Title: Cabbages and Kings
Author: LC Fenster
Written: April 2001
Feedback: lucienlc@ix.netcom.com
Spoilers: DeadAlive
Rating: PG-13 (language, mostly)
Archive: Ask me first, please. I want to know
where it's going.
Keywords and Warnings: Talking heads warning. Post-episode fic. M/K UST
Disclaimer: yadda yadda yadda. Fox, 1013, blah blah blah. Theirs, not mine. Though I promise to return their canon in slightly better condition than I found it.

Summary: After DeadAlive, Mulder and Krycek converse in Mulder's apartment about events past and present.

Thanks muchly to Celeste for her usual fab beta, and a couple of great lines she allowed me to steal. Thanks to Jean for her encouragement.

"Are you sure you want me to go, Mulder? I don't mind staying another night. Or I could call Skinner? I'm sure he's finished in the office by now."

It was ten days since Fox Mulder awoke in a hospital bed, the victim and survivor of an unidentifiable alien virus. Mulder's recovery had been inexplicable and rapid. Within two days, his vital signs were perfectly normal; the last physical signs of his abduction fading away. Within three days, the hospital had run out of tests to perform on him, and booted him out the door. Since then, Scully and Skinner had taken up residence at his apartment, worrying about his health and caring for his every need until he was ready to go crazy from the surfeit of tender concern and total lack of privacy.

"Go home, Scully," Mulder said firmly, gently coaxing her very pregnant body toward the doorway of his apartment. "I appreciate the way you've been looking after me, but I really am fine now. You've reintroduced my refrigerator to the concept of food; the dustbunnies have fled in ignominious defeat; and I am pleased to announce that you can now bounce a coin on the sheets of my newly made bed. This I know, because I tried." His cheerful voice reflected his generally good spirits. Funny how a near-death experience could make even his pathetic excuse for a life seem new and exciting. "I also know which orifice to use for the thermometer. I even remember how to dial a telephone." He smiled reassuringly at his partner and best friend.

"I know, Mulder. I didn't mean to seem patronizing --"

"You're not," he quickly interjected. "It's okay, Scully. I appreciate everything you and Skinner have done these last few days. But it's time I started to take responsibility for my own life again."

Scully was still plainly wavering. "It's still less than two weeks, Mulder. Perhaps it would be best --"

"Scully. I'm. All. Right." He imbued each word with as much assurance as he could find, willing her to believe him. "Really, I am."

She managed a weak smile. "Okay, Mulder. But if there's a problem --"

"If any of my body parts start falling off, you'll be the first to know. I promise." Her incipient protest died as he tenderly kissed her forehead. Their relationship had become a lot more tactile since his return from the dead. It was as though she still had trouble believing he was really there; had to keep touching him to reassure herself he wasn't a ghost.

"Go home," he repeated quietly. "Get some rest. You know you need it. Gotta take care of little uber-Scully in there." He nodded toward her abdomen, distended in a pregnancy she still hadn't been able to explain to his satisfaction.

Her smile broadened. "Goodnight, Mulder."

"Goodnight, Scully." He stood at the door, watching her slow retreat, until she was swallowed up by the elevator. He exhaled in relief, sagging against the door.

Finally. Not that he hadn't genuinely appreciated the attention Scully and Skinner had lavished upon him since his miraculous return from the undead over a week ago. Early on, it had been wonderful to be the focus of so much solicitous care. But now that he felt almost normal again, the excessive attention was beginning to feel intrusive.

Furthermore, he was expecting a visitor, one he knew would not be making an appearance until Scully and Skinner had disappeared from the scene.

There was no guarantee that his anticipated visitor would show that night. Hell, the man might not show for a month. But sooner or later, his arrival was inevitable, and Mulder planned to be there, waiting.

The apartment was dark, a wash of moonlight through the windows providing the only illumination. Mulder lay on the couch, listening to the quiet gurgle of the fish tank.

Thank God they'd kept the apartment for him. It was difficult to believe he'd been gone so long, with no memory of those months... at least, no conscious memory. He suspected he was remembering in his dreams -- Scully and Skinner had wakened him numerous times in the past few days as he flailed and screamed in his bed -- but the images always faded away the moment he awoke. It would probably take regression hypnosis therapy to recapture those memories. He flinched at the thought. Scully said she had dreamed of him on the spaceship. She had offered few details, but the little she'd let slip suggested that any recovered memories involving his abduction were not going to be pleasant. Though compared with any recoverable memories of being buried alive...

He shook off the morbid thoughts with a repressed shudder, and burrowed more deeply into the couch. He smiled to himself, enjoying the familiar feel of leather against his back, and relishing the solitude. He'd always been a private person in many ways, and it was nice to finally have the apartment to himself again after so many days of Scully or Skinner sleeping over to keep an eye on him. Worse, they'd insisted he sleep in the bed, taking the couch for themselves. In vain for him to protest that he was more comfortable on the couch.

In some ways, his homecoming hadn't felt real until now. Tonight had been his first opportunity to reestablish his own accustomed patterns. He'd heated some stew in the microwave; watched the news on television; enjoyed his videotape of Planet 9 From Outer Space for the 43rd time. Everything still felt a bit *off* to him, but at least his apartment was slowly beginning to feel more like home.

At first, he wasn't sure if he'd heard the noise or imagined it. But when he heard the scrape in the lock, he knew it was no dream. His expected visitor had obviously resolved to take immediate advantage of the opportunity to find Mulder alone, perhaps fearing another chance might not come anytime soon.

Mulder lay still as the door silently slid open. He waited until the intruder had stepped all the way inside and closed the door behind him to turn on the lamp on the table next to the couch.

Alex Krycek froze, outlined against the wall by the entrance, blinking in the sudden brightness, his gun pointed directly at Mulder.

"Come on in, Krycek," Mulder said, dragging himself into a seated position, ignoring the weapon now trained on his heart. He himself was unarmed. His own FBI-issue firearms were being held at the FBI pending his reinstatement hearing, which had not even been scheduled. Scully and Skinner had offered to leave him a weapon for protection, but he had refused. "I've been expecting you." He waved vaguely at the room. "Make yourself at home. You always do."

Krycek's eyes flashed at the words. He stared around the apartment suspiciously, the gun tracking his search, his nervousness apparent.

"Worried, asshole? This isn't a set-up, if that's what you're thinking. Nobody here but us formerly undead, alien-hosting incubators. I sent Scully home. But of course you already knew that, since you were watching the place."

"You don't mind if I check for myself?" Krycek asked, obviously unconvinced.

Mulder shrugged. "Knock yourself out." He paused. "I mean that literally."

"Nice to see that famous sense of humor is still intact," Krycek jibed. "Only you, Mulder... Only you ... could hitch a joyride on an alien spaceship... spend months ... on a specimen table... some alien's ... pet science project... wind up... buried alive... in a coffin... food for worms... and come out of there... joking about it." He moved cautiously through the apartment as he spoke, searching room by room, closet by closet; pausing every few moments to make sure that Mulder hadn't stirred. Mulder leaned back against the couch with his eyes closed, trying to look as bored as possible.

"It's a gift," Mulder replied, looking up briefly to check the progress of Krycek's slow, painstaking search. "Aren't you going to scan for bugs?" he asked sarcastically.

"The only bugs in this apartment are mine, Mulder," Krycek retorted smugly.

Mulder sighed and closed his eyes again. It figured. And the Lone Gunmen had swept the place less than a week ago.

Eventually, his paranoid visitor had to concede that they were alone in the apartment. Mulder noted with amusement that even after Krycek holstered his weapon, he still seemed to expect an attack. The assassin lingered near the kitchen doorway, far from any windows, and about equidistant between the front entrance and the fire escape.

"You said you were expecting me?" Krycek asked suspiciously. "Why?"

"I spoke with Skinner. He told me you paid him a visit -- two visits, actually -- while I was unconscious and hovering near death in the hospital. His description of those encounters was most enlightening."

"In what way?" Krycek evidently decided that the living room was safe after all; he claimed one of the chairs across the coffee table from the couch. He still looked wary, as though not entirely sure of this new, improved version of Fox Mulder.

"Scully told me that Skinner had saved my life by taking me off life-support. When she came in to check me a few minutes after he'd done that, my condition was stabilizing rapidly. A couple of days of strong anti-viral medication, and I was myself again. But that isn't how it happened, is it, Alex?"

Krycek flinched almost imperceptibly at the use of his first name. Mulder noticed. He said nothing but filed away the observation for further consideration at a more convenient time.

"What are you talking about?" Krycek growled. Covering the slip.

"Skinner let me see my file. It made for interesting reading. Especially the part about Absalom and Jeremiah Smith. Since the millennium, the aliens have trotted out a new strategy for colonization. They've been abducting humans, and infecting them with a virus that uses human tissue to create a new alien life form in human shape. At least, that's what this self-proclaimed prophet, Absalom, told Agent Doggett. He's Scully's new partner -- I think you met him? There was something in the file about an encounter in the hospital parking garage..." Mulder grinned at Krycek's sour expression.

"Absalom didn't say an alien virus was responsible," Mulder clarified. "That's what you told Skinner. But Absalom told Doggett that if Jeremiah Smith didn't heal the abductees in time, they were transformed into aliens. So Scully's convenient 'life-support' theory doesn't work."

Krycek started to interject something, but evidently thought better of it. Mulder waited a moment, but Krycek remained silent, so he continued his explanation. "Scully claimed that I recovered because Skinner took me off life support. That is what you wanted her to believe. But it doesn't hold up as an explanation. I was buried in the fucking ground for three months and the alien virus kept me alive and incubating. Yet taking me off life support was supposed to have some magical effect?!" Mulder shook his head mournfully. "I also found it inconceivable that standard, nonspecific anti-virals, no matter how powerful, could have had any impact upon the alien virus that had infected me, let alone cure me in little over 24 hours."

"You going somewhere with this, Mulder?" Krycek asked, impatiently shifting in his chair. "I do have other plans for tonight."

"I'm getting there. You want a drink? Scully and Skinner stocked the place with enough food and soda to last through the next millennium. Nothing alcoholic, I'm afraid." Krycek demurred, but Mulder wandered into the kitchen to return with an unopened bottle of Coke and two empty glasses. He placed both glasses on the coffee table near Krycek, and opened the bottle with a grin and a flourish intended to demonstrate it had previously been sealed. He filled both glasses, and then invited Krycek to choose first. His guest ignored the sideshow and declined the invitation, so Mulder eventually selected one of the glasses for himself, leaving the other within Krycek's reach. He resumed his place on the couch and took several swallows of the Coke before continuing.

"It occurred to me, after talking with Skinner, reviewing my file and puzzling over Scully's totally implausible explanation of events, that there was a much simpler explanation at hand. You." He leaned forward on the couch, his fingers steepled, staring intently at Krycek. As Mulder leaned toward him, Krycek seemed to instinctively pull away. He appeared superficially calm, but his eyes betrayed his uneasiness.

"It was you, Krycek; wasn't it? You were in the hospital room with me, alone, when Skinner found you. You'd already given me the vaccine, but you didn't want Skinner to know that. So you offered him that ridiculous trade -- my life for Scully's baby -- knowing that he'd never consider such a deal. Then you goaded him by warning that if he didn't accept your terms, I would inevitably be transformed into an alien, unless he could figure out a way to kill me first. So of course he tried to kill me, as you knew he would. Giving you cover for my 'miraculous' recovery."

"It's a nice fairy tale, Mulder," Krycek sneered. "But why would I want to save your miserable skin; and even if I did, why wouldn't I want to milk it for all the reward I could get? Doesn't it occur to you that maybe I just wanted to jerk Skinner around -- make the big guy squirm -- and I didn't give a damn about you at all?"

"Of course it occurred to me, Krycek." Mulder took another sip of his Coke. "It was my first thought, actually -- you being the sadistic bastard that you are. But it didn't explain my 'miraculous' recovery."

"Fuck it, Mulder, why should I give a damn what happens to you?"

Mulder shook his head. "Damned if I know. But since you obviously do, perhaps you'd like to answer your own question?"

Agitated, Krycek rose to his feet. "I'm not listening to this!" He stalked angrily toward the door. Moving remarkably well for someone who'd been at death's door only a few days earlier, Mulder intercepted him, slamming Krycek against the wall with enough force to rattle the fixtures.

"You're not going anywhere, Krycek," Mulder spat. "You're not leaving until you've explained why you saved me, why you came here tonight and what exactly the hell is going on."

Krycek fumbled for his gun, but it was two hands against one, and Mulder got there first. He pressed the barrel against Krycek's chest, and the assassin instinctively recoiled; then slowly leaned into Mulder and the weapon he held. A tongue snaked out to lick the lips now curled into a defiant smile. Green eyes like darkened pools -- you could drown in those eyes -- framed by those delicate lashes, so totally out of place on the face of a killer...

Mulder blinked, wondering what the hell he was thinking, and why time seemed to be standing still.

"Do it, Mulder." Krycek's whispered command sent shivers down Mulder's spine. "Pull the trigger."

For long seconds, they stood there, entwined, feeling each other's heat; then Mulder dumped the gun magazine onto the floor and tossed the empty weapon toward the kitchen, well out of reach. Still holding Krycek firmly in his grasp, Mulder dragged the other man back to the chair he had so recently vacated, and shoved him into it. When Krycek immediately tried to rise, Mulder slammed him back. He waited there patiently to make sure Krycek would stay put before resuming his own seat on the couch.

"Well, Krycek?" Mulder said with false politeness. "I still want an answer."

"Fuck you, Mulder," Krycek growled.

"Is that a request or an explanation?" Mulder asked brightly. Krycek started to rise again, but the ominous glint in Mulder's eyes convinced him to stay where he was.

Krycek finally took a sip of his own soda, obviously buying time to consider his response. When he finally spoke, his words came as a considerable surprise.

"All right, Mulder. Yes. I gave you the vaccine. We used you as a guinea pig -- wanted to see if the new vaccine would work in an uncontrolled, real world environment. Happy now?"

"Who is 'we'?" Mulder queried, firmly repressing his excitement at the grudging confirmation of what he had suspected all along.

"Alien rebels. Opposed to colonization." Krycek took another sip of his Coke. Mulder waited for him to continue, but he remained stubbornly silent.

"You're working with these rebels? They gave you the vaccine?" Krycek shrugged. "You told Skinner it was something my father developed," Mulder half-accused, half-questioned.

This time, a smile played around Krycek's lips. "I lied." He took another sip of his drink. "What the colonists are doing -- infecting humans and transforming them into alien life forms -- is new. So is the vaccine that halts the process. The Tunguska vaccine has no effect against this particular alien virus. Obviously, since you yourself are immune to the effects of the Tunguska Oil."

"I'm immune?" Mulder echoed.

"Jesus, Mulder, what did you think we were doing in Tunguska? Playing scrabble?" Krycek sounded disgusted.

"I thought I dragged you there, following up a lead. It wasn't until several weeks later that I realized who had manipulated whom." Mulder glared at Krycek with more than a touch of his usual antagonism. "You let them torture me!"

"I had you immunized against the Black Oil," Krycek corrected frostily. "And some thanks I got for my trouble." He looked sideways at his prosthetic arm, and Mulder unwillingly followed the glance.

"I might have been more grateful if you'd bothered to explain instead of jerking me around," Mulder retorted, already considering the implications of what Krycek had just told him. Had Krycek really had him immunized? Was that the true explanation for that particular exercise in manipulation? Something else to think about at a more appropriate time. "What about Oregon, Krycek? Did you arrange to have me abducted for my own good, too?"

"I didn't plan that," Krycek said coldly. "That was your smoking friend's idea. He made a deal with the alien bounty hunters. You'd proved a thorn in their side so long, they wanted a closer look. Spender was only too pleased to accommodate them." Krycek smiled malevolently. "He lived just long enough to regret that mistake."

"He's dead?" Sudden realization. "You killed him!" Mulder accused.

"He met with an unfortunate accident shortly after your disappearance. Stairs can be so dangerous," Krycek said, sounding very pleased with himself. "Though the timing was unfortunate for him. The aliens had promised to heal his illness once you'd been safely delivered to them; but even they can't revive those already dead."

Mulder tried to absorb the shock of this revelation. The Smoking Man, dead. Finally, permanently, irrevocably dead. At Krycek's hands. Mulder quickly realized he didn't give a damn that Spender was dead. What was shocking was the implied suggestion Krycek had killed him in retaliation for Mulder's abduction.

The hell with that. Krycek was probably just pissed off Spender had used him to get to Mulder. Mulder nodded to himself, reassured. Yes. That made much more sense. Krycek the master manipulator probably didn't care much for being manipulated himself. And he undoubtedly had his own scores to settle with the Smoker. That was much easier to believe than the idea that Krycek had somehow been troubled by Mulder's abduction. Although it was very easy to believe Krycek might *want* Mulder to believe that; might want Mulder to feel grateful for being avenged.

Of course, based on what he'd confirmed tonight, Mulder already owed the ratbastard his life. Not a happy thought.

Mulder brought the conversation back to the original topic. "Forget Spender. Let's talk vaccine. When I was returned, you knew I was infected with an alien virus. Your rebel friends had recently developed a new but untested vaccine you, or they, thought might destroy this virus. So you tried it on me. Everything else was subterfuge, to distract Skinner and Scully from what was actually happening. Is that about right?"

"Close. The vaccine had been tested, but only on infected tissue samples under carefully controlled laboratory conditions. It had never been tried on a living, infected human." Krycek leaned back in his chair and placed his feet on the coffee table.

There was a challenge implicit in the action, but Mulder wasn't fool enough to take the bait and hare off on a tangent of macho male posturing when Krycek was, for once, being fairly informative. "So you didn't know if the vaccine would actually cure me?"

Krycek shrugged. "We knew it would destroy the alien infection. Whether or not you would survive the process was a question mark."

"Another reason you wanted cover." Mulder nodded to himself, satisfied. "Thanks."

Krycek blinked, startled. "For what?"

"I couldn't figure out why you helped me, even though it was the only logical explanation for my recovery. It didn't make sense. But now it does. You weren't trying to save me; you were trying to prove the cure. I was just a convenient lab rat."

Krycek smiled as he visibly relaxed. "Yes. You were. Not that I had any objection to your survival; you're an amusing enough conversationalist, Mulder, when you're not trying to bash my brains in."

"Which brings us to tonight. Why the return visit? Follow-up on your research project?"

Krycek nodded, and pulled his feet back off the table. "You haven't lost it, Mulder. Good guess. I took blood and tissue samples from you, both while you were infected, and after the administration of the vaccine. I also arranged for a couple of later samples taken while you were recovering to find their way to the rebel scientists. But the rebels want additional blood and tissue samples. They want to make sure there's nothing in your system that shouldn't be there. No residual effects from either the infection or the vaccine."

"And you expected me to simply sit here and let you draw my blood? One-handed?" Mulder stared at him in disbelief.

"Actually, I had counted on holding a gun on you at the time, and letting you draw your own blood," Krycek confessed sheepishly, his lips twisting slightly. "I hadn't really envisioned the possibility of a civilized discussion of the matter."

"It's not our usual mode of communication," Mulder agreed, grinning. "All right, Krycek. I'll give you your blood and tissue samples. Voluntarily. On two conditions."

"What conditions?" Krycek asked suspiciously. He withdrew the blood kit from his jacket pocket and tossed it gently onto the couch beside Mulder. The agent opened the kit to study the contents; then laid it to one side.

"First, I want to know the results. If there's anything floating around in my tissue or my blood that shouldn't be there, I want to know about it."

"Done," Krycek agreed readily. "And the second condition?"

"I want the truth about Scully's baby."

A mask fell over Krycek's face. It went absolutely still. Even his eyes were cold. "What do you want to know?" Admitting nothing. Conceding nothing.

"Whose child it is, for a start. How she became pregnant. You know -- everything. All those trifling little details. Oh, and why you gave that warning to Skinner. And don't tell me you were just trying to jerk his chain and cover the use of the vaccine."

"Warning?" The mask lifted enough to reveal polite disinterest.

"You threatened Scully's unborn child. I want to know why, Alex." He placed a light emphasis upon the name, while keeping his tone deliberately gentle. This time, he was unsurprised to see his adversary's flinch. Interesting. Another piece of data to file away.

"I hardly threatened the child," Krycek said evasively. "I merely offered Skinner a trade."

"A trade you knew he would never consider making. So you must have offered the trade for other reasons. Why, Alex? Is something wrong with the fetus? Is Scully in any danger?"

"What the hell --?" Krycek pursed his lips, apparently thinking better of whatever he had been about to say. He sighed. "Scully is always in danger, Mulder. As are you, since you insist on poking your head into matters that don't concern you, even when that can prove hazardous to your health. One might think your recent visit to the outer limits might have cured you of the tendency, but it doesn't seem to have had any effect. As far as Scully's child is concerned, I'm going to do you a big favor. I'm not going to answer your questions."

"But you know how she became pregnant. You know whose child she's carrying."

"And if I do?" Krycek hedged.

"I have to know," Mulder argued, his tone becoming strident again. "Damnit, Krycek, I need to know if the baby she's carrying is a danger to her!" Shit! Mulder swore inwardly. Krycek had been so obviously rattled when Mulder addressed him in familiar, friendly fashion. His relief when Mulder started to swear at him was almost palpable. Stupid!

Unfortunately, old habits were very difficult to break, and it was far too easy to fall back into habitual patterns of recrimination. Particularly when Krycek had such a natural talent for making Mulder angry.

But whether from relief or something else, Krycek was finally answering Mulder's questions, after a fashion. "The fetus itself? No. But there are a lot of parties interested in that child."

"Are you one of them? Or was that just a smokescreen?"

Krycek dipped his head. "I have an interest, yes. Or rather, the rebels do. It happens to coincide with yours. We want to be sure that the child does not fall into unfriendly hands."

"Unfriendly?" Mulder said uneasily.

"Alien," Krycek clarified, green eyes locking on hazel ones intently.

"Fuck!" Mulder said. He was half expecting it, but the truth still burned.

"Is that a request or an invitation?" As Mulder flushed in embarrassment at hearing his own words twisted and aimed back at him, Krycek rose and came over to the couch. Mulder firmly resisted the impulse to pull away. He faced Krycek almost defiantly, ignoring the tension permeating every inch of his frame.

"Shall we?"

It took a moment for Mulder to realize that Krycek was referring to the blood test. He blushed, willing his body to relax, and damning Krycek to the seven hells. Bastard had done that on purpose, to unsettle him, and he'd succeeded. A small retaliation for Mulder's casual commandeering of Krycek's name in all likelihood, Mulder imagined.

"Oh. Yeah. I guess," he said lamely, still reluctant. Krycek's friends were by far the most likely to know if there was something slightly wrong with his blood, since they'd developed the vaccine themselves. But it wasn't as though Mulder could trust Krycek to share the results, promise or no.

Still, he didn't have a lot of options.

Between the two of them, they managed to find a vein and draw enough blood to fill three test tubes, as well as scrape some skin cells onto a glass slide. Krycek secured the samples carefully in the padded kit and replaced it in his jacket pocket. Mulder felt strange having the other man so close to him, well within his personal space, with no blows being exchanged. Uncomfortable. Disjointed. The air between them felt superheated; charged with swirling energies. The last time they'd been together like this, alone, in Mulder's apartment -- Krycek had spoken of alien invasion that night too -- invasion and resist and serve and tovarisch and he'd never seen that curve ball coming... Mulder snapped off that train of thought with an effort, forcing himself to think only of the here and now. He realized he was sweating.

Krycek must have felt something as well, because the moment they'd drawn enough blood, he removed the tourniquet, pressed an antiseptic wipe into Mulder's hand and backed away hurriedly. Mulder might have been amused if he hadn't been feeling such profound relief when Krycek moved out of close proximity. Whatever this was, it seemed that Krycek was no more immune to its thrall than he.

Some day he would really have to focus some attention on why the two of them affected each other the way they did. Some day. Maybe in a hundred years or so. It was not a problem he was ready to face anytime soon. He took a deep breath, exhaled heavily. Gnawed on his lower lip.

"We're done." Krycek almost managed to sound like his usual smug self. "I got what I came for." He patted his jacket pocket as he walked across the room to retrieve his gun and ammunition.

"Wait! How can I contact you?" Mulder protested instinctively.

Krycek looked up in surprise from the floor where he was kneeling to retrieve the bullet-loaded magazine cartridge. "You can't, Mulder. I'll contact *you* when the time is right." He rose to his feet.

"But what if something goes wrong? What if the aliens come after Scully? But you'll know that, won't you," Mulder said bitterly, answering his own question, "because you'll be watching."

Krycek smiled without answering as he finished reloading his gun. He holstered the weapon and walked toward the door where Mulder was now standing. Mulder briefly considered trying to stop the other man from leaving. So many questions still remaining, and the man with most of the answers was walking out of his life once again. But it seemed from what Krycek had said tonight, they were on the same side for a change. There would be other opportunities to ask those questions. He'd have to console himself with that.

As Mulder stood by the door, waiting for his visitor to leave, Krycek suddenly pulled him close in a fierce hug. Mulder froze in surprise. His mind blanked, awareness narrowing down to an intense awareness of the hand on his back, his skin prickling beneath the touch, even through the sweatshirt. The warmth of the body pressed against his own. Two hearts thudding together in wild abandon.

"I'm glad to see you looking so well, tovarisch," Krycek whispered, his voice so soft that Mulder was forced to press even closer and strain to hear the words. "Take care of yourself." It was deja vu all over again as lips brushed lightly against Mulder's tense and quivering cheek.

With an enigmatic smile, Krycek finally released him and headed for the door. Mulder slowly collected himself and remembered how to breathe. He barely noticed as Krycek closed the door behind him.

Mulder automatically engaged the locks, his thoughts a million miles away, careening in meaningless circles and collisions. His right hand rose to caress the spot where cool lips had left their mark upon burning skin for the second time.

He stumbled to the couch on legs that were suddenly unsteady. Leaned back with eyes closed, concentrating on his breathing, until he felt in control once more.

This had to stop. Alex Krycek was a liar and a murderer, yet Mulder shattered every time the man touched him. Probably amused the hell out of the bastard. He was probably watching Mulder right now on his snoops, laughing his head off at another successful mindfuck.

Mulder groaned, resisting a sudden desire to start breaking things. His cheek burned, and he rubbed at it. The skin shivered in echoed memory. Angrily, he rubbed harder. Never again. He would not be played. This was the last time he would ever let Alex Krycek get to him like that.

Now all he had to do was convince himself.


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