by Rushlight

Title: Descent
Author: Rushlight ( Author's Webpage: Fandom: The X-Files
Pairing: Mulder/Krycek
Spoilers: pre-Tunguska
Rating: PG-13 (for some bad language)
Category: Angst

Summary: An encounter with Mulder causes Alex to ponder the things he left behind.

Acknowledgments: Thank you very much to Jennie for the beta.

Feedback: Yes, please! This is only the second M/K fic I've written, so any comments, encouragement, critique, etc. will be endlessly appreciated.

by, Rushlight

The world teetered on edge for one endless moment before collapsing inward, shattering in a cascade of debris and billowing dust. Alex flailed, groping for purchase as the floor opened up around him, swallowing him whole with a tremulous shriek of metal and old wood.

He hit hard, yelping at the sudden, sharp pain that lanced through his left thigh when he impacted with the floor below. He covered his head instinctively, coughing on the fog of dust that swirled around him, squeezing his eyes shut tight against the sting of pained tears that pricked at his eyes.

Finally, the cacophony stilled into silence, and he blew out a hard breath, holding himself very still. He lay rigid where he had fallen, afraid to do anything that might convince the rest of the structure to fall down on top of him.

Coming here, he admitted, had been a bad idea in a long history of bad ideas. He'd known the lab was unstable after the quake that had hit it last week, and Alex's superiors hadn't wasted the effort to rebuild it after they bugged out. He should have known something like this would happen, with his track record in the luck department. Never mind that this was the only way he could possibly have convinced Mulder to meet with him. For someone who had such a burning drive to hunt down the truth, Mulder had a glaring blind spot when it came to identifying true sincerity.

Tentatively, he uncurled, blinking rapidly to clear away the fine layer of dust that clung to his eyelashes. Dirt still swirled lazily in the air around him, making him cough, and he rubbed a hand across the front of his chest absently, trying to ease the dull ache there.

A movement off to one side caught his attention, but before he could turn to identify it, he found himself staring down the barrel of a Sig Sauer 226. He froze, feeling his breath catch against the rawness of his throat, and let his gaze slide up to meet Mulder's face.

Which was glaring at him with a look of self-righteous betrayal. And of course to Mulder it would seem logical that Alex had planned for them both to be nearly buried alive.

"Relax, Mulder," he said, wincing at the strained croak his voice made. He wiped tentatively at the tears that beaded at the corners of his eyes, being careful to keep his hands in plain sight. "I told you the place wasn't exactly sound. You're the one who insisted on coming inside."

"Shut up, Krycek." Mulder's voice was rough, and he coughed violently, looking well and truly pissed. The barrel of the gun did not waver.

Alex watched him warily. Mulder was moving stiffly, apparently bruised but not seriously harmed by the fall. Alex wasn't sure whether the thought was a relief or not, and he quickly turned his attention to the room around them. Light from the floor above filtered down through the slowly settling dust cloud around them, providing a faint, blue-tinged illumination. He glanced up, frowning when he saw the ragged hole they'd fallen through.

"No chance we're getting out that way without bringing the whole place down on us," he commented, shifting to ease the pressure on his elbow. He suppressed a smile when Mulder tensed, gaze narrowing in on him sharply; Mulder could be so predictable sometimes. Alex sat up gingerly, keeping his movements slow more out of reaction to the aches that pulsed through him than from any real fear that Mulder would shoot him.

They appeared to be in some kind of underground storage room, although anything of interest had been effectively removed long before they'd gotten there. The walls were covered with a series of narrow shelving, and the hard concrete floor was empty except for a littering of debris. A single doorway, sans door, opened onto blackness at the far side of the room.

Seemingly satisfied that Alex wasn't planning any immediate treachery, Mulder made a short circuit of the room, apparently looking for hidden traps or invisible men lying in wait to ambush them. Gotta love those FBI reflexes. Alex slithered back to lean against the wall nearest him, grinning slightly at the warning look Mulder shot at him, and stretched his legs out, brushing the accumulated layer of dirt off the knees of his jeans.

Mulder had one of those industrial-strength flashlights in his hand now, and he was shining it into the next room. Alex leaned his head back against the wall, trying to ignore the dull throbbing in his thigh. God, he hated this job. Why had he ever decided to get involved in espionage, anyway? Why couldn't he have chosen to be, say, a dentist? Or a florist. He would have made a damn good florist. The thought made him chuckle despite himself.

Instantly, Mulder was there again, looming like retribution itself. "I'm glad you're enjoying yourself," he said scathingly, and apparently Alex did have a death wish after all, because he couldn't help laughing at the sheer absurdity of the situation.

"Yeah, sure, Mulder." He was reasonably certain that Mulder wouldn't kill him outright, at least not before he heard the full story of why Alex had called him here. Probably. "I'm having a ball. How about you?"

Mulder's expression clearly said that he wasn't amused, and Alex flinched, half-expecting some kind of a blow. God knew Mulder hadn't been shy about dealing out pain therapy in the past. But Mulder only sneered at him -- good expression of genuine contempt there -- and turned away as if Alex wasn't worth the effort.

It stung, and Alex wasn't quite sure why.

Mulder leaned hard against the wall across from him and slid down to the floor, propping the arm that held the flashlight on one bent knee. Alex dropped his gaze, brow furrowing against the brightness of the light, and fingered absently at the long rip that had appeared in the sleeve of his leather jacket during the fall. Damn it.

"The hallway out there's caved in," Mulder said matter-of-factly, and Alex's gut clenched. "And I don't think you'll be climbing out of here with that leg of yours." Apparently Alex hadn't been as successful in hiding the pain in his thigh as he thought he'd been. Mulder's voice stayed even as he continued, "So why don't you cut the bullshit and tell me why you dragged me all the way out here."

Alex shook his head, feeling vaguely amused. "Like you'd honestly believe anything I tell you at this point."

Mulder smiled thinly. "Try me."

All too aware of the gun that Mulder was still holding loosely on him, Alex shifted uncomfortably, stifling a wince at the pain that shot through his hip when he moved. Mulder was right; he wouldn't be climbing out of here on his own.

He sighed heavily, scrubbing at his eyes. "I don't know what you want me to say, Mulder. I wanted to give you information about the experiments they were doing here, up until the quake hit last week. You're the one who insisted on coming all the way out here to see the place for yourself."

Mulder hissed softly. "Why should I believe you?"

Alex gave him a lopsided smile. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend. I want the same thing you do, Mulder."

And for a moment he thought Mulder really was going to shoot him. With a visible effort, Mulder forced himself to relax, setting the flashlight down on the floor beside him and rubbing at his opposite arm slowly. "I don't trust you, Krycek."

Alex pressed his lips together. "I know." It was the one crime Fox Mulder could never truly forgive -- betrayal. Even if it was for his own damn good.

A sudden memory flashed across Alex's mind: the jarring impact of the row of telephones behind his back in Hong Kong, the rough heat of Mulder's body pressing against him, choking the breath out of him. He closed his eyes, feeling suddenly tired, and rubbed absently at the pain in his thigh.

"Why'd you do it, Krycek?" Mulder's voice was soft.

Alex smiled despite himself. "Which 'it' are you referring to?"

Which probably wasn't the wisest thing to say under the circumstances, but it was true nonetheless. Betrayal on top of betrayal on top of betrayal, and why had he ever decided this was a line of work he might want to get into? He'd learned too late that he just wasn't suited for undercover work. He never could seem to keep himself emotionally distanced.

But of course, by the time he'd figured that out, it had been too late. Far, far too late, and how had he deceived himself into thinking he'd ever actually had a choice about any of it?

Mulder's answering smile was thin, brittle. His eyes glinted sharply in the shadows behind the flashlight, like edges of broken glass. "You tell me."

Alex ducked his head against the sudden flare of pain that moved through him. Another memory surfaced: sitting on the edge of Mulder's desk downstairs in the basement office, handing him a cup of bad coffee and laughing over the details of their latest case. Casual Mulder, with his jacket thrown over the back of his chair and the sleeves of his shirt rolled up, looking up at him with bright hazel eyes.

Viciously, he shoved the memory away. "Are you looking for a confession?" Slightest edge of contempt in his voice. That was good; never let them know how much they were making you hurt.

"Something like that." And now there was an edge to the words that sounded strangely earnest. "I just want to understand why you do what you do, Krycek. Is that so much to ask? You're asking me to trust you. Give me a reason."

Alex looked up, caught off guard by the strained emotion behind the words. Mulder's expression hadn't changed, but there was a tension in him that seemed almost beseeching. But of course, Mulder always wanted to believe.

"So that's the deal, then?" Alex said, keeping the words carefully inflectionless. "In order for you to believe the information I've given you, I have to give you more information that you're not going to believe?"

Mulder's eyes glinted. "I could just climb out of here and leave you here to rot."

There was that. Alex closed his eyes with a sigh. Of course Mulder, holding him hostage with absolutely nothing to lose, would want to rake in every bit of Truth-with-a-capital-T he could get his hands on. How unbearably quaint. "What do you want to know?"

"Who do you work for?"

Hmm. Interesting opening question. "I work for a lot of people, Mulder."

Mulder bared his teeth at him. "Okay, then. Let me rephrase that. Who are you loyal to?"

Alex smiled slightly, showing some teeth of his own. "Me." He could practically feel the frustration rising off Mulder now, and he raised a hand to forestall the interrogation. "Face it, Mulder. There just aren't answers to the questions you want to ask. Not answers you want to hear, anyway."

Mulder seemed to consider that seriously for a moment. "Did you enjoy it?" he asked at last. His jaw was tight.

And there was just no safe answer to that question. Alex looked away, worrying at his lower lip.

"Come on, Krycek, you can tell me." Mulder's voice was steely. "Did you enjoy it? Fucking me over, I mean." God, how could he be so calm?

"No." Alex bent one leg and rested the side of his face against his knee, feeling beat up and worn out and so very, very tired. And that was the real crux of the matter for Mulder, wasn't it? Forget his father's murder, or Scully's sister's, or the role Alex had played in the theft of the DAT tape and Scully's abduction. All those weeks of intimate medical torture Mulder had to be imagining she'd gone through, and none of it could compare to the fact that he had trusted Alex, and Alex had let him down.

"No." Mulder echoed the word flatly, as if he couldn't believe Alex had said it. The hand with the gun twitched slightly. "What does that mean, Alex?"

Alex flinched at the sound of his name. Unbidden, another memory surfaced: sitting on the couch in Mulder's apartment, drinking watery beer and watching a Nicks game on TV, Mulder's hand warm against the back of his neck, stroking him softly, so very softly....

Angrily, Alex pushed the memory away. His hands were shaking now, and he curled them into fists, pressing them against the tops of his thighs. "I don't know what you want me to say, Mulder."

"I want you to tell me the truth." Mulder sounded petulant, like a child who wasn't getting his way. The comparison made Alex smile crookedly.

"Which truth do you want to hear?"

And yes, he was skating dangerously close to the edge now, judging by the look in Mulder's eyes. Mulder, who perhaps had more reason to hate him than anyone else alive. Alex held his gaze levelly, courting disaster, feeling a high, wild recklessness sing through him as Mulder leaned forward, hand tightening around his gun. Would it be so bad if Mulder just shot him now, left him to lie bleeding here on the floor of this basement while he climbed to safety, leaving his demons behind? There was a strange appeal to the thought, as if Alex might be able to give Mulder that degree of peace at least, in penance for his crimes.

After another moment, Mulder leaned his head against the wall behind him, closing his eyes. "Fuck you, Krycek."

Alex shivered.

He wondered then just what Mulder expected him to say. What did Mulder want to hear, exactly? Did he want Alex to tell him how he'd initially been approached by the men they both hated, how he'd been seduced by a carefully crafted web of lies and promises until he was so far entangled that any movement he made only drew him in deeper? Somehow, he didn't think Mulder would be impressed by the story. Poor, disillusioned Krycek, groping at ethical straws.

Finally, Mulder spoke again. "What kind of experiments were they doing here?"

Alex looked up at him, resting his chin on his bent knee. At least it was a fairly neutral question. "Alien hybrid research. Gene splicing. Whatever the fuck." He shrugged. "It's all on the disk I gave you."

Mulder's hand moved reflexively to the pocket of his jacket, where he'd put the zip disk Alex had given him earlier that evening. The disk contained all the information Alex had been able to find on the research that had been going on here, but of course that hadn't been enough for Mulder. No, he'd wanted Alex to bring him here, so he could see it, so he could feel it, so he could know for himself.

All things considered, Alex supposed he couldn't blame him.

"Why did you give it to me?" There was an odd note in Mulder's voice now that Alex couldn't quite place.

Alex eyed him narrowly. "It may surprise you to hear this, Mulder, but everything I do does not have some deep, nefarious purpose attached to it. This time, I just wanted to screw over the bastard who tried to kill me. And if that means helping you in the bargain, then so be it." Liar, his conscience told him, but he ignored it with the ease of long practice.

Mulder's expression was inscrutable. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," he mused, echoing Alex's words from earlier.

Alex smiled tightly. "Exactly."

More silence then, but it was heavier this time, filled with all the words they weren't saying. Alex clung to it like a talisman, afraid to break it, afraid to lose the tenuous balance that had somehow formed between them.

Finally, Mulder pressed his hands to his knees and stood. "Come on. Let's get out of here."

Alex stared up at him blankly, coughing on the thin film of dust that still floated in the air. "What?"

"Get up, Krycek. We're leaving."

Sure. Whatever. With an effort, Alex pulled himself to his feet, wincing at the pain that stabbed through his leg.

To his surprise, Mulder didn't start climbing the shelving on the wall, but instead moved toward the open doorway leading into the hall. Alex froze for a moment as the significance of that sank in, feeling irrationally betrayed.

The bastard.

Mulder's eyes had a sharp glint of amusement in them as Alex moved to follow him. Just as Alex suspected, the hall outside was clear, without any sign of a cave-in. He could have left on his own at any time.

"Asshole," he muttered under his breath, and Mulder smiled at him, fierce and quick.

"You're far too trusting," Mulder told him, sounding smug, and again Alex flashed back to those earlier times, when everything had been new and untarnished and still innocent between them.

Why had Mulder tricked him into staying here to talk to him? Maybe he'd felt he needed some kind of verification, some reassurance to convince him that the information Alex was giving him was real. Maybe he'd just wanted to see Alex squirm, one last time. After all, he never seemed to give up an opportunity to make him suffer for his crimes.

Or perhaps Mulder had been looking for some kind of closure, too.

"As soon as we get out of here, I don't ever want to see you again." Mulder's voice was cold, and Alex nodded tiredly. He'd figured it would be too much to hope to get a thank you out of this.

Then Mulder was moving down the hall, and Alex limped after him, wondering just what they'd accomplished here tonight. Probably nothing. Mulder still hated him, still didn't trust him, probably still wanted to see him dead.

But he hadn't killed him.

That was something, as far as Alex was concerned. Maybe, in its own way, it was everything.

Because it meant that maybe, just maybe, there was still a chance Mulder could forgive him.

They were nearing the end of the hall now. Giving Mulder one last glance, Alex started up the stairs toward the surface above.

And tried to believe.

The End

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