Disclaimer: Well Mulder isn't mine, but Krycek definitely... he's not? But Carter's so.... Damn.
Pairing: M/K
Rating: Um...12?
Spoilers: Not sure. Tunguska.
Summary: The characters find an unconventional way to solve their conflict.
Thank you as ever to Ursula for being amazing and indulging me.
Feedback to Banjo_skunk@hotmail.com. You know, if you want to. No, scratch that... you HAVE to. Or I'll come and GET you. >:)


By Beth


There was an underlying scent of decay- of the endless recycling of life. Birds sang loudly in the trees and a squirrel chattered angrily, unnoticed by the man walking through the dappled light of the forest floor. He placed his feet carefully, avoiding the dry sticks that waited innocently until a careless step


He froze, the camouflage clothing little use against the sparse vegetation. It had come from behind him somewhere. Not close enough to be an immediate threat, but he was even more wary as he set off again, cradling his gun in the crook of his arm.

The forest had gone silent for a moment after the loud retort, as if out of respect for the force it could sense moving through it... but gradually the sound crept back until it was almost as it had beenbefore. And the next snap wasn't nearly loud enough to halt the raucous calls- but it was closer. And on the route he had taken.

And he was running, the pounding of his heart drowning out both the birds and the crashing sounds he must be making. It wasn't long before his muscles, unused to the demanding terrain, were protesting loudly; and after a few more minutes he slumped against a tree, panting harshly. It was darker here, the branches overhead woven much more tightly, and the forest floor was submerges in perpetual twilight. He was further than ever from his team, from Scully and Skinner... and he doubted they would hear even if he screamed for help.

And that was the point, wasn't it? none of them was clumsy enough to step on sticks twice, almost directly after each other. And he'd let them drive him away from the base, from his team, from safety...

The gun in his hands was all but useless. They hadn't stayed alive as long as they had without learning a lot about survival, about disappearing. So he closed his eyes and held his arms a little away from his sides, waiting for the shot to be taken. And a moment later, it was.

Mulder's eyes flew open at the impact- he hadn't realised it would hurt that much. And as he gazed downward at the stain in the centre of his chest, he wondered vaguely why it was grey.

//It wasn't supposed to end like this...//

                             * * *

Skinner adjusted his grip on the gun slightly, maintaining his position on the branch gripped between muscular thighs. The foliage was thick enough to conceal him from anyone that happened to glance upward, but he could clearly see the woman moving carefully through the clearing. And he took it as a personal affront that she was so immaculate even now... it implied complacency, the assumption that her team would win. So it was with no small amount of satisfaction that he centred the crosshairs on her chest and lovingly squeezed the trigger.

Diana Fowley screeched in mingled pain and anger as an unseen shooter took her out of the game, white staining her jacket.

                             * * *

Mulder still sat at the base of the tree, not entirely sure which direction he'd come from and unwilling to lose himself deeper in the forest. He didn't particularly want to be stumbled upon by the other team, but he was dead now so what did it matter?

//I hope that Skinner and Scully can carry on without me...// But they always had before. And along with the comfort gained- they were more than capable of carrying the torch they had been passed- was the realisation that they didn't *need* him. And it hurt. And he didn't want to think about them as an exclusive unit that didn't really need [want?] to include "Spooky" Mulder... so instead he focussed on the stain on his jacket.

Why was it grey? He had thought that they'd agreed that Mulder's team would be white, and Cancer Man's black. Light and dark. It wasn't ever as simple as that anymore, if it ever had been. There was no clearly defined line with a sign indicating which side of the line was right. Was *true*. They all walked in shadow now, and it would be just like the smoking bastard to point that out, to choose grey. But then surely he would have insisted on uniformity...

And then his question was answered as a gun dropped to the ground on his left with a clatter and the shadows solidified into a rat with emerald green eyes.

                             * * *

Doggett leaned against a tree, slightly disgusted with himself for agreeing to take part in this in the first place. The birds were really beginning to annoy him, and he found himself wishing that the gun in his hands was real so he could take some pot shots. Amused by his thoughts of four-and-twenty blackbirds, he barely ducked around the tree in time to avoid being spotted by whoever was entering the clearing.

He carefully peered around the trunk and breathed a sigh of relief as he saw Skinner's head reflecting what light there was. And he was just about to step out and greet the Assistant Director when a movement to the left caught his eye. The branches parted slightly again, and he caught a glimpse of white hair and a slim black gun barrel... and then he was moving instinctively to the aid of a fellow agent.

"Skinner, down!"

His voice startled both men, and the first shot went wide, the black paintball harmlessly hitting a tree to Skinner's right. And before he had time to squeeze off another shot Doggett's white paintball had hit him directly over the heart.


And for some reason, the extremely British swear word, said in that extremely British voice, was the last straw. Doggett had been wallowing in a sense of the ridiculous

//a paintball game for possession of the Earth, followed by breakfast at Milliways...// all day, and at this he just cracked up, bent double and oblivious to Skinner's mumbled thanks and departure.

                             * * *

Krycek looked at the man slumped on the other side of the small clearing, his mouth dry and his heart pounding in a way that couldn't be entirely attributed to the chase. Hazel eyes met his, but there was no anger in them, only curiosity. And Mulder didn't even try to move toward him, to lay a finger on him.

//He's waiting until I get in range// but the soft voice of instinct seemed less sure than usual. Mulder was just sitting there and looking at him for the first time since they had been partners. And the heat in his eyes made Alex feel vulnerable, almost naked. It took such an effort to remain still, to resist the urge to turn away from the scrutiny and shield the gloved left hand from view.

"Come here."

The softly spoken request made the hairs stand up on the back of his neck-never had he heard Mulder's voice so free of resentment, or irritation, or sarcasm, or an anger and hatred so intense that it waslike a physical blow. He found himself responding without conscious thought, and was terrified to think of what this man could make him do with a simple request.

He stopped in front of Mulder and closed his eyes as if in pain as the other man moved fluidly to his knees... he gritted his teeth and willed his erection to subside as he registered Mulder's position, the proximity of his face to...

His prayers were answered and his hard-on painfully reduced as Mulder's long fingers traced the line where flesh met plastic. And this time no amount of willpower could prevent him from flinching away, moving back into the shadows. His voice was husky as he asked, "What do you want from me?" and he cursed the barely noticeable tremor in his voice. For a moment he almost wished for the old Mulder- the man who hit him, cursed him, hated him. Then at least he knew where the next blow would be coming from, didn't feel quite so helpless.

"I just want to see you, Alex." And the sound of his name from those gorgeous lips... he could hardly breathe in, felt like there was a clenched fist behind his breastbone. And he walked forward again, hopelessly, into the half-light.

                            * * *

The shot came from nowhere- no noise preceded it and until that moment Doggett had been convinced that he was alone. He looked around and then upward at the small areas of cloud-free sky that could be glimpsed through the leaves; and he was resigned to the fact that he hadn't ever really been a part of the game. It wasn't his fight. But he prayed that they would win-and in his heart he knew that they could- that *Scully* could.

He thought of the petite woman and silently wished her luck. She was one of the strongest people he knew, and he was proud to call her a friend. He sat down and leaned against a tree, light playing across his closed eyelids... and it was her face that caused the soft smile on his lips.

Deeper in the trees a lighter flared, briefly illuminating a care-worn face before it disappeared, leaving only a glowing ember in the shadows.

                             * * *

Mulder watched as Krycek moved toward him again, head tilted downward and eyes staring at nothing, submission evident in his body language. And he recognised that a surrender of a sort had taken place, but he wasn't sure how or what had caused it.

He just knew that Krycek was giving in to him, trusting him not to hurt him... and for a moment the compulsion to hurt him, shame him, make him beg, was strong enough that he didn't think he could do anything else. But the wariness in the green eyes that flicked up briefly to meet his own made him feel something approaching tenderness for the other man.

He gently took the lifeless hand between his own and felt Krycek's body tensing, his head turning away to gaze sightlessly into the trees. And for that moment Mulder ignored him. He traced the shape of the moulded plastic under the long-sleeved black T-shirt that was really too heavy for the weather, and then moved back up to trace the line where scarred flesh met rigid prosthesis...

And then Alex swung his head round so their eyes met and Mulder could see the conflict in them as the younger man fought the urge to lash out, to escape the mental corner he had been backed into where he felt so defenceless. And he saw how hard it was for him to surrender control, to lay himself bare like this; saw the clenched right hand and the unsteady breathing, and the bright film that turned his eyes to aquamarine.

He snatched his hand away as if burned and wrapped both arms around himself. //I don't want to feel this. I don't want his trust.//

                                 * * *

Skinner turned his head again, scanning the trees for some sign of movement. He had the unnerving feeling that he was being watched, that someone was following him, but he hadn't seen anything so far. The forest was completely silent, the birds taking a break from their territorial calls.

He mentally shook himself and started moving forward again, shrugging out of his camouflage jacket and tying it around his waist. His white T-shirt would make him a more visible target but the jacket was a hindrance.

A cold sweat drenched him as a thump sounded in the forest ahead of him and he froze, covering the area with his gun. He started to slowly back away and then stopped again as a voice softly spoke from behind him.

"Hola, amigo."

And it was with a sense of inevitability that he spun and saw the dark face smiling cruelly as the paintball hit him in the stomach.

                             * * *

And this time it was Mulder that was unable to stay away- tortured by the pain in the defenceless green eyes he stepped forward again and did the first thing he could think of, brushing his lips against the other man's.

Alex tensed and tried to pull away, but Mulder slid his right hand up over his shoulder and neck to tangle in his hair and pull him back. This electric sensation was not something he would let go. And the other man shivered slightly and opened his mouth under Mulder's, allowing access to his tongue.

And Alex tasted of black coffee, and dark chocolate, and the scent of the night. And as the other man's arm slipped around his waist and pressed him closer he realised that it was a taste that could quickly become addictive. And his last thought- before Alex ground his hips forward against Mulder's and all capacity for rational thought was lost- was that the addiction didn't scare him as much as it should.

                            * * *

She moved silently through the forest, faster than her watchers could have believed possible for a woman so petite and delicate. She was certainly causing problems for her silent pursuer.

As she paused and cocked her head, nicotine stained fingers steadied the gun and centred on her still figure, preparing to claim her as his own with a dark stain.

The trigger was squeezed and the paintball was exactly on target... unfortunately the target had moved and it harmlessly hit a tree trunk. He cursed and took his eye away from the gun barrel only to find that she had disappeared.

Rustling in the trees to his right caught his attention and he headed in that direction, still hoping that he would come across Mulder.

                               * * *

Mulder opened his eyes again and stood for a moment, his breath unsteady. He just looked at Krycek, noticing for the first time how beautiful the other man was, especially with his lips shining and slightly swollen. Long black eyelashes rested on his cheeks, and Mulder was glad of the oppurtunity to think again without being distracted by haunted emerald green. And then Alex spoke, and the low husky voice made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.

"What do you want from me?"

And for the first time, he knew. There had always been something about the other man that had confused him, that subtly changed the way the world had always been. And for a time Mulder had believed that the change could be a good thing... until it was gone. And everything was as it should be and he loved *Scully* but that didn't explain the pain in his stomach or the amount he'd missed emerald eyes and terrible suits.

Green eyes opened slowly and the crease at the bridge of his nose grew more pronounced as if something in Mulder's eyes confused him. And as Mulder reached for him he flinched away as if expecting to be punched... and Mulder hated himself for that. And he silently promised that he would make it up to him.

"I want *you*."

And he watched the amazing change as a gorgeous mouth curved into a genuine smile that was free from malice or bitterness, and green eyes that glowed with an inner light raised to meet his.

And then they were kissing agin and neither could believe how right it felt.

                              * * *

Spender followed the rustling noises further into the forest... and when he realsied that Scully had previously been silent it was already too late.

Two men in black tackled him, sending him crashing to the ground and causing his gun to fly out of his hands. He lay on the ground, wheezing, and then lost all the air he'd managed to force into his lungs in a rush, as one of the men kicked him in the stomach.

He curled into a foetal position as blows continued to smash into his back and side. The world was fading to red-black before it mercifully stopped but then he was forced to his feet, barely able to stand.

They backed him up against a tree and handcuffed his hands painfully with the trunk between them and his back, effectively tethering him. And then he finally saw their faces.

"I killed you! I killed you both for betraying me to Mulder. You can't be here!" His cries grew increasingly more frantic as the black man raised an eyebrow at his older partner and they both turned and walked away.

"You can't leave me here!"

                             * * *

Mulder gently petted the sable head that was cradled against his shoulder and smiled slightly. It was amazing how being dead changed things. At this moment in time, he was happy... and that was all that mattered. The past was past. And the game was suddenly unimportant. He had won.


Archived: May 20, 2001