A Dream Of Fools
by Spica

TITLE: A Dream of Fools
FEEDBACK: Oh yes, please... to spica111@fastmail.fm
ARCHIVE: Keep my info attached and you can have it.
SPOILERS: Up to and including Patient X/RatB.
RATING: NC-17 for graphic and at times angsty or mildly coercive sexual situations.
DISCLAIMER: These characters are the property of Chris Carter, 1013 and Fox. I'm just borrowing them, except for a few secondary characters who are mine.
SUMMARY: Tiger and wolf, winter snow and cornflowers, wounds and desire: a war of wills.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Heartfelt thanks to my wonderful beta readers: Kelly Keil for taking the story safely through all the stages of a much needed Deep Massage beta, and Kris Gould for lots of excellent input at the later stages of revision.
Also huge thanks to Nika for invaluable help with all things Russian, and to Isa for the test-reading and the encouragement.
NOTES: It may be useful to know at the outset that this story takes place a short time before the actions in Patient X/RatB.

Translations and other comments regarding the Russian can be found at the end.

"...Winter has already loitered here,
lightly powdering these fields,
casting an impenetrable haze
that fills the world as far as the horizon.
I used to think that after we are gone
there's nothing, simply nothing at all.
Then who's that wandering by the porch
again and calling us by name?
Whose face is pressed against the frosted pane?
What hand out there is waving like a branch?
By way of reply, in that cobwebbed corner
a sunstruck tatter dances over the mirror."

(From "March Elegy" by Anna Akhmatova, in translation by Stanley Kunitz/Max Hayward.)


Krycek was drunk. He slouched at the bar counter, his head resting on his left arm, studying his hand with repulsed, distracted fascination.

Should he call her, or not?

Not. Definitely not.

Better to ponder where the hell would he sleep tonight? That woman at the other end of the bar was ogling him fairly openly. She was pretty, too. Now she smiled at him. He closed his eyes and turned his head slightly. The idea made his stomach churn. Sex for pay: a fuck for a warm bed. Some greedy, lonely stranger feasting on his body. She wasn't *that* pretty, and he wasn't that horny either.

Outside, the February night was depressing. The damp cold wind carried sleet in slapping gusts against the windows. He could sleep in his car, he supposed. It would be cold and uncomfortable, but, hell, it would be better than selling himself like a whore.

There was always Marita, of course. She would probably be willing to put him up for the night, and she wouldn't expect to be courted and laid as recompense either. It wasn't that he didn't want her, but something told him to be wary of getting too cozy with her. That burning ambition, that icy resentment of hers - it too much resembled his own. Fucking her now might mean having to piss her off later. He didn't want to piss her off. Not yet.

His left hand made circles on the bar counter with his glass before bringing it to his mouth and tipping it back, his head lifting for a moment. They knew their hi-tech, those aliens. They had managed to fashion him a limb that, within reason, did what he wanted it to. An arm that to some limited extent imitated, through artificial constructs and chemistry, the biological properties of muscular strength and tactile sensation. Considering they had made it for an organism fundamentally different from their own, that was no mean feat. An Amazing Alien Artificial Limb. Hey, he ought to trademark that.

Funny, the everyday familiarity with which he thought of the extraterrestrials these days. He hadn't been so blasé about it at sixteen, that night when his mother had related an improbable tale by the kitchen window overlooking the Neva. Nadezhda, barely three then, dozing in his lap, the warm soft solidness of her body somehow grounding him while his mother's words conjured up spaceships and Armageddon in the air between them. Telling him about aliens, about a threat to humanity, about her work on a vaccine, and finally, the truth about his father. He'd cried then. He'd been sick, and angry - quietly angry, not to wake the innocent in his arms. But he'd been elated, too. His heart had pounded with his new knowledge: his father wasn't a traitor. He hadn't left them all to go back to America. His father was a victim. His father was a hero.

Traitor. Victim. Hero. Ah, the luxury of life in black and white. He wondered what sixteen-year-old Sasha would have thought of his thirty-year-old self. Which convenient label would that boy have used for the man he'd become over the last seven years? Now, there was one thing he really didn't want to know.

Call her, or not?

Fucking forget it, Sasha. You trust those people she stays with, but things may go wrong. Things may go to hell. Her phone line may be tapped. You want Spender to trace you?

Placed a bug himself this night. Marita called and told him that Mulder and his queen consort had left town on some case and would be gone for a couple of days at least. It had been a good opportunity to tap Mulder's phone and place a microphone in his wall. Mulder was a wild card. Having some opportunity to anticipate his moves would be useful.

He'd put Mulder to good use in Tunguska. It was Marita who had staged all that. She was a double agent wily as the best of them. She'd had the idea, and helped him pull off a successful operation. Great trip, that had been. Pity about the arm.

It didn't look alive, this thing. Not at closer inspection. Those precisely placed wrinkles, just a little too precise. The nails with perfect crescent moons and even edges were different from the nails of his right hand that were worn by use. The fine dark hairs shading the back of his right hand were missing on this one. It didn't exactly look like the hand of a manikin; it looked like the hand of a bloody airbrushed GQ cover model. It was a fucking marvel. It made him fucking sick to look at it.

Better not call. It was her birthday though. Her eighteenth birthday. Nadezhda, his sestrichka, coming of age. And he hadn't seen her for months. He knew she got ill with worry at times, literally ill. She didn't know the half of it, of course. It had seemed best that way, but she was growing up now - she deserved to know. He'd resolved to tell her of the alien threat upon his return to St. Petersburg. It wasn't a conversation he looked forward to.

He downed his sixth shot of vodka and ordered one more.

Idly, he wondered what Marita had traded to get him that arm. What made her so certain of the loyalty of the apparently human man who had measured him for the limb and made the necessary adjustments? One word from that guy in Spender's ear and Marita would be pushing up daisies. A bit less idly, he speculated on her motives for striking up an alliance with him initially - rescuing the wreckage of him out of the depths of the silo when he'd hardly laid eyes on her before, nursing him back to reasonable health, getting him his ticket to St. Petersburg. Whatever she'd been thinking, she must have studied him better beforehand than he had her, seeing something that made her consider him a possible useful ally. But what?

He had been Spender's Russian golden boy, lured out from the crumbling Soviet Organization to grace the conspiracies of the American Consortium. He'd fancied himself anointed, chosen, blindly choosing to forget the implied threats that had secured his cooperation. So fucking naive. "You'll be a hero in both your father's and your mother's country, Alex." Dangerous and cold as a python, Spender had repelled and attracted him, threatened him and tempted him. Maybe it was the 'Alex' that had gotten to him. Not Sasha, but Alex, said in that clipped American way. Until then, his father had been the only one to call him that.

He cringed slightly, thinking of how well Spender had read him. It had been his dream come true, being in his father's country at last, living out his notions of the freedom, the sophistication of the West. Here, his American citizenship was taken for granted, not something that made him an outsider among his own people. He'd steeped himself in the culture, impatiently pushing away his Russian identity as if the twenty-three years of shaping it had been inconsequential. He'd been on a giddy, careless high of possibilities. Such hubris. No wonder it had all gone to hell.

After two exciting years of cosseting and training, and a bit of help from false papers, the reality check had come, his first assignment, the infiltration of the X-files. It hadn't taken him more than a day to figure out that no matter how compelling Spender's justifications, Mulder was a decent human being, whereas Spender (this much he already knew) was not. He might have been naive, but not *that* fucking naive. And as much as he had tried to bury his head in the sand, he'd known beyond question that Scully didn't deserve whatever fate Spender had in store for her.

What had made him go through with the betrayal, in spite of his doubts? Resentment, despair? On some aware, scared level of consciousness, he'd begun to realize that he had sold his soul to the devil, while Mulder, for all his fumbling in the dark, was fighting on the side of the angels. And Scully was the seraph on his right hand, with her devastating blue gaze and her russet-gold halo and her sword raised to protect him. Yes, resentment and despair. He'd made that one damning phone call, sealing Scully's fate, and gone home by way of a liquor store, drinking himself into a stupor on his couch that night. Not on the fine smooth bourbon he'd gotten himself used to since he left Russia, but on stark clean vodka. He had remembered that night, unshed tears burning behind his lids, what he had been.

He'd remembered his mother too, and as though her ghost were haunting the rooms he had asked her out loud if she had ever felt this kind of shame. She'd made her own deal with the devil, after all. The sound of the Russian words in his slurred drunken diction had been unbearable to him, so he had shut up, finished the bottle, and gone to bed to sleep the fitful sleep of the damned.

It had started to dawn on him what a fatal hand he had been dealt, but by then it was too late. Like a landslide, the treachery had escalated with murderous pace, taking with it lives of the guilty and the innocent alike, sending him at last reeling with shame and guilt over a woman's fallen body. Scully's sister, bleeding to death at his feet while he lingered, sick with the realization that it might not be too late to save her - but he'd been too scared and Cardinale had shouted at him to run and then, God, how he had run...

By the time of that incident, he'd become numb to his screwed up life. Insomnia had long since turned him to booze, then drugs. Spender hadn't liked it, needless to say. Deemed him unstable. Hence the little car bomb.

Ah, fuck all that. He made an almost inaudible groan as his head sank down on his arm. Why the hell did all this come back now anyway? God, as if he didn't know. It was the prospect of telling Nadezhda about the aliens, or course. She would be sure to start asking questions about his role in all this, and it gave him the chills to think what he would answer. More lies probably. More fucking lies, just because he couldn't bear the thought of seeing the love in her eyes turn to contempt. Only, he was so tired of lying to her.

Eighteen. She'd be having a party, probably. Vasya and Lara would see to that. Vodka glasses tinkling and crashing on the floor, a band playing, couples dancing in the kitchen and the living-room, spirited arguing, singing and shouts of laughter. Lots of friends, but no family, no parents, no brother. He'd have liked to have been there. He really would. Not only back with Nadezhda, but back in Leningrad - shit, St. Petersburg. He still sometimes stumbled on that name.

After his American dream ended in the nightmare depths of that underground maze, after Marita had saved him, he'd somehow scraped his Russian persona back together and returned to his home town, which had become St. Petersburg while he was away. The remains of the Organization welcomed his cooperation. He wasn't back in the fold, for obviously he was no longer to be trusted, but at least he commanded respect for what he could contribute, and maybe perversely, for the extent of his deceptions. His mother's former cohorts were wary of this friend turned into stranger, Marya's boy become a man: twice a traitor by then, nobody's hero, and nobody's fool.

He tipped back the last shot, then threw the empty glass over his shoulder, relishing the small crash and tinkling of glass. The bartender turned to him viciously. "Hey, you prick!" The woman ogling him widened her eyes in alarm.

He stared back at her with dead eyes, registering that his smile must be quite ugly, and whispered, "Vashe zdorovye".

He raised himself heavily up from the stool, gripping the counter for balance. He threw his last bills on the counter. The woman was turning to the chubby guy at her side for more cheerful company. Shit, he could sleep in the car - pull the synthetic fleece blanket over his head and float into darkness. Drunk and tired as he was, he thought he could sleep in spite of the cold. Fucking sour American winter, not the stable cold of Russia. This was the sort of cold you couldn't completely clothe yourself for. The damp ache of it insinuated itself into your skin, your bones, like a disease.

He stopped and looked at the phone booth near the door. He sifted through his pocket for change. Fuck, what was the use? He'd see her in a few days. He'd hug her and kiss her sweetly on the cheek, apologize for not calling on her birthday.

He gave the phone booth a vicious shove with his hand as he opened the door and stumbled out into the frigid night air. He huddled against the cold, zipping up his jacket. He'd sleep in the car. It would only be for tonight. The bonds he had released would come through tomorrow, and he was off to St. Petersburg in a couple of days. Then off to Kazakhstan. Marita had reported some interesting incidents there.

He stopped, looking around him. Where was he, anyway? His head was floating. He leaned against the wall, thinking. Yeah, right, Georgetown.

Georgetown. What was it about Georgetown?

Right, the queen consort. The saintly ice maiden. Scully. That was it. Scully's apartment. Scully was in Kansas. Not in Georgetown. He was in Georgetown.

Somehow, though he was sober enough to make the connection, he was drunk enough to think he'd just had a good idea.

It was just a couple of blocks away.


In the dream, he was a Siberian tiger, and he stalked his territory in a light fall of dry snow, the dawn bleeding crimson into the indigo horizon.

He knew what he was, and revelled in his properties. The strength, the beauty, the casual cruelty of a perfect predator. He had neither pride nor shame in this. It was how it must be. In this land, the weak did not survive.

In the dream, it was not the dirty, half-hearted winter of this American city, but the incandescent white winter of sub-arctic Russia. In late February, the land was still in the death-grip of a bitter, searing cold. He paced the perimeter of his kingdom on a grim, single-minded quest of defence and hunt. Around him, the dark conifer forest stood laced and sparkling with snow that caught the sanguinary hues of the dawn. Behind him, the falling snow covered the tracks of his silent progress.

The tiger scented blood. He stopped immediately, his heart momentarily beating faster, then slowing to a deadly, calculated pace. He turned around, following the blood-scent with quiet purpose, gliding like a pale shadow between the snowy, rose-tinted trees. He was hungry. Blood meant life.

Suddenly, the trees gave way to a clearing. He stopped at the edge of the trees, cautiously surveying the monochromatic landscape. There seemed to be nothing there.

A movement in his peripheral vision caused him to tense and turn. There, at the far side of the clearing, something was watching.

It was a she-wolf. It wasn't a natural beast, but the enchanted white wolf of ancient fairy-tales, and her eyes were like cold blue jewels in her snow-white face. She returned the tiger's gaze with glacial contempt, showing none of the fear of his lesser adversaries.

But in her silver-white fur, gashes from mighty claws ran sideways and vertical. Blood was seeping into the fur and the snow beneath her slowly, but fatally. The wolf was familiar with death, and must have known that night was closing in on her, but the defiant glint in her lazulite eyes showed that she had hours of fight in her yet.

The tiger stood still for long minutes as if bound by a spell, imperially matching his burning gaze to the wolf's icy one, his brain grappling with some hitherto unknown reaction. It was not quite empathy, but it was uncomfortable. It hurt in a way he had no language to explain. His heart was pounding like it did during a kill, but the hunger he felt was alien, something of the mind and not the body.

At length he lowered his big head, turning back, and in doing so, he discovered without surprise the dark frozen blood crusting his front paws, and the strands of white fur caught in his claws. Not looking back, he felt the gleam of two arctic jewels following his retreat, shining without gratitude, without hope.

The tiger retraced his invisible tracks. He returned to his patient vigil of survival, facing a siege that would never end.

For in this land, winter had unlimited dominion, and spring was a dream of fools.


"Don't move."

Krycek roused, sleep-drugged, fighting his way out of a cold, cold realm. On some semi-conscious level, he knew there had been sounds before this; a door banging shut, footsteps clicking on hardwood flooring, a sharp intake of breath, an object falling to the floor with the dry shattering sound of something fragile breaking. But these had all been interpreted into surreal elements of some tenacious dreamscape.

"Don't move, dammit, or I'll shoot." The voice - a familiar, woman's voice, cool even in the heat of fury - told him that she meant business. He gave up the attempt at coordinating his movements into defence. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes.

Immediately, wintry eyes took him captive, glaring in regal affront. He started, different levels of consciousness flowing together for a moment and leaving him in limbo. <Wolf - there was a wolf...>

"In my apartment," the wolf snarled. "You have the gall to make yourself at home in *my* apartment." She shook in fury, and dark red hair danced on her shoulders, and finally Krycek's mind climbed out of the deep cellar of unconsciousness and recognized Dana Scully.

In his sleep-fuddled brain, chaos reigned supreme. All he could think was, shit, shit, why is she here, she shouldn't be here...

Oh God, he must have been more wasted than he thought, earlier, to consider this a good idea. Crashing on Scully's couch. Brilliant.

Slowly, Scully backed up and reached out a hand for the light switch without looking, her gun aimed at him all the while. Light flooded the room and painted her in the blazing colors of a pre-Raphaelite gratie, the creamy pale skin, the russet vibrancy of her hair, the startling, startled blue of her eyes. Snowflakes were melting into drops of water on her long black winter coat and her hair, some of them starting to trickle down into her face, and she raised an arm and swiped impatiently at her eyes and forehead with her damp sleeve.

Something about her stance caught his attention. She was wobbly...swaying. Now she reached out an arm and steadied herself briefly against the wall. And that gun hand, while fuelled by enough righteous fury to blow his brains out in a second, could definitely have been steadier, too. Jesus, was the woman about to faint, or what?

Then he noticed the flushed heat of her cheeks, the conspicuous brilliance of her eyes, and the truth dawned on him. Oh, great. Scully was... well... *significantly* inebriated. He felt suddenly, terrifyingly sober himself, and, finally, wide awake.

He'd been solidly drunk coming here and had, foolishly, just dropped on her couch without removing his weapons, but no way would he chance trying to whip his gun out. He didn't want to shoot Scully anyway. He left his victims without a backwards glance these days, like road kill, but couldn't explain how the horror of those select few first transgressions still clung to him, still visited him in nightmares at times. Of all his victims, Scully was the one that haunted him in dreams, in scenes he had never witnessed awake, cold instruments violating her restrained body and setting off awful, pleading wails of pain, a childlike keening that made him wake up with terror in his gut and bile in his throat.

Scully put one hand into the deep pocket of her coat and fished out her cell phone, watching him with menace. He rose in alarm, mentally hearing a jail door slam shut behind him.

"Stay there, Krycek," she warned, her attention drawn away from the phone momentarily. He made up his mind in a split second. Once she hit that number, Mulder or Skinner would be on their way here with backup, and he shrank from contemplating the scenes of carnage that would follow. No way would he ever let those two sanctimonious pricks use him as a punching bag again.

Slowly, he raised himself from the couch, holding up his hands placatingly. Scully was a stickler for protocol. He didn't think she would shoot as long as he didn't show aggression. He'd have to take his chances.

He held her gaze with an open, snake-charmer stare, pulling his jacket to the side and fishing out his gun from the holster with two fingers. He let it drop to the floor, and kicked it carefully her way. "Sign of good will, Scully," he explained.  Okay, so he had a knife in an ankle strap and a small gun in a holster under his sweater. His good will didn't override his instinct for survival, but a nice gesture never hurt, did it?

Seeing her gun hand jerking dangerously, he had a revelation. "Shit, you're really scared of me, aren't you?"

She made a gasping sound that was half unamused laughter, half rage. "Don't flatter yourself."

"Well, it's only that you look very tense, and you strike me as a brave girl generally, Scully..." Before he had even finished the sentence, she was speaking in a cold, breathy whisper.

"Let's not even talk of my abduction. My sister was killed by your associate. Here. In this. Very. Room." He imagined he could see the words rising from her mouth and hovering over them like puffs of frosty cloud. "I can't prove that you were directly involved in her death, but I know you are a clockwork killing machine. It's not fear, it's common sense."

Krycek didn't answer the accusation. He didn't want to discuss her sister's death. Not now, not ever. Instead he said, "I didn't come here to hurt you, actually." He moved again, pointedly ignoring her gaze and her gun, fixing his attention instead on the shopping bag in the middle of the floor. "Something broke," he said. "Eggs?"

Now she stared in disbelief as he picked up the bag and proceeded to the kitchen, turning his back to her with an air of cheerful nonchalance. Distraction was the key. He had to keep her off balance and off the phone, and wait for an opportunity to turn the tables.

"Turn around, you bastard," she snapped, following him, but he gave no reaction beyond a wounded glance over his shoulder. She held him at gunpoint, the situation growing more absurd by the second while he emptied the bag of an assortment of fresh vegetables, ham, a carton of cream and a gooey cardboard carton which he contemplated with some concern. "Eggs," he affirmed. "Well, we can probably salvage them. Let me guess. You were planning an omelet?"

"Stop it," she commanded, her voice almost breaking. "What are you doing here?"

"Making you an omelet?" he suggested calmly.

"I don't want a goddamned omelet!"

"Doesn't look that way to me. You should eat something, anyway, or you'll have the mother of all hangovers tomorrow. Besides, you're too skinny."

She was silent for long seconds. Trying to wrap that methodical, but drunken mind around the totally outrageous, no doubt. Meanwhile, he rummaged in the nearest cupboard and found a bowl. Carefully, he emptied the broken eggs into it, turned to wash his hands with the soap in the dispenser by the kitchen sink, and returned to start picking out the fractured eggshells, dropping them in the sink as he proceeded.

Then, her voice at first misleadingly flat, rising gradually into teeth-grinding indignation. "What - are - you - *doing* here, Krycek?"

He actually felt embarrassed to have to admit it. Of course, he could have made up a colorful lie, but instinct told him that the lame truth might be the best way to keep Scully off balance, which was really his only option right now.

"I needed a place to crash and I just happened to get information that you and Mulder would be out of town for a couple of days," he said. "I figured I had less of a chance of sharing the couch with roaches here than in Mulder's infested lair, so... here I am." He silently awarded himself extra points for his winsome little grin at the end.

"Don't..." She took a deep, steadying breath, continuing on a note of barely checked anger. "Are you trying to tell me that you used my apartment for a free hotel? Not that I ought to believe a single word that comes from your lying mouth..."

"Fork?" Krycek asked, knotting his brow pensively as he rooted through drawers.

She stared at him. He glanced at her askance - then did a double take, narrowing his eyes to a sharp focus.

She was drunk. She was furious, and confused, and beneath that, she looked absolutely beat. But above all, she was different - different from the Scully with whom he was acquainted, changed, on a fundamental level, like a creature emerging from a chrysalis.

When he first got to know Scully, he had found that she looked far younger than her actual age. Now, at this moment, she looked every one of her thirty-four years and maybe then some, but striking... oh, yes. Catching up with her age had only enhanced her looks. As she stared at him under the dark sweep of her lashes, the solemn arcs of her brows, Krycek registered in wonderment what he hadn't noticed until now. Since the last time they met, Dana Scully had stopped being pretty, and had become beautiful.

He'd learned about her cancer, of course. But the last time he had actually seen her had been one and a half years ago at Dulles airport, going after the diplomatic pouch before he went with Mulder to Tunguska. She had still had something of a child's face then, a pretty, plumped-up softness about her looks. His jab that she had become too thin had been unpremeditated, off the top of his head, but he saw now for certain that something - her sickness? loss? heartache? - had taken more than baby fat off her face. Being thin was the least significant part of the change. Her innocence had been honed away. There was something of a beautiful bird-of-prey likeness about her now - a strong, merciless functionality imprinted on that small frame.

She had stroked her wet hair back from her flushed face, and the scents surrounding her were the coolness of snow and the mustiness of damp wool and the tartness of wine and the light floral note of her perfume.

"What the hell are you looking at?" she asked, seeming to pull herself out of some trance. He returned to the task at hand, finding a fork in a drawer next to the stove and starting to blend the cream into the eggs, considering her question. Then he colored his voice a neutral nuance like dry grass and answered truthfully:

"I don't think I ever really saw you before."

She didn't answer, didn't even arch her brow in that infuriating way he remembered. She looked hot, uncomfortably so. She kicked off her shoes with a petulant vindictiveness he associated with a child, then proceeded to unbutton and shrug off her coat, never letting that dove blue gaze or the gun shift off him. The slump of her shoulders suggested dejection, Krycek thought. Then her coat fell and he didn't think for a while.

Scully wore a blue dress. A dress as blue as irises and Siberian squill, as blue as the blue of her eyes. A dress of thin, clingy velvet with a neckline that bared the pale upper swell of her breasts. A sleeveless dress that skimmed her slim curves and ended right above her knees.

It was a dress for an *occasion*, he thought, and noticed now how her hair looked somewhat different too, curls starting to loosen and fall forwards from an originally tidy arrangement at the nape of her neck. Her face looked like it had been carefully made up but the makeup had mostly rubbed off, which made her look vulnerable, in a strangely sensual way.

Slowly, pieces clicked in a puzzle he hadn't even perceived until now. Dana Scully had been on what he guessed was a big date, yet she came home early with a grocery bag full of food... Had she been stood up? Why wasn't she in Kansas with Mulder?

Another piece of information clicked into place. He had noticed Scully's birthday on a report provided by Spender once, and had remembered it because it happened to fall on the day of his little sister's.

God, if he had made that call to Nadezhda, no matter how foolhardy, at least he might have sobered up enough not to get himself into this situation.

He contemplated Scully's appearance in light of this new revelation. Oh, man. She did look a bit the worse for wear. He shook his head in unexpected sympathy, then noticed her attention turning to the cell phone again. Shit. Hurriedly he said,  "Happy birthday, Scully."

She glanced up, alarmed. "How do you know..."

"Never mind." He chanced a guess. "Mulder stood you up, didn't he Scully? And he left you behind on the case. Way to catch two birds with one stone."

She stared at him for long seconds, and for a dizzy moment he caught a glimpse of the landscape behind that magnificent mask, some polar, ice-locked coast where unshed tears petrified into the permafrost before they ever could thaw the ground. Her hand came up and pushed her hair back from her temple, a gesture echoing the angry bewilderment in her eyes. "He couldn't help it. It was urgent, and he had to take a rain check..."

"He might have called you before you were sitting in the bar waiting for him though, don't you think?" Again only an educated guess, but her flinch told him it was another hit.

"He had to catch a plane at half an hour's notice..." But she wasn't convincing herself, even, and Krycek decided to turn the inner conflict up a notch. Why, he wasn't even sure. Just for the hell of it? No, that wasn't quite right. There was annoyance seething in him that he couldn't explain.

God knew he wasn't exactly a dream lover himself, but thinking of Mulder having this krasavitsa right under his nose, *pining* for him, week after month after year, without having the guts to put them both out of their misery... that was just plain fucking pitiful, and he hated pitiful.

"Was this an important case, Scully? Important enough to take precedence to a prearranged birthday date? Which you had obviously put some... preparation into?"

"That's none of your business," she snapped, suddenly avoiding his gaze.

"Much fun being a martyr, Scully?"

She looked at him with quick rage, then glanced abruptly away. "Go to hell, Krycek."

She started as she caught the mirror image of the two of them reflected in the dark window, as if the tableau were something completely unexpected. The instant double take was followed by the distanced fascination of someone watching a film. When she spoke, he couldn't tell if she was talking to her image or his. "Cow mutilations," she muttered, and now her voice was filling with cold anger. "What a joke, fucking cow mutilations."

"Again, huh? He does tend to run around in crop circles," Krycek said dismissively, talking to the Scully in the mirror, and was astounded to be rewarded with a blank stare followed, unthinkably, by an involuntary cackle of laughter. He'd never heard her laugh before. He supposed he'd never given her much to laugh about. It was uncanny - this ice goddess had a laugh that was sexy as all hell. Maybe there was some shock involved in her sudden mirth, but it sounded like it was doing her good.

Cautiously, he grinned, testing the fresh taste of her approval. But his brain was busy processing the situation. So, Dana Scully was dressed up like a carnal angel for her date with Mulder, and Mulder had stood her up. Had she had seduction in mind? Had Mulder guessed, and was that the true reason for his sudden interest in bovine tragedies? Wave potential bliss in Mulder's face, and his self-obsessed guilt complex might just cause him to scoot off in the opposite direction.

He became aware of her studying him in the window, with an expression of revelation on her face that he couldn't fathom. "So, here you are," she stated cryptically, her calm contralto abruptly devoid of amusement.

He'd forgotten about the food on the counter, the need to distract her. As he turned around slowly to face her, leaning back against the kitchen counter, she did the same. He thought the confusion in her face might mirror his own. There had been a change of some kind. Like continental plates shifting, the upheaval landing them on a different emotional latitude.

The look in Scully's eyes reminded him of a startled beast. The sudden wary stare of something wild sensing an unknown presence. He thought he could feel her body heat radiate off her in waves, feral.

"Do you like my dress, Krycek?" she said huskily, sounding more vulnerable than he suspected she wanted. How drunk was she really? She smoothed down the shimmery velvet over her ribs and her waist and her round, sweet hips with nervous hands. Was she preening for him? Something about that slow, shy stroke of her hand mesmerized him and made him feel slightly sweaty. A languid pulse started beating in his groin. He fell into her blue gaze, and was profoundly shocked to note the tell-tale dilation of her pupils. Oh God, what was that? Arousal, defiance, despair? All of the above?

Then, looking him squarely in the eyes, she deliberately placed her gun and phone on the counter, and his heart very nearly stopped.

As God was his witness, he had never harbored an impure thought about Scully. Not the slightest, most basic fantasy. Too much guilt involved. Too embarrassing start to their acquaintance, in the autopsy room with her coolly sizing him up as he ran out the door to barf his guts out. Yet now, looking at her, he just wondered helplessly where his eyes had been.

"The dress is nice," he said, his breath catching a bit on hesitation as he frantically tried to figure out where this was going. He felt out of his depth, like a miscast actor. But as she lowered her lashes in a kind of defeat, extinguishing the naked question in her eyes, he knew it had been the wrong answer and felt a sudden, sad fury at himself and at Mulder and at every man who had ever failed her.

"Why don't you just get the hell out of here, Krycek?" she said in a flat, dull voice. She looked her natural pissed-off self again, but hurt under the anger, and he felt oppressed by a quickly descending cloud of inadequacy.

He stood rooted to the spot for a few seconds as she walked a bit unsteadily to the front door and opened it for him. Then, sluggishly, he made up his mind, and started moving, stooping to pick up his gun on the way. He should thank the wayward gods of fate that she was letting him go. He'd achieved what he wanted, hadn't he? He'd managed to get his ass out of here without being arrested. For him, this woman was the scenic route to Hell. Best to leave *now*. Best not to look at her.

But he couldn't resist a last look, turning as he stepped into the corridor. She raised her glance too in the same second, off-guard, with that ice-scape of hardened longing in her eyes... And Krycek lingered, his heart rate picking up.

He wouldn't deny there was a definite thrill in the fact that Mulder had never had her himself. Fucking her would feel like stealing the droit de seigneur from the bastard. But beyond that, a more surprising realization was forming in his mind, like the colors of a kaleidoscope bursting into a pattern of crazy beauty. So, maybe this *was* crazy, but he wanted to do something right for once. He simply wanted to do right by Dana Scully. He wanted to show her that he could get it right. Right.

He stepped back inside and closed the door, cornering her behind it, crowding her without touching her. A sudden, apprehensive cry escaped from her throat, he didn't know whether it was fear of him specifically, some general sexual anxiety or just shock at his spontaneous move. She looked up at him, wide-eyed.

"You're sexy as hell in that dress," he said quietly.

She caught her breath on a hiccup as his hand lifted to the juncture between her neck and shoulder, tracing the fragile line of her collarbone before rubbing sensually over the thin velvet of her dress. It was a strange sound, forlorn, thin, like the last sobs of a child who had been crying for a long time. Hearing it put a heavy lump of sadness in his stomach. He raised his hand to her damp hair, smoothing it back with care. The tips had started to dry and were curling softly between his fingers.

She shrank from that touch, but stayed close, betraying some longing beyond her control, perhaps even beyond her full awareness.

"Just let me do this," he said huskily. "Let me make it better." He moved his mouth to her parted lips, whispering. "Ty tak prekrasna, vassilyok - "

He yelped at the sudden smarting pain in his lower lip, and his fingers flew up to soothe the spot where she had bitten him. "Scully, what the fuck!"

"'Make it better', as if you could! Who the hell do you think you are?" she taunted him. "Some tender fantasy lover from a Russian Harlequin romance?"

Anger flared in him at this attack. After all, she had started this, hadn't she? Well, hadn't she?

"I can be as tender as you want me to be, Scully," he hissed. "Or I can fuck you up against that door if you want. I can tie you down and fulfill your rape fantasies - ow!"

This time it was his cheek bearing the brunt of her fury. Grimacing, he rubbed at his prickling skin with the back of his hand for a couple of seconds before hurrying to catch her hand in mid-flight as it rose for another hit. He secured the other one too and pinned them against the wall on either side of her head, leaning over her ominously. Her wrists were jerking with the desire to hit him, hurt him, score him with claw marks probably.

"It's your call, Scully," he informed her in clipped tones. "You started this, you tell me if you're going to go through with it."

"The hell I did! In your dreams, Krycek."

"Ah, yes, and that little scene just now, cooing like a little golubka about whether I liked your dress, did I dream that too? Make up your mind, Scully. You've got half a minute."

She was magnificently, quietly furious. He rarely met anyone who could stare him down, but Scully didn't give an inch. They glared at each other at length. It was chilling, thrilling. He wanted to grind his hips into her, to shock her, intimidate her, but he told her that with his eyes instead. Thirty seconds passed, probably more. At long last, he laughed and let abruptly go of her wrists, and turned around for the door, swearing.

He wouldn't have believed the strength in her small hand as it clamped down on his arm and jerked him around to face her. She held him there for a moment, her expression veering wildly between outrage, temptation and reluctance, which abruptly gave way to one that made his stomach lurch. It spelled out a loud and clear "Ah, what the hell". He stared at her, the unreality of the situation seeping in at last. Christ. She was actually going to do it. He was going to get lucky with Scully.

Then she was reeling him in, no concession in her face. "Let me explain things to you in simple terms, Krycek," she said coldly. "You can drop the Casanova bullshit. I *know* you, remember? I know you to your rotten core. I just want you to shut the hell up and fuck me. Got that?"

He felt scorched by the dry ice of her voice. "Oh, I get it all right. You want a plain, generic fuck so you can pretend that I am someone else and that you are better than you are." He jerked his arm free and leaned into her, his voice falling to a husky warning. "Let me explain something to *you*, milaya. If I screw you, it's going to be done my way or not at all, and when I make you scream, remember that my name is Alex."

He wondered if that was some unwelcome self-insight registering as shock on her face. In a second, though, she sublimated it into arctic anger. "And why do you think you get to set any terms in the first place?"

He laughed, touching his hand to her cheek with mocking gentleness. "Because as much as I want to fuck you, Scully, I somehow don't think I'm quite as desperate for this as you are."

Oh, now he got to see Scully blush. Another first. The absolute give-away blush of a natural redhead. She straightened herself to her full, regrettably lacking height and drew a shaky breath to speak. He knew that the only options he had left her with were to chuck him out in fury or to rein him in and kiss him. He somehow suspected she didn't have the latter in her, and being chucked out at this stage would be a bitch. Time to move in for the kill, then.

"Think about it, Scully," he said, purposely using his most seductive voice to charm her. "Tonight, it could be another human being kissing you, stroking you, holding you, fucking you - or it can be your own hands in your lonely bed. Is that such a difficult choice?" 

She looked mesmerized. Miserable as hell, but mesmerized. She took a deep, agitated breath and finally spat out the words. "Just... just do it, okay?"

With a vague sense of alarm at his own relief, he drew her in, testing the stiff resistance in her spine. She felt reluctant, considering her aggressive request, and he experienced a sting of fear that she was already now sobering up and wondering what the hell she was doing. It occurred to him that she was tiny, that he was looming over her with his thick-muscled tall shape. In an instinctive effort to eliminate whatever threat she saw in him, he fell to his knees, tracing his hands up along her back and pulling her with him so she sat astride his lap, her dress riding up tantalizingly. They were almost face to face like this, and he leaned in and coaxed her with patient persistence into a kiss.

Her mouth lay chaste and passive against his barely parted lips for some seconds, tasting of light, spicy wine. He waited, hearing her breath pick up, betraying her. He closed his hands lightly around her arms and glanced down at her small, rigid body. Christ, he could see the rapid agitation of her heart right through her dress, and she was trembling like she had a fever. It was clear that distress was overriding her desire now that the first hurdle had been crossed, and he needed to change that. With a reassuring sound he moved his lips against hers, whispering. "I know you don't trust me, Scully. You don't have to. Tonight is a secret, okay? None of this is real."

He kissed the corner of her mouth. He kissed her cheek. He traced her delicate jaw line lightly with his tongue and his teeth. He kissed her chin quickly, her throat slowly, closing his eyes as he felt it vibrate against his mouth with her soft moan. Now she swayed into him, hands fumbling over his shoulders for support as she sighed heavily like she was having trouble breathing. "I...Krycek, I..."

He withdrew slowly, his eyes opening as if from a drugged state. He discovered that the fingers of his right hand, which had threaded into her hair, were flexing with pleasure. His thumb caressed the light pulse at her temple. "Yeah," he breathed. "You okay?" Please God, let her be okay, he thought fervently, his first clearly formulated prayer since he was thirteen.

She huffed dismissively. "Like you care."

He grinned. "A bit rusty, Scully? Relax, they say it's like riding a bicycle, once you've learned it you don't forget."

Scully tensed further, visibly. "Spare me your little nuggets of wisdom, will you?"

He looked across her shoulder into the bedroom and saw her bed, covered in pristine white-and-gray check flannel and waiting. Scully caught and followed his glance, and blushed again like a 17-year-old. Fuck, she was too precious. Krycek felt torn between laughter and disconcertment.

He said, looking at her under half-lowered lashes, "If you're gonna change your mind, then do it now, Scully. Later will be way too late. Once we're in that room, there'll be no going back."

"I'm not known for changing my mind." This was delivered as fact. Good, because sincere as he wanted to be, he was realistically aware of the pliable nature of his moral backbone. He'd never take a woman by force, but he'd be damned if he wasn't confident he could do what it took to convince Scully she was wrong if she changed her mind at this point. Moral considerations wouldn't get a foot in the door. Even as he'd spoken his offer, the relentlessly straining hardness in his groin was issuing an official protest.

"Well?" she asked in a throaty whisper, touching her fingers to his chest through the knit cotton of his sweater. He smiled dangerously. He felt like a conqueror suddenly. He felt like a Cossack on a black stallion, like a Magyar tribe with banners streaming. He rose up with her, then carefully hoisted her off the floor and into his arms, feeling her hand clench around his upper arm for balance as her feet left the floor. He was strong enough and she small enough that he could carry her gracefully, albeit not painlessly, just as long as he took care to let the right arm take the most of the load.

But - "What the hell do you think you're doing?" asked Scully, squirming like a snake and staring at him in astonishment more than affront. She wanted down, and she was making no secret of it. He swore, and grabbed her tighter with his hands, holding on for dear life. He broke out in a sweat at the chafing pain her resistance caused the stump of his arm, nerve endings going wild with unwelcome stimuli. But putting her down was defeat - unthinkable. He strode towards the bedroom, refusing to let the pain stop him from carrying her to bed like a spoil of war.

She laughed, but she was getting angry, he could tell. "You should consult a shrink about the Rhett Butler complex."

"It's a man thing, Scully." He bit the inside of his cheek to stifle a groan. Jesus, he hoped he could make it to that bed, or this would be hard to live down.

"Oops," said Scully as he dropped her none too elegantly on the mattress, her annoyance seemingly replaced by curiosity as she registered the agonized grimace on his face. Her gaze slid over him without sympathy. "You hurt your arm?"

His eyes narrowed. He hated having to think about it, having to deal with it in a situation like this. "Never mind my fucking arm," he answered, amiably enough, but with a warning flash in his eyes.

Scully rolled her eyes and didn't pursue the issue. He relaxed slowly. Smart girl.

The room was comfortably warm, and he pushed the duvet and the throw down on the floor. He was aware of her wary gaze on him, as he shrugged his leather jacket onto the floor. He unfastened both gun holsters and let them follow the jacket, and took time to take off his shoes and socks, then the knife strap on his ankle, before standing by the bed and returning her gaze.

"You must be scared of something, Krycek," she said with ironical bravado that struck him as rather forced, taking in his little arsenal on the floor.

"Well, what can I say? The minutiae of survival may be trivial, but they help me sleep at night," he countered, caressing her with his eyes.

"Still, it seems a bit much..."

He laughed. "Are you stalling, Scully? Now, who is scared?"

Well, maybe we both are, he thought. Scully seemed to have a harder time of hiding it though. Her damp hair was dark against the sheet, her eyes unnaturally luminous. The peaks of her smallish round breasts were tightening even as he looked at them, and as she noticed the direction his attention was taking, Scully blushed for the third time. This time the wave of color flooding her was as triumphant as the sea of red flags conquering Leningrad's main street on a May Day, her skin from her forehead down to her chest bursting into a bloom of wild roses. He smiled, almost staggered by that beauty, and Scully averted her gaze sharply.

In denial, Scully? he thought. He put his knee onto the mattress, lying down next to her and placing one thigh possessively over her legs. He leaned on his prosthetic arm, bracing himself against the unavoidable discomfort, and raised his right hand to her burning cheek, cupping it and turning her face back to meet his gaze again. He felt amazingly gentle. He could afford to be generous.

"Ssshh. I know. I know you're afraid."

Scully's obligatory protest was rather pathetic since she couldn't seem to find her voice, and he caressed her cheek before leaning in to kiss her.

Again, there was first this callow, frustrating passivity. He wondered whether it was inexperience that caused it or rather the fact that she was quite literally in bed with the enemy. Maybe both. He brushed his mouth over hers, smiling encouragement. Then, stealthily, he moved in to test the perimeters of her defence. He traced the inside of her lower lip with the tip of his tongue, causing her to take a shallow, troubled breath and open her mouth against his. He felt the warm touch of her tongue on his, withdrawing enticingly after the first taste. Determined, he followed, his tongue sliding and exploring and coaxing her out to play again. Being patient with Scully felt good, like some luxurious indulgence. For a moment he was brought back twenty years in time to a lazy, snowed-in Sunday at the dacha, lying in a half-daze from the heat of the fireplace, trying to prolong the enjoyment of the sweets his mother had brought back to him from one of her trips to the West. He'd slowly savored the liqueur-filled chocolates, waiting for the burning explosion of sweetness at the center.

Experimentally, he let his hand slide from her cheek, down her throat and chest, his fingers dragging lightly over one nipple. She arched into his hand, moaning into his mouth. Fascinated by her sensitivity, he repeated the caress, this time lingering on the hard straining peak, softly stroking and manipulating it. Scully broke free from the kiss, drawing a gasping breath which she expelled in a long, low, plaintive sound. Her eyes closed tightly shut as she half-rose from the mattress, pushing herself into his hand. Whoa. Something told him that this girl was coming to the end of a very long dry spell.

He murmured, soothing her. "Yeah, milaya. Is that good? Let's do it some more." He cupped the small firm globe of her breast in his hand, thumbing the nipple lazily. Her eyes slowly drifted open again, disoriented and dazed like from a dream. He met her gaze quietly for some seconds before dipping his head and biting the hard bud gently through her dress. She moaned, writhing. Jesus, she might be inexperienced, but she was far from innocent. He knew he had to find a way to get that dress off her. He didn't want a quick nervous fuck with her skirt bunched around her waist. If he only got to have sex with Dana Scully once in his life, he wanted it to be so right and good that no one was ever gonna fuck her better.

She seemed distracted by the dress, too. She put her hands on his shoulders and pushed him away, but only to kneel on her knees and reach back for the zipper. She was nimble and could no doubt manage the operation herself, but there was no way he was going to let an opportunity to undress this woman pass him by. He knelt on his knees, too, moving so he was behind her. Seeing the pale delicate nape of her neck distracted him, though. He kissed her there, and with a faint sound of encouragement she bent her head, inviting further exploration. He licked like a cat down the side of her neck and she moaned as her head rolled back again, resting against his chest while his hand closed over hers, helping to pull the zipper down to the small of her back.

He started easing the dress down over her shoulders, and had just undone the clasp of her navy satin bra, when he was hit by the added visual impact of the small tattoo nestled in the V of the opening in the dress. The sensual surprise of it shimmered through him like a heat wave and made him gasp for air.

"Jesus, Scully..." He laughed, a short soft sound, and touched the tattoo carefully.

She stiffened, and shifted to see his face. Her eyes were fiercely defensive, expecting mockery, he realized. Still he couldn't help smiling as he traced the delicate rendering in ink with his index finger.

"It's beautiful," he assured her in half-whispered urgency. "You are beautiful. Don't you know that?" It was important to him that she should understand, that she should know that he wouldn't hurt her even in this small way.

"You're so full of shit, Krycek," she said, ungraciously. But her fever-bright gaze seemed to revisit some half forgotten pain, like an old wound, a gash that had scored too deep to ever heal quite right.

"Why, because I tell you the truth?" he countered quietly. "Is it really so comfortable to bury yourself beneath a glacier so that no one dares show you how beautiful you are, or how desirable?"

"You've absolutely no right - " she began tightly, but he interrupted, cautiously aware that he was pushing her beyond her comfort zone, but intent on making her see - herself, and him.

"You're so afraid of getting burned that you can't even warm your hands by the fire, Scully. You'd rather die of the cold than approach the heat."

She moved sharply, a panicked motion as if to get away, but he held on with lazy confidence. He kissed the back of her neck, kissed a warm whisper into her skin, "Nu, nu, ne veshay nos, vassilyok. This isn't real, remember?"

Scully was unyielding in his arms, her breath betraying true fear for the first time since this unlikely scenario started unfolding. "This is real, all right," she whispered hotly. "Because believe me, if I were dreaming you wouldn't be playing the male lead."

His mouth at her neck moved into a smile. "Danoushka, you're cruel."

"Don't mess with my mind," she hissed, a racking shiver going through her. "I know who you are."

"Good. And as long as you remember it," he said tolerantly, "we're in business."

He put both his hands to her lower back then, to distract her, applying warm pressure before slipping under the blue velvet over her hips. Soft hot skin over slim strong curves. His fingertips encountered the upper part of what seemed to be a dark satin garter. <God, Scully, you really were on the prowl tonight, weren't you?>

He withstood the temptation to investigate the issue for now, choosing instead to let his hands glide in a slow firm caress up to her waist, encircling it briefly before continuing up over her narrow ribcage. His thumbs traced the undersides of her breasts and she sighed, growing restless in front of him, turning her cheek to his shoulder and fighting to keep her breath even. Her back arched in an involuntary attempt to invite a more intimate touch. Her hips made tentative circles, bringing her ass into fleeting contact with his full-fledged erection, uncomfortably trapped in his jeans. He groaned and sat down on his heels, pulling her resolutely down into his lap. Scully pushed into him, her hands clutching convulsively at his hips. "Krycek," she pleaded shakily.

"Say please, Danoushka," he teased her, his voice low and warm in her ear.

"Damn you!"

He smiled. "It's only polite." A couple of fingers pushed her bra away, then made a detour up to a nipple and brushed it lightly before retreating again.

"Oh, God..." She moaned, arching her back in a vain attempt to recapture the touch, then spat out the word like something foul. "Please!"

Krycek laughed and moved his hands the required three inches up, and the moan rose to a wail of relief.

Even proportionally, she was small-chested, and she was a diminutive size on the whole. Her soft, yet firm breasts felt infinitely vulnerable under his large hands, and his instinct was to touch them gently. Her skin was hot, her nipples pushed hard and swollen against his palms. She arched forward into his touch, then desperately, her hands came up to her shoulders and clawed at the dress, tugging it down her arms to her elbows, along with her bra. Her breasts came into view, small full moons with coral pink centers. She leaned back into the hollow of his neck, her mouth emitting a slow steady whimper as he molded her lightly in his hands and tugged at her nipples. She was rocking softly in his lap, fuelled by a restlessness she couldn't seem to control, and he was rocking back, likewise unable to help himself. Suddenly, his hands had become erogenous zones. He thought he could feel her pleasure spreading in electric pulses into his palms, under his skin, drumming through his nerves and his blood. Even in his left hand, through that alien mechanical maze, he felt the warm human buzz, and it was the first time he could recall that it had ever given him any sensation other than dispassionate tactile awareness.

"Ah... Milaya..." His voice was slurred, husky with sensual wonder. "Milaya, s toboy tak sladko, tak goryacho..."

He bent down and put his lips and tongue to the base of her throat, licking and breathing evenly on the tender skin there, and presently she was squirming in his lap to turn around, her eyes stormy and desperate. In spite of his own swimming arousal, he couldn't help laughing at her expression. She looked fierce and insanely cute at the same time. He took hold of the hem of her dress, deftly easing it up and over her head along with her bra. And... Scully, oh Scully...

His mind went blank. "Scully, you're..."

She strove to look unaffected by his slack-jawed admiration, but he could tell by her small, self-conscious smirk that she liked it. And she deserved it. Scully was a technicolor miracle. Her pale skin contrasted warmly with blazing cornflower eyes, berry-red lips, tousled red hair, nipples flushed from his attention... and a dark chestnut tuft nestled in the v of her thighs, framed to perfection by a navy satin garter and nude stockings. No panties.

<God, Scully, you really had plans for poor old Mulder tonight, hadn't you?> He shook his head as if to clear it, almost feeling sorry for the guy for missing out, but just for a split second. Tough luck, Mulder. Tonight, Alex Krycek was the darling of the fates.

He used his right hand to unfasten the clips that secured her stockings, then reached both hands around to the back of her garter belt, unhooking the fasteners there. "This is beautiful," he murmured. "It makes you look like a piece of erotic art. But that's not what I want. That's not what turns me on."

He threw the garter away, then tipped her over on her back without warning, netting him a yelp of surprise. She watched in anticipation as his right hand eased onto her knee and slid slowly upwards and inwards. She inhaled sharply as he gently brushed her curls, but he withdrew immediately and started to push down one of her stockings instead, dragging his fingertips in exploring patterns down the inside of her leg. He did the same with the other stocking, and moved down, nipping at her toes with a teasing growl before kissing his way up to her knee and beyond. Her inner thighs were silky and trembling slightly with tension. As he approached her sex, her thighs parted reluctantly, and she gasped. He laughed, raising himself on his elbows and moving up so his face was level with hers. He contemplated the agitated rise and fall of her chest with satisfaction, clucking in sympathy.

"Out of practice and out of breath, milaya."

Her gaze flew to him in glaring outrage, and his eyes widened triumphantly. He stared hard at her, his mouth half-open on a small smile of sensual relish as he put his hand flat on her neck and drew it in a firm deliberate sweep down over her breasts, her belly, to her sex. He dipped two fingers in between her folds, taking a slow careful breath as he felt her wetness and her immediate, shaking response. Then he drew his hand back, retracing the possessive sweep over her torso, his wet fingers making a glistening track over her skin.

"*This* is what I want," he told her. Then moved his hand up to her face, and tapped the same two fingers lightly on her temple, indicating some mystery inside. "But *this*," he murmured, "this is what turns me on. This is what makes me hard."

Scully's face was a sight to behold, mesmerized and terrorized as if she were contemplating an uncoiling rattlesnake. His smile widened, and he hovered above her. "Now," he said barely audibly, "I want you to kiss me, Scully."

She recoiled, but he caught her, pinning her down under his body with a low laughter. "Does it work better like this? Nu potseluy menia, milaya..."

She struggled for a few seconds, then stilled to a stony, demonstrative reserve. "A kiss is a gesture of affection," she pontificated as though his effrontery simultaneously bored and amazed her. Her voice wasn't quite the flat dismissal he thought she strove for, though. A timbre of despair was sneaking in, and her gaze drifted guiltily to his parted lips as if she expected to be punished for it. "Why would I kiss you?" she inquired, and it sounded like she was actually trying to come up with a good reason.

"Why? You mean, besides the fact that you're itching to do it? You know you loved it when it was me kissing you." He smiled at her immediate snort of protest, and went on. "Well then, because you can't expect to get something for nothing, of course. I'm being very reasonable here. I know you're a bit rusty. I'm not asking you to deep throat me or anything." He laughed, tightening his hold on her arms as she jerked in fury, and whispered: "Just a little kiss, milaya. Just... a little... kiss..." He bent his face towards her at the last words, his mouth hovering just a soft breath away from hers.

With the most outraged little whimper he had ever heard, Scully bridged the infinitesimal distance and moved her lips against his.

Having gotten that little taste, she couldn't hide her hunger. He withdrew slightly, experimentally, and she followed, her mouth open, moving into his with a small sound of supplication. He let her take the lead and her tongue flicked smooth inside his mouth, dipping and diving and exploring. He let go of her arms, and she moved her hands up to cradle his head. Her head sank back against the pillow, and he followed. 

Her kiss was an unexpected spell of sweetness.  Their eyes slid shut in a transient truce. Their tongues were dancing, hers leading, his following, sliding, sliding, smooth wet slow heat. It felt like sinking through miles and miles of dark dangerous depths. He gave himself up to it, as entranced as she. He was aware of his cock throbbing in a heavy even pulse of want, pressed into the firm give of her thigh, but distanced, a pressure he could acknowledge and postpone.

He rolled, taking her with him, so they lay side by side, face to face, kissing. He moved his knee in between her thighs, and even through the fabric of his jeans he felt the heat of her skin, the searing furnace of her sex. He opened his eyes in slow, happy amazement. Man, Scully was riding his thigh, undulating against him like some mermaid creature in the deep. He felt her wetness seeping through the sturdy denim to his skin, and then the kiss broke up as she withdrew to come up for air, breaking the surface with a low shuddering intake of breath.

"You amaze me, Danoushka," he muttered, and she opened her eyes, the cool blue of them lucent with consternation. She opened her mouth to speak, and from the look of her it seemed she was trying for something extremely insulting, but not a sound came out. He held her gaze lazily, and took her hand, and led it gently to the bulge in his jeans.

She withdrew her hand immediately, with a look in her eyes that said she wasn't going to do him any favors. He shook his head. "What now then?" he asked on a note of exasperated indulgence.

"Dammit, Krycek. I said I'd let *you* fuck *me*," she hissed. "Not the other way around."

"Yeah, and I said we'd do this my way," he countered, his patient smile wearing a bit thin. He moved his thigh once, slowly between hers, and she closed her eyes and turned her head slightly on the pillow. "Listen to me, Scully," he said, and now his voice was clear, cold, and level. "I won't let you pretend that this is about me forcing myself on you. I want you, oh yes, but if you don't start to acknowledge that there are two of us in this bed, it will cost me little to walk out of here.  I'd leave you to burn, or to freeze, or whatever the fuck you choose. You can depend on that."

Her face was flushed and defensive, her eyes round with surprise. Scully was doing a reality check. Good thing too, because rhetoric aside, he'd much rather stay than leave. He smiled inwardly and decided to drive his point home.

"Consider, Scully. You're spending way too much time with a jerk who'd actually rather study cow mutilations than have sex with you. Isn't it nice to feel wanted for once? Isn't it kind of good to be with someone who sees how beautiful, how fucking hot you are? Here, have a look at the hard facts."

He cupped her chin, tilted her face down to see, and she took a soft quick breath as both their gazes traveled down to the straining bulge under his fly. Jesus, he could actually see his cock twitching, impossibly swelling even more under her gaze, and as he noticed the little pink tip of her tongue darting over her dry lips, his arousal accelerated from a nice cruising speed into breakneck urgency in the space of two seconds. "This," he said with pleasant, though somewhat pained emphasis, "is the crotch of a man about to burst a seam with wanting you, milaya. So all I'm saying is, carpe diem."

She snorted at that, but her gaze was meditative as it strayed to his face. "All right," she said at length, assuming a disgusted expression. "Point taken."

She moved her hand to the fork of his legs, staring flatly at him. Her hand closed on his straining erection, cupping over it, then rubbing gently. Oh, ye angels in heaven. He lowered his lashes in sensual approval, fighting the urge to start rocking his hips. "That's good."

She didn't answer. She stroked him outside his jeans, firmer now, slow circles pressing with the flat of her hand. Krycek cleared his throat. In fact, it was so good it was starting to hurt. He arched his hips a little, moving into her touch, then tapped a finger lightly on his belt buckle. "Mmm...Danoushka? Show a little mercy, will you? If not for me, then for my favorite pair of jeans."

She countered his gaze, expressionless, and moved both hands to his belt. She opened the buckle, and soon his zipper was being eased slowly, carefully down over the thick bulge of his erection. The lingering brush of her hand making a soothing track in the wake of the zipper was so exquisite, his head turned to the side, eyes falling shut as he made a sound deep in his throat. "Ah, yes."

He felt her stroke him again, a bit firmer, ending with an experimental squeeze that drew another husky approval from him. She let go and her fingertips slid up to where his cock had fought clear of his briefs. She brushed the smooth hot head lightly and he jerked. Then she pulled the edge of his briefs down, freeing him to her inspection.

She was quiet so long it caused him to open his eyes, smiling to see her leaning up on her elbow beside him, her hair hanging down to partly shade her face, her whole attention riveted on his dark, engorged cock. Whatever she was, disgusted wasn't it. She looked awed, and hungry. She also looked slightly troubled, measuring him with her eyes, a fact that amused him greatly.

"Don't worry, Scully," he grinned. "I'll be gentle."

She looked up in amazement, cheeks on fire. "Your arrogance is boundless, isn't it?"

"Only trying to put you at ease," he said, green eyes laughing at her. But in the next moment the laughter died out and his gaze froze as Scully cast him a vicious glance and bent towards the general area of his pelvis, her lips parting to take him in her mouth.

"Jesus!" His eyes slid shut at the first lap of her tongue, the touch of her hand to the base of his cock. God, no way had he seen this coming. Not that he was complaining, mind. She curled her fingers around him, swirled her tongue slowly over the head, then closed her mouth over it and sucked in time with the even, firm strokes of her hand.

His body stretched and arched, a slow uncurling of pleasure. He groaned and moved his hand to thread gently through her hair, willing himself not to force himself deeper in, not to push her head harder down. He brushed her cheek with his fingers and murmured to her, his voice husky and broken, "Mnye tak horosho, milaya -"

Sweet God, he could come from this, too soon. It wasn't by a far stretch the most sophisticated or skilled blow job he'd had, but she was sensitive and conscientious, adjusting her caresses to his sounds of encouragement, and then there was the mere sight of her, that lush berry mouth wrapped around him, sliding gently up and down, and knowing it was Scully - incredibly, excitingly - Scully -. His head reeled, and he said, "Pogodi, Danoushka... Wait -."

As Scully raised her head, his hands slid to her shoulders, then her arms, pulling her up to him. Her mouth was swollen and red, her eyes dazed with surprised triumph. He got the impression she hadn't quite anticipated this success.

"See?" he murmured smugly. "It's more fun when there are two of us."

She cleared her voice, striving to appear offhand. "Fun for you, perhaps."

He grinned, his hand sliding down over her belly. "Let's see if we can make it fun for you too."

His fingers combed through the curls at the base of her belly, slid down to graze the upper swell of her thighs. Scully seized up with tension, a tremor starting in her hips and thighs, and he laughed softly into her hair.

"Don't forget to breathe, now."

"Damn you, Krycek," she whispered. "Don't play with me."

He let his fingers trace lightly away from her sex, concentrating on stroking her inner thighs, and she spread her legs wider, gasping. He moved upwards again, but lingered a chaste inch from her sex, his caress as light as a breath. 

"Has it been long since anyone made you come, Danoushka?"

She gasped as he moved his fingers a bit away again, wild-eyed, pleading now, "Yes, God, please, it has been so long -."

He held her imploring gaze for a few seconds before dipping his head to her breasts. He took a nipple in his mouth, stroked his tongue slowly over it before scraping it gently with his teeth. Her fingers threaded into his hair, drawing him close as she writhed under him, her hips lifting instinctively towards him to get into closer contact with his hand. He finally obliged by stroking her lightly, repeatedly over her outer folds, still avoiding any deeper touch.

"Krycek... I'm going to... kill you," she moaned, but she seemed definitely incapacitated, so he wasn't too worried.

"That would be a shame," he murmured, raising himself again so he could look into her eyes, "because then you'd be missing out on this..." At which his fingers slipped easily in between her folds and slid with predatory stealth onto her clit, and started a slick, continuous stroking.

"Oh my... God -" She half-rose towards him, supporting herself on her elbows, tense as a coiled steel wire. Her eyes were locked with his in amazement. The intense color of the irises was near eclipsed by the dilation of her pupils, just a corona of blue around the black.

"Approaching the heat after all, little girl?" His amusement had slipped away and been replaced by unsmiling purpose. She was beautiful, her face contorted and vulnerable to the point where it felt like an intrusion to look at her, and still he was unable to look away.

"Closer to the fire, moya krasavitsa," he murmured, speeding up his two fingers over her clit as he felt a light regular pulsing begin there. Her eyes fell shut and she started shuddering, but it took time. She seemed caught in an agony of tension, holding back on the brink like a panicked mare rearing up at the edge of a chasm. Suddenly identifying a considerable level of performance anxiety in her despairing face, he found himself melting with concerned, suppressed laughter. He fought for control over his voice as he bent low, breathing a searing kiss on her open mouth, and slid a finger deep inside of her. "Dyshi, milaya... Breathe. Just remember to breathe."

Scully's breath hitched on a strangled cry, then released on a wild, deep rush, and then she sobbed loudly as she was overtaken by the orgasm, rendered incoherent by pleasure, gasped-out syllables leaving her lips. "Oh... Kry-cek... so... good..." Her thighs clenched around his hand and she fell back on the mattress and still her climax went on, a spring flood of heat releasing through her body in swelling waves he could actually see. He didn't think he'd ever seen a woman come that long and hard before, and it filled him with incandescent joy that it was him doing this to Scully... *Scully* for fuck's sake... Could life be better than this?

As she started coming down from her high, the throbbing in his cock reminded him that quite possibly it could. He kissed her tenderly on the mouth and let his hand slide away from her sex. "Stay with me Scully, I'll be right back." He slipped off the bed and fumbled in the pocket of his jacket for a condom, tearing the packet with his teeth as he returned to her side. She was breathing hard, her eyes closed as she tried to get her bearings. Sluggishly, her lids lifted, revealing eyes swimming in tears. Oh *shit*, he thought, alarmed, scared actually... Suddenly angry with himself because he hadn't anticipated some reaction...

She laughed explosively through her nose, catching his expression. "Relax, Krycek....It's nothing. I was a tad overwhelmed, that's all."

"Overwhelmed? *You* were overwhelmed, Scully? Hell, that climax almost made *me* cry... with envy," he said, grinning with relief.

She took a deep, unsteady breath, looking down at the condom in his hand. "Let me help you with that."

She climbed up on her knees, her thighs trembling. As she smoothed the condom over the length of his cock, he showered kisses on her neck and shoulders, moved by her tentative, gentle approach. He was ready to lie down with her, sink himself into heat and oblivion, but Scully lingered. Her hands slid from his sex up under the hem of his sweater, a reluctant exploration as if she wouldn't quite admit her need to touch him. She wouldn't meet his eyes, and he closed his own. Her palms flattened out over his stomach, stroked up over his chest, then slid down again, her fingertips brushing over his nipples on the way back, and he didn't know if that was deliberate or not but a low moan caught in his throat and he raised heavy eyelids to search her face because God, it felt good. All of it, so good. He guessed Scully thought so too, because her breath had slowed and was shallow and almost inaudible, trancelike. She glanced up now at the sound he'd made and there was a question in her eyes. She withdrew her hands from his torso and gripped the hem of his sweater, and started easing it up his body.

Alarm bells went off in his mind, which was now barely connected with the rest of him. No no no. Bad idea. His hand shot out to stop her action. "No...wait. Not necessary," he stammered.

Annoyance flashed in Scully's eyes. "Damn, Krycek. It's a power trip to you, isn't it?"

This was so unexpected that he laughed. "What?"

"You clothed and me naked." She said it with tight resentment. "I don't think it's too much to ask that you get your clothes off and join me on equal footing."

God, she had no idea. But of course, how could she? He'd gotten used to having sex in a semi-dressed state after he lost his arm. He just hadn't the stomach for the looks of pity or revulsion that the damaged part of his body tended to engender. And quick hard fucks had seemed to be all fate sent his way these days anyway, so it hadn't really mattered.

But this was different. This would be slow and hot and special, and dammit, he longed to feel it all. It would be so good, after all this time, feeling the sensation of naked skin against his own.

"Krycek?" Scully was going beyond resentment into simmering disbelief. Christ, it wouldn't surprise him if she decided to throw him out after all.

What the hell. He wanted to feel her, all of her, and it wasn't as if she hadn't seen worse. <She's a pathologist, Sasha, for heaven's sake.> He took hold of the sweater and pulled it up over his head, throwing it on the floor. While he was at it he pushed down his jeans and briefs too, kicking them down into the lower end of the bed before turning towards her. They were standing on their knees facing each other, and he was naked and erect and defiant, looking down into her face, daring her silently to make a comment.

Her eyes widened, involuntarily drawn to the area around his left shoulder, and he couldn't blame her. Even with the alien prosthesis fitting seamlessly to the stump of his arm, it wasn't pretty. There was discoloration and extensive scarring reaching to his shoulder and almost half-way to his neck.
Scully raised a hand to the mangled scar tissue, a shiny mass of red and pink and purple, touching it gently. The sliding warmth of her fingers excited him and unnerved him. He couldn't read her face at all.

"My God, Krycek. What happened to you?"

He forced himself to remain motionless as her hand trailed down to where the prosthesis joined his arm. She took a startled breath of realization.

"It's artificial."

"Nah, really?" He gave her an annoyed look. "Fuck yeah, it is."

"What the hell *is* this thing... Don't tell me it's Russian?" She held in for a second, the process of association plain to see in her face. "Russia. That's where it happened, wasn't it? Tunguska? Mulder told me about..."

"Hey, just... Just let's not talk about it, okay?" His voice came out harsher than he intended, and he wondered whether he looked as sick as he felt. This was getting way too close for comfort. He swallowed hard as crazy images flitted through his mind, uncontrollably.

<The moment they took the knife from the fire, jeering and calling him the uchenyi's son, he'd known that he'd been recognized and he'd known that they had hated her and he'd known this was revenge but there had been too many of them holding him down and they'd started hacking through the layers of flesh and tendons and muscle and bone and he hadn't known anything then but agony, roaring sobbing deranged with the extremity of it...>

Scully was studying his face, a shocked revelation jarring her calm exterior. "You were conscious, weren't you? You were awake when... this happened to you."

"And how the fuck would you know?" he snarled, latching on to his anger like it were a life buoy. Maybe he was hard to please, but sympathy was every bit as bad as revulsion. Besides, he was getting impatient. He had a raging hard-on, and Scully was choosing this moment to exercize her sensitive bedside manner.

"Your physical reactions right now. You're breathing hard; your pupils are dilated; you're swallowing, probably feeling sick... you're remembering a major trauma." Her cool voice trailed off, softening reluctantly. "God, Krycek, I can see your heart pounding..." She lifted her hand to his chest, laid it over his heart, a gesture more like a caress than a physician's touch, and he jerked back as if she had burned him. The heat suffusing his face actually felt painful. He was in a despair of arousal and humiliation. This was going from bad to worse. Damn her, she thought he'd accept pity from a woman he'd taken to bed? She had another thing coming, then.

He drew her close, his right hand closing around her ass and grinding her into him so that his erection jutted hard into her stomach, and she emitted a shocked gasp as her gaze flew up to his face. "What a regular little Florence Nightingale you are," he sneered. "Let's get back to business, don't you think?"

To remind her, he moved the artificial arm deliberately, slipping the hand in between her legs and stroking her. He sought out her eyes with a provocative stare. He could approximate normal flexibility very well in his better moments.

Scully moaned, still slick and sensitive after her previous orgasm, and he laughed.

"You want to bet I can't make you come with this hand, Scully? Save your sympathy for someone who needs it."

She tried to slip away, her eyes frosty with troubled recognition. She was one hundred percent aware who she was fucking right then, and it gave him a hot thrill to see it. He used his right arm to draw her in, holding her tight as he rubbed her carefully, steadily. There wasn't much fight in her at any rate, she was too ready for it. Her eyes glazed over helplessly, and he watched her, narrow-eyed, sensing that her orgasm was closer than she even knew herself. She was actually whimpering. He relished the sound. He grinned tolerantly, a cat's smile playing with the mouse.

"Ssshh. Poor baby."

Feeling the tell-tale trembling begin in her thighs, he held her gaze in triumph.

"Pozhalusta... Don't mention it," he murmured with the gentlest irony.

She whispered as she came, "Krycek, you... bastard -"

This time, the look in her eyes reminded him of the anguished passion of a martyr thrown to the lions. She reached for him, cried out and clung to his arms as she shook, assaulted by pleasure. The vulnerability of that clutching, helpless gesture went like a spear to his gut, his own sense of humiliated pride dwindling to nothing in one sharp, unexpected stab of protectiveness. He held on to her and lay down with her against the pillows, and moved over her like a shadow, poising himself to enter her. "Hey, Scully?" he whispered softly. "Good things come to those that wait."

She was still spasming slowly as he sank into her, and he tried to be gentle with her. But the sensation of her warm inner walls fitting around him, slick and tight, was irresistible and he couldn't help forcing the last half of the way home, biting his lip to tame his shout into a deep groan. Scully was crying out too, some shocked protest, he thought, her head turning sharply on the pillow. He forced himself to lie quietly, breathing hard and opening his eyes, only to notice in consternation that she was retreating under him in a backwards crawl. He followed, driving into her again.

"Don't," she gasped, the tremor of her climax carried over into a more violent shaking. "Don't!"

"What the -" He stared at her in amazement. "Scully, you agreed - no going back, remember?"

"Fuck you!" Her eyes were iced crystallizations of hatred and panic in her face, and she was shaking, shaking... "Krycek -"

"Yes, Scully... *Dana*," he improvised, trying to get through to her, but she shook her head furiously, backing off yet a few inches until her head knocked into the headboard. She fell down in a daze before trying to sit up, only to butt against his chest. Again, he moved his hips forward to follow her motion, sweeter this time. A cracked, broken sound slipped over his lips at the smooth warm slide inside her and the effort of leaving it at that one thrust. He curved a hand firmly over her ass to prevent any further escape. She arched her head back on the pillow, gasping, and he lifted his hand to the back of her head where she had hit herself, gently prodding the bump that was rising there. "Jesus, Dana..."

She swatted his hand away from her head in cold rage. "Don't you call me that!"

"Fuck! Then tell me what's wrong, Scully!"

Oh Jesus. She was caught in that tremor, engendered by some agony he could only make an educated guess at, and he draped himself over her, steady as a rock, trying to warm her, trying to ignore the imperative message from his groin demanding he start moving inside her.

"I can't... Get off of me!" She pushed at his shoulders. He was immovable. She flailed at him, and swearing under his breath, he caught and gathered her hands, bringing them down to the pillow above her head. He used the weight of his left lower arm, the one he was leaning on, to pin down her wrists; Scully was a small amazon and he hadn't enough strength in that hand to hold down both of hers.

"Is it because it hurts?" he said in intense concentration. "Tell me if it hurts, Scully. Or is it because it's me?"

Her gaze seemed to burn into him like X-rays, trying to make out something, some essence of his being that she would interpret in terms of disease, and death, and destruction. "It's you... you, Krycek. And I - oh God."

He let out a deep, uneven sigh. "Scully," he whispered. "I'm just a man. Flesh and blood. You're not exactly consorting with the devil."

She laughed, but her despair made it sound like a sob. "Why couldn't you just shut up and fuck me, like I said, Krycek? It would have been so easy."

He needed some seconds to take this in, scrutinizing her with eyes that were hard with concern. He didn't buy it. If she wanted it so damn easy, why hadn't she just got rid of him one way or the other, then gone to bed alone and brought herself off? If all she wanted was the sexual release, why was he even here, enduring this purgatory of frustrated desire?

"I don't care for easy, Scully," he said in a hot burst of emotion. "Do you? Are you sure you want it so fucking easy?"

If she hadn't looked ready to get up and leave before, she did then. The growl emitting from her throat sounded like it came from some cornered beast fighting for its life in a dark, inhuman realm. It wasn't a sound he would have thought that Scully had in her. Someplace within him, he stilled, and thought he recognized where they were at last, enough to see a way out of this maze.

<Wolf - a wounded wolf - warm life leaking red into cold snow...>

If he had felt exposed, undressing his maimed body for her, what must this be like for her? Her damaged life, all her need and hurt and loneliness, stripped naked for her enemy to see. She lay trapped under him, rigid and watchful, tremors still running through her. He was hard inside her, he lay hard over her. He had her at his mercy, and mercy had him by the throat.

Scully had never had anything easy. He doubted she'd know easy if it came up and bit her on that shapely ass.

Maybe about time, then, that someone taught her.

Slowly, he lifted his hand - his right, warm, human hand - to stroke sweaty tendrils of hair away from her resentful face. "You're right. Sometimes, easy is better. You deserve easy. Let me make it easy for you, vassilyok."

She tried to move again under him, but this time he wouldn't let her. He simply stayed put over her, using his superior strength and size to hold her in place, and he had no qualms about it. He kissed her neck, licked around her ear, breathed a soft sigh into the delicate whorls inside. "Easy."

He thrust once inside her, a long, deliberate slide out, a deep, heavy momentum back in as he raised his head to look into her eyes, exhaling slowly through parted lips.

Scully closed her eyes briefly and moaned, and her knee came up to stroke against his hip, a touch so fleeting he only barely felt it.

"Let me go," she demanded without conviction.

"No, milaya, I won't let you go." He kissed the corner of her mouth next, finally reasonably confident that she wouldn't bite him if he did that. "You asked me to fuck you, and fuck you I will."

And he proceeded to do that, clasping her to him with one arm, leaning on the other that still pinned her hands down. With an initial, husky groan at finally finding relief in friction and movement, he withdrew and sank steadily in again, settling into a hypnotic, comfortable rhythm. He knew he couldn't keep going that much longer, and he couldn't be gentle that much longer either, but he was giving it his best effort.

The sweet approach seemed to get through to Scully, slowly. Stubbornly passive at first, she came gradually undone under his unhurried, even movements, the quiet determination of his gaze, his mouth spilling murmurs in a foreign language onto her lips. He released her hands, and they trailed up to his shoulders, his neck, into his hair. With a desolate little cry of concession, she raised her thighs to clasp around his hips at last and rocked with him as the sweet, hot ride escalated, making long low moaning sounds that made his eyes glow under lowered lashes.

As the tension grew, she withdrew into the sensations of pleasure, and her eyes closed to him, hiding. He could understand her need to do that, but it was the one thing he wouldn't allow.

"Open your eyes, milaya." His murmur slid like raw silk against her soft cheek and her forehead, designed to tempt. He detected a flicker of movement under her lids but she ignored his request. He was too far gone for subtle sweet talk at this point, so he let go of her with his arm, and eased a hand between their sweat-slicked bodies, found her clit, stroked it with light efficiency. Her mouth opened on a transfixed gasp and he gave her some more of the treatment, enough to feel her start clenching around him, then drew his hand away. "Scully, open your eyes."

This time, she obeyed, somewhat reproachful. He could feel his control slipping, but he anchored his attention in her eyes. It was the gaze of a queen throwing down her weapons before him, utterly proud in defeat. He grew quiet, feeling almost cleansed by tenderness for a moment.

There was a part of him, as a lover - some essentially Russian part, steeped in that chauvinist culture - that craved the rush of possession, that wanted to claim and conquer and leave a mark. It was far from the sophisticated, strictly directed power play of bondage and domination games; he had no patience with that. He didn't want that carefully negotiated submission. He didn't want easy. He wanted the real thing - the initial challenge, the thrill of the chase, the final coup de grace. It made the last sweet moments that much better.

Scully had been his match, a worthy mate. He didn't want to break her. He even doubted that he could.

Somewhere - where? - a tiger paced heavily through snow, and chanced unaware upon the boundaries of a kingdom of summer.

Krycek smiled in surprise, and whispered sweetly: "I surrender."

He'd wanted her to understand. It was only at her uncomprehending stare that he realized he'd spoken the words in Russian. But by then he was bringing his hand back to help her over the edge, and a warm wave was flooding her gaze, pulling him in, drowning him. Then she was groaning and coming against his hand and around his cock and he was coming too, his last movements heavy and deep and uncontrolled...

"Ah, Danoushka -"

...Saying that name like a plea into her fevered skin, while she clutched out and clasped him tight as if she could save him, as if he could save her.


What to do afterwards was not immediately clear to him, although he was fairly certain that loving afterplay and cooing pillow-talk wasn't on the menu. After the first half minute of feeling boneless and regaining breath and trying to locate his motivation to move, he raised his heavy body from hers and rolled over on his side, leaving her exposed. She shivered and sat up with a small wince, curling into herself, for warmth or for privacy, her back to him.  He didn't know what to expect next. Would she turn on him like a black widow after the act of mating and bite his head off? Probably, staying long enough to find out wasn't a good idea. On the other hand, the sound of the wind hurling wet sleet on the window wasn't exactly tempting either.

God, he missed St. Petersburg. The comfort of his modern apartment, the measure of control he felt in the complex politics there.

He was glad, now, that he hadn't made that phone call last night. He winced at the thought of his sestrichka picking up the phone to hear her big brother, her hero, calling from a public phone booth, drunkenly slurring his words and maybe even giving away the misery he felt at the way this shitty place grated at him. The America of his teenage dreams, their father's country, turned into shoddy reality.  No, he would never be an American hero. Not that he wanted that any longer, of course.

Anyway, Nadezhda had never seen him at his worst. That was something to be thankful for. And besides, if he had called her last night, who knew if he would ever have ended up doing the horizontal tango with Scully?

Scully was shivering still. Hell, she looked so cold, it made him feel cold too, just to watch her. His right hand twitched with the instinct to stroke down her back, to warm her any way he could, but he didn't want to chance at her good will. He got up instead, heavily, and reached down on the floor for the duvet.

"Here, Scully." He put one knee on the mattress, draped the duvet around her, looking doubtfully at her lowered head. She accepted the gesture without acknowledging him, her hand clutching the duvet together in front of her. She looked a bit zoned out, sitting with her arms around her knees and her face half-hidden in her arms.

"Are you all right?" he asked finally.

"I can't be, can I?" she retorted with an immediate sting to her voice.

"You mean, screwing me?" He grinned. "That was just your animal instinct taking over, Scully. It doesn't reflect on your mental faculties." 

Scully peered up at him over the top of her knees. Her look of flat, unimpressed assessment made him definitely uneasy. He grabbed his jeans from the end of the bed and got up on his feet. "Well, Scully, I assume you got what you wanted. Don't let me outstay my welcome."

An indignant toss of her head sent her hair dancing. He was actually relieved to see the spark of anger in her eyes. "That's too damn considerate of you, Krycek."

He picked his sweater up from the floor, and caught a glimpse of her face as he stood up. What he saw there made him raise himself slowly, carefully wiping his face of all expression as he turned to watch her.

"Something on your mind, Scully?"

She shrugged. "No," she said. The word was a single icicle hanging between them, and yet that shrug was so pathetic in its defiant nonchalance, it negated her denial.

Krycek smiled, glancing down for a moment. Well, wasn't this the night for surprises?

He flung his clothes into a chair and walked over to her, kneeling down by the bed. "Moy vassilyok."

Scully took a quick, careful breath, looking down at him. He had a sudden, startled association to the classical illustrations of Russian fairy tales from his childhood. With her pale skin and dramatic coloring, this American woman looked like one of those enchanted, watercolor princesses, a flame-haired Vassilissa caught by an evil spell in the sorcerer's dark castle, her skin like snow and her mouth like a wild poppy and her eyes like the blue flowers of spring. All the dream of ancient Russia embodied in a woman. He whispered, his eyes smiling at her. "Moya tsarevna, vashe vysochestvo. Vassilissa prekrasnaya."

She looked bewitched. She looked like the princess, caught in the sorcerer's spell, and he reached up to where her hand clutched the duvet, and gently pulled her hand back to his mouth. He kissed her palm. He felt giddy with his own power. So you just want a fuck, do you Scully? Glupyshka, sweet silly girl.

"I'll make it easy for you again, Scully," he murmured against her palm, then her wrist, looking up at her. "You won't have to ask me to stay."

He turned her hand around, pressing his lips against the back of her hand in amused, tender deference, then rose and put his knee on the bed, and she was gasping, compliant, as he lay back with her and draped the duvet over them. He left her some personal space, lying close to her but not touching, tracing the curving line from her shoulder down to her waist with confidence, and she turned to face him. Her eyes, with that secret, Russian spring in them, were full of sorrow. Not for herself, or for him, but for a loss that hovered between them like a ghost. But her voice, as she spoke, was all Scully, all business.

"I'll leave for work tomorrow, and I'll expect you to be gone by the time I return. And... that's it, Krycek. That's all it is. If we meet again I will act like this night never happened, and so will you, or -"

He put his finger across her lips to stifle the words of murderous intent. Oh yes, he knew, he knew from that sadness, that determination in her eyes, but he didn't want the words between them. It would be neither metaphor nor hyperbole this time. "Sshhh... I know, Scully. I won't tell on you." His finger slid to her cheek, traced her hairline around her ear and down to her neck. "Ne grusti, malen'kaya moya."

She said with a strange calm: "I hate you, you know that."
He shook his head slowly. "I don't ask you to stop hating me. Why would you feel that you should?"

"Oh, I shouldn't, I shouldn't stop," she countered, no hesitation in her cool voice. "It's only - you're so... you've been so..." She laughed out in bitter disbelief at herself, but braved the mild question in his eyes. "I never thought I'd use the word 'sweet' to describe you, Krycek."

Again he shook his head, smiling this time. "Scully, do you think it was out of sweetness that I fucked you?  Don't give me more credit than I deserve."

"Oh, I don't give you much credit, believe me," she said caustically. "I think you should take what little you get."

He sighed, and his hand left her face and slid down to her shoulder, then her arm. "Come here, you."

He drew her in, cradling her close to his traitor's heart, accepting her sorrow, and her hatred, as gifts of honesty after all.


Later, he got up and pulled on his jeans, and went into the kitchen and made that omelet. He opened the fridge to find something to drink with the food, and lost his jaw as he saw the contents.

"Strawberries and champagne?" He walked over to the bedroom door and looked at her. She was lying in bed, clutching the duvet around her with a faraway gaze, and started as he challenged her with mock reproach. "Scully, you have strawberries and champagne in your fridge and you let me slave over a hot stove?"

Scully's face turned beetroot red, and he felt his own face grow heated in immediate, embarrassed empathy. Oh, fuck. Of course, the delicacies in the fridge were supposed to have been a celebration, a suitable interlude in a night of consummation with the man she loved. Scully would have no intention of sharing the strawberries and champagne with him. Having seen it made him feel awkward, both for her, for having her thwarted plans for high romance flung in her face, and for himself, for presuming that he might aspire to partake in this kind of feast. He went back and grabbed two cans of diet coke from the shelf in the fridge door and closed it, racking his mind for something to say that wouldn't make him sound like a bumbling idiot.

When he turned around, he was surprised to see that Scully had followed him and was standing in front of him on the kitchen floor. She had thrown on a T-shirt, ridiculously much too big for her, and looked strangely imploring, like a little girl trying to comfort a grown-up. "It's all right - we can have the... the champagne and the strawberries - let me help you carry some of it."

Hell, what was that? Did he look so piteous that even Scully thought he needed to be consoled? "No, forget about that," he said gruffly. "I realize this isn't... exactly how you intended it."

She balanced on one foot, rubbing the other one distractedly over her ankle. God, she looked about nine years old. He waited for her to speak, completely at a loss what more to do or say. "No, but... Krycek, you were right back there. You know - what the hell - carpe diem. I've never had champagne and strawberries in bed before. If I wait for..." - a sudden, fragile laughter - "...for *him* to turn up, then these berries are really going to go bad..."

He stared. Tension began sliding like a cape of lead from his shoulders. He murmured, "Yes, it would be a shame about the berries."

"Let me..." She moved past him, opened the fridge door again and took out the bowl of strawberries and the bottle of champagne, handing him the latter.

He brought the bottle and the plate with the omelet into bed while she found two champagne flutes and brought the berries. He put the plate on the side table and started easing the cork out of the bottle, holding it outside the edge of the bed.

The sound of the cork popping free was disconcertingly similar to a gunshot. The association wasn't lost on Scully, who jumped and looked away in sudden embarrassment. He felt himself blushing as he filled the glasses. How damned appropriate. How fucking symbolic. Why couldn't she have bought eiswein instead?

He gave her one glass, and raised his own, determined to distract her. "Za prekrasnyh dam," he murmured, in the deepest, softest register of his voice.

She looked at him, took her glass. "What was that?"

"It's a Russian toast." He took a sip of his glass, eyeing her under his lashes, then licked the remaining drops off his lower lip slowly, precisely. "'To beautiful ladies present.'"

Scully's face softened into reluctant amusement. "God, Krycek, you're smooth."

He sipped at his glass with a little smirk. "I aim to please."

She snorted. "As the assassin said to his girl."

He damned near choked on the champagne, and studied her askance, trying simultaneously to regain his breathing ability and figure out her mood from her deadpan expression. Her eyes laughed at him, cool under lazy lids.


"Scully, that's so below the belt," he gasped, fighting the indignity of talking with a fizzy drink up his nose.

"Mhm. Those are the regions we're concentrating on tonight," she remarked, taking a dainty sip from her glass.

He selected the biggest strawberry he could find, and popped it into her mouth. "Shut up, glupyshka."

Caught by surprise, Scully bit down on the berry, and swallowed again and again, with small, concerned sounds as the juice flowed down her throat, spilled transparent pink over her lips, trickled from the corner of her mouth down her chin. He took her glass from her and leaned in and lapped the juice up from her chin with his tongue. He found her mouth, licked the juice off her lips, heard her swallow berry mush and start to speak, and slid his tongue into her mouth,  and her tongue was strawberry sweet licking over his own, a warm sunny taste of summer, and she was starting to giggle, Scully was actually giggling -.

Before he even knew what he was doing, he was making her come again, just because he wanted to look at her lovely face when she did - sliding his hand in between her legs, finding her getting wet, and starting to stimulate her, and she was still giggling, but her giggles turning into sighs and moans by and by. He used the other hand to pull the T-shirt up and ease it over her head, and she arched her back and raised her arms to help him. She stayed there half reclining against the pillows with her arms thrown back in a pose of relaxed abandon, mewling softly as he took her up on her silent invitation and brought his free hand to her breasts.

He wasn't subtle or teasing this time. He was single-minded and gentle and thorough. He held her gaze, smiling. He looked at her face. His fingers danced a dance they knew to perfection, he didn't even have to think about it, just watch her become short of breath, and her mouth grow tumescent and ripe like the strawberries, and her skin suffuse with warmth like from a high summer sun, and her eyes - God, her eyes... In a better world, he could have spent a lifetime just watching the vast blue universe of Scully's eyes as their expression grew from languid appreciation into plaintive desire, into grasping, spiraling loss of control.

She was approaching her climax, a joyful panic of anticipation seeping into her face, breathing hard, head turning back and forth on the pillow, her eyes open, letting him see her - wanting to see him? - before all her tension was smoothed out in intense, rapturous relief, and she exclaimed, a drawn-out, wordless, sweet moan, but it was him crying out, him saying, "Oh God Scully, yes, please, please -" and her eyes were glazed over but seeing him, he was certain, absolutely aware of him still...

And afterwards, he thought, on a bewildered high with realization but holding his happiness close to his chest: shit Scully, that wasn't about getting back at Mulder was it, this one wasn't about Mulder at all...

Some fucks were saturated with the scent of skin, with the feel and taste and warmth of it, with whispered questions, with sighs and discoveries. Some fucks turned into lovemaking without there being any love involved, like alchemic sorcery transforming worthless matter into gold. He'd had some of those, but it had been years ago, in another lifetime. He'd never have expected it to happen with Scully. But then, he wouldn't have expected anything to happen with him and Scully.

Scully rolled over on her side, reaching out a slim hand for the zipper in his jeans, and he was faintly surprised to even discover that he had an erection; he had been so focused on her that his own desire caught him unaware. He curled his fingers around hers, stopping her. "No, wait, Scully."

"Tit for tat," Scully murmured, questioning him with her eyes: "Why not?"

"Because - tit for tat isn't always what you think." He grinned. "This time, I took pleasure in your pleasure. You gave me a present, Scully. Thanks."

She pulled her hand free from his gentle grasp, stroked his hip. "I wouldn't mind," she said, which he supposed was Scully's decorous way of saying that she rather wanted to.

"That's nice. Later. Don't worry, I'm not finished with you yet." He turned over on his side too, pulling her close, and his erection pushing into her stomach seemed to put her into a state of bewilderment. She looked at his crotch, then at his face, twice.

The more he grinned, the more serious Scully grew. "I don't get it."

He laughed then, stroking her back and leaning over to kiss her briefly. "Why, milaya? I just want to enjoy my horniness for a while, what's so hard to get?"

Scully shook her head and then laughed too. It was an unsure sound, a slender chain of happiness. "I don't get it."

"You don't have to," he said, taking their glasses again and raising his in a toast as he handed her hers. "Here's looking at you. You win first prize, Scully."

She accepted the glass hesitantly, cupping the bulb of it in her palm as they drank the toast. "What for, though?"

His fingers traced over her cheek. "Most good-looking orgasm of the year."

She looked so startled, and genuinely modest, that he laughed again. He studied her blushing face, his eyes following the track of his fingers, making note of the dappled pattern of pale gold on her skin. Distracted, he put away his glass again, and let his fingertips trace her cheekbone. "There's a gold trail here."

She was disoriented for a moment before making the connection, grimacing. "Oh, my freckles, they're awful. They're not too bad now in winter, but in summer they're horrible."

"They're not awful," he protested. "How can you even say the words 'freckles' and 'awful' in the same sentence? They're lovely. Like stars on your skin."

Her eyes turned to him, late winter lakes where the ice was just breaking. "So the assassin is waxing lyrical about freckles now."

He returned her gaze, eyes smiling quietly. "It's my night off."

She shook her head with a small smile, sitting up and studying him as he lay before her, propped on his elbow. Her fingers touched his shoulder, traced slowly over the mottled scar tissue down to his prosthesis, then back again, over his chest and his hard stomach. There was a melancholy in her smile, something that vaguely scared him even as her touch excited him. "You're beautiful, you know. A beautiful wild beast, Krycek. That's what you are."

He looked at her warily, strangely chilled, now, where her fingers touched him, wondering if this train of thought could come to any good.

"So beautiful that it makes me forget. Like seeing a leopard or a tiger and wishing one could pet it. You've killed innocent people, Krycek."

The unexpectedness of this attack, the contemplative sadness of it, registered in his mind as unfairness. He sat up too, looking away. "What the hell would you know about that?"

She took a deep breath, startled. "You take me for a fool?"

He met her gaze, not knowing at this point whether he was speaking the truth or a lie. It was neither, and both. "You know fuck all about what I've done, and not done. For that matter, you know little, in this context, about who was innocent and who was not."

"My sister, Melissa, was innocent," Scully said with deceptive quiet, her eyes growing wide and luminous. "My daughter, Emily... " She held in, agony welling up in her gaze, making it terrible to look at her.

The see-saw of enmity and need had tipped again, and he didn't know if there was anything other than sexual manipulation that could restore the precarious balance. But he was compelled to try, and let out his breath in a harsh sigh. "I never knew about your daughter until a couple of weeks ago, Scully. Your sister... may God forgive us all for your sister. But I didn't kill her. It was a terrible thing, it turned out all wrong."

She laughed, the saddest, hardest sound he had ever heard. "Now am I supposed to pat your back and whisper, 'There, there'?"

"No," he said. "No. Just... just try to keep this night separate, Scully. Disconnected from what took place before, or what will happen later." He reached out and pried the ice cold drink out of her hand and placed it on the bed stand, then warming her hand in his own. "You needed someone tonight, and it happened to be me. So, you're human. You don't need to keep flogging yourself over that."

"Oh, so we are to keep quiet about your transgressions, and it's all for the best," she said bitterly.

"Maybe it is, milaya. Do you really believe it's me you're trying to punish?"

A few tears spilled from her eyes. She looked bruised, not quite whole. He moved in cautiously, held her close, but loosely, as if she might shatter at the wrong touch.

"Please tell me," he said after a while, "if you want me to go."

Her face was hot against his shoulder, his ruined skin wet with her tears. "No, don't go. Not yet. Don't go."

Discovering Scully was like traversing disintegrating ice sheets. Losing foothold on sudden slippery slides of tenderness; stumbling, heart lurching, before opening voids of pain.


They finished the food in fairly amenable silence. Scully had patched herself together, now, and was staring at him, her brow knotting in frank confusion.

"You have me thrown, Krycek," she said at last. "You're clearly not unintelligent, you seem to have a working grasp of reality, you even show some vestige of functional humanity."

"Why, thank you," he murmured ironically.

She gave an offhand, gracious nod to acknowledge his input. "You could have been someone, could have done something useful, and you've chosen to waste it all for a life in the... the sewers of existence - why?"

He looked into her grave, enquiring face, and suddenly her question and his answer ran together as the color of her eyes brought a flashback that made him smile, made him sit up and remember, joy seeping into him, irresistibly.

"Oh, I've had my moments too, Scully. I... sat in an army tank once - and a girl climbed up onto the top, into my lap - a child really, but oh, she was beautiful - and we sat kissing -."

That had been in the summer of '91, August, and he had been twenty-three, an officer in the Red Army when those old men staged their fiasco coup against Mikhail Gorbachev. He had, of course, with his American citizenship, had no business being in the Soviet army in the first place, but an army education had seemed useful and one of his mother's powerful friends had made the necessary arrangements. The army tanks had rolled into Moscow and the Red Square, which was teeming with masses of people in outrage at the coup, but jubilant with the foretaste of victory that seemed something truly tangible, sweet as the scent of high summer in the air.

The soldiers in the tanks had refused to break down the demonstrations, taking the people's side, and he had been sitting perched on the top of the massive vehicle, legs dangling down into the open hatch, when a laughing girl reached up to him from the street, carrying vassilki, cornflowers, for him. And he had taken not only the flowers, but the girl too, hoisting her up to him, and she had blushed because she was so happy, and so young, perhaps sixteen - and because he was a grown man, a handsome soldier, a hero holding her and pulling her into his arms. She had tilted her face up to him to be kissed, and although she was too young, she was beautiful, with long silky hair and laughing gray eyes and a round Slavic face, and he had sat there for an hour with that lovely malen'kaya in his arms, sharing the sweetest, most innocent kisses, and she had blushed like a field of poppies, and the people around them had cheered and laughed. Then the girl's father had come, yelling at him, and he had grinned and helped him up on the tank too, and Yeltsin's voice had boomed in swaggering triumph from the megaphone, announcing victory and freedom, and in spite of all that he knew, all that bitter heritage of knowledge from his mother, the whole of it had seemed so real, so fucking real -.

Then, coming back to the base a few days later, he had gotten the message that his mother was dead, and a month later the old python had slithered into his life, and then he had learned for certain what was real, and that it had nothing to do with innocence, or vassilki, or freedom.

He smiled now, though, and meeting Scully's gaze saw that she was smiling too, in spite of herself, intrigued. He breathed deeply, brushing away the memory with easy regret. "Let's just say that I've had my moment in the sun, too, Scully."

"You strike me as an ambitious bastard, though," she retorted, considering. "Kissing a girl in a tank - that sounds like a modest pleasure."

"Perhaps it was," he agreed, lowering his lashes and smiling. "I guess it was... So, Scully," he said, changing the subject. "Speaking about pleasures, exactly how little have you been up to in the last decade?"

She looked taken aback, but retorted coolly, "None of your damn business, Krycek."

"Hey, *you* brought it up," he said with an innocent smile. As she looked at him without understanding, he murmured, "I think the exact words were 'God, please, it's been so long.' Isn't that about right, Danoushka?"

Scully flushed pink. "Okay, so it's been a while. I've showed some flawed judgment where men are concerned, of which, I may add, you are the latest example, Krycek."

He acknowledged her point with a slight smirk. "Well, it may not have been wise, but your judgment can't have been too off in my case. As I recall, you also used the word 'overwhelmed' at some point."

She scowled. "Would you please stop quoting myself back at me? I wasn't quite myself when I said that. I was..."

"Overwhelmed?" he suggested, grinning.

"I was experiencing a temporary impairment of my faculties due to sexual excitement," she replied with some dignity.

"Well then, I'm glad I could sexually excite you, Scully." He considered for a moment, then continued: "What about Mulder, though? I confess, I always thought the two of you had been through the Kama Sutra backwards and forwards, twice."

An uneasy shadow of regret flickered over her face. "Well, that's a different story, and it's none of your business either." She glanced down before focusing on him again, with the level cool gaze that had no doubt been instrumental in netting her that infamous nickname. "I know you're no fool, Krycek."

Seeing that look, warning bells went ting-a-ling in his mind. Yet fatally, curiosity got the better of him. They'd finished the food, and he put the plate on the floor next to the bed. "If Mulder..."

"I don't want to speak about Mulder," she said. "Not with you."

He laughed. "Scully, how many times have you gone home from Mulder sexually and emotionally frustrated because that guy put the dys- in dysfunctional?"

"Don't you dare speak about him like that," she said with an immediate sharp, cold note in her voice. "You of all people." He started, but she went on, "I haven't -." She looked down, rephrased. "Let's say, for argument's sake, that my relationship with Mulder sometimes leaves me frustrated. What the hell is that against what you have done to me, to all of us, Krycek? Let's try to retain some sense of perspective here, shall we?"

The disdain in her tone numbed him for a second. Like a shaft of brilliant, northern noon light, it mercilessly illuminated the comfortable twilight zone they had forged with their need, as the flimsy construction it indeed was. He could deal with hatred, but that scorn stung in some naked, exposed sense of pride that had always been his Achilles' heel.

He shook his head, feeling powerless because he couldn't defend himself without invoking her pity, and he couldn't even start on it without saying too much. "All I can say, Scully, is that you don't have all the facts."

Scully was studying him sharply. "I know this much. Mulder lived a nightmare, growing up, after losing his sister and suffering the guilt from it. He has been through hell and managed to come out of it a fully paid-up member of the human race, which is more than can be said for you, Krycek. You don't measure up to Mulder's ankles, in any respect. So don't come prancing in here like some ridiculous avenging Cossack, expecting to be taken seriously."

It took some seconds for her words to sink in, to cut to the marrow of his already wounded pride. She sat there so haughty, this amerikanka, embodying the nation that had spurned him, turned on him, while jeering in disdain at the identity that was essentially, though not legally, his. With the impact of a whiplash, something snapped in him, a string that had been pulled dangerously taut over many years. He spun around, his hand on her shoulder, pushing her hard up against the pillows supporting her. "Don't you dare - don't you fucking dare - I'm an American as good as any of you!" - leaning over her, his eyes flashing, teeth bared in fury.

She scrambled to get up, but he pinned her down, trapping her legs under his thigh. Scully gasped and laughed, disbelief mingling with satisfaction in her eyes, her eyes hard honest true-blue, taunting him: "Touched on a sore spot, Krycek?"

His heart was pounding. Rage, pride, excitement moved through his mind like shivery patterns of light and shade. He rocked his groin once, suggestively into her hip, then brought his hand to her sex, slipping two fingers barely inside her opening and stretching it with dispassionate intimacy. "Scully, the only sore spot in this bed is right here."

She'd jerked at his touch, the satisfied smirk replaced by an expression of absolute surprise. Without warning and without hurry he slid a thick finger deep inside her and she gasped and shuddered. She was hot, still slick enough from their previous lovemaking to abate most of the friction, and her muscles clamped down on him involuntarily. He dragged his finger almost out, then inserted two more fingers and pushed them all slowly in again, pressing upward firmly. Scully made a thin, suppressed sound. He looked up to her face and saw her biting her lip for control. Her eyes locked with his and he saw that she was angry, maybe even a little scared, but above all excited.

"Too bad Mulder is too morally superior to do this to you, milaya," he commented, fucking her with hard, stabbing thrusts of his fingers.

She wet her dry lips. "Screw *you*, Krycek."

"Mm, no, milaya, I think the shoe is on the other foot." He clamped his thumb down on her clit. "You like that, Scully?"

She closed her eyes, taking a harsh breath. "Oh, God."

He moved his fingers inside her, curving them sharply to press in hard jabbing circles up on the small raised pad he had found. She cried out in alarm, hands clawing at the sheets for support.

"You *like* that Scully?"

"Go to... aahh!" she wailed as he moved down between her legs, taking away the bruising force of his thumb and soothing her clit with a slow lap of his tongue.

As he swirled his tongue gently over her, he could feel her warm into liquid pliancy. She moaned and he looked up to see her head turn against the pillow, lips parted in anticipation of pleasure. He set his mind and his mouth to the task of getting her to the brink of orgasm, fucking her gently with his fingers while he licked at her delicately, methodically, like a cat cleaning its bowl. It was pathetically easy. After all, she had been starved for this. Her arousal made her wet, the clean tartness of her flowing onto his tongue and making him want to linger after all. But she was already seizing up in expectant tension, crouching for that quantum leap into weightless space, and he let her feel the first, preliminary spasms before pulling back and leaving her in limbo.

"Oh no!" The exclamation was a cry of such disappointment he could only silently congratulate himself as he rose up to contemplate her. She looked about ready to cry. He took one of her hands in his and kissed her fingers lightly before placing it over her sex.

"Morally upright Americans like you don't need a dirty Cossack to help you come, hm, Scully?"

She stared, her dry voice stumbling on words. "For... for heaven's sake, Krycek... That wasn't meant as a slur on your...what's the matter with you?"

"Ah, no. Wrong question, Scully. Wrong, wrong, *wrong*. I'm so fucking tired of taking it on the chin. If you can't be polite, shut the hell up."

He was standing up, searching his jacket for another condom. What the hell, he was out of stock. He glanced at her, lying on the bed fairly glowing with annoyance and thwarted arousal, her hand still daintily in place over her mound but showing no sign of taking action.

"You intended to practice safe sex with Mulder tonight, Scully?"

She closed her eyes in seeming disbelief, battling with herself for long seconds, but eventually raised her eyes to his. Her words came out half-choked. "You just crawl back to the pit you came from, Krycek. I'm not playing your sick game."

He shook his head, his gaze level on her. "Wrong again, Scully. Now there'll be hell to pay."

Her eyes widened as he moved his hand to his fly. The sound of the zipper being pulled down seemed very loud in the charged silence between them. By contrast, his voice as he took out his erection and started stroking himself was quiet, the silky hiss of a snake.

"I think you want this, Scully."

She swallowed hard, half-gaping, her gaze fastening in helpless fascination on his thick cock and his big hand pumping it in slow, deliberate strokes.

"This is good," he murmured. "But it was so much better being inside you, Scully. So soft, so hot and tight. So perfect. You felt it too, I know. That having a man inside you was better than your fingers... those poor tiny fingers of yours..."

She whispered without looking away, "You're sick." But a slow lava smolder was insinuating itself into her eyes, viscous molten heat, and he smiled in near-compassion. <If this is sick, then you're as sick as I am, milaya. God help us both.>

He stopped stroking himself and sat down on the edge of the bed, splaying out his hand over her flat stomach. She moaned at his touch, arched the small of her back slightly off the mattress. Her soft skin was unbelievably hot, and her gaze was fixed on him in a kind of voluptuous lethargy, like she knew doom was at hand and couldn't bring herself to care.

His fingertips made slow, light circles around her navel. He lowered his voice even more, to a hushed almost-whisper. No need to shout; he had her rapt attention. He got the impression she would have been able to read his lips.

"This time I want to fuck you hard, Scully. So hard you scream. This time I want you to really feel it. I want you to wake up tomorrow and know the reason you can barely walk is because Alex Krycek fucked you, and you'll think back on it and you'll still want me, Scully. You'll want it all over again. Because it's gonna be so good. But I think you know that. I can see in your face that you know it. Don't you, Scully?"

Now she couldn't speak. Her face was utterly helpless, so lost he felt a twinge of pity tug at the edges of his mind. He brushed it away impatiently. This was war, and by God, this time he'd take no prisoners. He moved his hand down until it covered hers, brushed his thumb gently through the soft curls under her fingers, pressed down just firmly enough to encounter hot pooling wetness. She tensed with a small cry, and he maintained the slight, unmoving pressure and said in a silken murmur, "I need to know what you want, Scully."

She was vibrating like a violin string under the bow, her breath coming in small catching sobs. "God, I want... I want..." She closed her eyes briefly, but opened them again and looked in abject misery at his erection. He could see the conflict in her face. There was enough remaining pride in her that her body's betrayal smarted. "You," she whispered, sounding shamed. "Inside me."

"Then tell me where the fucking condoms are, Scully."

She moaned in denial, unwilling to grant him this ultimate victory, but her eyes flicked to the nightstand and that was answer enough. He opened the drawer and found an unopened box inside. "'Ribbed for her pleasure'," he read and cast a knowing glance at her distressed face as he smoothed a condom onto his erection. "Your pleasure is my command, Danoushka."

Before she could answer, he was at her side, drawing her in so she lay spooned against him, back against his front. He took her hand again and dipped it between her legs. Her breath hitched and her pelvis jerked, but her hand remained still under his.

"Just can't do it, can you? Poor little inhibited Catholic girl." He bent down to kiss the tiny golden cross that had slid on its chain to the back of her neck, and started moving her fingers with his own, whispering into her ear:

"Just tell the priest that the devil made you do it..."

"Oh, God!" Her fingers flexed under his as she yielded, the foretaste of orgasm honey-sticky on her voice. "Oh my God -"

"Remember my name? Say my name, Scully."

She moaned into the pillow as she came, "Alex, Alex, Alex..."

He didn't wait for her to finish, but raised her upper thigh slightly with his hand as he positioned himself to enter her. "Red Army moving in to attack at your rear," he commented, laughing at her groan of defeat.

He noticed with distant approval how good it felt as he pressed deep inside, and bore down on her so she was pushed onto her stomach, with one thigh drawn up and her face half-hidden in the pillow. Scully made a wild, fierce sound and raised herself on her elbows. Her back bucked and her head bent down like on a waking cat going into a stretch.

"That okay, Scully?" he asked, out of breath.

"Wait..." She was panting, disoriented. But he withdrew abruptly and thrust in forcefully, and she made a startled sound in her throat.

"Hang on." He leaned on one elbow, using his other hand to keep her drawn-up thigh in place against the mattress. He moved roughly in and out of her tight channel, his mind frozen somewhere between carelessness and satisfaction as he watched her pale narrow back shake with the impact of his thrusts. The grip of his hand on her thigh would leave bruises for tomorrow. He felt better, much better, in a detached, edgy way. He was in control. He wasn't hurting her - well, not much - but he was making her thoroughly aware of how little her body despised him, how much she was willing to put up with in the name of desire. Lesson for you, Scully. Lesson for you. 

He was what he was. She had invited him in. If not with words, then with her cool eyes and her hungry body and her lonely desire. She'd better not look down her nose at him with that air of self-satisfied superiority. Damn her. *Damn* her. Damn them all.

Scully had started crying out with each thrust, and his initial reaction was hostile triumph. But gradually, for all that he'd wanted to break her self-control, to bend her completely to his will, the cries were beginning to claw at him distantly. They were laced with intense pleasure, but she vocalized them as if she were choking on them, drowning in them, gagging on them. He shook his head to clear it, reeled as he recognized the cries from his nightmares, Scully's pleasure and Scully's pain twining together in his mind, into abandoned, pleading threads of sound.

"No, Scully, don't - don't!" He slowed down a bit, eased up a bit, took a heaving breath for control. He saw his hand lifting, stroking down her back and ass slowly, gentling her, soothing her. On the next long slide of his cock out of her clutching heat, he saw a trace of blood on the condom, and the icy, jagged edge to his arousal turned on him with a vengeance.

Jesus. He had hurt Scully. He tried to scramble a justification together. She'd gone without sex for ages, she was tiny compared to him, it was only a surface abrasion at worst... Such a minor hurt compared to his other transgressions. But he closed his eyes, sank into her again to hide what he had done. He rested his hot, damp forehead on her shoulder, some sense of perspective seeping in at last, and with it a dull shame.

Scully had quieted down. The wild cries had ebbed out in disbelieving, hiccupping pants.

He didn't feel better at all. He felt like shit.

Where had all that rage come from? Scully wasn't a Russian princess. Neither was she an American icon. He didn't know what Scully was, since he had forfeited his right to ask her any questions that truly mattered. He didn't know Scully, anymore than she could know him.

"Ah, milaya," he murmured, "milaya, I'm sorry, so sorry."

He was unprepared when she muttered in a raw, spindly voice, "Talk to me, you bastard."

Still moving within her, he was quiet for a moment, his brain regrettably empty, then murmured into her skin, fear making him crude, flippant, "You want dirty talk, Scully? Whatever turns you on. Just wait a minute while I adjust."

"Damn you, Krycek." She struggled to turn her neck enough to see him. Her voice fell to a throaty, hoarse pitch, somewhere below the secret place of her tears. "Talk to me for real. For *real*. So I know you're human."

Now he lay still, taking in her words. He raised his head finally, and saw that although there was defiance in her voice, there was fear in her eyes. He didn't like thinking about what she had perceived in him that had put that fear there.

"So I know you're not grinning at me behind my back," she added.

"Oh Jesus, Scully. It's nice to be thought so highly of," he countered, a bit staggered, even as he felt the accusation zing right home. He hadn't done that - had he?

"Just talk about something... something... you love," she maintained stubbornly.

Well, his brain had broken down. He tried to do a cold start. What the hell did he love? Was there anything left in his life to love? Yes, oh yes there was, but not anything he could talk to Scully about at a moment like this. "I love doing this, Scully. I love making love to you," he improvised, uncertainly.

"Is that what it is to you?" she asked tartly, gasping as he resumed his thrusting. He let go of her thigh, smoothing it down to a relaxed position, and his hand moved up and found her breast. He stroked the nipple absent-mindedly, fucking her slowly, gently. He felt her spread her legs wider to accommodate him. "Yeah, Scully, I guess it is," he whispered.

"Keep... talking," she insisted.

"I love..." He cast desperately about the room with his gaze for inspiration, and was granted it from an unexpected source. "That dress, Scully. The dress you wore. Such a perfect blue. The most beautiful blue." He was gradually relaxing, some rigid hurt loosening its vice-grip on his body and mind. He dragged his hand down her side and inched it under her pelvis, seeking out her clit. She jumped and moaned, maybe over-sensitive after the previous orgasm, and he spread his fingers out to cup her mound instead, moving his hand in gentle circles. "Better, milaya?" he whispered. He felt warm, dizzy, his cock swelling and pulsing inside her, aching from the languid pace he had set.

"Yeah, better," she crooned. "That blue, Krycek..."

"That blue," he breathed, "it's the blue of your eyes, vassilyok. It's the blue of spring. Spring at Ladozhskoe Ozero... lake Ladoga ... at the dacha..." He had to break off, memories flooding him unexpectedly, a warm pleasurable wave of pain swelling through him. His release was within reach, shimmering like a ghost and tempting him to give up all control. But he couldn't do that, and grasped with determination at the remains of his self-restraint.

"Go on," Scully commanded, voice gone whispery with wonder.

He spoke in short, breathless intervals. "The last Easter we went there... I was thirteen," he murmured. "The last ice was just going from the lake... And we arrived late in the evening, and it was dark - it was April. In the morning, waking up, I... I opened the French doors... to the garden... Scully..."

"Go on," she urged him again, rhythmically pressing herself against his caressing hand. He wondered whether she was as close as him. It was no good trying to hold back, he was being lifted up by the swell already, tidal forces pulling at him.

"Goluboye... blue... so blue," he gasped. "The lawn... was drowning in it. Iris, proleska, kolokolchik... Specter from... cerulean through... cobalt. Bluer than the lake. Bluer than the sky... the *sky*..."

And he couldn't speak anymore, couldn't breathe anymore, just lose himself in the deep of her body, silently shaking.

Afterwards, he lay folded over her like a fallen leaf, limp and weak and shaken. And angry, almost. What right had she had, to wring that memory out of him? What right had she to the meager treasures of his past?

But she turned slowly around to face him, moaning softly as he slipped out of her, and she traced the humiliating trail of sorrow on his face with her cool fingers, and took the last of his anger away.


He didn't think he had slept. They lay nestled under the duvet, Scully with her cheek upon his chest, her arm flung across his body. He didn't think she had slept either. An immense weariness, uncomfortably mixed with something closely related to fear, had pulled him close to an almost-dream for a while, but he woke with a start before he had truly fallen asleep, making her look up at him in the light dusk of the room. He saw his own emotions reflected in her face. It didn't make him feel better.

The impulse that he'd had to do something right for this woman seemed preposterous to him now. How could he have believed, even for the duration of a good lay, that any interaction with him could cause her anything but misery in the long run?

But, Christ, he was only human, and Scully had practically jumped him. He marvelled at this, turning the events over in his mind, wondering whether he might have misread her signals at some point. Nope. Damn right she had jumped him. Now in fact, that did make him feel somewhat better. Just the tiniest bit.

It should have been Mulder, though. Even he could see that, because clearly that was what she had planned and wanted. Mulder was the one she had decided she could trust, but her chosen knight had fled in terror and someone else had invaded her fortress when her guard was down. He was twisted enough to find that funny in a sad way. The inherent tragedy of slapstick. Not a chance that he wouldn't have let Scully have her way with him even if foresight had been 20/20, but... certainly, if life had been fair, it should have been Mulder.

It was an impetuous thought, but for a second he contemplated it for the sheer weirdness of it, being loved by Scully, by that intelligent integrity. It was frightening. It was the sort of alliance that could really stop a bad guy from going places.

Just as well for both of them that he wasn't exactly her type.

He went up to get her a drink of water - she had said, with a wry little smile, that her throat was parched - and glanced at the clock on the wall. It showed 4:15. How many more hours in this sanctuary, he wondered. Two, three at most? He'd done enough surveillance in his time to know that Scully used to clock in early at work.

He drank some water too, bringing sloppy handfuls of it to his mouth from the faucet. The liquid trickled clear and cold down his naked chest. He drew cool, wet hands over his face and through his hair. For some reason he hesitated to go in there to her again.

If his clothes had been in the living-room, he'd have dressed and left right then.

But he shook off his unease and brought her the glass of water, sat at the edge of the bed and watched her drink it greedily. She spilled some on her chest too, and he couldn't resist bending his head to lick the drops of water off her breasts. But when he zoned in on a nipple, almost on autopilot, she protested mildly.

"Krycek... I don't know what you have in mind, but... I'm a bit sore." After a second's pause, she added with relative lack of rancor, "As I understand was your intention."

"I'm sorry... I got a bit primitive there for a while," he murmured, kissing her nipple lightly before drawing back. As a matter of fact, he was sore too - his left shoulder smarted from using that arm for leverage. No reason to bring that up, though.

She put her glass on the nightstand, brushing the drops of water off herself, and then, distractedly, off his chest. "A dacha at lake Ladoga, Krycek? That's near St. Petersburg, isn't it? You did grow up in Russia then."

<Here we go.>

"In the Soviet Union, yes," he said. "It was called Leningrad, then."

She removed her hand, sat straight-backed in the bed looking at him, interested, not unfriendly. "Yet you call yourself an American - you speak American English."

"My father was - is - was an American. Czech-American, to be precise." He bit his lip, wondering what to tell her about that man whom he only could remember from a child's small perspective, a kind, scholarly man, a Russophile, who'd come to Leningrad as a guest doctor in linguistics and fallen in love with a brilliant science student - sealing his fate. "He emigrated to Russia because he... loved the language, the culture, and a woman."

"Your mother."

"Mm. But he was allowed to retain his American citizenship. Both I and my... I am an American citizen, but I grew up in Russia. We spent a fair amount of time in the West too, though, intermittently. Paris, London, mostly."

"Then your family must have been privileged in some way."

"That's right." He shrugged uncomfortably. He was aware of being gently questioned, and instinct made him wary, although he had a suspicion that this was as much Scully the woman as Scully the investigator at work. Strange thing about women - they seemed to think if a man had functional tear channels he must have a beautiful soul. Which was, of course, wondrously deluded. He'd cried like a baby a few times in the last decade. Having an arm hacked off without anesthesia or being raped by black alien slime did tend to bring a man in touch with his sensitive side, at least momentarily. He didn't fool himself, though, that he had much of a soul to show for it.

Scully persisted. "Your parents had high rank in the Party?"

He got to his feet and walked over to her window to get away from her gentle scrutiny, looking down on the deserted street that shone blackly. A thaw was coming in, the white trimmings on buildings and cars melting and dripping.

He thought of his Russian mother, a small being forged in fire like a blade of steel, spending weeks on end in the laboratories in Tunguska, coming home to Leningrad after these stints in grim dejection more often than jubilant with hope. Attending, sometimes hosting, secret meetings with important women and men, some of them KGB, some of them not, some of them foreigners. Coming home from the occasional Party meeting, laughing at the banalities she was forced to spend time on. Dying at 46 from exposure to the alien virus, a laboratory accident, just weeks before the development of the first crude, working prototype of the vaccine. Her body thrown into a fire, burnt to cinders, ashes blowing in cold gusts into the dark, silent taiga.

(Marya Ivanovna Krycek, coming to him in the silo two years after her death as he lay semi-conscious and half-mad with terror in a pool of red and crawling black that he had expelled from his body. An apparition with stern love in her eyes, whispering to him to be strong, to live, that he would be whole again, safe again. 'I know, I know, Sasha. There, now, my beautiful Sasha--')

He thought of his father, too, that big, quiet scholar, walking into the unknown of an alien spacecraft seventeen years ago, a hostage for his wife. Willingly, to avoid the impossible choice of whether to give up his son or his daughter to that very fate. That last Easter, in a white shirt and baggy grey farmer's pants, carrying one-year-old Nadezhda on wide shoulders through the blue-speckled garden at the dacha. Murmuring to his wife in comforting cadences as she wept that night, clearly heard through the thin walls, "Karel, Karel." And himself, beginning to understand the way things were, yet helpless to comprehend this, that these were the last days with his father, that the world as he knew it was ending, even then...

(And Spender telling him ten years later, smiling through a sickening curtain of smoke, that his mother was dead but Karel Miloslav Krycek was still alive somewhere and now it was up to him to keep him that way...And maybe it was a lie, and maybe it was not a lie.)

His thoughts wandered on to seeing Nadezhda in Prague that same fall, a brittle, stony-faced 11-year-old child, not crying. Thin as a reed. Looking like her mother. Just lost her mother. Never remembered her father.

(And holding her hard, bony little body close that night, trying to help her cry, or sleep, and in the end, in his awkward husky singing voice, resorting to those monotonous lines from childhood nights. 'Bayu, bayushki, bayu, and I'll sing you a little song'... And at long last, then, she had slept, but she never cried.)

There's privilege for you, Scully.

Scully was waiting for an answer, with patient attentiveness. There was nothing of this he could tell her. Nothing. So he just said, "Do you believe in ghosts?"

She gaped at that, and he went on, not expecting a response. "My father, not being a Soviet citizen, wasn't a member of the Party. My mother was a high-ranking Communist Party member. But her position in the Party was more an effect of our privileged state, than the reason for it."

She gazed at him, pensively, for a minute. Then she sighed in the mildest resignation. "Dark horse, aren't you, Krycek?"

"If you say so."

She pushed off the bed with a small wince, grabbing the cotton throw from the floor, and walked over to him at the window. He put his arms around her, surprised. She stood on tiptoe and draped the throw around them against the chill. They swayed a little, rocking imperceptibly back and forth, soothingly.

"What's your name in Russian?" she asked softly, and he hesitated for a while, curiously shy, before telling her.

"Alexandr Karlovich Krycek...."

"Alexandr..." Her cool contralto spoke the word as if tasting something foreign, some pungent exotic spice.

"No one's ever really called me that," he said, a quiet smile forming on his lips. "It's Sasha in Europe, Alex here in the States." Somehow it was easy talking to her like this, not looking, just their warm skin touching and their voices immaterially tender in the dusky room, careful, now, not to hurt.

She whispered against his chest, "Tell me something in Russian, Krycek. Just... anything."

He smiled. "Wouldn't you rather be courted in a language you understand?"

"I don't want to be courted," she answered, then thought about it, and added, so it sounded like an amendment, "I don't want to understand."

She wasn't the first woman he'd met to be seduced by that side of him, and he supposed he had played up to it himself. But that particular request always made him feel awkward. What was he supposed to say, anyway? The price of cabbages is very reasonable today. Your eyes are beautiful. <And they are, Scully.> You have great tits. <And it's true, Scully.>

In the end, a poem popped into his blank mind. His mother's favorite, wistful and lovely, heard so often he knew it by heart. Maybe far too romantic a choice - he had no business whispering love poetry to Scully. But for her, it wouldn't matter. He recited the first few lines into her hair with dreamy conviction.

"My ne umeem proschatsya, -
Vsyo brodim plecho k plechu.
Uzhe nachinaet smerkatsya,
Ty zadumchiv, a ya molchu..."

He said the whole of the short poem for her. He was aware of his own voice going huskier speaking this language, and more relaxed, as if an almost invisible barrier of conscious effort had fallen away. Speaking Russian felt comfortable, like coming home at night to warm rooms and warm food and a warm embrace.

"... Ili syadem na sneg primyatyi
Na kladbische, legko vzdohnyom,
I ty palkoi chertish palaty,
Gde my budem vsegda vdvoyom."

Scully sounded surprised. "A poem, Krycek?"

"You think I grew up in a gutter, don't you?" It fell from his lips half a jest, half a provocation.

"Probably some drinking song," she guessed.

"I thought you didn't want to understand," he said softly, but continued before she could reply: "Why would I recite a drinking song to a beautiful woman? It's a poem. Don't ask me to say what it means. You'd find it presumptuous, coming from me."

She gave him a spontaneous, wary smile, startling him. "You're such a contradiction in terms, Krycek. Danger, sweetness, chaos. But I guess that's fitting for a love child of a Cold War."

The throw slid down on the floor as her small hands ran flat and yielding through the sparse hair on his chest, over the wide expanse of his shoulders, up to his thick neck and into his hair. She traced his unmoving body as if it were a map that could tell her of secret snowed-over paths to his mind. Tilting her head back, she searched his face next. Whatever she saw there made her go still and alert with discovery, with the concession of something ultimately foreign in him. She was decrypting an exotic alphabet, reading him in cyrillics. "Who is Sasha, Krycek?"

"Sasha is all that Krycek is, too," he warned her, not unkindly, caution extinguishing his joy even as it started flaring in him.

She looked like he had slapped her face. All color drained out of her face in a second, then rushed back in a painful rosy wave. Instinctively he tightened his hold on her, afraid she was going to faint. <Ah Scully, surely, you didn't allow yourself to forget, even for a moment...> But she straightened up carefully, took a step back, and her eyes were cool spring skies, imperviously lovely flowers, a blue lake drifting with ice. "I know who you are. You don't need to remind me."

She retreated another step, then turned around and went into the bathroom, closing the door silently. After a while he heard the shower running. He pictured her inside there, water streaming down the white diminutive perfection of her body, making silky-wet ropes of her hair, hiding her tension and maybe even tears. He would have liked to be there with her, to stand under the warm spray and make soft comforting love to her with his hands and his mouth, get to see that panicked cerulean joy in her eyes, just one last time. But he knew the spell must break now. He stood unmoving by the window, looking into the street, tired to the bone.


His father had taken him to the Winter Palace on a Sunday in May, just as the first summer tourists were coming. He had been ten. Three years to childhood's end, but none of them knew that then. They had walked around the halls, seeing Swedes and Finns and Americans being led about by their appointed guides.

"I guess they think we are Russians," Sasha had said.

"Probably," answered his father, sitting down on a bench out in the gardens and lighting a cigarette.

He'd watched the small flocks of tourists at a distance, with a strange sting in his heart, like envy, but sadder. "Maybe I could go over to them and tell them that we are Americans? They'd be surprised."

"Do you want to do that, Alex?"

"I dunno." He hesitated. "Nikola called me a bastard last week, in school. With a Czech name and American passport and Russian mother. He said I'd never be a real Russian, or a real anything."

"You're a real person," his father said, raising his eyebrows. "That counts for more. It wasn't a nice thing to say."

"I belted him."

He could see his father's dark green eyes, so like his own, hide a reluctant smile even as his face grew worried. "That's not the way to deal with conflict, Alex."

He'd said with all that hot bitter hurt of a sad child, "If he says it again I'll beat him up. I'll make him regret he said it."

"It's best to ignore him. He doesn't know what he's talking about. You're as Russian as he is, by culture. You're as American as those tourists over there, by citizenship. The Czech name adds the final finish and makes you into a nicely rounded person," Karel Krycek had said easily, dragging on his cigarette and puffing out precise contemplative rings of smoke.

Sasha looked at the tourists disappearing into their huge buses, with that nagging ache in his chest. "When I grow up, I'll go and live in America. I'll be an American. In America, there's justice, right? People are free there, aren't they?"

"I grant you in many ways, they are more free than the Russians. But people can be trapped in other ways than by dictatorship." His father smiled at him, with that slow secret warmth Sasha loved, the smile that said he was being talked to like an equal, and cupped his large hand gently over his son's close-cropped head. "The important thing is to be free inside here, Alex. When all is said and done, it's the only freedom that can't be compromised."

Thinking back now, Krycek wondered briefly whether his father had found that statement to be true, in the end.


When she came out, wearing a pale Chinese silk bathrobe, she had intended to ask him to leave. He saw it in her eyes as their expression changed from determination to stricken relief, discovering him already fully clothed through the open door into the living-room.

"Time for good-bye," he said, "don't you think?" He was sheathing his gun into its holster, reaching for his jacket.

She was politely contrite. "I know I said you could stay longer..."

For some reason, such impeccable manners made him want to shake her. It was obscene that she should apologize to him, for anything.

"No point. For what? What's to come out of this, little girl? Only heartbreak, I suspect."

He avoided her gaze as she came into the room. He slipped the leather jacket on, then walked over to her bookshelf next to the sofa. There he took Melissa Scully's photo, which he had laid face down on the shelf last night before falling asleep, and put it right. He turned back to glance at Scully, aware that his lack of subterfuge might be perceived as provocation. Her eyes were round, her lips parted in shock.

"You... you..."

"I couldn't sleep with her watching me," he said softly. "I didn't kill your sister, Scully. But I didn't save her either. And I'm sorry. I'm more sorry than I can say."

Maybe even more obscene, him apologizing to her, but he couldn't help himself.

"Oh God." Scully brought her hands to her mouth, to strangle something, a sound of agony. "What a mess. What a fucking mess." She went over to the picture, grabbed it as if she were afraid his presence would contaminate it, and held it to her chest.

He accepted that stoically, and filed the pain away for future reference, too preoccupied at the moment to appreciate the justice of it.

He hesitated. An idea had been dawning in him, but he didn't know he was going to say it until the words spilled out. "I have a sister too. She might be in trouble."

"Oh, you too," said Scully with bitter irony. "Of course. A triumvirate of doomed sisters. Why not?"

"She is only eighteen," he said gently. "Barely eighteen. She's in Europe. And I think someone might exert themselves to find her - to get a hold on me."

He had her attention. "Why are you telling me this?" she asked, eyes like blue lasers going through him.

"If I ever decided to get her here, later, if things... come to a head - if I could find her a safe place - would you be willing to help me?"

Now she was staring. "For God's sake, Krycek, why me?"

"Because you are the one person I would trust with her," he explained, the truth of this striking him as he spoke the words. "You're a woman, and you can't be bought, and you're the last person anyone would expect to help me with anything."

"And that should be telling me something," she countered, shaking her head.

"Just think about it. Can I at least contact you if the situation arises? Please," he added quietly.

She looked away, her reluctance almost a tangible obstacle between them, but finally, for whatever hidden reason, nodded mutely, and he felt a jolt inside. Triumph, or dread, or relief. He didn't know. He walked over to her, stroked her hair away from her face. She slowly turned her cheek into his hand, her lips parted on a small sound somewhere between denial and acceptance. She smelled of scented soap, something she had used in the bath, some evanescent vernal bouquet.

He was aware of his own smell too. Sex, and sweat, and stale vodka, and a long waking night, and too long without a shower. The rat was heading back to the sewers. How come though, that somehow he felt cleaner this morning than he had the night before?

"Thank you," he murmured. "But it goes two ways, Scully."

He found pen and paper in his pocket, and jotted down a U.S. telephone number. "We both know I owe you. If there's ever a time when your options are down to zero, and you think I can be of any use, then call this number."

She looked at the scrap of paper in his hand with wonderment. "Krycek, if you're fooling yourself that there's anything you can do, any way you could ever make amends..." But her eyes, looking up at him, were curiously devoid of enmity. She looked exhausted, only, ready to curl up and sleep away the last couple of hours before morning.

"Don't think about it in those terms. Let's just say that if you need help, and if you let me know, then I will help." He took her hand, closed it around the note before releasing it. Holding her gaze, he said, "Call that number, ask them to get Lara Androvna to call you back. I won't write down her name, you have to memorize that. If I'm at all alive and a free man, then Lara will be able to get in touch with me."

"If you're at all alive -..." She shook her head with a small gasp of laughter. "Such melodrama. You rather enjoy life on a knife's edge, don't you?"

"It sure as hell beats the alternative," he answered with a cocky shrug.

She was quiet, then, grimly so, watching him. "You look like you're heading into the trenches."

"If that's what it takes."

"Lara Androvna," she said. "I don't expect that I shall need it, but I'll remember."


She hesitated. Her hand rose, grazing his for a second. She observed this with what seemed like mild surprise.

His words came out half-whispered, voice laden with intimate knowledge. "Do svidanya, vassilyok. Maybe I will see you again." He raised his finger to gently cross her lips, a universal gesture, and winked at her, but his eyes held both warning and promise. "Ssshh... Nikomu ni slova."

He leaned down and kissed her easily - and oh, how hard it was, to kiss her so easily - then drew back before she had a chance to pull away, and turned around, and walked out the door.

In the street, a cold pre-dawn light fell on his pale face and his heavy shoulders. A hint that somewhere beyond these buildings, below the eastern horizon, a new season was shivering into translucence, testing out the early aquatic hues of March. He paused for a minute, zipping up his jacket against the crisp air, planning his day.

He would meet with Marita Covarrubias. He would go to the bank and cash an obscene amount of money in American dollars. He would buy his ticket to Kazakhstan, via St. Petersburg.

Regret was lapping at the remote reaches of his mind, restless waves of a chill, keen sadness. Yet who could stay in a sanctuary and accomplish anything? He straightened up, dark verdant eyes hardening into a colder season of determination, and strode with feral grace down the empty wet street.

This wasn't the time. A child of one cold war, he must try, now, to sway the odds in a colder one. He could already feel the ice settling in around him, consolidating into a siege for which he'd prepared himself for years. He was ready for that, as ready as he ever would be, but he was making himself a promise, signing a contract in blood. He wouldn't forget.

Amends would be made.



Explanation of Russian phrases:

1. "Sestrichka" = Little sister.

2. "Vashe zdorovye" = Cheers/to your health (a casual, generic toast)

3. "Krasavitsa" = Beautiful one (about a woman)

4. "Ty tak prekrasna" = You are so lovely.

5. "Vassilyok" = Cornflower. It is also a very tender endearment for a blue-eyed girl - the Russian term refers directly to the color of a girl's eyes. This is considered a quintessentially Russian flower.

6. "Golubka" = Little dove, used as an endearment.

7. "Milaya" = A generic endearment that, depending on circumstance, can be either very offhand or tender (like English "honey" or "baby").

8. Danoushka is a plausible Russian diminutive form of Dana.

9. "Nu, nu, ne veshay nos" = There, now, take it easy.

10. "Milaya, s toboy tak sladko, tak goryacho" = Baby, it's so sweet with you, hot with you.

11. "Nu potseluy menia" =  Kiss me, now.

12. "Mnye tak horosho" = That feels so good.

13. "Pogodi" = Wait.

14. "Moya krasavitsa" = My beautiful one.

15. "Dyshi" = Breathe.

16. "Uchenyi" = Scientist

17. "Pozhalusta" = You're welcome/don't mention it (the standard reply if someone says "spassibo", or 'thank you'.)

18. "Moya tsarevna, vashe vysochestvo." My princess, your highness.

19. "Vassilissa prekrasnaya" = Vassilissa the beautiful. She is a princess from Russian fairy-tales, who was taken by an evil sorcerer who had fallen in love with her, and kept captive at his castle.

20. "Glupyshka" = Sweet silly.
21. "Malen'kaya moya, ne grusti" = Little girl, don't be sad.

22. "Malen'kaya" = Little girl.

23. "Za prekrasnyh dam" = To beautiful ladies present (a toast).

24. "Amerikanka" = American woman.

25. "Ladozhskoe Ozero" = Lake Ladoga, a large inland sea north of St. Petersburg.

26. "Goluboye" = Blue.

27. "Iris, proleska, kolokolchik..." = Iris, scilla, bluebell.

28. "Bayu, bayushki, bayu, and I'll sing you a little song" = a popular Russian lullaby (the verse is repeated over and over, with variations in the text depending on the mother's ingenuity). The first three words are a traditional way of starting a Russian lullaby and are variations over a word which means "go to sleep".

29. "Alexandr Karlovich Krycek": A note concerning Krycek's Russian name. The surname (which is Czech, or in this story, Czech-American) would go unchanged in Russian. The rule with Russian middle names, or patronymics, however, is that you either use valid Russian or russified, assimilated names, or you don't use patronymics at all. So, since Krycek's father was Karel Krycek (a Czech name) and Karl is the Russian equivalent of Karel, his son's middle name would be Karlovich. 

30. The poem quoted is "We Don't Know How to Say Goodbye" by Anna Akhmatova. The poem, of which the first and the last stanza are cited in the story, translate as:

"We don't know how to say good-bye
We wander on, shoulder by shoulder.
Already the sun is going down.
You're moody, I am your shadow.

Let's step inside a church and watch
baptisms, marriages, masses for the dead.
Why are we different from the rest?
Outdoors again, each of us turns his head.

Or else, let's sit in the graveyard
On the trampled snow, sighing to each other.
That stick in your hand is tracing mansions
In which we shall always be together."

(Translation by Stanley Kunitz/Max Hayward)

31. "Do svidanya" = Goodbye/Until we meet again.

32. "Nikomu ni slova." = Don't tell.

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