Always Near Sharks

by Griva

Rating: R
Pairing: M/K
Summary: a fill-in for many of Tunguska/Terma plot holes. Notes: this is dedicated to the beautiful city of St. Petersburg. The city, in which I like to think that Krycek was born in. I was always frustrated of those gaping plot holes in Tunguska/Terma eps. I would never in my life believe that the guys spent at least 12 hours flying and never talked? Come on! And that the just raced through the airport and jetted to Tunguska? Yeah right, our lusty, befuddled boys...
Deviation from canon: M/K from the 3rd day of partnership implied. Krycek didn't kill Bill Mulder and Mulder knows it.

HUGE thanks to Jynn for incredible beta.

Early October /1998
St Petersburg
Part 1
The city in front of them was alive and breathing fog. The river Neva under the Imperial bridge was St. Petersburg's coronary artery, its waters rolled smoothly, heavily in the concrete veins of the City.
"It's a breath-taking view. Especially that one red rostral column," Mulder squinted against another gush of salty, damp wind. He was looking at the grandiose column, the several hundred feet of water across from him. It was reminiscent of the architecture of Ancient Greece. A giant fire was burning on top of it. "You say this was originally built as beacons for ships navigating these waters?"
"Yeah," his companion said, leaning on the bridge rail. Mulder turned his head to the opposite direction, excitedly taking in another view. The Peter and Paul's Cathedral. It stood behind the fortification wall, its canons silenced for more than a century already. It was the cradle of the city - a small island in the Neva delta where in 1703 the first stones of the magnificent new capital of the Russian Empire had been founded.
"I wish we had time to visit the Fortress..." Mulder pointed at the gilded spire, raising to the clouds. On top of it a magnificent golden angel was holding a cross. "It's the burial place of all the Russian Emperors and Empresses from Peter the Great to the executed last Romanovs." "You don't get enough looking at tombs and corpses at work?" Krycek noted sarcastically. Mulder gave him a quick cutting look, and replied in a matching sarcastic tone: "Sometimes I wonder if you're familiar with the notions `cultural inheritance and aesthetic delight' at all. Or patriotism. "
"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons, Mulder." Before Mulder digested this fully and could choose a suitable facial expression, Krycek added morosely: " ...and this fortress was used as a political jail. The cells' walls are 3 feet thick". "You think Houdini could have gone through them?" Mulder inquired seriously. Krycek shrugged his question off, and that meant he didn't care. Mulder decided to ignore the younger man citing Bertrand Russel with intent. It's not only statistics that were Krycek's bizarre kick. He would often say something ad lib, unrehearsed, even when Mulder was not taunting or provoking him. All spoke to the fact that Krycek still tried to prove to Mulder his level of intellect. Mercilessly Mulder didn't hurry to reassure Krycek that he really didn't need to try so hard. The young man was smart, quick and since day two of their acquaintance Mulder intuited that his intern was more than he tried to seem. The accepted challenge to make him unfold like a complex origami piece eventually landed Mulder not quite where he had intended. "You say it's closed on Tuesdays? I'm still living in yesterday." Mulder pressed his palms to his eyes once. Lack of sleep, agitation and anticipation made him jittery, and a budding headache was annoying him. A 9 hour flight from DC to Frankfurt and then the 3 hour transfer to St. Petersburg was not a picnic, either. His neck still remembered the headrests, definitely not designed for humans.
"Blame the time zone shift," Krycek rubbed the corner of his eye and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket. He sounded a little bored, and observed from askance the other man's profile. Mulder was stuck on the bridge like a four year old in front of an elephant. Indeed, he brought the Agent to a point that gave the best panorama of the city and intended to wrap this tour quickly. But wherever Mulder looked, there was an architectural monument and a thing of beauty, even if it was a chunk of granite cat with a woman's head or a long, wrought iron fence with gilded top ornaments from Krycek's point of view. "And this is the Winter Palace, right? The residence of the Russian tzars since Peter The Great?" "Yep. It's now called the Hermitage..." Krycek commented nonchalantly, adjusting the collar of his thick, black turtleneck and then re-buttoning his jacket. Mulder took up the sight-seeing topic again wistfully, seemingly oblivious to the chill creeping under his half-open cashmere coat. "I'd probably need a week to see al of the galleries. I read that they have one of the largest French Impressionist collections in the world. And the famous Madonna Litta by Leonardo. Have you been there?"
Krycek rolled on the balls of his feet. His patience was running thin. "Mulder, my mother left the country when I was 5. I was too young to ramble through museum corridors."
"But you've returned to the country. They drafted you here". Now this went above the humor-him-he won't-punch program. The change of topic was visibly making Krycek tenfold more uncomfortable than Mulder flashing his knowledge and satisfying his sightseeing itch.
"Yes, but not to inspect museums." Krycek retorted crabbily. "When you find where that rock came from, take a vacation, Mulder. You can always book a flight and jet here for a month." Despite Krycek demonstrating all signs of his aggravation growing, Mulder led the conversation where he wanted.
"Won't be the same. I definitely won't be staying in a posh hotel with twin beds being charged 400 bucks per night." He taunted. The expected reaction immediately followed: "Did I ever complain I can't earn my living?" Krycek looked like he was touched to the quick. "I'm still trying to figure out what you do for a living." Mulder frowned. He couldn't help but comment this way. It must have been for the 20th time he probed for an answer, and for the 20th time Krycek didn't intend to settle the question. The younger man wore a "here we go again" grimace.
"Didn't we agree at JFK already that we have a deal? I needed to get out of the country. You needed to get to Russia. I rub yours, you rub mine." Mulder couldn't suppress a leer at this. A deal and a little get off on the side. This was Krycek's practical standard of life. And it could have been convenient, easy, if not for Krycek's ability to subject everything to his expedience. It used to infuriate Mulder. That was before he understood that it was another protection mechanism for how Krycek explained his own motifs. Since then Mulder had taken precious little notes that Krycek had his own uncomfortable moments and reactions he couldn't quite control. It was the stubborn, dangerous intent of being his own boss that Krycek determined to maintain, that drove Mulder nuts. And the smug attitude that was a true match for his own.
"Your sudden transformation into a loaded man rubs my nose into the fact that staying loyal to my country is an unprofitable business". "I wanted to sleep on something soft and warm for a change." Krycek deadpanned. His occupation as a double-agent had become a kind of inside joke between them. "You snore." In fact Krycek didn't, at least not as Mulder could recall, because when they did find themselves in one bed, Krycek was the last to fall asleep and the first to get up. And Mulder always thought he was a troubled, restless sleeper. "And your ribs poke in my side like rungs," Krycek was quick with his come back. "Just a little more uncomfortable than your hard ass," Mulder immediately retorted. "And since when is this considered my shortcoming?" The younger man parried. Damn, Krycek won the smartass contest. Mulder was not the connoisseur of cupcake, soft asses. His hand molded perfectly, familiarly into all that Krycek bore behind him with pride. Thus further bickering would be feigning that that impertinent ass was just one of Krycek's assets available to Mulder. And the man made it clear that he wasn't handing out his favors lightly. Not that Mulder himself was the catting-around type.
Mulder observed Krycek beaming with self-satisfaction as his ex-Junior braced himself against the rail. The younger man put up with Mulder's annoying habit of watching him, even when he wasn't directly staring. Mulder imagined it was an unsettling feeling, but how couldn't one like it? And it wasn't only because in close-up Krycek's face had a devastating effect on sexually active population of both genders, as Mulder presumed boldly. Krycek's presence was quiet and withdrawn when they were at cease-fire, almost unobtrusive, but he was here. Mulder categorized his gestures. Their body language was in sync. It was uncomfortable for Mulder to admit, but fascinating to realize that like with Scully, he and Krycek were close to establishing a body code of their own, of look-out signals, not-now shrugs, got-it nods and come-hither eyecontacts. Recalling Krycek's reactions to Mulder's more energetic private space intrusions made it even harder for Mulder to keep his interest on baroque palaces and sculptures of sphinxes and lions.
Mulder noticed Krycek squinting, then yawning in the cup of his palm, touching his lips once with his two fingers - apparently he wanted to have a smoke but he claimed he had stopped. Mulder had stopped a long, long time ago, with surprisingly little withdrawal discomforts. But he still fidgeted, and tended to put things in his mouth. Mulder still remembered the violent color rising on in his face when Krycek insolently noted his habit of sucking on pencils and chewing on Coke straws. No one was allowed to admit it aloud, except Mulder himself when he chose to. His secret kink was thus self-betrayed for the first time. At least Mulder found out soon enough that it was a shared fixation. And now the memory took his mind off the meteorite hunt. The taste of the other man's skin was salt and cream. And his semen was slightly tangy, like he was on a protein diet. The inside of Mulder's lower lip stung slightly, remembering the taste. Alex had sharp front teeth, and he would bite when Mulder wouldn't do what he wanted him to, faster or harder.
Great. He was back to calling the punk Alex again, if only in his head. Krycek was forgiven and on probation, but nothing was forgotten. He needed to watch his tongue to make sure he didn't slip. But then, Mulder wasn't guiltless himself, at least not to the point of complete self-denial. In a mix up of feelings he threw caution to the wind. It was his luck Scully was too upright to suspect that he couldn't keep his hands off Krycek in public only because of his righteous ire. What altitude her raised brow would reach if Scully guessed that he secured a man wanted nationwide a safe passage out of the States because he seriously believed that Krycek might not survive even one night in a police station cell while Mulder was chasing space-rocks in Russia. So far he didn't regret that he didn't come alone a single moment. Finding himself in another country was liberating. Mulder could feel Krycek's nearness like a slow hot wind on his skin, making him tingle. Their hands rested almost palm to palm on the rail. "Anyway, I should thank you for the tour." after another minute of gazing at the former Russia's Emperor's Palace across the way, Mulder turned his attention to his sullen companion. He touched Krycek's gloved wrist lightly. A piece of white gauze was a stark contrast with black leather. "Did that analgesic help?"
"Is it the wet climate or what? You go all soft on me?" Krycek squinted suspiciously, then looked away too quickly for it to be just the wind. "With both hands you can cover your ass yourself." Mulder cracked, but added to discharge the tension in the air, unfavorable to him. "And I thought I demonstrated to you I was sorry just three hours ago". Mulder was surprised to hear how gentle he sounded. He wanted to add in all possible non-verbal ways. He should, however, remember that he let Alex fuck his face and would make him return the favor one day. This day. The sooner the better... "Yeah, right." With feigned concentration Krycek was studying passer-bys, some strolling, some hurrying on toward their own business. "Save it Mulder, apologetic doesn't suit you. And I don't want your excuses. You handed me off without stepping onto Skinner's porch. Your Daddy left me to freeze my balls off for the entire night. It's just another time you weren't there". More than just a string was tweaked inside the older man in the offhand tone. And since when was Skinner his Daddy in Krycek's eyes? "Oh yeah, I should have known you have a fear of heights!" Mulder obviously was trying to let it pass. His lips were in a parody of a smirk, that didn't quite reach his eyes. If Krycek only knew how he hated to go through all this again. Because among many unpredictable things with Krycek, where they would end the argument was very predictable: a dead-end of another pointless argument.
Krycek wasn't finding any part of this funny. "What?" he asked unkindly. "You're not in the ogling little tourist mode any more?"
Mulder sighed, winding up. "Oh, don't tell me I didn't try to disregard this. It's just this incredible way you have of turning things around to reflect how you feel. Fuck everybody else." Krycek turned to look at him slowly. "I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that." But Mulder had already flared up, picking up the fight. For just for how long did Krycek expect Mulder would let him get away with browbeating? "Pretending. Thank you for reminding me. That seems to be something that you excel in." Seeing Krycek taking a deep breath to counter, Mulder hurried to cut him off: "Should we revisit the old times again? That during the month of our partnership you got under my skin and then screwed everything and anyone in every way possible. And then you dumped me in the middle of Scully missing. OK, I justified it by you trying to protect me at Skyland and that you were indeed, afraid of not passing the lies detector and then either me or the Smoker locking you up. You said you needed time and you would be inside for me. Right. You surfaced right after Cardinale shot my father, justified it by caring about my safety while my judgment was impaired. You said you had something to secure your release. The DATtape. You promised to get out as soon as possible when you left after the funeral. What, took a wrong turn on your way back? You were gone for months!" Mulder made an effort not to poke his finger in Krycek's chest, who stood unmoving and grim.
"What comes next...oh yeah! I end up staring down your gun in some hole in Hong Kong! You claim you're on your own, but you are still involved in criminal activities on an international level. You feed me shit and I must act like I want another helping? When all I want is to haul your enigmatic, buck-less ass back to the States, you manage to catch an alien virus, or so you claim!"
"For being such a rabid believer in little green men you sure do demonstrate a striking skepticism on that last point." Finally managing to put in his five cents, Krycek's eyes went so dark that if Mulder had paid more attention apart from sputtering his pique, he might have noticed the signs that his rant destabilized the younger man and would only raise his defenses to an impenetrable level now. But it hurt so good, to remind himself that here was a man whose fuck-ups outdid Mulder's own.
"Well, I have my grounds, right? Looks like there is yet another universal conspiracy that prevents you from turning to the path of being a righteous citizen, despite my offered assistance."
"There is".
Mulder rolled his eyes,
"It's hopeless. It's never your fault. It seems like you're only there for me when either it's convenient for you, or when you've got nothing else to do, nowhere else to be. Sure. Fine. Whatever. At least I enjoy the mutual rubbing". Mulder ended bitterly and stared at the leaden waters. He wanted to spit in them. Fuck, how could this have deteriorated so quickly? But then being around Krycek made every hour a roller coaster ride. Or swimming in dangerous waters. Dark and bottomless, like the heavy, ever-changing mass under the bridge. Who knew if there were monsters or sharks there?
He had tried to give it up. He didn't need Krycek in his life. No, not in this life. Scully was what he needed, even if they would forever remain best partners. Even though sometimes when he was around her, minutes crawled like snails. Her hands were too gentle and small and too much of her sweet perfume wanted him to open the window. And with all of his rich, unhinged, debauched imagination he couldn't imagine what the timbre of her voice saying "I want you" would be like. Alex's reverberated through his body. Heavy with desire, sucking in air between none-too-gentle thrusts and fingers tangled in his hair. After a moment, when Krycek stopped studiously studying the spires on the fort drowning in mist, he spat an old accusation, jerking Mulder out of his pondering. "Dakota changed a lot, Mr Right. You left me to die there..." "I didn't!" Mulder's voice rang. His inner limit of patience had been reached. This was a punch below the belt. How quickly the bastard had him justifying himself! He pushed his unruly fringe out of his eyes, turned and started walking down the bridge, in long strides. His back was rigid with indignation. Krycek followed and caught up in 5 steps. "Astoria is the opposite way".
Mulder made an abrupt 180 degree turn, nearly jumping into a passing woman, and kept walking, ranting:
"I thought you were dead. Now that's one grand accusation! The Brit made no secret your breach of loyalty deserved terminal measures. I thought...I hoped..." His treacherous throat spasmed for just a second, and he was full to the brim with conflicting emotions. Their jagged edges were hurting in his chest. His fists clenched in his coat-pockets, Mulder wanted to punch someone, something. He took a deep breath, relieved that Krycek kept a safe distance of a step and a half behind his back and thus possibly didn't notice the grimace of frustration at his lack of selfcontrol.

"You don't believe me, still, that it was an alien?" Krycek's voice and face once again had that same reactive cast that had Mulder itching all over with the desire to push Alex against a row of payphones.
"I don't know what to believe around you. I need a touchstone. A firm bottom to jump in the water with sharks, swim and know I'll come back to firm ground again." Mulder didn't know why he was fixed on a shark and swimming metaphor today. Maybe because there was too much water in the city. Or perhaps it was because Jaws summed up all his swimmer's fears. Mulder waited long enough for Krycek to disprove him, but waited in vain. What did he expect, he bitterly noted. He was relieved, too. Mulder couldn't estimate the effect on his sensibilities if Krycek started assuring him of devotion and possible concealed feelings. "Who was the bigger coward", his inner voice smirked bitingly. To make himself feel better, Mulder decided to finish re-counting his claims against Krycek. He muttered as if to himself, but loud enough for Krycek to hear, "Half a year passes, and not a single fucking word! Well, nothing lasts forever. Fine, everybody leaves. No regrets. Then you start sending me little fucking notes from dial K-for-bombers! And shoot the guy in the face before I can open the truck door!"
"You saw the bomb in the warehouse. He was a terrorist. One of them. " "That's no excuse for what you've done," Mulder stated vehemently. At least the younger man never argued his methods for solving problems were acceptable. "I know. But what I've done is no excuse for what you've done later," Krycek answered in perfect verse. "Or the fact that you enjoyed it. That shit kicking discipline lesson you had to drag me to Skin for."
"I never meant it that way." Mulder sounded unmoved, because he predicted Krycek would not easily forget the warm welcome of last night. "And said he didn't touch you any more". It was hard to remain unperturbed thinking of all the possible ways Skinner could have paid Krycek back. Outwardly, there was only one nasty bruise under Krycek's solar plexus. But then, he was too far gone in presenting his apologies to check everywhere. Mulder gave a quick glance back towards Krycek, checking for any sign of emotion that would reveal Skinner's actions. "Good for him he hadn't tried," Krycek frowned, making his lips were a thin line, the angry knot between his brows betraying his distress. Conveniently to Mulder they were walking along the embankment now and Mulder plopped onto one of the damp iron benches. Better to sit and talk than attracting more attention from the people around them by a their conspicuous quarrel. "I couldn't let you stay at my place without rising suspicions. Where should I have lodged you? The police station so that they could ask for your IDs and check the nationwide database? Scully's?"
"At least she doesn't have a balcony," Krycek hissed. "She has a tiny closet she keeps her medical gadgets in," Mulder blurted wryly, but sensing Krycek was gathering his wits for a backlash, continued attacking hastily. "...and while I ploughed through diplomatic trenches, you did what? Protect your territory? I came back to another dead body that a little birdie dropped down!" "You ploughed through what trenches? " Now it was Krycek's eyes that shot jade lightning. Mulder looked at him in incomprehension for a moment: "What are you accusing me of?" Mulder wanted to sound menacing, but ended up suspiciously snappish. The way Krycek was staring at him intently, almost x-raying, was ruinous to his reasonable inner guard. Dead-pan, low key, unaffected - from day one Krycek was had been eating away like an acid at the facade that made his life livable. And when Mulder let some of Krycek in, his life became seriously out of control, his reactions disorderly and passions of the flesh uncontrollable.
"Nothing," Krycek looked away. Mulder would bet his eight signature neckties that the bastard chewed down a smirk. What did he miss again? That Krycek would be jealous of that blonde with the unpronounceable last name? It was below Muder's dignity to explain that he wasn't interested in a such smug icicle pussy, even if wrapped in blue silk. Mulder's self-worth needed a little redress. Or what, the punk starts presuming he can send him up without there being any back-fire?
"Lucky for you that I've snatched you from Walter's place before he fell on your duplicitous ass in full choke-hold mode!" At his justification, Krycek's frown only deepened, his naturally smoky voice dropped impossibly as he repeated, "Walter's?"
""You got away with murder. Two, actually." That Mulder actively assisted Krycek thereof apparently the other man took for granted. In awe, a weak voice that usually was Mulder's fanfare of conscience, piped that it indeed bothered Mudler just a little. "If that thug killed me, that would have assuaged your conscience?" Did Krycek just read his thoughts, Mulder bit the inside of his already chewed cheek. "You still haven't told me who that guy was!" Mulder jumped topics again. "I don't know his name! I should have asked? He wanted to kill me. What would you do?" Protection of own life was the final, impenetrable argument when it came to Krycek's motivation.
Krycek used the exasperated pause while Mulder looked furiously for a retort to put in a word to stress his favor.
"If not for me and my company, you'd still be stuck in Frankfurt, numbing your ass on those sticky chairs. Or questioned by German police, trying to prove your untouchable identity". Indeed, on this Mulder had nothing to counter. Some jerk had tried to pinch his wallet in the Frankfurt airport bustle. He didn't even get to see that asshole's face, as he stood by the Coke vending machine, someone pushing him in the back none too gently. When Mulder turned to look, Krycek was handing him his own wallet and telling him to keep his eyes open. He wasn't in Kansas any more. Without his credit card they wouldn't make it far. Looked like Krycek could get access to his own cash only safely within mother Russia. Krycek also managed to find an immediate charter flight to St. Petersburg since all of the major companies' flights were booked into next week. Mulder couldn't help but agree that Krycek made things happen. Positive wasn't exactly Krycek's middle name, but whoever he was working for, he made a very efficient operative.
Once again, Mulder felt was overwhelmed by a feeling of pointlessness at their squabbling. Like he was wasting something precious on trifles. Seesawing sawdust, going in beaten circles. If he wanted to remain the wise guy in the pair, maybe he should just stop it. Whether it was his reason or heart or self-esteem talking, Mulder bit on the inside of his cheek and fell silent with determination.
Krycek would either say something to the point or return the silence. Mulder already knew that the man could go for an hour without talking, just listening to him. Nonetheless Mulder hardly remembered so much being heard since Sam's wide-eyed older chatter-brother adoration. And just being there with him, with or without a boner, beat chasing liver-eating monsters in DC sewage or Blissbox adult entertainment. Even frustrated or angry, Mulder couldn't stop studying his companion when he looked at him for more than six seconds in a row. The unthoughtful, spiteful remark about the unfitting crew cut made him cringe as Krycek's unemotional, matter of fact statement surfaced in his memory. /It was leaving burns. The substance. The oil. I had to shave the hair off. Four fingernails went too, and I couldn't hold any food in for a week./ The visuals, despite his rich professional experience, sent goose-bumps up his forearms. But Krycek, Mulder thought with relief, seemed to have fully recovered his looks otherwise. He didn't either look emaciated or needy. The plain, dark yet pricey clothes Krycek had immediately changed into when they landed, even if it was for a day, made him look older than he was. Barely 33 years old and already drafted by foreign security in three countries. It escaped Mulder's imagination how Krycek managed to accomplish this. If he was the same Junior he had been partnered with for four weeks before shit hit the fan. Or was he a shape-shifter? What kept Mulder sane and hooked to reality was that both impersonations of Krycek had the same manner of sexual behavior. Or he'd start seriously doubting his sanity.
Krycek, who sat observing the seagulls sauntering along the riverbank, spoke as suddenly as he at times vowed silence, which was amusing seeing that it was impossible to make him talk when he had taken such a vow, even if Mulder acted with the whip and carrot method. "Mulder, you hate watching me pretend. Well, you have to accept who I am. Either decide or we drop this association before one of us gets killed." "If you accept who I am, you know how hard it is for me, accept or take what you say on faith"". "Yes." Krycek conceded. "But then there is no need for you to insist and lie openly that you can change or influence me. If that's how you cope, then do it quietly, all to yourself'. Mulder was appalled by the absence of his own reaction at Krycek voicing what he tried so hard to hide. The words rang between them. The buzz of the city was drowned by the gravity of the statement.
"Some day I'd break through to the other side." Krycek said grimly, with conviction. "Do you seriously belief in this self-deceit?" Mulder asked, cheerlessly. "Do you believe you'll find the indisputable Truth?" Krycek parried bluntly. "Yes," Mulder answered firmly. "That's the reason that keeps me going. Why I wake up every morning". Mulder answered evenly, ignoring the obvious provocation. Invitation to the old, pointless discussion of whose side of the fence was the right one. And whether the ends justified the means.
"Then let me have my own reasons to wake up in the morning," Krycek stated, in an undemanding tone, yet with finality. Both men looked at each other. It was either stop-and-shutup, or go their different ways. Before the long, dangerous trip Mulder had to put aside at least some of his doubts and holier-than-though veneer that Krycek couldn't tolerate. He didn't trust the man, but he wanted so much to that it was hard to breathe. And a bright, aching flame of hope lit inside Mudler again. So, maybe everything wasn't so lost, and after they find where the rock came from, there was a chance that Krycek could break the circle and... What then? The come back to the States where Alex will have to negate serious charges. If they let him make to the court room. Mulder couldn't even start gathering arguments to explain to Scully why he considered that Krycek wasn't a hardened criminal and irredeemable immoral bastard.
By the looks of him Alex saw no happy endings here. He didn't look as cocky and self-confident now, eyes fixed on his hands locked together. His shoulders were drooped. Through the short, bristly hair on Alex' s neck Mulder could see the vulnerable hollow under his nape. The urge to put his arm around Alex was so strong Mulder had to put his hands in his pockets. "It's getting dark," Mulder noted. The moisture finally seeped through the thick pricey wool of his coat. It was a little past 5 pm, but the overcast sky was killing the day. Back in DC the Indian summer still lingered, but here he could already smell winter in the air. The wind was whipping his face now. The weather was very changeable in this city that stood facing the Finnish Gulf. "And I'm getting really hungry," Krycek got up and motioned towards Mulder. Without words, he understood that the relationship argument was exhausted for now. "Forget about those tiny caviar snobbish pancakes. Ever tasted sauerkraut soup and authentic Beef Stroganov?" Go with the flow, Mulder told himself. Trust your instincts but watch him. So he would let Krycek play the host again. Alex managed perfectly on his native turf and Mulder was ready for gastronomic experiments. Also, he wanted to take an aspirin to get rid of the headache and unwind a little, by whatever means available. What lay ahead was unknown. They were just within a two minute walk away from the Astoria Grand Hotel, the imposing building built in the beginning of the century. "Will you stop doing that?"
"What?" Krycek asked frankly.
"Opening doors for me," Mulder pushed through, Krycek followed to the elevator. Krycek arched his brow artfully. He almost managed to achieve the same effect as Scully. If he knew what effect his little playful mimics had on Mulder. "You know how it looks".
"Why are you worried? You're not queer." This was on of their fuck-buddies inside jokes from the moment they woke up naked beside Mulder's couch, neither of them remembering who'd lost the smart-ass contest or who had initiated the grab-ass of the previous night out after Cole's untimely demise. Krycek didn't mind in the least that he was involved with his Senior Agent who in fact was only 2 and a half years older. He wanted more of the same of what Mulder didn't remember delivering, but he was a big boy enough to guess. Sure, he would let Krycek have a demonstration to refresh his memory.
Krycek made the sex easy, no strings attached, hush-hush and hot as hell. But soon Mulder who always wanted the Moon, realized it wasn't enough. This was another painful topic they hadn't discussed and Mulder found it harder to ignore. Up to a point. Mulder didn't want more than a smart partner and a good lay. He got very lucky. He could work and fuck in circles, and all he demanded was within a quick grab. That familiar masculine body with its familiar needs and mechanisms. But Krycek was too good, too big a prize for the payback not to be a bitch. It was a trap, laid with velvet and barbed wire. Whenever Mulder decided to put a stop to it, almost forgetting his adversary with all the stringalongs, Krycek would surface and ask for it. Behaving unbearably, with that brash, groinbursting attitude. And when Krycek was aloof or grumpy, Mulder immediately sought tangible proof that he still had an effect on him. Nice, he pushed Krycek's buttons, but was rather helpless to resist when Krycek did the same.
Like this morning, Mulder needed a confirmation he still had a physical sway on Alex. He was prepared - no, he hoped - for a crude rebuff or even some punches thrown when he made the first move after they managed to get some sleep after the wearisome flight. But Krycek accepted him on his words of regret that Mulder was too angry and never intended to hurt the other man, apart from shoving him around. Then, out of his clothes, Alex was the same: scorching, brazen and beautiful. So good that Mulder realized that maybe it was better for him that Alex came and went. Or he wouldn't be able to take much of this. And he fucked as if every time was his last time. It could be another common point. Maybe Krycek kept making some inner resolution and kept breaking it, every time they met. Maybe Krycek was part of his Truth, daring and always distant. And it terrified Mulder. In the elevator Krycek whispered in Mulder's ear, his face was blank, "Stop trying to look so damn Senior. You get pissed when you fail. Better remember you're just one set of hot Pouty-Lips I can't resist." As they were in the presence of an elderly couple Mulder maintained gigantic efforts at not reacting to and grabbing Krycek's insolent, cheeky ass.

part 2
Next morning
ca 11:30 am.
The morning started for Mulder with a loud click of the door. He opened his eyes into the crumpled pillowcase, spread on his stomach, one arm over the bed edge, touching the floor. He flopped like a heavy salmon onto his back, squinting against the bright light streaming from the open velvet curtains. Damn, how much did he oversleep? Someone was standing by the bed.
"I'm up, Scu..." Mulder caught himself saying, his memory too slow on the uptake. Scully was safely left behind the ocean, by now probably fuming like an Icelandic geyser. He looked up at Krycek, who surveyed him with vivid interest, looking fresh as a cucumber. He was a dark figure in the overall bright, beige furnishings of the room. "What time is the plane to Krasnoyarsk?" Mulder asked trying to sound business-like. "4:30 p.m."
"And now..." Mulder strained to see the pseudo-18th century clock on the opposite wall. One of his eyes wouldn't open. He rubbed his face vigorously. "Almost midday, sonya."
"What?" The bad thing about having a bi-lingual cohort was that he could call you incomprehensible names behind your back. "Sleepy head. Anyone ever tell you that when you've made some good whoopee and had better food than instant noodles, you sleep like a baby?" "No. They usually don't live on till morning." Mulder commented morbidly. Good whoopee? All he intended was just a little ease up after and before a wearying journey. "Oh, am I the first to surprise you then?" "Stop nosing in my bed-sheets, okay?"
"Technically, these are my bed-sheets." Krycek took off his jacket, threw it on the other unmade bed and came to sit besides it. It must have been warmer outside today, for he was wearing only a black tee underneath.
Mulder sat up, looking around. He could see his shoes by the door, but nothing else to put on. Now, was this another plot to mortify him? Krycek knew better than to test his luck when Mulder wasn't in the mood.
"Where are my clothes, then? Was I forcing you to put me into your bed?" By the manner in which Krycek's eyes sparked he was amused either remembering or imagining such a course of action.
"No, but I did my best to keep you off the streets and guide you back into it. You wanted to go watch the bridges raise, and I didn't want us to end up being taken in for indecent behavior. We're not in Amsterdam or even NY."
Now, Mulder didn't want to remember NY. It would always go together with confessing his secret kink and Krycek offering assistance to try a few breath control exercises. Despite Mulder not at once coming to his senses and claiming he did indeed see the light at the end of death's dark tunnel, Alex never ever allowed Mulder to touch his own throat afterwards. No wonder Mulder was now faintly embarrassed for he didn't remember anything past Krycek going through the Russian specialty drinks menu after they had had a sumptuous supper. As if to aggravate his uneasiness more, Krycek reminded him, "You know, I wasn't about to let you be just anybody's for the night. I had to use some force." Did he? Mulder' s memory was a black hole. At least it was apparent he didn't go far as to offer a lap dance to anyone. And too bad he didn't see how far Krycek went unleashing force for his sake.
"If you were smarter, you wouldn't remind me of that." Still, Krycek chose the worst moment to demonstrate to Mulder that he was possessive. Under other circumstances Mulder would have filed this remark with deep satisfaction. The cheeky bastard just sat there, beaming. Mulder sulked silently for another minute. By god, it must have been a smoking place. He reeked. But the bed felt too good for a change to leave it. It felt even better not to sleep alone for two nights in a row. His body remembered the other's man presence through half of the night, then a vague absence in the morning hours. It was apparent that they didn't have sex. If he was able to fuck Krycek, then he wasn't so drunk as to not be able to remember it. If he let Krycek top, which he did from time to time, unable to resist the self-indulgence, the younger man would fuck him to ten voiceless pieces of ecstasy, memorable too. In both cases all extremities involved in the process would be a living remembrance, the residue of pleasure and muscular ache in the morning after. "If you weren't so bitchy by nature, you wouldn't deny what we both know is your weak spot," Krycek noted belatedly, but pointedly. Krycek leered. What did Mulder miss after all? It wasn't like Alex was above taking advantage of his intoxication to get off. It had happened before, when Mulder was mellow or distressed enough for Krycek to do whatever he wanted, get him into the hotel room, into the bed ... Yet now there was no gloat or spite in Krycek. "Thank you for guarding my virtue..." Mulder had to make sure he got the last word in. Mulder couldn't help but uneasily grin in reply. He was a shitty drinker. "Mulder, you should be placed more often into unfamiliar settings. You're fun to go out with. And it gives you a healthy glow to your complexion." Looked like Krycek was in the mood to perk him up. It had the opposite effect. "What did I do?" Mulder asked warily. Damn, where indeed were his clothes?" "We went across the street for a drink. You offered." "I remember that." Mulder blurted crabbily. "You were donning Smirnoff shots like you haven't had a drink for a decade."
"You only had two. But they were good ones." Mulder pressed a palm to his forehead and groaned. "Oh shit, after my beers? What made me?" "You said you wanted to taste the horseradish vodka." Now this was no surprise. The study of unknown chemical substances. His investigative nature took an upper hand once again. "No wonder I feel like a horse kicked me in the head. Could you...please...order me a coffee? Two sugars..."
"... no cream. You know, you've said this to me hundreds of times." "Don't bullshit me." Experiencing memory gaps, he was no match for Krycek's mind games. Mulder finally located his Levis and socks under the bed, bending over its edge. He must have been giving Krycek a full ass-shot, but nudity wasn't a big issue any more between them. "OK, this is the twenty seventh time." Krycek got up and relocated himself to the armchair near the table with a phone. His color was high, hands behind his back, face wistful, apparently conspiring.
Mulder opened his mouth to counter, then gulped down a smirk. This could have been true. Was the other man indeed counting their times together? "Now, how about you tell me, where have you been?" Mulder inquired suspiciously, extracting himself from under the duvet.
"I went downstairs for breakfast. Then to the Aeroflot agency down the street, picked up our tickets. You looked like one in need of a good shut-eye." "You took my passport?" Mulder meant you went through my pockets? Krycek tensed in the armchair he was splayed in. Mulder still surveyed the younger man suspiciously. "Drop it, will you? I haven't been sneaking around behind your back." Not trying Krycek's patience, Mulder huffed something to himself and went to the bathroom, dragging his clothes behind him.
Good half an hour later, he came back, feeling if not as good as new, but at least better smelling and with clean teeth, Alex was standing by the window, surveying the view on the Palace Square. Mulder's coffee and a setting of breakfast were on the table. Even after his rejuvenating shower, the bed Mulder couldn't recall having tumbled into yesterday was made smoothly. "Is it...discreet that they clean up while we are here?" "Oh, come on. This room costs so much they'd hardly give a second thought if we've messed up one bed or two. They're hard to shock." Mulder noticed something off in the tone of Krycek's voice when he made this comment. The way his body language seemed tense, Mulder' s mind removed from being paranoid about the room service staff. What he could sense that what was bothering Alex was beyond Mulder being concerned of strangers disapproval of men having sex together. "Is something else wrong?" Mulder asked, stirring his sugar. "Are you going to nag me like a housewife?" Mulder frowned, trying to put on his jeans without putting down his coffee. If Krycek was whipping himself over something, it was safer for Mulder if he found out what it was. But he wasn't going to play mommy to Alex with such replies. When Mulder had stopped expecting any explanations, Krycek spoke, "I had a dream last night. I didn't know where I was. It was dark everywhere. I couldn't see anything but a fire burning far away. But I couldn't make it to it, however hard I tried. They came after me and then I'd been mangled. Torn apart by invisible monsters." Alex confided in a hushed voice.
"Oh, I thought that was my nightmare." Mulder tried to make light of the vulnerability he sensed underneath the softly spoken words. It was unlike Krycek and he didn't know if he should take it seriously or not.
"Sharks. At least I think they were. I couldn't move, they were all over me, and when I looked down, the upper left part of my body was gone." Krycek looked at his part of the body in question.
"It's just indigestion. Too much alcohol." There was a long moment of silence between them. Mulder's cup was empty and his stomach heaved contemplating toast and eggs. He had nothing else to distract himself from trying to cheer up Krycek.
"Yeah, sounds like a bitch," Mulder said eventually, sympathetically. At the sound of his voice, as if it helped him to make some inner decision, Alex turned around, speaking vehemently,
"Listen, Mulder. You could go back. You know now the Russians are aware of the ET virus. Maybe they are experimenting, too. On whom, how... We don't know where we are going. I don't know. That's not ... not my area of business." "What is your area? International terrorism? Cross-continental spying? Bisexual seduction?" Mulder uttered bitterly. He separated immediately that he could go back. Not we. What did he expect? Krycek demonstrated he felt at home here. And apparently whoever his employers were, they were not US based.
Alex didn't answer. He turned away again and stood, staring blindly outside. Obviously, he had no wish to close the distance. Right, it was time for Mulder to work on Krycek' s motivation. Mulder's stomach fell fluttering, before he was even halfway across the room. That last time between them, half a day ago, had been precious, and now he was glad that he'd treasured it as well, as quietly as he had, because the composed aloofness in Krycek' poise informed him in no uncertain terms that they weren't about to pick up where they'd left off. He kept moving anyway. He had to. There was something here for him, something he'd been looking for without even knowning it; and if Krycek needed him to kneel on the floor in supplication before they could go off somewhere to chase another phantom, well; then that's what he'd do. Mulder, still clad only in his jeans and undershirt, came to a standstill behind the younger man. "You promised." Silence. The younger man watched the mist of his breath on the window. "Alex," Mulder said poignantly, his hands moving uselessly as if he wanted to hug himself. The other man was indeed going through a heavy spell of doubts. Mulder couldn't believe that his onoff lover could demonstrate such vulnerability, being thrown off balance by a nightmare. Their needs were opposing, but fears - the same. It was too eerie and unsettling to contemplate when hung-over.
But he could act. The more on the spur, the franker, usually had some effect on Krycek. Mulder put his chin on Krycek's shoulder, his hands going around the younger man's waist. "Yes, it's dangerous. But I need to go there. I need to see the place of the crash. Who knows what lies there."
"Nothing but trouble. You can find more of them without involving me." Mulder could. If there were awards given for finding troubles, only Krycek could compete with him for the first place.
"I'm asking you." Mulder made it sound exclusive. He was used to demanding and taking without asking or ignoring protests than to simply ask. "You often do when we are together."
Mulder smirked against his will.
"You do, too. Don't blink the topic. Fuck talk is...different." Mulder couldn't make himself say fuck talk doesn't count. His own insincerity had its rigid limits. "The lowest level of importance, huh?" Now, what was Krycek getting at? Mulder kissed the back of his nape, his hands stroking the younger man's chest, upward. Alex smelt like spilled, sun heated oil. Krycek shook his head and stopped the roaming hand. "Don't."
So, it wasn't about sex. Suddenly, Mulder found himself standing in a mine-field. He wasn't usually the one to make allowances for Krycek. "Please Alex. Don't make me beg you. I can go alone, but I don't want to any more. You said I'd need you, you win. I do need you."
Anger flashed through Krycek's eyes as he looked over his shoulder. "Yes, you need me so fucking much? What about what I need?" Now this was a quick turn-around.
"But yesterday you said you were fine..." Mulder shrugged, sincerely bewildered. "How has that changed by just this morning?"
"Consider the little scum-sucking double-spy believing in portent dreams." Alex cut frostily. Mulder pondered this a little, but kept his arms locked around Krycek's waist, as if to let go he would jump out of the window. Then the bulb went on in his head. "You' re afraid that that oily thing will get you again?" A shudder went through the other man.
"I will do anything to keep it off me." Ah, so there was the snag - the experience of being possessed Mulder still had a doubt Krycek faked. Mulder wanted to reassure Alex again and clap him cordially on the shoulder as a sign of being over this, before the meaning of what the other man said - I will do anything... - fully donned on him.
"Meaning?" Mulder wanted to sound intimidating, but there was a tremor in his tone. All of a sudden, Krycek turned within the confinement of his arms and they were standing face to face. Mulder could feel how tightly strung the other man was, like a piano string. For a second Mulder pictured that Krycek was ready to hide his face on his chest. Only imagining this buoyed not only his confidence.
But instead Krycek put his left hand on Mulder's chest. He was visibly uncomfortable that Mulder confined his personal space when he was not feeling quite himself. "Don't make me choose. Just...don't."
Not disposed to poetic metaphors with such a heavy head, nonetheless Mulder felt like a pair of heavy wings were unfolding behind his back. He wasn't alone in doubt. In pain. Torn not by monsters living in his head, but because he wasn't able to choose from what he needed and wanted, or give up any of the highs, thrills and pleasures Krycek could be the source of. "Not going to happen." Mulder assured him. He let the other man go, stepping slightly back, propping himself against the window sill. But Krycek's words were echoing in his mind even as he felt the other man relax a little. He could have objected, started another argument on Krycek's loyalty to him, but he reminded himself, again and again, that he indeed didn't know what it felt like to be possessed by an alien substance. Being mind-wiped himself sucked, but at least nothing alive has ever slithered through his brains or his other body cavities. But Krycek had a striking difficulty coping. "Oh, God, Mulder... I'm so scared." Krycek's voice was a breathy growl, the tremor of terror raising goose-bumps on Mulder's bare arms. Krycek held one arm around his neck, slightly bending, as if experiencing a stomach ache. His other hand held still against his belly, up under the cotton where his skin was bare and taut as a drum. Mulder could almost feel his own fingers splayed there, across a line of tickling hair and the mark of appendicitis scar tissue. One-track minded he wasn't, but it was harder and harder to keep his mind off his skin. Comfort sex? Duh, Mulder wasn't a pro in this field. But when Alex reached out and put his right arm around his neck, Mulder quivered all over. Alex looked up. Amazing viridescent eyes, lashes like smudges of kohl. With intention or not, Alex knew his best weapon when it came to appealing/disarming. Mulder remembered the first time Alex looked at him like this, as they stood studying the monitors in the train station security office.
/I told you, I want to believe. But I need a place to start./ Mulder didn't want to like the Rookie at the time. That spooky and rookie rhymed was a strong warning to avoid cutting the distance by even an inch. But they liked each other anyway. To hell with everyone else.
Mulder's own reactions to turning to his ex-partner for support and solace were beyond his control. Fuck if he wasn't taken aback at such a turn of tables, at Krycek being so defenseless. It was a guilty wet dream and understandable when he was the geeky Junior, but not this darker, self-reliant, reticent man who had committed at least two state treasons. The man whom you could punch and have him bleed, but he'd only growl or cuss in response. Even when he was submitting, in public or in bed, Mulder never knew if it wasn't an imitation. Mulder's heart pounded and his hands were around Krycek's back stroking him softly. The swelling in his cock was an intrusion that Mulder wanted to go away. It felt right simply to be with Alex like that. This was not quite the time for sex; it was a whole multitude of issues he promised to sort out and always put off because searching for the Truth interfered. It kept him awake most nights when he wasn't too wiped to think or too troubled by his own memories and losses. Indeed, he wasn't queer. He was bewitched. /Self-deception is an amazing defense mechanism,/ he thought. /It can make you believe the most impossible things./ And then the spell was over.
"Now, you must be happy," Krycek seemed to be back to his usual self. He didn't make a move to break free completely from the embrace, but his eyes were narrowed, judging how much of what he just demonstrated Mulder was ready to use against him. He tapped unconsciously into an impromptu saying that hit Mulder:
"What is happy, eh? Society projects ideas of what happiness is and how it should be defined. Which in turn influences people's choices and plays on their insecurities." "Whoa," Krycek mumbled as if stunned, but the corner of his mouth lifted in a tiny smile. Alex, too, knew some of Mulder's little self-absorbed ways. And he was not into continuing the philosophical debate with Mulder. But things were looking up. When Alex smiled like this - as if to himself only - that was authentic. For the public he would grin, smirk or show his teeth. He could snarl too.
"You caught me a little off my own guard," Mulder's hand slid from Krycek's shoulder to his elbow. "I'm really...possessive of my own swimming phobias." "One paranoid hunka burning lover you are." Mulder took a second and deeper breath to gather his wits and gauge the importance of Krycek's choice of words. It was the first time ever Krycek pronounced anything with the root love. He loved white chocolate, black leather and a cacophonic band named Prodigy. But never before Mulder heard him projecting this feeling on a human.
"You really think I don't give a shit what happens to you?" "What are you trying to prove to me now?" Mulder must have overdone it with sentiments, Krycek eyes were hot and wary. He looked the same in the afterglow. When all Mulder wanted was to fall asleep, unless he would say something under that smoldering look that he could only whisper to himself, on the darkest, loneliest evenings. Feeding on memories and Buds they used to share after a quickie, up against the wall of their first coupling of the short summer night. /I trust you. And trust myself what I presume you must be feeling towards me. Please let go. No. Please don't. Go. Ever./ Krycek's face was an eyelash distance close. Shit. Mulder panicked, as the appeal simmered through his head. This was what he would say to Scully. Eventually. Right.
But he had to say something to Krycek. "Alex," Mulder said, "I don't know where this will take us. I don't even know what this is that keeps us together." It wasn't coming out like he wanted it to, but it didn't feel wrong, either. Mulder hurried before he chickened out. And this didn't happen often. "Not to mention if it's even right or wrong. And even though I don't know exactly what that can bring us, I can't let my fear keep me from finding out."
God damnit, he lost his own thought! He was talking in charades and hated it. Alex's hand squeezed his, then released it. Mulder could feel his heat as they slid closer together. Alex's face closed in on his. Old habit would make him want to turn away, to jump up and move to a safer distance - the distance he'd always kept between them in self-preservation, immediately when they were out of bed. But this time Mulder held his ground. Alex Krycek needed him. His support. This felt exhilarating.
It was predictable and axiomatic that Krycek kissed him, distracting himself from the rest of his own doubts and fears. Mulder was distracted too. He communicated his amazement, mouth asking is this what you were expecting, Alex answering without words yes, no, better, and wordlessly they said other things, tongues careful for a while then rough and greedy, until Mulder flipped Alex over on his back and struggled partly up, got his tee over his head, and rocked against him a moment, breathing harshly. "Yeah," Alex said huskily, twisting as their hands interwove at crotch level, "yeah." He whispered his pleasure and Mulder looked over his shoulder calculating rapidly how much time they still had.
"So, I hope you have a plan," Mulder said. He needed confirmation before they get completely non-verbal. He nuzzled Alex' s left ear, tugged at the earlobe with his teeth. The younger man's eyes fell shut, and he rocked in place, stroking Mulder's back. "Yeah. But it's wrong that you let me lead you there, but you won't trust me," he whispered. It wasn't yet the time to tell him Mulder did, always against his best intentions and the voice of his reason. When they are done - to the taiga and back. He definitely will. It should turn out right.
"But then one thing I do know," Mulder reached up and touched the younger man' s cheek. Krycek could feel the trembling in his fingers and it wasn't important that he did. "And that's that it is not wrong that we are together again. Because sometimes two wrongs make a right." *end

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