Fandom: The X files.
Characters: Alex Krycek/Fox Mulder (implied one-sided slashy feelings)
Prompt: #023 Bleach.
Word Count: 3791
Summary: Krycek and Mulder both deal with the events of “Anasazi” and their last meeting in their own ways and on their own.
Spoilers: Season two, episode 25, “Anasazi”
A/N: I’ve put a bathtub in Bill Mulder’s bathroom. There wasn’t one in the episode, but I put one there. I also made Mulder’s confrontation with Krycek happen right after the incident in said bathroom, simply for the reason that that’s how I remembered it when I wrote this, and then I watched the episode again and realized I’d remembered it wrong and couldn’t be bothered to change it. Take it for what it is!
Will be X-posted to xfilesfics x_files_slash slashingmulder krycek_lives & The Basement.
He’d finally slowed down, half an hour after Mulder hit the ground, when he was sure he wasn’t followed by either him, his red-haired partner or the police, he’d slowed down but not stopped. He kept walking, for at least an hour he kept walking, in hurried circles, telling himself he was being careful not to leave a trail, but when he finally reached the studio apartment that was his for the time being, he was still breathing hard and losing any persecutors had nothing to do with it. His heart was racing. He tried to calm himself down, but it was impossible, and when he went to get the bottle of vodka from his freezer he noticed his hands were shaking. Not a light tremble either, but really shaking, like heroine withdrawal rather than caffeine. He grabbed the bottle and relished the cold of the glass against his hands. He squeezed his eyes shut, hugging the bottle closer to him, putting it against the side of his neck, against his forehead, then struggling the cap off and downing a couple of greedy gulps and relishing the heat of the vodka as it travelled down his throat just as much.
He opened his eyes again, and saw that the bottle was bleeding.
That’s what he thought, that’s the actual thought that went through his head, and it was the first real thought to penetrate the chaos of images and disjointed words of panic in his mind since Mulder had grabbed him and threw him onto that car. His one thought then had been, “He’s going to kill me.”
And then nothing, just a whirlwind of curses and images, Bill Mulder’s hard stare, the blood pumping out of the hole in his head and onto the white rug, Mulder’s crazed eyes, the muzzle of the gun he was pointing at him, the heat of his breath against Krycek‘s face, Scully’s panicked and confused face, her gun, the bullet wound in Mulder’s shoulder, the look of pain on his face as the bullet hit, Mulder going down.
Krycek shook his head, as though the images were actual pictures stuck in his head that he could shake loose if he shook his head enough times, and hard, but instead it just added to the dizziness and disorientation. He took another swig of vodka before he screwed the cap back on. He rinsed the blood of with cold water from the tap before he put the bottle back in the freezer, knowing it’d be covered with a fine layer of ice the next time he went to get it, and liking the thought.
He went into bathroom. He rinsed his hands, scrubbed them raw with hot water and used up half the soap bar, and still he thought he could see traces of blood still on them, stuck in the fine lines of his palms, caking his nails, he held his fingers up to his nose and inhaled, he could still smell it, the blood.
It took Mulder several days after they cleared the crime scene and got rid of the police line tape across the doorway to actually venture inside. They’d left the rug where it was, in the condition it was, blood stain and all. Dark crimson, almost brown now. And it seemed to glare at him, to taunt him.
Mulder sunk down to the floor. His knees didn’t exactly buckle under his weight, it wasn’t anything as dramatic as that, he was just washed over by a wave of exhaustion so suddenly it drained the air and energy out of him, and by the feel of it, took all the bones in his body with it on the way out. He kneeled on the threshold, upper body heavy and leaning into the bathroom, threatening to topple over, while his lower body kept him rooted to the hallway floor. And it all came back to him, everything that’d happened in the past couple of weeks, not in flashes here and there but as a big picture, so big it weighed down on him as though he was Atlas and carried the whole world on his calloused shoulders.
He could see his father’s dead body in front of him still, without even trying, it lay right there the way he‘d found it that night, crumpled like an old rag doll, absurdly small all of the sudden, face so pale already even though he was still warm to the touch, eyes staring back at Mulder so empty, mouth open, and that‘s what taunted him the most now. He imagined all those secrets, all those dark horrible secrets, the truth about his sister, about himself and his father, about the project, about the cigarette smoking man, all of it, spilling from his father’s mouth, too late, silent, and poetically red onto the floor.
Mulder shut his eyes, and covered his face with his hands, took several deep breaths and when he looked up again the vision of his father had disappeared. All that was left was the rug and the stain of dry blood in its middle that stood out against the white.
He scrambled into the bathroom and wrenched open the cupboard under the sink. He knew his father kept a bottle of bleach there along with Mr. Clean and a stock of toilet paper. He knocked a few items over, clawing at the very back of the cupboard, even now, with his daughter gone and his son grown-up Bill Mulder kept the bleach hidden in the back, probably out of habit. Mulder’s hand found the bottle and grabbed it. He held it close, hugged it to himself as he turned around, leaned back against the cupboard and stared at the blood stain in front of him, that sullied, ill-fated spot, and he thought of Krycek, of the look in his eyes as he had him pushed onto the hood of that car, gun pointing in his face, hand nested in the leather covering his chest. And he thought of Scully and the explosion of pain that overcame him as that bullet pierced his shoulder.
Krycek glanced up at his reflection.
The light from the one bulb dangling from the bathroom ceiling was sparse, probably due to the thick layer of dust that the bulb had collected, and the mirror on the medicine cabinet was also covered in dust as well as little cracks and tooth paste stains, all of which added to the effect, but he knew that even without these elements, he looked like a ghost; his face was deadly pale and his eyes were spooked and blood shot. And even with the vodka now dulling his senses comfortably, and lulling his pulse and thoughts, his heart was still hammering considerably in the confined space of his ribcage. He was still shaking uncontrollably.
And try as he might to rid himself of the images in his head, he knew he’d never really be rid of them, especially the one image, that of Mulder’s face, in particular his eyes, wide and almost unseeing, full of fury and betrayal and hurt. And it was that knowledge, that that was the image that would haunt him for the rest of his life, that frightened him the most.
He started scrubbing his hands again.
He scraped the side of his nails on one hand with the nails on his other, until the skin broke and more blood started flowing, adding to blood still stubbornly stuck there, in the skin, soaked up in it, reeking, taunting him, he knew he was marked, he knew he’d never really get rid of it, the blood, because even if he got it off his hands now, his hands would never be clean again.
I feel like Lady Macbeth, he thought and chuckled to himself, the chuckle took on a life of its own and before he knew it he was laughing uncontrollably to himself, a desperate noise that clawed its way up his body and hit the walls around him with such force the echo seemed to pelt down on him. His knees buckled and sunk to the floor, still grabbing the sink, like he couldn‘t let himself crumble completely. He was clinging to the edge of something, below wasn‘t the solid and dirty floor of his bathroom, that was just an illusion, a false comfort, if he let go the floor would open up and swallow him, of that he was certain, and he would fall into an abyss too infinity and dark to even imagine, he would be lost in a black hole forever, with nothing but these images and a forbidden sense of wrong, of regret, to keep him company.
He pulled himself up again, leaning heavily on the sink, feeling it give way slightly from his weight. He turned the water off. Droplets of blood rose from the tiny cracks in the skin around his fingernails and blended with the water on his hands. Splashes of pink covered the grimy sink as he shook them. That’s how it would be now, he thought, from now on, the blood on my hands will give off its colour and stain everything I ever touch again. I’ll never be rid of it. I’m marked now, tainted. There’s no going back from this. And Mulder knows.
Mulder poured bleach out onto the rug, drenched it until it was soaked through and formed a poisonous puddle that grew wider and wider below him, grew out of his control. The stench materialized into pins in his eyes and lunges, and he coughed and blinked the tears out of his eyes, but he didn’t get up or turn away.
He’d found an old toothbrush in the cupboard below the sink and he ground it against the wet rug, scrubbing furiously at blood. Tears kept rolling down his face, he wasn’t crying though, his mouth was set in a pained, stubborn line, his teeth were grinding, jaw muscles aching, but he couldn’t stop. Another fit of coughs tore through him, he could barely even see the floor through the tears in his eyes anymore, but he didn’t stop scrubbing, he didn’t even slow down.
The bleach reached his other hand, and his jean clad knees and started soaking through to his skin, but he took no notice of it, he just kept scrubbing. After a while he’d scrubbed the bristle off the toothbrush and he tossed it aside and started rubbing at the wet blood stain with his bare hands instead. Tears and spit raining down on them. And still he wouldn’t, couldn’t stop.
He kept it up for an hour, maybe two, time had lost its conviction and importance, but it was getting dark out when he finally collapsed. Curling into a trembling ball of misery and hopelessness, he lay on the floor and soaked up the rest of the bleach in his shirt front and sleeves, in his hair, breathed the fumes of it and felt it burn into his skin. He stopped scrubbing and started crying for real, pressing his face into the rug, and the bleach and his father’s blood, like a kid pressing into his pillow after a particularly unnerving nightmare. And when the darkness came descending, he welcomed it.
Mulder knows, Krycek thought, over and over.
The terror of it, that one thought, and what it would mean, kept building in him until he felt nothing anymore, just a bone-numbing cold that settled first in his gut then started soaking into the rest of his organs, limbs, polluting his bloodstream like a poison, or a virus. The stench of blood was wrapped around him like a thick blanket, he could barely breathe. Mulder knows, Mulder knows, Mulder will always know this now, nothing will make him oblivious again.
Krycek reached down and grabbed a bottle of bleach from the floor underneath the sink. His hands were shaking even more than earlier, making it hard to get the childproof cap off the bottle, and he swore desperately under his breath, the half-swallowed noise of it turning into a whimper that he stubbornly ignored.
Getting the bottle open he poured a rich amount of bleach over his hand, some of it spilling into the sink, some dripping onto the floor by his feet, the sting as it seeped into the cuts n his skin was like a series of cut in itself, like fire in his flesh, throbbing, pulsing, blinding. Like flames licking the walls of a burning building, the pain pressed against the inside of his skin, and he started rubbing his hands together, grinding the pain deeper into his skin, pushing the poison into his wounds, cleansing them.
His head reeled. He confused one image with another, until they all bled together into a colourless mass of pain, until pain was all he felt, all he knew. But as the pain kept growing, intensifying, he dug himself through it and came out on the other side, until he could feel nothing at all anymore.
He felt disconnected from everything then, like he wasn’t even in his body anymore, but rather soaring above it looking down, seeing the blood, his own blood not Bill Mulder‘s, flowing freely from his fingers and mingling with the bleach, drops of it, pink drops, falling to the floor and running down his arms, ruining the leather. And from that angle it all seemed so pointless, so trivial.
When he reconnected with his body, minutes or hours later, who knew, he still felt it, the cold detachment, knowing he’d reached a point of no return and that regret or what if’s would bring him nothing but distraction and heartache, he finally stopped scrubbing and stared at his hands. They were still shaking but not nearly as much as before. They were also numb now, either from all the scrubbing or from the bleach, he couldn’t be sure.
I had no choice, he told himself then, kept telling himself until he believed it.
He ran cold water over his hands until all the bleach and blood had rinsed away, watched it swirl down the drain and then he turned the water off. He wrapped a towel round one hand and held it on place with the other, thus putting pressure on the cuts on both, and he left the bathroom again.
Maybe it was the fumes from the bleach but he felt light-headed, empty, and maybe that wasn’t really a good thing but he welcomed it. The images were still there, lurking under the surface, but he was able to keep them down for now, out of sight, out of mind, and he collapsed on his couch, hugging his hands, now throbbing again, to his chest and letting his eyes droop. Finally he let himself relax, he let the tension in his body go, like a string that snaps, he sunk boneless into the cushions and allowed exhaustion to overpower him.
I had no choice, he told himself again, and then he fell into a dreamless sleep.
Mulder woke up on the couch in his father’s living room. He sat up and looked around groggily, feeling disorientated and strangely empty. He had no recollection of how he’d ended up there, on the couch, or even his father’s house, he didn’t remember going there, let alone going to sleep, his mind was a thick fog and he took a deep breath, pressing his fingers against his eyes, rubbing the cobwebs away.
He knew there was something important that he should be remembering, and he tried to pinpoint what it was, but it was like being woken up and trying to remember a dream that was hazy to begin with. He let dragged his hands over his head and bent his neck, but paused halfway through the movement. His hair was damp. He sat up straighter, tried to backtrack in his mind.
Slowly the images came back to him, coming to the house, going into the bathroom, scrubbing away at the bloodstains on the floor…
He got to his feet and walked back to the bathroom. The green tiled floor spread out before him, spotless, no blood stains, no bleach, no rug even. He didn’t leave it that way, he remembered breaking down on top of that rug and then he lost consciousness, right there, he hadn’t finished cleaning it and he certainly hadn’t removed it, he’d collapsed, broken down, and then he’d lost consciousness. But he woke up on the couch, no bleach anywhere. And looking down his body he realized he wasn’t even wearing the same clothes he wore when he got to his father’s house the previous afternoon.
He took another step into the bathroom and peered over the edge of the bathtub. Soaking in water were his jeans and t-shirt, and what looked to be the rug. He didn’t remember doing that, in fact he was sure he hadn’t. He tried to remember, he knew there was something else, something in-between the bleach and the couch, another memory, but it was floating just out of reach.
He turned to the sink and took in his own reflection. He looked like shit.
He rinsed his face off and drank some water straight from the tap.
I could have died, he thought.
Someone had saved him, saved his life, and it couldn’t have been Scully because if it had been he would have woken up in the hospital, not on the couch in the next room. The missing memory kept skipping around in his mind’s peripheral, he tried to concentrate and hold onto it but it was no use, all he came up with was a smell, a very faint smell that he knew he should recognize but he couldn’t right now, and the feel of arms around him, hands on him, checking him, and then arms carrying him, strong ones, a man’s arms, and the texture of them, no not them, but of what they’d been wearing, a thick material, rough and smooth at the same time.
Leather, Mulder thought numbly. Krycek.
He shook his head. He couldn’t be sure, he’d been out of it, he couldn’t remember, he didn’t want to remember. He turned his back to the mirror, to his reflection’s knowing gaze. He glanced at the clothes and rug soaking in the tub, but decided to leave them there. He flicked the light switch and shut the door behind him.
Another memory resurfaced, a more recent one, from when he woke up on the couch, before he sat up. The blurry sight of the table in front of him, the room that spread out around him, taunting him with it’s emptiness and quiet, and the folded piece of paper on the table, right in front of his face.
Mulder hesitated by the front door.
No, he told himself. Fuck him.
And he left.
Krycek watched Mulder leave the house, a small breath of relief escaping his lips. He’d made sure the other man was still breathing, that his pulse was beating steadily, before he’d snuck out of the house again, but he wasn’t a doctor and Mulder could easily have slipped into a coma, or been brain damaged more than usual, or even died, for all he knew. The temptation to go back into the house when Mulder still hadn’t appeared after two hours was almost overwhelming, but he’d stayed put where he was, crouching behind the house across the street.
He knew he was putting his own life at risk, being there, now that he had no-one, literally no-one on his side, and between the Consortium, the FBI and Mulder himself, he was the least popular person in the country and the most wanted. He should have left the country when he had the chance, but he couldn’t. He needed to close to Mulder, to keep tabs, look out for him. It wasn’t out of nobility, or even guilt, it was even worse, even more pathetic, but he didn’t allow himself to acknowledge that. Instead he reasoned with himself that he was hiding in plain view, and that keeping tabs on Mulder and the X-files was in his own best interest, and nothing more.
So he’d shadowed his former partner, devotedly and obsessively he’d followed his every movement and gathered every little detail and piece of information that he could. He’d always kept a safe distance, though. Until the previous afternoon, when Mulder had gone back to his father’s house, and despite the fact that every cell in Krycek’s body told him to split, that enough was enough, and don’t go there, that was the moment he’d decided to creep closer.
He’d been inside the house. He’d stood hidden in the shadows in the living room and listened to Mulder as he was spluttering and whimpering to himself in the bathroom, and then he’d heard him let go and break down, and it prickled his skin, his muscles had tensed as though he’d been punched, telling him to run, but he’d stayed put.
When the noises died down, Krycek gave it another minute before he carefully snuck closer to the doorway and peeked round the corner.
He’d cursed, loudly at the sight. Cursed Mulder, then himself for sticking around to help the bastard. But he couldn’t just leave him there. Obviously he couldn’t, he thought to himself now that he watched the agent climb into his car and drive away again. But the note was a mistake, he thought.
Even so, when he’d broken into the house again, and found the note still on the table, exactly how he’d left it, a sour sense of disappointment welled up in him. Even as he told himself that he was relieved, that it was a good thing, that he was goddamn lucky that Mulder hadn’t seen it or had chosen to ignore it, the disappointment burned like a stubborn little flame amidst the cold that filled him. He grabbed the piece of paper and scrunched it up in his fist.
It wasn’t a long message, just two words - “Be careful” - and they didn’t give anything away, but the initial that he’d sign the note with did, if Mulder would have read the note he’d known Krycek had been there, he’d known Krycek was close by, watching him.
But he hadn’t read it, so it was okay.
But still that little flame kept burning.
Stupid bastard, Krycek told himself as he left the house again. But he wasn’t sure he meant himself or Mulder.