"Risking It All"
by Kyrie (Kyrie@imaginemail.com)
Original Source: http://dreamwater.com/kyrie/
Summary: Mulder gets a surprise visit from Krycek, forcing him to face up to his feelings.
"...rescue me from me, and all that I believe.
I won't deny the pain.
I won't deny the change.
And should I fall from grace here with you
Will you leave me too?"
-The Smashing Pumpkins, "Galapagos"
It was a dark and stormy night.
_Of course,_ thought Mulder, staring morosely at the B-grade horror movie flickering on his TV set. _Bad mood. Bad movie. Bad night. It all fits._
"Please! Don't leave me!" the heroine begged. Once young, her skin was wrinkled from advanced aging, caused by the backfire of a proverbial Fountain of Youth. The man, who had loved her when she was beautiful, backed away from her in terror.
"Let go of me, June! Get away from me!" he cried.
_Typical. People love you when you're just the way they want you to be. It's when your true self shines through that they scorn you._
Mulder felt justified in this assumption. He had certainly had enough proof of its merit. He had never fit in. Maybe that was why he now felt so desperately alone.
And yet, there was no way, no *one* to alleviate the pain he felt.
Scully was the only person he had ever been truly close to. He never knew why, exactly, he had allowed himself to open up to her. But he had, and in doing so, had lost a piece of himself forever. He had thought at one time that he was falling in love with her. He hadn't. She wasn't what he needed this night. He knew that she couldn't fill the void inside him, even though she was his best-- his *only* friend.
Friend. As he watched the woman kill the man who had betrayed her, he remembered the last time anyone had spoken that word to him. Oh God, how he remembered it.
The woman stabbed the man in the back of his neck with a special ring, designed to extract a certain hormone. This hormone would bring her youth back-- temporarily. What perfect justice. The betrayer must die to serve the betrayed.
But did he want the betrayer to die?
He tried to say yes. He reminded himself how he had been duped, tortured, led on, by the man who now claimed to be his friend. He reminded himself of what had been done to Scully. And yet-- he, Krycek, the person Mulder had wanted to hate more than anyone else in the world, had placed his gun in Mulder's hand, had turned his back in the dark. He trusted Mulder implicately. He assumed that Mulder would return the trust.
_Why should I?_ thought Mulder. _What has he ever done to deserve my faith?_ But he knew perfectly well. One moment burned in his mind, frozen forever in Time for him. One moment that was the only thing Mulder would never, *could* never, forget.
Judas kissed Jesus as a last act of betrayal. Didn't that mean anything?
The woman, living briefly on the TV screen, reemerged as young and beautiful once more. And everyone loved her.
_I can't come back,_ Mulder thought. _I can't be what anyone else wants me to be._ He knew that if anyone would ever approve of him, it would have to be someone who could accept him for who he was. He had thought that Scully would always do at least that. But now... her disapproval was almost tangible at times. His fickle beliefs had finally frustrated even her. He couldn't really blame her, but who *could* he blame? Only himself, and that didn't help things much.
It all came back to Krycek. He had asked to be friends. They needed each other, he had said; otherwise there wouldn't be any hope. But Mulder still didn't know if he could trust him.
He was shocked to realize that he wanted to. He longed to know that he could put his life in someone's hands without fear of rejection or betrayal. Mulder *did* need Krycek, but not just for the reasons Alex had spoken of. He needed him because of one of Krycek's many actions. Not because of the lead Alex had given him, not because he surrendered his gun, not because he had proved his trust to Mulder. Mulder needed him because of that one moment when Krycek's lips had brushed his skin, sending waves of shock and longing through Mulder, waves that had not yet even broken on the shore. He needed Krycek for the simple reason that Krycek needed him.
A time came when the hormones could not help the heroine, and her beauty and youth faded more quickly than ever. Unable to bear being disgraced and unloved, she jumped from her window, ending her life. The words, almost ludicrous because they were so obvious, "The End" appeared over her face. And just as the screen faded to black, a sharp knock startled Mulder out of his thoughts.
Mulder stared stupidly at the door until the knock came again, insistant, violent. Grumbling "Just a minute", he trudged to the door. Before he had walked three steps, the pounding sounded once more. Desperately. Mulder opened the door angrily, not even bothering to find out who it was. Later he wondered if that was because he already knew.
Krycek had been standing outside Mulder's door for a full ten minutes before he finally made up his mind to knock. It wasn't the first time he had stood here, trying to decide whether seeing Mulder would help or hinder him. More than once, he had turned away without knocking, and Mulder had never known that he had been there. But he couldn't turn away, not tonight. It wasn't even indecision that made him hesitate. It was fear.
Alex looked for a long time at his reflection, distorted in the tarnished 42 on Mulder's door. He stared at the number, as if it might give him some answer he needed to know, as if it might hold the secret to the meaning of life. In a way, it did: behind it lived the person Krycek knew that he couldn't live without-- literally.
Finally, because he knew there was no one else to turn to, he knocked. If there had been any other way, anywhere else in the world he could have gone, he would have walked away. He didn't know how Mulder would react to him anymore. Before, Mulder was as predictable as the nights were lonely. He would get that look of absolute hatred in his eyes, then most likely beat the hell out of Krycek. But now, after Alex's request: I want to be friends... Hell, he sounded like a little kid trying to make up after a fight. Would that move Mulder? Or just make him hate Alex even more? But even that wasn't what made Krycek hesitate so long.
_If I hadn't been such an idiot,_ he thought, mentally kicking himself like he had been ever since that night. _I bet he *really* wants to kill me. I bet I scared the heck out of him._ That brought a grim smile to his face. The thought of Mulder, who would stare down aliens without flinching, being scared of a little kiss...
But whether or not Mulder was scared, *Alex* was terrified. He hadn't meant to do it, but seeing Mulder there, staring up at him, skepticism apparent in his dark eyes, had been too much for Krycek to stand. He had wanted, somehow, to comfort Mulder-- and he had done the first thing that came to mind. And it had been all he could do to leave the apartment, when all he *wanted* to do was hold Mulder in his arms.
There was no going back. He couldn't change what he had done that night. He couldn't walk away now. He reached up and pounded on the door, the metal numbers hurting his knuckles. Despite all his doubts, his longing to just leave, he panicked when there was no response. Mulder *had* to be home. Alex knocked again, louder. There-- had he heard Mulder? He wasn't sure and knocked again. And then the door opened.
Mulder was surprised to see Krycek, but in a way, he had expected it, almost as if he had summoned Alex with his thoughts. Krycek's head was down, but he raised his eyes to look at Mulder though long, dark lashes. His hair was soaked, beads of rain still dripping down his face. He shivered slightly under Mulder's scrutiny.
"What do you want?" Mulder asked, harshly, surprising himself by the lack of emotion in his voice.
"Would you like a list?" Alex snarled back, thinking as he did so that a certain FBI agent would be right at the top. When Mulder didn't reply to the remark, Krycek said, "Would you be so kind as to let me in? I'm ruining the carpet here." Like anything less than an elephant stampede could make the worn carpeting look any worse.
"For someone who claims to be a friend, you're very demanding," remarked Mulder. Nevertheless he let Alex in and shut the door. Krycek pressed against it, as if he wanted to be as close to the exit as possible, but he forced himself to meet Mulder's eyes.
"And you're not very helpful," he replied, though purposely keeping his voice soft. The last thing he wanted was a fight *now*.
Mulder looked at the younger man a long moment. "You're right," he said, surprising Alex. "I'm not." He was silent again, then said, "What should I be offering? Hot shower? Dry clothes?"
Krycek, caught off-guard by Mulder's change of mood, muttered, "How about all of the above?"
"The bathroom's right over there," Mulder said, pointing. With an attitude of not caring what the hell Alex did, he walked off into another room. Krycek hesitated a moment, then went towards the bathroom.
Rummaging through the mess in his closet, Mulder looked for clothes for Krycek. Alex was shorter than Mulder, but he supposed that they could wear the same clothes. Finding a t-shirt and sweatpants was harder than it looked, due to the jumble in the closet, but Mulder finally shut the door quickly in triumph. Opening the bathroom door cautiously, he heard the sound of running water, then saw Krycek silhouetted against the shower door. _He really does trust me,_ Mulder thought with a slight smile, before he tossed the clothes on the floor and shut the door.
He walked over to what, for him, sufficed as a kitchen. Luckily, he still had plenty of coffee, the one thing he was always careful to keep a full supply of. As it brewed, he leaned against the counter, wondering why Krycek was here... and why it felt so... so right. As if Alex had calmed something in Mulder that hadn't been satisfied in a long time. Mulder even found himself humming.
He didn't notice that Alex was standing in the doorway for several minutes, until he happened to glance up, suddenly actuely aware that he had been tunelessly humming "Lovely Rita, Meter Maid." Krycek was watching him with an amused smile playing on his lips.
"Coffee?" Mulder asked rather weakly.
"Sure," said Alex, still smiling. Unnerved, Mulder handed him a mug.
Alex took a long drink, still not taking his eyes from Mulder. Abruptly, Mulder left him and went back to sit on the sofa, where he spent most of his evenings anyway. Why break tradition. Krycek followed him more slowly, but, instead of sitting down, he stood awkwardly off to the side. Despite his amusement at catching Mulder offguard, he was still nearly as nervous as when he had stood outside Mulder's door, staring at the number. He started when Mulder asked suddenly, "Now will you tell me why you're here?"
Swallowing the last of his coffee hurriedly, Krycek shifted from one foot to the other and avoided looking at Mulder. "I need your help," he answered.
"What now?" Mulder snapped. Krycek moved into the light from the single lamp glowing from the table. He gave Mulder one oblique look, then realized that the other man's eyes were not on his face, but on his prosthetic arm. Alex knew then that up until that moment, Mulder had actually forgotten. But now, Mulder would pity him, or worse, be disgusted with him.
Alex knew Mulder, perhaps better than anyone except for Scully, and he could guess what Mulder's reaction to his deformity would be. Pity, maybe, but most likely a sort of fascinated horror. Neither were what Krycek wanted.
"It's only for tonight and then I'll be out of your way," Krycek told him, more bitterly than he intended. "I... did something stupid. And I need a place to stay, just one night. After that I can go home, but for now..."
He paused, then added, looking at Mulder with a startlingly open expression, "You're the only person I knew to go to. The only person I could even begin to consider as a friend."
Mulder forced himself not to respond to this, and merely asked, "What did you do?"
Krycek looked away. "It doesn't matter."
Mulder glared at him. "I'm not going to let you stay here if you don't tell me. If someone's out to get you and they find you here--"
Krycek's head snapped up angrily. "They won't find me! They don't even know exactly where I live. I-- I was being followed. I didn't realize it until I was nearly home, then I managed to lose them near my apartment. I couldn't risk staying in that area. So I came here."
"But what did you *do*?"
A look of what, on anyone else, Mulder would call regret and pain passed over Alex's face. He said, "There was this girl, okay? I guess we were both lonely. It didn't mean much of anything to either of us, but her boyfriend caught us, and... I bolted." He looked at Mulder defensively.
Mulder felt suddenly angry, and he didn't want to figure out why. Instead, he snapped, "Sounds like you deserve whatever's coming to you. Just like always."
"He was gonna *kill* me."
"Maybe that's what you deserve."
Krycek looked as hurt as he had on the many occasions when Mulder hit him. "I thought we had made a deal."
"A deal? That's what you call it? Look, Krycek, friendship isn't something you can bargain for. You don't sell your soul for it. It has to develop. And frankly, you haven't done one thing to make me want to trust you, much less do you favors."
Alex's reaction was stronger than what Mulder had suspected. "What do you want from me, Mulder?" he asked wildly, nearly yelling. "What do I have to do to make you believe in me?"
Mulder looked at him a long moment, then said, "I don't know."
Krycek's sigh was audible. Considerably calmer, he asked, "Do you want me to leave? If you don't want me here, I'll go find a hotel or something."
Mulder had the uncanny feeling that if he said yes, if Krycek left tonight, he wasn't coming back. Ever. Somehow, Mulder didn't want to-- *couldn't*-- face that.
"No, you can stay. It's just..." he paused, trying to find the right words. "If you want friendship, it can't be based on what we can gain from the relationship. And I for one am going to have to work at it."
Alex was silent, looking at some spot in a distant dimension about a foot away from him. Then he met Mulder's eyes with his own brilliantly green stare.
"All right. Fair enough." He looked down again, then glanced at Mulder with a suprisingly shy grin. "So where do we start?"
Mulder turned on the TV, not feeling up to trying to actually *talk* to this bizarre creature. Nothing on, of course, there never was unless he wasn't around to watch it. Alex investigated his video tapes, and Mulder couldn't help thinking that the expressions that crossed his face as he read the titles were priceless. Finally Krycek cleared his throat and looked severely at Mulder.
"_Santa Claus Conquers the Martians_? *Really*, Mulder."
Mulder grinned, a little relieved that it was *that* kind of bad movie Alex chose to tease him about. "Wanna watch it?"
"Uh, no. That's quite all right." To Mulder's dismay, Alex turned off the set and looked down at the older man once more. "Do you ever sleep around here? Or do you spend your nights elsewhere?"
"When I'm not in some cheap motel, I sleep right here." Mulder indicated the couch.
"Cheap motel?" Krycek sounded pissed for some reason. Mulder looked at him a little blankly.
"You know good and well the Bureau isn't paying for me to stay in the Hilton."
"Oh. You meant when you were on a case."
Krycek turned away from him and stared morosely out the window. "I didn't think *she* would go for cheap places anyway."
Suddenly Mulder got what Krycek was implying. _Stupid,_ he cursed himself, and practically leaped off the couch. "She who?"
"How should I know? Whoever." Tone carefully careless. "A girlfriend? A whore? Scully?"
"*Scully*?" Mulder was so surprised his mouth actually hung open a minute before he remembered to close it. "You think I'm seeing Scully?"
Krycek's shoulders tightened under Mulder's t-shirt. "Why not? You two are practically married anyway. She's a beautiful woman. Most guys would do anything to have her. And you've got her. You'd be stupid *not* to take her."
A sudden feeling of cold horror spread over Mulder. "Alex? Is this about Scully?" The words sounded harsher than he meant them to. "Are you... in love with her or something?"
If Mulder's words were harsh, Krycek's were like sandpaper on an open wound. "What does it matter? I'm deformed now, and she hates me. Just like everyone else. You don't have to worry about me stealing her."
Mulder knew then that it wasn't about Scully. Alex was upset because of, at, himself. Mulder stood behind him and put a hand on each of Krycek's shoulders. He felt the younger man's muscles tense, fight or flight reflex. _No wonder,_ thought Mulder. He couldn't remember a time when he had touched Krycek without hurting him.
Closing his eyes, Mulder said softly, "You can change things, you know. Not your arm, I know, but how people... see you. There's always another chance. And there *are* people who can see past your physical self." Which was ironic, since all Mulder could think about was how gorgeous Krycek was, prosthetic and all. He wanted to embrace Alex, to comfort him, but he didn't know how. He didn't *dare*. Instead he reluctantly drew his hands back and stepped away from Alex. Krycek only turned halfway, and, by way of changing the subject, asked sullenly, "Where do I sleep?"
This was something Mulder had forgotten to consider. "Er... the couch folds out."
Krycek blinked and looked at him. "What about you?"
"Um..." Mulder threw up his hands. "Hell if I know." To his surprise, Alex started laughing. Mulder grinned in spite of himself.
Krycek only shook his head and laughed again. "You! You're just... it's your own apartment and you don't know where you'll sleep..." Mulder didn't quite see the humor in the somewhat embarassing situation, but he was relieved that Alex was off the beating-himself-up tangent.
"Shut your mouth and help me with this thing," Mulder finally told him, dragging the coffee table out of the way. Krycek obligingly pulled and tugged on the fold-out. After one smashed finger (Mulder's) and a lot of cursing, they managed to get the thing open.
"I should have just slept on the balcony," groaned Krycek, throwing himself on the bed. Mulder collapsed beside him without thinking and threw a blanket over Krycek's head.
"Hey!" yelled Alex, muffled. Mulder laughed at him, until the younger man threw off the blanket and pinned Mulder down.
"Hey, we're supposed to be *friends*, remember?"
"Then quit trying to smother me!" Krycek said, laughing again.
"Just being helpful. Need anything? Nightlight? Glass of water?"
Krycek let go of him and lay on his back. "I'm fine, thanks," he said, snidely. It suddenly dawned on Mulder that something was very weird. Namely that he was lying in bed with Krycek and that they were indeed acting like friends. Very *good* friends.
Krycek sat up suddenly and started untying his shoes. Mulder watched him. Untying the laces of the left shoe with one hand. Pullling it off. Repeating for the right shoe. Alex was pretty adept at only using one hand. He lay down again, straightening the blanket. "You staying here?" he asked Mulder.
"I guess. Unless you care," Mulder added, quickly.
"No. It's your apartment." Alex laughed shortly.
After a long moment of silence, Mulder asked, "What are you going to do? When you leave here, I mean."
Alex was quiet a moment, then he sighed. "I don't know. Go home I guess."
"What have you *been* doing?" Mulder pressed him further.
"Oh, come on, Mulder. Don't you know you're never supposed to ask the magician how he does it?"
After that perplexing statement, Mulder was disinclined to ask anything further. Damn Krycek anyway. Nothing was happening. Nothing was *going* to happen. Ever. _Who was I kidding?_, Mulder thought bitterly. _I mean nothing to him, other than whatever direct usefulness I have. And he should mean nothing to me._
Still, it was easy to pretend. So simple to imagine that something had taken the place of this idiotic anger and hopelessness. Very easy to think that they were only sleeping and that when they awoke...
Mulder drifted into a world half-fantasy, half-reality that seamlessly melded into what must have been a dream. It was like fainting, like de ja vu, like something totally undefinable yet utterly familiar. He felt safe, for once, and happy. And he knew things he had known once before but forgotten. How long it takes to be born but how you can die in no time at all.
What it felt like in that slow easy moment after he made a joke or Scully said something sweet that reminded him again that she really did care about him. Exactly how far it is from seven to eleven in time, space, or sunflower seeds. Just how long he was willing to wait for a phone call before giving up. What it was like to have someone ripped away from you so suddenly that it left strings of blood hanging.
The knowledge was peaceful though, and he wasn't frightened of it. Mostly because he knew that Alex was there and that whatever Mulder had to face, Krycek would help him. The peacefulness was also sadness, and Mulder began to cry without effort, not how he usually cried, when tears were like stones or knives. And he slowly came to realize that he was awake again, much later, for the moon was shining in, and Alex was facing him, glittering eyes bright as he watched.
With his one good arm, Alex reached out to Mulder and embraced him, awkwardly, all the more touching because it was so difficult. Mulder slid his arms around Krycek and pulled him close, the tears still flowing. Krycek said nothing, only bent his head over Mulder's shoulder, his eyes closed, savoring this one moment when Mulder was open and not hiding himself in something strange or painful.
Without warning, Mulder's tears stopped. The peacefulness still filled him, so unnatural it almost seemed that it must be induced, but no man-made thing had ever made him feel this way before. Not letting go of Alex, Mulder moved his head back so that he was looking into Krycek's eyes again. There he saw the same thing he was feeling.
"Alex," Mulder said, as if underwater, or still asleep. Then, with a faint smile, "I forgot that I still owe you something." He leaned forward and very gently, barely touching, brushed his lips against Krycek's skin. He pulled away again and looked at Krycek once more. In the dim light shining in through the window, Mulder could just make out a faint flush on the other man's cheeks. Alex's eyes were downcast, hidden behind his long lashes. For one panicked second, Mulder wondered if he hadn't ruined everything, but then Krycek raised his eyes, and his perfect lips broke into a smile he couldn't hide. This was what he had been longing for since... since the first time he saw Mulder. Not the kiss even so much as the acceptance, the willingness to surrender so easily. He could hardly believe it was real.
Very slowly, so as not to break the spell, or the dream, or the glass reality that had so far held but surely couldn't forever, Alex leaned forward and touched Mulder's lips with his own. That did indeed break the spell, but it was a spell cast by some demon... no, some angel, bent on supressing the demon within Mulder, just as it held back the struggling demon in Krycek. The spell broke, the nightmare ended, the glass shattered into a thousand million pieces that fell all around them without cutting, without pain.
Mulder let himself forget everything else, just this once. But in forgetting, he also forgot himself, and he cursed somewhere far removed from his body as he pulled away drowsily, pressed half-parted lips to Alex's throat and let sleep overcome him.
Krycek, suddenly deprived from the rush the long kiss had given him, was painfully self-aware when Mulder pulled away. While Mulder had only felt emotions, not even fully conscious of the depth of the kiss, Alex had felt every physical aspect of himself possible. And Mulder *fell asleep*?
Still, the small part of Alex's mind that was thinking logically told him that it was better this way. Because in the morning, he would have to leave, or, if not then, sooner or later. Mulder wasn't ready to trust him, not yet. It would take more than one night, no matter how they spent it, to cement any relationship they hoped to have.
Alex felt tears dampen his own lashes, and he held Mulder as closely as he could. Only a few more hours, then he'd have to leave. And who knew when he would be able to do this again.
Silently, so he wouldn't wake Mulder, Krycek wept for himself, for Mulder, and for the uncertain future ahead of them both.
Mulder awoke quickly, and just as quickly realized that he was alone. For a moment, he wondered if Krycek had really been there at all, if he hadn't just dreamed the whole thing. But something-- an undefinable scent, or an aura that hadn't quite faded-- told him that it had been real. *Had* been.
"Alex?" Mulder called as he stood up. No answer. Mulder was about to call again when he saw the piece of paper on the table. He knew before he even looked at it that Krycek was gone. He stood still for a long moment, not feeling anything, then he picked up the note and read it slowly. It began and ended abruptly, no greeting, no signature. The neatly printed words seemed almost callous in their calmness. "Thanks for the hospitality, Fox," the note began, so sardonically that Mulder could almost see Krycek speaking the words, right down to Mulder's loathed first name. "Don't you hate long goodbyes? I spared us both. However, the deal still holds, so I'll be there when you need me. Don't think I'm going to skip out on you. I'll repay you. Trust me, you know you do. But I won't be back until you trust *yourself*. My complete faith in you means nothing, you have to believe in yourself. I hope that someday you'll forgive me for coming here last night. Do you hate me for making you miss me now?"
Mulder could only reply to Krycek in his mind. _I *can't* hate you, Alex. I wanted to, but I can't, never really could. But I sure as hell miss you, and if you don't come back to me someday, I don't know what I'll do. I can't live without you. I can't._