by D Rainey
rom his stance, it was easy to tell the man was of the kind who considered himself the pinnacle of evolution. His drink sloshed around in his plastic cup as he gesticulated with his arms at his own story. "...and then I told Agent Kripke, 'A psychopathic witch? Well, if you see her again, tell her that her ex-husband says hello.' " Several lazy guffaws erupted from the group around him.
"Yeah, tell me about it. These new recruits, you'd think they signed up to work one of the basement hack units instead of a real case," another agent sneered.
If it wasn't Skinner's job to twist Mulder's arm into attempting some "inter-office solidarity", Mulder wouldn't have been there. And if it wasn't his job to keep tabs on Mulder, Krycek wouldn't have been there. Thank God the Bureau had an open bar at these holiday functions. Krycek sought haven in another long swig of drink, letting its alcoholic warmth burn away the unseemly edges of his perception. He glanced over to where he had last seen Mulder, and saw the back of Mulder's lanky figure walking under the tacky, lettered arch which said, "Happy Holidays!". Krycek slammed his cup down onto a nearby table and hustled after him.
"Mulder, what's going on?" he asked, catching up with Mulder's fast pace as they went out the door.
"If I have to hear Carter go on for another minute, I'm gonna turn psychopathic," Mulder mumbled, more to himself than to Krycek.
"Yeah, but what are you going to tell Skinner?"
Mulder stopped walking and looked at him as if he just noticed Krycek was there. Krycek was unaware that pissing off Skinner was a part-time hobby for Mulder. "What about you, Krycek? Now that you've had your first distaste of Bureau parties, I suppose any other plans are good plans," said Mulder.
He shrugged. "I work and sleep in between. There isn't much else to make room for."
Mulder nodded, understanding that situation more than he cared to. "You sure you weren't sent to spy on me?" he smiled tiredly. He didn't know what to make of Krycek's constant support in his work, but the new agent had managed to grow on him over the past few weeks.
"You got me, Mulder," Krycek ignored his quickened pulse and gave a big, guilty-looking expression.
Mulder chuckled. "Well, if you don't want to go to sleep yet, there is a six pack in the fridge and the ghost of Jimmy Stewart past on video I'm going to break out at my place."
For a second, Krycek regretted what was in store for Mulder. Yet the career-minded side of him glowed with the success of gaining his trust. He had to accept. "Sounds good. I'll get my jacket."
* * *
"Thanks," Krycek took the beer bottle from Mulder's outstretched hand. Having only been acquainted with his apartment in its dark and empty state, it was surreal to be sitting on his couch, in the light, and with the warmth of the heater on. On the television, the endless opening credits of It's a Wonderful Life were playing.
"Wait a minute," Mulder retreated into the bedroom for a moment and came back out with a long, thin box in red wrapping. "I was going to give it to you tommorrow at work, but figured since you're here..." he laid it on the coffee table in front of Krycek. "Merry Christmas."
He picked up the box curiously. He felt awkward, not just because Fox Mulder had given him a Christmas present, but because he didn't have one to give in return.
Mulder lowered himself onto the couch next to him. "I was expecting they would assign me someone who couldn't care less about the work, but you stuck with me and I appreciate that. I realize I didn't give you a chance when you first started."
Krycek stared at him in surprise, the clear, green circles of his eyes giving him a look of innocence he never had. This definitely was not like the other jobs. The others were clean and proper, requiring just a weapon, a good aim, and nothing personal. Damn it, Mulder. "Thanks," he said, and he meant it. Krycek smiled and dropped his gaze to the present in his hands. He took off the wrap and lifted the lid. Lying on a bed of cotton lining was the most hideous tie he'd ever seen.
If Scully was there, she would have been able to see through Mulder's expressionless face to know he was positively beaming. "I was tempted to keep it myself."
Emblazoned on the silky cloth was a pattern of little Elvis figures frozen in his signature hip dance. "I'm sure my wardrobe's complete now," Krycek said in numb amazement.
"Damn straight." Mulder toasted to the air and drank.
One movie and enough drinks later, a very relaxed Krycek swung his jacket over one shoulder and headed towards the door, with box in hand. "Bright and early," he said, turning his head to Mulder who was trailing behind him to lock up.
"Night," Mulder propped his forearms onto the sides of the doorframe after Krycek passed through, just hanging there and letting the beer do its job.
Fuck it. Krycek turned around and walked the couple steps back up the hallway.
Mulder squinted as if he was trying to see through his buzz, "What-" was all he could get out before Krycek rushed a hand into Mulder's hair and brought the man's mouth down onto his lips.
He inhaled the thick scent of Mulder deeply, of the fading smell of beer intermingled with the clean musk of his soap. He kissed Mulder hard and slow, with a willful deliberation of someone chasing what they really want, except he knew his freedoms didn't extend any further than taking what he could get.
"Mmnnn," Mulder could only hum his muffled surprise when Krycek worked their jaws open and slid his tongue inside.
He lashed Mulder's tongue greedily, pulled back, and took his ample lips again while a harsh ache twisted his stomach the whole time. He wanted to take as much as he could before it was over for him.
Feeling mighty slow on the uptake, Mulder finally snapped his eyes open and broke away with a smacking sound. Still taken by surprise, he examined Krycek inquisitively. The fake agent was breathing hard, all evidence of any drinking gone and replaced with a sharp tension. "I didn't know," said Mulder, pausing, trying to find the right words. "I like you, Krycek, but-"
"I misjudged you," Krycek cut in.
Mulder swung a booze-heavy arm onto his shoulder and patted it, attempting at least some kind of consolation. "Yeah....that was one hell of a kiss, though. If things were different, I think I would have gotten into it."
Krycek stared into space for a fraction of a second before focusing back on Mulder. He held out the Christmas present. "I know this wasn't your intention when you gave this, but now that you know about me, maybe it's better you wear it."
Mulder prodded the box back into Krycek's chest. "It's still a gift, partner."
Four years later
"Have yourself a merry, little Christmas...", the radio sung to the nearly empty bar. Krycek thought it was obscene. No one in a place like this would want to hear tunes like that right now.
"Jesus Christ." Krycek's sideways glance caught a pale, dark-haired woman muttering over a cigarette lighter several stools away from him. Her golden bracelets made a delicate tinkling sound as her hand shook. She couldn't get the thing to light up. After a few more vain tries, she slammed the lighter onto the counter, extracted the unlit cigarette from her lips, and went back to her gin. On instinct, she looked up and saw Krycek observing her frustration. She cleared her throat. "Seeing that you're the only one in this hole who isn't the bartender, you want to tell me your name, babyface?"
Krycek smiled wearily at her well-worn pitch. "Chrissie, I don't come here to buy anyone, and today is no different. You know that."
She pouted and strummed her slender, maroon nails on the bar top. "I wasn't going to say anything, Alex, but that is the most fucking hideous tie I've ever seen," Chrissie said sorely, eyeballing the Elvises in disgust.
He looked down at it fondly and shrugged. "It's more of a Christmas tradition than a fashion statement," said Krycek.
"Well, would it kill you to help a girl out as a Christmas tradition? I won't even charge you. It just gets so damn lonely this time of year. Not that I'm not used to being alone, but this month doesn't let me forget it," at this point she had completely forgotten about trying to proposition Krycek and was now talking to herself distractedly.
Chrissie was a good girl. Not by most people's standards, but Krycek thought so. Somehow, it made him feel better knowing that even good people could feel the same things he did. Maybe he wasn't entirely dead. "Let's get out of here," he decided.
The words seemed to call her out of her reverie, and her eyes lit up. "You know, I never expected any respect from you, even though you stick around here," she stood up and walked towards him.
Krycek draped his good arm around her waist as they strolled towards the exit. "Don't worry, I'll be respecting you several times tonight, Chris."
Chrissie's laugh, not unlike the sound of her jewelry, streamed out of her dimpled mouth.
The decorative bells hanging off the doorknob jingled as the door fell shut on the emptied bar. Outside, the picture of the two of them looking like a couple was as fake as his arm. But for that night, pretending was good enough to get by.