15 Mar 1998

Title - After the Light
Author - VR & Leveaux, No-Assumptions.com
E-Mail address - leveaux@no-assumptions.com
Rating - PG
Category - Story
Spoilers - The Red and the Black
Keywords - Slash Mulder/Krycek
Summary - Picks up following the final events in The Red and the Black. Mulder goes home, finds an unexpected "guest" waiting for him, again - Alex Krycek.
DISCLAIMER: Characters belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and Fox Broadcasting. No money being made, no insults intended to anyone.


After the Light

        Scully watched as Mulder walked up the steps to his apartment. It had been a long evening to a even longer week and she felt tired. She and Mulder had talked for a time after the incident, but she knew that she couldn't really help him. He needed rest and perhaps after that, he could work towards repairing his damaged memory.

        Sighing deeply, she headed her car towards the darkness to her own home.

        "Hot bath," she thought, nodding to herself.

        Mulder reached his door and put the key in the lock. He didn't want to think anymore. His brain hurt from it. Every time he blinked or closed his eyes, he saw white light and then nothing. He had no recollection of just why he had been where he was or how he had gotten there. He shook his head and walked into the dark apartment.

        Just as he stepped across the threshold, an arm reached around his chest and pulled him back. Whatever exhaustion he'd been feeling left him. In its place was pure adrenaline and instinct.

        "What did you do!?" a familiar voice whispered in his ear.

        Mulder recognized the voice immediately and went into action.

        "Krycek!" he growled through clenched teeth.

        Moving slightly to the left, he rammed his elbow into Krycek's stomach, feeling him double over. Turning, quickly, he grabbed Alex Krycek by the neck and ran him head first into his wooden table.

        Krycek fell to the floor in pain. He blinked a few times to clear his head and then glanced upward. He saw Mulder standing above him. Breathing heavily, he watched as Mulder's hand moved towards the breast pocket of his long black coat.

        "No you don't," Krycek grimaced, lunging towards Mulder's legs.

        Mulder felt the impact and suddenly he was off balance. He felt his fingers touch the barrel of his gun, but lost his grip as the gun went sailing off into the dark apartment. In the next moment, he felt a weight on his chest and his head thrown to the side as Krycek's fist connected with his jaw.

        "No guns," Krycek's voice said close above him. "Fair fight."

        Mulder laughed, feeling the pain in his jaw begin to rise. "You wouldn't know a fair fight if it bit you on the ass," he said, then returned the belt to Krycek's jaw. He didn't expect an answer - the insult was almost habit, and the feel of the blow connecting, and Krycek's groan of pain gave him, he admitted it, real pleasure.

        But the darker, younger man didn't react on cue.

        "Look who's talking," he returned, spitting blood. It wasn't much of a come back, but there was something in Krycek's tone that sent a thrill of unease through Mulder. He was expecting a punch, and ready to dodge it and retaliate in kind, but the hard, open-handed slap caught him by surprise.

        "There, how does that feel?" Krycek said through his teeth. He ducked Mulder's fist and hit him with a solid body blow, backing out as Mulder doubled over. Breathing hard, he looked down at his adversary as Mulder tried to get his breath.

        "You son of a bitch, I helped you!" Krycek snarled. There was a little of that puppy-dog hurt in his voice that Mulder had heard before, and always assumed to be a pose.

        "Helped? Set me up, you mean. Again! Another little charade played out for 'Spooky' Mulder, so your masters could fit me back into the agenda!" Mulder hissed. All the doubt, anger and bitterness that had been plaguing Mulder for the past weeks filled his mouth with the taste of bile. He saw red, almost literally, his head pounding with the need to relieve his anger and shame in the most satisfying way - by killing Krycek with his bare hands.

        Krycek saw the rage and knew it for what it was. He felt a matching anger and not a little fear - for all his bravado, the prosthetic arm was a dead weight at his side and he knew the only way he could get the better of Mulder was through surprise, and it was too late for that. Nevertheless

        "I'm through being your whipping boy, Mulder," he said in a soft but determined growl. He saw nothing but contempt on Mulder's face and knew the words hadn't even been heard.

        Slipping his right hand into his jacket pocket he quickly stuck his fingers into the brass knuckles he'd gotten for cheap in a waterfront pawn shop. When Mulder came at him, he used every bit of speed left to him and threw a punch that would have broken the FBI man's jaw if it had connected. Mulder ducked and took a slighter blow to the head, but it was enough to knock him out briefly.

        Mulder came to with the feeling of a wet cloth on his face. For a moment he thought it must be Scully, then realized the fingers that were feeling his skull for a fracture were larger and wider spaced.

        Krycek leaned back quickly when he sensed Mulder awake. He dropped the wet towel on his face and said, "Clean yourself up," consciously imitating the tone Mulder had used, saying the same words to him in a Japan airport.

        Krycek had Mulder's gun, quickly recovered from the room while Mulder was unconscious. He held it like he didn't really want it, but kept it pointed at Mulder as if to forestall another attack.

        "Back in control, I see," Mulder said, applying the cloth to his pounding head.

        "I didn't want it this way, but you seem to," Krycek replied. He had turned on a light, and stepped back several feet from where Mulder lay. "Just sit there. Don't fucking move."

        Mulder watched as Krycek placed the gun carefully on his desk, placing it so that he could pick it up quickly. Then the younger man shrugged his jacket off, and reached under his sweater, releasing the last strap holding the prosthetic arm in place - the others had broken in the fight. He grabbed the artificial wrist and pulled the whole thing off.

        "I ought to beat you with this," he said, looking at Mulder, prepared to see the expected expression of contempt and disgust. "You're the

reason "

        "Don't blame me for your just deserts," Mulder said. "You got away with your life and that's more than you deserve."

        "And you are qualified to judge what I deserve, aren't you, you self righteous son of a bitch," Krycek returned.

        Mulder gave him a long look, and for once Krycek couldn't tell what was going on in his head. The expected retort didn't come.

        Krycek dropped the limb to the floor, picked up the gun and sat down facing Mulder.

        "Make yourself at home," Mulder said, but he seemed distracted.

        "Thanks, I will," Krycek answered, and was rewarded by Mulder focusing his attention on him.

        "What the fuck do you want?" Mulder said.

        Krycek looked at him thoughtfully. "At least you asked, this time. I want to stay alive. When I tried to leave earlier I realized I was being followed. So I doubled back. You came back sooner than I expected. Did you even go to the base?"

        "You know I did."

        "What did you see?"

        "You know what I saw."

        "I can guess - that's not the same as knowing," privately, Krycek was amazed they were almost having a civil conversation.

        "What does it matter, it was another set up. Staged - the 'faceless men', the lights set up to convince me to go back to being a mouthpiece for the Big Lie."

        "And what if it wasn't?"

        Mulder looked at him. He suspected that Krycek could tell that he wasn't sure - wasn't sure what it was he saw. He hated the feeling of exposure.

        "And the rebel?"

        Mulder shrugged, sitting up. "Disappeared."

        Krycek frowned. "Escaped?"

        Mulder stared at him. It really seemed to matter.

        "I don't know."

        Krycek shook his head. "This is so fucked up," he muttered.

        Mulder moved the cloth from his head to his jaw. "I imagine that's just the way you like it."

        "You didn't listen to one word I said, before," Krycek looked at Mulder in a way that was truly puzzling to the FBI man - as if his faith in a hero had been shaken.

        "Yes I did. I heard every word."

        The two men stared at each other. Somehow the tension changed into something less familiar.

        Krycek got up, the gun still in his hand, and walked over to Mulder. He squatted on his heels by the other man. "What is it gonna take to snap you out of this?" he said softly. "Maybe if I put the gun down - would it make you feel so much better to beat me into a pulp? Get your rocks off like you did before?"

        "What the fuck are you taking about?" Mulder tried to snarl, but it lacked conviction. Krycek did not put down the gun.

        "You're no different from my pappa, you know - he was supposed to be a 'good man' - had a conscience and all that, but he still beat my mom, beat me whenever he got the chance. "

        Mulder stared back, unwilling to drop his eyes.

        "That's no excuse for what you've done," he said evenly.

        "I know. But what I've done is no excuse for what you've done," Krycek answered. "Or the fact that you enjoy it."

        Krycek leaned closer, looking into Mulder's eyes for a trace of understanding, and saw what he was looking for. His eyes dropped down, and he sensed rather than saw Mulder's body tense. He figured he had a few seconds before Mulder disregarded the gun and reacted with violence anyway. This time he planted the kiss firmly on the other man's mouth and wasn't surprised to find it slightly open. He pushed his tongue into Mulder's mouth, suddenly high on an adrenaline surge, relishing the shock. He enjoyed the taste of that too-full lower lip for a second or two before pulling quickly back, far enough to avoid a blow.

        "Since you didn't get it the first time, that was my way of telling you I'm through being the bitch in this relationship."

        Mulder's lowered eyelids flew open. He stared back at the other man with a burning intensity that seemed to rob him of speech. Then slowly and deliberately, he dragged the back of one hand across his mouth, turned his head to one side and spit, as if ridding himself of a foul taste.

        Krycek watched him, cocked his head to one side and shrugged slightly, refusing to be baited. He sat down in a nearby chair, still holding the gun, but no longer pointing it directly at Mulder. His calmness left Mulder in a void of his own thoughts for a few moments. Mulder tried to summon back the rage and found it had drained completely away, leaving only a sense of baffled confusion - with the other man's motives, but mostly with his own.

        "I knew you were a murderer and a traitor, but I never thought you were a fag," Mulder said finally.

        Krycek smiled. "Are you homophobic, Mulder? I've heard that's not unusual in closet cases."

        It was Mulder's turn to shake his head. He almost wanted to smile -somehow, in spite of all he knew about this man, Krycek still had the ability to get under his skin.

        "If that's what you think, you are very confused, Krycek," Mulder replied. "I don't know how my sexual orientation became a topic for speculation, but you are way off target. Is that why you keep getting mixed up in my life? You think there's something " his eyes narrowed slightly.

        "Oh there is something between us, Fox," Alex Krycek said deliberately. "The history of events no sane man would accept, for one thing. Both of us have been shaped by the pressures of forces beyond our reach probably beyond our control."

        "I don't know what you've been shaped by " Mulder began, then stopped. He looked at the other man for a moment.

        "That's right, you don't."

        Another beat. Mulder felt a weariness that seemed to seep through his body and into the floor. "I'm getting up," he said, glancing only briefly at the gun. He moved over and allowed himself to sprawl, more or less upright, on the couch. "I am so damn tired," he muttered, more to himself than anything.

        Krycek laughed, a short, not-quite-bitter sound. "You are - ha." He leaned his head back, trying the ease the tension in neck and shoulders.

        Mulder watched him. Finally he said, "I did think about what you said to me. I'm still thinking. I didn't want to believe you. I thought I thought I'd finally woken up from the nightmare that began the night my sister disappeared. But if what you told me is the truth, it's not over."

        "I think that's what amazes me about you, Mulder. After everything you've seen, you still concern yourself with questions of belief and truth. I used to try and imagine what that would be like I can't. There's only what you know - and what you don't know," Krycek said softly.

        "And you know things I don't - is that right?"

        Krycek looked at Mulder calmly. "I know you're fucked up."

        "Even I know that - but I wouldn't think you'd be in a position to judge."

        "Why not - it's takes one to know one, eh, Mulder? Besides, I don't judge. That's the one thing I never do."

        "Be careful - you're starting to sound the least bit preachy."

        Krycek laughed. "I wouldn't want to do that!"

        "Krycek . I'm not gay." Mulder found himself saying. It felt very strange but he wasn't insecure enough to doubt himself.

        The other man shrugged. "So what. That means what, exactly? On the rare occasions you have sex, you do it with women? Marita said you were pretty good in bed."

        Mulder's eyes widened. After a moment he said, "I guess I shouldn't be surprised that you're crass enough to brag."

        Krycek shrugged. He was still steamed at Covarrubius for double-crossing him. "I get it where I find it."

        "Well you won't find it here." I can't believe I'm having this conversation, Mulder thought for the umpteenth time.

        "Oh I know that," Krycek said. "As long as you keep looking directly at it, you won't let yourself go there. I'm just tired of being your 'subliminal submissive'. You want the truth? About yourself? The truth is you got off on beating me, and I let you. I doubt I'm the only one, but your conscious adherence to some quaint code of chivalry means you treat women with respect - your baser needs are buried and only allowed to surface when you think you have a moral right to dominate someone. That's pretty twisted."

        Mulder felt frozen in shock. To cover it, he said, "And what do you get off on, you sick bastard?"

        Krycek closed his eyes for a minute and opened them again, revealing an expression strangely mixed, part self-knowledge, part self-loathing, part defiance. "You really don't want to know."

        You're right, Mulder thought - I don't. I didn't want to know any of it.

        A brief quiet settled over the room. Krycek knew he would have to go soon -if the watchers were gone. Either way he'd have to make a run for it, or risk getting caught here. That wasn't part of the plan.

        Mulder closed his eyes for a few minutes, and looked past his inner barriers. He let himself remember the rage, and the ugliness, and the pleasure and relief he'd felt in releasing his hold over himself to indulge in acts of explosive violence. He'd long known it was a dangerous analgesic.

        He heard movement, and for a long moment resisted opening his eyes. When he did, he saw Krycek standing, looking carefully out the window, standing beside it so as not to be seen from outside. I hate this man, he thought. But it's really not simple. If only it could be. The inextricable relationships, he'd said to Scully. For a moment Mulder had the chilling thought that he was looking at his own dark twin. There but for the grace of of whom? God?

        Krycek seemed not to notice Mulder watching him. He picked up the prosthesis and began reattaching it, putting Mulder's gun down, but keeping it close to him.

        "I guess it's still not in your best interests to kill me," Mulder said musingly.

        Krycek looked up. "That's right. You still have a chance to matter in this very fucked up situation. Someone has to save the world - it certainly isn't going to be me."

        "No, of course not."

        Mulder got up and walked slowly, weariness still overwhelming, over to the desk where the gun lay. Krycek moved away, towards the door. Mulder picked the gun up, looked at it, and put it back down.

        "What are you going to do?" Mulder said.

        It startled Alex Krycek. For a moment he gave Mulder an unguarded look, revealing one of those flashes of vulnerability that Mulder had always discounted as subterfuge. He lifted his chin slightly.

        "I'm going to assume that you'll succeed - and do what I like best - take care of myself. I gave up the digital tape, but I still have information, cached where only I can find it. There was a file I didn't pay much attention to it, it wasn't very promising as a source of income. It had to do with secret genetics experiments - and possible limb regeneration." Krycek stopped and opened the door of Mulder's apartment carefully, looking out to see nothing but empty hall.

        He felt Mulder's hand on his shoulder and jumped, but when he looked quickly back he saw in Mulder's expression a strange mirror of his own -self knowledge, some confusion - much weariness.

        Mulder's brows drew together for a moment, and he reached up, deliberately and touched Krycek's face. It wasn't a caress, more the touch of a blind man, for knowledge. Krycek stayed for a moment, feeling a sudden surge of electricity. He had a sense of disorientation that lasted for a few seconds. Then he wrapped his feelings deliberately up in his sense of self-preservation and took several deep breaths. Mulder stepped back.

        Krycek was gone in an instant, melting into the shadows that seemed so much a part of his soul.

        Mulder waited, listening to the quiet of early morning for a sound that might betray that someone had been there, and gone. At last he closed and locked the door, walked into the bedroom, and collapsed onto the bed. He was unconscious in minutes, but his dreams were filled with mythic archtypes mixed with foreign memories. He took the knowledge of war into the dream with him.

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