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Under cover

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They drove for three hours without speaking. And without stopping. It was raining, raining all the way through Virginia, a steady, world-drowning, diluvial rain that flattened itself against the car windows with gray determination. He crossed his legs in the back seat, recrossed them the other way, and wondered how the hell the others were managing. Not that he was going to ask them. Not that he was going to say a word to them.

It kept raining. They kept driving.

Langly was one of the world's most annoying drivers. He pushed down on the gas pedal and then let up again, pushed down and let up again, instead of maintaining an even pressure, and the result was that the car travelled in perceptible lurches. At a speed of ninety-five miles an hour. He was probably, Byers thought, an agent for the manufacturers of Dramamine. That was a good theory, and one that hadn't occurred to him before, and it cheered him up for all of two minutes before the snug embrace of the seatbelt reminded him again that he really had to go.

Byers stared at the back of Frohike's head, willing him to develop a sudden craving for peanut butter M&M's.

He looked out at the rain.

He stared at the back of Langly's head, willing him to discover that he was starving, or on the verge of acute diarrhea, or both.

He looked out at the rain.

"Guys," he said, hating himself, "can we pull over? Call of nature."

For a moment he thought they were going to ignore him. Then Langly nodded. "Gas station. Two miles. Tie a knot in it."

It was the longest two miles in the world, but he kept himself from fidgeting. Frohike had dug out a bundle of tattered ones from a pocket and was counting them slowly. Peanut butter M&M's, Byers thought to himself. Bet you anything. He wanted something to drink, himself. A bottle of Evian, maybe. Once he'd taken care of business. The contrary demands of his body were a little frustrating.

Langly slowed, turned, turned again at the nearest gas station. As soon as the car stopped rolling Byers was outside, heading for the promise of relief. Death from a burst bladder had never been high on his list of ways to go. The men's room was blessedly clean, and empty, so he could take a stall and sit to pee without feeling like a sissy. He washed his hands carefully, dried them just as carefully, and walked out to find the others again.

They were right where he'd thought they would be: Frohike muttering over the candy selection, Langly flicking through a fashion magazine. Drooling over the models, Byers thought, unkindly. He got himself the promised bottle of water and paid for it. There was only one other customer, a young man in a navy blue suit who was choosing an ice cream cone and shooting curious glances at the three of them as they left together.

"I'll drive now," Frohike said, leading the way to the car, turning the collar of his coat up against the rain. Langly immediately went around to the passenger seat.

"Come on," Byers said, "I've been in the back seat for hours."

"You could always repent, recant, and reform," Langly said with a sound that wasn't quite a snigger. "See the error of your ways."

"Come on." It sounded even more feeble the second time he said it. "Just because I don't agree with your theories—"

"You mean, just because you've bought into the lie," Frohike began, and Byers suddenly couldn't face starting the argument all over again.

"Forget it," he said, standing back from the car, crossing his arms, aware that the rain dripping from the tip of his nose and the bottle of Evian in one hand made him look less dignified than he would have preferred. "Let's just drop this."

"Are you sulking now?" Langly asked. "Can't stand the fact that we're right?"

"I'll get back to DC on my own," he said, incapable of losing his temper enough to yell. The silence had been bad enough, the snide comments were worse, and all he wanted was to get away from the claustrophobic, paranoid world they'd built between them for just a few hours. Byers turned and walked back again, heard the car start behind him, drive away. That certainly hadn't taken them long. He stopped by the door again.

Now what was he going to do?

He unscrewed the bottle cap and drank, and stared at the rain. When the door opened he stepped quickly out of the way and barely avoided a puddle. It was the dark-haired young man in the navy suit, ice cream cone in hand. His eyes swept quickly over Byers, then returned again. "Did your friends just leave without you?" Byers nodded briefly. "I don't mean to pry," a sunny grin as the ice-cream wrapper fluttered untidily to the ground and Byers tried not to wince, "but why?"

"We had a fight," Byers said, looking at the curtains of rain and thinking about the distance back to Washington.

"What about?"

"Jimmy Hoffa." The young man looked at him, with frank incredulity, and Byers had to admit, faced with that look, that it had been a fairly stupid fight, and a fairly stupid thing to fight over. He tried to project an air of yes-I-know but wasn't sure he succeeded. Instead he asked, "Do you know if there's a bus stop anywhere near here?"

"No." It was unclear whether that meant, no I don't know, or no there isn't. "I'm bound for DC, if you're going in that direction I can give you a ride."

He should say no. His mother had told him not to trust strangers, and hanging out with Langly and Frohike had reinforced this early training. But it was raining, and he had exactly three dollars left, and his credit cards were in the credit card holder in the inside pocket of the lightweight gray coat lying in the back seat of Langly's car.

"Thanks," he said, and followed the dark-haired man through the rain to a dark blue Ford Taurus.

The stranger was a much better driver than Langly, even with an ice cream cone in one hand. Whoever paid him, it wasn't the anti-nausea medication syndicate. Whoever paid him should pay him a bit better, Byers reflected, because the navy suit wasn't just cheap, it was actually ripped in a couple of places and stained in others, and so was the shirt, revealed as the suit jacket was flung into the back seat. The stranger caught him looking, and grinned. "Messy field work," he said, and turned onto the freeway. "By the way, I'm Krycek — Alex Krycek."

"John Byers," he said, grateful that Langly and Frohike weren't there to break into their usual chorus of "Fitzgerald!" He fastened the seatbelt and thought that the rain looked much better now that every drop that fell didn't remind him of a rising internal pressure. "I'm a systems analyst."

"Yeah?" Alex Krycek didn't lick at his ice-cream cone, he bit at it in a way that made Byers' teeth ache. "I'm an FBI agent."

The rain kept falling.

Krycek turned on the radio and settled for a station playing alternative rock music. Byers had never quite grasped the nuances of what was alternative and what wasn't, despite several lectures from Langly on the subject, but he knew what he liked and didn't even notice that he was tapping his fingers along with an almost subvocal hum ("it's the end of the world as we know it, it's the end of the world as—") until Krycek looked at him and smiled. He smiled back.

For someone whose main experience of Federal agents was Fox Mulder, Krycek was an easy-going treat, apparently completely free of paranoia and suspicions. Easy on the eyes, too. Actually he was flat-out gorgeous, suit and hair notwithstanding, gorgeous in a clueless, understated sort of way that made Byers grateful his underwear was a little too tight. The pain would keep him from making a fool of himself.

Because he'd quite like to get his hands on the body under that suit. His hands, and his mouth, and—

Krycek was looking at him again. And smiling.

And there was something about this other look and this other smile that sent half the blood in Byers' body to his face, and the other half to his dick.

"I wouldn't have figured you for an REM fan. So," Krycek said in a warm, throaty voice, "are you in a hurry to get back?"

Byers shook his head, but it was more in denial of the situation than as an answer. Guys like Alex Krycek did not pick up guys like him at gas stations in order to make a pass at them. He was misinterpreting the whole situation and he'd better straighten his thinking out fast.

"Not really," he said, quickly and honestly, and then added, "but this is a lot better than catching the bus."

Krycek finished his ice-cream cone with a last healthy bite. "Yeah," he agreed, "I can see that. And from my perspective, it's a lot more fun to have company."

And there was that look again. The look between strangers, the one that says, my body would like to get to know your body better.

Who, Byers thought, and blushed, and tried again, who the hell, that was better, who the hell says he's an FBI agent before, before—

But he wanted to believe.

He looked back.

Krycek hit the turn signal, took the next exit, and Byers knew a moment of fear and exhilaration. Through a small crossing with a few houses, out on a two-lane road between trees, the silence between them a living thing with a heart beating as fast as Byers' own, right onto an unpaved lane, into the woods, in under the trees, and the car rolled to a halt and Krycek turned the engine off and turned towards him.

He almost said it out loud. I want to believe.

I want you.

You're not a serial killer, are you?

And Krycek put a hand on his knee and let it move slowly upwards, and leaned forward and with unexpected sweetness kissed the corner of his mouth. That touch did something to John Fitzgerald Byers, thrilled and confused him. This wasn't the game he knew. Byers froze in surprise, and Krycek drew back again, killing the delicious proximity, taking his hand away just when it was brushing up close to where Byers wanted it.

"I'm sorry," Krycek said politely. "I thought—"

Don't stop!

And Byers steeled himself and reached out, running his hand down the front of Krycek's shirt, smoothing over cloth and muscle, dry-mouthed with longing and aware that it had to be showing in his face.

"Yes," he said.

Yes, touch me, let me touch you. He didn't want to have to explain anything. His mind still thought it was all a hallucination, but his libido was screaming at him not to lose this moment to doubt, propriety, fear, inadequacy.

Krycek sighed a little, killer eyelashes fluttering. He put his own hand over Byers' so that they were both stroking him; Byers felt tight little nipples harden under his fingertips. Then Krycek dragged Byers' hand up to his face, mouthed the fingers, licked and sucked and nipped.

Oh. God.

He twisted in his seat, still caught by the seatbelt. Krycek let go of his index finger with a last little lick, and looked at him with bright, laughing, sea-colored eyes. "Let's go outside."

But it's raining. The words were on the tip of Byers' tongue, and then he realized how irrelevant they were. He nodded, unfastened the seat belt with shaking, damp fingers.

The trees sheltered him as he got out of the car. Krycek popped the trunk open, got out something that rustled, and came around to where he was standing. It was a large sheet of tarpaulin, and the panic came back, thrumming through his nervous system, feeding on lust and adrenaline. Oh God, he is a serial killer. Before his muscles could explode into flight he saw the smile.

"Don't want you to get wet," Krycek said, spreading part of the tarp on the grass-padded ground, holding the other half up, catching Byers' arm. "Come on."

It was the weirdest thing ever, to be kneeling, then sprawling inside that dark cocoon, hearing the rain outside, the clicks of the car engine cooling, and having that warm, muscular body move in close to his own. Weird, unexpected, terrifying, delightful. He half wanted to say no, this is just too strange, I'll give you a blow job in the car instead, okay?

But Krycek's hands ran up and down his back, and Krycek's mouth found his own and he didn't care how hard the ground was under the grass, didn't mind the strange tarpaulin rustle in his ears, the tapping raindrops. It had been so long since he'd experienced the sheer sensual pleasure of kissing. This hadn't been part of the game he knew, either. And he felt the other man's body hard with muscular promise as they lay there kissing, touching, touching, God. Hands inside his shirt. Himself pulling that stained, already-ripped shirt apart and tasting skin and sweat. Then he was flipped over on his back again, pressed down.

Like wrestling an angel, he thought, with a hiccup of a giggle that was swallowed by Krycek's fierce mouth, remembering the times he had fought other children in the playground, grateful that his name wasn't Jacob. Wrestling with an angel and he wanted to surrender, only the struggle was half the fun, really.

"Do you do this a lot?" he asked boldly against the soft tongue stroking his own.

"Do what," breath shivery-warm on his throat, "have sex?"

"Have — sex," trying not to yelp as fingers found his nipples, "on the ground wrapped in a tarp-p-paulin..."

"I like doing it outdoors." The husky voice spoke into his belly now. "Call me a back to nature kind of guy. The tarp's optional, though."

Suit pants yanked open, the chirr of a zipper, his sensible underwear exposed to view except that it was pitch dark in here and Krycek was mouthing him through tight cotton and it was the hottest thing ever. Biting down on his lower lip, seeing stars, trying not to come.

The strangeness of it all was what helped him collect himself, kept him from losing himself completely in the warm promise of Krycek's mouth. He kept having strange little flashes of what this might look like, the two of them tumbled together crazily on the ground like this, what the others might think to see him focused on nothing but the thought of a strange man's mouth on his cock.

Then Krycek yanked his briefs down, and the thought became reality, and reality made him stop thinking. He gasped for air in the musty confines of the tarpaulin, held down by strong hands, by Krycek's weight on his legs that kept him from thrusting. The powerless working of his hips excited him almost as much as the wicked tongue playing along his shaft. He groaned into the crook of his own arm. This didn't feel dangerous any more. It was like being a kid again, like sharing a naughty secret with someone, hidden away and safe and warm and God, that tongue.

"You drink a lot of coffee?" The words buzzed against him, beeswinged, yet another pleasure. "You taste like coffee."

He would never have thought that the plain syllables of 'coffee' could have that kind of effect on him. Byers shuddered, grateful that Krycek was holding him down. But something about the other word—


"Stop," he said, with a great effort. "Wait. You shouldn't — not without—"

But the mouth on him didn't pause. "I hate the taste of latex. But I like — coffee—" And it was too much for him, the way he was being touched, he couldn't protest, and—

And it felt so good, he wanted to live forever.

Afterwards he lay sprawled with a tree root under one shoulder and the sound of his own heart loud in his ears. Krycek was lying against him, chewing on his earlobe. "Ow," Byers said drowsily.

"Remind me again... you don't have to be back anytime soon, right?"

The rain fell steadily, a rhythm that went on and on and on. But they were warm, wrapped up in each other and sheltered in the tarpaulin like children building a house out of a blanket. Krycek moved, grinding himself into the hollow by Byers' hip bone. Byers sighed in utter, luxurious abandon.