Author: Josan

Date: July 25, 1999

Summary: Just after SR 819.

Pairing: Sk/K

Rating: PG

Archive: ArchiveX, Gossamer. Any others if you ask:

just so I know where this is travelling to. Comments: jmann@mondenet.com

DISCLAIMER: These are the property of CC, Fox and 1013, but let's not forget that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.


Skinner put down the scotch he'd been drinking and went to answer the knock on his door.

Had to be a neighbour as the intercom hadn't rung. Wondered who the hell needed anything at this time of the night?

"Yes?" He froze. Started slamming the door shut.

Krycek's hand blocked the door before it had gone half- way. He held up a palm pilot in the other.

Skinner's face formed a grotesque mask of hatred.

"What the fuck," he forced out between clenched teeth, "do you want now, Krycek?"

"Like I said in the car, I'd let you know." Krycek waited until it became obvious that Skinner had no intention of moving. He spoke softly. "Let me in, Skinner. I need to talk to you."

Skinner didn't move, not until Krycek held up the palm pilot again. Then he turned and went to pick up his drink, stood by the window looking out over the city.

Krycek stepped into Skinner's apartment, quietly closed the door. One quick look told him the place hadn't changed at all since the night he had spent on Skinner's balcony. He felt a small flare-up of anger, pushed it down. This was going to be dicey enough without old business interferring.

He walked over to the coffee table, took something out of his pocket, set it down. Skinner had been watching his reflection in the window.

"What's *that*?" he growled at Krycek's image.

"Scrambler. It'll mess up any signal that's being picked up from this room."

Skinner's voice grew even colder. "What you're telling me is that my home is bugged." He finished his drink. "So, Krycek," he turned to face the man he had forgotten was an enemy, "I'm their new 'Saturday Night Live' show?"

Krycek ignored the question. Placed his hand with the palm pilot in his jacket pocket. "They've got your car bugged, too."

"Is there no part of my life they haven't bugged?" He didn't expect an answer. "What do you want, Krycek? Get to the point and then get out here."

Krycek meet Skinner's hatred with resigned patience. "The point is you've got to be more careful."

"Of you?" Skinner spat. "Certainly."

"No, not of me. Spender. He wants you dead."

Skinner raised a cold eyebrow. "Spender? You're confused, Krycek. Spender is dead."

"No. He's very much alive. I recently...dropped in on him."

"Another of your experiments in resurrection?"

Krycek shook his head slightly. "No. If it were up to me, he'd be six feet under, weighted down in a steel coffin. No. He's still around. And he's still pissed off at you."

"I should care?" Skinner's voice betrayed the problem he was having controlling his anger. At Krycek. More at himself. For having been duped into thinking he and Krycek had a truce of some kind.

Krycek was beginning to lose patience. He was putting himself at risk here, coming to Skinner this way. If they were keeping close watch on Skinner, someone was going to wonder why all they were picking up was static. He didn't have much time.

"Shit! Yes, you should bloody well care. Come on Skinner, you're neither stupid nor blind. Spender's been trying to eliminate you since the moment it became obvious to him that you weren't going to be *his* man."

"Think about it. That thing with the hooker. The attempt on your wife that he tried to set you up for. You think the Cardinale thing was chance? Hell, the only reason he didn't succeed is that Cardinale was always quick off the shot. That's how come Melissa Scully died."

Skinner clenched his fists. "You'd have done better, I suppose." His voice was laden with scorn.

"Yes," Krycek snapped back. "I'm a professional. And I'm good. I hit what I aim at *after* I've identified my target. I don't make mistakes and I rarely miss."

"So that's why they gave you the contract." Skinner felt as disgusted as he sounded. "I'm surprised you took so long. All those nice, easy chances. Beryl's. San Antonio. What the hell were you waiting for?"

"Maybe I was waiting for a chance to keep you alive." Krycek's voice got louder.

"Excuse me if I find that hard to believe."

"Why is it so hard, Skinner? I took care of the Rumanian when he had you in his sights."

"Right," Skinner scoffed. "Just so you would have the pleasure of offing me yourself. How *did* you get the nanocytes in me? Or is that none of my business?"

Krycek shrugged. "Ortega. When he touched your hand. In the hall."

"What the hell did *I* ever do to Ortega?"

"Nothing. You were his passage to the Cayman Islands and a bank account. He approached Spender with his invention. Spender wanted proof that it would work. *He* chose you as the test subject."

"So where's Ortega now?"


Skinner jammed his hands into his pants pockets. After a moment's thought, "*You* killed him."

Krycek nodded. "Yes. I killed him."

Skinner looked Krycek over like he was something that had crawled out from under a rock.

"Why so shocked, Skinner? It *is* what I do." Krycek raised his chin, meeting Skinner's disgust right on. "Besides, it's not like he was some gift to humanity. He developed those things for his own benefit. To sell to the highest bidder. If Spender didn't pay him what *he* wanted, he would have offered his toys to anyone with a big enough bank account."

"So, what did you do, blow his brains out?"

"In a way. I used his nanocytes on him. Sort of poetic justice, don't you think? I got them into him the same way he got them into you. And I had to be there when he programmed the palm pilot. It was easy enough to re-program it for him as well. Spender got the proof he wanted. It's just unfortunate that it won't do him any good. Seems Ortega's documentation, all of it, has disappeared."

"I've got them in me, and I'm still alive."

"Yeah, the Elders were finally persuaded that you were worth more to them alive than dead. So far they've overruled Spender's plans for you. He wasn't too happy about that, but he's not in their good graces right now. He'll be monitoring you, hoping you'll give him any excuse to take you out. That's why you have to be careful."

"So, if I read you right, I should thank you for that oh-so-pleasant experience, for the hospital stay. For the experience of dying."

"And for the fact that you're still alive."

"Well, did you ever think that maybe death would be preferable than to being under *your* control? Is *that* how you convinced them, your Elders?"

"Yes. Right now," Krycek stated quietly, "they trust me more than Spender."

"Do they know yet what a mistake that is?"

Krycek's head snapped back as if slapped. "Right now," he ground out, "*I* have them believing that if you die, Mulder and Scully will track them down like bloodhounds to the very last of them. That this way, they'll come after me, not the Consortium. Which keeps them alive as well as you."

"I see," scorned Skinner. "A noble martyr to the cause. What do you think will happen to you if they do get you? Are you going to spin them a fairy tale too?"

"It's up to me to see they don't get me."

Skinner took a hand out of his pocket, pointed to Krycek's pocket with the palm pilot. "Better make sure you keep that thing with you at all times. They won't be the only ones looking to take you out."

Krycek let out a sigh of frustration. "Look, Skinner, I don't care what you think about me. All that should matter to you is that you're alive."

"With a choke chain around my neck."

"A chain that can come off. Jesus, Skinner, there is nothing stopping you from making the Consortium's life difficult. You just keep on supporting Mulder and his crusade, covering up for him as need be. But do it discretely. They just have to think that they've got you under their thumb. Fuck, Skinner, isn't that better than being dead!"

Skinner turned and went back to stare out of the window. Krycek checked his watch: he'd been here too long already.

"I hated it."

Krycek barely heard Skinner. "Yeah, well," he tried to show he understood, "at least you were in a hospital with people around you who cared for you. Scully barely left your side. Not like being in the middle of a forest in some god-forsaken area wondering if you were going to bleed to death or just die from the pain."

He didn't get the response he was hoping for.

Skinner turned his head slightly and spat out, "So sorry for you, boy. But then you didn't die either. My loss."

He went to refill his drink. He didn't see Krycek's hand come up like it was reaching for something, hesitate and go back to the pocket.

When Krycek spoke his voice was cold, almost bitter. "Well, we all make decisions, Skinner. Take chances. I took the chance that you'd understand. Guess I was wrong. Just be careful, Skinner. Much as you hate it, I may not be around the next time Spender decides to take you out."

Skinner turned to see Krycek pick the scrambler off the coffee table. "I would just rather never set eyes on you ever again."

At the door, Krycek tossed over his shoulder, "I don't think you'll be *that* lucky."



Three days later, Agent Scully requested a private meeting with the Assistant Director. He was wary of her request but granted it because it would cause questions he couldn't answer if he refused.

Scully placed a folder on his desk in front of him and sat down.

"What is this, Agent Scully?"

"It would seem to be the missing documentation on Ortega's research. It was delivered last night to my apartment by courier. There is no indication of the sender. And the courier company picked it up from another courier."

"Sir, if this is Ortega's work, and I believe it is, it seems the nanolytes will disintegrate, for want of a better word, if not periodically activated."

"How often is periodically, Agent Scully?" Skinner sat back in his chair, face in the shadows.

"As nearly as I can conclude, non-activation over a period of six to eight months causes the blood to de- activate them."

Skinner touched the edge of the file, moved it a bit so it sat perfectly square in front of him. "Thank you for that information, Agent Scully."

She stood to leave. "Sir, maybe he won't..." But she obviously didn't believe that enough to even finish her thought.

Skinner waited till the door closed behind her to open the file and read the contents. When he finished, he sat back in his chair, reached under his desk and pulled out his briefcase. He opened it.

There, lying on a pile of reports he would be reading that night at home, was the palm pilot that Krycek had left behind on the couch.