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Rogues by Tabby

Title: Rogues
Author: Tabby
Feedback, please! Either to the author, at either , , or , or to her sister, who edited, at
Webpage: http://www.slash-and-burn.com
Status: Complete
Pairing: M/K, Scully/Reyes
Rating: NC-17. Warning: Character death, bdsm, bloodplay, possession.
Spoilers: Amor Fati, Requiem, Existence (as it should have ended).
Series: Rogues #1
Disclaimer: The characters Mulder, Krycek, Scully, Skinner, Doggett, Reyes, Kersh, the Cigarette Smoking Man, Margaret Scully, Bill Scully and the Lone Gunmen are owned by Chris Carter and Ten Thirteen Productions.
Summary: Accused of the violent murder of A.D. Skinner, Krycek and Mulder leave on a desperate cross-country trip, always one step ahead of their pursuit: the law, and strange forces Mulder doesn't fully understand.
Warnings: Character death, bdsm, bloodplay, possession.


Rogues
by Tabby

I'm standing in the FBI parking garage pointing my Glock 9 millimeter at Fox Mulder, and he wants to know why, and a thousand other questions are no doubt beginning to break the surface of his consciousness, thrashing around for a handhold, a foothold, sinking and rising again; but his placid face registers nothing beyond a certain sadness, a world-weariness, which begs me to say something, to do something to get him to react. "I'm sorry to have to do this to you," I repeat, as if he has not heard me, and level my weapon, which shakes a little in my hand; it's unsteady; it keeps time with my heart, with thumps wildly, irregularly. "Darling," I find myself saying, "Oh, my love, it doesn't have to be this way," each syllable contrapuntal to the ragged sound of my breath. He looks at me in surprise, in wonder.

In that instant, Skinner runs up, pistol trained on me with obvious and deadly intent. Mulder's lips part. "Don't shoot him," he says at last, a scratchy whisper, as if he is unaccustomed to speaking, looking at Skinner, looking at me. "Don't shoot."

I look back at him for a long moment, ignoring the threat of Skinner's weapon, the hand poised to use it. Mulder's face is open, impassive and sweet; there is no malice, no trickery there. Slowly, centimeter by centimeter, I lower my weapon. "Right there!" Skinner snaps, and I know that he is aching to shoot me, readier than ready to shoot me, so in a millisecond I swing the Glock around, both hands steadying it, so that it is pointed at his chest.

"Drop it!" he hisses, but I hold my ground, shaking my head.

"You drop it," I barely mouth.

"Damn you, Krycek!" he spits out. "You don't deserve to live!"

"Yes he does!" asserts Mulder, who has found his voice and a place near me, is watching me, assessing the effect his words have on me. I glance at him.

"Sweetheart," I say softly, and his solemn face splits in a smile.

"I hate to break up this mutual admiration society, fellas," says Skinner, "but Mulder, get back so I can get a clear shot."

"No," says Mulder, and steps closer to me, though not so close that he'd interfere with the action of my trigger hand. A shot rings out, striking the wall near my right arm and ricocheting crazily, and John Doggett runs up, breathless.

"I've got 'im covered, boss," he gasps.

"No, you don't," I say and squeeze off a shot; Doggett immediately drops his Sig and doubles over in pain; blood spreads darkly from the wound in his upper arm.

"You rat-bastard!" shouts Skinner and shoots in my direction: virtually point-blank, and he still misses. I return his fire and he drops to his knees, clutching at his midsection. "Got you," I say, and calmly holster my weapon.

"Mulder, if we're going, we've got to leave now," I say, looking at him beseechingly. He nods. We duck into his car and spin out, tires screeching, leaving the two wounded agents to their own private agonies.

Driving the Interstate at 20 miles an hour over the limit, we exchange tentative glances. "Is this what you want?" I ask him seriously, "to run off with me like this, to be hunted with me? Is this the life you choose? Can you live this way?"

For answer he covers my steering hand with his, raises it to his lips. Then he leans over and, oblivious of commute traffic, just kisses me, his soft lips grazing mine in a whisper I can see and hear and feel. It is spoken with love, and it is eternal.

************************************************************************

Oh, God, I love him so much, so much. That happy refrain is running over and over through my head relentlessly as I smile at him, running my hand through his thick, dark hair. And now I have him. Is the price too dear? Only time will tell. I pat my pockets absently, glancing in the rear-view mirror. Yes, I have some sunflower seeds, and no, there are no black-and-whites anywhere close. I pull out a fistful of seeds and begin the process of cracking, chewing and spitting the hulls.

"Mulder, you are incorrigible," he says, but he's smiling.

"They help me cope with stress."

"Are you feeling stressed-out?" he asks, concerned.

"Well, yeah," I admit. "You hurt two agents. Skinner could be dead. They're probably looking for us right now. We'll be on the run indefinitely."

Krycek nods. "Are you having second thoughts? If you are, Mulder, I can leave you off at a restaurant or a motel somewhere...you have your cell phone with you, don't you? You can call for help. I'm sure they'll be lenient with you."

"No," I hear myself saying, "I never want to leave you, ever again. Even though you did pull a gun on me."

"You've got to understand. I was desperate," he says, his green-eyed glance raking me, my jeaned legs, my sunflower seeds pattering about me. "I loved you and thought you hated me."

"Well? What were you intending to do with the gun?" I ask, disposing of a seed-hull by the spit-method, out the window and into incoming traffic.

He stares straight ahead, gripping the wheel. "I was going to kill you, then myself," he finally admits.

"Sheesh!" I say, the breath escaping me in a rush, grabbing the armrests for support.

He nods. "Yes, I'm sorry that it shocks you. But I'm not sorry that I didn't have to go through with it. I'm gloriously happy that you're alive and you're here. Mulder, I love you and I need you so much."

"Thanks," I croak, weakly. "I love you too." Part of me had guessed, of course, the reason for, the meaning of the Glock pointed at my head, but hearing it...Krycek is as intense and as scary as he ever was. Remorse stabs me and I clutch at my chest.

"What's the matter?" he asks keenly. Having second thoughts, indeed, I think, but do not say. At some point we turn off the interstate and onto a quieter road, winding between green hills, the sound of a creek rushing up to greet us at every bend.

"What's this?" I ask.

"We're taking the road less traveled," he answers. "We're in Pennsylvania. There's a little motel up ahead, and a fast-food outfit with a drive-through." I sit up a little straighter at the mention of food. It's been 9 or 10 hours since I last ate, and even a greaseburger would go down nicely at this point. Go down. My eyes stray to Krycek's lap. What would the sleeping arrangements be like?

As if divining my thoughts, he reaches over and pats my leg. "Don't worry, Mulder. We'll get a room with two beds and we can pretend we're Ozzie and Harriet."

"I didn't mean--" I begin, and then my cell phone shrills.

"Don't answer it," Krycek says quietly.

I shake my head, push the "yes" button, and there is Scully, frantic, scared, pissed. "Damn you!" she says, "I can't believe what you did!" Her voice is heavy, stuffy from crying. "Do you have any idea?"

"Two people were injured," I say evenly, inspecting an unusually-shaped sunflower seed. Like a heart, almost, this one is.

"Injured? INJURED! Do you-A.D. Skinner might die! He's in the hospital on life support! And Krycek pretty much shattered Agent Doggett's arm! He had to have hours of reconstructive surgery! If Skinner dies, you'll be accessory to murder, Mulder, unless," she pauses for emphasis, "unless you turn yourself in to the authorities - NOW!"

"Why?" I ask innocently. "I really haven't done anything. I'm an innocent bystander."

"Well, you're harboring a known, wanted felon, at least. If Skinner dies, it'll be murder."

"Yeah," I say into the flip phone, trying to keep my voice calm, even, "You've said."

"Mulder, I'm so close to my due date, you know that, and I'm so worried about the baby, and aliens everywhere, and I need you! And the baby needs you!"

"I'm so sorry I can't be there with you, but you have all my love," I say.

"I don't have all your love," she wails, "that's the problem! Krycek has all your love! Since when have you been gay, anyway?"

"Scully," I say, "I have to talk to you later," and click the "no" button.

Krycek nods. "You did the right thing, and even a cell phone call can be traced eventually, you know." We eat at a local version of McDonald's, wolfing down burgers and shakes and fries, me casting anxious glances out the window. Krycek notices this. "They're off our trail for now," he says casually, blotting his perfect lips. "They'll expect us to go one of several places. One, to your old summer place on Martha's Vineyard; two, to a safehouse I know about in British Columbia; three, to a place in Georgetown. That's where they'll be watching, concentrating their efforts, setting up roadblocks. Whatever it is they feel compelled to do to catch two desperate criminals," and his green gaze brushes mine. "We're safe for now, Mulder, and we'll be going to a place where no one will ever find us."

"You seem pretty sure of that," I observe, looking in my bag for stray fries.

"I am. If you're hungry, you can get more, you know." We end up getting second orders of everything and taking the food to our motel room. "See, two beds, just as I promised," says Krycek, pushing the door shut and locking it, a note of irony in his voice.

I test the bed with one hand, then sit. It's hard, of course, and narrow; not big enough for two, certainly. I look at him questioningly, and he shrugs, plopping his bag on his bed, the Glock just peeping out. I'll leave it up to you, he seems to say, looking at me searchingly, the emerald eyes soft and yielding. "Dibs on the shower," he says at last, and I laugh.

After the showers, we go shopping at a local market for toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and the like. "We should've done this first," I grumble.

"I had to get the road grime off," he says. We return to the motel room, clean up some more, and finally I'm beginning to feel like myself. We flop on our separate beds, and I stare at the TV. "Well, turn it on," Krycek says, amused. "You never know what might be on it."

We're on it, of course, and I can feel my heart beginning to pound. There are roadblocks all over D.C. and traffic is snarled into overheating, horn-blowing knots. "I thought so," says Krycek. "We're safe here for now. We're going to take 70 into a stronghold in Utah, a beautiful place you'll like." I look at him, pondering the accuracy of his words, while a reporter natters on and on about the charges that are probably being brought against us. Skinner, apparently, is not yet dead, still hanging onto life; but he is considered to be very critical and unlikely to make it. I look over at the beautiful man who hurt him and think, not for the first time, murderer. He looks back at me and the look is questing, yearning. He wants something, something from me, very badly, so badly that he is willing to kill for it. He drops his gaze, the beryl eyes shaded by thickly-lashed lids, then looks back at the TV.

A small, self-important "expert" forensic psychologist is beginning to talk about us, and I shudder, a goose walking over my grave. He is describing Krycek as an "antisocial" hit man, and me as a "borderline" renegade ex-agent with a "twisted" homosexual attraction to "these sociopathic types."

Krycek rubs his chin, distractedly. "Razor. Shaver. I forgot to get one," he says.

"It's OK," I smile. "We'll get scruffy, be less recognizable. Think we should dye our hair or something?"

"Naw," he shakes his head. "They won't find us. Trust me."

"So where is this place in Utah?"

"You'll see," he says mysteriously, and lies back on the bed.

************************************************************************

Long after Mulder has gone to sleep, I lie awake, staring alternately at the ceiling, the walls, and Mulder's sleeping form. He is so peaceful in repose, the beautiful eyes closed, the lush lips just parted. I think...yes, I think I will. I rise and walk quietly to his side, bend over him and move to taste those lips. He stirs slightly in his sleep and I pull back, but when he doesn't wake, I move in again, emboldened to take him in a kiss. He is so warm. I can feel the blood beating beneath his soft skin. I want to devour him. Not yet, not yet, I think, and draw back. He wakes up a little, opening his eyes. "What are you doing?" he asks sleepily.

"Nothing," I whisper, "just admiring you. You look so beautiful asleep."

"And so ugly every other time," he smiles. "What time is it?"

I tell him it is after one, and he thinks we should get back on the road. "Gee," he says, "think of that! I forgot to pack a suitcase! Guess I'll have to wear the same grungy clothes! Are you going to object, Alex?"

"No, of course not," I respond. "Obviously, I'm in the same boat." Alex. He called me "Alex" again. "Look," I say, "when those jeans stand up and talk back to me, then I'll worry."

"They're almost at that stage already," he mumbles, making a face of mild distaste as he pulls them on. As our headlights cut a bright swathe in the surrounding darkness, picking up a road sign here, mysterious points of light which could be eyes there, he looks around and yawns. "Where're we going today?" he asks.

"Somewhere they can't find me," I sing softly, and he looks at me in surprise.

"I didn't know you could sing."

"Neither did I. Anyway, we're headed out on 80 initially, 70 eventually."

"Isn't that an obvious route?" he asks, reaching for sunflower seeds. "When they find out we're not in any of the places they think we're headed, won't they start looking here?"

"They might," I agreed, "but they'll have trouble finding us. We're ditching your car."

"What do you mean, ditching it?"

"Getting a rental, on a credit card in a name they don't know."

"That could work," he says cautiously. "By the way, speaking of ditching, Alex, why'd you leave your arm behind? And I hope you left it in some non-obvious place."

"I left it," I said, stifling a yawn, "in the big double dumpster at the supermarket behind the motel. They can find it if they really want to, but it won't prove anything other than that we were there in the first place, and they'll be days, maybe weeks behind us. Old, stale trail. As for why, it bugged me. I can afford a better one but have never gotten around to getting one, and now I don't see why I should."

"They'll be looking for a one-armed man."

"Oh, and that ol' plastic thing will throw 'em off? C'mon, Mulder!"

We end up buying a used white Mustang of fairly early vintage from a car lot. The salesman acts not in the least surprised to see me pull $5,000 in cash from a back pocket and hand it to him. "This is better," I tell Mulder, settling into the car. "No paper trail to speak of. A title in a fake name, that's it."

"A convertible," he muses. "This is nice! Aren't we likely to attract attention in it?"

"Not when the police are looking for a black Ford Crown Victoria we're not."

We drive north a little, south a bit and ever west, so that the rising sun is at our backs. Breakfast is an Egg McMuffin and orange juice for me, and Sprite for Mulder because his stomach is acting up. "You're nervous, aren't you?" I ask sympathetically. He nods, sips his soda, those lips - those lips! - curving around the straw in a completely unconscious sensuality, till I have to look away. "Will you suck on me like that?" I want to ask, but can't. I can't rush him, can't risk losing him, not now, not now that I finally have him again.

"I'm sorry," he apologizes, seeing my glance, "I guess I'm the weak link in the chain."

I touch his shoulder, lightly. "Mulder," I say, "you ARE the chain," thinking, you're the glue that holds me together. He smiles his dimply, friendly smile and reaches for his seeds.

************************************************************************

Yeah, wonder what the fuck I'm doing here, anyway, on a trip to the wastes of Utah, fleeing justice with this wild, wild boy? I'm running away with him, and that makes me a fugitive also, a criminal; me, who so recently was on the side of Truth, Justice and the American Way. I have a feeling I can still turn back, but I don't want...my cell phone rings and I answer it automatically. "Mulder," says the determined female voice in my ear, "where are you?"

"I can't tell you that, Scully, as you know."

"You're still with Krycek? You know they'll catch you at a roadblock. Have you seen yourselves on TV? Are you enjoying yourself, Mulder?"

"No, they won't, yes, I have, and yes, I am," I say, and click the conversation off.

"Scully?" asks Krycek.

"Yeah," I say. "She's freaked and hurt, and doubly hurt, because she's about to give birth, and I won't be around."

Krycek looks at me with interest, his beryl eyes dancing. "So is it true, as rumor has it? You're the father?"

"One can never be sure," I intone, cracking a seed, "but as she's claimed she hasn't slept with anyone else for a year, I'll assume it is mine. She can always get a DNA test done to know for sure."

He nods. "What was she like?"

"Nice," I admit, "very nice. Pretty wild, actually."

"Huh!" says Krycek.

I must have dozed off. That could explain why I don't know what's going on, what all the fuss is about. Krycek is slowing and pulling over. "What? What happened?" I ask.

"An accident," he says, tersely, "car overturned." We get out of the Mustang and run over to the wreck that once was a Miata. There are two people lying on the tarmac, thrown free of the car, bleeding, dazed at least. Krycek reaches the woman first. She is about thirty, and would probably be pretty, if her face weren't covered with blood. He drops to his knees and leaning over the woman begins to administer CPR. I go to the man. He is not breathing, so I start resuscitation efforts on him. He does not respond, and I fear he is dead. "Call, call!" says Krycek urgently, in between breaths. I dial 911 on the cell phone and try to describe our location.

"This one's gone," I say to Krycek, clicking the 911 operator off. He glances over. "You're probably right. This one's beginning to breathe, though." In a few minutes we hear sirens. He and I look at each other. "Here's where we exit," he says, and we get in the Mustang and pull away just as the ambulances arrive.

"You're amazing, Alex," I say to him, admiring his heroism. He shrugs.

"I'd hope someone would do the same for me."

************************************************************************

Mulder doesn't know it, but he is a terrible distraction for me. I want to pull over and ravish him to within an inch of his life, kiss him all over, feel his cock in my lips, feel mine in his ass.

But it's too soon. I can't risk the possibility of his leaving me. We stop at noon at a truckstop in Cambridge, Ohio. "You boys aren't from around here, are you?" asks the pretty waitress, smiling at us both. It's a hackneyed question which deserves a cliched answer.

"Just passing through," I say, smiling back. "How's the BLT?"

"Good," she answers. "How can they wreck a sandwich?" As she walks toward the kitchen, she casts a glance back at us. I am seized suddenly by apprehension, and I stand up.

"Mulder," I say, low, "we should leave. Now." He looks at me questioningly. "Get up," I continue, "and walk out quietly. And quickly." He rises obediently and follows me out to the parking lot. "She made us," I say, tensely. He looks at me as we unlock the car.

"Oh," he says, sliding into the passenger seat.

"We're going to be driving pretty fast," I say, and punch the accelerator.

"Think she saw us get in the car?" he asks, reaching into the glove compartment for his sunflower seeds.

"I don't know," I say, adjusting the rear-view mirror. "We'll soon find out." We're not pursued, though, and I silently thank God or whoever is looking out for us. It's hot; we debate putting the top down, but the air conditioning wins out. Mulder snaps on the radio and punches through every station several times, trying to sample the music and talk shows between commercials, trying to find one both he and I like: I prefer 80's music; Mulder, 90's. He flips past a news station and I hear a snatch of conversation that puts me on red alert. "That one!" I exclaim, and he tunes it back in.

"...the two fugitives have not yet been apprehended. Road blocks have been set up on Interstates 70 and 80 at the following points..." the commentator's voice dissolves into static and I try desperately to get it back: "...and outside Zanesville, Ohio. Alex Krycek and Fox Mulder, if you're listening to this, legal authorities have said you can't escape. If you turn yourselves in now, the penalties might be less severe." Her voice segues into a weird commercial about airline travel, and Mulder clicks the radio off.

"Damn!" he swears softly. " 'Might be less severe'? That doesn't sound too encouraging. What are we gonna do now?"

"We're getting maps," I say, already hatching a plan. We stop at a 7-11 for sodas, seeds, sandwiches and the maps. I spread one out on the warmly ticking hood of the Mustang. "Here," I say, bending over it and pointing. "See?"

"Municipal airport?" he asks. "We're going to fly?"

"Yes, let's go." On the way I place a call to the airport on my cell phone so they are ready for us, a twin-engine Cessna warming up on the runway.

"So we're just going to fly over the roadblocks?" Mulder asks, barely daring to believe it.

"That's exactly what we're going to do." I remove a thick wad of cash from my inner jacket pocket and peel off several large notes: $4,000 for the pilot, $2,000 for the pilot's buddy who will drive the Mustang past the roadblocks without incident.

"I hate to fly in these damned little things," grouses Mulder.

"Close your eyes," I advise him. Down beneath us I can see roads, houses, fields with little toy cattle in them, becoming smaller and smaller as we ascend. "Now open your eyes!" I tell Mulder. "Look!" There far, far below us is a gathering of maybe 25 police cruisers, effectively barricading the highway, in both directions, for a mile.

"God," he says. "We would never have gotten past that."

The plane lands in a grassy field next to Interstate 70, ten miles west of the blockage. "Wait here for my friend," the pilot says, and within half an hour the Mustang appears, pulling over to the side of the road. The driver gets out and silently hands us the keys, then climbs into the Cessna, which the pilot guides down a wheel-rut preparatory to takeoff.

Mulder looks at me, shaking his head but smiling. "Never underestimate the power of a greenback dollar," I tell him, and we get into the car.

************************************************************************

I wonder whether Alex knows or even guesses how much I love him; I am unable to say it, to act on it. Oh, from time to time I touch his shoulder or his hand, rather tentatively, or kiss him, very gently, on one of his small and perfect ears; but I want to grab him, hold him, be with him, and I can't do that. It's not as though we've never made love, although it was seven years ago and I was more than a little drunk; but there's a lot of water under the bridge. And sitting by him, watching him, touching him, inhaling his scent, I'm intoxicated but suddenly very shy. So I look at him with desperate longing and wait for him to make the first move.

We've decided that we can no longer risk the exposure of restaurants, so we settle on some bread, tomatoes and lunchmeat cobbled together after a trip to a nameless grocery store. Krycek notices the handbills first: "wanted" posters with gruesome pictures of us are tacked to the store's community bulletin board. He makes a rapid decision and buys several bottles of hair dye and various cosmetics. "I am not going to color my hair like some faggot," I complain.

He glances at me while backing out of the parking space. "You're right," he says, "you're not some faggot, you're THE faggot, and your hair is going black."

"And yours will be blond, I take it?" I ask, inspecting the packages. "Lightest natural golden sunshine. Sounds queery to me." He punches me in the arm.

We do each other's hair in the motel room. Mine comes out blackest coal, and Krycek skillfully applies black mascara to my eyelashes and brows. Looking in the mirror, I hardly recognize myself. His naturally black hair requires two applications of the bleaching blonde agent to reach the desired shade: the color (and nearly the texture) of straw. "Looks good," I say, approvingly. "You look the proper little homo. With the dark lashes and brows, Alex, and your green eyes, very striking indeed."

"Hmm," he says, looking at himself in the mirror, dissatisfied. "When we get to a beauty supply place, I'll dye the lashes, etc. to match." Again, we sleep in separate beds, and this time it is I who is awake, watching Krycek slumbering, peacefully and soundlessly.

"Darling," I whisper, and he wakes up a little, looking at me under cover of his thick lashes.

"Is something wrong?" he asks. Oh, no, only that I'm what seems like 1,000 miles away from home, from my friends, running with a desperate fugitive, a criminal whom I love fiercely and senselessly, but to whom I can't express that affection.

"Nothing," I say, and smile.

************************************************************************

After Mulder falls asleep, I, of course, wake up, awakened perhaps by the call of a nearby mockingbird, or by a heavy semi tractor trailer, loaded with gas or with Porsches, rumbling by en route to Denver or San Francisco or wherever those things go. He is so peaceful in repose, so like a child; I could almost imagine him sucking his thumb; and the lines of care and grief and worry are gone from his beautiful face. I can't resist the impulse to touch him; I get up, go over to his bed and kiss him. He doesn't wake up, although he shifts his position so that I can see the mound in his blankets made by his pointing cock; he is very erect. I touch his face, his throat, his chest, gently, gently, following each caress with a kiss, and work my way down to his warm, throbbing, oh-so-inviting cock. I pull down the bedclothes so I can see what I'm doing: his cock stands hugely and proudly erect, with a pearly bead of viscous, nacreous fluid at the tip. I bend my head to lick it, taste it, oh my God it is so good, bitter and salty, this life-giving fluid, the essence of Mulder. I lick him gently and thoroughly and take him in my mouth. He moans and shifts a little in his sleep. Is he dreaming of me or of Scully, or someone else? It's impossible to say, but my lips and tongue and mouth continue to work him over till he stiffens and comes in my mouth, and I taste him anew. I am trembling as I stand and look at him. How I want to fuck him, how I want him to fuck me, to feel me in him, to feel him in me. But he doesn't wake; and he moves again, slightly, and suddenly I feel invited to kiss him, and I do, my tongue forcing open his lips, licking them and the inside of his mouth till it is so wet I could just feel it wrapped around my cock, so slick, so moist.

Well, I think, returning to my bed, that guy sure had one hell of a wet dream! As for me -I slide my hand inside my shorts to touch my painfully erect cock, stroking and stroking till I come.

************************************************************************

"I had the most amazing dream last night, Alex." I am standing leaning against the bathroom doorjamb, watching Krycek brush his teeth.

"Oh, yeah?" he asks, working on his pearly whites.

"Yeah. I dreamed that this...this entity came to me in the night and sucked me off."

"Yeah? Like an incubus?"

"Like that. Only, he looked a lot like you."

"Really?" he asks, and looks at me with that sidelong look. Then he leans over the sink and spits.

"Really."

"And how was I, or he or it?" he asks, patting his lips dry on a hand towel.

"Wonderful!" I say. "And when I woke up, I was sticky, so I must've come in my sleep. Just a wet dream, I suppose."

"I suppose," says my companion, fluffing his hair in the mirror. Although I have never cared much for blonds, I guess I could make an exception in this case.

"Where exactly are we, Alex?" I ask.

"Oh, Springfield, Ohio."

"Oh," I say. "Did you know that just about every state in the union has a Springfield?"

"No, I didn't, but it's an interesting observation. Mulder, what would you say to driving all day and all night today and tomorrow? We ought to hit Moab by day after tomorrow."

I nod. "Yes, I think it's a good idea, actually. Think there'll be more roadblocks?"

"Possibly, although I expect they'll be concentrating on 80, as they will expect us to head for B.C. next. They know nothing of my hideout in Utah," he says, moussing his hair till it stands up in spikes.

"Just what is this 'hideout' like?" I ask curiously. He grins.

"It's pretty nice. You'll see."

It's my turn to drive and I keep at it till well past my shift-end. When the ache in my neck and shoulders becomes intolerable, Krycek instructs me to pull over and expertly massages me with his one talented hand. As semis thunder past he rubs and squeezes and the hurt disappears; but I find I have another problem, a tremendous erection pulsing and pushing against the fabric of my jeans. He sees it too, of course, and smiles. "I can fix that too, babe," he purrs. I want him to, oh God do I want to feel those perfect cupid's-bow lips on my cock, but not here or now, and I tell him so. "That's OK," he says, and leans over, brushing my lips with his. We get back on the road and are silent as the Mustang eats up the miles, highway signs, pastures, bridges, rivers, houses, towns all flashing by, each much like the next, in monotonous and unending sameness.

"This gets old," I say, eight hours into the drive.

"You hungry?" Krycek asks.

"Naw. Just tired." We stop at a rest stop on the outskirts of Topeka, stretching our cramped legs and groaning like old men.

"Check that out," says Krycek, nudging me. It's a handsome young man approaching another near the restrooms. They exchange some sort of signal, which we can't discern from here, then casually saunter into the men's room. I can't help it; I laugh. Then I feel Krycek's warm breath on my neck.

"Should I take a bite?" he asks, then just nibbles my throat up to the ear. "God," I say, shivering, and want to beg for more, but he's standing back, away from me, gauging my reaction. "Don't worry, I found it delightful," I say, and he grins.

"There's plenty more where that came from, Mulder." We use the restrooms, noticing a "wanted" poster of us on the wall.

"The long arm of the law," I say, nodding at the picture, which is bad, blurry, a montage of FBI badge shots, unflattering and not very like.

"Hope they catch those guys, huh?" he says, winking at me. Soon the two young men, having finished their business in a stall, complete with sound effects, come out, make a big show of washing their hands and finally approach us.

"I'm Stan," the older of the two, slim, mustachioed, says, extending a hand to me, then to Krycek. "And this is Ed. We just met, ourselves. We were just wondering if you two ever play around."

"Well," said Krycek, "not exactly."

"We're monogamous," I say firmly, placing an arm around Krycek's shoulder.

"That's too bad," says Stan sincerely. "You're the handsomest couple I've ever met."

************************************************************************

Dinner is drive-through Jack-in-the-Box. Mulder gobbles down half a dozen of the worst egg rolls I've ever seen (or tasted; I had a bite, and was really sorry I did) and suffers stomach symptoms for the rest of the trip. I eat sparingly of grayish who-knows-what burger, throwing the rest to the strutting blackbirds. At a rest stop 20 miles from an old frontier town, we are made, I'm sure of it, by a woman in her forties, trim, with short brown hair and wire-rims, who looks at us very hard and then reaches for her cell phone. We run for the Mustang and are in it and gone before she can write down the plate number. "That was close," Mulder admits.

"Very," I say, pulling my Glock out from under the passenger's seat. "Just in case," I assert. "It's all over the fuckin' news and we can count on it to bring out the worst in people."

"Ah, the spirit of vigilantism," says Mulder ironically. "It helped make our country great, you know. It's Saturday," he continues, yawning in an effort to look unconcerned, or perhaps he is just tired. "We'll check out America's Most Wanted tonight, if we're in a motel."

"Maybe we're on it," I say.

"Yeah. I think it all depends on Skinner. Whether he lives or dies." As if on cue, his cell phone shrills. We both jump.

"Don't answer it," I begin to say, but almost before the words are out of my mouth, he clicks the "yes" button and speaks his name into the flip. "Uh-huh, uh-uh," he says. "Yes, Scully, I do realize that. Uh-huh. How is he? Oh. Shit. Oh, shit. Oh, my God. Why didn't you tell me right away? Days? A matter of days?"

I gesture frantically, pointing to my watch, the second hand sweeping forward with the inexorable impetus of time. Time, their friend. Time, with which they could trace any call, even this one. He mistakes my meaning. "Only days to live," he hisses at me. In answer I pluck the phone from his grasp, click it off and stuff it under the seat.

"Hey!" he says.

"Look," I say, hating myself for being such a shit, "I don't fuckin' care if he's got days, hours, minutes or seconds to live. I shot to kill. You can't be talking and lollygagging on the phone with Scully all day. Do you understand why?"

"They can't trace a call that short, even if they could trace a cell phone call," says Mulder sulkily.

"You'd be surprised what they could do," I answer.

"Oh, gloom and doom!" says Mulder, staring morosely out the window.

"Maybe I know more about black ops than you do, Mulder."

"Oh, you think you do!"

"Is this about missing Scully? Because if it is, then you should go back. Be at her bedside when her baby is born. Your baby."

"No," he says at last, looking at his hands. "I-I love you, Alex. I always have. You must know that. I love Scully, sure, but in a Platonic brother-sister kind of way."

"The way the Egyptian pharaohs and their brothers and sisters loved each other? Incestuously?" I ask, grinning, and he grins back.

We finally pull into Moab hot, tired and incredibly grimy. "Where's a place where a faggot could get a shower?" Mulder asks.

I smile. "Just be patient," I say. "A little while longer."

"Where are we headed, exactly?"

"Up in the hills a way," I say, waving my hand at the red sandstone bluffs.

"Well, can't we at least get a cup of coffee?"

"Sure," I say, and turn in at the Lazy M Coffee and Saddle Shop. The waitress is very young; she can't be older than 17, with braces and a long blonde ponytail. "Your date," I say, nudging Mulder.

"Not mine," he responds, eyeing her. "That one would have a pretty vicious bite!"

"Like this coffee," I say, making a face.

"Oh? It's not that bad," he says, taking a gulp.

"I'm sure it's what they use to tan the saddles with."

In the midst of all this joshing we don't at first notice what's happening on the TV that hangs suspended from the wall over the counter. "A possible sighting of the two suspects was made early this morning at a rest stop near Rifle, Colorado. They were believed to be driving a white convertible, possibly a Ford Mustang, and they headed west on I-70." The waitress glances at us and I read confusion, then wariness in her look; I look back at the TV and there are the FBI photos of us, mine aged to make me look older than I am, but it's the best the police artist can do, I guess; and the teenager is looking from them to us, and back again, probably wondering about the hair color.

"Thanks," I say, throwing down a twenty and yanking Mulder out of his seat. We run to the car. "Have you noticed," I call as we peel out, gravel spraying, "that they never think to mention the fact that I have only one arm?"

************************************************************************

"We've still got one more major leg in this junket," Krycek says, fiddling with the side-view mirror.

"Yeah?" I ask. It's very warm and the air conditioning isn't working properly, which is to say it isn't working at all, and it's blowing stiflingly hot air into my face, making it and my hair even funkier and greasier than they already were, but Krycek insists on keeping the top up, and punches the A/C buttons as though they worked.

"It's less noticeable that way," he says about the arrangement. "People looking for a convertible will also be looking for a top down. We still have to get to Cedar City."

"If we survive this sauna, and then what? To your hideout or hole-in-the-wall or whatever it is?"

"Essentially, yes," he hedges.

"What, we have to take a mule team or drive a Hum-Vee in or something?"

Krycek sighs. "Try not to be sarcastic, Mulder. I know you're uncomfortable. So am I. We'll get there soon enough. Try to be patient."

We arrive in Cedar City without fanfare, thank God; Krycek pulls in at what looks to be a riding stable and goes into the office to talk, leaving me to lean against the car, chewing sunflower seeds in my idle fashion and spitting the hulls at a perfectly innocent lizard sunning himself on a rock. Krycek comes out with a man I assume is the owner; I don't see money changing hands, but it must have, because the proprietor catches two horses from the corral and saddles and bridles them. "Oh, no," I say, "Ohhhh, no. You're not getting me on one of those things!"

Krycek laughs and mounts his horse. "Give him a leg up," he instructs the owner, and I'm boosted into the saddle aboard a mount who snorts and shifts rapidly under me, making me think of a small boat in a strong current, and I immediately begin to feel sick. "C'mon," Krycek says, and urges his horse onto the side of the road. He is riding a pretty buckskin, I notice, whereas I have this plain jugheaded brown thing that plays with the bit and stretches his head around to look at me from time to time, then snorts, as if finding me unutterably amusing. "Up here," Krycek calls, indicating a path off to the side and up a hill; the going is steep and rocky, and I slide back against the hard shelf on the back of the saddle, which jogs some long-ago memory of having read the name of the object: a cantle. Freely-associating, I think of "Canticle," and I start singing, in my lame manner, "Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme." Krycek takes up the Canticle portion of the song and his voice, a rich baritone like Jim Morrison's, rings off the surrounding redrock cliffs, haunting and beautiful. The horses flick their ears to and fro and seem actually to enjoy it; mine takes off at a jolting trot to crowd in closer to his stablemate.

Krycek laughs. "We're over-stimulating them," he says. He looks happy and in his element here: Alex Krycek, the survivor, on horseback in the wilderness. It fits.

"How much did you pay for these horses?" I ask.

"Nothing," he shrugs. "Just the car."

"Oh," I say. "That's right. Well, we couldn't exactly drive it up here." To my lasting surprise, as we are negotiating a particularly steep, narrow and rocky bit of trail, my cell phone rings.

"Don't answer it," says Krycek automatically, but truthfully, I couldn't have if I'd wanted to, so preoccupied am I with hanging onto the saddle, the reins and my rough-gaited mount's neck. The phone shrilled seven times then mercifully stopped and did not begin again. "You can listen to your voicemail later," Krycek suggests, calling a rest, the horses snorting and blowing, irritably switching flies.

"Will we be pursued up here, do you think?" I ask.

Krycek shakes his head. "The stable owner is an old friend of mine and I don't think he'd snitch us off. Even if he did, we'd be pretty hard to follow through this network of trails. And because of the rock formations, the place is hard to see from an airplane or helicopter."

I nod, but am not completely convinced. "Are we going to have to camp out with the bears and the wolves?" I ask, a trifle apprehensively. My survival skills do not extend to mano-y-mano with large fearsome predators.

"No," he says, "podner, there ain't hardly no bears 'n' wolves in these here parts to worry about." He grins. "We'll be there in two hours. No camping. I promise." He clucks to his horse and the steed moves on. The path widens at this point, so that the two horses, imaginatively named Sparky and Buck, can walk abreast. We walk through a stand of Jeffrey pine onto a ridge, and I gasp at the sight: 1,000 feet below us is a verdant valley, cultivated and built at one end, forested at the other, with a creek, a small lake, toy horses, and a cluster of buildings which must be made of Lincoln logs, or so it seems from this distance.

"Is that it?" I finally say.

"Uh-huh," says Krycek. "It's all downhill from here, Mulder, we'll be there in half an hour." The horses, snorting and dancing about, taking in the sights and scents of the settlement, can't wait to be down the mountain, and take off quickly, Sparky moving at a bone-crushing trot. I want to grit my teeth against the pain in my butt but can't risk biting right through my tongue, so I hang on, one hand on the reins, the other on the saddle horn, yelling "Ouch!" from time to time.

The valley floor is carpeted in pine needles, so that the horses' shod hooves fall softly, with an occasional muffled thud, as though they were walking through feathers. Krycek looks back and I can see his emerald eyes glint in the gloom. "Still with us, Mulder?" he calls.

"Yes," I say, and try to work a hand into one of my pockets for my sunflower seeds.

The house is constructed of native sandstones and shales and is very handsome, with a decidedly Prairie School look about it. "Was Julia Morgan a resident here?" I joke.

"Not to laugh," says Krycek. "The house was designed by one of her students." We dismount, Krycek removing the horses' tack and turning them into a paddock, me falling into an aching heap in the dirt. "Are you all right?" he asks, concerned.

"Fine," I say, rising creakily and dusting myself off. Upon gaining admittance to the house, I find that it is spacious and elegant in a rustic sort of way, light and bright on one side, where the sun streams down over the russet cliffs like caramel; dim on the other, which is shaded by hundred-year-old conifers. "NOW can a faggot get a shower?" I ask.

"If he's as cute as you, he can."

************************************************************************

While Mulder is showering in cool spring water, which he prefers, as it is so very warm, I finish hooking up the generator and check on the propane. Good - there's plenty of gas, and my love will now have an almost inexhaustible supply of steaming-hot water, should he want it. When at last he appears in the kitchen, his hair freshly shampooed, smelling wonderfully of English lavender, I am busily slapping together a quiche with powdered eggs and milk - at least the butter and cheese are real, and reasonably fresh, as they were kept in an ice chest buried in the cellar while I was gone. I entertained, a couple of months ago, two good-looking young men, operatives I'd recently taken under my wing: we partied for a solid week. They were fun, lots of fun, but they weren't Mulder, and now here is Mulder, freshly-scrubbed, his skin as soft-looking as a baby's, and he smiles at me, dimpling, and I want to ravish him. Instead I take up the pie tins of quiche and put them in the oven.

"Will that be good?" he asks.

Not half as good as you, sweetheart. "Yes," I say.

"Nice place you have here," he comments, looking around. "Is it yours?"

"Free and clear," I say nonchalantly, but my heart is beginning to thump.

How did you get it? His eyes ask, but he is too polite to say anything.

"It's all right," I say. "I inherited it."

"Oh!" he says. "I didn't know you had any relatives in the States anymore, Alex." Alex. That word, that name, issuing forth from, dripping like sweetest honey from, those lips-those lips! - in a verbal caress.

"I don't," I say, "they're all dead." Then I can feel it: the heat, undoubtedly visible as a blush, creeping up my chest, reddening my face. I turn away before he can see it. "How about some French bread and a bottle of rose with the quiche?" I ask.

"Bread, yes. Rose, double yes. Now and with dinner, both, and maybe afterward too."

I laugh. "Are you nervous, Mulder?" I ask, but it is I who is anxious. What if he doesn't like it here? What if he decides to leave me, to go back to his people? Could I stand it? He sits down at the oaken dining room table, uncorking the bottle of wine that I have placed there, pouring us both tall goblets-full. He raises it in a toast, then entwines his arm with mine in the typical lovers' pose and drinks from my glass, as I drink from his. Such a tease he is! I don't know how far he intends to take this, this seduction stuff: will he come through?

"So who really did you get the house from?" he asks relentlessly, deceptively casually, over dinner.

I choke on a bit of quiche and he thumps my back till it pops out. "It's unimportant," I gasp, regaining breath.

"Now you've REALLY got my curiosity piqued," he says, concerned. "You had a rich benefactor? Oh," he adds, his hand to his mouth and an expression of shock on his face, "oh! Don't tell me! Say it ain't so, Alex!"

"It's so," I say glumly, contemplating my plate.

"So," says Mulder, leaning back in his chair, "the man who called himself my father, the patron saint of smokers and other evil-doers everywhere?"

"Yeah."

"Even though you murdered him?"

I flinch. "Well, Mulder. It was in his will. He had no idea how he was going to die."

"Yeah, but you did. Well, look, Alex, good riddance, right? If you got something out of the old bastard, so much the better."

The ice broken, my guilty secret out, we talk more easily, the conversation flowing like the wine, which is augmented by another bottle from the "wine cellar," which sounds pretty impressive until one takes a peek down into the dim and cobweb-shrouded gloom and thinks immediately of the Cask of Amontillado.

Night falls early in the mountains, the red and white cliffs shutting out the sunset prematurely, and so as the day winds down so do we, growing quieter and quieter out of deference to the stillness of the dark. "Well," I say, standing up as best I can, "let's go and see about the sleeping arrangements." The Sleeping Arrangements: Mulder has a choice of his bedroom or mine. Both rooms have queen beds, wicker and rattan furniture (Early Pottery Barn, I call it), and fireplaces to ward off the desert evening's chill. Mulder picks a room of his own, out of shyness or lack of desire or what, I cannot say; but I invite him into mine, to sit by the fire I'm building. So we sit and sip sherry and then 70-year-old whisky from the old man's private stash, and by now Mulder, who has no head for spirits, has grown more than a little tipsy. "You're still tense, though," I say, rubbing his neck, which is stiff. "Why don't you lie on the bed and let me give you a backrub?"

"OK," he says, and belly-flops on the four-poster.

"Shirt, Mulder," I say patiently.

"OK," he says again, standing up and pulling it over his head. "Pants, too?" he asks, and without waiting to be answered skins off his jeans and shorts. He is beautifully erect.

"God, Mulder," I say softly and reverently, "I need to do something about that."

"Be my guest," he says, smirking.

"First, the backrub," I say. Although of course I've only got one arm, I give a pretty good massage when I'm careful to balance myself just right, and pretty soon Mulder is groaning and purring and obviously enjoying himself, every so often rubbing his erection against the duvet cover in a very stimulating fashion, so that soon I'm rock-hard too.

He says something into the pillow.

"Yes?" I ask.

"I said, fuck me!" he says, louder and more clearly.

"That could be arranged," I say, and get up off the bed to get the lube. I slick up my cock and several fingers of my hand, and slide a finger up Mulder's ass. Ooooh, he's so tight and hot! The ache in my cock is reaching the screaming point, but I've got to take it slow and easy, not hurt or alarm him. A second finger joins the first, and Mulder moans loudly.

"Fuck me!" he begs again, but I won't until I've got that ring finger up and am sure he's not in any pain. When the time comes, I lean over him, nip him in the back of the neck like a mating stallion, position the tip of my engorged and darkly-throbbing cock against the tight ring of muscle and shove myself firmly in.

He gasps, a loud plosive sound, and cries, "Alex!" I begin to move in him, feeling my cock gripped hard in his tight heat, smelling his musk and hearing him groan and grunt and call my name, then somehow he and I and the night become one and we're all yelling, yelling into the firelit room with one voice the exquisite ebb and flow and surge of our orgasm. Shaking, I lean forward and kiss him and shaking, sit up on my knees, still inside him.

"I want you always," he says. "Always, always, darling. Never leave me." I touch his face, his lips.

"I'm going to kiss you," I say, "to freeze that look on your face, those words on your lips, to stop you from talking if you're thinking one thought about reneging." And I touch his lips with mine, part them with my tongue, lick and nip lazily the sultry lower lip; and he kisses me back hard, harder, and suddenly I am on my back and he is lubing himself up, and I know with a certainty that I'm going to get the fucking of my life in short order, and I'm loving it. He begins with the finger routine, kissing me every time he pushes one in, and then kissing me again, and yet again, till my head is filled with hot swirling mist. As he thrusts his mighty cock into me he remarks on how good I feel to him and how glad he is to be with me, in me.

"Fuck me," I whisper, then louder, "fuck me! Fuck me hard, Mulder!"

He complies and I feel sensations I've never felt before, he is so big and he fills me, stretches me till I believe I'll die of pleasure, and I pant and moan and beg for more, always more. We come together, Mulder and I, shuddering and screaming with abandon.

************************************************************************

I can't believe that I'm with him again, and that he is treating me to the most intense sex of my life. Oh, God, sex with women, even with one as beautiful as Scully, is nothing compared to this. I love fucking and being fucked, and most of all, I love Alex. I close my eyes, scenting him, feeling his warm breath on my cheek, his hand on my thigh. Alex. My Alex. "Sweetheart," I whisper. "I love you so."

"I love you too, Mulder," he says. "More than you will ever know. I'm the one who kept you alive all those long dark years."

"Really? You?" I ask, surprised.

"Yes," he says, and he sighs. "And now you're returning the favor, in a way I really like. Don't think I don't know and appreciate what a sacrifice you've made in coming with me."

"Coming with you is no sacrifice at all," I remark half-facetiously, and he punches me in the arm.

"Be serious! I realize that you essentially threw away your life on me, and I ... it means a lot to me," he says.

"De nada," I say carelessly, and kiss the tip of his perfect, patrician nose.

He says, "Oh, no, it's not nothing, it's a lot."

"You know," I say thoughtfully, a moment later, "they're going to catch us eventually, catch up to us up here. We can't stay hidden forever."

"We can, for a good long time," he says.

"How do you figure?"

"Well," he says, "For one thing, they don't know we're here."

"We know for certain we were made in Moab, and that's only 100 miles from here; and you may trust the riding stable operator with your life, but that doesn't mean I do," I remonstrate. "Once they figure out our location, it'll be a simple matter to get a helicopter in here."

Krycek shrugs. "Who's gonna tell 'em? C'mon, Mulder, don't be a gloomy Gus. Let's make a fire and watch it burn. What are you drinking?"

************************************************************************

Mulder shows a tendency to want to sleep in the next morning, so I kiss him in the most private places I can find, so that he abandons himself fully to the moment, waking with a full-bore erection. From then, it is a simple matter to enlist his aid in rolling him over on his back and wrapping my lips and tongue around his huge and luscious cock. "Darling, you're a feast for the senses," I murmur, mouth full of cock.

"Mmphgh," says Mulder vaguely, and shoots hot come into my mouth. Afterward is the shower, long, hot and luxurious, peppermint-scented shower gel all over me, Mulder and the shower stall, and kissing, such kissing. Little pecks and nips at first leading to bruising, tongue-devouring kisses, rubbing my face over Mulder's stubbly one, playing with his delectable pouty lips with my tongue, with just the gentlest edges of my teeth, lingering long over his mouth, lips, chin, throat, ears and perfect chest. He kisses my shoulder above the missing arm and his eyes are wet with more than just the shower. "I'm so, so sorry about that," he says hoarsely, hugging me. I can feel his warm heart beating rapidly, and the constriction of his throat as he swallows a sob.

"It wasn't your fault, you know," I assure him. "It was just one of those things."

He is shaking, this strong, brave man, and I realize he's crying. "It's OK, it's OK," I soothe, holding him. Long after his sobs have run themselves dry and he is calm, we stay locked in our embrace. He lifts his head and pulls apart from me a little.

"I'm a big wuss, huh?" he asks.

"Naw," I say, "you're a little wuss," and kiss him on the tip of his silly nose.

"I'd like to fuck you," he says suddenly.

"And I'd like you to," I say, instantly aroused, turning around and bracing myself against the terra-cotta shower tiles. He mounts me with that eighth wonder of the modern world, his huge and glorious cock, shower-slicked, wet and wild, and a stab of exquisite pain/pleasure rips through me; and I come, splattering the wall. Seeing this, he begins to shake and gasp, and I realize that he is coming too, and I feel his hot love-liquid fill me and run down my legs.

************************************************************************

Breakfast is warmed-over quiche but even that sounds pretty good to a man who's as hungry as I am after all our exertions. Krycek's deft and graceful movements around the kitchen are as poetry to my eyes, sweetest water to a man dying of thirst, and I just watch him, looking, listening, drinking deep. It's such a shame, such a crime to have had fate so terribly disfigure such a gorgeous man, but he bears his infirmity with quiet dignity, even as now, when he catches me looking at him, and he glances my way. "I didn't think you'd want me anymore, not after what happened to me, Mulder," he says quietly, spooning frozen yogurt into a blender.

"Not want you?" I ask. "My God, Alex, I've spent the last seven years trying to forget you, to not think of you. I love you," and I stand up, walk over to him and encircle his slim waist with both arms.

"Oh? Don't you love Scully?"

I sigh. "Scully is my - was my partner, and my best friend. I love her as a sister."

"As a sister you fuck?"

"Look," I say, holding him so that I can look into his bright beryl eyes. "Darling, Scully wanted a baby and asked me to be a donor. I got drunk one night and decided, hey, I'd donate the good old-fashioned way. That's all there was to it."

"Not so far as SHE'S concerned," he says, breaking free and putting the top on the blender.

"Well," I start, but I am interrupted by the sound of my cell phone. It is beeping me the low-battery signal.

" 'Bout time you recharged that thing," observes Krycek.

I plug it in and of course, it signals that I have voice mail. Well, gee. Gee whiz. I wonder who on Earth might be calling little me. It's Scully, of course, and her voice is tired and strained.

"M-Mulder, this is me. It's 5:30 AM on Monday, and I'm calling to-" her voice broke, "to let you know that I just got a call from the hospital. A.D. Skinner, having been removed from life support yesterday, passed away about an hour ago. Mulder. Mulder, you're now in very, very deep shit. I just got a call from the D.A.'s office, and you're being charged with accessory to murder. This carries a life sentence, as you very well know. There's a possible out, though. If you turn yourself and Alex Krycek in NOW, prosecutors will drop the accessory charge, and you can plea down to obstructing justice or something like that. You know how to get hold of me. Call me soon, Mulder. Love you!"

I shake my head and play the monologue for Krycek, who listens carefully. "As I said, I shoot to kill," he says. "You're still safe here, Mulder."

"I'm not going to snitch you off," I say, looking at him steadily.

"Even if it means never seeing Scully, your family, your friends ever again?"

"I have no family," I say, "and Scully will have to do without me.

"And your child, the one on the way?"

"Will never know his father," I say grimly. "Scully's strong. She'll be a wonderful parent, enough for both of us."

Krycek nods, turns on the blender. "You'll like this!" he shouts above the din. "It's a good basic smoothie."

"Where the hell did you get the frozen yogurt?"

"Buried in ice in the cellar," says Krycek nonchalantly. After breakfast, he shows me around the place. "When the old man ran it, there was a full staff here," he says, leading the way out the front door. "Now, it's just you and me, honey. We have a few head of horses. They're all outside now; the weather's nice. In the winter, they stay in the barn. They're our chief mode of transportation around here, Mulder, and don't look at me like that. I thought you did really well yesterday, riding. We also have dirt bikes and mountain bikes, but they're mostly for the valley floor. If you try to ride them up on the cliffs you'll break your fuckin' neck. There's wild game in these mountains, deer, elk, bighorn sheep, duck, pheasant, trout in the stream and the lake, and we have hunting rifles and fishing poles if you're at all interested." He glances at me and I shake my head. "Thought not, you're too pacifistic," he says, and he grins. "Anyway, yes, you can swim in the lake, though it's cold, and we have boats. Oh, and Mulder, I have lots of clothes here, and we're essentially the same size, so just borrow some of mine when we get back to the house."

"Why does the cell phone work?" I ask suddenly. "Why was I able to get my voicemail?"

"Oh, well, we have a transmitter here," he said easily. "That's why, if you do call Scully, you have to be very careful to keep the call down to a minute."

"A transmitter that runs off a generator?" I ask incredulously.

He laughs. "Stick around, and you'll uncover many wonders."

"I already have," I say, eyeing Krycek's shapely butt.

"In its heyday, the ranch grew oats and alfalfa for the horses, but now we're limited to a garden plot, growing veggies, you know, corn, beans, tomatoes, that sort of thing. We'll have a nice salad for lunch. Now," he says, walking back into the cool house. How nice not to have to lock the front door! "You can call Scully and then we can have a lovely time watching pornographic videos and enjoying ourselves."

I pick up my cell phone and place a tense call to Scully. "Mulder! Mulder!" she cries, and bursts into tears. "You're all right! Where are you?"

"That's not important," I say. "How are you?"

"My water broke this morning and I've gone into premature labor," she says, her voice trembling. "I'm at the hospital right now."

"Which one?" She tells me.

"Don't worry, Mulder, I'm only a week and a half premature. Everything should be all right."

"Are you in much pain?"

"No, and I have good doctors, thank God."

"When is the baby due to arrive?"

"Probably within a few hours." Krycek taps my arm gently to let me know my minute is up.

"I've got to run, Scully, I'm really sorry. Call me when the baby's born."

"Wait, Mulder!"

"Yes?"

"Mulder, please give yourself up, and turn that murdering rat-bastard in."

I stare at the phone, shocked at the venom in her voice. As she continues, Krycek plucks the phone from my grasp, clicks it off and pockets it. "It's true," he says, looking at me with those dear, beautiful eyes, green as clear water on a windy day, "I am a murderer, everything she says I am, many times over."

"I don't care," I say. "I love you."

"Take a look at the videos and then say that."

************************************************************************

The first one is entitled "Boys on the Beach," and stars a cast of thousands, well, maybe two dozen young hunklets. I kiss his neck, he kisses me lusciously on the mouth, and we're off, the movie forgotten. Smooches and caresses becoming more and more passionate, a hand slipping between my shorts and my skin to find my cock and stroke me till I'm tightly erect. Then the shorts are tugged down and those LIPS! are on my cock, and I moan and fuck his mouth, and he sucks and licks till I can't take it any more, and I'm all of a sudden surprised to find myself, hear myself, coming in a loud hoarse yell. The lips are withdrawn from my cock and nuzzle my throat, the hollow below my adam's apple. I kiss him back and ease down jeans and shorts over his slim athletic hips, and take his cock in my mouth, juicily. He groans.

"I'm gonna be hard on you, Mulder," I say, and ease him over on his stomach. From that position I finger-fuck him till he writhes and asks for it, then I give it to him. No, I'm not as generously-endowed as Mulder is, by any means, but I'm good-sized, and when I'm in someone, I know he can really feel me. Mulder moans and pleads for more and I give it to him, banging him as hard as I can, until a circuit shorts in my brain and I scream as he is screaming.

"Nice video," he says afterwards.

"Like you watched it."

"I did, some of it. Tell me," he says, running a finger down the spines of my X-rated fare, "Are these yours?"

"No, they're the Jolly Green Giant's," I retort. Then I see what he is asking. "They came with the house," I say slowly.

"Uh-huh. And 'the house' came with you."

I sit up, knees to chin. "I don't expect you to understand."

"Understand what? That you were a whore?"

"Mulder!"

"Who SLEPT with the guy? Maybe his cronies too?"

"Some of 'em," I mutter. I won't meet his gaze.

"Oh, it doesn't matter," he says. "He's dead, they're all dead. You said it yourself - you sent him to hell! The others were consigned to alien and earthly fires...so how did it happen?"

"Mulder."

"No, I'm curious."

I sigh deeply, gesture with my one hand. "It happened a long time ago, Mulder, when I was still with the FBI academy. He approached me and I could see that he wanted me very badly, and I needed a job and money, very badly. So I let him have me, both professionally and physically."

Mulder makes a face. "I think I need a drink," he says.

"I'll fix you one in a minute. Just listen for a moment."

"I'm listening," he says reluctantly.

"OK. We had sex. It was good, so we had more. We became lovers."

"Oh, Christ," Mulder says, covering his eyes.

"Mulder, stop being such a drama queen! The guy - your father - was such a ladies' man, why do you wonder he'd be good with me?"

Mulder groans.

"OK, so you can pretty much trace the course of our relationship over the years by looking at my career. When I did well, it was because we were getting along. When we weren't, shit happened. I hung out with terrorists, I sold secrets, I was locked into the missile silo, I was thrown into the Tunisian prison, I lost my fuckin' arm."

"Jesus," Mulder croaks. "Oh, my God. I had no idea."

"Well, now you know," I say. "And now, how about that drink? How does a blackberry daiquiri sound?"

************************************************************************

At 3 in the afternoon, after numerous tropical drinks, the promised garden salad (mine heaped high with sunflower seeds) and venison steaks that were perfectly aged, we are resting in wicker furniture on the flagstone patio, when my cell phone rings. We both stare at it rather drunkenly and stupidly for a moment, then I lunge for it, barking my shin on the glass-topped coffee table on which it lies. "OW!"

"Scully! How are ya?"

"Not half as good as you are I bet," she says drily. "I ended up having the baby by caesarian, Mulder. The labor was really bad, so they decided on the surgery. Eleven pounds, two ounces."

I whistle.

"His name is William Fox Mulder, and he looks just like you."

"Poor baby," I say, sympathetically. "Are you hurting, Scully?"

"Me? Not at all. I'm on Demerol, morphine - I'm fine! I wish you could have been here, though, for little Bill's arrival. Is Krycek with you?"

"I can't say," I say, with the sly but transparent cunning of the inebriated. I see motion out of the corner of my eye. Krycek is gesturing to me. "Scully, I've got to go. I'm so happy for you! I'm happy that you're OK, and that the baby's OK." I click off.

"We're going to have to limit these calls," Krycek says seriously. "But, Mulder, I will make it worth your while. Wanna go for a swim?"

Krycek is a surprisingly strong swimmer, given his condition; but I am faster, and reach the buoy in the middle of the lake first, with a modicum of splashing and a maximum of ease. We hang off the buoy, happy to be in the cool water in the 110-degree heat, laughing at and splashing each other like schoolkids. "If this is Paradise, which it looks like," I say, gazing at the red and pink cliffs, the dark verdant forest, "where's the serpent?"

"I'm the serpent," says Krycek, kissing me wetly. His lips are cool and slick. "I'm here to have you eat of the tree of knowledge and to have you fulfill your every fantasy, your every desire. So long as it concerns me," he adds mischievously.

"Does this mean we can fuck 24 hours a day?" I ask, kissing him, and this time, the perfect lips are warm, beating with the pulse of passion.

"That's what it means," he says, licking my ear, kissing my sopping wet head. "Six days a week."

"Why not seven?"

"The 7th day is the Sabbath, silly, a day to rest. We'll run nude in the pines and worship at the altar of the Wild Man of the Woods."

"More fucking?"

"More fucking." he says, breathily.

We swim back to shore and breach water at the pebbly beach. I sort through the small smooth rocks, looking for something interesting. "Looking for gold?" Krycek asks.

"Just looking. Look at this one!" I hold up a chunk of something that looks like turquoise.

"Yep," says Krycek, lying back on the beach. "You found a nice one!"

"It'll be my personal amulet, my talisman," I say, and set it carefully aside, on top of my neatly-folded (for me) jeans and T-shirt.

"Skinner's dead," I say, at last, "and we're both in really really deep doo-doo." He glances at me, takes my hand and raises it to his lips. "And it's all my fault, my love. I'm so sorry. But I'm not sorry I have you."

"And I'm not sorry I have you, darling Alex," I say, kissing his hand, his beautiful face. "And, sweetheart, I will never betray you."

"I know," he says.

************************************************************************

It is dark and the swifts and swallows darting about in the pines and the looming cliffs are making their strange cries. Mulder follows my gaze. "Are there bats in these mountains?" he asks.

"Yes," I say, "although those are birds up there."

"Strange nightbirds," he says softly, "like us."

I look at him, and the moonlight glints from his beautiful hazel eyes, black and deep and mysterious in this cold but soft light; and I lean against him, feeling his warmth, the skin-to-skin contact at once comforting and arousing. "I wish we could fly," he says, "like those birds. "Weightless, deathless, soaring spirits of the dusk, rising and falling with the air currents, each moment an eternity of sensation."

"We are flying, my love," I say, "don't you feel it? 'We can fly so high, we're never gonna die. Born to be wild'," I sing.

Companionable silence. Then, "Alex, will it always be like this? Just us, in this beautiful place, in love forever?"

"Always," I say firmly, grasping his hand. I lean forward, hitching my shoulders. "I have an itch, darling, will you help me scratch it?"

************************************************************************

Dana Scully's Journal: "It's pretty late at night and I am exhausted from the surgery and birth, and the pain from my incisions, but it is as nothing compared to the agony I feel over recent developments. Alas, A.D. Skinner, our brave leader, who put his neck on the line for us more times than I can count, is dead, and Mulder, my Mulder, the father of my beautiful child, has defected with the murdering Krycek." I pause, tapping my pen against my lips, then resume. "At this moment, horrible though it might be to contemplate, Mulder could be...could be coupling with that monster, that cold-blooded killer. I don't think he realizes the depth of the trouble he's in. Since poor Skinner died, Mulder is now accessory to murder. I am afraid that nothing I can say or do will protect him from Kersh, who is rapidly running out of patience. Oh, Mulder, how I wish none of this had happened, that Skinner was still alive, that you were here by my side, cuddling your child, our child, the fruit of our loins and our love." I sigh and lean back against the pillows. I am hurting, a lot, from my incision. Perhaps I should call the nurse and request a Demerol. I do this, and she arrives, brisk and neat, with the pill and a paper cup full of water. I swallow the medicine and close my eyes. The pain departs, receding like an ebb tide, but then projected onto my eyelids, as I watch with eyes closed, is a slow-mo sequence of Mulder running along a beach, and there is Krycek, too, both of them naked. Krycek trips Mulder up and they fall on the pebbly sand, wrestling, rolling over and over and laughing, laughing. I shudder, opening my eyes, staring into the dimly-lit hospital room. This is no good, no good at all. I ring the nurse again, this time for Restoril, and pick up my journal. "My baby - our baby - is resting in the nursery. When he wakes up and is hungry, he will be brought to me, and I'll hold him and feed him. I wish, Mulder, that you could read this, and that you were able to tell me what went wrong, what led you to seek emotional and spiritual nourishment from someone other than me, and why, Mulder, why a man? And if you felt you had to express your 'gay side', whichever that is, why with him? Why with Krycek, that murdering rat-bastard? Don't forget, Mulder, that he killed your father, the man who raised you. Of course, he killed your biological father too, but that is another story. And he was responsible for my beloved sister's death and for many others, and for my abduction, and he shot Skinner down in cold blood. In the gut, Mulder. Consider the terrible suffering he caused - is continuing to cause -among all the many who mourn the A.D.'s death."

I find myself sighing very deeply, and tears begin to ooze their way out of the corners of my eyes. Nurse Kendra shows up, smiling. I apologize and ask for the Restoril, which she is happy to supply. "You've had a hell of a time of it," she says sympathetically. I nod. Mulder, oh Mulder.

************************************************************************

At around 2 in the morning, we move our operation inside. We've made love nine times this evening - I've counted them - and after bestirring ourselves from the lake's side and walking hand-in-hand back to the house, we take a long soak in the hot tub. The water's been heating all day from the action of solar panels on the side of the enclosure the tub sits in. We collapse in a heap of limbs on the bed, utterly relaxed, then we make love again. Alex is skilled beyond compare, by turns forceful and tender, giving me what I need exactly when I need it, and I find myself falling ever more deeply in love with him. It is hard for me to believe, to remember that I am wanted for murder, that I am a new father, that my place is back with the baby's mother, my colleague and old friend Scully, that I need to rescue myself from drowning in this sea of love and return to my old life, my old values, my old reality. But - "Darling," Krycek whispers, in his throaty-sweet way, and nibbles on my ear, and licks my lips, and all my resolve is forgotten, swept away by a rising tide of passion. I am in peril of dying entirely to the old order. I spend the rest of the night, early pre-dawn morning, rather, with my arms wrapped around my lover, marveling at his soft skin, cut muscles, warm and just-moist lips, and lovely face, even more beautiful in repose, imagining we are borne aloft by doves, and lie among pouffy clouds in the pastures of heaven. Krycek wakes up and fixes me with one beryl eye.

"Fuck me," he says.

"On your back or your belly?"

"Both ways, please. Stomach first." Before I enter him, though, I lick him all over, from the soft nape of his neck to his cute little toes, and everywhere in between.

"Do you like it when I rim you?" I ask, though I know what the answer is bound to be.

"I fuckin' love it, Mulder!" he gasps, and comes onto the sheets already sticky with our love.

"Now the fucking," I say, and lubing myself I slide into him.

He moans and pushes back. I take it easy, knowing we are building to a tremendous climax, wriggling my hips to stimulate his prostate and everywhere else, and as for me, I am aroused into an altered state of consciousness. Each thrust reminds him, reminds me, that we are moving as one, because we are one, one beautiful sensual creature with a billion nerve endings, the sensorium of an angel, taking input and making something extraordinary. Perhaps we do have wings - that's what it feels like. Our mutual orgasm is uplifting, unprecedented, connecting us to the infinite, a lofty, glowing thing. And besides that, it's incredibly fun! Afterward I am unwilling to separate from him, and I lean forward, embracing him, feeling his rapid heartbeat through his delicate, translucent skin, listening to his breathing gradually becoming slower and deeper. "My darling," I say, "I love you."

************************************************************************

I'll make no bones, if you'll excuse the expression, about it. Mulder is the most incredible lover I've ever had, and it isn't just his huge and gorgeous cock I'm referring to, it's him, his heart and soul, the way he makes love with his big head, not just his small one, his brain, his personality - his essence. No, he doesn't have the easy skill of a committed gay person, not yet - he's been almost entirely heterosexual his whole life long, at least in practice - but he learns very, very rapidly, and what he sometimes lacks in technique he makes up for in enthusiasm.

We are lying, Mulder and I, in bed at 6 in the morning when we should be up and about, but we are lazy, and anyway, there is no one around to tell us otherwise, to straighten us out, to whip us into shape. It's just us and the morning birds. "Fuck me again," I say to my handsome lover, and we separate and I turn on my back. I can't get enough of him. "Pillow," I say tersely, and he wedges one under my hips, the better to access my cock and balls and ass, and I need him in me - NOW - and he shoves into me, and he is so big, so big, that I gasp and writhe and almost can't stand the pleasure.

"Feel good?" he asks.

"Mulder! Mulder!" I cry, and the hot waves of ecstasy wash over me, and I come, spurting all over my belly and his. Continuing to fuck me, he scoops up a little of my come and licks his fingers, then his face changes, clenches, and he groans and screams, shooting his hot load deep into my ass.

The room has become lighter; it's morning; we never noticed the transition. Mulder is holding me tight, his chest heaving. "Sweetheart," I say, "would you like an omelet?"

************************************************************************

We eat outside on the flagstone porch: Denver omelets made, again, with dried eggs and milk, and the last of the cheese, and fresh peppers and tomatoes from Krycek's garden, accompanied by wheat toast, butter and jam, and a strawberry smoothie. "I'll get some game today," he says, throwing the crust of his toast to an inquisitive (and no doubt hungry) ground squirrel. "Some pheasant or duck would go down nicely."

I think, you go down nicely.

"I'm going hunting in the forest. Want to come with me?"

I smile. "Not if it involves actual bloodshed."

He rolls his eyes. "Really, Mulder."

I end up staying at home and feeding the golden-mantled (I looked it up in an encyclopedia in Krycek's library) ground squirrels, and assorted birds with bread, seeds, and nuts, wandering around looking at things; and going for a swim while he hunts. At 9:50 AM I hear two gunshots, and at 10 AM he appears on the edge of the woods, holding his booty, two pheasants. "Gonna help me eat 'em?" he calls.

"Only if I don't have to clean them," I say, wrinkling my nose in distaste.

"It's OK, I'll do it," he says.

I can't help it; I have to watch him do it. He plucks the beautiful plumage from the hapless birds and slits them from stem to stern, gutting them.

"Where do you put the garbage, anyway?" I ask. "You don't exactly have pickup around here."

"Most is put in the compost heap. The rest is burned and buried."

"And the sewage?"

He looks at me, removing pheasant intestines. "Honestly, Mulder, we're on septic. We've never had a problem with it."

"We??"

He looks away, his face reddening. "Sorry," he says huskily, "force of habit."

"Do you miss him?"

"Miss him? Yeah, that's why I pushed him down the stairs," he says scornfully.

I push some more. "You loved him, didn't you?"

Silence. "Well, look, Alex, it's perfectly OK if you did. It's just one of those things," I conclude lamely. He swallows and nods.

"Here's a bird, Mulder," he says, handing me the plucked and gutted pheasant. "Take it into the kitchen, rinse it off really well and put it into the refrigerator."

I take it with shrinking hands but do as he tells me. The dead flesh is clammy and coated with blood. Yes, I am squeamish about such things, I'm afraid to admit, and I'm happy to finish the grisly job and wash my hands with hot water and a lot of dish detergent. Krycek comes in with the other bird and rinses and stores it. "We'll have it with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing," he says. "Thanksgiving in June." He dries his hand and comes up behind me, embracing me tightly with his one good arm, then before I know it he's cuffing my hands behind my back. Then I feel the cold muzzle of the Glock against my back.

"Hey!" I say indignantly.

"Now you're my prisoner," he says. "March!"

I move forward and am pushed into the master bedroom. "Lie down," he says, so I do, and he cuffs me to the bed. I am very hard and he sees this at once, running a hand down my shorts, stroking me, then pulling the shorts down. I have a pounding, straining erection and have leaked a few drops of pre-cum, which he wipes off with his forefinger and tastes. "Well-done," he says cryptically. The next thing I know, he is on me and I feel his large hard cock pressing against me. Then he's in and I gasp involuntarily, it feels so good. He fucks like a stallion, my lover, pounding into me, wildly rhythmic. My orgasm takes me by surprise and I don't have time to scream; it is so intense my brain explodes in a premature Fourth of July celebration, billions of neurons firing simultaneously, and I arch my back and writhe and grunt. He comes with a loud keening cry, calling my name, both arousing and eerie.

"What other surprises do you have for me?" I ask, as he unlocks the handcuffs.

"Lots," he says serenely. "You'll never get bored, I promise."

"I have no doubt of that," I say.

************************************************************************

Scully's Journal: "Dear Diary, I'm home from the hospital and have accepted the kindly ministrations of Agent Monica Reyes. She's set up house in the spare bedroom and is helping to care for William. She has also offered to cook and clean, although she needn't; I can get a housekeeper in. She's got two months' vacation coming to her, during which she plans to stay with me, and I believe that her help could prove invaluable. I've weaned myself off of the Demerol and am just taking aspirin for the pain and soreness of the incision. It seems to work pretty well. When I look at my baby's beautiful face, which is often, I can't help but think of his father. William favors Mulder around the lips, I think, and has my cornflower eyes, although of course all infants have light eyes, so one never knows. What is Mulder doing? I can just imagine. He's with Krycek, unless Krycek has taken a dislike to him or has decided to behave like the borderline personality he is and injured Mulder then himself. They're gadding about the countryside in that Mustang convertible or have settled into some hideout somewhere. God knows how they've eluded capture." Someone knocks on the door and I look up. Agent Reyes strides down the hall and opens the door. It is Agent Doggett. He greets me effusively. His right arm is bandaged and in a sling, but he holds in his left a giftwrapped box and a bouquet of roses and carnations.

"For me?" I cry delightedly, and hug him as well as I might.

"It's just some toys for the baby, and flowers for you," he says modestly, and hands me the gifts. Agent Reyes takes the flowers.

"I'll put these in a vase for you, Dana," she says.

"So what brings you here, really?" I ask Doggett.

"Oh-I wanted to see you, see how you and the baby are," he says, "and tell you that A.D. Skinner's funeral is tomorrow at 2 PM. This is the address." He hands me a card.

"Thanks," I whisper. "I feel so badly about this whole thing, Agent Doggett."

"So do I," he agrees.

"How is your arm?"

"On the mend. Hurts like a son-of-a-bitch, though," he admits. "He really did a number on me."

"I know," I say sympathetically.

"Yes, well, I also came by under orders from the powers that be, namely Kersh, to ask you a few questions."

I smile. "Ask away."

"Well, first of all, do you know of any place, any address in the Four Corners area, or near Moab specifically, or southern Utah, northern Arizona-you get my drift, where the Fox and the Rat might have gone to ground?"

I shake my head. "I know of no place, and we've been unable to trace the calls to and from wherever they're at."

"Could it be someplace that might have been owned by the Syndicate?"

I look at him thoughtfully. "You may be on the right track," I say, "if records of such a place still, or ever, existed."

He nods. "Yes, well, I have been doing some snooping around, and we did find some European and East Coast hangouts, but no western ones. Zilch. Zip."

"Oh," I say, disappointed. From down the hall I can hear an infant exercising his lungs and vocal cords, and I call, "Monica! I think he's hungry."

Agent Reyes brings William to me and I put him to the breast. Doggett looks slightly away. "We'll still look," he says. "We've been combing the national parks and monuments, thinking they may be there. But some of them are pretty large, and do you know what William Bryce said about the canyon that now bears his name?"

I shake my head.

"He said, 'It's a hell of a place to lose a cow'."

I laugh. "So you're saying that with all the rock formations, etc., they could stay hidden?"

"Yes. Only, they aren't too far from civilization. And how do I know that?"

"How?" I ask.

"Simple. They're able to receive and transmit cellular phone signals."

I smack my forehead. "Duh!" I say. "Unless--"

"Unless what?"

"Unless they've got their own transmitter. Oh, that's too far-fetched."

"No, it's not," says Doggett. "I'll do a search on transmitting equipment purchased and installed in the Four Corners area in the last, oh, ten years or so."

I look at him hopefully. "So we'll find them?"

He nods, although there is a wary glint in his eye. "We may," he says, we just may."

************************************************************************

For the rest of the day, we cook dinner, swim in the lake, socialize with the horses. I place a cautious call to Scully and learn she's home from the hospital and is well-looked-after. This helps to assuage my guilt but it's not gone entirely.

"Am I a bad person?" I ask Krycek, over pheasant, cranberry jelly and all the fixings. He looks at me, fork halfway to his mouth, startled.

"No - why?"

"Because I'm not with Scully, being a good mate and father."

He snorts, puts his fork down. "First off, you're not her mate. You're her friend who happened to knock her up. Secondly, she's undoubtedly got gazillions of people stopping by to help her. Am I right?"

I nod, tentatively.

"Third, you sired the kid, really, your responsibility ends there. It's on the mother."

I stare at him. "You really believe that?"

"Uh-huh. Now stop worrying about it and eat your dinner. If you don't, the cold things will get warm and the warm things'll get cold. I have a really nice dessert planned for you, Mulder."

"Really nice dessert" turns out to be chocolate mousse "a la corpus" - all over my body, which he then licks off. He keeps sucking my cock until I come, shooting down his throat.

"Hey," he asks me, nuzzling my ear afterward, "can Scully do these things for you?"

"Not like you," I admit. "No one's like you, Alex. You are the most, the best. You are the alpha and the omega."

"And the delta and the lambda," he purrs, kissing me just on the corner of my mouth.

"You need to kiss me right, sonny-boy," I complain, sitting up.

"Oh? And how would that be?" he asks.

"Like so," I say, and engage his perfect lips in a superficial kiss, then a deeper one, tonguing his mouth and tongue and throat; he kisses me back, shivering with pleasure. We kiss, just kiss for an hour until we are both achingly hard again, then we lie on our sides and go down on each other til we come. "Alex," I say, "I can't get enough of you!"

"You're insatiable right now, as I am, because we've been separated for so long and we need each other so badly. But that will wear off."

"Never." I assent.

************************************************************************

I look at the sleeping form of Mulder, his taut body relaxed, his face quiet, his thick hair ruffled after my hand has swept through it, and I think, it wasn't fair, what I did to him, he deserves better, I have taken him away from his friends, his familiar surroundings, his life, and made him my virtual slave, a willing slave but a slave to lust nonetheless. "Darling," I say softly, "I'm so sorry."

"Mgph?" he wakes a little, opens his bright turquoise-hazel eyes, the color so like the amulet he found, and smiles at me, dimpling warmly.

"I'm sorry," I repeat, "I didn't mean to wake you."

" 's all right," he says, kissing the tip of my nose.

"Mulder, I'm sorry I brought you here."

"Wha-?" he asks, his eyes opening wide in astonishment. "What do you mean?"

"I mean," I say smoothing back his unnaturally black hair, "that I'm sorry I kidnapped you. I shouldn't have implicated you in my badness."

He sits up. "Oh, no," he says, "you're not bad. You're a wonderful person and I love you more than life, and right here with you is where I want to be. Come hell or high water!"

"Do you mean that?"

"Of course I do, baby. Can't you tell how madly in love with you I am?"

"Thanks," I say embracing him. "After the past few days, I couldn't imagine life without you, Mulder."

"Well," he says slowly, "it seems we've both suffered so much and for so long we were bound to deserve a little happiness."

The unspoken thought that runs between us, crackling with electricity: At the cost of a man's life, crippling another man, robbing a newborn baby of its father.

"It's okay," he says quietly. "It's really OK, Alex. I've made my decision. Here is where I'll stay, darling."

"Thanks." I say thickly, kissing him. "You're an angel."

************************************************************************

Krycek rousts me out of bed at 6:30 AM. We've stayed up till 4, making love, and I could have used the sleep, but at the sight of his beautiful face, like sunshine breaking through a fog, I smile and get up.

"Oh, darling," I say, kissing him. "My gorgeous love. How are you this morning?"

"Just fine, now that I've seen you," he says. "Oatmeal with apples, cinnamon toast for breakfast."

As we dine, I think of something. "Won't we need to go into town to get more provisions?"

"Eventually, yes. We could do with some real milk, eggs, butter, stuff like that."

"Where'd the apples come from?"

"We have some trees; apple, pear, plum, cherry."

"How will we get to town and back without getting busted?"

Krycek rubs his face. "See how scruffy we are? We'll go unshaven, in mangy clothes, looking like mountain men."

"And if the newscasters, newspapers and "wanted" posters ever get around to mentioning the fact that you've only got one arm?

Krycek shrugs. "I can't help that. We'll go to town today, if you like, pick up some more hair dye, stuff like that."

"This involves riding a horse again, doesn't it?"

"Yes, Mulder dear. We'll saddle them up after breakfast."

************************************************************************

The trip over the mountains to town was uneventful. We rode to the riding stable, tied the horses up and proceeded on foot to the stores we needed supplies from. Krycek chooses oranges, milk, Eggbeaters, butter, bread, artichokes, basil, broccoli, cottage cheese, yogurt and hair dye, and we pay, of course, in cash. No one looks at us twice. Catching sight of myself in the mirror above the vegetable stand. I can see why. My face is covered with several day's growth of beard and in a pair of Krycek's old overalls, I look like a local rube. I look at Krycek. He's attired in too-large jeans and his face, too, is fuzzy. We stuff our purchases in the saddlebags and off we go again. I am already saddle-sore, my butt hurts from "sitting the trot", and my legs ache.

"Did you notice?" Krycek asks, mounting his horse with easy grace, despite his infirmity, "we walked right past a "wanted" poster, there was someone looking at the poster and he didn't make the connection?"

"Yeah," I say. "I'd consider that a lucky break."

"The god is smiling on us. Tomorrow we'll go to the sacred grove and honor him."

"Alex," I say, scratching my chin (oh, this incipient beard is itchy!), "that sounds like absolute bosh."

He turns slightly in the saddle to look at me. "Is it?" he asks, loosening the reins. "Is it really? I'd say he's been protecting us."

I roll my eyes. "Sheesh!" I say. "You're too much! When do you want to do this ceremony or whatever it is?"

"Like I said, tomorrow. Don't worry, you'll love it!"

We have stuffed peppers and freshly-squeezed OJ. Krycek disappears into the wine cellar and reappears with a bottle of pretty good champagne, which he pours into the juice pitcher. "Mimosas," he explains, and hands me one. Soon the sparkling wine, having easily breached the blood/brain barrier, gets us both pretty high.

"Let's get out the boat after we clean up here," he says.

Before I know it, we're in a motorized dory and heading for an island near the north side "top" of the lake. Krycek ties the boat to a tree and we walk around the little islet. We pass a family of ducks, the mama leading six perfect ducklings and quacking solemnly.

***********************************************************************

My name is Mikhail Vasiliovich Chekhov, but folks in Cedar City and surrounds know me simply as Michael Smith. I've run this riding stable for 18 years, and I am trusted in town as a good instructor, decent boss and fair dealer. It is the work I do best because I know it best, having been a horseman in St. Petersburg (Leningrad, when I was there). When I see Alexei Krycek riding down from his mountain fastness on the Quarter Horse stallion I sold him, by his side his handsome friend on the bay mustang gelding I threw in as part of the bargain, both men looking tanned and fit and young, my heart is glad. I knew Alex's parents in what was then part of the Soviet Union. They were good friends of mine, as Alex is now, before their untimely demise in Virginia. I am happy to see my young friend looking so well - poor fellow, he has suffered so much over the years. It is good to note that he has such a close friend in the clever and personable FBI agent, or ex-agent, as some of the news agencies reporting on his disappearance refer to him; apparently he tendered his resignation just weeks before the tragedy.

They leave their horses with me, tied up near the front door, and go on about their business on foot, Alex casting a glance behind him and smiling at me, showing almost every one of those perfect white teeth of his. I wonder whether he thinks I'll betray him, and hope he doesn't. Betray Alexei Krycek, only son of my best and lifelong friends?

Twice, the same set of field agents, Young and Johansen, have come nosing around here, once two days ago, once this morning, and each time I've smiled and shaken my head and acted like the ignorant desert-rat I'm not, and have turned them away empty-handed (and, given some of their questions, empty-headed). When Krycek and Mulder return with their grocery items, I suggest they take a sack each of oats and barley for the horses - on the house, of course - but they insist on tendering currency of the realm before they load up their steeds and mount. The FBI gentleman is still uncertain and a little ill-at-ease on Sparky, the mustang; but at least the animal makes no moves to buck him off. As they ride up the road to the trailhead, Alex turns around in the saddle and raises his hand briefly; I raise mine in a silent salute.

************************************************************************

When we get back I can't wait to slide out of the saddle, even though, quite as expected, my legs buckle under me and I collapse in a heap on the sandy soil. Sparky dips his head to look at me and snorts, as if finding this laughable. To make matters worse, Krycek chuckles. "You'll get used to it eventually," he says. "In the meantime, sweetie, help me carry the stuff in. The horses'll be glad to get the grain. After we feed them, we'll have a hot tub to relax in."

I watch Krycek feeding the horses and imitate him, slitting open the big bag of oats and pouring some into the horses' feed buckets. They come crowding around; there must be 10 or 12 of them, all of them, to my unpracticed eye, pretty. One is a foal with a little seahorse head and a high-pitched whinny. "Go to your mama, now," Krycek coaxes him, or her. The colt is too young to eat the grain, and only lips it, letting it fall on the ground. We stand, leaning against the pasture fence, watching them.

"Are they any particular breed?" I asked Krycek.

"Mostly Arab," he says. "That is to say, most have Arab blood. Only three are purebreds. Three are Akhal-Tekes and Barbs. C'mon, let's get the food put away so we can play." "Play" consists of a dalliance in the hot tub. There is a convenient bench that I sit on while Krycek penetrates me, face to face, dolphin-wet and slick skin to skin, lips to warm lips, nourishing me with his kiss, his touch. I come so fast and hard it almost hurts; pleasure this intense was surely not meant for mortal man, and indeed, for a moment, I am immortal.

Afterward, we dry off and dress and go our separate ways, Krycek to his kitchen to prepare cheese fondue, I to the den to noodle around on the keyboard. Alex plays this, I'll bet, and I'll bet he plays it well. He appears at the door, holding a ladle aloft. "It's food," he says. Dinner entails the dipping of chunks of fruit and crusty French bread into the gruyere cheese/wine mixture, feeding each other, my catching his drips with my tongue, his licking the spills from my face, until, I hardly know how it's happened, he's on his stomach on the settee in the breakfast nook and I'm fucking him slowly, slowly and oh so thoroughly, until we both come, waves of pleasure enveloping both of us as we share the orgasm.

************************************************************************

Dana Scully's Journal: "The presence of Agent Reyes has been a great help to me, and I'm so very glad she's here. She cooks, despite my remonstrations to the contrary; she cleans, and she helps to care for William. She also gives wonderful backrubs and footrubs. My incision is healing nicely, but I hurt so badly inside, a deep emotional hurt, a heartache that will not go away; and nothing Monica Reyes or anyone else can do or say will alleviate it.

She and Agent Doggett accompanied me to Skinner's funeral, where I wept bitterly and could not be consoled until hours later, with the thought, germinated perhaps by my Catholic upbringing, that he'd passed on to a better and higher plane of existence. I don't know, of course. I do know, however, that the A.D. left behind him many broken hearts among his family, his colleagues and his friends. He was a fine agent and administrator and an even finer human being. Damn Alex Krycek anyway! He is a murderer and a coward. I hope they catch him, and I hope it's soon; and I hope they throw the book at him. As for Mulder and his defection to the enemy's camp, how angry at him I am! Although I love him far too much to hate him.

The floorboards in the hallway creak slightly; it is due to Agent Reyes' long confident stride as she walks toward my bedroom, the baby in her arms. "Here's Will," she says, handing me my infant with the utmost care, and then - surprise! - she kisses me on the cheek. "You look like you could use that. And a hug," she adds, embracing me, baby and all.

William wakes a little and coos. "Is widow Billy hungwy?" I ask, and unbutton my blouse so he can have a snack. Agent Reyes looks on with avid interest.

"I think-" she begins, but does not have time to complete her sentence, because there is a knock at the door.

It's Agent Doggett with yet another bunch of flowers. "Wow!" I say, accepting them with a smile.

"I just came to report," he says, "that we haven't found 'em yet. We've been scouring southern Utah and northern Arizona, and have come up with zilch."

I nod. "Yet, I believe they're down there somewhere, don't you?"

"Yes," say both Agents at once. "It's just a matter of tracking them down," Doggett says. "Have you made or received any more calls to or from them?"

I start to shake my head, "no," then suddenly my cell phone shrills. I look at it, hair standing up on the back of my neck.

"Answer it," says Doggett quietly, as I pick it up.

"Scully?"

"Yes, Mulder?"

"Just calling to see how you and the baby are doing." I gesture frantically to Doggett, who picks up the house phone to dial the Bureau, no doubt.

"I'm fine," I say, "no thanks to you! Where are you, Mulder?"

"Someplace you'll never find me. And I'm not saying that to be mean."

"You're out in the wilderness somewhere."

"Cedar City," Doggett says tensely into the phone.

"Bye," says Mulder, suspicious, and disconnects.

"Cedar City," repeats Doggett, looking up. "They were able to get a fix on the signal."

"Good! That's great!" I say, smiling. The baby starts to cry.

"Hand him over," says Reyes, and she rocks William until he stops wailing.

"I'll go down there again, fly over the redrock country, talk to locals," says Doggett. "Agent Reyes, can you come with me?"

She looks at me. "It's all right," I say. "I can manage."

"I hate to leave you," she says, softly, "but I'm really needed there."

"I know you are," I smile, and pat her hand.

************************************************************************

Getting even a partial fix on that signal is a triumph. They are somewhere near Cedar City. I'll find them. Helping me are Agents Young, Reyes and Johansen. We rent a car at the Cedar City airport and first drive to cell phone outlets, seeking the address of the person or persons who purchased the transmission equipment we're interested in. We strike out utterly, so we break apart and walk the streets of Cedar City, literally pounding the pavement, in units of two each. It's really not that huge a town. In Zach's Groceries, we hit pay dirt. After showing pictures of the two miscreants, "yes," says the cashier, a young man in his twenties, "I saw two guys who looked like them, but this one was blond and that one," pointing to the photo of Mulder, "had black hair." I nod.

"Did you see which way they went, what they were driving?" The youth shrugged and spread his hands.

Next we try an Arco station. The gum-snapping girl at the counter tells us that, yes, she may have seen just such a couple, driving a white convertible, but she doesn't think it was a Mustang. They headed east on Highway 14. So at least, we think, we are headed in the right general direction.

************************************************************************

On the outskirts of town we come across a riding stable. "That's what's so great about living in the country," Doggett, a horse-lover, says. "Everything is zoned for horses."

"Uh-huh," I say, thinking, I read somewhere that Krycek was a horseman. "Let's stop here," I say suddenly to Doggett. "I have a feeling about the place. Hinky."

He glances at me thoughtfully. "If I've learned anything working with you," he says, "it's that I should always go with your hunches," so we stop. The proprietor meets us at the door, a man in his fifties, skin the color and texture of well-tanned leather, wary grey eyes.

"Are you looking for riding lessons?" he asks, his tone indicating that he knows we are not.

"Have you seen either or both of these two men?" I ask, showing him their pictures. "FBI," says Doggett, by way of explanation, holding up his badge.

"I have not seen them," the man says, in such perfect English that it is almost possible to ignore the fact that he has a very slight accent.

"Are you a Russian national?" I ask him.

The wariness in his eyes changes rapidly to alarm, but otherwise he remains composed. "I'm a U.S. citizen," he says, fiddling with the bridle in his hands.

"But you're originally from Russia, aren't you?" I persist, moving in close to him. Big man that he is, he takes a step back. He nods faintly.

"I've got a mare in foal. Really, I must go to her," he says.

I hold up a hand. "Just one question. Where is Alex Krycek?"

He shrugs, looking down. "I don't know any Alex Krycek."

"Sure you do," says Doggett, picking up my conversational volley. "Where is he, and where is Mulder, Fox Mulder?"

"I don't know," he says coldly, heading for his door. "I don't know who they are or where they are, and I don't want to know. I've never heard of them and I've never seen them," and he shuts the door, not a slam but nevertheless a firm closure in our faces. We look at each other and Doggett raises his eyebrows.

"Think he knows something, or is he just a paranoid ex-Soviet?"

"Both, I think," I say.

************************************************************************

We play on the island till the lengthening shadows tell us it's time to be home, then we motor toward the house across the lake. We bathe together in the huge sunken tub made of native sandstone in the master bedroom. "How did all this stuff get here, anyway?" I ask idly, lolling back in the hot water.

"Stuff?"

"Yeah, you know, this. The tub, the water heater, stuff like that."

"Oh," he says airily, "it was airlifted in. Some things piece by piece, and assembled here. The tub and sink were made here."

"You're so matter of fact," I say, "to me, it's a wonder."

"You're a wonder to me," he says, and touches my cock, which is hard. "Want to come with me?"

Before I can answer, he's sitting in my lap, and then, oh! - taking me inside him, and he is so warm and so tight, and as I begin to move, he pushes back...and back...and back...and, oh, my God, I'm coming, and I'm screaming, "Alex!" and spurting into him the evidence of my love. He comes too, groaning and shooting into the bath water. He disengages himself and turns around, laying a finger gently on my lips.

"We've got to stop meeting like this," he says, and kisses me.

************************************************************************

Mulder goes to sleep at 9 PM, poor dear, he's a little tired after that ride! Well, I have a full day planned for him tomorrow, I think, assembling the things I will need: drums, capes, Halloween makeup; we'll have our midsummer's celebration a little early. I start as the opening bars of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor play shrilly and electronically, ringing out into the still air. My cell phone. No one ever calls me anymore. I look at it, lying on the kitchen counter, with trepidation, then slowly, I cross the room to pick it up.

"Alexei?" a disembodied voice asks.

"Da," I say, without thinking.

"It's OK, it's only me," says the voice, "Mikhail." I relax a little but not much.

"Is there something I could do for you?" I ask, rather formally.

"Alexei, I'm calling because the FBI has been snooping around here."

"Oh?" I ask, "what did they say?"

"They were pretty sure I know something of your whereabouts."

"OK," I say, on full alert. "Destroy all evidence that you know me, or knew my parents, pictures, letters, whatever, and let me know the instant they show up again."

"Will do." He says.

"Who were they, the agents?"

"A Doggett and a Reyes."

"Great. Doggett's the one I shot. That's why his arm is all messed up. He's a pit bull. He's after me on a personal vendetta, not just professional discourtesy. And Reyes, she's worse. She's got a sixth sense about things."

"Well, I'll keep an eye out. If you have to leave suddenly, Alexei, let me know. Those two horses I sold you are very surefooted. They'll bear you where you need to go."

"Thanks, old friend. Da Svedanya, OK?"

"Da Svedanaya." I hang up, shaking my head. Doggett and Reyes! They're formidable adversaries, and of course they're not alone, either. We may have to leave this paradise, and that's too bad, but we will be able to find another sanctuary. I am the Rat, and I have many hidey-holes. I turn back to the task at hand, re-covering a drum-beater with soft goatsuede.

************************************************************************

"Scully? Dana? This is Monica Reyes."

"Agent Reyes! How's it going?"

"Actually, pretty well," says Reyes. "We ran into this guy, a riding-stable owner. He's Russian, we think he knows Krycek and where they've gone."

"Well, are you getting a search warrant?" I ask, excitedly.

"We expect to have one in our hands by 8 AM tomorrow."

"OK," I say, "though that might not be soon enough. It depends on whether or not the guy suspects anything."

"Oh, he suspects plenty," says Reyes glumly. "I'm trying to get a rush on it."

I shift baby Will from my right breast to my left, which is a little less tender. "I'll call Kersh," I say. "There've been some really strange people around here since you left."

"That's what I was afraid of," she says, a note of worry creeping into her voice. "I thought the aliens were deciding to leave you alone since they found out the baby's normal."

"Oh, they're not threatening me," I say, "they're just sort of hanging around."

"Dana, if you ever feel you or the baby are in any danger at all, I want you to promise to get help immediately, OK?"

"All right," I say, touched by her concern. "You have my word." I hang up and finish nursing the baby. He does look like Mulder, although fortunately he's got my nose. I sit back in the chair taking stock in myself and my surroundings. I'm a thirty-six-year-old unemployed single first-time mother, the father of the baby has run off with another MAN, there are odd people in the building, the elevators, the halls; there are strange folk in the street. Some of them may be replicants. I can see them from my windows, looking up at me. They seem to be waiting for something, for what, I cannot say. And me? I sit and watch and pray for Mulder's safe return.

************************************************************************

Dana Scully's diary: "I haven't ventured outside the building since Agents Reyes and Doggett left. Peapod will be here in half an hour, delivering my groceries and sundries (diapers, baby wipes, etc.), and I have a well-baby appointment later in the afternoon that Mom is picking me up for; and I am glad of this, as I don't feel like leaving the apartment complex alone." Setting down my journal and crossing the room to the big living room window, I peek out, holding the curtains to hide myself. There - that man and that woman, no, not Billy Miles and a compatriot, yet I am sure that they are not exactly friends of mine. The male, youngish, in his early 30's, perhaps, glances up and I swear he's seen me, hidden as I am behind the heavy drapes. The female, younger, blonde, pug-nosed, full-lipped, looks at her watch from time to time as if expecting someone who is late. I study her; there is someone she reminds me of, though I can't put my finger on it. Her. Whatever. The phone rings. "Scully," I answer, keeping an eye on the street below.

"Dana, this is Monica Reyes. We obtained the warrant at 7 AM but our quarry had already eluded us. He packed up and left, evidently, and we think he went into the desert. He should be easy to spot, though, as he's got his horses with him, as far as we can determine."

"Shit," I say. "He was suspicious, wasn't he? Call Kersh and get him to requisition some more agents. We'll need a bunch."

"Agent Doggett has already done that. We're fanning out all over the desert, and we've got some Apaches to do fly-bys."

"Sounds good," I say. "But you don't need my approval or acquiescence. I'm not even employed by the Federal Government any longer."

"True, but you're extremely knowledgeable and have a tremendous amount of experience to draw on."

"You flatter me," I say, but I'm smiling. It is my only smile of the day, till Mom arrives to pick me up.

************************************************************************

"Is this Blind Man's Bluff?" I ask nervously, as Krycek blindfolds me.

"More like Blind Man's Buff," he says, chuckling. "I'm going to turn you around a few times to really disorient you, then you'll try to pin the tail on the donkey. No, no, all joking aside," he says, beginning to turn me around, "I'll lead you to the Sacred Space."

Now he leads me past the pastures - I can smell and hear the horses - and into the forest; I can feel the pine duff under my feet, hear the wind soughing through the evergreen boughs. It is amazing how one compensates with other senses when deprived of sight, I think. It is a lovely day, as far as I can tell, with that breeze to cool things off. Nothing, though, is going to cool me off, I think, just touching my large erection with one itching hand.

"Don't touch!" Krycek scolds, swatting my hand away. He leads me surely, so that I do not stumble, to someplace distant, some place in the heart of the forest, I'd guess; and unties my blindfold. "There!" he says triumphantly.

I blink, look around, my wincing eyes narrowed against the light. We are in a clearing in the forest, not very large, perhaps 40 feet by 30, in which sits a stone fireplace and a kind of wooden hut. "Over here," Krycek says, leading me toward the fireplace. It does not look recently used, and is covered with potted plants of various species, large and small, flowering and not. To the back wall of the fireplace is attached a papier-mache mask of an odd face mostly formed out of painted green leaf-shapes.

"Jack-in-the-Green," Krycek says, "the Wild Man of the Woods." I nod, not quite comprehending, but wanting to seem agreeable. My fervent wish is that Krycek will finish with this New Age Druid bullshit and get down to brass tacks; I am hard and aching for him. I smile and look anyway, admiring his handiwork. I never knew that my lover was artistic, too. On a gold satin cloth covering the altar are piles of pinecones, wheat sheaves and - surprise! - sunflower seeds! There is also a black ceramic bowl full of water, which Krycek dips his second finger (the phallic finger, he informs me solemnly) in, touching the wet finger to his forehead. Aping him, I do the same.

Krycek straightens up, holds his arm out. "Oh Wild Man," he intones loudly, "hear us, we who seek your succor, Fox and Alex, devotees of your tradition." The forest is silent. From far away, it seems, an eagle cries, piercingly; then a twig breaks, and another, and we look to our left to see a mighty stag, huge, old, venerable, stepping delicately into the clearing. "My God," breathes Krycek. I say nothing and am rooted to the spot in wonder and fear. The deer looks from one to the other of us, and suddenly I am hearing words in my head: "Child," the entity says, "I am honored with your presence and your regard. Honor me further in your special way and I shall richly bless you." The stag ducks his head, pawing the forest floor slightly, and then he is gone, with scarcely a rustle of leaf or bough. I look at Krycek.

"Wow!" I finally croak. "Did he talk to you, too?"

"Oh, of course," says Krycek. He picks up the black pottery altar bowl and gazes into it for a long moment; then sets it down. "I see a pursuit," he says softly. "After this ritual, we must flee. But for now, we will celebrate life and worship the God in our way, as he has commanded. Come, Mulder," he says, taking my hand, "into the shelter," and he leads me into the hut. There is a bed inside built up on a platform, made up with satin sheets and laid about with pine boughs and flowers. "Come up," urges Krycek, and I step onto the dais. "Sit," he commands, and I sit on the bed, straining erection and all. He takes a place, cross-legged, on the bed, and instructs me to wrap my legs around him. He is hard now, too, and our cocks rub and bounce against each other in a most arousing way. He leans forward and takes me in a steaming-hot kiss, soft inner lips to lips, tongue to tongue, face to face. He is so close that I can hear the rapid beating of his heart like a butterfly trapped within his silken throat, his chest. He draws away. "OK," he says, "this is tantra. The object is to have a type of extended orgasm, that can go on for hours. We can only achieve this if we don't come right away, and I know, darling," he says, leaning forward and kissing me again, "how much you want to."

"Uh-huh," I say, skeptical, disappointed. "When do we begin?"

"Oh my love," he says, smoothing back a stray bang from my forehead, "we've already begun."

************************************************************************

Pulling over at a rest stop along State Highway 15, I get out of the dusty car and look around. "He didn't just ride off into the sunset," I say finally, lighting a Morley Light.

"Well, then, where the hell else did they go?" asks Doggett, irritably. He doesn't like this place; the desert, the dryness, the blaring hot sun, and this wild goose chase has not improved his mood.

I tilt my head back toward our point of origin, toward Cedar City. "I think we should try, oh, Dixie National Forest, these mountains, the hills around Cedar Breaks National Monument," I say. "And we'll have to take horses ourselves, or ATVs, unless you just want to do a reconnaissance with the choppers. That way we could easily miss them. There are so many places to hide in these badlands. This isn't a flat, featureless desert like the Mojave, say, or in Nevada."

He nods slightly. "I just don't relish the idea of going horseback. He can easily outride us, he's an expert horseman, he knows the lay of the land and there's so much that can happen to you riding."

I smile. "John, don't be such a wuss," I say, and, glancing at his bandaged, splinted arm, instantly regret it.

He follows my gaze. "I'm much better," he says tightly, "and I can do whatever you do, Xena."

************************************************************************

Dana Scully's Diary: "Now I hear that Agents Doggett and Reyes have volunteered for a very difficult and dangerous mission into the wilds of southern Utah, and my heart is heavy: Agent Doggett is still suffering from his injury and is in no shape to undertake such an endeavor. Agent Reyes will look after him and thus place an unfair burden on herself. I hate Krycek so much at this point, and am so angry with Mulder, that I can barely see well enough to write this. Someone just knocked on the door; hope it's Mom." It is Mom, and I greet her effusively, as befits the love we share.

"How are you, Dana?" she asks. "And how is the baby?"

"Well, we're just fine," I smile, hugging her; then I pick up William. She looks at him adoringly, holding out a finger for him to grip.

"He's absolutely gorgeous, Dana. In fact I think he's better looking every day. Fortunately, dear, he looks mostly like you."

"Do you think so? I think he favors Mulder, that rat, around the mouth and chin."

My mother smiles, then the smile fades and she shakes her head. "I'm really sorry about the way things turned out."

"Mom, t-" I begin, and then the phone rings, a shrill sudden sound that makes me jump. It is Agent Reyes.

"Dana? Monica Reyes here. Have you heard? The bird escaped his cage and is migrating to a cooler clime. Things got too hot for him here."

"That's not necessarily bad," I say, after considering a moment, "if he leads you to Krycek's stronghold. What does Kersh say?"

"He says find the bastards, whatever it takes. You know Kersh. Are you still being bothered by strange people at your apartment complex?"

I peep out the kitchen window. "Yes. A man and a woman, same ones as yesterday. They've done nothing for the past several hours but hang out."

"Uh-huh," says Reyes. I hear the click of a lighter. "Too bad Kersh doesn't believe in aliens, or says he doesn't, or he'd have 'em chased away or captured, if he could, or at least a guard put on them."

"I know," I say, "what can I do?"

"Dana, if there was any way I could be there with you right now, I would be. You believe me, don't you?"

I laugh. "Monica," I say, using the familiar form of her name for the first time, "trust me, you've already done so much for me - way too much! You were my labor coach, remember?"

When Mom and I, wheeling Will in a stroller, pass the places where I've seen the alien spies for the past week, I note that they are gone.

************************************************************************

I instruct Mulder in the proper positions and mudras-hand positions and he catches on quickly. He wants to come too fast, of course, but when I slick him with numbing lotion he relaxes into the ritual, begins to take it easy. "That's it, darling," I say, kissing him gently.

"How will I know when to come?" he asks.

"I'll give you a signal: I'll touch the tip of your nose twice."

"Aren't you really turned-on too?"

"Look at me," I answer, indicating my swollen cock. "I'm so turned-on it's going to be difficult for me, too, not to come too soon. Now, Mulder, I'm going to sit in your lap, backwards. I want you to fuck me, but very, very slowly. Keep your hands in the mudra I showed you; it will contain power within you. And chant: 'Bel, Odin, Aries, Cu-Chulainn,' like that, OK?"

"OK," he answers dutifully. I sit in his lap, gently impaling myself on his lingam, his staff of life, and as I sink down we begin chanting softly: 'Bel, Odin, Aries, Cu-Chulainn,' over and over, and when I open my eyes the forest is magically alive with movement and color and sound, so that I see every needle on even the distant pines, hear bird calls with remarkable clarity, as though I were on the world's best acid; and I can see from the look of stunned wonder on Mulder's face, as I turn to look at him, that he is experiencing the world in much the same altered way. "This is so fuckin' great," Mulder breathes and buries his face in my chest, blowing softly, so that each little hair picks up his breath and magnifies it, turning it into a gale-force wind, and I thrill to it.

"Fuck me," I order softly, and he thrusts upward. I feel pleasure, sharp as a sword, stab me and I gasp again, and yet again. "Chant," I gasp, and we say, 'Bel, Odin, Aries, Cu-Chulainn,' as one, and I am hurled right into the next world; there is no other way to describe it. There is a sensation of flying as I come, ejaculating onto my stomach, and he comes, shaking and groaning and shooting into me.

************************************************************************

We just hold each other for a long, long time. It was the most amazing orgasm I've ever had, and maybe for him too, for he just holds me and kisses me and says nothing; but in his emerald eyes I read satiation, bliss and the fulfillment of expectations. "What happened?" I asked at last. "How do you interpret that?"

"We came with the gods," Krycek said simply.

We walk back, Alex and I, hand in hand, the silken bedclothes slung over my right shoulder. Now and then I raise his hand to my lips and kiss it.

************************************************************************

When Mom and I get downstairs to street level, the mysterious couple (of aliens?) are nowhere to be seen. "What are you looking for, Dana?" my mother asks in her gentle way, probably wondering why I am craning my neck this way and that.

"There were people watching me, Mom, but I don't see them now," I say, hugging Will closer to me. Dr. Moore pronounces William and I in perfect health and congratulates me on my maternity.

"There's nothing...unusual about my baby, is there?" I ask hesitantly.

He shakes his head. "Completely normal in every regard, though on the large side, of course. You said his father is tall."

"Quite," I say, "and his grandfather."

"Well, I expect him to reach well over six feet."

"Despite my short genes," says my mother, smiling. "Dana," she says afterward, in the hall, "there's been something I've been meaning to ask you."

"Yes?" I ask, unfolding the stroller and buckling little Will into it.

"There hasn't been a good time to ask you this, but if you lost all your eggs when you were abducted, that effectively sterilized you. How did you become pregnant?"

I look away from her. "Mom," I gesture helplessly.

"It's OK, sweetie," she says, swiftly putting a hand on my shoulder.

"No, Mom, I have to tell you about something that happened to me a while ago."

As my mother's eyes widen and her lips part, her head shakes in disbelief and I gesture animatedly to illustrate my story, the story of how, nine months ago, I was approached by our arch-enemy, the CSM, who took me out to dinner and gave me something to drink that knocked me out and how, when I awakened, I was wearing silk pajamas - not my own - nothing else, and I had no idea of what had happened to me. "It's my idea, Mom, that he put ova back into me at that time."

She nods but her face is white. "Dana, have you considered what happens to women who are given Rohypnol and drugs like that? And this was exactly nine months ago. He could be the baby's father rather than his grandfather. You ought to have a genetic test done to determine paternity."

I shrug. "Why, Mom? Either way, it's his genes. But I'd rather go on thinking Will is Mulder's baby."

"But you should know, one way or the other."

************************************************************************

Three hours of driving in a jeep through arroyos down unmarked washboard roads across wet and dry creeks and washes and over desert hardpan with bushes evil enough to puncture a tire, and we've not come up with anything, anything at all, and Doggett is pissed, although he doesn't show it, and I am pissed, and I do. "Want a drink?" he asks, holding up a Thermos of what was once ice water, probably luke-warm or worse by now.

I shove it away. "I want a fuckin' Frostee," I say, and reach in my shirt pocket for my Morleys.

Doggett shrugs. "Suit yourself." He doesn't upbraid me for the failure of my much-lauded intuition and New Age techniques to determine 1) where they have gone, or even b) in which direction.

"I'm thinking there's a trailhead around here," I say almost desperately.

"Uh-huh," he says patiently.

"Let's go back to the fuckin' feedstore," I say, lighting a cigarette. As my temper deterioriates, so alas does my language. He nods and turns onto the main road. Just before we get to the riding stable I spot it: a faint trail, hoofprints visible here and there.

"Well, you found a horse trail," Doggett says cautiously.

"It's THE trail, I know it!" I cry, jumping out of the vehicle before it has completely stopped. Doggett stops the Jeep and runs after me, dropping to one knee alongside the trail.

"Recent," he pronounces, "very recent, or the tracks would have blown out of this dusty soil in the wind we've been having."

I nod in agreement. He straightens up and we both gaze down the trail. It seems to go straight for a mile or so, then zigs suddenly left to go up the first of the switchbacks up the side of the mountain. "How far ahead do you think he is?"

"Michael Smith? I think he's within an hour or two of his destination," he says.

"Which is?"

He shakes his head. "Somewhere up in those mountains."

"Should we follow him?" I ask.

"No," he says decisively. We'll try flying over."

" 'K," I say, shrugging. "That'll mean losing more time while we wait for the requisition to be approved by Kersh or his minions."

"Have you got a better idea?" He is not being sarcastic; he is entirely reasonable in this question.

"I say follow the trail on horseback AND fly over," I say. "If you don't feel up to it, John, I'll go with Johansen and Young. You get in a chopper with whoever." I'm sorry that I teased him earlier about being a wuss. His shattered arm, stuck together with screws and steel plates, must be agonizing even at rest, and the poor dear is too macho to ever take a pill stronger than an aspirin and much too manly to even think about complaining.

Now he looks at me and nods. "Yes, it could work," he admits. "Do you ride, Monica?"

I snort. "I spent a lot of time on my uncle's ranch. You know that, John. Of course I ride!" We locate another stable in the Cedar City area - it is not too difficult - and we procure two horses. Johansen is raised on Doggett's cell phone and soon his car pulls into the lot. "I hope you can ride," I say, eyeing him. Tall and slim and athletically built, he looks ready for practically anything; still, one never knows.

"I can," he said, "at least, I know the mechanics."

We swing aboard our mounts. "We have to ride at a good clip," I say, "yet I don't want to miss anything. We'll have to go at, oh, a trot. I hope your butt is in as good a shape as the rest of you."

"Squats and curls," answered Brian Johansen.

************************************************************************

"I'm sorry to have to break the news to you," says Krycek, "but we're going to have to get this show on the road."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean we'll have to break camp. Leave."

I falter in mid-stride. "Leave? But we just got here."

"And we'll have to just go," he says grimly.

"But why?"

"Because they're catching up to us, honey. I got a call from Mikhail - Michael. Doggett and Reyes suspect."

I whistle. "And both of them bulldogs. Or make that one bulldog and one bulldyke."

"Hey," says Krycek, "not to laugh. This is serious stuff. If they come after us, our chances decrease."

"Even up here? They don't know these mountains, and you do. And the land is folded into a gazillion creases, with our rancho tucked into one of them."

"But even we can be seen from the air, if you know where to look."

I sigh. "So when do we have to leave?"

"Tonight," he says casually, "under cover of darkness. Riding. I'll make a list of everything we need, then we'll cut that in half and pack up the horses."

************************************************************************

"Butane stove, two," Krycek reads.

"Check," I say.

"Down bag, two."

"Check."

"Foam pad, two."

"Yeah."

"AK-47, one."

"Hey," I protest, "planning on a ride-by shooting or what?"

"Just tell me if you've got it there."

"Yes." This process continues until we've got quite a pile of stuff. Then Krycek goes through everything and throws most of it to the side till we're pared down to absolute essentials, like sleeping bags and lube. "Hey," I say, as though it were an original or freshly-broached question, "where exactly are we going to so fast or so slowly?"

"A camp in northern Utah," Krycek says briefly.

"Is it nice?"

"Depends on what you think is nice. It's a lot more primitive than here, but it's also up in the mountains, in a very beautiful spot. Mulder," he continues, pausing, "look, if there are any doubts in your mind, by all means turn back now. All you have to do is be here when they show up. All will be forgiven, trust me. You can go back to Scully and the baby, resume your old life, and I no longer have to be a part of it."

"Is that what you think I want?" I ask, studying the fine print on a canister of Butane gas.

"Only you can answer that," he says, "but if you do decide to leave me, remember that you were once an acolyte of the Wild Man of the Wood. He won't forget."

************************************************************************

Dana Scully's Journal: "I was very happy to see Mom, and the knowledge that Will is fine is very reassuring. Still, my mother brought up something that's been troubling me in the darkest recesses of my mind: the iffy paternity of my baby. Obviously, the baby's father isn't an alien, and that is comforting, but, if human, which then of two men, one I love with all my heart and the other, my old arch-enemy? Only a genetic test, as Mom suggests, will decide it, and even then, it will need to be one of the more sensitive ones, as father and son share so many genes. Looking down into the beautiful and as-yet unformed face of my son, I almost wish I don't have to take this step. If Will is Mulder's, yes, I'd want to know with a certainty, but if he isn't, I don't think I'd want to know at all. To know, to have to look into his baby-blue eyes and think, you are the product of date-rape, is almost too much to bear. I am afraid of this knowledge and I am afraid of its potential for changing my relationship with my beloved son, and always, always, I am aware of the inexorable march of destiny, que cera, cera; it's not something that I can hope or wish or pray away, because it's already been decided, and nothing I can do will change it." The baby stirs in his crib and begins to cry so I pick him up, cradling him in my arms, and give him a breast. It's what he wants: he settles right down and begins to suck. My darling little son or grandson of the Smoking Man, I think, I hope you don't turn out like him. I will do everything in my power to ensure that you don't.

************************************************************************

Three hours into the ride I hear the buzz of a small plane and look up, shading my eyes from the sun. That could be John Doggett up there, scouting and scouring the area for signs of habitation. A search of the public records done several days ago yielded absolutely nothing in the names of either Alex Krycek or C.G.B. Spender, but then these two are, or were, crooks of the wiliest order. They would have used aliases, for sure. Whatever secrets the old man didn't take with him to his grave doubtless reside in the cunning and enigmatic brain of his protegee, and don't go much further, other than to his countryman, the Russian "Michael Smith," and to, of course, Mulder. Mulder. He is so hurt, so damaged that perhaps he can find healing only with Krycek. Krycek, and only Krycek, may hold the key to the salvation of Mulder's psyche. Surely Scully must come someday to realize this. Then the blinders will fall from her eyes and she'll be able to see who really loves her, who is able to love her for who she is, an incredibly beautiful woman, inside and out. John Doggett - and me, of course. How I'd love to be the one kissing those lush lips that Mulder doesn't respond to; the lids of those lovely sapphire eyes whose rays don't illuminate him. Dana... I wave to the plane and urge my horse Tammy forward. Johansen is snoozing at the helm and I quickly catch up to him. "This way," I say, crowding him off the side of the trail onto sandy soil. "He went this way," and I turn off onto a less-traveled track running at a 30-degree angle to this one.

Johansen, startled, crams his baseball cap down on his head so it doesn't fly off as his horse starts up with a snort. "Hey, how are you so sure?" he calls.

"I know stuff," I respond. "Haven't they told you about me yet?"

He shakes his head but follows. I am on the faster horse, and I am rapidly, literally leaving him behind in a cloud of dust. Halfway up the mountain, I stop and let Tammy blow, and allow Johansen on aptly-named Pokey to catch up with me. "I'm thirsty," the young man complains, "and I don't seem to have any water left."

"That's probably because you drank it all," I say, but offer him my canteen. "That's it until we get to the next stream. Why didn't you fill yours up at the last one?"

"I was so busy trying to keep up with you," he explains.

I smile. I can be rather hard to keep up with. I was first in my class in high school, college, graduate school and the Academy, while competing in several sports and holding student government and club positions and doing charity work. No man has ever gotten the better of me in anything, with the possible exception of a college pal Charlie, who'd beat me at arm-wrestling. Once. "Look," I say, taking pity on Johansen. "We'll switch horses. I'll take Pokey, you take Tammy. That sound fair?"

He brightens. "And they said you were a - ooops!"

"They said I was a what? Bitch? Lesbo? Dyke? Ball-buster?"

He looks down. "It's OK," I say. "All the names are true. AND I'm a pretty nice gal, too, once you get to know me. I treat people fairly and I've never deliberately hurt anyone in my life." He nods.

"Well, let's change horses," I say, sliding down from Tammy. "What are you waiting for?"

He shifts his weight, looks uncomfortable. "Well, what is it? Have you changed your mind? Have I freaked you out?"

"No," he says, pulling on the baseball cap. "I've...I don't know how to get down."

************************************************************************

At 8:45, just as evening is seeking a home in night, and as we're having a farewell drink on the flagstone porch, we hear what sounds like an entire herd of horses clopping, trotting, snorting, chuffing and neighing their way down the mountainside and into the valley. I jump up. "Our pursuers!" I cry. "They've found us! They're here!"

Krycek holds up his hand, then raises a finger to his lips, then I can hear it: a man calling to the darkened house: "Alexei! Alexei!" A wide grin splits Krycek's face. "It's Mikhail!" he says. "Sit back down, Mulder, everything's fine!" Reluctantly I sit, and soon the stable owner, "Michael Smith," canters into view, followed by 15 horses on the world's longest lead.

Krycek goes running to him. "Mikhail! Mikhail!" he laughs. "You had to bring the whole stable with you? Was there no one you could trust with the horses?"

"None," says "Smith". As Krycek holds up his kerosene lantern, I get another look at his friend: a very handsome man in his late forties to early fifties, with long graying blond hair swept back from his face.

"Mulder!" calls Krycek, and I hasten to his side. "Mulder, let's help Mikhail get the tack off the horses, and turn them out in the field next to mine, the southern field, OK? Ah, you've brought oats. Give 'em some oats too, please, darling." Calling orders, Krycek goes immediately from horse to horse, patting, unfastening, talking to them, in the inimitably easy way true horsemen have. I follow, loosening girths, unbuckling bridles, hauling saddles. We three work side-by-side until the job is done, the horses are rubbed-down, fed, watered and pastured. The whole process takes an hour and a half of hard, concentrated effort. Mikhail and Krycek finish ahead of me and are standing on the porch deep in conversation and glasses of champagne by the time I get back to the house. I can't tell what they are saying: the dialogue is in Russian, of course; but they switch to English at my approach and I hear the older man say, "you should leave at once."

"We were planning to," Krycek says, glancing at me. "We've got two fresh horses, all loaded," he continues, indicating Bint Sahara, a gray Arab mare and Al Marac, a golden Akhal-Teke. Mikhail nods.

"Good choice. Steeds of the desert, tough and swift. You will need them on your journey."

"You know where we're going?" I ask stupidly.

"Of course. Don't worry, Ratboy will see you there in one piece."

I start. "Does everyone know him by that name?"

"Yes," Mikhail nods. "Most do. The name goes with the man, proceeding out of darkness, flying into night."

************************************************************************

At nine PM I receive a call from Agent Doggett. He and Agent Young performed a reconnaissance mission in a Cessna but saw nothing more distinguishing than a lot of ranches and farms, any one of which, or none of which, could be what they seek. They're going to try flying lower tomorrow in a helicopter. He does not speak of weariness or pain but the strain is evident in his voice. "How is your arm? Are you up to this?" I ask, full of concern, dreading the answer.

"My arm hurts like a son-of-a-bitch, Dana, and there are things I'd rather be doing, but this is so urgent and so pressing, and I'm the man for the job."

"Oh," I say. Then stop being so macho, I think.

"I'll be all right," he says. "I have some codeine tablets. I can take them if the pain gets really bad."

"Where are you?"

"At a motel in Cedar City. I've got to turn in soon. Tomorrow's the big day. I figure it's the day that'll make or break this case. We should be able to see whatever we need to from the chopper."

"You couldn't see the escapee, Michael Smith, from the air today?"

"Uh-uh. No sign of him. He was probably sticking to the trees. That's if he hasn't already gone to ground somewhere fairly close."

"One big desert, one little Rat and his friends."

"Believe me, if I thought I could devise an effective trap, I would have."

Long after I hang up from the hall, I sit in the window, cuddling little William to me, thinking of his brave, clever, handsome father, lost somewhere in the wilds of Utah, laboring under the delusion that he is in love.

************************************************************************

As we ride along the trail out of Hidden Valley, cautiously, for our flashlights and kerosene lanterns are our only sources of illumination, and our horses, although two fine examples of remarkably surefooted breeds, must pick their way over obstacles in their path, downed logs, large rocks, clumps of sagebrush, gopher holes, I allow myself to look up from time to time at the night sky, lit up with stars as though from a 1,000-watt bulb shining through punched tin, and pick out a constellation here and there: the W of Cassiopeia, the Big Dipper, the star triad of Orion's belt. If the ancients were afforded this pre-polluted view of the evening sky, then no wonder they fell down and worshipped it. It is as beautiful as the fair face of a deeply-loved woman, or man for that matter, I think, looking fondly at Krycek in the dark. Whatever combination of love, affection, friendship, concupiscence and just plain horniness led to my contributing raw genetic material to Scully's baby efforts, and even though the result is a wondrous, if wet and squally, new human being, still it is Krycek to whom I owe first allegiance; it is he whom I most love. Now his beautiful stallion whickers and slows; we are at a fork in the path, and Krycek must decide which branch to take. "North," he murmurs, fishing a compass out of his pocket. The right-hand way does point in that direction, so we start again, looking at the stars, so brilliant and steady, thinking of ancient mariners, as we are mariners on this wide and daunting desert. I begin to hum "the Southern Cross" and Krycek picks it up, singing the haunting tune in his beautiful baritone, so that it echoes off the dusky cliffs, not clearly seen but guessed as his mellifluous voice strikes them and bounces back to us. He runs through "Horse with no Name," "Lone Tree Hill," "No Expectations," and "In God's Country." I chime in from time to time but I'm not the singer my lover is. At five-ish, as the sun's pink and gold rays begin to creep over the horizon, as if shot slow-mo from the world's longest cannon, striking us and piercing us through and through, Krycek calls a halt. We slide off our mounts and allow them to crop the sparse grass and weeds that grow along the path. I lean against Bint Sahara. She is warm and a little damp but not dripping, although she has just climbed 4,000 feet and been ridden 50 miles over rough terrain, nor does Al Marac look tired.

"These are terrific horses, Alex," I say.

He nods. "They're the best in the world. Tough, fast, resilient, yet sweet. Notice that Al Marac doesn't bother your mare."

"Yes," I say. "Are we stopping for a while?" I ask hopefully. If I can keep him on the subject of horses, we WILL be here for a while. I am more tired than the horses, and we have 300+ more miles to cover.

"For a while," he echoes.

"Alex, are we going to make it, or are we going to die?"

His jaw sets in a grim line. "We'll make it," he says. "There's a spring down the hill a little way. We'll water the horses, refill canteens and so on. I have to..." His gaze sweeps the sky, hand held in front of his eyes to block the blinding rays of the rising sun. "I have to see, Mulder, whether there are spies in the sky, as there were yesterday."

"I don't see anything at all," I say, looking around. Then I hear a faint humming/buzzing sound.

"Hear that?" he asks. "They're coming after us."

"Oh my God," I say, as the Army Apache hoves into view, about five miles from us.

"Get the horses under cover!" Krycek says tensely, and we lead them under a stand of cedars.

"Can they see us, do you think?" I ask. I am so nervous I am trembling, and the anxiety is communicated to my mount, for Bint Sahara is trembling.

"No," Krycek says. The beating of the rotors comes gradually closer and closer, till it seems the chopper is right on top of us. "Sit tight," says Krycek. "They haven't seen us. Pull your weapon. If they get any closer, we'll have to open fire." The helicopter hovers a moment, looking, looking, but then as it does not spot us it begins to retreat, slowly, gradually, until it is swallowed up in the horizon.

"Good," I say, stroking Bint's neck. "That was close."

"That was fuckin' close," Krycek observes, "but we're safe for now."

We proceed at a jolting but ground-eating trot. I imagine I'm watching an old newsreel from the thirties maybe, jerky and strange but become real, somehow, while I sit astride a powerful white charger, tossing her head in the breeze of its passage.

************************************************************************

The Army helicopter lands in the middle of the north pasture, scattering horses as it descends. They stand at a distance and snort at it. Two men alight; they are Agents Young and Doggett. Doggett, I think to myself. Hm. I stand near the house, arms crossed, making no motion to meet them halfway. "Where are they?" Doggett calls, as he nears me. "Where are Krycek and Mulder?"

I shake my head stubbornly. "Come on," Doggett says, approaching me closely, aggressively. I can see every tiny beard hair, smell his Altoid and his aftershave. He is a very handsome man. In another time, another place... "Where are they?" he asks again, breathing into my face, one hand at his waistband.

I shrug. "I don't know," I say, at least partly truthfully.

Doggett steps back a bit, passing a practiced glance over the house, grounds, outbuildings. "Agent Young, search the barn, or whatever that is, and the other outbuildings. I'll take the house."

I do not accompany them on their forays but instead take a seat in the Adirondack chair on the flagstone porch. Damned cops...I'd had enough of them. That was why I'd emigrated from the Soviet Union, because I'd become fiercely tired of being hounded and degraded, due in part to my sexual orientation. Of course, their search yields nothing beyond a pair of shorts with "FWM" stitched into the waistband. "Well, now we know for certain he was here," says Doggett thoughtfully. "When did he leave, and where are they going?"

Again I shake my head.

"We can have you taken in for questioning."

"Then you might be responsible for the deaths of about 30 valuable pedigreed horses. Not to mention the fact that some of these animals are among my best friends."

Doggett taps his cheek for a moment, then comes to a decision. "Michael Smith, or whatever your name is, you're under arrest for obstruction of justice and harboring known felons." He goes on to Mirandize me while Young turns me around and snaps on the cuffs. They lead me to the helicopter. This seems like the worst kind of nightmare, one in which awakening to a more pleasant reality is not possible.

They fly me to Cedar City and I'm transported by Bureau car to the jail, where I share a cell with a crew-cut blond Aryan brotherhood member, who believes he was a Comanche chieftain in a former life. I'm as pleasant as I can be to the confused young man, climb into my bunk and try to sleep. It's not easy. Rumor has it that they are flying Dana Scully out for the interrogation.

I wonder how Alexei, dear Alexei, is doing.

************************************************************************

I receive the news via cell phone and then radio as the chopper nears us. "Michael Smith has been captured. So far he isn't talking, but they're importing a consultant in the form of Dana Scully, and she's a tough one, and she knows Smith."

My instructions are still the same: follow Krycek and Mulder, catch up to them if possible, apprehend them. I glance behind me at Johansen, gamely riding an uncomfortable trot on Tammy. I've got both horses tacked-up Army style, sort of a blend of English and Western, and it is possible to post the trot, as I am doing, rising and falling in the saddle in cadence to the horse's strides. "Watch me," I call to Johansen, and he closely follows suit: whatever else may be said about him, he is a quick study. "Don't look at yourself and don't watch the horse. Look at the trail in front of you." In this way we eat up the miles, and soon we stand on the ridge leading to the valley trail.

"Down there," I say softly. We look.

We can see pastures, and a cultivated area like a garden, the big main house and many outbuildings on one side of a long, narrow lake more like an overgrown pond. And horses, maybe 30 head I count. "Those would be Krycek's and Chekhov's. Where Krycek and Mulder went from here, that's where I'm puzzled. If you have any input at all Johansen, now's the time to give it."

He shakes his head. "I have none," he says. "They could have gone in any direction. But since you're a tracker, you ought to be able to deduce where they went."

"Ought to and able to are two different things," I say ruefully, but I take a look at the trails, even crawling on my belly like a snake to look at them up-close. "No," I say finally. "I can't tell. We'll make camp outside the house. I for one need a nap, and you, Johansen, had better not try any funny stuff."

************************************************************************

"Scully."

"Agent Scully, this is Agent Doggett."

"Yes?" I ask. "Really, Agent Doggett, I've resigned from the FBI. You don't need to call me 'Agent' anymore."

"Oh...force of habit."

"No problem. What's up?"

"We've got a suspect. 'Michael Smith,' whom you may know as Mikhail Chekhov."

I gasp. "Mikhail...I know him from my med school days!"

Doggett clears his throat. "We know that, and that's why I'm reporting this to you. At this point he is more of a witness than anything else."

"Where is he? Where are you?"

"Cedar City, and ditto. He's at the county jail. Agent Reyes is off with Agent Johansen combing the badlands for Krycek and Mulder; so far, Chekhov hasn't told us anything. Now, Agent Reyes is a fine tracker, and she's got that, if you'll pardon the expression, women's intuition; but it's really like looking for a microscopic needle in a haystack the size of New York."

"Yes, and?"

"And we'll have to depend on what we can get out of 'Michael Smith,' their buddy. And THAT will depend on you. We need you. A ticket has been reserved in your name for the 5 PM flight on United out of Dulles. Number 1013."

"My baby!" I exclaim, and as I do, of course, Will starts to cry and I pick him up and try to comfort him, dropping the phone on the hardwood floor. "Oh...sorry," I say into the receiver, retrieving the instrument.

"Bring William with you. You can hold him in your lap on the plane and when you get here, there will be a babysitter. A nanny."

"So you want me to come in - as a consultant? To interrogate Mikhail? What is his connection with Krycek, anyway?"

"Well, he runs a riding stable here in Cedar City; they're both horsemen. And he's a Russian expatriate. And then there's the fact that he's in love with Krycek."

"Like half the civilized world, it seems," I sigh. "OK, count me in."

************************************************************************

"So what do you see through those things?" I ask Krycek as he looks through his high-powered binoculars.

"Stuff," he says enigmatically, then sighs. "I might as well tell you. I picked out Monica Reyes about 15 miles from here, riding at a good clip. She's got a man with her."

"What?" I ask, stunned. "What do you mean?"

"What I said. The Reyes bitch is out there with some dude, following our trail like the hound dog she is."

"Could they catch up to us?" I ask in alarm.

In answer, Krycek raises the glasses to his eyes again. "They've stopped; now they're going down into the valley, looks like. Yep."

"Well, that'll delay them a while," I say hopefully.

"Yeah," he says. "OK, we're really going to ride, Mulder, ride hard. I want to get near Richfield by nightfall."

He mounts Al Marac and I climb back aboard Bint Sahara. I am so tired and saddle-sore that it seems that ten years of hot tubs and massages could not put me right.

We ride at a fast canter, the three-beat rocking gait soothing, like waltz music, and just as sweet; and we gobble up the miles. Krycek calls a slowdown just as I am beginning to drift off into the Blue Danube running in my head. I ride up next to him. He fishes out the binoculars and scans every ridge, chasm, crevasse, valley, peak, mesa and butte in this tortured, beautiful land. "Nothing," he says at last, reassuringly.

"Does that mean we can stop for the day?"

He makes a sound like a little tired groan. "Mulder, if we stop they can catch us. A moving target is harder to hit."

"Yeah, but when we're moving we're raising dust. And can be seen from above, in the air. I'm afraid that the next time we're buzzed it'll be our last."

"I'm not obsessing on it. I don't see any planes or choppers, do you? I think they may have given up air pursuit, at least for now."

"Hey!" I say, suddenly. "The valley! They've already been down there and captured Michael! They'll find out everything!"

Krycek shook his head. "Oh ye of little faith! I know for a fact that Michael's been tortured for what he knows and imprisoned and the works, and has never given any of it up."

"He could slip. He'll have the brightest minds in the Bureau questioning him night and day, keeping him awake, shining bright lights in his face..."

"I'm sure he will. I'm also sure that he won't snitch on us. Relax, Mulder. Chill."

"How'm I supposed to chill if I can't lie down and take a nap?"

"You'll be able to sleep when we get to our destination, for as long and as often as you want. Here," he adds, digging in a pocket and holding up a pill bottle. "Just what the doctor ordered."

"Valium?" I ask, hoping against hope.

"Nope," he says, "in fact, it's quite the opposite, a type of speed. It'll help keep you awake. Take one," he continues, shaking a tablet out into my hand.

"Fuck," I say, looking at it disdainfully. "All I fuckin' wanna do is sleep, Alex."

"I know," he says patiently. "And that's the one thing you can't do right now. You can sleep when I decide we're out of danger. Now take that pill." He presses his canteen into my hand. Unwillingly, I swallow the pill, thinking momentarily of cheeking or palming it, and then deciding against doing either and swallowing it.

************************************************************************

I sleep for exactly three hours, wake up while the day is still viable, feeling reasonably refreshed but under the scrutiny of Brian Johansen who has, I suspect, been watching me for a while. When I crawled into my tent to nap I wasn't wearing much, am not now, and possess a body that men seem to find interesting. "Keep it in your pants, Johansen," I say brusquely.

He just smiles. His shorts are unzipped; he's been touching himself, I know it. "I don't find that sexy, Johansen," I inform him. "I find men in general appallingly dull and you, in particular, repulsive. And that's conduct unbecoming an agent of the Federal Government, and it constitutes sexual harassment on top of everything else. As your senior agent and the injured party, I can and probably should have you written up. However, seeing that you and I are in this thing together, I'll let it go. For now," I say, giving him my very fiercest look, the one I call Man-hating Monica.

"Yeah, OK," he says offhandedly, and zips up his shorts. I watch him go to his tent, observing his macho-man, swaggering walk with detachment. Yes, I suppose he's a really handsome man, like a taller, more perfect Rudolf Nureyev; he may be one of the best-looking men I've ever seen. But his looks do nothing for me, and his behavior, especially toward such as I, is unspeakable.

"You might as well pack up again," I call. And pack it in, as far as your desires go. "We have to leave now. They've got a several-hour jump on us."

"I thought we were bunking here for the night."

"Change of plans," I say.

He groans. "You're a slave driver."

"Yes, and I'll be using real whips and chains if you don't shape up."

"Oooh, would you?" he asks, grinning.

I smirk. "You wish. Now get packed. If you don't know how, I'll help you."

Though not expert, Johansen does a reasonably good job of it, and I only have to repack one bag. " 'K," I say, standing back and looking at the loaded horse critically. "It'll do." My cell phone rings, and I stare at it stupidly, unbelievingly, until I realize that there is cellular transmitting/receiving equipment here, and I can pick up signals. "Reyes," I say into the flip.

"Agent Reyes, this is Agent Doggett. We've apprehended a suspect, a witness at any rate, and we're questioning him. We're flying Dana Scully out to help."

"Whatever for?" I ask, bewildered. "She's incredibly tied-up with her new baby."

"We think she can help. She knows the man and he can't bullshit her."

I shake my head, although Doggett can't see the gesture. "Shouldn't you have me questioning him and not off on this wild goose chase?"

"No. We need your tracking abilities. Your skills are unparalleled. Just keep doing what you're doing. Is Johansen completely worthless?"

I glance at the young man, who is whistling "Horse with no Name." "Almost," I say.

************************************************************************

The flight to Salt Lake City is uneventful, and I am yawning as we touch down. Will has been perfectly lovely all day, mostly sleeping, but now, as I carry him out of the 737 over to a prop plane which will take us to Cedar City, he starts to cry. I rock him and jiggle him, but to no avail, so that as I board the plane to my ultimate destination, he screams and wails and will not be comforted. He yells all the way to Cedar City, and I can read relief in the faces of the passengers who disembark at Utah's major southern city. This part of the world is fondly called "Dixie" by the locals, and the climate is sufficiently temperate to grow even cotton. I hold crying, red-faced Will in one arm and my carry-ons in the other, scanning the faces in the airport for a familiar one. Then I spot Agent Doggett, wearing his G-man getup, dark suit, light shirt and a...Roger Rabbit tie. "So you do have a sense of humor," I observe drily.

He smiles. "Rumor has it that you are a damsel in distress," he says, and takes William from me, wet, screaming and red-faced, and quickly has him calmed down.

************************************************************************

I am led through the typical steel double doors that clang shut behind me with an air of finality, a reflection of the harshness of prison life, to the room that is used for interviews, with several hard chairs arranged around a bare metal table. "Michael Smith" is brought in. "Mikhail," I say evenly, smiling a prim little smile.

"Dana," he says softly, and takes a seat at the table, clasping his hands in front of him. I can see that he's still a very good-looking man, and that the years have not been too unkind to him. He's the father of a man who was my best friend in medical school, and we came to know each other very well. I know, for example, his whole history in the then Soviet Union, how he was persecuted, pursued, imprisoned, tortured for his views and his sexual orientation; and I know that whatever secrets he holds about Mulder and Krycek and their whereabouts, they will not be easily gotten to.

"I'm afraid that I'm going to have to ask you some really hard questions, Mikhail." No, that doesn't sound right; too girly and wussy and empathetic. But he is answering me already, before I can reframe the statement.

"That's all right. I don't have easy answers."

I sigh. This is going to be painful. "Where are Mulder and Krycek?"

He shifts a little in his hard seat, looking at me serenely. "I'm afraid I don't know. They're out in the trackless wilderness somewhere." Not quite trackless, I know, thinking of Monica Reyes.

"Well, where are they headed? What is their destination?"

Silence, stony silence, during which Mikhail leans back in his chair, his big frame causing it to squeak a little.

"Come on," I say. "Look, Mikhail, I'm prepared to offer you immunity to prosecution for information. Tell me what I need to know and you walk, you're a free man, and we'll never bother you again." Unless you aid and abet more known felons, I silently amend.

He shakes his fine head. "I can't, I just can't."

"We know they're going North, following the National Forests. Where do they end up?"

He looks at me, then looks away.

"Is it Salt Lake City? Is it farther north than that? Bountiful, Ogden? Idaho? Canada? I think it's somewhere around Salt Lake. They could hide out there, in those mountains, whatever, for a good long time. Am I right?"

He shakes his head, but I've already seen the flash in his eyes. "Mikhail, you're so transparent," I say brusquely, and stand up, rapping on the door. "Guard! Please get Agent Doggett!" Oh, Mulder, Mulder, I think, we'll catch you yet! Then I think, there are so many places to hide. Indefinitely.

************************************************************************

We cover the miles in an easy ground-devouring canter; Bint Sahara's gaits are nice and would probably put me to sleep if it weren't for the vigilance I have to maintain over the rocky, treacherous trails. If my mare were to put one foot wrong it would be all over; but she doesn't, this surefooted child of the desert; and up ahead Al Marac, the golden bay Akhal-Teke, surges forward as if he knows where he is going. Hopefully, I think, Krycek knows. Sometimes we take a path that veers suddenly to left or right, sometimes straight ahead; every so often the trail peters out into nothing at all, just dirt and dust and sagebrush; but Krycek urges us on, ever toward the north. We have mountain ranges to negotiate, trackless deserts, cultivated lands and the horses handle it all as if it were a ride in the park. We have rest stops from time to time, to refill canteens and jugs, to piss, etc., and to chew on trail mix; to let the horses blow, drink and eat a little, but then we press on relentlessly. Krycek's jungle speed, or whatever it is, is working admirably and I feel no need for sleep. Day melts into night blends into day, they are all the same, and I am one with the pounding land and my daughter of the Sahara.

************************************************************************

I am uncomfortable in this jail cell; it is grimy, hard and ugly; the bed is but a thin foam mattress on a concrete slab; of course there is no privacy when using the toilet and the HVAC isn't working. It must be over 95 degrees in here; but bothering me far more than the inhospitability of the place is the fact that Dana Scully somehow guessed the general locale of Mulder and Krycek's destination. She called me "transparent!" I, the ex-zek who was tortured in a Gulag yet never disclosed what I knew! Well, I can take some comfort from the thought that the countryside around Salt Lake is a pretty damned big place, with lots of hidey-holes. Krycek and Mulder can stay concealed for a long, long time. My door rattles and a tray is slid through the slot. Dinner. As in, I am supposed to eat this. It resembles an apology for roast beef, some soggy and indeterminate vegetables and a strange-looking mass that I HOPE is tapioca pudding. I pick up the tray and try to eat but find I cannot, so I set it down untasted. I'm thinking of what is to come tomorrow. They will question me again, of course. I find myself almost constitutionally unable to lie to Dana and this frightens and depresses me. She and I were friends in her med-school days, not so long ago, and she has a line on me that I don't really understand, but whatever its origin, it's effective. She may not get it out of me, the exact place they're headed to, but she'll get close by watching my silences, what is left unsaid. I sit on the bed, draw my knees up to my chin, and rock a little; some self-comfort is in order here, as I have no one else to offer it.

************************************************************************

We've ridden hard, the horses are very tired, and we haven't caught up with Mulder and Krycek, who must be mounted on Man O' War and Secretariat. Still our orders are to continue the pursuit. At Manti we will be met by mounted agents leading fresh horses. Tammy and Pokey, poor things, are about done in. Six more agents will be added to the mounted contingency with 12 more driving ATVs and riding dirt bikes; then half again as many will block every known road into the Salt Lake Basin, in an effort to trap them in a complex and efficient web. I am feeling both defeated and superfluous. There is no rest, there is no end, there is no victory: only mile after unending mile of desert and mountain and rock, rock, rock until I want to scream in boredom, weariness and frustration. Brian Johansen, my cohort, hasn't said much lately, but from the look on his face I'd say that he's not having the best time of his life either. I'm very saddle-sore, which means that he is in agony, but surprisingly he doesn't complain, at least not yet; he keeps riding with me up along the spiny, tortuous backbone of Utah. Glimpsing a tiny cloud of dust on the horizon, I call a halt and take out my binoculars but, alas, in the time it takes me to train them on my target, whatever made the dust has vanished from the landscape. I can imagine the flashing of slim horse legs and the pounding of hooves, Krycek sitting his mount serenely, Mulder perhaps a little less sure, but both of them riding hard, riding the hot desert wind.

************************************************************************

"Think of this as the Pony Express," Krycek offers, stretching. He is sitting cross-legged leaning against Al Marac, who is cropping some nameless weed contentedly. "We have to keep going to get the mail in on time. And this is the kind of mail that holds your life in the balance."

"OK," I grumbled, chewing on a stick absentmindedly. We've already eaten - if you can call it that, trail mix, beef jerky, processed cheese sticks, one chocolate bar each, and all we can drink from a babbling brook that Krycek tells me positively has no liver flukes. Krycek looks happy and at ease with his surroundings; I would rather be almost anywhere else but here. He eyes me.

"What's the matter, Mulder?" he asks. "Are you constipated?"

"Ha ha, very funny! Although I guess you could say that I'm suffering from constipation of the mind."

He pushes up the brim of his hat so I can see his bright emerald eyes clearly. "Whatever do you mean, Mistah Rhett?"

"I mean I'm not digesting things correctly. There's a lot of input but not a lot that makes sense to me is coming out. Is being produced."

He looks at me steadily. "Come here, Mulder," he says, holding out his arm. I go to him and sit against him, my back to his front. I can feel him harden, and it is a most pleasant feeling.

"You haven't had any lovin' lately, that's your problem," he purrs, his hand tracing a delicate line from my nape to my ass. I shiver with pleasure and the anticipation of greater pleasure to come. "Mulder, get up, pull down your pants, get on your hands and knees, bend over, I'm gonna fuck you silly."

I do as he says, sneaking a hand to my cock, which is achingly hard. He swats it away. "I'll take care of that," he says. "I want you to concentrate on the sensations as I fuck you and stroke you. Come whenever you want. I'll feel your orgasm, then mine." He kneels behind me and I feel his cockhead up against my ass. "I misplaced the lube. You'll just have to take it dry, darling," he says and he is in. Oh, God, I am filled and it's a little painful at first, but pleasure is mixed in with the pain then it becomes paramount, and he is stroking my cock from root to tip, and I hear someone moaning and realize it is me and oh my God I'm coming, coming all over his hand. He groans and thrusts hard and comes; I can feel him squirt hotly inside me.

"Alex," I tell him, still on all fours, panting into the dirt, "that was the hottest yet!"

"And it's not over," he says, and withdraws. "Fuck me, Mulder, like I fucked you." He leans up against a boulder, his ass in the air. And I find that I'm hard again and there is nothing on Earth I'd rather do than penetrate him, feel him squeeze, envelope my cock. But I am enormous.

"I don't want to hurt you," I say.

"You won't. Just rub some of your come on your dick to lubricate it. I want to feel you inside me. Now, Mulder, not on Christmas."

I place the cut head of my big cock up against the tight ring of muscle around my destination, push and feel it gradually give way before me. Krycek gasps again and again. "It's heaven, it's fuckin' heaven!" he cries. "Fuck me, fuck me!"

I thrust gently at first then harder. No, there is nothing so wonderful as this congress between two ready bodies, two like-minded souls, two hearts so in love with each other even second-rate sex would be beautiful, but there is nothing second-string about this. It is explosive, a shot from a cannon followed by fireworks for days, and I am coming hard, deep in my lover's ass, and he is moaning, then the groans change pitch and become screams as he spurts come onto the desert floor.

We lie in each other's embrace, my head pillowed on Krycek's chest, and now we have time for the kissing we couldn't do before, our need was so great. I touch his perfect cupid's bow lips with my fingertips and he sucks my fingers, one by one. I kiss him, first just lips-on-lips then deeper, deeper, my tongue exploring the soft and warm inner recesses of his mouth. He kisses me back, hard, harder, and I can feel myself growing very hot and very hard again. "Once more," I plead, and lie back on the sandy soil.

"All right, Mulder," he says and bends over me, kisses me, parts my legs and enters me, and I feel the sharp joy of his big dick pushing into me, ending my longing as I am filled and fulfilled, taken to the heights on pinions of love and steel and left there, to dance in the sun.

"We've got to get going," he says moments (minutes? Hours?) later, sweeping an errant lock from my forehead and kissing me there. We swing into the saddle, Krycek and I, unwashed, unshaven rough-edged trailblazers, pioneers, ridge-riders on the spiny back of the world.

************************************************************************

"This is the Dixie National Forest we're riding through," I mention conversationally to Brian Johansen, who has been pretty quiet for the last 10 miles or so. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"

"Yes," he agrees. "I suppose so. What comes after this? More mountains?"

"More hard riding, I'm afraid. We keep to the mountain route. They're probably headed to the Salt Lake City area. Riding like this, it's a wonder we haven't overtaken them already."

"Well," says Johansen, "they'll catch 'em with the ATV's."

"Maybe they will," I say. "Let's stop for a while." Under the shade of cottonwoods I pull out my canteen and water bottles, take a drink, then pour out water into a bucket for the horses to drink. I ferret out my cell phone and turn it on. Predictably, it says "no network." "It won't even roam," I say, disappointed, and wipe my sweaty brow with the back of a grimy hand. With a sense of futility I pull out my radio and try it. There is nothing on my frequency, of course. We are probably fifty miles from anyone we're trying to reach. "We'll just have to continue on," I say.

"Who's to say for sure that we're on the right track?" asks Johansen, taking a bite of Power Bar. "They may be sticking close to 15, and they may even have pulled a fast one and are now going in a completely different direction."

I look at him and sigh. "As of now, we have no other orders but to proceed north. I don't think they're near the highway - they know they could be spotted."

"How come they haven't been caught by the choppers?"

"Because Krycek is deucedly clever, slippery as an eel and knows this country well. He can hide in a wash or under trees or whatever. The only hope of finding them from the air is to use infrared goggles at night, which I'm sure they've already tried, although it's dangerous flying those things at night, and only one has passed over at night that I noticed. I would guess that they couldn't get close enough to see them."

"Jesus," says Johansen, stuffing in the rest of his Power Bar. "I still say, just let the folks on the ATVs and dirt bikes catch them."

"This is a big country," I say, "folded and broken into a zillion mountains, valleys, gullies, gulches, hills, cliffs...you get the idea. There are lots of places for them to hide. We need people on horseback too. Horses can go where those vehicles cannot."

"Yeah," says Johansen, taking a big swig of water, "if you say so."

************************************************************************

We've looked for them over hill and dale, we've searched everywhere, even with the infrared specs - nothing. It's as though they've vanished into the desert landscape. I am growing discouraged, but I can't share that emotion with Agent Young and the other agents, who themselves are becoming bored and disgusted. Agent Grebowski kicks a rock, which bounces off the tire of my Jeep. "Watch it," I say, warningly.

He shrugs. "Sorry. No harm done, man."

I shake my head to indicate that he is out of line, then glance around the camp. We are 30 miles northeast of Cedar City in the middle of what is essentially a wilderness. At this elevation, most of the trees are large conifers, Jeffrey and sugar pine, the latter which, if you care to press your face against the bark and sniff, smells like pineapple. It is beautiful country, of course, some say the most beautiful in the world; but I cannot fully appreciate it as most of my conscious thought is consumed by the manhunt. Mulder and Krycek, slippery devils both, somewhere here in the wilds, maybe watching us, laughing at us. I shake off this image and pull out my walkie-talkie. "This is Doggett," I say into it, talking to the other camp commandant a few miles distant. "Deploy two Apaches over the Dixie National Forest today. Reconnaissance. Look for signs of fires, dust, etc., if you don't see the horsemen themselves. This is assuming, of course, that they're still mounted."

************************************************************************

I sit alone in my motel room nursing William. It is a comfortable and soothing routine, one which I enjoy doing, even though I have to do it approximately once every two hours, round the clock. Everything would be reasonably OK if it weren't for the strange people, a man and a woman, whom I can see from my back window. They are strange in that they are there, they are persistent in hanging around where they shouldn't be. They haven't overtly threatened me in any way, so I have not yet called for help. I will do so soon. They'd better leave my baby alone!...Our baby, Mulder's and mine. God, how I love him, despite what he's done, and miss him. Thinking about what he did, I am one big hurt. How could he? He has a newborn baby, he has ties, responsibilities. What spell, what enchantment has Krycek cast over him, so intense that he'd shuck everything and go running off into the blue with him? I and our child must be less than real to him whose sole reality is his gay lover. I look at my watch. It is gaining. I wish I could gain time, I who have so little of it left. If we don't get Mulder soon we'll never have him. I have another interview scheduled with Mikhail this afternoon, in about two hours. My guess is that he'll be just as obfuscatory as he's been in the past couple of days. Maybe, though, I can garner more information by "reading between the lines." With Mikhail, that's the only way to go.

************************************************************************

I am so very tired of these interrogations. I wish they'd sentence me and get it over with, so that I could serve my time in relative peace. Agent Scully, however, insists on offering me freedom in return for hard information about the whereabouts of Krycek and Mulder; I have not seen a judge, I haven't been arraigned; I am just held indefinitely while she and whoever else is available grill me relentlessly.

It is of course very uncomfortable, boring, depressing in my jail cell. My "cellie" is a young man in for burglary, very charming and thoughtful. Of course, I am suspicious of him. He is just the informant sort of guy. I tell him nothing relevant, just discuss my stable, horses, rock collection and the like. His name is Ken. "Are you a geologist?" he asks me, a little too wide-eyed.

"I was a petrochemical engineer at one time," I say briefly, and in response to further questions, roll over in my bunk, facing the grimy and spider-webbed wall painted "inmate pink" in an attempt to calm unruly inhabitants. There is a loud and grating noise outside my cell: a corrections officer is running his baton along the bars, creating an awful racket. "Yo, Smith!" he calls. "Got a visitor!"

"Uh-huh," I say, looking up warily. Is it a petite redhead? I hope not. "Who is it?" I ask, knowing the answer.

"They don't say. Come on, get your shoes on." I sigh and slip stocking feet, one with two holes in the toes, into my "jail shoes" - worn and torn plastic sandals. I've seen them at Walgreen's for $2.95. It is indeed Scully sitting primly in the interview room, along with a big hulking guy I don't recognize, although there is, of course, no reason why I should.

"Thornton," he says abruptly, by way of introduction. I nod, and Scully looks at me hard.

"Mikhail," she says, "please, no games this time," and Thornton drums the steel table lightly with manicured fingers. He is wearing, I notice, a Dartmouth class ring. "Where are they? We can't find them. Where are they hiding?"

I fold my hands on the table and look down at them.

"Mikhail, think of the horses. Yours, and Krycek's. They're subsisting on dry grass, rainwater if they're lucky; they're not being petted and groomed, wormed, shod; their bumps and cuts and scratches are not being attended to. Blowflies are laying eggs in their soft hides."

I look at her, full of rage. "That's not fair, Dana, and you know it. Dirty fighting! The animals are innocent!"

She shakes her head. "It IS fair, Mikhail. You need to think of your responsibilities. Tell us where Mulder and Krycek are headed, where they are now. We know they're going in the direction of Salt Lake, but it would take years to ferret them out of the mountains - tell us what we need to know and you can go back to your ranch and your horses and we'll never bother you again."

"Till the next time," I say. "No deal, Dana. I won't betray my friend."

"Look," she says, leaning forward confidentially, smiling at me, "I know you have a crush on Krycek."

I look away, embarrassed.

"It's OK. Practically everyone has a crush on him. It's nothing to be ashamed of. But Mikhail, he's not worth it. He's got something akin to antisocial personality disorder. He will never do you good, he will never love you back and anyway he's with Mulder, and he doesn't want anyone else. He's not attracted to you, or he would have already slept with you."

I wince a little. Her barb has found its target. "Yes," she says, warming to her subject, "and he's just taking advantage of your friendship and loyalty and your good nature. He cares nothing for you." I stare resolutely at my hands, which have begun to clench into fists. Despite my resolve not to be bothered by what she says, she's getting to me.

"You should be ashamed of yourself," I say slowly. "You, a new mother with an infant, acting like the worst ball-buster of all time because your lover ran off with another man and you won't have your cozy little family unit after all."

"Do you think so?" she asks, unflustered. "Because I don't. I'm just being straight with you, and I'd like you to be straight with me."

"OK," I hear myself saying, "I'll be straight. They're in Arizona. They headed for the principal Navajo reservation there. Now may I go?"

She regards me narrowly, those blue-blue eyes cold as chips of glacier ice. "Are you telling me the truth, Mikhail?"

"Young Pioneers' honors," I say, holding up my right hand.

She laughs. "All right, you can go. We'll process your release just as soon as your information checks out."

"Not now, right away?"

She shakes her head and stands up, Thornton standing quickly too, as if on cue. "No. When we find signs of them in Arizona you're free."

I smile, but inside I am shrinking, shriveling, dying. My poor horses! Sagebrush and stream water. And what will happen when the snows come?

************************************************************************

"We're near Richfield," Krycek informs me, over freeze-dried lasagne boiled over the butane stove. "Actually, we're between Richfield and Fillmore."

"Yeah?" I say, not having any intelligent comments to add to his remark. We might as well be between Helsinki and Halifax, for all I know.

"Mulder, are you listening to me? This is important information."

I sigh and fork lasagne to my mouth, trying to eat it. Between the stress of the endless trek and Krycek's pep pills, I don't have that much of an appetite.

"Well," he continues, "I'm just trying to communicate to you where we are. We've made tremendous progress."

"Good," I say, slurping down another bite. "I'm beginning to feel a bit tired."

"Time for another pill," Krycek says briskly, reaching for the bottle. "Or two," he adds, as he shakes them into my palm.

I obligingly swallow them, leaning against a rock. "Sleep," I say. "Just a nap."

"No," says Krycek, "we've got to keep moving. A stationary target is easier to hit." He rises, goes to rub out his cup and silverware with sand. I do the same. Krycek feeds Bint Sahara and Al Marac with oats he places in a declivity in the rock, sweeping it free of dirt and grit.

"Such beautiful horses," I say. And they are, even though they are sweaty and thin: graceful steeds of the Orient with fine, lovely faces, silky coats, clean limbs.

Krycek fairly beams. "You know, the Akhal-Teke is a Russian breed," he says, with obvious pride. "They're racers, and they're the toughest horses in the world. And Arabs are no slouches."

"You chose well, then, when you picked these out for us. I can't believe how they never get tired."

"And, I hope they never will," says Krycek softly, patting Bint Sahara's neck. She raises her head to look at him, then whickers in his face.

"They're obviously both in love with you," I say, a trifle enviously. "Where'd you learn to be such a good horseman?"

"Russia," he says shortly.

I run a hand through my hair. I had a look at myself in Krycek's hand mirror this morning, and what I saw did not entirely please me: a few days' growth of beard, my hair already growing out with light-brown roots contrasting oddly with the black, and sticking up every which way; my shirt soaked with perspiration from the temperature and the exertion. Nor do I share Krycek's enthusiasm for his horses. To me they are primitive, inconvenient and torturous means of transportation, and I would just as soon we were off them permanently. "Alex," I say, standing up, "how many more miles?"

"Oh," he says, waving a hand airily, "about a thousand."

At my look of consternation he laughs. "No, Mulder, another 150 miles, tops. Three days' riding."

"Fuckin' pony express," I mumble. "This faggot needs a shower."

"Darling," he says, leaning forward to kiss me, "I like your funkiness. It's...exotic. Anyway, you'll get to bathe soon enough. Just bear with me."

I look at him skeptically. "Bathe? As in, in an actual bathtub?"

Krycek is silent, concentrating on tightening the cinches. "Bint blows herself up every time. Yes," he says, slapping one silver, tightly-muscled shoulder. "Yes, Mulder, in an actual bathtub. With a view of the wild Uintahs from every window."

************************************************************************

After my interview with Mikhail, I place two calls, one to Doggett's voice mail and one to the field agents in Arizona. "Agent Doggett," I say to that party's electronic answerer, "it'd be a good idea to have someone fly in and take care of those horses. It's OK for Chekhov to think they're not being cared for, but it's very wrong to actually neglect them. I understand they're valuable animals, and even if they weren't, they deserve good care. Have a vet flown in with whomever to take a look at them. Horses are always cracking hooves and getting worms and colic. Long-term, please think about having them placed in government impound. And we're going to have to check out the lead to Arizona, whether or not it's founded. I suspect my old friend is messing with us, but we won't know for sure till we investigate. If he's just buying time for Mulder and Krycek, I'm going to be really pissed." I hang up, sigh, and pick up William from his crib. In the next room, Leona Philips, his nanny, snores in her bed. Leona is 23, blonde, fresh faced, from Kansas, and appears to love the baby and to be very competent at her job, but she is no Monica Reyes. And God, heaven forfend she ever get near a man I care about, unless of course that man is Mulder, who lately seems to prefer boys. Krycek. If I ever see him again, which quite frankly will be too soon, I'll smack him silly. I'll spit at his feet.

Well, I am not so tough as all that. I will probably cry, as I'm beginning to now, wiping furiously at my betraying tearducts. Setting Will down carefully, I begin to wail, sobbing loudly. There is a bump from the next room and Leona pokes her tousled head out the door. "Mrs. Scully?" she asks. "Are you OK?"

"NO!" I wail. "I am not OK! My man left me for another man! How could I be OK?"

"Oh," says Leona. "You'll get another boyfriend, Mrs. Scully. You're very pretty."

I look at her through a blurry veil of tears, feel a contact begin to slip, and begin bawling again. "You d-don't understand! I don't w-want another man! This was the love of m-my l-life! Will's f-father!"

Comprehension begins to dawn in Leona's wide blue eyes. "Oh," she gasps. In all the confusion, Will, of course, begins to howl. "Oh, you poor dear!" she says, picking him up. "I thought your father was dead! That's what they told me! Oh, what a bad man he is!" she continues, rocking the baby. "Mrs. Scully, I think he needs to be f-"

"I can't feed him now! I can't do anything but cry!" Hot tears chase each other down my face. "L-Leona, don't watch me cry!"

"It's OK," says the young girl. "You go ahead and cry! What a bad man he was to do that to you! I'd cry too! And the poor innocent baby!"

"Mulder! Mulder!" I cry, wildly and illogically. "Come back to me! I love you! Oh, Mulder!" and I collapse on the sofa.

Leona, placing the baby gently back in his crib, runs over to me. "It's OK, it's OK," she says over and over.

************************************************************************

With nightfall, we can no longer see much, even with our powerful flashlights, which bob crazily, presenting the landscape as a series of unconnected still pictures, rocks and trees caught in the strobe, incapable of forming a coherent whole. "Stop!" I call, and we slow to a walk, then rein the horses into a full stop. "Dismount," I say tersely, and slide off Pokey, exhausted. Johansen is at first too tired to get down.

"Why?" he asks.

"Because we can't fuckin' see, you idiot! Visibility is nil," I snap. "The horses'll break a leg."

"OK," is all he says, as he dismounts, slowly, creakily and with such obvious discomfort that I wince in sympathy.

"Let's cook something for dinner. I'll take care of it," I offer, but he shakes his head.

"You go ahead. I'm too tired to eat," and he pulls his bedroll from his saddle. "I'll just have raisins or something and go to bed."

"All right," I shrug. I cook freeze-dried beef stroganoff and he is induced to eat some.

"You know, we'll never catch 'em," he ventures.

"Yes," I say patiently, "you've been saying that."

"Well, it's true. They've got a big head start, know the country and have better horses."

I sigh. "True or not, orders are orders. Now shut up, Johansen, and go to sleep or whatever it is that you do. We're up with the dawn tomorrow."

************************************************************************

As has been the case the last several nights, we ride through the night. Somehow the horses never put a foot wrong in the dark, planting their feet delicately yet firmly, feeling their way along with some sixth (or further) sense. And they are tireless. Krycek rides alongside me. "Have I made a believer out of you yet? Aren't these horses amazing?"

"Uh-huh," I say. "When do we get to make love next?"

"Probably not till we arrive. Then it'll be nothing but sex, I promise you."

"And showers, I hope."

Krycek laughs. "And showers. Hot, cold, any way you like."

We stop after another mile or so to heat beans and take care of nature's insistent calls. Around us the night is alive with the sounds of owls and swifts. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" I ask, looking around in the darkness. As usual, we may not have a campfire, because the smoke rising to the heavens would alert them to our whereabouts; but Krycek snuggles close to me, keeping me warm in the cool desert night. "I wish I could sleep," I say, knowing that it is pointless to do so.

"Not yet," he says patiently. "Not yet."

"Tell me about this cabin in the sky, or whatever it is. Is there cable?"

He laughs and sits up. "Well," he says, "there's no cable, because there's no TV. There are all kinds of crafts to do, woodworking, beads, whatever you like, but no TV, VCR, DVD, CD players, etc. Heat and electricity are generated using solar panels. And since the sun doesn't shine all of the time, it's iffy. You will get a hot shower, but no hair dryer, no electric toothbrush, no Norelco."

"Sounds pretty primitive," I say drowsily.

"You're getting sleepy," he says, "time for another pill. Or two."

"I don't want another fuckin' pill! I wanna sleep, Alex, Christ! Like a normal person, you know, more than ten minutes a day?"

"Take it," he says, offering it to me with a cup of stream water. I glare at him, though he can't see my expression, and snatch the pill and the cup from him. Downing both, I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. "No need to get aggressive, Mulder," he says mildly.

"I can't help it! I haven't slept for three or four days, I forget which it is, and I haven't showered in at least that long, and I'm starting to smell like a gorilla!"

************************************************************************

Mulder doesn't realize that the sweat and the road grime he complains of only makes him more desirable to me. As we ride on into the night, a plan forms in my mind and I call a halt beside a creek under a stand of cottonwood trees. I walk over to him and push him against a tree trunk. "Just like that, Mulder," I say. "Pull your pants down." He obliges, I open my fly and take out my swelling cock. I cup his ass and squeeze it, that wonderful athlete's butt. "Lube," I say, though I can barely talk, and reach for it, located at last the other day after a diligent search in one of Al Marac's saddlebags. Slicking myself up, I almost come right there. "Mulder, spread your legs. I'm coming in," I grind out, beginning to pant and gasp. I position my cock up against his oh-so-tight anus, my arm around his slim waist for balance, then slide it in.

Mulder groans and pushes back. "That's what I like!" I say, and begin to thrust, slowly, Mulder moaning under me, his huge cock standing out from him like a sexy, fleshly baton, telling me he loves me and wants me to fuck him forever, begging me to fuck him harder, and I drive into his ass a little harder and a little faster, feeling the tight heat envelope and embrace and stroke my cock, till I'm half-mad with pleasure and need. I reach around for his cock and pump and stroke it, and then all of a sudden he stiffens and his seed spills out on my hand. As this happens, I feel a wild rush of pleasure starting at my cock and radiating out to my toes and the roots of my hair, and I spurt deep inside Mulder, screaming and coming so much that I run out and down his leg, dripping into the dirt. We stand for a minute or two together, shaking and gasping, then I gradually slip out of him. He turns around, puts his arms around me and kisses me fervently.

"I love you, I love you!" he says, over and over.

"Oh, God, Mulder, I love you too," I say, and for some reason there are tears in my eyes. I dash them away so he can't see them, then I bend and lick each lithely-muscled leg.

"Ooooh," he says, shivering and smiling. "That's really erotic!"

"I hope so," I say. "Darling, let's fuck again before we get back into the saddle. Unless you want to fuck there."

"I'll fall off," he laughs. "Alex, let me put a sleeping bag here." He lays one out on the stony ground. "Now yours," and he places my bedroll on the bag. "Now lie down and prop your hips on the roll here." I lie, filled with lusty anticipation. That great big cock inside me! The excitement never palls. I hitch my ass up over the rolled-up sleeping bag. He stands over me, studying me. I notice that he's hard again. "Alex, why don't you lie on your stomach?" I obligingly roll over. I can feel pressure on the bag, hands stroking my ass, shoving a wet finger up me, then another. Then the fingers are withdrawn and his mighty member knocks at my back door. Oh, come in, Mulder, come in, I think, and he is sliding past the tight ring of muscle deep into my ass, and I can't think of anything else but Mulder and that wonderful cock, which is giving me so much pleasure, rubbing me, stimulating me, as he glides slowly in and out of my ass, grunting and groaning with the effort to not come. "It's so good," he whispers hoarsely. "Oh, so good, Alex. How close are you darling?"

"Real, real close," I gasp. "Don't be afraid to fuck me hard, Mulder, as hard as you can."

"OK," he says, and thrusts his full length in, hard, again and again, and then I'm coming, spraying onto the sleeping bag, and he's coming, jetting inside me, and we're both yelling, screaming with one wild voice.

Then his cell phone rings.

************************************************************************

"Who the hell is this?"

"This is Scully, Mulder. You must be out of the dead zone, or you've just kindly consented to answer your phone for a change. Where are you?"

"Uh-uh. Nope. Can't go there. Where are you?"

"I'm in southern Utah, trying to find you!"

"Why? Is the baby OK?"

"The baby is fine," I say, glancing at him cooing in his crib. "No thanks to you, Mulder. Frankly, I'm surprised you're still alive. I take it you're still with Krycek?"

"Of course I am," he says, gently but woundingly. "I wouldn't be anywhere else."

"And just where is there?"

"Nowhere," he says, and breaks the connection. Oh, damn him and his gay lover! Damn all faggots! I hope they rot! I think furiously and irrationally. You've got to get a grip, Dana. Think! Where would you go if you were Mulder and Krycek?

I press my fingertips into my forehead, as though they possess divine knowledge which can be passed through flesh and bone directly into my brain. "Salt Lake, maybe," I say at last. "They could try hiding out on the outskirts. In Tooele, say, or maybe Bountiful."

William looks up at me, kicks off a blanket and makes a funny little gurgle. "Oh you darling thing!" I exclaim, picking him up. "How could Mulder think so little of his own flesh and blood that he'd follow some fey murdering hoodlum into Desperation Valley?"

************************************************************************

Scanning the horizon with my binoculars yields nothing but a red-tailed hawk on the wing, russet rocks, and a Kodachrome-blue sky. Pretty, so very pretty; but we're getting tired of the trail and Johansen especially regards me resentfully, as though it were all my fault. "My ass hurts," he complains, "my back hurts, my legs hurt, my arms, my shoulder, my neck hurts-"

"All right, Johansen," I cut in. "I get the point. I have aspirin, Tylenol, stuff like that if you need it."

"Do you have any codeine?" he asks morosely. "I'm in PAIN."

"I know, darlin', and I am not a pusher, but I do have something I use for cramps; you can have some."

He takes the pill and the frequency of complaints lessens. At midday we halt at a pretty burbling stream, allowing the horses to wade in and drink. "You couldn't do that with most horses, but these are mustangs and they have sense," I remark. I sit on the sandy bank and plunge my sunburned legs (yes, I have been wearing shorts due to the heat) into the creek. "No sunscreen works for long out here," I say, ruefully touching one reddened thigh.

Johansen takes off his boots and socks and sticks his feet in the water too. "You've been mighty quiet since that pill," I observe, "what's up?"

He leans back on his elbows and yawns. "I'm so tired," he says.

"Yeah, that Percodan I gave you isn't helping any. You can't afford to sleep now. They'll gain that much more ground on us."

"Are you really able to tell from their tracks where they went?"

"Yes. And since they're the only tracks up here, I have to assume they're theirs. Small round hoofprints such as Arabs would make, and we're guessing that's what they're mounted on. We're really racing time as well as Mulder and Krycek. If we get a good rain, and God knows we're due for one, we'll lose the tracks. If we lose the tracks, we lose them; it's as simple as that."

He lies back on the little "beach" created by the action of the wavelets in the stream. "Think I'll just lie here and work on my tan," he says.

"The hell you will!" I snap, but it's too late. He is somnolent, his eyes closed, and now a snore erupts from his throat. I try to shake him awake, but to no avail.

Frustrated, I shake out a Morley and light it. I always feel more alert, clearer and better able to cope after a smoke. I study the cigarette in my hand. Yes, that old man I never had the misfortune to meet smoked these, and they gave him throat cancer, or something. A cautionary tale. Legendary, the man was, and still is. It is written that he died at the hand of his darling Krycek, but he lives on in Dana Scully's beautiful and innocent child, and of course in Mulder, the source, or one of them, of all the trouble. I pull my legs out of the icy water and stand up, stretching, and sit against a boulder. A lizard perched on the rocky outcropping eyes me warily, as if afraid I'll say "shoo!" I try not to close my eyes, but my lids are getting heavier and heavier, and pretty soon I can't even pry them open with my weather-roughened fingers, and my head drifts downward, and I fall into an abyss. Alice in Wonderland, I think, as air rushes past me, and I look around for the White Rabbit; gravity pulls me inexorably down, down at great and greater speed past canyon walls, coral and russet and salmon, but I can't appreciate them. I am falling to my doom. Around me, the wind rushes. "Mom! Dad!" I scream, and am awakened by the sound of my own voice.

Johansen is still fast asleep. Shaking, I arise and go to the stream once more, splashing my face with the icy water.

"What the hell?" Brian Johansen is waking after all, muzzy, confused.

"It's nothing," I say, "I had a bad dream, one hell of a bad dream." Why would someone I've never even met trouble me like Freddy Kruger in a nightmare? What is he trying to tell me? Why is he targeting me? I never even knew him. Brian Johansen is looking at me curiously and I realize I've stepped back into the creek, desert boots and all. I dash out. Then the storm comes.

************************************************************************

"I don't like the look of that sky at all," I say, my gaze sweeping from horizon to horizon. The sky is very troubled-looking, cloudy and dark greeny-gray in spots.

Krycek glances up at it. "Storms, darling," he says, tilting his hat back and rubbing between his eyes where worry lines have begun to form. "We'll be in for some sturm und drang."

I nod. "It sure looks like it. Is it safe to be out on this bare rock?"

"No," he says blandly, "it's not. But Mulder," he continues, looking at my no-doubt woebegone face, "we'll be OK. Really. Do you see those tamarisks? We'll lead the horses under them. They're low enough and there are enough of them that we won't attract the lighting's attention."

"You make it sound like a live thing," I say, gathering Bint Sahara's reins, then Al Marac's. Although both horses have been grazing, they follow me willingly under the trees.

"It is a live thing," says Krycek casually. The storm breaks only moments after we've sought the safety of the trees, blowing then fiercely raining. Lightning stabs the western sky, and I count off the seconds, one...two...three...four, and on five the thunder crashes, rolling and pounding like a bowling match of the gods. Al Marac snorts and the white mare whickers nervously. Krycek pats the stallion, then Bint Sahara. Lightning pierces the sky, this time in the south, and we count: one...two...three and then the auditory evidence of the flash, loud, ominous in its approach.

"That lightning was pink," I exclaim, and Krycek nods.

"It's not uncommon here, to have colored lighting."

Again the lighting flashes, this time once, twice, thrice, and we count: one...two then BOOM! Crashes the thunder, and I jump. "It's close, isn't it?" I ask anxiously. Even under the trees we are rapidly becoming soaked and sodden under the sluicing rain, but it is not the rain I am worried about. Krycek nods, looking around warily.

"We and the horses are going to lie down over there," he says, indicating the rock. "I think the tamarisks will draw the lightning."

I am badly frightened already as we lead the horses to the bare rock face, the rain pelting us from every direction. Krycek bids the horses lie down and they do, grunting. I eye them, fascinated. "How do-" I begin, then the heavens are torn asunder by the loudest noise I've ever heard as jagged blue light rips its way across our field of vision; and I am momentarily blind and deaf. And dumb. When I can speak, hear and see again, Krycek is helping me to my feet, and I am saying, "what happened? What happened?" over and over again.

"You blacked out," he says. "The lightning struck very close by, see?" he says, indicating a tree which has been blasted and splintered by the force of the strike. I shake my head.

"Too close by," I say. "WAY too close by!" I look at him. "You're gonna think I'm crazy, but it's almost as though the lightning tracked us or was drawn to us somehow."

"No, I don't think you're crazy," said Krycek, squatting to examine the ground around the tree. "This," he says, holding up a hunk of scorched and partly vitrified earth, "is typical, but this," dropping the glassy earth and picking something up between thumb and forefinger, "is not."

"What is it?" I ask, hunkering down for a closer look and holding out my hand. He sprinkles some grayish powdery substance into my palm.

"You tell me," he says. "Have you ever seen anything like it before?"

"It looks almost like Mbuti powder," I say wonderingly. "But what's it doing here? It supposedly drops here from another dimension, during a spirit visitation or when the dimension it exists in crosses ours. Look, Alex, I'll put this in a baggie and send it to Scully; she'll have it analyzed. If it is Mbuti powder it will be found to consist of nothing, no elements known to man. But that still begs the question of how it came to be here."

He looks at me doubtfully. "I don't like it," he says, and straightens up, eyeing the countryside around us. "The storm may be over, but this Slickrock really lives up to its name after a rain. We need to leave and soon, but we need to be cautious." We mount the horses and ride to the lip of a creek we'd drunk from earlier. It is now a raging torrent, far up on the sides of the creek bed, gray water tossing bits of flotsam about and hurling itself against the cliff walls. "This is a flash flood," Krycek says quietly, and unnecessarily, as we gaze down into it. "A perfectly natural occurrence," he adds, reining Al Marac away from the friable edge of the cliff. We ride up a hill, down into a valley and up a higher hill, and as we ride the Slickrock falls behind.

"The color of the rock," I observe, "it's different. Beige, like regular rock."

"We've left the redrock behind," Krycek says. "This is the Manti-La Salle Range. What you'll be seeing now is ordinary, predictable mountains and desert."

"Alex, will you tell me what was bothering you about the lightning? Have anything to do with the strange powder?"

He shakes his head. "Oh, it's probably nothing," and nothing more can be gotten out of him. It's not "nothing". I know it's something so scary he can't even talk about it. I close my eyes momentarily, and etched on the insides of my lids, or perhaps it is my retina, is the image of the lightning, flashing, crashing and approaching us like a sapient, knowing thing, striking with almost unerring accuracy at Alex Krycek.

************************************************************************

I watched the rain from my motel window pour down, running down the sides of the building, gushing down the gutters, coating the windows and turning the parking lot into a river complete with its own current, eddies and tributaries; and I'm glad I'm not out in it. Gale-force inds presaged the storm, and I had just about enough time to get from my car to my doorstep before it hit. At least, I think, peering out of my back window, my watchers and followers have departed, even if only temporarily, for higher (and dryer) ground. Leona is standing with her cute li'l pug-nose pressed to the window, watching the rain with me. Traffic on SR-15 has slowed to a crawl and those drivers of trucks and autos brave enough or desperate enough or stupid enough to come out in the weather are moving slowly, negotiating the many big puddles with care. I've got the TV on and tuned to the local news station. "Unusually heavy wind and rain has struck southern and south-central Utah, causing flooding in several areas, lightning strikes in others."

I glance at Leona. "Pretty serious storm we're having."

"I know. Isn't it exciting?" she asks, removing her face from the glass and looking at me eagerly. "Will's sleeping through it, though. He's an adorable baby, Mrs. Scully! When are you going to have another one?"

I look at her scrubbed, sweet young face for a moment and then burst into laugher.

"What's so funny?" she wonders, puzzled. No, it wouldn't seem funny to this most innocent specimen of young Mormon womanhood, for whom a family of 8 would seem small. I hug her affectionately.

"You've been such a help, Leona, you don't know!"

"Are you going to interview that convict again today?" she asks.

I wince a little, internally. "Mikhail? Well, the weather's pretty bad, he can wait. He's not going anywhere." As it turns out I am wrong, so wrong; but I don't know it yet.

************************************************************************

A duct somewhere must have cracked or broken in the storm. That's probably the simplest explanation of the fact that there is water, muddy rainwater, pouring through the ventilation grille that faces onto the prison parking lot. "C.O!" I call to the guard, who ambles over. "Look," I say. There's already half an inch or more of dark silty water on the floor.

"Jesus Christ," he says, pushing his cap back and scratching his head. "I'll call maintenance. Meanwhile, we've got to get you and your cellie to a new room. Why is he sleeping?"

"Cause I'm fuckin' tired," comes the voice from the bottom bunk. The guard opens the door, sliding it back with a clang, and we slosh our way out.

"We'll get you two some dry socks and shoes. Now just sit tight for a minute." I take a seat near his desk, and Ken wanders over to the desk, checking out the contents of the top drawer, but I don't see him doing this.

"Hey, Smith!" someone calls. "You the new C.O.?"

I smile and look over at Ken. "Hey," he says, jerking his head in the direction of the heavy steel door to the parking lot, "the door's open!" I look and for a moment am unbelieving. Dark-uniformed maintenance people pass through the door and almost but not quite close it. I touch Ken's arm.

"Now," I say tensely, and we rise and walk casually out the door into the teeth of the storm.

"Whoa!" is Ken's remark as the piercing rain hits him, soaking him and me as we sprint across the lot, hitting the rear fence with a mighty rattle of chain links. We climb frantically, seeking one handhold and toehold after another, till we are at the top.

"Climb partway down on the other side," I gasp, "don't try to jump. It must be 18 feet." Ken looks at me and nods, clambers down a few feet, then jumps the rest of the way, landing with an audible "oof!" I follow him and am stunned, too, by the force of the impact. We pick ourselves up. He looks at me questioningly. "Straight up the hillside," I instruct, and we begin the mad scramble up a primitive but well-worn trail. It is muddy and slippery and slow-going. At a switch-back we pause for breath and I risk a glance back, expecting to see the jail seething like an anthill, but there is nothing, only the rain. "They don't know we're gone," I say in wonder. "Come on, Ken," and we begin to slog up the path. Now we are beneath cedars and cottonwoods and they will help hide us from view. They provide some shelter from the elements as well, and this is good, for soon we're shivering.

"Do you have any ideas on how we're gonna live out here?" Ken asks.

"Yes," I say, "I do. There's a ranch up here where we can get horses, food, supplies, then we'll strike out for north. The trick is getting to the ranch in these soaked clothes, no food and these plastic jail sandals," I continue, picking up a foot and eyeing it disdainfully. "But we'll manage. We'll have to keep walking, Ken."

************************************************************************

The storm. I sit under a hastily thrown-together tent, Johansen in his, morosely staring at the rain. I've put ponchos over the horses and all that can be seen of them are their slim lower legs, swishing tails and quizzical faces. It's been raining for half an hour and has already soaked everything in sight, sending muddy currents down the path and over the lip of the trail. There will be no chance of tracking them now, not with any method outside of a sci-fi one. "Johansen!" I call.

"Yeah?"

"I'm ready to throw in the towel. All the tracks are gone, kablooey! They've turned to mud."

"Yeah?" he says hopefully. "Does that mean we get to go back? Take showers? Watch TV? Eat steak?"

I smile. "Boy, you're sure imaginative," I kid. "Yes, that's what it means. I'm packing it in. Help me load up the horses."

As we head out, the downpour slows to a drizzle and then stops altogether. "It's as if it knew," I say bitterly. We strike out to the East, toward Richfield and food and motels, and there I can call Doggett about the ATVs. Riding as fast as I deem safe over the soggy, slippery terrain, we reach Richfield by nightfall. I've been trying the cell phone for the last 20 miles, and finally, within city limits, I suppose, if you can call Richfield a city, it responds with the network and I speed-dial Doggett.

"Agent Doggett."

"Hey, it's Agent Reyes. We're in Richfield and we're bugging out. We can't track 'em anymore."

He sighs. "All right. It will just have to be that way. Maybe you can help us out getting Chekhov back."

"What?"

"It's a long story. In the morning, you'll board a Cessna in Richfield for Cedar City."

"What about the horses?" Johansen asks, and I am touched by his concern.

"We'll have someone pick them up and trailer them back, don't worry. In the meantime, get some rest in a motel, grab a hamburger, swim, whatever."

I don't usually react to supportive advice by crying. In fact, I'm a pretty flinty gal, and I hardly ever cry. I didn't cry when I broke my back, in three places, skiing, and I had to be in traction for seven months and the orderlies were taking wagers on whether I'd walk again. I didn't cry, till later, when I learned that my parents, Eduardo and Maria Reyes, beautiful natives of lovely Mexico, died in a plane crash over the Potomac. I didn't cry when my first lover Jerry, or my last, Julia, left me; but now, I am crying, and it seems as though all my pain, a lifetime of hurts, is welling up and gushing down my face with my tears. "I'm OK," I say to Doggett, and sign off.

Johansen is standing there, in damp jeans and muddy boots, looking at me as though I've sprouted another head.

"It's OK," I say to him, and we sign in at the first motel we find, tying the horses up outside. In the privacy of my room I cry until I run out of tears. Lost them - we've lost them! I've failed, failed. I lie down on the bed fully-clothed, rolling over onto my stomach and burying my face in the pillow. The hotel phone rings; I raise my head to look at it. I don't want to answer it, but I do. "Reyes," I say dully.

"Agent Reyes, this is Dana Scully." Immediately I feel my spirits lift. "Dana, how are you and how's Will?"

"I'm fine, the baby's fine. Agent Doggett told me you've had to discontinue the search. I'm really sorry. The ATV people will be out tomorrow morning, looking for muddy hoofprints. And since Mikhail's escaped with his cellmate we've got people looking for them too. We're pretty sure he's headed for Krycek's ranch so we've got that watched."

I whistle. "So basically this thing is rapidly spiraling out of control, we're just trying to do damage control, and we've lost our principal quarry?"

"Yes," she admits, "you're coming back tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow," I say wearily, "tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow."

*******************************************************************

The fact that we are now well aware that Chekhov was lying when he said Mulder and Krycek ran off to Arizona... we checked it out with a number of reliable sources...as well as the fact that our prisoner escaped, taking another worthwhile element of society with him, has more than pissed me off. I am seething. Everything has gone awry, as if the storm, with preternaturally intelligent and malevolent intent rose up against us to lay waste to our plans. Now I have to regroup, try to reason things through, if I can; and I am so angry I can hear my thoughts, like distant thunder, battering against my skull; and the thought does not get through, only the noise it creates. OK, we lost Krycek and Mulder; but we pretty much know, or at least guess with more than a modicum of certainty, that they are headed for the greater Salt Lake City area. At the rate they've been traveling, they may have already reached Provo by now. The APB, for all it is worth, has already been changed to reflect this.

My arm is hurting me fiercely. I know I should get it checked, but haven't had the time. As the leader and organizer of this mission, I've been incredibly busy and have been averaging about four hours of sleep a night. I can't afford more sleep than that...there is just too much to do. Deploy, delegate, coordinate. Every stab, every twinge of pain, though, reminds me of how much I hate Alex Krycek. If I ever catch up with him, and that is doubtful, although I will not lose hope, I'm not going to be gentle.

Periodically, I have to remind myself to get a grip. If I'm not in better control of my emotions I won't be able to do my job. Agents Reyes, Young, Johansen, Thornton and many more are depending on me; of course, Dana Scully, too. Dana...how tragic!...I'd sure love to take the place of that no-good boyfriend of hers. I'd love her, keep her, cherish her and her precious baby Will. Yet, she loves Mulder and no amount of hard evidence that he doesn't reciprocate the emotion will change the way she feels. Women! All this runs through my head as I board and ride the chopper toward the Hidden Valley. As I gaze out over the rough and rocky terrain, searching for smoke, dust, any sign at all of the fugitives, I'm seized with a sudden impulse. "Land here!" I call, and the pilot sets down next to a stand of pinon pine. I hop out. The earth, thirstily and rapidly sucking moisture down, is remarkably dry after yesterday's cloudburst. I walk farther up the hillside and find what I am looking for: two sets of tracks. Holding a jail sandal, size 10, up for comparison, I nod. "This way." We track them up onto the slickrock outcropping at the top of the hill and then of course the trail vanishes. Nor do I see where it comes out, try though I may. "Guess they were abducted by aliens," I say lightly, but I'm plenty frustrated. I take the story back to Agent Reyes, who's just flown in to Cedar City, and she nods.

"Oldest trick in the book," she says.

"How so?" I ask, puzzled.

"They backed up, putting their feet back into the tracks they'd just made. At some point they leaped away from the trail to start a new one. Dogs might figure it out. Bloodhounds."

"No," I say impatiently, "that's a waste of time. I say just land in Hidden Valley and look for them there."

"They can't possibly be there yet," Reyes counters. "And waiting for them is a waste of man and woman hours better spent elsewhere. Finding Krycek is of the greatest urgency. You do see that, don't you?"

"Shit, yeah," I say. "That's why I suggest waylaying our convicts. Chekhov knows where Krycek is headed."

"Yeah, and he's sure been communicative about it, hasn't he? Cut your losses, John. Go after Krycek."

I look at her, so sure, so confident in herself and her capacities. "OK," I say at last, "I'll make a few passes over the valley. Later, I'll deploy another 'copter to do the same. But we'll concentrate our efforts on Krycek."

She nods. "I'm glad you see it my way."

I am just a trifle irked, but I remind myself that this is Reyes' way. "I'd like Dana Scully to come with us on the search."

"Oh? You'll never get her to leave her baby. She suspects alien replicants in everyone she sees."

"Well, there may be one, or some, but if they were going to harm the child, they would have done so already, right?" I ask.

"Uh-huh. Still I wish you'd put Leona and Will under guard."

"I'll do that, no problem," I say.

************************************************************************

By evening we are within sight of the southernmost reaches of the Wasatch Mountains. If we continue to cover ground at this rate, we'll make it partway up into the Uintahs by day after tomorrow sometime. I relay this to Mulder, who nods and looks at me, a glance full of love and trust; but his eyes are red and glazy and his hands tremble on the reins. This regimen of heavy riding and heavier drugs has taken its toll on him. Mulder is a fine and sensitive soul who is deeply affected by almost everything. "Can we sleep then?" he asks, and his voice is an unsteady whisper.

My heart is wrung with pity. "Let's stop for a while," I say. I help him off Bint Sahara and sit him down on a log, where I too sit and hold him tightly. He is shaking badly.

"Oh, darling, darling, I'm so sorry," I say, smoothing back his shaggy locks and looking into his beautiful, rather unfocused hazel eyes. "Darling, we'll stay here for a while. You need to relax. I have some Valium."

He nods and continues to shake; I wrap my legs around his hips and rock him, rock him all the while kissing him fervently, his face, his neck, his head. "C-can we make love?" he croaks.

I laugh, playing with his hair, relishing the feel of his scratchy unshaven face against mine. "Of course we can," I say. "I'm going to give you something to mellow you out a little, then in a little while, we can play." I extract myself from his embrace and get the Valium, shaking out 10 milligrams into his hand. He is shaking so badly that he drops a pill, and I have to get him another. Thinking hard about this, I go to Al Marac's saddle and dig out a bottle of Kirsch, placed there for medicinal purposes of course; and offer him a tin cupful. He drinks it, asks for and receives a second cupful, and within a few minutes of my holding him, kissing him and stroking his thick, soft hair, has noticeably relaxed.

"Sweetheart," I say, "I'll put out the sleeping bags, you get naked and we'll make love." The site of Mulder stripping instantly turns me on; and I'm not surprised to see, when he's skinned down past his skivvies, that his large cock is tumescent and ready. "Lie down, lie back," I tell him.

"What're you gonna do to me?" he asks, smiling at me.

"You'll see," I say. "Lie all the way back down. Relax, Mulder." I settle myself by his side and beginning at the tender tips of his toes I kiss him, lick him, tasting salt and sweat and Utah grit, all the way up each leg, stopping tantalizingly short of my ultimate target.

He groans. "Come on, Alex," he wheedles, "Do the right thing! Suck me!"

I smile at him and kiss his fingertips, licking up and down each finely-muscled brown arm. "Al-eeex," he complains. To stop his bitching, I brush his delicious lips with my own, then kiss him, hard.

"Al-"

"Shut up," I say, descending on that succulent mouth again. I come up for air and immediately he tries again to talk. "I said shut up," I repeat, kissing him then licking his throat, his Adam's apple, the hollow where his pulse beats warmly; down to his broad and furry chest. I bend over him, sliding my aching cock up against his. "Friction, Mulder," I say, and move my hips so that our cocks slip and rub delightfully. His moans change pitch and are accompanied by sharp gasps, and it is as though he senses the potential for release and surcease from his troubles, because he smiles.

"Alex," he says softly, raising his hand so that his fingertips brush my lips. I kiss the hand proffered so tenderly, then place his arm down firmly at his side.

"No more Mr. Nice Guy," I snarl, picking up the tempo. We thrust and counter-thrust for only a few moments, it seems, then Mulder is thrashing, his mouth open in a silent scream, his seed spurting hotly against my cock and all over my belly, and then I am coming and I DO scream, coating his stomach with my sticky vital juices. He opens his big turquoise eyes and looks into my green ones, and smiles and hugs me close to him. "You remind me of why I did it," he says

************************************************************************

I have never seen Alex more tender or thorough in his love-making: he wants every atom in my body to feel loved, and so it does. After the first go-round, I think, how can he top this? But of course, he does. "I'm gonna fuck you good and proper, Mulder," he says. "Get up on your hands and knees." I do as he suggests and produce an immediate erection so big it is bumping against my stomach. He's found the lube from somewhere this time and I hear wet slippery sounds as he slicks himself up, then feel a warm goopy finger push itself up me.

"Don't tease me, Alex!" I say, "fuck me!"

"Oh, darling," he whispers, "there's nothing I'd rather do!" He kisses down my spine, then up, and at the moment he drives into me, he turns my head back and touches his perfect lips to mine, imitating with his wet and agile tongue what his cock, big and hard and sure, is doing to my ass. He reaches between his legs and mine to my cock and strokes it slowly and lazily, thumb tracing circles around the screaming-sensitive tip.

"Alex, I'm gonna come!" I gasp.

"I'll come with you," he says, and increases the speed with which he is thrusting and fucking me, and I am swept up in sudden sharp spasms, knife-points of ecstasy jolting and shaking me, and I scream and hear him call my name.

We collapse together on top of the sleeping bag. I yawn, but I am just a little sleepy. "Boy," I say, "sort of makes me wish I smoked." In my arms, Krycek, so pliant, stiffens suddenly.

"What's the matter?" I ask, in all innocence. "I only wish I had a cigarette, or something."

"You're a big fuckin' riot, you know that, Mulder?" he says coldly. He disengages himself from my grasp and sits up. I've caught a glimpse of his face before it is turned away from me: strained, angry, scared.

"Something really spooked you," I say, "what is it?"

He shakes his head, staring moodily into the afternoon.

"Well," I resume, leaning back on my elbows, "just trying to be funny. Everything else in the world is heritable, why not that?"

He swings toward me with a face as white as chalk. "Don't ever say that again!" he says.

I shrug, inasmuch as I can do that from this position. "It was just a joke, Alex. And can I help who my father was?"

He shakes his head hard, then his whole body, for all the world like a wet dog, and looks down hard at the dirt as though at a horrid bug. "It's OK, Mulder," he begins at last, and then there is a high-pitched shrilling noise. In that lonely place, it is unwelcome: loud, insistent, electronic. Krycek stands up and then I do and we both stare in the direction of the noise: one of the horse's disengaged saddles. Both equines are snorting and moving away from it as though from a rattlesnake. "It's one of our cell phones," Krycek says in a whisper. "But we're in a dead zone the size of the Sahara. No one can call us here!"

The ringing continues, though, giving the lie to his words. We continue to stare at the saddle stupidly, riveted to the Earth. "It's mine, I think," Krycek says shakily, and walks up to the source of the sound. Fishing the phone out, which is indeed ringing, he flips it open. "Who the fuck is this?" he answers.

************************************************************************

"Alex. So nice to hear your voice," the voice slaps against my ear, a nice voice, mid-toned, cultured but made by a dead man, and therefore unfathomably terrible.

"Who the fuck are you, how the fuck did you reach me and why the fuck are you playing this tasteless and horrible trick on me?" I am whistling in the dark, and he knows it.

The voice laughs. "Alex, Alex! You know very well who I am, this is no trick and I can reach you anywhere I choose, from the highest mountaintop to the Mariana Trench." I look beseechingly at Mulder.

"Hang up!" he says, not knowing, not realizing what is happening. "They can trace the call if it's long enough."

I move to press the "off" button. "I wouldn't do that," says the voice, "hear me out, Alex."

"What the hell do you want?" My voice, shaking even in my own ears, echoes in the handset and sounds tinny and small.

"Just your soul, my boy," the voice says and breaks the connection. I am left with the phone pressed pointlessly to my ear. Mulder tugs on my arm.

"Hey, Alex."

I shake my head.

"Who was that?"

"Your father."

He smiles his sweet dimply smile. "Come on, Alex, all our disagreements aside, who was it really?"

"As I said," I say, pocketing the phone.

************************************************************************

Dana Scully's Diary: "I can't believe that I actually consented to being airlifted, sans baby, out into the high-desert wilderness along with Agents Doggett, Reyes, Young, Johansen and Thornton (where we will meet several others), and six bloodhounds, to look for traces of Mulder, Krycek, Chekhov and anyone else they deem huntable. It won't work; I've been watching these dogs work for the past couple of hours - they're off on some wild-goose chase now -- and they are clueless (the humans, of course, even more so). The rain has washed away all traces of scent; anyone could see that; but you can't tell men anything. I am worried sick about my baby even though of course he and Leona are under 24-hour guard - four of them, in fact - at different digs, lodgings with security. We will be away for a week or more; the camp has every amenity, even a generator and electric lights; but we've (well, I'VE) neglected to bring a breast pump, and I will have to express the milk by hand. And there's a lot of it."

"Dana." It's Agent Reyes, looking at me warmly.

"Oh," I say, and then to my huge embarrassment gush milk, staining the front of my T-shirt in big dark wet patches. "God, I'm sorry," I say.

"No need to be. It's perfectly natural," she says briskly, handing me another T-shirt from my suitcase. I smile a little conventional smile at Reyes and pull off the wet shirt. "Lie down," she says, so I lie on my back on my sleeping bag, puzzled. She unsnaps my bra and then to my GREAT surprise she is rubbing and then sucking my breasts, and a slim hand snakes down between my thighs, under my shorts, and rubs my clitoris (she knows JUST where to find it, unlike so many men!), and then I am coming with a loud "OH!" and another wet gush of milk.

"Oh, my God," I say.

"Did you like that?" she whispers, smiling, stroking my face. "I can do better." She leans forward and kisses me. I've never kissed a woman before, and the sensation is a new one: soft, lush, clean, delightful. She kisses me deeply, my lips, mouth, throat, and I kiss her back again. Then her lips travel downward: to both breasts, which she sucks until they overflow again, and sucks some more, then down to my belly, her tongue flicking in and out of my navel; then lower, and she is going down on me and I am loving it and coming and coming, crying out in sharp joy. After this, she plays with my breasts again, licking and nipping and sucking till I come again, gushing milk, which she swallows with evident relish. "I'll do this for you every day," she murmurs, her lips brushing my ear. "I love you, Dana. You're the most beautiful woman in the world, and beautiful inside, too, where it counts."

"Wow!" I smile, "that's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me!"

She kisses me again, then slips down to kiss and lick my nipples, which makes me come again. And again. Finally she straightens up and reaches for my T-shirt. "I hear the dogs," she says. "They're back." As she leaves my tent she looks back over her shoulder at me, smiles and winks and says again, "I love you."

************************************************************************

Loving Dana Scully was incredibly sweet and I hope I'll get the opportunity to do it again very soon. Glancing at the assembled men I think: I'm more than a match for any of you, in so many ways. "How're you guys doing?" I ask, smiling at them, thinking more: betcha can't guess what I'VE been up to!

"Not well," answers Doggett. "There's no scent to pick up after that heavy rain."

"Well, now what?"

He shakes his head. "We've got people in ATVs combing the landscape. It doesn't help, of course, if we're looking in completely the wrong place. Agent Reyes, what's your take on that?"

Behind me, Dana's tent flap opens and she emerges, cool and collected as usual (and dry -at least, what I can see of her.) Doggett glances in her direction, an appraising look. "Look," I say, "they've had another day to get farther ahead of us. They should be coming up on Manti soon, maybe even Provo. We're too far south."

Doggett nods. "Wish you'd told me sooner! OK, we'll concentrate our efforts around those two cities."

Scully nods gravely. "Then the base camp should be moved farther north, too," she says.

"Yes," agrees Doggett, "we'll move in the morning."

"You'll never catch them then."

"Oh, I don't know," says Doggett. "I don't know."

************************************************************************

It is hot now, the clouds have long since retreated, and our sopping wet clothes are sticking to our backs and steaming in the sun. At nightfall, Ken wants to build a fire (with what? I ask him. The sparks that shoot from our eyes?) and sleep, but we've seen several aircraft, some far away but one pretty close, and know that we cannot risk the smoke rising to the heavens even if we COULD get a fire started, and anyway we must hurry, hurry and cannot afford the delay. So we walk all night, breaking into a broken jog downhill, although I caution against this because in the dark we could turn an ankle on a rock or propel ourselves over a precipice; but Ken, evidently a natural hiker, stumbles only once or twice, righting himself quickly. We reach the ridge above Hidden Valley at a couple of hours before dawn, when I call a halt. My young companion is panting and winded. "Too many Morleys," I joke, thumping him on the back, and he looks at me with a face full of misery.

"We have to fuckin' climb all the way down there?" he gasps.

"Not exactly," I say, "watch!" I stand up straight, clap my hands together six, eight times and whistle, a loud seaman's whistle. "Tigger!" I call, "Tigger!" In response, there is a loud neigh of recognition.

"It heard you? It knows its name?" asks Ken in amazement.

"Of course," I say, a trifle smugly. "He's a good boy!" After forty or so minutes the stripey claybank mustang comes thundering up the trail, sliding to a stop, with many pyrotechnics and sound effects, a foot in front of me. "Good boy!" I reiterate approvingly.

"Like fuckin' Roy Rogers!" Ken exclaims. "The Lone fuckin' Ranger! Now what?"

" 'What' is that first you mount him, then I do, and we ride to the Hidden Valley. Do you ride at all?"

"Uh. Do pony rides at the carnival count?"

************************************************************************

Mulder, of course, does not believe the story of the apparition on the phone. He first suggests there is a logical explanation, then looks at me sharply and begins to talk of hallucinations born of sustained wakefulness and amphetamine intoxication. When I remind him that he, too, heard the insistently-ringing phone, he shrugs it off as a "folie a deux," and is so smug about it that I want to smack him from here to Kingdom Come. I know what I heard, I know what he heard, and I would guess that it really happened. It is very ominous, coming so soon after the Poltergeist-like lightning that tracked us and struck at me so close my short hairs were singed. I say nothing of this connection to Mulder, who thinks coincidences grow on trees, and who would just laugh at it. We've decided to push on and I've fed him more pep pills, against my better judgment; but we cannot delay. I also realize, however, that although we may well outrun the law, we can never outrun Him. If he wants to haunt me up in Aspen Grove Ranch, he can do it just as surely as he can here on Moonraked Mesa, Desolation Decline and Gallstone Gully. We ride in relative peace for several hours. Mulder is quite a trooper. If he is saddle-sore he doesn't mention it, and he hasn't said anything about a shower for quite some time now. I am beginning to think that we may have gotten away from our tormentor when my cell phone begins to ring. I fish it out of my pocket and click it on. "Leave me the fuck alone," I hiss.

"Alex," the voice comes, gently wounded, "it's always so nice to talk to you. I would have thought you'd feel the same way."

Shaking, I spit into the flip, "You bastard! Are you enjoying yourself?"

"I'm having a decent time of it, yes."

"Is it hot enough there for you?"

"I hear it is very warm where you are, Alex."

"I'm hanging up," I say, and move to press the "off" button, but as I touch it I receive a painful electric shock, yell and nearly drop the phone. "What do you want?" I ask, desperate.

"I've told you what I want," he says, and there is dead airspace. Yelling epithets in three languages, I throw the phone away as hard as I can. It bounces once, twice on the rock and comes to a rest in a clump of sagebrush. Mulder runs to retrieve it.

"Your friend?" he asks, brushing it off and handing it back to me. It is twisted, scratched and the case is cracked, and with any luck it will never work again.

"Some fuckin' friend!" I say, furiously.

"Let me talk to him next time, whoever it is," Mulder says.

"Be my guest!" I say, and then, to my horror, the phone...begins...to...ring. I can't see it, of course, but I can feel it: one of the evolutionarily oldest adaptations to fear - the hair on the back of my neck is standing straight up.

"Jesus," Mulder whispers. "Oh, Jesus God." He takes the phone from me gingerly, touching the "on" button.

************************************************************************

"Fox," the voice says, "good to talk to you again." I gasp and almost drop the instrument. Get a grip, Mulder. It's all part of an elaborate practical joke, maybe a plot of the opposition's, intended to wear us down. Psychological warfare. "Sure it is," the (?) man says easily, and I can just imagine him taking out a Morley (do they have cigarettes in Hell?) and lighting it. And my heart begins to pound very fast, painfully fast, in a chest that suddenly seems too fragile to contain it. "It's not a joke, Fox," he continues (was that the click of a lighter I heard?). "It's an honest attempt to communicate with you and Alex."

"I, uh," I gasp, made incoherent with shock and terror and the perception of the utter madness of the situation. "I th-thought you were dead."

"And so I am."

"Then how are you t-talking to me?" You spook, you evil spirit, you spectre of doom.

"Yes, I am what you would call a ghost. I exist as pure energy in a dimension not your own, yet parallel to it."

"Sure," I say, gathering courage, "Whatever you say. If you are who you say, and that is doubtful, then why are you bothering us in the first place?"

"Alex knows what I want from him. You I would like to try to help."

"I have no idea of how you would do that, begging the question of course of whether you actually exist at all, which I doubt."

"Nevertheless, I do exist. Now please give me back to Alex." I hand the phone to my lover and watch him take it with shaking hand, listen and speak in low tones into it.

"Mulder," he finally says, after it seems that centuries have elapsed. "Show's over. Now take both our phones and destroy them. We'll leave them here." I nod, taking his phone and ferreting my own out of my knapsack. I bang both of them as hard as I can against a rock, and then jump up and down on them. When I have finished both phones are splintered, their PC boards snapped in several places.

We ride away a few minutes later, Krycek glancing back from time to time with a wild and wary look in his big green eyes. "It's all just an elaborate hoax, you know, staged to make you doubt yourself, make you paranoid, even psychotic," I inform him, but he is not convinced.

"It was him, Mulder."

"It was someone, some good actor, who sounded like him."

"No," says Krycek quietly, searching in his pockets for God knows what. "You know, Mulder, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck..."

I shake my head, no. "Just forget about it, Alex." We stop for lunch, which consists of trail mix and beef jerky, and silently watch thunderclouds gather.

"We're in for some rain."

"Yes," I say, and the first raindrops strike us, pattering on the ground under us.

"We're pressing on," my lover says, "weather or no weather."

************************************************************************

"That horse, I don't know," says Ken, "she looks pretty tired."

"It's a male," I say, pointing to what's left of Tigger's equipment.

"Oh," he says, "anyway, we're supposed to ride him? Both of us? Is that it?'

"You catch on fast, Kenneth. You get up first."

"With no saddle or bridle or whatever that's called? Are you serious?"

"No, I just like to hear myself talk," I sigh. "Stand on that rock, climb on the horse." After no more than 8 tries he is up on Tigger, who stands patiently the whole time.

"Hey look, I'm riding!" he waves, and I can't help smiling.

When we reach the valley floor, I notice immediately that the place looks cared for...and watched. The horses have fresh bales of hay; the trash we left is gone, burned or buried. "They've been here," I say to Ken. "They'll probably come back soon. We can get supplies from the house, then we'll have to be heading on out."

"Where're we going?"

" 'We', Tonto?" I grin.

He stares at me. "You'd just leave me?"

"Sure, if you don't want to come with me."

"Of course I do," he says, with an air of injured pride.

"OK," I say, "then no informing. No snitching. No deserting me for the enemy's camp. Do you think you can handle all that?"

"I never-"

"Bullshit!" I say firmly. "You informed on me from the start. If I suspect any disloyalty, Mr. Baker, I'll leave you out in the desert to fend for yourself. After a day you'll be mad with thirst. After two, you will be dying. The wolves and coyotes will carry off big chunks of you and the vultures and crows will pick what's left."

Ken makes a face. "Yeah, yeah. I get your point."

At the house, which is unlocked, as if waiting for us, I assemble what we will need: two sleeping bags, foam pads, binoculars, a campstove and fuel, matches, a lighter, a Swiss Army knife and a hunting knife (both, I stress, to be kept on my person and never surrendered for any reason), two tents, flashlights and batteries, a Coleman lantern and kerosene, lots and lots of food, trail-mixy stuff, cans of beans and peas and corn and tomatoes, flour, corn meal, sugar, honey, molasses, powdered milk and eggs, salt, baking powder, of course, dried and in cans; then I think and get a hunting rifle from the gun cabinet in the den, and a small handgun. I think some more and add another lantern to the growing pile, plenty of canteens and water bottles, then a sack of oats for the horses. "I hope we're not putting all that stuff, and us too, on that weedy little animal," remarks Ken, surveying the small mountain of gear and food on the kitchen tiles.

I snort. "In the first place, Tigger is hardly a 'weed'. He's wiry; there's a difference. In the second place, I've got nearly 30 head of horses to choose from here, and we're going to each ride one, plus lead a pack horse."

"Well, if we have a choice, then I choose a white...or black Arabian stallion. Do you have one?"

I laugh. "Sounds very glamorous, doesn't it? Well, it'll lose its glamour at the end of a short but hard fall onto the hard, hard ground when he bucks you off. You'll get a nice reliable gelding, maybe a Quarter Horse. I'll look around."

"Shit. Do horses mind being gelded?"

"Do you want to make yourself more useful than asking a lot of stupid questions could ever possibly do? Go get the box of fishing tackle under the sink and see that everything's there, line, hooks, lures etc. OK? Yes, I imagine they do mind being gelded. They mind very much. It can't feel like good sex, you know, to have your balls chopped off. On the other hand, it's not like they'd have a big complex about it the way you and I would have. There'd be the big pain, then soreness, then they'd move on. They don't mourn their lost stallionhood, mooning sadly over the pretty Palomino down the pasture. Nor would the pretty filly spare them a second thought. Now go get that fishing box, would you?"

************************************************************************

Dana Scully's Diary: "As I write this I am jouncing all over the countryside in a miserable excuse for an Army jeep driven in by some agent somebody-or-other. This Jeep must have failed the Army Beta test for vehicles, either that or the driver ruined the suspension on the drive into camp."

I sigh, and Agent Reyes reaches up from the back seat and gives my shoulder a little squeeze. "I guess it's kind of boring, huh?" she asks.

"No," I say, smiling at her in my vanity mirror. I hadn't noticed till now how pretty she is. "This is gorgeous country. Photo ops abound. I can imagine them doing a fashion shoot for Desert Storm uniforms. I do miss William terribly though, Monica."

Monica. The name rolls off my tongue very easily. Yes, I should always call this kind, lovely lady Monica.

"And Mulder? Do you miss him?"

" 'Course I do," I say, but I squeeze her hand. The nameless agent or detective or ranger or whatever he is glances our way, then looks away and clears his throat as though he is about to speak, but he doesn't. Poor dear, I think. He's either thinking, "these two gushy women are reassuring in their femininity," or "these two dykes are really sickening," probably the latter, I think with a little smile. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about what happened between Monica Reyes and me, but on balance, I don't think it was bad. I don't think it was bad at all.

"How is your incision healing?" she asks. "It didn't look bad at all."

"Oh, it's fine," I say, glancing at the driver, who looks steadfastly ahead. It's a good idea that he does that; none of us wants to end up at the bottom of an arroyo. "It's at the itching stage and that's good; it means it's healing as it should."

"Good," she says, and pats my hand. "I was hoping I didn't damage you."

I turn around to smile at her. "You didn't damage me at all! It was lovely! Um, my birthday party," I add, for the benefit of the agent at the wheel.

Reyes laughs, a big belly laugh. " 'A very merry unbirthday'," she sings, not a lot better than I can. We ride, joltingly, all the way up to Provo, quite a long drive over this rough and trackless wilderness; but we don't notice, so engrossed in conversation are we. We talk about our childhoods - hers in Gilroy, California, as the daughter of field laborers now deceased; mine as a daughter of a Navy captain, yet comfortable and more conventional. "I was the first in my family to graduate from high school, let alone college and graduate school," she muses. "My parents were so proud of me! Their daughter, the big success. Relatively speaking, of course," and then bursts into laughter again. I'm finding that I like her very much, her honesty, courage, her straightforward approach to life; her sense of humor. It seems so strange, though, to be falling in love with a woman.

We approach Provo through the "back door" and are soon driving on actual pavement again. This city is a pretty town of wide tree-lined streets and low-slung brick ranch houses. "This is the home of Brigham Young University, I guess," I say. "Mormons. Steve Young and all that."

"Yes, Mormons," says Reyes thoughtfully. "Reparative therapy up the ass. So to speak. Driver, could you pull over so I can get out and smoke?" He pulls over to the side of the road and we get out to stretch. Reyes pulls out a Morley Light and lights it.

"Strange," I say.

"What's strange? Did I light it at the wrong end?"

"No, no," I laugh. "It's strange to me to see you smoking. Before you came along, Monica, I knew only one person who smoked, and he was a...well, he was a very bad person."

"Yeah," says Reyes. "I know. I never met him, but I didn't have to, to know what he was all about. And yes," she continues, squinting at me through a haze of smoke, "I know the story of the date and the Rohypnol."

I start. "You do?"

"Yes, Dana, and I feel so badly for you."

"William might be...might be..."

"Might be his? He might. But it doesn't really matter, does it? The man's dead; he's where he can't bother you anymore; and you've got a beautiful baby, a child you've wanted so very badly for years, right?"

"Yes," I agree, "that's absolutely right. I just would hate...oh, I don't know."

"But you do know," says Reyes, tossing her cigarette in the dirt and squashing it with one booted foot. "And you know what? It doesn't matter. Wherever that child came from, he's here now. Now, in the present. Besides, doesn't Mulder accept paternity? You did sleep with him, didn't you?"

I can feel myself blushing like a schoolgirl. "Yes, a few times, actually. Well, several times. It is true that he is the more likely suspect."

" 'Suspect' is a very good word for Mulder," says Reyes, smiling. "How was he?"

"Oh," and I know I must be positively beet-red at this point, "he was very good, very nice. Tender, thoughtful. I just couldn't, and can't, see how he could suddenly turn gay."

Reyes glances at the driver, who is looking at the mountains. "Mulder didn't 'suddenly turn' gay, Dana. Mulder has always been gay. He and Krycek have fucked before."

"Well, if he's been gay for a while, how could he, um, perform with me?"

Reyes leans against the Jeep and shakes out another cigarette. "Well, he could be bisexual then, or just one of those gay guys who can perform with women. It happens all the time, a gay guy will marry and have children, because he is confused, and closeted, and wants to have a semblance of a normal life."

I nod. "OK. It's all beginning to make sense now, actually. And me," I whisper. "Am I gay?"

She looks at me and lights her Morley, inhaling ecstatically. "Only you can answer that, Dana. Only you."

************************************************************************

We reach the outskirts of Provo at sunup and ride around it. "Those are the Uintahs," Krycek points, and I look at the tall, sharp peaks.

"How far up do we have to go?" I ask.

"A few thousand feet. Aw, c'mon, Mulder, don't look at me like that! Another half day of riding and we'll be at Aspen Grove. And there we'll stay till the end of days."

I shiver, though the morning is warm. Is it a frightened shiver? An anticipatory shiver? I just don't know. "Up one of the canyons," Krycek is saying, "there's a guy, an M.D. who was...well, he's an old friend."

"Whom does he doctor up there in the wild woods?"

Krycek shrugs. "He doesn't, much. He's retired. He's a nice guy, you'll see. He'll feed us and put us up if we need it."

"We need it," I say, rubbing my whiskery chin detachedly.

He looks at me searchingly. "You do look like hell, Mulder."

"As do you, sweetheart," I smile, noting with affection his grown-out black roots, long-unshaven face, bloodshot eyes. He smiles back, his perfect teeth a white gash in his dark beard.

We ride around the outskirts of town, not wishing to attract attention by galloping down Main Street. As these are fields we're navigating, there are fences in the way, and my heart is in my throat as we ride at the first one, which the horses fly over like birds, thank God. "Easy, huh?" Krycek calls back over his shoulder. Huh! He didn't tell me there would be jumping involved and it is thrilling, to say the least. We ride across the cultivated earth, the horses' hooves falling soundlessly, and so we reach at last a settlement backing up against the mountains: a tall old two-story house of at least Victorian vintage, some rather disused-looking outbuildings. We are met by a barking Border Collie, who runs to us and sniffs the horses and our feet and legs. The dog wags his tail and accepts a pat from Krycek before running back to the house. The door is answered by a tall thin older man, perhaps in his sixties, who doesn't appear at first to recognize Alex. Well, behind his beard and his "ruffian's rouge," no wonder, I think.

"Alex?" the man asks hesitantly. "Alex Krycek?" then, "ALEX!" he shouts, grabbing my lover and spinning him round, "Alex, how have you been? WHERE have you been? Are you going to introduce me to your friend?"

We dismount and Alex hugs the man, and introductions are made; his name is Dr. Andrew Gananian ("Please just call me Drew," he says); then we de-tack the horses and turn them into a field to graze; and we are invited inside. It is cool in his house, which he has dimmed to keep it from heating up. He serves us gin-and-tonics and homemade pan dulce and shows us his autograph collection. "That one's Rock Hudson's, shortly before he died," he says of a framed cocktail napkin which is leaning at a slant against the hand-carved fireplace mantel. I hesitate to touch it; Krycek and I are so filthy.

"It's OK," the older man says. "You can't ruin anything. If you like, you're welcome to shower. Hell, where are my manners? I get so few visitors. You're very welcome to stay with me as long as you want." To Krycek, he points the question: "You're on the run again, Alexei. What have you done this time?"

Krycek looks at him sidelong; then the black-lashed lids descend over the emerald eyes and tremble.

"Good heavens, it can't be that bad?"

Krycek looks up into Drew Gananian's eyes. "Got a TV? Got a newspaper?"

"Sure, but I never watch it. And I rarely read the paper."

Krycek gets up, setting aside his drink carefully and going to the dining room table. He extracts a newspaper of fairly recent origin from an untidy pile of such objects. Wordlessly, he hands it to the doctor, his thumb pressed to a front-page, lower-right column story: "Manhunt for killer Krycek continues." Gananian takes the paper, his hands shaking a little. "Oh my God," he whispers, "you hit the big-time, Alexei. Got Assistant Director Walter Skinner! But why," he continues, looking at me, puzzled, "have you got Mr. Mulder in tow? He didn't kill anyone, did he?"

Krycek and I glance at each other, and the look is not lost on the doctor. "Alex, I thought you liked girls," he says reprovingly.

Krycek shrugs. "Used to," he says easily, "till I met Mulder. Gave 'em up." I look down, but I am smiling.

"Well, then," Drew says at last, "guess that means you'll be sharing a room?"

"You don't have any problems with harboring fugitives?" I ask him seriously.

He shakes his head. "No. Alexei's always in trouble for one damned thing or another, and what with the Big Guy being dead now, there's no one to protect him." I shoot a sharp glance at Krycek, who looks back at me innocently. This nice man really has no idea. The Border Collie comes in through the dog door and touches his nose to Gananian's hand. "This is Shep," he says fondly. "Isn't he a handsome dog? Oh, that reminds me, he and my bitch Shellie had pups pretty recently. Want to see 'em?"

We're taken to a back room to see the dogs. Shellie's litter of seven grunting pups is nursing, squeaking and grunting contentedly. "It's time they were weaned," the doctor says, stroking Shellie gently. "This'll probably be Shellie's last litter. Would you like one?"

I open and shut my mouth soundlessly, but Krycek says eagerly, "yes! Are they close enough to being weaned?"

"Yes, I've already started them on soft food. They'll do fine. You should have a good dog, and these are the best. Gentle, loyal, extremely intelligent."

I don't know where to start but Krycek picks a large bitch pup, lifting her up and holding her, talking to her.

"That's Siobhan," says Gananian. "You chose a good one!" Siobhan regards Krycek thoughtfully and pees on his hand.

We shower, lathering each other luxuriously with soft homemade honey-almond soap. I soap Krycek so well, in fact, that he comes all over my hand; then he returns the favor. "We don't have time yet for anything really elaborate," he explains. "We're expected for dinner in fifteen minutes." We hurriedly glop on shampoo, rub and rinse, then towel off and dress in spare shorts and T-shirts. "We can shave later," Krycek says, noticing my rueful glance in the mirror.

Dinner is tostada salad, homemade chips and salsa, all prepared and served by plump and pretty Rosalinda Fabiana, Gananian's resident expatriate housekeeper, cook, and, from the fond glances that pass between the two, possibly something more. "Delicious," Krycek pronounces, and has thirds. The doctor speaks at length on how much he misses the "Old Man," as he calls him, though truthfully, they must both have been born at around the same time. "Mulder," he says, looking at me curiously, "an unusual name. No relative of Bill Mulder's, were you?"

"I'm his son," I say blandly. "May I have some more iced tea, please?"

Out of the corner of my eye I can see Krycek rolling his big green ones at me. "All right," I say, "this is the real deal: I was born into that marriage; Teena Mulder was my mom all right, but my biological father was someone else."

Gananian pauses, a forkful of refried beans poised on its silvery flight to his lips. "Oh," he says at last, "well, Mr. Mulder, sounds pretty personal to me." It is a polite and formal response that really says: I knew Teena Mulder and I know exactly who your father was.

"You don't much favor him," he says, evidently without thinking, then his hand goes to his mouth. "I mean...oh, shit."

I grin. "Nope. I don't, just the height." Poor Dr. Gananian is so flustered he drops his fork under the table. Krycek has the poor grace to giggle. Picking up his fork, the older man turns to me.

"Pleased to make your re-acquaintance, son of my old friend! As Alexei's friend you are welcome in my house at any time, but now that I know of your parentage, how much more so! You were raised by Bill Mulder. Did you know your real father at all?"

Krycek giggles again and I want to slap him. "Well," I say carefully, "growing up, I don't much remember him, and then after I went to work for the FBI I discovered he was my chief opponent. I'd see him around, but the few times I talked to him I was...well, those weren't pleasant encounters." Best not to mention the times I shoved a Sig in his face, I guess.

"Do you know how he died?" Andrew Gananian asked.

Krycek looks away.

"I'd heard he fell down a flight of stairs," I say, helping myself to another spoonful of tostada salad.

"That's what I'd heard, and it doesn't seem like him at all. He was a star athlete in his youth and never a clumsy or careless person."

Krycek looks at me desperately. I begin immediately to choke and gasp as though I have something caught in my throat, and Dr. Gananian rushes to my aid, performing a classic Heimlich maneuver.

In bed that evening Krycek traces lazy patterns on my chest. "Thanks for pulling my chestnuts out of the fire, Mulder," he says.

"You're quite welcome, Alex," I say, squeezing his hand. "Wanna fuck?" The very thought is making me hard, harder.

For answer he touches my cock. "Do I wanna?" he asks. "Do I wanna?" he purrs, rubbing my cock, my balls, sliding a finger up my ass.

"I get first dibs," I say.

"On what?"

"Being fucked."

" 'K," he says, and the coverlet, drawn up against the chill mountain evening, comes down and I hear the slippery sounds of his applying lube to himself, then he eases himself over on to my back, straddling my hips. Leaning forward, he bites the back of my neck. I startle a little and at that moment he slides into me all the way to the root, groaning. I gasp.

"Oh God, Alex, do me! Fuck me!" As he begins to ride me, I try to twist around, for I want to see him hard at it, my own god of lust and love rutting over me, pounding into me, but he rudely smashes my face into the pillow. Then he administers a stinging slap to my rear.

"Behave yourself!" he admonishes.

I shift position and get smacked again. "More, do it more!" I beg. "Oh god Alex, do it more!" I am ready, oh so ready, and as he fucks and spanks me every muscle in my body clenches in a convulsion of such intensity that yes, now I know pleasure as few ever do. I gasp and pant and scream, "ALEX!" and shoot onto the bed; then incredibly, I come again. And again. And now everything is quiet but for the pounding of my heart, which must shake the whole world.

************************************************************************

I don't really need the fancy stuff; just the sight, the taste of Mulder, the feel of his big beautiful cock is enough to make me come; but, hell, I like to push the envelope. We embrace and nuzzle and neck and kiss, and my heart swells with the miracle of Mulder wanting me, loving me, despite my infirmity, despite everything I've done to him and his. "I love you, Mulder," I whisper into the dark.

"I love you too, Alex," he says.

I'm not sure how long after I've dozed off that the sound begins to intrude on my dream: at first, like a faint whirring; and my dream of swimming in the Hidden Lake changes to include a distant motorboat. Then the whirring changes pitch, deepens, becomes louder; and I can see that the boat is closer now, much closer, ominously close; and it is bearing down on me. I can't get out of the way fast enough and I know I will be cut to ribbons. Just when I can feel the propeller blades about to slice and gouge into my tender living flesh, separating limb from limb and from life, I wake up. Sweating, shaking, my heart thrashing about in my chest, I reach out instinctively for Mulder, who murmurs something, his arms going around me. "Night terrors," I say, and then I hear it - the noise, the sound I heard in my dream; is the dream continuing. "Oh fuck oh fuck," I say, and then realize it's only the hairdryer. "Mulder, why'd you leave the fuckin' hairdryer on?" I ask illogically.

"Mmngt," he says, and burrows his face into my armpit.

"Wake up, Mulder!"

Reluctantly, he opens his eyes, blinks. "Whyndrynurherr?" he asks. I extricate myself from his grasp and sit up. My heart beats a little painfully and the noise continues. I pad to the bathroom, and switching on the light I see the offending appliance, lying on the counter, buzzing away gaily. Unplugged. And it is not a battery-operated model. "Shit, oh shit," I swear softly, picking it up with unsteady hands. How is it doing this? Could there be some residual current trapped in a circuit? As I hold it, the speed button changes from the low setting to the high - all by itself.

I drop the thing as though it has suddenly become too hot to hold and race back to the bedroom.

"Mulder, Mulder, you've got to see this!" Eventually he is persuaded to get up and he rises, clutching the comforter in one hand and trailing it into the bathroom. We stand and watch the hairdryer run through its paces.

"This is impossible," Mulder says, yawning. "And so, of course, not true. You realize that?" I guess years of working the X-Files have inured him to the presence of the uncanny in his own life, for he stands holding the blanket, hair disheveled but face calm, looking for all the world like a big Linus Van Pelt. The hair dryer must sense his coolness for it abruptly shuts off.

"Thank God," I begin, but then the phone by our bedside begins to ring. I cross to the nightstand and pick it up, not saying anything into the receiver, just listening.

"Alex," the voice says, with a hint of laughter, "the last time I talked to you I neglected to ask you how much fun you were having after murdering me and running off with my son; but then, I already know the answer."

"Could whoever's doing this to me please leave me the fuck alone?" I snap, hanging up and unplugging the phone. "Haha!" I say triumphantly, when the phone fails to ring again. "Fixed his wagon!" Then the radio comes on, and we both jump. "It's just the alarm, Mulder," I say and walk over to it.

"As is often said in spoofs of commercials, 'don't touch that dial!'" says the voice, coming unmistakeably from the radio.

************************************************************************

Poor Alex! I can only imagine what he's going through at this instant. This apparition or prankster or whoever (or whatever) it is had tracked us here, disturbed our rest and is now delivering a knockout rendition of my biological father, dead at Krycek's hand less than a year ago. Maybe whoever it is can be reasoned with. Kidded along. "Hey Dad," I say, while Alex looks at me, "ol' buddy. God, I miss you something terrible! We were such great friends!"

"Sarcastic as usual," sighs the voice. "Your mother didn't raise you to be that way."

"Hey, what am I wearing?" I ask. Do ghosts have eyes? That should stump him!

"Your birthday suit, Fox. And I would like to note that you inherited more from me than just my brains."

"Oh," I say, my face getting hot, instinctively covering myself with the coverlet. "Lucky guess, Dad, or whoever you are! Look, tell me what birthmark I have on my inner upper right thigh."

The voice sighs. "It's a mole, it's roughly in the shape of a horsehead, it's on your LEFT thigh, and are we done asking 20 questions?"

Krycek gasps.

"Huh!" I say, "you could have known that anyway."

"Very well," he says, and I SWEAR I hear the click of a lighter, "think of a boy, a beach and this quote from Sartre: 'The boy is father to the man'." I feel as though I've been struck in the stomach. "When my doctors were digging around in your brain for alien gray matter, Fox, you hallucinated. I only know now what it is you saw and heard and did. Diana Fowley. The War of the Worlds."

"Oh, God," I whisper, "I never told anyone about that!"

"Yes, we both know the alien matter made me desperately ill, but it took Mr. Krycek's efforts to finally finish me off. 'I'm sending the Devil back to Hell,' Alex."

"Fuck you!" Krycek yells suddenly. "You were a bully in life, you're a bully in death! You ruined my life! You destroyed the lives of countless innocent people! Talk about murder!" He advances on the radio, yanks the power cord from the wall and then throws the radio to the floor, stomping on it, and finally bangs it on the wall till its little electronic guts are showing. There is laughter from the dead radio; then the TV pops on. "Look, oh, look, Mulder," Krycek says in a voice full of dread. "There he is."

He's on the TV screen, looking like a newscaster, maybe twenty years younger than I remember him, but somehow vaporous, incorporeal. "That's because I'm a GHOST, Fox," he says quietly. "Alex, you can't get away from me. No matter what you do." At this point Krycek picks up a heavy book from the bookcase and sends it crashing through the screen. The set implodes, sparks flying and glass tinkling.

"Took care of him," Krycek says shakily.

"Jesus," I say to no one in particular, "What the fuck do you think he wants?"

"I think he wants me, Mulder," says Krycek, troubled.

"Revenge? For pushing him down the stairs? Weren't you just sort of putting him out of his misery at that point anyway?"

He nods. "I was, and he knows it. Knew it. Whatever."

"Then what is it?"

He turns to me, placing his hand on the back of my neck and kissing me. "Mulder?"

"Hmm?"

"We're gonna have to leave soon," -- indeed, the dawn is showing around the fringes of the night - "and I wanna love you some more."

"Be my guest," I say, kissing him back.

************************************************************************

Base camp is located in the relative luxury of a Motel 6 on the dusty outskirts of Provo. I shower, carefully so as not to disturb my cast, change and head over to Dana Scully's room. Maybe she'd like an early lunch at the Sizzler. Oh, well, I shouldn't really be surprised: she's in her room with Monica Reyes, both women are wearing robes, both are damp, with wet hair, and both have obviously come from the same shower. From the goo-goo eyes they're making at each other, I'll have to conclude that the hero of our story doesn't get the girl. Either one of them. "John," Reyes is saying, "you're more than welcome to stay, we've got Cokes and snacks in the fridge, if you'd like some."

Yes, I would like some. "No, thanks," I say, "I was thinking of something a little more substantial." I'm also thinking that the thought of you two beautiful ladies going down on each other is about to result in substantial embarrassment. I smile and tell them we'll be convening at 2:00 in front of the motel to organize the search parties, then I go quickly back to my room and use my left hand, though it is far less skilled than my right, but I'm still in a cast and beggars can't be choosers, to remedy the situation the best way I know how.

************************************************************************

We show up at 2, dressed alike in khaki shorts, chambray workshirts and desert boots. "You'd better watch it," Brian Johansen sneers, "they'll be hauling you back to the State Pen."

"Meaning what?" I retort.

"You look the part," he says.

"Oh, we look dykey enough for you?"

"You said it," he smirks. John Doggett, though, has witnessed the interchange and he steps in to help.

"That's enough!" he says sharply. "Another remark like that and I'll have you written up for sexual harassment."

"Well, they're fraternizing," Johansen says. "They're not supposed to!"

"What they do or don't do on their off time is none of your damned business. Out here, I'm only concerned with job performance, and theirs is the best. I won't tolerate any interference."

I look at him and smile. Good ol' John. I'm sorry I ever doubted him. About anything.

"Scully and Reyes," he's saying, "you two will be partners." And so we shall, I think, smiling at him then at pretty little Dana Scully. And so we shall.

************************************************************************

Although we basically trashed the upstairs bedroom last night, Doc Gananian is still sorry to see us go. I offered him more than the cash value of the TV and the radio, then, when he refused, gave it to Rosalinda to give to him after we've left. I would imagine that the poor fellow gets few visitors, tucked as he is back in this little alpine hamlet; and he obviously has a soft spot, as many seem to, for Alex Krycek.

We ride Al Marac and Bint Sahara, who are feeling rather frisky after a night's rest and oats (too bad the same can't be said about us!) up trail after branching trail in this, the high country of the Uintahs. At a cutoff, Krycek calls a halt, bringing forth real food given to us by the good Doctor - French bread, cheese, salami, grapes, apples and a bottle of dry white wine - from his saddlebag.

We sit quietly and eat in the shadow of a great peak whose name Krycek isn't sure of, playing with Siobhan and watching an eagle (or something) fly and listening to the brook that spills over the stony path. "So how was he?" I ask suddenly and the apple my lover is carving executes a perfect little swan dive into the stream. While he's fishing it out, he says, "that's an illegal question. That question is forbidden."

"Ah," I say, smiling at him, "is it the question or the answer that's forbidden?"

He studies the apple as if wanting to commit it to memory. "Lousy," he says.

"BZZZT! You're being shocked for every incorrect answer," I say.

"OK, then, just average."

"BZZZT!"

"Well, fuck, Mulder, then slightly above average."

"BZZZT!"

"OK, Mulder, I'm gonna tell you: except for you, the best."

"Jesus," I say, impressed. "Really? I didn't know the old fart had it in him." Maybe it's the wine or the thin mountain air, I don't know, but suddenly we're both laughing our heads off and God, it's good, it's what we need to do.

************************************************************************

After what happened last night, we both need the release that only laughter brings. "We broke the radio," I laugh, "and then we broke the fuckin' TV!"

"Yeah, well," gasps Mulder, "we worship the media far too much anyway."

"Not where your precious video collection is concerned!" I say, and we laugh again. We collapse in each other's embrace. "Mulder?"

"Yeah?"

"I just wondered."

"Yeah?"

"Your videos...any..."

"Any gay ones? Yeah, Alex, there were some."

"Your friend Frohike's probably got your videos now. Haw haw!" I laugh. The raptor in the distance is circling closer now, and as we watch it cries and then alights on a crag nearby, cocking its fierce and beautiful face this way and that, looking at us.

"Peregrine," Mulder says, motioning drunkenly. "It means 'wanderer'."

"Tell it to fuckin' wander somewhere else then," I say, not liking our visitor.

"Oh, it probably just wants a hunk of salami or something. Though I will say, if that bird opens its beak and French existentialist philosophy comes out, I'm gonna kill it."

"Well, raptors like little critters. If it makes a move toward Siobhannie, I'll kill it."

I sit up and toss the falcon a chunk of cheese, but it just sits there, settling and resettling its talons, looking at us with first one stern eye then the other.

************************************************************************

"We're here," I say, "Aspen Grove Ranch." The puppy barks and makes a move to jump down.

Mulder nods, looking around. It is aptly-named, surrounded on three sides by a sea of quaking aspens, the rounded gold-green leaves on their twisty little stems dancing in the merest breeze, the silver-white boles glistening in the midday sun, and overall conveying the effect of a shimmering curtain of living glass. On the fourth side is a tiny alpine lake set like a sapphire of deepest and clearest blue within the jade/topaz of the forest. "My God," he says, "this is gorgeous, Alex."

"I know," I say quietly. We dismount and lead the horses the rest of the way in, unsaddling them and turning them in to a fenced pasture, where they fall immediately to grazing the rich grasses.

"You've got a windmill," Mulder says in surprise, looking up at it.

"Yes, between that and the solar, we get enough power to run our little thingies. Here's the house, Mulder."

"This is really nice," Mulder says, standing on the slate floor of the foyer and looking into the dim hallway. "Thought you said it was primitive."

"It is," I assert. "No amenities, no A/C, no TV, VCR, stereo. For entertainment, there's a hot tub, there's reading, and there's me an' my ol' gee-tar."

"There's no phone, even?" he asks.

"No phone. There's a CB radio for emergencies, that's it."

"So here we are at the edge of forever, in the Overlook Hotel."

"Oh haha, Mulder, very funny."

"You never know, after last night," he says darkly.

"Mulder, go chill," I say to him. "You like to swim, take a dip in the lake, hot tub later."

Mulder nods, then pulls off his clothes, leaving them in a little pile on the floor, and wanders out to the lake. "You're gonna need a towel!" I call after him, but he has not heard me. Spacey, spooky Mulder. I go about the house moving from room to room checking things: the faucets, the refrigerator, the water heater; and in a back room, the CB. I am fiddling with it when there is a tap at the window. "I'm busy, Mulder," I call without looking up. The tapping is repeated, a sharp sound in the stillness, and I look up, my smile changing rapidly to a frown. It is that blasted falcon! "Go away!" I shout.

The bird cocks his head, first one way, then the other, regarding me with beady birdy eyes. "All right," I sigh, and open the window. The peregrine flaps in and perches on a coat tree, pooping on the floor. "Fuck you," I say, "and the air current you rode in on! Can't you see I'm busy?" I leave the room and the falcon follows me around, watching me but mercifully not speaking actual words, human or otherwise. "Should I name you 'Birdbrain'?" I ask, " 'Egghead'? What? Are you getting a big charge out of haunting me?"

For answer the bird "chups" and preens an errant feather. "Yeah, you're laughing at me! Bitch!" So when Mulder arrives back from the lake, shivering and dripping, he finds the falcon gone and me cursing and muttering to myself like a mad old woman.

"Was it something I said?" he asks mildly.

I look at him: naked and beautifully erect he is, and as I gaze at him I forget my troubles, recent and past, and go to him. "Darling, you're cold," I say, "let's take a hot tub. It should be really warm." It is wonderfully warm and as we soak and cuddle, kissing and caressing, taking our time about it, I forget to look for the falcon. It wouldn't really have mattered, I guess, if it/he were there or not; nevertheless, it's good that he's not. Mulder sits on the bench to elevate his hips and I suck him, rubbing my scratchy face on his cock, and he groans and shivers and then comes on my face. Then he sucks me; and by God his technique has improved, almost overnight; and to show my appreciation I come down his throat. We soak for a good long hour after that. The sun is still high in the heavens when we retire to the house. "We need to sleep," I tell him, and steer him in the direction of the bedroom.

"If you'd make love to me, I could sleep better," he says hopefully. I turn his face to mine and kiss him.

"Top or bottom, darling?"

************************************************************************

Dana Scully's Diary: "Agent Reyes, I mean Monica, has just asked me how on Earth I can write in a moving car without hurling. I tell her I've never been prone to motion sickness, that the time we spent in the shower this morning should've convinced her of that; and she seems to think it's a good answer. Looking at her classic profile and thick dark hair blowing about her face, I think again what a beautiful woman she is and how fortunate I am to have found her."

She turns to me, smiles and runs one gentle finger down my cheek, mouthing, "I love you."

"I love you too," I say. We pass through a few little hamlets, stopping at each. At the first, we briefly question the owner of a restaurant and a motorcycle parts store, but both men shrug and shake their heads: they've seen nothing. On the outskirts of one picturesque little burg we happen upon a house set back against the mountains, rather a large spread. Smoke spirals from the chimney and there is an early-model Porsche in the driveway, so we are encouraged. We park the Jeep, knock and hear a continuously-barking dog, then another, announce our arrival. The man who answers our summons, accompanied by two Border Collies, is tall, perhaps 60 (?), with a full head of black hair shot with gray. He regards us gravely for a long moment when we ask about Krycek and Mulder, and then shakes his head. "I don't know them, and I haven't seen anyone who looks like that," he says, indicating the "wanted" posters I am holding out to him. He is lying. I can feel it; something in his tone, in the way his cheek twitches when I first mention Krycek.

"You haven't told us everything you know," I say; "you haven't been forthcoming. Would you like us to take you in for questioning?"

"No, I wouldn't, obviously; but I don't know what you're talking about."

Shit, I think, the man's another Mikhail. "Look, Dr. Gananian," I say severely, "this man is a very dangerous criminal. He must be apprehended and brought to justice. If you are hiding him, you will be guilty of several felonies, and we will prosecute. You'll lose your license and do hard time. Now is the time to tell us where he is."

The good doctor crosses his arms, looks at me steadfastly, and shakes his head.

************************************************************************

I am jostled awake by Ken Baker, who says, "What's that? What's that?"

"What's what?" I ask, and then I hear it, a long mournful drawn-out howl punctuated at the end into several yips. "Coyote," I say, "he won't hurt you. Go back to sleep."

"Aw shit," says Ken, "who can sleep with that going on?"

"It's natural," I say, "and harmless. They're just having a songfest, a concert. They're serenading the night."

"They won't rip out my throat or something?"

I laugh. "There is no single documented case of a non-rabid coyote attacking a human. Ever."

"There's always a first time," Ken says doubtfully. I sigh and sit up and with my Swiss Army knife scissors snip two small pieces from the edge of my sleeping bag.

"Polyester fiberfill," I say, "stick it in your ear." He laughs, of course, but accepts the snippets...Dawn always seems to arrive with a bang in the high desert, sending an exploratory finger of sun crawling over the horizon then the sudden flare of red-gold light and heat, all-enveloping, a fanfare of the trumpets of Apollo. Ken yawns and stretches and goes off somewhere to take a whiz while I make coffee and pancakes for breakfast. "I haven't noticed any helicopters lately," he observes.

"No," I say, "they've given up; they're concentrating all their efforts on the search for Mulder and Krycek. For now, we're safe from pursuit. When we reach our ultimate destination, of course, we'll be in danger again."

"Oh of course," he says. "And why?"

"Because we'll be joining our friends up there. Alex has a place in the Uintahs."

"That's nice."

"It's very nice," I agree, "a beautiful hideout he calls Aspen Grove."

************************************************************************

When Agents Scully and Reyes phone in to inform me of their findings, I agree at once that Gananian's place should be searched, with or without a warrant. "I'll get several agents on it at once," I say. "And I'll go with 'em." The doctor offers no resistance when we appear at the front door, just lets us in without a word.

"Up here!" calls Thornton down the stairs to me. After viewing the ruin of the radio and television in the upstairs bedroom, I ask quietly, "what happened?"

Gananian shrugs. "I have nightmares," he says.

"Did Mulder and/or Krycek do this?" I persist. "And why?"

"No," he says patiently. "As I told the two young ladies, I don't know them and they certainly weren't here trashing my bedroom last night."

"Where did they go?"

The doctor rolls his eyes and sighs. "What's the matter?" asks a young Latina woman, coming into the room.

"Ma'am, we need to know about two fugitives. What do you know about them?"

"I know nothing," she says in softly accented English.

"Then maybe we're the INS," I say. It doesn't work.

"You're not," she says, "and I don't know what you're talking about. Please leave Dr. Gananian alone. He has heart trouble."

I look at the woman, then her employer/lover, and pull off a bedsheet. "Both these guys are secretors, easy enough to run a DNA test on whatever's making this sheet sticky. Not to mention all the fingerprints we can and will dust for. If we find out you've been lying to us, both of you are going to jail, and then you, Miss-"

"Fabiana," she says sullenly.

"Fabiana, will be on a fast bus to Mexico. Comprende?" The two look at each other, and then Gananian appears to deflate.

"All right," he says, "they were here. But I don't know where they went. Honestly."

"Thanks for coming clean with us," I say, "but where's the rest of it? Come on, you do know where they went." But they are not talking.

************************************************************************

We are able to get through the rest of the day without the damned bird poking its beak in everywhere: we have a nice omelette dinner, made by me of course, with a bottle of California Chardonnay, with scrambled eggs and milk for the dog, who gobbles them right up and looks for more; we have an evening of song, with (me again) serenading Mulder, singing all his favorite songs and then some, till he is singing aloud in his cracked tenor, speaking and shouting some of the lyrics, jabbing his fist in the air and having a good ol' time. I locate a secret stash, a little weed, and we smoke that. "To mellow you out after all that speed," I say.

"It's a wonder neither one of us cracked up on that stuff, we were taking so much," Mulder says, and inhales. "See? Smoking is hereditary."

"Not funny, Mulder," I say, but I laugh like hell. Everything has suddenly become very funny, actually, and we lie on the floor giggling like schoolgirls. Outside, the shadows lengthen and inside they dance with the flickering candlelight. "Hey, Mulder," I say.

"Yeah?"

"Fuck me. I mean, really hard."

He looks at me and grins tipsily. "It will be my pleasure," he says, standing up and then taking a header onto the floor. I check him; he's breathing but is out cold. I lie down next to him and hold him while the candles burn down and gutter in the chill breeze blowing in through the windows and outside the night creatures prowl.

************************************************************************

Because of the desperateness of the situation, and because I am frustrated, and because my arm hurts like the very Devil, I do something stupid: I hit Dr. Gananian. With my left fist, to be sure; it doesn't pack as serious a punch as my right, but it still must hurt where it landed: his midsection.

He makes a little "oof" and doubles over, and Ms. Fabiana goes to him and holds him, then hurls a series of imprecations at me; it's a good thing right now that I don't speak much Spanish. The way Thornton looks at me, white-faced, it's obvious to see that he's shocked.

"I-I'm sorry," I say. "That was unprofessional of me. But I need to know where Krycek is."

Dr. Gananian straightens and looks at me. "They went on to Salt Lake," he says evenly, "where they plan to board a plane to Vancouver."

"Amnesty," I say thoughtfully. "If you're telling me the truth."

"I really am," the doctor says. "And please don't hit me again."

I nod. "OK, Young, call the airport, alert the police, set up roadblocks on all the roads to Salt Lake. What were they driving?" I ask Gananian.

"Oh, they were riding their horses," he says, waving an arm. To Salt Lake?

They'd have to ride near the highways. We'd pick them off like wooden ducks at a carnival game.

"And what do their horses look like, anyway?"

"One's a black gelding, oh, 16 and a half hands high. The other, I don't know the sex, is a bright sorrel, blond mane and tail, four white stockings."

"Got that?" I ask Young. "Put that in your report." I wish I had Reyes and Scully with me; their "feminine intuition" would be a big help here. There was something in Dr. Gananian's account that didn't seem right, but I couldn't put my finger on it.

Damn, now my left arm hurts.

************************************************************************

Coming behind the search team, we look for clues that maybe they haven't: hoofprints in the soft irrigated earth, perhaps. We find them, leading to a trail going at a 45 degree angle up into the mountains. "It's them," I say, "but the ground on this trail is so hard they haven't left prints. There must be thousands of miles of trails in these mountains. It would take us a year to track them down, and by then they'd be gone."

"Why doesn't someone helicopter in, look for a cabin, that sort of thing," says Dana Scully, scratching the back of her neck abstractedly.

"I don't know if that's such a good idea. It would be really dangerous. I can't imagine anyone skilled enough to pilot between these peaks and not crash."

She nods. "You could be right. But it's worth a look-see at a distance, don't you think?"

"I do," I say. "I'll take it up with Agent Doggett," and I smile at her and raise her hand to my lips. "Let's get married, Dana."

"Hoho!" she scoffs. "Here we are in Utah, the most conservative state in the union; we ought to be more careful, not less."

"I don't care," I say, as we turn back toward the Jeep. "I love you with all my heart. You're my one and only."

"I love you, too, Monica," she says and smiles. "Let's go somewhere where there could be gay marriage soon - Hawaii, is it? And get hitched."

"Deal," I say swiftly. "After this stint, I'll retire from the FBI. We'll move to the islands, get jobs there."

"Wow," she says, and her big cornflower eyes fix on me adoringly. "You're for real!"

"Yes," I agree, "I'm for real."

************************************************************************

In the morning we wake up with the sun, cramped and stiff from having slept on the floor in odd shapes, and Mulder with a headache, whether from the wine or from having passed out while in the standing position is hard to tell. "Aspirin," I say briskly, "orange juice, and one of my patented eggnogs."

Mulder groans. "Not more powdered eggs!"

"Yes," I say, "can you imagine packing a dozen in here? They'd be nothing but goo by the time we got to the top of the trail!" I fix him the eggnog and feed it to him in spoonfuls while he groans and declares he'll never drink again.

"And that was pretty potent weed, too," he adds.

"Yeah," I say, "the better to relax you with!"

"No more speed."

"No more speed." While we're chatting we hear a scraping noise and look up. That dratted peregrine is sitting on the windowsill, watching us obliquely.

"Oh," I say, then pull off a slipper and throw it at him. He dodges us and changes position, making not a sound, then lifts his tail and poops on the sill. "OK, I get your point," I say, "but look, if you don't scram, I'm going to shoot you. As in kill you? With my very own Kalashnikov."

There is the sound of a man's laughter, then the bird flies away. Through the open window we can see it wheel in the sky, crying its strange cry. "I would fuckin'...rather not have to deal with this," I say, spooning eggnog.

"With me?" Mulder asks, hurt.

"No, no, sweetheart. With that...thing."

"Is it him, do you think?"

"I more than think, I know."

"Alex, why don't you give him what he wants, so he'll go away?"

"Fuck, I don't KNOW what he wants! He said my soul, but I can't exactly give him that, can I?"

"No, I see what you mean. Alex, can we give eggnog to Siobhan?"

"Yes, that would be OK. She'll like it."

"Why does a Scottish dog have an Irish name, Alex?"

"Geez," I say, giving him the last spoonful. "You are exactly like a little kid this morning! It's a pretty name for a pretty dog. That's why she has it." The puppy in question plays at our feet, chewing on my slippers and Mulder's toes.

"She's so cute," he says, picking her up. The dog licks his nose and mouth, and he laughs. "Alex, how long can we stay up here?"

I shake my head. "Till they find us, Mulder."

"And how long will that be?"

"Who knows?"

***********************************************************************

Dana Scully's Diary: "The preliminary air reconnaissance, by plane and helicopter, yielded nothing. There are valleys so narrow it isn't feasible to fly down them, and nothing can be seen at a distance. We'll probably have to go after them on foot again. I'm so tired of this! Just when we think we've caught the slippery little devils, they elude our grasp. I grow weary with trying and I miss little Will terribly. Two or three times a day I call Leona to check up on him. The report is always the same: yes, he's fine, he's eating, he's pooping. Yes, the guards are all there, two always outside the door, one at each end of the hall, and no, the watchers, be they human or alien replicants, have not bothered them. I ask to have William held up to the phone so I can hear him cooing and talk baby-talk to him, as does Monica Reyes. She's been a great support to me and I don't know what I'd do without her. Wait, there's something tapping at the window."

I go to the window and behold a huge great hawk or eagle or something, tapping on the pane with his sharp beak. Damn. I back away. "Monica," I call, "come look at this!"

She's been washing her face and has a towel around her thick dark hair.

"Is that an eagle? What's it doing here?"

"It's something," she agrees, "I'm not sure which species. I guess it lost its way, poor thing." The bird taps on the pane again. "I'm not sure that we should let it in, though," she says thoughtfully. "It might panic, fly around, injure itself."

"Yeah, and it might injure us," I say, eyeing the animal. It looks back at me, cocking its head to see out of one eye, then the other. Then it stretches its wings, still transfixing me with its gaze, and flaps them once, twice and is sitting in a nearby cottonwood tree. "Mulder would know what to make of it," I murmur. "It's almost as though it wants us to follow it...Something hinky about it; something uncanny. Something about...what was it, psychopomps?"

"A psychopomp," Reyes says briskly, "announces the entrance of the supernatural. Birds, because they fly and are therefore thought by primitive peoples to belong partly to the spirit world, are often cast in this role. Do you think that's what we're dealing with here?"

"That would be a rash conclusion to draw, wouldn't it?" I ask. As we talk, the bird flies back to the window, seats itself on the sill and resumes the tapping on the pane. "Let's open it," I say suddenly. Monica opens the window and the bird flaps in, seating itself on the nightstand. "Kreeek," it says solemnly. I laugh. "It's as though it were trying to talk. It is beautiful, though, isn't it?"

"It is indeed," says Reyes. She unwraps the towel, gives her hair a quick scrub with it and sits down, lighting a cigarette. "Krawwwk," says the bird, looking hard at her. She laughs. "No, I shouldn't smoke! Dana, you're dressed, why don't you go get John to come take a look at it?"

I knock on #17, and a worried-looking John Doggett appears. "I'm afraid that if we don't catch them this time, we never will," he says. "It's very possible that they did make it to Salt Lake and onto a plane."

"Yeah," I say. "Look, Agent Doggett, please come look at this strange...thing, this bird of prey in our room."

"I used to hunt, and that's a peregrine falcon or I'm a duck," he says, looking at it. The bird looks back levelly. "Though what it's doing so far from the ocean, I don't know. It could be a pet that someone released to the wild. A cruel practice, because the falcon can't make it. He's used to being fed by humans."

"He?" I ask.

"Well, he or she. Hard to tell, with birds."

The falcon flaps to the other nightstand and begins, apparently, shredding a newspaper. "Hey," Reyes says, "I haven't read that yet!" and she moves toward him, saying "shoo!" The bird looks up; he's got a scrap of paper in his beak; then he flies over to Doggett and drops the paper at his feet. Doggett picks it up. "Oh, God," he says.

"What?" we both ask. Doggett hands it soundlessly to me. It's the headline for the latest Krycek/Mulder article: FBI Director's Murderer Still at Large. "It's a coincidence," I say, but my voice is shaky. Flooded with a thrill that shudders me from toes to hair, I ask, "Do you know where they are?"

The bird regards me solemnly, first with one eye then the other. Then it nods its head. "Ah, God," I gasp, and I need to sit down in a hurry.

"Where?" ask Doggett and Reyes simultaneously. The bird flies to the windowsill.

"It wants us to follow it," I say.

"Easier said than done," says Doggett. "We'll have to follow on foot or horseback."

"How about ATV's or dirt bikes, that sort of thing?" I ask.

"We'll give it a try. Shit, here we go again. I wish we didn't have to do it this way."

************************************************************************


Archived: November 13, 2001