Pax Pacis, Pax

by Flutesong


Title: Pax Pacis, Pax
Author: Flutesong
E-mail: Flutesong@hegalplace.com
Site: www.hegalplace.com/flutesong
Warnings: If you wait for it, M/K Slash Rating: R
Spoilers: Canon through season 5, AU/Post Colonization Disclaimer: Belongs to Fox, the conglomerate, not the character. April 2004

Pax Pacis, Pax

Krycek watches Mulder pace.

This is what they do; they take turns, because there isn't enough room for them both to pace at the same time. When it's Mulder's turn, Krycek huddles against the northern wall. This way, he can push his stump against the cinderblocks and relieve some of phantom pains, which have plagued him constantly since the guards removed his prosthetic.

When Krycek paces, Mulder sits in the southern corner.

They speak very little. What is there to say, after all? A blasting whistle wakes them at dawn. They rise, wait for release from the cell, join the other inmates in line for breakfast, eat hurriedly, get back in line and are marched to the factory floor. There, they take their positions at the assembly line to push, pat and pump buttons and levers until the whistle blows again.

Any discussions about conspiracies, aliens, and betrayals, join other lost conversations in some imaginary place, where personal opinions, grievances, or objections matter.

They ignore their personal enmity as they ignore each other's body odor, digestive difficulties and turns on the commode, the same way they ignore the sounds each makes in the night, tossing about or stifling screams.

Krycek scratches at his straggly beard. There aren't any lice yet, but it itches anyway. He scratches at the back of his head too, where the ponytail knots in a piece of rag and the sweat accumulates. He notices Mulder's beard is the thicker of the two of them and streaked with gray.

Fourteen weeks and counting. Krycek knows Mulder grows more determined to survive with each passing day. If anyone had asked his opinion before the invasion, he would have said Mulder's resolve would have failed after the fact, when all his warnings had reaped no attention. He knows Mulder a lot better now. Ruthlessly, Mulder has rid himself of his quirks and pretensions and became a pared-down version of his former self, a clearer, distilled and honed survivor. Krycek finds that he misses the mantle Mulder wore as a truth-thirsty explorer. He wonders what Mulder thinks of him, if he does think of him at all.

Ninety-eight days and nights and Krycek still thinks that the fate, which put them together at the end, is a hell of a bitch. He rubs his back against the rough wall and stretches out his legs. Mulder has stopped pacing and stands, staring at nothing. This used to creep him out, until he realized he did the same, only sitting. He rubs his back some more.

Mulder bends over and touches the floor, his palms flat on the concrete surface. His muscles hardly quiver as he rises to a handstand and softly counts to thirty. The position highlights how thin he has grown and for a moment, Krycek feels a deep stab of envy. They have both become leaner, stronger and more flexible, but Krycek knows he can never match Mulder. Mulder is faster and with two arms, will always be stronger. Later, when he takes a turn at pacing, he will do as many one-armed pushups as he can. He wonders if Mulder knows he counts along with him.

Mulder stands upright once more and brushes the hair out of his eyes with his fingers. If he is in the mood for talking, now is the time of day when he speaks. Krycek waits; knowing if he starts first Mulder will retreat and stay silent. He needs these few moments, when they converse, of human connection. Krycek concluded about forty days and nights ago that his feelings for Mulder were not as firmly rooted in hate as Mulder's were for him. Oh, but he had hated Mulder. Sometimes, when he waits for Mulder to speak, he can feel his gorge rise with residual anger.

Krycek suppresses the anger, tamps down his need to tell Mulder or fight Mulder and swallows heavily. He sees Mulder smile grimly and knows Mulder wants him to lose his temper and attack. This then, is the price he pays for a few moments of conversation. He knows it, Mulder knows it and, as he has done for weeks, he swallows his temper and accepts the humiliation.

Mulder tells him a joke. He doesn't laugh. The context for the humor has vanished off the planet months ago. Krycek tells Mulder what it was like to fly over Scandinavia and watch the moonrise while the sun shone on the vast expanses of snow, during the months of the midnight sun. Mulder closes his eyes. Krycek knows this is the price Mulder pays for a life devoted to an unappreciated martyrdom. He knows Mulder envies him for what he imagines was a far-flung free existence.

Krycek always tells Mulder the truth these days. Posturing is a thing of the past. He finds he doesn't miss the maintenance it took to be so defensive and mysterious. The simplicity of their lives has given him time to think and the underworld of spy vs. spy seems vaguely ridiculous and pretentious now.

Mulder opens his eyes and takes the few steps that bring him closer. Krycek is shocked when Mulder sits down next to him instead of in his usual corner. Mulder reaches and takes his hand and holds it gently. Mulder balances their hands on his thigh. He doesn't speak, just sits there holding his hand.

Krycek doesn't know what to make of this gesture. As they sit there calmly holding hands, small sounds make their way into Krycek's consciousness. He is suddenly aware of the metallic scrapes and dings coming through the high small window. He hears the low hum of the light fixtures and voices from the other cells. He hears Mulder breathe, and he hears his own heartbeat.

They sit like this until `lights out', although it is never really pitch black. The low wattage bulbs in the corridor outside the cell stay on all night. Mulder lets go of his hand and takes his turn at the commode. They have a gallon jug of clean water and Mulder uses some to rinse out his mouth and spit into the commode. Using scraps of cloth to scrub each night, they both try to keep their teeth clean. They have no toothbrushes. Mulder takes his evening piss and goes to unroll his sleeping mat.

Krycek mimics Mulder's actions and flushes the commode. They only get four flushes a day, so they save them for maximum effect. Krycek unrolls his sleeping mat in the northern corner and instead of going to the southern corner; Mulder brings his mat and lies down beside Krycek.

Silently, Mulder takes Krycek's hand and holds it. Krycek relaxes; his last impression of the day is Mulder's palm against his palm.

0000000000**0000000000

When they march outside for the first time in months, he and Mulder are not the only men to come to a halt and stare at the sky, take deep breaths of the air and dig their toes into the earth. He hears someone begin to sob uncontrollably and he and Mulder inch closer to one another. They work the field with shovels, chopping the turf and unearthing the larger rocks. It is a vast field and although he knows they will tire of the work long before they can finish, being outside seems miraculous.

Alien drones guard them, impervious to injury and entirely disinterested in their fate, they have already killed several inmates. No one tries to attack or run. Digging out a boulder, on his knees in the cool damp dirt, Krycek feels himself suddenly and unaccountably sexually aroused simply by his proximity to the soil. He clenches a handful of earth and tears come to his eyes. It's still here. He wants to shout, but holds the illogical burst of emotionality inside.

Mulder drops to his knees beside him, ostensibly to help dig the rock out. Krycek feels naked and bends his head so Mulder cannot see the emotion on his face. Under the cover of the rock, Mulder grasps Krycek's hand in his own mud-smeared hands. Only when Krycek sees droplets land softly on their hands, does he look up and meet Mulder's gaze. "It's still here," Mulder whispers.

Krycek nods, and suddenly, the tears begin to run down his face. Mulder makes a watery chuckle and together, they dig the boulder out. On their knees, they roll the rock toward the edge of the field. They hear thunder and the skies open, releasing a torrent of rain. The men begin to shout and run. Mulder rises, grabbing Krycek's hand, and they begin to run too.

Krycek refuses to think. He simply runs, concentrating all his energies on keeping up with Mulder's smoother gait. They hear shots fired and keep on running. A hazy dark wall comes into view. Krycek hopes it is a line of trees and not a concrete barricade. His side aches fiercely and his stump is on fire from swinging uncontrollably as he runs.

It is a line of trees and bushes. Krycek slows, gasping for breath. Mulder grabs his hand again, pulls him along until the thicket provides sufficient camouflage. All he feels is pain and all he hears are the roar of his pulse and the thumping of his heart. He opens his eyes and sees Mulder bending over trying to get his breath back.

Krycek doesn't ask Mulder what's next. He knows. They will run and get away or they will run and get caught, there is no turning back. He wonders what scenarios Mulder has imagined about what remains after the invasion. He knows his own are all terrifying.

They walk. The storm continues and buffets them with wild gusts, which send the branches into their faces and against their chests. Krycek stops for a minute and allows the sweet water to drip into his mouth. He rubs his face and shakes like a dog. He's almost happy. The darkening afternoon, the fresh wet wind and these moments of freedom are more than he thought would come his way again.

Mulder stands behind him and gathers his hair into a ponytail, tying the wet rag tightly. He does the same to his own hair, "You look like a pirate, Krycek."

Krycek feels a smile stretch his face, "You look like a bedraggled rat."

Mulder laughs and Krycek joins him.

They walk; the storm blows out, and the moon rises. The early spring night is cold, and they walk, until their muscles knot, protesting the long hours of abuse. Low hanging branches provide the best cover they can find. They lie closely on the damp ground and try not to shiver. Krycek's left shoulder cramps, and he cries out before he can stifle the sound. For the first time in their shared history, Mulder touches more than his hand with concern. He kneads Krycek's left shoulder, neck and back.

"Thank you," Krycek says when Mulder stops.

Mulder stares down at him, and Krycek can see the brightness of his eyes. Mulder shakes his head as if he didn't understand what Krycek said. "You're welcome," Mulder replies slowly. He lies down and wraps an arm around Krycek, pulling him close enough to touch and share body heat. "If you put your head on my shoulder," Krycek says softly, "the weight and pressure will help fool my brain into thinking the rest of my arm is there."

Mulder adjusts and fits himself onto Krycek's shoulder. Krycek tugs him a bit more and Mulder throws one leg over his body and wraps an arm around his torso. They sleep entwined.

00000 ##### 00000

Krycek watches Mulder sleep.

It's been so long since anyone shared their warmth with him, or he shared his. He knows they will probably be caught and killed, but he can't help feeling hopeful as a thin, watery, yellow dawn breaks.

The filtered light makes Mulder's beard and nose seem thick and dense. His forehead and brows, thrown into sharp relief and Krycek thinks the faint pulsing blue veins make him look deceptively fragile. He smiles, if anyone knows Mulder isn't fragile, he does.

His feelings for this man are complex. They have done each other such terrible, irreparable harm. Despite his actions, and the orders he followed, Krycek always had a small thread of admiration for the agent. He understood obsession, and, although Mulder would never believe him capable of it, he appreciated the sheer perversity of his doggedness.

The past few months have taught him other things about Mulder, things that give them more in common that Krycek ever suspected. He's glad to have these few minutes to observe Mulder in the quiet of the dawn, to share a deceptive warmth, which has not ever been a part of their relationship.

Krycek thinks that if he dies today, he will die without regrets. He always figured he would die running. He hopes the bullets fly fast and true, so he will be dead before he hits the ground.

Mulder stirs and opens his eyes. He doesn't show any discomfort or dismay that he awakens so close to Krycek. Like Krycek, he allows the dawn to filter into his consciousness. "You get some sleep?" He asks Krycek.

Krycek nods and stretches his neck. Mulder moves off him and stretches too. "I didn't think I'd get to see another day start from outside of those walls," Krycek speaks softly.

This time, Mulder nods. They sit and then stand. The woods are dripping from last night's storm. The early spring has begun to show itself in tiny green furls at the tips of branches and shrubs. "They'll be after us," Mulder remarks.

Krycek doesn't answer, and he doesn't ask where Mulder thinks they can go. It doesn't really matter; they are on the run, and that means they are going somewhere. He thinks they were lucky, last night, that it was rain and not snow. Today other difficulties become apparent. There is no food, no dry clothing, no weapons, and no real certainty that there is a safe destination anywhere out there.

Mulder leads the way, cautioning Krycek not to break branches and create a trail. "Fox Mulder, Indian Guide." Krycek says, and Mulder lets go of a rain-filled branch, so it slaps Krycek across the chest, with a wet splat.

Krycek is content to allow Mulder the lead. With two hands, Mulder makes his way through the underbrush with more agility. By midmorning, they are tired and thirsty. Krycek urges Mulder to keep moving, he has a bad feeling about their location that he is loath to explain. Mulder continues for a while, and then insists they stop and try to drink mouthfuls of water from the larger leaves.

Krycek is restive and wants to move on. Finally, Mulder pays attention and catches Krycek's unease. They move more quickly, despite their exhaustion. When they find a stream, cross it and move upland, Krycek relaxes.

A weak sun makes its way through the gray clouds. They rest at the roots of a large tree. "You watched too many prison break movies," Mulder says dryly. "I don't think they have tracking dogs to let loose on us."

"You never know, Mulder," Krycek replies serenely.

Mulder turns his face towards Krycek and studies him. Krycek keeps his face towards the sun. Mulder makes a harrumphing sound deep in his throat, "If there is one thing I trust about you, Krycek," he says, in a tone loaded with self mockery, "it's your survival instincts."

Krycek closes his eyes and tilts his face to catch as many warm beams as he can. At length he smiles softly, "It's the only thing I trust in the whole world, Mulder."

In the distance, they hear howling. Mulder thinks it could possibly be a wolf, but he doubts it. Krycek tenses and then relaxes again, "It's just one animal," he says. The dog howls again, and Krycek turns to Mulder, "we should follow the sound. It could mean the dog belongs to someone, someone with food and transportation."

Mulder waits until he hears the howling and can place its direction, "It's a plan," he says.

They rise and go. Mulder leads the way. Krycek follows.

00000#####00000

By the time they make it to the log cabin, the dog is frantic. Frenzied, it has torn its flesh where the collar wraps around his neck. Mulder soothes the animal, while Krycek scouts the area. At first, he thinks no one is home, but there is a pick-up truck in the garage, and the aroma of burnt coffee in the air.

He signals to Mulder, and they approach the cabin door from either side of the porch. The door is ajar, and the dwelling is silent. Krycek picks up a thin piece of firewood and nudges the door open. He goes in first, and sees, beyond the furniture, legs sprawled on the kitchen floor.

Mulder comes around Krycek and approaches the kitchen. The legs belong to the body of an elderly man. He doesn't move. Krycek quickly checks the body for a pulse, and finding none, shakes his head at Mulder. Krycek rises and turns off the old-fashioned coffee percolator.

Krycek looks around the rest of the cabin. He takes the quilt from the bed and brings it to the kitchen. Together, they wrap the man in the quilt and put him in the far corner of the kitchen. Mulder finds a large bag of dog food under the counter and fills a big bowl. He uses another for water and carries both out to the dog.

"I'll see if he has any dry clothes," Mulder says, and Krycek opens the refrigerator. By the time Mulder returns, Krycek has piled a considerable amount of food on the table. He has poured them both large glasses of juice and milk.

They eat ravenously. "There are plenty of clothes. The pants may be short, but there are several pairs of boots. Do you think there's time for a shower?" Mulder eats and talks at he same time.

"I think we should stay here." Krycek answers and Mulder stops eating to look up. "Roadblocks are easier to man than a full scale search of the forest. We might not be he only escapees on the loose. If we lay low, maybe we can figure out where we are. Maybe the owner has maps or something."

Mulder resumes eating. After he drinks the last of his juice, he rubs his belly and burps. "They may not look for us at all."

"How do you figure?" Krycek asks.

"The only ones running the factory were drones. To them, we are all disposable. If they lost too many hands to operate the machines, they might just go and get more. I mean, it's not as if we were anything but forced labor. We weren't political prisoners. They didn't do more than ask for our names, and that was more for our benefit than theirs. They didn't take DNA samples or pictures. The caught us both on the streets, after the attack on Baltimore. We weren't singled out, just corralled."

Krycek makes a pot of coffee and turns the stove back on. He feels laughter bubble up and chuckles. Mulder quirks an eyebrow at him, but otherwise remains silent. "So much for overweening pride," Krycek says, "or thinking we're important to anyone. I was rather counting on someone coming to your rescue, Mulder."

Mulder's smile is fleeting, and Krycek realizes that Mulder must've figured out weeks ago, that no one was coming, or worse, that no one was left alive to come. This then, is the difference between them. Mulder belongs somewhere, with others who care about him, count on him, people who he needs and need him. Krycek knows if anything good may have come out of the colonization, it is that he is finally free, if only to die. "We'll leave at first light," Krycek says brusquely.

Mulder gathers the food and stuffs the containers back in the fridge. "Let's try to figure out where we are before we start.," he says quietly.

"I'm going to take a shower," Krycek says and leaves Mulder to his thoughts.

"We need to bury the old man," Mulder calls out as Krycek leaves the room. Krycek stops and returns, "let's do it now before it dark." He says.

They scout the area and find a grassy rectangle about 200 yards from the house. There are several tombstones placed a few feet apart. "This seems to be the place," Mulder says.

They return to the house. Mulder carries the body in a fireman's grip and Krycek finds a couple of shovels in the garage. They dig quickly and silently. They bury the man without fanfare. "At least he's home," Krycek says as they leave the small cemetery.

"Yes," Mulder answers. He unties the dog, takes off his damp shirt, and wipes up the wound on the animal's neck. Together, with the dog, they go back into the cabin. The aroma of fresh perked coffee and a light in the kitchen welcomes them.

Krycek heads for the shower. This time Mulder doesn't call him back and he can hear him murmuring nonsense to the dog.

Warm, dry, freshly shaven, his stomach full, Krycek searches the cabin thoroughly while Mulder takes his shower. He finds a pistol and ammo in the night table. He also finds a switchblade. He pockets the blade and brings the gun to the table. The rifle above the fireplace needs cleaning, so he finds the gun supplies in the front closet and sets to work.

The old man had several backpacks and Krycek decides to use these to carry as much food and water as they can hold. They will fill the truck later, but if they run out of fuel or have to leave the vehicle, the backpacks are ready. He wonders if Mulder intends to bring the dog.

Mulder looks younger without the thick beard; he also looks more like the man who once had dreams of finding his sister, believed in justice, and wanted to settle old wounds with his fists.

Leaving as little as possible to chance, they load the backpacks and take them a few hundred yards into the forest. They hide them separately, just in case they run one way and cannot return to fetch the other pack. Krycek wants to go ahead and load the truck, but Mulder insists they rest.

It is full dark, and they douse the lights. There is only one bed in the place. Krycek gets a few blankets from the cupboard and readies the couch. Mulder tries to talk him into getting a real night's sleep on the bed. Krycek insists they stay at opposite ends of the cabin. "It makes sense, Mulder." He says in a flat voice, "One of us at each end, by each exit. That way there is a better chance, if we're attacked, that one of us makes it out."

Mulder rubs the bridge of his nose, "You going to be here in the morning?" He asks.

Krycek is startled. There's a strange inflection in Mulder's voice and he wonders if Mulder somehow divined what he was thinking earlier. "I'll be here," he replies shortly.

Leaving the dog by the door, Mulder wearily tells Krycek to get some rest.

Silence descends and Krycek, free from Mulder's inspection, rubs his left shoulder and huddles under the blankets. They smell like lavender.

00000#####00000

Mulder actually has to wake him from a deep, dreamless sleep. Krycek, taking advantage of rare privacy, takes another shower and thankfully finds that food and rest have restored him to a near semblance of wellbeing. He has no illusions about the difficult journey ahead of them. He expects Mulder will barge ahead, especially if he gets scent of either Skinner's or Scully's possible survival. He knows if the world as they once knew it remains intact for them to find, he will need to leave Mulder.

Krycek thinks about what separating from Mulder means to him as he stands, basking in the hot water. He finds that he actually hopes Mulder gets a break. Hopes Mulder finds something or someone to return to which will give him some measure of joy in whatever brave new world they have yet to face. For all the silent time in the prison factory, Krycek believes he knows Mulder intimately. Nothing, neither the lack of respect nor continual roadblocks, ever stopped Mulder from his pursuits. He is sure that the alien attacks and subsequent invasion will not stop Mulder either.

He wonders if Mulder has thought about their upcoming separation. Krycek credits Mulder's concern last night to the possibility that he might leave and steal the truck. He places no merit on it being more than that.

"Krycek," Mulder says from the bathroom door, startling him out of his thoughts. "Do you have any ideas about what has happened? Did the Smoker plan for any of this? Did they have a headquarters or make survivalist contingencies?"

"If this was a planned attack, then yes, I am sure they had plans. I was never on the inside track enough to know what they were. I was out of the loop when I was in Russia, you know. I'd only been back in the States for a few weeks." Krycek stops. He suddenly remembers Marita's breathless kisses, and his enormous gratitude that she still wanted him. The betrayal stings sharply all over again. The irony of the situation doesn't escape him.

"Krycek," Mulder interrupts him, touching his wet shoulder. Krycek turns off the water.

"I brought back the vaccine. It was stolen from me and tested during the same few weeks that Cassandra Spender and the bunch in the hanger went up in smoke.

"Resistance was possible?" Mulder says, and Krycek nods.

"But it didn't make sense that the rebels were destroying the test subjects, unless they thought that these people could become or were going to become, more hybrids. It appeared, once the original fetus was in their hands that they were aggressively cleaning up all the evidence of the Purity project."

"You don't know which side attacked, do you?" Mulder asks.

"No," Krycek replies. "Look Mulder, I brought back the vaccine as a bargaining chip. I had scores to settle with those bastards, and I thought if I had the proof of the Russian vaccine, it would make them pay attention. All along, they have only been concerned with their own survival and their place as masters or rulers when the time came. I wanted in on that. The rebels changed things. I really believed resistance was possible, and no matter how much I wanted power or revenge, this was more important."

Mulder hands Krycek a towel and leaves the bathroom.

00000#####00000

They load the truck, taking everything edible, all the clothes, blankets, medicines. They add as many bottles they can find, filled with water. The dog jumps onto the flatbed of the truck, so Mulder goes back and retrieves the dog food. The only map they find is a 1980 US Atlas. They are fairly certain they are in West Virginia because it's the only state with fingerprint smudges and pencil marks. Mulder surprises Krycek by insisting they go northwest instead of southeast and back towards Washington DC.

They encounter no roadblocks or signs of pursuit. Still, they don't take chances and eat without making a fire. They sleep on the flatbed with the dog between them.

The next day, they begin to look for other survivors. The back roads yield only empty houses. Finding a large SUV at one place and a small hitched trailer at another, they switch vehicles, add more supplies and eat in vacant homes. Krycek adds to their armory as they go.

They finally join I-70 outside of Pittsburgh. The highway has traffic and they carefully watch the other vehicles for anything unusual. "What exactly are we looking for?" Krycek asks.

Mulder shrugs, "We need to see if we're going to stand out. We have to stop sometime and find out what's going on. Better if we can do that without arousing too much attention."

They notice none of the restaurants or hotels seem to be operating and the gas stations are abandoned. The sky darkens and snow begins to fall. "I think we should find somewhere to spend the night," Krycek says, "Somewhere off the beaten track," he adds.

Mulder turns their vehicle off the interstate and finds a less populated road. Eventually, they pull into a house on a private driveway. They take the backpacks and put one a short distance from either side of the house. Once they break in, they find there is no electricity. They take quick, cold showers and ransack the house for warm clothes, blankets and candles. The dog seems to know his job is to guard the door and takes his place on the foyer floor.

They shut the dusty drapes and hang blankets as an extra precaution, before they light the candles.

00000 ##### 00000

"The other drivers seem to have been heading west," Krycek says, as he wraps himself in blankets and makes a sleeping nest on the couch. He keeps his right hand outside the cocoon and within reach of the handgun.

Tonight, in silent mutual consent, Mulder drags a mattress into the same room. "Yes," he answers. "We're going to need to talk to someone tomorrow and see what they know. It doesn't look like we're being pursued, but we have to figure out a cover of some kind just in case we are questioned."

Like Krycek, he makes himself comfortable within reach of a weapon. They hear the dog lap some water and then settle by the front door. Krycek wonders if Mulder feels the same sense of comfort that he does from the animal's dumb acceptance of his change in circumstances.

"We are near Chicago," Krycek says quietly. Somehow camping out in this candlelit living room feels more intimate than either the cell or the woods. He finds he is discomfited sharing this kind of safe, quiet time with Mulder. "I'd like to try and find a new prosthesis," He adds, "A man with one arm is too visible."

"Do you have any idea where we should start looking?" Mulder asks, "Don't they need to be designed and adjusted to your particular dimensions?"

"Ideally," Krycek answers, "but anything that comes close will do. Wearing something near enough to the length of my other arm will at least give the impression that I have two."

"There's most likely an orthopedic hospital in Chicago. Maybe we should start there." Mulder says.

Krycek watches the candle flame. "Have you given any thought to what you want to do?" He asks Mulder after a lengthy pause. "You have family and friends to find; maybe whatever remains of the FBI is intact. Certainly, there has to be some sort of central defense and aid organization in operation."

Mulder watches Krycek's face in the flickering light. "I could say we need to stay together because I don't trust you not to sell me out somehow. I could say that I believe you know more, even now, about what has happened than you've let on. I could say that staying together is a lot like, `better the devil you know,' sort of thing. All of that is partially true." Mulder sits up and faces Krycek directly. "But it's no longer the whole truth. We've been bound for a long time, traveling the same path from opposite ends. I hoped and prepared for a way out of the prison, although I had no certainty that the possibility would occur. I know you were doing the same thing. "

Mulder stops speaking. Krycek allows the silence to remain undisturbed. He knows that Mulder hasn't finished and learned, during their time together in the cell, that Mulder will continue when he's ready. He's strangely frightened. Discomfort strikes him again. This is a new place. He and Mulder are venturing into new territory, and it scares him. He thinks how he never wanted Mulder's confidences, not the kind that come layered and textured with emotions including trust, need and mutual reliance.

"The night before we escaped, I reached out to you, Alex. I needed someone who knows me. I thought you did too. I have little information about what your life was like before the invasion, but I cannot believe it was full of friends or family. Yes, I want to figure out how to search for Scully and find out what's happened to my mother. Doing that is certainly the top priority. The FBI and a return to service is not something I want to do, without a hell of a lot more information than we have now. Unless I am wrong, and you do have places to go and people to see," Mulder smiles wryly. "I want us to stay together, not as enemies, perhaps not as friends. Whatever we are now, I want us to go on together."

Krycek moves his eyes back to the candlelight. He has a brief, very clear vision of the moment when his mother told him the beloved neighbor, who had time to fix bike chains and refill limp soccer and footballs, was a former Stalinist. She'd told him terrible tales of how this unassuming old man had once made the streets of St Petersburg run red with the blood of intellectuals and college students. He'd argued that the man he knew was not that man, couldn't possibly be that man. Patience at an end, his mother finally slapped him, saying not all the goodwill of a remorseful old age could clean the stain from the man's hands.

He'd harbored a burgeoning anger towards his mother. She'd ruined his trust in the old man and ripped the veil of innocence from his heart. Only when he'd finally studied history in high school, and the true breadth of the horror had been unsparingly taught, had he understood there were truths that came at high and unhappy prices. Somehow, in those lost days of youth, he'd never figured he would be the one who wanted to live a second lifetime free of the ugliness of his own past.

Krycek sits up, reaches for his weapon and places it on the mattress in front of Mulder. He thought Mulder looks, at first surprised, then wary and finally, seriously attentive. Mulder does not, however, reach for or pick up the gun. He does not pick up his own gun either.

"Never apologize and never explain," he begins, "is how I lived, Mulder." He tears his gaze from the mesmerizing flame and meets Mulder's eyes. "I could tell you that I became caught up in a tangle of lies and violence from which I could not escape. I could tell you my only option was follow orders or die. I could tell you I hated what I did, hated the old bastards and hated you too. I could tell you that I bent and finagled orders to minimize the damage. And Mulder, I could tell you that I finally decided saving my own neck was not worth the price of keeping the knowledge I had secret. All of that is true, but not the entire truth."

Krycek pushes the blankets off his legs and sits up on the couch. "I could tell you that the pain I have suffered, and the degradation were enough to even any score, for the harm I have done to others. That too, is a truth. I could tell you," Krycek rubs his face and looks beyond Mulder into the dusty darkness in the corners of the room. He takes a deep breath, lets it out, swallows and says, "That I will stand with you and fight whatever good fight is ahead."

The silence gathers strength and the dog's claws scrabble on the linoleum floor of the foyer as he senses danger and comes to attention. At length, Krycek says quietly, "Take your shot now or tell me to go if you don't shoot. Otherwise, if we do go on it's as equals, facing whatever comes, together."

Mulder picks up Krycek's gun and runs his fingers over the barrel. Krycek thinks Mulder is debating what to decide and once again, feels an upsurge of fear. Not for his life, but for the possibility that what he committed himself to do was more than he was capable of promising. He wonders if he can stand beside Mulder and not bend under the pressure.

Mulder hands the gun back to Krycek. When Krycek makes no move to take it, Mulder slides it underneath the pillow on the couch. "Get some sleep, Alex. We have a lot to do tomorrow."

Krycek sits, long after Mulder goes to sleep, after the candle sputters out and while the dog thumps his tail in happy dreams where he chases rabbits through the woods on clear frosty mornings. He rubs his truncated arm when the cold seeps into him and disturbs his concentration. He gets under the blankets and closes his eyes. A final bone deep shiver races through him before the warmth reaches past the cold and he sleeps.

00000 ##### 00000

They switch cars several times and remain in a vehicle overnight. As they near the city, they switch once more. This time it's a large passenger van and they carefully cover their supplies with blankets. The dog sits atop the pile.

Traffic increases, although it is far from approaching what a normal pattern. They find a hospital. The emergency rooms and ground floor clinic spaces are in use. It's not until they ask about the possibility of finding a prosthesis, that they realize there are only men in the place.

Mulder pulls Krycek aside, "Where are the women and children?"

He answers, "The prison population was all male."

"Yeah," says Mulder.

An orthopedic doctor takes Krycek upstairs to what was once the rehab floor. Mulder stays and strikes up conversations with the others in the waiting room. When Krycek returns with a new arm, attached beneath his sweater and looking almost real, and a bag of supplies, they leave as quickly as possible.

"They depend on volunteer time in return for services," Krycek tells him. "But I think it's safer to keep moving. The doc was very interested to hear we've traveled out of our sector and warned me to keep moving. I faked as best I could, saying we'd come from Canada. I don't think he believed me."

Mulder starts the van and backs out of the crowded lot. Krycek can see he is tense. He heads toward the interstate and turns off just shy of the onramp. "We've got to change vehicles as quickly as possible. Whatever we find will have to do. I don't doubt this one's been identified as belonging to strangers in this sector."

Krycek nods and looks for a likely carport or garage with a car in it. "Look there's one." Mulder begins to turn into the driveway, when Krycek says, "stop!" There's a lookout on the second floor."

"Fuck!" Hisses Mulder. "Maybe we need to go further from the highway."

"I don't think we're going to get the time," Krycek says as he reaches for the weapons cache under the top blanket. He checks each one and slides a handgun into Mulder's lap. Mulder takes in his left hand, keeping it hidden from view until he needs to fire. He makes a quick three-point turn and heads out of the housing development. From this angle, both men can see each house has a lookout. Curtains swish and flap as they drive by, but no fires on them and they get to the cross street unharmed.

Mulder turns into the intersection and the world explodes around them. Krycek is already firing, as Mulder rights the van and attempts to outrun whatever is attacking them. Within moments, the windshield shatters and the left front tire blows. Mulder slams the car into reverse and backs up.

"Can you see what we're shooting at?" Mulder yells above the noise, as he joins Krycek, firing as many rounds as quickly as possible. He throws the handgun into the back and grabs a rifle.

The car is riddled with returned fire and finally, Krycek pulls at Mulder's shoulder "Get down!" He yells, leans across Mulder's body and sticks his fake arm out the window, a piece of rag attached to the fingers in surrender. The arm is blown to bits and the shooting stops.

"Are you injured," Krycek whispers from above Mulder's bent form. Mulder tries to rise. "No! No, asshole," Krycek says. "Keep down until were sure they're not going to just kill us where we sit."

They wait. Krycek can feel Mulder twitch and sweat beneath him, but he doesn't let the man up. "Shit," he whispers as the smoke clears and he can see they're surrounded. "We're fucked. Sit up slowly, Mulder. Don't spook them."

He hears Mulder actually chuckle weakly, and he smiles sharply. They gave it a shot, had a couple of days as free men and got this far. Not bad, he thinks.

Mulder sits and sees the remnants of the prosthesis propped in the window. "Bet you never thought it would come in handy so soon."

"Handy?" Krycek looks at the pieces of plastic, wire and steel hanging out the window, and starts laughing.

Mulder looks confused for a moment, "Yeah, handy." He says and joins Krycek, laughing his ass off.

The contingent of drones signals them to exit the van. The dog jumps out first and takes a defensive posture, snarling all the while. The men get out more slowly, hands up. The drones say nothing and after a few moments of silence, they hear another car door open and shut. They turn their heads, "Well, fuck," Mulder says.

Krycek says nothing. Making his way easily through the remains of cars and drones and glass, Spender comes into view, and behind him, the Brit. The dog growls deep in his throat. "Yeah, buddy," he thinks, "you and me both."

00000 ##### 00000

"We've got to stop meeting like this," Mulder says as soon as Spender and the Brit come close enough to hear.

Spender comes abreast the men and sidesteps Mulder. He backhands Krycek across the face. Krycek rocks on his feet, but remains standing. He lets the blood flow from his nose and mouth. When Krycek says nothing, Spender backhands him again. This time, the dog launches himself at Spender and a shot rings out, halting the dog mid-leap. The animal is dead before it hits the ground.

"Do I have your attention?" Spender asks.

Krycek remains impassive. Mulder, breathing hard, remains silent.

"Where is it?" Spender asks.

Krycek says nothing.

Spender steps back, takes a gun from the hand of a drone, and aims it at Krycek's head. "Where is it?" He repeats.

"Wait a goddamned second," Mulder yells and tries to step between Spender and Krycek. Instantly, drones grab him and pull him out of the way.

Spender smiles.

Krycek slowly closes his eyes and fortifies himself with a slow deep breath.

Spender aims the weapon at Mulder's head. "Now, Alex." He says, "Where is the Russian vaccine?"

Alex wishes Mulder had learned discretion, knew how to act instead of act out or up. Too late now, he thinks. With one small step, he'd given away the game and demonstrated they were together out of choice instead of expediency. He doesn't look at the Brit at all. Mulder would laugh, no doubt, to know he harbors hope that the man really has a resistance plan still intact. Somehow, the Brit has kept the serum under wraps or made the whole group of the bastards believe it was the American version that cured Marita.

The greater good would be best served by keeping silent and letting Mulder die, if that was really what Spender intended. The one sacrificed instead of the many, god, corny Spock wisdom. He wipes his nose with his sleeve. "The Russian kid stole it when he escaped," Krycek says aloud, hoping for nonchalance.

Spender's gun doesn't waver, "Try again," he says.

Krycek puts on his best superior smirk, "The bitch, Marita, took the kid and the vaccine." He meets Spender's eye, "She fucked me and then fucked me over." He allows real bitterness to seep into his tone. He knows Spender has a thing about coarseness, as if that makes him some kind of gentleman at heart.

Spender glances at the Brit.

Krycek sighs soundlessly.

"Take them," the Brit orders the drones.

00000 ##### 00000

"Well Hell," Mulder says quietly, once they're seated side by side in the back of another van. They've been searched and left with nothing but shirts and pants. Even their socks have been confiscated.

Krycek smiles in real amusement. "I begin to think we're not Jekyll and Hyde so much as Abbot and Costello, and all we do is run in circles."

"At least we're running around in the same direction this time," Mulder mutters.

"Bastards killed the damn dog," Krycek says bleakly. He hears Mulder sigh.

"This time we're prisoners because of who we are," Mulder says.

"That's important? Better the other way," Krycek shrugs.

"No, I don't think so," Mulder answers. "We might find out things this time."

"And maybe we won't survive to escape, this time." Krycek says, sarcastically.

"So, Marita ripped you off. What were you going to do with the vaccine? Sell it to the highest bidder?" Mulder says angrily.

"Fuck you," Krycek says, keeping his voice low. "Without a vaccine, resistance isn't possible. With a vaccine to use as a bargaining chip, us versus them, maybe, just maybe the human race has a chance. This planet might not be so tasty if when they bite, they die."

"Is that why they moved first?" Mulder asks. "They knew a vaccine was available?"

"I'm not sure. The last I heard, before I left Russia, there was finally a successful human hybrid. It could be the combination of those two things or something else entirely. I wasn't back long enough to get enough data before it started."

"Cassandra Spender," Mulder's voice is bitter. "The bastard used his wife."

"Yeah," Krycek says, just as bitterly. "And Bill Mulder used his daughter."

Krycek can feel Mulder's eyes burning through him. You want truth, Mulder? He thinks. You can't handle the truth. "My father used my brother, asshole." He says, "One family member from each collaborator, in exchange for the alien DNA."

"Fuck," Mulder replies and closes his eyes.

Krycek rocks, while Mulder sits still. When he's rocked off his rage, he moves as far away from Mulder as the space allows.

"Fuck," Mulder says again, a long time later.

"Yeah," replies Krycek. There isn't a lot more to say.

00000 ##### 00000

This time their guards are human. This does them no good. The men are silent and, unlike the drones, enjoy humiliating them. Krycek knows Mulder is watching him and believes the measure of understanding they achieved is lost. They retreat to their corners and pace and exercise. They neither hear nor see Spender and the Brit.

Left for almost twenty-four hours without food and water, Krycek wants very badly to tell the guards to fetch Spender so he can tell him the vaccine is not the Brit's private invention, but the Russian-made concoction. He wants to trade this information for concessions. He holds tight and tries to generate enough saliva to dampen his lips. He wonders if it is Mulder's stoic presence or the knowledge of Spender's duplicity that keep him silent. Mulder's eyes are bloodshot and have small dried flakes around the lids.

Krycek makes a decision and goes to sit beside Mulder. In what remains of his voice, he rasps out the dirtiest limerick he can remember. Mulder looks astonished and then grins. He husks out a dirty joke. Krycek rolls his eyes and tells another one. They whisper to each other and find themselves rocking with breathy laughter. When they can talk no more, tongues thick with thirst, they lean back against the wall shoulder to shoulder.

They doze on and off, waking when the pinch of their dry throats and nostrils prevent them from swallowing and falling into a deeper sleep. The stench of the waste bucket fills the air in the small cell. Krycek knows they can live another day, maybe a bit more, before they fall into dehydrated unconsciousness. He knows tomorrow will bring stomach cramps and dry heaves from hunger.

Awakened by a clatter in the corridor, they do not waste energy moving. Mulder places his hand on Krycek's thigh. Krycek leans his shoulder more firmly against Mulder. It doesn't surprise him that they try to find comfort in their own proximity.

When they drag him out, Krycek finds he hopes whatever happens next to Mulder is nothing that he can connect or blame on him. "Later," he manages to whisper. Mulder nods.

They offer him water. He sips; wetting his mouth, then swallows a small amount. He takes several sips, stops and waits to see if he will regurgitate. He drinks carefully, knows it may be laced with poisons, taking the chance regardless. His stomach and bladder begin to cramp and he stops drinking. They remove the paper cup. He waits.

They take him, roughly tearing off his grimy clothes, and strap him to a hospital bed, which was beyond his sight in the next room. They leave him uncovered and two men in hospital whites return. They quickly catheterize him and put in an IV line. He lies there, shivering in the cool room, uncovered and in silence. He tests the bonds, it's useless. He falls asleep as his body temperature approaches hypothermia, and drifts in and out of consciousness.

He tries to become more alert when he sees Mulder's attempts to resist the same fate.

Mulder, manhandled into the same condition, turns his head and meets Krycek's eyes. He smiles wryly.

Krycek feels his heart stop. He is suddenly on fire with love and admiration for this man. Fiercely and selfishly glad they experienced time together.

Mulder's smile broadens as if he can divine Krycek's thoughts.

Krycek smiles back, unafraid to die.

"Tell me something," Mulder asks. "Tell me something wonderful."

Krycek laughs aloud. "I went to hear the Grateful Dead. The stadium was standing room only; the sound system sucked, and the place reeked with weed. Everybody was happy anyway. They jumped and danced and sang. I met the eyes of the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen. She smiled and gestured for me to come over. Every time I got close, the crowd surged, and she was carried a little further away. I was twenty-three, stoned on Jamaican gold, the roar of the crowd, the music and the chase."

"Did you catch her?"

Krycek laughs, "Does it matter?"

"Why don't we do it in the road?" Mulder sings, in a parody of Jerry Garcia's rasp.

Krycek joins him, "Why don't we do it in the road?"

They sing it over and over, sometimes together and sometimes not. They sing it when Spender returns and tries to get their attention. They ignore him and keep their eyes on each other. Their smiles become grins, and they laugh at the other's inability to carry a tune.

They sing it when a substance is added to the IVs and the pain starts, burning in their veins, making their eyes water.

00000 ##### 00000

Naked, chilled and starving, they wake within moments of each other and take inventory. There are still three arms, four feet and multiple bruises between them. They huddle together. Mulder rubs his face into the crook of Krycek's neck. The missing arm makes it easier to get in close. Krycek wraps his good arm around Mulder's belly.

They don't sing, but they are breathing, and that's enough of a victory for the moment.

Tossed into the cell by surly guards, clothing, food and water appear. They help each other dress, and encourage each other to chew, swallow, vomit and return to chew and swallow some more.

Having reached a modicum of restoration and a semblance of themselves, they curl up together. Krycek rocks Mulder, wondering how he became the comforter, where it comes from inside him, why Mulder allows it.

The door opens, and the Brit steps inside. Seemingly careless, he allows them to see the pistol strapped beneath his arm and car keys in his shirt pocket. He steps in closer, "Where is the serum, Krycek?" He demands and bends closer still. Krycek lifts the metal bowl, which recently held their food, and hits the old man in the side of his head. Only Mulder can see how glancing the attack is and hides his surprise when the man goes down. He quickly retrieves the keys and the gun.

They make their way past several dead bodies and find an open window at the end of the corridor. It's at least a ten foot drop to the pavement, they jump, roll and run. The key chain is conveniently studded with a Mercedes pendant, and there is only one Merc in the lot.

Krycek drives. Mulder does lookout. They change cars in the parking lot's furthest corner, and once more before they leave the clump of buildings that once housed a muffler factory.

"Talk," Mulder says tersely.

Krycek talks, "I told you before about the lighthouses, and the burnings. I swiped the serum and a witness and brought them to New York. Marita Couvarrubious met me dockside. I was foolish enough to trust her. She stole the witness. The Brit was right behind her and took the vaccine. We made a deal, and I was back in the gang, this time with the Brit. He'd been experimenting on his end. The best I can figure, he presented the vaccine as his discovery and kept the real source to himself. Marita was infected, so he used it on her, and it worked."

"I saw her at the hospital. She looked terrible." Mulder injected.

Krycek did not bother to hide his surprise. "Then why the fuck didn't you get her and Jeff Spender out?"

"I was trying to get back to Scully. She was missing, and so was Cassandra Spender." He answers.

"I went after the original alien fetus. That and a vaccine would ensure a deal with the rebel aliens. It was gone. The rebels were burning up the witnesses and members of the original conspiracy. Whether they saved those who survived on the bridge or the others did, remains unclear. I was on my way back to warn the Brit, when all hell broke loose."

"I did go to Weikamp, you know," says Mulder. "I am not clear what happened, but either the Rebels saved their man, or the others got to him."

"Whatever," Krycek replies tiredly. "The combination of events led to the invasion."

"Yes," Mulder answers almost soundlessly.

They drive on.

"Is Jeff Spender still alive?" Mulder asks.

" I'm not sure about Jeff or Marita. They attempted to follow me out of the hospital. I'm not sure they made it."

"Tell me about Diana Fowley," Mulder asks tonelessly.

Krycek glances at Mulder and pauses to form a reply.

"Just tell me," Mulder says quietly.

"She's a mole, like me and with the project a long time. How she was suborned or if she joined willingly, I don't know. When you started nosing around the X Files, they assigned her, post haste, to the academy and then to you. Her loyalty became suspect, so they pulled her and sent her abroad." Krycek takes a deep breath, lets it out and continues. "She was one of my instructors." He says it carefully, trying to keep any particular emphasis out of his voice.

Mulder sighs and takes a quick look at Krycek. "How did you become involved?" He asks the question he has never dared to ask, quietly, carefully.

Krycek sees a deserted street with houses and attached garages. He pulls into the block and chooses one with an open garage door. Together, they close the door behind the car, scout the house, and find a can opener and some tinned food.

In turn, they quickly shower and dress in the master bedroom. There are no shoes, so they each put on several pairs of socks.

They eat sparingly. The last few days have taken an enormous toll on their systems and the last thing either of them wants is to be on the run and have dysentery.

"I wanted to find out what happened to my family. To get back at whoever set them up. I wanted to be powerful and stick it to them. During my last year of college, I became aware that someone besides my Academic Advisor was interested in my progress. I'd been talking about a career in government service, possibly military or intelligence. An offer to go to a survivalist training camp unexpectedly came my way. I went. I stayed for most of my next term, and when Spender approached me, I took the bait. What he didn't know was that I'd seen him before. I was only a little kid, but I remember him arguing with my parents. Shortly afterwards, my older sister `died' suddenly of a bacterial infection. There was no funeral or burial. A few months later my father committed suicide." Krycek takes a long swallow and raises his eyes.

Mulder is watching him, a fork halfway to his mouth.

Krycek smiles sourly, "You were the one who said, same destination, opposite paths."

Mulder nods.

"I went through their `training' program. Subtly done, nothing too wild or daring, just incremental steps. When I was arrested or questioned, all the evidence disappeared. I became dependent without realizing. Of course, nothing disappeared that couldn't be reinvented. I refused to do something once, and the cops had me in for questioning on a variety of charges so fast my head spun. All of a sudden, you would have thought I was Al Capone. There was DNA evidence, pictures, tapes, and witnesses. All to things I hadn't known about or been part of perpetrating. There was nowhere to run and no way out."

"The Russian connections?" Mulder puts down his fork and asks.

"My maternal grandparents were active Party members. They blamed my father for convincing my mom to marry him and escape to the West. They visited my last year in High School. Later, Spender sent me to see them and spend a few months at the Russian front in Afghanistan. My grandfather was a wily old bastard. He introduced me around his clique of retired hardliners. They managed to get me an identity, should I ever need it."

"You couldn't trust me?" Mulder says softly, fiddling with his napkin.

Ah, Krycek thinks, finally the crux of the matter. "No." He says it baldly, scrapes his chair back and begins viciously rinsing the dishes.

"Why not?" Krycek hears the effort it takes Mulder to keep his voice toneless.

"Bill Mulder," he answers, turns off the water and spins around to face Mulder. "Who the fuck do you think set up the testing programs for the abductees in the first place? Who do you think visited my mom throughout the years and wanted to help me with my fucking homework, recommend which college I should attend, pick my goddamned major? She cried for days after, every time he came."

Mulder and Krycek stand, badly damaged wax figures partially melted, full of dings, divots and the odd missing limb. Mulder rubs his belly, takes a long quiet look at Krycek, and leaves the room. A moment later, Krycek heaves a plate against the wall. The crockery explodes.

00000 ##### 00000

They take their time, traveling carefully and stopping only to exchange cars or sleep a few hours in abandoned houses. Collecting odd bits and pieces, they manufacture disguises. There are no newspapers, radio or TV broadcasts.

Past Indianapolis, they decide to head south, only to come back north closer to the east coast. Mulder begins to interact with others occasionally, while Krycek hides out of sight. Slowly, the horrific story becomes clear. A mass invasion, followed by a massive clean up. The drones, landing by the thousands, march through the cities irradiating the bodies of people and animals. The bodies reduced to ash. Of the few women who survived, no one has heard recently of a pregnancy. If any children made it, they are not in view. Neither of the men has seen any. Estimates range from seventy to ninety percent of the population disappeared. No one is sure if the attacks were only in the western hemisphere, but it is clear that from Alaska to the tip of Mexico the populations suffered the same fate.

The men grow grimmer and seldom venture out of each other's sight. Mulder doesn't ask Krycek any more questions. The silent truce from the prison, the uncomfortable companionship of the initial escape, and the fearful trust during the medical torture all fade into a blur. They are no longer enemies. Neither wastes time nor thought on describing what they have become to one another.

They find a well-stocked house on the outskirts of Savannah, and, deciding to rest and recoup, take up residence.

A weapon is strategically posted by each window and packs filled with fresh supplies; Mulder finds glasses, opens a bottle of red wine and pours it out for both of them. "There's a hot tub with a gas ignition heater," he announces. "I intend to get drunk and clean at the same time."

Krycek laughs, looks surprised, picks up his glass and toasts Mulder, "To your Bacchanal."

"Join me?" Mulder asks.

"Someone should keep an eye out," Krycek answers.

"Fuck guard duty," Mulder answers.

Krycek studies his cup. "Fuck guard duty," he answers, after a time.

Mulder showers first, while the tub is filling. He considers the remaining contents and brings back a second bottle. By the time Krycek showers and joins Mulder in the tub, they've consumed the first bottle.

They soak, sitting on opposite sides of the tub, long lean legs propped on each other's seats. "If only this `were' the life," Mulder says.

"To life," Krycek replies, raising his glass.

"So," Mulder says, "tell me about the last time you got laid."

Krycek grimaces, "You tell me."

Mulder makes an attempt at a thoughtful look. "Was so long ago, I don't remember."

Krycek laughs, tries to cover it with a cough and chokes. "Just make something up. Surely you have memories?"

"Memories," Mulder sighs blissfully.

Krycek chuckles, "I'm all ears."

Mulder peers at Krycek's head, shakes his own, "All eyes." He says emphatically.

Krycek blinks slowly, startled by the remark.

Mulder laughs.

00000 ##### 00000

"You're drunk," Krycek accuses.

Mulder sets the glass down by the edge of the tub and splashes water on his face. "Not entirely. What did you do for fun?" He asks.

"What am I?" Krycek asks in turn, "Scheherazade?"

"Telling stories kept her alive.," Mulder answers, seriously.

Krycek snorts. "That's the PG version."

Mulder smiles evilly, waves his hand in a beckoning gesture towards his groin, "Actions speak louder than words."

"You're kidding," says Krycek.

Mulder sighs, half mournfully and half mockingly. "Doesn't seem fair, you know? When there were plenty of women around..." He allows his voice to peter out.

Krycek's grin fades quickly. "This is not a good idea, Mulder. You're drunk, I'm drunk."

Mulder laughs, "I never imagined you were a prude, Krycek,"

Stung, Krycek scowls. "They wanted me to get that kind of dope on you, back when, only they pulled me because of Barry."

Mulder squints at Krycek, attempting to get his mind around the idea. "They thought I was gay?"

Krycek shakes his head. "They just wanted personal stuff to fry you with," he says. "They didn't want to kill you, just slow you down or distract you. When Barry happened, they used Scully. But, they would've found something to use, no matter what."

Mulder leans his head back against the side of the tub. After a while, he asks, "Are you gay, Krycek?"

Krycek smiles bitterly, "I was whatever I needed to be, if it got me closer to the inside track."

Mulder nods. "I'm not surprised, really."

"About what? That I would do anything?" Krycek says in a cold voice.

"No," Mulder answers, "although that doesn't surprise me either. I meant that they sent someone in with that kind of agenda."

Krycek relaxes a bit.

"After Sam was taken, I was very angry. Everything fell apart, my family, schoolwork, friendships. There was an older boy, a kind of rebellious punk, who lived to shock the well-bred, conservative mama's boys and their horse mad sisters. It was as if everyone and everything was gray to me, except for this kid." Mulder pours himself another glass of wine. He offers some to Krycek, but he shakes his head and Mulder puts the bottle down.

"He befriended me, when everyone else was whispering about why Sam was taken, but I was left unharmed. By the time I was fourteen, I was so tired of all the shit that I took off with him when he said we should run away." Mulder drinks the entire glass in one long gulp.

"So you had sex with this kid?" Krycek says. "That's not a big deal, Mulder."

"No," Mulder answers. "It never bothered me. Afterwards, I mean, when my father caught up with us. I made up my mind to get the hell out of Dodge as soon as possible. I knew even then, that I needed to trust someone, have someone touch me, that wasn't part of the mess at home."

"Yeah," Krycek murmurs.

"Yeah," Mulder echoes. "Was that in my file?" Mulder asks.

Krycek looks at him, surprised. "No. Not at all. Most of it was about your intelligence, your spooky reputation and successes as a profiler. It had what kind of interests and hobbies, suggestions about how to get you to trust me, rely on me. Fuck, Mulder, I knew so little about the project at that point. They were careful not to tell me too much."

"I've always wondered. My father and I seldom talked or saw each other." Mulder commented.

"He never said anything to me about your sexuality, and I never saw anything in the files. All those old bastards pretended to be gentlemen, you know. They had a kind of snobbery about being better men than the rest." Krycek says.

Mulder nods. "You made me crazy. All that energy and enthusiasm you exhibited. I was fairly certain you were a spy, but you would push me behind you or step ahead of me when there was danger. That confused me."

Krycek smiles, "I sure as shit didn't want you to die on my watch, Spender made it very clear that you remain unharmed." Krycek freezes, "Mulder, did you ever tell Fowley about your youthful experiences?"

Mulder tilts his head, considering. "Yeah, we were talking marriage at one point."

Krycek grimaces, not hiding his distaste.

Mulder laughs, "Why?"

"She said something to me once." Krycek shrugs and stops.

Mulder splashes the water. "I wasn't ashamed or strung out about it." He tells Krycek.

"Neither of us are kids running away to join the circus either." Krycek says quietly.

"Neither of us are kids," Mulder says solemnly.

They exchange nods. Mulder pours himself another glass of wine and this time, Krycek has his glass refilled.

00000 ##### 00000

They sleep, naked and together, in the master bedroom. Waking, they are both too hung over and thirsty to do more than acknowledge, silently, that next time there may be more.

Krycek rubs his stump several times during the day's drive.

Mulder drums his fingers on the wheel.

They continue driving through the night, taking back roads. They drive without headlights, allowing the moon to guide the way. The Tennessee country looms ahead and they see the rising fog, from the Smoky Mountains, curl and twist into the night sky.

"I've been thinking," Mulder says, as they finally decide to find a place for what's left of the night. "What that shit they put us through was about."

Krycek grunts tiredly and massages the back of his neck.

"We've both survived exposure to the aliens. I think they were running a test on us." Mulder continues.

"To what end?" Krycek asks, alert once more.

"Resistance?" Mulder asks in return.

"A little late for that now," Krycek answers.

"Maybe not too late to save some of the population," Mulder says.

"Those assholes never did an altruistic thing in their lives," Krycek replies.

"Maybe the aliens welshed on the deal?" Mulder muses, "And they didn't end up leaders in the new world order."

Krycek considers, "None of that ever made sense. The Brit seemed to understand better than the rest of them. Once the fetus was gone, the leverage was gone too."

"Yeah, and that would mean they needed something new, but the invasion happened too fast." Mulder warms to his theme.

"So what?" Krycek comments, "It's a little late to try and save anything."

"Maybe not too late," Mulder says. "What if it has something to do with the possibility of the next generation? I mean the kids and possibly, the childbearing women."

"They'd only try that if they intended to father the next generation themselves," Krycek answers and feels his mouth go dry. "Fuck!"

"What?" Mulder asks excitedly.

"What if they've rounded them up? What if they have them hidden from both the surviving male population and the aliens?" Krycek bangs his hand on the dashboard. "What if the new generation is born resistant to the aliens?"

"Yes, yes," Mulder says, "New leverage for a brave new world."

"Leverage indeed, and a new deal with the aliens, or they let loose the new generation to fight back." Krycek says.

"We have to find them," Mulder says.

Krycek smiles, his white teeth slashing the dark interior of the car. "Fancy a few uber-offspring of your own?"

Mulder laughs, "Nah, but share and share alike, I always say. Bet those old men can't get it up anyway."

"I'm sure there are plenty of male survivors who'd want to give it a try," Krycek answers.

"Enough to raise an army? Fancy being a general, Krycek?" Mulder asks.

"What are you going to be, the commander in chief?" Krycek answers with a question of his own.

"Of course," Mulder says and salutes.

"The Brit may have something to say about that," Krycek answers.

"Let him try." This time, Mulder's grin lights the darkness.

00000 ##### 00000

They find a farmhouse and park the car in the barn. There's food and water in the house, so they place their packs as before, ready for a fast escape. They bathe in cold water and eat cold food, too tired to attempt anything else. The bedrooms smell like lavender and the beds are made, piled high with soft quilts and softer blankets.

"I miss the damn dog," Mulder complains, as he joins Krycek.

Krycek reaches out first, his cold hand pinning Mulder down. "You sure about this?"

Mulder runs his hands up Krycek's arm, to his shoulders and pulls him closer. "Very sure."

Breathing heavily, they don't speak again. They don't kiss either, but while their hands are hard and sure, their mouths are gentle on each other's flesh.

Mulder kneads the abrupt trunk of Krycek's arm, he moans into Mulder's neck.

Krycek palms Mulder's sex, cupping him and they both moan, catch fire and grapple, licks becoming bites and caresses become prelude to orgasm.

Novelty, freedom, and long abstention send them over. Groin to groin, they spill themselves onto the other, gasping each other's name at the end.

The bed is in disarray, as they lie panting in the aftermath. Mulder grabs at the nearest blankets, tossing them over their cooling bodies.

Carefully, as if they have yet to touch for the first time, Krycek reaches beneath the covers and takes hold of Mulder's hand.

Mulder holds on, tightly.

Waking before dawn, Krycek studies Mulder's silhouette. He lightly traces the bold nose, the parted lips and rests his hand on Mulder's chest, absorbing comfort from the slow heartbeat and the rhythmic breaths. Ahead, there is an army to muster and a war to fight. Later, they will be bodies in motion. Now, next to this man, with this man, there is rest. Mulder opens his eyes. Krycek whispers, "Pax Pacis, Mulder."

Mulder smiles softly and closing his eyes against the dawn, says, "Peace."

Krycek relaxes; his first impression of the day is Mulder's palm against his palm.

Finis
April 2004
 

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