TITLE: Hot Kachina
AUTHOR: Polly Burns
SUMMARY: Alex Krycek, this was your life.
SPOILER WARNINGS: Just about every episode that he's been in.
RATING: I'm gonna say R, because even though the sex is pretty tepid, there are copious references to drug-taking, bad language, and possibly disturbing content. In other words, stuff that you wouldn't want your kid sister to be reading.
DISCLAIMER: Alex K., Fox Mulder, Jeffrey Spender, Scully, etc., etc. do not belong to me. They're the products of the diseased mind of Chris Carter. Title and song lyrics come from Tori Amos' Bliss, to whom I have no connection to whatsoever blah blah blah don't-sue-me-cakes.
NOTES: First of all, I would like to say thank you to those people who stood steadfastly by my side during the months (and I mean months) that it took me to finally finish this goddamned story. Mainly, they would be Liz and Lily. I would also like to thank Alex Krycek for lending himself so easily to the writing process- but, seriously, that's it- piss off, I don't owe you anything anymore. In case you don't speak Russian (what are they teaching kids in school these days?), it might be helpful to know this:
Shto eta?= What's that?
Ya nye panimayoo= I don't understand.
Neechyevoh= Never mind.
Na vashye zdorovye= To your health.
This story bounces around time-wise, but the years in question are labeled for your convenience.
Kachina- Any number of deified ancestral spirits of the Pueblo peoples, believed to reside in the pueblo for part of each year.
-American Heritage Dictionary
"So then, all of a sudden, Krycek shows up, and it's like, not only does Mulder see dead people, but he sees hot dead people."
-in conversation with Lily Myone.
maybe you're a 4 horse engine/ with a power drive/ a hot kachina who wants into mine
From red into black into white. And, now, he wants to see what there is to see-
Alex is twenty-two. Something has to change. Even his eighteen-year-old sister has her life on track he is starting to worry- at the edges of whatever kind of amusement park his head has become due to the influence of various chemicals. On the edge of his mind, his life, he is getting worried. He is twenty-two sometimes he wonders what he looks like on the inside. Burned-out bulbs and half-eroded wires the sharp smell of burning plastic. His liver, he envisions as a maimed bicycle tire, the latticework of punctures in rich rubber. His lungs are spent cap gun cartridges, charred and melted, still smoking. The delicate scent of burnt paper... The money that his mother thoughtfully put away before she became a transparency, her own living ghost, has been rapidly flying up his nose down his throat like a fast-motion film of wedding confetti scattering in the wind. He needs a job. He needs a life, a way to give it all up, something to replace it. The white specter and his boy Jim Beam. Something as ethereal- a shadow, like his mother in her bed. Something has to-
The phone rings. Alex looks around, with the helpless and excited expression of a dog, forgetting that nobody else is around to pick it up.
"Hello," raggedly he exhales into the shell of the receiver.
"Hello, Alex." The voice is entirely too confident. Alex hates its owner instantly.
"Yeah," he drags on the word as though it were a cigarette, trying to sound younger, snotty. For once, being a spoiled brat serves him well- he doesn't have to act, just be exactly what he is.
"I'm a friend of your father." The I'm is irritating, Alex hopes that this man will correct himself and say I was. Because, as far as Alex knows, dead people don't have friends, and dead is what Alex's father is. He doesn't correct himself, just comes out with, "I'd like to meet with you."
"Why?" Automatically, Alex narrows his eyes, though there is nobody there to see him do it.
Before the man speaks again, there is a pause, he is smoking. The exhalation is audible, like he wants to make sure that Alex knows that he is smoking. It's kind of unsettling. "I'd like to offer you a job." Like he knows that Alex will accept, no matter what it is.
"A job?" snorts Alex, "How do you know I don't already have one?"
"I know quite a lot about you. I know about your expenses," cheerful as he says it. And that's all takes.
"Where do you want to meet?"
The time and the place are given. It takes Alex two lines just to get to the door.
"So glad you could make it."
"Yeah, well, you know..." Alex waves his hand as if to conjure the unspoken words. He sits.
All around the restaurant are the respectable, the rich and the nearly-rich, the tang of money in all its forms, like cat piss in the bushes. The promise of money, it circulates, works the room, riding the collected mist of the perfume of moneyed women. The chair under Alex is stiff, as though loathe to receive him.
He lights a cigarette. The man, he hasn't told Alex his name, and Alex doesn't think that he ever will, already has one.
"So what about this job?" Alex squints even though the smoke is blowing away from him.
"Ah, yes," the man says with a smile. His teeth are the color of a November full moon, sweat-stained sheets, "I work within a substructure of our government, a sort of regulatory committee."
Alex feigns yawning so that he may feign stifling the yawn.
"Your father worked with us."
"My father was a factory foreman, he didn't know shit about the government." This last bit he growls. His burgeoning animosity toward the man, his suit, his Canadian cigarettes is colored by the sudden need to run to the bathroom and bury his nose in the little pillow-like bag of white stuff that he has in his pocket. Under the table, Alex's hands open and close into fists.
"The lies fathers tell their sons," the man says fondly, and that's all he says on the subject. He continues, "My colleagues and I are aware of your habits, your proclivities." There is a jolly sort of upswing to his voice. He makes an open gesture with the cigarette hand.
Suddenly in better humor, Alex turns up one side of his mouth. "What, that I'm a cokehead and I swing both ways? Not exactly a state secret, old man."
"We're also aware of your assets." Did the man have this shit written down somewhere?
"Hoping to fuck me in my assets?" Alex shifts himself forward conspiratorially, "Sorry, I'm not running a charity." He rises and a deceptively strong hand latches onto his arm.
"That's not the kind of job that we want you for."
Treading cold fear, Alex falls back into his chair. "What kind of job do you want me for?" He rubs at the place where those fingers gripped him. The bruises will begin to show in just a couple of hours. Alex has always bruised easily.
"We'd like you to do a bit of fact-finding for us. There is a man whose work we've been trying to discredit. He's been detrimental to our... efforts," Alex takes note of the pause- maybe he doesn't have all of his lines written down, "His interests are incompatible with our own."
"What kinds of interests do you have?" For the third time that day, Alex narrows his eyes. He's beginning to wonder if his father wasn't secretly involved with the Mob.
"All in good time, Alex. First you need to get yourself cleaned up, go into rehab, get yourself together."
A puff of incredulous laughter escapes him. "Since when does the Russian Mob run a drug-free workplace?"
"The Russian Mob?" the man laughs, showing for the first time genuine mirth through his sinister Father Christmas front. "Whatever made you think that?"
"I dunno," Alex mutters, feeling dumb, "Just, you're, like, a creepy guy and you talk about your," he bends his fingers into quotes, "'interests'."
"I told you, I work for the government," he says firmly.
"Okay." He is beginning to sweat, really sweat. It feels like the man is physically keeping him from going to the bathroom and doing what he has to do. At this point, Alex is prepared to say anything. Just to get out of there, to go back home. "I really have to go to the bathroom," he ventures, hoping for the best.
"We will, of course, pay for your stay in rehab. Someplace out of the way, I think." He lights another cigarette.
"If I could just-"
"Preparations will be made," he says around his cigarette. No words have ever chilled Alex quite so much.
"But I really have to..." he begins to stand, but his knees fold and his ass finds the chair again.
"Afterwards, we'll discuss the job further."
"You were just expecting me to agree? Just like that?" All Alex can do is open and close his hands under the table some more.
"It's called confidence, Alex- you'll need it. You can get anybody to do anything if only you believe that you can."
"You can't, you can't kidnap me, I have to go with you willingly." Alex turns his head this way and that, looking for the way out, which seems to have evaporated. Everywhere, all he sees is wall, but no door.
"You will, Alex," (Quit saying my name, you old fucking ghoul, he thinks), "I can offer you something you've never had before."
"What's that?" His ears are hot as newly spent matches.
"A chance, a chance to do something that matters."
"You're, like, evil, aren't you?" His breath comes out with a crackling sound, like television static raging through the picture tube. The rush of blood in his ears reminds him of the sound of the ocean when he heard it at Jones' Beach, on vacation in New York, some ten years ago.
"Is that important?"
Without thinking, "No, not really."
Somebody pulls out their chair at the next table; even though the floor is made of silken marble, it still makes a terrible noise. Alex starts at the sound and then shivers.
"Wait, okay, repeat it to me slowly. I'm gonna what the FBI, now? And what the hell is a Fox Mulder?" Unnoticing, Alex lets his hands fall unto his hips; it takes him a moment to realize that he looks and sounds like a queen bitch. He shakes himself up and sticks to a simple glare.
"Don't be a child, Alex, I'm not sending you to your death." The smile on the man's face sends a whisper of ice straight to Alex's bones.
"Yeah, right," Alex huffs. "I've known you for, what, two months now and you still haven't told me your name. That doesn't exactly inspire confidence."
"You can call me Spender," the man says indifferently.
"As in Hey, Big? Who does that make me, Julia Roberts? And what's with this rehab shit? You can only get off if I'm squeaky clean?"
"I honestly don't understand your fascination with the idea of prostituting yourself, but hold onto it if it makes you happy."
Alex cringes. Everything about this is so wrong. "Okay, so call you Spender, right?" he asks, disregarding the previous statement, "Is that your name?"
"As far as you need to know, yes."
"Great, super, more cryptic non-answers."
"I tell you what you need to know," Spender shrugs.
"So, tell me about what it is that I'm supposed to do with the FBI." Alex sits at the edge of his bed. At first, he couldn't sleep in that bed, could barely stand to lie in it. Now, though, he's occupied the room for almost two months, longer than anybody else in the program, and he's beginning to think of it as 'his'.
"You remember that I told you that there was a man whose work hinders that of my organization?"
"His name is Fox Mulder and he's an FBI agent."
"That's a funny name," Alex chuckles, more to himself than anybody else.
"Be that as it may, he's not to be underestimated. He's intelligent, resourceful, he has connections, patrons."
"If he's such a pain in your ass and he's so dangerous to your 'interests'," Alex makes quotation marks with his fingers, "then why don't you just have somebody take him out?"
Spender sighs, as though he's had to explain this to a lot of people. "In a word, publicity. We don't want it. Fox Mulder, for the relatively obscure and potentially ridiculous nature of his work, is a very public figure. In fact, it is the nature of his work that gives him his exposure. And the sorts of people who follow his every move are not the sort who would readily believe casual excuses or plausible explanations for his sudden death or disappearance."
Alex yawns. The way that Spender talks used to bother him, but he thinks that he's become largely inured to it. "What exactly does he do?"
"He works in an FBI subdivision called the X-Files. He investigates paranormal phenomena."
"What, like Ghostbusters?" Alex laughs. It's the first good laugh that he's had in a very long time.
"No," Spender gives a minute eye-roll, "the phenomena in which he is chiefly interested is extraterrestrial in nature."
"Aliens? You're shitting me."
"No, I am most assuredly not. I'll ask you to endeavor to take this seriously."
"Yeah, but it's aliens," Alex makes a pained expression, "This is what was so important? This is why I've had to be in rehab for two months- a month longer than everybody else? Couldn't you just find somebody that's already in the FBI to do whatever it is that you need done?"
Now it's Spender's turn to make the pained expression. "We have, but thus far she has been less than effective. She has, in fact, begun to use her scientific background to attempt to quantify his work rather than debunk it."
"And you think that I'll do a better job at this because I'm so good at science? Since you seem to know everything else about me, you probably know that I never got past Chemistry in high school."
"We're hoping to take a more aggressive approach. We're just waiting for the right time, the right circumstances." Spender's eyes light up, like he's thinking about his high school sweetheart.
"Do I have to stay in rehab until then?" Alex asks, "Cos, seriously, I don't think that I even know how to spell 'cocaine' anymore. And I'm getting really tired of pissing into cups."
"You can leave the day after tomorrow," said casually, like the door's been unlocked the whole time and Alex could have just walked out whenever he wanted to.
"And then what?"
"And then you're going to Quantico."
"Seriously, FBI school? In case you skipped over the failing parts in my transcripts, I don't do well in school. In fact, I tend to do pretty horrifically badly."
"You'll do well, Alex," Spender says as he heads for the door, "I have all the confidence in the world in you."
Alex waits until the old man is probably down the hall before he lets himself have a good long shiver.
And it strikes him, and the thought is hard to give any definable emotion to, that this is probably the closest thing that he'll ever have to a honeymoon. Certainly with Mulder, anyway. Admittedly, the notion would be a lot less fucked up if they weren't in a gulag, but sometimes you just take these things as you can get them. Alex closes his eyes and pictures a white hotel room. The walls are white, the bedding is white, even the furniture is white, lacquered to the smoothness and purity of a swan's neck. It is warm, from bathtub-steam, from the steam that rises like perfume out of the yawning white bathtub. Alex pictures himself in the bath, head leaned back, painted with steam all over his body, one arm hanging over the edge of the tub, a cigarette in his hand. He inhales rapturously, imagining the smoke tracing a velvet path down his throat and into his lungs.
"What the hell are you smiling about, Krycek?" Mulder snaps at him, placing the emphasis on his name as he always does, making it sound like a rude word.
Before Alex opens his eyes, for a millisecond, he sees Mulder taking him by surprise, getting into the bathtub with him. "Nothing," he mutters.
"If you had any sense, you'd be thinking of a way to get us out of here." Mulder's begun to pace, long legs stiff, no movement to the knees.
"What can I do?" He can do plenty, he knows, but not anything that he'd really like to mention just then.
"I don't know," Mulder spits and rolls his eyes, like it's Alex that should have all the answers. "You speak Russian, talk to them, make up a story and tell them that we're not supposed to be here."
"They'd never listen, they'd never let us go," Alex says, sounding so convincingly hopeless that he starts to scare himself. That seems to satisfy Mulder. He takes a step closer, lingers for a moment, and then steps back.
And it's not that Alex didn't care what happened to Mulder, didn't know with absolute certainty that Mulder could and would probably die in that shithole- just, these things are complicated.
The first thing Alex does is take a bath. The steam is everything that he imagined, it's like fifty hands caressing him at once, wiping him clean of the past year, two years, four years, wiping him so clean that he can barely remember who he is. Who am I? he asks the seashell-smooth body of the tub, the pipes with their scar-like rings of rust, the ceiling with the lacy dropping plaster. The only reply is the sound of water dripping. That's what I thought, Alex says and submerges himself.
When he comes up, he wipes his eyes and then reaches toward the toilet. Upon the seat lies a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Letting each second fix itself to his mind, he presses a cigarette between his lips and lights it. The first drag almost knocks him out, nicotine hitting him like a physical blow. The idea makes him think of Mulder. Maybe this is his passive-aggressive way of getting Mulder back. For the constant stream of beatings. Alex has never, ever raised a hand to defend himself, he's barely done anything to deserve getting hit. He's killed a couple of people, Bill Mulder among them, but he never wanted to. It's always been plainly understood that it's them or him. It's not like he could have said, No, I don't really feel like it. He didn't have that option- or any options, for that matter. Now, he just does whatever he has to in order to not get dead. Though, admittedly, he sometimes considers that dying might be better than living with the things that he thinks, the things that he has to remember. What it sometimes feels like to be him.
But it's not like there's anybody else that he could be. So he doesn't let himself think too much about the things that he's done. That makes it easier to do the same things over and over again.
It's kind of sick, but Alex is excited, giddy, even, the way he hasn't been since he was about eleven. That last time was the first day of sixth grade, before it all soured and it began to sink in that this was the beginning of the end. Today, though, Alex just feels the sweet shock, not even a hint of the flattening out, the corrosion of his hopes. He's twenty-four and he feels like a little kid about to enter that new, unknown classroom.
In the elevator, his heart is pounding like it hasn't since his twenty-eight days times two, since he got clean. Thinking of coke doesn't really bother him, doesn't make him itch like it used to. The way that his fingertips tingled like he was up someplace high... That all seems like a very long time ago, like somebody else's life. His heart's pounding, he can feel his pulse all through his body, all over him like a stain, but it's just adrenaline. And they can't send you to rehab for that.
By the time he gets to his floor, he thinks that his heart might simply explode. There's some paranormal phenomena for you, Fox Mulder, he laughs to himself. The other day, he asked one of Spender's other errand boys cum indentured servants if he knew anything about this Mulder.
"Yeah," the guy spat, "He's nuts. Runs around chasing little green men."
A lot people say this about Mulder, Alex will find, as though the 'little green men' bit is written up in an official dossier or something somewhere.
Alex ploughs down the rows of desks, past all of the people who aren't Mulder, wonders what he'll look like. Alex was shown a picture, of course, but it wasn't a very good one. Photographs rarely get more than just the sloppiest, blurriest impression; you have to see them move, hear them speak, that's how you know what somebody looks like for real.
The excitement, giddiness- the little bounce to his step, the fluidity to his voice- is either a very good thing or a very bad thing. Logically, it's a very good thing. Because Mulder only has to take one look at him and Alex knows that Mulder thinks that he's a dumbass. Which is tremendously lucky for Alex because it means that Mulder will never, or at least not for a very long time, know that he's slowly being sold out. Somewhere within him, though, someplace that logic doesn't touch, Alex is disappointed. He still doesn't care for the feeling of being disliked; for a while he'd forgotten how bad it can be, but now the old bitterness is beginning to unwind inside of him like a paper flower. From that first second, and secretly into the future for years to come, Alex wants Mulder to like him. Alex smiles, because he knows that this is what he ought to do.
At 'home'- he hasn't been there long enough to strip the quotes- after work, he lets the light coming off of the television balm all of his injuries. In place of the cocaine and the alcohol and even the cigarettes, Alex finds that he's developed a nasty cathode ray addiction. It doesn't even matter what he's watching, as long as the television is on.
He's twenty-four, his life is so hopelessly surreal that sometimes it makes his head spin- turning stripes of red blue yellow like this top he had as a child. When his sister is on leave, she no longer has a house to come home to because it's been sold. She no longer has a mother to visit in the Home because she died while Alex was in rehab. She no longer has a brother to talk to because he's pretty much gone, however you want to look at it. She's been shown pictures of a twisted guardrail, cleaved by the force of a speeding car, of a road overlooking a valley and of a wide, flat lake of unimaginable depth. She's been told that the divers haven't been able to locate the car or Alex, and one day she'll be told that they've finally dredged up his remains. And then she'll have closure and Alex will probably still be where he is today, spying on Fox Mulder. The voyeur in him is not altogether displeased with this arrangement.
Mulder isn't bad to look at- Alex would have to be blind, never mind heterosexual to disregard that. He's a pretty man- maybe a little too thin, but that only makes him more appealing, moves him from the category of somebody you'd just want to fuck to somebody that you'd like to take care of. He must attract women in droves, Alex muses, not even upset at knowing that he'll never have even a hair's breadth of a chance with him. And it would be stupid to get attached, knowing full well that he's meant to try his damndest to get Mulder discredited, fired or whatever it is that the old man actually has on his mind. Alex hasn't discounted the possibility that he may actually have to kill Mulder. He's not sure how he feels about this. The sensation is beyond the describable; it can only be said that it's like something is flooding out of him through the bottoms of his feet, and that suddenly his head is made of out some kind of ether.
Spender has had him kill two people, thus far. Neither of them was of very much importance in Spender's world, the world of his 'interests', and Alex gets the feeling that their deaths were required for the sole purpose of accustoming Alex to murder. The old man just stood back as Alex doled out the requisite two shots to the back of the head, watching with a lack of expression that made Alex nauseous. Very good, Alex, Spender said, almost meditatively. Alex had no reply. The more he thinks about it, the more certain he becomes that he is going to have to kill Fox Mulder.
Inevitably, he fucks up. In the stupidest fucking way, too. His big mistake turns out to be not cleaning the goddamn ashtray of his car. All it takes is a pair of cigarette butts in the little slide-out tray and he's done for. He doesn't even figure it out until later, after all the damage has neatly been done. For a while, he'd believed that Mulder's natural paranoia had led to his failure, that the man was so infinitely sensitive that all it had taken was one questionable phrase out of Alex to spook him. Until he'd gone to get his stuff out of the car and checked the ashtray for quarters. Of course, there were none.
Alex has never been so angry in all of his life, and he's not sure why. The job's definitely down the shitter, and he's sure that he's not going to ever get another opportunity like this. In fact, he's not even sure if he's going to get much of an opportunity to live. Not that he really cares all that much about his job- or his life, for that matter. If they let him live, that's great, but if he has to die, well, what can you do? It's not death that Alex fears, it's pain. After a lot of thinking and some reasonably priced vodka, it dawns on him that he's furious because he's going to miss Fox Mulder.
That's what it is- he's fallen in love, or a reasonable facsimile, or whatever it is that people like him fall into. This, of course, puts a whole new spin on his failure; even Alex, who has never considered himself to be a great thinker, realizes this. It was Spender and his fucking Morleys (Alex never cared for Canadian cigarettes, himself) that really ended him, but Alex has to wonder if he didn't somehow tip his hand, give Mulder a reason to look in the ashtray, cause Mulder to form his own assumptions rather than confront Alex. Because, even before he came to the conclusion that he was in love, Alex knew that he didn't want to kill Mulder, that he would do just about anything to avoid it. Sure, work demanded that he do some things that could get him killed indirectly, but lift a gun and pull the trigger, never. Alex likes to think that not even he is that low.
Even filthy and ragged, skin waxy and pale from the cold and malnutrition and the ebb and flow of adrenaline, he's a sight. Alex wonders if he's finally developed that vision impairment that stupefies those lost to love, if he's unable to see Mulder as being anything less than lovely. 'Finally' maybe isn't the right word, either, because as far back as he can remember, he's always thought of Mulder as being fantastically attractive. Maybe, maybe everything is finally just getting to him. Maybe he's losing it, because it's taking all of his strength or will or whatever you want to call it to keep from throwing his arms around Mulder and spilling his soul, spilling every black, ugly thing he's done in his twenty-six years. Begging for absolution, or something silly like that.
He paces instead.
Silently, he makes a list of all the places that he'd rather be. That's too easy, though, because he'd rather be just about anywhere than here. So, he switches to favorite albums. It's been years since he really listened to music- it's hard to sit down with a record when you don't really have a home and people seem to always want to kill you. Let's see... Sticky Fingers, no, if I have to settle on a Stones record, let it be Exile on Mainstreet... Sweet Virginia... Loving Cup- I'm the man on the mountain- Wait, 'on', or 'from'? He hums the first line. 'On'. I'm the man on the mountain/ Come on down... And Horses- Theresa used to look like Patti Smith, when she was younger, skinny like that, delicate but not fragile- most people don't get the difference... And Dancing Barefoot, Here I go and I don't know why- She is benediction... I wonder if she's still in the Army- What does she do? Has she ever killed anybody? I wish I were there to talk to her about it- They've probably already told her that they've found my remains, I'm probably deader than dead to her. It's better this way.
Born to Run- just for the Cos tramps like us- -White Light/White Heat, she used to laugh at the part with Too busy sucking on a ding-dong. Ha, Alex laughs out loud.
Mulder turns his head so fast that it looks painful. He'd been staring out the tiny barred window, as though attempting to bend the bars rip a bigger hole in the wall with the strength of his mind. "Jesus, Krycek, are you crazy? What the hell are you laughing at?"
He can't tell Mulder. Sometimes, when people are in love, they take to forming false impressions about the people with whom they are infatuated, thinking them to be more intelligent, more understanding, kinder, stronger than they actually are. Alex doesn't do that, though. He knows Mulder, just as plainly as he knows himself.
"Come here." Mulder's standing in one corner of the room, Alex is sitting pressed against the wall of another. The way he sways back and forth, it looks a little bit like Mulder is dancing with himself.
"Why?" Alex lets his voice drip with suspicion, like Mulder would if Alex had called him over.
He lets out a frustrated, disgusted sound, "It's too cold to be embarrassed," he says, mainly to himself, Alex thinks, "If we stay close together, it won't be so bad."
"I'm just fine over here," Alex answers prissily, though he stopped being able to feel his finger tips some time ago.
"Yeah, well, I don't have vodka for blood," he snorts.
"Neither do I," says Alex, feeling hurt, for some reason.
"Damn it, would you just come over here?"
"No," Alex spits, "You come over here. It's bad enough that you beat the shit out of me every time we meet and use me however you can and insult me," (He's still stinging from that comment about his haircut), "I'm not getting up and dragging myself across the room," (It is, admittedly, a very small room, though), "just to be a hot water bottle for you."
"You're such a prick," Mulder shakes his head as he crosses the cell and drops to the floor next to Alex.
"Takes one to know one," Alex just about coos in response, inordinately happy to be close to Mulder, even if it's only to avoid freezing to death. As they shift into some kind of comfortable position, he even manages to pat Mulder's hip.
"Hey, hands," Mulder snaps.
"Jeez, it was an accident." Obviously, it wasn't.
They push flush up against the wall, which is made of bricks of black stone with an oily sheen to them. Mulder's shivering and Alex can hear his teeth chattering in stereo. Suddenly, he feels something cold against his sides.
When he speaks, his voice comes out in a hard rush. "Dammit, Mulder, don't act like I'm out to molest you just because I accidentally touch you and then turn around and put your hands all over me."
"You're warm, I'm cold, I'm starting not to care about anything else."
"Hey, buddy, I'm just as cold as you are." But Alex does nothing to move Mulder's hands.
"So get closer," Mulder shrugs, like it's the most natural thing in the world, "but watch where you touch me."
Alex shakes his head. "You are such a bastard."
Before closing his eyes for the night, Mulder looks up at him from where his head lies on Alex's shoulder. And actually smiles. At him! "Takes one to know one."
It's easy, leaving him there in that cell, alone, colder than he was before. Alex has to wonder if he's finally killed off the last of his humanity, because he doesn't feel guilty. Really, he isn't worried about Mulder at all. But it's not because he doesn't care, because he does, in his own, warped way; it's because he knows that Mulder probably hates him now more than he's hated anybody, ever. And Mulder is the sort that can subsist on raw hate.
Alex is almost happy to see Mulder, when he breaks free of the crowd of prisoners and lunges at him. He almost smiles, but then thinks better of it.
There's no word that he can think of to describe the pain. None of the old stand-by's- not "blinding", not "searing", not "devastating"- seem to do it for him. This is his pain, he ought to invent his own word for it. The only sounds that come out of his mouth, though, are ragged icicle-shaped screams, so many of them that they get to seem like one long scream. And then, when it's over, and he's looking at his arm, which shouldn't be over there- this has got to be the single most surreal image that he's ever seen- he weeps. The sobs come from deep within him, and there is an almost sweet feeling to letting them wrack his body, pump out of his throat. He presses his face into the ground and opens his mouth to the dry, black earth.
There is a doctor on hand- later, Alex will credit that horrible joke-phrase with keeping him alive. It got stuck in his head and would not stop circling the bowl of his cranium, so he simply didn't have room for any suicidal notions or plans. The doctor looks him over, examines the site of the amputation, shoots him full of antibiotics and morphine. The peasants take him en masse to the edge of town, dump him at somebody's house, where he later wakes up. The bed beneath him is soft and somebody's watching a soccer match on a static-laced television in some other room nearby. A person enters the room, rips the sheets off of Alex, undoes his pants and turns him onto his stomach. There's a horrible, nasty sting near his hip.
"Shto etah?" he manages to mumble against the pillow.
"Pyeneetseelleen," he hears.
"You should have just let me die," he says into the pillow, his eyes still crushed shut.
The person, it's a young-sounding woman, pulls up his pants and rolls him onto his back again with a huff. "Ya nye panimayoo."
Alex opens one eye just a crack and looks her up and down. She has honey-colored curls and she holds the syringe as though it were a cigarette. He could really go for a cigarette, if he weren't so sure that it would cause him to vomit. "Never mind," Alex yawns, then, "Neechyevoh."
"Da," nods the girl and then turns and purposefully exits the room.
About a week later, he's almost back to new, having just arrived in New York by way of Warsaw and London, with an exciting morphine dependency as a bonus. 1996 has not been a very good year for him. Between the beatings and contracting that alien virus and having one of his arms hewn from his body, it's been a pretty crappy year. Maybe 1997 will be better for him. Here's hoping-
On New Year's Eve, he's in his hotel room, lying in bed. The room is white all over, and everything feels soft and light. The sheets are so fine that they barely feel as though they cover him. He's naked, because he can be, because he doesn't have to worry about frightening anybody but Room Service, possibly. He hates his prosthetic arm so passionately that he's beginning to be unable to imagine life without it. It sits on a chair across the room, atop his clothes, the underside facing up, the palm of the hand half open in a gesture of either beggary or acceptance.
Once he was cognizant enough to realize for more than a few minutes at a time that his arm had been amputated, he looked at it, the Stump, constantly. Perhaps, subconsciously, he was checking to see if the arm had not grown back, like the detachable piece of a lizard's tail. It never did, of course. Right after it happened, the remaining part of his arm had been a horrific shade of pink-red- it's amazing that he didn't drop dead of a staph infection- but now, over a month later, it's cooled down to pale pink. Alex is beginning to find it to be hard to look at, now that it's really hit home that he is never going to get his arm back.
It's easy to think and say that you hate yourself, but doing it is another matter.
Alex has begun to seriously hate himself. Everything that he had once been is gone, it is ground to dust, to less than that. It's medical waste in some unidentified forest in central Russia. His beauty is spoilt- though before the piece of improvised surgery, he'd seen better days, he'd still had a certain something about him. Now, he knows, the certain something about him is the fact that he is missing an arm. When he's in a fanciful mood, he feels like somebody's broken toy- he knows that he isn't ever going to get played with again. Who is going to want to fuck him now? It's not as though he's vain or sex-obsessed- that's not all that he is, anyway- but that was how he used to feel good. Once the coke was a no-no, and the booze just made him tired, and he had quit smoking again or was getting ready to quit again, and he was either stuck in his hellish job or desperately hunting down business opportunities, his looks were his solace. He could look in a mirror and know that everything was all right. Because, even though he's mainly been a complete wreck from the age of sixteen on, he didn't look like he was. The image was something to hide behind; it clothed him, held him.
He's exposed now, like the bone and nerves, like rosy muscle and the silk threads of veins. His veins are the same color as the light shed by the television screen, petals of indigo light. Really, he could be anywhere right now, but for some reason, he can't get past this bed, the room. It's only been a day since he went outside, so it's not like he's clinically depressed, but there is something about New Year's Eve that makes him mildly agoraphobic. It never used to be this way; maybe when he lost his arm, he really did also lose some less tangible part of himself.
"Who am I?" he asks the room.
He hears, "... near freezing with a good chance of snow. Watch out for ice on the roads!" The weatherman trills from inside the television.
He could be working, now. It's not as though Spender won't take him back. His stunt with the digital tape had that gaggle of old fucks pissing their drawers, even on the other side of the world he could tell. Spender must have developed a sort of admiration for him- no, that's not it. Alex doesn't kid himself thinking that anybody respects or admires him. He's just on different terms with Spender, now: one bastard to another. He could be working, but he's not. He's lying in bed naked.
With a sigh, he gets up and makes for the mini bar. His walk is now completely fucked as well, his sense of balance is off. He was never really what you'd call graceful, but his stride always had a touch of elegance to it. Now, he sort of bounces, seeing as how he can't glide anymore. It's okay, though, the mini bar isn't laughing at him.
The cap of the finger-sized vodka bottle comes off with a pleasant crackle. It always seems to be vodka, everywhere he goes. He's only half Russian, the rest of his genes originated in Czechoslovakia- but nobody can really tell the difference between Mother Russia and the vast majority of her former satellites. And those that can don't really care. Shutting his eyes, he sucks down the little bottle's body and soul. He bends down and takes another out of the refrigerator, this one is also vodka. As he's straightening, he catches a look at himself in the mirror over the dresser. Christ, I'm a creepy fucker, he thinks, noticing the way the television light makes him look like a corpse. Not taking his eyes off of those of his reflection, he unscrews the sharp metal cap from the bottle. He raises it. Na vashye zdorovye, he whispers and does this one slowly, hanging on every second that the liquor scours his throat on the way down.
At a stoplight on a whim Alex shifts the car into the turn-lane, and when the light is green, he turns in to the perfectly square parking lot of someplace called Bertie Lane Auto Repair. The wind's picked up and it does a flourish and a turn past the garage's door, unwinding a horrendously creepy noisemaker creak. The drawn-out, aching groan of the metal reminds Alex of the way that his breathing used to sound when he did coke. This elicits a giggle, albeit an internal one. Feline, the wind sidles up to the building again.
He turns off the car and regards the boy. 'Boy' is something of a disparagement- and an assumption, as in actuality, Jeffrey could very well be older than him. Whatever the age difference and who is ahead in years, Alex looks and feels older. Alex imagines that he feels older than most people do. Though Jeffrey has aged about a year that night, right in front of him. At least I didn't call him 'kid', Alex thinks, cringes involuntarily when he recalls how people still used to call him that when he was halfway to thirty. Once, Alex looked a lot younger than he actually was.
"Hey, are you all right?" he asks. And the sound of his voice startles him as much as it startles Jeffrey. By way of response, he finds himself holding, holding onto holding up the shaking, hyperventilating mess that is Jeffrey Spender. That was unexpected.
At first, Alex can only freeze, mechanically pat Jeffrey on the flat of his shoulder blade. This, this is strange, seeing as how Alex hasn't... comforted anybody in years. It's not like he's ever been all that good at it, either- too cold, too self-absorbed. Never what one would call empathetic- - But is that really accurate? Because Alex is perfectly capable of feeling what another person is feeling, he just doesn't exactly necessarily care.
After a while, he finds a rhythm, the rhythm of Jeffrey's breaths gradually evening out, losing their depth and their fullness, flattening into a long, open road. Smooth as where the sea meets the shore... He has his hand, his real, flesh hand cupped against the back of Jeffrey's skull. The pose is so ridiculously intimate that it almost seems obscene; Alex wonders how he's getting away with it. Idly, he lets his thumb slide down the nape of his neck, under the collar of his shirt, into the shallow curve subsequent to the last cervical vertebrae. It hits him that he could stay like that forever, would be glad to. It would be so simple just to eternally cop cheap feels off of a boy who he has only just noticed is... almost... pretty-
Then Jeffrey pulls away, and Alex asks him for the third time that night, "Are you okay?" Pressing his lips together, Jeffrey nods, lets his eyes fall shut momentarily. For some reason- he'll never be able to come up with a satisfying explanation as to why he suddenly thought that it would be acceptable to do so- Alex touches Jeffrey's cheek, softly, as though brushing away an escaped eyelash, or some other, equally inappropriate gesture. Since he doesn't seem to mind, pulls forward, in fact, fluidly, Alex doesn't stop. And Jeffrey fixes his hand over Alex's hand, presses into his touch and kisses him. His mouth is closed and his lips are dry; all Alex can think is that he is looking for a way out, a means of forgetting things like aliens melting in a pool of their own blood. Who could blame him?
Alex, who knows what he is and what he is about, can't understand it. Can't understand why anybody would come to him if they needed comforting. It seems grossly unfair to let Jeffrey think that he is any kind of decent human being, but at this moment, it is perhaps kindest to say nothing and simply play along. Not that it is any kind of great hardship to do so.
Jeffrey's soft, soft skin, soft hair, mouth soft against Alex's. Somebody's taken good care of him, though obviously not good enough care- or else he wouldn't be where he is now, holding onto Alex as though he were the answer to an unasked question. He lets Jeffrey pull back, gives him a chance to come to his senses and notice that this is about twenty different shades of wrong. Nothing shifts behind his eyes, no sudden revelation crackles across his features, he only breathes in silently and leans toward Alex anew. Feeling helpless, Alex watches those eyelids flutter down, like leaves in autumn, finds that he is unable to do anything except kiss back. On the inside, he feels tight, like something no longer fits. On the inside. It seems, not to get better, but to become just bearable, like something that he could get used to, when Jeffrey unseals his lips, presses his tongue to Alex's.
It's getting to seem like it could never end, to feel like something uncoiling. Like Alex could really let his life become nothing more than kissing Jeffrey, than letting himself be kissed. He hasn't felt that way in, in so many-has he ever felt that way? Has another person ever given him such a sense of relief, such a sense of, well, who knows- When they get out of the car and then go around to the back seat, it feels like a descent, like going underground.
Alex is kissing him the way that he hasn't kissed anybody since he'd still been young and stupid enough to confuse sex with love, to think that he was doing it for the right reasons. Now, he doesn't know what the right reasons would be, or even what his reasons are. All of his awareness is centered on Jeffrey's full, elastic lips and on his hands and on the tactile glow of warmth beneath his own hand. With a clumsiness that could be attributed to simple excitement- if one were kind and chose to overlook the obvious- Alex begins to tug at Jeffrey's clothes.
And then, suddenly, like he's got either no means of censoring himself or the absolute worst timing ever, Jeffrey asks: "What happened to your arm?"
Expelling air like a slashed tire, Alex leans into the car door. "You don't want to do this, do you?"
Jeffrey shows him that small, puzzled expression that makes him look about ten years younger than whatever his age actually is. "What? No, it's, it's not that at all. I was just wondering..." He looks at his hands, which lie in his lap, the fingers touching to form a little steeple.
"Yeah, well, don't treat me like I'm some kind of novelty. And if you wanna know, just ask, don't think that you have to do me any favors to get me to answer."
"I don't," his voice is flat and shineless, "And I don't think that you're a 'novelty', either. I couldn't care less if you have one arm or two, I just... wanted to know." He crosses his arms over his chest. "You don't have to tell me," he mutters, his chin pointed at his sternum.
"I lost it in Russia." Alex cannot believe that the words are coming out of his mouth. Quickly, he adds, "And that's all that I'm going to say about it."
Jeffrey nods. For a while, they sit at opposite ends of the backseat, not touching, not even really looking at each other. All Alex can think about is tipping Jeffrey's head back, the sound that he made when his throat was kissed. That's what he sees behind his eyes, on constant repeat. "I'll take you home," he forces himself to say, and begins to open the door. Jeffrey's hand claps down on his shoulder.
"Come home with me." Alex doesn't turn to look at him until all of the words are out. Then he asks Jeffrey to repeat himself.
"I shouldn't," he coughs in response.
"From what I've surmised, you do a lot of things that you shouldn't."
"Yeah, that's me," Alex smiles with one side of his mouth, turning his head toward the window, "bad all over. But I stopped taking advantage of people when they're on the verge of a nervous breakdown years ago. The sex is great, but there's always a scene in the morning." Is it his imagination, or does Jeffrey blush? It's impossible to tell in the dark, but Alex can see that he fidgets a bit and looks down.
"We wouldn't have to, to do that."
"Really? Well, I'm afraid that I'd insist on it." Another possible-blush from Jeffrey. He sighs, "Which is why I'm going to take you home and leave you there. Alone."
That's what he's got in his mind as he drives the black snake roads, the roads all but deserted in the suburban night. And, somehow, he knows that he's going to give up, give in, but he holds fast to his convictions for as long as he can. Knowing that he's going to do what he shouldn't makes it easier to be firm with himself for the time being.
And why Jeffrey, anyway? Alex knows that it's got more than a little bit to do with the plushness of his mouth, the color of his eyes, the softness of his skin- But why should Alex consider his past failures just then? There is only infinite time in which to do so. It's not every night that he has a warm living body in front of him. It's really not.
At Jeffrey's door, Alex lets the illusion slip by stopping the car. And Jeffrey, being perceptive enough to have gotten into the FBI, notices this, and something washes over his face through him. Come on, he says softly, in his shy, hoarse voice. For a whole ten seconds, Alex forgets that Fox Mulder exists.
In the house, Jeffrey doesn't bother to turn on any of the lights, so they cut through the soft, the darkness like silt all around them. It is dense, the darkness, like the feeling of crystals of sugar being crushed along Alex's back teeth. With no lights on, it feels like a breaking and entering, and Alex has a moment of discomfort remembering that night in Scully's house, with Luis Cardenal, the night that they shot Melissa Scully by mistake. Alex swallows.
At the end of a long hall is Jeffrey's bedroom. Moth-colored light drifts into the room lazily through gaps in the venetian blinds. In the moth-colored light, they kiss. Alex is gentle, cautious, almost, in spite of himself; it's all that he can do to move at all. Something in him remains still, wants nothing more than to drift silently on this tide, also within him, a sea of waves unfurling gradually. There is not a sound in world. Thankfully, Jeffrey is a man of initiative, so all that he really has to do is kiss back, allow himself to be steered to Jeffrey's bed, sat down. As though about to shield his eyes from the sun, Alex lifts his hand- his real hand- and fits it along the curve of Jeffrey's cheek. It is an offering, the gesture, the touch. Jeffrey's tongue is in his mouth, dabbing at the insides of his cheeks. Alex wonders if he can taste the cigarette that he smoked earlier that night, before coming to pick him up. If he can, Alex hopes that it does not remind him of his father. Alex knows that there was a good reason for quitting all those times.
They rock back and forth a bit, as though trying to decide if they want to lie down, and if they do, who will be lying on whom. It's been years since Alex was on his back. In a detached sort of way, he comes to the conclusion that he's absolutely terrified. He puts it out of his mind and concentrates on unbuttoning Jeffrey's shirt.
Jeffrey's voice springs out in the darkness, "I can do that."
"I can manage," Alex answers blithely- or as close to blithely as he can get. At first, Jeffrey is simply humoring him, he knows, but by the third button, his concerned frown has melted and he looks... amazed, actually. Alex murmurs, "Try not to be so shocked."
"No, it's just, I didn't know-"
Archly, Alex turns on his half smile. "How do you think I've been getting dressed for the past two years?"
"Two years?" Jeffrey gulps.
"Yes, two years," he cannot help but lower his eyes, feeling stupid for letting out that scrap of information, "Can we not talk about this?" Girlishly, he puckers his lips.
Jeffrey nods and wriggles out of his shirt. He's an exceedingly nice shape, Alex notes, not that he expected anything to the contrary. Through those banal clothes, he'd managed to read a line or two of Jeffrey's body underneath. Watching him move, Alex had wondered if Jeffrey swims. With an honesty, a purity that he can only manage when he closes his eyes, he brushes his fingers up Jeffrey's side, over his ribs, as though he were dusting for prints. A sigh rattles out of Jeffrey, he stutters, like he doesn't want to let it go. He leans forward and kisses Alex again. Before he can do anything about it, Jeffrey's on top of him, has him pinned. Well, there's that decided, then-
steady as it comes/ right down to you
For the barest edge of a minute, he wishes that there were a light on, so that he could see how pale Jeffrey is, underneath his clothes. Watch the delicate tan of hands and wrists abruptly meet the almond-colored pallor of skin that is normally covered. Alex himself is pale as a ghost. Not that Jeffrey's going to see what he looks like underneath his clothes; he wouldn't, even if there were a light on. He runs his hand, his real, flesh hand over the arch of Jeffrey's tensed back; the other one lies at his side like something placed there by somebody else, like something completely uninvolved with him. He slips two fingers under the waistband of Jeffrey's pants, is kissed in response, deep and quick. Mouth against Alex's ear, he sighs out a phrase so incongruous with the reserve that he wears like another article of clothing, that Alex almost has to laugh. Almost.
"Could you repeat that?" Alex says, because he can.
Jeffrey lifts his head and looks at him in a way that is deeply unnerving. "Fuck. Me."
Fumbling for an appropriate reply, Alex lowers his eyes. "That, that could hurt," he mutters feebly.
"Don't worry about me."
The hoarseness of his voice makes it difficult to.
Jeffrey does, stands a little bit away from Alex and undresses. Alex uses the time to have a nice, casual nervous breakdown. He thinks-
-Marita- Marita had been one thing, but this, Jeffrey, this thing with Jeffrey is a different animal altogether. Marita he'd fucked up against a wall in a freighter, they'd been in business together, and that had been like a handshake. But what the hell is going on with Jeffrey? At first, it seemed like he'd wanted to be soothed- comforted- and that's kind of weird to Alex, who's never equated sex with comfort, of all things, but it was all right. Maybe it isn't a feeling that Alex has ever experienced, but it makes a kind of sense at least. At the time, earlier, he'd managed to define 'comfort' as a hand job in the back of that black car that is now parked outside. That, he could do. It only takes one hand, after all.
Jeffrey, however, obviously has a different idea of what comfort is. His definition involves being naked, which isn't outwardly frightening, shouldn't be, anyway. Alex doesn't honestly think that Jeffrey expects him to take off his clothes- or he hadn't- But then something becomes clear, and Alex feels rather stupid for not having gotten it from the beginning. There's something else going on here, something beyond Jeffrey's need to feel somebody against him... It hits him like the side of a collapsed building- Jeffrey wants him, and somehow he's more than just a body.
And that is some scary shit.
It picks him up and shakes him out, Jeffrey telling him to stand; and he does. Without any sort of warning, Jeffrey undoes his pants and slips a deceptively hot hand into his underwear. Nobody's taken the time to touch him like that since he was about twenty- nobody other than himself, anyway. What they say is true, it is different when somebody else does it to you, not simply for the obvious reasons. And Jeffrey's mouth is open, hovering over the point on his throat where his pulse lives. Alex's head has fallen back, and he has his eyes closed, imaging that the ceiling is transparent as sweat and that he can see the sky above, the puncture wounds of stars. He doesn't stop Jeffrey from making him come.
"God," he sighs.
He recognizes something of himself in Jeffrey's expression, the raised eyebrow, the suggestion of a smirk. It's like Jeffrey is trying him on fully for a moment, when replies silkily, "God has nothing to do with it." Is that how he looks and sounds all of the time? Alex thinks that his persona is less of a tight fit on Jeffrey.
Maybe they could switch, and Jeffrey could be deadly and evil, like he's supposed to be. And Alex could be back where he was in the beginning. Not innocent, because Jeffrey is in no way innocent, just like he wasn't, but at the point before it all started making too much sense. Before he became professionally numb, before he started participating in his own murder. Letting parts of yourself be killed off over time is one thing, but actually pulling the trigger- Alex always liked to think that not even he was that low...
Jeffrey's undressing him; Alex doesn't even feel like complaining. Without being asked, he excuses himself and goes into Jeffrey's bathroom to take off the Arm. Of course he leaves his shirt on. He returns to Jeffrey with the tube labeled KY- Alex always thinks that it's funny that it has the same name as the abbreviation for Kentucky. What kind of sense does that make?
All throughout the night, they fuck each other raw.
It's easy, he's come to see. It's just like the game that he used to play when he was a kid, Anywhere But Here. All he has to do is want to be somewhere else so bad, bad enough, more than he's ever wanted to be anywhere else- and there he is. Obviously, it never worked this way when he was seventeen, struggling to stay awake in math on half of one of his mother's valium... Dreaming awake of blue communion wafers, V's cut out in the centers... vestal virgin Virginia Sweet Virginia drop your reds, drop your greens and blues... Obviously, or else he would have found himself on a corner in the East Village, somewhere in London, Paris, Rome, where ever his dumb teenaged mind wanted to be- Not being so startled by the bell for next class that he issued forth a great coughing gasp. Heart beating like something used to tear up asphalt- trip hammer- had to run across the parking lot and hide behind the ceramics room to have a quick cigarette. Dumb teenaged mind. Obviously, it's not the same thing.
At first, he did go to all of those places, he stood on some street corner in Chelsea for what felt like an hour, but was actually three months. He watched each one of the leaves on every tree on the block lose its circulation, turn a glorious shade of yellow and then fall from the branches like necrotic flesh. It- dare he say- brought tears to his eyes. Nobody was watching, so he waited a second before brushing them away with the back of his gloved hand. And in winter, he sat on a bench in a park in a suburb of London, watching the snowflakes pass through his lap.
Recently, though, he's begun to feel a tug within him. It's like something he hasn't felt for years, since his sham FBI career- the question being asked within him: Where's Mulder? And then he'd have to go and look for him. You see, he worried about Mulder's safety. Sort of a stupid impulse for somebody who would eventually probably have to kill him, but sometimes these things are without reason.
And when he sees him, finally, in that government facility that he's sneaked into (Alex is still tickled about never having to sneak anywhere again. With death comes top-level security clearance, apparently), it's like seeing him for the first time again. For before the first time. It's seeing his file picture, with that expression so pissy that one would almost believe that it was intended for them, personally. It was the stirring of something within Alex; he'd never felt it before, but he knew, somehow, that he was going to fall in love with this man. And, enacting his self-prophesied, inane doom, he did. Over the years, he betrayed Mulder so many times that sometimes even Alex could not keep track of them all, let alone believe some of the things that he had done, but he never stopped, yes, loving him. Because sometimes love isn't a sweet thing, sometimes it doesn't get the job done. Sometimes, love just stands off to the side and watches you do horrible things. Never once does it say, Hey, you're in love, you can't do these kinds of things, or I simply will not be a party to this. Because love only affects you only as much as you let it; and it doesn't solve anybody's problems.
Love is pain, Alex has come to find out. It is the feeling of being sawn into with a red hot steak knife, again and again. Through the gauze of memory, Alex can remember a similar feeling the first time that he met Mulder, that punch in the gut that made him smile like some kind of idiot. Now, though, because he's dead and he can take it, he's sure, the pain is brilliant, it's positively gleaming. So he's brief with Mulder, says what he has to say and then fogs up, makes himself see-through like tears sweat spit. Water rain breath.
And he watches Mulder continue on, because he can. Because with death comes detachment, because he no longer has a damn thing to worry about. Except-
Except when he stares after Mulder, gives him that long look, it comes, that snow white feeling of being torn to bits. The needle of the rising sun.
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