Carren McKenna joined the FBI later than most rookie agents. She had always had the ambition to work for the FBI, but an early marriage to a college classmate, which lasted only two years, had stalled her intended career. She was not surprised that she had been unhappy in marriage; she needed to be more than a wife. She had realized early on that it would not work out, and when Michael agreed with her decision, she was more relieved than sorry. Once she got past the demise of her marriage, she was more determined than ever to try for the Bureau. She was sure that she would qualify; she was intelligent, strong, and inquisitive, with a driven personality.
Most new agents soon develop a focus on a particular aspect of the FBI, and Carren found herself especially drawn to forensics. Her interest in the study of forensics was encouraged by her instructor in forensic pathology, Special Agent Dana Scully. Scully held a medical degree but had never practiced medicine as such; instead, she was recruited into the Bureau shortly out of medical school. Carren knew Scully by reputation before she even took the course - most of the younger agents had heard stories about the "X-Files", the out-of-this-world investigations that Scully and her partner Fox Mulder had made THEIR focus in the Bureau. Carren didn't believe in extraterrestrials, or in any of the other weird cases the X-Files had produced, and she wondered how a woman of science could feel otherwise.
Carren had also heard the stories of Mulder and Scully's strange attachment to each other. Apparently at various times over the past several years, they had both come close to being dismissed from the FBI, and each time such a thing seemed possible, the two agents had fought hard to keep their badges and to maintain their partnership. In fact, for a few months not long ago, the X-Files had been closed and the agents re-assigned to such menial and routine assignments as background checks. Carren could imagine how someone as motivated as Dana Scully would despise such an assignment, because background checks were the very first job that Carren herself had been given once she received her FBI badge and her official title of Special Agent. She had been in that office now for twenty long weeks, and was almost desperate to be assigned to a REAL case, one that might involve using at least some of the forensic skills she had learned from Agent Scully.
Carren looked at the clock on the wall and was surprised to see that it was after eight o'clock. She put in extra hours on most days, in part because she hoped her superiors would notice her efforts and give her more responsibility. But it was also true that she had nothing else to do once she left the office at night. She preferred to be here. Still, her cat was waiting patiently at home to be fed and loved, so Carren stood up and turned off her computer. She picked up her attaché case and her coat and switched off the lights in the room before she walked out the door and into the hallway.
Carren was almost to the front entrance of the J. Edgar Hoover Building when she saw Dana Scully coming in her direction from another hallway. She slowed her steps so they would meet. "Agent Scully," she said as they paused by the doorway.
"Agent McKenna," said Scully solemnly before she offered her friendliest smile to Carren. "This is the first time I've seen you since you graduated and became an agent. I'd like to say congratulations."
Carren took the hand that Scully held out to her and shook it. "I appreciate that, Agent Scully," she said as she smiled back.
"Where are you headed?" asked Scully as they walked out of the building. "Anyone waiting for you at home?"
Not anymore, Carren thought to herself. And isn't that the way I wanted it? "No," she told Scully. "I don't have any special plans."
"Why don't we have some dinner, kind of a belated celebration? Does that sound all right to you?" Scully paused for a moment. "I don't mean to put you on the spot, Carren."
"Oh, not at all, Dana." She blushed. "I'm sorry, Agent Scully. I don't know why I called you by your first name."
Scully laughed. "I don't have a problem with people calling me by my first name, Carren." she said. "There are some people who I wish WOULD call me by my first name, at least once in awhile. It would sound kind of nice for a change." Scully thought of Mulder, who she did not dare to call by HIS first name of Fox. Nobody called him Fox. She never did, as much as she was sometimes tempted to do it just to tease him.
"We can walk to the place I'm thinking about, Carren. It's only a few blocks, if you don't mind." Scully and Carren crossed the street and started walking up the block.
Neither of them noticed the dark-haired man who watched them as they passed by the car he sat in. If Scully had seen him, she would have been on her cell phone to Mulder in seconds, to warn him that Alex Krycek was back and his intentions were, as always, unknown.
Alex Krycek sat behind the wheel for at least ten more minutes before opening the door of the car and getting out. He wasn't too worried about leaving the car where he might get a ticket. Nobody was ever going to connect this car to him, nor would they ever be able to find him if they did. Krycek moved in the shadows, both literally and figuratively. Even he was barely sure who he was any more, or who he wanted to be. I wonder, he thought to himself, why I started traveling on this road to my own destruction. Alex Krycek knew just enough about his own past to look to that for an explanation of who he had become. He was an orphan; his parents had been Russian emigres who had disappeared a few days before his eighth birthday. He'd been raised in numerous foster homes that did not exactly "foster" his self-worth as anything more than an unpaid slave and scapegoat for various members of his many so-called "families". All it did for Alex was to harden him, in body and in heart. Escaping that life when he was just 16, he had lived on the streets for two years before meeting the man who would change his life. He remembered the day they first met as though it were a heartbeat ago.
Krycek was determined to break into the car of the man who just seconds ago had almost run him over in the middle of the street. He had just turned 18 and was now free of the threat of being found and returned to the foster care system. He planned to leave the city he lived in for a new life somewhere he'd never been before. That part would be easy; he'd never been anywhere else but here. But he had nothing at all, and he knew he couldn't go far on nothing. The idiot who'd been driving the nice car he was looking over had pulled suddenly to the side and almost hit Alex, who'd been stepping off the curb. The guy had gotten out of the car and looked at him like he didn't even exist. Now Krycek was going to make him pay for both of those insults.
He was very good at breaking into cars, he'd been committing this particular crime for two years. He soon had this one open and the radio out before anyone noticed him. Just for the hell of it, he jammed his screwdriver into the ignition and messed it up just enough so that Mr. Bigshot would have a hard time getting home.
He backed out of the car door onto the sidewalk and felt something hard against his back. He looked over his shoulder and saw the car's owner holding a gun much too close to him. He realized he'd made a bigger mistake than usual this time.
"Get back in the car, boy, right now. Don't be stupid." The man gave him a small shove and he sat down in the passenger seat. The man closed the door and came around to the driver's side. Climbing in, he looked down at the broken ignition and shook his head; then he calmly opened the ignition column and hot-wired the car. He looked over at Alex Krycek and said, "Do you think you're dealing with an amateur here?"
It had been fifteen years since Krycek had met the man he thought of as the Smoking Man. In that time, he had gone from fearing him to respecting him, but from respect he'd gone back to fear. The man was much more than even Krycek had ever known, and he'd learned quite a lot about him in fifteen years. Only months ago, he would have done anything the man told him to do, and without question. But since he'd discovered that the man had shot and presumably killed his own son, Krycek no longer trusted him at all. He knew his time with the Smoking Man was coming to a fast and deadly conclusion. He just hoped that he could make some things right before that happened.
Agents Scully and McKenna were waiting for the dinner they had ordered to be served. Carren wanted to let Scully be the first one to speak; she wanted to see what Scully would bring up. Carren was always thinking in that investigative mode now. Maybe later she could get Scully to talk about the X-Files.
"So Carren, I imagine your family is very proud of your success," Scully said as she stirred Sweet and Low into her iced tea. "Can I ask you where you grew up?"
Carren paused for a moment to consider her answer. This was something else she found herself doing since she'd started at the FBI Academy. "I spent my childhood in New York City," she replied. "I lost my parents while I was at college, so I continued to put myself through school at City College while I worked to pay the bills."
"How did you come to work for the FBI?"
"I always wanted to be an FBI agent, since I was ten years old," Carren told her. "But as it happened, I married after I graduated from college, and I didn't expect to ever fulfill that ambition. The marriage, though...well, that wasn't right either."
"So you're not still married?" Scully asked.
"No, not for a couple of years now," Carren answered. "I applied to the FBI Academy on the day after my divorce became final. I was worried that they might not take me; I only had a bachelor's degree in psychology and I thought I might be older than desireable for a new agent. I was very pleased to be accepted into the Academy after just one interview."
"I can honestly say I'm not surprised to hear that you were," remarked Scully. "I saw you as a bright student and I'm sure you'll enjoy your work and do well." She considered asking Carren how she had lost her parents, but she knew it was too soon to get that personal. Scully had become used to relating to almost no one other than Mulder, and she was very careful about who she allowed herself to know. She thought that Carren was just a bit younger than her, and in this she was correct. Carren was 30 years old that year, and Scully would turn 35. Scully was so ambivalent about her own career in the FBI now that she hardly knew what to say to Carren about hers.
After they had finished eating, Scully announced that she needed to return to the FBI Building to leave a folder for Mulder in his office. "If you want to go with me, Carren, I'll give you a ride home when we're finished."
Carren nodded her agreement and they left the restaurant. As they walked back down the street, she decided to bring up the X-Files.
"Agent Scully," she began, and was pleased when Scully said, "I though you were going to call me Dana."
"Dana, would you tell me about the X-Files? I just can't understand how a doctor, a scientist, could seriously investigate unnatural phenomena. Don't you believe that everything that happens has a rational explanation?"
Scully had expected Carren to bring up the X-Files sooner or later. She rarely discussed the subject with anyone but Mulder, and she wondered what Carren would say and think if she knew even a small part of what Scully and Mulder had seen over the years they'd been partners. She found that she was enjoying Carren's respect and attention and she was surprised to realize that she had missed having a "girlfriend" to talk to. But to talk about the X-Files? She didn't know if she was ready, or if Carren was.
"I'd like to think that there is a scientific explanation for the things we've seen," she answered. "But sometimes you just have to give up on trying to find the answers." How true that is, she thought to herself.
Once again they crossed the street in front of the imposing FBI building and walked through the front door. They passed the guard stations and took the elevator down.
"Mulder's office is in the basement?" Carren asked in surprise.
"Yes, and I spend most of my time here also," said Scully. "We're used to it."
Scully reached out and turned the knob on Mulder's door. She and Carren entered and Scully switched on the light. Both women jumped as the door closed shut behind them.
"Hello, Agent Scully," said Alex Krycek, smiling thinly. "It's been too long."
"Not long enough, Krycek," Scully answered as he motioned with the gun he was holding, indicating that she and Carren should take seats at the desk.
They sat down and Scully glanced at Carren before she asked quietly, "What is it you want, Krycek? You must be crazy sneaking in here like this."
"Not crazy, Scully. Desperate. I came looking for Mulder, but now you can find him for me. I want to talk to him, I HAVE to talk to him. His life and mine and maybe yours, too, depend on it."
Mulder sat in his car in front of Scully's apartment. He'd been waiting for her to come home from work for over an hour, and he was getting frustrated. There were some things that he wanted to discuss with her before their meeting with A.D. Kersch in the morning, and Scully had a file that Mulder would need at the meeting. He couldn't understand what could be keeping his partner. Normally if she had plans after work, she would have told him. He hoped that nothing was wrong. He was just about to try calling Scully on her cell phone when his own phone began to ring. He punched the "talk" button and said, "Mulder."
Krycek had explained to Scully that his need to talk with Mulder was real and immediate. "I'm very afraid for all of us right now, Agent Scully," he said. If it had been anyone but the seemingly heartless Alex Krycek, Scully would have thought she heard his voice tremble. What could have affected Krycek so badly, she wondered. She started to feel his fear herself. Could Carren feel it too? In her calmest voice, she said to Krycek, "Do you want to tell me what this is all about?"
"No way, Scully, not until you have Mulder with you. Can you call him and have him come over?" Then Krycek looked at Carren as if just noticing she was still there. "And can you send your friend away before he gets here? You don't really want her around to hear the things I have to say to Mulder, not unless she's involved in some way that I don't know about." But now Krycek was wondering if the stranger sitting at the desk with Scully was perhaps important after all. Maybe he could use this situation to his advantage. How better to make sure Mulder met with him than to hold a fellow agent as security, so to speak.
"You know, Scully, I think I need some more time to think about this before I talk to Mulder," he said slowly. A plan was forming in his mind. "I'm going to leave now but I'll be in touch real soon. You talk to Mulder and let him know I'm looking for him. Tell him it's very, very important that we meet within the next 24 hours. I'll be getting back to you for an answer and to set up the meeting." Krycek opened the door of Mulder's office and stepped into the hall. "I'm sure you know better than to do something foolish in the meantime." He shut the door behind him.
Scully and Carren looked at each other. Scully didn't have time to think of what to say to Carren before the younger woman asked, "Is that man part of the X-Files mystery?"
"Yes, you could certainly say that," Scully answered as she looked down at the file folder she still held in her hands. "Carren, I think it would be a good idea if you went on without me. I need to contact Mulder and we need to work this thing out."
"But Dana, maybe I could help. I am a trained agent, you know."
You haven't had any training that could ever help you understand what's happening here, thought Scully. For just a moment she considered taking Carren into her confidence, at least in part - after all, she had now met Krycek, and that put her into the middle of a unstable situation.
"All I can tell you right now is that Alex Krycek is a very dangerous person. We're lucky that he left without anything worse happening. Carren, I want you to take my cell phone number and my home number, and give me yours also. That way we can keep in touch in case we need to reach each other." Scully walked with Carren to the door of the office. "And Carren, please, don't talk to anyone else about what happened here tonight. I'll call Mulder and tell him everything and we'll decide what to do. He may feel that you shouldn't be involved in this situation at all."
Carren was very disappointed as she left Mulder's office. She did not know the truth about the man who'd held her and Scully at gunpoint, and for some reason she felt compelled to find out more about him. She had not been immune to his dark, almost fearsome good looks, nor to the sense of danger that surrounded him. She knew that she would try to get Scully to tell her more about the man tomorrow.
As she exited the FBI Building and stood at the curb, trying to spot a cab, she felt a hand take hold of her arm.
"Don't say anything," she heard Alex Krycek's voice tell her. "I want you to come with me in my car."
"Why would I do that?" she asked him. "Are you forcing me or something?"
"If you want to think about it that way, then yes, I am. I think it would be for the best all around if we spent some time together while I wait to talk to Mulder. I'm pretty sure he won't let another agent be held hostage just to keep from meeting with me."
"Are you serious?" Carren said as he led her around the corner to where his car was parked. "Are you really taking me hostage?" She couldn't believe how fast this had happened. Why hadn't she or Scully forseen this possibility when she left the FBI Building alone? What should she do? Carren allowed herself a small chill of fear before Krycek opened the passenger door of his car and motioned her inside.
"I suppose I am taking you hostage. But not in a hostile way, all right? It's just insurance to be certain that Scully will make Mulder understand that he has to see me."
"But they don't even know you have me," Carren started to say. Krycek looked at her for a moment before replying.
"They'll know when I want them to know," he told her.
"Mulder, it's me." Mulder heard Scully's voice on the other end of the cell phone. He smiled to himself. How many times, how many conversations had begun in this very same way?
"Scully, where are you? I'm sitting outside of your apartment building right now, waiting for you to come home. Have a hot date or something?" Mulder knew perfectly well that Scully hadn't had a date in a very long time. Nor had he. Their lives were entwined together so completely that neither of them cared to look outside of their unique relationship for something different.
"Mulder, I'm sitting at the desk in your office. I had gone to dinner with a new agent, a young woman who was in my forensics class, and we came back to your office so I could leave that folder for you. Unfortunately, when we walked in, someone was waiting for us. Alex Krycek."
"Krycek!?" Mulder was very angry to think that Krycek had managed to get into the FBI Building and into his office. His rage was compounded as he thought of Krycek with Scully, and him not being there for her. Not to mention that another agent, who should know nothing about Krycek or the X-Files, had gotten involved as well.
"What did he want, Scully? He didn't hurt you, did he?" Mulder knew that if Alex Krycek ever did anything to hurt Scully, the man would be dead by Mulder's hand before he could worry about it happening.
"Mulder, he says he has to talk to you; that it's a matter of life and death."
"Of course it is, Scully. With Krycek there's always death involved somehow." Mulder tried not to think about how Alex Krycek had murdered Mulder's father in cold blood. There was nothing he would put past Krycek.
"Scully, stay there in my office, all right? Lock the door and wait for me. I'm coming over right now."
"All right, Mulder. I'll be here."
Mulder pressed the "off" button on his phone, and in his office, Scully did the same.
Krycek's car had stopped at the corner, where the signal was red. Carren noticed that the car was black, and somehow she was not surprised. It fits him, she thought, it goes with the whole strange feeling of darkness that she felt all around him. To her surprise and dismay, she realized that she was seeing Alex Krycek as some kind of romantic anti-hero. Carren wondered what had happened to her investigator's objectivity. She knew she should definitely be afraid of this man that Scully had warned her was very dangerous. She suspected that he was also extremely unpredictable. She just hoped that he wasn't too unstable as well. She tried to shift into her role as an FBI agent; perhaps if Krycek didn't see her as a victim, she would get through this and come out of it with something that would help Scully and Mulder. She was determined to show them that she could take care of herself in a crisis situation.
"Where are you taking me, Alex?" Carren asked. She hoped that calling him by his first name would make him relax enough so that he wouldn't do anything to hurt her. She wanted to believe what he'd told her, that he didn't plan to use her in a hostile way.
"I can't go back to the place I stayed last night," he told her with a small smile. "I didn't plan this, you know. It just sort of came to me in Mulder's office. I really don't know where we're going right at the moment."
"You know, Alex, that doesn't exactly sound like the work of a hardened criminal. I mean, I was led to believe that you're a real bad guy."
"Yeah, that's right. I AM a real bad guy. I've done a lot of very bad things. It's just that right now I don't feel one of those bad things coming on, so don't worry."
Carren wasn't sure where this was going. It was almost as though they were joking with each other. Keep that word "hostage" in your head, she reminded herself. This isn't your friend sitting next to you. It's the Real Bad Guy. She remembered something she'd heard in reference to the X-Files, like a gag at the Academy: Trust No One. Maybe she should take that to heart for the present.
Carren remembered something then - her cat was at home alone and had not been fed since morning. She'd been headed home to do that when she'd met Scully in the lobby and gone to dinner with her. That had been almost three hours ago!
"Excuse me, Alex. If you don't have an immediate destination in mind, I was wondering if we could stop by my apartment so that I can feed my cat. We don't have to stay there or anything." For a moment, she started to question the wisdom of letting this man know where she lived. But it was too late.
"This wouldn't be any kind of a trick, would it? And what is your name, anyway?" Krycek sounded a little confused.
"My name is Carren McKenna, Alex. Special Agent McKenna, in case you didn't realize that. I work for the FBI also."
"I kind of figured that out, what with you coming and going from the building." Krycek actually did smile at her now. She felt silly and embarassed. She tried to take back the conversation.
"Yes, well, about going to my apartment? Could we do that? You could decide then where you want to go after we're through there."
"All right, Special Agent Carren McKenna," he said, looking at the changing light and the cars in front of him pulling away. "Just tell me which way to go."
Scully sat behind Mulder's desk, thinking about her earlier encounter with Alex Krycek. She was startled by a knock at the office door. She hesitated until she heard Mulder's voice.
"Scully, it's me. Open the door please. Scully?"
"Yes, OK, Mulder. I'm coming." Scully stood up and walked over to the door. As she unlocked it, Mulder pushed it open and just as quickly closed and locked it.
"Are you all right, Dana?"
Scully could not believe her ears. Just a short time ago she had been wishing Mulder would call her by her first name. It felt strange and good. Mulder and Scully usually made light of their relationship. It was as though to put a name on what they were to each other would change it in some way. But on rare occasions such as this one, when a situation caused them to let their guard down, there was an unspoken understanding between them. They would always be there for each other. Anything else went unconsidered.
"Mulder, you just called me Dana. I think it's been years since you've done that."
"Gee, Scully, if I'd known you were going to notice I'd have been more careful."
They allowed themselves a brief shared smile. Mulder was aware of how he waited for one of Scully's smiles. When she smiled at him that way, he always felt an immediate release of whatever was troubling him. He knew that over the nearly seven years that they had been partners, at least one of Scully's smiles had probably saved his life or his sanity. She was the only person who understood him at all.
"I can't believe that Alex Krycek got into my office," Mulder said as he sat on the edge of his desk, after pushing aside a stack of papers. "But what am I saying? That's nothing to him."
"Mulder, he was very insistant that you meet with him. He wouldn't tell me anything except the old 'life and death' routine."
"Scully, I feel very bad that this happened to you. And to a complete stranger on top of that. Who's this girl you went to dinner with, anyway?"
Scully made a face at Mulder. "She's not a girl, Mulder. She's a woman. She was a student of mine last year and she recently became an agent. It was just an accidental meeting and a spontaneous dinner."
"And you brought her back to my office? We don't bring people into this office, now do we, Scully?" Mulder made a face right back at her.
"Mulder, could we get serious here please? We need to talk about this meeting that Krycek wants. I'm really curious about the subject matter. He certainly seems to think that it's important to us all. And another thing, Mulder; the agent that was with me here, she's involved now whether we like it or not. You can never tell what Alex Krycek will do, and he's bound to realize that she's part of what happens next."
Mulder rested his chin on his hand. "How is he planning to contact us?" he asked.
"He just said he'd be in touch. I hate ambiguity, Mulder, did you know that?"
Mulder nodded his head. "I don't like just sitting around waiting for him to 'get in touch', Scully. And we have this stupid meeting with Kersch in the morning. At least that's not until ten o'clock. Maybe we'll have heard something by then."
"And what do you suggest we do in the meantime, Mulder?" Scully asked him.
Mulder grinned at her. "I've got a deck of cards."
Carren unlocked the outside door of her apartment building, and she and Alex Krycek went inside. She was relieved that his gun was in his jacket pocket instead of in his hand as she walked ahead of him up the stairs to her apartment on the second floor.
She could hear her cat meowing while she was still on the landing. She turned around to look at Krycek and raised her eyebrows.
With a different key, she unlocked her apartment door and opened it, turning on the light switch just inside. She closed and locked the door behind them.
"Why would you lock the door?" Krycek asked her. "Unlocked, it's easier to escape."
"Honestly, I hadn't thought of that," Carren answered. "Unlock it if you want to."
Krycek laughed shortly. "Who's the hostage here anyway?"
"Hopefully, nobody has to be anything of the kind for very long, Alex," Carren said in a reasonable voice. She really didn't feel afraid anymore. The cat walked out of the bedroom just then; it stretched and gave a loud meow. Carren picked up the fluffy orange cat and carried it into the kitchen, where she opened the refrigerator and took out a can of food.
"What's your cat's name?" Krycek asked her.
"Like you care." She spooned the cat food into a small blue bowl.
"I happen to like cats, and I like knowing what other people call their pets. It's usually very interesting." Krycek had followed her into the kitchen.
"Oh great, now I'll get analyzed according to my cat's name," Carren said. "Well, if you really must know, the cat's name is Ripley."
"Ah, Ripley," Krycek repeated. "I get the reference. But why?"
"Because she always stands up for herself - the cat, I mean." Carren rinsed the can at the sink and dried her hands.
"That's so cute," he said in a slightly mocking voice. "I bet you wish you could call yourself Ripley. I mean, you've stood up for yourself pretty well so far, haven't you? Just remember, I'm not always this nice, you know."
Carren looked at him. "I'm sure that's true, Alex. I don't doubt that for a minute."
Krycek was standing directly in front of her, between her and the kitchen doorway. Carren was a fairly tall woman at 5'9", but Krycek seemed to tower over her at that moment. She needed to move away from him.
"Would it be all right if I went and changed out of my work clothes?" she asked him. "FBI office attire just isn't suited for this adventure that you're apparently taking me on."
Krycek backed out of the kitchen and motioned for her to pass him. She walked into her bedroom just off the kitchen. "Is it all right if I close the door to change?" she asked.
He thought for a moment. "Sure, go ahead." He watched the door close, then he walked over to the telephone in the living room and took the receiver off the hook, laying it down on the table.
Krycek looked around the small room, noticing not much furniture but a lot of books on shelves along the wall. She reads, he thought to himself. Alex Krycek had little formal education to speak of, but he liked to read when he could.
He walked over to the window and looked out onto the Washington street. There was still activity outside and he began to wonder where to go from here. In her room, Carren finished changing. She couldn't decide whether to attempt a call to Agent Scully, or to see what Alex Krycek had in mind. She figured she could never get away with a phone call anyway, and picked up the receiver to listen. Sure enough, the noise on the other end told her that the extension was off the hook.
She opened the door and stood looking into the living room. She was wearing dark blue jeans, a short black tee-shirt, and black socks. In one hand she carried a pair of black boots and in the other, a gray FBI sweatshirt. She set the boots down by the door and laid the sweatshirt on top of them.
Krycek looked at her. He had never noticed that her hair was more red than brown until he saw it resting against the black tee-shirt. Even without the boots on, she looked tall. He walked to the bedroom door where she stood, then walked past her into the room. He looked around carefully.
Carren was surprised that he'd come into her room, but she wasn't completely uncomfortable. The door was easy enough to get to. Having a man in her bedroom was rare; she hardly ever brought anyone home with her at all. That it was someone like Alex Krycek gave Carren a strange thrill. She knew better than to allow him to get too close to her, in any way. All the same, she was almost enjoying this night.
Carren sat down on her bed and leaned against the headboard. Krycek looked at her for a moment, then crossed the room and sat down on the far end of the bed, keeping one foot on the floor and his back to the wall. He took his gun out of the pocket of his leather jacket and set it down where he could reach it, on top of the low dresser that stood under the window next to the bed. He looked up at Carren and asked, "So...why the FBI?"
Scully was pacing up and down in Mulder's office, as Mulder played another hand of solitaire. He always kept a deck of cards in his desk drawer and tonight they had come in handy. He wished Scully would just sit down and let him deal her in.
"Mulder, it's almost midnight. Are we just going to sit around this office all night?"
"Do you have something else in mind, Scully?" Mulder asked in an innocent voice. "I admit I don't know what else to do but wait here for Krycek to call us."
Scully sat back down. "Mulder, I have a bad feeling about something. I'm not sure what. I just feel like something is wrong."
"Scully, you had an encounter with Krycek a few hours ago. What more do you need?"
"I know, Mulder, but it's not that, at least not only that. I think I'm going to call Agent McKenna and make sure she got home all right." Scully picked up the phone on the desk and dialed the number that Carren had given her. She looked over at Mulder as she waited for the phone on the other end to ring. Instead, she heard a busy signal.
"That's strange, her number is busy."
"What's strange about it, Scully? So she's on the phone. Why is that strange?"
"It's very late, Mulder." Scully hung up the telephone.
"Scully, you're letting your imagination get the better of you." Mulder laughed as he realized that usually, Scully said those words to him.
"Maybe you're right, Mulder. I hope so. I just wish Agent McKenna hadn't gotten involved in this whole thing."
Mulder covered her hand with his. "Things will be all right, Scully," he told her. "They usually are."
"When I was ten years old, I saw a television program about the FBI, a documentary, you know, showing the Academy, the Bureau, the investigations, all that stuff. And I knew right then that I wanted to do that. It was all I ever planned to do from then on. I loved mysteries and thought that solving them as a career was the best thing I'd ever heard of." Carren remembered how her parents had teased her about her ambition. They had never actually told her not to do it, but they didn't encourage it either. When she was fifteen years old she found out why.
"I was seriously starting to look into a future as an FBI agent by that time," she told Krycek, who was still sitting at the foot of her bed. "My mother and dad sat me down one night and they told me that I might not be able to pass the required background check. I remember I was so confused for a minute. What had I ever done? Then, looking at their faces, I realized that they were referring to themselves.
"You know that your mother and I came here from Ireland," Carren's father had said to her. "We'd been here less than a year when you were born. You were the only child we were ever to have, even though we stayed together for all this long time. Growing up, you've asked about your grandparents and we told you about how they died before you were born. We never told you much and for whatever reason, you never asked for much. But now we want you to know, you need to know as you plan this future for yourself."
"My father told me that he and my mother had both lived in Belfast, in Northern Ireland, and my father's father and his grandfather had both been involved with the IRA. My mother's father and brother were as well. In the year past, my father had been pressured to participate in IRA activities. He didn't want to be involved, and he didn't want my mother to be in danger because of him or their families' involvement. He tried to distance himself but it was impossible. One night he agreed to meet with his father and grandfather to discuss his future. He and my mother were hoping to marry soon, and he wanted to get his life settled. He was late by half an hour, and when he got to the house, it was in ruins and both men were dead. He knew he was supposed to have been in that house when the bomb went off, and he knew that as soon as it became known that he wasn't, his life was surely over. He went to my mother's home and took her away that night. Somehow they managed to cross over to France before the truth came out, and from there they came here to America."
"And you never knew about any of this before your father told you this story?"
"Why would I have known? Actually, I always sensed a secretiveness about my parents when it came to their past. But I just didn't think about it much." Carren now wondered why that was true, given her curious nature.
Krycek said, "As a matter of fact, I really AM surprised that you got into the FBI, with that background. Were your parents living here under a false identity?"
Carren realized that she didn't know. She avoided the question by telling Krycek, "My parents were killed in a car accident when I was twenty and still in college."
"Are you sure that it was an accident?" Krycek asked her. "Didn't you ever wonder if maybe there were something more behind their deaths? I mean, considering the history."
She was suddenly uncomfortable. "I thought that kind of thinking was Agent Mulder's department. Look, Alex, I've been doing background checks since I started at the Bureau and believe me, they're not all that foolproof. FBI security is far from perfect. Look at the way you got inside tonight."
Krycek looked pleased with himself. "I can get in anywhere," he boasted.
"Well, I'm sure that's a valuable skill for a real bad guy," Carren observed drily.
She was startled when Krycek suddenly got up from the foot of the bed and came around to where she sat. She was finally aware, once again, that this man had been described to her as being very dangerous. She hoped she hadn't gone too far by teasing him. She moved back slightly as he stood over her, looking hard into her eyes. She returned the look, his eyes so dark they were almost black; and she felt as though she could see something moving in them, something that wanted to ask her and tell her everything with one look. She knew he was considering some kind of decision. To her surprise, Krycek lowered himself to the floor next to where she sat at the head of the bed. "I don't think we're going anywhere else tonight," he told her. Then he turned away from her and leaned his back against the side of her bed. He stared at the floor.
Seeing nothing but what was inside of him, Alex Krycek began to talk.
"My parents were also from another country; they came here from Russia in the early 60's. Although I didn't know it, didn't find this out until ten years ago, my parents were KGB operatives who'd been sent to this country for reasons I'm sure you can imagine. The Cold War was raging and they were here to observe and report, as they say. I was raised in my early years to speak Russian just as well as English. I think maybe my parents expected to return to Russia before I was grown, and they must have wanted me to be prepared to speak the language and be comfortable with it.
"Instead, they must not have done what was expected of them by the KGB. I have no way of knowing exactly what their "crime" was...but they disappeared without a trace when I was only eight years old."
"What do you mean, without a trace?" Carren asked. "You just woke up one morning and they were gone?"
"As a matter of fact, Miss Special Agent, that's exactly what happened. It was just three days until my eighth birthday. That morning I got out of bed and went into the kitchen as usual, expecting to see my mother cooking my breakfast before school. Instead, the kitchen was a shambles and my parents were nowhere to be found. I had no idea what to do. I thought they would be back before it was time to leave for school. They never returned, not that day or any other." Krycek's voice sounded tight as he recalled how he had just waited all day, not going to school, not calling anyone on the phone - "We didn't have many friends or contacts outside of each other" - until it was time to go to bed that night. "I didn't know what else to do so I just went to bed and went to sleep alone."
"In the morning, when they still weren't there, I ate some cold cereal I found in the cupboard, and went to school as usual. About halfway though the day, I told my teacher what had happened at my house. She must have called the authorities, because some people came to the school near the end of the day and took me away with them in a county vehicle. I never saw my home again. None of my own things were ever given back to me and nobody could or would tell me what had happened to my parents.
I was first put into a group home and eventually sent to a foster family."
"Alex, how terrible. At least my parents were there for me throughout my childhood and we loved each other very much." Carren felt the loss of her parents in the accident as if it had happened yesterday. She remembered how hard it had been at the time to go on with her education and face each day feeling so alone. "I was so glad that I had a goal to work for - the FBI - because it kept me focused on the future instead of the past."
"Carren, you can't believe the people they allow to be foster parents. I'm not just talking about the way that foster children are used almost as slaves in some homes, given all the worst chores to do. I'm talking beatings, sexual abuse, near-torture, really. I couldn't concentrate in school and I started failing and getting into trouble there. I ran away several times and was always found and returned to whatever family was "using" me at the time. Maybe there are good foster homes; I hope so, but I never went to one."
Krycek told Carren how he had finally escaped for the last time. "I was with one of the worst families I'd ever had. The father was an jerk who saw me as nothing more than trash off the street. He would provoke me until I cursed at him and then he'd beat me up until I couldn't talk at all, let alone talk back to him. His own son, who was my age, loved every minute of it. He would also harass me, teasing me about my missing parents and my situation in life. He'd steal and tell his father that it was me, which of course was worth a beating also. Finally I just decided that no matter what life on the street was like, it had to be better. At least I'd be on my own.
So one night after everyone had gone to bed, I left. This time I really did steal from them; I took money out of the father's wallet and the mother's purse and I walked out. Of course, I knew that when they got up in the morning and realized what had happened, they'd have the law on me in no time, so I stayed well underground for as long as possible. Somehow I managed to avoid being caught that time, and lived with all the other street people. It was very hard, but like I said, it was better than where I'd been."
Carren watched Alex as he talked about his life, and she felt her heart go out to this man, this very dangerous man who she knew had done terrible things in his life. She wanted to tell him that she was sorry for what he'd gone through as a child, but she didn't know if he'd want to hear it. She was very aware that Alex Krycek was no angel; just the opposite. She also knew that all this could be just one big lie to gain her confidence and her sympathy. But in her heart, she didn't really believe that.
"How did you get involved in things so bad that even FBI agents like Mulder and Scully are afraid of you?" she asked him.
"I met a man when I was eighteen who took me under his guidance, in a way. He made me one of his own little "family" of criminals and soon had me doing much of his dirty-work for him. In a way, I liked it. I was angry enough at the world to enjoy doing the things he asked me to do. Over the next fifteen years, I gave him my respect and my obedience and my total loyalty. But I never lost sight of the fact that he was an evil man, and I knew that eventually I would lose my value to him. That's happening right now, and he has a contract out on me this time. I know the person he's counting on to take me down. This guy used to be my partner in crime, and now he'll kill me if he can. I also believe that the lives of Mulder and Scully are in danger, because Scully was a witness to some of his crimes in the past. That's why I'm trying to talk to Mulder; this man - his name is Luis Cardinale - has been out of the country since the time when he shot and killed not only Mulder's father but Scully's sister as well. Mulder and Scully hold me responsible for both of those murders, and in the past I didn't mind letting them think that. In fact, I hated Mulder so much that I enjoyed telling him it was true. But it's not true, and now I want Mulder and Scully to know. It's not just because I'm in danger, Carren, please believe that. I don't know if there is any way I can start over. I'm in so deep now, it's possible that I can't change what will happen to me. But I don't want to live this way anymore. I don't want to be the man who took pleasure in hurting people. I want to change if I can. I just don't know if that will be allowed, by either side. The things I've done, the things I know, I'm afraid they're too much to be overlooked. And I'm much more worried about the people outside of the law than about the FBI. I should never have come here with you, Carren. Now your life may be in danger too. I need to see Mulder and try to take these people down before it happens to us instead. Hopefully we can all come out of this alive."
Alex Krycek leaned his head back on the edge of the bed and sighed. He hoped he hadn't made a mistake by confiding in Carren McKenna. He didn't think so. In the morning he would call Mulder at his office and see what could be done. He had to make Mulder listen to him.
Scully looked at the clock on the wall of Mulder's office; it said four o'clock a.m. Mulder had dozed off in his chair and Scully thought he looked pretty good for somebody who was ready to start drooling in his sleep at any time. She hated to wake him up but she couldn't stand just sitting there any longer.
"Mulder! Wake up!" She nudged him on the arm.
Mulder looked at her with half-closed eyes. "What makes you think I'm asleep, Scully? I'm totally on guard and ready for anything."
Scully rolled her eyes at him. "Of course you are, Mulder. I can see that now."
"Well, then, what are you bothering me for?" Mulder stood up and stretched his arms over his head, then twisted and turned his body around in a way that Scully found fascinating. He was tall and lean and - if she allowed herself to notice - Scully really liked the way he looked. Stop that, she scolded herself. It's just Mulder.
"Mulder, I've been trying to call Agent McKenna for hours and the line is constantly busy. I'm really concerned. I'm thinking about getting her address out of the database and driving over to her apartment."
Mulder thought for a minute. "I guess that's not a bad idea, Scully," he said. "I'll stay here at the office and see if I get 'The Call'. Just please, be careful. We have no idea where Krycek is right now or what he plans to do next."
Scully pulled up Carren's file on Mulder's computer and copied down the address. "Good, she doesn't live too far from here. I'm on my way." She gave Mulder a pat on the shoulder as she passed behind his chair on her way to the door. "Keep in touch."
Scully took the FBI elevator down to the parking level where her car waited. She couldn't help but feel slightly nervous as she entered the garage, which was deserted at this hour and eerily quiet. Just because you're paranoid, she reminded herself, doesn't mean that they aren't out to get you. She'd learned this lesson well over the years. She made it safely to her small car and unlocked the door with the remote device. Climbing inside and fastening her seat belt, she started the car and drove it out of the garage.
Alex Krycek awoke with a start and looked at his watch. Four a.m.!
He'd fallen asleep on the floor by Carren's bed, still in a sitting position with his head on the side of her bed. He sat up and turned around to look at her. She had curled up on her side and was sound asleep. The fingers of one hand were tangled in her hair on the pillow and her mouth was slightly open as she steadily breathed in and out.
Krycek watched her for a minute as she slept. He didn't understand yet why he'd taken this woman, an FBI agent, into his confidence the way he had. He wasn't sure what it was about her that made him feel differently than he'd ever felt before. Alex Krycek thought about all the women he'd been with in his lifetime, and knew that not one of them had ever meant anything to him. He had never talked to anyone, man or woman, about the things he'd told Carren last night. His life felt entirely different now that he knew she was in it. Now he had more reason than ever to change his life and become somebody who deserved her friendship. But before anything even close to what he hoped for could happen, he needed to see Mulder. And he needed to find the man who would probably carry out the contract that the Smoking Man had on his life.
Krycek stood up and was moving into the small bathroom just off Carren's bedroom when he heard a creaking sound coming from the kitchen, where just hours ago he had watched Carren feed Ripley the cat. Immediately he reached for his gun and realized in dismay that he'd left it atop the dresser on the other side of the room. At that same moment, the bedroom door burst open and there he stood - Luis Cardinale. Luis had his gun pointed at Krycek and he fired as Alex dived to the floor and scrambled in the direction of the dresser to get his own gun. Luis fired again and Krycek felt a sharp pain in his shoulder. I've been hit, he thought grimly as he kept moving. His gun seemed too far away to get to, and he feared for himself and especially for Carren. He wasn't able to look in her direction and so he didn't see that she was on her knees on the bed and holding her own gun on Luis Cardinale.
"Drop it or you're dead!" she shouted at the intruder. "I mean it! Kick the gun away and don't move."
Luis dropped the gun he was holding, kicking it across the floor as he'd been told to do, and stood still. He looked at Krycek with hate and loathing in his eyes. Alex pulled himself up off the floor and taking his gun off the dresser, pointed it at Luis. He turned his head slightly to smile at Carren.
"Nice work, Special Agent McKenna," he said to her in an admiring voice. Then he realized something. Carren must have had her gun close by all night. Why hadn't she used it to take control of her situation after he'd put his own gun down? He didn't have time to think through the implications of that, however, because he needed to deal with his own gunshot wound. Krycek only had one good arm, having lost the other one in a Russian gulag some time ago. The bullet had hit him in the shoulder above the arm that he could still use. He was furious and was tempted to shoot Luis Cardinale right then and there. But somehow he just didn't want to shoot anyone in front of Carren. I'm getting soft, he thought to himself with grim humor.
"What do you want to do, Alex?" she asked him as she kept her gun trained on the man who'd broken into her house, the man she now believed was sent to kill Krycek.
"Do you have handcuffs as close by as you did that gun, Agent McKenna?" Alex asked her. "Because if you do, I think it would be a real plus to put them on our friend here. Then maybe you'll help me stop all this blood that's running down my arm and onto your carpet."
This was the first notice Carren had that Krycek had actually been hit. She tried to stay objective, as a good agent should, but she was shocked and upset to see him hurt and bleeding. She reached into her nightstand drawer and took out her FBI handcuffs. "Do you want to put them on him or may I have the pleasure?"
Krycek had to smile in spite of his situation and the pain he was starting to feel in his shoulder. "Be my guest." She stepped carefully off the bed and crossed the room to where Luis Cardinale stood, making sure that Krycek still had his gun pointed at him. She put one handcuff around Cardinale's right wrist and walked the man into the living room, where she locked the other side of the cuffs around a floor-to-ceiling lamp-pole.
"Now, let me look at that shoulder," she said to Alex with concern in her voice. She was relieved to find that it was only a minor wound; the bullet had just grazed him. She went into the adjoining bathroom and gathered up alcohol, ointment, bandages, and Tylenol. "Not to worry, I've had training!" she teased him gently as she set to work.
Through the bedroom door, they could keep an eye on Luis Cardinale. He sat on the floor and watched them right back, no doubt hoping for some miracle escape. Krycek vowed that there would never be an escape for this man again. He intended to hold him until he could get Mulder involved, in the hope that Luis could be persuaded to admit to the killings of Mulder's father and Scully's sister. He realized it was a far-fetched hope.
When Carren had finished cleaning and bandaging his arm, he inspected her work and nodded his approval. "That feels fine, Carren," he said. "But give me the Tylenol, please. It won't be long before I'm going to need it."
"Shouldn't we call Mulder and Scully now, Alex?" Carren asked him anxiously. "It seems like this is something we need their help with."
"My plan exactly," Krycek told her. "Go ahead and make the call."
Scully was still in her car and about five miles from Carren's apartment when her cell phone rang. She answered it on the first ring. "Scully."
"Agent Scully, it's Agent McKenna," Carren's voice came to her through the phone.
"Carren! I'm so glad you called me. I've been trying to reach you for hours but your phone must have been off the hook."
"Yes, umm, that's true. It has been off the hook; I'm sorry, Dana."
Carren had forgotten until she went to call Scully that Krycek had taken it off the hook as soon as she had gone into her bedroom to change her clothes, and they had never replaced the receiver. "I'm glad I caught you," she told Scully.
"Well, as a matter of fact, I'm on my way to your apartment as we speak. Mulder and I were so concerned when we couldn't reach you that we decided to check in with you. I don't know if I impressed upon you how dangerous that man you met in Mulder's office can be." Scully heard Carren take a deep breath on the other end. "Carren?"
"Dana, the fact of the matter is that Alex Krycek is right here with me now."
"What?! Are you all right, Carren? You don't sound as though you're in trouble."
"I don't think that I'm in trouble, Dana. But when I left Mulder's office earlier, Alex was waiting for me outside. He said he wanted to hold me until Mulder agreed to meet with him. I convinced him to take me to my own apartment, and we've been here ever since. He hasn't hurt me in any way, so don't worry about that."
It hadn't escaped Scully's notice that Carren had called him Alex.
"Carren, please take my advice. Whatever he's told you to gain your support, DO NOT believe him."
Carren had just a moment's doubt about the bond she'd felt growing between herself and Krycek. She shook it off. "Dana, we are also holding someone who tried to kill us. Alex says you know him; his name is Luis Cardinale."
"Luis Cardinale?! But I was told that he had died while in custody. I should have known better. They didn't kill him, they just hid him for awhile. And he came to your apartment? He tried to kill you - AND Krycek?" Scully was starting to feel left out of the action.
"Dana, Alex says that this man murdered your sister and Mulder's father. It's one of the things he wanted to talk to Mulder about."
"Has Cardinale confessed to these killings in front of you, Carren?" Scully asked her.
"No, he hasn't," Carren admitted. "But I believe Alex Krycek is telling the truth. He says there is another man, he calls him the Smoking Man, who is trying to have him killed and that this man Cardinale is the assassin he sent to do the job."
"All right, Carren, would you do this for me? Just stay right there and keep both Krycek and Luis Cardinale there with you. I assumed you're armed?" Scully hoped so.
"Oh, yes, I'm armed...now." Carren didn't tell Scully that Alex was also armed.
"I'm on my way, I'll be there soon." Scully disconnected Carren's call and punched in Mulder's number.
"Mulder, it's me. You're not going to believe this. Krycek is at Agent McKenna's apartment."
"Scully, you're kidding. Are you there now?" Mulder was aghast to think that the two women were there with Krycek, maybe being held hostage to get to him.
"No, I'm still about three miles away. She called me on my cell phone and told me quite a story. It's been a busy night for a rookie agent, Mulder. Apparently Krycek has filled her head with tales about what a misunderstood guy he is. And here's the best part, Mulder...do you know who's there with them?"
"Do I have to guess, Scully, or will you tell me?" Mulder was getting impatient with this whole conversation.
"Ready for this, Mulder? It's Luis Cardinale."
"You've got to be kidding me, Scully. How did that happen? I thought he was dead! Is he still working with Krycek?"
"It doesn't sound that way." Scully told him. "Krycek claims that Cardinale is the one who really shot your father. And although we know that he's the one that killed Melissa, I don't think Krycek knows that we know. Mulder, why don't you just meet me there at the apartment and maybe we can get this thing settled right now. I think we should hear Krycek out before we decide he's lying."
Mulder snickered into the phone. "Sure, Scully. I promise to listen to everything he has to say before I start hitting him really hard on the head with my gun." He couldn't believe that Scully was even considering taking Krycek at his word about anything. He hung up the phone and left his office.
In her car, Scully was wondering the same thing herself as she drove the last few miles to Carren's apartment.
Scully stood on the steps outside of Carren's apartment building and rang the bell for a second time. Why hadn't Carren buzzed her in yet? She didn't like it. But then she heard the buzz that signaled the outer door had been unlocked. She walked through it and up the stairs to the second floor, making sure to stay alert. There was always the possibility that this was a trap that had been set by the rat, namely Krycek.
When she reached the top of the stairs she saw the door to Carren's apartment straight ahead. She kept one hand on her gun as she used the other hand to knock.
"Carren, it's Dana Scully. Are you all right? Can you open the door?"
She could hear a door closing inside and in a few seconds the front door was opened for her. Carren stood aside as Scully walked past her into the room. "What's going on, Carren? Where are Krycek and Luis Cardinale?" Scully looked all around her but didn't see any sign of the men. Then she noticed a streak of blood on Carren's hand. "My God, Carren, are you hurt?"
"No, Dana, it's not my blood. Krycek was slightly wounded when that man Cardinale broke into the apartment."
"Well, where are they now?" Scully asked her cautiously, again considering the possibility of a trap of some kind. She still could not believe that Krycek had meant Carren no harm when he'd taken her along with him, or that he had anyone's best intentions in mind other than his own. Krycek was very good at looking out for himself. He'd proved that numerous times, and Scully was in no way ready to trust him.
"Dana...they're gone." Carren looked toward the back of the apartment. Scully followed her gaze through the kitchen and saw a back door there, which she assumed led to an outside stairway that the two men must have used. "Why did they leave? Were you telling me the truth on the telephone or did Krycek make you say those things? Is he really working with Cardinale after all?"
"No, Dana, he's not. In fact Luis Cardinale shot Alex in the shoulder. It wasn't a serious wound, the bullet just grazed him. I cleaned and bandaged it for him."
Scully noticed that Carren looked slightly pale and shaken. "But you weren't hurt?" she asked. Scully could tell that Carren was "hurt", all right. She didn't appear to be physically injured, but she certainly was not all right. Scully wondered if the fact that Krycek had left her here was a good thing or a bad thing. How did Carren see it? Please, Scully thought to herself, don't let this woman be another Krycek casualty. The Alex Krycek that Scully knew was absolutely not a man to lose your heart to.
Carren turned away from Scully and started to walk back through the living room, but when Scully touched her on the arm, she paused. She turned to face Scully and the look in her eyes caused the senior agent to feel her sense of confusion and concern. "Carren, talk to me." Scully insisted.
Carren lowered herself to the couch and Scully sat down beside her. She had briefly considered going toward the back door to see if she could spot Krycek and Cardinale outside, but Mulder would arrive before long and he could worry about that. Scully thought it might be more important right now to talk to Carren and try to determine what state of mind she was in. She knew that Carren's career in the FBI was important to her and she hoped that no permanent damage had been done through this experience. If an FBI agent could be easily swayed by any story told to her by a suspect, she was of no use as an investigator. Staying objective was very important in their line of work. But in a way, Scully understood the effect that an intensely magnetic person like Alex Krycek might have on a young woman like Carren, one who didn't understand the extent of his crimes and the coldness of his heart.
"Where did they go, Carren? Why did they leave if Krycek wants to talk to Mulder so badly? Mulder is on his way here right now and I hate to think of what he'll say when he finds out that they're gone." This change in the situation would only serve to convince Mulder even further that Krycek couldn't be trusted at all. Scully could see the expression on his face in her imagination and she wasn't looking forward to the moment when she and Carren would see it in person.
"Dana, I'm sorry I couldn't convince Alex to wait here for you and Mulder. I feel as though I've let you both down." Carren looked close to tears and that bothered Scully as much as anything else.
Damn Alex Krycek! Scully thought to herself. Why did he have to come back with his pattern of lies and violence and use them on this young woman the way he obviously had? Scully would be very happy if she never saw or heard from Krycek again in her life, but she knew that it did no good to think that way right now. The important thing was to find out exactly what had taken place here during the night and to determine whether Carren had any information as to what they could expect next. Krycek must have told her something before leaving with Luis Cardinale.
"Carren, don't spend any more time worrying about that. Krycek does what he wants to do, and nothing you could have said would convince him to do otherwise."
"But Dana, you don't understand. I know I don't have the experience that you and Mulder have with Alex, but I believe he told me the truth last night," Carren said.
"And what did he tell you, Carren?" Scully asked her. "Do you mean about Luis Cardinale being the killer of Mulder's father? Mulder and I already knew that Cardinale is the one who killed my sister, but I guess Krycek doesn't realize that yet. And believe me, you're going to have a hard time convincing Mulder that it wasn't Krycek that shot and killed his father. Mulder has every reason in the world to hate Alex Krycek, many times over, and he's not going to be open to another way of seeing him." Scully didn't know how much she should tell Carren about Krycek, because she didn't know how much Krycek had told her himself. She wondered how he had managed to get Carren on his side, even after he had more or less kidnapped her right off the street. Scully had not really seen Krycek's more charming side, although she'd heard that he had one. Cold, calculating men like Krycek often had the ability to charm their potential victims. In her work with the FBI, she's seen it many times.
"Dana, first of all you have to believe me - Alex did not even try to hurt me. Nothing bad happened here until that other man broke in and started shooting. Alex had already put his gun down and in fact, he wasn't even armed when Luis came in. That's how he got shot himself. I'm the one who got the drop on the shooter with my own gun."
Scully wasn't sure she understood. "Do you mean that while Krycek was unarmed, you had access to your own firearm and you didn't use it, at least to hold him off?"
"I didn't feel like it was necessary. He hadn't threatened me at all."
"You don't feel that taking you hostage is a threat?"
"I just didn't feel like a hostage, Dana. He just said that having me with him would guarantee that Mulder would make the effort to listen to what he wanted to tell him."
Scully felt like they were getting nowhere. "And what does he want to tell Mulder, Carren? You still haven't made that clear."
"I'm not completely sure. I mean, as I said before, he wants to make sure that Mulder believes that Luis Cardinale, and not Alex, is the man who pulled the trigger on Mulder's father. He said that you and Mulder hold him responsible for both that murder and that of your sister, and that he accepts the responsibility. But he wasn't the actual shooter. Other than that, I don't know what else he has to say to Mulder. But he's convinced that this third man - the "smoking man?" - is going to kill him and possibly Mulder and you."
"Well," said Scully, "the smoking man has had plenty of opportunity to kill all three of us, but he hasn't managed it so far. He did kill his own son, though, and I think we both understand how dangerous that means he is. What kind of man would be the agent of his own child's death? And Alex Krycek has been working for him for years. He was planted into the FBI as Mulder's partner when I was...away...but he was never an FBI agent. He was just an imposter, put there by the Smoking Man to get Mulder out of the way and to make sure that he wouldn't be able to find me or help me."
Carren looked curiously at Scully. "What do you mean, Dana? Where were you and what happened to you?"
"I don't want to go into all that with you now, Carren." Scully thought that maybe, someday, she might know and trust Carren enough to tell her the whole story. "But Krycek did try to kill Mulder then, and that's not the only time. It's no wonder that Mulder and I can't bring ourselves to trust him now. But you still haven't made me understand why YOU trust Alex Krycek in spite of my warnings to the contrary."
Carren looked past Scully and tried to think how to put the bond she felt with Alex Krycek into words that would make some kind of sense. In truth, she didn't understand it herself; she just knew that it had happened. She knew that she had almost immediately trusted Krycek, who had held her life in his hands; and without a clear understanding of why, she knew that she wanted to be with him again and to help him salvage his life in whatever way she could.
"Dana, I know that Alex is a dangerous person who has done terrible things. He told me about his history with the Smoking Man. But he also told me about how he became the person who could do those things. Do you know anything about his past, Dana? Did you know that he was orphaned as a child and treated so badly for years that he just lost all perspective of what was right and wrong? He really regrets the things he's done and the evil that took over his life. He wants to change, he wants to end that part of his life and start over, and he's so afraid that he'll be killed before he can do that."
Scully touched Carren's hand and Carren looked at her with tears in her eyes. "Am I a fool to believe him, Dana? Don't you think that a person can change? Do you really believe that Alex is beyond redemption? When he was telling me about his childhood, I felt his heartbreak and his complete hopelessness. I wanted to do anything I could to help him, to make it better for him. I can't believe that I'm naive enough to be completely mistaken about him. Dana, I can't remember a time when anyone has ever made me feel so sad. Even when my parents were killed, I hurt but I accepted it as something that couldn't be changed. I think that things can change for Alex and I want to help make that happen. I know a little bit about you and Mulder, Dana, and I know how much you two care about each other. I've never had that in my life and I don't think Alex has either. Something just tells me that we could have that with each other if we only had the chance to try."
Scully felt her own heart breaking with the hopelessness she had always felt about her relationship with Mulder. She knew how much they meant to each other, and yet they would not or could not bring themselves to come right out and admit it. Whenever they seemed to be at a point where they were ready to finally see their love for the completely unbreakable bond that it was, they always backed away. How many times had she wanted to say to Mulder, "Fox," - oh, how good it would feel if she could just call him that and not be teased about it - "I love you so much and I want to be with you always. Don't ever leave me. Please love me back." But Scully was unsure if Mulder's feelings for her were exactly like hers for him. She knew he loved her, in fact, he'd even said the words to her. But she couldn't believe he meant it in the same way. She was afraid to let down her defenses and admit her total need for his love. What if she surprised him and he told her that he couldn't love her back in that way? The bond that they did have would be forever changed and there would be no way to go back.
She looked at Carren and said, "Oh, Carren, I don't know what to tell you. Obviously I'm not the one to advise anyone on love; what it is, how it feels, what to do with it. I've never said this to anybody, Carren, because until right this minute, I'd never actually looked at my feelings for Mulder in their true light. You're right; I do love him. I want to be his partner not only in work but in life, but I don't know if we can ever do that. We've seen so many things, done so many things together that you'd think we'd be able to face the truth about ourselves. Unfortunately, the truth is the hardest thing in the world to face sometimes."
Right then there was a knock at the door, and Mulder's voice called out, "Scully?"
Of course, Scully thought. How perfectly Mulder, to arrive right at this moment, with me ready to tell him I love him and the situation
Fox Mulder was alone in his office. It was a situation that had repeated itself too often over the past week. Scully was working on a case independent of Mulder, and had been kept busy the past few days with an autopsy and related forensic work.
On the morning they had last seen Alex Krycek at Memorial Park, Mulder and Scully had turned up at their 10:00 meeting with A.D. Kersch. Neither agent had slept at all, and they had barely gotten cleaned up and organized before entering the office of the Assistant Director.
"Sit down, Agent Mulder, Agent Scully." Kersch had told them. "Is everything all right? You seem a bit...distracted."
"No sir, everything is fine." answered Scully before her partner could speak first. "I believe this meeting was called to discuss the Dean case?" She lifted the file folder that she'd handled half the night, and passed it to Mulder, seated on her left.
"That is correct, Agent Scully." observed Kersch. "However, Agent Mulder won't be working on this particular case with you. There's nothing *spooky* about this one." He motioned for Mulder to return the file to Scully. With a look at his partner, Mulder did. "So Agent Mulder can continue on with *whatever* it is that he's currently involved in."
"Excuse me, *sir*, but I'm not 'currently involved' in anything." Mulder could barely control his temper. After the night he and Scully had just spent, this was almost more than he could take. To be shut down like this, to be left out. "However, since I'm not needed for 'this particular case', I believe I'll just excuse myself from this meeting and go back to my office." Mulder had pushed his chair back from the A.D.'s desk, stood up and walked out without a backward look, not even at Scully.
Since that day a week ago, he'd barely seen Scully at all. He missed her, and what was more important, he felt that nothing had been settled regarding their encounter with Alex Krycek, who had been completely missing since that day at The Wall. Mulder had been thinking about the incident for days and had decided very little. He was tired of waiting for Scully to come to him. He would obviously have to go to her if he wanted her input. She was apparently very busy with her case, and he knew the first places he should look were the morgue and labs. If he knew Scully, and he did, she'd be hard at work doing what she really liked best.
Scully was peering through the eyeglass of a microscope in the laboratory attached to the FBI morgue. She'd been looking through a certain group of tissue samples from a crime scene, and was now ready for the next group.
She turned to her new lab assistant and asked, "Could you hand me the second batch of tissue samples please, Carren?"
Carren McKenna was pleased to be working on the forensic aspects of this case with Dana Scully. She was trying her best to do a good job in her first special assignment. It had been a difficult week for Carren, however. As hard as she tried, she could not completely lose the unsettled feeling that had come upon her as she had watched Alex Krycek drive away that morning. She'd given herself all kinds of mental advice but had so far acted on none of it. She kept herself in a kind of altered state on the matter of Alex Krycek. Whatever it was, it wasn't over. She didn't just believe that; she knew it. She could feel it. Since the night they had spent together, a sense of him was always in the background of everything she did; like this amazing secret that she carried inside of her. Somthing had happened between her and Alex. It was the truth. She believed it.
"Carren? Do you have those samples? They were right on the table by you." Scully turned again to take a closer look at the agent she had requested be assigned to assist her with this case. Scully felt a sense of responsibility for the younger woman. She wanted to be available to Carren for support if it was needed. So far Carren had been doing fine on her own, although Scully could easily see that she was at times preoccupied with her thoughts. If Carren had told Scully the truth, nothing irreversible had happened between her and Krycek during the night they'd spent together in Carren's apartment. If it *is* the truth, Scully thought to herself. Let's just hope it is.
Taking the tray of tissue samples that Carren handed her, Scully looked up when she heard the door to the lab being pushed open. She smiled warmly when she saw that it was Fox Mulder. She'd been kept so busy these past few days that she had hardly seen him at all, or talked to him in fact. He looked as good as ever, although he didn't return her smile as he approached. He was obviously surprised to see Carren McKenna working with her in the lab, and he leaned close to her and lowered his voice as he said, "Could we talk privately, Scully?"
Scully glanced in Carren's direction and saw the other woman was now looking away. Scully frowned slightly at Mulder and led him into the morgue next door. She knew that the morgue wasn't Mulder's favorite place in the world and somehow right now that fact pleased her. Just a moment ago she'd been so glad to see him. Why did her feelings about Mulder have to be so complex now? It drove her crazy. Sometimes she just loved everything about working with him and being his partner and friend. And then at other times she just got so aggrievated with him for no good reason. Scully found it very curious and wondered why he affected her this way.
"What is it, Mulder? We're kind of in the middle of something right now." In fact, the work that Scully and Carren were doing was not that urgent and she could certainly take a few minutes to talk to Mulder. My God, I'm acting like a woman, she thought.
Mulder couldn't help but think how nice it was to be standing next to Scully again. To Mulder she represented security and comfort. Until he'd come in here and saw her today, he hadn't felt this way for days. With every day that went by, Mulder became more and more aware of how much he needed to be with Scully. And when they *were* together, he felt that sense of security, of things being the way they should be, the way they were intended to be.
So he was surprised to realize it was himself who said contrarily, "You know, Scully, there was a time when "we" meant you and me. Now I guess it means you and your new best friend in there." He gestured with his head in the direction of the lab where Carren worked.
"Mulder, do you hear what you're saying? My 'new best friend'? Don't make me drop the name Diana Fowley - oh, too late. I already dropped it. And you can just drop the attitude."
This kind of exchange was in no way what Mulder had expected or wanted when he'd entered the lab to talk to Scully. Things were not going well and he wasn't sure why. He tried to make amends.
"Scully, I'm really sorry if I sound jealous or something. It's just, well, I miss working with you. We are partners, no matter what Kersch or *anyone* else says or thinks. We belong together." And we really do, Mulder admitted to himself, not for the first time. In the past few months, he'd begun to feel as though maybe Scully shared his feelings, that she was edging toward some greater relationship with him. They had been resisting their attraction to each other for years, but what loomed ahead of them now was not just their attraction. It was their devotion, their addiction, their obsession. They would soon face each other with the truth. Mulder felt sure of it.
Mulder leaned against the door that separated the morgue from the lab. Scully still stood close to him and she didn't move away.
"I've been thinking about Krycek, Scully. I know he had something else to talk to me about that day. I think he just got mad because of the things I said to him. Scully, if this thing is as important as he hinted before that it is, then I don't think it will be too long before he pays us a return visit."
"Is that what you want, Mulder?" Scully wasn't sure what Mulder was thinking in respect to Alex Krycek at this moment. She thought she sensed a slight lessening of the hostility that Mulder had shown towards Krycek when they'd last met.
"I'm not real sure about anything right now, Scully. It's been one of those weeks, you know? One of those really weird weeks. Look, you need to get back to work and...so do I...I guess. Actually, things are a little slow down at the office lately. If you need anything, any help with this case, you know, any little thing at all...just give me a ring."
Every now and then a passing word or phrase would strike Mulder as having more than one meaning, the other meaning usually reminding him of Scully; in this instance, the expression, "give me a ring." Oh boy, Mulder thought, this is getting intense.
Scully seemed to not notice his distracted state, as she turned back to the lab door.
"I'll talk to you soon, Mulder." she said over her shoulder as she left the morgue.
Carren was watching Scully as she came back into the lab. "Agent Mulder doesn't care much for me, does he, Dana?" she asked quietly.
Scully knew better than to brush Carren's question off with a quick response.
"It's truly not a personal thing, Carren. Under different circumstances I'm sure that Mulder would be more friendly to you. It's just difficult, the way you two met. And it's not only that. Mulder is a very...complex person. He can relate when it's necessary, but his people skills aren't his strongest point. He's been through a lot in his life."
"I understand that, Dana, but so have a lot of people. You and I, for instance. Alex Krycek, for another." Carren had not had any intention of bring up Krycek, and she was mildly surprised to hear his name coming from her own lips. Since Scully had not mentioned him in the past week, Carren had seen no reason to do so herself. She knew well enough how Mulder and Scully felt about Alex Krycek, and she didn't want her own thoughts and feelings to absorb theirs. They were frail enough, those feelings, the memories of the one night she'd known Alex. They were like air, like bubbles....all too easily blown away.
Scully sat down at the lab table next to Carren. She gathered up the slides they'd been working with before Mulder had come by, and put them back into their boxes. She tried to give herself time to think about what she wanted to say. Although she had requested Carren for her assistant on this case and she was enjoying their association, she had spent so many years as part of "MulderandScully" that she was still slow to attempt any other relationships. However, she liked and trusted this young woman, and she suddenly felt an urge to confide in her as she had never expected to do to anyone else but Mulder.
"Carren, I feel like it's important that you understand more about what's going on here; I mean, with Mulder and me, and Alex Krycek, and what's referred to as the 'X-Files'. I just don't know how much you've already heard from other sources."
Carren blushed slightly as she told Scully, "Dana, I'm sure you know how talk and rumors get around at the Academy. You and Mulder have been partners for several years, I know that. And I've heard that you two are very close to each other, as close as partners could possibly be...without being in a different kind of relationship. Well, you've already talked to me a little bit about that."
Now it was Dana Scully's turn to blush. She was remembering the conversation she'd had with Carren that night at Carren's apartment. "I'll be honest with you, Carren, right now I can hardly believe that I said those things to you about Mulder. I mean, I hadn't really accepted in my mind what my heart already knew, and yet it all came out when I talked to you. It's strange but there's just something about you that makes me want to tell you things I haven't told anyone who's not already involved."
"Ah, but Dana, I *am* involved now, aren't I? At least up to a point, I am. And I still don't know what it is I'm involved in. I'd just like to know that much."
Scully hesitated to tell Carren about Mulder's own life experience, but it was so important to the entire story. It was where it all began.
"Fox Mulder believes that his younger sister Samantha was abducted by extraterrestrials when they were children. I'm serious," she added as she saw that Carren was on the verge of laughter. "He believed for many years that he saw her abduction take place and that it was the work of aliens. He had recall of many details. This is what turned him into the "spooky" guy he is now. Since he was twelve years old, he's been searching for answers to Samantha's disappearance. When he started working for the FBI, he was given the "X-Files" because they thought he was the only one who would take them. It took awhile, but he - and I - discovered that abductions have been taking place for years...but it wasn't truly aliens that were responsible."
"No kidding..." Carren commented.
"We've been investigating the X-Files together for almost seven years now, Carren, and I've seen things and learned things that the average person would *never* believe. I can tell you're having trouble taking it seriously yourself. But Carren, if you'd seen even the smallest part of what we've seen, you'd believe too. What I'm going to tell you will no doubt sound truly insane and paranoid, but I'm hoping that you have at least a small measure of respect for me now that we've been working together. I'm hoping that because of that, you'll try to take what I tell you as the truth."
"You'll think this is strange, coming from me, because we both work for the Federal Government. But Carren, our government has been involved in some incredible undertakings, things that the average citizen will never know about until it's too late..." And with that, Scully began the story of the events that had changed her life forever.
Scully made a show of peeking into Mulder's office and smiling before walking in. She was feeling bad about their earlier encounter, when each of them had acted pretty childishly. She was still thinking about her conversation with Carren McKenna, and she wanted to talk to Mulder. Should she tell him about how much she'd told Carren?
"Busy, Mulder?" she asked him as she approached his desk. "Or do you have time for me?" Already, she thought. I'm already sounding like a bitch.
But luckily Mulder didn't seem to take it that way. Instead he stood up and pulled out the other chair beside his desk, so that she could sit down next to him.
"Scully, how can you even ask?" he chided her. "I always have time for you. Now more than ever." Mulder tried for sounding hurt but ended up with pitiful.
Scully gave him a friendly punch on the arm as she took the seat that Mulder offered to her. "You act so neglected, Mulder. I'm sure you're working on something interesting, one of your more esoteric cases no doubt. My case is pretty straightforward, one could almost say...boring."
"And yet you got yourself your very own little lab assistant to help out, Scully."
"Mulder, what problem do you have with Agent McKenna? Can't you just give her a chance? What happened with Krycek wasn't her fault. She's dealing with it in her own way. She needs her work to stay focused and I like having her around. Not as much as I would like having *you* around, of course."
"I'm really glad you came to see me, Scully." Mulder said. He took her hand and didn't seem inclined to let it go. Scully considered moving her hand away but thought it could wait for just awhile.
"Mulder, do you ever give any thought to where you and I will be, say, ten years from now?" Scully regretted asking the question the instant she finished speaking, but it was too late to take it back.
Mulder shook his head slowly. "How can I think in terms of ten years, when all we've seen and learned these past few years is telling me that we don't *have* ten years. We could be living in a completely different world - assuming that we're living at all."
"Gee, Mulder...I feel so much better now. Thanks for putting my question into perspective for me. Why should I think about you and me and the future. We have no future. There is no future. You know what, Mulder? That future *sucks*."
Mulder couldn't help it. He laughed out loud.
"Scully, I have never, ever heard you use that expression before. That was priceless!"
And suddenly they were actually laughing together, close again for the moment. Neither of them gave thought to the way they had once again avoided the subject of their relationship and where it might lead them. That Truth would have to wait for awhile.
Unfortunately, at that moment the office phone rang. "Keep thinking about our future, Scully," Mulder advised her as he picked up the phone . "See what you can come up with."
"Mulder." he answered.
"Mulder, it's me," came from an all-too-familiar voice.
Mulder looked at Scully and rolled his eyes. Guess who, he mouthed the words to her.
"Is it really? Are you sure? You know, I've been having some trouble with my pronouns today. Could you possibly clarify that 'me' for me?" Scully heard amusement in Mulder's voice but she also thought he sounded a little tense as well.
"Mulder, you know who this is, dammit. I'm not identifying myself over the phone. Don't play games with me!" Krycek sounded as intense as always.
"Who's the one playing games? I'm getting a little tired of playing hide-and-seek with you, to tell you the truth. If you still want to see me and talk to me, let's get it done. Let's not wait."
"Oh, don't worry, Mulder. We'll be seeing each other very soon. And I promise you that it will be worth the wait. You could say we've been waiting years to have this talk. But not until tomorrow night. And you'll have to take a little trip for me. I want you to meet me at the famous Mulder house at Quonochontaug. It's only fitting. Trust me."
Trust me. What a joke. Mulder wanted to tell Krycek to forget it, that there was nothing that could make him go back to that house. His mother had been so terribly hurt on the day she'd met the Smoking Man at that house, to confront the past that had haunted Mulder all his life. But an idea was taking shape in his head, a way to help soften the blow of going back to Rhode Island again for the first time since that day when he'd found the alien weapon hidden in the Mulder summer house.
"All right, Alex, I'll do it. I assume it's all right if I bring Scully with me, seeing as how we're 'joined at the hip' and all. I'm sure not going there without her." Mulder held up one finger at Scully's questioning look, indicating that he'd explain everything in just a moment.
"Sure, Mulder. Bring Scully. I've gotten quite used to seeing her at your side. Meet me at the house at 6:00 tomorrow night. This will be like getting to know each other all over again." Krycek was in a mood to keep Mulder guessing, and he hung up the phone on his end before Mulder could say another word or ask him to explain.
"*Now* what, Mulder?" Scully asked impatiently. "Another wild-goose chase after Krycek? If you think I'm going with you again, forget it. It's Friday night and I want to go home and relax for once."
"That sounds like a boring Friday night to me, Scully. Wouldn't you rather spend a couple of hours on a small commuter plane, flying up to the picturesque hamlet of Quonochontaug, Rhode Island? We could each go home and grab a few things and meet at the airport. We'll be at my family's summer home before ten o'clock if we're lucky."
"You have *got* to be kidding, Mulder. It doesn't sound like my idea of fun."
Mulder looked at Scully seriously. "Scully, I have to go, I really do. And I don't think I can do it without you. Besides, I was thinking it would be a chance for you and I to spend some time together, away from everyone here in Washington." Mulder was thinking about Agent Carren McKenna, but Scully's mind went to Diana Fowley.
"Just you and me...and Krycek? That sounds very...interesting, Mulder."
"Krycek is meeting me there at six p.m. tomorrow night. That gives us lots of time to spend together. Maybe we can really have a good talk about that future we're so curious about...not to mention the past few years. I don't know about you, Scully, but I have a funny feeling about us. Everything is conspiring to keep us apart at the time when we should be coming closer together." Mulder lay his hand on her arm and smiled at her pleadingly. How could she refuse him?
"All right, Mulder, we'll go up there tonight and tomorrow we can talk. But just one thing, Mulder...when we go to bed tonight, I get my own room, right?"
"Of course, Scully, if that's what you want," Mulder teased her gently.
"I might not know what I want," Scully said, "but I know what I have to do."
"So then," said Mulder, getting up from his desk, "let's do it." They picked up their things and walked out of Mulder's office as he turned off the light behind them.
Carren stepped out of the stairwell into the parking garage. It had been a long day in the lab, ending in that bizaare conversation with Dana Scully. She didn't know what to think about all the things that Scully had told her, including Alex Krycek's part in the scenario that Scully obviously believed.
Carren felt as if she were miles from her car; she was so tired and she felt a heavy emotional burden as well. She forced herself to focus on her footsteps until she got her bearings. Just two aisles ahead she saw her small white car. She had her keys in hand and wished she had a car with a remote control doorlock system. She always felt a bit nervous in the moments it took to manually unlock the car door.
She reached the car and quickly unlocked the driver's side door. Being in law enforcement made you more aware of the constant danger that surrounded everyone at all times. It also made you more paranoid.
Carren slid into her seat behind the wheel, closing and locking the door. As she put the keys into the ignition and started the engine, she looked up to see something odd balanced upon the dashboard in front of her. She reached out and picked it up as a small sense of shock ran through her mind and body.
Carren knew a message when she saw one. As she put the car in gear, she tucked the four-inch tall Ripley plastic action figure deep into her coat pocket.
She'd be home soon.
He loved driving at night. He always had.
The darkness, the quiet. He loved it.
When he was a kid, confused and lonely and bitter, he would go out at night and prowl the neighborhoods, just sensing the differences from the daylight. He understood being as different as night and day. He knew about acting one way but feeling another, deep inside, hidden until the dark of night.
When he'd first gone to work for Them, he had been taught how to drive and given that as an assignment. A lot of their work was done at night.
Now he had driven for several nights until he was never sure what night it was or what day it would be tomorrow. He drove all night and then found a place to eat and sleep during the day. It didn't matter to him where he went. When he drove at night, his mind was his own; he could think about her if he wanted to. And when he didn't want to think any more, he could let his mind become a blank that barely saw the road ahead.
But tonight he was back and driving with a purpose. Tonight he had somewhere to go, at least for awhile. And tomorrow he would tell Fox Mulder everything.
But not until tomorrow night.
"My God, Mulder, is it always this dark around here at night?"
Fox Mulder looked over at Dana Scully, who sat in the passenger seat of their typical rental car. "Scully, this isn't what I call being a good sport. Of course it's always this dark around here at night. Why would tonight be different from any other night?"
Scully looked back out her window. "It's a miracle that people don't die on these roads every night. You can't even see where the turns in the road are."
"Well, when you spend enough time here, you get used to the way the roads bend and turn, Scully. And I never said people didn't die on these roads. They do, all the time." Mulder looked over at Scully and gave her his most serious look.
"Please, Mulder. You're not funny." Scully meanwhile was trying not to laugh.
"Scully, I'm not trying to be funny. I'm dead serious."
Scully made a little "shoo" motion with her hand. "How much longer until we get to the house, Mulder?" she asked. "I'm cold and tired, and I'm hungry - Mulder, there's not going to be anything to eat, is there?"
Mulder was much too embarrassed to admit that he'd forgotten all about food. "I'm sure we'll find some place to get food along the way."
"But how far is it, Mulder? You didn't answer that question."
"Sorry, Scully, but it's still miles. Relax. We'll get there when we get there."
Scully returned to looking out of the window at what she considered nothing. Nothing but trees along both sides of the long dark road. We'll get there when we get there. Perfect.
Carren slowly opened the door to her apartment and looked inside. She had half expected - maybe half hoped - to see Alex Krycek waiting for her there. But there was no sign of life other than a sleepy-looking Ripley stretching her way toward the front door.
Carren went in and shut the door behind her, engaging the new lock she'd had installed earlier in the week. Let's just give the bad guy something interesting to do, she'd thought as she had watched it being put in.
Carren sometimes wondered if she was losing her mind.
She picked up the cat and carried it out into the kitchen, telling herself she wasn't looking around every corner and through every open door on the way there.
"You're such a good cat. I wish you knew how glad I am that I named you Ripley."
Carren was gratified when the animal started to purr. She had found the poor lost cat shortly after she'd moved into the apartment, just when she'd needed the company most. Their association was fate, now more than ever before.
After dishing out some cat food, Carren walked back through the hall to her bedroom. She sat down on the edge of the bed and slipped off the shoes she wore to work. She was so tired. She briefly considered taking a hot bath, but she was even too tired for that.
Instead, she did something she didn't often do. She returned to the kitchen and opened her refrigerator door, looking way to the back of the top shelf. She drew out the bottle of white wine that had been in there for two or three weeks, its volume dropping lower only occasionally.
"Thank God for Friday nights," she said out loud.
Taking a wine glass from the shelf, she carried both glass and bottle back into the bedroom. She set them down on top of the dresser and started to undress. She still felt the need for hot water on her skin and decided to take a short shower.
She went into the bathroom and started the water in the shower. As she waited for it to get warm - an unfortunately slow process - she went back to her room and poured a small amount of wine into her glass. She took a sip while she unzipped her skirt and let it fall to the floor. Tossing her blouse onto the bed, she drank the rest of the wine in the glass, finished undressing, and stepped into the shower.
The hot water felt wonderful to her tired muscles as she tried to release the tension from both body and mind. She was in a strange mood. She felt very much on edge, a feeling of restless anticipation. Tonight felt like a turning point. Was she now involved in Mulder and Scully's world of conspiracies and unexplainable events? Would she ever see Alex Krycek again, or had the Ripley toy been left in her car as a final goodbye?
Carren turned off the shower, took a towel from the rack by the bathtub, and dried herself off. She pulled on the short robe that hung on the bathroom door and walked back to the bedroom. Collecting her clothes from the floor and the bed, she put them into a hamper by the bathroom door.
Every move she made felt unreal; she felt like a walking X-File. She wondered if Mulder and Scully felt like this all the time. And Alex Krycek; did he sometimes feel like he was living in this dream world?
Carren had expected that joining the FBI would bring normality and structure into her life. It wasn't turning out that way.
She loaded several of her favorite CD's into her portable stereo. When she felt like she did tonight, she always listened to music. Music was at the top of the list of things that Carren needed in her life, and on a night like this, she needed it like she needed the air to breathe.
As she poured more wine into her glass, the first CD started to play some Eastern Indian music. She lit the candles on the dresser and sat down on her bed, leaning back against the headboard. She took a drink of wine and tried to get lost in the music.
What Carren wanted to think about was Alex Krycek. It was as though he were inside her head, whispering remember, remember me. She had relived those twelve hours last week in her mind at least a dozen times. And those were only the times when she consciously thought it over from start to finish. At other times, random thoughts and feelings would pass through her like ghosts.
Instead, she made herself think about her life until now. Especially, she tried to think about her husband Michael, from whom she'd been divorced almost two years. They had been good friends before becoming lovers in their senior year of college, and had married after graduating. Carren had never been with anyone else but Michael. But after two years of marriage, they had known that theirs was only a love between friends. That part of her life had ended, and a new one had been in the making for some time, bringing her to where she was now.
All roads of thought lead in the same direction tonight. To the same intersection.
Carren finished the wine in her glass.
On the stereo a different CD was playing now.
"...and this sweet madness, oh, this glorious sadness, brings me to my knees..."
Carren McKenna understood that kind of sadness very well. Not many humans were lucky enough to recognize the one person they were meant to find. Look at Mulder and Scully. Just knowing them for a few days she had seen every sign of friendship, of bonding, of love and even of passion. They were lucky because they were most of the way there, and yet they still hadn't recognized each other in the most complete way.
What did it mean that she had felt like she knew Alex Krycek as soon as he'd spoken to her? Within hours of meeting, they had been sharing their life stories in complete trust, opening their hearts to bleed all over each other. Now, after barely knowing him, she could think of little else.
Carren closed her eyes.
"Pass the Kung Pao, would you Scully?"
Half a dozen cartons of Chinese food from Hong Kong Express were on the floor between Mulder and Scully. The furniture in the Mulder house was covered with sheets of plastic, so they sat on the living room floor in front of the fireplace. Dust was everywhere, but Mulder had pulled a blanket from a shelf in a bedroom closet and spread it out for them to sit on and eat. He had also found firewood on the back porch and had built and lit a fire. The house had indeed been freezing, as Scully had expected it would be; the fire was a necessity, but it gave the room more than physical warmth.
Scully passed the carton of spicy chicken and picked up one that was mainly vegetables, digging into it with the wooden chopsticks that the restaurant had provided. She'd seen quite a few movies in which couples ate Chinese food out of cartons, but she'd never done it herself. Dana Scully always put her take-out food on plates. This was more fun.
"Mulder," she began, but his name came out distorted thru the food.
"Scully, didn't that lovely lady you call your mother ever teach you not to talk with your mouth full?" Mulder grinned at her wickedly.
Scully swallowed and said, "My mother taught me just fine, thank you, Mulder. Manners are very important to her. As I started to say...there's something you should know. This afternoon, I had a long talk with Agent McKenna. I thought she deserved to know more about Krycek and the kind of man he is, and it was next to impossible to do that without getting into some detail about the X-Files. I even told her about Samantha."
Mulder looked at her curiously. "How did she take all this, Scully? Did it seem like she believed you?"
"I think she's trying to believe, Mulder. But you know how hard that would be for anyone. If you don't count her training, Carren doesn't have much experience yet with the Bureau or the kind of world we move in. She's bright and motivated, but at the same time she's almost naive. My story must have sounded pretty incredible to her.
"On top of that, I don't believe she really wants to know the truth about Krycek. He took her in completely by playing the nice guy. I think she has very strong romantic feelings about him. And that's his real crime here. It could ruin her career and her life if she decides to trust him over us."
Mulder no longer felt very hungry, and he put down the carton of food.
"Well, Scully, I can't fault you for talking to her about this. You're right, she has to know the truth now that we've all managed to get her involved."
"Mulder, what do you think Krycek is planning, getting you all the way up here like this? I mean, you know him a lot better than I do. I just wonder if this is another waste of our time. Do you have any ideas whatsoever about what he wants to tell you?"
Mulder shook his head. "It seems like Krycek has been involved in every bad thing that's happened to you and me since the day we met. Maybe that's not true; maybe I'm paranoid," and at this obvious observation, Mulder ducked his head and smiled slightly, "but it sure seems that way. I still don't believe him when he says he didn't shoot my father, and if he says it one more time I'm gonna lose it and pop him one.
"There's no way to know for sure, Scully, but I guess I'm hoping that he has some real information about my sister. At this point, that's all I really care about.
"That's all I want to hear."
Carren sat up in bed, realizing that she had fallen asleep.
The candles on the dresser were still burning, but low. In the soft glow that they gave off, she saw him sitting at the foot of her bed as he'd done that other night. Ripley lay sleeping across his lap.
"What are you doing, Alex?" she asked him.
"I'm watching you sleep, Carren. Watching you breathe."
"I knew you'd come," she told him.
"Did you? I didn't. I tried not to come back."
"Why did you come, then? Do you even know?"
"I can't really understand why I'm so compelled to be with you, no. But as soon as I left you behind that day, I wanted to come back. Finally, I knew it was what I had to do. I just needed a little time."
Carren got up from the bed and walked to where Krycek sat. She picked up Ripley and carried the cat over to the bedroom door, tossing her gently into the living room. When she turned around, Alex was standing right behind her. She lifted her hand toward his face, and he reached up with his own hand to grasp hers. Their fingers intertwined as he pulled her closer to him.
"I've never been as alone as I've been since I met you," he told her in a hoarse voice.
"I hardly think about anything else. I even started dreaming about you. When I woke up, it felt like we'd really been together. With every dream it got harder to stay away. That's why I came here tonight. I need to know if you feel the same way."
"You already know the answer to that, Alex. But if you want me to tell you something, then I'll tell you this - I dream about you too. We both know what we need. If it can only be for this one night, at least we'll have that."
Holding his hand in hers, Carren took him to her bed and drew him down with her.
On her stereo, the music was still playing, though neither of them heard the words that they might have understood very well.
"We touch... this place is so quiet, sensing that storm... Just let the red rain splash you, let the rain fall on your skin, I come to you, defenses down, with the trust of a child..."
"Ne boysya," Alex whispered in her ear. "Don't be afraid."
"I'm not afraid, Alex."
When Alex Krycek finally kissed her, Carren understood all the need she held inside. She kissed him back, afraid she would wake up from what might only be another dream.
Mulder had taken the plastic off the sofa that faced the fireplace. To their relief, they had found that it wasn't really that dusty underneath. Scully looked through the bedrooms upstairs until she found pillows that she could put on the couch. When she passed through a small bedroom in which the walls were still painted a faded lavender, she realized that it must have been Samantha's room when the family had spent time here. I hope you get what you want, Mulder, she thought. And I hope it hasn't come too late.
When she came back down the stairs into the living room, Mulder was kneeling in front of the fireplace, regarding the dying fire with a poker in his hand. He turned and grinned at Scully with embarassment. She put the pillows on the sofa and stood beside him.
"I still can't decide if I'm really afraid of fire, Scully. This one is just begging me to play with it, get it going nice and big again. When I was a kid, I always used to watch my father get the fire going and think how much better it would be if I had made it.
"Sometimes I really like to do that... play with fire." The words seemed ironic.
"Always wanting to be in charge, right, Mulder? Even as a kid."
"Yeah, you're right, Scully. I guess it's always been my problem. I see something and I think I can fix it. That's why I never gave up on trying to find out what happened to Samantha. I kept thinking that I could fix it - find her and bring her home and my parents could be happy again. We'd be a family again.
"I've been trying to fix my life, my family's life, for 25 years. But I don't have a family anymore. My sister will probably never come back. My father is dead, shot in cold blood thanks to Alex Krycek. My mother doesn't want anything to do with me most of the time. She looks at me and sees a reminder of what she doesn't have any more.
"I've never fixed anything, Scully. And I really tried. I did."
Mulder watched her as she lowered herself to sit on the floor next to him. "Your life was great until they sent you to me, you know." He reached out and put his hand on her shoulder, giving it a small shake. "I took all that away from you, Scully. I took away your future. I almost took away your life. And you're all I have left now.
"You're the only person that I really love."
Scully felt her breath stop with his words. He had said them to her before, but never in a voice so full of pain and desire. She knew he meant it this time in a way that he never had before.
"Mulder," she began, "I don't hold you responsible for the things that have happened in my life since we became partners. I know how you feel. Everything we've done, all the things that brought us together and have kept us together, these make us closer than family. I tell you things that I would never tell my mother or my brother...or my priest. I trust you more than you think. I know I usually argue with you about your theories, and I guess it seems like I don't trust your judgement a lot of the time.
"But I trust you, Mulder. And I love you more than anyone in my life."
"Oh God, Scully. Are we really doing this? Are we saying what I think we are?"
"I hope so, Mulder. It took me a long time to admit the truth about myself and my feelings for you. Now that I have, I really don't want to be the only one."
Mulder slid his arm around her back and pulled her closer to him. He looked into her eyes as tears came to his own. Then he bent his head down and kissed her for real.
"Don't worry, Scully. You will never be the only one. Neither will I."
He took her hands and pulled her up with him.
"Scully, that floor isn't getting any softer and I'm getting older just sitting on it. I think we'd be a lot more comfortable on the couch." He smiled at her as she reacted with a glance of mild suspicion. "My intentions are fairly honorable, Scully. For the time being, at least."
Dana Scully allowed herself to be led over to the couch, still holding Mulder's hand, feeling happy and anxious at once. She was trying to follow her feelings and her instincts about what this night might mean. She knew her life was about to change yet again, and forever. It will be a good thing. I want to be loved, so much. I want to love Mulder.
Together they sat down on the old, soft couch - the couch where Mulder had once played with his sister, had once held her down and tickled her until she'd cried.
Mulder stretched his legs out in front of him, leaning back into a corner of the couch. He pulled Scully back against his chest until her head was resting against his shoulder. Her hair smelled like his mother's spice rack in the kitchen. It was the right scent for a woman like Dana. Not perfume or flowers. Dana Scully was like spice.
He wrapped both arms around her and held her tightly as they lay there together.
"Dana," Mulder whispered by her ear. "Would you do something for me?"
"I'll try, Mulder. If I can, I will."
"Would you please call me Fox?"
"Oh, Mulder...Fox. I can't believe you let me do that."
"I always hated that name. I got laughed at all the time in school. It was just so weird. There was never anyone else named Fox. Girls were 'foxes'. I felt like such a sissy."
Scully laughed against his chest.
"But it sounds different when you say it now. I'm glad I hardly ever used it. Now it's a new name, one that only you can call me. It sounds like love."
Scully thought that his words sounded like love, too.
Carren felt as if she might never want to sleep again, especially if Alex Krycek was in her bed. They'd been in her bed for three hours but they hadn't slept yet.
Carren knew she was naive about sex, or she had been a few hours ago. But she'd had no clue just how little she had known. She knew instinctively, however, that Alex Krycek was an exceptional lover. She was truly astonished to remember some of the things she had done. That Alex had done.
They were both lying on their sides, Alex behind her with his arm around her waist. She didn't know how long he would stay with her tonight, and she didn't want to know. Carren just wanted to pretend for a while that every night could be like this one.
But Krycek moved away from her to lie on his back. He was thinking about the long drive ahead of him to meet Mulder in Rhode Island. It would not be a pleasant encounter with the truth for either of them. He just knew that it was long past time.
"Carren, I have to go soon." He waited for some sign that she'd heard him. "Carren? Are you awake?"
"Of course I'm awake, Alex. When do you have to leave?"
"Pretty soon. I need to talk to you before I go."
Carren turned over to her other side to look at him in profile as he lay on his back. He is so different, she thought, both hard and beautiful at once. She found that this was the kind of man that she wanted, one who had little fear.
She knew that he had become that man by living a kind of life that she could barely comprehend. A life that was the complete opposite of everything that she had worked to become.
She also knew that she wasn't afraid of him, and that she wasn't afraid of anything else as long as she was with him.
"Talk to me, then," Carren said. "Tell me whatever you need to, but make sure you leave enough time to say goodbye."
Krycek looked at her then, his dark green eyes drawing her in and silently asking her to understand what he hardly knew how to explain.
"When I leave here, I won't come back. No matter how much I want to, no matter what we think is between us, I will not come back. If I let this thing happen, I won't be focused enough to do what needs to be done. I have a lifetime of things to change, to make up for, and I have to do that alone."
"If you let it happen? You can't stop it, Alex, whether you're here or not. Nothing will change because you aren't with me. We'll feel this way about each other even if we're not together. I believe that, anyway." With a look, she challenged him to disagree.
Krycek shook his head, not wanting to admit that he knew she was right.
"Carren, the last time I left you behind, I tried to make you mad at me, tried to make you believe I'd been using you. I did that because it seemed like a better choice than leaving you unhappy, hoping for something that I just can't give you. I won't do that this time, though. Too much has happened and I don't want you to hate me - but I don't want you to love me, either. Even if we do belong together, that doesn't mean that it's possible. Most people don't usually get that lucky."
Carren was silent and Alex wondered what she was thinking. Everything inside of him knew that it was wrong to treat her - hell, both of them - this way. Then she sat up in the bed and faced him with eyes that were hurt and angry.
"Damn it, Alex, you've spent your whole life trying to get back at the world for taking something away from you. Now you're punishing us for what they've done. You're so busy trying to get even that you never even try to get close. And when you finally realize that you have a chance to change all that, you want to run in the other direction. It's wrong, Alex. You'll do what you think you have to do, and I'll live with that. But if you're trying to find peace within yourself, a way to make up for the past, you're not going to find it alone."
Carren got up from the bed and went into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. Alex Krycek turned onto his stomach and buried his face in his pillow. He might have known she wouldn't cut him any slack. She never would. Once again, she had stood up to him.
God, she was his perfect woman. Which only made it that much harder to leave.
He got up slowly and made his way to the closed bathroom door. He could hear the shower running inside. He opened the door; the room was filled with steam and through it, he could see Carren leaning against the wall. She turned to look at him, her eyes bright with unshed tears.
"Carren?" In a few steps, he stood beside her.
"I didn't want to wash you off me," she said. " It's all I have of you, and I might never have it again."
Krycek pressed his body against hers and kissed her, hard.
"I promise you won't forget," he told her. He took her into the shower with him and gave her one more memory.
To Mulder's surprise, he awoke to find that Scully was no longer laying with him on the couch. The blanket they'd pulled over them while they talked for hours was back on the floor in a heap. Mulder sat up and looked around the room. The front door stood ajar.
He got up slowly and carefully, feeling uncomfortable in the early morning silence. He wouldn't feel right again until he found Scully and was sure she was all right. Quietly he walked to the open door, looking out cautiously.
He saw Scully immediately. She stood at the far end of the porch, looking away from him and toward the distant glint of water. The early sun gave it an almost surreal glow. Scully appeared silhouetted by the light that radiated all around her.
She seemed to feel rather than hear his approach. She didn't turn around, but she spoke.
"Sometimes you forget that I have a sister that I'll never see again, either. Remember Melissa, Mulder? You even knew her. Why do we always talk about your sister, and never think to mention my own?"
"I don't know, Scully. It's a good point. Do you think I'm insensitive?"
"Of course you aren't insensitive, Mulder. Just the opposite. But sometimes I feel your needs too strongly. I have to remember to keep dealing with my own. If we go forward now with what we started last night, we could lose sense of ourselves as we were."
"Maybe that's what I need, Scully - to lose the blind egotist that I was before we met."
Scully finally turned around to face him. She was trying to make him understand how much this change in their relationship affected her. She was frustrated.
"Mulder, again you just said, what I need. What you need. What do you think I need?
"Tell me, Dana, please. Or am I supposed to read your mind? I'm sorry if I'm a self-centered idiot. Just help me out. Please. I love you so much."
Scully shook her head and smiled, at Mulder and at her own insecurities.
"How could you possibly read my mind, Mulder? I can't even read it myself. There are so many things to talk about if we let this happen. So many things to consider."
"Oh, Scully," Fox Mulder sighed as he laid his chin on top of her head. "I can always count on you to be practical."
Scully didn't smile this time. "Yes, Fox," she told him solemnly. "You can."
When they finally finished in the shower, they went back to bed after all, and this time they slept. When Alex Krycek woke up again, the room was filling with the faint light of dawn. He looked at Carren, sleeping on her side, her hair in her face. He brushed it back behind her ear and swept his hand over it gently. Carren sighed, slowly opening her eyes to look at him.
"Hello," she said. "I guess it's time."
"I guess so." He kissed her. "I should have left hours ago. I have a long drive ahead of me and I usually drive at night."
Carren looked at the clock on her bedside table. It was almost 5 a.m.
"I'm afraid you lost this night as far as driving is concerned," she pointed out.
"Yeah, I sure did. But I found a lot more this night so I really don't mind."
He started to get out of bed.
"Alex, wait." Carren leaned over to the bedside table and opened a small box decorated with little pieces of different colored crystal. She sifted through the contents until she found what she wanted.
"I want you to have this." She handed him a large silver ring. Alex examined it and saw that it was like two rings; the one on top could slide and revolve around the ring underneath it. Around the top ring were little bumps set in some kind of pattern.
"It's a prayer ring, Alex. It's used to say the rosary. But you can just keep it to remember me by. It should be large enough to wear - if you want to. It belonged to my father. When I use it I have to wear it on my thumb."
"But Carren," Krycek began. "If it belonged to your father...maybe you should keep it."
"Strangely enough, my father would probably have liked you. He was a strong man, like you are. He won't mind if I give it to you now. I've had it long enough."
Krycek placed the ring on the third finger of his good hand. Unconsciously he twirled the outer ring around the inner one with his thumb.
"Thank you, love. I promise you I'll take good care of it." Their eyes met as each one realized the word he had used.
Alex tried to remember if he'd ever used that word so easily before. He didn't think so.
"If this is a prayer ring...are you religious?"
Carren half-shrugged. "Well, yes. I was raised Catholic and I still go to Mass on most Sundays. Somehow I get the feeling that you don't think much of God."
"I don't think about him much, let's just put it like that." Krycek smiled crookedly. "Think you might go to church tomorrow and pray for my wicked soul?"
Carren leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. "I'd better pray for my own after last night. Do you need my prayers?"
He touched his cheek where her lips had. "I need something. I don't know if prayers will help, though."
Alex started putting on the clothes that had been on the bedroom floor since the previous night. Carren got up and went into the bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth and her hair. Vaguely she wondered if Alex would want to brush his teeth. If she let him use her toothbrush...she smiled slightly to herself. One more memory of Alex Krycek.
But in the bedroom, Krycek knew that he was never going to be able to leave her like this after all. It was too unfinished to make it the end of everything. Neither of them would be able to get on with their respective lives unless they both understood, once and for all, that this was for the best.
An idea came to him. He didn't want to think about it too much - he just wanted to act on it so there would be no turning back.
When Carren walked out of the bathroom a moment later, she saw that Alex was at the living room window, holding her cat and staring out at the early morning sky.
"Alex? Is it time? You promised to say goodbye, you know." She took his arm and turned him around to face her. "You can't walk out of here unless you do."
He dropped the cat and put his arm around her, turning back to the window so that they were both looking at the rising sun. Carren leaned her head into his chest and refused to cry. Be strong, she thought. If I let tears make him feel guilty...he has to make all his choices because he wants to.
"Carren...I've been thinking. I just can't leave it like this. I want you to understand, and I don't know if you do. I don't even know if I do."
"I told you that I have a long drive ahead of me today. I'm going to meet Mulder at his family's house - it's all the way up in Rhode Island. It'll take me all day, driving non-stop, to get there. Would you...do you think you could go with me? We could talk on the way, and I'll even let you help with the driving." He looked down at her; she looked back up.
"You know, you could fly to Rhode Island, Alex." Carren gave him a small half-smile.
"To be honest with you, I hate flying. I'd rather drive all day or night than fly. I only fly if there's an ocean to cross."
Carren laughed. "That's pretty funny, you know. The Real Bad Guy is afraid of flying."
Krycek tugged at her hair. "I never said I was afraid to fly, woman. I just don't like it. So what do you say? Will you go with me? In fact, Scully will be there, too."
"God, Alex, what's the deal? It sounds like some kind of bizarre double date or something. Why do you have to go all the way up there to talk to Mulder?"
"The location is significant, Carren. I'll tell you more on the way. Please say you'll come with me."
Carren didn't really care why he was going, or why he wanted her to go, if it meant she could spend more time with him. But would she be back in time to return to work on Monday? With surprise, she realized that going back to the FBI wasn't as important to her as it should have been. And that didn't worry her as it might have.
One thing at a time. Carren felt like laughing at the idea of showing up in Rhode Island with Alex Krycek. She looked forward to the expression on Mulder's face - and she wondered what Scully would have to say about Alex bringing her along.
"You know I'll go, Alex." Carren wondered if he'd had any doubt.
Alex Krycek smiled at the woman that he was trying not to love.
"Your car, or mine?"
End Of Part Five