|Primary Characters:||Mulder, Scully, Skinner, Krycek|
|Warning:||m/m sex, rape, violence|
|Description:||Krycek is missing and Skinner wants Mulder and Scully to look for him. Mulder finds him, but by then, much damage has been done.|
“Are you coming to bed tonight or not?”
“Mm. I’ll just type in the last of my report for tomorrow.”
Scully barely listened to Mulder’s pleading. It was the second or third time he asked her, she vaguely recalled, but at the moment her mind was focused on the case report. Neither the bed or Mulder would be going anywhere. Still, it was close to 11 p m and she was beginning to feel tired. Just a few last words and then she would save and shut down the laptop.
Putting the computer away, she removed her glasses, and turned towards the bed. Mulder was still awake, which promised some possibilities for the rest of the night. His look was studiedly indifferent, but Scully knew just what buttons to push to get him going. The question was, should she do that? Or simply go to sleep next to him?
She still hadn’t made up her mind, when the phone rang. Mulder’s hand reached for the receiver before she had time to react. That gesture of familiarity brought a frown to Scully’s face. After all, this was her place, and what if the caller was her mother or one of her brothers? She hadn’t told them she and Mulder were basically living together and frankly she had intended to keep things that way, at least for a while longer.
Mulder recognized the voice at the other end of the line, but he was stunned to hear it at such a time and in this apartment. Not many people knew that this was the place he could be found on most nights. What could Skinner possibly want at this time of night?
“Yes. What can I do for you, sir – Walter.”
Oh, boy. This might be something Mulder definitely didn’t want to hear, but he forced himself to act politely. After all, this wasn’t just his boss. Walter was a friend, despite a few unfortunate complications.
“Yes, what about him? Have you finally come to your senses?”
“I’m worried about him.”
“Oh? What for? I mean, apart from all the normal, sensible reasons I could think of?”
Skinner ignored Mulder’s tone. It was hardly surprising to hear the hostility in the younger man’s voice. For all they knew, Krycek really had killed Mulder’s father. Of course Mulder had to resent that, but things were more complicated than that, and he was hoping Mulder would see that one day.
“He’s been gone for nearly six weeks.”
“And this is a bad thing, because -?”
“What’s all this about, Mulder?”
“Scully, it’s Walter.”
“I know that. What’s going on? Let me speak to him.”
For a while Mulder contemplated holding on to the phone, but he realized that whatever was on Skinner’s mind, Scully would be better able to deal with it in a sensitive, yet professional way.
“Sir – Walter – What’s wrong?”
“It’s Alex. He’s been missing for almost six weeks. I’m worried about him. Since we – Usually, we see each other every week, a couple of nights a week, and he’s never been gone for more than two weeks running. And now I haven’t heard anything for all this time.”
Scully didn’t want to point out that Krycek’s business was a highly risky one and it was most likely rare for anyone to last as long as he had. She knew Skinner wouldn’t want to hear that.
“What did you want me and Mulder to do about it?”
“I’m checking through official channels, as far as I can, without drawing attention, but so far I’ve come up with nothing.”
“Ok. Mulder and I will do what we can. Make a few calls, see a couple of people. We’ll let you know as soon as we have any information for you.”
“Thank you, Scully. I really appreciate this. There was no one else I could ask.”
“I realize that, s- Walter. Try not to worry too much. Krycek is like a cat, always lands on his feet.”
“At least so far. Perhaps this time he’s used up all of his nine lives.”
“Let’s hope not. And I want you to know, you can always count on us.”
Skinner was touched. He had been hoping that was the case, but he had never been completely sure about them, especially Scully. Despite his deep concern for Krycek, he was warmed by her loyalty. They had no one else, so it was reassuring to know that they were a team. Whatever else happened, they had each other.
“Thank you, Scully. That means a lot to me. Good night, and sorry for disturbing you this late.”
“Don’t mention it. Try to get some sleep now.”
After hanging up, Scully remained sitting on the side of the bed, a thoughtful expression on her face. When Mulder got tired of waiting for her to join him, he sat up too, and put his arms around her. She leaned into him and continued her reflections a while longer.
“You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“About helping Walter? Of course. Don’t you agree?”
“I guess so. But if that snake-eyed charmer was a continent or an ocean or two away, I’d rest easier. I don’t trust him. You shouldn’t either.”
“Have I ever said I trust him? I’d be very much surprised if Walter trusts him either.”
“He doesn’t trust him, but he lets him share his bed?”
“I don’t think you can control your feelings. Your mind, but not your heart.”
“You may be right. Ok, I’ll do what I can. I’ll call Frohike and the others and see what they can dig up. At least for Walter’s sake, I hope we find Krycek.”
“Me too. Now, should we try to get some sleep?”
There was a playful sparkle in Mulder’s eyes, and an almost smile on his lips. Scully considered playing hard to get, but decided against it. She wanted this as much as he did, and they would both sleep much better afterwards. They didn’t think about Alex Krycek any more that night.
The next morning, Scully remembered the concern in Skinner’s voice. She hoped that nothing would be wrong with Krycek. That would break Skinner’s heart, and she really wanted her boss to be happy. In the office, she made a few calls, but didn’t find anything of value. A few of her contacts promised to get back to her as soon as they’d asked around.
During their lunch hour, Mulder went to see his three friends. As usual, they had plenty to tell him, but nothing relevant to the situation. They surprised him by knowing all about Skinner’s and Krycek’s relationship, which at least spared him the embarrassment of elaborating on the reasons for his interest in the Russian.
But the information worried him. If it was common knowledge, wouldn’t that place Skinner at risk? And could that be the reason behind Krycek’s disappearance? Langly and the others promised to get in touch as soon as they learned anything about Krycek’s whereabouts. Mulder knew they would most likely contact him anyway, telling him all kinds of no doubt fascinating news, though not of the kind that Scully would consider facts.
As soon as he walked into the office, he noticed Scully’s look. For a second he even felt a touch of jealousy. She was concerned about that spy and traitor. That was something he couldn’t understand at all. Krycek was responsible for his father’s death, Scully’s disappearance, Melissa’s death. How could she care about the man, unless it was the insidious beauty of his face that attracted her?
“Sorry to disappoint you, Scully. They didn’t have any news about Krycek. A lot of other interesting stuff, but nothing on any missing assassins.”
“It’s Walter who is going to be disappointed. I didn’t find anything either. This is getting more and more ominous. Do you think he could be dead?”
Mulder bit back a sharp reply and considered the question. Yes, unfortunately for Skinner’s sake, it was more than likely that Krycek was dead. Too many people were after his hide and it was amazing he had been able to remain at large for so long, especially since this thing with Skinner.
“What can I tell you? You know as well as I do, that anyone who’s after Krycek’s blood will have to get in line.”
“That’s what I’m thinking too. But lately he’s seemed to be, I don’t know, sincere. Genuinely eager to be friends.”
“He must have been up to something. All that must have been part of his plan. I can’t believe you fell for it.”
“You know me better than that, but still – I can read people, probably better than you can, and Krycek was changed. I don’t know exactly how or why, but he seemed different.”
There was no arguing with her. He knew she was better at reading people than he was. She also had a keen sense of what might be true or not. Sometimes, and this was hard to admit, even to himself, Mulder knew he tended to believe in things, simply because he wanted to, not because they were likely to be true. So perhaps she really did have a point. He had to stop disregarding her opinions. That might be dangerous, and in the long run even potentially fatal.
“Ok. You may be right. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help. He might have used up all his luck this time.”
“I know. And Walter will be devastated.”
That was something Mulder didn’t even want to consider, but he knew that again, she was right. He just didn’t know what to do about it. So he didn’t comment. Instead he got back to work. Scully knew what he was thinking, and there was no reason to go into it in any detail.
Over the next few days, they kept turning over clues that might conceivably have something to do with Krycek’s disappearance, but there was no trace of the Russian. That really was odd. Normally, there wouldn’t be this void. Everyone left a paper trail these days. Even if Krycek was a pro, he wasn’t a ghost. He had to leave some sort of tracks. And if someone was going to all this trouble of covering things up, what was really going on?
Skinner called from time to time, and it was obvious that the strain and the worry was getting to him.
Mulder wasn’t quite as keen on finding Krycek as Scully and Skinner, but he realized that if not for himself, then at least for the sake of his boss, it was vital that they found the Russian, or if that was impossible at least some answers.
About a week after Skinner’s call, late in the afternoon, right before he was about to call it a day, Mulder found that his email program was flashing the You Got Mail flag. That was nothing out of the ordinary. On an average day, he would get dozens of emails or more. Most of it not very urgent stuff, but sometimes it would turn out to be a vital lead. That proved to be the case today.
Scully looked up when she heard the sound of her lover’s indrawn breath. She knew that sound. He was on to something.
“Anything about Krycek?”
“No. Something much more important. Look. If this is correct, then I might be able to get one step closer to the conspiracy. I have to go.”
“Wait. I’m coming with you. This is important to me too, remember?”
“No. Please. We don’t even know exactly what this is. I’ll check it out and get back to you. You have to stay in touch with Walter. What if something comes up? He’ll need you to back him up.”
Scully considered this. Then she nodded in agreement. It made sense. Someone would have to stay behind. Normally nothing in the world would have made her agree to wait at home or in the office, but Skinner might need her, or some information could turn up. It was grating on her nerves to let Mulder go on his own, but he was right.
“Alright. This time I will. But next time, you stay at home.”
“Ok. Whatever you say.”
Mulder was already putting his coat on, making sure he had his gun, the ammo and his cell phone, the standard equipment of any self-respecting FBI agent. On the doorstep, he turned back and pulled Scully into his arms, for a brief kiss goodbye.
“You’d better stay safe.”
“Count on it. You think I’d dare to face you if I got myself shot?”
“Don’t you forget that.”
Scully closed the office for the night and drove home. She prepared herself for a long night of waiting. If there had been any indication that this was a high risk operation, she would never have let Mulder go on his own, but she agreed with Mulder. That particular source would never have sent this information, without a warning about the level of security Mulder needed to negotiate.
He should be safe enough. Whether he would actually find the promised information or not, was another matter. All too often in this line of work, you would come up empty-handed, it was in the nature of the business. Scully feared that Mulder would be disappointed once again.
Mulder parked his car some way up the road, and walked the last hundred yards or so. The compound was seemingly windowless. It consisted of three low, boxlike buildings, of a uniform brick red. There was a high barbed wire fence, and floodlights aimed at the partially built in yard. The only way in seemed to be through a gate in the fence.
So much security for what passed as a harmless computer related industry? Mulder judged that it would be close to impossible to break into this place. Fortunately, it appeared deserted. The gate was standing open.
Wasn’t it a little too easy? He felt a shiver go down his spine. This could be a trap, but the information he was seeking was too important. Whatever the risks, it would be worth it. For a moment, he considered calling Scully to let her in on the developments, but decided against it. He had a shrewd suspicion of what she would say.
So he walked through the gate. No one tried to stop him. The front door was unlocked. Somewhere at the back of his mind, he heard the old nursery rhyme whisper: Come into my parlor – But he turned a deaf ear to the warning. Just in case, he drew his revolver, and released the safety catch. Staying close to the walls, never letting his attention wander, Mulder continued his search of the building. It was eerie.
Everywhere there were computer screens turned on, flickering at him, but there seemed to be no information left on the disk drives. The people working in this place must have left in a hurry. That bothered him. Why would they all take off in the middle of work? Was something going down, and would he get caught in it?
He stepped up the search. Kicking doors open, pulling back into cover, peering cautiously inside. Corridor after corridor revealed nothing. A few unimportant pieces of paper on the floor, a filing cabinet standing open. A paper shredder that was still on, with a mass of shredded documents overflowing the recycling bin. That was all.
And no people anywhere. The lights were on, the computers too mostly, but the information on the disk drives had been deleted. All doors were standing unlocked or even open. Mulder had a sinking feeling of disappointment. He was too late. Whatever information he might have found here was gone.
At the end of the last corridor, he found a door that was locked. That seemed out of character for this place, and immediately aroused his suspicions. But he hadn’t come all this way to be deterred by a mere lock, complicated as it appeared.
Considering the emptiness of the place, Mulder decided on a quick and easy solution to the combination lock. He aimed his gun at the door and fired off a few rounds. After that it was an easy matter to pull out the latch bolt and throw it to the ground. The door no longer resisted his attempts to open it.
He didn’t forget to hug the wall on the side before going in, his gun held out before him. That room, too, turned out to be a disappointment. All it contained were some dirty blankets and sheets on the floor in a corner. Ugh. They were filthy. In fact, the stains on them indicated someone had bled excessively on them not too long ago.
Looking around for whoever that person might be, Mulder spotted another door, that seemed to lead into a bathroom. At first he didn’t think there was anything to find in there either, but he turned the light on and looked around anyway. In the furthest corner, up against the toilet bowl a long haired, bearded figure was cowering.
Despite the stench, Mulder couldn’t help pitying the man, whoever he was. He was a pathetic creature, appearing frightened out of his mind of the newcomer. The light seemed to have temporarily dazzled him, but now Mulder noticed another potential reason for the man’s apparent blindness. One eye was swollen shut from a severe beating.
The emaciated face was covered with bruises, and since the man wasn’t wearing any clothes, the injuries all over the skeletal body were plain to see. There was simply no spot on the filthy skin that wasn’t bruised or covered with sores and scabs.
“Keep your hands where I can see them.”
On hearing the voice the man tried to look up. He held out one arm as if he was trying to shield his eyes from the light.
That voice. It couldn’t be Alex Krycek. Not that wreck of a human being. The last time Mulder had seen him, he had still had that arrogant elegance so typical of the man. Now there was nothing left of the arrogance or the elegance.
“Alex? What are you doing here?”
Ok, stupid question. That might not be the first priority here. Reluctantly, Mulder put the gun away and bent down to assess the damage. But he was unable to perform any examination of Krycek’s body, other than a purely visual one. Despite being crammed into the tiny space between the toilet and the wall, Krycek made frantic efforts to get away from Mulder’s hands. Mulder had a bad suspicion as to what would have made Krycek this wary of being touched.
“Christ, Alex. What have they done to you?”
“What do you think?”
Uh oh. Not good. And what was worse was that Krycek’s only way out of here, was with Mulder’s help. It was obvious, even from this cursory inspection, that Krycek would be unable to walk.
“How bad is it?”
It was a while before Krycek could bring himself to reply. He hated being seen like this by Mulder. And he knew far too well that Mulder would already have guessed what had happened to him, which was even worse.
“Well, there’s the leg.”
Mulder took a closer look and realized that Krycek’s right leg was twisted at an unnatural angle underneath him.
“That’s my guess.”
Krycek remembered how he had managed to get away from them. It had been some time yesterday, he thought. He was surprised he even had the strength to run. But he had climbed the fence, torn his hands on the barbed wire, and with bullets flying around his ears, he had lost his hold and fallen six feet or more down onto the concrete.
It might have been the lack of food and water. He didn’t remember being fed more than a couple of times in the weeks of his captivity at that other place. But that was nonsense. If they hadn’t fed him, he would be dead by now. It was that memory of his, fading in and out. The beating hadn’t helped either.
But he recalled that when they took him here for the final part of his journey, they hadn’t killed him right away as he had expected. As he had secretly hoped for in the hopeless weeks he was being kept in a tiny, dark room.
He remembered the raucous laughter, the lewd remarks. It wasn’t anything new, but what scared him this time was that there were five or six of them. They were going to kill him, but who said they needed to to do it quickly? And what was stopping them from having some fun with him first?
Krycek felt his shirt tear, what was left of it. There was nothing he could do about it. His hands were cuffed behind his back, and a chain was attached to the cuffs. The same with his legs, except they were cuffed separately. A face came into view. To hell with them. The end would be the same anyway. Krycek spat in the leering face.
“Bad move. You shouldn’t have done that, Alex.”
The hand pulled back, only to return with a stinging blow to Krycek’s face. If the aggressor had expected a whimper of pain, he was disappointed. Krycek stared defiantly right into the man’s eyes.
“And why is that?”
“Cute. This tough act is very arousing, but it won’t do you any good.”
“Alex here gets off on pain. So maybe we should change the approach a little.”
Another voice. Another face floated into view. Bearded this time. The hand almost caressed Krycek’s bruised cheek. He twisted his head away and tried to bite the hand, but the man was ready for him. Instead the hand moved further down his body, lingering on his chest. Then a sudden sharp pain as the fingers pinched a nipple, hard, painfully.
Krycek couldn’t suppress a shiver. All eyes would be on him, he knew that. And he wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of making a sound. Pain was nothing, after all, and so was death. He just wished he could have – But he never finished that thought.
A knife came into view. The blade moved slowly down his face, lingered on the side of his neck, and travelled further down to his chest. Not a knife. The fingers were bad enough. But the cool metal didn’t remain for long in the vicinity of the sensitive skin. It kept moving further down.
Now Krycek could feel his jeans being cut and torn off him. That made him feel even more vulnerable, but he was determined not to let it show. He was used to torture. They wouldn’t get a sound out of him. Not until it was too late for it to matter anyway. Krycek knew there would come a time when he wouldn’t really care about being strong anymore. But still he held on to the last shreds of dignity.
“Let’s get him on that table over there.”
Three of them reached in to lift him off the floor. He considered resisting, but he knew his strength was ebbing and he would need all of it later. He was laid out on his back on the table. They had undone the cuffs and put them back on again to be able to lay him out this way. He knew why they had done that, but he tried to push the thought away for a little while longer. If he tried to think of something else he might be able to put off the panic a little longer.
When he wouldn’t reply, one of them pressed the knife against his left eye. Would he be able to keep this up?
“I know you can hear me, Alex. Answer me.”
“What do you want?”
“We want you, Alex. We’ve heard of you, this sexy Russian, and we all want a piece of you. And you know what? It’s our lucky day. All night party. Right now all I want is for you to know something. This knife will be here the entire time, so get to know it well. When we tell you to do something, you’ll do it, is that clear?”
“In your dreams.”
“Wrong answer again, Alex.”
The cool blade moved down to his chest again. This time, it pressed into the other nipple, and now it didn’t stop. Not until it drew blood. Still, Krycek didn’t make a sound, but it was using up every ounce of strength and willpower he had left.
“I will cut it off, if you don’t do what we tell you to. Is that clear?”
The battle of wills went on for what seemed like forever to Krycek’s tormented mind, but in reality it could only have been seconds. He wanted to tell them no, but if he did, the pain would only get worse and before long he would lose all he had left of dignity and self-respect.
If only they would get on with it. Dying was easy. It was this other stuff that was hard. He had taken too long to reply. The tip of the knife was again pressing into the already punctured skin of his nipple. This time he couldn’t quite keep himself from whimpering in pain.
“Yes. Alright. I’ll do whatever you say.”
“Good. You’re a pro, Alex, so we’ll be expecting something special. All the way down your throat. What? I can’t hear you.”
“Yes. I’ll do it.”
“That’s what I thought.”
Afterwards, Krycek couldn’t remember how many of them there were. He thought they had been five to begin with, but maybe a few others had joined them later. Or maybe it was just that they wanted seconds. They just blurred together into one.
The assault on his mouth went on for what seemed like hours, but after that, they moved on further down his body. He felt his legs being lifted, spread apart and eventually squashed under their considerable weight.
Another reason Krycek preferred women. Most of them weren’t as heavy as a man. He thought one of the men was more sadistic than the others, but he could be wrong. It might have been more than one of them who thought of bringing the knife down there as well. Either way, he felt the blade enter him, tearing the sensitive tissue.
By now, he had forgotten about his earlier resolution of not making any sounds. The pain was far too great by now, and he could hear his own voice getting hoarser and hoarser from the abuse his throat had been taking, and the strain on his vocal cords.
At some point, they must have tired of the game, or maybe some new orders had arrived. There was a pause in the torment. The last of them moved off Krycek and they left him alone. He must have blacked out for a while, but when he came to, he was still alone. And more importantly, he was untied.
If he tried to ignore the pain, he could get up. It was a while until he was sure his legs would carry him. But they had to. He could worry about the pain later. Slowly, he made his way out into the corridor. The corridors were a maze, but eventually he was able to find a door that led outside. If there was a gate, it must be on the other side of the building. He knew it was a trap, but he began climbing the fence anyway. On the other side, he lost his hold and fell. There was a searing pain in his hip and thigh.
“Alex, stay with me. You’re fading out.”
Who was that? Not one of them. He remembered now. Mulder. Yes, he was telling Mulder what had happened. Or was he? Krycek shook his head to clear it.
“A broken leg. Anything else?”
“Nothing you need to worry about. What are you doing here?”
“I got a lead. Except it seems I was too late. Everyone’s cleared out. Right. Let’s get you out of here.”
Mulder bent over Krycek to pick him up. This would be a mess, but no matter how much he hated the assassin, Mulder couldn’t imagine leaving him like this. But again, Krycek tried to pull away from him, his face contorted into a mask of pain and terror. The reaction was something Mulder could sympathize with, but he didn’t see that there was any other option than for him to carry Krycek outside.
“Alex, you don’t seriously think I get anything out of touching you? We just have to face it, I’m your only way out of here. I’ll try not to hurt you too much, but we’ll have to hurry. Whatever the reason all these people left so quickly, I don’t think we should stick around to find out.”
“I know. I just can’t -”
“I’m sorry, Alex, but I’ll have to do this.”
Forcing himself to ignore Krycek’s reaction to his touch, Mulder put his arms around the skeletal body and lifted it up. He tried his best not to jolt the broken leg, but it was obvious that no matter how gentle he was, this was going to cause Krycek intolerable pain, and that was only physically.
Mulder could see that the Russian was biting his lips to stop himself from screaming. He was only partially successful, and before Mulder had managed to find his way out of the grubby little room, Krycek passed out from the pain. Under the circumstances that was probably the best thing for him.
Out in the corridor, Mulder heard the sounds of cars braking outside, and seconds later, footsteps on the concrete. Time was running out, and he still had to find the exit. Krycek felt feather-light in his arms. He seemed to have been starving for weeks.
Finally, he found the exit, just a little too late. Two men were blocking his way. They hadn’t seen him yet. Gently, he put Krycek down on the floor beside him, and got his gun out. It was only a matter of time before those two spotted him and then – One of the men must have heard the movement and shot round in Mulder’s direction. His hand reached into his jacket, but Mulder had already taken aim.
“I don’t want any trouble. Back away from the door and let us pass.”
They didn’t reply, but the hand dropped down again. He had their attention now.
“Slowly. No sudden movements.”
Mulder had some vague idea that if he herded the two men down the corridor, he might find a way to lock them into one of the rooms. That should be enough to buy him some time. On the other hand, the men seemed to know what he was thinking. This wouldn’t be easy. If possible, he would prefer not to have to shoot them.
Not until now did it occur to him that he should have identified himself. For all these two knew, he might be a criminal. But now it was too late, and anyway Mulder didn’t think he was dealing with other feds or even CIA. They would have identified themselves just as he should have. So this had to be the other side, perhaps come to finish the job on Krycek.
“Ok, this will do. Inside that room. Slowly. Keep your hands where I can see them.”
They did as he told them, but he had no illusions. Most likely they were planning their next move right now.
Mulder indicated the one on the right.
“Take off your belt. Tie your friend’s hands behind his back. Now.”
Mulder reinforced the command by releasing the safety catch. For a second it didn’t seem as if he would be obeyed. But with a look filled with venom, the man did as he was told.
“Now, you. Drop your weapons on the floor. Easy. Don’t make me shoot you.”
“You won’t get away with this. Backup is on its way. They’ll be here before you’re off the premises.”
“Oh, you do talk. Just drop your weapons on the floor. Do it.”
And with a face conveying disgust as well as hostility, the man did as Mulder told him to.
“Get down on your knees. No. Not like that. With your back to me.”
“Are you going to shoot an unarmed man – in the back?”
“You’ll see what I’m going to do.”
The man must have heard the movement and half turned. But it was too late. Mulder’s gun hit him in the temple and he fell forward. He didn’t even make a sound. Satisfied that the man was safely out of the way, Mulder hurried outside. If they had been right about the backup there was no time to lose.
The partner of the man Mulder had knocked out, was cursing from inside the room, but it was just empty threats and he knew that Mulder knew that. Not even bothering to shut the door, Mulder ran for the exit. He picked up the still unconscious Krycek and made for the gate.
Still no sign of pursuit, but he didn’t stop to look around. If he was to make it out in time, he had to move quickly. A burden even as light as Krycek was slowing him down, but there was nothing to be done about that. Now he could see his car. He was a bit concerned that Krycek hadn’t regained consciousness yet. What if the Russian was even more badly injured than he appeared to be? But that too was a consideration for later.
For the time being, he knew that unconsciousness must be a welcome reprieve for Krycek from the pain and the chaos inside his mind. Mulder knew far too well how that felt, even though in his case the aggressor had been only one. But he refused to dwell on his own past. There. He put Krycek down in the back seat. That was all he could do. He could hardly drive if he was to hold the injured man up at the same time.
Fortunately, he had parked the car in the right direction for a quick getaway. In about five minutes he would reach the main road, and out there he was fairly sure he would be able to outrun any pursuers. By the time he could already see the crossroads, his luck ran out. There were only two more cars, but it was enough. They were blocking his exit. Turning around, even if they let him do that, would only bring him back to the compound.
To his astonishment, he heard a sound from the back seat and in the rearview mirror he saw Krycek struggling to sit. He wasn’t having much success, but eventually he was able to take a look through the window.
“It’s me they’re after. Let them have what they want. I’m sure they’ll let you get away if you do.”
“Not an option.”
“You’re not pretending to care about me, are you, Mulder?”
“You know me. But there’s Walter to consider.”
“I see. Have you ever thought that it might not be in Walter’s best interests to see me again? Stop here. When they see me, they’ll be too busy finishing me off to bother about you. I hope.”
“Forget it. We’re both getting out of here.”
“Or maybe neither one of us. I can’t mean that much to you, for Walter’s sake or otherwise. Just throw me out. You want to, you know you do.”
“I said no. Let’s see how badly they want to catch us.”
“What are you doing, you bloody fool? Don’t get yourself killed. If you don’t care about yourself, think about Dana.”
But Mulder wasn’t listening anymore. He was too busy rushing the engine. For a second he thought the two other cars would stand their ground, but at the last possible moment, they swerved away and let him through. It didn’t take them long to start firing after them.
One bullet passed through the rear window and out through the windshield. But soon they were out of range. Mulder continued driving at breakneck speed, until the next turn. There he slowed down only enough to make the turn. By now, he thought he might have shaken them. Just in case he was planning to make a few more turns before returning to the city.
No reply. The realization that he hadn’t heard Krycek’s voice for some time now hit him. Surely Krycek couldn’t have been hit?
“Alex, come on. Answer me.”
From what he could see in the rearview mirror, the Russian was once again unconscious, but was that from the pain and shock or was it something else?
“Hey. Wake up.”
“What’s the matter? Worried? About me?”
“You weren’t hit by that bullet, I guess?”
“No. I’m just great.”
“Ok. I’ll get you back to Scully’s place and she’ll see what she can do for you. We should get you to a hospital. That leg’s going to need more attention than she can -”
“If you take me to a hospital, you won’t have to worry about me ever again. They’ll find me. Just don’t. If Dana can’t patch me up, ok, but there’s no point in going to a hospital.”
“What were you doing back at that place?”
“What? You can’t guess?”
“I meant how did you end up in their hands?”
“Oh. It must have been my change of allegiance. They don’t like not being able to count on an operative 150 %. I was in another place first, but they brought me here to kill me. They just took the chance of -”
Here the pain made Krycek close his eyes and grit his teeth. He wouldn’t cry in front of Mulder.
“Yeah, I got that. They didn’t feed you at all in all this time?”
“In six weeks? What do you think? Actually, I hardly remember. Since they brought me here, nothing. Before that, a couple of times.”
“Just hang on till we’re back at Scully’s place. She’ll fix you up. Don’t try to talk. Save your strength.”
Mulder was hoping that was true. What if she couldn’t do anything about the fracture? Or the other injuries that Mulder didn’t like to even imagine. But she was a doctor. She would know what to do. If she couldn’t do anything by herself, she might know someone who could assist her, and bring more supplies. The thought of Krycek at the mercy of the men who had done this to him, made Mulder feel nauseous, despite his intense hatred for the Russian.
It was long after nightfall, when Mulder stopped outside Scully’s house. The lights were on, so he knew she was still up, anxiously awaiting his return. He should have called, but he didn’t know what to say, not in front of Krycek. For the last few miles, Krycek had been unconscious again, or maybe he was even asleep. Either way, it was probably better that way.
Now Mulder paused to consider his options. Of course he could carry Krycek upstairs, and simply ring the doorbell, but it might be better to warn Scully of what she was going to find beforehand. He reached for the cell phone. She picked up on the first call, so he knew she must have been worrying about him.
“Yes, it’s me. Listen, we got company.”
“Krycek. I’ll explain later. You just have to know that he’s badly injured. I hope you’ll be able to do something for him.”
“How badly injured? Hemorrhaging?”
“I don’t think so. A broken hip and femur, I think. I’m not a doctor. And – I’ll just bring him upstairs so you can take a look for yourself.”
“Ok. I’ll come down and help you.”
“That won’t be necessary. Just open the door for us.”
Mulder wrapped Krycek in a blanket. Being seen by Scully’s neighbors carrying a naked man was probably not such a good idea.
Despite Mulder’s reassurances that he’d be ok, Scully met him on the landing. She caught sight of Krycek’s exquisite face marred by those dreadful bruises, and gasped. As soon as they were inside the apartment, they wasted no time laying him down on the spare bed.
“He’s in pain, so if you have something you can give him for that -”
“Of course, but I can’t give him anything while he’s still out. How long has he been unconscious?”
“Maybe ten minutes this time.”
“He’s been out off and on?”
Scully frowned in concentration, as she tried to assess the extent of Krycek’s injures.
Mulder looked down on the man lying on the bed. What if Krycek came to and heard a description of what he’d just been through? But Scully needed to know what she was dealing with.
“I think he was gang raped. Tortured maybe. Look for yourself.”
He could see Scully’s eyes scan the emaciated body and then nodding with grim resolve.
“I can’t do anything about the fracture by myself.”
“I thought not. Unfortunately, a hospital isn’t an option either. Can’t we get someone here to help you? And get supplies or whatever you need?”
She considered that briefly, then she nodded again.
“Yes, that will have to do. I’ll call Seaton. He’ll help me out, no questions asked. And he can bring what we need from the hospital. Are you ok, Mulder?”
“Sure. Nothing wrong with me.”
Mulder backed off to let Scully do her work. After calling her colleague, she found her medical equipment and brought it into the guest room. He watched her put on a pair of rubber gloves, and approach her patient. Krycek still seemed to be out cold, but when Scully put her hand on his face, he started violently and tried to get away from her.
“Alex, it’s me. Dana. I’m not going to hurt you, but I’m going to have to -”
“Can you tell me what happened? Did you – Were you – raped?”
“Only about 20 times or so. Nothing out of the ordinary. Happens to me all the time.”
“I’m really sorry, Alex. Right, I’ll give you something for the pain. Another doctor is on his way, and we’ll have to perform surgery on that fracture. In the meantime, I’m afraid I’ll have to take a look at -”
Krycek seemed to know what Scully was referring to, and he tried to put on a brave face. He knew the pain would be excruciating, but that wasn’t the worst part.
“I’ll be in the other room. Call me if you need me.”
Mulder beat a hasty retreat, before Scully went on to perform the in depth physical examination.
Scully could see that the last thing Krycek wanted right now was to be touched, but she saw no alternative. From her studies she knew the terrible damage a rape could do to a body. She decided to inject her patient with the painkiller before continuing.
In the early hours of the morning, Scully told Seaton to finish up. She was satisfied with the procedure. Krycek might have to learn to accept walking with a slight limp in the future, but the fracture would heal. He would be fine eventually, at least as far as the broken bone was concerned. As for the rest, she had done her best to patch him up and given him a shot of antibiotics.
She thanked Seaton for his assistance, and again asked him to keep the incident quiet. He promised he wouldn’t say anything, and she knew she could count on him. Though she tried hard to pretend her ignorance, Scully was well aware of Seaton’s feelings for her. Anything she asked for, she was fairly sure she would get.
When her colleague had left the apartment, Scully once again checked on her patient, before joining Mulder in the other room.
“He’s going to be ok now. The surgery was successful, at least considering what I had to work with.”
“I knew you could do it.”
“The question is, what do we tell Walter?
That was something Mulder didn’t even want to contemplate. Until now, he hadn’t even had time to worry about Skinner’s reaction. Mulder really didn’t want to be the one to have to tell his boss what had happened to his lover.
Scully seemed to be able to read his mind and she gave him a bleak smile.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll inform Walter. It’s just that I need to think about what I’m going to tell him.”
“I know what you mean. He must be really worried.”
“Hm. I’m exhausted. Don’t you think it would be better to wait until Alex has regained consciousness and I’ve had a chance to talk to him, before I call Walter?”
Mulder wasn’t entirely sure about that, but he could tell Scully was far too tired to think clearly.
“Come on, let’s get you to bed. If you like, I’ll sit with Krycek. It’s not as if I’ve been performing surgery for hours. I got some rest while I was waiting.”
“Alright, but you’ll wake me if Alex comes to?”
“Of course. Try to get some sleep now.”
When he had made sure Scully was safely in bed, Mulder reluctantly returned to the guestroom. He was never comfortable around Krycek and now, after what the Russian had been through, he was feeling more awkward than ever. And he also knew that another man was probably the last person Krycek wanted to see right now, when he came to.
It had been a long night, and when the first light of day hit Mulder’s eyes, he started and came awake. He must have dozed off, but Krycek still seemed to be asleep, so no harm done. Mulder looked at his watch. 6.30. They would be late. In fact, he would have to call and make up some excuse about him and Scully not showing up for work that day. He stretched and yawned, and tiptoed out of the guest room.
After making the call, he returned to check on Krycek, then went to the kitchen to make himself a cup of coffee. By the time he got back, Krycek’s eyes were open. Scully must have taken time to clean him up a bit last night, because despite the bruises, Krycek looked a little better. Still pale and very thin, but at least now he was clean and freshly shaven. Mulder hadn’t looked too closely when he sat down to watch over the patient.
“Can I get you anything, Alex?”
“Ok. But if Scully tells you otherwise you’d better do it.”
To his surprise, Krycek tried to smile at that. Mulder hadn’t meant it as a joke. It was more an instinctive feeling that the emaciated man needed some kind of nutrition, but he didn’t feel up to doing any persuading right now.
“You don’t mind if I -”
He indicated the coffee cup.
“No problem. I guess Dana’s still in bed?”
Normally, Krycek’s persistent use of Scully’s first name would have infuriated Mulder. This time, he recognized the subdued tone of voice for what it was and just let it go.
“Yes. She was up for hours putting you back together again.”
“Maybe she shouldn’t have bothered.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Krycek didn’t reply, and Mulder was fairly sure the Russian had meant that patching him up was a waste of time. But it wasn’t. Suddenly, Mulder felt a strong sense of sympathy towards this man who was a victim, every bit as much as he was, and in fact more so. Krycek deserved to live.
Mulder forced himself to ignore the fact that the assassin most likely was responsible for his father’s death. There were times when he had almost wanted to kill the old man himself. So how could he blame another man, who must have been following orders, not acting out of a need for revenge? The silence was beginning to feel oppressive, and since Mulder saw Krycek was still awake, he forced himself to make conversation.
“How are you doing?”
“Just great. I’m thinking about running a marathon or going for a swim. Unless you want to invite me to a party?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean -”
“I know what you meant. I’m the one who should be sorry. You saved my life. I guess I should thank you for that?”
“Not if you don’t want to.”
“I appreciate it. It’s just not a good idea.”
“Keeping someone like me alive. Of course, that’s not your fault.”
“Why isn’t it a good idea? Are you planning anything else to spring on us?”
“Let’s get one thing straight. Whatever I’ve done to you or your family or Scully and her family, was never my own idea.”
“Just a good soldier obeying orders?”
“Something like that.”
“While we’re on the subject, what exactly have you done to me or my family or Scully and hers?”
“Why? You think you’ll believe anything I tell you?”
“Alright. I’m the one who killed your father. Would you have gotten me out of that place if you’d known that for a fact?”
This time Mulder was the one not to reply. He wasn’t sure what he could say. Part of him wanted to say, damned right, I wouldn’t. On the other hand – The boundaries between right and wrong, between enemy and friend had blurred in the past couple of months. Finally, he managed to say something.
“And what else?”
“And nothing. I was still working for them when they had Scully abducted, but I didn’t have anything to do with it. They didn’t even inform me until everything was already set in motion. Scully might have told you that I didn’t kill Melissa.”
“Yes, she did. Is it true?”
“If it was true when I told her, it’s still true now, right?”
“Yes, but what are you telling me? The same thing you told her? I’m just asking.”
“Ok. And I’m just telling you I didn’t. I didn’t even kill that clone. Though, considering that it was sent to kill Scully, if I had, I would have done her a favor.”
“Are you really sure about this clone business?”
“You’ve seen them yourself. You tell me.”
“I’ve seen them, but I never saw Melissa Scully’s body.”
“It was a clone. I’ve met Melissa later. She – She wouldn’t give me the time of day, any more than Scully – or you.”
Mulder pretended not to notice the bitterness in Krycek’s voice.
“You were saying it wasn’t a good idea to keep you alive.”
“I’m not like you, Mulder. I don’t get the girl and live happily ever after.”
“Ok. How about the boy and live happily ever after?”
“I don’t think so.”
Better leave that one too. Krycek’s complicated sexuality didn’t concern or interest Mulder.
“Come to think of it, what makes you think I’ll live happily ever after?”
“Happier than me, anyway.”
“If that’s true, Alex, I’m really sorry.
Krycek’s green eyes bored into Mulder, until he acknowledged defeat and looked away.
“Yes, I believe you are. I appreciate that, Mulder. More than you think.”
“Why didn’t you wake me, Mulder? I need to check on -”
“Good morning, Scully.”
“Good morning, both of you.”
Krycek smiled weakly towards the red-headed agent in the doorway.
“I’ll go and get dressed. See you both later.”
“How are you feeling today, Alex?”
“I’ll have to take a look at the stitches, so I’ll just -”
She indicated the sheet that was covering Krycek’s skeletal limbs. He bit his lower lip and let her get on with it.
“Everything’s looking good. Do you mind?”
Again, she made a tentative gesture, this time towards Krycek’s forehead. Since he didn’t pull back, she took that as consent and put her hand on his skin. The temperature felt normal, or as normal as it could be right after major surgery. She walked over to the window and opened it to let in some air. To her surprise, Krycek took her hand, when she sat down in the chair facing the bed.
“Dana – You remember, don’t you?”
She knew far too well what he was referring to, and she didn’t want to discuss that. But the look in his eyes told her the question was important to him.
“Must be that implant you had.”
“I remember it all too. Courtesy of that black alien oil.”
It was strange to have that bond, but she realized that it was there. Whatever it was she had had inside her head, and whatever thing had been possessing Krycek’s body, had left an imprint on them. And forever after, they would be closer as a result. Regardless of what had happened in Vegas this New Year’s.
“Dana, I’m sorry if this is embarrassing you, but I have to tell you. It was the best ever.”
Now she could feel her face flushing. He was serious, his tone of voice told her that. And for some reason this prompted her to reply, even if she felt it was the worst kind of betrayal of Mulder.
“I see. It meant a lot to me too.”
His intense scrutiny was making her uncomfortable, so she got up and began walking around. He noticed her reaction and let the matter go to move on to another thing that had been on his mind, ever since he had been abducted.
“About Walter -”
“What about him?”
“About me and Walter. You asked me before and I wouldn’t tell you why.”
“Are you going to now?”
“I think I’ve figured it out now. But first, have you called him? He must have been worried about me.”
“You don’t know how much. He called us and asked us to help look for you and we did. We just didn’t have much luck until Mulder got this email about a lead on the conspiracy -”
“I guess it isn’t much use asking you and Mulder to lay off that conspiracy?”
“Listen to me, Dana. It’s too dangerous, and believe me, you’ll never get close.”
“I think that’s up to us, Alex.”
“Fair enough. But from what I know, and it isn’t all that much, though that’s still more than you know, I can tell you it’s no use fighting them. They’re far too powerful for two people like you and Mulder. Ok, you’re not going to listen, and maybe it won’t make any difference.”
“You were saying about Walter -?”
“Did you call him and tell him you’d found me?”
“No. I was going to do that this morning. When I’d checked on your progress. Which I have now. So I guess I should -”
“Please don’t. Not just yet.”
“Ok. But like you said, he’s worried out of his mind.”
“I’m not surprised. Poor Walter. But it’s no use. I can’t see him again.”
“Alex, I realize that right now you’re feeling – Later, when you’re feeling better, you might not -”
“No. That’s not what I meant, though I doubt I’ll feel much better next week or next month or next year. You see, I’ve never felt all that great, not since I was ten, so I’m used to it. I’ll get by. That’s not what this is about. I’m just not into men. That’s what I’ve been figuring out. Just because Walter was the first person not to have hurt me, – No. That’s not true either. I’ve been with lots of women who didn’t actually hurt me, but what I mean is, Walter loves me, and that felt good. No one’s ever loved me since Jelena.”
“My mother. At least I think she was. In any case, she was the only mother I’ve ever known.”
“Oh. I didn’t know that.”
“I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and I’ve realized that just because people want you, doesn’t mean they love you. And just because they don’t hurt you, it still doesn’t mean they love you. But even when they do love you, it’s not the same as loving them back.”
“You’re not in love with Walter?”
“No. I’m not. For a while, I thought I might learn to love him, or – I was hoping I’d learn to love someone. I think I could. No, I know I could. It just hasn’t happened yet.”
“Now I’m trying to think of a way to tell Walter.”
“Perhaps you’d like to call him yourself? I could bring the phone and -”
“Yes, I’ll need to talk to him sooner or later. I owe him that much. But right now, I couldn’t bear to see him. He’d want to hold me and I can’t stand being touched. And when he finds out that I can’t – It would break his heart. I don’t want to hurt him. Do you understand what I’m saying, Dana?”
“Yes, Alex, I understand. You’re right. It’s going to hurt him, but in the long run, wouldn’t it hurt him more if you didn’t tell him? You were a traumatized child, it’s natural to be confused about your feelings.”
“Thanks. Actually, it’s only in the past years that I’ve even become aware of having any feelings at all. For a long time, it was just best not to feel anything.”
“I’ll call Walter and tell him the facts, and let him know it’s best if he doesn’t come and see you. I’ll go and talk to him myself and make sure he’s ok. Or Mulder will go.”
“Maybe you’d better do it. Considering the way Walter feels about Mulder, I don’t think it would help much.”
“How do you do it, Alex? How do you learn these things? Did you have my car bugged?”
This time the smile wasn’t quite as weak.
“No. I learned about it from Walter.”
“He told you about that?”
“Not in so many words. It was just obvious from the way he reacted when I mentioned Mulder’s name. I guess Mulder picked up on it one way or another too.”
Scully didn’t comment on that. If Krycek didn’t know about what had happened between Mulder and Skinner, he didn’t need to know.
“Right. I’ll go and call Walter. Mulder will sit with you while I’m gone.”
“That’s not necessary. I’m not an infant.”
Her eyes locked on to his, and suddenly Krycek knew that she knew what his mind had touched upon from the moment he woke up alone in that place, remembering what had been done to him. She wasn’t going to leave him alone until the urge to kill himself was gone. Was there anything this woman didn’t know?
“How do you do it, Dana? How do you know everything?”
“I’m your doctor. It’s my job to know these things. And as a Catholic, I believe suicide is a mortal sin. Besides, whatever else I think about you, Alex Krycek, I like you. Don’t throw your life away. Even after something like this happens, you can -”
“Some life. Would it surprise you to know that I used to go to church when I was a child?”
“I hadn’t thought about it.”
“It was a Russian Orthodox church, and I don’t know if I was even baptized. I never asked Jelena. Anyway, I’d sneak in and listen to the service once in a while, while Jelena was sleeping it off. It impressed me, all that ceremony and the robes and the thuribles. Made me think there was something more than just our apartment building and all the filthy concrete around it. Then when Jelena died, whatever respect I had for God or the church vanished fast. If there was a god, would there be people doing those things to me?”
“I don’t know. I was always taught about evil and about man’s free choice. Even to choose evil.”
“Those men were evil?”
“What do you think?”
“I used to think so. What does that make me though? I’ve killed people.”
“For your own gain? For pleasure?”
“It depends on how you define gain. I worked for those people. They paid me to do their dirty work. That’s one definition of gain, isn’t it?”
“Did you ever rape anyone, Alex? Or hurt a child?”
“I set off explosives in Afghanistan. Sometimes an entire village was wiped out. The children too. But I never raped anyone. Not even when the other men in my unit – But Afghanistan is a long way away, and it was a long time ago. I don’t want to talk about it.”
“You were doing your duty as a soldier. That’s not the same as murder. Or child abuse.”
“You think your god would forgive me for all the killings? Or the betrayals?”
“Yes. There is always forgiveness, Alex.”
“Except for suicide?”
“I can’t answer that. Just don’t try anything like that, please.”
“I’ll try not to. For your sake, Dana. Because you asked me. It makes me think that you care about me, even just a little.”
“Yes, Alex, I care about you.”
And she walked over to the bed and took his hand. For a while, she held it to her cheek, before turning and walking out of the room. She sent Mulder in to sit with Alex, and she took a deep breath, bracing herself, before picking up the phone.
Skinner picked up on the first signal and she felt a pang of guilt for not calling sooner. She could guess what he was going through. Her mind was still reeling from all the things Alex had told her, and she knew Walter was in for much more emotional upheaval in the time ahead. Despite that, she forced herself to keep her voice as low key as possible. No need to alarm Skinner unnecessarily.
“It’s me. Dana. We found Alex.”
“Is he ok?”
“He’s going to be.”
“He’s been injured. I had to perform surgery last night, for several hours. That’s why I didn’t call you until now. Forgive me for that. I was really tired and I wanted to know he was making progress before talking to you.”
“How bad is it?”
“A broken femur.”
“Where did you find him?”
“I’ll tell you what, Walter, why don’t I go over to your place and I’ll fill you in on all the details over there.”
“No. I’ll come over to your place. I have to see him myself and make sure he’s ok.”
“Are you doubting my word as a doctor?”
“No, of course not. I just need to see for myself.”
“Walter, that’s not a good idea. He can’t see anyone right now.”
“What is it you’re not telling me?”
“Ok. Come over. I’ll talk to you face to face. But really, Alex is going to be ok. If you don’t believe me about anything else, please believe that.”
“Alright. If you say so. Of course I believe you. I’ll be right over.”
“See you then.”
Maybe in that time she would have figured out how to break the news to Skinner. Telling him about the rape might stall Skinner for the time being, but eventually, Alex would have to tell him it was over between them. Alright. That part of the problem wasn’t hers to deal with. She cared about them both, but their relationship was their business, not hers. All she had to do was concentrate on breaking the news of what had happened to Alex as gently as she could.
While she waited for Skinner’s arrival, she looked in on Krycek and gave him a new dose of the painkiller. It made him sleepy and soon he dozed off. Mulder stayed in the room with him, just in case.
Now she could hear someone at the door. Just in case, she looked through the peephole. But it was Skinner, just as she had expected. She unlocked the door and pulled off the safety chain to let her boss in.
Ushering him into her kitchen, she offered to make him a cup of coffee, which he declined.
“Now will you tell me what’s wrong with him?”
“Alright. Walter, there’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it. He was gang raped. Five or six of them. They were going to kill him and Mulder doesn’t know what stopped them. He found him on the floor in a room in this building, in terrible shape. It’s going to be ok, though. At least physically.”
At first the statement didn’t appear to have sunk in. Then she could see all color drain from Skinner’s face. His hands clenched and unclenched, but he seemed totally unaware of what he was doing. The sudden movement took her by surprise. She had hardly ever seen Skinner move that quickly. He was out of his chair and pacing about the kitchen like a caged animal.
“I have to see him.”
“No, Walter. He’s asleep. I gave him some painkillers. And – he told me he’d rather not see anyone right now.”
“Isn’t Mulder’s in there with him right now?”
“In a way. He’s sitting in a chair watching over him. They’re not talking. Besides, it’s different with you. Mulder isn’t -”
Scully could have bit her tongue. There was no need to underscore the fact that he and Krycek were – had been – lovers. That was going to change soon enough anyway. In fact it already had, even though Skinner didn’t know that yet.
“I see. He doesn’t want to see me.”
“Believe me, he doesn’t want to see Mulder either. I just couldn’t leave him on his own. I need to know if there’s any change in his condition.”
“You mustn’t think I’m not grateful. I asked you to find him and you did. Now you’re telling me that you’ve performed surgery. I appreciate all that. Just tell me what’s wrong.”
“You must understand what he’s going through right now.”
“Yes. I do. In Vietnam, one or two of our boys who had been in Viet Cong captivity went through the same thing.”
“So give him time. He wants to talk to you. Just not right now.”
“Ok. I must trust you in this. I do trust you, Dana. Please thank Mulder for me, for bringing Alex back.”
“I will. You haven’t had any sleep for a long time, have you, Walter?”
“What? Oh, I suppose not.”
“Then go home. Sleep for a couple of hours. I’ll call you if there’s any change.”
Skinner stared at her for so long, she was beginning to suspect he hadn’t heard a word she said. Then he nodded absently.
“Yes. I will do that. Thanks again, Dana.”
It was a relief to see her boss leave. For the time being at least, he was spared the pain of discovering his loss. One shock at a time was quite enough for anyone. Scully went back to check on her patient and to have a few words with her lover.
For the rest of that day and the next, she and Mulder took turns watching over Krycek. Finally, she decided that the suicidal phase was over. Even then they didn’t leave Krycek alone for extended periods of time. At the end of the week, Krycek told Scully that he had had time to work things out and that he felt ready to meet Skinner face to face.
The meeting took place in Scully’s apartment. She and Mulder remained in the background, to give the two men their privacy. Even though her conversation with Krycek had to be considered to fall under the doctor/patient privilege, she gave Mulder a brief explanation of what was going on.
His reaction wasn’t exactly what she had expected. He appeared torn and couldn’t quite make up his mind what his feelings were. Like her, he immediately thought of what this breakup would do to Skinner.
“I don’t know what to say. Walter will be devastated, but of course I can see Alex’ dilemma. It’s not fair to expect him to stay in a relationship which isn’t giving him anything.”
“I think it is giving him something. Not just what it’s supposed to.”
“That’s what I meant. Strange, though I guess with his kind of background – our background, I mean – it’s easy to be confused about a lot of things. How do you think Walter’s going to take it?”
“Yes, that’s the big question, isn’t it? Frankly, I have no idea. Badly, I think, but how badly I don’t know. He’s hard to read. Doesn’t give much away. Not even to us.”
“We’ll just have to hope he’ll be ok.”
“Yes. And Alex too. This isn’t easy on him. He doesn’t want to cause Walter all this pain, but he doesn’t have a choice.”
Krycek was still staying in Scully’s guest room, and it was in there the meeting took place. Skinner took great care not to spook Krycek, and remained at some distance. He had never been able to read the look in those green eyes, but this time it was even more difficult. The changes in his lover were frightening. It wasn’t hard to imagine just what he’d been through in the time since they’d last met.
“Walter, I asked you to come here, because I have something to tell you.”
“Alright. I’m listening.”
“This is so hard for me to -”
“Scully told me what happened. I want you to know that I understand. Take as much time as you want.”
“No, Walter, you don’t understand. I have to say this, but it’s so difficult to find the words. Forgive me. This is going to hurt, but it wouldn’t be fair to keep this to myself any longer.”
“What’s wrong? Whatever it is, we can work it out.”
“No. Not this. Walter, I’m not gay.”
He could tell that Skinner never thought of himself that way either. This wasn’t coming across the way he meant it to, so he started over again.
“I can’t go on like this any longer. You and me – It’s not right. I’m not -”
“I realize you won’t be able to – Not right away. However long it takes, I’ll be waiting.”
“It’s no use, Walter. I’m not going to be back. Ever.”
“You’re in that much pain?”
“No. Yes, but that’s not why. I’m trying to tell you that I’m not in love with you.”
“We never made any promises. You don’t have to love me. I’m not sure what it is I feel. Why do we need a label for what we feel?”
“Look. I’m telling you it’s over. We can never be lovers again. I should never have let myself get involved in the first place. It was a mistake. My only excuse is that I never had a real relationship. No one ever loved me before.”
“Are you saying I’m never going to see you again, Alex?”
“I don’t know. I’m just saying that we can’t be lovers again. It would mean a lot to me if you don’t hate me, if we could be friends. You mean so much to me, just not what you want.”
“I – I see. If that’s how you feel, then I guess there’s not much else to say.”
“Say you forgive me, Walter. Please.”
Those green eyes, shaded by the long thick lashes, gazed pleadingly into Skinner’s. How could he not do as Krycek asked him?
“Of course I forgive you. There’s nothing to forgive. We both did something we shouldn’t have. I’m just going to have learn to live with it. I have to go. If there’s anything you need, let me know. We’ll talk later.”
“Wait. If it means anything to you, Walter, you were the only man who never hurt me.”
Skinner turned back and watched Krycek for a second or two, without a word, then left the room.
Scully heard the door open and close and she hurried out into the hallway to catch Skinner before he had time to leave. She had a feeling it wasn’t a good idea for him to go off right after learning something this emotionally distressing.
Mulder took his cue and disappeared into Krycek’s room. Personally, he thought the Russian would want to be alone at a time like this, but if Scully felt it was necessary, he would keep the younger man company all the same.
“I have to go.”
“Not yet. Come into the kitchen with me. Let’s talk for a while.”
“There’s nothing to talk about. Alex told me how he feels. I have to accept that.”
“Please. Don’t go just yet. I – I’m so sorry.”
“He told you this before he talked to me?”
“Yes. I was going to call and ask you to come over, so you could see him. And he needed this time to think things through before meeting you.”
“I understand. Don’t think I blame you.”
Skinner slumped down on a chair and it seemed all the strength had gone out of him. Right now, he was just a man who had had a bad shock. Not the big strong Vietnam veteran. Just a man.
“I know there’s nothing I can say to make this any easier on you. Just remember that I’m here. If you need to talk or anything else. You don’t have to go through it alone. Mulder and I -”
“Yes, Scully, I appreciate it. But I really need to go -”
She waited a while to see if he had something more to say. Just as she was making her mind up to let him go, she could see his shoulders sagging. No. This wasn’t happening. Her big, strong boss was crying.
Hurriedly she put her arms around him and held him. She could feel his face pressing against her shoulder. They remained like that until the sobbing subsided. It was one of those moments you can share, but never refer to again.
When it was over, Skinner got up, brushed his eyes with the back of his hand, then he straightened up and headed for the door.
“I’ll call you later, Dana.”
“Yes, Walter, please do. See you at work.”
It was over. She shook her head in disbelief. It had been even harder than she had thought, but at least now it was over. She firmly believed that time healed all wounds. Skinner would eventually get over this blow. And she and Mulder would be by his side to help him through the difficult time. That’s what friends were for, after all.
As for Krycek, she sincerely hoped he would let them help him too. It came as a surprise to her, that while she didn’t entirely trust the Russian even now, she did consider him a friend, and a close one at that. She thought maybe Mulder did too.
Their work had thrown them together, but now she felt they were a tightly knit unit, a team. Whatever difficulties they faced they would get through them together. And she prayed that one day, Alex would find love. Skinner too. There had to be someone for everyone. At least Scully wanted to believe that.