Exigency by Zoe Takashi & Louise Wu

Authors: Zoe Takashi & Louise Wu,  Email Us
Series: Exigency. Previous part: Defend3.


Exigency: Defend
(ek-'si-gen-see)
noun: urgent requirements, exacting want or pressing needs.

Starring:
Zoe Takashi as Alex Krycek.
Louise Wu as Walter S. Skinner.


Part 4

Outside Geneva, Switzerland
Friday, 11 August 2000
10:17 A.M.


Walter's got the entire facility following his orders. He also has two recently recruited assistants from the HQ building taking notes for him. One of them totes around the box of nano control pads in case we need them today. Misters Green and Black made a brief appearance, announcing to the senior staff that Walter's now their leader. No one looked surprised. Albers is twitchy, though. I think Walter's right about him.

Walter gave the aliens Lavagetto's full report on the virus. They're still overeager to get the sample, but Walter reined them in again. It's a damned good thing they don't know all they have to do for the sample is grab me. I could tell by a subtle protective shift in Walter's body language toward me that he had the same thought.

As soon as the aliens are gone, Walter heads upstairs to check in with our commandeered security personnel. Each pair reports that everything went fine, the test subjects are comfortable and healing.

Walter sits down with Nurse Helen again to find out how everyone is doing. The only one not fully recovered is the man with the broken bones, but he's almost there. She looks dead on her feet, but expresses a desire to continue to help, in whatever way is needed. She seems to have become friends with one of the women.

Then we visit the individual apartments of the test subjects. Walter doesn't show any of the pain I know he's feeling. He introduces himself by his first name, explains that we had been infected with the nanos, then found a cure and that the tests are over. He offers the first woman a beverage and patiently talks with her, asking her kindly where she would like to go to recover. He helps the somewhat confused and very distraught woman form a plan for her future.

"Ma'am, you have a choice to make," he says in that soothing, in-control voice of his. "You can walk out of here with the nanos still in your system, you can either have them deactivated, or we can leave them in a healing state. Either choice you make, no one will be allowed to harm you. I promise."

It's difficult to imagine that any of them could believe in promises any more, but he seems to convince her. She listens to the choices again, then takes him by the arm and pleads with him to make the best choice for her. He nods to me. We already discussed what to do about those who couldn't decide. We'll leave their healing nanos on. He asks her if anyone at the facility has been kind to her. "Helen..." she whispers.

Walter nods. "She already wants to go with you." Outside the room, he gives orders to the security guards to help her transition out of here. I hand each of them another check for ten thousand dollars, with instruction to tell Walter's assistants where they want the last ten sent, after their assignment is complete.

Walter repeats the procedure on two other test subjects, but the fourth is so hysterical that he cannot be calmed. The man with the broken bones. Helen suggests another dose of sedative, but Walter shakes his head and dismisses her.

Walter sits with the screaming man until he finally settles down a bit, muttering over and over again, "Kill me... I want to die." When the chant begins to fade away, Walter says softy, "You're free to go. Can't we help you instead?" Even once he's calm, the man insists that he just wants to die.

I ask the frantic man, "Do you want to die, or would you like me to kill the people who did this to you?"

The man huddles in the corner of the room, tears streaming down his face. Walter watches him carefully, then puts a hand on my shoulder and shakes his head.

I watch as Walter has a whispered conversation with the miserable man. I cannot hear most of what's said, but it seems Walter was right... the man is no longer sane. Some of his pain penetrates my barriers, but I quickly shut it down. I cannot afford to feel anything right now. They talk for almost an hour. Then Walter pulls out his SIG Sauer and efficiently shoots him in the head.

Walter turns to face the wall for a moment, in obvious pain. I step up behind him, letting him know I'm here, but not touching him. I know this was impossibly difficult for him.

He murmurs, "I couldn't think of anything else that didn't involve more doctors and more incarceration."

"He wanted to die." The pain suddenly burns fiercely. "You hit a point and then it's the only option."

Abruptly, Walter turns to face me, eyes moist, his face tight with sorrow. He whispers into my ear, "Thank you for enduring it to come home to me."

I touch his arm briefly, just needing the contact. "We have one more to go. You okay?"

Walter nods, and his expression clears in an instant.

Outside the room, I give the checks to his security guards, then instruct them on what they need to do to earn their additional compensation—arrange for the man to be buried, then get the lab assistants and the doctors confined in one of the labs, along with a couple of the more sadistic security guards from the medical division.

Helen is sitting at her desk with her head down, shoulders shaking. Walter leans down and whispers something to her. She nods, gets up and disappears into the apartment of the first woman.

We move on to the final survivor. This one is strong and I can see that his strength helps to revive Walter.

We head down to the medical floor and sweep through the labs, along with two assistants. This is housecleaning. I grab test records as I find them and hand them to one of the assistants to keep up with. Lavagetto will get all of this, along with every control pad we can find. He will decide how much he needs and the rest will be destroyed.

After we've gone through the last lab, I move close to Walter and whisper, "I haven't found my test records yet."

"Do you have any idea why not?"

"The records we found don't include the original test subjects. The ones who died during the perfection of the nanos. Maybe mine are with theirs?"

Walter summons Albers and demands the rest of the records. Albers has to confer with the late Dr. Carmon's colleague, who is under guard in one of the labs. He directs us to his own office, where we find the rest of the records. Except mine.

Feeling a glimmer of rage, I return to the lab and slam the man into the wall. "Where are my records?"

He glances at Albers, who nods. "Dr. Carmon's office."

"And where the fuck is that?"

He points at the ceiling. Albers leads us upstairs. I find my records in a locked cabinet with the records on the experiments done to create my siblings. I can barely breathe as I pull out a folder labeled, 'Subject 1: Yelena.'

Walter clears the room, slams the door, then stands behind me.

I glance through the records, feeling stronger because Walter is close. It's just a bunch of scientific babble, genetic sequencing, test results. Until the end. The last notation, 'Experiment Terminated 11/23/83.'

Feeling ill, I slam the folder closed.

Closing my eyes, I take a few breaths, then pull out the rest of the files. There's one that says, 'Subject 0: Aleksandr.' The same kind of data as in the other files, this time showing how normal I am... was.

"I want to destroy it all." I stop to breathe for a moment. "But it's probably not a good idea. We take it with us."

"Agreed. No one will access it without your consent." He puts a hand on my shoulder. "I promise."

I touch his hand, knowing with absolute certainty that I can trust him. "After this, my test records seem inconsequential, but I should look at them anyway." Reluctantly, I pull the last folder out of the cabinet.

Walter puts a hand out to stop me. "Not today. Take the file with us."

I nod, feeling relieved.

Walter finds a box and loads the files. I cannot carry it without compromising my ability to do my job, and he knows it. Without a word said, he takes the box and begins to open the door. Something triggers me and I'm hyper-alert as the hallway is slowly revealed. I catch a flash of light on metal and I'm in motion. I shove Walter out of the way in my rush for the hall. The body is down, my knife in its throat before I realize it's Albers, gun in hand. I glance around, looking for another threat, but there is no one else. Not even Walter's newly appointed assistants.

I remove the gun from Albers' hand and twist around to look at Walter. He's in the doorway, his SIG at the ready. I nod to let him know everything is clear. I didn't hear a shot from Albers, but I look Walter over anyway, just to be sure.

"Nice work, bodyguard." He tucks his handgun into the holster and steps over the body, scanning the hall for himself. "Let's go find our entourage."

I wipe my knife on Albers' Italian dress shirt and get to my feet. "We're going to have to retrain some of the staff."

"Hostile takeovers are always a bit messy," he replies blandly, as he retrieves the box with my family's records.

We find the missing staff cowering in a copy room at the end of the hall. "Are there any further questions about who you work for?" Walter asks in a gentle tone of voice.

"No, sir," offers a meek-looking young man, who seems to be the bravest in the bunch.

Walter collects a list of the medical staff from the meek kid and has me mark the names of the doctor and assistants. He adds a few names, which he tells me he got from some of the test subjects. Then he tells Mr. Meek to gather those who aren't already under guard, and to assemble the rest of the medical staff in the auditorium. He whispers something I cannot hear to Meek.

The minions wander off to obey and Walter turns to me. "I assume you want to do this?"

I nod.

A pale-looking Henderson strides down the hall to accost Walter. "I understand Albers is no longer with the organization. You'll be needing a senior aide to assist-"

"Not if you were the last man on earth," Walter replies calmly.

Henderson starts to cringe away, but I extend an arm, indicating for him to accompany us. Walter gives me a faint nod at the inclusion of Henderson in our party. We head back downstairs to the largest of the labs, where six other men and one woman are waiting. Two of them are some of the sadistic security guards. Some look scared, some angry. The woman approaches me haughtily. "Come back for your revenge, Krycek? You're just a lowlife labr-"

I've never seen Walter punch a woman in the face before. I'll bet he's never done it. Unfazed, he steps aside and leans against the wall, as she slumps silently to the ground.

I look at him for a moment, surprised at the surge of affection considering these... unusual circumstances. I decide to take care of the woman last. Henderson stands back and watches. It's clear he doesn't realize why he's here yet.

After what we just went through with those people upstairs, I need to have some questions answered. I glare at Dr. Carmon's second-in-command. "I have some questions for you."

From the corner of my eye, I see Walter tense. But he doesn't move or say anything.

The doctor looks from me to Walter. "I don't answer to you, Krycek."

"You do today," Walter intones.

The man crosses his arms over his chest and raises a brow in inquiry.

"Why..." I trail off trying to get my thoughts in order. "Why didn't you perform your 'tests' on unconscious subjects? Or at least sedate them."

He tries for an imperious air when he replies, "Our charter was to make the nanos an effective control device. If necessary to break people we couldn't control in any other way."

"Bullshit!" My temper is slipping. "Those people were broken before the end of the first test! Don't tell me you deprived them of pain medication for that reason. Because I know you're lying."

"You weren't broken," he offers smugly.

"Excuse me?"

"People like you are what this technology was designed for. People with a strong will, who can't be controlled in any other way."

"Explain to me what breaking me has to do with depriving a man, with nearly every major bone broken, of morphine."

He looks like he's not going to respond, but glances at Walter and changes his mind. "We used to put recovering patients on a morphine drip. One sabotaged the equipment, resulting in an overdose. Another broke the equipment and used it to slash his own neck. Our patients offing themselves is a major problem. We can't even send in a nurse with a shot without sending in two security guards to make certain someone doesn't try to use the needle for personal harm."

I'm trying to put this together in a way that makes sense. "So your answer, to 'why let these people suffer' is 'anything else would have been inconvenient'?"

The man shrugs as if to say, 'isn't it obvious.'

"Why was it important to Dr. Carmon to get me back here?"

He looks like he'd rather die than answer, but whatever he sees in Walter's expression convinces him to keep talking. "It's related to our next target. A man a lot like you."

That doesn't seem likely.

"A man with a very strong will. Mr. Arntzen felt if we hadn't yet managed to break a hired gun like you, we had no chance of controlling our next mark. But in the last test, we'd finally done it. We finally broke you. But the nanos themselves were problematic and we had to stop. When we felt we had fixed the problem, they called you back in, but you never arrived. Your nanos were activated to kill you and we thought you dead."

I'm loath to ask but the question is out before I can stop it. "Why did you think you broke me?"

There's the slight tug of a smile on the man's lips. "Don't you remember trying to suffocate yourself? You changed your mind for some reason, but Dr. Carmon felt if we'd finally driven you to attempting suicide, we were on to something. We never got a chance to test the theory that you'd finally given up fighting. But then you showed up with another of our strong-willed marks." He glances in Walter's direction. "And we realized you'd never given up. Of course, the irony of two of you working together is..." he trails off.

"Is what?" I ask like an automaton.

"Well, since Mr. Skinner was also purported to be a man of strong will, we gauged the nanos readiness to be tested on him by their effect on you."

I don't remember drawing my gun or pulling the trigger, but the man's exploded head feels like an incredible relief. He had to stop talking. I feel the room beginning to react, so quickly take down two more lab personnel with a shot to the head. The woman on the floor grabs my leg, but I dispatch her with a kick. Both of the guards try to rush me. I shoot one of them before he reaches me and have the satisfaction of taking the other out with a knife to the stomach. He's still dying as I shoot the sixth man. That just leaves the woman, who I take care of in the same manner as Dr. Carmon—a sharp twist of the neck—and Henderson. I face Henderson, who is leaning against a wall with a disgusted expression. He thinks he's here to observe. I pull my weapon again. His expression has just registered shock, then he's dead.

I look at the room full of dead bodies. Justice for everyone they tortured.

When I remember he's in the room, I glance at Walter, who's sliding his unused handgun back into his underarm holster. His is expression is so tightly controlled I feel as if his face could shatter. This was over the edge of what he can deal with.

I try to reassure. "It's the only thing we can offer their victims. The only justice."

"That's not why I ordered it," he replies quietly, as he heads for the door.

"Then why," I call after him.

Without turning, without letting me see his face, he answers, "It had to be stopped. Permanently."

It's different for us, but we both agree it had to be done. For me, it was killing my own demons and killing the demons of the four other people who survived these labs. And a little justice for the last man driven to insanity.

Walter leads the way through the labs. "We got what we came for. These labs are finished."

I shake my head. "That's not enough for me." I know I have a role to play—a role I take seriously—but I have to finish this. I stop at one of the labs and wait for Walter to turn back. He eyes me curiously, looking tired.

I step into the lab, knowing he'll follow. I glance around the room, for the first time without fear. "They tested me in this lab. Always this lab." I move to the table in the middle of the room and finger the restraints.

Unbeknownst to Walter, I picked up something during our tour of the munitions lockup. I pull the C-4 charge out of a bag carried by one of the assistants and place it on the table in the middle of the room and calmly state, "We have two minutes to clear this area."

"Let's go then," he says without emotion.

We turn to the door and I find Walter's new assistants gaping at us. "Yes, I just planted a bomb, so I suggest you scurry on up to the auditorium."

The two men blink at Walter, then take off in a run. Walter and I walk at a normal pace, reaching the auditorium in about a minute.

Mr. Meek is standing outside the door. "I got what you requested, sir," he says timidly.

Walter nods.

As we enter the auditorium, the doors close behind us, then I hear the explosion from several floors down. The building absorbs the shock fairly well, the noise and vibration of the floor the only indication of a problem.

Walter approaches the podium and sets down my box at his feet. As usual, I stand behind and to the right of him, slightly down from the podium. The room goes silent. There are over a hundred people here, from bottle washers to PhDs. All of the medical personnel. None of the staff from other divisions. We don't even yet know what other horrors we'll find there.

"The sound you just heard was the lab," Walter begins in a slightly wooden tone. "The medical arm of the Resistance no longer exists. The easiest way to make sure it's gone for good is to kill all of you." There's a group twitch as the audience tries to decide whether or not to break for the door. A few do run, but find the doors locked, thanks to Mr. Meek, I presume.

"It's what your former superiors would have done," Walter continues. "However, I have a different perspective on human life." I can see the words are difficult for him... after what just happened.

The rest of the audience decides to remain, though a few are changing seats in the direction of the windows. Walter doesn't seem to notice. "All of you will leave the building today. Forever. We will not be working with any of you in the future. No harm will come to you as long as you do not ever attempt to use or even discuss the science you learned here. For those of you who are tempted to break these rules, be assured, we will be watching."

I know him well enough to know that he's bluffing again. He won't go after these people. No one would believe what they had to tell anyway. But they don't know that.

"So get the hell out of here and forget you ever saw this place." He gestures to one of the other minions, who taps three times on one of the doors, which are then opened. Some of the room's occupants can't get out quickly enough. A few start to approach the podium, but Walter gives them a resolute shake of the head. They back off, grumbling but quietly.

Walter steps down from the podium to my side, and murmurs, "I'd never have been able to trust a single man who allowed what they did to happen."

"I know." Because I could never trust them either. "Let's get out of here. It's enough for today."

"One more thing, Alex." He summons Mr. Meek and whispers a directive. In a few minutes, we're in the conference room, surrounded by a few of the remaining senior staff members. Walter picks their brains about Mulder and the other recent abductees. A few ideas are offered, but no one has any immediate solutions to offer. Then Walter asks about Jeremiah Smith. One of the men says he believes that Jeremiah is searching for the recent abductees. He suggests we talk to the head astronomer at their facility in the Netherlands.

The minions set up secure video equipment and half an hour later, Walter introduces himself to the Chief of Astronomy, who vaguely murmurs something about the 'reorganization' and calls Walter 'sir' a lot. The astronomer does not know how to find Mulder or Smith, but he agrees to aid the effort in any way he can. Sir. Thank you, sir.

Despite how Walter may look to these people, I know how close to the end of his rope he is. I whisper to one of Walter's assistants to have our car brought around, then murmur to Walter, "Everything is ready for your departure, sir." I let him know by my tone of voice that I'll get more assertive if I have to. We're leaving, like it or not.

Walter turns to Mr. Meek and announces to those assembled that Meek will be speaking for him in his absence. That Meek's orders are to be obeyed as his own. Meek looks even meeker and slightly green. Walter collects the man's cell phone number and tells him to keep his phone on him 24x7.

Then Walter rises wearily from the table, gathering up my box. It's late in the day. Dinner is overdue. Lunch never happened.

When we get to the building exit, our rental car is nowhere to be seen. Walter's other assistant opens the door to a black limousine. Walter looks wearily amused. He gets into the back without any fuss, while I check out the driver and insist on inspecting the car.

When I'm confident the car is okay, I climb into the back and quickly scan for bugs. Everything is clean. Back in the front, I instruct the driver to take us to another hotel, then call ahead to have room service delivered.

I lower the privacy partition. "You okay?"

"Yeah, but I'd be better if you'd get your ass back here."

With much grunting, I wiggle through the partition window. When I'm finally seated, I raise the privacy screen and mutter, "You look worn out." Which is about how I feel.

"I am worn out." He slumps in his seat resting his head on my shoulder.

I wrap my arm around him, "It'll take us half an hour to get to the hotel. Take a nap."

He doesn't sleep, but he fades into a semi-conscious state that's almost the same thing. I hold onto him until we reach the hotel, then walk behind him, making sure he's on his feet, as we head back to the room.

Inside the room, I take Walter's suit coat and encourage him to sit so I can remove his shoes. Then I scan the room. There's a knock on the door. The food has arrived.

I stick a fork in Walter's hand and watch him eat a little. This day has been so fucking hard on him—having to deal with the victims of the experiments, having to kill one, the executions, the assassination attempt, my own neuroses about my family.

After eating a few bites, Walter gazes at me with concern. "Do you want to talk about what happened today?"

"No." What's there to say? Maybe Walter's the one who needs to talk. Everything he's done must be weighing on him more heavily than anything I've done. "Do you?"

Then I realize I can read it all in his face... pain for the test subjects, especially the one who wanted to die. Pain for what I've endured. The loss he feels for his morals. Even the quieter acceptance of what he's had to do.

Still I think to remind him that he had to do it, but he squeezes my hand and everything is said in silence together.

Walt perks up a bit after the meal and sets up his laptop PC. He makes notes. He paces the room. Asks me a few questions. Makes more notes. Stares into space, planning. After an hour or so of this, he says, "I miss Kimberly. Do you think we can hire her?"

I shrug. "I don't see why not. Baker may hate you, but he'll get over it."

"She'd have to travel with us." He makes a few notes. "Get us a condo here... something small and... efficient. We'll hire a couple of security types to help you out and keep an eye on our place and our car when we're not there. I want to go to the Netherlands, but later, after D.C. And we'll have to travel to meet the various operatives around the world. We need to find out what the hell these guys are up to."

I sit on the bed and lean against the headboard, watching him be frenetic. After a while, I get up and undress, then begin pulling at his clothes as he continues to verbalize his to-do list. He doesn't resist as I guide him into the shower, still keeping up the litany of things that need to be done. I start soaping his chest, wondering if he remembers that we're doing this together.

"Alex, I'm counting on you to watch everything I do and catch my mistakes, so I don't fuck up too badly." He pours some shampoo into his hands, but somehow it ends up on my chest.

"I'll be watching, Muscle Man. But I know you're not going to fuck up. Now turn around so I can wash your back."

He complies. "Is that woman Marita of yours any good at administration? Maybe she could run the Geneva office? No, that won't work. We might need her at the U.N. I'll think of somebody else."

"How 'bout Frohike?" I offer blandly as I begin to wash his ass cheeks and upper thighs.

"More than he can handle. Byers is slightly more adept, but I don't think it would be good to split up our nerds. They need each other, I think."

I was just kidding, Walt. The idea of the Lone Gunmen in charge of anything gives me the shivers. I drop down to my knees so I can wash his calves. "Marita has liberal travel privileges, she might be good for occasional inspections. Keep people from getting complacent."

"Good. What we really need is Mulder. He's got the right balance of obsession and annoyingness that this effort needs."

I push at him until he turns, so I can wash the front of his legs. "Are you serious? Running the Geneva office? I don't doubt that Mulder could be useful, but you couldn't get him to stop chasing the aliens long enough to actually run something." Getting to my feet, I maneuver Walter under the shower spray while I begin soaping my own body.

"Not running the office, just coming by in a frenzy every month or so, reminding everyone of his view of the moral imperatives. Hell, they might even like him."

That's hard to imagine. I switch places with Walter so I can rinse off the suds, the water muting the sounds of his manic jabbering. I get us both out of the shower and dry him off, now only half listening to him. I think he's calculating time zones or something.

After brushing his teeth—a blissful few moments of silence—he disappears into the room. When I join him there, he's on the satellite phone talking to Scully. "Okay, we'll return on Sunday, so we can meet next Saturday. ... Yeah, okay, I'll talk to John. ... Oh, yeah. We've accomplished a few things. Met with the rebels. Destroyed the Resistance medical lab. ... Uh huh. Oh, and, I'm the head of the Resistance now. ... I don't know if you'd call it a coup. ... Working on it. Mr. Green, the rebel alien, is our contact. ... Well, yeah, I guess I came out of retirement with a bang."

I grab the phone. "Hello, Doctor Agent. Our fearless leader needs his beauty sleep."

There's a silence. "Are you two really meeting with aliens, or did Walter bump his head?"

"We're really meeting with them. And Walter really is in command of the Resistance now."

"I guess the Bureau has just been holding him back all these years." Scully chuckles faintly.

"We'll tell you everything when we get back."

Walter pipes in, "Tell her to have the Gunmen bring those charts again."

Scully replies, "I heard."

"Okay. I need to tuck Walter into bed now... it's been an impossibly long day."

"See you soon," she says. There's an unexpected tone in her voice. It's... friendly.

"'Night, Scully." I click off and toss the phone on the table, then tug Walter toward the bed. "Time to sleep."

He allows himself to be pulled into bed. Then wraps his body around mine, but I can almost hear the wheels going in his head. Keeping my voice slow and nearly toneless, I engage him in a discussion of his plans until he begins to yawn. "Maybe, ah," yawn, "Scully can review the medical data, um," yawn, "while she's on maternity leave." A few minutes later he's asleep.

I stroke his back, waiting for the fatigue to pull me under, and hope that today doesn't remain painful for him.

**

Geneva, Switzerland
Saturday, 12 August 2000
3:38 A.M.


I wake for no reason. Actually a very important reason. My subconscious knows I've been putting off a conversation with myself.

Shifting on the bed I scoot closer to Alex's warm body. His arm drapes around my waist, though he gives no other sign of waking.

I don't want to think about this... but I must.

I crossed a line here in Switzerland. I became what I despise... a lawless killer of men. An executioner. The world hasn't changed. I have. The end doesn't justify the means any more this week than it did last week. I crossed a line.

My knowledge of history is too great to tell myself the standard lies. The expediency of the moment creates the illusion that the first wrong act is inevitable, necessary, required. The second wrong act is a little easier... less evidence of necessity is required. Soon, it's lifestyle... but you hang on desperately to the myth that you're doing what has to be done. Tyranny is just a series of small steps.

I've jumped over the cliff and still hope to somehow cling to the ledge. Many great men have fallen to the rocks below. How can I hope to do better? Still, if I couldn't hope, I couldn't have done what I've done.

I can only try. Try to make what happened the end, not the beginning. But I don't know if I can succeed. Will this bizarre war allow it? Is this exactly what made Spender? I promise to question myself every day—am I following Spender's footsteps? Am I respecting humanity? The human individual? Or am I cashing people in for my perception of the 'greater good?'

I believe there is no greater good when innocent individuals are sacrificed for the illusion of the greater good. When torturing someone like Alex is acceptable to save the species. It is not. It is never. If a man volunteers his life to benefit others, he may. But I may not choose to take it for him.

If only the lines would stay crisp and neat. Moral here. Immoral there. Black. White. But the grays loom on the horizon... the storm is coming. And I've chosen a leadership role... Hoping against hope that I'll be able to hang on to my humanity.

I think of my mother. She could've kept me in line. Made sure I didn't take the all-too-easy path of the tyrant.

I'm Alex's watchdog. It's my job to keep him from crossing the moral line. Who's watching me?

Then I realize that's a perfect role for Dana. I feel a rush of gratitude for this incredible woman... I'm not alone facing these moral ambiguities.

Taking a few calming deep breaths, I try to still my mind. I don't have to solve it all tonight.

7:02 A.M.

Alex isn't in bed when I wake, so I climb out of bed, wash up, then go in search of him. I find him sitting on the sofa in the living area, going through the files we recovered yesterday. The one in his hand reads, 'Test Subject 5: Nikolai.'

God, when I think about what these people did to him and his family, what we did yesterday seems inadequate. But I'm not going to spend my new career executing everyone in sight.

I sit next to him, resting my hand on his thigh.

Setting the folder down, he turns toward me, wrapping his arm around me and resting his head on my shoulder. "Logically, I've known this for a long time, but... they were raising lab rats. How... what was wrong with them?"

I wish I had a clear answer about how human beings can go so wrong. His parents. Arntzen. The Resistance. Truth is, I don't care to even think about what made the men we killed yesterday, but I wish I knew what to say to Alex.

He's like a child discovering morality for the first time. He knows what they did was wrong. Can't understand how such a thing could happen. I can't really either. All my years in a law enforcement and I still don't really understand what makes people like that.

I stroke his hair lightly. "I don't know, Alex. I'm sorry I don't have any answers for you."

He's missing his brothers and sisters. Allowing himself to feel the loss. His shoulders shake and I feel wetness on my skin. For the first time, he's allowing himself to mourn. "I loved them so much."

I think I'd do or say anything to ease his pain. But nothing will help. He has to feel it. "I know you did, Alex." It's so completely inadequate. "Do you want to tell me about them?"

He's silent for a long time, then haltingly tells me about Yelena and Nikolai. So alike in disposition—helpful, happy, loving. Then Valeriya, sweet and beautiful and sadly, very sick. Dmitri and Viktor, the twins, almost physically attached to each other, mischievous, trouble on four legs. Ivan, stout and stubborn and loved to take naps. Through his tears and with occasional smiles, he tells me about Kostya, quiet, learning to read, missing his parents and following Nikolai around. Kseniya, very stubborn, loved her brothers, loved to play. Last he tells me about Miya, clearly his favorite. Could charm her way into or out of anything... at least as far as her oldest brother was concerned. She was devoted to baby Aleksei, but longed for attention from the twins.

Sharing his loss makes my eyes tear up as well. His life could have been so different. Should have been so different. My beautiful damaged Alex.

Healing a little today, I think.

I can't protect him from the past. No matter how much I want to. But I can be grateful that somehow it brought us together.

Alex clings to me for a long time, then seems to pull himself together, looking a little flustered. Pulling back, he touches the side of my face. "Love you more than I can express. Thanks... for listening."

"Anytime," I whisper, "my love."

We sit silently for a long time, before rising to shower. While we're getting dressed, I hear a pleased grunt from Alex. I turn to see him securing his knife to his belt. He had the same reaction yesterday morning.

After a light breakfast, I call Mr. Green.

"Yes, Mr. Skinner?"

I'm getting used to his flat voice, but it unnerves me that he knows it's me. Could he have only given this number to me? Or is he tracing the satellite phone somehow? "Do you have the information I need about Agent Mulder?"

"We do. At the time your agent was abducted, the colonists were gathering abductees for a new experiment. An experiment to take humans and make them alien. Effectively gestating a human replacement. They look the same, act the same, virtually indistinguishable as an alien."

Christ, the colonists just keep dreaming up new nightmares.

"The abductees are delivered back to earth, usually in bad condition, during the incubation phase. Then they die and the human replacement emerges. We believe they control the replacements like drones, and will use them as operatives to facilitate the colonization. A renegade alien, Jeremiah Smith, is attempting to find and heal these people before the gestation is complete. Presumably, you can find Mr. Mulder the same way Mr. Smith will find him... by following the landings of the colonists."

I don't want to believe any of this, but I know better than to discount it, so I force myself to ask, "These replacements are copies of the abductee? So they'll be living the lives of the abductees? And we won't know they're not the human?"

"That is correct. Unless Mr. Smith can complete the healing process, the human will die to accommodate its replacement. But, even with his great skill, he cannot handle all of the returned abductees. We have seen only one of these replacements. They have a small bump at the base of their neck. They are much stronger than an ordinary human, by an order of 20 times."

Oh, that's just grand. "So how can we kill them?"

"We are not certain as we have yet to find a method to kill our sample, but they are controlled by a metal device in the neck. If you could destroy that device, you may be able to destroy the replacement."

"Yeah, you let me know if you figure that out." I've got a feeling it's going to be important. Is there ever any good news in this war? "What can you tell me about Mr. Smith?"

"A member of the colonists' slave race with a certain softness for humans. The colonists are always trying to find him and return him to one of their ships. In the interim, he appears to simply move from place to place helping the humans he finds. He is no threat to us, and we are not concerned with his activities. But, with his interest in humans, he may be of use to you. If you can keep him from being taken."

Yeah. Keeping him safe seems very important right now. He's probably the only one who can save Mulder, if Mulder's returned, and he might be the only alien who gives a damn about us. No telling what information he might have to share with us. "Are there others like Smith?"

"A question best directed to Mr. Smith."

"Do you know of any other way to heal the returned abductees other than Mr. Smith?"

"We have an antivirus, though there's some doubt as to whether or not it works. If it is viable, it will only prevent conversion to a replicant, it will not heal their other injuries, which may be numerous."

Here's the acid test of our cooperation. "Would you be willing to give us samples of the antivirus?"

"We have prepared much information for you. I am willing to add this and you will receive all of it when we receive the live sample of the xtvac virus."

"Thank you. I am returning to the States to retrieve the sample. Was this information about the replicants given to the Resistance before today?"

"No."

Good. Because if they knew, they should have told me. "Assuming I am not followed, I will contact you as soon as I am ready to exchange the xtvac sample."

"Agreed." The line goes dead.

Not friendly, these guys. But I think we're establishing a weak mutual respect.

I give Alex an update on the call, then phone the astronomer to have him put together a chart of UFO sightings. An hour later, we download his result onto my notebook PC. It looks like the pattern that led us to Arizona has spread to other U.S. sites. If Smith is following the sites, he might still be at the latest one. Northeast of Oklahoma City.


Oklahoma City, OK
Sunday, 13 August 2000
8:58 A.M.


After the connecting flight to Oklahoma City, we spent the night in a hotel. In the morning, we rent a jeep and go hunting Smith. We don't find him, but do find a small group of abductees who can't be coaxed into telling us much. They've been through a lot, so I don't press them too hard. Instead, I get back on the phone to the astronomer. There's been a new sighting near Des Moines.

When we board the flight to Des Moines, some of the abductees are on it. That's a good sign. When the flight lands, Alex rents a car while I follow a pair of abductees, who get picked up by someone in a red station wagon. Alex picks me up and we follow at a discreet distance. This works until we get out of town, then I can tell the driver of the other car is spooked. Paranoid. Can't say I blame him.

We back off and try to follow, but he's still looking nervously in the rearview mirror. When the sun goes down, we don't turn on our lights. After they make some evasive circles, I figure we're close to their hideout. When they finally exit onto a dirt road, we can see some sort of camp in the distance.

Alex parks the car and we approach on foot. I haven't figured out what I'm going to say that will get me to Smith, so I'll just have to wing it.

Suspicious eyes fall on us as we walk into the middle of the camp. Someone takes off in a run toward a large tent behind them. Probably telegraphing where the important players are. And Smith, I hope.

I speak to them calmly, with my hands in full view, announcing that we mean them no harm. That we want to find the healer and aid in their efforts to save the returned abductees.

Alex is staying close to me, but his attention is roaming over all the people in the camp, one at a time. Abruptly, he steps toward an innocuous-looking young man. Maybe in his early 20's, mousy hair. They look at each other for a long time, then Alex quietly offers, "We'd just like to talk to you."

Smith? I remember an older man, but they're shapeshifters like the bounty hunters. I step forward slowly, as the young man transforms into the older man I recall. "Can we talk?"

He looks Alex over very carefully, then nods. We follow him to a small tent near the larger one. There's room for the three of us to sit in it and not much more.

Smith looks at Alex intently. Suddenly, Alex is holding his head and yelling, "No!"

"Back off!" I scream at Smith, having no idea what he's doing.

Smith makes a placating gesture. "I'm sorry. I thought you might be able to communicate that way."

Alex's posture relaxes and he releases his head. But when he looks up, his expression is pained. "I heard you... but it was painful. Don't do that again."

Fuck. Telepathy? If Smith can do this, he may know about Alex and the alien.

Smith nods. "It was not my intention to hurt you. But you are clearly not all human. I have not seen one modified such as you. When were you taken?"

Not all human? Every horror story Mulder ever told me rushes through my mind.

Alex frowns. "I am not an abductee. And what do you mean, I'm 'not all human?'"

Smith cocks his head to the side, looking at both of us curiously. "You clearly have their DNA. And it's quite active. Most unusual. How did you come by this?"

I jump in. "Do you understand me when I say it's not safe for him to answer?"

He nods thoughtfully. "I understand. And I would not jeopardize your mate's safety."

Fuck. This is worse than Gibson Praise. "How do you know that?"

Smith smiles. "I cannot read your thoughts, if that is what concerns you. It is your scent. Many mated pairs of your species give off a distinctive odor."

Well, that's a new twist. I glance at Alex, who looks stunned. He shrugs as if to say he didn't expect this.

I take a deep breath and try not to feel the mountain of fatigue of the past week.

I explain to Smith about Mulder, the Resistance and our desire to stop the colonization. He listens patiently, asks a few questions, and seems surprised when I tell him about the rebels and my new leadership of the Resistance. It's a pleasant experience to speak about protecting the human race with someone who appears to care.

After much consideration, Smith offers, "The best help you can offer your friend, Fox Mulder, is to stop looking for him. Because if you succeed in finding him, you will draw the attention of your government to my location, which will bring the aliens we both fear. If they find me, I am of no use to you or Mr. Mulder."

He's right. The instant we find Mulder the Bureau will learn of it. And Kersh or someone will spread the word. "I understand. How can we protect you, Mr. Smith?"

"Let me continue my work. When I find your friend, I will heal him and he will return to you in his own time. The aliens do not understand what I am doing. If they find out, you will not be able to protect me. All I can do is hide. Until that day, I wish to continue healing your people."

Smith takes us to the large tent, to show us the recovering abductees. One of the faces looks familiar... maybe from one of Mulder's reports. The sensitive way Smith treats them is either a very carefully constructed ruse, or he's genuinely caring for these people.

He tests Alex's ability to tell who has been infected by the alien oil, and who has not. Alex gets it right every time. When Alex is out of earshot, Smith quietly offers, "He can detect what is alien because he is part alien. It will help you in your quest if you learn how to develop it."

Part alien? I push aside the fear. I can scream later. "Could you help him?"

Smith nods. "I can. But be aware that the aliens will be able to sense the same things in him. Perhaps not your rebels, but certainly those who would colonize your world. When you are able, you should send him to me for several weeks and I will try to train him both to develop and conceal his uniqueness."

"Thank you." As Alex reappears, I add, "Mr. Smith, we need your help—in so many ways—but I'm not sure we have anything to offer you in return."

"If you would make an effort to not 'find' any more of my camps, I would consider that adequate."

"Done." I wish I could leave it there, but we need more. "You have knowledge that could help us fight the colonization. Is there any way you could work with us?" I know he's concerned about the Bureau. "If we guard your secrets?"

"I will work with you, but my first concern is helping these abductees." He glances at Alex. "When you send your mate back, I will give him what knowledge I have."

Alex gives me a questioning look, but doesn't say anything.

"Mr. Smith, I promise that we will respect both your time and your priorities."

The meeting has gone well, but I'd been hoping to take him back to DC. Looks like I'll have to invite Mr. Green to my house to get the skeptics off my back.

I shake Smith's hand and offer him my regular cell phone number for messages, should he need to contact us. For the first time since he was abducted, I have some optimism about finding Mulder.

Alex and I walk back to the car. Once we're on the road again, he asks, "When you send your mate back?"

I rest a hand on his thigh. "I wondered if that was going to tweak you."

He raises his hand. "Tweaked." The hand settles on mine. "What did it mean exactly?"

"Smith thinks he can help you develop your ability to sense aliens. He wants me to send you for a few weeks to study with him." I pat his thigh reassuringly. "Of course, that assumes I'm willing to let you out of my sight for that long."

"Good. Because I was starting to feel like a parcel." He twists in his seat, so he's facing me. "You think this is worthwhile?"

"I'm very concerned about something he said—that the aliens will be able to sense you. It may be that enhancing your senses will enable you to better protect yourself."

He shrugs. "Okay." After a moment he adds, "Walter, I'm still human. I don't care what Jeremiah Smith has to say about it."

"Me neither, mate." You're a hell of a lot more human than some other so-called members of the species we've met recently.

When we get to the airport, we've got about ten minutes to get to the gate to catch the last flight back to D.C. The need to be somewhere that feels like home is strong enough that we make a dash for it.

There aren't any two seats next to each other, so Alex starts bribing passengers, much to the dismay of the flight attendant, but we manage to sit together.

On the flight home, I figure out how to get Mr. Green to come to our party.

Crystal City, VA
Monday, 14 August 2000
11:57 A.M.


Between our arrival in D.C. during the wee hours and a whole lot of jet lag, Alex and I sleep until almost noon. When I wake, he's watching me.

"Morning, beautiful."

Alex gives me a soft smile. "Morning, lyubof' maya." He trails kisses along my jaw. "It's good to be in our bed."

"Yeah." I pull him close. "I still can't quite believe you found eight bugs last night—this morning, whatever."

"The Resistance was probably going berserk trying to figure out where you went. And then to have you show up at that meeting..." He sighs. "It was a perfect moment." His lips tease my shoulder. "And now their evil minions are yours to control."

I offer a smile. "Yes, and what shall we do with our minions today?"

"Ignore them. Entirely."

"Good plan, AK." I run my fingers down his chest.

"Let's eat and fuck," Alex continues, "and generally forget that we have a planet to save."

"Well, there are a few things we need to do, but I'm in general agreement with the plan."

Between fucking and a shower, we don't make it downstairs until almost 2:00. The condo is a mess. Guess the Resistance was looking for clues. There's not much food in the house, so we each have a granola bar while we pick up the apartment.

Afterward, I phone my attorney and convince her to stop by tonight. Then I schedule Scully for a couple hours later.

We do some half-hearted grocery shopping—too much groping in the produce aisle—but we manage to acquire some food. We've never gone grocery shopping before. Haven't really done any ordinary errands together. Weird.

So much has changed in the past month and a half. Everything about our work. The love between us is the same. No... it's more comfortable.

And his art and initials are on my body.

When my lawyer arrives, I introduce her to Alex by one of his aliases, then talk her through what I want. She balks at our needs for secrecy but I manage to convince her. She objects again when I request documents giving Alex full power of attorney over my assets and healthcare, but gives in when she realizes I've made up my mind. Through the entire thing, Alex looks at me with so much affection it gives my attorney pause.

I don't know what that's about... maybe the trust I'm showing him? But that's so natural now. After telling me she'll send documents for me to sign and notarize later in the week, she departs, leaving us alone.

Upstairs in the office, I happily turn over to Alex my retirement and mutual account records. This all feels very good to me. It's one thing I won't have to worry about in the coming years.

Scully arrives in time for dinner, so I serve her a plate of spaghetti and we discuss the virus sample. She's been talking to Lavagetto and has some ideas on how to isolate the virus. Our primary concern is that the sample does not reveal the source. It would be especially ideal if it does not reveal that it came from a human host.

She agrees to try. After dinner she takes a blood sample from Alex. I notice little of the usual wariness between the two of them.

We sit in the living room, while Alex and I recount our adventures in Warsaw and Geneva, leaving off the details of the executions. Scully has lots of questions, but seems to avoid asking certain ones, which leads me to believe she knows we left bodies behind.

Some of her questions are things we didn't think of. I grab the notebook PC and make notes for my next Resistance meeting. I give Dana a suitcase filled with CDs, so she can do a quick perusal of it.

She seems a little overwhelmed by the amount of data, but also seems more positive than I've seen her in a long time. When we mention blowing up the lab, she gives Alex a thoughtful look and nods. "I'll bet that felt... freeing."

To my surprise, Alex offers her a half smile. "Yeah, it was."

"I'm glad that's finally over for you, Krycek."

Yeah, Scully's coming along with respect to Alex. She's giving as much as she can. Thanks, Dana.

I recount the details of our phone call with Mr. Green. The data about the replicants horrifies her, but she's easily distracted by the news of Jeremiah Smith.

I tell her about our trip to the Midwest and subsequent conversation with Smith, omitting the information Smith gave us about Alex.

When I'm finished, she gives me a blank look. "You're telling me I need to stop looking for Mulder?"

"Yes, Dana. I'm afraid that's exactly what I'm telling you."

Before Scully can reply, Alex offers, "Scully, Jeremiah Smith knows how to find the abductees. And he knows how to heal them. We might also be able to find Mulder, but the cost might be the loss of Smith, and then we lose Mulder to the replicants. We have to keep the FBI off the trail if we want to get him back as the same man who left."

I guess Alex has come a long way, too. Mulder is not his favorite person, but Alex is arguing for Mulder's life. I reach for his hand and give it a squeeze.

Dana glares at me. "I can't just stop looking."

"Do we have any other leads besides these UFO sightings?"

"No," she replies, "But..." She trails off. "So I'm just supposed to trust Jeremiah Smith?"

"I know it's difficult to trust anyone, but I think that's what we have to do here." I feel like a hypocrite. Would I do nothing if it were Alex who'd been taken? Not easily. But it reassures me to think that Scully would be the one trying to convince me to trust Smith.

She's not happy, but I can tell she understands the argument.

"I'm sorry, Dana. I know this is difficult. But, for the first time, I think we have some real hope."

Scully nods and tries to smile. Whether or not she'll stop looking for Mulder... I don't know.

"Alex may be spending some time with Smith, to exchange information, so he may be able to give you a report of some kind."

"What do I tell Doggett and the Bureau?"

"Well, without our assistance, they're unlikely to do anything useful to find Mulder, wouldn't you agree?"

"True."

I don't know if I could stop looking, if it were Alex instead of Mulder. But she's tough as nails. If she thinks it's best, I know she'll try.

We agree to keep the Smith information between the three of us.

We then discuss the meeting with the team on Saturday. Scully's doubtful about my ability to deal with the skeptics, but I'm still planning on getting Mr. Green to help us out. Although, I don't tell Scully that. If I pull it off, it will be a pleasant surprise.

During our discussion, Alex gets a memory-induced headache. He moves away a bit and makes some notes.

Scully and I continue to talk, though I keep an eye on Alex. When I'm out of new information, she asks, "Will you be staying in D.C. for a while?"

"We're not certain. I need to do a little traveling and I'll be spending some time in Geneva. I just don't know yet."

She tilts her head toward Alex. "And what about Krycek?"

"Alex and I are going to stay very close. For our safety."

He moves back into the conversation, sitting next to me.

Scully looks a little surprised. "Inseparable, huh? That's kind of... sweet." She gives Alex a conspiratorial wink and he rolls his eyes.

"Oh, yeah," I reply, "Sweet... that's us."

Alex glances at me, then clears his throat and looks at Dana. "Um, Scully?"

Dana and I frown in unison at Alex's overly cautious tone. I have no idea what's on his mind.

"Yes?" She replies slowly.

"I just wanted you to know that, um, I've hired someone to keep an eye on you."

"What?!" Scully exclaims.

I blink at Alex. I didn't think he could surprise me any more.

"Now, just hear me out." Alex holds up his hand in a please-be-calm gesture. "It's not about keeping tabs on you, or interfering with your life. It's really to keep an eye out for anyone else keeping an eye out."

Scully blinks a few times. "You have someone watching to see if anyone else is watching?"

"Yes. You now have information more damaging and dangerous than anything you and Mulder ever encountered. We have to know if someone takes an interest in your activities. It should be completely transparent to you. But we'll know if anyone is bugging your place, or following you, or whatever else."

I feel like I should intercede on her behalf, but Alex has already convinced me that it's a good idea.

"And what about my privacy, Krycek?"

"I've given instructions that nothing is to be reported to me, or anyone else, except someone trailing you, bugging you or interfering with your activities."

Scully opens her mouth to object again, then closes it again. She gives Alex an indomitable look. "Krycek, I'm going to consider what you've said and give this some thought. If I decide I don't want this 'service,' you're going to cancel it. Understand?"

"Sure, Scully," Alex replies tonelessly. Everyone at the table knows this 'service' won't be cancelled.

On the way out, Scully smacks Alex on the arm. "You can be a pain in the ass, Krycek." She takes a deep breath, then adds, "Good night."

"'Nite, Scully," Alex replies, clearly a little caught off guard that she touched him.

I escort Dana out to her car, giving her a big hug when we get there. "We'll find Mulder. Don't lose hope, Dana."

She gives me a half smile. "Today is the first hopeful thing I've heard." She takes my hand and squeezes it. "Thanks for everything."

"Thank you, Dana, for everything." For Alex's life. And our freedom.

When I get back to the apartment, I check on Alex, who's making more notes—information we can bargain with. Then I phone Mr. Green to inform him that I'm trying to get the sample by Saturday. I ask him to come to my condo to pick it up. Of course, he agrees. I ask him to be my Show-and-Tell alien. With some hesitations, he agrees to that too. I think he's more bored by the idea than actually resistant to it. God damned aliens.

I give Alex a summary of the call. He abandons his notes and curls up next to me on the sofa. "I guess we'd better have that sample ready by Saturday." His hand strays to my chest and he smiles. "Do you suppose the rebels can 'smell' us, too?"

"Damned if I know." I scoot closer and wrap an arm around his waist. "Not that they'd care if they did." I think I like the idea of my scent being on Alex and vice versa.

"True. They're very apathetic about us as a species. Sort of not worth their bother."

"That's my great hope for the rebels. That we'll send the colonists packing and they'll abandon us, too."

Alex looks far away for a moment. "That would be nice." He taps my leg. "You should give your ex a call and let her know you're back home."

"Yeah. Tomorrow."

**

Crystal City, VA
Wednesday, 16 August 2000
8:02 P.M.


Walter's on the phone with Scully, getting an update on the virus sample and arranging for her to accompany us to New York on Sunday to meet with Marita. As has become my habit of late, my thoughts turn to our time in Geneva. I wander out to the balcony. It's been nice not having to worry about who sees us, who knows about us. I rest my arm on the railing and watch the traffic moving below.

There's been something on my mind for days. I need to talk to Walter about it. Soon.

As if on cue, I hear a sound behind me, then he says, "Wha'cha thinking?"

I look up at the sky. It's still twilight. No stars yet. Reluctantly, I turn back inside and Walter follows. Facing the windows, I murmur, "I was thinking about Lyosha."

Walter wraps his arms around me from behind. "Yeah, I've been thinking about him a lot since Geneva."

"What if... what if he's the key to preventing colonization?"

"The only way I'd consider involving him is with his consent, but I don't want to tell him right now. He doesn't need to know yet. If he knew, he'd wish he didn't, or we would." Walter presses me into his body. "We've got the experimental records. We can have other—more ethical—scientists examine them. Let's start with that and then see where we are."

I close my eyes and relax further in his embrace. "This makes me wish I understood morality better. If what stands between an invasion and freedom is a blood sample from my brother, is it wrong to keep him out of it? Is it wrong for me to never want any of this... this mess to ever touch him?"

"No, it's not wrong." I hear a hesitation in Walter's voice. "Alex, I didn't want to bring this up, but you're already there. At some point, we may have terrible decisions to make regarding Lyosha. If we keep him safe, we could ultimately condemn him to something worse than a few medical procedures. What if he was the only survivor of the invasion? God knows what they'd do to him." He squeezes me tightly. "I don't want to dwell on the worst things that could happen. When we understand better what we're up against, you and I will have to make some decisions. But I'm committed to making them for Lyosha, not for the world at his expense."

I open my eyes to stare out at the darkening sky. I know Walter's committed to keeping Lyosha safe. I'm just not sure keeping him safe includes keeping him uninvolved. "So, we start with what we have. As a next resort, we can try blood samples or something, but we keep him out of it. No labs, no experiments." I squeeze Walter's forearm. "He started life as an experiment, Walt, I can't let it happen to him again."

"I know, Alex." He sighs, then presses his face into my hair. "I wish it were simpler, but the fact is he's a player in this game, whether he knows it or not. I'm sorry I can't offer more. You and I are going to have to work our asses off to find another way to win this war."

"Whatever it takes. Because when we get that first sample from him, people will know he's alive. The colonists and the rebels will find out, and suddenly he'll be the most wanted person on the planet." I turn in Walter's arm, so I can see him. "I've tried so hard to keep him safe, but I'm scared that I can't protect him from this." Even more scared that protecting him might be the wrong thing to do. Even the wrong thing for him.

I can see the sorrow in Walter's eyes. "I have the same fear, Alex. I'm afraid for Lyosha, and I'm afraid for you. Because I know how important it is to you that Lyosha is safe."

"This really sucks." I wrap my arm around his shoulders and bury my face against his neck. "Our parents died way too quickly. They deserve agony for what they did. But if it winds up saving the planet, will the ends have justified the means?"

"No," Walt says with determination. "Their research could save every planet in the universe and what they did to you would still be wrong."

Right and wrong. Just by the numbers, it makes sense. Nine die so millions can live. That sounds right. But I know it's wrong. Maybe because we're not worth saving if we treat our own species like lab equipment.

This is really hard. I don't feel morally equipped to have to make these decisions. But, after a certain point, it's no longer my choice. It's Lyosha's. I just have to manage it until then, try to find another way, then it's up to him. And then I have to let him make that choice.

I hold on to Walter a little tighter and hope we find another way.

**

Thursday, 17 August 2000
1:37 P.M.


"Hey, Walter, how's it going?"

"Same old stuff, John." I adjust the position of my cell phone. "Just running an international organization to defeat the alien colonization."

Alex stifles a laugh and flops onto the couch resting his head on my lap. A moment later, his fingers start fiddling with the buttons on my shirt.

"Good to hear you still have a sense of humor." Doggett sounds plenty amused. This is going to be fun. "So you're holding another one of your alien meetings?"

"Yeah," I reply dryly, as I play with Alex's hair. "But this time I invited an alien."

"Christ, you've really gone off the deep end. Did Mulder do this to you?"

The buttons on my shirt are almost all open. "John, just get your ass to my place on Saturday. And bring your swimsuit, 'cause you may be taking a dive."

"I'll be there." He sounds embarrassed. Probably hates that he has to keep humoring us. "If you produce an alien, I'll..."

"What, John?"

"Kiss you and your fag boyfriend." He'll regret having said that.

"See you Saturday." I make a kiss sound in the phone before hanging up.

Alex scowls at me as his hand slips inside my shirt to caress my chest. "Why did you make a kissy sound into the phone?"

"Because he said he would kiss me and 'my fag boyfriend,' if I produce an alien on Saturday." I eye him warily, waiting for his reaction.

Alex raises an eyebrow. "I knew he was just looking for an opportunity to get his hands on you."

"Oh, yeah. Right." I kiss Alex's forehead. "I'll be happy if he just keeps his hands off of you, pal."

"Okay." He trails his lips over my collarbone. "Let's make him kiss Frohike."

"Good plan." I pull him closer... I can think of better things to do than talk about Doggett and Frohike.

**

Saturday, 19 August 2000
10:09 A.M.


As the Gunmen take their seats, Walter snags another chair from the dining room and sits on it backward, facing the crowd. The same people who were present for the last meeting.

I'm seated in Walter's armchair, watching everyone closely. Frohike and Langley keep glancing at me as if they expect me to sprout another head. Mallory sends the box of Krispy Kremes toward the latest arrivals.

Baker sips his coffee, then says, "You look great, Walt. Discover some new anti-aging regimen?"

"Yeah." He offers a wry smile. "A bunch of micromachines circulating in my blood healing my damaged cells. Works like a charm."

I try not to smile. They do work pretty well. I notice Scully is grinning toward her lap.

A.D. Baker laughs nervously. "You're getting weird, Walter."

"Thanks," he replies blandly. "Since everyone is here, let's get started."

"Sir," Doggett inquires, "where are those little green men you said would be here?"

"He'll be here in a couple of minutes, John." Walter glances at me, a smile in his eyes. I work on stifling a laugh. "But let's talk about that. If I produce that alien for you, are you fully on board with us, Doggett?"

"Sure, Walter, you bring out the aliens I'll help you save the world." Poor Doggett's just digging himself in deeper.

"I won't let you forget you said that." Walter dabs at the corner of his eye, as if he's got something irritating there. "Today, we're going to talk about Mulder and what we've learned about his abduction." He blinks three times in succession. "Excuse me, I've got something in my eye. Just a moment."

Walter rises and exits toward the guest bathroom.

Baker looks annoyed. Probably is... wants to do something real with his Saturday.

I'm liking this much better than last time. I'm not on the spot and I get to watch Doggett eat crow. But I refuse to let him kiss me.

When 'Walter' returns, I can't tell by looking that it isn't him. However, if I didn't have this strange alien ability, I have to admit, I would never know the difference. I'll have to ask him not to do this again; I don't really like it.

'He' straddles his chair again. "To talk about Mulder, we first have to talk about the abductions around the country." If anyone is paying attention, they'd have to notice that the tone of voice is too monotonous for Walter. "The aliens..." He trails off as the real Walter steps into the room and stands behind the thing in the chair.

Baker chokes on his coffee while Doggett twitches—an aborted reach for his weapon, I think. His eyes flick back and forth between the two Walters.

I know which one is my Walter, and I keep my eyes on him.

"Cool, man," offers Langly. "Wh-Which one is the a-alien?"

"So, John," the real Walter says, "I don't want to have a repeat of Arizona. You see two of me, right?"

"Fuck, is this...? Yeah, I see two of you." Doggett sounds disgusted with himself. Or maybe he's disgusted because he has to kiss both of us?

"You sure, now?" Walter asks. The alien-as-Walter looks bored.

"Yes, I'm sure, dammit! What are you pulling on me?"

Walter gestures to 'Walter,' who then morphs into John.

"I see two of you, John, not two of me." Walter's not too smug. I just lean back in my chair and try to contain my mirth. Focusing on the humorous aspects of this situation make it easier to ignore that this is really making me uncomfortable.

John turns to Baker in dismay, "You seeing what I'm seeing, Robert?"

"Jesus F. Christ, Skinner," Baker replies, "I don't know if I'm seeing aliens, but you sure as hell have some good parlor tricks."

Mr. Green morphs into Baker.

Doggett gets to his feet and extends a hand cautiously. 'Baker' shakes his hand. Once his hand is released, Doggett gapes at his fingers as if they've been changed somehow. Then he looks at Scully. "This is an alien?"

While the alien is morphing into Byers, Scully gives Doggett a half smile and turns up her hands as if to say, 'you figure it out.'

Frohike blinks at 'Byers.' "Wow."

"Dude," offers Langly, as the creature morphs into Frohike.

"Damned good looking alien," offers the real Frohike.

When it turns into Langly, Doggett confronts it again. "So what are you?"

"A mvethrain." It morphs into Gjersee.

The real Gjersee mutters, "There's something you don't see every day." Yeah, two granola-munching, spiky-haired, California-bred surfers.

Mr. Green becomes 'Scully.'

Doggett gets in its face. "How do I know you're what they say you are?"

"You don't," it replies with complete disinterest, as it morphs into Mallory.

The real Mallory is looking a bit green in the gills.

When it morphs into me, I scowl at it.

Walter shudders slightly looking back and forth between the two of us. That's about how I felt earlier. But there's one irregularity. "You fucked up on the arm." He has two 'real' ones.

He shrugs and gives me a bland look. "This is more convenient."

Yeah, no shit.

The alien morphs back into the bland-looking man we met in Warsaw.

Walter asks, "Mr. Green, would you show us your true form?"

He seems to disappear. Then I can see him. Definitely not humanoid in shape. Several arm-like things. I suddenly realize I'm remembering more than I'm seeing. I have the oilean's memory of what this species looks like.

I glance at the others. They cannot see anything. Something occurs to me and I step around the creature to flip off the lights. There are a few gasps of astonishment and one, "Holy shit," from Doggett.

The willowy, nearly 8-foot tall creature is somewhat visible in the dim room. Somehow I know that they're only fully visible in complete darkness. They have no skeleton as we think of it. Aside from its multiple appendages, it doesn't have a discernable head, but my 'intuition' tells me their reasoning center is closer to what we would call their feet, though their telepathic center is more in the middle, and at the tips of the appendages.

In an awestruck tone, Langly asks, "Dude, how do you talk?"

The alien morphs back into me. Still with two arms. I frown. Dammit, pick someone else.

For a moment, I think he's not going to answer, then he says, "We communicate by telepathy and by touch."

We already knew that, but I also know that he'd be capable of doing the same thing Jeremiah Smith did to me. Attempt to communicate telepathically. I hope that doesn't occur to it.

Walter takes a step toward Doggett. "Would you like to offer any other explanations for this phenomena? I don't want to talk to you tomorrow and hear that you think it was a hologram or a mirror trick."

"Fuck." Doggett seems to have nothing else to say. "Fuck."

Baker appears nonplussed, staring wide-eyed at the alien and tearing his Styrofoam coffee cup into tiny strips.

Scully has a few questions about Mr. Green's species biology, the first few of which he declines to answer. Then she asks, "Okay, do you need oxygen to survive?"

Showing only moderate impatience, he replies, "No. We do not need the element you call oxygen."

"Are you the same as the aliens we call bounty hunters?"

"I am mvethrain. Those you call bounty hunters are the svethrain, a related but different species."

"Do they have the same healing ability?"

"Yes. If they choose to use it. They usually do not."

Scully frown, looking frustrated. "Is their natural form anything like yours?"

"As I stated before, we are genetically related. Therefore, there are many similarities. Much the same as your species and a chimpanzee."

Also wide-eyed, Mallory has scooted down the sofa, until he's practically clinging to Scully.

John sits down. "Fuck." He glances over to Baker for support. Baker just shakes his head, his mouth pinched into an awkward expression of distaste.

Frohike says, "Do you guys mate? Like males and females..." Leave it to Frohike to go right for the sex.

"We have five gendertypes. Only one of them is capable of reproduction and they need no assistance." Mr. Green-as-me rises to his feet. "Mr. Skinner, you will now produce the sample."

Walter retrieves a vial from his liquor cabinet and hands it to the alien. "As promised. I'll call you about the information exchange."

"Agreed." It rises and moves toward the door, morphing back into the bland man we're more familiar with.

The room is silent as the door clicks shut. As Walter and I agreed earlier, I rise and begin to scan the condo, just to be sure Mr. Green didn't leave any surprises behind.

When I'm finished, I give Walter a nod and he faces the team. "There's a lot less skepticism in this room than there was 20 minutes ago." Walter returns to his chair. "Now, do I have your full support?" He looks directly at Baker, then Doggett.

"You always did, Walter," Baker replies, almost inaudibly.

Doggett just looks at his partner. "Fuck, Scully. Was that really an alien?"

"Can you offer some other explanation, Agent Doggett?"

"Oh, don't give me that shit," he grumbles. "Was it a motherfuckin' alien?"

Scully's mouth twitches. "Yes, John."

"Fine," he says, in a voice that is anything but. "Aliens, dammit. I liked it a lot better when you all were crazy."

Walter's trying not to smile when Gjersee catches his eyes. "Were we in any danger, sir?"

"There's no question it could have killed us, if it wanted to. But we believe we're more or less on the same side of the war."

Mallory swallows hard and attempts to speak. "Dushunt-" He clears his throat. "Doesn't it seem like if there are aliens on the planet, we—the FBI—are sort of, um, inadequate to deal with this problem?"

Walter gives him a gentle smile. "Yeah, Agent Mallory, I feel that way all the time. But I can't afford to let it stop me."

Doggett seems to recover his composure and faces Walter. "How did you come in contact with these creatures? Why are they willing to work with you? And what did you give him?"

"They were previously collaborating with an international organization known as the Resistance. I contacted them through the Resistance. We had a biological sample and some information to barter, so they agreed to meet with us. I just delivered the sample."

Suddenly, Byers titters and rises to his feet. "Shit... aliens. It's about time." He picks up another donut and starts pacing the room by the window.

Frohike adds, "Wish Mulder were here to see this."

Mulder would be too busy trying to beat my brains in to notice an alien.

"Yeah, man," Langly chimes in, "Mulder would've come in his pants." He turns to Scully. "Uh, sorry, you know what I mean."

Gjersee and Mallory huddle around Scully, asking her questions about the alien.

Doggett is watching Walter suspiciously. "How do we know you're you? I mean, how do we know if any of us are who we say we are?"

I roll my eyes, losing patience with the ongoing skepticism.

"Give me your knife, Alex."

I frown at Doggett and pass Walter the knife.

He makes a tiny cut on the back of his hand, right over his thumb. "Red blood. Theirs is green, as I'm sure you remember, John."

My frown turns into a glare as I take the knife back.

Doggett looks like he wants to make a face, but he doesn't. Instead he gets up and kicks the table. "Fuck." He looks a little lost.

Walter rises and puts a hand on his shoulder. "The Scotch is over the fridge, John."

"Good idea." He heads for the kitchen. "Fuck!"

Baker appears almost comatose. His eyes are open, but he's not seeing... lost in thought, I suppose.

Just because I want to, I get to my feet and check Walter's cut. The nanos have already stopped the bleeding. I whisper in his ear, "Are we done proving this yet?"

At just that moment, Doggett comes back into the room with two bottles of Scotch and every shot glass in the house.

Walter smiles at me. "The Scotch should help."

Drunk allies. Fan-fucking-tastic.

Most of the men have a shot, but no one gets drunk. Somehow, the team pulls themselves together and we discuss Mulder. Walter makes a convincing argument for his leading the investigation from the Resistance, since the FBI isn't getting anywhere and, in some cases, is actively hindering it. With Scully's endorsement, there aren't a lot of arguments. Jeremiah Smith's name isn't mentioned.

After lunch, Mallory ends up in the bathroom, puking his guts out, but when he returns, he takes the meeting very seriously. Baker's very uncomfortable, but he doesn't challenge anything he hears anymore.

Several questions asked are items we covered in our last meeting. No one believed, so no one paid attention. I find myself snapping out responses, unable to contain my impatience.

Walt gives me a go-easy-on-them look and reaches for my hand. He takes over answering the questions, patiently repeating the facts.

The Gunmen have to be reeled in about every fifteen minutes from some absurd scheme to publicize the whole thing, including getting Mr. Green to go on 60 Minutes. Much to my relief, they seem to take Walter's directives as orders. There's some grumbling, but they concede defeat.

Mallory only speaks twice the entire afternoon, but he asks good questions.

Baker says little except to ask some tough questions about the Bureau and Kersh. We don't know who Kersh is working for, but some collaborator is a reasonable guess. The answer seems to give Baker a headache.

After dinner, the folks from the FBI agree that Scully has to direct their efforts. Even Doggett concedes that he's out of his league. But the way he twitches and fidgets, I figure he's ready to go shoot all the aliens like he's at the OK Corral. That wouldn't exactly work, John.

I continue to feel on-edge. Scully asks me a question from time to time, but everyone else seems content to leave me alone, until it's time again for alien killing 101. At which point, I take over again, also reviewing the security measures the Bureau boys half paid attention to last time.

"I'm not clear on one thing," Doggett interjects. "Just how dangerous is their blood? I mean, Skinner nearly died from brief exposure in Arizona, but Scully and I were around a huge puddle of it and were relatively unharmed."

A familiar sensation sweeps through my head... the feel of my brain not being my own. "It depends upon how you kill them. They have a low-level of certain toxins circulating in their system all the time, which is why your shoes dissolved." My head starts to pound. I can tell from Walter's concerned expression that he knows exactly what's going on. "But it's not enough to aerate into the poison gas. As a defense mechanism, when they sustain injuries, their brains signal to secrete huge levels of toxin." So much information about alien biology is downloading into my head, it's hard to concentrate. "Biologically, it's a complicated process, but when you hit the sweet spot at the back of the neck, you basically interrupt that cycle and so the kill is effectively 'safe.' Though it's vital to avoid physical contact with their blood because of its corrosive properties."

Even though my head feels like it's going to implode, I focus on keeping my façade in place as I get to my feet. I need to get away from all these people. Now. "Be back in a minute," I mumble as I step around people and head for the stairs.

But Doggett is relentless. "Why didn't you tell us this last time?"

From halfway up the stairs, I call back, "You didn't believe a word I said last time." And, apparently, you didn't ask just the right question.

I desperately want to just lie down and let this headache pass, but I'm discovering that getting it out of my head is the fastest way to solve the problem. In the office I grab some paper and start writing, but I can't get it out quickly enough. I've never gotten so much at once. There's information floating in my head about species we've never encountered before. My writing turns into a long scribble.

Walter appears and begins rubbing my shoulders.

I put my head on the desk, feeling overwhelming frustration. "I can't get it out fast enough."

He goes to the closet, returning with a what looks like an electric razor. "Try this." It's a micro cassette recorder.

So I start dictating the information, while Walt resumes the massage. When I start to feel better, I send him back to his meeting.

The headache passes much faster than usual. Getting this shit out of my head is apparently the only good course of action.

When I rejoin everyone downstairs, they're in the middle of discussing the inter-political issues at the Bureau again. I catch a few curious looks, but ignore them all and sit in my usual chair. I only half listen to the FBI stuff, because I could really care less.

After a near eternity, Walter finally adjourns the meeting. At the door, Baker puts his hand on Walter's forearm. "God, Walter, this can't be real can it?"

"It's real, Robert." He pats the tiny man on the back. "I wish it weren't, but it is."

Baker looks tired and... a little frightened as he steps out the door.

The Gunmen give me a wide berth and head for the door, looking excited. They'll probably be up all night talking about this, and coming up with 6,000 other ideas for us to veto.

Gjersee and Mallory leave together. Mallory still looks shell-shocked. Gjersee offers, "He'll stay at my place tonight. It'll be fine." No Krispy Kreme's in the morning for you, Mallory.

Walter offers to walk Scully to her car, but Doggett says he'll do it. When he gets to the door, he turns to Walter. "Fuck, I don't even know what I saw today. Maybe if I saw a spacesh-"

Scully emasculates him with a glance. "Shut up, John, or I'll kick your ass. You're a believer now. Deal with it."

Walter closes the door behind them and sags against the wall. He gives me a weary look. "Well, at least Doggett didn't try to kiss us."

"I guess you have to be grateful for the little things." I run my hand through my hair. "I'm going to scan again." I know it's paranoid, but we've had a fucking alien in the house.

For the second time, I scan the condo thoroughly. Nothing. Walter's upstairs, I can hear the water running in the bathroom. I want to go up there, but I feel agitated, so I pace around the living room instead.

Something feels wrong. I felt this way the entire time we were in Geneva, but that was the situation. We're home now. The house isn't bugged. Everyone's gone. So, what the fuck is wrong with me? I wonder if it's the surge of memories earlier. But I'm getting used to having my brain hijacked.

I realize I feel threatened by the rebel's presence in our home. It's not even logical. In fact, it feels almost...

I sit heavily on the sofa. It's biological. Whatever part of me is, well, alien, feels that any other species is a threat. We didn't have one alien in the house today... we had two. I think I'm getting depressed.

So, does this mean my instincts are completely fucked up? Will I feel comfortable with a colonist? Fuck, I hope not.

I start pacing again, trying to burn off the excess energy, even though I'm really quite tired.

Walter appears on the stairs, looking concerned. "You okay?"

Standing still, I just look at him for a moment. I shrug. "I guess. Today was... difficult."

"It's hard for you to be around them," he says.

I stare at him in surprise. He probably realized it before I did. "They feel like a threat. I think it's biological." Sometimes it occurs to me how bizarre this all sounds. If someone recorded our conversation today, they would think we were all insane. Especially that stuff I was gibbering upstairs earlier.

"We'll do everything we can to minimize your contact with them." He steps closer. "Come upstairs? I'll rub the parts that got left out before?"

I watch him for a moment, trying to pinpoint what I'm feeling, then cross the room and follow him to our room.

He leads me to the bathroom and hands me my toothbrush, rubbing my back while I use it. After washing up, we settle on the bed. He urges me onto my stomach and gives me a thorough massage from neck to thighs.

Under his strong hands, I feel myself relaxing enough to recognize what I'm feeling. His fingers are working the muscles in my thighs as I ask, "Where do we fit in all this?"

His hands still for a moment, then he works on my hips. "What do you mean?"

"You and me. Our relationship. Where does it fit in this thing we've taken on? It feels like we're trusting so many people." And that may be the big problem. We're trusting all these people—interacting with the rebels and the Resistance. It's too much. "I worry that they have the power to destroy us."

Walter stops the massage and sits next to me, encouraging me to sit up. There's a sad expression on his face. "There's no denying that the risks are gigantic." He rests a hand on my thigh. "I handpicked the team we had here today. I know it's not easy for you to trust, but I trust them all. The Gunmen are... a little unpredictable, but no one will believe anything they have to say anyway." He pinches the bridge of his nose. "The rebels, the Resistance... well, I don't trust them. And, I don't know... maybe it's a mistake to try to cooperate with them, but I'm not sure how else to win this war." His fingers close around my hand. "Are we even talking about the same thing here?"

"I think so." I shrug. "Today... for the first time, this thing felt like it slipped beyond my control. And I'm... scared for us."

He gives me a half smile. "I'm scared, too, Alex. But mostly for you." He squeezes my hand. "I'm not so scared for us. Because that's something I feel very certain about."

I move closer to him. "And I'm mostly scared for you, Walt. Because I need you and I feel like you're taking huge risks." I swallow, trying to maintain my composure.

"I love you, Alex." The way he looks at me, the words are almost redundant. He doesn't speak for a moment, just watches me. "And you have no idea how much I need you." He swallows hard.

For a moment, it feels as if he's speaking to someone else, because I wanted to hear the words so desperately. It's completely backward and illogical, but I want him to need me more than he wants to save the planet.

Walt continues, "The most important thing is for us to figure out when it's right to take the risks and when it's not." He pulls me into his arms. "And to try to make a life for ourselves in the midst of all this." He kisses the top of my head. "I promise I won't forget about us."

"Okay." I wrap my arm around him, holding tightly. "I was afraid of losing us while we're trying to save the planet. This relationship means everything to me and every time I see you, I'm reminded of why I want to do this at all."

**

Let this be the right choice for us.

I'm crushing him in my arms, but he's never minded that. The feel of his firm body reassures me.

I'm not letting you go, Alex. You belong to me. And I've got your initials on my skin.

After a long silence, he asks, "Do you think we could keep the aliens out of the house?"

"Yeah, I was thinking the same thing."

** End Part 4 **

Zoe Takashi & Louise Wu,  Email Us

In Part 5...
A visit with Lyosha.

Next part in series


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