Traders in Snow

by Vanzetti

"There is no land uninhabitable or sea unnavigable."


Scully knew from the beginning that there would be two separate enquiries into Mulder's disappearance. The first was the official one, the one where the FBI threw whatever resources it could spare at the problem. She did not have many illusions about the extent of those resources. Mulder had been a thorn in too many people's sides for too long for there to be more than a sense of muted relief at his disappearance. The search was allowed to lapse and the agent in charge was assigned to join her at the X-Files.

Had their positions been reversed, she was sure that Mulder would have protested loudly and unceasingly. He would have insisted that the search be continued, that every possible lead be followed, that whoever was responsible be brought to justice.

When he returned (when, her mind insisted) she prayed that he would understand why she had appeared to acquiesce in this. The truth of the matter was that she didn't have the energy to direct two investigations into his disappearance at once. Or rather, she had the energy but not the time.

So by day she worked her way through the X-Files she was given, doing her best to think the way she remembered Mulder thinking, grateful, when she wasn't numb, for the support John Doggett offered her. Weekends, evening and nights were given over to her real life. She spent more time with Byers, Langly and Frohike than in her own apartment. They ensured that she ate enough and slept enough, but were otherwise devoted to her search. Her nights had become a surreal mixture of electrical impulses and John Does. The impulses never turned out to be the sign of a UFO, or if they did it was already too late. The John Does were never Mulder; she gave thanks for that after every visit to a morgue and did her best not to weep each time she left a hospital.

Lead after lead, and still nothing. The months went by, and she waited for her body to betray her.

It had already done so once. The day she had fainted and the Gunmen had taken her to the hospital, they had lost their best lead. Their only real lead. It was one of the reasons they were so willing to drop everything and help her: because while they had been worrying about her health, Krycek and Covarrubias had disappeared as completely as Mulder had. It couldn't have been a coincidence.

Bad things come in threes. Her mother had said that once and Scully had dismissed it as superstition. Now she was less sure. In the hospital she had been given three pieces of information. Krycek and Covarrubias were missing. Mulder had been abducted in Oregon. And she was pregnant. The last was not bad news, not the baby she'd wanted so badly.

The baby. Her inconvenient miracle. She caught herself, once late at night, wondering whether the Virgin had ever felt this way. At least Mary had known where the child had come from: if the Archangel Gabriel had intended to visit Dana Scully, he must have got lost along the way. The blasphemy was more amusing than appalling.

The origin of the child was something she didn't want to examine too deeply. Surely one quest at a time was sufficient. First she would find Mulder again, and together they would solve the problem this pregnancy represented. At least there were no abnormalities: the latest ultrasound had shown the same healthy, male fetus as all the earlier ones. That had to be a good sign, a sign that the child was what she hoped it was.

Lacking divine intervention, Dana Scully would rely on the omens provided by science. Science and a little help from her friends.

She was on the way home from the check-up when she got the call from Langly. Alex Krycek had been seen in New York.


"She's what?"

"Pregnant," Marita Covarrubias repeated. Krycek launched himself out of the chair and began to pace across the room to the far wall. He stopped there and leaned his head against it, still for a second, then without warning punched it with his left fist.

"Fuck," he muttered. "I disappear for a couple of months and everything goes haywire. Whose is it? Mulder's?"

She leafed through the papers on the table as if looking for something. "We're not entirely sure." When she looked up, he had turned around and was resting against the wall, watching her.

"What are the possibilities?"

"Her ova were harvested while she was abducted," Marita noted.

"So we can be pretty sure it isn't natural. Fuck."

She nodded. "She underwent IVF treatment last year, but it was unsuccessful. But Alex... she took a trip with the smoker this spring."

"Fuck," he said, for the third time. She nodded in agreement. It was as good a description as any of the situation they were in.

"She hasn't done a DNA test on it. We would know. We're getting copies of all her medical records. So either she's sure..."

"...or she's worried and doesn't want to know," he finished for her. "Stupid bitch," he muttered to himself.

"We'll have to bring her in and run the tests ourselves," she said. "It could be the one they're waiting for."

He met her eyes. "I'm surprised you didn't take care of it in my absence, Marita."

She shrugged, feeling suddenly awkward under his gaze. The truth was, she hadn't wanted to take that much responsibility. She knew, now, what the consequences of defiance were.

The past four months had not been easy. Alex had disappeared almost immediately after they had sent the Smoker flying down the stairs, and by the time she had returned to the apartment to find the body missing he was out of her reach. With both Mulder and Alex missing, she had gone underground herself, keeping the network of informants she had run for the Smoker in place, but unwilling to make a move until she had to.

And then Alex had returned, whole and happy. She was, quite frankly, afraid to ask what he had sold in exchange for his regenerated arm. The whole situation looked bad. She knew Alex didn't trust her any more, and what was worse, she couldn't make him trust her. He probably saw the word "expendable" in big flashing letters over her head whenever he looked her way.

Something had happened to Krycek in Tunisia. In Tunisia, or earlier: she hadn't seen much of him since the day she'd stolen the boy and been exposed to the virus. The Consortium had saved her life, but not out of mercy. She had spent more than a year as an experimental animal, moved from lab to lab as the research dictated. She would still be there, if the destruction of the Consortium leadership hadn't left the Smoker short-handed. Or if the hatred she felt for Alex Krycek hadn't made Spender believe she would be useful.

He had never realized that Alex was hardly the only one she hated; or if he did, he only realized it too late. That was what she liked to think. The truth was that she hated them all, all the people who had used her, abandoned her and left her to die. At least in Alex's case she'd betrayed him first.

Sometimes she hated herself as well, for being afraid of them. She wasn't afraid all the time: the fear would strike her at odd moments, prompted by a smell, by the way the light shifted, by anything she couldn't control. Right now, Alex Krycek was one of those things. Or rather, Alex Krycek's new-found self control. She remembered an Alex who could easily be manipulated by his desires. That was the Krycek she had expected to find in Tunisia, and she had prepared herself as well as she could for that. Pleasure had nothing to do with it, she reminded herself. This was just another way of re- establishing her hold on him.

The first night, he had left her alone. She had credited it to exhaustion, or even confusion. On the third night, she had clenched her teeth and gone to him, and he had sent her away.

That more than anything else--even more than her fear that their former employer was still walking the earth--had kept her from acting on her own initiative when he was gone.

Now she watched him return to the dining room table and leaf through the reports she'd prepared for him. They were using one of her temporary safehouses, a farmhouse in upstate New York she'd taken as a summer rental and then kept through the fall. She wouldn't use it again after this weekend; it was too late in the season. Time to switch to a cabin in Vermont, well-located for skiing. The same principle applied: so long as the people using it looked professional and didn't stay longer than a week, no one would see them.

He was still, strangely, awkward with his new arm. He had forced himself to adapt to its absence so completely that even now he did things one-handed. Little things, like pouring milk into a glass or putting his coat on. If he noticed he would stop and redo the whole action twice, first with his left hand, then with both. Right now, for example, he was scratching notes on a piece of paper. He put the pen down to turn the page, then picked it up again to make another notation. All the while, his left arm lay disregarded on the table.

"We'll need a secure location," she said. "Something with good medical facilities, just in case."

"We'll use the place outside Chicago," he said, his tone implying that he'd considered the subject and made the decision some time before. This time she waited for him to finish his reading and watched while he took the documents and put them through the shredder. He'd reduced the contents to two pages of code, something only he could decipher. He would memorize those pages, then destroy them as well. She'd seen him do it before, when they'd been pretending to work together in Russia. When the documents were reduced to ribbons, he took the shredder basket over to the fireplace and began to feed the papers into it, a handful at a time. He seemed absorbed in the dancing flames, the light reflecting off his face, until he began to speak. "She's still looking for us. The easiest way to catch her will be to give her what she wants."


Krycek took the time to make the trap as secure as it could be. He took the train to Manhattan and spent thirty-six hours on the Lower East Side, just long enough to put his own people in place and get confirmation that he'd been spotted.

Then he went up to Vermont. Too early for skiing, which he would like to have tried again. With Marita there, they were just a couple up from the city in a rented cabin. They even had a couple of guests over the weekend, a doctor-and-professor pair from Boston.

A week later he went back to the city. An early commuter train from Connecticut dropped him in Grand Central, one of a thousand men and women in suits. He changed disguises in a bathroom there; five minutes took him from businessman to homeless man. After that he was invisible, so long as he didn't move too quickly.

He broke that disguise once, long enough to be seen again in the same area he'd used before, then settled down to wait. He knew the three men he was using on this job: one from the old days when they'd worked a job together for the old men and the other two from Russia. The car they would use had been provided by another Russian, someone who wanted a favor.

After last week's appearance, Scully had turned up with Mulder's three stooges in tow. They'd shown his picture and Marita's to everyone within a four-block radius. Sure, some of them had said, they'd seen him. No, they didn't know him. Sure, they'd let her know if he turned up again.

The next time he appeared he bought a leather jacket from a wholesaler and ordered a suit from one of the storefront tailors on the street. He had chosen the tailor carefully, and was pleased when Scully turned up in person four hours after he left the shop.

The fitting for the suit was in four days. On the morning of the third day he phoned up to break that appointment and reschedule for lunchtime that same day. It gave her just enough time to get to New York, but not enough to arrange backup. He hoped that sufficient Mulder had rubbed off on her to make her take the bait.

The tailor had known the game was up when Krycek showed up early for the fitting. Krycek told him he wouldn't be hurt if he cooperated. The man didn't believe him. It didn't matter: nothing could help him now.

Right on schedule, Scully came barreling into the shop, gun drawn. Give her what she wants, he had said, so that's what he did. Three steps took her across the shop to the curtained area in back; she ripped aside the fabric and there he was, already raising his hands. He was willing to take the gamble that she wouldn't kill him unless he threatened her. She needed him alive to answer her questions.

They stared at each other for a heartbeat. Scully looked gaunt, he thought. As if she hadn't been sleeping much. She'd always been pale but now he thought he saw a yellowish tinge to her. He didn't know much about pregnant women, but that didn't look right.

And what did she see, he wondered. Did she notice the arm? Was she wondering why he wasn't wearing a half-sewn suit? There was no chance to tell: the bells on the door rang again as his backup rushed in. The three homeless men she probably hadn't even noticed--had deliberately not noticed--squatting by the door of the tailor's shop. She didn't turn around, but she had to be able to hear them. And smell them.

"Drop it, Scully," he said.

"Don't move," she said. "I'll shoot him. I really will."

"Don't be stupid, Scully. If you shoot me these men will kill you. Come on. You need me to find Mulder. I won't hurt you."

"Liar," she said. "You set him up. You sent him to be taken." She sounded angry, but he could see her resolve cracking. He lowered his arms slowly, watching to see if her finger tightened on the trigger. The men behind her stepped closer. She was still, her reminded himself, the most dangerous woman he knew. Except maybe Marita. He ignored that thought and focused on her hand and wrist, waiting for the inevitable relaxation. As soon as her finger loosened he took a quick step forward and to the side, grabbing her hand and twisting it. His left hand took the gun from her fingers before she could use it. The Consortium man took the medical patch from its wrapper and slapped it onto her neck.

Fury and accusation filled her eyes as the drug took hold and she slumped forward. Before she lost consciousness he got her stumbling out of the door and into the waiting sedan; the driver would take him to a long-term parking lot near Newark Airport, where Marita would pick them up. He hoped. No, he knew she would pick them up. He hoped she wouldn't try to steal Scully out from under his nose.

The three members of the support team would clean up at the tailor's and then scatter. He'd arranged for the money to be paid into their accounts at noon. He glanced at his watch: 23 minutes ago.

He settled Scully against his side, his left arm around her shoulders, as if she were asleep. The doctor had assured him that the drug wouldn't interfere with a normal pregnancy, but fuck knew what Scully had in there.

Marita pulled up about a minute after the driver dropped Krycek and Scully off at the parking lot. She must have been waiting somewhere she could see them go by. Unless she'd followed them all the way from the city. Whatever, it was a good thing--he felt too exposed, just standing there, holding Scully up and hoping no one would notice them.

The two of them strapped Scully into the front seat and Krycek slumped in the back for the short drive to the lot of an abandoned factory. Once they were hidden, they cuffed Scully's hands behind her back, taped her mouth shut and locked her in the trunk.

"Do you think she'll be all right in there?" Marita asked as they got back in the car.

"We can always take her out in a couple of hours, let her walk around and have some water. She'll be fine."

"I hope the drug works." Of course, he thought, Marita wouldn't be concerned for Scully's well-being. She had recently become fairly blasé about physical suffering. He knew how she felt. After all, they were both still alive. That was one thing they still had in common. Now they had a long drive ahead of them, and although he wasn't sure he'd be able to stay awake the entire time, he didn't feel comfortable sleeping in Marita's presence. Not with a prisoner in the trunk, anyway. It brought back bad memories.

It should have been predictable that he and Marita would be among the only ones left, but sometimes he wished fate had left him with anyone but her. Sure, so far she'd been loyal, but in a way that only made it worse. He was perpetually waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Krycek had been watching her since Tunisia, but felt no closer to figuring her out. He was pretty sure she meant the first thing she'd said there, that she would have left him to rot, but he had no idea what else--if anything--had been heartfelt.

Leaving her in charge while he went off with the rebels had been a huge gamble, although it wasn't like he'd had a choice. They'd picked him up and told him the deal, no questions allowed. They knew that he needed all the help those faceless bastards could give him.

And then there was the arm. He'd wanted it with a fierceness even he could hardly believe. If the aliens thought their gift gave them some kind of hold over him, that was their problem. He knew damn well they'd only done it because a one-armed man would stand out where they were sending him. He'd been furious when he realized how easy it was for them to regenerate him. It was nothing to them and the whole world to him. As far as he was concerned, he'd paid for every ounce of flesh.

He flexed the fingers of that hand. It had been worth it. Worth every agonizing, violating, terrifying second.

Meanwhile all he had to do was stay a step ahead. Last time they tried to work together Marita had stolen the boy from him and taken him to Mulder. That suggested a certain commitment to at least some of Mulder's goals. Or a willingness to use Mulder to pursue her own goals. But Mulder was like a disease: you set him at something you wanted disrupted the way armies in the Middle Ages had hurled rotting animals into besieged towns. Stand back and wait for the rot to spread.

The image amused him, and he considered sharing it with her. But then, perhaps not. He didn't think that Mulder's safety was a high priority for her, but then, he didn't really know.


The doctor had told them that the drug would last about five hours. They turned off the interstate in Pennsylvania, looking for someplace isolated to pop the trunk. A deserted picnic ground was perfect--they backed into a space and walked around to the back of the car.

Alex tried to offer Marita the keys, but she shook her head. "You know her better than I do," she said in the same cool voice she'd used since Tunisia.

Gingerly, he turned the key and stepped back slightly, reaching for his gun. The trunk swung open, revealing a little more than five feet of Dana Scully, wide awake and spitting mad. Well, he thought, being locked in the trunk couldn't have good associations for her.

The drug shouldn't have worn off that quickly or that completely. It might be another sign that something was different about her metabolism.

For a second, she just stared at the two of them; then she started to struggle to sit upright, her mouth working against the tape. If looks could kill, they would undoubtedly both be dead, but since that wasn't among Scully's powers, the two of them simply stood and watched her. When she made it onto her knees, Alex said, "That's far enough, Scully."

"I'll go get her some water," was Marita's contribution. "We don't want her to get dehydrated."

He waited until she came back with the bottle to reach over, showing Scully the gun before he pushed it under her jawbone, and pull the tape off. "Not a word," he warned her. "Not that there's anyone here to listen." He took the bottle from Marita and held it, tilted, against her mouth. Did she notice that he had two arms now, he wondered. Had she even noticed that before he'd only had one? She drank about half the bottle before beginning to choke. He waited until she stopped coughing to speak. "How would you feel about a little negotiation, Agent Scully?"

"Kidnapping a federal agent is a serious offense," she snapped. "I don't have anything to say to you."

"That's where you're wrong, Scully. Do you think anyone in the FBI would care if you disappeared right off the face of the earth? Not a chance. 'Goodbye Spooky, goodbye Mrs. Spooky.' That's what they'd say. There would be a sigh of relief you could hear from here." He could sense Marita behind him, watching the whole scene greedily. Scully appeared unmoved.

"I can't believe that even you would be stupid enough to think I would work with you, Krycek, after everything you've pulled."

He hardly heard her. "You would work with me, Scully. In a minute. If you thought I could help you get Mulder back." She was trembling slightly, he noticed. If she hadn't been stiff and hungry she would never have let that show. "You don't like hearing me talk about him, do you? I guess you haven't had much luck finding him. And you must miss him. Especially in your--what do they call it?--your delicate condition."

"You set him up, you bastard." Had he ever heard Scully swear before? He couldn't remember.

"I think we could all come to some kind of mutual understanding," he said smoothly. "We get what we want, and maybe we give you a little information about Mulder."

"You can start by taking me back to DC and turning yourselves in. Maybe we could work out some kind of protective custody."

"Protective custody?" He gave a bark of laughter. "Scully, who exactly do you think has all the power in this little scenario? Let me give you a hint. It's not the woman in handcuffs about to be shoved back into the trunk and sedated. Marita and I are going to get what we want from you, no matter what. You just think about that for the rest of this little trip." He nodded to Marita. "Give her another dose."

Marita hesitated. "Are you sure it's safe?"

It was the second time she had expressed concern for Scully. Maybe she did mean it. "Does it matter?" he asked. She shrugged and got another patch from the kit in the back seat.

While the tranquilizer took effect, she got another piece of duct tape for Scully's mouth. Krycek picked up the used one and put it in his pocket. No sense leaving any kind of evidence.

As they got back into the car, he turned to Marita. "I thought that went well. Didn't you think that went well?"

Marita looked pensive. "She is very brave, all things considered." She paused for a moment. "Were you serious about looking for Mulder?"

"Why?" he asked. "Do you want to?"

"Why? Do you care?" She mimicked his tone.

He didn't have time for this. Fucking Mulder, all the fucking time. "As far as I'm concerned, Mulder can rot in hell."

Marita nodded. "I thought so."


Alex finally fell asleep as they entered Ohio. She liked him when he was asleep. He wasn't watching her, which meant that she could really look at him without worrying. And his face relaxed, too. He didn't have that angry look. Or nervous, whatever it was. He seemed altogether less dangerous.

Alex, she thought, was the personification of Newton's first law. Awake, he was always in motion: fidgeting, pacing, whatever. Even when still he was full of the promise of motion. If he stopped, it was only to wait for the appropriate moment to spring forward. And asleep he was perfectly relaxed, breathing evenly, his rest unthinkable to disturb. As if that other man, the man in motion, didn't exist and had never existed. She remembered a facetious description of the laws of thermodynamics, something she'd heard in college: you can't win, you can't break even, and you can't get out of the game. That was Alex too. That was her and Alex in a nutshell.

She considered pulling over to check on the woman in the trunk, but that would wake him up. Let him sleep. Scully would live.

She supposed that she ought to be more sympathetic. They had been through similar experiences: herself in the vaccine research and Scully in the hybridization program. They had both survived the experience. But then, there were differences as well. Marita could remember her time in the labs. And Scully had survived because her partner was willing to do whatever it took to save her and other people--people like her- -were willing to help him. Marita was still alive because she was still useful. No one had gone out of his way to save her. Even Spender's boy had only wanted her for what she knew.

Loyalty had never been one of her own virtues, of course.

Right now, she thought she was in agreement with Alex. They needed to know what the fetus was and where it had come from. According to Alex, the aliens were just waiting for a successful hybrid to start the process. It could go forward even without the old men. There had already been one successful hybrid, although the rebels had killed her and destroyed her body. They had also killed almost everyone who knew she had ever existed.

But Spender had overseen the whole project. He might have kept samples, documents, enough to create a new hybrid and implant it in Scully. If he had, it too had to be destroyed. She agreed with Alex.

As had agreed with her when she suggested the other possibility. Both Mulder and Scully were immune to the alien virus. They had both received versions of the vaccine which worked by activating otherwise dormant areas in the human DNA. Those early vaccines were unsuited for mass distribution. But if Scully was passing her immunity on to the fetus, they might be able to use that. If that was the case, Scully and her unborn child had to be kept alive at any cost. Alex felt that it was a remote possibility--as, in truth, did Marita--but she was pleased that he had listened to her seriously and taken her thoughts into consideration.

Provided he was telling the truth. Provided he didn't have some other deal going, some hidden plan to serve his own interests, save his skin at the expense of everyone else's. Without a deal with the colonizers, the hybrid genes couldn't save him. But then, that was the deal Spender had sent him off to Oregon to make. What if he had been lying about his inability to find the ship? In that case he would be leading her on and setting her up.

She shuffled the cards in her mind: the ship, Alex's sense of self-preservation, Spender, the rebels. Once upon a time, victory over Spender was all Alex had wanted. And she had wanted... what? She could hardly remember.

If only Alex weren't such an unlikely figure, the last person you'd think the fate of the world might depend on. He was a murderer, a liar, a traitor. No kind of idealist. If it were Mulder she wouldn't worry. His goodness was so public, his concern for others rolled off of him and encouraged those around him to the heights of noble self-sacrifice.

But then, Mulder would never be in this situation, kidnapping a pregnant woman and driving her halfway across the country. They might have to perform an abortion in Chicago. They might let the pregnancy come to term and take the infant from her. Things Mulder would never do. Did that make him stronger than them, or weaker?

Alex shifted slightly and in a second was wide awake. "Don't worry," she couldn't help saying. "We're both still here."

He grimaced. "It's time to give Scully another dose."

"Are they really safe, Alex?" she found herself asking. Pushing him, to see which way he'd move.

"Why? What are the alternatives? You aren't going to persuade her to come sit in the back seat and make friends with us."

She was almost certain that she didn't care. Almost, but not entirely. "You said we wouldn't kill her unless we had to. You said that she could be useful alive and on the outside." Useful, at least, to Alex's stated purpose, of causing as much distress to the colonizers as possible.

"Look, Marita," he said sharply, "right now Dana Scully may look cute, harmless and victimized, but she's got nerves of steel. She's perfectly capable of shooting us both and walking away without a second thought. She'd probably get off on it."

"Let me at least try to persuade her. This will be easier if she's willing to work with us. If she knows the stakes..."

He cut her off. "What's with this good-cop routine, Marita? How much of it's for real?"

"She could do the DNA analysis for us. We wouldn't have to involve anyone from the Chicago group. I can do the test, but I can't interpret the data."

"Marita. Would you trust any result she came up with? And who exactly is going to do the procedure, if we have to?"

"Do we have to, Alex?" She had heard about the things that were done in the hybridization program. Scully had undoubtedly undergone worse than what she and Alex were intending, and for less reason. Logically, she should not have a problem with this.

"Take the next exit," he said harshly. "Find a place to pull over." She glanced at him, but didn't question his tone. There was a 24-hour diner at the exit. She pulled over into the lot and sat there, keeping her hands on the wheel, forcing herself not to clutch it. All she could hear was his breathing; he was looking out the window at the other cars. "I can't do this, Marita," he said. From anyone else, the words would have been an admission of defeat; from him they were just a challenge. Her stomach felt light. "I can't work with you, never knowing when you're going to attack, when you're going to cut and run, or kill me, or whatever the hell you're planning."

She had no time to think. "What I'm planning?" she cried, and thank God the anger was real. "Me! You're the one who left me there in Fort Marlene! You saw what they did to me, and you left me there!"

"Exactly," he said.

The outburst had at least kept him from killing her right away: if she had tried to protest her loyalty, she was sure he would have. "I can't make you trust me, Alex," she offered.

"And that's it. You can't trust me, and I can't trust you. Fuck that." He sounded tired.

She wondered if it would help if they were fucking. In a way it had been the most honest thing they'd done together: violent, challenging, ferocious. The rest of the time she had played the disdainful lover and he--well, who could tell what Alex meant and didn't mean? His plastic arm had hardly been the only false part of him in those days. "What could either of us say that the other would believe?"

He leaned his head back. "Nothing, I guess. Come on, let's go see if we can persuade Agent Scully to climb out of the trunk and play nicely with the other boys and girls."

She almost reached out to him as he opened his door. Instead, she said, "Wait!" He turned back, staring at her. "Are you sure Chicago will be secure?"

"What do you mean?" he asked, turning back to her, all expression gone from his face.

"He used it. Over the winter, while you were..."

"Why didn't you tell me this before?" He drummed his fingers-- his left hand--against his knee. "Never mind. We'll go in anyway. We need the analysis. We'll just have to be more careful." She watched him scrolling through the possibilities in his mind. "Is this why you wanted Scully on our side when we went in?" She shrugged, looking away. He took her chin in one hand and turned her face toward him. His voice was low and even. "You know, Marita, I really should kill you. It would remove all the risk, make everything simple."

She clenched her jaw to keep from asking why he didn't, then. He was too close; it was an act of will not to try to move away from him. "In the parking lot?" she finally asked. Her voice sounded breathy and nervous.

He smiled. "I could leave your body as a surprise in the back of one of those trucks," he suggested.

He could do it, she knew. He would, at the slightest provocation. At most there were one or two things she could say to stop him. She considered and rejected an appeal to their past intimacy, a sexual invitation, the protest that she was, at least at the moment, being honest with him. She thought about letting him see her fear; that might work, if he believed it to be genuine. She settled on what was, more or less, the truth. "I'm just trying to keep myself alive, Alex. That's all."

It seemed to work. He let her go, anyway, and got out of the car.


Krycek and Covarrubias must have been feeling confident: they had let her out of the trunk and put her in the front seat. They had even taken the tape off her mouth; Scully thought that in the same circumstance Mulder would be asking a thousand questions. But she wouldn't believe anything they told her and could spent the time more fruitfully by observing them and her surroundings. Her companions had taken turns trying to get her to talk, asking her questions about Mulder, about her pregnancy, about the files. They spoke only to her, never to each other, both of them in calm, conversational tones. Occasionally one would offer a piece of information, rather than a question. She heard about Cassandra Spender's death, and tried to keep any reaction from her face.

Somewhere south of Chicago, they pulled over into the lot of an abandoned factory. This late at night, they seemed to be the only people for miles around. She had an impression, in the darkness, of overgrown plots and rusting aluminum walls, chain fences around dark buildings and piles of trash and tires. Covarrubias, who had been sitting in the back, got out first and opened the door on Scully's side to let her out of the car; she removed the handcuff from Scully's left wrist and attached it to her own. Then the two of them walked her through the empty space and around the side of the building. They were constantly looking around, doing their best to keep the entire place under observation. They were nervous, she realized. They half-expected an attack.

It wasn't anyone of hers, she was sure. Byers, Langly and Frohike would have realized by now that something in New York had gone wrong, but they couldn't have found her yet. Particularly if they tried to go through Skinner and Doggett, who were used to her unexplained absences. There was also Krycek's casual comment, "Don't expect Skinner to come looking for you. He's ours." She didn't think she believed that.

Scully considered her options. She could drop to the ground and refuse to move, but they would just carry her. She could scream to attract attention, but she didn't think there was anyone around to help. Or she could bide her time. An opportunity would present itself. It had to. And she would be ready for it.

They emerged into a large empty area at the back of the building, and what she saw there did make her stop dead. Only for a moment; then Covarrubias gave her arm an impatient tug and she was moving again, dragging her feet. Train tracks ran through the area behind the factory; unlike the building, they weren't abandoned. Familiar windowless silver train cars stood there. She knew what went on inside them.

Krycek dropped back slightly to grab her elbow as they hurried her through the open space. She was too focused on the train car they were heading for to do more than absently try to shake his hand off.

There was no lock on the car. Krycek climbed up to open the door for them as Covarrubias stood, her back to the car, gun ready, eyes scanning the yard. When he was in, he hauled Scully up as Covarrubias followed. They were still chained together. As the lights came on, the woman began to lead her further inside. As Scully glanced around at her surroundings, she realized that Krycek had dropped back outside.

Scully kicked out suddenly with her near leg, twisting it around Covarrubias' and making her stagger; she slammed into the other woman's body with as much force as she could muster. Covarrubias, caught off balance, fell to the ground. Scully let herself fall with her, reaching for the gun in the her right hand. As Covarrubias tried to break her fall the gun went skittering across the floor, coming to a rest only when it hit some cabinets at the far end of the car. Never mind, Scully thought to herself, and went for her next target. The key to the cuffs was in the front right pocket of Covarrubias' slacks.

Covarrubias was lying face down under her, her left arm, still attached to Scully's right, twisted across her back. She kept trying to shake Scully off and get up. She grunted in pain as her left arm was pulled further around her back, as Scully tried to dig into her pocket. Scully's left arm was wrapped around Covarrubias' throat, keeping her pinned.

Scully's breath caught: the key was in her hand. At the very same moment something reached down and caught her own neck. She felt the cold muzzle of a gun digging into her just above it, where her skull rested on her vertebrae.

"Very nice," Krycek said. "Drop the key." She went limp. Covarrubias twisted underneath her and, still lying on the floor, took the key from her fingers. She freed herself and cuffed Scully's hands back together before starting to get up. Krycek hauled Scully upright. "Another trick like that, Scully," he hissed in her ear, "and I will blow your head off of your shoulders." He pushed her forward, making her stumble.

In that manner--Krycek's hand pushing her forward, Covarrubias walking to one side--they crossed the car. At the back, past the Plexiglas divide she remembered, was a metal examination table, surrounded by machinery. It looked like a very cramped ob-gyn office, with everything in chrome instead of pastels. As the setting sank in she kicked out again and heard Krycek hiss in pain. He lifted her bodily onto the examination table as she struggled.

"No, damn it!" she shouted. "You bastards! Let me go!"

The words echoed off the metal walls. They sounded empty even to her and she fell silent again. Would good would it do to shout? She tried to strike Covarrubias when the cuffs were removed but Krycek held her wrists firmly until she was strapped onto the table.

"Do you want to gag her?" he asked.

Covarrubias shook her head. "I'll need to ask her some questions." She moved out of Scully's field of vision.

Krycek remained standing by the table, staring down at her. She met his eyes, keeping her terror hidden. She wanted him to know that she hadn't given up. Her first attempt to escape might have failed, but it wouldn't be her last. And when she did escape--when, she told herself, not if--she would show him as much mercy as he'd shown her. She wanted him to know that.

He broke the silence. "We weren't supposed to shoot your sister. It was a mistake. We should have killed you, instead."

The shock made her gasp, and it took all her willpower not to cry out again. Of course she knew that she had been the real target, but she had never expected him to admit it. Certainly not like this, the information offered like some kind of apology. Her visible reaction must have satisfied him, because he turned away and walked out of her sight. She heard him speaking to Covarrubias, but the blood was rushing so loudly in her ears that she couldn't make out the words.

The realization that someone was touching her brought her back to herself. She opened her eyes, wondering for a moment when she had squeezed them shut, and saw Covarrubias standing over her. Cool, methodical fingers were unbuttoning her blouse and pushing it away from her abdomen. She twisted herself to get away, unable to stop the useless motion. Covarrubias ignored her and began to undo the button on Scully's trousers. Then she stopped for a second. "He's not here," she said. "He's outside, waiting for the doctor." Then she unzipped the trousers and pushed them down around Scully's hips. She paused again, as if to examine her handiwork, before turning away. When she came back she was wheeling an ultrasound machine.

Scully was quiet as she felt the gel being rubbed over her abdomen. "Just tell me," she said. "Why do you hate us so much?"

"I don't hate you, Agent Scully," Covarrubias said. She sounded surprised. "What makes you think that?"

"Everything you do, you do to hurt us. Are we that much of a threat?"

"Contrary to popular belief, the world does not revolve around you and Mulder."

"Then why are you doing this? You sent Mulder to that ship. And now you're trying to kill our child."

The other woman looked down at her. "You know, Agent Scully, that this may not be your child."

"This is my baby," she said. "Mine and Mulder's."

"Scully, you... when you were abducted your ova were harvested. They use them for the cloning and hybridization programs. You were left infertile."

"I know that!" Scully retorted, irritated at the false sympathy she saw in the other woman's face. "We had IVF treatments."

The look of sympathy remained. "The doctor was ours, you know. There was never a chance of that working. And we know about the trip you took with the Smoker. I'm sorry, Scully, but this baby is either his work or it's a miracle. Don't you at least want to know what you're carrying?"

"I don't need to know. It's mine--my child. Inside me. You don't... you can't understand." She closed her mouth, horrified to feel the tears at the corners of her eyes. "Please," she said, hearing her voice shake. "Let me go."

For a moment she thought it might work, as the other woman's face twisted. Then she spoke. "You aren't the only one who's trapped here. None of us is really free."

"Krycek is forcing you to help him, isn't he?" She ignored the feeling of the transducer running over her stomach. "Listen, you don't need to be afraid. I can help you. You used to help Mulder. He told me about it."

The other woman was looking intently at the monitor. "The last time I tried to help Mulder," she said, "it nearly killed me." Covarrubias turned back to meet her eyes. "Once upon a time I thought that Mulder would save me."

She didn't need to say anything else. In the end, Mulder hadn't even been able to save himself.


The best point from which to observe the area in front of the factory at the same time as the tracks behind it was on the roof, next to the water tank. Had there been an observer present there that night, he or she would have seen the following events.

At 3:42 AM a car pulled up in front of the factory and a man and two women got out. The smaller of the two women appeared to be a prisoner. The three walked around the building to the area behind the factory, where the two women entered one of the train cars standing there. The man followed them in.

Seven minutes later he exited the carriage. He stood by it for a moment, staring up at the roof, then proceeded to place himself at the edge of a loading dock on the west side of the building. His position enabled him to see the train cars as well as the area through which someone coming from the front of the building would have to pass. He disappeared into the gloom there.

Thirty-four minutes later another car entered the area in front of the building. The driver pulled up next to the first car and got out. He appeared to be a man of medium height in his mid-forties, with light brown hair. He stopped by the other car and laid his hand on the hood, as if to check how recently it had moved. He stood there for about thirty seconds before turning and beginning to walk around the building.

At the moment that the man in front took his hand from the car, the man in back left his hiding place. He glanced around him for a moment, then began to hurry back to the train car. This time he seemed not to care that he might be seen, although he kept as quiet as his speed would allow. As he went, he looked over his shoulder again and again, at the point at which someone coming from the front of the building would appear.

At no point had the two men made visual contact.


Marita hadn't expected Alex to clamber into the carriage, breathing heavily, his face white as a sheet. She stood over the examination table, staring at him with her mouth slightly open as he got his breath back. He spoke before she could ask what it was. "You were right. The doctor betrayed us. They've sent one of the bounty hunters instead. At least one more is coming with the backup."

"You saw him?" she asked.

He nodded. "Go out the back and see if you can find us a way out. I'll get Scully up and moving."

She should have left right away. Instead she asked, "We're taking her?"

He glanced out the door. "They want her dead."

They could write off the car they'd come in, Marita thought as she moved back through the train. The hunter had seen it, and in any case the area between them and it was going to be full of Consortium men as soon as the hunter's backup arrived. The thought made her pause. How, she wondered, had Alex known that backup was coming? Was it just a guess, or was it all some kind of plot of his? She knew she didn't have the leisure to think it over but this time--this time, damn it--she would ask him. There were too many mysteries now. If he didn't tell her what was going on, she would leave. She would get the hell away from Alex Krycek and all his little secrets. And she would take Dana Scully and her fetus with her. Marita permitted herself a small smile at that thought as she lowered herself quietly to the ground at the end of the train. Keeping to the edge of the back lot, she began to edge north; the area behind the factory was walled in, but people were always looking for ways into abandoned properties. Somewhere there would be a break in the wall.

She had been impressed despite herself at Scully's performance. The woman had left no tactic untried in her attempt to persuade Marita to let her go. Everything from tears to anger to sympathy. If Marita could present herself convincingly as another of Alex's victims, Dana Scully would help her. And in a sense it was true. She was as much his victim as he was hers.

For the moment, though, she needed to focus on finding a way out before they were all picked up by the aliens, or Spender, or whoever was on their way.

She edged forward, clinging to the shadows and wishing she had thought to bring something that would cover her hair. The area behind the factory seemed vast and open, and the train itself isolated and vulnerable in the center of all that empty space. The half moon cast more shadows than light, but the silver of the train cars seemed to glow eerily under it. Ahead of her she could also see the faintest orange glow cast by a single streetlight on the sidewalk beyond the walled yard. She headed for that.

She was darting from one pile of scrap metal to another--it seemed like someone had taken the contents of the factory, twisted them up and strewn them across the yard--when she heard the engines. She hid herself and lay still. She was only a few meters away from a wooden gate in the wall. It was chained shut but the three of them could slip through it. She would investigate it as soon as the cars passed.

They didn't pass. She heard the engines idling, then the clank of the chain being dropped and the creak of the gate swinging open. She heard three vehicles roll into the yard and took the risk of raising her head to look at them through a clump of dry weeds. A car and two black vans. They were blocking her way back to the train, effectively isolating her from Alex and Scully.

She hid again before the vans could come to a stop, knowing that the first thing the people getting out would do would be to look around carefully. Still, she could hear the engines being switched off and the booted feet crunching on the gravel as the men jumped out. They didn't start moving yet; she guessed that they were standing around, waiting for their last- minute commands. She could hear them grow still, the sign that someone in authority was there. Then Marita heard the click of the lighter.

It was an act of will not to raise her head and look at him. She heard his laconic command, "This time, kill them all," and waited until she heard them head off at a jog before giving in.

It was him. He was out of the wheelchair, and had a silver haired man she knew to be one of the alien healers standing by him. That would explain his health. The aliens must have made contact with him.

She watched them walk together after the troops. He must be readying himself to enjoy his final victory over the people who had opposed him: herself, Alex, even Scully in her own way. Marita drew her gun.

All thought of Alex's secrets and betrayals had been shunted aside. The man before her had tortured her and saved her at his whim. The first time he had stopped the tests she had been grateful and had helped him willingly. Then she had come across the lab reports and realized how little of what had been done to her was really necessary. She had seen what a token commitment he made to the vaccine research. She had made the mistake of asking him about it. And he had sent her down to Atlanta for another round of tests--of torture.

Marita remembered the day he came to get her from Atlanta. They had gone to an office and he had shown her stacks of paper, piles of disks and biological samples. He had let her examine them for hours. They were the results of this second period of research on her. He told her they were the only copies, something she believed. Then he made her destroy them all.

She didn't need to have her worthlessness explained to her twice. They both knew that she would do anything to avoid another round in the laboratories. She had obeyed him in every respect.

He sent her back once more--she didn't know where or why. Perhaps simply because he could. Then he came to get her, repaired the worst of the damage, and packed her off to fetch Alex out of that Tunisian jail. It had been meant as a reward, to see Alex like that.

The night suddenly seemed darker than it had been. She blinked and blinked again, her heart beating with the fear that she'd gone blind again. She wanted to run or scream.

Then the world righted itself. She could tell that it had only been a few seconds by the distance Spender and his companion had traveled. Even that short stretch had taken them outside her range. She would only have one shot at him, and she needed it to count. This time she would make sure he was dead.

As the crack of gunfire began, over at the train, she began to crawl forward. She was halfway there when all hell broke loose.


"You did hear that," Krycek said as he walked over to the examination table. It wasn't a question. "If they find you here, they'll kill you."

"Why exactly should I believe any of this?" Scully asked.

He grinned. Things were moving again. The details of hybrids and vaccines were beyond his understanding, but a bunch of people heading his way, murder in mind, made him feel alive. "OK, Scully," he started as he undid the straps on her left leg. "Would I be letting you up if I didn't absolutely have to? Think about it. I don't need to lay a trap for you now. I already did that." He gave her his most dazzling smile. She frowned, but appeared to be thinking it over. "Here's the plan. I'm loosening these now so that if something goes wrong you can run. But right now I want you to lie on the table until the hunter comes in here. He'll head right for you and I'll take him out."


"If they want you dead, it's for a reason. It probably means that I want you alive." She looked suspicious but didn't comment. He finished with her arms and stepped back hastily, gun in hand. No sense getting stupid at this late date. She sat up slowly, pulling up her pants and buttoning her shirt. Jesus, he thought, he really must have been focused on the thought of the bounty hunter--she'd been half-naked and he'd barely noticed. He retreated to a shadowed area behind the entrance to the train car, and settled in to wait. She lay back down at his nod.

The hunter wouldn't know which car they were in. He'd have to check them all and then let the backup know where he was. Krycek could hear him approaching now, no need for secrecy, his feet loud on the gravel. A pause as he checked the car next to theirs, and then more crunching gravel. Now, Krycek thought, he's climbing up to the door, pushing it open, and he'll see that the power is on and step right in. He was gratified when the alien did exactly that. He was still in the form of the scientist, Krycek guessed, some man he didn't recognize. That didn't make him hesitate; the hunter paused to look at the woman on the examination table and put his gun away and Krycek sprang. The gun and the bounty hunter fell to the floor, green foam bubbling around the place where the spike protruded from the nape of his neck. Krycek remained crouched beside him; he'd seen one of these bastards sit up and pull the weapon right out of him, and didn't want to ever see that again. Plus, no matter how often he'd seen the aliens decompose, it still impressed him. Satisfied that the creature was dead, he reached out carefully to retrieve the spike.

When he looked up, he saw Scully standing in front of the table, pointing the hunter's gun at his head.

Fuck, was his first thought. She gestured with the gun and he raised his hands. Krycek started to estimate his chances if he jumped her. He still had the spike in his hand, but she had the gun. He didn't like the odds.

"Don't even think about it, Krycek," she said. "Put that down on the ground. Slowly. The gun too."

Moving slowly, he placed them on the floor next to the body. She was watching him too carefully to let him get to the knife in his boot. "Scully," he said, "we really need to get out of here." And where the hell was Marita when he needed her? So fucking typical.

Not that he was famous for getting her out of hot water either.

"Shut up," she said. "I should just shoot you now and get it over with."

He had to admit she had a point, and in her shoes he might not have bothered to talk it over first. Still, "I know where Mulder is."

"Sure you do, Krycek."

"Look, Scully. Can we at least move this conversation somewhere else?" He let himself sound nervous. "I don't want to get caught here any more than you do." All his senses were straining to hear what was going on outside. He thought he heard engines. The bounty hunter hadn't told his backup which car they were in, but they still didn't have much time. It was probably already too late to run.

A shout from the yard made his jump even though he was half expecting it. Scully turned to look toward the door. Krycek grabbed his weapons and ran, taking her arm as he passed her and half-dragging her to the door at the back of the car. The power was cut as they got there, but that was fine from his point of view. He opened the door and shoved her through the empty space between the two cars and into the next one, following almost immediately. The moonlight through the open door illuminated the interior for a moment, just long enough for him to see a filing cabinet and shove it to block the doorway.

They might have enough time to get out the back, the way Marita had gone. This car, he remembered, had a door that faced away from the factory at the far end. He kept going until he reached it, then glanced behind him. Of course he couldn't see her. The car was pitch black. He stared to feel around on the side of the carriage, hunting for the door.

He heard Scully's feet pattering on the floor. "Come here and help me find the door," he whispered. Instead her hand settled on his left shoulder. In a moment he felt the barrel of the gun follow it into the hollow between his neck and shoulder. He froze, suppressing the urge to shrug at it. "Jesus, Scully, put the goddamned gun away already," he said. "I thought I was the thug here."

Her hand tightened. OK, it might not have been the most tactful thing to say. She had, he couldn't help noticing, tiny hands. "Open the door, Krycek," she hissed.

"I'm trying," he muttered, moving his hands again over the wall. There, he thought. That was the seam under his left hand. He moved his right to check where the handle ought to be. Now, to work out a way to open the door and escape Scully in a single movement.

There was someone banging at the door at the far end of the carriage, the way they'd come in. They'd have to hurry. He pulled the latch down and slid the door open an inch--then his reflexes took over and he slammed it shut. Only after that did he hear the gunfire; he must have seen the men. They'd already surrounded the train. He locked the door and jammed the spike he'd used on the hunter into the lock. It would slow the attackers down, a little.

"Alex?" a familiar voice called. "I know you're in there. Open the door."

Fuck. He had known Spender wasn't dead, but he had hoped that he was still very very sick somewhere. Now they were trapped. He had to assume that Spender had picked Marita up as well. He tensed, expecting to hear her voice any moment. Spender would try to make her beg for rescue. Unless he had killed her right away. He forced the image of Marita's body, lying crumpled and discarded outside the train, from his mind.

"All I want is Dana Scully," Spender continued. "Send her out and I'll let you go free. You have my word on it."

It might have been worth considering, but he knew that the hunter had been instructed to kill them all. Now he was trapped between two enemies. The nearer threat had to come first. "He's lying," he whispered to Scully. "He wants me dead as much was you." Freakishly, he kept thinking of Spender's last words to him. Given the shitty job he'd done getting rid of the old man and the fact that he hadn't done anything to Mulder, maybe he should start feeling more optimistic about the fate of the world.

He wasn't feeling optimistic about his own fate, though. He locked the door, but they'd be able to pry it open from the outside. Scully moved with him as he began to back away from it. If only he could see something: was there a side door? A trap door? There would be an exit to the roof of the train, but that would leave them just as exposed. And how much time did they have, before Spender got bored and decided to just blow them up?

"What are you doing?" Scully hissed. He didn't bother to answer. There had to be some way out. They were about halfway along the car, and he could hear the men outside trying to open the door. He drew his gun. A shootout in a train car. What a fucking stupid way to die.

The men outside had to wedge the door open inch by inch. As the light grew, he glanced down and saw a crack in the smooth metal floor. A trapdoor. He traced the crack with his fingers, keeping one eye on the door. Now that she could see, Scully must have realized what he was doing: she shoved some boxes aside, exposing the latch and handle.

By some complete miracle it opened onto the tracks themselves, only a wire mesh between them and freedom. Scully kicked it aside and dropped straight down; as soon as she rolled aside he followed her, just as the door sprang open and the armed men peered in. He landed between the tracks and started to follow Scully forward, away from Spender.

That was when all hell broke loose.

For a second he thought the bright blue flash was just moonlight. Then he heard the wind and, looking to the side, saw the men outside staring up. In front of him, Scully had frozen as well. He grabbed her foot to catch her attention-- was he the only guy who didn't rubberneck at UFOs? They rolled out from under the train on the factory side, where there were fewer soldiers. He shot one as he came up, and saw another fall in the next moment. Then he grabbed Scully again and began to run north. On the other side of the train he could hear shots and screaming, and smell the burning flesh. Marita had been heading north, he thought. They might still find her.

When they rounded the end of the train, it was like looking into a picture of hell: all acid and burning corpses. This time he froze as well, his eyes fixed on the two things that didn't belong.

First, Spender, standing untouched in the middle of the chaos. He might as well have been protected by a forcefield, for all the attention he paid as a burning soldier staggered between them.

Second, the black car speeding toward Spender. At the last minute it swerved away from him and toward him and Scully. This time it was Scully who pulled him out of the way as the car swerved again and came to a stop directly in front of them. The passenger side door opened.

"Come on," Marita shouted.

He shoved Scully into the car ahead of them. It was a good thing Spender liked these big American boats, he thought. He turned to say something to Marita as he slammed the door behind him, but she hit the accelerator, her eyes staring straight ahead. He followed her gaze just in time to see them crash into Spender. His body made a wet sound as it rolled on top of the hood and smashed into the window. For a horrific second, he and Scully were eye to eye with Spender's blank face and then he rolled off again.

Before Krycek could open his mouth, the car came to a dead stop and he rocked forward, nearly smashing his head onto the glass. He sat up again, blinking, to find Marita looking at him furiously. He finally found that he had something to say. "What the hell are you doing? Keep going."

"Go check him," she said.


"Go back and check him this time. Make sure he's dead."

"What the hell? Marita, it's a fucking war zone out there!"

"Fine," she said. "I'll do it. We're not leaving until I know for sure he's dead." She had the door open and was halfway out before she finished the sentence. One of Spender's men turned to fire at her as she crossed the yard but burst into flame before he could make the shot. Shit. Alex grabbed the car keys and ran after her.

It really was a war zone: guns and fire sticks and hissing alien blood all around them. He had to duck and roll at one point, came up to shoot his man and only then realized that he had almost fallen onto the decomposing body of one of the faceless aliens. A couple inches away from a messy death. He rolled again, shot at a man before he could get to Marita and ran, low to the ground, the rest of the distance. She was crouched over the body, her hand on Spender's neck.

"No pulse," she muttered.

He was trying to look in every direction at once and doing a bad job of it. "Great. Can you please just shoot him and let's get the hell out of here?" Marita was staring blindly at the crumpled body. He wished he had the leisure to savor the moment too. "Marita?"

She started to stand up, apparently so totally focused on the dead man that she hardly noticed the danger. He pulled her back down and she stared at him for a second. "Alex? Did you leave Scully in the car by herself?" she asked.

"I have the keys," he said.

She nodded and looked around them. The battle seemed to be dying down. Some of Spender's people had taken up a defensive position in the factory itself, and the rebels had countered by setting it on fire. They could hear the sirens of the approaching fire engines through the gunfire, and that was encouraging the rebels to withdraw. This time when she stood up he joined her; the two of them stood there for a moment, admiring the crumpled body. "Do you want to do it?" she asked.

"Nah. Go ahead."

She shot Spender's corpse twice in the head, muttering something that sounded like a curse under her breath. The old man's brain splattered across the dirt. Even the aliens couldn't heal that kind of damage. Glancing over Alex's shoulder, she suddenly frowned. "Alex? Where's the car?"

He turned around. "But I had the keys," he said weakly. "Fuck. Where the hell did Dana Scully learn to hotwire cars?"

At that, Marita started to laugh. She tried to hold it in, but seemed unable to help herself. "I'm sorry, Alex," she choked out, "but your expression--it was priceless." She put one arm around his waist, her body shaking with laughter. Despite his annoyance, he could feel his whole face trying to smile as well. It was crazy. There they were in the back lot of a burning factory, surrounded by the wreckage of the conspiracy. The long arm of the law was on its way, and the woman who was probably the key to saving both of them, and maybe the rest of the world as well, had bolted. He gave in. The smile became a snort, and that became full-fledged laughter. They stood with their arms wrapped around each other like they were the last people left in the world, laughing insanely.

A couple minutes later, the sirens were loud enough to disturb them. Marita wiped at her eyes. "We should probably get out of here."

"Yeah," he said. He didn't move.

"Before the police get here, Alex." She pulled him into motion and he followed her across the yard. They stopped at the gate and looked back.

"You know," he said, "in Tunisia, it was good to see you healthy. After everything." As it slipped out, he realized he meant it. It was true.

"It was good to see you too," she said. "Even after everything." He glanced at her, and saw that she was smiling.

"So you didn't really want to leave me there to rot?"

"Well," she admitted, "maybe just a little longer." They chose a van at random and he started the engine. "I might have visited you in prison, once I knew where you were."

He made a face. "That prison?"

"It wouldn't have been my first choice either, I admit." They pulled out quietly, lights off. The fire engines were almost there. "Alex?"


"How did you know that the hunter had called for backup? And that they wanted Scully dead?"

It was now or never, he thought. And anyway, it seemed like the whole alien resistance knew about him. Maybe it wasn't such a big secret any more. "I can hear them. The aliens. They communicate telepathically."

She was staring at him. Please, he thought, don't let it be disbelief. "You can read people's minds?"

"No," he said hurriedly. "It's like a different kind of speech, that's all. It's not like I can read your mind, Marita." Although it would have been damned useful.

Humor began to return to her blue-gray eyes. "No, I guess I could have figured that out. How?"

This was the hard part, the part that involved remembering things he would prefer to forget. "I was infected with Purity a few years ago." He did his best to sound nonchalant. He had been infected again a couple months ago by the rebels, who wanted to see what would happen, but there was no need to tell Marita that. "It did something to my brain. I don't know what." She was nodding absently. "Marita..." he reached across to grab her arm. "Not a lot of people know about this. Not a lot of humans, anyway. I won't go into the labs. I won't." He hoped she understood the threat. He hoped it read like a threat, and not a plea.

"Did you call them tonight? The resistance?"

"No," he admitted. "They were looking for Spender and his group. We got lucky." He glanced into the rearview mirror. "Marita? Company."

She looked at the mirror on her side. "Scully?" she asked.

He smiled slightly. It hadn't been too bad. "At least we don't have to go looking for her. Although," he added more seriously, "we'll never be able to turn our backs on her. What a nightmare."

"True," Marita agreed. "But there are two of us and only one of her."


Her first thought was to get as far away from Krycek and Covarrubias as possible. But that would leave her precisely where she'd started out. If there was the slightest chance that Krycek had been telling the truth when he said he knew where Mulder was, then she owed it to her partner to stick to them. There would be a price to pay for that, but it would be worth it. It had to be worth it.

She backed the car into an alley and waited for them. The only way out was the way she had come; fire engines were pulling up to the front of the building and she was positive that Krycek and Covarrubias would not want to have to explain their presence on the scene to the Chicago fire department.

Like her, the van's driver had turned the lights off to avoid attention in the deserted neighborhood. It would be hard to follow in the dark, but she was gambling that they wanted to find her as badly as she wanted to find them. She would have little hope of following them without being noticed.

After a few blocks, the van slowed to a crawl and then pulled over. Scully drew her car alongside it and rolled down the window. If she was wrong--if this wasn't Krycek and Covarrubias--she was about to die. Looking up, though, she saw Marita's blonde head. She rolled the window down.

Marita Covarrubias was covered in dirt. The usually impeccable woman still managed to stare down at the car with amused hauteur as she rubbed at her face with some kind of handi-wipe. Looking past her, Scully could see a shape in the driver's seat which she assumed belonged to Alex Krycek.

She didn't waste time on pleasantries. "Do you know where he is?" she asked, and kicked herself a moment later. How naive just to ask them. As if they'd answer.

Krycek leaned over Covarrubias to answer. "Yes."

"Because you put him there?" Well, Scully thought, questions were all she had. She might as well ask them.

Krycek grimaced. "No. Can we not have this conversation in the middle of the street, Scully? Come up here and we'll talk."

"Do you think I'm crazy, Krycek? You come down here."

"Make me."

Scully could feel her face going pink with irritation. "Krycek..."

"This isn't fourth grade, Alex," Covarrubias interrupted. "Scully, you chose to wait for us. You might as well come up here."

The fact that Covarrubias was entirely correct didn't make Scully more comfortable with the situation. She dealt with that by ignoring the woman. "You wanted a deal, Krycek?" she asked. "Fine. Tell me where Mulder is, and I'll have the DNA tests done and send you the results."

"We'll go with you," he corrected. "I want Marita to stay with you while it's done. And she'll take the samples to be tested. You're stuck with us, at least so long as they want you dead."

"You don't really expect me to believe that the two of you want to protect me," Scully said.

"Don't take it personally, Scully."

"Personally?" she said. "Krycek, you kidnapped me. You killed my sister, Mulder's father, you sent Mulder off to that ship. How much more personal can it get?"

It was hard to see his face in the darkness. "Rescuing Mulder is not a high priority for me, Scully. You could make it one, though. That's the deal. Take it or leave it."

Her hesitation must have been obvious; Covarrubias smiled slightly and said. "I have some questions for Alex as well, as it happens. Come up here, and perhaps we can both get our answers." She saw the light glint off of Krycek's teeth as he grinned at that. Covarrubias climbed out of the front seat and opened the side door of the van. "Stay or go, Scully," she said. "But don't waste our time."


Feedback by email X-Files Fanfiction Main Fanfiction Index

The X-Files are the property of Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and Fox Television. All original elements are my own. No infringement of copyright is intended. Title and opening quotation from Dorothy Dunnet's Lymond Chronicles
Thanks to Ann and Susan for beta-reading.