Cold Comfort
by Anony Mouse

(Contains UST, but no actual slash. Hey, this is the UST page, not the RUST page... :-)

Mulder jerked from a light doze as he heard the door to the cell open. Someone was thrown inside. Krycek. Well. So much for the theory that he'd spent the evening dining in high style with his "friends." The guards began kicking Krycek and hitting him with their clubs, yelling angrily in Russian. Mulder watched with mixed emotions; part of him took a certain savage glee from seeing Krycek so treated, part of him wanted to spring to the man's defense. Finally Mulder shut his eyes, unable to watch any more. It wasn't as if he could really do anything, he told himself. If he gave in to his impulse to put his fist through both guards' faces, it would just get both of them into more trouble...

The guards hit Krycek desultorily a few last times; then they left, completely ignoring Mulder as they had before. The rusty scrape of the door locking was very loud in the dark cell.

Mulder went over to where Krycek was sprawled. He reached out to touch the other man's shoulder, only to have his hand slapped away. "I told you not to touch me," Krycek growled.

At that, Mulder almost hit him again. He didn't know what it was about Krycek, but the man had a knack for bringing out the worst in Mulder. "I just wanted to make sure you were all right," he said through gritted teeth. =So I can kill you myself...=

"I'm okay," Krycek said. "They're under orders not to hurt anyone so bad they can't work." He pushed himself up, sitting wearily on the hard stone floor. The man was soaking wet, Mulder noticed. He looked like a drowned rat -- an insufficiently drowned rat, as far as Mulder was concerned. The fact that Mulder was imprisoned in a foreign land and *did* need Krycek only made the resentment worse.

"Forget to take your clothes off before you showered?" Mulder asked.

Krycek raised his gaze from the floor, glowering. "It's raining." He made a disgusted sound. "It's November, and this is Siberia. It should be snowing, damn it, not raining."

"How did your visit with the supervisor go?"

"He still thinks we're spies, and he's still planning to torture us, and I'm beginning to wish I'd eaten that cockroach soup, because it's probably all we're going to get for a long time." He glared at Mulder again. "And next time you decide to break into a gulag, leave your goddamn badge behind."

Mulder winced. So that's why they were so sure he and Krycek were spies, not lost tourists...

Well, it appeared that Krycek was all right. Mulder went back to the thin, dirty pallet which he'd dragged to the corner of the cell furthest from the window and lay down. It might be raining now, but it would turn to snow before the night was over, if Mulder was any judge. The air coming through the paneless window was raw. Krycek sat where he'd been left, dripping and shivering. Mulder watched him for awhile, then finally couldn't stand it any more. "Take your clothes off, before you freeze to death," he said.

Krycek turned to stare at him. "No way."

Mulder sighed. "It might be counterintuitive, but you'll be warmer in no clothes at all than in wet clothes."

"They teach you that in the Boy Scouts?" Krycek asked.

"Fine. Go ahead and freeze to death." Mulder rolled over, turning his back to Krycek.

There was no sound, other than the chatter of Krycek's teeth. Finally even that stopped. Mulder began to be dimly alarmed. He got up again and went over to where the other man sat leaning against the wall. "Krycek, I'm serious. You could freeze to death in those wet clothes."

"I'm not cold," Krycek said sullenly.

"Don't be stubborn," Mulder chided. He pulled the sodden shirt off over Krycek's head.

"Hey!" Krycek protested. "Leave me alone." He tried to resist, but his movements were weak and clumsy. Not a good sign. Mulder was beginning to suspect that Krycek was not just being contrary, he was suffering the mental impairment common to victims of hypothermia. As quickly as he could, he stripped off Krycek's boots and socks, then pulled him to his feet to remove his pants and underwear.

"Stop it," Krycek protested, but his resistance was feeble. Mulder took off his own sweater and undershirt, then quickly put the sweater back on. He used his undershirt as a towel. One advantage of the "stupid-ass haircut" -- it was easy to dry hair that short. Fortunately, since Krycek was actively trying to fight Mulder off. Mulder was severely tempted to smack some sense into him, but restrained himself. The man had been probably smacked enough for one evening.

=The victim may be uncooperative and resist assistance.= The phrase was from a medical textbook on treating hypothermia. Mulder had worked on a case involving murder by hypothermia a few years back, and had read up on it. He knew Krycek was not to blame for the way he was behaving; reduced blood flow to his brain was causing mental confusion. But it was still damned annoying.

Mulder dragged the naked and damp Krycek over to the pallet and dropped him down on it, then squeezed the water out of the wet clothes and spread them out to dry as best he could. Then he lay down next to Krycek, who shied away, pressing against the cold stone wall.

Mulder ran through the checklist of emergency measures one could apply in the case of hypothermia. He realized, with dismay, that there was only one which was of use in this situation: "Warm the victim with direct body heat (skin-to-skin contact)." He looked at Krycek with distaste. No way, no how. It was too damned cold in here. Mulder was *not* taking off his clothes. Not for the likes of Alex Krycek.

Not that Krycek was asking him to. Krycek was lying huddled against the wall, eyes shut, doing his best not to touch Mulder. Now that he had those wet clothes off, he might be uncomfortable, but he wasn't in danger of freezing to death...was he? Mulder recalled uneasily that young, strong, healthy men had been known to succumb to hypothermia in near-normal temperatures if they had been deprived of sleep and food. The body rapidly lost its ability to thermoregulate without adequate rest and calories. Krycek couldn't have gotten much sleep, handcuffed to Mulder's steering wheel last night, and out on Skinner's balcony the night before that. And how much had Krycek eaten? Mulder wondered, feeling a stab of guilt. He sort of assumed Skinner must have fed him something, but didn't know for sure. He'd shared a couple of quick meals with Krycek , but probably not enough. He seemed to recall that the man hadn't eaten much. Possibly because he'd been punched repeatedly in the mouth and stomach. By Mulder. At the time, Mulder had gotten a grim, sadistic pleasure out of seeing Krycek pick gingerly at his food...

Two days, Mulder objected to himself. Krycek had been in custody only two days. Surely that wasn't enough time to be debilitating... But he wasn't sure, and then he realized he had no way of knowing how Krycek had been eating and sleeping before he was arrested. Well, Mulder still wasn't taking off his clothes, but he was willing to share. Swearing under his breath, he pulled Krycek against him, then lifted his sweater and pulled it down over the other man, so they were both in it. "Hey!" Krycek protested. "Mulder, what are you doing?!" He struggled a bit, then his head popped out of the neckline, smacking Mulder painfully in the jaw. Luckily, it was an oversized sweater, with a fairly deep placket.

"Ow! Settle down, Krycek. I'm just trying to keep you from freezing to death." Krycek's chest was pressed to Mulder's. The other man's skin felt clammy against his.

"I'm not cold." Krycek continued to struggle.

"Don't be ridiculous. You're so cold you don't know you're cold." Mulder rolled over on top of Krycek, pinning him down on the pallet.

"Let me go! Mulder, you're so hot, you're burning me."

"Good. You deserve to suffer."

Krycek whimpered and struggled harder. Mulder had no trouble holding him down, and eventually he gave up.

It really was rather comfortable lying on top of Krycek like this. Warmer than the floor, and softer, too.

"Mulder, please get off me," Krycek pleaded softly. His lips were right against Mulder's ear.

Well, no doubt it wasn't as comfortable for Krycek, his already bruised body squashed under Mulder's weight. And Mulder's normal body temperature must seem unpleasantly hot to Krycek at the moment. Too bad. "I'm doing this for your own good," Mulder said virtuously. "I don't like it anymore than you do, not least because you haven't had a shower in days."

"And whose fault is that?" Krycek said, petulant. "Anyway, you're no bouquet of wildflowers, either."

"I probably smell like a goat," Mulder agreed cheerfully. Though actually, Krycek didn't really smell all that bad. A strong scent, as might be expected after a day on the trail, but not unpleasant...

With a start, Mulder realized he was practically nuzzling Krycek's neck and shoulder. =Fox William Mulder, it's been *way* too long since you've had a girlfriend. You've got to get out more. = He also realized he had an erection, to his embarrassment. Mulder was a psychologist, and knew that any intense emotion -- fear, or anger, say -- could cause a man to get hard, but Krycek might get the wrong idea...

But Krycek didn't notice. He was starting to shiver, harder and harder. It was, as Mulder recalled, a good sign. It meant he was warming up, that his body temperature was no longer in freefall.

Krycek buried his face against Mulder's neck, his shuddering breaths tickling the sensitive skin there. His arms slipped around Mulder, clinging weakly.

Mulder gasped. Krycek's hands were like ice against the bare skin of his back. He clenched his teeth, swearing silently. Krycek was going to owe him big time after this. He better prove useful, or Mulder would take it out of his hide....

Eventually, the shivering subsided, and Krycek's grip loosened. "How do you feel?" Mulder asked.

"Tired," was the mumbled answer.

"Well, stay awake." Mulder pulled back a bit. Moonlight and snow were now flooding through the window, and it was bright enough that he could make out Krycek's face. His eyes were closed, the long, thick lashes a startling contrast to the severe haircut. His lips still looked blue. "Stay awake." He slapped Krycek's cheeks lightly.

"I'm awake," Krycek said, but his eyes didn't open.

=He's probably so used to being hit he hardly even notices,= Mulder told himself sarcastically. "Krycek, come on, wake up." When that got no response, Mulder impulsively leaned near and touched his mouth to Krycek's, letting his tongue briefly explore the cool lips.

Krycek's eyes flew open in shock. The expression on his face was so comical Mulder couldn't help grinning. Krycek scowled, seeing Mulder laughing at him. "Oh, very funny."

"Good thing you woke up. You don't want to know what I was about to try next."

"Why can't I sleep?" Krycek asked plaintively.

"Because you might not wake up."

"Please, Mulder, just for a little while. I'm so tired..."

"Who's the Vice-President of the United States?"

Krycek blinked. "What?"

"Answer right, and I'll let you sleep. Who's the Vice-President?"

"Er...George Bush?"

"Sorry, you don't make it to the final round of Jeopardy. Stay awake."

Krycek groaned. "Can you at least get off me?"

Mulder found he was surprisingly reluctant to do that, but as long as Krycek wasn't fighting him any more... "If you promise to be good."

Krycek nodded, and Mulder rolled off so that they were on their sides, facing each other. Krycek sighed in relief, huddled docilely against Mulder's chest.

"Keep your eyes open," Mulder warned. Krycek looked at him, heavy- lidded with drowsiness. "I didn't learn about hypothermia from the Boy Scouts, you know," Mulder said. Maybe conversation would help keep Krycek awake. "It was a case. Not strictly our jurisdiction, but we helped out on the technical end. This man took out a $1,000,000 insurance policy on his wife. Then they went sailing, and she somehow froze to death on the trip..."

It was the right choice. Most peoples' eyes glazed over when Mulder told this story, but Krycek was intrigued by the details of the investigation. So maybe the junior G-man act hadn't been =all= lies... In fact, Mulder had checked, and Krycek really had gone to Quantico. What kind of an agent would he have made, if he hadn't been recruited by shadowy side of the Bureau? A very good one, Mulder suspected.

"So, was that enough to prove it?" Krycek prompted, jarring Mulder from his wool-gathering.

"With the Coast Guard data on air and water temperatures, and the record of the woman's core body temperature taken by the EMTs, we were able to prove that the victim had to have been in the water, not on the boat as her husband claimed. She couldn't have frozen to death so fast unless she was immersed. He must have pulled her on board only after he was sure she was dead. The jury believed our expert witnesses, and he won't be eligible for parole until sometime in the new millennium."

Krycek's eyes were closed again, but he smiled, a charming, genuine smile. "Nailed him," he said, satisfied.

"The bastard deserved it. He dragged his wife by a line in back of the boat for hours. She was wearing a life jacket, so she didn't drown. She froze to death, even though the water temperature was almost 60 degrees that day."

"Mmm. It's not uncommon for the overall coefficient of heat loss to be 50 or even 70 times greater in water than it is in air."

Mulder was at first startled, then amused. He'd nearly forgotten Krycek's penchant for remembering odd facts and apparently trivial data. Not to mention his fondness for words like "coefficient."

Well, it sure sounded like blood was flowing to his brain again. "All right, Krycek, I'm giving you another chance. Who's the Vice-President of the United States?"

"Albert Gore, Jr.," was the prompt reply.

"And what's his wife's name?"

"Ummm....Mary Elizabeth. But everyone calls her Tipper."

"Alex, you get an 'A' in current events. Go to sleep."

Krycek made a sensuous, blissful little noise, and was almost instantly sound asleep. Mulder couldn't imagine falling asleep himself, between the freezing cold and the hardness of the floor and likelihood of being tortured tomorrow by people he couldn't even speak with. But he must have, because suddenly it was sunlight, not moonlight, that was pouring into the window. He was lying on his back, Krycek draped half over his chest, dark hair just visible above the rather stretched neckline of the sweater they shared. The man was alive, at least. Mulder could feel his slow, warm breaths.

He also felt a dull ache between his legs that he hadn't felt since his days of adolescent experimentation. He groaned. Blue balls. Just what he needed. A quick jerk-off session would take care of the problem, but he couldn't do that with Krycek here. He groaned again.

Krycek stirred; Mulder could feel those lush lashes fluttering against the skin of his chest. The dark head lifted then, looking around in confusion.

"How do you feel?" Mulder asked.

Krycek looked at him sleepily. "I don't think I'll tell you. It would make you too happy."

"That bad? Well, just take it easy." =As much as they let you, anyway.= "You almost froze to death. You're going to feel very, very tired for awhile."

"And I feel very, very stupid now."

"You were rather...uncooperative."

"I was a pain in the ass. Sorry."

"One of the symptoms of hypothermia. Not your fault."

Krycek gave Mulder a quizzical look, as if he wanted to say more, but finally just muttered, "Well...thanks." He pushed the sweater off over his head, then got up in search of his clothes. Mulder watched him move around the cell -- a bit unsteadily, but he was no doubt stiff from the bruises that were coloring up nicely all over his body. The clothes were likely still damp, but he wouldn't have to wear them long. According to the prisoner in the next cell, they would be issued uniforms this morning. And a blanket...

Mulder sat up, trying to ignore the persistent ache in his balls. He answered Krycek's unspoken question. "You're right, I do need you in here. I can't speak Russian. You can. Besides, it would look bad on my record if I had a prisoner die in my custody."

Krycek nodded, then continued dressing. Mulder sighed. All they had was each other in this place. Cold comfort indeed, but it was better than none at all...probably.

=the beginning?=