DISCLAIMER: I'm not making money from this; it's just a piece of traditional story-telling. In ancient times, people told stories about their gods, the stories building on the fact that the personalities of the characters were known to all. Today, we have fanfic, also stories about characters whose personalities - thanks to their original creators and publicizers - are known to all. Absolutely no infringements intended to the rights of Chris Carter, Joss Whedon, John Woo, John Carpenter (anyone catch those? :), Paramount, MGM or anyone else whose work or property happens to be referenced here.

Joan Baez sang the song quoted. I tried to find out if she also wrote it, but all my searches fell through. As before, no infringements intended.

BACKGROUND: This story is a fairly independent sequel to I Never Died, Says He. It's not strictly necessary to have read that story first, but it's quite short, and it might help with a little background. It can be found at http://home.swipnet.se/evas_fanfic/stories.htm#Xfiles.

SPOILERS: None really, as long as you've seen all of THE X-FILES. As for the still ongoing series (ANGEL was still on when I wrote this; for various reasons - workload mainly - the story was delayed in beta for a year), I finally decided not to wait and see who would survive and not. I've kept characters I would otherwise have had to replace with someone just like them, which made no sense. This makes ANGEL alternate, after some time in Season Three.

SUMMARY: A few years into the future, on the run from both Mulder and her son, Scully decides to accept Krycek's offer of protection. On her long journey north, she meets an interesting assortment of people - and others. (Crossover warning - big time!)

RATING: PG-13 for some violence and complicated situations.

FEEDBACK: to the address given on my main page http://home.swipnet.se/evas_fanfic. The e-mail addy may be subject to change, but whichever one you find on that page is always valid.


1st draft: March 2003. Final version: March 2005






WOMAN WITH NO NAME


by Eva A Enblom





Benson, Arizona, December 17th, 2016, 4:17 a m


She was having dinner - takeout sushi - when he crashed through her bedroom window, shattering it into a billion pieces that went on cracking into further fragments, as they lay on the floor. Like dropping a Duralex glass.

Oddly, she wasn't frightened. After all, he was her son. Bald and wild and part alien, but still, her only living offspring - to her knowledge at least. Although she'd probably had more progeny than any other woman, with the exception of those who had been abducted with her. Silently, she offered the boy some wasabi, in the hope that it would send him up in smoke. Just as silently, he accepted and swallowed it down. He blinked once - using nictating membranes only - and that was his only reaction.

"What do you want, William?" she asked, and in a way, it was almost as if she didn't know.

"I've been told you are my birthmother", he said, his voice extraordinarily flat. "The old men said. They once took care of me, but now they want to kill me."

Scully pursed her lips sardonically. "You want my protection against the New Consortium?"

He looked briefly puzzled. "No. I don't need protection. I am to bring you to the old men. They say you are the only one of all their subjects to bring forth a natural, living hybrid. All the others are artificial." He paused, and she thought she could hear a slight whirr as of servoes - of his mind shifting tack? She must have been imagining it. "They're not content with me", he continued. "I turned out wrong. They hope to perfect the procedure, but they need you for that. I'm to bring you to them."

"If they want you dead, why do you do their bidding?"

"They can't kill me", he said calmly, dismissing some of the mightiest men on Earth with a gesture as if swatting a fly. "And I want to see if their project succeeds. I'd like to have some brothers. Sisters too."

Scully rose slowly, circling him. Suddenly, there was a switchpike in her hand - the kind used to kill any green-blooded alien/human hybrid. She tripped the mechanism and plunged the weapon deeply into her son's neck. He bled red, but stood his ground. "Just checking", she said.

Glaring balefully at her, he whipped the little gadget from her hand and plunged it into her heart. "Take that as a warning", he said, then jumped out the shattered window.

With a grunt, Scully pulled the pike out of her. "Just watch it, kid. You may be invulnerable, but I'm immortal. It's only a matter of time."

Sirens began to blare all around her and wouldn't stop until she woke up and hit the top button of her old-fashioned alarm clock. The display said 4:32. She had set it to 8:00. It had no business going off at this hour. A quick glance around the room convinced her that she was alone. Her bedroom was quiet, and she had not been having dinner in it. The window was still in one piece.

Wearily, she got up, found her white terry-cloth robe, and ambled out into the kitchen to make some valerian tea. With a little luck, it would let her go back to sleep for a few hours. As the water was heating up, her gaze fell on the pile of newspapers she'd been gathering since some time last summer. The topmost one had a big, black headline. Gang Violence on the Rise? FBI agent attacked in her home.

Except, there never had been a gang. He'd been alone. And she had gotten out just in time, thus barely failing to meet her son - a pattern that would repeat itself during the months to come. Besides, she wasn't with the Bureau any more. The paper had got that wrong too. Deliberately, she suspected. Made a better headline this way.

Pouring scalding water over valerian leaves, she thought about her dream. She hadn't seen her son since he was a baby; she really had no idea at all what he looked like at 15. In fact, she had been avoiding him. Each time he sought her out, she would leave before they met, and he would trash her apartment in frustration, perhaps knowing that she would never return to that particular place again.

She didn't want to meet him - because she didn't want to have to kill him. Though, judging by her dream, her unconscious mind wasn't quite as convinced. Could it really come to that? Was she only putting off the inevitable by running, time and time again? Still, why should it be up to her? She had no problem with him - why not leave to others to ... but she felt responsible. She had not terminated the pregnancy. She had wanted a child so badly, knowing it was really impossible and hoping against hope that the miracle would go all the way, that this time it would be for real. A normal child, no strings attached. Given her background and experience, she should have known better.

She had once let a child of hers - as unexpected as this one - die, because there was nothing to do that wouldn't be worse. Would she now have to kill this one outright, for the same reason? She'd be damned first.

Of course, there was always the possibility that she already was.


* * * *


L.A. December 17, 2016 - Wolfram & Hart, a conference room high up in the new building


"We thought you said you had contacts."

The green-skinned alien blinked his ruby-coloured eyes merrily. "No, I was hatched with these."

In his own bar, that would have earned him some laughter, maybe even applause - provided his patrons were drunk enough. In this soberly lit room, all he got for his pun was stern gazes. Neither reproachful nor disgusted; just waiting. Sourpusses ...

Somehow they managed to look like a full tribunal, convened to pass judgment on such as him. Even if the table they were all sitting at was long and rectangular like most conference tables, not curved and elevated as befitted the only kinds of tribunal he was familiar with.

Most of those present were old men, some with an elegant little name plate in front of them, showing only what organization they were working for, not their personal names. Two were women, a few years south of fifty perhaps, just beginning to fill out a little shapewise. He had seen one of them before. The plate in front of her said Wolfram & Hart in an impeccably neat font. Lilah Morgan, the chairperson herself. The same one the praeter-eternal company had had for years, even before it underwent its latest face-lift after being 'destroyed' again. Some things never quite died. The other female attendee was a stranger to him. Same dark hair colour as Lilah, minus the highlights. But this one had a bit of a face, and, he was almost certain, fragments of a personality to go with it. The plate said FBI.

Nobody was seated at the ends of the table, probably to show that no one held precedence over the others. But close to one end sat a gaunt, ancient man with a shock of grey hair. His lined face was a little at odds with his sensitive mouth, and his pale blue eyes showed a keen intelligence that never quite ceased observing his surroundings. His plate said THRUSH. Beside him was a short guy, possibly in his late sixties, his lanky grey hair still showing faded, blond streaks. The plate in front of him read U.N.C.L.E. At the moment, those two were the only ones not obviously waiting for an answer. Instead, they were conferring privately, under their breath and without looking at each other. Both organizations were unknown to the green alien. The rest of the assembly had no plates at all.

The alien - being in fact a demon - had no name plate either. His name, on this plane, was Lorne, though he preferred to be known simply as the Host, of his karaoke club named Caritas, destroyed and rebuilt even more times than the building he was currently in. He was grateful that nobody had thought of putting the name of the club on a plate for him. It would have seemed out of place among this austere lot.

Besides green skin and liquid red eyes, the demon also had a pair of small red horns - hardly more than the tips - peeking from his forehead. His nose and chin seemed to be contemplating a rendez-vous sometime in the future; his hair was an indeterminate tow/carrot colour like that of mashed turnip, and his purple suit clashed wildly with the rest of his appearance, as well as with everything else in the room. He could tell that most of those present found him oddly attractive.

He spread his green hands in a gesture so fluid it might have been choreographed. "I do know some strange people, that's true, but from what you're telling me this William van de Kemp is a Sanhahanhara demon, and those can't be killed by vampires."

That set off three of the plateless old geezers. The first, a kindly-looking man with rimless spectacles, said simply, "A Sayonara demon?", looking wildly perplexed. A bushy-browed guy next to him scowled and said, "He's no demon at all; this isn't about demons." And the third, an agitated little fellow with strange skin splotches and tufts of hair that just had to be sentient, the way they grew, exclaimed in horror, "No vampires!"

The Host sighed unnoticeably, but his face never lost its benevolent mien, as he proceeded to reply to each of the men in turn. "They first appeared in Japan, where they soon became known for their exceptional flair for mayhem", he ad-libbed, rather than trying to get the first man to pronounce the tricky word right. For all he knew, that might take the rest of the week.

"Pardon me", he said to the next one, "but the description you have given me fits that breed of demon to a T, yet it fits no other being I have ever heard of."

And to the third, "Why not?" Despite the fact that this did not appear to be a vampire's task, he was genuinely curious as to what might be behind the little one's protest.

The splotchy little guy opened his mouth to answer, but was silenced by a glare from Bushy-Brows.

"This isn't about demons or vampires", this man established. "It's about some of your contacts, Mr - " his voice trailed off in an embarrassed cough, as if he had just remembered a pretty obvious no-name rule. "And not necessarily recent ones either. We've been given to understand that you once had dealings with a certain man, say 20 years ago or thereabouts - hardly more?" He glanced around him for confirmation, received none but no objection either, and so continued, "He would not have given a name, at least not his own, but he was around 60 then, had a deeply lined face, and he was a heavy smoker."

The Host shrugged elaborately, accompanying the gesture with a disarming smile. "You'll have to do better than that, I'm afraid. Have you any idea how many heavy smokers, young or old, come into my establishment each night?"

"You'd remember this one."

The Host considered it bad performance to repeat himself. Instead, he just gave a curter version of his shrug, and his smile grew somewhat regretful.

The woman with FBI in front of her spoke up. "I'm Monica Reyes", she said, blatantly ignoring a few murderous glares from the rest of the secretive company. "And I think you've been given a false lead here. This wasn't the sort of man who would come into your establishment."

For a moment, the Host considered keeping up his charade. But the FBI woman appeared to be one honest soul in a sea of sharks, and honesty was contagious. Besides, he always was a sucker for a good effect.

"But you see, he did", he said pleasantly, his red eyes dancing. "And he sang. A remarkable voice, I must say. Not much volume of course - all that smoking you know ... but in complete command of every single note. Never heard anything like it. And I've heard a lot, but I guess you can imagine."

"The Smoking Man sang karaoke?" someone asked. It was one of the plateless men who had been silent up till now, and there was no mistaking his sarcasm.

The little splotchy one intervened, "He must have been wanting something." He turned to the recent speaker, elaborating. "You see - people come to this man's ... uh, this demon's club, and if they ask his help with something, he will ask them to sing, and when they do, he can read their minds and know what they need - even when they don't know it themselves." He leant back in his chair, obviously pleased with his explanation.

"Only when they sing", the Host was quick to point out. It might not be the whole truth, but it was as much as he'd ever admit openly.

"All right", said the bushy one tiredly. "So what did he want?"

"What did he sing?" the splotchy one wanted to know.

The Host paused theatrically. Then he said, "He sang Sonny Boy. I tell you, it was the easiest reading I've ever done. Even with my antennae shut down, I'd have known from his choice of title."

"You have antennae?" Splotchy asked, his interest obviously peaked.

"Figure of speech", the Host retorted coldly.

"And could you help him?" Lilah Morgan asked, finally losing patience. She had a day full of shifty deals ahead of her. Besides, her back was killing her again. These damned chairs ...

"I hope so. I set him up with someone, and I never heard from either of them again. So, having no reason to think otherwise, I assumed there were no complaints."

"And that someone just happened to be a Sanhahanhara demon?" Splotchy asked, the truth slowly dawning on him.

The Host just smiled. Never one to belabour the obvious.

"I'll be darned!" Splotchy exclaimed cheerfully. "And here I thought that was just conjecture!" He turned to the others. "It would appear that your William really is a Sanhahanhara demon!"

The member from U.N.C.L.E. gave him a disapproving, ice-blue stare. The splotchy little man pulled himself together with some effort.

"Sanhahanhara demons are fairly harmless", the Host declared. "Nowadays", he added quickly, recalling his little ruse earlier. "So why do you want him killed?"

"He isn't all Sanhahanhara", said the member from THRUSH. "There's human blood in the mix."

The Host's merry eyes grew suddenly troubled. "Ah, that's vicious."

THRUSH nodded without further comment.

"I'm sorry", the Host said, "I had no idea. I thought the old man simply wanted to adopt someone, and Sanhahanharans are always spreading their offspring around ..." He fell suddenly silent.

" ... Seeing as how they are exceptional genetic engineers?" U.N.C.L.E. ventured dryly.

"Guess I overlooked that part", the Host admitted. "So you're saying this kid is custom made?"

His only confirmation was a hard stare from all of them, drumming home the message - as if he hadn't already got it. They had a problem, and he was to blame.

----

During recess, he spoke to the splotchy one. "And what kind of demon are you?"

"Ssshhh", Splotchy hissed, looking furtively around him. "Tzalakhzyan, but don't tell anybody. I just got on this board - couldn't believe my luck."

The Host smiled benignly, while secretly wincing. Some people's notion of luck ...



* * * *


Benson, Arizona, 10:13 a m

The phone rang. Still groggy from the valerian tea that had caused her to oversleep, Scully reached out from her bed and grabbed it. "Hello?" Months of practice kept her from giving her name. Even when half asleep.

Of course, there were those who would know it anyway. "Scully, it's me."

That voice, after all this time. After she had given up on ever hearing it again. Just when she was almost reconciled to the idea that she never would. If she hung up now, if he had no chance to speak to her again, she just might be able to convince herself that she was angry with him. For not having been there. For coming back now, of all times, to turn her life upside down once more, because such was ever his way.

"Mulder? Where did you spring from? You've been gone for years - I thought you'd been abducted again."

"I've been laying low. Look, this isn't about me, it's about you. I need to talk to you. Can I come up?"

Up? "Mulder, where are you?"

"Right across the street, actually. Your blinds were closed; I just wanted to give you fair warning first, in case you were still asleep."

She hesitated only a moment, weighing her need to see him against her apprehension at the thought of him seeing her. Then again - chances were, he knew. Didn't he always?

"I was. All right, just give me a minute, ok?


He gave her ten. Barely enough for her to throw some clothes on; not enough for her to run. Did that mean he expected her to? Seven years of growing ever closer, then his abduction. When he came back, he had stayed for a few months, then rushed off somewhere again. Eventually, they had one more year together, then he was gone, apparently for good. By now, they had been apart for longer than they had been together. Who knew if he even trusted her any longer. Who knew if he should.

As was her wont nowadays, she flung the door open on the first signal without bothering to look in the fisheye. No advance warning, because she needed none. Still, this time she almost wished she had gone against habit.

She couldn't have said exactly what she had expected; she only knew it wasn't this. At first glance, he seemed to have changed as little as she had. He had not filled out with age; rather, he was thinner now than when she had last seen him. His face was a little drawn and with a few more lines in it, as if he had had a rough time of those years he'd been gone, the ones she knew nothing about. His lips might have started to droop a little, become a little more prominent, but she wasn't sure. His hair was still in place - she knew he had been fully expecting to lose it early - and the grey was so well mixed in, that it wasn't readily noticeable. It just made his hair lighter, an overall cendré shade as opposed to the dark brown she remembered. Actually, it looked good on him.

"Come in", she said, tossing her head lightly in the direction of the apartment behind her. But he remained in the doorway as if frozen to the spot, just staring at her. Damn. So he hadn't known, after all.

There wasn't much for it. "Sorry", she said. "I thought you knew. That somewhere, someone might have told you."

"Told me what, Scully?"

She sighed. "It's a long story. Come in, you may want to sit down. Care for some breakfast?"



* * * *

L A, 9:13 a m


As the meeting convened again, Bushy-Brows was the first to speak. "Any suggestions?"

"I don't suppose we can win the mother over?" asked the little man with the spectacles.

"The mother has endured enough", said Ms Reyes. "Let's leave her out of it. Besides, there's no way in hell she could be talked into killing her own child."

"What about outside of Hell?" someone asked, and was quickly hushed. The man was among the plateless ones, and judging by his literal interpretation of Ms Reyes' colourful language, it would seem that he might not be as human as he looked. The Host wondered briefly how many of them actually were.

"I thought you already had a man on it?" the member from U.N.C.L.E. ventured. His voice was low and well-modulated, with just a trace of an accent the Host was at a loss to place. Then again, it could have been nothing but sarcasm.

"How did you know?" THRUSH stage-whispered at his neighbour.

"I didn't mean yours", U.N.C.L.E. said dryly. He nodded towards Bushy-Brows. "I meant theirs."

"We don't ..." THRUSH began, then seemed to realize the futility of protest, and gave up.

"Theirs is considered unreliable", Splotchy offered helpfully, indicating the plateless crowd with a wag of one of his more erratic tufts of hair. "Hasn't reported in for over a year, from what I hear."

A glare from under the bushy brows shut the little being up. "Let's just say we'd like someone else on this case. Preferably someone from outside our own ranks. Which is why we called an open meeting. Does anyone here know anything that might help us?"

THRUSH looked decidedly unhappy, but it was obvious that his lips were sealed. The Host was beginning to feel the pressure. He knew why he was here. Contacts.

The thin, bespectacled man finally looked straight at him in exasperation. "Don't you know someone?" he asked irritably. "This - Fay, Fate, Flame, or whatever her name is?"

So that was the woman of the hour. The Host hadn't heard her name in a while. Not that he was hearing it now, but he didn't bother to correct it. "I may know - someone", he admitted. They were all staring at him anyway.

"No vampires!" Splotchy protested again, looking half frantic.

The Host ignored him. "That is, if she's out of jail these days. I think she was looking at life once, but she's been out on probation couple o' times. We kind of lost touch about ten years ago - she may have been released for good behaviour since then."

Bushy-Brows brought out a small notepad, flipped it open and wrote something. "No problem if she hasn't", he said casually. "Such things can be arranged. What did you say her name was?"

"Faith." The red eyes drifted for a moment towards the bespectacled man. The amusement in them was unmistakeable. "No last name. At least none she will acknowledge."

Bushy-Brows scribbled some more on his pad. "And you think she can stand up to William van de Kemp?"

"Oh, I shouldn't worry", the Host said, carefree as ever. "She's good." Then, taking care not to look at Splotchy, he added, "And if she turns out to be less than a match for your Sanhahanharan, I may know someone else who is."

"Who?"

"Well, you see, your demon isn't the only invulnerable one. Not where I come from."

Bushy looked puzzled. "L.A.?"

The Host gave a wide smile, spreading his arms theatrically. "Where else?"



* * * *


Benson, Arizona, 12:48 p m



Scully sat back on the couch after telling her story. Leaving it up to Mulder to deal with. She put her arm along the back rest, waiting. After all, he might need some time.

They had withdrawn to the living room, sharing coffee after their late breakfast. Not that Mulder had eaten much, claiming he already had breakfast at wherever he was staying. Now he was sitting on the edge of his seat - the only armchair in the room - his face concealed in his hands as he was taking in what he had just heard. Thinking about it.

Eventually, he looked up at her, and there was a great sadness in his hazel eyes. She knew that look well. Trying to give her the guilt trip - whether he knew it or not. Only, in this case there wasn't enough guilt to go around. It had happened, and that was really all there was to it.

"Scully, I still can't understand why you didn't tell me. You're saying this man Alfred Fellig made you immortal? Passed his own immortality on to you so he could finally die? On that case AD Kersh sent you on with Agent Peyton Ritter - who ended up shooting you, as further proof of his blatant incompetence?"

She pursed her lips, not quite able to hide her amusement at his tone. She remembered well his disdain for anyone who tried to come between them in those days. Disdain caused by fear that somebody would actually succeed, but no less biting for all that. She had no doubt that his many enemies within the Bureau had all feared his sharp tongue.

"Mulder, I didn't know."

"You healed remarkably fast after that shooting - that didn't give you a clue?"

"You noticed that yourself - it didn't give you one."

"I didn't have your background information. You left it out of your report."

"Because I had no reason to believe it!" she flared, annoyed because she had sometimes wondered if she shouldn't have reported her own part in Fellig's ultimate demise. But to her, it hadn't looked as if she had a part in it. Long-lived or not, the man had been delusional towards the end; that had been her take on it for years - and when she finally knew, no one had been asking for amendments to a four-year-old report. "I kept healing fast from minor injuries, that's true, but for all I knew, that was due to some change in my biochemistry. It might even have been a delayed effect of my abduction, something the chip had triggered or whatever, but I had no reason to think I was immortal. Even had I suspected - it's not something you're eager to put to the test, now is it?"

He had to give her that. "When did you find out?" he asked quietly.

"Remember the accident I had? I was on the road, en route to visit my mother; it was late fall and the sleet was coming down so thick I couldn't see three feet in front of me. I thought I had reached the intersection where I was to turn right, but I hadn't, it was farther off. I spun off the road and hit a tree. You came to visit me in the hospital, and you thought I'd just had a narrow escape. I hadn't."

"You mean ...?"

"I mean, I didn't escape."

"But you woke up again, knowing that?"

She nodded, fully knowing where he was going with this.

"Scully, that was in 2003. The question remains, why didn't you tell me?"

I'm telling you now, aren't I? No, she couldn't say that. He was really hurt; she had to do better. Oddly how she always felt responsible for his hurts. He had that effect on people. Sometimes she almost suspected he knew. "Mulder, I didn't know how to deal with it. I had to figure out my own position, before I could tell anyone, even you. Then you were gone, and there was really no one around with a need to know, anymore."

"Yet you thought I knew. Who did you tell that would have thought to inform me?"

Always to the point. Always striking right down on the one thing, the one detail of a story that didn't fit in with the rest. His own, special talent. Apparently, it was still with him.

A sudden memory hit her, from last spring, when Krycek had been sitting across the corner of a table from her, much like Mulder was doing now. Another city, another apartment, but the situation had been disturbingly similar - except she had felt more at ease with Krycek, she noted in some surprise. None of all this emotional baggage, no unspoken demands, only straight requests. Straightforward questions.

Why didn't you tell him?

Krycek had wanted to know that too. And she had given the same answer then:

I guess I was going to. I just wasn't ready yet. I didn't know how he would take it. Hell, I didn't even know how I was taking it. Then he was gone again, and there was no need to tell anyone.

Except me.

And there it was. Krycek had been the first to know, and it had been remarkably easy. She hadn't sworn him to silence - in fact it hadn't occurred to her - but somehow she didn't think he had told anyone. He wasn't one to volunteer information that might serve him better one day if he kept it to himself.

"I told John and Monica last summer. I felt I owed it to them, before I left. I think they needed to know I was safe. And I needed them to know. So they wouldn't put themselves at risk by trying to protect me." She said it rather pointedly, but as expected, Mulder chose to ignore the hint.

"I assume you mean Agents Doggett and Reyes?"

"Of course. We dropped the formalities when I left the Bureau. I kept in regular contact for a while, even after I went to work for the Coroner's office in Philadelphia."

Mulder nodded as if he knew. He must have begun tracing her all the way from the Bureau then. At the point where he had left her. Well, it was probably the logical place to start. Still, it saddened her a little that he should have had nothing later to go on. So much had happened since he left.

"Eventually I moved to San José, got a job writing for medical magazines. I guess you know that too. I felt I wanted more freedom, a job I didn't need to show up for in person and that I could handle from anywhere in the world. I knew I would have to change my identity eventually. Like Fellig. It would be easier, the less people who knew me. Then, this year, the news started floating in."

She got up and went to fetch the papers she had stacked in the kitchen. Coming back, she dropped the little pile on the table in front of him. Most of the news she was referring to had made the headlines.

Mulder read them in silence. All of them, from Teen on Rampage Kills 3 and Family of 5 Falls Victim to Teen-Age Madman to Mad Teen Kills Again - Said, Looking for Mother and finally, the simple, resigned - or perhaps just bored - New Victims for Mad Teen. Mulder had seen most of them before. One, however, was news.

"Looking for Mother? Did he find you?"

Scully shook her head. "I never saw him after I gave him up for adoption. Monica warned me not to see him now. I guess she was worried about me, that it would be a traumatic experience. That's not why, though. I just don't have a solution yet. I mean, I know he has to be stopped, I can't pretend I'm on his side - whatever that means. On the other hand, I can't see how he can be stopped, unless someone figures out how to kill him, and obviously I don't want to be part of that."

Mulder looked up at her. Like in the old days, it felt as if he were seeing right through her. "You never tried talking to him?"

The reproach was clear - and yet she knew he would deny ever having made one, had she confronted him with it. You contemplated killing your own son, but you never once considered talking with him. But phrased so that any accusation she heard, would be of her own making. Of her own conscience. Damn, he shouldn't be able to screw with her head after all these years. She had outgrown him now, hadn't she?

"I couldn't. Not until I knew how to deal with this. With him." It was the plain truth, so why did it sound like so much subterfuge?

Mulder reached out and took her hand. His felt warm, comforting. "I know, Scully. Don't think I don't. Still, I think you should give it a try. At least hear him out. Tell him you can't solve his problems, only he can do that, but at least listen to him. Maybe it isn't all he needs, but it's a start. If he kills in frustration over not getting to you, knowing he's at least in contact with you should keep him pacified." He hesitated the barest moment, then added, "I don't know if you're aware of this, but the couple who adopted him - the van de Kemps ... well, they turned out to be religious fanatics. Maybe they weren't from the start, but they were by the time William was approaching puberty, and his extraordinary skills started to resurface. They thought he was a demon. They panicked, kept him locked in the cellar most of the time, until he was strong enough to break out and run. Yet he didn't kill his foster-parents. That's why I think you might still have a chance to reach him."

Scully pointedly withdrew her hand. It hurt her to do it, and she avoided looking at Mulder, so as not to see her hurt mirrored in his eyes. "I don't think you have the full picture, Mulder. Whoever filled you in, must have left something out. You see, John told me he had every reason to believe the Consortium wants to try again. Apparently, I'm the only one who ever produced a viable, biological alien/human hybrid." Briefly, she considered mentioning her dream, wherein her son had told her much the same thing, then she decided against it. It was just a dream, repeating and extrapolating from what she had already heard from her friend months ago. "When I told him I was immortal, he said that might be the reason. Mulder, they probably still have some ova left, from the ones they took during my abduction. There are new people in the Consortium now, but the storages must have been safeguarded in case something would happen. And the knowledge is still the same."

"Scully, you weren't immortal when those ova were taken", Mulder said, once more getting right to the one weak point in her argument.

"I am now", she said. "I was when I carried, and then gave birth to William. So maybe that's all it takes, an immortal host mother. Even if they don't have any ova of mine left - and I'm sure they do - do you really think they wouldn't want to try? Besides, they could always get some of my DNA and put it into the mix, if it wasn't present already."

"Wouldn't it be easier to clone William?"

"They don't want William. They want him dead, because he is a failure. Not as a hybrid; the physical part succeeded eminently, but he isn't functioning. They wanted a super-human, not a killing machine. Also, they don't want clones. They want beings who can reproduce naturally, without supervision. I don't know if William is sterile, but it's a fair assumption. Hybrids of other species generally are."

"You seem to know an awful lot about their plans and ambitions these days."

Conjecture, based on a dream. She wouldn't tell him that. Not in so many words. "I'm a good guesser", she finally said. "I worked with you for years, remember?"


* * * *


She sat for a long while after he had gone. Thinking. Mulder wanted to find William, bring him to her or the other way around, try to win him over. He also wanted to protect her from the New Consortium. It felt good to have him back, but he had been away for so long - it only now dawned on her that he hadn't mentioned where he had been or what he had been doing all these years. And the years had told. Not as much as they could have, in fact barely visibly, but nevertheless, he had aged. He was thinner now, his joints a little creaky; he didn't move quite as easily as he once had. His passion still carried him, but for how long? Was it really fair to get him involved in something like this? Whereas she could go on forever - would go on forever, unless a situation like that which had freed Alfred Fellig presented itself, and she decided to take advantage of it.

This wasn't Mulder's fight. Whatever he might think or feel about it, William was her son, and she was strong enough to deal with him - if anyone was. Even if Mulder couldn't be kept out, even if they solved this one too, together like before - then what? They had had something once, or a beginning of something anyway. Just for a few hours, while he had been sitting here, in her apartment, it had been like old times. All the old feelings. Only, it wasn't like old times. Couldn't ever be again. Mulder would grow old and feeble; she would stay the same as now. It was inconceivable that he would not grow to resent her in the end; that was human nature.

And yet - for all her very reasonable arguments, it was really something else that kept nagging her. Mulder wanted to protect her and William. What if that couldn't be done? She wanted to protect William too, but what if it turned out to be impossible? Mulder could be so stubborn. And she knew he looked upon William as their son, as the son they might have had, had she not given him up. What if William would prove to be the wedge that finally pried her and Mulder apart; what if they landed in opposite camps? Despite her dark thoughts, she smiled a little, thinking of all the times he had ditched her in the beginning of their working life together. Maybe it was time to pay him back in kind.

Except, where could she go, that he wouldn't find her? She had no doubts whatsoever that he would try. And he would succeed; he still knew her well enough to know where to look. Besides, even without that special knowledge, he usually managed to track down anyone he set his mind to. He was coming to pick her up first thing in the morning, so they could set out tracking William. She didn't think he expected her to run, but once she did, the chase would be on. Staging an abduction wouldn't cut it; he'd soon see through that. There really was no place she could go.

She got up to make lunch, mainly to have something else to pay attention to for a while, to be able to come at the problem from a fresh angle later. She switched on the radio in passing, for some further distraction. The song that poured out was one she hadn't heard in decades:

Where icicles hung, the blossoms swing
but in my heart, there is no spring

Try as she might, she couldn't recall whom she had last heard sing it.

You took my spring, my summer too
It's always winter without you

The words made her think of Mulder, and she banished the thought at once. Better not go there. Ever again.

I'm going north, to look for you

The line hit her almost physically, like an icy wind in the face. Could that really work? If so, there was her solution! If ever you need me, go north, he had said. Krycek. Had he really meant that? She recalled his eyes, as he had said it. Deep green, and more honest than she had ever seen them. Yes, she was sure he meant it. Go to Vancouver. To this address. Ask for the Director.

Oddly, she still remembered the address. She had memorized it and destroyed the note, and she still remembered. Why? Had she for one second thought she might one day need it? But he had said something else too. You can't take anything with you. Leave everything; belongings, your current ID's - all.

All right, if that was what it took. Some time in the near future she would have to change her identity anyway - why not now? It surprised her a little that she would find the idea almost appealing, but then, it wasn't as if she was really rooted in this existence any more. John and Monica would guess, of course. But they knew she would need to vanish, sooner or later. She hoped Mulder would not persuade them to help track her down. She was glad now that she had never mentioned Krycek's visit to her two friends. Even alone, Mulder would still try of course. But even if he found out that Krycek was alive, it would be a long time before he suspected her of seeking out their former arch-enemy. And by then she might have found help - either with Krycek himself or else with this Director person he had spoken of.

Crooning the words she had just heard - for once disregarding her inability to carry a tune - she went into her bedroom to pack. She would ditch her bag later, but she wanted things to look as if she had left willingly. As an afterthought, she even wrote Mulder a note. She hated lying to him, but he would expect her to leave a message. And anything that might give her a little extra time ...


* * * *


Somewhere in the Arizona desert, 2:13 a m


Scully watched the last of her identification papers burn out, then crushed the ashes, mingled them with sand and scooped more sand into the hollow she had scratched out for the purpose. The sand put out the last embers, and she was suddenly cold. She would keep her duffelbag and clothes for a little while, until she could get something new, then they would go too. It wasn't an instant procedure, getting a new identity. She quirked her lips as she realized she hadn't even thought of a new name yet.

The night had turned pitch black as the fire went out, but the stars and moon gradually reasserted themselves, granting her some modicum of vision.

Her cross had swung free of her shirt as she worked, and now that she sat back, it burnt cold against her skin. She shuddered, closing her fist on it. Should she get rid of that too? Surely, crosses were common enough not to be used for identification. And what if Mulder should find it ...

"You can always give that to me", said a voice behind her. "I'm sure I'll have better use for it than you."

Scully turned hastily. She hadn't heard anyone coming, but the sand and the faint night wind would likely have muffled any sound of footsteps. The intruder was a slender, fit woman around 35 or so. She stood very still, her dark hair stirring lightly in the breeze, but she looked poised to strike, should it be necessary. It wasn't. Scully no longer owned a gun, and the only thing she had brought that could be remotely construed as a weapon was a Swiss army knife, intended mostly as a can opener. She pursed her lips, trying not to smile, in case that would be considered offensive under the circumstances.

"You would rob me?" she asked, traces of amused incredulity in her voice.

The other crouched down beside her, apparently taking any non-hostile answer as an invitation. "Not really. I just guessed you wanted to be rid of it. Seeing as how you've made a good job of destroying anything else that might point to you."

"Do I know you?" Scully asked, a little pointedly, as if trying to teach the younger woman some manners.

The other's hand snapped out rather aggressively, but it was clearly meant as a greeting. "Sorry. I'm Faith. Guess you don't have a name right now."

Scully took the proferred hand. The grip was stronger than she was wont to expect in a woman. "Faith. Do you have a last name?"

Faith got her hand back. "That's all you need to know. You made a mess of this, by the way." She edged over to the place where Scully had destroyed her papers, and knelt beside it, sifting the sand through her hands. "The ashes can be seen. By anyone who looked closely. Are you sure you don't want to be found?"

"You know who I am", Scully concluded matter-of-factly. "Why are you here? Who sent you? For that matter, how did you get here? I'm sure I didn't hear a car."

Faith did not answer. Instead, she busied herself hiding the last traces of the tell-tale ashes. She was thorough, Scully had to admit, watching her. Her movements were vigorous but efficient. There was a sudden glint in the moonlight, and Scully saw a metal object swing free of the woman's shirt. A cross. So she already had one. The thing was substantial, considerably bigger than Scully's own.

"I see you're aptly named", she tried. Somewhat to her surprise, the other got her meaning immediately, catching hold of the trinket and putting it back inside her neckline.

"Not necessarily", she said. "This is for protection."

"Protection against what?" Scully tried to draw her out, but Faith seemed to feel she had already said too much.

"Actually", she said airily, "as instruments of execution go, I'd much rather wear a small guillotine. Much neater, don't you think?"

Scully refused to be needled by her banter. "Why not an electric chair while you're at it?" she asked dryly.

Faith shook her head, completely deadpan. "Batteries would run out. Be a bother to have to replace them all the time."

Scully shook her head too, trying to decide whether she liked this strange woman or simply found her annoying. "Who sent you?" she tried again. "The New Consortium?"

"That what you call them? Bunch of old geezers anyway. Some syndicate or whatever."

"So they are the ones who sent you?"

Faith sat back on her heels, considering this. Or perhaps just how much to tell her companion. "Among others. There are quite a few orgs involved, you know. Including the FBI, if that means anything to you."

Scully filed that piece of information in silence. She shouldn't really be surprised - hadn't the Bureau always taken an interest in these matters? She wondered if John and Monica knew. If not, they would have to find out on their own. She couldn't contact them any more. "I assume they want my son killed", she said calmly. "If that's what you were sent to do, then you're barking up the wrong tree. I don't know where he is, and I'm not looking for him. Why come to me?"

A final sweep of a strong hand to disturb the sandy surface, make it look natural. "I don't have enough information", Faith said. "They told me my mission, but they gave me no details. I know pretty much what I'm up against, but not why. A friend of mine suggested I might get that from you." She turned to look in Scully's direction, and her eyes were big and dark in the faint light. "I want to help", she said unexpectedly.

"By killing my son?" Scully asked, but the other shook her head.

"I haven't decided yet. I told you, I need more information."

"I thought you were on a mission?"

"Yeah, well - technically I guess I am. But they're screwing me, I just know it, so I might as well screw them."

"Then why did you accept?"

"Curiosity", Faith said simply. "It sounded like a strange job. Aliens involved and all. Never heard that one before."

Scully pursed her lips. "You might get to hear stranger things if you stick with it."

Faith gave her a quick glance. "Don't get me wrong. I mean, I know your son is part demon, but well - ET's?" She almost chuckled.

Scully was beginning to feel she had had enough of this strange conversation in the desert night. "My son is not a demon", she explained as though belabouring the obvious. "He's perfectly human. In some ways, he's uniquely human."

Faith stood. There might have been something like pity in her eyes, but Scully couldn't be sure in the dark.

"Sorry, D", she said. "Guess you don't know all there is to know either."

"D?" Scully asked.

Faith shrugged. "For Dana. Didn't want to use your name, now that you've discarded it."

"The name is Scully", Scully said very deliberately. "And don't call me 'S'."



* * * *


Benson, Arizona, December 18th, 8:16 a m


Mulder tucked his cellphone back into his pocket and stood for a while, hands on hips, just staring up at the house across the street as if looking for a clue to drop from its silent windows. She wasn't answering her phone, that much was evident now. He had been outside her door promptly at 8, pressing the door bell several times, and each time it had chimed mildly - almost reproachfully, he thought, but no one had answered it, and after a while he had taken to pounding on her door and shouting her name, until a lady in obvious curlers under a head-cloth had looked out from a neighbouring apartment and glared pointedly at him. He had apologized hastily and made his way down the stairs. He had not heard the woman's door close until he was on the bottom floor, heading out.

This wasn't like the Scully he used to know. Then again, it had been almost fifteen years - maybe he really didn't know her anymore. In fact, that small doubt was all that had so far kept him from breaking down her door or calling the police, or both. But why would she change her mind? She had given him the code to the front door readily enough, and she had given no sign that she might not wait for him. She might be lying up there, injured - or worse, but she had said she couldn't die, and for some crazy reason he believed her. Still, she might have been abducted again, or at least kidnapped. He had to get in somehow and start looking for clues.

Reaching a decision, he brought his cellphone back out and dialled 911.



* * * *


Benson, Arizona, December 18th, 4:23 p m


Mulder, I'm truly sorry, but something came up last night, and now there are some things I need to take care of before I can come with you. I won't be long, just a couple of days. I should be back Thursday, but if I'm not, then Saturday, definitely. CU then. Love, Scully

The note was etched in his mind now; he didn't need to read it again. He didn't believe she had written it voluntarily. She had his cellphone number; she would have called him. Not just left a note. Also, he didn't think she would have signed off with Love, not in the old days, though he was less sure about that.

It had taken him precious hours, talking to the police and the neighbours; looking for clues. The police soon realized that they had nothing to go on but his fevered assurances that he knew the person missing and this was not like her. They read the note a couple of times, said that everything looked normal and to wait for a couple of days and see if she turned up. Their only concession was to take the note with them, as reference in case she did not. He had gone over the apartment with them, but he had to admit that he could not come up with anything unusual either, except this feeling he had. And the question: why hadn't she called him? He didn't like the look on the policewoman's face when he said that. It had said very plainly that if she had been in Scully's shoes, with someone like Mulder tagging after her, she would not have called either. All right, so he had been a little insistent. No need to be a bitch about it.

The woman he had seen earlier had simply refused to talk to him, and most of Scully's other neighbours claimed not to have seen or heard anything. Then, by the last one, his luck had turned. The old man who lived farthest down the hall from Scully and who could least be expected to see anything going on on that side of the house, had happened to be returning home just as Scully had left.

"The redhead? Sure you're not stalking her?" he had asked, giving Mulder a suspicious look from under whitening brows. The spotted terrier at his feet growled softly, not quite baring its teeth.

Mulder wished he still had his badge. Simply flashing it had solved many situations like this one. Now, it took all his powers of persuasion, but eventually, the old man seemed to believe him - even like him, after a fashion.

"Sorry son, but you know, she's a looker. Can't be too careful these days. Yes, I saw her leave. I was just coming back - had been out walking Timmy here - when I saw her car pull out. I know most of the cars", he added proudly.

"Was she alone?" Mulder asked.

The old man stroked his chin. "I think so. Now that you mention it, I'm not sure; I didn't actually look into the car."

"But you saw she was driving?"

Another pause, then a regretful shake of the head. "Sorry. Can't really say as I did." He brightened. "But it was her car! I'm sure of that!"

Mulder thanked him with a reassuring smile. "Did you happen to see which way the car was headed?"



* * * *


Templeton, Idaho, 20 December, 2016


Scully asked the driver to pull up, paid her bill and got out, declining his offer to wait. She was standing in front of a small drugstore which lay as an afterthought some distance away from the main shopping mall of the little town. She could see a Christmas tree in the distance. Even the little drugstore had some running lights over its door. She sighed, wishing she could have told her mother what was going on. Her mother would have kept the secret, until such time she decided it was best for her daughter if she did not. Then she would have succumbed to pressure - mostly from Bill, her eldest son. No, best that they did not know. Bill would try to track his sister of course. Mostly, he would blame Mulder, but Mulder could hold his own. They had faced off before. It was time Scully started her new life - a life without either of them - any of them.

And without wheels of her own. She had ditched her own car, and her days of rental vehicles were over, now that she had burned all her credit cards. The ditching had been simple enough; once out of the Arizona desert, she had stopped at a small gas station, handed the keys to Faith and asked her to get rid of the car, then meet her in the next town westwards. Faith would have no inkling that Scully was going north; she had never told her. It still struck her as rather odd that Faith would have turned up in the desert with no car of her own. Then again, maybe she had caught a New Consortium flight. One of the really silent ones, of extraterrestrial design.

Scully went into the drugstore and bought some blond hair-dye; it was time to change her looks. She also got herself some toiletries; she was still trying to compensate for the contents of the dufflebag she had dumped along the way. She only had the clothes she was wearing now, but that would still have to wait. She bought some cold-wash detergent too, taking care to get the only brand without bleach in it. One would think that in fifteen years, manufacturers would have learnt to leave out the bleach, but some things died hard.

As she stepped out of the store, prepared to call another taxi, a woman across the street seemed to recognize her. Scully tried to stay calm; in all likelihood the woman was mistaken anyway. But as Scully started walking away, pretending not to have noticed, the other started towards her. As the woman reached the middle of the street, a sports car came racing around the corner and hit her. She seemed to bounce slantwise off its front corner and so was not actually run over, but it still looked bad. Scully set down her bags and went to her. After all, she was still a doctor, if not a practicing one.

The driver had stopped too, and as Scully reached them, he was bending over the woman, asking how she was. "Five by five", she said, and to Scully's amazement she stood, brushing herself off as if she had only taken a light fall. It took Scully a moment, then she realized she had met this woman before. Faith had found her.

The driver looked nervous. He was a young fellow who probably couldn't afford the kind of car he had been driving. His next words confirmed as much. "Look, lady, I'm not trying to run or anything, but if you're all right ... this is my dad's car and he'd be furious if he knew ..."

Faith waved dismissively, but Scully, having noticed his stance, ventured an innocent question. "That you've been driving while under the influence?"

The boy looked even more mortified, but he did not try to deny it.

"All right", Scully said, "Give her your name and address; she might need it for her insurance company."

"I don't have one", Faith said, "and I've noted his license plate anyway." She put her hand on the boy's shoulder in a gesture that was probably intended to be reassuring, but as she was as tall as he and had just risen unscathed from being hit by his car, it must have been more intimidating than anything else. "Look kid, if I don't feel this tomorrow, I won't make a fuss. Go home to your old man and don't drive anything you can't control in the future."

The boy eased his shoulder out from under her hand and edged backwards to his car. Once in it, he drove away carefully, as if showing off his good intentions.

Faith looked down at Scully. "Sorry, S - ister; didn't quite mean to get your attention quite so drastically. But I guess that by now you've found out you need me."

No use trying to pretend. This woman would know when she had been deliberately ditched. "I've done fine without you so far", Scully pointed out.

"Have you now? I see no car - could that be because the rental companies all want to see a credit card? And where are you staying? Can't be that many places willing to take cash, even if you have it."

"I'm passing as white trash", Scully admitted, "but it's the best way to stay untraceable. If nobody cares, nobody looks twice."

"Don't underestimate yourself. You'd draw some attention anywhere. Most of it unwanted. Now, let's go to whatever dump you're staying in, and I'll help you move out. Then we'll rent a car in one of my names and blow this town. I've got cards. A full deck of 'em."

"No doubt", Scully said acidly. "Every one issued by the New Consortium. Do I look that stupid?"

Faith flashed her a quick, approving grin. "Actually, the geezers only gave me one. Got the others off contacts I made in prison."

"That's it", Scully said. "You stay away from me. I've already got an ex-FBI agent on my tail; I don't need the entire Bureau. Nor anyone's local police for that matter."

"Relax. I was released for good behaviour ages ago. Nobody's gonna come looking. Cards are valid though; I thought they might come in handy, so I've kept them updated. So who's on your tail?"

"My partner. Or, he used to be. You knew I was with the Bureau?"

Faith nodded. "Part of my briefing, what little I got. How do you know he's after you?"

"I know him. I can't discount the possibility."

"But you haven't seen or heard from him in the last two days?"

"No, but that doesn't mean ..."

"Then there's still time", Faith declared. "Where did you say you were staying?"


* * * *


"You should have bought actual bleach", Faith said, critically watching her handiwork. She pulled an all-plastic brush through Scully's hair to spread the dye, then rinsed the brush under the rusty tap. The run-down hotel didn't look like it had had anything fixed in years, but it did have hot water. Occasionally.

"No, I should not", Scully said curtly, sitting up and wrapping her hair in a towel that already had enough undefined streaks on it that a few more would make no difference. "It would come out carrot or something. I might go to bleach from this though, now that I've established a basic colour."

Faith shrugged. "Suit yourself. But the bleaches are quite good these days. How long since you used one?"

"I tried one about ten years ago. Maybe I got a bad brand."

Faith left to rent a car, and Scully set to packing the few things she had acquired of late. Hopefully, the next place she stayed at would be somewhat more comfortable.

She gave the dye a little more time to take effect than it said on the package, then rinsed it out and applied the enclosed softener. The hotel provided no blowdryer and she didn't own one any more, but her hair was short again, so she just brushed it, then left it to dry on its own. She put the empty carton and bottles in a plastic bag she had been using for fruit, to dispose of along the way. Mulder would find her soon enough anyway, without her leaving clues about. She only hoped he wouldn't find her too soon.

Teaming up with Faith might or might not be a good idea, but for now, she could see the advantages. The ex-con had better credentials than Scully herself at the moment; that would make it easier to move around. Besides, the strange woman seemed almost as persistent as Mulder. Easier to let her help, for now, than to keep ditching them both.

On her way out, Scully glanced at her image in the bathroom mirror. The mirror had a large crack across it which lent her face a slightly picassoesque touch, and the faded 40-watt bulb couldn't really do her new hair colour justice. She'd just have to wait until she could get a better look at herself and meanwhile hope for the best. Just in case the dye really had taken, she tied a scarf around her head before leaving her room.

Down at the small reception desk, she handed in her key and told the bored owner that she was checking out. She had already paid in advance. At least she had been allowed to pay per night, not per hour. She wondered briefly if that made her a classier guest than most, but then thought, probably not. Lone women most likely preferred the night rate. The owner asked her no questions, made no small talk, and she encouraged none. He was an elderly, stoutly built man with rimless glasses and thinning hair combed across the crown of his head. She had never seen anyone else behind the counter. He probably couldn't afford a receptionist. In a brief, standardized speech as she checked in, he had told her he was the owner and let her know the few rules of the place, no more. He had two women - possibly mother and daughter - come in to do some rudimentary cleaning, but Scully supposed this happened on rather an intermittent schedule.

She exited the hotel and walked two blocks down the street. They had agreed that Faith would not show up at the hotel again, but pick Scully up on a corner well out of sight of the place. Hopefully, that would make Faith seem nothing more than a onetime visitor.

For some reason, Scully had expected her companion to pick some conspicuous sports car that they would have to dump almost immediately, after a heated argument. But the car that pulled up beside her was a demure, black sedan with nothing much to identify it except its license plates. Apparently, Faith wasn't all swashbuckling arrogance. Scully smiled to herself as she got in. Somehow, she could very well imagine Faith swashbuckling.

Faith took in the scarf and nodded. "Good thinking. Looking forward to the new you, though. So, where did you say you were going?"

"I didn't", Scully said pointedly. "But you can start by heading north, and staying that way."

Faith gave her a sideways glance. "Any particular route?"

"Just north. As northerly as you can."


* * * *


Tindred, Arizona, December 18th, 7:16 p m


The man's directions, and the reports Mulder solicited from others along the road, had led him to this town - hardly more than a village - at the edge of the desert. The kind of place that lived off its position as a last outpost, selling food and equipment to travellers in general, and a moderate collection of junk to the occasional tourist. Two streets, crossing each other T-wise, one at the end of the other. Both lined with small business. Both empty at the moment; presumably, the few inhabitants were all indoors having dinner or watching television.

Mulder turned his back on the town and stood looking for a while toward the desert. It was pitch black out there, beyond the few lamps lighting the beginning of the road leading in among the dunes. He felt torn. Had Scully really taken that route? But he had tracked her car to this place; if she was not going into the desert, why come here? On the other hand, had she really been in the car at all? He had been unable to ascertain that. The car had been sighted; some spectators with an obsession for detail had even noted the license plates. In theory, he could have called Doggett or Reyes, say he believed Scully had been kidnapped, and have them put out an APB. In theory. He didn't feel like letting anyone at the Bureau know he was back. He hadn't seen either Doggett or Reyes for years. Trust no one. Besides, no one had been able to tell him who was driving the car, except that it had been a woman, and they thought she had been alone.

So odds were, it was Scully. Heading for the desert. Why? Had she had news of William? But if so, why hadn't she called? No, it had to be something else. With a sudden chill, he realized that he didn't know her at all these days. Maybe she had someone in her life, maybe she'd had someone for years, and she just didn't want to tell him because she thought it might hurt his feelings? He had to admit it did. The mere speculation did.

He had to find her. But he had not really come prepared for hours and hours of desert driving. He ought to stay in town overnight, then stock up on food, water, gas and a can of quick tyre repair, and set out in the morning. Except he didn't like the idea of driving out there with the sun beating down, even in December.

Light, leisurely footsteps behind him made him turn his head. In accordance with some power-saving program, only every other street light was on, and none of them was very strong to begin with. It was a moment before he could spot any movement to go with the sound of the footfalls. Then, a girl stepped out into sodium radiance. Street walker, Mulder thought, then frowned. What business would a prostitute have in a town this size? Well, maybe she was the only one. She seemed to be headed for him, which kind of lent support to his theory.

The circle of light ended, and she was again in darkness, only the sound of her footsteps still noticeable. Still leisurely, never hurrying. A street walker all right. Well, he could always ask her if she'd seen Scully.

Belatedly, it dawned on him that the girl might not be heading his way after all. He was standing just outside the light of the lamp nearest to him; she couldn't have seen him. Nor had he made a sound lately. His only movement had been to turn his head. Yet he couldn't shake the feeling that she had indeed noticed him, the dark notwithstanding. At the risk of frightening her, he stepped into the nearest circle of light and stood there, waiting.

The rhythm of her footfalls never altered. He saw her pass through another sodium circle, then back into darkness. When she again emerged from the deep shadows, it was to join him under the light he had chosen.

Girl was not exactly the right term, he realized. This was a young woman. The sodium light made her colouring hard to work out, but she looked pale, with long, black hair - or more likely, dark brown. He could not make out the colour of her eyes, they seemed to shift. Once, they even looked yellow - which had to be a trick of the damned sodium. She was taller than he had expected, and she looked up into his eyes completely unafraid, with a small, secretive smile. Trademark of her profession, no doubt.

Then he noticed her outfit. She was wearing dark velvet trousers, so long and sweeping that they might be taken for a skirt. With them, she wore a flimsy, embroidered top that - inexplicably - he thought of as red. He really had no first-hand knowledge of what red might look like, and he doubted that even a person with full colour vision could have seen it in this light anyway, but somehow - she would wear red. Or possibly white or yellow, but the top was too dark to be either. The colour was not the problem, however. The thing was almost see-through between the embroideries, and sleeveless, leaving her oddly sinuous arms completely bare to the December night. The desert days might still be hot, but the nights certainly were not. The things these girls had to put up with, in the course of their trade.

Yet she did not seem unduly bothered - in fact not bothered at all. Well, given the eyes and the smile, she was probably on something. If she had seen Scully, she would hardly remember, but he might as well ask and be done with it.

He brought out a photo of Scully that he had been carrying on him for all the years they had been apart. Odd to think that it was still fully usable in situations like this. That it might never need to be updated. "I'm looking for this woman. Have you seen her?"

The smile widened a little, but she hardly looked at the photo. Nor did she answer. He repeated his question, to no avail. She just stood there - waiting? For what? He tried another: "What's your name?"

No answer. Maybe she couldn't talk, and he was just making a fool of himself. But why had she sought him out? She had, hadn't she? "What're you doing here?" he asked, in a final, resigned attempt to get some information out of her.

"Lying low", she said in a pleasantly dark voice. She kept it down almost to a whisper, her smile growing more conspiratory.

Then it hit him. Not only had she used the very grammatically correct form, she had pronounced it loying. He remembered quite a few instances of that accent from his university days. "You're British?" he asked, incredulously.

She half closed her eyes, dreamily. "I was once", she said, the I coming out as Oi. "A long time ago ..."

He was about to ask her why she hadn't tried to get her Consulate to pay for a ticket home, then decided it really wasn't his business. She had been in the States for years. There was probably a man involved. Her pimp or someone else. "What's your name?" he tried again.

"Drusilla", she said simply, as if he had broken a spell of silence by asking what she was doing here. "No relayshun to the Emperor." She giggled a little.

Mulder sought his mind for the reference. For some reason, he felt a need to keep up with her game. "Caligula", he said, dredging up some history pages from his eidetic memory. "His sister, lover and ultimate victim."

She clapped her hands together, apparently delighted with his performance. "My, you're good! You could be a Watcher! Ever tried that?"

"What's a Watcher?" Mulder asked, thinking to humour her. He didn't succeed as well this time. All the light seemed to go out of her face as her thick lashes lowered again.

"Perhaps not", she said, drawing out the last word, making it sound infinitely sad. Then the smile was back. "But you watch 'er, don't you, my Fox?"

He gave her a sharp look, then decided it was too close to be coincidence. "You know my name?"

"Oh, I know lots of things ..." she said vaguely, her voice dreamy again. "Lots and lots of things ..."

Mulder held out the photo once more. "Then maybe you've seen her?"

The woman's eyes were now fully closed, her upper body swaying a little from side to side as if she were dancing on the spot. She did not look at the picture. "I've seen 'er ..." she murmured. "She went into the desert, but you don't have to, she's already left. Going north ... always north ..." Her strange eyes flew open, to stare directly at Mulder. "The fox is running, but 'e needs help. 'E can't find the trail alone. I'll take 'im there - if 'e lets me."



* * * *


Moscow, Idaho, 21 December, 2016


"Canada?? You're going to Canada?" Faith pulled over, stopped the engine and stared at her companion as if something could not be quite right under that neat, blond hair. The soft shade was quite becoming, however.

"You don't have to come", Scully said calmly. "I told you so before. Why are you still here?"

"Would you believe bodyguard? Nah, guess not."

Scully shot her an icy look. "You've already admitted you work for the New Consortium. Among others", she added quickly, before Faith could say it first. "They sent you to kill my son; you say you're not sure you will; you have to meet him to find out. I'm not looking to meet him; I told you so."

"You did. But you're still the best lead I got. The way I figure, he's looking for you. That's what it says in the papers each time he's gone on a killing binge. So if I stick with you, I stand a better chance of finding him than if I just amble about clueless."

"I thought that might be it", Scully acknowledged. "But if you don't think he'll be able to track me down as easily north of the border as south of it, then you're grossly underestimating him. From what I hear." Now where had that note of pride come from? She certainly didn't feel it. Did she?

Faith sighed. "I was only thinking, we can't take the car across. Didn't get that kind of deal. Didn't think I'd need it."

"Then switch cars and get one now."

Faith shook her head, frowning. "Too conspicuous. The geezers must have been plugged in all along, though I hope we've kept them half a step behind. A cross-border rental? They'd know right away. Not to mention your ex."

"That's ex-partner", Scully pointed out.

Faith flashed her a rare smile, one that clearly said she had just had her suspicions confirmed. "Whatever. You got any contacts on the other side?"

Scully thought of the address Krycek had given her. Understandably, it hadn't come with a phone number. "I think so. I ought to have. Problem is, I have no way of reaching them until I'm actually in the country."

"The BWC?"

Scully quirked her lips. "I hadn't started worrying about the Barbed-Wire Curtain yet. I just wasn't given a phone number. Nor an e-mail address for that matter."

Faith whistled slowly. "You've got a physical address."

"I may have. And I'm not giving it to you."

A shrug, then, "Fair enough. Means we're on our own, though. No help from the inside. Even if we could walk in. What was your original plan, by the way - before I came along?"

Scully stared in front of her. Snow had begun to fall on the now misty windshield, and it was quickly getting dark. "I had this idea I'd find someone - maybe a truck driver - who'd be crossing over, and I'd pretend to have amnesia but the only thing I knew was that I was Canadian and I needed to go home."

Faith chuckled. "Not bad except for the amnesia part. Nobody would fall for that. Can you sound Canadian?"

"I'd do my best."

"Not good enough. Not these days. The least suspicion that you're really one of those abominable USsies ..."

"I know", Scully said tiredly. "It's all moot now anyway. That is, if you insist on coming along. What do you say we try the old-fashioned method?"

Faith's head turned, but her face was barely visible in the darkened car. "Which one?"

"I write a letter to the address that I have, and we wait a couple of days before moving on."

"Someone will intercept it. Then they'll know exactly where we're planning to cross. And so will the geezers. And your old - your ex-partner."

"There is a chance they won't. I rather got the impression that my - contacts hold quite some power on a national basis. It might not be politic to intercept their mail."

"Unless someone's playing both sides", Faith ventured. She sat quiet for a moment, weighing their options. Then, "Ok, guess we don't have much of a choice. It's worth a try. If you can afford it. It's not like in the old Post Office days. Package services charge a fortune for mere letters, you know."

"I know. I'll use lots of paper as packing material. That way, it'll look like any other package, and won't arouse suspicion."

Faith smiled in the dark. "Sometimes I forget you were with the Bureau ..."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Oh, only that you can conspire with the best of them."



* * * *


Moscow, Idaho, 10:30 p m


He crouched among the bushes outside the white spread of the bungalow style building where he had seen the two women enter. He was in no hurry. The later the hour, the fewer people would be about.

He couldn't have said why he perceived his birthmother as a threat; he only knew she was. There was something different about her, something that made her almost as strong as him - he refused to believe that anyone could be stronger - and because she had once given him life, she was the one who might actually come up with a means to take it back. That belief ran deep in him, like an ancestral memory.

He had no reason to trust her or any other of his parents. His memory was scanty, tending to discard anything that didn't seem immediately useful, but he remembered occasions when he had learnt something. He knew vaguely that he had once been able to move objects with his will alone, until a bad man had come and taken his powers away for a time. Actually, that particular power - to move things - was the only one he had never regained. He was still working on it.

Most people thought that he had suddenly got out of hand at age thirteen, but it wasn't entirely true. His powers had started to come back before that, little by little. There was the time when he was five, and had found the book about extraterrestrials in his fosterfather's mother's library. Speculation all of it, but he had been too young to know that. Especially one species had interested him. Only, he couldn't understand why they were referred to as grey-skinned. He seemed to know - almost to remember - from somewhere that they were all kinds of beautiful colours, though very few of their shades were within the human spectral range. But they certainly were not grey. When he got home from his 'visit to Grandma' that evening, he had asked his fosterfather about it. van de Kemp had been furious with him for reading such an ungodly book - did he want the Devil to come and get him? William had heard that before - ever more frequently - but he had come to understand that there was no such thing as a Devil. Certainly, his fosterfather had never been able to display one. That was just to scare kids. Pointless, because William wasn't scared. Ever. He told his fosterfather as much.

van de Kemp had roared that he would put the fear of God into his son, and William's fostermother who had just entered the room, burst into tears - again - and went into hiding somewhere - again. It was a known pattern. William hated his fosterparents' outbursts over every little thing, and because he was still a child, he had lost his rational composure. He stamped his foot and yelled that he would make sure to put the fear of himself into God.

With a howl of "Blasphemy!" his fosterfather had run for the rattan rod and beaten William thoroughly, to the point where the boy was bed-ridden for three days. During that time, his body showed that it had learnt its lesson. People called it a miracle when he had stood fully recovered after only a couple of days, but William knew it wasn't. He had simply got something back that was his in the first place. After that, nobody could harm him, not even if they tried.

He shifted a little among the bushes. Almost time. As soon as the guy at the front door called it a night and went back in, discounting the possibility of any more late arrivals. William looked at his wristwatch - the one the old men had given him.

The old men had been kind. Much better suited to take care of him than his fosterparents had been. As his powers resurfaced, one by one, the situation had turned impossible. He had been shut in the basement for days on end, and only let out when his teachers had started inquiring about him. Then he was sent to school for a while, and then back to the basement again, at the next transgression his fosterparents considered him guilty of. At the age of twelve, he had outgrown his own tantrums, and as he did not share his fosterparents' emotional volatility, he could never understand what they went on about, let alone where they found the stamina to keep it up. In that respect, they were almost as enduring as he himself was, but they did nothing but waste their strength on trivial arguments.

The day he turned thirteen, he had finally figured out how to break out, and he had never been back since. A mere two blocks away, three old men had been waiting in a car, almost as if they had known he would be coming that way. They had taken him to their base as they called it, and they had told him about extraterrestrial aliens and how he was one too - at least partly. It made things fall into place for him. It explained why humans seemed so - foreign. Then a tall old man with a hooked nose and an aristocratic bearing had told him about his birthmother, whom William only barely remembered. He had always known that the van de Kemps were not his biological parents, but unlike other children, he had never obsessed about it. Some arrangement had been made; they were his caretakers, and that was that. Now, however ...

He had stayed with the old men for a year, going to their school, learning all they had to teach him; learning some of their plans. He knew how he had been created, and he knew they wanted to create more like him, and for that they needed his birthmother. They would send him after her, to bring her to them. When he was ready.

He never asked where that would put him, the prototype. He thought he could guess. He never asked if they really wanted a colonization-size force of others like him - he supposed they had thought of that. It was none of his business anyway; he was not going to let them have it. His memory being so poor - the human influence no doubt - he could only vaguely recall having been inside his mother, but what he remembered the best was her strength; her power - whatever it was. She was dangerous. Mothers killed their children if they did not turn out right, didn't they? He seemed to remember that too, from somewhere. And he knew he had not turned out as expected. The old men hadn't said anything, but their eyes and their plans had told him. They wanted his mother to make more and better hybrid children - and to eliminate him.

Unless he got to her first.


* * * *


Moscow, Idaho, 11:21 p m


"I hope you told them we can't receive any answering mail?" Faith, her hair freshly washed, was sitting cross-legged on the bed in the small motel room she and Scully shared between them. She had a top and panties on, but had left off the rest of her clothes.

"I think they know that anyway", Scully said, slipping into a bathrobe provided by the motel. "But yes, I did hint as much." She opened a bottle of wine they had standing on an old serving table beside the TV set. Might as well get comfortable while they were holed up waiting for the letter to reach the enigmatic Director on the other side of the border. Scully poured the red liquid into two plastic toothbrush glasses and handed one of them to Faith.

Faith took it and swirled it, staring into the deep colour of the contents. "Sometimes I wonder ... do you think things would have been better if we hadn't meddled in the Québec thing?"

Scully took a gulp of her wine. Her eyebrows rose a little at this sudden hint of a possible political interest. Faith didn't seem the type. All action, no reflection. "Oh no, it started well before that. Diplomatic relations have been strained ever since the Worthington affair back in 2009. When the European Union fell out with the US, and Canada, surprisingly, sided with the Union." She took another draught, thinking. "Still, the Québec affair can't have helped, I'll give you that."

The door behind her suddenly crashed inwards, though she could have sworn she had locked it. Faith was on her feet in an instant, but not before the intruder had caught Scully around the chin and swiftly cut her throat.

Faith felt her anger well up, but fought it. Now more than ever, she needed to keep a cool head. Besides, Scully had said she was immortal, and Faith, having seen stranger things, had found no reason to doubt it. Guess we're putting it to the test now, was her only thought before she flew at Scully's assailant, hands stiffened into blades and roundhouse kicks flying.

It felt like a long, drawn-out fight, though it could not have lasted but a couple of minutes. She had no doubt about who the intruder was. He looked about fifteen, but his head was bald, and he was strongly built for his age. His piercing, turquoise eyes took her aback a little; Scully's eyes, but much harder, and yet somehow - wise, as if this boy had seen more than most teen-agers. Which, come to think of it, he probably had. He was dressed like a farmer or a wood-cutter, brown, non-descript trousers and a plaid shirt whose faded blue-green pattern vaguely and coincidentally matched his eyes. He wouldn't attract much attention in the street, but she had already had occasion to notice his reflexes. Her own arms and legs had received several scratches by now, but the boy was still unharmed - of course; invulnerable, Faith reminded herself - and he hadn't even let go of Scully.

To her horror, Faith saw what he was doing. The sharp, somewhat curved knife that had sliced Scully's throat was still in position, as the boy was trying to saw through her neck. Faith had no idea what that would do to an immortal woman, but it just might be the one vulnerability traditionally overlooked in all legends about super-beings. Swiftly, she kicked the blade out of his hand, and this time he dropped Scully, so as to have both hands free. Faith aimed carefully, then kicked him through the open door with enough force that he rolled down the stairs.

She could hear voices below now and she realized there was no way she could keep this quiet. Hastily, she threw on a robe and went down to the reception desk. She would have to come up with some explanation, before anyone came to investigate and saw Scully.


* * * *


Scully woke up on the bed, with Faith's anxious face hovering above her. Strange, she hadn't seen this woman as anything other than self-assured before.

"Here, drink this", Faith said, holding out a plastic mug of wine. "Uh, that is, if you can - you know, keep it in ... Sorry there is no brandy", she finished, hastily changing the subject.

Scully felt her throat. She remembered now. "It seems to be healing nicely", she said, wincing at the sound of her voice. Still, she could speak - after a fashion. Must mean she was on the mend. "I'll give it a try", she rasped, "but don't look if you're queasy." This of course made Faith resolutely stand her ground, and Scully took a draught of her wine. "See? No leakage. I'll be fine in a couple of hours, but the scar will stay for a while. Better wear high-necked sweaters or a scarf ..." For the first time, she noticed Faith's scratches, and her eyes widened. "You fought him? What happened?"

"Kicked him down the stairs. That brought some attention, so he ran off. Reception and some of the guests caught a glimpse of him, so I told them he was a juvenile delinquent who'd been after us for a while. Thought that was a better explanation than saying he must have been a burglar, picking out our room in a hotel full of them. A personal grudge seemed a little more plausible. They called the cops though; nothing I could do about that, I'm afraid. While we were waiting for them, I came back up here to throw some clothes on, and I dressed your wound so it wouldn't look too bad. Luckily, it had already begun to heal. Anyway, I managed to keep my statement short, saying I had to get you to a hospital. Cops offered to take us, but I said we'd be fine. Haven't got much time though. We can't stay here, and not just because of the attention. That son of yours might be back. Do you know he tried to take your head off?"

"He tried what?" Scully's eyes were suddenly as hard and turquoise as her son's.

"He was doing his best to saw through your neck when I kicked him down the stairs. Guess he was planning to take your head with him, keep it away from your body. Didn't think it wise to let him. Know anything about that?"

Scully felt her throat tentatively, then sipped a little wine to clear her voice which was not back to normal yet, though it was getting there. "Well, I can't die, so I guess head and body would live on independently, until such time as they could be rejoined."

"What if they can't be, after a certain time?"

Scully glared at her. "Now there's a cheering prospect to offer a convalescent."

Faith actually looked a little contrite. "Sorry. Any idea why he would try?"

Scully shook her head - carefully. "He must have been out to kill me. He can't have known it can't be done. I don't know why he didn't simply stab me, but maybe this is his way of making sure. Well, at least we know why he wants Mother." She quirked her lips, then looked thoughtful. "It's odd though; according to the papers, this hasn't been his MO before. A friend at the Bureau told me he used to be under the Consortium's protection - before they realized he wasn't functioning. Maybe he wanted to take my head to them, as proof I was dead. Maybe he thinks they want me dead, and he's trying to get back into their good graces. Or he might know they want me as a host mother for their perfect hybrid, and for some reason of his own, he wants to thwart their plans." She frowned a little. There was of course the possibility that Krycek had told the New Consortium that she was immortal, and that they had told William. Who had then decided that cutting off her head just might do it. But no. She could not really see Krycek giving away such information. He had no more reason to trust the New Consortium than he had had the old one. She finished her wine, a little surprised that she had been able to. Her eyes were drifting closed. "Could you give me an hour or so before we have to leave? I'm feeling sleepy."

"Depends. You're not entering into some kind of healing trance or something, are you?"

"Don't know. I haven't done this all that often."

Faith nodded. "Ok. If anyone asks, I'll tell them you had to rest before going to the hospital. Don't think they will though; it's 2 a m or something. Clerk said they couldn't have the door fixed until tomorrow. If I can't wake you in an hour, I'll wrap you in the blankets from the bed and carry you to the car."

"You might need help with that", Scully said drowsily.

Faith quirked her lip. "No, I won't." It came out before she thought, and she quickly amended, "You're such a little thing. It won't be a problem."

Scully did not answer. She had drifted off.



* * * *


L.A. 22 December, 2016, 2:12 a m


The phone rang in darkness, and he took the last three steps of the stairs in one floating stride to get it.

"Angel Investigations." Ok, so it wasn't likely to be a client, calling in the middle of the night - not unless it was someone who knew him from before - but it was the most non-committal answer he could think of. Besides, after fifteen years of surviving in the business despite earthquakes, demon attacks, crises and changes of personnel, the name had a pleasant ring of stability to it.

"Angel! Glad I caught you. Faith here. Never thought I would ask this of a vampire, but I need your help. Can't say too much, but could you drop everything and come north? I'm in Idaho now, but I won't stay long if I can help it."

He sighed deliberately. It took intentional effort for someone who did not need to breathe, but he had found early on that people understood him better if he imitated their mannerisms. "Faith, I'm needed here. Connor is out on a job that might take weeks, and Willow is on vacation. I'm all alone at the moment."

"Yeah, well, you're needed here too. So deal with it. Call in Lorne to mind the store or whatever, I don't care. Just get here."

"Since when are you my employer, Faith?"

He was trying to sound stern, but she could always hear the slightest smile in his voice. "Consider me your client. I'll even pay you, if that's what it takes."

"You know it isn't about that."

"So what is it about? Aside from the store-minding part, that is?" she added dismissively.

He sighed again, sounding a little more artificial this time. "Ok, I'll tell you. You sure you want this over the phone?"

A brief moment of hesitation, then, "Shoot. We'll be outta here in an hour anyway."

"This is about a semi-demon named William, isn't it? I heard that's what you're on at the moment."

"Right. He attacked us tonight, and ..."

"Who's us?"

"I'm here with his mother. She's asleep though. He - hurt her. Angel, I don't think I can take him alone. Now, you know you've never heard me admit to anything like that before, so guess three times if I'm serious. The kid is invulnerable - as far as we know anyway."

"Faith, I can't. From what I hear, he's part human. That means he has a soul."

"If he has, it's not one worth keeping."

"Don't. You know I can't take a human life - or in this case, a semi-human one."

In another darkened hotel room a few states away, Faith lost her temper. "Why? Because it would set you back? Interfere with your plans for redemption? Let me tell you one thing, big guy, and this is something I figured out in prison long ago. Redemption doesn't come from the outside. How many times has it been staring you in the face now, and you rejected it every time? You've gotta forgive yourself, buddy, or you'll always be the one to shove a stick into your own wheel!" She flung down the handset with a crash, causing Scully to stir uneasily on the bed.

Back in L.A., Angel sat silently in the dark, unmoving, non-breathing. Thinking. Events of some fifteen years ago came to mind, unbidden. Twenty-four lost hours as a human. The Ring of Amara. Redemption offered - and never taken.

Eventually, he picked up the phone and traced its latest incoming call.



* * * *


Idaho state border, 21 December, 10:30 p m


Mulder watched with some exasperation as Drusilla danced by the side of the road. Sometimes she would bend over and pretend to sniff the ground like a bloodhound. She had asked him to stop the car, with no further explanation, and he had thought that perhaps she needed to take a leak. Apparently that was not it. He was quite fed up with her antics by now, but at the same time he didn't feel he could just dump her and let her fend for herself. She was clearly an addict of some kind, but he had come to the understanding that there was more to it than that. The woman was deranged. For one thing, she had a phobia of daylight, in particular bright sunlight, and she refused to travel by day. If he wanted to travel with her, he had to do it by night. He didn't mind that in itself - he had never needed much sleep, and the roads were quieter and more easily navigated at night. He might take a wrong turn in the dark, but the scant traffic made it relatively easy to find a convenient exit and get back on track. Also, Drusilla's night vision was impressive; it had come in handy often enough. What ate him was the long layovers between nights. Granted, he got some sleep that he might not otherwise have allowed himself, but he couldn't shake the feeling that time was running short. Fortunately, the days were also shortening a little as they kept moving north, which gave them more travel time.

He realized he had lost sight of Drusilla. Well, it happened sometimes. By now, he knew she would be back. She usually disappeared for a while soon after rising in the evening, and he had assumed she went to get her fix of whatever she was hooked on. There was no questioning her about it. She would pout and say he was no fun, or she would dance about merrily like a four-year-old, but she would never answer. Defensive, like all addicts.

Mulder got out of the car. He could do with a break himself. No sign of his strange companion: for now, he had his privacy.

It amazed him that they were still together. He'd have thought she would have tired of her game and left him by now, and he most certainly felt he ought to have left her, since they really didn't have anything conclusive to prove Scully had come this way. Just Drusilla's 'hunches' or whatever they were. But every time she had one, she was so convincing that he just couldn't give up the only semblance of a lead he had. Also, he couldn't help feeling responsible for her.

There had been indications that she could be right. Gas station attendants had given vague testimony to maybe, possibly, having seen someone looking like the photo Mulder had. But none of them could be sure. Yet they all said that there had been no lone woman looking like that, and Drusilla had confirmed that Scully was not travelling alone. There was a dark-haired woman with her. Mulder didn't know if it was something the mad girl made up on the spot, but he found the piece of information oddly reassuring. He knew he had no business worrying about an immortal woman - but what if she wasn't? What if she had been - somehow mistaken? Or what if it didn't last? So many what if's. Drusilla had said Scully was with the other woman of her own free will, but what did a madwoman know? Even if it was true, had Scully been right to trust this person she was with?

He got back into the car, tried to stretch out in the driver's seat as best he could, and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, she was back. Still out in the field, dancing, but drawing slowly nearer. For a while he watched her ethereal dance, unbiased. In some warped way, she was beautiful. A sinuous, emaciated fairy, floating in an eternal danse macabre. He blinked, and shook his head. He needed to keep focused here. The girl was bad news.

----

She ate very little, if at all. At first he had believed her anorectic, then he had assumed her lack of appetite was a result of her addiction. Once, early on in their acquaintance, while walking to his car in the evening, he had suggested they see a doctor, get her some medication.

She had laughed and asked if he couldn't be her doctor. He had explained as gently as he could, that he was no psychiatrist, and that such a one would be able to find out what was wrong with her. Then she had looked at him with those shifting eyes that appeared to see everything that was going on in the world, and a good deal of what was up in the Otherworld too, and she had asked, "Can't you tell what's wrong with me?"

He had never told her about himself - his degree in psychology, the years as a profiler. But wherever she had her information from, he felt sure that she knew.

Reluctantly, he had begun, "You're delusional. You have very little sense of what's going on around you, and you are afraid of things which can't possibly hurt you - like the sunlight. Your condition is worsened by your addiction. You need help."

She had pouted a little. "Then, 'elp me."

He shook his head. "You're way past any help I could give. You need medication."

He'd never forget the look she had given him. Mainly because he didn't understand it. It was fey as if she were looking at her own death, and yet he had a feeling that it was intended for him, as a threat. As if she were looking at his death - but without rancour, just watching it come.

Then she had laughed - cheerfully as always, with genuine joy, never irony; she seemed incapable of such subtleties. Raising herself on tiptoe - which made her roughly as tall as he - she had kissed him. Her lips felt cold. Taste of the grave, he thought, berating himself for it instantly. There was nothing wrong with her kiss except for its lack of warmth. And yet the memory of making love on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's grave had sprung unbidden to his mind, and for a wild moment, he was certain she had caught it right off his brain. There had been a new look of admiration in her eyes as she broke the clinch.

"You be my medicayshun", she'd said. "I promise to take only a little at a time ..." She caught him around the neck with a madwoman's strength, and she started nuzzling him under the chin. He thought he felt her teeth graze his skin, and he threw her away from him. She spun around to catch herself, and she didn't fall, but she kept her face half turned for a while, her long, dark hair swept across it like an untidy curtain. As if to let him see he had not behaved like a gentleman.

He wasn't playing her game. "You want me to tell you what's wrong with you?" he'd said with a coldness that didn't come easy to him. "Vampire complex. I've seen it before. You believe you're a vampire, don't you? That's why you won't travel in the daytime. What else? Fire? Garlic? Mirrors? Can't cross over streaming water?"

She had turned towards him but she still hung her head for a little longer. As she raised it, her face had looked vaguely out of focus for a moment, and he could have sworn her eyes were bright yellow. He had blinked to clear his vision, and the illusion was gone. She was just a mad girl in too fancy a dress, her hair mussed, no real understanding in her eyes. He had regretted his harsh words then. It wasn't her fault - this was not attitude, based on a fashionable fad, the way it had been with Kirsten. This was genuine delusion, possibly already psychosis.

"Look", he said, like he once had to Kirsten, "you don't have to do this."

Mirth had crept back into her eyes, along with an unmistakable hint of yellow.

"Oh, but I do!"

----

Her hands slapped against the driver's seat window, startling him out of his reverie to the point that he actually jumped. Odd that he hadn't seen her coming. He should have caught her in the rear view mirror. A quick glance told him that he had passed up his opportunity; she was in the dead angle of the mirrors now. Had to be. With a sigh, he let the window down.

"'E's cutting off 'er 'ead!" she yelled extatically, swirling around in the fortunately empty road. Her mad laughter rang out over the silent fields, then she suddenly stopped, as if someone had plucked out her battery. "Aw, but she didn't die ..." she moaned. Her eyes flashed darkly at him. "You never told me she can't die! Spoilsport!"

A chill travelled along Mulder's spine. Leaning half out of his seat, he threw open the passenger door.

"Get in! Now! And you'd better know where she is!"



* * * *



Faith jumped as the phone rang. Picking up, she ventured a wary "Yeah?" No need to volunteer any information. To her relief, it was Angel.

"Ok, you win. Where are you heading?"

"I'll let you know as soon as we're back on the road. How long will you be at the hotel?"

"As long as it takes."

"Ok. Call you back. And Angel - thanks. What made you change your mind?"

"Oh, I just got to thinking ... We might not have to actually kill him. There's bound to be some other way."

Fat chance, Faith thought, but she knew better than to argue the point right now. "You just go on believing that", she said, and hung up.



* * * *



Just outside Vancouver, 23 December, 2016


The underground complex appeared as empty as always, except for the three seated at the table of one of the main briefing halls. They knew that appearances were most certainly wrong. The rule of the Agency was to always expect the unexpected. Li Ann, the Chinese woman seated in the middle, had known that coming in. Mac, the tall guy on her left who had grown up with her and shared her background as a thief in Hong Kong, had learnt it quickly enough. The insight had come later to Vic, the ex-cop on Li Ann's right, but he too had eventually found out. The hard way. Ex-cop, ex-fiancé of Li Ann's - just as Mac too was her ex-lover. The world was full of exes these days. Reduced to the kind of uneasy triangle that their employer considered most effective for her purposes, they now waited for their next assignment, as so often before.

Footsteps echoed against the metal walls of the complex - the bunker, as Vic referred to it. Over the years, they had changed headquarters more times than he cared to recall. Briefly, he wondered how long they'd be able to go on like this. Mac and Li Ann were both still in their thirties, but he himself was nearing fifty now, and their assignments had not gotten any easier with time. He knew there was a retirement program, but he also knew that few agents lived to benefit from it.

A scrawny woman of indeterminate age appeared around the corner. She was wearing a camouflage outfit, peaked cap and all, and scant slippers with 6-inch heels. The Director rarely dressed consistently, unless she was up to more than her usual mischief. Stepping up to their table, she dumped a folder of printouts and photos on it, and turned on the BARCO overhead. As usual, it worked instantly. They all wondered how she did that. They knew that no one else could get the thing to function properly on the first attempt.

The projector screen lit up with a close-up of a very attractive redhead. Mac whistled, and Li Ann turned to shoot a glare at him as if telling him to behave himself.

"Settle down, Mac - she's about half your size", the Director said without even raising an eye-brow. "With twice your IQ."

Vic grinned. He had guessed that she might be smart; there was something about her eyes ... and the way her slightly hooked nose lent a certain nobility to her face. Interesting woman.

The Director let the image zoom out a little, to include the rest of the FBI record it was a part of. Li Ann raised an eye-brow, taking in the woman's credentials.

"She used to be known as Dana Katherine Scully", the Director continued. "But she has since discarded that identity and not yet established a new one - at least not a permanent one. She's currently travelling under no name - or several. None of those are of any interest to you. Your mission is not to track her down - just to help her across the border and see her reunited with Alex Krycek. Apparently, they are old friends."

"The cleaner?" Vic knew better than to talk during a briefing, but sometimes he forgot himself.

His transgression earned him a stern glare from the Director. "Yes, the one who could be your twin brother - in fact I wonder if he isn't, though I haven't been able to secure any evidence as yet."

"He's older than me."

"Marginally. But all right, maybe not twin. You could be his clone. If that suits you better?"

Vic chose to ignore that. "Plus, he's Russian."

"Czech, actually. If you go back far enough. Spent much of his early childhood in Russia though."

"He's not a cleaner", Li Ann objected. "At least none of ours."

"He's done some freelance work for me", the Director amended. "Murphy and Camier are getting long in the tooth."

Mac sniffed. "The day that Murphy and Camier need any help ..." A glance from his employer silenced him.

"All you three need to do", she resumed, "is meet this woman, get her across the border and see her safely to Alex's hideout. As for where to meet her - I don't know."

That got their attention, and she went on, "She wrote me a physical letter and she could not accept one in return, as she's on the road and there are people after her." She took off her cap, revealing a distinct borderline where her hair changed from a dull grey to the red that was visible with the cap on. "She gave three possible routes - I have reason to consider Port Angeles-Victoria the most probable one. Unfortunately, so will everybody else. It might be the most popular route, but I don't think she feels she has time to waste. At least the ferries are still running fairly regularly, even today."

"Excuse me", Mac spoke up "- what if you're wrong? What if she comes by one of the other routes?"

The Director froze him with a stare. "Naturally, I've got those covered. Don't interrupt."

Mac slid lower into his seat, properly chastened.

"As for getting her across", the Director went on, shoving a set of identification papers along the table at them. The papers, complete with a Norwegian passport, were issued to one Selma Mathiessen.

"Kind of a name is that?" Vic wanted to know.

"Mixed Scandinavian. She speaks German, but a central European passport might get her in trouble on the American side. In fact, I thought it best to avoid Union passports altogether, so I made her a citizen of the first independent nation that came to mind. One of you -" she gathered the paperwork and placed it all before Li Ann, "- will have to cross the border, see that she gets all this, catch the ferry back with her, and the other two are to wait on this side to see that she gets in safely. Any questions?"

"Just one", Mac said. "Where is Alex's hideout these days?"

"I'll let you know when it's time. I'm not sure he'll see any of you. You might have to drop her off somewhere and just watch him pick her up. Besides, I have yet to negotiate a passphrase with him."

"Paranoid, isn't he?" Vic muttered under his breath.

Li Ann raised her hand like a school-girl in class. "The FBI photo was taken twenty years ago - I noted the date. How do we know what she looks like today?"

The Director changed the onscreen image. "This is the most recent picture we have of her. It was taken by my American plant, when he 'intercepted' her letter for me."

The screen showed the same woman as before; only, her hair was now blond and shorter than in the FBI picture. Just behind her stood a taller, dark-haired woman, darting a suspicious glance to the left, off-camera. There was little doubt that they were together, the tall one looking out for her companion.

"She hasn't changed in twenty years?" Mac blurted out, incredulous. "How did she do that?"

"I don't know", the Director admitted. "Yet. But I will. I have my theory. Whether or not I'll tell you is another matter entirely. All I can say for now is, it isn't facelifts."

"Who is the other one?" Vic asked.

The Director gave the screen an indifferent glance. "That? That's just a vampire slayer."



* * * *



Port Angeles, 24 December, 6:02 p m


"I still wish you had asked me before calling your friend. Don't you think William has enough targets as it is?" Scully tried not to show her annoyance. Arguing wouldn't help matters, and she no longer wanted Faith gone. Not after what had happened. If it hadn't been for Faith, Scully might now have spent her immediate future as a detached head. Maybe her whole future, all eternity of it. Without her head, her body would in all likelihood have been buried by its finders. Best case, because then Mulder could still have retrieved it. But chances were it would have been used as an organ bank, considering the current shortage of cloned organ supplies.

"You were out cold - regenerating or whatever", Faith pointed out. "And the man I called might be too big a bite even for your William. Leastways, I hope so. Worth a try anyway."

"You swore he's not working for the New Consortium", Scully reminded her.

"Relax, S. He's not, and he doesn't even want to kill William. Unless I can persuade him, and he isn't easily persuaded, I can tell you."

"Don't call me S." Scully looked around the small fishmarket, now converted into a makeshift Christmas plaza, with stalls for anything from home made fudge and mulled wine to decorations and actual trees. In the middle, a huge, fully lit one was swaying precariously in the icy wind from the sea. "So, where is he then - this mystery man of yours?"

Faith pointed toward the sea. "Over there, I think."

Scully narrowed her eyes. What she had taken for just another structure on the quay, just outside the market area, might with some difficulty be interpreted as a man. There was some flapping of material - could be a coat. But if so, he was standing much too still in the bitter wind, and this had caused Scully's medical expertise to discount him as human quite some time ago. "You sure?" she asked. "He hasn't moved at all, and in this wind I wouldn't be surprised to see a snowman run for shelter."

Faith smiled a little to herself. "He once told me he likes to watch the tide. All of it."

"Six hours??"

"S'what he said. Come on, I'll introduce you."

She took Scully's hand and dragged her away from the bleak comfort of the multicoloured lights swinging along markees above the stalls. The quay was much darker, lit only by what light spilled over from the market, and by a few, widely spaced lamp posts. The posts carried a cluster of three dim lamps each, as if trying desperately to compensate.

At the sound of their footsteps, the man turned. Though how he could have heard anything other than the howl of the wind, was a mystery to Scully.

"Angel", Faith said, and Scully noted the name, thinking it odd for a man. Maybe it was his last. Or a nickname, more likely. He was tall and dark, with a hair style either caused by the wind or created to withstand any element and none the wiser. Not bad-looking, she thought, but not really good either. He was very pale, though that could be the light, but what bothered her the most was that she could not see his eyes very well. They seemed deeply set and dark and, she was almost sure, slightly misaligned. She got the feeling that he deliberately avoided looking directly at people. By contrast, she was reminded of Krycek's bold, green stare, cutting through her like a sword, even in casual conversation. This one looked shifty. Or shy. Or else, her medical training asserted itself, if that was really a squint, perhaps he had a hard time focusing and so unconsciously avoided it.

"Faith", he acknowledged with a nod that stopped just short of turning into a bow.

"This is Scully", Faith informed him without further formalities. "She's William's mother."

This was obviously going to be a night of single names, Scully thought. Well, fine, as long as they didn't call her Dana. She caught Angel staring at her hair and knew she looked wind-blown, but there really wasn't much to do about that under the circumstances.

Faith noticed it too. "It's not her real colour", she said unnecessarily. "Usually, she's a redhead."

"I know", he said.

Faith stared at him. "You mean you can tell? I thought we did a good job ..."

The faintest ghost of a smile, so fleeting that Scully could not be sure she had actually seen it. "No, I read up on you", he said to her. "FBI records."

Scully nodded. There would be nothing about her immortality there. Unless John or Monica had entered the information, but she had asked them not to. And they were among the few people she felt she could still trust, these days. Even if she were not to contact them again, ever.

"Aren't those confidential?" Faith asked. "Or have you turned cracker lately? Willow teach you?"

"I'm an investigator", he said, non-committally. "By the way, sorry I doubted you."

Faith looked bewildered. "About what?"

"This place. When you called me, I didn't believe there really was a city by that name. I had to look it up to make sure."

Faith shrugged. "Oh, that. No big. Guess it's one of those desperate names people used to give their outposts once they hoped they had arrived and could settle down for a while."

Angel was staring out to sea again, watching the outline of a headland in the distance, where the others could see only the lights placed on it. "And as godforsaken as all such places."

"Hey, don't knock the latitude", Faith said. "Should suit you a lot better than L A. This time of year anyway."

He spun around so quickly, it startled Scully who had begun to think of him as next to immobile. For a moment, it looked like there would be sharp words uttered, but then he contented himself with a glare of warning at Faith. It was the first time Scully had seen him look directly at either of them, and she took notice of it, wondering what he thought Faith had been about to say.

Faith for her part only gave a little shrug and spread her hands with a cheeky smile. Scully noted that too. Her powers of observation hadn't diminished since she left the FBI. But she was freezing by now, and as neither of the other two seemed overly bothered by the weather, she said, "What do you say we get inside somewhere? I think my ears are falling off."

"I think I saw a beer tent somewhere in the marketplace", Faith said. "Should have infra-heating. If nothing else, it's out of the wind. That do?"

Angel nodded agreement, and Scully was only too happy to escape the wind in any way possible. They turned and started walking towards the multitude of stalls. One of the bigger ones ought to be the beer tent Faith had seen. Quite likely, there were more than one.

Scully walked briskly, a little ahead of the others, trying her best not to shiver too visibly. The sooner she could get inside, the better. She was wearing a thick, green coat, bought for warmth but no match for the icy wind that now stung her like a shower of needles. Angel and Faith were both wearing leather, he a long coat that just might be adequate for the weather, but her jacket was short, and Scully couldn't help but marvel at her apparent indifference to the cold. She heard them talking a few steps behind her.

"Guess we're out of luck with the weather", Faith said. "I'm told it's not usually this cold around here. Ocean warms it up. Generally. Of course, the climate has been deteriorating like everywhere else. So - when did you get in? I hadn't really expected you until tomorrow; then I got your message."

"2.5 hours from L A. I got in early this morning. Very early."

"You flew? Didn't think you cared for that."

Scully couldn't help listening in. So this strange guy had a fear of flying?

"Same time zone all the way", he said. "No problem."

That made even less sense to Scully. A gust of wind made her miss the next exchange, then she clearly heard Faith again:

"Denn die Toten reiten schnell."

She heard Angel mumble something, too low for her to catch the words, but she could guess. If he had read what information the Bureau had on her, he'd know she spoke German. What was more, she recognized the quotation. Bram Stoker's Dracula. For the dead ride fast. She groaned inwardly. So the guy had a vampire fixation. Of course, the coat, the pallor and the general broodiness were probably clear indications. Mulder would have caught it right away. Well, she hoped it wasn't too serious. Faith seemed to trust the guy - nutcase or not.



* * * *



Moscow, Idaho, 22 December, 11:21 a m


Drusilla was asleep. Which left Mulder with nothing to do, if he wanted to keep taking care of her. Well, he could always spend the day investigating. He had to admit he wasn't being altogether altruistic; the woman had proved herself more useful than he had ever imagined at first. He had come to believe in her visions now - or whatever they were. She clearly had a talent for clairvoyance; question was only how far it extended.

She had found the motel they were staying at, homing in on it as if it had been transmitting a signal that only she could sense. She claimed that this was where Scully and the other woman had been staying last night, except they were gone now. There had been no immediate way to verify this; at three in the morning, they had been lucky to be let in at all.

Mulder had gone to bed almost immediately, but Drusilla had gone out on one of her secretive errands. It amazed him how she seemed to find her suppliers even in places she claimed never to have visited before, but maybe her clairvoyance was good for that too. Unless she really was a vampire, he thought drowsily. He believed in quite a few phenomena, and he tried to keep an open mind for a lot more, but - vampires? He wasn't quite ready to accept that as yet. He had met too many vampire wannabees, like Kirsten Kilar, and this Drusilla displayed all the symptoms, he thought. He wondered what her real name was. True, Kirsten had been associating with a weird bunch, some of whom even seemed to have developed a physical intolerance for sunlight. But the intolerance could have been psychosomatic, and the reason for the vampire cult rather than the effect of it. Mulder might be open-minded, but - contrarily to what Scully might think - his main principle was always to go with the rational explanation as the most plausible one - as long as everything still fit. Problem was, during the years he had been working on the X-Files, there was nearly always something to every case that stuck out, something that didn't fit the rational explanation. So far, he hadn't seen anything about Drusilla that would imply she was anything more than a delusional woman with a vampire fixation and some quite considerable knack for clairvoyance.

He had woken up briefly at around five, hearing her coming back and entering her room, which was next to his. For a moment, her footsteps and the click of the lock cast his mind back to when it had been Scully in the next room, of so many motels like this one. The memory pained him. He had really botched it, hadn't he? All those years, never daring to show his feelings for her. Until she believed him and stopped showing hers. Then, when they had finally gotten around to it - well, it had already been too late. They might not have realized it at the time, but it had been. And now he'd never have her next to him again. Neither in his bed nor in an adjacent motel room. For the first time, he was questioning his motives in coming after her. He could tell himself he wanted to protect her, but if she was truly immortal, what protection could he offer? On the other hand, he reminded himself, the immortality might not last. Or she could have jumped to the wrong conclusion somehow. But coming right down to it, he needed to see her again. If only to hear her say, in her own words and uncoerced, that she wanted him out of her life. That she had been happier when he was gone. He wondered if she was ready to do that. Some small hope remained that she'd still be willing to give him a few more years.

He had fallen asleep again, and he had dreamt of Scully - of their early years together, when everything was new and all the erotic tension was there, though he had never acknowledged it then. He dreamt of cases he had not even thought of in a long time.

He awoke just before 10, after roughly six hours of sleep - with the short break earlier - which was more than he usually managed even today, though he tended to sleep a little longer than in his younger days. Knowing that Drusilla would not be up until dusk, he showered, dressed and went downstairs for a lonely breakfast. A casual conversation with the staff convinced him that this was indeed the motel used by Scully and the other one. He got the names they had given, but knew that those would in all likelihood change by the next stop they made. Naturally, they had left no number or forwarding address. Nor would they, with William on their tail.

So William had followed and attacked his mother, just as Drusilla had 'seen'. But she had also said that Scully had been hurt in the attack, yet that she was all right now, healing fast. Nobody at the motel could tell Mulder if that was true; they had only the other woman's word for it, but seeing as how the ladies had both left in the small hours of the morning, apparently they had both been well enough to travel, hadn't they? Mulder pretended to accept that. It didn't say that both of them had been alive, but given Scully's apparent immortality, he felt it was a reasonable assumption.

William was a puzzle, however. What were his motives? Frustrated, Mulder wished that Scully would have talked with her son sooner. Now it might be too late. The boy had apparently attacked without warning, without letting her get a word in edgeways. Had he been trying to kill her or just to scare her? Did he know she might be immortal? Probably not. Certainly, Scully had never told him. Guilt washed over Mulder - not an uncommon experience. If only he had been around ... would William have talked to him? To the man who could have been his father? Who, for a few insane months had actually believed he was?

After breakfast, he walked over to the reception to find out if Scully had made any phone calls. It had been standard investigation procedure back in his Bureau days. Problem was, he wasn't wearing a badge anymore. This might take some persuasion.


* * * *


By noon, he had the list. The receptionist had been unwilling to talk to a "private investigator" who couldn't even produce a license, so when she had gone off her shift, he had tried the Concerned Brother approach with the next one. She hadn't looked like she believed him, but neither did she care.

The list was short. Only one number - but with a Los Angeles area code, which surprised him to some extent. He waited impatiently for housekeeping to finish cleaning his room, then went up to try the single number. He didn't want to use his cellphone; the battery was running low, and he had forgotten to recharge it as usual. Nor did he feel like calling from the lobby, within earshot of everyone who might pass by the payphones there.

Just as he was about to punch in the number, it occurred to him that it might well have been the other woman who had made the call. The hotel ledger - kept as an actual book, not just a computer file, presumably to get people's signatures - clearly showed that the two women had been sharing a room. Well, it was no reason not to try. Resolutely, he completed his key-tapping.

"Angel Investigations - Wesley Wyndam-Pryce."

The voice sounded cultured. British, in fact.

"What kind of investigations?" Mulder asked, feeling a little stupid but also mischievous.

"Well, they help the hopeless - private investigations, that sort of thing."

"They?"

"I don't work here. That is, I used to, years ago, but I've got my own agency these days ... look, this is really embarrassing; I don't want to be accused of stealing clients from an old friend ..."

"I'm not a client. Consider me a fellow investigator. Name is Mulder. Fox Mulder." For a moment, he wondered if he would have done better not mentioning his first name. But the man at the other end only seemed relieved.

"Oh, that's different then. Anything I can help you with - Mr Mulder?"

Got the name right on the first try, Mulder thought wryly. Suddenly realizing how little he had to go on, he gave the names Scully and her companion were registered under, told the Brit that one of them had called this number at 2:12 a m that morning, and he was trying to find out why.

"I'm afraid I don't know either of those names", said the Englishman. "Why do you want to know?" His voice seemed to have dropped a couple of degrees in temperature. Mulder could have sworn the guy had heard at least one of the names before. Maybe Scully's companion had used her real first name or something. Problem was, Mulder hadn't been able to find out which of the women had used which name. There had to be photos in the hotel records on file, but he had not been given access to those.

"Because they were attacked in their room in the motel I'm calling from, and barely escaped with their lives", Mulder told him. Anticipating the next question, he added, "I've been unable to raise them - I assume they are in hiding."

"As long as they're travelling together, they'll probably be all right", the voice said noncommittally.

Mulder frowned. How many people knew about Scully? "I need to identify their assailant", he said, to keep the other man on the line.

A sigh over the lines, then, "All right. What do you have on him? Or her?" The amendment came quickly, and Mulder had a strange feeling that it was not just a PC afterthought. This man had met strong women before. Taking a chance, Mulder started describing William. All that he knew of the boy's MO, his age and gender, what the papers had said about his appearance - but nothing about the extraterrestrial angle.

"Sounds like a Sanhahanhara demon", the voice came calmly, and for a moment Mulder was certain the guy was putting him on. But the voice continued, "I'm afraid they can't be killed in the normal sense of the word. But they can be contained. I'm not quite sure how, but I can look it up, if you will. Care to hold for a while, please?"

Intrigued, Mulder agreed. Naturally, William van de Kemp was a biologically born alien/human hybrid, the first - and hopefully only one - in existence, not a demon, but the guy had sounded completely serious, and yet he had also sounded very much in command of his senses. Chances were this was a joke, but Mulder felt he ought to at least wait for the punch line.

After a while, the voice was back. "I've found something, but it's inconclusive."

Thought so, Mulder mused.

"There is a method, but not all of the circumstances are given, nor, extraordinarily, all of the tools and substances required. I could ring a couple of experts ..."

"What's the method?" Mulder wanted to know.

"I'm sorry, but I'd rather not say, until I have all the details. A little knowledge, you know ... Tell you what, I'll place those calls and get back to you within the hour. What's your room number?"


* * * *


When Wesley called again, Mulder had just got back from a walk, trying to find some clues of where William had come from. All he had found was where the boy had been hiding in the bushes - the sneaker marks were deep, suggesting either that William weighed more than other boys his age - which was entirely possible - or that he had been waiting in the bushes a long time, which made even more sense. As to where he had been before he turned up at the motel, or where he had gone since, there was no indication at all.

The Englishman sounded almost eager, though nothing in his tone earlier had hinted that he might be capable of such a state of mind.

"I rang an old friend in England. Chasing demons in Dorset, apparently. Good thing I caught him early enough in the evening over there, he hadn't gone to bed yet. Bloke must be sixty if he's a day - anyway, he came up with the rest of the details for the spell you have to cast. Here ..."

"I'm no spell-caster", Mulder informed him, quietly.

"No matter, you can learn. You have a problem with a Sanhahanhara demon, haven't you? Well then. Here's what you have to do ..."



* * * *



Port Angeles, 24 December, 6:55 p m


The beer tent was warm enough, the infra-heaters going full blast - not that they would blast, exactly. 20 minutes of hovering around a small, round table until its present occupants left, had proven worthwhile. Scully, Faith and Angel were now seated comfortably, each with a drink. Angel was drinking Guinness, and Faith reflected on the fact that she had never asked him when he picked up the habit, since that particular brand was not likely to have reached his home town of Galway before he was already a vamp and out of it. For herself, she had ordered an eggnog with tequila, a combination she rather liked, maybe because most people she knew did not. Scully had a cup of mulled wine in front of her and her shivering was becoming gradually less intense.

Angel glanced unobtrusively around him before leaning lightly on the table, addressing the others. "I take it we're trying tonight? You two bring any baggage?"

Faith tossed her head in the direction of the nearest entrance. "In the car. We stayed in town last night, checked out this morning. There aren't as many ferries now as there used to be, but the Coho is still running. Don't know how late, though." She nodded towards Scully, while sipping her drink. "Only problem is, she's got no passport. I've got a few, but I'm not sure any of the photos look like her. Have to try though. And hope her contact takes care of the rest."

"This was one of the points of crossing I mentioned in my letter", Scully explained. "My contact is based in Vancouver, as far as I know. I'm sure she'll cover the Island, but we may have to cross the border on our own."

"You got a passport, Angel?" Faith asked. "I asked you to bring one."

He looked slightly annoyed for some reason. "Don't fret about me. I'll get there somehow. Question is, can William get across?"

"I wouldn't put anything past William", Scully said dryly.

"So - you're going to Canada because?" Angel asked.

"Well, I have nowhere else. I've got - friends in Canada who might help protect me. I'm not exactly looking forward to another attack from my dear son."

"How many know about these - friends?"

The same hesitation she herself had displayed. Apparently, not much got past this one. Scully sipped her mulled wine, thinking. "A few days ago, I would have said no one, but now I'm not so sure. People have a way of finding out."

"Including your ex", Faith reminded her.

"Including my ex", Scully acknowledged. She had given up correcting her companion each time she called Mulder that. "My ex-partner from when I was with the Bu- the FBI", she explained to Angel. "He's looking for me too, and I'd rather not drag him into this. He's ... " she hesitated more noticeably, "... older than I am, and he'd only be putting himself at risk."

"So that makes all the orgs I told you about", Faith said, "plus William himself, and her ex. If they don't know yet, they will soon."

Scully glared at her, but it was essentially correct.

"Too many", Angel decided. He looked at Scully - directly for once. His eyes were indeed very dark and still disturbing, though not in an entirely unpleasant way. "Why don't you turn here and come back to L A with me? I'm sure none of them know about me yet. It'd buy you some time. I'll protect you, no problem."

"He lives in an old hotel", Faith volunteered in-between sips of eggnog. "Got his agency there too. They can put up anyone needs a place to stay for a while." Somehow, she felt that part needed to be clarified. Angel wasn't very perceptive, socially. It was just like him to forget to mention things.

Scully eyed him, searchingly. "And what's in it for you?" she asked. "You said you were an investigator. Does that include this kind of thing?"

Angel gave her an almost helpless look. Why did clients always have to ask things like that? He shrugged. "Just want to help. We can work out the details later."

Scully gave him one of her rare smiles - even rarer these days. She would not accuse him of coming on to her, but she could see he was confused, whatever the reason. He obviously hadn't thought this through, and she was not about to let him take any unnecessary risks on her behalf. To her surprise, she found that she rather liked him, for all his weirdness. "Thanks for the offer, but I'd like to go with my original plan for now. Make a try anyway. If that fails, we can discuss this further. And now, if you'll excuse me a moment ..." She finished her mulled wine and made her way towards the back of the tent, where three distinctly lit pictograms could be seen.

"What are you squirming about?" Faith asked, leaning across the table toward Angel.

"I'm not squirming."

"It might not be obvious to anyone else, but I know you. You've been on edge all along."

He sent an involuntary glance after Scully. "She's having her period."

Faith laughed, spluttering eggnog. "Sorry", she said cheerfully, snatching a paper napkin from a table stand to clean herself off. Angel had dodged in time.

"I shouldn't laugh", she said, sobering. "It must be hell for you."

"Used to it", he said. Then, as an afterthought, "But yeah."

Faith thought for a moment. "There's one thing you should know about her. I don't think I told you, but she's immortal."

"What?"

"You heard me."

"So what are you saying, she's some kind of demon? She isn't a vamp; I would've known."

"No, she's human. But immortal. It was some kind of accident or something; she told me but I forget the details. She can tell you herself as soon as we have time for stories again."

"Well, that puts a spin on things. So what do you need me for?"

"William tried to take off her head. She isn't sure what that'll do to her, but she isn't keen on finding out. And as I said, I can't take him alone. Figured we'd need all the help we could get."

"You got it." He said it as if without thinking, glancing again in the direction where Scully had disappeared.

"You'd be well matched", Faith said innocently.

His head snapped back to look at her. "What?"

"Come on, you must have thought of it as soon as I told you. You'd have your meals right there. No more pigs and rats or whatever you live off these days. Your favourite flavour, infinite supply. She'd probably fill right up again, no problem and no harm done."

He gave her that stare he had only used on her once or twice, scaring her each time. "I'll try very hard to forget you ever said that. And I suggest you do the same."

Faith shrugged, finishing her eggnog just as Scully reappeared, making her way towards them. "Never one to make it easy on yourself, were you?"


* * * *


Mulder stood shivering in the icy wind of the Port of Port Angeles. Noticing off-handedly that Drusilla, despite her rather sheer dress, seemed to feel no discomfort at all. They said the forest was the poor man's sweater. Apparently, madness had some good warming qualities to it as well. She was wearing white now, her shoulders bared to the wind. Briefly, he wondered where she got her changes of clothes; he hadn't seen her carrying any baggage. She favoured the slightly old-fashioned look, echoes of an earlier fin-de-siècle. While she shouldn't have any trouble finding a style to her liking in a large city, even as late as she would care to shop, he couldn't imagine where she would come by it in an outpost like present-day Port Angeles. At least, he hoped he couldn't imagine.

"Any sign of the ferry yet?" he asked, knowing that Drusilla's vision was better than his, at this hour of the day. They had tracked Scully to this godforsaken place of ice and wind, and the only logical reason seemed to be that she was planning to sneak across the border to Canada. That alone could well be an insurmountable task these days, but what made her think William wouldn't be able to do the same, if she could? Or was it him, Mulder, she was fleeing from? If so, he would hear it from her own lips - he wouldn't believe it otherwise. Maybe he wouldn't believe it anyway.

Drusilla shook her head slowly, then turned to wagging it as she began to sway in the wind, not quite dancing, never leaving the spot she was standing on, but still moving as if to a rhythm playing only for her. "Daddy is 'ere", she crooned happily. Her blissful expression changed to a childish pout. "'E's with her. 'E's 'elping her."

Her cockney sounded a little inconsistent to Mulder's ears, but then, he hadn't been to England since his university years. "Your father?" he asked, wondering if she was rambling or not.

"My daddy", she confirmed. "'E's with your trollop. 'E's here."

Wishing she would leave off all her 'h's if she was going to leave any of them out, Mulder said, "She's not a - never mind. Where are they? Can you show me?"

The mad girl stretched out her arm across the waters, pointing to an invisible spot on the horizon. She started to turn slowly as if scanning the area, and ended up with her back to the sea, pointing - thankfully - straight inland. "There."

"The beer tent?"

She nodded eagerly. "Place of drink and carousing. 'E'd like to drink her, but 'e can't. My poor daddy, cursed ... cursed ..." She wagged her head again, the image of over-dramatized sadness.

Ignoring her, Mulder made his way toward the tent. All the way, her little tuneless song kept following him. He had no doubt that so did she.


* * * *


Angel stood up abruptly from the table. "Ssshh. I thought I heard something."

"In this din?" Scully asked, but Faith simply nodded, looking at him expectantly.

Scully turned to her with a question, and when she turned back, Angel was gone.

"Checking outside", Faith explained. "So, where were we?"

"The New Consortium", Scully said. "Why they want me."

Faith made a face. "Can't they just clone you? You said they were big on cloning."

"They might not be able to clone the immortality factor", Scully said, feeling free to touch upon that topic now that Angel was gone.

"They know about that?" Faith looked dubious.

Scully shook her head. "I hope not. But that might be the reason why I could bring forth a biological hybrid. They'll want to know how that was possible. If they catch me, they're likely to find out. And if they can clone it, they certainly will. If they succeed in producing something better than William, they'll have an army of host mothers to bring forth an army of super-humans."

"As long as they've got ova of yours", Faith said. "The clones might be sterile."

Scully gave her an amused look. "Then again, they might not." She looked toward the entrance to the tent, but there was no sign of Angel. Instead, a tall Chinese woman, presumably of an age with Faith though it was hard to tell, seemed to be heading straight for them. When she had covered half the distance, Angel reentered and, passing her, reached their table first.

"We've got to leave", he said. "I just spotted someone I know."

Faith gave him a searching look. "Who?"

"Never mind who", he said, confirming her suspicion that it was someone she might go after. Someone he still felt he had to protect. "Just come. The ferry should be in any minute now."

Suddenly, the Chinese woman was standing beside him. "It's already in", she said, "I just stepped off it." Dumping a slim envelope in front of Scully, she clarified, "Passport, L-1 visa, and a few other odds and ends. You're Selma Mathiessen, and you're Scandinavian. Don't forget to complain loudly about having to travel on Christmas Eve. It's the main event for you, this time of year. You don't celebrate Christmas Day, except possibly with a hangover." She hadn't taken her eye off Faith, and now she added, "Just you. Leave your friends; they can't help you. I can."

Faith rose in one fluid motion and struck out before completing the movement. Her hand was caught in an iron grip by the other. Not slayer strength, but closer to it than Faith had expected. Vampire? The stranger's hand was cold from the outside, and her water-lily complexion certainly was pale enough to meet the requirements.

Angel in turn caught the Chinese woman's wrist, forcing her to let go. Quickly, the woman whipped out a little silver cross - not a full crucifix, just a cross on a chain - that she had been carrying in her pocket, not around her neck.

Ok, Faith thought. Not vampire then.

Angel backed off, and Faith moved in for a renewed attack. Scully stood, picking up the envelope to keep it out of harm's way.

Faith, momentarily blocked by the Chinese woman's 'ready' stance, tried to reason with her opponent for a change. "We've already arranged papers for her. For us too - well, for me anyway."

This from a self-confessed minion of the New Consortium. Scully made up her mind. Faith had been a good companion so far, but Scully wasn't going to let herself be manipulated. Granted that the stranger had not exactly claimed to be sent by the Director, but who else could have sent her? The New Consortium already had Faith in place, didn't they?

The Chinese shook her head, short black strands flying with the movement. "Not like these. Yours won't work. These are genuine."

"How can they be genuine?" Angel asked, and was answered by Scully.

"She means, as close to the real thing as they get. Nobody will be able to tell the difference. Look, I hate to seem ungrateful after all you two have done for me, but this is one of my contacts. I have to go with her, now that I have the chance. I'm sorry. I didn't expect anyone to meet me until we were already over the Straits, but I can't pass this up. I'm sure you understand."

"You can't be sure ..." Angel began.

"I'm willing to take that chance", Scully cut him off, half a second before realizing that she had just confirmed his hypothesis. She didn't know this woman. But she had every reason to believe that Krycek's contact in Vancouver had sufficient power and influence to bring about something like this. Still, she could see Angel's point.

"All right", she said. "There's a chance the New Consortium sent her, having intercepted my letter. But if so, at least I'll be across the border - I'll take it from there. Anyway, Faith here is working for the New Consortium - nominally anyway - so how can I be any worse off, if I go with ..." She broke off, realizing that she did not even know the woman's name.

"Li Ann", the stranger supplied calmly.

" ... with Li Ann", Scully concluded. She could have pointed out that she hadn't asked for Faith's help, though she had to admit it had come in handy, and certainly not for Angel's. Faith had been the one dragging him into it. But she didn't feel like bringing it up. So far, they had both been good to her.

Her two companions exchanged a quick glance. Then,

"Do what you want", Faith said, barely holding back an 'S'. "But, we're coming with."

"We won't leave without seeing you safe on the other side", Angel confirmed.

Scully was about to object again, but Li Ann merely nodded, then caught hold of Scully's arm and led her toward the entrance. "Time is wasting. The ferry is leaving again in eight minutes. There might not be another one tonight. They are closing down the port on the American side - possibly for the duration of the holidays."

They started toward the entrance, just as Mulder and a dark-haired, thin woman in too little clothing for the weather stepped through it. Scully stopped in her tracks but she didn't have to say anything. Li Ann took one look at her face, and followed the direction of her gaze. Taking a step in front of Scully, her taller frame blocking the newcomers' view, she said, "There's another exit at the back, past the toilets. Just walk calmly; I'll be right behind you."

Mulder took a quick look around the tent. "You said she was in here somewhere", he began, but Drusilla wasn't listening. Instead, she was making a beeline for a tall, broad-shouldered guy who was just getting up from a table he had been sharing with a lithe-looking, dark-haired woman.

"Daddy!" Drusilla yelled gleefully. "My Angelus!"

Mulder sighed. The guy couldn't possibly be her father; he looked about the same age as she; possibly even a little younger. Preparing himself to sort out the embarrassment that would undoubtedly ensue, Mulder followed in Drusilla's wake.

But the guy apparently knew her. Catching her as she tried to throw herself into his arms, he held her at arm's length, but gently, as if he also knew he had to do with a madwoman. "Not now, Dru", he said without rancour. "Got a ferry to catch."

The next moment, he was gone. So, for that matter, was the woman he had been sharing the table with. The only one left at the spot was Drusilla, looking so forlorn that Mulder - against his better judgment - went up to her and put a consoling arm around her bare shoulders.

She turned to him, and her expression was completely changed - for one of fury. "E's always doing that!" she hissed. "'E doesn't love me!" She stamped her foot like a little girl. "But I'll catch 'im, an' I'll tear 'is eyes out an' I'll fry them for breakfast!" She frowned a little. "Or perhaps I'll smoke them, like kippers", she added in a calmer voice that somehow chilled Mulder more than her recent rage. "Yes, I think that will be better. Don't you, my Fox?"


* * * *


Scully and Li Ann got on the ferry first, closely followed by Faith, but Angel was turned away for lack of a passport. He shrugged, having expected as much. "See you on the other side", he muttered to Faith, then he was gone into the night, as if he had never been there. Faith shrugged too, guessing his plan and finding it extreme but deciding it was his business, not hers.

Scully came up to her. "How did he think he was going to cross without a passport?" she wondered.

"Probably thought this was still back in the noughties", Faith said, leaning nonchalantly on the railing, staring out into the night. Turning her head, she caught Scully's puzzled look. "Joke. He's going to try and swim across."

"Now that if anything has to be a joke", Scully said. "Swimming across the Straits of Juan de Fuca is no mean feat even in summer." She glanced behind her, to where Li Ann was talking to one of the ferrymen. Once, she pointed to Faith, and Scully frowned, wondering what she was about. The ferryman shook his head, then shrugged as if to say he was not in a position to help her. He jerked a thumb over his shoulder to indicate the passport official who was still perusing passenger papers. Then he spread his hands.

Li Ann nodded and started toward the official. Right then, the woman who had been with Mulder crossed the landing board. As far as Scully could see, she was looking directly into the eyes of the passport official, and he straight at her. Then she made an odd little gesture with her fingers, and she walked right past him. Unquestioned, unchallenged.

"She must have hypnotized him!" Scully said, but Faith was gone from her side. Scully spotted her a moment later, standing squarely in the strange woman's path, just behind Passport Control. Her feet were planted firmly apart. She was obviously not letting this one on board, if she could help it.


* * * *


Mulder watched Drusilla enter the landing board ahead of him, amid a throng of passengers. He did not know what she hoped to accomplish; he doubted she had a passport. Or any other papers for that matter. If she did, they were probably issued by some asylum and wouldn't get her out of the country. Then again, she was British. If she could prove it, maybe that would work in her favour with the Canadian authorities.

Mulder himself did have a passport, but that was no guarantee he would be allowed to cross. His papers were issued in more innocent times, blithely presenting him as the USsie he was. Well, he could always try.

One of the presumptive passengers caught his eye by being turned off the ferry. It was a young fellow, somewhere in his teens, something of the hooligan about him. Wearing a peaked winter cap with ear muffs turned up, a jacket and jeans, no gloves, and simple sneakers on his feet, hardly appropriate to the climate. Apparently, his papers were not in order - if he even had any. Small wonder; he didn't look the type to worry overly much about proper procedure. Flinging a few words - probably curses - over his shoulder, he turned back down the landing board.

Mulder was just about to step on to the board, when the youth passed him. His face was unmistakable. Mulder had seen it in several newspapers, below non-flattering headlines speaking of murder and mayhem.

"William", Mulder said in what he hoped was a reasonably calm voice. "I need to talk to you."

The boy reacted instantly, jumping on to the quay and taking off along the sea front. Mulder cursed briefly, then left the board himself and started out in pursuit. Whatever Mulder's other priorities, the boy had to be apprehended. As he ran, Mulder considered his options.

The first that came to mind was the silliest one. He actually had the ingredients in his pocket - wormwood, ground sage, sea salt, and a little gold, in the form of an old FBI tie clip he no longer had any use for. Of course, William was not a demon. But who said that was not simply a misnomer, used by those who had met people like him before? Except, to Mulder's knowledge there hadn't been anyone quite like William before. He saw the boy ahead of him in the faint sodium light of the lamps along the quay. It looked like he was preparing to jump into the sea. Mulder called out again.

"William! I won't harm you!" Brilliant. As if he could. "We need to talk!"

The boy abandoned his intended jump point and continued running. Apparently, he wasn't going to listen. And there certainly was no way of making him. Unless ... well, maybe it was worth a try. Much like going to Canada on a US passport.

Mulder had always been a good runner, and now he was glad he had stayed in shape. If he were to cast his spell, he'd have to overtake his target first. Which he did, just as all pandemonium broke out on the ferry behind them.


* * * *


Faith stared haughtily at the approaching Drusilla. "Catch you this time, vamp", she said, changing position into her 'ready' stance.

Drusilla hissed, her eyes turning yellow as her face changed. They were mostly out of sight of the queue in front of the Passport Control booth, but a few passengers who had just been admitted passed them and shrieked at the view of Drusilla's countenance. She was distracted for only a moment, but that's when Faith hit her, knowing well to keep out of the trap of those yellow eyes. Flickering her gaze to keep it averted, she got in a few good fists and kicks before the vampire started to answer in kind. She was stronger than she looked, but Faith had expected nothing less. She tried to finish the fight before anyone could get a clear picture of what was going on, let alone stop them. But in her rush, she brought out her always present stake a little too soon, and Drusilla dodged the blow. Several pairs of uniformed arms caught them both and threw them off the ferry, just as its engines started.

As the ferry swung around and moved out, Scully walked over to her remaining companion. "Did you stage that?" Somehow she wouldn't put it past her.

Li Ann smiled contentedly. "No need. Their stupidity did all the work." She walked away, in the general direction of the mess hall. A self-assured figure in combat black, capable enough to know when to leave the fighting to others. Scully followed. After all, there wasn't much else to do.

* * * *


William swerved away from the sea front to run inland, and his right sneaker slipped on icy tarmac, landing him squarely on his butt. That was all Mulder needed to catch up. Still out of breath, he began to speak the spell. It seemed to hold William in place long enough for Mulder to get close and start spreading the spice in a circle around his target. The wind was a bit of a problem, but he managed to use his own body as a shield for what he was doing, being careful to draw the circle clockwise, in the hope of avoiding bad influences. As he finished, he threw the gold clip into the circle, and stepped back. The clip didn't vanish or change shape, as he had vaguely expected, but maybe it wasn't supposed to.

It was just dawning on Mulder that the seaside of a busy port might not be the best place to contain a de... a semi-alien. He had no idea how to move William, once he was contained. Then the problem swiftly became moot, as William jumped to his feet, broke the circle and swatted Mulder hard on the side of the head, then ran for the edge of the quay.

The last thing Mulder saw before losing consciousness was how the boy jumped in and started swimming towards the wake of the diminishing ferry.


* * * *


Los Angeles, 24 December, 11:21 p m


"Hi Wes. Great to see you again - how have you been?"

Wesley looked up from his - or rather Angel's - books and was dazzled by a wide smile, bright enough to call the sun back in the middle of the night, he thought. The smile belonged to Willow, a pure witch, redhead and all, age thirty-five. Also current employee of Angel Investigations, and Wesley's longtime friend. She had filled out nicely over the years. When he first saw her, she had been a scrawny thing with a brittle self-confidence. And just look at her now ...

He couldn't help answering her smile with one of his own, equally bright, certainly out of character for him, he thought, in any role where he could see himself. "Hello, Willow. Good seeing you too. I didn't expect anyone back this late. In fact, I was just leaving."

"Liar", she said happily. "You were planning to spend the night studying, then crash in one of the guestrooms in the small hours. This is a hotel, after all."

He gave in. "All right. But I came in expecting to find at least someone here. I was passing by a couple of days ago, and you were all out then; I'd thought you'd be back by now."

"Connor is away for the holidays. Finished checking up on something in Australia for Angel, then he wanted a vacation. Felt he was in the perfect spot. Going surfing, I think. Or scuba-diving. He likes the ocean."

"And Angel?"

"No idea. I don't usually check up on the boss, unless he wants me to, or I'm worried. Want some tea?"

Wesley followed her into the pantry. "Depends on what you intend to put in it", he joked.

"Oh, just a small love potion", she deadpanned. "Nothing too damaging." She might be lesbian, but that was no reason not to share a joke with an old friend. They had been through enough together to have developed an easy affection over the years.

Outside at the reception desk, the phone rang, saving Wesley from having to come up with a witty retort. He got it on the second ring. The voice on the other end was familiar to him. He had heard it as recently as two days ago.

"So - why didn't it work?"


* * * *


Each on his end of the telephone lines, Wesley and Mulder tried to sort out what had gone wrong with the containment spell. Behind Wesley, Willow came in with a tray and two steaming teacups. She set it down on the reception desk and listened for a while to Wesley's side of the conversation.

"Now, what have you been up to?" she asked, rather than performing the discourtesy of using a spell to listen in on the other end of the conversation as well.

Wesley asked Mulder to hold for a while, then described the situation briefly to Willow.

"A Sanhahanhara demon?" she asked, frowning a little. She held out a hand for the receiver. "May I?"

"I've got a friend here who might be able to advise you", Wesley said into the mouthpiece. "Just a moment, I'm handing over to her."

Willow took the receiver. "Hello?" she said. "I'm Willow. I'm a qualified witch. Please tell me exactly what you did to contain this demon."

"Well", Mulder said, "He isn't exactly a demon ..."

"Did the spell work at all? Like, to begin with?"

"It seemed to. I had the time to start wondering how the hell I was gonna move him from the spot - then he suddenly broke free."

"Then he is a Sanhahanhara demon all right. What did you use?"

A pause, as if the speaker on the other end was trying to remember - or possibly wondering why he was having this conversation. Then,

"Ground sage, wormwood, sea salt, a piece of gold."

"Carat?" The question came swiftly. The witch was a stickler for details.

"Eighteen. It's an old tie clip."

"Not too diluted then", Willow decided. "Nine wouldn't cut it. Eleven might. Eighteen should." She turned briefly to Wesley. "You said Giles gave you this information?"

Wesley nodded. "The gold especially. He said eighteen would do. On the other hand, he recommended wolfsbane instead of wormwood, which I thought was decidedly overkill."

She smiled a little and got back on the line. "Mr - Mulder, is it? Have you ever cast any spells before?"

"As a matter of fact, I have. Mostly to keep zombies from rising. Things like that."

She took that in her stride. "But no actual containment spells?"

"Not exactly, no."

Willow frowned, chewing her lower lip a little. Then a thought occurred to her. "You used the spice ingredients to draw the circle? Which direction did you draw it - deiseal?"

"De-what? Oh, deosil."

"Sunwise, clockwise ..."

"I know what you mean", he assured her. "Yes, I did."

"Then that's probably it. You should have gone tuathal. Widdershins."

"Counter-clockwise", Wesley expanded. "Giles said nothing about ..."

"Anti-clockwise", Willow translated back. "Or the circle won't hold. Well, except on the southern hemisphere, but you're not, are you?"

"Port Angeles, Washington", Mulder informed her.

"Just checking."

"I thought magic circles should always be drawn sunwise", Mulder said.

"Not if you're using the Earth's power, which you are, if you're grounding a demon. Then you have to follow the Earth's movement, and that's against the sun, not with it. Which makes for an anti-clockwise motion on the northern hemisphere."

"Someone once told me that male spell-casters should draw their circles sunwise and female ones the other way around."

Willow laughed merrily. "That's an old witch's tale. Popular joke on know-it-all's. Never fails to confuse them. But no, this isn't about polarity. It's about the power you're drawing on."

"I can't use solar power?"

"Not to ground a demon. Sorry. Hang on - Wes wants to say something." She handed the receiver back to Wesley.

"Sorry old chap", Wesley began, oblivious to the fact that he had never met Mulder and didn't really know him that well. "I should have thought of that. Afraid it completely slipped my mind. But yes, of course you have to draw the circle tuathal if you're using the Earth's power. Counter-clockwise on the northern hemisphere."

"As opposed to the southern one."

Wesley shrugged. "Last time I checked, the sun was still rising in the east."

"Ok, see what you mean. Sure that's all? I mean, the whole reason this spell didn't work?"

Wesley hesitated. "Was it windy?"

"A stiff breeze, I would say. I think I managed to compensate, though."

Wesley reached a decision. "I think you'd better come see us. We could research this together, make sure we get it right next time."

The phone was silent for a moment, and Wesley could hear the wind building in the background. Apparently, Mulder was outdoors. An old cellphone, if the connection was anything to go by. Then a single word. "We?"

"Glad to help", Wesley offered.

"I don't know. Guess I'd better hang around here till they find him. He jumped in. Looked like he was trying to swim after the ferry. The coast guard is out now, looking for him."

"He's a demon. They won't find him. There's no coast guard that's a match for a Sanhahanhara. Trust me, he'll make it across. When is the next ferry?"

Mulder looked around him. The quay was already empty of people, except for a few who were watching the coast guard and discussing their methods. "They are closing down the port now. There won't be any ferries until Tuesday at the earliest."

"You're welcome to spend Christmas with us. This is a hotel; we've got plenty of room."

A voice in the background said, "Hannuka. Or, winter solstice. Belated."

Mulder smiled a little. "Thought you said you weren't working there."

Wesley had to admit that for a moment, he had forgotten. "Not really, no. Thinking of spending the holiday though." He raised a questioning eyebrow in the direction of Willow who nodded. "Glad to have you."

Mulder considered the offer. "It won't be that fast - I've got my car with me."

"Leave it", Wesley said. "Take a plane down - you can go back to your demon hunting as soon as we know more."

"How about you coming here?"

Wesley shook his head, although the old reception phone did not have a camera. "Got better resources here. My personal library and the one here, plus the entire Network. Unless you prefer a messy computer café in downtown Port Angeles? If there's even one open during the holidays."

That didn't sound exactly tempting. Besides, Mulder was getting curious. Who were these people, dealing with the binding of demons on a daily basis? Maybe visiting them wouldn't be such a bad idea after all. Scully was across the Straits and not likely to return any time soon. So, in all likelihood was her son, and Mulder might well need some regrouping time before trying to deal with him again. Also, he needed better credentials if he were to follow them.

"Ok", he said into the phone. "I'm on my way. I'll let you know the flight number as soon as I know it myself. And - thanks."


* * * *


The last tents had been pulled down and the stalls packed. On the edge of the empty marketplace, in a phone booth, stood Faith, yelling at the receiver in her hand.

"But I have given my report! Didn't you just hear me?" She muttered something under her breath. Something sounding remarkably like damned old fart. "He's gone across the border. So's she, for that matter. No, I missed the ferry. No, there aren't any more tonight. No, not tomorrow either. Look - can I speak to the demon who recommended me to you? Yes, of course I mean Lorne. Ok, figures. NO, I WON'T! I've got a job to do here." She banged the receiver back onto its hook and stepped out into the chilling wind.

The part about her job had been an embellishment. Drusilla was nowhere to be seen. No other vampires to hunt. Unless the guy over there with a cellphone to his ear, happened to be one. She started walking in his direction, mainly because he was the only presumably human person in the immediate neighbourhood. She hoped he had a car. She needed a lift somewhere. Somewhere warmer than here.

As she got closer, she recognized the man. He had come with the vamp. The guy who had caused Scully to squirm and run the other way. Had to be her ex. Unless she had run from the vamp, but Faith doubted they had met. She herself had seen the vamp before, but she had certainly never introduced her to anyone. Hmm ... good-looking guy, for his age. Didn't look the type who would usually keep the company of demons, but hey, who didn't, these days?

She waited until he had tucked the phone back into his pocket. Then, "Lost your friend?" she asked. "Well, that makes two of us."

He spun around, and she held out a hand in greeting. "Faith", she said. "I've been travelling with your - ex-partner for the last few days. Wanna talk?"



* * * *



Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada, 24 December, 7:50 p m


Scully walked slowly down the landing board, along with the other passengers. There was Passport Control here too, and the crowd pressed in resignation against the turnpike leading into the warmth of the offices. On her right, Li Ann was walking with oriental patience, as if she did this every day. Maybe she did.

The official accepted both their passports, glanced through them and stamped them - Scully couldn't remember when she had last received a stamp, but here they were apparently doing things by the book. She was asked a couple of questions, and she remembered to gripe about having to travel on Christmas Eve. The official smiled sympathetically but non-comprehending, and waved her past. Li Ann also passed with no problem.

Two men met them. One was a tall fellow about Li Ann's age; the other ... Scully nearly called out Krycek! before she saw the differences. This one had two arms, for starters. Also, he was a little younger than Krycek had looked when she last saw him. Krycek had had a silver streak above his left temple. This one had no silver at all - but of course, such things could change. That was why they never stated a person's hair or eye colour in passports anymore. However, he still looked younger. Perhaps even a little less jaded, she thought. There was a kind of boyish swagger to him that Krycek might have possessed once, before turning all lithe and lethal. All the same, the resemblance had been a bit of a shock. For the first time since she left Arizona did she wonder what she was really doing. What if Krycek didn't want her here? It had been eight months since he had invited her to come after him. He might have forgotten all about it. On the other hand, he didn't seem like the type who would forget anything, or make such an offer without meaning it. Still, why had he made it? He was an old enemy - was she walking into a trap? But he hadn't seemed like an enemy last spring. As if that was a reason to suddenly trust him. Whatever had possessed her to do so? What exactly was her motive? For that matter - what was his?

"Mac, Victor", Li Ann introduced the two men. "My associates."

From the glare both of them shot their 'associate' Scully guessed that it wasn't the whole truth. None of her business though.

"Vic", the Krycek lookalike amended, holding out his hand at the same time as the other guy - Mac. Li Ann raised an eyebrow. The short form was probably not his preferred name. Most of the time.

"Selma", Scully said, shaking hands with both of them. "At least I think so. For the time being."

"Director's fault", Vic said. "Sorry. We'll think of a better one for you."

"What's wrong with Selma?" Mac asked, mostly to needle his partner.

Li Ann rolled her eyes. "Cut it out, you two. Where are we taking her?"

"Well ..." Mac said, "we ain't. Or rather, not yet. Orders are to return to the she-lion's den. Immediately."

"Why? Hasn't she contacted Alex?"

Vic shook his head. "She tried, but he wasn't in, or something. So it's back to base and wait till she can raise him and make arrangements."

Mac held up a white scarf. "Blind-folded the last ten miles or so. I'm sorry", he added as an afterthought.

Scully grew a little colder than even the weather accounted for. Krycek had not acknowledged her. And these two might seem like a couple of friendly clowns, but she wasn't convinced. Maybe because of the lithe, silent Oriental at her side, who certainly seemed deadly enough. It was a trap after all. Had to be. On the other hand, as long as she could keep her head on, she should be all right. Even if Krycek had told them about her. Somehow, she still doubted that. Krycek wasn't one to give away his trump cards, even to friends. If friends they were.

She shrugged. "Take me to your leader."


* * * *


Just as the Agency's black sedan swerved out, leaving the port area behind, the last passenger was leaving the ferry. It was a pale woman with long, dark hair plastered to her face, a water-logged white dress clinging to her emaciated body. Obeying their first reflex, the ferrymen stood aside for her. Not that they believed in ghosts, at least not if you asked them, but there was something so - deadlooking about this woman, not to mention the puzzle of how anyone could be walking around in such thin, wet clothes on a winter night at these latitudes. Nor could they remember having seen her on the ferry until she walked off it. Surely, she couldn't have swum across the Straits, not dressed like that and on a night like this.

As she passed the the immigrations office, she gave the poor man there a sharp look, and he let her pass with a gulp. Officials and ferrymen alike stood and stared after her, refusing to believe she was real. When she suddenly vanished from sight, it was no more than they had expected. A mutual glance reassured them all that none of them was ready to report this haunting on a Christmas night.

Just out of sight from the ferry, a large, dark shape freed itself from the shadows of a warehouse. Just as wet as the woman, and almost equally ghostlike.

"Hello Drusilla", Angel said, stepping out in the sodium light to meet her. Mewling, she fell into his arms.

"Bad, bad daddy. Left 'is poor daughter behind ..."

Angel stroked her hair, comforting her like the child she currently believed herself - or perhaps merely pretended to be. "Sssshhh ..."

He had sworn to see Scully safe to her destination. Dru was an unforeseen complication. On the other hand, he couldn't very well leave her. He knew after all their years together that she was, on occasion, quite capable of taking care of herself. But there were also spells when she simply decided she couldn't, and then no one was more helpless. And, he was sworn to help the helpless ...



* * * *



Somewhere in the Northwest Territories, 25 December, 9:35 a m


Krycek was outside his cabin, chopping wood. A tricky task at best, but he had always been strong, and his living arm seemed to have grown stronger still since the loss of his left one many years ago. He knew the lack made him asymmetric in the shoulders, but he had devised a training program for his left shoulder muscles to avoid the aches and pains such an assymmetry might otherwise have caused. He stood each piece of firewood on end on the block, then cleft it with precision and efficiency - one-handedly. The exercise was not only good motoric training; it was also quite restful, calming his usually busy mind.

His cellphone rang, and he dropped his axe with a curse. Using his teeth to pull off his mitt, he fished out the phone. "Yes?"

His usual, non-committal answer. His number was unlisted in all places he could think of. He never let a caller know any more than that the phone had been picked up, and even that little information was given grudgingly.

"You're a hard man to find, Alex", said a female voice teasingly. "I suppose that means you're basically a good one. Your friend has arrived. We need to make arrangements."

"I don't have any friends."

"Sorry, but I'm afraid you do. This one claims you invited her."

Krycek closed his eyes momentarily. No, it couldn't be. Scully would never - or if she would, it had to be a trap to lure him out of hiding. He had been a fool to leave her even that scant clue. Still, who would stand to gain these days? The New Consortium? Well, they could be both long-minded and vengeful, he knew that. But would Scully work for them?

"Anyone with her?" he asked.

"There was, but Li Ann dumped her. Or she dumped herself. Got thrown off the Victoria ferry for starting a brawl. Your friend was followed though. Two vampires made it across."

Two what? Had to be a codeword Krycek was unfamiliar with. Blackmailers maybe. "Where is she now?"

"With me, of course. I didn't know where you were. I couldn't very well drop her in the middle of the NWT woods, now could I?"

Yes, he thought. You could - if it were in your interest. "And the other two?"

"The vamps? Oh, they're here too. Better to bring them in before they found out the way by themselves. The male would have, without a doubt. Maybe the female too. She's quite mad, but I think she's psychic. I'm thinking of hiring her."

Krycek bit back a comment about pots and black kettles. He found it hard to imagine anyone more certifiable than the woman he was talking with at the moment. Still, it wouldn't do to offend her. Not yet anyway. "Can you pry them away from - my 'friend'?"

"No problem, but I'm not going to. Or not entirely. The male is quite set on seeing her safe to her destination - that's you. Might as well let him - my agents have better things to do than act as escorts for an old flame of yours."

"She's not ..." Krycek began, then shut up. No need to give away information.

"... official", the Director finished. "Thanks. That's the one thing I was wondering about. Just curious", she added, as if that would reassure him in any way.

Krycek clenched his teeth, refusing to rise to her bait. The woman might be a complete lunatic, but there was no one more efficient at getting information out of a brick wall. "Alright. I'll take care of the escort. What's his name?"

"Angel, if you believe that."

"Code name?"

"Well, it's not the one he was born with, but nobody uses that anyway. I don't care what you do, but remember - bullets are out."

"How come?"

"Alex, the guy's a vamp. As in stakes, sunlight, crosses, fire, beheading ... that sort of thing. But no bullets."

Krycek stared up into the overcast sky. The snow had started falling again. A few wet flakes settled gently on his face. "You're serious?"

"I'm always serious. How's your WSoD?"

"My what?"

"Willing Suspension of Disbelief."

"Not that good. But I'll do what's practical."

"I know you will", she cooed, as if humouring a child. "Now for the details. Where do your want them?"



* * * *



Just south of Vancouver, BC, 27 December 2016


The briefing hall was a little more crowded than usual. The long metal table would seat at least ten, but there were rarely more than three or four people being briefed or debriefed at any one time. Now, there were six. Mac, Vic and Li Ann as usual, and in addition Scully, Angel and Drusilla. The latter was giving her account of recent events, as the Director paced slowly around the table, listening. She was dressed in a red evening gown and a rakish black slouch hat - an old favourite of hers.

"My Fox was going to try a spell", Dru said, her eyes closed and fingers weaving as if in imitation of working the spell. "To bind the demon." Her eyes flew open, and she wagged her head a little sadly. "Don't think it worked ..."

Scully shook her head, covering her eyes with one hand, elbow propped on the table. She had no difficulty imagining Mulder casting spells. He had done it before, usually ignoring all her attempts to reason with him. But whatever had possessed him to believe a spell would be any good against William?

She raised her head again, looking pointedly at Drusilla. "First, my son is not a demon", she began.

Drusilla gave her a wide-eyed, innocent stare. "How do you know?"

"Because there's no such thing", Scully said levelly.

"I've got one", Drusilla claimed, pointing to her chest. "In 'ere." She gestured toward Angel at her side. "So 'as 'e."

Angel decided to take the diplomatic tack. He wasn't one for long speeches, but this needed to be sorted out, so they could all get on with discussing the problem rather than the definitions. "We believe your William is a Sanhahanhara demon. He fits the description. You believe he's a human/extraterrestrial hybrid, somehow planted in, and birthed by you. You say your friend and ex-partner shares your belief, and I'm sure he does, but when he came across this spell, he must have thought it was worth a try."

The Director looked up from a stack of papers she was carrying in one arm. She had been leafing through them, giving every appearance of not really listening, but by now they all knew she wasn't missing anything. "How did he 'come across' this spell?"

Drusilla gestured again toward Angel. "Called 'is agency. Wesley told 'im."

Angel stared at her. This was news to him. "Wesley? What would he be doing at ...?"

Mac had let his long frame slump nearly under the table. Boredom was written all over him. Now he looked up with feigned interest. "Who's Wesley?"

Scully had had enough. "Never mind the spell. It can't have worked - in fact this lady says it 'probably' didn't." She was using her best FBI voice, trying hard for objectivity, but there was still a hint of sarcasm in the words this lady. Whatever Drusilla was, she didn't exatly look like a lady. "What we need to determine, is how to deal with William. I know he's my son, but the problem isn't all mine any longer. He has given ample proof of being a threat to the public. He's been following me for years - he's not likely to give up now. We need to be prepared."

The Director waved a hand, as if William were the least of their problems. "I'm always prepared. Right now, we've got other concerns. I've been in contact with Alex."

Li Ann looked up. "You have? When?"

"Two days ago."

"Why haven't you ...?"

The Director shut her up with a glance. "I needed time to think. Here's what we'll do ..."



* * * *



Scully gathered up her few belongings and cast a last look around her room. Nearly three days was quite enough time spent at the HQ of this shady agency, where everybody seemed to be a little off their rockers - except possibly Li Ann. She pursed her lips - her usual way of suppressing a smile. In a way, the stay among these strange people had been helpful. She had come to the conclusion that she'd rather take her chances with Krycek.

She walked over to the mirror to check her hair. No sign of red roots yet. Good. It was no more than a week since she had dyed it, after all. She just felt as if it had been ages.

"Ready?"

Angel was standing in the doorway. His voice caused her to nearly jump out of her skin. She hadn't heard his footsteps. For that matter ... she turned to look at him, then back into the mirror. Odd. She should have been able to see him there; shouldn't she?

Angel stepped aside, quickly. Damn, was he still doing that? One would have thought he'd learnt something in two and a half centuries. It was just that he was so used to not seeing himself in mirrors that he sometimes forgot that others might expect him to show up there.

Scully looked puzzled for a moment. Then she decided that the angle must have been wrong. Surely any other explanation was too silly to consider.

"Quite ready", she said, swinging a small tote bag on to her shoulder. The bag had been given her by the Director, to keep her toiletries and a change of clothes in. Everything else, Scully had left behind long ago.

Outside, the three agents were waiting. There was no sign of the Director or Drusilla.

"Promises to be cloudy all day", Mac said. "Plus, it will be dark in an hour or so. You should be all right." He wasn't sure he believed in the reason for this information, but orders were orders.

Angel merely nodded.

Li Ann had another message. "You know Alex is a cleaner, right? An assassin? None of ours", she hastened to add, as if that were important. "Freelance. But he might not take kindly to anyone coming with her. And he knows someone will."

"I can take care of myself", Angel said, impatiently.

"All I'm saying is the guy might know what you are. And what to do."

"Now how would he ...?"

"The Director would have told him. If he asked. Or just for the hell of it."

Angel stared at her for a moment. "I'll be all right", he assured her. Then, as an afterthought, "But thanks."

Scully was already walking towards Vic's red Dodge, in which he was to take them most of the way. Vic was walking with her. From the corner of her eye, he looked more like Krycek than ever. Eventually, she just had to ask.

"Is - Alex a relation of yours by any chance? A brother maybe?"

He chuckled a little. "Nope. But you're not the first to ask. The similarity has come in handy a couple of times."

She waited for him to elaborate, but he didn't. Old assignments no doubt. Classified information.


* * * *


Back in the briefing hall, the Director walked around Drusilla's chair, appraising her. She paused at the end of the table, asking into the air, "How would you like a job?"

Drusilla's eyes brightened, if not with any trace of reason. "Wot kind of job?"

The Director smiled benignly at her. "What you do best of course. You'd be helping my assassins."

Drusilla looked disappointed. "'Elping?"

"You are undisciplined - not a bad thing in itself. But you need some training. Murphy and Camier are the best, but they are both old men. Well-seasoned, you might say."

Drusilla smiled widely, licking her teeth. "Tasty ...?"

The Director beamed at her. The girl's derangement was certainly an asset. She hadn't had a good, perfectly unstable agent in years. Not since she managed to misplace Jackie. She went to summon Murphy and Camier. Yes, those three would keep each other on their toes all right ...



* * * *



Somewhere in the Northwest Territories, 31 December, 7:14 a m


The red Dodge was making its way ever more slowly through the snow-laden landscape. The skies were heavy overhead, threatening more snow any minute. Once off the main highways, the roads were badly ploughed, as distances were great and time between snowfalls short.

In the covered back of the pick-up, Scully stirred. The back was well furnished for the trip, but the cold had roused her all the same, several times during the small hours of the morning. It wasn't too bad now though. She could well imagine sleeping in.

Obviously, that was not to be.

"You awake?"

Angel was sitting up on his side of their sleeping-space. She knew he had spent most of the night keeping Vic company as he was driving north. Feeling useless no doubt. Vic didn't trust anyone else to drive his Dodge. He knew when to take a break and get some sleep. He had made long hauls before.

"No", she grunted, which earned her a rare smile. Angel wasn't much for smiling; she had noticed that about him. "Did you just get in?"

"Three hours ago. I've slept enough." Not that she had asked.

Scully crawled out of her sleeping bag and rolled it up. Rummaging around among their provisions, she found some bread, cheese, water and an apple. "Breakfast?" she asked.

Angel shook his head. "Never got into the habit."

"Suit yourself." She wasn't about to insist; lots of people never ate a real breakfast. She had her own in silence, then put everything away and stowed it securely. She could feel Angel watching her and tried not to feel uneasy about it. If he had anything to say, he probably would. In time.

She had proper winter clothes now, courtesy of the Director. She hadn't exactly enjoyed sleeping in them but the cold had left her no choice. Even so, she had spread the heavy coat on top of her sleeping bag. She pulled the coat to her now, and wrapped it around her, preparing for the day's ride. After just over three days on the road, things were becoming routine.

Angel wished he had had body heat, so he could have held her close and warmed her. Of course, then he would probably have felt the cold too. He could sense her warmth. And smell her. Loud and clear. Good thing he really never did care for breakfast, or he would have been sorely tempted.

He suppressed the thought. It belonged to the demon. To the demon he used to be. To Angelus. He was used to fighting Angelus. Every waking moment. All the same, he wished Faith hadn't told him about Scully being immortal. Would it really be so bad ... if she agreed? Now why the hell should she agree to being preyed on? To feeding a parasite? Besides, it would still be abuse. Nothing she would have chosen for herself. And he shouldn't be having these thoughts. Damned demon. All that he was, apparently.

"Are you looking forward to meeting this guy?" the demon asked, making conversation.

Scully gave him a surprised look as if she hadn't really thought about it. "Krycek?" She was quiet for a while, until he was beginning to doubt she would answer, then she began to think out loud, or at least that was the way it sounded to him.

"I don't know. He was always our enemy, Mulder's and mine. You know - my ex-partner. At least that's how I always thought of it. Then Krycek sought me out last spring, dropped this invitation with me, saying if I ever needed to get away, I could come to him. After that, I started to wonder if he had really ever been my enemy. Perhaps he was always just Mulder's. Ok, he helped get me abducted once, but that was what - 25 years ago? 24? Water under the bridges ..."

Angel said nothing. He knew he couldn't have let such a thing pass. Not in centuries. Probably never.

"Anyway", she said with a shrug, "he was young then, and fairly new to the Consortium. I'm sure they didn't tell him more than they had to. He probably didn't even know what he was being party to. Much later, he actually protected me so I could escape my many enemies and have William. Though in retrospect, I'm not sure that's exactly in his favour. But, as I said - bridges under water."

"So you've decided to trust him?" Angel asked, trying hard to keep the demon's sarcasm out of his voice, and not quite succeeding.

She shook her head. "Not sure yet. At first, I just needed to get away - from William, and from Mulder, and I didn't have anywhere else. They'd find me right away. Ok, maybe they still will, but Krycek is used to lying low, and he knows what he's dealing with. I figured he was the best chance I had."

"'At first'", Angel reminded her, and she nodded.

"Yes. Then it occurred to me that he was running a big risk, blowing his cover. We all thought he was dead; then he turns up on my doorstep, proving he isn't. He said he was on the hunt for William and needed my input, but I just couldn't accept that as a valid reason for throwing his safety all to the wind. He was always so cautious - looking a gift horse in the mouth twenty times, you might say. Belt, suspenders and parachute. That sort of thing. This didn't fit. And whatever his real reason, he had none for that invitation. Leaving me a clue like that - not exactly where to find him, but close enough to compromise his safety any time. Having met the Director, I can't see how he could even trust her to warn him in time. So, for lack of a better theory, I'm beginning to think he actually meant it. The invitation, that is."

"No feelings involved?"

She smiled a little. "None of fear anyway. Guess that's a thing of the past."

You'd be safer with me. He didn't say it. Mostly because it wasn't true. Her ex-enemy might be a lot of things, but it didn't sound like he was a demon. Besides, an immortal woman was safe enough anyway. She didn't need a vampire's questionable protection.

The Dodge pulled to a halt, and they heard a door open. Footsteps squeaked on snow, then the back flap of the covering was thrown open, letting in a gust of wind and some barely visible snowflakes.

"Road's not plowed any further", Vic said. "Anybody help me attach the snow chains?"



* * * *



Somewhere else in the Northwest Territories


Krycek squinted up at the sky. There'd be more snow; no doubt about it. His car was put away for the winter - it would be no good until well into spring, when the meltwater had finally stopped flooding the roads. Now how the hell was he going to get Scully to this happily godforsaken place? He trusted Vic to make it a good deal farther than anybody else in a Dodge, but after that? The last bit of the way would have to be on foot, or the next thing to it. Dog-sleigh or something? He didn't keep any animals, being away so often. He was no good with a snowmobile anymore; it didn't steer well with only one hand guiding it. He could do it at a pinch, but not in loose snow, with the threat of more coming down. He could be buried so deep, even the Old Syndicate would never have found him. And they had had some of the best. All dead now - presumably.

Thinking back on years past, he couldn't really say why he had told Scully she could come. He never felt sorry for anyone, least of all an immortal. And he had known she was, when he made the offer. So why? It wasn't like he had ever expected her to take him up on it, but hadn't he rather wished she would? Yes, he had. The assassin's first rule: be true to yourself. Betray anyone else, as the need arises, but never betray yourself. Always know what you're about, or you're meat, the next time around. And now, he couldn't even say why he had left that invitation with Scully. Death wish? He never had one before. Besides, she hadn't seemed all that hostile. Suspicious yes, that was a given, but not hostile.

And now, against all reason, she had accepted his invitation. She was actually coming here. What was more, the Agency was satisfied there was no trap involved. The Director had looked into the possibility, and now Vic was taking Scully here - or as close as he could anyway. But if there was no ulterior motive - why exactly was Scully coming? Could it mean that, after all these years, she was ready to trust him?

All in all, he was rather looking forward to her arrival.



* * * *



A Californian for the past 25 years or so, Angel had little experience with snow chains. Hell, he had none at all, which Vic bluntly told him in so many words. But super-human strength helped to a not insignificant degree, and somehow, between mutual curses and sour looks, they did manage to put the blasted things on the wheels of the pick-up. When they were done, it was nearly 9:30. Against all expectations, the weather was starting to clear up, and Angel was keeping to the shadows. The first time in days that that had been necessary. Up until now, the days had never quite made it beyond a gloomy twilight.

Vic suggested they try and make contact. "Chains will help, but there's no telling how far. The sooner Alex can meet us, the better."

Vic had not been given a telephone number, but Scully had three, supplied to her by the Director. None of them was the one the Director used, but Alex had assured her they should all work. Scully dialled the first one.

"Yes?"

She'd know that voice anywhere. Last spring, she had had some difficulty placing it, but not now. "Krycek?"

"Passphrase?"

Of course. The Director had insisted, but Scully had all but repressed it, it was so silly.

"It's a - bleeping beach ball!" she said, feeling like a fool.

A pause, then a slight chuckle, "Guess that's close enough. By the way - if you're coming here, maybe it's time you called me Alex."

She smiled a little, but didn't reciprocate. After all, she couldn't really decide what her name was, these days. "Ok, Alex. So, how do we do this? Vic and Angel just put the snow chains on, but Vic isn't sure how far we can get even with those. Can you come and meet us?"

"Just a moment ..." There was some crackling in the background, which she ultimately interpreted as the sound of a map being fought open by a one-armed man trying to keep his phone in place at the same time. "Exactly where are you?"

She relayed the question to Vic, who handed her a map and pointed to a fairly undefined spot on it. Seeing her dilemma, he pulled off a glove and pencilled in the coordinates, as exactly as he could. She passed on the figures.

"Right", Krycek said. "Tell him to follow the road you're on for five miles, then take a left and go six more, due north. Then call again. Call anyway, if the second road is blocked up. How are you on skis?"

"Not good, but I can manage. Depends on how far though."

She hadn't expected him to tell her, and he didn't.

"Not far. You got any skis in the truck?"

"I'm not sure. I think so."

"Ok, never mind. Leave them. I've got an extra pair. I'll bring them. What's the weather like, where you are?"

"No snowfall", Scully reported. "In fact, the sun's coming out."

"It is? Good. Just perfect. Let's hope we can meet around noon. See you."

He rang off. Scully frowned a little. Ten miles shouldn't take two and a half hours, unless they had to shovel their way through. Then it occurred to her that Krycek - Alex - might have a little farther to go. On the other hand, on skis he should be able to cut cross-country.

Vic was ready to go, so she relayed Alex' directions to him. He was alone.

"Where's Angel?"

Vic jerked his thumb toward the back. "Didn't much care for the lighting conditions."

Of course. That damn vampire fixation. How could she have forgotten? Or rather, how come he remembered to adhere to it at all times? Shaking her head, she went aft too, and climbed in. She tried to humour him by opening the cover as little as possible, but she thought he still squirmed a bit, scooting out of the way of the narrow beam. She closed the canvas carefully behind her, even though it left her completely blind after the brightness outside. She had the eerie feeling he was watching her though. Effortlessly.

"What did he say?"

She told him, word for word as well as she could remember, including the part about meeting at noon. "Guess that means you won't get out of the truck."

"So he knows", Angel said. "Kind of thought he would. Besides, Li Ann warned me."

"I hardly think he'll bring stakes", Scully said acidly. "Though maybe ski poles will do?"

"Don't know", Angel said truthfully. "If they're glass fibre, I'll be all right. Not so sure about bamboo."

Scully rolled her eyes in the dark. "Better keep out of sight then. He might bring three."

"Three?"

"Two for me. He's only got one arm."

"Oh."

There didn't seem to be much to say after that. Until Angel broke the silence again.

"I won't stay in the truck. And I won't make the ride back in it. I'll hang around for a while. Till I know you're safe."

"Thanks, but I don't need ..."

"You won't see me. I'll keep to the shadows. But I'll be there."

"Then, when you leave, how can I be sure you're gone?" She tried hard to keep her annoyance in check; after all, he meant well. But she had had enough of nutcases and meddlers lately, and as far as she was concerned, he was both.

"I guess you can't."

She couldn't be sure in the dark, but she could have sworn there was a little smile in his voice. Damn him.


* * * *


Vic pulled the truck to a stop close to the trees by the roadside, and Angel got out in their shadow. Vic got out too. "You sure about this?"

Angel nodded. "I'll be fine."

Vic looked as if he doubted that. "There are two pairs of skis in the back. Better take one."

"No thanks. It's been 132 years since I was last on skis."

"Didn't think it was something you could forget. Snowshoes then? Got a pair of those too."

Angel could see the wisdom of that. "If you're sure it won't put you out."

"Nah, the skis will do for me." He gave the Dodge an affectionate slap on the fender. "In case she breaks down, though she hasn't so far. 'Sides, I've got the cell. Would be an easy thing for the Director to send a chopper for me."

----

On the other side of the road, Scully was looking intently up the slope. Nothing as yet, except tall, silent pines. Then, a movement - or had she imagined that? No, there was definitely a dark shape approaching, expertly avoiding the trees. As he came closer, she could see that he was using a single, long pole the ancient way, for steering and braking rather than pushing. He held it up and away as he came to a swerving stop before her.

"Hey."

"Hey", she returned, feeling nearly as foolish as when she had given the passphrase. And yet, this was somehow simpler than she had thought. No questions. No second-guessing; they seemed suddenly to have outgrown even that. Just a simple greeting.

His eyes were as intense as ever, drinking in the sight of her. "Like your hair", he said, finally.

She grinned a little. "Bottle blond. Won't last."

He shrugged, smiling back. "Nothing does."

He stepped sideways on to the road to unclasp his skis. Unslinging the extra pair plus poles he had been carrying across his back, he stood them with his own against the nearest tree trunk. Then he walked over to Vic who stood waiting by the Dodge.

After a few low-voiced words which Scully couldn't catch despite the stillness, Vic got back in the driver's seat. The truck pulled around with some difficulty and a lot of jockeying into position and reversing on the narrow road, then it started back the way it had come and was gone. Krycek - Alex - came back to her.

For a moment, they just stood there, looking at each other, both wondering if this had been the right choice. If she could have done something else. Then, reaching a decision, he pulled her close, as tightly as he could with one arm, and kissed her. For a long time. And she responded. Somehow, that was suddenly easy too.


* * * *


Among the already lengthening shadows of the trees, Angel turned away.

But he was not leaving.



* * * The End * * *






-----------                      EPILOGUES            ---------------------



Los Angeles, 25 December 2016, 10:02 a m


The airport was teeming with people as usual, even on Christmas Day. Mulder looked around him, at all the people standing about in hopeful anticipation, some with cardboard signs. There should be one such sign with his name on it.

"There!" Faith said, hurrying past him. "That's Wesley all right." And sure enough, there was a bespectacled gentleman, holding up a sign saying Mulder. He was taller than Mulder had expected, in fact a little taller than Mulder himself. And he didn't seem to appreciate the sight of Mulder's companion. In fact, he started to take a step back, then caught himself and remained on the spot.

"Hello Faith", he said icily, as she came up to him first. "I must say I didn't expect to see you."

"I've said I'm sorry a thousand times", she said. "And I'm not going to hurt you again. Get over it."

"I'm sorry, I didn't know there was bad blood between you two", Mulder said, catching up.

"'Cause I didn't tell him", Faith informed Wesley. "Now, let's get down to it. Where's Willow?"

"Back at the Hyperion", Wesley said, only a little less coldly than he had greeted her. "And - get down to what, exactly?"

Faith rolled her eyes. "Deciding what to do about this William guy of course. Yes, I've had a run-in with your favourite Sanhahanhara demon. I'm sure you could all use a little help."



* * * *



South of Vancouver, 3 January 2017


Vic had made his report. At least that was over with. The Director wasn't too happy about his leaving Angel on the loose, stalking Scully in the NWT wilderness, but to his surprise, she hadn't punished him. He'd had some needling from Mac and Li Ann, sitting next to him at the table as usual, but he could live with that. The Director left them to bicker among themselves for a while.

When she returned, she had her arm around the broad frame of a bald, teen-age kid with a mean look on his face.

"Meet William", she said. "Your new partner."







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