Title: Lone Hearts

Author: Susan Proto (STPteach@aol.com)

Website: http://susanprotofreeservers.com

Keywords: Mytharc, MSR

Rating: PG-13 for language

Disclaimer: Some of the characters in this story belong to

Chris Carter, 1013 and Fox. No copyright infringement is intended.

In addition, it should be noted when I first submitted my pitch, there was some concern of similarities to a story line shown on the Fox, Inc. show, The Lone Gunmen. Please note the only time I have ever viewed this show was during the one scene in which David Duchovny made a much too short cameo appearance. Therefore the character of Dr. Alan Byers is totally and completely mine; any similarities to CC's version is purely coincidental.

Archive: This story was written especially for IMTP's

Virtual Season 9. After two weeks, you may view this story at The Garden Site, MTA, Gossamer, and Ephemeral. All others please send a request unless previously given permission.

Notes: Thanks to Vickie Moseley and Michelle Kiefer for their CyberEyes, and to my cohorts at the VS9. It continues to be a helluva ride, folks!

Lone Hearts

By Susan Proto (STPteach@aol.com)


Hilton Hotel

Bethesda, MD

6:20 a.m.

The heavy, richly textured bedcovers lay in a heap on the floor, along with quickly discarded outer clothes, underwear, and lingerie picked especially for this occasion. The silk top sheet fell softly over her legs while carelessly covering her breasts.

Even after all this time, he still felt slightly self-conscious about looking at her in that raw, beautiful state, while also exposing himself totally to her. But he lay beside her, unencumbered by blankets, and reached out to gently stroke her arm. The early morning sun tried to part the blinds of the lush hotel room, but it barely succeeded, allowing small rays of light to caress her hair.

"Oh, God, I love waking up next to you," she murmured in response to the gentle touches. She looked up at him with sleepy, but adoring eyes.

He returned her gaze, loving and sensual. "I love waking up next to you, too. I want to be able to do it every morning."

"I know, I know," she replied, as she leaned over and nuzzled his neck. "Someday."

"But not tomorrow," he said, resigned.

"No," she agreed, "not tomorrow. But we can enjoy being together today, can't we? I want to make love to you all day, today."

He smiled. "Like how we made love together all night? How can I argue with that idea?" He leaned over and began to kiss his love's sun touched hair and then began slowly tasting her body beginning at her forehead and working his way down all along her sensuous form.

Her body responded to his gentle overtures feeling the need for more, but he refused to give in to her unspoken pleas. He continued to minister to her body as if it were a priceless Stradivarius. The gentle moans began to grow in their strength as he probed her body, when suddenly the entire room lit up like a Fourth of July celebration.

"Ohmigod!" she cried out. "Ohmigod!"

He was gone.

The lights disappeared and the only noise came from the gentle flapping of the window blinds that were now hanging in the open bay window. She sat up and grabbed the silk sheets protectively around her before she reached for the phone. With shaking hands, she dialed the number she'd learned by heart so many, many months ago.

"Hello? Langly? Turn off the tape."

Silence greeted her on the other side.

"It's me, Susanne." Her hands trembled, as did her voice. "He's gone. John's gone."



Mulder's Apartment

Alexandria, VA

7:05 a.m.

The trill woke them both, but Mulder chose to ignore it. Scully on the other hand was quick to point out one very important fact.

"We're at your place; you get phone duty."

He grunted something unintelligible and then reached for the phone. "Mulder," or some such equivalent.

"Mulder, it's me."

"Langly? It's fucking 7 a.m. on the first Saturday morning I've had off in I don't know how long. This better be damn good."

"They've taken Byers."


Scully sat up at hearing Mulder's voice break. She touched his arm, which he unwittingly shrugged off. He looked at her quickly for reassurance that she understood. She smiled. She did.

Now he could deal with the matter at hand. "What are you talking about?"

"He's gone, Mulder. I don't know where they've taken him, but he's gone."


"This morning. He was in Bethesda, and they took him."

"Bethesda? Maryland?"

"Yeah. He was in the damn Hilton."

"Oh, shit."

"Mulder? Mulder, what is it?"

"Is she there with you?"

"She? What? You knew?"

"Yeah, I knew. C'mon, Langly, just answer the question. Is Susanne there?"

"Yeah. She's here." The irritation was clearly evident in Langly's tone, and it carried over into his next words as well. "Just get here as soon as you can, okay? Oh...and tell Scully to get dressed. We could use her help, too."

The phone clicked before Mulder could respond, not that he figured he'd have had one to give. "Damn it."

"Care to fill me in now?"

Mulder looked up and searched for any evidence that there was annoyance attached to her words, but he couldn't find any. Curiosity mixed in with some anxiety, but no annoyance. He took a deep breath, since he figured with his next words that was probably going to change.

"That was Langly."

"So I figured." She pursed her lips, biting her tongue in an attempt to keep herself from jumping all over him to cut to the chase.

He stood up and walked to his dresser. He pulled out a pair of clean boxers and a tee shirt. "They took Byers." He said this as he walked to his closet to pull out a pair of well-worn jeans. "I'm gonna jump into the shower."

He started walking toward the bathroom, but then stopped and without turning around said, "I can finish telling you what's going on in the shower. They want you to come with me, too."

"Okay," she replied, when suddenly it hit her what he really meant. "They know about us?"

"Apparently so."

"For how long, do you think?"

"Knowing them, they probably recorded the first time we ever kissed," he answered with a shake of his head.


He waited for more declarations of annoyance but none were forthcoming. "Scully? You okay?"

"Well, at least we know they can keep a secret, Mulder. C'mon, let's take that shower and you can fill me in on everything else."


The LGM Headquarters

Building # 566

'C' Street


Washington, DC

8:40 a.m.

Frohike greeted the couple after having unlocked the numerous locks that kept the outside world apart from the inner workings of The Lone Gunmen's Headquarters. Scully walked in dressed as casually as her partner, with Mulder's ever present hand guiding her as it pressed against her lower back.

"Any news?" he asked.

Frohike shook his head and followed the pair into the main room. There, they saw Langly sitting at the computer attempting to retrieve data, though for what purpose neither Mulder nor Scully knew.

"What's going on?" Mulder asked.

"Nothing. Yet," Langly answered.

"Where is she?"

"Here. I'm right here." Susanne Modeski entered the room looking exhausted and slightly disheveled. Her blond hair was hastily pulled back into a ponytail, and she wore no makeup. "Hello, Mulder. Agent Scully."

"How are you doing, Susanne?" Mulder asked.

"Not too great," she said, her voice hitched.

"Can you tell us what happened?" Scully asked.

"They took him."

Langly grimaced as he punched another symbol on the keyboard. "Yeah. You said that already."

Frohike broke in and said, "He's upset. Hell, we're all upset. Just tell Mulder and Scully what you told us, okay?"

Susanne nodded and smiled slightly at the small man's attempt to comfort. "We'd gotten together..." She turned and looked directly at Mulder. "It's the first weekend of the month, you know..."

Mulder nodded. He knew, though it was apparent that he was the only one who had been fully aware of anything. Scully was still in the dark.

"The first weekend?" Her expression reflected her confusion.

"Yes, John and I...we always...."

As Susanne broke down crying, much to Scully's surprise, it was Mulder who reached out to comfort her. He pulled her into his arms and held her as she sobbed.

"Mulder?" Frohike looked at his friend with a quizzical expression, which quickly changed to understanding. And then anger. "You knew about this, about them. Damn! You always knew."

Mulder nodded. "We confided in one another," he replied softly.

"But he never told us. For that matter, the two of you never told us what you were doing, either," Frohike retorted, eyeing Mulder, then Scully, and finally Mulder again.

Mulder averted his eyes momentarily and looked over at Scully. He knew she was most likely putting two and two together, but he also knew it was up to him to confirm her thoughts.

"No, we never told you, but you knew anyway, didn't you?"

Frohike looked quickly at Langly who at least had the good grace to blush. "Yeah, we knew," responded Frohike. "We figured you'd tell us when you were ready; but we still felt it was important to keep tabs on you both. It was always for your protection, you know."

"You've been spying on us," confirmed Scully, no less incredulous.

"Scully, you're not really surprised, are you?" responded Langly, who left his computer and walked over to where the small group sat. "C'mon, how many times did you want us to locate Mulder or did Mulder want us to locate you in the past? Well, how the hell do you think we did it? Yeah, we spied on you, but we never abused the privilege. We never spied on you when you and Mulder were...'together.'"

"Well, thank goodness for small miracles," shot back Scully.

"Wait a minute," interrupted Mulder, quickly changing the subject back to their necessary focus. "If you were spying on us, then how the hell didn't you know about Byers?"

"Friends don't spy on friends," said Langly.

"What the hell does that make Scully and me? Chopped liver?"

"No, of course not," interrupted Frohike. "But you two are in positions that place you in situations a little more precarious and dangerous than any one of us, don't you think? We've always had the means to keep tabs on one another, but have chosen not to do so until there was an emergency."

"And this doesn't constitute an emergency, Melvin?" asked Susanne who had finally calmed down.

Langly turned and stared directly at her. "Yes, Susanne, this constitutes an emergency." He stalked off back to his computer and sat down in front of the screen. "What the hell did you think I've been doing for the last hour? I'm trying to home in on him using a tracer program."

"Tracer program? What's he wearing? Some kind of a bug?" asked Mulder.


"How? Was it in his clothing?" Scully asked.

Susanne gasped. She knew any type of tracking device placed in his clothing would be useless given his state of undress at the time of his abduction.

"No. It wasn't in his clothing. Just like you, Scully, we've had implants inserted in our bodies for the purposes of keeping track of one another in times of emergency," answered Langly.

"Would they take him to the lab?" asked Susanne. "Would they be that obvious?"

Langly's jaw locked and his expression became determined. "That's what I'm trying to find out. If they are, we can get over to where ever the hell the little subversive laboratory you're probably working in is, grab Byers, and kick the shit out of anyone who tries to stop us."

"We couldn't go now, not in daylight," Susanne disagreed, much to Langly's chagrin. "The security system is highly sophisticated, and the goons they have guarding the entryways are not exactly what you would call 'evolved'. I'm afraid what they might do to John...or...or anyone else."

"Well, if we can pin down exactly where Byers is, then we can decide what our next plan of action is," suggested Scully.

"Let the man do his job. I can use some coffee - my treat," offered Frohike who turned to Langly and asked, "You want any?" Langly shook his head, so Frohike led the others into the small, but functional kitchen.

"How long have you known, Mulder?" asked Frohike.

Mulder raised an eyebrow at the elfin man. "Known what?"

"About Susanne and Byers."

Mulder shrugged. "Not as long as you seem to think...less than a year. I guess it's around the time Scully and I made the decision to...um...well, become...."

"Intimate, Mulder. We became intimate," said Scully, smiling. She couldn't help it. Her partner was turning a glorious shade of crimson that was usually reserved for her fair complexion, and she found it rather endearing that it was he who felt the embarrassment.

"But I don't understand why he confided in you and not us," said Frohike.

"C'mon Melvin. Surely you realize he probably understood that you already knew and were following our fearless leader's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy?" asked Mulder.

"Of course. I mean, we're sure he must have thought that, but Byers never actually said anything to us; you know how he protects his private life even from us. What I don't understand is why talk to you?" answered Langly.

"I can guess the answer to that," said Scully. She walked over to Susanne and said, "He and Mulder had something in common. We all felt the need to keep our relationships a secret, but the guys also found that they could have one another to confide in." Scully looked at Susanne, turned briefly towards her partner, and then back to Susanne.

"I just wish the men in our lives would have given Susanne and me the same luxury."

"Once again, my kung fu has done the deed," announced Langly upon entering the room. "I tagged him."

"Where is he?" asked Susanne.

"Nearer than I'd ever have thought," he replied with a wry grin. "Right here in D.C."

Susanne nodded, knowingly. "They took him to the lab."

"You'll show us, when it gets dark?" Mulder asked.

"Of course." Susanne lowered her head. Some moments passed before she looked up and turned back to look at Scully. "I'm so sorry, Agent Scully."

"Sorry?" Scully echoed.

"About keeping our relationship a secret. I knew it was hard on John, but I was the one who felt it was necessary to keep our relationship quiet. I hadn't realized John spoke with Mulder about it. If I had, maybe we...." Susanne looked sadly at Scully, who in turn took note of Mulder's downcast eyes; it was apparent he'd not considered the toll that their clandestine relationship had on her, or Susanne for that matter.

"It must have been hard for you to ask him to do that, to keep your relationship a secret from his friends," suggested Scully more for Mulder's benefit than Susanne's.

"So you did force Byers to keep your affair from us," accused Langly.

"You don't give your friend much credit, do you?" Susanne's brow furrowed and her tone turned sharp. "I never forced John to do anything he didn't want to do. He agreed with my reasons for keeping our relationship a secret." She looked away and said, almost in a murmur, "But they must have found out. I don't know how, but they must have...."

"Who do you think found out?" asked Mulder bringing her focus back to the group.

She looked hesitant, but said, "My employer." Everyone remained quiet as they waited for Susanne to fill in the blank that all who were present were more than likely able to fill without any help. Finally, after having taken a deep breath, she said, "Roush Pharmaceuticals."

Frohike whistled softly while Langly just threw his hands up in frustration. Mulder, ever the peacemaker, advised everyone to calm down. His words were forceful, but the tone was soft, "It's not like we shouldn't have suspected it; after all, she is a chemist. Where the hell else would you expect them to have her work?" The disdain for 'them' was clearly evident in Mulder's voice.

Susanne placed her hand on Mulder's arm in a silent expression of thanks. "I've been working on a pet project of theirs for quite some time, but John knew nothing about it; I swear I made sure to never say a word about it. I didn't want him in danger."

"Well, you sure did a fine job of that, didn't you?" accused Langly.

"Enough. Stop looking for who to blame and start thinking about how to get Byers back," admonished Scully. She looked around the room and asked the obvious question, "Why would they take him?"

"I don't know," replied Susanne. The two Lone Gunmen shook their heads in defeat as well.

"I think -- I think I may have an idea," stammered Mulder.

Scully saw the look of dread in his face. She knew what he was about to say was not going to be easy for him, nor for any of them.

"I think it may have something to do with his father."

"His father? Jeeze, Mulder, the old man has been dead since he was a kid," said Frohike.

"No. I don't think so." The confusion on everyone's face was evident, so Mulder tried to explain. "I know that's what John believed; I know that's what he'd told you and me. But, I - I have good reason to believe that Alan Byers's death is a lie; it was faked. I believe I know the reason why," Mulder confessed.

"Reason? He dropped dead of a heart attack; Byers said he remembered watching him go off in the ambulance. What other reason is there?" said Langly.

"No. That's not what happened--" Mulder held his hand up to stifle the objections that both Langly and Frohike were about to make. "Apparently, John and I had something else in common." Everyone remained quiet; all eyes watched Mulder intently as they waited for an explanation.

"Byers's father worked for the government. He worked for the likes of Cancerman and --" Mulder's voice choked slightly as he completed his thoughts -- "my father."

"Are you sure?" asked Frohike.

"No," Mulder replied quickly. "I mean, I don't have absolute proof, but I have it on good authority...."

"What all adds up?" asked Langly to which he added angrily, "and what the hell is this so-called proof?" The ire and frustration in his voice was clear; to whom the hostility was directed was not, though everyone had a pretty good guess.

"It came from unauthorized channels," he responded, purposefully vague.

"Oh, c'mon, Mulder. You're talking to the kings of unauthorized channels. What the hell are you talking about?" demanded Langly.

"Mulder," Frohike interjected softly, "what do you know?"

Mulder looked over quickly at Susanne and saw it, an imperceptible nod. He shook his head slightly, but Susanne would have none of it. She said in a clear, firm voice, "I told him."

Three pairs of eyes moved as if watching match point at the U.S. Open, one moment their gazes were on Susanne and the next on Mulder. This continued until Mulder clarified it all for them.

"I'd had my suspicions for some time. In all of my research over Samantha's abduction, I kept coming across a set of initials...'A.L.B.' The family history of this 'A.L.B.' included a son named John F. and a wife named Helen. No last name was ever disclosed in these records, but the dates and family history all seemed to fit.

"I'd never told Byers, because I never had absolute proof that the 'A.L.B.' listed in those files belonged to his father. I couldn't do to him what G.C.B. Spender did to me; I couldn't give him hope on the chance that it would be a false hope - based on lies.

"But when Byers confessed to me that he and Susanne were seeing one another and that Susanne felt it was imperative that it be kept a secret, I knew in my heart that Byers's father was the one referred to in those files. But I didn't tell him. I couldn't; Susanne contacted me soon after Byers confided in me; she'd overheard him telling me about their relationship and begged me to not tell a soul. She never told me exactly why, but I felt she was sincere in her concern, so I chose to keep it from you all."

Turning to his partner, he said forlornly, "Even you, Scully. I'm sorry for that; but she felt it would cause more harm than good if more people were aware of their relationship. To be honest, if I had it to do over again I still don't think I could have told you."

"Please, Agent Scully," intervened Susanne, "understand that I put Mulder in a very difficult situation. He asked me about John's father, and when he asked me, I felt he should know the truth. I told him that it was Alan Louis Byers who was referred to in the files, and that he was a working member of the consortium."

The room was quiet, as no one knew quite what to say at that moment. Tension was evident; Langly and Frohike were both visibly upset with what Susanne had just informed them of. Scully, on the other hand, was working very hard to maintain a neutral facade; professional decorum was called for and no one could put on their professional mask better than Agent Scully.

Finally, after several moments of awkward silence passed, Scully cleared her throat and decided to get back to the business at hand. "In what capacity?" she asked.

"Capacity?" echoed Susanne.

"In what capacity was Mr. Byers a member of the consortium," she clarified, looking toward Susanne.

But it was Mulder who responded instead. "It's Doctor Byers and he's a scientist," he said and then turning toward Susanne, he elaborated, "Byers is a chemist, too, isn't he Susanne? He's still alive and kicking, and working on some top-secret, super government project. I'm right, aren't I, Susanne?"

She nodded, though her head hung in a defeated posture.

"You knew this? How could you not tell Byers that he was alive, much less that you worked with him?" asked Frohike.

"I couldn't. Alan begged me to keep his secret."

"Alan? You know him personally?" asked Scully in amazement at the new turn of events. She looked at Mulder, her face full of question marks for him as well. He held his hands up in defeat; he was, obviously, as unaware of the senior Byers's relationship with Susanne Modeski as everyone else.

Susanne took a deep breath and said, "Yes, I know him personally. I work with him, Agent Scully. He's my direct superior in the lab I work in at Roush. He learned that I was seeing John and Alan begged me to keep my knowledge of his existence a secret. He feared for both John's life and his own if John ever found out."

"I'll bet; more like he was afraid of being exposed by the Lone Gunmen," retorted Langly.

"Maybe," said Susanne, "but the fact of the matter remains that he feared for his and his son's life, and rightly so I might add. But someone did find out. I don't know how; we were so careful."

"Susanne, surely by now you know that you can never be too careful," Mulder said. "Hell, even these two clowns knew something was going on, though admittedly they weren't exactly sure what that was," and then with a resigned smile at Scully added, "and they figured something was going on between us, too." Mulder's smile took some of the sting out of his words. It worked, as the tension seemed to dissipate for a moment or two.

"So, now what do we do?" asked Scully. "How do we go about getting Byers back home where he belongs?"

"Well," answered Mulder, "the first thing I suppose is to find something black and sexy, boys _and_ girls. We're gonna do a little par-taying tonight at a certain super secret laboratory."


Roush Laboratory

284 Stealth Avenue

Langley, VA

9:30 a.m.


"You promised you wouldn't hurt him if I kept my end of the bargain. Well, I did damn it! I did, and you brought him here, unconsciousness," Alan Byers said angrily.

His companion stood with his arms crossed and looked disgusted. "C'mon Doc, you know as well as I do that he was just put under for a bit; he'll come around soon."

"And that means I'm supposed to be jumping for joy?" he asked rhetorically. "Why did you bring him here? Why now?"

"You've been wanting to see him for years, haven't you? I've finally given you that chance, and all I'm getting is grief about it," he remarked sardonically.

"Who ordered you to bring him to me? There has to be a reason for them to suddenly decide to allow us a family reunion. What's going on?"

"You think I'm privy to everything, Doc? You give me too much credit," said the man in black leather.

"But you do. Damn it to hell, I'm sure that you know. Tell me. What are they going to do with him?" demanded Alan Byers.

"Now, Doc, do you really think they would tell me something like that? Hell, I'm just their messenger boy, remember? I don't know a thing, except perhaps that the powers that be aren't necessarily happy with your performance of late. Rumor has it that you've been a little lax in the productivity department, Doc. Seems to me, and mind you, I don't know anything for sure, but, well it seems to me that the people in charge just want to give you a little incentive to produce a little more in a more timely manner..."

"What are they going to do to him?" asked the scientist panic-stricken.

"How the hell am I supposed to know, Doc? I'm just a one-armed lackey, right? But if I were a betting man, I wouldn't be surprised if our benefactors shared a little something with your boy in there to motivate you a little bit to finding a solution to that problem you've been working on..."

"Sweet Jesus. They wouldn't."

"You know they would. You know they may have already."

"Krycek, you are a bastard."

"No, Doc, I'm not the enemy here. One of these days everyone's going to figure that out."

"Funny, the other sonofabitch always says the same thing..." Dr. Byers said. "Get the hell out of here, Krycek. Let me go be with my son."

"Sure, Doc, though I wouldn't just hang around and visit too long. Seems to me that you have your work cut out for you, you know." When his words were met with a hateful glare from Byers, Krycek waved him off and said, "Well, I'll be on my way. Never let it be said that I'd keep father and son separated...I never interfere with family," he said with a deceptive smile gracing his face.

The scientist watched with consternation as the younger man left. "Damn you, you sonofa -"

Dr. Byers moved quickly into the small office space that was attached to his laboratory. The room had the busy, disorganized appearance of an absent-minded professor's workspace. Scientific journals were piled high in various corners of the room. Reams of xeroxed papers sat in stacks throughout the four corners of the office. Finally, the desk showed a method of organization known only to its owner; papers, file folders, and computer printouts lay strewn across the desktop. To Alan Byers, it was home for the last twenty-seven years. When he heard a sound, the scientist looked down at the now not-so-still body of his son, who lay on the small sofa, usually reserved for late night respites in the lab. John Byers was regaining consciousness.

"Oh, God, my head," moaned the younger Byers.

"John?" the doctor called out softly as he gently shook his son's shoulders. "It's okay, John. You're safe now."

In response, he opened his eyes slowly, as the fluorescent lights glared harshly in his line of vision. He turned even more slowly to his right and then back toward his left. The pain that shot through from the base of his head to the front of his forehead made him gasp; he reached out, groping for anything to latch onto in order to ease the discomfort.

Alan Byers reached out and grabbed his son's searching hand. "You're going to be fine, John. Take a deep breath and let it out easy." He waited for him to follow his directions and then repeated the instructions. The doctor watched carefully, looking for any signs of proof to Krycek's veiled threats, as his son slowly became more cognizant of his surroundings. He didn't observe any of the known symptoms and waited until John was lucid enough to ask questions, which didn't take long at all.

"What happened?

"Where am I?

"Why does my head feel like it's going to explode, and who the hell are you?"

"I'll answer your questions, but first take these. They may help." When John looked at the man suspiciously, Alan Byers assured him, "Acetaminophen. That's all they are. Extra strength acetaminophen."

John nodded as he accepted the pills and a glass of water to wash them down with. He then looked back at his benefactor and waited for his questions to be answered.

"You were brought here without your consent."

"Brought here? Where's here? And why? I don't understand --" John responded in a panic stricken tone.

"I know. I wish they hadn't resorted to this. God knows the last thing I ever wanted was for you to be involved in this, or for you to be hurt. I'm so sorry. I'm so very - John, listen to me - "

"You know who I am? Do I know you?" John asked, confused as he looked at the clean-shaven, balding man. Moments passed when his mind cleared; he said with resignation, "I do know you, don't I. The beard is gone, the hair sparser, but you're him."

Alan Byers wasn't sure how to feel at hearing that. Sitting before him was the son he'd loved for the last thirty-eight years, but hadn't been able to share that love for over the last twenty-five of them. He wasn't sure how John would react. There was only one way to find out.

"Yes, John. You know me, though we haven't seen one another in a very long time. I'm sorry for that, son."

Byers stared at the older man but remained silent. He needed a minute or two, or three, to assimilate what this stranger whom he seemed to know intimately had just said.

"Dad?" He cleared his throat in an attempt to rid himself of the tremors that clearly occupied it... "You are my father, aren't you?"

Alan Byers could only nod in affirmation; suddenly he didn't trust his voice either. His eyes threatened to betray him by watering up, but that didn't stop him from breaking into a nervous smile. He wanted desperately to extend his arms out and hug this man, his child, and show him that he'd never stopped thinking of him, never stopped loving him. But all he did was stand still, waiting as patiently as he could for the younger Byers to make the first move.

"You're supposed to be dead," his tone, almost defiant.

Those were not the words he'd hoped or expected to hear. He hesitated before he said, "I know that's what you were told. I'm sorry."

"I'm sure you are," replied the younger Byers with little affect.

"John, you have to believe me. It was never my choice; I mean, it was in a way, but it was the only choice I could make." He sighed in exasperation. "How can I make you understand?"

John attempted to sit up, but it felt like ball bearings were ricocheting around in his head. He found himself being gently helped to lay back down on the couch. "Thank you," he muttered to the older man whose eyes so resembled his own.

"I didn't want to leave you and your mother."

"I'm sure." But he wasn't, not really.

"John, you have to understand. The work was - no, is important, and the men involved in it are very, very powerful."

He looked at his son with hope that he understood the dilemma that was posed to him so many years ago and followed him throughout the rest of his life. John returned his father's gaze, trying to understand, when it suddenly dawned up him that his life seemed to parallel someone else's.

"Do you work for him?" he asked.

"Work for who?"

"The Cancer Man." Byers looked at his father's confused expression and clarified his question. "Do you work for C.G.B. Spender?"

Dr. Byers sighed and nodded. "I did. The belief is that he's rather ill at the moment, quite near death."

"Right. And I've got some swampland to sell you," Byers retorted. "Go to hell."

"I wish I could explain it to you, son."

"Son? You think you have the right to call me that? How dare you! You lost that right when you walked out on Mom and me almost thirty years ago! My God, I thought you were dead...I mourned for you."

"John, I'm so sorry, but you have to try and understand. The choices they gave me; I couldn't let them - " Alan stammered. He didn't want to reveal too much, but he felt he had to defend himself in order to allow his son to see that he wasn't the monster he was making him out to be. "John, it was the only viable choice; I made the right decision."

"They wanted to take me, didn't they? Just like Samantha Mulder."

"Yes, John, just like Bill Mulder's little girl. They were going to take his son, but at the last moment they decided to take the girl instead. I couldn't let that happen to you." He paused and his voice became a whisper, as if trying to hide his words, "I refused to allow you to be subjected to that. I know Fox has been through several ordeals himself, he and that partner of his."

"Jesus, what else about me and my friends do you know? My relationships?"

"I've been kept informed."

"Informed...you've been kept informed. Well, isn't that comforting?" His consternation belied his words.

"I wish I could convince you of how sorry I am that you had to find out."

"That's what you're sorry about? You're not sorry about leaving me, but you're sorry that I found out the truth? Jesus Christ! What kind of twisted sense of priorities do you have?"

"Priorities that kept you and your mother alive, John Byers, and don't you forget it!" The elder Byers stood tall, but shaking with anger and hurt. He didn't know how to make his son realize; the consortium was a powerful entity that he simply would not fight at the expense of his family's life. "You have to understand, I did what I thought was best in order to keep you both safe. I left you because I love you, John. I didn't want to see you harmed."

John sat up and shook his head. "I want to leave."

"Wait. Please. Let me try to help you understand - " Alan watched helplessly as John chose to ignore his words.

Standing up on wobbly legs, John began to move toward the door. But the motion caused his vertigo to return, and he began to sway. Alan rushed to his side and caught him before he made full contact with the floor. When he looked down into his son's eyes, he was greeted with a horrific sight.

Once blue eyes were covered in a sea of oilian black.


Scully's Apartment


Washington, DC

11:30 a.m.

They'd driven home in silence after having agreed to meet back at the Lone Gunmen Headquarters eight o'clock that night. The boys had decided they needed to gather as much intelligence as possible in terms of pinpointing Byers's exact location. They'd already figured out he was somewhere with the D.C. area and were fairly confident that he was at the Roush site. Susanne agreed to take them to the lab that night, after the large, daytime security force departed for the evening.

Although Scully had offered Susanne a chance to stay with her and Mulder, much to no one's surprise, she declined. She decided to go back to the hotel she and Byers were staying at to collect her things and move to another location. When it had been pointed out that plan was probably a futile one, she agreed immediately, but said that she didn't want to make it easy for them. "If nothing else," she'd said, "at least it feels like I'm doing something. Besides, I think we all need a little space and time to think about everything we've just discussed."

Scully remembered agreeing with Susanne and saying they would get together that night, but if there was anything she needed to give her or Mulder a call on their cellphone. Scully took out one of her business cards and then printed Mulder's cell number on the back. "In case mine's busy," she'd said as she handed it to Susanne, "I want you to have a way of reaching us." Susanne expressed her thanks, nodded her good-byes to Frohike and Langly (the former begrudgingly acknowledged her while the latter steadfastly ignored her,) and left.

"You think she'll come back tonight?" Langly had asked.

Mulder looked surprised; apparently it had never occurred to him that she wouldn't. "Of course she'll return tonight. Guys, I think you've got her all wrong."

"Jeeze, Mulder, whatever happened to 'trust no one?'" Langly had asked with a disgusted tone.

"She loves him, Langly."

"Yeah, right."

Mulder had shaken his head slightly and told the guys he and Scully would see them later. They'd departed and decided to return to Scully's apartment, as it was closer.

And now they were there in Georgetown, after a ride of total silence. Neither had even turned on the radio; they both needed to think about what had just transpired and consider how they were going to deal with it.

Scully broke the silence first. "Why?"

Simple enough question; too bad Mulder had no idea as to how to express his answer. "Are you angry?" he asked instead.

"Angry?" she mused in low tones, "No, not angry. I think I feel something more akin to hurt, but I'm not angry. I know you had your reasons for not discussing it with me, and I suspect at the time they seemed like very good ones. I'm just curious as to what they were that's all. Help me understand, Mulder."

Mulder didn't answer right away; he had a feeling this could be yet another turning point in their relationship, and he needed to find the right words so as not to screw this up. "He was scared, Scully. The thing of it was, he didn't know why. But I knew; I knew the truth, and I couldn't tell him because I hadn't any proof.

"And all this time I thought - I mean I was - " Mulder pressed his hands together as if he were praying to some unknown deity for the right words. "I know you once said that it's not always about me, but Scully? This time, I can't help but wonder if Byers's life and mine were somehow intertwined to the point that his association with me - "

"Hold it right their, buster. Are you trying to tell me that you think Byers was taken because of his relationship with you?" Scully looked at her partner in exasperation.

"I don't know," he replied in kind. "I don't understand what the point is in taking him now if it isn't to get to me! I mean, he told me about his relationship with Susanne, and they must have found out that I knew."

"Mulder, honestly, don't you think this is a bit of a stretch?" she asked with as light of a tone as she could muster.

"He asked me to not tell anyone of his relationship because Susanne told him _her_ life would be in danger. He never associated the danger with himself, though after I spoke with Susanne it was clear that she was more concerned for John's safety. But, Scully, they both spoke with me about their affair. They both feared reprisals if it were to become common knowledge, but I knew. I was the only one privy to that information, so maybe I am the common link and therefor the reason for Byers's abduction?"

Mulder looked totally forlorn. Scully reached up and pulled his hand down to convince him to sit next to her on the couch.

"I think you may be looking for a connection that's not there, Mulder. I just wish you would have told me; I could have tried to ease your mind before this," she said sadly.

"How could I not keep their secret? Up to this point keeping the affair to myself had harmed no one, so I made the determination to honor that request. I'm sorry, if you think my not making you privy to it was a reflection on our relationship. It wasn't, Scully; I hope I can convince you of that."

She listened carefully with an open mind and remained silent throughout. There was a time that she would have seen Mulder keeping this kind of information from her as a betrayal. Back at the Gunmen's headquarters she felt herself almost falling into that mindset, but at this point she found that not to be the case. Things were different now.

"Mulder, have I told you lately how much I love you?"

His eyes met hers, and he said, "Yes, Scully, as a matter of fact you have." He paused and before he could say it, Scully interrupted him.

"I know you do, too." She raised her hands up to his face to pull him down slightly to meet hers. Their lips met and both of them knew that what could have proven to be an obstacle in their relationship was nothing more than a small reminder of how important they were to one another.

And how much they depended upon something every bit as important as loving one another.




Roush Laboratory

284 Stealth Street

Langley, VA

3:00 p.m.

As soon as Dr. Byers saw the black plague cross his son's eyes, the scientist quickly lifted his son and carried him into the closest of one of many experimental lab rooms located at the site. He set John onto a gurney that laid dormant after one of the several test subjects had succumbed to the latest strain of the black oilian. The older man was having a difficult time imagining that his own son might face the same fate.

"What's the matter, Doc? Sonny boy falling asleep on the job?"

Without turning around, Dr. Byers said angrily, "Damn you, Krycek! How could you?"

"How? Well, I had this rather large hypodermic needle and I pretty much just plunged it right - "

Krycek didn't finish that sentence as Alan Byers lunged at his young nemesis and tackled him to the ground. Unfortunately, youth and strength proved too much for the older man and Krycek easily subdued Byers with one quick strike of his artificial limb. When it was apparent that Dr. Byers would no longer be a threat, Krycek released him, leaving the scientist to struggle on his own to a chair.

"Need a hand, old man?" Krycek asked as he extended his prosthesis.

Byers stumbled slightly as he stood up; he sought the security of a chair. "Go to hell," he rasped.

"I'm already there, Doc, already there...."

"Why? Why do this to him?" he cried out as he gestured helplessly toward his unconscious son. "He's never done anything; I've never done anything but give my soul to the project at the expense of everything I've held close to my heart, and this is the thanks I get? My son is infected with an alien virus? For what ungodly purpose would you do this to him and me?"

Krycek remained silent as he decided just how much he should tell the old man. His superiors hadn't given him specific orders on how to go about accomplishing his goal nor whether to share said details with the scientist of how he planned to complete his mission. And it was a mission. One that he was placed in charge of, and Krycek was determined not to screw it up.

"We needed to give you and those who work with you a little more incentive, that's all," the young Russian offered. "Too much is dependent upon the successful completion of your experiments. You're being counted on to find an antidote for the latest strain of the oilian virus. You did it for the first strain of black oil. That vaccine even had a negating effect on the second strain. But this latest type is proving to be a bitch, isn't it?

"So, Doc, it's been left up to me to give you a little encouragement, ya know?" Krycek couldn't help wonder why no one had considered using the old man's son before this. The fact that John was involved in a secret affair with one of the top Roush chemists certainly made his participation in any plot that much more appealing.

"As soon as you develop the vaccine," Krycek offered, "you'll be allowed to use your son to test it on to cure him. Does that seem so difficult to understand?"

"But what if I can't? What if I can't develop it in time? This latest strain; it's not a patient one."

"True, true. But don't worry, Johnny boy here is just the bait to bring in the surefire 'tool'. And believe me, that tool will be ready, willing and able to voluntarily walk right through the doors of Roush to aid in the research, now that one of his closest friends was in captivity there."

Fox Mulder come on down, mused Krycek.

"What if I don't have the right tools to do it? Damn it, Krycek, this is my son's life you've placed in my hands!"

"Then I'd say you have your work cut out for you, Doc. I'll leave you to your work." Krycek turned and practically strutted out the door.

"Bastard." Byers turned to his son and placed his hand on his forehead and began to gently brush the hair off of it. He stood there for a few minutes and tried to clear his mind so he could begin to do what he did best, assess the situation and develop a plan of action. But for the moment all he wanted to do was hold the son he'd neglected for the last thirty years and figure out a way to make amends.


The LGM Headquarters

Building # 566

'C' Street


Washington, DC

3:40 p.m.

Langly and Frohike sat quietly, each at their own terminal, trying to gather as much information as possible to best help them secure Byers's release that night. Langly continued his research on the actual location, hacking into sites that revealed the blueprints of the Roush laboratory building. How he managed to do that was always a wonder to Byers and Frohike; apparently Langly's 'kung fu' was one to be reckoned with.

Frohike, on the other hand, worked on trying to determine exactly why they would bother to take Byers. What made Byers such a valuable commodity that the consortium would see fit to abduct him? Surely 'the powers that be' had recognized that since he and Susanne had a relationship, she would assist them in locating Byers inside the lab, no?

If it had something to do with a project that Susanne and Byers's father was working on, then they obviously felt that taking Byers could benefit the project in some way. Frohike sighed with frustration; they'd never been actual targets before. It had always been Mulder or Scully, or even Skinner's ass they were dragging out of the fire. Never one of the three of them. Why? What did Byers have to offer that could assist a man he hadn't seen in almost thirty years and a woman he'd seen only once a month, if that?

Frohike continued his research by hacking into government sites, which gave him access to specific data banks and chemical testing sites that the government sponsored. Frohike smiled to himself; his 'kung fu' wasn't anything to sneeze at either.

"Come up with anything?" asked Langly.

"Nothing that seems to help me figure out why the hell they took Byers. I mean, why didn't they just take Susanne; she's the damn scientist. What could they possibly gain by taking Byers?" asked Frohike more frustrated than ever.

"I know," Langly quietly agreed. "I found the blueprints; the place is one huge maze. Should be a bitch to figure out where the hell he is."

"You don't think she'll show up tonight, either, do you?"

Not surprisingly, Langly shook his head. "I'm still not sure why he's so enamoured with her. She's part of them and he doesn't see that. No matter what she says, I've never been able to trust her. And what's up with Mulder? All of a sudden he's Byers and Susanne's best friend to the point where they're confiding in one another? Shit! He even left poor Scully in the dark. Don't know if I'd want to be alone in the same room with her right now..."

Frohike smiled at that; he'd always appreciated the sassy side of Dana Scully. He also knew that Mulder did too, and he would never do anything to intentionally hurt her. There was something wrong with this whole scenario. Byers was a pawn in this plot, of that Frohike was sure, but why? For what was Byers being used as bait?

"Not for what," Frohike said aloud, "For whom?"

Langly looked over at him. "What was that?"

"That's it!" Frohike looked up to see total confusion written on his friend's face. "Byers is just the bait. But who are they baiting? Susanne already works for them, so it wouldn't be her, right?" Langly simply nodded his head. Once Frohike got in a zone, there was no shutting him up.

"So who do they want? One of us? I can't think of a reason why they'd want one of us...." Frohike's voice trailed off. He remained silent momentarily until he looked directly at Langly. "Scully? That would be pretty farfetched. They'd gotten to her once already; would they take Byers as a means of getting her back now?"

"That makes about as much sense as them wanting one of us," Langly said. "No, this has to have something to do with Byers's father. Either good ol' Doc Byers is a bastard and knee deep in Consortium shit and forcing John to do God knows what, or... someone wants to control the doc and is using John as the incentive. Jeeze, Frohike, this is so damned schoolyard. Why take John now?"


Enroute to LGM Headquarters

Unknown local streets

Washington, DC

7:55 p.m.

They'd packed the trunk with everything they thought they could use and got in the car to begin the maze-like drive back to the Gunmen Headquarters. Though the first few minutes of the drive were quiet, Mulder finally announced, "I'm hungry."

"You're always hungry, Mulder."

"What can I say? I'm insatiable," he retorted with his trademark leer, to which Scully agreed wholeheartedly.

"That you are, my love." She entwined her fingers with his and said in a husky voice, "And I'm glad you are."

"Scully, you keep talking like that and we will be awfully late getting back to the Gunmen." While his eyes remained on the road, he gently squeezed his partner's hand and then brought it up to his lips for a tender kiss. "God, Scully, you really do know how to bring out the mushy side of me."

She could only laugh in response to that mainly because it always surprised her how little about himself that Mulder seemed to know. He proved to her time and time again just how sensitive and 'mushy' he was, whether it was towards her, a victim, or even a perp. Mulder was sometimes too damned sensitive for his own good and often got himself into trouble because of it.

"There's a Seven-Eleven. Want anything?" he asked.


"Oh, Scully, you do live dangerously!" he teased.

So, sometimes 'practical' can still win out, she mused.

She watched him walk into the convenience store, eyeing his butt with more than just a passing interest. Not thirty minutes before that beautiful rear end was buck naked and lying next to her on the same bed they'd just made love in. The smile on her face was one of smug satisfaction, and she had no qualms about sharing it with the world.

That is until he appeared at her window.

"Hello, Dana. How nice to see you again."

She flinched, though God knows she didn't want to give him the satisfaction. "Go to hell, Krycek." She looked at him dressed in his black leather jacket, black jeans, and black turtleneck. She half expected to see his face covered in soot for effect, but Krycek was too damn vain to cover up his pretty face.

"Tut, tut, Dana, is that anyway for a lady to speak?" He smirked at her and then quickly said, "You look good in basic black, Scully. Where's the party, and why, oh why wasn't I invited, too?"

"You're already involved in this you sonofabitch, aren't you? Damn it, I should have known. What's your role in this, Krycek? Why Byers? What can he possibly do to help you get ahead in your little game of one-up-man-ship with the consortium?" she asked in a steely tone.

"Silly girl, Byers is nothing more than the catnip. A mere enticement for the real prey. You knew that, didn't you, Dana? Well, I must be off. Have fun tonight, Agent Scully. Until we meet again...and we will meet again." Before she could say another word, he vanished into the night. She hadn't even time to get out of the car when seconds later, Mulder returned to the car with a couple of bags in tow.

"What?" he asked defensively. "Even rescuers have to eat, Scully."

"We had a visitor," she said with resignation.

"Visitor? Who?"

"Alex Krycek."

"What?" Mulder set himself to jump back out of the car.

"Mulder, wait! He's gone."

"But what did he want? He knows about Byers, doesn't he?"

"Yes. He knows about Byers."

"Well?" Mulder's impatience was apparent as he tapped his thighs rhythmically. "What did he say?"

"I'm not sure what he meant by it."

"Scully, what is it?"

"Byers isn't the one they really wanted. He said he was just the catnip for the real prey."

"Shit," he muttered. He started the car and pulled out of the parking lot.

"Mulder, talk to me."

He said nothing for several seconds as he made his way back onto the beltway. It never seemed to matter what time of day or night it was, there was always traffic on the damn beltway. "I think, maybe, one of us is the prey. If Krycek is involved, you know he never takes the direct path. Scenic route is more in keeping with his style. It's just a game to him, Scully. He does this shit for his amusement, and whatever monetary benefits he can derive from it."

"Mulder? This time, it really is all about you, isn't it?"

He nodded, imperceptible, but most definitely a nod. "Let's go see what the boys have learned. Maybe Susanne will be there by the time we get there."

"You think she'll show up?" Scully asked, knowing full well what his answer would be and knowing full well that he'd be wrong.


"Okay." She reached into the bag for her yogurt, though she didn't bother to open it. Sometimes knowing you're right makes you lose your appetite.


Apartment Complex

Unknown Address

Bethesda, MD

8:10 p.m.


Susanne wrapped herself in the large bath towel after she finished her shower. It was one of the few luxuries she'd allowed herself when she first moved into the tiny apartment several months ago. No one knew of its existence, not the consortium nor Byers. This was her own little, private hideaway; it was a place for her to escape to when the pressures from the lab became too great.

It was for that reason that the loud rapping on the door startled her. When the door flew open, she tried to flee, but longer legs clad in black caught up to her.

"Hello Susanne. Nice to see you again."

"Go to hell, Alex."

"You know, Susanne, you have to be at least the fourth person who's said those exact words in the last ten hours. I'm beginning to get a complex."

"What the hell do you want from me?"

"Such language! What happened to being the more genteel and fairer sex?"

"Cut the crap, Krycek, and tell me what you want."

"You know what I want; it's time for you and Doc to get ready to go back to the old drawing board. Oh, and you have a new guinea pig, my dear." His expression was one of pure glee. And evil. Susanne gasped at a realization.

"You didn't? Oh my God, you infected John? Why? Why would you do that?"

"Well, that seems fairly obvious, doesn't it? Susanne, we need a victim for our savior to rescue. I decided it wouldn't behoove us to take Agent Scully again; we don't need the entire FBI force to be engaged. But one lone man, whose lover just happened to work with one of the top research scientists who just happened to be that man's father - Oh, c'mon, Susanne! Soap Opera Digest couldn't have created a better scenario than that!

"And I suspect the rescue effort will be taking place tonight. Am I correct about that, Susanne?" They both knew it was a rhetorical question.

He moved easily to where her bedroom was located, as if he were as familiar with the layout of her apartment as she was. Susanne realized that's because he probably was.

He pulled out various clothing items from her dresser drawers and handed them to her. "Here, get dressed."

She took them but made no move to dress. "I have no plans for tonight, Alex."

"No? Well, then that works out great then, doesn't it? Now we can go out. Together. You and me, babe." He smiled. Then his face took on one that brooked no nonsense. "Get dressed. I want to leave within the next ten minutes." Krycek reached into his jacket pocket with his good hand and pulled out a small revolver. "I suggest that you do not want to make me late, Susanne. Move. Now."

She was dressed within nine and they immediately left, his gun, pointed at Susanne's back the entire time.


The LGM Headquarters

Building # 566

'C' Street


Washington, DC

8:32 p.m.

The loud knock froze them both momentarily, until Frohike rose to see which of the players waited at the door. "Yeah?"

"It's me, Melvin. Open the damn door."

Frohike went through the ritual and finally unlocked the last of the locks to allow Mulder and Scully to enter. He watched as the two walked in, obviously with more on their minds than what had been when they'd left earlier that day.

"You figured it out, too, didn't you?" asked Frohike.

Scully looked directly at the oldest of the gunmen and ask, "What do you mean?" She wondered if the man in black paid them a visit as well.

"Byers is just a pawn. They're after someone else. We figured it ain't Langly or me; not that either one of us couldn't be of some benefit to them, of course..."

"Frohike, get on with it," Mulder interrupted.

It was Langly who picked up the ball, however. "We decided that it's probably not Susanne either, who by the way still isn't here. They've already proven they can get access to her at will."

"No," agreed Frohike, "and we don't think it would make sense for them to go to the trouble of taking Byers just to get to Susanne. I mean, she works right at the lab; they could arm twist her every day of the damn week, if they needed to. Which of course leaves you two.

"I want one of you to stay here with Scully," declared Mulder.

"Like hell!" retorted Scully with equal determination. "It's Mulder they're after."

They all nodded in quiet agreement. Langly spoke up with the sixty-four dollar question. "Why? Why now, Mulder? What have you got they've decided they need. They've already probed your brain, and most likely didn't find much, so it can't be to tap your incredible intelligence...." Everyone managed a chuckle over that.

"So what is it, Mulder? They ever do anything to you that would make them want you now? What have you got that they need?" asked Frohike.

"I don't know," he answered. "Every time I was released from a military base, I came out with a clear mind...and no memories. I don't know what our good old U.S. of A. wants from me this time."

"But what if...?" Scully hesitated, but she looked directly at Mulder. He nodded and urged her on. "Mulder, remember who's involved here - Krycek. We never know which side of the fence that bastard stands on, so what if...?"

Just as Frohike asked, "When did he come into the picture?" Mulder's eyes opened wide with understanding.

"Damn it," he gritted out.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Russia. It was when I was in Russia; remember, when you were called to testify at the congressional hearing?"

Scully nodded. He'd never spoken to her of that time in Russia with Krycek, but she'd always suspected it was not a holiday. Each time she'd asked about it, he had brushed the question off; he often said that there wasn't much to tell, but someday when they were old and gray and bored to tears he'd fill her in.

Scully sat down next to her partner. "Mulder, what happened in Russia?"

"You feeling bored, Scully?"

"I never could get you to tell me what happened. Mulder, but you have to tell me now. John's life may depend on it."

He nodded, knowing she was right.

"Krycek and I were spying on some kind of prison camp, but we were spotted. I started running like crazy. Would have beat out the damn horses too if I hadn't tripped." He shrugged.

"Go on."

"Not much else to tell. They caught us, tied us up, and threw Krycek and me into a dirt pit with bars. They came for me, dragged me out of my cell and beat the hell out of me. Then - then they brought me to - "He began to unconsciously rub his neck.

"Where, Mulder? Where did they bring you?"

"They brought me into this large, gray room with rows and rows of small cots...no, they were like cages. Oil started pouring from above all over me. Shit felt like it was crawling right through me. Now that's one memory I wouldn't have minded being wiped out."



The LGM Headquarters

Building # 566

'C' Street


Washington, DC

9:00 p.m.

Mulder excused himself for a few minutes to use the bathroom. Scully excused herself and followed him. Just before he walked into the small lavatory, he turned to her.

"I'm okay, Scully."


He smiled. "Yeah, but it's nice to know that if I weren't you'd be there as my back-up."

"Always, Mulder. Anytime, anywhere."

"I know. It's nice to be reminded every now and then though."

Now she smiled and reached out to hug him. "Oh, Mulder," she sighed as she drew him in towards her. She felt his arms go around her small waist and hold her. "This feels good."

"Yeah, it does, except..."

"What? What's wrong?" The smile disappeared and worry lines appeared.

"Except I really do have to use the bathroom, so, if you don't mind...?" He chuckled at the exasperation that clearly showed on her face.

"Oh, for crying out loud." She slapped him gently on his ass, gave him a quick kiss, and walked back into the small living area of the headquarters.

"He's okay for tonight, isn't he?" Frohike asked.

Scully nodded in the affirmative.

"She's not going to show up, is she?" asked Langly.

"Did you expect her to?" asked Frohike.

"No," he replied and then pointed towards the head. "But he did."

"She was going to come, Langly," said Scully. "Mulder's sixth sense kicked in about her, and he really believed she would have shown up. It's possible she didn't show up because someone didn't want her to show up."

"And who might that be, Agent Scully?" asked Langly.

"A certain rat bastard," she replied and then proceeded to fill the two men in on Krycek's little visit with her.

"Damn," Langly responded, and looking at Frohike said, "So that's where he fit into the picture."

"Yeah, damn," echoed Frohike. He then looked thoughtfully at Scully and asked, "Did you have any idea about it? About Russia?"

Scully shook her head. "No, he never even hinted at it."

"But I thought that stuff killed everyone," remarked Langly.

"Me, too," she replied to which Frohike nodded in agreement.

"Me, three." Mulder reappeared. "They injected me with something when they'd first captured me. They threw me into the cell and-" he unconsciously brought his hand back up to his neck, "shot me up with it. It must have been some kind of a serum to counteract the effects, and they were using me to test it. I never felt any symptoms after that first day they'd given me the 'black oil beauty treatment'."

He looked around for a moment and observed, "Susanne's not here yet."

"No, she's not," and before he could comment, Scully added, "I'm sorry, Mulder. I don't think she's going to make it back here."

Though he finger-combed his hair in frustration, he didn't disagree. "I think she wanted to come back, Scully. I really think she did."

"Yeah, right," muttered Langly.

"Would you knock it off?" retorted Mulder angrily. When Langly looked at him with the classic "who me?" expression, Mulder eagerly accepted the job of explaining himself. "Langly, putting her down and making her out to be the total villain is not going to endear yourself to Byers."

"That's assuming he's still alive!"

"He's alive," Mulder replied adamantly, "and I don't want to hear anymore negative shit like that, do you understand?" Mulder stared down Langly and Frohike and practically dared them to disagree. He couldn't bear to look over at Scully, though, for fear that she felt the same way as the boys.

But Scully understood that and let him know immediately where she stood. "I think so, too, Mulder. But we're going to be on our own tonight looking for him. Susanne won't be here; I don't think she can."

"Krycek," he replied resignedly.

Scully nodded in agreement. "You think you're up to this?"

"Sure. Besides, I don't have a choice. Byers needs all of us."

To that all of them agreed, so they sat and finalized their makeshift plans.


Roush Laboratory

284 Stealth Avenue

Langley, VA

9:45 p.m.

"Hey, Doc! Doc, you got company!" called out Alex, as he entered the laboratory with Susanne in tow.

Dr. Byers came out of the room he'd brought John to earlier and shook his head. "How could you, Susanne?"

Susanne stared at the older man, not believing what she'd just heard. "Alan, if you think for one moment I had anything to do with this asshole infecting John -" She paused momentarily to catch her breath, and then she realized she was wasting valuable time. "Oh for Christ's sake, it really doesn't matter what you think, does it? Where is he, Alan?"

Dr. Byers didn't hesitate; he pointed toward the room he'd just left and watched as she pushed her way through to the lab. Both Byers and Krycek followed her in.

"Gee, your little boy isn't looking to too great, is he, Doc?"

"Shut up, Krycek," hissed Susanne. "What are his vitals, Alan?"

"He's holding his own, but I don't know how long he can last like this. I swear, Krycek, if he doesn't survive this, I will kill you."

"Oh, c'mon, Doc...sticks and stones will break my bones, but idle threats will never hurt me...." He smiled, but none present felt like celebrating.

"Susanne, I was considering using the protocols from the last trial," offered Byers.

"For what purpose? It failed miserably on the last three patients," responded Susanne.

"But it might give us time, don't you think?" he asked.

"We can't be sure," she responded uneasily.

"Do we have a choice?"

"Yes, Susanne, do you have a choice?" interjected Krycek with a syrupy tone.

"Maybe we should just inject you with the little critters, Krycek?" retorted Susanne.

"No, thanks," he said as he held up his prosthesis, "I paid my dues, thank you very much. But in case you have some other ideas, I've brought a few of my nearest and dearest friends to stay nearby and stand watch over you and the good doctor here." As if on cue, several very large men, holding equally large weapons, appeared in the room behind Krycek.

"What the hell are they here for?" asked Susanne.

"Just want to make sure you stay focused, dear, that's all," said Krycek.

Suddenly the monitors began squealing and both Susanne and Alan rushed to check John over. They adjusted IVs and readjusted the oxygen flow. Susanne grabbed a stethoscope and listened to his heart and lungs.

"I don't like the sound of his lungs; he's got fluid accumulating."

"What do you suggest we do, Susanne? He's not going to get any better without some kind of intervention," asked Dr. Byers.

"We need to hold out a little longer."

"Oh? Why, Susanne Modeski, why ever are you willing to wait? Could it be that you're expecting, oh say...some visitors tonight?" asked Krycek, the sarcasm practically dripped out of his mouth.

"I don't understand you, Alex. What kind of deadly game are you playing here?" asked Modeski.

"Oh, but don't you know? The deadly kind are the only kind worth risking your own life for."


Roush Laboratory

284 Stealth Avenue

Langley, VA

10:18 p.m.

"This has got to be the ugliest building I've ever seen," observed Mulder wryly. "No wonder they decided to hide it among all this foliage."

The concrete fortress rose seemed to rise above the trees the closer they got to the building. It was nothing more than a square rectangle with several smaller square boxes layered above it in an almost haphazard pattern. The windows appeared to be nonexistent; they also wondered where the entrance was.

Frohike pulled out his small palm pilot and brought up the blueprints that he'd so carefully downloaded earlier. He zoomed in on the ground level, West End of the building and searched for possible entryways.

"Bingo!" Frohike practically shouted.

"SHH! Why don't you just get a bull horn, and let everyone know we're here?" admonished Langly.

"Sorry. Jeeze, ya don't have to get that touchy, Mulder."

"Okay, okay...where is it?"

All was forgiven and Frohike pointed out the most likely entrance points on the palm pilot and then pointed out toward the building itself. "Let's go."

The quartet, dressed from head to toe in black, headed out toward the most likely site of entry. They kept low and looked carefully for any sign of barriers, both physical and electronic. Several minutes later, having found none, they stepped up in front of the concrete slab and knelt down to catch their breath.

"What's wrong with this picture?" gasped Scully as she drew in some fresh air.

"What do you mean?" asked Langly, wiping the sweat and long blond wisps of hair off of his forehead.

"I know what you mean, Scully," agreed Mulder.

She nodded. She figured Mulder would understand and pick up on what she was thinking. "Doesn't this seem just a tad too easy, boys?"

"Easy?" echoed both Frohike and Langly in stereo.

"No guards? No electronic fences? Do you see anything that even remotely resembles a monitoring device?" she asked.

All three men shook their heads. Frohike said, "But you gotta admit, Agent Scully, they've got us stymied about how to get into the damn place."

Scully had to agree with that as she looked over the wall and tried to discern where the entryway was. "Bet ya wish Susanne was here now," she muttered quietly.

"Yeah, damn straight," mumbled Langly, not realizing he was heard.

"Be careful what you wish for," whispered Scully, so that only Mulder could hear. He gave her a quick smile.

Next, he started feeling his way all around the perimeter of the concrete wall of the building, as he hoped to find a trigger device that would gain them access. Scully began to follow suit as did Langly and Frohike.

"Ouch!" cried out Scully.

"What happened?" called out a chorus of male voices, but before Scully could answer, they heard a rumbling from the concrete fortress and suddenly, a wide opening appeared before them. Meanwhile, Scully placed her cut finger in her mouth as she tried to control the slight bleeding that appeared when she'd caught her finger on the trigger mechanism.

"I thi'k I fou'd it," she mumbled.

"Good job, Sherlock," teased Mulder. "You okay?" When she nodded in the affirmative, he said, "Great. Let's go see what the hell they're letting us walk right into..."

It was the silence that assaulted them first, and then it was the enormity of the size of the entrance hall. They determined there was no upper floor, though they knew from the blueprints there were several lower levels.

"Well, which way, Wrong-Way?" asked Mulder of Frohike.

The little man smiled at that, sucked on his index finger, and lifted it up as if to test the winds. "Oh, how about thataway?" he asked as he pointed directly in front of them.

"Sounds as good of a plan as any," answered Mulder. "Let's go."


Roush Laboratory

Experimental Lab

284 Stealth Avenue

Langley, VA

10:30 p.m.

"Well, it appears our guests have finally arrived," announced Krycek, as he viewed a video monitor near the door. "All I can say is it's about time, right, Doc? I mean, Sonny Boy doesn't look too well at the moment, does he?"

"Damn you, Krycek," hissed Dr. Byers.

The smirk on Krycek's face was evident, so much so, that both Suzanne and Alan turned in disgust. The two scientists had been quietly consulting with one another over what their next course of action should be.

John's level of consciousness continued to diminish. It was apparent that his reaction to pain was decreasing as well, and it was obviously of great concern to both of them. Susanne was the first to admit, for her colleague's ears only, that they most likely had only one hope to cure John, as it was apparent that the old vaccine was not providing a remission of the symptoms.

Krycek's announcement sent a sense of relief through them, knowing that the rescue team had finally showed up. They needed to create a new vaccine. As in right then and there.

"So, boys and girls? Shall we go have someone greet our guests?" With a nod to the five goons standing guard near the entrance, Krycek sent a signal to bring their 'visitors' to them immediately.


Before they'd even had a moment to say "What the hell?" Mulder, Scully, Langly, and Frohike were surrounded.

"Damn, you guys are big," observed Frohike, whose mouth remained opened slightly in disbelief.

"C'mon, Frohike, anyone you stand next to is gonna look big," retorted Mulder. At that moment, Goon Number 1 stood directly in front of Mulder. The agent found himself looking up in order to make eye contact with his captor. "Okay, 'you're big'," Mulder acquiesced, raising his hands in a defensive posture. Even Frohike managed a smile at that.

"So, take me to your leader," proclaimed Mulder and wondered why he didn't feel more threatened. The foursome were lined up side by side and directed to raise their hands and place them on the back of their heads. Goons 1, 2, 3,and 4 remained directly in back of their prisoners, while Goons 5 and 6 stood guard at each side, as they walked them down the obviously very wide, but very long, bare corridor.

"What the hell is this place?" asked Scully incredulously as she surveyed the area. "There doesn't seem to be any sign of life here at all."

"Something's wrong with this picture; I just wish I could figure out what the hell it was exactly."

"You get the feeling," began Frohike, "that we've just been given an 'engraved invitation'?"

All of them nodded in agreement.

They'd finally reached the end of the corridor when the guards to their sides pointed their weapons toward the right. Obviously they were being directed to turn right, but Mulder had other ideas.

"What's going on? Where are you taking us?" he asked.

"Yeah, where's Byers?" piped in Frohike.

The hulking men simply pointed their weapons again to the right. Frohike was getting pissed off, which unfortunately sometimes led Frohike to do foolish things. This was one of those times.

"No!" he shouted as he tried to break away. Goon Number 3, the man who was guarding Frohike, immediately reached out and, with one hand, grabbed the little man up and raised him up off of the floor. Neither man made a sound, at least not until Frohike practically squeaked from lack of oxygen.

"C'mon, man, put him down," urged Langly who instinctively moved to help his friend, but who was also immediately blocked by Goon Number 2.

The giants observed all of their captives, but the one holding Frohike made eye contact with Mulder and held his gaze. Mulder realized that they were waiting for some kind of response from him, and suddenly he knew what was going on.

"Put him down. Let's get this over with," he said.

And with that, the group turned right and headed toward their appointed destination.


The door slid opened with a whoosh, as if an airlock was released. Frohike and Langly were pushed through the opening first, with Scully and Mulder following. They'd entered a small outer office that remained dark and shadowy. They didn't see anyone at first, but there was no mistaking that voice.

"Hail, hail, the gang's all here."

"Gee, what a surprise to find you here," said Mulder.

Krycek responded with a mirthless chuckle. "Oh, you're just saying that because you're so happy to see me, aren't you, Mulder?"

Scully was standing by and watching the exchange with frustration. "What the hell is going on here? Where's Byers? Where's Susanne? You do know where they both are, don't you? What have you done with them? And what, Krycek, do you want from us? I don't-"

"Enough! I don't want anything from you, Agent Scully, or from your two little lap dogs either for that matter," snarled Krycek.

"Then why are we here?" she demanded to know.

"Because you come with the package," he replied snidely.

The look of confusion on Scully's face prompted Mulder to intercede. "Me. I'm the package, right, Krycek?"

"Give the man a kewpie doll!"

"So what now, Alex? You finally got me here, but I'm still not sure why."

Suddenly another rush of air was heard and light penetrated the small room illuminating Krycek, which allowed the others to see him pointing toward the opening. "Why don't you follow me, Mulder, and I'll show you why," and then as an afterthought he added, "Oh, and the others can come, too, if they want."

The two gunmen, Scully, and Mulder followed Krycek into the larger laboratory area with a little help from the large bodied goons that walked behind them with guns prodding their backs. When they'd all entered, the airlocks reversed in sound and all noted that they were now locked in what seemed like a seamless room. There appeared to be no escape.

"Oh, damn!" gasped out Langly as he rushed over to where Byers lay on the hospital bed. He was hooked up to numerous monitors, but there appeared to be no signs of consciousness. Frohike was quickly behind him as were Mulder and Scully.

"What's wrong with him?" demanded Langly. "What have you done to him?" The blonde's face contorted with anger. Frohike appeared no calmer.

"Why him? Why John?" asked Frohike softly, with concern.

"Let's just say he provided very good incentive," answered Krycek.

"For me?" asked Mulder who was now confused and worried that his friend's condition was a direct result of their association.

"No," called out a male voice, husky with emotion, "for me."

"And for me as well," echoed someone else with equal desolation.

"Sonofabitch, I knew you were behind this!" cried out Langly as Susanne approached them. Mulder immediately moved to protect Susanne from Langly's lashing out.

"Calm down! You're not helping him by hurting her," Mulder admonished.

"It's her fault!"

"No, it's his fault," Mulder hissed as his eyes pierced Krycek's. "Byers was just a pawn in all of this, a means to an end."

Alan Byers finally came forward and was seen by the rest of the room's inhabitants. The family resemblance was strong and caused both Frohike and Langly to gasp in the immediate recognition of their fallen comrade's father.

"I tried to protect him all of these years. I never meant for this to happen," he said, trying to contain his emotions. "And you have to believe me when I tell you that Susanne kept my existence a secret for as long as she did because I pleaded with her. I feared for John's life as well as his mother's...Susanne knew that."

"If she hadn't gotten involved with her," Langly argued, "he wouldn't be laying in that bed dying. You will never convince me differently of that."

Krycek jumped in and said, "Yada, yada, yada...Look, you wanna go kick her ass, be my guest, Langly, just not on my watch, okay? Susanne and the esteemed Dr. Byers have a job to do, and they do not need to interrupted by a sniveling hippie wannabe. So, do me a favor, can it, and let them get on with the business at hand."

"Which is exactly what?" interjected Scully. "What do you expect us to do?"

"I don't expect you to do anything, Agent Scully. I don't expect Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee to do anything either. Agent Mulder, on the other hand, is another story." Turning to Mulder, Krycek said, "Have a seat, Foxy. Oh, and take off your shirt, okay?"


"The good doctor needs to draw some blood, don't you, Doc?" replied Krycek. Both scientists nodded in the affirmative.

"I can just roll up my sleeve, doncha think, Alex?" Mulder asked wryly.

"Can't blame a guy for trying," retorted Krycek with a smirk.

Mulder was just about to seat himself when Scully cried out, "Just a God damned minute here!"

"Has she always had such a way with words, Mulder, or is this your influence?" asked Krycek.

Scully pulled Mulder's arm, and practically pulled him up off of the ground with the unbelievable tug. "Why are you so willing to do whatever this bastard says you should do? Mulder, I don't understand you? I see, once again the idea of 'trust no one' has gone out the window. You want to give me one good reason?"

Mulder pointedly looked over at the bed. Byers continued to lay still under the scrutiny of beeping monitors, inflating respirators, and dripping IVs.

Mulder sat and rolled up his sleeve.



Roush Laboratory

Experimental Lab

284 Stealth Avenue

Langley, VA

12:30 a.m.

Susanne drew several vials of blood, while Mulder cringed each time a new one was filled. As hard as he tried to keep from looking, his eyes returned to watching the needle each time. Finally, she pronounced the task finished, as she withdrew the syringe and placed a folded up gauze on the needle mark. Susanne bent Mulder's arm and instructed him to hold it tightly for a minute or so, while she labeled the blood samples and then got a Band-Aid.

Scully took the bandage from her and applied it to her partner's arm. And then there was nothing left to do but wait, while Susanne and Dr. Byers returned to their own laboratory to get to work.

"How long will it take?" asked Langly as he looked worriedly at his friend.

Scully shrugged her shoulders, but she attempted to explain the process anyway. "They're going to clot the blood in order to separate it into plasma and the serum that's unique to Mulder's blood that will, hopefully, cure Byers. It takes anywhere from a half-hour to an hour just to clot the blood. I assume they have methods of ringing the clot that is faster than standard procedures given the time factor."

"Time factor? Scully, what do you mean, exactly?" asked Frohike.

Scully looked at the two men who had been in Mulder's and her corner more times than she could count. She wanted so much to say the words they wanted to hear, but she respected them too much to not tell them the truth as she saw it.

"He's very ill, Melvin."

Frohike shuddered slightly at her use of his given name; if he hadn't wanted to believe there could be a possible fatal outcome before, there was no doubt in his mind now. Scully would never lie to him and as much as he appreciated that in her, this one time, he almost wished she had.

"How long does he have?" he asked.

"I don't know. I've only had indirect experience with this before." She turned to Mulder and asked, "Do you remember anything from that time? Anything regarding the symptoms and how long your recovery was?"

Mulder shook his head. "I honestly don't; I'm sorry. Of course I don't know how relevant it would be even if I did, since I received the vaccine before I was exposed to the damn oilians." He looked over at his friend and felt a frustration interlaced with an anger he hadn't felt in a long time. It was bad enough that his own life was turned upside down by the consortium; it pissed him off royally that his friends were being subjected to their evil as well.

As if reading his mind, Scully reached for his hand and said, "This is in no way, shape, or form your fault, Mulder." He shook his head, but before he could verbally disagree, she continued, "Listen to me. Dr. Byers knew exactly what he was getting into when he made his decision. Do you hear me, Mulder? His decision. Just like your father made decisions that you may question, but you had no say in. William Mulder and Dr. Byers made adult decisions a very long time ago. You were just a little boy. There was nothing you could do."

His rational self knew she was right, but his heart wondered if there wasn't anything that he could have done to prevent this. He kept his doubts to himself.

Scully sat next to her partner for a few minutes more, but her need to do something compelled her to get up and check the patient's vitals once again. His respiration remained low, and his blood pressure appeared too high. He was running a low-grade fever and he was not responding to normal stimuli. Though it made her uneasy, Scully decided to check and see if Byers responded to pain stimuli. She made a fist and forced pressure near his sternum.

He moaned.

Langly jumped up to object to whatever the hell Scully was doing, but stopped when he saw her relieved expression. "Oh, that's a good thing, isn't it?" the lanky blond realized aloud.

"Yes, it's a good thing." Scully continued checking Byers's reflexes and jotted notes on the chart that lay nearby. The others, however, had nothing to keep them occupied other than their worrisome thoughts.

"How much longer do you think it'll be, Scully?" asked Mulder.

"Not too much."

There was a sudden rush of noise; the doorway's airlock had been released again and in swaggered Krycek. No one had even realized he'd left.

"Here," he called out to no one in particular as he tossed a few bags of fast food restaurant bags onto the table. "Need your nourishment, kiddies."

"Yeah, right. Like we'd eat anything you brought in," declared Frohike.

"Suit yourselves," he responded as he opened one of the bags and pulled out a paper wrapped burger. He unfolded the paper, pulled out the burger, and proceeded to take a large bite. He grabbed a package of french fries as well and began munching on them. "Good shit."

Mulder's stomach had the audacity to growl at that very moment. "Oh hell," he mumbled as he stood up and retrieved his own burger and fries.

"Mulder, you crazy?" asked Langly.

"If Alex wanted to kill us, he certainly could do it more expeditiously than by poisoning us with Big Macs. Besides, I'm hungry."

The others gave Krycek a sideways glance and then aped Mulder's actions. He was right, if Alex wanted them dead, he'd have certainly done away with them before he spent the dough on dinner.


Roush Laboratories

Experimental Lab

284 Stealth Avenue

Langley, VA

3:45 a.m.

The senior Byers's voice startled them all awake as he rushed back in from his laboratory. "We've got it. I'm sure this is it!" he cried out excitedly. Susanne followed him into the room, her relieved expression seemingly pronouncing the same claims.

"Well, well, well...see what a little incentive can do?" asked Krycek, his eager tone belying his sarcastic words.

They all watched as Susanne injected the latest vaccine into Byers's IV. They all watched and waited silently for several moments.

"I doubt it's going to work instantaneously, folks," Scully said. "Maybe we should sit down." They did.

Finally, Mulder broke a long anxious silence. "What I don't understand, Krycek, is why the hell did you have to get John involved in this; why not just nab me and draw the blood?"

"Well, like I said; everyone needed a little more incentive to get this vaccine in working order. I figured using Johnny boy here would not only encourage Daddy and Lover Girl a little more, it would also not necessitate me having to risk my life yet one more time to get you to do what is necessary to save this world's sorry ass."

"So, you're trying to tell us that you're out to save the world, Krycek?" retorted Mulder with a snort.

"Hey, I've been telling you all along; I'm one of the good guys."

"Sure. Sure you are." Mulder would have liked nothing more than to stand up and punch the guy's lights out, but with the goonies still standing guard, he didn't think that would be the wisest move on his part. Byers had to be their main concern at the moment.

And Mulder's patience was rewarded. It appeared that the patient was finally starting to come around.

"John," called Susanne in an effort to awaken him. "John, you need to wake up now." She leaned over and placed her lips gently onto his forehead.

It was obviously an effort, but Byers's eyes fluttered a bit and, finally, opened. They appeared to stare blankly at first, but as seconds ticked by, their focus seemed more and more.

Both Mulder and Scully looked on with great concern, oblivious to everything around them except their friend. They knew what was most likely going to happen next.

"Holy shit!" shouted Frohike. Langly even jumped back a bit in reaction to what they were seeing coming out of Byers's eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. Small, black oily worm-like entities appeared out of no where. They seemed to inch their way out of Byers's body, and then die on his face until most of his face was covered in the ebony mask.

"They're dead," declared Scully after careful poking and prodding. She quickly picked up an implement to aid her in removing the offensive material off of Byers's face and placed it in a plastic bag for evidence.

Byers's eyes darted from face to face of those who stared down at him. He opened his mouth to mouth to speak, but coughed a bit instead. He was still intubated and Dr. Byers asked him if he were ready to have the endotracheal tube removed. He managed a small nod. Just as Dr. Byers was about to tell John what to do next, Scully beat him to it.

"Cough when he says to, okay, John? It'll make the removal a lot less painful," she explained.

Scully couldn't help but wonder how many times she'd said those very words to Mulder. "Ready?" she asked Byers. At his nod, Alan Byers proceeded to pull out the tube. "Cough, John," and as he did, the tube was removed. When the tube was removed, the scientist stepped back.

John attempted to talk, but nothing other than a slight rasp escaped his lips. "Don't try to talk yet; you're throat is going to feel extremely sore." She reached over and grabbed a cup of water that Mulder had knowingly prepared. Byers gratefully sipped from a straw.

Several minutes passed and all eyes remained on the man lying in bed. Scully monitored his vitals and appeared pleased with what she saw. "Your respiration is getting back to normal levels and your blood pressure is a lot lower. It looks like the vaccine worked, John. Welcome back."

John nodded and then looked over and beyond his four friends. He looked confused and even a bit distressed. Finally he managed to rasp out, "Susanne? My father?"

The quartet turned about quickly and realized they were alone. Apparently Krycek had gotten what he wanted but was not about to leave his unwitting accomplices behind.

They were gone.



The LGM Headquarters

Building # 566

'C' Street


Washington, DC

Several days later

6:55 p.m.

The knocking was loud enough to wake the dead, so the three friends knew it could be only one person.

"Hold your horses, Mulder. I'm coming," called out Frohike.

"Hurry up, the beer's getting warm, and the pizza's getting cold!" he answered.

Frohike smiled; at least when Mulder showed up unexpectedly he bore gifts. As he unlocked the last of the series of protection devices, Mulder pushed in the door. "Ah, I see the lovely Agent Scully is joining us as well. Come in, come in."

Scully couldn't help but smile; the little gnome was a royal pain in the ass sometimes, but she knew that Frohike could be counted on to cover her and Mulder's ass. She could put up with his archaic and totally unpolitically correct forms of flattery.

"Hello, 'Hickey'," she said, using the endearment she now reserved for his ears only. He returned her smile, but lost it as soon as she asked, "How's he doing?"

"Not so great, I'm afraid. He hasn't heard from Susanne at all. He's afraid that she may have disappeared for good this time." Scully nodded and followed Mulder into the main room.

"Hello, boys," she greeted.

Langly nodded in acknowledgment, while Byers said a soft hello.

"Hungry?" she asked. "We're starved, so you'll notice we got two large with everything on it, and one small one with some mushrooms and peppers for us normal ones," she said with a smile as she looked directly at Byers.

"Not really, but don't let that stop you," he said.

"Hey, Byers," retorted Mulder, "don't ever tell Scully that you're not hungry. She'll go into doctor mode faster than a C-note disappears in Vegas!" When that got nary a smile, he sat down next to his friend on the couch and gently patted John's knee. "Not doing so great yet, huh, my friend?"

He silently shook his head. No, he wasn't, but he was damned if he was going to talk about it. Not yet. He couldn't talk about it yet.

"I remember what hell it felt like," Mulder said.

"Which 'it'?" asked Byers.

Mulder chuckled a bit; sadly enough there were a number of memories that were the equivalency of going through hell. "Oh, we can pick a dozen from Column A and a couple of more dozen from Column B." He was pleased that he was able to bring a small smile to Byers's face, even if it was at his own expense.

Several minutes passed before Byers decided that maybe it was time to talk about it. At least Mulder would have some semblance of understanding. "I finally get a chance to see my father and I tell him to go to hell. Great son I turned out to be," Byers said softly.

"You weren't given much of a chance to be his son, were you?" To this, Byers shook his head in agreement. Mulder then said, "I'm sure he understood, John."

John looked at his him and wondered if his friend believed that of his own father. He hoped so, but somehow, he doubted it. His attention then turned to Scully who offered both him and Mulder a beer. Byers felt an overwhelming sense of sadness.

"What is it?" asked Mulder gently, though he already knew what was on John's mind.

"I don't think she's coming back this time," he said.

"You don't know that for sure."

"No, but I never felt this complete sense of abandonment before either. I think they've taken her from me for good, Mulder," and he turned away for a moment to try to compose himself. When that didn't work, he turned back, his eyes glistening, and he said, "And damn, it hurts. It hurts so damn much."

"Susanne's a smart woman, John. She's a valuable commodity for them, and as long as she has something that they want, they're going to keep her around." Mulder then placed a comforting hand on Byers's shoulder. "And we both know that if there's some way for Susanne Modeski to find her way back to you, she will."

"You really believe that?" asked Byers hopefully.

"I do. I really do believe."


End of Lone Hearts

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