Mañana

by Sebastian

Fox Mulder/Steven Harris, Alex Krycek | Rated T | 2002 | 4,829 words

 

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The last person Mulder expected to see by Krycek's grave was Alex Krycek.

From more than a hundred yards away he recognised him, his bulky shoulders, arms bent as his hands thrust deep into his pockets, those long, slightly bowed legs, braced as if the man stood on a rolling deck in a force ten.

He'd know Alex anywhere.

He sprinted. He shouted, but his cry was lost in gusts of winter wind, and the eerie cawing of rooks, tossed like charred paper in the gritty sky. At the graveside a sharp pain stabbed his chest when he heaved in desperate breaths of sleet-sparkled air; the cold and the heartache binding his ribs so that he could run no further, scream Alex's name no more.

All he had was half a license plate, and a make of car - but then, ten minutes ago, all he had were memories and regrets.

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How he'd dreamed of this; to be able to turn back the clock and say everything that was in his heart. It wasn't all good... there were many recriminations, questions, but there also was the desperate love that he'd had for Alex forever. Every moment from the very first time they'd met.

Now, shockingly, he had this chance. Now, instead of the self-pity he hadn't realised had overcome him, he knew himself a coward.

He sank to his haunches at the graveside, stroked his hand over the straggling new grass like a lover over his beloved's flesh and struggled to know himself, to know whether the tears that trickled over his cheeks were of relief, or regret that his torture should begin again, that the doomed love story of his dreams should once more try to drag him to damnation.

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Through the next hours and days he questioned his sanity, resisted the temptation to trace the driver of that car. He knew it must have been an illusion. Alex Krycek was dead. A bullet had entered his forehead, tunnelled through his brain and killed him.

If he were willing to fool himself, he could say that it had been a shapeshifter or a clone that had died. However, that was the stupidest thing; that was the worst thing. Right back then, beside Alex's corpse, he had forced himself to acknowledge it, so that he could grieve and find his life once more. Alex Krycek was dead.

What use would it be to pursue this hopeless search? What respect could he retain, giving in, hunting, obsessively tracking a man that he had watched die - that he had helped to kill? Helped to kill - had he been that desperate to bury his adolescent delusions, to push away innocence, idealism, trust, he wondered. He should forget this; it wasn't worth reliving the pain.

But It had to be done. After two endless weeks, he could bear it no longer. He had to know.

The list of cars wasn't too long, but it dazed him. He couldn't bring his thoughts to order, to tease out the information that it contained. If it hadn't been Alex, hadn't been a search for the man he'd loved so secretly, yet allowed to die in ignorance; if it hadn't been him, no doubt the answer would have sprung effortlessly from the page. He couldn't analyse. He'd have to take this step-by-step, painstakingly, like the merest rookie, if he was determined to discover the truth.

He knew, if he took too much time, if it had been Alex... Which was a fantasy... But, if it had been he, then he'd be gone. Untraceable.

Perhaps he didn't want to know? Simply to believe that, somewhere, Alex still lived. That he'd cheated. Not died. Not broken Mulder's heart. Hell, Mulder would have felt better if Alex had died knowing Mulder's heart would be broken. At least he'd have *known*. At least Mulder could have hated him then for dying, blamed Alex for finding yet another way to damage him.

One by one, starting at the top of the list, he crossed off the names of the car owners. Under other circumstances, he'd have pushed his work aside and screw the management, have gone hell-for-leather to ferret out his answer. This, he didn't want to know. He had to know, but damn... it scared the shit out of him. So, it happened slowly. Maybe one a day, sometimes two.

He came to a hire car - and wondered immediately why he hadn't checked them out right away. Normally, he'd have done that. Obvious, he should have thought about it. He'd have to do it now.

He pushed aside the possibility that Alex could be driving a friend's car, a stolen car. No, he wasn't going to delve that deep.

Unless he drew a blank.

There he was. One of those hire cars, the driver's license had a picture of Alex Krycek. Not under his name, not even under an American name. A Canadian, now.

Mulder felt as if the air in his office had liquified around him, he was suddenly so cold. Dizzy, too. He'd stepped from a fuggy, cramped cablecar out onto a mountain-top, where the air was so rarefied, the temperature so cold, the view so breathtaking that he was lightheaded with panic and joy.

He left for Canada right away.

He didn't bother to try and find out any more about this man that Alex had invented. Enough that it was he. Mulder was going to go to him, confess his idiotic, immoral love (for what else could it be, when one loved a traitor, a murderer?) and leave. Up to Alex to pursue it, if he wanted to. Perhaps, if he cared in return, he would provide Mulder with excuses so that they could come together. Perhaps he'd only reject Mulder's passion with a sneer, a laugh. Anything, anything would be better than never to speak at all.

A second chance. He should ask Scully to pray, to thank whoever was there watching over him. He didn't think God would appreciate his own sudden, half-joking conversion; He might snatch back the gift he'd given.

He didn't fly; he drove. He wanted the silence and time of a journey to explore himself, to ask and answer questions about what he hoped the future might bring. Of course, there were those questions he should have posed himself before he'd started this search. After all if that was Alex at the graveside, who had died, if anyone, by Skinner's hand? If it wasn't Alex still alive, then what manner of creature was it? It wasn't simple in Mulder's world; it could be a shapeshifter, it could be an illusionist, a clone. It could be a *plot*.

He didn't need it to be any of those; it had to be Alex.

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If he warned Alex, he'd run away.

So, unheralded, Mulder stood on a porch in a suburban, tree-lined street before a quietly smiling door and felt his guts roil with dreadful anxiety. It was more than a month now since the graveyard, and Mulder wondered at last if it was better to know Alex lived, but simply to go and leave him in peace. If he loved the man, that would be the right thing to do. What he planned was selfish; it wasn't for Krycek; it was for Mulder. He didn't want to tell of his love, he wanted to tell his hurt, to make Alex suffer as he suffered. He should turn tail and leave.

The door was flung open. A boy with a skateboard, backing out of the door to close it behind himself, bumped solidly into him.

Mulder steadied him, and as the child turned to look as see who was standing on his doorstep he said, "Does Steven Harris live here?"

The boy blinked big green eyes under auburn hair, and grinned. "Yeah, sure. He's in - "

He leaned in through the door to call, "Hey, Dad... There's a visitor for you!"

Turning back to Mulder he looked at him mischievously and said in a low voice, "He'll be here in a second. I'm gonna run, meeting some people... and I haven't done all my chores, yet. Bye!"

Bounding down the steps, he was almost at the corner of the street before Mulder realised that he wasn't alone.

"I shouldn't let the little devil go, but perhaps it's better under the circumstances."

The voice crawled down his back, harsh, yet rich, like mica-spangled granite. He closed his eyes, breathed deeply as it continued, "So, you've found me. Hello Fox."

Slowly, he drew his gun from under his coat before moving to face the man.

"Christ," Alex gasped, backing away. "No need for that... let me explain."

Mulder acted from habit. Krycek, large as life - half a year dead, yet here he was, as full of bull-shit as ever. He thrust the barrel into Krycek's guts and said, "Shut up. Get inside."

"No... god... you don't understand. Put that away, Fox. It's a gun... you can't do that here. Please, there's something I have to tell you."

"No," said Mulder, shaking his head to clear it. Why had he come here? He'd come to tell Alex he loved him, hadn't he? So, what the fuck was he doing? Making sure Alex heard him out, he reassured himself. "Shut up, Alex."

Crowding up to him, Mulder forced the other man to back up. "Is anyone else home?"

"Thankfully, no," he said, sharply. "For goodness sake, you don't need that gun. I'm happy to see you. Make that 'was happy', perhaps, because I don't like being threatened in my own house."

"Can't take any chances with you, Krycek," said Mulder. "Let's go in the living room. I want to talk to you, and I want you to be silent until I've finished."

This wasn't the way to start it, he knew. All the old hostility on parade. He was hiding. Maybe it wasn't a mask... he had good cause for his issues with Alex after all, but this meeting, so longed for, should be different. He should put all that aside and approach this from what he liked about Alex, not what he hated.

Seeing that face again had thrown him off course, however. The careful balancing of feelings he'd achieved over his long drive had been blown away like dry leaves. That's all they were, those reasoned thoughts, dry leaves, dead, discarded... paltry in the face of the turmoil spinning him, tumbling his emotions the way autumn whirlwinds caught and carried those leaves, spun them, rearranged them. There was no logic to this, no way of justifying it by reason, no theorem of desire to be proved by building-blocks of nuance, of glance, of the set of Alex's shoulders or the feel of him when Mulder had struck out in anger.

"Whatever I expected, I never imagined this, Fox," said Alex with a sigh, as he sprawled on the deep couch in a cosy sitting room. "Come and sit. Relax. Who do you think is going to hurt you?" He looked up at Mulder, frowned, then pressed his lips together in a rueful smile. "Stupid. What am I using for brains? Look, before this goes any further, I have to explain..."

"No," grated Mulder. "If you start, I'll never get to say what I came here to say. Just be quiet until I've finished. And what's with the 'Fox', anyway? You've always called me Mulder before; you know I don't use that name."

A brilliant smile lit up Krycek's face. "You've never been anything but 'Fox' to me. I didn't know you by any other name."

"What the fuck... ?" Mulder shook his head, frowning at Alex in exasperation. This was no use, looming over him with a gun pointed at his head. This visit wasn't about power or revenge, it was one lonely man laying his need bare before another. Just two people, with the history, for once, shut away.

He lowered himself to sit on the couch a little way from the other man. Oh, Alex looked good. He seemed younger, not as careworn; instead of the frisson of dangerous energy he'd implied there was something trustworthy about him now. His whole body, his expression seemed to offer rather than conceal. Perhaps he should try to start again.

He licked his lips and looked into the so-familiar green eyes. When had those little laughter lines appeared? Krycek cocked his head and raised his brows questioningly at Mulder's intense stare.

"Please, Alex, hear me out without interruption." The words he needed to say came reluctantly, haltingly to his lips. "I have to say this. I have to trust you with it, because it's driving me mad keeping it all inside. Just... please... whatever you think or feel, wait until I've finished before you speak."

"Alright. If you'll put the gun down, I'll listen. If you want to trust me with a secret, you'll have to trust me, period. Give it to me, Fox."

Mulder looked down at the weapon in his hand. It seemed right there, the grip was comfortable, he felt *safe* behind it. There was no other way to talk to Krycek, was there? Not here, not alone, not when he'd told no-one of his journey, or his destination. His knuckles whitened round the heavy gun, he wrapped his other hand round it to steady it, to keep it pointed at Krycek's heart. If he fired now, he'd betray himself utterly. There'd be nothing. His life would be void. A second chance; who gets a second chance? He knew his face was twitching with emotion. He'd thought this would be so easy. He'd throw the simple fact of his love at Alex and wait. The reply would be yes or no. Elementary.

Alex stretched out his hand. One by one, Mulder peeled his fingers from the grip, slipped the safety, then placed the gun on Alex's palm. Alex put his other hand over Mulder's and squeezed briefly, reassuringly, before taking the gun and placing it carefully on the coffee table beside them.

Something was out of kilter here. Mulder couldn't think. His brain seemed paralysed, thoughts seeping like treacle through his consciousness.

"Go on," Alex said quietly.

Mulder straightened his shoulders, cleared his throat. "This would be so much easier if I were intoxicated." He shrugged. "I don't know if you'd call this a confession or a declaration. I can't make any sense of it, but speaking out was a necessity years ago, and somehow I managed to suppress the words, conceal the requirement even from myself. It has, I am certain, damaged me, caused my responses to our meetings to be... perverse, because there was no honesty on my part."

He stopped, tried to look directly at Alex but couldn't hold his glance still, couldn't meet his eyes to see his naked emotion batter, maybe futilely, against the man he hoped that he knew but feared he didn't.

"For fuck's sake... " grated Krycek.

Mulder lifted his hand to quieten him. There was no way round, no way to soften this, not if he wanted to be understood.

"I love you, Alex Krycek."

Alex looked at him, then cupped his hands over his nose and mouth, breathing deeply. Mulder could have sworn that he was trying not to cry.

"Truly?" he asked, his voice muffled, breaking. "Really, truly?"

"With all my heart, and for as long as I have known you, and despite everything. *Everything.* Can you imagine how confused that's made me feel? How foolish? How dishonest?"

Alex didn't answer. Flushed, gulping in air, his fingers then pressed together, steepling over his nose before twining together before his mouth, as if he were praying.

"Look at me, Fox," he demanded. "Think about me, about... this... "

Mulder was emptied now. He was light as hydrogen, floating; it was done. Rest in peace, Krycek, because now Mulder has his closure. That was selfish, he was sure. But boy, did he feel good - he'd staggered off that roller-coaster, jumped with that bungee, walked the glowing coals. And he was home free on the other side.

Alex took him by the arms, shook him. His face was despair.

"Look at me! Fox is the hot-shot investigator - nothing escapes his eyes, his supremely analytical brain. Are you blind now, my Fox?"

Mulder looked at him, puzzled, an absent smile on his lips. "Oh... " He thought, and as he thought the tears began to fall. "You have two hands."

He blinked stupidly at the man before him, the man who should be Alex Krycek.

"Who are you?"

"What do you think, Fox?"

"I should be terrified, but it doesn't matter any more." He tried to calm himself. All he needed was to go, now. He needed to be alone with sorrow. "You aren't Alex. I apologise. I'm a moron." He gave a gulp of laughter. "Is this a trap? What are you... what sort of copy? Tell me why, at least, before you finish it."

In his heart at last there was peace. Sadness that was bottomless, yet serene.

The man who wasn't Alex smiled. "It's simple. Mundane." He stood, reached to lift a framed picture from a shelf and passed it to Mulder. "There's your answer, and on Alex's behalf, I want to thank you, Fox. Heck, I want to thank you for me, too."

There were two Alex's in the photo, between them a slender woman holding a baby.

"Nothing extraordinary - you know, I feel like I should apologise for it being so dull. Alex was my big brother. We were twins."

Mulder didn't know what the response should be, somehow he'd lost social graces; he wasn't sure when. Yet this needed some banal remark, an excuse and a farewell. He should escape.

He got decisively to his feet. "I apologise. I should go."

"Oh no. It's my turn." The other stood too, and took Mulder's hand, gripping it firmly. "Hi, I'm pleased to meet you at last. My name is Steve... Steven Harris, brother to Alexander Harris, otherwise known as Alex Krycek. You're not going anywhere, Fox, because Alex would never forgive me if I let you before I've had my say."

"Alex is dead... Mr. Harris. Coming here was pointless. I'm sorry for disturbing you, and I'm going to go - right now."

Steven grinned. "Just try it. For years I've heard about you, I've seen pictures of you. Alex never stopped talking about you in his letters. 'My Fox is so brilliant' he'd say. 'He's left them all gasping again.' We shared everything, Fox. All our dreams, all our fantasies, all our loves. As much as he could, he shared you with me. He loved you too, but like a fool, he never said. 'I have to play a part and I can't compromise him', he told me, once."

"He loved me?" Mulder said harshly, twisting out of Steven's grasp. "Do you know what he was?"

Steven shrugged and smiled. "No, not really. I know what he was when we were kids. Please, sit. Let me talk about him. There's no-one else - I suspect that's so for you too?"

Mulder nodded. "Yeah," he said, reluctantly. "I can't say anything. It's too fucking outrageous."

He sat, wiped his hands over his thighs uneasily.

"You don't doubt me then?"

Mulder opened his mouth as if to answer but shook his head instead. He did believe; Steven was Alex's brother. Unlikely as it should have been, it seemed right to Mulder. Steve was right... his body-language, his tone of voice. Mulder just knew... be it intuition, experience, he knew he was hearing the truth. Did he want to know more? Would it be better that Krycek remained a mystery, a beautiful, amoral traitor shaped by fate to be his downfall? Or could Mulder bear for him to be real?

Perhaps it would be his purgatory, to know Alex. Perhaps then it would heal, if he knew he'd fallen in love with someone human, not a conceit of those old, jaded manipulators who had had Mulder on puppet strings since his birth.

Steven looked at him for a long time before saying, "I didn't see him often, but he'd write to me. We were the sort of identical twins that felt each other's emotions, each other's physical pain. He had to write, to keep me out of danger. He protected me... with all the right of an older brother... ten minutes older." He laughed softly. "He was the rebel, the tearaway. He loved confrontation and it's what took him away from us. He was just sixteen when he left. He'd say he'd been thrown out, but Dad would have relented easily, if Alex had asked - but of course, he didn't ask.

"He wrote to stop me chasing after him. I knew when he was lonely, heart-broken - injured. When he lost his arm... Hell, that hurt; indescribable. I felt the phantom pain with him right up to when he died." He smiled sadly. "It's fine now, now he's dead."

"I should tell you, I was there when he died. I had a part in it," Mulder said harshly. "I helped kill your brother."

"There's no blame... not from me, or him," Steven said urgently. "He fashioned Alex Krycek; he was proud of him and prepared to take the consequences of his actions. I don't know details," he added, "Alex was very discreet. Like about you, Fox."

He grinned. "I could describe you exactly, your habits, your likes and dislikes, Alex's fantasies about you in embarrassing detail, but I didn't know your surname or what you do... who you work for. In his letters you were 'My Fox'. Always. A flawed hero. He'd rant, then rave. I fell for you by proxy; I would have been damn jealous, if I hadn't got the girl we both wooed... Danny's mother.

"Why the hell didn't you tell him, Fox?"

Mulder licked his lips. Should he explain? Lay out Alex Krycek - traitor, killer - at Steven's feet? Perhaps he didn't have the right. Perhaps his own perception was flawed; indeed why was he even thinking this way? There was no point in hurting Steven. He'd come here to confess his love to Alex. That was all.

Now, he knew it was too late. Now, he was angry, not sad. Alex had loved him too, and like the dickheads they were, neither had said a thing. Wasted time - wasted lives.

Steven took a handkerchief from his pocket and passed it to Mulder. "Don't worry. You don't need to tell him, he knows. I feel him, almost all the time. He's still with me." He chuckled. "You're giving me a funny look there, Fox. Alex said you were a pushover for the paranormal; don't disappoint me now."

Mulder blew his nose with determination. "I won't deny I've been caught out a few times by charlatans, but there've been a raft of things that were completely inexplicable. But when people have been bereaved, their minds can play nasty tricks... I'm sorry."

"Don't be," said Steven, easily. "I know what I know. Why was I at the cemetery that day, of all days, uh? I was going to go the week before; on our birthday, but I had this dream - a really vivid dream - that I should go the day I did." He leaned to Mulder. "And you were there. That day, that time. Unless you spend every day at my brother's grave... I assume you don't? It was a hell of a co-incidence, wasn't it? My theory is that Alex got too impatient waiting for you to find out about the elephant and gave me a prod. He'd always wanted me to meet you."

"Elephant?" echoed Mulder, puzzled.

"Alex said it was just your thing; he said he'd love to see your reaction if you came chasing after the story and fetched up face-to-face with the two of us. Danny found this elephant in our yard... I'd show you, but he's wintering at the local zoo."

He reached past Mulder's shoulder to pick up another photograph. "Here, this is Lumpy, the elephant. I'm going to make us some tea, and while I do, you can find Alex's letters. Try the desk... they're in a box-file."

When Steven came back Mulder was surrounded by hand-written sheets; evidently he was trying to order them. The details of Steven's life didn't interest him at the moment, no matter how bizarre. He suspected they would, that once the mystery of Alex had been a little unravelled he'd want to explore Steven, to grow close - belatedly - to his love through what remained of his life. For now, he had treasure, and he was sure a little crack had formed in the bitter armour that was encasing his heart.

"Why don't you take them away, read them at your leisure," said Steven. "I want them back sometime, but you are welcome to keep them for a month or two. For christsake don't read them here... Alex had the most prurient imagination - and we shared... everything. I don't think I want to watch you read some of that stuff."

"You're both gay?" mumbled Mulder abstractedly, as his eyes greedily lapped the lines before him.

Steven pulled the letter gently from Mulder's hand, substituting a cup of tea. "Alex more than fifty percent, I'd say. Me - I dabble. Have dabbled. I remarried about eighteen months ago. Danny's mother died, you see."

"There's a lot of interesting work in that area... and others... with identical twins."

"Yeah... We always seemed to lust after the same people, that's for sure."

"And love?"

"That was more complicated. We were different people, in the end. Alex was always testing boundaries, defying convention. Me... I'm too lazy, I never had his passion - and I like order, continuity in my life. Through his letters I fell for you a little, Fox. But you were never quite real to me, despite the photographs he sent - you were like a character in a book."

"I hurt too much to be a figment, Steve."

Steven reached out, stroking Mulder's cheek with the backs of his fingers. "Yes, you're real, now. You should have had each other... "

"For better, for worse. Yeah. Too late."

"Was this the cheek he kissed?" Steven asked, gently.

Mulder nodded, yes. He bit back a sob, "He told you? All of it?"

Steven shrugged. "There's no way for me to know if he told me everything." He riffled through the letters, picking out one of the ones still with an envelope. "Read it for yourself, from Alex's point of view. If he'd been braver, it would have been on the lips."

"If I'd been braver, the next one would definitely have been. I was stunned, Steve. He tried to pass it off as some sort of Russian custom, but that kiss lingered." And the memory of it burnt, almost unbearably. Though he'd tried to trivialise it, not a day went past without the memory, vivid, heart-stopping.

"He regretted doing it, Fox. He knew he should have done what really needed to be done, or let it be. Instead, there was that tease; never having your lips, never knowing what it meant to you."

"I thought he was being cruel. He was good at that. Cold, remorseless... the sort of guy that considers integrity a disease," Mulder said, bitterly. He breathed in deeply. "I'm sorry, Steve. Let me read these letters, then, if you like, I'll fill in the blanks. I loved him, but hated myself for it. He had so many secrets, I... " He stopped, shook his head at Steven's frown. "It's been a shock. All this... To know there was a person that wasn't the Alex Krycek I knew."

"And you loved, right? Let your heart talk for you, Fox. It's too late for anything else - apart from this one thing... "

"What?"

"There were a number of things I promised to do for him, if he died before he could finish them. And he knows... he watches me... he wants that kiss, Fox. The real kiss."

"Yeah." Mulder turned his face aside, considered how to answer. "Let it be for now, Steve, please? Let me read these letters... let me get to know him through your eyes, too. Let me learn who he was. Then if I can sort it out, justify... earn the right to have really loved him because I think I've finally got to know him, we'll have that kiss."

"I can't ask for more, Fox. Thank you."

But Mulder knew, deep within, there would be no kiss.

No matter how alike, how fascinating, how alluring this new Alex would be, the man he'd loved had been Alex Krycek.

And Alex Krycek was dead.

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END

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