Set right after the movie, Fight the Future
Grandma, you might not have realized it, but I learned about strength, tenacity, and independence from you. Christmas morning will never be the same. Miss you.
e always sought out the same place when his conscience began haunting him.
It was a back-alley dive; a place you stumbled upon when you were either too drunk to find a respectable bar, or needed to maintain a certain amount of anonymity. The lights were dim; there was a single, aging television that could be tuned to nothing but CNN; and no one asked questions.
He felt safe there, as safe as a man like Alex Krycek could ever be, working for a shadowy government cabal with an old -- and recently murdered -- British man as his patron.
Without the Brit, he held an unstable position within the Syndicate, and money was going to be tight. Merry Christmas, indeed.
The car bomb that killed the Brit had been spectacular -- there was nothing left for his family to bury. He had been the Brit's driver for about two months prior to the explosion, ferrying him around from meeting to meeting, acting as a bodyguard on occasion. It was solid work, and it kept him fed, clothed, and out of the shadowy killer's game. Being able to sleep in a bed for the first time in months had its advantages, and he was more than content being the Brit's chauffeur.
Later he was grateful for the fact that his usual night to drive the limo had been switched with someone else. He wondered if that was good timing, or if someone was looking out for him.
Glancing up at the heavens, he doubted either had to come to pass. His timing always sucked, and no one gave a damn enough to care what happened to him. He was alone again, and that suited him, even though he had no idea what to do with his life at this point.
Or perhaps he just told himself that to make spending Christmas by himself less painful.
The night was chilled, and he huddled into his battered leather coat as he approached the bar. Perhaps something cold could warm him.
Blinking Christmas lights strung around the window of the bar were reflected in the rain puddles as he walked up, creating dancing, shimmering images. Krycek could see some of the strand hanging here and there in the bar's half-assed attempt at decoration. Bright greens, reds, and electric blues decorated the garbage-strewn gutters, making the street...well, rather pretty.
Krycek stepped into one of the colorful pools, deliberately marring the reflection with his boot. Ripples obliterated the glass-like surface, and he allowed himself a grin as he opened the door.
He wasn't in the mood for beauty tonight.
The familiar smell of cigarette smoke and whiskey assaulted him, and he found a seat on a barstool. The bartender nodded at him, and Krycek ordered his usual vodka. He had just begun to bring the glass to his lips when he was violently knocked to the floor from someone who had come up behind him.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. He never should have taken the seat at the bar. He was out in the open, exposed, and now he was going to pay.
Krycek blocked a sloppily aimed punch with his prosthesis and fought back, easily connecting with the lip of the man who hovered above him. Twisting from Krycek's grasp, the man straddled him, kneeling on either side of Krycek's chest. The assailant was about to connect with Krycek's nose until a well-placed Glock -- aimed just above the man's belt buckle -- interrupted the beating.
"What's faster, my hair-trigger or your fist?" Krycek asked calmly.
Krycek cocked his weapon. "You didn't answer the question, Mulder."
Mulder growled and released Krycek with another curse in his direction. He rose unsteadily to his feet and wiped at his mouth.
Krycek quickly returned the Glock to its hiding place in his waistband without anyone noticing and held his hand up to the bartender, who was about to phone the police.
"Don't bother," he said, getting to his feet. "My friend and I are going to have a chat, and we're going to come to an understanding without involving the cops."
"You two know each other?"
"In a manner of speaking," Krycek confirmed.
He lowered his voice and turned to Mulder. "Do anything like that again and it's going to be in my best interest to make sure your body is found in a few days, rotting in that Dumpster in the alley. Don't push me tonight, Mulder."
"Why, Krycek?" he scoffed, a little too loudly. "Did you have a bad day murdering innocent people?"
"Shut the fuck up," he hissed, steering Mulder toward a back booth. "And no one is ever completely innocent."
"Appointed yourself to God now? That's quite a step up from a piece of shit."
"Mulder, I'm not going to warn you again."
"The truth hurts, doesn't it?"
Krycek released Mulder's arm and came up quick with his elbow, catching Mulder across the jaw.
"Keep making a scene and I'll start breaking fingers next," Krycek said angrily. "I don't need the attention right now."
He cautiously glanced around the bar to be sure no one had their eyes on him. Mulder had said his name out loud.
"Goddammit," Mulder cursed, wincing and holding his jaw.
"You're slow when you're drunk," he said, pushing Mulder into the seat and then sitting down across from him. "What the hell is your problem?"
"Other than the lying, murderous bastard who deserves to die that's sitting in front of me?"
"Other than that."
Mulder sighed and rubbed at his face in a gesture of surrender. "I need another drink."
Krycek motioned for the bartender and ordered two beers. Mulder countered that with an order for Jack Daniels, so Krycek went with another vodka instead. They sat there glowering at each other until the man came back.
"Are you going to knock this one out of my hand, too?" Krycek asked. "If you are, let me know. This shit is expensive."
"I hate you," Mulder answered, his voice going gravelly. He threw back the shot in one gulp.
"I've gathered that." He eyed Mulder carefully. "Since when do you drink so much?"
"What the hell do you care?"
"Your father drank like that."
Mulder's eyes flashed and he rose halfway out of his seat. "Don't you fucking talk about my father, bastard. Just because I'm drunk doesn't mean I can't shoot you, you son of a bitch."
"And since when did you start cursing so much?" Krycek asked, his eyes dancing as he held back a grin.
"You're enjoying this."
"It's nice to have you on the defensive for once. I know you can't do anything to me."
"Did you just miss my threat to shoot you?"
"Mulder," Krycek pointed out gently, "you're not carrying a gun."
The other man's eyes widened and he reached down for his holster.
"Shit, it's back at the apartment," he admitted sheepishly. "Fuck. I took it off to go to sleep, and changed my mind and wound up here."
"Don't worry, you're too pathetic to murder."
Mulder looked up through hooded eyes and rubbed his lip. "You're probably right."
Krycek took a small sip of his vodka and caught the bartender's eye, pointing down at Mulder's empty shot glass. The bartender sauntered back over a moment later with a fresh shot.
"This is going to sound really strange, but...do you want to talk about it?"
"With you?" Mulder laughed, trying not to choke on his drink. "Are you kidding me?"
Krycek glanced at him and met Mulder's eyes, taking in his disheveled appearance, the obvious fact that he hadn't shaved in a few days, and the hang-dog look. "No."
The other man held the gaze for a few seconds, then cast his eyes away. "Can we go back to the part where we're threatening to kill each other? I'm much more comfortable with that."
"Something to be uncomfortable about, Mulder?"
Mulder blinked. "Just shut up, Krycek."
He scowled at Krycek and gestured to the bartender again, this time requesting that the man leave the entire bottle. When the guy balked, Mulder slapped down a $100 on the table. Then the bill disappeared and the Jack Daniels appeared in its place.
Krycek adjusted his prosthesis, something that was becoming habitual with him. His leather coat had shifted during the scuffle with Mulder, allowing the straps of the false arm to be seen. Despite the fact that he had a talent for keeping hidden and to the shadows, having his weakness exposed made him self-conscious, especially in front of Mulder.
"Does it hurt?"
Krycek looked up from his shoulder. "What?"
"Your arm. Does it hurt?"
"Why? Do you care?"
Mulder pondered it for a moment. "Maybe."
Krycek frowned slightly, surprised. "Then maybe I should lie to you."
"Or maybe that 'maybe' is just the Jack Daniels talking."
"Is that what you want me to think?"
"Maybe," Mulder smirked, a dark look on his face.
"Yeah, it hurts," Krycek admitted, catching the change in the other man's demeanor. "But I can deal with pain better than you, Mulder."
"Yeah, you're a goddamned saint, Krycek."
"I don't need to drink my pain away."
"Shut up," Mulder hissed.
"I know you don't usually drink this much. Is it because it's Christmas Eve?"
"I'm trying something new."
"What, killing yourself?"
Mulder actually laughed, a cold, hollow sound. "You could always do that, even when you were that fresh, doe-eyed newbie out of the Academy."
"The way you always knew exactly what to say."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"You made me believe back then, Alex, by telling me exactly what I wanted to hear."
"Back then I had no choice," Krycek admitted darkly. "Now things are different, and I know you don't drink this much."
"See, you're doing it again. I'm hearing what sounds like concern."
"More like an observation."
"You don't know me well enough to say shit," Mulder said.
"That's because every time we see each other you punch first and ask questions later."
"Yeah, well, I got used to it."
"You're such an asshole," Krycek spat.
"Oh, please, you're breaking my heart," Mulder said angrily, waving his hand in disgust. "What do you want me to do, sit here and have a nice, long chat with you? Discuss politics? The weather? My feelings?"
Krycek took a sip of his vodka, watching a war of emotions pass across Mulder's face. He studied the other man carefully.
"Who else do you have to talk to?" Krycek asked quietly.
"You wouldn't exactly make my shortlist," Mulder answered warily. "Why do you care?"
Krycek gestured with his vodka before taking another drink. "Consider it my 'good will toward men' in keeping with the holiday spirit. Besides, who knows when you'll see me again?"
Mulder narrowed his eyes. "Why is that?"
"I might have reached a bit of an... impasse regarding my current employment options."
"Out of a job at Christmas, huh? That sucks."
"I see you're very sympathetic, thank you," Krycek said sarcastically. "You can't even muster up a compassionate tone?"
"Sorry you won't be able to shoot anyone for Christmas!" Mulder said in a false, cheery voice.
"I thought that sounded compassionate enough for a murderer."
Krycek shook his head and sipped lightly at his vodka. "You'll note that it's the so-called murderer who's here talking to you, and not anyone else."
"Yeah, I did notice that," Mulder sighed, taking another deep swallow. "What do you think that means?"
"That either I'm getting soft, or I'm just as lonely as you."
Mulder looked at him over the rim of his glass and grunted, downing the rest of his drink. Then he reached over for the bottle of Jack.
"So you agree," Krycek said.
"Don't presume to answer for me."
Krycek reached out with his good hand and covered up Mulder's shot glass. Mulder locked eyes with him when he did so.
"Then tell me you're not lonely," Krycek said pointedly. "Tell me you're not thinking about spending another Christmas waking up alone in your undecorated apartment. Tell me you're not drinking yourself into a stupor just because it helps you forget how miserable you are."
"Nothing helps me forget," Mulder admitted quietly.
He looked down at his hands, and Krycek slid his fingers across the shot glass and down onto Mulder's wrist.
"Fox...please...let me drive you home."
Mulder raised his head at the sound of his name, frowned at the concern in Krycek's eyes, and shrugged.
* * *
They rode together in the elevator on the short trip up to the fourth floor, and when the doors opened Krycek had to put a steadying hand on Mulder's shoulder to keep him from pitching over onto the floor.
He steered him down the corridor and over to the door with the gold, dented, "42" attached to it. After Mulder drunkenly tried in vain to get the key into the lock, Krycek took it upon himself to open the door. His prosthesis felt awkward as he placed it and his good arm against both of Mulder's shoulders and walked him over to the couch in the darkened apartment.
The yellow streetlight cast a muted glow through the half-open blinds and across the living room. Mulder collapsed to the couch with a huff, while Krycek stood above him, unsure of what to do.
"I'd offer you a drink," Mulder said, his voice low and hoarse as it echoed across the living room, "but it's all gone."
"Which is why you felt that a trip to a bar on Christmas Eve was the thing to do."
"You were there too," the man on the couch pointed out.
"I had nowhere else to go."
"Well, you're here now."
Krycek looked down at him, struck by the odd tone in Mulder's voice.
"You're not planning on pulling a gun out from under the couch and shooting me, are you?" Krycek asked, half-jokingly. "It would kind of ruin my Christmas Eve."
"Actually," Mulder said, "I was going to ask if you wanted to sit down."
"And then you're going to shoot me?"
Mulder quirked a half-grin, quite visible in the dim light of the room. "Not tonight, Alex."
Krycek was surprised at the use of his first name, spoken without the sarcasm Mulder usually reserved for it. He sat down on the couch cautiously.
"The last time I was here things were different," Krycek said.
"Things are different again."
"Seems like it."
"I don't understand it," Mulder said, shaking his head.
"You came into my apartment and held a gun to my face and made me listen that night, even though I didn't want to."
"What I told you that night about the invasion was the truth," Krycek said.
"But I shouldn't trust you, that's my point. After everything -- after all this shit I've been through -- and here it's happening again. There's just something..." Mulder looked away and ran his hand through his hair in frustration.
Krycek turned to him. "What is it?"
"God, I don't know. It's like you're haunting me."
Krycek couldn't help but scoff at that. "I'm not dead yet, Mulder."
"That's the thing...I've had chances before to get rid of you, to finally have you out of my life, and I...I don't know." Mulder gestured weakly with his hand. "I just...can't."
"Does that bother you for some reason?"
"Well, I appreciate your incredible restraint," Krycek said, rolling his eyes.
"Maybe I'm just weak."
"It's probably not that. You've done worse."
"Hmm, yeah, you're right. I have my moments. Maybe it's my conscience."
"I really don't think you're all that noble either."
"What do you think it is then?" Mulder asked, his brow furrowed in concentration.
"Mulder, I'm not going to sit here and debate the pros and cons of killing me, for Chrissakes."
"There has to be something, Alex."
Krycek sighed and slid back against the couch, his leather jacket straining. He could feel the heat and anxiety building within himself, along with irritation. "You're exhausting, Mulder."
Mulder mimicked him and turned his head in Krycek's direction with a questioning glance.
"You think too damn much," Krycek said.
Krycek leaned closer and met the other man's eyes. He could smell the scents of vodka, whiskey, and his leather jacket all mingling together. Most of all, though, he could smell Mulder. Even when they worked together he wasn't the type of man that would bathe himself in cologne. It was a combination of deodorant, soap, and shampoo that Krycek admitted he missed. "Not about the stuff you should."
"Why you didn't ask me to leave."
"I'm being cordial."
"You're a liar."
Mulder scowled. "I'm not lying."
"You've been lying to yourself -- and me -- since the day we met."
Mulder got up from the couch and hovered menacingly above the man seated. "Krycek..."
"The answer is obvious; you're just too stupid to see it. Or accept it."
Suddenly Mulder yanked Krycek upright by the lapels of his leather jacket and flung him backwards against the wall. Krycek crashed against it so hard the framed picture above the couch bounced.
"I should never have let you in here," Mulder panted, flushing with anger.
They were nearly nose-to-nose when Krycek smiled. Mulder's face contorted in rage.
"I think we're getting closer to your answer, Mulder," Krycek said, his lips almost touching Mulder's. "Admit it."
"What?" he growled.
Krycek hesitated for a moment, and grinned. Then he grabbed Mulder's arms and reversed their positions, pressing their bodies together against the wall. He locked eyes on Mulder's confused gaze, and then kissed him roughly.
Mulder gasped and drew back, banging his head against the wall. He struggled for a moment, fighting Krycek's grasp, but Krycek only deepened the kiss and placed his good hand on Mulder's hip.
Mulder bucked against him, but Krycek answered that with a thrust of his tongue. Mulder exhaled sharply, squirming, and finally broke the kiss.
The two men stood there, panting, with Krycek's hand still on Mulder's hip. Mulder grabbed Krycek's prosthesis and spun him again, this time pinning Krycek back against the wall with his body.
"Motherfucker," he growled menacingly.
"The threats aren't going to work, Mulder. You know you're not going to do anything to me now."
"Wanna bet?" Mulder countered, dangerously close.
"I was never a gambling man," Krycek answered before kissing him again.
Mulder once more began to fight, but Krycek slid his hand down Mulder's hip and into the crease of his leg, near his crotch.
He felt an unmistakable tension jolt through Mulder's body when he did that, and the other man stilled. Krycek drew back from Mulder's lips and waited, knowing that for the first time in years he finally had the upper hand.
"Is it becoming clearer why you can't kill me?" Krycek whispered, his breath puffing against the hairs on Mulder's neck. "All that violence, all that rage against me -- it's a big act, isn't it, Mulder? It's easier to hit me than to kiss me."
"Yeah, I know, Mulder. You hate yourself for feeling this, right? You keep hoping that little white-hot flame of rage within you will help you ignore it, but drawing blood isn't the same as fucking me, is it? It's a weak substitution." Krycek practically purred his next sentence in Mulder's ear. "And you don't want blood, do you Fox?"
Krycek locked eyes with Mulder, and the other man stared back, defiantly.
"I...I don't know what I want," Mulder admitted, his voice low and deliberate.
Krycek guided his hand lower, his fingers skimming the front of Mulder's trousers. "Do you want to be alone for Christmas?"
Mulder released a deep, breathy sigh. "N-No. Not anymore. It...uh..."
"It hurts too much."
"It doesn't have to," Krycek answered.
Mulder stepped back from Krycek's touch, his gaze dropping to his feet. "I don't know what to do."
"Just be honest, Fox. Tell me what you want."
Mulder met Krycek's eyes again, and then reached for his hand. "Stay."