When I was a young boy, a man told me a story.
"The universe," he said, "the universe is a net. The net stretches forever in all directions, it reaches everywhere and touches everything. And at each point of intersection lies a jewel. Every jewel reflects all other jewels. This is the nature of the universe."
"Isn't that beautiful?" he asked.
The very notion terrified me.
When Mulder went missing in Oregon, I should have fled. I should have run off to the coldest place I could find because I still couldn't get the sweat and heat left over from Tunisia off of my skin. I stayed in D.C. instead.
'What for?' Marita asked me. 'What makes you think she'll talk to you?'
I told her to mind her own business.
I waited outside her apartment, staked out her workplace, spent too many nights on Mulder's couch. She was nowhere to be found. But I wasn't worried. Scully is not the 'felo de se' type, unlike Mulder. I finally went to Skinner. He postured a bit and resisted, of course, but I worked on him a little and he gave in. He didn't ask about my intentions - for all he knew I could have wanted her dead. He told me anyway. Technology is a scary thing.
The short, balding one refused to open the door for me. He threatened me behind all those bolts and locks and booby-traps. 'She's not here,' the bearded one said.
So I came back until she would see me. On my third try she pressed her gun into the scars on my back as I was led through a mess of papers, wires, circuit boards. I remember the pain that spread from the contact point of the muzzle to the tops of my shoulders. Gifts from a particularly sadistic North African.
In the end she accepted. She had to. We were both desperate.
I sit in my car, waiting for her to arrive. We've been meeting on and off for a little over two months now, but lately I've seen her less frequently. News of him has been slow, and I have nothing of use to give her. This time is different though - it was her who requested we meet. I nearly choked on my drink when she told me over the phone.
She's here. Not empty-handed, either. She slips into the passenger seat and drops the stack of folders in her lap. We're silent as I drive to my pre-determined spot. It's a cheap little diner in the industrial part of town. She wouldn't want to be seen with me in place nicer than this.
We go inside and order. Two coffees. She takes it black, like the times before.
"So," I ask, "what's this about?"
She thumbs through the folders and glances around the place.
"No," I say. "If there were, it would have been me who called this meeting."
She's still absently flipping through the papers. I let her stall. I have nothing else to do today, and I'd rather spend it with her than stare at the wall in my apartment.
"The files you gave me last month," she finally says, "about the abductions."
I nod. I had given her several profiles and medical records of people taken by the Colonists. They were part of a group of abductees who were divvied out to be tested on in various Colonist-controlled facilities on U.S. soil. The details were gruesome, but it wasn't my intention to scare her. She insisted on understanding what they might be doing to him, and I foolishly gave in to her desperate concern.
"There's a place in rural Pennsylvania," she says. "I have reason to believe that it's being used to house some of these abductees."
"I know of the place. It's not what you think it is."
"You know about it and you didn't tell me?" I feel her contempt for me grow with every word.
"Scully, he's not there."
"How do you know?" she snaps.
I sit back in my chair and lean away from the anger in her words. Her demeanor has hardened a bit since we started our meetings; it became especially noticeable when news stopped trickling in altogether. Mulder would have been a sniveling mess, but I have yet to see her cry. She holds herself together. There is not a hair out of place, her clothing is still impeccable. I see the austere calm in her each time with meet. She looks grim, cold and perfect. If she ever wanted to cut me with her sharp edges, I would let her drain all the blood from my body. I owe her at least that much.
"Where are you getting these ideas from?" I ask.
She scoffs. "You were the one who gave me the files."
"No. Those files didn't reveal anything about specific locations. They were just medical records. If you have another informant, he obviously doesn't know what he's talking about."
It looks like I got her. She looks away, biting her lip. Don't be embarrassed, Scully. This is a little thing compared to the piles of shit I fed your partner from day one.
"It was the Lone Gunmen," she says, "they heard some rumors about this facility in Pennsylvania and what went on there. There are some parallels between the data you gave me and what they found in regards to medical procedures and abduction experiences."
It figures, leave it to those three idiots to stoke the fires of conjecture. Too bad they're right. Or rather, they were.
I struggle with the decision to give her a proper explanation. It's been weeks since we've heard anything about Mulder, and I don't know if she will let this go so easily. Revealing old intelligence is not a concern of mine; there is no one left to answer for past crimes and discuss forgotten details. Things can turn to ash in a single moment; plans suddenly wither away, people simply cease to exist. The extinction of the Group's efforts. No one even saw it coming. I am suddenly reminded of El Rico, of a man in a wheelchair at the bottom of the stairs.
If I tell her the truth, I wonder if she will believe me. Something tells me that she won't, and it bothers me more than I would like to admit. She deals with me because she is hopeful, but I know that she has never trusted me. It's funny how we ache for the things that we don't understand, things we've never felt before. I would accept her trust as a boon - it must be as good as I imagine it to be. Mulder would know, but he takes it for granted.
"The rumors are true, but your information is old," I say, unable to hide the defeat in my voice. "That particular facility was one of many. After the Group fell, these places have been left unchecked. They could have been shut down or abandoned. There might be residual Syndicate factions still in tact, they could have taken over these labs. Either way, Mulder isn't there."
She's looking at me, no doubt mulling over the veracity of my words. I don't back down and maintain my gaze. It's the truth, after all.
Suddenly, she gets up and collects the files.
"We're done here," she says and turns to leave.
She's already out the door by the time I dump several crumpled bills on the table. I chase after her and find her standing by the passenger-side door, waiting for me to unlock the car. I press the remote, the car beeps, and she gets in.
Something isn't right. I grip the steering wheel at the red light and try to shake it off. We never talk when it's not about business, but her silence this time isn't the same.
"What are you going to do?" I ask.
"Don't even think about going there."
No answer. I floor it when the light turns green.
When her car is in sight she looks about ready to jump out the door while the wheels are still turning. I pull over near her sedan and watch her gather her things.
"Scully, leave it alone. It's a mess. I don't know who's in control of this facility, it's too risky. Besides, he's not there."
"Don't tell me what to do, Krycek."
Her seatbelt clicks and the door opens.
"Scully," I say softly, "don't go."
She stops and looks at me carefully, a somewhat puzzled look on her face. My throat tightens under her gaze. I want to pull her to me, make her feel just how sorry I am, how grateful I am to her. I want her to understand that she is singular among all the people I have known, people who kicked me when I was down and betrayed me. I don't want her to go to Pennsylvania. But in my silence her expression hardens, and she turns away.
I sit in my car and watch her drive off. I stare at the perfect white lines in the empty parking lot until the sun sets and it's pitch black. Then I go home.
When the man told me that story about the jewel net, all I could think about was how horrifying it is. We are trapped forever, destined to live our lives in the one place where all other miserable souls live theirs. You share in the pain reflecting off everyone else, your happiness is stolen and distributed to those around you. When I was young I knew I didn't want to be part of it. I told myself that I would escape.
And here I am, tangled up in this net so badly that I'm suffocating. I thrash in my binds and they cut me deeper. It wouldn't be so bad, save for the fact that I'm bringing Scully with me; everyone else can get dragged down to Hell along with my sorry ass for all I care.
I sent Mulder to look for the ship because that's what he wanted. It didn't matter to me then, I knew the story would end the same way whether Fox Mulder found his precious truth or not. And it didn't matter whether the smoking bastard lived or died, so I took care of that too. But when Mulder went missing, I knew I had screwed up even though it still didn't change a thing. Scully is paying for my mistakes now, like she always did. It doesn't make me happy, but that's the way it is, right? She feels my pain, and I feel hers.
I went to Scully with a plan in mind. I would help her bring Mulder back and walk out of this for good. But nothing works out the way I want it to. In my struggle to extricate her from this mess I've created, I've managed to entangle and pull her down further. I don't want her to go to Pennsylvania. I'm afraid she might not come back. Of course it doesn't matter in the end, but it matters to me. I want to cut her loose and free her from myself. I want her to escape because I cannot.