by Courtney Gray
Krycek moved silently away from the window, turning his back on the sight of the holiday lights and the glow of the candles and the warmth of the fireplace beyond. He settled back in the shadows, in the darkness where he belonged.
He was an outsider. That was always his destiny. His life had been lived in the shadows, in a world drawn by deception, violence, and death. He knew that twisted world intimately, felt comfortable in it. Violence never bothered him; killing came easy. And he was good at it, very good. In the end, he had had no expectations except to survive long enough to take his enemies down with him.
He looked up at the cold winter sky and the few stars scattered between the gathering clouds. The area was quiet and no one was about. A thin, patchy layer of white dusted the street and sidewalks, a precursor of the heavier snowfall soon to come. Many of the houses on either side of the tree-lined street were decorated for the holidays, with festive wreaths on the doors and twinkling lights draped around wide windows here and there, many with softly glittering Christmas trees at their center. He could see families, men and women and children milling about behind those windows, an occasional dog or cat as well. The crisp smell of pine mingled with the pungent hint of wood smoke that wafted up from a few of the chimneys.
To him, it was like an alien landscape. He didn't belong here. He had no right to be here. He should leave.
He remembered what Mulder had said to him, back in Tunguska. "You're an invertebrate scum-sucker whose moral dipstick is about two drops short of bone-dry." And Mulder had been right. The concept of right and wrong had been as foreign to him then as the notion of 'home' was to him now. His trainers had succeeded in creating a consummate spy and by practical extension, a consummate killer. And he had been the Syndicate's most successful operative... until they'd assigned him to Mulder.
Special Agent Fox Mulder had changed everything, had changed his reality. Mulder had turned his world upside down.
Now, almost ten years later, that past seemed like an inconceivable nightmare. As his eyes gazed over the tranquil, suburban neighborhood, he was still amazed that the Conspiracy had not succeeded and that he had managed to escape it. That humankind had triumphed despite all odds.
Even so, even in his wildest imaginings, he could never have envisioned a world where he could belong in a place like this.
He started at the sound of a door opening behind him, and moved further into the shadows.
"Alex, please come back inside." Mulder stood in the doorway, haloed by the lights from the house, an expression that mingled exasperation and relief on his face. When Krycek didn't move, he reached out towards him, grabbing his wrist firmly and pulling him into the house.
"You're not even wearing your heavy jacket, you dumbass. You could freeze your nuts out there," Mulder grumbled at him. "And if it wasn't for the fact that I am so fuckin' partial to them, I might've let you."
Krycek tested Mulder's grip on his wrist, the thought flashing through his mind that he could so easily break every one of Mulder's fingers and then his arm before the man even knew what hit him.
"We're going to have to talk, Alex. This has got to stop." Mulder dragged him into the cozy living room with its lights and holly and glowing fireplace and pushed him down to sit in the middle of the big and oh-so-comfortable sofa.
Mulder plopped down beside him, huffing little impatient breaths until Krycek finally gave up staring at the tops of his boots and looked up into those damnably soulful, hazel eyes.
He shrugged his shoulders. "I needed some air."
"Were you going to leave?" Mulder was cutting to the chase.
He weighed the question, weighed the possible answers, trying to be as honest as he could. "I don't know. Maybe."
"Why, Alex? Why?"
How did Mulder manage to look so hurt with only his eyes? Krycek swallowed. "Maybe I'm just not made for happy endings, Mulder."
Mulder turned his face away, slumping back against the cushions, staring at the fireplace a few feet away. "So, no happy endings for me either then."
Krycek shook his head. "No. That's not what I meant. I... I don't want to hurt you, not ever again."
"Well, you're off to a rocky start then, babe. You're going to have to explain it better than that."
The logs crackled in the fireplace as the silence stretched out between them. Krycek wanted to jump up and run for the door and just keep on running. At the same time, he wanted to throw his arms around Mulder and never let go. He didn't know which would be the better choice for Mulder's sake. That was the problem.
He stood up quickly and paced to the other side of the window, away from the tree and looked out. "I'll never... fit in a place like this," he said.
"And you think I do?" returned Mulder.
Turning towards the voice, he met those same troubled eyes. "Better than me. Always better than me," he answered, knowing that Mulder would understand he was referring to more than just the house.
He watched Mulder's lips tighten into a familiar stubborn line. "Alex, you are damn hard work. Will I always have to go through this every time the holidays roll around?"
Frowning, Krycek slowly crossed his arms. "Go through what?"
"Your raging Volga River of Russian Guilt? Your Mississippi of Melancholia? Your Danube of Doubt? Amazon of Abjection, Ganges of Gloom?"
"Shut up, Mulder." Despite a spark of irritation, he realized he had to stifle the beginnings of a smile. "You are such a douche bag."
It really didn't surprise him very much when Mulder started to chuckle. He actually liked the sound of it. Mulder's laughter had been a rare thing years ago and it always stirred him now like a tender piece of music.
"Ah, there's my angry bad boy," taunted Mulder, opening his arms invitingly.
Krycek shook his head, crossing his arms more firmly. This wasn't going at all like he expected. Then again, he usually expected the worst.
Mulder gave him an eye roll. Then he raked his plump lower lip with his teeth, a gesture that meant he was considering his options but just served to make Krycek's cock twitch to attention.
"Um, did I mention that Skinner and Scully are coming over tomorrow night for dinner?"
"Well, babe, you know how Scully's been harping about seeing the house and all, and Walt's curious, too. Can't brush 'em off forever. Anyway, now that the place is all decked out and everything, and it's the holidays, after all. Uh, could you make your beef stroganoff? I kinda promised Scully."
"What?!" Before he realized it, Krycek was standing by the couch, glaring down at Mulder's innocently smiling face. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Oh, yeah, well, you were busy sinking into your blue funk. Figured I'd let you wallow for a while, but since they're coming tomorrow, I thought it would be prudent to mention it now. Oh, and, uh, the Lone Gunmen are coming, too. They want to talk to you about doing more consulting work for them. I promised Langly you'd make that fantastic chocolate bombe with the raspberry sauce."
Krycek's mouth dropped open. "What the hell?! Do you know how long that takes to make, asshole?"
Mulder sniffed, eyes rounding in a not too effective, pleading look. "They won't get here until seven. You've got all day."
"We don't even have any of the ingredients!"
"Supermarket's opened until midnight. You can whip up a couple of appetizers and some side dishes to round it out. Hey, and I can help. You said my salad was almost edible the last time I made it, remember?"
Krycek growled, self-doubts forgotten, his sense of desolation quickly fading. "You are a gigantic pain in the ass!"
"Maybe later, if you're really good," returned Mulder with a wag of his eyebrows, his grin actually wider.
Throwing a hand over his eyes, Krycek started madly calculating how he could put everything together by tomorrow evening. He certainly couldn't understand why a tiny burst of joy had come to life deep inside him at the prospect.
A moment later, he felt Mulder's arms wrapping around his shoulders, warm breath against the back of his neck.
"One day at a time, Alex. That's how we do it," came the soft whisper, the tone now serious. "We've made it through every level of hell on earth there is, more than once. We've always been on the outside looking in. We've earned this, Alex. We saved the whole goddamned world and that gives us the right. We've earned a home and friends coming over and, oh yeah, I want us to get a dog, and a cat, too. And two rocking chairs on the back porch for when we get old and gray. All the stuff that neither of us thought we could ever have. The kind of life you still don't think you deserve. But you do, love. You do. I want you to believe that because it's true."
Turning slowly in Mulder's arms, he looked into his lover's eyes as Mulder added, "And because I don't want any of it without you."
Since he didn't think he could manage to speak through the sudden lump in his throat, Alex Krycek cupped the side of Mulder's face ever so gently with his palm. His truth had never been... out there, he realized. For him, it had always been in Mulder's eyes. Those shining eyes closed slowly as Alex sealed his lover's words with a kiss.