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This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Deny Nothing

Tell all the truth but tell it slant–
Success in circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth’s superb surprise
As lightening to the children eased
With explanation kind
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.
–Emily Dickinson

Notes: Set somewhere around the sixth season; peels off before Biogenesis, because I wrote Deny Nothing so long ago. Most of this story is ten years old. I wouldn’t have written Deny Nothing today, nor this, but Deny Nothing is out there–like the truth, I guess–and azephirin asked for “a month after Deny Nothing.” I found this on my computer, so it seemed like a reasonable thing to do to finish it up. Thanks to flourish for lightning-fast comments.


Fucking Jeffrey Spender was not the worst job Alex ever had.

The boy was not unattractive. He was a competent lay, with a good sense of his place in the world and Alex’s relative indifference to him. And he always had a pack of smokes around to smooth over the postcoital awkwardness between two people who were, in their various and several ways, whoring for one another. That German bastard had taunted him with the implication that Spender was Mulder’s half-brother. Alex would only believe that if he did the DNA tests himself, and he didn’t know how to do DNA tests, so there it was. Spender was gangly where Mulder was lanky. He had nicely textured hair, good to run one’s fingers through.

Still, as sexual access to the X-Files went, it was a major step downwards. He’d considered Diana, but he preferred to be the one who added a sense of mystery to a relationship.

Then, predictably, it went to shit. His only consolation was that he had less idea than anyone else whose side he was really on, so it could hardly be said that he’d been harmed by the sudden slew of vacancies at the top echelons of the Consortium.

In the end, of course, he’d rather see an unmutated humanity firmly in control of the world. If nothing else, the experience with the alien literally inside his head had soured him on other forms of intelligent life. He could handle most people, but the aliens were not quite so weak.

No, there was really nothing to be done about it but to revisit old alliances.

****

Ashley, still his best friend on the inside of the conspiracy, had told him that surveillance on Scully was light of late. She could be lying, but Alex had a specialized jammer that would reflect a natural-sounding mix of night noises, disguising low conversation.

The inside of Scully’s apartment was as dark as the blackness inside a gun barrel. Thin gray light from the hallway dribbled in like a suicide’s hesitation cut and disappeared after he was two steps in. She’d sealed the windows against surveillance and the night inside was carefully divided from that outside. Outside there was light pollution, obscuring the stars with the glow of the city, while in the apartment he had nothing but memorized photographs to keep him from barking his shins and being discovered.

The darkness was so complete that he could feel it seeping into his eyeballs and pooling inside his brain. She needed to shut out the world to sleep, and he wondered if it succeeded. No light meant no shadows lurking in corners, no imaginary assailants in the haze between sleeping and waking.

Moving slowly, almost swimming through the black air, he edged across the room to the hallway, his gun at the ready. His breath was slow and controlled and he listened for any sound that was not of his own making. The infrared scanner he’d used earlier had shown that there was no one but Scully in the apartment, but you never knew what they’d think of next. Robot dogs weren’t entirely out of the question.

The hallway was uncarpeted, and he slowed as he approached the bedroom. Careful to keep the gun from clunking against the door, he brushed the heavy wood with his knuckles and was relieved when it swung inward without a sound. The bedroom was warmer than the rest of the apartment with Scully’s accumulated body heat, and the smell of her was stronger, a combination of perfume and night sweats.

Drifting like fog, he stole towards her bedside and listened to her slow, even breathing and synchronized his own with hers, the better to approach her. Blind, he felt as if they shared the same heartbeat.

He’d planned to use the gun, but at the last minute it seemed ungentlemanly, so, feeling carefully around her nightstand, he put it down in between her glasses and her own gun. In one smooth motion he settled himself on her like a heavy blanket, his lips at her cheek and his hand at her throat.

She came awake with a shudder that could have thrown him off if he hadn’t been prepared and a cry that he suppressed by pressing down on her throat, right where a man’s Adam’s apple would have been, until she choked.

He could feel her jerking against him, terrified and sightless as a fish from an underground cave, uncertain as to what violation would be inflicted on her next.

“We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” he whispered into her ear, feeling his own hot breath against his skin as it bounced off her titanium surface. “People will say we’re in love.”

The skin of her throat was like fine chamois cloth under his fingers. Alex could feel the ridged muscles of her windpipe, pulsing red underneath their thin wrapping of flesh, and he imagined pushing down, sinking into the softness until resistance ceased. Her pulse fluttered against his palm like a bird with a broken wing and, oddly, she seemed to be calming. He supposed that he was not the worst monster who could appear in her bed. He relaxed his grip slightly.

“What do you want?” she asked, and he imagined her eyes staring at him. In the darkness her face would be as impenetrable as her secret heart.

“I was hoping to renew our acquaintance,” he skimmed his hand down to the heavy curve of her breast, “and I might be able to help you leave the shit detail behind and return to hunting things that go bump –” he ground his pelvis into her stomach and paused to enjoy the way she arched into him — “in the night.”

“Do you want to be hunted?” Her voice was sable, wrapping around him as he rose to remove her nightshirt.

“What I want rarely matters,” he said, and was surprised to hear the honest injury in his own voice. And then there was nothing but the hot wet vortex of her mouth. Alex rolled her to the other side of the bed so that she couldn’t reach her gun even if she ended up on top. She jerked against him as if he were shocking her with static electricity and the feel of her teeth slicing at his throat made him see white starbursts in the black bedroom.

She wriggled underneath him, but it was just to get her underwear off, and he licked his way down, following the axis of symmetry of her body even though her disappointed sigh told him that she’d expected some attention to be paid to her breasts. She could hardly be expected to appreciate things like having a symmetrical form. She was slick salt taffy against his tongue, and he pressed his face into her, enjoying the way his cock throbbed against her clean cotton sheets.

Alex enjoyed giving head. It gave him time to free-associate, surrounded by the sight and smell of sex, prolonging the experience while leaving him in control of the sensation. It was a mystery to him why most people spent so little time having sex. Compared to golf, laundry, or spreadsheets, it was much more enjoyable. He’d read that bonobo apes fucked all the time, the way humans said hello. They fucked when they were angry at one another, they fucked to pass the time, and they fucked when they were pleased to see one another. They were the most peaceful simian species in the world. Meanwhile humans were building cities and A-bombs. If it weren’t for the fact that human civilization had produced ‘Hamlet’ Alex would have been positive that the bonobos had the better deal.

Scully didn’t make much noise, but he could hear her hair hiss against the pillows and concluded that she was probably ready. He took a moment to kick his jeans off and pulled away from her clit, sucking as he went so that she grunted with surprise and maybe pain when they separated, and zigzagged back up her body, flicking his tongue against a nipple that he’d neglected before.

“Wait,” she said as his cock nudged against her pubic hair. “There’s condoms in the nightstand.”

“What’s the matter?” He tried to keep the mockery gentle, though he rolled off of her so that she could take care of the details if it was that important to her.

He felt her stretch out to get the drawer of her nightstand, and heard plastic rip as he laid back on the bed. “I don’t expect to die in bed, but there are a lot of diseases that are unpleasant and time-consuming to cure, and female partners of bisexual males are the highest-risk group below IV drug users –”

Oh good, a safe sex lecture. She hadn’t been this picky before, when Mulder was in danger and she needed something to take her mind off of him. “Fine, but you’re putting it –” he stopped as her mouth closed around the tip of his cock. She rolled the condom down the length of his erection with her lips tight against him through the rubber, and he groaned at the sudden hot pressure. She used her fingers to make sure the fit was right and then straddled him, sinking onto him with all the tenacity and single-mindedness he’d grown to expect from her.

In the darkness, it was easier to pay attention to the sounds she made, the soft soughing from her lungs as she rocked against him. He could feel her knuckles against the top of his groin as the muscles of her cunt contracted around him. She hovered over him like a visitation, like a succubus. This is what men must have imagined when they thought that women were witches riding broomsticks, seeking pleasure from fornication with the devil, he thought before the orgasm shook him.

“What do you want?” she asked in a pleasure-thickened voice after she rolled off of him.

“We should talk.” Not here; even with all of his precautions, there were too many ways of surveilling her apartment. He trailed his hand on the floor, trawling for his jeans, and found the card with the address and time written on it. In the darkness, he pressed the thick paper rectangle into her hand and then sat up to get dressed.

****

She was waiting for him at the bar at Zorro, lost in a sea of beautiful men. He wondered if she thought he was mocking her as a fag hag by picking a gay bar. But the music and the chaos made it difficult to be overheard, and the attractions of the scenery were undeniable. Was that man really wearing just a lightbulb over his cock, he wondered idly, and what would happen if he got an erection inside that thing?

He ordered a club soda, but gave the bartender a twenty anyway. Scully was drinking something brown, as dour as she was on first glance but he’d guess it had unexpected bite and persistence.

“What do you want now? Mulder’s safe and sound, shouldn’t you be bringing him flowers or dead mice or something?”

“Honestly –” the word tasted strange in his mouth — “I’m not sure what I’m going to do next. I’m as eager to find out as you are.” He took another sip of his club soda. The flirting was fun, but he did have a mission. “Don’t you hate her, Dana?”

She looked down into her drink and slowly churned it with the tiny red straw, as if she could make something interesting float to the top where she could retrieve it for microscopic examination. To her credit, she did not pretend to be unaware of the subject matter.

He needed some reaction, however. “Don’t you wish she’d just … die?”

A quick flash of blue eyes, like a glimpse of sky through thunderclouds. “Are you offering?”

“You couldn’t afford my services.”

“I thought I had the use of them for free.”

He could almost hear the ‘whuff’ of the conversational ball as it shot by his ear, nearly taking off his head. If he still had two arms, he was sure he’d be in control of events. Scully gestured the bartender over to where they were sitting and asked for a pack of cigarettes, which allowed Alex to consider another approach. Naturally, Scully had the exact change for the cigarettes, and then another crisp dollar for the bartender.

“He’d kill himself if he found out about us.”

“It’s a possibility.” She tapped the pack of cigarettes against her palm and slit the top open with her fingernail, which he thought might have a razorblade hidden inside.

“That gives me a lot of power.” He took the offered cigarette and raised it to his lips.

“So you have to ask yourself,” punctuated by the flick of her lighter and the flame that was cooler than her eyes, “what would I get out of allowing you the power to make such a revelation?”

He wanted to suggest that his prowess had overwhelmed her judgment, but he suspected that she would laugh at him. Or look at him with the blank incredulity she reserved for the inconceivable. It was cold comfort that he knew that many of her inconceivables actually existed. Instead, he took a deep drag, feeling the nicotine move in his blood like a live thing. And he should know.

Scully put the lighter down and looked at him. Her skin was as translucent as the scrim of ice on a winter-frozen pond. Something moved underneath, but all he could see was dark and blurry, and he felt a deep disquiet.

“I’ve figured out why you want so much for me to be sleeping with Mulder,” she said, studying her nails. They were French manicured, unchipped — when did she find the time to have them done?

“Enlighten me, O Agent of my doom.”

“If Mulder’s with a woman, he’s looking for something that you just can’t give him, by nature. It’s not your fault. Do you ever think he might be with Skinner instead? I imagine,” she made the word sound obscene, “that he’d be very good in bed. You know that Mulder has a complicated relationship with discipline.”

Alex wished that he had a hand free to scratch at the annoying itch under his chin, or maybe just to hit her. “I’ve been playing mindfucks since before you got your period, Scully. Give it up.” Her face was white beyond the orange glow of his cigarette, her face unstained as the ash built and blackened.

Scully shook her head, slowly so that he could understand that she was condescending to him. “You and Mulder,” she said. “Even if I told you what you wanted to hear, you would never know. Even if you saw what you wanted to see, you would never truly know. You’re going to end up like him — full of belief and empty of knowledge.”

“Wake me up when the philosophy lecture’s over,” he said as cruelly as he could manage, and was entirely too glad to see her quick blink that might signal some hurt. It was time to get the right conversational boxcar on track, the one filled with dead aliens. “I can provide you with the information you need to get Diana Fowley away from the X Files and away from Mulder.”

“That’s a big promise,” she said carefully and took a long drink. “He still believes in her without reservation.”

“Are you sure?”

She looked into the scratched black surface of the bar as if she could find reassurance in it. “Reasonably so.”

“I’ve known he’s a fool for quite a while.”

She almost smiled, and it was almost directed at him, and then took out a cigarette for herself to cover the weakness. “What’s your price?” she said. He watched her lips curl around the cigarette, imprinting it with her lipstick and her DNA, and remembered what it had been like to have her mouth on his cock.

“I want you to ask him,” his voice was hoarse but he no longer cared what he might be revealing, “when we’ve shown him what Diana is, I want you to ask him to join us.”

“Join us?” she said, tapping the cigarette into an ashtray even though there wasn’t any ash yet; she was more nervous than she wanted to let on.

He leaned forward, bracing his real arm on the bartop. “Don’t play coy, it’s embarrassing. It would be hot, wouldn’t it?”

Sure enough, her color was rising, and the cigarette wasn’t the only thing smoking.

Her voice was higher, faster when she spoke again, and he could sense victory. “Is sex all you ever think about? What about the truth? If you care about Mulder so much, why isn’t his welfare important to you?”

“It’s important to me,” he blew smoke out at the rest of the bar, “but it’s not my priority. Mulder’s not the greatest judge of his own needs — but I think he’s made that evident with Diana, don’t you?”

She stubbed her cigarette out as if it were his penis.

“It’s a small price to pay, Scully. Diana’s dangerous and she’s only going to get more so as time passes.”

Her mouth was a knife slash. “Fine.”

Alex dropped his cigarette butt in the ashtray between them and took the cigarette pack from her unresisting fingers, switching it out with the secure, untraceable cellphone he’d brought for her. “I’ll call you tomorrow.” He had plans to make.

****

As per his instructions, they met for lunch at one of Scully’s usual haunts. Alex had made himself up with a port-wine stain on his cheek and enough facial hair to change his features to unrecognizability, and Scully had simply nodded at him when he’d come up and asked to share her table in the crowded eatery.

“You know that Fowley spent her years abroad carrying out various missions for a certain member of the Consortium,” he said as he passed her a section of the Washington Times.

Scully looked away. “I … wasn’t sure that she was directly connected. It was the smoker, CGB Spender.” She wasn’t asking.

“Well, now that she’s back and he’s one of the few remaining from the old power structure, she’s doing more domestic tasks. I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what her new position is, but I’m sure that we can acquire appropriately damning information if we focus our efforts.”

“She’s out of the office today,” Scully informed him. “She hasn’t filed anything on her current investigation.”

“Speaking of which, how are you–?” She shot him a quelling look. It was true that he didn’t need to know whatever bureaucratic maneuvers she was pulling to get herself the freedom to stalk another agent. “Just making conversation,” he said, not quite defensively. “I’ll start tracking her and see what I find out.”

****

He tracked Diana to Petersen Medical Associates in Vienna, a strange place for her to be midday. He called Scully and suggested that she come join him in the surveillance, and she agreed. Mulder would eventually notice that she was using two phones, but Mulder was capable of ignoring a lot of detail if it didn’t fit into his picture of the world, and Scully betraying him certainly wouldn’t.

She arrived long before Diana reappeared. “What is this place?”

He shrugged. “It’s where Diana Fowley is. That makes it interesting.”

“You could just have told me,” she said, liquid nitrogen. She was wearing a forest green suit, the jacket nearly as long as the skirt, a small triangle of mint-green shell visible just below her neck. Her heels were at least three inches, chunky but still utterly unsuitable for the rooftop observation they were conducting, and yet she wasn’t in the slightest self-conscious.

She crouched for better position, her knee almost touching his. He watched her catalog the windows and entrances. He wondered what his life would have been if he’d found a partner like Scully. Probably there was no such thing as a partner like Scully; there was only Scully, anomalous and irreproducible (which was not the same as barren, except to the extent that it was). Mulder was so closed-off, a refrigerator with a furnace at its heart, that Scully should have been the opposite to balance him, but instead she was even more distant. And yet, he could put his hand out to touch her, if he wanted to. It was odd, he thought, that chasing Mulder required so much time away from him. “Are you pondering what I’m pondering?”

“I think so, Krycek, but do you think that one roll of Saran Wrap would be enough?”

Alex had to put his hand to his mouth to cover his laugh-cough. “It’s a pity you aren’t a man.”

“That’s the first time anyone’s complained about my excessive femininity in personal matters,” she said dryly. “There’s someone coming out–” and her attention dropped like an anvil to the scene before them. She stretched herself to her full four-foot-whatever to get a better look. “It’s not her.”

He relaxed. “Believe me, you’re all woman. It’s playing merry hell with my self-image.” He wondered what fucking him was doing to her self-image, but he didn’t ask.

****

That night, he snuck back into her apartment, impatient to know what Scully had found out.

When he opened the door, she was at her desk, a pool of brightness in a sea of shadow. He came further into the apartment, noting the bag of takeout on the floor by her trashcan. Enough for two people, but Mulder was long gone.

Scully’s face was blued by the light from her computer screen, her hair even more unnaturally colored than usual, as if the light lived in its strands. “The Gunmen say that Diana Fowley is listed in the clinic’s computers as a patient, undergoing fertility treatments. A new technique, in-vitro development, in which immature ova are harvested and then matured in the lab. It doesn’t require the use of fertility drugs and thus protects patients’ health and produces fewer excess zygotes.”

Her voice was low, but gaining in momentum, like a rock rolling down a hill and becoming a landslide to crush him. “If I’d only been taken a few years later they might have used the same procedure on me. No cancer, I might even have remaining ova if they hadn’t been so heavy-handed. And she just walks in …”

Alex scraped a spot of dirt off of his prosthetic hand. He needed her more focused than this. His best tactic was to be gentle, a little detached. “She’s probably not really receiving fertility treatments, Scully.”

The pause had allowed her to regain her hard shell. “True, it’s an excellent cover. If she were going to have a child to torment Mulder with, she would have done it the old-fashioned way.”

He moved over to her and reached out to touch her shoulder, careful to keep the rest of his body as far away as he could. He didn’t want her to lash out because she felt trapped. “If you want, we can just kill her.”

She shook off his hand, but didn’t turn around. He could see her glasses outlined in the screen, ghost vortexes leading into blackness. “No. I don’t want her dead. I want Mulder to know the truth. I want him to look her in the face and know it.”

He smiled behind her head.

****

So, they needed to infiltrate a fertility clinic. God, could his former employers be more cliched? Just someday, he wanted to find a Consortium facility disguised as a 7-11. Or maybe a health club, which would explain all the women going in and out. Hell, they could disguise it as a Donna Karan outlet and do the same thing.

The security was heavy, and far more professional than the average minimum-wage police-academy dropouts that most clinics, even abortion clinics, used. Also, when he tried his laser scanner on them, the windows were rigged to block the beam. There might occasionally be smoke without fire, but in his experience there was never countersurveillance without something to surveil.

Scully had made the appointment, noting that women were usually the ones to take the initiative. She’d scheduled them for the last slot of the day, explaining that they both worked and couldn’t get away earlier. The clinic kept late hours, no doubt in deference to today’s hard-driving career families.

There was still too much light for his taste when they arrived. In his baseball cap and leather jacket, Alex felt exposed to the security cameras that tracked them from the parking lot to the front door. Scully wouldn’t be recognized — she’d dyed her hair black for the day and he’d altered the shape of her nose with putty. She wouldn’t put on a floral dress, though, and he settled for a purple suit that no redhead in her right mind would come near.

There was a metal detector at the entrance to the building. Scully sailed through, pausing at the annoyed bleat. Smiling, a guard approached her with his special wand. Idly, Alex wondered how many security types got off on the thrill of rubbing up against strangers. The man whisked over her outstretched arms, her torso, and finally knelt, setting off a keening when he neared her four-inch heels.

“Those are quite the shoes, ma’am,” he said politely, and waved her on.

“I’m going to set it off,” Alex warned the guard. “I have a prosthetic arm,” he moved the fake hand around so that it would catch their attention. Surveys demonstrated that guards followed proper search procedure with people in wheelchairs less than thirty percent of the time. He was banking on that same solicitous foolishness for all varieties of cripples.

Sure enough, the guard made a perfunctory pass at his body, stopping as soon as he confirmed that Alex had a metallic arm. Meanwhile, Scully had successfully booted up her laptop, as requested.

They headed over to the reception counter. “Rhoda and Andrew Baker?” the smiling woman asked.

Alex nodded, smiling tightly like he wasn’t thrilled to have to be here.

“Dr. Rollins will be with you in a moment. I’ll just show you to our intake room, where you can complete our survey.”

The intake room was filled with copies of “Parents” and other magazines that claimed to sell knowledge while preying on uncertainty. Alex scanned for the cameras that were undoubtedly tracking them. “Everything looks so … professional,” Scully commented.

“Yeah, well, you and I are paying for it, so don’t get too excited.”

She frowned, no doubt taking him a bit too literally. He supposed she had reason to think that this place was built on her blood.

Dr. Rollins turned out to be a short, trim man with brown hair just a little bit too long for his face. He seemed more like a salesman than a doctor, but Alex basically tuned out the pitch. Trying to conceive for eighteen months unassisted, reaching the end of our fertile years, yadda yadda yadda. Thank God Scully was the woman and thus had to pay attention. He smiled nervously — a man who can’t knock up his wife unassisted has to feel some embarrassment about it — and nodded at all the right places.

After over an hour of pointless emotional babbling, the “counseling” session was over and they’d agreed to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a minimal chance at producing a baby with their genes. As low as Dr. Rollins’ statistics were, and he was being optimistic to make the sale, he couldn’t hope to approach the truth with Scully.

Dr. Rollins earned Alex’s gratitude when he decided not to show them out, since they averred that they knew the way. Interior security was less advanced than exterior; to cut costs, one camera simply swept back and forth down the hall. Slipping into an empty office at the end of the hall was easier than starting a fight on Jerry Springer; by the time the camera rolled back to the spot, it would seem as if they’d gone on to the next hallway.

In the darkened office, Scully’s breathing was ragged and disturbing. She’d been stiff throughout the fertility interview, which was not good, but Dr. Rollins had seemed to take it as ordinary humiliation at being a failure as a mother. It was a good thing that they planned to wait a few hours before looking around; it would give Scully time to recover her composure.

He busied himself with extracting the gun from his arm. The ammunition was damned heavy and it took concentration to walk naturally with his loaded arm. Sure, the average human arm weighs twenty pounds, but he’d gotten used to it the other way. ‘There’s nothing that you can do that you shouldn’t be able to do in darkness, or in front of an audience,’ one of his instructors had told him. He was grateful now for the hours spent blindfolded and cursing as he assembled his gun.

He heard plastic crackle and bend as Scully worked on her laptop.

“Did I mention how impressed I am with that laptop?” he commented, to Scully’s disapproving silence. Her geekazoid friends had installed a special chip — behind the screen, no less — that allowed the machine to display a startup screen. However, anyone trying to play Solitaire would have been sadly disappointed, as the machine now had about as much of its own memory as the average sundial. All the space inside was taken up with two devices that could each image multiple hard drives.

He considered offering Scully the first gun, but she hadn’t shown any enthusiasm when he’d suggested it earlier and she’d already had a number of opportunities to tell him no.

Once he had put the second gun together, Alex squirmed around until he found a passable position, and then he napped. His beeper was set to jostle him at two am and he had long ago learned how to suppress adrenalin for the sake of a few hours’ rest.

****

When he woke, Scully was already poised by the door, ready to move. She was going to work on the lab computers, while he was supposed to canvass the doctors’ offices. They parted without further conversation.

Alex’s part went passably well. None of the locks kept him out for more than fifteen seconds, and he was able to copy five hard drives without a hitch. He even had time to check the file directories in the one computer that had been left on, unsecured—because there was always some idiot who assumed that passwords were for other people. While he waited for the contents of the hard drive to transfer, he poked around the file directories.

Then he grabbed a stray Zip disk and stuck it in the drive. Copied hard drives were all well and good once they were cracked, but this was information that could be shared right away.

They met up at the emergency exit. Scully had already attached the spoofer to the door. It looked like something ET cooked up with Eliot’s help—not confidence-inspiring, except that the Gunmen were clearly idiot savants of technology, so Alex supposed he’d have to trust that this thing would work as well.

“I got your file.” He held up a Zip disk.

She turned her head towards him. “I got one with your name on it.”

Here? Though of course the Consortium would have his name somewhere, it wouldn’t make any sense for his records to be here.

After all, this was where the tests were done.

Oh, fuck.

He extended his hand. “I’ll show you yours if you’ll show me mine.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Later.” Just then, the alarm light over the door began to flash. Alex stuffed the disk in his jacket pocket as Scully hit the buttons on the security console with determination. A bleep and a pop later, the electronic lock clicked and she threw the door open, narrowly missing him as he stampeded through.

****

“What did we find out about Diana Fowley?” Scully asked, impressively focused on her original goal.

Langly, the yellow-haired greasy one, looked up at her nervously. “Uh. There’s a series of reports here with her name on them, but they’re chock full of code names.”

“Give me a printout,” Scully suggested, and he scurried to comply. She turned to Alex, and her eyes sparkled like shattered glass. “Code names won’t give specifics, but they’re damning evidence nonetheless.”

Alex nodded. She was probably right: Mulder would get a pure hit of paranoia from this. Code names might even be better, because they meant Fowley could be involved in anything.

“Sit down,” she said, gesturing him to the chair Langly had vacated. “Your files are also in here.”

Warily, Alex sat. The screen was full of little rectangles with their corners turned down, each one a record of some secret horror. Like this, they were blank, inoffensive, regular

Scully put her hand over his on the mouse. “You can do it,” she said. Her eyes were the color of ink immersed in seawater until it ran and faded, a treasure map corroded beyond recognition.

“I can’t tell,” Alex told her. “Do you get off on this, or are you trying to help even me?”

“Maybe both.” He blinked at her. “You deserve to suffer – but they don’t deserve to be the ones to do it.” Her fingers twitched on his and he opened the file.

Her breath hot in his ear kept him anchored as he read. Those motherfuckers had monitored him in the silo, and had periodic blood samples thereafter, acquired while he was sleeping in drugged oblivion. One memo indicated that the genetic changes from exposure to the oilien persisted in his sperm and suggested crossbreeding with both immune and non-immune ova. There was a follow-up stating that fertilization had been successfully carried out. The date was eight months ago.

Alex did not remember getting out of the chair or going into the tiny, dingy bathroom, but all of a sudden his cheek was pressed against the cold, cold rim of the toilet and there was a sour smell rising from the bowl.

Scully’s hands were on him again. He wanted his personal space back; it was a bad habit she’d appropriated from Mulder. Her fingertips were like radar beams, pinging him to see if he was still alive, and he didn’t want the reminder anymore. As if she read his mind, she retreated, only to return mini-eons later with a blanket for his shoulders. It was sweet, but ineffective, as the cold shivers were entirely self-generated.

“I put a glass of water on the floor,” she said, “for when you feel better.”

Men are coming to the door, he told himself. Men with guns. They’re going to kill you if you don’t stop sniveling, Alex. You’re going to die six inches from your own vomit.

He straightened, wiped his mouth with toilet paper, and flushed. The water in the glass was metallic, like cold blood, but he drank it anyway.

Alex couldn’t fold the blanket one-handed, so he left it where it lay.

“There’s a location in these files,” Scully informed him when he went back to the computer. “An old farm out in Faquier County, Virginia.”

“When do we leave?”

“Krycek — these records indicate that there’s at least one living child produced from combining your sperm with that of some other victim.”

He didn’t say what he was thinking, but he was fairly certain that she guessed it anyway. No one was going to hold a hostage against him. Not even himself.

****

“I need authorization, maps of the facility. I’ll take care of the weapons myself,” he told Ashley.

“Is it true that you’re sleeping with her?”

If gossip was the price of information, he supposed he could afford to pay it. “Yeah.”

“But she’s –”

“This is the nineties, Ashley, it’s not PC to tell me who I’m allowed to fuck.”

“You never seemed interested in women outside of the job,” she said and he could tell that she was a bit miffed.

“Look, it’s — complicated. It has to do with Mulder.”

She drew in a breath. “I see. Deep-cover work,” and she sniggered at her own double entendre.

If things kept on like this, Alex was going to have to join some sort of bisexual rights group. It seemed easier for his colleagues to accept that he had no moral principles than that he had no sexual principles. “Something like that,” he said, hoping that she’d just give him the fucking maps.

****

Scully had proceeded as if she was definitely accompanying him, and Alex hadn’t had the energy to tell her no. He needed all his concentration for the task ahead. Also, though he hated to admit it, driving was troublesome; it started to hurt his shoulder after about half an hour.

They drove in darkness. When they arrived at the private road leading to the facility, Scully stopped the car long enough to check for sensors, then continued down the gravel path, jouncing uncomfortably for another half a mile.

“The barn, most likely,” Alex said when they pulled up in front of the main house. He’d seen enough of these facilities to know that space was always preferred.

Scully checked her gun; Alex his. They proceeded to the barn. There was a small side door. It wasn’t locked, because if anyone made it this far then security was already destroyed.

The air inside was heavy with moisture. It smelled like a combination of operating room and chemistry lab. The lights, when Scully flicked them on, were dim and gray, like an overcast sky.

The tanks, a hundred gallons each, were filled with the greenish gel that Alex remembered from his better days. He didn’t know why it was green. It smelled nothing like the blood of the shapeshifters and the grays. For all he knew it was Gatorade. He’d dipped a finger in once and it tasted salty and bitter. Most of the tanks were empty of life, except for spots of dark red on some of the tanks that he thought might be alien mold.

Over in the corner, three active tanks hummed. He followed Scully and tried to figure out what she was doing as she checked dials and hoses. “Is this liquid toxic?” she asked.

He shook his head. “It’ll sting exposed mucous membranes on direct contact, but it’s not as bad as a habanero chile.”

“These fetuses seem to be nearly full-term. They’re sluggish and unresponsive to visual stimuli but I don’t know what that means under the circumstances. The fluid is no longer circulating and wastes are beginning to accumulate. In my judgment, we have no alternative but to disconnect the — the babies and get them to breathe air.” She walked to the side of the room and retrieved a stool, moving stiffly, as if the room had made her old.

Obviously, the Consortium had realized that the facility was compromised and had cleared out anything valuable. The three remaining fetuses were a message, but he couldn’t quite interpret it.

Scully was standing on the stool with her hands on the first tank before he was able to react. “Let them die.”

“You didn’t bring me here for that.”

Alex considered her statement. It rang true. The first infant was lifted from the tank like a doll, motionless, neither kicking nor breathing. Couldn’t be one of his — surely his children would be fighting like hell from the get-go. Green glistening fluid dripped from the tiny body, seemingly more alive than the body itself. Underneath, the child was pallid, with blue fingers and feet.

Scully quickly disconnected the various trailing wires that entangled the baby’s body. It looked as if the umbilical cord had been modified with a white plastic-like cuff around the center. Scully prodded at the cuff for a few moments and the cord separated bloodlessly, leaving the cuff and a length of tissue to coil back into the tank.

The baby began to choke and Scully dismounted as she opened its mouth, spattering green spit on the clean tile floor. She strode to a nearby counter and laid the baby down. It squealed, perhaps from the cold. “I need you to monitor this child while I get the others,” she instructed, and Alex moved to obey her. Its bones were barely cartilege at this stage; all he’d need to do was roll it over the edge of the table and the problem would solve itself. Instead he put his real hand on the baby’s chest — it was a boy — and felt, underneath the clammy skin, a fluttering heartbeat, like the squeal of data down a modem bringing an unwanted message.

The infant began squalling, reminding Alex unpleasantly of the echoes of his own screams in the silo — the sound of a human being alone and trapped in an unfamiliar world. Scully was already working at the next tank. Hesitantly, Alex placed the child against his chest, propping it up with his prosthesis. It was still wet and clammy, with the dying-things smell from the tanks clinging to it, but its sobs slowed as he rocked back and forth. Its eyes were green. Without knowing exactly why, Alex leaned down and sniffed the baby’s forehead, the fontanel of unfused cranial plates. Normally this unfinished vulnerability would allow the infant’s skull to compress during the long, crushing journey through the birth canal. It was unnecessary for this technological marvel in Alex’s arms, and yet nature still ordained the flexibility. His skin was soft, covered with down, and his body heat was drying the remnants of the green gel. Underneath, he smelled like dried spit and apricots. Scully’s hand at his arm surprised Alex, and the child’s eyes, which had shut against the light, snapped open, but he didn’t resume his sobbing. “The others…” she said, and flicked her eyes over the boy’s small form in a way that made Alex’s grip tighten automatically. “They didn’t survive,” she continued. “We arrived at the last possible moment. The recirculation mechanisms of the tanks were shut off at least an hour ago — I assume in anticipation of our arrival.” “You believe this was planned? That they wanted us to have a Hallmark moment with –” The boy let out a wail and Alex stopped, unwilling to add to the child’s agitation. He tried to think. “Does that mean that more … children were removed before we arrived?” “It’s quite likely. Some of the motors on the empty tanks are still warm, and there’s suspended sediment in them that will probably settle if left alone.” So They’d left these three — the weakest, most likely — to show him what they had and taken the rest for later use. Always a backup plan, always wheels within wheels. “We should get out of here.” Scully nodded. She stripped off her jacket and handed it to him. Alex swaddled the baby and Scully made a makeshift sling with the jacket’s arms. With her bullet-proof vest over her T-shirt she looked like a tiny commando. He wanted to get a Scully action figure and give it to the boy to chew on. She led the way out of the building, and he didn’t protest because the boy was doing it for him.

****

Alex had never given much thought to reproduction. He wasn’t configured to be anyone’s father. And anyway he was pretty sure the world was ending, so children seemed largely pointless.

The baby screamed for ten minutes in Scully’s car, screaming and then, exhausted, reduced to mere twitching, his skin so soft that Alex was afraid holding on too tight would tear him open like an onionskin envelope. Bright red, like a danger sign, and so light in Alex’s hands—he’d swear he’d had winter scarves that weighed more.

When the twitching stopped, he considered whether to tell Scully. If he said something, she’d stop the car and attempt a resuscitation. But if they arrived at a hospital with a dead newborn and no mother, there’d be trouble.

“Scully,” he said, and after one glance over she slewed the car into a ditch, bumping to a halt so fast that he almost lost his grip on the baby.

It was pointless, but he let her work on the boy for ten minutes. He stood and watched, getting colder in the night, light spilling out of the car behind him and destroying his night vision.

He wanted a cigarette.

If They’d wanted to send him a message, they could have tried email.

He tried to remember how many other tanks there had been. Of course there could have been multiple experiments running, so the number of tanks had no necessary relationship to the number of Kryceks-in-the-making.

There was no fucking way that the Consortium was using a child to take him out of the game. The kid could have been his clone and Alex wouldn’t have let it matter. Someone had cut off his arm and he hadn’t let it stop him. Why would They think it would be any different with something whose nerves weren’t hooked up to his own?

This isn’t me, he thought, sitting here and mulling over all the wrongs done me. I’m not Mulder.

“It’s time to stop,” he told Scully, who didn’t look up. “Scully,” he said, then: “Dana.”

She made a sound of such rage that he almost took a step back. He watched her hands very carefully, but instead of going for her gun, she pressed both palms to the ground, to either side of the tiny body, before ducking her head further and flipping her jacket over the corpse, wrapping it away from prying eyes.

“Insufficient lung development,” she said without moving. Her voice was stretched out like a cord holding a load too big for it, fibers fraying towards an accident. “And anomalous configurations of the long bones of the arms and legs. I doubt it would have made any difference if we’d been standing in Johns Hopkins.”

Alex nodded, as if she saw or cared. Her face was still curtained off by the fall of her hair. She must be very cold, the chill of the ground sinking into her hands. Her long bones.

“I’ll take care of disposal,” he said.

When she stood, she brought the body up with her, not cradled—she was a forensic pathologist, after all, and babies died along with adults—but careful anyway, as she would be careful with any piece of evidence.

“Krycek—” she began.

He shook his head. Even if he’d had friends, she wouldn’t have been one. This wasn’t her trauma and he would not stand any attempt to appropriate it.

She looked at him, her face a pale oval, sharp little chin and nose, eyes unreadable in the minimal light. “I’ll put the body in the back,” she said.

When she passed him, he could smell the barn on her and see the goosebumps on her arms.

They got into the car.

The drive back was silent. Alex had never been one for casual conversation, but he wished now that he was undercover and trying to ingratiate himself with Scully, so that he could fill the emptiness with small talk, the tiny interactions that led people to trust one another, or at least to delay crucial seconds before realizing that there had been a betrayal.

Scully, he remembered, had lost a child. ‘Lost,’ like it was carelessness and not manipulation. Scully had a child created for her and then swept away, like dust. Except that Scully had cared, had applied to adopt the girl, as if anyone could look at her and see a mother. (Of course, all women were mothers, or were nothing, to the members of the Consortium, just as all men were servants.)

She took the exit to Alexandria. “I’m going to talk to Mulder,” she told him. “There’s still Diana.”

Right, his original excuse for seeking Scully’s attention. “I’ll take the car. I’ll be back later tonight.”

She opened her mouth, but shut it again, which was good. He wasn’t sure he could have refrained from violence if she’d empathized. Not that he thought she would have been lying. What Mulder never accepted, and he’d fed Scully the same Kool-Aid, was the delusion that truth was valuable in itself.

When she pulled up in front of Mulder’s place, she left the keys in the ignition for him.

****

He wanted to listen in on their conversation, but he didn’t have that access any more, and he also had a task to complete.

There was an incinerator not far from Mulder’s apartment. He’d used it before to dispose of certain evidence, though never human waste. He’d had an arrangement with the night watchman, and he hoped the same man was still on duty. He didn’t much feel like killing anyone tonight.

The body seemed heavier now, as dead bodies always did. He hadn’t thought it would be the same with a baby. Scully’s jacket was soaked through with fluids, ruined. His own clothes would need intensive cleaning, if not replacement.

Fortunately for everyone, Phil Iulio was exactly where Alex hoped he’d be. It had been a long time since Alex had made a payment, but a couple of bills went a long way towards forgiveness, and Alex watched to make sure Iulio turned the incinerator on.

There was a little window, double-insulated, where the man on duty could watch the flames rise. They were mostly orange, no different than they’d been any other time he’d used the place. Everything burns, in the end, he thought. Good, evil, indifferent.

This was not his legacy. He had too much left to do to have a legacy, and anyway, when it did arrive, it was going to involve many, many members of the Consortium dying slowly.

****

He called Scully from the street outside Mulder’s apartment. “Time to pay up,” he told her. “How’s he taking news of Diana’s true agenda, by the way?”

“I’ll be right down,” she said, as if he couldn’t get through the doors on his own. She hung up before he could hear more than the beginning of Mulder’s question.

He waited in the foyer, looking through the glass door to the hallway beyond. He considered breaking into Mulder’s mailbox and going through the mail, but that would just be tacky, and unlikely to produce more than a couple of skanky porn magazines.

The ding of the elevator took him back a few years, when he’d been Mulder’s partner, allowed in to his world if only because Mulder hadn’t had the energy to push him out. Scully stepped into the hallway, pale and gleaming like a blade. She looked halfway between exhausted and furious, and Alex wished even more that he’d heard their conversation.

He pushed the door open. The air was warmer inside, even with Scully radiating chill.

“You don’t have to go through with this,” she said as he walked towards her. As if she were being caring by offering him an out. It was just another mind-fuck — please, Brer Alex, don’t throw me in the briar patch. “I’ll ask if you want,” she continued with the same seriousness. “Please, Krycek, don’t make me do this.” It sounded forced, and therefore completely natural. “Don’t hurt us this way.”

“What way would you like to be hurt?”

She was as beautiful as a carving on the wall of an ancient temple, something stone that had once lived.

“I’ll give you what you asked for,” she said finally. “I can’t make it into something more than that, no matter what you might want.”

“I never expected more,” he assured her, and she looked at him like she thought he was lying, which he supposed he deserved.

They went up in silence.

Scully went through the door first, already talking, but Alex didn’t notice what she said, because he was too busy getting slammed up against the wall and having a gun shoved under his chin.

“Hello, Mulder,” he said, the words unmangled despite the pain in his jaw. “You’re looking well.” This was true: betrayal rarely looked better than on him, sad eyes and the slightly blown pupil that gave him such intensity, that trembling lower lip promising to show every hurt inflicted on it.

“He was the one who told me that Diana’s loyalties were with the conspiracy,” Scully said.

Mulder made a noise that Alex couldn’t classify, and twisted the gun so that it went deeper into Alex’s flesh. “Why would you trust him, Scully?”

Alex couldn’t see anything but Mulder, looming in his face like the moon, but he could imagine her, looking out the window, looking at the couch, looking anywhere but at Mulder, the one person she never wanted out of her sight. “Because we wanted the same thing.”

It was a confession in full, and yet he doubted Mulder could hear it. For all his insight, he was blind to anyone who got close enough. And Scully was closer than most.

Mulder sneered, still hovering centimeters from Alex’s face. His breath was hot and wet, and he smelled like Chinese takeout and beer, which—and Alex knew how pathetic this was—was nonetheless a turn-on. “Yeah? What do you get out of burning Diana?”

Alex reached up and pushed at Mulder’s gun hand, not hard, just solidly enough to make the point that Mulder wasn’t going to shoot him, so the theatrics were unnecessary. Alex was already going to bruise. Mulder relented, shoving him against the wall but releasing him and stepping back enough that Alex could see Scully, curled up on the couch, watching them both as if waiting to decide on which side she needed to intervene.

She wasn’t going to shoot Mulder for him this time around, which was amusing given that when she had done so she’d hated Alex’s guts, and Alex was fairly sure that she at least found him of interest now.

Mulder was still waiting for a response. Alex wondered when he’d started noticing Scully’s reactions as much as Mulder’s, then put the thought away for later consideration.

“Maybe I’m just interested in your well-being,” he suggested.

Mulder’s lip curled further. “Maybe you think there’s an advantage to you if you eliminate Diana’s usefulness.”

Alex had to laugh at that. “Your paranoia is matched only by your self-importance. You think she’s not useful if you don’t trust her? Your trust is unimportant when she has charge of the X-Files. No, Mulder, opening your eyes was a favor for your partner.”

Mulder froze, finally getting it. “Scully?” he asked, half-turning. There were a thousand questions encoded in her name.

Scully’s eyes were locked on Mulder. She looked, Alex thought, like she wanted to hurt him and to take him in her arms and keep him safe from the rest of the world. The desires were contradictory, but not incompatible. Much like the two of them.

But if she didn’t talk, Alex would never get to hear her say it, and he very much wanted to see Mulder’s face when he heard.

“Scully, you want to enlighten Mulder about the rules of our engagement?” He kept his tone light.

She closed her eyes, as if drawing on her inner reserves of strength. It was a lie of course; there were no reserves, because she was like this all the way through, one solid block of determination and anger. “We worked together before to find you, when you were kidnapped by the Koreans. This time, we agreed that, in return for his assistance revealing Diana’s culpability, I would—”

She stopped, and Mulder turned so that he was looking only at her. Alex could have taken him out with one blow to the neck, could have grabbed his gun and shot him in the head with it. Mulder’s eyes were creased, anticipating pain; he was breathing loud enough that Alex could have mistaken him for postcoital under other circumstances.

Alex wanted to snap at her to get on with it, but that would have been a huge mistake. This was manipulation, no matter how sincere it was, and he was going to end up out in the cold again when it was over, so he didn’t have to appreciate it.

She took a deep breath and dropped her eyes. “We slept together,” she said, monotone, staring at her hands. “While you were missing. And we agreed that in return for his help, I would ask you to join us.”

Mulder actually staggered. “I don’t—” he said, though he obviously did. “Scully?” His tone was bewildered, edged with fury. He never was any good with unadulterated anger. It would always mix with lust or sorrow or something else.

She nodded.

Mulder shook his head and put his hands to his head, except that he was still holding his gun. He looked at it like it was a magician’s rabbit that had suddenly materialized in his hand.

Why?” Mulder demanded, as if he could get an answer that might satisfy. Before Scully answered, he kicked the coffee table in front of her, piled high with files; it jumped a foot and dumped half of them down in a shower of printouts and photos.

Alex felt his heart jump. This, this was what he’d wanted, he realized: to make Mulder notice him again. Pretty pathetic, and yet also as successful as any endeavor he’d undertaken in the last years.

Scully didn’t move, even though her face was within three feet of his fists. Her lips were slightly parted, as if she’d been frozen in the act of making excuses. Except that she never would.

“You know why,” she said, and Mulder flinched.

“Just tell me—” He stopped, and finally holstered his weapon, which was a relief. Mulder’s limited self-control and unlimited capacity for self-harm made him a bad candidate for a weapons permit under optimum circumstances, which these weren’t. “Did it mean anything?”

Scully paused before answering. Her pale eyes flashed up at Alex before returning to Mulder, which was a kind of answer in itself. “Yes,” she said. Then, “No.”

They both stared at her, waiting. “He’s not going to harm you, not on purpose,” she said at last. “But what he thinks of as betrayal and what you do are very different.”

“You could be talking about yourself,” Mulder said, about five seconds before Alex would have.

Scully’s doll-smooth face didn’t twitch, but she blinked and her eyes were stars, too distant to feel their heat. “Did I betray you, Mulder?”

Mulder’s expression went mule-stubborn, jaw set. Archimedes himself couldn’t have wielded a lever long enough to move him. His inability to respond was as much an admission as either of them needed. No wonder no one in the Conspiracy understood what went on between Mulder and Scully; all their best work was done in silence.

The sad thing was that they’d be good together, the three of them. God knew Mulder was needy enough for two, and he already knew that Scully was molten. Alex would have to work to hold his own. But it wasn’t going to happen, at least not tonight. Mulder needed time to forgive Scully and to assimilate the changed shape of his world, and Alex—well, he had a strange hollow feeling himself, one he’d rather get rid of before attempting Mulder again.

If he couldn’t have what he’d asked for, at least he could ensure that they wouldn’t be together without thinking of him. That would have to do, and it would leave room for him to return.

Neither of them stopped him when he turned to go. Neither of them said anything.

Silence wasn’t truth, but it wasn’t a lie either. It was just a pause between the past and the future.

Out on the street, night-damp, he looked up and saw the golden light of Mulder’s window, unmarred by any X. They were still there, staring at each other, more alone with each other than Alex was.

That was how he’d get them, in the end. They’d need him to bend where neither one of them could do the same. He’d given an arm to the cause; he was mutable, reconfigurable, adaptable. He’d do the dirty work.

They’d never thank him, but he’d have his reward all the same.

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