In Darker Shadows

by Tarlan

 
"I want to believe that the dead are not lost to us. That they speak to us as part of something greater than us - greater than any alien force. And if you and I are powerless now, I want to believe that if we listen to what's speaking; it can give us the power to save ourselves." Mulder

 

The dead talk to us and we ought to listen because they see things that we cannot yet comprehend. At least this was what Mulder believed following his incarceration and brain washing at the Mount Weather complex. Rationally, he knew his visitations from dead people were merely the construct of his abused mind using the memory of those others to help fight back against the conditioning. He recalled Agent Reyes' outburst at his trial:

What is the point of all of this? To destroy a man who seeks the truth or to destroy the truth so no man can seek it?

The shadow government wanted him gone to solve both parts of that problem so they chose the mockery of a trial rather than put a bullet through his brain. They wanted to discredit him, and then they wanted him dead. It really was as simple as that. What was interesting was the discovery that one of his judges was an alien, for that meant that the Colonists had already managed to infiltrate very high up in the government.

The most important thing he had learned was that the date for colonization had already been set. December 22nd, 2012, the same day the Mayan calendars came to an end, and with that amount of prophesy against him Mulder wasn't sure what he could do to derail the coming storm. But no matter what, he would not give up. Not even to keep this relatively normal life with Dana.

Dana had packed a small suitcase and he watched as she drove away, knowing she might never return but it had to be her choice for he could not change. Not after all this time. To do so would be to give up and wait for the calendar to click over to the End Game. He sighed. Sometimes love wasn't strong enough to keep two people together, not when their choices were taking them on different paths that the other was disinclined to travel. He could not blame her though. She had already endured so much of the darkness that had followed Mulder all of his life and she had reached the point where she wanted to step out into the light and stay there. She wanted normality rather than the paranormal. However, these past days working with the FBI to find the missing agent had proved that he needed the darkness, and that he never felt more alive than when he was confronting it head on, searching for the truth.

He moved back inside the house to the office he had set up for his work.

His consultancy with the FBI had gained him one important reward beyond solving another mystery; he was no longer a wanted man, and that gave him greater freedom to find a way to break through the web of lies concocted by aliens and humans alike, and let everyone know the truth before it was too late. Without the resources of the FBI it would be a little harder, and he had lost so many of his outside contacts over the years, mostly to death. He missed The Lone Gunmen. When they sacrificed themselves to stop a virus spreading, Mulder lost not just an endless source of information but three good friends too.

The one person he thought he would never miss was Alex Krycek. Yet he could still recall the flood of pleasure and disbelief flowing through him when he thought he saw and spoke to him in Mount Weather. Hindsight was a bitch and, looking back, one of his gravest mistakes was to stand by and let Walter kill Alex.

At the time he'd justified his non-action by believing no good could ever come of working with Alex because he had yet to figure out whose side Alex was actually on. Eventually, Mulder had convinced himself that the only person Alex Krycek truly cared about was himself, and so it didn't matter which side won as long as he came out on the victor's. After his death, it became obvious that Alex had always been on the side of the human race, playing the double/triple/quadruple agent to gain access to the Colonists' plans. Everything he had done--from killing the man Mulder had believed was his father, to Tunguska, to destroying what Marita called The Syndicate--was all to give humanity a greater chance of surviving the coming battle. He owed Alex for his immunity against the Black Oil and for his life on at least two other occasions. Mulder had even started to trust him before he showed up in the FBI parking garage with the super-soldier, Knowle Rohrer, by his side. He still didn't understand why Alex had wanted him dead that day, not when he'd had ample opportunity to kill him far more easily in the past either directly with knife or gun, or through inaction.

In the parking garage he had seen the reluctance in Alex's eyes, the inability to actually pull the trigger once the gun was pointing straight at him. Alex had killed plenty of times before in cold blood and without remorse so why had it been so different that time. In return, all Mulder had felt was the bitterness of another betrayal, of seeing his growing trust misplaced.

According to Alex, his death was worth a thousand lives and yet he had hesitated. Now Mulder wondered whose lives had paid for Alex's failure.

With Dana close to giving birth and with human replacements closing in on them, Mulder hadn't cared when Walter sent a bullet through Alex's forehead, but now it was just one more unanswered question. After all, until that day Walter had always been by-the-book, and yet he had executed Alex that day. Since then Walter had broken him out of the Mount Weather complex before they could carry out Mulder's sentence of death by lethal injection after that farce of a trial.

Thinking back to the parking garage, Mulder never thought he would feel any regret for what had happened to Alex and yet, of all of them, Alex was the one who invaded his thoughts most often. More so than even the living. Perhaps it was simply because Alex had left so many mysteries behind, and even after a year of solitude he had barely scratched the surface. It seemed that the deeper he dug for answers, the more questions he found, and with so many lies wrapped around the truth, then wrapped around more lies, it was little wonder that Alex had always been so cryptic. Perhaps, in the end, even he had found it difficult to separate the lies from the truth.

The truth? You can't handle the truth.

Mulder smiled as the line from an old court drama movie claimed his thoughts momentarily. He wondered how many people could handle the thought of everything ending. Perhaps most needed to remain in ignorance so they could continue to function until the end but he hoped that most would want to fight to survive.

"Fight the future."

Mulder looked over and Alex was standing in the shadows of the doorway. He knew Alex was just a figment of his imagination and that filled him with an almost overwhelming sense of grief, something that had been lacking as he watched Dana drive away.

"What do you want?"

Alex smiled but his green eyes were tinged with desperation rather than pleasure. "You know what I want."

Mulder shook his head because Alex always said the same thing and yet Mulder didn't have a clue, just lots of questions and no answers.

"Tell me."

"Fight the future."

Mulder closed his eyes in frustration but when he opened them, Alex was gone. He slammed a fist down onto the desk top, then leaned over to rest his forehead upon his still clenched hand. It was always the same. The same desperation in Alex's eyes and the same words, as if both should hold some meaning for him. He had an eidetic memory but that could only provide him with data. Building the connections between all the tiny details was the hard part and he knew he was missing some important piece of this mystery puzzle. Alex was long dead before they discovered the massive alien ship buried beneath the ice. He had no part in the memories evoked by the words spoken by his ghost.

I think the dead are speaking to us Mulder, demanding justice. Maybe that man was right. Maybe we bury the dead alive.

Dana's words from so long ago echoed through his mind and Mulder felt gut-punched. No. It couldn't be true because he had seen Alex Krycek die. He had seen a high velocity projectile go straight between his eyes. He had seen... He frowned. He hadn't seen anything else as he'd left in a hurry to go save Dana leaving Walter behind to dispose of the body. By mutual and silent agreement they had never discussed that moment in the parking garage but, suddenly, Mulder needed to know what happened next.

The trip to D.C. took a few more hours than he had anticipated and he arrived outside Walter's office in time to see him pulling on his coat.

"Mulder!"

Walter looked surprised but pleased to see him, and Mulder was grateful that the closeness forged during his years as Mulder's boss had led to friendship following Mulder's resignation from the FBI.

"Walter. We need to talk."

"And you couldn't pick up the phone?"

"Not for this."

Walter sighed heavily but nodded, leading the way to the elevator and to the parking garage far below. The parking garage was empty but Mulder waited until they were walking across the echoing space towards Walter's car before reaching out to grab his arm, bringing Walter round to face him.

"I need to know what you did with Krycek."

"Krycek?"

"After you shot him. I need to..."

"Wait. I didn't shoot Krycek."

"Yes you did. Here. Right here."

"You must be mistaken. I haven't seen that rat bastard since he abandoned me unconscious in the elevator after Billy Miles came at us in my office."

Mulder didn't need to be a mind reader to know Walter was telling the truth and he felt sick to his stomach because it is wasn't Walter then it had to be one of the shape-shifters impersonating Walter. All these years he had debated the dilemma of 'by-the-book' Walter Skinner murdering a defenseless man in cold blood. If that had not been Walter Skinner then the whole execution of Alex must have been one elaborate subterfuge which he'd bought completely. It explained why someone as careful as Alex Krycek could allow himself to be seen in the car with Rohrer that day. It explained why Alex had waited too long to pull the trigger on him, and why Walter had insisted on staying with the body. It wasn't Alex either. It was more likely a shape-shifter that had self-repaired, got up and walked away as soon as Mulder was out of sight.

If he was right then Alex might still be alive.

****

"Brain wave activity was high again."

FBI Deputy Director Adamson smiled without warmth, wondering why his masters had refused to allow him to kill Krycek. Instead they had kept him entombed for the past few years, hooked up to machinery that kept him more dead than alive. The spikes in Krycek's brain wave pattern had started around the same time Mulder infiltrated the Mount Weather complex. As a judge at Mulder's trial he had seen Mulder look up several times as if he was listening to someone only he could see and all those moments coincided with these brain spikes. He was convinced that Krycek had figured out a way to communicate with Mulder on a telepathic level, but instead of making him a liability that ought to be destroyed, his masters had been even more determined to keep Krycek alive, to study him.

Krycek and Mulder had always interested his masters. Both of them by varying degrees had been manipulated on the genetic level by humans fighting against colonization. Perhaps it was this that had kept the two humans gravitating towards each other even in adversity. Certainly they would have been a formidable enemy if they could have put aside their differences completely. As far as Adamson was concerned, keeping them both alive was a dangerous game.

The naked form floated in the thick fluid with a single umbilical tube controlling oxygen and nutrient input, and waste disposal. The fluid had regenerative properties to keep the cells from deteriorating and it had taken two years for limb regrowth but now he was fully formed. The same fluid was used to create the human hybrid slaves, like himself, who would continue to do their masters' bidding once colonization was complete.

"When?"

"Two hours ago. Short duration of 18 seconds."

"He may have contacted Mulder again."

The laboratory assistant tilted his head. "Hmm. Footage of Fox Mulder during his incarceration and trial does coincide with high brain wave activity in this subject. He sustained the activity for longer on those occasions so perhaps distance is a factor."

"Yes."

Adamson thought it plausible as Subject Alex Krycek was in one of the many cloning laboratories hidden beneath the Mount Weather complex. Proximity to Mulder may have been the catalyst.

"Monitor the situation closely. Inform me of any changes."

"Yes, sir."

****

Fight the future. Mulder had always considered Krycek a selfish bastard but if he analyzed all his known data the results showed a different man, one who put his cause before his own safety. Alex has lost an arm taking him to Tunguska but hadn't let that stop him from being there when all of Mulder's doubts overcame him. It was Alex and not Dana who gave him the strength to go on, and who had kissed him that day.

Things are looking up.

Cryptic, like all of Alex's messages; even the more recent ones that might not be from beyond the grave after all. If Alex was still alive but could only come to him in dreams or hallucinations then it was likely that the aliens had him, and yet he had not asked Mulder to save him. No, he had asked Mulder to continue with his work--their work--in saving the six billion humans on the planet. Except Mulder knew he couldn't do it without Alex. Dana might hold a piece of his heart but Alex owned his soul.

He laughed softly at the admission, aware that he had denied the truth for far too long.

"Where are you?" he whispered before turning his thoughts inwards, knowing the key was in the trivial details stored inside his mind.

Standing up, he pulled one of the boards off his office wall and turned it around. One of the few images of Alex in his possession went into the center of the board and slowly he worked outwards. If Alex was using some form of astral projection then the chances were that he had been close at the time. Mulder frowned. The first time he had seen imaginary Alex was at Mount Weather, just after he had been discovered by Rohrer. Alex had materialized and shown him an escape route that Mulder might have missed otherwise. It hadn't helped him too far in the long run as Alex hadn't appeared again until after he was in his cell being tortured. He had come to Mulder often but mostly was an insubstantial shadow in the corner of the room, whispering at him to remain strong. At the time it was far easier to believe Alex was a defense mechanism in his mind but the doubts had started to creep in once the trial had begun.

He had also conjured up X during the trial and yet the man had seemed different to the person he recalled. Deliberately X goaded Mulder, defying him to challenge his words that fighting the future was futile; so much like Alex with his cryptic words and reverse psychology. Had it been Alex projecting a different form to make Mulder sit up and think through his options. Yet it was Alex who told him to stop the questioning when Marita Covarrubias took the stand, acting as Mulder's conscience in wanting to protect her. If she had named the members of the new shadow government then she would have been killed.

On that occasion Alex had seemed stronger still, more in control of his thoughts and actions, even laying a ghostly hand on Mulder's shoulder. Yet no one else saw him or there would have been an outcry from Walter at least. Perhaps Mulder had simply imagined the weight of that hand, drawing from memory or perhaps Alex truly had been more substantial in his mind.

Mount Weather Complex.

Alex had not appeared to him again until today. Perhaps it was a problem with distance, which brought Mulder back to Mount Weather.

"Damn it," he muttered.

Getting into the top secret military base had been hard the first time, and he had ended up sentenced to death by lethal injection. Getting in a second time would be... No. Nothing was impossible if he put his mind to it, and if he was right and Alex was there, hidden away in some laboratory or buried alive in a cell, then Alex might be able to help him. It was still a gamble on the unknown but Mulder had played that hand many times before and won. He knew, though, that if he was caught again then there would be no trial. He would simply disappear as another casualty of the unknown war against the alien invaders.

It took an hour to put all his affairs in order and leave clues for Dana. An hour after that he was driving along the highway, heading for Mount Weather, having decided that he couldn't risk flying to any local airports in case they were monitoring them for him.

****

Time held little meaning for Alex within his ethereal prison, floating in his own mind with no concept of light or dark, night or day. Days, weeks, months, perhaps years had passed that he could only gauge by the slowly increasing number of lines on his beloved's face. Not that Mulder would ever learn of Alex's feelings for him. For someone so intelligent and so observant of the smallest details, Mulder often missed what was as large as life and in front of his face. It's why they would have made a great team if that cancerous bastard, Spender, had not pulled him into his selfish cause. Mulder's ability to connect all the tiny dots combined with his ability to step back and see the larger picture.

He had bought into the lies originally as an idealistic young man out to save the world. Through betrayals and trials--and through adversity--Alex had found the truth and understood why it had to be shrouded in lies. He had played one side against the other, slowly working all of them, unknowingly, towards a common goal--his goal. They thought they had silenced him by capturing him and placing him in this isolated world. Instead he had concentrated on the abilities mixed into his genetics through experimentation from before he was even born, and the changes that had been made since, both voluntary and under duress. He honed the telepathic skills that would have sent Mulder into raptures on one of his X-File hunts, unaware that both of them possessed the same extraordinary abilities. If only Mulder would truly open his mind to all the possibilities but believing, and wanting to believe, were not the same thing.

Psychokinesis. Astral projection, Telepathy and telepathic projection. Telekinesis. Mind over matter. Stepping outside his own body and transporting himself over great distance. Problem was, the greater the distance the harder it was to hold his form, and his captors had started to piece it all together. Eventually they would realize exactly how much of a risk they were taking in keeping him alive, and he sensed that day was fast approaching. He had kept the Resistance informed and moving forward by connecting with others like him, telling them all he had learned from inside the Mount Weather complex, preparing them all for the final battle. More recently, and more personally, he had stood over Mulder and Scully while they slept wrapped around each other, only leaving when Mulder's subconscious became aware of his presence, rousing him from sleep. It hurt seeing Scully with everything he had wanted for himself--a normal life and, more importantly, Mulder--but he couldn't begrudge either of them a little comfort after all those hard years, especially when he had been partially responsible for Scully's suffering.

Until his last visit, he had been just a deeper shadow in the corner of the room, unable to manifest full form. But he had sensed Mulder's thoughts turning to him more often these days, even though Scully lay beside him.

Mulder was ready, and the right time to strike back at the Colonists was coming. His army was building, growing stronger, and he needed to be free of this prison before that first strike. Yet he could not draw attention to his people before they made the attack. Losing the advantage of surprise could condemn the whole human race to extinction so he could not have his people rescue him. Only one man--working alone outside of all the webs and resistance cells--could break in and free him without destroying everything Alex had worked for over these many years.

Fox Mulder.

Alex thought of him and concentrated hard, surprised to discover that Mulder was closer than he had anticipated. Very close. He wondered if that proximity was what had triggered his thoughts of the other man. Last time around, Mulder had managed to sneak onto the bus transporting in a group of officials for a tour of the complex. This time Mulder had no false documentation and ID badge to get him through the security checks. He was lying down at the top of a rocky outcrop, looking through binoculars at the base below. Alex knelt down beside him and touched his arm.

Mulder jerked back.

"Jesus, Krycek!"

"No. Just Alex."

Mulder grimaced. "So I guess you're in there. Don't suppose you know how I can get you out?"

Alex smiled. "There's an escape hatch on the other side of the mountain. I'll open it for you. Come on."

Mulder scurried back from the edge and stood up. He reached out and grabbed Alex's arm as he semi-floated back to his feet. The hand was so solid looking, so real against Alex's form and Alex felt a pang of sorrow that he could not feel the weight and warmth of it. He waited anyway, and was surprised when Mulder moved his hand up to the back of his neck and drew him forward. The plump lips against his cheek filled him with as much sorrow as pleasure because he could not feel them but the kiss spoke of forgiveness, of acceptance for past actions, for acknowledgment of all he'd had to sacrifice to save the human race--the good and the bad. Alex smiled sadly at Mulder. He knew that if he had to die right now, then he would go with few regrets other than for the times Mulder had suffered at his hands, knowing others would use his legacy of links and information to try to stop colonization.

"It's this way," he murmured, turning away knowing Mulder would follow.

Manipulating writing on a piece of paper was child's play compared to breaking the security locks around the escape hatch and Alex felt his inner reserves dwindle as he fought to remain substantial long enough to press the keys in the right sequence. When it finally opened, Mulder was waiting on the other side; the worry on his face faded into relief.

"About time."

"I can't stay. Got to..."

"Alex. At least point me in the right direction."

"Sublevel 22. East."

Darkness swept in around the edges and he fell back into a twilight world.

****

The last time Mulder had moved along these corridors he had not lasted long before being spotted by Knowle Rohrer, the shape-shifting super-soldier. He intended to be more careful this time around, checking around every corner and making use of any blind spots on the numerous security cameras. He ducked into a door recess at the sound of approaching boots on the cemented floor. The soldier passed without glancing in his direction, and Mulder let out a soft sigh of relief.

According to the blueprints Mulder had filed away in his memory from last time, Sublevel 22 was the deepest level in the complex and gave him few options beyond use of the elevator. He smiled when an opportunity presented itself in the form of a man dressed as a research scientist. Moments later the unconscious man was left bound and gagged in a small room, and Mulder was pulling on the man's white coat and checking the ID. He stepped out and pulled the door closed behind him, locking it securely. The key to a successful infiltration was looking like you belonged so Mulder strode purposefully along the corridor with his head down, pretending to be intensely focused on the notes on a clipboard. Taking a gamble, he swiped the card against the reader and the elevator door opened. This elevator went down only as far as sublevel 15 and Mulder decided to get off at sublevel 14 and find an alternative route for the rest of the descent. He found a maintenance hatch leading into the lower elevator shaft and climbed down slowly, aware of the long drop. Several times he had to squeeze himself between the ladder and the wall as the elevator moved past him, and on one occasion he considered climbing on top of the elevator that had stopped just below him, and lowering himself inside, but that held too great a risk of discovery.

Eventually he managed to get to sublevel 22, quickly getting his bearings and heading east along a corridor that had rooms set evenly apart on both sides. Bowing to curiosity, he glanced inside one and pulled back in shock. What lay beyond was not a human structure. He had seen its like before beneath the ice in Antarctica--an alien mothership--and just like that one, this held hundreds of units where humans were being stored prior to being cloned or converted into the slave race of human-alien hybrids.

Alex had to be in one of these units but Mulder guessed that there could be thousands of them here. How was he to find one man among so many? Without Alex to guide him, Mulder had to believe that he could find him on his own, that there was a bond between them, and all Mulder had to do was access it and follow the slender thread back to Alex. He closed his eyes and concentrated, drawing in memories of Alex from the bright-eyed young agent who had partnered with him for a while, to the hardened assassin and resistance leader that Alex had eventually become. He let his feet take him forward along the corridor, only stopping when he felt a pull towards one door in particular.

Inside it was cold and Mulder shivered as he walked through unnatural corridors lined with humans--or hybrids--feeling the pull towards one area. He paused and stared at the naked form floating in a thick blue fluid, connected up to the machinery through a tube. On the panel set to one side, Mulder recognized various patterns that denoted the man's physiological state and, for one moment, he doubted his mental bond with Alex because this form had two arms. Leaning in closer, Mulder peered inside and felt his heart lurch in his chest when he saw the familiar face.

He experienced a moment of doubt, wondering if this was a clone, but some sixth sense him told him this was the real Alex; whole once more.

Floating before him, Alex looked so alone and vulnerable, stirring up old memories and feelings within Mulder that he thought he had long suppressed. They had clashed so many times and yet every encounter had always felt so intimate. He could still recall the feel of Alex pressed against him in Hong Kong, and the brush of Alex's lips against his cheek that one time in his apartment. He was surprised to realize that he wanted more. He wanted to feel the heat of Alex's naked skin pressed hard against his own; wanted to kiss him as a lover instead of as a comrade, deep and hard and needy. He wanted all the passion that was lacking in his gentle and staid romance with Dana.

There were times when he thought Alex might want that too; when he had looked at Mulder with a burning intensity filled with hunger rather than hatred. Pushing those thoughts of Alex aside, Mulder rubbed a hand across his face, aware that he was working on borrowed time. If he delayed much longer then he would be caught and probably end up in the same dilemma as Alex.

Removing Alex from the storage unit would be easy enough but Mulder knew that doing so would trip silent alarms. Before he made any moves, he needed to think of an exit plan, and he needed to do so quickly. In the end, though, he had only one option open to him, and that was to remove Alex and put as much distance between them and this human storage room as fast as possible--which wouldn't be that far carrying a semi-conscious man. The nearest maintenance hatchway was halfway between this room and the elevator but the guards were bound to spot the trail of blue fluid, leading the guards right to them. And Mulder could never carry Alex up 22 levels of vertical ladders.

Unless... He studied the storage unit and grinned when he realized it could be detached from the wall. All he needed to do was wheel it away to a safer area before releasing Alex, and if he was correct, the security alarm would only trip once the sealed unit was actually opened. It gave him precious extra time to make their escape. The white coat would prove useful again as anyone seeing him would naturally assume he was simply doing his job. At least a similar ruse had worked before and he had to believe that it would work again now.

The unit released smoothly, moving out from the wall and then rotating. It tilted backwards onto the transport trolley that Mulder had located close by, ending up horizontal. Mulder knew it was no coincidence that the trolley had been waiting there for him, wondering if Alex had somehow brought it there, or more likely, that Alex had been moved enough times over the past years for experimentation to make it worth keeping a trolley close at hand. The thought of someone experimenting on Alex filled him with anger, but he couldn't change what had happened in the past few years. All he could do was stop it from happening again.

He kept his head lowered as he pushed the storage unit through the empty corridor back towards the elevator, not wanting any of the cameras to catch his likeness. His gamble paid off when a swipe of the stolen ID card brought the elevator down. Exercising caution once more, he stopped at sublevel 16, one below the top for this particular elevator, and pushed the unit along a far busier corridor and yet no one paid any mind to him, making him suspect that this was not an unusual sight. He paused at the door alongside the maintenance hatch and checked to see if it was empty before pushing the unit inside.

Now came the dangerous moment, but as he reached out to switch off the unit, a hand shot out from beside him and rested upon his arm.

"Krycek!"

Alex was staring down curiously at the body floating in the blue storage unit--his own body.

"We have to leave now," Alex stated.

"No kidding."

"Lift the left-hand segment of the control panel and press the blue button underneath."

"What will that do?"

Alex smiled. "Cancels the security alarm."

It took a moment for Mulder to locate the almost seamless flap. He pressed the button and then opened the storage unit. The projection of Alex disappeared the moment the real Alex began to stir. His eyes snapped open, locking onto Mulder instantly as if shocked to see him standing there. His eyes flicked away, scanning the room in increasing fear and Mulder knew he had to get Alex out of the unit before the man had a full blown panic attack. Reaching up, he unlatched the lid, hearing the liquid-tight seal release with a hiss. The door lifted away and Mulder reached in, pulling Alex up until his face was above the surface. It took only a few more seconds to strip away the tube and leave Alex gasping in pure air, clinging unsteadily to the edge of the unit. Reaching in again, Mulder took most of Alex's weight as he helped him climb out, holding Alex hard against his chest when Alex couldn't get his legs under him. They both sank to the floor with Alex shaking in his arms, head buried against Mulder's shoulder. He could feel the wetness seeping beneath his clothing, the blue staining the white coat and yet Mulder couldn't pull away. Instead he pulled Alex closer--until he realized that the shivering wasn't stopping. Alex was cold and they needed to get out of there before they were discovered. Mulder stripped off the white coat and wrapped it around Alex while he made a quick circuit of the empty laboratory. In a cupboard he found a pair of surgical scrubs and took them over to where Alex lay curled on the cold floor. He used the already damp white coat to dry off Alex from head to toe before helping him pull on the scrubs.

"Think you can stand?"

Alex looked doubtful but made the attempt anyway, leaning heavily on Mulder as he gained his feet under him. He wasn't too steady and Mulder pulled one of Alex's arms over his shoulder while he wrapped an arm around Alex's waist. Together they staggered a few steps before Mulder gained his balance, taking more of Alex's weight. The suddenness of the alarm siren made him flinch. In the corridor beyond Mulder could hear people running in both directions. It was only a matter of time until someone entered this room so he decided not to wait to be discovered and see if they could bluff their way out.

They stepped into the corridor and Mulder called to one of the passers-by.

"Hey! Give me a hand. This man's hurt."

The man looked torn, looking pointedly between Mulder and the direction he'd been going, but he cursed under his breath and grabbed Alex's other arm. Together they moved swiftly to the elevator and Mulder let the other man use his ID to call it down. As the doors slid open, Mulder thanked the man.

"I can take it from here."

The man nodded gratefully and jogged off, leaving Mulder grinning at Alex the moment the door closed. Glad that he had an eidetic memory, Mulder pushed the button for the floor just beneath the top level--one that he recalled held an infirmary--knowing it would look less suspicious that way if someone was to step into the elevator with them. At the worst, Mulder would have to carry Alex up the final set of stairs to the top level.

"Mulder."

Mulder gave a sharp shake of his head to tell Alex to shut up. The elevator door opened seconds later and Mulder stepped out, purposefully heading towards the infirmary. He slowed, waiting until he was certain no one was watching, timing his steps so he could duck into the stairwell with Alex. Without waiting, he hefted Alex into a fireman's carry and climbed the stairs, fully aware of the weight and warmth of Alex's body. No one saw him slip into the tunnel that led to the escape hatch. It had not been on the original blueprints Mulder had seen or he would have used it for access last time he tried to infiltrate this complex, so he hoped that it was as easily forgotten by the Mount Weather security forces now.

He hissed at Alex to stop struggling, knowing they were making slightly better time with Mulder carrying him, only putting him down once they reached the escape hatch. Mulder breathed a sigh of relief as it was exactly as he had left it. Moments later they were outside, and Mulder was glad he had timed his earlier arrival for late in the afternoon for the sun was starting to set, lengthening the shadows that would give them greater cover.

Slinging Alex's arm over his shoulder once more, he supported Alex's weight as they headed for the closest outcrop.

****

The warmth of Mulder's body and the strength of his arms supporting him were all Alex could think of as they half ran, half staggered across the clearing to the outcrop, aware that he would never have made it alone. Only once they had reached the relative cover on the other side did he let his thoughts turn back to the escape. Part of him was insisting that it could not have been this easy while the rest was internalizing a yell of triumph. He had seen the aliens' flaws close up. He knew their weaknesses, drawn mainly from their arrogance in believing that nothing could stop them. He wouldn't be surprised if they had let them go, seeing them as no threat to their future plans for colonization. Perhaps even liking the idea of watching them fail just to increase their own sense of superiority.

If that was the case then they were severely mistaken.

Alex knew things about them that could unhinge their plans once and for all, and Mulder would be a powerful ally in that quest once he learned how to use the skills bred into both of them. He leaned heavily against Mulder as they clambered over the rocks, accepting assistance with a willingness that would have been absent the last time they had met in the real world. It took an hour to reach Mulder's car, but Alex was not surprised that it was exactly where Mulder had left it. It was hidden beneath an overhang that would make it impossible to spot from the air and difficult from the ground unless someone happened to chance upon it, or was looking for it. Sliding into the passenger seat, Alex sighed in relief.

"Mulder."

Mulder glanced at him as he gunned the engine. "You can thank me later."

Exhausted, Alex let his head drop sideways, and he fell asleep immediately, lulled by the throb of the car engine and the vibration from the road beneath the wheels.

He awoke with a start at what had to be hours later judging by the increasing pink and orange on the horizon that signaled the sun was rising. Mulder gave him a glance and a half smile but otherwise kept his eyes on the road. He looked exhausted as well, having driven through the night, but Alex could understand the need to put as much distance between them and Mount Weather as quickly as possible. A road sign advertised a diner and motel about ten miles ahead.

"I'm pulling in there. We can get a room, and order in some food."

"Don't suppose you brought along a change of clothes. Something less conspicuous than scrubs... or nudity."

Mulder grinned. "Still a little body-conscious?"

Alex snorted softly, recalling how he had always kept covered up in anyone's presence, especially after losing his arm. Trust Mulder to have noticed his tendency to be reserved around others. In contrast, Mulder had never had a self-image problem judging by the tight Speedos he used to wear swimming, either never noticing or not caring how many people watched him avidly. He had a runner's lean body; long and muscular, with strong shoulders, and Alex had enjoyed watching from afar as Mulder cut through the water with such fluid ease.

"We don't all flaunt it."

Mulder grinned again but Alex could see the lines of fatigue around his eyes, wondering how much sleep Mulder had managed over the past few days. Probably not much at all, he decided. Soon after, they pulled off the highway and Mulder didn't need to remind Alex to stay in the car while he got them a room, aware that he would look conspicuous in the surgical scrubs and bare feet. Plus, Alex could bet he looked terrible. His hair had become stiff spikes as the fluid he had been floating in began drying and now he could feel the itch of it in every orifice. He needed a shower desperately.

Mulder returned with a key and climbed back in. He drove them across the parking lot to the far end and stopped in front of one of the rooms. Climbing out of the car was far harder than Alex envisaged as his muscles had stiffened. Definitely a bath rather than a shower, he hoped, because he wasn't sure he could stand up long enough to scrub away the blue gunk that still covered him.

There was no bath though, only a large shower stall that took up the width of the small bathroom. Mulder surprised him by going in and starting the shower running, but he came back out immediately and offered it to Alex.

"You look like shit, Krycek."

"I have good reason. What's your excuse?"

Mulder stared hard, with his head tilted slightly as if he was playing through a dozen answers to that one question. It seemed so out of place on a man who had never had trouble snapping off a response before today.

"You. You're my excuse."

The honesty was unsettling so Alex brushed by him, heading into the tiny bathroom where the hot shower waited for him. On the spur of the moment, he left the door slightly ajar, knowing Mulder would most likely watch him undress; he wasn't disappointed. As he pulled off the scrub top, Alex felt the weight of Mulder's heated stare through the crack in the door. He froze, the nervous expectation vanishing as he became mesmerized by the expanse of living flesh where a prosthetic arm used to be. In his astral projections, he'd always had only the one arm, having mentally accepted its loss years ago, and knowing no different until he was rescued.

"Probably a side effect from the blue liquid. They use the same stuff to create the clones."

Alex snapped out of his awe upon hearing Mulder, wondering how long the other man had been standing right in front of him. Mulder's strong fingers trailed up his new arm before wrapping around the biceps.

"Come on. Let's get you cleaned up before you fall over and I have to haul your ass off the floor."

Alex opened his mouth to protest that he was a grown man and didn't need any assistance, but the words died in his throat when he realized he was shaking. Neither did he protest when Mulder joined him in the shower. He leaned heavily into the tiled wall and let Mulder run a washcloth over him. He felt Mulder massaging shampoo into his scalp with clever fingers, drawing a different kind of pleasure as the blue liquid swirled around their naked feet and down the drain. He barely noticed Mulder turning off the shower and wrapping him in a large, slightly scratchy white towel, and he was surprised he managed to stay on his feet long enough to reach the bed.

When he awoke hours later, Mulder was seated on the other bed, with his back supported by pillows and his long legs stretched out. He was reading something, and the rustle that had brought Alex out of his deep sleep was the sound of Mulder's hand dipping into a bag of potato chips.

"Did you sleep?" Alex asked. Mulder glanced across at him and the dark circles under his eyes seemed even more pronounced. "Didn't think so." He pushed back the covers and padded across the room naked to where a pile of clothes was set out, pulling them on quickly. The clothes were made for a slightly taller frame and were soft and slightly worn: Mulder's clothes. "We should grab something to eat and then go."

Mulder tossed a bag over and inside Alex found a couple of sandwiches and an apple. He ate quickly, conscious of how long they had spent in this one place and knowing it would be only a matter of time before one of the super-soldiers caught up with them--if they were not already watching from a distance. Although Mulder's car had seemed untouched, Alex's instincts had warned him otherwise, and those instincts had kept him alive so he'd learned not to ignore them. If the Colonists had let them escape then they had probably tagged the car so they could follow.

He and Mulder had to move on now before the Colonists grew tired of waiting to see what happened next.

"We can grab coffee to go," Mulder stated.

Alex snatched up the car keys as Mulder reached for them. "I'll drive. You sleep."

Mulder shrugged and picked up a hold-all. A quick glance around proved they were leaving nothing behind so Alex headed for the door only to be grabbed by Mulder and kissed swiftly but passionately, leaving no doubt as to Mulder's feelings for him. Alex touched his lips, still feeling the tingle from where Mulder had kissed him, and he could only watch as Mulder walked away towards the small diner without a backward glance as if he had not just sent Alex into a head spin by his actions. Alex pulled the motel room's door closed behind him and got into the driver's side while he waited for Mulder to return with the take-out coffee. He touched his lips again, recalling the way those lips had felt upon his, and the way Mulder's hands had felt on his body in the shower. He caught his reflection in the rear-view mirror and saw only confusion in his eyes. Alex thought he knew everything about Mulder. He thought he knew the man's preferences, and never once had Mulder made a play for another guy over all those years. But that was then, when Mulder had belonged to the FBI. Deny everything was almost a motto in government law enforcement where homosexuality was concerned, especially if an agent wanted to avoid career suicide. Mulder was a free agent now with no career inside the FBI to worry over, and so was Alex, so the rules had changed for both of them.

Perhaps Mulder no longer wanted to deny everything.

Mulder was asleep almost as soon as Alex pulled onto the highway, and the hours passed slowly as Alex put even more miles between them and Mount Weather, constantly checking in the rear-view for any signs of them being tailed. Frequently, he found his eyes drifting to Mulder's face--so open and vulnerable in sleep. He had a destination in mind, and he felt Mulder stir beside him as the car began to jolt over uneven ground after Alex left the highway and headed for the back of an old aviation hangar. This was something he had organized while still held captive, and when he saw the small plane sitting inside the hangar exactly as he pictured it, he was glad that it hadn't all been a figment of his imagination.

"Where are we?" Mulder looked childishly rumpled from sleep.

"Safe. Safer," Alex amended. "We have to ditch the car. They've been tracking it."

At least Mulder was just as paranoid and didn't try to refute Alex's claim.

A man was waiting for them, grinning broadly and asking no questions as they boarded the small plane. Moments later they were in the air, flying low to avoid the radar, with their pilot using every twist of mountain and valley to hide them from being seen from the ground. Alex smiled, imagining the super-soldiers converging on Mulder's tagged car and finding them gone.

He glanced across at Mulder and was caught in the same heated stare from the night before. He understood that look now. It wasn't only lust but a whole range of feelings built over so many years, which converged into a single, powerful emotion: love. He understood because he felt it too, deep in his bones, in his psyche. He knew it because he could feel it twisting between them as Mulder's abilities unfurled in his presence, most likely triggered by Alex's proximity, and bringing them closer together. And he knew it because he felt the same.

The plane flew on, taking them on a roundabout route to a secret base where Alex's army trained in readiness for their fight against the Colonists. And as he reached out and curled his fingers around Mulder's, feeling them squeeze his in return, Alex knew he would not have to face this fight for the future alone.

For the first time, he had a reason to fight that went beyond saving the human race. This time, he felt hope for his own future too.

Much as you try to bury it, the truth is out there. Greater than your lies, the truth wants to be known. You will know it. It'll come to you, as it's come to me faster than the speed of light.

The End

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