7 November 1998
Disclaimer: The X-Files and its characters are the property of 20th Century Fox and Ten Thirteen Productions and are used here without permission. No infringement is intended. The song, which is not used as an actual part of the story but rather just to entertain me, is "Hey Jealousy" by the Gin Blossoms. They rule, no infringement is intended there, either.
Notes: Set between "Paperclip" and "Piper Maru"; spoilers may be present for "Paperclip" and everything pre-dating it. I know the "Scully's friend has a clinic" thing has been done a billion times, but it's just such a damn good idea I can't help myself. Also, I'm not a doctor or any kind of medical professional. Doctorish stuff in this story comes from personal experience with those finger-poking bastards and watching "ER".
Rating: PG-13 for mild language and adult themes.


Crash
by GroundZero (zero@mindwell.com)

The air was cold, and every breath he took was like razors against his ribs, cutting his lungs. The pain created a haze in his mind, made it hard to think, to plan, and he didn't have any idea where he was going. He was too focused on the steady rise and fall, cut and slice in his lungs to worry about anything more than putting one foot in front of the other.

He shouldn't have been surprised where his legs carried him, but he was, a faint ripple of shock registering as he stared up at the building. There was nothing for him in Apartment 42 but more pain, old grudges never settled. Maybe it was time to settle them, before he ran out of time altogether.

Twenty minutes spent indecisive, in the cold, and his feet did his thinking again, carrying him across the street and into the front of the building. The elevator lifted him obediently to the fourth floor, and he spent another five minutes, once again unsure, standing in the hallway, staring down the hall at the door with the dull "42" on it.

It wasn't a choice he had to make, really, but rather one he had already made. The door was closed, and he didn't bother to knock. Mulder would be at work, and the apartment should be empty. The lock and deadbolt, a pair he had picked many times before, moved easily under familiar manipulations, and admitted him without complaint.

He let the door swing shut behind him, locked it again, and stood in the middle of the apartment for a moment, absorbing an atmosphere that was strangely comforting. The leather couch stood where it always had, looking well-used and well-loved, keeping a close watch on its companion television. The desk had been moved a little, placed farther from the window, but everything else was the same as he remembered it. The familiar room was reassuring to him, even when it blurred and darkened a bit at the edges.

Letting out a groan, he stumbled into the bedroom and found himself slumped against a wall, hand clutched tightly to his abdomen. He let himself slide to the floor, leaving a wet streak on the wall behind him, and finally closed his eyes, feeling safe for the first time in months.

xxx

Tell me do you think it'd be alright
If I could just crash here tonight
You can see I'm in no shape for driving
And anyway I've got no place to go

xxx

Mulder didn't notice anything odd when he entered his apartment, he just smiled and continued chatting happily as he moved toward the phone to order Chinese takeout. Scully, however, stopped in the doorway and stared at the floor, then reached for her gun. When Mulder turned around, she had her pistol pointed at his bedroom and was edging slowly in that direction.

"Scully, what the hell are--"

She cut him off with a sharp look, and he took the hint, pulling his own gun from the holster at his waist and moving easily to back her up. Only when he was in position just behind her did he notice what she'd noticed: a few large splotches of blood, just inside the door, and a smattering of smaller drops between there and the bedroom. The bedroom door was ajar, and there was a little dark stain, as of fingers, on the knob.

So there was someone in his bedroom. That was nearly an X-File in itself, as rarely as it happened. Usually he was happy about it, but on this occasion he was sure that if there was a bleeding person unknown in his bedroom, it had damn well better be the Celebrity Skin centerfold.

They hovered outside the bedroom door for a moment, listening carefully, weighing their options, but no sound came from behind the door; there was no movement, and the lights were off.

*If there's a corpse in my bedroom,* Mulder thought, disgustedly, *I'm getting a new place.*

Scully nodded, just slightly, and held up a hand, fingers splayed. She lowered one, then another, steadily, and when the last finger clenched into her fist, he threw his shoulder to the door and rolled inside the room. Scully followed just moments behind, leaning against the door frame, slightly crouched, gun sweeping the room.

The body was just to one side of the door, sprawled on the floor, dark clothing blending in with the darkness. The moonlight streaming through the window splashed on a white column of neck and made dark hair glitter.

"Son of a bitch," Mulder muttered, drawing back a foot and kicking the sole of one of the figure's scuffed boots. The boot moved with the impact, but the body remained unresponsive.

"Couldn't find a hotel, Krycek?" he asked, in a tone of voice loud enough to wake a sleeping man. "I guess they don't take rats, huh?" The comment was meant to be taunting, but received no response.

Scully moved in cautiously, crouching by the still man's side, gun still ready, pressing the fingers of her left hand to Krycek's neck. An unconscious frown wrinkled her brow.

"His pulse is weak, Mulder. He's unconscious, and he's covered in blood." She was surprised to hear her voice come out sounding concerned.

"Great, so he's been off killing somebody else's father." Mulder's face twisted into an angry sneer, and he kicked the booted foot again, angrily this time. "Get your ass off my floor, Krycek," he growled, voice loud again, "and get the hell out of my life."

The man on the floor still did not move. Silence.

"He can't hear you, Mulder," Scully sighed absently, leaning in for a cursory examination of the unmoving body. "Looks like he's been stabbed." She grabbed a shirt off the floor and pressed it to Krycek's abdomen, attempting to stem the sluggish seep of blood.

Mulder tried to look happy about the injury, but failed miserably. "Oh, even better. He's going to die on my floor. The little shit's ruining my carpet."

Scully stood, wiping her hand absently on her coat. "We should take him to a hospital and get him fixed up. We can keep him under guard."

Mulder shrugged a little, returning his gun to its holster. "I'd love to throw his ass in jail, Scully, but he'd be dead within the day, and they'd get to him even faster in the hospital."

She nodded her agreement, then said, "I've got a friend who runs a private clinic. I can have him meet us there, we can patch him up, *then* we can haul his ass to jail and watch over his cell personally."

Smiling a little at the thought, Mulder moved toward the closet and said, "I'll carry him down to the car. Why don't you go find something to cover the seat, and I'll get changed into something that isn't too expensive to be bloody?"

She nodded somberly, moving toward the door, her suspicious eyes on Krycek until the front door was closed behind her. Mulder grabbed some old sweats and slipped off his suit, keeping his own wary eye on Krycek, then moved back over to the unconscious man, fully dressed in clothes better suited for soiling.

He bent over until his mouth was only inches from an ear that couldn't hear him anyway, and whispered sharply, "I finally convinced her to watch 'Mars Attacks' with me, you asshole."

Fully educated by the nation's finest serial killers on how to keep people from noticing that you're hauling around a bloody corpse, Mulder pulled an old, thick blanket out of the top of the closet and maneuvered Krycek's limp body into it, wrapping the other man up tightly before slinging the whole bundle over one shoulder. His cargo was awkward but not as heavy as he'd expected.

When he emerged onto the street, Scully was standing by the open car door, just snapping her cellphone shut. She dropped it into her pocket as he approached, regarding him with an upraised eyebrow and quirking lip.

"I got ahold of my friend; he's headed over to the clinic now," Scully reported, helping him to load his cargo into the backseat of the car, on top of a tarp she'd already spread there. "It's about a half hour drive for us, so he'll be ready for us when we get there."

Mulder nodded wordlessly, settling Krycek into the backseat and climbing into the front passenger seat, glancing every few moments at the man in the back. He spent the entire trip that way, trying to remain focused mindlessly on the road ahead of them but instead twisting around in his seat to check on their passenger. Krycek did not wake during the trip, and remained unconscious when they manhandled him out of the car at their destination.

Scully's friend, who she introduced as Dr. Craig Porter, was a slim middle-aged man, apparently an acquaintance from medical school. His smile needed no coaxing, and was easily drawn out by every little thing Scully said. Mulder found it amusing at first, but not for long.

As soon as they entered he tossed Scully some medical scrubs and directed Mulder to a surgical table where he could deposit the injured man. Porter enlisted Mulder's help in carefully cutting Krycek's clothes off, pulling the leather jacket from Krycek's shoulders before Mulder laid him down and neatly slicing away t-shirt, jeans, and boxers while Mulder tugged at the scuffed boots.

Scully reemerged from the other room in green glory, geared up with surgical mask and latex gloves. She and Porter immediately set to work, and Mulder stepped back out of the way, hovering anxiously while they worked, not really listening to what they were saying until their frantic pace slowed and they seemed satisfied that they wouldn't lose their patient on the table.

"...looks like five, total," Porter was saying when Mulder's ears started listening again.

"Pretty big weapon, too," Scully commented, bent over Krycek's abdomen and sewing calmly. "Maybe a hunting knife. Extremely sharp." She looked at Mulder over Krycek's still form and said, with a smile under her mask, "But he'll be fine."

Porter eagerly nodded his agreement. "He's malnourished, though; nothing but muscle, but not enough of that. He's been working hard but not eating right. If he hadn't been stabbed he probably would have dropped from exhaustion anyway; did you see those rings under his eyes? He looks like he hasn't slept in years. A man on the run, I presume?"

"Try not to presume, Doctor," Mulder broke in, with a weary sigh. "Trying to take a guess at what he's been doing will probably just get you killed."

Porter looked back at Mulder over his shoulder for a long moment, then said, "In that case, I guess I won't ask for his medical history."

"He hasn't got a history," Mulder responded, sinking into one of the chairs that sat against the wall. "He's a ghost."

The doctor nodded, accepting that without comment, and turned back to his patient. "We should do a full examination," he told Scully. "Look for further injuries, infection, disease, at very least."

She nodded, and continued working on the ugly wounds in Krycek's abdomen while Porter shifted his attention to examining the prone, pale body. They worked in silence for a few moments before Porter spoke again.

"So, Dana," he said conversationally, bent over Krycek's head. "I haven't heard from you in such a long time. How have you been?"

Mentally, Mulder groaned. Another geek with a Scully-crush of monumental proportions.

"I've been good," Scully responded easily, tying a careful knot in the stitches she'd been steadily weaving into Krycek's abdomen. "I'm working for the FBI now."

Porter's eyebrows shot up, and he looked up from the needle he was using to draw Krycek's blood. "The FBI? I guess that's how you came across this guy. He some kind of criminal?"

Scully just shrugged, and Mulder gave Porter a look that said, *Haven't we covered this already?*

"Did your mother finally get you hitched?" Porter continued, tone half teasing and half curious.

Scully gave him a look that Mulder recognized as the *Ha ha, very funny* expression of sarcasm. "No, Craig, I'm not seeing anyone, but I am married to my job."

Porter nodded thoughtfully, then collected the various samples he'd drawn and headed for one of the room's inner doors. "I'll start on testing these," he said. "You two just make yourselves comfortable."

Scully nodded absently, removing her surgical mask, and as soon as the other man was out of the room, Mulder was out of his seat and standing next to her.

"So what's the real verdict, Agent Scully?" he asked, voice low and intimate.

"The verdict is, someone stabbed him, very violently, five times. He's got deep wounds in his abdomen which will take some time to heal, he had some minor internal damage that wasn't too hard to repair, and some minor lacerations where apparently his attacker barely missed sinking the knife several more times. He is malnourished, and he is suffering from exhaustion."

Mulder nodded his understanding, gaze locked on the man on the table. "What you're saying is that he has a lean and hungry look about him." The bad joke earned him a bemused look, then Scully turned back to the chore of stitching Krycek's stomach shut.

"He'll really be okay?"

She nodded again, still not looking away from her task. "We'll need to take him someplace tonight; still can't risk the hospital and definitely not the lock-up. These wounds are bad, but if he remains reclining a lot, he'll be alright. What he needs is rest, and a lot of it. He'll probably regain consciousness sometime tonight or tomorrow morning."

Mulder didn't seem to get that for a minute, then he frowned. "Where are we supposed to keep him?"

Scully's smile was sugary sweet and completely evil at the same time. "Your place, Mulder."

Trapped. "No. No way. I'm not keeping him in my apartment! We can take him to Skinner's."

One delicate red eyebrow arched. "Skinner would probably kill him. He hasn't forgotten that thing in the stairwell."

"*I'll* kill him!" Mulder fairly shouted. "I can't keep him! Why don't you take him, Scully?"

Porter returned with a frown on his face, but neither agent allowed his entrance to interrupt their "conversation".

"I won't take care of him, Mulder. I was never a part of any of this. He's your responsibility, unless you want us to dump him back on the street," she sounded like she wanted to stop there, but Mulder looked to be seriously considering the idea, so she forged on, "and we certainly can't do that."

Mulder's growl of frustration echoed through the room as he crossed dejectedly back to his chair. "Fine. I'll take him. But you know they always watch my apartment; what if they find out I'm keeping him?"

Porter looked severely confused. Scully just shrugged. "We'll be extra-careful."

Mulder rolled his eyes, ending the discussion, and Porter hesitantly spoke. "His bloodwork is clean, for the most part; looks like he's got a little bacteria that could easily become the flu. Antibiotics should take care of it." Scully nodded, and Porter turned to Mulder. "Sounds like you're putting him up for the night?"

Mulder nodded, wearily, and massaged his eyes with thumb and forefinger.

"He'll need a lot of rest and fluids; make sure he doesn't strain himself, and don't let him get the stitches wet. You might want to give him a sponge bath instead of a shower. He's going to be sore for quite a while, and probably nauseous; try feeding him hot liquids, soups and such, for a while, until he feels well enough to go to solids. Try to keep him from doing much of anything for a least a few weeks..."

The instructions went on for quite a while, but Mulder didn't pay very close attention, one part of his brain absorbing the doctor's directives and the rest fixed on the man on the table. When the doctor was finished and Scully had assured him that she'd look in on them, they dressed Krycek in scrubs and carried him carefully between them back out to the car. This time, Mulder rode in the back, crouched on the floor, one arm braced on the front edge of the seat, the other on the back, caging Krycek in between his arms and the seat. Scully drove in silence back to Alexandria.

xxx

And you know it might not be that bad
You were the best I ever had
If I hadn't blown the whole thing years ago
I might not be alone

xxx

Krycek wasn't much more of a handful going into Mulder's apartment than he had been getting out; still blissfully unconscious, but they tried to give a pretense of normalcy by supporting him between them. They managed to escape observation getting him in, and Mulder settled him on the bed.

"I'm going to run out to the store and get the antibiotics and some food, since I knew you have nothing to eat around here. I'll be back in a while."

Mulder just nodded, already pulling off the scrubs they'd dressed the other man in and gently tucking Krycek under the covers. When the front door closed behind his partner, he sighed down at the man in his bed, then went to find something to clean up the mess Krycek had made.

When Scully returned, he had cleaned all traces of the man's blood from his floor and was sitting on the couch, nursing a beer. The TV wasn't on, and Mulder's eyes were on the bedroom door. Scully quietly filled his cabinets and refrigerator with the groceries she'd brought, squeezed his shoulder reassuringly, and said, "He's not going anywhere. And don't even think about cuffing him, it'll strain the stitches. I'll call you later to check up on you."

Mulder just nodded absently, and with a brief smile she was gone. He was alone with Alex Krycek.

It took him only an hour to become remarkably bored and anxious, and he finally gave in and slipped into the bedroom. Krycek was still lying there, his repose more one of restful sleep than unconscious oblivion now, his mouth slightly open, hair brushing at his forehead. Mulder changed into a fresh pair of sweats and a clean t-shirt, pulled over a chair, set it against the wall near the foot of the bed, and leaned back, resting his head against the wall behind him.

"You frustrating bastard," he whispered, and moments later his eyes slid shut, granting him his own rest.

xxx

Tomorrow we can drive around this town
And let the cops chase us around
The past is gone, but something might be found
To take its place... Hey Jealousy

xxx

He woke to find two green eyes shining at him from the darkness, and Krycek sitting up in bed, barechested and the bedsheets bunched in his lap, leaning back against the headboard.

"You're awake."

A tiny smile curved Krycek's lips, and he said, "You're stating the obvious." His voice was weak, and the tone was teasing.

Mulder found his own lips twisting in response, but stomped on the impulse, rising gracefully from his chair and arching his back to work the kinks out. The clock on the nightstand displayed "11:21" in glowing red letters.

Krycek held up his hands and displayed his wrists, raising an inquiring eyebrow and saying, "Look, ma, no cuffs!"

Mulder had to work to suppress a laugh, but ultimately succeeded. "You're under strict doctor's orders not to exert yourself," he answered somberly. "Scully would kick my ass if I cuffed you and you ripped out those stitches."

The other man nodded, looking down at his abdomen and lightly touching one hand to the tight bandaging that wrapped around his ribs. "Got it pretty bad that time," Krycek commented, off-hand.

"What happened?" Mulder moved closer and took a perch on the edge of the bed, keeping his distance but looking concerned.

"Why haven't you kicked me out yet?"

"You're not supposed to answer a question with a question."

"It's an acquired skill."

"I'm sure it is."

They fell silent for a moment, each man regarding the other suspiciously. Finally Mulder sighed, turned his eyes to the floor, and said, "You show up bleeding in my apartment, I have to enlist Scully's aid in getting you treated, I pretty much saved your life, and you're not going to tell me what happened?"

Krycek didn't answer for long moments, and Mulder kept his gaze on the floor. When Krycek did respond, it was an act of admission on his part.

"Luis, if you must know. I turn the corner and all of the sudden there he is, grinning like an idiot and holding this knife..." He trailed off, eyes locked on the opposite wall, and seemed caught his memories for a moment before literally shrugging it off.

"Who's Luis?" Mulder asked, seeing an opening and taking it, leaning forward a bit too eagerly.

Krycek gave him an indulgent look and said, "A former associate."

"With the Consortium?" A slight shrug was his only answer, but he took it as a yes. "Why would the Consortium want you stabbed to death?"

"Probably because the car bomb didn't do the trick," Krycek answered with a wry smile, leaning his head back and letting his eyes flutter shut.

"They're trying to kill you? What the hell for?"

That smile again, and another little shrug. "Little of this, little of that. I'll tell you sometime."

"Tell me now."

Krycek was about to respond when the phone rang. He opened his eyes and looked a little panicked.

"That's Scully," Mulder sighed, standing. "Calling to check on us."

Krycek just nodded, leaned back again. "Well go get it then, before she gets worried and comes barging in, guns blazing."

The mental picture drew that elusive laugh from Mulder as he moved through the door into the living room, snatching the phone up off the table. By the time he finished filling Scully in and returned to the bedroom, Krycek was curled up under the covers again, fast asleep. With a frustrated sigh, Mulder returned to the living room, flicked on the TV and kicked off his shoes, settling onto the couch for the night.

xxx

And you can trust me not to think
And not to sleep around
If you don't expect too much from me
You might not be let down

xxx

The smell of coffee woke him in the morning, but he just lay on the couch and blinked at the sunlight streaming in through the window, feeling langorous and relaxed although he was sure there was some reason he shouldn't be so comfortable...

Oh. Right. Hired killer brewing his coffee.

He groaned and stretched, hearing the feeling the joints crack deliciously, his arms stretching high above his head. When he finally decided he'd had enough stalling for the morning, he realized that the sun was coming through the window and scrambled for his phone. It rang just as his hand closed around it.

"Mulder," he answered, grimacing and expecting Skinner's voice to start barking from the other end.

"Mulder, it's me."

He allowed himself a sigh of relief, then said, "I know I'm late, Scully, I'll be there in ten minutes--"

"No need," she interrupted calmly, cutting off his incoming excuse. "I talked to Skinner this morning and got you the week off. I told him I was forcing you to vacation, and I guess I am. You boys have fun." The last was said maliciously, and Scully hung up abruptly, leaving him to gape in disbelief at the small device in his hand.

"Something wrong?" asked another voice, soft and low and coming from the direction of the kitchen.

He whirled, startled, and found Alex Krycek leaning against the kitchen doorway, clad in scrub bottoms, slightly dirty white bandages wrapping his midsection. His hair stuck up a little, and looked damp, and there was a steaming mug of coffee in his hand.

"Scully's making me take the week off," Mulder answered, his voice sounding a little dazed and disbelieving.

"Great," Krycek sighed dryly, moving into the room and easing himself down gingerly to sink into the couch. He didn't sound at all enthusiastic about the idea.

Mulder sat down next to the other man, plucking the coffee mug out of his hand and sipping at it, ignoring the bemused glance the gestured earned him. "Nice to know you enjoy my company, Krycek."

"How can I, Mulder? You beat the shit out of me every time you see me."

Mulder nodded his agreement slowly, coffee mug cradled in his hands, then said, "I didn't this time."

Krycek shrugged, smiled a little, and leaned back into the couch. "It's a first."

"I haven't kicked you out, either."

"True."

"I'm even being civil."

"You're right. Who are you, and what've you done with Fox Mulder, you damned alien brainsucker?"

Mulder couldn't help but laugh, although in the back of his mind he knew that even laughing with this man was a dangerous concession to normalcy. He tried to remind himself that Krycek wasn't a bar buddy, he was a wanted criminal who'd ruined Mulder's life. He tried to remind himself that Alex Krycek deserved his scorn, not his companionship. He failed miserably, because somehow he just didn't want to be reminded.

Krycek just regarded him for long minutes, a faint smile curving his lips, before he stood slowly and headed for the kitchen again. He emerged moments later with another cup of coffee in his hands, and sank back into the couch, propping his feet up on the coffee table.

"Your hair is wet," Mulder suddenly said, after several minutes of tense quiet.

"Yeah. So?"

"You're not supposed to shower," Mulder admonished. "You'll get the stitches wet."

"I know." Krycek shrugged slightly, eyes locked on his own feet. "I didn't shower, just felt a little grimy, so I stuck my head under the faucet."

Mulder grunted admission and nodded slightly, still watching the other man, this time surveying him with a more critical eye. "You are pretty dirty, what with all that dried blood. Doctor said you could have a sponge bath, though."

An anticipatory gleam lit Krycek's face at the the thought, and he stood gracefully, leaving his mug on the coffee table and heading for the bathroom. "Great," he said, really meaning it this time. "I'd rather have a nice long soak, but I'll take what I can get."

Mulder watched the other man's retreating back for long moments, then stared in silence at where Krycek had last stood, before rising from the couch himself and following down the hallway.

He entered the bathroom unannounced, opening the door and slipping in quietly. The fact that Krycek didn't notice his entrance gave Mulder a clue as to the other man's condition: probably still tired, sore, his brain not operating as well as it usually would. Krycek finally noticed his entry, though, when Mulder grasped the other man's shoulders lightly.

"Jesus!" Krycek exclaimed, rounding on Mulder, flight or fight response running on full.

"Calm down," Mulder said easily, putting his hands back on the shoulders they'd been thrown off of, this time holding the other man from the front.

"Don't sneak up on me like that," Krycek growled, trying to step back and away. Mulder's grip held firm, and the bathroom was too small for Krycek to move far, anyway. Mulder just met his eyes for a long time, not speaking, and Krycek found himself becoming increasingly nervous. "Look, Mulder," he finally said, "if you're going to beat me up could you please get on with it? I'd like to get clean."

Mulder didn't break his gaze for another long moment, then stepped back and let his hands drop. "Take your clothes off," he ordered.

Krycek's expression of shocked surprise was almost humorous. "What?" he yelped, trying to move back even further.

"I said, take your clothes off. I'm going to give you a sponge bath."

The dubious look Krycek gave him was almost enough to send him back out of the room, muttering apologies and feeling stupid. Almost. Instead, he invaded further into the younger man's personal space.

"I can do it myself," Krycek muttered, his protest only half-hearted.

"Sure you can," Mulder answered, voice soft, pressing forward until Krycek was trapped between his body and the wall. "But it's not nearly as fun that way. Take your clothes off."

Krycek met his eyes, and they simply stared at each other, chests pressed together, heat surging from one body to another. "What the hell is wrong with you?" the younger man finally asked, placing his hands on Mulder's chest with the intention of pushing him away but not really putting any strength behind the motion.

"I miss you, Alex," Mulder whispered, breath rushing hot over Krycek's ear.

"You don't--" Krycek's voice was weak and uncertain, and his body leaned unconsciously toward Mulder's.

"I do," Mulder interrupted, his lips suddenly nibbling on the sensitive flesh beneath the other man's ear. "I do miss you, and I want you, and if you don't get naked right now and let me touch that body, I'll go insane."

A sound almost like a whimper escaped Krycek's lips, and he let himself sink bonelessly back against the wall. "You said--"

"Forget what I said. Just forget it. It was stupid." Mulder's arms wrapped around the younger man, pulling him close, burying Krycek's head in his shoulder. "Just get your clothes off before I go nuts."

"You really have been replaced by an alien clone." Krycek's voice was shaky, breath soft in Mulder's ear. "You don't mean it."

"Yes, I do."

"All you want is a cheap lay, right?"

"Yes...no...what does it matter? I just want *you*."

Shaking his head sadly, Krycek pushed Mulder away, putting distance between them. "No, you don't. You're lonely, you never get laid, and you're turning to me because you think I won't hurt you, won't reject you. You know I'm a sucker for that puppy-dog look. Well, Mulder, time to wake up and face reality. I've done nothing *but* hurt you as long as we've known each other. We had some great sex, but that was a long time ago. It's time for you to move on."

Mulder stood, hands dangling at his sides, indecisive and pensive, against the sink. He didn't speak for a long time, just stared at the other man as if he were a specimen to be examined. Finally, he said, "We did have some great sex, huh?" A smile spread across his face.

An answering grin lit Krycek's features, too, and he answered, "Olympic-caliber fucking, Mulder. Now will you get out of here so I can wash up?"

"Have you moved on?"

The abrupt shift caught Krycek a bit off-guard, but he recovered smoothly. "How so, Mulder?"

"You told me it was time for me to move on. Not us, just me. Have you moved on?" That dissecting look again, head cocked just slightly to one side.

"Truthfully?"

Mulder raised an eyebrow. "I never know what's the truth from you, but...yeah. Truthfully."

Krycek sank against the wall again, looked at the wall, the ceiling, anywhere but at Mulder. "Yeah. I've moved on, Mulder."

"Liar."

"I didn't think I was that transparent. I used to be good at this 'deny everything' shit."

"The truth, this time."

Krycek shrugged a little, sighed, then finally met Mulder's eyes and said, "The truth is, I don't think I'll ever be able to move on, Mulder. Stuck in time. Must be an X-File."

"Then why can't we--"

"I'm not worth it, Mulder." Krycek sighed again, grabbed Mulder by the arm and propelled the older man toward the open bathroom door. "I'm just not worth it. Now stop arguing and get your ass out of here."

The door shut firmly between them. On the inside, Krycek took one step, then two, and perched shakily on the edge of the bathtub. On the outside, Mulder sagged into the opposite wall and took a few moments to steady his breathing. When he finally shoved away from the wall and moved down the hall toward the living room, the faint sound of running water accompanied the steady sound of his feet against the floor.

xxx

Cause all I really want is to be with you
Feeling like I matter too
If I hadn't blown the whole thing years ago
I might be here with you

xxx

They spent their day avoiding one another, as much as was possible in their close quarters, Mulder curled up with a book on the end of the couch and Krycek napping, on and off, in the bedroom. By five, Mulder had given up all pretense of actually reading and was staring at the bedroom doorway and into the darkness beyond.

He was in the middle of wondering just how his house guest would react to an ambush when he heard a soft knock followed by the jingle of keys in his lock. Scully's auburn head poked itself into the doorway, her blue eyes searching the room quickly, before she slipped inside.

"How's it going?" she asked, sitting down another bag of groceries on the coffee table.

Mulder just shrugged noncommittally, raised his book and pretended to reread the same page for the hundredth time. "S'alright," he muttered.

She arched her killer eyebrow at him, casting her eyes around the apartment again. "Where is he?"

"Bedroom. Sleeping."

He didn't comment when she moved to the bedroom door to check up on their "prisoner", even when she returned with a long-suffering sigh.

"I wonder if he ripped out his stitches," she mused idlly, head tipped back to stare at the ceiling.

Mulder scowled, tossing his book onto the coffee table. "What're you talking about?"

She shrugged slowly, a lazy gesture. "I was just wondering if he pulled out any of those stitches, what with climbing down through a fourth-story window."

It took only two seconds for her words to seep into Mulder's brain before he sprang off the couch, flying across the living room and into the darkened bedroom. The bed was empty, and the window was admitting a cool night breeze. There was no rope or corny series of knotted bedsheets, just an open window and an empty room. The only trace that Krycek had ever been there at all was the slightly rumpled sheets.

"Goddammit!"

Mulder's muffled exclamation brought a slight smile to Scully's lips, but she remained on the couch, head tilted back, listening as his footsteps carried him back into the room.

"Come on, Scully," he growled, already snatching up his weapon and heading for the door. "He can't have gotten far, he's injured. We've got to go hunt him down."

"Because you want to bring him in, or because you want to bring him back?"

The question caught Mulder off-guard, and he hesitated, trench clutched in hand, car keys in the other. "Scully?" he said, sounding a little lost, a little scared. He meant to say, *Scully, what are you asking?* or really, *Scully, don't make me answer that question.* Neither came, just her name, whispered with a little hope and a little fear.

She didn't budge from her spot on the couch, but she did roll her head to one side, her eyes meeting his. "Do you want him in jail, or just in your life?"

"Scully..." He tried to argue with her, to curse her, to assure her, but nothing else came with that attempt, either.

"I know you, Mulder," she murmured, turning her eyes back to their contemplation of the ceiling. "I know what you're thinking of, even if you don't. Just let him go."

"I can't just let him go," he finally choked out. "He killed my father. Your sister--"

"Isn't a part of this discussion," Scully interrupted, suddenly rising smoothly to her feet. "I think that he was there when Melissa died, but I know he didn't pull the trigger. Do you know that he killed your father? Bill Mulder was killed in West Tisbury; you run into Krycek at your apartment in Alexandria. I don't think anything more than LSD-laced water led to your conclusion that Krycek shot your father."

"Why are you defending him?" His voice was small, agonized, begging Scully to change her mind, to hate Krycek so Mulder could make himself believe that he hated the man, too.

She just smiled, a little sadly, and answered, "Because my partner's in love with him."

It was too hard to look at her, so he turned his gaze on the floor, instead, coat and keys still dangling from his hands. "Am not," he managed to mutter, tears stinging his eyes.

"Are so," she countered, an amused and sympathetic smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. "It's okay, Mulder. Plenty of people fall for the wrong person."

"Yeah, but normal people don't fall for traitorous, double-crossing, lying, murdering sons of bitches."

"You never could be classified as normal," she returned dryly, crossing her arms in front of her. "Neither could he, so I can see where the attraction would come in." A little laugh escaped him, and his eyes moved up a little. Looking at her shoes now. Encouraged, she pressed on. "He probably knows he's bad for you, Mulder; even if you could both pull off a relationship, it would ruin your career, your credibility, and if the Smoking Man ever got wind of it--"

He cut her off with a wave of his hand, tossing his keys in his coat pocket and the whole bundle onto the rack by the door. "I know, I know. Do you think that's why he left?"

She nodded, slowly. "I'm almost sure of it. He knew that if he stayed, it would only mean trouble for you, now or down the line."

His agreement was a short, thoughtful nod, and he dropped gracelessly onto the couch. She followed his lead, regaining the position she'd had moments ago, head back, gaze on the ceiling. He propped his feet up on the coffee table and stared at the inactive television.

"How long have you known?" he finally asked, shifting in his seat to look at her.

"How long have I known what? That you're gay, or that you're in love with a federal fugitive?"

He winced a little, and answered, "All of the above."

"Well," she answered slowly, blinking as she regarded the ceiling. "I've known you were gay since our first year together, when I figured out that you weren't really that into porno, you just left those things lying around. I never actually saw you read the skin magazines or watch any of the videos, they just sat there. Nice cover, by the way."

"Thank you. I thought it was rather brilliant myself. Guess I ought to pretend I've got more interest in them if I want to fool anybody, though. What about Alex?"

She shrugged, an aborted gesture from her relaxed position. "The first time I saw you two together I knew there was something there. Then when you found out he'd been working for the Smoking Man...you told me the whole time that he was a mole, Mulder, I thought you were expecting to find that proof. I expected your anger to be focused on the Smoking Man for sending a mole in the first place. But you were so angry at Krycek for betraying you...I just assumed you must have had more than a professional relationship."

"Can't keep anything from you, can I?"

"Of course not. So did you?"

"Did I what?"

"Have more than a professional relationship."

His head fell, in a gesture that could only be called ashamed. "We slept together...several times. He was -- I could almost make myself believe he gave a damn."

"Maybe he did, Mulder. There must a reason the Smoking Man doesn't already know about your relationship. Maybe Krycek never told him. Maybe next time you run into him you should ask him instead of just smacking him." Her teasing smile calmed him, and he smiled in response, sinking into the soft embrace of the couch.

After several long minutes, he said, "So you're not mad at me?"

"For being a slave to loooooove?" she drawled, drawing the words out with a teasing smile. "No. Of course not." After a long moment's pause, she added, "Besides, he's cute as hell."

"Amen," Mulder muttered, throwing his head back too as if wondering what his partner found so intruiging about the chipped paint above their heads.

"Maybe you'll get lucky, Mulder," she told the ceiling.

"I already have," he interrupted before she could finish the thought, a smug snicker floating away from his lips.

"Not like that, you pervert," she scolded, blindly swiping at his arm with a chiding hand. "Maybe he'll turn out to be a good guy, and you can live happily ever after."

He would have rolled his eyes, except that he was already looking up, so he just sighed instead. "More likely you'll see us on Jerry Springer: 'FBI Agents Dating Wanted Federal Fugitives'."

Scully laughed, a girlish sound that tinkled like, of all corny things, windchimes. "'My Boyfriend's a Thug'."

"Yes, Jerry, he kills people for a living, he betrayed me, he almost got me killed, but he's got such a great ass!"

Scully exploded into howling laughter, clutching at her stomach and rolling onto her side. Mulder joined her, not quite as exuberant, a little pensive, but smiling and feeling happy for once. So he was "out" with Scully now. It was less trying than he'd expected.

"Scully?" he said, when her laughter had quieted.

"Yeah, Mulder?"

"You're really okay with this?"

"Yeah, Mulder. But the next time we hear from Alex Krycek, remind me to tell him that if he hurts you again I'll pull his lungs out and feed them to him."

"Better write that down, Scully," he replied, looking down at her with a smile on his face.

"I'm sure I'll remember," she sighed.

They sat in silence for long moments before she stood, a reassuring hand resting on his head for one lingering second before she headed for the door.

"You'll figure it out, Mulder," she said, back turned to him and hand on the doorknob. "And who knows...maybe he'll surprise you." Then she was gone, and it was almost like she was never there at all.

Still sitting on his couch, looking out the window into the darkness outside, Mulder answered his absent partner with a breath. "He always does."

xxx

Tomorrow we can drive around this town
And let the cops chase us around
The past it gone but something might be found
To take its place...hey jealousy

xxx

She wasn't too surprised when she emerged from his building and caught sight of the figure in the alleyway across the street. She was surprised that the figure held no gun or other implement of destruction, but it was dark, so one never knew...

She did know, though, she knew, because there was something about that solitary figure, gaze flickering from her to Mulder's window, that she recognized. It recognized her, too, but made no motion toward her. Instead, the dark head slowly nodded, and the shadow disappeared into the deeper darkness of the alleyway.

She considered giving pursuit, more on instinct than anything else, but found herself standing still and pondering that alleyway instead. Fierce quarrels made fast friends. And Mulder...well, Mulder would need all the friends he could get.

The End

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GroundZero
zero@mindwell.com
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