Title: The Power to Save Ourselves
Summary: The dead are not lost to us.
Note: This story was written to help me deal with the death of Krycek, and it also explores my own spiritual beliefs and practices, and illustrates the way I believe Mulder and Scully, with Krycek's guidance, really could avert the destruction of the world as they know it.
Dedication: This one is for my unique and wonderful, pairing-mixing woman, Shannon. This is the continuation of the finale that would keep us both happy, I think. Thank you for caring about Krycek even while finally seeing your shippy-kiss-loving dreams come true. Your ability to embrace both the Mulder/Scully and the Mulder/Krycek relationship is an inspiration and example to us all.
"He was there."
"Hmmm?" Scully mumbled, eyes still closed.
"He was there."
Scully opened her eyes, abandoning her attempts to sleep. "Who was there, Mulder?"
Scully's brows drew down in a frown as she stared into Mulder's intent eyes, just inches in front of her own. "I don't understand."
Mulder sighed. "I'm not sure I do, either, but he was there," he said. "X, too."
"Your informant? The one they found in your hall?"
They were quiet, holding one another and studying each other's faces, one trying to pull forth some rationality from what was an out- of-control situation at best, the other wondering if he would be believed this time.
"Well, what were they doing?" Scully finally asked, shifting in Mulder's arms a bit, settling in for a deep discussion.
"They were helping me," Mulder said. "Both of them."
Mulder's heart sped up just a little at being believed so easily. It felt good. Almost better than being made love to by the only woman he'd ever really been able to depend on. A woman he'd almost always known without a doubt to be his soulmate. "Alex helped me escape..."
"Alex?" Scully's brows rose in surprise.
Mulder was quiet a moment, not having even chosen to use Alex Krycek's first name on a conscious level. He considered whether or not to keep using it. "Yeah, Alex," he finally answered. "Scully, whatever crimes he committed while alive, he's in a different place now, and it doesn't seem right to use his frequently-epithetic last name, you know?"
Scully just arched her brows again, but chewed her lip thoughtfully, not arguing with Mulder's choice of monikers.
"Anyway, he showed me where to run. Then he was there, in my cell with me."
"What was he doing?" Scully's frown was one of curious concern, not disapproval or disbelief. Mulder reached up and smoothed a thumb between her brows, relaxing the creased skin there. Scully sighed and softened her features, holding Mulder a little more tightly.
"He talked to me, Scully. He told me not to give up. He told me he'd help me all he could. He said I couldn't do it on my own."
"Well, do you think he just meant the trial, or...?"
"I don't know. But he was there at the trial, too. He warned me that they would kill Marita if I let her continue to testify."
"So he was protecting her, too?" Scully's voice rose a bit in surprise.
"Yeah. Yeah, he was."
"Mulder...why do you think he tried to...I mean..."
Mulder sighed, closing his eyes on a familiar guilty pain. "He didn't have any choice, Scully. They owned him. It was him or me, and he honestly thought he was sparing more lives by taking mine."
"He told you that?"
"No. He didn't have to. I never told you about that night, Scully. He was...tortured. He didn't want to do it. I could see that. But all I could think of was that I'd trusted him again, and now I was finally going to lose my life over it. I wasn't even scared, really. Just...defeated, I guess."
Scully stroked his hip reassuringly and he moved in closer against her, their bodies flush, his leg slung over her small frame.
"But he hesitated," Mulder went on, nuzzling his face into her neck, unwilling to look at her face as he spoke of this for the first time. "And Walter shot him."
Scully felt Mulder's breath hot against her neck and tilted her head to give him room to get comfortable. He took advantage of it, nestling in more snugly, placing a soft kiss on her pulse. She shivered, and tried to stay clear. "Do you think he would have killed you?"
"Oh yeah," answered Mulder against the skin of her neck. "He was already pulling the trigger, though reluctantly. I would have been a dead man if not for Walt." He settled in, breathing in her clean, shower-fresh scent, and began to fall asleep, the burden of his thoughts unloaded.
Scully moved her hand up and stroked Mulder's hair as she felt him go to sleep against her neck. She pondered the motives of Alex Krycek, alive and dead, until sleep pulled her under, too.
"You have to leave."
Mulder jerked awake, startling Scully to awareness in the watery pre- dawn light. "What?"
"What?" Scully blinked and yawned.
"What did you say?" asked Mulder, moving back out of her embrace and stretching his aching body.
"Mulder, you woke me, not the other way around," answered Scully, rubbing her eyes.
"Something woke me," said Mulder, looking around the room and sitting up in bed, reaching for the bedside lamp.
"What?" Scully's voice was awake and concerned now, even a little scared. She scooted up in the bed, pulling her knees up to her chest.
Mulder got up from the bed, moving slowly, babying a hundred bruises, scrapes and pulled muscles as he looked the small motel room over carefully. Finding nothing, he stood in the middle of the room, frowning. "I...I think we'd better leave, Scully."
"What? Why?" Scully watched Mulder as he restlessly scanned the room again.
"I just think we'd better go," answered Mulder quietly, heading over to the bathroom to gather up the few things he'd unpacked.
Scully started to protest again, then apparently decided that sticking with Mulder meant trusting those uncanny intuitive leaps he was always making. She sighed and crawled off the bed, looking for her clothes.
Mulder stepped into the bathroom, then closed the door behind him as he realized he had to pee. He unzipped his jeans and let go with a quiet sigh.
"They'll be here in about twenty minutes."
Mulder jumped, spraying urine over the back of the seat and leaving golden droplets on the floor all around.
Krycek smiled gently. "Not exactly."
"You couldn't have waited until I was done taking a leak?" asked Mulder, tucking his insufficiently-drained penis back into his pants quickly.
"Hey, if Frohike gets to see it..." Krycek shrugged.
"How did you...?"
Krycek smiled, the closest to happy Mulder had seen him since...Duane Barry.
"We're in this together now," he explained, stepping back to give Mulder room to back away from the toilet. "We talk." He shrugged.
"What do you mean?" asked Mulder, stepping over to wash his hands and throw his stuff into his shaving kit.
"Well, Mulder, you're in a lot of trouble," answered Krycek, backing up to the door to allow Mulder to move around and gather up his things. He started to grab some of Scully's and Krycek's hand came out, resting on his and startling him deeply. "She's gonna want to use those first, Mulder," said Krycek quietly, indicating the toiletries in Mulder's hand. Mulder swallowed back his thudding heart, feeling burned by the warm touch on his hand. He loosed his grip on the pastel-colored tubes and bottles and felt Krycek loose his grip as well.
"How can you...touch me?" asked Mulder, feeling a slight flush creep up on his cheeks at the seemingly-juvenile question.
"It's not juvenile, Mulder. I wouldn't have expected things to work like this either, frankly," he said, ignoring Mulder's shocked expression. "What do I feel like, anyway? Cold? Hot? Slimy?" Krycek smirked good-naturedly.
"Warm," said Mulder quietly. "Like you're still..."
"Alive?" asked Krycek, brows arched.
Mulder just nodded slowly.
"Hmm...well, I'm not...I mean, I'm not in physical form, anyway," he clarified, holding his own hand...his left hand...up to his face and examining it briefly. "Contrary to all appearances. Of course, you're the only one who can see me."
"You're really dead, then," said Mulder stupidly.
"Uh yeah, Mulder. I am. Did you think that was just a flesh wound?" Krycek's tone was unaccusing, but Mulder felt bad just the same.
"No. No, I didn't. But...why do you look like that?" Mulder nodded, indicating the black dress shirt and slacks Alex was wearing. The same clothes he'd been killed in. It was vaguely unsettling.
"What I look like depends on how you see me," answered Krycek, looking down at his noncorporeal attire, then looking up at Mulder from under lowered lashes. "I'm not 'here' for anyone but you. How would you rather I looked?"
Mulder swallowed, letting his eyes roam over the form in front of him. "Well...do you have to wear the black? I mean...it's kind of creepy."
"I always wear...wore black," Alex said, correcting himself without discomfort. "But if something else would make you more comfortable..."
Mulder looked around nervously.
"Mulder?" Scully's voice on the other side of the door made him jump. "Did you say something to me?"
"Uh...yeah, but it was nothing important," answered Mulder, glancing at Krycek, who stood silently. "I'll tell you when I get out."
"Okay," answered Scully. "I'm all packed and ready when you are."
"You two need to hurry," Krycek agreed. "We can talk later. Get your stuff and get out of here. Oh, and clean up the floor, Mulder. Scully has to use this room next, you know."
"Where should we go?" asked Mulder, instantly feeling his best chance for survival was to listen to everything Krycek had to say. That included cleaning up the floor, which he did with a wet hand towel, muttering that it should be Alex down here instead of him, since it was his fault the floor was a mess.
"For now, just get in the car and head East," said Krycek. "They will be expecting you to try to leave the country, so this move will be unanticipated. You need allies. That's your next step."
Mulder opened his mouth to ask another question just as Scully's voice called through the door again.
Mulder looked at the door, then back to Alex, but he was gone. "I just said we need to get out of here, now, Scully." Mulder tossed the dirty towel into the bathtub and opened the door, not looking back into the bathroom as he stepped out. He knew Krycek wasn't in there anymore. But he also knew Krycek was still with him. Maybe always with him. He frowned, still unsettled.
"Well, if you didn't take more time in the bathroom than my sister, I'd be done already," answered Scully, closing the door on Mulder's surprised blink. Mulder smiled and made one last check of the room for forgotten items.
"I wonder if we should worry about leaving traces of ourselves behind," he muttered to himself, looking at the rumpled, slightly stained bedclothes sheepishly.
"Don't bother," said Krycek nearly in his ear, and Mulder jumped. "They know you're here already," he went on, and Mulder turned around, jumping back in startlement as he saw his ex- partner/enemy/betrayer/attempted murderer.
"Better?" asked Krycek, hands held out at his sides. He was dressed in the trademarked flowing white silk robes, which draped him from shoulders to feet.
"Holy shit!" exclaimed Mulder, backing away. "Now *that's* creepy! What the hell is that all about?"
Krycek examined the long, draping sleeves of his robe, waving his arms a little to make them drift. "You said the *black* was creepy. So I whipped this up."
Mulder couldn't help but smile, looking at his sworn mortal enemy, looking like a fallen angel. "Lose the robes, Krycek," he said, shaking his head. "They don't suit you."
"Surely you don't want me tagging around after you in the buff," Krycek said, head tilted mischeviously.
"Uh no," answered Mulder quickly, eyes darting toward the bathroom door, which remained closed. "Just...wear what's comfortable, I guess," he said, feeling himself blush again.
"Mulder, I have no feelings...no sensations, anyway," Krycek said patiently. "I look like whatever you need me to. Can we stop arguing about my fashion sense and get you two out to the car already? You've got ten minutes now to get a headstart on them. They won't be expecting you to even be awake when they blow the place."
Mulder turned back and found to his relief that Krycek was back in his dress shirt and slacks. He supposed he'd have to get used to it, or give thought to what he was going to tell him to look like instead. Krycek. Appearing only to him. *For* him. He'd have to ask him why, later. "Wait a minute. They're going to blow up the motel?"
"Yes, and you'll do no one any honor trying to save twenty unsuspecting, deeply sleeping strangers rather than saving your own very valuable, though battered and decidedly too-skinny ass." At Mulder's frown, Krycek's expression softened. "There's nothing you can do, Mulder. They won't be the first or the last to die in this war. There's only one way you can hope to make any kind of a difference. Listen to me. And stay alive."
Before Mulder could really even come to grips with what he knew was the cold, hard truth, Scully opened the bathroom door, carrying her bag over her shoulder, looking perfectly put-together, as always. Mulder felt like a grizzled old man next to her. He looked back to where Krycek had been standing, but he wasn't surprised when he found nothing there. "C'mon, Scully," he said, gathering her in a soft embrace. "We have to go." He bent down and pressed his lips to hers gently.
She returned his soft kiss and pulled back. "Where, Mulder? Where are we going?"
Mulder sighed and turned, leading her out the door into the quickly brightening morning. "East."
Mulder kept glancing in his rearview mirror, only half the time checking to see if they'd been followed. The other times he was checking to see if Krycek would be calmly riding with them in the backseat. He never was. Mulder turned his attention back to the endless desert road.
"Mulder, there's no one behind us," said Scully, glancing helplessly out the rear window, spooked by his nervousness. "How did you know to leave?"
Mulder sighed, gripping the wheel more tightly. "He told me."
"Krycek?" Scully immediately guessed, staring at Mulder, who glanced quickly at her and turned his attention back to the road.
"It was Krycek that you heard this morning? He woke you up?"
"Yeah," Mulder said again, not able to keep himself from glancing in the rearview mirror again.
"Well," Scully said, obviously at a bit of a loss. "What else did he say?"
Mulder decided not to tell her about the plan to blow up the motel. She didn't need to carry it on her conscience, too. "He just said they were coming and that we needed to leave. And he said to go East, because they wouldn't be expecting it."
Scully nodded slowly. "I suppose that makes sense," she said, considering. "So...where are we headed, exactly?"
"I don't know yet," said Mulder, not adding that Krycek hadn't told him yet. He wasn't sure Scully would like their travel plans being in Krycek's hands, even though he knew in his soul that he could trust Krycek now.
"Well, can we grab something to eat at the next town?" asked Scully, in a surprisingly calm voice. Mulder realized she'd truly thrown in with him, for better or for worse in the most real way possible.
"Yeah, I think that'd be all right," he answered with a gentle smile.
"So do you see him or just hear him?"
Mulder's brows arched in surprise. He hadn't thought about the curiosity Scully would naturally have. "I...I see him," he answered quietly.
Scully was quiet for a long time, just staring out at the desert road as it was eaten up by their SUV. Her next words shook Mulder out of partial highway hypnosis with a start.
"Is he here now?" Her voice was quiet, and she didn't look at him.
He started to say 'no', then realized he really didn't know for sure. He felt a little queasy not knowing if Krycek was watching his every move or not. Then he wondered what a spirit did when it wasn't appearing to the person it was hanging around for. He had so many questions to ask Krycek the next time he decided to put in an appearance. "I don't think so," he answered finally, frowning slightly.
"You don't think so?" Scully asked, turning to look at him now.
"I don't see him...or hear him...I mean, I guess he's probably not here," Mulder said, feeling more and more uncomfortable with the strange conversation.
"Oh," replied Scully, looking out her side window now. Mulder knew this was asking her to stretch her concept of reality a lot more than she was comfortable with, and he felt bad for that. He was going to make a stab at bringing up a new subject when she startled him again. "Can you...will he come if you ask him to?"
Mulder gaped at her then turned back to the road, shifting in his seat. He chewed his lip, feeling confused and deeply uncertain. "I...I guess I don't know," he answered her finally. "I never tried."
Scully nodded again and looked back out the window.
She didn't bring the subject up again, and an hour later they pulled up to a diner in a tiny town in Texas. Mulder stretched his tense, long legs out under the table as Scully gave him a little smile and headed for the restrooms. He sighed deeply and sipped at the water the server had put on the table. He looked around at the deserted diner, the only other occupants a couple of truck drivers who had chosen to sit at the counter. He looked at his watch, still set on Mountain time. It was only six o'clock in the morning. The locals weren't really stirring yet. There was no one around to notice him as he swallowed and cleared his throat quietly.
"Alex?" He felt himself blush furiously, feeling slightly crazy for thinking this would work.
"What is it, Mulder?" said Krycek's low, soft voice in his ear. He jumped, spilling some of his water on the table. He firmed his lips in a frustrated line and wiped it up with his napkin.
"You're bound and determined to get me wet, aren't you," Mulder murmured, keeping his voice barely audible in the empty diner.
Krycek chuckled in his ear. Mulder turned and saw no one there. He frowned and turned back to the table quickly. God, maybe he really was crazy.
"You're not crazy," Krycek reassured him. "I just didn't know if you'd want the few patrons here seeing you looking at someone who wasn't there. I can make myself visible if you want."
Mulder considered for half a second. "Please. I can be discreet. Hearing you and not seeing you is too schizophrenic for my tastes. Brings back bad memories."
Instantly, Alex was there, seated in the chair across from him, hands folded on the menu. Mulder sighed with relief.
"I'm here whenever you need me to be, Mulder," Krycek said, uncannily answering Mulder's unasked question. "Like I said, you're the only one who can see me, and you're my main reason for still hanging around."
"Main reason?" Mulder said under his breath, scanning his menu and glancing at Krycek from time to time.
"I'm here to stop the invasion," Krycek explained. "But I chose to attach myself to you. You're the best hope we have."
"Attach yourself?" asked Mulder, glancing up from his menu again, then raising his eyes to his smiling partner as she headed for her chair. The one Alex was sitting in. Mulder quickly looked back at the chair, but it was empty. He calmed his stuttery breathing as Scully took her seat and picked up the menu Alex had rested his folded hands on.
He decided not to tell her about Alex's 'visitations' unless she asked, or it was absolutely necessary. He could tell it made her very uncomfortable, and it wasn't as if he was keeping it from her. She knew about Alex, and if she ever wanted to know more than he was telling her, all she had to do was ask. He wanted to ask Alex why he didn't appear when Scully was around, then realized that Alex probably realized Scully wasn't ready to see Mulder talking to thin air. He felt grateful. And relieved.
They finished their meal quickly, not liking the feeling of being out in the open as the morning crowd started stumbling in, asking for coffee. They got back out on the road and Mulder felt himself relax again.
Scully didn't ask where they were going, and Mulder was grateful again because he didn't know himself. They simply ate up the miles and headed East.
"I suppose we should just drive until dark then find another little motel somewhere," Mulder said, fiddling with the radio knob, frustrated with the choice of five country stations, one old-oldies station and some perky little teeny-bopper station that seemed fixated on 'N Sync. He made a mental note to hit a music store somewhere along the way and stock up on CD's. They hadn't thought to bring any, naturally, having been in somewhat of a hurry to leave town following Mulder's jail-break. He lamented the loss of his favorite Moby CD with a sigh, snapping off the snowy, irritating radio.
Scully nodded, watching Mulder's doomed battle with the car radio with a small half-smirk. She was sorry she hadn't grabbed a CD or two on her way out the door with Mulder's duffel bag. She'd always kept fresh razors and an extra toothbrush on hand in case he came back, and she'd tucked those and some clothes in the bag when Walter had called her, telling her he'd found Mulder. She shivered, remembering her mixed exhilaration and fear, fear for Mulder's safety at being found, and being locked up in a strange prison. If she'd only known how terrible things would get...but then, she wouldn't have done anything differently, she supposed.
She settled back into the seat, watching the scenery get marginally more interesting as they crossed from Texas into Oklahoma. She tried to remember if they'd ever been on a case there. She busied herself with recounting casefiles in her head as they started to see more signs of civilization and Mulder tried the radio again. This time they got a classic rock station they could both deal with and the ride seemed less tedious.
"We need to gather some supplies," said Mulder out of nowhere, startling Scully out of her mental sing-along with Rod Stewart.
"What do you suggest?" she asked, feeling uncomfortable with how dependent she seemed, but knowing that Mulder had the insight they needed to make it through this.
"Well, we need cell phones," Mulder began, and Scully smirked. "And no, I'm not lapsing into catatonic schizophrenia quite yet," Mulder added, smirking back. "But we need to have a way to stay in touch with each other, and to get ahold of someone if we need to."
"It's going to be impossible to get a cell phone without revealing ourselves to anyone, Mulder. They ask all kinds of questions...run a credit report..."
"I know," answered Mulder. "We'll have to figure a way around that. We need allies." He chewed his lip, remembering Alex's advice. He hoped Alex had some ideas about where to find some, because he was at a loss. He didn't want to involve Walter, Reyes, Doggett, Marita, or Gibson any further unless he had to. He was trying to keep them safe, if he could keep no one else out of this horror.
"Who?" asked Scully, breaking into his thoughts and voicing them aloud.
"I don't know," he murmured.
Scully looked at him. "Is Alex helping you find allies, Mulder?"
Mulder looked at her quickly, then back to the road. "Not yet," was all he said, scanning the small businesses dotting the roadside, looking for a music store. He saw what looked like a small record store and pulled in. Scully smiled, not about to make a protest.
Mulder smiled back. "What can I get ya?" he quipped, reaching for the door handle.
"Anything but country," answered Scully. Mulder grinned and nodded, stepping out of the car. "Or 'N Sync!" Scully yelled, reaching into the backseat to rifle through her bag for the gum she'd thrown in at the diner.
Mulder headed to the rock section and quickly grabbed about a dozen CD's by various artists, spanning the decades from the seventies to the nineties and beyond. He sighed audibly with pleasure as he pulled Moby's 'Play' from the dusty racks.
"Yeah, that's a good one," Alex agreed in his ear, and Mulder jumped, jostling his growing, slippery pile of CD's. Krycek reached out and steadied them, and Mulder wondered if anyone was trying to figure out why that CD had slid to the side and then back again all by itself. Just an X-File, he said mentally to the people around him, grinning and balancing the pile again. "Don't forget the Nine Inch Nails," Alex added, reaching out and placing a finger against the edge of the CD, but waiting for Mulder to pull it, not wanting to freak out the few innocent bystanders.
Mulder didn't figure he'd better argue, since it would probably get him thrown in the booby hatch and he'd been there, thanks, and still had the drooled-on T-shirt. He added NIN to the stack.
"Anything else?" he murmured under his breath, clutching the music to his chest.
"Yeah, grab the Linkin Park, and Vast, and..."
"Hey, I'm not using plastic here, and unless ghosts carry cash these days, I need to keep to some kind of budget."
Alex wrinkled his nose. "Well you can put back that Pet Shop Boys one and trade it for Linkin Park, at least," he said, reaching for the offensive CD, buried under six others.
Mulder wouldn't put it past him to pull it out and send the whole lot tumbling to the floor for Mulder to pick up. "All right! All right," he said quickly, carefully extracting the CD and scanning the racks for Alex's choice.
Alex walked over and flipped the CD in front of his beloved Linkin Park out of the way so Mulder could grab it. Mulder did, heading for the checkout counter before Alex could spend any more of his money. He smiled and paid for the CD's while Alex stood beside him patiently. He tried not to look at him but couldn't help glancing to the side from time to time as the clerk slipped his CD's into a bag and gave him his change. He grabbed the bag and headed for the door. As he stepped into the parking lot, he realized he had things to ask Alex, but he was already in front of the car now and Alex was gone. Mulder knew he wasn't really gone, but he'd lost his chance to ask his questions. He sighed and smiled as Scully spotted him and grinned, her ruby lips moving as she chewed gum. Mulder enjoyed watching Scully's lips move, whatever the provocation, and the sight of his gum-chewing partner brightened his grin another hundred watts.
He slid into the seat next to her and laid the bag in her lap. She shuffled through the choices curiously.
"Mmm...I haven't listened to Billy Joel in years!" she exclaimed delightedly. "And Prince! Oh Mulder...you've done well, for the most part," she continued flipping through the titles, setting aside the Prince one as her first choice for play. "Linkin Park? Who's that?"
"Uh...modern alternative stuff," Mulder answered with a shrug.
"Hmm..." answered Scully. "Well, we can start with that one if you want to." She smiled at him and he smiled back, feeling her love radiating in her small gesture.
"That's okay," Mulder said without thinking. "It's not one of my favorite bands, really."
"Why did you buy it then?"
Oh shit. Oops. He turned the key and backed carefully out of the lot and got on the road before answering. "Alex wanted it."
He looked over to see Scully staring at him, open-mouthed. "You're kidding," she finally said, looking down at the CD in her hand as if it, too, were from The Great Beyond.
"No," replied Mulder. "He made me put back the Pet Shop Boys in exchange."
Scully blinked and looked back down at the CD, turning it over in her hands as if it could explain things to her more clearly. "Well, that speaks for his taste somewhat," she said quietly, with a gentle smirk.
"Hey!" said Mulder, affronted. "I like the Pet Shop Boys!"
Scully laughed and began to run her fingernail along the edge of CD, looking for the little tab that was supposed to make it so easy to open the package, but usually just ended up tearing off in a tiny, useless, plastic scrap. Yep, this one was no different. She tossed the tiny piece of plastic in the garbage bag and began scraping along the side of the case in earnest until she had it open. "Well, let's see what's so great about this band," she said, sliding the CD into the player. "Papercut? That's the first song?"
The melodious screams of Linkin Park filled the SUV and Scully frowned, pursing her lips. Mulder looked over at her and shrugged. "It's all right," he defended it. "It's a little hard for my tastes, but it kinda grows on you." 'Papercut' ended and 'One Step Closer' began hollering its way into Scully's ears.
"Oh yeah, always one of my favorites."
Mulder didn't even jump, the sound of Alex's voice blending in with his choice of music to the point where it failed to startle him. He glanced up into the rearview mirror and saw Alex grinning back at him, mouthing the unintelligible words to the frantic song. I guess ghosts, unlike vampires, can cast reflections, he thought idly, and he saw Krycek roll his eyes. Jesus, he can hear my thoughts, he realized, eyes wide.
"I won't listen if you don't want me to," said Alex. "But then I won't hear you if you call me." He returned to singing along, doing more than mouthing the words now, actually belting them out.
Mulder blinked and stared at the road. Weirder and weirder. He glanced over at Scully, whose eyes were crinkling as if she had a headache. She looked back at him, squinting. "Can we turn it off now, Mulder? I'm ready for the Pet Shop Boys."
Mulder looked up in the mirror to see Alex's stricken frown. "Uh...not yet," he hedged, trying not to look in the mirror.
"Oh god...he's here, isn't he?" Scully asked, turning to look into the empty back seat. "This screeching cacophony summoned him, I suppose?"
Mulder couldn't help but smile a little. He looked up at Alex in the mirror, who was headbanging to the end of the song, eyes closed in rapture. "Yeah, he is, actually," Mulder said, feeling himself relax slightly at being able to share this with Scully, rather than trying to hide it from her.
"Where is he?" she said, glancing again at the empty back seat.
Mulder looked up again as the next song started up. Alex wrinkled his nose.
"Skip to 'Crawling'," he requested, leaning forward to speak clearly in Mulder's ear.
"He wants you to skip to the one called 'Crawling'," Mulder said, looking over to gauge Scully's level of okayness with this. "He's in the back seat."
Scully looked nervously back at the seat. "He really is?"
"He really is," affirmed Mulder, slightly sobered by her nervousness. "It's okay, Scully. Just think of him as my imaginary friend."
Alex rolled his eyes again but smirked, then gestured to the player. "I can do it myself, but it might freak her out, Mulder."
Mulder looked over at Scully, narrowing his eyes, considering. It might just help Scully to deal with all of this if she could see a little proof, he decided. He looked back up into the mirror. "Go ahead," he gestured with his chin, and Scully looked at him looking in the mirror and frowned. Alex didn't even lean forward, the song just started, another screaming ballad that was quickly joined by Alex's surprisingly nice alto.
Scully reached for the CD player and Mulder realized that she didn't even know this was Krycek's song. He shook his head. So much for proof.
"Do you think she's really ready for that, anyway, Mulder?" asked Krycek, interrupting his singing.
'Can't you read her thoughts and find out?' Mulder asked in his head experimentally.
"Well, yeah, I can, but I won't unless I have to," said Alex, looking somewhat offended.
'Oh, you'll play around in my head any time, though,' Mulder said, looking up at the mirror, somewhat annoyed.
"Old habits die hard," said Alex, picking up during the song's violent chorus as Mulder's eyes narrowed. "I told you, Mulder, I'll stop it if you want, but you gotta admit, it makes this a lot easier."
Mulder sighed. There had to be a way to retain this special connection with Krycek and still have a modicum of privacy. He gnawed on his lip as the song ended.
"You can turn it off now," Alex said, settling back into the seat. "I don't really care for the rest of this one."
Mulder turned to Scully. "Your turn, Scully. Put in whatever you want."
"Thanks, Alex," said Scully under her breath, leaning forward and removing the CD, snapping it carefully back into its case. She put in her selection and Prince's '1999' rocked the car.
"Interesting choice!" laughed Alex, bobbing his head along to the music.
'I never saw you as this...playful,' Mulder thought, carefully guarding any other thoughts that wanted to go alongside that one, such as how much he enjoyed seeing Alex this way.
Alex smiled gently. "I wasn't," he said simply. "Death changes a person."
'More than one person,' thought Mulder, before realizing he'd basically just said that to Krycek. He glanced up at the mirror and Alex's eyes were narrowed thoughtfully. He nodded.
"Mulder, how about this? When you want me to listen, just say my name in your mind. I'll hear that even when I'm blocking everything else, and I'll open up to you so I can hear you."
'You can do that?' Mulder asked, brows raised.
Scully looked over at him and frowned. "What?" she asked. "What's he doing back there?"
Mulder looked over at her. "Oh. Well, he's kind of...reading my thoughts, and I'm trying to work out a way to keep him from hearing all of them."
"Reading your thoughts?" Scully said, horror edging her voice. "Can he...is he reading my thoughts, too?" she asked, unconsciously hugging herself protectively.
"No, no," Mulder reassured her. "He says he can, but that he won't and doesn't want to unless he absolutely has to."
"Has...to?" Scully asked nervously.
"I'd only do it for her safety or yours," Alex said quietly. "I really don't listen to anyone else but you, Mulder, although I'm tuned in to any energy that has to do with the invasion and can zero in instantly on anything at any given time."
"He'd only do it to save our lives, Scully," said Mulder, embellishing just a little on what Alex had said, in order to put Scully's mind at as much ease as possible.
"So...why do you let him read yours, Mulder?" she said, looking sideways at him, still hugging herself.
He reached over and put a hand on her leg. "We're working that out," he said, giving it a squeeze. She loosened one arm and put her hand on top of his. "But I want him to be able to hear me if I...need him," he continued, swallowing hard.
"I...I guess given our situation, that's a good idea," said Scully hesitantly.
"I can show you some shielding techniques, too, Mulder," said Alex, leaning forward slightly. "That way, you can let them down when you want to, and the rest of the time, I'll feel them there and stay out."
"Scully," said Mulder, giving her leg another squeeze. "I want to talk to Alex out loud, if that's okay with you. I don't like to feel I'm hiding our conversations from you. Can you handle that?"
"O....kay...." said Scully, clutching Mulder's hand on her thigh.
"Thanks." Mulder looked into the mirror. "Alex, if I shield, does that keep you from being able to hear my thoughts at all?"
Scully watched him curiously, interested in the answer herself.
"No, not really," admitted Alex. "Because as I've said, I attached myself to you. But I can feel them, and I know when they're up, and I'll respect that, Mulder. I'm only here for you. I don't want to violate you."
"Well...what'd he say?" Scully asked, sounding a little impatient.
Mulder looked over at her, somewhat surprised. "He said it doesn't really keep him out, but that he'll respect them anyway."
"Oh. Well...do you trust him?" Scully looked into the backseat nervously.
"Yes," Mulder said without hesitation, and looked up at the mirror to find Alex smiling gently.
"Thanks, Mulder," Alex said softly. "You don't know what that means, to hear that."
"You're welcome," said Mulder to the mirror. "I thought you didn't have feelings, though," he added, brows furrowed.
"I have emotions, Mulder," said Alex quietly. "I was talking about physical sensations. I don't have those anymore. I still have my feelings, although they've changed drastically since my departure from the physical plane."
Scully looked a question at him, and he explained. Scully nodded slowly. Mulder looked into the mirror for the answer.
"Well, I realize what's important now," answered Alex slowly. "And how the world really works. And there's no anger...nothing but..." He trailed off, and Mulder frowned. He didn't have to send the thought to Alex, as Alex already knew that Mulder wouldn't take that incomplete answer. "Peace," he finished, meeting Mulder's gaze.
"Peace," repeated Mulder for Scully's benefit. "Must be nice, after all you've been through."
Scully looked thoughtful and even more curious. She fingered her cross, though not nervously, just idly.
"It is," Alex said shortly, blinking.
"Why come back here, then?" asked Mulder, shaking his head.
"I never left," answered Krycek softly. "I couldn't."
"Why couldn't you leave?" asked Mulder, rephrasing Alex's answers to bring Scully in on the conversation. She frowned, obviously wanting to hear that answer, too.
"Are you sure you want to know, Mulder?" Alex's voice was soft.
Mulder took a deep, slow breath. "Yes."
"You. You kept me here."
"Sometimes, when one soul's connection with another's is strong, and the one left behind has intense unresolved feelings for the one who's passed on, it acts as a kind of tether, keeping them earthbound."
"I...I'm keeping you earthbound?" Mulder asked.
"Well...yeah," Alex admitted.
"Jesus," Mulder swallowed. "Jesus, Alex...I'm sorry! God...you must hate me for this. How can I let you go?"
Alex smiled. "I don't hate you, Mulder," he said. "And besides, the unresolved business is on both sides, and I would have chosen to come back here anyway."
"You get that choice?" Mulder asked, sidestepping the more personal questions that jumped to his thoughts.
"Yeah, you do," replied Alex. "You get to choose where your soul goes next, and if you like, you can come back down and guide someone else and help them on their journey."
"You sound like that psychic guy on 'Crossing Over,'" Mulder quipped, trying to alleviate the heaviness of this conversation.
"Sorry," said Alex with a slight smirk. "I can be my usual smarmy earth-self, if you want."
"So...are you just...a construct of what I want you to be, then?" Mulder asked, getting more confused.
"No, Mulder, it's me. But my appearance, including my style of speech, can be altered to suit you, if you like. A soul talks differently once it is reminded how things work here."
"You know," said Alex, waving his hand around. "The spirit realm. The Other Side. Whatever..."
Mulder's brows arched again. "Well...I can't imagine there are a whole lot of people out there talking to their deceased friends." He almost took the word 'friends' back, then decided he held no rancor for Alex and could certainly call him a friend now.
"There aren't a whole lot of people out there as open to the experience as you are," Alex smirked. "But you're not the only one, either," he added. "People see what they're ready for." He shrugged.
Mulder nodded, actually satisfied with that explanation.
"Mulder!" Scully complained. "This is like listening to one end of a very strange phone conversation! What's he saying?"
"Can you let Scully hear you?" Mulder asked the mirror.
"I can, but she won't hear me until she's ready to," answered Alex.
Mulder looked over at Scully. "He says you won't hear him until you're ready to," he said, watching her wide eyes. "Are you ready?"
Scully stared at him. "I...I don't know," she said finally, her eyes filling with tears. "I'm sorry, Mulder." She looked down into her lap, blinking. "I'm just not as...open as you are."
"Hey," said Mulder, slowing the car and pulling off onto the shoulder. He turned and faced her on the seat, reaching out to cup her jaw. "It's okay, Scully. If it's freaking you out to hear me talking to him, I can go somewhere private when we need to talk, or we can hold conversations with thoughts only. Whatever you feel okay with."
"I...I guess I could get used to the thought of you communicating with him in your head...sometimes..." Scully said slowly. "But yeah, if it's okay with you, I'd rather you didn't have one-sided conversations in front of me anymore."
"Done," said Mulder, smiling and leaning toward her in the seat. She leaned in to meet him and they kissed, Mulder's lips brushing the tears from her cheeks afterward. He pulled back from her and looked into the backseat and found it empty. "He's gone now, Scully," he told her softly. Scully just nodded against his palm. He stroked her cheekbone with his thumb, then pulled his hand away and turned back to the steering wheel. He pulled back onto the road and the drove the rest of the way in relative silence, Scully catching up on the sleep she missed, and then taking the wheel so that Mulder could stretch out in the back.
Mulder came awake slowly, blinking in the darkened interior of the car.
"Take exit 45."
'Alex?' Mulder asked in his mind, still groggy. He looked around but didn't see him.
"Of course you can't see me, Mulder, you didn't leave me anywhere to sit. Do you want me to park it on your legs? I think you want me to appear as normal as possible, so if you want me to appear visually, give me some space."
Mulder pulled his legs up, vacating a few feet of the back seat, and Alex instantly appeared, squeezed into the corner. Mulder was afraid now, to stretch out his feet. Afraid they'd go right through Alex. That would freak him out.
"I make myself dense around you," said Krycek, smirking at his own self-deprecating pun. "So I don't freak you out too badly."
'So...I guess we should figure out this shielding thing,' thought Mulder curiously.
Alex nodded. "It's all about intention, Mulder," he explained. "Just concentrate on building a shield around your thoughts, and visualize it. Make it look like whatever you want...bricks, a force field, razor wire..." Alex grinned. "Whatever makes you feel safe. I'll see what you build, and I won't go past it unless you make an opening for me."
'How do I do that?'
"Again, it's all about intention, Mulder. The door, like the shield, can look like whatever you want it to. I'll see it, because I'm attached to you."
'You keep saying that...what does that mean, exactly?'
"Well, souls that have a strong emotional or mental or spiritual connection have a kind of cord between them. You can't see it unless you develop your psychic abilities, but it's there. That's what's keeping me earthbound."
'Do you...I mean...should we try to cut it?'
"No, not yet. Mulder, some day we'll sever it. Hopefully while you're still on earth. But for now, I've not only chosen not to try to escape, I've formed a stronger cord so that I'm tuned in to your unique vibration like a one-station radio."
Mulder couldn't help the way his thoughts practically yelled. 'Why?'
"We have work to do together," replied Krycek. "This invasion...it's not the best possible outcome for this planet, and there is still a chance to change things."
'Why me?' asked Mulder, still not understanding.
"You were the only honest man I knew," answered Krycek. "And, like I said, I knew you'd be open to me. You saw me the second I intended for you to. No hesitation. Can you imagine me trying to get through to Skinner that way? Or Marita?" Alex shook his head. "Even if my connection to them had been as strong, they wouldn't have been able to just take me in stride the way you can."
'Why is there such a strong connection?'
Alex paused a moment.
'Please. I really want to know. I'm ready.'
Alex sighed. "Mulder, our souls have known one another before. In other lifetimes. Our cord is ancient and very, very strong. Unbreakable."
'Were we always enemies?' Mulder asked carefully.
Alex smiled. "No, Mulder. We've been all kinds of things to one another, actually."
'Why...I mean, say I believe all this...why were we enemies in this lifetime, then?'
"A strong connection, as I said, is unbreakable, so we were destined to be together, having been incarnated in the same lifetime together once again. But in this one, the work that had to be done couldn't be done by one side or the other. It needed one of each of us, working the different sides, in order to make things have balance."
'But...are you saying you chose to be on the side of wrong?'
"There was no side of wrong, Mulder," Alex explained. "There never is. There are only people doing what they feel they must. And yes, I chose to be on the darker side, and you chose the lighter. We agreed it before we even incarnated again."
'We...made this decision together?'
"Yes," Alex said. "It's a soul contract. Once we're in the flesh again, we forget all about it and just live out our lives. But before we are born, we choose our lives in order to attain spiritual understanding or help someone else attain theirs. You and I have been helping each other for a long, long time." Alex's voice was low, soft, and hoarse with feeling.
Mulder lay there, eyes open, mind spinning. All the checkpoints in his intuition were telling him this was pure truth. It was just too much to hear. Maybe he wasn't really ready after all. 'Oh God...if that's true...I'm so sorry, Alex...I mean...but what you did to me!'
Alex looked pained. "No apologies, Mulder. Not from either of us. We did what we agreed to do, and we both accomplished huge things. And this time, I chose not to move on without you. I'm here to help you see this one to the end."
Mulder closed his eyes, trying to absorb it all. 'But Alex, if this is all true, then...it must be agony to carry the memories now, of our lifetimes together, when I can't remember anything and still see you as my former enemy!' Mulder's mind-voice was anguished.
"No, Mulder, it's not like that. I'll admit, the moment of remembrance was hard and intensely sad, but that was brief, as that kind of unhappiness just doesn't exist over here. And Mulder...you accepted me instantly. You 'knew' too, in a way. Your soul did recognize mine. I could feel that even when you couldn't. Our higher selves never hated each other." He smiled again, and this time Mulder saw it in his mind, still holding his eyes closed as he fought tears.
'Our higher selves never stopped loving one another. That's what you really said, isn't it?' Mulder asked, warm tears coursing silently down his cheeks.
"I guess you can hear me now, too," said Alex. "I guess you're ready for that next step." He didn't answer Mulder's question, but he didn't have to.
Mulder didn't say anything more, letting his thoughts flow as freely as the silent tears, until he felt he'd freed himself of a lifetime's emotional baggage. As the tears finally subsided, he began building his shield. 'It's just a simple wall, Alex,' he explained unnecessarily, already feeling Alex watching him as he constructed it. It was just a simple, thin barrier that was more of a sign than any kind of block.
"I see it."
Mulder withdrew the walls completely, making them slide down and disappear, like a pressurized door from Star Trek.
Alex grinned. "Nice sci-fi touch," he said.
Mulder smiled in the dark. 'Thanks. Are you sure you're okay with this?'
"Absolutely. I don't want to know any more than you want me to, now, Mulder. And remember, if you say my name, I'm instantly tuned in."
'Where do you go, when you're not visible? Are you here? Or somewhere else?'
"Well, I'm never really 'here' at all, Mulder," said Alex, frowning. "And I'm never really gone as you understand that, either. My awareness can be everywhere, all at once, and I can choose what to pay attention to at any given time. If you say my name, I instantly pay attention to you. And if I pick something up that can help you, I'll tell you."
'Nothing. Just testing the feeling of it in my mind.'
"Mulder...are you awake?" Scully's voice came to him from the front seat. He yawned.
"Yeah, I am." He sat up and smiled at her in the rearview mirror.
"Yeah, Scully, I did."
Scully's smile shone at him from the mirror as she heard the genuineness in his voice. "I'm glad. I'm getting tired myself, Mulder. Do you want to get a room, or shall I just sleep in the back?"
"No, Scully, we both need more rest than we can get in the back of an SUV. Let's grab a motel room."
"Okay," said Scully, sounding grateful. "Why don't you ask Krycek where a good one is?" She gave him a playful smile in the mirror, grinning even more at his look of pleased shock.
"I'm not a travel agent," Krycek laughed. "But you guys will be safe if you go to the Bide-A-Wee four streets over at the next intersection. Take a right."
'Thanks.' Mulder smiled in his mind for Alex, and with his physical self for Scully. "He says turn right at the next intersection and go four streets over. The Bide-A-Wee is Alex's pick for tonight."
Scully nodded and took the turn, driving them right to the motel in question. She felt a sense of gratitude and safety, truly believing that Alex had chosen them a safe haven for the night.
"Thanks, Alex," she said softly as she turned off the car.
"You're welcome, Scully," answered Alex.
"Did he just say you're welcome?" asked Scully, eyebrows furrowed.
"Yeah! Did you hear him?" Mulder asked excitedly.
"Well...no...not exactly," Scully answered. "But I just had this feeling...a really certain feeling that he'd said that."
Mulder looked at Alex, who nodded. "That's the way it works at first. The more she opens up, the more she's able to sense, with her sixth sense kicking in first, and the others being brought in as she's comfortable."
"He says that's the way it works at first, Scully. You're doing great." He smiled at her proudly, and she smiled back, feeling like she'd accomplished something.
"Um...is he going to see me naked?" she suddenly asked, her hand frozen on the door handle.
"Uhh..." said Mulder helplessly.
"Put up your shield, Mulder, and I'll stop paying attention to either one of you until you call me again, unless I have to come back. You two need private time together. She loves you, you know. And you love her. Don't miss a single opportunity to show her."
"Thanks, Alex," Mulder said, his throat choked with emotion. "He's going to 'leave' us for the night, Scully, until I ask for him again."
"Oh...well, good night then, Alex," she said awkwardly.
Alex smiled. "Good night, Scully." He leaned forward and kissed her very softly on the cheek. She turned her head, face thoughtful. Mulder watched as his image just faded away. Before it was completely gone, Mulder wished him good-night in his mind, and felt Alex's mind-embrace for just an instant before he was gone. Mulder pulled up his Star Trek walls and climbed out of the car, slinging his pack over his shoulder with a groan.
It was easy for him to forget how many aches and pains, bumps, bruises, and sprains he had while he was sitting in the car, but when he unfolded his long, lean body to leave the car, each of them screamed out for attention in turn. He tried not to let on to Scully how much it all hurt, but she looked sideways at him and frowned, obviously not being fooled for a minute.
"Mulder, why don't you take a long, hot shower and try to loosen up some of that stiffness," Scully suggested, once they'd dropped their bags on the floor of their motel room. Mulder, too tired and sore to pretend he didn't want exactly that, just nodded gratefully. He stripped off his clothes quickly and plodded to the shower, and soon Scully was relaxing to the sound of a high pressure shower.
She curled up on her side of the bed, still in constant wonderment that she *had* a side of the bed that was the side not taken by her partner and lover. Sharing a bed was an amazing novelty. She tried to stay awake long enough to greet Mulder as he exited the bathroom, but his shower was long, and her body was drained, and she was soon breathing deeply and evenly, hand splayed out on Mulder's pillow, waiting for him.
Mulder sighed languorously as about half of his pain was washed down the drain with the hot water. He scrubbed his hair partly dry with the towel, feeling his heart start to beat a little more quickly, realizing he was not going to be climbing into a cold, empty bed, but a most-probably warm, occupied one. He felt a warm wave of love and arousal wash through his body and was grateful that Alex had agreed to tune out for the night. Alex had even told him not to waste an opportunity to show Scully his love for her, and knowing now how time was so very short, he didn't intend to let tonight slip away just because his body was battered.
He flipped off the light and stepped into the darkened room, and immediately took a long, deep breath. It smelled of Scully, and he fought tears. Making love to her was still a very intense, breath- taking experience, and his nervousness had not completely dissipated, despite the fact that they had nine years of every type of intimacy *but* sexual backing them up. Touching her was still a novelty. He looked at her small, curled up, sleeping form, illuminated in the yellow glow of the wall sconce. He didn't deserve to have this. To have her there, warm and beautiful and waiting. He didn't want to wake her, even though his body felt pulled across the small room toward hers. He slipped on a pair of soft cotton boxer-briefs and carefully, slowly slid into bed next to her.
He laid there, staring at her closed eyes, her barely-parted lips, feeling the slightest breaths puff from between them, warm on his face. It was easy to forget how good this felt. Just having the warmth and movement of another body next to his, let alone knowing that the soul inside that body loved him as deeply as he loved her. He squinted at the intensity. Scully's blue eyes opened and focused instantly in on his. She smiled slowly, sleepily, and it was as if it tripped a circuit in his brain and he couldn't help but smile back.
"Feel better?" she asked him, raising a hand to brush wet strands of hair from his temple.
He nodded and leaned in, words failing him.
Their bodies came together slowly and gently, mindful of Mulder's injuries, and still somewhat awkward with the newness of learning one another's wants and preferences. As they lost their breath together, it was if the final piece of an inevitable puzzle were being gently pushed into place. They'd avoided it for so long, Mulder believing that he was unworthy of this level of contentment and fearful that this passion might displace his others and thus distract him from what he felt was his life's purpose. He'd been so incredibly stupid, he now realized. This kind of love and physical and emotional sharing is what gives us enough strength to do the harder work of life. He knew now that it could only make him stronger, and give him the energy to keep putting one foot in front of another.
Scully snuggled in, nestled with her back against Mulder's chest, and felt her tears flow silently down her cheeks. She'd denied herself this for so many years, feeling that to take their partnership to this level would keep them from being able to work with one another professionally and accomplish what they both needed to accomplish. Perhaps she'd been right, and they wouldn't have been able to look upon one another as objectively as partners sometimes must in order to do the job. But perhaps she'd been wrong, and they'd only deprived themselves of something that could have fortified them during their many horrifying, exhausting battles. She let the tears flow warmly, not trying to check their descent, and made a decision never again to focus on what they hadn't given themselves and each other, but to use it as a lesson to never let love slide down to the bottom of her list of priorities again.
They fell asleep in a warm, humming cocoon that took them both into sleeps deeper than either had ever experienced alone.