Sympathy Pains

Bernice

What if I fell in love with you, Just like normal people do
Well, maybe I’d kill you, or maybe I’d be true

– Linda Rondstadt (Simple man, simple dream)

 

Please note this is purely self indulgent and has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Blame Gillian - she wanted lots and lots of baby! I hate babies! Blame Lauren - she wanted to see him pregnant! It’s all their fault! I didn’t write this! I was brainwashed by Cancer Man’s doctors! Luis Cardinal wrote this! He also invented Taxes and Pop Tarts! Dolly did it! It wasn’t my fault!!!!

...Or maybe you are not reading this at all... maybe it’s YOU who have been brainwashed to believe you’re reading this...

 

I understand that. You loved him once. You must have done. You can’t hate what you’ve never loved. Not really. Not passionately. Real hate is like real love. It consumes you. It’s an obsession. I know about obsession…

 

Sympathy Pains

 Do I look like a waitress to you?

- Nicholas Lea, Once A Thief

 

"Thank you, sir," Lousy buck tip, "Please come again," and get run over on the way here, ya lousy bum, "Have a nice day," I hope you swallow your tongue. Krycek pocketed his tip, his hand sliding uncomfortably over the pumpkin shaped bulge at his middle. He couldn’t get used to this, it was like some pustulant abscess, growing and taking over his own body. Another alien invasion, although far less dangerous than the last two... or maybe it was even more dangerous. This one wouldn’t be gone again in a few days.

He started to clear the diner table, leaning over to grab plates and pile up uneaten food. Yeah, this is what I spent all those years in college for... "Goddamn it," he yelped, as his back spasmed again. He just couldn’t get used to this new body.

"Here, let me help," a strong hand grabbed his shoulder, dragging him upright, the other hand in the middle of his back helping ease the discomfort.

"Thanks, Dan," he said, gratefully.

"Don! My name is Don!" said Don, without ill humour.

"Can I help it if you look like Roseanne’s husband? Lose some weight."

"Hey, I’ll have you know this is all muscle!!! And anyway, I’m not fat, I’m just big boned."

"Oh, yeah, Dan, that’s one hell of a big bone you got hanging out over your belt there!" Krycek handed the owner of the diner the pile of dishes, he was a frail little woman now, he couldn’t be expected to carry all those big heavy plates!

"Well, Sandy, you know the best way to lose weight..." he winked and nudged her with a suggestive elbow.

"Give me a break, will you? I’m pregnant here."

"My wife never complained when I wanted to put another arm or leg on her babies."

"And she left you why?"

Don sighed, "I guess six was enough huh? Can I help it that I’m an exceptionally fertile man? I’m in my prime, I am!" he dropped the plates into the kitchen sink, and flexed a massive biceps in demonstration. The effect was rather ruined though when he scratched his equally massive butt against the stove.

"Have you ever heard of a condom?" the solution to Dan’s marital problems seemed perfectly simple.

"Have you?" Dan arched an eyebrow towards Krycek’s swollen belly.

"Touché"

"You sure you don’t want me to find the bastard..."

Krycek rolled his eyes in affectionate exasperation, "And what? Shoot him? Or perhaps you have a shot gun wedding in mind?"

"Hey, the bum..."

"That bum doesn’t know! And I don’t want him to know! I left him, Dan. I told you that."

"So maybe you should tell him, maybe if he knew he’d..."

"He’d what? Take me away from all this?" Krycek swept his hand around, encompassing the closed diner, the mess, his stupid pink uniform (god, he hated those bows), the drunken bum puking on the pavement near the door. "Why would I want to leave such magnificence?"

"Smart mouth. Grab your coat, I’ll give you a lift home. And remember, I’ll be round your place about 10am tomorrow to take you to the clinic."

They bantered companionably as Dan drove Krycek home, and Alex worked hard not to notice how Dan hinted at marriage. Poor Dan, he’d love another mother for his barbarian horde, and he had his eye firmly set on a pretty little unwed mother. Just for a second, Krycek wavered, Could do worse, Alex, Dan’s a really nice guy... but he shuddered in horror at the thought of all those kids. Unless he could arrange six little accidents... he squashed that thought as soon as it materialised.

He studied the ground as he walked to his trailer, Dan waiting in the car until he was safely inside.

 

I’m trailer trash, Mother would be so proud. You always said I was no good for anything, now you’ve been proven right. Look Mother, your boy’s pregnant unwed trailer trash.

Krycek couldn’t stand to look at the outside of this thing, bright pink. Hot pink. Flamingo pink. Because Dan thought he was doing his little lady friend such a big favour, feminising the soulless grey trailer that was all Krycek could afford on his wages. Ghastly. He shut the door behind himself, sighing in relief to find a little peace at last, kicking off his shoes and collapsing on the hard bench sofa.

He propped his feet up on a chair, turned the radio to some deadwood-assholes-talking-crap-station and started writing another letter to Mulder. Just a note to accompany the file he was sending, nothing specific: I hope you’re well, I miss you, I’m doing fine, here is the file, hope it’s useful. Same ol’ same ol’. Usual crud. Nothing that could be traced back, nothing terribly informative, nothing terribly emotive.

The sound of tires outside distracted him, and he realised that only now was Dan leaving. He really was a good man. And he’d ask no questions, he’d be supportive, caring, funny... maybe all those kids could be tolerated? They were good kids, really they were. But even their own mother had left eventually... well, admittedly, a slick salesman with greasy hair had played a major role in that...

-oo0oo-

Alex, I can’t believe you’re even considering this! He scoffed at himself, You hate kids! And six of them? Seven if he didn’t go through with the adoption of this lump. Yeah, that’s why you’ve spent all those years in training and education, that’s why you’ve been through hell for the past few years, so you can spend the rest of your life as a mid-western housewife, raising someone else’s screaming brats. Good plan. Not! That would all mean living the rest of his life as a woman, and that had never really been part of the plan, and Dan sure wouldn’t handle his missus suddenly becoming a mister. On the other hand, he hadn’t exactly been a success as Alex Krycek, maybe a brand new start... He felt a small tingle of amazment at himself at how he was now just accepting this. From his first hysterical reactions to finding out about the gender changing, to a fleeting thought of spending his life female.

Besides, he didn’t even know if Dan was good in bed. What was the point in marrying a man who thinks you’re some sweet little thing who needs flowers and candies? Somehow he just couldn’t picture Dan in leather and chains wielding a cat-o-nine tails. Doing it twice on a Saturday night with the lights on would be Dan’s idea of kink.

"Can’t get enough of living dangerously, can you?" he asked himself. "Or stupidly." He heaved his swollen body out of the trailer, down to the wash block. What he wouldn’t give for a decent bathroom. A bath. A television. Some chocolate. Some beer, and cheese on crackers. And another beer…

But every cent went on the shrink, and the exorbitant travelling costs to get to a shrink he could trust. Dr. Lewis was good, damn good. She’d listen for hours to his ranting, and her hypno-regression had pretty much sorted out what was real from what was implanted and phoney. It didn’t necessarily stop the programmed thoughts, but at least he nearly always knew which ones were real and which were not.

He scrubbed down in the cement shower block, sloughing away cigarette smoke and grease, This place is so depressing... he indulged in another moment of self pity, but anything’s better than the Amish. No, that wasn’t fair, they had been good people. Full of righteous thought about his sinful situation, not overtly, but in their quiet non-judgemental way. He’d always be grateful for their kindness, but all those too quiet nights, when he couldn’t hear the people who weren’t chasing him creeping around outside the buildings... he’d had to move on again. Also, the fashions were just terrible! Nothing wrong with basic black of course... just so long as it was leather.

Krycek tied his hair back, and wrapped a towel around his body. He gave his pumpkin-sized stomach a push, watching the way it slid slightly sideways Grotesque... and waddled back to his trailer.

Just enough time to spend the rest of the evening staring at the trailer ceiling for a few pointless hours. Waitressing in the diner filled his evenings, even if it meant putting up with Dan’s advances and the crass come-ons from the customers. Sweeping floors in Chez Lurlene’s Hair Emporium To The Stars filled his mornings. When the revolution comes Lurlene will be first up against the wall, he indulged his favourite fantasy of late. Making her swallow her gum and cigarettes, and her ‘ya’ll never git a mahn looking lahke that, Sandy’ comments. He twined his fingers through his pony tail, he’d get that Lurlene for this awful blonde. He’d drawn the line at waxing – he shaved his legs for no one! Still, at least he’d talked her out of the beehive. He checked out his reflection in the window of the trailer – a skunk in photographic negative. So how much does hair dye cost? Something else to do tomorrow.

He picked up pen and paper again, maybe he could put in a personal note to Mulder... Not that Mulder would really notice. The file Krycek was sending would lead the FBI Agent to a whole town of ‘special’ children.

If Mulder survived his encounter with those little darlings the Agent would have a good start on another government experimentation programme, and he’d have another step on the ladder to the Consortium. Krycek pondered his own decision not to let Mulder have all of the information at once... but why not let the tension build, keep Mulder always anticipating his next envelope. Face it, Alex, you just want him to keep thinking about you.

The note he’d been intending to write had become a series of doodles; boxes, birds, flowers, lines that went nowhere. Oh what the hell, and he folded that up and put it in the envelope as well. Poor Mulder, he’ll probably be looking for conspiracy theories in a doodle of a house. That thought gave him some amusement as he arranged pillows under his distended stomach and tried to sleep through 24 hour morning sickness. Maybe he could get in a few hours before his beleaguered bladder set off the alarm clock.

Kill for a cold beer... and a bucket.

-oo0oo-

Mulder sat on the sofa, staring at the paper between his feet, listening to the phone ring. The latest batch of files Krycek had sent had been copies of the ones Mr X had given him years ago. These ones Mulder had used to track down the decision makers who’d performed surgery on soldiers, turning them into sleepless killing machines. Salvatore ‘Sal’ Matola was going to testify against the Military, he believed that seeing justice done would bring him peace and stop the ghosts of his comrades in arms. Mulder was sure that Krycek would have fully appreciated the irony of letting Mulder have these files, considering they were the ones he’d stolen from Mulder originally.

Mulder picked up the paper, leaning back on the new sofa. It had been carefully chosen to suit the decor of his new apartment; beige, long, soft, very comfortable, ideal for sleeping on. Whomever had chosen it had taken a great deal of care to get one he’d like. He hated it. Since sleeping in either of the two bedrooms wasn’t an option - he couldn’t sleep in one room knowing the other was empty and out of his immediate view - he’d taken to sleeping at the office a great deal lately. It was better sleeping there, on the floor or across his desk, than in the empty beds here.

One long finger traced the outline of the pen drawings. You have a weird sense of humour, Krycek. Mulder had seen Krycek’s doodling habits before, on reports when they had been partners, and on the backs of files and envelopes lately. The first ones had usually been birds, or other flying or running animals. Mulder knew enough about the psychology of unconscious scribbling to know that these showed a longing to be free. First year psychology. A few months ago jagged lines with no proper icons had been dug into the paper, apparently while Krycek had been hard put trying to decipher the codes. He’d been angry then. Now this one with its flowers and houses - looks like Krycek was over that initial anger and going through a wistful mode.

Mulder smiled, but it was twisted, the expression making him look mean. Now you want to come back to me, is that was this means? You’ve been running too long? Not that there was any personal information with the files, there never was. Mulder considered these notes his own personal torture, Krycek’s revenge for whatever wrong doing he perceived on Mulder’s part. No personal information, but continual reminders of what Mulder had lost. Krycek had to be doing that deliberately, the man had enough information on Mulder to know Mulder would be desperate to know what was happening. Krycek was sending the files through in batches, every couple of weeks, making sure that Mulder was always going to be thinking of him while he acted on the information. So Mulder tried to analyse what he could through meaningless doodles.

The phone finally stopped ringing, and he hauled himself over to the balcony. The new apartment had a wonderful view of the city with no surrounding buildings. A very deliberate attempt to make sure no bullets could be fired from another apartment window. He fingered the small scar on his throat where the last bullet had barely missed. They’d caught the would-be assassin - he’d been some junkie firing indiscriminately, according to the police report, and he’d also been dead in his cell before Mulder had been able to interview him.

Mulder’s own apartment was mouldering in dust now; and he was living out of ugly boxes in this beautiful building. Only his fish had been set up permanently, they could hardly swim in cardboard.

It was all necessary, he knew that. If he was to continue his public crusade, bringing down the government from the inside, he needed protection. Scully was in the same position, although she had rather liked the change. The new apartments were large, airy, luxurious. Far too large for Mulder, who found any room he couldn’t see held something he couldn’t trust. But the security arrangements were top of the line. The FBI was bending over backwards to help him now; horrified and embarrassed about airing its dirty laundry in public. They were co-operating with the media and giving Mulder everything he needed. He’d turned up one day to find that his office had been moved, lock stock and X File, from the basement to a beautiful corner office with a view of a park. He even had a secretary now. They gave him everything he asked for, expect the one thing he really wanted. He rubbed the paper between his fingers... it really wouldn’t make do as a masterbatory device, but it was all he had of Krycek. The man had disappeared, leaving no trace of himself behind.

The phone was ringing again, and he finally picked it up. "Hello?" Silence... again. At least it wasn’t some thrill seeker who’d found his private number and wanted to speak to the alien hunter. Just another nuisance call. He’d had a lot of calls like this, someone went to a lot of trouble to get this silent number, wasted a lot of dimes to give him the silent treatment. He knew what to do, put the phone down quietly and walk away; eventually the caller would get bored and give up. That usually worked. Ah, what the hell, why not vent some anger:

"Look, you stupid son of a bitch, what the hell do you think you’re doing? You get some kind of perverted kick out of this kind of..."

"Don’t." It was the softest breeze, a voice so low and deep it was little more than resonance.

"Alex...?"

Click... the dial tone took over.

Mulder picked the other line to security, cursing himself and his stupidity, "You’re got my lines bugged right? I want a trace on the last call that came through to my phone. Now!"

It only took a few minutes, they had his lines under continual surveillance.

"It came from Lancaster, sir, in Pennsylvania. Pay phone. Do you have a pen? I’ll give you the exact location."

Mulder jotted down the address, smiling to himself. So, Krycek hadn’t left the country after all. The files had been arriving with post marks from around the world, reposted from untraceable addresses. But unless Krycek had some very expensive equipment to hand, this call had been placed from Pennsylvania.

 

Of all the places you could have chosen in which; Rome, Paris, Mexico, Canada, Rio... you chose Pennsylvania? You really are some weird pervert, Krycek. Mulder smiled to himself. Of course, Pennsylvania was a big state, but it was smaller than an entire world.

-oo0oo-

The coffee was wonderful, steam from expensive special blends bled like humidity into his hair, and Krycek closed his eyes to inhale the rich taste through his lips. Ignoring the lawyer’s double talk and paper shifting. Sometimes it was easier to concentrate on the finer details.

The lawyer pushed the paper’s across, "Ten thousand dollars now, ten thousand on delivery. The buyer will cover all of your medical expenses, and is happy to cover any extra costs you may incur. The buyer is also happy to provide an extra $10,000 if the child is both healthy, normal, and male."

"This is damn fine coffee."

"Miss O’Connor, I think you will agree that the offer is most generous. And in your present circumstances, you will be unable to provide the best opportunities for the child."

"You don’t know what I can and cannot provide."

"No, of course not. But with your background... you must understand that my clients are wealthy people, and they are prepared to provide everything a child could need..."

The money wouldn’t make that much difference right now. If only he could get into the money from the French that he’d stashed away before, he’d be fine, but he did want to make sure the kid was going to be taken care of.

"What if the child isn’t normal?"

"The buyer will still provide the full $20,000 as per the contract."

"That’s not what I’m asking. Will the child still be taken care of?"

"The clients will continue to provide all necessary care."

"Why so much more for a male? I mean, this day and age, what difference does it make?"

"My clients are old fashioned people, they want a boy to take over the family business. But don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll love the child just as much if it turns out to be female."

Krycek nodded, this really was good coffee.

Nothing wrong with adoption. Instead of being stuck with accidental, unwanted children because your stupid Czek father kept getting drunk and your ignorant Irish Catholic mother refused to use any contraceptives, getting themselves stuck with kids they didn’t love and couldn’t provide for... Adoptive parents were going to all this trouble and expense to get a kid... And after all, you don’t want it.

Could have aborted it, right from the start. Simply changing back into male would have caused the foetus to spontaneously abort - no womb = no baby. But hadn’t he sworn to himself never to kill again? He laughed at himself a little, pro-choice until it’s your choice. Suddenly killing it – whatever it was, a peanut of formless flesh? Was it bigger than that now? – was more than he could do. A little piece of Mulder...

How many other little pieces of Mulder had he unknowingly aborted every time he changed back to male?

He took the pen he was offered, clicking out the nib, listening to the lawyer’s quiet unconcerned breathing. These were nice people, he’d checked them out thoroughly, even though this was supposed to be anonymous. Lovely house - everything that could be provided for a kid, would be. So the wife didn’t want to ruin her figure, he could understand that. A trophy wife, her figure and looks were what kept her alive, he was nothing if not sympathetic to her point of view.

He clicked the nib in and out again. Oh well, here goes nothing.

"Oowww!"

"Are you all right, Ms O’Connor?"

"Er yes, it just kicked." Krycek stared at the lawyer, shock in his eyes.

"Is there a problem?"

"No... er... no, it’s just that, it hasn’t done that before." The foot, or hand, or pseudopodia or whatever kids had at that age slid down the inside of Krycek’s guts, hard and uncomfortable.

"Ah, this is good, shows the child is healthy!"

"Uh, yeah, yeah I suppose it does." It doesn’t show you’ve got another alien possessing your body, repeat that until you believe it. Another 70 times should do. Believe instead that it’s a healthy personette. Another little life. He rested a hand on his stomach, feeling movement inside and out. It shows I’m selling another human being - for nothing other than the best motives, to make sure the kid gets the best. Make sure the kid gets so much more than I could ever provide, life and love and money and things I simply don’t have...

"I’m sorry... I think I’ve wasted your time..." Krycek got to his feet awkwardly.

"Wait a moment... if you change your mind, I’ll leave the contract open. Think about it... this is a lot of money, and you are a single parent..."

"Thanks for the coffee."

-oo0oo-

Would the ghosts of the recent dead be accepted by those already there? But if their souls were endlessly reincarnated, could they even leave ghosts? Or were ghosts simply reflections of departed souls? Mulder had heard so many theories, he was never sure how to classify the spectral remains of human lives. Right now he didn’t care, and his eyes burned, making it difficult to see the faces in the old photographs. Scully had searched through so many files to find those pictures, so Mulder could see his own face. And Melissa’s face. My wife. My husband. Then Mulder had gone back for another photograph. My lover...

 

Always my lover. Mulder’s finger outlined the sad, serious face of the young man in the photograph, feeling the old paper crumble and flake slightly. He should return it to the archives, before he destroyed it. He had no tears left, he’d been crying all day, and he felt a small satisfaction that the acid of his tears could not destroy the image. He just sat in his apartment now, crushed as if the weight of all of his past lives was forcing his spine to bend and crack, pushing the air out of his lungs. He sat and mourned a wife he’d never known, a husband he couldn’t remember. A lover who always betrayed him, or was betrayed, or worked for the other side.

A nazi soldier who turned a blind eye when Jews made a break for freedom, who was caught and shot for treason by his own Commandant.

The memories swirled around Mulder, as if it had only happened this morning – and to him it had – staring into his lover’s eyes, watching the dark grey cloud over, the horror of knowing he... she was unable to offer any comfort to the dying soldier. A man she would have married, had she not already had Melissa as a husband, or had they not been separated by race and politics.

He could feel the sobs rising again, remembering another war, knowing Melissa, although he hadn’t known her by that name then, was under his feet, hidden in caverns below the sod. Knowing that he didn’t care as much for that nurse, as much as he loved her, as he did for the brother he fought against. Staring down his gun sight, unable to pull the trigger, feeling the passion again for a man he was unable to touch – forbidden by law, by church, by society, by war. Feeling the shock as the bullet tore into his flesh, watching his own blood drench the field, then feeling the warmth of strong arms as the man who killed him held him close and cried.

Tears flowed freely down Mulder’s face, as he remembered those tears from another time and place. They’d both died in that field. They’d all died there. Melissa more than once. Fated always to be together, Melissa fated to always love him and Mulder always fated to truly love another. Mulder was fated to love her, but always betray her, by thought or deed, because of his uncontrollable passion for someone he could never truly be with. Someone he could never have, but would go to his grave wanting.

In this life they Mulder had met her only in passing, but he could feel the shame, because, in a way, he could still remember loving her. In this life he hadn’t betrayed her, just helped speed along her death. He wondered if they’d meet up in the next life, another life of guilt. Marry young, in the flush of youth, then live to regret it when he found... him.

Alex Krycek.

Always Alex Krycek. Just when he thought he had a grip on life, along he’d come. Irritable, dangerous, trouble. Ripping Mulder apart, deliberately or through circumstances out of their control.

This time though... Mulder knew they were intended to be together. There was no Melissa, or law, or church, or society that was going to keep them apart. Even Krycek wasn’t going to keep them apart this time. Mulder wasn’t going to make the same mistakes this life-time. This time around they’d be together. He wiped the tears off his face, he’d been crying so often today his throat hurt, his head throbbed, and he was as exhausted as if he’d run a marathon. He steeled himself, mentally preparing himself for the hunt. This life-time they’d spend together. Mulder was going to make sure of it.

-oo0oo-

The sound of flesh impacting with flesh echoed around the room, bringing a quiet hush. For a second the Deputy tried to say something, but then he was face down in mashed potato, breathing creamy smoothness.

"For $3.00 an hour plus tips no one slaps my fanny, okay, pig boy?" Krycek growled, not letting up the pressure.

The Deputy waved his arms around, trying to draw breath, trying to show respect with frantic noddings and gestures.

Krycek stopped his intimidation to look down in horror, "Dan!" he screamed, starting to hyperventilate.

Don barrelled out of the kitchen, the sheer bulk of the man terrorising the Deputy, who now firmly believed that Don was going to tear him limb from limb for daring to touch the woman Don had been courting.

"What? Sandy, what’s wrong?"

"Dan... I think my water’s broken."

"Billy Rae, you’re in charge. Billy Joe, take over the kitchen. Sandy, let the deputy out of the potatoes. I’ve got your bag in the back of the truck, come here," Dan swept Krycek up easily, carrying him out to the pick up, "I’ve got you. Everything’s going to be okay now."

"Made a mess on the floor back there, Dan, sorry about that. That was pretty gross, huh."

"Don’t worry about it, little lady, I’ve been through this plenty of times. I’ll take care of everything. I know it’s scary, being your first time an’ all, but you’ll get used to it. Hell, by the fourth one my wife didn’t even bother going to hospital anymore, by the sixth she didn’t even stop washing up! You wait, you have a few more kids and it’ll be second nature. It’s all instinct!"

"I’m not going through this again! Hey, I think I’m having a contraction... should that happen so soon?"

"It can... what does it feel like? It should feel like a really intense period cramp."

"I never had periods."

"What?" Don turned his eyes from the road for a moment, nearly hitting a deer. A deer that happened to be slung over the hood of an oncoming four wheel drive.

"I just didn’t... yeah, I think this has to be a contraction. Definitely a contraction. Definitely unpleasant."

"Start timing them..."

"Chrissacks, Dan, this is way too soon. It’s going to be premature. What if it dies? I never had an ultrasound, what if it’s..."

"Don’t you worry your pretty little head there, honey. It’ll be just fine. The premmies are the best, two of mine were premmies, and believe me, they were a whole lot smaller and easier to pass!"

"Oh yeah, and when was the last time you shit a water melon?" Krycek huffed and puffed as Don had shown him, in their make-shift lamas classes. "Oh, this is gonna be horrible, I just know it."

Don reached over and grabbed Krycek’s hand, "You’ll be fine, sweet heart, I’ll be with you all the way. You just hang onto me and don’t let go, y’hear? It’s all perfectly natural."

 

Yeah, easy for you to say, ya big galoot, how would you feel if this was you? Did your childhood prepare you for this? Didn’t think so!

He puffed his way through another contraction.

 

If I get stretch marks from this, Mulder, you’re gonna get it!

-oo0oo-

The photo was a computer altered version of one of the ‘He’s innocent’ shots used on the Krycek T shirts. It was obvious Krycek couldn’t be travelling as a man, his face was simply too well known, so Mulder had arranged for the shot to be altered. Scully had to agree it was a pretty good likeness for Sandy.

"Have you seen this woman?" Scully asked, wondered if she could just a get a recording made. "Thank you very much." Another negative. Three days they’d been searching this area. Skinner was furious at them both for taking off while this latest case was in such a delicate state of prosecution, but there was no stopping Mulder this time.

When Mulder was finally in a position to get everything he’d worked for, he was also prepared to hand in his badge if he didn’t get his own way this time.

Mulder had finally found something more important that the truth. And it was still out there.

 

-oo0oo-

Be a man, Krycek, he hissed to himself, and the scream that had built up came out as a strangled sob instead. Sweat poured into his eyes, and the nurse wiped it away, kindly muttering words of support and helpful hints. He wished she’d shut the fuck up.

"Don’t push yet, luv," the hick nurse instructed.

"Fffffffffffuck thissssssssssss," he said, baring his teeth and pushing for all he was worth. His body wracked with tremors, he gulped air as the urge eased again. How long was this going to last? If it was premature and small, surely it would be easier? If it always hurts this much, why the hell do human beings breed? No one wants to reproduce so much they go through this voluntarily, surely?

The doctors were putting his feet up in stirrups, and all gathering around for a look. But after having the nurse give him an enema earlier, there was little more that they could do to humiliate him. He just pushed for everything he was worth the next time the urge hit.

Even after he’d found out, when Krycek had signed the hospital admittance forms, that Sandy wasn’t his real name, Don had stayed here, and now Krycek clung to his hand, looking for any support he could get right now. He was pathetically grateful for the large hand that soothed sweaty hair from his forehead. Your wife went through this six times? I would have shot you! Given you a six gun vasectomy, he clawed at Don’s hand, and finally gave in to the scream.

-oo0oo-

The puzzle board was set up in the spare bedroom of Mulder’s apartment, that door always shut when anyone else was here. He didn’t know what they’d make of it, but he could imagine Scully’s worried expression, as she fretted over his sanity. He put another pin in the board, a thread of red cotton connecting a car rental receipt in the name of Sandy O’Connor to a blurred photograph of a sad young woman half hidden behind the collar of an oversized raincoat.

Mulder was pulling in every favour he was ever owed, getting himself in debt to people he wouldn’t stoop to spit on, trying to find Krycek. He hadn’t tried this hard to find Krycek even after death of his own father.

This board let him track the movements and activities of anyone he hunted. An old fashioned police tool, now usually done on computers. Of course he’d also written this into a program, that he would run and update daily, but he found having it here, in concrete, helped him make predictions on Krycek’s movements.

He’d just flown back from Pennsylvania that morning after an all night stint. He was thankful he never needed a lot of sleep anyway. But even still he’d had trouble staying awake and concentrating on his case, and Scully was increasingly suspicious. It was harder and harder to put her off, he’d resorted to lies about feeling ill, phoney doctor’s appointments to make her think he had some vague virus, but he’d be just fine soon.

He knew he wouldn’t be. He wouldn’t be fine until he’d got Alex back. But if he told her that... There was no way she’d put up with that kind of nonsense.

But the trip had been productive. He’d learned some interesting things from the Amish who had sheltered a young woman for a couple of months, although not a lot about any future plans she might have had. Mulder got the distinct impression Krycek had no future plans at all, but was simply wandering in no set direction. That made it so much harder to track him. Like water, Krycek was following the path of least resistance, moving on when he thought he was in danger, when Mulder, or the press, or anyone else got too close.

The small smile that quirked Mulder’s mouth was almost involuntary as he realised Krycek was never travelling more than a few states away from Washington. That could be because he hadn’t decided to completely abandon his quest for retribution against those who had hurt him, but it suited Mulder’s ego to believe it was because Krycek couldn’t abandon Mulder, not altogether.

-oo0oo-

 [I dreamed of] Giving Birth to Little Wet Puppies and Kittens

Nick Lea

"Here’s the head! We have the head, hey, come and have a look."

Krycek wanted to shout, ‘Dan’s not my husband, he can’t look at me there’, but right now breathing was the main priority. And mourning the loss of his intestines as they all squirted out of his body. This wasn’t human, this wasn’t natural, couldn’t they see he was shooting all his internal organs out the wrong end? They were all celebrating and cheering while Krycek had spent the best part of a day voiding his liver and kidney’s onto the hospital floor.

Don was back, an arm supportively around his shoulders, while Krycek heaved and sweated.

"Uh... uh... iiiiiiiii... I’ll kill him for thisssssssssss..." finally it was over, it had to be, he had nothing left to give, and that had to be his lungs that he was passing now...

"It’s a girl!!!" The doctor shouted triumphantly.

Krycek tried to lean up to see what was going on. A soft, indignant "Wahhh" filled the room, but it was little more than a gasp, and he couldn’t see what was going on beyond his knees. And the contractions were still going on...

Don was cutting the umbilical, smiling like he’d just won the superbowl single handedly.

"That’s right, luv, you keep pushing. Got to get the placenta out now," the nurse soothed, thinking of her date that night.

 

Placenta? Isn’t that what dogs eat? Krycek regretted not reading up more on this point. He’d been so set on putting the kid up for adoption he hadn’t bothered to read beyond what he had to expect during pregnancy. After all, the kid would have been taken away soon, if he’d signed the papers, so what was the point reading up on something if he wasn’t going to be needing the information? Or maybe he had just wanted to deny the whole issue. Stupid decision either way.

The doctor was coming up to him now, holding a little bloody bundle.

"She’s perfect, Ms. Krycek," he said, smiling, proud as any father, as he put the tiny wet bundle into Krycek’s arms. "Don’t worry about fingernails, they will grow in as she gets closer to the date she was meant to be born. Looks like she just couldn’t wait for all the extras, huh."

"She’s normal?" Krycek asked. She looked disgusting, covered in blood, slime and mucus. Bright red, wrinkled, she was the ugliest thing he’d ever seen. Surely that wasn’t normal. On TV they looked so much cleaner, nicer… more human…

"Just perfect. Put your hands here, hold her like that."

Don was behind him, holding him up, as he took the tiny smelly thing into his own arms. She was so tiny, he could almost hold her entire body in one of his own hands. A miniature fist waved in protest, and she gave another little ‘waaa’, not really crying, just apparently miffed at her change in circumstances.

"I made this," he whispered in awe. I made this, this grew in me. "I made a little girl..." a hot flush was spreading throughout his body, from his toes up to his hair, Ignore that, it’s just hormones, trying to make me bond... Ignore those tears...

He heard his own tired laughter, like through a stranger’s ears. "She’s perfect..." and she was. She was beautiful. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen in his entire life. She was more wondrous than contact with alien life, more wondrous than any of man’s creations. He held her tiny body against his chest, feeling her wuffled breath, he could even feel her tiny heartbeat in his hand. "Wow."

He laughed, and cried, and held her close, and loved her more than he had loved anyone before, more than he could ever have believed possible for one human being. He could feel it welling up, blurring his vision, closing off awareness of anything other than the tiny life he held in his hands. There was nothing as important in this whole universe than his little daughter, and he realised what he had been living for all his life. This was his reason for living.

He pressed a gentle kiss to her wet forehead, learning her scent, and his whole world narrowed down to her, in all her tiny perfection.

-oo0oo-

"Mulder," Frohike gestured to the paper work he’d printed off the PC. "Got that information you were looking for, something on that special someone."

"What have you got for me, Frohike." Mulder leaned over the little man, always interested in whatever he found.

"Well, I ran a search on the name Krycek, when you first asked. Nothing. Anyway, Byers created a small program to let us know if his name ever came up in any computer system.

"And it has?"

"Yup. A small hospital near Lansdale, Pennsylvania."

"Hospital? He’s been injured?" Mulder tried to crush down the sick feeling he felt knot his stomach. Krycek had made his own choices...

"No, Mulder, not exactly," Frohike was grinning like he’d found a new bestiality video. "Congratulations, Mulder."

"A what?" Mulder peered at the documents, a birth certificate.

Mother: (Mother!?) Alex Krycek.

Father: Fox Mulder.

Child’s name: Samantha Mulder Krycek.

 

The little rat bastard, even now he’s screwing with my head...

Langley sniggered and handed Mulder a cigar.

-oo0oo-

Krycek is trying something else to throw me off the scent. But how did he get a hospital to play along? Switch records, some woman will come back in ‘this birth certificate has been messed up, fix it’, but then again, he wouldn’t even have to do that, Krycek is a wiz on the computers he could falsify the records himself it was a mistake there was someone else out there called Krycek it was a joke, the lone gunmen are playing a joke on me they wouldn’t be that cruel though would they it was a joke from Krycek just screwing with my head again trying to make me crazy making sure I can’t forget him couldn’t get him out of my mind but Alex you didn’t have to do something like this I couldn’t forget you anyway, I never will I will never give up, I will never let you go....

-oo0oo-

The nurses were quite exasperated with him, but they did patiently show him (‘her’ to their way of thinking) how to get the milk flowing, how to hold the baby, how to bath her, how to put on a diaper. It’s okay for you lot, you played with dolls and learned this stuff from your mothers. All I learned was how to hide in the bottom of wardrobes to avoid my father.

He packed his overnight bag, the few bits and pieces Don had, in all his worldly experience, packed for him. What he was supposed to do with six tubes of toothpaste and a black velvet disco handbag escaped him though. Looks like another trip to the library, he thought, get some books on postnatal care. He stood on wobbly legs, holding the tiny body against his chest. She snuffled slightly, but hardly moved at all. He’d been assured she wasn’t dangerously premature, and he could even take her home in a week or so, but he wasn’t taking any risks.

He’d booked in under the name of Alex Krycek for the sake of paper-work. Getting Mulder’s name on the birth certificate had been an important priority, and he grinned in self satisfaction at the look Mulder would have on his face when he saw his daughter’s name. I’d pay good money to see that! Give you a real Samantha Mulder to get obsessed over.

But that risk meant no extended stays in hospital, or even in this district. He could be tracked by his name, he had no illusions that anyone had forgotten him. He figured he had a couple of hours at least, maybe a day or two at best, but the further away he was, the better.

Don would be arriving soon, and Krycek planned to be outside the building when he did. Don comes up here to visit, I steal his pick-up, and Samantha and I are out of here.

He felt a pang of guilt at using Don like that, but he had to go, and the fewer people put at risk right now the better. It might even be necessary to go to New York again, get some of the money stored there. But then again, he could always get a few bucks from Helen in Lansdale, and that was only a few hours drive. His legs wobbled as he picked everything up, and he had to take a moment to wait for the dizziness to fade.

"Okay, bonnie baby, I’m outta here, you wanna come with me?" He rocked the tiny person a little, "Look, little lady, unless you tell me otherwise, I’ll think that you don’t wanna stay here in the hospital Hilton, and I’ll sweep you off your feet and take you away from all of this... you got nothing to say? No arguments... hmmm? Okay, babe, it’s you and me kid! You and me against the world." He kissed her pink wrinkled skin, and she was so sweet and soft he kissed her again.

The bag over his shoulder, the baby pressed close, he walked slowly down the corridor. Nice and slow to pace himself, and to attract no attention. "You’re supposed to be in maternity right now," he confided to Samantha, "Do you know what kind of tap dance I had to do to keep you with me? But I’m not letting anyone take you away. You don’t ever have to worry about that. Hang on, little miss, I’ve got to take a break."

He collapsed in one of the visitor’s chairs, breathing hard. Funny how being turned completely inside out takes it out of you, he thought, hating this weakness in himself. "Look what you’ve done to me, woman. You’ve turned me into a pussy!"

The sounds of irritated voices echoed down the halls; one of the nurses was telling someone off, and he didn’t envy whoever was at the end of that sharp tongue. Why is she so upset? he opened the door to one of the rooms, another new mother, fast asleep with her baby in a display case by the bed. You’re baby isn’t as beautiful as mine, he thought, closing the door to a crack so he could spy on the corridor.

Journalists... or someone disguised as journalists. They couldn’t know it was him, they were just homing in on anyone called Alex Krycek. If they’d even bothered to find out why he was here, they wouldn’t have assumed it was him. Some woman having a kid couldn’t be the famous Alex Krycek. He considered trying to bluff his way through, but if any of the nurses identified the strange woman as Krycek, they would probably want to get answers to questions. If his worst fear was true, and these were not journalists, he’d have a lot more than questions to worry about.

If it didn’t hurt so much right now, he would have turned to male again, and fought his way out. Lots of little internal tears and stitches made being a man right now an extremely unpleasant prospect. Not that being a woman felt all that much better.

An orderly trundled by the door, and he walked out. Hoisting himself onto the trolley, he smiled reassuringly at the young man.

"Hey, what do you think you’re doing?"

Krycek pulled the small hand gun out of his bag, still smiling, "You’re going to take us both down to the morgue, okay? Nice and calm, no noise, no fuss." He lay down on the trolley, looking up the young man’s nose, holding the gun against the poor unfortunate’s groin.

"Okay, okay, lady. Whatever you want, just don’t shoot me, okay?"

"I don’t want to shoot you, boy. Just be quiet, and get us to the lift.

The poor kid was sweating and shaking, but he did as he was told.

This was rather nice. Krycek thought he could get used to being wheeled around like this. The rocking motion almost sending him to sleep.

The morgue was quiet, and he shut the orderly into a coat locker. He’d make his own way out once he realised Krycek hadn’t actually locked the door, but that would take at least half an hour, the way he’d been shivering with terror.

Krycek made his way through the cold rooms, finding the exit where the bodies would be hauled away. He walked out through the loading zone, struggled up stairs, and out into the carpark. He was 4 minutes behind schedule, Don would be upstairs by now. Possibly even aware that his Sandy was missing.

Krycek used the walls as support as he homed in on the pick-up. Sweat trickled down his forearms, and he trembled in every muscle. Don had given him his own set of keys to the pick up, and he was grateful he didn’t have to go to the trouble of hot-wiring the machine. He almost cried as he realised he couldn’t even swing himself into the cabin, and had to slide his daughter across the seat, crawling in after her.

The truck started first time, and he pulled out of the carpark, happily side-swiping the awkwardly parked cars with television logos.

"Thanks, Dan," he waved to the hospital, "I won’t forget."

-oo0oo-

"Have you seen this woman?" Mulder was sick of the sound of the answer. It was always ‘no’.

"I cannot give you that information," the doctor’s eyes flickered a little.

"Then you have seen her!" Mulder leaned forward eagerly. If she hadn’t, the doctor would simply have said no.

"This is a free clinic, we do not identify patients. If we did..."

"Then mothers carrying crack babies would go without medical attention. I understand that. But this is not the case. This is not a drug addict, she’s a witness in an important case, and her life could be in danger." So okay, that wasn’t quite true, but it was close.

"That doesn’t make any difference. If you want to catch this woman you’ll have to find another source."

"Okay okay, can you tell me why she came in here? What kind of condition was she in?" He didn’t give the doctor any room to negotiate whether or not Sandy had been there.

"She didn’t come in for herself..."

"She had a child with her, a very young infant?" Mulder was sweating slightly. "Was it ill?"

"No, she wanted to have the child checked out, it was in perfect health to the best of my knowledge. I gave her the address of a good social worker, but I found that note in the waste paper bin later."

"Why a social worker? Is the child..."

"The child is fine," the doctor was obviously uncomfortable with talking about her patient.

"Please... help me." Mulder wasn’t sure now if he was pleading for information on Alex, or on the slowly sinking realisation he had accepted Krycek had a child. He had to believe it, if this woman had seen it.

"I’m sorry, this is confidential..."

"It’s my child," Mulder pleaded, laying it on as thickly as he thought he could get away with, even though he didn’t want to accept that fact, wasn’t sure it was true anyway.

"Is she your wife?" the doctor was obviously wavering.

"Is she okay? If the child is fine, then what condition is her mother?"

"Ill. She refused to believe me, or do anything about it, but she was ill and obviously exhausted. I gave her some vitamins, some advice, I don’t think she took either."

"Do you have any idea why she was ill?"

"Maybe you can tell me why she is in this state? Why a new mother is in this position. If it’s your child, and you’re trying to take her in as a protected witness... perhaps I shouldn’t be giving you any of this information." The doctor was obviously starting to get suspicious.

"I need to help her. If you can give me any information, anyway I can find her... Or if she’s going to come back here, maybe I could leave you something. Some money or a message to pass on to her." Mulder hoped his sincerity would convince the doctor to help.

"Look, honestly, I cannot help you find her... but I did give her some coupons, for medical supplies, things for the baby."

"I thought you said the baby was healthy?"

"Yes, it is. But it will still need diapers." the doctor’s tone made it obvious she thought she was dealing with a complete ignoramus. But then, when it came to little children, she was. "Here..." she wrote down an address on a prescription pad, "If she hasn’t already filled it in, she can pick these things up here."

-oo0oo-

Pregnancy had deepened her voice, his voice, he got confused a lot on that nowadays, but he had to admit he did sound good. He sang to his daughter a selection of Linda Rondstadt tunes, things he remembered from long car journey’s. Sad songs, ‘he gone dun me wrong songs’, all refreshed in his memory from the CD in Dan’s pick-up . Sammy loved Blue Bayou and Poor Poor Pitiful Me, but wailed her tiny little lungs out at Carmelita or Sorrow Lives Here.

Maybe she just heard the songs made her mummy sad, or maybe she just had a very particular musical taste. Could a baby be that picky? Alex didn’t know, but he sang Blue Bayou for the eight time in the hour, rocking her gently, staring into huge blue grey eyes that regarded him so seriously. He wasn’t sure yet, but he was reasonably certain those were Mulder’s eyes, perhaps not so sad. Maybe they were his own, almond shaped and exotic. He hoped she wouldn’t get Mulder’s nose... it was generous and endearing on Mulder, holding ripe promise of hungry sexuality. On a little girl? That would be a different story.

The warm gentle sun dried his skin, and delighted Sammie. He leaned over her, sheltering her tender skin from the harsher rays with his own body. "Well, sweetheart, what do you think? Time for mummy to become daddy?"

Very slowly, very carefully, he let the change take place. Stretching his arms up towards the sun, he stretched out his spine ‘til it cracked.

"Ooh, testosterone! What a rush!"

He hugged his arms around himself, enjoying the larger rib cage, ran his hands down his body. Okay, so the chest wasn’t entirely flat, seemed the milk wasn’t going to be automatically absorbed. And okay, so his stomach was a little softer than usual, a good few weeks of sit ups would fix that. And maybe his general body line just seemed a little less sharp, eight months of oestrogen could do that.

He grasped his penis: "Hello there, little Mr Happy! Have I ever missed you!"

He gave it a friendly stroke, no real discomfort there. "Samantha, you’ll never know how much I’m looking forward to being able to pee standing up again! Well, I hope you’ll never know, but we’ll deal with that if it happens. Are you going to be a genderbender? Hmm? You going to be a little boy when you grow up?"

She glared at him through her screwed up eyes, and vaguely waved a skinny pink fist. And he had to kiss her again. In fact, she needed lots of kisses, and he indulged them both.

"Come on, bubs, let’s give you a bath." He plopped himself back into the stream, sitting on his butt on the pebbles, the water just waist high. He let her find a nipple, and laughed at her grumble of annoyance at how little that nipple had become, and washed her down. Baby shampoo, and baby soap, and then he decided he’d just lick her face clean.

"Well, baby cakes, we are out of money. You and all your diapers! Three months of lousy tips didn’t cover you’re poopy habits. So what do you think about a trip to the big city? Do you want to see Washington? Yeah, I know you do, bet you’ve spent you’re whole life dreaming of the big city!"

Her silence showed her assent. "Okay, I’ll leave Dan’s truck at Tyres’R’Us and we’ll take the train to the city. It’ll take a few days, and will use up nearly all of the last of the cash. You got money for your ticket? Or do you expect me to pay for everything, hmm? These days women can’t expect a man to pay for everything, this is the age of liberation! You’re going to have to get yourself a job, little miss, you know that? How many employment opportunities do you think there are for handbags that poop?" He realised she had fallen asleep mid suck, and dragged them both out of the water again.

"Time to leave our country idyll, I have treason money to collect. What do you think about that, huh? Your daddy sold government secrets about aliens, to the French, just so they could find someone else to feel superior to. You don’t care do you? You still love me. As long as I keep making food you’ll love me, won’t you." Her tiny mouth moved again, sucking in her sleep, and he just stood, letting sun dry them both off again, enjoying the breeze against his body, enjoying being almost a man again.

Once he had the money he’d rest. Sleep for a week. He was shaking now like he’d been shaking when Mulder had found him in Hong Kong. Stressed out, every second spent waiting to die. He wasn’t in that much danger now, but physically... he seemed to be exhausting himself at the slightest effort. What do you expect, idiot, you just gave birth a while ago, in a body originally not designed for that purpose.

-oo0oo-

More coupons cashed in, this time by a man carrying a tiny new-born. Someone had spotted someone who looked like Alex Krycek, and approached him for an autograph, getting a black eye for their interest. Someone answering Krycek’s description had emptied a phoney bank account, withdrawing several thousand dollars before the computer warned the bank. A married couple had approached a young man they thought was ill, staggering in the street, she had tried to help him by taking his child while her husband helped the young man sit down, and had reported being assaulted for their trouble. She had given a good description to the police.

Mulder tallied up the appearances, tracking Krycek’s progress. Krycek was being careless, incredibly careless. Perhaps he didn’t care anymore, but more likely he was just tired and slipping. He’d travelled anonymously for months, but that was before he’d become famous. Now everybody was happy to see him, everyone wanted a piece of him. And anyone who got close got hurt.

-oo0oo-

The hotel bed was soft and warm... well, actually, it was a cheap foam mattress on an unforgiving wooden base that had seen better decades. But compared to the trailer, or to the abandoned buildings, bus shelters, and even the odd doorway Krycek had slept in recently, it was bliss. He couldn’t rest properly, starting at every sound, and he didn’t even dare undress. He slept, boots and all, on top of the bed, her tiny body on his chest, her breathing the only soothing sound in his world. He’d eaten well that night, spending nearly all of the last of the money, but he had to make sure he could still make milk for her, starving himself wasn’t going to solve any problems.

Soon he’s make a move to get the cash. He knew Mulder had to know he was here. Mulder was brilliant, and Krycek new he’d made too many mistakes. But he was always so tired now, and it was harder and harder to pretend nothing was wrong, so no one would be suspicious. He was seeing shadows everywhere, and everybody was out to hurt him, or to take his kid. They wouldn’t let him keep her, he was sure of it. They’d say he was a danger to her, or that he couldn’t care for her properly, or maybe one day she’d just disappear. Maybe she’d end up an experiment somewhere. Paranoia was one of Mulder’s greatest tools and defences, but it was making Krycek careless and panicky.

He needed the money, there was nothing left for another night in this fleabag hotel, but it was so nice to sleep on a bed for a change, no matter how cruddy. He could hear noises outside, cars pulling up and voices low, they disturbed the half sleep he had fallen into. He pulled the back-pack up over one shoulder, not getting up. The slightest hint of trouble and he could bolt like a rabbit. She was never out of his arms, he never put her down for a second, making sure she was ready to travel in a second’s notice. Everything he owned was either in the bag or in his pockets, so he’d leave nothing behind. Pared down to the bare essentials, everything important in his life weighed little more than 40 pounds, and that included his daughter and the clothes he was wearing.

A car door shut carefully, he could hear it just across from his own room and he came fully awake. People who stayed at hotels like this slammed their doors, and staggered drunkenly to their hotel rooms, dragging gum snapping hos behind them. He swung his legs off the bed and twitched the curtains aside. Two men, dark suits. He didn’t stop to see any more. They could be bankers or accountants, in town away from the wives looking for some fun. Business men on their way to a convention in another state. MIBs hunting him down. Whatever it was, he didn’t stop to wait. He slunk out the back window, and high tailed it past dumpsters, cursing the lost money he’d wasted on a bed for the night.

-oo0oo-

It was difficult to concentrate on the case notes, partially because he could hear two security guards chatting outside his apartment door, partly because his mind always wanted to go back to puzzling out Krycek’s location.

They were so close to bringing this particular case to a close. He’d found a centre, he was fairly certain was something to do with the Consortium, with stolen children and people living like scientific lab experiments. It was something Krycek had tipped them off to, and as he stared at dull eyed rescue-ees, he could only wonder if Alex had also been through this kind of experience. Not from childhood, he didn’t think so at least, not like some of the people they’d found and released, but for some period of his life. Probably not even Alex could tell him how long.

The people they’d pulled out had moved quietly, cautiously. They hadn’t been mistreated, not physically but some of them hadn’t seen the sky in years. He remembered Scully’s expression as a young man cried on her shoulder, overwhelmed to be free after most of his childhood had been spent in their labs. They would all testify, although not even the victims, and not even the scientists could explain exactly what the experiments had been for. Another step up the ladder.

And despite the satisfaction of a job well done, and finding another chink in the armour of his enemies, all Mulder could think about was Alex. Had Alex been there, how had this helped shape him as a person, what was the special personal significance of this place to Mulder’s ex lover.

He knew he was becoming as obsessed with Krycek as Krycek had been with him – once upon a time. But Krycek had had the excuse of having been brainwashed into his obsession. What excuse did Mulder have? He’d been bewitched by big green eyes and talented hands, by devoted loving and the feeling of easy companionship and understanding. So, okay, Krycek seemed to be the first person Mulder had been involved with who not only could put up with Mulder, but who genuinely did not seem to think Mulder was overly weird. Or, if he thought Mulder weird, he thought of it as a positive, not a negative, and loved Mulder because of it, not in spite of it.

Mulder wanted that back. He wanted not just the sex, but the friendship, the companionship. And, he admitted to himself, he wanted the sex again. And again. And again.

He wanted to rest his face against smooth skin, listening to a strong heart beating under his ear. He couldn’t help remembering and yearning for the man’s strength, heavy muscled thighs against his, being crushed by arms stronger than his own.

He still had a few of Krycek’s things. A shirt he’d borrowed from Mulder, unwashed, folded under Mulder’s pillow. The scent had long since gone, but he could imagine it, he could pretend the shirt still had a perfume that lingered. Hair oil, or aftershave, or whatever it was that mingled with Krycek’s own delicious odour. He wanted to hear that squeaky husky sexy voice and feel the brush of too long lashes and the rash of heavy stubble. He wanted to press his lips to delicate fingers and trace intricate patterns on Krycek’s back with his tongue. He wanted the chance to be jealous of Krycek’s nose again, and to cup firm round muscular buttocks with his own thighs. And he wanted to plunge his own body into Krycek’s, again and again, hearing their flesh slap together, and those muscles working against his own body...

Sharply Mulder brought his mind back to the papers in front of him, the blur going back into black and white type. He would give himself another four hours on this case, then he’d treat himself to another night trying to find his missing partner. Ex partner! ...partner.

-oo0oo-

The light in the silo never changed, day after day, the same dim ominous eternal dusk. It was so cold, he was dying, slowly and painfully. Flesh split as the pounded on the door, his blood black and viscous, his voice harsh with his screaming. He collapsed again, sobbing, licking his own salty black tears to save the moisture. He could hear the voices in the corridor, his ex-boss/owner, or was it Mulder’s voice? A baby crying softly somewhere distant...

He jerked awake, "Oh, I’m sorry, honey, did I wake you up". He flicked the switch on the torch, the pathetic drizzle of light illuminating the basement he’d snuck into the night before. As Samantha was getting nearer to her real birth date, her lungs were getting more powerful, and he jiggled and rocked her soothingly, trying to let her know daddy was okay. Trying to tell himself exactly the same thing, not convincing himself so easily.

"Ow, my back!" He creaked upright, walking her around the limited space. He’d taken to sleeping with her on his stomach or chest, and trying not to move around at night, but it was killing his back. Again. "I’m going to need physio at this rate, Bonnie. Tomorrow I’m going to hit that hotel we saw on the way here, they have that deal where you can use their gym for $2 just by pretending to be a hotel guest. I’ll use up all their hot water, I think."

He opened a couple of shirt buttons, talking nonsense to her all the while, nothing meaningful, just the sound of his own voice, "You wanna drink? I might have to go female again for a few days, make sure your supply doesn’t dry up. What do you think? So far though everything seems to be flowing just fine. Aliens, you never can tell, huh." She was starting to fall asleep again, and he held her up to the limit of the baby sling, kissing her milky lips.

"We’ll get the money tomorrow, and then we can go anywhere. Where would you like to go? Is there any place you have your heart set on? No ideas? Well, you sleep on it, and tell me in the morning." He settled back down on the sleeping mat, her head positioned so she could hear his heart beat.

"And you," he tapped himself on the nose, "no more nightmares. You’re sleeping for two now."

-oo0oo-

"You’re sure he’s in this area, Agent Mulder?" Skinner asked, wondering if he’d been dragged out on yet another wild Alex chase. Mulder’s frantic attempts to track down the other man had become as annoyingly obsessive as his searches to find his sister.

"I’ve had two independent reports since yesterday. He’s been travelling this way for the past few days, and he’s been spotted in this neighbourhood. My guess is he’s here to contact someone, or pick something up."

"What if he has already made the pick up? He could already be on his way out. What are you going to do if this turns out to be another dead end?"

"Keep on looking elsewhere."

Skinner pushed his glasses up, rubbing the bridge of his nose. This was going to lead to another migraine, he just knew it.

Krycek wasn’t using credit cards, he wasn’t talking to anyone, he left no clues, and moved in the darkness. And yet still Mulder tracked him. Always one step behind, always just a little too late, but he wasn’t giving up. Skinner had to admire his perspicacity, but he also had to doubt, again, Mulder’s sanity. It seemed more and more he was treading a fine line. Since Krycek had packed up and left without warning, Mulder seemed to have drawn into himself even more. He’d started to trust Krycek, again, and again had been torn apart. This time though, there had been little anger, little emotion at all really, from what Skinner had seen. Just this dogged determination to find him again.

"Central station..."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Central station... Krycek likes hiding things in lockers. He’s left me a number of little surprises in lockers in several states, I’m guessing he’s here either to leave something else for me to find, or to pick something up."

"I thought you said he could be here to meet someone?"

"I’m guessing, sir. It’s all I have to go on right now."

Skinner released a pent up breath, to be honest Mulder’s guesses were better than most other agent’s reasoned deductions.

"And why Central Station?"

"It has the most lockers, sir."

Skinner just looked at him. He’d been looking forward to a quiet lunch with his top agent before the phone call with this information had come through.

"I’m grabbing at straws!" Mulder said honestly, shrugging, "And anyway, there’s more people, he can get lost in the crowd easier." Mulder turned the car around. He had another goal, obscure as it was. As long as he had something to grab onto, he’d keep going.

"I’ll see if I can get Jones and Mohammed there before us. If Krycek does show up, we’ll need back up."

"He’s not to be harmed!"

"I know. But I want to have an ambulance standing by. Just in case, he may attack one of the other agents."

-oo0oo-

Women kept cooing, some old lady had even tried to touch Samantha, so he pulled his jacket around her close and tight. He knew it was paranoid, but who knew what kind of diseases those old biddies were breathing on his baby. And old ladies could be government spies as well.

It was in their eyes: why was this skinny, leather wearing guy carrying a tiny baby. "They think your daddy’s some kind of drug freak, Bonnie, what do you think of that? You gonna hit ‘em? Stand up for my honour?" She looked up at him, frowning slightly, as if she was equally outraged, "Yeah, you’ll look out for me won’t you." He couldn’t help but smile down at her vacant eyes. She seemed so wise. "Perhaps when you know absolutely nothing, you don’t know you know nothing, and it feels like you know everything. And you know all you need to know, don’t you. You’re was always warm, comfortable, well fed - and the big nice smelling warm feeding thing feels nice, don’t I? I feel nice and safe to you, and do you know I love you? Can you feel that?"

He rummaged in his jacket pocket for the key, and sighed in relief when he found the contents of the locker untouched. There would be just over ten thousand dollars here, one of the best stashes he’d hidden, plus some fake identification, even a passport. It was a terrible risk coming here, even coming to this city, but this stash could be his ticket out of the states.

"We’ll start up somewhere new, just you and me, baby. Somewhere they’ve never heard of Alex Krycek, or they just don’t care..." somewhere Mulder can’t find us? That seemed pretty final... maybe in a few years...

He stuffed the money and papers into his pockets, keeping up a running commentary to Samantha the entire time. One eye on every person who moved nearby, he picked out one man in a suit and turban who seemed less self-centred than the others. Instead of putting his head down and shouldering his way through the other’s he was politely letting people pass him. Krycek dropped his head, moving quickly away from the man, while watching him surreptitiously. The man made eye contact with someone else, Krycek followed the line of sight and recognised the second man as an FBI Agent. A quick scan revealed no one else he recognised immediately, but he started to move faster.

"They know we are here, honey, hold on tight, this could be a bumpy ride..."

"Krycek!"

Krycek was already running away from the sound of the voice, but he couldn’t help looking over his shoulder. It was Mulder, and he looked dreadful. Krycek poured on all the speed he could before they could close the trap. He could see the end of the row of lockers, once he was past that he could jump the barriers and get onto a train. They would find it impossible to track him down once he was out of this station.

He didn’t even see the fist that came out from behind the side of the lockers, but he felt the lights explode behind his eyes as it impacted with his forehead, throwing him backwards onto the ground.

Dizzy and disoriented, he thought could hear Mulder’s distressed voice, "Sir, you didn’t have to hit him that hard..." but it was vague, and he was concentrating on trying to get his feet under himself again. A hand was over his face then, he recognised the smell of chloroform and started fighting. He had the satisfaction of feeling flesh crushed under his fists before the darkness started edging in. He could hear Mulder swearing and struggling to hold the chloroform pad in place, then:

"Oh my god, what’s that!"

The last thing Alex felt was the weight of the baby being lifted from his body.

-oo0oo-

Mulder stared in horrified disbelief at the small moving thing on Krycek’s chest. He put his hand under the other man’s head, partly to keep it off the cement, partly to give himself something to do, so he wouldn’t touch that thing. A tiny hand was patting Krycek’s chest in an unco-ordinated and fretful motion. It was whimpered quietly.

"Keep it together, Agent Mulder. Help me get him onto the stretcher," Skinner ordered.

Mulder heaved Krycek’s shoulders up, helped Skinner haul the man onto the stretcher.

"Agent Mulder, I think, given these circumstances," Skinner pointed to the infant, "it might be best if we take him straight to the hospital for a check up."

"I’m going with him," Mulder said vaguely, following the gurney, rubbing his ribs where furious blows had landed.

Skinner also pushed his way into the vehicle, his gun drawn. Mulder was pleased to see at least one of them had the sense to be wary, he was feeling somewhat stunned himself right now.

The medical officer riding with them glared daggers as all his manoeuvring space was taken up by the two agents, "Is the kid his? Or is this a kidnap case?"

"It’s his, I guess." Knowing the child existed, and actually having to face the living flesh were two quite different philosophies.

-oo0oo-

Why chloroform, why in godsname did they have to use chloroform? Krycek tried desperately to hold in the need to vomit as he started to regain consciousness. His head throbbed from Skinner’s attentions - like he’d run head first into a brick wall. The chloroform caused nausea was almost overwhelming; he swallowed spit and bile, waiting for his mind to clear.

Very carefully he eased himself upright, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. Why an IV? He wasn’t sick so it seemed somewhat pointless. He grabbed the tube, pulling it out, stifling his instinctive cry. Shit, that was a mistake, it always looks so painless on television. The blood from where the large needle had been jerked free trickled down his arm, giving him an idea. Chewing through the tubing, he threaded the needle through the fabric of the hospital gown.

There was a guard on his door, of course. He smiled at the man, who stood up, letting Krycek see his gun.

"Hi, I guess you’re here to keep things quiet, huh?" Krycek asked, non threateningly.

The man nodded, suspicious, but it was hard to take this skinny guy in the revealing hospital gown too seriously.

Krycek backed into the room, looking nervously over his shoulder, beyond the guard’s vision. The guard followed him, willing to check the room if it would make his charge rest easier. He’d read the newspaper reports of Krycek’s trial, this guy was a hero! He’d taken on the government and won!

Krycek waited until the guard was inside, kicked the door shut, and swung at the guard’s head. He didn’t have the strength he’d had before, but he was still strong, and nervous energy lent some power to his attack. The guard tried defending himself, but Krycek had the gun out of his holster, and pounded his head with the butt. And again, collapsing on top of the guard as he went down.

"Poor man," he whispered, touching the bloody abrasions. Nothing too serious, possible concussion, not likely to be brain damage though. "I’m sorry, but I’ve gotta find my kid, you understand?"

For a moment he stared at the gun, considering. He didn’t want it, the weight in his hand now turned his already sensitive stomach. But this was his daughter at stake, would he kill for her? Definitely. But... what if he choked? What if he couldn’t pull the trigger? Maybe he could kill, for his daughter, but not with a gun. He needed a weapon he could rely upon. He dropped the gun by the guard, habit making him wipe off his prints first.

The needle was pulled out and concealed in his palm before he went outside the room again. It was a weapon he knew he could rely on himself to use. Another orderly, what is it with me and terrorising orderlies lately, he grinned to himself, grabbing the man around the neck and holding the needle against his right eye.

"Stay calm, okay?" Krycek tried to ignore his own trembling, as much from nervousness as any lingering weakness, "You just help me find someone, and we’ll both walk away just fine. Nod if you understand."

The man nodded frantically, sweat starting to form between their bodies.

"Okay, you relax, just relax." He had read once, in some hostage negotiations training manual, just saying the words relax and okay, made people feel calm, "I need to find a child, can you access hospital admissions?"

More furious nodding.

"Good, I assume we can use the reception counter there." Krycek started to pull them both to where he could see a computer terminal, ignoring the stares of patients. "What’s your name?"

"Larson, sir."

"Okay, Larson. Type in Krycek, k. r. y. c. e. k., that’s right."

The screen came up with only his name and admission details, he noted distractedly that he was in for dehydration and a few other problems he hadn’t even noticed, more tests scheduled, of course. No mention of his daughter. He bared his teeth again, feeling the anger rise. If what he thought was true...

"Type in Mulder, m. u. l... that’s right." And there she was. Samantha Mulder. The urge to vomit was back, and not this time from lingering after affects of chloroform. "You bastard. You’re not taking her away from me. I’ll kill you first," he whispered. "Okay, Larson, you’re taking me to her now, you understand."

"Yes, sir." Larson was trying to make eye contact with the nurses and other hospital personnel who had gathered around them.

Krycek totally ignored them, holding the bloody needle closer to Larson’s eye, letting them all know, including himself, he was quite willing to pop it like caviar if they tried to stop him.

It seemed to take forever, the lift to the maternity wing slow, with nothing but their breathing and the stench of fear from the both of them filling the tiny space. "This is not so bad now, is it?" He kept talking to keep the other man calm, poor chap could be permanently traumatised by an experience like this. "I’m just going to get my daughter, then you walk free. Won’t take long, and you’ll be just fine as long as you stay calm and relaxed. You with me here, Larson?"

"Uh huh," Larson was facing a one eyed future, and was too terrified to put together anything more coherent.

They marched on wobbly legs down a corridor already filled with hospital staff waiting for them, a middle aged security guard held a gun ready. Krycek manoeuvred his latest orderly between him and the gun, and kept them both moving quickly down the corridor.

"Everyone stay calm," he said, smooth and steady, keeping his voice level. "Just stay calm, and no body will get hurt." The maternity ward was close, he could hear the crying from many tiny lungs - it made him ache, increased his own fear. He slid along the glass front, pushing frightened first time fathers out of the way. He was using the wall and Larson for support, knowing if the orderly fainted, he’d go down as well. Where this weakness was coming from he wasn’t too sure, but he’d been feeling this before the chloroform, building up over the past few days. Right now he felt like he was on his very last legs.

Pushing Larson out into the corridor, he slammed the door to the maternity ward. The guard wouldn’t follow him, not in here with the new-borns, not while he was carrying the needle, but the nurses were coming for him quickly. Nothing was going to stop them. Where is she? So many similar little bodies, pinks, browns, every shade in between. Sleeping, screaming. But he could hear her, her quiet, raspy, cry. He didn’t need to see the Mulder tag to know his little girl.

He palmed the needle and picked her up, holding her close, rocking her gently. Finding a corner of the room, he folded his body around her, crooning softly until her she quieted. Nurses left him alone, checking on the infants he’d pushed aside while trying to find his own, fixing the cots back into place. Someone was kneeling beside him now, and he recognised him by scent, and he recognised the large hand that rested on his back.

"You’re not taking her away from me, Mulder."

"No, I won’t," Mulder said quietly, in his ‘don’t upset the madman’ voice that irritated Krycek so. He rubbed the naked skin of Krycek’s back through the gown soothingly.

The needle slid out of Krycek’s palm, and he prepared to make Mulder leave him alone. He wasn’t sure he could even injure the man, but no one was going to take Samantha away; not for experiments, not for any reason whatsoever. Not even Mulder. Especially not Mulder.

Mulder bent down and whispered in his ear, "Protect Mulder..."

The needle slid through suddenly nerveless fingers, clicking onto the floor, "That’s not fair," Krycek sighed, his eyes prickling with shame at his Pavlov’s dog reaction to the old code phrase.

"We’re not going to hurt you, Krycek, let me help..."

Ignoring Mulder’s words, "I can’t get out of here," Krycek admitted, more to himself. He simply didn’t have the strength right now to pull off another escape. Right now, it was taking all his strength to hold his tiny daughter, and sitting here, vulnerable in the indecent gown, he realised he’d used up his last retreat. "Tired..." he folded over until his aching head rested on his knees, encasing Samantha totally within his own body. His breath shuddered, although he didn’t give into the fearful tears. Mulder’s voice droned quietly in the background, trying to soothe. Mulder’s hands caressed his back, his shins, Mulder’s body shielded Krycek from the rest of the hospital. Krycek didn’t flinch as a nurse slipped a needle under his skin...

-oo0oo-

Not resting peacefully, Mulder noticed. He couldn’t resist trying to smooth out the crease at the top of Krycek’s nose, an imprinted frown line, with the tip of one finger. Even sedated Krycek was trying to fight, his hands were tensing and tugging at the leather restraints the hospital administrator had insisted upon.

"I know this is going to be difficult, but it’s better that you’re back. We’ll work this out," Mulder whispered to the sleeping man. He couldn’t resist letting his lips rest against Krycek’s forehead, feeling his warmth, so terribly missed. He brushed back the awful hair and made a mental note to himself to get a hairdresser in here to get rid of the bleached out scrag ends.

Wheeling over the side table, Mulder started unloading the back pack Krycek had been carrying when caught, looking for clues to where Krycek had been, so he justified, although it was really just curiosity. A lot of toothpaste here, Mulder was pleased to see he was using his own toothbrush for a change, by why in a small velvet disco hand bag? He’d have to find out the significance of that later. There was easily $10,000 dollars in a few envelopes of used, small denomination bills, plus about $15 in change from Krycek’s pockets. Another envelope revealed a number of photographs. Mulder had to smile as he saw the surveillance photo Krycek was carrying around, So, I’m not the only one who can’t let go.

It was a shot of himself, Mulder guessed from just before Sandy had walked into his life, back when Krycek had been stalking the FBI agent, planning his approach. The photo now was well battered, torn and tattered. Mulder slipped it back into the envelope with many similar pictures. Another one looked like a quick Polaroid shot. This time it was of Krycek himself, looking concerned, holding his daughter protectively. It appeared someone had snapped the photo without Alex’s approval, but Mulder studied the shot closely, realising it was as close to a new-born baby photo as he was likely to see. There was also a photo, very badly posed, of Sandy, blond scraggly hair and swollen belly, standing beside a very large man. The man had an arm across Sandy’s shoulders, and a shit eating grin. Mulder took an instant dislike to the man’s familiarity with Sandy. He slipped the photos back into the pack, he’d study the rest of them later.

There were surprisingly few baby things. Nothing more than some wipes, sachets of shampoo, and two diapers. Mulder continued to rummage, finding a hidden pocket inside, and pulling out a tape. His eyes bugged as he realised it was the copy of the original DAT tape. He could feel a slight tremble in his fingers. No more getting things one secret at a time, as Krycek saw fit to feed them to him, one tantalising bite size bit by bite-sized bit. This was his holy grail! Every thing he needed was on this tape.

Biting his lip until he tasted blood, he slipped it back into the secret pocket, put everything else back into the bag, and left it on the side table where Krycek would see it upon awakening.

-oo0oo-

The whimper escaped before he could stop it. Sigh now, Stupid, make it sound like you did that in your sleep, maybe no one will know you’re awake. When there was no reaction to the noise, he started to test the restraints. Heavy, unmoveable, only to be expected. At least the sedative the hospital used didn’t leave him vomiting like chloroform, although he did feel disoriented and disconnected.

"Krycek?" it was Mulder again. The man was nothing if not persistent.

Krycek opened his eyes, staring into Mulder’s, too close, Mulder’s breath was sour. Sour like he hadn’t been home in a while, sour like no opportunity for personal hygiene, sour like betrayal. Krycek resisted the desire to spit on the man, swallowing his own saliva instead. "Where is she?"

"Krycek..."

"Where is she, you bastard?"

"Calm down..." Mulder tried to get Krycek to stop jerking against his restraints. He couldn’t understand why Krycek’s eyes held such hate.

"Nooooooo...." Krycek started to thrash against the restraints, uncaring he didn’t stand a chance at breaking them. He’d chew through his own limbs before he’d let them experiment on his daughter.

Mulder grabbed Krycek’s head in both hands, twisting it sideways to focus him in on the cot by the bed, amazed at the strength in muscles rigid with mania, "Look. Look you stupid asshole!"

Krycek went limp like Jell-O, "She’s all right?"

"She’s just fine. A little small, but by my estimation she was premature, right? Considering the last time we had sex and the date on the birth certificate."

"You’ve got some ego, thinking she’s yours." Krycek slurred, too tired now to be bothered with enunciation.

"They’ve already done blood tests, Krycek, and they can do DNA as well," Mulder bit out, "But don’t worry, no one is trying to take her away from you. Yet. After that psychotic little performance you put on yesterday, that could be in question."

Krycek ignored him, focussed on his little girl, in the odd plastic display crib. She was snuffing and crying a little under her breath. "Untie me."

"Under no circumstances."

"She’s crying, untie me so I can pick her up." Krycek spoke as if to a cretin.

Mulder left his side to look at the infant, her tiny screwed up face passing impartial judgement on him. Awkwardly he lifted her, and her waa’s turned to wails at his inexpert handling.

"Put her on my chest... not like that, keep her head up," Krycek snapped out instructions. "Jesus Christ, Mulder, just stop her sliding off..."

"Krycek, I’m going to unstrap one arm, all right? Don’t cause any trouble, and you can hold her for a while."

Mulder unstrapped Krycek’s left arm, and Krycek had the right unstrapped in a split second. Braced for an attack, Mulder was relieved when Krycek simply held the child against his chest, rocking her and whispering comforting things.

"Mulder," his voice took on a sing song quality, the tone directed to his child, the words to Mulder, "What drugs are in me, and how strong are they likely to be now?"

"Most of them should have worn off by now, why do you ask?"

Krycek didn’t answer, just pulled up the gown and settled Samantha for a feed, "Because I don’t know what they’ve been putting in her, and she’s crying because she’s hungry, not only because she shouldn’t be put down."

"Oh! My! God! You’re breastfeeding!"

Krycek just gave Mulder a withering look.

It was fifty percent fascinating, fifty percent gross, watching this man breast feeding, and Mulder leaned forward, enthralled by the sight. "You can do that? Even though you’re a guy?"

"Some men can lactate, even though it’s only a small percentage, I looked that up. Some Inuit men do it naturally anyway. And just because I change sex doesn’t mean the milk is going to magically disappear."

 

If I was any other man I’d be totally grossed out by now, thought Mulder, sideling up a little closer. How can Krycek be so calm about this? Then again, after everything else Krycek has been through in his life, I guess this is probably nothing to him. This is so weird, watching a guy do this. Or is it just weird because it’s him, and me, and that she’s mine? Look at that kid go, she’s really getting into that. His nipples are swollen, they look sore... I think I can smell it, kinda sour, or like… heavy cream… I want some...

"You... uh..." Mulder had to clear his throat and start again, "You’re satisfied she’s all right?"

Krycek shrugged, not looking away from her, "As far as I can tell. She looks stressed though, how long was she crying."

"All the time. The doctors were worried, does she always cry like that?"

"Only when she’s taken away from me."

"Perhaps you should let her get used to being put down sometimes."

"Perhaps you shouldn’t take her away from me again," Krycek snapped.

He didn’t have a response to that, What do I know about babies anyway. Mulder reached out to touch her. He found he was becoming fascinated by the idea that between them, Krycek and he had made another person. It was something he had never expected to happen. He’d given up on the idea of having kids a long long time ago, in fact, to be honest, it had never been anything he had considered.

"Don’t touch."

Mulder jumped back a little, like a scolded child. "She’s mine, too, " he wheedled, petulantly.

"She’s nothing to do with you."

Aliens, conspiracies, weird parasites, necrophiliac killers, the most obscene and hideous murders and murderers. He could deal with them all. But he was frozen with indecision and incompetence when faced with an ill and partially restrained man holding a baby.

"Mulder?"

"Hmmm?" Mulder was distracted from his internal musings.

"Could you unstrap my left leg? It’s aching. You can leave the other restraints in place if you’re worried I’m going to attack you."

Mulder pursed his lips in annoyance at Krycek’s little dig, but he unstrapped the leg anyway. "Is your knee bothering you?"

Krycek only nodded, more or less ignoring him again to stare at Samantha, who had ceased her grizzling at last.

"It was pretty swollen, the doctors said you must have sprained it again."

"Probably." Krycek wasn’t really interested in conversation with Mulder, he had all he needed in his arms.

Trying for a reaction, "Krycek, did you know you were haemorrhaging?"

That got his attention, a little bit anyway, "What do you mean?"

"The doctors are totally bemused, but Scully’s guess is after you had the kid, you changed back too soon, leaving some small internal tear with no where to go. You’ve been bleeding internally. Didn’t you notice?"

Krycek shrugged, "I’ve had a lot on my mind."

"Surely you’d felt it? It had to have been making you feel pretty rough."

"Yeah, well, things have been rough all over," Krycek flipped off.

"You’ll be in here for a few days. The doctors have said if it doesn’t heal up by letting you rest for a while, no running around, then you’ll have to go in for surgery."

"Hmm... okay." Krycek’s voice didn’t change inflection, but his eyes gave him away.

Mulder leaned in closer, "I can see what you’re thinking, Krycek. You’re not going anywhere. No more of your ridiculous escape attempts. You’ve proven you can get away from any situation, so you don’t have to prove it anymore. I’ve doubled the guard outside, this time you won’t be fooling them..."

"Is he all right?"

"The guard will be fine, don’t worry about him. I’m also arranging to have someone in this room with you at all times, both for your protection and everyone else’s."

Krycek simply nodded, still only giving Mulder half his attention.

"And Krycek? I strongly warn you to behave yourself. Do you believe that anyone will allow you to keep a child if you go around attacking people all the time?"

Krycek looked up at him, death in his eyes. Finally Mulder had his full attention.

"It’s weird enough you’re her mother anyway, there’s going to be questions."

"I will kill anyone who tries to take her away from me," Krycek said it calmly, coldly. It was the first time Mulder had seen this side of Krycek face-to-face, and for the first time had some idea of what Skinner had seen in the stairwell, of the face others had seen, if only ever so briefly before dying.

"Yeah, well, stay here, stay quiet, get well."

"I take it you have more plans for me, then? You want me to help you in your next case? Get revenge on someone? Or help track down your latest loony conspiracy?"

I don’t know why you hate me now, I don’t know what I did wrong, "I can’t deal with this. Just don’t make any more trouble." He started to leave, standing in the doorway, still being ignored by Krycek. He’d never felt so powerless.

What is with you, Mulder, he scolded himself, It’s a kid, it’s a tiny baby. It’s the man you fucked into unconsciousness all those months ago. There’s nothing here to cause this reaction... Mulder looked at the two on the bed, But this is my kid... This is my fault... Christ I knew I should have used a condom...

-oo0oo-

She was, in her own way, as feisty as Scully. Normally, Mulder would have been pleased at the comparison. But, right now, she had more power, and, as far as Mulder was concerned, she was putting Krycek’s health in danger. He didn’t hesitate to use his superior height to try and intimidate her. Unsuccessfully.

"I want him out of here!" she gave the impression of great volume without raising her voice, sound filling the room, brooking no argument. "He threatened my staff, he disrupted hospital routine, he put those babies’ lives in danger."

"He did not threaten those children, Ms Browne" Mulder tried to defend Krycek against the enraged Hospital Administrator.

"He could have disconnected dangerously premature babies from their humidicribs..."

"No one was hurt. He just panicked. He won’t be any trouble from now on, you have my guarantee."

"You I don’t know from a hole in the ground. You get that man out of here," she closed her eyes for a minute, getting her anger on leash. "Okay, okay, let’s take a minute here. I know he’s ill, if you promise to keep him under guard at all times, sedated if necessary, you can have until tomorrow morning. Then he’s out of here. It’s up to you how you arrange further medical care."

Mulder could tell the finality of her argument, he watched her stalk off in high dungeon. In one way he wasn’t too bothered, he wanted Krycek back at his house where he could keep an eye on him anyway. Just as long as Krycek wasn’t in any danger. That haemorrhaging was supposed to be healing by itself, as long as it didn’t rupture again, as long as Krycek was kept quiet and peaceful. Unfortunately, that was something Mulder couldn’t quite guarantee. Alex was anything but peaceful right now.

When Mulder returned to the room, he saw Scully sitting on the edge of the bed. She was talking to Krycek, her tone seemed reasonable, although Mulder didn’t get close enough to hear the words, he found himself annoyed that she could get a reasonable conversation going with Krycek, when Mulder was ignored or abused. Krycek still had his body turned away from her, sheltering the kid protectively. Mulder didn’t know why he bothered, no one would be less interested in taking Krycek’s kid away from him than Scully, although she was bound to be fascinated by the idea of the child’s origins. Mulder oozed a little closer, making sure neither of them could see him.

"It’s in her interests that you let us look after you now, Alex," she was saying, her tone, as always perfectly reasonable. "If you are ill, you’re not going to be able to look after her."

"I don’t..." Alex started, shifted in the bed, then started again, "If they find out I’m here, they could come after me. I don’t want her in that danger. I don’t want to be here anyway."

"They won’t come after you, Alex. These are business men, there’s no profit in chasing you any more. You’re no longer a danger to them."

"They won’t know that for sure. They don’t know what I know. And I don’t want to take that risk. Like you said, anything happens to me, who’s gonna take care of Samantha?"

"Why did you call her Samantha?" Scully asked, changing the subject. Mulder edged a little closer.

Krycek just smiled a little bit, fussing with her blanket.

"Did you do it for Mulder?"

"Yeah, I guess. Kind of," Krycek hedged. "I suppose. He’d always wanted a Samantha Mulder so badly, maybe this was his only chance to find one."

"Did you hear... he thinks his sister is alive now."

"I saw the reports." Mulder made a note to himself to find out how those reports had found their way to Krycek, was he monitoring all FBI information exchanges now? "I know all about their cloning projects, or most of them. Without all the details, I get the impression it was just Mulder identifying any potential female as his sister again. That particular clone model is everywhere anyway."

"Did you want to use his obsession? Did you want to transfer that to your daughter by calling her Samantha?"

Krycek looked up sharply, surprised at being caught out there so easily. He’d underestimated her again. "Maybe."

"Didn’t you think that was a little cruel?"

Krycek frowned, "No, I... No. I didn’t think... It’s not cruel. I just wanted him to... I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I wasn’t being cruel." He curled his body and attention around Samantha again.

"Were you being cruel when you just left him like that?"

Peering through the crack in the door, Mulder could see the frown, the pursing of lips. "I had to get away. I don’t see he would have been overly concerned."

"Don’t act stupid, Krycek. It doesn’t suit you."

"I had... I had lots of reasons, actually." Mulder found a little hope that he didn’t look too convinced at his own words. "Probably more than you had hunting me down."

"I won’t discuss the wisdom of Mulder’s chasing you. I’m too used to being swept up in his passionate chases to be surprised at this one Personally, I believed, given enough time, you’d have come back by yourself, but you know Mulder, he can’t leave anything alone."

"I wasn’t going to come crawling back."

"I don’t think anyone expected you to do that. But how much would you have had to bend your pride to ask for some help while you were... pregnant," she hiccuped on that last word, finding, despite years of experience with the weird, that was something she had to make a mental adjustment for.

"I did just fine, Scully. I’m not some dim-witted teenager. I had money, a job, and people who helped me when I needed it. The last thing I needed was to get trapped in one of Mulder’s witch hunts again."

"You did fine? That’s why you look like shit, Krycek?"

He looked up at her again through a curtain of bleached-blond and black regrowth, "Well, maybe I do. I have an excuse. What’s Mulder’s?"

"I think you can guess."

Krycek lay flat down on the bed, turning his back on Scully to focus on his daughter again, fussing with her blankets, his fingers nervously twitching them around again, "I never asked for that."

"Didn’t you?"

Wasn’t this supposed to be one of the proudest days in a man’s life? Mulder wondered. Bringing home the new child? Instead he was bringing home a man he loved, who hated him, and a child he couldn’t care less about, and had never expected to have. That wasn’t fair, he chastised himself. Sure he cared about... the kid. She was a miracle, wasn’t she? A child born to two men, with little or no scientific intervention, of course he cared about that.

Instead of walking into his new home, beaming with pride at the new addition to the house hold, he was watching Skinner manoeuvre a bad tempered, barely mobile young man clutching a screaming baby into an apartment Mulder still hated.

Skinner had taken charge, again, competently dealing with Krycek’s unmaeliability and both of them ignoring Mulder sulking along behind. Scully cast concerned glances over at Mulder, and he found himself giving her a less than convincing smile in return. It felt like he was just grimacing, and he knew that she saw it that way.

"Mulder, I’ll stay with him, make sure he’s settled..." she patted his arm reassuringly, before going into the bedroom with Krycek. The door shut behind her, very obviously excluding Mulder. He was reassured that it also obviously excluded Skinner. He stood, staring at the closed door for a little while, before he felt a heavy hand land on his shoulder.

"Better let her get him settled in, if you go too close right now I think he’d bolt again."

Mulder frowned, keeping his back to his boss. He didn’t need that pointed out to him right now, he knew perfectly well what that closed door meant, if not why.

He was a stranger in this new apartment, he’d always felt so. Now everyone else was more welcome here than himself. He had an overpowering urge to try and find out if his old apartment had been let out yet. He’d chosen that place because of the no. 42, and even though that joke got old within 2 days, it had been a home. And he’d been more at home there than when living with his parents or at college. Here though, here he was no more at home than in some overnight motel stay. Now that Krycek, someone he had wanted back in his life so desperately, was in the main bedroom, he could feel the hate pushing against him, so from just indifferent and unwelcoming, the new apartment was positively repelling him.

"I’m going… out," he told Skinner, his voice flat and even, as always.

He was outside and walking, having to retard the desire to run. Every now and then he gave an odd little skip to his step part of him tried to run and escape. Anyone watching his feet would think he was full of joy, anyone watching his face would think he was out to kill.

Should have left him out there, should have left him in the streets. Should have taken the DAT tape and just let him go. He wants to get away from me so badly, should have given him his freedom. Let him take that brat, I didn’t want her in the first place, and let him sleep on the streets. If he wants to live like a bum, let him. If he wants to live like a rat, eating out of dumpsters, sleeping in the streets, let him. I’ll wipe my hands of the whole thing.

But even as he indulged the fantasy of maintaining his pride, he knew it was a lie to himself. He’d fought hard to get Krycek back, he wasn’t letting him go again that easily. He also knew he wasn’t going to let Krycek live like that, not while Mulder had a say in the matter. Krycek was going to get his help, willingly or not. He wandered into a mall, feeling in his pocket for his wallet, checking all his credit cards. Krycek had come in with almost nothing, he was going to need clothes and personal items.

The sizes weren’t difficult, Mulder described to the salesman someone his own size, heavier around the hips and legs (he discounted Krycek’s present thinness - he knew, given time, rest, and proper feeding, Krycek would plump up again). He knew Krycek’s preferred underwear style, colours, t-shirts, jeans: black and denim, shirts: plaid and oxford white, socks. Shoe size was a mystery, but Mulder figured he’d get the scummy boots Krycek had come in with to match the size and pick up something decent later.

On the way back to the apartment he stopped off at a deli for lots of fried snacks, candies, pre-packaged meals, and bottles of soft drink and water. Everything he knew Krycek liked. The entire time he berated himself for wasting money on the ungrateful son-of-a-bitch.

Coffee was on when he got back, and he accepted a mug from Skinner, burning the roof of his mouth as he gulped it down. With the heat of the coffee in his belly, he girded his loins and headed into the bedroom. Scully turned from where she sat on the bed, nodding a welcome, but Krycek just glared up at him. Mulder stood at the foot of the bed, staring down at where his ex-lover lay, sprawled, fully dressed, across the covers.

"I… uh… bought you… stuff," he stammered, phased, again, by the hatred in that glare. Dropping the packages and boxes onto the bed, he waited for an acknowledgement, but Krycek just sniffed and looked down at his daughter again, dismissing Mulder as irrelevant.

"Mulder, can I talk to you?" Skinner’s request saved him from standing there like a dog turd on a friend’s living room floor - something no one wants to talk about or acknowledge - for much longer.

Scully exchanged a few more words with Krycek, it sounded like more medical advice to Mulder, then followed her partner into the main room. "Give him time," she said, reasonably, her small hand resting between his shoulder blades – as if she could tell how much pain Mulder was in.

"What is it, sir?" Mulder rubbed his tired eyes.

"My turn to go out for a while. I don’t think he’s going to go anywhere right now." Skinner grabbed his coat.

"I gave him a mild sedative in his coffee," Scully interrupted, "It won’t necessarily put him to sleep, but it will stop him making complex plans for a while."

"Not enough to go through his system into, you know, the kid?"

"No, he finished breastfeeding before I gave him a coffee. Mind you, no more coffee for him, it’s not good for babies."

Shaking his head at things he never thought he’d have to hear, Skinner left, leaving Mulder to collapse down onto the couch, head hanging, staring at his own loosely cupped hands.

"Mulder?"

He focussed on a small patch of the oh-so-tasteful carpet, watching the way the shag pile fibres twisted around each other, so close and perfectly aligned.

"Mulder?"

"What did I do, Scully?" he asked her.

She sat down in one of the arm chairs opposite him. "Give him time, Mulder. He’s been through a lot lately." She smiled at her own semi-joke: "He’s probably just suffering post natal depression."

"He left before the baby. He left me before any trauma of having a kid. He left me…" Mulder stopped, feeling his throat thicken.

"Mulder?"

She was worried for his sanity, he knew it. Sometimes he was himself.

He watched her purse her lips slightly. She was going to say something wise. Something that would make everything okay.

"Mulder..." she paused, and Mulder changed his expectation to ‘she was going to say something painful, something hurtful’. She was Scully, and she never spared his feelings.

He had a morbid feeling she might tell him the truth, and, for once, that was the last thing he wanted to hear. Most of the time he was grateful for that, but right now he would have been happy to hear a clever lie instead.

"He has been through a lot, as I said, and I think a lot of his judgements are coloured by paranoia and his decisions are irrational, keeping in mind the brainwashing and other traumatic..."

"But why does he hate me?" Mulder was sickened by his own petulant whining tone, but did nothing to stop it.

"You... you represent the cause of all his suffering. He was created to hurt you, his pain stems from their attempts to get to you. If the Consortium hadn’t been trying to destroy you, they wouldn’t have destroyed him by making him into nothing more than a weapon to use against you."

Mulder knew that, he was the psychologist here. He had expected Krycek to make him a target for misplaced ire a long time ago and he had his arguments and defences all planned, but..."

"But this is personal. I’ve seen it in his eyes. He’s not just blaming me for his problems. He hates me!"

She dropped her eyes, fiddling with the fabric of her skirt for a moment, obviously bracing herself to hold a mirror up to Mulder’s own thoughts and perceptions. "I think he also resents the way you treated him."

Mulder’s head snapped up. "What do you mean ‘the way I treated him’? I gave him everything he wanted. He wanted revenge, so I used what he gave me to attack the Consortium. He..." Mulder couldn’t think of anything else Krycek had asked for, apart from food and "... wanted sex. So I slept with him."

She sighed and frowned a little. "He didn’t have a choice in that, Mulder."

"Scully, you were there!" (he refused to be embarrassed remembering she had overheard them... more than once), "you know I didn’t make him..."

"Not you... them! The Consortium didn’t give him a choice as to whether or not he fell in love with you, and the Kindred didn’t give him a choice with his hyped up libido. Neither of those things are necessarily your fault, but you are here, they’re not, you’re something he can focus his resentment on... also," she paused again, "to be honest, Mulder..." She didn’t want to say this, he could tell. She was always honest, so if she was using that cliché to stall for time...

"You really did use him, Mulder. You said so yourself--"

"He wanted me to!"

"I mean... you took advantage of him." She held up her hand to forestall anymore argument, "I’m not saying he didn’t encourage it, he did. I thought he was taking every possible chance he could to encourage you to use him, sexually or professionally. I think he was looking for security and affection and has that confused with sex."

Mulder hung his head down, his body going limp, "I thought so..." he finally admitted. "I even..."

"What, Mulder?"

"By having sex with him, then, when he couldn’t say no, when they had brainwashed him... do you think... am I guilty of rape?"

She was silent a long moment, realising this was something he had been pondering for a long time -- possibly during the original affair.

Something else to plague his mind, another wound to fester. He deserved an honest answer, but she didn’t really have one. An issue like this could be debated and flamed over on a mailing list for months with no resolution or agreement.

"I really don’t know, Mulder. He came to you - the affair started before you knew about his programming, before you even knew it was him--"

"But I let it continue after I found out and was having doubts, and I used his need against him, making him turn on when he didn’t necessarily want to have sex with me..." he was asking for more guilt, for more pain to add to his self-flagellation.

"If it’s any consolation, Mulder, I think it would have been far crueller to say no. Whether it was out of his own free will or not, he did need you. If you had turned him away, when he was so vulnerable, it would have done him more harm then. I think you did the right thing at the time, it’s just in retrospect... perhaps you could have been...."

"Yeah. Could have been. I’ve never been able to keep it together, make a relationship work. And I guess I haven’t tried that hard because I really haven’t cared that much. But this time..." he gave a rueful half smile, "This time I thought I’d finally found someone who could put up with me."

"You really do care for him?"

He raised his head, but kept his eyes lowered. "He told me he loved me.

I think he did... then..."

"Maybe," her voice soft, "and maybe he doesn’t hate you now."

"I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the way he looks at me."

"I think he is just afraid, and angry, and confused, and you’re a convenient target," Scully reiterated. "He’s been a borderline sociopath for a long time, to the point he’s grown accustomed to the false memories and emotions. Now that he’s finally shaking this off and finding his own personality again, he’s even more conflicted and confused. Just give him some time. If he comes back to you, then I’m sure you’ll be happy, but don’t push it. If you want my advice, don’t give him any more reason to hate you..."

"Than he already has?" Mulder completed her sentence, his tone pathetic.

Scully pursed her lips, obviously she’d had enough pussy footing around and enough of his whining.

"Face it, Mulder, you can be a bit of a jerk, and for whatever reason, you did use him. Your quest for the truth has always made you blind to people’s feelings, but in this case you ran over everyone like a juggernaught. Great, you’ve beaten your enemies and won your court cases, now you’re a big hero, but you ran over Krycek in the process.

Considering the way you treat people it’s no wonder you can’t maintain a relationship," she ran out of steam, her soft-spot for Mulder kicking in again.

His eyes were huge and wounded and he looked at her as if she’d stabbed him. But he’d asked for it, needling away until he heard the truth.

"I’m sorry..." she started, deflated by his anguished looks.

"No, you’re right," he summed up a small smile, "let’s just hope it’s not too late to make a change." He fixed his face into a cheerful optimistic expression, so unfamiliar to his features it ached.

His resolve to get Krycek back hadn’t faded, but it had... diffused. The immediate objective of getting Krycek back into his life had been met, but after that he had no clear plans. Emotionally, Mulder had felt that once Krycek was here, he would apologise for leaving Mulder, Mulder would magnanimously forgive him, and they’d go back to playing happy families. He had not prepared himself for the hostile attitude he was now receiving.

Even in the good bye note Krycek had said he loved Mulder, had that been a lie? Mulder didn’t think so, but over the last months of separation, had Krycek’s feelings changed so much? Or were these his true feelings, unencumbered by the brainwashing... Maybe Mulder was finally finding out exactly what Krycek thought of him after all. The one person...

The slow slide from mania, induced through his search and capture of Krycek, was fading, to be replaced by a bottomless pit of depression as he faced yet another rejection.

Every other potential lover, dazzled by his intellect, put off by his obsessions, freaked out by his crazy ideas, repulsed by his perversity.

He knew the pattern, had been through it many times. The same pattern, slightly modified, with his work colleagues. The only one who hadn’t abandoned him was Scully, but even Scully, even after all these years, still treated him like a nut. Oh, he had no doubt she loved him, in a way, and she was someone he could take for granted, in a way. But it wasn’t the same as...

And of course, he sighed to himself, My parents never really loved me, he tried to jolly himself with the old ‘why I ran amok in a post office and killed 27 innocent people’ defence, but it didn’t work, because the little boy inside him really did believe that. And it hurt.

His father, who had blamed him for what had happened (although, now, Mulder wasn’t sure exactly what that was), and his mother who had simply shut herself off from her son. Still, deep inside, some part of him begged her to love him again, like she had when he had been tiny, when he’d been a good boy. Before the bad thing had happened, and they’d both stopped loving him.

He gritted his teeth, refusing to let those childhood pains haunt him again.

The changing of the guards and Skinner was back, saying he could only stay a minute, that he just wanted to drop off the stuff he’d bought.

The big burly man seemed a little embarrassed, almost as if he wanted to hide his packages. "Stuff for the kid," he grumbled, his cheeks pinking a little. Mulder was struck by the perfect apple cheeks – Skinner should blush more often, it flattered him.

"What kind of stuff," Mulder had bought everything Krycek needed, at least until Krycek was civil enough to ask for something, he didn’t see why Skinner should try and top that by outdoing Mulder and buying more.

Skinner shrugged, "I just handed the lady in the baby supply shop my credit card and told her to get me everything a baby would need in the immediate future." He looked ruefully at the multitudinous bags he was carrying, "I think she must have worked on commission. Who would have thought someone so tiny would need so much stuff."

You take it in to him, Mulder thought, but don’t expect gratitude.

He watched over Skinner’s shoulder as the big man entered what to Mulder was becoming a room inviolate. Krycek was still on the bed, all coiled up and hissing at the sight of Mulder. Skinner, apparently, was a non-event, and pretty much ignored. Skinner dumped the stuff on the bed by Krycek’s feet, and turned around, collecting Mulder and pushing him back out of the room.

"Leave him alone for a while. Let him stew in there until he realises we don’t mean him any more harm. He’ll come round when he’s ready."

Mulder nodded and was about to speak until he heard Krycek’s voice.

Much lower and softer than normal, and he and Skinner stared at each other, almost grinning, as they listened in on Krycek’s chat to Samantha. Sing song tones, describing what he was pulling out of Skinner’s shopping.

Mulder couldn’t resist putting an eyeball to the crack in the door, watching Krycek one handily (never putting her down for an instant) pulling out the little girl’s frilly frou frou. His interest in Skinner’s gifts for Samantha apparently 100 times more interesting than Mulder’s gifts for him.

Mulder wasn’t even sure any more of whom he was jealous. Samantha, clasped close and secure as she was shown tiny little pink and white frillies, or Skinner, who had obviously realised what would get Krycek’s interest more astutely than Mulder.

"Don’t pull faces," Skinner ordered, smothering a grin.

"He’s cooing, sir!" Mulder found his jealousy confused now with the urge to giggle. "He’s actually cooing at her! Krycek! Homicidal-maniac-extraordinaire, assassin-for-hire, sex-maniac-genderbender-weirdo-sewer-rat! He’s cooing at a baby!"

"Go figure," Skinner shrugged. For all the world like he’d seen this a hundred times before, a tiny smirk betrayed just how pleased he was with his apparent je nais sais qua over this issue. "He loves his kid, who would have thought. You should be glad."

"Glad of what?" Mulder couldn’t see anything to be glad about in this issue, he was still not yet reconciled to the kid being alive. He would have guessed, had he ever guessed Krycek would get pregnant in the first place, that the foetus would have been aborted. Krycek carrying it to term, never mind keeping it, and loving like this... neither seemed to fit his mental profile. Although... there was that need for affection...

"Glad he’s looking after your kid."

It was on the tip of Mulder’s tongue to say ‘it’s not my kid, it’s his’, but that was patently stupid, despite the fact Krycek would have agreed.

-oo0oo-

Krycek made small, orderly piles out of the things Skinner had bought, amazed at the tiny miniature human clothing. Skinner had made some guesses at her size - there were bits and pieces here that could fit a child twice her size, but there were also plenty of things she could wear now. Lovely things, designer children wear, pretty girlie silly things, jump suits and play suits and things Krycek could only guess at.

Another small flare of anger made Krycek’s eyes burn as he realised he couldn’t afford to buy these things for his own daughter, and even if he could, he couldn’t have carried them while running. All she’d had up until now had been the blanket she’d left the hospital in. A father should be able to provide for his children, Krycek thought, and buried deep down again the resentment that bubbled out at those who made it impossible for him to get a job - because he was too infamous, or hold a job - because he was too unstable. He shook it off, right now that wasn’t a priority concern. She was intrigued by something pink and frilly and was desperately trying to focus on it. He looked down, she definitely had his eyes – too wide and far apart to focus on things held close – she had gone completely cross-eyed. He wanted to dress her in these things, to play human-barbie with his living doll, but they both needed a clean up.

The part of his mind that had him always scrambling started immediately clicking over the possibility of using the adjoining bathroom, as if this would not be allowed, as if someone had told him it was off limits.

Even as he scolded himself, mentally, for the paranoid thoughts, the part of his mind that had kept him alive for the past few years kept him pinned to the bed for a few more minutes. He hadn’t left the bed, since being dumped there, not even to use the bathroom, and that was now a pressing concern. He picked her up, clasping her close, every sense focussed on the other side of the bedroom door, listening to the movements outside. Scully had left, Skinner had left, that meant only Mulder. That could mean danger to Krycek, but he didn’t want to lock the door. Not sure why, but he both dreaded and longed for Mulder to intrude upon the false-sanctuary of this room.

He groaned deeply in pleasure as he looked around the bathroom. A bath tub, it had been so long since he’d relaxed in a tub. The room was so... clean.

-oo0oo-

Soft beiges, relaxing creams, everything so neat and clean and organised. Surely this wasn’t Mulder’s place?

He stripped off his clothes, pushing them to one side. They hadn’t been cleaned during his hospital stay, and they felt damp and clammy to his skin. He wondered how he could get them cleaned, perhaps he’d just use this bathtub. Damned if he’d wear the stuff Mulder had bought. A quick check in the mirror confirmed his stomach was finally firming up, he was starting to look like a fit young man again. He scolded his vanity, but touched his toes a few times anyway, just because he could.

He filled the bath with just a few inches of warm water, and gently bathed his daughter, loving the way her arms and legs waved ineffectually, and he laughed softly at her stunned expression as he daubed her with bubbles. Everything so new, everything he took for granted was so amazing. He wondered how long until she knew the pain and fear he’d known. A long long time if he could help it. Her chances of living a normal life were probably close to nil, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t lead a happy life. He’d dedicate his own life to ensuring that goal.

His own turn then, as she was swathed in towels and placed beside the tub, where he could keep an eye on her. The water was warm and deep, and he scrubbed his flesh till it turned pink, emptying and refilling the tub twice. When he’d finished she was asleep beside him, he turned over, wrapping her fingers around his own, pulled a towel under his head and dozed, hanging half out of the tub. He felt safer here, with two doors between himself and Mulder, and he’d could sleep just about anywhere now anyway. He was hungry enough to eat the soap, but put that aside as he enjoyed half an hour sleeping in warm water.

By the time he was finished he’d become a prune. Mulder’s manky old towels were out of place in this architect designed room, but they were still better than he was used to. His old clothes were dumped in the bathtub with more soap, they could soak, he could wear towels for a while, towels and his one clean shirt. He felt vulnerable, dressed like this, and hoped Mulder wouldn’t come in again. He listened, but there was no noise from outside. Pressing his face against the door he finally heard the click click of the keyboard: Mulder was either surfing the net for porn or doing some work. Or both. Sometimes, for Mulder, these things overlapped.

She was cleaned, and be-nappied, and he spent some time choosing clothes for her. Pretty, lacy, pink, he decked her in frills and bows, and white satin booties. The most ridiculous things he’d ever seen. She looked so cute. He was almost tempted to take her out and show her off, but instead he curled up under the blankets with her, and resumed his napping. He had nothing better to do, trapped in here, with Mulder and the security guards outside. He felt like he was waiting for the other shoe to drop all the time, for someone to rush in and say ‘oh, sorry we’ve been a bit slow, you’re under arrest’, or one of the Consortium’s assassins (as he had no misconceptions they’d been destroyed completely by Mulder’s vendetta) to come in and pop him. So, while he waited, he slept, one ear out for Mulder: his daughter, once again, balanced on his chest.

-oo0oo-

"Hey," no response, Mulder didn’t expect one. "Do you want Italian or Chinese tonight?" silence the only answer from the room.

He stood impotently outside for a moment or two, "I’ll order pizza, extra garlic, okay?"

Krycek hadn’t moved, hadn’t come out, hadn’t spoken. If it wasn’t for the occasional overheard chatter to the kid, Mulder would worry the other man was dead. Don’t intrude into the room, let him have one place that feels safe, he took his hand off the door handle.

Three days Krycek had refused to come out, and Mulder was not going to take food in like some bell hop. From the insatiable appetite Mulder had seen before, to total refusal to even acknowledge hunger - this was not the Krycek Mulder had once known. From someone full of life, wanting food, wanting all the affection Mulder could give, to something more like a trapped animal. He wouldn’t be surprised to find Krycek gnawing off a limb to escape.

He’d order that pizza, with enough garlic to break Ghandi’s will, and let the smell waft. Krycek would come out, he’d come out to eat, they’d talk, they’d work things out. Mulder couldn’t handle this anymore, he simply couldn’t deal with another person in his life finding out how unlovable Mulder was and turning against him. He’d make Krycek come out, then he’d make him love Mulder again.

-oo0oo-

Three hours later he scraped the pizza into the bin, untouched.

-oo0oo-

Another night, another day. Both Scully and Skinner sat with Krycek during the day, making sure hd didn’t try to attack the guards and escape. Baby-sitting. Mulder came home from work and took over, the closed door a silent testimony to his failure. At least Scully said she’d got him to eat something during the day. Succeeding where he’d failed.

He didn’t bother knocking, this was his place, after all, and stopped his mouth curling up in a sneer as Krycek drew himself up on the bed, pulling away a few inches as if threatened.

"What is wrong with you?" he started, unable to be polite and rational anymore.

Krycek just glared at him, clutching his kid even closer.

"You think you can look after yourself?"

"I was doing just fine, I don’t need you."

"You were living like a refuge, like a criminal. Do you think you can take care of yourself or your child like that?"

"She’s fine, she doesn’t need you, she needs no one but me."

"How long is that going to last? How long until you can’t get a job because you’ve got a little child to look after. What about when she has to go to school, or are you going to take care of her education as well? What chance is she going to have in society, if you keep running and hiding, not letting her settle. Will you let her have friends?"

"I’d find a way. Start again. New identity for us both."

"Without me."

"We don’t need you. You don’t need us. Just let me go. You’ve got everything I have to give you, there’s nothing else left in me to give you. No more secrets, no more conspiracies. I’ve got nothing else you want, just let us go."

"I’m not a jailer, Alex," Mulder’s voice was suddenly softer, his hands out, pleading. "I need you. Not because you have secrets and truths, but just because... I need you." That tone always worked, it had to work now.

Krycek’s eyes narrowed, "Get a whore."

"What?" Mulder was taken off guard by the apparent non-sequiter.

"A good whore could give you what I did. Might cost you a bit more, but it would be a lot less hassle. Pick up a chick on the weeknights... some cute little boy on the weekends...

The spite in those words rocked Mulder back on his heels, "Is that what you were doing? Whoring yourself with me to get what you wanted?"

"Yeah... no," for a moment, just a brief second, Krycek’s attack faltered, "That’s what it felt like."

Someone who loved him... Mulder’s memories of warm skin and soft flesh started to sour, the sweet remembered taste of Krycek becoming like bile. This was betrayal. He had been more intimate with betrayal than with any lover, yet no matter how he steeled himself, it still caught him off guard every time. He’d known the worst of it. He’d been betrayed so often it had become a way of life, his way of defining other people. Not how intelligent or personable someone was, but how high was the likelihood they’d betray him. And none of that had prepared him for this. He’d trusted this man, again, into his life, with his body, and now he found the truth – that it had been another way of deceiving Mulder, leading him on, making him perform like a puppet. But, he remembered the joy in Krycek’s eyes, the love... no one was that good an actor...

"I don’t believe you," his voice was little more than a croak, and his eyes begged Krycek to say he’d been lying.

Krycek stayed silent, his eyes downcast, mouth turned down, and Mulder slowly backed out of the room. He needed to think, make some kind of plan now. Time to behave like an adult and make a rational decision, it was obvious Krycek wasn’t going to do anything sensible, and no matter what Krycek said now, how cruel his mouth was, Mulder wasn’t going to let him go to live in the sewers again.

It took a few hours to get his personal paperwork in order. Mulder had let his personal life go to hell in the past few years, and he’d never cared for money and finances anyway.

Money was nothing more than another necessity to keep himself working, it wasn’t something to be hoarded and cared for and invested. With his father’s house, and his mother living on her investments, his own few assets - although sparse, they were clever - and his present income, he had enough. When he’d finished he went in to Krycek again, this time he knocked.

"Alex," he spoke softly, not looking for another fight, fatalism in his tone. When Krycek looked up, just for a moment Mulder thought he was going to apologise, the lips parted, his eyes were a little sorrowful, but then they hardened and he looked away from Mulder again.

Mulder took a deep breath before launching into his rehearsed speech.

"I’ve done some thinking" (for a change, his mind nagged) "and come to a few decisions. I’m not letting you go running around the streets again," he held his hand up to forestall the interruption, "but I won’t keep you prisoner here. As you cannot stand to be near me, I’ll find you somewhere else to live. I can afford to buy you an apartment of your own. Nothing too flash, but enough for two people. I’ll arrange an income for you, both through the government witness protection pension system, and a third of my own salary. That should be enough for you both to live comfortably. I will also contribute to your daughter’s education, and her college fund should she require one. If you have any extraordinary expenses, I will contribute to those. If you require, we can do this through a lawyer, so you don’t have to have any unnecessary and distasteful contact with me. I am not relinquishing my rights to see the child, although at this time I do not envisage that I will be interested in her upbringing, I will leave all decisions such as this to you. I do not refuse to see her, and I am fully cognisant of my responsibilities towards both of you, but I am not interested in the child and have no interest in her day-to-day activities."

He drew a deep breath before starting again, "I do not expect you to seek employment, but should you do so, then I will not ask to have my support payments reduced, as I wish you both to be as comfortable as possible.

I have been through all of my assets and liabilities, and I have enough that I can liquefy immediately to allow the deposit on a new apartment.

I will not accompany you while you make a selection, as I know how distasteful you find my company, but I will ask Skinner and at least one security guard to accompany you, to ensure your safety and co-operation.

Once you have been established in your own space, I hope that you will feel more secure, and I wish you all happiness, but I expect us to have as little contact as possible after that time."

Mulder stood, in his mind he’d rehearsed that at this point, he’d turn on his heel and walk out, dignity intact, but he just stood. A thought came that he should say something to end his speech, ‘thank you for your attention’, ‘thank you for listening’, ‘thus ends the lesson’.

"I will always... have fond memories of you..." argh! pathetic! Mulder then finally turned and walked through the door, but his hand caught on the frame, and it wouldn’t let go, "Am I... so hard to love?" then finally he escaped the room. Christ, you asshole, what a pathetic thing to say! he’d wanted to come across as uncaring, as strong, but instead he’d said something even a 12 year old would be too cool to say, like something out of a particularly wretched Melrose Place script.

Krycek hugged her closer and tighter, until she squeaked in protest.

He’d won. Just like that. Mulder gave in. "My own apartment..." he savoured that, and hoped it would be like this one. Clean and bright and spacious with all the mod-cons. And an income. Government pensions were sad, but with something coming in from Mulder as well... they could live on that. He could lock himself away in there and never come out. Make the place safe and secure, and become a hermit. He’d sworn off night-clubs and socialising... but maybe contact a few friends, rebuild some of his old relationships. They could come and visit him in his old home. Raise Samantha in a clean and pleasant environment, with enough money to buy her nice things now and then. And he wouldn’t have to put up with Mulder.

{Am I... so hard to love}

Now that had been a pretty poor attempt at getting sympathy. Even Mulder had known that, the way he’d winced when he’d said it gave him away. That hadn’t been part of his rehearsed speech, all cool and sophisticated and resentful yet proud. That had been... real...

I refuse to feel guilty! Krycek swore softly, rocking her, his motions jerky. He treated me like the outside of a hot dog, like a set of holes for him to fuck. The man’s a complete jerk. And now he just expects me to roll over beg for more? ‘thank you, sir, may I have another?’ I may have enjoyed the odd masochistic sex act in my life, but I don’t see why I have to live it as a life style now.

She was starting to grizzle now, upset by his agitated motions, and he had to force himself to calm down.

{I expect us to have as little contact as possible} good bye, so long, thanks for all the sex, I don’t want to see you again. No more Mulder.

And this time, not because Krycek had run away, knowing full well Mulder was chasing him, still wanting him, but because Mulder had thrown him out. Because Mulder had given up, because Mulder had believed him.

Having Mulder out of his life once and for all, by mutual decision, no more weird obsession. He remembered all the reasons they’d told him why he was in love with Mulder. Mulder was brilliant (well, he was), Mulder was sexy (he was that, too), Mulder was handsome (well... in the right light).

 

He could see the new place, in his mind’s eye it looked like this one, only emptier, cleaner. His own personal, private, safe haven... it would be clean. He would be safe, with his daughter, just the two of them, alone and peaceful and quiet and alone...

He opened the door of his room. Mulder was sitting on the couch, ignoring him, hands loosely upturned on his knees. A skinny, unhappy Buddha.

"No." Krycek said, voice low, walking to stand in front Mulder, their knees almost touching.

"No what?" Mulder asked, disinterested in the answer.

"No, you’re not."

For a second Mulder’s forehead wrinkled in puzzlement, irritation and confusion at the cryptic comment warring. Then his smoothed out as his earlier question was answered. He placed a hand on one of Krycek’s thighs and slowly rocked forward off the couch until he was kneeling, pressing his face against Krycek’s belly, his arms desperately clutching Krycek’s hips.

"Will you stay with me? Please?"

Gentle hands slid over his hair. "Yes."

Frozen Tableau: Two men and a baby.

Even as his knees protested, Mulder stayed perfectly still, barely even breathing, as if worried his wild creature would take flight again if he moved too fast or made any unexpected noises.

He wasn’t sure how he’d won, or why. Or if he had won – did winners feel so grateful for sweet mercy? Had Krycek won? So who, exactly, had been victorious in this battle of wills. Mulder still wasn’t even sure what the battle had been about in the first place, although it had been clear he had been the enemy. Maybe they had both won. Maybe they’d both lost and it was masculine pride that left them both rigid, making no further moves towards peace, both awaiting rejection. Any false move and he knew war could break out all over again. If he did nothing, the same applied. Mulder had a small taste of what it must be like to work for the U.N.

Very slowly, as if trying not to spook a skittish horse, Mulder got to his feet. Resting his hands on Krycek’s shoulders, face close enough to breathe each other’s air. "I need you to stay with me, Alex. Not because you have to, not because you have no other options, but because you want to." He moved a little closer, closing his eyes. Krycek’s eyelashes brushed against his cheek, tickling like fly legs. "I’ve offered you that money, it’s your freedom. Unconditional financial support, so you’ll be under no obligation to me or anyone else. That’s a better option than being on the run, it’s offering you a choice. I hope it offers you the freedom to stay with me."

He could feel Krycek’s mouth curve into a slight smile, "So, do I still get the money, even if I stay?"

Mulder grinned, "Yeah, sure, anything you want. Cars, clothes, keychains – I’ll shower you with gifts and money. What would you like first?"

"Whatever it was that you had here that smelled so much of garlic. I want that."

Mulder held him a little closer still, trying to ignore the small body that kept him from pressing them totally together, and wished that Krycek was always so easy to please. "No problem! I’ll cook it myself!"

"You can cook?"

"As long as I have a phone, I can cook!" Mulder dialled – two large peace offerings with extra garlic would be delivered in 30 minutes or it was free.

The meal was consumed in almost total silence. No television, no chatter. Mulder tried to express as much of his gratitude in ‘pass the parmesan’ as was humanly possible. He didn’t want to talk about the cases they’d worked on together – in case it reminded Alex of unpleasant situations and old bitterness, the worry about the possible attempts on his life – in no way did he want Alex to feel insecure back in Mulder’s life. So, maybe the baby couldn’t understand English yet, but Mulder didn’t want to talk about murder, death, porn, assorted freaks, weirdoes, or any of his other hobbies, and he couldn’t talk about sex to Alex, not just yet. Something told him that was probably a bad idea.

So… he had no conversation. But he didn’t seem to need it. Alex was eating with quiet dedication, head down, not making eye contact, each bite savoured as if it were the last meal of a condemned man. An entire large with extra garlic. Mastication with dedication. Cold beer was heaven, Krycek’s eyes half closed with the bliss of cold bitter. Mmmmm mmm. Krycek made small happy eating noises under his breath. Mulder didn’t laugh, or make fun, nor did he ask if Krycek really should be drinking beer if he was breast feeding. He said nothing, noooothing. Nothing that was going to ruin the mood. He was holding Krycek to himself with threads as strong as cobwebs and was terrified of saying something wrong. If they never found common conversational ground again? If they never had anything to say to each other? His parents made a marriage out of silence for 40 years – so could he.

No. No, he couldn’t. Couldn’t live without the sound of Krycek’s voice, whispering sexy sweet everythings, demanding and submitting and directing, sweet sexy low husky straining whimpering gasping – the jerking hesitations and rumbling orders… Mulder brought himself abruptly to heel. Watching Krycek’s mouth work the pizza, and the very slight brush of foam caress Krycek’s lips as the beer disappeared was not helping his resolution not to think about sex. The continued happy rumblings as more pizza was put away wasn’t helping any. Mmmm mmm. The same kind of contented rumblings from Krycek as their bodies parted after another session of mind blowing sex. As Krycek lay back against the pillows, his eyes a little puffy, his lips swollen, his body lax and pliable, those same Mmmmm mmms drove Mulder to distraction. That hadn’t even been something he’d thought about before, and didn’t know how much he’d missed until now.

The meal was finished in quiet truce. Krycek leaning back and licking his fingers. No attempt to titillate or arouse, although Mulder felt the finest tingle as pink tongue caressed pointed fingers, seeking traces of sharp flavour. Leaning back with a sigh, belly full, Krycek finally made eye contact again. Mulder wondered if he came as high on Krycek’s list of priorities as the food had. Second place to pizza. Third place. The kid, the pizza, then Mulder. He could live with that, no point in getting jealous because he’d work his way back up that list again. It just took time, and Mulder was a very patient man. Perhaps not patient. But persistent beyond the pale – an insanity of which he was quite proud. An insanity of persistence he enjoyed taking out in public, polishing it up to a beautiful shine.

It was late. Early for Mulder, but late for normal human beings.

"I’m tired," Krycek spoke the first words in a long time.

Mulder didn’t say "You’re always tired." He just nodded, following behind Krycek back to The Room. He rested a gentle hand on Krycek’s shoulder, feeling with regret as the muscles tensed and Krycek’s mouth turned down a little. He lent forward and placed a chaste kiss on Krycek’s cheek. Krycek’s ear lobe called out for a kiss as well, but Mulder didn’t answer – he knew that would lead to another kiss on Krycek’s temple, which would inevitably lead to one on the nose, then to the terrible kiss on the lips which would ruin everything.

So he drew back again, whispered "Sleep well," didn’t react to the look of surprise in Krycek’s eyes, returned the slight smile that crinkled around exotic green eyes and stood by patiently as Krycek went into the room and shut the door firmly behind himself.

Mulder waited a few moments, listening to the muffled noises of getting ready for bed and apologising to a baby for garlic breath.

He wanted to praise himself for his restraint, and swear at his frustration and sing of his tremulous and hopeful joy. He thought of the words that summed things up perfectly and whispered them to the door.

"Alex Krycek."

"So, is it normal?"

Mulder and Scully sat around Mulder’s desk, enjoying coffee and medical files. Krycek was out again, fast asleep in the other room. He didn’t stay awake long. Scully had reassured Mulder this was simply his body and his mind demanding the time to heal.

"Normal, as we both know, is a relative term," she smiled a little, showing Mulder medical files he didn’t understand.

"You know what I mean, Scully."

"Well, it’s as normal as Krycek is, if that helps. Whatever it is in Krycek’s DNA that allows him to change, and that’s keeping him as healthy as he is, it’s in her blood as well."

"Healthy? He’s totally crashed out in there!"

"Most people would have collapsed long before now. Partially, he’s a strong man, but also, he has something that is healing him a little faster than normal. He’s so exhausted now because he’s been on this emotional level for many years, and physically he’s been treating himself very badly."

"I have a theoretical question for you, Scully."

"Hmm?" She waited for something outlandish.

"The Kindred we met, there were photos of them dating back to the 1920s, the same individuals didn’t appear to age. What do you think the chances are that he picked up not only their ability to change gender, but their longevity as well?"

"I couldn’t say, but I think it might be worthwhile investigating, Mulder. Particularly in case there are any negative side effects. I would like to run a series of tests..."

"He won’t go for it. Not yet anyway. He’s terrified of needles and tests."

"Not him, you."

"Why me?"

"When I ran the tests, I wanted to be sure of your paternity towards Samantha, and ran similar tests on your blood. Whatever it is that makes those two unique, you have it in your system as well."

Mulder’s eyebrows skyrocketed. "You mean, I could change like that?"

The possibilities were endless!

"I wouldn’t go that far, Mulder," she grinned broadly, his excitement was palpable, "Keep in mind he couldn’t change at first, even though he had the ability. Unless you are considering being possessed by oiliens there is the chance you may never unlock the ability to change gender. And just because you have a similar code in your DNA doesn’t mean it’s the same code that allows the gender changes."

"Yes, but imagine if it is the same code!" Mulder stood up and paced, "If I do have this ability, and my child, and... you!"

"I do not!" she was stunned he’d make the accusation.

"Think about it, Scully. You came into contact with them, there’s always the chance you have this in your genes. You should run the tests on yourself. And Skinner."

"Why Skinner?" This had her puzzled, "He didn’t come into contact with the Kindred."

"No, but he has been in contact with Krycek–"

"He what?"

Mulder realised he was giving away a little more than Skinner would want people to know, time to back-peddle: "Well, we don’t know how easily transmissible this is, it could be transferred through sweat."

He turned towards her, emphasising his points with jabbing fingers, "If we pass this on to our offspring, or to each other through sexual and other contact, this could be the next big human evolutionary step. This could have as much impact on our culture as language and frontal lobe development."

"I think you’re getting a little ahead of yourself, Mulder. We don’t know that this isn’t a killer in the long term. The Kindred killed..."

"But Krycek doesn’t. It’s watered down enough in his bodily fluids that if I did contract it, it was done without my even knowing, and his... our kid was born with no apparent ill effects at all."

"Even if this is doesn’t prove to have ill effects, how do you plan to transmit it to the rest of the population? Are you planning on having Krycek sleep with every second person in America? He may have an objection to that."

Yeah, he might. Once upon a time he would have happily volunteered, but since that kid came along he’s shut up tighter than a clam.

"That’s a point, but consider how quickly AIDS spread. It would only take one or two carriers to start it off, like a chain reaction. And unlike AIDS, people would be queuing up for a dose."

"Queuing up, Mulder? Don’t you think that’s a little far fetched?"

"It’s a common fantasy, Scully. Haven’t you often wondered what it’s like to be a man?"

"Penis envy? I think we are both a little too educated for that one, Mulder."

"No, not just that. I know I would love to know what it’s like to be a woman, and I’m sure plenty of women are curious to find out what it’s like to be a man. And this without the benefit of surgery! Someone could turn into a woman, or a man, for the weekend. Find out how the other 51% lives. Aren’t you even curious?"

She sighed, "Under no circumstances do I want to go through what Krycek went through... but, yeah. I’m curious. And I’ve given it some thought since the possibility was first raised. But even so, I would have no idea how to make the change."

"We’ll ask him sometime."

"You’re quite excited about the potential, aren’t you, Mulder?"

"Yes, I am, Scully. I think I could really dig being a ‘chick’ for a while," a deliberate attempt to get a rise.

"Chick? You’ve been hanging around with Langley far too long."

They laughed in gentle companionship, and Mulder made them more coffee.

"Sorry the coffee isn’t flavoured." Mulder handed over a mug to his baby totin’ almost-assassin. "Building bridges should be done over flavoured coffee."

Krycek hadn’t seen a television commercial in… in longer than he could remember and had no idea what Mulder was talking about. He smiled as if he got the reference though, then scowled at himself – noticing he was slipping into his obsequient ‘make-Mulder-like-me’ mode even though he’d sworn he wouldn’t do that again, then smiled again when he realised he was scowling at Mulder for no apparent reason then sighed when he realised that his face-making looked totally ridiculous.

"Are you all right?"

"Oh, yes, sorry, uh… garlic flashbacks," Krycek smiled reassuringly. He could see Mulder’s brain working, many conversational gambits considered and discarded as the agent tried to come up with something appropriate. Krycek took some pride in the fact that he could stall that formidable brain just by his sheer presence. He felt a little frissom of ego as he realised his power. When he’d finally got out of bed this afternoon Mulder had been all over him, attentive and fussing. It was kind of nice. Actually, it was a lot nice. From living like an animal to having someone who’d do anything for him… he could ask Mulder to crawl naked over broken glass to bring him sugar for his coffee right now and it would come to pass.

He frowned again, let Mulder think he had gas, what did he care, he was still angry at the man. He’d rolled over and begged for the Mulder’s touch, and he’d been used and discarded – sent away to Canada when he’d become inconvenient. He’d revealed his soul to Mulder – bits of it anyway. The bits he thought Mulder might like. Perhaps he should have trusted Mulder more… but on the other hand… he shook his head, he was trying to hang onto his anger, but more and more he was finding it hard to remember exactly why it was he was angry with Mulder.

"Are you sure you’re okay?" Mulder’s face was concerned, showing rare sympathy for another person’s apparent confusion.

"We need to talk."

Mulder nodded.

"We need to work out things between us."

Mulder nodded again, concentrating on every word. They sat silently for a moment.

"Um…"

The silence stretched out again. Mulder kept his mouth shut, too terrified of saying something wrong to say anything. Krycek aware of about 8 different voices in his head – all of them his for a change – telling him what was wrong, and what was right and what an asshole Mulder had been and how he’d treated Krycek with such dismissive disregard… and how sexy his jaw looked in the mid afternoon sunlight. The strong square line of it, shadowing his neck… Stop that! Krycek had turned off his sexuality when he’d left, he hadn’t even masturbated since leaving Mulder, deciding that controlling his uncontrollable urges would be one way towards getting back control of his life. Now, a few minutes into quiet (silence) conversation with Mulder and the old thoughts were coming back.

At least this time he knew they were his own. At least he could look at Mulder dispassionately now, and note that the nose was a little too big, or the hair a little too geeky. He could see Mulder’s flaws, he wasn’t blinded by the brainwashing that told him Mulder was gorgeous. He thought Mulder was gorgeous now because he could truly see him, without programming or the voices of strangers.

The silence stretched on, becoming uncomfortable, full of nervous expectation of explanation. Stretched until it snapped, and Mulder smiled softly and Alex relaxed a little, and the silence became comfortable, companionable. Mulder shifted forward on the couch until their shoulders touched. Not making a move, just being close.

"I missed you."

"I – I wanted to hurt you." Krycek wasn’t sure where that came from, but it was one of the most honest things he’d ever said.

"You succeeded." Mulder simply accepted Krycek’s comment, even though he was surprised. "It drove me nuts, not knowing where you were, trying to find you."

"You’re already nuts," Alex grinned slightly.

Mulder smiled, "True. But don’t tell anyone – it’s our secret, okay?"

Alex’s smile got wider, matching Mulder’s, "Too late, everyone knows you’re nuts, Mulder."

"But you love me anyway, right?" Lightly.

Another silence, that had come too soon. Mulder’s smile became a little fixed. It was okay, he could rally again, he could save this –

"Yeah, I guess I do." Alex’s smile was gone now, he looked down again at his daughter, "God help me I’ve tried to hate you."

"The programming won’t let you?"

"You won’t let me."

Mulder felt all the tension leave his body, almost as powerful as post-coital bliss, every muscle relaxed simultaneously.

The clock ticked past, the room in complete silence, almost an hour of just sitting, listening to each other breathe, shoulders pressed together. When Mulder finally drew breath to speak, Krycek braced himself for something of vital importance, something earth shattering that would make everything all right between them, forgiving the past, forgetting mistakes…

"That’s a cute kid you’ve got there."

Not what Krycek expected, but it would do. He looked down at the fist-waving baby.

"Yep."

"She’s got your eyes."

"I think it’s compulsory to say that."

"I hope she doesn’t get my nose."

"Could be worse. I like your nose. It’s your best feature."

"Argh, don’t say that." Mulder mimed horror drolly.

"Okay," Krycek winked slyly, "Second best." He thought about it a moment, "Third best." Another moment, "Forth best. Definitely at least forth best."

"Huh? What are the others?"

"I’ll tell you some other time," when I can lick each one of them with delicate description. Wait a minute - I’m already planning on having sex with him again? I swore I never would, not again. I swore it was over between us. So unswear. No. Yes, change your mind, he doesn’t know you swore off, no one need know. No. It was good, you know it was good, no one touched you like he did. Shut up! You shut up!

"What was that?" He realised that arguing with himself, he’d missed what Mulder had been saying.

"I said, are you hungry?"

"Yes, but I think I’ll go and sleep some more."

"You’ve only been up about four hours."

"So?"

"Ah, nothing. Sleep well, I’ll see you tomorrow… afternoon."

If he was frustrated at their short time together, Mulder didn’t show it. He sighed contentedly, and returned to his computer, a lot of questions answered, in their own silent way.

"So, Mulder, what does your mother think?" Scully asked.

"Think about what?"

"I didn’t think you’d told her," she grinned at him over the top of her glasses.

"Told her what?" he was genuinely puzzled.

"That she’s a grandmother! Did you tell her any of this?"

He went blank for a moment, staring at her in a quiet moment of shock.

"I... never thought of that. I’m a father. She’s a grandmother. I wonder what she’ll think?"

"I’m sure she’ll be thrilled. What mother isn’t thrilled when her 30 something bachelor son suddenly begets some offspring. I’m sure she’ll just adore Samantha."

"Oh dear."

"What now?"

"Samantha, what will she think of that name?"

"That her grand child was named after her long lost... oh, sorry," she was a little chagrined at having mentioned the sister they now believed had never existed.

"Hmm... then again. You could always say it was a co-incidence, that you had nothing to do with the naming of the child. What do you think she’ll make of the fact your child’s mother is a man?"

Mulder shook his head slowly, "I guess I’ll have to break this to her in small, easily digestible pieces. She’s already had one stroke... I don’t need my inheritance that badly…"

 

It did take some time, and she was getting somewhat impatient with him by the time he finally worked his way around to saying he’d had an affair with someone and they had become pregnant. She was horrified, but he assured he was taking his responsibility seriously. He endured a lecture on irresponsible behaviour – at his age! - and some questions on the health of the child. She seemed cold, and very very surprised, but still interested. Her last lot of questions were about the mother, who she was, what was her family like (Mulder realised he had no idea), what was her background, status, class (she decided not very high if she got pregnant to strange men), what was her religion and again Mulder realised he didn’t know, did Mulder intend to marry the poor woman. Mulder started talking about Krycek, she cut him off, saying she wanted to know about the mother, she knew all about Krycek from the news. He told her he was getting around to it. By the time he’d explained Krycek’s genderbending abilities she went deadly quiet. "He’s the mother?" she didn’t need it spelled out. "Of all the lovely women you have met and worked with... what about that Agent Scully?" (she never liked Scully, thought she was a pushy bitch, but anything was better than a man, surely).

"This wasn’t deliberate."

"An accident. My son has a bastard child with a freak? Some slut-" she was getting angry now.

Mulder hung up.

He hung up and stared at the phone, amazed he’d hung up. He loved his mother, he did, he’d always told himself that. He’d let her heap abuse on him, or ignore him for years at a time, but now... now what? He’d switched loyalties? No longer was mother the most revered person in his life... he looked in himself at his oft’ self-recognised Oedipal complex, wondering if he’d transferred it to the new mom in his life. No... not that. But he was now so worried Krycek would leave him if provoked, he wouldn’t let even mother-dearest risk any friction. Or something like that. Or maybe he just wanted to hang up on her. Maybe he wanted to be the one with the power for a while, with the secrets and the information. He smiled a little to himself, and promised himself he wasn’t going to phone back and apologise.

Mulder still felt like he was walking on egg shells around Krycek. He’d have to return to work someday soon, eventually anyway. But they were making progress. Krycek had spent a good part of the afternoon with him, before taking a nap later on. He seemed to need more sleep than the baby. But they’d made a start. Maybe they were not communicating, but they were… well… not killing each other. Not screaming or fighting.

Mulder was still waiting for the bomb to fall, for something definitive to mark Krycek’s return. But he didn’t know what to do, he had no experience with ‘normal’ relationships. So, maybe most people would consider this relationship with Krycek to be completely abnormal, but they would be wrong. They might think two men shouldn’t be together, or that our relationship is twisted and imperfect, parasitic or vamparistic – feeding on each other’s imperfections, encouraging weirdness instead of normalising each other. But that’s wrong. He’s healing, slowly and surely. And me too. And maybe I know, just a little bit, what I did to hurt him so badly, maybe I can stop pretending I don’t now.

But I need to heal as well. I want to heal in his arms, press my wounds to his, so that our bodies heal together, our scarred flesh merging into one animal, the dis-seperation of emotional Siamese twins. I want to take our desperation and turn it into co-dependence, I want to give him my responsibility and take his neurosis. You’re obsession - self recognised. My obsession – pointed out with quiet horror by my peers. Blend the two. If you stalked me previously, and I hunted you down like an animal recently – these things will cancel each other out when we are finally together. And then, at least to outsiders, we will appear to be normal. As normal as I could ever sink to. There is still work to be done – our bridges are built, but they are shaky rope bridges. I need to bind you to me. How do we strengthen the connection? What do normal people do?

Date! Normal people go on dates! Mulder looked out the window, it was well after midnight, his internal clock told him it was nearly 2am now. But he knew there was stuff still open, in fact, he knew the perfect place…

Knocking on Krycek’s door he couldn’t hold in a cheeky grin, this was going to be great!

Half asleep, a little ruffled, hair standing on spiky end, still with his goddamn baby under one arm, Krycek looked adorable to Mulder.

"Hey, have you ever played miniature golf?"

"You woke me up at this time of the morning to ask me that?"

"No, I woke you up to take you!"

"You’re joking…"

"No, grab your jacket, we’re going on a date!" This was a brilliant idea, he couldn’t believe he hadn’t thought of this before.

"But – but – it’s 2am!"

"Come on, this place is open 24 hours! I’ve seen the ads on television. Come on, it’s only a 40 minute drive."

"I don’t believe this," Krycek complained under his breath. "It’s all right for you, you don’t sleep!" He felt grimy, Samantha was grizzly, he’d never played miniature golf and had never felt the need. What the hell was Mulder thinking? Was he dragging Krycek along on one of his clandestine rendez vous? Surely Mulder wouldn’t involve Krycek in his work, too dangerous at this stage – he’d believe Krycek still couldn’t be quite trusted yet. Certainly Krycek wouldn’t fully trust himself yet. He avoided thinking about it by dozing off in the car while Mulder whistled to himself as he drove.

Much to Krycek’s surprise, once he’d prised his brain awake enough to open, the place wasn’t deserted. Why in hell people wanted to play putt putt in the wee hours of the morning was beyond him, but there were quite a few people: romantic couples, drunken fools, lone weirdoes, puttering around the tiny greens. Mulder handed over money for the balls and clubs, Krycek followed along behind, reminded of old times.

"You know how to play?"

"No."

"Here, watch me," Mulder took a stance remembered from 30 odd years ago, and gently sent the ball through the Octopus’ tentacles.

"Are we meeting someone here, Mulder?"

"No… why would you ask that? We’re here to play golf. This is a date, Alex."

"Oh, okay," still feeling a little puzzled, Krycek adjusted the baby sling, took a club and swung. The ball missed the octopus altogether, bounced out of the obstacle, shot off Ab Lincoln’s head and found a cup two hole’s down.

"Hey," Krycek looked up, thrilled at his prowess, "I’m good at this! Skipped two of the holes with one shot!"

"Uh…" Mulder nearly pointed out that wasn’t the point of the game, but Krycek was looking happy for the first time since he’d been brought back, "That’s excellent! I only did one!" Mulder curved his next shot into the next hole, but didn’t make the cup.

And so they played. Krycek was the worst golfer Mulder had ever seen in his life – he was so bad he had know idea he was bad. He wandered over the ‘do not walk on the grass areas’, damaged the displays as he tried to change them so they were easier to shoot through, wandered over other player’s games, abusing them as they abused him. He managed a hole in twelve, a hole in the kiosk window, a hole in some poor guy who would probably be really pissed off once he regained consciousness. Mulder was still laughing as he dragged Krycek out of the centre, before security came for them.

"Hey, you hungry?"

"Sure."

"All that exercise."

"Okay, I’ll allow you this – that was fun, Mulder. I’ve never done that before."

"I wouldn’t have guessed, you were so good at it!"

Krycek threw back his head and laughed, out loud, actually laughed. Mulder couldn’t remember ever hearing him laugh like that. It was a sexy, husky, giggling laugh, and Mulder echoed it happily in the darkness as they walked to the car. He slipped an arm around Krycek’s shoulders, feeling the last vibration of chuckles. Krycek’s life had been so joyless for so long and Mulder wanted to hear more of that laughter.

"There’s an all night KFC not far from here, fancy fried chicken?"

"Always."

They drove to a look out point to watch the sun rise, eating chicken and talking quietly. Mulder could feel the grease soaking through his pants, and when he looked over at Krycek, his face and fingers were shiny with chicken fat as he ate, his gaze fixed on the dawn – he was more beautiful now than Mulder could ever remember, the pale peach tones of his skin highlighted by the fragile light. Mulder thought about why Krycek had left him, their fights, the accusations, and what Krycek had said to him just before being dumped in Canada. He knew what he had to say now. How much do you want this? How much are you willing to leave bare to attack? How much do you trust him not to betray you again? Maybe Mulder would just have to accept that betrayal was always going to be a possibility with this relationship: live as if it wasn’t going to happen, but don’t be surprised if it did.

But perhaps this wasn’t actually important to Krycek, maybe it was no big deal, maybe Mulder was just going to sound like a fool.

He took a deep breath and braced himself, leaning on Kentucky Fried courage.

"Alex, are there any more drumsticks? I love you. You want a wetnap?"

Krycek froze up, food half way to his mouth, caught mid chew, he was quiet for a long time, while Mulder realised just how important those words had been.

"Do you mean that?" Krycek’s voice was very low.

"Yes, I’d really like a drum stick," Mulder tried to make light of the situation, feeling himself drowning in the seriousness.

"And I could use a wetnap." Krycek gave him a way out, playing along with the humour.

"And I do love you."

They were silent for a long time, while Krycek licked grease off his fingers.

"Why."

"Because who the hell else would love me?"

"You could get a dog?"

Mulder leaned over, his face so close to Krycek’s. "I mean it, I do love you."

‘Why’ was on Krycek’s lips again, but Mulder replaced the word with his kiss, pressing softly, merely brushing softly and moving back again. Krycek reached up one hand, fingers warm and slippery, caressing Mulder’s jaw. He took Mulder’s top lip between his own, suckling gently, releasing… his breath smelt of 11 herbs and spices, to Mulder it smelt like heaven and he leaned forward, pressing again, a series of tiny kisses all over Krycek’s mouth, from the sharply defined edges that twitched upwards to the full lush centre. Mulder could feel the rich hot submission in Krycek’s mouth as it started to work against his. The brush of the rounded chin, scratching and catching against his stubble as Krycek tried to give up the last of his anger, the last of his resentment and pain, melting into Mulder’s mouth. He didn’t want surrender, Mulder wanted conquest. He wanted to know Krycek wanted, and not because the Kindred changes in his blood forced Krycek to seek contact and relief, but because Krycek wanted him, wanted Mulder and what Mulder had to offer.

The kisses remained almost chaste, a sweet massaging of lips, Krycek’s fingers caressing his cheekbones, sliding over the edges of his eye sockets, brushing his eye lashes the wrong way. Mulder took it no further, just tasting and absorbing the sweet satin of Krycek’s lips, breathing in through his nose as Krycek breathed out, feeling Krycek’s finger tips burning his skin.

Finally, with a low whimper of need, Krycek’s tongue ventured forth, pushing through Mulder’s lips, cool and wet, flexible, searching, tracing the line of pearled teeth and forcing them apart. Mulder groaned deep in his throat, tipping his head to one side, showing his submission to this subjugation, suckling down the muscular length of the invader. He rimmed the inside of Krycek’s lips, tickling with his tongue tip, then gently biting down on Krycek’s tongue when he tried to withdraw. He pressed and rubbed against the underside of Krycek’s tongue, easing any discomfort. Krycek’s soft moans filled his mouth, vibrating in his throat.

Krycek’s breath was ragged, broken, little puffs of arousal against Mulder’s mouth. Wet heat as Krycek’s mouth follows the path of his fingers, his lips soft against Mulder’s eyes, cheeks, over the bridge of his nose, his fingers scrabbling blindly at Mulder’s tie and top buttons.

The press of the gear stick was painful against Mulder’s stomach, his body protested the awkward angle of the kissing. He felt like a teenager, making out in the car – he’d never done this as a youngster, but this is how he’d imagined it. Awkward, hungry, helpless to raging hormones. As Krycek’s mouth travelled down his neck, his hot breath brushing his collar bones, Mulder pushed him back, gasping for air. He rolled down a window, letting cool air in to unsteam the glass.

"What’s wrong?"

"Nothing," he turned, smiling reassuringly, catching Krycek’s chin in his fingers, a thumb tracing the pointed tip of Krycek’s nose. "I want our first time to be special, not cramped in a car."

"First time?" Krycek’s look was caught been laughter and incredulity.

"Yes. Our first time. Our first time now that we know."

"Know what?" The small wrinkles appeared on the bridge of Krycek’s nose, up between his eyes, puzzlement.

Mulder wracked his brain for romantic mush, "Now that we know it’s us. Not the first time when it’s convenient, or when you are seducing me to use me for your revenge, or when I’m using you for information, or when it’s just for human contact, or when it’s a powerplay. Our first time now that we know we are together, because we want to be. Because we are going to be together forever." That wasn’t really romantic, but it was all he could think of right now.

"Oh," Krycek’s ‘oh’ escaped in a gust of amazement.

"Hey," Mulder caught Krycek’s hand, linking their fingers, still a little greasy. "Do you still love me?"

"I let you catch me, didn’t I?"

"You – you let me catch you? I nearly went insane trying to track you down!"

"Do you think – do you think you would have caught me if I didn’t really want to be caught?"

Mulder laughed, low and happy, squeezing the fingers in his hand, and turned out to the sunrise, higher now, the colours brilliant and all pervasive, red bloody fingers of colour covering the entire sky. "It’s going to be a beautiful day."

"Yeah."

Quiet for a time.

"You never did give me that wetnap." Krycek splayed his fingers, studying them.

Mulder took the greasy fingers into his mouth, efficiently licking them clean, from base to tip, nibbling the nails just a little – raising his eyes to watch Krycek’s parted lips and rapt attention.

"Let’s go home."

"Yeah…"

Mulder kept his mouth shut on the drive home. He wasn’t going to say anything to screw this up now, not when things were finally going his way. He did make sure to keep touching Krycek. A hand on his thigh at the lights, a pat on the arm, caressing his neck as they drew up outside the building. Krycek would tremble a little, leaning into Mulder’s hands, revelling in the gentle affection like a pound rescue puppy. Mulder was a little surprised at Krycek’s change of heart, and knew he’d have to work hard not to blow things again.

He kept a hand on Krycek’s elbow on the ride to the apartment, but let go for the walk down the corridor. He wasn’t holding him, or dragging him, or even encouraging Krycek to stay with him. This time Krycek came through this door of his own free will. Not forced by the FBI or drugged and helpless. If Krycek got the significance of this crossing of the threshold he didn’t show it. Mulder could feel the heat pouring off his body, basking in its remembered warmth.

They stood in the middle of the main room, and Mulder cupped Krycek’s head in his hands, letting the newly shorn hair prickle against his fingers. He pressed their faces together, ruffling the short hair until Krycek shivered just slightly. The ever present small body was still between them, but Mulder put her aside mentally, concentrating entirely on every movement and twitch as he ran his cheek slowly across Krycek’s jaw and neck. He measured every reaction, loving the weight of the body that leaned against his, the pressure slowly increasing along his thigh and hip. He could feel each rivet from Krycek’s jeans as he pushed closer, rubbing shoulder and chin against Mulder.

He took Krycek’s face in his hands, fingers caressing the edges of his jaw. "Goodnight, sweetheart," he whispered, kissed the corner of his mouth and turned to the other bedroom. It wasn’t his favoured place, but he’d sleep there tonight.

"Hey!" Krycek’s voice was almost outraged, Mulder didn’t need to turn around to see him standing there, feet planted, nose upturned in surprise.

"Not on a first date," he turned and winked, grinning wildly, before closing the door behind him.

There were several stunned seconds of silence, and he could picture Krycek standing, working things out. He could hear something muttered, and wondered if he had made a mistake, if this was just the time he should be pushing to re-establish their physical relationship. But then he heard the low gruff grumble of Krycek’s laughter, and his footsteps as he turned to his own room and knew he’d made no mistake. Keep things light, keep things easy, and let Krycek make the moves in his own time.

The sun was up, burning renaissance religious paintings into the shag pile when Krycek arched his body awake between the clean sheets. He stretched out his toes, feeling each joint click and snap awake, arching his body into the cool untouched places, his back pressed into the warmth created by his own sleeping body. Mulder’s t shirt, appropriated for sleeping purposes, had been pushed up around his armpits, leaving him almost bare. The crisp fabric against his skin, brush against his nipples, pushing the hair on his legs the wrong way, left him tingling slightly, sensuously aware of his own body.

With a mild feeling of surprise he realised he was sporting an early morning hard on – the first he’d had since… since… since he could barely remember. Not since he’d had Samantha, not during the pregnancy, not… not for a long time anyway. Not that he’d been impotent, he simply hadn’t been… interested. Hadn’t given his body’s needs any thought. From once upon a time being hard and frantic for a fuck from a stroke, a touch, a look, to not even giving sex a second thought. And he had only really realised that now, as he lay there tenting the blankets. Not that he could really do anything about it right now. There were many things Krycek would do, but jerking off with a baby on his chest wasn’t one of them.

Another bath was what he wanted, even though he’d only had a couple of hours sleep, the lure of that wonderful tub pulled strong. He could clean himself, Sammy, do her first feed of the day, then sneak back into this comfortable bed and resume his luxurious lazing. He felt safe here, in an odd kind of way. He’d been running away from Mulder and dependence and fear for so long, now suddenly everything was calm. Not calm as if in he was clear of the storms in a safe haven, but clear as in the eye of the hurricane, waiting for the other side to hit any moment. All the time he was walking on egg shells, waiting for… something to happen. Maybe a bullet through the window, for those who chased him to catch up, or for his worst fear, someone would eventually try to take Sammy away. He kept waiting, kept alert and aware, waiting for the hammer to fall, and still it didn’t. But he knew he couldn’t relax, at least not yet. There were things he had to do, to ensure his safety, and Sammy’s future, and he was starting to get an idea of just how he could do that.

He had tried running away, and that hadn’t worked, he’d had too much baggage, emotional and psychological, to make the break. Now it was time to fight back. And this time he couldn’t get Mulder to do the fighting for him, this time he had to go into battle himself. He had to take up arms, plan a strategy – more complex than giving Mulder the ammunition and letting Mulder fire the shots – this time he had to make plans, without contingencies, and be the general on the fighting front. But first bath. Bath first, then battle.

 

Mulder lurked. He was good at that. Lurking around the living room listening to Krycek wake up. The sheets rustling as Krycek returned to the world. When the bathroom door closed Mulder moved in and lurked just outside of there as well. Water poured, someone held a two way conversation in all seriousness by themselves, more rustling, then a little quiet as a body settled into water, settled a smaller body and relaxed. Mulder lurked a little closer. He lurked a little closer until his hand was on the door handle and indecision prickled uncomfortably. He listened.

"What do you think, bubs? Good plan?"

"I knew you’d agree, you’re one smart cookie, kid."

"If we keep running there will be nothing for you, so we take the fight right back at them. You, me, maybe Mulder if he doesn’t mind and I don’t think he will. We can hide right out in plain sight. They won’t stand a chance against us."

"So, any suggestions?"

"Oh yeah, make those goo goo eyes at me, that’s a big help."

"Sure, you’re my best friend now! Can’t get enough of me right now. You’re all hugs and kisses and cuddles. But in 10 years time you’ll be all ‘awww, dad, you’re embarrassing me!’"

Before he could laugh and give himself away, Mulder snuck backwards a few steps, then loudly stomped up to the door, knocking lightly. "Hey, Alex," he used his patent goofy Mulder smile, "Good morning."

Alex was half asleep propped against the end of the bath, gooey eyed, breast feeding again, hair standing on end damply and Mulder thought he’d never looked so gorgeous. "Need your back scrubbed?"

There was a moment’s indecision, and Mulder could see those wheels turning, even such a simple decision had so many layers of political manoeuvring to be puzzled through, and it saddened Mulder that Krycek had to think that way, even with Mulder. Especially with Mulder. Whatever advantages of the play Krycek weighed up apparently outweighed the disadvantages and possible loss of game board placement, and Krycek smiled slightly, the smile actually reaching the corners of his eyes, and nodded.

This is a test, Mulder, it’s not an invitation, he warned himself, picking up a scrubber in favour of the softer wash cloth, and knelt down to work his friend’s back.

 

Maybe I'll continue this... would you be interested in reading any more?

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