Pain Is Real, by Vanzetti
Part 2. Headers and Disclaimers in Part 1

Part Six

Washington DC


Afterwards, I was impressed by the neatness of it. I was on my way to work, stopped at a light only a few blocks from my home, arguing with a boy who wanted to clean my windshield. I never saw the man who simply walked up to the side of my car, opened the door and sat down next to me. My head whipped around and there he was. Jacob Bookman was sitting in my car. All he said was, "The light just changed."

I started driving automatically. "What the hell is this about?" I asked him. Glancing over, he looked very different from the hesitant man who had approached me the day before. Even sitting down he looked alert and ready to fight. His expression was hard and I thought I saw the shape of a gun under his jacket.

"I believe I owe you an apology, Dr. Scully," he began.

"For breaking into my car like that? I think so!" I tried to sound outraged. The call I had received this morning had forced me to reconsider our conversation, however. I was going to need help rescuing Mulder, and Jacob Bookman might be the man I needed.

He smiled. "For misjudging you. I thought that you would be more likely to accept me if I appeared weak. All I did was give you an excuse to reject me. I'd like you to reconsider that decision."

"You want to help me?" I asked. "You have a funny way of showing it."

"Actually, I want you to help me."

"Well," I said, "at least you're honest about it. You do realize that this is not the best way to persuade me?"

"You need to understand," he said, "that I am not offering you a choice. I misrepresented myself to you yesterday, but not my situation. I will do whatever is necessary to regain my sister."

I sighed. It was time for the two of us to stop playing games. "That sister of yours, what's her name?"

"Leilah," he said. "Leilah Katalan. Why?"

Damn, I thought. He hadn't been lying. I saw a parking spot on the street and pulled over into it. "Let's go for a walk," I said. I didn't really think my car was bugged, but six years of Mulder's paranoia had rubbed off on me. I didn't want there to be any risk of this conversation being overheard.

He walked down the street next to me, matching my pace. "I owe you an apology as well," I began. "This morning I received a telephone call from your sister."

"How did she sound?" he asked. "What did she say?" The relief on his face had to be genuine.

"She sounded nervous and seemed to be in a hurry. She had a message for me from Mulder, asking for my help. For our help." That had been the first code word she'd used. "He wants me to meet him when they return to the US. Some time Tuesday at Winchester Air Force Base. They're going to need rescuing. Will you help me?"

"They're working together, then?" he asked.

"It seems likely." There had been no mention of Krycek in the message, of course. I was still unhappy with his role in this mess.

Bookman was already planning. "We'll need some kind of distraction for when they arrive. Where is this Winchester place, anyway?"

"Central Pennsylvania. The base is due to be closed later in the year, and there's only a skeleton staff there." After I had received Leilah's call, I got up to see what I could find out using my home computer. Then I'd phoned the Gunmen and asked them to collect everything they could find. I had already decided not to inform Skinner. It was too much of a risk.

"We don't have a great deal of time. Should I assume that you can't rely on your colleagues for help?" he asked.

"I'd rather stay away from the official channels," I said.

He nodded. "It's probably better that way. I can't afford to take any risks with this." He glanced at me sideways. "May I ask a question, Dr. Scully? Why didn't you believe that I had a sister?"

"It seemed a little too neat." I, of course, knew exactly where my own only sister was. "Look, this doesn't matter now. I'm going to call in sick. Then I need to go visit a few friends to pick something up." Frohike had promised me a plan of the base. "Meet me outside my apartment in two hours. Can you get us a clean car?"

"Yes," he said. "But make it three. I need to pick up some supplies."

"Two." I told him. "Don't be late. I want as much time as possible in Winchester before we have to act."

Frohike was as good as his word. He had a detailed map of Winchester Air Force Base waiting for me, as well as blueprints of the main buildings and a partial list of the personnel stationed there. He and Langley were collecting information on any unusual events in the area: they'd already found three UFO sightings in the last month alone. There had also been a suspiciously high number of night-time arrivals and departures around the base.

"Looks like Winchester AFB isn't as quiet as they claim," I commented.

"It gets better," Langley told me. "The base is going to be sold later in the year, right? Well guess what-- they already have a buyer. An anonymous group of investors."

"Just a formality, we think," Frohike said. "They clearly already control the place."

I sighed. This would make everything more difficult for us. "What about Bookman?" I asked. He'd been their other assignment.

"Have you contacted him?" Frohike asked.

"He found me," I said. The three of them shared one of their coded looks.

"He's an interesting guy," Langley commented. "Not our usual dish."

"Chunks of his CIA record have simply been erased," Byers began. "It's a professional job, too. Whoever this guy is, he's good. Here's what we have. Born in California in 1963. In 1980 he graduated from high school and just vanished."

"An abductee?" I asked.

"No. His father, Joseph Bookman, is a professor of anthropology at UC Berkeley. A specialist in the nomadic cultures of Central Asia. Your man ran away to fight Russians in Afghanistan. That's where he made his connections. He reappeared in 1983 and entered Princeton that fall. He graduated in three years then disappeared again, this time into Lebanon."

"So what is he? Some kind of terrorist?"

"Not quite." Byers continued his lecture. "He's an expert in popular unrest. Social breakdown and urban warfare are his specialties. He made his name with his work on the intifada but his paper on the methodology of ethnic cleansing is a classic too. We can print you out copies of the classified reports he's written for the NSA."

"The problem," Frohike said, "is that he doesn't just study. Sometimes he participates. He's been linked to some particularly bloody episodes in Indonesia. He's also been credited with saving hundreds of lives in Bosnia in the mid-nineties."

"What about his connection with Krycek?" I asked.

"There was nothing in his file, although it might have been erased. But," Byers said triumphantly, "we took another look at Krycek's old FBI file. Joseph Bookman wrote a letter for him when he applied."

"Basically, we don't think Jacob Bookman is part of your conspiracy," Frohike said. "But that doesn't mean he's not dangerous."

"I'm going to need his help to rescue Mulder," I pointed out.

"We understand that," Frohike agreed. "But please be careful, Scully." The other two nodded in agreement.

Jacob Bookman pulled up outside my apartment building precisely on time in a battered dark blue hatchback. As I walked up to it I noticed a duffle bag and a child seat in the back. Bookman got out to put my bag into the trunk. He didn't look like a mad bomber; he seemed calm and efficient. When he opened the trunk I saw that it was full of unmarked cases and plain boxes.

"What's all this?" I asked.

"My supplies," he said as we got into the car. "I wasn't sure what we'd need. We've got guns, explosives, that kind of thing." He glanced over to see how I was taking the news that we were traveling with a small armory.

Perhaps I'd been too quick to dismiss the mad bomber idea. "And the child seat? No, don't tell me. It's actually made of plastic explosive."

He laughed. "No, it's just a child seat. I thought this was the kind of car people with kids would drive, so I picked one up at a garage sale one day." I stifled a smile. "So, Dr. Scully," he asked, "what did you bring to the party?"

"Maps and plans for Winchester Air Force Base. I have a partial list of the personnel stationed there as well. I don't know how accurate either are, though. There's been some unusual activity in the area."

"Maps are always good," he commented. "We'll just have to wait and see how things are when we get there."

"And on the way," I told him, "you can tell me what was in that laboratory."

His mouth twisted into a smile. "My ignorant peasant act clearly needs more work. The answer is, not as much as we hoped. Sasha was looking for a vaccine against what he calls the Oil. It's actually a virus which he claims will be spread by bees when Colonization begins. I think you already know something about this, don't you?"

The bees again. "So you believe in aliens and their plans to colonize the earth."

He was silent for a moment. "I've never seen an alien. I have seen descriptions of this virus and its effects under laboratory conditions, though. And frankly I don't think it matters where it comes from. We need an effective vaccine." He paused again. "Sasha believes in aliens, though, and I trust him."

"When you say Sasha you mean Alex Krycek, don't you?" Bookman was a strange mix of reasonable opinions and untrustworthy associations, I thought. But his familiarity with Alex Krycek was his most disturbing feature.

"I know that you and Mulder feel that Sasha betrayed you, Dr. Scully," he said slowly. "But for a man like Sasha there could be no betrayal, because there was no relationship there to betray. If you believed in what you saw of him, well..." He shrugged at our innocence.

"What about my sister?" I asked sharply. "What about Mulder's father?"

"Why are you asking, Dr. Scully? I have no interest in defending Sasha's character to you. You've already made your judgment, and I'll respect it."

"My opinion of Krycek affects my opinion of you. How did the two of you meet?"

"He followed me home and my father said I could keep him," Bookman said shortly. "Again, Dr. Scully, why do you want to know? You've already made your decision to work with me."

"Facts about Alex Krycek are remarkably hard to come by." The more I knew, the more effectively I would be able to deal with him. His control over Skinner was the first sign that he was back. This little trip with Mulder suggested that he might intend a more active involvement in our lives. "I need to be sure that Krycek didn't set all this up." It was my final reason, and the most important of the three.

"It seems over-elaborate if all he wanted was to trap Mulder. Why take him all the way to Turkmenistan and then have him captured there? The whole thing could have been done here with much less trouble. And again, why lure you to Pennsylvania? If they wanted to kidnap you, they could do it in DC."

He was right, I thought. "Maybe it isn't a trap for Mulder or me. Maybe it's a trap for you."

Bookman was silent for a moment. I wondered if the possibility had occurred to him. "I don't think that Sasha would set me up like that. And why?" I thought I heard a hint of doubt in his voice.

"Perhaps they want to recruit you." Mulder and I had no way of knowing how badly they'd been damaged at El Rico. "You have an impressive record."

He frowned. "Sasha and I met in Prague, spring of 1989. After the elections we traveled together to Poland. We were planning to go on to the USSR but instead we stayed in Warsaw to watch the government fall. I thought he was a tourist, some Midwestern kid out to find his roots. He thought I was some kind of liberal intellectual rejoicing over the triumph of democracy."

"Popular uprisings a specialty," I quoted at him.

"You've read my CIA file, haven't you? In this case I was only observing."

"And Krycek?" I asked.

"Imagine my shock when I followed him one night and found him speaking perfect Muscovite Russian to a contact."

"So he was already a double agent?"

Bookman ignored my question. "After that, I had to know more. I invited him home with me that summer. He finally realized we weren't a normal family when he found Leilah in the basement making fake IDs for all her high school friends." I raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Is it impossible for you to imagine that Sasha would have relationships outside of his work?" he asked.

I opened my mouth to reply, then closed it. In the course of my work with the X-Files I had sloughed off all my other connections: I had no room in my life for friends. I was barely holding on to my family. How could a man like Krycek expect to have friendships? He had always seemed so rootless.

"I have no illusions about Sasha," Bookman continued. "I would never expect him to place my life above his own. I would not expect him to tell me everything he does. But within limits, I do trust him. You will have to make your own decisions."

We drove on in silence.

Part Seven



I have always thought that anger was a kind of weakness. I've watched other people get angry, and watched them make mistakes. I try not to get angry. I've been upset, sure, and worried and desperate and maybe a little frightened. But I've never felt this cold cold fury before. Everything seemed very clear to me. I felt like I was watching myself from above, totally disconnected.

I had no idea it felt this good.

Leilah was gone now. In the morning she had washed herself off and put her clothes back on. We hadn't said much, and then a couple of the Tunisians had come to get her. She wrapped one of my blankets around her like it was a fur coat and walked out, her back perfectly straight. After all, there was nothing I could do about it.

After she left, I stopped thinking.

One of the Austrians came in too soon after that. He was bringing me a pot of coffee and some toast, but I didn't notice that until he was dead. It was their fault, I thought. They had been sloppy. They hadn't found the last knife in my jacket, and they had let this boy walk in with his hands full, without any kind of back-up.

The crash of the coffee pot brought two of the mercenaries running. The Austrian boy hadn't been armed, which was a shame. They would expect me to be standing behind the door waiting for them. I lay under the cot. As I expected, one of the mercenaries knelt down next to the boy. It was a stupid thing to do; I had slit the boy's throat and he was lying in a circle of blood.

The thing about this kind of fury, as I was learning, is that it makes you strong, and you don't feel any pain. I propelled myself at the man from under the bed, slamming into him and knocking him off balance. We rolled across the floor, and landed with him on top of me and my arms held between us. He probably thought it gave him an advantage, but this was no time to fight fair. The little knife hidden in my right hand ended up against his stomach; the prosthesis created enough space for me to drag my hand up and slit him open from belly to sternum. It was over before he even knew it had started.

The other man took a second to realize that his friend was dead. It was nearly enough time for me to get the dead man's gun, but not quite. The bullet hit me in my right thigh, the injured leg. I kept going. That leg wasn't good for much in the first place. His second shot just missed my shoulder; by the time he pulled the trigger I had the gun in my hand. I shot him before he could shoot me again.

Fury gives you better aim, too.

Now I had my knife and two guns, but my leg was bleeding. It was hard to tell how badly, because I was covered in the blood and guts of the man I had knifed open. I crawled over to the chair and used it to pull myself upright. I could hear shouting in the yard and steps in the hallway.


When I heard the shots I headed for the courtyard. No one stopped me. I found Davies pacing back and forth. The guards were standing around in little groups, looking unhappy. Strughold had taken the Tunisians with him when he left this morning, but there were fewer people here than there should have been. I watched Davies send three heavily armed men into the stable.

"It's Krycek, isn't it?" I asked.

Davies spat on the ground. "He's already killed three of my men." At that point more shots rang out. We stood there listening to the firefight, trying to figure out from the pattern of sound what was happening inside. One of the Austrians staggered out, clutching his gut. He coughed and said something in German before the doctor rushed over and started to lead him away.

Davies started to swear. "Fuck this. That's five of my men that bastard's killed. I'm going to start throwing grenades through that fucking window."

"Strughold won't like it," I pointed out, my mind racing. How could Krycek be such an idiot? "Strughold wants him alive. Just because he's already headed home doesn't mean he won't find out."

"He'll get over it," Davies said, but he looked doubtful.

"Do you really want to explain this to him? It was your stupidity that lead to this mess." I wasn't sure about that last point, but it was worth a try.

"Have you got a better idea?" he asked.

"Let's make a bet," I suggested.

"A bet?" His voice jumped an octave. I must have surprised him.

"Sure. I bet that I can talk him out of there. What do you have to lose?"

Davies seemed to be considering it. "What are your stakes?"

I grinned. "Krycek." Well, what else did I have to gamble with? "If I win, he works for me from now on. If you win, you get to kill him. I'll back you on it to Strughold." I was pretty sure Davies wanted to kill Krycek, even though I wasn't sure why. I was pretty sure he wanted me dead too, just on general principles. That was all I needed.

Davies stared at the barn for about half a minute. "Fine. But no funny stuff. I'll be right on the other side of the wall, and I'll be listening to every fucking word you say."

He didn't offer me a vest. As I entered the barn the smell of blood, shit and smoke hit me; I had to stop for a moment. Then I started to walk forward. When I was halfway there I passed the body of one of the guards I had seen go in. He must have dragged himself this far.

I felt calmer than I expected. In a way this situation was totally familiar. I had been here countless times, about to walk into a room and confront a man with a gun. The fact that this time the man was Krycek might or might not make my job easier. I was starting to realize that where Krycek was concerned I didn't think as clearly as I needed to. I was angry at him. He was going to fuck up my plan for our escape if he didn't stop this. But right now I needed to put that aside and work at talking him down before he gave Davies a reason to kill us both.

"Krycek," I shouted. Nothing but silence. "It's me, Mulder. I'm not armed. I just want to talk to you." He didn't answer. I kept moving forward. "I'm at the door now. Can I come in?" I could hear him breathing heavily.

"Drop your gun," he growled.

"I told you, I'm not armed." I wasn't.

"Then put your hands up."

I took that as an invitation and stepped through the doorway. Krycek had turned the furniture into some kind of obstacle course. He was crouching just behind a wooden table. Every inch of him that I could see was covered in blood. He looked like a beast out of hell. One portion of my mind noted the four bodies on the floor: two gunshot wounds, a boy with his throat slit, and a man who had been gutted. No wonder the room stank of death.

We stared at each other across the pools of blood on the floor. Krycek looked calm, and the hand which pointed a gun at me was perfectly steady. "What do you want?" he asked. "Are you here to gloat?"

"I thought you'd be the one to gloat," I answered. "Here I am, on your side. You win."

"No one's on my side."

My back was going to get tense from keeping my arms up. "You can put the gun down now, Krycek. I'm no threat to you. I just want to talk."

"Put down the gun?" He gave a bark of laughter. "Mulder, the minute I put this gun down I'm a dead man. What's this thing you have for offering yourself as a hostage, anyway?"

"Do you want to talk about old times? I can do that." It might help. I needed to persuade Krycek that he could rely on me. It wasn't going to be easy.

"It might give me a reason not to shoot you."

I tried for a light tone. "If you shoot me, they'll kill you. Then who's going to look after Leilah?"

He shot me. The bullet went between my arm and my head. Gingerly I touched my ear. My fingers came away bloody. I could hear Davies outside, snapping a command. "It's all right," I shouted. "I'm fine in here."

Krycek acted like he hadn't heard me or Davies. "Next time I'll aim for your head," he said. His face and voice were expressionless. "Let's talk about something else."

Right. Leilah was clearly out as a topic of conversation. I would worry about why later on. "What do you want to talk about? The weather? The NBA?"

"What made you change your mind? The incorruptible Fox Mulder, suddenly hand in hand with Conrad Strughold. What happened, did you decide to save your own ass and let the rest of the world worry about itself?" I ignored the sarcasm in his voice.

"Isn't that what you're doing, Krycek?" I heard the echo of his last words at the facility, telling me to betray him. "I'd do it," he'd said. I wondered if he was remembering the same scene. "What would you do, in my situation?"

His mouth quirked in what looked like a smile. "I'd sell you down the river and laugh over your dead body. Isn't that why you're here?" His voice was ice-cold. All the anger I'd put aside came flooding back. Fine. If this was how he wanted it, I could play this game. I was going to save this man's sorry ass if it was the last thing I did, and I could do it without his help.

"Well guess what, Krycek," I said. "I'm not here to watch you die, much as I might like to. I'm here to keep you alive."

"You want to make some kind of deal?" He was mocking me.

"There is no deal." I dropped my hands and took a step closer to him. He might have the gun, but I was in charge here. He wasn't going to kill me. "You're going to do what I tell you from now on, or Davies is going to start tossing grenades in here."

"Dream on, Mulder," he said. I could feel the tension in him as I got closer. It was hard to tell, but it looked like he had stifled some kind of movement when I'd told him I was taking control. Almost a shiver.

"You're going to work for me. We're heading back to the US. You'll stay with me, not Davies." His hand had tightened slightly on the gun, then relaxed again.

"So you get your own tame assassin? How did you work that?" His voice remained expressionless.

I took another step closer and crouched down just on the other side of his little barricade. "No one else seems to be able to control you."

"You think you can control me, Mulder?" he purred. It was my turn to shiver. "I could still shoot you."

I knelt there staring into his green eyes. It occurred to me that I might have gotten a little too close. His hand on the gun was perfectly steady now. I took deep breaths and listened to my heart beating. I didn't think I could control Krycek. I didn't even want to control Krycek. I wanted... I wanted... Damned if I knew what I wanted. I needed to get back in control of this situation. He has an amused, challenging look. A little smile on his face which I recognized from the very beginning of this trip. It was the expression he'd had when he told me he would have Scully killed.

He'd been bluffing then, and he was bluffing now.

Everything seemed to be in extremely sharp focus. I could feel laughter pressing up from my chest. God, I thought, who was this man? Covered in gore, probably about to pass out from blood loss, and he was still challenging me. He was still fighting. I did not want this man to be my enemy.

I took the challenge and leaned closer. His lips were the cleanest part of his face so that's where I kissed him. They tasted like salt and iron. He gave a little hiss when he realized what I was doing then held himself perfectly still, waiting to see what I would do. It only lasted a moment and then I settled back on my heels to find him still smiling, but no longer smug.

"Mulder..." he began as I took the gun from his nerveless fingers.

"No," I said. "Just follow my lead. Even if we are halfway around the world." I remembered how we'd argued before the ambush. "You kissed me," I'd shouted accusingly. "And you still followed me halfway around the world," he'd reminded me. I didn't understand the connection between us, but I knew it was there. He knew it too.

"Mulder," he said, "I'm not sure I can walk across this room." I could see the blood leaking slowly from the wound in his leg. It was clearly all the answer I was going to get. It would have to do.

"Some tame assassin you are," I told him. "Looks like I'm going to have to carry you out of here."

He grunted, then leaned back and closed his eyes.

Part Eight



We were scheduled to leave the compound that afternoon. Leilah, Davies and I were supposed to ride in a big black limousine, an enormous car big enough for six in back. I was pleased to see a glass divider between the driver and passengers' seats. Krycek was going to be carried in the back of an armored car. He was brought out of the main house, washed, bandaged and in clean clothes. Clearly they were taking no chances after the events of this morning; the guards brought out handcuffs, chains for his ankles and an elaborate hood and gag contraption to cover his head. Davies started dangling the hood in front of Krycek's face as Krycek kept up a stream of abuse directed at the two of us.

I left Davies to gloat over him and went back inside to get Leilah. She hadn't been in her room the night before, when I'd broken in to give her what she needed for Strughold's letter. In the end I'd left everything under her pillow and let myself out. Now I found her standing in the front hall, arms cuffed behind her. I pocketed the key, grabbed her by the arm and started to lead her out to the car. She flinched slightly under my hand and I loosened my grip. "Are you all right?" I asked once we were outside.

"I have the letter," she told me. She looked withdrawn, I thought. Perhaps she was nervous.

"I need a distraction once we're about half an hour away." I was sure she'd think of something. She nodded and I pushed her into the car. As we got in I noticed Davies turn and watch us. He couldn't know what we were planning, I told myself. Leilah settled into the back seat and I sat facing her. So far, no one had noticed that I still had the gun I'd taken from Krycek. It took all my willpower to keep from reaching for it just to make sure it was still there.

As we pulled out, I reviewed the plan Strughold had given me. The compound was in a fairly lonely area of the Austrian Alps, and it would take us a while to get down to the border. Then we would drive north to an American airstrip outside Munich and take a borrowed transport back to the US, where Spender would meet us. My own plan was very similar.

The road began to wind down the mountains. When we got to a forested area, Leilah let herself fall limply into a turn against Davies. She straightened herself right up, staring straight ahead. He leered at her and pulled her against him, groping at her breast. She stared resolutely out the darkened window as he pawed at her.

If this all worked, I might have to start believing in a higher power. I pulled my gun and pointed it at him.

"Get your hands off her," I told him. "Keep them where I can see them." He just stared at me. I clicked the safety off, hoping he would understand that I meant it.

He did what I told him, and Leilah darted across to sit by me. I leaned across the distance between myself and Davies. The car swung into a turn and my gun pressed into his chest hard as I took the gun from his shoulder holster and began to pat him down. I found two more guns, the last a nice little piece with a silencer which he kept in an ankle holster.

"Put your hands on your head," I said. When his hands were out of the way I fished in my pocket with my left hand and got out the handcuff key. It was a little difficult getting Leilah's cuffs off with only one hand, while keeping my eyes fixed on Davies. Once she was free I moved across to the back seat and cuffed Davies. Leilah, still silent, handed me the letter she'd hidden in her jeans and took one of Davies' guns. I nodded at her and she leaned back and rapped on the partition. The driver pulled over to the side of the road and I could see the armored car stopping behind us. "Wait here," I told her as I got out.

I walked back to the armored car. Strughold's men were obliging enough when I told them to open the back. They balked when I told them to take the ankle chains off Krycek, though.

"We want to talk to him back in the limo," I snapped, "and I'm not going to carry him back there. Undo those chains." They were used to obeying orders, and I sounded like I knew what I was doing. I could hear him trying to talk as they unwrapped him. "Shut up, Krycek," I told him, trying my best to sound harsh. "They'll be plenty of time for you to talk later on." I felt like the villain in a bad war movie, and the presence of the Austrians only made it worse.

Finally they stood him upright. I shoved him along in front of me to the limo, opened up the door and pushed him into the back seat.

Davies was lying stretched out on the floor, a neat little bullet hole in the center of his forehead. He'd been shot at point-blank range and there was no sign of a struggle. Leilah had opened up the partition and was holding a gun to the driver's head.

"He was trying to escape," she stated. His hands were still cuffed behind his back.

"What the hell were you thinking?" I snapped as I got into the car and closed the door behind me. At the sound of my voice, Krycek started to struggle. "We need him alive! The letter doesn't say I can kill him," I complained. Unless she'd changed it. I opened it up to look, but she'd written what we had agreed on. A letter in Strughold's handwriting denouncing Davies and giving me his authority. The letter instructed me to release Krycek and put Davies in his place.

I threw it on to the seat and set to work getting the gag and hood off of Krycek. He was still struggling. "Sit still, damn it," I hissed at him, "I'm going to get this hood off you, but I need you to sit still and cooperate." Once the hood was off he turned his head to find Leilah. She met his wild stare evenly. "What the hell are we supposed to do with a corpse in the back seat?" I asked her as I set to work on the gag. She spared me a brief, thin-lipped glance before returning to stare at Krycek.

Finally, the gag came off. Krycek twisted around to glare at me. "Don't yell at her," he snapped.

"Don't yell?" I said, pushing him back around to open the handcuffs. "She just shot a man in cold blood. Granted he was a lowlife but still--"

"He deserved it," Leilah said in a tight voice; at the same moment Krycek growled, "Shut up, Mulder."

As soon as the cuffs were off Krycek stepped over Davies' body to sit by Leilah. He was still staring at her intently, but he didn't touch her. "Are you all right? I was going to kill him for you."

"You can't protect me," she said flatly. He looked away.

"Hey," I said. Their interaction was interesting, but we didn't have time for it. "What now? Should we just keep going?"

"Why not just take the limo and make a run for it?" Krycek asked. "Once we get out of the mountains we'll have no trouble outrunning that armored car."

"Scully's meeting our plane," I told him. "I don't want to leave her hanging. It might put her in danger. And I don't want to start a high speed chase in a stretch limo with a corpse in the back."

He turned back to Leilah. "Jacob will probably be with Scully by now," he offered.

She shook her head. "I can't see Jacob now, Sasha."

"OK, OK," he said in a soothing voice. "You don't have to. We'll work something out."

What the hell was going on here, I wondered. Here was another whole new side to Krycek. He seemed to be completely intent on this little drama with Leilah. I watched her holding the gun on the driver. Then I looked at the driver himself and an idea struck me.

"Right," I said decisively. "Here's the plan. Krycek, take your clothes off."

"What?" he asked incredulously. Well, at least I had his attention.

"Leilah, tell the driver to do the same," I continued. "If he does what we tell him he'll come out of this alive. Tell him that." She started to murmur to the driver in German. Krycek was still staring at me, one eyebrow lifted. "I'm going to switch you," I told him. "He's about your size. You and Leilah can take this car, and I'll go back and ride with the Austrians."

"What will you tell them?" Krycek asked. I was relieved to see him shrugging out of his jacket and starting to pull off his shirt.

"Tell them Davies wanted to be alone with me. They'll believe you." Leilah's voice was bitter. Krycek turned sharply to look at her; she kept her eyes on the driver, though, and after a moment he turned back and met my gaze. His eyes held a warning I didn't need any more; my brain had already made the connections. I had a good idea of why Leilah had killed Davies and why she and Krycek were acting the way they were. I felt a stab of guilt: I had told Strughold that he could use Leilah to control Krycek.

The two men continued to change in silence. They were both wearing jeans and it was all done quickly. Once the driver had Krycek's jacket on I switched places with Krycek and started to put the gag and hood on him.

"You know," Krycek said, "it's not too late. You can still change your mind and run away with us."

"And miss my free flight back to the US? Besides, one of us has to be there to see Spender's face when he takes off the hood and sees the driver."

"Will you be safe?" he asked.

It was the big question. "Scully will be there. It would help if no one found this limo until I've landed in the USA." Scully had better be there, I thought.

The driver was tied up like a Thanksgiving turkey, and it was time for us to get moving. I reached over to open the back door on the driver's side. "Mulder," Krycek said. I couldn't interpret his tone. "Good work. Thanks."

I froze. "Whatever," I muttered.

"Enemies again?" He gave me half a smile.

"Listen, Krycek," I told him, "I don't know what we are, but it isn't enemies."

He wasn't smiling now. "I killed your father, Mulder. All those things you think I did, I did them."

"Save it for the judge, Krycek. And stay in touch." With that, I pulled the driver out of the limo and started propelling him across to the armored car. "He's all yours," I told the guards, and watched impassively as they put the rest of the chains on him and tossed him in the back. "Is there room up there for one more?" I asked them. "Davies wants the girl all to himself. He says he'll catch up with us at the airstrip."

"Lucky fucker," one of them commented. "Come on up."

It wasn't hard to seem impatient as we waited at the airstrip. I had the irrational expectation that Strughold would come driving up and demand to know what was going on. I paced back and forth as the shadows lengthened and the low cloud broke up. The other men had stopped guessing what Davies was doing back there.

I was anxious to get back. I needed to stop being Fox Mulder, temporary ally of Alex Krycek and pretended member of the Consortium, and return to being the Fox Mulder I had been when this all started. I desperately needed to get away from these people before the strain of pretending to be one of them drove me crazy.

The hour of our departure came and went. After another half-hour's wait I waved the pilot over. "It's time. I'm not waiting for Davies any longer. That bastard can make his own travel arrangements."

The pilot took a little convincing, until I reminded him that he didn't want to keep Spender hanging around on the other end.

I had reached the limit of my planning. All I could do now was hope that Scully would be waiting for me.

Part 9

Winchester Air Force Base, PA


When Sasha and I were planning the Turkmenistan raid I asked him why he was planning to bring Mulder with him rather than Scully. We were visiting a laboratory; it seemed reasonable to take the scientist rather than the layman. He had laughed briefly and told me that it would be a cold day in hell before Scully would follow him off a sinking ship and onto a lifeboat. "Mulder's easy," he had commented. "Deep down, Mulder wants to believe me. Getting Scully to trust me would take forever."

I was beginning to understand why he treated her so cautiously. She could not possibly have known my suspicions about Sasha, yet she had targeted my fear with a surgeon's precision. Could this be a trap for me? Sasha knew that I was responsible for Daniel's death. That knowledge made him a threat to me. If he thought that I suspected him he might well see me as a threat in turn. He might decide to eliminate me. Ten years of friendship would not count for much with Sasha if he thought his life was at risk.

I had to assume that he had figured everything out. I was reluctantly beginning to realize that I might have to kill Sasha before he killed me. At least I could be sure that he wouldn't tell Leilah that I had killed her husband. Sasha was hardly vindictive. He would kill me if he had to, but he would not make Leilah do it for him.

I had too much time to think while we waited for the plane that would bring Sasha, Mulder and my sister back to us.

Winchester AFB must have been the result of a particularly corrupt piece of Congressional pork. It was up in the hills bordering a state forest. There was just enough flat land in it for a single runway and a couple of hangers. God knows what the Air Force thought when they saw it; they were probably delighted to be able to hand it off to the Consortium.

It was isolated and understaffed, which was to our advantage. Last night Dr. Scully and I had broken in and placed a few of my better bombs in the basements of two unused buildings at the far end of the base. We would detonate them by remote control once the plane we were waiting for had landed. There was a small risk that the bombs would be discovered, but I thought not. We then moved the car to its present location just inside the state forest. A service road ran along the edge of the chain-link fence which separated the base from the park. The car was hidden behind some trees, and Scully and I had set up a position from which we could see the runway and the front gate.

Dr. Scully had been a revelation. She had behaved impeccably last night as I set up the explosives: moving silently, watching my back and making no complaint at our planned destruction of federal property. In fact she had acted as if late-night raids on military installations were a regular part of her life.

Now, after eighteen hours in the woods watching a base in which next to nothing happened, she remained remarkably fresh. I was beginning to wonder if she would consider giving up her work for the FBI and starting a career destabilizing repressive regimes with me. Before I could ask her if she'd rather run guns to be used against the Burmese or the Indonesians she tapped my shoulder and pointed to the main gate. In the floodlights I could see two black cars entering the base and coming to a stop at the near end of the runway. A man in his late middle age got out of one and immediately lit a cigarette. I looked over at Dr. Scully and she nodded. "It's him. Spender." Her voice was full of distaste.

At least we had something to watch. Spender and the men he'd brought with him gathered at the end of the runway; there were only six of them with him and only the two cars. I hoped that the absence of any kind of transport meant that the plane itself wasn't carrying many troops. In addition to Spender's group there was a minimal ground crew waiting for the airplane. It looked as if Spender was trying to keep the number of people involved to a minimum.

The ground crew started to get impatient after roughly forty-five minutes. A few of them wandered over to consult with Spender; then another went inside briefly. After around five minutes he came back out and made a brief report. They all settled down to wait some more.

They weren't the only ones getting anxious.

Perhaps half an hour later we heard the sound of an airplane approaching. Scully glanced over to me and we moved back from the road to the car. Under the cover of the noise from the plane we started the engine and moved it onto the service road. Now it was just a matter of timing. Scully's face was a mask. I had expected her to be more impatient.

The plane--a military transport--touched down and came speeding toward us. I counted off the seconds in my head as it came to a stop and then taxied to the end of the runway. Then I hit the accelerator and we went flying down the service road and through the chain link fence; in the hours before dawn we'd weakened the metal so that it burst as soon as we hit it.

"Now!" I said to Scully as we entered the base. She hit the switch on the detonators and suddenly all I could see were silhouettes of the plane and the men around it. Most of the ground crew were heading for the burning buildings on the other end of the runway. I drove the car into the center of the men who were left. As we appeared out of the darkness into the middle of them I slammed the brakes. Scully leaped out of the car as it rolled waving her gun and yelling "Stop! FBI!" for all she was worth.

I thought I heard Mulder's voice crying "Scully!" as I swung the car around to the back of the plane and followed her out. I didn't take the time to look for him. I could see Spender, cigarette held absently in his left hand, staring at Scully and reaching into his coat for something. His men might have been surprised but I wasn't sure that he was. I launched myself at him and knocked the gun from his hand. We slammed up against the side of his car and then I pulled back and turned him around, my own gun grinding into the back of his head.

There was shooting around me. "That's it!" I shouted. "On the ground!" The two men nearest to me turned and stopped and began to crouch, slowly. I shook Spender. "Tell them to drop their guns!" I looked around myself as, at his nod, the remaining men put their guns on the ground and kicked them towards us.

Scully had taken shelter behind the door of our car. Now she stood up and we both watched Mulder walk down the ramp towards us. The interior of the transport looked empty except for the armored car which was halfway down the ramp. He appeared to be alone.

I don't think he saw me, Spender or the men on the ground. He went straight over to Scully and stood in front of her, brushing a lock of hair from her forehead. She looked up at him, her expression a mixture of relief and annoyance.

"Where is she?" I hissed at Spender. I had the sinking feeling that my sister wasn't here. Could Mulder have left her a prisoner? Spender was silent. "Where is she, Mulder?" I repeated, more loudly this time.

Mulder finally turned away from his partner and seemed to notice our tableau for the first time. Amusement crossed his face. He nudged one of the men on the ground with his toe. "Get up," he said, "and open the car." Then to me, "Bring him over here."

This commanding tone was new. Back in Turkmenistan Mulder had sounded threatened or defensive or angry. He hadn't been in charge. Now he thought he was. "Don't play with me, Mulder," I said. I was judging the distance between us, thinking about shooting him. Spender was still and heavy in my arms, like a child or a lover, and I needed to hold onto him. He was my ticket out. Or my ticket in, if Leilah wasn't here.

"It's all right, Jacob," Mulder was saying, "she's fine." The armored car was open and he was dragging a bound and hooded figure out of it, pushing him forward to stand, swaying, directly in front of us.

Spender, still motionless, spoke for the first time. "That isn't Alex Krycek."

"No," Mulder said. "Alex couldn't make it." Both Spender and I caught the use of the first name. Mulder was looking distinctly pleased with himself.

"Mr. Mulder," I said again, "start explaining this. Where the hell is my sister?"

"They're both fine," he said. "I left them in Austria. They got away."

Scully came to my rescue. "You left Mr. Bookman's sister with Krycek?" she asked, her voice high with disbelief. "Mulder, what were you thinking?"

"Why didn't they come with you?" I asked sharply.

Mulder hesitated, then spoke. "She'll tell you when she sees you."

Analyze, I told myself. What are the possibilities? That the two were both still prisoners? Unlikely. If Sasha were still a prisoner he would be here in these chains. That he was free but Leilah still a prisoner? Even more unlikely; everything Sasha had told me about Mulder indicated that he would not leave my sister a captive and save himself. They were free, and together, and had chosen not to return with Mulder. This could be serious. It could mean that Leilah didn't want to see me. And that could mean that Sasha had told her the truth about Daniel's murder.

I could feel the chasm opening in front of me. It might already be too late to stop this by killing Sasha. If I killed him it would just give Leilah another reason to come after me. Perhaps I should just let her execute me and be done with it. It would only be fair.

Now Mulder was talking to Scully. "Did Bookman give you the data from the facility?"

"Data?" she asked. "What data?"

They turned to look at me. My cue for an exit, I thought to myself, inching back to Spender's car. "You did get the data out, didn't you?" Mulder sounded outraged.

A hidden ace, I thought. The lab was dust, but I had what it produced: the first steps toward the vaccine Sasha wanted. That information was meant for Scully, now looking at me with a betrayed expression. One woman, however brilliant, could not do all the work necessary to produce this vaccine. For that one needed resources, the kind of resources the man I was holding had access to.

If I did have to kill Sasha, the least I could do was take his place.

"But you didn't fulfill your side of the deal, Mr. Mulder," I pointed out. "My sister isn't here. How do I know she isn't still in danger?"

"Deal?" Mulder began. "We didn't have a--"

I cut him off. "Talk to me about it again when I see her. Call it proof of your goodwill. The same deal for Mr. Spender here." The gun was still at the back of Spender's head, but now I was holding an arm twisted behind his back. It was a painful hold, and I was impressed by how well he took it. "All I have is Sasha's word that I should work with you. And Sasha isn't here." If he had been here, would I have killed him? I pushed the question away as unimportant, and wondered instead whether Mulder would be able to tell me why Leilah hadn't wanted to come back here. An open airfield was not the best place to trade information, but now he knew he would have to trade something for the data he wanted.

"Bookman, you don't understand," Mulder said. "That information is important. Whatever you do, don't give it to Spender."

"I'll be in touch, Mr. Mulder," I told him. As I spoke I came to a stop by the door of Spender's car. A twist of his arm and a shove folded him into it. I slid into the seat next to him.

As I closed the door and started the engine I heard Scully swearing at me. Before she was done I gunned the engine and we were gone. I had a last glimpse of open mouths and white faces. Spender was already lighting a cigarette.


Granada, Spain
One week later

Leilah Katalan:

All of Europe was moving around us that spring. Above us in the sky the bombers flew every night to Serbia, and every few days a planeful of refugees flew north or south or west from Kosovo. Many had traveled first on foot, then by bus into Macedonia and Albania. There they would wait in the mountains and watch their homes burn from over the borders. No one noticed a man and a woman traveling slowly by train from Vienna to Paris, and from Paris to Madrid. Sasha and I had no home to turn our gaze towards, no place to remember.

Daniel's lawyer, now mine, met us in Madrid with the house keys and drove us to Granada and the house Daniel had bought for me on the Albaicin. If he had an opinion about the fact that I had a man with me he kept it to himself. We arrived as the sun was setting, and I walked Sasha through to the courtyard to watch the light fade over the Alhambra. Like most of the houses on the hill here, the back wall had been taken out to provide a view of the fortress. I hadn't returned since Daniel's death, but the house seemed the same. I could hear the lawyer moving around, turning on the power and water and unpacking our groceries and the few things we'd picked up on our journey. Someone had been in to water the plants, and the night-blooming jasmine and the orange blossoms were pouring out their scent. It was a white- washed jewel of a house, all tile floors and dark wooden furniture. Daniel and I had never spent as much time here as we meant to.

Sasha stood and watched the darkness come over the hillside. It was too early in the year for the floodlights on the Alhambra. When the lawyer was gone, I came to stand next to him again.

He had been very quiet throughout our journey. "I would have left you there," he said now. Even now he sounded as if the words were sticking in his throat.

"I know," I told him. I supposed I should have been upset, but it would have been wrong to expect Sasha not to act like himself. His own survival would always be his first priority. I offered him my own apology. "I would have run away in Tunisia. Would they have killed you?"

"No." He shook his head, as if for emphasis. "It's not the same. I knew what I was doing." His mouth twisted into a humorless smile. "It's ironic, really. Mulder always accuses me of betraying him. But you're the one I did betray."

"Sasha..." I began.

"I should never have let you get involved," he said stubbornly. "Even if it meant keeping Jacob out."

"No one forced me to meet you in Turkmenistan and go to the laboratory. No one forced me to stay with you and Mulder. Those were my decisions." It was difficult to keep my voice even. "I am not your responsibility and I am not your dependent."

"And now?" he asked after a while.

That could have meant anything. I decided to answer an unemotional question. "We can stay here as long as we need to. Daniel and I bought this house through a blind trust. No one knows we own it, and we used false names with the lawyer." Buying the house had been a joke, actually, in the middle of two weeks of crazy vacation. Daniel had business on the southern coast of Spain but when we came to the Albaicin with its white Moorish houses and narrow medieval streets he had insisted that we buy a house here. I tried to focus on the conversation I was having now, but I thought I could hear the two of us laughing in the dark. Since the funeral I had avoided most of the places Daniel and I spent time together. It didn't keep me from thinking I saw him everywhere I went. Sometimes I could hear Daniel's voice still talking to me. Sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night afraid that I'd forget the sound of it.

It wasn't as unemotional an answer as I thought. I came back to the present to see Sasha's eyes glinting at me in the dark. He'd been careful about touching me when I was awake, although I'd woken up in the night a few times to find his arm around me.

"That wasn't what I meant," he said evenly. Guilt, I supposed, was a new feeling for Sasha. I didn't think it suited him.

Suddenly I was desperate to drive Daniel's ghost away. "Why did you kiss me back in Turkmenistan?"

His shoulders had slumped forward. Standing all this time on his knee must still have hurt. "It seemed like a good idea at the time. For what it's worth, I don't regret it." I could feel him withdrawing from me. "Leilah, do you want me to sleep on the couch?"

I was absurdly grateful that I didn't have to say it myself. "There's a second bedroom," I said abruptly.

He nodded. "I'll leave once I my knee is healed."

"No!" The word was out of my mouth before I had a chance to think about it. A muscle jumped in Sasha's jaw. "No," I repeated with more certainty this time. "I think I need you, Sasha." We were two of a kind, really; in a way it was for the best. With the hesitancy that always seemed out of place in him he reached for me then. We stood there together, wrapped in the darkness.