torch, November 1998

Disclaimer: This is another figment of my imagination. Takes place in the same AU-in-the-future as Witness tree and presumably later than the events depicted therein. Or maybe earlier, I don't know. I can't be sure. Thanks owed to Carl Sandburg and to Alicia, Shoshanna and Te (who are not to blame). Do not archive this story without permission.

Fool star

"Get out of here. I'll take care of the rest."

Sunset, and long shadows ran before the trees, racing up to the large ramshackle house, touching the flaking paint on the walls. Five dead men on the porch, ungainly heaps of crumpled flesh and bone; blood in the dust, pretty red rorschach flowers. He caught the briefcase that was shoved at him, tried to catch his balance as he was shoved, too, down the front steps, towards the car, away from it all. "Wait, I'll help—"

"You don't trust the one-armed man to bury the bodies?" There was a sharp smile waiting for him when he turned around. The kind of smile that went with the knives, the kind of smile that, like the knives, only came out at close range. A desperate measure. "You need to get the hell out of here before anyone comes looking for them."

It was so very quiet here, now that the shouting and running was over, here at the end of a rutted dirt road. Fields all around, a world full of growing things, and home-brewed secrets in the cellar. Soil's good here, our conspiracies are bigger than anyone's. The cracked leather of the handle bit into his palm reassuringly. "So do you," he said.

"I'll just take care of this first. This is my job, Mulder."

"The dirty work?" He shook his head. "It's mine, too."


It had never been a formal agreement, their division of labor, more something born from necessity, created by circumstance, from each according to his abilities, not to mention his profession. And now the lines neither of them admitted to having drawn were starting to blur.

"It's too late to try to keep me clean." He pushed the briefcase into the car, his fingers remembering the grip of a gun. "We'll fire the whole place. Was that what you had in mind?"

Looked back into the face of stubbornness. "I don't want you to do this."

"You can't protect me."

"It's not about that."

"We'll use gas from the Ford. You're almost out."

"Shut up, Mul—" It was like old times, the swift release of a punch, knocking Krycek sideways into the porch railing. A whisper of pain ghosting across his knuckles, a look of utter fury in green eyes. "You fucker."

"Yeah. Come on, we don't have much time." So they worked together, swiftly, silently, building a hungry fire, watching the flames consume American Gothic and test tube chic, the fashions of the new millennium. Poor arsonists, pyrolagnics, they almost watched too long, as sparks flew upward to catch on the darkening sky like orange tinsel and the blue ghost of night came out to play. Waiting for sirens in the distance like the howl of wolves, thinking themselves hunters even in the face of the hunt.

"It's not hot enough," Krycek said as they finally ran for their cars, "it won't be enough."

And it wasn't enough, so when they should have separated he followed, clung to the taillights of that beat-up old station wagon as it tore along the country roads, hearing the growl of the engine as the other man's growl of frustration. They drove into the night, hard-packed dirt and then cracking tarmac under their wheels, headlights showing bleached grass and wilting flowers. No other cars. Out of range of the wailing sirens, farther still, and then the sudden red flare of brake lights in front of him and he nearly rear-ended the station wagon.

Stayed where he was in the driver's seat and waited, heard a car door open and close, did not hear footsteps because this was someone who walked quietly in worn and comfortable boots. The door on his side was opened and he was pulled out, yanked out like a ragdoll by the one-armed man, clutch and fumble, slammed against the side of the car even as his fingers gripped leather and he struggled to get his feet under him. His head tipped back and he gasped for breath. "God, look at the sky."

So many lights, so many tiny lights. Bright and faint, far away and farther still, pulling away into forever.

"You were supposed to go east," Krycek hissed. "You were supposed to go back. Are you trying to get us killed, 'cause it won't be all that difficult, and if you are I'll just lend you my gun and we'll make it quick, okay? I'm not in the mood for your shit, Mulder, I don't know what you think you're doing, but—" To each according to his needs, and he leaned forward and ran his tongue over stubbled jaw, tasted the blows, his own, the world's. "Get the hell off me, Mulder."

"We're done here," he said, still pressed back into metal and glass by a warm strong body. "I want," broke off when the definition wouldn't come, only the wanting.

"You want what?" Dry exasperation. "Whatever it is you want, go home and get it there."

"But look at the sky," he tried, "just once, just for me, look at the sky, okay?"

"You're fucking nuts." Krycek tilted his head back and looked up. "What's wrong with the sky?"

"Nothing. Nothing's wrong." Leaning forward again, pressing his face against the bared throat. Carefully working an arm up to wrap around Krycek's waist, under the jacket, feeling muscle under sweat-soaked t-shirt. Tightening his grip against increased tension, don't pull away. "I want to apologize for hitting you."

Brief snort of laughter. "Yeah, right. Are you listening to me? Go home. You wanna cuddle, buy a teddy bear." The barest shift in stance, subtlest movement and flex of muscle, and there was a knife at his throat and he knew he'd gotten too close. "All work and no play keeps you alive, Mulder. Now get out of here."

Krycek stepped back and the knife vanished; if there had been a smile it had vanished, too. White teeth in a dark night. Visibility can get you killed. Black it all out. All the same he tried again. "I'm sorry."

The punch took him by surprise, sent him reeling back against the car. Not all that hard, but effective enough, he wouldn't call it a love tap. He wouldn't—

"Next time you stay out of it." Pause. "It's not going to work like this."

He spoke without thinking. "I want you to fuck me." Rubbed his jaw, wondering if it was the exact same spot. Surely they'd come further than that. Although he didn't know, right now, where the hell they were.

"Get out of here." A little later, more distantly, "I'll contact you. The usual way." Slam of car door, engine growling to life, that old station wagon was a wicked beast but it ran far faster than you'd think to look at it. Beat up but still functional, and its driver beat up but still beautiful.

And then he was alone with the sky and the brand new stars.

* * *

No new year

the x‑files || e‑mail