Alex Krycek opened his eyes and quickly shut them. The headache was blinding and the light too bright. Reaching up with his hand to feel the bandages binding his cranium brought another, milder jolt of pain. Groaning, he slowly lowered his arm.
"He's coming around," a voice said in a dispassionate, clinical tone.
A doctor, Alex decided, centered somewhat by that small addition to the dearth of information at his disposal regarding his current circumstances.
"We're not ready for him," a second person, a woman, stated with a note of emphatic urgency.
"Then get ready."
Alex had barely registered the command uttered by the male doctor when he felt his arm being steadied, undoubtedly for an injection. An abrupt movement freed it momentarily and the control he'd exerted heartened him. However, the instinctive opening of his eyes brought the pain back, allowing his arm to be easily recaptured and some drug or another to be injected into his system.
And whatever it was, as the saying went, hit him like a ton of bricks. With all of his questions unanswered and only pain for company, Alex slipped into the little oblivion of unconsciousness.
The room - the same room that he'd awakened in before, Alex thought - was illuminated with the dimness of dusk and that provided by a small bedside lamp. Peering out through barely slitted eyes, he was relieved to note that the mammoth headache had faded to a dull throb. Not wanting to push his luck by moving too much or too quickly, he used only his eyes to take in his surroundings, darting them quickly.
It was a hospital room desperately trying to pass for a normal bedroom. The institutional look was subtle, yet unmistakable. Alex had the sense of a small, private medical facility, but he couldn't say why exactly. He did, however, acknowledge that that assumption filled him with a deep sense of foreboding.
It was only when he heard the door open that Alex realized he couldn't see it from the bed. Feeling vulnerable and all too exposed, he closed his eyes and feigned sleep, while straining all of his other senses to determine who might have entered the room and what threat they posed.
The tread was light and punctuated by the tapping of heels. A woman, he decided, but he somehow doubted that she was the one who hadn't been ready for him earlier. It took him a moment to unravel the basis for the unconscious assessment. The "not ready" woman had smelled sophisticated, older, Chanel No. 5-like. The person currently in the room wore a scent also, but it was lighter, more the residue of soap or shampoo than perfume. Risking a peek, he saw that her back was turned mostly toward him and that she was arranging white roses in a dark colored vase on the windowsill.
Flowers? The concept of flowers in his hospital room was too "normal" for Alex to process. Normalcy had no place in his life. No one and nothing normal existed as far out on the edge, as deeply in the shadows, as close to Armageddon as he dwelled. Over the years, he'd adapted so completely to the lack that this gesture, this symbol, this vase of carefully arranged flowers activated his paranoia as much as a loaded 9 mm pressed against the back of his neck execution-style would have
Shaking himself, Alex re-focused his attention on the woman herself. About 5' 5" tall. Maybe 120 lbs. Medium bone structure. She had dark hair, but it was difficult to tell the exact shade in this light. And she was humming. The tune seemed familiar, but Alex couldn't place it. Something from a Broadway musical, he thought. It had a Gilbert and Sullivan sort of cadence to it.
Curious and determined to take what little advantage he'd been given, Alex swallowed with difficulty and rasped, "Who're you?"
With a startled squeak, she spun around. "You're awake."
"Evidently," he muttered, trying to keep his expression neutral, shaking his head in agreement with his previous suppositions. This couldn't be the "not ready" woman - she'd sounded like she was in the game up to her eyeballs. The cute young thing staring wide-eyed at him looked ... innocent, at least with respect to aliens and X-files and assassinations.
Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!
Gilbert and Sullivan to The Wizard of Oz? Alex had always been a free-associative, think on his feet sort of guy, but musicals and classic movies weren't his usual topics.
With some effort, he recaptured his train of thought. Innocence. Right. Been a long time, Alex. Do you have the first clue about how to relate to an innocent anymore?
"I'll get Dr. Adams."
Her offer snapped his attention back to the matter at hand. "Wait!" After softening the intensity of his expression when she tentatively met his eyes, a slight smile formed as Alex mimicked what he'd heard earlier - that day, some other day, he couldn't know for sure. "I'm not ready for any doctors."
"What's your name?" Watching her glance shift between him and the door, he offered, "Mine's Alex."
"Elizabeth." A self-deprecating laugh segued into a less formal, "Liz."
Amiable seemed as though it should work. "Hi, Liz. I'm sure you hear this all the time, but I have to ask. Where in the hell am I?"
"Dr. Adams' clinic." Her pride was evident when she added, "The best trauma center in New England."
New England? Ok. Fine. That told him nothing. The old men had had operations everywhere.
When he considered the word trauma, a memory of burning pain flew into his mind, his gun clattering to the floor of a parking garage in super slow motion.
What parking garage? Where? Who fired the shot? What happened next? Too many questions, Alex.
"You were shot."
That surprised him. Alex wasn't used to people offering information without prodding, payment or manipulation, whether elaborately elegant or deliberately brutal.
"Three times," she added into the silence.
Three shots. That was right, he realized. He'd looked into AD Skinner's eyes just before the last one. After that, there'd been nothing. Not even pain.
Hand shaking violently, Alex brought it to his head once again. If Skinner had shot him in the head, he'd have made it count. Walter was too damn up tight to potentially throw his career away over anything less than a kill shot.
A small hand closed over his. Liz's eyes seemed huge, looking down at him in sympathy. "It's ok, Alex. They patched you up. Dr. Adams thinks you'll recover 90-95% of your motor function and at least 50% of your memories."
Shaken, he growled, "You a nurse, Liz?"
She looked away, whispering, "I volunteer three or four days a week." Rushing ahead, she admitted, "I read your chart. I ... I'm sorry, Alex. I've never done that before. It was ... well, it was just that ... that ..."
Uncharacteristically, Krycek found himself interested in these extraneous facts. "Go on," he urged more gently than he'd thought he could. Liz seemed seriously spooked.
"Dr. Adams doesn't generally allow volunteers see coma patients. And ... um ... it seemed such a waste. You lying there so still, but - oh, God, how corny does this sound - incredibly alive somehow." Taking a deep breath, she concluded in repetition. "I'm sorry, Alex."
Aware that her hand was still on his, Alex shifted his fingers slightly so that hers slipped between them. Mildly surprised that she didn't pull away, he covered with a casual inquiry. "So who patched me up initially?"
Alex sighed. "Look. I'm glad you read my chart, because you can answer my questions - ok? I've got a bitch of a headache right now - so it's probably a good thing I don't have to do it myself - right?"
Her response to both of his rhetorical questions was a grateful smile. Reaching behind her with her free hand, she pulled one of the visitor's chairs forward so that she could sit at his bedside. "You were stabilized in the emergency room of an unspecified DC hospital before being transported here by private jet. You have some impressive connections, Alex. We were completely full when the word came that we needed to make room for you."
"How ...?" he began, but the question got stuck in his throat. He tried to convince himself that it her big eyes that caused him to falter, but he knew better. More than passingly familiar with the rock/hard place dilemma of asking questions to which he might not want to know the answer, he managed to mutter, "How long ago was that?"
"I should get Dr. Adams," she hedged.
Alex's heart sank and he bit the inside of his lower lip to keep himself on track. "Please, Liz," he prompted after expending some effort to unclench his jaw, intense green eyes boring into hers. "I'd rather get the bad news from a pretty woman. Eases the pain, you know."
"Is that a fact?" she countered with a smile.
Picking up on a vibe and upping the ante, Alex smirked. "You want me to beg or something, Liz?"
That got him a furious blush and a concerted effort to take her hand away. Stubbornly, he resisted, waiting. Sensing that she had little choice, she relented. "Almost seven months ago."
Alex was in major shit. Too much time had passed. Who knew how far events had advanced? Too many alliances could have been formed and dissolved and shuffled and formed anew in that timeframe. How many game pieces had been moved irrevocably or removed without prejudice? That much change could get a man on the outside looking in killed. But, then again, maybe it already had. In Alex's estimation, it was past time to find out.
"You know what, Liz? I think maybe you're right about Dr. Adams."
With a sigh of relief, a final smile and squeeze of his hand, she left the room without looking back. The flowers caught his eye as Alex contemplated the woman who had brought them and the doctor he'd sent her to fetch.
"What do you remember, Alex?"
Krycek regarded the sixty-ish, urbane, well-dressed doctor. With a shrug, he name-dropped. "Assistant Director Skinner shot me."
"How did that happen?"
Opting for incredulity, Alex offered, "He took aim and fired?"
The doctor merely raised an eyebrow and waited, revealing himself to be more well informed on certain sensitive topics than your average trauma physician. Warily, Alex suggested, "Maybe if you restated your question."
"It was my understanding that you had a tight grip on Mr. Skinner's balls." Smiling amiably, Dr. Adams added, "Figuratively speaking."
"Colorfully, too," Alex muttered, considering what reply might be both safe and appropriate. Not knowing where Adams stood left him at a significant disadvantage. "I ... ah ... didn't have my Palm Pilot with me."
The doctor made a notation in the small notebook he carried. "I see. Why not?"
He had to think about that for a few minutes; his memory was spotty, unreliable. "I wanted them to trust me, but I had no intention of giving up control of the nanobots." With a sigh, he expounded, "I couldn't give over what I didn't have."
The doctor said that in a way that translated into something like, "I don't buy it for a minute, Krycek." Alex wondered why but offered nothing further and sought no clarification, silently awaiting the doctor's next volley.
"I want you to watch some videotape, Alex. And explain it, if you can. Will you do that?"
Emoting supreme disinterest, Krycek shrugged. "Show your movie and we'll go from there, doc."
Dr. Adams moved to a touch control panel that Alex hadn't noticed and lowered the blinds and a screen. Raising his voice, he said, "Play it."
Without more, the sound of breaking glass filled the room. Alex watched Mulder slide from the passenger side to the driver's seat, exit the car and move around the back toward him. The words they'd exchanged flowed over him and the sound of his own voice trying to explain, making one final effort to reach one so determined to make himself unreachable, was muted and somehow off.
Frowning, Alex faced the doctor.
"What were you doing, Alex?"
The flat monotone didn't faze Dr. Adams. "How so?"
Gesturing in the direction of the frozen Mulder on the screen, he muttered, "The back up plan was to kill him. It was always the preferred option to use him. I was trying to-"
"Yes, Alex, by all means. Tell me what you were trying to do."
Reacting to the anger that infused the doctor's interruption, Alex spat, "What the fuck's your problem?"
"My problem, Mr. Krycek, is the complete breakdown in your technique."
"Look at you, for Christ's sake!" When Alex angrily glared at him, the doctor growled, "I said look."
With a defiant snarl, Alex turned back toward the screen and froze. "Fuck."
"That about sums it up," Dr. Adams agreed.
He'd tracked Mulder's movement, ending up with his back to the stairwell and elevators. Alex had survived his share of stupid, amateur, lame-brained maneuvers, but his luck had had had to run out sometime. "What's your point?" Alex murmured quietly, eyes riveted to the image as though he might find some rationale for his failure there.
"Did you want to die, Alex?" The doctor's voice hammered at Krycek's detatchment. "Is that why you confronted Mulder in that parking garage, not giving a damn how much exposure there was? How much risk?"
Alex said nothing, but he couldn't control his rapid, shallow breathing.
Relentlessly, the doctor continued, "Is that why you approached them yourself, rather than using the resources at your disposal? Mulder's office, Alex? His hospital room? A dramatic 'rescue' of he and Dr. Scully right outside her apartment? Having a soda of all things in AD Skinner's office?" More gently, Dr. Adams noted, "My colleague, Dr. Gray will explore your actions with you in depth, but you should take the opportunity to consider them yourself first. What were you thinking, Alex? Why did you do those things? What did you think you had a prayer of accomplishing?"
"All I have to say is that I can't remember."
Dr. Adams chuckled. "And you'd get away with it for a while. But, I have to tell you, she's relentless." Seeing Krycek's puzzled frown, he appended, "Dr. Gray, I mean."
"Ah," Alex muttered. "She's the one who wasn't ready for me."
The doctor smiled at him as though he was an apt pupil. "You were coming around, then. And quite alert. That's good, Alex. That's a very good sign." Staring at his patient, Dr. Adams prodded, "You might also think about the real reason you didn't have your Palm Pilot."
"I told you, I --."
"I heard you the first time. Let's return to our video, shall we?"
Unable to identify a viable choice or fathom a good reason to decline, Alex nodded.
At Dr. Adams' command, the drama unfolded. Alex watched avidly, mouth dropping open in the aftermath of Skinner's final shot to accommodate harsh pants, harbingers, he imagined, of impending shock.
Between the eyes? Fucking bald bastard shot me between the eyes!
Yet here he was. Someone had done ... something and that someone no doubt thought that he or she owned Alex Krycek.
What's the price gonna be? Hell, what's your life worth, Alex? Even to you. Not a whole helluva lot.
Knowing he had to play this out, Krycek managed, "How ...?"
"We'll get to that." Smiling sagely, but with amusement in his eyes, Dr. Adams said, "All in good time," and ordered, "Rewind the last bit and show it again. In slow motion this time."
Alex grunted at Adams' use of the words he himself had said to Skinner a year ago. Or was it two years? In either event, Alex had no desire to review Skinner's play at revenge at any speed. But when he turned to register his complaint, the look in Dr. Adams' eyes convinced him to cooperate.
Seeing himself lying in a pool of blood made Alex nauseous, causing him to simply snarl at the doctor's, "Well?"
Over and over, the snippet of footage played. The third time through, Alex realized that there was something about what he was seeing that nagged at him. It took several more viewings for him to pinpoint it, which he did even though he kept telling himself that he didn't care. If that didn't matter, the slow speed at which his analytical processes were operating couldn't.
But he suspected that he wouldn't be able to ditch the doctor if he didn't offer up something. "What the fuck?" he finally muttered.
The doctor's over-politeness was annoying, but Alex ignored it. "Skinner ... what he did ... the last shot ..." Frustrated, Krycek took a moment to collect his thoughts. "The first - ok, he was protecting Mulder. The second was to incapacitate me, but the third ... That was an execution. Skinner doesn't have that in him. Never did."
"Christ, he's one of them," Alex whispered, caught between disgust and irony, not sure whether to worry or to laugh.
"The implications of that being?"
Eyes hard and calculating, Dr. Adams asserted, "You heard me."
"Billy Miles cut him in the elevator," Alex mused. "Infected him." Further consideration of that brought a more interesting irony to mind. "Too bad he wasted me. The nanobots could've fought it off for him. Wait a minute ..."
A glance at the doctor convinced Alex that his intuitive leap had a chance of being correct. "That's why he ... it did what it did. So that I wouldn't activate the nanobots and they wouldn't oust it."
"That is our assessment."
"Again, Alex, I couldn't agree more."
Unexpectedly, Krycek realized that the eminent, he assumed, Dr. Adams was something of a kindred spirit and that he generally hid that fact from those with whom he interacted. Realizations led to more questions and an ease about asking them of this man. "So how am I here, doc? And ... and why?"
"How you're ready to hear." Dr. Adams continued with a small sigh and a glance out of the window, "I'm less sure about why."
Tiring rapidly, Alex used his rising anger and his near constant companion, bitterness, for energy. "Bring it on, Adams. What have I got to lose?"
The doctor studied Alex like the specimen he undoubtedly considered him to be for several long moments. Only after the silence became uncomfortable did Adams speak. "We needed a combination of just about everything we have that isn't a vaccine for you. Two healers, one for the body and one for the psyche. But even they couldn't repair all the neuron and synapse damage. For that, you got the latest in nanotechnology."
Dr. Adams cavalierly waved away Krycek's concern. "Oh, these are far beyond the primitive version that infected Assistant Director Skinner. Yours have a precise program-to provide you with as fully functional a brain as we possibly could-and they won't deviate from it. They can't." Eyeing his patient, Adams frowned. "And I'm not so certain that I don't regret that at this moment."
"Get over it, doc."
Again, Adams chuckled. "That's the spirit!"
Anger flared and Alex gave into it. "Don't play with me."
"I wouldn't dream of that, my boy. The situation is far too serious and we've lost enough time as it is."
Doggedly, Krycek persisted, "Why did you bother pulling out the stops? What the fuck do you want from me?"
Sitting down next to Alex on the bed, Dr. Adams leaned forward, invading Krycek's personal space. He wanted Alex's attention and his calm, intense words captured it undividedly. "Want is inaccurate. We need you to play a certain role. A vital one."
Need? Fuck that shit! Who does he think he's talking to - Mulder?
"Been there; done that. For too damn many years. All it got me was a bullet between the eyes. No thanks, doc. It's time for you to pound the pavement and recruit some new cannon fodder."
Expression implacable, Dr. Adams met Krycek's eyes and stated, "You'll start physical therapy and psychiatric counseling tomorrow. Double sessions of each."
Masking discomfort with sarcasm was so natural, Alex never consciously thought about it anymore. "Two-a-days, doc? What is this vital role exactly? Am I mud wrestling grays now? What's the deal - winner take all?"
The doctor smiled slightly and stood. "Have a good evening, Alex. Enjoy your dinner."
Unsatisfied, Krycek quickly interjected, "You said two healers worked me over so why all the therapy, doc?"
"Your muscles have atrophied. Seven months of inactivity will do that. And, as to your mind, there was only so much a healer could do."
"How much time, Brianna?"
Dr. Brianna Gray looked up from the remains of her dinner and the contents of her extensive file on Alex Krycek to face her colleague's pensive frown. "As much as is needed, Clark."
"He's no good to us here."
Clark Adams wasn't precipitous about anything or anyone. Carefully, she retorted, "He'll be no good to us in the field either, if we send him out as he was."
"A soldier who has nothing to fight for won't win. He can't. Not a human soldier."
Testily, he snapped, "I'm familiar with your diagnosis and the theory behind it."
As with her patients, she used her calm rational voice to quell rebellion and inspire confidence. "I know, but you must remember that we aren't Them, Clark. Killing isn't a biological imperative for Homo Sapiens; it requires motivation. Belief. Passion. That's human nature. That's what we are. Both our strength and our weakness."
"And Alex has none of those."
"Not now. No, he doesn't."
She watched Adams pace her office like a caged predator. Suddenly halting, he slowly turned toward her and asked, "Isn't there some historical motivation that we could use?"
"No." She knew the litany by heart. "He has no living relatives. No real attachments to other people. And self-preservation and a sense of honor, however warped by his long association with Spender, can only take a man so far. Alex reached the end of those ropes well over a year ago."
"But he still seemed to be functioning, so you lost the argument to bring him in." She merely looked at him, not deigning to waste her breath concurring and far too aware of the disastrous consequences of that decision to indulge in 'I told you sos.'
"What about Mulder? He's holds some fascination for Alex. Has for years. Unhealthily so, Spender always said."
Grant's tenacity was nearly legendary but, in this case, she found it mildly annoying. "Mulder and his partner have served their purpose. And, in my opinion, have long overstayed their welcome. Involving them in Alex's mission is too great a risk for very little in the way of potential reward."
Not responding to his frustrated sigh, she waited until she was sure she had his full attention. "He doesn't go back until I say he does."
Curious and aggressive, Dr. Adams moved around her desk, removing that barrier of her authority from between them, cocking his head. "When will that be?"
"When he's properly motivated."
"How do you propose to do that?"
"I don't." Dr. Gray laughed at the sharp look her colleague shot her way. "Only he can. What I can and will do is get Alex in a state of mind where he'll motivate himself or allow himself to be motivated. And he'll remain with us for however long that takes. Is that clear?"
He nodded but was far from sanguine. "And if it takes too long?"
His quiet inquiry was answered with dangerous intensity. "I'll have failed."
"But we'll all pay the price."
Meeting Dr. Adams' eyes, she raised a cup of black tea to her lips and smiled tightly. "I don't fail, Clark."
For Alex Krycek, beneficiary of a miraculous recovery, a deft sleight of hand cheater of death, hours of thinking boiled down to one question.
What the fuck do they want me for?
Instead of possible answers, he could only think of flight with an unprecedented seriousness. His feelings in the aftermath of the nearly fatal car bombing were mere twinges in comparison.
Money shouldn't be a problem. Calmly, Alex quizzed himself and, to his relief, found that his memory still held the numbers and passcodes for his accounts in Switzerland and the Grand Caymans.
So where should I go? Some place warm, I think. Maybe not tropical, but definitely warm. It's past time for me to come in from the cold.
Ok, and then what? Drink too much tequila and bake in the sun?
Unfortunately, Alex could answer those questions.
Who am I kidding? I'd never stop looking over my shoulder and take to wearing loose Hawaiian shirts to hide my gun. Retirement isn't an option, Alex, and you damn well know it. Not if you want to get through your next case of 1800. Because they'd show up on your doorstep, sooner or later. After all, that's what they do best, enforce the lifetime commitment to the cause.
Hell, even dying didn't get me out. A shot between the fucking eyes should've damn well ended it.
Absorbed in his thoughts, he started when the door opened.
It's only Little Miss Volunteer. Take it easy for Christ's sake.
One thing the conversation with Dr. Adams had done was to bring some of his well-honed instincts smartly back on line. Danger came in all shapes and sizes. And the more pleasant the package, the more deadly the threat.
Liz hovered in the doorway, backlit by the brighter light in the corridor. "I ... um ... I just wanted to say good night."
"Isn't that above and beyond the call of volunteer duty?"
"Maybe," she allowed, taking a step into the room, indicating that he'd kept his anxiety out of his voice.
Come here, little girl, I need to check something out.
Embracing the familiarity of paranoia, Alex asked, "When are you here, Liz?"
"Monday, Wednesday and Friday mostly."
"What day is today?"
Eyes widening, Krycek regarded the young woman, knowing his surprise showed. Instead of seeking to hide it or distract her, he went with the flow. "You're here this late on a Friday night? Get on home before your boyfriend shows up to kick my ass."
She giggled and, as he anticipated, did just the opposite of what he'd suggested. "I'm between boyfriends at the moment," she admitted, reaching for the chair she'd used earlier.
"Well, in that case ..." Smiling in what he hoped was a welcoming, non-threatening manner, Alex shook his head and patted the bed in invitation.
Blushing, she accepted.
So close but yet so far. C'mon, Alex, play the hand you've got and see if you can pull that inside straight out of your ass.
With a small sigh, Alex murmured, "So I have to wait until Monday to see anyone but a doctor. Damn."
"I ... I could stop by tomorrow if you'd like."
Looking away, Alex prepared to politely decline her kind offer as solitude was not only his style, but what was appropriate for the thinking he had to do and the safest for all concerned, himself included. He'd lived his life for the last 15 years based upon that very premise. However, she beat him to the conversational punch.
"I have to be in town anyway. I'm getting my hair cut."
She had a future as a straight man, Alex decided. "Cut it?" he asked. "What about just putting it up?" Before she could reply or react, he reached out and lifted her hair off of her neck.
No ridges. Thank Christ.
Alex ignored his internal dialogue, adopting a "what's done is done" view. Still, the voice in the back of his mind was rather loud.
What the fuck did you intend to do if there had been, you idiot? You wouldn't have had a chance to take another breath. What a waste of effort and technology that would've been.
"You know," Liz began, resting aer hand on his shoulder. When Alex let his drop and her long hair settled back into place, she confidentially whispered, "They'll let you have alcohol, but they won't offer it to you. Do you want me to pick you up some champagne or something?"
His relief and her topic change threw him for a moment. "Champagne?"
"To celebrate your ... ah ... awakening?"
Suddenly, Liz looked very young once more, awaiting his judgment of her idea.
"Or ... or maybe you want something stronger?"
Alex filed away the fact that she didn't like silence. "Depends," he murmured, watching the young woman closely.
He smiled at her, noting that she'd dutifully asked the question he'd set up for her before answering in the only way that made any sense. "Whether you plan to have a drink with me. Champagne's for sharing. Bourbon - decent bourbon, please -- is the better choice for a solitary drunk."
Ok, you've got an ally if you need one, now bail on this conversation.
A bright, happy smile lit up her face. No, to his eyes, it did more than that. The full, upturned lips and display of teeth transformed her features into those of a woman rather than a girl.
Alex's mental backpedal was arrested abruptly when she leaned forward and whispered, "Champagne it is then," directly into his ear.
The vibrations of his eardrum resonated down his spine and exploded in his groin. "Jesus," he muttered, bending his right knee to hide his all too obvious reaction. His dick remembered how long it had been since the last time he'd come. So did he. Well, at least he thought he did and if he was right, he'd get hard for just about anyone with a pulse at the moment. The sexy voice was just an added bonus.
Nothing you can't handle by yourself, Krycek.
"Is there a problem, Alex?"
The challenge in her tone spoke to him - suggesting that his strategy was flawed, not to mention suboptimal, and his mind not very helpfully provided images of more pleasant alternatives to his hand in the shower. The combination and his pride allowed only one response. "Not at all. See you tomorrow."
"Good night, Liz."
Now he had something else to think about and Alex found the respite from dwelling on the uncertainties of his situation welcome. And that worried him almost as much as those very uncertainties did.