Nowhere Man

by Flutesong

[Story Headers]

Title: Nowhere Man

July 2006
Author: Flutesong
E-mail: Flutesong@hegalplace.com
Site: www.hegalplace.com/flutesong
Warnings: Aw, it's love
Rating: Anyone and Everyone
Spoilers: Hahaha! In an after-time that never was and since I want them under 40, let's pretend the whole thing ended sometime in season 5 Disclaimer: Belongs to Fox, the conglomerate, not the character. Notes: Reread JiM's Houseboat Variations and loved them all over again. Was inspired, I do not know JiM, so I hope no one takes offence. If I remember correctly, the rules were that it had to at least 5 years after it all ended and take place on a houseboat. JiM's stories can be found at The Basement archive.

Nowhere Man

As he sat in the maple rocking chair on the bow of the houseboat, Mulder waved back to the schoolchildren walking home on the pier. He caught a reflection of himself in the glass of the open porthole beside him and grinned sardonically. "If they could see me now," he thought, the words of the old song echoing in his mind.

His grin quickly disappeared. There was no one to see, they were all gone, gone for years and yet, in his mind daily, as if constant memory of the dead was his price to pay, his pound of flesh for a lifetime of tunnel vision that had brushed aside the concerns of normalcy, friendship, family and love.

His mobile mouth turned downward and he rose from the comfortable chair in the sun and went inside to gaze unseeingly at the wall of pictures, his gallery of the Gone, but not Forgotten.

Unknown to Mulder, another pair of eyes was watching him from the shadows of the warehouses on the other side of the pier. The cool green eyes watched Mulder's day unfold. It wasn't the first time these eyes watched the lone man on his brightly painted domicile. The green eyes had made a habit of it.

Besides, Alex thought and not for the first time, he had nothing better to do. There was, in fact, nothing to do anymore. He'd held on as long as he could, selling off the more nefarious of the syndicate holdings to other megalomaniacal types. Eventually, the syndicate was gone along with any alien threat, and with it, all his contacts, sources of cash and work. The small apartment on the other side of the river held no attraction, no comfort. At the very least, hanging out and watching Mulder molder away was better than sitting on his sagging couch and moldering away himself.

Through his binoculars, Alex watched Mulder make a sandwich and felt his own stomach rumble loudly. He could leave his self-assigned post and hit the tavern at the end of the dock; it wasn't as if this were a real surveillance. But, as always, even Mulder's most innocuous habits were compelling to him. So he stayed and went hungry.

Mulder lay in the sleeping bag that he brought outside on nights that he couldn't sleep in his bed. The breeze touched him with its hint of river air and the easy rocking of the boat was felt more keenly when he was outside. Drowsily, he hoped the distant thunder would stay far away so he wouldn't have to go inside. Autumn in DC was a lot like his years in England, beautiful clear moments between gray and wet days that fogged the marina and made everything clammy everywhere on the boat.

He fell asleep to the gentle rocking of his vessel and the lullaby of nighttime squeaks, grunts and moans made by the other boats tied to the warped pier.


Mulder opened his eyes and saw a dark shape blocking the moonlight. He'd started to sit up when the cold metallic barrel of a gun was placed up against the side of his neck and someone said, "Tsk, tsk, Mulder, you're not being very careful, sleeping out in the open like this."

Mulder sighed and forced himself to relax before he answered, "I wasn't expecting company, Krycek. I mean these days no one writes, no one calls, and there hasn't been a gun to my head in years. A man gets used to peace."

"Bullshit," Krycek answered succinctly, "You hate peace, it's dull and boring and if no one calls it's your own fault for marooning yourself on this old barge."

"How would you know? I can see you don't seem to be exactly prospering, if the state of that old jacket if anything to go on. Besides, you don't maroon yourself on a boat; you get thrown off the boat and left on an island in the middle of nowhere."

Krycek looked around at the collection of well-worn houseboats, skiffs and sailboats that were black against the moonlit water, "looks like nowhere to me."

He got out of his crouch, holstered the gun under his left arm and sat in the chair. Mulder sat up slowly, crossed his legs and leaned his head against the bow's railing. "What are you doing here, Krycek?"

Krycek looked beyond Mulder, focusing on the jagged outline of spars and sails, gathering his thoughts.

Mulder stared at Krycek thinking how surprised he was to see him alive. He looked okay, if older and worn. Thinner too, if the extra room in the jacket was real and not just a product of the shadows. His left hand gleamed darkly in its stiff black glove and in an awkward position, half turned outward in an unnatural way. He remembered the hard clamp of that hand as it dragged him from the wrecked car, out of range of Spender's last attempt to kill him, just as he remembered the deafening blast from Krycek's berretta as it fired and split Spender's head in two.

The wet splat as Spender landed on the street featured prominently in his nightmares from time to time.

Spender's death hadn't ended the conflict, but it had caused enough confusion in the syndicate ranks for Mulder and Scully to rally their forces and take advantage of it. That time undoubtedly made their final attacks pay off. For that, and for saving his life, prevented Mulder from attacking the man now.

"What are you going to do with the rest of your life, Mulder?" Krycek asked in a soft voice.

The question took Mulder unawares. Krycek had been silent so long that the question he'd asked the man had faded from his thoughts.

Mulder sat up a bit more, twined his hands together and tapped a forefinger against the knuckle of his other hand. "I haven't decided yet," he answered. "I was so driven for so long that I want to take my time. I have enough to live on, so there's no hurry."

Krycek sighed audibly and began to rock. His face was bone white and taut in the moonlight. "It's been almost five years, how much more time do you need?"

Mulder had a sudden epiphany about the man he knew, in fact, so little about. Something important must have happened to move this seemingly capricious man to sit here quietly and ask serious questions without a hint of the old smirk or sass. He wondered if Krycek was dying, after all, he'd been exposed more than anyone Mulder knew, besides Spender and perhaps Scully, to aliens and the violence their tenure had brought to bear.

He looked at Krycek and met his eyes, wide eyes that sparkled even in the shallow light.

Krycek quirked his lips, "I'm not dying, Mulder." He said with uncanny accuracy.

"Too bad," Mulder said, but in a very soft murmur and saw Krycek compress his lips once more and rock a little faster.

"Haven't you had enough of death, Mulder?"

Mulder stopped tapping his knuckles, "Have you?" He answered the question with a question.

"Yes," Krycek said, leaned his head back and exposed his pale neck to Mulder's gaze and the moonlight.

Mulder shivered and his eyes watered with suppressed emotions that rose from their violent, hate filled and unresolved past. Finally. His chance to end it. He moved jerkily and saw Krycek take a deep breath. Without forethought, Mulder said harshly, "Damned if you'll make me your executioner, Krycek!"

Krycek let out his breath, rose from the chair and said, "I had to know, Mulder. You're the only one left who's entitled." He stared Mulder in the eye and quietly left the boat.

Mulder watched him as he walked across the pier and was gathered into the shadows until he was gone.


Mulder did not go back to sleep, the stretch of darkness that Krycek disappeared into, called to him. He got up, tied up a pair of old running shoes and threw on a T-shirt. He grabbed his keys and wallet and made for the ramp off his boat. He was less than ten minutes behind Krycek, but he knew he's be lucky to catch up. Krycek and the night suited each other, he thought, each full of secrets and an undeniable attraction.

The alleys that wound through the warehouse district were quiet, only a few had lights on and janitorial personnel moving around, walkman cd players plugged into their ears. Mulder was prepared to look innocent and wave if anyone looked up. No one did.

The smell of fish, diesel oil and sluggish river water, blanketed the night. Mulder followed his intuition, not really considering why he went left instead of right or detoured behind the largest building instead of in front of it. He just felt that Krycek had come this way.

At an intersection of alley and a real street, he saw the old tavern was open, its beer signs glowing neon green and red. Would Krycek have wanted a drink? Mulder pushed open the swinging door, feeling, for a moment as if were in a Western, about to confront the evil rancher or horse thief. He actually felt for his gun, which he had not carried for almost five years.

Krycek was there nursing a cold beer in a tall stein dripping with condensation. He looked up, saw Mulder and looked away. Mulder joined him, asked for the same and sat.

"I couldn't go back to sleep," Mulder muttered and tossed a ten on the bar.

Krycek grinned sourly, "At least you had a few hours."

Mulder nodded, "how long have you been watching me, Krycek?"

Krycek laughed bitterly, "this decade or last?"

"Why? It's all over, even the shouting and the fat lady. There's nothing more to trade or sell, Krycek. Why bother?"

"I don't know," Krycek, answered. "It seems like the thing to do."

Mulder swallowed a sip of cold beer. He watched Krycek do the same. "I used to believe we were nothing alike." Krycek looked up. Mulder took another swallow. He had no idea how to explain further so he shrugged and drank some more.

Krycek toasted him and followed his example.

They sat quietly, the muted sound of the TV their only accompaniment.

Mulder finished his beer and secretly feeling superior, nodded and left, first this time.


The next few weeks were a series of similar rather silent meetings. Now that Krycek had shown himself, Mulder noticed him everywhere.

Sometimes, Mulder was the one to follow and watch. Krycek's life seemed as uninteresting as his own was. Trips to the grocery store, liquor store and dry cleaner, normal ubiquitous things, although Mulder wondered what Krycek took to the cleaners. Seemingly, he wore the leather jacket all the time.

Krycek's apartment block in Falls Church was similar to Mulder's old one in Alexandria, not quite a slum, but plain brick and old, with somewhat unkempt shrubberies. He knew Krycek lived on the top floor, had a fire escape by his window and dark either blue, green or brown drapes. At least, Mulder hoped they were some color and not black, because that was carrying the darkness too far.

They sat at the same Formica tables at McDonald's and Taco Bell, got gas at the same Exxon Station and bought fresh fish, already cooked, from the same vendor on the pier next to Mulder's.

Mulder noticed Krycek liked his fish fried with hot sauce and a cup of coffee. Mulder bought his grilled with lemon and an ice tea. They both ate their fries with vinegar, as Mulder had enjoyed at Oxford and Krycek must have picked up on his travels.

He noticed that Krycek seemed to have no friends, certainly, no one ever visited him and he never went to visit anyone. Mulder was comforted by Krycek's bland routine. If volatile and versatile Alex Krycek, survivor of the hidden war, was dull and boring, then Mulder did not feel as much of a loser as usual.

As the season changed from autumn to winter and the weather worsened, Mulder called a halt to their clandestine routine. Over greasy McMuffins and very hot coffee, Mulder said, "enough is enough Krycek."

He almost stopped when Krycek scowled at him. However, Mulder was determined to put an end to their mutual and ridiculously overt spying on each other while wandering the streets of Washington DC. "Come to dinner and we'll order something delivered." When Krycek looked surprised, Mulder said, "We already eat almost every meal in the same places at the same time and it's getting old following each other from nowhere special to nowhere interesting. Come to dinner and we can sit in comfort."

Krycek grinned, "No Chinese Mulder, I hate the MSG."

Mulder scowled this time, "Pizza it is," he said at last.

"Fine," said Krycek. "Seven good?"

"Sure," Mulder replied, convinced he'd lost his mind. He went back to his boat and took a nap.


Dinner started as silently as their non-chance encounters usually were. Krycek paid for the pizzas when they came and tipped the delivery boy much more than Mulder would have done. They each had a whole pizza, suitably garnished to his taste. Krycek drank Mulder's choice of beer without complaint.

"Where did you go after the end?" Mulder asked.

Krycek finished chewing, took a sip of beer and wiped his upper lip. "Would you believe Hong Kong?" He shrugged, as if Mulder's belief was unimportant.

"Why there? Things did not go well the last time." Mulder asked.

Krycek shuddered and Mulder almost smiled, then he remembered Krycek's alien possession and the lost DAT tape.

"It's one of the best places to find out who wants what and the amount of money they will pay for it. I had a few valuable things left to sell and since my previous occupation had no retirement pension, I needed the money."

"Why come back?"

Krycek raised a brow and finished chewing, "I was born here, in the states. I am an American citizen and this country is home."

Mulder nodded and said considering, "Yeah, well you could have settled anywhere with enough money. I would have thought you would get as far away as possible."

Krycek nodded, a self-conscious expression coming and leaving quickly on his face. "You could have done the same, and yet you stayed here."

"Everyone's still here, there just around the next corner," Mulder answered obliquely.

"That `corner' is everywhere, Mulder. You know all you have to do is use your pistol one more time and you'll be with your friends in a blink of an eye."

Mulder put down his slice, wiped his fingers, "I'm not a quitter, Krycek and I am willing to wait for the Grim Reaper or whoever he sends in his place. I thought it might be you for the longest time."

Krycek looked insulted, "When have I ever tried to kill you Mulder? Because if I had, you and Scully would be having harp lessons together, I had a professional reputation to uphold."

Mulder laughed, "You think I'm an angel, Krycek?"

Krycek grinned, not at all put out, "If you meet Scully around that corner, you'd have to be wouldn't you?"

"I certainly hope it turned out for her that way," Mulder said and realized it was the first time he had spoken of her loss without bitterness. "She deserved that at the very least."


After that dinner, neither man made any more pretense of ignoring each other. They both relaxed and went about their largely undirected days, meeting at regular intervals, grabbing a bite to eat or a beer. They exchanged cell numbers although neither called the other. Unspoken, they both felt more purpose to their days.

One wintry afternoon, Mulder knocked at Krycek's door.

Krycek came to the door wearing a towel, his hair wet and spiky. "What?" He growled, speaking through the narrow margin where the chain allowed for the door to open.

Mulder was not deceived, near naked or not, Krycek had a gun in his right hand and had looked through the door's peephole before he answered.

"You've been AWOL Krycek, a little snow keeping you inside?"

Krycek grinned, "You noticed I was missing? I didn't know you cared."

Mulder stared at Krycek until he stopped grinning and opened the door. Mulder entered silently and looked around. Krycek stepped into the bathroom and a few moments later returned, dressed, but still without the prosthetic arm. He had a small towel wrapped around the end of the stump, tied on with a piece of string,

"You okay, Mulder?"

Mulder blinked and nodded, "Can I help you with that," he said, pointing at the towel.

Krycek covered the stump protectively with his right hand.

They remained quiet, standing and staring at each other. The silence went on too long and when Mulder stepped toward Krycek, Krycek backed up uncertainly.

For a moment, Mulder thought about the damage he could inflict on Krycek, he tensed and Krycek backed up another step. Mulder took one more step and Krycek held his ground, took a deep breath and let his right arm hang down at his side.

Mulder tasted hate one more time, and found it bitter. He swallowed, rubbed his forehead and sat down heavily in a nearby chair.

Krycek started to breathe again.

The room was quiet, the sounds of their soft hurried breaths and the ticking of the clock suddenly loud in their ears.


"The past is past," Mulder said into the silence.

"Which past?" Krycek asked.

"The bad parts," Mulder said as simply as a child.

"Ah," said Krycek. "All the bad parts?"

Mulder stared at Krycek again, "Yes, all the bad parts." He looked at Krycek, as if for the first time. The arm was an ungentle reminder that starting over was different for each of them. Mulder could and had, let go of the hateful past. Krycek doing the same was going to be tougher. Mulder thought of all his pain, the betrayals, the deaths and the lies, they were scars in their own way, but he could walk out the door and be taken as whole and undamaged. He thought he didn't want to be seen that way, he wanted to known for what he was, scars and all.

Krycek could not do the same. Maybe that was a kind of justice, or retribution, Mulder thought. Nonetheless, in that moment, he realized his own responsibility for the awful things he had done along the way. How ironic, he thought, that he had to forgive himself first or never heal. He'd learned that in Psychology 101 a long, long time ago.

Krycek was silent.

"I know what I want to do with my life, Krycek." Mulder spoke, reached out and touched the towel.

"What," Krycek whispered, and emboldened, took a step closer and into Mulder's arms.

Mulder hugged him tightly and Krycek returned it with a strong right arm.

"I want to live it," Mulder whispered into Krycek's ear. "And I don't want to live it alone."

Krycek shivered, Mulder held him tighter. "We can do it," he said. "We lived through the past; it's time to be part of the future."

"I've always been alone," Krycek said softly, the moment too new and too fragile for loud voices.

Mulder kissed the side of Krycek's head, it was a soft kiss and lingered. "Not anymore. Not if you don't want to."

"I don't want to," Krycek said, turned his face toward Mulder.

They stood, shoulder to shoulder, clasped in each other's arms, so alike in so many ways and together, they were whole.

Mulder kissed Krycek. Krycek gave a low chuckle and kissed Mulder back.

"To the future," Krycek gasped when he took a breath.

"For the future," Mulder replied and drew Krycek to the saggy couch.

The couch was large enough for the both of them.

The End


 

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Title:  Nowhere Man
Author:  Flutesong   [email/website]
Details:  Standalone  |  PG  |  19k  |  07/24/06
Pairings:  Mulder/Krycek
Category:  Romance, Pre-slash, Angst, Vignette


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