Five vignettes pondering twists of fate for X-Files characters - headers at bottom of page
A knock on the
door. A missed phone call. Five moments that
1: A Knock at the Door
remembers her hands trembling so badly she could barely work the latch on
the front door. She knew
already what she would find; she'd had twenty-six sleepless hours to try
to prepare herself. The house
was deathly quiet and when she found Fox, he was curled up asleep in the
corner of his room beside the closet.
She was so numb she didn't even think to put him to bed.
remembers the torture of being at the Galbrands', attempting to play a
passable game of cards and make small talk while visions filled with
shadows, dark men and spacecraft roamed her mind like angry ghosts.
When Samantha flitted through the lens of this nightmare camera,
she forced herself to look away. How
else could she have gotten through the evening?
afternoon of that day has become a series of black-and-white snapshots in
her mind, frayed, now, at the edges: Samantha playing hopscotch with two
neighbor girls; a snack plate that broke, spilling cake; hanging out
laundry she knew already would never be worn again.
Fox is strangely absent from these scenes.
Ironically, he's become the reason she cannot forget this day.
had been impossible the night before.
She recalls distinctly the frozen minutes and hours of deep night,
the terror-residue of her ex-lover's visit mixing crazily with thoughts
of her daughter's imminent departure like melting ice cubes in bourbon.
Could she run--gather Samantha and Fox into the car, take the
packet of money from Bill's desk drawer and a few changes of clothes for
them all and go… where? Could
she keep them hidden? How
would she support them?
their safety from an apocalypse really depend on this?
spent the dark hours following the awful pronouncement curled into a
corner of the bed as far from Bill's side as possible.
Bill had remained in the study; in the morning she found him passed
out at his desk, a bottle still in his hand.
When Fox stuck his head in, she'd barked at him angrily.
How dare he act as if everything were normal when the world was
crumbling around them?
she shakes her head. How could he possibly have understood?
had all started early the previous evening with an unexpected knocking on
the front door, Spender come as Satan's officer to call them to
judgment. For conspiracy, for
treachery against the human race, for duplicity… and for unnamed sins of
her own; surely there were sins of her own involved… the penalty to be
paid was one daughter. She
thinks now that he had the gleam of Rumpelstiltskin in his eye when he
remembers that there was so little time.
remembers a foghorn moaning in the night.
She remembers lying in the empty darkness afterward, too fatigued to sleep, thinking it's over, it's over, it's over while another, darker voice whispered, No, it's just beginning.
2: Behind Closed Doors
stands on the platform joking it up with the man he hates, sympathizing
with his gripes about how hard it is to get reliable help these days, how
nobody understands the responsibilities he bears, carrying this project
and as many wretched human lives as he does. When the bald man lifts a fresh cigarette to his lips, Krycek
is right there, reaching out with a lighter like any good brown-nose.
Inside, though, his heart is running like a trip-hammer, his mind in half a dozen places at once: hoping the son of a bitch hasn't suspected; running through the details of this little project one mental blueprint at a time; wondering if and when Mulder will catch on to who's actually running this charade. Hoping that if he does, he won't do something stupid that will blow it for both of them. God knows it's been a ball-buster to stage this scenario and there are half a dozen points where it could still go to hell.
gust of air moves through the camp's courtyard, Siberia's icy breath
whispering down collars and reaching between jacket buttons like a cruel
lover. Krycek shivers once
and rejoins the conversation.
the planning stages he'd told himself it was a worthwhile gamble for a
critical strategic payoff down the road, but every few minutes now, when
he catches another skeptical look about his cover story, Krycek catches
himself with that 'down the first drop' roller coaster feeling, because
under the klieg lights of gritty reality, his payoff has ‘pie in the
sky' written all over it. How
clearly had he been thinking? Maybe
his logic had gotten infected by those little pipe dreams that lurk in the
corners of your mind like bacteria, waiting for just the right conditions
to fester and multiply.
late now. Nothing to do but
ride it out.
he sees the zeks begin to file out of the buildings: long, sorry
lines of trudging figures in ghostly gray.
Krycek scans the seeming clones, though there should be no need;
the guards have orders to leave the amerikanets in his cell, where
hopefully he won't get into any trouble.
Mulder needs to be in one piece when this little vacation from hell
it plays out, a shadowy pessimist in the back of his head reminds him.
Krycek swallows carefully, hoping Lev Antonovich won't notice,
but the bald man is laughing again at something said by one of the guards.
Sunlight reflects off his glasses, a momentary flash of empty
guard hurries up, whispers discreetly to the commandant and places a long,
thin, cloth-wrapped object into his hand.
Lev frowns but composes himself and continues to watch until the
assembly yard is nothing more than a vacant, pockmarked expanse of muddy
brown. After the guards have
been sent to their posts, he holds the wrapped object out to Krycek.
amerikanets has been busy,” he says, frowning, just as Krycek
opens the cloth to reveal a homemade knife.
“A guard opened the cell door in time to see the prisoner slip
something behind him.”
heart skips a single long, asphyxiating beat, then thuds to life again.
Sweat blooms on his forehead.
“Lucky catch,” he replies, clearing his throat against a sudden
dryness. “I told you he was
trouble.” Inside, his heart
is pounding out stupidmulderstupidmulderstupidmulderstupid like
a piston in a perfectly tuned engine, but he manages to spit out, “Good
thing I'm taking him off your hands tomorrow, eh?
An international incident would mean exposure this program can't
reply, if he makes one, is lost in the rush of blood pounding through
Krycek's ears. Count on
Mulder to give you a phone in the face no matter what you try to do for
him, he thinks. You
should've known better, Aleksei, you dreamer.
is only that night, lying awake in his tiny camp room, that Krycek's
mind returns to the unexpected blip of the morning and he realizes the
incident may not have been one of Mulder's typical shotgun bursts of
protest. After all,
Mulder's smart enough to realize that knifing a guard--or threatening
one--isn't going to get him out of a place like this.
inside Krycek goes cold and one hand wanders down to the soft of his
belly, feeling the sudden, sharp entry of a crudely made knife.
Internal injuries, complications… getting shanked in the thigh,
maybe severing an artery… a wild stab to an upper arm…
swallows, sits up in bed and massages the bicep that's escaped injury
through a guard's vigilance… or sheer chance.
It's nothing, he tells himself like someone trying to settle a
boy after a nightmare. No
point in losing sleep.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
3: Push the Buzzer and Run
her plane hurtles its way westward, she decides it will be the Christmas
tree that will prove her undoing: colorful lights; a handful of old
familiar ornaments waiting in ambush among the new; Bill and blossoming
Tara and her mother gathered around the base.
No Ahab. No Missy.
fact that Bill's house is an exact duplicate of the one they grew up in
proves to be the kill shot. Even
the hugs and warm greetings are no defense against the invisible shroud
that descends around her, a garment seemingly tailor-made and waiting.
Bill and Tara, all smiles and luggage, begin the climb to the
second floor and her mother, after speaking the names of the absent, gifts
Scully with a smile that carries all the brave strength of a winter sun
and then follows.
not responsible for Ahab,
a voice in Scully's head offers as she turns from the festive evergreen
and heads for the stairs.
only it were enough.
she sets her foot on the first step and reaches for the banister, the
second ringing makes her fingers reach instinctively but she reminds
herself that this is her brother's home.
the third ring, Bill appears at the top of the stairs and comes bounding
down. Scully flattens herself
against the wall to let him pass. The
sound of laughter drifts from the receiver.
When his repeated greetings go unreturned, Bill shakes his head and
raises an eyebrow. “Prank
Sounded like a couple of kids with too much time on their hands.”
she smiles. “Were you a kid
with too much time on your hands, Bill?”
scowls momentarily but his expression quickly relaxes into a grin.
“Too late to tell Mom now, Dana.
I'm too big to turn over her knee.
Besides, I only did that a few times.”
a spell has been broken. Or cast.
thinks about it as she sits in front of an open file folder in the
basement office a week later, waiting for Mulder to finish typing an
looks up abruptly.
seem miles away.”
was just thinking," she replies, and begins to gather the folder's
contents into a single pile.
to share with the class?"
his voice is neutral enough, beguiling enough that she forgets to apply
think the song was right, Mulder--you really don't know what you've got
'til it's gone.” She pauses
momentarily, captured by an image of gift-opening and laughter.
“Christmas went very well. Remarkably
well, in fact."
with Bill?" Mulder's
eyebrows rise; there's mild mischief in his eyes.
yes. Even with Bill.
Somehow we fell into talking about crazy things we'd done as kids
and..." She trails off. Eventually realizes she's smiling.
your sister-in-law? Has the UberScully arrived yet?"
Bill called this morning to say Tara's gone into labor."
She shifts a few more papers.
When she thinks to glance up, she finds him unexpectedly pensive,
the end of a pencil tapping softly against his lips.
he says when he notices she's watching, "it's broader than that,
Scully. I mean, it's not just
that we don't know what we've got until it's no longer with us--"
He shoots her a sympathetic glance; after all, he knows this
territory by heart. "Think about it: there's a whole world of things we'll
never feel or understand because they won't have happened to us.
We assume we're on a more or less straight path, headed toward a
concrete goal when in reality, every moment of our lives we're at a
crossroads, liable to turn in any one of a thousand different directions
depending on some small decision we make, some outside factor that comes
into play." After a
pause, he shakes his head.
went to this family gathering while you were gone," he says.
"My cousin Bernie showed up with a wife and four-month-old
have a cousin Bernie?"
a second cousin on my dad's side. Hadn't
seen him in a dozen years." He
stares momentarily into an inner distance.
"Anyway, he's the last person I would ever have pegged as a
settled guy, or a dad-type." He
leans toward her. "It
made me realize that parenthood is one of those things I've never
seriously envisioned--you know, the possibility of having a living,
breathing child clinging to your shoulder, needing to be fed and clothed
and--" He shrugs and
raises an eyebrow. "What
about you, Scully?"
purses her lips. "No,
not to that extent. I mean,
with this career and... and everything that's gone on in the past
year--" She shakes her
a moment she finds herself as she did at Bill's front door, an unnameable
tension low in her stomach. She busies herself so deliberately with organizing the
paperwork in front of her that Mulder's glancing touch on her shoulder a
moment later makes her jump.
G-woman," he says softly and then he's past her and standing at the
filing cabinet, starting to take down the projector.
thinks of keeping vigil beside a bed that did not contain her sister.
She thinks of waking from a dream convinced, in spite of
overwhelming evidence, that her partner was still alive.
a moment she stands, pushes back her chair and moves it into position
facing the white screen on the wall.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Moment 4: A Key Poised in the Lock
gray-haired men in a room: one in a bed, asleep open-mouthed; the other
watching from a nearby chair. Thin wisps of memory float through the sleeping man's mind:
a house he knew as a child; a tryst with a woman not his wife; a friend
turned foe, scowling; a night sky bright with points of light.
man in the chair tilts his head and considers the dreamer.
Until now he hasn't noticed the thin lines, like parentheses,
that accentuate the droop of the man's mouth.
He thinks of the way he looked ten years ago, and fifteen, and
twenty-five--the way all of them looked, young and full of vigor.
Full of purpose.
observer's eyes close briefly, then refocus on the bed.
His companion's breathing is even now, not labored the way it was
during the preceding week. Unconscious,
he seems completely unremarkable. Almost
harmless, the observer thinks, and suddenly sits up straighter.
knock comes on the door and a woman in a white lab coat enters.
She approaches the bed, lifts the blanket that covers her patient
and carefully peels the tape from a bandage on the man's chest.
After replacing it she checks the readouts on the machines beside
the bed and shakes her head.
appears he's going to make it,” she says, glancing at the visitor.
“He's surprisingly tenacious.”
seated man grunts in reply and watches the doctor turn and leave.
He frowns, remembering an incident as a boy where he baited a
snake, prodding at it with a stick until, without warning, it shot out at
the closing of the door, he looks back at the bed.
The sleeper's eyes move under closed lids and eventually one of
them opens slightly. He
watches the lid draw gradually back, the eyeball wander the room.
Finally it rests on him. The
face in the bed gradually settles into recognition.
The mouth opens, pauses, attempts a sound that emerges like wind
rustling through paper.
associates decided you were a greater danger than a benefit,” the seated
man begins, his voice unexpectedly loud in the sterile room.
patient draws a hand up from his side and weakly moves it toward his
chest. His fingertips stop at
the edge of the bandage.
been three weeks,” his companion continues.
“Two in a private facility in Montgomery County, then one here.
We're in Quebec. I
have a place near here, out in the countryside, somewhere you can stay for
the time being.”
pale man nods slightly. His
eyes close momentarily and then open again, glassy with moisture.
not doing this out of the goodness of my heart,” the sitting man says,
leaning closer, his eyes suddenly sharp and crystalline.
“Were there no compelling reason, I'd as soon have left you
there. But you have a secret,
a key--something you haven't shared with the others.”
the other offers no arrogance or whispered retort, the visitor rises from
his chair. “I'll return
in a few days,” he says, civil as before, and takes his leave.
bedridden man stares up at the ceiling and begins to take stock of his
body inch by inch--fingers, forearms, torso, legs.
Ankles and toes. He remembers the carpet pressed brush-like into his cheek, a
broken picture frame clutched in his hand as if by someone else's
thinks of his visitor, with his perennial British propriety, leaning close
like the pent-up fury of God. Yes,
he muses, there will be a reprieve. Yes,
you will serve your purpose. But
when your usefulness is past, I won't make the mistake you just have.
lips come together grimly and gradually his eyelids close.
What he wouldn't give for a cigarette.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
5: Shut and Open
door closes. Mulder remains
where he is on the floor, listening to the sound of Krycek's boots fade
in the direction of the elevator. Five steps, six steps, seven, eight, nine, pause…
head tilts and he listens--pure instinct, like breathing.
Nothing like the Everest it will be to make sense of what just
happened, of what Krycek just told him.
He will have to do that.
Yet again. Find a
handhold in this funhouse world and figure out which end is up, who's
lying, who's telling the truth.
they want from him.
steps in the hallway begin again: one, two, three, pause.
Four, five. Another
eases himself into an upright position, wincing at a growing bruise on his
hip. The residue of
Krycek's aftershave lingers in the air.
footsteps begin again but this time they're coming closer.
Mulder thinks that he should get up; he should stand or brace
himself or aim Krycek's gun at the doorway, ready, but his arms and
legs, like his mind, are still tangled in the shock of Krycek's visit.
spaceships and rebel factions. Resist
the shadows of Krycek's shoes are visible below the front door.
The handle turns and Krycek steps inside.
He walks straight into the living room and looks down at Mulder.
There's no smirk on his face, no about-to-burst intensity, no
‘poor sucker'll never figure this out' shake of the head. He just stands there.
protected, Mulder--from the oil,” he says, his tone even.
“That little jaunt we took to Tunguska--”
you tricked me into taking.” Somehow his own fire is missing, too, as if they're both
boxers too exhausted from sparring to begin again.
what it was for,” Krycek says quietly, and pauses.
“I just figured you should know.”
mouth opens but nothing comes out. Krycek
turns and starts toward the door.
hauled me halfway around the world and had me thrown into a prison camp
Krycek turns back. “What? Is it too much to believe?”
Krycek? Why'd you do it?”
For a long moment the other man is silent. Finally he shakes his head. A hint of something Mulder can't decipher--a smile? regret?--flits across his face. “You're not ready for that, Mulder. Maybe someday.” Then he turns and leaves.
closes his eyes briefly, then looks up, as if the ceiling could provide
answers. In the room beyond,
a glow from the hallway creates a partial halo around the slightly open
Archive: Yes, but please keep my headers and let me know where
Spoilers: mytharc through Season 5
Keywords: Teena, Krycek, Scully, Mulder and two consortium types
Summary: “In reality, every moment of our lives we're at a crossroads, liable to turn in any one of a thousand different directions depending on some small decision we make, some outside factor that comes into play."
Note: This story began as a response to the 'Five Moments that Never Happened' challenge... but they quickly became five small but crucial points that proved pivotal in the characters' lives.
Disclaimer: The X-Files characters are the creations of Chris Carter and 1013 Productions
copyright 2002, bardsmaid