|To See the Stars (1/?)
By: Morgan (email@example.com)
Classification: S, A, T, MSR
Summary: The paths that are inescapable and the roles we are somehow destined to play.
Disclaimer: Still not mine.
Thank yous and my typical wandering obsequiousness will follow at the end.
Snowflakes kept sticking like little crystals in the cold net of my hair. I would turn my head just slightly to catch a glimpse of feathery white lying against the red, and I was careful not to disturb them lest they melt. A wizened old man in a low doorway nodded to me as I passed, and I smiled and nodded in return. I could feel the snow sprinkling down from my hair and dusting my neck at the movement. Few people in the town were awake and around yet, and so the carpet of thin snow stayed fresh and pure, marred only by a few light footsteps to accompany my own. I would be back before he woke up. I wanted to surprise him.
I turned the collar of my jacket more tightly up against my neck, studied for a moment the ::thump, thump, thump:: of the shopping bag against my thigh, and stopped, smiling at the tiny old woman sitting under the rough boards that constructed her crude shelter. The market was sparse during the winter months. Most of the vendors were closed off away from the cold. But a few still braved the elements to offer their wares, and no matter what month it was, people were always in need of the essentials.
"Buenos dias," she offered, complimenting the greeting with a gap toothed smile.
"Buenos dias," I returned, smiling also, and perusing the various items she had out for display.
Tucked amidst the colorful knitting and heavy cloth, a pair of dark gray socks caught my eye. They were rough and thick and plain - no one would ever mistake them for Banana Republic - but they seemed warm, and that would be more than enough.
"Los calcetines," I nodded in indication of the socks. "Cuanto cuestan?"
"Doscientos pesetas." Her offer was firm, her eyes dark and sharp regarding me.
The pair I would be replacing, the pair now mysteriously one sock short of a matched set, had been patched and mended numerous times, intersecting lines of multi-colored thread running haphazard across the toes. They had begun to grow threadbare at the heels, and while Mulder was passable with a needle and thread, neither of us had exactly mastered the art of darning socks.
"Bueno," she concluded, as if being forced into something, "Ciento ochenta, pero no menos." She must have taken my momentary silence as a desire to bargain. I knew it was expected, but I wasn't in the mood today for a hassle.
"Ceinto ochenta…" I fumbled through the money stashed in my pocket, pulled out the correct amount.
She seemed surprised when I offered her the money, and a pleased smile lit up the craggy contours of her face. Smiling still, she accepted the money, handed me the socks, and I wondered - placing the thick wool into my coat pocket - when the last time was that I had purchased something with a price tag or received a receipt after a sale.
The socks were warm and heavy in my pocket as I curled my hand around them.
I walked further down the street, back towards our room, and could almost see his sleeping figure as I would tiptoe past him. Mouth parted just slightly, stubble darkening his jaw. I would open the door as quietly as possible, making sure to step around the creaky floorboard just to the left of the doorway. Early morning sunlight would just be making its way through the window in front of the bed, and I would let down the makeshift curtain, block out the light so that it would not wake him. He would, undoubtedly, have already sprawled across the bed in my absence, taking up all of the space.
I left the scattered people in the market and found myself alone on the snow blanketed road.
It was strange. When I was in the bed with him, Mulder barely moved. He slept quietly, save the occasional nightmare, moving to sling an arm around me at times, to pull the covers more tightly over us. As soon as I was awake and out of bed, he became restless, spreading out to engulf any vacant space, tossing fitfully, murmuring in his sleep. It was strange, but I knew the motivation. I had trouble sleeping without him as well. Perhaps it was a result of our months of constant danger, a life lived basically on the run, where we were always threatened with the loss of each other, or perhaps it was simply that since we had allowed ourselves the luxury of sleeping within one another's arms, we no longer had the ability to rest any other way. Whatever the case, he would be disturbed without me, agitated, and I walked faster, rushing through the growing wind.
Snow caught and melted against my cheeks, and I could imagine the smell of butter gliding across the pan in an effortless sizzle, fresh fruit, and his mouth around one perfect strawberry. I closed my eyes for the briefest of moments, inhaled the crisp scent of frost, and was jerked from my reverie by a sudden, sharp pain around my upper arm. Hand like a vise around my bicep, pulling, tugging me into a waking nightmare. Suddenly, I was in a flurry of movement, being yanked fiercely back into an alley I hadn't even noticed I was passing. My feet scrambled on the snow, sliding in the wet. I twisted against my assailant, reaching for my gun as the darkness of the alley covered us, and instantly felt the sharp, cold press of a gun's muzzle digging into the side of my neck.
"I would never have thought that it could be this easy."
I knew that voice.
"When did you learn to speak Spanish, Scully?" My name hissed from his lips. "So full of hidden talents…"
My shopping bag had fallen to the ground during the struggle, and as I stared ahead and down, the crushed strawberries were blood on new snow.
"It's amazing what you can learn when you don't have any choice." I murmured, under my breath. He seemed marvelously unaffected, and only tightened his grip around my throat.
"Oh, I am the *last* person you need to explain that concept to." A whisper delivered into the curve of my ear.
If I could just maneuver my hand a little to the left somehow, without drawing his notice.
"Ah, ah ah," he chided, "No need to struggle. We're just going to have a little chat."
He'd have had better luck communicating with the moldering stone wall ahead of us. I could already feel the cool metal of my gun against just the tips of my fingers, and as I shifted again, all I could see was Mulder's face as he lay sleeping, lashes curled gently against sharp cheekbones, and the way the sheets tangled around his long, bare legs.
His arm had shifted in its hold on me, moving up, just barely under my chin. When I moved it was Mulder's breath against my lips, my name whispered by his sleep scratched voice, and I didn't even feel my teeth sink into the flesh of my captor's arm, didn't even notice until the salty tang of blood filled my mouth. The gun at my neck slipped, and my reflexes were honed by months of enforced readiness. I pulled my gun from its resting spot in the waistband of my jeans, reeled back with the jab of one sharp elbow to his gut, and connected again as I spun around, slamming a solid fist into the side of his jaw.
When I steadied my aim, and had his face lined up in my sights, I was surprised to note that his gun had somehow fallen to the ground below, and he was looking at me with a combined expression of hurt and insult tugging at his lower lip.
"Jesus, Scully, what the fuck was that for?" He cradled his injured arm in an awkward way against his chest. I could see where I had bitten just below the protection of the cuff of his jacket, as tiny red drops of blood slipped over the curve of his wrist to weave through the hair on his lower arm.
I said nothing, merely maintained a crisp, solid glare, gun a perfect line extending down from my arm. I said nothing and remained frozen, my eyes wandering over Krycek with something approaching a challenge. When they alighted on his arm, I could feel my eyes widen just slightly in shock. I had heard rumors to the effect from Mulder once or twice, several years ago, but seeing the inhuman gleam of polished plastic from between his jacket and the dark leather of his gloves, I suddenly had proof of their veracity, and I understood in one quick flash why he hadn't been able to maintain that gun at my neck.
His eyes held mine in defensive indignation, purposefully ignoring my obvious stare. "Quiet domesticity looks good on you, Scully." Sarcasm again, but this time with strange shadows.
I would not rise to the bait.
He continued, unfazed. "The little woman, gathering groceries in the market. Not a role I ever really expected you in, but then this isn't really an idyllic setting, is it? Not really that quiet, either, considering all the running you're always doing, but as quiet as any of us will ever get, I suppose."
My voice was as steady and silent as my gun when I cut him off, unable to let his rambling continue. "Don't include me in this twisted little circle of yours, Krycek. I'm not a part of any 'us' that you could name." My gun was focused just between his eyes.
One low bark of laughter. "Aren't you?" The question wavered somewhat, faltered, and I could hear the beginnings of unrest as they began to shadow his tone. He pulled his injured arm more tightly against his chest, and a few drops of blood had traced down and over the dark leather of his jacket, gleaming colorless against the black surface. "You play their game better than I do lately, Scully." A pause. "You both do."
I could feel my lips thin into a cold, sharp line. "If we play anyone's game, it's certainly never been by our own choosing."
"Hasn't it?" His words were edgy and bright, accusing. "You run like hunted dogs, you don't fight back. They say 'jump' and you don't even wait to ask 'how high' before leaping to their command. They play you like puppets, Scully, and you see it as some sort of twisted freedom." There was a shimmer of pitying disappointment in his eyes, something strange dancing there for a moment before hardening again.
I advanced one threatening step, and could see his eyes focus on my finger tightening just imperceptibly over the trigger of my gun. My words were painted in Mulder's blood and our months of hollow suffering. "You know *nothing* of what we've done, or why."
He seemed unaffected by my words. "I know that nothing is exactly what you've done, while a war rages unseen around you and innocents die unknowing for the cause. I know that you of all people should understand that violation, the rape of the innocents, and yet you seem oblivious to what you must know continues on, even as you and Mulder hole up in some little one room love bungalow in the middle of the mountains."
My teeth clenched. Just how long had he been watching us? "I don't explain my motivations to murderers and thieves," I replied, unwilling to engage in any sort of involved discussion with this man.
He reflected my prior words in a toneless near whisper. "And you know nothing of what I've done, or why."
Sunlight glinted down through the gap between the buildings, casting light into damp shadows, and I wondered at the time, if Mulder was awake yet, if he was worried at finding me gone. Casting accusations aside, I narrowed my eyes and got to the point. "What do you want, Krycek?"
He seemed to relax against the crumbling wall. "Like I said, I just want to talk."
I allowed my eyes to bounce off of his lost gun at our feet in silent comment.
He continued simplistically, unconcerned. "I knew that you wouldn't listen without… an incentive."
His relaxation unnerved me. "I think that you just enjoy being a bully." His eyes were dark and deadly, and I wondered if they were even capable of a smile, what that could possibly look like. Wanting this to end, to pick up the remains of my trampled purchases and return to the safety and warmth of early morning forgotten hours, I spoke bluntly. "So, talk."
"Not yet." His chin lifted a fraction to indicate up the street in the direction I had been walking. "I need to talk to both of you. I don't exactly feel like repeating myself."
"Mulder will kill you if I take you back there, you should know that."
A ghost of a grin twisted just the corners of his mouth. "Maybe." I couldn't see, or failed to see the humor. "I need *both* of your attention, and I don't know if you've noticed, Scully, but it's fucking cold out here right now."
I grunted, the air escaping me in a puff of ice. Without much choice, my decision was fast and direct. "You will walk five steps ahead of me with both arms in plain sight behind your back. If you so much as flinch, I will put a bullet through you so fast that you'll see it on the way out before you feel it going in." I took another step forward. "Face the wall and put your hands behind your back."
Amusement graced his features again before he turned, and then all I could see was an expanse of soft leather and dark hair. I reached around to run clinical hands over the insides of his coat, down along his sides, over both hips and down, and then back up along the insides of his legs. At the inside of his left ankle, another smaller, compact weapon was revealed and quickly confiscated. I said nothing, merely rose, nudged the side of his face with my gun and said, "Walk."
Mulder was not going to be happy, and as we left the alley I could still smell the aroma of fresh strawberries, crushed and sweet in the trampled snow.
Their first night in this place, she had stirred in his embrace and lifted herself from the bed.
"What are you doing?" His voice, sleepy and confused, still slurred by the fervor of their recent lovemaking.
Just a whisper. "Help me."
The ancient wooden bed left deep gauges in the unpolished floorboards, made rough scraping sounds as they dragged it away from the front door. He had risen without comment, and his body by moonlight was all planes and shadows and silver.
Her voice held purpose in soft words. "Over there, facing the window, so we can see the stars."
The low, carved oak footboard came to rest beneath the room's only window, while the vast expanse of the headboard seemed strangely out of place in the center of the room. She flung herself across the bed and rolled over, head at the foot end, gazing up through the windowpane, out into the snow and mountains beyond. "It's amazing the stars you can see from up here."
She had laughed softly, suddenly amused by her own actions. He had stood beside the bed, floors cold under bare feet, and blinked away unbidden tears. "Beautiful," he whispered, mostly to himself.
They hadn't really minded the slight draft coming in under the window's aging casing - merely piled up more blankets to ward off the chill. A bit of cold was worth the illumination of innumerable stars. She pulled back the heavy quilts, rolled across now cold sheets, and when he joined her, their view from the bed was the whole of the heavens.
"I can't remember the last time I actually *saw* the stars." Healing that continued with every day passed. Little bits of a shattered whole reconstructing slowly.
His kisses were stardust sprinkling over her throat, chest, breasts, stomach. Moving together, a tangle of hands, lips, fingers that traced the curve of her back, her hip, the indentation at the base of her throat.
It was only one small room, one corner a kitchen (nothing more than a table, sink, and stove), with a lonely, tattered armchair, and the full sized bed with its dusty, sagging mattress. Small and possibly depressing, but when he entered her, that room with its leaking faucet and overworked radiator disappeared, and as her eyes closed against the night, she soared out easily among the stars.
Her side of the bed was still as cold and empty as it had been the last ten times I stared over at it. I sipped cooling coffee, watching steam rise from the second mug I had prepared in anticipation of her return. I've woken without her here before. Usually, she is down in the tiny hovel that passes for a bathroom here. We share it with the rest of the rooms on this floor. Not much by way of privacy, but then you get what you pay for.
So while I never like waking up without her warm weight snuggled into my side, it's not as foreign an experience as I might wish, and even with her gone, I had been reluctant to pull back the covers and brave the winter air. The first thing I noticed was the sunlight streaming in through the window at the foot of the bed. Odd, because if I sleep this late, she usually lowers the sheet we have tacked up there so the brightness doesn't wake me.
I had grunted at the evil persistence of the light against my eyelids, threw back the sheltering blankets, and hissed at the shock of uncarpeted floors against bare skin. Kicking the stubborn radiator did little to encourage its performance, and even a muttered "stupid piece of shit" had little influence. It was only after I stood at the stove trying to work the antiquated percolator so that I could manage a cup of coffee that I finally heard the hiss and stumble of the pipes in the radiator groaning to life.
I was four seconds away from donning my shoes in search of Scully when the door to our room flew open, and I knew in a sick flash that I would never reach my gun under the bed's pillows in time.
What in the hell?!
"Goddamit, Krycek, move!"
My slow motion nightmare of Krycek bursting through the door to our room was arrested by the sound of Scully's voice, followed by the entrance of her figure, cheeks flushed by the cold and eyes blazing, pointing a gun at the back of a partially pissed off, partially amused Alex Krycek. Time gelled again and marched forward as Scully slammed the door behind her and glanced in my direction; her gaze softened when she met my eyes.
"And here I thought you had just taken a trip to the bathroom."
She smiled at my words.
"Isn't this cozy?" Krycek's remark was dry, deadpan, but I could see the swirl of thoughts as his eyes raked over the tumbled bed, sheets askew, one pillow tossed carelessly on the floor.
I didn't flinch, didn't even blink. "Where did he come from?" I flicked my eyes quickly to our guest, as if the clarification had been necessary.
Krycek answered, an innocent smile on his lips. "Oh, Scully was just out doing some shopping and we happened to bump into one another. Quite a coincidence…"
The three threatening steps I took didn't even register until I spoke and realized that I was mere inches from Krycek's tiny grin. "If you hurt her…"
Krycek's voice, suddenly all indignation and insult, filled the air. "Hurt her!" I noticed his arm held against his chest for the first time as he pulled it in tighter. "Jesus, Mulder, she *bit* me!"
Pushing back a step, I took in the broken skin on his forearm, trails of dried blood, and glancing up, found the slight purpling that had begun to set in along his jaw, and the infinitesimal smile highlighting the blue of Scully's eyes. I think I shocked them both with my laughter. "You know, Scully, you probably shouldn't have done that. We don't know where he's been." I cast a pointed glare in Krycek's direction.
Her only answer was the slight quirking of her lips.
Casting all kidding aside. "What do you want, Krycek. Last I heard, you didn't work for that particular side of the struggle anymore. Or have you switched sides yet again and decided you liked the idea of becoming a bounty hunter? Just how much is the going rate these days for kidnapping a woman off the street?"
Krycek's eyes settled securely over mine with his reply. "You never have understood, have you Mulder?" It made little sense, but he refused to elaborate.
A silence of a few seconds passed before Scully broke it with words that confused me momentarily. "You wanted to talk to both of us, Krycek, so here we are." Firm and commanding. "Talk."
Scully had come around to stand beside me, her arm just brushing mine, with her gun still leveled neatly on Krycek's face. He looked briefly over at her, then back to me before speaking.
"I need your help."
Brief note - okay, the last time I saw Krycek (The Red and the Black)
he looked to be working for the resistance - ie telling Mulder where the
rebel was on that truck so he could try and rescue him, so dammit, Krycek
is a rebel! I don't care what bull shit they're pulling in "Two Fathers."
Also, even while Krycek is working for the syndicate in TF, he still goes
and gently tries to turn Spudner against his father, so I think he's got
his own motives, as usual. I happen to like Krycek. Sue me.