Title: Return of the Rat
Author: Psi Fi
Written: January 2003
E-mail address: psifi872@charter.net
Archiving: Why not? Go ahead, if you want.
Rating: R, just to be safe
Classification: TR -- adventure/romance
Keywords: Krycek/Reyes Romance
Spoilers: Up to and including Existence, AU after that

Summary: Krycek returns, enlists Mulder in the Rebellion, and romances Reyes.

Mulder laid little William Mulder down in his crib, awed by the baby's peaceful features. He was surprised by how much he enjoyed taking care of the little bundle and secretly cherished their times alone, like now, when Scully was shopping. He cursed a little when the doorbell rang, not wanting company. He opened the door, revealing Alex Krycek.

Mulder stared in shock at the former assassin. Two months ago, Walter Skinner had shot Krycek in the head, saving Mulder's life.

"What?" Krycek asked, looking a bit annoyed.

"Come in," Mulder ordered, flatly.

Krycek obeyed, looking puzzled.

"Prove you're human," Mulder demanded.

Krycek's eyebrows raised, but he took off his leather jacket, throwing it on a chair. Taking out a knife, he knicked his lower arm. Mulder circled him, checking the back of his neck, but the area was smooth.

"Mulder? What's wrong?" Krycek asked, concerned.

"I saw you die, Alex. Skinner killed you. You were trying to kill me."

Krycek's green eyes widened.

"Mulder. I haven't seen you since you, Scully, and Skinner got into the elevator to get her away from Billy Miles."

Mulder frowned, puzzled.

"Right, then we came back, because he was in the building, and you took Scully to the parking garage."

Krycek stiffened.

"No, Mulder. You three left in the elevator and I headed down the stairs. You seemed to have things under control and I wasn't going to wait around for you to arrest me for whatever you *think* I've done."

"Then who took Scully to the parking garage?"

Krycek hesitated, then sighed.

"A short time after you disappeared, I was captured by some Consortium doctors still allied with the aliens.

They didn't really experiment on me. They just took regular blood samples and did some hypnosis sessions. I guess they cloned me."

"The other Krycek's blood was red, not green, Alex," Mulder countered, sharply.

Krycek shrugged.

"It's probably easier to create a purely human clone.

They could have programmed it with my personality and memories - but with instructions and a desire to kill you."

"He or it seemed...weary, tired of fighting. It claimed it tried to stop them."

"You've never believed it, but I'm on your side. I want you to win, brother. I want the human race to survive."

"Yeah, that's what your...clone said," Mulder drawled, skeptically.

"That must be what the hypnosis sessions were for," Krycek speculated.

Mulder shook his head, surprised by how relieved he was at this turn of events. He'd thought he wanted Krycek gone, but the man's death had left him feeling uneasy and depressed.

"So why are you here?"

Krycek nodded to his jacket.

"There's something in there for you. Inner, left-hand pocket."

Mulder reached into the pocket and drew out a pick.

"Gee, thanks, Krycek, but I already have one."

Krycek shook his head, smiling slightly.

"This is new, Mulder. There's two buttons on the handle.

The first releases the blade. The second sends out an electromagnetic pulse. *This* weapon will kill the replicants."

Mulder's eyes widened, then he grinned. He studied Alex for a second, then nodded.

"Thanks, Alex. Where did you get it?"

"I'm still working with the rebels. They stole the design from the bounty hunters. They were developed in case any of the replicants went rogue."

"Do they know you're giving one to me?"

Krycek nodded.

"Yeah. They want me to recruit you. There are two many alien plants in positions of power in the FBI. Now that your strings are cut, they think you can help them."

Mulder sighed, pursing his lips.

"I've lost my investigating credentials, my access."

Krycek shook his head impatiently.

"We can get you access, whatever you want. You can't afford to stay squeaky clean, Mulder," Krycek warned.

Mulder glared his own warning.

"I won't be party to the tactics of your former bosses, Krycek."

"I know," Krycek assured him. "I'm not asking you to compromise morally, much anyway, but...we have enemies in high places. The moral choice isn't always legal."

A sharp cry came from the nursery. Krycek looked astonished, though he had known the baby was safe. Mulder went into the room, half expecting Krycek to disappear.

Instead, his former partner followed him, staring morosely at the tiny child. Mulder glared challengingly at Krycek, not sure how he would respond.

"I'm sorry, Mulder. I didn't want to hurt Scully or the boy. I just...I can't let them win. I'm sorry."

Mulder held the baby out to Krycek. "Hold him."

Krycek backed up, shocked by the order.

"Hold him, Alex!" Mulder insisted. "You need to remember what you *should* be fighting for."

Krycek came forward, reluctantly allowing Mulder to place the baby in his arms. The small, warm person awakened protective, human instincts that Krycek had feared were permanently suppressed in him. Mulder was surprised that William didn't start crying again; the child was shy of strangers. The baby didn't protest, however, smiling and cooing at Alex.

"Hey, little guy," Alex murmured. "No hard feelings, hey?"

"Are you going to give one of the new picks to Agent Doggett?"

"No. Not until I'm sure he'd use it. There aren't enough of them and he'd just lock it in a drawer somewhere."

Mulder nodded, understanding Alex's impatience with the new head of the X-Files. Kissing his forehead, Alex handed the baby back to Mulder.

"The rebels want to meet with you."


"In three days. I'll come by here and pick you up."

"All right," Mulder agreed.

Agent Reyes knocked firmly on the door to D.D. Kersh's office, then pulled on her clothes, straightening the crisp, blue material.

"Come in," Kersh called.

Reyes entered and saw Doggett and Skinner seated before Kersh. Both men rose, offering their seats. She smiled gratefully, taking Skinner's chair.

"According to A.D. Skinner, you've volunteered to be permanently reassigned to the X-Files, Agent Reyes. May I ask why?"

"I believe I can contribute and Agent Doggett needs a partner," Reyes replied, not mentioning her belief in Mulder's cause.

"The Director has approved your request...over my protests. Skinner went over my head on this. I've been ordered to give A.D. Skinner more rein on the X-Files," Kersh growled, disgust shining from his hard eyes.

Reyes suppressed a pleased smile, not wishing to further offend her superior.

"Thank you, sir," she responded, courteously.

"Don't thank me, agent. This isn't a favor. This move could kill your career...and any hopes you *might* have for advancement."

"I'm sure Agent Reyes will perform her duties satisfactorily," Skinner argued.

"I'm glad you think so, since her performance and the X-Files are your responsibility," Kersh mocked.

Skinner nodded, a tight bow of his head, trying not to smirk.


"I'm going with you, Mulder," Scully insisted.

"I *want* you to be there, Scully, but I'm not sure you're invited. Let's wait and see what Krycek says, okay?"

Mulder offered, nuzzling at her neck.

Scully nodded, knowing she would end up agreeing with Mulder. They both jumped from the couch at the ringing of the bell. Scully checked the hall, then opened the door.

"Come in, Krycek."

"Scully," Krycek greeted, respectfully.

"Scully and I think she should come to this meeting, too," Mulder challenged.

Krycek tilted his head, not looking very surprised. He studied her, briefly, then nodded.

"Okay. I don't think they'll object."

Scully breathed a silent sigh of relief. Krycek seemed to be siding with them, but Scully didn't want to risk her longtime best friend and new lover's life. She wouldn't willingly let him go into danger alone. She had arranged for her mother to watch William as soon as she learned of the meeting. Krycek led them to a gold Taurus, opening the back seat for Scully, before hopping behind the wheel.

"Gold, Alex?" Mulder commented, amused.

"I was tired of dark colors," Alex shrugged.

They drove silently for twenty minutes until Alex pulled into the parking lot of a Sheraton hotel. Pulling out a card key, Alex led them to one of the upper suites, entering quietly. Around a folding table sat four...beings. Two were faceless and unidentifiable.

Mulder didn't recognize the middle-aged woman. The fourth was Jeremiah Smith.

"It's good to see you, Mr. Mulder," Smith greeted. " Dr. Scully."

Mulder nodded a greeting.

"Please, be seated," Smith offered.

"I didn't know you were acquainted with Krycek," Mulder observed.

Smith smiled.

"Oh, yes. Mr. Krycek has been assisting us in driving back the colonists, as did his late patron. He has given us samples of the vaccine your people have developed.

He's been our liaison between us and those of your authorities who are willing to cooperate with us."

"Why him?"

"You question why we trust him?"

Mulder shrugged.

"For these reasons, Mr. Mulder. He has experienced the horror of being infected by the black oil. He is a survivor. He speaks the language of those who developed the vaccine. He's willing to do what is needed to save your people and has sacrificed his own safety and comfort to that cause. He is necessary."

Mulder nodded, temporarily satisfied. His own motives for working with Krycek were similar.

"All right. What do you want me to do? What are the replicants doing?"

"Trying to initiate a war between America and Russia," Alex answered, grimly.

Mulder looked at him, stunned. The rebels nodded.

"Why? As a cover? For what?"

"The Tunguska test site. The doctors there are now at work mass-producing the latest vaccine - a vaccine that could win the war. In the course of an armed conflict, this area would be heavily targeted."

"I can't stop a war," Mulder protested.

"Perhaps not," Smith agreed. "but, whether you know it or not, you have followers and admirers. You could draw influential people to our cause. All we ask is that you help us when needed. We might need you, or your resources, to investigate or gather information for us.

You, Scully, or Krycek could also help us with the current X-Files team by exchanging information."

Mulder looked inquiringly at Scully, who shrugged helplessly and nodded.

"All right. We'll help you."

Smith smiled, his warm features relaxing with relief.

"You could be targeted by replicants," Smith cautioned, opening a metallic box in the middle of the table. "I know Mr. Krycek gave you one of these, Mr. Mulder, but I think there are others who need them as well, specifically Mr. Skinner, Agents Doggett and Reyes, and Dr. Scully, of course.

Smith offered Mulder the box, which contained a neat row of four picks. He took the box, closing it and slipping it into his jacket.

"Thank you," Mulder acknowledged, politely.

Smith shook his and Scully's hands, then Krycek led them back to the car.

"You wanted to see us, sir?" Agent Doggett inquired of Kersh, entering his office with Agent Reyes.

"Yes, Agents. I have a new case for you and Reyes to investigate," Kersh informed the two agents as they sat down in front of him. "An American doctor has been murdered in the Tunguska area of Russia. Your unit has been requested to investigate."

"Requested?" Doggett repeated, surprised.

"Yes, by a Major Arntzen, of Russian intelligence," Kersh explained, before calling for the man through the intercom.

To Doggett's surprise and disgust, Alex Krycek walked into Kersh's office.

"You will be working under Major Arntzen's supervision to solve the murders that have taken place."

"Murders? Who all has died?"

"Our doctor and two Russian scientists were killed yesterday. The scientists were working together in a cooperative effort to find a vaccine to a rare strain of variola."

"So Agent Reyes and I are going to Russia with him?"

Doggett indicated Krycek, suspicion thickening his voice.

"That's correct," Kersh confirmed, cooly. "Unless you object, you'll be leaving for Krasnoyarsk tonight. Do you object, Agent Doggett?"

Doggett hid his anger behind a bland mask of compliance.

"No, sir. I don't object."

"Good. You're dismissed. Major Arntzen will fill you in on the details."

Doggett followed Krycek out of Kersh's office, determined to get some real answers.

"All right, Krycek or Arntzen, or whoever the hell you really are. What are you up to now?"

Krycek turned and gazed with indifferent calm at the furious agent.

"I need you to help me solve some murders, just like Kersh told you."

"Like hell, I know there's more to it than that. Why do you want us in Tunguska, of all places?!"

"Talk to Mulder. He'll tell you about Tunguska, if you haven't read the files."

"Oh, I read 'em. Some nonsense about a test to find a vaccine against a Black Cancer. That doesn't explain why you want us to go...surely, Russia has the capabilities to solve a coupla murders."

Krycek shrugged.

"The case is an X-file. The death of the American doctor allowed me to get you assigned. If you need further explanations, why don't you ask Mulder."

With that parting shot, Krycek stepped into the elevator, shutting the doors on Doggett and his outrage.

Doggett knocked on Scully's door. He was reluctant to disturb her at home with the baby, but he figured he owed it to Mulder to warn him about Krycek's reappearance.

Scully answered the door looking more relaxed than he had ever seen her in soft jeans, and what looked like one of Mulder's button up shirts.

"Agent Doggett! Hi, come in."

"Thanks, Agent Scully. Hey, Mulder," he greeted the former agent who lay prone and tousled on Scully's couch.

"Hey, Agent Doggett. What's up?"

"I kinda got some news today. I'm not sure how to tell you this, neither."

"What's wrong?" Scully asked with soft concern.

"Krycek's alive. He was introduced to me as a Major Arntzen by Kersh. Agent Reyes and I are supposed to go with him to Tunguska tonight to solve some murders."

"We knew about Krycek," Mulder confessed, sitting up.

"Who was killed in Tunguska?"

"Some doctors, one of them an American scientist. I haven't been given any details yet. He told me to talk to you. Kersh put us under the sonovabitch's supervision."

Mulder shifted uncomfortably.

"Agent Doggett, if you go to Tunguska, I suggest you be very careful. Have you read the X-file about my trip there?"

"I told you, Mulder, I've read all of them. What I don't get is, considering everything that did go on there, how you can even consider trusting this Krycek character," Doggett fumed.

Mulder sighed, only partially able to explain it to himself.

"Look, Agent Doggett, I can't blame you for feeling hostile toward Krycek. I've been there myself. The truth is, though, that despite the things we suspect he's done, Krycek has led us to the truth in the past. A good part of the things we know are things he led us to and the things we suspect he's done, we can't prove."

Doggett let out a breath of frustration.

"So we just go along with him? He's a liar and a murderer. We both know that no matter what we can prove."

"I want you to go with them, Mulder," Scully put in quietly.

"You gotta be kiddin'!" Doggett protested. "He's got no clearance or protection if he goes over there."

"Mulder has more experience dealing with Krycek than anyone else. He's the only first-hand witness to previous events in Tunguska...and as much as I hate to admit this, you could probably use someone you can trust who is unhampered by Bureau policy."

"Kersh can't put me under Krycek's supervision. I wouldn't have to take orders from him. It'd make it easier for me to keep an eye on your backs. Although, it makes me wonder if he didn't tell you to talk to me, so you could get me to come along."

"So, are you coming?" Doggett asked.

Mulder nodded, almost amused by Krycek's antics.

Krycek stood, feeling a little bemused, outside of the X-file's basement office. Deciding to be polite, he knocked on the door, waiting to be let in. Agent Monica Reyes opened the door, gazing at him inquiringly.

"Major Arntzen...or do you prefer Krycek?"

Krycek grinned, amused.

"How about Alex, Monica?" he offered.

Monica's smile widened.

"Sure. Come on in. I was just doing a little research."

Alex hesitated.

"You're reading Mulder's casefile?"

"Nah, finished that first. I'm reading about the local mythology."

"Oh. What kind of mythology?"

"Local ghosts, UFO phenomena, that kind of thing," she explained.

Krycek blinked, then grinned.

"I guess until Scully returns, you're the open-minded section of the X-Files division, huh?"

"Yep, I guess so. What do you believe in?" she asked, with good-natured challenge.

Krycek sat down in front of the desk she occupied, studying her. He saw a strong, cheerful woman, with pleasant features and eyes gleaming with intelligence.

Agent Reyes had been told a little about Alex Krycek, but she ignored the second-hand information, trying to form her own impression. No one had bothered to mention the man was mind-meltingly gorgeous. Green eyes shone like clear river water from underneath a fall of thick lashes.

Despite his reputation, she could sense no evil in the man, just strength.

"Lots of things. Aliens, God, the corrupt nature of government, that Doggett's a tightass..."

Reyes couldn't stop from laughing just a little.

"Well, almost getting hit by a car does make a bad impression on most people, Alex. You have some rocky relationships around here."

Alex sighed, nodding.

"So, what can I do for you, Alex?"

Krycek shrugged, a little embarrassed.

"I wanted to meet you. I'm familiar with Doggett, Mulder, and Scully, but we've never really met."

Reyes grinned.

"You're scoping me out?"

"Something like that," Alex agreed with wry humor.

"Cool. Anything in particular you want to know?"

"What do you believe in?" Alex asked.

Reyes grinned, holding back her laughter.

"Aliens, God, and a mysterious universe. I'll believe anything with proof, but I can sense con jobs."

Alex laughed, a husky rasp.

"That's a good answer," he replied, standing and holding out his hand. "I'll see you tonight at the airport."

Reyes grinned and shook his hand.

"Until later, Alex."

Mulder spotted Doggett and Reyes near their gate, waiting to board the plane that would carry them to Russia. As he approached, he noticed that Krycek was seated nearby. He greeted the current X-Files team, before turning to Krycek.

"Well, Alex. How are we going to explain my presence in Tunguska?" Mulder inquired, with bland politeness.

"Here ya go, Mulder."

Krycek grinned up at his former partner, before handing him a plump envelope. Mulder looked inside and found documentation, listing him as a psychological/paranormal consultant in the employ of a Major Arntzen. A ticket was also in the envelope. Mulder grinned.

"One thing I have to give you, Krycek, you are thorough."

"He is something all right. Tell me something, Krycek, what exactly is your position in the Russian government?

Or are you even a citizen?"

"Agent Doggett," Mulder interfered, understanding, but hoping to cut the tension between the two men. "Calm down."

"Calm down, hell. We don't know if this guy is Russian or American, and God only knows whose side he's on, or what his goals are. Yet we're trotting off with him to a place we know is dangerous. A place Mulder barely escaped."

"But we can get valuable information there and help solve a murder. We have a case, John, a case we probably wouldn't have without Alex's help," Agent Reyes argued, reasonably.

"Alex? Monica, this guy can not be trusted."

Monica just smiled, shouldering her carry on as their numbers were called to board the plane.

Alex Krycek led them into the office of Dr. Pierre Balashof, the head of the Tunguska complex. Mulder immediately recognized the compact form of the doctor who had conducted the test on him four years ago. He reservedly greeted Krycek first, in Russian, before turning to his American guests.

"I am told you are all familiar with our purpose here, though you have varying degrees of belief. This is no longer, however, a test site. The powerful men who governed our work are dead and we have lost favor. And the aliens have become too prevalent to allow our work to remain secret."

"How successful was your...work?" Mulder asked, blandly, hiding his anger and distaste.

"We now have a vaccine that will instantly kill replicants. Eight percent of humans given the serum are permanently immunized. We have so far produced enough vaccine for forty percent of Earth's population. We are continuing to produce the vaccine both as a weapon and as a defense for the general population."

"For everyone?" Mulder emphasized, sharply.

Dr. Balashof sighed, looking to Krycek, who nodded.

"Yes. We have been ordered to obey Comrade Krycek, who insists we cooperate with the rebels. It would seem the Cold War is truly over."

Mulder nodded, satisfied.

"They need to see the crime scene," Krycek ordered.

Krycek led them to a lab. The entrance was blocked by a couple of grim-faced guards, who immediately stepped aside as Krycek approached. Mulder eyed the lab carefully, sweeping the entire room. The place was a wreck.

Splashes of blood were seen on the floor, the walls, and the single table that had not been overturned. Beakers had been smashed on the floor and papers were everywhere.

Krycek let them absorb the scene for a moment, before explaining.

"Mulder can vouch that this complex is heavily guarded.

The guards on duty were found dead with the doctors. The doctors themselves had access to weapons, including the vaccine. As you can guess, we believe they were killed by a replicant."

"So what do you need us for?" Doggett challenged.

Krycek glared coolly.

"I don't need *you* for anything, Doggett. I'm hoping Mulder and Monica can help me figure out how the replicant got in and out."

"It wasn't someone here, then?" Mulder inquired.

"No. An abductee wouldn't be working here, but everyone was checked just the same. The guards, the kitchen staff, everyone was searched and tested...they were all human.

We suspect a traitor let the replicant in, but we don't know why."

"We need to talk to their colleagues, anyone they knew well."

Doggett sat down across from Mulder in the gulag's cafeteria.

"How's it going?"

"Agent Reyes is putting the papers we found together with Krycek to see if anything is missing. So far, we haven't found any strong evidence, or a motive for the murders."

"I might know of one," Doggett countered. "The Russian doctor, Nikolai Davoust, had a rival, a Dr. Boris Bolkonsky. The two hated each other. Now that Davoust is dead, Bolkonsky stands a chance of moving into his position."

"Every profession has it's rivalry, but that isn't enough for a murder charge."

"Maybe not, but it's a start. Plus, I found some papers in his rooms, that your buddy Krycek allowed me to search.

They had a little blood on them. I bet him and Reyes do find that they're from the lab."

"That doesn't explain how he could have let in a replicant or even have known of one."

"So maybe it wasn't one. I was told by Kersh that these docs were doing research on variola. Maybe aliens have nothing to do with it."

"You saw the lab, Agent Doggett."

"Maybe this doctor has a habit...or a bad temper. You know I don't buy that alien nonsense, Mulder."

Mulder shook his head, a little exasperated.

"So an angry doctor, bent on advancement, killed two guards and three doctors, violently, without drawing attention?"

"Makes more sense than aliens in my book. Jealousy can be a strong emotion. We might learn more if we find a murder weapon."

Krycek approached with Reyes at his side.

"Are you done eating? I want to get to the manor house soon. The roads can be treacherous."

"Yeah," Mulder affirmed. "Were there documents missing?"

Krycek nodded. Doggett held out the pages he had confiscated from Bolkonsky.

"These them?" he asked.

Krycek studied them intently.

"Yeah, I'd say so."

"I found those in Dr. Bolkonsky's room."

"Agent Doggett thinks this is merely a case of professional rivalry gone extremely bad."

"Hmm. No. That might explain Bolkonsky's reasons, though. I need to know who the replicant is, so it can be destroyed. Right now, we all need to get some rest."

The manor was actually a spacious and elegant mansion, set back amongst the trees. Krycek showed them to their rooms, which were luxurious. Each had a huge bed and a couple of overstuffed chairs. A desk was provided for each of the Americans. Krycek showed Mulder into the last bedroom, which had a computer sitting on the desk.

"Who owns this place?" Mulder asked, puzzled.

"The government. Officials and military stay here during inspections or when in the area on business. The computer is up. I have some codes I want you to try. I want you to try and hack into the Russian list of people with the right DNA for replication. Try to find a connection to Bolkonsky."

Mulder's eyebrows raised.

"I usually use the Gunmen for that."

"That's fine. I left you a list of codes and places to start."

"Great. What if it's in Russian?"

Krycek smiled.

"I'll help. We'll work on it tomorrow."

Krycek knocked on Reyes' bedroom door. She answered immediately, smiling.

"Alex. Come on in."

"Thanks. Are you comfortable here?"

She smiled happily. She led him to the chairs. She sat in the rocking chair, and allowed him to sit in the plush armchair. Alex set two beers on the end table between them.

"I feel a bit spoiled. This place is beautiful. I took a walk in the gardens earlier."

Krycek nodded.

"I know you don't feel you're accomplishing anything, but I'd prefer to wait until we find the list of replicants, before we move against Bolkonsky."

"Hmm, you're more interested in destroying the replicant, than nailing the human."

"Umhmm. Bolkonsky's not going anywhere. He wasn't in favor anyway, so he can't really cause any trouble, but the replicants..."

"You were hoping that seeing things here might change Agent Doggett's mind about aliens."

Krycek shrugged.

"I don't like him, but he runs the X-Files now. I need him in the rebel camp."

"He doesn't want to believe."

"No? I can't afford to give him the luxury of choice."

"How long has this been going on?"

"Since World War Two," Alex replied, telling her about the Consortium, Cancerman, and the plans for colonization.

Reyes listened with wide eyes as Alex described how he had met Mulder and their falling out.

"You betrayed him," she said sadly, unaccusing.

"Yeah. I thought I was saving the world," he mused. "I tried to help him later, but we've never really got past that...and he thinks I murdered his father."

"Did you?"

"Is this conversation off the record, Agent Reyes?" Alex teased.

"Sorry, I never took journalism," Monica quipped.

Krycek shook his head.

"I don't consider myself a murderer. I've had to do things, both for my survival and the survival of the human race. I keep trying to convince Mulder of that."

"Why is his opinion so important?"

Alex frowned, considering the question.

"We were almost friends, when I left the Bureau. I guess, I want his friendship. I trust him to use the information I can give him for the right purposes. It's easier to help someone, when they trust you. I respect him and few people involved in this war are respectable."

"Doggett says you were on the run for a long time. Hard to make friends in that situation."

Alex laughed, his tone regretful.

"Yeah. I can't remember the last time I had an innocent conversation about something like music or movies."

"I haven't been to the movies in ages."

"Oh, I go, I just don't have conversations about them."

"The last movie I saw was How The Grinch Stole Christmas."

Krycek grinned.

"That was hilarious. I loved it."

"You saw it? I had to drag the guy I was seeing then to it. He considered himself too macho to watch Dr. Seuss."

"He was an idiot," Alex chuckled.

"Tell me about it," Monica agreed.

They discussed favorite movies for awhile, discovering a mutual interest in light romances and old horror flicks.

"The Haunting is my favorite horror movie. I've never seen the old version though. I never seem to find time," Reyes mourned.

"Don't bother," Alex advised. "It wasn't as good."

"Are you sure? I've heard it was even scarier than the latest version."

Alex laughed.

"Not even close. The plot was thinner and the characters weren't as likable. *Everyone* was more of a bitch in that movie...including the men!"

Monica laughed.

"I think John feels like he's caught in a horror movie.

The paranormal is not his fortay."

"Good thing he has you for a partner,then. He'll need all the help he can get."

"Will you be helping us, Alex?"

Krycek stared, a bit unsettled by the pull she had on him.

"I'd like to. I'll have information for Mulder occasionally. I don't mind telling you whatever I can."

"Thanks, Alex," Monica breathed. "We don't have many sources and you're right. We do need help."

She stood and walked to the window, suddenly feeling overwhelmed by his presence. She found herself sinking into the emerald depths of his eyes. She tried to collect herself, to keep their contact casual. It disturbed her how affected she was by him. She heard him shifting on his chair and turned to him, noticing that he was rubbing at his shoulder and grimacing.

"Are you all right?"

Krycek nodded.

"My arm hurts," he explained shortly.

"Phantom pain?" she inquired with calm compassion, but no embarrassing pity.

"Yeah," Krycek sighed.

"Take your shirt off," she ordered.

Alex's eyes flew to hers. He was surprised and afraid.

Few people had seen his stump and he preferred it that way.

"Um, that's okay. I can take care of it," he hedged, standing up.

"Alex," Monica admonished. "Sit down and take off your shirt."

Unsure of his own reasons, Krycek slipped off his shirt and removed the prosthesis. The damn thing made the phantom pain worse and it was a relief to remove it, even when it meant exposing his infirmity. Reyes stared calmly at his stump for a few moments, letting Alex register her lack of disgust. Hiding her reaction to the physical beauty of his shoulders and chest was harder. The man's torso was finely sculpted with muscle, with barely any hair. The skin, except for a few scars, was smooth, looking almost polished, with a healthy, golden glow. Her mouth watered, but she swallowed, forcing herself to focus. This was a man in pain.

She approached slowly, seeing for the first time a hint of vulnerability and in his eyes. She sat on the arm of the chair and put her arms around his shoulders. With gentle, careful hands, she began to massage the shoulder above his stump. Alex sighed, beginning to relax. Monica caressed the flesh, slowly, inching her way carefully towards the truncation, giving Alex plenty of time to adjust to the feel of her fingers digging into his arm. No one had touched him there. He was barely able to expose his arm to others; he never permitted touching, not even from his doctors. Reyes gently kneaded the flesh, sensing him relaxing further.

After a few moments, Krycek leaned back into the chair with a tired sigh, placing his hand on Reyes'. His eyes were half-shut, but she felt him watching her. Monica stilled her hands, but did not remove them, as she gave him a moment to enjoy the absence of pain. After a moment, his eyes opened and he studied her more openly.

Leaning forward again, he brushed his lips across hers.

Reyes couldn't resist leaning into him, returning the caress.

"Monica, I..."

"The next time you're in D.C., would you like to have dinner with me?"

Krycek smiled, a happy, gentle curve of his lips, so different from his usual smirk.

"Yes, I'd like that a lot."

Monica smiled, pleased.

Mulder entered the dining room, where Agents Reyes and Doggett were eating a light supper. He grinned with contagious enthusiasm.

"We've done it. Alex and I managed to hack into the Russian list of replicants and those with replicant potential. One of the replicants is a Sergei Bolkonsky...a cousin to Dr. Bolkonsky."

"Okay, but that leaves one question. Why would a doctor who had dedicated his time to stopping these aliens, as you think, let one destroy his colleagues? Even if he's jealous, why would he risk his work, by throwing in with the enemy?"

"Maybe," Mulder answered, his eyes glazed with thought, "he was hedging his bets. By killing his rival, he could move into a more secure position, but handing the doctors over to the replicants would score him a few points with the Colonists, in case they won the war."

"I called Dr. Balashof," Krycek added. "It seems Drs.

Davoust and Mamonof, the two Russian doctors killed had voted against Dr. Bolkonsky. He wanted to continue the tests, using death row inmates. He felt the vaccine could be improved, using replicant DNA. The others disagreed.

The early vaccine with replicant DNA killed ten percent of the subjects on the first application."

Mulder nodded, agreeing.

"He probably hoped with them gone that he could re-start the gulag, get a re-vote."

"We need to go now and warn Dr. Balashof. C'mon, Mulder."

"Do you want us to come?" Reyes offered.

Krycek smiled warmly.

"No, that's okay. You two stay and enjoy your dinner."

Monica gave an answering smile, nodding.

"What do you mean Dr. Bolkonsky isn't here?!" Krycek demanded of Dr. Balashof.

"He had some leave time due. He went to town. It is permitted."

"He's a murder suspect!" Mulder protested.

"You admitted you had no real proof."

"When do you expect him back?"

"Tomorrow morning."

Krycek stormed out of the room, practically running.

"Alex! What's wrong? Are we going to go arrest Bolkonsky?" Mulder asked, wondering why Krycek seemed panicked.

Alex shook his head.

"We're going to the manor. I don't think Bolkonsky is in town."

Mulder's hazel eyes widened, alarmed, realizing that the manor was well-known and accessible.

Krycek drove crazily, at the highest speeds he could manage.

Parking in front of the mansion, both men saw that things were wrong.

The door lay on the porch, torn off it's hinges. A dead guard lay nearby.

"Monica!" Krycek shouted, getting out of the car and running towards the house. "Reyes, where are you?"

"Your friends are not here. They are with my friends."

A plump figure came out the front door. Grey hair fell in whispy locks across a wrinkled forehead and cool brown eyes studied Krycek and Mulder with contempt.

"Where are they?" Mulder demanded, coming up to stand side by side with Alex.

"They are safe for now. The replicants are willing to deal. Your lives for theirs."

"They'll kill you eventually," Mulder warned, cooly.

"I will devise a way to destroy them. I will save the planet and not a mere eight percent of it, either. Nyet.

I will be my country's hero."

"You're a traitor," Krycek growled softly.

"I? I am Russian. What are you? A mongrel at best, *Major* Arntzen, or is it Krycek?"

"I'm willing to make the deal," Mulder interrupted.

"Yeah, take us to them," Alex concurred.

Mulder looked at Krycek with surprise. He hadn't expected his sometime ally to be so willing to trade himself for others. Alex ignored the look, not wanting to examine his own motives. He tried not to remember the panic he had felt when he saw the torn door. His one thought, driving over, had been to check on Monica. His feelings for her were growing faster than he had imagined possible, given his cautious nature.

"Give me your guns!" Bolkonsky demanded.

Both men hesitated.

"If I call, your friends will die. Give them to me!"

Alex and Mulder obeyed, fuming silently. All three men climbed back into the car, but with Bolkonsky in the driver's seat. His prisoners climbed into the back.

"Do you have your new pick?" Krycek whispered.

"No talking!" Bolkonsky demanded harshly. "You will follow my instructions or your friends will die."

Mulder and Krycek fell silent, but Mulder caught Alex's eyes and nodded, giving a half smile. Krycek breathed a silent sigh of relief. He was fairly certain that the replicants were unaware of the picks...or at least that the rebels had them. The doctor drove them to a small cottage.

"Go inside," he ordered. "Your friends will be allowed to leave, when you are in."

Alex and Mulder both obeyed, walking slowly towards the cottage with their hands in sight. The doctor followed and the door opened for them. They found themselves in the living area of the house. Reyes and Doggett sat on a couch, flanked by two men. They both were relatively unharmed, though their faces were bruised and Doggett seemed to be having trouble breathing.

"I have brought them," the doctor wheedled, almost groveling.

The replicants nodded.

"Go," they ordered Doggett and Reyes.

Monica helped Doggett to stand and they walked towards the door. Mulder and Alex walked further into the room. As they passed, Monica touched Alex's arm. He nodded gently.

Bolkonsky placed himself in a corner where he could watch the proceedings, while Doggett and Reyes went outside.

"You two must die," the taller replicant stated, calmly.

The two replicants might have been brothers. They were tall, with blond hair and brown eyes. Each walked towards their two human victims. Mulder and Krycek allowed them to get a couple of feet away, before drawing their picks and attacking.

Mulder took the taller replicant, hitting him hard in the gut. The replicant barely reacted, lifting Mulder and throwing him down on the couch. Mulder rolled off, trying to hit the replicant in the legs. The replicant stepped back, but then bounced off Krycek, who had been shoved hard by the other replicant. Pouncing swiftly, Mulder jabbed the pick deep into the alien's neck and pushed the second button. Electricity sparked off the pick and the replicant screamed. Red goo began to seep from the wound as the thing died.

The other replicant stared, shocked, as the other died.

It tapped its dead brother with its foot, then flung itself at Mulder, giving an inhuman howl. It forgot Krycek in its anger and was swiftly dispatched. Mulder and Alex both watched it die, then turned towards Bolkonsky. The doctor had Krycek's pistol aimed at them, but his hand was shaking hard.

"Give up," Krycek ordered. "You're under arrest."

The doctor fired a shot at Alex, but the bullet hit the floor. He steadied himself, aiming for Mulder instead.

With a growl of disgust, Krycek retrieved one of the picks and threw it at the scientist. The pick penetrated the doctor's eye, driving into his brain. Both men stared at the carnage, breathing hard.

"Monica..." Alex whispered, realizing he hadn't heard a car engine.

He walked outside to see Monica sitting on the car hood.

Doggett was resting in the passenger seat. She grinned, walking rapidly to him, and throwing her arms around his waist.

"Something told me not to leave," she explained.

"I'm glad you're safe," Alex confessed.

Reyes melted at the concern she saw in Alex's deep green eyes. Leaning forward, she kissed him softly. Alex pulled her close, deepening the kiss, tasting her mouth.

She sighed, resting against him.

"Hey you two. Let's get out of here," Mulder suggested, amused. "Doggett could use a hospital."

Krycek nodded and climbed into the back of the car with Monica.

"Um, thanks, both of you," Doggett offered hesitantly.

"Thanks for coming for us."

Mulder and Krycek nodded, graciously.

"When I report to Dr. Balashof tomorrow, I'll take him some of the picks. I suggest you both start carrying yours. I'm sure you'll be targeted by the replicants, sooner or later."

Monica answered her door, smiling warmly. Alex stood in her doorway, a matching smile on his lips.

"Come on in. Dinners almost ready."


"Have a seat. I'll be just a moment."

Reyes went into the dining room to finish setting the table. Krycek sat down on her couch, noticing a book on her coffee table. It was The Rivan Codex by David Eddings. A fan of the Belgariad series, Krycek picked the book up with interest. Monica came back in with a couple of glasses of wine.

"I have a weakness for Eddings," she offered.

"Yeah, the Belgariad was a wonderful series. The Mallorean, too."

"They're some of my favorite books."

"Are you a fan of fantasy in general?"

"Em, somewhat. Some of it's really terrible, but some of it's a lot of fun."

An oven timer went off and Monica excused herself. She came back in, looking pleased.

"Dinner's ready."

Alex went into the kitchen to find a roast chicken dinner waiting. They sat close together and each helped serve the meal.

"So, how did Kersh and Skinner react to the case?"

Monica laughed.

"Kersh was...not pleased, but he congratulated us on solving it. Skinner...was worried. He doesn't trust you and it bothered him that no one told him you were involved."

"Do you trust me?"

Reyes considered the question.

"Hmm. I'd like to. I trust you to help me. I'm not sure I trust you to be completely honest, but I don't think you would lie to hurt or endanger me. Can I trust you? I know Skinner can't. Mulder told us about the palm pilot."

"I'll be right back."

Krycek got up, returning a moment later with something from his jacket. He set the palm pilot at her elbow away from him, then sat down and took her hand.

"You can trust me, Monica. I'll let you give that to Skinner. I don't want...to be someone you feel you have to doubt."

Reyes reached up and gently stroked his cheek.

"I don't doubt you, Alex," she responded softly.

Smiling happily, Alex pulled her into a passionate kiss.

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