Please forward to ATXC, Gossamer

 

Season 5 spoilers through 'Emily'

 

I am denying that Chris Carter and the Powers That Be (we know that they are the true Consortium) killed Cancerman by subscribing to my mother's Soap Opera Platitude - "If you don't have a corpse, then he ain't dead, and even if you do, it's debatable." In this universe, he's alive and causing all sorts of situations. Oh, by the way, the X-File regulars aren't mine and I'm not making any money off of them. Everyone else is copyrighted to me.

 

Rating: NC17 for M/F, M/M. M/M/F sex.

 

Summary - A bite and an illness cause changes in Skinner's, Krycek's, Jess's and Lindy's lives.

 

Loup Garou XIII - Changed

by Shael (wolfcatxf@imadethis.org)

http://www.parkers-place.net/ratlover/wolfcatxf/loupgarou

 

"Whoever is bitten by a werewolf and lives becomes a werewolf himself."

- Curt Siodmak "The Wolf Man" Universal/MCA 1941

 

Okay, this one may seem to be a bit obvious as far as plot line. But you know that I was bound to write it sooner or later.

 

* * * * * * *

 

It was a wet and wild night. The storm that had been predicted all morning had finally arrived with a vengeance. Rain poured in sheets down from a black sky. And despite it being a night not fit for man nor beast, they were out in the midst of it. Halted at a stoplight, Mulder glared into the back seat of his Ford Taurus. "If that filth doesn't come of my new Armani, consider yourself the owner of one very expensive rag. Not to mention the bill for cleaning the car. Why the hell did you have to shake *after* you got in?"

 

The dirty black and white werewolf sprawled across the back seat wasn't impressed with Mulder's display of anger. He yawned, exposing ivory fangs, and lazily scratched behind an ear with his taloned right hind paw. Smacking his jaws, he sat up a bit, wincing as he put weight on his left fore leg. He batted at the power window controller with his paw. Once the window was down far enough, he slid his head out and drank in the air rushing by.

 

Mulder looked back again. "Shouldn't you be hiding?" The lycanthrope snorted in irritation, but did pull his head back inside. The large wolf-like creature settled onto the back seat again, nosing at the blood soaked bandage on his left shoulder, whimpering a little in pain. When Mulder had realized his passenger was wounded, he had pulled over and bandaged the injury. "Yeah, I know it hurts. We'll be there in a few minutes, and then Dana can look you over."

 

He drove the rest of the way in silence, except for the canine's panting. When he pulled up to the typical middle class home in the middle of McLean, Virginia. Mulder got out of the car and walked around to open the rear passenger door. The curtain inside of the front bay window was swept to one side briefly and then allowed to flutter back into place. The door opened and out stepped Skinner, ignoring the rain. "Where is he hurt?"

 

"Left shoulder, bullet's still in him," Mulder replied. The werewolf wriggled forward, trying to get out of the car without jarring his shoulder. Skinner grabbed the loose skin on the nape of the canine's neck and lifted, helping him gain his hind legs. The canine tossed his right foreleg over Skinner's shoulder, licked the AD's cheek and let the older man guide him inside.

 

Mulder followed, wondering how Skinner knew about the injury. When he called ahead, all he had said was that Krycek was hurt. The answer became clear when he saw Jess leaning against a wall, pale and trembling, resting a sleeping Amanda against her hip. Lindy, also pale, stood by Jess and held her hand. Both females rushed to the large creature and Skinner when they saw them. The werewolf lifted his drooping head a bit and licked first Lindy's and then Jess's cheek with a sloppy tongue.

 

Scully stepped out of the kitchen from where she had been boiling water to sterilize her instruments. "Couch," she ordered. Skinner steered the lupine creature over to the couch and lowered him onto it. After passing Amanda to Mulder, Jess tossed a blanket over strategic parts of his lower half, a nod to human modesty. Scully was trying to part the shaggy fur to find the entry wound and not having much luck between the fur matted with mud and blood.

 

Jess took Scully's wrists and lifted her hands away. "Give him a moment to Change," she said quietly. And Scully watched fascinated as the fur and muzzle and pointed ears melted away to reveal a human looking male. As many times as she had seen this, from both aliens, werewolves, and a loser human, she still had a hard time believing that this kind of shape shifting was possible. Instead of a large wolfen creature laying on the couch under a blanket, it was Alex Krycek. His normally pale skin had an ashen quality to it under the grime and pain pooled in his emerald eyes. Jess's voice reminded Scully of why she was here. "The bullet has to come out before he can heal properly." The next ten minutes were completely medical, and accompanied by several green looks, bit lips, and sympathetic winces from the adults. Lindy was fascinated and leaned over, eyes watching every detail.

 

Eventually Scully extracted the bullet, which clanged loudly as it was tossed into the metallic bowl Lindy was holding. Krycek closed his eyes and slowed his breathing as both Jess and Scully wiped away the dried mud and blood and then bandaged the wound. Jess looked intently at him and then turned to everyone else. "Kitchen," she mouthed. Mulder, still holding Amanda, and Scully moved quietly towards the other room, noticing that both Jess and Skinner bent down to kiss Krycek's brow. Lindy brushed her hand against the one of Krycek's that rested on top of the blanket.

 

Mulder reached out and took a hold of Scully's hand, oddly touched at the tenderness that was being expressed. "And I thought our relationship was complicated," he said with a disbelieving shake of his head.

 

Scully nodded in agreement. She had seen many traditional families that had far less love in them than this one appeared to. "But somehow they make it work."

 

* * * * * * *

 

Cancerman lit a cigarette and frowned at his typewriter. After neglecting his Jack Colquitt series because those editors butchered the ending to his only published story, he had decided to give it another go. Only this time he was determined to keep tighter control, just like in every other area of his life. But having finally decided to write again, he found himself stymied by writer's block. His hands were poised over the typewriter, awaiting the first glimmer of inspiration. Just as the tips of his fingers brushed the keys, the phone rang.

 

He picked up the phone, irritated by the interruption, his real life infringing on his dream. There was only one reason he received phone calls. "Yes? When? Are you certain it was Mulder *and* Krycek?" He listened for a few more seconds. "No, I will see that countermeasures are put in place." He hung up the phone. <Damn them!> he thought. Agent Mulder obviously couldn't keep well enough alone and had to keep poking his nose into things that were best left undisclosed. And now it seemed that he had convinced Krycek to assist him. It was difficult to keep persuading certain associates that Agent Mulder's continued existence was essential to the Plan, as equally difficult to keep them convinced that allowing Krycek and Jess to live was equally essential.

 

And this incident would make it even harder. Krycek, as a wolf, had broken into one of Their fronts used to store records and retrieved several files. And, despite being shot in the shoulder, the black and white werewolf had been seen quickly loping off to a car driven by Mulder. The data itself was worthless, a red herring to throw off track anyone trying to steal information. But the act itself was what had Cancerman worried. Obviously, Krycek was feeling bolder, and Mulder more trusting than Cancerman was comfortable with.

 

But Cancerman was still annoyed by the distraction from his writing. <Distraction, hmm,> he thought. <Perhaps that is what is needed right now....>

 

* * * * * * *

 

Krycek shifted under the covers, barely awake. At some point, he had been shifted from the couch to their bed. He could smell familiar scents - lovers, children, friends. That told him that he was at home and safe. The pain was gone from his shoulder, a blessed relief. He had panicked when the bullet ripped into his left shoulder, flashing back to the woods in Tunguska. But he still had his arm, and he was at home, safe for the moment.

 

He heard the door open and then close. "And you accuse me of being a late sleeper," a female voice chided playfully. Jess, carrying Amanda on one hip, sat down on the bed, taking his left hand in hers.

 

Krycek opened his eyes to look into Jess's. "Where is everybody?"

 

"The office. Unlike us, they have to work for a living. Thank God for trust funds. Walter said he might be by later tonight." Jess stroked his fingers with hers. "I was so frightened last night, when I felt you get shot. I thought this was it for certain."

 

"So did I." Krycek sat up. He reached over and cupped Jess's cheek with his hand. "Was it the information what Mulder wanted?"

 

"No. It wasn't." Amanda burbled and reached towards Krycek. Jess passed her over when Krycek opened his arms. "Amanda was asleep, thank God, when you were shot. I don't think she knows what happened."

 

"Good that she was asleep, bad that it wasn't the information." Amanda leaned over to grab onto Jess's shirt and tried to stand up. Managing to heft herself upright, she let go and balanced for a split second before falling back down. Krycek smiled. "You're going to be walking soon," he said, tickling his daughter. Amanda giggled.

 

Jess also smiled. "Heaven help us when that happens. This little heck beast will make a wreck of the house." She leaned against Krycek and ruffled Amanda's hair.

 

Krycek raised his eyebrows. "Heck beast?"

 

"She's not old enough to be a full fledged hell beast" Jess said with a smile. "And purgatory beast is just too much of a mouthful."

 

Krycek laughed. It felt good to be able to laugh, to have a semblance of a normal life. The illusion was becoming harder and harder to maintain, which made them cherish it even more. "And how's Lindy?"

 

"Fascinated by the whole process of removing a bullet. Now she says she wants to be a doctor and not a marine biologist." Jess smiled, but there was still concern in her eyes. "She's worrying me, Alex. She's been so withdrawn lately."

 

Krycek made a dismissive gesture. "It's normal teenage angst, Jess. She's balancing the urge to be a member of the pack against the urge to have nothing to do with her parents."

 

Jess sighed and leaned her head back against the spindled headboard. "I guess you're right. And in about twelve years, we will be doing this again with you," she said, tickling Amanda. But neither of them said out loud the end of that thought. <If we're all still alive.>

 

* * * * * * *

 

Two days after Krycek had been shot was the full moon. It was also the worst rainstorm of the fall. It wasn't quite cold enough to snow, but cold enough to be miserable. Skinner still couldn't believe that Krycek and Jess had conned him into babysitting Amanda while they went out. <Well, conned isn't exactly the best word. They did ask.> Mulder and Scully already had plans for the evening. And although he was ill at ease around the young ones, even Lindy who seemed more adult than Jess did sometimes, he agreed. It would give Jess and Krycek some time to pay attention to Lindy without having to be looking after her younger sister. And they had gone out, despite of the storm. When he questioned the wisdom of going out in the violent weather, they had made it clear to him - transforming with the full moon was not an option, it was a necessity for their sanity, especially after a stressful period. They had been out running in weather a lot worse with no problems, he had been reassured.

 

Over the crash of thunder, Skinner heard a high pitched yowl come from upstairs. He climbed the stairs and went to Amanda's room, the source of the sound. Instead of the ten month old human baby, he saw a black and white puppy about twice the size of Lindy's cat Patches. Amanda looked at him with bright green eyes and tried to wag her white tipped tail, despite the diaper covering her rump. Skinner unfastened the perfectly dry diaper and lifted Amanda onto his shoulder. Amanda squirmed, turned and licked his left ear. Skinner jerked his head away to avoid the tickling tongue. "Stop that," he said with a slight laugh. Guessing she was awake because she was hungry, he carried the baby werewolf downstairs and into the kitchen. He found the bottle that Jess had left and warmed up the concoction of milk and well chewed meat. When he asked how they got the beef, chicken, and lamb so finely processed, Krycek made a wry comment about how wild wolves got meat ready for their cubs. It was more than enough for Skinner to get the picture.

 

Amanda nursed avidly, sucking, chewing, and pawing at the rubber nipple. "You'd think they don't feed you," Skinner said, surprised at how fast the puppy drained the bottle. Letting go of the nipple, Amanda sprawled in his lap, still wagging her tail. Skinner stroked the puppy, who emitted a loud burp. "I bet you feel better now," he said. Skinner had an easier time dealing with the youngling as a canine than a human. It was mostly because he had grown up with a father who loved to breed hunting dogs, and affection towards them was the only softness he allowed his son.

 

He heard a noise outside, the rattle of the locked door knob being turned. <Are they back already?> he thought. <They only went out for an hour?> He gently eased Amanda onto the cushion beside him. Amanda curled up, yawned, and closed her bright green eyes. When he got up and opened the front door, looking out into the wind and rain, Skinner thought he saw the tip of a black furry tail disappearing behind the porch. <They are back,> Skinner thought. "Jess? Alex? Lindy?" he called out.

 

There was no answer. Above the patter of the falling drops, a rapid panting could be heard. It sounded like an animal that was in pain, or afraid. Skinner's first thought was that Patches had slipped out of the house and had been hurt somehow. Then he saw the paw prints in the mud in the next flash of lightening. They clearly belonged to a very large dog. Ignoring the rain and the low rumble of thunder, he followed the tracks into the back yard. He heard a quiet whine. "Hey, it's me," he said from the fence's gate. "What's wrong?"

 

The whine grew in volume and desperation. The next flash of lightening revealed a crouching black *male* wolf-like animal. "Who are you?" Skinner demanded of the stranger. When the whimper changed to a snarl of fear, Skinner realized he had committed a grave error. He had cornered a frightened and possibly wounded creature, and it was obvious the canine now felt that the only way to escape was by attacking. Skinner slowly started backing away. But he wasn't moving fast enough for the male's tastes. In the next flash of lightening, he saw the male charge, talons spread and fangs bared. He could feel himself reeling from the impact and a knifing pain sear through his left shoulder as he fell to the muddy ground. There was a dim explosion of light behind his eyes as his head impacted with the ground, his glasses knocked into the darkness. He could feel the weight of the creature's forelegs planted against his chest, claws digging in and saliva dripping onto his exposed neck.

 

Triple roars of outrage drowned out the next peal of thunder. Jess, Lindy, and Krycek had returned. Trying to keep from blacking out, Skinner felt more than saw the three leap and land around him, leaving only one direction for the stranger to run. The male snapped his jaws at Skinner and fled, leaping into the darkness. Krycek and Jess followed, leaving Lindy with Skinner. She half Changed, so she could speak and stand on two legs. "Arrrrre yoooou aaooooll rrrrright?" Lindy asked as she helped Skinner to his feet.

 

"Left shoulder hurts like hell," Skinner said with a grimace of pain. He walked to the porch shakily, the young werewolf at his side every step of the way. Lindy let them in the house. She grabbed one of the three robes that had been left just inside the doorway and slipped it on, Changing back to a human as she did so.

 

She guided Skinner to a chair, noting that Amanda was asleep on the couch. Skinner collapsed into it and promptly passed out. A quick mindprobe revealed to Lindy that the head wound was not serious, his unconsciousness was a reaction to the pain more than from the fall. She went to the bathroom and got a washcloth. After wetting it thoroughly, Lindy returned to Skinner, unbuttoned his shirt and started to wipe away the mud and blood from his left shoulder and chest. The claw marks were mere welts that didn't break the skin, but the shoulder looked worse. After the area was clean, she began a careful visual examination of it. She didn't like what she saw.

 

Jess and Krycek finally returned and Changed to human. ~He got away,~ Krycek mindspoke, disgust coloring his mindvoice as they slipped into their robes. He picked up a corner of the terry cloth and began wiping Skinner's glasses, which he had found outside, clean.

 

Jess also mindspoke as she slipped into her robe. ~I don't like the fact that a strange werewolf has been sniffing around here and we didn't notice it.~

 

~We've got a worse problem, Jess,~ Lindy answered. ~I think Walter was bitten.~

 

Both Jess's and Krycek's jaws dropped. "Oh God," one of them whispered, too quietly to identify the voice.

 

Jess and Krycek walked over to Skinner and examined the wound. There was a deep but lightly bleeding semi-circle of puncture wounds of varying sizes on both on his chest and back. Krycek looked at Jess and nodded. ~Bite wound,~ he said.

 

Jess closed her eyes and bowed her head. They all knew what that meant. "I hope to God we're wrong," she whispered.

 

* * * * * * *

 

The werewolf, now looking completely human, slid into the building silently as befitted a predator. <I am dead. I am so dead,> he thought.

 

He had failed his Master. He had been given a chance to gain rank and prestige and access to sexual partners, and he had blown it. All he had to do was break into a house and retrieve a baby. It sounded so simple. The parents would be out. There was no security system to speak of. He would be in and out in a matter of minutes.

 

Or so he had thought. He had been stupid enough to walk right up to the porch and try the door knob. He had almost lost control of his bladder and peed like a frightened pup when he heard a someone get up and walk towards the door. The werewolf had just enough time to duck back behind the porch and over the fence into the back yard. And then he really messed up.

 

He hadn't meant to leave the human male alive. 'You accidentally bite a human, you kill the human.' That was the first rule They pounded into any werewolf's consciousness. He had intended to kill the hapless human, but then those other werewolves had shown up and he panicked. It had taken all his skill to lose the male and female tracking him. And he had a sneaking suspicion that the only reason he did elude them was ones who were trailing him were more concerned with the welfare of the human than hunting him down.

 

Instead of going to the communal area where his pack mates would be lounging, or to his quarters, he went to the office where he knew he would be called sooner or later. And when he stood outside the oak double doors, he literally smelled trouble. Not one man, but three awaited him inside. He took a deep breath and raised his fist to the door. Even before the first knock sounded, he could hear his Master's command. "Enter."

 

The werewolf opened the door and passed through it, his darting eyes betraying his fear. <Oh shit! I am dead.> For the two others in the room were his Master's superiors, the one who was forever smoking Morleys and the one with impeccably groomed nails that took such an interest in the pregnant bitch that was brought in from the Outside.

 

The Master sat behind his desk, the implements of his authority sitting in plain sight on his desk. The heavy leather bull whip with it's jagged metal tip sat curled in one corner, alongside the revolver. He knew from watching other discipline sessions that the gun was loaded with silver bullets. "You were sent to retrieve an infant, but you have returned empty handed." The Master's voice cracked like the whip on his desk. "Explain."

 

The werewolf drew a deep breath. "I have failed, Master." He went on to explain to the audience of three the events of the night. They sat there impassively staring, only their breathing betraying the fact that they were not statues.

 

When the tale was over, the Master wanted to make one point clear. "You bit a human and did not kill him."

 

The werewolf hung his head. "I bit a human, and did not kill him."

 

The Master reached for the whip. "You know the penalty," he said dangerously. The werewolf cowered back, knowing what would come next. He prayed to what ever saint that watched over his kind that the punishment would be over quickly.

 

Cancerman stepped forward, making a gesture to halt the Master. "Describe this human you bit," he said, giving the werewolf his full attention.

 

The werewolf, still cringing, responded. "He was the same height as you. Almost completely bald, but what was left of his hair was brown. Brown eyes and also wore glasses."

 

Cancerman considered the information. "Normally, your blunder would be dealt with swiftly and surely. But this error has assisted us. You are dismissed," he said, ignoring the Master's shocked look.

 

The werewolf could not believe his ears. He had expected to get the thrashing of his life at minimum, and he was not even getting a verbal reaming. The werewolf backed out of the door, uttering his thanks and unworthiness and praising the benevolence of his human overlords.

 

The doors eventually closed. The Master turned to Cancerman and Well Manicured Man. His position with the werewolves would be greatly undermined if it became common knowledge that he was as afraid of these people as most of the werewolves were of him. "Would you like another attempt made?"

 

"No," Well Manicured Man said. "Assistant Director Skinner undergoing the Change should be more than enough to keep them distracted."

 

Cancerman nodded his agreement and lit another cigarette. "What rank was that male?"

 

"He is two levels above Omega Rank," the Master answered. "And he has no appreciable mind powers."

 

Well Manicured Man, signaling Cancerman to precede him, prepared to leave. "Allow him access to a sterile female, or male if that's his persuasion, tonight, as an expression of how pleased we are about this unexpected development. And tomorrow have him killed as a reminder to the others that our orders must be carried out explicitly." Half way through the door, he turned back. "And make sure that no one under rank of Delta is ever sent to deal with my niece again," he added as an afterthought.

 

* * * * * * *

 

When Skinner woke up, he was in bed and naked. <How did I end up here?> he thought looking around. After a moment of squinting, he recognized Jess and Krycek's bedroom. Skinner thought that the attack had been a dream, until he tried to sit up and put weight on his left shoulder. The pain made him collapse back onto the bed.

 

Laying on the bed, Skinner heard the bedroom door open and the sound of bare feet walking towards him. He felt a hand gently take his. "Easy, Walter," Krycek said. He was wearing his robe and looked like he hadn't slept all night. There was a haunted look in his eyes.

 

Skinner leaned all his weight on his right arm and sat up. "God, my left shoulder hurts." He looked outside, noting the still dark sky. "What happened?"

 

There was no graceful or easy way to tell him. Krycek gently reached out and touched his wounded shoulder, looking at the scabs. The wound was deep enough to induce the Change, but not serious enough to be life threatening. "You were bitten," he said, deadly serious.

 

It took a moment for the full meaning of the words to sink in. And the full implication would not sink in until much later. "Are you certain?" Skinner blinked.

 

"We're sure it's a bite. We're not one hundred percent certain it was a werewolf, but we're pretty damn sure. Jess and Lindy are out trying to track him right now."

Krycek paused for a moment. "You'll show little signs soon, but the night before the full moon is when the Change will really start taking hold." He gripped Skinner's hand tighter. "But we'll be here to help you."

 

Skinner shut his eyes. He couldn't think of this right now. He was surprised that Krycek wasn't out hunting with Jess. "Why did Lindy go with Jess and not you?"

 

"We talked about it," Krycek said with a sigh. "As much as we want to protect Lindy, it's time she started learning how serious things are. Jess thought this would be a good chance to help Lindy hone her hunting skills. That and the fact that I'm the best choice to talk to you right now."

 

"Best choice?" That didn't make any sense to Skinner.

 

"Lindy doesn't remember much about being human or newly Changed. Jess wasn't aware of what was happening to her at the time. But I knew what being bitten by Alpha Wolf meant. And They kept me under close observation and noted each new sign. One of the scientists made it a point to torture me by giving me daily progress updates on my progress." Krycek paused before continuing. "And then I did go through it twice."

 

Skinner nodded. He still was amazed at what the young man who sat before him had been willing to go through for love and forgiveness. For some reason, Skinner knew that Krycek would always be ashamed of all he had done out of ambition, and later survival instinct, and would forever be trying to atone. The first time he had become a werewolf, it had been forced on him, but he felt he deserved it as a punishment. The second time it was to try to save a life. And then there had been what he had been willing to endure that had led Skinner to become more intimately involved with Krycek and Jess.

 

Krycek watched Skinner, wondering at his lover's silence. "Do you have any questions, Walter?"

 

He looked into Krycek's beautiful grass green eyes and felt a familiar heat flood his system. "Alex, I do have one question at this moment. Does being bitten make you hornier than usual?" Part of Skinner's mind chided himself that he was using sex to avoid what just happened, but he was listening to the louder part that was demanding gratification.

 

Krycek grinned wickedly. He leaned in close to Skinner's ear. "Extremely, Walter." He ran his fingers lightly over the top sheet covering Skinner's thigh, pulling it away from his body. "And what do you want to do about it?"

 

Skinner reached forward and pulled Krycek onto his lap. "How about some mind blowing sex?" he asked as he unknotted Krycek's robe, his hands lingering and stroking the younger man's slim hips.

 

Krycek laughed and shrugged the cloth off his back, revealing his naked body for Skinner's inspection. "I thought you'd want something else blown." He knew the sudden arousal was probably a subconscious reaction to avoid what had just happened. And Krycek really didn't want to face it at this moment either.

 

Skinner chuckled. His laughter quickly turned to gasps of pleasure as Krycek leaned forward to suck a flat nipple into his mouth. He sank back against the pillows as Krycek teased the nipple to a tight peak using his lips and tongue and occasionally a gentle scrape with his teeth. Skinner moaned and grabbed Krycek's head, fingers brushing against the buzz cut that he seemed to favor lately. As his lover continued his explorations, it was hard for Skinner not to push Krycek's head to the hardness between his legs, or guide the hands stroking his neck to grab his ass. When they made love previously, Krycek had been the more passive partner, unless Jess was involved. And then he only actively seduced her body as Skinner explored his. So he endured this sweet torture, wanting Krycek to feel comfortable enough to be able to play and indulge himself. Maybe it was due to his persona at work, the ice cold, stone-faced, approach-me-not facade that was created in part by his Marine training and a desire to protect people he cared for from the forces he had no choice but to deal with, but Skinner was a deeply feeling man. Few people, lovers included, seemed to realize that sometimes he needed as badly to be made love to as to make love.

 

Skinner's sounds made Krycek almost unbearably stiff. As Krycek licked his way to above Skinner's navel, he couldn't believe that Skinner was letting him have his way with his body. Cassandra, the woman he almost had married, had always wanted to be on the receiving end, but had specific demands about what acts he could and could not perform. Jess was very give and take, sensitive to moods and needs and willing to try almost anything at least once. His only other male lover, Bill, had always been in charge during their brief relationship, but had always been gentle. And, although he didn't actually count as a lover, there was his experience with Alpha Wolf....

 

He hadn't realized he had shivered until he felt Skinner's hands stroking his shoulders. Krycek looked up to see Skinner staring at him, concern filling his brown eyes. "Are you okay, Alex?"

 

Krycek slid back up to look Skinner in the eyes. "I'm fine," he whispered, and kissed his lover's face.

 

Skinner's hand cupped Krycek's cheek. "Then why are you crying?"

 

Krycek swallowed as Skinner wiped away his tears, which he hadn't realized were falling. "With everything I've done, I don't feel like I deserve this," he whispered.

 

Skinner wound his arms around his lover. "What makes you think I do? I did his dirty work too." That was part of why Skinner felt sympathetic towards Krycek and cared for him in a way that even Jess couldn't. They had both ended up playing roles and performing actions that they found distasteful at best.

 

Skinner kissed Krycek's lips, softly at first and then hungrily as their libidos flamed again. Krycek wiggled out of Skinner's arms, rubbing his cock against the AD's flat stomach. Skinner gave an involuntary groan and arched his groin in offering as the younger man licked his belly, tongue darting in and out and around Skinner's navel.

 

And Krycek was never one to say no to an offer, especially of a rock hard cock dripping precome. Lazily, he began to draw his tongue up and down Skinner's shaft, relishing the cries his lover was making. He then nibbled his way down to Skinner's balls, pausing to kiss the base of his sex. Nuzzling Skinner's balls, he began to lick every inch of flesh he could reach. As Krycek groomed Skinner's pelvic area, Skinner forced one of his legs between Krycek's. Krycek's response was to groan and lock his legs around Skinner's. He began thrusting against it as he took Skinner's large cock in his mouth, deep throating him. Wanting to drive the AD insane with desire, he hummed in time with his thrusts.

 

<Oh God!> Skinner couldn't believe what was happening. Here he was with his rock hard cock shoved down the throat of a man who by all rights should be a hated enemy who was his lover and giving him an expertly executed blow job while humping his leg like a dog in heat. But thought became impossible as he felt his balls draw upwards. "Ughhhhhh...."

 

Krycek's thrusts and swallows became faster as he felt Skinner's tension build. And then the AD was coming in his mouth a little sooner than expected. Krycek gagged slightly, not having been fully prepared for Skinner's explosion. But then he lost himself in sensation as he felt his seed spurt onto Skinner's leg. Once those sensations faded, Krycek let Skinner's cock ease from between his smiling lips and moved down to Skinner's thigh. With the care of a cat grooming a kitten, Krycek licked his come off the older man's leg, eliciting shivers of pleasure.

 

After Skinner's thigh was completely clean, they both lay there, sated and exhausted. Skinner closed his eyes and exhaled deeply. "Jess is going to be pissed that we didn't wait for her," he said, eyes still closed. He sounded more satisfied than worried.

 

"Mmmm hmmm." Krycek rolled off Skinner and slid back up to his head. "She'll just have to wait her turn," he muttered as he stretched languidly. He threw an arm over Skinner's chest and rested his head so it was covering his neck, but not restricting Skinner's airway. "Probably won't be back until dawn," he yawned. "We might as well catch some sleep until then. Good night, Walter."

 

Krycek felt a soft kiss on the top of his head. "Night, Alex."

 

* * * * * * *

 

Despite the approaching dawn, two wolves worked there way across the rain slicked city. The larger of the pair, a solid black female, looked forward to her companion. ~I can't find any sign of him.~ she mindspoke. ~Smell anything, Lindy?~

 

~Nothing!~ the blonde werewolf snorted, still sniffing the ground. ~It's as if he just disappeared.~ Lindy then shook, sending rain droplets flying from her coat.

 

Jess heaved a canine sigh and sat back on her haunches. ~He probably did one of two things - went into the sewers, or got into a waiting car. Either way, we can't smell where he went.~

 

Lindy raised her head and looked back at Jess. ~Which means this was planned.~

 

Jess nodded. ~I wonder what he wanted. It obviously wasn't to stop and chat.~ She pawed vainly at the ground, trying to raise any scent.

 

Lindy looked to the east and bristled her damp fur. ~Almost dawn. Shouldn't we head back?~

 

~Yeah, we should.~ Jess turned around, and looked skyward. ~At least the rain is stopping.~

 

Lindy trotted up to her and nuzzled Jess's face. The older werewolf returned the caress halfheartedly and then started home at a walk. Lindy followed for a few paces, and then sped up so she was shoulder to shoulder with Jess. ~What's wrong, Jess?~

 

~I've been blind, Lindy.~ Jess stared straight ahead as she strode onwards. ~I should have foreseen this. The Consortium has been too quiet lately. They were bound to make a move.~

 

~Jess, you can't plan for every contingency~ Lindy protested. ~And maybe it wasn't a werewolf that bit Walter.~

 

Jess paused, right forepaw in the air, and fixed Lindy with a steely glare. ~Do you really believe that Lindy?~

 

Lindy returned the stare and then dropped her head and shook it. ~No, Jess,~ she admitted.

 

Jess nodded an agreement. ~Then it will be just the same as if it were my jaws that sliced into his shoulder.~ She stood up and headed off at a fast lope.

 

Lindy stopped, watching the female she thought of as her mother, and shook her head. <She feels responsible. But she's not. But she won't see things that way.> The golden wolf then bolted after the ebony one, and followed her home.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Skinner woke up first the next morning. Krycek still sprawled across and next to him in hedonistic unconsciousness, but Jess was no where to be seen. He tried to hold still, not wanting to disturb his lover. But despite himself, one hand crept up to Krycek's scalp to massage the buzz cut hair. Krycek snorted lightly and shifted. "Morning, Walter," he murmured, eyes closed, and nuzzled Skinner's chest.

 

"Morning, Alex." Skinner kissed the top of Krycek's head, and looked around. "Jess isn't here."

 

Krycek's eyelids pressed tighter together momentarily. "She and Lindy are downstairs," he eventually said. Krycek yawned and opened his eyes.

 

Skinner nodded and rolled out of bed. Krycek found himself admiring Skinner's naked backside Last night's experience of sucking Skinner off made him wonder if he would be open to other suggestions and positions. Krycek shook his head. <What am I thinking! This isn't the time.> It would be tricky enough to propose renegotiating the relationship without the newly Changed situation interfering.

 

Skinner, half dressed, looked back at Krycek. "You going to stay in bed all day, boy?" he asked.

 

Krycek shot him a dirty look, but also got out of bed. Both men dressed quickly - Krycek in sweats and jeans, Skinner more professionally in the spare suit he had left there for emergencies. "You're not planning to go in today?" Krycek asked, incredulous.

 

Skinner nodded, pausing in the middle of knotting his tie. "I don't want anyone to think anything is out of the ordinary."

 

"Too late. It's almost nine." Krycek took one of Skinner's hands. "We have to talk about last night and figure out what we're going to do about it. Stay, please."

 

The older man squeezed Krycek's hand. "Okay." Internally, Skinner was relieved that Krycek and by extension Jess and Lindy were offering their support. "So what do we do first?"

 

"The first thing any werewolf does when faced with a crisis - eat." Krycek tugged Skinner downstairs and into the kitchen, where Jess and Lindy were waiting.

 

Lindy sat at the table, looking tired. Jess was talking into the phone, and looked equally tired. After a few moments, she hung the receiver on the hook and turned to Lindy. "You're called in sick from school."

 

Lindy nodded. "Morning Walter, Alex," she said, turning her attention to the men who just entered the kitchen.

 

Jess stiffened and wouldn't turn around to look at Skinner. "This is my fault," she blurted out staring at the floor. "I should have expected something like this and protected you."

 

Skinner walked over to her and put an arm around her. "I knew the risks when we first got involved, Jess. I don't blame you, Jess, or any of you," he said and took a deep breath. "So you didn't catch him so I can tear out his heart and eat it?"

 

Jess, despite the situation snorted. "I knew watching 'An American Werewolf in Paris' was going to give you the wrong idea." Jess stepped back and looked up at his face. "How are you feeling?"

 

"Okay." Skinner took a deep breath. "How soon can we be sure?"

 

Jess looked at Krycek with a raised eyebrow. He thought for a moment. "We should be able to tell now," he said slowly.

 

Jess nodded, regaining her composure now that she had something else to focus on. "Lindy, go get my necklace." Lindy slipped from the table. "I'll be right back," Jess said, following the girl out of the kitchen.

 

Skinner turned to Krycek. "How are you going to do this?"

 

"Simple, really," he replied. "A drop or two of blood and some silver are all that's needed."

 

Lindy and Jess arrived at almost the same time, Lindy carrying the cross on its silver chain, Jess carrying a needle, rubbing alcohol and some cotton balls. "Are your ready for this, Walter?" she asked, sterilizing the needle with the alcohol.

 

Skinner took a deep breath and nodded. Jess stood up and moved to his left shoulder. "This may sting a little, but not really hurt. There aren't that many nerves in the earlobe." Folding the lobe over, she rubbed a alcohol soaked cotton ball over the skin. Picking up the needle, she pricked the lobe quickly and efficiently, not piercing deeply.

 

Skinner flinched a little. Milking the wound with her fingers, Jess held another cotton ball to the tiny puncture for a second. Swiftly, not giving the blood a chance to clot, she removed the wad of cotton and stroked it over the silver cross.

 

Thin wisps of smoke rose from the metal, confirming their suspicions.

 

Jess dropped down on the chair next to Skinner. Krycek put a hand on his shoulder, and asked the obvious question. "Do we tell Mulder and Scully?"

 

"Not yet," Skinner said after a moment. He stared at the cross, not certain he believed what he had just seen. "I need time." And the last thing he wanted was Mulder taking watching and dissecting everything that would happen to him.

 

Jess nodded, stunned by what she had also seen. "Whatever you want, Walter."

 

* * * * * * *

 

Sitting on her bed, the teenager stared out her window at the sky, thinking. Lindy had been relieved that Jess had called her her school saying she was absent due to illness. She was feeling tired. And it wasn't just because she had been out tracking the stranger all night. Lindy had noticed over the last few weeks that her energy level was flagging. Jess had also noticed, assumed that it was linked to Lindy beginning to menstruate, and told her it was normal, and that her energy level would climb back up soon. But Lindy wasn't too sure. The tiredness was always with her, no matter how much sleep she got the night before, or where she was in her cycle. She had meant to bring it up again with Jess, and maybe ask Krycek about it. But now that Skinner had been bitten, Lindy felt that he needed the attention more than she did. After all, a little tiredness couldn't compare to the shock of being Changed. <I'll just make sure I get to sleep earlier.>

 

Her only other problem was the nosebleeds she had late at night. When they started three months ago, it was only a drop or two of blood. Lindy ignored it and put the sheets in the laundry before Jess noticed. But lately, the bleeding was becoming heavier, more frequent, and harder to conceal. But she did not want to bother Jess, Krycek, or Skinner with it. They had enough to worry about for now.

 

The knock on her door pulled her out of her thoughts. "Can I come in?" came Jess's voice.

 

"Sure," Lindy called.

 

Jess opened the door and walked into the room. "How are you doing, sweetheart?"

 

Lindy shrugged. "Okay."

 

Jess tilted her head to one side as she sat on the bed. "I'm worried about you. I want to be sure that you're getting enough attention. I mean, with Alex, Amanda, and now Walter, I just feel like I've been neglecting you."

 

Lindy scooted closer to her. "I don't feel neglected, Jess." She leaned against Jess's shoulder. "I just want some time to myself." <And I'm too tired to keep up with you.>

 

Jess looked hard at her. Lindy was almost certain that Jess had seen through this half-truth when Jess put her arm around her. "I can understand that, Lindy," she said with a squeeze. Jess stood up. "But remember that I'm here for you if you need me."

 

Lindy smiled. "I will." Jess smiled back and went out the door. Lindy then sank back on the bed. <I should have told her. But I can't. Too much is happening too fast.> Lindy also was trying to find a pattern, and she didn't like the one revealing itself. She bled the most a few hours after she Changed.

 

She felt a warmth trickle onto her lips. She touched them and her fingers came away covered in blood. "Damn," she said, reaching for the Kleenex box. She had been a werewolf for almost as long as she could remember. And she would stay one. Even if it killed her.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Mulder and Scully had finally come to a decision, and decided it was time to let everyone know about it. So they had taken a vacation day from the FBI. After telling their parents, they went to see Jess and Krycek. But, after Jess let them in, both looked surprised to find Skinner in the living room instead of at the office. "Sir?" Mulder asked. "What are you doing here?"

 

Before Skinner could come up with a plausible excuse, Jess interrupted smoothly. "That's my fault. We asked him to babysit Amanda last night and forgot to set an alarm. So when we woke up at noon today, I exerted my evil influence and convinced him to play hooky."

 

Mulder gave her a sharp look. The answer came a little too smoothly and sounded a little too pat. Jess returned his stare with an unblinking one of her own. Eventually, Jess looked away first, something she rarely did when confronted. His gaze shifted to Skinner, who wouldn't look at him. Now Mulder knew something was definitely wrong. He made a mental note for later to try to dig out of her what was happening.

 

Scully also sensed that there was something being left unsaid, but she took Mulder's cue and did not probe. "Well, it's a good thing that you are all here. We can tell you all at once."

 

"Tell us what?" Krycek came downstairs, carrying Amanda. Lindy followed close on his heels, rubbing her eyes.

 

Mulder and Scully shared a look before Mulder answered. "We're engaged," he said taking hold of Scully's left hand.

 

There were an assortment of congratulatory words and squeals. Jess bounced off the couch to give Mulder and Scully a hug. "When?" she asked.

 

"Settle down, hell beast." Mulder gave Jess a friendly shove. "We haven't set a date yet. In fact, we're going to have a party to announce it to everyone."

 

"We just felt that you should hear it first Jess, since you helped us to admit how we felt about each other."

 

From the looks Krycek and Skinner gave Jess, it was obvious that she hadn't told them the story. "I'll explain later," she said to them, turning back to Mulder and Scully. "You haven't told your families yet?" Jess asked with raised eyebrows.

 

Scully laughed. "Yes we have. My mother's response was, 'Well, it's about time.'"

 

Krycek laughed at that. "And yours, Mulder?"

 

Mulder shifted slightly. "She took it as well as could be expected."

 

Jess nodded knowingly. She had met Mulder's family once, and it hadn't been a great success. Mrs. Mulder had made it clear to her that she felt whatever flesh and blood woman her son was currently dating would never be good enough for him. However past girlfriends, no matter how shabbily they treated Mulder, were the best things that had ever happened to him. Shying away from that subject, Mulder asked a question. "Why haven't you and Alex gotten married?"

 

"Is that really any of your business?" Skinner snapped.

 

Mulder and Scully shot him a look, startled by his response. Jess put a hand on his shoulder before replying. "Lots of things. The fact that we're afraid that the moment we fill out any legal paperwork, the police will be knocking down the door to drag Alex away."

 

Scully responded to that statement. "We ran a police check, out of curiosity. His record has been wiped clean by someone."

 

Krycek shook his head. "That doesn't really matter. The lower profile we maintain, the better it is for us."

 

"Listen, this is great news," Skinner said. "But I have to be up early for a conference, so I'm going home." He stood up and walked to the door.

 

"You sure you want to go home?" There was a concern in Jess's voice that made Scully think she was asking a totally different question.

 

Skinner nodded and almost slammed the door as he walked through it. "What was that about?" Mulder asked.

 

None of the werewolves would look him in the eye. "Nothing, Mulder," Krycek said, making Mulder certain that something was going on.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Despite his fears and worries, Skinner returned to the Hoover Building the next day, passing off his absence as due to a 24 hour flu. He hoped to lose himself in the backlog of paperwork that waited him. He also hoped that a certain visitor would make an appearance. But at the same time he was dreading it.

 

The door to his office opened without a preliminary knock. Skinner eyed Cancerman with outward calmness as the older man stepped into the room. Before it had been difficult to maintain a poker face when dealing with this man. Now, with Skinner's knowledge of what he was becoming and this man's probable role in his transformation, it was almost impossible.

 

Cancerman began speaking without any formalities. "I warned you that it was possible to pick up rabies from your pets," he said placidly, reminding Skinner of a conversation that had taken place almost two years before.

 

Skinner frowned, understanding the reference. "They are not responsible for what is happening."

 

"But in a way they are." Cancerman paused to select a cigarette from his ever present pack of Morleys. "If you had let them be, none of this would be occurring."

 

"Odd. I recall you being the one who ordered me to sleep with Krycek in the first place, and to gain their trust."

 

"And you knew what was expected of you, and you failed to deliver the desired results. But we were talking of this situation," Cancerman said, sidestepping the issue. "There is a treatment, of course."

 

"Of course," Skinner said. Lindy and Krycek had been through it once before. Both had chosen, for their own reasons, to become werewolves again. "But such treatments usually have a high price."

 

"Of course, Mr. Skinner. And this one is no different." He removed a cigarette from his pack of Morleys. "The only question is if you will be willing to pay the it."

 

"And exactly what is that price?"

 

Cancerman made a big show of lighting his cigarette before answering. "You will take an early retirement from the FBI. And you will sever your ties with Agents Mulder and Scully, in addition to Mr. Krycek and his family." The old man turned to leave.

 

"That seems a bit of a high of a price for something that isn't fatal," Skinner said to the retreating back.

 

Cancerman turned and looked Skinner in the eyes. "Are you certain that it's not fatal, Assistant Director Skinner?" Before Skinner could respond, the doorway was empty.

 

Skinner sat there for a moment, and then stood up, grabbing his coat. He wasn't certain where he was going, but he couldn't stay at the office any longer.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Jess snorted in irritation when she heard the pounding on the door. Trying to do laundry, cook a roast, feed Amanda, who was having nothing to do with the strained carrots Jess had picked out, and coax her computer to download the latest graphic editing shareware had Jess reconsidering the whole idea of being domesticated. Krycek was no help since he was out at the library, trying to do some research on the ways to reverse the Change. And now, to add to her distractions, someone was not so patiently knocking on the door. "I'm coming," Jess yelled as she picked up Amanda and walked over to the door, trying to wipe the carrots off of both her and her baby.

 

Mulder was grinning when she opened the door. "I haven't heard you scream that for a long time. And orange isn't your color."

 

"Mulder." Jess lifted Amanda a little higher, bouncing the baby against her hip. Amanda leaned towards Mulder, reaching for his garishly bright silk tie. "Shouldn't you be at work?" she asked, holding the door open with her knee.

 

"I'm taking an extra long lunch." Mulder ruffled Amanda's hair as he walked in. He had his suspicions and wanted some answers. With Jess, he tended to get the best results if he cut to the chase. "What's up with Skinner?"

 

"What do you mean up?" Jess asked, feigning ignorance.

 

Mulder sat down on the couch. "I know something's happened with him, Jess. Don't play innocent with me. He was uneasy about something when we visited yesterday, and he's been jumpy at work." He looked at her sharply. "You're pregnant, aren't you?"

 

"No, I'm not. Sometimes I wish to God that I were, but that doesn't look likely in the near future." Jess put Amanda down in the playpen. "What's going on with Skinner is personal. He's asked us not to talk about it with you yet."

 

Mulder arched an eyebrow. "So can you tell me what it's not about?"

 

Jess pursed her lips a little. "It's not about you, it's not about Dana, and it's not about that supposed face on Mars. Aside from that, I'm not saying a word."

 

"So it's about lycanthropy."

 

Jess shook her head. "I didn't say that."

"Then it's not about lycanthropy."

 

Jess remained noncommittal. "I didn't say that either. I said that he didn't want us to discuss it with you."

 

"And I expect you to honor my wishes, Agent Mulder." Both Jess and Mulder turned to see Skinner standing in the doorway. "This is between Jess, Alex and me."

 

Mulder voiced his suspicion. "You've been bitten, haven't you sir?" He turned to Jess. "Was it an accident? Which one of you did it?"

 

Jess blinked and took a step back, stunned by the idea that Mulder thought she or Krycek were capable of intentionally spreading the Change. "Do you really think I could do this to someone?" she had once asked him. The idea of deliberately inflicting lycanthropy on an unwilling human made her nauseous.

 

Skinner walked over to Jess and put an arm around her. "Agent Mulder, you should go."

 

The line was delivered with very little heat, more as a matter of fact. But Mulder wasn't certain if that meant he was correct or not. He shot an appealing look to Jess. "I'm only here to help."

 

She gestured towards the door. "We've got to handle this our own way Mulder. If we need your help, we'll ask for it."

 

Mulder nodded, realizing he would get no more information at this moment. But that didn't mean that he would stop investigating until he found out what really happened. He stepped through the doorway. "Just be careful, both of you."

 

Jess and Skinner nodded but otherwise remained silent. Both watched as Mulder walked down the sidewalk to his car and drove away.

 

Jess shook her head. "He's not going to be happy until he knows," she commented.

 

Skinner nodded his agreement. "But I'm not ready for him to know."

 

* * * * * * *

 

Skinner stood out on his balcony, staring at the almost full moon. It was one night before the full moon, and he couldn't get it out of his mind, or what was going to happen tomorrow evening. He had come home after barely managing to sit at his desk all day. He had chewed out three agents who didn't deserve it, and Mulder, who did deserve it. He then had informed Kim that he was taking two weeks of his accrued vacation time, effective immediately. Once in his apartment, he thought about making dinner, but wasn't hungry. He tried watching television, but he couldn't settle on one channel. He tried calling Krycek and Jess, but only their answering machine picked up the phone. He thought about going to bed, but it was only 8:30 PM. Restless, he had wandered out to the balcony and was entranced by the sight of the moon.

 

It had been almost one month since he was bitten. It was easy to forget about the attack and lose himself in his work during the light of day. But his sleep was stalked by the beasts of nightmares. Jess and Krycek had stood by him, being there when he needed to talk but otherwise keeping their distance. Skinner tried to reassure the pair that he didn't blame them for what had befallen him. But as the night came closer, it was becoming harder not to think about the Change and wonder and dread what would happen.

 

And the dream didn't help either. It was always the same. He was running down a twisting hallway, being stalked by a werewolf from his worst nightmare. No matter how fast he moved, the foaming, snapping jaws were not far behind. Every turn he thought would lead to freedom and safety. But they only lead to entrapment and death. And the werewolf was herding him ever faster towards that final destination.

 

He was not alone in the maze. He passed Mulder and Scully trapped behind a glass wall. Jess and Krycek were around the next corner, chained and muzzled on the floor, bellies exposed. And by the exit stood Sharon, handcuffed to the wall. Somehow Skinner knew that if he tried to leave this trap, the werewolf would turn its rage onto the other helpless occupants. Not wanting that to happen, he led the creature deeper into the labyrinth.

 

One final turn left him in a cul-de-sac, the beast blocking his only exit. The creature had him backed into a corner. There was no where for him to run. For a split second, he wondered why the old woman, who had saved him many times and in many was before, was allowing this to happen. He watched in fascinated horror as the muscles contracted beneath the pelt. The werewolf sprang for his throat and....

 

Then he would wake up in a cold sweat, screaming bloody murder. If he were alone, he would turn on the lights and wait until dawn and then go to work. If he were with Jess or Krycek, they would wake up and try to comfort him with whispered reassurances or sweetly offered gentle sex. Either way, Skinner would not allow himself to fall back asleep and start the cycle of nightmares again.

 

They did discuss possible cures. Krycek's research did turn up some interesting theories. Skinner had been mildly amused at the mysticism surrounding the ways to reverse lycanthropy. They ranged from as simple as addressing the werewolf by his Christian name three times to as radical as lopping off the werewolf's penis. "I don't think so," Jess commented after reading aloud that particular remedy. It appeared that, aside from going to the Consortium and begging for treatment to reverse the Change, there was nothing to be done.

 

And it was the waiting that was killing him. He was used to being in a position where he could do something to alter the outcome. This time he was denied of that recourse, and constantly reminded of it. Cancerman stopped by daily to make veiled taunts. Mulder stopped by daily trying to figure out if Skinner had been Changed or not. Scully was curious, but keeping her distance, assuming something personal was troubling him. Jess, Krycek, and Lindy tried to act normally around him, but he had caught them watching him, waiting for signs of his altered state.

 

Skinner was jerked out of his thoughts when he heard his front door open, keying his edgy instincts further. He cursed himself for the fact that he had left his gun in the bedroom, but then realized that a potential assassin wouldn't be letting himself inside with a set of keys. That, and on the light breeze, he could just detect the smell of perfume, something earthy, exotic, and unmistakably female. He turned to see Jess standing there, wearing a trench coat, one that had been Krycek's while working for the FBI. It was too long for her and the excess fabric draped over her feet, hiding her shoes, reminding Skinner of a young girl playing dress up in her daddy's coat. She was looking at him, gentle concern on her face. "Alex and I thought you shouldn't spend tonight alone." Jess kept her distance, a little uncertain. "Unless you want to be alone."

 

Skinner reached an arm out to her. Jess walked towards him, the coat trailing behind her. "So why isn't Alex here, too?" he asked at he put an arm around her waist. He pulled Jess so she was between him and the railing of the balcony. Only half conscious of what he was doing, he began molding his body against hers.

 

"Someone has to stay with the kids," Jess said simply, leaning back against him. "This time, I won the coin toss," she added with an impish smile. "Really, how are you doing?"

 

Jess's gentle probing rubbed him the wrong way. Skinner stiffened. "I'm fine," he said brusquely.

 

"Except for the irritability, nightmare induced insomnia, no attention span, and loss of appetite," Jess said with a slight sigh. "You don't have to hide it, Walter. I won't think any less of you. We go through this every time the full moon nears. Think of it as a severe case of PMS."

 

Skinner shook his head. He was so used to being in control of his emotions, that this edginess and irritation was frightening and alien to him. "How do you deal with this?" he whispered in her ear.

 

Jess stared up at the moon. "You get used to it," she said slowly. "And the longer you're a werewolf, the less severe it gets." She turned around to face him, a seductive grin on her face. "But it also helps if you exhaust yourself with certain... distractions." The last words were said as she fluttered her eyelashes, ones that were almost as as long, thick, and dark as Krycek's.

 

Skinner could feel his breath catch in his throat, and the blood begin to pool between his legs. His hormones were as out of control as his emotions. "And what kind of distractions would that be?"

 

Jess stretched up and teased Skinner with feather light kisses on his jaw and chin. "Take off the coat and find out."

 

Skinner ran his hands up and down her arms and shoulders. His palms trailed down to the buttons and he undid them slowly, teasing himself as much as her. And his eyes widened as the coat slipped off. Jess's smile grew broader. "You'd be amazed what you can buy off the internet these days."

 

Skinner eyed the black baby doll, matching lace panties, and high heels appreciatively. "I, obviously, am hitting all the wrong sites." Jess nodded and shivered, goose bumps breaking out over her fair skin. "Cold?" Skinner asked. Jess nodded again. "Well, let's get you warmed up," he said, bowing his head towards hers.

 

She met him half way with parted lips. Skinner clamped his arms around her, pulling her tight against his body. Jess responded by lifting her legs and wrapping them around Skinner's waist. Skinner turned carried Jess back inside. Jess's lips moved from Skinner's to his ear. "Let me down." Skinner loosened his grip and Jess slid her legs down his, causing Skinner to tremble. He could not remember being so aware of a woman's looks, a woman's scent, a woman touch. The closest he could compare to was when he lost his virginity to his girlfriend at age fifteen.

 

Jess, sensing that Skinner was too caught up in his reactions to make any conscious decisions, grabbed his hand and guided him upstairs. She could vaguely remember the yearnings that were coursing through her body the night before she first Changed. But at that time, she had rationalized it, mentally convincing herself that her heightened senses were do to the fact that she had just met and wanted to get laid badly by someone who was to become a dear friend, Fox Mulder. But then Krycek and Lindy had told her of going through the same thing when they were Changed. Lindy's memories were hazy and tinged with a undeserved shame. Krycek had also felt the same yearnings but was also thankful that Alpha Wolf had been out on an assignment and was no where near him that night.

 

When they reached the bedroom, Skinner regained some of his ability to move independently. He took a hold of either side of the neckline and pulled outward, rending the garment in two. With a feral smile Jess responded by unbuttoning his shirt and running her hands down his chest to unzip his fly. She then kicked off her heels and climbed onto the center of the bed, presenting her ass to Skinner. She knew from the moment that she had decided to come over that the sex was going to be rougher than usual. However, she felt confident that she could keep the situation in hand, and it wouldn't turn out like one of her nights with Jake.

 

Following her onto the bed, Skinner molded himself to her back, growling. He rubbed his open mouth over her neck, tongue and teeth gliding over her skin. Jess tilted her head back and let out a purr that was almost a growl. Skinner ran his hands up her abdomen to her breasts. Barely aware of what he was doing, he closed his mouth, pinching the tender flesh below her jaw between his teeth. Jess let out a hair raising shriek and bucked ferociously, sharply elbowing Skinner in the side at the same time. Skinner found himself tossed to the far end of the bed, surprised that the small body that had been beneath him was so strong. Panting, and a bit dazed by her sudden violence, he watched Jess crouching by the pillows, her eyes narrowed. She raised a hand to the red mark on her neck. "No biting," she hissed.

 

Skinner's eyes narrowed, calculating whether he could throw her down to the bed and mount her before she could retaliate. Jess also was plotting, trying to figure out how to slow him down if he tried to bite her again. She could handle anything but that, especially if the biting moved to her chest. They stayed there for several long moments, breathing heavily and watching each other. Their stare down was interrupted by a knock on the door.

 

Both Jess and Skinner looked away at the same time. Skinner backed off the bed while Jess remained crouched by the pillows. Silently, he zipped himself up and and walked down stairs to the front door. <Get rid of whoever's at the door and then get back upstairs,> he mentally growled. He opened the door and was surprised at who stood there. "Come in," he said, pulling the door wider.

 

His ex-wife entered the apartment with a neutral, almost friendly expression on her face. Sharon appeared on the verge of saying something when she noticed something behind Skinner. He half turned to see what she was gazing at. Jess's coat, puddled on the floor where he had tossed it a few minutes before, and her purse resting on the couch. When he returned his gaze to her, the expression she now wore was anything but friendly. "Well, I see you haven't wasted any time," she said rather tartly.

 

Skinner squared his shoulders slightly as a defensive look crossed his face. "I didn't realize who I keep company with is any of your concern."

 

"It's funny you should say that, Walter. Especially with who you kept company with before our divorce."

 

That stung, but he tried not to let it show. "So why are you here, Sharon?" he asked, trying to remain civil.

 

"I need this paperwork on turning over the insurance for the house signed. I hear you're renting it now."

 

"Yes" he said a little sharply. Skinner did not want to discuss the rental agreement with Sharon. "Why did you stop by without calling first?"

 

"I did. You were probably so wrapped up in your work, you didn't notice, or just forgot, just like when we were married." Sharon handed him the paperwork and a pen. Skinner scribbled his name by the x and handed the paperwork back to Sharon without saying a word. "I won't keep you from your entertainment any longer," she said cattily and let herself out the door.

 

Skinner leaned his head against the door. <Damn! Why does it still hurt so much?> After They had attempted to kill her, he and Sharon had tried to reconcile. Skinner had made the effort, but Sharon's attempt had been half hearted, making it clear what she wanted. And even though it tore him apart to do so, he signed the divorce papers. He turned toward the stairwell, only to find Jess standing at the top of it, wearing the shirt he had been earlier. "You heard?" he asked as he climbed the stairs.

 

Jess nodded. "Everything." She paused and took a small step backwards. "Do you want me to leave?" She looked at him with wide brown eyes, seeming small and fragile.

 

Skinner shook his head and put an arm around her shoulders. "No." The stare down with Jess and the verbal dueling with Sharon had channeled the pressures building within his psyche outward, leaving him feel drained. The last thing he wanted was to be alone with his thoughts and memories. But Skinner also doubted he could get it back up to satisfy Jess.

 

Jess also put an arm around his waist as they started walking. "We don't have to pick up where we left off," she said, as if sensing his emotional turmoil and tiredness. "In fact, it might be better if we don't."

 

Skinner brushed his lips against the crown of her head as they crossed the threshold of the bedroom. "You're too good to me, you know that? No other woman I know would put up with this situation."

 

"You and Sharon, your dueling with Cancerman, or sleeping with me and my life mate?" Jess said lightly, an attempt to lift the dark mood. She lay down on the bed, facing the center.

 

Skinner shoved off his slacks and flopped down on the bed. "The whole damn thing, Jess." He pushed at her shoulder until she rolled onto her other side. Skinner then spooned into her back and draped an arm over her waist. "By the way," Skinner mumbled into her hair. "I noticed your perfume when you walked in. It's nice."

 

"Um, thanks," Jess muttered. She closed her eyes and was almost asleep when a thought crossed her mind. <I'm not wearing perfume.> She rarely did since it interfered with her sense of smell. Trying not to disturb him, Jess turned over and looked down at Skinner. He was asleep, the emotional roller coaster having exhausted him. Many of the lines of worry had smoothed out, making him look younger. <His sense of smell has sharpened.> Jess, even after seeing the smoke raise from the cross, had tried to discredit what she had seen. <There is no way to deny it, girl.>

 

<He's one of us.>

 

* * * * * * *

 

When Skinner woke up at dawn, Jess was still asleep. She had wriggled onto her other side, her head now facing him. For a moment, he was caught up in a panicky sense of deja vu, thinking of when he had been framed for murder. But at that moment, Jess made a noise in her sleep and curled tighter in on herself. Skinner reached out and stroked Jess's arm. <At least I didn't have another nightmare last night.> He gave a sigh of relief and closed his eyes. He could still remember clearly the terror of waking up next to the corpse. But what had really unsettled him was his own self doubt. Skinner had half believed that he did it at the time in the midst of a nightmare, or that the old woman had somehow done it. Either way, he was certain he was guilty.

 

But since he had signed the divorce papers, he had not seen the old woman, not even when he had started sleeping with both Krycek and Jess. He wasn't sure if that meant she approved of his current relationship or not. Jess and Krycek's attitude towards her possible interference was surprisingly blase, probably due to the fact that they already were used to interference by a guardian spirit, Jess's deceased sister Rachel.

 

A hand entrapping his fingers brought him back to the present. He opened his eyes to look into Jess's smiling face. Leaning forward, she brushed his lips with a gossamer light kiss. "Feeling better?"

 

"Some," Skinner answered. He bent low over her to kiss her cheek, but paused when he saw the bright purple bruise behind her left ear, visible in even the half light. "I'm sorry about...," he trailed off, stroking gently around the swollen flesh.

 

"It's okay," Jess said, giving his fingers a squeeze. "You weren't yourself last night."

 

"That's no excuse," he whispered in her ear. He reddened in shame as he thought about the night before. "Christ, if we hadn't been interrupted, I was practically going to rape you."

 

She bolted upright, outraged by what he believed. "Don't you *ever* think that, Walter!" Jess hissed, brow furrowed. She reached out and touched his cheek, her expression softening. "I know what rape is, and if last night had continued the way it had been going, it may have been rougher than usual, but it wouldn't have been rape." She leaned forward and kissed him. "I wouldn't be here if I thought it was."

 

Skinner sighed as Jess nuzzled his jaw and neck. "So why was I such an asshole last night?"

 

Jess sat up on one elbow. "Because it was night. That's when the Change's influence is the strongest. It won't be like this every month. Stress levels also affect it. And believe me, we definitely have stress." She tossed one of her legs over his and pulling his body closer to hers. "So why are you awake so early?"

 

"Habit." Before becoming involved with Jess and Krycek, and way before he was divorced, Skinner had made it his routine to wake up early, get dressed and go to work. Often he had been the first to arrive and the last to leave his department. And even afterward, it wasn't uncommon for Jess or Krycek to wake up and find Skinner long gone.

 

"Well, try to go back to sleep" Jess counseled. "You're gonna need the rest for tonight. Trust me." She lay back down and shut her eyes, conversation over as far as she was concerned.

 

Skinner shook her head. Jess was not an early morning person in the least, but he rarely was alone with her. He had a question that he wanted an answer to, and he needed her opinion before broaching this subject with Krycek. Now seemed the perfect time to ask her. "Jess?"

 

"Yes, Walter?" she muttered, sounding like a half asleep mother indulging her two year old's endless curiosity.

 

"Do you think Alex would fuck me?"

 

Jess didn't even bother to open her eyes, certain she had misheard him. "I thought he already was. Don't tell me this whole relationship is just one giant hallucination I've been having."

 

"No. You and Alex have fucked each other. You and I have fucked each other. I've only fucked him."

 

"Oh. I get it. You want to know if he'd top you. I think so." Jess opened her eyes. "What brought that out?"

 

"I don't know." Skinner took a deep breath. "I've been wanting it for a while, but never knew exactly how to ask. And I never really thought about it until you shoved your finger up my ass. None of my lovers had done anything like that before and it felt... good."

 

Jess nodded. Skinner had such a dominating presence, most people would automatically submit, not considering the fact that he probably needed to be submissive sometimes. <Hell, I'm guilty of it myself.> The only time she had topped him was their first time together. "Talk to him. I'm sure he'd be willing to give it a try. Or do you want me to bring it up with him?" When Skinner nodded, Jess smiled and kissed his lips. "Consider it done." She stroked her hands down his sides. "I really did bruise you," she said when Skinner winced under her gentle touch. "I'm sorry."

 

Skinner didn't respond except to pull her down to his chest and stroke her hair. Jess reached up to dig her fingers into a set of tight shoulder muscles, trying to relax him. "Walter, can I ask you a question?"

 

"Go ahead."

 

Jess rose up on one arm to look into his eyes, her expression puzzled. "Why are you so eager to have sex with me when Alex is in bed with us or near by, but not when it's just the two of us? And before you ask, last night doesn't count."

 

There had been several times when Jess and he had been alone together while Krycek was out assisting Mulder. And although Jess appeared willing, somehow sleeping with her then didn't feel right without Krycek being present. He shifted uneasily. "I feel that you belong to Alex."

 

"And you belong Alex. And to me. Just as Alex belongs to you, and I do." Jess lay down beside him. "We wanted you to feel you're an equal partner in this relationship, Walter. I'm sorry if it hasn't worked out that way."

 

Skinner reached out and placed his palm on her arm. "It's more my fault than yours." Jess had done everything she could to make him feel comfortable around her. And he had held back, unconsciously feeling as if he were betraying Sharon again. But, oddly enough, he did not have the same problem when Krycek suggested sex. "And since we're playing twenty questions, it's my turn. Are you going to Agents Mulder and Scully's engagement party?"

 

"Yes," Jess raised an eyebrow. "Are you asking me on a date?"

 

Skinner raised an eyebrow back at her. "Are you refusing?"

 

"No," Jess said with a giggle. I"t just seems a little silly, since we're already sleeping together."

 

"Tradition has it that the Assistant Directors and above are supposed to show up to any function with an escort."

 

Jess shot him a mischievous smile. "Then ask Alex."

 

Skinner sounded amused, but exasperated. "Jess...."

 

"Of course I'll go with you," she said. "But what's the story? I mean, I'm sure that some people are going to recognize me from the Farnsworth case, and they know I was hooked up with Alex."

 

Skinner thought a moment. "You and I were acquaintances before you met Alex. You're doing this as a platonic favor to me."

 

"Pitying the newly divorced? Sounds good," Jess smiled. "Are you sure you want to say platonic? That means you have to keep your hands off me all night."

 

"Believe it or not, I am capable of self-restraint. I just choose not to exercise it most of the time I'm around you and Alex."

 

Jess looked him up and down, amused by his proclamation. "You seem pretty restrained right now."

 

Skinner shook his head. "No I'm not." He slowly unbuttoned the shirt and eased the fabric aside, tickling Jess's ribs. Ridding himself of his briefs, he rolled on top of the woman beside him. Skinner sat up so he could look see her. <She's so small.> With the image she projected, Jess always seemed taller than her five foot four inch frame. His eyes rested on her scarred breasts. <And she's so perfect,> he thought. Far from being unarousing, the blemishes reminded him what a sacred gift Jess was giving him, her body and her trust.

 

A fingertip lazily traced one of the longer scars from navel to nipple. Skinner looked at her face when he felt Jess shudder beneath him. Far from the relaxed arousal of a moment ago, her eyes were tightly shut, lower lip caught between teeth. He felt a wave of self-reproach flood him. <Of course she doesn't like to be reminded of them, you idiot.> Skinner tenderly gathered her stiff but unprotesting body close to his. "I know Farnsworth was rough with you," he whispered in a velvet soft voice. "What did he do to you? Bite, beat, slap you if you tried to pleasure him? Pummel you within an inch of your life and then make you come hard without your consent? Take you to the edge and make you suck him off and leave you begging?"

 

Now Jess was quaking beneath him, her breath coming in ragged gasps. "Don't make me relive it," she rasped out, moisture leaking from behind closed lids.

 

Jess jumped when she felt a soft tongue licking away her tears. Skinner's voice was filled with a tenderness she had heard from so few men in her life. "I need to know so I don't ever remind you of him."

 

Jess opened her eyes to find herself staring into Skinner's. His head hovered over hers, lips centimeters away from brushing hers. She could see the dull ache of need in his eyes, mingled with a stronger desire not to hurt her. "Walter, you could never remind me of him." Moving swiftly, she slid one hand around his waist, one around the back of his head and pulled him to her body, sealing her lips to his.

 

But he heard the false courage in her voice that thinly masked the pain and fear. "Brave little liar," he whispered, stroking her hair. "You may fool Alex talking like that, but you don't fool me." Skinner moved to kiss her neck, smoothing his hands over her breasts. Moving slowly, he then trailed his tongue along each scar, reverently worshiping her body.

 

Jess arched up beneath him. "Takes one to know one, Walter," she said regaining some of her composure. She reached down and tweaked his nipples as his hands went to her waist. She started to lift her hips, rubbing her pubic hair against his leaking cock.

 

"Easy, girl," Skinner gasped when he felt himself surge. Her soft hair gliding over sensitized skin was making him lose control. "Or this'll be over before before we want it to be."

 

"Are you sure about that?" Jess asked. Her hand wandered down to position the head of his cock just inside her moist entrance. "Are sure you don't need it... hard?" Jess squeezed her muscles, making Skinner groan as his cock slipped further inside when she relaxed. "Fast?" Another contraction had Skinner grasping the sheets on either side of her head. "Furious?"

 

She gripped his full length with the last contraction. Giving up any pretense of control, Skinner rose up on his knees, jerked her ass closer to his groin and began to pound into her. He could feel his orgasm swelling from the base of his spine quickly, despite his mental attempts to stave it off. Spreading the lips of her sex wide, he thumbed her clitoris, determined to give her as good as he got, even if she got it after he did.

 

<He's not going to last long enough for me to come,> Jess thought, disappointed. She was close to orgasm, but needed prolonged stimulation. But still, she parried his thrusts, determined to enjoy their closeness, even if she didn't come. Jess began tossing her head back and forth as Skinner felt his orgasm flood himself as he emptied into her. Withdrawing swiftly, he grinned as he heard her breathless curse when he stopped thumbing her and her equally breathless scream when he began tonguing her. Jess arched her hips off the bed, legs stiff, and Skinner licked her into her orgasm.

 

Still smiling, he kept his hands on her hips as her legs relaxed. Jess tugged his head back up to hers and she wrapped her arms around his neck. He put his hands on her shoulders, drawing her close and settling her against him. Feeling a wetness seeping through his chest hair, Skinner looked down to find Jess silently crying. "Hey, I thought you were supposed to be comforting me."

 

"Sorry," Jess said, wiping away a tear. "I wasn't expecting you to be concerned about my pleasure. No, because of Jake, not because of the Change." She reached up and kissed him reverently with closed lips. "Thank you." She then nestled back down on him.

 

Skinner stroked her bare back. <Dare I tell her how I really feel about them?> He had told them that he was developing strong feelings for them, but in the last month, Skinner had been surprised to find how deep they were, deeper than he had ever felt for Sharon. <Not yet. I don't think any of us can handle it.> He closed his eyes and rested his cheek against Jess's head. From her breathing, Skinner could tell that she had already fallen asleep.

 

And before he knew it, the alarm was going off two hours later.

 

* * * * * * *

 

After their breakfast, Jess had brought the reluctant AD back home with her, to keep an eye on him. She had never observed a human about to undergo the Change for the first time, and she wanted to see if his experiences paralleled hers. They had spent most of the day under a thin veneer of normalcy. Krycek spent the day in an armchair, working on some project on Jess's laptop. Skinner, sitting on one end of the couch, buried his nose the New York Times and the Washington Post. Jess, back flat against the seat cushions, legs tossed over the armrest, was reading a novel, and keeping an eye on Amanda who was playing on the carpet. And Lindy also sat on the floor, working on her math homework.

 

Jess swung her legs onto the floor almost at the same moment Krycek looked up from the computer and Lindy's brow furrowed. The trio made a face. Skinner was about to ask what was wrong, when he smelled it. "I think someone needs to be changed, and I don't mean become a werewolf."

 

Jess stood up and picked up Amanda. As she passed by the chair Krycek was in, he put the computer in sleep mode and followed her upstairs. Lindy picked up her papers and went into the kitchen, leaving Skinner alone.

 

Jess's voice floated through the air. "Alex, I wonder if we're doing the right thing with Walter."

 

Skinner looked around, trying to locate the voices as Krycek's answered. "Jess, there's not much we can do if he was bitten, except ease the transformation." The voices were coming from somewhere to his left.

 

There was the rustling of cloth. Again he heard Jess. "That's not what I'm talking about. Last night, Sharon stopped by."

 

"His ex-wife?" Krycek asked. At this point, Skinner realized what was happening. The baby monitor in Amanda's room was turned on. Jess had brought the base into the living room and turned it on earlier when Amanda was napping, although the werewolves didn't really need it to hear the child's cry. Skinner privately thought it was just so they be reassured that Amanda was alive and with them by hearing her breathing.

 

"Yeah, and they had a sniping match. She won." Jess sighed and paused before continuing. "I think he still cares deeply about her, and that we are just a distraction."

 

"You don't mean he's using us for sex?" There was the sound of tape being ripped off plastic.

 

"No, he does care for us strongly. But he's got a lot of unresolved emotions towards Sharon. And I get a feeling he's using us to avoid dealing with them."

 

"I've had the same suspicion for a while, Jess. I was hoping he'd discuss them with us. But I don't think he's that kind of man."

 

"He's learned not to share, to protect by keeping it all to himself. That's how he survived watching so many of his friends die in Vietnam, and deal with Cancerman. That's what drove him and Sharon apart. And with the added stress of the Change, I'm afraid for him."

 

Krycek's voice sounded worried. "You think his mind might snap?"

 

"I don't know."

 

There was a silence in the room. "Jess, what's this mark on your neck?"

 

"Oh, that?" Jess hedged. "Um... Walter got a little too excited last night and..."

 

Krycek's voice raised in outrage. "He *bit* you?"

 

"He didn't mean to. And check out the bruise on his ribs from where I elbowed him off. And we had a heart to heart about it, and some other things." Another pause. "There is something he would like to know."

 

"What?"

 

Jess paused before answering. "He wants to know if you'd top him."

 

Krycek gave a little laugh. "I was thinking about asking him the same thing. Um, Jess?"

 

"Yes?"

 

"Do you love him?" Jess must have nodded or shook her head, because there was no verbal response. "I feel the same way," Krycek said softly.

 

At that point Skinner turned off the monitor. He was afraid of what their feelings were. At first he had told himself that their relationship was simply sex, and that was that. His feelings were becoming harder to deny. He had fallen for both Krycek and Jess, and fallen hard. But when they came downstairs, Skinner gave no hint of what he had overheard, afraid of the answer, but desperately wanting to know.

 

The question preyed on his mind all afternoon and into the early evening. Eventually, they moved upstairs and started to prepare. All that really needed to be done was for them to undress. Lindy, understandably, opted to do so separately from the adult males, and Jess went with her.

 

Krycek gave Skinner a hug from behind. "Jess told me about yesterday."

 

Skinner sighed. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bite her."

 

"She talked about that, but she also mentioned something else." Moving to the bathroom, Krycek began putting their clothes in the hamper.

 

Skinner looked over a shoulder, playing the innocent. "What did she say?"

 

Krycek turned to face him. "That you were interested in being a bottom."

 

There. It was out. And the ball had landed squarely in Skinner's court. "Yeah, Alex. I am."

 

Serve returned. "I've never topped a guy before, Walter. But I'm willing to try. But tonight isn't the right time."

 

A naked Jess stepped into the room, resting Amanda on one hip. "The moon is about to clear the horizon," she said, looking out the window. "Do you feel anything yet, Walter?" she asked as she put the baby down on the bed.

 

Skinner shook his head, annoyed by an insistent itch. And then he felt a strange, yet familiar weight on his skull. He reached up, only to feel a mane of hair growing on his scalp. Then he became aware that hair was not only growing on his head, but everywhere, itching and covering every inch of skin. And as he brought his hand down from his head, he noticed the small but quickly growing talons on his fingertips.

 

Then the pain hit like a sucker punch to the stomach. Skinner would have screamed from the agony, except all the breath had been knocked out of his lungs. He could feel his bones and muscles being twisted into forms that normal humans could never achieve. He dropped to his knees and slid onto his stomach, face contorting in agony. There seemed a lot more face for him to grimace with.

 

And then the pain was gone, just like someone turned a switch off. He lay panting on the floor, trying to catch his breath. At some point, Lindy had come into the room. He could see her, Jess, and Krycek staring at him, clearly worried. But what was occupying his mind at the moment was that he could *smell* them staring at him clearly worried. Then he also realized, with considerable consternation, that they were Changed.

 

Jess stepped forward, and delicately licked his cheek. ~Walter, can you hear me?~ she asked as she nuzzled him. The mindvoice was easily recognizable as Jess's. Skinner sat up in shock, and then jumped to his feet when his tail unexpectedly curled reflexively around his legs. Skinner let out a deep woof of surprise, and then startled at the sound.

 

Krycek and Jess exchanged uneasy glances. Neither of them could read Skinner's expression or body language. The only thing they were certain of was that Skinner was in shock. Krycek stepped forward to lick Skinner's other cheek. ~Are you all right?~

 

~I want to see,~ came a low rumble, unmistakably from Skinner. Mindspeach seemed to come as naturally as physical speech for him, at least when in the canine form. He stalked towards the mirror, trying to get used to the feeling of having four on the floor.

 

Jess shouldered her way in front of him. ~I'm not sure that's a good idea, Wa...,~

 

~I want to see *now*!~ The words struck her like a blow as Skinner pinned his ears back and growled instinctively, baring his teeth.

 

Jess's ears swept back, and she bared her teeth. She also growled and tensed, making it clear that she wasn't about to take any attitude from Skinner. Skinner may be top dog when at the FBI, but this was her domain. ~Back off, Jess,~ Lindy counseled, not wanting to see them fight. Jess snorted and moved out of the way. However she did not break eye contact with Skinner, and doing so did not cede her dominance. Forced to look away first, Skinner tromped past her and towards the dresser. He leapt on the bed, and started to examine himself carefully. Brown canine, and yet somehow still human, eyes stared thoughtfully back at him. His fur, unlike Jess's and Lindy's solid coloring and Krycek's tuxedo look, was the brown patchy look of a wild wolf coat. He could almost pass for a true wolf, except for the fact that he was twice the size of his wild cousins.

 

While Skinner was examining himself, Jess turned to Lindy. ~Are you sure you want to stay?~

 

~Someone needs to watch Amanda. And he needs you more than I do, Jess,~ was Lindy's reply.

 

~Walter, c'mon. We're wasting moonlight.~ Krycek led Skinner downstairs. Jess followed, pausing at the doorway to look back at Lindy.

 

The younger female was sitting up on her hind legs and made a shooing motion with one forepaw. ~ Go on.~ The mental voice was unconcerned, but there was an edgy look in her eyes.

 

Jess nodded and padded downstairs. <Note to myself - pin Lindy down and find out why she's been so distant lately.> When she saw the living room was empty, she went outside to find Krycek sitting on the grass, waiting for her. Skinner was circling around the yard, exploring it with his unfamiliar canine senses. Jess had almost forgotten how alien the altered awareness first was. ~Are you ready to go?~

 

Skinner nodded. ~As ready as I'll ever be.~ They headed off to a nearby park at an easy lope. Normally, Jess, Krycek, and Lindy would range far, heading to the outskirts of town where wild things still lived, and stalk rabbits or the occasional deer. But tonight, they would have to make do with feral cats or large rats, if they decided to kill. Several times they had to duck out of sight quickly to avoid being seen by humans. Skinner gave a quiet bark, amazed at his lack of murderous instincts. ~After last night, I thought I would become a blood thirsty hell hound when this happened.~

 

Jess snorted, but didn't miss a stride. ~Depends. I wasn't aware of what was going on when I first Changed, so the animal in me ran rampant. Once I became aware, the urge to kill humans lessened. Lindy had more of a desire to keep people from being hurt the way she was.~

 

Krycek added his two cents. ~I killed, like Jess said, but I learned to control the beast within. And we don't hunt every time.~ He stopped short to sniff a wet patch of grass. ~You've been under a lot of stress. Last night, all that pressure was trying to erupt into the Change.~

 

The other werewolves stopped also. ~So what do you do when you're out like this?~ Skinner reached with a hind paw to scratch behind his ear and then froze as he realized how he had moved.

 

~Generally destress ourselves - run, howl at the moon, play games, that sort of thing,~ Jess said. ~Oh, by the way Walter,~ she leaned over and nipped him on the hip. ~Tag! You're it!~ She bolted to a spot about twenty feet away, wagging her tail enthusiastically.

 

Krycek, who had been standing beside Skinner, also shied away out of reach. He was also wagging his tail. ~Well, are you going to sit there all night or what?~

 

Skinner took two steps towards Krycek, and then dove for Jess. She was expecting some sort of diversionary move and jumped out of the way at the last moment. Her tail whisked by his nose, making Skinner sneeze. While he was distracted, Krycek brushed by, nipping Skinner's tail. But he didn't move quite fast enough. Skinner jumped and landed half on Krycek, biting the loose skin on the nape of his neck. ~Gotcha!~ The older male quickly backpedaled to where Jess stood.

 

Krycek shook his body. He stalked towards the two, his fur bristling in mock rage. ~Wait until I get my paws on you two!~ Jess gave a joyful bark and loped a wide circle around him. Skinner did the same in the opposite direction.

 

They played games for the rest of the evening, forgetting their worries and just exhausting themselves with lighthearted fun - tag, king of the hill, hide and seek. Beside doing it for the sheer enjoyment, Jess and Krycek were teaching Skinner skills he would need - how to balance, run, leap, twist, turn and tumble.

 

The full moon sinking into the west was what signaled the end of the evening <If this is what it's like to be a werewolf, it isn't that bad,> Skinner thought, as they wearily headed home.

 

* * * * * * *

 

After making sure that Amanda was down for the night, Lindy retreated to her room. Instead of waiting for the dawn to Change back, she resumed human form after a few hours.

 

<God! I am so tired.> Normally, she would make a bowl of popcorn, toss an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the VCR, and watch until the others came home. But tonight she felt exhausted. Lindy crawled into bed, feeling cold. As she snuggled under the covers, Lindy tasted blood, and realized that her nose was bleeding again. But she was too tired to reach for the Kleenex box. <I'll talk to Jess about this first thing when she gets back,> she thought hazily. But then the room went dark and she was unconscious.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Although the moon had sunk, there were still several hours of night left when the werewolves found themselves home. ~Normally we stay out later, but let's not push it for your first time. We'll start teaching you how to hunt next full moon,~ Jess mindspoke. She yawned as she clawed at the door knob. ~Amanda will be old enough that we can bring her a mouse or something else small to practice with. It would help you too, Walter.~

 

The three werewolves walked inside the house. Krycek Changed slightly, so he could balance on his hind legs and close the door. The lights were off, but, since all three had excellent night vision, they avoided the furniture with ease as they went upstairs. ~Check on the kids?~ Skinner asked.

 

Jess and Krycek got distant looks on their faces, as if they were listening for something just out of range. ~Both asleep,~ Krycek mindspoke. ~No need to disturb them.~

 

In the bedroom, Jess and Krycek Changed back to human form. Jess turned to Skinner, who was still looked like a wolf. ~Are you okay?~ Jess asked. ~The expression on your face is kind of...,~ she searched for the right word, ~constipated.~

 

His eyes were wide and his breathing was coming in short pants. ~I can't Change back.~ There was a hint of panic in Skinner's response.

 

~You won't be able to will it for a few months,~ Krycek soothed. He slipped into the bed without getting dressed. ~Just get into bed. You'll shift sometime during the night.~

 

Skinner leapt onto the bed and then wormed his way under the covers. Jess got in, sandwiching him in the middle. She laid a hand on his fur. ~Good night, Walter.~

 

Skinner heard Krycek's echoing 'good night.' ~Good night Jess, Alex.~ And maybe he was imagining things but he thought he heard a dual answering ~love you.~

 

* * * * * * *

 

He was running down a twisting hallway, being stalked by a werewolf from his worst nightmare. No matter how fast he moved, the foaming, snapping jaws were not far behind. Every turn he thought would lead to freedom and safety. But they only lead to entrapment and death. And the werewolf was herding him ever faster towards that final destination.

 

Skinner recognized his recurring nightmare. But there were a few subtle alterations to the basic pattern. Except for the werewolf, he was alone in the maze this time. And instead of feeling terror, he was angry. He stopped, sick of being hunted. <Why am I running from this werewolf? I am one!> He turned and stood his ground, making the werewolf come to him.

 

The werewolf did not hesitate but charged towards him, arms spread and jaws drooling. Skinner met the attack with a growl. But, unlike the previous dreams where Skinner woke up in a blind panic, feeling teeth and claws rend him to shreds, the werewolf pulled Skinner into a bear hug, rubbing its muzzle against the AD's head. For the first time, Skinner noticed how soft the werewolf's fur was. The beast touched its tongue to Skinner's forehead, a sign of affection, and then turned him. A mirror had appeared and the beast had draped himself over Skinner's shoulders, underside of the jaw resting on Skinner's head. And then the images began to merge, Skinner's more solid, the werewolf's more ghostly, but clearly there. Looking into the reflection of the shadow's eyes, he recognized the creature. This werewolf that was haunting his dreams was himself.

 

One of Skinner's eyes cracked open. Krycek had been right; he had Changed back to a human in his sleep. He was sandwiched comfortably between Krycek and Jess. Krycek was stirring a little at his movements. "It's okay. I had a dream. Go back to sleep Alex." Krycek nodded slightly and shut his eyes.

 

Skinner also shut his eyes, a slight smile on his face. He knew now that he would not be troubled by that particular nightmare ever again.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Morning sunlight streamed through the blinds, creating bars of gold and shadow on the comforter. Jess yawned, squinting against the light. She stretched, trying to chase the last of the post-Change drowsiness from her limbs. Sitting up, she looked around to see if Skinner or Krycek were awake yet. Skinner wasn't, but Krycek was on his side facing her, green eyes open. ~Morning, love,~ Jess mindspoke.

 

~Morning, love.~ Krycek stretched cuddled into Skinner. ~I bet he's going to be sore today,~ he mindspoke.

 

Jess made a noise of agreement. ~I'll go start a hot bath for him to soak in. That should help.~ She slid out of the bed, wincing a little at the cold air. Missing her warmth, Skinner moaned in protest and then nestled back against Krycek.

 

Krycek put an arm around Skinner's waist and idly began stroking the fine hairs covering Skinner's chest. Skinner shifted again, brushing his ass against Krycek's morning erection. Krycek smiled and nuzzled Skinner's head. Lazily, his hands found their way to Skinners shoulders. He kneaded the muscles, noting even in sleep that Skinner was tense. The older man yawned and stretched, making Krycek jerk his head back to avoid Skinner's bashing his nose. "Morning Alex," he rumbled.

 

Krycek kissed the back of Skinner's neck, not easing up on his massage. "Morning, Walter. How do you feel?"

 

Skinner shifted his limbs experimentally. "A little stiff," he confessed.

 

"A little? Yeah, right," Krycek snorted. He switched motions to a hand to hand knead, like a nursing kitten. "It's normal. Your body will adapt eventually." Skinner grunted and rolled onto his stomach. Krycek followed, straddling his waist, keeping his weight on his knees. Skinner sighed and relaxed a bit. Krycek kept on massaging and bent down to kiss the back of his neck again. "So what do you think about last night?"

 

"Last night?" Skinner mumbled, distracted by the feeling of Krycek's hands kneading his back and sides. "It was, well, different than I thought it would be. I think I can live like this."

 

Krycek unconsciously sighed, relieved to have an answer to an unspoken question. Few of those who were Changed without their consent chose to stay Changed. They took the only option available to them - suicide. Krycek hadn't wanted to tell this to Jess, but he had wondered if Skinner would choose to live.

 

Skinner sighed, letting the tension drain out of him. <Mmm, this feels good.> He stretched out against the mattress. "Alex, remember how you said that last night wasn't the right time for you to top me?"

 

Krycek lifted off Skinner, allowing the older man to roll onto his back. "Yeah," Krycek breathed, barely daring to hope that this conversation was leading to where he thought it would be.

 

Skinner gazed up into Krycek's eyes, his glowing with a banked fire that threatened to blaze out of control at any moment. "What about this morning?"

 

Meanwhile, Jess turned off the water spigots. She then stood up and stretched languorously, enjoying the fuzzy after glow of the Change. Usually about six hours after a full moon transformation, she experienced something similar to post-orgasmic pleasure. Krycek and Lindy also said they felt a delicious sense of relief. <I wonder if Walter feels this way,> she thought.

 

She stuck her head out of the bathroom, intending to announce that the bath was ready. But the sight that met her eyes silenced her. Krycek was arched over Skinner, back drawn tight as a bow, was kissing the underside of Skinner's jaw while rubbing his groin against Skinner's. Her mind flashed back to the first time she had caught Skinner and Krycek in bed together. Only this time, Skinner was writhing under Krycek's advances. And judging from the swell of both men's cocks, they were enjoying it. With a lazy smile, she walked over to the bed, settling at the foot of it.

 

Krycek meanwhile began nipping and kissing Skinner's neck. Sitting up a bit, Krycek's hands went to his lover's pectorals, thumbing Skinner's erect nipples and kneading the muscles the way he pleasured Jess's breasts, and the way he had been pleasured. Skinner groaned and pressed upwards against Krycek's palms. Krycek grinned, pleased that he was bringing out these intense responses in the normally reserved Assistant Director. He felt the bed shift behind him, so he looked over his shoulder. Jess was sitting there a few inches away, lips parted and breathing deeply. "Enjoying yourself?" he spoke to her.

 

"Immensely," she purred back. He lunged towards her and Jess ducked his kiss. "You've got other things to focus on," she laughed, giving him a light slap on the ass, encouraging him.

 

Krycek turned back to Skinner who was now eying him with his best 'come hither' look. "What are you waiting for, boy?" Skinner said, lifting his groin.

 

With a feral grin, Krycek flung himself forward over Skinner, hushing the man with a kiss. While his tongue plunged into Skinner's mouth, his hand plunged into the bedside dresser. Withdrawing from the drawer, he sank back on his knees, tossing the bottle of lubricant between his hands. Krycek smiled and turned to Jess. "Care to do the honors?"

 

Jess took the tube. "You ready for this, Walter?"

 

Skinner paused for a moment before nodding yes. Jess opened the bottle and squeezed some of the gel into his hand and reached for Skinner's ass. But Krycek grabbed Jess's wrist halting the motion. Pausing again, Krycek looked at Skinner, waiting for one final confirmation. Skinner was touched that that Krycek was leaving an out for him, a chance to change his mind. "Yes, Alex," he said, rolling over and making himself vulnerable.

 

Jess grinned and began began to smear the now warm gel between Skinner's asscheeks deftly. Then Krycek grabbed a pillow and slid it under Skinner's hips. His fingers began tracing a lazy path from Skinner's balls towards his anus, setting his lover on fire. Once at the puckered opening, Krycek rubbed, but did not penetrate. Skinner thrust his hips back, and Krycek's fingers retreated. "Bastard," Skinner hissed.

 

"Wrong. My parents were married," was the sweetly voiced answer. His fingers returned to Skinner's asshole and began to rub with a little more force. One finger slipped inside, and then a second one joined the first. Both fingers began a slow in and out slide, gliding over his prostate.

 

Skinner's legs tensed and the older man lifted up, offering himself. "Please," he whispered. His muscles tensed further when he felt the fingers withdraw and the head of Krycek's well oiled cock kissed his asshole.

 

"Relax, Walter," Krycek cooed. Trying to distract his lover, Krycek took hold of Skinner's cock and began a slow, deliberate pumping motion. With each surge, Krycek pressed against Skinner, until his cockhead popped inside. Skinner yelped and Krycek held still for a moment, and then began to embed himself in Skinner in a series of maddeningly slow thrusts. And through all of it, he still maintained a firm grip on Skinner's cock. "So hot... so tight," the younger man grated out.

 

Skinner couldn't believe the sensations coursing through him, the ebb and the surge of Krycek against and inside of him. <God! Why didn't I ask him to do this sooner?> The feeling of Krycek's cock inside his body was unlike any ecstasy he had ever experienced. Yes, there was pain and discomfort, but the pleasure of being penetrated and pumped at the same time more than made up for it. Then the young man let go of his cock, lifting Skinner to his knees. He cried out at the loss of the hand and again when something hotter and wetter replaced it. <He can't be *that* limber!> Skinner opened his eyes to find Jess had worked her way underneath and was eagerly going down on him as Krycek started to pound him in earnest. Vaguely, he thought he should slide a hand between Jess's legs and finger her, but the thought took more coordination than he had at the moment. He could feel the pressure growing behind his cock, and Skinner knew he couldn't last much longer. All he could do was ride out the moment and the pleasure being given to him.

 

Krycek felt that he had died and gone to heaven. Even in his wildest dreams, he never imagined that topping a man, much less this man, would be so good. He heard Skinner's gasp, and Jess's quiet gag, and then he could feel Skinner coming. The muscles surrounding his cock began to spasm, which was more than Krycek could stand. He came a violent bark, collapsing onto Jess and Skinner.

 

Jess pulled her head out from beneath the two sweating bodies. Smiling, she lay down beside them, satisfied with her part in their lovemaking. True, she hadn't come, but she didn't think she needed an orgasm every time they made love. Sometimes the self satisfaction at a job well done was enough. And the focus this moment should be on Skinner, not her. Skinner's face was away from her, and he hadn't moved since coming. "So did you like it?" she asked, a little concerned about the silence.

 

Krycek slid bonelessly off Skinner to lay on his belly next to the older man. Skinner rolled onto his back a bit gingerly and stretched, putting one arm around her and one on Krycek. "What's not to like? That was quite an experience," Skinner murmured. He tapped Krycek's back with the palm of his hand. "You're purring, boy."

 

"Am not," was Krycek's rejoinder, smothered in Skinner's shoulder. "Werewolves don't purr."

 

Jess lifted her head to rest it against Skinner's other shoulder. "Then what's that noise you've been making for the last few minutes?"

 

"Very friendly growling," he grinned, raising his head. Krycek ran his fingers over Skinner's abdomen to tickle Jess's stomach. "Do you need anything?"

 

"Nah. I'm still riding the buzz from last night. Later maybe." Jess rolled out of the bed and stretched. "I'll go check on the kids and start breakfast," she said, grabbing a robe. Leaving the men stretched out in bed, she went into Amanda's room. The youngest of the pack was still sound asleep. Jess smiled tenderly and then tiptoed out into the hall.

 

The next stop was Lindy's room. Jess knocked on the door. "Lindy, are you awake? I need help getting breakfast ready." When there was no response, she knocked again. "Lindy?" Again there was no response. She opened the door and poked her head inside. "Lindy? You okay?"

 

"Oh, God!" Lindy was laying on her back on the bed. Her pillow, her sheets, her skin were all coated with blood. Jess flew to the bedside to check Lindy's pulse, terrified to find her wrist ice cold and her heartbeat thready. "Somebody call 911!" she screamed.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Scully and Mulder walked into the hospital and marched straight to the reception desk of the ER. "Excuse me, we're trying to find out about an Alinda Leahs? She was brought here a few hours ago?" Mulder asked.

 

A young woman sat behind the desk, pushing papers. "Are you family?"

 

"No," Scully answered.

 

The medical assistant looked down at her paperwork, dismissing them. "I'm sorry, but I'm not allowed to give out information to non-family members."

 

"They're with me." Skinner stepped up from one side to the desk. Pulling the pair to one side, he guided them towards an elevator. "We told them that I'm Jess's brother. They've moved Lindy up to ICU," he said. "She's not good."

 

"What happened?" Scully asked as the elevator doors shut on them.

 

"We went out running last night. Lindy decided to stay behind and babysit Amanda." Skinner paused to take a deep breath. Mulder noted the use of the word we, but didn't say anything. "When we got up this morning, Jess found her, unconscious and covered in blood. The doctors believe that it was a nosebleed that caused the blood loss, but they haven't determined why."

 

The doors opened to the third floor where Skinner led them out. Krycek, with Amanda resting against one hip, and Jess was standing next to a woman in a lab coat who held what looked like a medical chart. Skinner went towards them. "Dr. Aholtz, these are Special Agents Mulder and Scully. They're close friends of ours."

 

Dr. Aholtz nodded a greeting to the FBI agents. "Mr. Krycek and Ms. Leahs, I need to speak with you for a moment."

 

Jess nodded. "I would like Agent Scully to have access to Lindy's records. She's a MD, and I'll sign whatever papers are necessary."

 

"Of course." The woman passed the chart she was holding to Scully. Krycek offered Amanda to Skinner, who took her without a word. Then Dr. Aholtz led Jess and Krycek to the deserted waiting area to consult with them privately. Scully briefly watched them, and then started flipping through the chart, noting the normal test results on the first pages. But what she read in the most recent entries made her blood run cold. She reread the diagnosis a second and then a third time to make certain she was not seeing things.

 

She looked up at Krycek and Jess. From their body language, it was easy to infer that they had been told. Jess was leaning heavily against Krycek, screwing her face up in an attempt not to cry. Krycek looked little better, shaking his head violently as if denying the doctor's words would make Lindy healthy and whole. He also leaned against Jess heavily, holding her tight. Both looked as if their will to fight had been leeched away.

 

Mulder's voice snapped her out of her shock. "Did they determine what's wrong with Lindy?"

 

"Yes." Scully opened the chart and read the diagnosis in the tone of voice that earned her the dubious title of Ice Queen. "The MRI of the cranial area reveals that the probable source of the nosebleeds is a feronasal mass, most likely malignant in nature. The mass has most probably metastasized and is inoperable."

 

* * * * * * *

 

Through the glass inset in the door, Cancerman watched Jess and Krycek hovering over Lindy's bed. To say he was concerned about this new development was to put it mildly. The juvenile's collapse was unexpected and made no sense. True, she had been implanted when she had been abducted, but none of the other werewolves had suffered any adverse affects from the subcutaneous tracking devices. And Lindy's symptoms curiously paralleled Agent Scully's cancer episode. <They will probably assume that is what is happening to her.>

 

Cancerman had learned a hard lesson when Scully was dying. He had been shot by an assassin, probably one of the ones he had assigned to other cases, and was left to bleed to death in his apartment. Or so he had thought as he weakly reached for his only picture of Samantha and Fox. But the Angel of Death had business elsewhere. Before everything faded to black for one final time, he felt hands gently rolling him onto his back. A warmth suffused his chilling body, radiating from the hand placed over the chest wound. He opened his eyes to stare at his benefactor, the same one who he ordered to heal Mrs. Mulder. Soft hands lifted him onto a stretcher and he was spirited from the building into a waiting private ambulance.

 

He had ended up at Well Manicured Man's compound in Florida. He recovered there, chastened by the reminder that he was not indispensable to the Consortium. The alien that had healed him did not do so completely. He would bear the scar from the bullet's entry for the rest of his life, a physical reminder of the lesson. But he considered himself lucky. Krycek's father was still catatonic from the mindprobe performed on him by a werewolf. Within six months, Cancerman was back, much to everyone's surprise and disgust.

 

But he may not be so lucky with this situation. Jess had proven to be fiercely protective of her family, and Lindy definitely qualified as that. It wouldn't take the werewolf long before she, and her pack mates, would come after the closest contact they had to the Consortium's infrastructure - him. And if he knew Jess and Krycek, they would be coming after blood. Upon hearing of Lindy's hospitalization, he immediately called his superior. "And why was this allowed to happen?" was the coolly voiced question when Well Manicured Man had been brought up to speed.

 

Cancerman had rehearsed his reply beforehand, so there were just the right proportions of defense and accusation in his voice. "If I remember correctly, you were the one who insisted that there be no direct interference in their lives after they regained their whelp."

 

He could hear the frown in his superior's voice. "Although my niece knows about the hand I've had in certain events in her life, she can still be brought around. See to it that the child is made well."

 

Cancerman inhaled deeply. "Your niece's ward isn't a human that we have experimented on. She is a werewolf, and we are not certain what she is suffering from. It is possible that it is already too late for her."

 

"It had better not be too late for Lindy," Well Manicured Man countered. "For your sake."

 

Cancerman wasn't about to take the fall for this one, especially if the werewolves did decide on bloody retribution. "And what makes you think your loving niece won't hunt you down also? Why should she believe that this wasn't one of your ways to get her attention?"

 

Well Manicured Man's voice tightened with anger. "Just make sure that the child is healthy, and that is a problem we won't have to face."

 

Recalling that comment, Cancerman shook his head. <Easier said than done,> he thought glumly. The werewolf breed had proven resistant to most diseases, mutilations, and injuries. But the few that would cause irreparable harm were swift and fatal. <The child has a month at the most.> Based on the preliminary reports he had seen, Cancerman had an idea of what the teen was suffering from. But how she was exposed and who did it was beyond him for the moment. <I need a cigarette,> he thought and turned around to find himself staring face to face with Skinner. "Do not be concerned," he said, feigning bored disinterest. "It is in our best interest that the young one be healed."

 

"She had better be healed, for your sake," Skinner growled.

 

Cancerman watched Skinner push past him and walk through the door of Lindy's room and join the pair beside her bed. Ever since Skinner had come to him asking for a cure for Scully's cancer, the Assistant Director had not dared make anything that may have been remotely construed as a verbal threat towards him. And for the first time, he wondered if a Changed Skinner was more of a threat than a human Skinner.

 

* * * * * * *

 

A week had passed and Lindy come to her decision, now she was just trying to work up the courage to follow through. She sat up in her bed, absently stroking Patches as she wrote a note. Her choice would hurt Jess, Krycek, and Skinner, but she did not want to wait any longer. Lindy finished writing her note. <It's better this way,> she rationalized. <I know it will hurt them, but it's over quicker.> The bleeds were becoming steadily becoming worse, and she was feeling ill more than she felt well. Some days they charted Lindy's health by the hour. The oncologist was frankly baffled by her condition and sent her home, saying she would be more comfortable there. Scully's cancer had caused a slow degrading of her health, an almost imperceptible slide. Lindy seemed to tumble off a series of cliffs, each a deeper plunge than the last.

 

Folding the note and putting it on the pillow, Lindy silently slid out of bed. Leaving her room, she padded past the master bedroom, glancing inside. Jess and Skinner, gone to Mulder and Scully's party, wouldn't be back for hours, and Krycek had fallen asleep on the bed, still dressed. Lindy continued on her way, walking down the stairs and to the den. She walked unerringly to the closet and opened the door. Stretching to reach the top shelf, she removed the steel lock box. No one remembered the fact that she had a key to it. Sitting cross legged on the floor, Lindy opened the box and contemplated its contents.

 

She hefted the gun, checking the chamber, just like Krycek had taught her. It wasn't loaded. <Too, noisy, too messy,> she thought. <And I cant remember where the silver bullets are.> She replaced it in the box. Gingerly, she lifted the other weapon inside it, an antique knife that had cost Jess a pretty penny. The dealer had been surprised when she picked it out, trying to turn her attention to a rarer piece. But the one she had been interested in was pure silver. The other, a older iron knife, while far more valuable, wouldn't suit her purpose.

 

<I didn't think I would ever have to use this.> Lindy sat back a bit, caught up in a memory. Jess had shown the knife to Lindy soon after she bought it. "You and I both know about the dark forces watching us," Jess had told her solemnly. "If it ever comes down to it, I would rather die than live with scientists poking and prodding me. That is what this is for. I know what I would decide, but you have to make your own choice. I'm showing it to you to let you know you have an option." Lindy and Jess had been through dark times before, but had always found the will to survive. But this time, Lindy thought the outcome was inevitable, and didn't want to watch herself waste away. She was certain that the cancer would not kill her outright, but after suffering enough, she would wish she was dead.

 

She felt along the edge of the blade. It was razor sharp, just as when Jess first bought it. Lindy sat the knife down, and stood up. She replaced the box, making sure nothing looked out of place. She picked up the knife. <Not here,> she thought, looking around the den. Carrying the knife and the burden of what she was about to do, she climbed the stairs and headed for the bathroom.

 

* * * * * * *

 

The party was going smoother than Mulder thought it would. The mix of his and Scully's friends and family did have potential flash points, but so far everyone had been behaving themselves.

 

In fact, he was watching one of the flash points that was currently in deep discussion with Langley. "And I still say that Sauron could kick Modru's ass any day of the week," Jess said in an argumentative, but friendly voice. Mulder smiled when he realized that they were debating the merits of Tolkien versus McKiernan. He moved on, relieved that so far there had been no problems. Krycek, it had been decided should not attend because of his involvement in Melissa's death, and because of all the FBI agents who would be present. There had been several raised eyebrows when she appeared at the door with Skinner. Whether it was because she was known to be Mulder's ex-girlfriend, or whether because she was with Skinner instead of Krycek, he wasn't sure. But once they had arrived, Jess and Skinner split apart, each mingling with the group they felt most comfortable.

 

Skinner walked up to Mulder. "So how soon will you make the announcement?"

 

"In about five minutes," Mulder said. "How are you and Jess doing?"

 

"Except for a few glances, I haven't seen her all night." Skinner shrugged amicably. "Kim did ask if we were dating, and I saw no reason to say yes. Then she asked me why not. It's ridiculous how she tries to.... Uh oh. I don't like the looks of that."

 

Mulder looked in the direction Skinner was facing. Now Jess and Colton were talking, and Skinner was right. It did not look good. Colton looked Jess up and down, leering, and asked her something. Jess shook her head emphatically and took a step backwards, not realizing she was literally putting herself in a corner. Skinner started towards her. Mulder was a pace or two behind. Now he could hear what they were discussing. "I told you I'm not interested," she said sharply.

 

Colton grinned lustily. "I've seen the way Skinner looks at you and you at him. And I know that kid you were showing pictures of is Krycek's. So the way I see it, you're a slut that can't get enough. Oh, the kid is Krycek's and not Spooky's, right?"

 

"How dare you," Jess hissed. "If this weren't a party, you would be on the floor with a bloody nose so fast your head would spin." She pushed past him.

 

"Kinky. I like that." Colton grabbed Jess's arm. "Does Krycek watch as Skinner humps you? Or is he too busy fucking that blond kid? Is that why you keep her around?"

 

<Oh shit,> Mulder thought as he saw Jess tense. She broke Colton's hold on her arm by swinging it across her body. On the backswing, she extended her arm, catching his nose with her knuckles. At the same time, she stomped on his instep.

 

Colton howled, reaching first for his nose and then his foot. His yell drew the attention of everyone else who wasn't looking at them. "You little fucking bitch!"

 

Jess backed away eyes widening and then narrowing. She may have decided to fight Colton, party or no, had not Scully appeared at her side. "Jess, I think you need to cool down."

 

Jess never broke eye contact with Colton until he flinched. "Yeah, I think you're right." She spun on her heel and walked away.

 

"What's the matter, Jessie baby? Too close to the truth for your taste?" Colton called after her retreating back. He wiped the smirk off his face when he turned and saw Skinner towering over him.

 

"I don't ever want to hear you talking about a childhood sexual assault survivor in that manner." Skinner then stepped away from Colton. He wanted to go after Jess and comfort her, but he knew that was not wise at this point.

 

Mulder leaned over Colton's shoulder to whisper into his ear. "I don't need any of my psychic sources to see a transfer to another office. Maybe Alaska?"

 

"The little fucking bitch,"Colton repeated, gingerly prodding his nose, which was starting to swell. "I ought to have her arrested for assault."

 

"Leave her alone, Colton," Mulder said. "Oh, by the way, did you know that there have been a series of UFO sightings out near Lover's Leap?"

 

Colton's eyes narrowed. "No," he drawled slowly.

 

"I was out there four nights ago, watching. Beautiful night, saw a lot of stars, and parked cars. I remember seeing this blue Mazda there, with a man and a hot blonde, most of the time I was out watching." Mulder paused for a moment. "You have a blue Mazda, don't you Colton?"

 

Colton didn't answer, but was looking distinctly pale. Mulder continued. "I happened to recognize the woman from a current case a friend of mine in the VCU had me look at. She's a well known prostitute. I noted the license plate number of the car, since there is an ongoing investigation involving her." Mulder looked pointedly at a squirming Colton. "But you know how messy my desk is. I can file things away and never find them again."

 

Colton may have been a lot of things, but slow and stupid was not one of them. "So if I don't file charges...."

 

"I forget where I filed the license plate number. But for now I suggest you leave." Without another word, he turned away from Colton and walked into the kitchen.

 

Scully was patting Jess on her back. Jess was sitting at the table, head in her hands. "Oh God, I'm so sorry."

 

Mulder sat down beside Scully. "You have a way of livening up a party, hell beast."

 

She glared at him out of the corner of her eyes. "Bite me, Mulder."

 

"Not since I'm marrying Dana." Jess smiled a bit at Mulder's joke. "Seriously, are you going to be okay?"

 

"Yeah, just let me calm down a bit and I'll rejoin the party. Maybe even start a full fledged brawl." She looked up. "Why don't you go on and make your announcement? I'll be back in a few minutes."

 

"You're sure, Jess?" Scully asked. Jess nodded so Mulder and Scully got up and went back to their guests.

 

Jess stood up and walked to the door, cracking it slightly. She could hear Mulder calling for everyone's attention. There was a hushed silence as Mulder and Scully broke the news to their friends and acquaintances. Then there was polite applause along with some noises of congratulations. Jess leaned back against the wall, smiling sadly. Skinner pushed open the door and noticed her wistful expression. "You sure you're okay?"

 

Jess nodded. "I was just thinking..."

 

"...That you and Alex should be doing this too," Skinner finished. Jess nodded again. "Is it because of me?"

 

"No, it's just not our time," she said. Jess held out her hand to him. "Let's just go back to the party."

 

"Okay." Skinner took her hand and walked her through the door, determined to speak to Krycek about this. Right now, they went back to the party to celebrate with Mulder and Scully.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Lindy thought her actions had not been observed, but there was one who saw what she had planned. <No, Lindy! Don't do it,> Rachel thought desperately. But she didn't think she would be able to stop Lindy. <I swore to Jessie I would watch over those she was closest to. Finding you dead would break her heart.>

 

Rachel had kept her promise to Jess. Whenever Jess had needed more help than humanly possible, she had been there. She had slipped her the keys to her handcuffs, and later her silver cross, when her psychotic werewolf ex-boyfriend had captured her and tried to kill Krycek. She had watched over her captive sister while pregnant. She had counseled her Jess not to trust their uncle when Jess was about to mistakenly put faith him. And she had helped set the events in motion that lead to Jess and Krycek regaining Amanda.

 

The spirit cast wildly for options, desperate to alert anyone who could help stop this situation. Materialization was out of the question, that took too much preparation and she was short of time. Lindy would be dead before Rachel could make herself visible. Direct mental contact would only unsettle the teen further. Jess was too far away to contact, and Skinner wasn't able to sense her yet, if he would ever be able to. Krycek's mind had been closed to her for the most part. The one time she had managed to materialize for him and later for Skinner had been sheer luck. <There is no one in the house whom I can communicate with,> she thought in frustration.

 

<Or is there?>

 

* * * * * * *

 

Krycek moaned. Jess was doing something absolutely wicked and wonderful to his cock with her mouth while Skinner had two fingers buried in his ass. He arched forward, pressing his cock further down Jess's throat as Skinner's fingers were replaced with something hotter and thicker. He could feel Skinner's breath against his neck, but for some reason, he was meowing his passion.

 

The rough tongue rasping against his cheek made Krycek realize he was dreaming. The meow sounded in his ear again, louder and more insistent. Eyes closed, he reached out and made contact with something warm and furry. "Go away, Patches," he muttered, shoving.

 

Patches gave a loud screech and dug her claws into Krycek's shoulder, trying to remain on top of him. "Ouch!" He sat up in time to see a calico form dart across his lap, grab his watch off the bed side table and bolt for the door. "Damn cat! Bring that back here!" The cat had developed a bad habit of grabbing things that caught her fancy, earrings, nail polish bottles, and even once Skinner's glasses, and carrying them off. He got up and lumbered after Patches, who was making a bee line for the bathroom. <Knowing this cat, she's going to drop it in the toilet.> Patches let go of the watch and began to scratch at the door and meow desperately.

 

Krycek retrieved his watch and tried the bathroom door, curious why the cat was so eager to get in. It was locked from the inside. <It must have been accidentally locked.> But he remembered Skinner saying that the bathroom door could be opened, if force was applied in just the right spot. Grabbing a hold of the nob, he shoved hard against the door, leading with his shoulder.

 

The door flew open. Krycek found that the bathroom wasn't empty as he first thought. Lindy stood in the tub, eyes closed, a large bladed knife in her hand. She began to raise it to her unprotected neck. "No!" Krycek thundered. He charged the smaller girl, knocking the knife from her grasp. "What the hell are you doing, Lindy?" he yelled, pulling her wrists above her head.

 

Lindy half sobbed, half growled and twisted in Krycek's grip. "Let me go!" she gritted out. But her tears won out over her anger. Lindy slumped, leaning against Krycek, and began to cry.

 

Krycek stood there, a little uncertain what to do, until he noticed his shirt was not only wet with Lindy's tears, but her blood. He led her to the toilet and put the lid down. "Sit, Lindy. Let's get you cleaned up." After Lindy sat, he tilted her chin back and pinched her nostrils, trying to slow the rivulet of blood flowing from her.

 

Once the bleeding had stopped, Krycek wet a washcloth and cleaned the blood from her face. Crouching down beside her, he looked into the girl's blue eyes. "Lindy, why?" he asked.

 

"B-b-because," Lindy sobbed. "I don't want you and Walter and Jess to be hurt watching me die."

 

"And finding you dead wouldn't have hurt us?" Krycek said softly.

 

Lindy bit her lip. When she first considered committing suicide, she had only thought that everyone would get over it. She hadn't considered what would happen when someone found her body, or how long the hurt would last. Lindy threw her arms around Krycek's neck. "I'm sorry," she sobbed. "I thought I would die anyway, so why not get it over with. I didn't think about... ."

 

Krycek gently stroked her back. "I really don't know what to say, Lindy, but I know that we aren't just ready to lose you yet." He scooped her up like Jess did when Lindy was little and carried her out of the bathroom. The blood was pouring from her nose again. Krycek laid her down on the bed and applied direct pressure, trying to staunch the flow. Again the bleeding stopped, but he wasn't sure if he moved Lindy if it would start again. "You're cold as ice," he murmured as she began to shiver. Krycek wrapped Lindy in the comforter and laid down beside her. Lindy moved closer, seeking warmth. Krycek gently put a hand on her shoulder. "There's no reason to be afraid of me," he muttered out of habit.

 

"I know." Lindy closed her eyes and relaxed. Krycek watched until he was certain that she was asleep. And only then did he allow himself to drift into a light sleep, waiting for Jess and Skinner to return.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Around 2:00 AM, the front door to the house opened. Skinner and Jess walked inside and shut the door. "Are you sure you're okay?" he grunted, pulling Jess to him.

 

Jess nodded, but had a distracted look, as if she were listening to something he couldn't hear. Arms around each other's waist, Skinner and Jess walked across the room. "So how good of a date was I?" Jess asked.

 

Skinner kissed her hair. "Aside from beating up Colton, a very good one."

 

"Hey! He called me a whore, insulted you, and made a slur against Alex and Lindy. What was I supposed to do?" Jess pouted.

 

Skinner smiled at Jess's willfulness. "You could have told me and I would have taken care of it."

 

"And get called up by the OPC? I don't think so. That is just what certain people would love to see. But thank you for wanting to defend my honor."

 

"Actually, I've been looking for four years for an excuse to punch out the arrogant little son of a bitch."

 

Jess smiled and stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. "Maybe next time," she said ducking away from his embrace. "I want to check on the kids first. Then we can wake up Alex and have some fun."

 

Amanda's room was the first one they checked. She was in her cradle, fast asleep. Skinner reached down and stroked her fine dark hair. "You and Alex make beautiful babies," he whispered.

 

Jess looked at him closely. He had never expressed a desire to have children. His attitude towards Lindy and Amanda was friendly, but not overly familiar. "Did you and Sharon ever want children?"

 

"No," was the curt reply. "She was too busy with her career and I never gave much thought about it. Now I almost wish I had," he said in a whisper.

 

Jess leaned her head against his chest. "They're a blessing, but having children wouldn't have helped you and Sharon stay together. If anything, it may have driven your further apart faster." They watched Amanda sleep for a few more minutes and then headed out the door. Lindy's room was next. Her door was open slightly, revealing an empty bed. Jess frowned. "She's in our bedroom," she said after a moment's concentration.

 

Skinner shook his head. "I didn't sense you doing anything," he said as they moved to the master bedroom.

 

"Don't force yourself, Walter," Jess said, squeezing his waist. "It took three years for my mental powers to develop, and Alex says that there are all sorts of levels. Maybe you just have it when in canine form. And maybe you need something to help focus with. Lindy and I wore matching lockets for a long time. It was a way we could be certain that we would have something to focus on no matter what form we were in."

 

They looked inside their bedroom. Lindy was curled up on the bed, nose pressed to Krycek's chest. He lay on his side, an arm laid protectively across her body, lightly reassuring Lindy that he was there. And Patches sat on the other side of Lindy, standing watch over them both. Skinner turned to say something to Jess, but noticed she wasn't staring at the bed. Her attention was focused on the bedside table, where a knife gleamed in the semi-darkness. Jess recognized it immediately. "Oh my God," dropped from her lips.

 

Krycek half sat up at the whisper. "Thank God you're back," he said softly.

There were bloodstains on his white tee shirt, stains that corresponded to where Lindy had pressed her nose against his chest.

 

The blood drained away from Jess's face. "She tried to kill herself?" she asked in a small voice. Krycek nodded. Jess crawled onto the bed and nudged Patches out of the way. "Lindy?"

 

Lindy blinked her eyes open and stared into the concerned ones above her. She sat upright and threw her arms around Jess. "I'm sorry. I really didn't want to kill myself. I just got so scared," Lindy sobbed into Jess's shoulder.

 

Before she could answer, Jess felt the mattress bend under the weight of someone sitting down beside her. "We're all scared, Lindy," Skinner said quietly. "But you can't allow fear to dictate your actions in a way that will hurt you." Jess felt him settle against her back.

 

Krycek laid back down, reaching to ruffle Lindy's hair affectionately. "It's a lot better to be scared together than scared alone. You can come to any of us about how you feel, and you should."

 

"Any of us?" Lindy asked.

 

"Any of us," Skinner affirmed, reaching across Jess to rest a hand on Lindy's shoulder.

 

Jess reached up and squeezed Skinner's hand, before returning her attention the the teen in her arms. "You shouldn't carry this alone, Lindy. Does one wolf in a pack do all the hunting? Or caring for the cubs? And do they let an injured member of the pack fall by the wayside?"

 

"No," Lindy said quietly. She nestled a little further into the warm cocoon the bodies around her made.

 

"We're a pack, a family, Lindy. What we deal with, we do it together. Tomorrow I'm calling Dr. Bronsette and seeing if we can get you in for counseling. Family counseling. If you're willing to go," Jess added to Skinner.

 

"I am," Skinner whispered quietly into her hair. "And I think she's gone to sleep."

 

Krycek leaned up on one elbow. "Yeah, Lindy's asleep." He reached out and stroked her long, blond hair. "Should we move her to her bed?"

 

"No. She's comfortable here, so let her sleep. I don't think she's gotten enough for a long time," Jess said sadly.

 

Beneath the sorrow, Skinner heard the self-accusation in her tone. "It's not your fault, Jess" he said, stroking her cheek. "None of us saw it coming."

 

Jess didn't answer, but leaned her head into the pillows. Her breathing became slow and deep, a sure sign that she had fallen asleep. Krycek's eyes were also closed an his breathing steady.

 

Skinner continued stroking Jess in a slow thoughtful manner. What Jess had said

about wolves in a pack had struck home. They did act as a family of wild wolves would. He felt that he had been accepted in before he was Changed, and that was not something these creatures would do lightly. And now having their shape shifting abilities just added to their bond. He could sense that the bond would be challenged and tested over the coming weeks, as they dealt with each reminder of their mortality. But as Jess said, they were a pack. They would deal with it together.

 

* * * * * * *

 

"Okay," Jess instructed in a smooth voice. "I want you to pick an object in the room, something stationary like a pillow on the bed, a spot on the wall, a corner on a picture frame. Imagine it is staring at you and stare back at it. Concentrate on outstaring your chosen object." She kept up a soothing stream of comments for the next five minutes, watching Skinner intently.

 

Skinner for his part, listened to her instructions, and concentrated on the spot on the wall he had chosen. It was the place where the wedding photo of him and Sharon had hung on the wall, before he had given up hope of them reuniting. But after the end of the five minutes, Jess put her hand on his arm, breaking his concentration. "Nothing's happening, Walter. Let's call it a night and try again tomorrow." Skinner got up off the bed where he had been laying, stretching his arms above his head. Jess uncurled her legs and stood up. "Alex wants me. I'll be right back," she said, giving him a friendly pat on the back. She walked out of the room.

 

Skinner sat down on the bed and rested his head on one hand. They were trying to figure out what he was now capable of as a werewolf. And his capabilities seemed far less than the others. Aside from the night of the full moon, he had not been able to mindspeak. Nor had he been able to will the Change. And that was frustrating the hell out of him. For the first time in their strange relationship, he felt that he an inferior rather than an equal.

 

The others remained cautiously optimistic. "It took me three years to learn to will the Change, and my control wasn't all that great until another two years after," Jess had told him. "And as far as Alex and Lindy are concerned, they seem to be prodigies."

 

"And what about mindspeaking?" Skinner said glumly.

 

Jess shrugged her shoulders. "Depends. Maybe you haven't been exposed to the enzyme long enough. And maybe it's a coincidence that the three of us can mindspeak." She rubbed his back reassuringly. "It doesn't matter to us if you only Changed that once, we will still love you."

 

Sharon had said something about always loving him once, the first time she had found out that he had sought sex outside their marriage. Her words echoing in his mind, Skinner stood up and went to the dresser. Some of his things were still stored here, mostly odds and ends that he didn't have room for in his apartment but did not want to part with. And right now he wanted to look at one particular item. Reaching into one of the lesser used drawers and pulled out his wedding picture of him and Sharon.

 

He sat down on the bed, looking down at her image. It had been hard to let Sharon go, even though to hold on to her would make them both miserable. Just as it made him miserable when he received this in the mail. It was the picture he and Sharon had given her parents after their wedding. That told him, in ways that the dry ink of her signature on the divorce papers, that it was over. Even though there was an exact copy in the closet in his apartment, he could not make himself get rid of this one.

 

Jess walked back into the room. "Alex wants Chinese for dinner, Lindy's actually hungry and wants pizza. So how does sweet and sour pork deep dish sound?" she said in a smart ass tone. The smile dropped off her face when she saw what he was holding. Jess gently put a hand on his shoulder. "You okay, Walter?"

 

"I'm fine," Skinner said brusquely, pushing away her hand and putting down the picture.

 

"Sharon was part of your life for a long time, Walter," Jess said softly. "Much longer than Alex and I have been. Don't feel you have to hide her. If you need to talk about her, or anything, we're always willing to listen."

 

Skinner nodded and crossed his arms over his chest. "I can't, not yet," he said not looking Jess.

 

Jess patted Skinner's shoulder and kissed his temple. "We're not asking you to, until you're ready. So," she said leaning back, trying to lighten the mood. "Let's get downstairs and make a decision about dinner before Lindy and Alex ask for a side order of Parmesan and fried wonton to put on the pizza." Jess stood up and walked to the door. "You coming or not?" she asked, looking at him over her shoulder and holding her hand towards him.

 

Skinner got up and put the picture away. Then he took Jess's hand and went downstairs. When he saw Lindy, he was stunned. The pale girl, resting on the couch, had not recovered much from the bleeding incident last night, but she appeared to have degenerated even further. "Jess, I don't think I can eat pizza. Would soup be okay instead?" she asked in a weak voice.

 

Jess nodded. "Of course, Lindy." She went to the kitchen.

 

Krycek and Skinner looked at Lindy. She was wrapped in a blanket, but still shivered. Dark circles ringed her eyes. And she was losing weight. Their gaze shifted to lock on each other, and they both had the same obvious thought. <We can't allow this to continue.>

 

* * * * * * *

 

Cancerman opened the door to his apartment and turned on the light. Tossing the coat over the back of a chair, he went straight to the typewriter. It had been a difficult week creating false trails and maintaining plausible denial. While driving from the Department of Defense building, inspiration struck for his next story. All that was on his mind was making it back to his apartment and start typing before the ideas slipped away.

 

He had just settled at the typewriter and began hitting keys when he sensed that he wasn't alone in the room. He heard a carefully concealed step, and a quietly snorted breath. He turned and rose to his feet, reaching for his sidearm. His gun never cleared its holster. A furry grip took hold of his neck just below his jaw, tips of claws scratching his skin. Gagging and forced to his knees, Cancerman looked up at the black and white beast that had his throat in a crushing grip. He could feel her needle sharp claws begin to dig into the soft flesh in front of his spinal column. Cancerman reflexively tried to swallow, and the grip tightened further. He gripped the massive paw's wrist trying to loosen the talon tipped fingers. But what had him frightened the most was the expression on the werewolf's face. It was a tight mask of animal hatred and fury. But behind the green eyes was human logic and awareness. And beyond the werewolf was A.D. Skinner, watching with a studied impassiveness.

 

Skinner allowed this to go on until he heard the slight rattle in Cancerman's breath. He put a restraining hand on Krycek's shoulder. Krycek's eyes snapped to his and the message in them was clear - 'let me finish this.' Skinner shook his head. "We need him alive for the moment, Alex."

 

Krycek snorted and turned his attention back to Cancerman, raising him to his feet, and then a little higher to keep him off balance. The claws released as he shoved with the palm of his paw. That sent the Cigarette Smoking Man sprawling backwards to land in an undignified heap. The werewolf then raised his paw to his muzzle, sniffing. A pink tongue darted out to rasp against the fingers, licking the blood away. Krycek made a big show of cleaning his claws, and then settled behind Skinner, bearing his teeth in a feral grin.

 

Cancerman managed to regain his feet and some of his composure. "It's always a pleasure to see such a well trained beast. You seem to have had more luck with him than I have, Mr. Skinner."

 

Krycek's ears tilted back and he growled. "I haven't developed control over the Change yet, or else I would have done it myself," Skinner said. "You said that Lindy would be cured. She's alive, but not healed. And there was a suicide attempt a week ago, and she has been getting progressively worse."

 

"Indeed?" He was well aware of the attempt. Cancerman raised his eyebrows. "Am I responsible for the child wanting to die?"

 

Skinner's eyes narrowed. "You are responsible for putting her in this position. And we're willing to kill to get her out of it."

 

Cancerman remained unimpressed. "You would not be the first person to threaten my life. And although you have done so on several occasions, but I still live." Cancerman shrugged slightly. "But arguing will get us no where. We are all reasonable beings and I am willing to strike a deal. There is something of value you have that I do want."

 

Krycek bristled and Skinner spoke the Changed werewolf's thoughts. "If you think we're going to hand Amanda over to you..."

 

"If we wanted the child, we would take her, and there would be nothing you could do about it," Cancerman interrupted. "What I was referring to was raw material."

 

"Rrrrawwww... materrrrrial," Krycek repeated with an odd catch in his voice that wasn't due to trying to speak English using a wolf's throat.

 

Cancerman held up two rubber stopped vials. "All I require is a saliva sample from each of you. Provide me with it, and arrangements will be made for young Miss Leahs."

 

Two heads shook. "No," Skinner said. "Lindy is cured first, and then we turn over the samples you want."

 

Cancerman smiled. "You've learned to play the game well, Mr. Skinner. Of course you will give me the samples. Your conscience will not allow you to do otherwise. And, of course, her situation can always be reversed."

 

Skinner looked at Krycek, his decision already made. The younger werewolf was looking inward, trying to mindspeak to Jess. She was out of his range, so he made the decision without her input. Krycek barked once softly, nodding his muzzle.

 

Cancerman gave them a slightly larger malignant smile, sensing the decision before Skinner also nodded assent. Skinner walked woodenly past the Smoker, not wanting to show how much of a victory Cancerman had just won. Krycek padded after, restrained anger in every stride. But at the threshold he paused. Rearing up to his full height of nine feet, he lightly grabbed the door and pulled. The hinges pulled out of the wall as if they had been taped on. And the implication was clear - if Cancerman did not keep his end of the bargain, nothing would stand between him and a pack of angry werewolves. Krycek then snorted, leaned the door against the frame, and walked after Skinner.

 

The Smoking man stubbed out his the smoldering butt of his cigarette with a shaking hand, and reached for a fresh one. Krycek, even before he had joined with Jess, had been a wild card, and now Skinner was harder to predict. But right now he had a phone call to make to the super of the building to have the door repaired. And then he had to put phase two of his plan in motion.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Well Manicured Man read the report with a shake of his head. <Jess is the closest thing to a daughter I have.> He wanted her brought into the fold, as it were. Under his tutelage and auspices, she had the potential to become a force in the Consortium, an heir to his position and power. But if Lindy died, and if she believed that he had a hand in it, not only would her recruitment be impossible, but his life would be in danger as well.

 

Since his position precluded him from having a family, he had watched for a carefully for a protegee. Rebecca, his sister and Jess's mother, knew that her brother had plans for one of her children, but she did not know how extensive those plans were. Michael, the oldest, was bright, but lacked the cunning that would be necessary to protect himself in the dark underworld. That left the two girls, Rachel and Jessica. Although the Consortium tended to be an old boys club when it came to the more powerful members, both sexes were welcome for membership as long as their intelligence and loyalty were proven. And times were changing. There were several females being considered for positions when more senior members were no longer able to carry on.

 

He subtly began testing and grooming them for this purpose. Both girls were equal in intelligence, but he chose Rachel, then fifteen, since she was older. When she turned eighteen, he would approach her about working for him. He would only have to wait three years, compared to waiting six for Jessie, as Rachel called her. Over the next year, he watched, studied, and influenced the girls in their school and social lives, proud of their progress.

 

Then everything had gone wrong. Rachel died, and Rebecca blamed him. She tried to cut him off from her family, but he still watched and waited, keeping a close eye on his remaining student. Then Jess, as she now insisted on being called, met Jacob Farnsworth. Unconsciously bent on self-destruction because of guilt over her sister's death, she moved in with him the moment she turned eighteen.

 

Their arrangement lasted one year - one year of physical and mental abuse. It culminated with the night that Jake left her raped, beaten, and bleeding. Rebecca and her husband watched, but would not help unless Jess swallowed her pride and came crawling back to them. But the young woman was too stubborn and independent. Knowing she would shy away if he tried to help her so soon after being hurt, he waited, watching for her to be receptive. Almost twelve months after that fateful night, he was ready to make his move. Then she had stumbled into the Loup Garou subsection of the Project.

 

And into the arms of Fox Mulder.

 

Fortunately, Mulder and Jess did not stay involved for long. That could have led to more complications and a complete ruination of his plans. Despite her now being a werewolf, he still had high hopes for his niece. There were many nonhumans who worked in positions of power in the Consortium.

 

He watched from a distance as Jess explored the limits of her abilities. She got in several scrapes and got out of them just fine. She adopted a daughter. Eventually, she did get back into contact with Mulder, but as long as the relationship did not become a serious romantic entanglement, Well Manicured Man would not interfere. When she met Alex Krycek however, he almost did interfere. Then he learned that his subordinates former lackey was also part of the Loup Garou project. Intrigued by the possibilities, he kept a closer eye on Jess.

 

Then she became pregnant, an act with serious consequences. Few of the werewolves gave birth to healthy offspring unassisted. Although it was a risk, he had Cancerman order Jess's removal so her health could be watched over. Jess gave birth, and was eventually returned to her home, without her child.

 

Then Cancerman had decided to test the boundaries of Jess's and Krycek's love for each other. With the Well Manicured Man's full approval, he had ordered Assistant Director Skinner of the FBI to have sex with Krycek if he wished to keep his job. And at the same time he bribed Krycek into taping himself and Skinner having sex. Jess had found out, and taken her own countermeasures, nullifying Cancerman's plans and securing Skinner as a close friend and ally.

 

At that point, Well Manicured Man decided that he needed to ingratiate himself to Jess. He felt that she was getting too cocky and overconfident. So, although he had nothing against Michael personally, he ordered his death, and ordered Covarrubias to inform Mulder of Jess's knowledge of his true parentage. Then he revealed to Jess some of his involvement in her life.

 

He had trained her too well. Instead of gratitude from her after she dispatched Covarrubias, he got suspicion and distrust. And then word had come down from his superiors. If he did not show any headway in gaining her confidence, she would cease to experience the freedom she had enjoyed as his niece. So he played his last card. Cancerman had his instructions, although ignorant of the fact that he had engineered the situation. A. D. Skinner's unexpected and accidental Change had been an unexpected bonus, making Jess even more vulnerable to his manipulation. And her fate depend on her reaction, which he would shortly have.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Jess finished packing the diaper bag. "I really appreciate you doing this, Dana, Mulder. Are you sure you want to take Amanda for the afternoon?"

 

"It's no problem, Jess," Scully said. She bounced Amanda in her arms. "You need some time with Lindy. You also need some time for yourself."

 

"Later," Jess said. "Right now, time is too short. I want to make as many memories of Lindy as I can."

 

Mulder had never heard her sound so dejected. "Has Lindy taken a turn for the worse?"

 

Jess nodded. "According to the last tests, she should have been dead a week ago."

 

"And the Change isn't helping her heal?" Mulder asked.

 

"The Change is the only thing that has kept her alive," Jess snapped. "She has the nosebleeds, and also coughs up blood. It's as if this blasted cancer has turned her into a hemophiliac. Several times she's lost almost all her blood. Then she slips into a coma for several hours, sometimes for almost a day. When she comes out of it, she has severe nausea to the point where she dry heaves if she moves. It's difficult to keep her hydrated and her body temperature is almost constantly below normal." Jess stopped and took a deep breath. "But the pain in her eyes is what kills you. "

 

Scully looked surprised at Jess's description of Lindy's condition. "Jess, if Lindy is so bad off, why isn't she at the hospital?"

 

Jess's words were bitter. "Human treatments have done zip for her. Because of what we are, she's sentenced to a living death. It's been keeping me up at nights, wondering if I should help her die. All I would have to do is leave a silver knife or my necklace in arm's reach and she would do the rest. She tried a week ago." Jess took another deep breath. "And I have been wrestling with myself, debating whether or not Lindy's life is worth selling my soul to Cancerman or my uncle."

 

Mulder and Scully both looked stunned. "Jess, I don't know what to say." Mulder put a hand on Jess's shoulder.

 

Jess shrugged it off. "I'm trying to contact the psychologist who did my hypnotherapy to see if she'll counsel Lindy, but it's like she's dropped off the face of the earth."

 

"Dr. Bronsette?" Mulder said with a slightly guilty look. "Shortly after you completed your sessions with her, she was found dead in her apartment."

 

Jess quietly absorbed that information. She was about to say something when they heard a weak voice on the baby monitor. "Jess?"

 

The young woman turned and looked up stairs. "We'll bring Amanda back in a few hours," Scully said.

 

Jess nodded as Mulder and Scully left carrying Amanda. She then turned and walked up the stairs to Lindy's room. "You called, Lindy?"

 

Lindy, wan and pale, looked at Jess. "Please, Jess. I want to go outside. Just on the porch, please?"

 

<Poor kid's been trapped inside for the last two weeks,> Jess thought. <I would go nuts.> "Okay, but just for a few minutes." She wrapped Lindy in a warm quilt and hefted her, internally wincing at how light she was. She carried Lindy downstairs, out the sliding glass door, and onto the protected porch. She knelt down and then crossed her legs and cradled Lindy on her lap like she used to do when they were both younger. Patches wandered out from the kitchen and climbed onto Lindy's lap, purring.

 

Lindy breathed deeply. "I almost forgot what fresh air smells like."

 

Jess smiled a bit. "Don't you mean fresh smog?" She meditatively stroked Lindy's hair. It was harsh and brittle, no longer the gold silk that Jess had envied on occasion. "Lindy, what if I said that there was a chance you could get better, but it would have a heavy price?"

 

Lindy shrewdly cut to the heart of Jess's dilemma. "Would it put you in debt to your uncle and Cancerman?" She felt Jess nod against the top of her head. Lindy snuggled back into Jess's warmth, chilled by the thought that Jess would betray her self-integrity to save her. "Don't. Let me go then."

 

Jess's answer was full of heartbreaking resolve. "I have no intention of letting you go, sweetheart."

 

They sat there, cuddling together. Lindy eventually fell asleep, exhausted by the effort to sit up. Patches wandered back into the house on one of her errands. Jess still sat, not wanting to disturb Lindy's rest. She stiffened slightly when she heard the front door open. <It's not Alex or Walter,> she thought. <They would have spoken a greeting.> The breeze was blowing into her face, making it impossible to smell the stranger. "Dana? Mulder? Did you forget something?"

 

"You shouldn't leave your doors unlocked," came an all too familiar voice.

 

<Not now!> Jess begged internally as a set of footsteps crossed the room. <I can't deal with him now!> She scraped up an arrogant facade and snarled, "What the hell do you want?"

 

"No sharp edged comeback, Jessica? I'm disappointed." Well Manicured Man walked to where Jess was sitting. "You can't be comfortable sitting there. And Lindy should really be inside and not out in this cold." He stretched out his arms. "Let me help you." Jess looked at her uncle dubiously. He smiled at her suspiciousness. "I won't be able to spirit her off in the three seconds it will take you to stand up."

 

Jess sat there stubbornly, eyes narrowed and brow furrowed. Well Manicured Man thought for certain she would refuse any show of help, even simple politeness. He was about to walk away when he heard her respond. "Okay." Well Manicured Man scooped Lindy out of her lap long enough to let Jess stand. Jess took Lindy back and brushed past him, taking the girl over to the couch. She placed her tenderly down. Then she stood up to her full height and turned to her uncle. "What do you want?"

 

"It's not what I want, but what you want." He paused, uncertain that Jess would accept what he had to tell her. But the full moon was a week away and the Change would trigger another bleeding incident. And it would be doubtful that Lindy could stand another. "I can tell you what is wrong with her, and more importantly, how to heal her."'

 

Jess turned to Well Manicured Man, stone faced. Her voice did not betray the faint flicker of hope in her heart. "Why the hell should I trust you?"

 

"Believe it or not, I am not the heartless monster you makes me out to be." Well Manicured Man placed a hand gently on her shoulder. "We are family."

 

<And so was Michael,> Jess thought bitterly. She shrugged off his touch. "Okay, let's say I do trust you, just this once." Jess's eyes glinted. "What needs to be done?"

 

"I was originally led to believe that the same tests that were performed on Agent Scully were performed on Lindy. I have since learned that I was deliberately misled. A small pellet has been implanted into her near the sight of her 'malignancy.' It is coated with an organic material designed to break down and expose microscopic particles of silver to her blood stream."

 

Jess made a leap of logic. "It's a test to see how much silver is actually needed to kill a werewolf."

 

Jess's uncle nodded. "Very good. Remove the implant from just below her epidermis and her immune system will do the rest."

 

Jess was not certain that she believed half of what she was being told. Lindy and later Krycek had been forcibly abducted and the Change reversed leaving them human. <Why bother to run this test on her? They had no way of knowing she would choose to become a werewolf again. And why would it take so long for the material to break down? They would never be certain she would survive long enough for Their test to begin.> "What do you want in return?"

 

"Nothing Jessica." Well Manicured Man turned. "Nothing at all." He walked out the door, leaving Jess standing beside Lindy.

 

* * * * * * *

 

It was hard to go into the office and pretend that everything was still the same. Lindy was getting progressively worse, Jess was depressed because of Lindy's illness, Krycek was worried about Jess, Lindy, and Skinner.

 

So far Cancerman had not contacted him with a cure for Lindy. Skinner half-believed that the man in black would not follow through with his promise. <But I may be wrong,> he thought as the Smoking Man came into his office without ceremony. Without a word, he put a syringe down on the dark polished wood of his desk. Skinner eyed the hypodermic. "What is this?"

 

"That's Lindy's cure, or yours." Cancerman paused to inhale on his cigarette. "The symptoms she's displaying lead a diagnosis of silver toxicity. However, I have been unable to determine where her exposure to the metal is coming from. Most likely it is an implant in her body."

 

Skinner frowned at the Cigarette Smoking Man. "But what do you mean by my cure or Lindy's?"

 

"Because I am uncertain where the implant is, the only cure is to reverse the Change. That syringe contains a chemical that will accomplish that. Half of the syringe's volume will cure Lindy. But all of the syringe's contents will be needed to return you to a human state." Cancerman held out his hand. "I believe that you have what I require."

 

"And you'll get it when Lindy is healthy."

 

The Cigarette Smoking Man paused, picture of generosity. "Very well. But if what I provide is used, I expect to be repaid."

 

Skinner eyed Cancerman coldly. "I want to make certain that a bargain has been struck this time, so what happened when we made similar arrangements regarding Agent Scully will not happen again."

 

"Of course we have a bargain," Cancerman replied. He turned and left, leaving Skinner staring at the hypodermic, pondering his next move.

 

* * * * * * *

 

After coming to his decision, he called Mulder and Scully and asked them to meet him at the house. Then he called Jess and Krycek and asked them to have Lindy's medical records handy. When he arrived, he found Mulder and Scully there. Krycek was out obtaining the records. Without a word, he handed the capped hypodermic to Jess.

 

Jess held the syringe gingerly, studying it from all angles. "Walter, what is this?"

 

"According to the Cancerman, it's the only way to save her." Skinner sounded doubtful. "He implied that it will reverse the Change in her."

 

"Or you," Jess said softly. "Let me guess. It's enough for you or for her, but not for both of you."

 

Mulder looked at them sharply. He finally had confirmation that Skinner had been Changed. "You two can't believe two thirds of what that man says. And what you can believe is so self-serving, it can't be trusted."

 

"Then what about my uncle?" Jess's voice was toneless. "He told me that she had been implanted right here." She tapped her forehead between her eyes. "A silver implant," she added ominously.

 

The front door opened and Krycek came inside, shaking snow from his jacket. He handed Scully a slim manila envelope. "Here are Lindy's x-rays."

 

Mulder looked at Krycek with a slightly hurt expression. "I could have had the Lone Gunmen hack in instead of you breaking in."

 

Krycek rolled his eyes. "I didn't break in. Jess signed a release form so I could pick them up."

 

Scully pulled the film out and held it up to the light. All of them crowded around her, staring at the x-ray intently. "There," Skinner grunted, pointing at a small white spot on the image.

 

Scully shook her head. "That could be a flaw in the film itself. From the angle this was filmed at, it's impossible to tell if it is an implant."

 

Krycek shook his head. "It's too dangerous to assume it is. If we open Lindy up and the bleeding doesn't stop, she'll die."

 

Mulder eyed the hypodermic. "How do you know that whatever is in that syringe won't kill her?"

 

"Lindy's dying anyway." Jess put a hand to her forehead and pushed her hair out of her eyes. "It may be the only thing that saves her."

 

Lindy shook her head weakly. "No," she whispered forcefully. "I want to stay a werewolf. No matter what." She took another ragged breath. "We do it the other way."

 

Skinner knelt down beside her. "You're sure, Lindy?" he asked taking her hand. He wanted to give the girl an option, to make sure she didn't feel that she had to pass up this chance to be healed so that he could be human again. Lindy squeezed his hand and nodded. Skinner stood and backed away. "We have our answer." He moved away as Krycek bent over to hug Lindy. But he quickly moved to let Jess kneel beside Lindy. Jess also hugged Lindy, holding her close for ten minutes, murmuring 'I love you' repeatedly.

 

Scully eventually tapped Jess's shoulder. Her voice was gentle, knowing what she asked of her. "We have to do this now, Jess."

 

With one final whisper, Jess reluctantly relinquished her hold on Lindy. Backing away, Jess felt Krycek's and Skinner's arms go around her. None of them looked away as Scully put Lindy to sleep using a chloroform soaked cloth. None of them looked away as Scully picked up the scalpel. The surgery went smoothly, even for it being conducted in a living room instead of a hospital. Eventually Scully, using high powered magnifying glass, found and removed the pellet. She put it into a vial filled with deionized water, which Mulder immediately pocketed for analysis. Scully finished stitching the wound before she spoke. "She'll probably sleep for a while. You should too," she added, pointedly staring at Jess.

 

Jess shook her head. "I can't sleep until I know one way or another."

 

At that point, Amanda began to cry. Krycek took her from Mulder. "I'll take her upstairs and see if I can put her down." He brushed Jess's hair with his lips and then went upstairs. Sensing that Jess needed to be alone, he gestured for Skinner and Mulder to follow him. That left Jess and Scully alone with Lindy.

 

Jess sat watching Lindy, pushing the blonde bangs away from Lindy's eyes and the oozing stitches. "Did I ever tell you how Lindy and I first met?"

 

Scully shook her head. "No, Jess."

 

Jess continued stroking Lindy. When she resumed speaking, her voice was as distant as the time she spoke of. "I met her about three years after I broke up with Mulder. There was a series of murders that reminded me of the ones I committed just after...." Jess paused, rubbing her forehead. "I tracked her from one of the crime scenes to where she laired during the day. She snuck up from behind and managed to surprised me, which earned my respect then and there. Poor kid hadn't eaten for three days so I convinced her to come home for me for a meal and a warm place to sleep. But she would only come along if I promised her that she could leave anytime she wanted to. She never did." Jess smiled tiredly and ran her fingers through her hair. "She was only about five years old, but seemed so much older. I pieced together what happened to her, and she reminded me so much of me I couldn't help but try to reach out to her, to help her have a better life, or at least a childhood." Jess fought the tears that leaked out of her eyes. "I don't know that I can lose her... ."

 

"I know how you feel, Jess." Scully reached out and grabbed one of the sobbing woman's hands. "Did Mulder ever tell you that I had a daughter?"

 

"What?" Jess looked up and blinked confusedly. Pregnancy did things to a human woman's body she had trained herself to recognize. It was a way Jess tested herself when she was learning her limits. While she was ignorant if she were with child herself, she could tell by a sniff if a human was pregnant or if she had been. And Scully didn't smell like she had been.

 

Scully nodded. "I didn't know that she even existed until the end of her life. Apparently while I was abducted, my ova were removed and experimented with. Emily was the product of one of those experiments."

 

"And she didn't survive?" Jess asked, guessing the answer to the question.

 

"No, she didn't," Scully sighed. It was still hard to think about Emily, the daughter she never knew and was meant to have. "And whatever was done to me left me barren."

 

"Dana..., I had no idea," Jess said. It explained the odd looks she got on occasion from Scully, jealousy mixed with longing. "This may not be the best time to bring this up, but there's something that Alex and I wanted to talk to you and Mulder about. If something happens to us, we'd like for you two to have custody of Amanda and Lindy." <If she lives,> Jess added mentally.

 

Scully was also thinking the same thing, but did not voice it either. But she was surprised and touched by Jess's request. If anything, she expected the children's guardianship to go to another werewolf, since going to Jess's or Alex's blood relatives were out of the question. "Why us and not Skinner? You're closer to him."

 

Jess smiled a bit. "Dana, can you really see him raising them on his own?"

 

"No." Scully also smiled briefly before checking the child's vital signs. "Lindy's breathing and pulse have gotten stronger. It may have worked."

 

Jess shook her head. "I want something more definite before I can believe."

 

She and Scully sat by Lindy's bedside for another hour. Every five minutes, one of the men looked into the room, only for Scully to signal that there was no change. But towards the end of the hour, Jess could feel her daughter's cold hands grow warmer. And eventually, Lindy opened her eyes. "Jess?"

 

Jess smiled tenderly. "Shhh, sweetheart. I'm here."

 

Lindy's voice was uncertain. "Where am I?"

 

"You're at home. Go back to sleep," Jess cooed.

 

Lindy sighed and shut her eyes. Jess looked at Scully. But Scully was not paying attention to her. "Oh my God," Scully said quietly. "Look at the incision."

 

The wound, which should have still been bleeding, looked like a year old scar. And it was quickly losing its redness and smoothing over into perfect flesh. Jess smiled. "She's going to be fine," she said, a hint of disbelief in her voice. "She's going to be fine."

 

Scully stood up. "I'll go tell everyone." She left the room.

 

Jess sat there, holding Lindy's hand. She was so used to things taking a turn for the worse that she was shocked that things were actually going according to plan. She remained that way until Skinner walked into the room. "I had to see that it was true," he whispered, his hands going to her shoulders.

 

"She's going to be fine." Jess patted one of his hands on her shoulder. She twisted so she could look Skinner in the eyes. "Walter, I want you to know, whatever choice you make, we'll stand by you."

 

He nodded, giving her shoulder a squeeze. Moving away from her, Skinner picked up the hypodermic. In his hands he held the key to regaining his lost humanity. With Lindy's healing, he was free to use it without guilt. His humanity was in his hands. The one thing he had wanted during this whole ordeal was control of his destiny. Now he had it.

 

He knew what he was going to do.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Well Manicured Man was well pleased. Lindy was well on the way to making a full recovery. His niece and her lovers were too concerned about the teenager's health to be poking their noses into things best left unexplored. And Jess had made a trip from DC to his apartment in New York to update him on Lindy's progress (as if his own spies weren't capable of doing that) and to express her gratitude for his help. "And how is Lindy doing?"

 

"She's almost completely her old self. She tires easily, but she's growing stronger daily. And there have been no more nose bleeds." Jess looked up at Well Manicured Man, tears in her eyes. Clearly, she had expected the information he had given her to be bogus and to hasten Lindy's death. "Thank you."

 

Well Manicured Man nodded. "Jessica, you and I are family." He put his hand on her shoulder, playing the father offering his wayward daughter permission to return to the fold. This time the young woman did not shrug it off. "Despite what you believe, I only want what is best for you."

 

Jess bowed her head. "I believe that you believe that. But what you want for me is not what is best." She stood up, having done what she came to do. "I should be going now."

 

"Of course." He knew better than to press. It had been hard for Jess to accept his help, and to push would only make her shy away more violently. "But remember that my home and my protection is always open to you."

 

Jess nodded and walked out of the apartment. Well Manicured Man smiled to himself and walked to the VCR that was in the cabinet with glass doors behind his desk. He had proof that Jess was starting to trust him and that she could be won over. She would not have to be destroyed.

 

There was still hope for his unknowing protegee.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Cancerman was in front of his typewriter, punching away at keys, happy that he had edged around his writer's block. He had pounded out five pages in ten minutes when there was a knock on the door. He opened it to find Assistant Director Skinner standing there, tight lipped. <This day is getting even better,> he thought. "I believe you have something for me, Mr. Skinner."

 

Expression neutral, Skinner took out the glass vials and handed them to Cancerman. Only when the Cigarette Smoking Man realized that that they were empty, did Skinner allow a slight smile to cross his features. Cancerman pocketed the empty vials. "You're breaking our bargain. Lindy can always suffer a relapse."

 

Skinner shook his head and restated the terms of their bargain. "The deal was if I used what you gave me, Alex and I would give you the saliva samples." He didn't say another word, but handed the case to Cancerman. The older man opened it, surprised to find the hypodermic, needle capped and chamber still fully loaded.

 

The Cigarette Smoking Man's eyes narrowed. "You're being a fool, Mr. Skinner."

 

Skinner's eyebrows lifted. "Am I?" He turned and walked down the hallway, disappearing into the elevator, going to rejoin his pack.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Outside, a forest green Ford Explorer was parked. While the white Jeep Cherokee had served them well, it had finally succumbed to a faulty transmission and had to be traded in. From the rear, left of the car seat where Amanda was, Lindy's voice piped. "Do you really think he's going to do it?'

 

Jess, on the other side of Amanda, shrugged. "His decision," she grunted.

 

Krycek, in the driver's seat, spoke. "Lindy, he's been human much longer than any of us were. He may not be willing to take the step into the unknown that the Change represents to him."

 

"But he was willing before to stay Changed," Lindy replied. She still looked pale and tired, but the old sparkle was back in her eyes.

 

"Before he didn't have a choice... ." Jess cut herself off when she saw Skinner emerge from the apartment building.

 

Skinner walked over to the Explorer and got in. He didn't say a thing but stared straight ahead. Krycek started the car without a word and pulled out onto the road, heading for Crystal City.

 

Before she hit the freeway, Skinner spoke. "Tomorrow night's the full moon." Krycek grunted agreement and his grip tightened fractionally on the steering wheel. Jess blinked and tensed, but said nothing. Not getting more of an acknowledgment, Skinner started speaking again. "Jess, last time, you said something about teaching me to hunt. Is that offer still good?"

 

"Of course, Walter," Jess said, relaxing. "It's a skill all werewolves should have."

 

"Then I'll be needing it." Skinner smiled. "Let's go home."