NOTE: I’m aware of an issue with some epub files created from ‘story’ pages resulting in an error when attempting to open them in calibre viewer. If you have this problem, open them in the main calibre program or in calibre file editor. I’m just testing this plugin for now. 🙂
To See the Stars
To See the Stars (1/?)
By: Morgan ()
Classification: S, A, T, MSR
Rating: Strong R. Language, content, violence.
Spoilers: To be safe, let’s just say through season five. Season six remains untouched, however.
Cover art by Promise64
Summary: The paths that are inescapable and the roles we are somehow destined to play.
Disclaimer: Still not mine.
A sequel to “The Last Gift.”
The author feels it is her duty to note that this is her “happy fic.” Translation – I wrote “The Last Gift” during that wonderful time known as post-Redux II euphoria. No Emily. No Diana. No Spudner. No Kersh. Ahhh… the good ol’ days. The sequel reflects that frame of mind. Of couse, it’s not Mulder and Scully skipping merrily through the daisies, either, but if you want to read my version of angst, go over and find “Complicity.” This story is serving as my much needed buffer against all the painful emotions that story continues to generate. Now, I’m going back and forth. When I get too much angst, I take a “happy” break, and when I feel the need to tackle some demons, I go work on “Complicity.” It’s a system that’s working out well, so far.
ARCHIVISTS NOTE: It did not work out so well for this story. It has never been completed.
Thank yous and my typical wandering obsequiousness will follow at the end.
Snowflakes kept sticking like little crystals in the cold net of my hair. I would turn my head just slightly to catch a glimpse of feathery white lying against the red, and I was careful not to disturb them lest they melt. A wizened old man in a low doorway nodded to me as I passed, and I smiled and nodded in return. I could feel the snow sprinkling down from my hair and dusting my neck at the movement. Few people in the town were awake and around yet, and so the carpet of thin snow stayed fresh and pure, marred only by a few light footsteps to accompany my own. I would be back before he woke up. I wanted to surprise him.
I turned the collar of my jacket more tightly up against my neck, studied for a moment the ::thump, thump, thump:: of the shopping bag against my thigh, and stopped, smiling at the tiny old woman sitting under the rough boards that constructed her crude shelter. The market was sparse during the winter months. Most of the vendors were closed off away from the cold. But a few still braved the elements to offer their wares, and no matter what month it was, people were always in need of the essentials.
“Buenos dias,” she offered, complimenting the greeting with a gap toothed smile.
“Buenos dias,” I returned, smiling also, and perusing the various items she had out for display.
Tucked amidst the colorful knitting and heavy cloth, a pair of dark gray socks caught my eye. They were rough and thick and plain – no one would ever mistake them for Banana Republic – but they seemed warm, and that would be more than enough.
“Los calcetines,” I nodded in indication of the socks. “Cuanto cuestan?”
“Doscientos pesetas.” Her offer was firm, her eyes dark and sharp regarding me.
The pair I would be replacing, the pair now mysteriously one sock short of a matched set, had been patched and mended numerous times, intersecting lines of multi-colored thread running haphazard across the toes. They had begun to grow threadbare at the heels, and while Mulder was passable with a needle and thread, neither of us had exactly mastered the art of darning socks.
“Bueno,” she concluded, as if being forced into something, “Ciento ochenta, pero no menos.” She must have taken my momentary silence as a desire to bargain. I knew it was expected, but I wasn’t in the mood today for a hassle.
“Ceinto ochenta…” I fumbled through the money stashed in my pocket, pulled out the correct amount.
She seemed surprised when I offered her the money, and a pleased smile lit up the craggy contours of her face. Smiling still, she accepted the money, handed me the socks, and I wondered – placing the thick wool into my coat pocket – when the last time was that I had purchased something with a price tag or received a receipt after a sale.
The socks were warm and heavy in my pocket as I curled my hand around them.
I walked further down the street, back towards our room, and could almost see his sleeping figure as I would tiptoe past him. Mouth parted just slightly, stubble darkening his jaw. I would open the door as quietly as possible, making sure to step around the creaky floorboard just to the left of the doorway. Early morning sunlight would just be making its way through the window in front of the bed, and I would let down the makeshift curtain, block out the light so that it would not wake him. He would, undoubtedly, have already sprawled across the bed in my absence, taking up all of the space.
I left the scattered people in the market and found myself alone on the snow blanketed road.
It was strange. When I was in the bed with him, Mulder barely moved. He slept quietly, save the occasional nightmare, moving to sling an arm around me at times, to pull the covers more tightly over us. As soon as I was awake and out of bed, he became restless, spreading out to engulf any vacant space, tossing fitfully, murmuring in his sleep. It was strange, but I knew the motivation. I had trouble sleeping without him as well. Perhaps it was a result of our months of constant danger, a life lived basically on the run, where we were always threatened with the loss of each other, or perhaps it was simply that since we had allowed ourselves the luxury of sleeping within one another’s arms, we no longer had the ability to rest any other way. Whatever the case, he would be disturbed without me, agitated, and I walked faster, rushing through the growing wind.
Snow caught and melted against my cheeks, and I could imagine the smell of butter gliding across the pan in an effortless sizzle, fresh fruit, and his mouth around one perfect strawberry. I closed my eyes for the briefest of moments, inhaled the crisp scent of frost, and was jerked from my reverie by a sudden, sharp pain around my upper arm. Hand like a vise around my bicep, pulling, tugging me into a waking nightmare. Suddenly, I was in a flurry of movement, being yanked fiercely back into an alley I hadn’t even noticed I was passing. My feet scrambled on the snow, sliding in the wet. I twisted against my assailant, reaching for my gun as the darkness of the alley covered us, and instantly felt the sharp, cold press of a gun’s muzzle digging into the side of my neck.
“I would never have thought that it could be this easy.”
I knew that voice.
“When did you learn to speak Spanish, Scully?” My name hissed from his lips. “So full of hidden talents…”
My shopping bag had fallen to the ground during the struggle, and as I stared ahead and down, the crushed strawberries were blood on new snow.
“It’s amazing what you can learn when you don’t have any choice.” I murmured, under my breath. He seemed marvelously unaffected, and only tightened his grip around my throat.
“Oh, I am the *last* person you need to explain that concept to.” A whisper delivered into the curve of my ear.
If I could just maneuver my hand a little to the left somehow, without drawing his notice.
“Ah, ah ah,” he chided, “No need to struggle. We’re just going to have a little chat.”
He’d have had better luck communicating with the moldering stone wall ahead of us. I could already feel the cool metal of my gun against just the tips of my fingers, and as I shifted again, all I could see was Mulder’s face as he lay sleeping, lashes curled gently against sharp cheekbones, and the way the sheets tangled around his long, bare legs.
His arm had shifted in its hold on me, moving up, just barely under my chin. When I moved it was Mulder’s breath against my lips, my name whispered by his sleep scratched voice, and I didn’t even feel my teeth sink into the flesh of my captor’s arm, didn’t even notice until the salty tang of blood filled my mouth. The gun at my neck slipped, and my reflexes were honed by months of enforced readiness. I pulled my gun from its resting spot in the waistband of my jeans, reeled back with the jab of one sharp elbow to his gut, and connected again as I spun around, slamming a solid fist into the side of his jaw.
When I steadied my aim, and had his face lined up in my sights, I was surprised to note that his gun had somehow fallen to the ground below, and he was looking at me with a combined expression of hurt and insult tugging at his lower lip.
“Jesus, Scully, what the fuck was that for?” He cradled his injured arm in an awkward way against his chest. I could see where I had bitten just below the protection of the cuff of his jacket, as tiny red drops of blood slipped over the curve of his wrist to weave through the hair on his lower arm.
I said nothing, merely maintained a crisp, solid glare, gun a perfect line extending down from my arm. I said nothing and remained frozen, my eyes wandering over Krycek with something approaching a challenge. When they alighted on his arm, I could feel my eyes widen just slightly in shock. I had heard rumors to the effect from Mulder once or twice, several years ago, but seeing the inhuman gleam of polished plastic from between his jacket and the dark leather of his gloves, I suddenly had proof of their veracity, and I understood in one quick flash why he hadn’t been able to maintain that gun at my neck.
His eyes held mine in defensive indignation, purposefully ignoring my obvious stare. “Quiet domesticity looks good on you, Scully.” Sarcasm again, but this time with strange shadows.
I would not rise to the bait.
He continued, unfazed. “The little woman, gathering groceries in the market. Not a role I ever really expected you in, but then this isn’t really an idyllic setting, is it? Not really that quiet, either, considering all the running you’re always doing, but as quiet as any of us will ever get, I suppose.”
My voice was as steady and silent as my gun when I cut him off, unable to let his rambling continue. “Don’t include me in this twisted little circle of yours, Krycek. I’m not a part of any ‘us’ that you could name.” My gun was focused just between his eyes.
One low bark of laughter. “Aren’t you?” The question wavered somewhat, faltered, and I could hear the beginnings of unrest as they began to shadow his tone. He pulled his injured arm more tightly against his chest, and a few drops of blood had traced down and over the dark leather of his jacket, gleaming colorless against the black surface. “You play their game better than I do lately, Scully.” A pause. “You both do.”
I could feel my lips thin into a cold, sharp line. “If we play anyone’s game, it’s certainly never been by our own choosing.”
“Hasn’t it?” His words were edgy and bright, accusing. “You run like hunted dogs, you don’t fight back. They say ‘jump’ and you don’t even wait to ask ‘how high’ before leaping to their command. They play you like puppets, Scully, and you see it as some sort of twisted freedom.” There was a shimmer of pitying disappointment in his eyes, something strange dancing there for a moment before hardening again.
I advanced one threatening step, and could see his eyes focus on my finger tightening just imperceptibly over the trigger of my gun. My words were painted in Mulder’s blood and our months of hollow suffering. “You know *nothing* of what we’ve done, or why.”
He seemed unaffected by my words. “I know that nothing is exactly what you’ve done, while a war rages unseen around you and innocents die unknowing for the cause. I know that you of all people should understand that violation, the rape of the innocents, and yet you seem oblivious to what you must know continues on, even as you and Mulder hole up in some little one room love bungalow in the middle of the mountains.”
My teeth clenched. Just how long had he been watching us? “I don’t explain my motivations to murderers and thieves,” I replied, unwilling to engage in any sort of involved discussion with this man.
He reflected my prior words in a toneless near whisper. “And you know nothing of what I’ve done, or why.”
Sunlight glinted down through the gap between the buildings, casting light into damp shadows, and I wondered at the time, if Mulder was awake yet, if he was worried at finding me gone. Casting accusations aside, I narrowed my eyes and got to the point. “What do you want, Krycek?”
He seemed to relax against the crumbling wall. “Like I said, I just want to talk.”
I allowed my eyes to bounce off of his lost gun at our feet in silent comment.
He continued simplistically, unconcerned. “I knew that you wouldn’t listen without… an incentive.”
His relaxation unnerved me. “I think that you just enjoy being a bully.” His eyes were dark and deadly, and I wondered if they were even capable of a smile, what that could possibly look like. Wanting this to end, to pick up the remains of my trampled purchases and return to the safety and warmth of early morning forgotten hours, I spoke bluntly. “So, talk.”
“Not yet.” His chin lifted a fraction to indicate up the street in the direction I had been walking. “I need to talk to both of you. I don’t exactly feel like repeating myself.”
“Mulder will kill you if I take you back there, you should know that.”
A ghost of a grin twisted just the corners of his mouth. “Maybe.” I couldn’t see, or failed to see the humor. “I need *both* of your attention, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Scully, but it’s fucking cold out here right now.”
I grunted, the air escaping me in a puff of ice. Without much choice, my decision was fast and direct. “You will walk five steps ahead of me with both arms in plain sight behind your back. If you so much as flinch, I will put a bullet through you so fast that you’ll see it on the way out before you feel it going in.” I took another step forward. “Face the wall and put your hands behind your back.”
Amusement graced his features again before he turned, and then all I could see was an expanse of soft leather and dark hair. I reached around to run clinical hands over the insides of his coat, down along his sides, over both hips and down, and then back up along the insides of his legs. At the inside of his left ankle, another smaller, compact weapon was revealed and quickly confiscated. I said nothing, merely rose, nudged the side of his face with my gun and said, “Walk.”
Mulder was not going to be happy, and as we left the alley I could still smell the aroma of fresh strawberries, crushed and sweet in the trampled snow.
Their first night in this place, she had stirred in his embrace and lifted herself from the bed.
“What are you doing?” His voice, sleepy and confused, still slurred by the fervor of their recent lovemaking.
Just a whisper. “Help me.”
The ancient wooden bed left deep gauges in the unpolished floorboards, made rough scraping sounds as they dragged it away from the front door. He had risen without comment, and his body by moonlight was all planes and shadows and silver.
Her voice held purpose in soft words. “Over there, facing the window, so we can see the stars.”
The low, carved oak footboard came to rest beneath the room’s only window, while the vast expanse of the headboard seemed strangely out of place in the center of the room. She flung herself across the bed and rolled over, head at the foot end, gazing up through the windowpane, out into the snow and mountains beyond. “It’s amazing the stars you can see from up here.”
She had laughed softly, suddenly amused by her own actions. He had stood beside the bed, floors cold under bare feet, and blinked away unbidden tears. “Beautiful,” he whispered, mostly to himself.
They hadn’t really minded the slight draft coming in under the window’s aging casing – merely piled up more blankets to ward off the chill. A bit of cold was worth the illumination of innumerable stars. She pulled back the heavy quilts, rolled across now cold sheets, and when he joined her, their view from the bed was the whole of the heavens.
“I can’t remember the last time I actually *saw* the stars.” Healing that continued with every day passed. Little bits of a shattered whole reconstructing slowly.
His kisses were stardust sprinkling over her throat, chest, breasts, stomach. Moving together, a tangle of hands, lips, fingers that traced the curve of her back, her hip, the indentation at the base of her throat.
It was only one small room, one corner a kitchen (nothing more than a table, sink, and stove), with a lonely, tattered armchair, and the full sized bed with its dusty, sagging mattress. Small and possibly depressing, but when he entered her, that room with its leaking faucet and overworked radiator disappeared, and as her eyes closed against the night, she soared out easily among the stars.
Her side of the bed was still as cold and empty as it had been the last ten times I stared over at it. I sipped cooling coffee, watching steam rise from the second mug I had prepared in anticipation of her return. I’ve woken without her here before. Usually, she is down in the tiny hovel that passes for a bathroom here. We share it with the rest of the rooms on this floor. Not much by way of privacy, but then you get what you pay for.
So while I never like waking up without her warm weight snuggled into my side, it’s not as foreign an experience as I might wish, and even with her gone, I had been reluctant to pull back the covers and brave the winter air. The first thing I noticed was the sunlight streaming in through the window at the foot of the bed. Odd, because if I sleep this late, she usually lowers the sheet we have tacked up there so the brightness doesn’t wake me.
I had grunted at the evil persistence of the light against my eyelids, threw back the sheltering blankets, and hissed at the shock of uncarpeted floors against bare skin. Kicking the stubborn radiator did little to encourage its performance, and even a muttered “stupid piece of shit” had little influence. It was only after I stood at the stove trying to work the antiquated percolator so that I could manage a cup of coffee that I finally heard the hiss and stumble of the pipes in the radiator groaning to life.
I was four seconds away from donning my shoes in search of Scully when the door to our room flew open, and I knew in a sick flash that I would never reach my gun under the bed’s pillows in time.
What in the hell?!
“Goddamit, Krycek, move!”
My slow motion nightmare of Krycek bursting through the door to our room was arrested by the sound of Scully’s voice, followed by the entrance of her figure, cheeks flushed by the cold and eyes blazing, pointing a gun at the back of a partially pissed off, partially amused Alex Krycek. Time gelled again and marched forward as Scully slammed the door behind her and glanced in my direction; her gaze softened when she met my eyes.
“And here I thought you had just taken a trip to the bathroom.”
She smiled at my words.
“Isn’t this cozy?” Krycek’s remark was dry, deadpan, but I could see the swirl of thoughts as his eyes raked over the tumbled bed, sheets askew, one pillow tossed carelessly on the floor.
I didn’t flinch, didn’t even blink. “Where did he come from?” I flicked my eyes quickly to our guest, as if the clarification had been necessary.
Krycek answered, an innocent smile on his lips. “Oh, Scully was just out doing some shopping and we happened to bump into one another. Quite a coincidence…”
The three threatening steps I took didn’t even register until I spoke and realized that I was mere inches from Krycek’s tiny grin. “If you hurt her…”
Krycek’s voice, suddenly all indignation and insult, filled the air. “Hurt her!” I noticed his arm held against his chest for the first time as he pulled it in tighter. “Jesus, Mulder, she *bit* me!”
Pushing back a step, I took in the broken skin on his forearm, trails of dried blood, and glancing up, found the slight purpling that had begun to set in along his jaw, and the infinitesimal smile highlighting the blue of Scully’s eyes. I think I shocked them both with my laughter. “You know, Scully, you probably shouldn’t have done that. We don’t know where he’s been.” I cast a pointed glare in Krycek’s direction.
Her only answer was the slight quirking of her lips.
Casting all kidding aside. “What do you want, Krycek. Last I heard, you didn’t work for that particular side of the struggle anymore. Or have you switched sides yet again and decided you liked the idea of becoming a bounty hunter? Just how much is the going rate these days for kidnapping a woman off the street?”
Krycek’s eyes settled securely over mine with his reply. “You never have understood, have you Mulder?” It made little sense, but he refused to elaborate.
A silence of a few seconds passed before Scully broke it with words that confused me momentarily. “You wanted to talk to both of us, Krycek, so here we are.” Firm and commanding. “Talk.”
Scully had come around to stand beside me, her arm just brushing mine, with her gun still leveled neatly on Krycek’s face. He looked briefly over at her, then back to me before speaking.
“I need your help.”
End Part 1
Brief note – okay, the last time I saw Krycek (The Red and the Black) he looked to be working for the resistance – ie telling Mulder where the rebel was on that truck so he could try and rescue him, so dammit, Krycek is a rebel! I don’t care what bull shit they’re pulling in “Two Fathers.” Also, even while Krycek is working for the syndicate in TF, he still goes and gently tries to turn Spudner against his father, so I think he’s got his own motives, as usual. I happen to like Krycek. Sue me. <g>
To See the Stars (2/?)
By Morgan ()
See disclaimers etc. in part 1
I must be dreaming.
Either that or Alex Krycek just stood a few feet from my front door, with an almost honest expression on his face, and asked for my help. Honesty is not something I have come to expect from Krycek. Under ordinary circumstances, I would naturally assume that I was dreaming, but it’s too damn cold for this to be a dream. That, and I can hear the quite counterpoint of Scully’s breath beside me, can still smell the delicate traces of her left on my unwashed skin from the night before when I breathe deeply enough.
“Our help?” Incredulous and demanding all at the same time. No. Not a dream. That’s definitely the real life Scully standing at my side.
“That is,” Krycek continued, “If you can remember how to do anything except run anymore.”
Angrily, I cut in. “Quit the crap, Krycek, and just tell us what you want.”
“I told you already, I need your…”
I didn’t let him finish. “You need our help. Yes. I heard you. But why, and for what possible reason?”
He lifted his injured hand in a ‘may I?’ gesture towards the inside of his jacket. Scully gave consent with a look that could only be interpreted as ‘pull anything funny and be prepared to eat lead.’ The dark leather shifted slowly, and I wasn’t really worried about him pulling a gun, as I assumed Scully had probably patted him down before dragging him back here. What I had not expected was the large manila envelope that he emerged with.
“Take it,” he said, with hand outstretched. A glance to Scully for some sort of confirmation didn’t leave me with many options, so I took the offered object. With one quirked eyebrow pointed at Krycek, a habit I think I acquired from Scully years ago, I pulled back the metal fasteners and opened the folder. Inside, a series of glossy photographs were contained. Spilling them into the palm of my hand, I’m sure the expression on my face was part curious, part confused.
“Who is she?”
Scully leaned towards me at those words, keeping her aim concentrated on Krycek. The first image was a professional type portrait. Something done as part of a cheap package deal at a place like Sears or JC Penny. A young woman, mid to late twenties, maybe, with shoulder length blond hair and dark brown eyes. Pretty, in a way, though not traditionally so, wearing a bland expression and a forced smile that didn’t reach her eyes. The second picture was different. A 5×7″ from someone’s home camera taken with film not appropriate for the low light. The same woman, perched up in the natural cradle created by two tree branches, holding some sort of book in her lap. She stared down with deep, soulful eyes, looking at the observer with an aura of calmness and cool, no hint of a smile. The third was markedly different, taken from a distance with a wide-angle lens. It was an obvious surveillance photo, the woman standing outside the entrance to an apartment, key in hand, hair falling softly over one shoulder, face obscured.
The next three images were what got my attention. All were of the same place, it seemed. A small, windowless room. Black and white. The same moment captured from a position up high, each from a different angle, cameras probably positioned at the ceiling’s corners. The same small woman, curled into a tight ball in a bed at the center of the room. Stark and brutal, bruising that ran along the surface of both arms was apparent, and she was clothed in little more than a thin white sleeveless shift.
“What’s her name?” I asked.
He looked at me as if not seeing, blinked, something flickering in his eyes there and then gone again as he seemed to focus in on my face. “Mara Atkins.” Quiet and unreadable.
I flipped past the three black and whites to find the last two photos. Seeing the first one, I almost dropped the entire stack. Mara again, this time up close, and in full color. Naked, lying on some sort of an examining table, that bruising previously glimpsed in the black and white pictures now a kaleidoscope of greens, purples, and blues. Track marks from countless needles could be seen running the length of her arms and legs. Unable to stare at the image of a woman so violated and used much longer, I flipped to the final picture and finally looked up in disgust.
“Who did this?”
I guess I hadn’t needed the question, and from the look on Krycek’s face, he didn’t think so either. I handed the pictures over to Scully, so that she could get a closer look, but that last image stayed firmly within my vision, and I could see it clearly every time I blinked. Close up of Mara’s face, eyes open wide and unseeing. No trace of color or life in her skin, any sign of consciousness or awareness. She was simply… blank. Gone. A shell of matted blond hair and empty eyes encased in pallid and graying skin.
I took the gun from Scully, so that she could better look at the images, and focused my attention on the leather-clad man with the bite marks on his arm. I repeated my earlier question. “Who is she?” And then, thinking again, “Is she alive?”
Krycek blinked, clenched and unclenched his hand, and then answered. “Yes. She’s alive, believe it or not. Just barely, in that last picture, but as far as I know, she’s still alive.” He stopped, seemed to gather himself, took a breath. “She was a test subject, a concept I believe you are already familiar with.” He moved his eyes over to Scully who, thankfully, was not concentrating on Krycek at the moment. “In the beginning, she was unexceptional, just another number. Taken, used, discarded. It wasn’t until someone took a detailed look at her test results that they began to see something no one had ever thought possible.”
Scully had obviously finished with the pictures and placed them back in the folder. She held it limply in the grasp of one hand. Her voice was as colorless as her face when she spoke. “What hadn’t they thought was possible?”
“A test subject with a natural immunity.”
I took a breath, considered what he was saying. Scully remained silent and unmoving beside me. “How is that possible?”
I could see something in Krycek’s eyes detach as he launched into an explanation, and I began to wonder seriously what his connection to this woman was. “This enemy we’re fighting, this force we have yet to find any real defense against. It’s been understood for some time that the basics of their genetic structure could be found within human DNA, that we are linked by this commonality, cousins of a sort.” I looked over at Scully and could see her following, reserving judgement. “Experimentation in search of a vaccine or a cure has been ongoing since the beginnings of the project. Even as they assisted with the enemy’s demands, they worked in secret, buying more time with their capitulation. Other nations, not in league with the larger project, also began this search, aware of the threat as well.” He paused. “No group was ever really successful.”
Krycek stopped, looked down at his injured arm. “Is it possible for me to get this cleaned out and maybe sit down before I keep going?” There was a tone of stubborn annoyance to his voice that I knew would make any further headway difficult, so I nodded to Scully. Her speech was short and clipped when she spoke. “Sit down at the table and hold still.”
I kept a ready eye on Krycek as he moved across the room.
“You know, a human’s mouth is dirtier that a dog’s,” he informed Scully, as she kneeled down beside him with the alcohol and gauze. She didn’t appear to hear him.
“Ow!” Krycek grimaced in Scully’s direction.
If he looked up at me for the sake of sympathy, he was going to have to keep searching. I waited until Scully had finished dressing the wound, quickly and efficiently, before speaking again. “Russia had a vaccine though, didn’t they?”
Krycek’s eyes lit briefly at the shared memories. “Yes. They did, of a sort. But it wasn’t exactly one hundred percent effective. Actually, several nations had different versions of a vaccine, but none were effective outside of a certain initial time frame, and none were what you could remotely call a sure fire cure.”
In an act so characteristic of Scully’s compassionate nature, she set a glass of water down in front of Krycek, complete with cold, impenetrable stare, almost daring him not to accept. He took a sip. “Several groups had theorized the concept of a natural immunity, what with the shared genetic heritage and all, but it was mainly a fairy-tale, a holy-grail of sorts. No real research was put into it, no real thought, because no one even had a place to start looking, and it was decided by all involved that resources were best utilized by continuing down the path that had already been set upon.”
He paused, stared down into the depths of the glass of water.
Scully’s voice interrupted the silence. “Until Mara Atkins.”
Krycek didn’t look up. “Until Mara Atkins.”
I took a deep breath, held it a moment, released. Krycek remained intent on his water, while Scully stood near the sink, staring at him with an inscrutable expression. I walked up beside her, laid a supportive hand on her shoulder and squeezed. “Okay.” I gathered what he had told us. “So Mara Atkins was a typical test subject until they discovered she was literally the keeper of the sacred chalice. What the hell does that have to do with Scully and I?”
Tiny fingers found and encircled my own still resting upon Scully’s shoulder, squeezing back.
“When they realized what she was, Mara was taken a second time. Those pictures you saw were from that time period. The first experience, it…” He seemed to search for words. “She was never the same afterwards. It was like something was missing. When I heard that they had taken her again, I knew she wouldn’t survive another round of tests.”
And then, somehow, I knew. “Where is she now?”
The mild surprise that flitted across Krycek’s face was short lived and settled quickly back into complete inscutability. “The last that I was able to find out, she was being moved from a facility in Brazil. Somehow, she managed to escape and has eluded capture ever since.”
“And our role in all of this?” Scully’s voice this time; her hand still clasped with my own.
Krycek straightened in his seat, looking up directly at the both of us. “I’ve been involved with the resistance for some time now, as I think you may know. The men who had her, who discovered what she was…” His eyes alighted briefly on our linked hands before moving quickly away. “We can’t allow them to find her again. The project has become so steeped in politics, so far immersed in the affairs of the enemy that any real advancements made in the direction of defense would be immediately eliminated.”
“The resistance wants to find her first.” It was the obvious conclusion.
Krycek merely nodded.
Scully’s voice, low and angry, surprised me as she pulled her hand free from under mine. “So that they can subject her to the same tests and atrocities that she would have endured at the hands of the men she’s already escaped from. You want to deliver her from one type of hell into another.”
Krycek’s eyes flashed. “No. It’s not the same thing. Those men are barbarians, who care nothing about the billions of lives they profess to be attempting to save. I’ve always known that their methods were severe, brutal even, but it wasn’t until Mara that I knew the full extent. It’s not the same thing at all.”
“Alex Krycek, consummate humanitarian and defender of civil rights. When the hell did you suddenly find religion?” Taking a step away from me, Scully moved towards the table, and I resisted my impulse to hold her back. “I could have described to you the exact brutality of their methods five years ago, if you had been at all interested. I know an entire group of dead women who could once have gone into explicit detail about the severity of those methods!”
I could see the tight control Scully was exerting over her actions by the tenseness of the muscles in the back of her neck. “If you think for a second that we would even consider helping you locate this woman, only to send her back into that kind of hell, then I must have done a lot more damage that I had originally thought when I hit you in the head.”
The chair skidded across the linoleum as Krycek pushed it back and stood, stepping towards Scully. I brought my gun up in clear line with his head, jerking it just slightly to the side in a clear ‘step back’ gesture. He was still too close for comfort, but he didn’t move any closer. His words were clipped and full of force. “She is quite possibly the only hope we have at this point, the closest we have *ever* come to winning the war. And make no mistake, this is a war, only the stakes are much higher than I think you’ve ever allowed yourself to realize. Billions of lives teeter in the balance here, Scully. The fate of an entire species could rest with the life of this one woman. Sure, we’ve made progress, continued to fight, but we’ve always been pessimists at best, just struggling to put a little more time between us and what we’ve always thought would be the inevitable. The project, these men you’ve fought against and now run from, they’ve taken the safe side, signing their lives away as future slaves, but that has always seemed the safest option. Finally, with this woman, there might just be another.” He paused, hung his head for a moment. “And if we don’t find her, they will.”
I could see the rapid rise and fall of Scully’s chest from behind her and moved quickly to her side. Sliding one reassuring hand down over her arm lightly, lingering just a moment at the curve of her elbow, she moved back as I touched her, walked towards the sink, and I tried another tack. “Why us, though? Why our help?”
Water was running in the sink, and Krycek was looking over my shoulder towards Scully when he spoke. “Because there isn’t anybody else who’s willing to help me on this, because once upon a time you two were good at this type of thing, and because I thought that maybe, just maybe, you two had finally grown tired of running for your lives and might just be ready to fight back.”
“Fighting back could very well mean our lives.” And I knew I was right, any movement on our part, any emergence from careful concealment could very easily spell the end. I wasn’t willing to risk that, wouldn’t risk Scully’s life again that way, not after only so recently beginning to repair these years of damage.
An emotion that I could swear resembled disgust took hold of Krycek’s eyes before he closed them briefly, remained silent a moment, and then began again. His speech started slowly, built quickly, and there was anger in it by the time he finished. “Fifteen years from now, when the end comes, what will you be doing?” He stopped for a moment as if waiting for an answer. “Will you be sitting on a beach somewhere, sipping Mai tais, looking over your shoulder still, while the sky begins to fall and *no* amount of running could ever be fast or far enough?”
I could hear Scully’s voice behind me, strong and seeking. “Mulder.”
One last question from Krycek. “What will fighting back be worth to you then?”
What indeed? Worth the price of what little time we’ve captured for ourselves, what little peace? Shouldn’t we be allowed that? Haven’t we yet earned the right to stop and be still for at least a little while? Why must the struggle always be fought with our lives hanging in the balance? Scully and I have borne our weight of suffering and sacrifice for this cause tenfold, and yet still we are called upon to offer up more of ourselves. It’s not right. It’s not fair. During these last several months of running I have found light in Scully’s eyes that blinds me, wraps me up in something whole and complete and beautiful. If fifteen years from now that light is all I have to show for what I have accomplished in these years, this life, then that is more than enough for me. I have caused her enough pain. We have lived through enough sorrow. All I have ever wanted was just the time to allow those wounds to heal, time enough to know her love and presence without the constant specter of loss looming on the horizon.
The door to our room slammed shut, breaking me from my thoughts, and I realized that Scully had left me alone here with Krycek. I needed to go after her.
Krycek, for his part, looked content to remain seated at the table, offering nothing more to say, while I rummaged around in Scully’s bag, located the pair of handcuffs, and quickly attached Alex’s good wrist to the rusting pipe of our grungy radiator.
“Not the nicest of amenities,” I commented, “but you’ll live.”
And then I was grabbing my boots and running out the door into the ice and cold, searching for Scully.
When Mulder and I first arrived here, it had been snowing like this. We had come up from the coast, the two of us on a rickety bus with a malfunctioning heater. Neither of us had been prepared for the weather, for the transition from balmy coastal breezes to sudden winter air. The snow had started as these perfect, tiny crystals, clinging to the windows momentarily before wasting away against the warmth of the glass. I had reached up and traced the paths of melting snow with the tip of one finger, and Mulder had kept me warm in the circle of his arms. When we arrived in town, my teeth had chattered and his hands had turned blue. We found this boarding house by pure luck, bounded up the stairs like children coming in from building snowmen. Snowflakes had been sprinkled along his eyelashes, and he had held perfectly still as I leaned up on tiptoe and gently kissed them away.
Oh, Mulder. We knew it couldn’t last.
I shivered, hard, thinking of things that were inescapable, the roles we are somehow destined to play.
I had known he would come looking for me. It had only been a matter of time. I could hear his footsteps tramping through the snow behind me at a brisk pace, trying to catch up.
“Where did you leave Krycek?” I asked, when I knew he was just behind me.
What had started as a light early morning snowfall had grown in strength to become a formidable storm in a very short amount of time. Strong Atlantic winds, bitter with ice, snapped and strung at my cheeks as I walked, whipping the hair into my eyes. Snow in fat, wet clumps stuck to every available surface. It sloshed in over the edges of my shoes, soaked the hem of my pants, and ran in melting rivulets down the back of my jacket.
He fell into step beside me and I didn’t look up to see him. His answer was soft and deceptively light. “Handcuffed to the radiator. He actually looked offended.”
I didn’t answer, just continued to study the way the snow squished out from under each of my footsteps. We walked in silence for a few more moments. I could see the toes of his boots, glad that he’d had the forethought to pull them on, wishing I had done the same.
“Scully, you have to be freezing.” You could almost taste the concern in his voice.
The sky was darker than it should be at this time of day, huge gray clouds obscuring the sun.
I wanted to close my eyes and go back to this morning when the sun had still been bright and I hadn’t been so cold.
He grabbed a hold of my wrist, pulling me to a gentle stop and turning me to face him. I looked up but didn’t have anything to say. His fingers were the merest wisp of contact brushing damp strands of hair away from my eyes. Those fingers lingered just under the curve of my jaw, cradling with a light touch.
“Whatever you want, I’ll do,” he said. So simple, and I knew he would.
“I don’t know what I want.”
I wanted things to be simple for once, knew they never could be.
“Are we cowards for running like this, Mulder? Should we have found a way to fight back by now?” I’d thought I’d known these answers, but was suddenly finding them in question again.
He looked taken aback. “How can you even ask that? It was a question of your life.”
I knew this, but it didn’t seem that simple anymore. “It’s been almost two years.”
I looked away from his eyes, staring off past his shoulder. The streets were unusually deserted, people having tucked themselves indoors away from the ice and wind. His voice was hurt only partially masked. “Has it really been that bad?”
Snapping back to look at him, I grabbed both of his hands with my own and squeezed. “You know it hasn’t. I’ve been more alive these past months than I have during possibly my entire life. I would never give that back.”
His eyes were a question.
I sighed, frustrated and lost. “I don’t know. I just don’t know.” I broke away from him again, moving further down the street. He was following behind me, and I knew he could hear me when I spoke. “Could I ever live with myself if we *did* help him find this woman? How could I knowing what we were leading her into?” I took a deep breath, could almost feel the scar at the base of my neck at that moment. “But we also just can’t leave her alone and defenseless running from the project. We know what that’s like. We’ve known for years. This woman, unprepared and alone, how long can she possibly last before they find her again?” I knew that I didn’t have to explain my desire to help Mara Atkins. Mulder knew those reasons better than anyone. “I want to fight back, Mulder. I’m just not sure that this is how, and there are so many questions he still hasn’t answered.”
“We’ll get the answers, Scully.”
Ahead of me was a tiny church, faint light just visible inside. The wooden doors swung open a crack and a middle-aged woman, round cheeked and flushed from the sudden cold, moved outside, drawing her scarf tight around dark hair and skin. I imagined I could smell the incense where I had stopped.
“Scully, it’s freezing. We need to go back.”
The walk back to the room was farther than I could remember. Mulder stopped me just inside the door to the hall, in front of the stairs. There was something in his eyes I had come to need during our journey together. It had given me my life back, helped to return me to myself. I fell willingly into that place of safety and calm, and his lips were sweet and warm, melting away the cold.
The door opened and the two stepped inside, his hand an anchor in the center of her back, her hand just brushing his thigh. The other across the room was reclined with head tilted back, absorbing meager warmth from an ungenerous radiator. She shook the snow from her shoes, socks and slacks wet and cold. He reached up to brush away the damp from the shoulders of her jacket, tucked one wet strand of hair behind her ear. Their observer opened his eyes for a moment, took in the picture they made, and turned quickly away. It was quiet except for the sound of water dripping, barely audible melting snow, until the world erupted into the shattering of glass, the single, large window splintering into a thousand pieces from the effect of the gunfire. The man pushed the woman down to the ground, instinctually covering her with the shield of his body, and across the room, the other pulled helplessly at his restraints, metal clanging against metal with no way to escape.
End part 2/?
To See the Stars (3/?)
By: Morgan ()
See disclaimers etc. in part 1
The blood was warm and bitter trickling into my mouth. I sputtered, flicking the tangy substance away from my lips, trying to erase the taste. Bringing a hand up cautiously, I wiped the stream of blood from the side of my face to prevent any more from sliding across my lips. Beneath me, Scully made a frustrated whimper, and around us, the air had regained a deceptive facade of calm.
“Goddamit, somebody get me out of these things!”
Krycek was shouting from across the room, still trapped against the radiator. Scully and I had fallen just inside the door, a somewhat protective shield formed between us and the window by the table and the tall headboard of the bed. Against the wall perpendicular to the window, not far enough down to be passed the headboard, Krycek was far more vulnerable, rattling his handcuffs as if that might loosen them somehow.
“Stay down and don’t move.” I leaned down to place my lips just upon the outer curve of Scully’s ear and whispered.
“No, Mulder. Don’t…” She twisted beneath me, trying to turn up and around to face me, but was pinned by my weight.
“I can’t just leave him there.” And even though there had been numerous times in the past when I had desired nothing more than the sight of Krycek helpless and suffering – retribution for his sins – I knew I wouldn’t be able to just abandon him now. He wasn’t our enemy anymore, and I wasn’t that same vengeful person any longer, either.
I brushed my lips through Scully’s hair softly, smelling the slight lemon of her shampoo. There was a smear of blood along the outside of her ear, from where my lips had lain. Pushing it away with the pad of one thumb, I whispered again, “Don’t move.”
I pushed up on both arms and off of her, starting a slow crawl across the floor, attempting to find cover behind the headboard before approaching Krycek. Her eyes were this warm brand, searing into my back as I moved, and I prayed that she would listen to my request and stay as still as possible. Glass crunched and smashed beneath my knees, and a few pieces tore through the protection of my jeans to break the skin beneath. I was careful about where I placed my hands, but a sea of sparkling destruction littered the floor, and a few cuts were unavoidable.
The headboard was cool and solid behind my back when I reached it, and I stopped, took a deep breath, looked back towards Scully. She was silent and still, exactly where I had left her, but with head now turned to the side, eyes regarding me large and unguarded, clearly showing her fear for my safety. I didn’t smile, couldn’t, but instead held her eyes for the briefest moment, feeling the familiar slide and click of our connection closing, needing that. The surety of her presence settling beneath my skin, I looked away, head just peeking around the corner of the bed to where Krycek still lay helpless.
There was a vast no man’s land of about ten feet between the bed and the wall with the radiator. All of it within clear line of the large, gaping maw of the window. A blast of frigid, ice-chilled air swarmed through the window, sweeping snow and cold across the bed and floor. I closed my eyes, tensed my fingers, and prepared to leap across that space and through the danger.
It’s strange how time can still sometimes. How you can be poised in a moment of action and be so *aware* of all the little things going on around you. I was stuck somewhere between rising up off of one knee, propelling myself forward and away from the safety of the bed, when I knew she had moved. I could hear the sound of her clothes shuffling faintly against the floor, the shifting of her body, knew somehow that she was standing. And then there was the familiar roar of gunfire, the sound of a body flying through the air, even as I was still moving towards Krycek. I slammed into the wall at the same time as I heard another slam from across the room, impact of flesh and floorboard.
At first I couldn’t see her. My vision swam with images from other times, her fallen body lying limp and battered and bleeding, dying, overlaid by the present image of the room, empty space where she had been.
“Scully, please.” A tear of weakness through my voice, and I wasn’t shouting anymore. I was pleading.
Then I saw it, caught my breath and focused in on the faint hint of her feet from behind the armchair. I watched as tiny fingers curled around the small leg of the chair, reaching. The chair was only a few feet to the side of the door, the most obvious refuge for her from the gunfire.
“Mulder.” Her voice was quavering somehow, but even the weakened sound of it was bliss unmitigated to my starving ears. I shuddered in relief, just catching the meaning of her next whispers. “I’m fine, Mulder.” A pause. “Go. Do it. I’m fine.” So, so soft, but with strength beneath that reassured.
When I finally looked over at our guest, his eyes too were focused on Scully’s position, and I could swear I saw the flicker of concern there before he sensed my interest.
“You gonna un-cuff me, Mulder?” He asked, but it wasn’t as sharp as I had come to expect from him, and I ignored it.
The shaking in my fingers was annoying when I tried to work them into the back pocket of my jeans to find the key. Krycek and I were sitting just out of the range of sight of the window, but even the slightest movement might be enough. It was impossible to tell where the shooter was positioned outside. I fumbled, found the small key, steadied my hand and reached for Krycek’s wrist. The minute click of the key catching in the small lock was an insignificant victory, and Krychek brought the freed arm up to his body, looking like he would rub the irritated flesh if he had another hand. I think the look he gave me was an attempt to appear insulted.
I glanced around the room, trying to find a means of escape. If Krycek and I stayed flat against the floor by the wall and moved slowly, we might be able to make it to the door without being noticed. Scully, in her present position, was only a few feet from the door as it was, and if she could make it, would be safe enough to escape.
Our bed, the one Scully and I had shared, was covered with broken glass, snow and ice puddling on the reflective surfaces, soaking into the thick covers. Sparing it one lingering glance, I carefully lowered myself to the ground. I was about to look over my shoulder to tell Krycek to follow me when I heard his voice. “Go. I’m following you.” I guess I hadn’t needed the instructions.
The crawl across the floor was tortuous. Luckily, most of the glass was concentrated in the center of the room, fanning out from the window. I didn’t gain too many new cuts to add to my collection, but after every tiny advance, I would look over towards Scully, trying to gauge her condition. Behind me, I could hear the rasp of Krycek’s breath, and around us wind howled through the open window and goosebumps sprouted on my damp skin.
Reaching the wall that the door was situated in, I finally caught a glimpse of Scully. She was watching my progress, trying to catch my eyes. No sign of blood. My eyes ran the length of her familiar form like a dying man gasping for water, and were blessed by no obvious signs of trauma. Her face was a scattering of tiny cuts and abrasions, speckles of blood defiling the ivory, but she didn’t appear to have been shot, and was regarding me with this cool, beautiful understanding of what I was thinking.
I moved so slowly towards the door, hoping, praying to a God I didn’t believe in that we were far enough within the room that no one would be able to see us on the floor. When I finally reached my goal, the silent signal I sent to Scully was received loud and clear, and I reached up with quick fingers to twist the doorknob and swing the door in and back against the other side of the wall. I had just released the cold, brass knob when the thin wood exploded into thick splinters, bullets easily shredding the barrier.
No thinking, just action. Rolling, propelling myself through the doorway and into the hall. I hurled myself against the wall between the two rooms, briefly saw the fast moving figure of Krycek following me through the opening, and then I peeked my head around the corner, looking for Scully.
Still behind the chair, she was watching me, waiting to make sure I was all right. I mouthed the words…
“One, two, three…”
And then she was moving, pushing herself through the door, past the shattered bits of wood and glass, landing safe and whole at my side.
At first, I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. I was too relieved to have her safely out of the room. But when her hand disappeared around the corner of the frame, seemed to fumble a bit, returned first with one battered duffel bag, and then the other, it finally dawned on me. The bags we always kept packed and ready by the door for escape. We had been doing this for far too long.
The hallway was a strange haven of quiet and peace after the chaos of our demolished room. Mulder’s fingers running over the wounds on my face were seeking and scared.
“Stupid, Scully. That was so stupid. You could have been killed.” It wasn’t really anger in his voice, merely fear. Raw, desperate, hungry fear.
“Someone had to cover you,” I said, looking up. I knew he could read it in my eyes, understood. It was still my job, my duty, even with the FBI such a distant piece of our abandoned past.
“Stupid.” And he wiped little bits of blood away with gentle fingers, his hands themselves also covered in blood.
“We have to move.”
Alex Krycek, the voice of reason. What strange parallel reality had we somehow stumbled into?
Mulder stood, extended his hand down to help me up. There was a lingering caress of his fingers over the center of my palms as he lifted me, and when I was standing, I picked up the bags, handed one to Mulder. Down the hallway, a baby wailed. No doors opened. No sounds of television or radio filtered out to find us. Chile had know some form of peace for a little while, but political unrest and revolt were common enough memories here to keep these simple people behind closed doors, away from perceived danger. I winced as we began to trek down the hall, the left side of my body aching from its harsh impact with the floor.
“Is there another exit?” Krycek’s eyes were surveying the long hall, and Mulder shook his head, grim and negative.
“Well then,” he continued, “I guess we go out through the front.”
Briefly, I wondered how bold our pursuers would be. There was a police force in this city. Not a strong one, by any means, but present nonetheless. Would they be brazen enough to stand waiting in the daylight on a main street, poised behind the front door? I wondered, and then we were down the stairs, standing before the door, and I didn’t have time to wonder anymore. Krycek had taken the lead somehow, had swung the door open, and was off and running down the street. We had no choice but to follow.
The storm had not desisted in its strength. Around us, snow churned, slush was slippery beneath my feet. El Nino, I thought, and almost laughed at the absurdity. Krycek was rounding the corner into an alley up ahead, Mulder following right behind. I had lagged in my speed somewhat and was laboring to catch up. The corner loomed large and accessible a few more steps away when I heard the sickening sound again. Bullets ricocheting off the wall I ran along; and I slipped on the ice, stumbling, falling. A gutter ran along the side of the building, clogged with snow and water, bits of ice. I couldn’t help the cry that escaped my lips when I fell.
Cold. So, so cold. Water pouring in over my low shoes, soaking up along my pants.
From ahead, I saw a flicker of movement in the alley. I was picking myself up, spitting snow, shaking, and suddenly Mulder was there beside me, pulling me out of the low ditch.
“Come on, Scully.” And he didn’t even seem to notice the bullets that hit the building as we ran towards the alley, didn’t seem to see the rough bits of plaster that shattered off as the bullets impacted. Then it was darker; the snow ceased its slapping against my face. We had reached the alley, and I could see Krycek further down the dark passage, waiting.
“Where the hell are they shooting from?” Mulder was yelling as he held me up, but the question wasn’t directed at me.
Krycek had turned away from us, was moving deeper into the alley when he replied. “I have no idea.” He reached the end of the building, turned around a corner, and after he disappeared I heard him call out. “This way. Now.”
The building we had been staying in backed up against another building, as did the several buildings around it. The effect was a long, dark passage behind the structures. The dark clouds and high walls had obliterated most of the weak sunlight. It smelled dank and nasty, like thick mold and rotting things. Krycek turned another corner, and I was disoriented, trying to remember the twists and turns we were taking.
Our movement stopped abruptly, and Mulder’s words confused me momentarily. “And how are we supposed to all fit on that thing?” he said, and I looked up, found Krycek standing beside a battered motorcycle, some lost American reject.
“Well now, we don’t have much of a choice, do we?” Was the reply, but an answer wasn’t expected.
Krycek climbed on, and with a few movements, the engine roared to life, filling the narrow passage with deafening sound. Mulder helped me up onto the seat and pushed me forward. “You’re going to have to put your arms around me, Scully,” was Krycek’s only remark, dryly delivered and without humor. I did as I was told, and then Mulder climbed on behind me, wrapped his arms around my waist, and I was comforted by his breath blowing across my cheek in warm waves.
We were moving without any further preamble, and the speed was shocking, the three of us howling down the passages behind the backs of the buildings. My toes were numb, and I could feel the little tremors that shook my body from time to time, but it was warmer on that bike, wedged between two heat giving bodies. We broke out of the darkness and onto a different street, the wind renewing its assault as we left the shelter. I ducked my head down between my two companions, smelling Mulder, wet, and the unfamiliar tang of leather.
The road was long and gray and barren. Twisting, twisting out of the city and into the mountains beyond. Gray, and I tried to discern colors other than that, to find green in the sickly shrubs scattering the roadside, blue in the few patches of sky that remained visible, but the towering clouds held dominance over the sky, and everything below took on their oppressive pallor.
Pressed up against my chest, my arms wrapped tight around her diminutive waist, Scully shuddered from the cold.
I wanted to find color in the hills we passed, some sign of thriving life. The bare winter earth mocked me with tones of gray, the occasional muted brown. Seeming strange and foreign amidst the bleakness of this place, Scully’s hair was a brilliant solar flare, stark against the sky.
I wanted to find some color for Scully.
But she was the only sign of life in this place, the only thing of beauty. Cold and shaking, sleeping fitfully in my ineffectual arms, she was this tiny, tiny light against the gray, and I wondered how long it could possibly be before the darkness I had lead her into would finally extinguish that light and only the colors of ash would remain.
So small – my arms wrapping easily all the way around her waist and overlapping with ridiculous room to spare. How could anyone be so small?
She shifted in the little space afforded her between Krycek and myself, murmured something unintelligible. Chilly and dry, her hair slid beneath my lips, and I remained there, with face pressed to the crown of her head.
“Muh… where…” I could hear her struggling to consciousness, finding the words.
“Shhh…” My lips across her temple, my fingers gently stroking along the sides of her belly where I held her. “We’re still moving. Try to sleep if you can.”
She hummed low and scratchy in her throat, and I watched her eyes close. She relaxed but wasn’t sleeping, and I could understand her unrest. Ahead of her, Krycek’s face was impossible to see, but he had remained quiet since we left the city. His last words to us had been a gruff “hold on” and then the acceleration had increased, the wind had become a fury, and we broke out into a landscape of craggy hills and empty slopes.
We were trusting him, somewhat, and I couldn’t help wondering how badly I would regret that decision in the future.
The crackling of gravel under our tires alerted my senses first, and then I was aware of our leaning towards the side. We were turning, off of the narrow main road we had been traveling on for some time, out into the dusty hills.
“There should be train tracks in this direction,” Krycek offered by way of explanation, as if he had known I would ask, which he probably had. The shock of rocks and uneven terrain reverberated up through the tires and the metal frame of the bike, rattling my teeth. I could feel Scully, more alert, sitting upright in my arms.
Just under ten minutes or so of silence punctuated only by our laboring engine and the scattering of rocks, and our path turned into the solidity of hard packed dirt running along the side of a railroad track. This bike wouldn’t last much longer with its heavy load, that much was apparent by the stuttering and wheezing of the engine. In the distance, a small, round light could be seen steadily approaching through the hills. It disappeared around one bend for a moment, only to reemerge closer still.
“It must be our lucky day.” Sarcasm in Krycek’s voice that was worn down by a day of teeth marks and gunfire.
The engine of the bike cut off, and Krycek hopped to the ground. It was eerily quiet with the steady roar of the motor absent after so long. I swung a leg over the seat, stepped down, and turned back to help Scully.
“And we’re supposed to do what?” Scully’s voice was all incredulity. “Jump onto a moving train?”
Krycek had been staring out over the horizon, seeming to search for something. Whatever it was, he must have found it, because when he looked back to face Scully, there was a somewhat satisfied look on his face. “Yes. That’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
Her face was a studied blank, reconciling shock with present events. I knew that her wet and freezing clothes were a serious threat, but there wasn’t really anything I could do about it at the moment, and so there wasn’t any point in mentioning it, either. She knew the facts better than I did, anyway.
“We can’t just keep moving down these roads,” Krycek continued, as if the conversation had never ended. “They’ll be looking for us.”
The shock finally wearing off, I watched the shifting landscape of Scully’s face as she put the pieces together. “We haven’t had any problems in months. We’ve been particularly careful. We’ve done nothing to blow our cover. And then you show up.” She cast a poisonous glare in Krycek’s direction. “You show up and all of the sudden hell breaks loose.”
He looked back at her, regarded her with calm, but somehow apologetic eyes. “Yes. They were probably after me, not the two of you.”
“You bastard! You put both of our lives in danger.” Scully made a move forward, and I restrained her with a gentle hand on her forearm.
Krycek’s gaze was as hard as forged titanium. “There’s danger with these types of plans, risk inherent in order to achieve the ends we want.” He turned partially away, looked over at the light of the train growing ever closer. “Your lives have always been in danger, especially during the last several years. At least maybe now that danger could mean something.”
I could see words poised and ready to fall from her lips, but the action was stalled and lost when the shrill blast of the train’s whistle sliced through the air. She jumped, just slightly, and Krycek’s tone was clipped, all business, directed at me. “I can’t jump up onto the train alone.” He gestured weakly to his unmoving arm. “You’ll need to go up first, pull Scully in after you, and then the two of you can both pull me on.”
No response seemed to fit, and I remained silent until he looked away again, giving what I guessed was acceptance with my quiet. Ahead of us, the train was barreling down the tracks, a low cloud of steam and dirt following behind.
“Look for an open box car door.” Krycek shouted. And then the wind whipped fiercely at my hair, as the train began to speed by, huge and dark and fast.
“There!” Another shout, this time from Scully, and I followed where she was pointing, saw the gaping darkness of a single train car coming towards us.
“Start running.” Krycek again, and all at once, the three of us were in motion.
We started out slowly, waiting for the car to catch up. In only a matter of seconds, the open portal was beside me, and I was running at top speed. Dirt slipped and scattered beneath my feet, air hissed in and out of my lungs. I made a lung for the side of the doorway, missed. Picking up the pace, feet pounding into the earth, I lunged again, caught just the edge of the metal frame with my hand, pulled as hard as I could manage. Rough metal dug into my palms. Sharp bits of rust and flaking paint gouged their way under my fingernails. I pulled with every muscle in my body, felt the straining in my biceps and back. Scrambling, kicking frantically, my feet were suddenly air-born and desperately seeking purchase. I had a brief, horrific image of them catching under a wheel of the train, being shredded over the tracks. But then I pulled up again, caught my knees on the bottom of the frame, hoisted myself up and into the dark compartment.
No time to catch my breath, I spun around, looking for Scully. Halfway down the length of the car behind me, I gasped her name. “Scully, come on! Reach for my hand!”
I could see the exertion painted across her face in angry, red blotches. Her chest heaved, feet digging into the dirt. I stretched out my hand as far as I could, leaning out of the car and over the racing ground below.
“Scully, take my hand!”
Her hair smacked repeatedly into her eyes, a dark red fire under the shrouding clouds above. I could see her lips form the shape of my name, panting, and her shorter legs were not capable of moving as fast as mine had. I stretched out further, keeping myself anchored with one hand wrapped around the cusp of the metal frame, the other extended along with my body as far out over the ground as I could manage without falling.
My name again from her lips, and this time, I didn’t shout when I spoke to her, I pleaded. “Take my hand, Scully, please.” And she bit her lip, stretched out a thin, shaking hand, pushed harder at the ground below, until I felt just the tips of her fingers brush my own, and I grabbed, almost throwing myself from the train. She faltered momentarily, taken off guard by my disruption of her pace and equilibrium. Then she seemed to steady somehow, strengthen, and her pace was faster, her hand more firmly embedded within my own. As she came up along side the car, I pulled and she jumped and then we were a tangle of gasping arms and legs and heaving breath on the dirty floor of the boxcar.
“Krycek,” she managed, pushing off of me, and we turned around in tandem. He was running along with the train, pulling in air through tight, pained lips. I reached out my hand again.
“Grab a hold, Krycek!” He looked up at me, something flickering in his eyes for a half second, and then oddly, something I had never seen in his expression before. He reached out his hand, wrapped strong fingers around my searching ones, and there was trust in his eyes.
I strengthened my grip, looked him in the eye, and pulled as hard as I could.
End part 3/?
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