DISCLAIMER: The X-Files universe and characters belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. No infringement intended.

RATING: Completely harmless

KEYWORDS: Skinner, Krycek, some conspiracy

SUMMARY: Since we all need Krycek back, the only question is: how did he survive?

SPOILERS: Mainly Existence. Minor allusions to several earlier eps, but nothing later.

FEEDBACK: Yes, please! :) You can reach me at the address given on my main page.



by Eliann SleepingCat

FBI parking garage, 3:17 a.m.

Go. I'll get it.

He had said it with the same self-confidence as always. Insisting he could take care of his own problems. I'll finish up here. Not for Mulder to meddle. Not for anyone. No one to the rescue in tight spots; no one to blame for his mistakes.

Except that this was not a mistake. Too bad that Mulder had been a witness though. Vividly, he recalled Mulder's surprised, even reproachful look as the last shots fell. But Mulder had said nothing. Would say nothing. This was one truth the eternal truth-seeker would not bellow from the rooftops.

Assistant Director Walter Skinner of the FBI had gunned an unarmed man down in cold blood. And he would do it again, given the same circumstances. Just like one killed a scorpion, or a rattler. In self-defense. Whatever else it had looked like.

He had been working methodically ever since Mulder left, never letting his thoughts intrude upon the task at hand. He'd have to be fast; there was no way he could involve anyone else, or allow anyone the opportunity to ask questions. Too many would pounce on this excuse to have him suspended. Kersh would maneuver him out of the Bureau in no time. And Doggett ... Doggett would live up to his name, worrying this until he had gotten to the bottom of it, sunk his teeth into the core of the matter. Mulder might be willing to cut his old friend and longtime supervisor some slack, but Doggett was another matter. The ex-cop still had a hard time detecting the shades of gray that enveloped most X-File-related occurrences.

Skinner straightened from searching the body. Finally. He was holding the hated device which had held him enslaved for so long; the modified hand-held computer that acted as a remote control for the nanites in his body. The thing that could drop him dead in a matter of minutes. Question was, what to do with it. He looked down at his victim. Krycek lay where he had fallen, his remarkably green eyes staring emptily at the ceiling. Or rather, the underside of the next level of parking spaces. Dead as he had lived; like a rat in the sewers of society.

Skinner clamped down on his hatred. He never was one to be easily distracted, and he wasn't about to start now. Granted, he had hated this man ever since Scully's abduction. She had been so loyal, so brave, so - alright, so lovely. If it hadn't been for Mulder ... but she only had eyes for Mulder, even back then, so there was no use dwelling on lost opportunities. The opportunities had never really been there. But he had always felt protective of her, still did, maybe now more than ever, and this creep had been instrumental in ruining her life. Well, no use dwelling on that either; Krycek was dead and it was all over. One less threat against Scully.

And this? Disgusted, Skinner dropped the little computer to the concrete floor and stepped on it. Hard. Then he kicked the pieces aside, aiming most of them at the nearest wall. Chances were no one would take a closer look. Just assume somebody had lost patience with their cell phone or something.

For a moment, he thought Krycek had blinked. Not that he had actually seen it. Couldn't have. His mind must be playing tricks on him. Some of the guys back in 'Nam had said to always make sure. Best thing, they had claimed, is to cut off the head. No man rises again with his head off. Obviously, they had never worked on the X-Files.

Skinner shrugged. Ghost stories. Krycek was dead; there was no need to overreact. A clean shot, right between the eyes. The man couldn't get any deader. Nevertheless, and possibly only to prove to himself that he was not reluctant to touch the body, Skinner crouched beside it and closed Krycek's eyes. What business did a man have with such long, thick lashes anyway? Must be some exotic Russian genes.

The body wasn't cold yet. Good, then he hadn't been dawdling for as long as he thought. Standing again, Skinner weighed his options. No chance to request a body bag without raising questions. No access to a furnace, like the last time he had to dispose of a body in secret. He made a face. He wasn't proud of the memory, but he had done it for Scully. In fact, he was hard put to come up with a single unorthodox thing that he had not done for Scully. He hoped Mulder was grateful.

He would have to bury the body, or dump it in the harbour. No, someone would see him, or hear the splash. Besides, he didn't have anything to weight it with. He'd just have to take it out into the woods and bury it where nobody would ever look. And he'd have to use his own car, since he couldn't involve anyone else. Damn. Good thing he had an old blanket in the trunk. He'd used it for warmth on stakeouts back in the days when he did stakeouts, and the thing was reasonably fresh. Later, he used to spread it in the back seat for his dog. Back when he had a dog. Before the divorce. Funny, he hadn't even thought of that blanket for a couple of years. But it ought to still be there.

It was. Briskly, he wrapped Krycek's body in it, using a corner or two to wipe up as much of the blood as he could. There was no way he could get it all, but it would soon stop looking like blood. Hopefully, it would be mistaken for spilled oil or something.

The body was heavier than he would have thought. Krycek may not have looked it, but he was built for strength. Years on the run would do that to a man. Well, it was no big deal; Skinner was far from delicate himself. About to hoist his victim in a fireman's grip, he suddenly decided against it, as it might increase the risk of trailing blood all over the floor. Now, if he could have waited until the blood congealed, but every minute was precious. He was amazed that no one had come to pick up a car on this level already. Dragging the body didn't seem like such a good idea either, for the same reason. In the end, he simply hoisted it up in his arms and carried it as if he meant to be careful with it.


* * * *

Somewhere in the woods, 5:02 a.m.

Flashes. Flashes of memory, and pain. Pain that wasn't so much a memory as still with him. His arm hurt, and his head - he must have been hit hard this time. Instinct, honed through years on the run, kept him from groaning or making a move, until he had his bearings.

Skinner, carrying him. That was one of the flashes, and it kept coming back. But why would Skinner ... Skinner had shot him, hadn't he? Yes, that was it; shot him in the arm. Twice. Alright, he was practically armless then. His artificial one probably still worked, but it wasn't all that functional to begin with. Now, if the pain would only let up a moment, so he could think ...

A clinking sound by his left ear. Risking a peek from under long, concealing eye-lashes, he could just barely make out someone digging, by the light of the moon and a flashlight. A big man. The moonlight was just barely enough to outline him, and the flashlight cast grotesque shadows of his head and shoulders, but he moved like Skinner. Now, why would ... Suddenly, in a crack of pain like a flash of sheet lightning, it made sense. Skinner, pointing a gun at him, getting ready for a third shot. Skinner, carrying him. Skinner digging. Skinner must believe him dead. Getting rid of the body. Why? What did the AD have to hide?

He must have passed out again, for as he came to, Skinner had stopped digging and was approaching him. Krycek had no idea how long he had been out of it; the pit looked wider now, and he had every reason to assume it was deeper too, than when he had first seen his enemy's head and shoulders sticking out of it, digging like some bald demon out of hell.

Krycek felt as if he had only half his wits about him, and he seemed to be more or less tangled in something, but desperation made him strong, at least for the moment. As Skinner bent over him, he raised both legs and kicked upward, hard. Skinner crumpled, with a sound somewhere between a growl and a whimper.

Krycek would have preferred to knock him out flat, but Skinner hadn't been positioned that way. Now, Krycek made use of his enemy's temporary disability to roll free of the blanket he had been half wrapped in, and stand up.

The world reeled, and he nearly sat down again. Only the certain knowledge that if he did, he'd never see the dawn, kept him on his feet. Better to remain standing and vomit if he had to, than give Skinner the slightest chance. He could hardly see; Skinner was just a huddled shadow in-between the flashes of nauseating pain, and the faint moonlight wasn't helping much. The flashlight had been turned off, as soon as the digging was done.

He had to deal with Skinner. That was his first priority; his splitting headache would just have to wait. Going more by the sound of the AD's pained grunts than by his moonlit outline, Krycek aimed a hard kick at his enemy's chin. Skinner fell flat.

He probably wasn't dead though. Krycek aimed another kick at the AD's head, but nausea overtook him, and now that Skinner was out of it, he gave himself some time to recover. He moved off into some shrubbery and was violently sick. It didn't do a thing for the blinding pain in his head, but at least he felt a little more stable afterwards. Concussion, beyond a doubt. Wasn't the first time he'd had one. Well, he'd just have to live with it for now, if he wanted to live at all.

He got back to Skinner, cautiously. The AD still lay as if unconscious, but he might be faking it. Still, if he wasn't, there was no time to waste. Krycek decided to risk it. He crouched beside Skinner's body, waited for a moment, poised for flight, then he started searching Skinner as well as he could. It was slow going, with his artificial hand only, but he managed to fish out Skinner's gun. There was no way he could use it though, so he simply tossed it into the pit Skinner had been digging. He couldn't find the remote control, either on himself or on Skinner - well, that figured. No matter, he probably couldn't have operated it with his teeth anyway. He found the flashlight and pocketed it unlit. Saving it for later. His jaws didn't feel strong enough to hold it at the moment. The only remotely useful thing he found was Skinner's cell phone. Ok, that might work, given time. He'd have to make sure he had time.

He stood up carefully, waiting for the dizziness to pass. He could feel the agony in his arm again now - did that mean his headache was subsiding? He still didn't feel quite up to kicking Skinner to death though. Maybe if he trod on his throat? But right then the AD moved, groaning slightly. No time. Krycek simply rolled him over with a kick to the middle, and let him fall into his own pit. Too bad the gun was down there too, but Krycek hoped to be out of here before Skinner could get out and use it. Judging by the sound of the falls - Skinner's as well as the gun's - the pit was deep enough that it would take the AD a while to climb out. He wasn't making a sound now, so it was even possible that the fall had killed him, but Krycek knew better than to assume best case.

He stepped back a few paces from the pit - and nearly tripped on Skinner's shovel. It didn't look like it was meant for this kind of work; more like something to be used for snow, or possibly coal. It looked new; Krycek found himself smiling. Somehow he couldn't see Skinner buying a shovel at some gas station in the small hours of the morning. Besides, if he had, why not get a proper spade while he was at it? No, the good AD must have turned thief in the night. Nicked the first implement that would do the job, however badly.

Krycek did not kick the shovel in after Skinner. Let the man claw his way out, as best he could. Now, where the hell was Skinner's car? Not that Krycek could drive it now, but maybe he could get something useful from it. If he was lucky. He wasn't. The thing was nowhere to be seen. He pocketed Skinner's cell phone and gingerly eased the flashlight out instead. It took him a couple of retries to light it, but finally he did, and swept the area. Still no car. Only tracks as of someone making his way on foot through shrubbery and underbrush that had not been disturbed for years. Well, that would explain the carrying. He had been wondering why Skinner hadn't just left him in the car - in the trunk, no doubt - and gone to dig the grave, then returned for him. Apparently, the AD wanted to get deep enough into the wild that nobody would be likely to find the place. Ever.

Speaking of which, Krycek had no idea where he was. And he didn't feel like waiting for Skinner to wake up so he could ask him. Probably wouldn't get a straight answer anyway. Still, there might be a chance ...

Laboriously, he turned off the flashlight and pocketed it. Then, just as carefully and just as gradually, he fished out the cell phone he had taken off Skinner. Now, if he just wasn't too far away from some kind of civilization ... He'd just have to hope the thing still had coverage. He managed to backlight it, but he couldn't operate and hold it at the same time. With a brief curse, he sat down on the ground - at least he was on rock; not as wet as the surrounding vegetation. He placed the phone in front of him, and the backlighting promptly timed out. Right then he felt a stab of pain in his forehead, and he touched his artificial hand to it, half by reflex.

It felt strange. He couldn't quite tell where his hand was, and he didn't know if that was because the hand was plastic, or because he couldn't see properly in the moonlight. He had no feeling he had touched anything, yet the stabs continued, as if he had disturbed a bad wound.

And suddenly he remembered. Skinner had fired that third shot. Point blank, and there had been nothing that Krycek could do about it, disarmed as he was in every sense of the word. He must have been hit; that was the only thing that would explain the headache he had been having since he woke up, and the fierce pain he was feeling now.

He went cold. If that bullet was still lodged in his head, it might be only a matter of minutes. Even if he could have removed it himself, there was no telling what would happen if he did. He would have to believe he had at least a couple of hours. And he would have to make a very different phone call than the simple 911 he had first intended.

He backlit the phone again, studying its functions carefully. The signal indicator wavered a little but then waxed steady, and Krycek breathed a sigh of relief. At least the thing would work. If he could think of a way to operate it. Why couldn't Skinner be packing one of those phones that would respond to spoken commands? Then again, it probably wouldn't have acknowledged anyone's voice but its owner's. Still, the little gadget was well equipped. It had at least one invaluable feature ...

Krycek lay down on the ground and used his artificial hand to tap in a number he had not used for some time.


* * * *

A click at the other end, then, "Covarrubias".

"Marita, it's me. I need help."

A pause, in which he seemed to detect a small sigh. Then, "When didn't you, Alex? Is it ever about anything else?"

"Look, this time it's bad. I'll die if you don't ..."

"You're bad, Alex. Bad for me. Bad for anyone who ever met you. I thought you said last time you wouldn't bother me again."

Somewhere, he found the strength to make his voice cold enough, hard enough. "You cheated me, remember? Time to call in the debt."

He could almost hear her shake her head. "That won't fly anymore, Alex. Whatever I did to you, I paid. More than I ever thought it possible for one human being to pay. And it was your doing."

Krycek groaned. He hadn't thought it possible, but the pain was increasing. He'd have to try another tactic. "And yet you came when I needed you. You even killed for me."

"Biggest mistake of my life. Don't ask me to make another. And don't think you can prove it."

His strength was going fast. He was seconds away from begging her for his life, but he wasn't quite there yet. "Mita, I'm dying here ..."

"Don't call me that."

He ignored her. "I need a healer, fast. Just send me one, ok? You won't even have to see me."

"Alex, I don't control the shifters."

"Then ask them nicely", he spat. "They're on our side now - most of them anyway. Just get one of them will you? Jeremiah or someone."

"Jeremiah is gone. Zadu and Dolph are still around - maybe Emil too. I'm not sure, but I could find out."

"No time. Never trusted Emil anyway. Zadu or Dolph will do, but make it quick! Please!" he added as an afterthought.

She sighed, audibly this time. "One of these days I'll learn to say no to you, Alex. I dream of it constantly. Alright, where are you?"

"Thought you'd never ask. I've got a phone with the GPS feature. These are my coordinates ..." He read them twice, then waited for her acknowledgment.

"Got you." She was all business now. "I'll send an undetectable craft. It's faster. Don't go anywhere."

Still a touch of humor? After all he had done to her? Maybe he wouldn't die today, after all. "Thanks, Mita. I owe you."

"Don't call me that, I said. And the only thing you owe me is to stay out of my life for the rest of yours. Or mine, as the case may be." She hung up.


* * * *

The first light of dawn struck a silent vessel that was doing its best not to reflect it. Like an enormous bat, the Stealth-like craft swept in over the forest. One of the early models, Krycek thought. He was waiting at the edge of a clearing that looked as if it could accommodate a landing, as long as no decelerating strip was needed. Guess it was all she could spare, these days.

The craft held its position for a moment, then jumped to a new area to search. Its outdated navigation system was a little less than perfect, but it was clearly zooming in on Krycek's position, looking for the signal from his cell phone. Only minutes after it had first appeared, the vessel sat down gently, for all the world like a black crane landing - though perhaps with less flutter.

Krycek detached himself from the shadows under the trees. Cautiously, he stepped out into the glade where the craft had landed.

A ramp lowered itself soundlessly, and a man - or something that looked sufficiently like one to fool an idle spectator - came striding down it. Krycek did not recognize him, but that meant nothing. As soon as they made eye contact, the man paused, then changed into the same rugged, Saxon features that all alien shape shifters seemed to favour. Krycek caught himself wondering if they had settled for that look to impress human females. Marita had once confessed that she found them vaguely attractive.

"Which one are you?" he asked. "Dolph or Zadu?"

"Does it matter?" The alien came up close, frowning a little at Krycek's head wound. "You were lucky", he said, matter-of-factly.

"Right now, I don't feel any too lucky. Let's get on with it."

The alien reached out, touching gently. Krycek winced.

"You'd better come aboard", the shifter said.


"Makes it easier to take off if we're disturbed."

"'S no one to disturb us here."

The alien gave him a long, searching look, and for a moment Krycek wondered if the being was telepathic. He knew he hadn't told Marita about Skinner. No need to know.

"Don't be a fool, Alex", said the alien. "I'm under orders to get you out of here, afterwards. You can't walk out; there's forest all around. Miles and miles of it."

"You're Dolph", Krycek said, relaxing slightly. "Never was on a first name basis with any of the others." Of course, it might be a trick to get me to trust him, he reminded himself. Guess I haven't got that much of a choice either way.

"I'm Dolph", the other confirmed. "Now, are you coming or not?" He studied Krycek's face, white and tortured under smears of blood. "You're running out of time."

Krycek nodded - carefully. "Alright. Lead the way."


* * * *

On board a generally unidentified flying object, 8:32 a.m.

Krycek was feeling decidedly uneasy. He was stretched out on what looked like a gurney with its wheels blocked so it wouldn't roll about even in flight. One of many. He could see at least fifteen others, all empty, but they looked like they had been used. More than once. Some of them had straps attached to them, dangling like silent testimony to whatever atrocities had been going on here.

For the life of him, he couldn't figure out why Dolph wanted him flat on his back to cure him, but maybe it was easier for some reason. At least he wasn't strapped down. Not that there was much call for restraining his arms. Though he could still kick out if he had to. But he had no reason to distrust the shape shifter, had he? After all, the being was here at Krycek's own request. Then again, there was no particular reason to trust him either.

Dolph returned from fussying for a while over the control panel. The craft was still on the ground, but there was a barely detectable difference from when they had come on board. No sound, no vibrations - maybe just something in the air.

"I put her on standby", the shifter informed him. "Don't want to stay here any longer than I have to. Now, let's see about you."

He looked closely at Krycek's head wound, almost as if he were somehow able to look inside it. For some reason, his rough-hewn features seemed to take on an oddly gentle expression, though Krycek could not imagine why. Maybe the being didn't have all his human faces down yet.

The alien placed his hand on Krycek's forehead, and the hand felt warm. Warmer than any human hand had a right to be - but didn't they say of human healers too that the temperature rose in their palms during the actual process? There were allegedly quite a few human healers in Russia - not that Krycek had ever believed in them. In fact, he wasn't sure he believed in this one - but his headache seemed to be subsiding, which was something at least.

In a moment, the pain in his head was all gone, bringing his arm once more to his attention. There was a small, clattering sound, and the alien withdrew his hand to bend over and pick something up off the deck. He held up the object for his patient to see. The bullet.

"Want to keep it?"

Krycek glared at him. Everybody was a comedian these days, even the aliens. "No thanks. The less I see of it, the better."

The shifter put it aside. "How're you feeling?"

Krycek frowned a little. "Fine." It came out a little more surprised than was really polite, but he couldn't help it. "'Xcept for my arm, that is."

"I'll be getting to that next", the alien assured him. If he found Krycek's impatience ungrateful, he made no sign. Instead he crossed the deck to the onboard water supply and soaked a piece of cloth which he then brought back to wash the blood off Krycek's face. His touch was as gentle now as when he had done the actual healing. Again, his face took on that look. Krycek recognized it now. Compassion. Like a vet might have for his dumb patients. Compassion for a less accomplished species.

"If you'd just take care of my arm, I could do that myself", Krycek said, somewhat acidly. "Besides, I thought the blood would go away with the wound."

"Only the fresh blood", the alien told him matter-of-factly. "What's no longer connected to the wound, won't disappear on its own." He put the rag aside somewhere at the foot of the gurney, to focus his attention on Krycek's arm. He did not even bother to bare it, just put his hot hands on the injuries, right on top of the torn sleeve of Krycek's leather jacket. Somehow, Krycek doubted that the holes in the sleeve would close up under the shifter's ministrations.

He thought he could actually feel his bones knit under the heat of the shifter's hands. Soon all pain was gone, and he closed his eyes, relishing the pleasure of being, for the first time in hours - perhaps in years, come to think of it - completely free of agony. Really, there was no drug so intense as the cessation of pain.

"You couldn't give me a new left arm while you're at it?" he joked sleepily. He was having great difficulty keeping his eyes open.

"That's a much longer process", the alien said, without a trace of humor. "You'd have to grow it back from scratch. I could do it, but you'd be spending a couple of years with no useful arm - and no prosthesis, as that would inhibit the growth."

Krycek looked up. Somehow he hadn't expected this. He knew there was no way he could take the offer now - the prosthesis wasn't much good, but it was better than nothing, and he didn't have years to spare convalescing, not the way he was living. Still, this meant there was hope after all.

"Thanks", he said, "for telling me. Maybe some day." He didn't add, when all this is over. They both knew.

"Sure", said the shifter. "Anytime. If I'm still around." He watched Krycek's lashes drifting closed again. "Sleep now. I'll get you out of here."

"Where are you taking me?" Krycek asked drowsily. It wasn't as if he really cared at the moment.

Dolph was already back at the controls. "Co. Mayo, Ireland."

"What - you couldn't find any place more remote?"

Krycek's sarcasm was lost on the alien. "She wanted you out of harm's way, she said. And hers. I was to tell you that, if you asked." He made a few adjustments, and the ship rose. "Go to sleep, Alex. You have six hours."

"Thought this thing had the FTL drive."

"Just under, but I'm not using it in the atmosphere. Environmental reasons. Not allowed to wipe out any continents. Sleep, I said. I'll wake you when we land."


* * * *

Through the thick of the forest below, a man came limping, covered with dirt and bruises, as if he had spent a rough night out in the wild. As the vessel passed over him, he shaded his eyes to make out its shape, or any characteristics at all. In the rays from the still low sun it looked like an old Stealth, but he couldn't be sure. The thing reflected little light, and it was gone before he could get more than a glimpse of it.

Besides, his glasses were broken.

*** The End ***

/Eliann, 2002-10-12; final draft 2002-11-17