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TITLE: Undertow
AUTHOR: Kelly Keil
ARCHIVE: Anywhere, just keep my info attached.
FEEDBACK: Is welcomed, read, and answered.
SPOILERS: Anything up through DeadAlive is fair game.
CLASSIFICATION: S, A, Krycek POV, K/Sc, K/M, some slash
DISCLAIMER: The X-files characters portrayed in this story belong to Fox, 1013, and Chris Carter. I just fill in the plot holes, best as I can.
SUMMARY: "I lose myself inside her. I am she and she is me and Mulder's ghost is on the couch watching. It's all insane."
ACKNOWLEGEMENTS: I'd like to thank my betas for their assistance: Fialka and Livia Babalan for reading it in the first place and offering helpful suggestions, to Lysandra for going above and beyond the call of duty by doing beta despite a nasty case of bronchitis, and most of all to Spica. You have no idea how helpful you were. Thank you ever so much.
NOTE: This story starts shortly after the events of Requiem and concludes during DeadAlive, but there is a slight detour at En Ami. You may wish to buckle your seat belt in case of turbulence. Additional notes at the end.
A definition of what a rusalka is can be found here:

Undertow by Kelly Keil

We have lingered by the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
      -- T.S. Eliot
      "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

Of all the things I expect to see when I open the door to my apartment, she's dead last on the list. The Publisher's Clearing House Prize Patrol would have been less of a shock.

I'm carrying groceries, too. It's very difficult to have any sort of upper hand when your one good arm is loaded down with plastic bags. It's embarrassing to be found this way, as bad as if she'd burst in on me while I was sitting on the crapper, my pants around my ankles. I know I'm a human being who has to go shopping, and to the dentist, and to the bathroom for that matter, but that doesn't mean I like that fact getting out.

She sits on my sofa, prissy as you please, her knees and ankles locked together, her hands in fists, one on each knee. Sprouting from one of them is a piece of paper. She looks mad as hell. Lucky me. Too bad for her, but whatever histrionics she has planned will have to wait. My ice cream is about to melt.

"Scully. What a surprise," and not a nice one, I think, as I head for the kitchen. I don't want her here, bringing with her memories of Mulder. I don't want to answer her questions, whatever they might be. I don't want to hear any revelations she might care to make. But when it comes to Mulder and Scully, what I want doesn't amount to jack shit.

I start to put away the groceries, concentrating hard on ignoring her presence in the living room. It works, but only for a minute or two, because when I close the freezer door there she is, her face just visible above the refrigerator door. I never even heard her approach, and this scares me a little. My reflexes are shot to hell.

"Is there something you want from me, Scully, or did you just come here to scowl at me? And how the fuck did you find this place, anyway?"

I close the fridge door, revealing the entire Ms. Scully. She is looking good, I notice, despite Mulder's MIA status. In an obscure way this pleases me. Whenever Scully goes missing, Mulder turns into a sniveling wreck. It's a pathetic sight, and I hope that Scully won't be treating me to that sort of spectacle. It's been a long week and I'm not up to dealing with it.

Scully hands me the piece of paper she's been holding. It's crumpled and slightly damp, which I find surprising. She doesn't seem like the type to sweat much. Maybe I make her nervous. I can only hope.

I smooth out the paper and look at it. It's a credit card receipt from a restaurant, one I've been to a few times, but I can't see anything incriminating there. I flip it over and see my phone number, and above that, the letter A, written in Mulder's handwriting. "Fuck," I say.

"Sloppy. I'd have expected more discretion from you," Scully says. "I found it when I was going through --" here her facade cracks a little, and a hint of what may be anguish shines through for just an instant. She blinks, and it's gone. "When I was going through Mulder's things. It was with his important documents: his mother's will, his birth certificate, divorce papers...and this phone number."

And you just had to investigate it, didn't you, Scully? Just had to know who was so damned important to your darling that his phone number was kept in such a safe place. Are you jealous? Of me? This is funny on so many levels that I have a hard time keeping a straight face.

"It's an unlisted number," I say, as if it matters.

Scully gives me a disgusted look. "Don't tell me you've forgotten where I work, Krycek," she says. "It wasn't exactly hard to track you down."

I walk past her, back into the living room. "I told him to put the number somewhere safe." My back is to Scully but I know she hears what I'm saying. "I guess he took me literally."

"What possible reason would Mulder have to keep your number with his valuables? What did you do to rate that sort of consideration?" Scully asks, her voice filled with suspicion and anxiety.

She's trying to keep her tone even, but I'm not buying it. When she walks over to me, her face is worried and unhappy. She suspects something, but I can't tell how much she knows, and how much she's just guessing at.

I don't know how to answer her, or even whether I should. It's none of her goddamned business. If Mulder had wanted her to know, he'd have told her himself. Then again, leaving my number in a place where Scully would find it is the sort of passive-aggressive bullshit he loved. Loves. Whatever.

"I want you to tell me," says Scully, and her voice is strained. She's bared her neck to me and I could so easily go for the jugular.

"Curiosity killed the cat, Scully." Her need to know, regardless of the consequences, is foolish. There are some mysteries of the universe better left unrevealed. No doubt Mulder has figured that out by now.

I can tell by the look on her face that she's not going to let this go. There's more here than her anxiety over an enigmatic slip of paper. She suspects something, and while Mulder can dissemble with the best of them when he cares to put forth the effort, she's not stupid.

"Are you lovers?" she asks in a no nonsense tone, refusing to leave well enough alone. It comes out firm, without a quaver or slip. I imagine she's rehearsed this question in her head, and out loud as well, since finding that damned piece of paper in Mulder's things.

I can't help but laugh. It comes out harsh and biting. "Not exactly. What do you want to know, Scully?" Her face is white, her lips tight. She turns away from me, perhaps in disgust. I was going to leave it at that, but something in me snaps. This is her fault. She's been pushing at me since I opened the door and found her trespassing butt on my couch. "What do you want to hear?" I grin at her, knowing it's going to piss her off and not giving a damn. "Fox Mulder gives wild head, and when I fuck him, he likes it rough. I can go into detail if you want."

I expect her to turn and hit me. I've been hoping for it, actually. It might break the feeling of unreality that's stolen over me and give me the impetus to just chuck her out on her shapely little ass. Which I'm not looking at. No, sir.

Scully does swivel, lightning-quick. I see her arm rise as if in slow motion even though this is all happening rapidly. I could grab her at any time, crush her hand or break her wrist. Instead I let the blow fall. The familiar taste of copper fills my mouth.

I think that it's all over now, that Scully has exorcised whatever demon infests her by beating on me, but apparently I have underestimated her. She stands there for a few seconds, flexing her hand while I investigate my jaw. It feels like she dislocated it, but appears to be in working order nevertheless. I look away from her for an instant only, but that's all it takes. She launches herself at me, biting, hitting, scratching, kicking, gouging.

She's beautiful, and I think I understand why Mulder's fascinated with her, but there's no way in hell that I'm letting her beat the snot out of me. With one shove she's sprawled on the floor at my feet, looking up at me through her hair. She starts to kick at my kneecaps and enough is enough. I grab one of her ankles but the other's still free to kick me, which it does. Repeatedly. My prosthetic may be state of the art, but it was never meant to deal with this kind of shit, so I trap her with my body instead, falling onto her heavily.

I knock the wind out of her and for a few moments I have some peace. I secure both of her tiny wrists in my right hand and do my best to balance on the prosthetic. This is tricky at best, and in a minute it'll be too painful to keep up. Scully's little temper tantrum has ceased to be cute.

"Stop it," I hiss at her, both out of breath and in pain. "Just fucking stop it."

I have the feeling Scully doesn't like to admit that she's been beaten because she wriggles beneath me, trying to get free. Not that she has a prayer -- I have a death grip on her -- but she's giving it her best shot. To my horror, this is really turning me on.

Well, not horror, exactly. Irritation would be a better word, and it's directed at both of us. This isn't what I need right now and it sure as hell isn't what she needs, but there's nothing I can do about it and she won't fucking quit.

I groan because I can't help it and she must feel me hot and hard against her and Jesus, all I want to do is bury myself inside her, to find out for myself what it is about her that kept Mulder crawling back for more. Scully stiffens and her eyes go from slits to saucers. Thank God, she's snapped out of whatever fit she was having and realizes the peril of her situation. Good. I can see the thoughts on her face as they fly though her head: 'Sure, Krycek just admitted to fucking Mulder, but he never claimed to be particular and I don't think that's a pack of Doublemint Gum in his pocket. I may be in over my head here.'

That, Scully, makes two of us.

She seems to be in shock, all the fight knocked out of her, and while this could be a mistake, I let go of her wrists. I can't support my weight anymore without the help of my right arm. You think your life sucks, Scully, try mine for a few days. There isn't a chip to implant in my neck that cures armlessness.

This thought actually helps. I start remembering that I want Scully out of my apartment (don't let the door hit you on the way out) and not lying on my floor. I back up a little, preparing to stand and help her to her feet and out of my life. I would beg her pardon if I thought it would do any good, although all I've done was engage in a few sexual acts that I'm pretty sure are no longer illegal in the state of Virginia. Granted, I did them with the love of her life, but that's hardly my fault.

I'm feeling good about things, am sure that I have everything under control, but yet again Scully surprises me. One of her hands rises hesitantly, as if in a dream, to my mouth. She reaches out with her thumb and runs it across my lip, then pulls her hand back. She rubs her fingers together and I see they are covered with my blood. I'd almost forgotten that she'd hit me.

Something about seeing my blood makes her crumple. Her eyes flicker to mine and the control I thought I had evaporates. She is so plaintive, so lost, that I can't bear it. I'm not sure why looking at my blood would make Scully, who has a stomach of steel according to Mulder, look like she wants to puke. Maybe it's because she doesn't want to see that monstrous or not, I'm human. Or maybe she just doesn't like being reminded that she can lose her restraint in such a violent way.

The sight of her at her triggers a memory from long ago: a story I was told of beautiful women who lure men to their deaths by dragging them under the surface of cold Russian waters. Rusalki, wanting to be saved but doomed to kill whatever they touch.

Without even thinking, I take her hand and draw it to my mouth. I lick her fingers clean, wanting to erase my stain from them.

Scully shudders as I suck on her fingers, one by one. She doesn't look outraged, merely puzzled -- and unless I'm mistaken, turned on. Her face is flushed and her breathing has deepened. "What are you doing?" she asks, curiosity in her voice.

I wish to God I knew. I finish by licking the pad of her thumb clean then I let her hand drop as if it might burn me. Scully looks at me with come-fuck-me eyes and I'm forced to admit the Mulder was right about that, too. Her eyes, usually chips of ice, can melt. That son of a bitch hadn't lied to me after all.

"Jesus, Scully," I say. "This can't happen. You don't want this."

"Don't tell me what I want and don't want," she says. She props herself on her elbows and her gaze rakes me up and down. I can't help but think I'm being used and maneuvered, but for what purpose I can't guess and I'm not sure that I care.

"You're not my type," I say, but my body gives lie to the statement.

Scully raises an eyebrow. Mulder told me about that, how it drove him mad. I understand this now, too. I'm beginning to understand all sorts of things.

"Why?" I can't help but ask. "Thirty seconds ago you wanted to take my head off." I sound like a whiny sack of shit. Like Mulder, in fact, and maybe this is what she intends. I am to be her Mulder-by-proxy, and like all life's compromises, I can never replace the real thing. On the other hand, who am I to turn down a freely given fuck, even one as psychologically messed up as this?

"Maybe I want to find out firsthand what Mulder sees in you," she says, and this is probably the most honest thing I will ever get out of her. It's a creepy echo of my own thoughts, and it gives me pause, but she doesn't allow me time to dwell on it.

She curls her hand around the base of my neck, drawing my head down to hers. Her fingers are wet and sticky against my skin. I expect her to savage my mouth like she tried to savage my body, to hurt me because Mulder left her and I am still here. I don't mind -- I half think that I deserve it because I let him go -- but her lips are soft beneath mine and the kiss is slow and thorough. She is tasting me, learning me, and in her arms I begin to drown.

Scully is a rusalka and I rush toward her, eager for her embrace, heedless of the water closing in over my head or the undertow dragging me down. I am drowning and I don't give a damn. Let oblivion come -- it will be a relief. I surrender to Scully and my lips kiss her back.

I need to touch the skin under her blouse. I manage to unbutton some of her buttons but others are fatalities to my haste and clumsiness, and go rolling across the wooden floor. She doesn't seem to mind. Her shirt is discarded somehow but I don't see it removed -- I'm occupied by the feel of my lips on hers and my hand along her skin. I try to remove her bra (black lace that I doubt is for my benefit) but find it to be an exercise in frustration. Scully rescues me by pulling away so she can do it herself.

I sit back on my heels and watch her. For her the motion is so practiced as to be mindless but I'm enthralled by the arch of her back, the line of muscle as she flexes her arms, the spill of hair as her head falls forward. I imagine Mulder lounging on my couch, watching it all as he drinks whatever yuppie beer he's entranced with this week. 'See, Alex?' he says. 'See, I told you that I couldn't help myself and now you know why. And even though I enjoy having my dick in your mouth, it's her I'm going back to. Can you blame me?'

No, I can't. Not any more. Damn her.

If we are going to do this -- and right now the only thing that would stop us would be Mulder walking though my front door -- I don't want to do it on the floor. My first thought is of the couch, but Mulder and couches are inexorably wound together and right now there is too much Mulder between us to add this to it. Besides, his ghost would be there the whole time, drinking that goddamned beer and making comments on my performance.

That leaves only the bed.

Mulder doesn't like beds much and he never deigned to lie on mine. It used to irritate me that he preferred anywhere, no matter how uncomfortable, to my bed, but since his abduction my bedroom has been a refuge. There are no ghosts there, which is a blessing. I don't want Mulder looking over my shoulder and giving color commentary while Scully and I fuck, not even a Mulder conjured by my imagination.

I stand and look down at Scully. She finishes her Houdini-like act and sits on the floor with the bra dangling from one finger. She's dressed only in black slacks and three inch black pumps. She thrusts her small breasts forward, and from the couch, Mulder gives me an exaggerated wink before taking another swig of beer.

That's it for me. I reach down and haul Scully to her feet, an easy enough thing to do as she weighs next to nothing. "Not on the floor," I say, and she only nods her head as her bra falls from her finger, forgotten. It's possible that she has her own Mulder ghost she wishes to escape. It's also possible that fucking me is part of that and I find that I don't mind. Fucking Scully may do some exorcising for me as well.

I pull her into my bedroom, not bothering to switch on the light. The bed isn't made and the blankets are twisted in mute evidence of how little I've been sleeping lately. One sock and yesterday's underwear are on the floor. Romantic it's not, but that's too damn bad. Mulder was the romantic one and I always let him wallow in it, but it isn't in me. Besides, somehow the mess seems appropriate for what Scully and I are about to do.

Scully's hand reaches into her pocket and pulls out a small packet. She places it with emphasis on my nightstand and glares up at me, looking for me to challenge her.

I wouldn't dream of it. "You came prepared," is all I say, my voice neutral.

"I'm always prepared," she says, as if it is commonplace to keep a condom in her pocket.

Hit me then kiss me, Scully? You must have learned that from Mulder. You came here meaning to have me, didn't you? I never even had a chance.

'Nope,' calls out the ghost Mulder from the other room, laughing. I shut the door to the bedroom with a bang.

When I turn back, Scully is kicking off her shoes and shrugging out of her pants. Perhaps she's afraid that she'll change her mind if she pauses to think for a moment. Her panties match the bra that is lying on my living room floor. Very nice, and I can't help but think that maybe these scraps of black lace were meant for me after all. What a flattering thought.

As I watch Scully sweep the blankets out of her way before lying down on my bed, I unbutton my shirt but don't take it off. There are some things that Scully can't see yet, may never see. My jeans and shorts come off next and I am as naked as I'm going to get. More naked than I was the first time with Mulder.

I try to shake off the memory but it persists. Scully had been abducted and Mulder came looking for me -- to kill me or try to get her back, I'm still not sure which -- but in the end I'd gotten down on my knees before him as he leaned up against his car, both of us hidden by deep shadows cast by the nearly full moon.

"Krycek?" Scully asks, breaking into my thoughts.

When did I get nominated to be solace to Mulder and Scully when either of them goes missing? Never mind. There are worse jobs on this earth and God knows I've done my fair share of them.

I get on the bed and kneel over Scully. She reaches up to run her hands over my chest and tries to push off my shirt but I stop her. "No."

She settles back onto the pillow, a half-petulant expression on her face that clearly says: fine, whatever. I bend over her, my lips touching hers first, then sliding down to her neck. Her hand fumbles over my thigh and finds my cock. She knows just what to do, knows the right rhythm and how much pressure to use. I imagine Mulder taught her this. It is almost like him touching me, but not. Her hand is smoother, smaller. Either way, it's better than my own hand in the darkness.

"Oh God, yes," I say against her throat and she sighs in response. Scully takes her hand off of me and pushes me so that our positions are reversed with me on my back and her leaning above me.

"You are a beautiful man," says Scully, and it doesn't sound like a compliment. She straddles my body, her ass brushing against my cock. My hips rise under her and I want to be inside her. Her finger traces over the planes of my face, across my eyebrows, ending at my lips. "Mulder has taste. I'll give him that."

Stupid of me to think that closing the door would get rid of Mulder. Scully's Mulder ghost is here, even if mine is still out in the living room. I think about telling Scully to send her Mulder out of the room to keep mine company and I can't help but smile.

I run my hand along the side of her body from breast to hip then back again. Her skin is softer than I would have thought, and so warm. I'd always somehow thought she'd feel like cold marble, but I should have known better. No wonder Mulder couldn't resist her.

Scully leans forward, pushes my shirt aside, and her tongue flicks out to lick my nipple. I shudder at the contact and bring my hand up to touch her hair, then move my hand down her back to her thigh. She feels like silk, not at all like Mulder, and for a second my hand hesitates. This is Scully. Scully. But then she leans down, her mouth leaving a trail of bites and kisses down my chest and stomach, and any remaining philosophical objections I might have had evaporate.

Scully kneels between my spread legs and we both know what she's going to do but still she makes me beg. This is something else she learned from Mulder.

"Do you want this?" she asks and in my memory I hear Mulder saying the very same thing. We'd been sitting on his couch and like Scully, he'd already known what my answer would be but he'd wanted to hear me say it, and say it I had.

"Yes." It comes out as a moan.

Scully's mouth hovers a bare half-inch above my dick, her breath making it twitch with need. Oh please oh please oh please. "Yes, what?" she asks, and her tongue just barely touches me.

"Fuck you, Scully," I say. I don't need this shit, tempting as she is. I still have some pride.

Her soft laughter falls on my skin and her hair tickles me for a few seconds before her mouth engulfs me. Oh, fuck, yes. One of her hands wraps around the base of my cock and the other cups my balls. Her lips grip me tightly as she moves her head up and down, up and down. Her teeth graze me, teasing me with what is almost pain but mostly pleasure.

"Please," I say, and Scully has won. Or maybe I have. I can't tell. It's hard to make rationalizations while receiving a blowjob.

I am near to coming in Scully's mouth and she must realize it because she draws back. I reach out blindly to the nightstand, seeking the condom. I find it and toss it to Scully. She catches it in one hand, opens the package, and puts it on me with clinical efficiency. Such a practical woman.

Her body is a tight sheath that encloses me as she slides herself down onto me. Her eyes are closed. I can make a rough guess as to whose face she's seeing behind her eyelids, and it isn't mine. I thrust my hips up, deepening the penetration, and Scully's head falls back. Her hands rest on her thighs, restless fingers trailing over her skin. She wants to touch herself, I'm sure of it. While she can fuck me with no problem, she can't go this extra step towards intimacy. We all have our hang-ups -- I'm still wearing my shirt, after all --so I decide to help her out.

I move my hand between her legs, my thumb stroking her clit. She moans, "Oh, please," and this time I have won. Or she has. Again, it's hard to tell. I increase the friction and she moves her body slowly up and down on mine, mindless to everything but what is happening between her legs. When she comes, she collapses forward, her forehead resting on my chest, breath coming in short gasps. She pushes my hand away, no longer interested in that.

After a moment she starts thrusting against me again, increasing the rhythm, and now I am mindless as well. We move together, one being for a few short minutes, then I come, and she comes again, and it is over.

Scully lies beside me for a short time and I marvel at it. This is something Mulder never did and it's a nice contrast. I like it. I'm surprised that I like it.

"Did you get what you wanted?" I ask her.

She is silent, considering, then says, "Yes. No." She sounds wistful. "He's still gone."

I want to tell her that no, Mulder is sitting on my couch and drinking fag beer, but I don't think she'd understand. On the other hand, she might. We all have our ghosts.

"I should go," she says, and before I know it, she's dressed, ready to leave my apartment, and presumably my life.

I stand in the living room, still wearing only my unbuttoned shirt, and watch her go. As she closes the door, she doesn't look back. Sitting on the couch, Mulder tips his beer my way. 'I told you she was a choice piece of ass,' he says.

"Fuck off, Mulder," I say to the empty room.

Three is the number of months Mulder has been gone.

In the stories of my childhood, three was a magical number, a number of possibilities. Scully, and me, and Mulder makes three.

Three is the number of times I've walked into my apartment to find Scully there waiting for me. "Same shit, different day?" I ask her as I throw my jacket over a chair. I won't let on that my pulse has sped up. Nothing phases me. Not even Scully, standing by my shaded window with dark yellow light falling across her skin. It seems as if she is looking at me from underwater.

She makes a face. "I'm fine, everything is fine."

What a little liar you are, I think. If everything is fine, then why are you here? Besides, I know better. I've been watching you and your new partner, waiting for you to make any progress at all. Why have you stopped looking for Mulder? Don't tell me you've given up hope of being able to find him.

Even Skinner, uptight, ass-kissing Walter Skinner, is making more headway toward finding Mulder than you. Considering how useless I find Skinner when I'm not making him dance the nanobot jitterbug, this is saying a lot.

What game are you playing at, Scully?

I wonder why she's been chasing man-bats and bizarre cultists, but don't comment on it. At least one of us is still looking for Mulder, and really, I'm in a better position to do that than she is. Her new partner isn't a complete fuckwit, but he'll never find Mulder by sniffing the ground for clues.

Mulder needs someone who can sniff the air.

I've spent most of the day studying astronomical data and I have one fucker of a headache. I doubt Scully cares. She's come for her pound of flesh and by God she'll get it, one way or another.

"I'm getting a drink," I say. "You want anything?"

She shakes her head. She's yet to take anything from me but sex. I'm good enough to fuck, but my hospitality is unacceptable. I find this amusing.

I open the fridge to peer inside and reject the idea of beer. Vodka is what I need, oh yes. Vodka and Excedrin -- good for what ails you. Three is the number of pills that I swallow.

I walk back to the living room, drink in hand, and nearly spill it. Scully is lying naked on the couch. Damn, but she moves fast. She must be in a mood tonight. Mulder's ghost is leering at her in appreciation. I hear him whistle. "You're trying to kill me, right?" I say.

"Not today," she says. "Not yet, anyway." The hint of a smile flutters across her face. She might have a sense of humor in there, buried deep.

'What a way to go,' says the ghost Mulder. I ignore him and take another large swallow of vodka.

"It's not like I had any other plans," I say, setting my drink on an end table and kneeling in front of the couch.

"Good," Scully says as she pulls my head to hers, her tongue running across my lips then pushing into my mouth. She pulls away, licking her lips. She *is* trying to kill me. "I'd hate to waste your precious time."

Three is the number of stitches she has in her neck. I notice them as I pull her hair aside to taste her skin. "You're becoming careless in your old age," I say. "What would Mulder say?"

'I'd tell her to stay the fuck out of danger,' growls the ghost Mulder.

"I don't know," says Scully. "I don't seem to know anything anymore. Just fuck me. That's what I need you to do." But what she means is 'just for a few minutes, make me forget.' That's what she needs me to do.

If I could make anyone forget, it would be me. There are so many things that I don't want to remember. Like, for instance, that I'm supposed to dislike the woman lying on my couch. I'm not supposed to feel this desire that crashes through me. On the other hand, I wasn't supposed to want Mulder, either, and look where that got me -- on my knees in front of him with warm night air pressing all around and the sounds of traffic in the distance.

I want Scully on her knees. It seems only fair, and part of me needs to know how much she will take. I pull her down to the floor, knowing the wood is cold and hard under her hands and knees. She turns her head and gives me an annoyed look. If you don't like it, you can damn well move, I think -- but I'm willing to bet the discomfort is a welcome distraction for her.

I lay my hand on the small of her back for balance as I push myself inside her body. It is good, maybe too good. When we fuck, the line between us begins to blur and I can't tell where she ends and I begin.

I lose myself inside her. I am she and she is me and Mulder's ghost is on the couch watching. It's all insane.

Three is the number of times I try to make her forget.

Zero is the number of times it works.

(Ripples of light flow around her making it seem as if we are under the waves of a dark, silent ocean.

My hand travels over her icy skin. "I'm cold," she says.

I know, my rusalka. Take me down with you, take me down. It is time to forget. There is so much I need to forget.

"Not for long," I say, and cover her body with mine.

"He was dying," she says. "He never told me he was dying."

"I know," I say softly into her ear, the soothing noises easy for me to make. I did know, had known.

"You don't know anything."

I move my body within her and she throws her head back. A cry escapes her lips.

"I know how to do this," I say, and she doesn't argue.)

The night he told me, I was sitting on his couch, my shirt unbuttoned and my jeans only half-fastened, watching the sunrise.

He walked out of his bathroom, freshly showered, his hair standing up in wet spikes on his head. He was naked except for a towel draped around his shoulders. Seeing him like that, backlit by the morning sun, I wanted him again, even as tired as I was. I watched his towel fall to the floor as he began to get dressed.

"I need to tell you something," he said, pulling a shirt over his head. His voice was muffled.

"What?" I asked, my voice a rasp of anxiety. I didn't like his tone. It was full of endings.

"I'm dying," he said.

How melodramatic, I thought. How very theatrical you are. What a perfect Russian you would have been, my friend.

"You're not dying, Mulder." I wondered what the hell he was getting at. Was this his roundabout way of announcing that this all had to end? There was a small flutter of panic in my chest. It was always between me and Scully for him, and I'd never asked him to choose, but maybe now he had. I knew if it had come to that, I could never be the victor.

Mulder sat down beside me and lay his head back on the top of the couch, gazing up at the dark, indistinct ceiling. When he started to speak, I realized that my first impression had been wrong, so totally off the mark as to be almost comical. I'd gotten us confused. I am the one who never says what I mean.

"Shortly after my mother died," he said, his voice heavy, "Scully wanted me to see a doctor to get a checkup. Because of her cancer, you know, she worries about these things. She kept at me and at me and at me..."

"I know," I said automatically, although I really didn't know what it was like to receive that sort of all consuming concern, and not at all sure how I would react if I ever did.

Mulder constantly spoke of Scully and I let him, often not listening to the words. It wasn't like he ever required my opinion -- I could have been the wall for all it mattered -- but now I made myself concentrate on what he was saying. This time it was important, and not just his lovesick musings on the goddess that was his Scully.

"I gave in and went. They did all sorts of tests." Mulder smiled, and it was tight and hard on his face. "I have good insurance and Scully is a madwoman."

"I know," I repeated, and that time I wasn't just playing along.

"They found a tumor and did more tests. I made them keep everything confidential, and I told Scully they gave me a clean bill of health. She doesn't know any of this."

"Where...where is the tumor?" I asked, afraid I knew the answer already. The old man was behind this, that goddamned son of a bitch and all his plans. I remembered Mulder strapped down on the table, catatonic, the men Spender called doctors fucking with his brain. It had been very hard to look at him, lying there helpless, and remain impassive.

Sympathy is a luxury I can't afford, and yet Mulder keeps making me pay, and pay, and pay.

"Don't pretend to be stupid, Krycek," said Mulder. "Don't fuck with me. Not now."

"When are you telling Scully?" I knew that this was what the conversation was all about. It was Scully's feelings he was concerned about, how Scully would react to the news.

"Never, I hope. Not if I can help it," he said. "Not while there's still hope that I can fix it." He was lying to himself. I could hear it in his voice. He would never tell Scully that he was dying.

"But--" I started to protest, then stopped, knowing it would be useless to argue with him.

She's bound to notice when you're dead, you asshole, I thought, when it's too late for her to prepare, too late for her to say good-bye. My God, he could be such a shit. I didn't even like Scully but I was nevertheless furious with Mulder on her behalf.

"I want you to help me," Mulder said. "I need you to help me."

"Help you do what?" I asked. Sitting there, in the dark, none of it felt real. Nothing was ever real in the dark. Dawn would come and I would wake up, and it would all be a bad dream. Only the light that filtered through Mulder's windows was getting brighter by the minute, and I wasn't waking up.

"I haven't given up yet. I have...options left, avenues to explore. But if you happen to stumble across a cure... You're a resourceful man," said Mulder. "You know people, you've seen things. There's got to be something --" I could hear the desperation in his voice, even though he was trying to hide it.

Plans began to formulate in my head: how I could find something to save him, some forgotten vial lying in cold storage. I pictured myself as conquering hero, returning to save Mulder's life in the nick of time. I imagined his gratitude, his love. Stupid, meaningless fantasies.

"It's getting harder to keep the headaches from Scully," he said.

Of course. Scully. It always came back to her.

He lifted his head to look at me. The entreaty in his eyes made me feel small. What was it about Mulder that always made me feel as if I'd come up short, lacking on some deep, fundamental level? How had Scully survived as long as she had with him?

Mulder's such a hard man, inflexible as diamond. Impossible. Brilliant.

I am only glass, and he cuts right through me.

"Will you do this for me?" he asked, leaning over to me and kissing first one cheek and then the other. It was the ghost of an embrace I'd given him a lifetime ago.

I wondered when Mulder had figured it out. How better to defeat your enemy than to make him love you?

Mulder cupped my face and kissed me, his tongue filling my mouth so that all I could taste was him. "Please," he said as he pulled back, remaining close enough that I could feel his breath on my skin.

"Yes," I said, but by then, he'd already known what my answer would be.

The irony, of course, was that he wanted me to save him for Scully. Not that it mattered. I'd gotten used to sharing him by then.

No, I told myself. Don't think about that. Just touch him and remember the way he feels. Lick his skin and remember the way it tastes.

If I've learned anything in my life, it's to take what you can while you can.

"I don't want to talk anymore," I said, reaching for Mulder.

We fucked on his couch, his favorite spot in the whole world, and when he came, he sighed my name, "Alex," into its cushions.

It was enough.

(My hands rest on her slight, hard belly. She thinks I don't know, and doesn't like me to touch her there.

We don't talk much, and when we do, it's Mulder we discuss. The child has never been mentioned, as if ignoring it will make it go away.

She moves my hands higher, to cup her breasts. They've grown, I've noticed. Not a lot, but I can still tell. I draw her down, bringing her nipple to my lips. She sighs, and rests her head against mine.

Between us, the child dreams watery dreams. Like its mother, the child is also a rusalka. It will emerge from the water to drown us all. Unless something is done.

But not yet. Not yet.)

I knew about Scully's baby before she did.

When I arrived at the old man's summer house, he told me there was something he needed to show me. He said nothing further as we walked through underground passages cut into Pennsylvania stone. The hallways were brightly lit, and we could have been in a hospital, or in the Pentagon, for all I knew. Spender halted before a door wide enough to allow the passage of a gurney.

"This is it," he said. He stubbed out his cigarette in a nearby ashtray. Then we draped ourselves in surgical scrubs and masks before entering the room.

Who is it this time? I wondered, not prepared for the answer.

It was Scully who lay unconscious on a surgical table, her legs pulled up into metal stirrups, revealing everything to the whole room. I felt distaste directed at her body lying there mute like a slab of meat on a butcher's table. I resented having every private detail of the body that Mulder worshiped thrust into my face. I was annoyed by her virtuous blamelessness.

I didn't want to care that it was her lying there, but all the same, I did. There was a part of me, ever so small and tight, that saw this third violation of Scully as some sort of final straw. It wanted to make me rush in, cover her nakedness, and save her as if I were some sort of fucking knight errant. But that part of me was buried deep under layers of denial and jealousy and self-preservation. She was Scully. She could take care of her own damn self. She was nothing to me.

But that tiny bit of me still cared.

"So, you've decided to include her with the other test subjects," I said.

"Of course," said Spender. "But I need your help with her, Alex, in light of your relationship with her partner. My son," he added, just in case I might have forgotten. More likely, he was making a point. He liked to make points, and then to drive them home like carefully honed spears.

It didn't take a genius to figure out what his point was this time, but I wasn't sure how he could have known about Mulder and me. I had been so careful, I'd thought. So much for that theory.

"You've put me in an awkward position, my boy. I had wanted grandchildren. Special grandchildren. But you've demonstrated more than adequately that that will never happen. Thanks to your special relationship with Mulder."

Spender's voice caressed the word 'special' and I flinched. I couldn't help it.

My fault? How could it be my fault? I wasn't the one who made Scully sterile. I wasn't to blame for Spender's lack of grandchildren, special or otherwise. Then it hit me. Somehow, some way, Mulder had kept at least one secret from the old man.

I knew that Mulder and Scully were lovers, had known for years, but Spender didn't. It was suddenly obvious. Me. I was the reason. My relationship with Mulder, such as it was, had never been secret. It had been camouflage.

Resentment began to roil in the pit of my stomach. The part of me that had burned to rescue Scully fizzled and died under the cold weight of my anger.

All this time, during all those stolen moments when I'd thought no one had seen us, Mulder had been using me for cover to protect Scully. Spender didn't know they were lovers because of me. I was the only one who knew. Besides them, of course.

The three of us, sharing a secret between us, and I was still the outsider. Fuck them both.

"What do you need me to do?" I asked. My fists, both real and artificial, were clenched. Behind his mask, I had no doubt that Spender was smiling.

"Remind Mulder of the ova he stole from me. They were useless, but it doesn't matter. Convince him that they aren't useless. Make him believe. That shouldn't be too difficult."

"If you're doing the insemination now, won't they wonder when their baby comes to term months early?" I asked.

"We've discovered that the gestation periods are much longer for the hybrids. It should give you all the time you need."

"And if I can't convince Mulder? And what if Scully doesn't want to have a baby?"

"I wouldn't worry about that. I don't think it will take much convincing on your part. But if either doesn't go along, Agent Scully will have an immaculate conception. I imagine that sort of thing would appeal to my son."

Yes, it would. Not that it would matter. How difficult could it be to convince a dying man to give the woman he loved the thing she most wished for? I hadn't found anything to save Mulder's life, but weren't children a form of immortality?

"I don't think it'll come to that," I said.

I didn't bother to ask Spender what sort of monster he was giving Scully. At the time, it hadn't seemed to matter.

(I flip Scully over so she is lying on her back on the floor. She shivers and her nipples draw into tight peaks.

"Do you want me to stop?" I ask.

She shakes her head.

"What do you want, then?"

She looks at me, confused for a moment, and then says, "I want your mouth on me." By this time she is not afraid to touch herself. She opens herself to me in invitation.

For an instant I see the doctors clustered around her, the metal holding her in place. I know the only way to make the image in my head go away is to replace it, so I lean down and do what she wants.

I am unsurprised to find she tastes like the sea.)

It was my fault Mulder was taken by the aliens.

I should have never told Mulder about the ship. He was fascinated with it, sure it was his last hope. I'd had had the same thought, in the beginning, but later I wasn't so sure. I wasn't as convinced as Mulder that the aliens would save his life, but I was fresh out of ideas.

I found him in his apartment, packing for his trip into the great beyond. He was leaving with Skinner as his babysitter, as if Walter Skinner had any power to manipulate fate. I envied Skinner, knowing he might be the last one to see Mulder, and I felt sorry for him, too. I think that Skinner also knows what it's like to feel odd man out when it comes to Mulder and Scully. It's a damned uncomfortable place to be, but so hard to escape at the same time.

I couldn't seem to make myself believe that Mulder was going away, maybe forever. Even in his weakest moments, I'd always seen him as indestructible.

"Don't forget your bug spray," I said.

He looked up at me and didn't smile in greeting. "Bug spray is the least of my worries, Krycek."

So we were back to my last name. Maybe that was for the best. "I just wanted to make sure you still wanted to go through with this. You know you don't have to."

Mulder's features twisted into a snarl. "You want them to take Scully, don't you? That would make things so easy for you, wouldn't it?"

"You wouldn't be making your glorious self-sacrifice if it weren't for me, Mulder," I reminded him, stung by the accusation in his tone. "I was the one who told you the aliens would be willing to make a trade." But he was right. I would have rather they took Scully. He could always read me so well.

"I have to go. I couldn't save her before, but I won't let them hurt her again, not if I can help it. Besides," and he looked at me with imploring eyes, his anger gone, willing me to understand, "there is the possibility..." He couldn't say the rest out loud, superstitious that articulating the thought would negate it.

"They're aliens, Mulder, not magical fucking elves. They don't have your welfare at heart. For that matter, I don't think they have hearts."

"And you'd be willing to hand Scully over to them."

"No," I said. I ran a hand through my hair. "It doesn't have to be like that. Neither of you has to be in Oregon. You could let it go, Mulder."

"You're not that naive, Alex. You and I both know it doesn't work like that. And there is the chance."

The chance. A very slim chance. Yes.

Mulder stood up and walked across the room to me. His hand went to my neck and pulled me close. His lips brushed across mine. "When you were gone all that time, was it for me?"

The change of subject caught me off guard. I thought of the long nights in the Tunisian prison, my memories alone keeping me sane. I thought of how I'd come home and followed Mulder to Oregon, only to find his hotel room empty. I thought of how I'd looked through the crack of light left by the curtains in Scully's room and seen them together on her bed, wrapped in each other's arms.

"Not everything is about you, Mulder," I said. But it had been, all the same.

Mulder leaned forward, his lips touching my ear. "Not everything is about you, Alex. Let me go."

And I had. He had never been mine in the first place. My arms dropped to my sides.

"Good bye," I said, and left.

("Oh, God yes," she cries into my mouth as I thrust inside her. "Oh, God, please, faster, harder, please."

Mulder, what would you think if you saw how she is now, her lips swollen, her hair falling in her eyes, her skin wet with sweat, and it's for me, all for me?

Would you hate me or envy me or stare at her in awe?)

I've never seen Dana Scully asleep before. It's an intimacy she's never shared with me, but this time I'm the intruder, and she doesn't know I'm taking this liberty.

She looks like a child, lost and alone, wearing pajamas three sizes too large for her. I'm not sure why I came here, for her benefit or mine, but something in me compels me forward. I lay down behind her on her bed and draw her to me.

"Mulder?" she murmurs, her voice thickened by sleep.

"No. Not Mulder."

She wakes then, and turns around. "I don't want you here," she says. For a moment, moonlight illuminates her face and I see the streaks left by dried tears.

I didn't know rusalki could cry.

"I just heard," I say, and bury my face in her hair.

"I don't need your comfort," she says.

Maybe I need yours, I think, but fucked if I'm saying that out loud. "No, you don't," I agree.

"You shouldn't be here, Krycek."

"No, I shouldn't."

"I want you to leave," she says, but I'm not convinced of her sincerity.

"Not yet." I can't go back home tonight. Mulder's ghost is waiting for me, and this time it might be real. "Let me stay here tonight."

"I can't..." she lets the sentence trail, but I know what she means. "We can't do this anymore. Do you understand?"

"Yeah." Tonight all I want is to sleep in a place free of ghosts. If I never touch Scully again, then what have I lost? It's not like she was ever mine, not any more than Mulder was.

Always I am the interloper, but tonight I pretend to belong. Scully and I hold each other, keeping the ghosts at bay. She sleeps, but I lie awake, watching for Mulder to appear.

In the morning I go home and there is no ghost to greet me. I watch the sunrise alone and fall asleep on my couch. I wake when a hand touches my arm.

"Mulder?" I say, before I open my eyes and see it's Scully there, sitting beside me.

"No," she says. "Do you want me to leave?"

Behind her hovers a ghostly Mulder. He looks lost and confused.

I'm sorry, I think, but you're gone and she's here.

'I never asked you for lifelong devotion. You were nothing but a quick fuck in the dark. I never asked you to love me.'

Yes, you did. You demanded it with everything you ever did.

He shrugs. 'Maybe I did. Take what you can, while you can. Isn't that what you always say? Nothing lasts forever. We both know that.'

Then why are you still here, haunting me?

"Krycek? Maybe I shouldn't have come." Scully starts to rise but I pull her down.

"No. No, stay."

"We shouldn't do this," she says, turning her head to kiss me.

But we do it anyway, because it keeps the ghosts away, and that's all that really matters in the end.

Time passes. It's the one thing you can always count on. Life does go on, as trite as that sounds. Days come and go and blend together with their sameness. Memories begin to blur.

Then something comes out of the blue and hits you between the eyes with the brute force of inevitability, telling you things are about to change. This sweet, unreal interlude is about to end, but who could blame me for wanting to make it last as long as I can?

("Krycek, it's Marita. I need to talk to you.")

Mulder could blame me. There is that. But don't think of him right now. Time enough for that later.

I have to see Scully, must see her, and I go to her home to wait for her. I know this is the last time, and everything I see seems to have a sad sort of significance -- from the MUFON reports she has stashed away on the remotest corner of her dining room table to her small but growing collection of baby things.

I pick up one of the items at random as Scully unlocks her door and steps into the room.

"Fairy tales?" I ask, studying the book in my hands.

"It was a gift from my mother," Scully says. "For the baby." Scully has stopped trying to pretend she's not pregnant because it's too obvious now that she is.

I put the book down and start toward her.

"I'm too tired to throw you out, Krycek," she says.

"That's convenient, Scully, because I don't want to go."

"What do you want?" she asks, and I can hear the weariness in her voice, but there is another undercurrent as well. Is she pleased to see me? Or is that my imagination?

"You," I say, "for now."

She laughs. Her laugh is becoming more and more frequent. Her mourning is ending and she is getting on with her life. I wonder if I'm doing the right thing, and whether I'm doing it for me, or for her.

Take what you can, while you can.

I stroke her cheek with my thumb. "Are you going to say no?"

"No," she says and I don't care if it's affirmation or denial. I kiss her and she kisses me back.

"I'm going to hate myself in the morning," she says as she draws me to her bedroom. She leaves the light off so I can't see her, but by now I know every inch of her by touch alone.

"That's a risk I'm willing to take," I say as I lie down beside her.

Afterward she dozes beside me, too tired to get up, too tired to make me leave. I'm glad. Knowing where I'm headed in the morning, I have no desire yet to go.

"Mulder liked fairy tales," she says.

Mulder has been on my mind all day, which is something of a change of pace. His ghost has been blurring around the edges, and often doesn't bother to show up at all. My apartment has been empty lately, except for me, and sometimes Scully. Mulder's been fading from my life, inch by ephemeral inch, and I hadn't noticed until today, when Marita called.

("He's not really dead, Krycek. There are others. I can prove it.")

"He would," I reply, tucking Scully's head beneath my chin.

Could Mulder be Lazarus?

"What about you?" she asks.

Me? Is Scully asking my opinion about something that has nothing to do with Mulder? I'm startled, and blurt out an answer before thinking it over.

"My grandmother used to tell me stories," I say.

"Really?" Scully asks, and she sounds interested. "It's hard to imagine you as a child."

It's hard to remember, too. I close my eyes and picture my grandmother, sitting in her chair by the radiator, lace like cobwebs falling from the needles in her cramped hands. She spoke always in her native tongue, refusing to speak English, and told me story after story, uncaring if I listened or not. The stories would follow me around the cramped apartment, her aged voice carrying somehow through magic that she must have gleaned from her tales. She swore they were all true, every magical bear and drowned hero.

("He's not really dead, Krycek...")

I never believed in my grandmother's tales, tried not to listen, but her words were insidious, worming into my head until I knew the stories, knew them all. My grandmother claimed the stories would teach me everything I needed to know about life. Perhaps she was right.

I should have known better than to love a rusalka. There is no happy ending there. There is no happy ending at all.

But in Grandmother's tales, a rusalka could be saved. If a hero sets right the wrong done to her, she is freed from her watery prison. I'm no hero, but I'll have to do.

("He's not really dead...not really dead...")

"I have to go," I say, disentangling myself from Scully's arms. My hand makes a last sweep over her belly and I wonder what is there -- child or monster -- but I can only try and set one thing right at a time.

"I'll see you later," Scully says, yawning. She is becoming used to me.

No, you won't, I think.

I could let this go on. It still isn't too late. Take what you can while you can. But Mulder's ghost is back and glaring at me. 'She'll never be yours and I'll never be yours. You should know that by now.'

I walk away, a villain off to rescue the hero for the princess.

I am such a fucking fool, but the plane ticket to Moscow has already been purchased, and it is first class.

I come back from Russia the possessor of a very expensive vial of liquid, and find that events have raced ahead without me.

Billy Miles has been found and Mulder has been unearthed. This isn't how I had planned for things to go. You'd think I'd have learned by now that when dealing with Mulder or Scully, my plans aren't worth shit.

He is dying, which is fucking hilarious, because he's already dead, and it's Skinner and Scully who are killing him. If I had gotten back a few days later, he'd have made the transformation, and wouldn't that have been a kick in the teeth?

It's funny, in a sick sort of way, but I've gone through a lot for this vial, and I'd hate to have it go to waste. It's so rare that I do anything noble. And God help me, I don't want to kill Mulder. Not even an alien that looks like him.

I hold the needle to his skin and hesitate only for a second. I picture the reunion between Mulder and Scully and my hand wavers. I want him so badly, want her so badly, but even more, I want what they are together.

Nothing I do or don't do, can give me that. Nothing. With a sigh, I inject the vaccine into Mulder. There is a blip on his monitors, a momentary spasm of his muscles, then nothing.

I've done what I came to do: I've saved the hero, disenchanted the rusalka, and made right all that was wrong; but still I linger.

I have an urge, ridiculous but compelling, to kiss Mulder's lips and bring him back to life like this is a demented version of Sleeping Beauty. I lean forward, wanting a last embrace, but Skinner bursts into the room and I fall back, denied even that frivolous desire.

Something about Walter Skinner always brings out the worst in me.

He's so uptight, so sure of his righteousness, but he's always been someone's puppet. For now he's my puppet, and I like to pull his strings.

It's one of the few amusements I have left.

Besides, he's useful. People who are easy to manipulate always are.

I ask him to choose between Mulder's life and Scully's baby mostly because it doesn't matter and I like fucking with him, but his response surprises me. I see in his eyes that he knows Scully's child is special, as Spender had promised all those months ago.

I feel a foreboding. The child. I can't forget it, not my role in its conception, nor that its destruction may fall onto my shoulders. I want to stop and question Skinner but now isn't the time. It won't be long before Mulder wakes from the alien-induced stupor and I want to be very far away when it happens.

Asking me for a happy ending is one thing. Making me stay and witness the aftermath is another.

I walk out of Mulder's room, leaving Skinner to wreak whatever havoc he wants. The vaccine has already started to work no matter what he does. I think of my promise to find something to save Mulder's life. I've done it, and the dreams I'd had of earning his gratitude or love are nothing but dust.

I can't help but remember his last words to me: "Not everything is about you, Alex. Let me go."

Let him go, let Scully go, let them both go. Don't look back.

This isn't my story. It never was.


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