he Art of Gift Giving
erry Christmas, Alex. I've got a gift for you."
Krycek walked through the small, dark living room and dropped into the only chair in the room.
"Gee, thanks. I don't have a tree to put it under, so you can just leave it on the doorstep."
"It's not a thing. It's a job."
"A job. Clearly, somebody needs to school you on the art of gift giving."
"Oh, but it's a very special job."
"I'm so sure." Krycek rubbed at one eye. "What is it?"
"Fox Mulder's little partner is on the west coast, making merry with her family, and poor Mulder is all alone at home. I want you to pay him a visit tonight...and make sure he doesn't live to open the present she brought to him before she left...Alex?...Hello?"
"Good. For a moment I thought you may have dropped the phone or...gone into shock, or..."
"Why? Why after all these years do you want him dead now?"
"We're getting on in years, and it's getting a bit tiring, keeping one step ahead of him."
Krycek breathed slowly and deeply. "You know the shit storm you'll be creating by getting rid of him."
"I appreciate your concern, Alex, but you let us worry about that. Can I count on you?"
His mind raced a million miles an hour, and seconds later, he answered.
"I'll take care of Mulder."
"Excellent. If it's nice and clean, you may find a little something extra in your stocking."
The abrupt click made him blink, and he disconnected before the phone dropped from nearly nerveless fingers. He drew several deep breaths before getting out of the chair and walking to one of the room's two windows. Pulling up the blinds, he peered out into the growing darkness. There was a light dusting of white covering the ground.
Snow on Christmas Eve. Perfect.
Maybe there'll be some carolers at his door when I get there.
When you get there? Get there and do what?
Raking his fingers through his hair, his mind again began to race.
Spinning away from the window, he grabbed for his jacket and stormed out, slamming the door behind him.
I've come to say good-bye. I'm going away, Ebenezer. You will not see me again."
"But you were going to marry me."
"No. You've found another love to replace me. She's much more desirable than I am."
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"This lady here."
"How shall I ever understand this world. There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty, yet there is nothing it condemns with such severity as the pursuit of wealth."
"You fear the world too much, Ebenezer. All of your nobler dreams that I loved, I've seen die off one by one, until only the desire for gain is left."
"I'm not changed towards you, am I?"
"Yes, you are. Your promise to me was made when you were poor, and content to be so. You were someone else, then."
"I was a boy."
"You see. Your own feelings tell you that you are not what you were. I see that all too clearly now. And so I can release you."
"Have I ever asked to be released?"
"In words, no. But in a changed nature, yes. In everything that made my love of value to you, yes. If you met me today, you would not love me."
"Isabel, I find it impossible to discuss personal affairs during business hours, now please."
"You see? If you weigh me by gain, I weigh very little. And so, I am not enough for you. And I release you with a full heart for the love of him you once were. You may for a little while have pain in this. But it'll pass, and you will dismiss the recollection of it gladly as an unprofitable dream from which it happened well that you awoke...be happy in the life you have chosen."
Mulder rolled his eyes.
Yet, he watched this Christmas special every year since nineteen seventy. Almost three years before his sister was abducted. Not that he was very big into musicals, but Samantha had loved them. And from the first time it had aired, Scrooge had become her favorite. He watched it now for her, stupid as that sounded. Never missed a year.
The faint snick of a lock caught his attention, and he didn't hesitate. He picked up the gun nestled against his leg, and he rolled to his feet and shrank into the darkness, waiting.
The front door opened slowly, and a black figure crept in. Before it could get very far, the solid butt of Mulder's Sig came down hard, knocking the intruder to the floor. Carefully, he advanced and nudged the still body with his sneaker. No movement. Quickly, he switched on a light and stared down at the other.
"Son of a..."
He cuffed the unconscious man and dragged him across the floor, letting him fall with a thud in front of the coffee table. He stomped into the kitchen, kicking the front door shut as he went. He returned in seconds, carrying a plastic hospital pitcher, full to the top with water. He stared down at the immobile man for a moment before pouring all the contents out over his head.
Krycek came to, blinking and sputtering, then wincing at the pain in the back of his head and neck.
"Merry Christmas, Krycek. Not quite the surprise you had in mind, I bet."
"Mulder." Krycek winced again. "You...you don't understand."
"No, I think I do," Mulder broke in, not giving the other man the opportunity to explain. "I was told that someone would break in and try to kill me tonight. I only half believed it. But here you are."
"You were told someone was going to try and kill you? Mulder...who told you that?"
"Don't know. I got a nice Christmas card the other day, and there was a note inside."
"What the hell," Krycek whispered, trying to ignore his pain and the fact that he was sopping wet....and that he was now handcuffed and at the mercy of the man who hated him more than anything, and had been informed that he was here to kill him. He blinked up into flint-gray eyes, and he got it.
"Shut up." Mulder stood over the man, gun hand tapping against his thigh. "All I want from you is answers. Who sent you here?"
"Same guy who sent you that note, I'm willing to bet. Mulder, listen..."
"Why would someone send you here to kill me and then warn me about it, Krycek? What sense does that make? Oh. Wait," Mulder drolled. "Are we on Punk'd?"
"Christ. Shut the fuck up, Mulder, and listen to me!" Krycek paused, moaning at the pounding in his head. "...It's not you," he whispered. "It's me."
Mulder cocked his head, thinking for a moment. And he realized that it made sense.
"You're saying you were tricked into coming here..."
"So you could kill me. I'm the one they want dead. Not you."
Mulder was quiet for a while then sighed softly.
"Well...since in your mind, you were here to kill me, you give me one good reason why I shouldn't blow you away."
"I'll give you two. One, because you'll be doing exactly what they want, and two...I didn't come to kill you. I only wanted to warn you."
"Really. Well, golly. Thanks, Krycek."
"Mulder..." He was starting to see double. "I'm...shit."
Mulder gave him a smile that looked more like a sneer. "Yes. You are."
Krycek closed his eyes and tried to shake off the double vision.
"No, asshole. I can't..." He stopped to take a deep breath. "Can't see straight. Think you gave me a concussion."
Mulder didn't look entirely convinced.
"M'serious, Mulder. Feel like I'm going to pass out."
Mulder eyed the other man intently. His eyes were sort of glazed, and he looked a bit pasty.
"You're lucky there isn't a bullet in your head instead. You're also lucky I've got the Christmas spirit. Get up and get the fuck out of here."
Krycek blinked slowly at Mulder. "M'cuffed."
With a grunt of distaste, Mulder reached down and pulled Krycek roughly to his feet. He unlocked the cuffs and pushed the younger man toward the door.
Krycek made his way to the door then grasped the knob as he slumped over.
Mulder cursed as he watched Krycek teeter then sink to the floor.
"Krycek...Krycek. Shit." He approached the collapsed man cautiously. "If this is a trick, I will kill you." He swore again, realizing that Krycek was indeed out of it.
Your fault, Mulder.
Well, what the hell was I supposed to do? When a person breaks into your apartment, you do something to stop him, right? I did something.
Okay, fine. You did something. And now the bastard is unconscious on your floor with a fucking concussion. What're you going to do? Drag him out to the street and leave him there?
"Sounds good to me," he whispered to himself. Clenching his fingers through his hair, he looked down at Krycek.
What the fuck was it about this bastard that made Mulder constantly buck good sense and believe the crap he told him even as he wanted to kick the ever-loving shit out of him?
Grunting loudly, he lifted Krycek off the floor and half dragged, half carried him to the sofa. He deposited the other man onto the black leather and shoved his hand under his head. Feeling around, he quickly found the good sized lump the butt of his gun had put there. When Krycek moaned softly, he removed his hand and began to tap his face less than gently.
"Krycek. Wake up. Come on, you gotta wake up."
Krycek frowned, moaning softly.
Sable lashes lifted part way, revealing glittering, dark eyes.
"You with me?"
"Come on, asshole." More tapping. "Wake up."
Krycek swiped at Mulder's hand. "Cut it out."
"He lives, he breathes. Sit up."
Krycek fussed softly as Mulder pulled him into a sitting position.
"Shit. Listen to me. Listen. What's my name?"
"Dammit, Krycek, cut the shit. What's my name?"
"Okay. Look at me. How many fingers?"
"Good. Do you know where you are?" Mulder asked, looking at first one green eye then the other.
"What's the date?"
Krycek frowned. "...Christmas Eve."
Mulder looked at his watch. "Well...actually, it's now Christmas day, but okay....what're you doing here?"
Krycek closed his eyes and turned his head. Another tap, harder than the last. "Krycek."
"M'not here to kill you," Krycek insisted, turning his face back to Mulder's. His lashes lifted, and eyes that look just the slightest bit clearer, struggled to focus on him. "Came to warn you."
"He said..." Pause for a deep breath. "...said they were getting too old to keep up...with you, and it was time to dispose of you. Should've suspected that it was me they wanted to get rid of."
"Why should you have known that?"
"I'm insubordinate...disruptive...don't play well with others..."
"Why wouldn't they just sit you in a corner by yourself and take away your coloring period?"
"I'm what's referred to as incorrigible. I guess they feel they have to take stronger disciplinary measures. Mulder, I...I really feel like shit."
"You're not going to throw up, are you?"
"Would that piss you off?"
"Would serve you right...I'm not nauseous. My head..."
"You should be seen by a doctor. You know that, right?"
"No doctor," Krycek said with finality.
"I figured you'd say that. You can rest here for a while. But I have to wake you up in a couple of hours."
Krycek stared in disbelief. "Rest. Wh...what d'you..."
"I'm not going to throw you out into the snow with a concussion, much as I'd like to."
"But...you believe me?"
"I'm as shocked about it as you are. Now, shut the fuck up and close your eyes before I change my mind."
"If you did kick me out of here in my condition, it might make it a lot easier for them to find and kill me."
"If anybody's going to kill your ass, Krycek, it's going to be me," Mulder answered emotionlessly.
Krycek felt strangely comforted by the remark, but his head pounded too much for him to analyze it. He closed his eyes, and in no time, he was being shaken awake.
"...Krycek. Dammit, answer me!"
Low growl. "What?"
Mulder sat back on his heels, infinitely more relieved than he'd ever want to admit to being.
"I told you I was going to wake you in a couple of hours. Open your eyes."
Was he whining? Mulder chewed on that one for a few seconds then shook him again.
"You're working my nerves, Mulder," Krycek muttered then opened his eyes. Closing them again, he cursed softly then slowly blinked them open again. Squinting up at Mulder, he sighed.
"How many of me do you see?"
"One. Thank God. Any more of you, and I'd kill myself."
"What're you trying to say, Krycek?"
"I'm not trying; I'm saying it. You're fucking annoying." He looked down at himself. "When the hell did you take my jacket off?"
"If you had killed me, that wouldn't be a problem for you any more."
"Don't remind me."
"How's your head?"
"I had put an ice pack under your neck while you were sleeping." Mulder reached behind Krycek's head and removed the bag. "It's almost all water, now. So, besides cold, how is it?"
"Throbbing. But I'll live." Krycek attempted to lift himself off the sofa, but a firm hand held him down.
"Where the hell do you think you're going?"
"I'm leaving. Where the fuck is my jacket?"
"Krycek, you've got a possible concussion. You won't see a doctor, Scully is too far away to be of any help, and Cancerman and the boys are out to get you. You need to stay put."
"If they want me dead, Mulder, it isn't going to be just for today or this week. I can take care of myself."
"I know you can," Mulder agreed. "But right now you're not firing on all eight cylinders."
"What the..." Krycek stopped then started again, staring at Mulder as if he'd lost his mind. "...Why do you give a shit?"
"Told you," Mulder droned. "I've got the Christmas spirit. Suck it up while it lasts."
"You really do have a few screws loose, don't you?" Krycek asked in genuine wonderment.
"Yours is not to question why, Krycek. Go back to sleep."
Krycek stared hard at the older man, chewing on his lower lip. Then, "What are you after, Mulder?"
"Not everyone has an ulterior motive."
"Don't bullshit me. You want something. What is it you think you're going to get out of me?"
"You're a tough bastard to do something nice for," Mulder said. "I think you need a lesson or two on how to graciously accept a gift."
Krycek's own words came back to him, bringing a frown to his face.
On top of everything else, the fucker was psychic. Wonderful.
Reluctantly, he closed his eyes.
He was awake again. For what? The third, fourth time?
But Mulder hadn't roused him.
He blinked in the growing daylight and looked over at the figure slumped in the chair across from the sofa.
Mulder had been up all night, waking him every hour and a half to two hours, testing him, making sure that he was all right. And now he was asleep. So deeply that when Krycek drew himself up and stood over him, he didn't stir a fraction.
He studied the relaxed features, his gaze pausing for far too long on the sweep of golden-brown lashes and the full, succulent mouth. Drawing his own lower lip into his mouth, he forced himself from the slumbering man's side. Steadying himself, he walked slowly toward the dining room and found his jacket hanging on the back of one of the chairs. Picking it up, he lifted his eyes to the man in the living room. He stared for several long seconds, his fingers tightening in the worn leather, and he sighed.
ulder awoke with a start, his sleep-blurred vision going right to the sofa. He jerked upright, and his head snapped around, taking a quick survey of the room.
He jumped out of the chair and headed toward the bathroom, again calling Krycek's name. When he got to the open door, he cursed softly. Knowing it was pointless, he checked the kitchen and cursed again.
What are you so upset about? Did you want to baby-sit him of all people for a couple of days?
The answer he would have provided made his heart beat uncomfortably, and his mind began trying to spin it into something he could live with.
They tried to get me to kill him. They won't stop at that. He should have stayed put until he was better and could get a plan in place.
There. That was a little better.
He turned and walked back into the living room, and his eyes fell to the dark bundle sitting on his desk. Moving to it slowly, he removed the red bow borrowed from the gift that Scully had left, and he lifted the slip of white lined paper.
'The stores were closed, so I had to make do. Never let it be said that I don't know how to appreciate and reciprocate when I receive a gift. Hope you don't mind that it's slightly used.
Mulder dropped the note and picked Krycek's jacket up, cradling it as he walked over to the sofa and gingerly lowered himself to the cushion. His fingers stroked over the worn, cracked leather, and his mind answered the last question he'd asked himself, this time truthfully.
He brought the leather up to his face, inhaling deeply before carefully unfolding the jacket and slipping it on. He wrapped the zippered edges around himself, burying his face in the collar, and he closed his eyes.