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Chemical Agents I: Catalysis

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Chemical Agents I: Catalysis

Chemical Agents I: Catalysis

by Ratadder and Queen Mab

By Ratadder and Queen Mab

"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed." --Jung


Catalysis: an action or reaction between two or more persons or forces precipitated by a separate agent

Abandoned warehouse, Maryland
January 5, 12:19 a.m.

Warehouses. Why the fuck is it always warehouses?

I stare around the gloomy interior of the latest in a long line of dingy, cold, shadowy monstrosities, and repress the urge to roll my eyes. Granted, meeting at the mall is probably out for most criminal elements like myself, but still, warehouses get old, fast. I lean against a rotting wooden crate and try to rotate my shoulder, my back muscles stiff and aching. So what else is new.

Something skitters in a far corner. It isn't big enough to be human so I ignore it. Where the hell is Reinhold? He calls me for this fucking meet and then makes me wait. I should shoot him just for the inconvenience.

I could these days. My position is a lot more secure than it used to be. I could off the old boy and nobody would bat an eye. They don't question me as much now. My old patron saw to that before going out in what I'm sure he considered a blaze of glory.

The fool. Blaze of glory or no, dead is dead.

The thought of him gives me a moment's pause, as it always does, but I ignore it, turning my mind to contemplation of how I'm walking the inner circle these days. If they only knew. But if that isn't the motto for my entire fucking life, I don't know what is. "If they only knew." If Mulder only knew, if Skinner and the whole FBI only knew, if Kalenchuk only knew, if the militia-idiots only knew, if the Russians only knew, if Covvarubias only knew, if my patron only knew.

If Mulder only knew.

I can't remember the last time I've been exactly what I seemed to be. I waste a few minutes trying to remember, but it grows pointless quickly, and I go back to scanning the shadows for the one shadow I watch for.

If Mulder only knew.

I ignore the thought beating around in my skull, and try to flex my back muscles again. Yes indeed, the inner circle. Moving up in the world yet again.

If Mulder only knew.

The creak of a door finally succeeds in shoving Mulder to the back of my mind. Reinhold sticks his head around the door and creeps into the warehouse, trying to find me in the darkness, the moon through the high windows a pitiful excuse for illumination.

"Krycek? Krycek?"

I wait until he's as close to me as he's likely to get, then speak softly. "What do you want." I don't bother to move out of the shadows that cloak me.

He jumps. He tries not to, but he does. I see it, and let myself smile. He looks even more nervous than usual. "Hey, Krycek. You wanted to know if he started any, uh, independent projects?"


"Well." Reinhold lifts the small envelope he carries and shrugs. He sets it down on the warehouse floor and steps back. "Money in the usual account?"

I pause just long enough to make him wonder, then say, "Depending on the quality of the information. Sure."

He nods, turns and leaves, moving faster with each step. I don't move until he's out the door and the squeaking of the hinges fades away. I wait a few minutes more, then step out and pick up the envelope, heading for the exit without opening it. Reinhold may be one of my longer-standing sources, but I still don't want to be hanging around here looking through an envelope I can as easily inspect in the safety of my own apartment. I tuck it into my coat with barely a glance, and unholster my gun.

Slipping through the door, I press myself against the warehouse as I make my way back toward my car. As I step away from the solidity of the building, the back of my neck prickles. I keep my eyes roving as I move to the car as quickly as possible. Just as I key the door, a soft clatter behind me has me spinning.

Nothing. What the hell-

The sharp sting in my lower leg is strangely disconnected. Years of ignoring small pains keeps me from responding with any sort of noise, but I look down, and, well, there's my leg. I can't see anything else, just ground and suddenly that's swaying and moving closer and I'm dropping to my knees and catching myself on my good hand as my gun tumbles and what the hell? I don't drop my gun. I pitch the rest of the way forward and from my position flat on the ground, I can very clearly see the man lying under my car, staring out at me, watching me respond to whatever he just injected me with.

I can't move. My leg feels numb and my arm won't move. My cheek against the ground barely registers it as cold. What the fuck did he stick me with?

From the direction of the first noise comes another, and suddenly I'm rolled onto my back. The movement makes everything spin, and it takes me long moments to actually see the face staring down at me. Even when I see it, I find myself focusing crazily on the glowing tip of the cigarette in his mouth. My eyes almost cross themselves trying to follow it as he removes it from his mouth and lowers it over my face, grinding it out next to my cheek.

"Hello, Alex. So glad you could join us. You've suddenly become a hot commodity again. I doubted you'd come peacefully, so I took a few precautions."

His hand comes down over my nose and mouth and suddenly I inhale something, something bitter, something that slows my cognition down to match my numb body. My last thought as darkness rolls over me is that perhaps I overestimated how far up in the world I'm moving.

Mulder's Apartment
January 25, 1:20 a.m.

Mulder jerked upright, fully expecting to see the buxom blonde on screen reaching out through the television set to pull him through before she morphed into a gray. As it happened, the blonde was a little too busy with her partners to do either. Mulder blinked repeatedly, letting the last of the dream filter away, and wondering what had woken him; the tv was on mute.

The thud at his door made him jump again, but solved the mystery. Swinging his legs off the couch he turned the tv off completely and stumbled toward the door, rubbing his eyes. Jerking the door open he stared at the somewhat unusual sight of his boss, frowning severely, hand lifted to knock again. Not that the frown was unusual, Mulder amended mentally, rather it was facial-expression-du-jour as far as Skinner was concerned. The frown being in his front hallway was the unusual part.

"Sir?" Mulder managed sleepily.

"Agent Mulder. Sorry to wake you." Skinner glanced right and left, as if hoping to blame the sleep interruption on someone else. Alas, he was alone. "May I come in?"

"Sure." Mulder stepped back and swept his arm out to welcome Skinner inside, belatedly glancing around the room to see if he'd left out anything really embarrassing. He was about to conclude he hadn't, when he noticed the case of the video currently in his machine.

Skinner didn't even glance at it though, walking in and lowering himself into a chair with a zombie-like mien. He looked even more blank-faced than usual, and Mulder suddenly felt a shiver of disquiet. Sitting back down on the couch, Mulder tried to catch Skinner's gaze. "Sir? What... what's going on?"

Skinner was silent for a long moment, then tugged at the collar of his shirt. "I don't... I have some disturbing news, Agent Mulder." Finally Skinner met his eyes. "It's Agent Scully. Have you seen her?"

"Seen her? What? Not since work. I mean, about 6:30, I guess."

"She's apparently... disappeared."

The apartment tilted sideways, even though some small part of Mulder's brain called out 'why are you surprised?' He clutched the arm of the couch, as if that would steady things. Decades-old images of white lights and a floating body flashed like a demented slide show in his mind, overlaid and interspersed with pictures of Scully's apartment cordoned off with yellow tape. Duane Barry screaming his freedom on a mountain-top. Scully in the trunk of a car. Scully in a hospital bed with tape on her eyes. He shook his head sharply to clear it, and tried to stamp down the voices in his mind. "Disappeared? What...? How?" Even as he tried to center himself on Skinner's information, his mind was already clicking over to the next set of suspicions. Names and faces flashed through his mental files - Pfaster - dead, Modell - dead, Schnauze - dead.

"Her purse and her car keys were discovered beside her parked car, in her apartment lot. The car door was unlocked, partially open, which was why the neighbor noticed something was wrong. He saw the keys and purse, thought Scully may have dropped them if her arms were full, and took them inside to her apartment. And realized she wasn't home. Since her apartment key was on the ring, he got concerned. He waited to see if she'd come home, but he finally called the police."

Mulder stared at Skinner, hearing the words but not taking them in. Skinner kept talking, something about having spoken to the man himself, something about no one having seen anything, but Mulder was still struggling with the first fact, the fact that seemed to keep repeating. ::Gonegonegone. Disappeared. No witnesses. Abducted? Gone.:: "She's... I don't... how long?"

"Her things were found this evening at around 7:45. It took the neighbor a little while to decide to call the city police. It took them longer to call me. But it's only been hours, Mulder. We'll find her and she'll be-"

"She'll be fine," Mulder finished faintly, wanting to scream at Skinner that he didn't want his damn platitudes, but knowing that would solve nothing. ::Not again,:: the voice in his head started chanting. ::Not again. Not again not againnotagain. I can't take this again. I can't-:: He clamped the rising panic with an iron grip, feeling an instantaneous flash of guilt at his thoughts. ::Classic, Mulder, fucking classic. She's in trouble and you're thinking about yourself.:: Clearing his throat he stood suddenly. "Just let me get dressed. I'll be right out."

Skinner sat where he was as Mulder left the room, staring at the walls and seeing the pole-axed look on Mulder's face again in his mind's eye. The flashes of panic, grief, all the myriad emotions from all the times Scully had gone missing or been in danger. How many times had he watched this? How many times had they both been through this? Skinner sat, and stared, and hated himself for the fact that at a time like this, he could still feel the ever-present envy burning through him. Envy of the closeness Mulder shared with her, envy of the way Mulder could express his rage, frustration, pain at her disappearance, and no one would blink. Of course Mulder would be upset, he was her partner. Her best friend. Perhaps more. Mulder bulldozed over the "professional distance" regulations on a regular basis. No one would think twice.

While others... others stayed locked in their roles, locked in the cages of their own making, screaming just as loudly but with no outlet, no way to express-

The door behind him opened again, and he heard Mulder return. Shoving everything firmly back down, Skinner took a slow breath and stood. When he turned to face his agent, his expression was solemn but completely guarded again. "Let's go then."

Medical research facility
Somewhere in the wilds of Virginia
January 25, 9 a.m.

Scully tried to lift her head and felt her neck muscles give out, her head lolling forward again, chin to chest. The sway made her nausea worse, even with her eyes closed. She tried to move a hand to push back her hair at least, from where it hung in her face. Three attempts later and she had to force her eyes open to see what the problem was. Peering through her hair she tried to focus. Fingers, she could see her fingers. She could flex her fingers. Hand. Wrist. Oh. That would be the problem.

The wide leather strap held her wrist securely to the arm of the chair she sat in. Chair? Yes, chair. Moving chair. She opened her mouth to ask whoever was moving her chair to leave it alone, but nothing came out. Not even a croak. Closing her mouth and eyes, she concentrated on swallowing for a few moments.

In those moments, the sounds around her solidified and words began to separate from each other. "...on at least ten. I mean we had Covvarubias... ah, 'Subject 26' was she?... on 45 at the end there. Granted, Subject 21 died at 30, but certainly we've seen a lot of improvement since then. And I still don't believe the male/female issue has anything to do with it."

That voice. Scully would have groaned if she could have made a noise. That voice. Him. The head bastard himself. She forced her eyes open again. When she could look past her own lap she saw tiled floor rolling by. She spent a moment concentrating on not being sick, then tried to tune in to the conversation occurring just behind her.

"...can't guarantee you the results you're after, and I don't think wasting a test subject with too high an initial dose is worth it. It may not be a gender issue, but size could certainly play into it. Body weight. She's a tiny thing and he's not." She didn't recognize this voice, but experienced a purely mental shudder at the exasperated response.

"Fine, fine. You're the doctors. Tell him to start her at five. But I think you'll find her incredibly resilient-"

Their conversation halted abruptly at the sudden onset of a horrific shrieking to their right. Only her grogginess and the restraints kept Scully from reacting physically to the sounds of agony and outrage. As they rolled past what she realized was a door, they slowed. The movement of Spender's voice behind her told her he was moving closer to it.

"Ah. You see, Mr. Krycek is doing even better than expected. Oh yes, of course, my mistake... 'Subject 38'. Tell me, what are we testing him with this time?"

"Um... broken leg. Both legs. This time interfering with the process. You know, what happens when the bones start to set and then they're moved out of alignment."

"Mmm. And still going strong. Excellent. That's why I wanted her brought in at this point. I wouldn't risk her with just any stage of the trials. She's rather important, this one."

As the wheelchair started rolling again, Scully ignored their continuing conversation in favor of trying to process what she had just heard. The further they went down the hall, the more muffled the noises from that room, but it took far too long for them to roll out of earshot. Mister Krycek? Alex Krycek? Who else could it be making that... noise? Her kneejerk reaction was that the bastard deserved whatever he was getting, but instantly her Catholic guilt kicked in. Or possibly her doctor guilt. Maybe even both, considering how quickly she winced at her own thoughts. Nobody deserved whatever was making him scream like that. He deserved to be held accountable for his crimes, but not like this.

Then Alex Krycek was the last thing on her mind as a door opened and her wheelchair swung to the right. She lifted her head again and found her neck muscles working this time. She blinked as the chair stopped rolling in the middle of a small white room.

"Ah, you're awake. Wonderful." Spender moved into her line of sight and leaned down, peering into her eyes. "How are you feeling?"

Scully opened her mouth to tell him what he could do with the damn cigarette, but found she still couldn't force her vocal chords to function.

"Shhh. Don't try to answer then," he said in that irritating, solicitous voice. "Relax. Don't talk." His hand brushed her hair back and she wanted to jerk away but couldn't. "The drugs will wear off soon enough. You are in there though? You're focusing. I believe you can hear me, yes? You're being accorded a great honor, Agent Scully. This current work could be some of our most important, and you're going to be a part of it." Taking out another cigarette, he lit it and settled back to sit on the edge of a bed Scully hadn't even noticed. Inhaling, then slowly releasing a cloud of smoke into the air, he continued in a vaguely rhapsodic voice. "As a scientist, I'm sure you'll appreciate the magnitude of what we've discovered. I'm sure you'll understand the honor of dedicating your life - literally - to the pursuit of scientific advancement."

"And once we have you, your loyal partner is always so quick to follow. Saves time all the way around. Two for the price of one." He smiled and lifted his cigarette to study it for a moment, as if addressing it rather than the bound woman before him. "Although in this case, you would have come first anyway. More opportunity for us to perfect the process. Make sure everything is at its apex before involving my- my dear Agent Mulder." He put the cigarette to his mouth again, refocused his eyes on her, and murmured around it. "I think you'd agree with my priorities?"

Scully stared at the hated face before her, and felt a chill crawl up her spine. The calmness, the lack of malice, the almost beatific glow. It was times like these that convinced her beyond a shadow of a doubt that, whatever else this man was, he was also certifiably insane.

FBI Headquarters
Washington D.C.
Mulder's Office
January 25, 5 p.m.

There was nothing he could do. No leads to follow. Oh, he knew who was behind Scully's disappearance. It had to be the Smoker. The lack of evidence just confirmed it, as far as Mulder was concerned. When he said as much to Skinner, the A.D. sighed heavily, and ordered Mulder to stay out of the way of the agents on the case.

Stay out of the way. Back to the basement like a good boy, too involved for your own good, can't be objective, give your input to the agents who have something to do. He'd heard it all before and he never bought it. Who was it that had figured out where Scully was when Barry had kidnapped her? He ground his teeth and the pencil in his hand snapped. He dropped the two pieces and tilted his chair back. He'd given the agents assigned as much information as he could about anyone who might want to hurt Scully, all their past cases that might reappear, but what good was that? There was no file on the man responsible, no address to hand over, no "last known location."

Nothing to do. Pretend to work on the overdue reports piled on his desk. Sharpen pencils. Go out to the break room to get rancid coffee that he didn't drink until it got cold. Crack open sunflower seeds and pile them uneaten on his desk.

And still he couldn't leave. He watched the clock tick away the minutes past quitting time. Go home? Right.

How many times had he gone through this? How many times had Scully gone through the same thing, wondering where he was, if he was hurt, if he was alive? Of course he could be reasonably sure Scully hadn't just ditched him to go on some wild alien-chase, whereas when he disappeared there was always the chance he was breaking into some government building or military base or floating around in the Bermuda Triangle looking for a reappeared World War II ship. He winced at the thoughts. If this was how she felt - damn, he really had to be better about not doing that. Still, all part of being partners, he supposed. Partners.


Likely, it was all the reminders of the Duane Barry abduction, or maybe it was just the word 'partner'. Or perhaps his mind simply felt like punishing him. Whatever the cause, his thoughts took the unavoidable turn.

He'd had a different partner, once. Briefly. Before life had dealt him yet another joker from the deck. However much his mind rebelled at connecting the man with the appellation 'partner', it had actually started to fit, in spite of his own stubborn resistance.

Another partner... tall and awkward and too pretty by half. Wide-eyed and admiring, eager, with a quirky, challenging grin that begged to be slapped or kissed. And Mulder had kissed him, his damnably perfect memory insisted on reminding him in minute detail - ravished that mouth until they were both panting. He could pretend it wasn't his own fault, that he had been at an extreme emotional low, vulnerable. And there was some truth in the pretense. The memory of those kisses would be forever tangled up with the memory of Scully's abduction by Barry...

The ambulance left, taking away the wounded Barry. Congratulations from the agents of the law. Hugs from the families of the hostages. Open glances of admiration for the hero of the day. Who felt like shit.

He drove away from the crowd still in front of the travel agency where it had gone down. Cops and FBI agents securing the scene or collecting evidence, reporters talking into TV cameras, the curious and the blood-thirsty hoping for one last bit of drama. He went back to his office, wrote his reports. He sat and stared at nothing, then dragged himself home and didn't sleep.

Duane had begun to trust him, to think he'd finally found someone who believed his story, who didn't think he was insane. And Mulder betrayed him. He'd done the right thing. He'd saved the hostages and himself. He'd done his job. Shit.

After a night of tossing and turning with his self-doubt, he'd been summoned to the hospital by Kazdan, to be given even more reason to beat up on himself. The implants, right where Barry had said. He'd known, dammit, he'd known Barry was the real thing. But Scully's voice in his ear had begun to convince him otherwise. The doubts had risen and he'd had to question. Duane's irrationality had flared with the gun still in hand, and suddenly there just didn't seem to be any other way. He'd sent the man to the door just as the SWAT team outside wanted.

And now he stood by the bedside with a sinking heart, hearing the suspicious circumstances of Duane's original injury. Hearing about x-rays detecting metal implants. Hearing about tiny holes in teeth, holes that were technologically impossible but there nonetheless.

And then he'd spent the rest of the day hearing Scully tell him the metal was probably shrapnel, wincing at her tone of voice when she insisted that no matter where the metal was found, Barry was only telling one version of the truth. The ever-present doubt written all over her face.

He'd walked out. Left her in her office, left her to her ballistics test that she was so positive would clear everything up in seconds. Left her to her tireless efforts to prove him wrong.

Wandering the halls with no clear destination in mind, guilt and anger and confusion eating away at his stomach, he'd ended up in the basement, at his old office. Closed up, but not cleaned up. The familiar mess only made him feel more hollow. He sat in his old chair, head in his hands, trying to make some sense of Duane, of Scully, of his life.

Someone sat down on the edge of his desk. A hand appeared below his nose, holding a small bag of sunflower seeds. He glanced up. Alex Krycek continued to gaze at the posters on the wall, anywhere but at Mulder, and smiled slightly.

Mulder had no idea how long they sat there, silently. It was... nice. Krycek didn't demand anything. He didn't congratulate him, slap his shoulder, say what a great job he'd done. Didn't make smart ass remarks about Barry's state of mind, about his crazy tales. Didn't try to tell him the implants were shrapnel, and subtly hint he was being silly to assume anything else. He was just there. A quiet, warm, solid presence. Reassuring, somehow.

And gradually, Mulder's thoughts moved from his disgust with the whole Duane Barry fiasco to contemplating the man beside him. The man who had gone from resented interloper to tolerated partner to something approaching true partner faster than Mulder could have dreamed possible. He had also become something more... the stuff of the fantasies Mulder spun in his mind late at night while watching his infamous video collection.

He'd wondered about Krycek. How could he not? The new agent was so... obvious. Alex followed him around with flattering if exasperating attention, carefully observing the older agent at work, drinking in the technique, the skills, the flashes of intuition. Was there more in his devotion than wanting to learn his trade from a master?

He looked at Krycek again, at the handsome profile made almost child-like by that nose. Krycek looked back at him then, face empathetic, still silent. The eye contact caught and held. Mulder stood, moving just slightly closer. Krycek's gaze dropped to Mulder's mouth fleetingly, then those absurdly thick lashes lifted and the green eyes met his again, then skated away.

Ah. That answered that question. And if he'd had any lingering doubts, the light flush creeping up Krycek's cheeks now stilled them. Mulder had an instant's guilty thought that he was using Krycek to distract himself from his depression and self-disgust, before he leaned closer, one hand on the desk at Krycek's hip, and brushed Krycek's lips with his own.

Kryeck didn't pull away but he stiffened, sucking in a surprised breath, and murmured, "We really shouldn't-"

"Yeah?" Mulder breathed against the other man's mouth. "And since when have I followed the rules?"

It was the shivering sigh that did it. Mulder could feel it on his lips, and gave in to the absurd impulse to try to taste it, his tongue flickering out to lick his own lip before ghosting over Krycek's. Mulder lifted his hand and cradled the other man's cheek, thumb tracing the cheekbone. His leg nudged between Krycek's thighs as he let his tongue wander again, stronger this time, pressing for entry. The slight scratch of stubble at his fingertips made his palm tingle, while the yielding mouth drew him in.

Oh, what a way to forget. What a sweet, delicious way to blot out the frustration, the failure... Mulder let everything melt away in the heat rising before him.

The mouth parted before his probing with a sweet surrender and a small whimper. The helpless sound alone made Mulder ravenous. As his tongue swept in to claim new territory, his fingers slid around to tangle in silky dark hair, loosed from its imprisoning gel by the August heat and careless hands. Leaning against the solidity of the other man, Mulder lifted his other hand from the desk and let it join its mate, twisting in hair and bending Krycek's head back as his mouth was plundered. Catching the soft lips in his teeth, Mulder nibbled and licked, then sucked the lower lip into his mouth and pressed forward with his thigh. Another soft sound of need rose into the room as the tense, muscled legs parted as sweetly as the lips had. Perched on the edge of the desk, Alex rubbed himself up against Mulder's thigh. His arms rose to clutch at Mulder's shoulders, then with an aching gasp, dropped restlessly to wrap around Mulder's waist, pulling at his hips with demanding strength.

Feeling the heat between Alex's legs, the hardness rubbing against his own thigh, was perfection. Mulder deepened the kiss, eating the small moans Alex couldn't seem to stop making, and shivered at the way Alex squirmed against him. Untangling his fingers and letting them trail over Krycek's throat, down his shirtfront, he began to rock his leg. He made a throaty sound at the way Alex rode against it helplessly. Mulder was searching for Krycek's belt buckle by touch alone, when a cell phone rang.

They clung together briefly as they tried to figure out whose phone it was. When they traced it to Krycek, Mulder released the man's pants and took one step back.

Sinking back against the desk, Krycek fumbled his phone out of his coat. His voice shaking as much as his hand, he answered it, his eyes huge in his flushed face and focused only on Mulder while he spoke. "Krycek. Yes, sir. Yes, he's here with me. Yes, I will, sir."

"Skinner?" Mulder sighed. The real world returned with a vengeance, and he knew it was taking away his distraction.

"Yeah." Krycek ran his hand through his hair, and bit at his swollen lip. "I've got to go to his office. You're supposed to go home and get some rest. He thinks you didn't look so good today."

"Yeah, right." Mulder ran his hands through his own hair and tried not to think about the way Alex's suit pants wouldn't lay flat. Suddenly, it was just too much. "Listen, Krycek... Alex. Come to my place when you get off work."

Krycek did another one of those quavering sighs that made Mulder want to bend him over the desk now, to hell with Skinner. "We really shouldn't, Mulder. I shouldn't let this happen. I'm sorry, I didn't... I mean I know... I didn't mean to lead you on-"

"Alex, you didn't do anything wrong. I started that, and I know I did. But you... well, you didn't exactly seem to be unaffected, and I got the impression you were enjoying yourself." Mulder tried a teasing smile, wishing he was a little more practiced at seduction. Wishing he could just kiss Krycek into submission. If his partner's instant capitulation just now was anything to go by, that would definitely meet with success.

Krycek bit his lip again, and coupled with a deepening blush, it made Mulder crazy. "I've got a late meeting, Mulder. I've got reports to do and who knows what Skinner is going to assign me now that you're going home. I'd be really late and-"

Mulder could hear the husk of need in Alex's voice and could see him weakening, waiting to be convinced. He let the teasing drop, and allowed his weariness to surface. "Alex... please? I don't care when you can get there. I need... okay, I'm a selfish bastard, but I need some way to turn my brain off. Just for a little while. I need... you."

The pause was long, and the expression odd, but Krycek finally nodded. "Okay. This isn't... Jesus, Mulder. This is crazy. It's stupid, I... fuck. I'll be there."

It hadn't happened though. Mulder kissed Krycek one last time, resisting the temptation to leave bite marks, and left for the day. Avoided going back to his empty apartment. Didn't even call Scully to find out about her ballistic test. He stayed out as long as possible, thinking through preparations for the night - did he have anything to eat, to drink? Condoms? Lube? Finally entered his apartment, pushed the playback on his answering machine, and listened to Scully's message about the implant they'd removed from Duane Barry. Listened to her screaming his name, calling for his help, as Barry smashed through her window and...

And now she was gone again. Mulder folded his arms on his desk and dropped his head, hiding his face in shame. Was he honestly any less of a mess than he had been back then? How the hell could he be thinking of kissing that lying, traitorous bastard while Scully was out who knew where, having who knew what done to her? How could he be sitting here with a throbbing hard-on thinking about how that son-of-a-bitch melted in his arms when he should be finding Scully.

He hated it when the old memory decided to play show and tell, even at the best of times. That it would decide to come out and torture him now was even worse... bringing up all the old guilt at his inability to save Scully. Reminding him of his irritation with her just prior to her abduction, the way he'd been groping Alex Krycek - and planning to do more - while Duane Barry stalked her.

No Alex Krycek this time. Mulder ignored the twist in his chest and told himself how pleased he was that was the case. The murderous scum, last seen stepping casually over his helpless body in a stairwell, was better off dead.

He pushed himself away from his desk angrily, and stalked over to his files. Scully was missing, and thinking about Alex Krycek got him absolutely nowhere. And hardly improved his mental state. Jerking open a drawer he started rifling through files. There had to be something, something useful. He slammed the drawer shut again in frustration. Pointless. CGB Spender was behind this, Mulder could feel it in his bones. And until Spender made his game-plan known, they'd get nowhere.

But he'd be damned if he'd just sit here and wait. So he wasn't on the case officially... couldn't be on the case. When had that ever stopped him. Knowing it was pointless, but also knowing it felt better than sitting in the office remembering things better left buried, Mulder grabbed his coat and headed out for yet another look at the scene of the crime.

Medical Research Facility
Somewhere in the wilds of Virginia
Krycek's cell
January 25, 6 p.m.

Moving is a mistake. As sharp, jagged pain flares on top of tight, cramping pain over a thick foundation of dull, throbbing pain, I begin to think waking up at all was a mistake. Maybe being alive isn't such a good idea either.

Not that I'm getting much of a choice in any of this. Those fucking white-coated torturers-cum-scientists keep manipulating my damn legs no matter what I scream, threaten, or, embarrassingly enough, plead. Granted, my voice gave out a while back, and about now I sound like a frog with asthma. And to add to the fun, the phantom pain in my missing arm is worse than it's ever been. From my shoulder down through fingers that aren't there anymore, it's like a pulse of fire right in rhythm with my heartbeat. God, it's never been this bad.

I blink and realize I'm back in my cell. We must be done for today. My own personal Doctor Mengele bends over me, examining his day's work, and two of the hulking orderlies get a good grip on me. Like I can do anything. They usually strap me to the bed the minute they get me back here. At least they haven't done that yet. I managed to get in a good kick some days ago, and gave one of the bastards a very colorful broken nose. Shouldn't have, probably, since they've been even more careful since then with the restraints. But I couldn't resist the opportunity.

Fuck, I hate being strapped down. It brings out the claustrophobia. Bad. I try not to let them know I'm awake. Maybe they won't do the restraints since they've been fucking with my legs so much. The Nazi prods, I wince, and wish again that I just hadn't woken up. I smell the sickly familiar scent of the Morleys before I hear the voice.

"And how is our little experiment doing today, Dr. Kessin?"

I fight not to react even with a flinch.

"It's amazing!" The guy sounds like I'm his school science project. "We pulled the bones out of alignment over and over, and each time the surrounding muscles actually expanded and contracted until they were realigned! His body's ability to reset its own bones was just... unbelievable. This man has the most fully developed healing function of all of the subjects so far." The doctor touches my left leg, and I try not to jerk. No restraints. See, nice Krycek. You don't need to strap me down. "See this? When we first got him, this scar was about 6 inches long, deep, probably a knife gash that wasn't stitched or properly treated. But since we broke this leg, not only has the break healed, as well as the resulting tissue injuries, but the scar tissue has also regenerated."

"Fascinating!" The Smoker takes a drag from his cigarette, leans over my stump, and blows smoke directly in my face. Okay, so he knows I'm awake. Fuck it. I open my eyes and stare at him dully. "This is excellent. More than we'd hoped for." Without even thinking, I clear my throat and spit in his face. He dodges it easily, and keeps talking like I'm not even in the room, much less awake and staring at him. "I think we should follow up on this. The next phase should be to test whether we can force the healing of old injuries by traumatizing the surrounding area. Try damaging the tissue around his left shoulder, see what happens with the stump and that amputation mess."

Oh God no. Not the arm. I try not to let anything show on my face. It's hard enough not getting flashbacks of that night with the knife anyway. If these fuckers start carving up my stump... I bite back a whimper that really wants to emerge. Not in front of him. I never feel quite so much like a little white rat in a cage as when he stands by my bedside.

"It will be interesting to see how the body reacts. And if we can get somewhere with the arm in the way of actual regrowth, rather than just partial regeneration of the scarred tissue, we'll have to try it with something like an eye. Wouldn't that be amazing if he could literally regenerate an eye?"

I redouble my efforts not to flinch, even though it takes everything I have. And believe me, just about now I don't have much of anything.

"Look, we've been pushing him pretty hard," Nazi-boy speaks up tentatively. As if he has a chance in hell of standing up to Spender. "We've just considerably upped his dosage today. I'm concerned we'll exhaust his body's recuperative powers too soon, like we did the others. This one is the best subject yet, and I don't want to lose him. Besides, we now have the woman, and you've said we'll be getting another man soon."

Oh thank you. Thank you so much for not wanting to break your new toy too quickly. I never wanted to get up off the bed and smash their faces together as much as I do right then, listening to them casually chat about me like the subhuman I am.

"Yes, we'll be picking up Mr. Mulder in a few days. It should be simple enough. Let him know we know where Miss Scully is, he'll walk right into our hands. You can have Miss Scully tomorrow. The tranquilizing drugs should be out of her system by then. But I want you to continue with this one. I hate delays when we're experiencing success. Especially if you just upped his dose."




All thoughts of my helplessness, my pride, my rage, fly out of my mind with disgusting speed, and I want to cringe at the way just that name affects me. But... Mulder. They're going after Mulder? No. Nonononononono. Suddenly my brain finishes processing what I heard. SCULLY??! They have Scully? Shit.

Dr. Kessin still looks hesitant, but nods slowly, and suddenly he waves the orderlies out of the room. They hurry for the door, never eager to be around for long when Spender is present. Maybe they're smarter than they look. Probably thinking he'll eventually give them that appraising look and say something like 'this one looks strong'. Pulling off his latex gloves and following Spender to the door, Kessin finally starts talking again, and of course gives in. What's a broken toy compared to disobeying the man in charge? "Very well. I'll start on Subject 38's arm first thing tomorrow morning. I'll be interested to learn if anything can be done about that sort of drastic trauma, and what sort of regeneration, if any, will-"

The door slams shut, the locks fall into place, and silence reigns. Pain or no pain, I no longer want to be out of it again. I have to stay awake. Fuckfuckfuck. They have Scully. I've got to get out of here. They're going after Mulder. FUCK. With Scully as bait, he really will walk right to them. Stupid bastard. I've got to get out. I've got to get her out. I can't let them do this to her. Jesus, I hope they haven't started on her. He'll kill me if I don't get her out.

I know I'm close to panicking, and try to calm myself with slow breaths. Everything hurts, I can't even move, and they have Scully and are going after Mulder.

Who hates me.

Well, I mean why not. A little betrayal, a lot of plotting with his enemies to confound him and control him, add a dash of killing his father. And I know he blames me for Scully's abduction and for her sister too. Even though those two things can't exactly be laid at my feet. Not exactly. I stare up at the white ceiling remembering all the little, and not-so-little, ways I've screwed up Fox Mulder's life. Purposely and accidentally. So why, after all that, did I have to go and get hooked on the idiot.

I snort. Who's the idiot?

He'll never listen to me, never stay away from this hellhole. He'll come charging in to rescue his precious Scully, forget about his own safety. Shit. Which brings me right back around. I have to get out of here, and take her with me. I try to bolster myself with the knowledge that I'm an expert at getting in and out of places I don't belong. It'd be a hell of a lot easier alone though. And Jesus, the pain in my legs feels like it's shooting up to meet the throbbing in my head and the burning in the arm I don't have anymore will not let the fuck up. And I'm so fucking tired.


I flex one foot, then the ankle.

And realize that, between my passivity and their haste to get away from Spender, the orderlies didn't fasten my restraints.

Medical Research Facility
Somewhere in the wilds of Virginia
Scully's Cell
9:30 p.m.

An orderly with a swollen, black-and-blue nose came in to retrieve her dinner tray and the cheap plastic utensils useless as weapons.

"You didn't finish your dinner," he said. "You really oughta keep up your strength."

His partner, leaning against the doorframe, smiled. "Yeah, going to need your vitamins. They got plans for you."

Scully ignored the taunting voice, staring straight ahead.

The first man gazed down at her. "Too bad. She's a real babe."

His leering tone made Scully want to cross her arms over herself, but she resisted the impulse with a silent thank you that she still had her clothes. She knew about the hospital gowns stored in the tiny adjoining bathroom, but no one had taken away her clothes yet.

"Yeah, too fucking bad. Hey, Johnny, maybe she'd like some company later, after we tuck Krycek in for the night."

Johnny grimaced. "That asshole. He broke my fucking nose!"

"Yeah, well, guess he's got reason to be pissed off, you know?" Bert smirked.

"Yeah, but not at me! I'm just doing a job, I don't give the orders."

As the door closed, Johnny winked at Scully. "See you later, baby. Gonna have some fun tonight. Only fair you should have some fun before they start taking you apart tomorrow."

She leveled him her iciest stare. "I'll take my chances with the researchers," she snapped condescendingly, lip curled. Almost as soon as the words left her mouth, she knew she shouldn't be goading them. But Johnny seemed to delight in her response, laughing and elbowing his partner. He flicked off the light, leaving her in darkness.

"Hey, man, where is everybody?" Bert asked, dropping the tray on the utility cart they pushed along the deserted hallway.

"Got a call about a half-hour ago," Johnny replied, unlocking the door to the cell at the end of the hall. "There's some security breach in the north sector. Probably just a crossed wire but most of the guards are up there. You know how they been about security lately." He wrestled the door open and jerked his head back at the cart Bert wheeled. "You can feed him tonight. I'm sick of ending up with this shit spit all over my shirt."

Bert laughed. "And here I thought you were having such fun jamming that spork down his throat."

Johnny snorted. "Jam something else down that fucker's throat if I didn't think he'd bite it off," he muttered under his breath, flipping the lights and scanning the tiny room. He knew they kept this one strapped down now, but he wasn't about to be caught off guard by this guy again.

Bert laughed again, pushing the cart into the room and pulling out the last tray. After the trouble he'd given all the orderlies, leaving Krycek until after everyone else had finished eating was standard operating procedure now. Besides, it ensured the food was particularly gross and cold by the time they had to shovel it into him. He pried up the lid and glanced over his shoulder.

Krycek was on his back on the cot, asleep, covered with the thin blanket. Man, the guy looked like shit. He'd lost at least fifteen pounds since they'd brought him in, what, three weeks ago? He'd heard the screaming, too. Yeah, so the guy had a right to fight back, but as Johnny kept bitching, why couldn't he have broken that smoking bastard's nose? That would have been worth seeing.

"Come on, get him woken up. Let's get this done and get back to the babe down the hall. I'll bet she's lonely." Bert grinned as he stabbed the spork into the congealed mess on the tray.

"Yeah, okay," Johnny yanked the blanket off the bed, and turned to toss it in the bag hanging from the cart. And suddenly found himself hurtling into Bert, slamming into the wall as Bert fell forward over the cart and rolled to the side. "What the fu-"

The last thing he saw was Alex Krycek's snarling face, as Krycek's hand closed around his neck, then the world went gray. The last thing he heard was a loud snap. Then the world went black.

Bert yelled, and scrambled as far as the door before he was tripped and dragged back into the room. He didn't have time to yell again.

Scully paced the seven steps to the far side of her cell, rubbing her hands up and down her arms, shivering from cold and nerves. Not for the first time, she wished she'd worn pants instead of a skirt to work the day before. She considered wrapping herself in the blanket from the bed; it would be warmer, and it would make one more layer those bastards would have to get through if they did come back to "have some fun" with her. God, was there any chance Mulder was on his way to rescue her? Had anyone seen her being grabbed by her car and thrown into a van? Had Mulder managed one of his patented leaps of logic that seemed paranormal in and of themselves?

Was there any hope of getting out of here before they started doing to her whatever they'd done to Krycek?

She paced seven steps back across the room. If she could get to a phone... but she didn't know where she was. Could she keep a phone line open long enough for Mulder to trace the call? Could...

A succession of dull thuds and a muffled shout, quickly silenced, distracted her. She froze, but all remained quiet. She hoped it was Krycek giving someone hell. Long moments passed and silence held... then the sound of someone checking doors. She reached for the blanket, then spun as she heard the locks on her own door turning.

Moving to the corner farthest from the door, she got her back to the wall. The door opened slowly, revealing a dark figure, dimly back-lit. A hoarse voice croaked, "Come on, we're getting out of here."


"It's me, Krycek. Come on, there's a guard at the other end of the hall. We can't hang around here!"

Krycek! Scully hesitated for a moment, her first impulse to respond to him as she had to the orderlies. The sarcastic thought surfaced that at least with the Consortium researchers she knew where she stood. Whereas Krycek... talk about your unknown quantities. Why would he help her? She hadn't actually seen him being experimented on... she only had the Smoking Man's word that it had been him in that room. They'd supposedly broken his legs. How the hell could he be walking? Could he be in on this somehow? But then why would he be here at her cell... and she had to get out, and here was an open door. She could leave with him now, and look for an opportunity to take him out later.

"Scully, we need to leave, now." Krycek's raw voice broke into her racing thoughts, clearly transmitting his urgency, and in her head she heard those awful screams again. Decision clicked. She'd risk it. Shaking off her gut-level distaste and distrust, she hurried to his side. Biting back a protest, she let him take her arm and pull her down the darkened corridor and around a corner. Pausing to listen for pursuit, he leaned against the wall, panting heavily.

As she got her first good look at him, Scully was horrified. Even in the dim utility light of the hall, he looked like he'd been daytripping to hell. Too thin, pale, his eyes rimmed in red. He shivered almost continuously, despite the fine sheen of sweat on his face. His gait was wrong too... walking like an old man, stiff and unsteady. Her eyes skimmed over his gaunt form and arrowed in on the empty left sleeve. Catching her breath sharply, her stomach plummeted and her estimation of his trustworthiness in this particular situation rose. He wasn't faking that. What the hell had they done to him? He definitely wasn't in on this, and he most certainly wanted to get out of this place. "How...?"

Barely paying attention to her, he misunderstood her half-finished question. "Idiot orderlies. Look, I think we've got a chance here. I heard there's some disturbance up on the north side of the complex. I think I've been here. It was a while ago, but if we're where I think we are, if we head down to the basement, there should be a service door toward the southern end of the building that leads to a back road. We can get to the highway from there."

Scully nodded, pushing questions about his condition away for later. "Do you know where we are? Any chance we can use a phone here?"

"Maybe, I don't know if we can risk the time though. I-"

"Freeze! Don't even think about moving!"

Ignoring the order, Krycek whirled, blocking her with his body. In the next moment, Scully found herself knocked off her feet and she rolled into a recessed doorway as bullets hit the wall right where she'd been standing. She heard Krycek cry out and saw him fall in the middle of the hallway. She eased back into the shadow of the alcove as heavy footsteps pounded down the hall, hoping the guard may have missed seeing her behind Krycek's bulk. Waiting and watching for a chance to spring, her mind spun with the surreal knowledge that Alex Krycek had just taken a bullet for her. Definitely too much to contemplate under the circumstances.

The guard slowed and approached Krycek's still form cautiously, nudging him with his boot. When Krycek didn't move, he bent over to roll Krycek onto his back. An explosion of movement turned into a panting scuffle, and then the guard slammed backward forcefully, shot with his own gun. Krycek struggled to his feet, shaking his head and tucking the gun into the waistband of his pants. "Fucking amateurs. Who do they think they're dealing with here?"

"Are you-" Scully couldn't help a slight smile. "I was going to ask if you're okay. Stupid question."

Blood bloomed dark red on the left shoulder of his shirt - or rather, Johnny's shirt, she realized. Krycek must have stolen the orderly's clothes and shoes, and a good thing he had, since escaping wearing only a hospital gown didn't seem like such a smart idea. The clothes hung on him, emphasizing his ragged condition. He staggered over to Scully, clutching his shoulder with his right hand. "At least it wasn't the other side," he rasped.

She couldn't believe his cavalier attitude about the arm loss. A quick check showed a deep crease across the top of the shoulder joint, bleeding steadily. Scully ripped off the lower half of the hanging sleeve and bandaged the shoulder as best she could in a hurry, once again trying not to think too much. The empty space where an arm should be was sickly compelling, but she ignored it for the moment and stepped back. "Okay, where's this back door we're heading for?" she asked briskly. ::Get out,:: her mind insisted. ::Get out now, deal with Krycek later.::

He looked at her with an unreadable expression in his haunted eyes, and nodded once. "This way." He got the gun back in hand and started off down the hallway. His hobbling walk was painful to watch, but Scully doubted he'd take any help she offered, even if she could make herself offer it. They hadn't taken more than five steps when a door burst open ahead of them, voices carrying out into the hallway before figures appeared.

"-heard gunshots, dammit. Don't tell me I'm imagining things." A thin man in a white lab coat rounded the corner, followed by a short, dark haired woman in glasses. They both froze at the sight of Krycek and Scully.

One shot and the man fell. The woman started to take a step back, reaching for something at her waist, but Scully's clumsy kick caught her in the forearm and a gun went flying. Scully caught herself against the wall, suddenly reevaluating how much the drugs had worn off. She'd done that move a hundred times and never been that sloppy. Krycek turned and brought the butt of his gun down sharply on the back of the woman's head, stooping to pick up the second gun even as she fell. How the hell was he managing with his recently-broken legs and having had an arm cut off?

"Nice medical staff, all fully armed," Scully muttered, trying to project the same blas approach he did.

Glancing up to respond, Krycek's eyes suddenly went round. "Scully, the door! Before it locks!" He pointed with the gun to the automatic door that was slowly wheezing shut, and Scully reacted automatically, catching the metal handle. As she did so, she noticed what had caught Krycek's eye - the automatic locking mechanism above the handle that needed to be opened with a keycard and possibly a fingerprint, from the look of the little scanner at the top. "Any door in this place locked like that is gonna have something worth seeing behind it," Krycek managed through his heaving breaths.

Scully pulled the door the rest of the way open and peered in. "I thought we couldn't take time to stop," she hissed.

"I thought you wanted to find a phone," Krycek hissed back, brushing past her into the room. "Besides, I knew that guy. He was assisting our good Dr. Kessin."

The hair on the back of her neck rose at his tone, and Scully followed him into the room, reflecting that the good Dr. Kessin was unlikely to enjoy a long and healthy career. She saw a phone on the desk and reached for it, while Krycek went straight for the computer. As he sat down and started tapping on the keyboard, he glanced over at her. "If you're calling Mulder, tell him to get his ass somewhere safe and stay there until we can talk to him. He's in danger."

Scully paused with her hand on the receiver. "And I should believe you, why?" she asked coldly.

Krycek spun and glared at her. "Gee, I don't know, Scully. Maybe because you're in a fucking research facility, about to be injected with some... substance and experimented on! Get a clue here... they want people who have been exposed to the black oil and lived. Guess who qualifies? Aside from a few other human hamsters they've already killed off, that would be you, me, and one Mister Fox Fucking Mulder."

Scully stared at him for a long moment, then picked up the phone as he went back to the computer with a subdued snarl. As she got the receiver to her ear, she froze as a soft, courteous voice spoke directly to her. "Yes, please? What extension do you need?" She swallowed hard, and hung up the phone. Krycek glanced at her, brow furrowed. "Inside phone system," she said woodenly. "I didn't want to ask for an outside line... they've got to be monitoring."

"Shit!" Krycek turned back to the computer and started moving his fingers faster. "We've got to get out. Now."

Hearing the panicked undertone in his voice, Scully stared at the way his single hand danced over the keyboard. "Then what are you doing?"

"This is too good of an opportunity," he insisted hoarsely. "They were signed onto the system, working on the research, their passwords were in and everything."

"That information is going to be really helpful if we're dead, Krycek," she snapped.

Fumbling in the desk and yanking out a cartridge, Krycek slammed it into the computer and hit another few commands before looking at her. Scully almost took a step back at the rage in his face; his eyes weren't entirely sane as his lips peeled back off his teeth.

"I could already be dead, Agent Scully. I. Want. To. Know. What. They. Injected. Me. With."

With a short nod, Scully stepped forward and looked over his shoulder. "What have you got here?"

"I'm copying the whole damn mess. I can't tell what might be useful or not. I'm compressing what I can." She noticed his hand shaking as he gestured at the screen with the slowly moving blue bar telling them that copying was 26% complete. She thought he may have noticed the tremors as well, because the hand balled into a fist and dropped to rest white-knuckled on the desk.

"Alright, I'll watch the hall." Scully stepped to the door and peered around it, scanning the hall in both directions as the computer chugged behind her. She glanced at the bodies lying on the floor as she kept scanning for any movement. She had a moment's urge to take off and leave him to his files, just get the hell out, but it passed when she recalled his comments about knowing the facility. She wanted to get out, not spend all night wandering the facility and possibly running into more personnel. ::If I find out he's lying about knowing this place, I'll kick his ass,:: she muttered to herself. With a quick glance over her shoulder at the lopsided figure huddled in front of the computer, she reflected that it likely wouldn't be that hard at the moment.

I wonder as she moves across the room if she's going to take off on me. I would have considered it in her place. I could probably find her again if I had to, although I don't want to spend anymore time in this place than necessary. Already the self-preservation voices are chanting all through my head... "get out get out get out get out". Damn the data, and get the fuck out. Only the thought of those syringes, and my body's reactions to the shots, keeps me in the chair.

I spare a glance at the door, and Scully is still there. I can't quite stop a sigh of relief. Damn, I'm in bad shape. Losing control. But fuck, I've got to go to him, and if he knew she was here, and I didn't manage to get her out... I don't even want to think about it. She is definitely coming with me. He'll listen to her, and hell, she's a doctor. Maybe she can figure out what they've done to me. She's coming with me if I have to hold the gun to her head.

Which reminds me, I have both guns. Maybe that's why she isn't taking off. Well, that and my promise that I can get her out. I hope to hell I can. I do think I've been here before, but shit... seen one Consortium research lab, seen them all. I might be thinking somewhere else. I wasn't exactly in great shape when I got here, and it's all been downhill since.

As if on cue one hell of a shudder racks my body. I usually spend half the nights in here shaking and delirious from the effects of whatever they're pumping into me. The thought that I might be hitting that stage spurs me to want out even faster, and I watch raptly as the blue bar inches across the screen. Come on, 86%, keep going, finish, damn it, finish.

At the chime, I whip out the cartridge and shove in a new one. I keep going for as long as I dare, but when the panic gets overwhelming, I grab the cartridges, shove them into my pant's pocket, along with any loose disks I can immediately lay my hand on. I know there has to be other stuff in this office that I'll be kicking myself for missing, but I can't stand the skin-crawling sensation anymore. We have to get out, now. I leap up from the desk and can't quite contain a strangled yelp as my legs protest, loudly. Doubling over, tears starting in my eyes, I gasp and hang onto the file cabinet I've collapsed against.

"Come on," a sharp voice penetrates my shrieking brain. "Krycek, come on. Move. You can do it. The hall's still clear. Let's go."

Her steady, insistent voice and the strong little arm wrapped around my waist get me moving when every step sends a nightmare of agony reverberating through my body. I must have been functioning on sheer adrenaline since killing the orderlies. Sitting down for five minutes gave my body time to breathe, and time to start complaining.

I lean against Scully and we start out the door, stepping over the woman's body. "Scully," I manage. "The bodies." She glances up at me with a dark look, but realizes what I mean, because instantly we're both moving to shove the woman's body against the door to hold it open long enough to drag the man and the guard inside. If it keeps them off our trail for a little while longer, it'll be worth the extra five minutes. Pushing the woman the rest of the way in while I lean on the wall, she lets the door close and glances at the blood on the floor. I shake my head and she nods - we've done all we can. Hopefully without the bodies to catch someone's eye, the smears of blood will be overlooked longer in the darkened hallways.

She steps over and circles my waist again without asking. My stump presses down into her shoulder, just one more background pain. I make a whimpering noise without even realizing it, and she looks at me quickly. I don't know what gives it away, but almost instantly she shifts sides, slipping under my right arm and draping it around her shoulder. It's slightly more comfortable and when she says "Which way?" I'm able to jerk my chin right and we're off.

Neither of us says anything as we trek the hallways, following my jerky, and sometimes foggy, directions. If this isn't the place I remember, it's an awful lot like it, but sometimes one hall looks a lot like another. I take us down a second wrong turn and Scully hisses in impatience.

"If you're lying to me, Krycek," she starts, but I cut her off.

"It's been a while, Scully. And I'm not at my best, okay? Believe me, I want out of here as bad as you do."

"Then I hope you've got us heading in the right direction now because those bodies are going to eventually attract a little attention, even if our absence doesn't."

"I know," I pant.

She keeps grumbling under her breath but doesn't say any more as we follow the hall around a sharp left turn. I feel another shudder race through me, and force myself to hobble faster, trying to blot out the waves of pain that rise as my feet impact the floor with every step. "This is it," I rasp when the last door at the end of the hall comes into view. The green stenciled letters reading "Janitorial Staff Only" blur, then sharpen again. Then Scully pushes open the door and we're through it.

"Elevator," I gasp, and she catches my drift, turning from the stairwell and guiding me to the service elevator. Once inside I lean against the wall and close my eyes, pressing my forehead against the cool metal. I'm so hot. Dizzy. Sick to my stomach.

"-cek? KRYCEK! Come on!" The hand shaking my shoulder feels like a huge bird just landed on me and is trying to perch. I blink open my eyes and watch two Scullys lean toward me with identical looks of alarm. "Don 't fade out on me now, you bastard! We've got to get to the back door!"

"Not far," I slur. The elevator opens and she drags me out. "Left," I choke. As we limp past shelves of cleaning supplies I try to listen for sounds of anyone else in the immediate area. I know our steps are echoing, but I hope the janitors are all busy upstairs cleaning the offices and labs, given it's night-time and the staff must be mostly gone.

"Yes!" I hear the soft exclamation and turn my attention to what is right in front of me. A door. Finally.

"Get ready," I hiss. "There might be an alarm. If there is, it won't sound down here, and they'll probably think the system is screwing up since they've got problems tonight anyway. But we're going to have to move and move fast. Head directly for the trees."

"Got it," is her only response, but I feel her arm tighten around my waist and I'm suddenly damn glad I brought her out with me. Granted, I always stand a better chance on my own, and I wouldn't be standing here bleeding if I hadn't bought a bullet for her, but I have to admit the support is nice.

Through the door and out. Fresh air never felt so good. We move like some sort of demented three-legged race entry, but faster than I dared hope we're being swallowed up by the dark of the trees.

"We gotta try and stick by the road," I wheeze, gesturing with my chin to the rough, dirt service road. "But stay in the trees and out of sight." She mumbles something that sounds like 'well duh' but I choose to ignore it. I'm shaking again and I have enough to do just trying to put one foot in front of the other.

Washington DC
9:55 p.m.

Mulder wandered the parking lot one more time. He'd come here, talked with all the neighbors, then come back to the parking lot again when it got too late to knock on anymore doors.

He leaned against Scully's car and sighed. This was stupid. Standing here, in a parking lot, too dark to see, waiting for - what? The culprit to return to the scene? Inspiration to strike? A psychic vision to arise from the spot where she'd been snatched? The left-over cigarette butt no one else had spotted? To prove what he already knew anyway.

He walked a slow circle around the car. Despite a thorough dusting, no prints appeared but Scully's, and his own. The pavement turned up no shoe prints. It was as if she'd just disappeared into thin air.

And there hadn't been any bright white lights either. Although, considering they didn't know exactly when she'd been taken, they couldn't be sure. But still. None of the neighbors recalled anything strange. He wondered if they would admit it if they actually did.

Maybe the Gunmen were up. Maybe they could help.

Somewhere in the woods, in the wilds of Virginia 10:00 p.m.

Scully could feel Krycek's tremors getting worse, but she didn't bother to comment. The chill night air was making her shiver now and then, and she was dressed warmer than he was. As they got further from the facility with still no sign of pursuit, Scully finally slowed her pace.

"Do you need to rest a minute?" she offered, when the wheezing of the man beside her didn't slow at all. He didn't respond, but when they passed a fallen log a few minutes later, he sank down onto it, almost dragging her with him as his body weight collapsed.

Releasing him, she stepped back and shook out her arm. She watched as he rested his forehead in his hand, elbow propped on thigh. Within moments, he'd bent over forward, his arm wrapping around his shins and his face pressed to his knees.

::Get him talking,:: something in Scully urged. "Krycek." She sat down next to him and pretended she didn't notice the jerk as he seemed to come to himself, head lifting from his knees. "Out with it. Why did you help me? Why get me out of there?" She eased her feet out of her shoes as she spoke, and wiggled her toes.

He turned to her, and in the moonlit darkness, she could see his face, struggling to make sense of her question. Finally a bit of coherence returned, and he blinked. "Mulder," he rasped, as if that answered everything. He began to rock back and forth on the log.

"What about Mulder." Scully rubbed one foot, once again cursing the pantyhose that made her feet feel even colder. Watching him out of the corner of one eye, she wondered if he even realized he was moving.

"He's in danger." As if realizing this still didn't quite cut it, Krycek started elaborating. "He's in danger. I told you, they want him next. We have to warn him. He wouldn't listen to me." A dry, hacking sound followed, and Scully realized with alarm that it was a slightly hysterical laugh. "Me. Yeah right. Mulder listen to me. That's rich."

"Unfortunately for him, I'd say he's listened to you once too often," Scully snapped, casting a glance behind her, listening for any sound out of the ordinary.

"Yeah, well, everybody's a critic. What do you think he'd do if I went to him and said he was in danger from the Consortium, that they wanted to experiment on him? Listen to me? Sure. He'd go haring off after you as soon as Old Smokey dropped a hint where you were. Which is what the bastard was gonna do. Mulder'd walk right into their hands and you know it. But you - he'll believe you, and with you out of there, he's got no reason to walk into their hands. See? Perfect."

"Perfect," Scully intoned dryly. "Unless one wonders why this sudden concern for Mulder's well-being."

Krycek froze. The rocking stopped, his ravaged face went perfectly blank, and Scully had the distinct impression the mental wheels were turning furiously. After a moment he gave a lopsided shrug and a cold smile that would have worked better if his lips weren't so chapped and cracked. "Well, maybe it's in my interest to keep him alive. Besides, he won't shoot me on sight if you're with me, and quite frankly, Doctor Scully, I could use your help right about now. You're the only doctor I know that isn't one of Them, and that will even listen to what happened in there. You know about this shit. Maybe you can figure out-" his voice cracked, but Scully remained impassive, "what they did to me."

"So, you took a bullet to preserve me for your medical care."

Krycek snorted, but wouldn't meet her eyes this time. "Something like that. Look, I know there's something really fucked up going on with me. Whatever they were trying to do, it worked. At least at the moment. Who knows what happens next though. Who knows what the longer term affects of that stuff are gonna be." A heavy shudder almost had him falling off the log. "I may be destined to be a lab rat, but with you... I dunno. I guess I have slightly higher hopes about how you take care of your experiments."

Scully wondered if he knew how pathetic he looked, shaking and curled in on himself, his one arm wrapped awkwardly about his body, with that croaking voice, and wide, wild eyes. She wondered dispassionately if it was an act, but somewhere inside her, she knew it wasn't. ::They cut off his arm. Broke his legs. And God knows what else. Not to mention he's been shot.:: The doctor in her told her this man was in bad shape, and sitting on a log in the chill night air wasn't helping.

"So how about it, Dr. Scully," he tossed out, still not looking at her. "Fair trade? I got you out of there, saved your life twice. And I could have left you. Would've made more tactical sense for sure. Return the favor and help me get somewhere safe? Keep me out of their hands." This time the shudder looked to be mental as well as physical. "And you get a first hand look at their experiments, at whatever they've done to me. You get scientific proof. And I got more I can offer," he added quickly, with that same old Krycek look... the familiar, sly 'let's make a deal' expression. "More information. Besides whatever's inside me."

Scully couldn't help but feel a thrill of power, despite his careless tone. "I don't know, Krycek. Looks like for once, I just might have the advantage here. I'm out. Why shouldn't I just get the hell out of here? Why help you at all. You don't look like you've got too much longer anyway." His entire body winced away from her, and Scully felt a stronger flash of sympathy. ::See, this is what happens when some traitorous, murdering bastard gets his arm cut off and his legs broken, and then saves your life. You start feeling sorry for him.:: She hardened her mind and kept her face blank, waiting to see what he would say to her dig.

"Well then," his voice when it came was as cool as he could make it, considering the state of his throat. "I guess you'd better get as much use out of me in as quick a time as possible, hunh?" His head swiveled and he met her eyes, lips firming and chin lifting.

Scully met the look unwavering, and finally sighed. "As it happens, Krycek, I'm actually rather interested in finding out what you have to say once we're out of this situation. I have more reasons than just medical curiosity to keep a close eye on you." She slipped her shoes back on and stood briskly. "Come on, let's move." After watching two aborted attempts, she couldn't stand it anymore and bent and helped him to his feet. ::Don't, Dana. Don't fall into the sympathy routine. He made his choices and ended up where he did.:: She ground her teeth as another voice chimed, ::He saved your life. He didn't have to stop for you. He took that bullet. He didn't even hesitate.::

Settling into their awkward gait once again, Scully counted the trees as they passed. Staring straight ahead, she cleared her throat. "Thank you, by the way."

There was a long pause, and she wondered for a moment if he'd even heard her. Then finally, a soft, hoarse reply reached her ear.

"You're welcome."

Washington DC
10 p.m.

Skinner eased his car up to the curb and turned to stare at the apartment building. He felt stupid, but he was here anyway. He got out of the car and made his way to the parking lot.

He'd gone home after work, even managed to eat dinner. And yet here he was, back out in the middle of the night, looking for - what? What the hell did he hope to find at a crime scene over 24 hours old, that had been gone over by police and FBI agents and-

And yet another FBI agent. Skinner heaved an irritated sigh at the familiar figure ducking into a familiar car. Striding across the lot, he rapped sharply on the window, and had the perverse pleasure of watching Fox Mulder jump like a startled rabbit. He gestured the window down, and glared while he waited.


"Agent Mulder, what the hell are you doing here? Didn't I tell you-"

"Sir, do you really expect me to sit on my hands?"

Skinner stared off over the roof of the car for a moment. "Unlock the other door, Agent Mulder." Walking around the car, he yanked open the passenger door and slid inside. "Does anything I say to you make any impression at all?"

Mulder finished rolling his window back up and rested his hands on the steering wheel before responding. "And what are you doing here, sir?"

Skinner snorted. "We are not in the same position, you and I. Has it occurred to you that if Scully has been taken, someone may be targeting you as well?"

Mulder blinked. It hadn't occurred to him actually. "I don't think-"

"No, Mulder, you don't," Skinner muttered. "Look, I didn't take you off this case just for the fun of it. You're too close. And here you are proving me right. You've been up since the middle of last night, and here you are, roaming around a parking lot-"

"So are you," Mulder couldn't resist pointing out.

"If I may finish. Here you are, roaming around a parking lot, possibly putting yourself in danger, and getting what done?"

"We know who did this. How the hell are we supposed to find her when it's Them?"

"You don't know who did-"

"I do, and you do, too."

Skinner took a deep breath but didn't continue arguing. The unfortunate fact remained, Mulder was right, as usual. He did believe the smoking bastard had something to do with this. It was an uneasy sensation that crept over his shoulders, coiled in his stomach. As so often happened in this web of conspiracy and lies, he felt like he'd run up against a brick wall that was too high to climb and too wide to go around. "Go home, Agent Mulder," he said dully, reaching for the door handle.

"Sir?" Mulder paused. "What are you doing here?"

Skinner continued to stare at the door handle. "Regretting, mostly." With a jerk he pushed open the door and got out, shutting it firmly behind him. Heading back to his own car, he stuffed his hands in his pockets. ::You're not the only one who cares, Mulder. You're not the only one who gives a damn.:: He got back into his own car and twisted the key sharply. ::You may be the only one she cares about, but you're not the only one who cares.::

He turned and stared out the window as Mulder's car pulled out. He groaned and leaned his head against the steering wheel as he watched Mulder turn in the opposite direction from his apartment. "Fine. Get taken too. See if I care." Skinner forced himself to ease his car away from the curb as gently as he'd pulled in, when he'd never wanted to burn rubber so much in his life. Frustration ate at him incessantly, growing behind his breastbone, gnawing through his veins like the little nano-machines that floated throughout his system.

So many aspects of his life, so far out of control. When had the point come when he should have stopped it? When had he crossed lines in his own mind, and then had to recross them to stand on the right side again? And here he was regretting not having told her how he felt, when how could he? How could he, after all he had done, or more pointedly, not done. He knew he didn't deserve the respect he saw in those intelligent blue eyes. He'd tried to tell her that, when she was proving her loyalty to him yet again. Then, as usual, she hadn't listened. If she only knew.

He drove home without even seeing traffic. He was surprised to find himself back at his own place, remembering nothing of the drive. Back in his living room again, he determinedly turned on the television, and poured himself a drink.

And tried to watch the screen, instead of the images his mind's eye created - of a deserted parking lot, on a cold January evening, where a woman got out of her car and came face to face with whatever his overactive imagination was conjuring this time.

Somewhere in the woods, in the wilds of Virginia 11:00 p.m.

When Krycek started stumbling Scully asked him if he needed to rest again. She knew they weren't making the best time, but he sounded worse with each step. He brushed her off, mumbling something she could hardly follow, but picking up speed and trying to straighten up.

When he stumbled three more times, finally almost pulling her over with him and causing her to twist her ankle just to stay on her feet, she insisted. And so he sat, back against a tree, while Scully examined him as best she could in the poor light. Tilting his head and lifting his eyelid with her thumb, she hissed out a concerned sound. "Krycek? Krycek, are you with me?" He wasn't focusing, and he started mumbling again, shaking badly. "Krycek!" When she could get no coherent response, Scully tapped his cheek lightly. "Alex. Come on Alex, listen to me. You've got to keep it together. We've got to be coming up on the road soon. ALEX!"

Huddled against the tree, his head rolled back the second she released his chin. She cursed and shoved her hands back through her tangled hair. ::We shouldn't have stopped. I should have kept him walking while I had him walking.:: Bending down again she tilted his face and slapped his cheek. "ALEX. Dammit, come on. Work with me here."

At the slap his arm came up, his head ducking behind it. He responded in that rusty croak, words garbled beyond recognition not only by his slurring, but also by their unmistakable foreignness.

"What?" Scully slapped him again, on the other cheek. "Alex!"

The huge eyes blinked and suddenly he focused on her, and slid back to English. "Scully?" he rasped, and then, as if comprehending everything in a flash, he moaned. "Oh shit. I was afraid of this."

"What? Alex, talk to me. Keep talking. What is it?" Scully kept her voice as calm as possible, but spoke slightly louder than necessary.

Panting hard, Krycek's head rolled against the tree. "Whatever they gave me. It works in cycles. I get these weird reactions to it, usually during the night. I get the shakes, I feel like I go out of it, you know?"

"Delirious," Scully muttered.

"Something like that," he managed.

"Then we need to move a little faster. Come on, we've got to be getting close to the road. You did say we were near a highway, right?"

"Near as I recall. They like easy access to some extent. Gotta get frm there aftall." His voice started slurring again and Scully shook him.

"Alex! Don't fade out on me here. We've got to get moving. Get somewhere warmer."

After a disjointed mumble she caught, "'Kay, go ahead. Just wanna rest a minute. Legs. Hurt. Go - make sure... find Mulder. Mulder. Make sure."

Scully shook him harder and slapped his cheek again. "Oh no, you don't! You're staying with me if I have to carry you." She stared down at him as he started laughing.

"Carry-," he blinked up at her and giggled weakly. "You. Carry me."

She snorted and took hold of his shirt, dragging him to his feet against the tree. "Hey, I've done it to Mulder." She sighed as he continued to snicker. "I know, I know. Empty threats. Come on." She removed the guard's gun from his waistband and stuck it in the waist of her skirt, then tucked the woman's gun in her blazer pocket. She took it as a sign of how out of it he was that he didn't even protest. She wrapped his arm firmly around her shoulders and felt a wave of relief as his legs followed her urgings and he began to walk. His weight pulled at her shoulder, her shoes hurt her feet, and she could have used that rest herself, but she had no intention of leaving him in the woods. He'd slipped away one too many times. They had him now, and they were keeping him, come hell or high water.

"Scully," his voice sounded like it hurt to talk, and she winced.

"Yes, Alex?"

"Thas nice."


"Alllll-x. Nice."

"Alex is nice?" ::Just keep him talking.::

He made a sound somewhere between a snort and a laugh. "Nooo. Nonono. Alex isn't nice. 'M not nice 't'all. No. You using Alex. Nice."

Finally realization dawned, just in time to make her almost trip over a root. "Me calling you Alex is nice?"


"You like that, hunh? Okay, fine, Alex. Whatever keeps you moving."

"'Kay, Dana."

"Hey. Who said you could call me Dana?" she snapped.

"'S only fair."

She huffed out a breath. "So what were you going to say to me?"


"Oh for... you started to say something. Then you got distracted by your name." ::I cannot believe I'm having this conversation.::

"I did? Oh. Um. What- oh! I know. Gonna tell you to warn Mulder."

Scully shot a look up at the staggering man beside her. What the hell was this anyway? Since when was Krycek so concerned with Mulder's continued safety. "You told me that already. We're going to warn Mulder. We're going to find a phone."

"Okay. But warn Mulder."

"I will, Alex. We will."

"No, you. Gotta be you. Hit me."

"What?" She wondered if he wanted her to slap him again to help him stay coherent.

"He'll jus' hit me. But you. Believe you. Warn him."

"We will. I will."

"Don't want them doin' that to him."

"What, Alex?" Her sore ankle twinged. Her shoes were really not made for this. But then, she'd had no idea when she put them on that she'd get kidnapped and end up escaping through the woods with a six-foot tall, traitorous, murdering bastard leaning on her shoulder. She gripped his hand tighter with her frozen fingers and tried to shift his weight somewhat.

"What did to me. Hurt. Reeeeally bad."

At least the arm around his waist was warm. The heat rolling off his body was warming that hand, no problem. "They hurt you?" she asked, more to keep him talking than anything else. Obviously they'd hurt him. She winced at her own question. The lack of an arm on the other side of his body suddenly seemed omnipresent.


"It's okay, Alex. You're out of there, and we'll be safe soon."

"And warn Mulder."

She bit back the retort that leapt to her tongue. "Yes, Alex. We'll warn Mulder."

"He's next. Heard them. Said he's next."

"No, we'll get to him first."

"'Kay." He stumbled but managed to right himself. "Dana?"

She gritted her teeth and resisted the urge to drop him on the ground, then instantly felt bad at the thought. "Yes?"

"If... die... tell him, save you."


"If... I die," he labored, "Tell Mulder... save you."

"Tell Mulder you saved me?"

"Yeah. Please?"

The childlike quality to his voice added to the surreality of the entire exchange. The dark trees, the cold, the moon lancing down between branches. A one-armed Alex Krycek leaning on her shoulder, half-delirious and babbling about Mulder. Something twisted in her chest, and she blinked hard. What kind of game was he playing? Was he actually out of it, or was he trying to pull something? And if so, what? ::Humor him. Get inside somewhere. Just keep him going.:: "Yes, Alex. I will. I promise."

"Good. Know you. You... keep promises."

"Yeah," she mumbled. "I keep my promises."

Virginia Highway 59
11:20 p.m.

I blink and shake my head and realize I'm sitting on cold pavement, leaning against a chilled brick wall. What worries me is the last thing I remember is walking through the woods with Scully. Jesus, I hate missing time. What the-

Suddenly I hear a soft "Damn", and lift my head to focus on the sound. Scully is standing under the bright circle of light over a pay phone, slamming the phone down. "Home number, home number," she mumbles as she starts punching buttons again. Watching the number of buttons she presses, I blearily conclude she is doing a calling card number from memory. Go Scully.

I watch as she waits. Finally she speaks. "Mulder, are you there? If you're there pick up. It's me. Come on, pick up. Damn. okay, look. I'm-" She breaks off, and I can see her suddenly realizing that talking to Mulder 's machine is a great way to get recorded by more than one tape. "I'll call back," she blurts, and hangs up.

"Hey," I say. Or try to. I make some noise, anyway, because she looks at me.

"Well, there's something," she sighs, and if I didn't know better I'd say with relief. "Back with me, are you?"

"Where'd I go?" I groan.

"You've been pretty out of it for the last half-hour. Kept walking, though amazingly enough," she crouches down next to me and peers into my eyes as she speaks softly. "But you sure weren't very coherent."

I stare back at her pale face in the fluorescent light. "You try his cell?"

"Couldn't get it. He's either out of range or something's interfering."

I shift and try to sit up straighter. "Scully," I start, and then stop at her snort.

"No more Dana?" she cracks.

I blink. "Hunh?" I say intelligently.

She laughs, and I wonder for a moment if she's getting hysterical on me. "Nothing," she manages, leaning against the wall next to me and letting her legs fold under her. "Nothing."

Dana. It tugs something loose inside my head and confused flashes of our walk through the woods float through my mind. "What... uh, exactly how incoherent have I been?"

"Mostly understandable, but not making much sense," she answers with a smirk, and I realize she's enjoying the moment. Sadistic bitch.

"What, exactly, did I say?"

"Lots of stuff. Listen, are you back with me for good, or are you going to be slipping off again? I'd like to know. You could have warned me the first time. You said when you started going off that you knew this happened."

"I don't know. It's night when it happens, and I don't... I'm not sure. It seems like I have more episodes of it when the dose goes higher. They increased my injection again today."

"Okay," she sighs. "That answers that. We've got to get moving. We have to find a place to get inside out of this cold, where I can call Mulder, and he can come get us."

We both push away from the wall. She makes it. I don't. Without even blinking she bends and gently wraps her arm around me, helping me to my feet with an economy of movement that tells me she's done it a couple times already. We start off down the highway and I wince as my legs protest. The borrowed shoes don't fit right and now my feet hurt like a sonuvabitch too. I consider the office shoes and clothes she has on, and don't complain out loud.

"Dana, eh?" I rasp.

"Don't push your luck, Alex."

Motel 6
Virginia Highway 59
11:55 p.m.

Scully closed the door behind Krycek and watched him stagger to the bed. She'd managed to close her jacket over the bloodstains on her shirt, and had him wait outside, propped against a wall. She couldn't do anything about the torn state of her nylons, but the motel night manager didn't blink and gave her a first floor room at her request. She had paid cash out of Johnny's wallet, not wanting to risk the credit cards, and gone out the side door to get Krycek into the motel.

She kicked off her shoes, crossed the room and hiked the thermostat, then came back to the shivering form on the bed. So far he'd stayed reasonably coherent but she knew he'd been pushed well past any limits he had. Dropping down on the bed next to him, she checked his pulse, her mouth tightening at the way it raced. Pulling the blanket up over him, she turned to the phone and started punching numbers again. Reaching Mulder's machine again, she hung up with a bang and Krycek jerked, eyes flying open in panic.

"Sorry," she muttered. "It's still the machine. I'll try the cell again." As she redialed, she watched Krycek's face, the way his eyelids fluttered, the sheen of sweat on his brow. As the phone started to ring instead of the cellular voice, she crossed her fingers.


"Mulder! It's me!"

"SCULLY?! Where are you, are you okay, what-"

"Mulder, Mulder wait, let me talk. You're in danger."

"What? Scully, where-"

"Listen to me, Mulder. You're in danger and you have to be careful. The men that took me are after you too. You have to get somewhere safe and stay there."

"No, I need to come get you. Where are you?! Are you okay?"

"Yes, yes, I'm fine. I'm not hurt. But you need to get somewhere safe. Are you listening to me? They're coming after you and believe me, you do not want them to find you." Her eyes skated back to Krycek reflexively, trying not to look at the empty sleeve. He stared up at her, anxiety clear on his face.

"But what about you?"

"Go to Skinner. Send him for me."

"NO! Not Skinner," Krycek rose off the bed in an aborted lunge. Scully jumped back a step and waved him off.

"What was that? Scully? Who's there with you?"

"Mulder, I'm fine, just listen. Get Skinner and send him to the Motel 6 on Highway 59, exit 7. Room 132."

"Not Skinner!" Krycek insisted from the bed.

"Scully, are you sure you're all right? Is someone there?"

"No, yes. Mulder, look. I can't explain now because you really need to get on the phone to Skinner and get him out here. And do not come with him, do you hear me?" Scully did her best to make it a flat-out order, hoping for once he'd pay attention. Somewhere in her mind, Krycek's continuous litany of 'get to Mulder' had begun to ring her paranoia bells loud and clear. If she was still being used as bait, by Krycek this time instead of Spender, she'd be damned if she'd play along. She realized dimly that her thought processes could easily indicate that she'd been working with Mulder way too long, but she'd learned the hard way a little paranoia could be healthy. "I mean it, Mulder. They want you to come after me, that makes it easier for them. Get somewhere safe and send Skinner after us. They could be after us even now and we don't know how much of a head start we have."

"Us? We? Scully?"

Scully slapped her hand to her forehead. She'd hoped to avoid this conversation until she was actually in front of Mulder and could explain what had happened. So much for bright ideas. "I have Alex Krycek, Mulder. I'm bringing him in."


"MULDER! Not NOW! The Consortium is probably looking for me even as we speak, and if they know I'm gone, they'll be looking for you, too! I. Am. Fine. Hang up the phone, call Skinner, and get him out here. Motel 6, Highway 59, exit 7, room 132."

"But Scully, Krycek-"

"I can handle Krycek, Mulder." ::I'm not you,:: she added mentally.

"Be careful, Scully, he's-"

"I know. I know all about Alex Krycek. I'm hanging up now, Mulder. Call Skinner." She disconnected and met Alex's weak smile.

"Pleased to hear my name as usual, I take it?" he rasped.

"Oh yes," she muttered, walking closer to the bed again and laying her hand against his cheek. "You look like shit, Alex." He blinked at her, and she realized belatedly she'd slipped into using his name again, as she had on their stumbling walk to keep him talking.

"You're not in the best shape yourself, Dana," he quipped.

She gave him a stony look and sighed. "I've got you beat by a long shot. So what've you got against Skinner?"

Krycek's eyes slid away from hers, and he shifted his face away. "Aside from the fact that he'd like to kill me on sight?"

"So would Mulder."

"Yeah, but you know, Mulder never seems to quite get around to it," Krycek muttered sarcastically. "He prefers slapping me around a little first."

"What?" Scully stopped short and swung back to look at Krycek.

His face went blank again and his mouth tightened. "Nothing," he muttered. "Look, Skinner may not be the safest person right now, okay? Just take my word for it."

Scully met his eyes and stared him down. "Why?"

"Spender has a little something extra on him these days."

"You don't say. Something you helped him get?" The hostility in her voice rang clear.

"Not purposely," he snapped. "Look, we just can't stay here. We can't just wait here for Skinner and besides, you know this is going to be the first place they look."

Scully took a slow breath. "Yes, but what else can we do. You can't keep walking all night, and Skinner's already on his way-"

"Wonderful thought," Krycek snorted. "We should steal a car, get out of here. Meet Mulder somewhere."

"You're in no condition to drive a car, let alone steal one."

"Actually, stealing one can be easier than driving one."

"Why am I not surprised you said that."

"We're sitting ducks here. We need to keep moving."

"You keep moving and you're going to fall over."

"I know," he groaned. "But dammit, this is bad. Eventually they'll realize we're gone. They may already know. We've been damn lucky so far."

"So maybe our luck will hold," Scully muttered, walking to the window to peer out. "Get some rest. I'll keep watch."

Motel 6
Virginia Highway 59
January 26, 12:35 a.m.

I didn't think I'd actually sleep, especially not with the omnipresent thought that Mulder was sending Skinner out after us. I had the palm pilot on me when I was taken, so Spender had it now. The only consolation was I knew Spender was at the facility today, not in DC. Leaning back against the pillows I figured I'd just rest my eyes for a minute, then convince Scully we had to get the hell out of Dodge. Unsurprisingly my body had other ideas. I snap awake to the sound of Scully cursing. I have no idea how long has passed. She glances over at me as I sit up, instantly wide awake.

"Luck just ran out." She crosses the room quickly.

"What's going-"

"Black sedan just pulled up. They don't look like late night travelers."

"Shit!" I roll out of bed and let out a shriek as my legs touch the floor. I bite down on my lip and whimper as she races to my side.

"Alex! Alex, come on."

Her hand rubbing circles on my back feels wonderful. I can't remember the last time somebody did something like that for me when I felt awful. I don't know why she's still calling me Alex, but I'm not about to complain.

"I'm okay," I gasp. "But we're on to Plan B."

"Plan B?"

I reach over and wrench the gun out of her waistband. "Steal a car, get the fuck out of here."

"You can barely walk and you're going to steal a-"

"Dana," I say sweetly, just to watch her growl at me, "I'd have to be dead to not be able to steal a car. Let's go."

"Krycek, this is insane. We have to-"

"We have to go, now." I lift the gun, ignoring the way my hand shakes. "I am not going back there. Understand?" I hear my voice break, but I ignore that too, and gesture with the gun. "And you are coming with me, cause you're not going back there either. Now move."

Granted, she could've knocked the gun away from me with one good push. Hell, she could've knocked me on my ass about now with one good push. She always was a tough one, and I was scraping the bottom of my barrel two hours ago. Whatever I have left isn't going to get me far. But for whatever reason, she doesn't take back the gun or knock me on my ass. She stands up, with a look on her face that could almost be compassion, in another life, directed at another person.

"They pulled up to the front entrance. Let's head for the side door again," she says simply.

Hobbling and leaning, I still make pretty damn good time for an invalid. We're out the side door and heading for the cars at the far side of the lot. Selecting a likely looking car I'm inside it in minutes, and have it running shortly thereafter, while she crouches by the door, helping me when I ask, and watching the sedan for returning MIB. "Go ahead and drive," I gasp, pulling myself over into the passenger seat. "I don't wanna trust my legs."

She climbs in while I roll down my window, and get the gun I lifted off her in hand. Backing out, she heads out of the lot while I keep the gun trained on the black car. Once we're out of the lot, she hits the gas and I sink back, rolling up the window again and reaching to crank the heat.

"Beats walking," I breathe happily as she speeds up.

"We've got to call Skinner, keep him away from that motel," she mutters.

"No, what we need to do is go somewhere they won't expect us to go," I counter, pleased that whatever else happens, at least we aren't sitting ducks for Skinner. "Which means nowhere near DC. And also means getting off this highway. We need someplace to disappear until we can meet up with Mulder."

"We need a safe house," she muses. "You're right though. Until we can get that arranged, we have to disappear. If they're already looking for us-" She exhales sharply and slams her hand on the steering wheel. "I cannot believe this. I'm on the run with Alex Krycek."

"Hang in there, Dana, the fun's just starting."

Virginia Highway 59
1:00 a.m.


"Sir, it's Scully."

"Agent Scully?" Skinner clutched his cell phone harder and made a concentrated effort to keep his mind on his driving while his heart tried to climb up out of his chest.

"Where are you, sir?"

"Where am I? On Highway 59, heading for the Motel 6, like Mulder told me. Is everything all right?"

"Well, yes and no. Look, I'm really sorry but we're not there anymore."


"They came after us, we had to leave. We need a safe place, sir, and we need it fast. We're going to have to keep driving, stay a moving target. I'll contact you again. But right now, they could be monitoring these calls. I don't want to say anymore while you're on a cell. Are you following me? A safe place. You can get us a safe place, can't you?"

Skinner braked and pulled to the side of the road, his mind racing. She was asking for a safe house, that was obvious but- "Agent Scully, why don't we just meet now. You can come with me."

"No, sir. I'm nowhere near you anymore and we can't make arrangements to meet until we're on a secure line." She sounded at the end of her rope, Skinner reflected; exhausted, frustrated, her voice cracking and strident. "What we have, they want. Badly. They're not going to just stop. I'll be in touch, all right?"

"Scully," Skinner began, then choked to a stop, unsure what he wanted to say. He could picture her, desperate and in trouble. If she was running this hard and fast, she would start making mistakes. He didn't want her to make mistakes with Alex Krycek in custody.

"What is it, sir?"

He cleared his throat. "Are you sure you're all right?"

"I'm fine. Honestly. Not a scratch on me."

"See that it stays that way. Agent Mulder told me about that package you're carrying. Make sure it doesn't blow up in your face." He knew if Scully and Krycek were already being pursued, it probably made no difference if he mentioned Krycek by name. But Scully hadn't, and he figured better safe than sorry. He heard a soft chuckle.

"I understand, sir. The package has been damaged, but it's still in my possession, and I'll be careful. Hey-"

Skinner's heart jumped again at her startled exclamation, then he stiffened as another voice spoke harshly into his ear. "Skinner, this is an old friend. Listen carefully. You know that annoying little health problem you've been having? Well, I've got bad news and good news. The bad news is, you need to stay away from cigarette smoke. Far away. Get my message? It could seriously aggravate your condition. The good news is, if cigarette smoke has already been bothering you, I have something that will take care of your illness once and for all. I'll tell you all about it. When we see each other, as long as you don't smoke around me."

Skinner wondered that his cell phone didn't crack in his grip. "And why are you sharing this with me, old friend?" he ground out.

"Call it a gesture of good faith, okay?" came the raspy but sarcastic reply. "I want to be sure you're gonna be eager to see me, and not for all the wrong reasons. I want to make sure no one else who's eager to see me decides to pressure you for the exact address. Remember what I said, Skinner. Second-hand smoke could kill you right now."

Suddenly Scully was back, lingering irritation clear in her voice. "Sir? We have to get off this line, so I'm not even going near that for now. About Mulder. Did he get somewhere safe?"

Skinner glanced over at the six-feet of agitated agent in his passenger seat. "Well, safe enough. He's here with me-"


Skinner winced away from the phone at her outburst. "Scully-"

"Get him out of there, now. Does that man listen to anyone? Does he always have to play right into their hands?! You have to make sure to keep an eye on him. Don't let him go anywhere alone. He's next, do you understand? Don't let him disappear on his own!"

"I won't. I'll make sure-"

"Use handcuffs if you have to! I have to go. I'll call you tomorrow on your private office line at noon. Get the line checked and cleared by then. And get Mulder out of sight!"

The line disconnected, and he turned to stare at Mulder, practically bouncing in the other seat. "What?" Mulder fairly shouted at Skinner's expression. "Why are we stopping?"

Skinner swung back onto the highway in the opposite direction, cursing under his breath. "They aren't there anymore, Mulder. Someone came after them. Someone wants Krycek back, apparently, and wants him bad. They're on the road and they'll call back tomorrow when they can get us on a secure line."

"Tomorrow? Is she crazy? She's got Krycek and she's out driving around?"

"That appears to be the case, yes. She said that he was damaged. I don't know if that makes him less dangerous, or more dangerous. Mulder, is there any piece of information you didn't happen to pass on to me?"


"She was fairly upset that you were with me. She said you were "next", that you were doing just what they wanted you to do. She said I shouldn't let you out of my sight. Dammit Mulder, what aren't you telling me?"

Mulder slammed himself back into the seat. "She wanted me to go somewhere safe. What the hell am I supposed to do? She's at some motel with Alex Krycek and I'm supposed to just go curl up somewhere?"

"She wanted you to send me and stay in DC, I take it."

"She may have suggested something like that, yeah."

Skinner shook his head and stared out the windshield, jaw tightening. He scanned the road and the review mirrors repeatedly. "I hope the hell they weren't monitoring that call," he muttered. "Otherwise they know right where you are now."

Mulder sighed and rubbed at his eyes. Scully. And Krycek. On the run. A damaged Krycek, whatever that meant. And now they had to wait to hear from her tomorrow. "Then we probably ought to get off this highway, sir." He paused and bit his lip. "Did she sound okay to you?"

"Actually, yes. Aside from sounding tired, and pissed off at you, she sounded like she was doing fine."

"No gun to her head, then?"

Skinner grimaced. He'd had the same thought. How in God's name had she ended up with Krycek? Had he been the one who abducted her in the first place? If so, he'd kill the bastard, slowly, and damn the nano-consequences. He shook his head firmly. "She's an excellent agent. She can take care of herself." As he said the words, Skinner felt a small burst of calmness expand in his chest. It was true. He didn't worry half so much about Scully's ability to take care of herself as he did about Mulder stirring up some hornet's nest. Most of the time he worried about what mess Mulder was going to drag Scully into next. She always followed him so loyally, so willingly. In his mind he heard again the concern in her voice as she asked him about Mulder. ::Not the time for this, Walt. Get a grip.:: He took a deep breath and increased his speed. "All right, we know she's okay, and we know she'll be in touch. Now we go home and wait. And make a few arrangements."

And avoid cigarette smoke.

Golden Eagle Lodge
January 26, 7:20 a.m.

Despite her exhaustion, Scully dozed fitfully, jerking awake every time Krycek rolled over. Which was often. Sitting up in bed yet again, Scully rubbed at her eyes and looked over at the other bed. He wasn't comfortable, that was for sure - labored breathing, head tossing on the pillows, making soft whimpering noises every few minutes.

Scully stacked her pillows against the headboard and leaned back against them, staring at the motel-art on the far wall and resisting the urge to climb out of bed and check on him again. In the half-hour since she'd lain down, she'd already gotten up twice. This was stupid. She didn't even like the man. Sometimes she regretted her doctor's training that made her react so predictably to people in need.

::That's not doctor training. That's human being training, and you learned it at your mother's knee.:: She gave the placid landscape scene a twisted smile as her mental voice took on the distinct flavor of Maggie Scully. She knew it for fact, but she didn't have to like feeling sorry for Alex Krycek.

Interesting that he hadn't asked her to feel sorry for him, wasn't playing the sympathy card. In fact, she strongly suspected he was trying to hide how truly vulnerable he was. The predator who weakens becomes prey.

He'd managed to stay lucid for another hour after they'd talked to Skinner, but then he'd started slipping again. As Scully drove through the night on whatever road took her fancy, she'd listened to a rough undercurrent of mumbled Russian, panicked calls for help, and more mentions of Mulder's name than she was entirely comfortable with. What was Krycek's fixation on Mulder, anyway? By now she was certain he was truly delirious rather than faking it to get her to lower her guard. His temperature spiked when he started to lose it, and she rather doubted even Krycek would mumble and mutter complete nonsense for an hour and a half just to keep up a front. Especially with the current condition of his throat. She kept an ear tuned in case he said anything useful, but half the time he wasn't even understandable.

Finally, he had seemed to go from delirium into an actual sleep, and Scully turned on the radio to keep herself awake. He'd woken with a panicked yelp just after they'd crossed the Pennsylvania state line, and she'd spent a few moments assuring him they weren't being followed and that he'd been dreaming getting run off the road. He sank back in the seat panting, then seemed to snap everything back down under a semblance of control, and started planning with her about how they should handle their situation.

She had to admit, he had some useful input. Considering neither of them had their own wallets and gas was already eating away at Johnny's money, they were going to need to use Johnny's credit cards. Krycek had it all worked out, obviously from experience. "Don't go to a chain motel. Pick a mom&pop kind of place, give them the card and let them make the security imprint. Book for two days but cut out after the first night. On the second day when they realize you've skipped they go ahead and charge your card. But by then you're four states away. Anyone tracking the card only knows where you've been, not where you are now." Scully got a perverse enjoyment out of Johnny paying for their little road trip, until she remembered he was dead and wouldn't get stuck with the bill.

After discarding her ruined Sheer Energy, and luxuriating in a hot shower, she'd wanted to examine Krycek but he pushed her off firmly, telling her the bullet wound was just a graze and he'd rather get some sleep. She'd been exhausted enough to agree, her eyes almost closing where she stood, but now she wasn't getting any sleep and her concern for his condition wouldn't let her relax. She should check that bullet wound, and the legs. She sighed. And that arm. Good God, that arm. What was left of it.

Listening to his increasingly labored breathing and his body thrashing, she shook her head and got up. Walking over to his bed, she touched the back of her hand to his forehead, then his cheek. His temperature was rising again. She folded back the blanket he'd been huddling under, then almost screamed as he suddenly jerked upright with a growl of rage, grabbing her arm in a vice grip and yanking her down across his legs.

"ALEX! Let me up! You're dreaming again! ALEX!" She tried to keep her weight off of his legs, but heard his muffled yelp anyway.

"Scully?" His voice rough with sleep and pain, he released her arm as if it had burned his fingers. Pushing herself up off the bed, she got to her feet again slowly. "Sorry. I was-"

"Dreaming," she snapped. "Yes, I got that impression." Rubbing at her arm where he'd gripped it, she glared down at him. The wide-eyed, confused look he gave her made her sigh. How anyone that deadly could do such a good "little boy lost" impression was beyond her. "What was it this time?" In the car when he'd woken from a nightmare she'd managed to get him talking about it while he was still vulnerable to its effect and slightly less guarded. A bit mercenary of her, certainly, but any little peek inside Alex Krycek's twisted psyche was worth the prying.

He shook his head as if he wasn't going to answer, but his mouth opened anyway and the words tumbled out. "I was tied down. My legs, they were moving my legs again."

The raw, bewildered voice made Scully wince, as she remembered the conversation she'd heard as she was wheeled by that room, when she'd first started coming out of the drugs. "It's all right, Alex. You're out of there. I was just folding the blanket down; you felt hot again. But listen, you're awake, I'm awake. You really ought to let me take a look at you. And," she paused, but then pushed on, "you need to tell me about what they did."

Krycek groaned as he leaned back against his pillows. "No," he snapped. "I'm tired. You don't need to-"

"Look, Krycek, you claimed one of the reasons you got me out of that place was for my medical skill. Let me use it. I need to look at your shoulder at the very least, and I'm not taking no for an answer on that one. You're not getting any rest anyway. I think your dreams are harder on you than when you just lay there awake." Keeping her voice firm and slightly exasperated, Scully took a no-nonsense approach, ignoring her own reaction to his pain, both physical and emotional. "Now let me get that shirt off you."

"It's just a graze," he groused, voice still snarky. "I don't-"

::Just a graze. He really is out of it, assuming I'm talking about the bullet wound.:: "Shirt. Off. Now." Scully leaned over and loosened the make-shift bandage from the bullet wound. "Does this need to soak off?"

Krycek sighed and glared, but lifted himself on his elbow, then into a sitting position with her help. "Yeah, it feels like it's glued right to it."

"Okay, be right back."

She moistened a towel with hot tap water, and brought the first aid supplies she'd picked up at a roadside park-and-shop. After soaking the fabric free with the wet towel, she unwrapped the wound. Wordlessly he assisted in lifting Johnny's stained shirt off over his head. Scully folded it and a dry towel onto the sheet under him, and urged him to lie back down. Once he was flat she turned her attention to the shoulder.

And almost fell over backward in surprise.

The severed arm was not a new injury. She bent closer with a gasp and stared at the mangled mess of old scar tissue. There was no way this injury had been done in the facility, unless he'd been there for years. And she knew he hadn't. What the hell?

She turned to look at him, but his face was averted, looking at the paint-by-numbers landscape, avoiding her gaze, his expression set in detached rigidity. Only the constant flicker of a muscle in his jaw indicated he was even aware she was looking at his arm.

"They didn't cut off your arm."

His head jerked around, and he stared up at her, his eyes round with incomprehension. "Say what?"

"This is an old injury."

"Well, yeah," his voice underlined the look on his face, and she realized he'd assumed she'd known that. "Wait. You thought - didn't Mulder tell you about the fun folks in Tunguska? Oh hell, maybe he doesn't- Just look at the damn graze and get it over with." A swift grimace of pain, then his face closed down again, perfectly cold, and he shifted his gaze to the ceiling as she dabbed the wound with hydrogen peroxide.

She continued to watch him, trying to sort out what was going on. As she went over the last hours in her head, she realized that nothing he had said had ever indicated the arm was courtesy of Dr. Kessin's tender loving care. He'd mentioned his legs a couple of times. He'd seemed to have some discomfort with the stump, but nothing like what he should have been experiencing if it had been a recent occurrence.

"Can we get on with it? It's cold, and I'd like to get my shirt back on." His icy voice interrupted her thoughts.

Clearing her throat, she inspected the bullet wound. He was right; it wasn't bad. It must hurt like hell, but it didn't present any major danger to his current condition. Inspecting it closely, Scully blinked in surprise. It looked a hell of a lot better than she expected, from what she'd seen in the hallway when it had first happened. In fact, the wound looked a week old, instead of less than twenty-fours hours. She efficiently bandaged it back up, all the while her mind went over and over the incomplete story his shoulder told.

Definitely not a professional amputation. That scarring. Rough. Amateur job. It looked like someone had literally hacked away at it, and much as she winced from the thought, the amount of scarring and the uneven nature of it indicated he'd been awake and aware for at least part of the procedure. Poorly cared for afterward. Tunguska... Mulder had told her of the terrified peasants who, in desperation, severed their own limbs hoping to avoid the gulag, the experiments, the black cancer.

Finishing the bandage, she pulled back and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Krycek. Alex. What else happened? I know you probably don't want to talk about it, but what else did Kessin do to you? I'd like to take a look at your legs. Is there anything else?"

He made a strangled sound that might have been a laugh, immediately shifting around and reaching for the shirt. "Besides these little fits I keep having, I'm probably rather healthy." His lips twisted into a sneer as he struggled the shirt back over his head. "Who knows, if I live through this little experiment, maybe I'll thank the assholes." This time the laugh was slightly hysterical, and his hand shook as it jerked the torn shirt down over his truncated limb.

Scully cleared her throat again and paused. "Are you telling me that it worked? What they were doing? They actually broke your legs and they healed?"

"Broke my legs?" Krycek giggled dizzily. "They started out breaking my legs to see if they'd heal. Well, actually, they started with things like cuts and bruises and burns, but once they got a break that healed they stuck with that for a little while. But no, the latest was breaking my legs and then manipulating the bones while they were trying to heal. Rebreaking them if they healed up too quickly for them to study the process."

Scully felt a twinge of nausea and his words recalled those horrific screams. "And it worked?"

He stretched out his one arm, his mouth curled in a nasty excuse for a grin. "I'm a success, Agent Scully. An honest to god modern miracle of fucking science. Extraterrestrial science, but science all the same." He took a deep breath and glanced at the guns they'd left close to hand on the nightstand between the beds. Even as she watched, the insane light crept back into his eyes. "Understand this, Scully. If it even looks like they're going to take us... I am not going back there." His voice didn't rise, and didn't waver, and was all the more frightening for it. He shifted his gaze to hers and she felt a chill race through her at his dry-ice calm. "I'm saving one bullet for myself."

Scully took a deep breath, not doubting the words for a moment. About to argue as her religious training around suicide kicked in, she had to bite her tongue when her humanistic, rational side admitted that he had a point. She wasn't about to go back to that so-called research facility either, and he'd seen more of it than she had.

"If you want, I'll do you first."

His tone was so conversational it took her a moment to realize what he was offering. If suicide was a mortal sin, would agreeing to let someone murder you count? If that wasn't a sin in itself, was allowing someone else to commit a mortal sin for your own benefit... she shook her head, both clearing it of the moral conundrum and refusing his offer. ::Tired. I'm obviously way too tired,:: she reflected. Although with Krycek, one more sin could hardly matter.

"So, do you have any idea what they injected you with?" she managed, preferring a flat out subject change over a discussion of assisted suicide with Alex Krycek.

"Nah. Just that it was alien in origin. Hopefully those," he gestured to the jumbled stack of cartridges and disks laying on the night table between the guns, "will tell us more. They didn't bother actually talking to the lab rats much except to get information on what everything felt like." His voice became scathing on the final words, and with an obvious effort he evened it out again. "But near as I can figure, they discovered by accident during another experiment that those of us who had been... possessed, for lack of a better word, and lived through it, may have a little something left over inside us. Pleasant thought, eh? I'm not altogether clear on how they 'accidentally' figured this out, but I do know that what they discovered was some sort of healing ability. You remember Jeremiah Smith?"

Scully tilted her head and narrowed her eyes. "Yes."

"Well. There you have it."

"But you don't know what they injected you with?"

"I have my suspicions."

"And those are?"

He stared at her for a long moment, eyes cold.

"Krycek, if you want me to help you medically, I need to know what you know."

"But I don't know anything."

"What you suspect then," she snapped. "You want to go back on our little 'deal', fine with me. I can just as soon leave you here and go take a bus back to DC and-"

Before she'd even finished the sentence she saw the flash of panic on his face, then he stilled his features to total control. "Fine, fine," he said in a forced, bored voice. "My suspicions are that they took a few samples from the captured rebel."

"The captured rebel?" Scully's eyes widened.

"Yeah, you know. After all the Skyland Mountain shit? With the burned bodies and all? The warnings from the rebels? Well, I sent Mulder after a rebel at Weikamp Airforce Base-"

"That was you? He got that tip from you?!"

"He didn't tell you?" Krycek gave a jerky shrug with his good shoulder. "Yeah, it was me. Me and my patron of the moment."

Scully wondered about the odd note in his voice, but didn't pursue it. She was too pissed at Mulder to bother. "So you sent Mulder after the captured rebel and-"

"And the alien bounty hunter got him first, I guess. I know Mulder got there. I bet he even saw the rebel. Otherwise they wouldn't have wiped him again. But the bounty hunter got there and the rebel came back to the Consortium's tender care. They were supposed to turn him over to the Colonizers. Show of good faith and all that. But I doubt alive versus dead made much difference to the Colonizers, and I'm betting someone managed a little tissue sample to play with. It wouldn't have been difficult. And we've had other dead rebels on our hands."

Alien genetic material. She flashed for a moment on Emily - her painful death and the inability of the best of medical science to do a thing about it, due to whatever alien genetic material was used in creating her. Scully stared at the innocuous looking cartridges on the bedside table for a long moment. Would they help? Would the information tell them what was inside this man? Would it tell them whether he was going to live or die? Would it help her keep him alive?

Did she want to keep him alive?

The thought made her cringe, but she knew she would eventually have to face her conflicted feelings about him. She couldn't simply act like he was just another patient, just another mystery to be studied. He'd hurt them all so badly. Betraying them, her abduction, Missy, Mulder's father, working for that smoking bastard. And though Skinner never said word one about it, she and Mulder both knew Krycek had been involved with his "death". Despite Skinner's brush off of the FBI surveillance camera photos, Mulder had recognized Krycek immediately and when he pointed it out to her, Scully saw it too. And Skinner's abrupt turnaround after his heartfelt words to her in the hospital spoke volumes about some sort of continued threat, continued control, even without Mulder's later confirmation after his dip into Skinner's head during his psychic period. Skinner's recovery had been nothing short of miraculous, but Scully remembered those tiny machines, multiplying, multiplying. And then the other shoe dropped - annoying little health problem, stay away from cigarette smoke, I have something that will take care of it...

Taking a deep breath she turned back to Krycek. He was studying her with an odd expression she couldn't read.

"Where'd you just go?" he rasped.

She stared at him impassively for another moment. "You don't want to know," she finally answered truthfully. Just looking at him was difficult when she thought of everything he'd done. And yet, just looking at him - in this condition - also made her feel for his situation despite who he was. Seeing the bandaged shoulder brought to mind an uncomfortably clear image of that thoughtless dive, the way he'd knocked her out of the way of the bullet as if protecting her was a foregone conclusion. Simply because he wanted a doctor to look after him? Then why was he kicking up such a fuss every time she tried to examine him?

And this was getting her nowhere, and he was looking at her strangely again. It almost didn't surprise her at all when he opened his mouth and came out with, "Why are you being so nice to me, anyway? Should I be concerned?"

Despite the uncomfortable feeling that he'd just read her mind, she put on her best considering face, unable to resist the urge to poke at him. She nodded slightly and kept her voice clinical. "Probably."

Those huge eyes blinked, but a slight smile quirked his lips. "Well, okay. Just so I know."

She gave him a look, and got back to business. "I want to examine your legs now. Take off your pants."

"Uh no, you don't have to-"

Another look, this one a full Do Not Mess With Me Scully Special. Krycek blinked, and muttered something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like, "And people wonder how you keep Mulder in line."

As she helped him slide down the loose pants, she fought a smile when she realized the cause for his reluctance this time; Krycek may have stolen Johnny's pants, but he obviously drew the line at wearing a dead man's underwear. Krycek tugged his shirt down as far as it would go with forced nonchalance, but not before Scully observed - in her most clinical, scientific manner, of course - that he was an impressive specimen.

She began a slow, methodical examination, starting at the ankles. Moving her hands over tension-wracked muscles, staring down at the well-formed legs lightly covered in silky black hair, she finally decided that philosophical meanderings were simply going to have to wait. He was a human being. Her own humanity insisted she care for him, no matter who or what type of person he was. That would have to be enough for now.

Hoover Building
Assistant Director Walter Skinner's office January 26, 11:45 a.m.

The click-clack of keys being struck with great efficiency echoed in the otherwise silent office. Kim worked diligently to word-process the final revisions in a series of reports that her boss had scrambled to get finished before he left. Tedious, but he'd been generous enough to arrange for some paid time off for her while he was gone.

"Good morning, my dear." The voice behind her made her jump. She turned, and found herself enveloped in cigarette smoke. She not only hadn't heard him come in, she hadn't smelled him, either. She really needed that time off.

"Good morning, sir. How can I help you?"

"I'd like to see Mr. Skinner, please."

"Oh, I'm sorry, but he isn't in today."

"I see," he drawled, slowly taking another deep drag. "And when will he be back?"

"Well, I don't know for certain, sir. He's taken indefinite medical leave. He said he expects to be away at least two weeks, possibly longer."

"Really? I am sorry to hear he's unwell. He always seems such a robust, fit gentleman."

Kim blinked, and tried to keep smiling. This guy always gave her the creeps. Just then, they both heard a file cabinet drawer close inside the office.

"Miss Cook, it sounds to me as though someone may be present after all. If you'll excuse me."

Before she could respond, he was through the inner door. She bit her lip and hoped Agent Mulder had more fun with him than she did.

Mulder sat on the edge of the desk, flipping through some papers. He looked up as the man he loved to hate came in, and steeled his face to not show his surprise. "Well, well, what an unexpected pleasure!" He smiled sweetly, even as he cursed inwardly. "If it isn't CGB."

"Good day, Mr. Mulder," Spender interrupted smoothly, glancing around the office as if expecting Skinner to be hiding behind one of the chairs. "I hear our friend Mr. Skinner is away for health reasons? How unexpected."

"Yeah, taking this leave was very sudden. The A.D. has been having some very peculiar symptoms, and his doctor has ordered him to get some rest. And how have you been lately? Well, I hope?"

With Mulder grinning at him in that extremely irritating manner, Spender knew very well that he was playing 'I know that you know that I know that you know.' But at the moment, with Krycek on the loose, Scully's disappearance, and Skinner unaccounted for, he was in no position to threaten, no matter how obliquely. Which made him cranky. He exhaled smoke at Mulder, and said in his most falsely sincere voice, "I'm quite well, thank you. But tell me, if Mr. Skinner is away, what are you doing in his office?"

Mulder blinked, and waved the manila file in his hand. "Like I said, this leave was sudden. He left me word there were some possible case files up here he hadn't given me yet," he lied calmly, as if this should be obvious.

Spender's eyes narrowed and swept the room yet again. "I see. But I have heard some disturbing news, Mr. Mulder." Changing tack with the speed of a striking snake, he stepped closer to the desk, looming over the seated agent.

"Oh?" Mulder blinked again, trying for innocent.

"I heard a rumor that Agent Scully is missing. I do hope this isn't true?"

Mulder sighed, looking wistful. "Unfortunately, it is true. But I'm not on the case myself. Do you have any idea where she might be? If so, we'd appreciate it very much if you talked to the agents in charge." His voice gained a slight edge, but remained remarkably even.

Wondering when the puppy had picked up so much self-control, Spender rolled his cigarette between his fingers. Mulder was so much more entertaining when he was baitable and spewing all sorts of threats and charges. Spender tried again. "I am sorry, but I have no information to help you. I do hope Miss Scully is unharmed. I admire her so much. She's such a resourceful woman, so courageous."

"She is all that," Mulder ground out, then nodded to the outer door. "I'm sorry you missed A. D. Skinner. But I'm sure you're a very busy man. Have a nice day."

A long pause hung in the smoky air. But Skinner truly didn't seem to be here, Mulder had a supposedly legitimate reason to be in the office, and there was no good reason for him to stand bantering with the agent when he had far too many loose ends to try to tie off. "Good day, Mr. Mulder," Spender finally conceded.

Actually, he quite admired Mulder's audacity. As the door closed softly behind him, he dropped his cigarette and ground it out on the hall carpet with his heel, ignoring Kim's pained expression. Yes, Special Agent Mulder had such potential. Shame he hadn't been able to harness that potential for his own benefit. Yet.

He walked slowly down the hall, pausing at a corner and glancing around to ensure he was alone. He slid his hand into his pocket, and pulled out the small electronic device. Watching the "Skinner Active" readout, he played with the controls for a moment and listened. Nothing. Several minutes went by, no cries of pain, no shouts of alarm. Spender shrugged, and pocketed the device. He would have to fall back on his secondary resources, and find out where Skinner was. Try the device again in Skinner's presence, and gauge the results then. He strode off impatiently to check the tapes on Skinner's phone line for the day.

After ushering Spender out, Mulder exhaled with a quiet groan. The clock on Skinner's desk said 12:04. Much too close. When the phone rang he dove around the desk, picking it up before the first ring was over. "Assistant Director Skinner's office."

"Mulder? It's me."

"Scully!" He sank into Skinner's chair, keeping a watchful eye on the closed door. "You just missed our old friend Spender. He was so concerned about these rumors he's heard about your disappearance." Her snort came across the line loud and clear, and Mulder grinned.

"I'll just bet he was, considering he was responsible for my disappearance and he's the one we're running from."

"I knew it! I told-"

"Are we okay on this line?" Scully interrupted quickly.

"Okay enough. The Gunmen made a few alterations this morning." He could hear her sigh of relief. "But we're also taking a few more precautions," he explained quickly.

"Well, then let's get to it. I can't stay here long. We've been driving all over the place already today, but we have to keep moving."

"Okay, do you have something you can write on?"

"Yes, I'm ready." Scully poised the motel pen over the motel notepad she'd stolen.

"All right, hang up, and call this number: 202-369-1310. Use this calling card number: 202-369-1310-1445. Both numbers were set up this morning by the guys, and they'll deactivate them as soon as you've made your call. Skinner's at that number, waiting to hear from you now."

"Got it. Thanks. And be careful. Spender and his 'doctors' wanted me for medical experiments. We're talking nasty stuff, Mulder. They've injected and tortured Krycek already, and now they want you. We were all exposed to the black oil entity and survived. You're in as much danger as we are. When you leave the office, make sure Spender isn't anywhere around, and don't go following any tips today. No matter how legitimate they sound. Do you understand?"

"They tortured Krycek? Gee, I'm sorry I missed that," Mulder grinned at the empty office. "They missed their chance for a little Consortium spending cash. They could've sold tickets and probably bought themselves a new black helicopter."

"Mulder! It's nothing to joke about. Oh, look, I know how you feel." Her tired sigh came loud in his ear. "I felt the same way for about five seconds when I heard him screaming. After that, though, it was just sickening. And Mulder," an uncomfortable pause crackled over the line, "whatever else he's done, he saved my life. I know you probably don't want to hear that, I don't even know what to think of it. But he got me out of there before they could do the same things to me."

Mulder ran his hand through his hair. He did not want any reasons to be thankful to Krycek. Ulterior motives were doubtlessly lurking around every corner. "So Krycek's the hero, huh? Just be sure he doesn't change sides again." He knew his attempt at humor came out scathing when he heard her irritated breath.

"We can talk about this when I see you. We have to go. Remember what I said about watching your back."

"Scully," he sat forward, speaking quickly to forestall her disconnection.


"Be careful. Krycek never does anything without a reason. I know I haven't seen what they've done to him and you have but... well, he may seem hurt, but he's never helpless." Fear for her sharpened his tone, but somehow she must have heard beneath it, because her reply softened.

"I know, Mulder. I'll be careful. Although considering the shape he's in now, I honestly don't have much to worry about. But you know me; I'll stay on my toes. You do the same. I'd better call Skinner now."

Mulder sank back in the chair and stared at the phone in his hand. Tortured Krycek. He wondered morbidly what they'd done to the man. His imagination deftly created plenty of possible images. Scully had seen a lot in her time, and she sounded pretty rattled. Of course, she'd been kidnapped, and the same thing had almost happened to her. Then she'd escaped and been on the run with a lying, traitorous, scum-sucking murderer all night. That should be enough to rattle even his unflappable Scully. He smiled fondly. The rapid beeping of the receiver woke him from his thoughts and he dropped the phone back into its cradle.

Pushing out of the chair, he went to the door and peered around it. Kim knelt on the floor, skirt riding up around her thighs, scrubbing at a black spot on the carpet. As she looked up at him, the thought came unbidden that this looked like the setup to one of his porn flicks attempting a "plot". Shaking off the thought, he came around the corner of the door as she stood up. "Is he gone?" he muttered.

"Gone," she answered, with a moue of distaste. The scent of smoke lingered in the air.

"Thanks for letting me into the office." He turned to go, but her hand on his arm stopped him.

"Agent Mulder? When you see him... tell him I hope he's okay."

He smiled at her. "Will do." Leaving the office suite, he scanned the hall and headed for the elevator. His mind automatically filed Kim's request to be called up later, and went back to the thoughts swimming at the surface. Thoughts which, oddly enough, weren't about Scully's safety for perhaps the second time in over 36 hours. Tortured. Scully didn't use words lightly. Tortured. Again, mental pictures came a little too readily, as always seemed to be the case with Krycek.

He spent the ride down the elevator trying to decide if he was actually concerned about the bastard, or if he was enjoying the thoughts.

Lone Gunmen Headquarters
January 26, 12:10 p.m.

Skinner sat in an uncomfortable chair in a dark and cluttered room, staring at three unlikely saviors who stared back at him, equally uncomfortable. They ranged around the room, trying to look casual, but it clearly made them uptight to have The Man in their midst.

The tall, skinny blonde cleared his throat, and held out a flat cardboard box stained with vivid orange grease. "Want some pizza? It's cold, but I could nuke it for you."

"It's pepperoni with double cheese," the short dark one added.

"We could provide you with a cola," the neat one with the beard offered.

Skinner sighed inwardly. He knew Mulder had odd friends, had even run into them a time or two. Sitting and chatting with them was another story. "Ah, no, thanks. I had lunch. But thank you."

They chorused "okay" and went back to staring. All four men jumped when the phone rang, but the tension level dropped considerably.

Frohike answered instantly. "George Hale's office."

"Hi, Frohike, it's Scully. Is A.D. Skinner there?"

Skinner took the offered phone. "Agent Scully, are you all right?"

"Yes, sir. Tired, stressed, not in the best of moods, but I'm okay. Krycek is not okay, however. Were you able to arrange a safe house for us?"

"Yes, Mulder's friends had a suitable place available. Mulder didn't want to use a Bureau house and I could understand. I hope we're doing the right thing going outside official channels."

"Sir, Mulder's right. It was Spender who arranged to have me abducted. A Bureau house would concern me, too." She launched into a quick run down of all the medical supplies she would need for their hideout, ending with another reiteration of the need to protect Mulder.

He let her finish, then cleared his throat self-consciously. "Agent Scully, I've taken an official leave of absence for as long as it takes to get you out of this mess. Agent Mulder and I will be joining you at the safe house, and I will personally take out any of those bastards that come after you." The minute it was out of his mouth he winced, wondering where the hell that last bit had come from. He doubted very much Scully appreciated the John Wayne type.

The pause on the other end worried him for a long moment, then Scully said softly, "Sir, that's very generous of you. Thank you."

Clearing his throat, he launched into the directions to the safe house before his tongue could run away with his mind any further.

After she'd repeated back the directions, Scully added, "Oh, sir, we're going to have to deal with a stolen car and stolen credit cards. Krycek and I were desperate, and..."

"Don't worry about it, we'll handle it." The promise came easily, but Skinner wondered when he had become so willing to bend the law so casually. Probably about the time he decided to keep an extra protective eye on a certain petite, feisty redhead. "Take care, Agent Scully. If all goes well, Mulder and I should be seeing you in about 6 hours."

"It can't be too soon for me, sir," Scully said fervently. "Good luck."

"The same to you." The line went dead. "The same to you, Dana."

With a start, he remembered the others in the room. Langly was already tapping away at a keyboard, disconnecting the line and deactivating the calling card number. Skinner sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose under his glasses. "Thanks for all your help. Can you guys deal with a stolen car and stolen credit cards?" ::I can't believe I'm asking this,:: he groaned to himself.

Byers smiled enigmatically. "Not a problem, but I assume you don't care to know the details?"

"You've got that right," Skinner muttered, shaking his head. Clearing his throat again, he stated firmly, "The moment I leave this room, I will forget everything that I've seen or heard here."

He sensed an almost instant relaxation in the three around him, and even as he watched, a speaking look passed between them. Realizing he'd inadvertently said exactly the right thing to ensure their comfort, he almost laughed. And while Langly went to pick up Mulder, Skinner even forced himself to share the reheated pizza and choke down a Coke with Frohike and Byers.

Somewhere secluded and peaceful in North Carolina A charming cabin in the wilderness
So secure that even we don't know where it is... January 26, 3:17 p.m.

The Lone Gunmen's directions proved concise and accurate. Scully offered up a silent thanks and mentally forgave them for the Atlantic City debacle. She was so tired she was having difficulty concentrating and Krycek wasn't much help with navigation. She was thankful that her coin-toss decision to head south from Pennsylvania that morning had turned out in their favor. If Skinner had given her a safe house address in New England, she'd have ended up retracing their driving time for hours.

She pulled the car well off to the side of the dirt road just past the final turn up to the house, guiding it as far into the underbrush as she could, while trying to make sure she wasn't driving into a ditch. Letting the car stall out, she tilted her head back against the headrest and yawned. Shaking herself, she set the emergency brake, opened the door and climbed out.

Luckily it hadn't been raining; the ground was dry and firm. Her pumps had only one-inch heels, but they were not meant for traipsing around in the country, as last night had definitely proven. Her bare feet stuck in the shoes and she almost wished she hadn't ditched her stockings. Her ankle still twinged with every step, but she was able to walk without favoring it too much.

"I'm going ahead to check the place out, see if anyone's around. I shouldn't be gone for more than fifteen minutes," she told Krycek.

He didn't respond, not that she expected him to. He wasn't asleep, but his eyes were closed, the heavy black lashes almost invisible over the dark circles underneath. His skin felt hot and damp when she checked him, his pulse weak but rapid. Scully's anxiety to get him into a safe bed and check his wound surged. She tucked her hair back behind her ear, and closed the door, careful not to lock it. Not having the keys was a pain in the ass. Not that locking the car door would stop their pursuers if they caught up.

Stepping through long grass that tickled her bare legs, ducking trailing tree limbs, Scully made her way to the cabin with gun in hand. She circled it from a distance. Skinner's directions had included the information that no one had stayed there for over four months, so she scanned for even the slightest signs of recent visitors. With relief, she noted none, and proceeded closer. She found the key in the hiding place exactly as the Gunmen had described, and spent a moment actually taking in the cabin as opposed to casing the joint.

From the outside the cabin blended well with the surrounding countryside, concealed behind trees that had never known pruning. The security system was the only blatant item, clearly stating to anyone stumbling over the house that the residents preferred to be left alone, thank you very much. According to Skinner's information, the pass code had been changed that morning. Scully knew the Gunmen well enough to believe it. They probably changed it daily even when no one stayed here. "I have got to find out what they use this place for," she muttered, smoothing back her hair and shifting her weight to her good ankle. Somehow she just didn't picture the boys she knew kicking back in nature.

When she got back to the car she found an awake Krycek, looking disoriented and panicky until he saw her. She found she didn't want to examine the uncomfortable emotion that rose at the way he calmed noticeably at the sight of her. She did not want to be the person Alex Krycek trusted. Something in the very nature of it called for a response from her that she wasn't willing to offer. Forcing a calm she didn't feel, she gestured to the house. "It looks okay. We can go in now."


"Not far." She reconnected the hanging wires and sparked them, then backed the car out in a neat turn, driving up the turn off to the cabin. "See, I'm good at this subterfuge too."

He smiled tiredly. "Yeah. You could be a career criminal."

"You're such a good influence on me," she cracked, then winced as she realized she was actually joking with Alex Krycek.

Well, it had been a strange couple of days.

She decided to stop by the front door, move Krycek into the house, then hide the car around back. Not having any luggage was a mixed blessing; she didn't think she could carry a purse, much less a suitcase right now. The plastic grocery bag of bandages, hydrogen peroxide and surgical tape from the park-and-shop was about the most she could manage. It contained the remains of several bottles of sports drinks and cereal bars. Krycek had whined when she gave him an oatmeal-sunflower seed-raisin bar, but she told him the store hadn't had any Mr. Goodbars. A lie, of course, but one that served its purpose. He'd eaten most of the oatmeal bar with ill grace, and drunk several pints of the Gatorade with only a few caustic comments on the "toxic green" color. Having had her own run-ins with the green goop she knew he was referring to, she'd had to bite back a laugh. ::Definitely overtired. The easier it gets to laugh with Krycek, the more concerned I should be.::

The car left clear tracks along the dirt road leading up to the cabin, but it couldn't be helped. Scully disengaged the alarm system, and went to help Krycek. He managed to get to his feet on his own, and leaned heavily against the side of the car. He seemed to be comparing the distance to the front door, which included seven steps up to the porch, against his last reserves of strength. Taking a deep breath, he started forward.

Scully walked beside him, guessing he needed to prove he was still in control of himself. Which of them he was proving it to she couldn't have said for sure. He made it through the door and across the living room to an oversized couch near an enormous fireplace, before collapsing bonelessly, sitting with his head on his knees. Leaving him to his careful breathing, Scully dropped the bag and went back outside to move the car.

She checked the perimeter again before returning inside. Deciding to play it safe, she left most of the lights off, despite knowing no one could see the cabin from the road a half mile below. The chill prickle of paranoia just wouldn't dissipate. She reset the security system, and explored their refuge from the inside.

She found one small bedroom well-placed in the center of the building, although she guessed it was usually the room for whoever lost the draw. With no windows, no access from the outside, and one door that opened off of the living room, it was hardly vacation quarters. She caught herself assuming this place was a vacation destination, and almost laughed aloud. Knowing the paranoia of the parties involved, perhaps this was the room for whoever won the draw. It contained a single bed, a nightstand, an armchair, and a dresser. She tracked down bedding in a closet off the kitchen, and made up the bed, while Krycek stumbled into the bathroom. She heard the shower go on almost instantly, reminding her that he hadn't availed himself of the opportunity at the hotel, preferring to drop straight into bed. She paused, wondering if he needed assistance. ::Oh please. I practically carried him around all night, did the doctor thing, didn't shoot him on sight, and now I'm making his damn bed. I'm drawing the line at helping Alex Krycek shower. If he falls over, he falls over. I'll drag him out of there if I have to.::

Feeling irrationally better for the decision, she turned back to the bed.

I don't have the slightest clue where we are, and for once in my life I really don't care. Discovering the hot water is plentiful and scalding is enough for me at the moment. I strip off Johnny's clothes gleefully, throwing them on the floor and kicking them across the room for good measure, catching myself on the bathroom counter when I almost topple over. I'll stay naked before I'll put those on again. Scully can just deal with a little skin. Besides, it'll make it easier for her to play doctor, so what the hell. I tug off the bandage as well.

Climbing carefully into the shower stall, I lean against the wall and let the hot water pound into me, thinking about Scully. As the water stings too many bruises and abrasions for me to even count right now, I have to smirk at the memory of her hands on me, exploring my medical-miracle legs. Knowing her, she still doesn't believe they've really been broken, given there's no evidence. I shudder in spite of the heat. No evidence except my memory.

And when would that ever be good enough for the good Doctor Scully. Or for the Secret Agent Man himself.

And wouldn't he have just loved to see her feeling up my legs. I almost choke on a laugh. Scully and Mulder. As my brain always does with this particular topic, I start wondering. I've always wondered about them. Who wouldn't. From day one, all their huddling and whispering and that damn connection blazing off them like a fucking neon beer sign. So, are they or aren't they? I put my money on no, but then I've been wrong before. Plenty of times. And particularly about Scully, about Mulder. But I'm pretty sure I'm right about this.

And I'm betting it's the doc putting the brakes on, keeping them friends. I don't doubt she might have considered it herself. How could you look at his mouth and not? If she doesn't, she's stronger than me, but that's nothing new. No, the lady in question just seems a little too smart to get involved with Mulder that way. He already eats her alive. If they started fucking, he'd just be so damn omnipresent.

Hurricane Mulder.

I sigh and turn, letting the water pummel my back as I rotate my bad shoulder. She'll probably give me hell for getting the wound wet but it really doesn't seem serious, and I don't feel like being careful. Feeling clean is more important. I finally work up enough energy to grab a washcloth and the soap, and start scrubbing away the touch of Kessin and his goons, trying to blank my mind with each harsh stroke.

It doesn't work. Once on the Scully and Mulder track, my brain just wants to tumble all the little pieces of the puzzle of their relationship one more time. Like I don't lie awake enough fucking nights doing this.

What exactly are they? Is she a surrogate, the little sister he lost? She has older brothers, so that doesn't play out the same way both ways. Friendship is an interesting thing of course, if you can get it. Can't speak much from experience there myself. I turn back around and stick my head under the water. Christ, if I could just stop hurting for two seconds.

The legs actually feel a little better, still stiff and achy, but the really horrific shooting pains mostly subsided after sitting in a car all day. But now this fucking arm. My shoulder burns and throbs relentlessly, enough so that the place where the bullet opened me up seems like nothing at all. I know I've been slipping in and out, which worries me more than pain actually. I can tell I'm still feverish. My skin itches, a hot, tickly sensation like bees buzzing just under the surface. What good is this weirdass alien healing shit if I always feel like hell?

The thought effectively gets my mind off Mulder and Scully and their 'arrangement'. Because it brings up the fear I'm trying so hard to swallow and ignore - the fear that I'm feeling like hell because this 'weirdass alien healing shit' is killing me while it does whatever it does to my body. The truth is I have no fucking clue what's going on inside me.

I feel my breath quicken, and I'm sucking in steamy air faster and faster. Too late, Alex. Your date with destiny is upon you. Whatever they've done is definitely done. And the Consortium is famous for starting stuff without knowing how to finish it. There's no way whatever they've done to me is reversible. You don't just pluck out hybridized alien cells once you've introduced them. And I've seen lots of evidence that alien and human just don't mix. Not to mention everybody in these latest tests before me has died, no matter how much they managed to heal small things before kicking off.

And I just got a nice fresh shot with an upped dosage before I got out of there.

The buzzing under my skin seems to intensify, and I start feeling distinctly lightheaded.

Slamming the shower taps off, I scramble out, banging my shin on the tub. I go down on my knees on the bathmat before I fall over. Scrambling for a towel, I press it to my face and try to calm my brain and my lungs simultaneously.

Scully's a good doctor. Working with Mulder, she's seen more weird stuff than me, practically. She knows what the Consortium has been playing with. She's even seen their genetic work before. If anybody might be able to figure something out, she can. And hey, if I die now, at least I screw the Consortium by giving Mulder proof. As long as my body doesn't dissolve into a puddle of toxic green jelly.

My entire body shakes harder and I can't stop.

No, I got shot. I bled red. I know I did. I saw it. Oh fuck.

Enough. This is getting me nowhere. I force myself to breathe slower. At least I won't die at their hands, strapped down and screaming. I'm out of there. And we have the cartridges. I'm with the only doctor who might actually believe what happened to me, and we have a couple cartridges full of information on the testing. So everyone else died. They hadn't gotten out either. Maybe it's still early enough. Scully will help me, she said she would. And bottom line, no matter what happened, we'll keep Mulder out of there.

Unfortunately the thought isn't enough to elevate me to a higher plane of consciousness, like it should. Everybody always spouts stuff like "I don't mind dying if I know you'll be safe". Please. It might sound good in dramatic moments of tortured angst in the middle of the night. In reality it's still death. And death sucks. What's so great about him being safe if I'm not going to be around to enjoy it.

Nobody ever called me particularly noble.

But we'll do what we can. And if I'm dying, I'm dying. Wouldn't be the first time I thought I was biting it only to pull out in the end. Pure panic continues to hum just below my conscious thoughts, but I exercise a vice grip on it and force myself to my feet. Drying off as best I can, I drape the towel over my shoulders so it falls over my stump before stepping in front of the mirror. Grabbing a comb at random from the bathroom cabinet, I brush my hair straight back and continue to count out my breaths slowly, making them as even as possible. After I'm calm enough to stop shaking - mostly - I fight a fresh towel around my waist by leaning against the wall to hold it up as I tuck it together precariously, swearing under my breath the whole time. It's enough to get me more irritated than unsteady, and I stalk out of the bathroom gripping the towel to keep it on.

Scully isn't anywhere in sight, but I can hear her somewhere close by as I wander out. I find her in the kitchen pouring hot water into mugs. The place is heating up nicely so she must have found the thermostat, too. There's something charming about her standing there in her bare feet, totally rumpled, making coffee with a gun stuck in her waistband and another one weighing down the pocket of her suit jacket.

She glances up. "It's instant, but it's better than nothing."

"Smells good," I sigh. I slump down at the kitchen table, fatigue catching up with me again and burning off the irritability that came from dealing with the limitations imposed by my missing arm. I wonder when she took possession of both guns again, and how I can get my hands on one. I sip at the coffee she gives me, before realizing she's studying me. "What?"

"Can I take a look at the bullet wound?"

I sigh again and shrug, but don't protest as she pushes back the towel that hangs over my shoulder. I glance over at her gasp.

"That's impossible!" she hisses as she stares down at what had been a deep gash in the flesh, and is now considerably healed. I can't say I'm particularly surprised at the sight, but then she hasn't felt her legs pulling themselves back together. This would be her first really dramatic experience with the results of the experiments.

"I know, but it's happening," I say grimly. "I suppose this is a good thing, especially in my line of work, where people are always shooting at me or hitting me, but somehow... it's... it's just unnatural, you know?" I swallow hard as I stare at the itching wound, knowing there's something inside me, something foreign, something mingling with my own cells and making me... different. I shiver and the towel slides all the way off my shoulder.

Scully freezes again, with her hand just reaching to touch the bullet wound. Her voice, when it comes, is unsteady. "Didn't the scars on your amputation go up farther? The upper arm, the shoulder area, it looks as if it's... changing."

I feel something twist inside me. I turn my head slowly and look down at my stump. I don't like looking at it at the best of times, but I know every bump and ridge and pattern of scar by heart. And she's right. The throbbing that flares and pulses in the truncated flesh takes on a whole new meaning as I stare at the remains of my arm. Jesus. Could it really...? No. No, don't even go there. Don't hope, you know what a trap hope is. They have no clue what they're doing, you could be growing a salamander arm for all you know what they stuck you with.

But the insidious idea already crawled into my brain, and twists around in there like the alien ingredients twisting around in my body. The scar tissue was changing. Did that mean...? I can hear the edge of hysteria in my own voice when I manage to get out a strangled, "Maybe the old bastard had the right idea."

"I beg your pardon?" Scully is staring at me with a look that almost implies concern. I figure I must look a bit crazed again.

I shake my head, trying to focus, remembering again that she doesn't know all the details. "The bullet. It reinjured my shoulder. I had this old knife wound in my leg... a bad scar, and it healed up when my legs were reinjured and my broken bones healed. It's totally gone now. They were interested in what that implied. Spender told Kessin to try damaging my left shoulder to see if anything happened to the scar tissue on my stump. That was going to be their next experiment. I wonder how he intended to damage it," I muse, trying to redirect my thoughts from where they want to go. "No, I guess I don't really want to know." Suddenly the exhaustion is just too much. So many things I'm trying to keep my mind away from and I'm so tired and all the mental walls are way too fragile to hold back anything at this point, and I realize I'm shaking again.

Scully must have realized, because the next thing I know she's rescuing the coffee mug from my limp grasp and guiding me to my feet. "Come on, let's get you to your room." With my hand still keeping the towel around my waist, I let her guide me to a small bedroom.

I take one look around and shake my head emphatically. "I can't stay in here."

"I know it'll be like living in a closet, but-"

"No, I can't." Less than a minute and I'm just this side of hyperventilating all over again. There isn't even a window. Shit, the walls are moving already.

"Krycek, listen, it's the most secure room in the house. We'll be able to guard you here. Anyone coming in will have to get past me, Mulder and Skinner."

I snort, grabbing at the thought to keep the claustrophobia from taking over. "Why does that not make me feel safe?"


Maybe I just reached my breaking point. Maybe it was the first name, maybe it was just the careful tone of voice. Maybe it was the fact that this woman I'd done a hell of a lot to hurt was being nice to me, and taking care of me, and - all I know is I suddenly lost all fight, collapsing on the edge of the bed, and looking up at her with suspicious and terrible wetness welling in my eyes. "I know. I know you're doing the best you can, and I know you've got a good point but... I just can't... I can't stand being locked up. I can't take enclosed spaces. It just makes me..." I turn away, struggling to regain control. "I'm just so fucking tired." I close my eyes and swallow hard, but feel the burning in my eyes worsen. I tilt my head back and widen my eyes, blinking up at the ceiling repeatedly in an effort to keep back the humiliating tears I can feel hovering.

Her voice is amazingly gentle, as gentle as her hand on my good shoulder. At the moment I don't care if it's just because she thinks I'm ready to go off the deep end at any moment. I know full well she's trotting out the good doctor kid gloves for the claustrophobic invalid, but it doesn't make one whit of difference. She gives good bedside manner when she wants to. "Hey. We don't have to lock you in. We can leave the door unlocked," she says softly. Her voice firms. "But you need to sleep in here, so we can keep watch." She pauses, then adds, "I can even leave the door open."

Somehow the calmness she gives off helps. I feel like an idiot, I know I look like an idiot, but she isn't laughing and she's so serious. I snort and let my lip curl in a sneer. "Gee, thanks. Can I have a nightlight and a teddy bear too?"

She pretends to consider, and I mentally thank her for playing along with my brusque sarcasm. "Do assassins sleep with teddy bears? And do the bears live through the experience?"

Suddenly I feel like I can breathe again. I give her a twisted smirk and keep up the wiseass patter that's as familiar as this loss of control is unfamiliar. "Are you kidding? We need them more than anyone. And they survive. If they behave."

"Sorry, fresh out of bears, obedient or otherwise. But I can sit in here for a while, give you something else to concentrate on." Without waiting for an answer that she must have known I couldn't - or wouldn't - give, she curls up in the armchair, the gun on her lap. I stare at her disdainfully for another moment, but find I don't really have the energy to argue, to insist that I'm fine and that I don't need her sitting at my bedside like a fucking mother.

Besides, I'm not fine. Most definitely not fine. I wonder for a moment if the exhaustion is just giving me a good excuse, so I don't have to admit that what I really want is exactly to have her sit beside me and hold my hand and not leave me alone in this closet. Then I get sick of trying to out-think myself, and give up, moving back up the bed to slide under the bedding. Tired. I yank off the towel and toss it out to the floor only after the quilt is up over me. I sink into the pillows. So tired. So godawful tired. At least the shaking is subsiding. And strangely, concentrating on her, watching the late afternoon light filtering in from the other room catch in the red of her hair, does give me something else to think about, so I'm not left dwelling on the four walls surrounding me.

We're silent for long moments, and I know we're both listening for sounds of pursuit, and hearing only the wind in the trees. I feel myself slipping, but sleep seems just out of reach, despite the heaviness of my bone-deep exhaustion. I can't get comfortable, but I can't figure out how to move to get more comfortable. Everything hurts, and my body can't decide if it's hot or cold. I shiver, then feel a rush of heat. The blanket is too much, but the minute I work up the sense to push it off, I need it again.

I try to close my eyes but each time they open and refocus on her, sitting and staring at the open door. I like the image of her with the gun in her hand. I wonder if she'll suddenly decide I'm too much trouble and shoot me. I wonder how my body would react to another bullet wound. My mind drifts slowly, my thoughts woollier by the minute. My slightly slurred voice, when it breaks the silence, surprises me as much as it does her, and I almost want to look around to see who's speaking, except I'm the only one who would say the words hanging in midair between us.

"I didn't kill your sister, you know."

She stiffens, then turns her head slowly until she looks at me silently. "I believe a man named Luis Cardinal killed her," she says finally, coldly.

"Yes," I say softly. Her eyes pin me like a butterfly.

"The one time we spoke, Mr. Cardinal insinuated you were involved."

"I was there." My voice still sounds like someone else and I can't quite figure out why I'm saying any of this. Especially when she's armed. But I can't quite figure out how to stop either. I watch her eyes narrow. "We were there to take you out."

Her breath catches. "Yes, I knew that had to be-" She pauses. "You were there to kill me."

"Yeah. Spender was against it. Thought it would make Mulder too unstable. Got outvoted." As my drowsy voice offers up details, my mind spins back to that night, crouched in her apartment. "We were waiting for you. When your sister came in. It was dark, but I knew it wasn't you." How had I known? "Too... tall. I was about to try to pass us off as burglars, get the hell out of there. Cardinal... fired." As fuzzy as I am, I remember my reaction, my surprise, my annoyance. Wrong Scully, asshole. "Idiot. Talk about psychopaths." I stop, my voice reminding me of someone talking in their sleep. I wonder if I'm delirious again. I wonder if I'd know if I was. I'm definitely not thinking all that straight. I feel a sudden need to explain my confusion to her. "Scully... I don't know why I'm telling you this, it's not exactly in my best interests." I stop as the agony in my shoulder flares sharply. I can't completely stop a gasp of pain, but I bite my lip and try.

She continues to stare at me dispassionately. "If you don't know why you're telling me, I certainly don't know."

Her measured tone almost makes me smile, but my befuddled mind is trying to accomplish something. "I... Scully, I would have done it. Then. If you'd come through that door. I would have done it," I repeat, not sure I can explain what I mean but wanting to try. "But I wouldn't have killed her. Your sister." I pause, having no idea if she can understand the distinction, having no idea if I even understand the distinction. "She never saw us, you know. She didn't even have time to be scared."

Scully stares past me at the far wall, her mouth tight, face pained. "She never regained consciousness," now her voice sounds like mine. Husky, oddly distanced. "She never even knew what happened."

I sigh softly. "Tha's good. She din't d'serve to die." I can feel my questionable hold on my thoughts start to slip even more, but her diamond-hard question cuts through the cotton wrapping around me.

"Did I deserve to die, Krycek?"

I force myself to focus on her again, meet her eyes directly. I was the idiot who had opened this can of worms. As if I of all people didn't know that silence on all subjects is always the best policy. Hell, the Consortium could have borrowed 'plausible deniability' from me as a motto. I clear my throat and wince. It's still raw. I know I need to answer, but I'm not exactly in top debate form. It crosses my mind that I'm implicating myself and that is a really stupid thing to do and I hope to hell she doesn't have a tape player running and then the thought slides away like butter melting into toast. What was the question?

Scully. Deserve to die.

I try to enunciate clearer to make up for my lack of volume, but my tongue feels huge and foreign in my mouth. "Wasn't a question of deserve, really. Necessity. They thought you needed to. And I took orders from Them. I wouldn't have liked killing you. I would have regretted the necessity. But I understood necessity. I'd have done it. That's what I did. Then." God, the good old days. Ambition. That stupid sense of achievement and pride, in what I could make myself do without even flinching. So proud of my detachment, my control. Following orders and actually thinking I was moving up, actually thinking that I could control my own life. A hysterical giggle wanted to well up, and I realize I'm still talking, my real reasoning marching muzzily off my tongue. "Besides, at the time I didn't want to see... to admit what was really going on." Didn't want to admit what I was feeling, that I was changing. If I could kill her, of course Mulder didn't mean anything. What better way to prove it to myself.

"Don't tell me, let me guess. We were the dangerous ones, you were protecting the country from wild canons like us? Doing your patriotic duty."

Her tone of voice is edged, and I know I'm missing something in the conversation. But by now my eyelids decide they not only want to be closed, they also refuse to take no for an answer. I fight back to the surface one more time. "Hunh?"

"You said you didn't want to admit what was really going on. With the Consortium? With the kind of group you were really working for," her tone is caustic, as if she is waiting for me to agree so she can tell me she doesn't believe me.

I blink, confused. "Uh, yeah. That too." I do remember having some confused interpretations of the Consortium, of having to figure out who and what they really were. But I'd known enough to have a good idea what I was into. No, what filled my mind were my confused interpretations about Mulder, of having to figure out who and what I really was. With Mulder, I'd had no idea what I was getting into. No idea how deep the water was until I was in the middle of the ocean and couldn't even see the shore anymore.

Being young and stupid is a bitch.

"What about now?"

"Hunh?" My eyelids flicker again, and I find her eyes boring into mine, her face unreadable.

"You said you would have killed me. What about now."

Oh. That's easy. "Nah, you're safe. Safe as houses. Safer than ever." I manage a smile even though my mouth muscles really don't want to respond to my intentions. I'm slurring again, but I force myself to complete the thought. "And I don't take orders from those bastards anymore."

5:30 p.m.

"No. Won't... no... hurt..."

Scully startled awake, flinching at the stiffness in her muscles from dozing in the armchair. She wrinkled her nose and turned toward the bed, rubbing at her eyes.

"Mulder... mistake... would you just listen..."

Krycek mumbled in his restless sleep, his voice angry, impatient with someone. Scully rose, catching the gun in her lap as an afterthought as it started to slide to the floor. Setting it on the nightstand, she stepped to the bedside, touching his forehead with the back of her hand. His skin was far too hot, even the sweat that soaked the bedding couldn't cool him. She sighed and pulled back the blanket, wondering if they were in for another round of delirium.

"Warn you... Mulder..."

This again. "We did, Alex. He knows he's in danger," she said, trying for soothing. "He's with Skinner. He'll be fine."

Krycek's eyes flew open, and he jerked. He stared up at her wild-eyed, unseeing, voice harsh. "Have to tell you... got Scully out..."

"I already told him, Alex. He knows you did."

"I tried... no, don't, I tried... I couldn't... I'm sorry..."

Scully pushed her hair back and tried to rein in her impatience. He was obviously beyond communication. She tried again anyway, knowing it wasn't good for him to get this agitated in the state he was in. "Alex, listen to me. He knows he's in danger, he's being careful. I'll make sure he understands. And you can tell him yourself, you know. He'll be here in a few hours." She reached for the glass of water she'd rested on the stand and dipped her fingers in, patting them over his face. "I doubt you'll be dead by then," she couldn't resist muttering.

"Couldn't find her," he insisted, eyes glazed, voice rough. "Got Scully, but couldn't find her. Please don't... tried to find her. I swear... I did. Couldn't, but I tried. Tried..."

Her hand stopping in mid-pat, Scully suddenly went cold as his word resolved into a pattern. Catching his chin in her fingers, she tilted his head, trying to determine how much sense there was in his eyes. She groaned inwardly. He was totally out of it. "Who did you try to find, Alex?"

"Tried to find her. Couldn't. But I got Scully. Okay?"

"Who, Alex? Who were you looking for?" Scully kept her voice level with an effort, knowing the answer already, but hoping her sharp voice would infiltrate his fogged brain. She realized her fingers were pinching, and loosened them.

He shifted restlessly, pleading anger lacing his voice, still lost in the conversation in his head. She hissed in frustration, then sucked in a breath as his next mumbling ramble answered her suspicion.

"Couldn't find Samantha..."

Releasing his chin and stepping back abruptly, she swallowed hard. The desperate anger was clear in his scratchy words. Setting the glass down with a thunk she walked out of the bedroom, needing breathing space, needing to be away from him for a few minutes. Dropping onto the couch she pressed her fingers to her temples and massaged. What the hell did this mean?

She wondered again about whether he might be faking the delirium. As a doctor, she'd swear he was well and truly out of it. But this was Krycek... the consummate actor. Who knew what was truth and what was lie. And yet, like Mulder, she knew that in some ways she had allowed Krycek to become a bigger, more powerful image in her mind than he necessarily was. The teflon superspy. This little escapade was underlining his humanity much more than she wanted, but it also reminded her that some physiological symptoms were just plain damn unlikely to fake - the intense sweats, the pupil dilation, the fine muscle tremors.

And was a delirious Krycek anymore trustworthy than an awake and aware Krycek? With most people, one would assume delirious ravings were just that, ravings. Only with someone who lied like the proverbial rug did the perception shift, raising the possibility that the real person was coming out while the conscious controls weren't there to hold him in. But did that make Krycek's ravings anymore likely to be reliable than anyone else's? Or possibly even make them less reliable? If he lied all the time, what was to prevent him from having some sort of delirious fantasy of trying to find Samantha? He certainly seemed obsessed enough with Mulder to-

That thought froze all others, and Scully groaned and sank back into the couch. That was the point, wasn't it. Mulder was most definitely first and foremost on Krycek's mind. Every time he slipped even a little, Mulder was the first thing out of his mouth. And somehow, that made Scully more inclined to think he wasn't faking it. Granted, the first thought that came to mind was that he was playing an angle, trying to imply he was on their side.

But why would he do that by exposing whatever this thing was he had for Mulder.

And why to her? Quite frankly, with a strategic-thinker like Krycek, she couldn't figure out what he would hope to gain by letting her in on the secret that he obviously harbored some sort of intense fixation on her partner. That kind of information could only put her more on her guard than anything else, just as was happening. He had to know that. All her protective instincts were going on full red alert, and the hair on the back of her neck stood up at the very thought that Krycek had this kind of 'interest' in Mulder. And it made her want to keep Mulder very very far away from Krycek.

Did Mulder know? Should she say something? What would she say? "By the way, Mulder, while Krycek was raving deliriously he mentioned you so much I got to thinking he might have the hots for you." Yeah, that would go over well. And what about Samantha? Should she say anything about that? Her mind swam. Krycek had sounded so angry. Angry at Mulder? Angry that he couldn't deliver Samantha to Mulder? And that next comment, about her. There was that indication again, that he'd gotten her out not for medical assistance, not for bargaining power and protection, but for Mulder. Scully snorted. She had no doubts Krycek had been involved somehow in her original abduction. If he really wanted to protect her for Mulder, why the hell couldn't he have developed his little crush back then, before she'd been taken, before she'd been used to create something so sweet, but so very wrong.

As usual, the thought of Emily made her chest tighten. She pushed it back and felt a fresh surge of anger, at all the outcomes of that initial abduction - her cancer, her infertility. That tiny girl, so trustingly offering her hand. That shy smile to Mulder, clowning with her so sweetly on the floor. The hospital, the growth. Those scared eyes as the nurse had fallen choking, and she lay alone in the room with the dying body and all the adults pressed against the glass, staring in, horrified. The sweaty hair, plastered to her round little face, as she leaned into a kiss on the forehead and stoically bore the pain, the confusion, the fear. That small coffin. Scully gripped the couch cushion on either side of her thighs, nails digging into the ugly brown fabric with a scraping noise. Tears backed up and her sinuses filled.

Damn. She should know better than to think of Emily when she was tired.

She wiped her eyes and took a few snuffling breaths. When Mulder and Skinner got here, the first thing she had to do was get some sleep. Get herself back off the edge. Let them worry about the assassin in love for a while.

In love?

Scully paused at her own thought. Did she really think Krycek was in love with Mulder? She groaned again and went back to rubbing her aching temples. Oh shit.

That was taking it a bit far. Wasn't it? Somewhere in the course of the last stretch of hours the idea had certainly crawled into her subconscious, but... still. If the bastard even could love. There definitely seemed more to it than just a passing interest, something more than the crush she'd suspected back when she'd thought he was actually an FBI agent. His driving focus on warning Mulder, saving him from the labs. Her growing suspicion that he'd saved her life for Mulder's sake, not her own. His incessant preoccupation with Mulder in his thoughts and unconscious ramblings. And now, the implication that he'd been looking for Samantha, trying to find her for Mulder.

Trying. But not succeeding. She blinked as the implication of that finally sunk in. Krycek had said he couldn't find her. Supposing he really had been looking for Samantha, he'd been on the inside of the Consortium. And his continued survival over the years indicated he was good at his "job", and had certainly provided more than enough evidence that he was sneaky. If he really had tried to find her, and even he couldn't... Her heart sank.

One thing was for certain. She sure as hell couldn't spring both pieces of information on Mulder at the same time.

6:42 pm

The rumble of a car coming up the drive jerked her out of her thoughts. Glancing at her watch, she was astonished to see she'd been stewing for over an hour, still trying to rethink, triple-think, and out-think a Krycekian mind. Over an hour, sitting here in the dark, and nothing to show for it but a worse headache.

And no gun.

She leapt off the couch and strode back to the bedroom, her bare feet making no noise. Krycek obviously heard the car too, sitting up and reaching for the gun on the nightstand with the instinct of a hunter being hunted. With the advantages of both a longer reach and closer proximity, he got the gun first.

"I'll go see who it is, you stay there!" she commanded, holding out her hand for the gun. When he swung his legs out of the bed, she hissed, "You're in no shape to take on anyone right now! You'll be in my way. Stay there!"

Krycek glared at her, but didn't argue with her reasoning. He released the safety and nodded shortly, but made no move to give up the gun. She huffed out an exasperated breath and snagged her suit coat out of the chair she'd been sleeping in, knowing she didn't have time to argue the gun out of his hand. Plucking the second gun out of the pocket, she tossed the coat back onto the chair.

Creeping silently into the dark living room, she moved along the wall to the window, peering from the side between the curtain and the window frame. Letting out her breath with a sigh of relief, she went back to tell Krycek the good news.

She froze as she stepped back into the bedroom. In the shadows, she could see Krycek, still sitting on the bed, the gun barrel tucked up under his own chin. "It's them, isn't it?" His voice held an edgy madness she recognized from the last couple times he'd woken from fever dreams, thinking whatever he was dreaming was the current reality. She couldn't even be sure he knew who he was talking to. "They've come to take me back."

Shit. Of all the times for him to be in possession of one of the guns. Scully kept her voice calm as she reached out and flicked the light switch. "No, Krycek, it's Mulder and Skinner. We knew they were coming, remember? We've been waiting for them."

The light didn't seem to help. He blinked in the sudden brightness, but didn't focus on her. "I can't go back there. I won't go back there. They won't take me back."

She realized in a sickening instant that he wasn't seeing or hearing her. "Krycek... Alex, it's all right. You need to concentrate on my voice. You were dreaming." Suddenly it occurred to her what might get through. "Alex, listen to me. Mulder is here."

"I heard the car! I know they're here! I won't go back!"

She heard the click of the hammer and dove.

End of Part One

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