Loup Garou XVIII ­ Abduction
By Shael

Archive at the Gossamer, Ferretcage (http://www.parkers-place.net/ferretcage/) , All Things Rat (http://welcome.to/allthingsrat). Any others please contact me first.

With the exception of Jess, Lindy, and Amanda, Chris Carter owns them, although at the rate he's going, he'll have killed all the of them all by 7X07.

NC17 for M/M/F sex and the occasional bad word. MSR

Spoilers for Fight the Future, All of Season Six through Biogenesis. Alternate Universe - the events of Two Fathers/One Son have not happened.

Summary: Just when things seem to be returning to normal, an abduction turns Skinner's, Krycek's and Jess's world upside down.

All previous Loup Garou stories are available at


All feedback to wolfcatxf@imadethis.org

"The wolf family treasures its pups." - Brother Wolf

* * * * *

The note had arrived earlier in the afternoon.

His valet had handed the plain manila envelope to him without raising so much as an eyebrow. Well Manicured Man accepted it with the schooled impassiveness that had served him well in such situations before. He knew however, that the note would not contain good news. His superiors avoided sending information by written word, preferring triple scrambled land based telephone lines or face to face communication for their business. But on rare (and usually disastrous) occasions, paper messages were employed.

He opened the envelope to find two pieces of paper inside. The first was a fragment of a report typed on standard letter paper. "While the control group is continuing to develop as expected, ninety percent of the current generation exposed to the antimorphic agents are showing signs of unpredictable and uncontrollable transformation, as well as irreversible genetic degradation. It is recommended that all of the exposed be isolated and studied in a strictly controlled environment."

A second note was on heavier cardstock, the kind used to package cigarettes. The message on it was phrased much more simply. "This will be announced within twenty four hours." Flipping it over, he saw the familiar red and white Morley brand logo.

Chagrined that his underling's spy network within the Consortium was much more efficient than his own, Well Manicured Man stood up from the chair and walked to the fireplace. He stared into the fire for several minutes before feeding the notes to the flames. But destroying the note would not destroy the orders he would shortly have to issue.

He turned back to his desk and picked up an old, framed picture. Two girls aged fifteen and twelve, and a boy of seventeen smiled for the camera, innocence and hope shining in their eyes. Two of them were dead, one still lived, but all three of the children sacrificed for his cause. And the one who lived would make yet another unwilling sacrifice.

Sadness flooded him, a feeling he hadn't felt for such a long time that it was as alien to him as any creature from outer space. He had once thought it would best serve her interests if she were to become one of the Consortium, that a measure of power would grant her and the ones she loved a measure of protection. However, this report changed all that. For Jessica Leahs, there would be no power, no protection. His niece would never be swayed to join him. Instead she would hate him and possibly try to kill him. And to tell the truth, Well Manicured Man could not blame her.

But personal regrets and interests could not be allowed to interfere with the Plan. His situation was not unique; his comrades had also paid for their power with their family. It would be expected of him to keep Jess under control once things began to happen. He touched the buzzer on his oak desk, summoning his valet. "I am needed Washington DC. Have the jet prepared and inform me as soon as it is ready."

* * * * *

The five canines moved through the night as if they owned it. Their gait would not have been out of place in the deep forest where their wolf kindred still walked unmolested by humans. And oddly enough, in the heart of Washington DC, they did not seem out of place.

The smallest of the three adult canids was a coal black female, scouting ahead of the others. The largest male, walking to the rear of the pack, had the more traditional markings of a wolf. The black and white puppy dashed between the similarly marked male and the gold adolescent. Occasionally the puppy would dash ahead, only to obediently heel at a quiet voiced 'woof' from one of the adults.

The female continued to wander among the buildings, seemingly at random. The males, subadult female, and the puppy followed until the female halted. She had stopped in front of a pool of spilled motor oil. Lowering her head gingerly, she stared into the eyes of her reflection, head tilting slightly, nostrils dilating as her breath went from calmly even to a series of violent snorts. She jerked her muzzle away as if stung, and began to frantically backpedal only to bump into the black and white male. Nuzzling her cheek, he put paw over her shoulders and drew her trembling body close to his, an extremely human gesture for a canine to make. ~It's okay, Jess.~

~I know, Alex, I know.~ The werewolf's mental voice was a little shaky. Jess leaned against Krycek, absorbing some measure of confidence from one of her mates.

Skinner slid along her right, protecting her exposed side, nuzzling her cheek and grooming the short fur behind her ear. ~It's only been three months since you were possessed, Jess. You don't have to do this now.~

Jess her weight so she now leaned against Skinner, sighing heavily. ~Yes I do. I can't let my body being hijacked by the Black Cancer keep me in hiding.~ Her tone became ironically humorous. ~Besides, I'm a bad-ass werewolf. I can't the Consortium think that waving a quart of 10-40 weight in my face can scare me.~

Skinner's tail wagged in spite of himself at the image of Cancerman advancing towards Jess, a bottle of motor oil held before him like the crucifix of a priest confronting a vampire. Krycek was also grinning as he nuzzled Jess once before untangling himself from her. Walking with a sure step, Krycek stepped over puddle and looked back at Jess, waiting. ~Come on. If I can do it, you can.~

The black werewolf took a deep breath. Jess took a few steps forward, paused fractionally before the pool, and then quickly stepped over it. Once on the other side, she lowered her head and sighed again. ~Whew!~

The puppy tumbled over to Jess and began to lick at her muzzle. Jess gave a doggy grin and knocked her muzzle into the pup, sweeping her off her feet. Amanda rolled over and then leapt up, losing interest in Jess's muzzle and becoming fascinated with Lindy's tail - interested enough to give it a sharp nip.

Lindy gave a mock startled yelp. ~Ow! My tail! I'll bet Ms. Scully's gonna have to amputate it now.~ She pinned her sister to the ground with one paw and began tickling Lindy unmercifully.

~Now, now Lindy,~ Jess mindspoke in a chiding tone. ~Don't give what you won't be willing to take.~ Jess knocked Lindy to the ground and began tickling both the blond and the black and white puppies.

Krycek watched, his tail waving back and forth slowly. <Now that's the Jess I know,> he thought, <the Jess I've seen too little of lately.> Moving to join in the mock battle, he paused, one foot in the air, head twisting back over his shoulder. Skinner noted his pose. ~Is something wrong Alex?~

Krycek's head twisted around, nose dilating. ~I thought I smelled no, smell isn't right. I thought I sensed something.~

~'Sensed something?'~ Skinner trotted over to Krycek and gave him a friendly shoulder bump. ~You're starting to sound like Mulder.~ Skinner ducked the set of teeth snapping in the vicinity of his right ear. ~Do you think we're being followed?~

~I'm not sure.~ Krycek's ears swiveled as he scanned the surroundings. ~Stick close to Jess and keep your eyes peeled. But don't tell her. She's got enough on her mind as is.~

* * * * *

Jess stepped out of the shower. She wiped the moisture from her body before stretching out the last of her tension. Although she Changed into a werewolf often and with precise control, there was always a price to be paid in pain during the transformation. She then wrapped herself in a fluffy towel, tossed a second one over her head, and went into the bedroom. "Where's Alex?"

Skinner, clad only in briefs, stood up from where he had been sitting on the bed. "He's cleaning up the mess you tracked in." He smiled when Jess looked at the floor in embarrassment. "I still don't understand what you were doing."

Jess turned back to the mirror. She answered his question as she toweled off her hair. "I was asserting my dominance over my fears."

Skinner's eyebrows shot skyward. "By rolling in an oil puddle?" he asked as he stepped up behind her.

Jess, looking at his reflection in the mirror, tapped the side of her nose. "Scent is the primary way a wolf experiences the world. One of the basic instincts is that if you smell like it, it won't hurt you." She smiled a bit sheepishly and turned to face him. "And I know it's silly, but I do feel better for have done it."

Skinner nuzzled the top of her head, inhaling deeply. "Well, you may feel better, but I prefer it when you smell like this." He peppered kisses in her hair, slowly moving down to her face.

Jess tried to hold still, but trembled slightly. Her eyes closed and her lips slightly parted as Skinner reached the bridge of her nose. She pressed up to brush Skinner's lips, but shrank back when he leaned his weight against her.

Skinner sighed inwardly as he stepped back. Jess was almost back to her normal self, except for one area. When she had been abducted by the alien intelligence, she had spent the night with the Smoking Man. She had images of her and Cancerman having sex, images she wasn't sure were true memories, or implanted ones to torment her. But real or false, they had affected her. When Skinner or Krycek tried to touch her, she shied away.

Jess's shoulders slumped. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes. <How much longer are you going to let it rule you?> she chided herself. It wasn't that Jess was no longer interested in sex. Far from it, she was craving the feel of Skinner's hands, Krycek's lips. But when they touched her, she flashed on images of her and Cancerman.

Her memories of when the alien intelligence had used her body as a host were extremely fragmented. Most of the images she could deal with. She had killed many times before when in a rage, and could (perhaps a bit too easily) rationalize away the guilt over those acts. The sexual impressions from that time period were enough to stop her cold. Just the way, a long time ago, her thoughts of Jake Farnsworth had stopped her

Her eyes opened wide at that revelation. <I'm acting just like I did when Jake raped me.> She hadn't met Mulder until a year after it happened, but she had still turned away from him the first time touched her. Mulder had taught her that there were men who still desired her, despite what Jake had done to her. But here she was letting herself fall into a victim role she had sworn that she'd never assume again. <And I'll be damned if I go a year without feeling Alex and Walter inside me.>

Skinner was watching her face. He could see a mental struggle was going on. When her eyes opened her eyes, Skinner saw a gleam that had not been in since her possession. Still, he was surprised when Jess stepped into his space and put her arms around him. She began rubbing herself shamelessly against his body, causing the towel to fall away. Skinner wasn't in a mood to find out what spurred on this change in attitude, especially when Jess stated to lick at his nipples. He did have one question. "Shouldn't we wait for Alex?"

Jess leaned back so she could look Skinner in the eye. He quivered at the sensation of her pubic hair brushing against his thigh. Her hands skimmed down his sides to slip inside the front of his briefs. "Alex can wait his turn."

* * * * *

Krycek yawned as he walked down the hallway, feeling rather well pleased with how things were going. Jess had reacted well for having been possessed by the Oilien so recently, Skinner seemed to be adapting to being a werewolf quite well, Lindy wasn't showing any signs of impending teen rebellion, and he had managed to get Amanda down to sleep with a minimum of fuss.

Out of habit, he opened the door to the hall closet, quickly glancing at the shelves to see if he could spot a hidden microphone. They were used to having the house swept regularly for bugs. They left a few strands of hair scattered loose in drawers and other likely hiding places. If the hairs appeared to be disturbed or were missing, the area was immediately checked. They had an effective, if low tech, way of neutralizing them until they could be removed. If it were an audio bug, Jess would position a stereo speaker near it and play Meatloaf's "Wasted Youth" at full blast. Once they had actually seen a van start to rock the moment the music was turned on. If it were a video bug, the lens would be blocked with a smirk and whatever was handy, usually bubble gum if Lindy was around.

A low sound made Krycek look in the direction it came from, his grin growing wider. <Yes, Jess is definitely doing better,> he thought. Hidden microphones and cameras were the last thing on his mind as he opened the bedroom door. Krycek swallowed hard, moaning quietly as his eyes traveling from where Skinner nipped at Jess's neck, where two fingers mercilessly plucked at a rose pink nipple, and where two fingers disappeared between her legs. Jess arched, hissed and relaxed. Skinner's lips traveled to her ear. He whispered something before licking the lobe. Jess's lust glazed eyes opened and slid down Krycek's body, resting on spot where the robe the tented. Her left hand stroked up and down the empty spot on the bed beside her once as she licked her lips.

Krycek didn't need a second invitation. He shed the robe while crossing the room and crawled onto the bed. Skinner slid back, pulling Jess with him. Jess gave a soft grunt and pressed harder against Skinner. Krycek kissed a trail from Jess's collarbone to her pubic hair, lingering over Skinner's hands where they covered her breasts. Krycek's hands parted Jess's legs and watched intently as Skinner's cock disappeared into Jess. Skinner began to thrust, and Krycek bent his head closer.

Skinner moaned at the feel of Jess. She was tight, probably since she hadn't slept with either of them for three months. He kept his thrusts shallow, partially because of that, partially from the awkward position. Skinner jumped when Jess gave an unexpected yip, and then barked one himself when he felt Krycek nuzzle his balls.

Krycek took his time, licking first Jess and then Skinner. He groaned around Skinners balls when a warm hand and a warm mouth descended on his cock. He glanced up and was able to see Skinner guiding him into Jess's mouth before her free hand pushed Krycek's head back down. Skinner kept his hold on Krycek's cock, adding gentle squeezes to Jess's suction.

They fell into an easy rhythm of lick, thrust, and suck. Krycek couldn't say how long they kept it up, but a series of sharp grunts alerted him that Jess was close. He sped up his licks, until he could feel her move in one continuous quiver. Skinner's grip on his cock spasmed, and then Krycek was flooding Jess's mouth.

Krycek just lay there, limp and content. After a few minutes, he turned around so they were all head to head and smiled as Jess nuzzled his cheek and then Skinner's. "Missed that," she murmured sleepily. Jess rolled onto Skinner, pulling Krycek on top of her, and promptly fell asleep. Skinner smiled before threading his fingers through Krycek's and closing his eyes. Krycek allowed himself a self-satisfied grin and thought before falling asleep. <Things are looking up.>

* * * * *

Skinner eyed the stack of paperwork awaiting his approval. That was one of the downsides of having been promoted from Special Agent - the red tape and bureaucracy that came with the position. <But on the bright side, that cigarette smoking bastard isn't around today,> Skinner thought. Resigned to the fact that it would be several hours before he made any headway into the pile, He reluctantly picked up the first of the folders and began reviewing its contents.

So he was grateful when Kimberly buzzed him on the intercom. "Sir, Jessica Leahs is here to see you."

He carefully screened the surprise out of his voice. "Send her in." Skinner continued reading the file until he heard the door open.

Standing in the doorway, Jess cocked her head to one side. "Am I interrupting something important?" she asked.

"Only paperwork." Skinner closed the folder, put it on the desk, and then stood up. "What are you doing here?"

Jess smiled and pulled a cell phone out of her purse as she walked forward. "I thought you might want this. I almost called you to check, but realized how silly that would be." She paused for a moment, shifting her weight from foot to foot, like she had another thing to say, but wasn't certain of how to phrase it. "I, uh, just wanted to say thanks for sticking with me. I know I haven't been the easiest person to live with the last few months"

"Jess," Skinner rumbled, taking one of her hands. "You have a more than legitimate excuse not to be yourself. I would be more concerned if you weren't acting strange."

Jess gave him a half smile. "Some people would say that acting strange *is* normal for me."

"You know what I mean." It still puzzled Skinner how Jess had a hard time believing that someone could love her. Krycek had told him that it had taken her a while to believe that Krycek cared for her despite what an abusive boyfriend had trained her to believe. Although Jess did trust Skinner, it was clear that she didn't yet have that same comfort zone with him. Deciding that it would be best to keep things light for the moment, he changed the subject. "Do you have any plans for today?"

Jess shook her head. "Lindy's in school, Amanda's at daycare, and Alex is doing some translations at the library, so I'm out causing what mayhem I can."

Skinner nodded. "Then can I interest you in lunch?"

She grinned. "I think I might be able to squeeze you into my busy schedule. And when have I ever been known to turn down a free mea"

As her voice trailed off, Jess's normally pale skin went pallid and her eyes rolled back in her head. Skinner caught her before she slid to the ground. Slipping an arm around her waist, he steered her to the couch. "Jess? Are you okay?"

As Jess half sat, half fell down, her beeper began chiming. She curled over, placing her head between her knees. "I think so. Some sort of dizzy spell." Fumbling at her waist, she pulled out her pager and hit the buttons, squinting at the readout. She sat up so suddenly, Skinner was certain she would pass out for certain this time. "I need a phone."

* * * * *

Stacey hurried down the hallway to answer the knock at her door. She wasn't expecting any more of her clients to be dropping off their kids this early in the morning. She ran a daycare for infants and school age children out of her home, but the only client currently on the roster for morning care was Amanda Leahs, and she had been dropped off three hours ago. Stacey opened the door, and did a double take. "Ms. Leahs? What are you doing back?"

Jess smiled apologetically. "There's been a family emergency, and I need to pick up Amanda now. I also want you to know that I'll be out of town for the next few weeks. I'm sorry for the short notice."

Stacey nodded. "I understand. I'll get Amanda right away." She walked down the hallway to the one of the bedrooms. Amanda sat on the floor, staring at the videotape of the Telletubbies playing on the television. Stacey's little terrier lay curled against the little girl, head over one chubby thigh. Stacey had always thought it odd that her dog always tried to get close to Amanda, but would avoid the other toddlers.

She bent over and picked up the 13 month old. Amanda made a noise in protest as Stacey carried her back to the living room. Once away from the TV, the baby made happy noises, grabbing at Stacey's long hair until she saw her mother standing in the doorway. Amanda shrank back into Stacey's arms. Jess continued to reach for the baby, ignoring the child's obvious distress. "I don't know what's gotten into her," Stacey said, twisting so Jess could easily pluck Amanda from her.

Jess smiled. "She gets these moods sometimes." Amanda seemed determined to prove Jess's statement and began to scream at the top of her lungs, flailing her arms and legs. Jess bounced the toddler in her arms. "It's okay."

Amanda then let out a howl of earsplitting proportions. <She sounds more like a dog than a baby,> Stacey thought. <Is she actually *growling?*> She gasped sharp in disbelief. The baby in Jess's arms seemed to be undergoing some sort of transformation. The tiny ears became pointed and furry, and a small muzzle filled with small, sharp teeth extended. And those small, sharp teeth bit into Jess's left bicep.

Jess screamed and released her hold on the puppy/baby. Part of Stacey's mind registered that the animal began scampering away at top speed as soon as she hit the floor. But what really had her attention was the wound on Jess's arm that was bubbling green blood. Breathing became very difficult as a chemical smell assaulted her nostrils, searing her sinuses. The last thing she saw before passing out was Jess's oval face shifting into a square-jawed masculine form.

* * * * *

Mulder pulled up to the crime scene with almost no knowledge why he was here. He had received a call from Skinner, asking him to come to this address. Mulder took in the ambulance, the black and white units, and the police tape blocking off the entrance to what looked like a family home. "Agent Mulder!" Mulder turned at the sound of his name. AD Skinner was getting out of a police car.

"Sir." Mulder changed directions and met Skinner half way. "What's going on?"

Skinner's face was grim. "Jess was in my office when she got an emergency page from her daycare. There was an incident here an hour ago. All the children are accounted for, except for one - Amanda."

Mulder took a deep breath. "And you don't think that's a coincidence."

"No, I don't." Skinner dropped his voice. "And before you ask where Alex is, he knows that despite his criminal record being purged, he wouldn't last five minutes here." He looked back at the police car. Mulder noticed for the first time that Jess was sitting in its back seat. "She asked me to call you."

Mulder nodded. "I'll go talk to her." He stepped past Skinner then to the car. Jess sat with her head leaning forward against the front seat headrest,. Mulder opened the door and crouched down to her eye level. "Jess?"

For a moment, he thought she wasn't going to respond. But slowly her turned toward him. The usual gleam in her eyes were gone, her face a blank. One word described how she looked - beaten. She looked at him, blinked, and pulled herself out of the private hell she was inhabiting. "Mulder?"

Mulder had only seen Jess in this state twice before, once when she discovered he knew what she was, and once when she thought Krycek was dead. "Jess, what happened?"

"I. I don't know. They won't tell me." One of her hand reached out to grasp Mulder's, the other one remained tightly clenched by her stomach. "All I know is that Amanda's missing." She paused to take a breath. Her next words were a bare whisper. "And I think They took her."

This was a pain that was familiar and yet alien to him at the same time - familiar from the loss of Samantha, alien because she was his sister, not his daughter. He slowly disentangled himself from her grip, wincing when he saw the gouges his hand left by her nails. "Jess, I'm going to see if I can find anything else, okay?" Jess nodded once and settled back into the seat, staring again at the headrest in front of her.

Mulder walked over to the knot of trench coats standing near the ambulance. Coming closer, he recognized AD Kersh, and Special Agent Spender, A young woman sat in the back of it, breathing from an oxygen mask. An EMT hovered nearby, monitoring her vital signs. Neither man acknowledged Mulder's presence but continued listening to the daycare giver. "I thought it was odd that Ms. Leahs was back so quickly." Stacey shook her head. "When she drops Amanda off, it's usually for the day. And Amanda just acted weird around her."

Mulder immediately pounced on that statement. "Weird, how?"

Spender shot Mulder an irritated look, but quickly focused on the woman's answer. "Normally, Amanda is just lights up when she sees her mommy." Stacey paused to take another breath from the oxygen mask. "She'll practically leap from my arms into Ms. Leahs'. But this time, she didn't want anything to do with her."

The odd catch in the babysitter's voice caught Spender's attention. "Her? You mean Ms. Leahs."

"Yes well, no." Stacey shook her head and looked to him appealingly. "It sounds crazy, I know, but she looked exactly like Ms. Leahs at first, but then she started to look like a he." She shook her head. "But I had to be hallucinating, because Amanda looked like a dog and Ms. Leahs bled green blood." Stacey began coughing and turned to take another breath from the oxygen mask.

At that point the EMT monitoring her spoke up. "If that will be all, gentlemen, I need to transport Mrs. Ray to a hospital."

The three FBI agents backed away from the ambulance. It hadn't even turned the corner before Kersh began laying down the law. "Special Agent Spender is in charge of this case," he said in a tone that invited no opposition.

Mulder, however, wasn't one to let the lack of an invitation stop him. "But you heard the babysitter. This case is obviously an X-File," he protested.

Kersh was not about to give in. "Due to his relationship with the child's mother, Assistant Director Skinner is a suspect. Therefore, no one in his department will be assigned to this case. You will make yourself available to answer Agent Spender's questions. Aside from that, you are not to be involved in this case in an investigative or advisory manner."

"Sir, I'm familiar with the mother of the child. She's requested that I help," Mulder protested.

Spender fixed Mulder with an icy glare. "The way you helped my mother?"

Mulder didn't reply to Spender's taunt. At Dr Werber's request, he met with Cassandra Spender, before he knew who her son was. She disappeared from her psychiatric ward bed after she begged him to stop what she called an imminent holocaust for the entire human race. So he said nothing as Spender and Kersh walked away, already discussing what details would be released to the media. He looked over at the police car where Jess and Skinner waited. Jess was leaning against Skinner, who was stroking her hair reassuringly. Kersh may have ordered him to stay away from this case as a professional, but he would be involved as Jess's friend.

* * * * *

Cancerman lit a cigarette before he stepped into the paneled office on East 46th Street in New York City. He was about to give a report to his superiors on the extraction of the werewolf cubs. All except one had gone smoothly. The fact that one did not would not sit well with them. Once they found out which pack it was from, they would have more reasons to be concerned.

He opened the door to find the Elder and Well Manicured Man waiting for him. The Elder wasted no time. "Have the retrievals been completed?"

"Yes, they have been completed." Cigarette Smoking Man paused for one moment. "There is a problem. One retrieval did not go as planned."

"Which one?" There was an ugly edge to Well Manicured Man's voice.

"Amanda Leahs. The cub put up an unexpected resistance."

"But the cub is now in our possession." The Elder waited for the Cigarette Smoking Man's confirmation.

Cancerman removed the cigarette from his mouth. "No, not as of yet."

"Good god!" Well Manicured Man exploded. "You mean that a cub is wandering loose? Why aren't you managing the situation personally?"

"It cannot have gotten far." The studied calm face belied Cancerman's concerns. "Although its tracking device is malfunctioning, it is contained in a small area. It will only be a matter of time before it is captured. The press covering the 'attempted kidnapping' are being handled by our people, and our new man at the FBI is in charge of the case."

"If it is not captured soon, it could cause an unrepairable breach of plausible denial." The Elder shot Cancerman a sharp glance. "What of the sire and dam?"

"Both are upset, of course," Cancerman said with a dismissive gesture, "but they know they are in no position to expose us. For them to do so would also expose activities of their own that they would prefer to keep hidden."

The Elder nodded. "Have they been contacted?"

The Cigarette Smoking Man shook his head. "No. At this moment, to contact them would cause exposure."

Well Manicured Man leaned forward. "When direct contact is to be made, I should be the one to initiate it. Jessica will not attack me."

"Are you certain of that?"

Well Manicured Man ignored the skepticism in the Elder's voice. "She knows that if she kills me, someone else will become her handler. That person may not be as understanding towards her as I am."

The Elder considered Well Manicured Man's statement. "Very well. But once she becomes a serious threat, her usefulness as a test subject will be reevaluated." He turned back to the Cigarette Smoking Man. "Make certain the cub is captured before our allies find out and decide to take matters into their own hands."

* * * * *

From the crime scene, Jess and Skinner had gone to the press conference to alert the public to a missing child. Jess had, as any mother would, begged for the return of her flesh and blood. Ignoring requests for interviews, they had headed for home. Mulder was already there, talking to Krycek. Now they were waiting for any word, with the press camped out up and down the street.

Jess was seated on the couch - bare heels pressed into the cushion, ankles crossed, one arm looped around her knees, forehead resting on it. Lindy sat next to her, holding Jess's free hand. In contrast, Krycek paced the room restlessly, stopping every so often to glare through the windows at the press vans parked on the street. Skinner was looking out the window, wondering how many of the reporters were Syndicate spies.

Mulder hung up the phone. He had contacted Scully, who was attending a forensics seminar on the West Coast. "Scully's on her way back."

Jess nodded and pushed her fingers through her hair. "Like she's going to be able to do anything," she muttered.

Krycek whipped around to face her. "Jess! Don't talk like that!"

Her upper lip lifted in a snarl. "Hell, we can act for the press like the dutiful parents, begging for the return for our child. But we all know what really happened. And we know that it's a snowball's chance in hell that we'll find her before They do."

Krycek snorted. "And we're supposed to do nothing?"

"Hell no!" Jess stood up, keeping eye contact with him. "But we've got to face the fact that we may not find her."

Jess and Krycek continued in their staredown. Both blinked at the same moment. "Alex, we can't fight each other, That's what They want."

"And we can't do nothing, Jess." Krycek countered softly. "They want that as well."

Jess sat down and Krycek resumed his pacing. Nothing more was said for several minutes. Then Mulder had one of the insights that helped earn him the nickname 'Spooky.' "What if we're looking for the wrong Amanda?"

"Wrong Amanda?" Krycek glared at Mulder in incomprehension. "What the hell are you talking about?"

Mulder shrugged. "All our search efforts have focused on finding a missing child. What if she Changed and has been a wolf ever since? She could be staying canid as a mean of protection, and the police would pass her by and not know."

Jess pressed her palms against her temples, threading her fingers through her hair. "Let's assume you're right, Mulder. But if Amanda is running loose in wolf form, why hasn't she come home? That should be her first reaction, her primary instinct."

"Maybe she can't." Lindy twisted around so she could look at Jess. "This was obviously planned, right? So maybe they had a backup plan in case something went wrong, people out there to get her if she did manage to get away. Maybe they're between us and her, so she can't come home."

Krycek nodded. "Lindy's right. They always plan for every contingency. Amanda's probably too far away for us to sense and can't get closer."

"Let's assume that you and Lindy are right," Skinner said. "What do we do?"

Krycek shrugged. "One of us goes out there and gets her. No, Jess," he said as she started to get off the couch. "You can't. You need to stay here for the press. Same for you Walter. So that leaves me."

"What if you come across the people searching for Amanda?" asked Mulder.

Krycek gave him a slightly disdainful look. "I can handle them."

"And if they're not human, Alex?" Jess asked softly. He didn't answer her, but held her gaze. This was different from their standoff earlier, a silent communication. "You're right. We don't have a choice. But be careful. And bring our daughter home."

* * * * *

Spender really didn't know why he went back to the crime scene, except that the longer he was in the office staring at the reports, the less sense they made. He thought that maybe a change of scenery might help him put things into perspective. Not only did the daycare worker's statement make no sense, but the whole assignment was becoming more bizarre. His father <if I can call him that, for all the good he did Mom and me> had promised him a fast rise to power. All he had to do was investigate this missing child case, and keep Fox Mulder away from it.

And keeping Fox Mulder away from this case would be difficult. Spender knew the moment he saw Mulder at the crime scene that Mulder would be poking his nose where it didn't belong. He hadn't spouted off any theories involving alien abduction, but Spender thought that would only be a matter of time. And heaven help him when that happened. But what he found more interesting was what he was not being told by either Mulder or his father. His friend from Quantico, Tom Colton, had clued him in that Jess was an old girlfriend of Mulder's, was known to be involved with the renegade agent Alex Krycek, and was currently sleeping with AD Skinner. But when he went to requisition the file, it was reported as missing. How those fact fit in with the missing child, he wasn't certain yet. He did know that they most likely did.

As a matter of course, he had run a background check on her, and was surprised when an X-File case number came back in the information. Curiosity getting the better of him, Spender had gone down to the basement to take a look at it. Mulder sullenly had pointed to one of the black cabinets, clearly not happy that Spender was in charge of this case. Not expecting any help, Spender started searching the cabinets. Eventually he turned to Mulder. "It's not here."

With a look of annoyance, Mulder stood up, pulled a drawer open, and started rifling through the contents. He did it a second time. "It's not here," he said with a bit of surprise. Spender rolled his eyes. Mulder searched several other drawers and his desk with no luck. A quick call to records retention was also fruitless. It was if the file had grown legs and walked out.

The sound of metal hitting cement pulled him out of his thoughts. Spender turned back in time to see one of the dented garbage cans at the mouth of the alley he had just passed rocking on the ground. Knowing the kind of men he now worked for, Spender drew his weapon and called out a challenge. "Federal Agent. Who's there?" There were more sounds of metal on cement and a small quiet whine. <Some sort of animal,> Spender thought, slowly holstering his gun. "Come on out, it's okay," he coaxed.

A small black and white canine head cautiously poked out from behind the garbage can. Wanting a closer look, Spender knelt down and continued to call the pup. He pulled the half sandwich left over from lunch out of his coat pocket to use as a lure. At the smell of fresh food, the husky pup tumbled clear of the garbage cans, bellying forward with tail tucked between its legs, clearly torn between hunger and the desire to run. Spender tossed the sandwich on the ground a foot out of his reach. The pup ran eagerly to the food and started to devour it without a sidelong glance.

Spender looked at the puppy with interest. It was female and didn't look like a stray. Although she had no collar, the black and white fur was far too clean for a dog that had been on the street for a while. But the thing that attracted his interest was that the animal had an extra toe on each white stockinged paw - five instead of the normal four, giving her absurdly large feet. A closer look at the mouth revealed an irritated pinkness, some sort of chemical burn that had almost healed. Cautiously aware of the fact that those little teeth were sharp, he reached out and patted the puppy on her head.

Last crumbs of the sandwich gone, the puppy looked at him, her white tipped tail beginning to wag slowly, but quickly gaining speed. She bounced over to Spender put her oversized forepaws up on his knees and looked up at him. He picked up the small bundle of fur and was rewarded with a sloppy lick across his face. "What am I going to do with you?" Spender wondered out loud. The pup snuggled against his chest, tail wagging furiously. He thought about several things as he knelt there with the canine in his arms - he had always wanted a dog and never had one because his father did not allow animals in the house, he didn't have anyone to take care of an animal if he got called out of town on a case, and there was a 'no pets' rule at his apartment.

With a sigh of regret, Spender was just about to put the pup down when he realized she had fallen asleep in his arms. <She trusts me,> he thought with a bit of wonder. No one had trusted him for a long time - not his mother once he started questioned her belief in aliens, not Mulder, not his partner Diana Fowley who he suspected was sleeping with and reporting to his father, not his father who had promised him power but had yet to deliver. That was what made his decision.

He stood up and took the puppy back to his car. One sleepy, green eye opened and then shut when she was put down on the passenger seat of the car. He then got in and started for home.

* * * * *

It was a simple matter for him to slip out unnoticed from through the back yard. The reporters paid no attention to him, a dog that slipped his leash and was wandering down the street, intent on whatever business dogs have. But Alex Krycek had business, but of an all too human nature. What hadn't been easy to do was to slip away alone. Once he left the room to prepare, Lindy had followed. "I'm going with you."

Krycek shook his head. "No, Lindy. It's too dangerous, especially if there are aliens involved." Lindy's blue eyes narrowed at Krycek's pronouncement. Trying to soothe the teenager, he put a calming hand on her shoulder. "It's not that you can't take care of yourself, but I don't think Jess could handle if anything happened to you now."

The corner of Lindy's mouth twitched, but she nodded. "Okay." It was clear that she didn't agree with him, but was willing to abide by his request. Krycek squeezed her shoulder affectionately. Lindy then left the room so he could strip to the skin, change, and slip out the window. But still, once outside, he waited a few minutes, making sure the second youngest member of the pack honored his wishes.

The first place Krycek went was the daycare center. There were still signs of the investigation that had taken place earlier - the police tape marking the area, where the abduction had taken place, ever so faint traces of fingerprint dust on the doorknob, the lingering scent of exhaust. He hoped he would be able to find some hint of Amanda's presence.

Nose to the ground, Krycek began trotting back and forth. A few feet from the front door, he smelled Amanda's scent. Tail flagged in eagerness, he followed her trail through bushes, across one street and into a back alley filled with dented garbage cans, broken wooden pallets, and discarded cardboard boxes. In short, it was the perfect place for a puppy to hide from human pursuers.

But there was no sign of her being there at the moment. Careful not to cross the trail and mask the scent, he retraced her route pawprint by pawprint. Her odor grew heavier behind two overturned trashcans. <She sat here for a long time,> Krycek thought. <Then she went where?>

Cautiously, he stepped over the garbage cans, only to find that the scent stopped abruptly. And a second odor took over, one that made his fur bristle. <Cancerman! No, wait> Krycek inhaled deeply, closing his eyes to concentrate. <Smells *like* that smoking son of a bitch, but it's not him. Who?>

The sound of tramping boots made him lose his train of thought. Krycek backed into the shadows, watching and waiting. A tall, square jawed man walked into the light and stopped exactly where Amanda's trail ended.

Krycek recognized him from his time as Cancerman's lackey. His fur involuntarily bristled, and he barely managed to stifle his growl. This entity was always referred to by the Consortium as the Bounty Hunter. Krycek had never heard his true name and wasn't even sure that his species had anything like the human concept of names. That did not make him any less deadly.

Or feared.

The Bounty Hunter stood there, taking in the measure of the area. Krycek held still, barely breathing for fear of betraying his presence. He had no desire too see if the alien's weaponry was as effective against werewolves as it was against other aliens.

The entity's head turned, looking into the alley. If Krycek had been still before, now he was a stature. The alien continued to stare, and Krycek was certain he was found out. He crouched, muscles contracting for a preemptive leap. <If I can surprise him, I might be able to get one paw behind his head and claw him in the neck>

But there was no need for him to do so. Either unconcerned or unaware of the werewolf in the alley, the Bounty Hunter turned away and walked back in the direction he came from. Krycek waited until he could not hear any footsteps before stepping back onto the street. Keeping a wary eye the direction the alien had disappeared, he lowered his muzzle and sniffed at the spot he identified earlier, only to snort in disgust. <Can't smell anything but that goddammed alien stink.> Wrinkling his upper lip, he cast about in several directions, only to be stymied by the new scent. After violently sneezing, Krycek padded away in the direction opposite of the one the Bounty Hunter took, hoping he would both find Amanda soon and avoid any more of the aliens.

* * * * *

Juggling his keys, the doorknob, and the puppy hidden beneath his trench coat was no easy task. But somehow Spender managed it, but not without one or two high pitched squeaks. Once the door was shut, he pulled the puppy out from beneath his coat and patted her apologetically. The small husky squirmed, eager to be on the floor and exploring.

Once the dog was on the ground, Spender turned on the television for background noise as he pulled off his suit jacket and began rummaging around in the closet for a few things. On air at this moment was a replay of the news briefing about the missing child. The puppy continued to wander around the room sniffing in various corners until Jessica Leahs was on screen. At the sound of Jess making tearful pleas for the return of her daughter, the puppy tumbled over to the television. She put her forepaws on the TV, her wagging tail a blur. She began to bark, eager high-pitched yips of excitement. "Shhh," Spender soothed as he picked up the puppy, worried about the neighbors turning him in to his landlord. The puppy squirmed, whimpering when Spender turned off the television. "That's enough TV for both of us tonight."

Rubbing the fur behind her ears, Spender carried her into the bedroom. He had placed cardboard box in one corner after lining it with a soft blanket. After putting the puppy in it, Spender got ready for bed. Every so often he'd look at the box and grin at the sight of disembodied ears and tail circling the inside of the box. Eventually the pup jumped out of the box and trotted over to the bed. Looking around nonchalantly, she leapt up on the bed, circled three times, and lay down with a contented sigh.

As adorable as she looked, Spender was not about to let a dog with god-only-knows how many fleas sleep on his bed. "Down," Spender said, pointing to the floor. Someone had obviously spent time on training the puppy before she ended up on the street because she immediately dropped to the floor. Spender nodded as he got between the sheets. "Good girl." The puppy had dipped her head in submission, but those big green eyes were staring at him with a puzzled what-did-I-do look. Spender sighed, feeling the first stirrings of guilt. "Don't look at me like that." Her woebegotten expression deepened as he turned off the light and settled down to sleep.

A quiet whimper floated up to him from floor level. After dropping a hand over the side of the bed, Spender was rewarded with a cold, wet nose nudging his fingers. He rubbed around her head until he found the spot just behind the puppy's ears that started her tail wagging rapidly. After a final pat, he rolled over and closed his eyes.

A second whimper reached his ears. This one was only a little louder, but much lonelier sounding. Loneliness was something he was all to familiar with from time wondering where his mother was or why his father had abandoned him. Spender sighed and patted a spot on the mattress. "Okay, you win."

The puppy didn't have to be told twice. She jumped on the bed immediately. Spender rolled onto his side, propping up his head with one arm. The little dog licked his face once before curling nose-to-tail near his chest. "God help me when I try to eat breakfast tomorrow." The white tipped tail wagged twice at the sound of his voice. "What am I going to call you?" he mused, stroking the black and white fur.

The puppy yawned, reminding Spender of how tired he was. With a yawn of his own, he shut his eyes, promising himself he'd name the puppy tomorrow.

* * * * *

Jess stared out into the darkness, seeing nothing. It was the hour before sunrise. <It's always darkest before dawn.> The old cliché rang hollow in her mind. Moving silently to the living room window, she pulled one corner of the curtains aside, hoping to find that the front lawn didn't have reporters camped out on it, proof that the last eighteen hours had been a bad dream.

With a sigh, she let the curtain fall back into place. Krycek had been out searching now for six hours. Aside from scenting Amanda near the daycare, there had been no sign of her. He had mindspoke that much to her, as well as his encounter with the alien. Still he searched on, turning up nothing. Now exhausted in body and mind, he was heading home to rest before starting again.

She was so intent on watching that she jumped when something touched her feet. Patches meowed loudly, rubbing against Jess's legs. She picked up the calico cat and rubbed her forehead against the silky fur. Patches wriggled out of her arms and trotted into the kitchen, right over to her dishes. The calico cat looked at the empty bowls, sighing tragically. Taking the hint, Jess poured fresh water into one, and opened the cabinet where the cat food was stored. She grabbed the bag and realized that it was too light. Opening the bag confirmed what she thought - it was empty.

That was the last straw for Jess. All her fears and worries and frustrations bubbled to the surface. "Damn, hell, shit, fuck!" Jess snarled. She slammed the cabinet door shut and threw the ceramic bowl across the room. It hit the far wall, shattering on impact. Patches gave a startled cry and fled for the relative safety of the living room. Jess slumped against the counter, buried her head in her hands, and began to sob, rocking back and forth.

An arm encircled her shoulders, and Jess leaned against it. It guided her over to the kitchen table. When she felt the edge of the chair against her calves, she automatically sat down, folding her arms and resting her head on them. Strong hands massaged and petted her shoulders and neck. She continued to sob and the stroking continued, offering silent comfort.

Eventually she sat back up. Skinner pulled a chair next to her. "I know she's not my daughter, biologically. But after every thing that's happened between us, what we've gone through, I can't help but feel that she's my daughter." Jess slowly placed her hand over his and squeezed, nodding. "But I can't imagine how torn up you are over this. I want to help."

Jess took a deep breath before rattling off her state of mind. "I don't know where my baby is. I should have known that They would have tried to do something like this and I should have prevented it. I feel like I should be out searching for her but can't leave because she might come back." Her next words were voiced in a tone of total defeat. "And we're out of cat food."

Skinner squeezed her hand. "We can do something about the last one, at least. What size bag do you get? The medium bag?"

"The small one, the eight pounder," Jess mumbled. "Do me a favor and take Lindy with you. She needs to get away from this." Meanwhile, Patches had sidled back into the room and circled around to Jess. Cautiously the cat rubbed against Jess's legs. Jess reached down and scooped Patches onto her lap, scratching her ears in apology. She then leaned over to rest her head on Skinner's shoulder, closing her eyes.

They stayed that way for some time. Just when he started to believe that Jess was asleep, she raised her head and looked at the door. The door was opened by a hairy paw. Krycek, as a werewolf, paced into the kitchen. He grabbed one of the robes kept by the door for when they came in canine. "We have got to install a pet door on that," he grumbled as he Changed. He sat down by Jess and took her hand.

Skinner nodded in agreement as he stood up. "I'll go get the cat food. Neither of you leave until I get back." Two weary nods were the response. Skinner left the kitchen, wondering how much longer they would be left wondering.

* * * * *

Spender stood in the middle of the mega-pet store, feeling a bit lost among all the aisles. He had just come to get some dog food and a bowl or two for the puppy. <Who knew there were so many different kinds of dog food, balls, chew toys, pet beds, crates, bowls, harnesses, collars and leashes out there?> At the clerk's recommendation, he picked up a book on dog training written by a Karin Berquist, in addition to some premium priced puppy food and a combination food and water dish. But he turned down the offer of free personalization for it. Spender couldn't shake the idea that she already had a name, and that he would figure it out eventually.

He was debating the merits of a hard rubber ball versus a rope chew toy when he heard someone call out his name. "Agent Spender?" Spender turned around, only to see AD Skinner standing behind him, along with a blond teenager who was holding a bag of cat food. "What are you doing here?"

Spender tilted the basket so Skinner could see the contents. "Just buying things for my dog before I get back to work," he said defensively.

One of Skinner's eyebrows arched. "I didn't realize you had a pet."

"I didn't, at least not until yesterday. She's an adorable thing with black and white fur, big green eyes, and extra toes." He could almost see the teenager's ears perk up at that. He wasn't certain what had caught her interest, but it was clear that she was paying close attention.

Lindy looked at Spender closely. Her nostrils flared twice, and her eyes went wide. "Where did you get her? Does she have a name?"

Spender shook his head. "I haven't named her yet. She's a stray that seems to have adopted me. Now if you'll excuse me?"

Skinner nodded and Spender walked towards the cashiers, aware of a pair of blue eyes scrutinizing him the whole way. Spender looked back from his position in the checkout line. Lindy was talking animatedly to Skinner and pointed in his direction. The AD looked up once in his direction, then back to the teenager and shook his head. Lindy said something, stamped her foot for emphasis, and tapped her nose. Skinner pulled out his cell phone when Spender realized that the he was next in line. Dismissing his boss from his thoughts, he paid for the pet food and started for home, mind once again trying to make heads or tails of the missing child case.

* * * * *

Cancerman stepped into his office, the only one there on a Saturday. Most of his support staff were able to maintain a sense of normalcy, a family that was blissfully unaware of their real business. He had given up that pretense on a cold night in October 1973.

The werewolf situation was the reason he came into the office. Amanda Leahs had disappeared, as if from the face of the earth. The Smoking Man wasn't ready to discount the possibility. If the rebel aliens had gained access to the Loup Garou Project, they may have decided to abduct one to study, and took advantage of the Consortium's botched attempt. Since there were so few werewolves that were not heavily guarded, it would be the logical choice to abduct one of the KLS pack, as Jess, Lindy, Krycek, Skinner and Amanda had come to be known.

The previous day's videotapes were on his desk, waiting for him. Some of these were of the KLS pack, some of Agents Mulder and Scully, but the one of Jeffrey Spender was the one he picked up. He had hopes for his son, hopes that he would be able to mold and direct him the way he had not been able to mold and direct Mulder. And to do that effectively, Cancerman needed access to areas of Spender's life that his son would not willingly share. Although his mind was still working over the problem of the missing Amanda Leahs, he placed the tape in the VCR and pressed play.

Taping his son was not an officially sanctioned act. However, all the Consortium members had some sort of side project that served their personal interests, such as Well Manicured Man's attempts at grooming Jessica Leahs as an heir to his position. It was Cancerman's private belief that none of the werewolves would never become trustworthy allies. Well Manicured Man kept forgetting that Jess was merely an experiment in progress, a blind spot that he intended to exploit when the best opportunity arrived.

At this moment, his highest priority was checking in on Jeffrey Spender. What he saw onscreen solved one of his problems while creating a whole new set. In puppy form, Amanda was backing out of the bedroom, something white clenched between her teeth. "Hey! Let go of that!" His son sounded like he was trying for annoyed, but came off as amused. Spender bent down and picked up dress shirt, sighing when he saw the prominent holes in the drool soaked collar. "That was my best shirt!" Trying to look stern, Spender glared down at the puppy, who looked back up at him with a cocked head and wide green eyes. A soft, questioning whimper floated on the air. Spender's lips twitched, but he kept staring. The puppy sunk a little lower, bellied forward, and reared up to put her paws on his knees as her lower jaw quivered. Spender burst out laughing and Amanda's tail started to wag as he picked her up. "I am in deep shit. No matter what you do, I'm never going to be able to discipline you." Amanda responded by licking the tip of his nose, making Spender giggle.

Cancerman shut off the tape at that point and leaned back in his chair, with a thoughtful expression on his face. <This will have to be handled delicately.> It was clear that his son was emotionally attached to the werewolf, and that he thought she was nothing more than a common dog. Simply demanding the puppy would alert Spender that there was something unusual about her. He was not at the point where he could be given information on the alien, hybrid, and werewolf experiments. Cancerman lit a fresh cigarette, carefully considering his next move.

One of the machines by the desk chimed. Cancerman looked down at the recording device. The green LCD readout indicated that Skinner's cell phone had just been activated to place a call to an unlisted number at the Krycek household. He reached down and turned up the volume, not wanting to waste time listening to the taped replay. It was Krycek's voice that answered. "Yes, Walter?"

"Lindy thinks we may have a lead on where Amanda is. We just ran into Agent Spender. His new pet matches her description. Lindy's sure that its Amanda."

Krycek swore softly. "Does he know"

"No, he talked like she was a normal dog. But if The Smoking Man finds out"

Krycek didn't need the sentence finished. "Where does he live?"

Cancerman shut down the volume on the recording device and picked up his phone. He had to act quickly, before events spiraled out of control.

* * * * *

When Spender got out of the elevator, he was surprised to see a woman standing at the door to his apartment, knocking frantically on it. On the ground next to her was a black and white husky-like dog, sniffing at the doorjamb, whining and clawing eagerly. Both of their heads turned in his direction as he walked towards them. Spender found himself staring into Jessica Leahs's desperate eyes. She looked like hell dark circles under her eyes from a lack of sleep, dressed in the same clothes she had worn when he saw her at the daycare, her hair snarled in a way that suggested that it had been combed only as an afterthought. The dog by her feet looked up at him for one moment, and then went back to sniffing intently at the door.

She didn't wait for any pleasantries but went straight to the point. "Lindy and Walter called me. They said that you have a new puppy. It's important that I have a look at it."

"Ms. Leahs, shouldn't you be at home in case there's some news of your daughter?"

"I need to see your puppy." Jess's voice was hoarse with desperation. "Please!"

Something in her eyes warned him not to question her. "Move your dog." As Jess grabbed the scruff of the husky's neck, Spender pulled out his keys. Not understanding what was so important, he unlocked the door. Before the door was even half-open, the puppy squeezed past him into the hall, yapping excitedly. She ran straight to Jess and the dog. Jess dropped the leash and held out her arms, giving a strangled cry. The puppy, her tail a blur, leaped. Jess caught her, pulling her to her chest, tears trailing down her face as she was knocked to the ground. The black and white dog was equally happy to see the puppy, his tail wagging furiously as he licked both the puppy's and Jess's face. The puppy squealed, and put her forepaws around the dog's neck, a human gesture of affection. Jess was rubbing her face into the puppy's fur, crooning love words.

Spender watched, surprised that he was so disappointed. It was clear that the puppy did belong to Jess. But his disappointment gave way to concern when he realized one of the words one of the words Jess was repeating over and over was Amanda. <She's lost it,> he thought. <The stress of her daughter being missing has made her mind snap.> He cleared his throat, about to draw Jess's attention away from the puppy when the elevator door opened. Jess's head snapped up, the husky growled, and the puppy whimpered.

The Bounty Hunter stood blocking the elevator. "You know why I'm here." Jess nodded, her teeth bared in a grimace. "I am under orders not to hurt him," he gestured with his head towards Spender. "However, there are no such instructions regarding the two of you."

Jess stood and moved into what appeared to be a ready stance, legs apart for stability, arms loose but hands twitching. "Then you'll have to take her over our dead bodies." The husky's growling grew louder, adding emphasis to Jess's statement.

The alien's expression never wavered as he took one step forward, causing the dog to react. In a black and white blur, it snatched the puppy off the ground with its jaws and scrambled towards the fire exit. The dog reared onto its hind legs, clawing at the doorknob of the firedoor. At the same time, Jess launched herself towards the Bounty Hunter, screaming a berzerker war cry.

The Bounty Hunter stepped forward unhurriedly, meeting her mid leap and slamming her to one side with a single blow. Spender also rushed at him, only to be batted aside. Spender hit the hallway wall hard, and fought to keep from blacking out. But his actions gave Jess the two seconds she needed to rebound and tackle the alien from behind. The Bounty Hunter and Jess crashed to the ground. But the Bounty Hunter twisted as he fell, and Jess hadn't pinned his arms. There was a quiet snick, a flash of light off something metallic, and Jess gave a pained grunt before going limp.

The Bounty Hunter pushed Jess's deadweight off his body. He stood up slowly without a second glance at the woman crumpled at his feet. He did take a moment to look at Spender, as if reassuring himself the FBI agent was still alive. Then he turned and headed off in the direction the dog had fled.

The fire exit door slammed heavily. Spender quickly moved to Jess's form sprawled on the floor, eyes drawn to what looked like a cross between a switchblade and an ice pick lodged in the back of her head. He reached out and felt along her neck seeking, but not finding a pulse. Swearing under his breath, he turned to go back to his apartment to call 911.

The sound of a hoarse inhalation stopped him in his tracks. Spender turned to see one of Jess's hands arch behind her to grab the strange weapon and work it free from the base of her skull. The clouded eyes blinked, rapidly regaining awareness of the surroundings. <Not possible,> he thought <Not fucking *possible!*> After a moment, Jess groaned. One hand moved to cradle her forehead, and the other pushing her semi-upright. She blinked twice, shook her head once, and looked up into Spender's startled eyes. "You you were," he stuttered.

"Dead," Jess finished for him with a shake of her head, placing the weapon into the pocket of her jacket. "I'm hard to kill." She reached out her hand and Spender, in a state of shock, pulled her to her feet. Jess took several shallow breaths and a tentative step forward. She would have fallen if Spender, moving in reflex, hadn't caught her. Jess grabbed his upper arm and shook her head again, trying to clear it. "Did you see where they went?"

Still trying to wrap his mind around what he had just seen, Spender guided Jess over to the fire escape. He pulled on the door. It didn't budge. "It's jammed somehow," he said as he continued to pull.

"Out of the way," Jess ordered. Grabbing the handle, she bowed her head, took three deep breaths, and pulled with all her strength. She pulled so hard, she broke off the door handle. Snarling, Jess threw it away and immediately ran for the elevator.

Spender blinked, looked at the handle laying on the floor, and then the woman entering the elevator. <Holy shit!> Dazed, he followed her into the elevator, barely making it in before the doors shut. Jess was leaning against the wall, staring beyond him. Turning to see what held her fascination, he turned to look at the reflection on the metal doors. According to it, a third person was in the elevator car. A blue eyed, long haired version of Jess was standing behind her. But when he turned his head to look at Jess, the stranger wasn't there. Jess, still staring at their reflection, began to speak quietly. "Rachel, if I'm not hallucinating and you're really here, don't' worry about me. Protect her."

She kept repeating that phrase until the doors slid open. Jess pushed away from the wall, preparing to run. Spender grabbed her arm, halting her dead in her tracks. "Who was that? What was that? And what the hell is going on?" he demanded.

The woman glared back at him as she pulled her arm free. "Take my advice. Go back to your apartment, and try to forget that any of this ever happened." She softened her harsh words with a sigh. "Trust me, knowing will complicate your life so much more."

Spender stood his ground. "And not knowing won't?"

Jess eyed him dubiously. "You really want to help? This will cause a lot of trouble for you, especially when your father finds out."

Those words stopped Spender cold. He was certain that she knew who his father was and who he worked for. Exactly how she knew was not important at the moment. He was at a crossroads. Spender could do what Jess suggested. He could go back to his apartment and ignore what he had seen tonight, the safe thing. Or he could go on and find out exactly who this woman was and why that puppy was wanted by so many people, something as Jess had said would probably bring him into conflict with his father.

Not willing to wait out Spender's emotional crisis, Jess hurried outside, intent on catching up with Krycek. She stopped short and stood looking at the spot where her car had been parked. <Of course he took the car.> Contacting Skinner would take precious time that Jess dared not waste. But at the same time, she couldn't track them on foot, especially if the aliens were also trailing them.

She was so deep in thought weighing her options that Jess jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Eyes wide, she spun around to blink at Spender, standing behind her with his keys in hand. "Need a ride?"

* * * * *

Krycek crashed through the underbrush, Amanda crushed to his chest by one massive paw in addition to the werewolf pup holding tight to his fur. He ran on pure instinct, his mind focused on only one thought. <They are not getting my daughter.>

He had made it outside of the building a few steps of the alien, long enough to bolt to Jess's Ford Explorer and through the window she left open. Ducking inside, he dropped Amanda on the passenger's seat and Changed. Praying he wouldn't get pulled over for public indecency, Krycek started the car and pulled away, driving out of town and towards the mountains. Once he had found himself in the woods, he pulled the car over. Again he willed the Change, this time to a bipedal canine form, one that offered a balance between a wolf's speed and a human's agility in addition to massive strength. Once the transformation was complete, he picked up Amanda and headed in among the trees.

He pulled up short of a clearing breathing heavily, scanning the surroundings carefully for anyone or anything that could be a threat. <Which way to go? Around would take longer, but cutting through means I'll be in plain sight.> His panting sounded unnaturally loud in his ears. Looking to the sky to get his bearings, his heart stopped when he saw that Orion's Belt had a *fourth* star in it - a star that grew in brightness and size, a star that resolved itself into the underbelly lights of a UFO.

Krycek growled low in his chest, flattening lower to the ground. Amanda whimpered and clung tighter. The UFO hovered for a moment before slowly drifting a few degrees to the right. Krycek bolted to his left just before a bright blue light illuminated the spot he had been standing. He entered the clearing, running a zigzag pattern, knowing that it would only be a matter of time before he was caught, but determined to change the outcome. Weaving, ducking and somersaulting, Krycek avoided the light beam, but he knew that he could not keep up the acrobatics indefinitely. Amanda kept her death grip on his fur, not complaining even when she was squashed between the ground and Krycek's chest. <If I can make it to the trees, I can lose whatever-that-is.>

The light stabbed downwards, catching him with forefeet in the air, muzzle pointed skyward, hindquarters bunched, ready to spring. He was frozen in space, even unable to voluntarily blink. A figure stepped out of the bushes directly in front of him. This one looked exactly like the Bounty Hunter, but there was a subtle difference to the smell, designating him as a different being. Moving unhurriedly, the alien walked to the frozen werewolf.

Krycek's heart hammered in his furry chest. He surprised himself by managing to emit a weak growl. Although the alien's expression never wavered, Krycek got a sense that the being admired the fact that he was trying to put up a token resistance. But that did not stop the alien from reaching out and taking Amanda from his arms. The werewolf pup, apparently unaffected by the paralyzing ray, whimpered and squirmed. The alien grabbed her by the scruff of her neck and shook her sharply. Amanda growled and snapped at such mistreatment, twisting to try to sink her teeth into the hand holding her. The alien responded by striking her on the side of her head, making her cry out.

Krycek's rage blossomed red behind his eyes. From somewhere deep inside, he found the strength to break whatever invisible bonds were holding him immobile. With a roar he leapt forward, catching the alien by the shoulders. The three of them went down in a tangle of both human and canine limbs. Amanda squirmed free from the pile as one of Krycek's fangs lanced the base of the alien's skull.

He gave out a loud yelp when the caustic fluid hit his skin of his lips. White paws working frantically at his muzzle, Krycek rolled free of the corpse as it began to disintegrate. The wind blew the fumes rising from the pile of bubbling green goo directly into his face. Wheezing, he attempted to stand up. He made it partway up before collapsing, wracked with coughs. He could feel Amanda cowering against his side, whimpering in terror as well as coughing. Turning his head, he saw several spindly gray skinned figures step out of the surrounding forest. Growling despite the burning pain in his mouth, he tried to stand again, only to have black dots swim across his line of sight. Krycek blinked rapidly, desperate to clear his vision as the grays advanced. Still wheezing, he weakly attempted to crawl between the advancing aliens and Amanda. He made it about three inches before the last of his strength faded, along with his vision. Amanda's whimpers, increasing in intensity and volume, were the last thing he heard before fading out of consciousness.

* * * * *

"We've been driving for hours." Spender glanced away from the road and towards his passenger. "How do you know we're heading in the right direction?"

Jess shook her head without opening her eyes. "We don't have enough time for even the simple explanation. You've come this far on faith. Try taking it just a little bit further."

Biting his lip to keep from repeating his question, Spender drove on, following the curve of the mountain road. After Jess had gotten in the passenger seat, she had immediately shut her eyes, unrolled the window, and started to guide Spender. Twice she had told him to turn the car around and head in the opposite direction, and every now and then she would hang her head outside the window. But for the most part, she had sat in the passenger seat with a look of intense concentration. So he was startled as they neared a curve in the road when her head snapped up, eyes opening wide. "We're getting close."

As they rounded the corner, Spender saw the roadblock set up by the heavily armed soldiers. He stomped on the breaks, leaving a ten foot skidmark. Jess was out of the car before it stopped, heading for the forest. A single gunshot fired a foot over her head stopped her in her tracks. "Ms. Leahs, if you would care to join us."

Spender stepped out of the car, recognizing the voice of his father before he spotted him in the group of armed military men. One or two of the rifles were pointed at him. But the majority of the gun muzzles followed Jess's movement. "Of course, you could always make a run for it," Cancerman said in his maddeningly calm way. "But are you willing to take the chance that these guns are not loaded with standard ammunition?" Her shoulders slumped and Jess turned around, controlled anger in her face. "A wise choice. Now would you care to tell me what you are doing with Special Agent Spender?"

Eyes narrow, Jess shrugged. "Let's just say he was in the wrong place at the wrong time." She pushed one corner of the jacket aside, to reveal a loaded Glock tucked in the waistband of her jeans.

<She never pulled the gun on me,> Spender thought. <Why is she lying? To protect me?> Aware that he looked bewildered, he hoped his father assumed it was due to the situation, not Jess's statement. But the situation was pretty bewildering.

A second man in civilian garb stepped forward. He looked at Jess with pity. "I told you that you would not be allowed to keep her. I'm sorry it has to be this way, Jessica."

Spender watched as Jess took a deep breath. From her reaction, he guessed that she knew this man all too well. Her voice was tight with suppressed fear. "Why?"

"The Change is extremely stressful for a pregnant bitch. While you were under our care, you were given certain an antimorphic drug to help you tamp down your talent. We thought the drug would have no side affects on a fetus, the way it has no side affects on an adult." Well Manicured Man shook his head. "We were wrong."

"Antimorphic drug? Pregnant bitch?" Spender looked from his father, to Jess, to Well Manicured Man. "What are you talking about?"

Before anyone could answer, a light rose from behind the tree line. Spender threw one hand up to shade his eyes as he peered at it, trying to determine exactly what he was looking at. The craft was a rough isosceles triangle with various colored lights dotting the underside. Once clear of the trees, it hovered for a moment, the point formed by the longer sides rotating towards them. A low pitched whine reached his ears, a while that quickly grew in pitch and volume. The lights grew brighter, the hum higher

Without warning, the craft shot towards the horizon. Everyone turned to follow it, ignoring the wind that whipped their hair. Spender's gaze turned to his father, who was calmly smoking. Jess, on the other hand, stood there open mouthed. "Good god, no," she whispered. She looked back at the two men in black. "Please, no."

Well Manicured Man walked up behind Jess and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "I'm truly sorry, Jessica." Jess took two stiff steps away before turning and breaking into a run in the direction the UFO had came from. The riflemen tracked her progress, only to be halted by a wave of Well Manicured Man's hand.

Cancerman also tracked Jess's progress until she disappeared into the brush. Then he looked at his son with the same closed expression he had used when Spender had asked where his mother was the first time she went missing. Before Spender could say a word, Cancerman turned and walked up the road, the soldiers trotting smartly behind him.

Well Manicured Man still stared in the direction that Jess had taken. She had reacted as he expected - her immediate concern and fear was for her child and her mate. The anger would come later. But what surprised him was the fact that the younger Spender was here. As far as he was aware, the only one of the werewolves who would have been in contact with him would have been AD Skinner. <This could have intriguing possibilities,> he thought. The Smoking Man wanted his son to inherit his position within the Consortium, the same as he wanted Jess to step into his once the time was right. At this moment, it seemed wisest to walk up the road where the soldiers were waiting, leaving Jess and Krycek to their grief and Spender to contemplate what he had just seen.

* * * * *

She ran through the forest, not caring that she was marking a trail that a blind man could follow. She didn't care if the military goons pumped her full of silver bullets. All that mattered was that she get to Krycek, to hopefully confirm what she feared just happened had not. ~Alex!~ she mindspoke, scanning the forest in front of her. ~Where are you?~ The lack of response terrified her, making her wonder if he had been abducted as well.

She found him five minutes later.

Krycek was lying next to a pool of green goo, unconscious. His mouth was wide open, his tongue lolling out, lips pulled back from his fangs. Jess winced as she looked closer, noticing the chemical burns visible under the white fur lining his mouth. Gently she stroked along his spine, tears falling down her face.

Krycek stirred under her gentle touch. Green eyes opened to meet Jess's brown ones, afraid of what he would find in them. He sat up, talons caressing her cheek, touching where her tears trailed across her skin. His eyes asked the question - where is our daughter? Jess looked up at the stars in the direction the UFO had taken. Krycek threw back his head and howled, Jess pausing half a beat before joining in. Together they keened their grief, howling the pain of their loss to an indifferent sky.

* * * * *

When Spender heard the howls, his first thought was that there was an unarmed, emotionally distraught woman alone in the woods with some angry sounding wolves. Drawing his gun, he started in her footsteps, fairytale images of what the Big Bad Wolf did to Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother running through his mind.

Her trail wasn't hard to follow. The path of broken tree limbs and trampled bushes led straight to a clearing. The howling rose to a shattering crescendo and then vanished, only to be replaced by a soft weeping. Making sure the safety was off of his gun, Spender eased into the clearing. His jaw dropped at the sight that met his eyes.

Jess knelt in the center of the clearing her arms around something that had a vaguely humanoid body and a clearly lupine head. The massive jaw rested aslant on top of her head, revealing ivory fangs. Taloned paws stroked her shoulders, the muscles rippling and flexing underneath a black and white pelt. There was only one word in Spender's mind - werewolf. All the legends and horrors and fears associated with that word did not encompass the reality.

And Jess sat there unafraid, actually pulling herself closer to the monster. She must have said something too low for Spender to hear because the werewolf nodded and loosened his grip on her enough so she could stand up. Taking one massive paw in both hands, she helped the canid to his hind feet. The werewolf staggered against the smaller woman, and looked up into Spender's eyes. Pointed ears flattened against the large skull as a deep rumble of a growl reached Spender's ears. Jess gasped, apparently becoming aware of Spender at the same moment as the creature beside her.

Spender, albeit shakily, raised the gun in his defense. "Jeffery, put the gun down." Jess's voice cracked, as if she had been yelling earlier and had strained her throat. "There's nothing to be afraid of. Alex isn't going to hurt you." She then winced. <Shit! I didn't mean to say that!>

"Alex?" Spender made the connection in his mind instantaneously. "Alex Krycek?!?" Both the werewolf and Jess nodded. That was when the adrenaline of the last several hours wore off and the shock of all he had seen set in. Spender could feel the blood draining away from his head. He fell to his knees, the gun slipping out of his hand. Both Jess and Krycek started forward to catch him. Acting on instinct, Spender leaned away from the werewolf, so it was Jess who actually caught him. As he passed out, he murmured something too quietly for Jess to hear.

Jess gently lowered Spender to the ground. Krycek's ears were cocked forward, a look of consternation was clear on canine features. ~What did he say?~ Jess mindspoke.

Krycek looked up, eyes scanning the skies for the UFO he knew he would not see. ~He said that I had the same markings as his puppy.~

* * * * *

He woke up feeling like was hung over, but he didn't remember getting drunk the night before. Spender sat up in bed, wondering what mischief the puppy was getting into. Looking around he saw his shirt was folded neatly over the back of the chair, shoes sitting beneath. Looking down, he realized that he had gone to bed in his slacks, except that he couldn't remember going to bed

Then he remembered the day before. He could vaguely remember waking up in the back seat of his car just as they crossed back into the city limits. Without a word, Jess drove to his apartment complex, walked him upstairs, let him in his apartment, and from there on everything was blank. He also had disjointed fragments of the day before - the bizarre fight in the hallway, the long and seemingly aimless drive, Jess's confrontation with his father, and...

Spender shook his head, running a hand over his face. <I didn't see a UFO. I made up the stuff about aliens abduction because I was a little boy who wanted to please Mom after Dad left. Aliens do not exist.>

<Are you sure about that?> a quiet voice persisted. <And what about that other creature you saw last night?>

He closed his eyes and gripped the sides of the sink. The animal he had seen could not be explained away as a simple canine. It had stood on two legs. It had answered to Alex Krycek's name. It had the same markings as the puppy...

It all started to make sense. <If Alex Krycek had been genetically experimented on, altering him....> Spender cautiously avoided using the word werewolf to describe what he had seen. <Jessica Leahs gave birth to a daughter, and was known to have been involved with Krycek.> From what little he knew about the men his father worked for, Spender realized that They would be interested in seeing if such a mutation would breed true from generation to generation. If such a being were created and able to pass on its mutations, the implications would be staggering. All views on genetics would be revised, as well as adding a whole new dimension to the concept of biological warfare.

<But none of this explains the lights you saw last night. If a werewolf could exist, why not aliens?>

<I'm only calling it a werewolf for lack of a better term. It's not a werewolf like you see in the movies.> Continuing his mental argument, he went into the living room where two things caught his attention. On the coffee table was his gun and his keys. And under them was a scrap of paper. The message scribbled on it was brief. "When you're ready to talk, I'll try to explain. Jess. 555-1013."

The second was that just inside the door was a file. It was too thick to have been just slipped under. Someone would have had to open the door and place it on the floor. Picking it up, he blinked when he saw what was labeled on the outside. X-117126 Lycanthrope Case Study: Leahs, Jessica A.

<It's the missing file.> But who left it? Jess hadn't been even carrying a purse when she first arrived. Spender knew the file hadn't been in his car, and they hadn't tripped over it when they entered the apartment, meaning that it had to have been placed there some time after they arrived. Sitting on the couch, he flipped it open and began reading it.

Spender's jaw dropped. He flipped a few pages forward, then a few pages back. Stared at the clinical photos depicting her scars. Read Mulder's reports on her abilities. Studied Scully's notes on the blood tests and the DNA analysis. There was no doubt about it. Jessica Leahs was a werewolf. And if the file was anything of an indicator, she was as easily capable of violence.

<But wasn't that what was thought of wolves? They're cold blooded killers who hunt for the sake of violence only?> She could have easily have killed him at any point in the last twenty four hours. <Now they're thought of as intelligent creatures that take care of each other, killing only for food or survival.>

Spender sat down on the couch and turned on the TV, seeking a distraction even as he tried to digest this new information. The morning news was on, reviewing the events of the previous day. The anchorwoman's announcement only sent his mind spinning. "The fate of a missing child has been tragically discovered. Early yesterday afternoon, the body of Amanda Leahs was found." The scene then cut to a press conference from the day before. Jessica Leahs was standing at a podium, flanked by Skinner and several other FBI agents, trying to speak. "I'd like to thank everyone who searched for oh god" Jess buried her head in her hands and was led offstage by Skinner.

If he had seen the conference before last night, he would have believed it. <That can't be Jessica Leahs.> The meeting had taken place when he had been driving up the mountain with Jess by his side. And if the woman up there wasn't Jess, there was a good chance the man behind her wasn't AD Skinner. <This has to be a cover up. But where did they find people who look so much like them?>

Spender picked up the paper with the phone number on it and tapped it against the file thoughtfully. He knew his father was probably the one responsible for the file turning up in his apartment. But the reason why was a bit more obscure - was it a warning to stay away from dangerous creatures? And if it was a warning to stay away from them, was it for his sake or for his fathers? With some misgivings, he dialed the phone number. The phone rang four times, and then the answering machine picked up. "You've reached 555-1013," came Jess's voice. "You have reached the Leahs residence. We will be out of town for the next two weeks. In lieu of flowers, we request that you make a donation to the ASPCA in Amanda Leahs's name."

Spender hung up the phone. <I won't be talking to them for a while.> He looked at the phone for a while. <I could call my father and ask him what the hell happened last night. But I doubt I would get the whole truth.>

As he hung up the phone, he noticed the white shirt the puppy had been chewing on earlier. He picked it up, smiling a bit at the memories of the puppies. He went to the bedroom, picked up the box that she was supposed to sleep in, and put the shirt and the items he purchased yesterday in it. Spender put the box into the closet, a reminder to himself that things are not always what they seem.

* * * * *

"I have the results of the autopsy." Scully paused when Krycek, Skinner, and Jess visibly tensed. She had just arrived in DC just in time to see the news conference that Jess and Skinner had denied being at. Jess had asked for her to perform the autopsy, and when Scully said she would, Skinner had pulled several strings and called in several favors to make it so. It had been hard. It was always hard to do an autopsy on a child. The sight of young promise cut tragically short always hurt, even more so with the loss of Emily. When she saw the results of the blood work, she understood why they asked her. They wouldn't have the truth from anyone else. "While the DNA tests came back as matches to both Jess and Alex, there was no sign of the enzyme associated with the ability to Change present in Amanda's body."

"My best guess is that the body found was a clone," Mulder amended. "Once the police found the body, the search for the 'missing' child is done, leaving Them free to do what They like behind a wall of plausible denial."

Krycek took in a deep breath and then exhaled. It was exactly what they had expected. It was exactly what they had feared. Jess just looked at the floor, fighting back her tears. Lindy leaned against them both, seeking comfort. "Thank you, Agents, for all you've done," Skinner said. "I think we
need some time alone."

Mulder and Scully then left, but not before Jess gave them silent hug of thanks. Once they were gone, Jess and Lindy went up stairs. Krycek stayed where he was, staring at nothing. Skinner sat motionless until Krycek broke the silence. "I should have stopped them."

Skinner then stood and walked to the younger man. "You did everything you could. It's not your fault." Krycek didn't respond to Skinner until he started nudging him towards the stairs. "We've got a long flight to San Jose tomorrow."

Krycek signed once and pulled himself up the stairs and to the bedroom. There they undressed and got into the bed. Neither of them said anything. After a few minutes Jess entered. She also got ready for bed and turned off the lights. Slipping under the sheets, she curled up against Krycek and buried her head in his chest and quietly began to sob.

That broke Krycek's reserve. Other than the howl the night before, he hadn't expressed any grief, maintaining a poker face. Now he cried, trying to wipe away Jess's tears.

Skinner shifted away slightly. Amanda wasn't his daughter, maybe he should leave Krycek and Jess to their grief. Krycek growled at the loss of contact and reached behind him, searching by feel for Skinner. Jess hooked him by the shoulder and pulled him back against Krycek.

Eventually the tears subsided, but none of them moved away. They fell asleep still holding each other against the night.

* * * * *

Well Manicured Man walked down the hallway, trying hard not to let his jet lag show. He had come to this laboratory straight from the airport. The flight from San Jose had gone smooth, as had most of the events while he was in the West Coast. The werewolves had played their allotted roles with no fuss. There had been other shapeshifters on call in case they would not go through the charade of a burial. But Jess, Krycek, Skinner, and Lindy had been the perfect picture of a grieving family. <Only because they are,> he reminded himself. <Just not in the way everyone believes.>

He had approached her when they were all at the graveside. Skinner, Krycek, Jess and Lindy had been quietly talking. But as he came closer, they fell silent, watching him with hostile eyes. Well Manicured Man stopped about five feet away, with the grave between him and the werewolves, a barrier of sorts. "Jessica, I need to speak with you."

"Haven't you done enough?" Lindy snarled. Jess dropped her hand to Lindy's shoulder and squeezed. Without a word to the others, she started walking parallel to the grave, threading her way among the other monuments. She stopped at a particular one and waited. Keeping an eye on Krycek and Skinner, who were watching him like a pair of hawks, Well Manicured Man joined her.

Jess studied the tombstones, the ones that belonged to her parents. "I'm just beginning to understand what Mom and Dad went through when Rachel died."

Well Manicured Man looked at Jess with a bit of surprised. "She's not dead, Jessica."

"But I have a feeling that I'll never see her again. It's almost the same thing." Jess, still staring at the grave, continued speaking. "You referred to me as a 'pregnant bitch.' Not as your niece, but an animal. That's all I am to you, right? An experiment in progress. A lab rat."

"Jessica, that is not true. If I did feel that you were nothing more than an experiment, why would I have helped when Lindy was dying?"

Jess looked into his eyes. "For the same reason you had my brother killed - it was the best way to manipulate me at the time. I should rip your throat out because of everything you've done." She shook her head in self-depreciation. "But I can't. Not yet at least. Because I believe that for the most part, I'm still human. But, I'm warning you. You keep telling me that I'm an animal, and I'll start believing and behaving like one." Without saying anything else, she returned to the waiting members of her pack.

Finding himself in front of a locked set of double doors brought Well Manicured Man back to the present. He punched in a clearance code on the keypad next to them, and waited. The lights on the keypad turned green and with a quiet hiss, the doors opened. Well Manicured Man walked into the room and found the Cigarette Smoking Man waiting for him. "We were just about to begin," he said, gesturing to the window he stood beside.

Well Manicured Man joined him at the window, which was actually a one way mirror. On the other side of that mirror lay a black and white werewolf pup. Amanda stared straight ahead, not twitching so much as a whisker. Nearby sat full dishes of water and food. "She hasn't Changed since she was brought in?"

Cancerman shook his head. "No. She does eat, but not nearly enough to keep her healthy. She has also been offered toys, treats, and other positive stimuli, but shows no interest in any of it. We were about to begin the experiment."

"Then proceed."

Cancerman pushed a button under the mirror. A door opened to reveal a blond woman. She walked over to where the puppy was laying. Amanda glanced up and then looked away, clearly uninterested. The woman stood still for a moment, and then her form started to morph. Blue eyes darkened into brown, waist length blonde hair shortened and became brunette. Amanda looked up again, this time into an exact duplicate of Jess's face. Changing to human, she reached up with her arms. The shapeshifter picked her up. Amanda snuggled into the woman's arms and began sucking her thumb.

"Interesting," Well Manicured Man said. "Now she's ignoring her sense of smell in favor of the visual information."

"She is seeking comfort in the familiar, even though she knows it is a counterfeit," Cancerman responded. "Does Jessica Leahs know that she is alive?"

"She does. The situation will be handled." Well Manicured Man's voice took on a cool tone.

The Cigarette Smoking Man said nothing in response. <He is too attached to his niece. She could quickly become a liability.> Something would have to be done about that, soon.

* * * * *

Jess hung up the phone. "He's on his way."

From his spot on the couch, Skinner nodded. "And you're sure that we want him to know the truth?"

"Yes," Jess confirmed. "He saw us that night. He knows that the truth about what," Jess paused and took a breath before continuing, "Amanda is was being kept from him. From what you've told me, he only works for his father because he believes that everyone else is against him. He could be an ally."

Lindy looked up from her chair by the fireplace. "And if he doesn't become an ally?"

Krycek's look was grim. "Then we eliminate the threat."

It had been three weeks since Amanda had disappeared, two since they had gone through the sham of the funeral. There had been several messages of condolence on the answering machine. There was no message from Jeffrey Spender, which had them all concerned. Now Spender was coming over, and it was time to try to explain what he saw.

There was no further conversation until Spender arrived. Skinner let him in without saying a word. Spender had expected to see him there. Rumors were whispered around the JEH building that the reason the charges against Krycek had disappeared was that she had become Skinner's lover. Krycek was also there, glaring at Spender and standing protectively between him and Jess. But the presence of Lindy surprised him. Spender's eyes came to rest on Jess. She stared back calmly, waiting for him to make the first move. "You lied to him."

He didn't have to explain. Jess knew exactly who he was referring to. "I had no reason to tell him the truth."

"And you have a reason to tell me the truth?"

"We" Krycek paused, searching for the right words. "Owe you for taking care of our daughter. You could have easily given her to Them."

"'Given her to Them?'" Spender exploded. "I couldn't have, because I didn't know what she was!" Spender looked from Krycek to Jess. "And I still don't know what she was or what you are!"

Jess looked at Krycek, Skinner, and Lindy, each in turn nodding, giving her one last silent confirmation. "Sit down, Jeffrey, it's a long story." Once he took a seat, Jess sat back and took a deep breath before beginning. "We each have different stories of how we became what we are. For me, it started fourteen years ago when I bought a ring..."

The End