Gambling Man

by Rose Campion

Gambling Man

disclaimer: All the usual ones apply.
warning: this Alex lost his arm. I know a lot of you like him better with two. Originally written for the 13th Lyric Wheel Challenge- "Wheel of Fortune" pairing: Doggett/Krycek
rating: R for language mostly.

Alex Krycek was riding the red and everyone around him was smiling, because everyone loves a winner. That's what he always called it- the red. This euphoric coasting, where it seemed his brain was working so fast, so smoothly he could see a split second into the future. It was like what he'd heard other people call flow, or zen, but it was more than that. It was just...the red. He was at the roulette wheel, winning. About to win big. He pushed his whole pile of chips with his one remaining hand. Red fourteen, right in the middle of the table, and he knew that it was the right decision even as the dealer spun the wheel and the little ball started bouncing from number to number, color to color.

He'd gambled big once and lost bigger, but he hadn't been riding this red wave back when he'd bet on Mulder and Russia. If he had been, no doubt he would have come back intact. That was okay. He was a gambling man. He understood. Sometimes you won. Sometimes you lost your shirt. And maybe even a bit of what was underneath it.

A small crowd had gathered to watch. Not too many. This was a weekday in a seedy casino in Atlantic City and most of the people there were too buried by the monkey on their back to stop plinking their quarters into the slots for even a minute. But he had a surprising amount of chips on the number for having walked in with a twenty he'd found fluttering past him on the sidewalk. He'd snatched it up and decided to see what he could make it into, because from the moment he'd woken this morning, he could feel the red, like a tide rising in him. He had his original stake tucked back into his jeans pocket again and if he lost this, he'd walk away. Everything ventured, but nothing lost.

Up to now, he'd been playing it safe, like the red told him. Inside bets mostly, the stuff that paid two to one, eight to one. Growing his winnings slowly. But now the red demanded, as inexorable as any real tide, that he play big, bet it all on a straight up bet, all five hundred on a single number.

The ball clinked, passing from number to number. Red twenty. Black thirty-one. Red sixteen. Red thirty-two. Black six. Each clink was like a heartbeat now. He needed this, and not just because a big wad of folding cash would really come in handy right about now, because until he'd spotted that twenty, he hadn't been sure where his lunch would be coming from. The ball clinked, and clinked again, the periods between them drawn out further and further, but still not stopping yet. A couple more months to hide, to live in a pit of a small apartment in this pit of a city, were riding on this spin. But more than that, he needed this because the red needed it. It seemed as inevitable as breathing that the ball should follow the dictates of the red.

As the ball slowed and skipped from one color to another, the wheel finally coming to rest, a hand was laid on his shoulder, and a voice spoke directly into his ear, low, but not a whisper. "Alex Krycek," the rumbly, rough voice said, and immediately Alex didn't know whether his spine should stiffen with fear or his cock with desire. He knew that voice well. John. He'd pissed the man off once, when Mulder was dug up. He'd learned better. It didn't pay to piss John Doggett off, that wasn't a bet, it was a promised payoff. John had gone looking for Krycek and had found him them. And now, apparently, found him again.

With the last syllable of his name, the ball clicked into its final resting play with a final clink. Red fourteen. "Am I under arrest?" Alex asked, half whispering, not turning around to face John, but feeling the hard, angular body of the other man directly behind him. They were so close they were touching and Krycek could feel something hard pressed into his back, but he wasn't sure if it was a firearm or not.

"Just collect your winnings and then I'm going to follow you out of here," John said.

Alex gathered the chips that the dealer pushed at him into a big paper cup and nonchalantly started to walk to the croupier's office to cash them in. Then, John following him, he walked right out into the daylight, blinking at the cruel brightness of it. John led him around the building, to the side parking lot, behind a dumpster.

You can make a fortune in lies. Alex Krycek's life, the whole Project, if they were sterling examples of this, then so was Atlantic City. Beyond the casinos the whole place seems to be crumbling. The casinos suck the life blood out of the city, it seemed to him. This side parking lot, this stinking dumpster were the real side of the casino, not the bright lights of the facade or the faux elegant carpet and chandeliers inside. Everything out here was tired, lifeless under the sun, nothing but beater cars, asphalt and garbage. Even the glamour inside was only paper thin. If you looked around too hard, you could see that the expressions on most peoples faces were joyless, compelled. They had a sickness for risking the rent, the social security check, the grocery money on the danger inside. That was the danger, something Alex feared. That the red tide would desert him, leave him with that compulsion too.

Meanwhile, John backed him up against the cinderblock side wall of the big casino. The blocks were hard, unyielding, hot from the sun against Alex's back, easily felt through the thin shirt he was wearing. But John was no less yielding than those blocks and soon Alex could see and feel that though John was armed, the piece was holstered away beneath his jacket. It was sheer force of John's will then, that got him to this place, pinned against the wall by a hundred and ninety pounds of federal agent, all tough, wirey muscle, with a blue-eyed stare like a laser.

"I followed you here," John said.

Alex nodded. Time would unfold what he needed to know, the red told him.

"You were starting to attract some unwelcome attention from certain guys watching the floor. They don't like it when people get too lucky too long," John said. "This place is owned by the mob. It's notorious."

"I know," Alex said. That was why he'd chosen it. The crooked games are actually easier to win than true games of chance. It was just knowing when to quit. The tide would have told him when. He was surprised to still feel it now. It should have vanished, left him ridden hard and put him away wet when that ball had clinked into number fourteen, but it hadn't. It still rode him, still wanted something from him.

And so it also seemed inevitable that John would push himself even closer to Alex, then that their lips would meet with hot electricity. Because the red wanted it. Because the last time, when John had tracked him down and demanded answers, what he'd gotten instead was Alex's body. But when John fell asleep afterwards, Alex had crept away, silent as a cat, afraid to answer any of the questions that would be sure to follow John's waking.

John's lips were hard, just like the rest of him, and when his tongue sought entrance into Alex's mouth, Alex submitted, opening to this strength like a flower might turn to the sun. Too soon, John pushed himself away, leaving Alex's mouth bereft, longing. "Half an hour," John said, then suddenly, he walked away.

It wasn't until then that Alex opened up his hand to discover that John had slipped him a key. A single key on a keychain from one of the hotels around here. Alex recognized it. It wasn't a big chain, but it wasn't one of the grotty, low-class places offering four-hour naps either.

Alex contemplated the key, swinging it back and fourth so that the silvery metal caught the sunlight. It seemed that he wasn't the only gambling man around here after all.

special thanks to Dr. Ruthless for the lyrics. Here they are:

A Fortune in Lies Song by Dream Theater

I can remember when,
In the unity of our five-day sessions
Not even once did we hear the siren song What kind of imagination
Asleep in some lyrical coma
Who's vain futile memory
Could have been so wrong?

you can make a fortune in lies
you can keep a giant alive
you can ride the red
until everybody smiles

A trifling euphoria
Was such an untimely religion
Maybe your life can explain
The reason for my indecision
Here is a poor man
The heart of this monster creation
He said we both will be heroes
And I was led into temptation

you can make a fortune in lies
you can keep a giant alive
you can ride the red
until everybody smiles

Can you show me your gold
And your silver?
A hero in frozen water

now you've made a fortune in lies
and you kept a giant alive
you rode the red
you rode the red

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Rose Campion