DISCLAIMER: The X-Files characters and universe belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. Some material was also borrowed from The Celtic Shaman by John Matthews. No infringement intended in either case. And if, towards the end of the story, anyone should detect some very oblique references to a popular TV show other than the X-Files, I'm not intending any infringements there either..

COMMENT: The story was started at Samhain 1999, tottering on the brink of the new millennium.. The type of shamanic journey described is eminently suited to this season, the New Year of the ancient Celts. Timing: Hallowe'en (Samhain) of course, probably the one before How the Ghosts.. which would put this just before the start of Season 6? Insofar as calendar has any significance here..

RATING: PG, I'm afraid, sorry. :) There is some apparent violence, but nothing to top the Grimm brothers.

SUMMARY: Mulder, Scully and Krycek are subjected to an experiment which has the effect of linking the three of them telepathically..

FEEDBACK: Yes, please! :) You can reach me at the address given on my top page http://home.swipnet.se/evas_fanfic

And some day soon I might stop insisting that I don't write X-Files stories..



S A M H A I N

by

Eva A Enblom



Deep in the innards of a government building, 3 a m day before Hallowe'en



"Krycek, if this is a trap, I swear.."

"If you thought it was a trap, why did you come?"

"How about plain curiosity?"

"Hey, will you two keep it down? I think I may have found what we're looking for.."

Scully climbed down the ladder from the eighth row of filing cabinets, holding up a test tube for their inspection. Mulder's and Krycek's flashlights hit it at the same time.

"Careful!" she said, "How do we know it isn't sensitive to light?"

Krycek shook his head. "No, it's all right. I've seen it handled in the labs. They never took any precautions with light - UV or any other kinds."

"I thought you said this hadn't been tested", Mulder pounced on a possible slip from his old enemy.

"Not on humans", Krycek clipped back. "As yet." He cast a nervous glance over his shoulder, but there was nothing to be seen but the endless corridor of cabinets, bathed in a soft light from street lamps outside basement windows, high up under the ceiling. He turned off his flashlight and pocketed it, then held out his hand to Scully. "Give me that."

She almost laughed. "Do I look stupid? I'll analyze this myself."

"You sure you're competent?" Krycek snapped. "What if you don't find anything because your only tool is a hammer?"

"Knee him, Scully", Mulder suggested helpfully.

"I may not have seen anything like this before", his partner said coolly, "but I don't see how that would make you any more competent, Krycek."

The one-armed man shrugged in the dark. "I have seen it used. If it looks innocuous in a microscope, at least I wouldn't dismiss it as just another hoax."

"And you think I would?" Scully said frostily.

A low chuckle behind her made her jump and reach wildly for her gun while taking care not to drop the tube. Mulder's flashlight went out, and she heard the clicks of two more guns being cocked.

No use. The narrow space between the cabinets was suddenly criss-crossed with other flashlight beams. The light came together to bathe her and her two companions - and a cigarette-smoking man, casually standing beside the ladder she had just vacated, his elbow almost touching it. He must have lit up the moment he chuckled, she mused. Not a moment earlier, or they would have smelled the smoke. Even so, he had been taking a risk, what if they had smelled the staleness of his clothes? But the dusty old basement was stale enough already - a sickly sweet staleness that convinced her something must have died in a corner somewhere.

"I suggest you drop your guns", the man said lightly, as if he were greatly enjoying the situation.

He probably was.

*  *  *  *


A storage room in the middle of Somewhere, 6 a m, day before Hallowe'en



"Well", Mulder said, looking up at the unevenly plastered ceiling of their prison. "At least we'll get the substance tested. First hand.." He stretched out on his uncomfortable wooden chair, touching it at shoulders and lower back only, looking as if he might slip off any moment. "Either of you two feel telepathic yet?"

"Mulder, it's highly unlikely that a drug could induce telepathy.."

"The tests were inconclusive", Krycek interrupted her. "But the animals' behaviour changed. Nobody knew what to make of it though.."

Mulder got up and started pacing slowly, rubbing his back. Scully had the only comfortable chair in the room, an old, half collapsed armchair with several springs missing. It smelled of dust like the other odd pieces of furniture in the room, and he wondered briefly what it was doing to her neat pants suit. Neither of them had had the time to change before embarking on this questionable mission. Only Krycek was dressed for it - but then, wasn't he always prepared for the worst, nowadays? Served him right..

The room might once have been used as a basement den; one of the walls still had a cheap wood panel, and the concrete floor bore traces of once having been carpeted. There was even a functioning toilet and washbasin in an alcove partitioned off from the main room. The windows were crude glass, translucent, not transparent, and sturdy bars threw their unmistakable shadows across the panes. The door was bombshelter quality.

The room's present use was clearly as some sort of storage for old and broken furniture. That, and as makeshift prison.

Flinging himself on the ancient four-poster bed missing its canopy, Mulder said, "It's a hoax, Krycek. It has to be. It's probably only distilled water with some LSD thrown in. Maybe not even distilled.."

"Thank God for small favours", Scully said, "Distilled water can be hard on your stomach."

Krycek tipped his head back against the wall. He was sitting on the floor, half disdainfully, as if leaving the furniture - such as it was - to those decadent enough to need it. "You can't deny that the Consortium has been playing around with telepathy", he said. "You said you had met that brat.. Gibson."

"Genetic engineering", Scully and Mulder said at the same time, giving each other a disconcerted look. Scully continued the thread: "We know they've been playing with genetics. It's hardly the same thing. This is a drug, claimed - by you - to induce telepathy into non-telepathic beings."

"It's not a permanent effect", Krycek said. "In fact, that was the reason they started these experiments in the first place. They already had genetic telepathy of sorts, but it wasn't much use to them.."

"Yeah, sure", Mulder said to the ceiling.

Scully absently kicked off her shoes and pulled her feet up under her in the old armchair. "Are you saying there are more children like Gibson?"

Krycek snorted. "Forget about Gibson. You can begin by asking how the Smoker and some of the others got into the Consortium in the first place."

He fell silent, and after a while Mulder decided to prompt him. "All right, Krycek, let's hear one of your stories. It isn't like we have anything better to do.."

Krycek, apparently as bored as Mulder, only tipped his head sideways to look at him. "Three men were involved in the Zeus Faber incident in 1953", he said. "They were sent by the Consortium to interview the sole survivor at the Navy Hospital of Pearl Harbor. Two of them were eighteen years old, the third all of twenty. The Smoking Man was one of them. You don't need to know who the others were. Now why do you think an organization like the Consortium would trust three such young men with a top-secret mission that could expose their collaboration with extraterrestrial invaders?"

"I don't know", Mulder said, still staring at the ceiling, his hands behind his head. "Maybe they had proven themselves good little collaborators? Maybe the Consortium was short on personnel.."

"Back up a step", Krycek said. "How do you think they were recruited?"

"An outstanding military career during World War II?" Mulder ventured. "War brings about a lot of early promotions."

"Some promotions", Krycek sneered. "They were ten and twelve years old when the War ended."

"Zeus Faber..", Scully mused, stretching her toes. "Yellow God.. no, that's not right.. artisan. Zeus the Artisan.. the artisan God.."

Mulder drew himself up on one elbow, looking at her. "Scully? You all right?"

"Of course she's not all right", Krycek snorted. "She's beginning to feel the effect."

"And how would you know?" Mulder blistered. "Your telepathic powers suddenly surfaced?"

Krycek seemed to take the question seriously. "Not yet", he said. "I think. But Scully weighs less, she'd be the first to feel it - I don't think they bothered to adjust the dosage much."

"All right", Mulder said tightly. So what's your theory? What has this drug got to do with the Cancer Man and the other two guys in 1953?"

"They were culled from a testing farm", Krycek said. "One of many. Whole villages in poor areas where the population was kept as test subjects for genetic experimentation, and provided for in return. The children with the strongest telepathic genes were taken early, subjected to extensive testing, and the best of them were talked into joining the Consortium when they grew up."

Mulder laughed. "Are you telling me the Cancer Man is telepathic?"

Krycek evaded the question. "He was one of the strongest. The other two were fair to middling."

"Wouldn't the Consortium have felt a little insecure, having those three about? Unless the entire group is telepathic, of course?" Mulder added derisively.

Krycek tipped his head back up, to avoid a crick in the neck. He didn't really feel the need to be looking at Mulder while talking to him. "They took precautions", he said. "They developed a sort of crude 'antidote' before they started the full-scale testing. The tests were eventually abandoned. They never achieved hereditary telepathy. A weak sensitivity at the most, a predisposition, but no more. It was a disappointment to them, they believed that their ET allies had done it and succeeded, but their own experiments remained unsuccessful. I suppose some of the less promising test subjects were killed, but some of them had already proven themselves useful, and there was the matter of new blood for the Consortium. So those three and others like them were given the 'antidote'. It puts their telepathic ability on hold for twenty years, but at the end of that time the treatment has to be renewed. They are of course closely monitored every twenty years, whether or not they are still on active duty."

"Are you saying the Cancer Man somehow avoided taking his medicine?"

"Not to my knowledge."

Mulder turned over to lean on his other elbow. "Which I gather is extensive. How did you find all this out?"

Krycek sighed. "I was in advanced training for a while. They told me a few things then."

"What happened? You fell out of favour with them?"

"No need for sarcasm. Apparently, I was never in. Only half the force or so thought I should be. The other did not. Eventually, they had me booted."

"Nice and gently. With all you knew, they just let you go? Come on, Krycek, I'm not buying it, they'd have killed you six times over."

"I escaped", Krycek said curtly, sounding suddenly tired. "They've been trying ever since."

Scully seemed to have fallen asleep in her chair. Mulder sat up to give her a worried look, but she looked all right, just sleeping - or maybe just dozing, he wasn't sure.

"So you don't think Cancer Man is telepathic now?" he asked Krycek.

"He shouldn't be. But he has an uncanny talent for being at the right place at the wrong time, wouldn't you say?" Krycek loosely indicated their surroundings.

"What about you? Are you telepathic?"

"The experiments had stopped by the time I was recruited. The telepathy angle was no longer pursued."

"If so, what about Gibson?"

Krycek shrugged. "Maybe they picked it up again. They don't exactly tell me things anymore."

"You didn't answer my question. Are you telepathic?"

"Not yet. You?"

Mulder laid back down with a sigh. This was going to be a long day.


*  *  *  *


Two hours later, they were fed. The food was a lot better than they had expected, but it was brought by six heavily armed guards, and Krycek who had been steeling himself, decided not to try anything after all - this time. A chance would come, later. There was always a chance. Wasn't there?

Mulder ate little. Putting his plate aside, he took to wandering aimlessly about the room, now and then casting a worried glance at Scully.

Scully had woken up, refreshed after her nap. But all through her meal she felt Mulder's eyes on her, and finally she snapped, "I'm fine, Mulder! Stop worrying, you're a regular mother hen, you know that?"

Mulder started guiltily, biting down on an Are you sure, Scully? before he annoyed her even further. Krycek sniggered, which didn't make things any better.

"Whatever this drug is", Mulder told him testily, "we don't know its side effects. Hell, we don't even know its main effect. All we've got is your theory that it's supposed to induce telepathy for a limited time in people who do not - or do not necessarily - have the telepathic gene. If there even is such a thing.." he concluded in frustration.

"Stop pacing", Krycek said. "You're making me nervous." He sat back down by the wall where he had been before their meal, the image of calm composure. He was beginning to feel restless, but he knew he could keep it from showing a little while longer.

"How do we even know it has an effect?" Mulder asked. "Maybe we're the control group and all we can look forward to is a faint placebo effect and two hours of nausea?"

Krycek laughed. "So now you're wishing for an effect? Don't worry, it'll come. I've seen this tested, I told you."

"Yeah? Why didn't they throw you in with the lab rats so they'd have had at least a mixed experiment.. though when I think of it, maybe it wouldn't have counted as one.."

He caught an icily emerald glare from Krycek's corner just as Scully said, "That was uncalled for, Mulder."

Mulder stared at her. "Are you defending him now?"

Scully bowed her head slightly, to avoid looking at him. "No. But hurting his feelings doesn't get us anywhere. Fighting among ourselves can only make this worse."

Mulder took a deep breath, hands on hips, stretching to calm himself. "You're right, Scully. As much as I hate to admit it, we might all need each other before this is over."

"Apology accepted", Krycek said derisively.

Mulder turned on him again - and got something. Not a thought, an image. A small boy being whipped in a dingy basement. The impression of a very poor and dirty town but with proud, perhaps medieval buildings. It was gone in a blink, like the memory of a fast fading dream.

"I'm sorry", he said, in spite of himself. The boy had had green eyes. He was sure of that. How, he did not know, but the impression had been clear enough.

Scully looked up at him. There was no question in her eyes. She knew. Had probably known for quite a while and been wondering when the others would catch up. "It's beginning", she confirmed unnecessarily.

Krycek was looking at him too, swallowing. "Hey", he said, in a low, uncertain voice, very unlike his usual, over-confident one. "I guess I'm sorry too.." He wondered if he really had better bring this up, but what the hell, they knew anyway - by now. "about your sister.." he said to Scully. "And your father", he concluded to Mulder.

"You were there", Scully said bravely, "but Luis Cardinal pulled the trigger. You wouldn't have.." She concentrated. "..because you wouldn't have made that kind of mistake", she added, her eyes flying open in incredulity.

Damn, she caught that too, Krycek thought, but his verbal rumination brought no response in either of the other two. He felt Mulder probing him, and he knew about what, but.. I did kill your father, Mulder, he thought at him, testing.

No reaction. Rather the opposite. "Did you kill my father, Krycek?" Mulder asked tightly. "Or were you just there that time also, supervising someone else?"

"Can't you tell?" Krycek asked aloud. In his mind he added, distinctly, Hell, I don't even know who your father is - or was, as the case may be. I've heard it both ways by now.

Mulder stared at him for a moment, then shook his head. "I'm not getting anything. Or rather.. it's a mix. There's something there, but it's a mixup of some kind."

"Leave it Mulder", Krycek said, almost gently.

But Mulder was staring at him again, hazel eyes wide. "My father was one of the three? At the Navy Hospital, Pearl Harbor? My father was a telepath?"

"I didn't think that!" Krycek blurted out. It had been just sort of floating around at the back of his head. "Like I said, leave it. He hadn't been one for a long time when you knew him. I can see you realize that."

Mulder had to acknowledge this. If his father had ever been a telepath, he certainly hadn't been one back then - or no empath, anyway. Least of all when Samantha..

"Who was the third?" he asked. "Anybody I know?"

Krycek shrugged. "The present First Elder of the Consortium. Don't know if you've met him. No loss if you haven't."

Scully looked from one to the other, her eyes slowly filling with tears. "Stop it", she said quietly, when she felt unable to take any more. "Stop it, please!"

Mulder looked at her gently, almost tenderly. "Stop what, Scully? We aren't even fighting at the moment."

She sobbed and bit her lip, trying her damnedest to keep her eyes from brimming over. "I'm getting both your backgrounds as you speak. And - there's simply.. so much pain!"

Krycek swallowed. "Yours isn't exactly a picnic either." He tried to push the impressions from his mind, but there was the one overwhelming realization how much having children meant to her, and that, by working for the Consortium, he had been instrumental in ruining her life. Well, not directly instrumental, but that was no excuse here, no excuse at all.. And to top it off, now he had made her cry. He had not been able to shield his subconscious from her, and now she was sobbing uncontrollably, and Mulder was on his knees beside her, trying to comfort her but making a very poor job of it, because he was almost crying too.

Krycek groaned, catching their attention without meaning to. "This.." he began, then had to clear his throat and begin again. "This is no good. What can we do about it - any ideas?"

Scully wiped her eyes with an almost angry gesture. "How long does the effect last?"

"I don't know", Krycek said. "I know they were aiming for a few days at least. If they succeeded, I think we can expect a week of this - and maybe worse."

They looked somberly at him, and he felt he had to say something. "It isn't like we're full telepaths. I can't read your explicit thoughts, I doubt you can read mine."

He has tested that already, Scully marvelled to herself. To her surprise, neither of them acted as if they had caught her thought.

"It seems to be on an unconscious level only", Mulder confirmed. "We're getting all the excess baggage on each other's thoughts - or some of it anyway - but not the actual thoughts themselves. I doubt that was what the Consortium intended with their experiments. In fact, it seems rather the opposite of Gibson's talent. I've never had any reason to believe he gets people's emotions to any significant extent. He certainly doesn't seem to understand them, he just knows about them."

"The hell with Gibson", Krycek said. "What do we do about our problem?"

Mulder gave him a long look, as if making a psychological assessment.

"I'd say we'd better not fall asleep for a week", he said.


*  *  *  *


Same storage room, 10 p m, day before Hallowe'en



It was dark now, outside the grimy windows. The bars outside no longer threw visible shadows on the glass. There wasn't so much as a naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling, but Mulder had found a battered old desktop lamp that actually worked. It wasn't much, but he was sincerely glad they wouldn't have to sit here in the dark, alone with each other's unconscious thoughts..

They had been fed again, just before nightfall. The quality of the food confirmed the idea that they were not considered prisoners exactly. Someone seemed to have gone to great lengths to see that they stayed healthy and reasonably content. Also, they had been allowed to keep their watches. According to Mulder's, fourteen hours had passed since they were first thrown in here. Treated well under the circumstances, not allowed to leave. Not prisoners - test subjects..

"I can go without sleep for three days - and nights", Krycek said. "Maybe four if I'm really pressed. But can you? At what point do we start getting paranoid? I'd rather not have a bad trip inside your heads."

"You caught that from my mind, didn't you?" Mulder asked without really needing the confirmation. "About the risk of paranoia?"

"Loud and clear", Krycek admitted.

Mulder sighed. "I've been trying not to think about it for the past half hour."

"Don't worry", Scully said morosely. "He would have thought of it himself pretty soon."

"We'll have to take turns", Krycek decided. "I'll take the first watch."

"You'll do nothing of the kind", Mulder said, pacing.

"What's the matter, don't you know me well enough to trust me by now?"

Mulder stopped and looked at him, hands on hips. "Actually, I do. For once. I can sense that you're too frightened of the Consortium to want to turn us against you too, as long as we're all locked up together."

Krycek made a disgusted face but did not challenge Mulder's analysis.

Mulder started pacing again, slower this time. "What I meant was, this isn't about keeping the fire alive and the wolves at bay. Or rather, it is, but the wolves are already on the inside. We can't have two of us merging their unconscious, we don't know what would happen. Frankly, we don't know if they can be separated again. So, this is a situation where one sleeps and two watch. I don't usually sleep much either, and when I do, I'm a light sleeper. I'd say you and I take the first watch while Scully sleeps, then.."

"I have slept, Mulder", Scully reminded him. "You two have not."

Mulder gave her a puzzled look. "That was this morning, Scully. I'm getting a strong impression you're sleepy again by now. The way you're feeling, we can't risk you taking a watch now. Besides, you're the doctor. We might need you before this is over, and we'll need you alert."

Scully sighed. "You're right, Mulder. I'm not sure, but I think the telepathy drug itself may have a soporific effect on me. Since it doesn't seem to affect either of you that way, I can only conclude it's because of the dosage. They must have overestimated my weight, just as Krycek said. Ok then, it's a deal. I'll sleep first, and you two watch each other. If either of you is beginning to nod off, wake me at once. Don't wait, don't think you can hold on a little while longer - first sign of drowsiness, you wake me. Is that clear?"

They nodded in unison, and Scully curled up on the bed, her back to them. Krycek got up from his place by the wall and started moving about. Not pacing like Mulder, but stretching, flexing, spinning around, suddenly rolling over the concrete floor, with no more padding than an old rug, worn so thin it was almost transparent in most places.

Mulder watched his antagonist's catlike movements for a while. Then he said, "You're keeping Scully awake."

Krycek flipped to his feet from a backward roll. "I think I'd know if I were. You're just envious."

Mulder opened his mouth for a sarcstic retort, then closed it again. He had been admiring some of those lightning-quick reflexes, he realized. He didn't like the idea that Krycek had caught it before he himself was aware of it.

Krycek looked at him for a moment, then gave him a light punch in the shoulder and went to sit back down at the wall.

Dammit, Krycek, I don't need your support, Mulder thought, explicitly. No reaction. Well, what good would that do. It wasn't like he could shield his thoughts by expressing them - there would always be more to them than the actual words, and anything he wasn't directly aware of could be caught by the others. And perhaps not only by them..

"What if they have someone on the other side of the wall, monitoring us?" he asked aloud. "Someone who has also taken the drug? I mean, they've got to have some means of observing the results of the experiment."

"What if they have?" Krycek said. "Is there anything they don't already know about you two? They sure have everything there is to know about me."

Mulder plopped down on the armchair. They sat for a while in silence, subconscious communication flowing between them enough to let them both know the other was still awake. Gradually, something else began to seep in, so gently they were not aware of it until - their whereabouts suddenly changed.

To their surprise, they were both suddenly standing in Mulder's and Scully's basement office, as it was shortly before the fire. Mulder placed it in time, and Krycek caught his estimation effortlessly. They both saw another version of Mulder - light stubble, bruised lip - sitting at his desk. He was looking remarkably vulnerable. Scully was standing over him, explaining her theory about a case, a presumed madman who had been shooting some of his own colleagues and who really had it in for his boss, whom he believed to be a monster. Mulder - observing - remembered the case. Krycek shot him a surprised look; the lunacies these two had to deal with..

The observed Mulder, sitting in front of them, looked up at Scully, hearing her out, lips pressed together in a way that suggested he was being put upon. "I saw it too", he said at one point. Then, "Does that make me sick too?" Scully, in despair, was trying her best to pull her foot back out of the situation, but Mulder had let her too far in before closing the trap. No matter what she said now, she could not make it convincing. Mulder got up and left, determined to pursue the rest of the case alone. As the door fell shut behind him, Scully screamed after him, "Dammit, Mulder, I love you! Don't do this to me!"

*  *  *  *


Krycek came to at a slap across his face. He was still sitting by the wall, but Mulder was now standing over him, ready to strike again. Krycek held up his hand to stop him. "It's all right - I'm awake. What happened? I can't believe I fell asleep."

"You didn't", Mulder said. "This is worse than I anticipated. Scully was dreaming, and, since we are all connected on the unconscious level, she - pulled us in. I should have thought of that. The unconscious mind is strong, and when the conscious mind leaves it alone.."

Krycek wasn't really listening. "Did you really treat her like that?"

"I didn't treat her in any way, she had been leaning on me as usual, and I just.."

"That scream sounded pretty tortured to me."

"I swear she didn't scream then. I would have heard it, I was hardly out the door."

"She screamed now. Dreaming about it."

"Look, what are you accusing me of here? Who are you to accuse anyone of anything? You're a dirty little assassin, for god's sake, you killed her sister.."

"You're evading the issue", Krycek said calmly. "You know how she feels about you, and you treat her like dirt. You've done it since you two first met. Don't try to deny it - you know you can't." He shook his head. "I don't get it. You feel the same way about her, and yet you've been bending over backwards to hide that fact from her. Well, that should be pretty academic soon.."

"What do you mean?" Mulder asked murderously, challenging the other to say aloud what they both already knew.

"This room has been filled with the sickly sweet smell of your love for her and hers for you, ever since this drug started taking effect. It's everywhere, like syrup. At first I thought you both knew, that you were an item. None of my business, so I ignored it. Then I got it that she didn't know, but you did. And that's what I can't figure out."

"Still none of your business."

"It is, if it's going on inside my head. You're messing up my mind with your sick antics."

"Well, as you said, it's all academic. She must know all about it by now."

Krycek looked straight at him, a green, penetrating gaze. "You know, I don't think she does. She's senses something, but she's blocking it, deflecting it, turning it into something else. And you know what? You taught her that. She doesn't need to be rejected again, so she tells herself you're not serious, no matter what you do or say." He closed his eyes for a moment, bracing against the wave of pain from his opponent, but he was determined to tell this sick fool what he was about. "You've been screwing with your own head all your life, now you're doing a good job on hers."

Mulder turned his back on him. He couldn't deny the truth of Krycek's words, but he resented their source. "Did you get all that from her?" he asked in a deceptively quiet voice.

"Hell, I got all that from her scream alone", Krycek said. "As you should have, if you hadn't tied the message into a knot before it got to you. What are you afraid of? Her? Yourself?"

"I don't want her to get hurt", Mulder said truthfully. There was no hiding anything now.

"You're afraid of hurting her, so you do nothing but. That's great, Mulder. That's really great."

Mulder debated with himself whether to turn around and belt Krycek, but hell, the man was right. He settled for hanging his head as his only outward reaction.

"Look", Krycek said, "I know you get off on guilt and regrets. I don't understand it, but you do. Well, you may soon have all you need, if you don't wise up and do something about it."

Mulder turned to look at him. "Meaning what?"

"Meaning that if you don't take care of her, someone else will."

"You think that someone might be you?" Mulder asked with more derision than he actually felt.

Krycek's first impulse was to deny it, but to his surprise, he realized that this sorry amateur shrink had hit on something. "I'd be interested, yes", he admitted.

Mulder's fist hit him before he knew it, despite telepathy and Krycek's own reflexes. It could only be because Mulder himself had not known he would strike. Krycek ducked the next blow, blood trickling from his nose and from the back of his head, where it had hit the wall. "Wait!" he called out, "If you knock me out.."

"If I knock you out, you won't dream", Mulder said icily.

"You can't be sure of that! I might dream when I started coming to. Are you going to tell Scully you had to wake her, because you just floored me?"

Mulder glared at him, but he did back off. "I'll kill you yet, Krycek", he said. "Don't think I won't."

Krycek let his breath out. He had heard that before. "Promises, promises", he said, and got up to wash off the blood.


*  *  *  *


Between worlds, sometime after midnight, Hallowe'en



Mulder felt ill at ease, to say the least. The ship was stomping hard, sending spray all over him, but if he hadn't come up on deck, he would have felt even worse. He had no idea where Scully was - unless.. there was a little redheaded girl up ahead near the bow. She was talking to the captain, probably her father. A particularly vicious crest flooded the deck, and the little girl squealed with delight. Mulder groaned. Just as he thought he would have to bend over the railing fast, something jolted him.

He blinked, finding himself back in the old storage room. He was sitting on the floor, beside Krycek who had just elbowed him sharply in the ribs. "You nodded off", the younger man said. "Better wake Scully."

Mulder yawned. "Did you get that too? Of all things, she has to dream of a ship.."

"Sure did. You were about to be sick over the upwind side - which would have been fun if it had been real. As it was, you'd probably have hit me. You really don't have any sealegs at all, do you, Mulder?"

"Don't remind me", Mulder muttered, "You're not out of danger yet." He tipped his head back against the wall, resting. "How did you manage to pull out?"

"I wasn't really in this time. I kept seeing the room around us, right through her dream. Maybe she's waking up."

"I doubt it", Mulder said regretfully. "She's at the beginning of her deep dreaming. She was a child in this one, and soon she'll leave her everyday world behind entirely. That's when it starts getting wild."

"You mean, it hasn't been wild enough?"

Mulder didn't answer immediately. They had had more than he felt he could take of case memories, tragedies, near escapes, close encounters.. By now, Krycek had been subjected to most of the X-files. Not that they were classified exactly. Those that were, Krycek probably knew more about them than Mulder himself did. He didn't mind that so much as the fact that every time he appeared in Scully's dreams, he seemed to let her down somehow, most often by just disappearing. All too many of the dream scenes had ended with her futilely calling and searching for him while he was nowhere to be found. He could have put it down to a recurring anxiety of hers, but he knew that wasn't the whole truth.

"So far, she's been dreaming about her everyday life situations", he said. "That's the shallow stage. When she enters deep sleep, she'll start dreaming of other things - archetypal, fairytale stuff right out of the collective unconscious. Powerful imagery that has been around in some form or other for as long as there have been humans on Earth."

"How do you know what she'll dream of?" Krycek asked. "I thought this drug was for telepathy, not precognition."

"If she doesn't, she's sick", Mulder said. "And from what I've seen so far, there's nothing wrong with her mental health. Better than mine probably", he added wryly. "In C G Jung's time, when soldiers at war started to dream of nothing but their actual situation, they were pulled out and sent home because they were so close to burnout they would soon be useless anyway. I don't know if that still holds. Maybe now they just let them burn."

"In some parts of the world, they've always let them burn", Krycek said reflectively. "When all you've got to waste is people.." He shook himself. There were many things he did not like to think about. The good thing about that was that he rarely had the time to think. "We'd better wake her", he said. "First sign of drowsiness, remember?"


*  *  *  *


Scully rose from the water and headed for the shore. Her fishtail wasn't really up to this, so she discarded it and got her legs back. Her pants suit was all wet now, and she frowned a little, wondering how long she had been swimming, and why she had not changed first.

There was nothing on the shore but a dead tree, so she walked toward it. When she came close enough, she saw a vagrant sitting at its roots, leaning comfortably against the old trunk. Despite his rags and generally unwashed appearance, he had a pleasant face, one that she seemed to know from somewhere.

"That's right", he said, as if he had heard her. "What's my name? You know I have to ask you a riddle, but I'll settle for an easy one this time. Surely you remember me?"

She searched her mind. "You've been an informer to us", she said. "More than once?"

"Not yet", he said cryptically. "What case? A mad priest perhaps?"

"The St Clair case!" she said, suddenly convinced that she remembered such a case. "The reincarnation murders at Windfall, PA!"

"Precisely!" he crowed. "So - what's my name?"

She concentrated. "Will.. something.. I've got it! Willard Fuchs!"

"That's right, Fox as in Mulder. Just hold on to that, and you'll be all right. You may pass", he added, casually indicating a hole in the tree that she had not seen until now. Shaking her head and smiling, she entered.

She made her way down what seemed to be a spiral staircase inside the tree, until she came to a lower level of roots, as if the tree had more than one storey. Here was another opening, so she got out, finding herself in front of a great building that seemed to be set right into the side of the hill, like an old earth cellar, if rather an outsized one. The door was open, so she entered.

Inside was a several miles long hall. She could barely make out someone - an old man, she thought - sitting on a dais at the far end, and in the middle distance was a steaming cauldron, surrounded by strange creatures who seemed to be standing guard over it. A woman dressed in a dark blue uniform with leather details came up to her, carrying a goblet.

"I'm the Queen of the Underworld", she said. "Who are you?"

"I'm Dana Scully, Special Agent of.." but she seemed to have lost her badge somewhere, probably while swimming.

The other did not seem to mind. "Dana? A good name - means brave. A suitable name for a Queen."

"But I'm no Queen.."

"Of course you are. Didn't you know? Doesn't matter - drink this and forget me." She held out the goblet to Scully, but just as Scully was about to take it, the Queen withdrew it again. "Wait! Where's your totem? You haven't come alone, have you?"

Scully didn't know what to say to that. Maybe if she could convince the other that she was here on official business.. This time she did find her badge, flipped it open - to display a portrait of the late Queequeg. At the back of her mind, she marvelled that the photo hadn't got wet.

The Queen looked at it carefully. "Better than nothing", she said after a while. "He'll do. Drink and forget me."

This time Scully took the goblet and sniffed it suspiciously. It smelled sort of bitter, perhaps because she expected it to. Its colour was dark like coffee, but the liquid wasn't hot.

"I could give you the recipe", the Queen said. "The roots grow all around here - some of them right through the ceiling." She pointed overhead, where some large and animate-looking roots were slowly drilling their way down. Scully gulped down the drink, shoved the goblet back into the Queen's hands and fled the hall.

*  *  *  *


Mulder blinked, trying to see the storage room through trees and hall and Queen. "I should've known", he said. "Scully has Irish roots somewhere far back - this is right out of Celtic folklore."

"As you said, pretty wild", Krycek acknowledged. "Think she was told about this as a child?"

"She may not even have heard about it herself. If Jung is right, we all share imagery like this, very deep down. That's what he called the collective unconscious."

"Good name for it", Krycek said. "It sure is collective to us."

"Yes, but at a deeper level, some of these ideas would be shared even by non-telepaths. If we shared ideas in this way on a fully conscious level, we'd speak of hive mentality. What Jung talked about is supposedly so far down, we are not really aware of it. Except in dreams, or when we get ideas we don't really know where they came from. What we share now between the three of us, seems to be somewhere in the middle. It's not conscious, but it's still more or less personal."

"Is that what they call subconscious?"

"That depends on what psychology you're rooting for. Freud divided the mind into unconscious, subconscious and conscious; Jung talked of the conscious and unconscious only, though he later added a subdivision of personal and collective unconscious. He wouldn't quite count that as a division though, since there is no fixed borderline between them - there are no fixed borders at all in the mind, everything is in a flux. If it isn't, you're probably psychotic."

Krycek frowned. "What are you worrying about now? That you couldn't wake her?"

Mulder got up off the floor and stood looking at his sleeping partner. He could barely see her for the branches and rushes she believed herself to be walking through. Now and then there was a clearing - a glimpse of a freeway, of hopscotch at Miramar Naval Base, lots of detached, fragmented childhood memories, then the rushes would return. He tried shaking her gently. No reaction, the dreamscape continued. "If the drug works like a soporific on her, that could be the reason we can't wake her. But at this point, I'm not sure we should. She has entered a dream that I think she needs to work her way through."

"Great. I guess that means she'll put us through it too."

"Maybe she should."

"What do you mean?" Krycek got up too, stretching a bit, then walked over to the other side of the bed. Through the vegetation of her dream, he could see Scully's red hair lying softly against her cheek. Damn, but she was pretty.. he wondered if Mulder could really see it. Wasn't the guy colour blind for one thing?

"This type of scenario was once used for shamans in training", Mulder said. "If she's embarked on something like this it's probably because she needs to, but it's very demanding, and it could be risky if she doesn't know what she's doing."

Krycek shrugged. "It's her dream. She'll handle it."

Mulder gave him a long look. "I think I should help her."

Krycek gave a short laugh. "Help her how?"

"By going in. I could guide her through this."

"Aren't we far enough in already? We're sharing her dream, in case you hadn't noticed."

"Yes, but we can't influence it."

"And just how are you planning to do that?"

"Active dreaming. I wouldn't do anything unless it's called for, but if something goes wrong, I could help her."

Krycek shook his head. "Or get caught inside."

"I'll be careful. What's it to you anyway, you're not coming. I'll need you on the outside, in case anything comes up here."

"I don't like you messing about with her head. You've been doing enough of that already."

"What makes you so sure you'd treat her any better than you think I have?"

Krycek glanced briefly down at the sleeping Scully. "I wouldn't walk out on her, for one thing.."

*  *  *  *


Mulder looked around the autumnal landscape, slightly surprised that it had been so easy to fall asleep this time. Normally, he slept fitfully if at all, but tonight he had had to fight to stay awake, and it was a relief to finally let go. Perhaps the drug was finally beginning to affect him as it had Scully. Or else it was just that he had been awake for two days on end..

Now he would just have to keep in mind that this was Scully's dream. He must not add anything he did not mean to, so he would have to be careful to stay at this level and not sink in deeper. It would be a strain, but he had practised active dreaming before, and his usual sleeping pattern would help; he needed to be a light sleeper for this to work. Another good thing was that at this level of awareness, he would probably be able to do what the drug had not allowed before, communicate with Scully directly, by telepathy.

If he could find her. She ought to be here somewhere.. He felt watched, he was sure she could see him. Hiding and watching.. why? There was a marsh to his right, and in the middle of it, a heron was standing on one leg, looking as if it were asleep. "Scully?" he called tentatively.

The heron looked up, then took off and flew over to him. It tried to sit on his shoulder, but its long legs wouldn't let it, so it landed in front of him and metamorphosed into Scully. She didn't look quite herself; her hair was up, and she was wearing a long green gown of a vaguely medieval-looking cut. Queenlike. So she had heard the Queen of the Underworld, and accepted her own worth. You've always meant the world to me, Scully, he thought, but maybe you needed to prove your value to yourself. He noted that she did not seem to get that. "You look lovely", he 'said', inanely, but he needed to be sure of his means of communication.

"Thanks", she said radiantly, "so do you."

Apparently, what felt like direct speech and was intended as such, would work. Not what felt like mute thoughts. And feelings.. he tried to tune into the cloud of her emotions that had surrounded him ever since the drug took effect, but surprisingly, that particular phenomenon seemed somehow.. not blocked exactly but subdued. Imagery worked fine, her dream was solid around him, but he had less contact with her feelings. Maybe that was why he hadn't been able to wake her, he thought sadly. Maybe she didn't want to wake up. It must be a relief for her to escape what to her could only be a lie, or at most a confusing, mixed signal.

Gradually, it dawned on him what she had said. He looked down. He was dressed in shining armour. Not white, interestingly enough, more like silver with a few golden touches. Well, it figured - even if he hadn't really known about her romantic streak. She must have kept it well hidden. 'From my sharp tongue', he thought, regretfully. "Do you feel you need a champion, Scully?" he asked. "I'm afraid I haven't been a very good one."

She giggled. "No, but you look good that way."

"Much as I hate to admit it, she could be right, you know", said a voice behind him. A voice he knew only too well.

"Krycek!" he said in desperation, "I told you to stay out!" He turned around and sure enough, it was Krycek, but.. he looked somehow nicer, less hard; less cold. "Is that really you?" Mulder asked. "Or is she just dreaming you? No, that would mean you were a representation of a part of her, and that can't be."

"You sure about that?" Krycek asked. "Maybe you don't know her as well as you think. But yes, it's me. I fell asleep, what did you expect, leaving me all alone to watch your dreams."

"You said you could stay awake for days on end."

"If you ask me, they put something in that evening meal of ours. Probably nothing strong, just a very mild sedative." He turned to Scully. "Since the telepathy drug already had that effect on you, it knocked you out. With us, it just made it harder to stay awake."

"It might be something to counteract psychosis", Scully said. "Used as a precaution."

"Psychosis is one of the dangers with experiments like these", Mulder confirmed. "Too many and too strange impressions, too much input you can't process, and you're driven into a place where you freeze up, and nothing ever happens again."

"Now you tell me", Krycek said, actually sounding slightly worried.

"What's the matter, Krycek?" Mulder teased him. "Don't tell me you have feelings of insecurity."

"I'm all right", Krycek assured him with a glare. "Except, my arm is gone again."

"How do you mean, again?"

"If you must know, in my dreams I usually have two arms. Those dreams that are not about losing it, that is. I'm sure I came in with two, but now my prosthesis is back."

Mulder glanced at Scully who had started walking away from them along the edge of the marsh, occasionally picking a plant and examining it. "I think you'd better watch it with her, Krycek", he said. "It would seem that she's stronger than we think." He closed his eyes briefly and when he 'opened' them again, he was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, the latter the uninspired colour of a vacuum cleaner's dustbag. "It should work if you concentrate. Try changing your arm back."

Krycek concentrated. After a while, he shook his head in frustration. "No go."

Mulder nodded. "As I said, she's got a strong mind. Either that, or you are blocking your own efforts for some reason. Come, we'd better not lose her out of sight."

"How can we lose her out of sight inside her own dream.." Krycek muttered as they started walking along the marsh, after Scully.

"Well, when I first came here, she was a heron. She saw me and flew over, or I'd never have been sure where she was, just that she was watching me."

To his surprise, Krycek merely nodded. "Ok. Tell me the rules of the place, I'll handle it."

Mulder chuckled. "There are no rules in dreams. Didn't you know?"

"I didn't mean that", Krycek said impatiently. "You said she was on some Celtic shamanic trip or something - what's the procedure?"

Mulder gave him a long look. "I'll tell you along the way."

"You tell me now. I want to know what I'm up against."

Mulder shook his head, looking faintly amused. "This is Scully's dream. Exactly what route she takes will depend on her own personal needs. I know some main features that have to be included, but I'm not sure what form they will take. There will be a death and a rebirth, that's all I can tell you for now."

"Great", Krycek said. "Just great."


*  *  *  *


The Celtic Otherworld, Samhain



At some point they entered a forest which seemed to grow alongside the marsh, so that they were still following the shoreline, making their way around the soggy area. They were all walking together now, Scully still carrying some of the plants she had examined. Mulder was now dressed in druidal robes. He had accepted that, because if Scully saw him as her guide in this, it was all for the better, that was what he had intended to be. In this setting, he did not even feel foolish, wearing them. The robes were not flashy, at least he had seen to that. Krycek was still in his usual pickpocket type outfit, black jeans, black shirt, black leather jacket. The style of a man who often needed to be invisible in the dark. Scully had not changed his appearance much - although it irked Mulder that she apparently saw Krycek as a little better than he was. When had that started? She couldn't really have forgiven him Melissa's death, that was out of the question. And yet she did not turn him into an ogre the minute he entered her dream? Even if she would not let him keep his arm.. though that might not be intended as a punishment. It could be that she simply thought of him as one-armed. Mulder worried about the absence of hate though. He had half expected Krycek to turn up as an evil little gnome or something. Now, if this had been his own dream.. In fact, he was sorely tempted as it was, but he knew he must keep in check inside Scully's head. It still bothered him though. Hell, Krycek was even his usual height - two inches taller than Mulder himself. So she had spotted that, had she? Well, she was good at catching details; after all, it was her job..

Scully turned to him. "You're worried about something, Mulder. I can't sense what, like I could before, but I think it's something I've done?"

"I'm just thinking of the road ahead, Scully", Mulder said - easily, because it was the truth. "It just occurred to me that I might not know all the undercurrents of your psyche."

She cocked an eyebrow. "What in the world possessed you to believe you did?"

Touché. They walked on in silence, Scully in the lead. After a while, the woods had changed. Mulder berated himself for not noticing when, but the change had been very gradual - or else that was how he remembered it. Dreams were built on false memories, planted by the dreaming mind itself.. They were now walking in a cave, which was in full accordance with the theme of the journey. A grove, a cave.. the spritual birth canal, he mused. She's moving towards a renewal. For a moment he hoped she would content herself with simply coming out on the other side and not go for any of the more dramatic details, but he knew that would probably not suffice, or she would not have dreamed this particular setting.

He began to examine the walls of the cave - there seemed to be paintings on them. An old place then. Well, it would be. The more ancient the better.

A grey little alien approached them, headed in the opposite direction. It was carrying a UV flashlight and greeted them in passing. "Hey", Mulder called out to it, "You're dazzling us with that thing."

The little alien looked at him with its opaque, slanted eyes. "I need it to see", it said in fully understandable English. "I'm blind by your kinds of artificial light."

"I did wonder why they're all grey", Scully said.

"We're not grey as you call it, by which I gather you mean colourless somehow. We are all shades of wonderful colours, we can even change according to mood, like your own octopus. Only, you poor things can't see it.." The alien walked haughtily on. Mulder drew a pictogram among the others on the cave wall - a moose with a halo around its horns. Some day Däniken will say this is an astronaut, he wrote next to it.

Krycek hit him in the side. "You're losing it, Mulder."

"It's a quote", Mulder said in his defence. "Roger Zelazny: Eye of Cat. Great story, one of the best. You should read it."

They were both staring at him now. "Mulder, where did that alien come from?" Scully wanted to know.

With a start, he realized what he had done. He had been losing it. He had started to sink deeper into the dream, adding details of his own. He shook his head as if to clear it. "Sorry. Let me know at once if anything like this happens again. It's your dream, Scully. Your changes are legit. Ours are not. We'll try not to poke around too much."

"Speak for yourself", Krycek muttered.

Scully frowned. "Mulder, you said they might have someone monitoring us. Someone who would also be telepathically linked to the three of us. Mulder - who was that alien?"

"Just a figment of my imagination, as far as I know", Mulder said.

"Are you sure? Is there any way to tell?"

"Not that I know of", Mulder admitted. "I think we'll have to assume we're being watched. But Scully, please try not to let paranoia colour your dreams - we may be in for a rough enough ride as it is.."


*  *  *  *


They had come out of the cave, still following the shoreline of the marsh, but now on the other side from where they had started out. Mulder had a feeling they had been walking for a long time, but he knew memories were deceptive here. He was still in druidal robes, but Scully's gown was now red. Bright red, he realized with a start. Not the interesting shade of brown he usually called red. That was really only one among many similar shades of earth colours to him, though he had bowed to the convention of calling it red, the way others did. It occurred to him then that her gown had had an unusually lustrous colour even before it changed, and so did some of the vegetation around them. The rest was sort of drab yellows, browns and greys. Autumn in the marshlands.

He looked at her hair. Intriguing. Was that how others saw it? It suited her. He was amazed now that he had not noticed the change in luridness around him, but sharing the others' view of things had been disconcerting in itself, and the video quality had been sort of dreamlike from the start. He had not realized that he might have been given a chance of seeing colours the way his two companions saw them.

His two companions.. Scully would know deep down in her self image what her hair looked like, but she couldn't be actually looking at it right now, it was still piled up, away from her face. He turned to look at Krycek and sure enough, the creep was staring straight at Scully, taking in every movement as she walked along the shore.

"Krycek, you may be a sucker for women.." Mulder began.

Krycek shot him a quick glare, like a cobra. "I was just keeping an eye on her."

"Yes, I could see that", Mulder muttered. But you protested a little too quickly, he added in his thoughts.

As they passed a turn in the path, a gnome and an elderly knight in black armour came out of the woods behind them. The gnome was brightly clad and fully at home in the scenario, the knight seemed to be fading in and out.

"Maybe we shouldn't have sedated them", the gnome said.

"A precaution", the knight said, blowing smoke like a dragon. "Also something to help them concentrate. We need full interaction."

"But what if they fight? They could cause irreversible damage, to each other as well as each to himself."

The knight puffed again, and for a moment his face actually looked like that of a dragon.

"Yes?" he said.

*  *  *  *


Mulder's heart sank as he saw the little structure calmly resting beside a stream apparently debouching into the marshlands. So it would come to that after all.. Whatever it looks like, it's all symbolic, he reminded himself. Yeah, and no telling how she'll come out of it, he amended worriedly. "Something is wrong", he said 'aloud'. "We should have met the smith before seeing the smithy."

"But the Smith never reveals himself until it's time", Scully said calmly. So some part of her did know what she was about. Well, that was something anyway. Mulder looked around him - and was shocked to see Krycek in a smith's apron. "You? If you think for one minute.."

Krycek shook his head. "I've no idea what you're talking about. This is your field, remember? Your area of expertise, and Scully's dream. I'm just along for the ride."

"Scully?" Mulder said. "Did you turn Krycek into the Smith?"

"I don't know. I must have, mustn't I?" She sounded cheerfully indifferent.

Mulder groaned. "All right, it's your choice. I'll try to guide the both of you through this." No matter what it's doing to me, he added silently.

"Will somebody tell me what's going on?" Krycek implored. He must have caught something, because there was clearly fear in his voice.

"I think we'd better take this one step at a time", Mulder said. "I'll let you know what to do. It's important that you do it though - for Scully, it's even vital. And no matter what it looks like, it's only symbolic. Try to keep that in mind, and you'll be fine." Not that I particularly care if you come out of this mentally alive or not, he thought. He wouldn't use the word sane about an assassin for the Consortium.

They entered the cabin, and from what they could make out in the semi- darkness, it was indeed a smithy. There was a full complement of tools beside the anvil, and a long sword that seemed oddly sharp for a weapon only half fashioned as yet. A large cauldron was hanging over the workbench fireplace, already full of water.

Mulder took a deep breath. "All right, Krycek, you're the Smith. Get the fire going. See that it burns high. It's for your work, but it must also keep the kettle boiling."

Krycek glared at him but did as he was told. Having started the fire, he picked up the bellows and worked them deftly, sometimes using the anvil for support, sometimes his prosthetic hand.

"Scully", Mulder said, "I want you over here by the anvil. I think the old chair is for you to sit on."

Scully gathered her skirts about her and gave the wooden chair a casual sweep with her hand. It did not seem overly dusty, so she sat down.

"Fire up the cauldron, Krycek", Mulder said, walking over to him. "It's only simmering as yet." In any other place, it would have taken at least an hour to bring such a big vessel to simmering, he mused, but here anything that needed to happen, happened fast. Krycek had the flames leaping high by now, and the water would soon boil. Mulder leant toward him, muttering in his ear,

"When you're ready, I need you to take that half-finished sword and cut off Scully's head. Then fling it into the cauldron." He could not help but enjoy the sudden faltering of the bellows and the stiffening of Krycek's body. "She expects it", he explained as if Krycek had not reacted, "but you must still surprise her. She mustn't see it coming. I trust you can do that?"

Krycek swallowed. "What are you up to?" he said under his breath.

"Me? I'm not up to anything, Scully is. She picked this scenario for her dream. I'm just trying to see her safely through it."

"Safely??" Krycek took a deep breath. "All right. Symbolic, you said. Sure she'll be safe? I won't scare her out of her wits?"

"You might if you let her see you coming. She must be fully conscious - well, dream-conscious anyway - and unafraid. Now just do it, there's a good assassin.."

Krycek nodded, and kept stoking the fire. When it was high enough, he started making something from what metal parts were lying about beside the anvil. After a while, he had fashioned a robotic arm with full flexibility. Small whirring servos could be heard as he attached it to his shoulder and started testing its movements. Scully watched his actions with calm interest.

"Quit playing around, Krycek", Mulder said.

"Not his idea", Scully remarked. "I just happened to think that it's a bit inconvenient for a smith to have only one arm."

Krycek thanked her with his eyes while gripping the sword out of her sight. Moving quicker than even Mulder had anticipated, he cut her head off in one precise stroke, caught it in the air and flung it into the cauldron.

"Now what?" he asked shakily.

"Now you hack her body to pieces, and throw the bits in after the head."

Krycek stared at him. "You must really hate her."

"I told you, this is symbolic!" Mulder yelled at him frantically. "You harm her only if you stall. Now, do it!"

Krycek obeyed, suddenly wondering why he would trust Mulder. Must be something about the telepathic link. Well, if that link told him this was safe, it must be, mustn't it?

There was too much blood around for Mulder's liking. He supposed Krycek had added that, being unable to think of the situation in any other way. Also, the stench from the cauldron was all but unbearable - did the guy have to be so realistic about it? Unless it was Scully.. her pathologist background could well have caused some of this.

He saw that Krycek was about to go to pieces too, holding himself together by sheer iron determination. Mulder put a hand on the younger man's shoulder. "Don't worry, she's not harmed; in fact she's still conscious."

"You mean, she was conscious through that?" Krycek asked, pale and wide-eyed. "If we ever get out of this, I swear I'll kill you, Mulder. I might even use the same method."

Mulder smiled a little. "What's the matter, Krycek? The ancient language of the mind a little too much for you to take? The imagery is a bit drastic by our standards, yes, but she'll be all right. You'll see her again soon. I promise. In fact, you'd better stand ready to catch her anytime now.."


*  *  *  *


Scully could sense her flesh being boiled from her bones, leaving only her spirit. As soon as her physical parts were discarded, she rose on the steam from the cauldron, toward the rafters of the ceiling. She could see Mulder talking to Krycek below, but she could not hear what he was saying. Somehow she managed to fly out from the smithy, and fly was the word for it, for she was borne on strong wings now, in the shape of a blackbird. A female blackbird, wouldn't that be a brownbird? she mused irrelevantly. She saw the stream below, and started following it out of curiosity, because she had forgotten where it led. After a while, she began to feel heavier and heavier, and eventually she landed. Immediately, she started to run on all fours as the otter she now was. She enjoyed being an otter. There was something so fierce and simplistic about being an animal, something free and uncomplicated.

She ran toward the stream, and as she reached it, she saw a salmon in the water. Suddenly hungry, she plunged in and gave chase. She followed the salmon for a long time, until she found that she no longer wanted it, and she realized that she had become one herself. She was swimming in a narrow tunnel under the surface now, and there was light at the end of it, like an opening among rocks. As she reached this opening, she found that it was harder to get through than she had thought, there seemed to be a membrane across her path, and for a moment she feared that she had been caught in a net. Then, with renewed effort, she was suddenly through, and she leapt whole from the cauldron, back in human form, and back in the smithy.

"Now!" Mulder shouted, "Catch her and hammer her into shape. You must tune her new body."

Krycek did catch her and laid her down on the anvil - gently, and too slowly for Mulder's taste.

"Don't ask me to actually beat her", Krycek almost pleaded. "I mean - she hasn't even got any clothes on.."

"Dammit, Krycek, don't be so literal! This isn't really her physical body, it just looks that way", Mulder said before he thought, earning a sharp, searching glance from Krycek. "As for clothes, she'll take care of that when she gets to it. Now, quickly - don't stall! You can't tune her if she gets cold!" Simple dream logic. The odd thing was, it was beginning to make sense to them both.

Krycek picked up the hammer and started tuning. Tears were streaming down his face, but somehow his hands - both the human one and the artifical one - seemed to know how this had to be done. Obviously, Scully was helping him out.

"Take out her eyes and reset them", Mulder said. "When you put them back, she'll be able to see what's beyond appearance."

Krycek did, but he could hardly see what he was doing by now, and he had some trouble fitting the eyes back in. Mulder handed him a twig of rowan that he had not had just recently. "Use this. It's for seeing the world as it is, through all spells of rationality for instance. She could do with that." From the anvil, Scully glared up at him with one misaligned eye. Krycek gently adjusted her eyes with the stick.

"Now her tongue", Mulder insisted relentlessly. "Take it out and tune it, then put it back. It's supposed to enable her to speak with animals. Put her in better contact with nature anyway. Then use the tongs to pierce her ears so that she can hear through the static of her everyday existence - that too is an attunement to nature. Do it!"

Krycek did as he was told, but he was practically sobbing now.

"Right", Mulder said. "Now help her up. You're done. She's finished."

Krycek collapsed over the anvil and Scully. He was weeping with relief. In the real world, he had seen more horrors than he could count, but there at least he had the option of shutting off his feelings, of putting them on hold till he had time for them. After a while, he had left them on hold indefinitely. This experience had come complete with emotions, and it had not spared him one bit. In fact, it seemed to have unlocked some of his old barriers too, leaving him in danger of being flooded with reactions to his past deeds. He tried desperately to get a grip on himself, and to help Scully off the anvil. But as he touched her with his robotic hand, it slipped, and the steel thumb went into her heart, piercing it. Horrified, he pulled his hand back, but Scully just smiled and touched him gently on the shoulder, using him for support as she slid off the anvil. The moment her foot touched the earth floor, she was fully dressed - this time in blue linen which went eminently well with her hair and eyes. Krycek caught her and turned her around twice, examining her frantically, but there was no sign of any kind of wound on her.

Mulder didn't seem quite satisfied though. "What was that about? You weren't supposed to dent her heart."

Krycek shook his head. "I don't know. The steel arm was her idea - I don't seem to have full control of it."

"Better take it off then."

Scully nodded imperceptibly, and Krycek removed the arm, replacing it with his usual, less sophisticated prosthesis. "It's not as if I really need it", he said. In fact, he'd rather forget about the elaborate gadget altogether. Scully seemed ok though, that was the main thing.

He lagged behind them as they left the smithy. He felt wrung out, physically and emotionally, and he suspected that he was still fighting for his sanity.

Up ahead, the mound containing the Hall of the Underworld could be seen in the distance, and Scully appeared to be leading them in that direction. She was still wearing her blue gown, but Mulder noticed that he had discarded his robes and was now back in jeans and a T-shirt. He wasn't sure this was a good idea entirely. "Feel you don't need my guidance anymore, Scully?" he asked lightly.

"I'm fine, Mulder", she said in her usual, practical-minded manner.

"You sure? That distance is deceptive. There's still a strip of the Many-Coloured Lands to traverse before we can reach the hall."

Scully seemed unperturbed. "Don't worry. I can handle myself from here. Thanks for helping out though. You did a great job."

Mulder wished he had had the full emotional contact they had shared before he entered her dream. He could not help but feel that she was somehow shutting him out. "You don't sound like you think so. What did I do wrong?"

"Krycek", she said.

Mulder glanced over his shoulder. Krycek had fallen behind, but he was still coming. All in his usual black now, no smith's apron. "What about him?" he asked, though he had a sinking feeling he could guess.

"You shouldn't have put him through that. It was unfair, Mulder. I think you did it for revenge more than anything."

Mulder stopped in his tracks, hands on hips. He tipped his head backwards briefly as if gasping for air, then shook himself and resumed walking. Scully hadn't stopped. It took him only a moment to catch up with her.

"What do you mean, I put him through it? It was your choice. You cast him in the role of the Smith - I merely took it from there. Someone had to see it through, see that you got through it all right."

"That I got through it? What about him? You didn't give him any chance to prepare, you just shoved him into it and yelled at him to do things he never had to do even for the Consortium."

"Now hold on here. If you had come up with a Smith of your own making, a dream character, an aspect of yourself, that would have been fine, but you didn't. You picked him, and after that I had no choice. I couldn't prepare him, because if he'd known, he would have refused. I had to pitch him in and hope he could swim. I admit I was kind of nonplussed when he started to cry, I hadn't expected that, but.."

"Could you have done it yourself?"

Mulder looked away, not meeting her gaze. "No", he said curtly. He took a deep breath, then continued. "But it wasn't mine to do. You didn't choose me, you chose him. I already had a role; I was your guide. He's a professional assassin, for god's sake, I thought you had chosen well. If you needed someone other than yourself to do this, he was the logical choice. He'd be up to it."

Scully shook her head slowly. "You know my choice wasn't conscious, Mulder. I couldn't have thought it through. Wasn't there anything else you could have done? Did you have to accept my choice, or could you have worked around it?"

"I'm not sure", Mulder admitted. "I thought it would be safer to go with your choice. Safer for you", he added before she could ask.

She gave him a long look. "I'm sensing misuse of power here, Mulder. And I'm not sure I like it. In fact, I'm sure I don't."

"Power? I don't have any power."

Her blue gaze did not waver. "Don't you, Mulder? Are you really sure you don't?"


*  *  *  *


There wasn't much to be said after that. Mulder had to admit that knowing one's way around this kind of dreamworld must seem like power to those who didn't. And he had enjoyed putting Krycek through the wringer. In fact, that had been the compensation he needed to see this through at all, symbolic or not, necessary or not. He groaned inwardly. He really was a sorry son of a bitch.. But dammit, this was Krycek. The guy who had murdered, or supervised the murders of Scully's sister and Mulder's own father. The creep deserved anything that was coming to him, and only a few months ago, Scully would have agreed. Why didn't she now?

He stepped into it without any warning. One moment, there was nothing around them but soughing rushes and birdsong; the next, jets were crisscrossing the sky, and heavy tanks were rolling on the roads. The tanks looked old, and some of them had a star emblem on the side. Mulder tried to find out where he was, but there were no road signs. They seemed to have been removed recently, the posts were still there. Two more steps, and he was in a city, a tank parked in front of him, blocking his path. A soldier stepped around it and approached him, casually pointing an unfamiliar type of machine gun in his direction. "Ey, ty - krysionok! Idi snami!"

With a sigh, Mulder turned around and grabbed Krycek who had just caught up with him and Scully.

"You're losing it, Krycek."

The invasion scenario vanished, to be replaced with Scully's original, pastural setting. "Sorry", Krycek said. "Didn't mean to expose you to that."

"What was that anyway?" Scully asked.

"Invasion of Prague 1968", Krycek told her. "I was six."

Mulder let out an exasperated sigh. "Look, I'm sure you had a miserable childhood, Krycek. I bet you were even abused by your parents, but.."

"My parents didn't abuse me. Those who shot them did. Not that it's any of your business."

"Last I heard, your parents were Cold War immigrants", Mulder reminded him silkily.

"My foster parents", Krycek replied curtly.

"Cold War immigrants?

Krycek shrugged. "The Cold War lasted a long time. Some say it never ended."

Mulder gave him an amused look. "I always thought you were born in the States, Krycek."

"Did I ever say I was? I'm an American citizen, what more do you need to know?"

"Me?" Mulder grinned. "I couldn't care less. But your file didn't mention that you were naturalized."

"You must have looked in the wrong file", Krycek clipped back.

"Maybe I did", Mulder admitted. "How many are there, Krycek? All saying different things? By the way, what did that man call you? The one with the antiquated machine gun? Krysionok? Isn't that - a young rat?"

Krycek glared at him. "If you've already picked the image from my mind, why ask me? I was a scrawny kid - so what?"

Scully looked up at him. "I'm not sure I understand this. The Prague invasion was bloodless. The passive resistance of the people ensured that. They held out peacefully as long as they could, and when things were beginning to look ugly, they surrendered."

"They didn't tell you everything in the West." Krycek shrugged again. "On the whole, I guess you're right. But there were incidents. Such as will happen in all wars. Still, I didn't mean to bring it up. It was a long time ago. Water under the bridges.."

He took the lead, fully in control of himself now. Even while walking in front of Scully, he was careful not to add anything to her dream.

"Like I said, these are the Many-Coloured Lands", Mulder offered. "We may see many things here that we don't need to believe.."


*  *  *  *


The next time the scenery wavered, a little grey alien was sitting at its desk in a house on hen's legs, diligently following what its teacher was writing in Cyrillic on the blackboard.

Scully kicked both of her companions. Hard. "You're both losing it."

A little while later, Queequeg came running out of the rushes around the marsh. He jumped up to greet Scully but did not seem aware of the two men. He barked twice as if he wanted his mistress to follow him, then trotted off at an angle, heading away from the marsh.

"I was wondering when I would see him", Scully mused. "The Queen of the Underworld said he'd do, but she seemed a little uncertain. I guess he's to be my guide now. Wonder why she hesitated. Maybe because he's dead?"

"More likely because he's such a fluffbrain", Mulder said under his breath, but she heard him.

"As I said, it doesn't seem as if I need your guidance anymore, Mulder. Queequeg and I can take it from here. Do you know how to leave my dream? Can you wake up at will?"

"I'd rather stay, if you don't mind", Mulder said, sounding half choked.

"You heard the lady", Krycek said. "We're not wanted."

"I'm glad you realize when you're not wanted", Mulder snapped at him, then turned to Scully. "Scully, I'm sorry I made fun of your dog, I'm sorry I stomped on this rodent for you" - he indicated Krycek - "I'm sorry about anything you like, but please let me stay, ok? You don't know what's waiting up ahead.."

"More little grey aliens? Or black liquid aliens? I think I can do without those, Mulder. At least in my dreams."

"I won't leave you. I won't."

"Why not?" Krycek interjected. "You always have in the past."

Mulder spun around and hit him. Hard enough to send him into a backward roll, before he could get to his feet again.

Suddenly the scenery changed again. Queequeg was nowhere to be seen. They were standing in a living room that Mulder recognized from his childhood - but he had not brought it. In front of them, two men were arguing. One was Mulder's father, the other someone he barely remembered from those days, except that the man was always smoking.

The two men seemed totally oblivious to the presence of any onlookers. "I've decided", Bill Mulder said maliciously. "Since you say I must. It's to be Samantha."

The other took a draught on his cigarette. "As you wish", he said finally.

But Bill Mulder was apparently not satisfied with his scant victory. "Why not take both of them, while you're at it?"

The other carefully deposited some ashes into a ceramic ashtray. "We could, but I'd rather see how the talent comes out if it's untampered with. We need one of them as a control for the other."

"They'll never be full telepaths, you know that."

"Perhaps not. Perhaps the one we're enhancing will."

"Samantha."

"As you say, Samantha."

"Well, I guess it's a sort of life insurance for Fox. You'll have to keep him around, as long as she is alive."

"Quite correctly observed."

"Though I suppose if the enhancements don't work and she dies, you'll take him instead."

"Also correct - up to a point. After puberty, the enhancement procedures will have no effect. He's twelve now. In a couple of years, he'll be - safe." The smoking man smiled. There were comfortable armchairs behind them both, but neither man would sit down.

"Until she dies and you no longer need a control", Bill said.

"The experiments aren't everything. I might still be interested in the development of a wild talent. As you say, he'll never be a full telepath. But I think we can assume that he'll be fairly - intuitive. Most latents are."

Bill shook his head slowly. "I think they do have a semi-telepathic bond. I don't know what the separation will do to them."

The other pulled on his cigarette. "Well, we'll find out, won't we?


*  *  *  *


The scene faded, and Mulder sank to the ground, at the last moment finding a log to sit on. "That wasn't mine", he said, white-faced.

Scully knelt beside him, oblivious of her long gown which pooled around her. Without a word, she put her arms around him, and he rested his head on her shoulder. Queequeg appeared from somewhere and started whining softly around them.

"It sure wasn't mine", Krycek said. "It would seem we were right; we're not alone in here. You think there's any truth to that?" He nodded in front of him, toward where the living-room scene had disappeared.

"Let's say it's one thing I'm not sure I want to believe", Mulder said heavily.

"You are intuitive, Mulder", Scully cautiously pointed out.

"The drug didn't affect him more than us", Krycek objected.

"No enhancements after puberty", Mulder refuted that argument.

"Then why didn't they return your sister as she grew up?" Krycek asked.

"They had other plans for her", Mulder said. "Either that, or she never grew up - no matter what they've been trying to tell me."

"You can't have it both ways, Mulder", Scully tried to sound reasonable. "Either you and your sister had a semi-telepathic bond which has kept you searching for her all your life, in which case you would know if she were dead or alive - or you didn't, and all this is just further lies to test you and torture you."

"That's not.." Mulder began, then he sighed. "Telepathy or not, this cold bargaining about two children who were in any case deeply attached to each other - what's to say that part isn't true? If Cancer Man was involved, I have no trouble believing that. Besides - Krycek, didn't you say my father was telepathic in his youth?"

Krycek shrugged. "It's what they told me. He and the Smoking Man both. You could carry the gene, Mulder. If it is one."

By now, Queequeg was pulling on Scully's sleeve. "Mulder, we have to leave", she said gently. "All of us. If there are others around, I don't think we had better split up. And - I may not know as much as you about this world, but as a child I was told that you should not stay too long in Faerie.."

As they got going again, a bush suddenly righted itself behind them. "Are you sure that was wise?" it said.

A tall, lightning-struck tree beside it seemed to send out wisps of smoke from its top branches. "We can't allow them to fight", the tree said. "As a group, we can handle them. As separate entities, I'm not sure. Too many variables." The smoke floated out on the wind and vanished.


*  *  *  *


Inside the hall, the Queen of the Underworld handed Scully the White Drink of Fosterage. "Welcome back to the living."

Scully took a sip and turned to her two companions who were waiting with Queequeg in the doorway. "It tastes just like milk! In fact, I think it is milk."

"Well, what did you expect from a White Drink of Fosterage?" Mulder couldn't help asking.

Scully finished the goblet and handed it back to the Queen. Remembering her manners, she made a deep curtsey before leaving. As she passed through the door, her clothes changed back to her original pants suit, but she did not seem to notice. Queequeg barked once in farewell, then trotted off into the distance.

As they made their way up the withered tree, Mulder said, "Well, at this point, maybe you really don't need my guidance any longer."

Scully turned to him, a vague sadness in her eyes. "I'm sorry, Mulder. I know you've always done your best for me. And I'm grateful to you for seeing me through this dream, I really am. But you see, Krycek made me over. He remade me, under your supervision. I was made anew. That's the whole point of this journey, you knew that when you first entered my dream. Why can't you accept it now? Now, that I can finally stand on my own."

"You always could, Scully", Mulder said quietly. "If I made you believe otherwise, I never meant to."

"Who goes there?" a voice said, and the vagrant Willard Fuchs peered into the top of the passage. "Any reason I should let you people through?"

"Oh for.. " Krycek said disgustedly. Impatiently, he ripped three tickets from the air and handed them to the vagrant who punched them officiously.

A moment later, they awoke in the storage room. They were all lying on the floor now, although Scully had been on the bed when she fell asleep. Their telepathic - or at least empathic - interconnectedness seemed to have abated somewhat, though they could sense more of each other's unconscious thoughts and attitudes now than they had been able to in the dream. But there were no images at the moment, just the room. Scully got up, dusted herself off, and sat on the bed. She looked at her watch. "We've been here for three days. Wonder if that means it's all over now, or if they'll subject us to another round of this.."

"God, I hope not", Mulder groaned, rubbing his eyes with one hand and supporting himself on the other.

"Why not? I thought you enjoyed it", Krycek said acidly, also getting up off the floor.

Mulder didn't answer. From a corner of the room, Willard Fuchs was beaming at them. "He could be real, I guess", Mulder said distrustfully.

"Who?" Scully looked up. "Oh."

Krycek walked resolutely across the room to the vagrant's corner. Fuchs gave him an uncertain look, mumbled something that sounded like a hastily invented excuse, and promptly vanished.


*  *  *  *


Somebody's Otherworld, two days after Hallowe'en



She was standing in a tightly packed crowd, trying her damnedest not to feel claustrophobic. She hated crowds, because she was so short, people could form a wall around her, and she'd be unable to see past them at all, and a part of her was certain she'd be crushed. But, she was a professional, so she curbed her incipient anxiety. She was here to protect him, not herself.

Senator Mulder was just approaching his rostrum. According to Scully's schedule, he would speak for 45 minutes, then invite questions which were anticipated to keep him busy for another 15 minutes. After that, she was to drive him to the reception at the Town Hall. She glanced at her watch.

"He's right on schedule so far", said a voice beside her, just as Mulder launched into his speech.

Scully was relieved to see Krycek on her left. Relieved and - apprehensive. There was something odd about him being here. Something she ought to remember. Wasn't he a terrorist or something? How could he be a bodyguard?

"Who assigned you to protect him?" she asked, frowning.

"A well-manicured man from England. But I'm not here to protect him." He nodded toward Mulder. "I was sent to protect you." He put his arm around her, supportively, as if appreciating her discomfort in the crowd. "How are you doing, Dana?"

She assumed his phrasing was lightly based on the substratum of his mother tongue, but it still sounded to her as genuine concern. Mulder had always asked her if she was all right. Even when he should have been able to see plainly that she was not. So she had always answered the same thing: I'm fine, Mulder..

"Not so good", she admitted. "Can we go someplace, just for a few minutes? The others have him covered now, I'm stationed here mainly to take him to the car if he should leave early. That won't happen for a while, he's warmed to the alien question, and he can talk for hours when inspired."

Krycek nodded, took her by the hand, and started leading her through the crowd. Even with one arm he had no problem making way for them.

They escaped into a narrow alley right next to the plaza where Mulder was speaking. They could see the crowd from inside the narrow passage, but no one was entering after them or being pushed in by others.

"Thanks for being here, Alex", she said. "I really appreciate it. Don't think I don't."

"But?" he probed, leaning against the wall.

"But why would the Englishman want to protect me? Besides - I thought he was dead. Yes, I'm sure Mulder told me the Englishman was dead.."

"Does it matter?" Krycek asked.

She looked into his eyes, searching for an explanation. Green eyes, so very green.. She had to tip her head back, he was taller than Mulder.

"What's your real name, Alex? I heard someone call you Alyosha. I saw in one of your files that your name was probably Aleksandr, but Alyosha is short for Aleksei, isn't it?"

He smiled, barely noticeably. "You can call me Alyosha anyhow", he said. Suddenly serious, he stared into the distance for a moment. She was nearly touching him now. "You know, I always thought you hated me", he mused. "Because of what I'd done, because of what I am. Never thought I stood a chance - or that Mulder would let you out of his sight.." Tentatively, he pulled her in the rest of the very short distance between them, so that she was leaning against him. "Are you sure about this?" he asked.

She nodded, and he bent to kiss her.

A shot rang out between the walls, nearly deafening them both. Krycek pushed Scully to the ground and threw himself over her, his arm stretched backward, returning fire. Mulder had left his rostrum and was standing at the mouth of the alley, blocking it. His shots were raining over them.


*  *  *  *


Mulder was stretched out across the armchair; Krycek was lying across Scully on the bed, still shielding her with his body. As soon as they became aware of their positions, they flew apart, to sit on either side of the bed.

Mulder knew he had better not comment, but.. "Well, he remade you", he said to Scully. "I guess that has to count for something.."

She glared at him icily.

"You really seem to have it in for me, though", he continued in the same light voice, wondering why the hell he couldn't leave it alone. "Is that really how you see me? Intolerant and power mad?"

She cocked an eyebrow. "Are you so sure it was my dream this time?"

"Whose else could it have been?"

"Krycek knew the well-manicured man had sent him."

"I could have picked that from your mind, Scully", Krycek pointed out. He looked up, as if listening. "We're still connected", he said. Telepathically", he added quickly, before Mulder could drop another snide remark. "I can sense your frustration clearly, Mulder, can't you try to dampen the field a little?"

Mulder opened his mouth for an acid retort, but at that moment the door opened, and six little grey aliens walked in. One of them set a tray on the old desk and said, "Eat when you feel like it, and try not to exert yourselves. You'll need a good deal of rest after your ordeals." They left, and Mulder looked at his watch.

"If I can trust this thing, our latest dream only lasted twenty minutes. I guess we're not out of this yet.."


*  *  *  *


Somebody's Antarctica, two days after Hallowe'en



They were standing in a cave of ice, fastidiously decorated with glaring lights, whose power source they were at a loss to determine. In the middle of the frozen hall was a block of ice, and inside it Scully saw herself, her expression wide-eyed and terrified. All around her, the ice block was aswirl with black oil.

On either side of the block stood a being in some sort of protective suit complete with breathing mask and with protrusions on the shoulders built high enough to accommodate wings. Angels? she thought, just as one of them raised its mask a little and let forth a radiance so strong Scully was certain it had to be caused by a nuclear reaction inside the suit. By the light of his countenance.. she thought.

"Careful", the other angel said, and the first one lowered its mask in place.

"Sorry. Just scratching."

The one who had spoken first indicated Scully inside the ice. "They want us to turn her into a telepath. Should we accommodate them?"

The other seemed to ponder this for a moment before answering. "I say no. Humans are all so impatient. We mention that telepathy is possible, and they want it now. No thought for the consequences. We have been at this for aeons, on all kinds of worlds, meticulously studying and gently influencing the local genetics toward this end, toward the day we shall need all those telepaths. But these impetuous humans immediately decide they can improve on our methods; just inject a drug and you have instant telepathy."

"They are right as far as it goes", its companion remarked. "Unfortunately, it doesn't go very far. We need a lasting effect, and we need it soon. A few centuries at the most, before They come. We must be ready then.."

"I agree. Genetics is the only way. Telepathy must be part of the human makeup. It must be hereditary. But what of the other experiments the humans have started? The hybrids? The clones?"

"Let them play. For now. They won't achieve anything harmful. Or useful, for that matter."

The other pointed at the ice block between them. "What of her?"

"I don't know.. could we make her into a host? We are fast running out of hosts. The ones we brought are getting disgruntled."

"The hybrids might do."

"No, I've looked into that. The green blood is ok, but it's not compatible with the oil."

"Can we omit the oil?"

"Not at this stage, no."

The two angels put out half of the lights and left. The block of ice seemed to shimmer slightly, as if with a luminescence of its own.

As soon as the two guardians were gone, Mulder started running - slipping and sliding but advancing none the less - toward the block. Snatching one of the lights from the wall and burning his hands in the process, he aimed it at the block of ice, hoping that the heat would be sufficient to melt it.

"Mulder!" Scully hissed, but her voice carried around the hall as if through a whispering gallery. "What are you doing?"

He did not answer, although she was certain that he had heard her. The ice began to melt - in the block only, not the walls nor the floor. Gradually it sank down to the level of the black oil, which began seeping out slowly, toward Mulder.

"Mulder! Get out of there!" Scully called out, too desperate to whisper this time. "You're not immune! Krycek and I am!"

At first he seemed not to care, then he glanced up, wondering if the oil would turn him into a threat to her. This time she could sense his thought clearly. "Help me, Scully", he called to her. "I need you. You may not need me any more, but I sure need you."

She bowed her head slowly, in silence. Then she said, "Come back here, Mulder, I'll help you." She found that she had brought a medical kit with her, so she held it up for him to see, and he reluctantly left the ice block with her other self in it. As he came up to them, Krycek prepared to go down instead, but Scully held him back. "What's your blood type, Krycek?"

"B Positive, why?" But she could see that he knew what she was going to do.

"Are you sure? I shouldn't take your word for it, but there's no time to test it."

Krycek nodded. "I'm sure. I've had it tested more times than I can count - after recent events."

"Then it has to be you." She turned to Mulder. "Mulder, you were given one shot of vaccine only, - if it is a vaccine and not just an antidote. But even if it is, you were given that single shot before they subjected you to the virus. The virus never had a chance to take hold, to give you immunity. But maybe we can help you. Now, your blood type is X. I'm Q. Krycek is compatible, I'm not. She brought out a syringe with a twelve-inch needle which she plunged straight into Krycek's heart to withdraw some of his blood. She marvelled at her sudden lack of professionalism, and the silent reproach in his green eyes did not make it any easier. Yet neither of them did anything to stop her. When she was done, she injected the blood in Mulder - also directly into his heart. He closed his eyes in pain, and for a moment she wondered if she was killing him. But as soon as she withdrew the needle, he got to his feet and made his way back down to the block of ice.

When he reached it, Scully saw that it was empty. Her captive replica was gone.


*  *  *  *


Somewhere Else, two days and two hours after Hallowe'en



She found herself in the woods, stretched out on wet leaves. Mulder was lying next to her, his arms around her. She made no move to get up. It felt good to be in his arms. In fact, it always had. Since their first case together.

"Thanks", he said, as soon as she stirred. "For letting me save you."

"It was just a dream, Mulder", she said, sitting up and rubbing an eye for emphasis. She reached out mentally, but she was alone in her mind, and for some reason the discovery saddened her. She would get used to it, but for now it felt - lonely. "What are we doing here?"

"Someone must have decided to let us go and dropped us off."

"Unless this is another dream.."

"I don't think so. We're no longer locked in that storage room, but I see no strange creatures or any other sign that this isn't real. Scully.." he hesitated. "That last one - was that yours also?"

She shook her head. "It didn't feel like mine."

"Nor mine. I guess it might have been planted - I think you coloured it though. Do you really think I need to get my vitality from someone like Krycek?"

She did not feel ready to answer that. "Speaking of Krycek - where is he?" She looked around her, but they seemed to be alone, just the two of them.

Mulder did not even look. "He's gone. He wasn't here when I woke up." An almost imperceptible smile touched the corner of his mouth. "And he said he'd never leave you.."

Scully did not smile. "He could be right, Mulder. I'm not sure he has." She waited for her partner's reaction, but Mulder waited too - a psychologist's wait, she thought, letting the patient take her time. Finally she had to say it. "I'm not sure he ever will."



*** The End ***


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