Spoilers for all the way to Season 5 - The End and The X-Files: Fight the Future.

 

With the exception of Jess, Lindy, and Amanda, they belong to TenThirteen Productions.

 

Rating of R for language and implied M/M/F relationship

Synopsis - Jess becomes infected by the Black Oil.

This came about from a couple of viewings of "The X-Files" episodes 'Piper Maru'/'Apocrypha,' 'Tunguska'/'Terma', 'Patient X'/'The Red and the Black,' and one viewing too many of the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode 'Skin of Evil.'

 

Previous stories in this series can be found at:

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

 

* * * * * * *

Loup Garou XIV - Oilien

 

By Shael (wolfcatxf@imadethis.org)

 

Completed July 22nd, 1998

 

"And, for thou wast a spirit too delicate/To act her earthy and abhorr'd commands,/Refusing her grand hests, she did confine thee,/By help of her more potent ministers,/And in her most unmitigable rage,/Into a cloven pine..."

 

- Prospero, "The Tempest"

 

 

* * * * * * *

 

The house looked like any other on the block in the starlight night - a neat, two storey with a well trimmed lawn. A porch light had been left on, as if they occupants were waiting for a late night visitor, or a teenager returning from a date. And eventually the ones who lived in the house did return. Five wolves padded into the house - two adult males, an adult female, a juvenile female, and a sleeping female cub carried by the scruff of her neck. Once inside, the black and white one immediately padded upstairs with the cub clasped in his jaws and the gold wolf followed a few seconds later.

 

The reflection of the porch light off the window caught the remaining male's eye. The skin under his pelt began to tingle and he could feel each individual hair of his coat stand on end. "Rrrrrrrooooooooooouuuuucch!" The cry broke from his lips as he pushed up onto his hind legs and he Changed forms to a human. "God, it hurts just as much going back," Skinner said.

 

The solid black female also reared. Jaws spread wide, she reached her forelegs skyward, stretching claws and muscles to their limit. But human arms were lowered to her side. "You get used to it," Jessica Leahs yawned. "And believe it or not, it does eventually hurt less." She stretched again and emitted another gigantic yawn and started up the stairs.

 

Skinner followed, catching up to Jess quickly. He halted her ascent with a hand between her breasts, pressing her against his body. Jess smiled and melted into him. Skinner responded by burying his nose in her hair. His lips began to wander downwards to nibble on an ear. Jess sighed and leaned further back, baring her neck. Skinner's lips pressed against the tight skin. Then he pushed away from her and brushed past her. Jess blinked, confused at the sudden mood swing, and then trotted after him. "What?" she barked.

 

"Nothing," Skinner countered without a backwards glance. He strode on towards the bedroom.

 

"Something," Jess corrected. Moving swiftly, she ducked around Skinner and blocked his path. "What's wrong?" She stepped up to him and put her hands on his shoulders, rubbing lightly. "Please, tell me." The last words were not spoken as a demand, but as a plea.

 

Skinner lifted his hands to hers. Being vulnerable was extremely difficult for him, but extremely necessary in this relationship. "It felt so natural to mindspeak to you, Alex, and Lindy tonight when I was Changed, and so frustrating that I can't now."

 

Jess nodded, understanding. "I know it's rough on you, not having the abilities that the rest of us share. Alex seems to be the exception to the rule. Lindy and I didn't come into our powers overnight, and you've only been a werewolf for three months. It may take a while." She took a deep breath before continuing. "And we have to keep in mind that there is a possibility that you may never have as strong mental capabilities as the rest of us do."

 

Skinner nodded, slumping a little. Krycek had been Changed by an extremely powerful werewolf, and apparently so had Jess and Lindy. But the werewolf who had bitten him appeared to be mediocre, or at least Skinner was evolving slowly. Jess rested her head against his broad chest, trying to comfort him. She pushed up onto her toes so she could nuzzle and kiss the underside of his jaw.

 

Skinner wrapped his arms around her, pulling her in tighter. A wave of sleepiness washed over him as the last of the endorphins produced by the Change faded. It was awkward going, but he maneuvered their bodies to the bed, refusing to give up his grip on her warm body. Jess pulled back the sheets and slid in, Skinner following. He molded himself around her back, sighing his contentment when Jess slid a leg back between his. The bed shifted again, and a second body now cuddled up to his. Krycek's arm went over the one that was resting on Jess's waist. Skinner smiled as he felt a pair of lips brush against his ear. And he fell asleep still smiling.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Loneliness, seclusion, isolation, incompletion. Each word was carefully tasted and mulled over, and each word was discarded for not quite, but almost expressing the state of his emotions.

 

The man sat in the car across the street from house, watching and waiting. The werewolves had entered the house hours ago. He had been tracking one particular one for almost two years now. That creatures inside the house would bring him closer to what he desired most.

 

Reunion with his kind and revenge on those who separated him from them.

 

<Human bodies are such a bother,> it thought, regarding the reflection in the rearview mirror. <So limited, so frail, and so... disgusting.> His host was considered handsome by his own species, but it could not understand how any truly intelligent creature would find water blue eyes, straw colored hair, and *flesh* attractive. <It's amazing this species can stand each other long enough to reproduce.> And the creatures in the house were little better, even if they could alter their form somewhat.

 

The mind briefly flirted with the thought of impregnation, but then the suffering it intended to inflict as revenge would be over all too soon. Beside, there was something more lasting about psychic pain and it intended to make him suffer for bringing about that blasted vaccine. But if its plan worked, it would not have to deal with any sack of meat again. It would rejoin with others of its kind, and the lonely emptiness would be filled. It was a matter of waiting now.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Late morning sunlight streamed into the kitchen. "Okay, we are going to do this," Jess growled. She stared at her antagonist determinedly as scooped another spoonful out of the bowl in her hand. "Just because you're a werewolf doesn't mean that you get out of eating your veggies." Amanda, however, had other opinions on the subject. As the spoon neared her mouth, the one year old grabbed it, pulled it towards her, and then let go. Jess, not expecting the move, jerked, splattering strained peas across her face. Shaking her head, she reached for the tea towel that was already covered with the earlier courses of the meal - bits of cooked cereal, soft carrots, pieces of banana, and splashes of milk. "You think this is funny, don't you?" she asked the child, wiping her face. Amanda laughed, and Jess smiled. "From now on, Daddy and Uncle Walter get to feed you."

 

It had been three months since Jess's world almost came crashing down on her. Skinner had been accidentally Changed, and Lindy had almost died. Both situations had turned out in the best possible way, but not without outside interference. Surprisingly, however, things had settled down after Well Manicured Man had told Jess what how to cure Lindy. There had been no veiled threats, no innuendo, and no demands for favors or allusions to a debt owed. They had been left alone, something for which Jess was constantly grateful. Life had been as normal as possible for a pack of five werewolves living in a human world.

 

And normalcy was what they all strove for. Skinner did stay over far more often than was prudent. Someone would be bound to notice, but Jess and Krycek didn't have the heart to point that out. The Assistant Director, although uncertain about his newly acquired werewolf abilities, seemed to have found, if not happiness, a measure of contentedness. Jess and Krycek were content for the moment just to be parents. And part of that parenthood involved Krycek taking Lindy to school and then doing some discrete research into bioengineering and Jess trying to feed their youngest daughter.

 

There was a knock on the door. Jess finished wiping the baby food off her face as she stood up in front of the highchair. "Now you behave," she admonished Amanda and walked to the front door. Peeking through the spy hole, she saw a blond man she did not recognize. Safety chain in place, Jess opened the door a crack and looked at the stranger. "Can I help you?"

 

"Yes," the man said thoughtfully. "I believe you can."

 

The stranger pushed the door back, snapping the chain and sending an unsuspecting Jess flying against the wall. Her mind went into street survival mode as the stranger stepped inside and shut the door, locking it behind him. "My purse is over there on the table. The cash and credit cards are yours." It would be easier to let a would be thief take her valuables and then later identify him than Change and try to explain why he was raving like a lunatic about werewolves once the police arrived.

 

"I don't want your money," the stranger said. He eyed her up and down as if making a final decision. "I want your body."

 

Jess's eyes widened and her stance shrank slightly. <Oh God no! Amanda, please don't cry. Don't let him know you're here.> She knew she could easily fight off her attacker if he tried to rape her, her strength as a werewolf would not make it a contest. But if he threatened her child, Jess would comply, no matter how perverted the act, out of a mother's instinct to protect her offspring. But she was confused as she tried to weigh her options. Something about his words didn't ring true. There was no obvious sexual interest in the stranger's voice or attitude, no anger towards her gender that was demanding a degrading release.

 

The confusion must have been clear on her face. The man blinked and cocked his head to one side, considering her expression with some puzzlement. "Oh, I see," he said after a moment's contemplation. "You think I want forced copulation. That's not what I meant." He stepped forward, locking his gaze on Jess's eyes. "I meant that I just want to use your body for a while." For the first time she noticed her attacker had sky blue eyes. And those eyes were clouding over, turning black as a summer thunderstorm. She could feel herself swirling into the abyss.

 

* * * * * * *

 

"Something's wrong."

 

It was early afternoon and Krycek had just picked up Lindy from school. He looked at they young girl with an arched eyebrow. "What are you talking about?" he asked, turning onto the street they lived on.

 

Lindy frowned. "I don't know," she said thoughtfully. "I can't shake the feeling that something is wrong at home. I've had it for the last few hours."

 

Krycek kept his expression neutral, although inwardly he was extremely concerned. Lindy, like himself, was a werewolf, but unlike himself, seemed to have a psychic talent that went beyond mere lycanthropy. She had demonstrated it several times by seeing spirits, visions of the future, and once even tracking Jess across country. Every time he was tempted to dismiss her as a kid, Lindy proved herself something more.

 

As he pulled up to the house, two other cars pulled up behind him, one containing AD Walter S. Skinner, and the other containing Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. "You called them?" he asked. Lindy merely nodded. A they walked into the yard, all three shot curious looks at Krycek, who lifted his hands in a I-have-no-idea-what's-going-on gesture.

 

Mulder nodded and asked the question they were all thinking. "Okay Lindy, what's up?"

 

Lindy shrugged as they walked up the porch stairs. "Something's wrong. And I just knew you needed to be here." She reached out to touch the doorknob, and immediately froze. "It's open."

 

That was a sure sign that things were amiss. Jess, even before her abduction experience, kept the doors locked whether she was at home or not. "Lindy, step back," Skinner quietly ordered. Both he, Mulder and Scully drew their guns. Easing the door open slowly, they swept the living room before signaling for Lindy and Krycek to enter. There was the nauseating odor of charred flesh. Mulder could smell it, even without a werewolf's enhanced senses. And Krycek could smell Jess and Amanda all around, a bitter tang of fear that hung heavy in the air, but could not tell if they were in the house or not. A childish sob echoed from the stairway.

 

The sound of a werewolf cub in distress was enough to override common sense. Krycek bolted through the house, not caring if there were others waiting in ambush, desperate to find the source of the cries. Racing up the stairs and into the first room, he found Amanda in her crib. The baby was standing, wailing, clutching at the rails, and was in a desperate need of a diaper change. "Hush Amanda. I'm here. It's okay," Krycek said, picking her up. His daughter sniffled and nestled against his shoulder, grasping his shirt in tight fists. Despite the fact that his animal instincts were screaming for him to now locate his mate, he forced himself to take care of his daughter's needs first.

 

He had disposed of the old diaper and was cleaning Amanda when Lindy bolted into the room. "There's no sign of Jess, but Walter found someone hiding in the closet," she panted. "Mr. Mulder says for you to get down there *now*!"

 

"Okay," Krycek said. "Finish this." He knew it was serious when Lindy did so without protest. As much as she loved her little sister, Lindy hated having to change her diapers when Jess or Krycek weren't able to. He bolted out the door and downstairs, taking the steps three at a time. The charred smell became stronger as he headed for the living room to find Scully administering first aid to a badly burned man. A memory stirred in the recesses of his mind - a bright light fading and two soldiers writhing on the ground with severe radiation burns. <No!> he thought desperately. <Not this!>

 

Scully rose up from her knees. "Well, he's not going to be able to give us any information. He's dead." She looked at Krycek. "Do you recognize him?"

 

Krycek shook his head. "No, but I've seen this before. We all have." There was only two ways Krycek knew of that produced that kind of radiation burns - being in the radius of a nuclear blast, and the other he really didn't want to face. <You'll have to face it,> he thought. <If Jess is...> He didn't let himself complete the thought. "Any sign of Jess?"

 

The others shook their heads. "She's missing and there was no one else here who could tell us what happened," Skinner growled.

 

"One other person was here," Lindy said, walking down the stairs. Her sister was firmly tucked against her waist. "Amanda."

 

The adults shook their heads. "Amanda, even if she saw it, can't tell us what happened. Not at her age," Mulder pointed out.

 

"Yes she can," Lindy insisted, pulling Amanda tighter against her side. "If she saw some of it, I can read it in her mind. It has to be me. Alex doesn't have that ability." Her wide blue eyes considered each of the adults. "Please, I can do this."

 

Krycek's eyes sought out Skinner's. It was clear that both men was uncertain about letting Lindy help. Jess had always been protective of the young girl, trying to give Lindy the childhood that had been stolen from her. But Lindy was growing up, and as she had pointed out, was the only werewolf present with that ability. But there was a danger. Jess had always been hesitant about reading minds, afraid of losing her individuality and ending up in something resembling a Vulcan mind meld gone horribly wrong. There was no safe way to test the limits of their abilities. Lindy decided to take her plea to Krycek directly. ~ I know what the risks are. She's helped me so many times. Please, let me help her.~

 

Krycek slowly nodded. Lindy moved Amanda so she could look into her eyes. But then she closed hers, Amanda's closing at the same moment. Skinner could feel a faint tickle at the back of his head. He twitched, almost reaching to brush it away when he realized it was purely mental. "Sorry," Lindy murmured without opening her eyes. She took a deep breath and seemed to refocus. Skinner felt the feathery touch withdraw.

 

Lindy took several more deep breaths. Amanda was perfectly quiet in Lindy's arms. Both were so silent and still that Scully grew worried and decided to try to break Lindy's concentration. She reached forward to touch her shoulder. Almost too swiftly to track, Skinner reached out and caught her hand, Krycek a split second behind him. Some instinct was warning them to not let this be interrupted, and Scully decided to go with their judgment for the moment.

 

Eventually Lindy slumped a little and opened her eyes. "Amanda was in the kitchen when the stranger came to the door. She heard them talk, but didn't see anything. Jess came back into the room, picked her up and took her upstairs. She doesn't know anything more."

 

Krycek sighed and walked to the small rolltop desk that was tucked into a corner. He seemed to age ten years as he unlocked one of the desk's drawer. He pulled out a small box an took off the lid, looking inside and counting something as he walked back to the gathered people. "Two each." First he offered it to Skinner, then Scully, and then Mulder. Mulder turned the bullet over in his palm. It felt different and the surface was far shinier than the standard issue for a Sig Sauer.

 

Scully was also scrutinizing the ammunition carefully. "Silver?"

 

Krycek nodded. "Coated. A solid silver bullet won't fire properly because of the difference of the weight of the metals." He then went to the closet and pulled a lock box down from a high shelf in the closet.

 

Skinner grimly loaded his gun. "Are you certain that this is necessary?" he asked quietly.

 

Krycek nodded. "If it becomes a choice between her dying and hurting an innocent bystander, she would prefer death." Producing another key, he opened the lock box and then stared into it. "The gun. It's gone."

 

"It was here two months ago." Lindy knew that from personal experience. "What about the knife?"

 

"Here," Krycek grunted. He tilted the lock box so everyone could see the silver knife resting in its sheath.

 

"So we can assume that she is armed with a gun," Mulder said. "What about the Change?"

 

Krycek thought for several long minutes. "I can't say for certain, but the Oil will probably figure out how to shapeshift eventually. The problem is how to find her before that happens."

 

Skinner, Mulder, and Scully blinked. "Why don't we just track her by scent?" Skinner asked.

 

Lindy and Krycek shook their heads. "It would be too difficult," Lindy said with a sigh. "I mean, her smell is literally all over the place here. There's no way to really tell which is the freshest."

 

"And if she drove off, it's impossible to track her," Krycek added. "We could follow the car maybe half a mile max in the city, if we knew which one to follow. The cars all smell alike and pavement doesn't hold exhaust scent worth a damn." Krycek took a deep breath and stated the obvious. "So the only thing we can do is wait for her to resurface."

 

* * * * * * *

 

Across town at the same moment, Jess knelt before the doorknob, working with the slim metal letter opener she had grabbed before she left the house. Or rather, the oilien inside Jess made her kneel and pick the locks on the door. Eventually the last of the tumblers clicked, leaving the door chains in place. With an ever so slow application of superhuman pressure, the chains tore loose from the frame. The thing that looked like a woman slipped through the door marked "The Lone Gunmen."

 

Once inside the office, the oilien took off the denim jacket and threw it into a random corner. Walking to the closest desk, she methodically began ransacking the files and drawers, sorting through the papers and pictures. Not finding what she wanted, she moved to the on to the second, and eventually the third desk. She grew irritated at the seemingly endless pictures of UFO sightings, reports of government mind control plots through pop culture, and notes about various government officials being paid off to implement seemingly innocuous and useless studies. "It's got to be here somewhere," she snarled. Frustrated, she cleared the nearest desk of computer equipment with the sweep of her arm and a roar.

 

Growling, she glared at the walls. That's when the photos tacked on the corkboard caught her eye. There were of an abandon military sites, filled with silos. The thing wearing Jess's body smiled. Walking to the wall, she tore one of the pictures away, sending tacks flying. She tucked the picture inside her shirt and turned to go, not caring to try to cover her obvious search of the room. Walking calmly to the door, she opened it, and found her self staring at Frohike. "Jess?" he said obviously startled. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"

 

The oilien quickly scanned Jess's mind for a plausible excuse. "I thought you may have some typing that needed to be done like last time, so I stopped by. The door was unlocked, so I just walked in."

 

Frohike considered what Jess said. She had helped type up and deliver previous issues of "The Lone Gunman" as partial payment for the work they had done to get Jess papers for Lindy. He almost believed her until he saw the ransacked office. He looked back at Jess, about to demand an explanation when her fist impacted with his nose. He staggered back, stunned by the blow. Jess followed up by kicking him in the stomach. Frohike tripped over his feet and dropped to the floor, now clutching his gut. He looked up at Jess, and was certain that his optic center had been damaged. There was a faint white corona around her. The aurora pulsed several times in the minute he stared at her and faded after one final pulse. With a frustrated snarl, she grabbed a handful of his hair and jerked his head up to hers. "Be glad she likes you. I'm in the habit of leaving corpses, not witnesses, in my wake."

 

Unexpectedly, she let go. He fell to the ground again, this time hitting his head against the tile floor, knocking him unconscious. The oilien prodded him a few times with her toe. Convinced that he would give her no further problem, she stepped over the body and went out the door. She now knew where she needed to go.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Krycek picked up the denim jacket and held it to his face, inhaling deeply. "She was here under two hours ago."

 

The were gathered in the offices of the Lone Gunmen. Langley had found Frohike unconscious on the floor and Jess's jacket in the corner. He called Mulder instead of the police, not wanting to draw too much attention to their lair. Frohike had become conscious just as Scully, Mulder, and Krycek arrived. Lindy and Skinner had remained behind, in the vain hope that Jess would somehow return home.

 

Acting on a hunch, Mulder grabbed the Geiger counter that was in a pile on the floor and began to sweep the room. In one area, there was a sound like popcorn exploding in a microwave. "This spot registers higher than normal radiation."

 

"Let me see," Scully said. She took the counter and took readings around various places in the room. "There was something radioactive here, and not that long ago. The residual radiation is concentrated... here."

 

"Then I wasn't seeing things," Frohike said. "That's where Jess stood."

 

"Seeing things?" Krycek questioned. He tucked the jacket and walked over to where Mulder and Scully stood.

 

Frohike nodded. "Yeah, there was a glow around her. I had been out for a bit, buying hoagies. I opened the door and Jess was standing there. Then she beat the crap out of me. But the really weird thing is she talked about herself in the third and first person."

 

Scully raised an eyebrow as she examined Frohike, watching for signs of a concussion. "Third person?"

 

"Uh, yeah. She said something like, 'Be glad she likes you. I leave corpses, not witnesses'."

 

"That doesn't sound like Jess," Scully commented. "You should get checked out at a hospital, but as far as I can tell, you're fine."

 

"No hospitals," Frohike grunted. "I don't want Langley reading my chart."

 

"We've finished taking inventory," Beyer's interrupted. How the Lone Gunman could find anything in the chaos was beyond Scully. The current condition of their office made Mulder look like a neat freak. "Everything seems to be in place, except for one thing."

 

"Which is?" Mulder asked.

 

Langley walked over to the corkboard on the wall. "We had some pictures posted here of missile sites where there has been suspicious activity. The one with the full site in North Dakota is missing."

 

"North Dakota?" Krycek repeated. He looked at Mulder and Scully. "We need to go, now."

 

"Easy, Alex," Scully said. "There's no proof that she's gone there."

 

"Listen, we need to get going," Mulder said. "If you hear anything from her, let of know." He and Scully moved towards the door.

 

Beyer grabbed at Krycek's arm as he passed by. "If there's anything we can do, let us know," he said quietly.

 

Krycek nodded and followed the FBI agents out of the door. "I think that anwsers the question about whether or not Jess is possessed," he muttered, moving woodenly towards the car. "But I can't understand why it didn't kill Frohike."

 

Mulder unlocked the car. "What if the entity dominating Jess doesn't have complete control? That would explain why it didn't kill Frohike. It tried, but it couldn't detonate. Remember, it said, 'Be glad she likes you.'" Mulder took a deep breath. "I think Jess is fighting whatever it is that is controlling her."

 

Krycek considered that. "It is possible. But she won't be able to keep that up for long." He flopped into the back of the seat.

 

"And when she can't keep it up?" Scully asked as she got into the car.

 

Krycek merely sighed. He had fought against the invading entity, and lost. "Don't ask."

 

Scully looked thoughtfully at Krycek's reflection in the rearview mirror. "Okay, now what do we do?"

 

The younger man thought for a moment before answering. "There is one other place to check...."

 

* * * * * * *

 

Hidden away in his apartment, Cancerman watched the video with an absorbed interest. It wasn't one of the standard surveillance tapes of the subjects, but a copy of a personal video that had been made. On screen was a living room of a typical home where untypical creatures lived. Krycek, sitting on a couch, had Amanda on his lap, and was bouncing her on his knee. "C'mon," he urged the one year old, shaking and tickling her. "Say it." Amanda grinned at him and giggled, clapping her hands against her chubby thighs.

 

Jess, apparently holding the video camera, laughed. "Alex, she's too young to talk," came her voice from off screen.

 

"Well, my daughter is a genius," Krycek protested. "She said it, and she'll say it again."

 

"Get real!" Jess hooted. "She said ah-ah, not dada. And besides, if I have my way, her first words will be 'Go Sharks!'"

 

The Cigarette Smoking Man smiled at Jess's reference to her favorite hockey team. <Amazing,> he thought. <They are trying to live a normal life, despite everything.> He had once thought he could have both, love and the shadow world. But Their demands had finally forced him to make a choice. He had chosen power, but that didn't mean part of him did not grieve over what he had lost.

 

The telephone ringing interrupted his train of thought. The phone only rang for one reason. After thumbing the remote, Cancerman picked up the phone and listened. "When did this happen?" He again listened for a few seconds. "Put the North Dakota base on high alert. And no, I will inform him myself."

 

He hung up the phone, deeply disturbed by the news. It appeared that Jess, despite already being involved in the Loup Garou division of the Project, had been targeted by another sector for an experiment. She had been deliberately infected with the Black Oil. By whom, however, was a good question. Cancerman immediately thought of Well Manicured Man, his boss and Jess's uncle. He just as immediately dismissed that thought. Everything that Jess had endured because of her uncle had been carefully controlled, an effort to make her stronger for a purpose Cancerman wasn't clear on yet. No matter what his niece believed, Well Manicured Man had made sure that Jess had never been in life threatening danger.

 

This situation, however, did have deadly potential. Humans had a hard enough time physically and psychologically when exposed to the sentient and nonsentient versions of the Black Cancer that did not gestate, but most werewolves, it seemed, were completely decimated by having their will overridden so thoroughly. One of three things happened to them - the werewolf became catatonic and eventually ceased to live, the werewolf went foaming mad and had to be put down for safety's sake, or the werewolf won through the struggle and came back mentally stronger than before. However it was impossible to predict which one would occur. He had seen some strong willed werewolves, alphas of their respective packs, give up and die for no apparent reason after being possessed. He had also seen some of the lowest ranking werewolves come out of it and fight and obtain higher ranking and even go on to rule the pack with an iron claw. There was no way to tell if her mind would bend and reform or shatter into a million pieces.

 

He reached for the phone to inform Well Manicured Man of this situation. The concern in his superior's voice dispelled any doubts about him being involved. "She was exposed? How? By whom?"

 

"I do not know at this time. The base is on high alert. I'll be there shortly to plan strategy." Cancerman hung up the phone and grabbed his coat. <It would do one of two things,> he mused as he put his arms in the sleeves. <Go to the silo directly, or....> He opened the door to leave.

 

And found Jess standing there, a wide, sweet smile on her face. "I see I came at a bad time. I hate to keep you from your appointment, but there is so much that we need to discuss."

 

Cancerman opened the door wider, realizing that at the moment, the best thing was for Jess to be where he could keep an eye on her. The young woman stepped through the door, still smiling. "And what may I do for you?" he asked. Cancerman didn't bother to use Jess's name since he knew it wasn't Jess who would answer.

 

"You know what I need." Jess's voice took on a sultry purr. One of her hands slid down her torso in a sensual movement, tracing every curve slowly. "And I'm willing to deal with what I have on hand." But her eyes and the tight lines around her mouth only conveyed disgust.

 

Cancerman smiled, eying the woman standing in front of him. <She is attractive.> For half a second, he considered it. But Well Manicured Man would have his head if he slept with Jess, not to mention what Jess herself would do when she regained control of her body. <And that may be sooner than the parasite thinks.> Jess was obviously aware of what was going on at some level, and was making an attempt to gain control. But she wasn't able to at this point. A flat out refusal seemed unwise, and this particular response would keep the oilien off balance. "What makes you think that I'm interested in bedding this bitch werewolf? Or think that I haven't already sampled what you're offering?"

 

The oilien blinked, but only hesitated for a split second. "Information then?"

 

The Smoking Man nodded. "For starters, shall we state what we want out of this bargain?"

 

Jess's face took on a disdainful glare. "What do I want?" She roared the next words, fangs growing with every syllable. "I want to get back to the ship!" She paused, took a deep breath, and forced herself to grin. The smile was bitter, tight, and revealed completely human teeth. "And you?"

 

"I want you to leave her undamaged." Cancerman lit another cigarette. Her last statement had revealed something he might be able to use, the oilien couldn't control the Change well, yet. "I can make arrangements for you to be taken to your final destination."

 

Jess smiled, baring her teeth in a snarl of irony. "If you think I'm going to pour myself into a bucket and trust you to take me where I want to go, you've got another thing coming." A gun appeared in her hand, one which Cancerman recognized as being a standard issue FBI weapon. "I'm going anywhere I want in this body," she said evenly, "and you're coming with me."

 

* * * * * * *

 

"So this is where he lives," Mulder muttered. The room could have been straight out of a generic motel, a place to sleep with no personal touches, except for a picture. On impulse, he picked it up for a close look and then just as quickly put it down.

 

Scully had caught a glimpse of the picture. It was one she recognized, a picture of Samantha and Mulder taken the summer before Samantha disappeared. "Was Jess here?"

 

"She was here," a familiar voice said. Well Manicured Man stood in the doorway to Cancerman's apartment. "And she is in grave danger. It took them hostage."

 

Scully raised her eyebrows. "*It* took *them* hostage?"

 

"My subordinate is as much of a hostage as Jess is," Well Manicured Man responded.

 

Half dreading and knowing the answer, Krycek asked the obvious question. "Where is it taking them?"

 

Well Manicured Man gazed levelly back. "I think you know where, Mr. Krycek."

 

Krycek ignored the pointed reply. "But what does it want with Jess?"

 

"In an odd way, Mr. Krycek, you are part of the reason the Black Oil infected her," Well Manicured Man said. "The oil contains a group consciousness. It first arrived on this planet being carried by a asteroid. But it miscalculated the gravitational pull between the moon and Earth and ended up fragmenting the asteroid into many meteorites, which landed in different parts of the world."

 

"Tunguska," Mulder muttered under his breath.

 

"Exactly," Well Manicured Man commented. "And each part of the meteorite carried part of the Black Oil. It's consciousness, self, what have you, was fragmented. Each fragment has been instinctively trying to rejoin with the others. The more fragments that gather together, the more strength the group consciousness regains." He paused, as if this pained him. "It was one of those larger fragments that has invaded Jess."

 

Krycek blinked, not clear on one point. "But how did it know where to find her?"

 

Well Manicured Man continued his lecture. "As each of the fragments grow larger, the group consciousness becomes more complete. It has the ability to access what might be compared to a racial memory, but the memories are composed of each individual fragment's experiences, not to mention the memories of its hosts. You may have not known my niece then, but it had a starting place to search for you, Mr. Krycek."

 

"This is all fascinating," Scully said, not certain if she fully believed what was being said. "But what does it have to do with Jess?"

 

"It needs a host body to travel long distances. And for various reasons, it chose her."

 

Scully raised her eyebrows. "And those reasons are?"

 

Well Manicured Man looked Krycek in the eyes. "Revenge against Mr. Krycek and myself."

 

Three sets of eyes turned to Krycek. "Part of the information on the digital tape was about these creatures. The Russian scientists I provided that information to, for a hefty price, were able to come up with a vaccine against the Black Oil."

 

"And a rescue party had been sent by the Oil's allies. The spacecraft, however, was shot down, and locked away for further examination. She has been possessed in retaliation for both of those acts."

 

"And you couldn't have stopped it?" Krycek snarled. "We know every moment of our lives is watched by you and your associates. You had to know that it was coming."

 

"We are not infallible!" Well Manicured Man snapped. "She is the last of my sister's family. If I could have prevented this, I would have. And I can help."

 

Krycek's eyes narrowed, but it was Mulder who responded to Well Manicured Man's statement. "How?"

 

"I can give you access to the place the Black Oil is headed. No strings attached."

 

Krycek thought about it for a moment. The last time Well Manicured Man had offered something no strings attached, he had kept his word. The information needed to heal Lindy from her illness had worked promptly, and there had been no demand for repayment. It seemed worth the risk to do the same again. "Okay," he said, but still couldn't shake the feeling that he had just sold part of his soul back the men he had sworn to never deal with again.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Cancerman lay on the bed, for all appearances staring at the ceiling but watching Jess out of the corner of his eyes. Hoping that the oilien was not aware of his state of health, he played up the pain he sometimes experienced from being shot in the chest and requested that they stop for the night. The being grudgingly agreed, apparently wanting him healthy for the moment. Cancerman had then pulled the car into the next Motel Six he spotted and requested a room. The clerk had smirked a bit as he handed the Smoking Man the key, eying a bored Jess standing in the background. <The little bastard probably thinks I hired Jess for the night.>

 

Now Jess sat in the corner chair, legs propped up on the table. Her eyes were closed, her breath slow and regular, but she was still gripping the gun tightly, barrel pointed directly at him. Testing how alert she was, Cancerman moved towards the phone. There was no reaction from the form softly backlit by the lights filtering through the closed curtains. Quietly he lifted the receiver off the hook. Jess snorted a little and shifted slightly. Eyes never leaving her, Cancerman dialed a phone number. Once the computer answered the phone, he punched in an identifying sequence. The code would initiate a program to trace the lines back to the source, as well as put a wiretap on the phone.

 

He slowly began to replace the receiver. Just after the receiver touched the base, a steel vise clamped down on his wrist. The oilien glared at him, her face working in anger, a soft growl filling the air. She stared at him, amusement eventually replacing the blatant anger in her eyes. "If you want to make a phone call, all you have to do is ask," she said, releasing his wrist.

 

<It doesn't realize I've already made one,> the Smoking Man thought, not daring to believe his luck. Slowly again he dialed the phone under Jess's watchful eye. It rang only once before it was picked up. Well Manicured Man was the voice on the other end of the line. "Yes?"

 

The werewolf hit the speaker button as Cancerman began to speak. "It's me."

 

Well Manicured Man quietly voiced a concerned question. "Is she there?"

 

Jess nodded slightly, signaling for him to answer. "Yes, and under the complete control of the Oil."

 

"Are you heading for the North Dakota base?"

 

"Yes. She's armed with a gun..."

 

Jess's finger tapped the disconnect button. "I think that's long enough for tonight. And I would rest up if I were you. We have to make our goal tomorrow."

 

Still keeping a wary eye on the werewolf, Cancerman settled back on the bed. Without a further word, he resumed staring at the ceiling, wondering which of the plans he had set in motion would end up rescuing him, or killing him.

 

* * * * * * *

 

He could smell her all around him - her unique identifying musk thick with arousal. His hands reached out and touched firm, hot flesh - hers. Gentle, but irresistible hands coaxed him to roll from his side to his back. Recognizing her touch, he acquiesced immediately, feeling his cock swell larger with each beat of his pulse. Unless she moved quickly, he was certain he would be found dead from a lack of oxygen to his brain. <But what a way to go!> he thought happily as the hands teasing at his nipples now moved southwards to worry at the waistband of his sweatpants. He opened his eyes to gaze at his lover as she removed his offending clothing and sank down on his erection. Jess was smiling at him, an odd expression of triumph flitting across her features as she began to move. Her warm brown eyes turned as cold and flat as a snake's. And then the whites of her eyes swirled into black...

 

Krycek woke with a start, biting his lip to keep from screaming. Earlier in the evening, Scully had insisted he take a Valium to relax. He sat up, blinking in the square of moonlight that spilled through the window. The adreneline surge from the nightmare combined with the fast metabolism of a werewolf burned off the dregs of the drug.

 

<How can I even try to sleep knowing that she's with him?> He didn't want to think about what she was being forced to do, and the fact that she was sharing a room with the Cigarette Smoking Man added to his unease. Not that he thought that Jess would willingly sleep with Cancerman; she had told him she wouldn't be capable of the act. But the entity in control of her might. Or force her to commit other acts she found distasteful. Certain he would be unable to sleep without the terrifying dreams, Krycek got out of the bed and pulled on a pair of sweatpants. After briefly checking on a soundly sleeping Amanda, he walked downstairs, not willing to go back to the nightmares that were waiting.

 

And found he wasn't the only one with insomnia. Krycek raised his hand as he passed Skinner, who was calling someone on his cell phone, and then headed on to the kitchen. Lindy sat at the table, staring into a cup of hot chocolate. She looked up at someone sitting across from her at the table, her face solemn. "This is worse than when she was pregnant," she said. "I mean, we know where she is, but can't do anything about it."

 

"I know it's rough, Lindy," came Mulder's voice in response. "But hang in there. She's going to be okay."

 

"And Jess is very resourceful," Scully added. "She'll find a way to help us."

 

"I know," Lindy said. "I just wish there was something I could do."

 

"You've already done a lot, Lindy," Krycek said. He walked over to the table and sat down. "Why don't you go to bed. And before you protest," he added, cutting off Lindy as she opened her mouth. "You probably won't get anymore sleep than I have, but Jess will chew us both out if I let you stay up all night."

 

Lindy looked for a second like she was going to object anyway, but then stood up. "Okay. Wake me if you hear anything?" Lindy gave him a quick hug as she passed by.

 

"Of course." He watched as, to Scully and Mulder's murmured good nights, Lindy left the room and Skinner entered. Once he was sure the teen could not see him, Krycek let his shoulders slump and cradled his head in his hands. <I just said 'will' like I'm certain that she's going to be fine. I wish to God that I'm right.>

 

Skinner also sat down. "I just finished talking with Jess's uncle. He will see to it that we will be allowed onto the silo compound with supervision." He glanced at Krycek. "Can you handle that?"

 

The young man nodded, lifting his head. "But we have another problem. What do we do with the kids? Lindy could face this, but Amanda...," Krycek trailed off.

 

Mulder understood Krycek's frustration. Amanda needed to be watched over. Lindy, however capable, couldn't be left alone in this situation. That meant that either Skinner or Krycek had to stay behind. And neither man was truly willing to do so. The other option, which really was not one as far as all were concerned, was to leave Lindy and Amanda in the custody of Well Manicured Man's aides. Mulder could see no way to resolve the situation.

 

Scully finally broke the silence. "I think I might have a solution."

 

* * * * * * *

 

At the moment, Jess was strongly identifying with Meg's father from Madeline L'Engle's "A Wrinkle In Time." There was a duality to her perceptions that was driving her crazy. Although she could feel her physical body's motions and sensations, she could not control them. At the same time, below her "shoulders," her psychic body was no more able to move than if she had been encased in acrylic. But every so often, she could feel her responses at least stymying her possessor's actions. <I wish I could somehow tesser my way out of here. And somehow I don't think Charles Wallace will be showing up to rescue me.>

 

>Very amusing.< The voice wound its way to her ears from the mental darkness. >You have an amazingly well developed sense of humor for a creature so low on the evolutionary scale.<

 

Jess mentally took a deep breath. While her body's respiratory rate remained the same, her mind reacted as if there were a sudden influx of air. <Why are you doing this? If you had explained that you needed help, I would have been more than willing to aid you.>

 

>Of course,< came the bitter response. >Just like those humans who shot down my transport. 'So sorry, we'll fix it. And while we are, let us study you.' And forty years later, here I am still.< The voice then continued softly. >You have little reason to be loyal to humanity. We could be allies, you and I, and make humankind pay.<

 

<I was born human,> Jess thought back. <That is reason enough for me to be loyal.>

 

>Even though they hurt you?< The oilien decided to remind her of what she owed humanity...

 

...Pain. Dull ache at the back of her head from hitting the corner of the table, pressure where her boyfriend knelt on her legs, pinning her in place. "You little slut!" Jake's voice rasped. "You wouldn't leave me unless you were already fucking someone else. Well, I'll make sure he won't ever want to touch you again." Tearing of cloth and a sharp, stabbing pain in her breast...

 

...Tears falling down her cheeks as she confessed, lying in a hospital bed, what a thirteen year old thought was the truth. "Mom, Dad, it's my fault. If I hadn't asked Rachel if we could stay at the Boardwalk for another hour, we wouldn't have been in that accident. She'd still be alive." Cold stares her only answer, no offers of parental denial, support, or comfort...

 

...Anger erupting from beneath the surface, claws extending and aiming for the throat, only to be redirected last minute to score the fleshy pad of the cheek. The scent of blood, metallic and faintly sweet, below the scent of tobacco smoke. "To see her, all you had to do with me is what you are already doing with Krycek and Assistant Director Skinner. However, due to your unprovoked behavior, I withdraw the offer." Lava rage turning to ice fear at the thought of never holding her missing daughter...

 

...And the olien's voice smoothly encroaching on her memories. >Need I go on?<

 

Jess remained silent.

 

>Not convinced, I see.< The oilien's voice took on a dark tone. >If you would cooperate, I would not have to use him to get us to my ship. And this would probably not be necessary.<

 

Jess could sense a malignant amusement behind those words. <What would not be necessary?> She barely had time to respond before...

 

...Breathless screams. Limbs and lips entwining and exploring. Bodies tensing and relaxing as the final wave of pleasure crashed through them. Jess leaning down for a smoke flavored kiss. And her partner looking up at her admiringly before whispering in a sated voice, "You're very good..."

 

<No!>Jess whispered, horrified. She bowed her mental head, tears slipping from her eyes. <Why are you doing this? You have control of my body and can easily overcome what little resistance I can put up. There is no need for this.>

 

>Why?< She could sense the oilien regarding her thoughtfully, scanning her mind for an appropriate response. >What is it that Ariel said to Prospero when he had defeated his enemies?<

 

It had been a long time since she read The Tempest in college. Jess thought for several minutes before the answer floated into her consciousness. It was one of her favorite passages, even before she was Changed. Afterwards, she thought about it whenever she had a victim before her, begging for mercy. <Ariel says, "Your charm so strongly works 'em/That if you now beheld them your affections/Would become tender." Prospero asks, "Dost thou think so, spirit?" Ariel answers, "Mine would, sir, were I human.">

 

There was a dark, low chuckle. >And I am not.< There was a sense of the presence retreating, and Jess was alone in her mental cage again.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Amanda giggled in the older woman's arms. "What a little angel! What's her name?"

 

"Amanda," Krycek said, putting down the diaper bag. "Thanks for taking her on such short notice. We really appreciate it."

 

"It's not a problem." Margaret Scully said. "Dana said that it's an emergency."

 

"I need to be going," Krycek said. He bent down to kiss Amanda on her forehead. "Be good, little one."

 

"I'm sure she will be. Dana, Fox, can I speak with you for a moment?" Krycek stepped out into the night to join Skinner in the car. "Have I met him before?"

 

"I don't think so, Mom," Scully said.

 

"Dana, I am sure I know him from somewhere." Mrs. Scully was adamant. "Wasn't he at the hospital when Melissa died?"

 

<Oh shit!> Scully thought. She had completely forgotten that Krycek had been watching Melissa to make sure she would not survive to identify him. And she wasn't to certain that her mother would understand why she was now allied with him.

 

Mulder came to her rescue. "Agent Krycek was there, Mrs. Scully. But he can be trusted."

 

"You're certain, Fox?" Mrs. Scully remembered that Skinner had gone after Krycek, and that he had come later been found severely beaten.

 

"Yes," Mulder reassured. "And he has entrusted you with one of the most important things in his life, his daughter."

 

Mrs. Scully immediately put two and two together. "And the woman who you're searching for is her mother? Then go find her," she said when the pair nodded.

 

"Thanks, Mom," Scully said again. She gave Mrs. Scully a quick hug and exited the house with Mulder in tow. The both went to the car and got in. "I'm not sure I agree with Lindy staying at the house alone."

 

Skinner shook his head. "Someone needs to keep that area covered in case Jess somehow makes it back. And I don't think that she'd stay with your mother, she can't come along, and neither of us," he gestured to himself and Krycek, "are willing to stay behind. Now let's go bring her home."

 

* * * * * * *

 

The rest of the trip had proceeded without incident. The oilien had awakened the Smoking Man up shortly after the first light and waited impatiently outside the Seven Eleven as he bought coffee for his breakfast. Now they were pulling up to the manned gate of the compound. Jess kept the gun discretely tucked out of sight, but Cancerman was sure it was still pointed directly at him. "Make sure this goes smoothly," she growled as they pulled up to the checkpoint.

 

The guard walked up to the sedan and crisply saluted when he recognized the driver. "Your identification, please." Cancerman handed over a plain white card with a magnetic stripe on the back. Jess remained staring straight ahead, to all appearances bored by the proceedings. "And hers, sir?" the soldier requested respectfully.

 

Cancerman risked a glance at the oilien. Long experience with nonhuman races had taught him clues that had saved his life on occasion. Jess, although staring straight ahead, was readying for an attack, if he read the tension in her jaw and clenched fist correctly. "She is a protegee of mine," he said without hesitation. "I will vouch for her credentials and her behavior."

 

The guard frowned slightly. "Excuse me, sir." He took Cancerman's identity card back to the gate house put it through a reader. The guard began tapping keys and picked up the phone as he stared at the computer screen.

 

"This had better work," the oilien growled, staring at Cancerman. "I don't plan on being stopped so close to my goal." This was the make or break point. If the oilien suspected anything was amiss, he and the guard would be dead in a matter of seconds.

 

The guard returned, carrying two barcoded badges and the card. He gave them to the occupants of the car without a word and then raised the barrier. Cancerman put the car into gear and drove past. The oilien relaxed slightly and allowed a small smile to creep over her features as she clipped the badge to her tee shirt. "Well done," she purred.

 

Not acknowledging what she said, Cancerman drove further down the road towards the silos. To his consternation, there were five people standing beside their destination. Jess's body tensed and a hiss escaped her lips. "No." But Cancerman kept driving, eventually pulling up by the building.

 

The oilien responded by drawing her gun. Once the car had stopped, she gestured for the Cigarette Smoking Man to get out of the car in front of her. "Don't try to stop me!" Jess pointed the gun at Cancerman's head. "I will shoot him!"

 

"Why shoot him?" Mulder challenged. "Change and rip his throat out! Or fry him in a nuclear blast!"

 

The oilien paused for a fraction of a second too long, betraying it's weakness. "I don't because I choose not to."

 

"You mean you can't because Jess is stopping you," Krycek taunted, taking a few steps in front of Mulder. "For all your supposed superiority, four humans and four werewolves have outsmarted and outmaneuvered you."

 

The oilien snarled, tensing, fledgling fur erupting over her body. Shifting her aim to Krycek, she fired once. Krycek, sensing what was coming, dropped to the ground. But Mulder wasn't able to duck out of the way. Scully, in a true display of marksmanship, returned fire, literally shooting the gun out of Jess's hands.

 

The being howled in anger and pain. Twisting around, she bolted towards the silo. Krycek was the first to run after her, Changing and overtaking her in a few strides. Grabbing her arm, he dug his heels into the ground to halt her. Jess responded with a roar and a taloned slash that was turned into a roundhouse punch to the vulnerable point below the jaw. Winded, Krycek involuntarily let go and Changed back to a human, knocked off his feet by the force of her blow. Twisting and crouching, Jess lurched for the entrance of the silo and gained it before anyone could stop her.

 

Skinner was at Krycek's side instantly, helping the young man back to his feet. "I'll be fine," Krycek gasped out. "Help her!"

 

Skinner nodded and plunged into the silo, leaving Krycek in Mulder and Scully's care. He noted in the half darkness a pair of discarded shoes, flung against the wall. A few feet on was the torn remains of the t-shirt Jess had worn. A little further was what was left of her bra. He continued down the hallway, half crouched. The hallway curved to the right, blocking his view, but not his hearing. He could hear a pair of male screams and a crescendoing satanic growl that ended in a roar and a pair of sickening squelches.

 

And then dead silence.

 

After a few seconds Skinner heard a pounding noise, the sound of something hitting metal repeatedly. It was interspersed with a screeching noise, similar to fingernails on chalkboard. He cautiously traveled down the last few yards, staying close to the wall, and turned the corner, the metallic smell of blood first reaching him.

 

Even with the carnage he had seen in Vietnam and as a field agent, Skinner almost vomited at the gruesome sight. Two soldiers were on the ground, their bodies torn wide open from chin to pubic bone, blood and entrails splattering the walls. The pounding and screeching noise came from a huge, black figure vainly clawing at a steel door smeared with blood and marked 1013. He stared at the werewolf try to force the door off its hinges. But this creature wasn't Jess in her full lycanthropic mode, as if the entity couldn't access all her powers. The black fur was thin and mangy, in places, the head resembling the werewolf of the black and white movies instead of a real wolf. The long claws were not being wielded with their usual skill, and the paws were trembling with excitement, making it impossible for the door to be opened by conventional means. The creature was clearly frantic to get inside.

 

Swallowing hard, Skinner took a step forward, not trying to hide his presence and realizing that with his slowly growing abilities, he would be no match for Jess (even in her current state) in a fight. The werewolf froze for a split second, and then whirled around, her rat naked half tail swinging in counterbalance. Fresh blood dripped from her stubby muzzle as the jaws parted in a snarl. She started to charge forward, only to halt after two jerky steps. The werewolf hissed like a wet cat, pointed ears flat against the misshapen skull.

 

"I'm not going to hurt you," Skinner spoke gently. "Let me help." He watched as the muscles under the patchy pelt rippled and contracted in preparation to spring. Skinner wondered for a moment if another werewolf's claws and fangs were as deadly as silver. But Jess backed away a few steps. Being certain to stay out of striking distance of the twitching paws, Skinner edged over to the door. There were several sizable dents and gouges in it, but was otherwise intact. An electronic lock, the kind you slid magnetic striped cards through, was near the handle, all lights glowing red. Taking a deep breath, Skinner unclipped the badge he had been given when he came onto the site, and ran it through the reader.

 

The lights turned green and there was a hiss as the seal of the door was broken. Then there was the sound of many feet running towards them. Skinner felt the breath get knocked from his lungs as the furry form bolted past him and through the slowly opening doorway. He was slammed against the wall, and had started to slide to the ground when a pair of arms grabbed his shoulders. He opened his eyes to find himself staring into Krycek's green ones, fear of where he was dueling with fear of what had happened to Skinner and Jess. "I'm all right. She's in there," Skinner said, noting that Mulder, Scully, Cancerman and Well Manicured Man were part of the group. Mulder and Krycek went to either side of the door, guns ready. As they both whirled into the doorway, a gagging noise could be heard.

 

"You've got to see this," came Mulder's voice. He went inside. Krycek remained rooted to the spot, staring at the interior of the room where he had spent time imprisoned. Scully slid past him to see what was happening. They watched in horror as Jess, now human in shape, climbed up on top of the UFO, doubled over, and began retching. Her head lifted and she stared sightlessly forward, weeping tears of oil, before the gusher erupted from her mouth. Every conceivable opening in her body was oozing the fluid.

 

The procedure lasted for a few minutes, but seemingly went on for hours. Krycek cried for her and for himself, reliving his own memories. Eventually, Jess's body slid off the UFO, completely spent. Skinner walked to her and gently rolled her onto her back. Scully and Mulder came forward, snapping out of their shock to examine Jess. When Scully reached out and touched her wrist to check Jess's pulse, she reacted violently, flailing and screaming hoarsely and curling into a defensive ball. "Shhh," Krycek soothed, quickly moving to her side. "Easy, Jess. It's just us." He took Scully's hand and placed it near Jess's nose. The trembling woman took a few sobbing breaths. Only then did she allow Scully to check her vitals and make sure her breathing passages were clear.

 

Mulder, taking his cue from Krycek, also held his hand to Jess's nose before touching her. He gently drew his finger across the back of her hand. "It feels like the same oil as before."

 

Skinner unfolded the blanket he had brought with him. He turned his attention back to Jess, helping her sit up. Jess shivered and whimpered, vainly trying to wipe the oil off her skin. Skinner put the blanket around her shoulders. Jess grabbed one of the corners and began to scrub her face, rubbing her skin raw. "No, Jess," Krycek said, taking hold of her hands. "You'll only make it worse. Let's get you home and we can clean you up." Skinner helped Jess to her feet. She swayed for a moment before leaning heavily on him, eyes shut.

 

And throughout the whole scene, Cancerman watched, a remote, smoke breathing god, and made no move to aid nor hinder. Well Manicured Man, however, shouldered his way past them. Thumbing back Jess's eyelids, he stared long into her eyes. "It's completely out. There are medical people on the way."

 

Krycek glared at the men in black. It was obvious that Jess would need attention, but not necessarily the kind that the Consortium would give her. Skinner however, had no qualms about answering. "No thanks."

 

"Don't be a fool. She cannot travel in her current state," Well Manicured Man countered. "At least let me provide a place to stay." He looked at Krycek. "It will not be one of the labs. I can promise you this."

 

The others considered this momentarily. Well Manicured Man was right; Jess could not travel very far in her condition. "A hotel," Krycek grunted. "Our choice."

 

Jess's uncle nodded. He stood to one side, and signaled Cancerman to do the same. Krycek and Skinner guided Jess out of the room, through the blood spattered hallway, and out into the light of day.

 

* * * * * * *

 

In the same Motel Six Cancerman had spent the night in, Scully examined Jess. The woman's reflexes checked out fine, as did her pulse, her breathing, and every other autonomous body function. "Aside from being bone weary, she appears to be okay," Scully eventually pronounced.

 

Krycek helped Jess to her feet, and then scooped her into his arms. "Then let's get her cleaned up." He carried Jess into the bathroom. Skinner followed, carrying a plastic bag he had snagged from the trunk of the car. He began the water running as Krycek began stripping Jess, dropping the blanket and what was left of her ruined jeans and panties into the bag. The closer the piece of clothing was to her skin, the larger the oil stains grew . <Just the way it was with me,> Krycek thought with a shudder.

 

Jess was only partly conscious, her head lolling, Krycek supporting her full weight. "Hold her for a moment," Krycek said. Skinner supported the limp body as the other man took off his clothes and stepped into the shower. Skinner guided her into the shower. He also stripped, but stayed outside the tub, so Jess got the full spray of water . Krycek held her upright as Skinner cleaned her off. <There's too much,> he thought as dark colored slime slipped off of her skin. <This couldn't have come from inside her.> But he knew it had, and what he was seeing was only a fraction of it.

 

Eventually the water running off of her body was clear. Krycek guided Jess out of the shower and to Skinner, who was waiting with a towel. He started wiping the exhausted woman down as Krycek stepped back into the shower to clean off the oil that had gotten on him while he was holding Jess. Skinner gently toweled the moisture off of Jess's body and then led her back to the bedroom, which Mulder and Scully had discretely vacated. Finding a long gown, he eased it over her head. Jess seemed to come to enough to help, working her arms into the sleeves. Skinner then tucked her into the bed. Jess sighed, asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow. A tear slipped from under Jess's closed eyelids. Skinner reached out and caught it, rubbing the substance between his thumb and finger, a worried look crossing his features when he realized how oily the tear was.

 

He sensed more than heard Krycek step up beside him. "The self aware part of it's out of her system but she's still going to be extruding that stuff for a couple of days, at least." As if thinking about what he had just said, Krycek paused. Then the young man began to tremble.

 

<He knows that from experience.> Skinner pulled Krycek into a protective embrace, running one square palm up and down the other man's spine. Krycek sighed deeply and leaned into the hug, still trembling. "You're as tired as she is, Alex," Skinner whispered. "Get into bed. I'll debrief everyone."

 

"And me?" Krycek mumbled, with a weak thrust of his groin. "I'll put some on so you can take them off."

 

"After you get some sleep, boy," Skinner promised. He guided the young man into the bed. Krycek crawled in between the sheets and wrapped himself around Jess's body. She made a soft noise and nestled into Krycek's arms. Skinner's heart ached when he looked at them, both bruised and battered by this experience.

 

He grabbed his jeans and shirt and pulled them back on before going out to the Mulder and Scully. "They're both asleep."

 

Scully looked up from where she was examining Mulder's shoulder. "She's probably going to be asleep for at least 24 hours. She shouldn't be moved before then."

 

Skinner registered for the first time that Mulder had possibly been shot. "Agent Mulder, how is your shoulder?"

 

Mulder grinned, and then winced. "I've been worse. In fact, she's," he nodded his head towards Scully, "done worse."

 

"The bullet just grazed his bicep," Scully said. "It came so close it scorched, but didn't break the skin." She paused for a moment. "How is Jess?"

 

Skinner's reply summed up all of their feelings on the situation. "I don't know, and I have a feeling we won't know until she wakes up."

 

* * * * * * *

 

Jess opened her eyes, not recognizing where she was. <Why am I in a motel?> she wondered looking at the bland furnishings in the room. Shakily, she rose from the bed and staggered into the bathroom. After performing the basic biological functions she did every morning, she went to the sink, gripping the porcelain sides. <I'm as weak as a kitten,> she thought, staring down the drain, slightly dizzy. Jess glanced up and caught sight of herself in the mirror. Only it wasn't her image she saw, but the stranger who accosted her in her home, ice blue eyes morphing into inky black...

 

Jess shrieked and picked up the nearest item she could lay hands on, a sample sized shampoo bottle. She threw it against the mirror, meaning to shatter it, to drive the image from her mind. But the bottle was too light and bounced off the glass without damaging it. Now screaming in blind panic, she began beating her hands against the mirror.

 

"Jess! Stop it!" rang out a voice harshly. Hands grabbed her shoulders to spin her around, and then shifted their grip to her wrists. She found herself staring into Krycek's jade eyes. Reflexively, she snapped hers shut, instinctively trying to protect herself from reinfestation by the Oil. "It's okay, Jess. You're safe," he said more softly. Jess bit her lip, trembling before collapsing against his chest and beginning to cry. Krycek wrapped her in his arms, rocking her gently. "You've been asleep for two days." Krycek gently brushed a stray lock of hair away from her face. "God, Jess, it felt like two years." He kissed the crown of her head.

 

Jess's sobs eventually subsided and Krycek guided her back to the bed. "Where the hell are we?" she asked in a raw voice.

 

"North Dakota," was the reply. Jess didn't seem to grasp the full significance of the location, and Krycek didn't want to push her yet. "Get back in bed. You still have some healing to do."

 

"Don't want to sleep," she protested, sounding like an eight year old pleading to stay up after bedtime. "Tell me what happened," she rasped as he laid her down and pulled the covers over her body.

 

Krycek sat down on the bed and Jess snuggled into his lap. He brushed her bangs off of her forehead. "You were infected with the Black Oil. Yes, Jess," he said when she shifted to stare at him, her eyes questioning. Inwardly, he was relieved that now she would look into his eyes. "The same alien intelligence that possessed me."

 

Jess blinked, clearly turning that fact around inside her head. "I remember someone at the door..." Her eyes widened and she inhaled with a hiss of horror. "Amanda! Did I..."

 

He silenced her fears with a brush of lips across her forehead. "You did nothing to her. She's perfectly well and with Dana's mother."

 

"I could have killed her," Jess whispered, horrified by the thought to the point of trembling. "I could have killed you."

 

Krycek shook his head as he reclined on the bed. "No. It wasn't you. There were deaths, but the alien, not you, is responsible for that." Jess seemed to consider what he said and closed her eyes. Except for an occasional full body shiver, she was now still. Her cheek rested on his shoulder, lips brushing his neck. Krycek stroked her back slowly, soothing and reassuring her without words.

 

Scully poked her head inside the door. "Alex," she admonished as she stepped inside. "You were supposed to tell me when she woke up."

 

"She just did," Krycek protested as Jess sat up.

 

Scully made an exasperated noise and crouched down to Jess's level. She held up her index finger in front of the young woman. "Track my finger," she said and started to move it around Jess's head. Brown eyes followed its path with no effort. "What day is it, Jess?"

 

Jess answered the question promptly, but Krycek noticed she didn't look Scully in the eyes. "Um, I'm not sure. Alex said I was asleep for two days, so it's at least Wednesday."

 

"It's Friday. You were in an altered state of consciousness for two before you passed out." Scully held up all her digits on her left hand except for her pinkie. "How many fingers am I holding up?"

 

Jess's brow furrowed. "I forget. Do you count the thumb as a finger?"

 

Scully straightened up, relieved at Jess's unorthodox, but thoughtful question. "You're fine. I want you to rest as much as possible for the next few days. But first you need to eat. How does soup sound?"

 

"Good," she rasped. Scully nodded and went out the door. Krycek piled the pillows up behind Jess so she could lean against them and still be upright as she ate. But before Scully returned, another person had arrived in the room above to check on Jess through a spy camera.

 

* * * * * * *

 

It was rare for him to be seen at a place not of his choosing. You came to him inadvertently on your part, or were summoned and responded with all due alacrity. All aspects of the Project needed at least his tactic approval to go forward. But this kind of personal scrutiny was far from the norm.

 

The Senior Elder looked over Cancerman and Well Manicured Man before turning back to the television screen. "She is to make a full recovery?"

 

Cancerman nodded once. "It appears so. Her first response upon waking was to fight, not to flee. We will monitor her mental state closely, but she appears to be on the mend. As to who infected her, I have not been able to determine that exactly."

 

Well Manicured Man frowned. "What do you mean 'exactly'?"

 

The Elder scowled at Well Manicured Man speaking out of turn, but gestured for Cancerman to continue. "An analysis of the waste oil extruded revealed traces of minerals. They were a perfect match to the sample from the Tunguska region."

 

"Then there is a Cold War connection." The Senior Elder again considered Jess on screen for several moments. "What of the pups?"

 

"Neither one was infected," Cancerman replied immediately. "And they were unharmed throughout the ordeal."

 

"Is the younger one in our possession?"

 

"No," said Well Manicured Man. After a split second hesitation, he amended his statement. "We should leave her to Leahs's and Krycek's custody, to maintain the little goodwill that I have cultivated."

 

"Very well. We will be perform the extraction within six months as scheduled. Until then, they are to be left alone."

 

Well Manicured Man nodded his acknowledgement of the order. He stood there for several moments before leaving the room. Then within two minutes, he appeared in the hotel room, checking in on Jess.

 

The Elder waited until Well Manicured Man had been on screen for several seconds. "Your superior seems extremely concerned about his niece."

 

Cancerman nodded his head once, indicating that he had noticed.

 

"He still believes that she can become a Member." The Elder turned slightly to keep one eye on the screen and one eye on the Cigarette Smoking Man. "You are familiar with her history. Can it be done?"

 

"It may be possible." Cancerman paused to remove a fresh cigarette from his pocket. "But highly doubtful."

 

"Then her only use is as a test subject." The unspoken corollary to that statement was clear. Once the test was over, she would have no use.

 

* * * * * * *

 

"I don't remember much," Jess said. She clasped the cup of hot chocolate in her hands like a lifeline. "And what I do remember, I want to forget."

 

They were the only ones in the living room at the moment. Krycek was checking on Amanda down for the third time that night and Lindy had gone to bed about half an hour ago. Skinner gently placed a hand on hers. "Come on, let's go to bed." He bit back a sigh when Jess pulled away as if she had been burned. He had, despite all common sense, spent every night of the past week with her and Krycek, needing to be a part of their healing. He was certain now that rumors were spreading from Mulder's basement office to the Attorney General's that he and Jess were having an affair, and probably someone would soon connect the fact that Jess had been, and probably still was, Krycek's lover. Most likely in a short time, his career would be over. But that didn't matter. What was important was that two people he loved were hurting, and needed to heal.

 

Krycek was actually doing better than Jess was. He still had moments of terror, caught up in a memory or recognizing one of Jess's reactions as one he once had. But he had faced this enemy before, knew its powers, and its limits, and remembered that the terror did fade over time. Jess, however, didn't want to be touched, or even looked at for over a minute by anyone other than Krycek. She maintained a normal facade, but was far from her normal self. Her eyes were perpetually downcast, her movements those of a frightened mouse instead of a confident alpha female werewolf. There would be times where she seemed about to break out of the cocoon of nightmarish memories, but then she would slip back in, wrapped up tighter than before.

 

And it was difficult to spend the night with her, no matter how much Skinner wanted to do. If she was touched unexpectedly, she pulled away as if electrocuted. The first night, hoping to encourage her to join in, Krycek and he indulged in some foreplay, whispering between their moans how and where they wanted Jess to touch them. Jess, however, climbed out of the bed, dragging a blanket behind her like a three year old, to spend the night sleepless on the couch. That, to say the least, killed the mood. The second night, she retreated only as far as the chair beside the dresser/vanity, staring at the wall, and climbed back into bed when they were finished. The third night was also partially spent on the chair, where she watched, much as she had done the first time Skinner and Krycek had sex. Afterwards, she had fallen asleep, back to them, only to awaken at two am screaming from nightmares she refused to discuss.

 

And the rest of the week had passed that way, Jess becoming more comfortable a step at a time, although her nightmares showed no sign of decreasing. After the third night, she told them what Krycek had guessed, that the oilien had probed her memories and replayed several sexual ones. She wouldn't go into specifics, but both Skinner and Krycek thought they had to do with the time she was raped or had to do with her time alone with Cancerman.

 

Jess docilely followed Skinner up the stairs. Once in the bedroom, Jess grabbed a t-shirt and pair of leggings and disappeared into the bathroom to change. When she came out, Skinner was still dressed. Walking over to her, Skinner gently pressed his lips her forehead, giving her time to back away. Jess accepted this token of affection and even leaned into it slightly. "I'm going to take a shower." Jess nodded and Skinner kissed her forehead again and then went into the bathroom.

 

Jess sighed and climbed into the middle of their bed. She stretched out on her stomach and folded her arms under her head. She fell into a wary doze until Krycek came into the room, stripped to his shorts, and laid down beside her. He placed a hand gently onto her back. She twitched, but made no other move. "Alex?" she asked softly.

 

"Yes, Jess?"

 

"How do you deal with it? The memories of what you did while you were under the control the Oil."

 

Krycek began moving his hand around her back in small, comforting circles. "I try not to think about it. And when I do have to, I remind myself that it was the Black Cancer, not me." <And, if I can, I have wild sex with you or Walter to ground me in the present,> he thought, but did not think it would be wise to say.

 

"I have these... images," Jess began hesitantly. Her voice grew troubled, and she would not look at Krycek. "Of me and the Smoking Man, together... sexually." Now she started to tremble. "And I have no idea if they are true memories or false images the Cancer was using to torment me."

 

Krycek gently turned her head to face him. "Look at me," he said softly. Her eyes slowly slid to meet his. "If it happened, it wasn't your fault. It doesn't change how I feel about you. And I'm sure Walter feels the same way." He kissed her soft brown hair, her sad brown eyes, and lightly on her pale lips.

 

Jess said nothing more, but curled up onto her side, nose pressed into his chest. Her breathing evened out and slowed as she fell asleep. Krycek put an arm over her and allowed his mind to wander. Now Jess's nightmares and hesitation about sex made sense.

 

He heard the water shut off, and a few minutes later Skinner stepped back into the room. "Did you find out anything?" he asked, leaning down to kiss Krycek's temple.

 

Krycek twisted so he could brush his lips against Skinner's cheek. "It's just what we thought." He brushed Jess's hair back from her head. "She should be okay, but it will just take some time. Let's talk more in the morning."

 

Skinner nodded and got in bed on the other side of Jess. Krycek gave a quiet sigh and closed his eyes. Skinner, though, found he was not quite ready to fall asleep. After a half hour of just watching the pair, he reached out and softly stroked first Jess's and then Krycek's hair, petting them in turns the way he would Lindy's cat Patches. Both were definitely asleep now, Jess wedged between their bodies, almost curled into a fetal position, but still with them. Krycek's words earlier echoed through his mind, and he prayed that they would prove true. "She should be okay, but it will just take some time."