Topaz X-Files fanfic fanfiction by bardsmaid, MSR mytharc Season 6


by bardsmaid

Chapter 10

Wednesday, 9 June 1999
Sacramento Airport
5:10 a.m.

Mulder boarded the shuttle, took a seat and studied the road outside the window. He'd lost sight of Tan Jacket when he pulled in at the rental car turn-off, and even now he'd seen no evidence of the guy's silver sedan. Squinting into the darkness outside, he studied the passing cars. Finally, reluctantly, he turned away. The seats around him were beginning to fill, mostly with men and women in business suits. Inside, he felt prickly with tension. He closed his eyes briefly and reviewed his mental to-do list: change clothes and persona, evade Tan Jacket, fly to Denver, meet Krycek. Sounded a lot like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Inside the terminal, Mulder paused to look at a series of displays, hoping to catch sight of the man tailing him in the reflection of the glass cases. Maybe he'd switched jackets. While he'd seen the guy's car clearly enough on the highway, it had been too dark to make out details of his pursuer's clothing.

Mulder turned casually, taking in a broad arc of the area around him, but there was no sign of the man who'd spent the last two days following him. He glanced at his watch. Whether the guy had gotten delayed somewhere or was observing him from a vantage point he hadn't yet noticed, time was running short. It was time to switch personas. Setting his jaw, Mulder tugged on the handle of his rolling suitcase and set off to find a restroom.


Beehive Suites Hotel
Salt Lake City, Utah
5:14 a.m.

Four awoke with a start. Sitting up, he glanced toward the phone on the bedside table. Unfortunately, the much-anticipated red light was not blinking. He frowned, then stood and went to the window. He'd not yet heard from Six.

At each of their stops, he'd carefully loosened the sealing around the female, allowing her mind some freedom, though he'd learned after the second time that this was best done when she was asleep, because repeatedly allowing her mind to breathe, only to have that freedom taken away again, could no doubt exact a heavy toll over time.  After each of these forays, he waited to hear from Six, who would let him know whether the sensors in Pasadena had picked up any traces of the female's mind.

At each previous stop, the report had been reassuring; no mental signals from the female had been detected. But Six had never taken this long to get back to him.

It could be, of course, that some small inconvenience had simply gotten in the way of his replying. But if Six's collaboration with them had been discovered, their situation would become critical. A whole new strategy would have to be put in place, and in that case, there was no telling what would ultimately become of the female. Or the humans they'd hoped to assist.


Quantico, Virginia
8:25 a.m. EDT

Scully picked up a clipboard full of notes and started for the door. Unexpectedly, the desk phone rang. Quickly she turned and picked it up.

"Scully," she said.

"Glad I caught you, doctor," said a familiar voice. 

Relief swept through her, making her smile. But someone could be listening.

She cleared her throat. "Where are you, Dr. Martin?"

"Sorry to change my schedule on you but I've had to make a detour. I'm on my way to visit a colleague. My plane leaves in about half an hour. United flight 410."

"Well, be sure and let me know when you can reschedule and come to Washington," she said. "We should get together and compare notes about the Weissman autopsy."

He made no reply. His voice had drifted at the end, as if he'd turned away from the phone and was looking around.

Scully frowned. "Are you alone, or traveling with someone?

"I had a friend with me, but we seem to have lost each other here in the concourse."

She closed her eyes briefly. "Have a safe trip."

"I may have information that will help you with your case once I confer with my colleague. I know you've been waiting for it, so call me if I don't get back to you by noon your time. Hopefully it won't mean my plane has crashed."

"I will." She bit her lip.

"I'd better go now. I just wanted to connect and give you my itinerary." There was a pause that seemed to go on far too long. "Stay well, Dr. Scully. I hope we can get together soon."

"Yes. Yes, I hope we can. I look forward to it."

Scully held her breath. A click and the call was disconnected. Quickly she opened the laptop on the desk and searched for the flight he'd mentioned. A minute later she'd found her information. Mulder was headed for Denver.


Boulder Campus
11:05 a.m.

Mulder wedged Krycek's smaller suitcase on top of his rolling suitcase and started down the street, A moment later the bus passed him, followed by a swirl of diesel exhaust. As it turned out, Tan Jacket hadn't followed him onto the flight, and he hadn't noticed anyone trailing him through the airport in spite of the dozen times he'd stopped to look in mirrored surfaces, hoping to catch a glimpse of anyone following him. But each glance had also meant having to face this irritating, middle-aged version of himself. Now the memory of Krycek's instructions and their clipped, demanding tone seemed like a match held near the growing kindling pile of his frustrations.

On the other hand, security was a completely legitimate concern. If anyone were to follow him, he and Krycek could both end up dead, and then who would be left to look into the activities of the Pasadena group and their victims? He could almost hear Krycek telling him to get over himself and do what he needed to do. Besides, even if nothing else went wrong, walking in on Krycek with a storm cloud already over his head wasn't likely to help.

Reaching a corner, Mulder paused, looked both ways and decided to turn left. Crossing the street, he went half a block to a walkway and started down it. Pausing to pull a map from his pocket, he noticed a white car approaching slowly in the adjoining parking lot. One more turn to make sure. Mid-block he took the path between two buildings and then continued west. Sure enough, as he reached the corner, the white car pulled up close to the curb.

The driver rolled down her window. "Dr. Roth?" she said.

It was a woman, middle aged but with a pleasant face and smile, and a distinct liveliness about her in spite of her gray hair. He wasn't sure who he'd expected, but she wasn't it.

Mulder glanced around: no other cars approaching, no pedestrians. He took a step toward the car and nodded.

"Welcome to Boulder," she said. "I'm Dr. Phillips. You can put your things in the back seat."

Mulder swallowed, quickly loaded his luggage into the back and climbed into the passenger seat. He made himself smile at the driver, who put the car in gear and pulled onto the road.

After a moment she returned his stiff smile. "Sorry, Mr. Mulder, I'm out of my element here. Actually, I've been a bit out of my element for the past few weeks, working with Alex. He said you'd want to check and make sure no one was following us."

Mulder nodded and pulled a small mirror from his pocket, "Don't want to turn around and look obvious," he said, noticing her curious glance.

"Good point. How was your flight? Were you followed?"

Mulder shook his head. "Guy tailed me for two days in California. But as far as I can tell  I lost him at the airport when I went to turn in my rental car. He wasn't on the flight, and I'm pretty sure no one followed me at the airport when I arrived. There were only half a dozen people on the bus, so I'll know if I see one of them. I was the only one to get off at my stop."

"Well, that's good. You can call me Carrie, by the way," she added, briefly offering a hand, which he shook. "Alex has told me a little bit about you--that you used to work for the FBI."

"I was a thorn in the side of the Bureau," he said, offering a pained smile, "the guy who worked in the basement on the cases nobody else wanted to investigate." He paused to look at the red brick buildings of downtown Boulder streaming past the window."So you're his doctor?"


"You're not doing this under duress, are you? He's not forcing you to help him?"

"Oh, no. I worked with Alex once before, three years ago. He was brought to me by a British gentleman. Alex had what appeared to be radiation burns around his mouth and eyes, and in his throat and stomach, evidently from something he refers to as the black oil. It was by far the strangest thing I'd ever seen. Even stranger, the interior burns eventually... well, they basically vanished; I'm not sure anything I did really made a difference." She shrugged. "But he was in very poor shape. It was touch and go for a while there, and he was having very serious flashbacks--"


"About this oil substance. And a place he'd been held for a number of days at the time."

"Wait, was this a missile silo? In North Dakota?"

"He never mentioned where." She glanced over at him. "You know about this?"

"I tracked him to the silo, but I didn't see him there. I was chased off eventually by a man who was a thorn in my side for years, who eventually got me booted from the Bureau." He paused, thinking. "This British man, was he an older guy, sharp dresser, thin, maybe a couple of inches taller than me?"

"Yes." She seemed surprised. "His name was John Davies. Do you know him?"

"I never knew his name, but yeah, I'm pretty sure I did." He didn't add that ten months earlier he'd stepped out of a limousine carrying the man just seconds before it exploded, turning the Brit to human confetti.

Carrie signaled and pulled into a shopping center. "I'm going to stop at a little place here and pick up a smoothie for Alex. I'm trying to make sure he's eating well so he can get back to full strength as quickly as possible. Do you want something?"

 Mulder shrugged. "Actually, yeah. Thanks." He turned to look behind them. "But I should probably sit here and make sure nobody's watching us."

"I've got Alex on the heavy-duty healthy stuff, but I can get you something more mainstream if you're not into flax seeds and wheatgrass. They have a great coconut-banana-pineapple smoothie."

"I'll go with that, thanks."

Carrie pulled up in front of a small shop, parked and went inside. Mulder pulled down the visor and flipped up the cover to reveal the mirror. Carefully he examined the area behind the car. So they'd sent the Brit to pull Krycek out of the silo--no doubt after they figured he'd learned whatever lesson they wanted to teach him.

But then why bring him here?

And so much for Krycek's story that it was Petersen's ragtag militia that had "liberated" him.

A woman caught his eye in the visor mirror, jogging toward him from between cars in the parking lot. Mulder tensed, but she passed by and went into the smoothie shop just as Carrie was coming out with a large bag.

"What's the verdict?" she asked when she'd gotten in. "Anyone watching?"

Mulder shook his head. "I'll be glad when we get to wherever we're going, though."

"Nelson's place is very secluded," she said, "which is why I knew Alex would like it. There's a big grove of ponderosa pines that covers a couple of acres near the road."

They drove in silence for a while, the area gradually becoming more rural, the houses smaller and spaced farther apart on larger plots of land.  To the left, low hills were covered with short spring grasses. Eventually Carrie took a left turn and they headed west into the hills.

"It's only about five minutes farther," she said, and glanced at him. "You should know that Alex has been through a lot recently. He's told me enough about his circumstances, and about you, that I understand this meeting is going to take some serious work on both your parts--that you've had very different lives, which has shaped you into distinctly different people." She tried for a smile. "And I also know what it's like with brothers--I grew up with two of my own--and the way they tend to push and shove each other as a matter of course." Her lips came together and tightened. "Sorry, I may be slipping past professionalism into mom-mode here, but I don't want Alex to have a setback over this. I asked him to think about what his best encounter with you has been, and I invite you to do the same about him. It could be a good starting point."

Mulder frowned. "What did he say about me?"

"He talked about you finding his place one time, and the two of you sharing beers and talking like regular people." She smiled briefly, remembering. "It sounds like such a minor thing, but it seemed to mean a great deal to him."

The road ahead of them started to climb, one lane each way passing low, scrubby trees and the occasional section of striated, reddish rock where the soft covering of low grasses blanketing the hills seemed to have been torn away.  Gradually the road became steeper. Carrie moved left to pass a couple of bicycle racers struggling up the grade.

"My best encounter with Krycek," Mulder mused. "Okay, not so much interaction between us, but I guess the best I've seen in him." He stared into the distance. "A little over two weeks ago he met us at a hospital; this girl who'd helped him was dying--"

"You're referring to Tracy?"

Mulder's eyebrows rose. "Yeah. She was hooked up to all sorts of equipment, and he had them take it all away. And he sat down on the bed, and he had us set her in his lap, and he held her..." He bit his lip and glanced out to the east, where a hawk of some kind was circling below the scattered clouds overhead.


Outside Boulder, Colorado
11:38 a.m.

He could hear knocking on the door downstairs. Wincing, Krycek rolled, eased himself up off the mattress and put his feet on the floor. This was definitely not how he'd pictured this moment. He'd gotten only snatches of sleep, and even that not until after three a.m. When consciousness had finally come calling about half an hour ago, it had brought along a headache.

Lucky him.

The front door creaked, opening. "Alex?"

It was Carrie, the concern in her voice obvious.

"Yeah, coming." His heart rate surged. Standing, he pulled on his pants and fumbled with the zipper and snap. "Anybody follow you?"

"No." Mulder's voice. "Last time I saw the guy tailing me was when I turned off the airport entry road to drop off my rental car in Sacramento. Nobody on the flight that I could tell--"

"You check passengers coming off?"

"Yeah. Every last one. Nobody suspicious. I was careful in the airport. There was nobody on the shuttle, nobody I could see along the way here."


Krycek glanced at himself in the mirror on the back of the door as he headed for the stairs. He looked like hell. As he rounded the corner on the stairs, he caught sight of the two of them below. Even though he'd seen the picture Che had sent, he had to keep himself from reacting to the sight of Mulder's hair--or lack of it. Carrie's eyes were full of worry.

"Are you okay, Alex?"

"Yeah. Mostly, I guess," he said, coming down the rest of the way. "Didn't get much sleep last night, tossed and turned a lot, then woke up with my head feeling about as thick as a brick."

"Have you eaten anything?"

He shook his head, then tried to hide the pain that surged behind his eyes at the movement.

"Well, we stopped and I got you a few things." She set the bag on the chest below the mirror. "I'll get out of your hair now. Be sure and contact me if you aren't feeling better in a few hours."

"Yeah, will do."

"One other thing," Carrie said, glancing at him and then at Mulder. "I know you two have your work cut out for you, but I don't want to come back and find any bruises or black eyes here, okay?" She shot him a quick smile, and a look that said she got it--she knew how hard it might be, but she had confidence in him.

"Yeah," he said. "Thanks for the stuff. We'll keep in touch." 

Carrie turned and went out. The door closed behind her and silence quickly filled the room. Finally, here it was: just the two of them.

Krycek shrugged. "Take a load off. You been traveling long?"

Mulder let go the handle of his bag. "I've been up since 4:30, yeah. Pacific time." He reached for the smaller suitcase and came closer. "Your stuff's here. I think they got all of it." He handed it to Krycek, who set it beside the stairs. "There are smoothies in there," Mulder said, nodding toward the bag on the chest. "It's been a few minutes. They're probably melting."

Krycek opened the bag.

"The one with all the rabbit food is for you," Mulder said.

"Rabbit food's good for you."

Krycek took his smoothie and smiled briefly to himself, noticing that Carrie'd gotten some of the rolls he liked so much, and went to the window. He studied the driveway area--no motion out there, nothing suspicious--then retreated to the rocking chair and sat down. He let his head fall against the back of the chair and closed his eyes.

"She said she's worked with you before," Mulder said.

When Krycek opened his eyes again, Mulder was sitting on the couch, sipping his smoothie.

"She's good. Really good." He cleared his throat." I hitched a ride out of Owensburg, trying to make it to Pasadena, but the wound got infected and I was getting pretty close to here,  and at that point I figured it was either call her or probably end up dead." He shrugged. "She drove a couple of hours to pick me up."

"Is she the one who was looking over Smoky's data?"

"Yeah. She teaches at the university." Krycek set the smoothie cup carefully between his knees,  worked off the cap, and paused. Damned single hand. To pick up the cup, he'd have to get rid of the lid, but he wasn't close enough to anything he could set it on. It was either toss the lid toward the table, where the frothy stuff stuck to it was going to splatter, or--

"Here." Mulder stood, reached for the cap and set it on the small table.

Krycek swallowed and closed his eyes. "Headache," he said. Finally he opened his eyes and sipped off the melted top layer of the smoothie. A few more sips and his stomach was starting to feeling a little better.

"So," he said, "how did California go?"

Mulder's lips pressed together. "Put on the best show I could. Checked with the local P.D. and sheriff's office. Neither place had any Jane Does that would match Samantha, given when they were found." He shifted on the couch. "Then the second day I laid out a map of places she might have gone, if she'd passed through that area. You know, just to scout things out, in case there's anything there that might stand out later, when we have a chance to look into it."

The echo of footfalls came from overhead. Mulder looked up.

"Squirrels," Krycek said. "Biggest ones I've ever seen. Strangest looking, too." The sound faded away. "So you've got your trail set up? They think you're on your way to Greenwich?"

Mulder nodded. "According to the airline's passenger manifest, I'm on my way into JFK as we speak. A friend's going to go there, then head to my--" He stopped. A muscle in his cheek twitched. "To Mom's. He'll stay with her until I get there. We've got a funeral planned for Tuesday."

"You're going all out."

Mulder's jaw set. "We're going to do whatever it takes to get these guys off our asses." After a moment his expression loosened. "I got a note from Skinner the other day. Do you know anything about six Nazi spies who were buried in an old potter's field in D.C.?"

"No. Why?"

"Evidently Smoky's last request was to have his ashes scattered near the unmarked graves of these six German spies. There's a news clipping about them in that file box we took from his place, but at the time I looked through it, I wasn't paying much attention to the details."

"So Skinner found out about this how?"

Mulder shrugged. "Don't know. But good old Jeffrey Spender was supposed to do the honors, and it sounded like Skinner went along for moral support... and because he figured I'd be interested. Evidently the place is just an abandoned weedy field now. It's over in Anacostia."

Krycek shook his head, then winced at the throbbing it caused. "Never heard him talk about anyplace like that. Or the spies; that's a new one on me." He focused on his guest. "But you've got to figure it must mean something. Old man didn't do anything without a reason."

"Yeah, that's what I was thinking." Mulder stood and went to his suitcase. "Look, do you have a phone line in here? I told Scully I'd e-mail her when I got here."

"Sure." Krycek turned carefully and pointed to a small table by the back window. "Help yourself."

Mulder went around to the table, unplugged the phone and plugged in his laptop. Krycek made himself take a few more gulps of his smoothie. Then he got up and went to the window overlooking the driveway. He scanned the scene to the background rhythm of the thumping behind his eyes and the soft click of Mulder's keyboard.


Just got here--arrived in one piece, and as far as I can tell, without being followed. We're at a secluded place outside Boulder, and so far (about ten minutes) it's been awkward but we haven't killed each other yet. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

No idea how long I'll be here, but on the way it hit me that a couple of hours isn't likely to give me what I want, or straighten out the last five years. Not sure what kind of plans we'll have to make if I stay over, but I guess we'll find out if/when we get to that point.

It's times like this that make me realize the true value of having someone like you backing me up. You do it in so many ways, and probably a lot more than I deserve. Will keep you posted.

                                                                                          -the nightingale


Near Longmont, Colorado
11:53 a.m.

Carrie turned right with the curve of the road, dropping down from the edge of the hills into the gently rolling land below. The grasses in the fields were still green and accented with the occasional wildflower; it was good that Ty had made it home in time to see them before they dried out and turned a crisp tan. Though the one thing he'd missed was being able to go ice skating at the local winter rink.

She'd set  up a special e-mail account to keep in touch with Alex. It would be too chancy for him to call her in case Tyler were to answer. When she reached home, she'd log on and be ready in case he contacted her. He'd slept poorly just a couple of times while he was staying with her, so his state this morning had come as a surprise. Or maybe it shouldn't have. No doubt the tension of his brother's impending arrival had been a factor.

Alex's brother had been... interesting. He had an intensity of his own that was very different from Alex's, and his assumption that Alex might be forcing her to help him had taken her by surprise, though it probably said quite a lot about his previous interaction with Alex. It was something she'd never stopped to think about--what type of person Alex might be if you were to find yourself at odds with him.

A few minutes later, Carrie pulled into her driveway and flicked the garage door opener. She'd barely pulled in and turned the car off when Tyler came bounding down the stairs.

"Hey, Mom." he called, face beaming, "Zack's mother said she'd take us skating in Westminster this afternoon. Is it okay? Can I go?"

Carrie made herself smile. "Sounds like just what you were hoping for. Sure."

"His mom said you have to call so she knows it's okay."

"Okay, I'll be up in a minute."

Carrie closed her eyes a moment, switching gears, then went upstairs to make the arrangements. Twenty minutes later, after watching her son disappear into the Henrich's car, she turned around in the sudden silence, sighed, and finally went downstairs and drifted out onto the patio.

She'd barely thought about her little vegetable transplants for the past few days. Going closer, she examined the plants. They'd definitely been growing. But so were weed seedlings, which had germinated in the intervening days. Thin, fragile things, with thread-like stems half an inch tall, they stood like a miniature grove of trees above the soil's surface. Carrie sat down on the edge of the bed and reached for one, but the leafy top came off. Probably it would be better to let them go a few days, until they got big enough to be pulled out root and all.

A sudden gust of wind rustled the leaves on the huge oak overhanging the garden. Carrie shivered and looked up at the sky, where gray and white clouds were jostling for dominance with a shrinking quantity of blue sky. It was strangely cool today.

Or maybe just strange. Maybe it was her. Ty was here, but he was gone. Alex was here, but over at Nelson's. Her eyes burned. There were plenty of people who were truly alone. She had a fulfilling career, and a son. There were millions of people who were truly without, struggling to get by in parched deserts or war-torn countries, while she had a comfortable home, and food, and...

She swallowed. She had no right to feel like this.


Outside Boulder, Colorado
12:08 p.m.

"... around here?"

A hand touched his shoulder. Krycek woke with a snort and looked up to find Mulder leaning over him.

"Wha--?" He swallowed. "What time is it?"

"It's only been five minutes. You dozed off while I was e-mailing Scully." He straightened. "You look like hell. Why don't you go get some sleep? We can talk later."

Krycek closed his eyes momentarily. His head was slowly starting to clear. "What about you?"

Mulder shrugged. "I don't know. What is there to do around here?"

"Without being seen? Watch squirrels or go hiking. Or hell, jogging or whatever you want."


"Go back down the driveway to the end of the paved area," Krycek said, gesturing. "Trail starts  up on the left, goes east up the rise. Where the trees end, you can keep going to a little peak. There's more past that--down and then up again, to where the hills fall away. Not sure how far the property goes to the sides, so you'd better stick to going straight east."

He stood and paused, waited for the clamor in his head to settle, then headed for the stairs, stopping to pick up the suitcase containing the prosthesis Mulder had brought.

Upstairs, he set the bag aside, stripped out of his pants, crawled into bed and closed his eyes. The headache throbbed behind his eyes, gradually subsiding from the flare-up of movement to a duller pain.

Footfalls sounded on the stairs, coming up. When they stopped beside the bed, Krycek opened one eye.

"I brought these for you," Mulder said, holding out a handful of something. "Tracy's diary and a bunch of letters her mom wrote."

"Thanks." He glanced toward the nightstand. "Put 'em there, will you?"

Mulder set them down and turned to go.

"There's a key in a covered dish on the window sill beside the front door," Krycek said. "Lock up when you go out, okay?"


Krycek closed his eyes and listened to Mulder's footfalls fading away, followed by the sound of the door opening and closing, and the deadbolt turning. Then silence. He focused on his body gradually loosening, and the beginning of warmth starting to come from the blankets. In his mind the diary glowed softly on the bedside table, a focus, but one he was too far gone to deal with now.

Little by little, sleep took him.


Greenwich, Connecticut
3:37 p.m. EDT

Opening the front door, Teena Mulder gasped at what she saw.


It looked like him... but on the other hand there was something strange about the man standing on her porch. Besides, Fox was somewhere else.

"John Byers," said the man who was not her son.

He certainly didn't sound like Fox.

"May I come in?"

"Oh. Yes." She looked carefully at the face again. "Yes, thank you for coming."

She held the door open wider. Her visitor picked up his suitcase and came inside.

"I apologize for startling you," Byers said when the door had been closed behind him, "We were able to make a silicone mask of your son's face. Luckily we have some friends who are quite adept at this sort of thing. We felt it would help with the realism of this operation. However, it's not the most comfortable thing to wear for extended periods. If you'll show me to a room with a mirror, I'd be happy to be able to take it off."

"Yes," she said, relief flooding over her. "Right this way."


Outside Boulder, Colorado
1:58 p.m.

Quickly Mulder turned the key in the lock, opened the door and slipped inside.

"Where have you been all this time?" It was Krycek's low-throated "I'm in charge here" voice.

Mulder shut the door behind him and turned to see Krycek sitting in the rocker.

"I've been waiting for a chance to get in here. There was a guy out there--"

"Nelson. It's his place."

Mulder's hands went to his hips. "Funny, nobody bothered to mention that." After a beat he swiped an arm across his forehead, wiping away sweat. "I've been from here to the drop-off  and back again twice, but when I came back the second time the Jeep was here and I couldn't see a way to get over here without being noticed." He glanced out the window and then dropped the key into the covered dish.

"There's water in the fridge in the kitchen. You look like you need some," Krycek said. "The door under the stairs," he added, pointing. He was wearing the prosthesis now. Tracy's diary was clasped in its grasping mechanism.

Mulder went to the kitchen and opened the fridge. Krycek seemed edgier now. Maybe he was feeling better, more like himself. For better or worse. Mulder bit his lip and reached for a bottle of water on the shelf. It was a small fridge, but fairly well stocked--at least, with things that Carrie Phillips had no doubt put there. Closing the door, he returned to the living room and plopped down on the couch.

"There are bath towels in the closet up in the bathroom," Krycek said, nodding toward the stairs. "You should get one and put it down there, not sweat all over Nelson's couch. You can get a shower later, but we should talk first."

Mulder frowned, but got up and headed for the stairs. Since when was Krycek worried about the state of anyone's furniture?

"Anyone else I should know about besides this Nelson guy?" he said, reaching the top of the stairs and turning toward the bathroom. "You know, before I end up stuck behind a tree for another half hour?"

"Can't think of anything. He's a colleague of Carrie's. Leads a pretty quiet life from what I can tell."

Mulder grabbed a brown towel from the stack in the cabinet and started down the stairs. "Does he know I'm here?"

"Yeah, Carrie cleared it with him." Krycek paused. "I spent the first week and a half at Carrie's. Then her son came home--divorce; he was living with his dad this year and just finished school--and I figured I'd better get the hell out of there. Didn't want to compromise her any more than I have already. Especially not with the kid around."

Mulder draped the towel over the couch cushions, sat down and grabbed his water. "You already have. Is she aware that she's harboring a known fugitive, whether you're there or here?"

Krycek swallowed. "Yeah, I think so. Hey, if I didn't need the help, believe me, I wouldn't have gotten her into this mess."

"So about this other time she was 'working with' you," Mulder started, trying for a careful delivery. There was no telling what might set Krycek off. "It sounded like someone let you out of the silo. And not those guys from the militia group."

Krycek's eyes narrowed. "Yeah, when I was just about dead. What happened to you? You were following me, weren't you?"

"Yeah. Scully and I found the place, but Smoky brought in some special ops guys and they stopped us before we could locate anything. Hauled us away. Threatened us in case we got any ideas about going back." He paused. "There was a ship, wasn't there?"

Krycek's eyes closed briefly. "Yeah. There was a ship." His good hand grasped the arm of the rocker. He said nothing more.

Mulder waited. Krycek's grip on the chair arm seemed to tighten.

"Obviously someone let you out in the end."

Krycek glanced toward him. "Not if the old man'd had a say in it. He wanted to score points with the aliens first of all--look generous and give the Oil its ship back. But while he was at it, it was a great opportunity to finally get rid of me."


"He set a bomb under the car I was riding in"--he shrugged--"right after we took the DAT tape from Skinner. Should've known something was up when there were two other guys along on the job. We stopped at a convenience store, and I was sitting there, waiting in the car, and all of a sudden it hit me that it was a set-up." He sniffed in a breath. "Got out and ran like hell. Blast knocked me down." His lips twitched. His thumb rubbed hard against the edge of the chair arm.

He glanced at Mulder. "Didn't feel a whole lot of loyalty to the old son of a bitch after that. So I got the hell out of there, away from anywhere the old man would find me, and sold the intel off that tape to stay alive."

"Which is why you were in Hong Kong," Mulder said, realization filtering in, "working with Kallenchuk."

"Only because I had to."

"So how did you get out of the silo?"

Krycek swallowed and stared toward the window beside the front door. "I'd fallen into a coma, I guess; I was in there for days, freezing, radiation burns, no food or water. And then, next thing I know, I wake up in this nice house, with Carrie taking care of me."

"The Englishman," Mulder said. "From the group."

"Yeah. Not that he was doing it out of the goodness of his heart. He needed an ally. He was on the outs with the rest of them, hadn't drunk the group's kool-aid in years. Figured he'd hedge his bets by saving someone who thought more like he did and maybe hold onto a chance of influencing things down the line."

"Thought like he did how?"

Krycek flexed his hand. "He knew the aliens were never going to follow through on their end of the bargain once they had what they wanted from us. Why the hell would they? The men in the board room--they're fools to believe that. Blind. Anyway, the Brit wanted to save people if there was a way to do it." He paused. "Sometimes I think he only wanted to save his grandkids, but hell, some motivation in the right direction is better than none, right?"

After a beat, Mulder nodded.

Krycek shrugged. "So that's how I met Carrie. Hadn't ever known anyone like her before--the way she'll put out for you. None of that shit where they treat you like a piece of meat. She's a big help, but she never crowds you."

"So you had... burns?"

"Yeah. Mouth, throat, around the eyes. Ears. Inside. Down there in the silo, the stuff bailed on me once it saw its ship; it wasn't making any effort to be careful. Wasn't like it was for y--" Abruptly, he stopped.

Mulder's mouth tightened. Instinctively, his fists curled. "I want to know about Russia," he said, a hiss in his voice. "I've been waiting for two years to find out what we were doing there."


Beehive Suites Hotel
Salt Lake City, Utah
2:13 p.m.

Four reached quickly for the ringing phone.


"There was an emergency," said the voice on the other end, one identical to his own. "With one of the other subjects. We were all applied to the situation until it was resolved. But you're clear to continue. No trace of her has been received."

The tension inside Four began to loosen. "Are you under any suspicion?" he asked.

"No, I don't believe so. How long will it be until you reach the destination?"

"Two more travel days. Three days in all, at the rate we've been going." Four paused. "There's something more, isn't there?"

"It's Colab. He's been very depressed. He does the work assigned to him, but I'm afraid he may try to do away with himself if he sees no hope."

"And yet you don't want to give him false hope," Four said.


"It is," Four said, "the unfortunate contrast between us and their kind. They have a passion we don't possess. But without it, they find it difficult to keep going." He let out a sigh. "If you can keep Colab moving forward for just a few more days, we may be able to offer him some of the hope he craves."


Outside Boulder, Colorado
2:16 p.m.

"Russia?" Krycek shrugged casually. "You haven't figured it out?"

Mulder leaned forward, elbows on knees. "Explain it to me."

Krycek let his head drop back against the chair cushion. "It was all about the vaccine."

"The one they were testing on those prisoners?"


"The guy in the cell next to mine said everybody was dying from it."

"For a while they were. Until they got the formula right. And they had, by the time you got there."

"So you dragged me there to let me know the Russians had developed a vaccine? How does that make sense?" Mulder stood. His voice rose. "What, was it too hard to just say the words? I want the truth, Krycek. That's why we're here--because almost everything you've ever told me has turned out to be a lie, and with that kind of background, how can I trust you now?" Mulder turned away, as if to start for the door.

Krycek rose from his chair. "It wasn't to tell you anything, Mulder. It was to get you vaccinated. To protect you from the Oil."

Mulder turned back. "What?"

One corner of Krycek's mouth twitched. "You heard me."

Mulder's hands found his hips. "You're telling me you went to all that trouble--"

"Plus the time it took to set up with those idiot militia members, just to get your attention. That took months of hard work."

"Sorry, Krycek." Mulder shot him a bitter smile. "I may be gullible, but that's more than even I can swallow."

"It's the truth. Why do you think I didn't bother to explain it to you then? Because you'd never have believed me."

"Gee, I wonder why that is." Mulder's jaw set. He glanced up at the ceiling briefly and let out a slow breath. "Okay. Say, for the sake of argument, that I believe what you're saying. Why would you have done that, gone to all that trouble?"

Krycek's mouth opened, but nothing came out. His lips twitched. Finally he sniffed in a breath.

"Never mind. You wouldn't understand anyway."

"No, tell me." Mulder's hands spread wide. "I'm all ears."

"Fuck you, Mulder," Krycek mumbled. He went to the door and opened it, slamming it behind him.

Mulder stood open-mouthed, watching Krycek cross the driveway and start up the trail.


Outside Boulder, Colorado
2:31 p.m.

Mulder made his way slowly up the trail, taking long strides, pacing himself. Overhead, a jumble of gray-white clouds could be seen between the slightly waving treetops. Aside from the chittering of a squirrel in a nearby tree, the grove was filled with a palpable silence.

At the edge of the trees he paused and squinted into the dull brightness ahead: scattered green grasses and a few wildflowers on the ascending slope, the narrow trail leading upward. Taking a few deep breaths, he started forward again.

As he neared the peak, he could see Krycek sitting on a rocky outcropping, staring east at the broad plain. As he approached, he let his shoes shuffle deliberately, but Krycek didn't turn or look at him. Mulder went closer and leaned against a rock ledge. Krycek was shivering slightly in the breeze. Tracy's diary, which he'd never put down, was in his real hand now.

Mulder took a deep breath. "How about we try again," he said, staring out toward the seemingly endless flatness in front of them. Below, the clouds shifted and a spot of sunshine lit a patchwork section in the distance.

"Yeah, okay." Krycek pulled his collar up higher against the increasing breeze.

"You said 'when the aliens get what they want'. What did you mean?"

"They're looking for help setting up their invasion, getting ready to take over. The core group is supposed to be saved in exchange--be given hybrid genes so they'll survive when the rest of the human population is killed off."

Mulder frowned. "So they're selling us out?"

"Yeah." Krycek paused. "But since when does an enemy who puts you over a barrel keep their promises once they've gotten what they want from you? Any twelve-year-old who's grown up on a mean street knows that's never going to happen."

"And you, on the other hand, want...?"

Krycek shot him a look. "To save this place. Hell, to save as many people as possible, so we can fight back." He sniffed in a breath. "Why would you just hand yourselves over like that to a bunch of screaming aliens?" He hugged his arm to his middle. "Had a plan going once. I was able to get hold of a dose of the vaccine. We had it duplicated in a lab in Colombia--"

"You and who else?"

Krycek's lips twisted. "Me and Marita Covarrubias. Her father got sucked into the project against his will years ago. He did what he could to counter the old men, developed a secret network of people who would help distribute a vaccine worldwide if a viable one ever came along. He died six years ago but Marita took over his work. Just my luck you went to her for information that night, Mulder. I had no idea who she was, but afterward, when I came back to this country, I figured I'd better find out who it was that knew about me, since they'd gotten us those traveling papers. She was smart; she'd already figured out who I was by the time I came calling, and she basically offered me an in to her plan if I could swipe a vial of the Russian vaccine to get us started."

"You were in with them somehow, weren't you? The Russians?"

"Hell, I've known about the vaccine work since I was a kid. When the old man brought me back from Afghanistan in '85, I asked him to place me there as a lab assistant, because I knew it would make him happy to have a mole inside the program, but mostly because it would be a damn sight safer than whatever else he might have planned for me. Worked there for eight months or so and then moved on. That's where I met Maria Ivanova--Vanek. She was a researcher there at the time. Anyway, I made a lot of money selling the secrets on that DAT tape, and I put it all in the bank. Figured rainy days are always just around the corner, and it would be stupid not to be ready."

He shifted on the rock and went on. "So once I'd  healed up from what happened in the silo, I went to Moscow. Found out from a friend of mine, a snoop, that the program was in a bad way, pinched for funding. So I went there and presented myself as the representative of an anonymous donor willing to fund them."

"Only it was you," Mulder said.

Krycek nodded and glanced up at a passing bird flapping hard against a headwind. "I was able to hire another scientist, and he turned out to be the one who came up with the final formula."

"So you knew when it was successful."

"As soon as we knew it was working, Andrei and Lev--he's the one in charge--and I were all vaccinated. But after the initial rush of success wore off, I realized that a handful of us having immunity--hell, it was a joke as far as the larger threat goes. Can't fight an alien race by yourself. And then I was thinking, who could I line up that wouldn't sell out? Everybody I'd ever known could be bought if the price was right, if you pushed the right buttons." He paused. "But I knew you never would."

Mulder's mouth dropped open slightly and he squinted out into the distance, Krycek's words echoing inside his head. Had he really just said that? A pinprick of water hit his face, and then another. He glanced up. The sky overhead had darkened.

"It's starting to rain," he said. "We should go."

"Y-yeah." Krycek was shivering visibly now, his teeth beginning to chatter.

Mulder studied him a moment, then peeled off his sweatshirt and held it out. "Here, warm up. Can't be good for you, shivering like that."

Krycek frowned. "I'm not an invalid, Mulder."

"Never said you were. Stubborn can be stupid, though. Take it."

With a mumbled "thanks", Krycek set the diary aside, took the sweatshirt and worked it over his head. He slipped his good arm through the armhole and reached for the diary. "Okay, let's get out of here."

Turning, Mulder led the way down the slope.


Quantico, Virginia
3:41 p.m.

The cell phone in Scully's pocket rang. Quickly she took it out and checked the screen. It was her mother. Tensing slightly, she hit "talk".

"Hi, Mom."

"Hi, Dana. It's been a while, and... well, I was hoping to get together with you for lunch or something before next week."

Next week, when she and Tara and little Matthew would be boarding a plane for Bahrain.

"Um, sure. Sure, I'd like that. What did you have in mind?"

"Would tomorrow work, or do you have to teach?"

"I'm afraid I have classes straight through from 10 a.m. to 4:30 tomorrow."

"What about..."

There was a long silence on the line. Scully waited.


"I'm here, Dana. I was just... checking my calendar." She was speaking more quietly now. "Saturday would work if we could do it early. Maybe brunch. How would that be?"

"Sure, that would work." Scully paused. There was something in her mother's voice. "Mom, is everything okay?"

"Oh, yes. It's fine, Dana. I'll see you... Do you think you could meet me at the seafood restaurant in Hanover?"

"Having a hankering for crab cakes?"

"Yes. When I was sick, I promised myself that if I survived the Legionnaire's, that would be my celebration treat, and I thought before we--"

Scully pursed her lips and twisted the phone so her mother wouldn't hear her sigh. "That's fine, Mom. Crab sounds good. When should I meet you?"

"I believe they open at eleven."

"Okay, I'll see you then."

Scully switched off the phone. There had been a hesitancy in her mother's voice that had stood out, one her mother had obviously been working to disguise. Why did she get the feeling that somehow Bill was involved?


Outside Boulder, Colorado
4:38 p.m.

Krycek glanced up as Mulder appeared at the top of the stairs, his hair wet from the shower.

"There's food down here if you're hungry," he said, gesturing toward his bowl of chili. He watched as Mulder came down the rest of the way. "That gray stuff in your hair was pretty convincing."

Mulder grimaced. "At least it was easy to put on. The hard part is having to look at myself in the mirror." He went to his suitcase on the sofa, opened it and pulled out a baseball cap, which he slipped onto his head. "There, now I can pretend I look normal for a while."

"Makes you think about getting old, you know?" Krycek said, pushing his spoon absently through the bowl in front of him. "Carrie and I were talking the other day. It's nothing I ever used to think about--getting old. I mean, since I was eleven and the old man took me to--" He shook his head, scooped up a spoonful of chili and put it in his mouth.

"What?" Mulder said, glancing up. He was sitting on the couch, leaning over to put on clean socks.

"He took me to the camp," Krycek said quietly. "Made me watch the experiments, all those men under the wire. Told me about the Oil, and what my life was going to be about."

Mulder looked as if he'd swallowed something bitter.

"Yeah, nice guy." Krycek shrugged, looked past Mulder and finally focused on him momentarily. "Any idea what it's like to try to keep your nightmares a secret from a bunch of kids in a dormitory who are always on the lookout for a weak kid they can bully?"

"So you made sure you weren't the weak kid," Mulder said, thoughtful.

"Had to stay alive somehow." He paused. "But like I was saying, Carrie and I were talking, and suddenly it hit me that  other people don't look at their life like a timeline already filled out"--he gestured--"born here, the end over there. I've always lived with that end date. I'll be forty-five when the invasion comes. If I make it that long." He paused and glanced at Mulder. "Fifty-one for you."

Mulder's mouth opened, but nothing came out.

"That's the thing," Krycek went on. "You, Mulder--you've spent your life on the fringe. Everybody making you feel like you were the fringe. But this--alien invasion--it's the only game there is, really. The only one that counts. And every day the clock's ticking down."

Mulder frowned. "How do you sleep at night?"

"Exhaustion mostly."  Krycek paused. "Go get yourself something to eat. Everything's labeled in there. Just put it in the microwave."


Georgetown, Washington D.C.
5:22 p.m.

Scully kicked off her shoes and picked up a stack of mail from the phone table. Cable bill, ads for pizza, check printing, dry cleaning... and a small manila envelope, hand-addressed, from Elleryville, Pennsylvania. Curious, Scully took it to the couch and sat down.

Slitting open the top, she opened it to find six pieces of lined paper. The top sheet was a note from Nathan Meyer:

Dear Agent Scully,

In going through some things in Tracy's room, I came across these drawings, or whatever you might call them--maybe just scribbles. Since you folks seemed to focus on small things I might never have thought twice about, these stood out to me because of their repetitive nature. I don't recall Tracy ever doing anything over and over, and these may mean nothing, but I figured just in case, I'd send them to you so you can have a look. Let me know if they happen to help you at all.

                                                                                                 Nathan Meyer 

P.S. I found the end of a bag of the fertililzer that Shirley had used, and sent it to the local extension service to have it tested, but it turned out there was nothing out of the ordinary in it.

Scully set the note aside. Below it were five sheets of paper that had been crumpled and then straightened again. On each was a simple crayoned drawing consisting of two tan curved areas, like back-to-back parenthesis, with a shape like a modified figure 8 between them toward one end. In three of the drawings, the figure 8 was red. in one it was blue, and in another, gray.

Scully's brow creased as she puzzled over the pictures. Finally she turned one over. On the back was what could possibly be numbering for the series: 1/17.  Turning over the others, she found similar notations: 1/15 to 1/18. Two were labeled 1/16. Repetitive behavior could be a symptom of agitation or stress, and Tracy's time with her aunt and uncle, from what she'd heard of it, had certainly included stressful elements. These sketches could simply be the result of a sudden episode of intense frustration.

Glancing one last time through the papers, she slipped them back into the envelope, went to the door and tucked the envelope into her briefcase. There was a scanner in her office. She could scan the drawings in the morning and e-mail them to Mulder. As Nathan said, they could mean nothing. But it was also possible that Mulder might make one of his leaps of logic and come to some conclusion that would prove helpful.


Outside Boulder, Colorado
5:35 p.m.

Mulder stood at the window beside the door, looking up at the treetops stirring overhead. Lightning flashed briefly, illuminating the driveway area, followed a few seconds later by rumbling thunder somewhere in the distance.

"So much for summer," he said.

Krycek gestured from the table, where his laptop was hooked up to the internet. "We've got a fireplace. Start a fire if you want. We could use some heat in here."

Mulder went to the hearth and inspected it. "Gas starter?"

"Yeah. Wood's right there," Krycek said, indicating the stack of split logs.

Mulder squatted down and drew back the mesh curtain. He arranged several pieces of wood on the grate, reached for another and paused. A spark of light glinted off something at the base of the stack of wood. He eased the log forward, paused and bit his lip at the sight of the hunting knife. Obviously it had been placed there deliberately.

"Just in case we end up with the wrong kind of visitors," Krycek's voice came from the table. "I found it in the shop. Don't touch it unless you need to; I want to keep the prints to a minimum." He pushed out a breath. "If something happens, we're pretty much sitting ducks here, unless you've got a weapon with you."

Mulder shook his head. "Not so easy to travel armed without the badge they took away from me." Finally he turned back to the fireplace. "Matches?"

"On the mantel."

Mulder retrieved them, turned the gas key and lit the fire. Even the little bit of initial warmth felt good. After a moment he closed the mesh screen and stood.

"The Bureau's supposed to be searching for you," Mulder said, "I'm sure the consortium's men in the Bureau are pushing them to. But as far as I know, from anyone I have contact with, they haven't made any headway yet."

"I've vanished without a trace, huh?" Krycek didn't bother to look up from his laptop. "Well, good thing, because we've got plenty of work to do."

Mulder glanced down at the fire, watching the way the flames had started to spread around the bottom of the logs and then curl up, licking at the corners. "What about Carrie?" he said. "Has she got some kind of tie to the group, that the Englishman brought her to help you?"

Krycek looked up. "He was going against them; there was no way he would have used anyone they knew." He paused. "Anyway, I wrote to her later, after I'd left, and told her to cut any ties she still had to the Brit. Didn't want to see her get mixed up in anything that could get her hurt. Or compromise her kid."

Krycek's head went down again. Mulder settled crosslegged in front of the hearth. Just who was this guy sitting at the table by the window, and what had he done with the real Krycek? He watched the flames dance, letting the scene in front of him go out of focus until finally the snap of Krycek's laptop case drew him back to the moment.

Krycek stood and disappeared into the kitchen, reappearing a couple of minutes later with a mug of something. He settled in the rocker.

"There's no coffee here--it interacts with the meds I'm on--but Carrie left some chai out there. Help yourself if you want any," he said, and closed his eyes briefly. "Man, I'm going to be glad to finally get off these antibiotics."

"How long do you have to go?"

"Another couple of weeks. They've been pretty brutal, but they're better than the alternative, I guess." He shrugged.

Mulder got up, moved to the couch and settled there, bunching a throw pillow behind his head. "So what happened to this vaccine plan you were running with Marita Covarrubias?"

"We made a start, before the whole thing fell apart. Distributed 36,000 doses. So we've got about that many people who are immune to the Oil. Pretty pathetic, looking at it now. I mean, how long can you hold off an alien takeover of the planet with 36,000 people?"

"Who are these people? And how did you get them to take your vaccine?"

"We thought about who'd be the most valuable to have available in a fight, so we started with scientists and researchers on university campuses. That and military bases. We stayed away from anything near D.C. or New York, though, because we figured those would be the most likely places to be wiped out at the outset. So we wrote those off, focused on Boston, Chicago, Toronto. Ended up distributing most of it to military bases, though, because that way if there were side effects, it would be harder to pinpoint our vaccine as the cause, since they give so many shots at once. "

"And what were you saying it was, the vaccine?"

"Flu shots."

"That's a lot of planning."

"Marita'd laid all the groundwork. Or her dad had. She had contacts all over. Eventually we were going to distribute it worldwide."

"What happened?"

Krycek shrugged. "Crossed wires. Chance. In the end, our guy at the company manufacturing the stuff was killed in a drug cartel hit gone wrong." He sighed. "That was the end."

"She called me--Marita," Mulder said, sitting up straighter. "A little over a year ago. She said she had information about the massacre at Skyland Mountain, and about a similar incident in eastern Kazakhstan, but when I got to the meeting place, she wasn't there. But I found Oil residue--"

"She got infected. She had a ki-- She had someone with her who was infected, and the stuff jumped."

"Guess that explains why I never heard from her after that. What happened to her?"

"Group's got her. From what I hear, they managed to cure her most of the way."

"She's being held captive?"

"Don't know what the scoop is. They don't talk to me." Krycek got up and went to the window beside the fireplace, then to the one beside the door.

Mulder pulled up. "Anybody out there?"

"No." Krycek set his mug on the window sill and started up the stairs. "Look, I'm going to read over that diary some more, maybe get started on those letters. When you get tired, you're welcome to the second bed. I don't know about you, but I'm going to sack out early, try to catch up on some of the sleep I didn't get last night."

"Yeah, okay."

"Turn off the fire and lock the door before you come up."


Mulder waited until Krycek had gone upstairs. Then he went to the front door, locked it and leaned against the window ledge, looking out. Colorado: he'd have thought it would be sunny at this point, or at least mildly warm. Overhead, raindrops pattered against the roof. Lightning strobed through the trees outside the window, flooding the area with a brief flash of harsh light. Mulder picked up Krycek's mug and carried it to the kitchen, then settled himself on the couch again. In a little while he'd get out his laptop and write to Scully, let her know he was still alive and in one piece... and that the consortium's minions hadn't found them. At least, not yet.

Reaching for the throw pillow, he tucked it under his head and shifted to a more comfortable position. Gradually his eyelids became heavier, wanting to close. He was in the Sacramento airport again, facing a glass case displaying the history of almond growing in the upper Central Valley. The warmth of the fire against his skin made him loosen, and his cheek settled against the throw pillow.


Outside Boulder, Colorado
7:48 p.m.

Mulder climbed the stairs in the dark, feeling his way along the railing, unsure how he was going to maneuver through the bedroom between the lack of light and his thick head. But as he turned the last corner, he could see a night light spilling its soft glow from the bathroom. Quietly he went in, shut the door, used the toilet and brushed his teeth.

Opening the door again, he waited a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness of the bedroom. Making his way around Krycek's bed, he groped for the second bed, found the spread and pulled it back, fumbling through the blankets to find the sheets. Finally he located them and pulled back the covers.

"Need the light?" a groggy voice came from the other bed.


Mulder stripped off his shirt, then his sweatpants, and crawled into bed. Pulling up the blankets, he stared at the sloped ceiling in the dark. He'd fallen asleep on the sofa, probably the result of too much tension, too much traveling and having gotten up far too early to make it to the airport in Sacramento.

In the morning he'd write to Scully. It had to be rough for her, being the one left behind. Not that he'd prefer to have her here in potential danger. They'd just have to be patient, see how things would go. But who was she going to be able to let off steam with if something happened while he was gone? She'd gotten better about not claiming she was fine when she wasn't, but at a distance, knowing he had enough details of his own to worry about, would she revert to trying to keep it all inside, trying to make sure she was shouldering her share of the load?

On the other bed, Krycek rolled onto his back.

Then there was good old brother Bill. That was a slap in the face she hadn't needed--or deserved--having him decide to haul their mother away to keep her safe from her own daughter.

"He used to tell me about you, you know," Krycek said, breaking the room's silence.


"The old man. When I was a kid. He'd come every three or four months to check up on me, and he'd tell me that I had this brother on the other side of the world, and what you were up to." He pushed the pillow farther under his head.


"Didn't see it at the time, but he was fucking with my head even then. I think he just wanted me to know about everything you had that I didn't."

"He wanted you to hate me?"

For a long time there was only silence.

"Ché's got this theory--that he wanted to take down the whole family, and what better way than to set you and me against each other?"

"Hard to imagine anybody thinking that way. Wanting that."

"Be glad you didn't grow up where I did, Mulder."


A wave of rain pattered across the roof. Mulder pulled the blankets up closer to his chin and closed his eyes. He thought of the small, ragged boy from the photo in Smoky's filebox being told about his well-off older brother. He thought about racing across a mud-pocked yard with a homemade knife, intent on sinking it into the scumbag on the loading platform. He remembered a new green agent who'd confronted him once with "You don't know the first thing about me."

(End Chapter 10)

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