Title: Syncretistic
Author: Loren Q,  Email Me
Website: http://slashfactory.com/
Fandom: X-Files
Pairing: Mulder/Krycek
Archive: RatB, DitB, CkoS, SlashingMulder, anywhere else just ask.
Rating: NC-17 for language and m/m sexual content
Warning: My Krycek isn't a nice guy, and I like him that way.
Spoilers: To be safe, up through early season 6.
Summary: An X-file. Sometime in early season 6, Mulder's assigned to case where he has to work with Krycek...
Beta Thanks: Louise Wu, Zoe Takashi, Alex and Lyrical Soul.
     I disregarded a lot of good beta advice, so don't blame them--it's all me.
Disclaimer: Mulder, Krycek and other X-Files characters belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. No infringement of rights is intended. The rest belong to me.


Syncretistic: A reconciliation or fusion of differing systems of belief, as in philosophy or religion, especially when success is partial or the result is heterogeneous.

**
Glossary:
Aleyo - An outsider. One who does not practice Santeria.
Babalawo - A Santeria high priest.
Basura - Trash, garbage.
Macumba - Evil worship, not associated with Santeria.
Medio asiento - Second of three steps to become a full fledged Santero.


Tuesday, 4:00 A.M.
High Rise Building
New York City, New York

The security guard yawns and rubs his face. 'I gotta get off night shift,' he thinks to himself as he looks at his watch.

He's sitting at a console that would rival NASA's best. Monitors display rotating views of the New York high rise his company is chartered to guard.

Suddenly, a red light on the console starts blinking. He picks up a walkie-talkie. "Johnson, Moreno, you guys on twenty-four?"

"No, we're on thirty-three. What's up?"

"Bogie in suite 2406, go check it out."

"Roger. Out."

A few minutes later, Johnson and Moreno enter suite 2406, weapons drawn. Moreno turns on the lights. It's a small but well-appointed suite. A reception area fronting three offices and a conference room.

With a nod to each other, the guards begin their search. After fifteen minutes, they return to the reception area.

Johnson holsters his weapon and looks at Moreno. "Anything?"

"Nope, nuthin'. Damned alarm must have a short."

They're exiting the suite when Moreno suddenly stops short. "Hey, you smell that?"

"Smell what?"

Moreno sniffs and looks over his shoulder. "Esucar cemada, uhh, burnt--" Suddenly, his eyes go wide. "Hey, did you see..."

In an eyeblink, Johnson sees Moreno's crumpled body, fifteen feet from where it had just been. Johnson rushes over and sees Moreno's head... twisted completely around.

"DESK! DESK! This is Johnson in suite 2406! Send--Oh holy mother of God! Call an ambulance! Shit, it's Moreno... Oh shit Moreno!"

**

Tuesday, 10:00 A.M.
FBI Headquarters
Washington, D.C.

I'm summoned to Kersh's office. I rap twice on his door and let myself in. He's at a small conference table, speaking with two other men. My entrance stops their discussion and the three of them look at me.

"Agent Mulder, as of this moment, you are on loan to the New York field office." Kersh stands up and, without looking at me, walks to his door. "Agent Kochanski will brief you on your assignment." He exits his own office. // What? No goodbye? //

The taller of the two stands and holds out his hand. He has a strong, sure grip. "Agent Mulder. I'm SAIC Chris Kochanski, this is Nikolai Stanislofsky. Please sit."

I take a seat across from the pair. Kochanski, typical FBI suit. Short hair and clean-shaven. He could have been a news anchor if it weren't for the weak jaw and thin lips. Stanislofsky is a small man with a regal presence. Well dressed, perfect hair and beard. I don't know what's going on, but at least it'll be a break from wiretap transcriptions and background checks. I look at Kochanski. "The assignment?"

"Yes." He pushes a folder toward me, then continues, "There have been several incidents affecting businesses owned by Russian nationals. Mr. Stanislofsky represents these business owners."

"Umm, Moscow Chamber of Commerce?"

Stanislofsky looks at me, confused. Kochanski's lips form a grim line. "Agent. I've heard of your penchant for... abuses to protocol. Be assured that I'll brook none of that behavior."

I bury my face in the report so I don't give him my 'ooh, I'm scared' look. Damn, where's Scully? // She's always able to smooth this shit over. //

Quickly reading the report, I note seven businesses report heavy vandalism. Broken equipment and ripped furniture, coffee poured into computers and files destroyed. Enough damage to stop their day-to-day operations. Blood was found at each site--lab tests show it's not human, but it hasn't yet been identified. Each of the businesses is in secured high-rise buildings. Only two share an address. And they're all in a four-block radius.

My continued reading finds one commonality; building security reports the same unusual occurrence--an alarm triggered with no apparent cause. Followed by another alarm approximately an hour later. It's the second alarm that uncovers the vandalism.

I look at Kochanski. "This is all very interesting, but why do you want me--"

Stanislofsky begins speaking. "The most recent incident, one that occurred early this morning, is not in that report." His English is heavily accented, but precise.

He relates the events. One guard dead, the other, Steve Johnson, is hospitalized under heavy sedation. No weapon found, no perpetrator found, nothing. Only Johnson's crazed ramblings.

My interest is piqued now. "Did a second alarm sound?"

"No, only the first. And, as with the others, there initially appeared to be no reason. But this time..."

I break the silence. "I'm still not sure why you want me--"

Kochanski starts in, "This case is a little out of the ordinary. I've got great agents but, uhh... Well, hmmm... I've been asked by Mr. Stanislofsky here to, uh..."

Grinning at his discomfort, I decide to play along. "You mean, this is an X-File? I'm not in that unit anymore. You need to call Jeffrey Spender."

"Uhh, well, no. I mean..."

Stanislofsky interrupts. "My... superiors are aware of your skills. We believe your, how shall we say... experience will be most useful in this investigation. You were specifically requested to work with our man on this."

"Your man?" I ask, glancing at Kochanski, who looks surprised.

"Yes, our man." He looks at Kochanski and continues, "This is arranged at the highest level. He and Agent Mulder will oversee the investigation. You, Mr. Kochanski, will provide whatever they need."

Kochanski's already thin lips tighten to a line, and he begins to sputter.

Stanislofsky stands and leans over Kochanski. "As I said, this was arranged at the highest level." He straightens up. "Gentlemen, we should be on our way. Agent Mulder, I suggest you pack for a one week trip."

**

Tuesday, 2:00 P.M.
FBI Field Office
New York City, New York

I make my way to a briefing room, ignoring the stares and whispers of the other agents. "... Spooky--", "... aliens and UFO's--"

Kochanski and another agent are sitting in the briefing room. As I enter, the unnamed agent's eyes narrow and he looks me over.

I match his stare. Easy to profile, ex-jock, ex-military... kicks his dog... little dick.

"Mulder." Kochanski's voice causes the other agent to blink. Ha! I win.

Without smirking, I turn to Kochanski.

"Mulder, this is Agent Barlow. This was his assignment. He'll brief you while we wait for Stanislofsky."

Barlow stands, all five foot eight of him. Running his hand over his blond crew cut, he puffs out his going-to-flab chest and glares at me. I half expect him to start pissing on the table... marking his territory.

"Get this straight," he begins. "I caught the call. I don't like it when I lose an assignment. Especially to someone like you. But I respect the Bureau and my superiors. I do my job the right way."

I smile at Barlow. "Thanks for sharing. Let's get on with this so I can do the right job... the wrong way."

His eyes widen and he starts toward me. Kochanski stops him with a curt, "Agent."

The tension is broken by Stanislofsky's entrance. "Gentlemen, have we interrupted you?" He pauses, then steps into the room. "Permit me to introduce our... operative, Aleksandr Krycek."

My eyes widen, I feel the blood rush to my head and, in the next moment, I've got Krycek pinned to the wall, my fist drawing back.

I'm pulled away instantly. Barlow's arm around my neck, his other hand pulling mine up between my shoulder blades. He's using more force than needed... payback. He wheels me around and pushes me away.

Kochanski starts yelling, "Mulder! What in the blazes do you think you're doing? You're going on re--"

"No." Krycek's voice is low and calm, but still heard. We all look at him as he smoothes his shirt and jacket. "Mulder is vital to this case. Once the assignment is over, you can deal with him. But for now, forget this... incident."

Krycek moves to the table and takes a seat. He looks at me, "Agent?" his hand motioning to the chair in front of him.

As if on cue, the rest of us sit around the conference table. I glare at Krycek, knowing I can't touch him here... but there's always later.

Copies of the file are passed around as Barlow begins briefing us on what little he has. He drones on in the typical bone-dry, FBI reporting way. I must have missed that class at the academy.

Suppressing a yawn, I interrupt him. "Where's the interview with the other guard... Steve Johnson?"

With a patronizing look, Barlow says, "We're not going to get anything from him. He's in shock, or something. Just babbles about a burning car or some other loony-toon thing."

"Is he a suspect? He was the only witness, I'm sure I--"

"Mulder, drop it. He's just an under-educated rent-a-cop. He knows squat." Barlow's tone indicates his disdain for security guards. His father must have been one.

Tuning him out, I focus on the report in front of me. Almost identical to the one I read in D.C., with two additional sheets on the latest incident. No blood on the walls this time... just a dead body.

The silence in the room pulls me out of my thoughts. Lifting my head, I find four sets of eyes looking at me. Turning to Barlow, I smile. "Thank you. You may go now."

He stands and starts sputtering at me, but before he can make an intelligible statement, Stanislofsky nods and exits the room. After a moment Kochanski and Barlow follow.

It's just him and me. Alex Krycek, betrayer, assassin. The man responsible for my father's death, for Scully's abduction, looks back at me placidly.

He leans forward. "You did well at Wiekamp. The Resistance thanks you." His voice, low and gravelly.

I feel my hand on my cheek, touching where he kissed me. His smile stops me from what's become an unconscious habit.

"Krycek. I need a scorecard to figure out who's paying you these days. So who is it? The Russians? The Resistance? Or are you back in the loving arms of the Consortium?"

He leans back, a brief smile playing on his lips. "In a word, yes. To all three." He looks out the window. "You do what you must to survive. But enough of that. Let me tell you what's not in the FBI report.

"The scientists in Tunguska were able to develop a vaccine. The Russian analysts here in the US are working on computer models, distribution vectors. The what-ifs of colonization, of vaccine distribution. Through me, the Russians are collaborating with the Consortium on the use and distribution of the vaccine through their ranks. What the Consortium doesn't know is that the Resistance is also backing the Russians, for the vaccine to be used world wide."

I look at him. The Consortium and the Resistance, with Krycek and the Russians in the middle.

He continues, "Oh, don't believe for a moment that the Resistance cares about the human race. They see the vaccine as a way to thwart the Colonists. But both sides are counting on these analysis centers. The ones that have been vandalized."

I nod, beginning to understand. "We need to find out who's doing this. It can't be the Resistance, and if it's not the Consortium, then it's some other entity. One we don't know about."

**

I watch Mulder, not really listening to him. Give him something about the Consortium, about the colonization, just a little of the truth, and he becomes enraptured. He doesn't even notice he's touching his cheek again. Right where I kissed him.

This case was made for him, full of extreme possibilities.

**

Tuesday, 4:00 P.M.
Mercy Hospital, Psychiatric Ward
New York City, New York

Krycek stands behind me as I start speaking with Steve Johnson, the surviving security guard.

In a sedated, slurry voice, Johnson relates what happened. "Me and Ricky was--"

"Ricky?" I ask.

"Yeah, Ricky. En-Ree-Kay Mo-Ray-No. He tol' me I could call him 'Ricky' if he could call me 'Esteban.' Ess-Tay-Bon. He was a great guy, man. One in a million. Yeah, we usta grab a beer after work. Nuthin' better 'en beer and cornflakes for breakfast. A lot of the Cuban guys, they stick together, but not Ricky. He was regular, you know, like a white guy."

I stop Johnson's ruminations. "Tell me what happened."

He looks at me bleary-eyed. "Man, he's dead, ain't he?" Tears form and slowly roll down his cheeks. "Shit, it wasn't like anything I ever... We checked out an alarm, but it musta been a short or somthin' 'cause we dint find anything."

Johnson reaches for water and misses. I lift the cup and put the straw in his mouth. Loud slurp, then a gulping swallow.

"Where was I? Oh, so we're leavin' when Ricky says somethin' 'bout smellin' a Camaro. He musta meant leather or rubber. I had a Camaro when I was a kid, leather bucket seats, four on th' floor... in Buffalo. You ever been to Buffalo? Pretty piss-ant."

Gently, I guide Johnson back to his story.

"Yeah, sorry. Then he says 'Burnt,' and the next thing is he's across the room. I dint see him move, but his head... Oh shit." He covers his face with his hands, his body quaking with heavy sobs.

A nurse enters the room and sees Johnson in distress. "Gentlemen, you have to leave... now."

**

Tuesday, 8:30 P.M.
FBI Field Office
New York City, New York

I drop a carton of Pad Thai in front of Mulder. He reaches for it, absently opening the carton and eating.

We spent the last four hours reviewing reports, crime scene photographs and the collected physical evidence. We went to suite 2406, the scene of the last crime, but there was nothing there. The crime-lab drones released it to the tenants. Whatever else may have happened, the perpetrators didn't get the chance to trash the offices. Or leave any evidence.

"What do you think the Camaro business was about?" I ask, eating out of my own carton.

"Not a car. He was saying 'burnt.' Spanish for burnt is cemada, Johnson didn't know that. Moreno was born in Cuba, his family came over when he was seven, so it stands to reason that he's fluent in Spanish. Probably thought in Spanish." Mulder taps his lips with his chopsticks. "So Moreno smells something burnt... Johnson didn't. Or doesn't remember."

Suddenly, his eyes open wide and he grabs the crime scene photos. "Here, here and here." Each word punctuated with a stab of his finger.

"Mulder, what are you--"

He picks up an evidence vial. "The smears on the wall. The blood." A slow smile breaks over his face as he grabs his cell phone. "Scully, it's me. Yeah, I'm sending a sample to you. I need to know if it's chicken blood."

I can only imagine Scully's reply.

"Yeah, I know it's late, but I got... 'Kay. You'll get me the results tomorrow. Huh? No. I'll call the Gunmen later. I'm sure it can wait." He folds his cell and flips it in the air.

Making sure I look adequately awestruck, I catch his attention. "Mulder." He looks at me, eyes dancing. "You know what's going on."

"Yeah, I think I do." He leans back. "But I need to know about the blood first."

"What do you mean?"

"It's a hunch, but there's evidence. Better evidence if it is chicken blood."

I widen my eyes in understanding and see Mulder smile.

Clearing my throat and nodding, I begin to speak. "Blood, animal blood. The burning smell. A hex? Witchcraft?"

His smile widens. "A trabajo. A Santeria spell. And a doozy at that."

Got him. Hook, line and sinker.

**

Krycek sits back, thinking for a moment. "Santeria... isn't that voodoo?"

"Sort of, but not really. It's a religion, originated by slaves brought to Cuba and Brazil. It combines the worship of traditional Yoruban deities with the worship of Roman Catholic saints. That's what Santeria means, 'the way of the saints.'"

I'm about to educate Krycek on the genesis of Santeria when he starts speaking. "The Yoruba... eight hundred years of civilization, brought down by the slave trade. They worshipped gods, Orishas I think they were called."

My eyebrows rise. I'm surprised he knows this. "Yeah, the tribes of the Yoruba were decimated--"

"That means one in ten, you know."

"Don't be a smart ass, Krycek, you know what I mean. They were a majority of the slave trade. As slaves, they were punished for their heathen worship. The Catholics felt some level of guilt, so slaves were baptized en masse." I shake my head. "We'll destroy your life, but make sure you get into heaven.

"The slaves began to worship the Catholic saints as a guise. They worshipped Shango as Saint Barbara, Jesus was Olodumare. The Santeria priests, the santeros, were allowed to keep their basic rituals, as long as the gods worshipped were the known saints of Catholicism."

Krycek nods. "So after three or four hundred years, the religion still exists. With rituals, spells, charms and... what was that word you used?"

"Trabajo. It means a 'work.' The santeros use the power of saints and ancestors to cast trabajos. Usually they're small things, luck charms, trabajitos--a little work. But this... this is a big work. This santero has to be really powerful."

"What did this santero do exactly?"

"I think he stopped time."

Krycek's jaw drops.

**

Wednesday, 2:00 A.M.
Marriot Hotel, Room 1542
New York City, New York.

I'm still wired. I keep going to the door adjoining my room to Krycek's, but stop short each time.

We spoke long into the night. Santeria. Moreno was Cuban, maybe sensitive to the workings of a santero. Krycek asked question after question, accepted my answers, not once mentioning improbability. He believes me... almost unconditionally.

I think back to our last exchange, in the hallway in front of our rooms. "I'm not sure I understand it," he said, "but it fits. Good work." He held his hand out, and I surprised myself when I shook it.

Forcing myself to remember who he is, what he's done, is the only way I have to keep my enthusiasm about him at bay. Memories tumble through my brain. I remember the night he killed Augustus Cole, the night he thought he was saving my life. Flashes of the young, green agent I began to trust... only to be betrayed.

These thoughts are replaced by other violent memories. My fist connecting with his body. Leaning over him, my gun to his head. Throwing him against a bank of phones in Hong Kong. Each time, my body pressed against his, the heat of the fight raging through me... almost as hot as the heat from my--

A knock on the door brings me out of my reverie. I'm startled to find I've got a partial erection.

"Mulder, you awake?"

"Yeah, gimme a minute." I stand at the adjoining door, waiting for my hard-on to subside.

He's in a T-shirt and boxers, his hair is mussed. One arm missing. I was so caught up in the case, I didn't realize he had been wearing a prosthetic arm. I try not to stare at something that isn't there anymore.

"I couldn't sleep," he says with a sheepish grin.

Of all the expressions I've seen on his face--anger, arrogance, fear, awe--I've never seen sheepish.

**

Mulder steps back to let me into his room. I sit at the edge of the bed.

"Make yourself at home," he says, somewhat sarcastically.

I shake my head, acting embarrassed, but feeling excited. I love it when my plans fall into place. "I need to talk to you about something. Something I couldn't bring up at the field office."

Mulder takes a chair from the table, moves it so we're face to face, then sits. Looking at me expectantly, he says, "Well?"

"It's about Tunguska, and maybe this case."

He glances at the stump of my left arm.

I catch him at it and pretend to be disturbed. "If it bothers you, I'll put the arm on."

"No, sorry. Tunguska?"

I nod slowly, looking as earnest as possible. "About Tunguska. You were infected with the black oil and tested with the same vaccine the Russians are modeling. The Consortium and the Resistance know this. You've been targeted by the Consortium to be captured and tested further. You're the proof of concept. They want to see if you can be infected again."

Moments pass as I give him time to digest this. "The Resistance wants you, too. For what exactly, I don't know, but I have some ideas."

"Why are you telling me this? Don't you work for them?"

"Mulder, it doesn't matter who I work for. I've been hearing bits and pieces, and it all adds up to the same thing. I don't know if it'll be the Consortium or the Resistance, but one of them will take you."

"You didn't answer me. Why are you telling me this?"

Bringing my hand up, I rub my chin, as if in contemplation. I lower my voice to a harsh whisper to tell him, "Because I'm your best chance of staying free. Of being safe." I pause dramatically, mimicking a man torn. "And keeping you alive is my best chance at staying alive. Me and the rest of the human race. The Consortium, for that matter the Resistance, doesn't give a rat's ass about me... or you. You're just a means to their end."

Mulder's eyes narrow, and I can see him processing this information. "And how are you planning on keeping me safe? What does this have to do with the case?"

"It's a wild card. The Consortium doesn't like wild cards, but they're leveraging this one. They're the ones who got you assigned. I know they have an inside man in the New York field office, and I know his assignment. My orders are to 'conveniently' lose track of you. I suspect that's when they'll snatch you."

With a bewildered expression he asks, "Why this case? Why now?"

"There's too much visibility in D.C., and they need to protect their man, Kersh. They know this is the type of case you'd jump on. Especially now that you're off the X-Files. They also know you're apt to go off on your own, with an occasional call to Scully. They're counting on it." I pause to let this sink in. "They'll find you, then manufacture some cover-up, some accident. You'll end up a two-line squib, 'Remains of FBI agent found.'"

Making sure venom drips from my voice, I continue, "This is the kind of scheming the Consortium lives for."

I watch his eyes, wary, wondering... Now for the clincher. "You need me, Mulder. I'll know who's going to snatch you and how. I know what to look out for. I'm the one who's supposed to give the go-ahead."

**

Feeling Krycek's eyes burning into me, I sit back, stunned. My mind goes to Tunguska. Viscous black liquid on my face, the feeling of... No, no more.

I stand and start pacing the room. I can't--won't--let them use me. I stop pacing and close my eyes with the dawning realization that I may need Krycek... as much as he needs me.

His hand on my shoulder startles me. I turn to face him. Not for the first time, I notice how expressive his face is. He looks genuinely concerned.

Stepping away from him, still feeling the heat from his hand, I stop myself from reaching up to touch my cheek. "What about the Resistance? Why do they want me?"

"Like I said, I don't know exactly. I haven't gotten anything direct, but I know part of their plan is to expose the Consortium. If I had to bet, it would be that."

"It's in their best interest to keep me alive then. So I can expose th--"

His derisive snort stops me in mid sentence. "They don't need you alive," he says, shaking his head. "Finding you dead under mysterious circumstances is exposure enough. You think Scully's going to let that go? She'll find something, some remnant of what's been done to you. She'll bulldog it 'til she gets to the answer."

Rubbing my eyes, I ask, "Now what?"

"I know this sounds paranoid, but--" Krycek stops and laughs at his own statement. "Sorry, I suppose nothing sounds paranoid to you."

I don't understand the humor, so I motion for him to continue.

"We have to make sure I don't lose track of you, Mulder. I'll have to be with you every minute. Tomorrow, I'll stow your stuff in my room while you check out. We'll go pick up Scully's lab results, then we hide you in plain sight. While the Consortium hunts for you, I'll continue to act as if I'm working the case. Those are my orders, but it'll be more than an act. We will be working the case."

I nod at Krycek... my one-armed bodyguard, thinking about what he just said. "And once it's over? What's to stop them from taking me then?"

"You'll be delivered, safely, back to D.C. This window of opportunity, closed. Beyond that, I don't know."

I digest what he said. It was an honest answer, something I didn't think he was capable of. "How can I trust you? How do I know this isn't some kind of set up?"

His eyes narrow. "This isn't about trust. It's about survival. You've taken bigger chances than this." He pauses for a moment. "The choice is yours."

The thought of re-infection chills me, but so does relying on him. He's right though, I have taken bigger chances... with others sharing my risk. This time it's just me // and him. // I can live with that.

I watch him as he stands and heads to the adjoining room.

"I'm in, Krycek, but I'm watching you. If I don't like where it's going, I'm out."

He nods, then closes the door between us.

**

Wednesday, 1:00 P.M.
Little Havana Restaurant
New York City, New York

Krycek lifts his fork but stops halfway to say, "Santeria is still pretty underground. That's why we're having trouble getting information."

"Yeah," I say around a mouthful of plantains and rice.

After picking up the lab report, we spent the morning visiting botanicas and the few advertised santeros. It was pretty much a waste. The santeros seemed like religiously oriented palm readers, and the standard response from the botanica owners was, "No hablo Ingles."

My cell phone chirps. I pull it out of my jacket but, before I can answer, Krycek puts his hand on mine, stopping me.

"What?" I ask, confused.

"No cell phone. You're supposed to be missing. Remember?" Krycek answers in a harsh whisper.

"But what if it's--"

"Mulder, you cannot answer your calls. What if it's Kochanski?"

Indignant, I reply, "I'll look before--"

"Bullshit, you never check. Let the calls go into voicemail. If it's important, you can call back on a land line. Now, hand it over."

We stare at each other. Where does he get off, taking my cell? I'm not giving it up without a fight.

"Mulder," he says, not blinking, not wavering. "We can't afford a scene here. If you want to play into the Consortium's hands, then keep the damned phone. Answer every call." He breaks the stare and starts eating again.

"Ahh, shit." I slide the phone toward him.

He takes it, turns it off and drops it into his coat pocket.

We continue our lunch in silence. I miss my phone.

"Mulder," Krycek suddenly speaks, "when are we going to interview Moreno's widow?"

"I don't know. I didn't really think about it."

Krycek's brows knit. "Moreno may have known of Santeria." He's speaking slowly, as if giving voice to an idea that's just forming. "Wouldn't it stand to reason that his wife would know, too?"

I feel a smile break over my face, and I complete his thought, "And she would help us. If she knows we're trying to bring his killer to justice, she will help us."

**

Wednesday, 2:30 P.M.
New York City, New York.

"Mulder, pull a fast left," I tell him, looking at the rear-view mirror.

"Wha--"

"Just do it. We're being followed." The urgency in my voice spurs him on.

He speeds around the corner, horns blaring in our wake.

Turning right, then left again, he drives on until I let him know we shook the tail.

Pulling over to the curb, he stops and closes his eyes. "Consortium?"

"No. We lost them too easily. I don't know."

After a moment, he pulls back on the road and heads to the Bronx.

**

Krycek and I walk up three flights of stairs to the apartment of Enrique and Consuelo Moreno.

My knock is answered by a woman in her mid-thirties. Short dark hair, light complexion, slender build.

"Mrs. Moreno?"

She nods her assent.

"I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder with the FBI. Can we speak with you?"

She steps back and lets us in. I wonder if she noticed that Krycek wasn't introduced.

The living room is small but comfortable, tidy. She sits in an overstuffed chair and motions to the sofa. I sit nearest to her; Krycek positions himself at the far end.

"Mrs. Moreno--"

"Is this about Enrique?"

"Yes. I'm sorry for your loss, but we have reason to suspect that Enrique may have had some clue, some inkling that--"

Her eyes widen in fear. "No, the doctors. They said he didn't feel any pain..."

Krycek moves to her, soothes her by saying, "That's right, it happened so quickly he wouldn't have felt anything. But Steve Johnson said Enrique smelled something just before... the accident."

She scoffs. "That Steve, that basura. He used to get my Enrique drunk. But Enrique, he likes... liked him."

I take a deep breath and look at Krycek. By unspoken accord, Krycek takes the lead. "Mrs. Moreno--"

"Connie, call me Connie." She tells him with a smile.

How did he do that? Get her to smile like that?

He returns her smile and continues, "Connie, did Enrique practice or know someone who practiced Santeria?"

We're met with silence. Her quizzical look prompts Krycek to add, "There were other, similar crimes. At these crime scenes we found rooster blood. We suspect--"

She holds up her hand to stop him. "Enrique's family. His tio--uncle, is a great santero in Cuba. Enrique was to be his, how you say... apprentice. That all stopped when he came to the States. His family, they still practice, they still go to ceremonies. But Enrique doesn't... didn't. He said that there was no place for Santeria in America." She pauses for a moment. "But I think he still believed," she adds sadly.

Krycek looks at me, eyes wide.

I start speaking to Connie. "Is there anyone who can help us? We need to find a santero. A great santero. Someone who can do trabajo grande."

Smiling at my abominable accent, she asks, "Will this help you find my Enrique's killer?"

"We hope so."

She sits back for a moment--her eyes glittering with hatred and revenge. "I will take you to his family."

**

Wednesday, 4:00 P.M.
New York City, New York.

Krycek's at the wheel and we're stuck in rush hour traffic. The visit with Moreno's parents gave us the names of three santeros. Moreno's father phoned each, and they've all agreed to see us.

"Krycek?"

"Hmm?" He turns to look at me.

"How did you get Connie Moreno to warm up to you like that?"

I watch a slow smile come over his face. "It was my poise and charm. Not to mention my boyish good looks."

Glaring at him. "No, seriously. How did you know what to do?"

He shrugs and replies, "I don't know, really. I was nice to her."

"And I wasn't?"

He presses his lips together for a moment. "You're driven, Mulder. Sometimes you're so intent on getting to the truth... to the point, you forget you're dealing with a person. She was hurting and I responded to that."

I stare out into traffic. His words cut into me. I know he's right, but still, to be told by... him.

Feeling his hand on my arm, I turn to look at him.

"Mulder, it's all right. Really." Alex Krycek, the empathetic assassin.

**

Wednesday, 5:30 P.M.
Botanica Mistica
New York City, New York.


We're led to a back room in the botanica. Krycek enters first, looks around, then motions for me to follow.

There are rows of folding chairs facing an altar. Against one wall are drums, bowls and colored bolts of fabric.

"Sit. At the front." The voice of the botanica owner behind us, who can suddenly habla Ingles.

We move up to the first row of chairs and sit. Moments later, three men enter the... church.

They're all dressed casually. The oldest is short, five feet tall with a full head of white hair and light eyes... blue or gray. The next man is tall and heavyset with thick, wavy black hair. The last, a muscular black man in his early-twenties.

The heavyset man picks up a chair and places it facing us. Surprisingly, the young black man sits down and is flanked by the other two. Moments pass in silence, then he finally speaks. "I am Roberto Villalobos, I will speak for us." His voice is soothing, a slight accent making it lyrical.

I nod, licking my lips. "Thank you for allowing us to speak with you. We hope you can help us identify the maker of a--"

Villalobos stops me. "Yes, Jesus Moreno told us you seek a santero who can work a big magic. Tell us how you know it is Santeria."

I explain the evidence we found, the rooster blood and the burning smell. How Enrique Moreno was Santeria sensitive. The santeros nod as I tell them of the case, the alarms sounding, how nothing is found.

"And what magic, what trabajo do you think was used?"

"I think he can stop time."

Villalobos' eyes grow wide. I see the white-haired man clutch his shoulder. The three of them bring their heads together, speaking in rapid Spanish.

I look at Krycek. He returns a slight nod. We're on to something now.

The three men continue their urgent whispering, stopping when Villalobos raises his hand. He looks at us and begins to speak. "We have promised to help you. But what you speak of..." Villalobos looks to either side of him, gaining strength from the men with him. "There are rumors, of a man... He began his initiation in Cuba and came here to finish with a babalawo in New Jersey."

Villalobos takes a deep breath and continues. "I do not know how much of our way you understand, but in order to be a santero, you become consecrated to an orisha... a saint. The saint guides and protects the santero during our rituals. This man, he had not finished his initiation, was not yet consecrated. And he violated our practice by performing a bembe, a drumming ritual, and the spirit that entered him is not one worshipped by us.

"It is said that he practices macumba...evil craft. He left his home, his family. And we have not heard of him since."

Krycek clears his throat. "Do you know this man? Would he still be alive?"

Villalobos looks at Krycek. "I will contact you."

Krycek hands him a slip of paper with his cell phone number. "Mr. Villalobos, would this man still be alive?"

Looking down, Villalobos replies, "It's possible. He would be forty now. His name is Octavio Villalobos. He was my father."

**

Wednesday, 11:00 P.M.
Marriot Hotel, Room 1544
New York City, New York.

We step into Krycek's room; it's a mirror image of the one I checked out of. "Krycek, there's only one damned bed."

"Mulder," his voice, weary, "if I check out now and into a room with double beds, I may as well get a flashing neon sign with the words 'Mulder's Here!'"

I know he's right, but crap. I don't want to sleep with him. // You sure? //

Sitting on the bed, I look around the close quarters I'll be sharing with... him. How do I make myself comfortable under these conditions? Less than thirty-six hours ago, I was ready to beat him to a pulp. Now, I'm relying on him to keep me safe.

**

Mulder sulks about the room, all the while touching his cheek.

Should I bring that little unconscious act to his attention? No... at least not yet.

**

Thursday, 2:45 A.M.
Marriot Hotel, Room 1544
New York City, New York

Night... I hate it. I'm left alone, with my brain on overdrive. Thoughts spin and shift. Visions, images, fragments... that all lead back to Alex Krycek.

What forces keep bringing him into my life? I remember my initial disdain of him, disdain that changed into... into what? I began to trust him, and with that trust came attraction.

Then his betrayal and my anger at him... and myself. I let him in. I... // you can say it... 'wanted' // I wanted him.

And every encounter after that, sublimating my lust by beating him. Except once. I reach up and touch my cheek, recalling the feel of his lips. That kiss, almost as electric as my fists connecting with his body.

More images, violent, rough... sexual. Fantasies of him helpless as I beat him... not fantasies. Krycek never fought back. My dick grows harder as I think of him taking it. Taking me... up his ass. Hard slams against him that will leave more than bruises.

I get out of bed and go to the bathroom, the need for release overpowering me.

**

Mulder's tuned tighter than a drum head. I feel him almost vibrating next to me.

I open my eyes when he gets up, and watch as he heads to the bathroom. The light clicks on, and he's visible long enough for me to take in his face... and the erection pushing against his sweats.

His face... anguished, but predatory. A warrior saint in a seventeenth century painting. The war between good and evil playing out on his countenance.

The erection... well, that's interesting.

**

I step out of the bathroom. Shit. When was the last time I had to jack off in a bathroom?

Careful not to wake him, I ease back into bed. I'm relieved and shamed... but maybe now I can get some sleep.

**

Thursday, 7:00 A.M.
Marriot Hotel, Room 1544
New York City, New York

The phone rings, and I hear Krycek's groggy voice answer. "Hello? Yeah, thanks." Hanging up, he shakes his head and looks at me. "Wake up call." In the next instant, he's alert and ready.

He throws off the blankets, exposing the typical morning erection pushing against his boxers. "Did you sleep well?" he asks on his way to the bathroom.

"Took a while, but yeah." I say, speaking to his hard-on.

"I know. You were tossing and turning."

Feeling suddenly embarrassed, I look up into his face. "Were you awake?"

With a casual grin, he replies, "On the edge, it doesn't pay to sleep deeply in my line of work." The door closes behind him.

Ten minutes later, a naked Krycek emerges from the bathroom, steam billowing behind him and a towel around his neck. He stands in front of the mirror and starts shaving.

I can't help but stare at him. His broad shoulders, the muscular back that tapers to his ass. His ass is a work of art, curved, powerful. This does nothing to stem the flow of blood pounding through my now awake erection.

If I move fast, I can get into the bathroom without him noticing I'm playing pup-tent under my sweats.

**

Mulder moves quickly into the bathroom in an unsuccessful attempt to hide his hard-on. In his haste, he doesn't lock the door behind him.

I wait until I hear the shower start, then a single knock, and a "Mulder, I gotta piss," as I enter.

**

My brain registers the knock a second too late. I turn my back to the glass shower doors in the hopes that Krycek didn't catch the silhouette of me jacking off.

I look over my shoulder and see him, or rather, the blurred, distorted outline of him. He's standing still, looking down in that familiar posture.

He leans forward, flushes, then leaves.

I look down at my fist, still clutching my cock; it never softened during that interruption.

**

Thursday, 1:50 P.M.
Russian Tea Room
The Bronx

Krycek and I arrive early and wait for Roberto Villalobos.

"What to you think Mulder? Could our guy be Villalobos' father?"

"I don't know. All you found on him were immigration papers and a missing persons report. No DMV, never applied for public assistance. The only thing we're sure of is he's been missing for eight years."

There's a gentle cough behind us, and the maitre d' seats Roberto at our table. A festive array of pastries is laid out, as is a samovar.

Roberto looks around the room, then down at the delicate cup and saucer before him. "My father spoke of places like this. He visited Moscow and Saint Petersburg."

Krycek begins, "Mr. Villalobos, your father disappeared eight years ago, how old were you at the time?"

"I was fourteen. We left Cuba when I was thirteen." His voice is musical, soft yet strong, tinged with an accent... 'Cooba' not 'Cue-ba.'

I take in information we already knew, then ask, "Your father was 31... isn't that kind of old to be an apprentice?"

Villalobos smiles wistfully. "No...maybe. One is chosen to be a santero, age doesn't matter." He sips his tea and continues, "I was chosen. My training started when I was young, eight or nine. My father would take me to my..." He pauses, searching for the word, "classes. He would sit with me, listening to the stories, the history.

"The santero sensed my father's spirit... said the orishas chose him to initiate. My father progressed much faster than I did. He became medio asiento in less than... " He stops, looking at us as if suddenly realizing we're there. He shakes his head and smiles ruefully. "I'm sorry, you are aleyo--outsiders. It's too much to explain our ways to you. Tell me why you called me here."

I clear my throat. "May I call you Roberto?" He nods, and I continue, "Roberto, you said you believe your father may be capable of performing a spell powerful enough to stop time. Is that correct?"

"If the rumors are true, it's possible. Macumba is powerful; we don't even speak of it. Only the babalawo are strong enough..." Roberto's words trail off as he looks away, lost in thought.

Minutes pass in stillness. Each time I try to break the silence, Krycek stops me with a hand on my arm or a subtle shake of his head.

Still staring vacantly, Roberto starts speaking again. "I have tried to forget my father. To live as though he was dead. Now you come, looking for him." He looks at us, face weary, looking older than he did moments ago. He sighs heavily. "I will speak to my babalawo. If he agrees, I will bring you to him."

Roberto stands to leave. I'm not finished with him but Krycek stops me again. What is it with him?

**

Thursday, 5:30 P.M.
Marriot Hotel, Room 1544
New York City, New York

Krycek holds the phone away from his ear.

I hear Kochanski's tinny voice, screaming, "...not with you? He hasn't shown up here since yesterday, missed the daily stat--"

Bringing his lips to the mouthpiece Krycek says, in the coolest of voices, "He is your agent. I'm calling in as a courtesy. He's checked out of his room and is nowhere to be found. I'm going to call Mr. Stanislofsky now to apprise him of the situation." Not waiting for a reply, Krycek hangs up.

He dials another number and I hear a one-sided conversation in Russian. No clue to what he's saying.

When he's finished, he turns to me. "Okay, Mulder, you're officially M.I.A. The field office operative will get the message back to the Consortium. I'm still working the case... the vandalism has to stop. And I'll be around to watch your back, as long as you let me know what's going on."

"Whadda you mean?"

"You ditch me, you're dead." He delivers this with a calm voice, but his face shows how seriously he's taking this... how concerned he is. He licks his lips and puts a hand on my shoulder. "As much as you may want to rush out on your own, don't. Your kidnapping's in motion now. They know how to pick up your trail. They will find you."

"I won't ditch you, I can't afford to." I instinctively reach up and place my hand on his. His eyes widen at the touch. Shit, what am I doing?

**

Mulder covers his look of surprise by hastily getting up and pacing. He doesn't realize he's touching his cheek again. This is playing out faster than I expected... good.

He starts speaking. "We need to talk to that babalawo. Yeah, we need to find out from the botanicas who's bought roosters and sugar lately." His rambling continues at breakneck speed, words tumble over each other. His head is down and his pacing becomes frenetic.

I let him go on for a bit, then physically put myself in his way. He bumps into me and looks up startled.

"Mulder, calm down." I put my hand on his chest. "I can't follow half of what you're saying."

**

I feel the heat of Krycek's hand on my chest. // Can he feel my heart pounding? //

His look of concern is almost too much. It takes the hard edges away, showing how truly handsome he is. He blinks and licks his lips nervously... or am I just seeing nervous because I am nervous?

Not realizing I'm doing it, I lean forward and kiss him. He stiffens and pulls back from me. Shit! What the hell am I doing?

"Uh, Mulder..." His fingers touch his lips. "I, uh... I've never..."

Crap! Fuck! I turn away as fast as I can. Shit! There's nowhere to go in this damned room.

"Mulder..." His hand on my shoulder gently turns me to him. His eyes, scared, conflicted. // As conflicted as I am? //

He swallows then continues. "I don't know how to say this... I'm not gay. But I've thought about... this. About you..." He shakes his head. "There's too much history, too much at stake."

Stepping back, he breaks our tenuous contact and says, "I don't know if I can brush this aside... if I want to brush it aside. I--"

His cell phone chirps and he looks simultaneously relieved and annoyed. He answers the cell with a terse, "Hello." A long pause, then, "At nine o'clock? We'll be there."

He looks up at me. "That was Roberto. We've got a meeting with his babalawo at that store... church." He still looks uncomfortable. "Let's get out of here. Walk around, maybe get dinner. Chinatown sound good?"

"Yeah, 'kay." At least the chopsticks will keep me occupied.

**

Thursday, 7:45 P.M.
Mott Street
New York City, New York

"... different from Hong Kong Chinese food, but I guess you knew tha--" Suddenly, Krycek pulls me into an alley. "What th--"

He pushes me against the wall, hand covering my mouth. "Shhh." His harsh whisper lets me know he's serious... dead serious.

I nod to let him know I've got it, and he pulls his hand away. He motions with his head, and I follow him down the alley.

We stand between two dumpsters. Krycek looks back to where we had been. "Shit," he says under his breath. He looks at me and whispers, "Goons on the way. Do what I tell you."

Before I can respond, he spins me so I'm facing the wall. "Undo your pants. Now!" I'm fumbling with my belt and zipper when I hear his, "Push your pants down. Fast."

He leans against me, his arm braced by my head. "Don't say a word, don't look around."

I feel his hips rock against me in mock sex. I hear footsteps coming closer. He starts pumping faster, a low moan coming from deep in his throat. Is it real? My cock seems to think so, I push my ass back matching his movements.

"Goddamn faggots." The sound of footsteps and voices grow distant. A faint "not him" the last thing I hear.

He stops his pumping. "They're gone. Let's get out of here."

I stay facing the wall, waiting for my hard-on to subside. It's going nowhere fast. "I, uh, can't."

"Christ, Mulder. Zip up. No one'll notice." His voice, a combination of nervousness and exasperation.

**

Thursday, 8:35 P.M.
La Tasita
New York City, New York.

Krycek and I sit in a coffeehouse next to the botanica, passing time until our appointment. I keep up an inane conversation. He responds with single words and grunts... as if he's not paying attention.

Krycek's been pensive since the incident in the Chinatown alley. I don't know if it was because of the close call, or his form of subterfuge.

I've wanted to bring it up. Where did he get the idea to disguise us as two guys fucking? I admit it worked // better than you can imagine // but why that?

He stares at his coffee, stirring it, the spoon tinkling against the rim.

"Krycek, you're gonna have butter if you keep churning that."

He smiles wanly. "Mulder, I think you should meet the babalawo alone."

"But--"

"No. I need to keep watch. I don't think we were followed, but I can't be sure."

"Krycek, that little ruse in the alley shook them off. I'm positive."

He looks away for a moment, shamefaced. Rubbing his face he mutters, "I didn't stay alive this long by assuming my ruses work."

I don't know why, but I want to reassure him, appease him. "'Kay. I'll go it alone. But how do we connect when I'm done?"

My assent surprises him into looking at me... finally.

"I'll be close enough. We'll meet when you leave the botanica." Then he goes back to staring at his coffee cup.

Enough of this. "Krycek, what's going on with you? I can't handle you being like this."

**

It's about damned time, Mulder. I was wondering how long it would take.

I look at him, making my eyes glitter in anger. "Being like what?"

"I don't know... You're just--"

"What the fuck do you expect, Mulder? The mission I signed up for didn't include discussing your homoerotic fantasies, or how I fit into them."

He sits back, stunned, the look on his face telling me I'm right. He wasn't expecting that... wrong, he just didn't think I figured it out.

I start in again. "Nor am I equipped to handle how you're making me feel. You... you're sending signals brighter than the lights on Broadway. This shit is a little outside my realm." I close my eyes and take a deep breath.

"Krycek?" His voice soft, almost comforting.

"Yeah," I reply, opening my eyes to look at him, making sure there's the barest hint of anguish there.

"I don't... I'm..." He looks at his watch. "We'd better go, it's almost time." A look of concern crosses his face as he rises and waits for me to join him.

I'm surprised at Mulder's sudden solicitousness. I knew playing him this way would get results, I just didn't think it would happen this quickly.

Good bit of luck, those guys in the alley. Couldn't have worked out better if I had planned it in advance.

**

Thursday, 9:00 P.M.
Botanica Mistica
New York City, New York.

The botanica owner gives us a 'not-you-again' look when we enter. He sidles up and says, sotto voce, "Go through the curtain. At the door, knock four times."

Krycek gives me a nod, and heads to the front door.

I walk through the curtain, to the single door and knock.

Roberto Villalobos opens the door and motions me in. A quizzical look crosses his face and he asks, "Where is your partner?"

"He's checking out... another lead. Did you need us both?"

"No, I suppose not. Follow me."

He leads me to a smaller room behind the altar. There's an old man sitting in a bean-bag chair, the only furniture in the room.

Roberto sits cross-legged on the floor and motions for me to join him. The three of us face each other, like points of a triangle.

In the silence I look at the old man. He's rail thin and wrinkled. His hands gnarled, hard labor and arthritis having taken its toll. His rheumy eyes look back at me.

"Babalawo, this is the man I spoke of." Respect, no, awe fills Roberto's voice. "He is trying to find Enrique's killer."

I clear my throat. "Yes sir. I think I kn--"

"Roberto has told me who you are. Who you seek." The old man says in a quiet voice, a tired voice. "Octavio Villalobos... I have performed a divination and know that he lives. That he is evil, a macumba."

Silence... I hate silence. "If you can..."

The babalawo raises his hand. "I have no sway over the spirits that use him. They are closed to me and I am grateful. I cannot know if he is the man who did the trabajo, but I know where you can find him."

Roberto's eyes widen and he leans forward. "He's alive, my--"

"He is not your father, Beto," the old man says sharply. "Your father died. This man is not of our world, or any world we are part of."

Roberto drops his head. He shudders with an inward breath. Regaining his composure, he looks up at the babalawo, his eyes dead. "I will leave you to speak freely." He gets up in a fluid motion and departs.

The babalawo watches him leave, a deep sigh sharing Roberto's pain. "Beto is a good man, a good santero. I did not want to hurt him."

Part of my mind is screaming 'Screw that... where's his father?' but then I remember Krycek's words... I'm so driven, I forget the person. I will wait patiently.

Finally, the babalawo looks at me. "You, too, have pain from loss of a loved one."

How the hell can he know that? "I... I lost my sister. A long time ago."

"Yes, and you have let that pain rule you. You search but feel empty." He nods at me. "Continue your search. It is what keeps you alive."

Shit, this is getting freaky even for me. "I will, I do."

"But there is something else, someone close... he will help your pain, fill your emptiness."

What is he talking about? "I don't under--"

"It is not something you can understand." He closes his eyes. Leaving me to my thoughts.

Moments pass in silence. I drum my fingers on my knees and notice my feet are starting to tingle.

"I have seen his altar." The babalawo's voice startles me.

"You've been there?" I look at him, his eyes are still closed, but his face is calmer, smoother.

"No, a divination. I saw the abomination he worships, he sacrifices to." He starts rocking. "It is in a warehouse. Empty, except for the altar. I can hear the sounds of horns--boats. I can smell salt air... and blood."

"Do you know where this--"

"That was not revealed. But it must be close to the site of his trabajos." His eyes open, they're clearer now. "That is all I have."

"If I need to contact y--"

"We are finished. We will do no more." He says with finality, then closes his eyes.

"Mr. Mulder." Roberto's sudden appearance startles me.

I begin to stand but find my feet have fallen asleep. He holds his hand out to help me up.

When I'm standing I turn to thank the babalawo... but he's no longer there.

"Mr. Mulder. You must leave now."

"Roberto, where--"

"It is the word of babalawo. We are done." He turns and walks away.

Krycek greets me as I exit the botanica. "Well?"

I'm still trying to process what happened... all of it. "Yeah, got something." But what?

**

Thursday, 10:45 P.M.
Marriot Hotel, Room 1544
New York City, New York

I'm sitting on the bed, Krycek in a chair in front of me.

He didn't blink when I told him what the babalawo had to say. "Is that it? You were in there for a long time, Mulder."

I didn't share the information about Samantha or about someone close who will fill the... No, doesn't have anything to do with this case.

"He spent a lot of time in silence. Like he was meditating."

Krycek eyes dance with humor, "Oh, and you let him? Doesn't sound like the Mulder I know. Ten seconds of silence is about your limit."

I try to look offended, but I can't. Shaking my head. "Actually, I remembered something you told me. And for some reason it worked."

He starts laughing out loud. "Yeah, right. Next time you're in a mess you can ask yourself 'What would Alex Krycek do?'"

The picture painted in my head is so ludicrous, I start laughing, too.

It must be the tension of the day, but we can't stop laughing. Every time one of us starts to gain composure, the laughter starts again, harder.

"Oh, god. Stop." Krycek's voice is shaky and he's wiping tears from his eyes. He exhales and shakes his head. "Okay, enough. Whew."

"Uh, yeah... back to the warehouse." I struggle not to snicker. I put my head in my hands. If I don't look at him, I might have a chance. "It's his altar, not his home."

"We're looking for an abandoned warehouse, by the docks and close to Manhattan. Okay, at least it's a start." Krycek's voice is calm again.

Lifting my head, I find him looking at me. His eyes, soft and moist from our near-hysterics, capture me. He's waiting for me to go on, for me to decide what to do next. No questions, no pushback. It's strange... but nice.

I swallow before starting. "I, uhh, we need to canvas likely areas. It'll get done faster if we separ--"

"No."

"Krycek, I know you thi--"

"Mulder. No." He leans forward in his chair, his head inches away from mine. "They're after you. Without me, they'll get you, plain and simple." He's leaving no room for discussion.

I turn away from him. He's right, but I don't want any delays. I'm startled from these thoughts by his hand under my chin. He turns my head back to him.

"We'll find the warehouse." He looks deep into my eyes, and I find myself lost in their liquid green.

I hear my own breathing... my own heart beating. In the next moment, I'm kissing him. This time, he doesn't resist, but instead, kisses back.

His kiss moves from soft and gentle, entreating, to harder, demanding. I open my mouth to him, his tongue circles mine. He leans into me, his hand at the back of my head.

Reaching for him, I begin to unbutton his shirt.

He breaks the kiss and pulls away, startled. "I, uhh, I don't know what's going on here, Mulder." His voice is breathy, like he's been running. He runs his finger along his lips, drawing my eyes to his mouth. Lips still moist from our kiss, full, deep red...

**

Mulder's staring at my mouth, his own hanging open. His eyes have that glaze I associate with lust and confusion.

He's almost there, just a little more struggle...

**

Krycek sits back and runs his hand over his face.

Shit, I moved too fast. "Krycek?"

Looking at me, so damned confused. "Mulder. This is so far from what I expected. I'm a little shell-shocked."

He didn't say 'No' or 'Stop.' My dick tingles as I watch the emotions wash over him. I'll take it slow, invite him, not pursue.

I stand up and take off my shirt. He looks at me and licks his lips, his eyes moving down my body. He focuses on my erection, an awkward bulge in dress pants. "Tell me to stop, if you can't handle it."

He nods slowly, then reaches out and strokes me through my pants. A light touch that causes my sudden inward breath. He looks into my face, fingers still gently touching me. A smile--he likes what he sees. Likes what he's doing to me.

I unbuckle my belt and start to open my pants. Looking at him, my question left unspoken.

"Take them off." His voice catches, and he looks surprised.

Stripping as fast as I can, I end up with my hard dick at the level of his face. He pulls his head back. Damn, slow down, Mulder. He's not used to this.

"Mulder, I... I can't do that. I'm no--"

"No, you don't have to. You don't have to do anything." // Fuck that. //

He reaches out tentatively, and runs the tip of his finger on the head of my dick, rubbing pre-cum around the head. I bite off a moan and clench my fists. He looks up at me, watching my face as he starts to stroke me. I force my eyes to stay open, to look at him, to gauge what he's feeling. He gives me a sudden squeeze and I gasp, throwing my head back. I can tell he's aroused by the sound of his breathing. He's getting hot knowing what he's doing to me.

Suddenly, he stops and I hear the scrape of the chair as he pushes back to stand up.

He starts undressing, then, almost shyly, turns away from me to remove his arm. I watch his practiced moves, unhurried, smooth, as he unbuckles straps.

Seeing the way his muscles bunch, looking at his ass... round, firm. Damn, he's never done this before. I wonder if there's a way I can get him to let me fuck him. Probably not, I didn't let anyone fuck me for a long time... and I like guys.

When he's finished, he turns to face me. He looks scared, but aroused. I look at him, allowing my eyes to travel down his body. His cock, hard... and big.

"Mulder, I... uhh, now what?"

Instead of answering, I drop to my knees. He won't say 'no' to this. I circle the head of his cock with my tongue and feel him jerk at the sensation. Slowly, I work his cock. Licking down the underside, sucking the head.

He starts breathing harder, shuddering when I try to take him down my throat. I gag and pull back. I've never blown anyone as large as Krycek.

His fingers stroke my hair, and I try to take him again. Suddenly, he fists my hair, and pulls my head away. "Stop," he gasps. "I can't keep standing."

Releasing my hair, he drops his head, breathing deeply. After a moment, he sits on the chair. My mouth is on his cock in a heartbeat, and I hear a gratifying moan. // Was that him or me? //

Feeling his thighs quiver, his little jerks, his sudden gasps, makes me rock hard. I circle my own dick and start pumping myself.

"Mulder, stop."

What the fuck now?! I pull away and look at him, hopefully not looking as pissed as I feel.

"Mulder, god, this feels so good, but... but I want to see you."

My dick twitches at his words, at the thought. I nod and sit back on my heels. Wrapping my hand around myself, I start pumping again, watching Krycek. His cock, glistening with my spit, his hand, slowly moving to encircle it. He begins to stroke himself and I match his rhythm.

The sight of him--jacking off, chest heaving, nipples hard--makes me want more. I sit up and lean into him, my hands move to his nipples, pinching, twisting, stroking. His mouth falls open, and I kiss him, then drift down to his neck to nuzzle and bite. His hand, back in my hair, pulls my head back. God, the look on his face... sexual, primal.

"Krycek, fuck me." The words are out of my mouth before I realize it's what I want. His eyes narrow... lust personified. He pulls my head in for a punishing kiss. Lips locked on mine, his tongue deep in my mouth, he starts to stand, pulling me with him.

Upright, he breaks the kiss, then pulls my head back to expose my throat. His hot breath, teeth nipping, biting. I grind my hips into him, feeling our cocks rub together. "God Krycek, fuck me. Now." I hear the pleading in my own voice.

He pushes me back suddenly. Fuck! What is this?

"My wallet. Get the condom." He points to his pants.

Condom... damn. I'm stunned, realizing the risk I was willing to take. I pull his pants over and extricate the condom from his wallet. The typical male accessory, I chuckle at both the stereotype and my own relief.

Krycek sits back in the chair, waiting for me. I tear open the packet, and roll the condom just over the head, then use my mouth to roll it down the length. I let the heat from my mouth warm the latex. Sucking and nipping my way up, he throws his head back at my ministrations.

Knowing what I'm doing to him makes my dick throb. I spit into my hand and start pumping his cock.

His low moans // or are they mine? // and the slick sound of my hand on him are the only things I can hear.

Hand in my hair again, pulling me up. I stand over him, straddling his thighs. He spits in his hand and adds it to the moisture on his cock. Damn! No lube--I'm too far gone to care. Fuck it, spit will have to do.

As I slowly lower myself, he rubs his cockhead against my anus... slick, wet. I lower myself further, feeling the pressure... until just the head breaches me. I stop, gasping... the pain, deliciously sharp... cruel. Exactly what I want.

He moves his hand to my dick and starts pumping me. My legs, already trembling, barely able to hold me up, begin shaking. I put my hands on his shoulders for support.

With a sudden thrust, he slams into me. My own yell reverberates in my ears. The onslaught makes me collapse on him, driving him deeper in me. Pleasure and intense pain fill me. His hand, urgently pumping me, brings me back, and my hips match his cadence.

I ride him, feeling his cock filling me, gliding over my prostate. His hand, stroking me... taking me to the brink.

My movements become jerky and he pumps me harder. His hips buck against me, his hand squeezing my dick hard as I begin to orgasm. His guttural moan throws me headlong into red-hazed ecstasy.

I fall forward, my head resting on his shoulder as I ride out my orgasm. His grunts deepen as he slams one final time, letting out a roar.

Moments pass, my head rising with his ragged breaths as I try to catch my own. Finally able to move, I pull back and look at him.

His head is tilted back, eyes closed and mouth slack. I squeeze my ass, feeling him slip out of me and watch as a slow smile crosses his face. He tugs at my now soft cock. "Mulder, that was... I don't have words."

I lean forward and kiss his throat, his neck.

His lips nuzzle my ear, his breath hot. "Stand up, you're getting heavy."

**

Friday, 7:30 A.M.
Marriot Hotel, Room 1544
New York City, New York

"Mulder." A not so gentle shake on my shoulder. "Mulder, come on. Wake up. It's getting late."

"Whaaa..." I open my eyes and see Krycek looming over me, dressed already. I grab him and pull him down into a kiss.

He backs off, startled, then grins at me. "Mulder, not now, we're running late. Brush your teeth... please."

I jump out of bed and head to the shower, my morning hard-on bobbing ludicrously.

Hot water cascading down my back, hot images flashing in my mind. A little voice in my head, telling me to be careful... fuck that.

I pick up the soap and work up a lather.

A pounding on the door, then Krycek's voice. "Mulder, hurry it up. We need to get moving."

Knowing he's just outside the door, remembering what happened last night, drives me to wrap my hand around my dick. I'm so ready, I come in a matter of minutes.

I finish up quickly, all the while remembering... both of us tumbling, exhausted into bed. Throwing my arm over his chest as he drifts off. The gentle good night kiss I placed on his cheek long after he fell asleep.

**

Friday, 10:15 A.M.
A Warehouse by the Docks
New York City, New York

The reek of decay hits us as we break into the warehouse. Alex squeezes his eyes shut in disgust. When did he become 'Alex?' He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a handkerchief to cover his face.

Crisp, white handkerchief... not a common accessory for an assassin I think, as I grudgingly realize I have nothing to protect me from the stench.

Minutes pass as we make our way through the warehouse, assailed by the smell, but following it until, finally, we reach the source.

The altar is built on a platform a few inches off the ground. One side buttressed against the wall. On it, drums, bowls and candles.

Alex steps up to the altar and kneels down to touch a dark spot on the concrete floor. He holds his hand up to me. Blood, still fresh, glistening on his fingertips, juxtaposed with the clean handkerchief still grasped in his palm. He closes his eyes for a moment and wipes his fingers on the clean white cloth.

I see a blur out of the corner of my eye, but turn to see... nothing. Jitters? Light playing through the dirt covered windows? My sudden movement brings Alex to his feet, weapon drawn.

We stand stock-still, waiting. I hear the strike of a match, the acrid smell of sulfur quickly covered by a sickly sweet smell. I rush to the altar, only to be thrown back against the wall.

The back of my head connects hard with the concrete, and everything starts to flicker. Hearing a shout, I scramble up. Sharp pain shoots behind my eyes. I squeeze them shut and lean back against the wall, grasping my head.

Alex's voice, harsh, commanding, speaking in a language I don't recognize. Forcing my eyes open, I see a man--he looks like an older Roberto Villalobos. Damn, it's him! Octavio. He looks at Alex, his eyes wide... in terror? No, awe. My vision blurs and I shake my head... bad move.

I feel myself sliding down the wall. Trying to keep conscious, I focus on the scene in front of me. Octavio falls to his knees, clutching Alex's handkerchief, looking up rapturously. Alex stands before him, speaking... no, chanting. His voice soft and lilting, sing-song. Villalobos sways to the rhythm. Slowly, Alex brings up his weapon. Villalobos leans forward, and kisses the muzzle.

A single shot, then everything goes black.

**

Friday, 3:30 P.M.
Mercy Hospital
New York City, New York

A hand on my shoulder, nudging me. "Mr. Mulder. Wake up, sir. Mr. Mulder?"

I open my eyes and see a plump woman looming over me. I blink a few times, then spot her badge. Claire Howell, R.N.

"Oh, good. You need to stay awake, sir."

"Wha--"

"You've got a concussion. I've been waking you every half-hour. Don't you remember?"

I start to shake my head, but the shooting pain stops me.

She bustles around me. "That's all right, dear. Don't worry."

"Where--"

"You're at Mercy Hospital. I can't say much more, but I'll call the doctor. She can answer your questions."

"Thanks." I feel myself start to drift off again only to feel that nagging tug on my shoulder.

"Now, now, Mr. Mulder. You need to stay awake."

**

Friday, 6:10 P.M.
Mercy Hospital
New York City, New York

Voices outside my room, arguing. "... must see him, it's Federal business." Kochanski's nasal drone.

The door opens and a woman enters, Kochanski close behind her. She stops, causing Kochanski to run into her. I catch her smile. She did that on purpose.

She turns to Kochanski and points to a chair. "Sit there until I'm done. Then we'll discuss your ability to speak to Agent Mulder." Score one for the Doc.

Coming to the side of my bed, she holds her index finger upright before me.

"Agent Mulder, I'm Doctor Morgan. I'd like you to follow my finger while we talk. Do you know why you're here?" I track her finger as it moves slowly left to right.

"Nurse said concussion," I reply, following her roving finger as it now moves up and down.

"Very good. You can stop now." She plucks a pen from her lab coat to jot something on my chart. "I'm sure you have questions, but let me start with your diagnosis. You were brought in by ambulance, unconscious. You've taken a severe blow to the head, and we'll need to keep you here for observation. You also have a bruise on your chest, but other than some soreness, there's no damage. Do you remember how you got hurt?"

Yeah, I got thrown against a wall by an invisible warlock, then I saw Krycek... I close my eyes and search my memory. Nothing, blank. "I don't, no. I... I don't remember..."

"Loss of preceding events is pretty common, I wouldn't worry about it," she says reassuringly. "Your, uh..." She motions her head toward Kochanski, "manager wants to speak with you. Do you feel up for that?"

Do I? No, but I need to find out how I got here, what happened. "Yes."

She turns to leave and catches Kochanski's arm as he crosses to me. "I'll be back in half an hour. If you haven't concluded your... business by then, it'll have to wait until tomorrow."

"Yes, ma'am," he says in a meek voice.

He waits until the door closes behind her. "Where the hell have you been?"

Before I can answer he starts in, "If Stanislofsky's man hadn't found your notes and put two and two together, you would be roast beef by now."

What the? "What notes? I don't understand."

"You scribbled all over the damned case file. Where do you get off? You know all notes are supposed to be on a form 86-2. Goddamned cowboy. Taking off like that, not reporting in, ditching your assigned partner. I don't know why the Bureau puts up with your shit."

He mutters about margin notes for a while longer, then starts to dress me down again. I let Kochanski ramble, picking up salient bits. According to him, Krycek finds my 'trail' and tracks me down. He sees me enter a warehouse and calls the Bureau for backup. Seconds later, there's an explosion. Krycek, heroically, rushes in to save me, while dialing 911, of course.

Kochanski winds down. "He saw the perp in the warehouse, but couldn't get to him. The fire department found the body."

I blink at him, trying to take this all in. Kochanski sees my confusion and that sends him on another tear. "And here you are, sitting pretty. That Krycek fellow even had the time to file an official report before he left."

Left? "He left?"

"Yeah, his work was done. He filed his report. Yours too."

"But that was just a few hours a--"

The door opens. "Mr. Kochanski, time's up." The imperious voice of Dr. Morgan.

**

Sunday, 2:30 P.M.
FBI Field Office
New York City, New York

I open the case file and start reading. Everything's there, efficient and tidy. From the standpoint of law enforcement, the case is closed.

Octavio Villalobos was found, head crushed by a falling beam. The fire put out before it got to him. His prints matched up to prints found on elevator buttons in all the vandalized buildings. Very clean, very neat.

Observations from Aleksandr Krycek point out that Villalobos was a staunch communist who visited the Soviet Union. The theory that he felt betrayed by Russia and chose to take vengeance out on the 'new democracy' by sabotaging Russian-owned businesses, has the Bureau's stamp of approval.

How Villalobos gained entry and egress is unknown, but janitorial supplies and uniforms in the warehouse point to 'normal' access.

Slamming the file shut, I rest my head in my hands. Nothing about Santeria, about what really happened. What did happen? It's still a blank, just like Wiekamp.

Krycek, gone again. Without wanting to, I remember... his touch, the feel of him against me... in me.

I shake the thoughts. What was I thinking? Why did I...

Krycek... How much of what he said was true? Was this a set-up? Was any of this real?

What was this all about?

**

Sunday, 2:30 P.M.
A Private Home
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

"Mr. Krycek?"

I look up from my desk to see Nikolai Stanislofsky waiting patiently at the door.

"Yes, Niko."

"A Mr... Smith is here, and wishes to speak with you."

"Ah, yes. Show him in. We're to be left undisturbed."

Stanislofsky's eyebrows rise in question. "Yes, sir," he replies, with a slight bow.

A moment later, a heavy-set man comes into my office. I sit back and motion to a chair. He shifts his considerable girth to a comfortable position.

His beady eyes, raisins in rice pudding, take in our surroundings. "You've come a long way, Krycek," he says in a familiar raspy voice.

A slow blink is my only response. Moments pass in silence before he reaches into his coat pocket to pull out a fat envelope.

"Your payment for... the Villalobos matter." He tosses the envelope on my desk. "We were impressed with your... thoroughness."

I make no move save for a brief nod.

"I have an additional payment, if you divulge any... information... on Fox Mulder. Unlike my smoking partner, I see him as a threat." He pauses. "Any weakness that can be leveraged against him would be... most useful." He looks at me expectantly.

I let a brief smile play on my lips. Mulder's weaknesses? No, that knowledge is for me alone. I stand up. "Let me see you out."

Standing at the driveway, I watch Smith's car drive off. Turning back to the house I see Nikolai waiting patiently.

"Niko."

"Sir?"

"Did you put the blood and sugar in Smith's car?"

"Of course, sir," he replies, with a knowing grin.

I return his smile. "Very good. I'll be unavailable for the next hour."

**

Sunday, 4:00 P.M.
Botanica Mistica
New York City, New York.

I pause at the storefront. It feels odd, being here without Krycek.

Opening the door, I step in and look around, finally spotting the proprietor.

"I need to speak to Roberto Villalobos. It's important."

He looks at me blankly, then shrugs his shoulders. "No hablo Ingles."

**
END
28 April 2001

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