A Boy and His Rat
by C.M. Decarnin
The light in the white cell was on. It would never be turned off.
They entered soundlessly, closing the solid door behind them.
It had been another long two months. So bloody hard and frustrating trying to get any assurances they were even right. The necessary tech support and intelligence assembled so slowly. Nothing could be traceable later to him or his friends or their friends, it all had to be done at three removes. Anything that pointed to the Lone Gunmen might as well be a neon sign flashing Mulder! Mulder! Mulder! Near the brink of a scream that felt trapped in his heart, Mulder learned steel control in a way he had never done before. It had to be perfect, it had to be flawless. One chance all they would get. He was pretty good at rushing in where angels feared, but sitting and waiting he had never learned to cope with. Until now. The more intel they gathered, the more certain he was that they were right to wait, and that any breath of an unsuccessful move on Krycek's location would alert them to hide him further. Alert not only his captors, but the forces that would kill Krycek on sight -- the Rebels, and probably now any alien faction at all, if the burned ship had sent out a communiqué before Krycek's bomb exploded.
What the hell had been on that ship, that Krycek had been willing to die to destroy it? The media blackout had been phenomenal, small stories about a natural gas deposit exploding; for those higher up, flummery involving a secret NSA dump for old paper and computer tape records, unluckily located above that same useful gas pocket.
At work, Mulder let Skinner see him slowly recover from the blow of Krycek's treachery. See him begin to tackle new X-Files with zeal, till the traditional end-of-year demand came that he use up his excess vacation time or be suspended. He mentioned Canada with a gleam in his eye, and let it be surmised that he had devised a secret plan to track a Sasquatch.
It had hit him like a sledgehammer when he'd realized Krycek couldn't be carried, on an operation like this. That they'd have to wait till he would be mobile, healed. Finally he'd realized he needed the time, too, to lull Skinner's alertness. But meanwhile, imagination provided vivid pictures of the agony interrogators could be inflicting on his lover, effortless torment they wouldn't even have to work for. He blotted the images from his mind again and again, but he knew what Krycek sounded like in pain, and when he lay with empty arms, the sharp cries and groans came back to haunt him.
How alone he would be, minutes tortured into hours, days, weeks without message or hope. Even if they never attacked him, it sickened Mulder to think of Krycek caged.
What would they find when they got there? Could Alex endure?
They had all prepared alike, though only two would finally go in. Hours crawling through tunnels of stinking pipe on their bellies, wiring or remote-tuning what Langly called fuzzboxes to surveillance and alarm systems, opening electronic and other locks till they could do them in their sleep, memorizing layouts and guard shifts, cutting steel.
At last it had come.
Mulder's heartbeat turned to a slow, hard thumping in his chest, like something trying to get out.
Their entry hadn't woken the prisoner. He lay with his limbs in abandoned postures, his face looking grief-stricken and worn, as if the dreams in this place brought him no solace.
There was nowhere to hide anything. With a pang of sorrow, Mulder realized that the jailers had taken away Krycek's prosthetic.
Mulder bent over the form on the bed. He laid his hand on Krycek's shoulder, and as soon as the eyes opened, moved it gently over his mouth, and sat down beside him. The black lashes blinked down twice over dazzled green eyes, opening wider each time. He felt breath suck in past his lightly hushing fingers.
Then Krycek simply reached for him, and Mulder lifted him and enfolded him in his arms, and held him, very still.
So much that he loved had been taken. This much, at least, of his life, he could recover, and save, and have again in his arms. This man... Krycek breathed steadily within his embrace, in the same clinging stillness he felt, not moving, absorbing him. Warm. Whole. His.
He pulled back slowly. Krycek stared at him with a terrible intensity.
Mulder moved and gestured for him to follow.
"They're letting me go?" The shadowed eyes looked, for a moment, confused and innocent.
He shook his head. He saw Krycek understand. Mulder started pulling off the guard uniform he wore. Under it was another, better fitting. He saw Krycek keep glancing, wide-eyed, at Frohike, as if he couldn't integrate his presence. Frohike, he saw, was staring back at them, eyes behind his glasses completely round.
Making their way out, and removing all proof of their high-tech presence as they went, was a slow and tension-racked nightmare. Krycek watched for his every signal with a desperate faith, but seemed to have no clue of his own about which way they were going or why. He walked poorly, with tottering moments. Mulder slowly understood. Krycek had not been out of a hospital bed or that bright, white cell for the months it had taken them to perfect their plan and technology.
He wondered what other damned souls were behind the hundreds of flat white doors. With no one, ever, coming to rescue them.
They disassembled the last fuzzbox and wriggled out the interminable drain tunnel. They had to help Alex across the fields to the car, but at last they saw it silent and dark under the trees.
Raindrops hit the windshield as they piled in the back and Langly started the engine. Good. A night of heavy rain and any trail would, they hoped, be invisible.
The first stop was at a glassblower friend of Langly's where they used the furnace to burn the uniforms and disguises, peeled the painted-on layers of dried glue off their fingertips, and went over Krycek with a metal detector and every bug spotting device known to man. They put on fresh clothes, and journeyed on till morning, using a different car. Byers drove, obeying all speed limits and signalling each lane change.
Where the next car was waiting, they all got out to stretch a moment; Krycek hadn't said a word in the presence of the three Lone Gunmen, but when he understood they were splitting up here, that he and Mulder were going on alone, he turned back before getting into the other car. He raised his eyes to them, meeting each gaze in turn.
"Thanks," he mumbled.
They stood looking after the departing sedan. "That was weird," Langly commented.
"Like being photographed," Byers agreed.
"Or targetted as witnesses. I hope Mulder knows what he's doing." Langly's hands were on his hips.
"He knows Krycek is dangerous." Byers chewed his lip reflectively. "With the one arm, handcuffs are out, but why wouldn't he use some kind of shackles at least?"
Frohike took a deep breath. "Guys," he said, still staring after the disappearing car, "you are not gonna believe..."
This car was stocked with food, supplies, clothing. Not even the Gunmen knew where the safe-house would be; that detail Mulder had arranged without them. Their back-trail was cut off, no connection to anything that had ever remotely touched Mulder in the past. Krycek free while Mulder went to jail for abetting his escape would be no huge improvement.
They'd guess. But they wouldn't be able to prove anything, and he had his fingers crossed that an FBI agent couldn't simply be snatched and sequestered the way a free-lance assassin could be. Records would show him as hundreds of miles away at the time, snowshoeing through the north woods. He spread the details before a shaken, more and more sober Alex as they drove, hoping any flaw he might see could be repaired. He found no fault.
Mulder pulled up the long drive of the secluded house and into the attached garage, closing it before he started unloading. He unlocked the kitchen entrance for Alex and let him walk stiffly in search of the bathroom while he brought everything in, except getaway items that would stay in the trunk. Food -- the fridge turned on smoothly, he rapidly filled shelves and freezer, and cupboards and drawers. Two Melmac plates, two bowls, silver, cups, big sharp knife, two pots, frying pan, Kool-Whip-ware. Can opener. Paper towels. Clothes in Krycek's sizes to the bedroom. Make the bed up. Stack of paperbacks he hoped Alex hadn't read. Lube in the drawer.
Dozens of condoms.
Had he forgotten anything?
He'd been over it and over it.
Alex is here. He suppressed the jolt of shock. He found Alex staring out at trees from the living room window. He turned when he heard Mulder, and it caught at Mulder's heart to see him hunch awkwardly over for a moment as he did so.
"Still -- get pain," Alex said with caught breath. "Physical therapy there left a lot to be desired."
Mulder's head jammed up with difficulties of getting Krycek proper care, a new prosthetic, god, another gun? -- without leaving a trail a mile wide.
"It's okay," Krycek said. Looking at him.
Then he said, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Mulder reassured him. Nothing. He'd remembered everything, thought of everything -- hadn't he? They were safe, they were here, the plan had worked, Langly and Byers and Frohike would be snug home with proof they'd been there all along, nothing could go wry now, it was over --
Mulder focussed, blankly.
"You can relax now," Krycek said softly. He hobbled closer. "You did it. It's done." He touched Mulder's arm. "My hero."
He's here. He had dreamed it was over so many times, so heartbreakingly real that each awakening had been a new loss. Mulder tried to smile.
Krycek said in that husky voice that had haunted Mulder's dreams, "If I were up to it, I'd give you a real hero's welcome." He shook Mulder slowly by the shoulder. "You can let go now."
Mulder let out one laughing breath. He met Krycek's eyes. Dead suffering looked back at him. Pain. Concern. Fear. Nearly a quarter of a year. Immobile. Incommunicado. He must have wondered a hundred times a day if he was lost forever, if Mulder even knew he was alive, if the white walls would be the last thing he'd ever see.
"There wasn't one minute I wasn't trying to find you and get to you." He drew a deep breath. "I couldn't let myself think... what would happen if..."
The suffering in Krycek's eyes shifted. "I know. A big mission." Alex smiled, as painfully as Mulder had. He dropped his hand from the back of Mulder's neck as if only just realizing it was touching him there, and backed up slightly.
"You should lie down," Mulder said, sensing the exhaustion.
Alex smiled, and again it was an expression of pain. "You too. You look beat."
In some of his dreams, even, there had been this awkwardness, after so long apart, such huge hopes and terrors suffered separately.
And Krycek leaned away almost imperceptibly, a desperate plea in his eyes.
"Anything you want," Mulder said softly. "Anything, Alex."
The pain only seemed to increase, Krycek's eyelids crinkling and tightening, his breath coming softly through his mouth. He looked down and away finally and said with anguish that ached through Mulder's bones, "Everything hurts."
Mulder heard the mingled fear and the need, and guessed. "Ground rules. No sex until we can get you to a doctor. Rest, walking, getting used to sensory input again." He touched Alex's arm. "I bought health food," he said hopefully.
Krycek turned away quickly, reflexively.
That note of self-mocking irony in Mulder's voice -- oh god it was so real, so Mulder, his inmost being reverberated to it, as unexpectedly as if Mulder had reached into him and gripped, just above the base of his spine, and he couldn't bear, couldn't endure, that he could not respond. Ah -- god -- That any universe could be this cruel --
"Okay," he gasped. "Okay. I -- I just need to --" He stumbled toward the door, and Mulder was instantly beside him, supporting and guiding. Every touch agony.
Sobbing for breath by the time he reached the bedroom, he underwent the careful disrobing of generic jeans, chambray, underwear, and Mulder sat him down and untied his shoes for him and pulled off shoes, socks and the pants from around his ankles all at once. Pulling a soft flannel nightshirt, with one sleeve cut short, down over his head. "I wasn't sure what size pajamas." Mulder helped him into bed and Krycek let it seem his pain was all physical. Mulder bent over him, touching his cheek.
Even with torment it was freedom.
"Thank you," he whispered, looking up into Mulder's eyes. "Thank you. Fox. Thank you." His voice was choked up or he might have just gone on saying it. His man. His man had come for him, snatched him first from the alien ship, then from the very grasp of living death. It overwhelmed him. Him, for whom no one had ever done anything, and this paragon had thrown all aside to rescue him.
He closed his eyes, he couldn't stand to look at so much love again. Knowing...
Mulder backed out of the room silently, leaving Krycek to sleep.
He looked out the kitchen window at light snow on the ground, at black tree trunks against it. Twigs against blue sky. Surreal.
He had a good set of ID for Krycek, including a credit card. They would have to trust it. He needed medical advice. He had pumped Scully for details on pelvic fractures, but her answers had always come back to "It depends." She had described the various results, including bleeding to death internally. For almost three months he had entertained all the macabre possibilities. Seeing Alex walk, he had felt blessed.
But nothing was ever simple.
He wouldn't sleep at least until dark. Too wired. Alex had seemed to need to be left alone. After so much sensory deprivation -- unlike the overload of noise and other inmates in most prisons -- it must be natural to emerge hypersensitive. He had seemed to both want and fear Mulder's touch.
They would work it out. Everything, now, would be okay.
Alex stayed docile and too quiet the first few days at the safe house; Mulder figured he must just feel shy and unhappy at being partially helpless and taken care of. Krycek walked or lay down. Sitting was less comfortable. They went to a local doctor and got X-rays, and the no-sex rule was upheld for the broken bones, so Mulder found ways to talk Krycek out of his uneasiness. They talked a lot, then, Mulder wanting to know everything about his lover's life. He went out into the garage and hit things, after hearing some of the cruelest details of the abuse Krycek had lived with through most of his existence. Mulder was used to monsters, but the intimate monstrosity of human beings he never got used to.
His stomach turned at the incest Krycek's father had visited on his son, a visceral reaction he'd always had, like some people had to the thought of cannibalism, apart from his sorrow and rage at the pain, loathing, and sweating terror the child had lived with. He tried not to let Alex see the revulsion.
"I hated women," Krycek confessed, "for a long time. Until I figured out I was just too scared to hate my father. I don't know what happened to my mother. She just... disappeared. Maybe he killed her. But I blamed her for letting him do what he did to me, and then for leaving me with him. Maybe she didn't know." Mulder said nothing. Usually, the mothers knew. "She was drinking a lot. I still... I just feel... I don't trust them. I don't need them." The look on his face when he said it was so lonely and yearning Mulder had to turn away to hide the pity in his eyes.
"But it was the men who actually hurt you," Mulder ventured.
"I know. I couldn't let myself feel all the hate I really had for them, they were too dangerous. They had all the power in the world." He lay looking into the past. "I took it out on other kids sometimes." He shook his head. "If the KGB hadn't picked me up I'd probably have become some wacko serial killer."
"I don't believe that. I think they taught you to kill."
"They treated me better than anyone else ever had."
"Quite the testimonial."
"You weren't there."
"Okay, they were god's gift to teenage boys."
Krycek turned his face away angrily.
"I'm sorry." Mulder put his hand on Krycek's flank. "You're right. I wasn't there."
Krycek continued to look away. "Actually," he said after a long moment, "they were a complete and total pain in the ass. We weren't allowed to do anything, go anywhere, it was all training, training, training. But they told us we were heroes. I wasn't really gullible, but flattery gets to you, even when you see it coming. You know?" Mulder nodded. "I was so glad to get assigned and get out of there."
"Were there a lot of kids?"
"No. I was way younger. That's --" He stopped. "That was the reason they gave out for the extra tutoring I got." A glance at Mulder.
Mulder almost missed the significance. Then he registered the look, the phrasing. "How old were you?" he asked, with a sinking heart.
"Fourteen. I didn't realize at first that they knew what I was. It turned out that was the real reason they recruited me. These were special trainers even inside black ops. No one was supposed to know they existed. I think they mostly trained women -- sometimes they talked to me like I was a girl. I think it freaked them out that I was that young. This one guy, a couple of times he just walked out. Like at first, when I didn't know what any of the formal words meant, but I knew how to do the stuff. And one time they wanted me to do it with a woman and I didn't want to. He went ballistic. I heard him yelling out in the hallway. I went ahead and did it because that scared me more than fucking a woman for the first time, hearing them fighting about me. They never said much but you knew you really, really didn't want to get too much of these guys' attention. The high-up guys. You understand this wasn't KGB any more, by this time. It was way outside the system."
"That sounds familiar," Mulder said bitterly. "Krycek..."
"You don't have to say anything. I know it was fucked up. I knew it then. I knew they were..." His eyes were dark, looking into the past. "Sicker than I was." The darkness deep in his shadowed eyes turned toward Mulder. "They were. Then." His eyes turned away again and suddenly Mulder sensed in his still expression a frozen suffering like nothing he had ever seen in him before.
"Alex," he began softly, but Krycek's eyes closed.
"I'm tired, Mulder," he said with a voice so soaked in grief that Mulder had no idea what to do or say.
Except to pretend he didn't hear it. "Sleep," he said, and stroked the blanket over him. "I'll be just outside if you need me."
There was no long sigh of someone settling in to rest. Only silence.
Mulder paced the living room and hall quietly. At first he had thought it was shock and trauma -- god knew what the alien thing had done to Krycek's body, then the weeks of pain, fear, loneliness. But as the days passed and the darkness in Krycek's eyes grew, he had realized that there was something else, some idea that had penetrated into the man and destroyed all his manic joie de vivre. He told himself it was depression natural to an active person forced to be still and do nothing, that it was the painkillers, even, finally, that Krycek was having conflict with his own past that he couldn't resolve and the sick look in his eyes came from his conscience lacing into him. But why now?
What exactly had Alex gone into the ship for?
Whatever it was, if he'd found it, he hadn't passed it on to Mulder. If he'd only gone there to destroy the ship -- why? What real good would it do? At such enormous risk?
Did he know something now, about the colonization, that made it hopeless -- or, more hopeless than before?
Something so bad he thought Mulder was better off not knowing...
Or something more personal?
Had he found out who Mulder's father really was and couldn't deal with it? Krycek had had to suck that black-lunged bastard's dick, how would he feel if Cancer Man were proven to be Mulder's father? That he'd had sex with both father and son?
Guiltily, he found himself doubting that Krycek would give a shit.
But he might think it would devastate Mulder.
I don't care, he thought. It's nothing to do with us, we had nothing to do with this, any of this, their plans, their sick power games, their Judas cowardice -- god I don't want Ceebie Jeebie to be my father, but if he is, it's not my fault and I don't accept responsibility for it, I want Alex, fuck the rest.
Mulder continued to talk with Krycek, to try to bring him out of whatever funk he had sunk into. One night as he sat beside the bed he looked into his eyes and said, "You can trust me with anything. You do know that, don't you? There's nothing you need to keep from me, or protect me from." And Alex looked back at him as if he longed to believe it. But despite the yearning gaze, he finally said nothing.
Mulder rose and embraced him, and kissed him lovingly, questioningly. He had meant it only as comfort, but Alex's arm came around him and he felt him trembling with desire.
"Lie still," he murmured. "Don't tense up your hips, don't push, just let it happen." His hand had found Krycek's unfurling erection immediately, and with merciful firmness clasped and stroked it. "Stay relaxed, no muscle tension, I'm going to take care of absolutely everything, just let me have it all, Alex, let me take you there --" He felt the smooth skin gliding over the underlying erectile tissue, smelled the heady pre-ejaculate and watched Alex's eyes go faraway and glazed, and then look at him as if he were god. "Easy -- easy, sweetheart --" and he felt Alex come in his hand gently in quick little spurts, as his mouth opened and his eyes closed and his breath moaned a sound of utter love and surrender, that became a sob of unbelieving pleasure as Mulder finished him with deeper, stricter strokes. Alex's strong arm pulled him close; he felt the torso jerking and realized that Krycek was weeping, openly, unrestrainedly, against him; he got both arms around him and whispered, "It's all right. It's all right," while Alex cried as if he had lost everything he loved in the world.
No one hauled Mulder in for questioning. Which meant Skinner had already had his whereabouts investigated and his alibi had held. He'd taken care to be outdoors a lot and among the things paid for on his own phony ID were a couple of quick bouts in a tanning salon, so he looked the part of returning north-woods Yeti-hunter, cheeks healthily reddened and lips a bit chewed to look chapped. He had stories. He had photos of a Sasquatch track which looked pretty much like what it was, a hole in the snow, and of the Canadian scenery, taken with his own camera, flown down to him and developed at his own neighborhood film lab. He had the receipts. He had backstory that would have bored his listeners to tears, if anyone had been unwary enough to ask. Mulder's vacations were legendary; crowds melted swiftly away at his approach.
He had to leave Alex still in that state of mysterious nervy grief, that nothing seemed able to penetrate. Mulder worried that being alone in that house wouldn't be much better for him than his prison isolation; he worried someone would find him; that his exercises would fail to restore his normal gait, though improvement on their walks had already been noticeable. He worried that Krycek wouldn't be able to go back to his usual habitats, though god knew he'd been a wanted man before without finding it a hindrance; and there had been a pointed silence on the escape of the heinous sex-criminal, no tv news photos to make life in public a Russian roulette game. Clearly, they wanted no strain placed on their wobbly construct; if they suborned the judge who supposedly convicted him, there was still the bailiff; the court recorder, fabricated jury members; the sheriff, the editor of the newspaper and all its staff, dozens who would know the events of Krycek's arrest had never happened. Not to mention those who knew Krycek for who he really was. Simpler to concede the round.
He'd made Krycek oatmeal every morning, and stuck to the habit when he got home. He'd crammed the safe-house kitchen with food before he left. As he stood stirring the gloppy cereal at the stove, pain and love struck him in a single memory: Krycek here, looking in cupboards and drawers, finally saying, "Where's your mandolin?" Mulder nonplussed. "You wanted accompaniment?" And Krycek giving Mulder one of his "Keep up, Mulder" looks, prompting, "Flat, laid on a box, it slices things?" and at Mulder's innocent, worried look, sighing, already knowing the answer, asking, "I don't suppose you have a Cuisinart?"
Krycek actually cooked. It amazed Mulder every time it happened. He let himself be taught to slice and dice, sous-chef to replace Krycek's lost arm; and watched the incredible manipulation of his primitive implements to produce genuine food. Krycek could make tacos from scratch.
Mulder turned off the burner and poured his oatmeal into a bowl. Threw on some raisins and brown sugar and milk and carried it into the living room. He wouldn't imagine Krycek coming back here. It was too unsafe. But somewhere, someday, he would buy Krycek a mandolin. And some kind of board thing to hold it still for his single hand.
Time was so fleeting. They had to find some way to share it. This ten days together now seemed only an instant, and one day both of them would be dead. This life would be all they would have, and if they spent it saving the world... somehow the world would have to let them be together while they did it. Now that the Consortium was gone... if they could convince the Rebels Krycek was on their side...
He had talked about it at the safe-house, until finally Krycek, with that perturbing new gaze, said, "Do you know how many children were burned at El Rico? In Kazakhstan? At Skyland Mountain? Think about it before you pick your allies."
Disconcerted, taken aback; that Krycek had made note of the innocent.
He would have given anything at that moment for Krycek not to have seen his surprise.
The eyes studying him then, calculating. "I'm just saying. Don't ever assume the enemy of your enemy is your friend. They may just be arguing over who gets the wishbone."
Mulder had laughed, unable to stop himself. But the idea was appalling. If the Rebels turned out to only be after their piece of the pie, who could save the earth? He said somberly, "Children are slaughtered in every human war, by every human army." They sent their killers here, not their civilized members of society. He barely stopped before saying it out loud. "Whatever they are, I just want to convince them they don't need you dead."
"Yeah," agreed Krycek, still studying Mulder's face. "But even the Consortium had no idea how to contact them, or who they are. Some are shape-shifters, some use masks that can be torn off -- are they an alliance of different worlds, or two forms of the same species? The aliens tell us they're rebels, but what if they're really the cops?" He shrugged. "Nobody knows."
"What do you think?"
"Me? I think we're Vietnam. Neither side really gives a shit about us, we're just an unpronounceable strategic spot on the star map, a nice place to exploit but you wouldn't want to live there. Get in, rape the economy, and retire back home with stories about the gooks for your grandchildren. Only somehow this one escalates into a confrontation with the other side. Next thing, they're spraying defoliants on us and we're lucky if we survive the bullets and the napalm long enough to get sick from it."
Even in narrative, Mulder noted, he changed sides like water running from one container to another. "You're cheerful this morning."
And Krycek was looking at him as if he wanted to press him to the mat and devour him with wet Russian kisses till he was only a writhing mass of panting, needing, hot Mulder lust. Or perhaps that was just wishful thinking, as Krycek suddenly drew back, saying, "Let's go out for a walk."
It had been like that the whole time they were together, the look of longing, of hunger, the pulling away. He cursed the injury that made it impossible for him to press, override the fears and doubts and take Krycek down into those volcanic realms he needed and had been denied so long.
Mulder finished his oatmeal. Here... right here, they had had sex over Mulder's cell phone, that time. He could not, could not, call the safe-house from any phone registered in his name, certainly not a work phone, and calling it at all would be wildly irresponsible. Anyone could be eavesdropping, have a directional mike on him, trace his call afterward.
Nor could Alex call him. They had signals arranged, routed through a couple of helpful hands in Canada, but no call from the town where the safe-house was must ever be made to him in D.C.
God he was lonely. It was a huge relief to have Krycek free again, but the last three months had ingrained in Mulder a constant anxiety for Krycek's safety that he hadn't felt before. It wouldn't go away. Alex was alone, cut off from his normal resources, disabled...
He hoped he would stop feeling this way when Krycek went back into action. But under that, too, was something else, the troubling pain in Krycek's silences, the way he looked when Mulder touched him.
Is he going to leave me?
It had been his recurrent dread. That Alex's captivity had shown him how impossible a partnership it really was, how dangerous; that his perspective had altered and he was no longer willing to live that risk. Or that he had looked ahead and seen how unlikely their future together had to be.
Mulder washed his bowl and spoon and the saucepan. It was time to leave for work. He set his subconscious the task of figuring out how an FBI agent and a -- former -- assassin could live together unmolested, while fighting alien invasion of the planet.
Step One: Get a bigger apartment.
That was quick. His subconscious apparently already had thoughts on the matter. He locked the door behind him, and headed to work, in optimistic expectation of Step Two.
At the end of the day he received a call from Canada, with the signal that meant Alex had left the safe-house.
Mulder had left him plenty of money, siphoned from his savings account as payments for pontoon-plane flights in the north woods. Krycek smiled every time he pictured Mulder wielding snowshoes and tent-poles. It was almost the only thing that made him smile, anymore.
His freedom, his returned health -- it would have been enough, once. Would have been all he could possibly want.
He had had time to form his plan.
It was rash. It was unlike him. He would never have dared such a thought, such violent rocking of the boat, before Fox; before this object lesson in how easy it would be to lose his only love forever.
But he went over it again and again and the only way he could see to get what he had to have was if everyone -- everyone who counted -- had their noses swiftly and irreversibly rubbed in some dirty, nasty truths.
Fox would be vindicated. Exalted. Given all he needed and wanted. If that included one obscure but useful thug as advisor and bodyguard, they would think it a small price to pay.
As for a few private medical records and samples, they would fall all over themselves to give Mulder the lifetime STD status of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, if he asked for it. There would be nothing that would be inaccessible.
If it worked. And if -- bearing in mind they were talking about politicians -- the Powers responded with anything remotely resembling intellect.
He thought he knew where to give the few extra necessary shoves that might take. Only the cemetery director at Arlington knew where more bodies were buried.
He wouldn't think about anything else yet. Because every time he did, all he wanted was to die.
Another coded call from Canada: Alex was here, back on his home turf. Terror and elation sang in Mulder's blood. Surely this was the most dangerous place Alex could go? Why not Hong Kong -- Tel Aviv -- Kamchatka? But he knew why not, exulting. His lover was near.
The summons, when it came, took an odd form. Frohike met him at a movie theater and passed him a note. It was in Krycek's handwriting, and Mulder dearly wanted to keep it, but tore it to tiny pieces and let the confetti float out over the Potomac on the wind.
He wondered why Krycek wanted him to bring Scully.
It was nearing twilight. A lot of other people were there too. Army trucks. Regular Army, he thought, no sinister special force. And an army of media under some impression a notoriously unstable movie star had started taking hostages. He and Scully looked at each other mystified. The more people they asked, the more things appeared to be going on or expected any minute. Ordinary-looking people, seemingly there to meet up with a friend or on some other humdrum errand, surprised at the commotion. It was near a rough-mowed waste area by Anacostia Naval Air Station, with nothing special to recommend it. Scully suddenly looked at Mulder and he could see the flashback in her eyes: a crowd of unrelated people all drawn to one meaningless spot. But those "lighthouse" gatherings certainly hadn't included Army units. He pointed. In a sudden clot of media lights and noise a U.S. senator had appeared. What the hell...
Everyone looked up almost in unison. Because when the UFO appeared it made a sound. Like a cork coming out of a miles-long champagne bottle.
Mulder clutched Scully.
It was huge.
No, it was just very, very close. Not a tiny Fu Fighter, yet not anything near the vast sky-filling presence of the two others he had seen, this was more like what Scully had described under hypnosis, but not directly over them, so they could see its shape. Weird-shaped.
Only a few uncertain screams emerged from the crowd before it became clear the UFO was in trouble. It listed and dropped hard. Then the front end blew off and the whole craft, now only a hundred feet in the air, fell like a rock.
Screams and running away. But it fell into the clear area, and did not explode -- much -- or burn.
Mulder was frozen.
A UFO had just crashed before his eyes.
At least a hundred witnesses.
Most of whom had stopped running.
The Army unit was grouping chaotically.
The tv crews were screaming and filming.
Scully had attached both hands around his arm like an iron band, her eyes the size of saucers.
Krycek had brought them here.
To see this.
Krycek had shot down a UFO.
Krycek shut off the decloaking jammer, and stuck it and the radio trigger behind the pre-arranged loose building block. He wished he could see the look on Fox's face right now.
The hardest part had been figuring out where to set the charge so the ship wouldn't burn like the last one had. And getting the flight path coordinates matched to what was on the ground.
You couldn't turn around without tripping over some kind of military base around D.C. Andrews, Fort Myer, Fort McNair, Fort Belvoir, Fort Lesley, Bolling, more Navy ordnance and research centers than you could shake a stick at, not to mention places like the Pentagon and Walter Reed and its Annex, Langley, the Army Map Service... The craft wasn't heading for Anacostia, it just happened to pass by on its route, sneering at their radar. He'd decided an Army unit called out near the Navy base would add a nice touch of jurisdictional fracas, and be hard to sanitize. Excitement danced in his blood. He had to look. Had to see the smile on Mulder's face. No one would notice him here, night was coming down, excited swarms of people converging... Okay it was a risk but what wasn't?
Dana Scully's heart had finally stopped thumping like a marching band's drum.
The Army and the scrambled Navy MPs had tried to keep them out but they'd bluffed with their FBI badges, and won. The military kept trying to keep out the media but it was like trying to herd coyotes. Flashbulbs and lightguns were going off everywhere.
She'd just trailed along speechlessly after Mulder. Then as she walked put in a call to Skinner. He would know who should be told. Tried to call her brother but got the machine. And went on following Mulder, who tracked around the crash site like a kid at Disneyland, knowing he shouldn't touch anything but unable to resist picking things up, and Scully was sure she'd seen a couple of small shapes even go into his pocket. He kept turning to her and just saying, "Scully!", with his face lit up as if by different-colored bright lights each time.
She tried taking notes into her recorder.
They found an alien body. At least, part of one. An MP swiftly cordoned it off before her eyes could really make her brain accept the shape, the color. Mulder looked like he was going to throw up, suddenly, but she couldn't make him stop his forays. The main pieces of the craft had been isolated by the military, but the range of junk on the surrounding acreage was astonishing.
TV trucks with satellite dishes on their roofs were lining the curb all the way down the road. Traffic cops had showed up and ambulance lights rotated hopefully. Dark had fallen.
Mulder looked up at the stars, wishing he knew where Alex was. Alex who had given him this priceless gift of proof. It was a typically violent gift. But he could not mourn members of the invasion force intent on exterminating the human species. Far from wanting to remonstrate with Krycek, he wanted to kiss him, and he felt as if he would, if he walked up now, in front of god and everybody, a big, wet smooch on the lips... or better yet a long, hot, thigh-entwined, bending-him-over-backwards 1940s movie job that'd leave him swooning with --
Mulder pulled himself together. His sexy lover would decidedly not like it if he made a spectacle of himself with Krycek in his arms. If he appeared here, circumspect would have to be the name of the game. A look, a surreptitious flick of the hand at most --
His flashlight picked up a glint of metal and he bent down eagerly.
Krycek drifted through the darkest shadows of the crash zone, attempting to be inconspicuous. He knew that was not his greatest talent. Something about darkness, especially, made people pick up on his predator vibes. He decided to try to look awestruck. If he could find Mulder and Scully, he could hover in their official shadow, looking junior and meaningless every time they had to show their badges and claim their god-given right to grub amidst the rubble.
Suddenly he spotted them, leaning together over something in Mulder's hands. A smile ghosted behind Krycek's parted lips. Mulder looked just as enchanted as Alex had hoped, showing Scully his prize.
Krycek's heart stopped.
Mulder was holding a tiny flying saucer, just big enough to fill both hands. Intricately chased as a computer chip on its outer surface, it had a half-dome on top, just like all the cartoons. Don't --
Mulder poked at the dome and it sank down inside the saucer.
Krycek's heart broke.
There was no time to feel it. He only had time to call on every ounce of duplicity he had ever learned, as he heard Mulder wonder, "What do you think it does?", and stepped out of the shadows.
Mulder turned the miniature UFO over in his hands, bewitched. It was a perfect microscopically detailed artifact, a toy any child would adore, but with a grown-up weightiness speaking to him of high technology.
"Look at this, Scully!" He could see his rapt smile and sparkling eyes reflected in her bemused gaze at him. He held it up for her to admire the fine craftsmanship of the decorative work. He thought he felt the half-sphere on top move, and prodded with his forefinger. The sphere sank down, but nothing else happened. It didn't seem to be a catch or lock; nothing opened. "What do you think it does?" he asked Scully, and then looked up to see Krycek stepping toward him.
Mulder saw him with a joyful surge of pride and welcome, Krycek's dark beauty impacting directly on his whole system at once. He's back. He moved well, only a slight trace of a limp.
With a happy, open look, Krycek said, "Here, I'll show you," and held out his hand.
Mulder handed him the little UFO.
Alex turned with it and broke into a clumsy run.
He only made it a few yards and the little flying saucer in his hand exploded in a perfect sphere of light and blackness.
For a long instant, his mind tried not to understand what had happened. Then a scream of denial raked his throat. Alex was down and -- pieces -- no, no, no --
He never afterward remembered how he crossed that space. One instant he was standing, staring at the wreck of his life unfolding against the implacable prow of time. The next his hands were covered in blood, under them the ripped flesh that writhed through inconceivable pain up toward him.
It was hideous, unhuman, and in the middle of it somewhere all that was left of his lover reached out and crushed his flesh in a deathgrip and cried with no voice, just air under pressure, "Burn my body!" The eyes rolled up and all that was Krycek was sucked into a last horrible convulsion stiff as wood under his hands -- and then collapsed at the joints like a fallen doll. The flesh lay placid, clay-heavy. Blue-pale. Dead.
It was better, he thought at once. Better than that horrifying suffering he was so grateful had not endured another second. Better. He touched, wanting to put back together, the torn flesh of the cheek and jaw, but, terribly, it didn't stay. Helplessly, he touched the blood-soaked hair. The scalp was torn half off. Nothing of his lover was left beautiful in death, as if the life he had run from had all suddenly caught him at once and torn him to pieces. Some huge force racked Mulder, rocked him forward, and jerked him back. Krycek blurred for a moment and then cleared again. More gently, perhaps, than if Alex had been able to feel it, he brushed down on the bloody eyelids, and the once-beautiful eyes closed for the last time. The enormous thing bent and jerked Mulder again, and again. His hands on Krycek's shoulders, he rocked back, then forward and bent and kissed the blood-filled mouth. He felt hands pulling him back.
The body seemed small under his palms. He knew it wasn't Alex any more, but parts of it were Alex to his hands. The curve of the ribcage. The ovoid end of the truncated left arm. The way the loin joined hip and thigh -- the genitals were slick with blood --
"Mulder." Scully was pulling him again, as he bent like a genuflection over his beautiful broken lover, who had given his life for him without even a glance back to say "See, Mulder, it isn't a con, it never was --" or a smile at outsmarting Mulder one more time. Everything illuminant, everything that fanned the glowing embers of his volatile spirit, all he had been was departed from the lank dead limbs, except those shapes that to the lover's hands said love, when love was even now no more than memory.
Krycek, the hated name that had become the rainbow of the Covenant for him. A sound like something being broken.
He was to burn this body, that had brought him joy beyond anything he could have believed, and leave it nothing but black ash. A command Krycek had used his last breath transmitting, that had to be obeyed.
Alex. Alex. Alex.
He probably had to do it now, before anyone could take the -- the body -- away --
He sat up and found that Scully was holding to him.
To burn a body completely you needed a stack of fuel, or a furnace. He could make a start with gasoline... Army trucks carried it.
"Stay with him," he said to Scully, as he stood up.
He showed his badge and convinced a uniformed teenager to unlock a gas can for him. He started back through the confusion, hardly noticing the shouts and scurrying military and civilian throng increasing by the minute, until sudden light flared everything around him Hiroshima white.
He saw Scully, looking up, paralyzed, black and white in the karmic glare. The light was everywhere, nothing could be seen above it, though soldiers hesitantly aimed rifles upward. Krycek's body lay as a dark huddle at her feet.
Mulder skidded to his knees beside it. "Get back!" he yelled to Scully, and tore the top off the gas can. He touched the mass of blood and clothing and horrors that had been Alex, and turned it over, soaking the back in half the gasoline. Then he pulled it back face up and poured the rest of the fuel on it. A match. A lighter. He had nothing. Scully wouldn't either. And it was then as if out of a vision of hell he saw a silhouette turn toward him in the light, a figure start toward him from among a military coterie, one hand in its pocket, the other graceful, deliberate, raising a cigaret to judicious pursed lips.
Mulder heard himself cry out with fury. He threw down the empty can and his hands came up. He screamed, "And a dog at his feet!" as he launched himself toward the Smoker, Scully barreling after him.
Then he heard a cry, "Mulder!" and saw the Smoking Man freeze just before he reached him. He threw a block up and pitched his cigaret away; smelling gasoline, Mulder realized, the same instant he smashed the blocking arm and the man's face with a single blow. The Smoker went down but it was at that moment he heard Scully's piercing cry again, "*Mulder!*" and swung around.
Scully was frozen, her feet seemingly rooted to the ground as she leaned but could not move toward where in a fall of light that made all around it seem dark, Alex's body hung in midair. It was rising.
The single thought blocked all else: DNA.
Some memory homed him in on the right pocket. He ripped it down and caught up the Smoker's lighter in one move. As he tried to run it felt like something tangling his legs, slowing him more the closer he got, till like Scully he could no longer move forward.
He flipped open the lighter, ignited and hurled it.
The place exploded, evaporated gasoline igniting in a column of billowing fire, shooting up to engulf the dark huddle in midair, and what rose into the light was for an instant a fireball, before it disappeared into the invisible hover of the enormous ship above them. All the light went out, leaving blindness in the sudden pitch black. Mulder suddenly heard the huge muted roar he hadn't registered till then, before it moved off, and was gone.
He waited, almost expecting that the blaze that had been Alex would explode that ship the size of an island city.
Vanished into the mystery, that always left humans so far behind, outside the great door to the universe, earthbound.
He realized he was on his knees. His face streaming with tears.
I didn't even kill Cancer Man for you...
End of Part 14