Welcome To The Harem

Devil At The Crossroads by Spica
Summary: Kim gets an unexpected visitor. He's had a very bad day. Krycek/Kim Cook, R.

TITLE: Devil At The Crossroads
ARCHIVE: Keep my headers attached and you can have it.
DISCLAIMER: The X-Files and its characters belong to
Chris Carter, 1013, and Fox. No copyright infringement is
CATEGORY: S, A, Krycek/Kim Cook
RATING: R, to be on the safe side.
SPOILERS: Krycek episodes up to and including Paper Clip
SUMMARY: Kim gets an unexpected visitor. He's had a very bad
FEEDBACK: Is welcome indeed, to spica111@fastmail.fm
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Warm thanks to Vanzetti and KristenK2 for
thorough and inspiring beta, and to Kelly Keil who read this
story in an early version and gave sound advice.
NOTES: This is for Kristen, whose lovely Kim/Krycek fics
inspired this story.



'Out of order'. Oh, joy. Today of all days.

Kim Cook was exhausted, and her feet were in pain. She
stared at the note taped to the elevator doors and swore.

She was home late. She'd stayed longer than she'd meant with
her boss at the hospital--stayed until he slept, to make
sure he wouldn't get up with his broken ribs and concussion
and discharge himself the moment she was out the door. Then
she went back to the office to finish all the work she'd
left undone when she heard about the attack on Skinner.

And besides all that, learning about the attack and the
perpetrator had made unwelcome memories come back, guilt and
resentment all over again. Kim wasn't a person who liked to
dwell on her past mistakes. To be reminded of them like this
upset her.

With a crabby sigh, she kicked off her shoes and started
walking in her pantyhose, shoes in hand, up the five flights
of stairs to her apartment. She met a downstairs neighbour
and managed a smile and a nod in greeting.

"One of those days?" enquired the woman with a sympathetic

"One of those," she agreed, shuffling on.

She'd missed her evening class tonight, too. Second week
running. Skinner had asked her to work overtime last week
and she was kind of embarrassed about her little self-
improvement project, so she'd said okay. She'd never
hesitated at taking on overtime and thought it might elicit
questions if she suddenly started saying no. Strange, to
feel so shy of her boss. Skinner was decency personified and
it wasn't like she thought he'd ever make fun of her for
something like that, but...

Oh, well.

The fifth floor hallway was dark--both light bulbs were out.
She hesitated as she walked in, suddenly touched by a
premonition. Her door was at the far end of the corridor.
She picked her way slowly in the shadows.

She'd almost reached the door, rooting around in her pocket
for her keys, when something separated itself from the murky
density at the end of the corridor and spoke to her.

"Working overtime, Kim?"

Choking a cry down to a squeak, she stared at the man with
dark unkempt hair hanging down in his eyes; dark green eyes
whose intensity was offset by thick, childlike lashes. He
was pointing a gun at her.

"Agent Krycek." She checked herself, because of course that
title hadn't been correct for a long time, and substituted
in confusion, "Krycek."

"How 'bout Alex? he muttered. "That's what you called me
once, wasn't it?"

Yes, she thought bitterly, once and never again.

"Are you gonna ask me in?" His voice was a sardonic rasp, a
sinister variation on the well-modulated huskiness that had
made her go weak in the knees last summer. Looking at him,
hearing him, she could barely believe that it was the same

She stared at his gun. "That's kind of a moot point, isn't

He smiled but his eyes were like dull stones. "Then what are
we waiting for?"

When she tried to unlock the door, her hands shook so badly
she couldn't insert the key. So much for her tough facade.
He stood right behind her, and he reached one arm around her
and steadied her hand with his own. Terror and a sickened,
sticky warmth ran down her spine at his touch. She
remembered--God, she remembered-

--Swaying and turning in a slow waltz, held close while his
eyes (shiny then, bright olivine gems) held her, invaded
her, then evaded her--

But the key turned and he let go and stepped aside, leaving
her to push the door open. She walked into her entrance
hallway and he followed close at heel. She heard the door
close, heard the lock engage and instinctively turned around
to avoid having him at her back. Her heart was suddenly
hammering so painfully she couldn't think, couldn't feel
anything besides primal, physical, mortal fear. She was
shaking, nauseous and giddy and unconsciously glancing
around her for a place to run and hide.

She flashed to Skinner at the hospital, battered and bruised
and in pain after a vicious attack from this man. He'd
dictated his report on the attack to her, suggesting that
Krycek might also be responsible for the death of Mulder's
father, who'd been buried this week--responsible for Melissa
Scully, who even now was fighting for her life in a hospital

"Stop that!" His voice came like an explosion of anger and
she backed away a few stumbling steps, gasping aloud as she
came up against the living room door. He closed the distance
between them in one long stride and she drew breath to cry
out. Immediately a hand closed hard over her mouth, and she
stared at him, terrorized.

Krycek's eyes shot fire at her. "Don't look at me like that.
Just fucking don't!"

She squeezed her eyes shut to escape his temper, and heard
him draw a deep, agitated breath. He must have realized his
actions were at odds with his words, because when he spoke
again, his voice was comparatively calm. "You're in no
danger, understand? I'm not going to harm you, Kim. I just
need a place to clean up and stay for a couple of hours.
Everyone's looking for me, and I mean everyone. This was the
best place I could think of to go." He paused, then added,
"Hey, open your eyes so I know you got that."

She obeyed, and cautiously, gauging her reaction second by
second, he moved his hand away from her mouth.

Her gaze darted warily to his right hand, which was holding
the gun to her even now, and he closed his own eyes for a
second. "It's just a prop," he muttered. He lowered the gun
and looked at her again, with a hard, calm appeal. "I'm not
going to hurt you, because you're going to be good, aren't
you Kim?"

She nodded and swallowed heavily, feeling that every cell in
her body fiercely wanted only to live. Everything else was
immaterial. She was going to be good. She wasn't foolish.

--A bright-eyed agent kissing her good-bye outside this
apartment block, a balmy August night... Intoxicated by too
much drink and too much hope and his warmth and his kiss and
wanting more, she asked him inside and nearly cried when he
turned her down--foolish, so foolish--

He took off his jacket with a grimace and a choked sound of
pain. "Switch on the light," he commanded.

She did, and gasped when she turned to look at him. Her
shoes fell from her hands. "What happened?" she asked
curiously, taking in the bruises on his soiled face and
hands; his jeans with bloodied knees visible through ripped
denim. The white T-shirt was bloody and torn too, and as
dirty as could be. Despite herself, despite all reason, she
felt a moment of sympathy. He looked a bit like a little boy
who'd taken a nose-dive from his new bike.

"Shit happened," he answered curtly. "The big bang, and I
was too fucking near the middle of it. I need a shower." He
dropped his sports bag to the floor, pulling its zipper
open. "And a change."

Kim watched as he found a change of clothes in the bag. The
clothes were new, price tags still on them, something he
must have bought in a hurry.

"Why don't you make yourself a little more comfortable?" he
asked without looking at her as he zipped the bag shut.
"Because you're coming into the bathroom with me."

"I beg your pardon?" she asked, her cheeks coloring.

His gaze fastened on her as he straightened up. His face was
blank and expressionless. "Take off your jacket," he
suggested politely, "unless you want it steamed while you're
wearing it."

Relief made her go limp. He saw it, and smiled that hard
unamused smile again. "Oh," he said in epiphany. "Well, you
can join me in the shower if you want to. Tend my battle
wounds or whatever."

At his joking tone, sudden defiance shot through her. She
felt all the anger rise in her again, all the crossness
accumulated over a particularly shitty day. "You know, I
resent this," she said fiercely. "I know you don't give a
shit but I want it taken down that I resent it like hell."

"Mm hm. Just for the record, huh?" This time, he did sound
amused. He kicked off his boots and looked at her.
"Bathroom--which way?" he asked.

She pointed out the bathroom door to him, her eyes stormy
with disapproval.

"Come on." He threw her a glance over his shoulder as he
walked over there and opened the door. He waited for her.
"You know, I could wave this big gun around but I don't
really see the point," he said, sounding mildly exasperated

She had no illusion about getting out of this through a
physical struggle. Krycek seemed to have lost weight over
the months since she had been on that one date with him, but
he still must be half again her body mass. And he
undoubtedly packed more meanness in his pinkie finger than
she did in her entire self. She flung off her jacket and
marched into the bathroom.

"You look like Mary Poppins when you're angry," he said
behind her, and she could tell that he was goading her. "Or
Julie Andrews, you know, whatever."

"Well, you look like a half starved sewer rat!" she fired
back, stung by his taunt.

He grunted with laughter. She turned and saw him putting the
gun down on the floor just outside the bathroom door. He
closed the door, turned the key and reached to deposit it on
the shelf in the shower. Stretching must be painful for him.
This time, his grunt was of discomfort, and his movements
were careful as he started pulling off his T-shirt. "Don't
try anything," he warned from inside the T-shirt. "I could
snap your neck in half a sec. Without even looking."

"I won't... try anything," she said, the casual threat
sending a new icy heaviness to her stomach, extinguishing
her flare of temper. She stood back in the corner, wishing
her bathroom had been bigger. Or that Alex Krycek had been
smaller. He stood so near she could have touched him without
fully extending her arm; so near she could smell him--blood
and sweat and fear and anger radiating off his large frame.
And gasoline. He smelled like fire.

His T-shirt fell discarded on the floor. His chest was
bleeding where a scab had followed the shirt off his body.
His ribs were bruised blue. He pressed his fingers to them
stoically, only narrowing his eyes at the pain.

"Damn," he said. "This proves it. Man isn't meant to fly."

"I bet they aren't anywhere near as bad as Skinner's." It
just sort of slipped out, more snide than she had intended.
But he took no offense, just shrugged.

"I guess not. You think I had it coming, huh?"

She couldn't find her voice, because now he was unbuckling
his belt, unbuttoning the fly in his jeans. She caught a
glimpse of white cotton underneath and her gaze flew up to
his face. He looked resigned more than anything.

"Jesus, relax. I'm not going to jump you. Pretty though you
are," he said, the addendum not really sounding flirtatious-
-matter-of-fact, instead.

She felt flushed. In escape, her gaze drifted sideways from
his face and fastened on her reflection in the mirror. Blue
eyes stared back at her, large with apprehension. Her red-
blond hair hung limp around her face because she'd taken out
the barrette after it started giving her a headache earlier
in the evening. She looked weary and scared, not pretty.
Maybe he had meant it as sarcasm. But she guessed she must
be some sort of pretty, anyway. A few men had told her so--
even Skinner, one night when she'd been all aglow with
anticipation because she was going on a date after work. A
date, as it so happened, with Alex Krycek.

Bright color caught her eye in the mirror. There was a gash
of about a hand's breadth on his left shoulder blade. It was
slowly seeping blood.

He pulled off his briefs and jeans in one move, stepping
naked out of them and into the bathtub. He didn't draw the
shower curtain closed. His battered body was heavy-boned and
hard-muscled and if he was embarrassed, he hid it well.

Kim was embarrassed, though. In the mirror she saw her
cheeks go from flushed to pale and back again. His nakedness
felt like a threat on more than one level.

"Pardon the affront to your modesty," he muttered, as he
turned the shower on. "I've just gotta keep an eye on you,
you know? Wouldn't want you to get any ideas about re-
enacting the Psycho shower scene from a feminist point of
view. Sit down. Sit *down*. Fucking *please*?"

Weakly, she took a step to the side and sank down on the
closed toilet lid. Krycek took her bottle of shower gel and
squeezed some into his hand. She looked at the closed
drawers in her bathroom dresser, trying to think if she had
anything in there that was instantly lethal. Preferably
something that made people die in throes of excruciating

"Uh-uh. Keep your eyes on me," he snapped, eyes suddenly
blazing at her while he kept lathering himself with soap.
"I've had a crap week, get it? I guarantee that you don't
want to get into a situation with me. I said I wouldn't hurt
you unless you gave me reason to, and I mean it."

That man could be convincing. And apparently, he was
psychic. She stared at him, trying to keep her gaze vacant.
The steam dispensed a sweet fragrance of lavender all over
the room. Hot damp air made her shirt and pantyhose start to
cling to her skin. She wished she weren't wearing hose. She
wished she'd had the jacket after all. She thought of Krycek
dancing with her. She thought of Skinner's taped ribs. She
thought of Krycek kissing her. She thought of Scully's

He was sporting a growing erection. He washed himself
unceremoniously. He only met her gaze once, intently askance
under his lashes, but by then he was gently cleansing his
grazed knees. He rinsed off the soap, washed his hair
quickly with the shower gel, and asked for a towel.

"They're in the bedroom."

"I'll use yours." He nodded to the towel hanging on the
rack, and she pulled it down and gave it to him. She didn't
look away while he toweled himself dry, determined not to
elicit a new humiliating reprimand. She looked at his chest-
-as close to neutral middle ground as she could get.

He stepped out of the bathtub and pulled on the boxers that
lay on the top of his heap of new clothes. He looked down at
his knees. "You got some band-aids? And something to put on
my shoulder."

She reached for a drawer, but an impatient hand caught her
wrist. "Just tell me where it is," he suggested firmly.

She looked up at him, into his wary eyes and her stomach
dropped. Her wrist felt branded by his touch. She felt
sticky and sweaty and she was very aware that he was
stronger than her and very close and visibly turned on. And
there was more there. He looked like he was drunk sick on
power. He looked like he wanted to cry. He looked like he
hurt so bad he wanted to hurt someone in turn.

"Upper drawer," she croaked. She could hardly even swallow,
her throat was so dry.

He licked his lower lip, looking at her with those guarded
gleaming eyes for a second before reaching out with his
other hand and pulling the drawer open. He found the box of
band-aids, a roll of gauze and surgical tape, and glanced
back at her.



"Okay, let's move the show to the kitchen."

He retrieved the key from the shelf, picked up the rest of
his clothes and unlocked the door. He bent to pick up the
gun in a fluid motion and waited for her outside. With an
ironic flourish of one hand he beckoned her before him.
"Apr?s vous, Miss Poppins."


(She remembered calling him from her office after a week of
warm smiles and general pleasantries between them. They'd
met for ten seconds at the elevators down in the entrance
hall, he going down to the basement office, she on her way
up after a lunch break out of the building. She'd seen Agent
Mulder cross the street as she came back. She knew Krycek
was alone down there, and called him in a moment of
impulsive courage.

"Agent Krycek speaking."

At the sound of that sensual voice without the friendly
smile to accompany it, her stomach twisted into a knot and
her brain froze. He sounded preoccupied.

"Um, hello." She gripped a pen on her desk and fidgeted with
it nervously. Just a phone call. She handled dozens of them
with aplomb each day, dammit. "Um, it's me. Kimberly Cook."

"Hello there." He was carefully polite. It occurred to her
he might not remember her name.

"Um, Kim. A.D. Skinner's assistant?" she clarified, her face
heating up.

"I remember," he said patiently, "seeing as we spoke five
minutes ago."

"Um...right. Hello." She took a deep breath. "I thought that
we maybe... that you maybe..."

"Yes?" he said, unhelpfully. Was there a smile in his voice?
She got the notion he might be rolling his eyes. She was

"That if you're free tonight, that you maybe want... that
you maybe would like to... um..." She cleared her voice. It
was the sound of despair. She hoped he didn't notice but she
thought he probably did. There was laughter creeping into
his voice now.

"That I maybe want... maybe would like to... um? I don't
generally *um* on a worknight--"

She slammed the receiver down on the hook, her heart racing
as she swore under her breath. "Bastard! Piece of shit!"

Ten seconds later, her phone rang. She took it, checking the
number. It was from the X-files office.

"Kim Cook, A.D. Skinner's office." Her voice was wary.

"Um... it's me. Agent Krycek. Um... you know, Agent Mulder's

She made an abortive sound between rage and amusement.

"Um...I thought... I thought that we maybe... that you
perhaps would like to...um...."

Her breath came out in a half-outraged whoosh of laughter.
"You asshole!"

He laughed too. "That's too kind. Really," he admitted.

A minute later, she had a date with Agent Krycek for the


(cont. in part 2/3)

Part 2 - headers and disclaimer in part 1.

In the kitchen, she located the scissors while he put wide
band-aids on the grazes on his knees. He dressed the scrape
on his chest with gauze and surgical tape, then put rubbing
alcohol on his hands, a low stream of profanities coming
from his lips as the liquid burned his cuts. He pulled on
his jeans and craned his neck to look behind him. "How's my
shoulder look?"

"A shallow gash," she said. "Four inches."

He cut up gauze and handed it to her with the roll of tape.
"Put this on."

Hesitantly, she took it. "You should put on the rubbing
alcohol first."

"You're just itching to hurt me, aren't you?" He handed her
the bottle and another piece of gauze, but froze as he
looked over at the answering machine on the kitchen counter.
"You've got a message."

"I'll put it on later," she replied, loath to let him
violate her privacy more than he had already done.

"I want to hear it. It might be from Skinner."

"Then by all means turn it on," she snapped. She put rubbing
alcohol on a cotton ball and pressed it hard to his gash.

"Mary Poppins," he hissed. "Bitch."

Somehow, the pain in his voice gave her no satisfaction. The
touch of his hot skin was like a caress to her fingertips.
She relented and swiped the cotton ball gently the length of
the gash, then put it away. He leaned forward and pressed
Rewind, then the Play button.

"Hiyah Kim. Long time no see."

"Hi Rob," she replied automatically to her little brother.

"I'll be in town next weekend. You want to meet up, go to a
concert, have a beer?"


"I'll call you when I get there. Bye."


Krycek pressed the Stop button. He looked over his shoulder,
inscrutable. "You talk to your answering machine."

She blushed. "So?"

"Nothing." He pressed Play again. Another message came on.

"Hi Kim." It was her sister. "Lizzie wanted to call and ask
you something."


Lizzie's thin and lispy three-year-old's voice came on.
"Auntie Kim, do angels' feet show when they fly? Mom doesn't

"Tough one." She narrowed her eyes. "Stand still," she
muttered to Krycek, who was looking at her again, his face
grave and expectant as if he'd been wondering about that
exact same theological question, and couldn't wait to hear
the oracle's answer.

"Because I'm painting one and I need to know. Call me when
you find out, okay? Bye."

"Okay, sweetie. Bye." She looked back up at Krycek, whose
savage face was gentle now, his eyes closed as her fingers
tended to his injured shoulder blade. She felt a strange
shiver run down her spine. She had a sudden crazed impulse
to kiss him there, but didn't. Of course she didn't.

Do angels' wings break when they fall? she wondered.

New message. Walter Skinner spoke. "Hello Kim. Sorry for
calling so late."

"That's okay but you should be in bed, you stubborn--"

"I'm at the office."

"Hah. I knew it." She was overplaying it, nervous about what
Skinner might inadvertently give away to Krycek. Not that
Skinner regularly left undetonated information bombs on her
answering machine, but still.

"I need the report from Friday's director's meeting. Can you
call me if you know where it is? I'll be here until
midnight. Thanks. Bye."

"It's on your desk. You're woozy on painkillers, Walt. You
should be in bed." She looked at Krycek. "Can I call him

He shook his head. "Nope. Skinner'll just have to get by
without that report until tomorrow." He frowned. "'Walt'?"
he asked.

"Only when we meet on the answering machine," she replied,
blushing again. "There," she said, fastening the final strip
of tape. "Finis."

"Okay." He smiled at her in thanks. It was the fresh agent's
smile--quick, alert, warm--and it looked out of place in the
face of this stranger with killer's eyes and long, soft
hair. "I'm starving," he said, starting to pull on the clean
T-shirt. "Could you fix me something?"

"I don't really cook," she said evasively, feeling a pang of
performance anxiety of all things.

"Kimberly Cook," he said, his head emerging from the
neckline of the shirt, "doesn't cook." His eyes were
laughing at her now.

"Very funny," she said. "I'll make you a sandwich," she
offered reluctantly. "Is walnut pate all right?"

"Walnut pate?" Mock horror crept into his features. "Oh no,
she's a vegetarian."

She huffed defensively. "I suppose killers only eat bloody

She regretted that instantly. Krycek's face went flat and
savage again. "Just fix me the goddamned sandwich. Make
yourself one too, while you're at it. And if you've got
anything as brutish as a beer, that would be excellent."

Krycek sat down at the kitchen table, looking sullenly at
her. He had the gun beside him on the table. She put walnut
pate on soft wholewheat bread and pressed another slice on
top, then cut it diagonally. She brought him the sandwich on
a plate and a bottle of beer from the fridge, and leaned
against the kitchen counter watching him wolf the food down.
She decided not to make anything for herself--there was no
way she'd be able to get it down. "How long are you
staying?" she asked eventually.

"Not that the hostess is looking at her watch," he

"I take it you meant 'the hostage'," she said sharply.

"Oh Jesus, cut the drama, Kim. Grab yourself a beer. That's
a fucking order." He sounded weary. "I'm leaving when I get
a phone call I'm waiting for. You'll survive."

God, she hoped that wasn't just a figure of speech.

He pushed away the plate as she returned with her beer.
"So," he said. "What do you propose we do to pass time?
Something fun that will keep me awake and keep us both
occupied." Kim heard a teasing note in Krycek's husky voice
and thought he might be trying to intimidate her. Or just
pull her leg for the hell of it.

She gave him a cool look as she reached out her hand to the
bookshelf on the opposite wall. "Game of cards?" She pulled
out the deck of cards and held it forth.

Slowly, a grin spread on his face. He looked at her, nodding
with a pleased expression. "Not a bad idea."


Kim drew a card and threw down another on the discard pile
with nonchalant flair. She smiled and arranged her cards
into neat groups and sequences.

"We haven't got all night," she said with a supercilious
look at Krycek over her hand of cards.

"I don't fucking believe this," said Krycek, combing his
fingers through his hair in frustration. She'd beaten him at
gin rummy three times straight and was pretty sure of her
fourth victory.

"I've got five brothers and sisters I've practiced on since
I was in pre-school," she said smugly. "You'd better believe

"Fuck." He surveyed his cards carefully, evaluating his
options, and pulled a card from the stock pile. He made a
quick, tiny grimace as he laid down the Ace of Spades.

She drew again. With a superior smile she knocked. "Gin.

"Just a lucky streak," he opined with a scowl after she'd
counted the score. He gathered the cards and put them back
in the plastic box. He was trying to make a joke of his poor
attitude, but she could see that underneath the act there
was truth to it. Alex Krycek evidently didn't like to lose
at anything, not even a game of cards.

Kim couldn't hold back a smirk. "Too bad I didn't know you
were a bad loser; I'd have let you win the last round."

He glanced up at her sharply and barely smiling, an almost
ominous note in his voice. "Bad loser, huh? Well, let me
tell you, lady, my luck may be changing."

Her glee at her victory faded into unease as he cast an
exasperated glance at his watch, then muttered an expletive
under his breath. He closed his eyes briefly as if praying
for patience. Kim stared at him in dismay, with a little
prayer of her own that whatever was eating at him would work
out as he wanted, and not leave him stranded here. He opened
his eyes again to find her watching him anxiously, and gave
her a pointed glare. "What?"

She swallowed and looked away, regretting her flippant
comment. She wanted nothing more than to stay on Krycek's
good side, but with him so highly strung that seemed to be a
question of hit-or-miss.

He got up from his chair and stretched over to the bookshelf
to put the deck away, pausing as he saw the titles there.

"What's this? You a student?"

She blushed as though he'd caught her with a collection of
pornography, and grabbed his empty plate to put it in the
sink. From the corner of her eye, she sensed his gaze
following her, much too perceptive for comfort.

"Modern political history," he mused, pulling out a book.
"Funny, I didn't have you pegged for a modern political
history kind of girl."

Oddly, that smarted. "It's just evening classes," she said
shortly. "Just something I thought might be fun to do."

He raised an eyebrow. "Fun?"

She shrugged. "Well, interesting. Useful. It's good knowing
things, you know? Anyway, I may quit the classes. There's
been a lot of overtime at work lately. It's hard to find
time to do the reading and attend classes." She hated the
way the last bit came out sounding like a half apology. It
was no doubt more information than he'd wanted, anyway.

He sat down again, leafing through the book. He seemed
restless, tense, as if this was just something to do,
something to occupy his hands and his thoughts for a few
seconds, but when he looked at her those green eyes were
sharp and provocative. "What's your background, anyway?" he

Damn. He'd got it in one. Found her sore spot with killer
instinct, and she jumped reflexively. "What's it to you?"

"Hey, I'm the guy with the gun, remember? Humor me," he said

Kim got a hollow feeling at the pit of her stomach. Earlier,
his teasing had seemed innocent and almost flirtatious,
rather like a boy tugging at a girl's pigtails to get her
attention. But meeting Krycek's gaze now, she felt more like
the same girl trying to get past the schoolyard bully,
scapegoat for all his accumulated frustrations. She pressed
her suddenly sweaty palms to her skirt.

"I went straight out of high school to the temp pool at the
Bureau," she snapped. "I didn't want to go to college, I
just wanted to get a job and earn some money for myself."

"Whoa. Such a sensitive little thing," he grinned. "You
worked your way up the Bureau ladder then?"

She stared at him, unsure what he was getting at. "I got a
spot at Skinner's office when his former assistant moved on
and he must have warmed to me. I've been with him for six
years now."

"Warmed to you? I bet he did," Krycek said with that slow
feral smile that sent an icy river coursing through her
veins. "What did you have to do, suck his cock? Don't need a
degree for that, you know."

She gasped and before she had time to think, she grabbed the
nearest thing on the counter--a ceramic cup--and sent it
hurtling in his direction. He ducked, his eyes flashing
satisfaction at the crash of the cup against the wall, and
in the next moment he was close to her, grabbing her by the
upper arms and holding her in a firm grip. He was grinning.
He looked wildly unhappy. He had that look again like he
just wanted to take his fury out on something--someone.
Spoiling for a fight, realized Kim, or spoiling for--

She stilled in his arms, an instinctive act of self-defence,
gaze lowered to a point below his shoulder. "I know there
are rumors about Skinner and me on the gossip mill," she
said through clenched teeth, her voice barely audible. "Is
that why you came on that date with me, because you thought
it would be easy to make me suck your cock?"

"Hell yeah," he fired back. "And you asked me upstairs,
didn't you? On the first date. Shit, you were just too easy.
No challenge."

At that taunt she raised her head slowly after all, dazed
but facing him with precarious dignity. There was dizzy
blood lust in his eyes, but as he took in her expression,
something shifted. She felt it like a stiffening through
him, a moment almost of disorientation, before he took a
harsh breath and closed his eyes. His features were set in
angry tension.

"No," he exhaled, and more forcefully, "Fuck!" and then he
let go of her and walked back to the table, putting her book
quickly, neatly back on the shelf.

They were quiet for long seconds. Kim tried to breathe
through pain and anger and threatening tears. Krycek stood
looking at the scattered debris of the ceramic cup. At last,
he spoke with his back to her, his voice gritty and tense.
"I shouldn't have said that. I never thought that. I never
did. I never heard any fucking rumors at all."

And then he looked at her again with the expression of a
heartsick child. "I'm sorry, Kim. Damn, I'm sorry."

"I'm not stupid, you know." She spoke rapidly, too agitated
to even be afraid. "I know I'm really good at my job. I know
Skinner would never settle for anything less. But sometimes
I miss clues. Things the agents say, jokes and little...
educated asides... and I think I probably ought to know
more. About connections and stuff... The way things work in
the world. Because that's good, you know, to know things?
I'm not doing it for them, I'm doing it for me. But I don't
want people thinking that Skinner's little assistant has got
airs all of a sudden."

"Stop," he said and he was right in front of her again, a
hand rising towards her flaming cheek but falling away
before it touched. "You don't have to... You're right. It's
good to know things. It's good. You ought to tell Skinner.
He'd make sure you had time for your classes. Don't be so
damn proud about it."

"Maybe I will," she said, her throat still tight and aching.

"Listen," he said, "The reason I went with you on that date
was because I knew things were going to hell and I needed
distraction and when you called I... I thought being with
you would give me that. That it might feel good. That's all,

"Right," she said in a dull voice.

"And I didn't come upstairs with you because I knew the shit
was going to hit the fan any day, and I... I just didn't
want you to--" He stopped himself abruptly and looked away.

"Oh yes," she said. "You're a real Sir Galahad, Krycek.
Gallantry personified."

He shook his head, his voice coming breathy and staccato. "I
shouldn't have said--what I just said--but things are so
crazy now. This insane thing just happened... Do you know
how Scully's sister is, Kim?"

It was the last thing she had expected to hear. "Skinner
told me today that she is critical, but stable. It's touch
and go."

"I didn't shoot her. Fuck, I didn't. I made the crazy
bastard stop at a phone booth to make an emergency call.
Fucking booth was busted, the phone ripped out. And the next
one, too. And then we just drove. I thought she must surely
be dead by then. Jesus fucking Christ."

It was on the tip of her tongue that it wasn't the busted
phone booths' fault that Melissa Scully was lying in a coma,
but she didn't dare say it and there was an edge in Krycek's
voice that made her not really want to either. He took a
step away.

"What about Agent Mulder's father?" she asked.

He shook his head, his lashes hiding his eyes as he picked
up his gun from the table and threw a glance at his watch.
"Come on," he said. "Let's go into the other room."

Without waiting to see if she followed, he walked past her
through the open arched doorway into the living room. He
switched on the TV and dropped into her couch with the
remote, looking wildly out of place in the room with its
assortment of old painted furniture, bright crockery, family
photographs and flowering plants. He switched through
channels while she hovered by the door, watching him
uneasily. He was quicksilver restless, annoyance visibly
building in him at every new flickering image until at last
with a disgusted sigh he left it at a hard rock music
channel, sound yanked up way too loud for her comfort.


(In the bar, after they'd eaten their meal, she'd felt
disappointed, bordering on angry. She could tell his
thoughts were miles away half of the time. If he hadn't
wanted to come, why the hell had he called her back at all?

In the end, hurt and confused and giving up on trying to
keep the conversation going, she'd said, "Well, Alex; it's
been nice but maybe I should... should get going. It's late

"No, Kim." He came back from wherever he'd been in his mind,
stroking his hand tensely through his hair. "Damn, I'm
sorry. I'm just a little... pissed off, I guess. I'd looked
forward to working with a partner, but Mulder's not even
bothering to keep me informed what he's up to." He looked
somehow very young in the way he shrugged, half embarrassed,
half resentful, meeting her gaze. "I tried to reach him all
afternoon, turned out he'd taken off to the hospital to
check in with the guy they're holding in that hostage case,
which wasn't even an X-file to begin with--"

Looking into his earnest eyes, she'd had no suspicions of
foul play at all.

"It's not that late," he said, boyish appeal in his voice,
but it was the hard pleading look in his eyes that made her
relent--something almost frantic there. "Let's dance. Just a
little while. And then I'll take you home."

So they stayed on and swayed to the sentimental piano music.
Blue moon. You saw me standing alone. Kim had felt him
relax, felt him fall into the ease of the moment, and it had
made her feel so good that she could do that for him. His
face rested against her hair, her cheek against the hard
warmth of his chest below his right shoulder, as she
breathed in an intoxicating scent that was a mix of the
cigarette smoke in the room and his clean sweat and the
light spice of his cologne. She was completely relaxed and
she followed his minute moves with hypnotic conviction. She
felt she could nearly fall asleep like this. She could feel
that he was hard for her and she rested softly against his

They danced until the pianist called it a night.)


(cont. in part 3/3)

Part 3/3 - headers and disclaimer in part 1.

Kim felt indignation gnawing at her. Righteous anger, even,
as she stared at Krycek leaned back on her couch and
completely ignoring her, legs sprawled in front of him and
gaze fixed at the TV screen. The sound waves from the music
pounded through the room like a monstrous heartbeat.

He'd put the remote on the table, and she walked over there
and grabbed it.

Before she had time to adjust the sound down, Krycek's hand
shot out and closed firmly around hers, and she looked up to
find him studying her with a frown of bemusement. "What the
hell's up with you?" He pried the remote away from her with
his free hand, and placed it on the table again. "Are you
picking a fight now?"

"It was you who did that," she said, angry and unnerved. His
observation was too close to target. She'd known what she
did would provoke a reaction, and it hadn't stopped her from
doing it. "You turned up the volume on purpose."

Krycek's eyes darkened. He held calmly on to her hand as she
tried to tug it back, pulling her a little closer by it
instead so she stood between his long legs. "So what are you
going to do about it?"

"Oh, I know I'm in no position to negotiate," she replied
fiercely, giving up on her effort to free her hand since all
it accomplished was to remind them both that she was at his
mercy. "But seeing as you had the gall to call me your
'hostess,' is it too much to ask that you act like a guest?"

Krycek contemplated her with keen deliberation for a moment,
then abruptly reached out and turned off the sound. "I guess
that's fair enough," he murmured.

The sudden silence seemed as deafening as the music had
been, hammering with tension and different heartbeats. She
couldn't look away from the intensity in his eyes. She felt
his thighs brush against her legs and it gave her an
uncertain sensation like being close to falling. Her face
burned. "Then let go of me."

He glanced down at her hand clasped in his own. His grip
gentled, and the calloused pad of his thumb swiped slowly
crosswise over her palm. His mouth turned up a little as her
breath left her in a small hiss. "Am I getting on your
nerves, Kim?" Rubbing very softly at the middle of her palm
now as his gaze found hers again, his voice whisper-dry,
like tinders waiting for the slightest spark.

She swayed and had to consciously steady herself, all the
blood redirecting in her body in a warm, almost nauseous
rush. Krycek's face was intent, pupils dilating as he
watched her reaction, lips parted on a careful intake of
breath. They stared mutely at each other for a few seconds,
then she swallowed hard and tore her hand away a bit too
forcefully. He hadn't been holding it hard at all.

"You're not... getting on my nerves," she stammered. "I'm
just... mad at you."

"Yeah... I noticed." His voice was pensive, his full focus
was on her face, and shame took her in a drowning wave. He'd
seen what she'd felt--what she'd never, in fact, quite
stopped feeling whenever she was reminded of him, even as
desperately as she'd wanted to blot him out of her memory.

"Why did you come here, anyway?" she demanded, resentful and
breathless as she backed a few steps away. The back of her
legs collided with her big easy chair and she sank down on
the edge of the seat, glad for an excuse to hide her
shakiness. "Why here of all places?"

At that, he merely shrugged, still with that speculative
look. "I needed somewhere to hide, that's all."

"Why not a motel? Or a bar? It would have been less hassle,
I'm sure."

"Oh, you're not as much trouble as you think," he said
lazily, but with a spark of impatience igniting in his eyes.
"I bought the clothes, okay? I needed to clean up and change
and to get out of sight. The thought of you just... occurred
to me. They would look for me in motels, in bars. They'd
never think to look for me with Skinner's P.A."

He sounded defensive, like he needed to rationalize his
choice to himself as much as to her, and it spurred her on,
vindictiveness hot in her. "But it's a risk for you," she
insisted stubbornly. "This way, Skinner will eventually
learn your movements. If you need to lie low, there must be
a hundred places--"

Somewhere at the back of her mind, clues were stretching out
to make connection...

"Oh, I get it," he broke in with obvious annoyance, cutting
off her tingle of intuition. "You want me to tell you how I
have cherished the memory of you in my heart all these
months. How I have lain on my lonely bed at nights sighing
the little secretary's name. How I couldn't resist the
chance to see her beloved face just one more time."

The sarcasm in his tone left her agape. But Krycek smiled
all of a sudden, a secretive tiger's grin. "Well, screw all
that. But for the sake of honesty, I haven't forgotten about
you, Kim. That blushing earnest face as you asked poor
troubled Agent Krycek up for a pity fuck--how could I

She stared at him, taking this in. Then, because she knew
this was a game, his game, and there was no way she could
beat him at it playing by his rules, she broke the rules and
simply answered in bitter honesty. "It wouldn't have been a
pity fuck. I don't do those."

"Don't you?" Krycek asked gently, his smile somehow tiring.
"Well, well."

"Was it all an act?" she demanded. "Were you... were you at
all anything like... the person I thought you were, back

"Kim. It's only a year ago," he muttered, looking away. "You
look at me now and tell me how much you believe a guy can
change over a year."

Her throat felt dry. She charged on, driven by a passion she
could scarcely understand. "I thought you... looked at me in
a special way. I thought you liked me. You acted decent."

He gave a strange hard chuckle. "Yeah?"

"Were you?" she asked, near tears.

"Jesus God, Kim. No. No I wasn't." He looked at her
suddenly, eyes piercing her with swift harsh honesty. "How
can you ask that? You know what I did. Those weren't the
actions of a decent man."

"But to me--"

"This is how it was," he said, his voice harsh too, but with
a gritty tenderness running through it. "I... was getting
involved in dangerous games. And I knew I was. But I didn't
figure I had much of a choice in the matter, so I didn't
waste any fucking guilt over it."

He took a hard breath. "And still--I was green. And nervous
like hell. And there you were, all honest and clean, smiling
at me as though I were ice cream you wanted to lap up. Do
you have any idea how seductive honesty can be when you're
wading in deception?"

Kim just stared, then swallowed. "No."

He laughed softly, shaking his head. "Of course you don't. I
remember one day when I was going with Mulder in to
Skinner's. And Mulder just ranted on, blatantly disregarding
Skinner's authority. I saw you looking at Mulder when we
came out again, your face like an open book. I saw you
wanted to go over there and smack him."

"I've never wanted to smack Agent Mulder," she defended
herself primly.

Krycek grinned suddenly. "Would you swear to that on the

Kim kept staring, trying to hold back inappropriate
amusement. "I plead the fifth."

"You're like that. Straightforward, quick to temper and
smiles and... I wanted you. I wanted to fuck you, to..." He
paused, rubbing his hand down over his mouth and chin in a
resigned gesture. "I don't know. To touch something honest.
Just pretend. Just for the while."

"But you didn't," she said, insisting on something she
couldn't quite grasp a hold of.

"But I had every intention to."

"But you *didn't*."

He chuckled and shook his head, eyes flashing impatiently at
her. "Whatever it is you're driving at, Kim, it's a moot
point. Maybe you're right. Maybe I was something then that
I'm not anymore."

He got up from the couch then, walked over to the windows
and looked out on the street, his back straight and

His silence gave her time to collect her thoughts. Krycek
had been in some kind of accident. He was angry; he'd had
that look of betrayal and triumph warring in his eyes since
he got here. *They* were looking for him. Meaning, probably,
the smoking man and whatever hierarchy of demons he
surrounded himself with. Krycek must have been targeted
somehow. He must have gotten away with something important--
information against them, or just... information...

The tape.

Kim's face felt scalded with heat as she realized. Krycek
had stolen the tape from Skinner this morning, and a few
hours later, they'd attempted to--hurt him? kill him?--but
he'd gotten away with what they all wanted. No wonder he was
pacing like a caged tiger. No wonder he was giving off all
those signals of triumph and rage.

She tried to look unaffected as she stole a glance through
the kitchen doorway at his leather jacket hanging over the
chair he'd used. Her heart was thudding. If she could give
Skinner that... Give him that back to use against the
smoking man...

Krycek's cell phone beeped, and he turned as if jolted by an
electric shock, his whole focus narrowing as he went out of
the living room into the entrance hallway and replied in a
hushed voice. He left the door ajar, but couldn't consider
her a serious threat any longer because he turned his back
halfway from her. She heard him speaking intently and
quickly into the phone in a cadence that went from querying
to affirmative. She thought he might not be speaking
English, but she was barely noticing.

Her heartbeat thundered in her ears, so loud it muted out
the sound of his voice as she very gently walked the five-
six paces into the kitchen, leaving him out of her range of
view, slipped her hand into the inner pocket of his leather
jacket, and struck gold.

She turned quickly around to go back... and stared into

Angry, ice-glazed, astonished green.

Her searing disappointment blocked out the fear she ought to
have felt, and instinct took over. She ducked and charged
past him into the living room, and got all of three paces
before he tackled her from behind, landing her flat on her
stomach on the broad pine floorboards before she was flipped
over and had him over her.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he panted. "What
the *hell*..."

She bucked impotently under him, surged against him with
anger and frustration. "It's Skinner's," she gasped. "It's
Skinner's tape, you asshole, he had it and you took it from
him and you hurt him and I just want to give him back what's
his. It's *his*!" she snarled into his face, ready to spit,
really gathering saliva in her mouth to spit in his face. He
saw what she was trying to do and there was a shock of
recognition in his eyes; then instantly his hand was over
her mouth, crushing down hard so she didn't have leeway to
bite him.

"Don't you fucking dare!" he said in a low, deadly voice,
his eyes very bright and hard. "*No one* does that to me.
*Never* again."

She breathed hard through her nose, small sounds in her
throat from the exertion of filling her lungs, and
registered at the same time that someone before her had been
crazy enough to spit in Krycek's face. Whoever it had been--
Mulder, the smoker?--the memory of it seemed to be a small
shard of insanity lodged in Krycek's mind.

"Is that understood?" he demanded, still with that lethal
quiet. She closed her eyes to his blistering rage,
considering nodding in submission. She found she didn't have
it in her. She had used up all her submissive resources for
one day. He would just have to accept her passivity as tacit

But she had underestimated Krycek's need to make his point.
The next time he spoke, his lips were so close they were
brushing her ear. "Is--that--understood?"

Kim turned her face and opened her eyes to lock with his
again, and since her mouth had no maneuvering room to tell
him to go fuck himself, she made a concentrated effort to
express that sentiment with her gaze instead. Even ordinary
women could be pushed to their limit. Pride wasn't the
prerogative of the regal Dana Scullys of the world. She
didn't think Krycek would kill her, and any other fate
seemed preferable to capitulation at this point.

Any other, until she felt his tongue snake lightly inside
her ear, and the full panorama of possibilities suddenly
unfolded in her mind. He traced the inner rim of the shell
of her ear, his breath warming the tender whorls before the
tip of his tongue followed. And his skill was...
devastating. She cursed herself as heat coursed through her.
Krycek had seen her attraction to him. So of course he knew
how best to torment her. Not pain, but this... this

His hand lifted from her mouth and she was mortified to hear
the trapped, shaky groan that immediately escaped over her

"Is that understood?" breathed Krycek in her ear, and though
he didn't sound angry anymore, in fact he sounded as if he
might have even forgotten what he was asking her, she was
really going to say it--she was going to forego all pride
and whisper 'Yes' and save herself, but she couldn't, she
couldn't. Because she was well past her breaking point,
because she wanted the feeling to go on for just a few
seconds longer, because his voice and his closeness created
a bright shimmering haze where the concepts of pride and
shame flitted and blurred and bled confusingly together.

She only realized that he wasn't holding down her wrists any
longer when she felt his fingers rub lightly at the peak of
her breast, and then the "Yes" came anyway, but a different
kind of yes, gasped-out and accepting and mewling with

"Yes?" he whispered against her lips, his fingers stilling
around her nipple.

"Damn you," she gasped, squeezing her eyes shut because
there were tears threatening to escape and because his gaze
was so hot and surprised and she just couldn't stand it, not
any of it. She raised her hand and laid it over his to make
him continue the caress.

"You'll let me," he muttered, still sounding a bit stunned,
as if he hadn't set this up at all. Hadn't he? She couldn't
think, she didn't care.

"Just shut up," she hissed, and he did and pressed his mouth
warm and open to hers, but she felt the surprise linger in
his kiss, a current of gentleness swirling through the
sensuality, disturbing it. After a minute, he drew back, and
looked intently down into her face.

"I want us to be on the same page here," he said, his gaze
watchful. "I wouldn't force you. If we do this, it's your

Hopelessness lanced through her. Abruptly, she put her palms
to his chest and pushed hard. He rocked back on his heels
and raised himself up, smooth as a cat, looking down at her
as she sat up and glared at him.

"You just had to make it impossible, didn't you?" she said

He emitted a short, soft laugh. "So if we pretend I'm raping
you, that would make it possible? God save me from the
neuroses of the nation's law-abiding citizens."

"I didn't want you to pretend anything," she said, riled
enough to defend herself. "You could've just shut up, but oh
no, you just *had* to have your little macho victory."

Hot impatience flashed in his eyes for a moment. "Did it
occur to you that I simply wanted you to know you had a
choice? Fuck you, anyway."

He leaned down and picked up his leather jacket and the
tape, putting the tape back in the inner pocket. She stayed
put on the floor staring up at him, deflated into silence by
his words, and watched him shrug the jacket on with stiff,
careful movements. He turned to the mirror on the far wall,
adjusting the jacket over his shoulders, combing his fingers
perfunctorily through his hair, then for a moment seemed to
evaluate the impression he made. It was a small piece of
time that struck her as absurdly significant, like a dream
scene that seems lucid but whose meaning defies the
conscious mind upon waking.

Afterwards, he yanked out the cord from the phone and used
it to tie her hands behind her, not so hard it hurt, and
secure her tightly to one leg of the heavy living room
table. He tested the bindings carefully, making sure the
cord didn't glide on the smooth wood, and gave her an
evaluating glance when he was finished.

"How long for you to get loose, do you think, Kim?"

She sniffled. "Two hours?" she estimated roundly.

Krycek smiled. "Nice try, baby. Let's say closer to an hour.
But that's okay. It's all the head start I need." He
disappeared into the kitchen and came back with the roll of
surgical tape, biting off a couple of lengths with his sharp
white teeth.

"I won't cry for help," she promised, pausing for a second
because she'd said it perfunctorily but it occurred to her
that she might even mean it. "I won't put them on your

Another quick, surprisingly sweet smile. "Really?" He
searched her face. "But you ought to," he said, "and if I
put this on, you'll have an excuse to wait."

He didn't put the tape over her mouth at once, but crouched
down and held her face quite gently in his hand, the green
of his eyes catching the light slanted from the rising moon
outside and glowing like a pebbled riverbed through clear
water. Kim sat stumped on the floor and looked at him,
feeling oddly petulant, nearly wanting to cry for some
reason that had nothing to do with her current predicament.

*"Did it occur to you that I simply wanted you to know you
had a choice?"*

She glanced a few feet away to the floor by the mirror. She
could have been lying there right this moment, held and
rocked and branded by him, and been left to deal with her
guilt and shame in the aftermath, feeling dirty as hell.

Her gaze drifted back and met Krycek's. He would have been
good to her though, she knew it. He'd have been... good.

"Hey Krycek, maybe there's a bit of Galahad in you after
all," she conceded, her voice sad.

The corners of his mouth quirked up at her dejection. "Look
on the bright side," he said. "I have to leave now and I
couldn't really have done you justice in five minutes

She didn't know what to say to that, so she just made a
little huff and shrugged her shoulders.

He smiled then, but his eyes were inscrutable in the
sideways influx of light. "Thanks, Miss Poppins. For the
shower and the card game, and not least the horrible walnut

"That's mean," she said lamely.

His thumb stayed at her cheek while his fingers tucked a
strand of hair behind her ear. "Goodbye to you," he said,
"Kim Cook who can't cook." He fastened the lengths of tape
lightly over her mouth--just a symbolic restraint--then got
on his feet and stood grinning down at her for a second. He
seemed as suddenly, annoyingly cheerful as she was
inexplicably disheartened.

Then he left. When the door closed softly behind him, Kim
sighed from some aching place deep in her stomach. She spat
off the tape, wriggled her wrists to test the bonds, then
set to work to get free.


(The bar was close to where she lived and Alex walked her
home. It was a warm summer's night and he'd taken off his
jacket and folded up his shirt sleeves. He was distant
again, and she felt like she was anchoring him to her with
her arm around his waist, like he was a ship tugging
haplessly on the ebb of the tide. She talked to him a bit
and he smiled down into her face but she didn't think he
heard all that much of what she said.

And then they stood outside her building and they turned
toward each other and suddenly they were close and kissing.
It was a sensual kiss, tongues playing slow and warm, but
there was something mild about Alex's mouth over hers,
something near sadness.

She hadn't really planned to say it, but when he drew back,
that sadness awakened an answering generosity in her, a wish
to make things right somehow. She stood still and ran a
finger up and down his tie, feeling shy and daring at the
same time. "Do you want to come on up, Alex?"

She blushed a little at the boldness of her offer, and he
smiled for some reason. He caught her hand gently by the
wrist, gave her fingertip a teasing nip of his teeth before
kissing it. "That's... sweet of you. Jesus, do you know how
sweet you are, Kim?"

"Don't be silly," she said, smiling too, her shyness sliding
away. "I just enjoy your company, that's all."

After that, his reply felt like a bucket of ice water.
"Thanks, Kim. I wish I could, but... I think I should
probably be on my way now." He let go of her with some
reluctance and said, before he turned to leave, "Try not to
think too badly of me, if you can."

She stood there with tears storming into her eyes,
understanding nothing.

But the next morning, she arrived at work to learn Agent
Scully had been kidnapped overnight by Duane Barry, and a
couple of days later, Krycek's words had come to make
perfect sense.)


Her cell phone lay in her shoulder bag.

"Hi, Kim." Skinner's voice was deep and calm. She'd always
found his voice very beautiful, a restful presence of sound
running through her busy days. She shivered and checked
herself, feeling as if she was emerging from a dream. What
had she been going to say?

"That report," she said. "Did you find it?"

"Yeah. Sorry, Kim. I meant to call back and say so."

"That's okay." She hesitated. "There's something I need to
tell you, sir."

"Sure," he said, sounding surprised. "Is there anything I
can help you with?"

"Thursday evenings," she said. "I've been meaning to ask...
I've started some... some evening classes. It's kind of
inconvenient with overtime on Thursdays."

He sounded concerned. "I wish you'd told me before. Was
there a problem today?"

"Don't think about today," she said. "Force majeure, you

"All right. I'll adjust the workload so there's no overtime
on Thursdays. And if you need a couple of days off to study
before your final, just let me know and we can arrange it."

She smiled. "Thanks, sir. How are you feeling, by the way?"

"Not too bad," he said. "I've seen worse than that crazy
punk." He paused, then added, "I just had a call from
Bethesda hospital. Melissa Scully died half an hour ago. If
I ever get my hands on the bastard--"

She felt a rush of cold through her like a gust from a
slapping door. This was her last chance, her cue. If she
didn't say it now--

There was doubt and frustration and fear, and yet... And

"Well, I'm glad you're feeling better, sir," she said
softly, "but promise me to go home now. It's late, you know,
and you... you need your rest."

"Soon, I promise," he said, and she could hear the rare
smile in his voice, a soft smile that somehow always seemed
directed solely and exclusively at her. "I'm here with
Albert Hosteen. We've had a visitor. I'll drive Mr. Hosteen
to his hotel, and after that I'll go home. Good night, Kim."

She guessed who the visitor must be. Only one man visited
Skinner in the office this late at nights. If she could have
told Skinner that the smoker didn't have the tape... But
there was no way of saying so without revealing how she
knew, and then the Bureau would be on Krycek's tail before
she'd put down the phone.

She couldn't explain Alex Krycek. She couldn't understand
the things he'd done, much less excuse them. But she'd seen
that there was more to him than violence and betrayal--and
she'd seen the man he worked for. If that tape could make
him free of the smoker, she'd say he deserved his chance.
She hoped he did.

"Hey, Kim?" She could hear that gruff softness in Skinner's
voice again. He didn't seem to be in the brittle mood he
usually was when the smoker had called. Maybe somehow, with
Hosteen there, things had turned out all right even without
the tape. "I think you're falling asleep on me."

"Yeah, I'm tired," she agreed. "It's been such a long,
strange day. Good night to you too, sir."

She put away the cell phone and walked over to the window.
The moon had disappeared behind a cover of rain clouds, and
a soft April drizzle blurred the night. She thought of
Krycek walking the wet streets, wrapped snugly in shadow,
and was glad the bright moon had hidden from sight. Maybe
the moon protected its favorites, the creatures of darkness.

"Go safely," she mouthed, her breath fogging up the cool
glass, her lips brushing the window. She turned around to
the room, and picked up the wire she'd been bound with,
straightened the carpet, went to the kitchen and swept up
the shattered shards from the cup. At the window, the rain
kept drumming softly, a strange rapping cadence of grief and
hushaby, heartbeat and escaping feet.

Run, run, run, run, run--