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Leftovers

by Flutesong

 

Notes – set after the series (with a few adjustments) and the characters continue - long fic – adventure, pinch of humor and romance ensue

by·gone
adj.
Gone by; past: bygone days.
n.
One, especially a grievance, that is past: Let bygones be bygones.

American Heritage Dictionary 2008


It was all over a long time ago, Mulder ruminated. He didn't know why he bothered to wonder, to still want answers anymore. The world had righted itself in more ways than he had ever hoped or believed to be possible.

He watched the couple with their towheaded children play on the beach by the water line. His son was a tall, gangly, grown up twelve and he'd prospered without him and Scully. They'd watched the boy from afar as often as they could get away for a few days. Every time Mulder thought they'd been spotted and recognized as stalkers and perverts, but they had never been noticed at all. The boy, renamed Daniel William a few months after the adoption, who answered to Danny, had a happy childhood in the small town where his adoptive parents lived. He'd shown no special abilities of any sort save that he was very smart, somewhat intuitive to his younger sister's needs and liked to be by himself instead of in a crowd.

When Scully had died two years ago, Mulder'd stopped coming to see the boy until the pull of all he'd lost got to be too much and he'd come again this Thanksgiving weekend to assuage his need to know the boy still lived and was well.

The couple had adopted the baby girl when Danny was barely three and the boy had seemed to like her from the start, importantly carrying her basket of toys to the park or the beach or daycare. In fact, Mulder thought, the boy started to smile more, laugh louder and become happier. Scully had always thought it was because until then, the adoptive parents had been afraid they would come after their child and take him back and he'd felt that atmosphere. With the girl added to the family, feeling more confident, they'd moved from the west to the shoreline of Lake Michigan, where they came to the beach even in cold weather. Like now, Mulder thought as he shivered. He lost his own impervious second skin to the frozen Northeast where he'd been a child, a long time ago.

Well, he decided as he stood up and brushed the damp sand from his jeans, he'd accomplished his goal and could go home. The boy was fine and at this age, barely resembled him or Scully or anyone else.

He got a coffee and a cheese-filled roll on the way to his car. He was still paranoid enough to park well away from where he sat watching the kid. Back in the car he blew on the coffee when he opened the plastic top, the steam fogged the glasses he wore these days instead of contacts. He leaned his head back against the headrest and let the cool air clear them. He felt something ease, at twelve, as he well knew, the boy was on the cusp of manhood and would not take learning about his 'real' parentage well. He was ready to trust the boy to the care of the parents who loved him, raised him and kept him safe for over a decade. He had them, a sister, a room of his own with bike, balls, video games, laptop computer and mobile-phone. The boy was set, Mulder thought, for a much happier life than he himself had experienced.

The bigger threats were gone too. The Smoker – gone, the aliens – gone and that whole particular conspiracy washed away without a breath of scandal, hysteria or public knowledge, years ago. If aliens were discovered and revealed to the world, it would be by someone else and he would read about in the paper or online, complete with pictures, idiotic commentary and nary a word about an old rogue FBI profiler who had once sought to reveal that very possibility.

Mulder shrugged and sipped the coffee. He'd let go of a lot of things with Scully's passing. Without her, the X Files they'd returned to manage years before, had lost their appeal. No one to argue with him or roll her eyes or laugh at his jokes. The FBI became a wasteland, so he'd resigned in good, if reluctantly given, standing with a pension coming when he reached sixty-two and a half.

Not that he was worried, he had plenty of money for the small needs he had these days. Scully's money had gone to her nieces and nephews. He'd donated her clothes and killer heels to charity and sent the furniture and knickknacks too. He'd loved her but not the femininity of the colors or textures she'd chosen for their townhouse, besides having her things around him felt like she was still there, just out at the store or the hospital or the morgue.

She wouldn't approve of the bare refrigerator or the empty fast food delivery bags and boxes he always had stuffed in the trash. He'd kept the coffeemaker, the deluxe shower head and the expensive sheets and hypoallergenic pillows. He slept in the spare room, but he liked to see the master bedroom with the bed made, always waiting for him. Maybe he would use it again someday when he wasn't alone, not that he could imagine any life ahead but a life alone.

He finished the coffee and started the car. He had a long drive ahead and the traffic on the Interstate Highways would be hellishly busy with holiday traffic. He headed east and south and hoped it wouldn't snow.

### 2 ###

Have you ever seen a scarecrow filled with nothing but dust and wheat? If you've ever seen that scarecrow then you've seen me Have you ever seen a one-armed man punching at nothing but the breeze? If you've ever seen a one-armed man then you've seen me Then you've seen me, I come and stand at every door Then you've seen me, I always leave with less than I had before Then you've seen me, bet I can make you smile when the blood, it hits the floor Tell me, friend, can you ask for anything more? 'The Wrestler' Music and Lyrics by B Springsteen

Krycek watched the apartment across the street. This was what he did now. He watched and waited for the moment when the old man's security lapsed. It would only take a very few minutes to get to him and and fire kill-shot into his head. This man was the last one and then Krycek would be free. Free to do what, he had no idea, but the self imposed vendetta he wreaked upon them would be over. Almost a dozen years had passed since he was considered dead by everyone. That had been the first freedom and he used it to run away and enjoy himself for months in decadence and luxury. After that, he'd planned his future. He'd planned carefully and with great attention to detail. He wasn't about to be caught because of sloppy work ever again. One by one the remainder of the conspirators; politicos, high ranking military men, scientists, doctors and wheeler-dealers died in accidents and mishaps or from sudden inexplicable illnesses. They all knew someone was after them, but not that it was him and that was all the advantage he'd needed. Krycek had saved this unambiguous assassination for last. The remaining henchmen would be too afraid to try anything connected with their former employment or to any aspect of the alien project. Besides, they were getting older too and wanted to die naturally in a warm bed and not nameless in a filthy, freezing alley.

Mulder had retreated with Scully as soon as he could prove that magnetite could kill off the super soldiers. No one, not the governments, foreign or domestic, wanted to know more than that these super soldiers needed to be eliminated. All talk of aliens or other worldly scientific miracles was dismissed. Nevertheless, they were eliminated and the project ended. Even aliens knew when something was too difficult to accomplish and when the cost of the campaign had become too expensive; costing too many years and too many lives. So, the few who were around left, as they had arrived, with all but a very few humans knowing they'd been here at all.

Alex chewed a dry sandwich. He'd had a feeling that the time to get the bastard was nigh and he hadn't wanted to leave the apartment to shop for fresh bread and mayonnaise, just in case. Besides, once the deed was done, he was leaving immediately and the less he had left to clean up and carry, the better. No prints, no DNA, no record of occupancy, no way to trace him whatsoever. He doubted that any record of him existed anywhere but in old X Files, but better not to chance a dead man's fingerprints and name flashing on any law enforcement computer screen.

He had his weapons lined up beneath the cushions on the sagging couch he never sat on. His palm itched. Destiny was at hand, he laughed to himself; any extra hand was a good thing. He turned off the light and sat on the dining chair by the kitchen window. The seven to three day-shift bodyguard had gone hours ago, the three to eleven guy was next and Alex knew he was in a hurry. Friday, holiday weekend or not, the guy always made a fast stop at his bookie before he hurried home to his harridan of a wife who waited with her eye on the clock. She didn't seem to mind he was a lowlife, but drew the line at him gambling. Alex thought he'd never understand women.

Ten minutes, he chanted to himself silently, leave ten minutes early; the bastard was already tucked up in bed and would never know. If Alex had his way, the bastard would never know anything else ever again. He wasn't interested in waking the SOB up to see his killer, leaving him dead was the only victory he needed.

The front door opened across the street and the bodyguard almost tripped in his haste down the steps to the sidewalk. He'll be in a hell of a mess when Krycek succeeded and Alex Krycek did not intend to fail. He was out the door of his building and across the street before the bodyguard had turned the corner. He went in the back door to the bastard's building, every day he'd unlock that door for the evening, only to lock it again knowing the morning guard could check it; the afternoon and evening men didn't bother. He was in and up the stairs in less than thirty seconds. The apartment door itself held little challenge, even for a man with one arm. He entered silently into darkness, which was lit only by the open window letting in streaming street-lamp light. He was entirely silent as he pulled the curtain closed.

The bastard was sound asleep, mouth open and one pallid, almost hairless leg on top of the blankets. The room smelled like sweat and recent farts of a prodigious nature. Krycek bared his teeth, he was almost retired and he smelled only suntan oil and green surf ahead of him. He placed the muzzle of the silencer behind the man's ear, fired twice, the man twitched and was still. Krycek added two silent bullets into the man's heart just because he could. He didn't hang around, didn't touch anything, didn't steal anything and locked the door behind him as he left. He went with all due speed down the stairs and out the back door, locking that as well. He walked around the block before heading back to his own flat. He packed up his few things, glad he could go somewhere and not have to live out of a small satchel anymore. He'd wiped things wherever he touched them, so there wasn't much to do. Krycek gathered his weapons and put them in the small case with his few clothes. He stripped the bed, poured bleach in the kitchen sink, the bathroom sink and the shower. He'd never used the bathtub. He used the wet, bleach soaked rag to wipe down the chair he'd been sitting in and table top. Bagging the bedding, the rag and the bottle of bleach, he slung his satchel over his shoulder, stuffed the bag under his prosthesis and locked the door behind him. He quietly left the keys in the janitor's mailbox. The janitor had never actually met him, so there was no description but, just because he'd always found it a good policy to follow, Krycek added three fifty dollar bills in the mailbox as well. The janitor could honestly say he knew nothing and have a a few drinks on the money. He had no fear of them being traced either, they'd been stashed away for the better part of a decade.

He walked the three blocks to a long term parking garage. He'd parked there when he'd arrived and took a taxi to the neighborhood where he rented the apartment, walking only to the grocery, the cleaners and a couple of eateries once he had a base. Tomorrow, when the police were alerted to the dead body, should their investigation include asking around for anyone who stood out, Alex would not be mentioned, he'd been around long enough to become a familiar sight, but not long enough to be missed once he'd gone away.

Krycek started his drive, he had a long trip ahead of him back to New York and then on to DC to empty a couple of bank accounts and finally deliver the most important 'intel' documents he'd ever had in his possession. The traffic was always shitty on Thanksgiving weekend, he hoped it wouldn't snow as he headed for the Interstate that would take him east and north.

### 3 ###


If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.

Winston Churchill
Mulder was not thinking about the X Files, the FBI, his son, Scully or Alex Krycek as he hit the Pennsylvania Turnpike many hours later. He was hungry, the skin on his forehead and cheeks chapped from the cold wind blowing through the window and he cursed as a gray fog lowered, obscuring the curves on the last mountainous stage of the drive. The trucks never slowed down, unless they ended up jackknifed across all the lanes, shutting down the whole highway down for hours. It was no good getting off and trying the country back-roads in weather like this. Taking a last swig of the tepid coffee from his last bathroom break, Mulder committed to following the truck lights ahead of him, dim already because of the thickening fog.

He concentrated for what seemed like days before descending from the last mountain into the slow lane for Breezewood, PA; a town north of Hagarstown, Maryland made up entirely of motels, hotels and fast food restaurants. He wasn't the only one with the same idea and the road was clogged. It was a pit of a pit stop, but it was still a hundred and thirty miles to DC and in this weather it would take five hours at least, instead of the usual three.

He had no agenda to meet, so he chose one of the last family owned and operated motels. He'd been here several times over the years and the owner-operators had changed from the fat lazy son-in-law of a salt-of-the-earth Ma and Pa Kettle type couple, to hardworking Latinos to even harder working Vietnamese. The current occupant of the office/home was Pakistani and very happy to see him, although there was a long list of what didn't work or things that he couldn't have. Mulder didn't care, a bed, TV and a hot shower would be enough. This, the man said, were available. Mulder paid for the room in cash.

Mulder turned on the TV to a low volume, showered and tumbled into the concave bed, but it smelled clean and fresh from detergent and bleach. Comforted, he closed his eyes and dreamed of the seashores and bright sunlight of his youth. At about three in the morning, he awoke to a clear, frosty night and a long play Stones video on VH1. He left the key in the room and started the last leg toward home.

The cold dark night and the slick roads reminded Mulder of a thousand other late night drives to and fro, from odd and unnameable places, which were not on any maps and his old apartment in Alexandria. He didn't long for those nights often, with either Scully or him in danger or worse, already injured or sick, the constant surveillance, the unwelcome visitors who came with bad news or evil intentions. On the other hand, at fifty, he wasn't happy that he felt himself growing older. This year had been a bitch with bouts of ill health and a few accidents that he had a hard time accepting were his fault. Well, he thought, at least he still had a full head of hair. The new eyeglasses helped and he resented them. On the other hand, without the surveillance, the illicit visitors and no one to partner him or at least know if he had just gone missing or was dead, life was less interesting. Skinner had retired and returned to Texas. When Mulder spoke to him, he sounded bored too. The I-270 stretch was already busy with early commuters heading into town, the road had been deiced and the speed increased accordingly. Mulder turned on the radio on and tried to rock out to the 'oldies' station as he came to the final beltway stretch closer to home.

The condo was cold and bright with the dawning sun. Mulder closed curtains and turned on the heat. He started a pot of coffee before he realized maybe he should just have a bowl of cereal and go to bed. He slept the clock round.

A few days later, after he made morning toast instead of having cereal, he opened the Washington Post and poured a cup of coffee.

There was a small article in the national news crime section about a gangland execution of a man in St Louis. This man, the article stated, had no known ties to crime or criminals and the killing was a mystery. Mulder felt a tingle down his back, for over a decade he'd been amassing data on a long series of sudden deaths, inexplicable murders and execution style crimes. He knew in his bones they were related. He recognized some of the names and wondered who was meting out unsanctioned justice at such a late date and with such impunity. He had to laugh when he realized the possible connections no one else would know to look for. He'd tried cluing in the FBI's Violent Crimes Unit, but they were not interested and doubted his 'whims' as always. Skinner had nodded seriously, closed the door to his office and grinned, "Don't try Mulder," He'd said, "Someone's doing the world a favor by spilling all that blood."

Mulder didn't ask when Skinner had become so bloodthirsty or immune to some kinds of crimes and criminals, he'd already seen the man execute Krycek and smile at the same time. In any case, he was too tired and too cynical not to agree with his former boss.

Mulder fired up his laptop, fetched more coffee and opened his Decade of Death file. He added the new name, tried an internet search, which yielded a record of a sparsely attended funeral service for a man with a totally ordinary life as a research chemist for a small, privately held St. Louis company that tested beer hops and grains. The only discordant note was the way the man died. The police had no leads and it seemed like it would become a cold case in record time. Mulder wondered who would be next, there didn't seem to be an end in sight, although he had no real idea of how many of these 'innocuous' chemists and engineers were out there. This had been the boldest murder yet, so maybe the killer was calling it quits with an unambiguous warning to any hangers-on who were still breathing.

Mulder searched the net for another hour, played Scrabble with a couple of his usual mid morning Facebook cronies and headed out for a few errands and later, lunch. He returned to find a legal sized envelope, which had been jammed under the window to the deck. It had been jammed in so hard, it was almost entirely on the inside counter. His heart beat a little faster, but he held off until the groceries were put away. He sat with the envelope beneath his fingers on the table in the kitchen. It had been a while since he had had a incommunicado epistle. He didn't want to ruin the small thrill finding it contained a flier asking for donations for the local high school football team. But, in his heart he knew this was no ordinary item and that there would be no fingerprints or DNA on the outside or inside of it. He was betting there wasn't any anthrax or other toxic substances either.

Mulder looked around the clean, bright condo and knew it would be okay if something deadly was present. He had a once a week cleaning service which would find his body before too long and other than Skinner, who was there to miss him anyway?

Mulder used a butter knife to open the flap. He let his life pass before his eyes, as he had many times in the past and smiled at the lack of remorse, fear or pain he felt. Hoping there really was an afterlife with his loved ones there, he withdrew the thick file and opened the cover. Inside the front page had printed in a huge, bold font size – ANSWERS – on it. Mulder laughed at the irony. Behind the file was a folded paper, large enough to be a map. Mulder unfolded this first, it would give him an idea of what was going to be in the pages of text. It wasn't a map; it was a chart of a time-line and what a time-line, supereon, eons, eras, ages, millenniums, centuries, as well as a detailed inset for the past sixty years. Whomever had made the chart had a sense of humor, the lines for the alien presence were in highlighted by hand with a bright neon green.

Mulder heard voices and footsteps in the common area that divided the condo's front doors. Carrying the file and chart, he went into the third bedroom, which stored his copies of the X Files, a million and one scraps, books and the oddities he had collected. He unlocked a sturdy safe which contained his and Scully's personal weapons. He had locked the front door, but went back to double check. He pulled curtains and shutters closed, set the alarm that he seldom bothered to use and retreated to what was the last existing dregs of the X Files. He loaded his gun and closed the door.

He had to wait a minute while he calmed down. The unexpected weight of danger and paranoia on this scale had made him lose his breath for a moment. Drawing a steadier deep breath, Mulder turned the page and found an actual Table of Contents, he smiled and leaned back in his chair.

Most of the history he already knew or had figured out as he'd realized the truly ancient scope of alien invasions to the third planet he called home. The ancient sightings, which linked unexplained phenomenon like the statues on Easter Island, the rise and fall of the Aztecs and Stonehenge, he took with a grain of salt. He'd already read Carl Sagan long, long ago. He was more interested in recent world history and this was the motherlode. There they were, his biological father Spender, the Brit, the fat German, his faux father William Mulder and many more he'd seen in old photographs when he'd emptied his parents' homes. Picture after picture with long paragraphs of text detailing their biographies, how they came to join the ranks of the "Fururists" as they called themselves in the early days. None of it was anything he had not considered in the past thirty years, but it was nice to get confirmation at last.

He caught his breath however, when he saw the pages with his own generation; Scully, Krycek, the Gunmen and himself, as well as many others, a few of which he had seen or met. Cardinale, a true psychopath, had fired the kill shot into both William Mulder and Melissa Scully as well as wounding Skinner. His list was long and grim. Mulder spit out a curse under his breath, Krycek had been there for many of the assassinations even if he had not killed quite as indiscriminately. He wasn't excused for anything.

Rather breathless despite himself, Mulder read the account of Krycek's childhood, education, and induction in Spender and William Mulder's web. After that, his short, but legitimate time as a FBI agent, then time in Hong Kong, the silo, in Tunguska, and dozens of other chancy and rough places, betraying and being betrayed in turn and fighting back alone, over and over again. Mulder closed the folder, put on his holster and gun, locked the little room and went to the kitchen to make more coffee.

Mulder drank his coffee, ate his cheese and cracker snack on the deck in barely sweater weather, the day a bright breezy remnant of early fall. The neighborhood stray cat eased his way onto the deck looking for a handout. Not that he meowed or begged, he sat erect, green eyes locked on Mulder's face as if to say, "you'll be the one getting a favor, pal." More interested than usual, Mulder stared back at the cat, mesmerized by the laser green orbs looking into him.

Mulder began to laugh to himself, guffaws leaking out scaring the stray, not that the cat retreated very far. "Krycek, you son of a bitch, you're not dead! Show yourself!" Mulder yelled at the innocent boxwood plants which lined the frame of the deck. The cat hissed at the noise, Mulder laughed louder, tossed the stray the remainder of his cheese and saluted the animal with his mug. He didn't bother to deny it, but the possibility of an undead Krycek was thrilling.

Mulder stayed on his guard everyday for the next week, sure that his instincts were correct and Krycek, having delivered the packet, would come and see what Mulder thought of it, soliciting thanks much like the stray cat proudly begged for food. Mulder played the scenario over in his head twenty times a day. He would be magnanimous and unsurprised. He would let Alex Krycek think that time had tamed Mulder's anger and that he was grateful for the packet of information, more, that he actually believed all the information in it, which cleared Krycek of so many of things he blamed the man for doing. He was going to get Krycek to confess to the recent string of assassinations and finally, finally have something concrete with which to arrest Krycek. Having Krycek spend what was left of his life in prison would be the final touch, the final period for Mulder and put an end, once and for all time, to his decades of effort, blood, sweat and tears in the X Files division of the FBI. This would avenge Scully, Skinner and all the other innocents Krycek had fucked over. It would finally be payback for all the pain Krycek had put Mulder through. Mulder could almost taste it.

Only, Mulder sighed as he emptied a can of cat food for the stray into a chipped bowl he'd found in his cupboard, Krycek did not come.

### 4 ###<
/p>

"Even an obvious fabrication is some comfort when you have few others." Margaret Atwood

Alex Krycek sat on the lanai deck of the cruise ship. He was on his way to Hawaii, where there was no winter at hand. He was drinking ice cold Dos Equis and dipping fresh baked tortilla chips into spicy guacamole. He'd never taken a ship as a tourist before, but he had the time now and could afford the couple of pounds he would gain with the all day feasts and smorgasbords. He didn't kid himself that he would never be on the run again. He'd pissed off too many people, who, if they realized he was alive, would still give full armed pursuit. Nevertheless, he'd realized that after everything he still had a real bad need to know what Mulder was doing since he'd gotten the packet. He confirmed the delivery and took off once he realized he wanted to linger. Mulder had looked good enough to eat; all lean and honed to a rangy, potent middle age. He knew he wouldn't survive another Mulder episode, knew it in his bones. But, oh what a way to go.

Krycek shook his head and eyed a pretty boy who was sunning himself in a barely-there thong. Nice round ass, slender muscular back and a carefully planned tousle of highlighted curls. He masticated another calorie laden chip, he was probably too old for the kid, but hell, the previous decade had been awfully dry and the one before that one too, with a brief period of excess in between he barely remembered compared to a single kiss on the cheek he'd bestowed from fifteen years ago and counting.

Krycek finished his beer and wandered into the ship's casino. Twenty-one was a game that required concentration, all the better to take his mind off Mulder. In the end the house would win and he'd leave with less that he had come in with, but that was his life wasn't it? He didn't need two hands to play this game and he'd succeeded in other pursuits these past years too. Once he'd known that the old bastards had him by the short hairs, when he only wanted was to be a hot dog and conquer the Bureau, he'd been damned to this life on the run, never settling down for any length of time and moving on alone, always alone. No self pity asshole, he reminded himself and tapped the table for another card, he'd roll with the punches as he always had and survive.

### 5 ###

I'm following my trail of tears
To dances in the rain
To hills of hope and tenderness
Of bitterness and pain

Hindsight by Thea K


Mulder couldn't get the thought of Krycek being alive out of his mind. The SOB had manipulated all of them somehow and become a guerrilla fighter from behind the lines, settling the score with those old men who had used him and manipulated him in their time. No, no, that wasn't right, most of the murdered men and women had been scientists, military and business people who had made up the second and arguably, the most successful tier of the alien project. Nonetheless, they had probably been the people Krycek had been sent to intimidate or collect from back in the day and what? Had they treated the young man badly, not believing until too late that his handsome face was only a disguise for a razor sharp and ruthless intelligence and primal venom?

Mulder paced across the living room, watched through the sliding glass door by the well fed stray cat.

Who was the real Alex Krycek?

Mulder decided it was too cold to sit on the deck anymore this year, but the cat seemed to have adopted him. He wasn't ready to let it in. Instead, he found a well insulated doghouse listed on Craig's List and bought that. He brought it home, filled it with a layer of foam pellets to keep the cat off the cold floor. He drilled a hole, put in an extension cord from the outlet on the deck and screwed in a couple of bulbs to warm the interior. He'd checked with the local hardware store and thinking he wanted to winterize safely for a dog, they hadn't laughed at him and gave him the best advice. The cat could be fed at the window as long as there wasn't a snowstorm. That small project finished, he found himself bored and restless. He hated the change of seasons to the uniformly damp and gray early winter.

He spent hours going over and over his cache of material on Krycek, the now defunct conspiracy and the last decade's tally of dead guys. He decided Krycek had eliminated them to be safe from discovery, but why had he left the files? Mulder held off alerting the Bureau, hardly knowing why he didn't want anyone else to know Krycek was alive. They wouldn't believe him anyway, worse, they wouldn't care given the paucity of an actual record of criminal activities save what was in Skinner's and his own memories.

### 6 ###


"I hid my deepest feelings so well I forgot where I placed them."

Amy Tan

Alex Krycek left the pretty boy asleep and went on deck for a breath of fresh air. The kid was all right in an eager to please sort of way. Krycek hoped he would let the one-off encounter alone and not hang around. Krycek was a million years too old, at the same age as the kid he'd been a million years older too. He took deep breaths of the sea-salt air and ran his hand through his short and beginning to gray hair. Everywhere he went, he felt he remained backed into a corner surrounded by threats. Such was the result of the life he'd led, he supposed. No self pity asshole, he reminded himself and headed for his cabin, a hot shower and some sleep.

The days remained bright on the ship, four days and counting. Krycek was so glad he'd booked the ten day journey instead of fourteen or twenty-one. He decided a pleasure cruise was only good when it was finite. Too long at this kind of leisure and indulgence in rich food and drink and he would be useless for whatever came next.

He spent the nights wandering the decks and staring over the rails at the eternally restless sea. He felt he had more in common here than in dimly lit staterooms with soft boys for company. Tonight there was silver and blue florescence over the water which lit up the distant reaches of the sea and emphasized how really far, far away he was from the boardrooms, battlefields and alleyways where he'd spent most of his adult life. There was no scent of cordite, stink of fear or sour smell of blood and all of a sudden he'd had enough. What in the fucking hell was he doing here? He'd tried to forget who he was and what he was. Self delusion was a loser's game and he had no time to waste being a loser. He was alive goddammit and he was not going to give in and stagnate. He didn't have to spend his remaining time as an assassin or a spy, but he wasn't retiring to a chair in the sun either. He hated the fucking sun anyway.

Back in his cabin, he unearthed his mobile satellite handset. It'd cost him a lot of money, but it was virtually untraceable and would operate anywhere under all conditions. The U.S. D.O.D. was just getting this level of sophistication to use in the middle east. He punched in the codes for North America and when he got a clear line, dialed Mulder's number. The hell with living the soft life. He could taste the salt and stubble of Mulder's cheek on his lips and he wanted more. Mulder might have another opinion, but if he didn't try his luck, he'd never know.

"Hello Krycek," Mulder answered.

Krycek sighed.

"Who else would have a S.A.T. Comm phone without a name attached?" Mulder asked with a hint of arrogance in his voice.

"Good for you, Mulder. Want me to say how clever you still are with the passing of the years?"

"If I'm aging so are you asshole." Mulder answered,finding his anger more quickly than he'd wanted.

"I know that and unlike you, I don't resent it as I never thought I'd get the chance."

Mulder muttered, "Too bad you do."

Krycek laughed.

Mulder grit his teeth.

"Seriously," Krycek said. "Find anything useful in the file?"

"Other than it's a clear case of treason for you to have these documents, nothing I hadn't already discovered years ago."

'You really are a bitter old fart, aren't you Mulder?" Krycek said and hung up.

Mulder stared at his phone in amazement. The bastard had hung up on him and he hadn't even got to any of the zingers he'd rehearsed the past couple of weeks. Slowly he punched the end-call button and folded the phone. Maybe he should have been cooler, but damn if Krycek just made him see red.

### 7 ###


Stop impressing your will!
… It will not change yesterday
As it negates control
Emboldens failure
Facilitates escape
Spurring conscious resentment.

Samson Miller

Krycek paced on the balcony of the hotel room not seeing the beauty of the white beach, the numerous palms or the lush displays of flowers. Damn Mulder to hell, he ranted silently. He hadn't called the man again, but he wanted to do it with every fiber of his being. When he got Mulder in bed someday, he was going to fuck him through the mattress Hell! He'd fuck him through a wall or in the mud or goddamn anywhere.

Krycek knew to the bottom of the black soul that Mulder was sure he had, Mulder was interested, sexually interested in him. Not that the man would ever admit it, but he was bisexual, just in denial. If Mulder could – would only let go of his demons just a little bit, they could have a hell of a time in as well as out of bed. They weren't too old yet to raise some hell and make the powers-that-be sit up and take notice. It wasn't as if all black-op conspiracies disappeared when the super soldiers had been wiped out. Shit, there was Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, the fucking Vatican. Mulder could spread his wings and together they could fly, making a difference and having a blast at the same time. Even Mulder couldn't deny that on the same side or not in the past, Krycek had made a hell of a difference in his own way.

Krycek finally noticed his phone was ringing. It shouldn't be ringing unless it was something the hotel wanted. No one else knew he was here and he wasn't checked in as Alex Krycek anyway. Still, he was always cautious and took the phone call with a Luger in hand in case the call was a distraction while someone broke in the room. The hotel operator said, "Mr Zander, a package has arrived for you, do you want me to send it up?"

Krycek knew better than to walk into a crowded lobby, "Send it up." He answered and with gun in hand, went to wait at the elevator. Whoever came through when the door opened better be the skinny porter he'd seen being dogsbody for the front desk clerk. Anyone else would get an unpleasant surprise.

The young porter was carrying a large box wrapped in brown paper. It didn't appear to weigh much, but Krycek had the bellhop come in his room and lay it on the ubiquitous hotel desk. Krycek handed him a ten and locked the door behind him. He walked to and fro observing the box. He leaned as close as he dared, listening for a timer. From the far wall, he prodded the box with a long palm frond that had been part of the decor. The box did not explode or implode. Carefully, carefully, Krycek opened the brown paper with his knife. The box under the paper was brown too. The lid was taped down with common black duct-tape. He sliced through that with his knife too and flipped the cover off. Inside, laying innocently was a black rock. Alex Krycek did not pause for as much as a nano-second. He used his knife to get the top back on, grabbed an empty suit case, gently knocked the box, without touching it, into the suitcase. Belted and locked the case and hastily sliding his feet into thongs, ran to the balcony. Krycek, sweating profusely, opened gate after gate between one balcony and the next until he got to the outside wall of the hotel and ran down the service steps.

On the street, he went into the first shop he found and bought a thick plastic storage container. Put the suitcase inside the container, bought a ticket for the next helicopter flight over the Kilauea Volcano and ran to the landing strip. Thankfully, the helicopter had no other passengers. The pilot began his spiel and when they approached the volcano, he handed the pilot a thousand dollars in fifties, opened the latched door and flung the package into the molten lava.

Someone knew he was alive and here and had sent him a message. It was an ugly message and one he hoped never to experience. If he was not mistaken and he didn't think he was, the rock was from Tunguska and although he didn't wait to see them, he was sure the oilean worms were in it.

He'd die before he let another alien, in any form, touch him again.

### 8 ###


Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help and brave enough to ask for it.

Anonymous

Krycek was still shaking when the helicopter landed. The pilot asked no questions, just opened his door, hopped out without looking at his passenger and walked away.

Krycek knew he had to get out of his hotel and Hawaii just as soon as he could. He didn't like to try to get on flights at a moment's notice these days. Security was tight and if the airport inspectors wanted to be hard-assed, he would have to take off his arm for their inspection. He really hated that. But, a ship would take too long and a private plane too obvious. Stealthily entering his room with his gun out, he grabbed up his stuff and stuffed it all into a pillow case as he had used his one suitcase for the godforsaken rock. He would have to go to ground which, on an island, was no easy task.

He checked his wallet and dug out more bills from one of his rolled up pair of socks. Money always talked and someone would give him a back room with plenty of good observation points and he would stay put for a few days. Maybe he could even get a disguise together somehow, although the bum arm was hard to hide. He called the desk and told them he was leaving in the morning and to use the credit card on file to bill him. He went back out to the balcony and made his way to the service stairs not caring if the hotel charged him an outrageous amount for the pillow case. It wasn't his credit card anyway, just one left over from the old days, which was not supposed to ring any alarm bells. He must have missed something, because that had to be the way he was tracked. So much for being more careful than ever before.

Not knowing if he was being followed, Krycek hurried down to the beach and quickly got a lounge chair with a sun-hood. This would conceal him and whoever was following would have to walk in front of each chair in the long line until they spotted him. Krycek forced himself to take deep breaths and wait. He noticed as he glanced down the line of feet that were showing from under the hoods, a lot of other legs had jeans and flip-flops on the feet. He did not stand out.

### 9 ###

"The universe doesn't give you what you want in your mind; it gives you what you demand with your actions."

Steve Maraboli

Mulder was determined to get to the bottom of the Krycek Problem or rather his 'Krycek Problem' as no one else would care or would be interested. Having killed him once, Skinner would just shrug and go back to fishing with some youngster he was saving from JV or jail. Skinner was devoting his life to good deeds and the hope that he could prevent further crime if he made a difference.

Mulder wanted to make a difference too. He wanted to get hold of Alex Krycek and somehow or other sit him down and get him to talk; not jeer or sneer, insult or seduce, simply talk to one another. The file had answered a lot of his questions and he was resigned to the fact that William Mulder had been an evil bastard right up there with the Smoker or the Brit. Mulder could find no redemption for the man who had raised him. He had known the clone wasn't his sister and let him and his mother suffer loss once more. He had known that aliens were real, the tests and experiments on innocent people were performed and that William Mulder had even designed a few and was actually a manager on some of them. And, he had never helped Mulder although he had updates on what Mulder had been working on. The bullshit moment at his house had been more to ease his conscience than to help Mulder. The old man had known his time was up and that he had exhausted the Smoker's limited patience for an old colleague and longtime drunken coward.

Mulder petted the stray cat, the well fed stray cat who had taken to his heated quarters as though he'd been born for better things. Mulder tried to convince himself that he could pull off a peaceful and calm meeting with Krycek. Maybe if he treated the meeting as if it were a therapy session, the kind he'd interned for when he was getting his degree. Mulder laughed bitterly; if he'd gone into practice as a therapist instead of into the FBI, his life would have been a lot simpler. He thought that the number of phonies and assholes would have probably been fewer in a practice than in the FBI too.

All of which meant nothing anywhere. He had no idea where Krycek was or if he was ever coming back into Mulder's orbit anytime soon. Still, he felt in his gut that Krycek 'always' turned up again. It was an unexplained phenomenon, him and Krycek, forever circling each other, never quite taking a kill-shot and never quite on the same page either.

### 10 ###

Well don't go out tonight
It's bound to take your life
There's a bad moon rising

Credence Clearwater Revival

Krycek hunkered down behind a bower of purple bougainvilleas. He was glad they had no scent and weren't raining pollen, a sneeze at the wrong moment would get him killed tonight. God, he was tired of all of it. He'd been getting out of the game and here he was again, smack in the middle of a nighttime chase with armed assholes and without his arm and his clothes. If this was Washington and not Hawaii, he'd be freezing his ass off instead of hiding and waiting for a chance. The shower had been in a screened section of the small crib he'd found to hide away in. He'd kept his gun and a pair of jeans near, but damned if he'd thought to keep the arm or his money in the shower room; he was barefoot too. But, Hawaii wasn't known for snakes in the night, just mosquitoes as big as birds. His chest was already bit to hell and he wanted to scratch almost more than he cared about living until morning.

He stayed motionless, trying to hear his attackers coming and get the first shot in before everything exploded. Strangely, when he first heard the strident female whisper, he was shocked. He couldn't believe Marita was on the lawn with the assassins, before he realized 'she' must be the enemy. He let out a silent breath and tried to assess the situation. He had no doubt she'd ordered a hit, but it was unlike her to be on hand to see the deed go down and how the fuck had she found out he was alive and why the fuck was she trying to kill him now that it had all been over for a decade or more?

He should have scoped her out before he left the packet with Mulder, but she had been quiet for a decade and he'd written her off. She must have heard of it, hell, maybe Mulder contacted her about it, although that would have been really dumb, but then Mulder often did the opposite of smart despite his big brain. On the other hand, he hadn't actively wished her dead in damn near forever. Krycek touched the silencer on the the barrel of his gun, He wasn't going to hesitate if he got a clear shot. Marita and whoever she'd hired were going the way of the dodo as soon as he saw an opening.

Krycek held his breath, they were coming closer and he could see her blond hair shine in the moonlight. She'd always looked good in black, but not right now with murder on her mind. What would she get out of it? When he'd died before, she'd gotten an envelope full of cash in his name as he had arranged.

Suddenly a convertible full of teenagers screeched to a halt in by the palm tree in front of the bungalow. Marita and the man hit the ground and Krycek, not waiting to see what the kids wanted, sprinted around the back of the house and rushed through his room grabbing clothes, shoes, arm and money. He heard the kids indignantly yelling at the occupants on the grass. Krycek hurried faster, using a pillowcase once more.

A shot rang out and a kid screamed. Krycek ran.

He heard more shots and hoped someone had called the police. He intended to get on the first plane to anywhere, even Hong Kong if that were the only flight leaving immediately. He'd already had to leave the satellite phone, but he had money and the TSA could search him all they wanted, hell, they could keep his damned arm for all he cared. He was sure he'd used up one of his rapidly disappearing bonus lives getting to the airport. He only paused to take a breath when the local news reported shots fired and a man and woman in custody in the neighborhood where he'd been staying.

He waited and boarded last, making sure that no one he sensed was after him was getting on the plane too. Getting to San Francisco took forever and his nerves twanged every mile on the way. Maybe he should reassess and decide he 'was' too old for all this running around shit. He could simply abduct Mulder and take him into Outer Mongolia or somewhere not on an island, but in the middle of nowhere. He laughed over his third cup of coffee, even in Siberia Mulder would find some way out if it meant spending time with him. Well, he wouldn't give Mulder a chance to ditch him this time. He'd tie the SOB to a bed and blow him until he cried uncle. Alex felt his temperature rise, then he'd get what he'd wanted for years; a pliant, silent, awed Fox Mulder who offered up everything.

Krycek handed his cup back to the attendant, only in his dreams, he thought as he had many times before, only in his dreams.

### 11 ###


A relationship with no trust is like a cell phone with no service, all you can do is play games.

Anonymous

Mulder played Scrabble with the usual online folks and the game mocked him, spelling in turn, trust, love, sexy and green. Of course he had to add secret using the 's' in trust for a triple word score. The game made him strangely warm, so he got up and opened the window to the deck, letting in damp frigid air and the fat black cat who was slowly taking up residence on his couch, eschewing the heated dog house for an actual heated house. No fool that cat, Mulder thought and refused a second game with his buddies.

He had to think.

At first he could practically see Scully shaking her head in disbelief that he was thinking of meeting Krycek again. He could almost hear Sknner grind his teeth and the new Assistant Director of Violent Crimes loudly chew the anti-smoking gum he constantly had in his craw, while he shook his head and said no and go home where you belong old man. Nevertheless, nothing sensible had ever made much of an impression on him before and it had worked out. Well sort of worked out, he was alive after all, despite the pain, death and mayhem he'd left behind him.

He stood up and the damn cat ran to his bowl; a white ceramic bowl decorated with green-eyed black cats in a row around it. It had been there at the check out in the pet store, on sale for three measly bucks. Mulder toed the bowl petulantly and scowled at the cat who promptly rubbed his ankles and mewed.

I can't win, Mulder thought and when that wasn't enough, he said it aloud. The cat didn't even jump, just meowed mournfully. Mulder contemplated kicking the cat, but fed it instead.

Krycek would return, Mulder was sure. Unless the man was really and truly dead, he would return. Death by alien or Skinner didn't count.

Mulder turned on the TV and the cat was waiting for him on the couch, taking up space on the throw pillow and licking his nether regions. Yeah, Mulder thought, this is it, my life is sitting with a cat licking his asshole.

### 12 ###


If I don't die the first time most likely I will do it again.

You're born, you die, and in between you make a lot of mistakes.

Anonymous


Krycek landed to a damp and chilly 'Frisco and made his way to an airport hotel to recoup and plan what to do next. He was tired, but wired from all the adrenalin and coffee. He took a hot shower and checked the small suitcase he'd bought at the airport in Hawaii. He'd checked the bag for an extra fifty bucks. He shook his head, the airlines were legally allowed to rip off the American public these days, while the homeless squeegee guys were arrested for trying to get a dollar off a rich prick in a Mercedes. He made more coffee in the room's coffeemaker, the hell with sleep.

He wanted to talk to Mulder so much he could taste the sarcastic comments uttered in that deadpan voice. He cursed the loss of his phone once more. He'd have to head for DC again and take his chances. He was tired of planes and ships and long drives across he country, but he was three fucking thousand miles from DC and walking was insane and would take too long anyway.

He decided to try and sleep and determine which way to go later.

At first, half conscious, he saw killers and smokers from every angle. Damn Marita, he'd known her longer than even Spender. She'd hung around the Quantico Officers' Club and as an FBI trainee he'd been allowed in to eat and recreate; playing cards or watching movies and sports on the huge TVs. Mostly, he'd sat at the bar and drank when he was off duty. He'd been such a patsy in those days, believing she was genuinely interested in a relationship with a trainee living on the pittance the FBI had paid him. She was all platinum hair and real pearls, what the hell had he been thinking? She was older than him too, not by much, but by enough to impress him with her sangfroid and experience. The introduction to the Smoker and his cronies had been a masterpiece of low key planning; dinner on her expense account at a famous steak house in Richmond and an after dinner demur smiling nod allowing the geezers to come on over and treat them to a drink and conversation. Oh, she'd explained in that treacle voice, they were attached to the UN and she seen them around. He'd been impressed by their cosmopolitan air, foreign accents and expensive suits. Well heeled gentlemen had been rare in his experience. The smoker had not said much, just twisted his cigarettes in his lips and watched him with hooded eyes.

Alex turned over, punching the flat hotel pillows, he should have gone with his first instinct about Spender. He'd thought the man was a creepy SOB despite the suit. He hadn't thought 'evil' although that came soon enough. The fall had happened swiftly. A night out with one of his instructors who'd handed him the keys to drive them back to Quantico and the sprinting kid in the headlights, the hit he'd hardly felt, but the kid was lying dead in the street. He'd been dazed and confused, just drunk enough to believe the instructor and not stop the man from rolling the kid into the bushes by the side of the road. The man had hurried him in a panicked voice to come on and go. He'd gone and that was that. He'd caused and conspired in the death of the unnamed teenager and they had him by the short hairs.

It had been years before he'd learned the truth about the stuntman who'd played his part, the instructor who had disappeared without a trace and the smoker who'd held the strings that had reeled him in and never let go.

Too much coffee, Alex thought as he got up to whiz and wipe his neck with a cold washcloth. Too young and too dumb and too impressed by money and too scared to face the real law. Ah well, it was all water under the bridge and he'd survived, wounded and maimed, but alive and desperately wanting the impossibility of forgiveness from a tight-assed former agent named Fox Mulder.

He was still dumb as a rock, he decided and slept at last.

### 13 ###


"I'm not afraid of death; I just don't want to be there when it happens."

Woody Allen

'Neath the summer sky my eyes went black
Sister I won't ask for forgiveness
My sins are all I have

'Dead Man Walking' by Bruce Springsteen


Three days before Christmas, Fox Mulder, unforgiving former FBI agent, was on his deck stretching for a morning run. The cat watched from inside the condo, smirking at him through the window for winning the contest of attrition.

The run was sweet on the deserted frosty track at the local high school. Mulder felt the blood run strong and pulsing as he ran and the endorphins made him feel young again. He practically skipped back to the condo more than ready for a shower and breakfast. Maybe he'd even make bacon and eggs to complete the feeling of well-being.

He came to a stop in behind the hedge around the deck, all the hairs on his neck on full alert. The cat was munching from a full bowl of kibble and when he'd left, the bowl had been empty. Someone was inside his home, not that the cat seemed concerned. He'd locked the door too, attaching his key to a lanyard around his neck.

He waited, watching the inside of his home through the glass door and window. Just as he was getting cold enough to say fuck it and go inside despite the danger, he saw a shadow and then a figure coming closer. The door slid open and Alex Krycek stood there as brazen as anything, hand on hip, "Come on in Mulder before you freeze to death."

Mulder went inside, "Some watch-cat you turned out to be," He muttered at the cat. The cat yawned and began a post meal bath.

Krycek laughed.

Feeling decidedly off his game standing in sweaty sweats, hair in damp partially frozen spikes, Mulder said, "Shower first, talk after."

"I'll make coffee, unless you want me to wash your back?" Krycek answered.

Mulder glared.

Krycek laughed again and turned on the water in the sink.

Mulder took his clothes with him into the bathroom, showered, shaved and dressed and got his gun, one of the two spares he kept in his sock drawer, before reentering the kitchen to face Krycek.

"You don't need the gun," Krycek said, "Besides, I took the bullet clip out already."

Mulder sighed, checked the clip and laid the gun on the counter. "What do you want Krycek?"

"I wanted to tell you I am retired, full stop."

"Why should I care?" Mulder asked.

"This is the thing," Krycek said as he placed two cups of coffee on the table, joining the milk and sugar he placed there a few minutes ago. He sat down and allowed Mulder to tower over him until he gave in and sat too. "I don't want to retire alone, I think you and I should give it a go together."

Mulder coughed so hard he spit out a mouthful of coffee. "Not in a million years, Krycek." He said.

"Hmm," Krycek murmured undisturbed. "I don't think either of us has that long to dilly-dally. We'd want to be young enough to have some fun."

"There is no 'we'" Mulder said bitingly. "And since when do you use phrases like dilly-dally?"

Krycek smiled, "We've hardly had the opportunity to converse much over the years, have we? You don't have any idea what language I do or do not use."

"Oh, well pardon me mister grammarian," Mulder sneered, "Usually you shoot first and want to talk later."

"When have I ever shot at you, Mulder?" Affronted, Krycek put in an extra teaspoon of sugar in his coffee, making it undrinkable.

Mulder snorted, "I've seen you kill a lot of people."

"You have not! God, you are such a bastard Mulder, living here bored half to death, talking to cats, playing Scrabble online and keeping your oh-so-secret X Files room locked. As if anyone who wanted to get in there couldn't?"

"At least I'm not out there assassinating dozens of low level ex-Syndicate members."

"No," Krycek said, finally smirking, "You're just killing yourself slowly, mired in regrets and guilt."

Mulder pushed away from the table and grabbed his empty gun, knowing it for an empty gesture as soon as he touched it. He was more incensed than he had been for years and he liked it, goddamn Krycek, the bastard knew it too. He took a deep breath, "Get out Krycek and don't come back, not even if you have the Holy Grail in your hand. I'd hoped we were done when Skinner shot you in the head and I was glad. Understand, I was glad!"

Krycek pursed his lips, "How long can you lie to yourself Mulder? It's been twenty years and you can't face that you're not still a victim of Spender's spite and that you have all your answers. I'm willing to make you the center of 'my' world, although you think you're too good for that fate." He took a deep breath, "You're not you know. I understand your past and I know you better than you know yourself, there haven't been too many who do."

Mulder rubbed his ear with the empty gun. Alex Krycek was sitting at his table, drinking his coffee, feeding his damned cat and spouting off about death and romance in the same breath. He didn't want to listen and he certainly didn't want to believe that what Krycek was saying had any semblance of truth in it. He walked over to the couch and sat down with a plop, tossing the empty gun onto the end table.

"Just go, Krycek." Mulder slowly, wearily. "I'm not interested in a relationship with you; not as friends or as enemies and certainly not sexually."

Krycek stared at Mulder, put down his cup and got up determinately walking over to the couch. Mulder flinched when he sat down next to him, but didn't get up and run from the room. "Look Mulder, you've been under my skin for damn near ever. I saw you in the halls at Quantico and then on the survival course, running as fast as the wind. I asked who you were and learned about your ambition to solve unsolvable cases, to open the government up and reveal conspiracies of dubious merit, including proof of alien life on earth. I didn't laugh like the others or jeer at your ambition, I was intrigued. I hadn't even seriously faced the idea that I might be bisexual and desire you, but your rebellious stance in the face of so much antipathy did make me interested." Alex took Mulder's limp hand in his own, "What happened when we met happened a long time ago, there's nothing I can do to change it. I am, at the most basic and visceral level, a man just like you. I'm alone with no family, few friends and of those, none who know the life I've led. You're in the same boat, maybe a few more friends, but I bet they don't know half of what you've done either. I'm a paranoid bastard who hardly sleeps at night and you're the same beneath your halo. So come on, Mulder, hang with me." Alex squeezed Mulder's hand until at last, he got a squeeze back. Mulder hadn't changed his expression, but the hand had gone from limp to engaged and that, for the moment was enough.

Mulder and Krycek sat next to each other in silence and the morning sun rose and made the room very bright. The cat lay in a ray of sunshine and stretched out as far as he could and fell asleep that way, a stripe of white fluffy belly up and vulnerable, trusting, Mulder thought, no one here would kick him in the gut.

After what seemed like ages, Krycek took a chance and leaned into Mulder, resting his head against Mulder's shoulder. Mulder didn't push him off and eventually relaxed too.

When the window was shattered by gun shots, they were startled. Krycek pushed Mulder down to the floor and covered him with his own body.

The silence was deafening until Mulder began to curse, "I knew it, goddammit. Anyone near you might as well be the target on a shooting range." He pushed Krycek off him and rolled on the floor until he was beneath the window. He saw the cat had fled under the couch, no fool that cat, he thought.

"Toss me the gun and my full clip, asshole." He screamed at Krycek.

But Krycek didn't move.

Still cursing, Mulder rolled towards his room where he had a spare gun in a drawer. Armed, he came back on his feet, sticking as close as possible to the wall. He heard sirens coming close.

And still Krycek hadn't moved.

There was nothing to be seen out the window of course. It had been at least four or five minutes since the shots were fired. "Hey coward," He yelled at Krycek, "Who the fuck is out there gunning for you?"

Krycek didn't answer.

Mulder finally went over to the prone body. He pushed at Krycek's shoulder and the man fell sideways onto the coffee table, knocking it over.

Mulder gasped and all at once there were loud knocks at the door and brighter than the sunshine, the cop cars and ambulance's lights cut into his vision. As soon as he saw cops on the deck he yelled, "Come in, goddammit and get a medic!"

Everything was confusion, trying to stay next to Krycek and answer questions at the same time, Mulder quickly lost his patience. "How is he? He's got a fake arm! Be careful for fuck's sake!"

"It'll be okay sir," The most senior cop said, getting between Mulder and the EMTs while they cut through his shirt to see the wound. "The faster you answer some questions the sooner you can be with your friend.

Practically foaming at the mouth, "I'm a retired federal agent and he was one years ago. I didn't see anyone, we were sitting on the couch talking and all hell broke loose." Mulder fumbled for his ID and found his arms grabbed from behind and the gun quickly confiscated.

Undisturbed, "Hmm," the cop murmured. "Know anyone who is out to get you, Agent?"

Mulder pushed by him and was grabbed again, surrounded by beefy cops. "How is my friend?" He continued to struggle as the EMTs put Krycek on a stretcher and started for the door. Mulder saw blood across Krycek's chest where the shirt had been cut away.

"Look," He spit out at the cop asking who was asking questions, "I haven't been active for over two years. Before that who the hell knows. I spent twenty-four years with the Bureau, put hundreds away. Call them for fuck's sake."

"I will," Said the cop imperturbably and passed Mulder's ID to an underling.

Mulder had a moment of panic, he had no idea what kind of ID Krycek had or in which name. The question was solved immediately when another cop read out loud, "Hey captain, this guy works at Quincy's across from the sixth street station house. I thought he looked familiar. Has a Ruskie name, Alex Krycek." He said Krycek like the kerchief part of handkerchief.

Mulder barked out a short and somewhat tremulous laugh, "Krycek," He said. "Like cry and check together."

The cops rolled their eyes.

"What's in here?" Another cop asked, rattling the doorknob on the locked X Files' room.

"That's my private office, you don't need to go in there. The shots came from outside. I'm the victim here not the criminal." He said impatiently.

"Hmm," The Captain said again. "Sir, we'd appreciate as much help as you can give us. There's not going to be much outside, you know. It looks like they did a drive-by and no one was around to tell us nothing about nothing."

"Mulder sighed, "I'm going in the ambulance now. I'll go over the files my office and give you anything that might have relevance later." He waved the cop quiet, "Later I said." Mulder patted his pocket for his keys and grabbed his wallet off the table, held his hand out for his ID and then, because the younger cop didn't give it to him, for Krycek's ID and wallet too.

"Lock up when you leave," Mulder said as he exited the room.

### 15 ###<
/p>


It's so easy to fall in love but hard to find someone who will catch you

Anonymous


The art of love... is largely the art of persistence.

Albert Ellis


Mulder hated hospitals. He'd spent too much time by beds and in hospital beds and halls and elevators and outside with the smokers and new nervous dads, all of whom were disturbed, dismayed and ignorant to a ridiculous degree and he'd decided a long time ago, he was no different.

Krycek was taken into the ER and whisked behind beige curtains with a greenish print of nothing in particular. Mulder was barely a step behind and when they asked if he was family, he said yes, but didn't know about Krycek's insurance. He had to do the 'cry and check' pronunciation several times before they got it.

Without his arm, pale and flat on white sheets, Krycek looked young and vulnerable and Mulder didn't like that one bit. He'd never seen Krycek undressed beyond the white tee shirts he'd favored years before. He was thinner than Mulder remembered and hairless, which was a surprise because for a guy who swaggered machismo, he should be hirsute, shouldn't he? Mulder shook his head, nuts, he thought, he'd finally bought the farm and should be the one in the bed on sedatives.

Krycek moved slightly and the sheet slid down, revealing a fine line of soft looking hair beyond his navel. Mulder twitched the sheet back, closing his eyes do he wouldn't peek when Krycek was not awake to know what was happening.

The bullet had skimmed across Krycek's right shoulder and probably ended up in the couch. The wound was dressed and sprayed, ready for stitches, so it wasn't covered up. It looked raw and nasty. God, Mulder thought, he hated hospitals.

He poured water into a paper cup, dipped his fingers in it and bathed Krycek's lips, already dry and chapped. But they were pink and plump and soft, ran like whisper of water in his mind. Mulder sat down, sighed and took Krycek's hand in his. He was lost in a forest and he'd never seen the trees coming. No, that wasn't exactly true. He'd seen the trees years ago, before the betrayal, before Scully had been taken and lay, much like the man on the bed, pale and still. For all Mulder knew, the same enemies were at work, trying to grab his happiness away one more time, just to be pissy and evil or something of the sort.

### 16 ###


One – Two, buckle my shoe
Three – Four, shut the door

Anonymous


Krycek recovered quickly, hating hospitals as much as Mulder and hating to be less than the three working limbs could be at any moment. He'd taken the catheter out himself, biting his lip bloody and using the IV pole, made his own way to the toilet. After he scowled ferociously at the head nurse, they said nothing more and bent to the task of getting him released ASAP.

Mulder, getting the window fixed and setting the FBI on the local constabulary, was ready to resume the conversation on the couch they had never completed. The new assistant director, he'd never be anything but the new one in Mulder's mind, found no trace of Alex Krycek or John Artzen in any data base. He asked if this was the Krycek, pronouncing it 'kerchief', which Mulder had wanted arrested and in front of a firing squad not so long ago. Mulder stared the pencil pusher straight in the eye and said no. The man smiled sourly, but didn't challenge him. Mulder went back to the hospital wondering what had happened to 'balls' in the FBI. Then he remembered nine-eleven and stopped smirking.

Sitting by the elevator, Krycek was dressed in hospital scrubs, the pale green making his eyes glint more greenly than ever. "Let's go," He said as soon as Mulder stepped off the elevator.

Mulder grinned and turned around again, punching the down arrow. Krycek laughed.

Krycek might have bitten off more than he could chew, Mulder thought as he helped the man the last few feet to the car, surreptitiously wrapping an arm around Krycek's waist. In the car, Krycek closed his eyes and leaned his head back. "I'm fine," He growled before Mulder could ask him how he was.

"Sure," Mulder said with a grin. "Who is after you?" He asked seriously.

Krycek sighed, "I was in Hawaii after I sent you the file," He began. "I thought I was in the clear and it went to hell. Because of Marita, if you can believe it!" He said indignantly.

Mulder made a complicated left turn into DC rush hour traffic, "What is she after?"

"I have a lot of money, of course, but so does she. We figured out the Syndicate's offshore holdings years ago. We had no relationship any more either. Spender sent her to get me out of the Tunisian hellhole, but nothing got hot between us anymore. I don't know," He said and closed his eyes.

"Are you sure it's really Marita and not some leftover alien, evening the score?" Mulder asked.

Krycek barked out a weak laugh, "If there are any aliens around, which I seriously doubt, it would be the last of the Smiths, who wouldn't have been asked to leave with the rest of them. He wouldn't try to kill me anyway, or anyone else for that matter. They are healers and pacifists."

"I know," Said Mulder reflexively, "I've met a few. Could Marita be under pressure from someone else, perhaps?"

"I don't know anyone else," Said Krycek. "She was afraid at the end, knowing they would kill her. But she lived and it's been a long time. She has family, but they were always on the outside and never knew anything she was doing except that she worked at the UN in a position that required a lot of travel and long silences. The Marita I saw in Hawaii was pretty emphatic and willing to get her hands dirty. That was new."

Mulder turned into the drive to his condo development. "I haven't heard that any of the really strange or murderous assholes I put away have gotten out. The serial killers from way back are rotting in their cells or on death row. It's hard to believe any of them are striking back now. So, who's after you or me or both of us?"

Krycek groaned as he got out of the car, but pushed Mulder's hand away when he came to escort him, "Just open the door, Mulder." He growled intemperately.

"Okay, okay, tough guy," Mulder answered and opened the door. The window had been repaired and the floor swept of any glass. The cat was waiting on the kitchen counter and mewed loudly when they entered.

"Why a cat?" Krycek asked as he sat down gratefully on the couch.

"Dunno," Mulder said quickly. "He came around and didn't leave."

No," Krycek said dryly, "Cats don't leave once you feed them. That's a known fact."

"Funny," Mulder answered, head in the recently well filled fridge. "You hungry?"

"You bought groceries?" Krycek asked, surprised. "I'm touched."

"Ha ha," Mulder said pulling a large frozen Lasagna out of the freezer. He hit the microwave buttons and almost missed what Krycek was saying.

"Feed me and I might stay too." The green eyed man said, leaned back and fell into a doze.

"Hmm," Mulder said under his breath, "Maybe I'll let you."

Two cops showed up just as the lasagna was ready. With a bland face, Krycek let them in the sliding door of the deck. The cat, who had been tempted out from under the couch, hissed and went back under. "Was it something I said?" Quipped the younger cop.

Mulder held back a laugh at what words he just 'knew' were going through Krycek's mind. He calmly set the table, poured a glass of red wine for Krycek and handed it to him, noticing he stayed close and had the table between himself and the cops.

The older cop, 'Hmmed,' for awhile and finally got out his note pad, "Mr. hmm Krycek," He started, "What did you see at the time of the shooting?"

Krycek sat at the table and took a sip of the wine, "I was sitting on the couch," He gestured to the couch, "With Mulder. I saw nothing. I heard the shots and reacted by dropping to the floor. End of story." He took a fortifying sip.

The older cop looked back and forth between Mulder and Krycek, obviously dying to ask personal questions, but in the face of the two former agents, thought the better of it. "Hmm, not quite all, was it? You pushed Mr Mulder down, likely saving him from taking the bullet you took. That's something."

Krycek grinned a wide white grin, startling both cops, "I owe him a few," Krycek said.

Mulder choked on his wine, the cops looked suspiciously at both of the agents. "We were partners way back in the day," Mulder said by way of explanation.

Krycek raised an eyebrow, mimicking Spock.

"Hmm," Said the older cop and sighed, "Can you think of anyone who would be out gunning for you?" His question was met with silence, he sighed again. "I gotta tell you there's not much to go on. Maybe you should get a place elsewhere for the time being."

Krycek laughingly said, "Hey Mulder, wanna get a 'place'?"

The cops gave up, "Hmm, we won't hold up your dinner, keep in touch if you go out of town."

Mulder waited for them to exit the sliding door, closed it with a snap and pulled the curtains.

### 18 ###


Together we could break this trap
We'll run till we drop, baby well never go back
Will you walk with me out on the wire
`cause baby I'm just a scared and lonely rider
But I gotta find out how it feels
I want to know if love is wild,
I want to know if love is real

'Born to Run' Music and Lyrics by B Springsteen


The two men ate dinner amicably enough. The cat sat on the counter-top and watched them eat, chirruping obsessionally as if to encourage them to eat faster.

The phone rang, it was a low level researcher from the Bureau, "This Marita Covarrubias is still in custody in Hilo, Hawaii. There's some noise about her connections and letting her go, but the judge is not convinced.. The man arrested with her died suddenly of some kind of allergic reaction to the food. There is an investigation, but the man never said anything about allergies."

"He repeated the news to Krycek. As familiar as this scenario is, there really isn't much to go on," Mulder said as he poured the last of the wine.

"No, no," Krycek said, draining his wine, putting his dishes in the dishwasher and his wineglass in the sink and moving back to the couch, twiddling the cat's ears on the way. "The familiar scenario does tell us something. In the old days those foolish enough to get arrested knew they would be contacted very soon. Most of them realized they would be dead very fast too, especially if they knew something worth revealing. But, there hasn't been any whispers about this kind of thing in years. Someone is still alive somewhere, with enough power to pull those kind of strings. I mean, suborning a prison guard or cook, that's expensive in my experience."

Mulder pushed the button to run the dishwasher, "God," He said with a long exhaled breath of frustration. "It's never going to end is it?"

Krycek closed his eyes, "I had hoped we would be very unimportant by now. I would have never given you the file or contacted you otherwise."

"Yeah," said Mulder and took his seat beside Krycek on the left. This time he laid his head on Krycek's shoulder and also closed his eyes. "Why do I trust you now, Alex?" He asked rhetorically. "I wanted you dead not so long ago."

Krycek chuckled low in his throat, "You have holes in your head, Mulder." He kissed Mulder's forehead, "And you're as lonely and alone as I am."

"Yeah," Mulder said again and tilted his head, catching Alex's chin with his lips. Alex adjusted and the two men kissed. It was soft and slow and they sighed in unison as it ended.

"Sleep with me," Mulder said. "The bed's already made."

Alex Krycek grinned and kissed Mulder quickly, "I think I've imagined those words about a million times."

"Once upon a time," Mulder began as he led the way down the short hall, "I thought of that too. But then it all went to hell and I made sure my hatred stayed stoked. It was never easy to actually hate you the way I felt I had to hate you. It took a lot of thought and energy. It's only recently that I've realized that all that thinking and energy was in the place of admitting I wanted you, no matter what you'd done. But that took a long time, until well after Scully was cured. You shouldn't have used Skinner so hard either."

Alex stopped and tugged at Mulder's hand until he stopped too. "I cannot take back the past or the things, good and bad, which I've done. I'm a hard man, Mulder. Many times I wanted to believe I was heartless too, but there you were and I knew I hadn't completely lost my humanity. You always called me a coward. I am not a coward, each betrayal, each hard fought step took so much out of me. I wanted power, true. I wanted respect, true. I wanted wealth, true. But I also hated those old bastards, William Mulder included. I cannot say that world domination by aliens was what I was fighting, I am not that altruistic. I swear that making those buzzards pay for helping the aliens, for profiting from them and for trying only to save themselves is what fueled me for a long time. They were so complacent and corrupt that I was offended that I had to share the planet with them far more than sharing the planet with the aliens."

Mulder laughed and pulled Alex into the master bedroom. "I know," Mulder said. "I wanted to prove to the world that aliens existed and of course, that the paranormal existed along with all things humanly strange and bizarre. I wasn't successful at any of it. I was the hero in my own melodrama, people like you, who had other agendas pissed me off! It took a long time to realize my own family, biologically or not, were in cahoots with the forces who stood in the way between me and that proof." He sat on the end of the bed. Krycek took the chair a few feet away. "My poor little Samantha, she was the one who was abused the worst. Tested upon until she died, never knowing that I and my mother always loved her or that I tried to find her, save her. It – I was too late from the first. She was dead years before I began."

Alex nodded.

"I stupidly refused to see so much of what my vaunted 'truth' had cost until Scully had cancer and you disappeared, irrefutably connected by the Smoker's plans. By the time I did find out what happened to Sam, I was so very, very tired. I had to keep going, what else was my life about?" Mulder laughed sardonically, "And the world went on without my truth, no matter how much blood, sweat and tears I expended or how many others were sacrificed because of me."

Alex frowned, "Don't go too far in with beating yourself up, Mulder. You were on the side of the angels and we were in your way, just not always in the in the ways you thought we were. Poets say the choices we make turn out to make us, I think I believe that. I didn't start out to be a mole or a killer, but there must have always been the ability in me to do those things without a lot of soul searching. I look at you and know you fought the good fight and I admire you for that." Krycek laughed at himself a bit, "I never envied you, I never pitied you either, just Mulder, you frustrated me half to death, always ready to punch me out and call me names. It was so juvenile and hurtful at the same time. Now, finally here with you alone and on the same wavelength, all I want is to merge into you, with you, until there's no more space for anything but the ultimate truth of passion and well," He ducked his head and looked at his feet, "Love."

"Yeah," Mulder said, breathing hard. "I want that too."

Alex Krycek and Fox Mulder looked at each other, the expanse of the bed between them and hovered on the edge of something more real than either had ever expected. Alex got up and Mulder met him halfway.

### 19 ###


Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,- but by the number of moments that take our breath away.

Anonymous

It was awkward, Alex's injury hurt like a motherfucker and it had been decades since Mulder had touched another male body with sexual intent. Their kisses matched perfectly, so they started there.

Alex eased Mulder down onto the bed by his left side, hating the prosthetic between them, but that was better than the unhealed wound on the other side. Propped on his right elbow he breathed in Mulder's warmth and response. "Damn, Mulder you are something else." He said baldly.

Mulder chuckled and arched up and into another kiss. "You're not half bad yourself. He pushed up Alex's scrub shirt, finding pale firm skin beneath. Beautiful," He whispered.

"Help me get this damn thing off," Alex said lowly with pure sex in his voice.

Mulder helped him and then helped himself by pushing the other flat and beginning a kissing, licking and biting his way from the hollow of Alex's throat to that wonderful thin line of soft dark hair at the waistband.

"I knew you were orally inclined, all those sunflower seeds didn't lie," Alex said in a somewhat drugged voice.

"Be glad I stayed practiced," Mulder said as he untied the cord at Alex's waist and pulled down the scrubs. He was bare beneath them and immediate cupped his hand around the straining dick and squeezed. Alex came half off the bed.

"Wait, wait," Alex panted, "You have way too many clothes on for this."

Mulder chuckled softly, but didn't stop. It didn't last long and Mulder felt on top of the world making Alex lose it so quickly.

"Ah, shit Mulder," Alex said as he got his breath back, "That wasn't fair!"

"You can make it up to me as many times as you like," He said and rolled off the bed, undressing in a flash.

Alex was in no hurry, here finally at the feast after a lifetime of hunger for this man, his man, the one destiny had taken away time and time again. "Nice," He whispered as he stroked Mulder large prick, Mulder bucked, Alex didn't go any faster. Alex kissed his way down to Mulder's kneecaps, stroking behind the knees, which made Mulder half gasp and half laugh.

"Hush," Alex crooned, "Keep your breath for the finish, you're going to need it."

Mulder tried to aim Alex's head toward his cock, but Alex was having none of that. I'll do it, trust me." He said.

Mulder whispered, "I do trust you."

"At last," Alex said and swallowed Mulder's cock in one fell swoop.

Mulder whined and thrashed for a moment and came in such a powerful rush that he was dizzy and the world of his bedroom and Alex went topsy-turvy. When he came back to his senses, he was against Alex's side, listening to the man's heartbeat slowing down.

In that damned sexy voice, Alex said, "Let me get the arm off, then we'll fit better."

Mulder agreed and languidly inched over a bit and helped pull at the Velcro fastenings. He shoved it onto his bedside table and rolled back. He did fit better, he fit perfectly.

Alex reached with his right hand and turned off the lamp, "Mulder," He said.

"Wha..." Mulder replied, so replete he was almost asleep.

Alex laughed softly, deep in his chest, "Just Mulder, Mulder, Mulder."

Mulder replied with a shallow snore.

"Yeah," Alex whispered, "Perfect."

### 20 ###<
/p>


"Ah! There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort."

Jane Austen

The year passed quickly. The shooters were never caught, but so far, had never returned.

The cat got used to Alex's contribution of a shelter dog of unknown breeding. It couldn't jump onto counter-top and eat his food, which made the cat much more willing to tolerate the oaf. Neither animal had a name, but they knew to whom they belonged and came when called generically – cat or dog. The cat followed the men when they walked the dog, he tagged along to the corner then sprinted back to the deck, laying unmolested on the dog's favorite stuffed animal. Alex said he did it to piss off the dog. Mulder said he did it to remind the dog who was boss.

Mulder had cleaned up his X Files office, filing the papers and collating the scraps into envelopes. Krycek never bothered with the collection, he'd had enough of all that to last the rest of his life. In fact, Mulder only added an article once in a while. The last of his energy for all that finally lessened by the challenge and joy of living with Alex Krycek. Skinner said he could almost believe it, when Mulder told him about Krycek, but would rather poke his eye out with a steak knife than ever hear or think about it. Ever. Mulder'd laughed, Skinner didn't. Alex added nothing to the conversation and never brought it up. Mulder saw Skinner whenever the former AD attended a FBI retirement party in the area. Alex didn't.

Thanksgiving week started off clear and breezy, but disintegrated into gray and cold damp by Wednesday. In line at the grocery, arguing over the lack of any small turkeys left in the coolers, Alex reminding Mulder he'd said they should have bought a frozen one weeks ago, or over having a large roasting chicken instead. Mulder was for the chicken, Alex wanted an American dinner with all the trimmings, claiming he hadn't had the opportunity to enjoy such a thing in the past.

Mulder wanted oysters in the stuffing, Alex made gagging sounds and bought sausages instead. They were oblivious to the gazes of other shoppers, some of whom shook their heads in disapproval of the two men and others who noticed them and didn't care.

They agreed upon sweet potatoes and macaroni with cheese, as well as stopping at a gourmet bakery for pies, brownies and pecan fudge. Alex said he'd made them appointments with a cardiologist for the first week of the coming year. Mulder said he would not go, Alex said if he didn't he would make him an appointment with a proctologist instead. Mulder agreed to go to the cardiologist.

They bickered through all the shopping, Alex paid, because he said, Mulder was a cheapskate. Mulder disagreed saying that giving the Chinese food delivery guy a dollar was plenty.

It was an old argument and both men were too savvy not to appreciate 'having' old friendly arguments and enjoyed them to the utmost.

After the feast, the cat lay on it's back, rounded belly barely moving with each breath.

After the feast, the dog slept, still licking his chops and barking happily in small yips.

After the feast, two bleary and bloated not so young men sat on the couch, football game muted on the huge wall mounted TV, and talked.

They talked a lot these men, having found years and years of experiences spent apart fodder for never-ending, if not always amicable, discussions.

They were as, as Mulder said, loving to have the last word, more interesting than bland agreement on every little thing.

After the late night news, Alex said he felt peckish enough for a snack.

Mulder groaned, "Save it for tomorrow and probably the rest of the week. Did I ever tell you how much I hate leftovers?"

Alex Krycek laughed and decided to wrestle Mulder to the floor and subdue him with sex instead, he made eating sounds the entire time.

The animals never woke, happy with their own dreams of feasts and belonging.

10-11-12

 

THE END

 

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