Rating: PG-13 for language
Characters: Mulder, Krycek, Scully
Pairing: none in this part
Genre: Post-series casefile.
Disclaimer: Not mine not mine not mine.
Summary/Author’s Note: Yeah, it's probably going to get slashy.
But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.
- Niels Bohr
Mulder pulled at his lower lip in thought, watching Krycek's sleeping form. There's an assassin in my guest bed. At least, I think there is.
At last, unable to contain his curiosity, he sat down on the bed, leaned over carefully, and ran his fingers over the other man's forehead. There was a small scar in the center, right where - but that was impossible - and a tiny dip underneath the skin, as if the bone had re-knit itself.
People don't just get better from a bullet to the head, Mulder thought. Still...if it wasn't Krycek, why a scar in the same location?
Beyond curious now, Mulder undid the top button of Krycek's shirt, carefully pushing it and the undershirt down on the left side. Scully had untucked the shirts from the waistband of Krycek's jeans in order to suture and bandage the wound, so he hadn't gotten a good look at that arm.
And there, right below the shoulder, was a seam. Not quite a scar, not raised or puckered, just a join. An uneven demarcation line, below which the skin became paler and smoother, and appeared to continue that way for as far down as Mulder could see.
No way, Mulder thought. There's just - no way. He brushed his fingertips over the paler area - definitely warm and human; not even the most clever and sophisticated prosthetic could feel like that, could have a pulse or get goosebumps. He suddenly became aware that he was being watched from a vantage point a few inches away from his face. Dammit, the guy could be quiet as a cat. It was unnerving.
Mulder sat up, shaking the bed, making Krycek wince. "I was just - "
"Molesting me in my sleep?" His voice still sounded rough and ragged.
"NO," Mulder said loudly.
"Then why are you taking my clothes off?"
"Your arm." Mulder folded his arms, flushing, though whether with anger or embarrassment, Krycek couldn't tell. "You've got - where do you get off having a left arm again?"
Krycek's mobile features shifted as thoughts, none of them pleasant, flitted across his mind. A crease formed at the bridge of his nose, and Mulder hated himself for finding it almost welcome in its familiarity. Nobody but Krycek could look so much like Krycek. Could they?
"I'll tell you," Krycek said, finally, "But I need to sleep first, okay?"
"And stop touching me."
Mulder stood up in a rush, peeved. "No problem there. Just wait till you need help changing your bandages."
"I just don't want you going through my pockets again," he said, and as Mulder opened his mouth to issue an angry denial, "I'd have done it too - it's a practical precaution. I could tell you you've already got everything but you wouldn't believe me. It just hurts like hell after you roll me around. You don't have the lightest touch." Krycek closed his eyes and sank back against the pillows.
"You're welcome for saving your life." I think.
Krycek opened his eyes again, briefly. "Hey, thanks."
Dammit, he can still push my buttons without even trying, Mulder thought angrily, balling his fists. Or is he trying? I can never tell. Not to mention spiking his guns. He had been planning to give Krycek's clothes the once-over once more - the twice-over - after he fell asleep again, but now Krycek would tell Scully and Scully would scold him, and whose life was this, anyway? All that came out was, "It's my house," inanely.
He slammed the door behind him, then opened it again as he realized that Scully had told him to call her the next time Krycek woke. "Don't snore," he ordered, leaving the door cracked. He stalked off to the living room and the comfort of DVDs - which he'd have to watch with the sound turned down - in high dudgeon. He'd have to content himself with going through Krycek's jacket pockets five more times.
It was dark by the time Mulder heard a cough from the spare room. He'd spent the day watching movies he was unable to focus his attention on, trying and failing to work on the computer, staring at Krycek through the door, and pacing around the house, his thoughts churning.
He leaped off the couch and went to stand at the guest bedroom door again.
"Miss me?" Krycek asked when he entered.
"No. I hate you." God. I sound like I'm ten, Mulder thought, but it was said so matter-of-factly that Krycek looked as though he had been struck. "Yeah, well, the feeling's mutual," he muttered. "I'm thirsty."
"I'll get you some water." Mulder left, found a clean glass and filled it from the tap, and returned to find his guest struggling to sit up in bed.
"Here." Mulder set the glass down, doubled up the pillows; tried to pull Krycek into a sitting position.
"Ow! Quit yanking on me."
"I wasn't yanking. I was helping."
"Could've fooled me. Have a heart, I've just been shot."
"You've been through worse."
A spasm of pain passed across Krycek's face at that, and Mulder felt a twinge of regret, finally, despite himself. "Hey, look, I'm - "
"Forget it." Krycek had levered himself up, and was now reaching toward the bedside table. "Little help here, maybe?"
"Oh." Mulder thrust it at him spilling some in the process, which elicited a tiny smile from the patient.
"Your bedside manner could use some work."
Mulder just stared. Krycek could practically hear the mental gears turning.
"So are you going to tell me - " he started, finally, once the water glass had been set down.
"Yeah. I said I would." Krycek heaved a sigh. He hoped he could get through this without setting Mulder off again, but it wasn't going to be easy. "Remember the nanites? The ones Skinner had?"
"The ones you used to - "
" - torture him with? Yeah, those. I was infected with them too; that is, I don't know if they were identical, but the principle was the same."
"Are you trying to tell me that someone else was pulling your strings?"
"No. Not exactly. Look, just let me finish, okay? Anyway, someone's always been pulling all of our strings, or trying to - usually more than one someone; and if you don't realize that..." Krycek favored him with a look so direct and open that this time Mulder flinched.
"I believe in personal responsibility."
"So do I, believe it or not. I also believe we never know everything that's going on.
"Anyway. These nanites can do much more than just cause pain and suffering. They can stimulate bone and tissue growth, even repair neural pathways. Though it takes a long time, and the process isn't exactly comfortable."
Mulder wasn't buying it. "That still doesn't explain - " he began, when his pocket buzzed.
"You have your cell phone set on vibrate?" Krycek cocked an eyebrow.
Mulder glared. "I didn't want to wake you up; excuse me for being thoughtful."
He fished it out. "Yeah."
"Mulder, it's me. Has he woken up yet?"
"You were right. There's something very odd about this bullet. And there's something else; I'm not sure if it's related or not. I think you need to see this; I'm coming back over." Scully broke the connection. Mulder sat and stared at the man in the bed, who was now gazing impassively at the bedclothes.