Summary: Someone old, someone new, borrowed time andsomeone's blue.

Alex Krycek is a character belonging to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions,
see? I'm just using him for fun; no infringement is intended, etcetera,
etcetera.

All other creativity is solely mine, y'hear? This story can be reproduced
in its entirety if and only if you include ccbailey@facstaff.wisc.edu as
author and no cash (or its equivalent) changes hands. These characters are
completely fictional. No resemblance to any persons living, dead, undead,
cloned, channeled, abducted, possessed or in flashback mode is intended.

>>>>>This is a PRE-SILO story. It takes place *after* Ascensionand
*before* Piper Maru and Apocrypha.

This story is inspired by the fact that just about every week one X-Files
character or another is in the hospital. I'm not a doctor, nor do I play
one on TV; any medical inconsistencies are mine, and I apologize for them.
Please send all comments, positive, negative, whatever, to
ccbailey@facstaff.wisc.edu; I'd love to hear what y'all think. IMPORTANT:I
LOVE NITPICKS! Don't like my spelling? Did I mismatch a pronoun-verb pair?
Is my punctuation faulty? Let me know! Help me become a better writer
though your feedback!


MISERICORDIA

***************
Visiting hours are the busiest time of day for any hospital. Throngs of
people from all walks of life stream endlessly in and out of the various
entrances. Observe the crowds: businessmen, housewives, frazzled mothers
with small children, workmen covered in paint and dust and oil, hospital
personnel in their uniforms and badges. Gradually narrow down to a view
from behind of a single man in the congregation, very non-remarkable. Dark
hair, neatly cut, medium height, medium build, plain gray suit. His head
tilts; he is looking at the ceiling. Every few yards, he glances up, then
ducks his head and walks directly behind someone else for a few moments.
This happens especially near doors and corners. Follow him to the
information desk; his is another anonymous face, asking for the same
information as everyone else. He gives a name, gets a room number and
directions to the correct elevator from a bored volunteer. Blending with
the crowd, he traces the corridors left, then right, then right, and joins
several others waiting for the elevator. He enters the lift, not first,not
last, and turns to face forward like everyone else, hands clasped before
him. As the doors close, we finally see his face: Alex Krycek.

In the Oncology ward, the mood is subdued. Aside from the omnipresent
white, pastels abound, with the occasional surgical green. Krycek checks
the wall placard for the numbers it displays, then proceeds cautiously to
the room he wants. Glancing left, then right down the hallway as he stands
at the door, he cautiously pushes it open and enters, closing it quietly
behind him.

The old man is dying. That much is certain. Wires connect him to a heart
monitor. Tubes connect him to various life support engines. His face is
obscured by respirator tubing taped to his mouth and nose. An IV drip is
taped to his frail left hand. His arm is blotchy and furrowed with age;the
purple marks of previous needle-sticks disfigure his papery skin. His open
eyes focus on nothing. A sheet does little to hide his withered form, clad
only in a flimsy hospital gown, a ludicrous attempt at privacy in an
institution where privacy no longer exists. The right hand feebly clutches
the raised side-bar on the bed as if it is the ground-wire that is slowly
leaching the vitality from his flesh.

Krycek stands at the entrance; lips parted, his wide eyes travel the length
of this wasted body. He swallows hard, clenching his fists at his sides
several times. Glancing over his shoulder at the closed door, he pulls a
chair to the bedside and sits beside the old man.

"Dyedushka?" The old word comes awkwardly, as if not spoken inmany years.
"It's me. It's Alex." After a moment, he puts his hand out, coveringthe
old man's. "I'm....I'm sorry I haven't visited for a while. It's....along
story." The sunken eyes slowly track left, then focus on Krycek's face.A
faint smile of recognition, a rising of the chest. Then, an equally faint
loss of concentration. His eyes slowly roll right, then up to the ceiling,
random, sightless.

Krycek's answering smile fades, and he stares at the ravaged face, then
gazes down at the hand he is holding. He squeezes it carefully, then turns
his head to look out the window. His eyes gleam in the sunlight, and he
blinks. He sits very still in his chair.

***************
Heels clicking down the hall had alerted him, but he still has to swivelhis
head quickly to watch her enter the room. She is nondescript, in a
calculated way. Severe, short dark hair, wire-frame glasses, medium height,
medium build, loose slacks and low-heeled shoes beneath a white blouse with
a dark tailored jacket over everything. A walking average. Just like him.

She stands in the doorway, studying him, then crosses to sit in the corner
chair, the light shadowing her face. "You must be Alex, the grandson."

His eyes narrow as he considers her. "Who are you?"

She smiles, confident, and pulls a small notepad from her pocket. Flipping
back a few pages, she waves it at the man between them. "Miroslav Krycek,
aged 87. Admitted 6 days ago, in the final stages of terminal liver cancer.
History of chronic drinking, wife deceased, has been in a nursing home for8
years, recently suffered an episode of respiratory failure that landed him
here. He's dying, Mr. Krycek; only the machines are maintaining him now."
She tucks the notepad back into her jacket. "There was a steady streamof
visitors for the first day or so. Then, just his son and daughters for a
few days. Today, when they're meeting with the family lawyer to make the
final arrangements, you arrive, shying at shadows and avoiding the security
cameras. Who else could you be?" She settles further into the chair,
crossing her legs and clasping her hands around her knee. "I'm gladyou
could make it."

"Are you." It is not a question. He sits back into his chair,flicking a
glance at the door, inspecting her carefully. "How do you know so much
about this family? What's your interest in one old man's tragedy?"

"You needn't worry, Mr. Krycek, I'm not here in any...official capacity."
For all her ease, she is tense, watching his reactions. "I can be ofhelp
to you. I've had a certain interest in your work." She pulls an empty
plastic case from her jacket. Planting her feet firmly, she leans out and
holds it for him to take.

His eyes widen as he takes in the dimensions of the object. It's a DAT tape
case. He looks into her clear grey eyes for a moment, then inspects her
more carefully. She's packing; the bulge under the jacket is unmistakable,
though subtle. Not government issue, then, something smaller. She's
left-handed, not that that makes any difference. And if she *were*
official, he'd be in handcuffs by now. Or dead.

Her hand is still outstretched; the case is still there. He reaches outand
takes it from her, careful not to let their fingers touch. He grips it
tightly, considering his possible responses.

The heart monitor beeps rapidly for a moment; Krycek starts, his own heart
pounding, but the device returns to its previous rate. He rubs a hand over
his face. "I think you'll forgive me if I don't feel like conducting
business right now."

"I think you're running out of time to conduct business at all. It's
important that we talk..."

"Not now!" he grinds out, one hand gripping the bed railing. Helooks down,
abashed, then shakes his head at his emotional reaction. He takes a deep
breath and regains his composure, not meeting her steady gaze. "I thinkyou
should leave."

"I'm sorry." Surprisingly, she looks sorry. She gets up and walkstoward
him. There is a military snap to her movements, the squaring of her
shoulders, the angle of her chin. He half-expects to hear her heels click
as she stops at the foot of the bed. "We've all experienced loss, Mr.
Krycek. I apologize for the intrusion; this was the only way I've been able
to contact you." She glances at the old man, glances away at the floor.
"I'll let you finish your - business - here." She crosses to standbeside
him, looking down with an expression of sympathy. She places something in
his right hand. "Here's my card. We have mutual interests that need
exploring." In the doorway she hesitates, then turns and fixes himwith a
piercing gaze. "Don't take too long. I found you by doing my homework;
others may find you too." She retreats, closing the door quietly behind
herself.

Without looking at it, he places the card and the tape case in his breast
pocket. He rises, looking down at the bed, remembering the old man's face.
Leaning over the bed, he places a gentle hand on his grandfather's forehead.
Then, flicking a penknife out of his pants pocket, he reaches for the
respirator tubing.

***************
The elevator chimes, signaling the stop at ground level. Stepping through
the opening doors, he pauses, pulls out the business card and reads: "T.
Dylan Frohike" with three phone numbers and an Internet address. "Bonded
Protection - Discreet Investigations - High-Tech Surveillance". Andalong
the bottom, in smaller print, "Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur inillis".
He tucks it back into his pocket with a thoughtful expression, and, glancing
at the ceiling, slips anonymously into the flow of people heading for the
main entrance. Visiting hours are the busiest time of day for any hospital,
and visiting hours are over.

* finis *

p.s. for the non-Latin inclined, it means "times change, and we changewith
them".
Colleen C. Bailey
"You can't aim to kill when you're laughing"
ccbailey@facstaff.wisc.edu