Searcher

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)


Author's Notes: This is set somewhere in the seventh season. You pick the time. -grin- Other wise, I thought I'd better warn you that the boys slip a little bit out of character at the end. But please forgive me - I was in a really sappy mood when I wrote the end. -grin- Oh, and you ought to know that this hasn't been beta read. I was just too impatient. -grin-


Mulder read and reread the e-mail, making doubly sure that it said what he thought it said.

Dear Agent Mulder,

It began.

I have reason to believe that you once knew a man named Alex Krycek. I desperately need information on this man. Please contact me. ~ Katrina

ICQ# 97944376

Mulder pulled up his own, neglected ICQ menu and immediately responded.

Katrina, It's not safe to communicate online. My cell phone number is 555-1013. Call me ASAP. ~ Mulder

He then logged off the Internet, rereading her message thoughtfully. Katrina must have been online when he sent the message, because his cell phone rang only a minute or two later. "Mulder," he answered it, as usual.

"Hi," a female voice said hesitantly, "you knew Alex?"

"We need to meet in person, Katrina," Mulder said before she could get any further. "Where are you?"

"I'm in D.C.," Katrina replied. "Should I just come to you?"

Mulder thought for a moment. His apartment was out of the question - the place was a regular stop for all agents of the Consortium. His old office was gone, and his new one was in no way secure. "No," he finally said, "there's a bench in the park," he went on to describe the bench where he'd met Scully on more than one occasion. "Meet me there in half an hour."

"Okay. Thank you," she said, and hung up.

Mulder turned off his cell phone and wondered briefly if he ought to call Scully and have her come along. Despite the support she'd offered after their experience in the Arctic, his partner had been less than helpful lately. She seemed content to let Spender and Fowley handle the X-Files, and resisted involvement in every X-File he'd pursued since they'd been reopened. //Still, // he thought, //this is Krycek. She certainly has an interest in anything we can dig up regarding him. //

He'd dialed five digits of her number when he stopped. //This woman I'm going to meet is only expecting me. She might be reluctant to talk if I bring Scully... Besides, Scully hasn't had to deal with Krycek for years. I don't need to throw him in her face now. // Mulder turned off his cell phone and stood, making his way out of his new office, which was tucked into an obscure corner much like the old one.

***

The woman who waited on the bench for Mulder had light brown hair pulled back into a short ponytail. She stood to greet him and he noticed that she was tall, although still shorter than he was, and had green eyes and sharp features. "I'm Katrina," she said, offering her hand.

"Mulder," Mulder said, nodding. "You wanted to talk about Alex Krycek."

"Yes," she said, smiling. The reaction threw Mulder off for a minute. He'd been expecting anger or hostility at the mention of Krycek. Recalling that she'd referred to him as "Alex", he began to wonder if he'd misunderstood her motives. "What can you tell me?"

"Before I say anything," Mulder said cautiously, "could I ask why you're looking for him?"

"Oh, right," Katrina flushed a little. "He's my brother. The last time I heard from him was five years ago, when he called me," her face darkened at the memory. She didn't seem to notice Mulder's shock. "He sounded like he was in trouble, and he told me I probably wouldn't see him again. I was only 17 at the time, so I got worried, but I couldn't really do anything about it. I've been looking for him since I graduated high school, and I've devoted myself to the search full time since I graduated from University."

"Five years ago," Mulder said tightly, "Alex Krycek was my partner in the FBI. We were only partners for 4 months when he helped some very bad people get their hands on my best friend and damn near killed me. Since then, he's killed at least two people, one of whom was my father, and has done a whole lot of very dirty work for the same bad people."

"Why are you saying these things!" Katrina yelled, jumping to her feet. "This is my brother! He wouldn't do the things you're saying!" she turned to leave.

"Katrina!" Mulder said sharply, grabbing her arm, "I want you to understand something. This is not a man you want to find!"

"He's my brother," she replied, tears spring to her eyes. "He raised me, and I haven't seen him in five years! Don't you understand? No! You couldn't!" Katrina pulled at the arm Mulder still held.

"I do understand," Mulder said firmly. "I've been searching for my sister since I was twelve-"

"So would you care if you found her and she wasn't everything you wanted her to be?" Katrina said pleadingly. "If she wasn't perfect? Wouldn't you still want to find her if you found out that she was mixed up in trouble?"

Mulder let go of Katrina. "Yes," he murmured, "I would." After a long pause, he went on. "The last time I saw Krycek was about 6 months ago. He came to my apartment to deliver a message." Remember a detail of that meeting Mulder met Katrina's eyes and said, gently, "If you've got a description circulating, you might want to add the fact that...he's only got one arm now."

Katrina gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. Mulder could see the pain she felt for her brother in her eyes. "How?" she choked out.

"He came with me to check something out in Tunguska, Siberia," Mulder answered. "Some peasants there thought they were protecting him when they...amputated."

"I want to know everything," she said, "everything you know about Alex. I need to find him. I have to find him."

"I have reason to want to find him myself," Mulder said. "If we pool our resources, I think the search will go faster."

"To be frank, Agent Mulder, I'm not sure I want you to find Alex," Katrina stated bluntly. "From what you've said, I gather that you'd like vengeance more than anything else. I'll not lead one of Alex's enemies to him."

Mulder shook his head. "I'm not planning to kill him, Katrina. I've had the opportunity on more than one occasion, but I've never done it. Things between Krycek and I are somewhat...complicated," he frowned to himself. Only after hearing himself say such things did he realize how true they were. "He also has information that I need," Mulder added.

"I think we're going to be working together for awhile," Katrina said, relaxing a bit, though she still seemed as if she doubted his intentions towards her brother.

"Do you have a place to stay in town?" Mulder asked.

"No," she shook her head. "I just got here. I sent you that e-mail through an Internet Cafe."

"My apartment isn't safe," Mulder mused. "Tell you what. We'll rent adjoining rooms in a hotel. It ought to be more secure than anywhere else."

A tiny frown creased Katrina's forehead. "That sounds good to me," she said slowly, "but why all this talk of security?"

"Alex," Mulder said, feeling strange referring to her brother as Krycek, "is neck deep in a very dangerous conspiracy with a lot of very powerful men. I'm actually rather impressed that he's survived this long." //If he's still alive, // Mulder thought silently. After all, it had been months since he'd last seen Krycek and, considering the events since then, it was likely that he was dead.

***

Mulder unlocked the door to his hotel room and stepped inside, dropping his bag on a chair. He'd gone back to work after his meeting with Katrina, not wanting to draw attention to himself. It would do him no good if Spender found out who his latest contact was. Mulder got the feeling that the other Agent was a direct pipeline to Cancerman. Mulder had also stopped by Scully's office to let her know he wouldn't be at his apartment. He'd told her the truth - just not the whole truth. She knew that he was meeting with and protecting an importance source, but he hadn't mentioned what information that source was giving him.

Breaking out of his reverie, Mulder went to the door to the adjacent room and knocked lightly. Katrina answered immediately. "Agent Mulder. Come in, please," she stood back to let him into her room.

"Just Mulder, Katrina," Mulder said.

"Do you want to start, or should I?" she asked, leaving Mulder the single chair and perching on the edge of the bed herself.

"We start at the beginning," Mulder replied. "So tell me, when was the last time you saw Alex, and what did he say the last time you spoke?"

"The last time I saw him was when he visited home from Quantico," she said, smiling with the memory. "He was so excited about joining the FBI. That was a little less than five years ago. After he went back, there was an unusually long period of time before he called me again. I was getting a little worried when I picked up the phone one day, and it was him," she frowned. "He didn't say hi or anything, not even my name."

"What did he say," Mulder pressed, trying not to sound too eager. Any insight into Krycek's past was useful.

"He said, 'I'm in a whole lot of trouble. I saw something I shouldn't have, something important.' I asked him what he saw, but he wouldn't tell me. 'It's safer that you don't know,' he said. He said, 'I've just got to do one thing for them. All I have to do is keep an eye on someone for awhile. Then I'll be able to come home.' Then he just hung up. I never heard from him again."

Mulder was puzzled. This was not what he expected. The way she described it, Krycek sounded fearful and desperate. That just didn't fit with the Krycek he knew. "How did he sound?" Mulder asked after a moment. "Angry?"

"No," Katrina shook her head definitely. "He sounded worried, for me, and kind of determined. Like he'd promised himself that he'd survive whatever he'd gotten involved in." There was a long silence while Mulder thought. Finally, Katrina broke it. "Your turn. To tell me about Alex."

"You're not going to like it," Mulder warned her.

"I don't care," she said. "I need to know."

"Fine. I first met Alex Krycek when my partner and I were split up. He was straight out of Quantico, and I was his first partner..."

***

When Mulder finally wound down, it was after midnight and the two of them had worked their way through a large pizza and a six pack of coke. Katrina stood up from the table where they'd been eating and stretched, thinking. "You're not kidding me, are you?" she said, finally. Mulder shook his head silently. Katrina put her hands on her hips and blew a breath of air through her lips. "This is so like you, Alex," she muttered.

Mulder blinked in surprise. "Why do you say that?" he asked, genuinely curious.

Katrina smiled. "As far as I can tell from what you've told me, Alex was working alone before Tunguska, right?" Mulder nodded. "So that means he'd gotten away from the...the Consortium, right? Well, he's just gotten out from under the control of some really bad people. But then he goes out of his way to lead you to this place, Tunguska, where they're doing a lot of stuff that you're interested in, but that he ought to stay away from. And then, even after...after what happed there, he contacts you again with more information on these same people! You'd think he'd have learned to keep his nose out of it by then, or at least to go along with what they were doing. Alex values his life above all else, Mulder, but he's also stubborn as hell. Once he makes a stand for something he believes in, hell would freeze over before he'd back down," she shook her head, unable to restrain a small smile. "Apparently he believes in you, and your cause. So he's playing a very dangerous game, trying to hang onto his life and still help you." She shot him a strange glance.

"Why the odd look?" Mulder asked.

She shook her head. "I can't understand why you say you hate Alex so much, after everything he's done for you."

Mulder bristled. "After what he's done for me?" he exclaimed.

"Yes!" Katrina said sharply. "Who lead you to Tunguska and all that you learned there? And who suffered for it? Who made you think twice when you were ready to give up on the beliefs you'd held for years? Who pointed you towards the airforce base and the alien rebel?"

"Who killed my father?! Who kept me from protecting my partner?!" Mulder retorted angrily.

"For God's sake, Mulder," Katrina yelled back, "you were drugged after your father's death. You saw my brother a couple of states away from the crime scene! You never even got his version of events. And do you really believe that you could've saved Scully by yourself? There was more going on on that mountain than Duane Barry! Alex probably saved your life!"

Mulder opened his mouth to respond and found himself without words. He shut his mouth with a snap before saying, "I'm going to bed," and stalked out of the room. Katrina just sighed and shook her head.

***

Mulder lay on the hotel bed, missing his couch but experiencing some very familiar insomnia. Tonight, however, paranormal phenomenon and conspiracy theories were not what occupied his thoughts. Tonight, it was the woman next door.

//I had no idea Krycek had a sister, // Mulder thought. //It's not surprising he'd keep something like that to himself, though. Family can be used against you. // Mulder shied away from that idea, for it hit a little too close to home. //She didn't seem to blame him for the things he's done...and I didn't pull any punches. I told her the whole story. It was like she understood him. I never bothered to think of why he's done the things he's done, have I? //

//Don't think that! // Mulder warned himself sharply. //It's dangerous.//

But he wouldn't consider why.

***

Mulder closed the door of his room behind himself and shrugged off his suit jacket, loosened his tie and knocked on the adjoining door. Katrina opened it, and he held up a bag of Chinese food. "You up for dinner?" he asked.

"Sure," she replied, coming into his room as he stood aside. "You eat a lot of take out?"

Mulder laughed. "Yeah. The last thing I ate...well, tried to eat, out of my fridge nearly killed me. You can't even trust food these days," he grinned.

She smiled seated herself at the table, sitting on one foot and hooking the other around the chair leg. "Believe it or not, I never had much take out when I was growing up. It's only since I've been living on my own that I've started buying it."

"Did your parents cook a lot?" Mulder asked, attempting to settle into small talk. He got the feeling Katrina would clam up if he pumped her for information on her brother. She was very protective of Krycek, and he knew she didn't entirely trust him regarding the other man.

"Actually," she replied, "our mother died just after Alex turned 17. I was 8 at the time. Dad was...well...Dad wasn't around much. So Alex basically raised me. He took it very seriously - cooked for the two of us, took me to school, picked me up, the whole deal. Dad died just after Alex turned 21. It was like he'd been waiting until Alex could take care of me before he gave up." Katrina went silent for a moment, and Mulder attempted to absorb what she'd said. Every time she opened her mouth, she surprised him. Breaking out of her reverie, she picked up her fork and started in on her food. "Tell me about your sister," she said gently, swallowing.

"Why?" Mulder asked, startled.

"Because we've talked of nothing but me and my brother since we met," Katrina said bluntly, "and I'm curious."

"There's not much to tell. She was...taken when I was 12," he began, hesitantly. "I still don't know what really happened. I'm not sure if I can trust my memories of what happened. I know that the Consortium is involved, but not how, and I have reason to believe she was a replacement for me, but I don't know why I was to be taken, or why they took her instead."

"Did you ever see her again?"

"I thought so, a couple of times. It might actually have been her the last time, but she was with the man I call Cancerman. I don't know if that was really her, or if it was only another clone..." Mulder fell silent and they ate in peace for awhile. After a moment, feeling a need to change the subject and fill the silence, Mulder said, "I've never really felt able to trust anyone except Scully."

"That's your partner, right?" Katrina asked for confirmation.

"Yeah," Mulder affirmed, pushing his food away and leaning back in his chair. "We've been together for six years, if you count the time when we weren't supposed to work together, but did anyway," he smiled mischievously. "Scully's great, even if she can be frustrating at times."

"What do you mean?" Katrina asked, finishing her own food.

"Well, she doesn't believe in the X-Files," he explained. "If the scientific evidence supports my theory she'll admit that and put it in her report, but if the case can be explained any other way she'll argue that theory right to the end. She's my best friend, but sometimes I wish she could see what's right in front of her half the time." Mulder wrinkled his brow, "Oddly, she's personally experienced more paranormal phenomena than I have, but she still needs hard evidence before she'll even consider a supernatural theory that fits all the facts."

"Some people think differently," Katrina shrugged. "So why isn't she in on this?" she gestured at the two of them.

Mulder looked askance at his dinner companion, "You ought to be able to tell me, from what I've said. Scully is anything but objective where Krycek is concerned."

"Neither are you," Katrina shot back.

"Yeah, but I have reason to keep him alive, and Scully doesn't."

Katrina winced a little but said, "So you're keeping things from the one person you trust to protect the man you claim you hate? Sounds a little strange to me."

Mulder shook his head, ignoring the part of him that agreed with her, "No, to protect the one person I know of who can tell me something about the Consortium and my sister. I'll let Scully in on it all soon enough."

"Was there ever anything going on between you and Scully?" Katrina asked curiously.

"No," Mulder shook his head. "We've never felt the need to turn out relationship that way. Well, I've made a move once or twice, but somehow it never felt quite right. So it never went any further."

Katrina sat with him for a few minutes in comfortable silence. Finally, she stood, stretching. "I'm going to go to bed. I've had a long day," she confided.

"What do you do when I'm working?" Mulder inquired, as she opened the door to her own room.

"I'm a web page designer," she replied. "My undergraduate degree is in computer science, but I was something of a hacker before I ever got to university," she grinned and stepped into her own room, shutting the door behind her.

Mulder moved to sprawl on his bed and flipped on the TV. It was far too early for him to even try to sleep, but there was bound to be a science fiction flick on one channel or another.

***

"Mulder, would you please tell me where we're going?" Katrina lamented.

"To see some friends of mine," Mulder said vaguely. "We've never been able to track Kr...Alex down by computer, but you might be able to give them a hand."

"I don't know," Katrina said doubtfully. "Alex taught me everything I know about hacking."

"All we'll need to know are a few of his tricks," Mulder assured her, concealing his surprise. Somehow, he's always assumed Krycek was the thug type. "The Gunmen are pretty good themselves."

"The Gunmen?"

"The Lone Gunmen, actually," Mulder said. "Why?"

"I think I know them," Katrina grinned. "I'm pretty sure I've met them online, in some places where good little girls are not supposed to be." She grinned again. "They're actually pretty well known in the world of hackers. They've never been seen apart."

Mulder snorted. "Why am I not surprised? These guys are more paranoid than I am. I don't think they trust anyone except each other and - maybe - me."

Shortly thereafter, Mulder parked his car and they walked a block or two to the headquarters of the Lone Gunmen. Mulder \knocked and waited while his friends checked to see who it was and unlocked the door. "Who's your lady friend, Mulder?" Langly asked, stepping aside to let the two of them in.

"Actually, you already know me," Katrina said, grinning. "I'm Katrina, also known as Searcher."

Langly looked startled for a moment before he said, "How do we know you are who you say you are?"

"I don't know," she shrugged, "was anyone else there the last time we broke into your medical records?"

"Hey, Byers! Frohike!" Langly called hastily. "Guess who dropped by?" The other two Gunmen emerged from the back of their home and Langly made the introductions.

"So, Mulder," Frohike said, "what compelled you to bring this lovely lady to us?"

"We have mutual acquaintance that we need to find," Mulder replied.

"Who?" Byers asked.

"Alex Krycek."

"You know Krycek?" Langly asked Katrina.

"He's my brother," she explained calmly. From Mulder's attitude, she'd expected a reaction like this.

"Do you know-" Frohike began.

"Yes," she cut him off. "Mulder's told me everything. I still want to find him. He's my brother, guys. He's all the family I've got."

"Well," Byers said.

"When do we get started?" Langly asked with a shrug.

***

Mulder sprawled in a chair and watched Katrina work with the Gunmen. She was seated at one computer with Langly leaning over her shoulder, while Byers and Frohike worked on two other computers. Mulder didn't even pretend to have any idea what they were doing, he just let them go to it.

After Frohike had referred to her as a "lovely lady", Mulder had been looking at her more closely. Knowing she had information on Krycek, he'd hardly noticed her appearance. She'd existed merely as a source of information. But his friend's comments prompted Mulder to take another look. The combination of dark hair and light eyes was striking. She really was attractive... And the resemblance to her brother was obvious, when you knew what to look for. Mulder shifted restlessly, finding his thoughts discomfiting.

***

"Well," Katrina sighed, a little disappointed, "I think we would've found him if he'd been online."

"Come on," Mulder said encouragingly, "we'll come back tomorrow night and try again. I know the Gunmen would like to see you again."

She smiled. "Yeah. Those guys are a lot of fun." Mulder chuckled. "What?"

"I'm just not used to hearing the words 'fun' in a sentence that refers to the Gunmen," he explained, grinning.

They stopped at a McDonald's to pick up dinner and continued on back to their hotel. They spend most of the evening trading anecdotes, and they watched one B-level sci-fi movie on TV. After it was over, Katrina stood and sighed a little, folding her arms over her chest. "What, didn't you like the movie?" Mulder asked.

Katrina shrugged. "It was all right. I just... I wish we'd found Alex tonight, that's all."

"Hey, you'll be okay," Mulder said, giving her chin a friendly tap. "We'll find him." Katrina sighed somewhat despondently and said nothing. Caught in the moment, Mulder raised her chin with his index finger and leaned down to kiss her.

"Mulder, stop," she said, turning her head.

"What'd wrong?" he asked, pulling back.

"You know what's wrong," she said softly. He just shook his head. She sighed. "Mulder, I don't want to be a substitute for anyone. Not even my brother."

Mulder shook his head, "I don't understand."

"Sure you do," Katrina insisted. "You just don't want to admit it. I can see it in the way you talk about him. I know it from how you sound more hurt when you say he betrayed you than when you say he killed your father. I can tell from how you look at me and try to see him..."

"Stop it," Mulder said, turning away.

"Why?" Katrina asked, getting angry. "Why do you try so hard to hate him?"

"I have to hate him," Mulder said, a desperate note creeping into his voice. "If I don't hate him..."

"You'll love him," Katrina finished. "What's so wrong with that, Mulder?"

"After all he's done..."

"You know if you let yourself, you'll understand," Katrina said insistently. "He deserves to be loved, Mulder. So do you."

"I can't love him," Mulder breathed, turning away.

"Too late," Katrina murmured, knowing he could hear her.

***

The next morning the silence between them was strained. It was a Sunday, so, by mutual but unspoken consent, the made their way back to the Lone Gunmen. If the three hackers noticed the tension, they said nothing. Mulder settled himself on the Gunmen's couch as Katrina and his friends got to work, unable to help feeling somewhat useless.

***

"Mulder. Mulder, wake up," someone said. Mulder blinked blearily and saw Katrina standing over him. She looked excited. "We found him," she said eagerly, "we found Alex. Would you believe he's right here in D.C.?"

"You're kidding me," Mulder said, standing up.

"Nope," Katrina smiled. "He's been holed up here for awhile. Frohike's setting up a meeting now."

"What are you telling him?" Mulder asked sharply.

"Just that we have some information he'd be interested in," Byers said. "Katrina didn't think he'd come if we mentioned either of you."

"Good idea," Mulder said, nodding. "Where and when?"

"Tonight," Langly said, finishing up on the computer and turning to address Mulder, "in your hotel room."

"We'd better get back," Mulder said, "we wouldn't want to miss this visit."

The drive back to the hotel was quiet. Each of them was absorbed in their own thoughts about the coming meeting. Just before they reached the hotel, Katrina turned to Mulder. "I want you to promise me something," she said.

"What?"

"Promise me you won't hurt Alex, and promise me you won't try to take him in."

Mulder sighed. "To tell the truth, Katrina, we haven't got anything on him that we could take to court. We know what he's done, but he's far too careful to actually leave evidence."

"Promise me anyway," Katrina insisted.

"I promise," Mulder said, glancing over at her. "And I promise I won't hurt him."

"Good," Katrina said, apparently satisfied.

They reached the hotel and Mulder made his way to his room, where he prepared for a long, tense wait.

***

Alex Krycek moved down the hall swiftly and silently, eyes watchful. He reached the designated room number and listened carefully at the door. He couldn't hear anything suspicious, which only made him more cautious. He opened the door and slipped inside quickly, not wanting to give whoever waited within warning that he'd arrived.

To his surprise, the room was brightly lit, quite unlike the dimly lit, furtive meetings he was used to. Even more surprising, Mulder was sitting casually in a chair facing the door. "Come in, Krycek," Mulder said with false friendliness, "have a seat."

Krycek glanced around but couldn't spot Mulder's gun. He returned his full attention to the Agent himself. "Since when are you so...civil?" he asked sarcastically.

"Since I got company," Mulder said, smiling smugly. "He's here!" the Agent called out.

Warily, Krycek backed up until he could rest one hand on the doorknob, fully prepared for a quick exit. At Mulder's call, the door that led to the room next door and a young woman stepped through. It was a moment before Krycek recognized her. "Kat?" he gasped in disbelief, forgetting momentarily that Mulder was even there.

"Alex," she answered, sounding a little choked up. A few quick steps brought them together in the center of the room, Krycek wrapping his single arm around her tightly.

"You shouldn't be here," he said. "It's too dangerous," he glanced over at Mulder.

"It's okay, Alex," she said, "he helped me to find you. I needed to find you Alex," she pulled away a bit so that she could look into his eyes. "You sounded like you were in trouble, and then you just disappeared! I was so worried..."

"You shouldn't have dragged her into this," Krycek said to Mulder, accusingly.

"She was looking for her brother," Mulder said, shrugging, "how could I tell her that she shouldn't search, that she didn't want to find him?"

Understanding lightened Krycek's eyes, and he turned back to his sister. Mulder watched them, filled with envy. How he'd love to have such a reunion with Samantha. Then he wondered at his reaction... //Where's the anger?// he asked himself, //Where's the hate?// Krycek and Katrina were sitting on the foot of Mulder's bed now, talking animatedly. The resemblance was striking, especially when Krycek smiled. //He smiled,// Mulder thought in startlement. //God, it's been ages since I've seen him smile. Not since we were partners.//

The expression lit up Krycek's face, smoothing out the strain his life had put on him. His green eyes glittered as if, for this one moment, he was happy.

//He's beautiful.//

The thought crept into Mulder's mind unbidden and, once entrenched, refused to leave. He bit down on an audible sound of protest and made his escape to Katrina's room.

Krycek noticed him go, and worry creased his brow. "It's okay," Katrina assured him, "that's my room. And I made him promise that he wouldn't turn you in."

"Where's Scully?" he asked, forgetting for a moment that Katrina probably wouldn't know who that was.

"She's not here," Krycek's sister answered, "Mulder didn't tell her what we were doing."

"You know her?" Krycek asked, realizing his mistake. "You made Mulder promise... Oh, God," he said, his eyes widening in realization. "What do you know? What did he tell you?"

"It's okay, Alex," Katrina said soothingly. "I understand. He told me everything, and I understand and I forgive you."

Krycek stood and moved over to the chair that Mulder had recently vacated, collapsing into it. "I wish more people could say that," he said, tiredly.

"You wish he would say that," Katrina corrected, smiling. Krycek opened his mouth to contradict her, but she just shook her head again.

"Somehow," Krycek said after a moment, "that wasn't the reaction I was expecting."

"Alex," Katrina said seriously, "you deserve to love, and to be loved."

"Tell that to Mulder," he muttered bitterly.

"I have."

"You what?" Krycek asked, his head snapping up in alarm.

"I have told him that," Katrina said simply. "Now you tell him. I don't think he believed me."

"Kat, I can't," Krycek said, even as she grabbed his good arm and hauled him to the adjoining door. "Kat, he hates me," he insisted as she pulled the door open.

"He does not," she retorted with all the contrariness of a younger sibling, and pushed him through the door.

Krycek turned away from the door that she'd shut in his face to see Mulder sitting on the edge of the bed. Opening his mouth to say something, anything, to the Agent, Krycek was surprised when the first words out were, "Thank you."

"For what?" Mulder asked.

"For helping her find me," Krycek responded. "I only wish I could do the same for you..."

Mulder sighed deeply, saying only, "Yeah. Me too. Sometimes...sometimes I wonder why I'm still searching...for the truth and for Samantha. I've lost so much more than I've gained..."

"It's in your nature, Mulder," Krycek said, moving to sit beside Mulder. "You have to know the truth. I think you'd be searching even if Samantha had never been taken. You want things explained."

"If truth is so important to me," Mulder asked, "why have I lied to myself for so long?"

"About what?"

"About you," Mulder said, releasing a shuddering breath. "I thought I hated you. I thought I should hate you..."

"You know what they say," Krycek said, his voice low, "it's a thin line between love and hate..."

Seeing his one chance, unwilling to let it slip away, Krycek reached out and drew Mulder close to him. Closing his eyes, he brushed his lips over Mulder's. Drawing back, he saw that Mulder's eyes were closed, his breathing shallow. Krycek leaned in for a firmer kiss and felt Mulder hesitantly respond to the caress. After a moment, the Agent seemed to relax, his lips parting, allowing Krycek to deepen the kiss. When they parted the second time, both were flushed and breathing hard.

Abruptly, Mulder bent his head and covered his eyes with a hand. "What the hell am I doing?" he asked himself, turmoil in his voice.

Krycek stood and moved to leave the room. "I'm sorry," he said, regret in his voice as he placed his hand on the doorknob.

"Wait!" Mulder called, standing and placing his hand against the door to hold it closed.

"Mulder," Krycek said, pain lacing his voice, "you don't want me here. Just...let me go."

"I want you here, Alex," Mulder said, his voice cracking a little, "I want you."

"I don't want to do this to you!" Krycek exclaimed. "I don't want to hurt you like this..."

Mulder reached out with both hands and pulled Krycek into a long, passionate kiss. "Don't leave," he said as they parted. "I'm afraid of this, but I'm more afraid I'll never see you again."

"What happened?" Krycek couldn't resist asking. "This is practically the first time since we were partners that we've met without you beating up on me..."

"Your sister happened," Mulder said, smiling. "You try spending four days with her without doing a little self-examination." Krycek laughed, more glad than ever that Mulder had helped her find him...

...and that she'd helped Mulder find him.

--End--