A Boy and His Rat
by C.M. Decarnin
Destiny. Fate. How to throw a curve ball.
The inextricable relationships in our lives that are neither accidental nor somehow in our control...
-- Fox Mulder
The doorbell didn't work.
There were a lot of other things wrong with the rathole he'd gone to earth in, and that should have been the one that mattered least.
No one was coming to visit.
Anyone looking for him would let the first shot be their calling card. Probably not even bother with a silencer in this neighborhood.
But if someone did come...
The thought was a black ache where his heart should have been.
He thought of repairing the doorbell.
Holding the screwdriver would not be a problem.
Simultaneously holding a screw -- problem.
He could hire it done. If he had any money.
Or ask for help.
The doorbell continued not to work, no shots were fired, and the neighbors would have said of the one-armed man, "He was always quiet. Kept to himself." Ex-military (don't ask whose); loner; secretly convinced aliens and/or the government were out to get him; owns weapons...
Someone would make short work of that profile.
Now that everything had gone to hell.
He'd run. Just run and hidden, spent his days waking from nightmares, and his nights...
He had tried so hard. All his life. Nothing had seemed so self-evident as the need to pour hysteric energy into whatever would keep him alive. Especially knowledge. The ultimate weapon.
The ultimate two-edged fucking sword.
That moment when he realized he just knew way -- way too much to think it mattered anymore what he did or who he knew or where he hung his apocryphal allegiance.
The Rebels had taken the fight out of human hands.
If they found him now they would fry him like a cockroach, and anything he did would bring them down on him.
But it didn't matter because there was nothing he could do.
Nothing anyone could do.
Through the Black Oil, beatings, shootings, agony of amputation he'd kept at fever pitch, he knew no other way to be, whatever catastrophe, however physically lashed, to push on, push hard, push through was all he knew to do, was all he was.
The night he found the fetus with the alien genome gone. The morning, when he saw on tv the whole Consortium turned to sticks of carbon char...
He kept going a few more hours but then, on the plane out of there, to anywhere, at some numb moment, he just...
...he was finished.
He'd always had his contacts, his deep information, sources, webs, networks. He was smarter than almost anyone he'd ever met, so smart that kidding himself had just never been an option. As he ticked off the fragments of his apparatus that were left out there, beside each one appeared the estimate of exactly how useless it now was.
He had nothing.
He'd started from nothing, more than once.
But this time...
He stood in the grocery store staring at an onion, picturing what he'd have to go through to dice the hard round stubborn thing when suddenly his eyes prickled and he backed away in panic looking for somewhere to hide, somewhere to control what he felt assaulting him. An empty aisle. He pulled up the front of his t-shirt and ducked his face down to scrub the two escaped tears out of sight. Stop! Stop it! He was trembling. He felt sick. He couldn't carry much so he had to come out almost every day to get supplies, the people at this store halfway knew him, he couldn't ever come back here if they saw him crying --
He'd ended up in the gadget aisle. Feeling hot and shaky and perilous, he pushed the plastic basket he carried against the shelves and held it there with his body. With stinging eyes and working throat, he reached up with his single hand and pulled a magnetic screwdriver off its rack and dropped it in with his groceries.
He never got the chance to use it. They hit him as he came through the door, his plastic bag of groceries flew everywhere and his body lashed out in every direction he had available, too little too late, he was pinned on his back across the gas stove and if he moved he might incinerate himself and save them the trouble.
Rage lit like an incendiary. Pure outrage gathered in a scream in his throat, he arched up --
-- and recognized --
-- the body against him --
-- the scent of vanilla and cookies --
-- the fabric of the handful of suit he clutched --
-- that thigh, that hip, that flank, that fist in his hair --
-- that 9-mil --
"Jesus Christ, Mulder," he strangled out. "Down!"
Mulder humped hard into him, hurting him against the iron and steel under his back. "Oh you think this is a joke? You think this is funny?"
It was. It was hysterical. He would have laughed wildly but he didn't know when or if he would ever stop. Instead he whimpered a small "Ow!", but Mulder didn't let up. Krycek accepted the pain into his universe. So cheap at the price.
"Where is it?" Mulder hissed.
Deja vu all over again...
He managed to get a look, finally, into the anguished face, the same dark eyes full of soft pain, looking down at him as if he were a roach for the burning, the same mouth twisted with the same hate, frustration, the same voice filled with disgust and bewilderment at how anyone could be so vile as Alex Krycek.
"I bought a screwdriver."
It was not the answer Mulder wanted. The gun was so close Krycek could hear the finger tighten on the trigger. "What is it you want?" he whispered.
"You know fucking well! The alien DNA. You were seen at the hospital."
"It was already gone. The Rebels took it."
He watched the information integrate. Wondered by what process Mulder classified it as the truth. Maybe the flat strata of despair in his voice. That and the fact that he hadn't shown up at El Rico to get barbecued.
He watched hope die.
"No." He heard himself object, and saw Mulder's look sharpen.
He'd never be able to explain. But he saw Mulder, incredibly, understand. He lowered his eyes. Mulder understood too goddam much. It had always been the problem. He'd never expected the understanding to -- penetrate him. Like that.
Mulder was lying on him. Like -- He closed his eyes, and swallowed.
And felt Mulder move. Pull back.
Mulder had read his mind. He was going to get off him and then it would be over and his chance gone --
Chance for what?
Without reaching an answer he moved his hand up and held Mulder to him.
He had no advantage of strength or angle. But Mulder stopped.
Mulder was curious as a cat. He would stay to see what Krycek was going to do. And that would be...?
They stayed like that.
Finally Mulder said, "What do you want?"
Krycek still couldn't move. Every instinct for survival had locked in an adamant denial of what his body wanted him to do... to say... to submit to.
I don't want ANYTHING from you!
But his body had some locking mechanisms of its own. His lips wouldn't say it.
He felt himself begin to fall back... back... behind a wall of ice, where he could neither speak nor move. A position of strength, from which he observed, but committed nothing --
A position of terrible danger, helpless in his inability to act. A place his manic life had been running from for fifteen years --
Help me --
And Fox Mulder said softly, "Tell me." In a voice like doves, and mothers' lullabies, a gentleness that lit such warmths in him, such tender fires, that he was back in himself, his present, his limbs warm, his whole soul wanting, the lockdown over. He wanted with such tenderness that all he did was move his hand up, with gentle pressure bringing Mulder closer, so he could turn his own face softly against him, his lips open, his breath warm on Mulder's neck, and as he moved a little more, warm on his cheek.
It was a declaration that admitted everything, demanded nothing. He lay under Mulder's warm body, more vulnerable than he had ever been in his life.
Mulder raised up, and looking down at him, said with cold mockery, "Lonely, Alex?"
Deep inside he felt something tear. He held still. Humiliation bloomed in him, its petals touched his cheeks. Still he didn't move. You learned from pain or you died from pain. He slowly forced his eyes to rise up. He had nowhere to run. There were no more secrets. I didn't think you had that in you, Mulder.
He could feel Mulder studying him, though he had not quite managed to meet those eyes. He had learned more than he would have thought possible. He had learned that Mulder held the key to a place in him so long locked he had forgotten it existed. He had learned a certain gentle tone could open him, open Alex Krycek, raised in such a maelstrom of violence and betrayal that such sweetness, such mildness spoke to him like the Holy Grail, he could only follow. He had learned there was still one reason to live. Another sword to fall on.
He had played for the highest stakes. Fought in the biggest war. So he had thought. Now there was a realm of battle, winnings he had never dreamed of.
Spooky Mulder the battlefield and the prize. A man who hated him, and whom he loved.
He let it show in his eyes and in his face and in his body, completely, and felt Mulder go slowly catatonic on him.
"Not any more," he answered.
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