I reached for his cock. Two rough strokes and he was screaming and coming. The contractions deep inside him pulled me down fast and I fell apart, shooting into him and struggling to hold our bodies together.

After a moment, I fell back onto the floor. Fox curled up with his head nestled on my chest. "Thank you, Alex," he mumbled dreamily.

"Thank you," I replied.

When I woke a half hour later, he was still perched on my chest, his fingers idly stroking my flank.

"What brought that on?"

Fox smiled up at me, still looking half dazed. "I want to give it to you. All of what I feel inside."

"Beautiful. Not just your body. What's inside. I've never seen anything so beautiful."

Fox's smile turned shy. I pulled him into a kiss.

I'd had plenty of sex before I met Fox. I'd had hot sex. I'd had very hot sex. But I'd never seen or felt anything like this before. When my heart was engaged, it was so much more. Body and soul, he did belong to me.

I never understood the idea of using sex to prove your love. Fox gave me everything. I was awed by his gift and humbled by the thought that I'd never be able to give him half of what he'd given me.

We stumbled into bed, sated, but it was too early to fall asleep. Fox curled up next to me, his nose nuzzling in my hair. "Alex, can I ask you something?"

What kind of question was that? My defenses came up instantly. "Okay," I replied cautiously.

"Why don't you like to get fucked?"

"You already asked me that."

"You didn't give me much of an answer." I said nothing, so he continued, "The only time I did it to you, it was punishment for your sins. How did something that feels so good become punishment? Do you feel like you're punishing me when you fuck me?"

After a heavy sigh, I replied, "No, it's not punishment when I fuck you. It's just sex... making you feel good... making me feel good." I was well aware that I was still dodging his question, but I didn't want to talk about it.

"But if I fucked you, wouldn't it make you feel good?"

I pried his hand from my chest and rolled onto my side, away from him.

Fox spooned in behind me. "I know you don't want to talk about this, but I'm your lover. I need to know."

It crossed my mind to leave the room, leave the apartment, leave his life even. Instead, I told a half truth. "Because of what happened in prison, dammit." So pathetic, it qualified as more like two percent of the truth.

His voice was quiet when he spoke again. "But you felt this way even before prison."

I turned rapidly in his arms, pushing him away.

Fox's eyes flicked closed for a moment as he tried to figure it out. "You were raped before prison?"

I did not want to think about this. I jumped up from the bed, turning to face him. "Fuck, Mulder! Not everyone wants to talk about this shit."

He sat up, leaning against the headboard. "I'm sorry, Alex. I just thought it might help."

"Help what?" I inquired, my irritation infused in the tone of my voice.

Fox shook his head despairingly. "I want to fuck you again, but mostly I just want to feel like I understand you."

"Why do you need to fuck me, dammit? There's no reason. I fuck you and we suck each other. That's enough, isn't it?"

His hand reached out toward my thigh, but I jerked back out of his grasp. I planted myself at the window, gazing at the fire escape, remembering using it to escape Scully. Trying futilely not to remember a ghastly image in another alley. A long time ago.

After a prolonged silence, he spoke again. "It's enough, Alex. I just wish we could talk about it."

** Mulder **

I met Talia for lunch on Monday. We'd barely been seated when I blurted out, "Talia, what happened to Alex to make him so defensive?"

She didn't ask me to explain what I meant. "I don't know most of it, Fox. I'm eight years younger, and in my earliest memories Alex was already different. He didn't like people. Rarely spoke to anyone besides me. There was a lot of anger, but he didn't show it often. His demeanor was usually calm, but if someone pushed him, he could be cruel."

Talia stopped to concentrate on her iced tea before continuing. "I do remember one person who changed him. His name was Trevor. I'm fairly certain they were lovers. They were both in high school, but Trevor went to the Catholic school on the other side of town. He made Alex smile. The only person besides me I ever saw do that... until you, Fox.

"Trevor was a pretty boy--sweet and smart, but not nearly as confident as Alex. They were inseparable for maybe six weeks. But Trevor was killed in a car accident. I don't know the details... just suddenly he was gone.

"Alex shut himself off after that. Rarely came home, even at night. He didn't make new friends. Kept his distance, even from me."

I finished my steak, mulling over the mysteries of my lover. "When you talk to him about important things, does he ever just shut down and refuse to talk?"

Her lips quirked up into what would have been a smile if she wasn't frowning. "Alex never talks about anything. Family. Feelings. What matters to him. Nothing. If he's talking to you at all, I'm impressed."

For a moment, I felt sorry for Talia. Alex kept her at an even greater distance. But she seemed so independent, like she didn't need anyone. Everyone needs someone, though.

I reached across the table and put my hand on hers.

Turbulent green eyes flashed up at me. Talia let me hold her hand for a few minutes, while she gazed at me thoughtfully. Then she took back her hand and reached for her tea.

After lunch, I drove her back to campus. When she opened the car door, I stopped her with my hand on her arm. "Thanks, Tal."

She kissed my cheeks.

** Krycek **

The phone rang in the middle of the night. I tried to ignore it, but I heard Fox mumble, "Yeah? ... What's wrong? ... Talia, are you okay?"

I bolted across the bed and sat next to him. "What is it?"

"Just a sec, I'm going to tell Alex." He put a hand over the phone. "Alex, your mother died."

Her. I felt my barriers rise immediately and took the phone from him. "Tal?"

"Xan, I'm okay. It's better for her. I'm not upset, just relieved."

I didn't want to think about the woman. And I didn't know what to say to my sister.

"She died peacefully. It's over." Tal sounded calm. Neither of us were going to cry about the long overdue death.

"Yeah."

"Auntie Betta called me. I'm going to fly there tomorrow. The funeral will be on Wednesday."

I felt myself shutting down further. I didn't want to deal with Betta or any of them. "What do... I don't want to... What do you want me to do?"

Fox faced me, his eyes radiating concern.

Talia took a deep breath before she asked, "Can you come to Minneapolis with me?"

"Fuck, Tal..."

"I know you don't care about Mother, but..."

"Shit." I passed the phone to Fox.

I sat with my head in my hands, half listening to Fox's side of the conversation. "Talia, what did you say to Alex? ... Oh. ... Oh, I'll talk to him."

Fuck. Now I would have both of them on my case.

Fox continued, "I'll call you in the morning, then. ... Okay. Take care, Tal. ... Yeah, bye."

His eyes sought out mine. "You okay?"

"Of course, I'm okay," I replied irritably.

"So you're going with her to Minneapolis?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"I don't want to see any of them."

He sighed. "But Talia needs you, Alex."

"Fox, I'd do almost anything for her, but this... I can't." I got up and went to the kitchen for a glass of juice.

Predictably, my stubborn lover tagged along. "If you don't go, then I'll have to. She shouldn't have to do this alone."

"Can't you just butt out for once, Mulder?"

He gave me a glare and muttered, "I'm going back to bed."

In the morning, Fox woke me a half hour early. "You decide to do the right thing, Alex?"

I grumbled, "Fuck you." Dragging myself out of bed, I darted to the bathroom, shutting and locking the door before he could join me.

Fifteen minutes later, over coffee, I came out of my funk enough to speak. "If I go, I'm going to be more miserable than Talia."

He gave me a half smile, knowing that he'd won. "I'll go with you to keep you sane."

I rolled my eyes at him. But I called work. A few hours later, the three of us were on a plane.

The woman's death meant only one thing to me. Money. Assuming Talia inherited the house, at least she'd have enough money to quit waitressing.

** Mulder **

A small Russian Orthodox church in downtown Minneapolis housed the mourners. Talia was peaceful. Alex stayed a million miles away from the open casket and everyone else. He stiffened when a chubby gray-haired woman entered the church. The elderly matron took one look at him and marched over toward us. Talia interceded. "Aunt Betta," she said firmly, steering the woman to the far corner, away from her brother.

"Is that Alexander?"

I stepped a little closer so I could follow the conversation.

"But I thought he was dead, Natalia?" She spoke in heavily accented English with a naturally abrasive tone.

"No, it was a mistake."

"Why you not call me, Natalia? Even your mother did not know."

"He's not comfortable with the family, Auntie."

"What? He is ashamed of us?"

"No, Auntie. It just hurts him. Leave him alone."

"I have to speak to the boy. He can't hide from me!"

Talia put a restraining hand on Betta's forearm. "Leave him alone, Auntie. He deserves that much."

Aunt Betta glared at Alex, but she stomped off.

I stepped forward to Talia. "Thank you for protecting him."

She nodded solemnly and returned to her brother. Her head dropped onto his shoulder. I had to wonder just who was supporting whom.

After a brief ceremony, Talia headed to the ladies' room. Aunt Betta caught my eye and made a beeline for Alex.

I stepped forward and managed to intervene before she reached my tense lover. "Hello, Aunt Betta, I'm Fox Mulder."

"Who are you?" she inquired suspiciously.

About ten feet away, a sneering Alex called out, "He's my lover."

Her grayish eyes opened wide, her expression appalled. She marched over to Alex and smacked him on the upper arm. His left upper arm. I was at his side in an instant, my fist held rigidly against my thigh.

Alex turned to her with a poisonous look. "Don't touch me again." He strode away, long legs carrying him quickly out the front door of the church.

The little round woman turned on me. "I knew that boy would turn out bad."

"Leave him alone," I said firmly. "Just let him be, dammit."

Aunt Betta smacked me on the arm. Hard.

Talia came out of the women's room, so I muttered, "It's been an experience, Aunt Betta," and darted off to intercept Tal.

"Auntie misbehaving?" Talia inquired.

"What's the etiquette about old ladies? Am I allowed to punch her?"

"Definitely, if she hits you first."

I gave her a chagrinned smile, imagining slugging the elderly shrew. "Has she always been like this?"

"She's mellowed with age."

"Uh-huh." I shook my head.

I found Alex standing by our rental car. He said, "I'm going to walk with Tal to the library. She needs access to the Internet."

"'Kay. I'll tag along."

He met my gaze with an oddly serious look on his face. "There's something you've been asking me about for a long time. I... uh... still don't want to discuss it, but there's public information if you want to know about it." His face taut with a grief I knew had nothing to do with his mother's death, he passed me a slip of paper that read, 'Trevor Wilkins, 9/4/83.' "Take this to the police station on Fifth Street." He gave me directions and the keys to the rental car.

I looked up at him, moved that he was volunteering information about his past, but at the same time, afraid of what I'd find. Afraid for him... for some past pain I couldn't prevent from hurting him.

He watched me sadly. "I'm all right, Fox, but... I really don't want to talk about it, okay?"

I nodded. "Thank you, Alex." My fingers found his hand and squeezed gently.

Half an hour later, ensconced in a conference room at the Minneapolis Police Department's Central Services Bureau, a young sergeant handed me a homicide file.

**

END Chapter 9

Next part in series


Email Louise Wu


Back to LZL Home Back to Chemistry Page