Aenima: Prologue by Te
April 17, 1998
Disclaimers/Spoilers: The characters you recognize are by no means mine. I use them without permission and sincerely hope that my cockroach-like insignificance will keep me from being sued. This is an A/U and contains only the vaguest of spoilers for Tunguska, as that is where the divergence occurs, but you can assume that everything up 'til that point remains the same.
Rating's note: Rated NC-17 for extreme violence, poor language, and sick humor among other things. Future works in this *as yet unfinished* series will contain more of the same, and, eventually, M/K. You've been warned.
Author's Note: Lyrics to Tool's "Aenima," "Prison Sex," & "Forty Six and Two" and Tori Amos' "Muhammad, My Friend" blithely stolen without permission. Many thanks to Cici whose marvelous "The Revelation" inspired this *and* who betaed. Oodles of thanks to Alicia, who betaed, coaxed, cajoled, obsessed, compulsed and finally refused to spank me anymore until after I had finished. All mistakes are, of course, my own, and please feel free to call me on them at . C'mon, abuse me. You *know* you want to.
Change is coming.
Now is my time.
Freedom First Headquarters
Just outside of Terma, North Dakota
One hundred and thirty-two true patriots filed into the converted barn and shuffled about to find comfortable spaces amidst a chorus of yawns and irritable mutters.
". . .this about. . ."
". . .beach with Pamela Anderson. . ."
". . .thresher blades. . ."
". . .hope he's quick. . ."
First Brother James Whitfield stood at perfect parade rest with his back turned to the assemblage and waited patiently for the restless scrapings and whispers to settle. The one high window showed a sky roiling with clouds, alternately hiding and framing a gibbous moon. Finally, silence reigned. It was time. He began to speak without turning.
"Brethren, I have received The Message."
Another startled chorus of murmurs--
". . .too soon. . ."
". . .need to set the. . ."
". . .Queens. . ."
--broken abruptly when the leader turned.
The front of Brother Whitfield's flak jacket had bloomed in color: a patchwork of stripes and medals pinned and stitched haphazardly, shreds of blue fabric winking against the olive in a last memory of a uniform long since burned in righteous fury. One hundred and thirty-one pairs of eyes looked a single question into the leader's own. The last was hidden behind the yanked-down bill of a baseball cap and had discreetly begun to scan for a way to make an exit.
"A Good Man of the Lord said unto me that the time for waiting is done, brethren. Tempus, edax rerum omnum, has turned our way at last. Tonight, we strike a *true* blow for freedom. While Brother Jacob had his heart in the right place when he formed our original plan, the aftermath of the Oklahoma City rebellion has proven that a harsher blow is necessary if anything is to change. In my hands I hold our salvation..."
The glass vial gleamed pinkly virulent in the intermittent shafts of moonlight.
". . .Jesus oh Jesus. . ."
". . ..what is that. . ."
"We must be strong, brothers. . ." his hand closed on the vial.
". . .oh please no. . ."
"Please, Brother James!! There've been no inoculations--"
"Yea, though we will be sorely tested in the days to come. . ."
The fist began to clench.
". . .Fffuuuck. . ."
". . .don't do this. . ."
Brother James' feet tapped wildly on the rough platform as a flurry of gunshots sent him into a jittering, shuddering dance, but his soft smile never wavered.
"--sorely tested. . ."
A second stutter of pops, muted in the suddenly stifling air. His eyes closed as he fell, smile strangely beatific even with the blood flowing freely between his parted teeth.
One hundred and thirty-one pairs of eyes watched helplessly as the vial began to wink and tumble its way to the floor. Alex Krycek, however, had decided to leave. Alex knew *exactly* what was in that vial. As he wove his way through the stunned freedom fighters he steadfastly refused to hear the soft tinkle of breaking glass--the abortive attempt to halt its progress ending in animalistic wails of recrimination and terror.
//Pay no attention to the little rat, he means no harm. . .//
He began to make his way across the grounds to the garage, cursing himself for giving them that helpful advice about clear sightlines.
//This was *not* the plan.//
Alex knew he hadn't yet filtered enough information to Mulder about the group for him to make the logical conclusions and agree to help him with his personal war against the consortium.
//Step 1. Alex helps Mulder stop the bad guys from setting off that *nasty* bomb. (neglect to mention my help in its design) Step 2. Mulder, loosened up just a *little* by Alex's act of beneficence, agrees to listen to Alex. Step 3. Alex calmly and logically explains his plan to take down the consortium, or at the very least Cancerman. Step 4. Everything goes beautifully well and Mulder's just so damn *pleased* he can't help but make a grab for his own lovely ankles.//
//Step 5. The nice young men in their clean white coats come to take you *far* away--//
//*Please* shut up.//
Alex heard the unmistakable shift of sound that indicated the militiamen had finally noted his escape attempt. He gave up all attempts at stealth and started sprinting for the garage. The shouts were for him now.
//Oh but *noooo*. A bomb designed to take out four fucking square blocks is suddenly not *good* enough for you. You people just *had* to start fucking around with the seven goddamn seals--//
//What, you want to be a fucking *cop* for Halloween, *Brother*?//
He felt a bullet tear through the arm of his leather jacket and let the impact guide him slightly, gun already out and blazing even as he spun. Four quick shots, three men down. A brief pause as he realized that the man he'd missed was unarmed and had raised his hands in surrender.
"You'll thank me for this later, Isaac."
A body fell.
"Or maybe not."
Within 15 minutes, Alex Krycek was speeding eastward, furiously working on a way to make this latest turn of events work to his advantage.
Only way to fix it is to flush it all away...
Bismarck, North Dakota
A crisp white sheet of paper, harsh words made sharper by the slices of sunlight through cheap venetian blinds:
//tests universally positive//
The smoking man picked up the phone as it rang. It was pleasant to have punctual employees.
"Sir. The hounds have been scattered as per your orders, sir. But. . ."
"Sir, we were only able to chase off a dozen or so of the original 132. . ."
The lackey heard nothing but the sensual drag of smoke through raddled lungs and continued, his voice trembling almost unnoticeably.
"Sir. . .they had started. . ." (an audible swallow) ". . .killing each other. . ."
//A woman with a knife to her (in her)child's ear. A man chewing his own fingers. Another with his face. . .his face. . .oh god oh god oh god...//
The smoking man let the silence build painfully, ludicrously, longer, took another brief drag and coughed a little, red droplets spattering unnoticed on white paper...
//metastasized throughout 70% of your//
A smile made not noticeably more feral by the blood on his teeth. . .He'd never actually listened as a man went mad before. . .Perhaps this time? But no. . .a shuddering breath from the other end of the phone line as the man pulled himself back together.
"What should be done with the b-bodies, Sir?"
This one was strong. . .it was almost too bad. . .
"Leave them lie. You have done well. Collect your associates and report back here. I will be waiting."
The Smoking Man replaced the phone on the receiver. A dozen hounds released to the four winds. . .a touch here, a caress there. . .the Pale Rider triumphant in every germ-ridden contact. . .It would be enough.
Some say the end is near. . .
Delta Flight 457
Bismarck to Dulles
Somewhere over West Virginia
Onboard Hostess Kathleen Donnely stormed into the cockpit, not bothering to gentle the door's automatic slam.
"What's shakin', Miss Kitty?"
She didn't bother to answer her friend (and occasional fuckbuddy) the co-pilot, just jerked the first-aid kit off the wall, slipped out the bottle of vodka secreted inside, and silently began to inhale the contents.
"Jesus, Kate, geese stepping on your last nerve?"
"Just the one, Freddy. Just the one. . .and I think we need to get him off the plane. Now."
"The drunk we took on in ND?"
"That's him. . .only. . ."
"I don't think too many shooters are this guy's problem, Freddy. At least, not the only one." She almost whispered this last, and lifted the rapidly emptying bottle to her lips again--only to have it snatched away by the navigator.
"What *is* it, Kate? Spell it out."
"He. . .Mr. Jethro T. Briggs in Seat 16C is feverish, raving and, to the best of my knowledge, stark staring mad. At present he is locked in the Coach bathroom screaming about the Apocalypse and, presumably, bleeding all over our nice clean head."
"Oh yes. Perhaps I didn't mention this before: Before locking himself away from those pesky demons--they were, of course, *watching* him--Mr. Briggs saw fit to pull out his own tongue and hand it to me."
The seated men watched, paralyzed to inaction, as a small, trembling hand reached into a burgundy pocket.
"Please God, don't--"
"Here you go, Freddy. Captain, I'd suggest you put in a call to the authorities and get us a priority landing. And somebody give me back that bottle. Now."
Some say we'll see Armageddon soon...
Somewhere between North Dakota and D.C.
Alex had been on the road for more than 36 hours. The floor of the truck was littered with half crushed styrofoam cups, cigarette butts, and grease soaked wrappers. The gash in his left arm had finally quit leaking some hours back, but continued to burn maddeningly under the hastily slapped on gauze. His eyes drifted closed.
And immediately snapped open at the wail of a siren behind him. He slammed the wheel, making a conscious decision to let his terror at falling asleep behind the wheel shift to a cold rage. . .then swiftly mutate to shocked humor.
//Did those militia psychos actually report the stolen truck to the *cops*?!//
He shook his head ruefully as he pulled over to the shoulder.
//Well, you *were* looking for an excuse to dump this rolling heap after it tried to die in. . .Indiana, was it?//
//*Nothing* dies 'til I say so dammit.//
//So we lost time for you to fix the damned thing--//
"Step out of the vehicle, sir." She was nearly as tall as he was and vaguely attractive in a businesslike way.
He complied swiftly, almost grateful for the chance to stretch his abused limbs. The trooper took in the reddened eyes, unshaven cheeks, bloodstained shirt and let her hand slide to her already unsnapped holster.
"Turn around, put your hands behind your head, and spread your legs." The trooper had her hand on the gun butt. One look at her cold grey eyes and he realized no amount of charm was going to get him out of this one.
He sighed regretfully for a moment as he slowly moved to obey the orders. Green eyes narrowed as he used his peripheral vision to regard the Smokey carefully. . .There. She was going to use both hands to frisk him.
//Tch. These kids today. . .//
Right foot to right shin, a whipcrack twist at the waist to send an upraised elbow to the ear, the snakelike strike of a palm heel to the bridge of her nose *just* as her head snapped back in fury. . .It was an old dance, and one that Alex had long since mastered.
"Sorry, beautiful. I've got places to go and people to see. . .Another time perhaps?" Grey eyed raged silently at the gunmetal sky as Alex giggled in mild hysteria.
"I suppose not."
Alex lifted the body gently and took a few moments to arrange it properly in the driver's seat of the squad car, smirking privately at his careful placement of the notebook in its lap. It would buy him some time. He briefly considered taking the hat--he'd always wanted one--but decided that it would invite too many uncomfortable questions. He had to keep moving. It was possible-just possible--that a timely warning to Mulder could avert the worst of this almighty cockup. . .and get the man friendly enough to return the favor.
Certainly hope we will...
"Ooohh. . .Scully, I think I saw your lungs this time."
Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully was really not in the mood for Mulder's "humor." The steely blue eyes were clouded and swollen, the hair impossibly mussed from the force of her sneezes, the mood. . .glacial.
"Scully? Are you sure you shouldn't just go home? Mrs. Scully would never forgive me if I--"
She cut him off with a well-aimed eyebrow.
"I'm *fine*, Mulder. The flu's just making the rounds as usual this year. Besides, we have a ton of paperwork to catch up on--and didn't you say something about recei--ah--rece--*gasp*--CHOO!!!"
Blue eyes squinted shut. Hair flew. Mood dipped perilously close to absolute zero.
"Receipts, Scully. Really Dana, as pink and lovely as your lungs are--"
The eyebrow twitched, failed to reach its usual altitude. Mulder, encouraged, barrelled on.
"I really think you should take off early today. *I* feel fine--" The eyebrow appeared to be gathering strength and Mulder quickly changed tactics. "That is, you've been doing much more than your fair share of the paperwork lately; I don't mind finishing this stuff up." This last in a rush.
Scully began to gird herself for the coming battle. A deep breath. A nearly imperceptible purse of the lips. A slight twitch at the corner of her eye. She was sick, but she was still armed.
"Receipts, Scully. I was going to tell you about these strange receipts someone's been sending me. I've got a theory. . ."
Mulder let the bait dangle.
Scully struggled valiantly against the obvious ruse.
"Mulder, I don't want to talk abo--"
He slowly raised both index fingers behind his head in the universal symbol for antennae. She sighed. . .battle lost.
"Let me guess, Mulder: Reticulan tax problems? Interstellar audits, perhaps?"
Mulder smiled inwardly. Like holding shiny things in front of a hillbilly.
"C'mon, Scully, I'll tell you all about it on our way to--"
"I am *not* going home, Mulder."
His lips twitched minutely as she shook her head.
"--lunch, Scully. C'mon, I heard about this great new Thai place. . ."
A suspicious scowl formed on her just-a-little-too-pale face, approached near-Skinneresque proportions, then turned to a wry smile as Mulder crooked his elbow in an endearingly courtly fashion. He wasn't playful nearly often enough. They left the office, both knowing full well that Scully wouldn't be coming back after lunch. Her grin turned wicked as she began to think of ways to make the inevitable denouement as painful as possible for Fox "Jewish Mother of Doom" Mulder.
I sure could use a vacation from this...
Somewhere in Southeast D.C.
Two dead troopers, three stolen cars and several quarts of coffee after leaving North Dakota, Alex Krycek arrived in the greater D.C. area. Exhaustion had kept him from making any efforts to conceal the second body, and it had caused him no small amount of worry-until he'd arrived in Washington. Having kept to the highways he hadn't been witness to the aftereffects of the Smoking Man's scattering attempts. However, after catching two far too brief hours of rest in a cheap motel, Alex's return to city streets was greeted by the absolute worst rush hour he had ever witnessed. Foul tempered motorists had given up horn-blowing for the simple expedient of ramming other cars. He'd narrowly avoided running over three bodies on the Beltway and a rather distressing squelch from the vicinity of his right rear tire suggested a fourth his attention had missed. It seemed that his own contributions to the day's carnage would probably go unnoticed.
//How did it get here ahead of me?//
//Planes, idiot, planes! *They're* not being hunted like animals, remember?//
//Damn. Fine. You're right. Just shut up, though, ok? Now is not the time for a heart to heart.//
//Fine, I'll just talk to myself.//
Caught up in--and quickly losing--an argument with himself, he almost missed his target stepping out of the corner deli. Much to his irritation, Mulder did not immediately head back to his apartment, but instead got back in his Bucar.
//Dammit, Mulder, stay *still*.//
//Like he'll listen to you.//
//Please shut up.//
//Stop telling him to shut up, asshole.//
Alex sighed tiredly and decided to follow him--
//Who knows? Maybe he'll park in a nice dark alley.//
--only to stop abruptly when he realized where Mulder was leading him.
//No *way* am I gonna pay a visit on Scully. As bitter as Mulder is, *he* at least can be made to listen to reason. . .//
//Oh, is this before or after he beats the crap out of you?//
//Christ, remember the bad stuff why don't you? Look, he's probably just making her work overtime on some damn case. . .//
//On a Friday? Now I know why she shot him.//
//And. He'll. Be. Done. Soon. We--Fuck!--*I'll* just sit here and catch him on his way out.//
I've a suggestion to keep you all occupied...
Outside Dana Scully's Apartment
"Open up, Scully! I made you some chicken soup."
"C'mon, Scully, I just had the *worst* drive out here and I already *said* I was sorry about the tickling. . ."
"OK, I admit it. I *bought* the chicken soup."
"It's got maaaaatzoh balls. . ."
Mulder knocked a little harder this time, only to see the door swing open onto darkness.
"Oh Jesus no--Dana--!" His planned rescue was cut short by a sharp blow to the back of his skull, followed swiftly by a well placed kick that flipped him onto his back. Fox Mulder looked up fuzzily to see his partner standing stark naked above him, gun pointed squarely between his eyes, face frozen in a blind-eyed snarl.
"No matzoh for you..."
He passed out.
. . .Learn to swim. . .
Mulder regained consciousness to a strange burning sensation on the right side of his chest.
"One great big festering neon distraction." Scully was still quite naked, save for a pink quilted oven mitt on her right hand.
//Why is she holding those forceps?//
"Scully. . .what's happening?" He moved to go to his partner. Tried to move. A painful examination of his state found him to be just as naked. . .and tied securely to the bed in 4-point restraints. With a shiny new 14-gauge gold ring in his right nipple. He began to worry. "Dana?"
"You're breathing so I guess you're still alive. . ." This last in a parody of sultriness as she knelt on the bed and began a slide up his body.
"Dana. . .I'm flattered. . .really, but--"
He lost his thread as Scully gripped his rapidly hardening cock and began a slow stroke.
"Even though signs seem to tell me otherwise. . ." she chuckled throatily and began to squeeze rhythmically along with the strokes.
"Scully! Please, you've got a fever, you're del--"
Soft lips, sharp little teeth at his throat and that hand--
"Scully, I don't--oh god--want you to do anything you'll re--"
A tongue in his ear. Nails scraping his nipples.
She began a full out assault on his mouth. . .teeth pulled his lower lip, a tongue slipped teasingly under his own and almost in self defense (he told himself) he thrust it into her willing mouth. Black flowers had begun to bloom behind his eyelids before she pulled back and sat on her heels with a frighteningly blank grin. Jesus. One last try.
She licked her palm.
He swallowed with a click and continued. "You don't really want to--"
The slicked hand found its destination and worked him a little faster. She bent at the knees and moved back up his trembling form, trailing her nipples along his abdomen and chest as she went, to finally stop with her lips against his ear again.
"Don't..." His eyes were closed tightly against the sensations and his struggles grew more perfunctory.
A quick move and she was straddling him; her tongue frigged his ear lewdly and her hand never stopped pumping. Some dim part of her fevered brain recognized the need to comfort now and she carefully schooled her tone to normality.
"Mulder. . ."
His eyes flew open again. Was she coming back to herself?
"Mulder, I know. . ." Teeth found his lobe and tugged gently. "I know you've seen fire, Mulder. . .But you've never seen fire. . ." A sudden lift and twist of her hips and she impaled herself on him.
"Aaahhh--" His hands instinctively tried to move to her hips.
"Until you've seen Pele blow. . ."
He resisted no more.
She bit off the scream of her orgasm in the flesh of his shoulder and immediately dropped into unconsciousness, her forehead seeming to burn a brand into his own flushed and tortured chest. Mulder's own orgasm was finished in a body as still as a corpse and he cried a little before falling asleep himself, still helpless in his bonds.
Some say a comet will fall from the sky
Followed by meteor showers and tidal waves
Followed by fault lines, cannot sit still
Followed by millions of dumbfounded dipshits...
Some say the end is near...
It was the cold that finally woke him this time. All throbbing skull and strained muscles. He groaned.
"Rise and shine, *loverboy*."
He opened his eyes to see that Scully had somehow found the presence of mind to put on some ragged sweats. He could see her shiver in the moonlight streaming from the window, face alternately flushed and livid with fever, but her hand--her *gun* holding hand--never wavered.
"Did you enjoy yourself, Fox?" The voice was ice cold but she had been. . .weeping. . .
"You couldn't get me in the sack while I was well and whole so you got your buddies in the Consortium to whip up a little virus, didn't you?"
//What the fuck?!// "Scully--"
The growling scream brought his teeth together hard. Looking at her was like watching a car accident. . .he couldn't pull his eyes away even as his balls tried to crawl back into his body.
"I was such a fool for you, Mulder. You and your precious truth. You took me apart a piece at a time you sonofabitch, and I think it's about time I returned the favor." A knife blade smile. The gun shifting to his shriveling groin. Krycek with an upraised blackjack. The safety clicked off.
Mulder's jaw worked silently as he watched his partner slide bonelessly to the floor.
"Jesus, Mulder, what *is* it with you and your partners?" Alex asked, putting a tone of blatantly false sympathy in his voice.
At the sound of Krycek's voice Mulder was able to muster a little self-control and he managed to slap a mask of outraged contempt on his face.
"You fucking rat bastard! If she's hurt--"
"C'mon *Fox*, let's at least *try* to remember which one of us is bare ass naked, covered in come, and chained to a bed here."
Mulder let his lips curl in a sneer. "Jealous?"
//What is *with* that hair?//
"In all honesty, tempted would be a better word. . .nice ring by the way. . .but that's neither here nor there. We have a serious problem, Fox."
Mulder felt his jaw working again and closed it abruptly. There was so much wrong with that sentence that he honestly had no clue where to begin. Keep it simple.
"We? There is no 'we', Krycek--"
"Not yet, to my *immense* regret, Foxy. . ." Alex let his voice drop to a husky whisper that somehow lost none of its overall seriousness for all its mocking overtones as he ran a tickling finger up the sole of Mulder's foot. The agent squirmed despite himself.
//Damn, wrong choice.//
"But I already said that *that* wasn't the issue at hand here." Alex pulled his finger back and gripped the footboard as he stared at the older man. "Shut up and let me explain a few things to you. Two days ago Brother James, the head of the Freedom First militia group, called a meeting of the entire compound and announced a change in plans. They *had* been working at an Oklahoma City style act of *rebellion*--" he let the full force of his contempt coat the word.
"You sent the receipts--"
Alex cut him off with a curt nod. "Apparently a certain smoking gentleman of our mutual acquaintance gave Brother James a better plan. And a vial of genetically engineered plague to go along with it." He let his glance fall meaningfully on Scully's body. "The good ol' boys didn't react very well at all to the change and I was able to slip out when the shooting started. I've been on the road the past two days to warn you about it, but I can see that I'm at least a *little* too late."
//Scully// "A *little*?!"
Alex rapped him casually on the knee with his blackjack before Mulder could gear himself up for one of his patented rages.
"I said shut up and listen, Mulder. Even with the contaminated militiamen scattered to god knows where, there's still a chance. When I was with the Consortium there was talk of a Doctor Goralev--one of the assholes who *made* this thing in the first place. Two years ago he was in an unmapped village called Tunguska, in Russia, and had been there for at least two decades. It's probable that he still is and it's *possible* that he has a cure. Or at least a vaccine. Take me to Tunguska and I'll help you find him."
"I can go by myself--"
"Oh, so within the past two years you've become fluent in Russian *and* gained contacts in the KGB?"
Mulder began to feel like he was drowning in information, and his current state of undress was doing nothing for his concentration. He filtered through the mass of data to find something concrete to pounce on. "KGB? What do they have to do with it?"
"I said unmapped, Mulder. Tunguska is on government owned land; Goralev worked for the KGB's science division under Kruschev. . .among other jobs. You need me, Mulder. Use me."
Mulder blinked a few times while the truth of Alex's last statement sank in. Finally he seized on the one question his mind could come up with; really, the most important one.
Alex stood up and grinned cheekily. "Maybe it's that *fascinating* mole. . ."
He took a deep breath and continued. "I've already booked a flight overseas in your name, Mulder. We can talk on the plane. I promise to answer all of your questions that I can, then. Detente?"
Mulder looked at him in amazement for a moment, and his eyes darkened in anger. Alex had been prepared for the inevitable mood swing and gave another pointed glance at Scully's still form.
//I can't fail her again.//
Mulder sighed tiredly and set his jaw in grim resolve. "Detente."
Alex gave him a wry salute, pulled a knife seemingly out of nowhere, and efficiently cut the straps. As Mulder sat up and began to rub some life back into his tired muscles Krycek spoke. "When the ambulance comes have them put her in isolation. . .it probably won't do any good at this point, but. . ." he trailed off at the look on Mulder's face.
"Right. The plane leaves at 6:15 a.m. from Dulles. . ." He turned and walked to the door. As Mulder reached for his cell phone Alex couldn't resist a parting shot. "Oh, and Mulder? Could you try to avoid starring in any more snuff films before then? See you soon." The door closed behind him--not entirely muffling his quiet laughter.
"Smartass," said Mulder, and dialed.
To be continued in Chapter 1.
All feedback to: Yes, I *know* it embarrasses you to type it, but please do it anyway.
April 17, 1998
Disclaimers: No, they're still not mine. Yes, I'm still using them for my own twisted pleasure. Yes, I'm still too pathetic to be worth litigation.
Author's note: This is from the same A/U as Aenima: Prologue and begins some 3 hours after the end of that piece. Extended flashbacks are separated from the text with @ marks. Lyrics used without permission from "Aenima", "Sober", "Forty-six and Two", and "Prison Sex" by Tool, "Shimmer" by Fuel, "Rock Star" by Hole, and "Throwing Stones" by The Grateful Dead. Be warned: this series is, as yet, unfinished. There should be two more chapters following this one of similar length.
Ratings Note/Warnings: NC-17 for extreme violence, really bad language, implied M/K, (Nothing too explicit yet. Sorry, folks.) and other stuff too. Also, this won't make one hell of a lot of sense without the Prologue.
Spoilers: Little things, scattered hither and thither up through the middle of season 4.
Thanks/Feedback: Many salaams and abasements to Alicia and Cici who, forwarded me the feedback, encouragement, and threats of physical violence I needed to keep writing, *and* used up far too much of their lives to untangle the word puzzles I like to call paragraphs. All remaining errors are entirely my fault. And, as if there could be any doubt, all kinds of love to the most wicked and wonderful Sister Blue. . .you know why. I'm still *real* new at this and I'd greatly appreciate any and all feedback you care to give. Hate it? Love it? Think I'm a sick, twisted *EXPLETIVETHOUGHTFULLYDELETED*? Let me know at
Aenima: Chapter 1
Why this preoccupation, soul, with Death,
This servile genuflexion to the worm,
Making the tomb a Mecca where the breath
(Though still it rises vaporous, but firm,
expelled from lungs still clear and unimpaired,
To plough through nostrils quivering with pride)
Veers in distress and love, as if it dared
Not search a gayer place, and there subside?
Because the worm shall tread the lion down
And in the end shall sicken at its feast
And for a worm of even less renown
Loom as a dread but subjugated beast;
Because whatever lives is granted breath
But by the grace and sufferance of Death.
--Countee Cullen: Sonnet Dialogue
I can't imagine why you wouldn't
Welcome any change, my friend.
Thomas Downey High School
There were four of them. Senior water polo players all, doing some early celebration of their near inevitable coming championship with 3 six packs of Schlitz and a bottle of Night Train. One a.m. and feelin' fine. . .well, except for Tommy Gratian. Tomas. The Graccionissimo. Grey Schwaun. But that was nothing new either, really; the diminutive "gunner" and captain of the squad always seemed to catch every little virus that came down the pike. However, he certainly hadn't made captain for being a whiner. No, as per usual, Tommy had steadfastly refused to let anyone acknowledge his feverish and somewhat glassy eyed state until he had a good reason for it. Like the Night Train.
"Ian you twisted fuck, "
T-Bone and Jade laughed delightedly as they settled back against the tiles to watch the coming show. The name calling and occasional wrestling was a delicious game, funny for its outrageous obscenities--lovely in its barely couched violence. You could always count on Tommy for some wonderfully entertaining faux drunken belligerence.
"Who you callin' a faggot, asshole?"
Porter smirked. "You weren't so touchy on your knees last night, sweet stuff."
"Oh he's got you there, Greyshwaaaaun."
Quiet chuckles bounced off the water and rose in relaxed waves to the rafters. Tommy turned from his friends and found himself mutely entranced by the sound, with how it seemed to mesh so perfectly with the dancing moonlight reflected from the pool to the bleachers. . .He raised a hand to his burning face and wasn't at all surprised to find it wet. A lightly strained whisper as bronzed shoulders began to shake: "Three ring circus sideshow of Freaks..."
"Speak up or drink, Sparky."
A little stronger now: "You weren't supposed to know. . ."
Jade nearly fell over laughing, beer fizzing over concrete, as Ian and T-Bone found themselves paralyzed in dismayed mirth. The game had never gone *this* way before. . .They wondered if Tommy knew what a perfect picture he was presenting: Head bent just *so*, bleached hair flopping tiredly in a still hidden face, legs splayed as if to brace a weakened form. . .T-Bone recovered first and sashayed over to his captain, gripping his shoulders hard and beginning an exaggerated parody of a sensual massage, completely oblivious to Tommy's startled gasp.
"Oh *Tommy*. . .*why* didn't you juth thay tho?"
Jade managed to reign in his amusement just enough to join in, "Yeth, thweetie, *why*?" running his tongue around the bottle of cheap wine at Ian's hastily constructed leer. Suddenly T-Bone was spluttering for air in the pool.
"What the *fuck* Gratian?!"
Shock-tinged laughter twined jaggedly with the freshly disturbed waves. . .Tommy noted that the water and sound still retained their original symmetry as he turned and silently bent to retrieve an empty bottle that had rolled almost to his feet. Now only T-Bone couldn't see that Tommy's eyes had gone dead black with rage and sorrow.
"What's the deal, man?"
Jade finally stood up and began to walk over to him--only to instinctively fall to the floor as Tommy smashed the bottle hard on the concrete. Thick shards of brown glass flew through the air in all directions, several peppering Jade's prone form. One caught T-Bone in the eye, burying itself in his brain before he could duck beneath the surface. Ian alone remained unscathed, face and chest paling rapidly beneath his deep tan.
The boy in question quickly raked mangled fingers through the scattered fragments until he found the perfect piece. He stood up straight and held it aloft, marveling briefly at the motion of light in its smoky depths. . .
//This, too, is perfect//
.. . .before abruptly punching it halfway through his eagerly outstretched throat and beginning to pull it roughly across his neck.
Ian sucked in a breath as the first burst of arterial blood hit him square in the face.
A scream aborted by the tang of copper in his mouth. . .
//his blood oh fuck it's his blood//
Tommy fell to his hands and knees before he could finish the job, blood flowing across the floor and into the pool where T-Bone's body floated. The glass in his throat waggled obscenely as he tried to speak to Ian, but in the end he couldn't force out a sound. He finally settled for his usual megawatt grin and collapsed.
'Cause I have found
all that shimmers in this world is sure to fade
St. Jude's Memorial Hospital
Outside the Isolation Ward
SA Fox Mulder stood in the hallway and began to rub his temples, completely unaware that his body had begun to sway tiredly to some vague internal rhythm. Scully had finally stopped screaming. Upon being freed from his bonds, Mulder had immediately dialed 911 and gone to check on her before remembering his own nudity. Realizing that the paramedics would be arriving soon and would undoubtedly want some explanations, he found himself scurrying around the apartment in search of his clothes. Deeply relieved that Scully hadn't found the time to do more than slash his boxers to shreds,
//I am *not* going to think about that right now.//
he quickly yanked on his jeans and t-shirt. . .only to howl in misery as the fabric abraded his new body art. Pawing through her medicine cabinet, he found a container of Bactine and gingerly pulled the fabric away from his swollen nipple to spray most of the canister's contents on the burning flesh. He then walked back to the bedroom and arranged the coverlet as discreetly as he could before settling down to wait. And wait.
//. . .must be a busy night. . .//
//I'm not going to think about *that*, either.//
It was a full 45 minutes before the paramedics arrived--looking harried and disheveled and working in silence save for the most perfunctory of questions as they prepared Scully for transport. When they lifted her she begun to stir, coming awake fully in the ambulance, so far lost in her fever that she was convinced she was being abducted again. She had started keening in anger and fear and Mulder had instinctively moved to comfort her. . .and immediately backed away when her wails had taken on a tone of gut-wrenching heartache at his apparent betrayal.
//Jesus, Scully I can't lose you again. . .//
Images of the previous night's events began to dance through his mind unbidden as he remembered. . .
//God she'll never forgive me for that. . .I'll never forgive myself.//
Mulder and Scully had been partners for more than three years, never fully losing touch even when the X Files had been shut down. Even though he'd always found her attractive he'd chosen not to act on his feelings, at first burying them under instinctive mistrust, then relievedly allowing them to shift to a grateful friendship. That friendship had bloomed from his admiration over her stolid professionalism in dealing with the attraction he knew she also felt. By now their partnership was so deeply ingrained it would have been unthinkable for either of them to try to change it.
//Just get better, Scully. We can deal with this.//
//Hell, with a fever like that she might not even remember.//
He brightened visibly at that thought and smiled wryly at his chest. The doctors had given him a supply of antibiotics for it, just to be safe.
//I'll tell her it jams the subliminal messages from the CIA.//
Mulder checked his watch and his mood sank again. The plane left in less than four hours and he wasn't looking forward to explaining his upcoming trip to Russia.
//Call Skinner while he's still sleepy and vulnerable. . ."forget" to mention the identity of my source. . .it'll be OK once we get the cure. Get back here and lock the smarmy bastard away. What's his stake in this, anyway? Never mind. I'll get the answer if I have to beat it out of him. Fascinating mole, my ass. *Please* let me have to beat it out of him.//
//For complimenting you?//
Shaking himself out of his musings, he flipped open his cell phone and dialed Skinner's number. The phone rang only twice before the A.D. picked up, but Mulder didn't allow himself to dwell on that right away, instead launching into his prepared spiel.
"Sir-I'm-sorry-to-disturb-you-at-this-hour-but-there's-something -you-need-to-know-I-have -reason-to--"
"Ease off the accelerator, Mulder, I wasn't asleep. Ka-CHOO! *sniffle* This damn flu bug is keeping me awake. What's the trouble?"
Mulder clenched his fists and froze.
//Might be just a cold//
//Can you take that chance?//
"What *is* it, Agent Mulder?"
//What do I tell him?//
//Lie through your teeth. Have the hospital call his office about Scully later in the day. Call him in two days. If he's better by then you can apologize//
"Mulder?" Irritation was now clearly audible in the hoarse voice.
"I was thinking you were right about my needing to take some time off. . .I. . .I'm beginning to lose focus and I'm going to take a few days off and rest. Effective immediately, if at all possible, sir."
Mulder heard the A.D. sigh tiredly, his mind providing a crystal clear image of the older man rubbing the bridge of his nose in exasperation at Mulder's latest insanity. He couldn't help but wonder if he would ever see that gesture again.
"Mulder. . .*koff*. . .That's fine, Mulder. Go get some rest. And let the rest of us get some too, huh?"
"Yes, sir." But Skinner had already hung up.
After placing a second phone call to CDC headquarters in Atlanta, the agent left for his shabby apartment, for once with only one thought running through his mind.
//When do I get sick?//
But, for one
I'm whole. . .
E. Rutherford, NJ
Parking Area 3B
It was unseasonably warm and dry that fall, cracked and bubbling mud visible beneath disturbingly tall sawgrass in the marshlands surrounding the massive complex. The women relaxing in the old black pickup were comfortable in only their streetclothes; the stocky one in baggy jeans and a plain men's t-shirt, her lithe companion plucking irritably at a short floral dress. The moon cast a spotlight on the vehicle, greying the red highlights in the larger one's tight cornrows and socketing dark hollows under the other's mismatched eyes. Theirs was the only car in the parking lot; the race track stragglers, reeking of a fevered desperation that had little enough to do with the sickness, had departed hours before. The air itself was now a heady mixture of autumnal purity and carcinogenic fumes, ratio shifting with every gust of wind across the flat landscape.
Kel Green smiled wryly at the woman perched precariously on the large bundle in the bed of the truck and made a little show of lighting her cigarette.
"I think we may have just crossed the line, Nikki. . ."
"There was a line?"
Nikki Schade grinned at her lover and guilelessly blinked with kohl-darkened lids.
Kel coughed a little, propped her feet between the other's bare legs and continued. "Well. . .I certainly saw no problem with sending you in to that bar to play Tipsy Femme Slut--"
"*I* had a problem with that." Nikki crossed her arms and began to tap her foot at Kel, narrowly avoiding falling out of the truck as she pretended not to notice the other woman's dry hack.
//Too many cowboy killers, Wolfie//
"Hey, *I* wasn't the one who got threatened with *desertion* if I ever put on a skirt again, sugar. Besides. . ." Kel nudged her gently with a steel-tipped toe to make her giggle. "You look raht purdy in florals, mama."
"Awww. . .yew shore talk sweet, baby."
"We aim to please, sweet thang. Anywho, I approved heartily of your technique when I saw you expertly cull that no-necked troglodyte from his little herd. . ."
"And it took real originality to use his own flask of Beam to deep clean the man once we'd gotten him here--"
"You *know* I couldn't risk contaminating the toys."
"Of course; but there was still plenty left in that bottle of overproof rum we boosted last night. Using his own booze showed a certain. . ."
"Highly advanced level of poetic awareness?"
"It's why you love me."
"Mmm...true, true. But. . ."
"Yes?" She retrieved her pearl-handled straight razor with a small grunt, tossing it to Kel who immediately began to lick it clean.
"Did. . .you have to. . .carve those. . . Spice Girls lyrics in his chest?"
"*You* were the one who said we had to do something to, what was it? 'defray suspicion' should the body be found too quickly."
Kel smiled dreamily even as she began to slice patterns in the air with the gleaming blade. "I *do* wish we could stick around to watch the inevitable raids on local junior highs. . ."
"Flat-chested field hockey chicks led wailing to j.d. . . ."
"To meet girls like you, no doubt. No, I was thinking more along the lines of the cheerleading squad, cartwheeling gleefully over to the bleachers, there to--"
"Assume the position in perfect synchronicity?"
The lovers continued in this vein for several more minutes before deciding that it was time to be rid of their silent companion. After driving to a slightly less exposed spot some 5 miles down Route 3, Kel tossed the bundle over her shoulder and carried it a few hundred yards into the swaying, molesting weeds. When the brown-skinned woman returned to the truck she lit her entire book of matches and tossed it carelessly over the guardrail before yawning hugely and snuggling into Nikki's warmth.
"Where to next?"
"Mmmm. . .There's this positively obnoxious sports bar just outside of Philly. . ."
The blaze followed them for several exits before fading to a simple smudge on the horizon, the stained thumbprint of some careless god.
There's a shadow just behind me,
shrouding every step i take,
making every promise empty
pointing every finger at me. . .
A.D. Walter Skinner's Office
Walter Skinner had given up on the attempt to get any rest when he caught himself fluffing his pillows for the fourth time. By 5 a.m. he had showered, eaten breakfast, and dressed for work. This last was the most irritating. He cursed himself for what had to have been the fiftieth time for not investing in suits made with a lighter fabric,
//Damned Indian Summer//
completely oblivious to the fact that the early morning temperatures were hovering steadily at around 40 degrees. After checking to make sure his gun was loaded (4 times) and that he had packed the extra clips (11) in his briefcase; he had driven himself in to work, planning on taking care
//of Them, once and for all//
of some extra paperwork that had apparently developed the ability (according to Kim) to breed asexually in his absence. There was also the matter of sending word of Mulder's
vacation through the appropriate channels, so as to avoid any bureaucratic unpleasantness. The first hour had gone reasonably well, in his opinion. (Though Agents Waxman and Rogers would later spend a number of hours pondering comments on their reports along the lines of "Needs cumin" and "Moxie. Everybody
loves moxie.") However, despite having appropriated the fan from Mulder's
office and shooting out all of his windows, Skinner was still far too warm. The suit jacket went first, right out the window, followed in short order by his tie, shirt, belt
and pants. This improved the situation dramatically, and he continued to tear busily through the rapidly diminishing pile of paperwork, humming as he went.
Kim walked into the outer office shortly after 7 am, only mildly surprised to hear that the Assistant Director had preceded her. Shivering at the inexplicable chill in the air, she quickly began to prepare for his morning report.
Skinner heard the click of heels in the corridor and narrowed his eyes in anticipation,
continuing to hum tunelessly in order to lull the intruders into thinking that their arrival had gone unnoticed. Moving with feline grace, he crouched behind his desk: gun cocked and ready, a happy tune on his lips.
. . . .Ma please flush it all away. . .
The trees had shed their leaves for the coming winter and they stretched skeletal branches to scratch at the grey morning sky. Unkindnesses of rooks wheeled in the heavens above highways made almost homey by the litter of vehicles strewn haphazardly about like so many toys made bereft by their owners for the promise of milk and cookies. Of course, Matchbox cars tend to lack occupants, and the still morning air was rent here and there by the wail of horns fading slowly as batteries died. In the cities cats yowled their displeasure in concert with the never-ending chorus of sirens as dogs rummaged unconcernedly through half-looted bodegas. Late season flies buzzed and whirled in drunken anger, dismayed at their own sluggish inability to feast. All over a freshly blooded country otherwise healthy people huddled in their attics and basements, armed with everything from waffle irons to machine guns, and waited for an end.
I'm treadin water
I need to sleep a while
my lamb and martyr
you look so precious
British Airways Flight 201 to London
Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean
Fox Mulder was trying very hard not to commit an act of violence. Sprawled bonelessly in the window seat next to his, forehead smoothed of anything resembling care, Alex Krycek was asleep. He had, in fact, been nearly comatose since approximately 12 seconds after boarding the plane.
//He said he'd answer my questions//
//Correction, Mulder: He said he'd answer all the questions he *could*. It's hard to talk when you're dead to the world.//
//Alex Krycek: Dead. . .You know, it's not often that you come up with such lovely images.//
//He traveled halfway across the country nonstop to get you the information, Mulder. Have you given any thought to--//
//He has no right to look like that. . .//
A careful observation of first class seats 3A and B would have revealed the following: A pale and beautiful man, vaguely youthful in appearance, obsessively molded and shaped baseball cap slightly askew, showing a hint of painfully short dark hair. Astonishingly long lashes lie still on cheeks faintly elongated by the parting of rose colored lips. He is handcuffed to the armrest. The sleeping man is being studied intently by the older man beside him. This man's back is to the aisle, tension clearly evident in the set of his shoulders, even under the heavy wool trench. Long, tapered fingers-- pianist's fingers--grip the folds of too-loose jeans. . .occasionally relaxing, only to fist again in white knuckled emotion. Despite all this, the oddly handsome face remains devoid of all feeling save for eyes that flash briefly golden as the plane breaks through the clouds, burning with something not quite definable.
Some two hours ago Mulder had been pacing angrily around boarding area 34. Eight minutes before that a morosely snuffling Candi
//Oh yes, she just had to spell it with an "i."//
had taken offensively obvious pleasure in informing the agent that they could only wait 10 more minutes before takeoff. Krycek had yet to arrive. Gnawing savagely at the pad of a thumb and dreaming of a revenge involving nudity, honey and fire ants, Mulder had almost missed the younger man's infuriatingly casual arrival. Almost.
"Sorry, Mulder; I slept through the travel ala--"
Alex's sleepy drawl was cut off by the brusque snap of a cuff on his right wrist as Mulder attached the other to his own left and began to yank him roughly down the concourse, shooting a glare at the startled Candi. Alex's half-lidded eyes widened at the treatment, then dipped again in amusement.
"Gee, Mulder, I usually save this for the fourth date--but for you I can make an exception. . ."
Mulder barely restrained himself from slapping his own forehead in frustration: His poorly thought out arrangement made it impossible for him to punch the smirk off Krycek's face without a lot of undignified twisting.
//Should've conferred with Scully.//
He settled for aiming another glare toward the man and dragging him even more roughly down the corridor. When they arrived at their seats Mulder quickly unsnapped the cuff on his wrist, jammed it down on the armrest and shoved a distressingly submissive Alex down and back against the window. He then sat himself, jerking the fabric of his jeans a little to save the knees, and clenched his newly freed hand in preparation for the inevitable smart ass remark. Which didn't come. He finally looked a challenge at his companion, only to find him fast asleep.
//No, Mulder. Let the man sleep.//
//Wha--No, you're right. If I wait until he's well and truly comatose and *then* wake him. . . he'll be easier to question. Thank you.//
Mulder cut off the flow of his thoughts with the satisfying crunch of a sunflower seed. . .An old trick. Two hours later he sat gazing at his former partner. It was time for some answers. A playful grin pulled at his lips as he remembered a particularly irritating way to wake someone up, dredged from the dim dead days of summer camp. When the stewardess brought him his ice water he detached a hand from its prior denim abuse, moderately surprised by the twinge of stiffness, dipped one thin finger and patiently waited for it to numb. After a minute or two he removed it and carefully patted it dry on the napkin. Barely repressing a chuckle he began to tap the chilled fingertip lightly and rhythmically against the sensitive upper bridge of Alex's nose. . .only to freeze mid-tap when the formerly peaceful young man suddenly attempted to push himself backwards through the side of the plane,
face twisted into a rictus of terror. Mulder found himself staring into green eyes that blazed fiercely without recognition.
"Yes, Mot--" In an instant the fear shifted to pure rage as Mulder's identity registered with the other man, and then the agent was watching in open fascination as the usual mocking shutters snapped briskly into place. "Mulder. What is it?" There was a tired petulance in the tone, but, despite the bruised hollows of his face, the klieg-bright eyes belied the affectation.
//Mother, not Mom or Momma. . .formalized familial relationship.. . .excessive reaction implies some form of abuse. . .//
//Question now, profile later.//
"I want my answers, Krycek."
"This couldn't wait until--" A sigh. "Of course it couldn't. Ask away, Mulder." Alex's right eye had begun to tear involuntarily from exhaustion and Mulder found himself riveted by the other man's furious attempts to dry his face.
//Human weakness angers him. . .I wonder--//
"What?!" Real weariness had crept into Krycek's tone this time, and Mulder wordlessly handed him his clean napkin. As expected, shock at the unexpected consideration was briefly visible.
//Barriers are weakened. Strike now.//
Turning to block all view of the aisle, he began: "What do you know about the virus? When did you know it? Why do you care?"
//Good question. . .//
Alex blinked ingenuously at Mulder and smirked a little.
//I'm on to your little game, Foxy. Nobody mindfucks like a shrink. . .but I'm no virgin.//
He made a brief show of wiping the moisture from his bloodshot eye and leaned past the other man to make a grab for the drink, taking advantage of the cramped space to brush lightly against Mulder's chest, inwardly treasuring the tension in the older man's form and the brief hiss of pain the agent was unable to wholly stifle.
//Hope Scully survives long enough for me to thank her for that.//
He locked eyes with his companion as he leaned back, but the effect was somewhat spoiled by the tremor in his hand.
//Damn. . .you really are tired, Alexei. Can't let the man have *all* our secrets. . .//
Mulder watched the performance closely, eyes narrowed and head tilting slightly to the side as he wondered what, if anything, to make of it.
//I set him off somehow.//
//Probably just wants you to know that *he* knows that you're fucking with him.//
//And he's clearly not happy with that. Right. Back off, Mulder. You need him right now.//
The agent continued to meet Alex's eyes for another moment before dropping his own.
"Look, Krycek, just tell me what you know."
//Ooohhh. . .look, Alexei: sympathetic and *contrite* Mulder. And you didn't even have to take anyone hostage.//
Alex felt an angry wince coming on, so he rubbed his wounded arm to cover it. Unwilling to watch Mulder lie to him with his eyes, he closed his own, methodically wiping all traces of emotion from his features before beginning to speak. The subsequent words issued from the bland mask of a marble statue.
"I was recruited to spy on you because I could look and act the role of a naive young agent with a mild case of hero worship. Apparently, I did an exceptional job of it because somewhere along the way the man you know as Cancerman began to. . .take me for granted. . ."
A small crack in the facade as Alex's mouth twitched dryly, an expression that wasn't quite strong enough to become a full smile.
"Occasionally phone calls were answered in my presence, meetings began without my prior dismissal. . .and I did my damnedest to make sure all their spook training didn't go to waste. No pun intended, Mulder. I watched. I listened. And one of the things I heard about. . ."
//You *will* tell me all of it, Krycek.//
". . .project that had been aborted some 20 years ago. A team of scientists, which included Dr. Goralev, was to have designed a virus that would only affect those members of the population who had been equipped with a certain type of biomechanical implant--"
"Yeah. If the project had been allowed to continue to completion, the virus would theoretically have worked as a kind of bastardized trigger to the dormant implant, allowing a rough variety of mind control over the victims."
"But the aliens found out about it and ordered the project closed-"
"And all traces of the experimental product destroyed, along with the surviving test subjects."
//Destroyed. . .Jesus. . .so many things to answer for--//
//And did he just confirm the existence of extraterrestrial life?//
"So who decided to share their souvenir with the world?"
"I really don't know for sure, Mulder. The leader of the militia group that got me
out of that fucking silo. . ."
//The oil alien! What does he know?//
". . .thing about a "Man of the Lord" right before breaking the vial--but by then I was working rather hard to get my ass out of there."
"What do you know about the unfinished. . .product? And are you telling me you got all this because Cancerman got absentminded?"
"Hell, Mulder, for all I knew back then I thought they were trying to recruit me for 'better' things. And anyway, all I got from those *occasional* meetings were the words 'Goralev' and 'plague' in the same sentence. The rest of it I learned from the sections of the DAT tape that I was able to decode before our little meeting in Hong Kong."
//That would be one of those beatings I was referring to earlier, by the way.//
//Hey, but I made Foxy listen to me, didn't I?//
"As for the plague-in-a-bottle, well, here's where things get a little spotty. I'll just tell you what I know for sure. 1. They weren't able to narrow the deployment of the agent very well at all; experiments showed that it would affect anywhere from half to 80% of a given population, and 100% of those people with implants. 2. In and of itself the bacterium is not fatal. All it does is convince the pituitary--"
"Which controls hormone production . . ."
"Right. . ." Alex waved his hand in irritation. "--that certain neurotransmitter levels are dangerously low, thus spiking their production. At the same time, it gives people a slight cold. 3. All this hormonal activity causes the body temperature to rise, and that combined with an excessive amount of chemicals like serotonin and dopamine--"
Fox nodded impatiently."Gives you a large portion of the general public having astonishingly bad trips, complete with paranoia and a host of . . .inappropriate emotional reactions. What's worse the victims probably don't even *realize* they're acting irrationally. . ."
//And why does *that* sound familiar?//
//Relax. Keep him talking.//
"But shouldn't it be a self-defeating mechanism?"
"How do you mean?"
"A high enough fever and cells start to die, including those of the original pathogen, leaving the remaining invader wide open to attack by the body's defense system and/or antibiotics."
"Sorry, Mulder, I was a Political Science major. What I know for sure is that traditional antibiotics had limited success at best, and that there's some evidence that other members of the team were responsible for some of the earlier work on antidepressants. Look, Mulder, these people's greatest priority was covering their own asses. It's probable that the experiments that *weren't* published could have had some information that could help us stop this."
Mulder watched his companion, fascinated that, save for the restless roll of eyes behind sealed lids,
//What does he see when he talks about this?//
the deceptively young face remained a cipher.
//A callously beautiful youth speaking atrocities as if reading from a history text.//
Made irritable by the turn of his thoughts, the agent was unable to retain his carefully constructed demeanor of patient acceptance.
"OK, so we're gonna buy the world a Prozac. I understand all that. But why, Krycek?"
"Why what?" Alex heaved a yawn no less authentic for its ostentation.
"Why are you helping me? What's in this for you?"
//Um. . . 'cause I'm really, *really* sorry?//
//Look, Alex, *you* might be fucked up enough to want to make him beat you some more but *I'm* not--//
//Newsflash: If I'm sick enough for something so are you, by definition.//
//Just because we share a body doesn't mean we share psychoses.//
"Mulder, I need your help to get some of the heat off me. As much as you don't want to hear this, we really do have the same enemies--"
"I never played Step'n Fetchit for the--"
"Didn't you?" Alex's eyes had finally shot open in a bleary rage. "Mulder, you were their boy nearly as much as I was. . .The only difference is that they *paid* me for it--"
The older man cut him off with a backhanded blow to the face and shook him by the rumpled collar of his leather jacket.
//Well, it was nice while it lasted. . .//
"Don't you try to compare us, you--"
Alex used his free hand to try to disengage Mulder's from his collar, but the agent held fast, not even flinching at the sickening creak of small bones in an iron grip.
"Fuck off, Mulder! A tip here, an oh-so-mysterious phone call in the night there, the mystical token of *truth*--"
//One piece at a time. . .//
". . .and running. You tell me not to compare us when you've spent the past, what? 5 years? More?. . .getting played by a never-ending stream of liars--"
"Including you!" Mulder hadn't meant to blurt this last out and immediately bent his head to rummage for his sunflower seeds.
//And that hurts the most, doesn't it, Fox?//
Krycek smirked inwardly and slackened his grip on the other man's hand, leaving it resting lightly on the clenched fist. He allowed the rage to drain from his eyes, replacing it with the closest approximation of guilt he could muster.
"Mulder, I. . ."
Mulder narrowed his eyes at the soft tone and jerked upright again. The younger man took one look at the swirling mass of bile and sorrow in his gaze and decided to let his very real fear of bodily harm manifest itself in the bob of his Adam's apple.
//Don't look, Mulder don't look at us don't let us lie to you again--//
//Shut up and let me work! Besides, it's not as though I'm actually *telling* a lie. . .//
"I'm not even going to try to offer you any explanations for the things I did to you when I was with the consortium. The only thing I can say to you is that sometimes you don't get to choose. . ."
Mulder bored his stare into the other man's eyes, his fist clenching once under the warm palm as he struggled to find the fiction in Krycek's words, in his face.
//Nothing in that little speech was remotely specific enough to be an actual lie, and his eyes. . .the softness and brief flash of anger in his tone. . .fear of my touch in his eyes even as he covers my hand with a gentle one. . .//
//Not again. Never again.//
After another moment Alex dropped his eyes and felt the hand at his throat slowly loosen. Sensing the impending removal, he let his index finger rest a little heavier on the other man's knuckles so that it dragged on them as Mulder jerked away.
//Oh, he remembers all right.//
//Why don't we feel anything at this? We would have--we must have once--what's wrong with us?//
The mocking, angry deadness of his other appeared in Krycek's tone, as he had known it would.
"I had the MJ tape for 5 months before Hong Kong, Mulder. I took the precaution of making copies of all the files I was able to recover, re-encoding them, and mailing them to an. . . associate. . .of mine in St. Petersburg. I'm not sure how far you'll be able to go with the information but it will be a start, at least."
"It just doesn't wash, Krycek. What else is in this for you?"
//Do you *really* have to ask, Fox?//
"Mulder, you have the cloak of legitimacy. You can do things I can't. . ."
//Just as he can do things *you* can't.//
Eyes still determinedly downcast, Alex missed the increased tension in Mulder's jaw as he continued. ". . .I want. . .I *need* to be able to stop running for at least a little while. Any damage you can do to those bastards gives me that much more of my life back, Mulder."
"You don't deserve a life, Krycek. But. . ."
//Keep it down, boy; just Keep. Your. Cool.//
Mulder noticed the brief flutter of the other man's lashes but didn't let himself dwell on it too deeply. "If you do this. . .if you help me end this plague, and tell me everything you know I promise to do all that I can."
//To bury you under the heaviest goddamn prison I can find once I've wrung you dry you manipulative sonofabitch.//
"It's all that I ask, Mulder."
//But not all that I'll get, you mindfucking asshole.//
when i went to school oh
when i went to school hah hah
when i went to school in Olympia
and everyone's the same
Mission Park Dorm, Dennett 424
"God DAMMIT, Mara, would you please tell me *why* I'm a chemistry major?"
"Not scheduled, no, but I have to go in any goddamn way to work on identifying my unknown."
"Ah. I see."
"Well it's just that now I understand why you felt the need to drag me out of my nice, warm--"
"--*comfortable* bed and make me keep you company at lunch."
"Well they *did* have chicken tenders. . ."
"Which you promptly booted up as soon as we got back here. . .just how much *did* you have to drink last night?"
"Not all *that* much. I think my body is just rebelling. Speaking of last night. . . "
"Does what's-his-name bring the Mara-base up over 30?"
"No, *Bill* is number 32."
A snort. "Better slow down, girl. Leave some for junior year."
"But there'll be a whole *new* class available next year. . .By the way, what was wrong with Christopher?"
"You mean besides the fact that he's 3 inches shorter than me and drools?"
"He was drooling for *you.*"
"Sorry, babe. I'm allergic to meatheads."
"*I* think he's cute."
"Blech. He's got the seduction technique of an octopus. You *know* I hate that."
"Yeah I do. . .I always wondered about that, you know."
"What, the touching thing?"
"Well. . .my family is a lot more reserved about that kind of thing than yours is. We hug good-bye whenever I leave for school and that's about it."
"Hah! Won one. Sorry. . .go on."
A chuckle. "You and that damned solitaire game. How many times can you play Klondike?"
"Um. . .438. Your point?"
"None at all. Gimme one of those."
The snick of a lighter.
"Thanks. Anyway. . .there's also the fact that whenever I get PMS-y I just feel so. . .icky. . .that I can't stand to be touched at all."
"Hmm. . .OK. I can understand that."
"I knew you would, Mara. That's always been one of my better stories."
"Wha. . .?"
"Nothing, Mara. It's just that I've always been rather proud of that lie."
"Call me Elizabeth. I was just saying that my whole rationale for avoiding physical contact with. . .people. . .is a lie. Would you like to know the real reason, Mara?"
"Wha. . .okaaay. . ."
"When I was four years old my thirteen year old brother sexually abused me. Repeatedly. To this day I simply cannot abide the touch of other people. It makes my skin crawl. You make my skin crawl, Mara. Rutting around this filth-ridden hellhole like some bitch in heat. . .Have you no shame?"
The susurrus of denim on cotton. A gurgle. The snap of bone.
"I *told* you to call me Elizabeth, Mara."
I wanna see the ground give way
I wanna see it all go down
Outside A.D. Walter Skinner's Office
Special Agent Brian Pendrell was sweating under his Level 4 contamination suit. Brian was taking no chances. He had received the phone call from the Center for Disease Control approximately two hours before, while clearing away some routine scut work.
//*This* is what I trained for?//
His lab was both neat,
//A place for everything.//
and empty. That was something, at least: to ostensibly only be taking care of the drudgery because his "assistant"
had called in sick, leaving him to wash bottles in peace.
//as if I didn't have to clean up after him anyway//
The sight of the oddly empty bullpen suggested that young Johnson hadn't been alone.
//Nasty flu this year. . .glad I got my booster.//
In the uncharacteristic quiet, Brian could pretend he had competent assistance, someone
who would cheerfully take care of all the bureau bee ess and let him get to *work*. Then maybe, just maybe,
//she'd notice me//
he would get the sort of notice he deserved.
His pleasant reveries had been brutally ended by the phone call, however, and its direct result had put him here: clean-suited, crouched behind a hastily erected barricade of cheap office furniture, aiming a brand new assault rifle
//single shot *and* automatic//
at the splintered remains of Assistant Director Skinner's door, and surrounded by dead agents.
In retrospect, Brian supposed he really should've known his day would end badly from the moment he'd picked up the phone. Dr. Harbald, "of the CDC, young man!" had been downright surly upon discovering that he was "not even a *field* agent?!" and had demanded to know why his was the only extension that anyone bothered to answer coherently. Of course she hadn't appreciated his joke about the vagaries of telephone existence at *all*. So he had done his best to calm the woman and connect her to someone whom she'd feel would be better qualified, only to discover that the problem was indeed on his end. He sighed.
"There must be a problem with the switchboard, Dr. Harbald. Why don't you tell me what the problem is and I'll have someone
//me, who *else*//
take the message to my Assistant Director. I believe he's in today."
*That* had only made Dr. Harbald angrier, launching her into a tirade about issues of national security being "shunted off to glorified secretaries". . .until Brian had politely reminded her that most secretaries don't have doctorates in biochemistry and carry a gun. After insulting him for several more minutes she had finally deigned to give him her message. Apparently Agent Mulder
//Arrogant jerk. He doesn't deserve to shine her shoes, much less . . .//
had received a tip about a terrorist group releasing some bioengineered plague out west. Harbald had just been able to confirm Mulder's information, and offered the theory that the pathogen appeared to act on the body like some form of lysergic acid. For some incomprehensible reason, she had spent the next twenty minutes ranting about how the CDC should get more respect from Washington. Only after she had begun to wind down did she mention the fact that the disease might well be airborne in nature and already present in the capital. That little piece of news had sparked another argument about Ms. Harbald's irresponsibility, Brian's foolishness, her unprofessionalism, his. . .and so on and so forth until he had been left with the meanest-sounding dial tone he had ever heard. What with all of that it was nearly 2:00 before he finally managed to get out of his lab to deliver the message.
And immediately ducked back in at the unmistakable sounds of gunfire and screams echoing through the halls of the Bureau.
//All right Pendrell, stop and think. Point one: If this was any normal situation requiring deadly force within the Bureau, say, an armed terrorist attack, someone, somewhere in the building, would have tripped the alarms. The alarms haven't been tripped, and the power is obviously still on. Ergo: this is *not* a normal situation. Point two: The Harbald woman said there was a chance that the plague, whatever it is, had gotten to D.C. This plague causes people to act irrationally. Point three: There is nothing more irrational than gunfire within FBI Headquarters. Point four: You need to do something with this information. Point five: It would be nice to stay alive while doing it. . .//
Brian's thoughts had trailed off as he concluded, much to his regret, that he couldn't simply stay in the lab. After arguing with himself for another several minutes over just how to protect himself out there he had decided to put on a containment suit
//It's not as though they'll know who to laugh at.//
and had made his way through the now quite silent halls to the armory to find a better weapon than his sidearm. Once there he debated the relative merits of full body armor versus his suit, but in the end he determined the plague was the greater threat.
He hadn't recognized anyone in the mangled sprawl that was the anteroom--at least until he saw Kim. She had a pleasant smile on her face and Pendrell was momentarily confused as her only slightly rumpled form, curious breeze riffling escaped strands from her coiffure playfully, didn't seem to belong
//Everything in its place.//
among the rest. However, Brian was nothing if not a consummate researcher and he soon realized that the top of her head was quite missing.
//Where--? Oh, there. . .and there. . .//
Instinct made him painstakingly and thoroughly catalogue the whereabouts of the secretary's remains, and so it was that he completely missed the movement within the cluttered shadows of the office. Until, of course, the bullet tore through the (thankfully) oversized hood of his L-4, shattering the face plate before burying itself in the opposite wall.
//So much for L-4 protocols.//
Brian dove for the floor behind Kim's desk without a second's further hesitation and flicked off the safety from his rifle.
"Assistant Director Skinner!"
"That's Captain Skinner to you, boy!"
Brian squinted into the darkness in an attempt to find the source of the disembodies voice, only too aware that the chill draft and cluttered firing line would distort any movement he tried to make out. He chose to ignore the wetness seeping from what felt like dozens of tiny cuts on his face.
"As--Sir! There's reason to believe that you have contracted a virus that has impaired your ability to think clearly--"
"That's enough, Private! Consider yourself on report for insubordination in a combat zone."
//Combat zone? Oh. Oh dear.//
"S-sir. . .the. . .uh. . .the point man?"
//Right. Our Father, Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed. . .//
"The point man got a message to me. . .We're about to be overrun by. . .by. . ."
//--Us Each Day-- was that movement?//
"Y-y-yes, sir. Them. I. . .I'm injured, sir. . .pinned down out here. . ."
"Hold tight, soldier, I'm gonna get you to safety."
//. . .Thy Kingdom Come. . .//
Brian moaned piteously to excuse the small movement that allowed him to raise the rifle, and suddenly Skinner was there. An apparition dressed only in black silk boxers, made impossibly modest by the fact that every square inch of exposed skin had been meticulously covered in the standard green and black jungle camouflage pattern. With. . .what appeared to be Magic Marker.
//. . .Thy Will Be Done. . .//
Walter Skinner hadn't even bothered to look at Brian, had apparently forgotten that he was "on report" for that matter, and was now on all fours scanning and. . .sniffing. . .for the Enemy.
//I'm sorry, sir. . .//
The shots were clean; despite the difficult angle,
//This is what I trained for.//
his first bullet had flipped the A.D. onto his back. The second had gone into the heart. When the painted chest finally stopped hitching, Special Agent Brian Pendrell stood up,
//Sometimes you don't get to choose.//
allowed himself to pry stiff fingers from the rifle, and, painstakingly and thoroughly, lost his breakfast.
Waiting like a stalking butler
who upon the finger rests.
Murder now the path called "must we"
just before the son has come.
Jesus, won't you fucking whistle
something but the past and done?
Gentil Pines Trailer Park
Rock Creek, MD
Jethro T. Briggs, late of the Freedom First militia group, more recently of the indigent ward of Markinson's Mental Health Institution, was praying. That much would have been obvious to any observer, for Mr. Briggs was a man of conspicuous devotion. Beneath the hem of his chastely closed (if disheveled) pale green hospital gown his thighs trembled with the effort of kneeling. His stubbled blond head was bent low, bloodshot eyes blinking with weary piety at the browning grass, and every few moments the one observer present (Eugene Carter, former high school gym teacher) could just see the blue veins of clasped hands wriggle. Two days earlier, kind
nurses had tenderly sponged him
clean of the detritus of his travels, and had given him
morphine so he could rest while doctors reattached his tongue. By now it was gone again, of course. Jethro had realized on the plane that
something was very wrong with him indeed, for hadn't Brother James promised them salvation? Why had he failed to believe? But he had recognized the error of his ways, how his
pride had led him to believe he had the right to speak out against the just and worthy cause Brother James had led. He had been horrified and deeply saddened by his betrayal. He had vowed to
try to make up for it--for the rest of his life if necessary-- and his first act along the road to redemption was the removal of his own cowardly tongue. Of course the doctors had meant well with their efforts, but they were
//Too Much of the World//
wrong. He even understood their efforts to restrain him, for hadn't he been in the very presence of
Brother James and doubted? But Jethro knew he must not allow human weakness to hold him back from his appointed punishment. Later they had stanched his wound and promised to let him rest for a while in the day room, but though he had waited patiently no one came for him. He had tossed restlessly through the night but no one came with the dawning of day. He had grown hungry and longed for the contact of others, but still no one came. He had finally come to understand that this was the way of things, that he must struggle
//. . .Sorely Tested. . .//
if he were ever truly to walk in the light again. And so he had girded himself and rocked the rusting iron frame bed over to the countertop on the other side of the room. The process had taken several hours in his drugged and weakened condition, but he had persevered, sure of his faith in Him
at last. And had he not been rewarded? Had not there been a carton of sharps just within his restricted reach? After that he'd freed himself in mere minutes, though he'd had to rest again before he could leave the infirmary.
Jethro had found Eugene almost immediately, a great mountain of a trusty who had been kicking disinterestedly at a woman's crepe soled shoe with seeping grommets. He had declined the offer to play soccer with a shake of his head and had begun to make his way toward the exit when he realized that another sign had been placed in his very path. This man could help him, speak those words he was no longer
able to say, help him find his way, yea, a very pillar to bear him up when he grew weary! He had subsequently turned back to the dark-skinned man and beckoned him to follow. Some undefinable length of time later they had found themselves here in the Park, Jethro being quite certain that the first of his disciples would be found among the
//downtrodden and meek//
inhabitants of such places. Whether or not this was true, however, he would never find out. Every man, woman, and child at this particular trailer park had been an abductee at least once in their lives (not to mention surviving any number of tornadoes, lightning strikes, etc.) and as such all had been mown down like wheat with the coming of the plague. After sifting through the rich fly-blown sweetness that had been the very last of the double wides, Jethro had knelt to pray for guidance. By this time, however, he had learned how to listen for that still small voice and after a time it had come to him. The pulsing agony that had been his tongue chirped and rippled through his exhausted flesh, and he found himself attempting to form words even through his mantraed prayer.
"Owwphh *eeeweh* hurf."
"Owwphh. . ."
//Mouth. . .owwphh. . .South?//
As the impassive Eugene drove them down I-695, Jethro basked in righteous joy, sure at last of his place in the world.
Shedding skin and
I've been picking
My old muscles
Looking for a clue.
I've been crawling on my belly
Clearing out what could've been.
I've been wallowing in my own confused
And insecure delusions
For a piece to cross me over
Or a word to guide me in.
I wanna feel the changes coming down.
I wanna know what I've been hiding in
Heathrow International Airport
8:28 p.m. (London time)
"Haven't you ever heard of the concept of personal space, Mulder?"
"I'm not letting you out of grabbing distance, Krycek."
"Whatever does it for you, *Fox*, but couldn't you at least save the cuffs for when we're in private?"
The detente was beginning to fray. Once again, Mulder had been forced to shackle himself to Alex and was unable to belt the man without risking damage to himself. He did manage to retaliate, though, abruptly redirecting their movements over to one of the conveniently bolted down tables where he could restrain the younger man long enough to smack him one on the back of his head. He was rewarded with a tightening around Krycek's eyes that marred his mask of mocking good humor just enough to satisfy.
After the younger man had answered his questions, Mulder had turned away and ignored him for the dubious lure of the in-flight magazine. When the agent had glanced up again Alex was coiled around himself in the leather seat,
//Bastard insists on first class, then curls himself up like a pillbug.//
his sleeping body slumped into a comma but for the bound wrist extended toward Mulder. As the glossy allure of overpriced trinkets faded, Mulder found himself staring at the other man
//Killer. Liar. Traitor.//
again, his gaze drawn this time to the fine brows. There was a martial quality to them, he decided--the taut yet subtle curve of the scimitar plainly evident in their arch. And then there was the lean musculature. . .he realized his earlier assessment of the man as being
at peace with himself had been inaccurate. While the face remained as unlined as ever, it was clear that underneath his blandly nondescript clothing every muscle was flexed with tension. Mulder's brow wrinkled as he rifled the detritus of his mind for an analogy. A rubber band *did* imply the sting of eventual recoil but it wasn't quite
enough, somehow. . .Perhaps a medieval longbow? That felt right to him--it had taken long conditioning for the men at Agincourt to develop the strength required merely to notch an arrow, and even then a momentary distraction could leave you maimed for life. Mulder supposed that it was only natural that he think of the man as a
weapon; what little information that he had on Krycek pointed to extensive combat training at some point. Either way, Mulder derived some satisfaction from the knowledge that the younger man couldn't achieve comfort in his exhaustion, and after a time he managed to drop off himself.
". . . don'tscreamquietyourfaultthirstydarkletmeoutdon'tscream don'tyourfaultdon'tsodarkthirsty. . ."
Mulder started awake with the muzzy impression that he had missed something important. He instinctively reached for Krycek, needing to reassure himself that the man was still there despite the fact that he was looking directly at him.
With a moue of distaste, the agent pulled his hand back from the younger man's chilled and clammy flesh. Unthinkingly, he wiped his hand on his jeans as if to erase the other man's touch from his skin. As long as Krycek stayed relatively quiet Mulder would leave him to his dreams. He wasn't the man's psychologist and he certainly wasn't his friend;
//Let him suffer.//
therefore it wasn't his place to interfere. Mulder settled back in his seat and watched his companion writhe and mutter in his sleep. In the absence of the walls erected by consciousness, raw emotions etched themselves clearly on the other man's face and Mulder found himself mesmerized by their mercurial shifts: rage, terror, sorrow,
". . .pleasei'lldobetterdon'tithurtsdon'tleavemeherehavetobe strongsodarkhurtsthirstyletme. . ."
supplication, back to rage, to sorrow, to cunning. . .until finally the horror remained constant. Mulder's eyes gleamed at the sight.
//This is what I needed.//
The other man's palpable misery loosened the belt that had been around Mulder's lungs since the night he had found the Morleys in his ashtray. He allowed himself a moment's fantasy of how things might have been, some fine and private place where his only need for the former agent was as a target for retribution. Krycek was already cuffed and moaning; it was really no stretch at all to imagine that the surprisingly deep furrows around his eyes were caused by punishment Mulder had inflicted, that the bestial stench of his companion's fear was in response, dizzyingly so, to Mulder alone.
" . . .*strong*!"
Alex's own mercilessly stifled scream finally woke him, and its abruptness gave Mulder no opportunity to drown the brittle greed in his eyes before the younger man could see it.
Mulder sighed as he remembered the look of shocked disgust on Krycek's face in that instant of comprehension. Both of them had spent the remainder of the flight in awkward, wakeful silence--Alex unable or unwilling to refrain from shooting offended glances at Mulder, the agent all-too-viscerally reliving a visit from his mother at an inopportune moment when he was fourteen.
". . .thirsty."
"What?!" Guilt skittered through Mulder's bowels as Krycek's soft words echoed his earlier mutterings far too closely.
"I asked if I could have a drink, Mulder. I'm thirsty."
//That's right, you twisted little voyeur. Thirsty. Just like I was then. . .but then you know that now, don't you?//
"Oh. . .Fine. I'll be right back." Mulder walked to the bar, tracked by Alex's narrowed gaze.
//You're lucky you got a great ass, Fox.//
//And that we're chained to this table. . .//
//How could he just *watch* me like that?//
//How much of what he is now are we responsible for? Where is it, Alex? *What* is it that we should be feeling now? It seems as though. . .//
//Well, Mother always said that if you can't remember it then it must not have been important in the first place. Now shut up and let me ogle before he comes back and we have to make him feel guilty some more.//
//It wasn't always like this?//
//'See that he gets home safe,' he said. Right. Easier fucking said than done.//
Mulder's eyes narrowed at A.D. Skinner's summary dismissal and, heading back to his basement office, he brushed past Krycek as if the younger man were a piece of furniture. Alex cursed the older man silently, biting back the cuttingly obscene remark that had bubbled to the surface.
//Just a little while longer, Alexei. Stay in character.//
"Mulder! Wait up, I'll drive you home. . ."
In response Mulder shot him a look of such cold reproach that he flinched involuntarily and faltered--an action he couldn't have planned better, as the older agent immediately softened, though he still turned his back and continued wordlessly to the stairwell. This time Alex allowed his curses a little freedom, and sped up his own pace.
He reached the stairs only a few steps behind Mulder, but the older man began taking the steps two and three at a time, long legs scissoring recklessly over the concrete. Mulder radiated a febrile energy as he descended, his jerking movements a sickly parody of his usual unconscious grace, edging him closer and closer to an inevitable--
"Mulder!" Alex grabbed for the other agent's suit jacket as he saw him start to lose his balance. Unfortunately, he overcompensated and wound up yanking the man up a step, which caused them both to lose balance for real. They tumbled in an untidy heap onto the steps, landing with Alex's legs sprawled wide, Mulder's head thumped against his shoulder, back to his stomach. "Jesus, Mulder, you almost killed yourself!"
Krycek could feel the older man's muscles twitch randomly against him. It was as though Mulder had forgotten the physics of basic movement and could only bolt in his mind. Alex slipped an arm around the other man's chest
//Like holding a bag of kittens. . .//
and awkwardly pulled them both upright again before releasing him save for a hand on the spasming shoulder.
"You're wiped, Mulder. You can't do a thing to help her in this condition."
//Or at all.//
"Let's just get you home so you can be fresh tomorrow."
The other man didn't say a word, but reached up to give Alex's hand a
//Grateful? Companionable? What the fuck?//
squeeze before continuing down the stairs--one by one this time.
Mulder stopped, seemingly puzzled, when they reached the garage, and Alex had to tug gently at his coat-sleeve to get him moving again. The drive to Alexandria passed in awkward silence, Alex dividing his attention between the road and the other man's back. Mulder was hunched facing the passenger window, apparently tracking the sluggish afternoon traffic. One hand, propped behind him, was his sole concession to proximity while the rest of the man was as far away from Alex as he could get. That hand was a winter spider, pale and still in the no-man's land between them. It seemed to bask in the muted light from the windshield, its fine dark hairs appearing delicate enough to sense the slightest shift of air currents within the car. It remained perversely motionless, however, and as such was vaguely troubling to the younger man.
//Always hated spiders.//
Alex pulled up to Mulder's apartment building, feeling a brief flare of territorial joy at being able to find a space right in front, and unlocked the doors.
"You're home, Mulder."
//Great. Snap out of it, Mulder, I've got things to do.//
He hesitated a moment, irrationally positive that jarring the hand would jump-start the somehow alien multi-limbed dance of the harvestman. He gritted his teeth against the mildly nauseating image and carefully enfolded the digits within his own before continuing.
"C'mon, Mulder. Let's get you upstairs."
The look he received in response was unreadable, and Alex instinctively tightened his hold on the other man's fingers for a second, unwilling to let the skitter that undoubtedly rested just beneath their surface break free. After a moment Mulder dropped his eyes and slowly unfolded himself from the car. Alex smiled ironically to himself
//Gotta get a grip on that imagination, Alex.//
before putting on his eager
//and *ever* so naive//
junior G-man face and following the other man upstairs. The younger man allowed his mind to drift as he trailed Mulder up to his apartment, and so found himself blindsided by what happened next. As soon as Alex stepped inside the cluttered apartment Mulder slammed him against the wall, braced his hands on either side of Alex's head, and proceeded to lay waste to his stunned and unresponsive mouth.
//Ah. So *that's* what that look meant. Is this appropriate behavior for Agent Krycek? How naive should I be?//
The rest of his body decided to take at least part of the decision away from him when Mulder snaked a demanding hand down to the front of his trousers. Alex groaned into the pillaging mouth as what felt like most of the blood in his body relocated itself. Mulder responded by licking at his lower lip, apparently trying to get the response he could feel in the younger man's cock to mirror itself in the shell-shocked face.
//This was *not* part of the assignment.//
Mulder broke the kiss and kneaded Alex through the cotton of his briefs.
//Jesus! When did he get my zipper down?//
". . .seen those looks, how close you'd get to me--"
Mulder flattened his tongue against Alex's cheek and sliced a hot path to his ear before continuing.
"I said: Stop fighting me, Alex. I know you want this. . ."
The hand slipped inside his briefs and freed his erection, the rough friction of Mulder's palm making him gasp.
". . .all those glances, always barely a breath away from me. . ."
"Mulder, you need to sl--" Another quick ravaging kiss to quiet him.
"Don't tell me what I need, Alex. . .I want you. . .and tonight I need you, too."
". . .beer's all right."
"I said, I hope beer's all right. The bartender said the coffee had been sitting around all day."
//Dammit, Mulder, can't you even let me have a fantasy in peace?//
//You *did* send him to get us a drink. How long did you think it would take?//
//Did I ever tell you what I did to my conscience?//
"Beer's fine, Mulder. Thanks."
Alex finally looked up at the other man, just in time to watch him consciously smooth his face clear of some emotion.
//Still feelin' guilty, Foxy? You're too easy. Anybody who knows about your little collection knows you like to watch.//
"You're. . .
//not welcome never welcome again//
Mulder's internal VCR insisted on playing the images of his earlier indulgence in Alex's nightmares and he just barely restrained himself from kicking the other man in frustration before choking out ". . .welcome."
Krycek hadn't missed the pause and smiled darkly to himself.
//You know he's only going to be angry with us for making him feel guilty--//
//Even though it's his own damned fault. Of course. Time to switch gears.//
"Any chance of getting some food, Mulder?"
"I already checked, Krycek. They stopped serving dinner an hour ago. You'll--"
"Just have to wait, I know." He fetched a regretful sigh. "You can't get a good blood pudding just *anywhere*."
"Krycek, that's disgusting even for you. There is nothing worse than British cooking."
"Hey, they had an empire to run, Mulder."
Mulder heard the alarms going off in his head, but was unable to completely stifle his laughter.
//It shouldn't be this easy to fall back into the old rhythms.//
"I'm not in the mood for small talk with you, Krycek."
Alex kept his own delivery bland.
"Mulder, we have another hour before the plane leaves for St. Petersburg--"
"So why don't you tell me about my father."
//Well, this is new. . .why is he so calm?//
The younger man checked his watch, stalling a little.
"I guess I should be thankful that you didn't feel the need to give me any new scars before asking me this ti--"
"Knock it off and talk, Krycek."
//You have no idea what I need, you bastard. You never did.//
"What's the point, Mulder? You're never going to believe anything I tell you." It took some doing, but Alex kept the weariness out of his voice.
"Like you said, Krycek: we've got another hour and I'm bored." Mulder twisted the corner of his mouth up in a meticulously apathetic smirk.
//Yes, this is the way. As long as I don't give him anything to play with he stays off balance. Who knows, I may even get some answers out of him this time.//
The older man was deeply grateful for the arrogance of tradition that meant even laughably faux pubs like this one were kept dim. The gleam in his eyes was hidden; the game could continue.
//Which one? Suicide? A second assassin? That wouldn't be *entirely* false. Oh, Mulder--//
"You know he was no innocent, Mulder. Do you really think he'd still be alive if I hadn't pulled the trigger?"
Mulder covered his shock with a sip of his warm beer.
//He just admitted it to you. You wanted his ability to hide your emotions and feared that your questions would give him your rage again. So why is it that the mask fits so much better now?//
"So you did kill him."
"Isn't that what you always believed anyway?"
//Would I have been able to arrest him if he'd told me the truth that night?
//Would I have killed him myself?//
The agent nodded once, scraped his chair back and stood.
"Where are you going?"
"To get a couple more beers. You want one?"
"Sure. . ."
//Well, this is new.//
//. . .//
//What, no commentary on the healing power of Truth?//
//I've been thinking about what you might have done to your conscience.//
Alex's wicked smile died on his lips as he watched Mulder stumble a little on the way back to the table.
//He's only had one beer. Fuck.//
The older man tilted his head a little in question.
"How are you feeling?"
Mulder's head snapped back in anger. "What is this, Alex? True confessions? I'm not going to fall apart just because. . .Oh *fuck*."
"We can't stop, Krycek. Not just because I'm sick."
"If you think I have *any* intention of running around with you armed and high you're already too damn sick for us to be *having* this conversation."
Mulder fell into his seat and rubbed at his temples.
"Maybe you can steal me a big-ass bottle of Elavil."
"Forget your troubles, c'mon get hap--"
"Mulder! This is not the time to fuck around."
//How can someone sound so prissy with a mouth like that? I guess it wasn't *all* an act after all.//
Mulder bit back a giggle. He was feeling rather warm. "I know, Krycek, I know. . .it's just. . ."
//What? Oh fuck, this is bad.//
"Mulder, stay with me for a while here. Back on the plane, what were you saying about it burning itself out?"
"Um. . .a high fever. . ."
//when you kiss me//
"Oooh, now *there's* a thought I don't want to have."
"Fuckin' A, do I even want to know? Never mind, don't answer that.Here's the plan: We are going to a hotel and holing up there *right* *now*--"
The agent was shaking his head vigorously if a little too loosely. "No, Alex, we can't stop--"
//Alex? Hmmm. . .//
"We can't travel with you flipping out, Mulder. We're gonna test your theory, lie low for a few days, and hope. If you're well enough to travel after that we'll go on. If you're not, I'll go on myself."
"How can I trust you to do that?"
"I'm not real fond of the idea of the world ending, Mulder. I keep all my stuff here."
There's a fear down here we can't forget,
Hasn't got a name just yet.
Always awake, always around. . .
St. Jude's Memorial Hospital
"And how are we feeling this morning, Dana?"
//This is why people hate doctors.//
"*I* am feeling perfectly well, Dr. Wittig. And if you can't remember that I'm a doctor as well you can call me *Agent* Scully."
Dr. Wittig gave Scully his best 'You're a very naughty patient, can't you see you're only hurting yourself?' look. She responded with an expression that reminded the man of his mother at her most im-placable and made his brows knit.
//Easy, Dana. Show him your competence. Show him your fundamental lack of faith in his own. Make him feel embarrassed, but not antagonized.//
The agent adjusted her end of the silent dialogue to include a certain amount of world-weary humor. 'Yes, we're both quite irritated now, and isn't it rather silly for people like *us* to behave in such a way?' Wittig softened immediately and made a show of checking her chart.
//Yes, that's it, always play to the inherent elitism. . .now just--//
"Well, Do--Agent Scully, your fever has dropped nicely, and you are clearly no longer delusional--"
"Of course not, Dr. Wittig. I am fully aware of the trouble I caused while feverish and I apologize, but it *was* wholly due to my elevated temperature. I think it's about time to get rid of these restraints, don't you?" Dana smiled wryly as she tugged a bit at the right cuff.
"Wha--Oh, of course, Agent Scully." He bent to unfasten the velcro, and Scully immediately swung her legs over the side of the bed. "But I really do think you should stay here another day or two for observation. The preliminary bloodwork we did shows your white count to be rather high."
//Nobody asked for your opinion, Wittig.//
"I really should be getting back to work, Doctor." Scully held up a hand to stop the inevitable protest. "Trust me, Dr. Wittig, I'm not planning *anything* more strenuous than
//the systematic mutilation of a certain federal agent//
a little paperwork." Scully smiled sweetly, pouring every bit of 'trustworthy Catholic schoolgirl' that she could into her even gaze.
//I will make him pay.//
"Besides, Doctor, these walls are not especially thick. It sounds to me as though you have quite the little epidemic on your ha--"
"Said epidemic being the reason you were brought in, Mi--Agent Scully." The man was beginning to recover his composure.
"The *assumed* reason, Dr. Wittig. I understand that it was my
partner who brought me in?"
"Well, y-yes, but you were--"
"Raving with fever. Of course. Agent Mulder is *not* a physician, Doctor. I am. I assure you that if my condition worsens in the slightest I will put myself to bed immediately."
Dr. Wittig began to show signs of further protest.
"Really, Wittig, that *is* the only 'prescription' at this point isn't it?"
It was a dismissal, and the doctor heard it as such. He narrowed his eyes at the agent, but she had already turned her back to him, rummaging through the cheap wardrobe for her sweats. When she finally faced him again, Scully affected to be surprised that Wittig was still present. A raised eyebrow.
"Was there anything else. . .?"
//Or were you just hoping for a peep show? That's all you want, isn't it? All *any* of you want.//
". . .careful, Agent Scully."
Dana flashed her most winning smile at the doctor to cover her distraction.
"Of course, Doctor. Of course I will."
To be continued in Chapter 2.
All feedback to . You can call me Te if the e-mail addy throws you too badly. ;-)
Note: In Mulder's flashback in scene ten I used the word 'rifle' to describe how the agent accesses his memories. Alicia assured me that I *really* meant 'riffle'. I disagreed. She whipped out the dictionary. I bitched. She moaned. I finally told her that riffle made me think of tribbles: Cute, fuzzy, and relatively harmless creatures that have *no* place in *my* Mulder's mind. So, before any of you other obsessives call me on my unforgivable abuse of the language, (in this case) *please* understand that I knew what I was doing. Kinda.
Promises: An Aenima Vignette
In a message dated 6/5/98 3:18:47 PM, L.C. and Annie wrote:
<<<< Oh, I'm just SWAMPED right now...how about I get my Krycek clone to do it for me? ;)
who is aware that this is not really PUNISHING Annie... >>
Nope, but I need a good spankin' anyway. ::rubs hands together and waits::>>
Alex knelt on the cracking beige tile, trying very hard not to stretch his bruised and aching muscles too much. It had been a... strenuous... night.
//You just *had* to tell him to do it hard didn't you?//
//You think if I hadn't he would've been all tender caresses? I was *hoping* to appeal to his perverse love for disobeying orders.//
In any case, he was sticky, stubbled, and stank to high heaven. His sleeping companion wasn't much better off and the bed sheets were an absolute disaster. But Alex was feeling generous, and a nice, long soak in the tub would do the both of them right. He'd found bath salts in Mulder's luggage--the good kind without all the irritating bubbles--and he let the scent of almonds wafted on steam carry him off to a precarious doze as he waited for the tub to fill. Suddenly, there was a hand around his neck and he gasped in a lungful of hot water.
"Good *morning*, sunshine!"
//Would this be the third or fourth time he's tried to kill you?//
//Third, I think...//
Mulder yanked him out of the tub. A bleary glance revealed that *this* time he'd simply yanked the iron bar he was cuffed to clear of the frame.
//I really need to stop sleeping around this man.//
"I don't like restraints, Alex."
Another ducking. Longer this time.
"You... didn't specify how... strongly you felt about it, Mulder."
Under again and his father was waiting for him. Grinning through the remnants of front teeth shattered by a shotgun barrel and beckoning.... beckoning...
"I thought I should clarify."
Alex felt the tightening that signified another duck. He sucked in a gasp through the acid burn in his lungs.
"Stop! Dammit, you *promised* we... we were done... with this..."
A thoughtful stroke along his nape.
"But you tied me up again..."
There were tears running down Alex's face, squeezing past lids clenched againt the agony of the salts.
"I... repeat... you did *not*... specify."
The hand finally left his neck, and Alex felt trembling arms wrap around his chest.
"Please, Alex... not the cuffs again.. I can't... you don't know..."
"I'll remember... but will you?"
//As if it matters...//
"There's noise in my head... always so fucking loud and sometimes I can't hear anything else... but you... you're always there and I know I could make you stop I know I could..."
Alex flexed his arms to make Mulder's fall away and stood. The older man was on his knees, arms limp at his sides, iron bar scraping at the ceramic with each twitch. His head was thrown back, and Alex could see the eyes roaming endlessly under straining lids. He rested a gentle hand on the pale shoulder and squeezed.
"I won't tie you up again, Mulder. But this... your oh-so-entertaining attempt at morning after angst... It has to stop."
The eyes shot open and fixed themselves firmly to Alex's own.
//Do you hear me breathing? Does it make you want to scream?//
"What else is there for us, Alex?"
The younger man squeezed again and Mulder rose to his feet, swaying lightly. Eye to eye and filthy with each other... there was a beauty to this. Alex kissed him lightly and backed away a little, making an expansive gesture taking in the brown on brown decor, the mildewed tile, the bare bulb buzzing piss-toned light on it all.
"With all this splendor at our fingertips do you even have to ask?" His other hand roamed to the darkened cheek and stroked.
A hoarse laugh, tantalizingly sane in its brevity. "I never figured you for a romantic."
"You always did bring out the best in me..."
Mulder leaned into the touch, finally, eyes stilled and fluttered half-shut for a moment.
"Alex... I need to not do this again..."
"What's it gonna take to make you keep your promises?"
"Mmm... a token, a gift... a way to remember you by... You have such nice hands, Alex..."
//You *did* hide the knife, didn't you?//
"How do you want them, Fox?" A wince, of course, but so long as he kept him *here*... "Tell me. Show me."
A crooked grin and Mulder stood straight, leaning in for a slow, gentle kiss before turning and kneeling again before the tub.
"Are you sure?"
Mulder tossed a
look over his shoulder but didn't answer. "Then we'll do it your way. And you'll remember."
Alex knelt at the other man's side, trailing a hand over a spine rippling with tension, over downy cheeks and between, unable to keep himself from toying with the hardening flesh beneath his fingertips.
"We've already... tried this..."
Alex tugged lightly at the wiry hair, pressing close enough to whisper.
"And what makes you think I'll ever grow tired of the attempt?" A slow lick along a rough cheek. "But we'll play it your way."
The first slap was light, testing, met with what could only be a disappointed silence. Alex pulled himself down and in and let the memories slowly flood -- an indulgence he almost never allowed. Courtesies met with disdain, unwanted intimacies with car bonnets, phone banks and guns in his belly and mouth and it was all fire and anger and unanswered questions and his hand rose and fell over and over again and the shocks traveled unheeded down his arm and he was falling and buried wrapped up inside the then
//Anything you want.//
until the now could pierce through the clinging stifling fabric the rag-bag of a cluttered existence but as always...
...Mulder was the fiery blade that could cut through all. Alex threw back his head and howled at the strain of pulling his last blow. The older man had his head bent, sobbing, hips bucking mindlessly at stained porcelain. When he could catch his breath he slipped one hand between the reddened thighs and tugged firmly on Mulder's sack.
"Good. But not yet."
Alex tested the water; tepid again. He reached in and pulled the plug, then tugged Mulder to his feet again.
The older man simply stared, fixing him with a look of questions Alex simply did not have the capacity to answer. He washed them both as efficiently as possible, regretfully allowing the torn bandages around Mulder's wrists to loosen and slip off under the water. The older man was passive, slow blinks the only interruption of an otherwise steady gaze. The bar still dangled from the cuff on the right, and he knew it had to hurt.
//Remember this, Mulder...//
It was only when carefully clinical hands began soaping Mulder's still-erect cock that he moved, threading the unencumbered hand through Alex's own and demanding a more pleasing touch.
"Alex... faster, please..."
"You always seem to get the best of these little moments."
"Give me this-- just this-- and I prom--"
Alex crushed the pale body to his own and cut off the flow of words, letting Mulder guide his hand as he wanted to and swallowing the moans in a kiss.
"One promise at a time, Mulder..."