Title: Shroud of Lies: Elegy (prologue to Between Lies)
Author: N. Y. Smith
Date: July 8, 1998
Rating: PG-13: Some coarse language, mildly disturbing themes
Category: SRA Alternate universe
Spoilers: None, really
Keywords: MSR, M/Sc/Sk Friendship, Character death, AU
Disclaimer: Story copyright reserved by the
Author. (Who else would want it?) Most of the characters contained herein (e.g., Mulder, Scully, Skinner, Modell) are the property of Fox, Chris Carter, Ten-Thirteen Productions, et al, who retain the rights to those characters.
Archiving: Just let me know ...
Author Notes: This a series of sketches that will flesh out the events leading up to my story "Between Lies."

Summary: An early morning phone call forces AD Skinner to perform a dreaded but inevitable service for a colleague.


The phone rang, blessedly interrupting another nightmare. Walter Skinner shook his head and thanked whatever lucky stars made the phone ring just before

Phone, he realized and growled groggily into the handset.

"Sir?" a voice from another nightmare inquired.

"What, Mulder?" He glanced at the clock. "It's 4 in the morning, Mulder. "

"I know, S-s-sir. I'm s-s-sorry, b-b-but I n-n-need to go b-b- back," Mulder stuttered.

Mulder stuttered. Damn. "I'll be there in about," Skinner calculated as he rubbed his eyes, "30 minutes." Damn, he thought as he hurriedly dressed and bounded out the door.

Skinner found Mulder on Maggie Scully's doorstep, backlit by the porch light. "Thank you," he struggled with the "th" sound before the car door shut with a thud.

"Does Scully know where you are?" Skinner immediately flushed over having treated this 37-year-old like he was a 10-year- old sneaking out of the house.

"I left a n-n-note," he hung his head in embarrassment over needing to be treated like a 10-year-old sneaking out of the house.

Skinner began to protest, but Mulder held up a trembling hand.

"P-P-Please hurry," he pleaded, tears rolling from the sunken eyes across the hollow cheeks. "P-P-Please," he breathed and lay his head on the head rest.

The car's engine roared in reply. Mulder's head began to bob like a boxer avoiding the "jab" of the headlights from the oncoming early rush hour traffic. He tried to cover his face but his hands began to shake rather than tremble. His head lolled back, his hands fell to the seat, his back arched.

"Not now, Mulder. Hold on a little more." Shit. Skinner veered from the center to the emergency lane, nearly taking a van with him. Gravel crunched under his boots and he nearly hurdled the hood before yanking open the passenger door. He didn't have to look at Mulder's eyes to recognize the full-blown tonic-clonic seizure. With one hand he contained Mulder's head and reclined the seat with the other. Gravel crunched behind him and blue lights flashed in the darkness. Great. "Hold on, Mulder. You're gonna be okay."

"Is there a problem, sir?" The voice belonged to a Maryland State Police officer whose right hand rested on his weapon.

Skinner reached gingerly for his identification but when his weapon showed he found himself facing a .40 caliber Berretta.

"Put your hands where I can see them and step away from the car, sir!" the officer commanded. His partner took a flanking position with gun similarly drawn.

Skinner threw both hands into the air and moved away from the car. "I'm FBI!" he shouted calmly. "My name is Walter Skinner and I'm an assistant director for the FBI!"

The original officer replied with a "Yeah, sure" look.

Skinner knew he had to take control. "I'm on my way to the hospital with an agent who's ill and I don't have time to screw with you," he reprimanded. "I'm gonna remove my ID with my left hand-" He moved slowly and cautiously, avoiding all appearance of going for his Sig Sauer. He let his wallet fall open and his badge glittered in the headlights. The original officer peered at the ID and dropped his weapon when he was satisfied.

His partner peeked into the window at Mulder. "You sure you don't need an ambulance, sir?"

"No," Skinner replied anxiously, then added, "Thanks."

Mulder's arm flailed against the door facing. Skinner grabbed it and found himself shocked at the lack of substance. The skin felt like brittle kidskin over a plastic carcass. As the seizures ravaged his mind, Mulder's frail body rattled more than shuddered. And to Skinner, who'd seen more death than any man should, it was more appalling than anything he'd seen before. [Please, God, take him now,] he found himself praying in Russian as his grandmother had taught him. [Be merciful to your child, Fox, and gather him into your sheltering arms,] he remembered from an old Russian Orthodox prayer for the dying. "Hold on, Mulder. You're gonna be okay," he soothed in a voice he'd had too little opportunity to use.

The seizure ebbed, then rose again before Mulder finally lay still. He clawed at Skinner's shirt. "I'm sorry, sir, I'm so sorry."

Skinner wiped the tears from the gaunt face before replying, "It's okay, Mulder, it's okay." In that instant he understood why they called it mercy killing.

Robert Patrick Modell was one of the world's leading neuropsychiatrists. And he was not accustomed to being dragged out of bed at 5 in the morning. So he looked understandably disheveled when he strode into Mulder's room. But he looked immeasurably disheartened when he exited the room, shaking his head as he answered Skinner's unspoken question, "Soon."

The phone rang, rousing Dana Scully from a rare happy dream Mulder showing Sam how to shoot a basketball. He was, well, Mulder tall, lithe, strong, tender, Mulder. "Mulder, answer the phone." She rolled out of her dream onto Mulder's empty pillow. Her eyes darted about the room before the phone summoned again. Dammit, Mulder, you ditched me again.

"Scully?" It was Skinner.

A piece of paper peeked from beneath Mulder's pillow. She opened it with trembling hands. DS, he'd scrawled, "It's time. Always remember that I loved you. M." And beneath it he'd printed, tried to print, one last message for his precious, cherished son, "I love you, Sam. Daddy."

"Scully?"

"Yeah," she answered huskily.

"Mulder asked me to bring him back to the center "

"I know. I," she snuffled slightly, "found his note."

"Scully "

"I'm on my way." She rummaged through the closet, throwing changes of clothes into a small travel bag. "Please try to make him wait for me this time," she begged.

"I will. This time I will." Again he put his emotion in that dark and empty place inside and turned to do this one last service for his stricken colleague.


The Daybreak Center looked more like a business campus than a long-term mental health facility. Scully found her usual parking place and walked slowly to the night entrance. She had come to know the Center well in the 3 years since Mulder had been here. He'd sunk into a clinically deep depression after his father's death blaming himself even though the coroner's inquest had exonerated him. Well, it hadn't exactly cleared him; it just hadn't implicated him. Both he and his father tested positive for gunpowder and both of their fingerprints were on the gun found in Bill Mulder's hand. The inquest had ruled that Mulder had probably tried to prevent his father's suicide. Mulder himself was of no help, his recollection having stopped when his father had summoned him to the Vineyard. Scully knew that much. The phone had rung in the middle of an argument they were having about getting married because she was pregnant with Sam. He wanted to; she wasn't ready to decide. The phone rang; Mulder ran to his father, still the little boy seeking approval. And so began the nightmare that was to last 3 years.

She paused at the door and looked around the grounds. Mulder had selected the Center for the reputation of its founder, Modell, and its non-clinical atmosphere. It didn't look or feel like the loony bin. It was to have been a short stay, but it soon became apparent that the depression required long-term treatment. Because he had voluntarily committed himself, he could come and go as he pleased, as long as Modell agreed. And Modell had been surprisingly accommodating allowing long furloughs which Mulder spent with Scully, then Scully and Sam, returning to the Center when he needed to.

And Skinner. He, too, had been surprisingly accommodating putting and leaving Mulder on medical leave, arranging insurance and benefits so that Sam received compensation any other injured agent's child would. Mulder had come to rely on him when things got bad. Like tonight.

She rang the night bell and, to her surprise, Skinner appeared and swung the door open. "Where is he?"

"In his room." He slowed his pace to match hers. "He had a tonic/clonic seizure after I picked him up."

"How is he?"

"He's barely conscious but the seizure has subsided."

She stopped in front of a door his door. A small blue tag hung on the door. "What's that?"

Skinner looked at the tile. "It means this has become a hospice room."

Her eyes grew round.

"He won't be getting better, Scully. Not this time."

Angrily she spun and pushed the door open. He lay in a pool of dim light, curled on his side under an afghan her mother had made. Once his homey retreat, some of his books and papers had been pushed aside to make room for a battery of machines that beeped and drew drunken lines on narrow paper. His eyes were closed and he looked as helpless as Sam. Reluctantly she walked to his bedside and brushed that always-errant lock of hair from his forehead. "Mulder," she whispered.

His lids lifted for a moment, but the eyes behind them were vacant, unfocused. She knew then that he his essence, his spirit was already gone, but his body refused to succumb. She had known both well. When his health had failed, his spirit became stronger, refusing to be controlled by his failing mind. On this last visit he'd been himself again charming, infuriating, intoxicating Mulder. He'd played basketball with Sam, had teased her mother. And he'd shown her again what it was like to be with him. His medications had prevented it for such a long time. They'd fallen asleep safe and sated-- having compressed a lifetime into a few short years triumph and tragedy and a son named Sam.

The tears rolled down her face and Skinner did not know what to do. She was entitled to them; she'd earned them, but he so wanted to wipe them from her face, from her heart.

A soft knock preceded the appearance of bleary-eyed, bearded cleric who stepped into the semi-darkness at the edge of the room. The buttons of his black cassock became mismatched somewhere below his knee. A wooden Patriarch's cross hung around his neck. Skinner offered his hand in greeting.

Scully turned and her looks betrayed confusion then consternation. She had expected Father McCue and here stood Father Gregor Prokiovitch. Surely her mother had called Father McCue; he was, after all, the family priest and family. McCue had never considered Mulder part of the Scully family. He had, in fact, refused to baptize Sam because she had never married Mulder. Father McCue was not coming, she realized. But here, here was the priest who'd moved heaven and earth and an Archbishop to convince them that Sam should be, deserved to be, baptized just like any other child of 2 people who'd committed themselves to each other regardless of the petty legalities. Her face softened and she extended her hand.

"Walter said that Mr. Mulder was not well. I came to see if I could be of any comfort," the priest said quietly.

"It's very kind of you to come at such an awful hour."

The cleric smiled. "It was the least I could do for a friend."

"A friend?"

"After Samuel's baptism he and I would have the most outrageous arguments about agnosticism and orthodoxy."

"But Mulder would have argued against orthdoxy ..."

"Of course he did," the priest confirmed, "with his mind. But in his heart he believed. He was just afraid to admit it. He was afraid that if he admitted there were a God, he might blame Him for all of the tragedies he'd suffered in this life." The cleric took her hand. "And so he chose to sacrifice his soul to avoid dishonoring God."

Scully stared at the open face before her. He knew Mulder; he knew Mulder's soul. And he'd ministered to it. She found herself asking for one last service to this soul she'd wrongly considered lost.

She held his hand as the priest anointed his forehead and intoned in Russian the intercession. Her heart translated what her ears could not and in the simple sign of the cross she found courage to face the trials ahead.

Unashamedly she joined him in the narrow bed, Skinner helping her through the tangle of tubes and wires, until she cradled her friend and her lover eyes burning brightly in defiance of the looming abyss.

* * *

Scully's shoulders slumped as she signed yet another Do Not Resuscitate order for Mulder's chart. She handed it back to the nurse, then retreated behind the closed door of his hospital room.

"How long?" Skinner asked for the bottom-line. "It's been 3 days."

"His body can't take much more. His intraictal deltas are maxing out and his interictal deltas are nearing flatline," Modell answered.

Skinner's mouth tasted foul at the realization that he'd actually understood the doctor's statement. "Can you do anything for him?" Skinner asked carefully. Both of them knew what he was asking.

"He gave up everything to prolong his time with her. How can I cheat them out of what precious seconds they might have left?"

Skinner shook his head angrily, cursing himself for doing nothing. "Is this the way your patients usually go out?"

"Nothing about Mulder's case could be classified as usual," Modell shook his head. "Especially the ruse with Ms. Scully."

Suddenly the hospital smell the all-too-familiar smell of death sickened him. Skinner headed for the door.

"I know Mulder thought he was doing the right thing, but there's gonna be hell to pay when she finds out the truth," Modell observed.

"No," Skinner growled over his shoulder, "there's gonna be hell to pay when I find out the truth."

end prologue



Title: Between Lies
Author: N. Y. Smith
Author's Page: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/3437/
Category: X-Files
Written: 11/08/1998
Words: 29231
Rating: PG
Most of the characters contained herein are the property of Fox, Chris Carter, Ten-Thirteen Productions, et al, who retain the rights to those characters.Story copyright reserved by the author.

Summary: If truth is in the mind of the beholder, what if the mind of the beholder is flawed?

If Truth is in the mind of the beholder; what if the mind of the beholder is flawed? The story that follows is an exercise in "What if?"


Chapter 1: Between Lies

 

The deafening sound of the late spring snowflakes falling on the dacha drowned out the pounding of his heart. This is silly, he thought. He's nothing to me. Nothing.

["Is it over, Alexei?"] Her Russian was halting and heavily accented. Bright copper hair framed the gleaming green eyes.

He pulled her close and his tears fell like the snowflakes in the gathering storm. "Da."

Dana Scully stared at her phone long after the call disconnected. She recognized the boot step on the asphalt tile without turning around. "Is it over?" he asked.

"Yes," she replied. Her face was haggard. "I should know what to do next . . . " she started.

"I have a copy of the arrangements." She looked puzzled. "He asked me to take care of them for you," he explained. "We'll have to wait for the doctor on call to pronounce him before he can be released to the funeral home."

A nurse approached them. "Is there anything we can do to help you?"

"No--" he started.

"May we wait with him?" Her voice was husky and hesitant. "He really hated being alone."

"Of course." The nurse consoled. "You can stay until the doctor comes and after that until the funeral home arrives."

He opened the door for her. She stopped just inside. "Scully, it's OK if you want to wait outside. I'll stay with him."

"I'm fine." She approached the bed and took the now-still hand. "His moments of clarity diminished steadily in the last few days. The hallucinations became more frequent and lengthened. It was like wave upon wave of nightmares storming through his mind. Early this morning he lapsed into a coma, but the seizures continued--increasing in severity until the last one." She swayed slightly and Skinner pulled a chair for her to sit in. "So what were the arrangements?"

Skinner pulled another chair close to her. "He asked that there be no funeral or memorial service. And he wanted to be cremated; he said you'd know what to do after that."

She smiled wanly.

"Where's Sam?" he asked. "Do you want me to tell him?"

"No. Thank you." She looked at her watch. "He's at my mother's. Let him sleep until morning."

Skinner touched her arm. The door cracked open and, instead of the doctor, the troll-like form of Frohicke appeared. Haltingly, with his hat in his hand, he shuffled to the bed. He paused for a moment then said, "Sweet dreams, my friend. Sweet dreams." With a nod to Scully he scurried out the door just as a white-frocked figure strode in.

"Mulder?" the doctor asked.

Skinner nodded and extended his hand. "I'm Walter Skinner, a friend of the family. This is Dana Scully."

Scully stood and caressed his forehead. "Sweet dreams." She lightly kissed his forehead, her lips lingering next to his for the last time. "Sweet dreams."


Maggie Scully must have poured a million cups of coffee in her lifetime. She poured Walter Skinner number one-million-and-one. "Is there anything to be done?"

Skinner sipped from the steaming cup. "Mulder had me take care of the funerary arrangements some weeks ago."

"So he knew this was coming." Maggie Scully stirred her coffee.

"I think he hoped this was coming. Three years is a lifetime in that place," Skinner said bitterly.

"Well, Bill and Charles can't come right now. They can't get emergency leave since there's not going to be a funeral." Skinner remained silent as she continued. "Melissa and Alex should be here late this evening. They'll leave Seattle about 11 this morning."

Alex. Skinner didn't trust Alex Krycek. He didn't know why; the guy had been great to Melissa and the Scully family. "How long will they stay?"

"Melissa said that Alex is between assignments so they can stay until his next one comes through."

He rubbed his eyes. "Tell me again what he does."

"Melissa says he's an international security consultant. He travels all over the world."

Skinner resisted the urge to laugh. International security consultant? Spook was more like it. "You say he's ex-Navy?"

"Ex-SEAL. He never talks about his service but Melissa once said he was on the first team," she said it with total innocence.

"SEAL team one? No wonder he doesn't talk." Skinner regretted it the moment he said it.

Maggie Scully looked puzzled. "What do you mean?"

Skinner searched for a polite way to tell Maggie Scully that her son-in-law was a stone killer by trade. "SEAL operations are usually classified. Team One gets the most, uh, sensitive and difficult missions."

"Oh, so they're the most skilled." Bill Scully must have kept her quite insulated.

"Yes, ma'am." Skinner chose his words carefully. "They are the most skilled."

"Whatever was it that made Fox ill?" Maggie Scully was the last living person Skinner had ever heard call Mulder by his first name.

"They never found out." He sloshed the last of his coffee. "Well, I have to get to work."

Skinner nearly stumbled over three-year-old Sam Mulder as he raced through the house, cheerfully calling, "Mamaggie! Good morning, Mamaggie!" He found Dana Scully at the foot of the stairs.

Her eyes were red-rimmed and her knuckles white as she gripped the newel post. "I don't think he understands."

"He's too young," Skinner said consolingly.

"Yes, he is, isn't he?" She looked around the room as if searching for words. "I don't think I've thanked you for everything. You've really gone above and beyond--"

His huge hand completely covered both of hers.

"I'm sure my good Irish Catholic mother will have enough food to feed the Washington Bureau tonight." Scully offered. "You'd be welcome."

"We'll see."


Cigarette smoke announced the visitor before the door opened--without so much as a knock. "Rough night, Assistant Director Skinner?"

"Agent Mulder died early this morning. But I suspect you already know that."

The visitor took a long drag. "Yes. It had come to my attention."

"So what do you want? If you've come here to gloat--"

The man seemed surprisingly flustered. "No, no. I, uh--" He took another drag. "Did Agent Mulder suffer at the end?" he asked, almost solicitously.

Skinner was shocked and puzzled. "No. Well, no more than he's suffered for the past 3 years."

"I see." He stubbed out his cigarette in a coffee saucer on Skinner's desk. "Good day," he said curtly and was, in an instant, gone.


Washington was a spectacular sight from the airplane--bathed in gold by sunset. While Alex Krycek traveled through here often on business, Melissa had not returned in nearly a year.

[Is anyone meeting us?] Her Russian had improved much since she had first come to live with his family at their dacha.

"Nyet," he responded quietly. "[We'll rent a car. Do you think you can still find your mother's house?]"

"[Of course,]" she said, feigning insult. "[I can find my mother's house--]" she tried to remember the Russian word for 'blindfolded' but settled instead for, "[with my eyes closed.]"

"[Do you wish we'd brought 'Lexei and Ekaterin?]" he searched her face for her answer.

"Nyet, nyet." She fiddled with the wedding ring on her right hand. "[It's too much of a trip for them.]" Her face suddenly darkened. "[We can call them every night, can't we?]"

He took her hand in his, "[Of course. They'll hardly know we're gone.]"

As good as her word, Melissa found her mother's house. It was brightly lit and surrounded by cars--more the look of a party than a wake. They pulled into the driveway behind the sedan with the FBI plates. Alex took the large suitcases and handed Melissa her carry on bag. "[Are you ready for this?]" he paused outside the door.

"Nyet." She laid her head briefly on his shoulder before Maggie Scully's small form appeared in the open door.

"Melissa!" she hugged her before Melissa even could set down her luggage. "Alex! Come in, come in!"

His mouth went dry the second Krycek stepped across the threshold. The room was packed with people. Melissa reached back for him with the hand her mother wasn't using to drag her across the room. She led them straight to the corner where the obligatory priest was holding forth.

"Father, you remember my daughter Melissa and her husband Alexandre Krycek. Melissa, Alex, you remember Father McHugh."

The rotund reverend actually stood--albeit with effort. "How nice to see you both again. Your mother's spoken of you often." He glared at the Russian Orthodox Patriarch's cross Melissa had worn since her conversion.

Melissa smiled nervously. "I bet she has."

The father continued the Inquisition. "Will you be staying long? Maggie says you don't get home very often."

Krycek's temper flashed. "Oh we get home quite regularly. We just don't get to Washington too often." He shook the cleric's hand vigorously. "Father, it's been a real thrill." And in Russian he said, "[Sweetheart? ]" He pulled her toward the stairs and their abandoned luggage. "[Home, my ass. Nosy son-of a--]"

"Alexei!" Melissa's smile flashed mock indignation and cooled his temper--much to his amused annoyance. "[I love you,]" she grinned at him.

"[You should,]" he said slyly. "[And you Will,]" he whispered lecherously as he picked up the suitcases.

He nearly ran into her when Melissa paused halfway up the stairs to survey the crowded room. "[Do you see Dana?]"

"Nyet. [She'll be upstairs, in private.]" He prodded her to continue upward. "[Which door is hers?]"

"[First door . . . here.]" She knocked lightly on the door while Alex chunked the suitcases just inside the opposite door. "Dana?" She poked her head inside the door. Alex could see Dana rocking, rocking, staring at a sleeping child.

She started when Melissa touched her. "Missy?" She leaned over and put her arms around Melissa's neck. "Oh, Missy, I'm so glad you're here." She shook as she clung to her older sister.

Alex squeezed Melissa's shoulder as he passed by. He was drawn to the child. The resemblance to his father was disconcerting--heavily lidded eyes, full lips, thin face, gangly limbs, topped with unruly dark auburn hair.

Dana turned her head so she could see Sam. "He's really changed since you last saw him, hasn't he?" She knelt beside the child and stroked his hair. "Mulder's hair defied any sort of control."

Melissa smiled. "As I remember, Mulder defied any sort of control."

"Sam's the same way. He has a curiosity that will not be denied." The boy stirred but did not wake.

Alex sat on the dressing chair. "So how are you?"

"I'm fine," Scully replied reflexively, then smiled ruefully. "It really drove Mulder nuts when I would say that." She looked at Sam and big tears rolled down her small face.

Melissa sat on the floor next to her sister and held her like she had when they were children. "It's okay," she whispered, giving Alex "the look." He closed the door gently behind him.

Skinner met him in the hall. "Krycek--" he began.

"Skinner--" Alex didn't particularly like Skinner. He wasn't sure why.

"How's Scully?"

"Like you'd expect. What do you want?" It had been a very long day.

I'm too tired for this, thought Skinner. "You're parked behind me."

"Oh, yeah. Sorry." Krycek fumbled in his pockets as they descended the stairs.

"Where'd you start your day?" Small talk from a Fed was usually no small talk.

"SeaTac. It's the closest big airport," Alex replied warily.

"Oh, yeah. Scully said you lived somewhere near Seattle. She didn't know exactly where." He continued the fishing expedition in the driveway.

"Turn left at the fourth glacier." Krycek glowered. "Look, if you're so interested I can get you the satellite photos--" A light flashed in a car parked down the street. "Yours, I hope?"

Skinner heard heavy scraping against leather. "No." He pulled out his own weapon and held it out of sight behind his leg. "Gray sedan."

Krycek nodded and they both started down the street toward the car. To their surprise, it started toward them, slowly. The driver rolled down the window when he stopped even with them. Krycek wrinkled his nose at the stench of cigarette smoke.

"Good evening, gentlemen. A little late for a walk, don't you think?" The voice smirked, as always.

"What are you doing here?" Skinner cleared the chamber on his weapon and returned it to its holster.

"Why, Mr. Skinner, isn't it one of our fundamental freedoms: to go when and where we please?"

Krycek answered. "[What do you know about freedom? Except how to take it away, you devil?]"

The man sneered. "[I'll join you in hell, Mr. Krycek,]" he answered in perfect Russian. "You know, Mr. Skinner, I must caution you about the company you keep. Good night. Gentlemen."

The taillights ahead of them grew smaller as they walked toward the Scully home.

"How do you know him? Skinner asked.

"I know a lot of people," Krycek answered.

"And where did you learn Russian?" Skinner paused as Krycek unlocked the rental car.

"The same place you did." Krycek started the rental car. "At home."


Dana finally fell asleep. It was a fitful, deep sleep that Melissa was sure was filled with nightmares of Mulder. At least it's some sleep, she thought. She closed the door behind her and crossed to her old room. The room was smaller than she had remembered but it still looked like she left it when she was 19. Well, at least Mom had taken down the teen idol posters. Alexei would really like those, she thought. And Alexei will really like this tiny bed, she smiled wickedly. She heard his step--unusually heavy this evening--on the stair just before the door opened.

"[Where've you been?]" she continued moving their things into her old dresser drawers.

"[Oh, I got shanghaied by some old buddy of your father's. Your mom told him I was Navy and he nearly drowned me in the 'old salt' stuff.]" Melissa handed him an electronic box which he installed between the phone line and the phone. Then he disassembled and reassembled the telephone.

"[Good old Mom. Always trying to make everyone feel at home.]"

"[You're right,]" he acknowledged. "[Her heart's in the right place but my head's still somewhere over Minnesota, I think.]" He frowned as she laid out a tie for him to wear tomorrow.

"[I'm not sure I made it that far,]" she laughed. "[Can we call yet?]"

"[yeah, it's ready.]" He dialed what seemed like 20 numbers. "Day code Zulu Bravo, Authorization Code K971013," he said into the receiver. Then he dialed about 20 more numbers. "[It's ringing . . . Anastasia? Alexei. How are things?]" Melissa sat next to him on the bed and they shared the receiver. "[Are the children still awake? No, I have no idea what time it is anywhere . . . Stasi, put on Alexandreovitch.]"

"[Papa, Mama?]" a small confused voice came on the line. They could hear Anastasia encouraging him in the background.

"[Alexei, how are you?]" they both said at the same time.

They could hear the child's voice asking where Mama and Papa were.

"['Lexei, it's Mama. We're at Mamaggie's.]"

"[Papa, Mama . . . ]" he sounded like he was beginning to cry.

"[It's alright, 'Lexei. You mind your Aunt Anastasia, Uncle Jack, and Umpa. We'll be home soon. We love you,]" Alex wished he could comfort his son.

"[Stasi, do we need to come home?]" Melissa asked guiltily.

The woman's voice returned to the line. "[No, no, no. He's just a little fussy from teething. We'll be fine.]"

"[How's Ekaterin?]"

"[She's fine; everybody's fine here. How are things there?]"

Alex handed the phone to Melissa while he took off his belt, "[Dana says she's fine but she's in pretty bad shape. Mom's too busy doing all the right things to notice.]"

"[From what you've told me Dana is quite strong. I'm sure she'll be alright.]"

"[Oh, she Will, in time. Until then all we can do is be here when she needs us. Wait a minute. Alexei wants to talk to Jack.]" Melissa handed the phone to Krycek who heard fumbling on the other end of the line.

"Alex, how are things in your favorite city?" Jack Killian was Anastasia's husband and Alex's business partner.

"Gray clouds and shadows, same as always. An old ghost of mine turned up outside of Maggie's house tonight. I think he's after the boy." Alex wished he hadn't had to say that in front of Melissa.

"Sam? What's he want with Sam?" Even over the line static he sounded puzzled--and worried.

"I'll let you know when I've confirmed. Can you set up things for me here?" Alex's voice had changed to all business.

"You've got it. Where and who?"

"Stasi has Melissa's mom's address. Full coverage on the house, Dana, Maggie, and especially the boy." Krycek rubbed his eyes.

"I'll look in the file for the pics. What about you and Melissa?"

"We'll be fine. She'll probably be with one of the other 3 most of the time anyway," Melissa nodded at him, "and I can take care of myself." Her nod changed to a frown.

"Copy that." The static got louder. "Look, we're losing the satellite. Be careful, you hear?"

"Copy that. Button things down up there, will ya'?"

"Roger that. Base out." The line went dead.

Alex turned off the black box as Melissa leaned close. "[What ghost, Alexei?]"

"[Nobody you need to worry about. It's taken care of.]" He sighed as he pulled off his boots and fell back across the bed pulling her on top of him. "[So, what evil, perverse things have you dreamed about doing under your mother's roof while 98 of her closest friends mingled with a priest downstairs?]"

She looked at that impish smile--trying to decide whether to resist and continue her line of questioning. God, he was irresistible. "[Would you like for me to demonstrate?]"

"[Oh, yes.]"


Dust motes danced in the morning sun that beamed into the living room of the Scully home. Laser light, Alex thought as he stumbled over an errant napkin while shielding his eyes from the sun. The smell of fresh coffee drew him onward to the kitchen, which was equally bright. "[Jesus!] Don't you people believe in curtains around here?"

The diminutive figure turned and offered a cup of coffee. "Not Maggie Scully."

He reached out to hug her but she drew back. He'd forgotten; this was "Don't Touch" Dana. She smiled as if to apologize and returned to the stacks of legal pads on the table.

"Working a case so soon?" Alex motioned with his coffee cup.

"No," Dana replied. "These are Mulder's notebooks."

"Notebooks? What kind of notebooks would Mulder keep?"

Dana sighed. "Since he was first--" she seemed to avoid the word 'committed' "--hospitalized Mulder tried to write down all of his hallucinations and dreams." She stirred her coffee. "He said it helped him separate reality from fantasy."

"Did it? Help him?"

Dana propped up her head with her arm. "I don't know. I think so. He seemed to think so." She shuffled the pads around. "He also kept a diary. It helped him keep up with the days, visitors and so forth."

"So how can you tell the difference?" She handed him 2 pads. On one, the handwriting was, for Mulder, neat and precise detailing meals, visitors and events. On the other, the handwriting was, at best, frenetic, scrawled in haste. "The difference is like Jekyll and Hyde," he marveled.

"An appropriate analogy."

"So why are you reading these now? They can't be pleasant."

"I just want to understand, Alex." She pleaded, "That's all I've ever wanted."

He tried to make sense of the scrawls.

"There's something else I want to understand, Alex." She paused. "I want to understand why you visited Mulder and never told me. According to his diaries you've visited him several times a month since you married Melissa. Did you?"

"Sure, I did--"

"Why? Why didn't you tell me?"

Krycek drained his cup. "Dana, there was nothing to tell. Sometimes I'd have a couple of hours layover at Dulles. I'd just hop the Metro and spend the time with him instead sitting around the airport."

Something in her refused to accept this simple, obvious explanation. "What did you talk about? What could you possibly find to talk about?"

He set his empty cup in the sink. "What would we talk about? We'd talk about you, Dana--you and Sam and all the things any man would want to give his family. We'd talk about all the things he knew he'd never be able to give you."

Scully's eyes filled with tears but she defied the grief. Alex put his hand on her shoulder but she brushed it away. She blinked back tears by trying to focus on a pad.

His wedding ring gleamed as he covered her hand with his. "No matter how hard you try to push us away, Dana, we're here--your mom, Melissa, Bill, Charles, me." He paused at the door to the living room. "We'll always be here."


No matter how much he tried to bury it on his desk, the file folder marked "Mulder, Fox William" managed to find its way into his hand. It wasn't so much the folder itself he trying to avoid; it was the form attached to the front of the folder. Personal Information Update rev. 01/96. Now in and of itself there was nothing particularly distasteful about a PIU0196. He'd affixed his W. S. Skinner to so many he'd lost count. But this one--this one was a problem. His secretary had been kind enough to fill in all of the information. All that was needed was his signature. A few strokes of the pen and FBI Personnel File of "Mulder, Fox William" would be closed forever. But it shouldn't be that simple. A man's life's work deserved more than consignment to file room oblivion. He opened the file to the very first Personal Information Form. It told the tale of a impeccably educated young man, the son of a bureaucrat, whose future looked quite promising. The next few pages were flattering memos-to-file under the hand of Bill Patterson of the Special Investigations Unit; the phrases "excellent work," "insightful investigative techniques," "bright future with the Bureau" jumped off the pages. Abruptly, the tenor of those memos changed to "unfocused," "follows personal agenda," "inordinate attention paid to fringe matters." Then there was the PIU where Patterson basically ditched Mulder, dumped him back into the general Violent Crimes pool of agents. His discovery of the neglected "X-files" in a copy room gave him the opportunity to create a niche for himself. There were still flashes of brilliance--the capture of Eugene Tooms, for example--but the tailspin had begun. There were reprimands: "refusal to follow established Bureau guidelines," "unorthodox investigative techniques," and "insubordination"--some of which were over Skinner's own hand. He ran his fingers through the remainder of his hair. What more could I have done? He asked himself. What more could any of us have done?

A knock sounded at the door to the anteroom. "Sir, the Hale autopsy is here."

"Thank you, Kimberly." He'd been waiting on this file.

"Sir, can I bring you something? Some coffee, soda--" Her voice showed genuine worry.

He laid his glasses on top of the new file which he'd laid on top of the Mulder file and rubbed the throbbing spot between his eyes. "No, thank you."

"You asked me to remind you at 11. It's quarter of."

He looked quizzically at her.

"The funeral home. The appointment is at noon, sir."

"Oh, yes." He put his glasses back on. "Thank you, Kimberly." He could hardly wait for the door to "snick" closed to open the "Hale, George E." folder. He ran his finger down the pathologist's summary. Cause of death: Intracranial hemorrhage. No big surprise there. There was a yellow sticky note with an arrow pointing to the section "Anomalies." He read it twice before he grinned. Only you, Mulder, he thought. He consulted a list of case numbers as he slipped Mulder's personnel file and the "Hale" autopsy into a red-striped case folder. His hands trembled as he closed his briefcase on the file that he'd marked:

Mulder, Fox William

Case File X-21013


The cold room of the crematorium was a truly spooky place. The funeral director had given Skinner a very odd look when he asked to inspect the body but had complied with the request. Talc puffed lightly as he snapped on his latex gloves. He paused to gather himself then opened the wooden coffin. What the pathologist left was not a pretty sight, even if the subject were not an acquaintance. Skinner jumped when the hall door swung open.

"You'll find what you're looking for 2 cm above and behind the right ear on the temporal process." Krycek snapped on his own latex gloves. The expression on his face was distant, dispassionate.

"And what exactly am I looking for?"

"Two non-metallic conductive plates 5 mm square and 5mm apart." Krycek turned the skull and indicated the location of the plates on the temporal process. "The plates are attached to electronic catheters that are implanted in the temporal and limbic lobes. I'm sure your pathologist found that Mulder died of intracranial hemorrhaging in that region."

"How did you know?" Skinner didn't know whether to be suspicious or afraid.

"I've seen it before." The cranium is too light, Krycek thought. "Your pathologist kept the brain and stem?"

"yeah, he's still running stains on the slices. I don't suppose you care to tell me what he'll find. . ."

"He'll find nothing more that will be useful to you." Krycek deftly removed his gloves, one inside the other, like a surgeon. "Look, the longer we stand here, the better the chances are that Dana will come looking for us. Now I don't know about you, but I don't want this to be the way she remembers him. Do you?"

"No," Skinner closed the coffin and threw his gloves in the wastebasket. "Let's go."


Scully chose to ride with Skinner from the funeral home back to her mother's house. Clearly, her mother did not approve, but Scully pleaded that she needed the break from the constant companionship. Skinner respected her silence. She startled him when she finally spoke, "So what were the results of the autopsy?"

"What autopsy?" He couldn't think of anything more original to say.

"The autopsy you ordered for Mulder under the name of George E. Hale. I saw it on the schedule yesterday morning. Director's priority status."

His face reddened. "Scully, I don't think--"

"Sir," she waited until he'd parked in her mother's driveway directly behind Alex's rented car. "I appreciate the fact that you're trying to protect me. I truly do." She stared straight ahead and her voice trembled ever-so-slightly. "But I have to work this through. And I only know one way to do that."

Skinner looked out the window just in time to see Maggie Scully's face flash in the front window just prior to Melissa stepping out the front door. He drew a long, ragged breath and opened the car door. "Later," he said before they followed Melissa back into the Scully home.

The backyard of the Scully home was shady and inviting on this late spring day. Tiny leaves filled the branches with bright green. Alex, Melissa and Skinner finished their plates but Scully merely picked at hers. Sam gamboled near the swing set not far from the treeline.

Melissa Scully Krycek was making her case. "So why don't you just come home with us for a couple of weeks?"

"Missy, I have work to do. The lab's really busy and--"

"Your people can handle it a little while longer can't they, Mr. Skinner?" She was relentless.

"Dana has as much time as she needs." Scully flashed him a "Gee, thanks" look.

"And Mom can come along, too, can't she Alex?"

Krycek answered, "yeah, " absently for something had caught his attention in the trees. He reached down and adjusted his pants leg before walking towards the child. "Come 'ere, Sam," he called firmly, never taking his eyes from the trees.

"Alex, what is it?" Melissa stood, too.

Krycek had walked about 10 feet before Skinner noticed the gun in his hand hidden from the child. Flashes of green in the treeline caused him to draw his own weapon. "Sam, come here now," he yelled, running toward the child.

Frightened by the guns and the shouting, Sam ran for his mother. With Sam safe in Dana's arms, Krycek stepped into the trees and examined something on the ground. Skinner got just close enough to see a small spot of red on a body clad in green camouflage gear before Krycek backed out of the brush. "What's going on, Krycek?" he demanded as he matched Krycek stride for stride.

"He's after Sam." Krycek ran toward a hulking figure who'd just come through the side gate. "Talk to me, Killian."

"There's a black hood squad about 3 clicks out." Skinner finally recognized the man as Krycek's sister's husband.

"Strength?"

"Full squad of 5 armed for extreme prejudice. I recommend complete evacuation."

Skinner demanded again. "What's going on, Krycek?"

"We're leaving." Krycek stopped with his back to the door and made a circling hand motion in the direction of the trees. Instantly 2 figures in "shag carpet" camouflage ran from the bushes. "Give me your car keys," he ordered Skinner.

"Not until you tell me who's after Sam, Krycek, " Skinner protested.

Krycek tossed his own car keys at one of the figures. "Stay or go, it's your ass."

Skinner grabbed Krycek by the lapel. "Who's coming? Who's after Sam?" Instantly Krycek jabbed the barrel of his gun in Skinner's side.

"We don't have time to discuss this in committee." Killian made a "hurry up" motion at Krycek. "In 3 minutes everyone in this house will be dead and Sam will be in the hands of the people responsible for Mulder's death. We go and we go now!"

Skinner stared at Krycek for a long moment then tossed his keys to the other commando. "I hope you're very good at what you do."

Krycek brushed his free hand on Melissa's fearful face. "I am," he reassured her. I hope I am, too, he prayed. "Let's go."

A man with an ill-fitting suit tried unsuccessfully to hide the machine pistol as he walked from the Scully house to the government-issue gray sedan.

"They're gone, sir. Bugged out in quite a hurry, from the looks of it."

Smoke curled from the open window. "No matter. We'll know where they're going every step of the way."


Tall weeds grew in the cracks of the concrete runway. Broken windows gave the Quonset-style hangars a "snaggle-toothed" look. The door of the first hangar swung open and the caravan sped inside. The plane's turning propellers whipped up a mini-dust storm inside the closed hangar.

"Give me your cell phones," Jack Killian ordered.

"Don't forget to check for fleas!" Krycek shouted over the prop roar. The map he was sharing with one of the commandos tried to fly away.

"What is it, Jack?" Melissa was frightened and confused.

He ran what looked like a metal detector wand over each of them. "We're checking for tracking devices. Dana and Mrs. Scully are probably loaded with them." The wand beeped at the purses. It also beeped at Skinner's briefcase. They emptied the contents of them and put a cell phone in each.

Krycek handed Skinner a flight bag for the files from his briefcase. Dana clutched Mulder's notebooks close to her. "Did you check for passive crystals?" he asked Jack as the dust from the hangar floor swirled about them.

"Full spectrum. Ready?"

Krycek nodded and the remaining commando threw open the hangar doors.

The gray sedan arrived just in time to see the turboprop lift off. One of the men with the ill-fitting suits cocked and raised his machine pistol. The older man swatted it away. "Fool!" he admonished. "Do you want to hurt the boy?" The man lowered the weapon. He spoke to a man remaining in the car. "Are you picking up the signals?"

"Yes, sir. It looks like they're all aboard."

"Good," he sneered through the cigarette smoke. "Lambs to the slaughter, Mr. Krycek," he said to nobody in particular.

It was pitch dark and Sam was afraid. Even the beams of the flashlights offered him no comfort. Skinner offered him a penlight and that seemed to quieten him for a while. But it did nothing for Maggie Scully. "What's happening?" Her whisper echoed loudly through the tunnel.

Skinner was closest to her and clamped his hand firmly over her mouth. They all listened for several minutes, but heard only the sound of Sam's wriggling. He cupped his hand over her ear. "If they find us, they will kill us," he breathed. He could see the terror in her eyes and put his finger to her lips.

Krycek motioned for them to sit. He, Killian and the other commando exchanged hand signals and the beam from Killian's flashlight grew smaller. Sunlight flashed in the distance and then it was dark again. Melissa moved so she could lean against Krycek. Maggie Scully moved closer to Dana, who sat rigidly with Sam in her lap. Or at least she tried to keep him in her lap. But he was his father's son; his mind was too active for his body to remain still. He wiggled until she relented and allowed him to investigate the tunnel with his new penlight. He worked his way back toward Skinner, stopping often to inspect some crawly thing along the passageway. Skinner barricaded the tunnel with his leg. Sam stopped and shined the penlight directly on Skinner's face--looking it over as if he'd never seen it before. Suddenly Sam put his arms around Skinner's neck and whispered directly in his ear, "Were you a friend of my daddy?"

Skinner was startled by the directness of the question. He'd never really allowed himself to consider his relationship with Mulder as anything beyond supervisory. But here was an innocent child asking a very simple, very important question. He was asking for the truth. Skinner's hand covered the child's entire back. "Yes, I was, Sam," he whispered back. He folded his arms around the child. "Yes, I was."

Sam settled into his lap and soon was asleep. Scully realized in that instant that she could never teach Sam to guard his feelings as she did hers. He was his father's son--his heart forever on his sleeve.

Sunlight flashed again in the distance and the returning Killian exchanged more hand signals with Krycek. If Skinner interpreted them correctly the signals meant they would be waiting for darkness. He checked his watch: 5 o'clock. Another 2 or 3 hours. He leaned his head back against the tunnel. God, how he hated the waiting.

Sam had moved to Mamaggie's lap when fresh air invaded the dankness of the tunnel. They crept toward the pale blue glow illuminating the end of the tunnel. After the darkness of the tunnel even the pale moonlight shining through the hangar windows seemed bright. An old DC-9 rumbled to life in the darkness. It started rolling as soon as they bounded up the ladder and found places in the small passenger cabin. The engines whined and the wheels stopped stumbling down the decrepit runway. They were aloft. Skinner held his breath, expecting small arms fire from the ground while they climbed. He could hear Killian and Krycek running the takeoff procedures in the cockpit. When they leveled off the door to the cockpit closed and the aisle marker lights came on. Skinner closed each of the window blinds before turning on the cabin lights.

Maggie Scully queried him with her eyebrows. Skinner nodded and her face changed from chalky white to bright red. "What in God's name is going on?" The great amount of noise coming from such a small person was both startling and amusing. Sam laughed at her expression. Alex tried to U-turn back into the cockpit but she caught him. "One of you is going to tell me why you've dragged me onto a plane in the middle of the night to God-knows-where for God-knows-what reason!"

Alex, Skinner, Dana and Melissa all exchanged glances among themselves. Alex drew the short straw. "All this is just a precaution, Mrs. Scully."

"Against what?"

He spoke quietly and calmly. "We think someone's trying to hurt Sam."

"Who in God's name would want to hurt a child?"

"We're not sure." He lied and she scalded him with a mother's "look."

Skinner stepped in. "Possibly the same people who made his father sick."

"I don't understand--"

Scully ended the conversation. "We don't either, Mom. But I think we're going to a safe place so we'll have time to find out."

Maggie Scully searched for the truth in each of their faces. Dissatisfied, she sat back, crossed her arms, and threw up that emotional rampart she shared with her younger daughter.

Skinner escaped into the 2nd officer's seat in the dark cockpit. The instruments' green glow offered the only illumination of the pilotsface. "Do I hear the cry of the banshee back there?" He grinned over his shoulder at Skinner.

Skinner arched his eyebrows in confirmation. "I don't think we've met. I'm Walt Skinner."

"Jack Killian."

"You're married to Krycek's sister Anastasia." He fished for information without even realizing it.

"And you're Dana's boss--"

The door banged open and shut and Krycek installed himself in the co-pilotsseat. "God, why did I marry into an Irish family?"

"Could be worse; try bein' a Texan married into a Russian family--" Killian jabbed.

Krycek snorted. "How's visibility?"

"10 miles, ceiling unlimited. Sam asleep?" he asked.

"yeah, " Krycek responded. "How about you? When was the last time you slept?"

Killian only half smiled. "A while. I'll grab a few after we cross the Alleghenies."

"How long?"

Killian adjusted his headset. "Another hour and I can hit the rack."

Krycek nodded and double-checked the autopilot.

Skinner had been surveying the cockpit. Boeing DC-9s had been out of production for a lot of years, but this one was like new. In fact, it was better than new. Boeing had never put active radar and satellite tracking in DC-9s. He'd seen extra fuel tanks back in the spacious cargo bay. Special low-signature paint helped it avoid radar detection. "Nice toy you have here," he commented wryly. "You fixed this up yourselves?"

"Oh, no." Krycek was enjoying this.

"This here is a Smuggler's Special. DEA let it go for a song." Killian said proudly.

"You bought this from the DEA?" Skinner asked incredulously.

"We didn't actually buy it ourselves," Krycek said slyly. "Let's just say it was acquired on our behalf."

"And the registration numbers?"

Killian chuckled as he adjusted the autopilot. "Ricky Nelson's DC-3."

"And the numbers on the turboprop?"

Krycek checked the cabin temp. "Elvis Presley's jet. The Lisa Marie."

Skinner leaned back and nodded in appreciation. Attention to detail--the mark of professionals. But what kind of professionals? He asked himself. "So where are we headed?"

Krycek thumped the fuel gauge. "Home," he said.


The brightness of the sun reflecting off the snow pack defied description. If he was guessing correctly, they were some 50 miles inside the Arctic Circle on the Bering Sea. Skinner had pretty well ensconced himself in the navigator's seat as a refuge from the emotional chill of the passenger cabin. At the moment Sam was in his lap listening to radio chatter on the armed forces frequencies and Skinner was absently fiddling with his pen.

"She's just like her, isn't she?" Krycek said over his shoulder.

"Like who?" Skinner responded.

"Her mom. Dana is Maggie all over again, don't you think?"

Skinner adjusted the headphones on Sam's head. "I don't really know her that well--"

"They hide everything. They're afraid to let you know what they're feeling."

Killian couldn't resist interjecting, "Unlike Melissa."

Krycek laughed. "yeah, Melissa's really up front about everything, isn't she?"

"The strait's opening up." Killian nodded toward the window. "South, below the sound."

Krycek reached for Sam. "Do you want to see where Aunt Melissa and Uncle Alex live?" He held Sam up to the side window and pointed to a cluster of low wooden buildings as Killian circled. "That's our dacha," he said, "where we live with your cousins Alexei and Ekaterin." Sam stretched to see. "And over there is the Bering Strait and beyond that is Siberia, where I was born."

"Final approach," Killian called and the landing gear locked down with a jolt.


From his bedroom window Skinner could see the Krycek dacha was actually 3 izbas connected by passageways enclosed for travel during the heavy snows. Patches of green peeking out from the light cover of snow signified spring. The clock in the front hall struck midnight, but his watch and his body said it was morning. He slipped on his borrowed clothes and set about exploring the public rooms of the dacha. Its opulence was comfortingly rough-hewn. Thick worn Ottoman carpets warmed the cold wooden floors. Heavy drapes shut out the light and the cold. A massive table and a smaller table filled the dining room. A gently-worn silver samovar gleamed on the sideboard. A gilded icon above the massive inner door blessed him as he passed through the entry hall. Hand worked antimacassars decorated the leather furniture in the parlor. A grand piano with real ivory keys graced the front corner. Its lid was closed and a fringed silk piano scarf protected the surface from dozens of framed pictures. Some were formal portraits, but most were enlarged snapshots--the happy times of a happy family. The father was auburn-haired and ruddy, the mother fair and blonde. The older child, a daughter, was a freckled strawberry blonde. The much younger boy's dark hair and dark eyes stood out in such a "fair" family.

"A man's family is his finest achievement, don't you think Mr.--" A graying version of the red-haired young father in the pictures stood before him.

"Skinner. Walter Skinner, Dr. Krycek." He shook the older man's outstretched hand. "You have a fine family, sir."

"Thank you, Mr. Skinner. And you?"

Skinner shook his head. "No, sir. But my brothers have many children for me to spoil."

The older man smiled, "Ah, good. No man should be completely alone." His English, though grammatically perfect, was heavily accented. "Will you join me?" He waved his hand toward a frosty decanter of clear liquid that Skinner knew was definitely not water.

Skinner nodded. The ice-cold liquid burned his throat. "[You're very kind to let us impose on you like this.]" The old man seemed surprised, but impressed, with Skinner's halting Russian.

The older man dismissed his remark. "[It is no imposition. This is Melissa's home, too, and her family and friends are always welcome.]"

"Papa?" Alex Krycek's voice preceded him and Jack from the entry.

"[In here, Alexei.]" Krycek, pere, poured glasses of vodka for Alex and Jack. "[Mr. Skinner and I were just talking about family.]"

They stared at the old man with concern when he poured another glass for himself and for Skinner. "[Have the White Nights come early this year, Papa?]"

The old man did not smile. "[When you're an old man, there are nights when the morning comes before the sleep.]"

"Trust me, Dr. Krycek, it has nothing to do with age." Jack contributed.

The old man finished his glass.

"[Come, Papa, you'll never sleep if you don't close your eyes.]" Alex gently led him to the stair.

"[My son, my son babies me,]" he explained sheepishly to the others.

Alex stopped and hugged his father. "[Your son cherishes you. Good night, Papa.]"

Skinner turned and surveyed the room again. He was surrounded by pictures, mementoes, handwork, craft work, child work--all of the things you'd expect of a family. He picked up a picture of Jack and Alex in their "dress blues", brass SEAL insignia glittering in the sun. So they served together. He'd already guessed as much.

Alex and Jack sat in the leather chairs that flanked the fireplace and propped their feet on the hearth. Skinner sat on an ottoman he'd dragged between the leather chairs. "So why are we here? You must have a hundred safe houses we could use that aren't a continent away from DC." Skinner looked at Killian who looked at Krycek. Killian closed his eyes and slowly drained his glass. "We have to find out the truth about Mulder, Krycek."

"Believe me," Krycek knocked back the entire glass of vodka. "You don't want the truth."


Sometime during the night Sam had snuggled up against her under the soft, warm eiderdown. Streaks of sunshine intruded through the heavy drapes. Somewhere down the hall she could hear water running. She tried not to disturb Sam as she tiptoed to the door. Passing the open doors of the children's rooms, she followed the sound of the running water to the room at the end of the hall. The door was ajar. She pecked on it lightly and called softly, "Missy?"

"Come in," came the reply.

The room itself could only be described as sumptuous. The fireplace mantel was crowded with pictures of their wedding, Melissa, the babies. The bed itself was huge and richly robed and draped. Melissa was propped up by a sea of white pillows, nursing Ekaterin. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to intrude," Scully blushed and turned to leave.

"Don't be silly. It's okay." She motioned for Scully to join her on the bed. Scully sat primly at the foot. "Did you sleep well?" Melissa nuzzled the infant.

"Yes, thank you." She was embarrassed by Melissa's immodesty.

"So, is your room alright?" Something was wrong and Melissa was determined to find out what.

"My room is fine. In fact it's lovely."

"So what is it?"

"I find myself somewhat, no quite, embarrassed at having allowed myself to be dragged from my home with the slimmest of explanations."

Melissa looked confused. "Don't you trust Alex?"

"Of course I trust Alex," she lied. "But lately, I've allowed other people to take control of my life and I'm not sure how to get it back."

"Look Dana, with everything that's been going on in your life, it's natural for you to feel a little out of control."

"Missy, I don't feel out of control; I am out of control." She turned and sat Indian-style on the bed. "Ever since Mulder died I've depended on you, Mom, Skinner, and Alex to take care of everything."

"Dana, that's what family is for." She laid Ekaterin on her stomach and buttoned her gown.

Dana sighed. "I know, Missy. But I need to be in control of my life again. It's time."

Alex and Alexei emerged from the bathroom in a puff of steam and Alexei clambered onto the bed. "Time for what?" Alex was shirtless over his jeans and ducked into the closet, emerging in a flannel shirt and looking for an answer.

"Dana's feeling a little out of control." Little Alexei crawled into Melissa's lap.

Alex crawled onto the bed and kissed Melissa over the sleeping Ekaterin. "yeah, I'll bet." He leaned on one elbow and continued buttoning his shirt.

Scully leaned forward. "Alex, I need to be involved in whatever you and Skinner have going on. I can't sit this one out."

Ekaterin cooed as he stroked her back. "Are you sure you're up to it?"

"I need to know the truth about Mulder's death, Alex."

"I don't think so, Dana. I don't think you're prepared for it."

"Well don't you think Sam deserves it?"

He kissed Melissa, then Alexei, then Ekaterin and paused at the door. "No, Dana, I don't. No child deserves that truth."

She followed him into the hall. "What truth, Alex?" He kept on walking. She ran and caught him by the sleeve. "What truth?"

He turned and looked over her head. "Why are you so obsessed with the truth? Do you want the truth for Sam or vengeance for yourself?"

"I'm not sure," she confessed. "Both, I think. I hope."

He drew a ragged breath. "Skinner and I will take care of avenging Mulder, Dana." His eyes glistened. "Let it go."

"I can't," she pleaded.

He closed his eyes and took a slow, deep breath while the brisk outdoor air cooled his hot face. "The lab. Underneath my father's dacha. 10 o'clock."


The lab was not at all what she expected, but then she wasn't at all sure what she expected. While the homes above were like stepping back in time, this lab was bright and modern. Peering through the window into the "clean room" she even saw a few "toys" she'd been trying to requisition for her own lab. Alex had always admitted his father and sister were "medical researchers" but had been, characteristically, non-specific about their particular field of research. This particular room served as an observation area for the lab, a conference room, and a waiting room in between the 2 flanking offices whose doors each bore the simple designation "[A. Krycek, MD, Ph.D.]." A single file folder marked "Hale, George E." lay on the conference table. She moved the folder in front of a chair where she could see both the entry hall and the lab and sat down. Her hand hovered over the folder for a long moment before she closed her eyes and opened it. The pathologist's summary lay on top. She concurred with the cause of death. But the yellow sticky note caught her attention just as it had Skinner's. She searched through the folder for the autopsy photographs. She found them in the very back of the folder, sealed in a manila envelope. They were unremarkable; she'd taken exactly the same series of photographs hundreds of times. The final shot, actually the first taken before any intrusive procedures, was full-face. She stared at it for quite some time, realizing fully for the first time, who was the subject of this post-mortem. Suddenly her mouth tasted quite foul and she ran up the stairs in search of fresh air.

The sunlight was as startling as the air was brisk. Despite the cold, green patches were gradually overcoming the snow cover. Maggie, Ekaterin, and Alex's father rocked on the veranda of the main dacha. The children and the men played some variation of "tag" in the soggy lawn. With merely a nod she hurried down the steps to a bench some distance beyond the game. Skinner, who'd been helping Sam in the game, followed. Wordlessly, he joined her on the bench. A gentle breeze carried the sound of the games.

"I thought I could treat this just like any other case. But I can't." The breeze ruffled her hair as she searched the landscape for answers.

"Scully, if this is too difficult for you, it's okay to just step away. Krycek and I will take care of it." There was a softness in his voice she'd not heard before.

Melissa signaled from the porch and the players straggled inside. "And if I let you do this for me, how can I face Mulder's son?"

The luncheon meal had been so filling that Scully's first inclination had been to observe siesta with the younger children. She opted instead for a cup of very strong Russian blend coffee in the Russian-style glass cup with a silver holder. The first sip gave her the desired "jolt." She browsed the laboratory conference room's wall decorations while the other members of the group prepared their libations. There were the usual "talking head" pictures and letters of appreciation and recognition from various medical boards. And then, in the humblest of frames, she saw something that shocked her most.

"On behalf of the committee let me offer my sincere congratulations for having been considered for the Nobel prize in Genetics. I regretfully must inform you that another researcher has been selected, but this in no way lessens the importance of your research in developing exciting new possibilities for gene therapy treatment of temporal lobe epilepsy."

Krycek--A & A Krycek--she'd read their work. Their theories were so far ahead of their time that the other geneticists had spent the last 5 years trying to figure them out. Scully, usually the skeptic, stood in awe.

"Are you alright, Dana?" Anastasia Krycek must have seen the odd look on Scully's face. Her English was very slightly accented and the strawberry blonde hairs were succumbing to the gray. She sipped from her steaming glass of tea.

"No, yes, I'm fine," Scully stammered as her mind filled with questions. Were they the reason Krycek had returned home? and What do they have to do with Mulder? floated to the top of the question heap.

Several thick file folders appeared on the table. Skinner guarded one with red stripes which she recognized as an FBI case folder. Alex was leafing through a medical chart marked The Daybreak Center as he paced.

The older Krycek began. "I understand from Alexei that you have in your mind to investigate the death of your friend Fox Mulder. May I ask why?"

Scully checked her annoyance at having to explain herself to this gathering. "If his condition were congenital, I feel it is in the best interest of his son to determine if the causal condition is hereditary."

"If I could assure you that the cause of his condition were not hereditary, would you be satisfied?"

"No, sir. I would still be inclined to satisfy myself regarding the circumstances of his death."

"But the cause of death was intracranial hemorrhage. Do you disagree with that?"

"No, sir, I don't. But there are certain irregularities revealed in the post-mortem that I feel compelled to explore."

The Drs. Krycek shared a furtive glance. "What sort of irregularities?" asked Anastasia.

Scully slid an autopsy photo across the table. "Electrical leads implanted in the frontal and limbic lobes and terminating at small subcutaneous conductive plates on the external temporal process." The Kryceks and Skinner looked at each other instead of the picture. Scully searched each of the stony faces for an explanation. She found none. Then she breathed an awful sigh. "You knew."

Anastasia's steely gaze met hers. "Yes."

Scully jumped up as a thousand questions exploded in her mind--all beginning with the word Why. She selected from the top of the list. "Why did you know?" she demanded.

Anastasia deflected Scully's fiery outburst with a steely reply. "Apparently when Mulder was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy, he instructed his physician to explore even the most radical treatment protocols. Dr. Modell consulted us 4 years ago." She was very calm and convincing.

"No. Mulder didn't have temporal lobe epilepsy. His neurological workup was clear normal."

The older Krycek explained. "Interictal diagnosis of complex partial seizures such as Mulder had can be problematic. And the seizures themselves lack the classic tonic-clonic characteristics of epilepsy."

"But he couldn't have had epilepsy. I would have known. It would have been on his chart." She saw nothing but the tops of heads. "I was his partner. He would have told me." She begged for an explanation.

It came from the most unexpected source. "He didn't want you to know." Even standing she was not much taller than Skinner seated. "I'm sorry, but he didn't want you to know."

Scully's face changed from bright red to chalk white. "Why?"

Skinner nodded at Anastasia, who continued. "Because of his youth and good physical condition we were initially quite hopeful of taking him on as a research subject, but when I examined him personally I found his condition was too advanced for anything but conventional surgical resection."

Scully slumped back into her chair. "A lobotomy."

"Well, actually a lobectomy," corrected the older scientist. "Many TLE patients have experienced great relief after surgery."

"So you're saying the surgery would have given him relief . . ." Desperately she tried to understand.

Alex sprang from his chair and leaned against the wall, arms folded. "I'm not sure he would have called it relief."

Anastasia brushed Alex's cheek comfortingly as she passed him on her way to refill her tea. "The damage in this case was bilateral and quite extensive. While offering relief from the seizures, the surgery would have changed him. Substantially."

"But what about the implants?"

"The source and purpose of the implants are immaterial. It has been our experience that the prognosis for patients with these implants is always the same: swift deterioration into neurological devastation." Anastasia's dispassionate delivery was punctuated by the clink of her spoon against the sides of her teacup.

Scully contemplated briefly. "How long without surgery?"

"A year--at the outside." The older Krycek's accent made it difficult to judge the inflections in his voice.

"And with the surgery?"

"With the surgery he could have survived indefinitely."

"And yet he chose not to have the surgery."

"Yes. It was his choice." Anastasia's cool demeanor infuriated Scully.

"You let him choose to die rather than undergo treatment and live?" She was incredulous.

"I wouldn't exactly call it living, Scully." Skinner interjected.

"And what do you call being locked up in a padded cage for 3 years?" She shot back. "You were his friends and physicians. How could you let him choose something so clearly against his best interest?" her voice rose until she railed like a banshee.

Alex tried to explain. "He didn't choose to die, Scully. He merely chose not to let his body outlive his mind. He merely chose how he would live."

"No, you chose how he would live. He made you his conservator because he himself knew he was not capable of making his own decisions."

"You're wrong, Scully. He was capable of making reasoned choices about his and your life." He ignored her scowl.

Alex, who'd been stewing while leaned against the wall, exploded. "You see? This. This is exactly why he didn't want you to know. He knew you'd want him to have the surgery."

"Of course I would. It would have been the best thing for him."

Alex grasped her arms. "How do you know that, Dana? How do you know what was right for him?"

"I know. I was his . . ." She found no adequate word.

Krycek grabbed her wrist and dragged her toward the stairs. "Let me show you what you would have chosen for him."

"Krycek!" Skinner called

"Alexei," his father and sister admonished.

Scully struggled as Alex dragged her up the stairs to the second floor of the main dacha. He stopped at the 3rd door from the stairs. "This is what you would have chosen for him." The brightness of the sunlight could not overcome the "hospital" atmosphere of the room. "[Mama?]" he called like a little boy. "[Mama, it's Alexei.]" Still holding firmly to Scully's wrist, they approached the bed. Scully recognized the face from the photographs on the piano, but the face did not recognize them. Alex tugged at the quilt. "[Mama, this is Dana, Melissa's sister.]" The eyes remained vacant, the face dispassionate. "She had her first operation when I was 5. The last one left her like this when I was 10."

"But Mulder's case could be entirely different." She protested.

Krycek gently placed Dana's hand on the side of his mother's head. Through the thin skin she felt the telltale bumps. She jerked back her hand as though bitten and looked at Krycek at once shocked and disgusted.

"Live for a year or die for 20, Dana. What would you have him choose?"

For one of the few times in her life, she ran. She wasn't sure from whom.


The ample dining room of the main dacha was packed. Melissa and Anastasia found it easier to "pass" the food from the kitchen to the table than to make a path through the children, men and guests. When all the food was on the table, the children moved toward "their" table. Melissa directed the seating at the big table: "Mom, you sit there at the foot. Dana, there's room for you and Mr. Skinner sit between me and Mom . . ." At each place the silver gleamed, the crystal glistened, and the porcelain glowed. Despite the din, Ekaterin slept peacefully in a Moses basket near Melissa's chair. At the eighth stroke of eight, the elder Dr. Krycek paused behind his chair and extended his hands to Alex on the right and Anastasia on the left. Alex took little Alexei's hand, who took Melissa's who took Dana's who took Sam's who took Skinner's who took Maggie's. Anastasia took the hand of her son Jack who was joined to his father by his 5 siblings. Elder Jack took Maggie's other hand.

"We are honored to have among us the family and friends of our Alexei's beloved Melissa. It is my fervent wish that they will find here a second home and will visit long and often." Melissa stole a glance at her mother, who shifted uncomfortably. "In honor of our guests, tonight we will offer thanks in English."

They closed their eyes, but, instead of bowing their heads, they raised their faces heavenward and together recited, "For Love that blesses our todays, we thank You. For Hope that leads us forward into tomorrows, we thank You. For Faith that promises us Life Eternal, we thank You. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen."

The food was like the family--simple, substantial, showing evidence of great care. Sam was quite content to sit at the children's table with his cousin until Alexei decided to eat on his father's lap. Following Alexei around the table, Sam surprised his mother by clambering onto Skinner's knee. He settled back against Skinner's broad chest, as if that were the only place in the world he wanted to be. Dana was reaching for more pagach when she noticed Alex's bemused expression as he watched Melissa eat the remainder of his meal from his plate. In fact, Melissa seemed completely oblivious to the fact that the entire room was silently watching her eat ravenously.

Dr. Krycek broke the silence. "I assure you, Mrs. Scully, we do feed Melissa quite regularly."

Melissa's head popped up in mid-bite, a crumb still clinging to her reddening cheek. She looked around the room sheepishly, then leaned into Alex with an embarrassed giggle.

Dr. Krycek began a good-natured inquisition. "So, Alexandreovitch, is there an announcement you and your wife wish to make?"

It was Alex's turn to turn scarlet. "Uh, no, Papa." Melissa nudged him. "Um, I guess, well--"

"They're going to have another baby!" Anastasia's oldest daughter Sofia cried out and the tables dissolved in congratulatory laughter.

Scully leaned over and hugged her sister. "So, how far apart will the new baby and Ekaterin be?"

"10½ months," she grimaced with a smile.

"That's a little close, don't you think?" Maggie Scully's icy tone cut through the genial chatter. "That can't be healthy for you."

Melissa's disappointment showed in her voice. "Oh, Mom, I wish for once you could be happy for Alex and me."

"Oh, yes." She continued. "I'm sure everyone's happy for Alex."

Anastasia took a sharp breath to reply but her father held up his hand to silence her. "Mrs. Scully," he began with great dignity. "I'm sure that if you would take the time to get to know our Alexei, as we in time have come to know and cherish your Melissa, that you would understand that they love one another so that neither could do anything to hurt the other." Both Alex and Melissa beamed admiration at the patriarch. "Be careful, Alexei, or Melissa will start sending you away on business trips!" Dr. Krycek needled his son.

Alex exchanged a rueful look with Melissa. "Sooner than you think, Papa."

Skinner responded to the patriarch's quizzical look. "I've asked Alex to return to Washington tomorrow with Scully and me."

"There's a great deal more to Mulder's estate than we expected, Mom," Scully lied to her mother and her mother knew it.

Maggie was immediately on-guard. "And what about Sam and me?"

"Melissa has invited you both to extend your visit until we can clear up the estate."

Maggie Scully stared at her daughters, then at Skinner, and, finally, glared at Alex. "Do I have a choice?"

"Mom, it really would be best if you stayed here while we clear up a few things. When it's time we'll send for you." Scully was truly grateful that Skinner was between her and her mother. For his part, Skinner would have preferred a free-fire zone.

"So I have no say in the matter."

"Mom--" Scully was cut short by her mother's "look."

Maggie Scully carefully folded the creamy linen napkin and stood stiffly. "Dr. Krycek, thank you for your fine hospitality. Please excuse me."

Alex leaned back in his chair when her sharp step faded down the hall. "Well, that went well, don't you think?"


Despite the spring-like temperatures the breeze still had a distinctive Arctic chill that cut right through Skinner's summer wool suit as he walked from the main dacha to the hangar. The hangar apparently served many functions, including garage, and Jack Killian was waiting there with Scully.

"I guess you two are about ready to get back home," his accent hailed from somewhere between chili and gumbo country.

"After that hasty exit, I'm not so sure," Scully said tentatively.

Skinner was checking his weapon as Krycek and Melissa entered the hangar, arm in arm. She hugged Dana while he ran the combination on a walk-in safe. He beckoned to Skinner to follow him down the stairs inside the metal door. But it wasn't a safe; it was a weapons locker. The walls were covered in weapons of all varieties. Krycek chose from a case of automatic handguns. The wear on the mounting felt indicated he'd made the same choice many times. Krycek adjusted his shoulder harness on top of the crisp white shirt.

"Glock Model 20," Skinner nodded approvingly.

"Polymer frame, 200-grain Black Talons in the clip." Krycek slid the weapon into the holster. "Terrorist special."

Skinner followed him back into the hangar. "So how do you plan to get on the plane with that thing?"

Krycek adjusted the black suitcoat over his weapon and grinned. "Same way you do." He reached into the pocket an flipped open an ID wallet. His face appeared next to the big blue FBI. "Great likeness, don't you think?"

Skinner frowned. "Impersonating an agent is a Federal offense."

Krycek leaned close and whispered, "Feel free to arrest me if we get out of this alive." He held Melissa for a long time before he gave her his cross and wedding ring. She was still clutching them when she disappeared from the rear window.


They had flown in a small unmarked plane to a quiet airstrip on one of the San Juan Islands. A ferry took them to shore and a taxi to the Seattle-Tacoma airport. On the long flight from Seattle to DC, Krycek had booked all the seats in the last 3 rows beside the rear galley. Krycek took the aisle seat of the 3rd row from the rear. Dana had been assigned the window seat in the next-to-last row and Skinner had been assigned the aisle seat in the last row. Although dismayed by the roar from the engine above them, Skinner was surprised at the strategic advantages those seats afforded them. He could see the nearly entire plane from this vantage point. The location next to the galley afforded a high level of privacy while the flight attendants were serving and "attending." And the noise level of the engines made eavesdropping more difficult--electronic and otherwise. Yes, these were good seats. Skinner settled back, reaching into his pocket for a remedy for the headache he knew was coming.

Despite the fact that her frequent-flyer miles (if the government allowed them) would have taken her somewhere just the other side of Fiji, Scully remained a semi-white-knuckle flyer. Sometimes it just didn't make sense that riding on air would be so rough. She'd admired that in Mulder; he could sleep peacefully through turbulence that would topple coffee cups. He wouldn't have been nervous on this flight. In fact, he'd probably fallen asleep before the seatbelt sign was turned off. But she was nervous. No, she was terrified. And she didn't know why.

Krycek was certain they'd been spotted in Seattle. But it wasn't some sixth sense he'd developed during his military service. No, he'd seen the guy. At least he was pretty sure he had. The guy had the look of a middle level mob thug: a shiny dark suit, a white shirt with a fraying collar, cheap tie, and scuffed shoes. CIA, thought Alex, or maybe DoD. Neither was good news. Neither played by the house rules. On a competency level they both ranked somewhere above whatever-the-KGB-was-called-these-days and well below the Israeli Mossad. Both CIA and DoD were brutal and sloppy--always making a new mess to clean up an old one. So what are we facing when we get back to DC? He asked himself. It took him a moment to realize that Skinner was beside him in the aisle asking the same question. "I don't know," he answered as Skinner crowded in front of him into the middle seat. "What do you think?"

"I honestly don't know what to expect."

The consensus was to work their cover. Dana and Skinner would return to work and Alex would go about the business of helping them settle Mulder's estate. It had seemed a reasonable course of action when they'd discussed it on the airplane but now, standing in front of Maggie Scully's door, it seemed more than a bit naive.

"Are we sure nobody's waiting for us inside?"

Alex grimaced impatiently. "Of course there's somebody inside. We just hope and pray it's one of the good guys." He returned Scully's keys to her as the door swung open.

Any stranger would have considered the house to be quite neat; to Scully everything seemed out of place. Instinctively she moved a ship's model from the sofa table back to the mantle.

"I'm sorry," Alex apologized. "My people put things back together as well as they could without any pictures to go by." A hooded figure appeared in the kitchen door and Alex waved it off. Moments later the back door snapped shut. "The best course of action seemed to be to let whoever search the place, then put it back together."

"Whoever?"

"yeah, whoever tried to take Sam." Krycek put his luggage at the bottom of the stairs.

"Is it safe?" Skinner moved from door to window to window. He held back the drapes to inspect a device on the wall just below the window sill. "Nice," he said appreciatively. "Sonic diffuser," he explained to Scully. "Prevents laser microphones from picking up conversations off the vibrations of the window panes."

"Why would anyone care?" Scully asked.

"Someone cared enough to load this house with state-of-the-art listening devices." Alex wondered idly just when the microphone behind the headboard in Melissa's room had been placed.

Scully looked around the room. "Are they still here?"

"No," Alex replied, "my people swept the place clean."

"So it's safe." She sounded unconvinced and continued reorganizing the room.

"As safe as it can be." Alex examined a new keypad next to the door.

"What about my place?" Skinner helped Scully adjust a chair.

"More bugs than the embassy in Moscow," Krycek grinned. "My people tell me it's impossible to secure so they moved your personal items into the guest room upstairs."

"Thanks," Skinner said sarcastically. His headache was returning.

"You're welcome," Krycek ignored the sarcasm.

"Is it safe to go upstairs?" she asked wearily.

"yeah, sure," Krycek answered. "The whole house is secure but leave the blinds closed."

Scully raised her eyebrows in query.

"Snipers." Both men answered together. She repeated their answer to herself then turned and wearily climbed the stairs.

Krycek eagerly doffed his suitcoat and Skinner followed suit. Skinner noticed that Krycek loosened, but did not remove, his shoulder holster. He followed Krycek around the downstairs, closing blinds and drapes as Alex checked the doors. Finally, Alex touched the keypad and the status light went red. "Thumbprint ID," he explained. "Only you, me, Dana, or my security chief can control the system."

"Why are we doing this, Krycek? Who are we in danger from?" Skinner sat in a wing chair while Krycek slumped on the sofa.

"I think you know who."

"Our friend in the grey sedan? The smoking man?" he asked incredulously.

Krycek nodded.

"You've got to be kidding. He just some old fossil left over from the Cold War."

"Maybe." Alex sat upright and leaned forward. "Or maybe he's like the shark--perfect predator unchanged for thousands of years. Because he doesn't need to."

Unconvinced, Skinner leaned back and rubbed the back of his neck.

Alex jumped up. "You can have the first watch. See you in 4." He bounded up the stairs before Skinner had a chance to object.

X * X * X Her return to work had been just as awkward as Scully had expected. She suffocated in her co-workers' kindness. She just didn't understand it. After all, she and Mulder had only been partners for just over a year. They had shared a brief physical relationship and, well, he was Sam's father, but that seemed inadequate cause for all this hoopla. It wasn't like they were married or in love or anything like that. They were simply partners. That was all. A tape recorder clicked off and she wondered how long she'd been staring at the mortal remains of this poor soul whose death had come at the hands of another. One last staple closed the long Y-incision. If she didn't hurry she'd be late for lunch with Krycek and Skinner. She tossed her gloves and gown into the appropriate receptacles. Pausing at the door, she considered the plight of this soul who depended on her for justice. Just like Mulder.

The morning weather report had promised "warm" temperatures, but to Krycek it was just plain hot. The ubiquitous dark wool suit didn't help. Neither did the holster and weapon, nor the ankle brace and polycarbon knife. He'd been lucky to find a parking place on Pennsylvania Avenue at lunchtime and he scurried through the swelter into the Old Post Office. Skinner and Scully had already arrived and were queued, along with what seemed like most of SW Washington, in front of a place called Maguff's. Krycek motioned for them to follow and stood directly in front of the hostess who was telling a phone caller emphatically that Maguff's did not take reservations for lunch. "Krycek, party of 3, reservations for noon," she looked at him oddly, as if waiting for further explanation. None seemed forthcoming so she silently led them back to a "Reserved" table next to an emergency exit that backed up to a stone wall and commanded a view of the entire restaurant. Alex grinned when he saw a 40-ish man with a cane approaching. "Great place you have here, McGough!"

"It'll do. How've you been, Commander?" he shook hands with his free hand.

"Just great. How's your lady?"

He waved dismissively. "She decided she wanted a lower-maintenance kind of guy," rapping his knuckles against his prosthetic legs. "So how's your lady? Did I hear you're a daddy?"

"Twice," Alex replied, "and another on the way. Melissa's great, thanks. Petty Officer Padraic McGough, this is my wife's sister, Dana Scully, and Walter Skinner."

"Retired, obviously." McGough leaned against the stone wall while Alex sat. "So, are you in DC on business?"

"No, estate stuff." He took a drink of the icewater. "For a friend." He made a show of perusing the menu. "So, what do you recommend?"

"Crab cakes," McGough replied instantly. "Maryland blues are in and the crab cakes are outta site." Nods from each in the party settled the matter. "So, Commander, why are you really here?"

Alex grinned guiltily and pulled a picture from his pocket. "You were around a long time; you ever see this guy?"

Just the sight of the other face made her crinkle her nose at the olfactory memory of the pervasive cigarette smoke. Skinner was more interested in the DoD identification codes on the back of the photograph. "Now him, him I know. 'Nam. He ran shadow projects for CIA, DoD, somebody like that."

"Shadow projects?" Scully was confused.

Skinner replied, "Projects our government will never Willingly admit to participating in. Like Paper Clip after World War II, and Phoenix in Vietnam."

Krycek ignored the history lesson. "Anything more recent?"

"I haven't seen him in years. Is he still alive?"

"Saw him last week."

"Well, if he's still alive then he's still in the shadows. That's a little club you have to die to get out of." McGough moved away from the wall and surveyed the restaurant. "If he's involved in this estate business, then I suggest you get your estate in order. Guys like this don't stay alive this long by being polite."

"You know anyone who can tell us more about him?"

"You must be pretty desperate if you're trolling me for information."

"There seems to be an epidemic of amnesia among my usual resources," Alex observed dryly.

"Can you blame them?" McGough rubbed his chin. "There is a guy. He's a member of one of those lunatic fringe watchdog groups."

Skinner stopped fiddling with his silverware. "How reliable is he?"

"Well, his interpretation's sometimes a little out there, but with facts he's usually right on the money."

"How do I find him?"

"Would you believe he works at the GWU Library? Government documents section. Ask for John." McGough's restlessness meant no more information would be forthcoming. Krycek stood and faced McGough. "Well, it was great seeing you." He wrote a phone number on the back of the business card he handed McGough. "We'll have to get together while I'm here and talk about the bad old days."

"yeah, let's do that," McGough lied. He read the front of the card, "International Security Associates, Seattle, Washington. A. Krycek, President." He looked at Alex. "For real?"

"yeah, for real," Krycek replied. "Look, if I can ever do anything for you . . ."

McGough smiled, "You already did." The waitress' arrival interrupted their awkward silence. "Good to see you again, sir. Enjoy your lunch."

"Was there a purpose to that exercise, Krycek?" Skinner asked pointedly.

"Well, yes there was," he explained. "Petty Officer McGough fears neither man nor beast. But he fears this man." He savored a bite of crab cake. "Man, this is good."

"Tell me something, Krycek," Skinner took a swallow of iced tea. "What are we looking for? I thought you knew all about what happened to Mulder."

"But that's not all there is." Krycek set down his fork and looked from Scully to Skinner and back to Scully again. "I can tell you what was done to Mulder. I can probably even tell you why it happened. But that's not the problem. The problem is who. Who did this to Mulder? Who is trying to take Sam away from you?"

"But your mother--" Scully began.

"Everything that happened to my mother happened over 30 years ago. In Russia." He picked up his fork again. "And I seriously doubt Fox Mulder ever lived in Russia."

Skinner wiped his faced resignedly with his napkin. Scully wiped away a crumb of crab cake. "So what's next?" she asked.

The waitress returned with the charge slip and Krycek's card. His signature on the slip was completely illegible. "We go to the Library."

A meeting prevented Skinner from accompanying them to George Washington University. The Government documents section was, not surprisingly, in the basement. Krycek's inquiry for John had been met with a doubtful look and then a scurry by a mousy-looking librarian.

A voice with precise diction came from behind them, "May I help you?"

Scully turned and blurted out, "Byers?" before she could prevent herself.

"You know him?" Krycek surveyed the man. The first word that came to mind was meticulous. His brown hair and beard were neatly groomed. His suit was well-cut and neat, despite showing some signs of wear. His manner was stiff and formal and might even be called elegant except for subservient tilt of the head and the downcast eyes.

"Agent Scully." His eyes met hers for just a moment before they focused on the ground again. "I was very sorry to hear about Mulder. My sincerest condolences."

Scully brushed aside his sympathy with a "Thank you" whose terseness shocked Krycek. "This is my brother-in-law Alex Krycek. He's helping me settle Mulder's affairs."

Byers sorted a stack of documents on the reference desk. "How can I help you?"

"We need information, detailed information, about an obscure government project."

Byers' stooped shoulders straightened. "What's the name of the project?"

"I don't know," Krycek's reply elicited a raised eyebrow from the bookworm. "It's Russian counterpart was called [Solomon]. Solomon," he repeated in English. "Its stated purpose was to create super-intelligence by improving memory capability."

"Do you know what agency?" Any trace of subservience had vanished.

"Not really. Probably CIA, DoD, wherever the Nazi projects landed."

"This isn't much to go on," the academician chided. "When do you need it?"

"ASAP." Krycek glanced at Scully. "The life of a child may depend on it."


The acrid smell of smoke announced the arrival. "You look well rested after your recent travels, Mr. Skinner."

"Thank you," Skinner returned acidly.

"I do think I should warn you about one of your traveling companions," he said slyly.

"Oh?"

"You should not trust Alex Krycek. He is not at all who you think he is."

"So you say."

"Find out for yourself. Ask him about Project Ares. His answer should convince you." He coughed again. "Good day."


When Mulder originally had become ill and the so-called-X-files were closed, Scully had been transferred to Forensics as a Special Agent-Field Investigator. She travelled all over the country consulting with various field offices and law enforcement agencies regarding the Forensic evidence in a myriad of cases. After Sam's birth, she had curtailed her heavy travel and analyzed the reports of other Field Investigators from her office in the "Puzzle Palace." Since the Drs. Krycek had told her about Mulder's epilepsy, a grain of a memory had been irritating her. But today that grain had grown into a boulder that blocked all other thoughts. She knew what she had to do. She was surprised when her key turned the lock. Dank, dusty air rushed through the door at her. It had been a long time since she'd been in this room--over 3 years. She was surprised to find it exactly as she left it the day she'd helped Mulder pack his personal belongings for his temporary "medical leave of absence." In retrospect she realized that Mulder knew then he would never return to this office.

"Funny how a place can have such a sense of the person who inhabited it, even when devoid of personal effects." A nasal voice from the doorway echoed her thoughts. The angular face of Bill Patterson loomed over her. "Every time I pass this door I think of him. What a terrible waste." He dusted off a spot and leaned against the desk.

"That's an odd thing to hear--coming from you." Scully's tone was icy.

"Why would my admiration for Mulder surprise you?" he asked with total equanimity.

She stood erect. "I don't know, sir. I just got the feeling you disapproved of him."

His face reddened. "Fox Mulder was one of the most capable minds ever to come through Behavioral Science. Watching his mind work through a complex case was breathtaking." He took a deep breath. "That's what made what happened later all the more heartbreaking."

"Is that why you occasionally brought cases to him?" Patterson looked surprised. "He mentioned it in his journals," she explained.

"Yes." Patterson acknowledged. "Do you remember the Evanston Campus Stalker?" She shook her head. "In the spring and summer of '96, a male college student was murdered on the night of each of 6 successive new moons. The brutality escalated with each murder until it reached horrific carnage. Then it stopped. Now conventional wisdom says that an escalating serial murderer will not quit unless he's caught or killed. But there were no new cases anywhere in the country. Everybody in my office was stumped. In January I brought Mulder the file. Do you know what he said when he called me 2 hours later?"

Scully shook her head.

"He said to check the suicides and accidental deaths on the night of the new moon immediately following the last murder." Patterson nodded his head in admiration. "It had been right there for those with the eyes to see. A college student matching the general description of the Stalker's victims had been killed when he'd jumped off an overpass into the path of a 18-wheeler. We were able to make a positive DNA match with fluids found at the Stalker murder scenes." Scully's puzzled expression made Patterson explain further. "Mulder turned the standard profile inside out. He was the only one who saw that, instead of empowering himself, the murderer was acting out his own self-hatred. The final act in the escalation was to kill himself."

"If he was so useful why did you get rid of him in the first place?"

"Look, Mulder was coming unglued with the stuff about his sister. I knew Skinner was moving up to AD so we worked out a deal where he would take Mulder. He came up with the idea of pointing Mulder in the direction of the so-called X-files to give him something constructive to do until."

"Until what?"

"Until he couldn't work anymore."

Scully considered his explanation. "Why the X-files? Weren't they just a fool's errand assigned to a madman?"

Patterson stood. "Maybe. Or maybe they were tailor-made for him. Conventional investigative techniques had failed to solve them. Hell, some of them were opened by J. Edgar himself. Maybe a brilliant mind--one not so strictly bound by convention--could make the connections necessary to solve the cases."

Scully remained suspicious. "Why would you do this for him?"

Patterson moved into the doorway. "Twelve years ago Walt Skinner and I worked with an agent named Duane Barry. He was brilliant but the job was eating him alive and he couldn't put it down." He rubbed his bottom lip with the tip of his ring finger. "We watched him walk into the bullpen of the Washington Bureau, put his service weapon to his right temple and pull the trigger. He had the misfortune to survive." Patterson observed drily and swallowed hard. "His injuries left him a delusional sociopath. Since then he's been a maximum security patient at Maryland's Criminal Psychiatric Hospital." He backed into the hall. "Mulder deserved better."

Patterson's steps faded as he ascended the concrete stairs. In the past she had chided Mulder for his "conceptual" filing system. But now it actually helped. Well, sort of. There seemed to be no rhyme to the organization of the concepts so she just had to search, lifting the dusty plastic coverings until she found the right file cabinet. Of course it was the last one: "Abductions, Alien."


Between the Marine Corps and the Bureau, Skinner thought he'd seen just about everything. But the information about Project Ares had caught him off-guard. Although nobody was in the living room, Skinner could hear noises coming from the kitchen. Scully's car was not in the drive; it must be Krycek, thought Skinner. He laid his suitcoat on the bannister and removed a file from his briefcase before setting it in the "L" of the stair. He sat at the kitchen table in the place furthest from Krycek. Alex turned his head briefly and nodded in greeting.

"Tell me about [Project Ares], Krycek." Skinner laid his hand on the kitchen table. In it was his service weapon. Cocked.

Krycek spotted the folder in front of Skinner. "Why do you want to know?"

"I had a visit today from our smoking friend. He says you are not who you appear to be."

"And you believe him?" Alex dried his hands on a dishtowel.

"Give me a reason not to."

Krycek glanced around the room. To Skinner's eye it was not the look of a captured predator looking for an avenue of escape. It was the look of terror, of a child confronted by the monster that lived under the bed. "I think you already know about [Project Ares]."

"Maybe I want to hear it from you."

Krycek glanced into the living room, making sure Dana had not arrived. He fell more than leaned against the kitchen wall. "Project Ares was begun by the Nazis in the late '30s as part of their effort to engineer the perfect Aryan soldier. They were monumentally unsuccessful despite extensive 'research' that killed hundreds of Jewish women in the camps. After the fall of the Reich, the project's chief scientist offered his services to both the United States and Russia in exchange for a new identity and research facilities. Russia won." He filled a glass from the tap and took a long drink. "He was sent to Siberia and used the women in the labor camps as research subjects. My mother was sent to Siberia in 1950 as his research assistant. My father was already there working as a geneticist on another project. A marriage was arranged and my sister was born a year later. My mother was brilliant, far ahead of her time, and she became the chief scientist of the project when the Nazi died in 1958. In early 1961, she was successful in engineering 6 viable human embryos which were implanted into female test subjects for gestation. At the same time she became pregnant again after 8 failed pregnancies. Only 1 embryo survived to term and was delivered in October. My mother went into labor the same day but her child did not survive. She became insane with grief." He drained his water glass. "My father went to my mother's lab and exchanged their dead child for the Ares child. He told her she had only dreamed their child had died and placed me in her arms. So I became their Alexandreovitch."

Walter Skinner contemplated this extraordinary tale and its teller. "Who knows?"

Krycek searched his empty glass. "My father, of course; my sister, Anastasia; Killian--"

"Melissa?"

Krycek smiled tenderly. "Yes."

"What about Mrs. Scully?"

"Maggie," Krycek only seemed to call Mrs. Scully "Maggie" outside of her presence, "tried to talk Melissa out of marrying me when she found out I couldn't give her grandchildren. How do you think she'd feel about this?"

Skinner smiled ruefully. Maggie Scully sounded much like his own mother-in-law. Ex-mother-in-law. "So who are you, Krycek? Ares," Skinner's look cut through him, "or Alexandre?"

Krycek returned Skinner's steely gaze. "Sofia Gordeeva Krycek engineered me to be a killer. Alexandre Krycek raised me to be a man."

"Hello?" Scully's voice came from the front door.

Krycek looked fearfully at Skinner. Skinner's raised eyebrows asked, Does she know?

Krycek shook his head.

Skinner stared at the folder for a moment, considering what it must be like for Krycek to know what he really was. That made the closeness he'd observed between father and son, husband and wife even more amazing--and enviable. He handed Krycek the folder. "She'll never hear it from me." The kitchen door swung like a pendulum behind him. "Krycek, come help with these boxes," he called from the living room.

"What the ---?" Krycek swore as he accepted one of the boxes from Skinner.

"Something your father said about temporal lobe epilepsy reminded me of some of the cases Mulder and I investigated."

Skinner returned from the trunk of Scully's car with another box of files. "Like what?"

She picked up a file and thumbed through it until she found the page she wanted. "Like, 'I felt like I was floating outside myself. Then the room became very, very bright and I could hear voices speaking a language unlike any I'd ever heard before.'" She looked up triumphantly. "Iola Chadway made that statement in 1958, claiming she'd been abducted at the age of 12 by unknown creatures and detained while she was 'tested.'" She turned another page. "She also claimed that they returned for her periodically and subjected her to similar tests."

"So what makes you think she might have been a Solomon subject?" Krycek asked.

"Well, the similarity between her story and the description of hallucinations caused by temporal lobe epilepsy is unmistakable."

Skinner played devil's advocate. "Scully, those same symptoms are reported by people who suffer from a variety of mental and physical problems."

Krycek, who'd been looking over Scully's shoulder, took the file. "yeah, but how many of those underwent medical treatment involving the head around the age of 11? Iola Chadway contracted meningitis at the age of 11 and a hole was drilled in her skull to relieve the intracranial pressure. A hole in the temporal process."

"The standard location would have been between the posterior parietal lobes to relieve pressure from both hemispheres." Scully added.

"There's one more thing." Krycek looked up from the file and grinned. "Iola Chadway's IQ was so high it couldn't be measured."

Skinner pulled a carton over to the wing chair near the fireplace and retrieved a folder from it. "I'll do this box."

By the time the clock struck 3 the folders had been separated into 3 categories. The first pile was abduction reports that did not fit the "Solomon profile." The second group reported either high IQ or adolescent head injury and the third group reported both high IQ and head injury.

"I feel like I've been in the Twilight Zone," Skinner quipped.

Krycek stretched as he finished his last folder.

Scully stirred in the deep slumber she was enjoying on the sofa. Though tousled, her red hair haloed her porcelain face. Everything about her looked fragile: petite stature, tiny feet, exquisitely delicate hands, heart-shaped mouth. In counterpoint to her fragile beauty was razor-sharp intellect and steely determination. No wonder Mulder loved her, Skinner mused, unconsciously brushing a stray strand of hair from her forehead. She cooed ever so slightly when his hand lightly grazed her forehead.

"I'm beat," Krycek interrupted the reverie from the stair landing. "G'night."

Skinner looked at him, bleary-eyed. "yeah, " he said. "Me, too." He stood for a moment in front of the sofa. Then silently, tenderly, he carried her upstairs, her ruby lips only inches from his. She never stirred as he covered her with the downy comforter. The loneliness in his heart echoed hollowly as he closed the door. Between them. He bumped into Krycek in the cramped hallway.

"You know Mulder probably doesn't fit the criteria, don't you?"

"Oh? 180 IQ, hallucinations straight out of Rod Serling, what are we missing?"

"What we are missing," Krycek scowled at the last dregs of coffee in his mug, "is the cover story."

"The head injury." Skinner rubbed the Texas roadmaps in his now-bloodshot eyes. "His medical file only covers the time he's been with the Bureau."

"Would Dana have kept it in Mulder's things from his apartment?"

Skinner shook his head sadly. "The things worth keeping from Mulder's apartment wouldn't fill a grocery sack."

"What about his parents?"

"They divorced after Samantha disappeared."

"And his mother got custody?"

"yeah, but she died of a stroke not long after Mulder was committed." He sat bolt upright. "Maybe she can tell us after all."

Krycek raised an eyebrow.

"After she died I helped Scully move her things."

"Where?"

"To a locked closet in her basement."

Krycek slumped. "So they're gone. The new owners . . ."

"No, no. Mulder kept the house after his mother died. Her things are locked in a closet in the basement."

"Where?"

"Providence." He grinned. "Think your people could cover us on a road trip?"

It was Krycek's turn to grin. "When do we start?"


The air shuttle from DC to Providence was nearly empty. On the ride from the Providence airport Scully rode in the back seat--speaking only to administer directions to the neat Georgian cottage in the quiet neighborhood. The current tenant of the home seemed puzzled by their presence but graciously allowed them privacy after directing them to the basement. Skinner searched the file in his briefcase for the particular page that bore the combination to the padlock in front of them. Reluctantly he'd agreed to Mulder's request that he act as conservator after Elizabeth Mulder's death; outside of Scully, there was no one else. They'd filled and stored the boxes in haste after her funeral and the disorder slowed the search. Scully took the financial records and Skinner and Krycek started digging through the memorabilia. It was several hours before, with a triumphant cry, Krycek fished the small phone book out of a box that also held a leather-bound photo album. To their surprise, the phone number--nearly 25 years old--was still correct. The doctor's office was just as they expected: comfortably stylish, reassuringly frayed. A bright collage of school pictures and snapshots nearly covered the entire wall behind the desk. The physician was friendly but definitely uninformative until Skinner identified himself as Executor of Mulder's estate.

"I really don't know what I can tell you about Fox. From the time I started seeing him he was an extraordinarily healthy child. Certainly nothing that would presage death at such a young age. How did he die?"

"Intracranial hemorrhage caused by temporal lobe epilepsy." Scully replied.

"I take it you saw no evidence of the epilepsy?" Skinner asked.

The doctor flipped through the file. "No, there's nothing here that would even whisper of TLE."

"How old was he when you started seeing him?"

"Let's see, my file begins when he was 12. As I remember, his parents were divorcing and we requested the medical records from his previous physician in Massachusetts."

"What was the cause of his first visit?"

The doctor flipped to the back page. "Headaches. It says here that he'd suffered a severe concussion in a bike accident some months after his sister disappeared but before he and his mother moved here. The headaches abated after a month or so. There were no indicators of neural complications so I attributed them to the stress of losing his sister and his home within a relatively short time frame."

"And you never received his earlier medical records?"

"No, the previous physician lost all of his files in an office fire around that time."

"Do you have his name?"

"I do, but it won't do you any good. He's been dead for a number of years." The physician's eyebrows furrowed. "Why are you so interested in Fox's medical history?"

Scully handed him a snapshot from her wallet. The doctor's initial expression of bewilderment turned to one of comprehension. "What is his name?"

"Sam," Scully said quietly. "Samuel Fox Mulder."

"And you're worried that the epilepsy is hereditary."

"Yes."

The physician gazed a moment longer at the photograph before handing it back to Scully. "I truly do wish I could allay your fears. All I can tell you is that while he was my patient, from the age of 12 until he left for Oxford at 18, I saw absolutely no indication of any neurological problems."

The small lunch counter near the airport was noisy at lunchtime so Krycek made his phone call to Massachusetts from the car. His lunch arrived before he returned. "Well," he slid into the booth next to Scully, "the doctor in Massachusetts is dead and his patient records were destroyed in a fire in 1973. But," he gulped the unsweetened iced tea, "his nurse is alive and well." He restacked his sandwich. "She remembers information about Mulder's bike accident quite plainly--especially the part about it happening at the family's summer house." He lifted the sandwich to his mouth. "In Rhode Island."

Immediately after takeoff Scully moved forward to an isolated seat. An unmistakable expression of disappointment flashed across Skinner's face as she passed in front of him. It faded instantly into ubiquitous expressionless countenance common to all Federal officers. Krycek studied the leather-bound album in an effort not to notice. The album was neatly arranged in chronological order beginning with the Mulders' civil marriage ceremony. Baby pictures, school pictures, posed snapshots of special occasions were all meticulously labeled. It was quite a complete record. Krycek flipped the pages back and forth. He slid the tome onto Skinner's tray table. "What's wrong with this?"

Skinner impatiently flipped through the pages. "Is there something in particular I'm supposed to be looking for?"

"Look again." Krycek encouraged. Skinner's upturned palms signaled continued bewilderment. "Where's the love?"

"Excuse me?"

"Where's the picture of Mulder's first birthday with icing and a goofy expression smeared on his face? Where's the pictures of Samantha tormenting her older brother? Where's the pictures of Christmas morning?" his voice prosecuted and judged the parents in the pictures. "Where's the love?"


It was practically dark by the time the traffic on I-50 began moving at a reasonable pace. Even so, the 35-mile drive to Annapolis took almost 2 hours. Accustomed to riding the Metro to his Crystal City, Virginia, high-rise, Skinner bristled at the delay. But the increasing freshness of the salt air soothed him by the time they stood in Maggie Scully's driveway. He loosened his tie and inhaled the peaceful solitude of this quiet residential neighborhood. He'd already turned toward the door when Krycek's cellular phone rang.

"Are you ready?" Krycek asked.

"For what?" Skinner replied.

"A trip to the library."

"Where?"

Krycek grinned. "DC."

The library, yeah, right, Skinner thought as he looked at the derelict building. More like an abandoned warehouse in Northeast. I rode 45 minutes back to DC for this?

Krycek knocked on the battered steel door and waited for a response. Then he pounded on the door.

"Are you sure this is the right place?" Skinner asked.

"Oh, yeah, " Krycek confirmed and pointed to discreetly mounted surveillance cameras, red lights staring at them. Krycek directed his flashlight's beam directly into the closest camera lens. "Come on, bookworm. I know you hear us."

"Do you really think he hears us?" Scully asked.

"Oh, he hears us." Krycek answered. He spoke menacingly into a mesh near the door jamb. "I'm about 2 minutes away from circumventing your nursery-school security setup which means I'm about 3 minutes away from you."

The bolt clicked and Krycek pulled the door open. "Thank you," he called out derisively as he led his group into the darkened warehouse.

Scully could feel and hear things scuttling and scurrying past her as they followed the thin shaft of light across the derelict building to the office. An unkempt figure stood in the doorway--scraggly blonde hair casting an aura of wildness about him.

"Langly," Scully greeted as she passed him.

A troll-like figure stood up to Krycek. "There's no reason to be insulting," he protested.

"He didn't mean anything, Frohicke," Scully soothed.

So this is the home of Mulder's Lone Gunmen, mused Skinner. The room looked like a mad scientist's fun house--with the exception of Byers' immaculate corner.

Krycek turned toward the neat corner and its occupant. "So what do you have for us?"

"First of all, we want you to know the only reason we're doing this is for Mulder." He glanced at Langly and Frohicke then the floor. "He had a brilliant mind and did not deserve to dance in the shadow of madness. Neither does his son." He opened a thick folder of photostatic copies. "Project Solomon, like many others, was a continuation of research begun at the death camps in Nazi Germany. Instead of handing the scientists over at Nuremberg, the Allied powers--primarily the United States and Russia--divided them up according to each country's area of interest. A few projects were duplicated between the two major powers and each country's research proceeded independently of the other. Nazi scientist Heinz Werner was brought to the United States and provided a research facility somewhere near Washington. He died in 1960. According to all reports Project Solomon died with him."

Scully looked over Krycek's shoulder. "What was Project Solomon?"

Langly picked up the tale. "The primary of objective of most of Hitler's 'research' was to further the creation of an Aryan master race--superior to all others both physically and intellectually. Werner had postulated that intellect was merely a function of information retained in long-term memory. The purpose of Project Solomon was to increase information retention."

Frohicke continued the tale. "They accomplished this by implanting electrodes in the temporal and limbic lobes and administering varying amounts of electrical impulses. Immediately following the electric shocks, they exposed the subjects to vast amounts of information. Long-term retention rates approached 98%."

Both of Scully's eyebrows arched in amazement.

Skinner whistled softly. "So what was the problem?"

"The problem," Krycek said softly, "was the long-term effects of the treatment."

"That's right," Byers stuttered amazement. "Treatments usually began around 11 for boys, and 9 or 10 for girls. After 15 to 20 years of the treatments, the subjects began reporting what psychiatrists described as complex partial seizures."

"Things like feeling of disembodied floating, bright lights with voices murmuring, even hideous nightmarish hallucinations." Langly described.

"But the visions were real to the subjects. No matter how ridiculous, the subjects would swear the visions really happened." Frohicke continued.

"So what happened after they stopped the treatments?" Skinner asked.

Byers explained. "The hallucinations continued with increasing severity. Since the symptomology was so similar, they treated them like other complex partial seizures and tried lobectomies. But the resection generally required was so severe that the result for the subject was a perpetual catatonic state."

Krycek rocked back and forth. "Look, all this is quite nice, but you've not told me anything I didn't already know."

"Like what?"

"Like who ran the project?"

Byers turned to a colored divider near the back of the folder. He flipped old photographs one-by-one. "A series of OSS officers ran the project in the late '40s and early '50s until the project was transferred to the Department of Defense in 1955." He stopped turning the pictures. "There it was run by various," Byers seemed nervous, "managers within the Department of Defense." He stopped short.

"Beginning with?" Skinner prompted.

Byers hesitated.

"Beginning with?" Krycek threatened.

Voice leaden with sorrow, pity and regret, Byers revealed the next photograph. "Bill Mulder," he said softly.

Scully, characteristically, reacted by withdrawing to her room and raising her emotional "blast shields." Krycek's reaction surprised Skinner. He found Alex and the file sprawled on the sofa--a nearly empty bottle of vodka on the table between them. Skinner poured the last of the bottle into his own glass. "White nights come early this year, Krycek?"

Krycek smiled briefly then pondered the contents of his glass. "Some nights the morning comes before the sleep." He drained his glass. "You have any children, Skinner?"

"No." Skinner drained his own glass, "No kids, no wife . . ."

Alex queried with his eyebrows.

Skinner smiled ruefully. "Funny thing about Agent Orange. You can have no symptoms, no rash, nothing. But, quietly, silently, it rearranges your genetic code just enough so that your offspring don't even resemble anything human." His eyes filled. "But my brothers have 18 kids between them so I'm not narrowing the family tree any." He searched his glass for another drop. "But you don't have that problem."

Krycek reached for a framed picture that sat on the end table. "You know I almost didn't marry Melissa? God, she was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen: emerald eyes, titian hair, skin like gold-flecked cream. And kids. She was great with kids. Her nieces and nephews were crazy about her. I could see in her eyes what a great mom she'd be. But I knew I couldn't give that to her. 0-chance."

"But--"

"yeah, " he laughed. "After my sister was born, my parents tried for years to have a son. When that didn't happen, they adopted me. My father knew enough about my parentage to understand that a congenital condition might prevent me from giving him grandchildren." Now Alex's eyes filled. "But he chose me anyway. And Melissa married me anyway. And God gave us children anyway."

"Do you really think Project Solomon was shut down in 1960?" Skinner asked.

"Do you?" Krycek replied incredulously.

Skinner's eyes flashed. "How could he do it?"

"Do what?"

"How could Bill Mulder let them do that to his own son?"

Krycek shook his head silently. Neither of them noticed Scully silently returning up the stairs.


Dust motes danced in the early morning sunlight beaming through Maggie Scully's living room. Scully followed the fresh coffee aroma to the refuge of the kitchen. Skinner turned the page of the newspaper he was reading at the kitchen table and they exchanged nods. She had been silent since the previous night's revelations.

"Did you sleep well?" Skinner asked in that same gentle voice he'd used on the bench at Krycek's.

"Yes, thank you," she filled her cup from the automatic coffee maker. "I apologize for not being the best of company last night. I don't know what . . ."

"It's okay." He joined her at the coffee maker. "You've had quite a week." A tantalizing hint of her subtle, spicy perfume drew him closer.

Scully stared into her coffee cup. Everything in her ached for the refuge she knew she would find in this man who stood before her. She closed her eyes, drew in a ragged breath and stepped around him to the table.

He started to take a sip of the coffee, but poured it into the sink instead. His voice was impersonal, detached. "We have an appointment at 8:30 with the probate attorney in Annapolis."

Alex slipped in the back door and khaki flashed past the kitchen window.

"Scully?" Skinner prodded for a response. She looked at her watch and nodded. The swinging door between the kitchen and living room whooshed behind her.

The attorney's voice was just white noise to Scully. "Mr. Mulder's last Will, dated 8 years ago, named his parents as his primary beneficiaries. In the event they should predecease him the assets would flow to his estate. No executor was specified so the court would appoint one under that Will."

"What would happen to the estate?"

"A search would be conducted for heirs. If none were found the proceeds would be held by the state for 7 years before it absorbed them." He pulled another sheaf of paper from the file. "However, I have here a monograph codicil dated 4 weeks ago. In it Mr. Mulder leaves his entire estate in trust to his natural son--" he fumbled through the papers.

"Samuel Fox Mulder," Scully supplied weakly.

"Yes, Samuel Fox Mulder. He further asks that you serve, Mr. Skinner, as executor of the estate and co-trustee with the child's mother, Dana Katherine Scully."

"Is it valid?" Skinner asked. "Given Mulder's medical condition?"

"Strictly speaking, it is not. It does, however, indicate Mr. Mulder's wishes regarding the disposition of his assets. Given the public stature of the witness, I have no doubt that the probate court will accept it."

Skinner reached for the paper. John Matheson. Senator Matheson. Trump to Mulder.

Krycek sniffed at the cheap lock on the gate. Surely McGough can do better than this. He banged on the gate. There was a loud click and the gate raised about 4 feet. Krycek ducked under it just before it lowered again.

McGough's metallic gait grew louder. "You forget something? Sir?"

"No, McGough, I'm hoping you'll remember something." He pulled a bottle of clear liquid from the freezer behind the bar and poured 2 shots.

"I can't sell liquor before 11am in the district. I'll lose my license." His eyes darted nervously toward the gate.

"Who says I'm buying?" He pushed one of the glasses down the bar to McGough.

"What do you want?"

"Just a little more intel." He slid a photograph down the bar. "About him."

McGough glanced at the picture. "I told you all I know. Sorry," he said quickly and downed the entire shot.

Krycek slid down the bar until he was face-to-face with McGough. "Maybe you should look again." And McGough, who feared no man, was face-to-face with the menacing smile that had earned Krycek his nickname. "When the Wolf is smiling he isn't laughing," quoting the Russian poslovitsa, he handed the photo to McGough again.

McGough sighed heavily. "Okay, I know him. Mulder. A buddy of mine worked for him after he left the teams."

"Doing what?"

"Man, it was the weirdest thing. They'd get orders to pick up somebody, usually from some secluded spot, and in a few hours or days, they'd drop them off again. He said they'd use some experimental aircraft with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities."

"What did they do with the people?"

"How long did it take you to learn not to ask too many questions?"

Krycek's mind raced. "When did the project shut down?"

"It didn't."

"What about Mulder?"

"He walked away sometime around 1980. My buddy commented on it because he'd never seen anybody walk away from a shadow project alive. Must have had one hell of an insurance policy."

"So who's running it now?"

"The other guy. You showed me his picture the other day. My buddy called him Mr. Death."

Krycek wondered how much of what he'd heard was the truth. "Do you remember the name of the project?"

McGough closed his eyes for just a moment. "Something biblical. Adam, David? Solomon. That's it. Solomon."

Krycek barely disguised his disgust. So it was all true. "Thanks." Leaving his drink untouched on the bar, he pressed the Open button and walked under the rising gate.

"This makes us even, Krycek. You hear?" McGough called desperately.

"Sure." The Wolf smiled.


Scully was silent through dinner despite Skinner and Alex's attempts to engage her. She placed her empty plate in the dishwasher and stopped in front of Sam's Art Gallery-- "Mamaggie's" official designation for the refrigerator. Sam's artistic bent had progressed from abstract to cubist and was now in the surrealist stage. Sam had a good eye for color--the brighter the better. His latest masterpiece was a family portrait. The boy in the picture shared his house with a lady with black curls and a lady with orange curls. In a separate house, at the end of a long road, was a tall man with a shock of black hair. Bright kid, admired Skinner. Scully slipped the portrait from beneath the magnet, still silent as the kitchen door swung shut behind her.

"So, how'd it go with the attorney?" asked Alex.

Skinner rearranged his vegetables. "Everything goes to Sam. I'm executor and Scully and I will be co-trustees for Sam."

"Is there much to deal with?"

"A few personal items and the house in Providence and the one on the Vineyard. They're both paid for so Scully will have to decide if she wants to sell them or keep them for the income." He stared at the door. "What about you? What did your friend McGough have to say?"

"He said that Bill Mulder ran Project Solomon until sometime around 1980."

"And then?"

"And then he just walked away."

Skinner shook his head. "Doesn't happen. Like your friend said, that's a little club you have to die to get out of."

"Yeah it is. Unless you have an insurance policy."

Skinner's long forehead furrowed. "It would have to be a good one."

"A really good one."

"And you'd want to keep it close."

"But safely concealed."

All roads lead to Rome . . . They nodded at each other in agreement.

Krycek opened the back door. "I'll set it up."

Skinner paused at the living room door. "I'll talk to Scully."

She had not returned to the house on the Vineyard since the night of Mulder's father's death. The bathroom had long ago been cleaned but, in her mind's eye, it still bore the blood of Bill Mulder. That morning, Mulder pere had summoned Mulder fils to the Vineyard. Of course Mulder went alone--leaving her in the middle of their discussion about what to do about Sam. She'd been angry with him about leaving. But when she heard the terror in his voice when he called that night, she forgot her anger.

"He's dead, Scully. He's dead."

"Who's dead, Mulder?"

"My father."

"Mulder, what happened? Were you arguing?"

"No. I don't think so."

"Mulder, did you kill him?"

"I don't know."

She'd immediately called Skinner who'd immediately called the SAIC of the Bureau office in Providence who'd immediately sealed the scene in West Tisbury. The SAIC from Providence had found Mulder cradling his father's head and refusing to move until Scully arrived. He would periodically become still and silent for several minutes at a time before becoming quite agitated and asking wild questions.

Mulder's service weapon was found in his father's hand. There were powder burns on the right temple. Paraffin tests were positive for both Mulders. Despite the absence of a note and the fact that most people do not kill themselves with a houseguest sitting in the next room, it was quickly and quietly ruled a suicide.

The closure of the investigation into his father's death had brought no comfort to Mulder. He was diagnosed as depressed and delusional and placed on temporary medical leave. He never returned to duty. There were good days. In fact, the days surrounding Sam's birth were the best he would ever have. But the delusions returned with a vengeance and he committed himself to a full-care psychiatric facility. Two lives ended that day, she thought sadly. A single tear coursed down her cheek. Skinner took her arm and gently led her out of the room.

The house was situated on the water and a wide porch capitalized on the view. Alex turned his face to enjoy the freshness of the salt breeze that reminded him of his own view and of Melissa. I wonder how she's feeling? Soon her belly would be round and full and they'd lie with her belly pressed against his, each tiny kick confirming their miracle growing inside of her. God, how I miss her--how I miss them all . . .

The weathered wooden porch barely protested under Scully's light step. Listlessly, she scanned the horizon. The contrast between her usual fire and this lifeless passivity was heartbreaking.

Krycek leaned against the rail. "Do you want to keep the house?"

Skinner walked to the end of the porch and returned. "The rental income would make you and Sam very comfortable."

Despite the spring warmth, she shivered. "No." Skinner draped his suitcoat over her shoulders. It fit her like a kaftan. "Mulder found only sadness here."

"Where do we start looking?"

"The rental agent put all the personal items in the attic."

Dust motes danced in the sunlight that streamed through the dormer windows into the attic. It was still and hot. Krycek and Skinner opened every window that would budge and the temperature soon cooled down to "roast."

The rental agents had not wasted much time on organizing the "personal items" so the attic resembled Tutankhamen's tomb--stacks of boxes and piles of pictures. Skinner dusted off a rickety chair and sat on it while he rifled through a box marked "Desk contents." Scully sat on a small ottoman and flipped through a leather-bound photo album. Krycek pushed aside a weathered creel and picked up most of a stack of framed photographs. The framed photographs were portraits of Fox and Samantha, mostly typical school pictures whose purpose seemed to drain whatever personality might be revealed by the subject's face. Despite the photographer's best efforts, some personality did show itself. Although the faces were devoid of expression, the eyes of each child showed a loneliness that haunted the father of Alexandreovitch and Ekaterin. He reached for the remainder of the stack. "[Damn,]" he cursed, pulling a glass shard from his bleeding finger.

"Let me see your hand," Scully ordered instinctively.

"I'm OK," he refused. He wiped the blood on his handkerchief. He pulled out his pen and used its white tip to brush the glass shards from the picture's mat. Fox and Samantha, October, 1974. He stirred the glass. "The picture's gone."

Scully reached for the mat. "October of 74? That would have been taken just before Samantha disappeared."

Behind them a stair creaked and Krycek wheeled, drew, cocked and aimed his weapon at the doorway.

The gentle ocean breeze was not strong enough to carry away the sickening stench of stale cigarette smoke. "The front door was open. I hope you don't mind." Krycek wondered if he told the truth as easily as he lied. The sunlight streaming through the dormer window accentuated his pallor. He lifted the creel and inspected one of the flies. "Sad to think this is all that's left of a man's life." He set the creel atop a pasteboard box.

"What do you want?" Skinner growled.

The yellowed fingers fished a frame from the stack and brushed away the dust. Young Fox must have been barely school age and baby Samantha toddled alongside. "For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'" His fingers gently traced the outlines of the faces. "Whittier," the blue lips explained absently. He replaced the picture on the stack, turning the faces down. "I suppose you'll sell the house?" He looked out the window at the sea. "I can't imagine it holds many happy memories for you."

"No, it doesn't." Scully replied.

He sighed with a deadly rattle.

"Why are you here?" Krycek reiterated Skinner's question.

"A man spends the first part of his life making mistakes; the second part living with the consequences of those mistakes; and the last part trying to correct the mistakes. Only too late does he discover that fate is immutable. And unforgiving."

The stair creaked again as he descended and the front door clicked shut behind him.

"What on earth was that about?" Scully's face betrayed confusion.

"He came to find out if we have the evidence. Whatever the hell it is." Krycek brushed his dusty hands on his trouser leg.

"Which means he doesn't have it."

Skinner scowled. "And neither do we."

The trip back to Washington was uneventful. Scully disappeared upstairs and Krycek followed shortly after. Skinner was only half-listening to the news when he sat upright and bolted up the stairs. He knocked on Krycek's door as he opened it. Krycek's empty shoulder holster was draped over the bedpost. "Lose something?" Krycek said from the doorway. His hair was wet and he wore only jeans and a towel draped around his neck.

"McGough's dead."

"When?"

"Sometime last night. They found his body at his restaurant this morning." Skinner hesitated. "Suicide. 9mm to the head."

Krycek grinned as he pulled down his white t-shirt.

"What's so funny?"

Krycek checked his pistol and jammed it into the waistband of his jeans. "He didn't do it. He didn't kill himself."

"How do you know, Krycek?" He grabbed Krycek's t-shirt as he passed. "How do you know?"

Krycek looked at the ceiling. "I know, man, I know. I served with McGough for 8 years. And when he stepped on an antipersonnel mine during a mission, I was the one who dragged his ass home. I know." He looked across the hall at Dana's door. "It's not safe for her anymore."

"You know she won't leave."

"I know. You've got to convince her. For Sam's sake."

Skinner nodded. "Where are you going?"

Krycek paused at the top of the stairs. "To check security." He held his pistol down behind his leg. "You've got to convince her."

Skinner stood in front of her Scully's door for a long time before knocking. She was tying her robe when he entered.

"You look tired," she offered.

"Long day." He searched the room for the words to begin. "What are all these notebooks?"

"Mulder's journals." She removed a stack of yellow pads from the boudoir chair and motioned for him to sit. "I keep reading them, hoping to find the answer."

"Answer to what?"

Absently, she picked up one of the pads and started flipping pages. "The answer to why he chose not to share it with me. The truth, I mean." He studied his hands. "I wish I could tell you, Scully, I truly do."

"It's astounding. He could look me straight in the eye and tell me about alien abductions and million-year-old parasites, but he couldn't tell me this. Maybe Alex was right; maybe he thought I would try to change his course--convince him to have the surgery."

"Maybe he thought he'd given you enough to worry about." He smiled ruefully and she flushed. "What I do know is that when he told me you were pregnant, he also told me he'd been given less than a year to live." He leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees. "He lasted 2 years longer than anyone expected. I think you and Sam gave him that."

"But now what do we do? Before now I could almost make it--knowing he was around somewhere. But now he's gone and, for the first time in my life, I don't know what to do." She paced between the bed and the door clutching one of the yellow pads.

Skinner studied the carpet pattern, words failing. Suddenly the yellow pad whomped against the bedroom door and fluttered to the floor. "Dammit, Mulder! Why did you have to leave me before I even realized that I loved you?" She faced the bed.

Skinner picked up the pad from the floor and placed it on the wrinkled bedspread. "McGough is dead, Scully. Krycek thinks he was murdered." He moved the yellow pad and sat beside her on the edge of the bed. "He thinks--we both think--you need to go to Sam and let us finish this."

She rocked, shaking her head. "No. I owe it to Mulder to see this through."

"You're wrong, Scully. What you owe him is to take care of his son."

She closed her eyes and leaned into his shoulder for one precious moment. "When?"

He stood. "Tomorrow."

She picked up the photo from her bedside. "Sam's probably grown 6 inches since we left."

He nodded then reached behind her on the bed to pick up a manila envelope that was peeking out from one of the yellow pads. There was no return address but the postmark--3 years old-- was Martha's Vineyard. The handwriting was the same as he'd seen in the box marked "Desk contents" at Bill Mulders' home. Skinner's breath quickened. Would Bill Mulder, knowing he was about to end his own life, have sent his "insurance policy" to his son? Could they be that lucky? Hands trembling, he pulled out the contents of the envelope. His heart sank. It was a photograph--the one missing from the broken frame--the last one taken before Samantha disappeared. Although they were older than in any of the other photographs, the siblings' eyes haunted him. He held it next to the photo of Sam. The resemblance was amazing. He started to scratch off a black spot from on top of one of Samantha's shoes with his fingernail, but stopped when he realized the "spot" was perfectly square. "Krycek!" he called from the doorway.

"What is it?" Scully followed him.

Krycek bounded up the stairs. "What?"

"Look at this and tell me what you see."

"You wanna tell me what I'm supposed to be looking for?"

"Just tell me what you see."

"What?" Scully asked again.

"I see Mulder and his sister." He turned the picture over and looked at the date. "This is the picture missing from Bill Mulder's house. Where did you get it?"

"It was mailed to Mulder from Martha's Vineyard. 3 years ago."

Krycek whistled softly and held the photo close to the lamp. "Here. On Samantha's shoe."

"What is it?" Scully asked impatiently.

"It can't be," Krycek said in disbelief. "Nobody uses them anymore."

"Nobody except old spooks," Skinner offered. "Can you read it?"

"yeah, I'll take out my Secret Agent decoder ring with the handy microdot reader."

Skinner leaned against the door facing. "So what do you need?"

"Well, in absence of a reader-printer, I could make do with a non-reflective microscope with a video monitor and a printer."

Scully chimed in. "We have access to all of those. In the Bureau's Forensic Lab."

Skinner rubbed his eyes. "So do we do this now or in the morning?"

Scully tried to say, "Morning."

"Now." Krycek overrode her. "My team is detecting increased perimeter activity. They recommend we move to a safer location. Now."

"What about Scully?"

"The situation's too hot. If we send her back now, we could risk revealing Sam's location."

"And that's exactly what they want," disappointment showed in her voice. She gathered herself. "When do we leave?"

Krycek checked his watch. "Let's meet in the kitchen in 15."

Even though the hour was late there were few parking places on the street behind the FBI Building. They had ridden in a blacked-out Suburban that they reached by sneaking through a neighbor's yard. For the first time, she actually saw Krycek's "people": 6 silent men; ages ranging from 25 to 45; non-descript, impassive faces with cold-steel eyes. Two rode in a vehicle in front of them, two rode in a vehicle behind them, and the remaining 2 drove the vehicle containing Skinner, Scully and Krycek. They surrounded her as they crossed the sidewalk between the vehicle and the door, making absolutely no effort to hide their weapons. Skinner swiped his ID through the card reader and they were through the small lobby and into the stairwell before the night guard woke up. Scully swiped her ID through the card reader next to a door and paused outside with Skinner while Krycek while the security team "swept" the lab. By the time she entered the lab Krycek was already scowling while adjusting one of the microscopes.

"Make yourself at home," she said sarcastically.

"Sorry. We are a little bit pressed for time."

"I trust it meets with your approval?"

"Well, it's nicer than we had in the BioChem Lab at the Naval Academy. The guys over in Nuclear had the really nice toys." He continued fiddling.

"Wait, I saw something." Skinner squinted at the monitor.

Scully waved Krycek away and adjusted the focus. "What is it?"

Skinner squinted at the screen. "Looks like a deed. Is that all?"

Krycek careened the computer mouse. "No. Looks like there's a couple of dozen pages."

"Do you want printed or photo copies?" Scully pointed at the screen.

"Printed." He turned his palms up in confusion. Scully took control of the mouse and copies flew out of the printer.

Skinner and Krycek hovered over the printer, picking up copies as they printed. The sentry, ubiquitous and silent until now, spoke. "Sir? Sentries report increased perimeter activity."

Krycek handed his sheaf of papers to Skinner. "Where?"

"Ninth street." The sentry pressed against the earpiece. "And Pennsylvania, too, sir."

Skinner stepped forward. "Are you sure they aren't innocent bystanders?"

"They're heavily armed, sir. Recon recommends you withdraw immediately."

Krycek pulled back the slide on his weapon. "Get us out of here, Skinner."

"There's a tunnel in the basement. Goes under Pennsylvania to the Justice Department."

"Can we get through the gate?" Scully asked.

Skinner held up his security badge and grinned. They ran, with Krycek at point and Skinner at drag, through the tunnel and the basement corridors to the top of the stairs in the lobby. "Get her outta here, Skinner. We'll hold the position until you're clear."

Skinner nodded and dragged Scully the middle vehicle with two team members. As they roared away Scully could hear the pop-pop of gunfire. There was a loud chink as a round impacted the bullet resistant window. Skinner folded Scully down in the seat underneath him. The engine roared louder and the sound of gunfire faded.

"Where are we going?" Scully asked the floorboard. It didn't answer. She tried to sit up.

"Wait, Scully."

She struggled again. "What about Alex?"

"Krycek can take care of himself. We'll rendezvous later." The eastern horizon brightened with the first slivers of morning. He sat up. "Okay, I think it's safe."

The soaring towers of the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul crowned the top of the hill--marble gleaming in the sunlight. The red brick and golden onion dome of St. Michael's Orthodox Cathedral stood in the shadow of the soaring Gothic structure.

"What's here?" Scully asked.

"Sanctuary." He straightened his tie as he looked he up and down. "You'll need a scarf. I don't think those pants will go over too well, but there's not much we can do about it now."

They entered the church with a large group. Skinner stopped at the door of the temple and made the sign of the cross 3 times, bowing from the waist after each. They walked halfway up the aisle when Skinner crossed himself and bowed again. He pointed for Scully to stand on the left with the women and one of the team followed her; the other followed Skinner to the right side of the temple. Scully looked closely at her "companion." She'd not realized until this moment her protector was a woman. Though the woman had traded her cap for a fringed scarf there was no softness, no "womanliness" to the face next to her. The woman's carriage was strong, her jaw square and chiseled, and her eye sharp and clear. She chided herself for not having noticed before. The parishioners around her turned toward the center aisle. The procession signalled the beginning of the service.

They lingered around the confessionals after the service. Krycek and a younger bearded priest emerged from one of booths shortly and led them to what looked like a library. The walls were covered with books--titles in English, some in Greek, but mostly Russian. Green-shaded lamps illuminated the long wooden tables. The priest drew the drapes across the tall window and the guards stationed themselves at the window and the door.

The priest lifted the front of Krycek's jacket, revealing a pistol. "Why do you bring weapons into the Temple, Alex?"

"We need Sanctuary, Father."

"Then you've come to the right place."

Skinner added, "These are very dangerous people, Father."

"We just need a little time . . ." Alex started.

"My friends, the Russian Church has survived the Bolsheviks, the Nazis, Glasnost and Perestroika." He smoothed his cassock. "I think it can survive whatever trouble you may bring along. Take all the time you need."

Skinner laid his sheaf of papers on the table and scowled at the top one.

"What is it?" Scully craned her neck to see.

"A bill for concrete mix, sand and gravel." He picked up the next several pages. "They're all bills for concrete mix, sand and gravel." "From where?"

"Shelter Harbor, Haversham, Charlestown." His brow furrowed. "What about you, Krycek?"

"More bills." He looked closely. "A small amount of lumber. And a concrete float."

"Is that all?" Scully asked.

Krycek shuffled the papers again. "Wait. There's a copy of a deed."

"Deed? For what?"

"Lot 58, Quonochontog Township, Rhode Island."

"Mulder's family spent their summers at Quonochontog," Scully explained. "He always spoke very fondly of it."

Skinner tossed his glasses on the table and rubbed his eyes. "This is what kept Bill Mulder alive?"

Krycek retied his ankle brace. "So what do you want to do, Dana?"

"I want to go home," she finally replied, her voice shaking. "I want to get my son and go home."

"You know you can't do that, Scully."

Krycek leaned forward. "You know you and Sam and your mom can stay with us as long as you want or need. There's no time limit, Dana."

"We can't hide for the rest of our lives, Alex."

Krycek leaned back in his chair and massaged his ankle. "You know what this means, don't you?"

Scully looked at the papers one last time and tossed them on the table. "This is getting to be like a bad Road picture."

"yeah, " Krycek agreed. "The Road to Nowhere."

The sound of shells in the driveway popping under the vehicle's wheels woke Scully. Waves crashed on the shore behind the house. The key from under the long-dead pot of geraniums opened the front door. The house was fully furnished under sheets and plastic. "I wonder how it's escaped the vandals all these years."

"It hasn't," said Skinner, pointing to a shattered lamp. "Scully, you check the loft. I'll check the main floor and Krycek, you check the basement."

"Don't trip over any wild geese . . ." Krycek said wearily.

There was little to check in the loft. Two twin beds on captain's chests were separated at the foot by a walkway. One bed was covered with dolls. She climbed up and sat on the other bed. What a great place for kids, she thought. She fiddled with the seashells arranged neatly on the bedside table. A wooden baseball bat with a dried-out glove hung over the handle leaned against the wall between the bed table and the bed. She pulled it out and laid her hand on top of the glove. It would have fit her hand. For a moment she could see him, all arms and legs and unruly mop of hair, tormenting Samantha for a game of catch. She'd naturally pretend to refuse, just to annoy him, before she made a big show of giving in--while hiding her delight at her "big brother" actually playing with her. It was Baby Sister 101--Scully smiled at the memory of doing it to her brothers, too. A tear dripped on the cracked leather. This was the place of Mulder's golden days. She wondered if Sam would ever know any "golden days." She picked up the ball and glove and climbed down the ladder. She would make sure all Sam's days were golden.

This house gave Skinner the creeps. Everything was in place--dishes in the cabinet, twin beds made--and no evidence of large amounts of concrete anywhere. He looked across the mantle; it was oddly plain--no pictures, shells, nothing. Scully set something down by the front door. "Scully?" he inquired.

"Mulder's bat and glove." She wiped her cheek. "I thought I'd save them for Sam."

He nodded, not knowing what to say and so saying nothing.

"Down here!" Krycek called from the basement. He stood at the foot of the stairs with a metal rod in his hand. "Look here!" He pointed at the bottom step.

Skinner shrugged. "At what?" Scully stumbled slightly; the steep steps were difficult to negotiate with her short legs. Skinner looked again at the bottom step barely 2 inches off the floor. "The bottom step is closer to the floor."

"Very good. The rise on the other steps is about 12 inches."

"So someone's raised the floor," Scully thought out loud. "He could have been repairing water damage."

"So we'd like to think." The metal rod rang when Krycek banged it against the concrete. "But the sonar doesn't lie." He banged 3 times in a straight line and the rod sang 3 times. The 4th bang returned a thunk.

"You've checked the whole floor?"

"In a 12-inch grid." He thunked the rod again. "There's something buried in this concrete. Right here."

Skinner hung his suitcoat and tie next to Krycek's suitcoat, tie and holster-gun on a broken-down hatrack and picked up small sledgehammer he'd spied on a workbench. He pointed for Krycek to hold the rod steady and he hoisted the sledgehammer.

"Are you sure you're any good at this?" Krycek stopped him in mid-swing.

Skinner grinned. "Don't worry, Krycek, both of my brothers still have most of their fingers . . ."

Krycek grimaced and turned his face away from the sparks struck by the hammer. When Krycek's hands became numb, Scully lukewarmly offered to help and was relieved when they declined her offer. She laid her hands on her knees and tried to imagine what Sam might be doing at that moment. It would be morning and his feet would hit the ground running. He'd seek out Mamaggie and insist she "watch" him dress himself. Then would he seek out his cousins? Would he smile and laugh and play with them?

Suddenly the thunk sounded metallic. Krycek applied the sledgehammer to the edge of the hole they'd opened up.

Skinner stopped him and looked inside the hole. "There's a metal box. Some sort of strongbox."

Krycek broke away more of the edge. Skinner lifted out the strong box and handed it to Scully. Eagerly she opened it. She didn't know what she'd expected, but what she found was, "More papers."

Skinner pulled out some. "Bill Mulder's military separation papers."

"Some of Fox and Samantha's." Scully pulled out more papers. "And psychological workups for Bill Mulder, Elizabeth Fox and someone named Raoul."

Krycek took some of the papers. "These are genetic workups." He looked up. "Dated 1959."

"That's impossible." Scully looked over one of the reports. "This type of detailed genetic analysis wasn't available until the 1970s."

Skinner held up a page with rows of black stripes. "Are these what I think they are?"

Scully reached for the pages but Krycek beat her to it. "Chromosome stains." He laid the pages on the concrete. "Well, photocopies." He ran his finger along the rows of stripes. "Beautiful . . . " He admired.

"What?" Skinner and Scully asked in unison.

"The chromosome stains. Two of these samples show perfect structure. No weakness anywhere." Both Skinner and Scully raised their eyebrows in amazement. Krycek flushed slightly. "Sorry. Family business."

"You must have had fascinating dinner table conversations . . ." Scully observed wryly.

Krycek's head dipped slightly. He handed the copies to Scully. "You have no idea."

Skinner shot him a sympathetic glance. "And the third sample?"

"Just as good," Scully held it next to the others.

"No," Krycek pointed, "not quite. There's a slight weakness showing in this pair."

"What does that mean?"

Scully answered. "Well, there's some discussion about it, but that pair generally controls intellectual capacity and moral development."

"Whose profile is it?"

"Raoul."

Skinner leafed through the medical records. He looked puzzled as he leafed through the papers again and again.

Krycek paced the small basement, finally settling on jabbing the metal rod into the hole in the concrete. "Guys," Krycek stared down into the hole into the concrete. "Uh, guys . . ."

"What is it, Krycek?" Skinner growled.

"There's something else down here."

"What, Alex?" Scully looked up.

Krycek gingerly stuck his hand into the hole. "I think it's a body," he said sadly.

The hole in the concrete gave way more easily than the slab had. Through the clear plastic they could see the remnants of light-colored material with pink hearts. The only recognizable face was that of the dark-haired doll.

"Samantha?" Krycek asked.

"Probably." Skinner brushed some cement fragments from the plastic. "No wonder they never found her." Too many bodies. He'd seen too many tiny bodies.

Each looked at the other, trying to avoid speaking the obvious.

Scully's face hardened. "And Bill Mulder put her here." She swallowed hard.

"What kind of father lets his son drive himself mad searching fruitlessly for his sister knowing the whole time she was right here?" Even pacing, Krycek's boot step was nearly silent despite a slight limp.

"Sir?" A sentry called from the top of the stair. "We've got incoming hostiles 5 clicks out."

The metal rod zinged against the block wall. "5 clicks? Why didn't you wait until they knocked on the front door?" Krycek charged up the stairs, out the front door and huddled with the team. Skinner and Scully followed, arriving just as the huddle broke up.

"We're cut off," Krycek checked slender blades on either side of his ankle brace. "The Corps teach you to swim, Skinner?"

Skinner nodded as he removed his tie and handed it and his suitcoat to one of Krycek's men. "Expert rating." He slipped the holster thong over the hammer of his weapon and slipped the papers, his wallet, ID and glasses into a plastic bag proffered by one of Krycek's team.

Scully sealed her wallet in a plastic bag and tucked it under her shirt. The body was being loaded into one of the vehicles. The pounding of the surf was punctuated by the snick, snick, snick of the team's weapons check. "Aren't they coming, too?"

The team leader pulled 2 assault rifles from the back of one of the vehicles. Krycek slung one on his back and paused silently facing his team, making eye contact with each one. Then they all nodded and the team jumped into the vehicles.

Krycek, face drawn and eyes like cold steel, tossed the other assault rifle to Skinner and turned toward the beach. "Let's get wet."

The sun slipped behind the house while they slipped quietly into the Block Island Sound. Keeping the shore to their right, they could hear behind them the roar of the engines and the rapid dunt, dunt, dunt, dunt, dunt of automatic rifle fire.

Soon the small house faded from sight. Scully marveled at how Krycek glided through the water. She increased her pace to try to keep up, but soon ran short of breath and had to tread water.

"You okay?" Skinner had been following her.

She nodded breathlessly.

Krycek swam back toward them. "We don't have time to stop," he said, hardly winded. "We'll miss our pickup."

"How much longer?" Scully gasped.

Krycek looked along the shore. Lights glittered in the gathering dusk. "About an hour. Are you ready?"

Scully shivered.

"Krycek, there's no way she can keep up this pace." A wave washed over them. "We're all strung out."

"I can make it," she argued weakly.

Skinner looked at Krycek then at Scully. "We can take turns. Let her swim when she can and we can take turns piggybacking her when she needs to rest." He rolled over on his back. "Scully, face me and put your arms around my neck." She started to argue, but another wave washed over them. Wordlessly, she put his arms around his neck and soon the lights on the shore moved along one stroke at a time.

Cigarette smoke curled through the last rays of the day that streamed through the basement windows. Breathing heavily, he stood at the edge of the hole in the concrete floor and peered into the empty metal box--as if that would give him some enlightenment. "Very clever, Bill," he said to the floor. Footsteps sounded on the stairs. "Did you catch them?"

"N-no, sir," came the stammering answer. "We lost them."

"All of them?" he asked incredulously. "Incompetent fool," he spat.

As it grew darker they swam closer together. Even Krycek was tiring and the pace slowed. A light flashed across the water from the beach. Krycek paused a moment and started swimming toward it. Strength waning, Scully let the waves propel her to shore. She felt sand beneath her then hands on her arms pulling her out of the water. A blanket seemed to wrap itself around her and she fell into a warm place. She heard Skinner talking next to her and the warm place began to move. It wasn't long before she could hear conversation over the chattering of her teeth.

"One of my classmates teaches Organic Chemistry at the Academy. I can probably persuade him to let us borrow the BioChem lab for the autopsy."

"But what about Raoul? How do you propose we identify him? Walk up to the information desk at the Pentagon?"

"It's not even that difficult. We just ask their computer."

Scully stirred. "How?" Her eyes adjusted to the darkness and she could see fatigue creasing their faces.

"DoD split their information into a bunch of different databases for security purposes. It would take forever to search all of them," Skinner offered her a cup of something very hot..

Krycek cupped his hands around the steaming cup. "True enough. But they found the arrangement unmanageable. So they developed Black Tower."

The hot drink began to warm her. "What's Black Tower?"

"DoD developed a master search engine for Level 4 access. It will search all databases simultaneously. And quickly--500 gig per second range," he sipped the hot drink, "remotely."

Skinner whistled softly.

Scully set her drink in a cupholder and adjusted her blanket. Weariness combined with the warmth of the car and the drone of the tires on the road. Soon her head lolled against the window.

Skinner put a rolled up a dry towel under Scully's head. He rubbed his eyes and pulled his glasses out of the plastic bag.

Krycek reached for the bag and pulled out the papers. He turned on the overhead reading lamp. "Any surprises in the pages I didn't get to read?" He leafed through the papers.

Skinner cleaned his glasses. "Take a look. See if you see what I see."

"What?"

"The medical records. What was Bill Mulder's blood type?"

"O+."

"Elizabeth Mulder's?"

"B+."

"And Fox's?"

"AB+." Krycek looked up. "That's impossible."

Scully stirred and both Skinner and Krycek held their breath. Soon her breathing became regular again. "Is that your professional opinion?" Skinner asked.

"Yeah. It's basic stuff." He blinked long, trying to refocus. "So who was Mulder's father?"

"Read on." In response to Krycek's sick look he confirmed, "Raoul's blood type was A+." The radar detector beeped and they slowed slightly. Krycek returned the papers to Skinner and leaned his head back against the seat momentarily.

Skinner "zipped" the bag shut. "Do you think Mulder knew?"

"No," Krycek looked out the window at the rising moon. "When I'd visit we'd talk about little stuff. He'd ask about the things I did with my father--you know, fishing, hunting, stuff like that. And we'd talk about Alexei and Ekaterine and the things I'd do with them. Then he'd talk about the things he wanted to do with Sam--play ball, teach him to swim and ride his bike, normal stuff." He drew a long breath. "Almost til the end he seemed to believe that he'd get to do those things with him."

"About a week before he died Mulder sent for me. In between seizures he, uh, he had made a list of all the things I'd need to know--funeral arrangements, insurance, bank accounts, everything." Skinner pulled his blanket about him. "He said he didn't want Scully to have to worry about anything but Sam. Ever."

"Do you think he was ready to die?"

"No." He straightened Scully's blanket and wearily propped his head on the back of the seat with his arm. "But he knew it was time."

The droning of the tires washed away the silence. Moonlight glinted on the tears that coursed down her cheeks.

Skinner looked confused and renewed that look as they walked into the Harvey Hotel. The cardkey from his pocket opened suite 612. Silently he and Krycek strode inside and closed the door soundlessly. After a moment Skinner's eyes adjusted to the darkness in the room. It was a suite. There was a sitting room, a spacious master bedroom and a smaller bedroom. After walking through the entire suite Krycek settled in a chair in the smaller bedroom and motioned for Skinner to take the other. Their dark suits helped them blend into the darkness.

"What the--?" Skinner breathed and Krycek motioned for silence.

The door lock clicked and light sliced through the darkened sitting room. Bright brass glinted against dark blue in the sliver of light. Muffled voices--one baritone and one honey-tinged alto-- passed into the master bedroom. After a few moments it became obvious that the occupants of the bedroom were oblivious to anything outside of the bedroom. Krycek slid on an eyeless black hood and retrieved a briefcase from the sitting room. He pushed the bedroom door nearly closed and motioned for Skinner to guard it. He opened the briefcase and pulled out a notebook computer and printer. While it booted up he removed his hood and rifled the briefcase before finally retrieving a diskette. He clicked and clicked, the light from the screen barely illuminating his face. Finally he smiled and turned the computer so the Skinner could read the words on the screen, "Department of Defense." Then Krycek frowned and started clicking rapidly while checking his watch. He fed a sheet of paper into printer. He checked his watch and clicked some more. Then he replaced the diskette and clicked again. He retrieved the diskette and repacked the computer, returning it to the same place he found it. They heard the shower running and slipped out the door. As the elevator doors closed they heard heavy boot steps exiting the other elevator. Krycek smiled as the doors slid shut. They walked casually through the lobby to a waiting Suburban. As they pulled off a plain sedan pulled into the no-parking lane in front of them. The car door opened and curling smoke preceded the driver who looked around the driveway. Skinner and Krycek sank down into the shadows until he strode into the hotel.

"You want to tell me just who that was?" Skinner demanded.

Krycek smiled. "Security Adjutant to the Chief of Naval Operations. Level 4 clearance. Keeps his password on a diskette in his computer case." He stuffed his hood into his coat pocket. "He's promiscuous and he's careless. Someday that'll be bad luck for him, but tonight it was good luck for us." He handed the paper to Skinner.

The contents of the papers evoked a foul taste. "Sweet Mother of God . . . " he breathed. "Did you read this?"

"Enough." He motioned to the driver to turn left. "So, how much do we tell her?"

The biochemistry lab at the Naval Academy was not exactly equipped for this procedure but it did offer privacy this late in the evening. Krycek had prevailed upon one of his Academy buddies for the use of the lab before he and Skinner ran off to find out about Raoul. Ditched again, Scully thought. Skinner and Krycek must have been taking Mulder lessons. She smiled at the incongruity of attributing any Mulderian traits to straight-arrow Skinner. In the same instant Mulder could be both the most exasperating and the most endearing person she'd ever known. It would have been just like him to run off on some wild goose chase and leave her to an autopsy. But he wouldn't have left this one. He'd have to know. Just like she did. The lack of embalming and the passage of over 20 years made x-rays unnecessary. The callous from a simple fracture of the right ulna bulged 2 inches behind the wrist. She'd fallen off her bike when she was 4. It was Samantha. "I'm sorry, Mulder," she breathed.

She felt that familiar gentle hand brush between her shoulders. It's okay, Scully. We're both okay now.

She turned to reply, as she had so often before, but she was alone.

Krycek paused on the steps of the Chemistry building and savored the surprisingly brisk breeze coming in from the Chesapeake. "You go to the Academy, Skinner?"

Skinner stopped, bemused by the small talk. "No, I was a mustang."

"Part of me will always belong here just like I'll always belong to my family."

"Long blue line and all that?"

"Yeah." Krycek frowned. "Do you think Mulder ever felt like he belonged anywhere?"

Skinner thought for a moment. "Yes, I do," he replied sadly. "With her." Scully and Mulder--so outrageously and perfectly matched--each completing the other--sharing something so intangible yet substantial--leaving no room for anyone else. But Sam. The salty breeze burned his nostrils and the bitter truth stung his solitary heart.

"More time," Krycek said. "He deserved to have more time."

Tears welled in his eyes. "Yes, he did. He deserved more of a lot of things." The door cried as it closed behind them.

Scully stared at the printer long after it spit out the last sheet. She recognized the boot step on the asphalt tile without turning around. "Did you identify Raoul?"

"Yes," Krycek answered.

"Is it Samantha?" Skinner countered.

"Yes." She slowly turned her chair around.

"Could you determine a cause of death?"

"Not under these conditions." She hesitated. "But I have a guess."

"What?"

"She had the same cranial contacts as Mulder. And there was no bone growth around them."

"So they were recent . . ."

"Not just recent, brand new."

"What are you saying, Scully?"

"I'm saying she probably died immediately following the implants. I think," she drew a breath, "they are what killed her."

"But why hide the body?" Skinner asked. "All Bill Mulder had to do was follow the kidnaping scenario then damage or destroy the body."

"He couldn't," Krycek looked over at the table. "She was his baby girl."

"So, what's next?" Scully asked.

Skinner steeled himself with a deep breath. "What's next is you are going to a safe house and Krycek and I will take care of Raoul."

They had expected an explosion. Instead she swallowed and spoke softly but firmly. "I know you're only trying to protect me, but I must go with you. Not just for Mulder or myself, but for Sam."

Skinner opened his mouth to object, but Krycek interrupted. "Save your breath. Once Bill Scully's girls make up their mind to do something, nothing will dissuade them." He bounced his eyebrows. "Trust me, I've learned the hard way." He grinned and Scully returned a shy smile. "And you Will, too."

The building was quite plain and unkempt enough to leave a slightly seedy impression. Only one window was lit and they could see the curtains sway with the early morning breeze. The elevator bumped and creaked and the door ground rather than whooshed open. The brightness of the hallway accentuated the places where the warp showed through the carpet pile. They stopped in front of the door marked 1121. Krycek stood directly in front of Scully and rapped on the door. Scully heard the sound of leather scraping behind her.

The peephole went black and both Skinner and Krycek rushed the door. The cheap door frame gave way with a crack. The force of the door stunned the apartment's occupant and the pistol in his hand skittered across the floor. Krycek spun him around and pressed a knife against the side of the older man's neck. Expertly, the older man grabbed Krycek's arm and almost succeeded in reversing the hold. Krycek turned the reverse and tossed the older man against the wall, pressing the knife across the crepey throat.

"[When the wolf smiles he isn't laughing,]" Krycek snarled into the face of the older man.

"Krycek!" Skinner admonished.

"Yes, Mr. Krycek, do control your animal urges," the older man choked out the words.

Krycek looked him in the eyes for a long instant then threw the older man into the overstuffed chair next to the only lamp in the room.

The older man gasped for breath, but took a burning cigarette from the ashtray and inhaled deeply. "To what," he coughed, "do I owe the honor of this nocturnal visit?"

"I think you know why we're here," refusing to be annoyed when the older man feigned innocence. "We want answers."

"Then you will have to ask questions."

Scully paced a few steps away, then stopped. "Tell me something. Just what do you want with my son?"

Behind the smoke, the yellow eyes opened wide for just a moment, then the veil returned. "The child? What interest would I have in the bastard son of a madman?" He took a long, ragged drag, then coughed viciously.

The coldness of the words sent a chill up Skinner's spine. "Then tell us what interest you have in the madman."

"None whatsoever."

Scully turned away in frustration. Skinner looked at Krycek.

"Then tell us about Raoul," Krycek leaned close and grinned, "Raoul."

The older man's eyelids flickered slightly. "If you know that much, then there's little more I can tell you."

"Oh, but there is. Tell us why."

The older man sat silently and Krycek pressed the knife against his neck again.

"Death is no threat to me, Mr. Krycek. It's coming soon enough." He coughed raggedly and his mouth curled in a triumphant grin.

"Then you have nothing to lose by telling us," Scully said.

"On the contrary, Dr. Scully, you have everything to lose if I tell you," he smirked. "After all, you wouldn't even have your son if it were not for me."

"What do you mean?"

"It's really unsettling how often medications are mislabeled. Something prescribed to prevent a condition can actually have the opposite effect," he said smugly. "It was all too easy," he boasted. "I merely removed the 'impediments' and let nature take its course."

"But why?"

Skinner spied a small picture on the wall--of a very young Mulder and his mother. "Immortality," he answered for "Raoul." "And revenge."

"Very good, Mr. Skinner. Pray continue."

"The first phase of the Solomon project would have been to select proper subjects from the general population. From genetic material harvested at smallpox vaccinations you would have been able to select subjects who were genetically as well as intellectually appropriate. But you'd need a story to account for the effects of the treatments on the subjects. And you came up with a real gem." Skinner played to his vanity. "Promulgating the UFO story was genius. You were able to keep the project running right under the public's nose."

"The crash of an experimental aircraft at Roswell was most fortuitous. Between Roswell and the Cold War paranoia, we could have covered up anything we wanted." He lit another cigarette.

"The next step was an application of Mendel's selective breeding." Krycek picked up the story. "The breeders were tested and matched on the basis of their complementary intelligences and genetic compatibility. They should produce a "pure" set of test subjects who, theoretically, should inherit their parents genetic tendency toward superior intelligence."

"And Mulder's parents?"

The breeze pulled his smoke toward the window. "According to their genetic profiles Bill Mulder and Elizabeth Fox would produce extraordinarily intelligent children."

"But Elizabeth was yours . . ." Skinner said pointedly. "It must have been very disappointing to know she would be Mulder's when your tests revealed you were genetically," he relished the choice of word, "inadequate."

"That's something you should know about from personal experience, Mr. Skinner," he replied defensively.

Krycek winced and Scully gasped, but Skinner pressed on. "I do. And believe me, if I could have found someone on whom to take revenge I would have." His voice dropped nearly to a whisper. "You had someone. You had Bill Mulder and the Solomon project."

Scully picked up the thread. "It would have been simple. Just let nature take its course and you would have your revenge on both Bill Mulder and the Solomon project."

"It worked perfectly," Krycek continued, "until Bill Mulder discovered the deception."

"He used that information to 'buy' his way out of the project and insure his safety." Skinner grinned. "I don't suppose it would be too healthy for you if your superiors discovered you'd 'polluted' the project."

"So tell me, Mr. Skinner, why would I be interested in hurting the bastard son of a madman?" Blue lips curled on an ashy face.

"That madman was your son, you bastard!" Krycek snarled. "How could you do it? How could you do that to your own son?"

"Do what? Give him the wisdom of the ages?" He inhaled deeply. "Isn't that what any father wants for his son?"

"You're no father. You're nothing more than a biological progenitor."

Skinner opened his mouth to speak but Scully interrupted. "As long as Mulder was well he was a living refutation of your genetic report and proof of your transgression. Even if you had been discovered, you could point to him as proof your genetic shortcomings were irrelevant."

"But then he became ill, and your security evaporated." Krycek said. "With Mulder dead, Sam . . ."

"Sam is the last evidence against you." Scully spat the words. "You would kill your own grandson to save yourself."

The yellowed hand shook and the voice cracked. "What are you going to do now?"

Krycek and Skinner looked at Scully. "I'm going to raise Mulder's son." She walked to the doorway and looked back at Skinner.

Skinner stared at the man. Then he walked to the door. "Do with him what you will," he said and left with Scully.

Krycek's brown eyes turned nearly black. "I've dreamed of holding your beating heart in my hands, you son of a --"

"Then do it." A wicked smile curved those blue lips. "Your mother engineered you from bits and pieces of genetic code to be the perfect killer. It's what you were made for."

Krycek pressed the tip of the blade against the Smoking man's chest. The skin was paper-thin and a drop of blood trickled. Krycek stared at it--barely suppressing the bloodlust he harbored for this monster of a man.

"Do it!" The monster begged shrilly.

It was Krycek's turn to smile. "No chance," he said finally. "You're gonna die slowly, day by day, just like your son," he spat out the last. The knife disappeared and he spoke into his cell phone. "I need a pickup. No, it's precious cargo." His shadow stretched long into the dark room. "You're not gonna die for a very long time. I promise."


The setting sun washed gold over the Quonochontog Realty sign in front of the house when Skinner's nondescript sedan crunched down the shell drive. He could see 3 figures already on the beach. Byers was his usual dapper self and even Langly and Frohicke had "dressed" for the occasion-- Frohicke in a dark suit with a hideous plaid vest and Langly with tattered sports jacket over his t-shirt and jeans. Krycek stepped out of the driver's side of the rental car parked in front of the house as Skinner pulled alongside. A Patriarch's cross on a chain glittered over his dark tie. Melissa and Maggie Scully sat in the back seat. Dana Scully sat in the front seat, clinging to Sam.

"Is she ready?" Skinner nodded at Scully.

"No," replied Krycek. "But she knows it's time."

Skinner muttered, "yeah, " and helped Krycek carry the funerary urns from the trunk of the government car to the beach. The ladies followed in solemn procession with Maggie and Melissa flanking Dana and Sam.

"Here," she said softly. Krycek and Skinner balanced the urns in the soft sand. Dana stroked Sam's auburn hair. "Thank you for coming. As was typical of him, Mulder asked for no memorial. And this will not be. It would be inappropriate to memorialize a life that was taken from him and from his sister, Samantha, before it really began. Taken by the people who should have given them life. We have returned them to this place where both their lives ended. We return to say good bye. We ask God to take them, finally, into His sheltering Peace." She gave Sam to his grandmother and took the lids from the urns. Trying to blink the tears from her eyes, she poured the contents together onto the sand. "Peace," she wished on them both as the wind carried them out to sea. And on the wind was the sound of laughter long stilled--of the brother and sister tragically separated early in their short lives--finally together. Forever.


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