TITLE: "Midnight Angel VII: Walk Through Fire" (1/1)

AUTHOR: Isahunter

RATING: PG (Language)

CATEGORY: V, WIP, Krycek/Other (No slash)

SPOILERS: Up to "One Son," S6.

TIMELINE: Set in the winter of '99, but in this story the events of the episode "Biogenesis" never occurred.

ARCHIVE: Yes, with my name and all headers attached

FEEDBACK: Isahunter@aol.com

DISCLAIMER: Although the other characters are of my own creation, all characters from "The X-Files" belong to Chris Carter, Ten-Thirteen, Fox. No infringement intended.

SUMMARY: Secrets and lies are meaningless with time

NOTE: This is a continuation of the "Midnight Angel" series, available at the eXpositions web site: http://www.aliens.mcmail.com/isadiadem/

For Ben.

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"Time is the fire in which we burn."

--Gene Roddenberry

She sat cross-legged on the floor, staring at the old painting with unfocused eyes. The blurred abstract shapes made little more sense to her than when she'd first painted them. Even so, there was a strange electricity about it. An almost palpable spark in the air. It was nearly two in the morning when she'd been awakened from a restless sleep with an inexplicable urge. Crawling from that warm bed, she'd pulled all of her old unfinished paintings from the stacks leaning against the wall and laid them on the floor. End to end, the weird shapes illuminated only by the lamp on her night stand. Staring at them for endless hours. And without so much as an idea in her head, she picked up her tray of paint tubes and started squeezing their contents out onto the palate.

Using a knife and an assortment of brushes, she set to work. Smashing the paint into the canvas with ferocious intensity. Mixing the colors directly on the painting. Pressing with such force that she began to work up a sweat. She only paused once, to tie the hair away from her face and mop the perspiration from her brow. Moving from canvas to canvas, unaware of the mess she was creating all over her floor, she worked at a frantic pace. Her eyes swept wildly back and forth, taking in the whole scene with manic concentration. The muscles in her arms quivering and making her strokes even more haphazard.

Finally, at nine in the morning, she stood back and looked at the mess on her floor with stunned eyes. She felt as if she'd just woke from a coma. The fuzziness in her mind slowly dissipated as she started cleaning the dozens of brushes and sponges she'd mussed. Paint covered her arms, smeared her sweats and dotted her floor. She didn't remember making such a huge mess. More importantly, however, she didn't remember what had urged her to paint the gigantic five-canvas collection behind her.

Standing at the sink, with blue-green water dripping from her brushes, she glanced over her shoulder apprehensively. She hadn't needed to dream during the night. Her entire nightmare was lying on her apartment floor.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!"

Alex laid his forehead against the steering wheel, his burning eyes closed, dialing the number on his cell phone by touch alone. When the receptionist answered, he asked for the first available flight to Moscow. Just as he suspected, most flights were booked for the holiday season. She told him the best she could do was put him on a stand-by list. Mentally cursing, he gave her the name Arntzen and spelled it for her. He was waiting for her confirmation when he started at a tapping on the passenger side window.

Sabryn stood there looking through the tinted glass, smiling awkwardly. Lowering the window, he turned off the phone.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt. I just wanted to say hello." She brushed her hair away from her eyes, her hand laden down with shopping bags. Noting the direction of his gaze, she said, "Last minute Christmas presents."

Unlocking the door, he reached across to push it open for her. "Get in. It's freezing out there."

She smiled, and didn't waste a minute climbing into the truck and closing the door. He rolled up the window as she stashed her bags in front of her. She nodded towards the nearby bar. "Were you going to go in?"

"I was supposed to meet someone. He never showed."

"Oh. I'm sorry. Was it important?"

He sighed heavily. "Not anymore."

They sat for a moment in fumbling silence. He could see the slight pink of her cheeks, but he had no idea if it was from the cold, or being in his presence for the first time since that night they'd shared. She chewed on her lip for a second or two, before turning to him with deliberate assertion.

"Do you want to fuck me?"

He nearly choked. "Now?"

"No..." This time he was certain she was blushing. "No, that's not what I meant. I--what is this thing between us? Are we just friends who got a little carried away one day, or what? I'm not asking you for an affair or anything...I'd just like to know where things stand."

Shit. The world as they knew it was going to end in less than a month, and she wanted to know where the hell they stood?

"It was just fucking, Sabryn, and you shouldn't expect anything more from me."

"I don't," she said, rather defensively. "I'd just like to know..."

"What?"

"Am I the only one? I know it's a little late to be asking this, but the idea of having sex with someone who's also seeing other people really creeps me out."

He ran his hand through his hair, imagining he could actually feel his headache throbbing through his skull. "You're the only one."

"Oh. Good." She sounded entirely too pleased with that revelation. "Well, I should get going. You probably have to get back to work or something."

"I don't exactly have set hours."

"What do you really do, anyway? I promise I won't laugh. You don't have to lie to me."

It figured. The one time he told the truth about something, she didn't believe him. "I already told you."

She shook her head. "My brother used to be ashamed to tell people he worked as a janitor when he was younger. Honestly, hard work is nothing to laugh at."

"Put your seat belt on."

"What?"

"You don't believe me...I'll prove it to you." She opened her mouth to speak, and then abruptly closed it again. Reaching for her seat belt, she nodded. "All right. Prove it."

Sabryn flexed her fingers around the soft tan leather of the bucket seat, fighting the urge to fidget like a child. He drove in silence, and although watching him effortlessly work the stick shift and clutch was fascinating, she was bored out of her mind. There was only so much staring she could do before she was met with his suspicious gaze. She made do with studying him out of the corner of her eye. But it wasn't long before she grew restless once again.

"Where are you taking me?"

"You'll see."

That certainly hadn't gotten her anywhere. Glancing around the large cab of the Dodge Durango, she had to shake her head at the luxury of the vehicle. "This sure is a nice truck. Selling state secrets must be pretty lucrative."

If she wasn't mistaken, the beginning of a smile was forming on his face. "It can be, if you know what you're doing. Especially if you're a good thief."

"Do you expect me to believe you stole this truck?"

"Believe whatever you want."

"All right, Spy Man. Just who do you work for?"

"No one...and everyone."

"A double agent?"

"An ex-FBI agent. Turned traitor."

He took an absurd amount of pride in his little story, that much was obvious. He couldn't hide the amusement he felt at her disbelief. Fine, she could play along.

"Why would you become a traitor? Was Pussy Galore too much temptation?" He turned to stare at her, nearly making her shiver with that intense gaze. "Almost."

"You, uh...you never did answer me. What made you turn traitor?"

"It was the plan from the very beginning."

"Beginning of what?"

"My life."

She frowned. "You're not going to give me some stupid speech about how you were born bad to the bone, are you?"

"Maybe some other time."

She crossed her arms over her chest. "How long before we get there?"

"Soon."

"We will be back before dark, won't we?" If she hadn't been watching, she would have missed the barely perceptible tightening of his hand on the steering wheel. He didn't answer her.

"Do you have any compact discs for that fancy stereo?" He reached down to the center console and flipped open the lid. "Take your pick."

Sabryn stared down at the compartment, not even noticing the CDs under the black pistol lying on the top. She glanced up at him, and back at the gun again. Taking it out carefully, she laid it on her lap while she selected a disc. Removing the Offspring CD from its case and popping it in the stereo, she tried to ignore the slight unease in the pit of her stomach. Her brother owned many guns and she'd been around them for years. She'd even been taught to use one, and carried it in her purse. But that had nothing to do with the man who sat next to her, claiming to be a spy. Still, she put the gun back in the console with only the slightest doubt in her previous beliefs.

"You know, in 'True Lies,' when Bill Paxton was trying to get Jamie Lee Curtis to believe he was a spy, he carried a gun too. But he was really just a car salesman." She licked her lips. "I hear car salesmen make good money...and they get great deals on new cars, like this one."

Alex merely gave her a quick glance out of the corner of his eye, leaned over, and turned up the volume on the CD.

Nearly an hour later, she sat alone in the car, in front of a closing ice-skating rink, waiting. Wondering what the hell she was doing there. Either one of his "informants" was a grade-schooler, or she'd been seriously made a fool of. When he finally emerged, his jacket pocket bulging with something, she reached down to flip open the lock on the door. As he climbed in behind the steering wheel, he took a jar out of his pocket and handed it to her.

"Don't open it, and don't drop it."

She held it up to the light, peering suspiciously at the black sludge inside. "You brought me out here so you could retrieve a jar of crude oil?"

"It's not crude oil," he said, starting the truck, "and don't drop it."

"You already said that."

"Well I mean it. You definitely don't want to get any of that stuff on you."

Sabryn suddenly held it out away from her body. "What the hell is it?"

"Hang on to it, damn it. You're fine."

Still not quite sure, she pushed her hands back into her sleeves and used the fabric as a buffer between her skin and the glass. "Where are you going, now?"

"Out of town."

"I'm going to be really pissed if this turns out to be mud or something, and you've got me all freaked out over nothing."

"Believe me...you have every right to be wary."

The sun had long ago started its descent by the time he pulled off the main highway. About thirty miles outside of Arlington, Alex switched off the head lights and turned onto narrow dirt road. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Sabryn shiver as she stared up at the steadily darkening sky. He turned down the volume on the stereo, concentrating on the road before him. On either side of the path, forgotten pastures stood thick with tall grass and sporadic stands of naked trees. Far off to the right, an old boarded-up house stood ghostly in the shadows.

"Where are we?" she asked.

"Where doesn't matter. The point is, we're far enough away from people." He could feel her staring at him.

"What are we doing?"

"I want to show you something."

She laughed nervously, trying to hide the waver in her voice. "I've already seen it, remember?"

"Trust me, you haven't seen anything like this." He stopped the truck, setting the brake, and opened the door. She squinted in the overhead light and handed him the jar before climbing out of her own door. Meeting him in front of the truck, she began walking beside him down the dirt path. She shuddered again, despite the plush jacket she was wearing. He wasn't quite sure where the unfamiliar chivalrous urge came from, but he suddenly found himself shrugging off his own coat and draping it over her shoulders. She stopped to stare at him for a moment, her perplexed expression barely visible in the twilight, before murmuring a soft thank you.

She was nearly engulfed by the huge leather jacket, but she pulled it tight around her and hurried after him.

About a quarter mile from the truck, he stopped and started unscrewing the lid of the jar.

"I thought you said not to open it."

"Just stand back."

Tucking her hair behind her ear, she did as he asked and watched him pour half the contents of the jar on the ground. He sealed up the jar and stood back. He could see her staring at the gooey mess on the ground before staring back at him.

"Well this is just thrilling."

"Shhh."

"Why are we watching a puddle of oil? Is it going to turn into a car and drive away?"

"Just watch."

"I can't even believe--"

She gasped, gaping at the puddle on the ground as it began moving. Sliding across the ground in one liquid movement, like a raindrop sliding down a windshield, it began searching for a host. Sabryn covered her mouth with her hand, reaching out to grab his sleeve with the other. She tugged him back, pulling him even closer to her.

"What the hell is it?"

"A virus."

"A...virus?"

"It will lay dormant for years if necessary, but once it senses the heat of a human host, it wakes up. Searches. And when it finds what it's looking for, it infects the body and takes over."

She stared up at him, her mouth hanging open, before shaking her head. "You're talking about it like it's alive. Granted, viruses do seem to have a set mission of infecting people, but they can't think."

"This one can."

She started, pulling him back several more steps as the black oil drew closer. "W-Why do you have it?"

"I took some of it, as proof of its existence."

"You took it?" She licked her lips. "You, um, really *are* a spy?" He merely stared at her.

"And what is this stuff, like some biological weapon?" "Something like that."

"Why would our government develop something like this, after making the countries in the Middle East get rid of their bio-weapons?"

"We didn't create this. But we didn't stop its development, either."

"Then whose is it?"

He glanced back at the oil, watching it slither across the ground with growing agitation. Moving quicker and more frantically in its search. He pushed Sabryn back farther, making sure he stood between her and the virus.

"You'll find that out later."

"Why? Is it top secret?"

"I don't think you understand how serious this is. Years ago, I was given a vaccine for this stuff. I can be a carrier, but I won't be infected. Not like you. Should this stuff ever get into your body, you will go into a coma. It will feed off of your body, using all of your nutrients, growing inside of you and stealing all of your energy until you die. You'll be little more than an incubator. And when it's fully developed, it burst out of your body and move on. But it won't be just you, it will be everyone. They'll all die, and this...this 'crude oil' will take over the earth."

This time he didn't need to push her away from the oil. She started backing away on her own. Faster and faster, nearly stumbling over her own feet. Taking one last look at the oil on the ground, he made sure his jar was sealed up tight and began following her back to the truck.

He nearly had to run to catch up to her. Grabbing her arm, he slowed her down. She shrugged his hand off, and stared at the jar in his hand.

"You've known about this stuff all this time?"

"All my life."

She closed her eyes for a second. "You have to tell someone."

"It's not that simple...but I plan on it, once I gather enough evidence."

"What more do you need? Jesus, who made this stuff? Our government knows about it, and they've done nothing? Don't they care that we're all going to die?"

"They're working on a vaccine."

"Then why haven't they given it to people?"

"Because it's not ready."

"But you said they gave it you, and you can only be a carrier."

"The vaccine I was given was created by the Russians, and they aren't too keen on sharing what they have. This is all like a big race, to see who will be the ones to survive the firestorm."

She took a deep, shuddering breath. "So, what? Are we all just waiting for some war to break out?"

"Yes."

"So maybe it won't happen. Maybe we'll get lucky and world peace will break out."

"It's inevitable, Sabryn. It will happen. It's only a matter of time."

"Well aren't you Mr. Sunshine today."

She started walking towards the truck once more, shivering again as she stared up at the sky.

"You're still cold?"

"No, I'm not cold. I don't like being out at night, especially so far away from the city."

He used his key chain to unlock the truck, and climbed behind the steering wheel. When both of the doors were shut, they sat in silence for a while.

"You're just going to leave that sludge out there? What if some little kid runs across it?"

"If you haven't noticed, there aren't any houses left in this area. It was bought by the government a few years ago."

She didn't bother to ask why. He doubted she'd want to know. Starting the truck, he backed up a bit before turning around and heading back down the long dirt road. When he reached the main road, he turned the headlights back on and headed towards Arlington. It was several minutes before she spoke again.

"The virus is alien in origin, isn't it?" No one statement could have surprised him more than that.

END.

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