Philippa's Request

By Josan

Author: Josan
Beta: Solan
Summary: Philippa Wilson asks our lads to do her a little favour.
Pairing: Sk/M/K
Rating: PG-13
Comments: jmann@mondenet.com

DISCLAIMER: The three main characters and the doctor are the property of CC, Fox and 1013 (Tant pis!), but the rest belong to MOI.

NOTE: Marina Conway-Jones used to be Marita, but I had forgotten there was already a Marita, who is not my Marita, so Marita (mine) has become Marina.

NOTE 2: The Russian Embassy involved in this story may be located in Washington D.C., but architecturally, is based on the old one in Ottawa.

(Hey! It's *only* a story!!!)

 

 

 

 

Krycek slouched against the doorway of the "family" room and examined his two housemates.

Mulder, long legs stretched out in front of him, was sitting on the base of his spine, remote in hand, channel surfing through an almost muted tv.

Not muted enough for Skinner who was stubbornly sitting very straight in his favourite chair, working his way through the same report he'd been trying to read for the last week.

Mulder ignored the occasional glares that were directed his way just as Skinner ignored the slightly exaggerated heart-felt sighs that came from Mulder's chair.

Krycek knew what they were both feeling.

Bored.

As he was.

Not that he was bored with work...well, not really. After nearly three years, his team was top-of-the-line. So well trained that they knew what to do without his having to direct them. Nash had congratulated him just the other day about some work they'd done. Problem was it was work his team had done with almost no input from him. He was beginning to feel that he had trained himself out of a job he liked.

And Mulder. Well, Mulder was suffering from a bout of writer's block. After producing four best sellers in a row, he was fresh out of ideas.

So he was driving them all crazy with his attempts to find himself a new story line. He'd taken over the bathroom, spending hours soaking in a hot bath. There were candle wax droppings and stains all over the room from his insistence that candle light was absolutely necessary to setting the right atmosphere.

That hadn't worked, so he'd tried meditation, long walks, wine and mood music - though Krycek couldn't see how Nine Inch Nails mixed with Montavani could motivate you do anything other than pull your hair out.

Now he'd taken to living in front of the tv, remote in hand, waiting to be struck by lightning.

Which was driving Skinner crazy.

Things were very slack right now at Wilson-Jones, and so Philippa Wilson was taking advantage of down time to have all the offices redone. Skinner had been effectively banned from going in. Though he didn't go into his office all that often, of course *now*, that's all he wanted to do.

 

All considered, it wasn't surprising that things had gotten a little tense at the Krycek/Mulder/Skinner household.

Krycek pushed his shoulder off the jamb, went and dropped into his chair. Cleared his throat.

No reaction. Mulder kept on surfing; Skinner, pretending he was reading.

"Ah-hem!"

Well, this time he'd gotten Skinner's attention. He smiled at him, waited.

Skinner put the report down: Krycek was up to something.

Krycek directed his gaze at Mulder. Skinner shifted a bit in his chair so he had a better view of their dishevelled lover. He, too, stared at Mulder, waited.

Mulder knew they were waiting for him. He wasn't in the mood to be accommodating. He had an editor who was calling every week to ask him how the new book was coming along. So far he'd been hedging, telling her he was still doing research. She'd offered him a research assistant. Yeah. Right. Like that was going to help a lot when he had no idea at all what needed researching.

Skinner softly cleared his throat. Mulder sighed deeply, loudly. Hit the off button and turned to glare at the two others. Skinner countered the glare with a very knowing raise of an eyebrow, turned to face Krycek.

Now that he had both their attentions, Krycek slouched a bit in his chair, stretched his legs out, crossed one booted foot over the other.

"I had an interesting lunch meeting today."

Mulder grimaced a "Big deal!" face. Skinner at least made a pretence of looking interested.

"With Philippa Wilson."

Now he had both their attentions. Not 100%, but a hell of a lot more than before.

"She's asked me to look into a little matter for her."

Krycek smiled innocently at the two men now glaring at him.

"Krycek, get on with it," Skinner snapped.

"He won't," grouched Mulder. "He's having too much fun drawing this out."

Krycek grinned. "Actually, we may all have some fun. If we decide to handle this for her, that is." And stopped there.

"Alex!" Skinner growled. "We are neither of us in the mood right now for games. Get to the damn point. What does Philippa want us to look into?"

"She would like us to break into the Russian Embassy." And watched as his little bombshell brought interest to Mulder's eyes, incredulity to Skinner's.

"Okay," Mulder began sitting up, "now that you've really got our attention, why don't you tell us why she would like us to break into the Russian Embassy?"

"Marina Conway-Jones."

He got two questioning looks.

"She spent some time in the fifties training with the Kiev Ballet. Had a affair with a dancer who turned out to be an informant for the KGB."

"Letters?" Skinner offered.

Krycek nodded.

"So, what's the big deal? I mean," said Mulder, "it was almost fifty years ago. Who cares?"

"Her grandson?" Skinner smiled as Krycek nodded again. Nice to know he could still follow a trail with just a few clues.

"What about her grandson? He's going to be upset because his granny had sex? I don't get it." Mulder's attention was beginning to stray back to the remote.

"Gregory Jones Walker will be running for Congress in the up-coming elections. He's still quite young, only in his twenties, but already they're talking bigger things for him." Krycek had Mulder's attention again.

"And," picked up Skinner, "the fact that granny had sex, as you so indelicately put it, with a KGB informant - officer probably?"

Krycek nodded.

"Might not go down well with the voters, especially of the district he's running in. They're rather conservative in that neck of the woods. That kind of revelation would pretty much put an end to any of his political aspirations."

He turned to Krycek. "So what do they want in return for the letters?"

"They want a certain transportation firm to be recommended by Wilson-Jones for a government contract."

"Moving?" Skinner asked in his AD voice.

"Computer hardware for certain military destinations."

Mulder gave a low whistle. "Which means one way or another they'll find a way to infiltrate those computers."

"A virus. A transmitter system of some kind." Krycek shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine. Not to mention who really owns the transport company."

 

"Wild guess," said Mulder, "Russian Mafia."

"One of the new American-Russian businesses." Krycek was pleased to see that writer's block hadn't affected Mulder's ability to grasp the big picture.

"So, no letters, no blackmail." Skinner drew them back to the problem at hand. "Who approached whom?"

"A newly arrived attache asked Philippa for a meeting. They held it yesterday morning in her office. The recommendation report is to be tabled next week."

"Not much time." Skinner met Krycek's eyes, saw something else in them. "Alex. What aren't you telling us?"

Krycek slouched in his seat, looked at Mulder. "The newest attache is an old acquaintance. Of ours. Mine and Mulder's."

Mulder sat up straight. "Really?"

"The doctor at the camp."

Mulder's face went hard.

Skinner had seen Mulder's face take on many aspects in the years he'd known him, but he had never seen this expression, ever, on his lover's face.

Krycek had.

"You're sure?" Mulder's voice was dangerously soft.

"Philippa videotaped the meeting. We went back to her office after lunch and she showed it to me. It's him all right. Calls himself Solovyov. Vladimir Sergeyevitch Solovyov. Supposedly here to oversee the new scientific exchanges between American and Russian universities."

"Jesus Christ!" Mulder got up, took a nervous turn around the room.

Skinner knew the story behind the trip to Tunguska: Mulder's exposure to the black oil, his part in testing the effectiveness of the vaccine. How Krycek had lost his arm. How he had stolen the vaccine.

"Well," he looked at the two men, "how are we going to do this?"

Krycek pulled his gaze away from Mulder. "*Are* we doing this?"

"Fox?"

Mulder took a last turn around the room. He would have to get his emotions under control. He took a deep breath. Held it. Released it. He turned to look at his lovers.

"Yes."

 

 

Krycek held a private meeting with his team. By afternoon all five of them had put in a request for vacation time. Which led to a very closed meeting between Krycek and Nash. The upshot of that meeting was a middle of the night transfer of equipment from Nash Securities to a house in the suburbs of Washington. Considering that all three residents had their own computer set-ups, their own high-density lines, it was merely a matter of exchanging some of the older equipment for the very latest in prototypes.

 

Krycek set up his team in the family room, let them loose on finding the information they would need: architectural blue prints, security system, inside schedules, guard routines, etc.

Skinner got on the phone and began pulling strings to get an invitation to the celebration supper planned at the Embassy after the ceremonial signings of new business exchanges between the two countries. The Secretary of Agriculture was going to be there along with the Secretary of Commerce. It didn't take much to have a best-selling author and a member of a respectable think tank added at the last minute to the guest list provided to the Embassy by the personal assistant to the Secretary of Agriculture, who, not many people knew, had spent five years with the FBI working undercover.

Krycek paid a discreet visit to a fuming Marina Conway-Jones. He let her vent her anger and frustration at the fact that something which happened before her marriage could affect her grandchildren. He got her to dig around in her old letters for a sample of her handwriting forty-five years ago. They needed something to compare with, just in case.

"I wrote to the jerk in French." They were speaking in Russian. "It seemed so much more romantic." Marina pulled out some notes from a French lecture she'd attended while she'd been dancing in Europe in her twenties.

"Was he worth it?" Krycek asked, then quickly kept on. "Sorry. That was personal. Forget I asked."

Marina Conway-Jones came to stand right in front of the man she was hoping could pull off a miracle. If she were the only one involved, she would have had no qualms about revealing the liaison herself. But there were others who would be hurt through no fault of their own.

She may have found her grandson a bit too pompous for someone his age, but she hated the fact that her past behaviour could ruin his hopes, his dreams for his future.

And Phil. Well, Phil was her dearest friend, the sister of her heart, but she should not have to put the reputation of an organization she'd built to reflect her own honesty, her trustworthiness into jeopardy. That she was even contemplating it was proof enough of the love the two bore each other.

"I was twenty-two. He was blond. Blue-eyed. Romantic. A superb dancer. With a superb body. A great deal of stamina."

Krycek nodded. "All very important at twenty-two."

Marina stroked a finger along Krycek's jawline from ear to chin. "Yes," she agreed. "And I have very fond memories of my stay with the Kiev." Her finger followed his chin, up along the other side of his jaw. "But right now, you would make me very happy if you brought me his balls along with the letters."

Krycek grinned. "I don't know about the balls, but I'll...we'll do our best for the letters."

Marina placed her long, still elegant hands on his shoulders, leaned over and kissed him first on one cheek, then the other, Russian style. "Be very careful, Alex. I don't want anyone to suffer, to be hurt on my account. These men are not KGB, they're far more dangerous."

Krycek returned the kisses. "We know. We've had dealings with Comrade Solovyov. This isn't without personal satisfaction for us."

 

 

Mulder was surprised to see how little the man calling himself Vladimir Solovyov had changed. Still a small man. Greyer. Thinner. Glass lenses thicker. He smiled at Mulder as they were about to be introduced to each other by a member of the Embassy cultural staff.

"Oh, but I already know Mr. Mulder. We met once. Do you remember, Mr. Mulder?"

"Yes, Doctor Solovyov, I remember."

The smile Mulder gave Solovyov caused the third man to step back, nervously look from one to the other. He quickly found someone else that needed his attention.

"As a matter of fact, I based one of my characters on you."

"Really?" Solovyov looked quite taken by surprise. "I have read all your books. Which one am I?"

"Karpov. In my first book."

Solovyov had to think. "Ah, the scientist!" Then he frowned. "The one who is pulled apart by the people he has experimented upon."

"That's him. I quite enjoyed writing that part."

Mulder smiled as pleasantly as he could, now quite enjoying the little man's badly concealed anger. He had described Karpov as a smarmy little toad of a man.

The PA to the Secretary of Agriculture came up to them. "Mr. Mulder, Doctor Solovyov, may I introduce Walter Skinner?"

Mulder gave a little absentminded nod: he was scanning the room. Solovyov looked torn between glaring at Mulder and shaking Skinner's hand. Politeness won out.

"Mr. Skinner," continued the PA, "is with Wilson-Jones, a very respected think tank based here in Washington."

Solovyov dropped Skinner's hand. "Wilson-Jones. I see." He got a very nasty look on his face. "I think I see very clearly."

Skinner merely raised an eyebrow as he watched the man scurry away to confer with a couple of very large, oily looking characters who were trying very hard to look innocuous in one corner of the room.

"Is that what you wanted?" The PA preferred knowing as little of this situation as possible.

"Yes, thank you." Dismissing the man.

Mulder turned back to Skinner, smiled at someone he knew. "What are they up to?"

Skinner took a sip of the ginger ale he held in his hand. "Identifying us. I think we've got our shadows for the night."

"Good." Mulder smiled at another fan who was nudging her companion. Soon he would be holding court the way he did at all these types of gatherings. "Au jeu."

Solovyov's thugs found it easy to keep Mulder in view the entire evening. He was usually surrounded by several people, entertaining them with quips, snippets, making them laugh at his explanation that writer's block was handicapping his newest work, at his attempts to overcome it. At one point he was the centre of attention of a group consisting of the two Secretaries, the Russian Ambassador, and their wives.

Skinner wasn't too difficult to keep under eye either. He drew less attention than Mulder, but there was no scarcity of people who were happy to talk to him. Of course conversation within that group was more serious, less raucous. Once they thought they had lost him, only to realize that Skinner had taken a trip to the washroom, coming back in the company of one of the businessmen who were the supposed focus of the evening.

At Solovyov's direction, security had been tightened around the supper populace, without most of them being aware of it. Solovyov himself stuck to the shadows of the room, like a stalker ready to pounce on his prey should he be given the opportunity.

He wasn't.

At the end of the evening, apart from the occasional visit to the washroom, neither man had left the group.

Solovyov still thought it was too much of a coincidence to have a man he'd had dealings with in the past, another with a connection to a present deal suddenly show up at the same time. At his insistence, security that night was also tightened around the embassy.

And maybe he should prepare a little surprise visit, just to ensure that the ground rules were fully understood.

 

 

"Is it working?"

Krycek grinned at Skinner. "Like a charm."

The birdish woman with the overlarge glasses who sat at the computer was busy tracking one of the two thugs that Skinner had managed to tag during the evening. A large black man was tracking the other from his computer.

Skinner removed his tie, unbuttoned the top of his shirt. Krycek's eyes followed his hands. Skinner caught the little flicker of hunger that flashed across Krycek's face. Sex had been pretty scarce these past weeks, what with everyone's tempers being a bit ready. He slowly undid a couple more buttons, slipped his hand under the silky material of his shirt, as if rubbing an itch.

Krycek knew exactly what Skinner was doing. And why. As he moved to go check the second computer, he passed behind Skinner, letting his hand stroke the firm ass of the older man.

The two of them exchanged grins.

"They're merging." Cyn's voice, unlike her body, was husky.

"Where?" Immediately the two men were completely focused on the computers, one to each.

Mulder found them looking back and forth between the two computers, verifying locations not only against the architect's plans that they had located but against the secure copy Liz had "somehow" (Ask me no questions!) downloaded from the Kremlin's own archives.

He had gone up to change into sweats. It was going to be a long night and he had no intention of being uncomfortable. The tray he carried in had a fresh pot of coffee, mugs on it.

"Well?" He handed Skinner a mug, took a sip from his own.

"Residence. Third floor, fourth room from the left, across from the secretary's bedroom."

"Are they inside?" Mulder leaned over Krycek, rested his chin on his shoulder. Rested his free hand on Krycek's hip.

Krycek smiled to himself. This was what they had all needed: something to break the monotony they had fallen into.

Augustus mumbled from his computer, "They seem to be facing the right hand wall."

Skinner had tagged his man on the back; Mulder, on the front. With the high resolution magnification, Gus could determine where and how the men were standing. Plus, at Krycek's suggestion, he had programmed the tags to pulse with different beats so that they came through the screen in different colours.

"Which means," Skinner was thinking out loud, "that he doesn't want them to see what he's opening, so it's probably on the left hand wall. Well, that will help limit the space we've got to search."

The doorbell rang, in a coded melody. Mulder went to let in another member of Krycek's team.

Tony had been a dancer until a broken foot had put an end to a not-so-promising career. He was short, about five foot seven, wiry, all muscle. He'd put his skill to use as a second storey man until Nash had cornered him one night, breaking into his mother's apartment.

While holding a gun on the man, Nash had casually asked him why he shouldn't just shoot him then and there. He'd made the mistake of taking his eyes off Tony for a breath and discovered it was not something ever to do again. He'd won the fight that followed only because being literally twice Tony's size, his sheer weight and size had restrained the smaller man.

At that point in time, he knew Krycek was looking to add someone flexible, literally, to his team. With a bit of persuasion, necessary at both ends, Nash had covinced Krycek to give Tony a trial run. He was still around.

"Liz is keeping an eye on Marina," he reported to Krycek.

"Good. Let's hope Mulder and Skinner's presence has worried our mark enough to pay her a little visit soon. You all ready?"

"And raring to go." Tony rocked on his feet, energy barely under control.

"I'll go change," said Skinner. "Just in case it's sooner."

Mulder went to take his place behind Gus. "Accidentally" palmed Sinner's genitals as he bumped against him doing so. "Sorry."

"No, you're not," muttered Skinner, low enough for just Mulder to hear. But he grinned all the way to their bedroom, to change out of the evening's formal wear. He would need a different costume if this went off.

 

 

 

When Skinner came back, he was wearing black boots, black slacks, black turtle neck, carrying a black suede jacket. Cyn looked up as he did, gave a low wolf whistle. Everyone turned around.

Skinner gave her a cold look, got a unpenitent wink in response.

Krycek and Mulder checked him out: Skinner might be in his mid-fifties, but he was still a turn-on. Their turn-on. And dressed this way, he looked more than a little dangerous. They shared a grin and went back to the computers.

About an hour later, Gus announced, "They're on the move."

Gus and Cyn were busy changing the screen images to the grounds around the Embassy, and then to the city street plan.

"I think," Cyn said, "that we have a go. Gus?"

The big man nodded.

Skinner and Tony went out the door.

Krycek went to a third computer set up with a direct link to Liz's laptop. He typed in: Wake up, Baby. Visitors may be on their way.

Liz was the youngest of them all, barely twenty. She sent back: Fuck off, Granddad.

Gus got up from his computer, went to a table where there were three laptops. He worked over them for a couple of minutes. Went back to his screen and contacted Tony's computer with the new data.

He straightened, stretched. "My brothers will meet us as arranged."

"Good." Krycek verified the laptops against Cyn's computer. He took one, handed the two others to Mulder. "Everyone know what they're supposed to do?"

They all nodded.

Krycek smiled. "Well, then, let's go."

Cyn waved them off. She was their communications central. It was her job to link all and every string of the operation, keep them from getting tangled. She'd been Nash's secretary, thinking of retiring, spending more time with her grandchildren. But when she'd gone to spend some time with them, she soon discovered teenagers bored her to tears.

She'd applied to join Krycek's team and, to everyone's surprise, had been accepted. Cyn wasn't bored with this crew. And was more than happy to be the one who stayed behind to look after things.

Besides, she had a chronic fear of guns, and tonight, there were guns around. She fingered her good luck charm as she checked the time, sent it on to Liz and Tony.

If Solovyov were on his way to Marina's, it would take him a good hour to get there. An hour back. Marina had orders to detain him as long as possible.

They were forty minutes from the Embassy. Mulder looked at the van clock. Krycek was relaying a message on his laptop. In the back seat, Gus was humming a gospel hymn under his breath.

Of all of the team, he was the only one with a nice, upper middle class upbringing - father was a surgeon; mother, a stock broker. Augustus had gotten through university on a football scholarship: 3.9 average in Computer Science. Never gotten into any trouble of any kind in his life. Sang in his church choir.

Thomas Nash had snapped him up, stealing him from larger, more prestigious companies by signing a document that allowed him to maintain 80% ownership of anything he developed while working for Nash Securities. Because that was one thing Gus loved doing: playing around with existing hardware, with gadgets, gizmos. And Nash was more than willing to let him do it. Which was how he came to be aware of Krycek and his specialized group.

Krycek had needed some specific modifications on a particular piece of hardware. Gus had done them but had been curious as to the reason for the modifications.

Now he was an integral part of a team planning on breaking into the Russian Embassy. Which, if it went wrong, would, at the very least, cause an international incident. Too good to keep to himself. They'd needed some more muscle for tonight's game, so he had contacted his two younger brothers, attending Georgetown on football scholarships, for a bit of adventure.

They picked up his brothers, both of whom were bigger than Gus, and drove to a location where they could easily see the Embassy. There Krycek played with the keyboard, keeping in touch with Cyn, Liz and Tony. Gus in the back seat was basking in the pleasure of running his brothers through what was expected of them tonight. Keeping them pumped but quiet.

"They're there." Krycek's announcement froze all activity for a moment. "Okay. Act one begins."

A car Mulder recognized as the one Skinner was driving pulled up to the front of the Embassy. There was a delay at the gates while the guard called in and then a lengthy exchange of conversation, a thorough examination of the car before the gates were opened and Skinner allowed to drive in.

Gus pulled out a pair of night binoculars. From his perspective he related: "He's parking it near the wall. Getting out of the car. Up the stairs. The door is open already. Looks like the Ambassador himself. In his pj's. They're arguing. He's in."

Mulder exchanged laptops with Krycek, handed that one back to Gus. Krycek's was keyed to the tag Skinner had on his person.

"Okay. They've put him in the library. He's got the tag on the Ambassador." He handed that one to Mulder, took the third computer from him. Activated it.

"Tony's moving."

In the back of the van, Gus's brothers watched in awe as their older brother began relaying coded messages back and forth between Liz and Cyn. He handed them the binoculars. "Keep an eye on the lay of the land around. Anything moves, let us know. Even if it's a rat."

In the front seat, Mulder snickered, exchanged a grin with Krycek. The Rat and his pack were certainly in motion tonight.

At the entrance to the condo complex where Marina Conway-Jones lived, a deliciously self-satisfied Vladimir Solovyov, accompanied by his personal bodyguards, was accosted on the sidewalk by a Goth female who lurched drunkenly against him, then, as she was pulled off by one of the guards, against him and then his partner as they pushed her away from them.

Back at the house, Cyn grinned. Passed on the message to Gus that Solovyov had been tagged as had his men again. The tags had a limited life span. They could keep track of all three men again till this was over.

The phone on the table next to the computer rang. Cyn carefully checked the number on the display before answering.

"My dear, would you please pass the following message to Alex." Marina was speaking calmly belying the fact that she was trembling with anger and disgust. "Tell him that that man's balls will do very well in place of the others we had discussed."

Krycek laughed out loud when Gus relayed the message Cyn had forwarded.

"Don't I wish," mumbled Mulder. Krycek gave his thigh a little pat of understanding with the fake hand.

At what they had estimated was the right time, Mulder slipped the laptop to Gus. "Keep an eye on him." He pointed to the blue dot who was Skinner. "If he moves back and forth quickly, honk the horn."

The young man nodded seriously, took the laptop and set it up on the seat next to the one he was already working with.

"How's Tony doing?"

Krycek grinned up at him. "Almost at the door. Ready for Act two?"

"They're about a mile away." Gus looked up at his brothers. "You two know what to do. And be careful. Mom'll have my head if you get hurt." He watched with approval as they pulled balaclavas on their heads, ready to be pulled down.

Mulder got out of the van, ran at a steady pace over to the Embassy gate. Right in front of the gates, he started hobbling, as though he had pulled something. He stopped, bent over, panting hard. Krycek knew he was ignoring the guard's challenge. As car lights swept the entrance, Mulder stood, positioned himself in front of the car, barring it from entering.

The guard came out of the guard house, a couple more showed up from the yard.

The driver lowered his window, yelled at Mulder to move.

"Hey," Mulder said cheerily, "I know you. You were at tonight's supper. Seems to me I saw you every time I turned around."

He ignored the angry exchange going on between the driver and the guard at the gate, raised his hands above his head to show he wasn't armed, placed them on the top of the car, bent over, spoke into the back. "If it isn't the good doctor. Partying late, Doc?"

"Mr. Mulder. What are you doing here at this time of the night?"

"Clearing my head. Running. I like to run at night. So much quieter, don't you think."

"Ah, yes. I remember you liking to run. Perhaps you should run away again. Cities can prove to be much more dangerous than forests." He gestured to the driver. In Russian he ordered the man to drive on.

But Mulder had moved in front of the car. Just as the driver was opening his door, to move him physically if need be, two large burly black-clad shapes came barrelling out of the darkness. One grabbed the door, yanked it open, pulled the driver out, tripping him at the same time.

The second man quickly frisked him, taking his gun, a wallet, a second gun from the small of his back.

The second body guard opened the passenger side back door, came out, weapon drawn, ready to fire. Mulder threw himself against the door, jarring the man, causing him to miss.

The guards were quickly opening the gate, coming out with their automatic weapons ready to fire.

Solovyov came out of his side, screaming at them not to fire: all it would take was the shooting of an American resident, even one committing a crime, in front of the Russian Embassy to start a diplomatic incident of monumental proportion. The door opened and the Ambassador added his weight to Solovyov's orders.

Meanwhile, the two "robbers" had taken off, going around the back of the car and disappearing into the streets.

Mulder moved out into the street, hands above his head, drawing the guards' attention along with Solovyov's.

Solovyov was accusing Mulder of having organized the attack; Mulder yelled back that he was an American citizen, just out for a jog.

 

A car pulled up out of nowhere, brakes slammed on stopping the car right next to Mulder. The passenger door opened. Mulder bent over, as if holding a conversation, slid in and the car took off as fast as it had arrived. Disappeared just as quickly.

"Good girl, Baby," said Krycek as the car's brake lights barely came on as she took a corner.

"And Tony?" asked Gus, sighing with relief as he caught sight of two large black shapes carefully making their way back to the van. Their orders had been to make their way back to the van separately if possible. They slid in, barely breathing hard, trying to contain the hysterical reactions to the night's activities. One of them handed Krycek their booty: the two handguns and a wallet with what would later prove to be over three thousand in American dollars.

"He's in. Already up on the third floor." He smiled as Gus's brothers removed their balaclavas, grinning with the sheer joy of an adrenaline rush.

"Act three," said Gus.

"Act three," agreed Krycek. He didn't like the fact that Skinner was the one who was sitting in the lion's den. But they needed someone in who would have a legitimate reason for wanting to speak to Solovyov at this time of the night. Solovyov wanted to do business with Wilson-Jones. Who better to discuss this business than a valued employee of Wilson-Jones?

Besides, if Solovyov so much as caught sight of him, Krycek knew he would be dead, no matter what the consequences would be. Solovyov wasn't the forgiving type. Krycek didn't doubt that the good doctor had had many difficult moments after he had walked away with the boy and the vaccine. Still, if he had to, he would go in there, guns blazing should Skinner need rescuing.

A block away, Mulder checked out the weapon Liz had pulled out of the glove compartment for him. The top of his sweats had a zippered bib pocket. He emptied the box of ammunition into it.

Liz was changing the slinky Goth dress for a black turtle neck, black jeans. Mulder noticed that she didn't wear a bra, favoured very skimpy panties. She also favoured Glocks. Had two of them at hand for herself.

Liz was from Nicaragua. Had seen her family murdered in front of her when she was four. Had killed her first soldier at five. A missionary order had gotten her out when she was twelve, found her a foster home with well-meaning people who couldn't understand why such a sweet, beautiful child could fight like a demon, would attack anyone whom, she felt, threatened her. After she badly beat up a boy who was twice her size, they sent her back to the missionary order.

What had saved Liz from the streets, from probably killing some john was an old computer that sat in the office, unused by anyone. The priest had caught her playing with it one day, found someone who could instruct her in the use of it. Six months later, Liz had moved on into the world of hackers.

The computer Liz used was a contribution from Thomas Nash. At sixteen, she began working for Nash because, he agreed with the priest, it was the only way Liz was going to stay out of trouble. She didn't, not completely. But at least Nash provided her with an outlet for her talents. Then Krycek interviewed her, saw a bit of himself, and took her into the team.

She knew Mulder watched her change her clothes from the corner of his eye. But she also knew he was Krycek's. She just smiled at him.

Mulder picked up the laptop she had placed under the seat, activated it and reported in to Gus and Cyn.

Inside the Embassy, Solovyov and the Ambassador were screaming at each other. So much so that the sounds penetrated up to the third floor, but not into the fourth room on the left where Tony was happily practising his talents on the safe he had found behind a framed photograph reproduction of Tolstoy sitting with his wife.

An ear open for any sound that might come from the staff - Krycek would warn him should the thugs or Solovyov get too close, he opened the small safe, took out its contents, found the small pack of letters with the handwriting he was looking for, replaced them with the lecture notes Marina had given Krycek. Put everything back.

Now to get out.

Downstairs, the argument had caused staff to shut their doors firmly, for the guards to return to their stations, blind to what was happening behind them. For Skinner to come out of the library to see what all the noise was about.

Solovyov was surprised to be informed that Mr. Skinner, who was here as a representative of Wilson-Jones, had insisted that he had an appointment with Solovyov that very night. That he had been waiting for over an hour for him. That the Ambassador was going back to bed and leaving him to deal with this "appointment", about which *he* knew nothing. That he had sent all the servants to bed and that Solovyov should see the man out when he was done, close and lock the door behind him.

The Ambassador bid a curt "Good night" to Skinner, made his way up to bed.

Solovyov was not in the mood to deal with anyone from Wilson-Jones. The pleasure he had gotten earlier in the evening from taunting Marina Conway-Jones had quickly dissipated. Still, he had no real choice: he had to hear the man out. Who knew: maybe he had come to announce Wilson-Jones's capitulation.

But that wasn't why Skinner had come.

He was here to inform Solovyov that Philippa Wilson had asked him to look into the matter and to present his opinion on the "deal".

"I was not aware that Madame Wilson took anyone's counsel when she made personal decisions." Solovyov sat in the leather armchair that was far too large for him: it make him look toadier than ever.

"But this isn't a personal decision, Doctor. It concerns the organization and as such I have been asked to assess the damage potential should the organization acquiesce to your request."

"I assure you, Mr. Skinner, it is no request. It is a demand."

Skinner sat back in his chair, crossed one leg over the other. "How much?"

"How much what?" Solovyov was tired, not so quick.

"How much for the letters, Doctor Solovyov? This is a business deal. And the bottom line is always more important than the deal itself. How much do you want for the letters? For yourself, personally."

Solovyov began laughing. Hard. Skinner waited patiently until the man had caught his breath.

"You don't understand what I'm offering?" Skinner looked liked a teacher trying to get through to a particularly thick student.

"Oh, I understand, all right. I understand that for me to accept such an offer would mean my death. Even if I should contemplate such an offer, which I do not."

The little man stood up. The face was that of the man who had ordered experimentation on his fellow citizens, worked them until they died.

"I am tired, Mr. Skinner. It has been a long day for me. Report back to Mesdames Wilson and Jones that the deal is as I have explained it. Nothing else." He opened the door, indicated that Skinner was to precede him. The same with the outer door. He closed it sharply. Made a production of locking it as loudly as he could.

Under the baleful eyes of the guards, Skinner made his way to his car. Started it. "Tony?"

"Present and accounted for," came from the hiding space under the back seat.

The guards made him wait before opening the gate as slowly as they could. He ignored them as he pulled out of the Embassy property. Two blocks down from the Embassy, he was joined by a van, and then a dark car.

When he was sure they were out of harm's way, Tony flipped open the back seat, got out. Joined Skinner in the front. The two of them were silent for the rest of the drive back to the house. Both wore silly grins on their faces

They weren't alone.

 

 

Cyn had the traditional champagne ready to pour when they burst into the family room.

Krycek took a detour through the kitchen to contact Marina, report mission accomplished.

"Burn them, right now," she told him.

"You trust me to do so?" Krycek accepted a glass of champagne from Cyn who was coming to get another bottle from the fridge.

"Alex. I trust you with my life. My heart. Burn them. Bring me the ashes, if you feel you must."

In the family room, in a large roasting pan they never used, Krycek ceremoniously burnt the small pack of letters.

Cyn poured more champagne, listened approvingly to Gus's brothers relating their evening's adventures, knowing their parents had better never hear of it.

Tony rocked on his feet, energy barely restrained as he recounted his part. Cyn and the brothers made all the appropriate noises.

Liz scoffed occasionally, not too happy she had played a lesser role this time. Gus complimented her on the initiative she'd shown dressing as a Goth, her driving skills. She in turn allowed that the new tags he'd developed had made her job much easier.

Skinner scolded Mulder for throwing himself on the thug with the gun. Both Mulder and Krycek wanted to know how Solovyov had reacted to his offer of a buy-out.

Gradually, nerves toned down. Gus gathered his brothers to drive them back to their residences. Krycek thanked them both for their participation, for keeping cool while working. He divided the money from the thug's wallet between them. "A bonus. For a job well done."

Tony went off by himself. Probably to an early morning dance class where he would get rid of the nervous energy that still radiated off him.

Liz and Cyn left together. They were going to spend the day sitting in Cyn's living room, watching all the soaps she had taped while they were preparing for the job.

Krycek helped Mulder clear up while Skinner took a call from a very grateful Philippa.

"We're all invited for supper on Saturday," he announced. "Including Gus's brothers. She and Marina want a detailed report on the whole thing, from beginning to end."

The sky streaked pink when they went up to bed. Mulder yawned as he opened the door to his and Skinner's room. Krycek muttered "First up makes coffee," as he went to pass Skinner on the way to his.

Was taken by surprise when Skinner caught him by the arm, pulled him into their bedroom.

He met Mulder's eyes and they both turned to face Skinner. It would have been difficult to say whose smile was widest.

The door shut softly behind them.

*************************NIF***************************