It was midnight and Mulder was doing laundry.

Krycek resented the man's endless festival of sleep deprivation. It had the unearthly feel of a holy man waiting for his spirit guide, like Mulder feared sleep might rob him of a vision, render him something less than a man.

In the car, Krycek was near to having visions of his own. The slow heat was making him drowsy and life had started to feel shifty and stretched out like a postmodern indie film that never seemed to end.

It had actually surprised Krycek to see Mulder doing something as ordinary as laundry. A real martyr wouldn't wash his hair shirt, but Mulder was a product of his time. Salon hair, porn videos, and a couple of beers on the weekend. Just a regular guy, except in the gritty laundromat he looked anything but.

Sitting in a hideous plastic chair, he was reading a book and looking like the reason God created man. The harsh overhead lighting was kind to him in ways it never was for others, kissing the angles of his face until even the subtle motion of his blink seemed so precise it made you hold your breath with wonder.

His white t-shirt was bright and clean and set him apart from the dirt and shrug of this dangerously poor part of town. The faded jeans were probably too tight for an ankle holster, but Mulder had an attachment to his gun that even Freud couldn't fault. Krycek knew it couldn't be too far away, hidden under the pile of gleaming whites, maybe.

Krycek rolled down the window. The car smelled of gun oil and oranges, and the night heat mixed it into a greasy sweetness that would turn into a headache soon.

Across the street, Mulder had stood to pull quarters from his pocket. The white painted letters spelled out LAUNDROMAT on the window and the pink-neon OPEN blotted out his face like a lipstick kiss on a mirror. He looked like the one that got away.

"Keep an eye on Mulder," the old man had said, as if it were that simple, as if keeping an eye on Mulder wouldn't induce blindness or insanity, as if Mulder ever stayed put long enough to be watched.

Tonight, though, it wasn't Mulder's whim that led him to do laundry during the capital's witching hour. He was supposed to be meeting an informant, and the men Krycek worked for were quite eager to learn this man's identity. There was a leak in their organization and Mulder appeared to be getting most of the runoff.

Krycek glanced at his watch. It was one in the morning. The old men were probably long asleep by now, tucked into bed with their scotch and their tiny Berettas. Krycek wanted to go home too. He needed his beauty sleep if he was going to keep up with Mulder. The man was like one of those wind-up toys that marched until it ran into a wall and then just kept banging up against it stubbornly. Given enough time, Mulder would wear down the plaster and walk right through. It was why he was so dangerous. He was arrogant and willful and never for a moment did it cross his mind that he might be wrong about the nature of the universe. To Fox Mulder, the way he saw things was the way they were.

Krycek knew better. It was his job to hold Mulder's world in place, to make sure he never saw behind the curtain.

The radio was on low and Krycek settled back in his seat. This was his job. His job to watch Mulder move under the sickly lights, carry wet laundry, sit just so and turn the pages of his book.