Exigency by Zoe Takashi & Louise Wu

Author: Zoe Takashi,  Email Me
Website: http://slashfactory.com/
Pairing: Krycek/Other OMC's
Warning: Rape, violence, lots of dead bodies
Spoilers: None.
Summary: Krycek's life before the Bureau
Series: This is the first chapter of the Exigency series.
Beta Thanks: Louise Wu, Loren Q, Alex, Lyrical Soul, Ness, Kristen, Jennie, Susan Reynolds
Inspiration Thanks: To Louise Wu, my partner in this madness. Thanks for inspiring me to write. And for the continual support and encouragement.
Disclaimer: Alex Krycek and all other X-Files characters belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. No infringement of rights is intended. All the rest belong to us.

Zushta, Western Siberian Lowlands, U.S.S.R.
Thursday, 15 September 1983

"Sasha?" Impatient hands prod me from sleep. "Sasha... wake up."

I roll over and get a face full of my sister's long black hair. Batting it out of the way, I mumble, "What is it, Miya?" Being the oldest of 11, I am accustomed to having my sleep interrupted.

"Will you watch Aleksei for a little while?"


"I want to go with Dmitri and Viktor. Come on, Sasha, they never let me go. Please?" Her pleading brown eyes are always impossible to resist.

"All right, Miya. Go. But be back before dinner. Viktor and Dmitri, too." Miya gives me a quick hug and starts for the door when something occurs to me. "Wait a minute, Miya! Where's Yelena?"

She turns back, biting her lip. "Visiting her friends."

"What? Who's watching the kids?"

Her guilty expression is answer enough. "Nikolai is making breakfast for Ivan and Kseniya. Kostya is still asleep. Valeriya has the sniffles... she's in bed, too."

I sigh. Nikolai tries to help, but he can barely make his own breakfast. "So I am watching all the kids. Dammit, Miya, I was supposed to-"

"I know! Please let me go. Yelena said she would be back before lunch. Vlad isn't even supposed to come over until noon, and that gives you the whole afternoon to go stir up trouble."

I groan. I can say 'no' to all of my siblings except Miya. "Go, brat."

She gives me a blinding smile and another hug before disappearing. As if on cue, I hear a faint wail from the next room. I pull myself out of bed and look for my sweater. It's draped over the end of Dmitri's bed. He must have slept in it last night. The house has been chilly the last few days.

Aleksei has quieted down so, while tugging on my sweater, I stop off in my sisters' room. All four of my sisters share this room. Right now, it's occupied only by ten-year-old Valeriya. I put my hand on her forehead and she opens her eyes. Normally bright green, they are now dulled and watery from her head cold. She sniffs and gives me a half-hearted smile.

"Hi, Sasha." She does not feel too warm.

"Hey, 'Leriya. You eat?"

"A little." She shrugs.

"Good enough. Drink your water and I'll check on you after I feed Aleksei." She nods. I drop a kiss on her forehead as she closes her eyes.

I head into my parents' room and cross to the crib in the corner. Aleksei's alert, vivid green eyes blink up at me--so much like Valeriya's when she's feeling well. He focuses on me for a few seconds and starts crying again. I pick him up and grab one of his blankets. As soon as he's settled in my arms, he quiets down and repeatedly tugs at the collar of my sweater.

"Come on. Let's get you some breakfast and see what kind of mess Nikolai has made in the kitchen." I glance around the room, wondering again where mother and father went. Two days ago, they left stating they had to take care of something and would be back soon. It's certainly not unusual for them to be gone, but they left so suddenly this time.

Aleksei grabs my attention by pulling on my earlobe. "Okay, monster... breakfast it is."

Nikolai has been surprisingly neat in his attempt to make breakfast. I'm not exactly sure what it is that Ivan is eating, but I doubt it's deadly. Nikolai is actively trying to persuade Kseniya to eat but she has that stubborn mulish expression on her face.

I place Aleksei in his chair and turn to Nikolai, ruffling his hair. "Nikolai, go get Kostya out of bed and tell him to come down for breakfast." With a grateful look, he puts down Kseniya's spoon and leaves the table. I take his abandoned seat and pick up the spoon.

"All right, young lady. I know you want to play, but you have to eat first." She sets her jaw and stares at me. She has to be the most stubborn four-year-old on the planet.

"Okay, Kostya is coming down for breakfast and after he eats, he, Nikolai and Ivan are going out to play." She looks excited. "You can go out, too, if you eat at least half your breakfast." She considers this for several seconds, then picks up her spoon. I drop a light kiss on her dark hair as I head into the kitchen to find something suitably mushy for Aleksei.

Kostya appears at the breakfast table and Nikolai serves him some of the same mystery breakfast he prepared for Ivan. After picking at it for several minutes, Kostya abandons his food and looks up at me. "Sasha, when are mom and dad coming home?"

Nikolai abruptly leaves the table. A typical reaction whenever our parents come up in conversation.

I hate it when this happens. Yelena, Miya, the twins and myself are used to almost never seeing our parents. But the little kids seem to miss them more. "I don't know. They said it would only be a few days. Come on... eat your breakfast."

With a sigh, Kostya picks up his spoon and starts eating again.

It wouldn't be so bad if our parents didn't spend so much time with the kids when they were little. They stopped paying attention to Kostya about eight months ago--right before Aleksei was born--and he hasn't gotten used to it yet.

Shit. While I was talking to Kostya, Aleksei was smearing his breakfast all over his head. After ushering the kids outside, I take him upstairs for a bath.

A little while later, Vlad arrives, but Yelena's not back so he goes on without me.

Yelena shows up shortly after lunch. I glare at her while continuing to work on picking Kostya's lunch out of Kseniya's hair.

"I am sorry, Sasha. I lost track of time." She races over and grabs Kseniya from me, moving to the kitchen to finish cleaning her up. "Go meet Vlad."

"Too late, 'Lena. He stopped by before lunch and then went without me."

She groans and avoids looking at me, concentrating instead on the sticky mess in Kseniya's hair.

I sigh and try to reassure her. "We can go next weekend. It's okay."

She flashes me a faint smile while trying to hold on to the impatient, messy little girl sitting on the countertop.

The sound of Nikolai's laughter draws me to the main room. He and Ivan are amusing themselves by watching Aleksei attempt to walk. His latest effort has him flat on his butt, chin quivering, green eyes filling with tears. And his brothers are in hysterics.

I frown at them both and pick up the baby just as the front door opens and my father steps inside.

"Papa!" Kostya's yell comes from the direction of the kitchen. He's halfway to the door when he stops and stares. Four strange men step into the house. They are all in heavy work coats, and their boots make loud clomping sounds on the floor. Three of them immediately move to lean against the wall.

My mother enters last, murmuring quietly to the fourth man, who looks around the room intently. His gaze lands on me, and his chin jerks in my direction as he says something to my mother. His stare is unnerving... eyes so dark they appear black.

"Where are Viktor and Dmitri?" My father's question draws my attention away from the strange man staring at me.

"Uh, they went down to the river with Miya this morning."

The stranger speaks up. "How old?"

My mother replies, "Thirteen. Twins."

The man shakes his head and responds too quietly for me to hear. They argue in low voices for several moments and finally, mother throws up her hands. Father looks uncomfortable. What is going on?

"Yelena!" Mother's tone is stern. Yelena appears in the kitchen doorway with Kseniya gripping her skirt tightly.

"Yes, mother?"

"Take Aleksei and the other children outside."

Yelena crosses the room and takes Aleksei from me. She flashes me a frightened look but none of us are in the habit of arguing with mother. She quickly ushers Kostya, Ivan, Nikolai and Kseniya out of the house.

Something is very wrong.

Once they are outside, mother gestures to me while speaking to the strange man with the black eyes. "Okay, take that one."

I have not even fully processed what she said when the strange man nods his head to the three men leaning against the wall. They advance on me. I'm frozen to the spot, unable to comprehend what is happening. Two of the men grab my arms and I jerk away, suddenly finding my voice.

"What do you want?"

One of the men reaches for me again and I back up. The stranger standing with mother comes over to me. Up close, his eyes are even more unnerving. Cold and hard. "You are coming with us."

What? "I am not going anywhere with you."

The man gives me an unkind smile and speaks to his companions. "Take him."

Suddenly there are more hands than I can get away from, and I find myself being hauled to the door. I start responding on instinct, yelling and kicking--trying to get away. I have no idea what these men want, but I know I do not want to go with them.

As I'm dragged outside, the only thing I can clearly focus on is Yelena's startled and frightened face.

Rough hands continue to pull and drag me backward. I free an arm and lurch forward, trying to get away.

Aleksei's cry pierces the chill air. So accustomed to taking care of him, my eyes seek him out even as I continue to struggle.

My flailing arm is captured and pulled behind me. Cold metal encircles both wrists, binding them behind my back. I know I have no chance against these men. I am only 5'8 and would be lucky to weigh 130 lbs. But I cannot just let them take me from my home and do nothing.

I track Yelena with my eyes as she cuddles Aleksei against her chest, stroking his dark hair in a soothing gesture. Kseniya is in tears, still clinging to Yelena's skirt.

I kick out with my feet. How can they take me away? What have I done?

Nikolai appears next to Yelena, looking scared and confused. I catch one of my captors in the shin with my foot and am rewarded with a sharp cuff on the side of my head. I stumble to the ground and am yanked back up, feeling a burn in my shoulders. Nikolai starts toward me and is intercepted by our father, who already has hold of Ivan and Kostya, and begins ushering the boys into the house.

Mother advances on Yelena and gestures to the house.

Yelena casts one last tearful look my way as she takes the baby and Kseniya inside.

The men haul me into the back of a truck, adjust the manacles on my wrists and fasten them to a steel ring set in the side of the truck. The back is open to the air, and I see one of the men approach my father and hand him money. My mother comes outside, takes the money from my father and points in the direction of the house. Father obediently moves back inside.

My mother looks at the money and an argument ensues between her and the strange man. After several moments, he hands her more money and disgustedly walks to the truck. She doesn't even spare me a glance as she turns her back and walks to the house.

"Mother! MOTHER!" She doesn't pause. Just steps inside and closes the door. "Mother, no!"

Someone's hand connects with my face and I slump in my seat, feeling something warm and wet run down my chin. After a few moments, silent tears make tracks on my face.

I don't understand. I ask questions but am usually backhanded for the effort. But I have to keep trying. I have to understand why I have been taken away.

Finally, one of my captors sighs, backhands me and replies, "You are being taken to a prison camp."

"What? Why? What did I do?"

He shrugs. "Your parents needed the money. We need workers." Leaning forward, he slaps me again, adding to the insistent throb in my face. "No more questions."

This is not happening. I must be dreaming. My parents sold me?

Hours pass and I am numb. Unable to believe this could be real. They pick up three more. Two boys in their late teens or early twenties, and a man in his thirties. All three have similar reactions to mine. All three live in rural areas. Just like me.

The older prisoner actually manages to get some information out of the guards--with a slap or two for his efforts. We are going to a prison in the Tunguskan forest.

Tunguska Territory, Siberian Plateau, U.S.S.R.
Sunday, 4 December 1983 (~ eleven weeks later)

I stare up at the ceiling of my small, dirty cell. I have completely lost track of the number of days since my arrival at the prison camp. The days are filled with hours of hard work in the mine. And the nights are spent staring at the ceiling before falling into an exhausted sleep.

It's only been a few months but it feels like years.

I try to avoid the guards--we all do--but there are a few I cannot seem to escape. They torment me with unnecessary slaps and lashes from their damned whips. A couple of them have this look in their eyes that makes my skin crawl.

I refuse to accept that this is now my life. All I think about is going home. I have tried to escape twice and was beaten both times. I think they broke a rib the first time. A rib and a finger the second time. I tell myself it's not too bad. I will make another attempt tomorrow... because I'm running out of time and getting too weak.

Two prisoners have died since my arrival. Just suddenly dropped dead. They looked starved to death and I think I'm heading down the same path. The guards give me a bad time about how scrawny I am and I keep getting skinnier. No one here gets enough to eat for the amount of work we do.

I close my eyes, trying to block out the vision of the confining walls of my cell. I have to get out.

Tunguska Territory, Siberian Plateau, U.S.S.R.
Friday, 9 December 1983 (five days later)

My third escape attempt was much more successful--I actually got outside the fence this time. The guards' anger appears to be in direct proportion to how far away I manage to get. Today's beating makes the first two seem like a slap on the hand.

The stone floor is cold against my skin. They even took my clothes this time. I try to block out the pain, but there's so much of it... everywhere. Every movement, every breath, hurts, so I just lie here on my side, as still as possible, taking little gasping breaths.

When they threw me in this room, I was only vaguely aware that it was not my usual tiny cell. After lying here for what seems like an eternity--but has probably only been half an hour--I muster the energy to look around. Scanning the room, I find myself in a much larger... well, it's not quite a cell. Cleaner and bigger than any of the normal prison cells. I can only see part of the larger space, but there's a table and a couple chairs and I can see the very end of a bed. The rest, including the door, is out of my line of sight.

Several more moments pass. Moments I spend wishing for the blessed relief of unconsciousness. There is the scrape of the doorknob turning and I feel a rush of cold air wash across my back. The door closes, there's the sound of footsteps, then nothing. I cannot turn over to find out who is in the room, so I wait. Expecting another beating, I am surprised by a couple of clicking sounds and, slowly, the acrid smell of cigarette smoke fills the air.

What is going on? I cannot make my brain function. I lift my arm and try to turn my head, but am stopped by the pain. While I'm working up the courage for another try, the door opens again. More cold air and then the door is shut. I try to move again, but only manage a full body twitch. More pain.

There is a short conversation in a language I do not recognize. Then someone steps over my body and I see one of the guards. The big, mean, ugly one with the creepy look in his eyes. I close my eyes. I promised myself no crying the day I arrived here, but I'm struggling with that promise right now.

I just want to go home.

The guard's hands are on my body, pushing me onto my stomach. A scream vibrates off the walls of the room. I am only distantly aware that the tortured sound came from me. The pain of my broken ribs taking my weight nearly makes me pass out. Please let me pass out.

The unseen person says something to the guard and I am quickly flipped onto my back. The pain of being moved is insignificant compared with the relief at having the pressure on my broken ribs removed. The room seems to become dark as my vision clouds over. When I can refocus, I see the guard kneeling between my legs, unbuttoning his pants.

I draw a blank until he pulls out his very hard penis. This cannot be happening to me. I try to scramble away but, in my condition, scrambling takes me only a few inches across the floor. All the movement has me so nauseated I can barely stop myself from retching. The guard clamps his hand on my broken left forearm and I quit moving. Another scream fills the room.

Whatever you want, just don't grab anything else that has been broken.

The guard's malicious laugh grates across my nerves like steel wool and I realize I babbled the plea out loud. My arm is released and the guard gives me a leer. I feel humiliation mixed with my relief. I promised myself I would not beg.

No crying. No begging.

My legs are lifted and pushed up. The pain accompanying the movement makes my vision blur again. One leg is released and it flops down against the guard's thigh. The guard fumbles between us and then something large and hard is pressed against my asshole. My leg is lifted again and my whole body begins to shake. The guard surges forward and it feels like my ass is ripped apart.

I again come close to passing out, but some part of my mind clings tenaciously to consciousness. I'm furious with that part of myself--the part that keeps trying to stay awake, to escape, to stay alive. It's just too hard. Why can't I die?

Despite the agony with every thrust into my body, it is infinitely preferable to him grabbing my arm. I cannot stop the whimpers and sounds of pain that are torn out of my throat, but I refuse to beg again. Refuse to cry... ever again.

The guard's thrusts increase in speed and force, and the pain worsens. He groans, thrusting hard one last time. I try to blank my mind and forget what's happening--forget the pain--as he pulls out of me and drops my legs back on the floor. I'm successful until his hand wraps around my flaccid cock and starts to squeeze. My gaze skitters back to his face and I am suddenly alert.

I didn't think there was anything else they could do to hurt me, but apparently I was wrong. He releases my cock and I sigh with relief until his hand finds my balls and squeezes. Too hard. Way too hard. Agony spreads out from my groin as he continues to crush my testicles with his meaty fingers. Whimpering, I nearly break my resolve to not beg, when the man I have yet to see speaks again, and the guard releases me.

The guard stands and I notice the blood on his dick as he fastens his pants. After a few words from the unseen man, the guard reaches for me. I shrink away but his hands are on the right side of my body, levering me up off the ground. I groan with the pain and the room spins crazily out of control. He half drags me over to the narrow cot, dumping my body none too gently on the mattress.

I roll to my right side, seeking a more comfortable position, and wait for my vision to stabilize and the nausea to recede. Pointlessly wait for the nightmare to end.

Finally, the guard leaves. I allow my eyes to slide shut, no longer caring what happens to me.

I hear footsteps but don't bother to look. There is silence for a minute then the clicking sound of a lighter. I look up at the stranger as he touches the flame to the end of another cigarette. The man is tall and has dark hair. I cannot determine his age.

He speaks to me in that strange language and I stare at him blankly.

Switching to Russian, he tries again, "Apparently you don't speak English. How old are you?"

I just stare at him.

He leans down and captures my bruised jaw in his hand. I wince. "Answer me. How old are you?"


He releases my jaw. "Seventeen. You look older. Hmm... I thought you were too small," I bristle at his reference to my size, "but you've still got some time to grow. Feed you properly and you'll start to fill out. You might be useful... someday." He pauses, then adds, "If you survive."

I have no idea what he's talking about. He trails his hand up the back of my leg and over my butt. His hand comes away from my body wet and sticky, covered in blood. I tense, waiting to see what he will do. He looks at his fingers. "That interlude seemed wholly unnecessary." Pausing, he looks at me assessingly. "That guard will be back. Do you want him to do that to you again?"

I choke out, "No." He cannot possibly think I would say 'yes' to that.

He wipes his wet fingers across my chest. "Then you should do something about it." He stands upright and drops something on my pillow. Crushing his cigarette underfoot, he turns and leaves the room.

I take a few shallow breaths and look down at my chest. Blood and smears of something else... semen, I guess. I start to tremble and move my head back to see what's on the pillow. A knife.

I cannot begin to comprehend what I am supposed to do. Slowly and carefully, I roll slightly onto my back and maneuver my right hand up to grasp the knife. Maybe this is my opportunity to escape. But why would they give me a way out of here?

Settling on my back, I struggle to work the knife and my hand under the small, dirty pillow. Gasping, I try to ignore the pain in my body and the chill that makes my teeth chatter. Keeping my arm under my head is difficult, but I feel more secure with the knife in my hand, so I learn to deal with the pain.

Confusion is the only thing that seems real. That and the pain. My ribs, arm and ass hurt. Badly. The other bruises and cuts don't seem to matter in comparison.

Pain and confusion. My only companions for hours.

I keep my hand wrapped around the hilt of the knife, and sleep eventually finds me.

Hands on my body awaken me suddenly. The guard is back and kneeling between my spread legs. His dick is already out and he is fully erect. His hands run down my thighs and he lifts my legs again. There is a fiery pain in my ass when my legs are pushed up. I cannot believe he really means to do this to me again. Bracing both my legs with one arm, he presses a finger roughly into me.

His smile is malicious as he deliberately seeks out torn tissues with his finger. Then he adds a second finger and listens to me yell in agony.

I am tired of the sound of my own screams. And I am tired of being scared.

My world becomes chillingly and narrowly focused. Adrenaline starts to pump in my veins. I just need to wait for the right opportunity. I feel like I'm watching from a distance. Watching him leer at me and torture me with his fingers. When he tires of seeking and tearing tender flesh, he removes his fingers, wipes the fresh blood on his dick and positions himself.

I hear him telling the suffering boy on the bed how pretty he is and how nobody cares anymore what happens to him. How he's waited for this opportunity and how the boy had better get used to his ass being torn to shreds. The boy whimpers when the man pushes a little. The man laughs and tells the boy that he has not even begun to experience pain yet. The boy's expression changes as the man prepares himself for the first brutal thrust. The boy's face contorts into an inhuman snarl and he strikes, sinking a knife into the man's throat and twisting it.

Blood gushes from the gaping wound in the guard's neck and he rears back. The red fluid spills over my chest and stomach as I watch him gurgle and collapse backward. There is a sharp pain near my knee as his body rolls off the narrow cot and lands on the floor.

The room is suddenly filled with people yelling. Two guards immediately advance on me, holding guns. I don't care. Shoot me.

A third guard yanks me off the cot and I land on the floor next to the body. Certain a bullet will enter my brain in the next few seconds, I simply watch the blood pool on the floor.

But there's that voice again, telling them to stop. I glance at the guards. They look surprised and very unhappy. Between puffs on his cigarette, he tells the guards to leave and take the body with them.

As they move to obey, I reach out my hand and retrieve the knife from the corpse's throat. One guard tries to stop me, but is instructed to let it be.

Soon it's just me and the smoking man. Everyone in this prison--except the prisoners--smokes excessively, but none quite like this. He crushes out one cigarette, lights yet another, then advances into the room. "Very nice, Alex."

I look up at him. "That's not my name." I've never liked that stupid nickname.

"It is now."

"What do you want from me?"

"All in due time. First, give me back the knife."

I tense. "No. You gave it to me."

He raises an eyebrow, but finally shrugs. "Fine. But you'd better not use it on anyone unless you are told. Disobey me, you'll be shot." He looks faintly amused.

I nod. For some reason, I am given a temporary reprieve, but I'm beyond caring why. I am so tired... and I hurt.

He sits in a chair, taking a deep pull on the cigarette. "I will send someone to you. He will ensure you get well and then explain the terms of your new employment."

I should have a dozen questions but I don't. I just don't care right now. I ask the first thing that pops into my head. "Who are you?"

He stands and starts toward the door. "That is something you do not need to know, Alex."

It's the second time he has called me by that name. "That is not my name!"

He looks back at me. "It's not negotiable."

The door closes before I can respond.

They've already taken everything else away... why not my name, too? Maybe he just wants to prove he's in control. As if I ever doubted that. Despite my dislike, the name makes me think of Aleksei. To tease me, my sisters used to call him 'Little Alex,' because he looked so much like me, and they knew it would drive me crazy.

Thinking of my sisters and Aleksei makes my chest feel constricted and seems to intensify the pain in my body. Suddenly the nausea is nearly overwhelming.

A short time after the smoking man leaves, a different man steps into the room. He stands near me and hunkers down so our faces are closer to level. His hand closes around my jaw, jerking my face up to meet his gaze.

He's a large man, probably in his 50's. Gray hair, a face that looks like it was cut from rock, deep brown eyes that seem almost hazy. A large scar marks a path from his right ear to the middle of his cheek. Despite the circumstances, I find myself strangely fascinated by the way the scar moves when he speaks. "You would do well to forget you ever saw the smoking man. Mention him to no one. Not even me."

I nod my acceptance, but really have no idea what I have agreed to.

He looks at my hand, still clasping the knife. "Give me that."

I hold it tighter. "No."

The look on his face makes me believe he's going to force the issue, and I know I have no chance of winning. Then, his expression changes and he offers a malicious smile. "I'll let someone else deal with it. But, try to stab me, boy, and you will not live even another minute."

I nod again, thinking he shouldn't do anything to make me want to stab him.

From my right side, he reaches around my waist and pulls me up. The short journey to yet another room in the complex is a haze of agony.

The room is smaller, but not as small as my usual cell. I am dumped on the bed, nearly stabbing myself with the knife, and the mysterious man settles in a chair and waits. Minutes pass and then the door opens.

I hear a strange voice before I see anyone. "Yuri, why did you want to see me in the prison?" The voice sounds aggravated. The first man--Yuri?--gestures for the other man to enter.

He steps inside and looks to be close to my father in age. Probably about 40, but has short, dark hair. He's about six feet and looks strong enough to snap me in two. I don't think I've ever seen forearms that big.

His eyes immediately flick to me, brows arching, then snapping down into a frown. He turns to the man with the scar. "What's this?"

Yuri smiles, the scar receding deeply into his cheek. "A recruit for you, comrade." Yuri looks at me. "Alex, this is Comrade Arntzen."

I simply stare at them.

With a malicious curl of his lips, Yuri says, "Alex is happy to meet you, comrade."

The new man gives Yuri a pointed look I cannot interpret and moves to stand by the bed. As he looks me over, I notice his eyes are a piercing cold blue. Even though his expression is impassive, there's something in his eyes I cannot quite define. A look I haven't seen from anyone since I arrived here... I imagine it to be something almost human.

He grunts and turns to Yuri. "You have to stop bringing me recruits in such bad shape, Yuri." He looks back at me. "He's puny. Are you sure?"

If I were feeling better, I would point out that I am not puny. Where has this obsession with my stature come from?

Yuri shrugs and replies, "He's only seventeen. I think he'll grow some more."

"Seventeen!?" Arntzen sounds angry. "You've recruited a teenager?"

Yuri smiles. "He hasn't been recruited yet. But it's you or this prison. I think he'll choose you."

Recruited for what? I'm really beyond caring.

Arntzen passes a hand over his face. "I don't suppose it's too much to hope that he has some training?"

Yuri snorts. "At his age?"

"It's not inconceivable. If he has no training or skills, what did he do to land himself in prison?"

I'm beginning to seriously dislike Yuri's humorless smiles. "Nothing."

Arntzen looks exasperated. "Explain."

I only half listen as Yuri sums up my existence in under three minutes. Despite the fact that Arntzen is doing the questioning, it's clear that Yuri is the one in charge. The dynamic of their relationship is beyond my comprehension right now.

Arntzen looks decidedly unhappy at the mention of the guard, rape, knife and death of said guard. I'm confused when Yuri claims to have left the knife for me, because it was the man with the cigarettes. Then, I remember his order to never mention the smoking man.

Arntzen returns to the bed, his back to Yuri, and stares at me. "Do I have a choice about this one?" Despite the dismissive tone, his expression is laced with pity. I want to turn away from that look, but I meet his stare, mutely refusing to accept his sympathy. Arntzen gives a barely perceptible nod.

"No." At the sound of Yuri's voice, I glance at him to see that strangely asymmetrical smile caused by his scar. And in my opinion, it's not a very nice smile.

Arntzen sighs and addresses me. "Give me the knife, Alex."


His hand grips my face, but it's more gentle than anything I've felt today. "I'm not making a request. You need medical attention, but the doctor cannot treat you if you're holding a knife. Give. It. To. Me."

I know I don't really have a choice but can't seem to let go of it.

Still not releasing me, he continues. "You'll get it back."

I don't believe him, but give him the knife anyway.

Releasing my jaw, he takes the knife and walks to the door. "I'll send the doctor. Meet me for dinner, Yuri. We need to talk."

Shortly after their departure, two more men enter. One claiming to be a doctor, identifying the other man as his nurse. I only want to sleep, but the next few hours pass in a haze of pain as my injuries are treated. I wind up with a cast on my arm and, surprisingly, on my leg as well.

The doctor tells me I have a broken tibia. I stare at him blankly and he rolls his eyes while pointing to my leg. Must be the pain near my knee when the dying guard rolled off me.

I turn my head and stare at the wall while they finish.

A couple days into my convalescence, I wake to find tapes, a tape player and books. All instructional material to learn English. I ignore them until the boredom gets the best of me, then start trying to learn. It only marginally helps the boredom.

Weeks pass and the only person I see is the nurse, who comes several times a day--tending to me, bringing me food and helping me to the restroom. When I am able to get up on my own, I see him less. It's then that I discover I am locked in. No big surprise.

I can't help but resent anyone I feel is participating in keeping me here, including the burly nurse. I ignore him as much as I can at first, but weeks of isolation start to wear and I try to draw him into conversation. He refuses to answer any questions I ask, which does not leave us much to talk about.

Tunguska Territory, Siberian Plateau, U.S.S.R.
Sunday, 22 January 1984 (~ six weeks later)

The mindless days blur together. I am almost at the point of thinking I would rather go back to the mine, when Yuri finally makes an appearance.

"Hello, Alex."

I look up at the large body looming over my cot. I don't like this stone-faced man. I would rather the other one--Arntzen--come back.

Swinging into a sitting position, I awkwardly lower my cast to the floor and stare at him. A thick folder is held in one beefy hand. He offers a humorless grin, which again draws my attention to his scar, before sitting in the room's only chair. He looks at me speculatively before speaking again. "We were never properly introduced. My name is Yuri Smetanin."

"Why am I here?"

I'm a bit surprised when he actually attempts to answer the question. "Why are you here with me, or why are you here at all?"


"You know your parents sold you to us. What else is there to explain?"

I gape at him. "How can you just buy me? Why did you want me to begin with? Don't you get enough real criminals?"

"You might be surprised. This facility has recently engaged in other, shall we say, 'activities.' We require more people than before and have been forced to occasionally purchase people who would not be missed."

That stings. I am briefly distracted by the notion that I was a candidate because no one would care if I disappeared, but his voice brings me back to the conversation.

"As to why you..." He breaks off and opens the thick file. "Actually, your parents approached us. About you and several of your brothers. We took only you because the others were too young." I cannot help but feel relieved that my brothers were spared but it's quickly replaced by fear that they will end up here eventually.

Yuri is still looking at the folder as he speaks. "Eleven children. Oldest, 17. Youngest, 8 months. And willing to get rid of as many as possible. I wonder what your parents were thinking." He looks up at me. "Now, do you want to know why you are here with me?"

No. I just want this to be over with. But I don't say that. "Yes."

"I'm here to give you an opportunity to work for us. Become an operative, if you will."

"Who is 'us?' And what do you mean by 'operative?'"

"Questions that will be answered in due course, Alex." I stifle my resentment at being called Alex. I need this man to keep talking to me.

"I don't understand. Why me?"

"You caught my attention with your first escape attempt. It was rather ingenious and might have worked if your timing had been a little better. After your second attempt, I did a little checking into your family and background. There were some indications that you would be a good fit for the kind of work we do, but..." He breaks off and shrugs. "You caught someone else's attention on that third attempt. Someone visiting me about a new project we've undertaken. He decided to give you a test."

I am beginning to feel queasy. "Test?" My voice comes out barely above a whisper.

"The knife, Alex. We wanted to see what you'd do. Even he was surprised."

"About what? Why give me the knife if I wasn't supposed to try to defend myself?"

Yuri laughs. This time his face shows real humor but there is still nothing nice about it. "You really don't know, do you?"

I stare at him blankly.

"Well, that certainly fits with the profile we have on you. But only time will tell." Too cryptic. I know I look confused now. "Your mother told us that you had some difficulty with certain moral issues. We thought she might have been making it up to justify getting rid of you. Perhaps she wasn't. Do you know what she was referring to?"

I consider it before slowly nodding my head. An age-old argument between mother and me about her list of 'right and wrong.' She always insisted I should not need a list of things not to do. I always countered that how was I supposed to know what not to do if she didn't tell me. The arguments were always confusing and she was so rarely around. She hated any time she had to spend 'dealing' with me. Or any of us, for that matter... except the youngest of us.

Of course, I would have thought selling your children would be on the list of things to not do. I guess it shows how little I ever understood about what my mother wanted.

Usually, I had to rely on Vlad and Yelena to let me know if something was okay. Sometimes that was worse than relying on my own less than optimal judgment.

Yuri looks at me quietly for a long time then leans forward. "It doesn't matter right now. We'll know soon enough."

I'm not so easily dissuaded. "I still don't understand. What did you expect me to do with that knife?"

He shakes his head. "I'll explain it to you some other time. So, what is it to be, Alex? The mine or work for me?"

Nothing makes sense anymore. "I... neither. I want to go home." At his hardened expression, I quickly continue, "Please, I don't want to go back to the mine... I don't want to be here at all. I don't know what it is you want me to do..."

Yuri cuts me off. "All you have to do is what I say." His voice is hard.

"I. Want. To. Go. Home." I tell myself if I can go home, I can forget any of this ever happened.

"What you think of as home, is not an option for you, Alex."

"Why? Maybe my parents won't take me back but I can stay with one of my friends. I want to be back with my brothers and sisters!"

Yuri's expression subtly shifts and I cannot name the emotion I see on his face. "Home is either the prison cell or me. You choose, Alex. If you refuse to make a choice, it's the prison."

I realize I cannot say no, but I'm not prepared to give up yet. "I... how can I just forget about my ho... my family."

His expression actually softens a little and I'm even more perplexed. "You have to forget, Alex. They're gone."

That does not make any sense. "What?"

"Ten weeks after you came here, your house burned down."

My brain cannot piece the two bits of information together. My family gone, and a fire. I don't understand the connection. I find myself just shaking my head in confusion.

"They are all dead, Alex."




He pulls a photo out of the folder and tosses it on my lap. I stare at it for long seconds, refusing to believe what I'm seeing. The house isn't recognizable as ours. The charred remains could be any house. Right? But I know the trees and the land and... oh, god. My hands start to shake as I take in the details. The photo shows several people sifting through the wreckage. One of them is Vlad.

At the edge of the photo is my friend Tatiana, pulling a tarp over a charred lump about the size of a child's body. Several other covered lumps are in a row up to the edge of the picture.

I'm not even aware of moving but find myself leaning over the edge of the bed, vomiting. The horrid picture is taken from my hand and a few moments later a glass of water is pressed against my palm. I'm shaking so badly I can barely hold it.

I look up at Yuri and voice my only question. "Did you-"


I take a deep breath. "Who?"

"We don't know if it was accidental or not, Alex."

I stare at the floor. I have nothing left.

Yuri's big hand grabs my jaw, forcing my face up. "Choose."


He yanks me up to a standing position and kisses each cheek. "Good luck to you, comrade."

Yuri leaves and I start to lose track of time. My mind is blank and I can only stare at the walls. Has it been days or minutes since Yuri left? I cannot tell. Suddenly my casts are gone. I don't remember the doctor coming to remove them.

Tunguska Territory, Siberian Plateau, U.S.S.R.
Friday, 27 January 1984 (five days later)

I look up from my supine position on the bed to see Yuri with a look of irritation on his face. The tight set of his jaw brings the whiteness of his scar into relief. "Why aren't you eating?"

My mouth isn't working, so I just stare at him.

He looks even more annoyed. "They tell me you haven't eaten in days. Are you still sulking about your family?"

I wonder what he's talking about. Several moments pass and suddenly, he yanks me upright and slaps me hard on the left cheek.

Something snaps. I'm not even aware of moving, but my body collides with his much larger one and we're falling backward. I land on his chest and scrabble for his throat.

The look of surprise fades from Yuri's face and I'm suddenly thrown off, landing hard on the concrete floor. Yuri reaches for me and I'm sure this is it... he's going to kill me.

There's a large body between Yuri and me, pushing him away and... laughing? Arntzen hauls me off the floor and again pushes Yuri away. He shoves me back onto the bed. "Thank you, Alex. That was the most entertaining thing I've seen in weeks."

Yuri snarls, and Arntzen turns to him, speaking in English. "Stop, Yuri. This is encouraging. It shows he can snap out of this funk. We agreed I would determine how the kid is handled."

Yuri looks less than pleased. I should probably tell them I understand what they are saying, but it doesn't seem worth effort. And despite the adrenaline rush, I feel surprisingly tired.

Arntzen sighs. "Moving, hell, even dealing with this kid is low on my list of priorities, and I'm already short on time. I'm not moving him to the facility if he's in need of medical care from another beating. You can work out your differences another time."

Yuri nods but retorts, "Try to remember who's in charge, Arntzen."

Arntzen stiffens. "And this is my project." There's an uncomfortable silence and, after waiting for Yuri to nod, Arntzen looks at me briefly. "He looks terrible. He's not eating?"

Yuri shrugs. "They tell me five days."

"You tell him about his family?"

"Not about his parents."

What about my parents?

"Hmm. I'll move him into the facility and give it a few days. Then tell him they're still alive."

The facts barely register in my brain before I'm speaking. "My parents are alive?" My voice sounds like a croak.

Two pairs of shocked eyes focus on me. Yuri steps forward. "You understand what we're saying?"

I ignore the question. "My parents are alive?" Good. Less of a croak this time.

It's Yuri's turn to ignore my questions. "I was told you didn't speak English, Alex."

I launch myself at him, screaming, "MY PARENTS ARE ALIVE?"

Arntzen's meaty arm grabs me around the waist, yanking me away from Yuri before I can connect. He effortlessly tosses me back on the bed. I feel my face caught in the vice-like clamp of his fingers. "Yes. They're alive. Living in Leningrad."

It feels like my brain explodes with a white-hot rage. Arntzen watches me for a several seconds, not removing his hand. "I'll explain more after we get to the facility. You will eat. Now." He gives me a shake. "And then we will leave... within the hour. Now, why did you tell them you could not speak English?"

This seems like a stupid conversation to have in light of the fact that my parents are still alive. "Why leave books and tapes if you do not want me to learn?"

Arntzen releases me, his expression suddenly blank. "Are you telling me you learned English in six weeks?"

I just stare at him, as usual, unable to really comprehend either of these men.

He shakes his head. "I will make sense of this later. Eat. I'll be back for you in an hour."

He turns to leave and suddenly Yuri is on me. Grabbing my face in a similar, but much firmer, grip and slamming my head against the wall. Pain explodes in my skull and my vision becomes fuzzy.

"You will learn to stop trying to attack me, boy. Or there will be some more painful lessons." I can no longer tell what either of them are doing, but I'm soon left alone.

With nothing to think about but the fact that my parents are still alive.

And that I want them dead.

Tikhvin, U.S.S.R
Thursday, 13 February 1986 (~ two years later)

Arntzen stares at me for a long time, his expression carefully neutral. "Are you sure?"

"Yes." My tone is every bit as neutral as his expression.

"Revenge is an emotional thing, Alex. There's no room for emotionalism in our work."

Arntzen has spent the last two years trying to crawl inside my head--without success. I'll give him a taste and see if he will back off. "You have repeatedly asked me about the rape in prison." I know if I do not speak about it directly, he will never believe me.

He looks surprised. "Yes."

"You refuse to believe that it does not bother me. Refuse to believe that I don't think about it."

"Correct, Alex. I don't believe it. I think it could be a weakness for you. Yuri was an idiot to test you that way." I still do not understand what this 'test' was about. In any case, it was not Yuri's test. Something I cannot tell Arntzen. Yuri has always been very clear about not discussing the smoking man.

I lean forward and brace my hands on his desk. I drop my tone slightly, but keep my voice level. "It doesn't bother me because the guard is dead. Because I killed him. Anything that 'bothered' me went with that knife into his throat." I watch his changing expressions for a moment, then continue. "I need to do this. I'm not asking. I will never accept this situation until this is done."

He is quiet for several long minutes, then asks, "Are you sure you will be able to complete this... mission?"

"Yes." I have had absolute conviction about this for two years.

"When you return, if this does for you what you say it will, I'll start to believe you, Alex." As usual, Arntzen maintains eye contact. The intensity of his chilly blue stare always captures my attention. I realize he is going to let me go. I should feel relief or anticipation. But, as usual, I feel nothing.

I stand up straight and nod my head.

"Take Pyotr with you." Pyotr has been my constant companion for two years. At first, he was charged with keeping me too busy to cause trouble. Then, he became my training partner. He's dull and I'm damn tired of his company.

"This is mine, comrade."

Arntzen stands and walks around the desk. We're the same height now, but I always feel dwarfed by his size. "I'm not asking, Alex. He will not interfere, but I am not letting you loose on your own."

"Fine. Anything else?"

"Yes. There will be an investigation. Be careful and none of this will ever be traced to you. Don't let your emotions cloud your judgment."

"Of course not." I turn on my heel and leave his office.

As I prepare for the trip, I wonder if I should try to get answers from them before they die. Nearly a year ago, Arntzen told me that, based on his investigation, 'Krycek' was likely not my parents' real name as there are no records of them or their 11 children. Then, suddenly, Yuri ordered that Arntzen stop investigating and I've been hitting a brick wall ever since.

I decide answers would be meaningless since I cannot believe anything they would say.

Nearly 24 hours later, Pyotr and I arrive in Leningrad. I spend two days staking out my parents' apartment building. The first time I see them as they exit the building, I wait for some blinding rage to take over. But nothing happens. Apathy is my only companion.

Pyotr and I break into the apartment. Masked and armed, we carefully check for any surveillance equipment. Nothing. Almost too easy.

Leningrad, U.S.S.R.
Sunday, 16 February 1986 (three days later)

On our third night, we slip into the apartment at 2:00 A.M. Pyotr props himself against the wall with a curt nod. I know he will leave me alone unless he hears things get out of hand.

They're both sleeping quietly. Peacefully.

I silently set my small bag on the dresser. I remove the tranquilizer gun and quickly shoot them both. Father barely twitches but mother's eyes pop open and seem to focus on me for a second before the sedative takes effect. I thoroughly restrain them both with handcuffs and duct tape, then sit back and wait for the sedative to wear off.

Father comes around first. He blinks at me a few times and I can see the moment recognition dawns. My appearance has changed dramatically, but it still takes only seconds for him to recognize me. I am maybe five inches taller and nearly 60 pounds heavier than the last time he saw me, but the Krycek looks are fairly distinctive. All eleven of us had near-black hair. Eight had brown eyes. Aleksei, Valeriya and myself had green. The green eyes come from my father, the brown from my mother.

I see his jaw move and sounds come from his throat, but he cannot speak around the tape. I give no response, continuing to wait patiently for mother to awaken.

It takes about ten more minutes for her to stir. There is wary recognition in her eyes as soon as they open. She looks at me with unveiled hostility.

I pull out my gun and attach the silencer. Father's eyes go wide. Mother looks even more hostile.

I walk over to the bed and remove the tape from Father's mouth. He immediately starts to speak.


I cut him off. "No."

He licks his lips and tries again. "Ale..."

"My name is Alex."

He's nonplussed. "You never liked that name."

I'm surprised he actually noticed, considering how infrequently he was around. I trail the end of the gun along the side of his face. "It's who I am."

Father tries again. "Alex, think about what you're doing..."

I quickly decide there will be no more talking. Father is silenced by a bullet in his forehead.

Mother's body jerks and I look over at her. There is a flash of fear in her eyes and strange mewling sounds are coming from her throat. Hmm... I've never seen her this upset.

I walk around to the other side of the bed and watch her for a moment. "Don't worry, mother. I do not plan to shoot you." The relief in her eyes will be short lived.

I return to the dresser and deposit my gun in the bag, then retrieve my knife from the sheath at my waist. The knife the smoking man gave me. I almost always have it with me. I only take it off when there is a specific reason to.

Mother sees the knife as I approach the bed, and starts to thrash about. Her struggles are futile and there is very little room to move within her bonds. With a gloved hand, I turn her head to the side and hold it still. Quickly and precisely, I slice open her carotid artery, stepping back as the blood begins to spurt and gush over her body and the bed.

I wipe the knife on the sheet and slip it back into its sheath. Standing at the foot of the bed, I watch the blood pulse out of the wound on her throat.

When I first decided to kill them, I expected to enjoy it. But, there is no pleasure in this. I simply need to know--with an intensity I do not understand--that these two people are no longer living.

When I have watched her die, I retrieve my bag and return to the living room. Pyotr pushes away from the wall and moves to the door. He looks puzzled when I stop to rifle through the desk in the living room. I'm not even aware of what I'm looking for until I see it. I grab the photograph and join Pyotr at the door. As I step out of the apartment, I know I'm finished with thoughts of Raisa and Visili Krycek. Forever.

Leningrad, U.S.S.R.
Monday, 17 February 1986 (the next day)

Pyotr appears in my bedroom doorway as I pack for our return to the facility in Tikhvin. "Spoke with Arntzen. As long as we are in Leningrad, he has some surveillance work for us." He hands me a picture of a younger man with nondescript features and limp blond hair.

I give him a questioning look.

He gestures to the door. "Come on. We're going to see if this man is staying at a house near the marketplace."

Thirty minutes later, I find myself trying to blend in with the people in the square, watching a large brick house on the corner. Pyotr is inconspicuously monitoring from another corner. I notice that he's positioned to observe both the house and me.

While observing two men entering the house--neither of which is our target--I hear a startled gasp and look to my left, into the shocked blue eyes of my childhood best friend. It's hard to believe it's only been two and a half years since I saw him last. It feels like a lifetime.

"What are you doing here, Vladimir?"

He looks even more startled. "Sasha, I..."

"Not here. I cannot talk now." Pyotr is looking my direction and his eyes narrow speculatively. "Where are you staying?"

Vlad gives me the name of the boarding house and room number.

"I will come to you tonight." Pyotr starts walking toward us. I make a few hand gestures as if giving directions. Vlad, always good at taking a hint, murmurs his thanks for the directions as Pyotr steps next to me. Nodding his head, he walks off down the street, disappearing into the crowd.

Pyotr looks at me curiously. "Everything okay?"

I give him a blank look. "Huh?" I shake my head and point at the building. "Are we sure our target is even in there?"

His expression clears and he shrugs. Moving to take his inconspicuous stance at the corner of the building, he resumes his surveillance.

It takes all day, but we are able to confirm that the person Arntzen is looking for is indeed in this house. We return to one of the organization's safe houses for dinner and eventually retire to bed. I sleep for a few hours, waking around 1:00 A.M.

Fifteen minutes later, I sneak out of the house and past the one guard. I have not let myself think of Vladimir all day, but I can think of nothing else as I make my way to see him. This is probably a bad idea.

I find the small boarding house and quickly break in. I locate Vlad's room and quietly pick the lock.

Faint moonlight through the tiny window reveals a shoebox of a room with one twin bed. There is a small object that barely passes for a table with a lamp on top and an old wooden chair. Vlad is sleeping soundly. I pull the drapes closed and sit on the uncomfortable chair, barely a foot from the bed. I turn on the room's only light.

Vlad jerks upright in bed, his startled eyes scanning the room. The blankets slip down to his waist, revealing his bare chest. Earlier today, I noticed that he's a little taller than when I last saw him. I now see that he has gone from being a skinny kid to having some light muscle definition. His chest is still smooth and hairless.

When he recognizes me, his body relaxes.

"Why are you here, Vlad?"

He flinches. I consider what could cause that reaction. My voice is perhaps a little lower, definitely harder, than when he last saw me. I suppose I appear very different to him.

He takes a deep breath and replies, "I have a few weeks work here. It pays good and we need the money." A look of wariness crosses his face. "Sasha... where have you been?"

It's my turn to be surprised. "You don't know?"

He shakes his head. "No one knew. Ye... Yelena told us that men had come and taken you away, but she didn't know where--or why. Your... parents forbade anyone to discuss it. All of the, umm... kids were scared and sad for weeks." He swallows hard and a look of concern passes across his face. "And then... the house." He looks at me intently. "You know?"

I nod tersely.

He looks relieved--presumably at not having to tell me--then sad. "Sasha, I'm sorry..."

Suddenly, I no longer want to be here. I stand abruptly and start for the door. "I have to go. Forget you saw me, Vlad. For your own good."

He scrambles out of the bed, clad only in underwear and reaches for my arm. "No, wait..."

I turn an icy glare on him and he gasps and jerks back. His pale blue eyes radiate hurt.

"Please, Sasha... there are things you need to know. It's important that I talk to you..."

"My name is Alex, Vlad. Use it." I cross my arms over my chest and wait to hear what's so important.

"What? You don't like that name. It's what your mother called yo-" He breaks off at the look on my face and swallows again. "Okay, uh, Alex. Look, I... god, there's no easy way to say this. Aleksei did not die in the fire."

It feels like the world falls out from under my feet. I step past him and sit heavily on the chair. His hand lands on my shoulder and I pull away from the touch. Sighing, he sits across from me on the bed, our knees only a few centimeters apart. I haven't been in a room this small since the prison. It feels too close.

Ignoring my discomfort, I look up at him. "Talk."

"After you were, um, taken, your parents were gone a lot... most of the time, I guess. More than was usual. Yelena and Miya had the care of the baby--all the kids in fact--and Tatiana offered to help out. The day of the fire, Yelena left Aleksei with Tatiana so she could visit her friends.

"When she returned, Aleksei was asleep and Tatiana said she would keep him overnight so Miya and Yelena could get some rest. That night, the fire started a little after midnight."

I drop my head and stare at my lap, but give no other reaction. "Keep going." My voice sounds cold, even to my own ears.

"I arrived about three hours after the fire started. Tatiana came by in the morning but only stayed briefly. At the time, I was surprised she didn't stay longer... there was so much to be done. No one knew how to reach your parents.

"Anyway, before she left, she asked me to come to her house as soon as I could. When I arrived, I found out about Aleksei. We were both scared and didn't know what to do. First, you disappeared, then all your brothers and sisters died. It was probably crazy, but we feared if anyone knew about Aleksei, he would soon die, too. We decided to not let anyone know and wait to make a decision after your parents came back.

"But they never did."

I look up at that. My mind flashes to the picture of the fire. The row of corpses. "No one was suspicious when his body wasn't found?"

Vlad shifts uncomfortably. "I, uh, people assumed his tiny body disintegrated in the fire. Umm... there was so little left of Kseniya, it seemed reasonable."

Kseniya was only four... and so small. I guess a baby could nearly vanish. The question that pops out of my mouth seems to make no sense. "What about Vitaly?" Tatiana's husband.

"He died shortly after you... left. In an accident at the mill. Not wanting anyone to know about the baby, I drove two towns away to buy whatever he needed, and Tatiana stayed home to care for him, refusing to see anyone. People accepted it, assuming she was in mourning. She was, but not for Vitaly."

Yeah, Vitaly was a real dickhead. Hard to feel sorry about his death. I always assumed Tatiana's parents forced her to marry the bastard, but she would never talk about it.

Vlad's voice softens as he continues, "She mourned for your family. But mostly for you. She... we thought you were dead." I look at him again. There are tears in his eyes. I had forgotten how sensitive Vlad could be. "Sas... Alex... what happened? Where did you go? Why didn't you come back?"

"It doesn't matter anymore."

He looks hurt again. "It does matter." He sighs at the expression on my face. "Can you at least tell me this... Was it possible for you to come back?"

I consider and decide it cannot hurt to answer that question. I shake my head.

Relief and sadness war for supremacy on his face. "I'm sorry you were hurt." He doesn't even use the word 'if.'

I change the subject. "What happened to Aleksei?"

"He's still with us."


"I moved in with Tatiana a couple months after the fire. Only one of us can work and the other is isolated at home. We've never let anyone know Aleksei is with us because the fear for his life never went away. We want to move somewhere else... where no one knows anything about us, or the Kryceks, so we can try to live a normal life. But money is tight... that's why I'm here now."

I reach for my wallet and hand him almost all the money I have on me. He looks shocked at the amount and I can see him struggle to not ask where it came from. In the grand scheme of things, it is not much, but it's probably more than he could make in a half a year of hard work.

"I'll get you more when I can."

He quietly murmurs his thanks, not looking at me.

"I should be the one thanking you. Why were you willing to give up your life to take care of him?"

"I, no we, love him. Like he was our own baby. We never talk about it but we're always afraid your parents will find out and come to claim him."

"His parents are dead."

Vlad looks stunned but says nothing. His expression shifts to one of discomfort. "Are you going to want him, Alex?"

"No." The word is out before I even consider my response. I have nothing to give Aleksei. "You and Tatiana are his parents."

His sadness and relief are evident. After a moment, the discomfort is back. "We plan to marry before we move."

I cannot stop my lips from quirking up in a genuinely amused smile. I'm surprised at my ability to be amused.

His voice is hesitant. "It doesn't bother you?"

"Should it?"

"Well... you and Tatiana..."

"Mm hmm." Slept together a few times... my first real lover. I resist the urge to laugh.

Now he looks really uncomfortable. "And you and I..."

"Mm hmm." Had been fooling around for a couple years. It was getting a little more serious right before I left. I'm really having a hard time keeping my laughter at bay. I find his discomfiture so amusing. I could put him out of his misery but I'm enjoying myself. I didn't realize I had such a sadistic streak.

He looks at me warily and repeats his original question. "It doesn't bother you?"

I cannot hold back the short bark of laughter. I realize it's my first laugh in more than two years. "Which of you should I be jealous over?"

He opens his mouth and nothing comes out. He finally shrugs, looking very uncomfortable.

I decide to put him out of his misery. "Vlad, it does not bother me. I hope the two... three of you will be happy. Move away and enjoy your life."

"You've changed so much, Sa... Alex. It was so easy to recognize you, but at the same time you look so different. We both... loved you so much. Sometimes it's hard... with Aleksei, because he looks so much like you. It will be easier knowing you are alive."

I feel something funny stir in me at the thought of these two people in pain because of my absence.

"Will we see you again?"

I knew the question was inevitable. "No."

He gives a resigned sigh. "Then this is my last chance." He stands up.

I look up at him, puzzled. We are already close enough that he doesn't even have to step forward. He leans down and presses his lips to mine. I gasp, but stay still.

Distantly, I examine the feelings of desire springing up in me as he begins to delicately lick at my lips. Vlad and I had had been attracted to each other since we were about fourteen. Eventually, we started with some touching and kissing, rubbing against each other until we came in our pants, never talking about it afterward. We had progressed to jacking each other off when I was taken away.

Even though it's been over two years, it's easy for me to go back to those yearnings. But, I have to decide if I want to go back. For only one night. I take almost too long to make the decision.

He reluctantly pulls away from me and stands back up, looking faintly embarrassed. His erection is obvious. I stand up and momentarily lose my train of thought because things seem strange. I'm taller than Vlad now.

Shaking off the thought, I wrap my hand around the back of his neck and pull his mouth under mine, impatiently parting his lips and sliding my tongue inside. He groans as I begin to explore his mouth. His tongue caresses mine as his hands rise to my waist, fisting in the material of my shirt.

I let my other hand slide down his back and into his underwear, cupping the firm flesh of his ass. The smooth skin feels so good. I kiss him harder while kneading the muscles, then trail my fingers along his crack. I feel him begin to tremble. He plucks at my shirt, pulling it out of my jeans. I break the contact of our mouths and pull his hands away from my body, then wrap my arms around him.

I look at him intently as I slide both hands into his underwear and push them past his hips, to his knees. They fall to the floor and he steps out of them. Placing one hand at the small of his back, I wrap the other around his cock and begin to stroke him. I push his foreskin back and he gasps and thrusts against me. When he starts shaking, I release his cock and briefly roll his balls in my fingers.

"Lie down on the bed, Vlad."

He settles on the bed, lying flat on his back. His cock points straight up at the ceiling. I look at him for several moments, realizing how pretty he is. His light blue eyes are almost too large for his face. Features a few millimeters away from being delicate. His strong jaw line prevents his face from looking feminine.

He is smaller than me--shorter, thinner. Light muscle definition lends him a masculine presence, but his body is virtually hairless, except for the curly dark hair at his groin. The light brown hair on his head is a little longer than I remember and enhances his somewhat androgynous appearance.

I have to wonder exactly what I want to do with him. He begins to look a little uncomfortable under my gaze.


"Where's the bathroom, Vlad?"

"Uh, two doors down on the left."

I give him a half smile and leave the room. It takes a minute of searching, but I find a jar of petroleum jelly under the bathroom sink.

When I return to the room, Vlad is still lying on the bed, looking nervous, and only half hard.

Dropping the jar on the foot of the bed, I let my jacket fall from my shoulders and pull off my shirt. Vlad's gaze becomes more intense and his cock twitches. Sitting on the bed next to his legs, I lean down and work on the laces of my boots. His hand strokes my back.

After I divest myself of my boots, I sit up and capture his hand, placing it on his stomach. I reach for the leg closest to me, running my hand up his thigh before lifting it and guiding it up and onto my lap.

I run my fingers along the inside of his thigh, from knee to groin, for several moments, while I look at his body. I like his lean muscles and lack of body hair. We always had to fumble around under our clothes so I've never seen his body like this before... or any man's for that matter. But I always wanted to... wanted to see and touch and taste and explore.

His cock returns to full hardness as I stroke his leg. I move on to his balls, caressing and squeezing them. He gasps and I watch his expression change. I wrap my fingers around his cock and he bucks up into my fist. I bring my other hand up to press his hip to the mattress.

I'm aroused but feel somewhat detached from it. More interested in what's happening with the body spread out for me on the bed. I push his other leg to the side and bend it up. Still not quite what I want. I push it up toward his chest. Yeah, that's it. I can see the tight pink ring of his anus.

"Hold your leg."

His hand is trembling but he grabs behind the knee and pulls it against his body. I stroke my fingertips along the crack of his ass, feeling the texture of the skin. He gasps and a shudder races through him. I press at the opening with my index finger and his eyes become a little glazed. Hmm. Interesting.

I reach to the foot of the bed for the abandoned jar and coat two fingers. Bending the leg resting on my lap, I expose him more. I begin pressing one finger inside him, focused intently on the texture of his body and the way he responds. The skin of his anus is so smooth it almost doesn't seem like real skin. The tissues under the smooth skin have an interesting slightly ridged texture. Slowly, I work my first finger into him, feeling him tense and then relax, eventually pushing against me.

Pre-cum beads at the tip of his cock. His cheeks are flushed and his eyes unfocused. "Does it feel good?"

He gasps out, "Yes."

Without thinking about it, I lean forward and lick the fluid from the head of his cock. It's salty and a little bitter. I suck the head of his dick into my mouth, teasing his foreskin with my tongue, as I begin moving my finger in his ass. He nearly comes unglued and I still until he settles down. Then, I begin again.

I like the feel of the soft skin of his cock against my tongue. Taking more of him into my mouth, I begin pressing another finger inside him. He gasps and tightens up a little, then slowly relaxes. I pull off his cock so I can focus on exploring his ass. My fingertips brush across some firmer tissue. His body tenses and there's a muffled shriek.

Once again, I still my exploring fingers. He has a pillow pressed against his mouth and slowly removes it, breathing hard.

"Did it hurt?"

He looks at me, completely dazed. "No... no. God, Sasha... I... Do it again." I'm so surprised by his reaction, I decide to let the name slip pass. I rub my fingertips across the spot again. He groans and his whole body jerks. Very interesting.

I work my fingers in his ass, brushing the spot with every thrust in his body. He begins making sobbing sounds and again I take his cock into my mouth. I barely have half of him past my lips when his hips begin jerking, ass clenching painfully around my fingers. Then, his warm semen shoots into my throat.

I swallow the strange tasting--but not unpleasant--fluid and release his gradually softening cock. Watching him turn into a boneless lump on the bed, I remove the fingers from his ass. He twitches and gasps, then releases his leg and lets it flop against the bed.


Absentmindedly, I stroke his leg, watching him breathe erratically and try to surface from the pleasure haze he's lost in.

As soon as I had hormones, I was attracted to Vlad. But, after being friends for so many years, I never realized how pretty he was until I saw him on the street earlier today.

For the first time since I was taken to prison, I feel aroused... feel desire for someone. And I'm not sure what I want to do about it. It seems like a mistake to stay here, because it's like a snapshot of what my life might have been like if I hadn't been taken away. Closing my eyes, I tilt my head back to rest against the wall and will the thoughts away.

Vlad begins to stir, but I keep my eyes closed, my head and upper back pressed against the wall. The urge to leave this place is strong.

Vlad takes the decision away from me when he straddles my lap.

His fingertips trace patterns on my face. His lips lightly touch mine and begin making a path to my ear. I remain still.

His voice is a murmur in my ear. "Sasha..." The name isn't mine. I open my eyes and think to remind him, but the look on his face stops me. Affection and emotions I don't care to name are evident in his gaze. As I look into his eyes, I tell myself whatever feelings I had for Vlad belonged to someone else. A boy who died in prison two years ago.

But, I am never going to see Vlad again, so does it matter which name he uses?

His lips begin marking a trail down my neck, to my chest. As his mouth plays with my nipples, I stop trying to figure out what to do and let myself experience the sensations created by his lips and tongue.

As his mouth and hands bring me to a state of arousal, the sense of being disconnected continues to fade. Ironically, the last time I felt real sexual desire was also at Vlad's hands.

My eyes are closed, head tilted against the wall, when I feel him slide off my lap and kneel between my legs. His hands work at the fastening of my pants. Only a few seconds pass before his mouth closes over my erection. The movements of his fingers, lips and tongue are familiar... from a lifetime ago when he jacked me off while I leaned against a tree. I wonder if it's a coincidence, but when he begins to push at my foreskin in a particular way, I know he remembers, too.

My orgasm is quick. I have barely jacked off in the last two years and, until this moment, had not noticed the mounting sexual frustration. Vlad tenderly sucks every drop out of me and I lightly stroke his head before gently pulling him off my cock.

I don't remember sex making me feel this exhausted. Like every ounce of energy has been eked away. Vlad looks up at me and, before I'm aware of his intention, he has us both maneuvered flat on the bed. His head rests on my shoulder and he wraps an arm around my waist.

My sense of discomfort returns, but I'm too tired and find myself falling asleep. My last thought is that I never wanted to find out what it was like to hold him.

Consciousness returns in a haze of pleasure. Blinking slowly awake, I try to get my bearings. I am most strongly aware of intense sensations coming from my groin. In the very faint light filtering past the curtains, I see Vlad kneeling over my lower body. His hand and mouth working my cock are responsible for the liquid sensations rippling across my nerve endings.

My only rational thought is that I need to get away from here--get away from him--but my body is desperate for the pleasure he's giving me. And stronger than the desire to leave is the desire to find out what it would be like to sink my cock into his tight ass.

While I was ruminating about whether to stay or leave, Vlad has brought me perilously close to coming in his mouth. I instantly decide I want his ass, and some part of me knows Vlad will give me whatever I ask. I take a deep breath and reach for him, pulling his mouth off my over-excited cock.

He looks confused.

"Not yet, Vlad. I want to come in your ass."

He now looks startled and a little leery.

I pull him up until I can kiss him and then reach for his groin, rolling and squeezing his balls in my hand. A little careful maneuvering on the small bed, and I have his body positioned beneath mine. My mouth fastens on one of his nipples, lapping at it with my tongue, while I continue to stroke and caress his cock and balls.

Soon, he's writhing on the bed, moaning and gasping my name. It makes my cock throb to see him out of control and moaning. For me. I watch him until he is able to focus. He looks at me for a few seconds, then pulls his legs apart and bends them up.

"Do it, Sasha... I want you to."

Retrieving the petroleum jelly, I position myself between his spread legs. While I coat my fingers, he grasps behind his knees and pulls his legs toward his chest. I lean forward and run my tongue up the length of his cock as I begin teasing his anus. A shudder racks his body and I press a finger into him.

Despite a growing and urgent sense of impatience, I tease and play with his ass, enjoying the tight grip on my finger. He seems close to coming as I work two fingers inside him. Slowing the rhythm, I gradually press in a third finger. It takes a little longer, but soon he's thrusting his hips against my hand.

Watching his lean body writhe on my fingers--fucking himself--nearly pushes me over the edge. I quickly pull out my fingers, wiping them on the sheet, and start to maneuver into position. It belatedly occurs to me to add lubricant to my cock. I kneel up and stroke the jelly onto my erection, painfully aware of how hard I am.

I start to move back over Vlad, and I contemplate the position. I guess the most logical thing would be to put his legs over my shoulders. As I settle my body above Vlad, there's a niggling sense of unease... a whisper of an unpleasant memory. I ruthlessly shut down my brain and push Vlad's legs up with my arms until his heels thump against my back.

I position the head of my cock at his tight slick opening and begin pushing in. It's not quite enough force to enter his body, so I press a little harder and feel the tip slip past the ring of muscle. I have never before experienced anything that feels this good and am suddenly lightheaded with pleasure.

Vlad gives a distressed whimper and arches his back. His heels dig into my flesh as his asshole repeatedly clenches on the head of my dick. I bite my lip, resisting the urge to quickly bury myself in his body.

I brace my weight on both hands and push in a little more. Vlad gasps and grips my forearm. "Oh, god... I don't think I can. Sasha, I... it.."

I claim his mouth, cutting off the flow of words. I do not want to hurt him, but I also don't want to stop... not even sure if I can stop. While keeping my hips still, my tongue explores his mouth, teasing and caressing until his head is lifting off the mattress, trying to increase the pressure and intensity of the kiss.

Shifting my weight to one hand, I reach between us and begin stroking his cock. My thumb glides across the tip, gathering moisture and rubbing until he's moaning into my mouth. His ass begins to relax and open for me. I push in further and he gasps with pleasure, pulling the air from my mouth as he pushes his hips up to meet me.

Any sense of control deserts me and I plunge the rest of the way into his hot tight ass. There's a sound like a strangled yell from beneath me. Breathing hard, I look at him. His eyes show mix of pleasure and pain and some emotion I don't understand.

I could never have imagined anything this tight and hot gripping my dick. It's nearly impossible to keep still. His mouth seeks mine, and all I can think is that I want to thrust into this tight heat. But then, I see his eyes and don't want to hurt him.

Our tongues play inside his mouth until I feel his body again begin to relax. He starts moving his legs off my shoulders and I reposition my arms, confused about what he's doing.

Vlad wraps his legs around my hips and his arms encircle my back, pulling me down until my weight is resting on his body. His mouth and tongue move along my jaw and his voice is a whisper in my ear. "Come on, Sasha."

With a grunt, I begin thrusting into him. His arms stay locked around me, forcing me to work with just my hips. I am only distantly aware of his mouth working along my neck, sucking and biting a path to my collarbone... the sensations all mingle together into one indistinguishable jumble of pleasure.

I know I can't last much longer, but I remember the way his ass bore down on my fingers when he came last night. I want to feel that now. I struggle to get a hand in between us but he's holding too tight.

"Vlad, let go... I want to make you come." I stroke his hair away from his face and try to pull back a bit.

He gasps out, "I'm close, Sasha... the friction of your body... just a little longer... wait... please."

I groan... I can't possibly last long enough to give him what he wants. His legs tighten around my hips, pulling me into his body, encouraging me to fuck him harder. I thrust harder and faster, knowing the end of my control is near. Suddenly, I feel his cock jerking and pulsing between our bodies as his ass clamps hard on my cock. I muffle my yell against his neck as the most intense orgasm of my life is ripped out of me.

Time doesn't even seem real as we lie together trying to catch our breath. The only things I am aware of are his sweaty body under mine, the rapid rise and fall of his chest, and the feel of my softening cock still in the wonderfully tight grip of his ass.

I turn my face and lick away the sweat on his neck. Reality intrudes with the thought that this was a bad idea. Because I still have to leave. And soon. No doubt my presence has already been missed. And reported.

With more reluctance than I had expected, I pull away from him. His arms and legs release me and he gasps as I slip out of his body. After cleaning up, I put my clothes back on.

Vlad doesn't move from the bed but sits up as I begin to pull on my jacket. Every instinct tells me to just turn around and leave now, but I find myself sitting next to him.

His hand touches the side of my face briefly. "I've known you for as long as I can remember and I know how stubborn you are, Sasha. But I wish I could talk you out of disappearing forever, or at least make you tell me why you think it's necessary."

I just shake my head.

Vlad sighs and rests his chin on his knees.

Not knowing what to say, I rise to leave.

Vlad's head snaps up, and his pale blue eyes hold mine. "Aleksandr, if you're leaving for good, you will kiss me goodbye."

He asks for so little, but it feels like so much.

I brace one knee on the bed and pull him against me. For the duration of time that my tongue touches his, I allow myself to wonder how my life might have been different.

As the door clicks shut behind me, I banish Vlad, Aleksei and Tatiana to the nebulous void called the past.

Leningrad, U.S.S.R.
Tuesday, 18 February 1986 (the next morning)

I walk back accompanied by the sounds of the city waking up.

When the house is within visual range, I see several men standing out front, conferring and gesturing. Pyotr is among them. As I approach the stairs leading inside, Pyotr catches sight of me and gapes openly. All talking ceases and everyone simply stares. Interesting. Surely these people are not all here looking for me.

I flash Pyotr a questioning look before disappearing into the house. Raised voices greet me. It only takes a couple seconds to determine that Yuri and Arntzen have both arrived. Even more interesting. I was specifically instructed to report to Arntzen at the facility in Tikhvin later today. And I haven't seen or heard from Yuri in months... not that I'm complaining.

Yuri's voice is raised to a yell. "What were you thinking, sending him here?"

"Goddammit, Yuri. You said you had no problem with his desire to kill his parents. You even stated it would be a 'good' thing. Not that I agreed with you."

"His desire was... convenient. But I didn't expect you to let him run around Leningrad to get it done!"

Convenient? What does that mean? Their voices drop in pitch for a few moments then Arntzen's voice is raised again. I move a little closer to the room.

"Yuri, I don't take too kindly to my operatives deserting, but I think sending a search team out is a little extreme. He's one fucking kid."

"You said his training was going well."

"It is. He shows a high aptitude for this work... just like you expected. But that's not the point. Is there something you haven't told me about this kid?"

"Not all of my plans are your concern, Arntzen." Yuri's voice drips ice.

"When it comes to my operatives, they are." Arntzen's voice is just as cold. What the fuck is going on? One part of me wants to know what Yuri is not revealing and the other just does not care.

"Just find him."

I hear noises near the front door and decide to make my presence known before it's made for me. I step into the study where Arntzen and Yuri are yelling at each other. Leaning against the doorjamb, I wait quietly.

"I will find him, but-" Arntzen sees me and cuts himself off, staring open-mouthed.

Yuri turns around and immediately hollers, "Where the fuck have you been?"

I paste a quizzical look on my face and simply stare at him.

Yuri tries again, "Why bother to escape if you planned to come back?"

I make myself look very confused and reply, "Escape? I wasn't aware I was a prisoner."

Arntzen bites back a laugh--suddenly looking a lot more amused--as Yuri's face suffuses with color. In the next instant, I find myself grabbed and slammed against a wall with Yuri's arm across my throat.

"Where have you been?" he growls.

I could lie, but why? The truth serves me well in this situation. At least, part of it does. "Getting laid," I snap back, but it comes out as a croak due to the pressure of his arm.

This time, Arntzen cannot suppress his laugh, but Yuri looks too startled to notice. "What?" The pressure is eased slightly.

"What word didn't you understand? I have been at the compound for two years and I'm fucking tired of the company of my own hand."

Yuri looks at me searchingly and begins to pull away. As his arm is removed from my throat, his eyes narrow and he yanks at the collar of my shirt. He stares for a moment and then his eyes widen slightly. Then he releases me.

"So you escaped, had sex and came back voluntarily?" His tone is disbelieving.

"Like I said, I was under the impression I was always here voluntarily."

I push away from the wall and leave the room. Arntzen's laugh and Yuri's growl follow me up the stairs.

In the room, I glance in a mirror and see several purplish marks along my neck and collarbone. Well, that certainly lends credibility to my story.

Leningrad, U.S.S.R.
Thursday, 20 February 1986 (two days later)

Completely ignoring Yuri's assessing gaze, I carefully take aim on the target. When I'm certain the shot is lined up properly, I pull the trigger. The blond man falls heavily to the ground, nondescript features obliterated by blood pouring from the bullet hole in his forehead.

Keeping low, I quickly disassemble the rifle, gather my gear and move off the rooftop. A few moments later, I slip into the back seat of a car parked two blocks away. Yuri slides in next to me. Pyotr starts the car and pulls into traffic.

Yuri directs Pyotr to change course.

"Where are we going?" I cannot help but be suspicious of anything Yuri does.

"To a bar." His voice is bland.


He looks at me. "To celebrate."

"Celebrate what?"

"You're finally a member of The Organization. I think Pyotr deserves at least two bottles of vodka for baby sitting you for the last two years."

Pyotr gives a shout of laughter.

I turn away, pointedly ignoring him. Eventually, we arrive at a plain building that looks nothing like a bar. I follow Pyotr and Yuri inside. A long hallway and down a flight of stairs, then a tall heavily armed man ushers us past a heavy door and into a dimly lit room.

As my eyes adjust to the dimness, I realize this isn't quite a bar. There certainly is vodka--in abundance--and music, but the scantily clad women all over the room, some hanging over men at various tables, brings the word 'brothel' to mind. Some pairs--and groups--are leaving through another door, but many are just having sex right at their table.

Yuri ushers us to a table in the corner. Pyotr already has a tall blond under his arm, looking quite at home. Apparently, he's been here before. As we sit, the blond climbs on Pyotr's lap and the kissing and groping begins.

Then I hear Yuri's voice in my ear. "Pick any one you like." His tone is a command rather than an offer.

I shake my head.

"Then I'll pick one for you."

"I think not." I sense arguing is just going to make him happier, so I paste an interested expression on my face and point out a diminutive redhead near the bar. I have to wonder what he's trying to prove.

Yuri speaks to a man in a black suit and a few moments later, the redhead is at the table with a bottle of vodka.

She hands me a glass and then wiggles under my arm. I refuse to give Yuri the satisfaction of questioning what this is all about. Instead, I devote my attention to the pliable woman plastered to my side, her hands creeping under my shirt to caress my chest.

A half hour later, after deflecting several attempts to get me to fuck her at the table, Yuri is looking at me suspiciously. Pyotr and the blond are already doing round two on top of the table.

Yuri barely notices, devoting most of his attention to me. I push the redhead to her knees and let her start unfastening my pants. Within a few seconds, my cock is out and being expertly sucked into her willing mouth.

Yuri seems content and right after I come, he vanishes for the rest of the evening.

Tikhvin, U.S.S.R.
Saturday, 8 August 1987 (~ eighteen months later)

I stare at Arntzen as if he has two heads. "Why?"

"Yuri has requested you join him at the base in Moscow. You are reassigned. Pack and plan to leave tonight."

Arntzen's face is uncompromising and his eyes are cold, but I sense he is not happy about this turn of events. It's useless to argue with Yuri. I turn on my heel and start to leave his office. At the last moment, I turn back and catch a look of concern on Arntzen's face, which is quickly replaced by neutrality. About a year ago, I caught on that Arntzen worries about me, but I've never been able to figure out why.

"Will you answer one question before I go?"

He looks suspicious, but nods reluctantly. "If I can."

I move back to the desk. "When Yuri 'selected' me four years ago, he said I was 'tested.' Something to do with the knife he left me. He wouldn't explain it. You have also referred to that 'test.' What was he talking about?"

Arntzen shakes his head, a bemused expression on his face. "You really don't get it, do you?"

I never have. "No."

He sighs. "Alex, you were a scrawny seventeen year old kid. Your life up to that point had consisted of getting into mischief with your friends and taking care of your ten younger siblings."

I stiffen at the mention of my brothers and sisters, then quickly suppress any thought of them.

Arntzen continues, "You had spent three months in prison, been beaten regularly and were severely malnourished."

I don't get his point at all.

"That day, you had just been severely beaten and, with several broken bones, were brutally raped. Don't you find what you did at all unusual?"

I stare at him. "If you're not going to answer the question, just say so. I don't need a recounting of events."

He leans back in his chair and rubs his hand across his face. "When the guard came back to rape you again, we would have expected you to lash out--possibly hysterically--and try to defend yourself."

"That's what I did."

"No. That's not what you did. You waited. You planned. And when the moment was right, you went for a death blow."

I had always suspected, but now I knew for sure that, at a minimum, Yuri and the smoking man were watching. It crosses my mind to wonder if it was filmed because Arntzen's description is too accurate.

Or, it's possible that he was there. "Were you there?" My voice is completely flat.

Arntzen's eyes--which, by nature of their odd color, never appear to hold any warmth--actually seem to soften. "No, Alex. If I had been there, it wouldn't have happened."

I give a slight nod, barely acknowledging anything he said.

Arntzen continues, "You were way off the curve, Alex. We don't expect people to react like that. And the fact that you don't get it... well, it led Yuri to believe you were unusually suited to this line of work."

I do not get the connection between killing your rapist and becoming a professional killer, but it's better to just never think of this again.

I reply, "I have one more question."

He looks wary but nods.

"What haven't you told me about my parents?"

Arntzen sighs but nods an acceptance. He had to know this was coming. "I gave you as much information as I had, Alex. But there was too little investigation into their deaths. Almost as if you'd done someone powerful a big favor."

I consider for a moment, then ask, "Yuri knows?"

Carefully, he replies, "When Yuri instructed me to stop investigating your parents' background, I believe he had obtained more information about them. But, Alex, he'll never discuss it with you."

I nod tersely and turn to go.


I turn back to find Arntzen stepping around his desk and approaching me.

One beefy hand grips each of my upper arms. Despite his size and strength, I've actually never worried about Arntzen trying to harm me. "If you need-" He cuts himself off, looking at me intently. Leaning forward, he briefly presses his lips to each of my cheeks. "Good luck to you, comrade."

Moscow, U.S.S.R.
Monday, 10 August 1987 (two days later)

"You're sending me where?" My voice is a near yell.

Yuri looks smug. I should tell him that some expressions don't work well with that scar. Smugness would be at the top of the list.

He can so rarely rile me, despite his inevitable attempts. I think it gives him a twisted pleasure to see me upset. "The United States. Shall I spell it for you?"

Fucking bastard. "Why?"

"That was the intention all along, Alex. Didn't you even wonder why your language lessons were so rigorous and intense, and why we worked to strip away any trace of your accent?"

No, I really hadn't wondered. Apparently a major mistake on my part. I'll not suffer from a lack of curiosity ever again.

"I do not want to go to America." I didn't think there was anything else they could take. I guess there's always something.

Yuri grins maliciously. "That is not a concern. You leave in a week."

"Fuck that!" I resist the urge to pound Yuri into dust. These days, there is no doubt which of us would come out the victor in a fight--I killed one of Yuri's best in an unexpected fist fight--but he has dozens of men in nearby rooms willing to hold me down while he beats the shit out of me.

Yuri advances on me and, in a familiar move, has me slammed against the nearest wall with his arm pressed across my throat. But this time, I'm barely able to keep from striking back. Normally, I take this crap from him. But not today.

When he starts to speak, the low tone of his voice is such a surprise, it actually keeps me from lashing out. "There's one way you can stay, Alex. I'll catch shit for it, but I'll work it out." His free hand is at my crotch, squeezing my cock through my jeans. Oh, shit. "I've wanted a piece of your ass since I watched that guard do you in the cell nearly four years ago."

Only my sense of self-preservation keeps me from killing him. I force myself to remain perfectly still and keep my expression blank.

I stare straight ahead as his tongue traces the line of my jaw. His hand is still working my cock through the denim as he continues, "You can stay. Actually, I want you to stay. But you'll have to bend over my desk and bare that pretty ass of yours whenever I tell you to. I'll take care of the details with my contact in the U.S. It will cost me, but it'll be worth it to see you pull those cheeks apart and beg me to fuck you."

Well, this is an easy choice. Keeping my voice calm and neutral, I reply, "Release me, comrade. I have things to do. As you say, I will be leaving soon."

There's a painful squeeze of my cock before I'm released. "Don't even think about trying to take off, Alex. Because I will find you. And then I'll dry-fuck you bloody before I kill you."

Gritting my teeth, I start to leave his office, but his voice stops me. "Alex, report to Dr. Stanislofsky before you return to your room."

I turn around. "Why?"

His gloating smile makes me suspicious. "There are a few things that need to be done before you go to the States."

Without responding, I turn and make my way downstairs.

Dr. Stanislofsky greets me with a drab hospital gown. "If you'll just take your clothes off, put this on and wait in here."


The Doctor's expression is almost too neutral. "Quick physical, blood tests and a couple shots."

Suspicious, I take the proffered gown and enter the small room--I've never had a problem with the doctor before.

As the doctor stated, a few vials of blood are drawn and I'm given three shots he says are vaccinations. I start to feel dizzy and tired and make a move for the doctor to find out what he did.

The door opens and Yuri and three of his thugs step inside the tiny room. My brain and body work sluggishly as they grab me and wrestle me onto the table. Struggling seems to be completely ineffective and they quickly have me strapped to the exam table.

My body is too doped up to do anything other than tug at the restraints but my brain is fighting panic.

The three thugs leave the room and Yuri's face looms above me. "Sorry about this, Alex." He doesn't sound very apologetic. "We thought you might not cooperate, so we felt we should restrain you."

Cooperate with what? "With what?" My voice is slurred and I'm having a hard time talking. What the fuck did they give me?

Yuri gives me a sunny smile. "Your circumcision. I thought you might object."

Fuck yes, I object. "Yeah... why not ask?" I'd like to scream and yell, but I can't seem to make my mouth work.

"Well, I can't afford to lose any more men to your fits of temper."

Some ludicrous impulse prompts me to point out those incidents were self-defense, not my temper. But I manage to ignore it in light of what they plan to do to me. I'm not sure I could articulate it anyway. "Don't..." A pitiful objection, but I can't make my mouth do what I want.

"Must be done." Yuri sounds entirely too cheerful. I turn my head and, once the room stops spinning, I notice him pulling on a latex glove.

"What are you doing?"

His leering smile makes me hate him even more. "Assisting."

Realizing this is going to happen no matter what I do or say, I turn away and try to block them out. Even though I'm trying to ignore them, Yuri touches me differently than the doctor and I can barely control my anger.

"Well, Alex, looks like you've certainly grown everywhere."

Fucking bastard.

Yuri grabs my face in the ungloved hand and turns it. "You certain you want to go to America? We can stop all this and you can stay here."

Ignoring Yuri, I force my mouth to work and address the doctor. "Could you get on with it?" The slurring is a little better that time. "You're wasting my time."

With a sneer, Yuri releases my chin and I feel his other hand close around my dick.

While administering the local anesthetic, the doctor gives me a lecture about 'post-operative care.' I only half pay attention, thinking if the shots hurt that bad, it's going to be agony when the numbness wears off.

Fucking lovely.

I try to look but Yuri's arm is in the way, so I give up and stare at the wall.

When they're finished, Yuri summons two of his goons to get me back to my room. As soon as the restraints are loosened, I direct my attack where it's likely to be the most effective considering my weakened condition. And I'm happily certain Dr. Stanislofsky's nose is broken.

Once in my room, I put the encounter and my hatred of Yuri out of my thoughts. I lie in bed, waiting for the drugs to wear off, and consider the preparations that need to be made. I'll have to notify Vlad that I'm leaving. I've been secretly wiring money to their account for two years, and will have to work out the new details after I get to the States.

But the first thing I have to do, as soon as I can function, is see what the fuck they did to me.

Houston, Texas
Sunday, 23 August 1987 (two weeks later)

I pace the small efficiency apartment with agitation. I've been here four days and have yet to meet my new handler or get any information about my assignment. I was picked up at the airport by an uncommunicative, huge lump of man, then locked in this room. There are two normal locks on the door, but one additional heavy deadbolt that can only be operated with a key. There's food and water, but the phone doesn't work, my dick still hurts and my patience is at an end.

On the other hand, there seems to be an unending supply of hot water, and I'm discovering a passion for too-hot showers. But no amount of hot water will save their asses if I don't get out of this room soon. When I contacted Vlad prior to my departure, I told him to expect a new contact number within a few days.

Sinking heavily on the sofa, I contemplate ways to get out of here. Then there's a key turning in the lock and a tall, lanky man in his early 40's enters the room carrying a briefcase. He has dark hair, dark eyes and is dressed head to toe in black.

"Hello. I'm David Michaelson. Sorry it took me so long to get up here to see you." He extends his hand. I ignore it.

I snarl at him, "Am I to remain locked in here?"

His hand drops to his side. "No. Just didn't want you running loose until I had a chance to orient you to the facility and explain your assignment and the rules." His voice is extremely placid.

"Will I be staying in this apartment?"


"Not acceptable. I won't be locked in."

He stares at me as if trying to decide how far he can push me. "You will be given a key to that lock."

"Fine. What's the orientation?"

"You observed the buildings you were brought to?" At my nod, he opens the briefcase, passes me a couple diagrams, then continues. "There are twelve apartment buildings. Our facility is underneath buildings eight through twelve. One elevator in each building accesses all fifteen floors of the facility. Your security card determines which levels you have access to. To keep up appearances, about fifty percent of the residents in buildings one through seven are not syndicate employees." He casually refers to this 'syndicate' like I have some idea what he's talking about.

He tosses me an envelope and continues. "Inside is your security card, new ID's under the name of Alex Krycek, and apartment keys." He says that like 'Alex Krycek' is an alias. "I need the ID you traveled under from Russia."

Rising, I walk over to the bed and retrieve the packet of false identification, then hand it to David. He gives every indication of feeling heavily burdened by having to deal with me. I wonder what this is all about.

Sitting back on the couch, I say, "And what's the assignment?"

His jaw clenches for a few seconds before he replies. "Your credentials have been created and you've been enrolled in the University for the next semester."

I stare at him in confusion. "What?"

David calmly repeats himself. "You have been enrolled in Rice University, Fall Semester, starting next week."

There can be only one explanation. "Is there a target at the school?"

For the first time, he looks amused. "No. This is your assignment. Well, part of it. As time permits, we will have other projects for you, but this is your primary objective."

"What exactly is the objective?"

"To get an education."

"You brought me here to go to school?" This is too absurd to be real.

He shrugs and looks unhappy. "I don't pretend to understand it, but those are the orders I have." He tosses a folder to me. "Here's your cover story and background. You need to know it like it actually happened before you set foot in the University."

I flip through the folder for a few moments, noting a few of the more interesting details. Apparently, I'm an only child of cold war émigrés. We lived happily in Iowa until my parents died in a car accident when I was 18. That's certainly an interesting spin on reality. And I'm suddenly a little more than two years younger.

David continues, "You will major in Linguistics."

I flash him a questioning look. This seems increasingly more pointless.

"It should be easy for you, and you'll have plenty of time for other activities. At least I'll get some use out of having you around. Although, at your age, it seems unlikely that I'll get anything truly useful from you." I ignore the comment and his irate expression. "Incidentally, you are directed to continue studying language in general. You speak four now?"

"Besides English and Russian, three." I continue flipping through the folder, noting my apparent interest in something called baseball during high school. And a girlfriend named Clarissa, who moved to Canada during senior year.

Distracting me from my perusal of my 'past,' David hands me a card with several phone numbers. "You can reach me at any of those numbers," he says tersely and turns to leave.

I intercept him. "David, why? None of this makes sense."

He turns back and shrugs. "We follow orders, Alex. But you'll have a rock solid cover by the time you're done. That's probably part of the plan."

But why do I need a verifiable cover story? If he doesn't know, there is someone who will. "I assumed I was brought here by someone in particular. Will I be meeting with him?"

David's eyes narrow. "Who are you speaking of?"

"I don't have his name. Tall, dark hair, within ten years of forty, smokes constantly."

His eyebrows shoot up. "If he wants to talk to you, you'll know." And with that non-answer, he leaves my room.

I resume looking through the folder. There are actually a couple pictures of my 'parents.' I wonder just how far they went to create this cover story.

Within minutes of David's departure, the phone rings. I checked it less than two hours ago and it wasn't working.

I pick it up in much the way you might handle a snake.

There's the sound of a prolonged exhalation on the other end of the phone, then, "Hello, Alex." It's not too difficult to visualize the cloud of smoke around the phone.

Despite a thousand questions, I remain silent. A return 'hello' seems inordinately polite under the circumstances.

There's a raspy chuckle. "Still a man of many words. Fortunately, all you have to do is listen. As you are already aware, it is known you came by way of Russia. Tell no one anything else about your past, where you came from or who you have worked with."

"And if they ask?"

"You tell them to call me." I think to ask exactly who he is, but he continues, "There is one other thing you have to do."

Reluctantly, I ask, "And that is?"

"Obey." And the line clicks. I grit my teeth and slam down the phone.

Houston, Texas
Thursday, 24 September 1987 (one month later)

I step out of my apartment and am immediately confronted by 240 pounds of angry next door neighbor.

"Fucking faggot," he hisses at me.

"Pardon?" And I was in such a good mood, too. Last night was the first time I'd been able to do anything besides receive a blowjob. Finally pain-free, I fucked that pretty boy until he couldn't walk. Of course, I'm still not used to the way my dick looks.

"I saw your boyfriend leaving this morning."

"And your point would be?" It's been imperative for the last few years to keep any sexual interaction with men a secret. But sometime over the last few months, I stopped caring.

He thumps his palm against my chest. "Your secret is out. Some of us aren't going to put up with that kind of shit."

I shrug casually. "You don't have to fuck him if you really don't want to."

He growls and I easily duck the punch he sends toward my face.

"Marcus!" David's voice roars down the hallway. "What the fuck are you doing?"

The lump--Marcus--spins around and quickly replies, "I'm gonna teach this faggot a lesson."

"No, you are not! Now get your ass down to level five. You're already late."

As Marcus stalks off, briefly glaring over his shoulder at me, David sighs and rubs his forehead. "You couldn't have continued to keep it a secret?"

My eyebrows seem intent on climbing toward my hairline. "I was not trying to keep it a secret in the first place. In any case, if it's such a secret, how do you know?"

"Security has reported several young, male visitors. Rarely the same twice. Only one woman. Seemed rather obvious, even though it wasn't in the information I received on you."

From what I've been able to glean from David, he has virtually nothing on me, and I haven't seen fit to enlighten him.

"A lot of people could probably give a shit about who you fuck, Alex. But a high percentage of these guys are not going to like it. You're going to have to be prepared for trouble."


"Meaning, I know you don't have a lot of training." I gape at him. "But you'd better think about your fighting skills. I can tell them to leave you alone, but that's only going to work for some."

"Uh, yeah. David, there is nothing wrong with my hand-to-hand skills. I don't like to fight."

David shakes his head with exasperation and disbelief and walks off.

Houston, Texas
Saturday, 17 October 1987 (~ three weeks later)

A shadow detaches itself from the wall as I walk across the nearly deserted gym. It only takes a second for me to realize it's Marcus. The few other guys in the area are too carefully disinterested. Fuck, I've been set up.

Marcus has been harassing me constantly for the last month, getting increasingly more physical. He landed one punch that nearly made me lose my temper. I kept it in check that time, knowing the situation would break soon.

David gave up encouraging me to defend myself and just sighs whenever Marcus' challenge goes unanswered. He still isn't giving me any work, thinking I'm too inept or inexperienced to bother with.

I keep walking toward the door, watching Marcus out of the corner of my eye, when another body steps into the doorway blocking my exit.

I suppose that was inevitable. I turn to face Marcus just as he pulls a knife and comes at me.

Less than two minutes later, David and a security team are charging into the gym, but Marcus is already dead.

I stare into his glassy hazel eyes for a second, then turn to leave. David catches my arm and I yank it out of his grasp. "Fuck off, David."

David barks out a couple orders, then follows me. "What happened in there?"

I continue walking toward the elevator and ignore him.

David calls after me. "You're confined to your apartment, Alex. Don't you fucking go anywhere until I get to the bottom of this."

Two hours later David is opening my door. I noticed a guard was posted five minutes after I arrived in my room. He's been lurking in the hallway the entire time.

David sits heavily in the armchair. "I reviewed the security films. And that created more questions than it answered, so I made some calls. Seems I've been lacking some critical information about your past."

"Your point?"

He shrugs. "Did you have to kill him? He obviously seriously underestimated you, but I think bringing down a good operative in slightly under 40 seconds is an extreme way to get your point across."

I was so trying to avoid this. "I was not making a point."

"Then why? It's not exactly easy to replace these guys."

I hesitate, then reply, "I did not intend to kill him."

David looks confused.

Sighing, I rub my hand over my face. "I have never intended to kill anyone I've fought with hand to hand. Some live, some die. My apparent lack of ability to control the outcome is bothersome. So I avoid it."

"You're kidding, right?"

"No." The first time was very troubling. I'd been training for months, but the first time I was pushed to defend myself, I unexpectedly wound up with a corpse. I had hoped it was a fluke. It wasn't.

David looks at me for a long time, then rises from the chair. "I'll have some other assignments for you soon. We're down one man and it looks like you might be more useful than I had anticipated."

I nod.

David pauses at the door. "By the way, I've noticed you look a little, uh, blank at the mention of some common things specific to American culture. We're going to have to work on it. Tomorrow morning, plan to watch TV from about seven to ten. Then, let me know any questions you have."

"What am I watching?"

David grins. "Cartoons."

Houston, Texas
Friday, 13 November 1987 (~ four weeks later)

I leave school in the late afternoon and head for the compound, stopping on the way to check my voicemail. I set up the number shortly after I arrived and got it to Vlad.

It feels like I have more freedom here... more time when I'm not being watched. I resented the school thing at first, but it's given me the liberty to take care of Aleksei without raising suspicion. I set up untraceable accounts and arranged to have money wired into an account Vlad can access. He left voicemail indicating he wanted to talk about the money, but I'm not inclined to discuss it.

There's no message from Vlad this time, so I leave the phone booth and continue to the compound. I know I have an assignment this weekend, and I hope it's something that will keep me too occupied for another session on American culture.

And if there must be another course in the oddities of the American lifestyle, I hope it's not something as stupid and pointless as the introduction to baseball. Something I am supposed to have thoroughly enjoyed as a kid. Why couldn't they have selected cycling? Something I find I actually do like.

David's been keeping me insanely busy with 'extra projects' since I took Marcus out. I spend two hours reviewing Saturday's hit and raid with the two other men assigned to the job. Then it's time for dinner. David stops me on my way into the cafeteria.

"Alex, we'll be eating in my room."


"A quick and painless lesson on the American diet. Come on."

Ugh. I follow David to his apartment and make myself comfortable on the sofa. After a few moments, he emerges from the kitchenette with a plate and a tall glass. He sets both on the coffee table and sits in the armchair.

I look at the food and back at David, not managing to mask my expression of revulsion. "What the hell is that?" The plate has two white slabs of... bread? With some repulsive looking brown slimy stuff in the middle. There is some goopy looking purple slime peeking out as well. The white substance in the glass can only be milk. Ick. I cannot stand milk.

David barely manages to not laugh. "It's a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a glass of milk."

"God. Why?"

"Come on, Alex, try it. Every American kid eats this stuff."

"I don't think I can. Let's do baseball again... or I'll even watch more of those horrible 'Professional Wrestling' videos. But I cannot eat that..." I wave toward the plate, "thing."

"It's not going to kill you, Alex. Just try it."

I know I'm not going to get out of this. I wonder why these people are trying to torture me. "Are you sure that stuff is bread?"

He laughs. "Positive. It's called Wonder Bread and it's an American institution."

"You're kidding, right?"

"Nope. Tomorrow, I'll introduce you to the joys of Miracle Whip and then, if you're lucky, Cool Whip."

Cool Whip? I don't even want to know.

David gestures to the plate. "Now, come on. Try it."

Reluctantly, I reach for the 'sandwich' and take a bite.

Oh, yuck. The white crap sticks to the roof of your mouth. The goopy purple stuff is disgustingly sweet, and the brown stuff... well, the brown stuff tastes pretty good, but it sticks to everything.

It doesn't take much chewing to create a goopy blob and I have no idea how to swallow it. How can you get something down when it's this sticky?

David is nearly rolling off the chair with laughter. "I wish you could see the expression on your face." He points at the milk. "You'll need that." At my skeptical look he adds, "Trust me."

Yeah. Trust is not my strong suit. But I reach for the milk, thinking this is the most disgusting thing anyone has ever made me do.

He's right. The milk helps.

Well, that decides it. Even if the sandwich wasn't repellent in its own right, any food that requires milk is off my list of edible substances.

"Okay. I've tried it. I am not eating any more of that... stuff."

David, still laughing, rises and grabs his coat. "Let's go, Alex. How 'bout chicken curry for dinner?"

Much better.

Houston, Texas
Friday, 1 April 1988 (~ five months later)

There's a note slid under my door to report to level five for a meeting a 7:00 P.M. Fuck. That only gives me fifteen minutes. I quickly dial a phone number and ask my evening company to delay arrival until 10:00 P.M.

I arrive at the conference room to find only two men inside. One is an older man I don't recognize. The other I have not seen in many years. Inside my guts are twisting with a bizarre combination of emotions, but outwardly I am calm.

The smoking man leans back in his chair, and takes a long drag on his cigarette. "Alex, how nice to see you again." A puff of smoke clouds the air.

I nod tersely and sit a few chairs away.

He watches me for a few minutes. "I see we're going to have to send you to some sort of charm school for killers. You are distinctly lacking in some social graces. This is Bill Mulder. Bill, Alex Krycek."

I nod to the stranger then turn my attention back to the smoker. "I wasn't aware you kept me around for my charm."

He gives an evil sort of chuckle. "Oh, definitely for your charm. You've certainly changed since I last saw you."

"That was somewhat inevitable. But one thing hasn't changed. I still do not know what to call you."

He's silent for a moment, as if considering his response. "You may call me... Mr. Spender."

Bill Mulder looks at Spender in surprise but says nothing.

Spender leans forward slightly and crushes out the butt of his cigarette. "We are here on other business, but I thought I'd see how things were coming along for you. I've certainly been getting status reports and they indicate you have been a worthwhile investment."

The comment doesn't seem to warrant a reply, so I say nothing.

He looks at me for a moment, then continues, "On the other hand... have you killed any more of my employees lately?"

"I'm sure you already know the answer to that question, so I am not clear on the purpose in asking."

Bill Mulder gives a short bark of laughter.

Spender lights another cigarette. "Try to behave, Alex."

I have to wait for Spender to smoke nearly half his cigarette before he finally speaks again. "Some of your courses have been rather odd. Quite a few in poetry and literature."

I shrug. "They're easy to pass and David keeps most of my time locked up."

With a bored nod, he waves toward the door. "I'll see you when it's necessary."

Knowing I have been dismissed, I rise but cannot stop myself from asking, "I don't suppose you would care to tell me what I'm doing here and why?"

He looks inordinately pleased by the question. "No. I don't care to. Goodbye, Alex."

I hated asking, but I had to.

David catches me outside the conference room. "We have a last minute assignment we need to discuss."

I follow him to another room and he briefs me and three others on a convent in San Francisco that is to be destroyed. The target is one of the nuns, and we've been instructed to take them all out to 'be certain.'

The whole thing seems rather odd and... imprecise.

David's face is increasingly tight and expressionless as he continues to discuss the plans. Suddenly, his face crumples and he starts to laugh. Then the other three start in as well. I watch him like he is about to sprout another head.

When he is finally able to catch his breath and stand up straight, he ushers me out of the room. On the way to the elevator, he laughingly says, "Okay, tonight we have to talk about April Fools Day."

Houston, Texas
Wednesday, 7 October 1992 (four and a half years later)

Walking into the language lab, I approach the girl at the desk. "Alex Krycek. I have an appointment with Damien Sinclair." She disappears for a few seconds, then returns to tell me he'll be a few minutes. In the past five years, I've never needed to avail myself of the services of a tutor, but if I don't get some help with my Cantonese, I'm not going to pass the fucking class. It's hard for me to believe what a hard time I'm having with this language.

"Mr. Krycek, uh, Alex?" A tentative voice from my left asks.

I look over to find a blond with dark blue eyes staring at me. Well, this is more interesting. Startlingly pretty features--big eyes, full lips, high cheekbones. He has long blond hair secured in a ponytail and three rings in his right ear. And dresses so fucking preppy. Slacks, button-down shirts and loafers.

Rising and stepping a little too close, I shake his hand. "Yeah. You Damien?"

At this distance, he has to look up at me. He is probably only about 5'7, and is lean in a rather wiry fashion. He looks happily flustered. "Yes. I'm Damien." He leads me to the back room, where we sit in a couple of chairs. "I understand you need some help with Cantonese?"

"Mm." Catching the vibe from him that I'm looking for, I give him a leisurely once over and drop my voice to a little more seductive tone. "It was hard to get an appointment with you, but I don't think I can pass this class without some help."

He chews the inside of his cheek and then replies, "Oh, I'm sure I can fit you in my schedule for the next few months."

Of that, I had no doubt. I consider what I could do with this pretty boy. One of the people I'm currently fucking is probably due to be replaced. A gymnast who can present his asshole to me from the most amazing array of contorted positions. The novelty of throwing my back out while trying to fuck him in those bizarre positions is starting to wear off. In any case, he's not quite as interesting a specimen as this mild-mannered language tutor.

With that thought in mind, I ask Damien if he wants to come to my house on Thursday evening. He flushes and whispers an acceptance. Well, isn't that cute. I'll have to do something about that shyness.

Houston, Texas
Saturday, 22 May 1993 (~ seven months later)

The light tap on the door can only be Damien. God, he even knocks timidly. But I'm horny as hell and as soon as the door is shut and locked behind him, I start taking off his shirt.

He's acquiescent but, for some reason, feels the need to start talking.

"Alex, what's going to happen next?"

"Huh?" I forgot to unbutton the cuffs of his shirt and the fabric gets hung up on his wrists. Oh well.

"I mean, school is over for you. Are you going to still be around or whatever?"

I shrug and lean down to take one of his nipples between my teeth.

He groans but then starts pulling back, ineffectually trying to free his wrists. "I'm serious, Alex. I... I want to keep seeing you."

Sighing, I lean against the door. Fucking fantastic.

It's amazing I am still fucking him after nearly eight months. It's certainly a record for me. But he's such a nice piece of ass, it's worth an occasional little problem. He flipped a few weeks after we met, when he found out I was having sex with several other people. I told him he was welcome to go away anytime he liked and he never brought it up again. From that day forward he has been content to come here and bend over whenever I tell him to.

Until now.

"What's the problem, Damien?"

He looks uncomfortable. "Well, it just seems like we only ever get together to fuck. I know you've been really busy finishing up your Masters, but, well... do you want to keep seeing me?"

"Damien, we do only get together to fuck. And I want it that way." He looks a little hurt. I barely manage to not roll my eyes. "I already told you, I don't know what my plans are yet."

Chewing the inside of his cheek, he mutters, "Are you still seeing other guys?"

I scowl. "You know I am." Tired of this conversation, I start unlocking the door.

"What are you doing?"

"You know why you're here. If you don't want to fuck, go home."

He's suddenly next to me, struggling again with his trapped wrists. "No. I'm sorry. I just... I mean, I'll stop. I'm sorry. I want you to fuck me, Alex." His voice drops to a plaintive whisper.

Turning to face him, I grasp the shirt and yank hard. He winces as the cuffs are forced past his hands. I start walking him backward toward the bed while opening the fastening of his pants.

When we reach the bed, I turn him and push him down face first onto the mattress. I work his pants down, baring his tight little ass. As soon as I have his pants and shoes off, he spreads his legs, suddenly quite eager to get fucked.

Grabbing the condoms and lube, I kneel between his legs. "Spread them more." He pulls his legs further apart and I reach up to pull out the elastic band securing his long hair in its ponytail.

As I start pushing two fingers into him, I decide the next couple hours are going to seem very long to him.

Ninety minutes later, he's still lying under me and hasn't been allowed to come. I took a break after my first orgasm to play with his ass, teasing his prostate and listening to him beg and plead. I let him rim me until I was hard and his tongue was aching, then I started fucking him for the second time.

Sweat from my forehead drips onto the trembling shoulders beneath me. Lowering my weight onto his back, pushing him further into the mattress, I start thrusting using just my hips. He's whimpering and mumbling into the pillow. I tangle my hand in his long, blond hair, pulling his head back so I can hear. He is again begging and pleading to be allowed to come. I release his head and sink my teeth into his shoulder as I guide his hands to the wall.

Knowing what I expect, he braces his arms against the wall. I lick the bite mark and rise up to take my weight back on my arms. I begin thrusting hard, pounding into him, knowing the intense friction of his cock sliding against the sheets will finally bring him off. When his ass begins to spasm around my dick, I feel my second orgasm overtake me.

After disposing the condom, I lean against the wall and grab the bottle of water off the bedside table. The sound of Damien's erratic breathing fills the room and I watch the play of light on his sweat-covered back.

The snick of the lock turning instantly annoys me. I reach for the blanket as the door opens and Spender walks in. The blanket is pulled to my waist, covering Damien to his shoulders. Damien doesn't even twitch--too dazed to hear the door opening or the light footfalls.

I stare at Spender, refusing to voice my annoyance over his intrusion, as that would be tantamount to inviting him to irritate me further.

To my surprise, he quietly walks to Damien's side of the bed and pushes the tangled, sweat-soaked hair out of his face.

"Very pretty, Alex." He looks up at me as Damien's body gives a startled jerk. "Is it a boy or a girl?"

I sneer at him as Damien backs away until his head bumps against my hip. Damien's squirming has effectively pulled the blanket down past my groin, so I might as well get out of bed. I rise and reach for my jeans. After tugging them past my hips, I close the bottom two buttons.

Damien whimpers a plaintive, "Alex?" I glance at him. He's huddled under the bedding, looking confused and a little embarrassed. His eyes dart between Spender and me.

I ignore Damien for the moment and address the intruder. "Did you want something specific?"

"I hate to interrupt you, but," his tone belies any real regret, "we need to discuss your assignment."

I have certainly been waiting to hear about my assignment, but the timing is obviously deliberate. Perhaps he's trying to prove he can interrupt my life whenever he chooses? As if I didn't know that already. I keep my exasperation out of my expression. I've learned the only good response is no response.

While reaching for my shirt, I speak to Damien. "Go to sleep. I'll be back later." I'd rather he not stay here, but it seems rather obnoxious to dismiss him with Spender in the room. I hold the door open and wait for him to precede me out of the room.

Several hours later, I emerge from the smoke-filled office feeling stunned.

The FBI?

Spender filled me in on every possible detail except that one. He dropped that little bomb just before he departed.

The FBI?

I make it halfway back to my room before the sense of unreality takes over. Standing in the hallway, I simply stare at the wall.

The FBI?

This is insane.

I force my feet into motion and return to the room. Damien is there, sitting up in bed. I want to ask him to leave so I can think. Instead, I strip off my clothes and join him. He starts to ask a question about Spender's appearance in the room earlier. I deflect his curiosity and, within a few minutes, he's bent over my lap, sucking me off. While giving myself over to the delicious sensations created by his hot mouth, I let my brain briefly wander back to the conversation with Spender.

Fuck... the FBI? How the hell am I going to pull this off?

9 January 2002

Feedback, please! More Exi to come in the prequel to Exigency.

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