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The Mark a Moment Makes

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It was another night alone at the warehouse. Despite the need to finish editing the cover story for the next issue, Byers was finally getting to the point where his eyelids were starting to collapse in on themselves like a Florida sinkhole. Langly, Jimmy and Frohike would be gone for another several days, chasing down clues to Mulder's whereabouts for Skinner and Scully and Doggett. Much as he'd wanted to go, somebody had to finish putting this week's issue to bed and get started on the next one.

This time, 'somebody' had been him.

He rubbed his eyes and yawned, knowing even another fifteen minutes would be a hopeless gesture in the face of his exhaustion. He could almost feel warm blankets around him and a soft feather pillow beneath his head.

A muffled thump at the door startled Byers from the semi-conscious contemplation of his bed, and he looked over at the door camera monitor. Freezing, he blinked. A leg was visible on the screen, the body connected to it too low for the camera's angle. The thump sounded again, and he could see the leg move weakly.


He ran for the door.

Some reptile part of his brain hoped against hope that it was Mulder, returned to them alive. That hope, and his exhausted body, overrode his usual paranoia. He didn't even consider the possibility of a setup or an ambush as he threw the locks and opened the door. What he found shocked him.

Alex Krycek looked up, blood in his eyes. He reached weakly in Byers' direction, then silently collapsed.

Byers' first reaction was fear, driven by his knowledge that the man was a conspiracy lackey -- an assassin. Krycek was extremely dangerous. He was also unconscious. Whatever else Krycek was, he was still a human being -- the blood was red.

Byers couldn't just close the door on him and call Skinner. He had no idea how badly Krycek might be injured, or why he'd shown up at the Gunmen's office. He sank to his knees next to the unconscious man.

Fingers at the carotid artery revealed a strong, steady pulse. Krycek was breathing reasonably normally. There were bruises on his face, and the blood was from a painful-looking gash in his scalp. Byers stood for a moment and surveyed the alley. There was no vehicle. Krycek probably hadn't walked too far in this condition, and he wondered what had happened. He wasn't eager to venture far to find out. There was no way of knowing whether Krycek's assailant was still nearby.

He bent down and pulled Krycek inside, then locked the door. The guys would kill him. Frohike would certainly have told him to leave the man outside and let him bleed.

"Now what?" he muttered to himself. Stopping the bleeding head wound was the most logical thing. He pulled Krycek over to one of the couches and hefted him onto it, keeping his feet slightly elevated, then hurried to a bathroom for water and some washcloths and first aid supplies.

A few minutes later, the head wound was staunched and bandaged. They always bled far worse than the damage warranted. He was glad Langly hadn't been around, or there would probably have been a puddle of vomit to deal with as well. Then again, Langly probably would have tried to pound the snot out of Krycek before they'd got to this stage.

Krycek lay still on the couch, pale and a little chill. Byers got a blanket. Chill with a head wound usually indicated shock. It wouldn't surprise him if the man had a concussion.

"Krycek." Byers patted Krycek's cheek, trying to rouse him.


"Wake up. If you're concussed, you need to wake up." Byers slid back one eyelid then the other, checking with a flashlight for pupil response. They were even and responsive. Severe neurological damage was unlikely, then.

"Fuckin' light's too bright." Krycek swatted weakly at Byers' hand as he mumbled.

'Should have tied him up before I did this,' Byers thought, but it was a little late for that as the intense green eyes fluttered open.

"Oh, good." Krycek's voice was quiet, tired. "It's you."

"Why is that good?" Byers stood, moving away from Krycek's reach.

"Frohike would have left me in the alley and called Skinner."

"I suppose he would, at that."

"Always knew you were the decent one of the bunch."

Byers leaned back against a desk, arms crossed protectively over his chest, and watched Krycek. "Why are you here?"

Krycek tried to sit, pushing the blanket aside, then groaned and sank back onto the couch. His face was lined with pain.

"Would you like some aspirin?"

Krycek nodded. "Head's killing me."

Byers handed Krycek a glass and two aspirin. "Why are you here?"

Krycek set the glass down on the side table and swallowed the aspirin dry. He looked up at Byers. "For the scenery?" Byers just glared. Of course the man would play games with him. "I have some information." He tried sitting up again. This time he made it upright, but clutched his ribs and groaned softly.

"What happened to you?"

"A little run-in with a SuperSoldier."

Byers eyes widened in surprise. "You managed to survive?"

"Doggett's done it. Why shouldn't I?" Krycek started unbuttoning his shirt.

"What do you think you're doing?"

Krycek looked up at him, annoyed. "Checking for damage. What, did you think I had a concealed weapon buried in my ribcage?" Even his jibing had an air of exhaustion to it.

"With you, who can tell?"

Krycek stiffened and hissed as he tried to pull his shirt off. "Ow. Fuck." He paused a moment. "You wanna give me a hand here?"

Byers could already see rising bruises. "Okay." He moved closer and eased the shirt from Krycek's back. He should call Skinner, he thought. The A.D. would know what to do with his old enemy. Byers wasn't sure he'd want to watch the reunion, though.

Krycek's hands were moving slowly over his ribs, and he grunted as he touched his bruises.

"Is anything broken?" Byers asked. He knelt on the floor and looked more closely at the man's injuries. He didn't want to think about the bare chest before him.

"Don't think so." Krycek didn't look at him. He sighed and picked up his shirt, fishing in one pocket. A moment later, he proffered a microdisc to Byers. "Here."

"What is it?" Byers eyed it as if it were a cobra about to strike.

Krycek reached out and grabbed one of Byers' hands and put the disc in it as Byers tried to pull back. "The information I brought you. Jesus, Byers." His cold hand slipped slowly along Byers' fingers as he let go. Byers shivered slightly.

Byers turned the disc in his fingers. It was unmarked, naturally. "What's on it?"

A snort. "You're the hacker, pretty boy. You figure it out."

Byers looked at Krycek, one eyebrow raised. The man was just trying to rattle him with those comments. Krycek tried to stand, but his legs wobbled and he fell back to the couch with a muffled curse. Byers stuffed the disc in his pocket and reached out. "Don't do that," he said, one hand on Krycek's shoulder. "You're probably dizzy. You should rest."

"You have a talent for stating the obvious."

"You've never contacted us before," Byers said, curious.

Krycek stared at him, unreadable. "Never needed to before."

"Why now?"

"You guys are the only ones who'd understand the significance of this information."

Byers was disconcerted by the comment. He'd always thought no one took him or his friends seriously. He pulled the disc from his pocket again and got to his feet. "Just stay there. I'll go take a look at this."

Krycek shook his head gently, probably to avoid another dizzy spell. "Can't. I'm putting you at risk by being here." He closed his eyes, but when he moved, he went pale and leaned back into the couch.

"Since when have you cared about putting anyone at risk?" Byers turned toward the nearest laptop, wondering if the disc would trash their network. He'd keep the information isolated on one machine until he'd examined everything carefully. They could afford to lose one laptop if it came to that.

"You don't know me." There was a roughness in Krycek's voice that made Byers turn his head and look back.

"I know enough."

Krycek shook his head. "No. All you know is the cover." The statement was quiet, almost wistful.

Byers opened his mouth to comment, but the look in Krycek's eyes made him close it. Something here was very strange -- much different than he'd expected. He turned back to the computer and slipped the disc into the CD drive. In a moment, the sole file on it was open, though encrypted. He pulled up Langly's decryption program and started it, knowing it would take a while to run, then turned back to his 'guest.'

"Are you going to try to tell me that you didn't intend to kill Agent Scully the day Cardinale shot Melissa? That you didn't set Mulder up with that alien ship? That you didn't kill his father? That you didn't infect A.D. Skinner with those nanocytes?"

Krycek stared for a moment. "No."

"Then you are what Mulder says."

A shadow passed over Krycek's face. "No."

Byers went back to the couch and glared down at Krycek, hands on his hips. "No? You admit you did those things, and you try to tell me no?"

"The file," Krycek said, "has information you'll want. Answers to some of your questions."

"Why?" Byers struggled to understand, anger welling in him. "Why do you do those things, then turn around and hand us information like this? You gave us the information about how to track the alien ships, yet you sent Mulder to them. What kind of game are you playing? Whose side are you on?"

"There are no sides, John." Krycek sighed and ran a hand across his face. "It's just us against the aliens."

"Well it looks to me like you're on their side," Byers snapped. "You handed Mulder to them!"

"You still haven't called anyone. Why not?"

Why not, indeed. "I should," Byers growled. In truth, he was as curious as he was angry. The only time he'd ever met Krycek before was at Skinner's office, when the man had brought the tracking information, just before Mulder had returned to Bellefleur and been taken. Krycek was an enigma to him, a mystery that picked at his gut.

"But you won't. The questions bother you too much." Krycek's intense green gaze fixed him, pinning him like some bug on a display board.

He knew he should make the call. Krycek wasn't in much shape to move, probably wouldn't be able to leave before Skinner or Doggett got there. Byers looked over at the phone. "Bastard," he whispered. Krycek was right. He couldn't. He needed to know. A glance back at the laptop told him the decryption algorithms were still spinning. He took a deep breath. "Why?"

"You're not the only one who wants to see the human race get out of this with its collective skin mostly intact."

Byers gritted his teeth against the almost casual expression on Krycek's face. "And so you'll sell everyone out so those... those insane old men can pretend they'll survive?"

"You have no idea what's going on."

"Why don't you tell me, then."

"Like you'd believe a thing I said?" Byers could feel the contempt coming off Krycek in waves. "Even if what I told you was the absolute truth, you'd question every word. You don't trust anyone -- not even those friends of yours."

Byers was seething. "Liar."

Krycek chuckled. "See what I mean?"

"I trust them with my life." He did -- and they were the only ones.

Krycek grinned, feral. "But at the back of your mind, you always wonder if they're really who they seem, if they haven't been replaced by a clone, or implanted with something, or had their memories tampered with."

Byers' anger exploded with the hateful, unwanted truth of it and he struck out, but Krycek's hand caught his wrist with a sharp sound, holding him in an iron grip. He tugged back, but Krycek didn't let go.

"You're just like me," Krycek hissed, "you just don't want to admit it."

"I'm nothing like you," Byers spat, still pulling against the hand around his wrist. "I don't kill people! I'd never betray my friends -- never put myself before the rest of the planet!"

"You're only seeing the surface, John. You're better than that."

Byers stopped struggling and glared. "And what's that supposed to mean?"

The grin left Krycek's face. "You have no idea who I'm trying to protect, or why." He let go of Byers' wrist and Byers snatched his arm away.

"The only person you're protecting is yourself." Byers took a step back. The tension in the room left his stomach aching. Why did a viper like that have to be so damned good looking?

"You're so certain," Krycek said, his voice dangerous. "You haven't seen what's on the disc I brought you."

Byers looked back at the laptop again, and this time the file was decrypted. He moved to read it, sat and rolled his chair close. The contents of the file stunned him. Dates, names, places. Surveillance photos. Orders. He blinked, trying to wrap his brain around it. "What is this?" he whispered, turning to face Krycek.

"What does it look like?"

Byers had to force himself to say the words. "Our files. Everything on us -- on me and the guys. Everything." He swallowed, terrified. "How many times did they try to kill us?"

"A couple of times a year," Krycek said softly. "For at least the last decade."

He felt himself pale. "How..." Byers looked back at the computer screen. He touched it, fingers passing over a picture of Frohike taken through a gun sight.

"You don't think you've had protectors over the years, John? Didn't you ever wonder why you and your friends weren't killed in that warehouse in Baltimore?"

"But --" He was dizzy, his world shifting around him like tectonic plates.

Krycek shook his head and laughed. It was dry and humorless. "And all these years, you thought it was Mulder who was the important one. He's a misdirection, John, a ruse."

"I don't understand."

Krycek rose, wobbly, and walked to Byers' side. Gaze fixed intently on him, Krycek's hand rested on his shoulder. "It's been you all along. Mulder's been finding information, but only bits at a time. You and your sidekicks find far more. Why do you think Mulder comes to you? You're the analyst, the synthesizer, the one who's been putting it together. You're the one who's been disseminating it. Without you," he gestured at the room, "none of this would exist, and it goes further than you can imagine. Mulder would be floundering, useless, because he never stops to analyze anything. Frohike and Langly couldn't hold this together without you. Your mind, your vision -- that's what'll save us all."

"No." It was a whisper, all the sound he could make.

Krycek leaned closer, the fingers of his other hand -- he had both hands? -- moving softly down Byers' cheek. "You're the key to this whole thing. Mulder -- he's nothing but a lab rat to them. You're the danger, John. You're the one who can stop them, the one I've been keeping safe all these years."

Byers could barely breathe. That he should somehow make that kind of difference? It was impossible, inconceivable. Krycek's eyes held his, filled with something unidentifiable. "You can't be serious. I'm nobody -- I'm nothing." But there was a flicker of mad hope in him. He'd always dreamed of changing the world, doing something that helped.

"You're the dam that's holding back the flood, and you have no idea at all of just how pivotal you are. There are a dozen men doing what I do within the organization; keeping watch over you and your friends, keeping the leaders off balance, keeping you out of the spotlight."

Byers narrowed his eyes and turned his face away. It was a lie, nothing more than another of the Russian's mind games. "No! This is insane! I don't know why the hell you're messing with me like this, but it's not going to work. Why are you really here?"

"You want to know the real reason I'm here? Why I got my ass kicked?" Byers looked back up at him. "They tried again today. That SuperSoldier came for you."

Byers' heart froze in his chest. "Then why aren't I dead? You can't stop those things."

"Because they're not invulnerable, as Doggett believes. They do have a weakness."

"Bullets won't stop them--"

Krycek pulled a pistol from his waistband and Byers slammed himself back away from him, his chair jamming against the desk. His heart hammered wildly, but instead of shooting him, Krycek slapped the gun into his palm. "Not ordinary bullets, no."

Byers looked at the gun in his hand. "What--"

"Magnetite," Krycek said, moving in close until he was nose to nose with Byers. "Meteoric magnetite. It shatters the metallic core their spinal columns are engineered around, renders them incapable of regeneration. It unravels them like a ball of yarn."

"Why are you telling me this? Are you going to kill me now?" Byers thought frantically, trying to imagine an escape that didn't involve shooting Krycek.

Krycek's laugh was hollow this time. "I'm giving you the means to defend yourself. If you can hit one with these bullets, you're pretty much guaranteed to kill it. Unfortunately, I'm not sure you could hit the broad side of a tanker with that thing. You've never actually handled one before, have you?"

Byers shook his head no. Krycek was too close. It was unnerving; spark and heat flew between them and Byers didn't want to accept, or even believe what he was feeling.


He shoved Krycek back. "Get away from me!"

"You feel it too, don't you?" Krycek whispered, steady on his feet a pace or two away. "I told you we were alike. Your friends don't have any idea, do they?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." Byers would deny it to his dying breath. He hadn't been with anyone since --

"You think I don't know about your friend Carl? The one who's a woman now?"

"Leave her out of this!"

"We're more alike than you can imagine, John." Krycek stepped closer, eyes burning. Byers' breath caught.

"You sold Mulder out."

"To keep you alive."

Byers leaped to his feet, dropping the pistol in his chair. "That's bullshit! You think I'd want that? Someone dying for me? He's my friend, damn it!"

Krycek was there in front of him, a hand on his face. "He's not dead."

"How the hell do you know that?" Hope and fear struggled for dominance and Byers stood straighter.

Krycek smiled. "How do I know anything? You know as well as anyone else alive that sometimes compromises have to be made. There are goals important enough to die for -- or kill for. Keeping you in one piece helps guarantee the planet's survival, and I will do anything to make sure you stay that way." The hunger in his expression was unmistakable. "You're a brilliant man, John. You know I'm right."

Before Byers could say another word, Krycek's mouth came down on his. The kiss was hard and desperate, one of Krycek's hands on the back of his head, the other in the small of his back. Byers fought for a moment, but he wanted it too much. He gave in to the burn and wrapped his arms around the man, opened his mouth to him, groaned with need.

"Yes," Krycek gasped when he pulled away to breathe.

Byers couldn't think. He knew he was making a terrible mistake, but his body didn't care. It ached for relief from needs buried for too many years to count.

The heat of Krycek's mouth on his throat and the soft sweep of his tongue undid Byers. He was hard, throbbing as he pulled Krycek's body against his own. There was no resisting this tidal force sweeping through him, all his years of agonizing self-discipline shattered in that instant. "Yes," he echoed. "Oh, God."

Krycek pulled him back and they sank onto the couch, frantic.

Byers knew his soul would be seared by this, that he would be changed. He let it fill him. Krycek's hands swept over his body like storm winds, stirring him to his core. Their mouths met again, tongues warring, breath coming in gasps. He burned.

Their clothes flew, yanked from their bodies and thrown without concern. There was nothing gentle about their touch, and Krycek's groans when Byers' hands moved over his bruises only served to make Byers needier, his cock harder.

Krycek's naked body, scarred and muscular, was sheer beauty. Byers hesitated for the merest fragment of a moment, then sucked at Krycek's shoulder, taking in the strong curves, tasting flesh, moaning with aching want. Krycek rolled and shifted, getting himself on top of Byers, and started sucking and biting at his chest. Byers gasped and arched back at the force of the sensations sweeping through him. A bite on one nipple and he cried out, thrusting up and meeting Krycek's own hardness.

"Beautiful," Krycek gasped, his lips moving on Byers' skin. "Want you."


Krycek's voice was a low growl. "Wanted you for years."

It shot through Byers like lightning. Years? He groaned again as Krycek's leaking shaft pressed and rubbed against his. He wanted -- needed -- to be fucked, touched, to come under another man's body. In this moment, he could believe in spontaneous human combustion, believe that it was happening to him.

Before the sweet friction of their bodies could give him release, Krycek slipped down between his legs and knelt on the floor beside the couch. His hot, wet mouth engulfed Byers' throbbing cock, and Byers jerked back. "Wait," he panted, "condom."

Krycek raised his eyes to him and laughed breathlessly, the sound rough and husky. "You? Cleaner than a sterile room?" He kissed the head of Byers' shaft. "I'll use one when I fuck you, but you're no risk, and I want to taste you."

His mouth slipped back down and his head bobbed a few times. The sensation was too much. Byers grunted and gasped, coming hard with a quiet, strained moan, fingers tightening in the cushions until he thought they'd snap from the pressure. Krycek drank everything down, licked him clean, kept sucking, and it had been so long since Byers had even been touched that way that his cock stayed hard, demanding more. He wrapped his legs around Krycek's shoulders, held his head down with one hand tangled in the dark, silky hair.

Krycek answered Byers' grip with a deep suck, then took Byers' cock down his throat. Byers strangled his ecstatic groan behind clenched teeth, thrusting forcefully. God, it was good, so good. Wet, tight, moving -- eyes squeezed shut, he moved his body, letting it go, taking what he'd needed so much. He was sweating, and fuck, he hadn't moved like this in forever and Carl used to suck him like this and he growled as Krycek pulled back to breathe.

"Let go," Krycek insisted, eyes dark and sparkling as Byers looked down. "Nobody's going to hear us." Byers tugged at his hair, trying to get that amazing mouth back on him. "Want to hear you," Krycek snarled, and took Byers' balls in his mouth.

"Ohhhhhhh..." It was quiet, almost a whisper, but it was dragged from Byers' gut.

Krycek was gentle with him now, his mouth sweet and soft, rolling his balls and sucking at his sac. Byers' cock leapt with his pounding pulse and he caressed Krycek's hair with both hands, moaning softly. "God, God," Byers murmured, close to weeping in his pleasure, "fuck me..."

With a sharp breath, Krycek's mouth slipped from his balls, and his tongue caressed its way down to the pucker of his ass. Byers spread his legs and pressed into Krycek, pulling the man's face closer. The hot, firm tongue slid into him and he gasped, loud. Krycek moaned, pressing in harder, hands sliding up Byers' body to pinch and tease his nipples.

"Fuck me," he moaned, louder this time. His shaft was leaking again, so hard, and he arched his back, aching for penetration. One hand left his body, and Byers whimpered. "No. Don't stop."

"Lube," Krycek panted. His tongue stabbed back into Byers' body. Rustling and the sound of a condom packet being torn open barely registered. Byers didn't think he could be more ready if he tried. A soft, squishing sound, and one cold, slick finger invaded him.

He howled.

"So tight," Krycek gasped.

"Yes, God, yesss..." The finger moved and twisted in him, brushing places that hadn't been touched in forever. Byers ground his body into Krycek's hand, ignoring the stretching pain, too deeply fallen into his body's needs to care if the goddamned roof came down on them. "Please," he groaned. "Need--"

Krycek slid up between his legs, body on body, and Byers knew he wasn't stretched enough, but didn't care. He wanted this; his whole body throbbed with need of it, and he tugged on Krycek's shoulders, taking the man's mouth in a deep, wild kiss as Krycek's body snaked up him.

He shouted into Krycek's mouth as the thick, hard cock entered him in one long, deep thrust. Too big, too much, too soon -- "Oh, God, fuck, fuck, unnnnnh, YES!" Krycek split him open, and he craved it, nearly coming from just being filled. Tears streamed down his face as he gave himself to it, wild and wanton and bucking into the strong hips.

Krycek growled. "Take it, John, take it!" He thrust slow and hard, moving deep in Byers' body, hands clenching on Byers' shoulders to brace them. Byers tried to force the thrusting to a faster rhythm, but Krycek's weight gave him control.

Byers gave him everything.

Krycek's body overpowered him, taking him so deep. The slow pace unhinged him, and he lost himself utterly, howling and groaning, crying out incoherently as Krycek slowly fucked him raw. Byers' head thrashed back and forth, his eyes closed, and Krycek moaned over him.

"So fucking gorgeous. Oh, God, you're so tight." Krycek gasped as he thrust. "So amazing... oh, fuck... hot..."

Friction, heat, Krycek's body in him and on him, arms around him, and Byers thought the top of his head would blow off or his body dissolve with the intensity of the joining. His shaft rubbed against Krycek's slick, sweaty body. He was pushed closer to the abyss with every move. He couldn't form words, couldn't form thoughts, couldn't stop moaning.

Krycek kept him on edge, exhausting him with pleasure, and it seemed forever. The pain faded the longer they fucked, leaving only ecstatic friction, fullness, and the mind-blowing feel of hardness slowly rubbing into that spot, driving him mad. Byers sobbed and came, clinging to Krycek as he suddenly began pounding into Byers' body. "Aaaah, GOD!"

The pounding continued, and Byers slumped, arms loosening, barely holding on. Krycek was shouting now as well. "Oh, fuck, John!" He held Byers close, tight, sweat dripping from his skin, kissing Byers deep and hard as he came. Byers could feel Krycek's cock jerking inside him as the man collapsed onto him.

They lay there, panting and gasping for breath, Krycek's hands slowly caressing him. He could feel tears still running down his cheeks, his own hands trembling as they found Krycek's hair. Byers opened his eyes to find Krycek nose to nose with him, green eyes piercing, something tender in them. Byers closed his eyes again as Krycek kissed him, soft and gentle.

"Why are you crying?" Krycek whispered.

Byers shook his head. No one could ever know this had happened. None of his friends knew he was gay; none of them would forgive him for this moment of weakness with an enemy.


They rested until their trembling stopped, though Byers didn't know how long. He didn't speak, didn't dare. Krycek pulled out of him, slow and careful, and Byers hissed, raw and aching. God, oh God, it had been so good.

Krycek wobbled to his feet and staggered off toward the bathroom. Byers rose and went to him, helping him walk. Krycek groaned softly and rubbed at his bruised ribs.

"I'm sorry," Byers said. "We shouldn't have done that. You're hurt."

Krycek looked at him, shook his head, and chuckled. He reached up and wiped dampness from one of Byers' cheeks. "You amaze me." He kissed Byers' cheek. "I'm only bruised, and I'm flying on endorphins. You didn't do this. It doesn't hurt enough to make any difference."

"How's your head?"

Krycek pulled the condom from his cock and dropped it into the toilet. Byers turned his back as the other man pissed, getting a warm washcloth ready for each of them. He handed one to Krycek as the toilet flushed. He didn't want to think about what came next.

"Could use another aspirin. I'll get one from the bottle when I get dressed. I have to leave -- I've been here too long as it is. When the SuperSoldier doesn't report in, they'll wonder why."

Byers shuddered, suddenly cold. He cleaned himself up quickly, startling when Krycek slid an arm around his shoulders. The other went around his waist, and Krycek pressed against his back, kissed the side of his neck.

"I can't let them know I was here," he whispered. "You're too important to risk." He held Byers close and caressed his side. A moment's hesitation and he pulled Byers' face toward his, kissing him deep and slow.

Byers melted into it, knowing it was hopeless, knowing every word was probably just another lie. He wasn't sure he even wanted it to be the truth.


Krycek slipped away and went back to the office area. He swallowed an aspirin, then picked up his clothes. Byers helped, picking up his own as well.

"Why what, John?"

"Why did we do this? What do you really want?"

Krycek looked at him. "Just you. I've already told you the truth. You can believe me or not; it makes no real difference in the end, I suppose." He sat on the couch and pulled his shirt on.

Byers slipped his pants on, but didn't bother dressing further. It was late and he had been exhausted when Krycek arrived. "What did you intend to accomplish by giving me this information?" He gestured at the computer, where the file still lay open on the screen.

Krycek tucked his shirt into his jeans and buttoned them. He pulled on his socks, then his boots. "You're not careful enough. You take too many risks. I needed you to understand what's at stake." Krycek stood and moved toward him. "You have to stay alive so we all have a chance."

Byers' gut knotted. What if it was true? What would he do then? "And what happens the next time you show up?"

Krycek looked away. "There may never be a next time. Considering the circumstances, it's not like we could be lovers. You don't believe me -- none of your friends would, either. You'd be a fool to tell them what we did, but I'd suggest you share the rest of that information with Frohike and Langly, at least. You need them, even if you can't bring yourself to trust that they haven't been corrupted somehow."

Byers closed his eyes against the pain in his heart and took a deep breath. Whatever else might be going on, Krycek knew how to get to him.

"You'll never trust me," Krycek continued. "I can't blame you for that. But I promise you, I'll always be watching. It's more than duty, John. More than you'll ever understand."

"Don't drown me in lies, Krycek."

"Alex," he said, soft. He fastened his belt and pulled his jacket on. "I'll keep a supply of the magnetite bullets available for you, make sure you have access to them." He pointed to the gun in Byers' chair. "Learn to use it. It could keep you and your friends alive, make my job a little easier."

Krycek turned and walked to the door. Byers followed him.

"For what it's worth, I'm sorry about Mulder. I've been working to get him back."

Byers opened the locks. "You'd say anything, wouldn't you?"

"No," Krycek said. "I won't ask you to trust me. I know it's impossible." He opened the door and left, and Byers closed it after him, securing all eight locks and bolts.

Silent, he went to the computer and ejected the disc. Holding it delicately between his fingers, he stared at it and it shifted with coruscating rainbows in the dim office light.

"I wish I could," he whispered. "I wish I could."