Chapter 23: Sonata and Serenade

March 21, 1998
2:15 a.m. The Condo

Mulder dreamed of feeding a baby to wolves, and woke up shaken, but not the least bit puzzled. He rolled over and wrapped his arms around Scully, who turned to give him a sleepy hug.

“Bad dream?” she asked.

He nodded into her shoulder. “It was so hard holding him for that yesterday,” he whispered into her ear. “I felt like I was betraying him.”

She shifted until she was cradling his head, stroking his hair. She leaned down and whispered back, “I felt that way about her. Exactly. Helpless.”

He nodded against her and said with quiet intensity, “Never again. Whatever we do, I don’t want to do that again. Ever.”

She kissed his hair, and eventually they fell back to sleep.


7:00 a.m.

Scully was walking around the kitchen with her diffuser when she heard a knock at the door.

Curious, she opened it. Joanie was standing there. “I know it’s early, but I figured you were doing the class today, and I wanted to see if you’d like to do dinner again with us tonight?” Her worried expression was in sharp contrast to the cheerful invitation.

Scully nodded. “I think we can manage, but we won’t be back until almost seven.”

Joanie smiled, relieved, and said, “Oh, that’s no problem. I figured it might be nice to have a home-cooked meal. I know you two have been super busy. I just thought it would be fun.”

“Thank you, that’s very considerate. Maybe you can come over, oh, Monday? I know Mulder would love to hang out with little Amanda again.” Scully smiled.

“Oh, I don’t know.. if you’re working...” Joanie said.

“I don’t have a shift at Urgent Care until Tuesday, so Monday is just fine. We could meet as early as 5:30, if that’s okay with you.”

“Lovely. You will still come tonight, though, won’t you?” Joanie asked.

Mulder came up behind Scully. “Tonight?”

Scully nodded. “Dinner at the Daldsens? Seven?”

He smiled. “That would be just fine.”

Joanie said, “I’ll just let you guys finish getting ready. That class is a doozy, but so worth it when you get your sweetie finally.” She turned and walked back to her house.

As she walked away, Mulder looked down at the doormat, then bent down and picked up the rolled newspaper sitting there.

He took it inside, sat on the couch, and unrolled it. Scully looked over his shoulder. They both blanched a little at the note inside.

—Supervisor on the floor. Look lively. No talking in class, all notes will be confiscated. Caution. See you at church, meet you for lunch after. Following, contact through Partridge only.


8:00 National City

They arrived along with four of the other families that had been there at the first class, and one new family. Tricia smiled as they came in. When they all sat down, she said, “Kelly and Beau just found out that they’re pregnant, and decided not to continue the class. Jermain and Tasha won’t be back either, they’re doing a private adoption rather than going through us. Now, today’s topics are nitty gritty care basics. If you’ve been a parent, you may be up on this stuff. If not, well, it’s good practice. We’ll be discussing everything from discipline to diaper changes, how much and how often and what it is appropriate to feed small children, the works.”

Later, Scully was amused to watch Mulder timing himself on changing the diaper on a doll. When he was finished, he cocked his head at the doll, and said, “It’s easy when they’re not trying to leave in the middle of it.”

During the lunch break, Flo dropped by to chat. Mulder asked, “Is it possible to do our home study quickly? We’re very interested in fostering Tyler soon.”

Flo opened her planner and asked, “Is Tuesday all right?”

“We won’t be done with the class, if that’s an issue,” Scully said.

“Class shmass. you’ve shown up for every session so far. We can’t issue a license until you’ve completed it. And I know you’re serious. I’m willing to chance it.”

Scully smiled. “Tuesday’s great, although I’ll be working a shift at 3.”

Flo nodded. “Let’s do it at 11. That way Martin can still go to see Tyler.”

Mulder said, “I think that I may be prepared to wrap up my research portion of this at the end of the week. If all goes well, would it be possible for us to bring him home Friday?”

Flo frowned. “I may need to do some fancy footwork to make it happen that quickly. We might call it respite care for the weekend and then work things out on the following Monday, assuming the home visit goes well. I will need a reference. Normally I’d need two, but Tif has been glowing in her recommendations when she reports to me, so that takes care of one. Do you have someone we can contact?”

Scully thought for a moment. “We have a friend you can call, or are you looking for an employer?”

Flo said, “A friend is fine. Oh, and here. Fill these out by Tuesday. I checked, and both of you have criminal background checks on file with the university, so that won’t be an issue.”

She handed them a thick sheaf of forms, all set in 14 point type.

Scully smiled. “Thank you. Tyler really seems to like us, and we both adore him.”

“That’s the best thing. It’s the one thing you can’t teach people, and it’s either there, or it isn’t.” Flo smiled, and then left.


Teen Mothers’ Home

Langly kept an eye out but did not see the bounty hunter all day. He felt at loose ends. He’d gotten all the information he thought he could safely get out of the computer systems. Since the bounty hunter had showed up, none of the guys were talking, even though the alien was nowhere in sight. He thought if he ate another doughnut, he would puke.

Neither of the Calderons were evident either. He knew that Ernie had a room not on camera, but it was rare, normally, for him to be in it during the day. Or at night for that matter.

Langly resorted to walking the grounds, looking for hiding spaces, looking for weaknesses in the perimeter. The girls watched him. They seemed subdued. One girl was crying, consoled by another. Langly asked one of the nurses what was wrong, and she just said, “Oh, she’s sniveling over the girl that died yesterday. They always do when that happens.”

He tried to imagine what it was like for them, and finally decided he couldn’t possibly comprehend. As always as he walked through the grounds, whenever he saw Maria and Lucita, he noted their locations, tried to give them a smile. Maria smiled back.


6:00 p.m. National City

By the time the class was over, Skinner, sitting in the car with Krycek, was no longer convinced that being “where the action was” was any better than being in Washington. They followed Mulder and Scully home. When the pair had crossed the street to the Daldsens, Krycek smiled. “Want to get some real food? We’ve got time to kill while they’re all on the other cameras.”

Skinner said, “How do the guys eat back at the home?”

Krycek laughed. “Better than you’d think.”

“Well, we could eat there. It’s not like we need another minute to chat...”

Krycek nodded. “Langly’s probably crawling the walls by now. Do you know how to use one of these things?” He held up the gimlet.

“I’ve held one, but never used it. How about I drive, and you talk to me about killing aliens?”


7:00 p.m. The Daldsen Condo

Joanie was friendly but clearly distracted. Rich sat in a rocking easychair in the living room, with Amanda on his lap. Scully took one look at the little girl and swallowed hard. “How long as she been like this?”

Rich sighed. “A day. She was doing so well, and after her last treatment, she just... I’m so worried.”

Scully came over to the little girl, gave a small smile, and touched the back of her hand to Amanda’s forehead. “She’s not feverish...just fatigued?”

Joanie came over. “She’s just not feeling right. I’m so worried...”

Scully said very quietly, “Make sure you bring her along on Monday, even if she isn’t well.”

She looked at Mulder. “Martin, I think I need to run over to the chemistry lab to check on an experiment. I hate to do it, but it will only take about 20 minutes.”

He nodded, and asked Joanie, “If tonight isn’t good for dinner, we’ll understand.”

She shook her head. “Oh, do stay. I’ve made plenty.”


7:10 p.m. Chemistry Lab

Joe was there. He’d never not been there, come to think of it, since she’d met him. He looked up as she came in. “Wasn’t expecting to see you....”

“I need to ask you something,” she said. “If I got a sample of hybrid blood.... would there be a way to test the effectiveness of a treatment at removing the alien while leaving the human alive?”

He nodded. “Sure, we’d just need to grow the cells.”

She sighed. “I’m going to have a sample for you on Monday. Oh... and I think I need you to meet some people. Can you come to church on Sunday?”

“I think so, you want to pick me up? Or want me to meet you there?” he asked.

“Meet us there. St. Williams. It’s about 10 minutes from here,” she said.

He smiled. “Sounds like a date.”

She shot him a look. “Church. It sounds like church. You may need to come incognito. We’ll be changing our appearance a bit ourselves.”

He raised an eyebrow. “The plot thickens.”

“I have to go—”

“I found out what the chemical was in the sample you gave me last night,” he said.

“There was a chemical?” She frowned.

“You sound surprised. What were you expecting?” he asked.

She sighed. “I was hoping it was saline. I was hoping they were not giving him anything at all.”

“It’s kind of odd, but I suspect mostly benign. If I’m correct, it is a chemical trigger for nanoprobes. In this case, one which cannot pass the blood/brain barrier. I suspect it sends a signal to nanoprobes in his body, turning them on or off.”

She blinked. “I thought they worked via remote...”

He shook his head. “You get two functions out of the remote, up and down, essentially. Left and right are chemical triggers.”

“Why repeated treatments, then? And why something that only affects the body, not the brain?” she asked.

“I don’t know. It’s a good question to ask.” He smiled. “He’s healthy, correct?”

She nodded. “As far as we can tell.”

“Then the good news is that if the treatment is necessary to his continued health, it’s not a difficult thing to reproduce. The molecule would be easy enough to grow.”

Her forehead wrinkled as she pursed her lips. “If it is easy to grow, would you start growing it?”

He looked a little surprised. “Yes.”

“I’ll try to find out what it does. Thank you.” She turned, and headed back to dinner.


7:15 p.m. Teen Mothers’ Home

Krycek, Skinner and Langly were eating pot roast when Jerry came out of the monitor room. “Aren’t you guys supposed to be tailing the Harrods?”

Krycek nodded.

“Well, the lady just left that dinner date a few minutes ago. You going to do something about finding out what she’s up to?” Jerry sounded deeply annoyed.

Krycek said, “If she’s not back in 30 minutes, I’ll go check. They’re pretty talkative about what they do, I strongly suspect I’ll get the lowdown when we get back to the mics on their place later.”

“You better hope so. Our source says that one of the workers is leaning toward letting them foster one of ours. And I don’t want surprises. Surprises can get people killed around here.” Jerry turned and walked away.

They all looked at each other. Langly swore quietly.

“Don’t sweat it,” Krycek said.

Skinner frowned. “I don’t like it.”

“It is what it is.” Krycek took another bite of pot roast.


9:30 p.m. The Condo

She explained the situation to Mulder on the couch, writing it on her message pad while he pretended to read a book. When she was done, he stood up and put his hand out. “Come up with me.”

She tucked the device away in her pack, and brought it upstairs with them. When they got to the top of the stairs, they got ready for bed quietly. Again, she didn’t bother with clothing. This time, he didn’t either.

Scully climbed into bed a few minutes after he did, and scooted over to tuck herself against his side. She ran her left hand over his chest, feeling his solidity, his warmth. She hugged him, suddenly, and he looked down at her, reached a hand over to touch her face.

“I need to touch you,” she said.

He smiled. “That works out well, because I need you to touch me.”

She chuckled against him, and wrapped her leg around his leg, drinking in the feel of skin on skin.

There were so many things they could have said, then, were it not for cameras and microphones and the ever increasing fear of detection. She wanted to tell him how much he mattered... how essential he was becoming. How moments like this, skin to skin, kept her from flying apart in grief and rage, allowed scraps of joy to seep back in where she had thought they could never be. She wanted to kiss him, and say his name, and be herself in his arms again.

He stroked her shoulder, smiled down at her, and said, “You’re noisy.”

She chuckled quietly. “Am I?”

He turned a little, scooted, and kissed her. Then he said, “I know. I really do.”

She pressed her face into his neck, and said his name soundlessly, lips making the shape without letting noise through. She felt his lips on her cheek, moving too.

It wasn’t clear to her when it went from tender touching to something more. She thought for a moment about the cameras, but only for a moment. Then she was shifting, and he was in her, and it was enough.


The Other Condo

Krycek and Skinner were in the monitor room, playing cards. Krycek glanced over at the monitor, and raised an eyebrow. All the cameras were capable of adjusting to a wide variety of light levels, and it was never completely dark, especially with the streetlight at the end of the cul de sac.

Skinner looked, blinked, and then quickly looked away. “It seems wrong to see that,” he said.

Krycek put his cards down. “I’m going to bed. If you don’t want to see it, don’t look.”

Skinner watched Krycek go. He looked back at the monitor. *Do they know I’m up here?*

He thought about it. They probably didn’t. *And I will never, ever tell them, either.*


March 22, 1998
5:30 a.m. The Other Condo

Krycek got up, took a 30 second shower, threw his clothes on, flipped the monitoring system to the recorded image from the same time the day before and was out the door. He snuck into the condo across the street, and crept up the stairs. Mulder was lying sprawled on his back, Scully lying against shoulder, blankets around their waists.

He came close to the bed, and her eyes flew open. He put a finger on his lips. Then he whispered, “What did you go do last night?”

She said, quietly, “Had to go check one of my experiments at the lab. By the way, why are they still manipulating Tyler’s nanoids?”

He shook his head. “I really have no idea, but I can try to find out. Did you know Skinner is here?”

She blinked. “No...”

“He’s been staying at the condo with me, playing dirty cop.” Krycek suppressed a laugh at the expression on her face.

“He didn’t...”

He shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. I go to bed when you guys get frisky. Not my thing.”

“Which isn’t your thing?” she couldn’t help asking.

He raised an eyebrow. “I’m a tactile person. Watching... isn’t my style. Not that way. And you’re not my type.”

“Is he?” Scully asked.

Mulder opened his eyes and jerked the blanket up when he saw Krycek. “Is he what?”

“Your wife was asking if you were my type.” Krycek said. “

Mulder shut his eyes. “This is not happening. I’m obviously having one of those dreams. I’m just going to shut my eyes and then I’ll open them again, and my naked wife will not be talking to Nemesis Jr. here about whether he’s attracted to me in that special way.”

Krycek laughed. “Clearly, I’m his,” he said to Scully.

She peeked under the blankets. “Nope.”

Mulder flattened the blankets with his arms, pushed up onto his elbows, and said, “Really. Don’t make me find a gun. Either of you.”

Krycek smirked, and said, “My type runs to treacherous blonds. More pity that. In any event. Skinner and Langly will be your tail for the day.”

Mulder blinked. “Skinner’s here?”

They ignored him. “Do you have enough data to satisfy them about last night?” Scully asked.

“Maybe,” Krycek said. “I’ll do my best. A bounty hunter showed up, and he’s asking questions.”

“You know, the treatment we’re working on... It might be very effective against them. Monday I’ll be synthesizing something that could theoretically be delivered via dart, and would be specifically lethal to their kind of life,” Scully said. “In fact, most of the things we’re working on may be.”

Krycek cocked his head. “Really. Leave me a sample when you’ve got it. Any specific kind of weapon I might need?”

Scully frowned. “You have something in mind?”

“I’d like to be able to test everything you’ve got as soon as you have it.” Krycek said.

“Well, for the bounty hunter, the mostly likely option will not give you a second chance to test anything else.”

“How about you organize me a list, in increasing order of probable damage? I’ve got at least four clones and a shapeshifter to deal with when this gets back, and I may be taking over the operation sooner than later. Is the Smoking Man able to walk?”

Scully blinked at the question. “Why?”

“Because if he was available, his... unique gravitas might be handy in what we will be doing there. I don’t like the man, but he can be very useful. If I end up taking out the clones, he may be the one who can maintain order while I do what needs to be done. Having a gun that works with those... it would increase our options significantly over this.” Krycek thumbed his gimlet open, and then shut again.

Mulder narrowed his eyes. “Didn’t he try to kill you?”

“Didn’t he try to kill both of you?” Krycek retorted.

Scully said, “I may be able to get him functional. But I am loathe for him to be active again.”

“If you help him, he will owe you.” Krycek said. “Don’t underestimate that.”

“He is willing to kill his own children and grandchildren. I don’t think honor is a concept that has any meaning to him.” Scully tucked the blanket under her arms and sat up. “Now if you don’t mind, I don’t think you want to watch what comes next.”

Krycek cringed, Mulder looked appalled, and Scully gave a tight-lipped grin.

“I’m leaving. careful.” Krycek turned and walked back out of the bedroom.

Mulder looked down at her. “Who are you?”

She shot a glance over to the corner, where the red light still glowed. “Your wife. And too fed up with this all to give a damn anymore.” She climbed over him and out of bed. “I’m going to go get in the hot tub, since it’s too late to go back to bed, too early to get ready for church, and since even I don’t really relish screwing in front of Skinner, again, and Krycek is about to go turn the camera...”

The red light went off. He looked at her and she could almost hear him echoing, *Skinner, again?* and decided to just let him puzzle that one for himself.

“Care to join me?” she asked.

He looked at her standing naked in the middle of the room, resisted the temptation to glance at the camera, and said,. “I think I ‘d better.”


10:30 a.m. St. Williams

Church was more relaxed than it had been the week before. They repeated their quick change in the church restrooms, and when they came out, a nondescript man was waiting, with a familiar wry smile.

Without a word, he accompanied them out to where Joel was waiting. Mulder saw Skinner in a black sedan with Langly, looked around the parking lot, and then went over to them.

Skinner rolled down the driver side window. “What?”

“You should follow us, since Krycek isn’t with you,” Mulder said.

Skinner nodded. Then he leaned over and asked Langly a question. When he sat back up, he said, “We’ll be along in a few. We know where you’re going, and Langly wants to check the car for a beacon.”

Mulder nodded, and then went back to Joel’s car.


Santa Bernardo

The white van was parked in front of the Cavendish house, and Joel said, “We’re going to go directly to the back yard. We’ve got a regular family reunion going on.”

Scully did a mental tally, and said, “We’re going to have fifteen people there?”

“Seventeen when Skinner and Langly show up,” Mulder said.

“Actually,” Scully said, “I think I really should take Joe and go check on my patient.”

Mulder frowned. “Are you going to fix him?”

“I don’t know. I’m going to discuss it with Joe.” Scully opened the door and got out.

Mulder got out and looked over the top of the car at her. “Scully, I love you, but the idea of setting that man loose, to work with Krycek?”

“What choice do we have? The alternative is sending him up to die in Victoria, or worse, to live up there, and I’d rather not have him in the only sanctuary we have left.” Scully shut the car door.

Mulder said angrily, “Oh, I don’t know, you could turn his oxygen off and call it a day.”

“Mulder, your sister wouldn’t like that. Joel wouldn’t like that. And he may be able to help,” Scully threw back.

He sighed. “It just goes against every instinct I have. Scully... he’s... ”

She nodded. “I know. I have just as much reason to want him suffering as you do. But this... If he can help...”

Joe said, “I’m going to do something now, but I want you to understand that I think it will simply allow you more... leverage.”

They watched as he transformed, not into Jeremiah Smith, not into Joe, but into the shape they had last seen trying to kill Jeremiah Smith several years ago.

Scully shuddered. “That is... frightening. If you hadn’t been helping so much...”

He shrugged. “You know who I am. But if he doesn’t... it will be better for your plans.”

She asked, “What about the faceless ones?”

Smith shifted, and his eyes and mouth were gone. “Like this?”

She nodded, and he shifted back into the bounty hunter form.

He said, in a deeper voice, “It’s more of a stylistic statement than anything. I do not disagree with their goals, but I do disagree with their methods. We don’t have... eyes, per se. And our method of infection is not the same. When they wear that face, it is much the same as someone putting on a white sheet to go hang people or a ski mask to go rob a bank.”

“How do you avoid infection?” Scully asked.

“There is a limited quantity of the substance on this planet. We avoid. I hope to use the research we are doing to find a way to treat my type, to separate out our proteins and leave them unharmed while eliminating the oil. But that will be the work of years, not days. It is simpler with your physiology.”

Mulder asked, as they started up the driveway, “Can you do other shapes? Not human?”

Smith laughed. “It takes minimal effort to change from one human form to another. But we have to spend many days forming the basic underlying structure. So the short answer is yes, but the long answer is too much trouble.”

Mandy was waiting at the door for them. When she saw Jeremiah, she blanched. Scully shook her head. “He’s not what you think. I brought him to look at your father.”

Mandy held the door for them, looking rattled.

Scully and Jeremiah walked down the hall to the door of Garrett Spender’s suite, and she knocked.

Mandy said from the end of the hall, “Just open it. He has a hard time getting out of bed now.”

Scully pushed the lever handle down, and opened the door. The man was lying in bed, head propped on a few pillows, and he glanced listlessly at the door as it opened.

His voice sounded raspy as he said, “Dana.” Then he struggled to sit up more as he saw the apparent bounty hunter follow her in. “Has he come to finish me off?”

“I’ve come to decide whether to spare you, old man.” Smith’s voice was low and brusque.

“Really. And why would they let you do that?” Garrett said, coughing a little. “I can’t believe they’d trust me enough to let me walk away.”

Scully walked over and sat down on the edge of the bed. “Tell me, if I let you walk out of here today, what will you do?”

He chuckled weakly. “The Syndicate still wants me dead.”

She looked down. “We might have a job for you.”

He looked at her with interest. “Oh really? Are you coming over to the dark side, my dear?”

“Krycek wants you,” she answered.

“I’m not his type. Tell me, has the world become so strange that you are doing Alex Krycek’s bidding now?” He studied her.

She gestured for Jeremiah to come over. “Please examine him and tell me what you can do.”

Jeremiah nodded, and walked over to the bed, where he leaned over and put one hand on Garrett’s head and one on his chest. He closed his eyes, turned his head to one side, and seemed to listen.

After a few minutes, he straightened, and said, “There is much damage. I can stabilize him, improve his lung function, but to cure the underlying diseases... That would take more time than we can afford right now. What I could do today... I think it would allow him a few months of activity, delay the inevitable by as much as six months... but if you want me to actually cure him, I will need to devote days to the process.”

Scully considered that. “Garrett,” she said, “If we restore you to function, will you help us?”

He nodded. “If I help you, will he cure me, later?”

Smith nodded. “If it is within my power to do so.”

Scully said, “Do we have a deal?”

Garrett Spender nodded.

“Leave us,” Jeremiah said. “This will take some time.”


Scully found the rest of the family sitting outside on the patio, watching the kids play in the pool. When she came out, Lisa waved at her, and said, “Hi, Aunt Dana!”

She blinked, smiled, and waved back.

Mulder looked up from the bench he was sitting on. “Well, Aunt Dana, you actually got a ‘Hi.” She didn’t even notice when I came out.”

Scully sat down next to him on the bench, and smiled. “I got lucky. Are you going to be Uncle Mulder? Or Uncle Fox?”

“Unfortunately, I don’t seem to be able to escape Uncle Fox. So, what did our friend have to say about my so-called father?” Mulder asked.

Scully said, “He can help, but he can’t cure. That is, he can cure, but it will take longer than we have right now. If Garrett helps us as asked, then when...Joe... has time, he’ll heal him the rest of the way.” She looked at Mandy. “I don’t think your father is going with you to Canada.”

Mandy nodded. “That may simplify things. But if he is better... I just couldn’t imagine leaving him behind as sick as he is right now.”

“Joe is healing him as we speak, but just the ‘easy stuff’, not the underlying illness,” Scully said.

“Is it terrible if I feel better about that than about the idea of curing him entirely now?” Mulder asked.

Scully shrugged. “‘Terrible’ is a word I’d use for the things he’s done. Being glad that he won’t have complete indefinite freedom? That’s merely, oh, a bit petty. But also sensible.”

A few minutes later, Joel came out and said, “I think I’m going to fire up the grill to make lunch.”

Behind him, Skinner asked, “Do you want some help with that?”

Joel turned around. “Sure thing.”

Scully blushed when she saw Skinner, especially when she realized how studiously he was avoiding looking at either her or Mulder.

About half an hour later, Frohike leaned over and said to Mulder, “You know, your tail is burning the dogs.”

Mulder chuckled.


2:00 p.m. Teen Mothers’ Home

Krycek was sitting, watching the local monitors, when Jerry came in and asked, “So did you find out what Mrs. Harrod was up to last night?”

Krycek nodded. “She went to the school to check on a chemistry experiment.”

“She’s a doctor. Urgent care. Not a chemist. Why is she running an experiment?” Jerry asked.

Krycek said, “She was a researcher and a pathologist before she came down to do general medicine. Apparently she’s still running her research on the side.”

The bounty hunter walked into the room, looked at Krycek, and said, “I think I will accompany you on your stakeout later. I would like to observe these people. You haven’t forwarded the feed.”

Krycek shrugged. “Figured the guys here had enough to look at. You want to follow Mr. Harrod tomorrow?”

The bounty hunter shrugged. “That would be acceptable.”

“I would like to know what kind of research the wife is doing,” Jerry said.

“I can find out,” Krycek said. “I already know some of it. She’s working on improving PCR techniques of protein synthesis. I’m not sure exactly what for, but I can set Ralph on hacking the computers they’re using to find out.” He turned to the bounty hunter. “Oh, and if you want to come with me, you should be ready to leave here at 5:45. Ralph will be back then to trade.”

The bounty hunter nodded, and left without another word.

Krycek thought for a moment, and then followed the alien out.

When they were down the hall, Krycek said quietly, “Is there any news about the rebellion?”

The bounty hunter turned and stared at him. “They will not win. They never win.”

“I know. And I prefer to be on the winning side,” Krycek said.

The alien gave him a look that was almost pitying. “I am here because we suspect they will hit here. They killed one of my kind last month. I plan on making sure it does not happen again.”

“I’m surprised, then, that there are not more of you here, then.”

The bounty hunter said quietly, “Don’t make assumptions.”


2:00 p.m. Rancho Bernardo

At some point after lunch, Joel opened up a shed at the back of the house and pulled out a bunch of sports equipment and Langly declared Calvinball, which immediately started a rules argument among the Lone Gunmen. Sarah asked Lisa a question, and a few minutes later they came out with a variety of Halloween masks, ranging from a Nixon mask to a weird assortment of rubber animal noses. Mulder and Joel set up a goal net, two baseball bases, a half dozen croquet hoops and a small trampoline.

What followed was giggling chaos, which only paused when Mulder declared penalty on Scully for missing the trampoline before second base, and insisted that he could choose a penalty of kissing. Which of course, spawned a whole new rules argument among the gunmen, not that Scully or Mulder noticed. When the gunmen quit arguing, they noticed that Mulder had taken off his alligator mask and Scully had lost the flamingo feather mask, and declared both of them out of the game.

Shortly after that, the game stopped entirely when Garrett Spender walked out into the back yard, sans oxygen mask, accompanied by Jeremiah, still wearing the body of a bounty hunter.

Garrett looked around and said, “Oh, I hope you didn’t all stop on my account. The laughter helped the time pass.”

Mandy came over and looked at him and said, “Dad? Are you better?”

Jeremiah said, “Better. Not fixed. That will have to wait.”

Garrett asked Scully, “Am I to accompany you now, or shall I wait to be summoned?”

She looked at Mulder, then said, “Stay for now. If he doesn’t need you by Friday, we’ll have someone come get you anyway.”

Joel came over and said, “Would you like a dog? We’ve got a few left.”

Garrett accepted the hot dog, then pulled up a chair next to Teena, and said, “Don’t let me stop you.”

After an awkward silence, Langly finally shrugged and said, “You’re it!” tagging Frohike and running toward first base.

Frohike yelled after him, “I can’t be it. I don’t have the ball! Penalty!”

“I’m not kissing you, Frohike, just suck it up and find a ball!” Langly waited on first base for the game to resume.

It did, but not for long. The next interruption was Skinner’s pocket ringing.

He answered, listened for a moment, then hung up. “Guys, time to pack it in. Krycek says the bad boys are getting antsy.”

As they got ready to go, Mulder found Mandy and wrapped his arms around her. He held her for a long time and said, “I don’t know when I will see you again, but I love you. Be safe... I’ll find you when I can.”

She nodded, fighting back tears, and said, “At least this time, you’ll know how to find me.”

He put a kiss on her forehead and said, “Take care of those kiddos.”


5:00 p.m. Teen Mothers’ Home

Krycek went to find Ernie at five. The doctor was in his office, frowning over a computer screen, which he blanked as Krycek walked in.

“DS/FM 20. He’s still getting treatments?” Krycek asked.

Ernie nodded. “He’s still got molecular probes in him. We’re seeing how long we can keep the cells in his brain active without deleterious effects on his growth and development.”

“Why do you need to treat him? I thought those things stayed on or off, however you set them.”

“Well, it’s complex, but the short answer is that as long as the probes are in there, we’ve set them to multiply with his cells, and we need to periodically go turn the ones in his body off, leaving the ones in his brain active. Otherwise he will likely end up stunted.” Ernie turned back to his computer.

“Is there a way of removing those probes entirely?” Krycek asked.

Ernie shrugged. “We don’t really need to. As long as we give him injections every two to four weeks, he’s fine.”

Krycek frowned. “What if you flushed the probes from his body?”

Ernie looked up at him. “Why would I do that?”

“If you did that, what would happen?” Krycek asked.

“Not much. The cells would be left in whatever state they were in, new cells that grew would not have the DNA active.”

Krycek nodded. “What effect does that DNA have in his brain?”

Ernie shrugged. “I have no idea yet. He’s too young. We have ideas about what it might be able to do, but no certainty. It should increase his intelligence, and possibly create some form of anomalous cognition. It’s part of why that particular line has been a focus, despite the failures. Both genetic sources are homozygous for several different segments of the genetic patterns we look for, which should mean that the boy gets more than the sum of the parts, all of their children do. But normally, those genes never turn on in humans. We don’t know why. But when they do, we believe the results may be... outstanding. If we can make it happen without killing the subject. In the wrong parts of the body, those genes, active, can be crippling and inhibitory. The things we’ve been trying to do to make them active enough often cause problems of their own.”

“You’re saying that you’re trying to give these kids some sort of ESP? Or what? Telekinesis? Precognitive ability?” Krycek tried to parse it out.

“We have no idea, since we’ ve yet to manage to get a child to adulthood with those particular combinations of genes active in the brain.”

“Thank you. You’ve been very helpful,” Krycek said, and wished he already had Scully’s toys ready to go, to watch the doctor dissolve in a pile of goo.


5:00 p.m. La Jolla

Jeremiah kept his bounty hunter appearance until they were back at the church, at which point he let his features melt into bland anonymity again. They changed quietly in the bathroom and then Mulder drove back toward the Condo.

He was thoughtful, and when they were almost there, he said, “I’m going to go down to Whole Foods and get some stuff for dinner.”

She smiled. “I’ll come too. I need snacks for work next week.”

Mulder went wandering off to the meat department while Scully stood with the cart in produce, looking absently at an eggplant, not really focused on anything. Suddenly she heard someone say, “Dana?” and was pleased that she managed not to jump or look.

She felt a hand on her arm, and turned to see Tara, her sister-in-law, standing there. She put a puzzled expression on her face and thinking fast, said, with the best British accent she could muster, “Oh, I’m terribly sorry. You must have me confused with someone else.”

Tara looked at her, puzzled, and said, “You look very much like my sister-in-law. Only her hair is shorter, and she has blue eyes. I’m terribly sorry for bothering you.”

Scully said, “Oh, no trouble,” and when Tara had walked away, she allowed herself to breathe again.

Mulder found her, cocked his head and asked, “What’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen—”

She leaned up and kissed him on the cheek and whispered, “My sister-in-law.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Oh? And how did that go?”

She answered, in her British accent, “Smashingly. I’d never seen her before in my life.”

He chuckled, put the chicken thighs in the cart, and then picked out some red potatoes, brown mushrooms, onions, and garlic. She was intrigued, and said, “You’re really cooking.”

He nodded. “I’ve been asking Tif for tips.”

She put some asparagus in the cart, and he frowned. “I don’t know how—“

She laughed. “I do. I’ll do that. Do we have butter?”

“You eat butter?” he asked, incredulous.

She nodded. “On asparagus, I do.”

They went over to the dairy case, and she got some Irish butter.

He pulled a little list out of his wallet and then spent a long time in the spice aisle frowning at labels.

Back at the condo, he started mixing spices, pulled the skin off of the chicken thighs, to her amusement, and dredged the thighs in spices before layering them into a pan.

She frowned, and asked, “Isn’t that a lot for the two of us?”

He said, solemnly, “Leftovers.”

She chuckled.

While the thighs were cooking, he quartered the potatoes, crushed some garlic with the flat of a knife, scraped the crushed garlic into a little bowl of olive oil, and used the garlicky knife to slice the mushrooms. Then he went over to the sink, ran water, and chopped an onion into pieces, which he put in a bowl and then covered up with a plate.

She watched, and said, “I can practically hear Tif talking you through all that.”

He nodded and said, “So can I.”

She cut the woody ends off the asparagus, found a steamer in a cabinet, frowning. “I wonder when that got in there,” she said. “I don’t remember buying one.”

He laughed. “That’s what the pan lids turn into when they moult.”

She nodded. “Must be. Good timing, though.”

She put the steamer into a pot, and put a little water in, turned it on, and stuck the asparagus in, tips up.

He tossed the potatoes with the garlic oil, spread them on a cookie sheet, and stuck them in the oven, then tossed the garlic into a frying pan and tossed the onions and mushrooms in after.

She smiled. “Fancy.”

“You know it, baby.”

Dinner was delicious, and after the dishes were done, they sat for a while in the hot tub, quiet.

He said, just before they went to sleep, “It feels like the calm before the storm.”


Continue to Chapter 24