Disclaimers: They ain't mine, though I'm not sure CC and 1013 would recognize them as theirs, either. Christopher Durang probably would recognize the title "'dentity Crisis" as his (and "Actor's Nightmare" too, actually); I don't have permission to use them, but I'm doing it as tenderly and respectfully as I know how. Krycek has been listening to "Paint a Vulgar Picture" by the Smiths and "You Can Sleep While I Drive" by Melissa Etheridge. Oh, and I borrowed a few quotes from this guy Will, too, but he hasn't complained.
Summary: Krycek exercises his charm, and Mulder exercises his paranoia. Sequel (of sorts) to Actor's Nightmare, though it's not like there's any plot to catch up on. Maybe it would help to think of it as an AU. Slash, m/m, motss content.

Sex with you
And sometimes food
And maybe a movie or a play
Is all I really want today
--King Missile

'dentity Crisis
by Sitnah
 

Luckily for Mulder, his first line doesn't come till a few minutes into the scene, and Skinner's long opening speech covers his late entrance. He slips along stage right behind the row of courtiers until he reaches his place, not trying especially hard to hide from the audience; it's plausible, after all, that he would be hanging back, reluctant, late--and even if it weren't, it isn't in his power to do more than move his feet mechanically along the floor.

Skinner's voice rolls on in his ears, pouring out iambic pentameter, but Mulder isn't taking in the words yet. He's never thought he'd be one for stage fright, but now his throat is dry, his heart is pounding, and his hands feel light and fluttery, refusing to stay still at his sides. Yeah. Stage fright. His skin is still registering every place Krycek touched him: back, hands, forehead--Mulder's train of thought, if it can be called that, breaks off abruptly as he wonders whether there's lipstick on his forehead. Help me--but no, Krycek's lips felt dry, not slick with gloss like his own. Mulder presses his lips together and catches the faint, unfamiliar scent, not really anything like berries or any other natural fruit, just sweet chemicals and the heady lure of artifice: make yourself up! Hasn't that always been Krycek's specialty, to create the face he wants to present, the face other people want to see? Mulder's mind dredges up the image of Krycek the first time he met him. He looked so uncertain of himself, a raw newcomer who could just barely tell VICAP from NICAP, someone Mulder could hurt just by ignoring his outstretched hand. Was that real? Real enough--it was there, after all--but just a face put on from the outside like any other.

Then Mulder realizes that Skinner and Scully are approaching him, welcoming smiles plastered on their mouths but with a worried intensity in their eyes. His mind casts about for some response to them and comes up with nothing better than the memory of his smug satisfaction at getting to wear black jeans and a black leather jacket while they are stuck in what look like a Roman toga and a medieval gown, respectively. Suddenly he wants to giggle.

"...my son--" Skinner intones, pausing in front of Mulder. Mulder looks into his searching eyes, quails, and turns his face away. He has a line here, this is it, what is it? He opens his mouth:

"A-a little more than kin, and less than kind." Mulder isn't sure whether he should be pleased or scared that his memory seems to be capable of functioning merrily away without him, but when he lifts his eyes back to Skinner's face he sees that Skinner at least looks relieved. His voice is believably light when he says, "How is it that the clouds still hang on you?"

"Not so, my lord," Mulder answers, "I am too much in the sun," and his burning cheeks attest to the truth of this statement.

Scully is not fooled. Her eyes flare at him, doubling the weight of her words: "...cast thy nighted color off..." --Get a grip, Mulder! Pull yourself together!

Mulder isn't quite capable of that yet, but he does his best, which consists of keeping the part of his mind that can't get past the idea that Krycek kissed him from interfering with the part that is inserting his lines in the appropriate pauses. In this way he manages to get through the scene until his final couplet releases him to stumble offstage.

Mulder takes a few deep breaths and is starting to look around for a water bottle when Scully grabs his arm. "What the hell is wrong with you, Mulder?" she hisses. "Why were you late? That's the worst I've ever seen you do that scene."

Mulder shakes his head. "I--"

But Scully isn't waiting for his answer. "You've got to concentrate, Mulder! Don't make me sorry I agreed to do this." She gives his arm a single forceful shake and storms off for her costume change.

Scully has a strong grip, but that's not the touch Mulder's still feeling as he finds a chair--the same chair?--and rests his face on his palms. He kissed my face--he put his hand on my leg, his fingers touched me, and I--

Skinner bumps a glass against his fingers and Mulder looks up, startled by the cold. "Is this your first time for real, Mulder?" Skinner asks with surprising gentleness. "It's a lot different than rehearsal, isn't it."

"Yeah," Mulder agrees absently. He drinks some water and looks at the smudge he's left on the rim of the glass, a rounded print shot through with fine lines for each tiny crease in his lips. He turns the glass a little before taking his next sip so that he makes a new print. Skinner studies him.

"Try to stay with us, okay?"

But the only progress Mulder makes towards returning to the present moment by the beginning of the next scene is to wonder whether Krycek is still in the theater. What if he's out there in the audience, watching? Could he tell from that distance that Mulder's hands are still shaking? Is the color on Mulder's lips bright enough now for Krycek to see them? When Mulder goes back onstage he tries to see past the footlights, but the contrast makes the darkness over the seats even thicker and he can't make anyone out. On top of that, he has to pay more attention in this scene because he has to move around more, chasing after that stupid fake ghost, running up and down across the various platforms of this stupid modern set. Every chance he gets, he throws a glance into the darkness. The scene goes on, and on.

There--someone has just come in one of the doors at the back. "Hillo, ho, ho, boy!" Mulder shouts, looking back over his shoulder. Is that Krycek? The silhouette is tall enough, the sweep of the hair is right-- "Come, bird, come--" and Mulder steps where there is no step, and then he is falling and landing with his left foot under him, and a sickening crunch, and the black dusty recesses of the ceiling over the stage are replaced by two anxious faces.

"How is't, my noble lord?"

"What news, my lord?"

And all Mulder can say before his eyes close on the pain is,

"Oh, wonderful!"

***

"So call me if you need anything else, Mulder," Scully says. "I know you won't hesitate to." She has established him in his bed ("you are not sleeping on the couch with a sprained ankle and a cracked navicular") with an impressive array of things set out within his reach: his phone, his gun, the pills, water, crackers, Kleenex, crutches, you name it. Mulder smiles weakly. She is acting pissed, and he knows she's genuinely angry that the play was spoiled, but there is also an underlying note of humor in her eyes, and he thinks he's going to get away with it one more time. It is pretty ridiculous to break your foot in the middle of a play, and the break is clean enough that she isn't unduly worried about his healing, so somewhere inside Scully is having a good laugh at his expense, and that's okay with him. What Mulder really wants is for her to think he's doing well enough to be left alone for the night, so that she will go home and then--well, he doesn't actually have any proof that Krycek will come back, but how can he not? He must have had some reason for seeking Mulder out--even the unfathomable Krycek wouldn't risk a visit to DC just to put lip gloss on Mulder and leave again. He wouldn't. And this time Mulder is going to be expecting him, not dazed into docility by the sheer bizarreness of his appearance.

"Thanks, Scully," Mulder says, realizing she's waiting for an answer. "Go on and get some sleep. I'll be all right."

"Okay," she says. "I'll call you tomorrow morning to see how you're doing."

"Okay. And Scully..." She pauses at the door. "...I'm sorry."

Now the laugh rises to the corners of her mouth. "Good night, Mulder."

***

Despite meaning to stay awake and wait for Krycek, Mulder suddenly finds himself jerking his eyes open, sitting bolt upright and gasping for breath. He turns his head from side to side, trying to readjust his eyes to the light and shake off the impression of running--running as hard as he can, footsteps echoing, something close behind him and something just out of reach ahead--and catches sight of Krycek leaning in the doorway, looking at him. It's a sight that makes his fists itch. "Krycek," he says, his throat thick with sleep.

"Fox," Krycek answers levelly.

Mulder considers objecting again, decides not to waste his time. He opens his mouth to ask something--how did you get in? how long have you been here? how long can you stay?--and settles on, "Why are you here?"

"I came to see your play."

"The play." Mulder's voice is still scratchy but he manages to put some dryness into his tone.

"It's a pity you didn't get to Act Four. I wanted to hear you say 'Hide fox, and all after'."

"I would have thought it would be a case of 'Hide, Alex, and all after'."

"Oh, it is." Something that at full strength might have been a grimace passes over Krycek's face and disappears again. He moves for the first time, taking one step towards the bed, and then stops again. It takes Mulder a second to realize that this is because he himself is now holding a gun on Krycek. "What do you want, Fox?"

"Me! What do I want?"

"You picked up the gun. You want to be in control?"

"Yes! No!-- I--" Mulder swallows. How is he here again, in the middle of this confusion? He was going to be prepared this time and already Krycek has turned his mind inside out.

"How's your ankle?" Krycek says conversationally, breaking a silence that Mulder didn't notice forming.

"It'll be fine."

"I'm sorry I startled you." Krycek's tone is sincere, but Mulder sees his eyes glinting and knows that now it's Krycek having a moment of humor at his expense. Well, he can get a laugh out of this himself--is Krycek going to start apologizing to him now?

"It was my own fault. I wasn't paying attention."

Krycek's eyes are positively glittering, but he doesn't say anything. Mulder tries to steady his arms, but he can't seem to get a good sight on Krycek. This is because his target is moving again, coming carelessly forward to stand by the side of the bed. Mulder is in the middle of trying to evaluate the gun's remaining potential as a negotiation tool when he gets distracted by Krycek's thumb wiping briefly over the corner of his mouth. "You shouldn't ought to sleep with that on. It's not good for your skin."

If Mulder were behaving efficiently right now, he would use the pause while Krycek reaches for a Kleenex to process the glittering shiver that went through him at that touch, tag it with an appropriate label and file it away somewhere in the back of his head so that he could use the rest of his mind to come up with a plan to arrest Krycek, or interrogate him, or punch him, or something. But instead the time gets spent on remembering Krycek's fingers digging into his thigh earlier, and when Krycek sits down on the edge of the bed, Mulder's hands are too light and weak to tighten into fists.

Krycek puts a hand under Mulder's chin and wipes gently over his mouth, corner to center, up, down. Mulder's eyelids feel heavy, but he can't let them close, because then he would miss out on the view. Krycek's own face, Mulder notices, is washed clean again now too, back to the fairskinned look he knows so well. Or one of them. Krycek's eyes look even greener without the mascara, if that were possible. 'A babbled of green fields, Mulder thinks vaguely. Then he registers a difference in the touches on his mouth. The Kleenex has disappeared, and Krycek's finger is dragging along his lower lip. Mulder swallows. "Krycek..." he chokes out. "Why are you really here?"

Krycek pauses for a moment. Then he puts both hands on Mulder's jaws and leans in, so slowly that Mulder has time both to be surprised and to feel stupid for being surprised before the kiss starts. Krycek's lips are soft as down on Mulder's, his tongue curling against the roof of Mulder's mouth, and the graze of teeth on Mulder's own tongue sends his blood singing down his veins, all the way to his cock. Then without warning Krycek's mouth is gone again, and Mulder's lips feel cold. He opens his eyes to see Krycek's face hovering about six inches away. "Tell me something," Krycek says. "Tell me the truth. Do you want this?"

Mulder considers. Krycek is waiting, eyes gone dark, breathing heavily through his mouth. Mulder turns his head just a little to the side so he can see Krycek's hair curl around the back of his ear. He wants to put his fingers there. There was a reason why this was a bad idea, he knows. It had something to do with trust and betrayal and violence and fear. But he has reached the fine edge where saying no and saying yes are no longer two different things, just mirror images of each other, varying perspectives on the same shape of desire. He makes his choice, reaches up to Krycek's shoulders and pulls him down onto his own chest, and no, it isn't the bizarreness this time, it's the red darkness of Krycek's fingers smoothing his eyes shut like a corpse's that will make him do whatever Krycek wants.

Krycek starts nuzzling at Mulder's chest through the T-shirt, and suddenly Mulder becomes separately aware of each piece of clothing either of them is wearing. His fingers scrabble at the collar of Krycek's jacket, pushing it back, and Krycek lifts his arms so that Mulder can pull it off, which is a more difficult task than it might be because Krycek's body is twisting as he kicks off his shoes. Krycek reaches for Mulder's mouth again and kisses him much harder, his tongue stabbing at Mulder's, before he pulls back so that he can sit up and strip off the rest of his clothes. Mulder's head is whirling and he has just started to try to sit up himself when Krycek's weight comes back down onto his stomach. Mulder lifts his head and bites blindly at the nearest part of Krycek, which turns out to be his shoulder, as Krycek's own mouth is moving down Mulder's neck. It feels sensational, but Mulder is laboring under a worrying sense of disorientation. He braces himself and rolls them over. It helps to feel Krycek under him, to feel Krycek's legs spreading to nudge Mulder in closer, but the hardness of Krycek's cock pressing against him throws Mulder off track again and he pauses, unsure what to do next.

Krycek grins. "Hey, partner," he says.

"Hey yourself," Mulder says a little irritably. But the irritation fades as Krycek's hands come up under his shirt, sliding loosely over his chest and then pushing the cloth over Mulder's head. Mulder leans back down to kiss him and the warmth of so much skin against his own makes him feel safe as houses. The heat curls through him and he kisses his way along Krycek's jaw to his ear. Krycek's hands move ever so lightly over Mulder's arms, fingertips just barely grazing the skin, and Mulder shivers.

Then suddenly Krycek's grip tightens and he rolls them over again. Mulder has to gasp for breath, so he lies back and lets Krycek take over. Krycek starts teasing at his nipples, first with his fingers and then with his tongue, so that Mulder gets a little silvery feeling and reaches for Krycek's head to push that mouth closer. His fingers only slide through Krycek's hair, though, without getting a firm grip.

After a moment Krycek's mouth trails down over Mulder's stomach, and Mulder realizes with sudden shyness where he's heading. As busy hands slide his sweatpants down over his hips and off, he mutters, "Ah, Krycek, I--"

"Shh, Mulder." Krycek fits his lips around the head of Mulder's cock slowly before pulling more of it in. His mouth is so warm that at first it hardly even feels wet. Mulder moans and lets his eyes close. Then something occurs to him, and his godforsaken curiosity won't let him rest until he asks.

"Krycek?"

"Muh-ah?"

"Why aren't you calling me Fox anymore?"

Krycek pulls off for a moment, lifts his head and throws Mulder a grin. "I don't need to anymore." Mulder rolls his eyes and Krycek reapplies himself to his task. Mulder starts to wonder how Krycek learned to do this and then decides the question isn't worth pursuing. A much more important question is, how long will this last? Because Krycek is moving his tongue along the length of Mulder's penis and then swirling it over the head and then sucking with his whole mouth, and considering the situation logically, taking all factors into account, Mulder is starting to think that unless Krycek should take it into his head to--

--and just then Krycek does stop. That is, he lets Mulder's cock go and starts kissing his leg out over his hip bone. Mulder glances around wildly and spots the gun on the table. Krycek looks up, sensing the difference in Mulder's tension, and follows his gaze.

"That would be a bit extreme, don't you think, Mulder?"

"Yeah," Mulder manages, "well--"

Krycek laughs, a silly, happy laugh. "Okay, okay," and he turns his attention back to Mulder's cock. It doesn't take much longer then before Mulder feels his orgasm nearing, welling up from behind his balls, gathering force and sweeping everything else along in its path, a stream, a flood, the Mississippi in a wet spring, till it reaches the surface and spills over into Krycek's waiting mouth, and when it does he tries to say Krycek's name but produces only a half-strangled moan. His hips jerk, his hands scramble for a grip on the sheets, there's a twinge of pain from his ankle and then all he can feel is the incredible, incorrigible heat pounding through his cock and he doesn't need anything else in the world.

When Mulder can spare some attention for the rest of his body again, the soles of his feet are tingling and his heart is thudding in impossibly slow, discrete beats. His lips and cheeks are slightly numb from holding his breath. He takes a deep breath and looks to see what Krycek is doing, just in time to see him turn his head and spit. Krycek lifts his head and wipes the back of his hand across his mouth before he catches Mulder's expression. "You were going to wash these sheets anyway, Mulder. I hope."

"Is there no romance in your heart?" Mulder asks.

The corner of Krycek's mouth curls upward. He takes Mulder's left hand-- "Romance, Spooky-pooky?" --and kisses the tip of his little finger. "Romance, dollface?" The next kiss lands on his palm. "My heart's treasure wants romance?" Krycek's lips are on the soft skin between Mulder's thumb and forefinger, and his tongue is, too, and then he drops Mulder's hand abruptly. "Well, maybe you just haven't earned it yet, baby."

Mulder is still riding his hormone high. "You want to fuck me, Krycek?"

"Did you think this was 'Baby, you can sleep while I drive'?"

"Go on, then," Mulder asserts quickly, before he can change his mind.

Krycek seems taken aback by this swift compliance. "Well--so--have you ever--"

"No. So what? Come on, I, I saved myself for you."

"Well, okay," Krycek says with elaborate dubiousness, and then the suspicious look lifts out of his eyes like a blind rolling up to reveal the laughter underneath. "Prepare to get well and truly fucked."

"Um." Now it is Mulder who hesitates. "I think I'm going to need some help with that."

"Oh, my sweet boy." Krycek lays his palm on Mulder's cheek for a moment before diving for his jacket in the depths of the heap of clothes on the floor.

"I'm older than you," Mulder protests half-heartedly, but Krycek pays him no mind. His legs wrap around Mulder's in an effort to keep from falling off the side of the bed. When he resurfaces with the lube and the condom, he has to lay them down and steady himself with his hands in order to disentangle himself and kneel between Mulder's obligingly spread legs. Mulder has been watching this process with a smile lurking in his mouth, but when Krycek squeezes lube onto his fingers, Mulder lets his head fall back on the pillow. Krycek puts his dry left hand flat against Mulder's thigh. "Take it easy, Mulder."

"Isn't that my line?" Mulder takes a breath and pulls his legs up, letting his left knee spill to the side so as not to put pressure on his ankle, and digging his right heel into the mattress.

"No, your line is--uh-- your line is 'I knew him, Horatio.'" Krycek's fingers feel cold now smearing the stuff up and down his ass, but they stay in constant contact with Mulder's skin, and the steadiness of the touch is reassuring. Mulder laughs and takes up the speech.

"A fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath bore me on his back a thousand times..." The next line sticks in Mulder's throat. He swallows and skips ahead. "Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft..." Krycek doesn't seem notice the omission. Then he slips a finger in and Mulder stops reciting altogether. Each glide produces shivery rushes of pleasure in his ass, like and yet unlike the kind of sensation he's used to feeling in his penis. There--yes, there, and there too, and how many fingers is that now? Two, officer, perfectly sober, and that other piece of heat is Krycek's left hand lifting his balls. "Oh, please..."

"Like that?"

"Yeah..."

"Want me to stop?"

"Hell, no!" But Krycek's fingers disappear anyway, and Mulder wants to bawl like a two-year-old. "Krycek--"

"Intermission," Krycek says, holding the condom up for Mulder to see. Mulder groans and flops back down on the pillow. Lying back with his eyes closed, he hears Krycek fumbling with the foil and then a snarl: "Oh, shit!"

"What?"

"It's no good. Cracked. Don't you keep anything usefulon your nightstand?"

Mulder lifts his head and surveys the row of things that Scully has left so carefully at hand. For all her far-reaching concern she has not managed to foresee what he will actually be needing during this night. He suppresses a laugh. "Um, in the bathroom."

"Don't move." Krycek leans down to kiss the inside of Mulder's left thigh and then disappears through the doorway. Mulder squirms a little at the slippery feeling of lube leaking down his ass, but on the whole holds his position pretty well. He reaches down and touches his fingers ever so lightly to the warmed fluid, brushing back over his ass, but pulls his hand away quickly when he hears Krycek's step. Krycek has returned in what Mulder is sure must be record time, but once he's back on the bed his movements become slow and careful. Mulder looks away from the sight of Krycek's cock stretching out the latex, fixing his gaze instead on the shifts in Krycek's mouth and eyes reflecting his response to his own hands. Then Krycek's eyes come up to meet Mulder's and Mulder loses his breath again. "Come here, Mulder."

Mulder wants to say that that's nonsense, he's right there already, and anyway Krycek should really come to him now, but he can't say anything because Krycek has pulled him up by the shoulders and is kissing him again, slow and soft and thorough, not missing any corner of Mulder's mouth. It isn't until Krycek lowers him back to the pillow and moves on to his ear that Mulder is able to say, "Shouldn't I turn over?"

"No, I want you to see me--here, put your legs up--"

Mulder's ankle is trying to let him know that moving it like that might be a bad idea, but his nerves are so overloaded at the moment that that message gets lost somewhere along the way and he forgets to worry about it. Krycek's hands seem to be everywhere at once, running down Mulder's thighs, lifting his hips, cupping his ass, but this particular pressure is Krycek's cock rubbing over his opening. "Come on, Krycek, come on--"

--it burns, it burns, and although he knows subjectively that it's possible, his objective mind is telling him quite lucidly that this is never going to work, and then it does, and he knows it's real because it hurts. Krycek pushes a little further, a little further. Mulder tries to keep breathing. How much of him is there, anyway? Then Krycek is in as far as he can go, straining against Mulder's thighs, and he stops moving.

Mulder takes one more breath and opens his eyes. He half expects to find Krycek smiling at him, a raised eyebrow, a wisecrack to put him at his ease, but Krycek's face is perfectly serious, all fair skin and wide green eyes, and he doesn't say anything at all, just waits. Mulder, staring up at those eyes, isn't quite sure what Krycek's waiting for until he realizes that the pain has changed, slow as sunrise, into something much simpler, something he's tempted to call right. His own face must be mirroring Krycek's seriousness now, because he no longer needs to laugh.

Then it isn't enough anymore, as a new wave of desire hits him. Mulder isn't conscious of having made any sign, but Krycek must be able to tell, because he starts moving again and it's like nothing Mulder's ever dreamed. He reaches up, but Krycek's skin is covered with sweat now and Mulder's hands can't glide over it as smoothly as before. Krycek pulls not quite all the way out and then thrusts again, making Mulder dig his fingers into Krycek's ribs. "Easy, Mulder, I'm--going to need my--breath for this--"

"Sorry!" Mulder gasps. He tries to lighten his touch, but he needs to hold on hard and he winds up transferring his convulsively clutching hands back to the sheets as Krycek's movements become more regular. Mulder understands in his mind the rhythm Krycek's trying to set, but it takes a while and several false starts before his hips manage to pick up the pattern and move with him. "Unh..." Mulder opens his mouth and each of Krycek's thrusts pushes out a groan. He could do this for a long time, maybe forever, match his body to Krycek's and watch the light filtering down through that dark hair, running past the hollows of those cheeks, dripping into his skin and pooling in his chest, with Krycek's cock inside him the moon pulling the tides. But he loses the rhythm when Krycek picks up the pace, and towards the end the force of the erratic lunges verges on pain again. Mulder doesn't care though. He could do that forever too.

"Mulder--" Krycek's voice is strained but clear. "Mulder... Mulder!" and he is coming. Mulder can feel the reverberations all through his own body, but he isn't close enough yet to come again himself. Krycek's eyes have finally closed, and Mulder is startled by how familiar that expression is--hasn't he seen Krycek's jaw tensed, his nostrils flared, just like that, a dozen times before? Is that what Krycek wanted him to see? No, never, this is the first time, the only time, the one I have to remember.

When Krycek's hips have stilled, Mulder starts feeling the awkwardness of his position. He waits a moment and shifts his legs a little. Krycek slips out of him then, lets his arms and legs relax and slumps forward onto Mulder's chest. Mulder lets his legs slide past Krycek's sides and stretches them out, wincing again when he moves his ankle. He hesitates for a moment and then puts one arm up around Krycek, hand coming awkwardly to rest on his shoulderblade.

There is silence for a few minutes.

"You realize, of course," Mulder says eventually, "that everything is at least twice as fucked up now as it was before."

Krycek sighs, and Mulder can feel the movement of the breath push Krycek's chest harder against his own for a moment. "I keep hoping that if I push it far enough it'll resolve itself into a beautiful simplicity."

"Mm."

"I don't know, Mulder. I didn't plan any farther than this. I barely even planned this far."

There is another silence. Mulder lets his fingers wander into Krycek's hair.

"But listen," Krycek says suddenly, pulling back and propping himself on his elbows to look down at Mulder, the seriousness back in his eyes. "I don't want you to beat yourself up over this."

"You don't." Mulder's tone has gone dry again and his hand has dropped back to the sheet.

"No. Look, Mulder, you may not want to believe this, but I am not your worst enemy. I'm not responsible for Samantha, and I'm not taking orders from your 'Cancerman' anymore. There are people out there now working much harder than I ever did to keep you and Scully from finding what you're looking for. Let alone the people who created it in the first place. The things I've done to you pale in comparison."

Mulder makes a wry mouth. "What about what I've done to you?"

Krycek gives him a lightning-swift grin. "At least I knew I had your attention." Mulder looks away and exhales in a hiss. "No, seriously, Mulder. We've been through so much...can you imagine even starting to try to explain all of this to someone new?"

Mulder tries to picture himself with a stranger. His mind reels. "You make it all sound so reasonable."

"I'm trying." Krycek leans down and kisses him, once, twice, four, harder, seven, Mulder loses count. "I just-- I want you, Mulder, and I keep trying to get you to want me, but you are an exceptionally hard sell."

"No, I want you, I've always wanted you, from the first time I saw you--" When the words start out in his brain they are only comfort babble, but when Mulder hears them come out of his mouth he is impressed by their ring of sincerity. Is that true? All this time, all those fights, the dreams of Krycek with blood pouring from his mouth, has that been this all along? And Krycek seeing it, knowing. Krycek's mouth has left his and is moving down his jaw to the side of his neck again. It still feels sensational. Mulder makes a little whimpering noise.

"Yeah, okay, I know," Krycek says low in his ear. He moves off Mulder and settles himself next to him. He rubs Mulder's arm, but his touch is hard enough now to ease the muscle instead of just teasing the skin.

He knew. He planned this. He... Mulder shudders and turns towards Krycek, pushing his face into Krycek's neck, trying to shut out the sentences his mind is forming. Warm skin. The pulse throbbing. The smell of sweat.

***

"Mulder..." Krycek's hand is shaking his shoulder. "Mulder... I have to go."

"Mm."

"Mulder?"

Mulder opens his eyes, wondering how much time has passed. "Yeah. Okay." He pulls back enough to let Krycek get up and turns over on his back. Krycek goes into the bathroom, and Mulder closes his eyes again. His stomach feels cold. His mind runs up against the lines he left out earlier--now how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it--and skids away again. He shakes his head and gives himself up to analyzing what Krycek has said. He supposes none of it is actually untrue, but how much can he take at face value? Not your worst enemy--maybe not, but an enemy nonetheless. Not taking orders from Cancerman any more--from whom, then? I didn't plan any farther than this--but he didn't have to, did he. From now on everything will play itself out without Krycek's having to lift another finger. What exactly is he counting on? Blackmail fodder? A crucial hesitation the next time Mulder has him at gunpoint? The wedge of a secret driving itself between Mulder and Skinner, between Mulder and Scully? Heart's treasure, sweet boy, Mulder, Mulder, Mulder!

Mulder opens his eyes to see Krycek back in the bedroom, putting his clothes on. He stares at Krycek as he finishes getting dressed, trying to see again the man who killed his father, the man who betrayed Scully, the man he wants to kill. Krycek pulls his T-shirt over his head and catches Mulder's look, lifting his eyebrows. "Not the same person," he suggests with uncanny accuracy.

"No," Mulder agrees. He wills the memory of his fist smashing into Krycek's face to return, and it does, but so does the feeling of the same skin rough with stubble under his lips. The face itself hovers cool and placid before his eyes, bones set just so, muscles like so, skin stretched over them, forehead, nose, cheek and jaw, but no clue, no mark, no sign to tell him which way to jump.

Krycek settles his jacket on his shoulders and comes back to the bed. Mulder lifts his face calmly for the kiss but doesn't move his lips under Krycek's at all. Krycek straightens up, looks at him for a moment with something that at full strength might have been a smile, and then turns and walks out of the room. Mulder doesn't hear any doors, but he assumes Krycek has left the apartment. Silence falls.

After a while Mulder gets up and hobbles into the bathroom. He holds his hands under the cold water for a few minutes and then splashes some on his face, but doesn't touch the streaks on his stomach and his legs. His reflection in the mirror is indistinct in the dim light falling through the doorway. "Fox Mulder," he says to it. "FBI."

After another while he goes back to his bed, lying awake until the window lightens. When the phone rings he reaches for it unhurriedly. "Mulder," he tells Scully, and there is not a single tremor in his voice to give him away.