Notes and Disclaimer at end
Wither Thou Goest
The wind slamming against the side of the house caught his attention. For a moment, he looked up from his book, listened to the shutters rattling, the pounding of the rain on the tin roof.
Reaching for his tea, he gave a thought of appreciation to the fishermen who had built this sturdy dwelling in the hollow that faced the North Atlantic. Newfoundland was known as The Rock for more than its granite foundations, its outcropping of the Canadian Shield. The people who eked out an existence on it and from it were a stolid people and their houses reflected their steadfastness.
He stretched out his legs to the heat of the wood stove that dominated the largest room, the kitchen. It was only late afternoon, in spite of the impenetrable darkness that surrounded the bay in which the house was situated. Normally, the autumn light would pick out the features of the room, the faded braided-rag carpet on the floor, the weathered table at which he ate his meals, the cupboards which were in need of a coat of paint. After nearly two years, he no longer saw any of the small deficiencies in the place, was only conscious of the peace and security he had found here.
Which was startlingly disturbed, on this day of all days, by a knock on the door.
At first, he thought it was only his imagination.
Or a piece of flying debris that had hit the door in its flight.
He stilled in his armchair, book open on his lap, mug in hand.
No. There it was. Again. And again.
Who the hell was stupid enough to be out in this kind of weather?
He placed his tea back onto the table, closed the book after noting the page and set it next to the mug. Head cocked, listening intently, he reached behind him and pulled out the weapon that he never was without.
There was no way he could look out one of the two windows in the kitchen; he had securely shuttered them against the anger of the storm. It would have made more sense, for self-protection, not to have done so. However, North Atlantic storms cared very little for incidentals such as the humans who dared live in their reach, and there was a limit to the number of broken windows and in-coming floods that he cared to deal with.
As for the door, it did have a small, very small, pane of glass but, with the weather the way it was right now, unless the person knocking had his face up to the glass itself, he would be unable to identify whether this was friend or foe asking for entry.
He had added an inside chain, so that, even though the wind wanted to slam the door open, all that it managed to do was drench the floor by the slim opening. He stood behind the door, gun in hand, shoulder bracing it against the temper of the storm.
"Krycek!" yelled a voice, "Let me in!"
Even if the speaker hadn't identified himself, Krycek did recognize the voice. It stunned him immobile.
"Jesus! Krycek! Look, I'm not holding." Two dripping hands wiggled their way into his safe haven. "Come on, Krycek! Let me in."
Krycek shook himself, still not believing. It took him a moment to decide. "I've got to shut the door to unchain it."
The hands disappeared. He shoved hard, slamming the door shut.
All he had to do was not open it again. He would still be safe. He could just go back to his chair, pick up his book, his drink and ignore the person outside his door.
A person who must have sensed what was going through his mind. A person who began, once more, pounding on his door.
Well, so much for that dream.
Krycek unhooked the chain. He opened the door just enough so that the person could slip in, so that he could shut it once more against the elements. So that it would hold him up as he turned to look at the man who was now stripping off his slicker, carefully, as not to spray water all over the room. Who hung the brilliant yellow rain gear on a hook by the door so that it would drip into the boot mat on the floor under it.
Who passed his hands over his scalp, wiping away the water there.
Who pulled a handkerchief from his jeans pocket and polished the drops and indoor fog off his glasses.
All the time looking at the man who stood, weapon in hand, watching him with no expression of any kind on his face.
Walter Skinner put his glasses back on, shoved his kerchief into his pocket. "You're looking pretty good for a dead man, Krycek."
Krycek pushed his body off the door. "Remy. Here the name is Remy. Not Krycek."
"Yeah, I know. Alexander Remy. Is that your real name?"
Krycek moved from the door and around the man he had never expected to see again in this lifetime. "It's the name I go by now. That makes it real enough for me."
Krycek slipped his weapon back into its holster, pulled his sweater back over it. "What do you want, Skinner?" He rested his ass on the table, placed his real hand flat on it and managed to look bored.
Skinner shook his head ruefully. "You know, Kry...Re...ah. Alex. This province has quite a reputation for being friendly. Wouldn't it be considered rather rude to invite a man in and not offer him something to warm his bones? Especially considering the weather he's come through to see you."
"Newfoundlanders are the friendly ones. I'm just a Mainlander who's renting. Means I can be as rude and unbearable as I please. And I certainly didn't invite you. What do you want, Skinner?"
"Well, some answers would do as a starter." Skinner looked around. "Mind if I sit down?"
Krycek raised an eyebrow at that. "Why? Do you think you'll be staying that long?"
Skinner sighed. "Look, Alex. Even if I wanted to leave, I can't. Not right now. The SUV I rented at the airport barely made it up here. I parked it in that little dip down the road, just so the wind won't tip it over. And the man who gave me directions to this place warned me that I had -- at most -- an hour before the wind really got bad. Though," Skinner shook his head, "if this isn't rough, what is it?"
"Breezy. It's just breezy, Skinner. The gale hasn't hit us yet." Krycek grimaced. "Well, take a chair. One way or another, you're going to be here some time. The Coast Guard says we've got a good 24 hours more of this before it blows itself out."
Krycek watched as Skinner pulled out one of the wooden kitchen chairs and sat down. He stretched his legs out to the heat of the wood stove, his boots and the bottom of his jeans soaked. If he were as generous a host as the Newfoundlanders were, thought Krycek, he would offer Skinner something dry for his feet, maybe even a pair of his own jeans to wear while Skinner's dried.
But, as he'd said, he was a Mainlander and therefore had no such reputation to live up to.
He went back to his chair, sat so that he could keep an eye on the man at his table.
Skinner had taken the time to look around the kitchen, to conclude that it took up half of the small house nestled safely in the hollow. There were two doors off the room; one, he figured, to the bathroom, the other, to the bedroom. Both doors were partially open, probably to allow for the heat from the large, black wood stove which took up almost the entire narrower wall of the kitchen.
Not a place he would have ever expected a Consortium assassin, triple-spy...
No, that was right. No longer a triple agent. More than that now.
"You're not going to answer my questions, are you?"
Krycek settled back in his armchair. "No one ever said you were stupid, Skinner."
"Not even about how you survived my shooting you at point blank range?"
Krycek rested one booted foot over the other. He cocked his head, thinking that one over.
Skinner waited patiently. He had time.
"Okay. Maybe that one. It wasn't me you shot. It was a Rebel wearing my face."
"Try again," Skinner slouched, getting more comfortable. "Didn't bleed green, Alex."
Krycek smirked. "What? You think Consortium scientists were the only ones creating hybrids? Think again. The Rebels were playing around with genetics as well."
"All right. Then why would one of them have died for you?"
Krycek shook his head. "I knew it, Skinner, I answer one of your questions and another pops up. You want to tell me why I should satisfy your curiosity?"
Skinner smiled. "Because it's raining. Because you're stuck with me. Because, like Mulder, I want to know the truth. And because I've spent a lot of time tracking you down. Don't you want to know how I did it?"
Krycek ignored most of what Skinner had said. "How is Mulder?"
Sinner allowed the change of topic. He had every intention of getting his answers, eventually.
"Enjoying the role of fatherhood with gusto. You can't meet him anywhere without his pulling out this wad of photos he has of the kid. It was sort of cute at first, but after three years you would think the newness of being a parent would wear down a bit."
Krycek's lips hinted at a smile.
"If you ask, Scully just tells you the kid is fine, but Mulder has to give you all the details, their relation to the growing charts of far too many paediatricians in far too many countries. The way he used to drive me crazy with his requests for 302s and his expense accounts, now he does with his stories about the newest 'cute' thing the kid has done, how intelligent, how perceptive, how precocious..." Skinner shrugged. "You get the picture."
The smile was almost there.
"Did you love him?"
The question took Krycek by surprise. "Love who?"
"Mulder. Did you love him?"
Krycek's eyebrow disappeared under the lock of hair that drooped over his forehead. "No. No, I did not, do not love Mulder. I respected his tenacity, his ability to ferret out information, to put improbably clues together and come up with the correct solution. But, no, not love. Why?"
Skinner shrugged. "I thought that might have been why you disappeared. Because he and Scully got together."
Krycek shook his head. "No. I disappeared, as you put it, because I'm supposed to be dead. Mulder might like to die and return to the same locale, but I preferred to put some distance between me and the several people who might not be so appreciative of the fact that I am not truly dead."
"That one of the new variety of Rebels had died in your place. That I killed. I'd still like to know why a Rebel took your place."
Krycek stared at his "guest", as though to intimidate him into withdrawing the question. The fact the Skinner met and held his glare with no discernable reaction made Krycek wonder if he had lost his edge. He gave up with a small peeved sigh.
Skinner was smart enough not to smile.
"They don't die the way we do. When we die, all of us dies. With Rebels, only the form dies. Their consciousness -- their memories, their intelligence -- returns to the fold to be reused. And they owed me. I sent a lot of information their way."
Krycek got to his feet and went over to the wood stove. He opened the firebox, couched, carefully placed a couple of pieces of wood onto the ebbing flame, reached around side for another.
Where a shadow came to life.
Skinner cocked his head, watched as the shadow grew, as it reached forward to claim part of the floor to that side of the stove. As the shadow kept on growing...and growing.
"What the hell is that?"
Krycek looked around and grinned. "*That* is Barney. Aren't you, Barney?"
A large, jet black, furry animal came out of its lair and stretched its forepaws out, pulling its spine as its rear end rose high. A large mouth opened wide in a yawn that displayed a respectable set of teeth.
"Yeah, but was it? A bear?"
Krycek closed the firebox door and straightened as the animal ambled up to his side, rubbed a massive head against his hip. He looked almost insulted as he patted the animal on the shoulders. "Barney," he explained, "is a Newfoundland." At Skinner's look of confusion, he added, "They're a local breed of dog. Love water, don't you, Barney?"
All the dog did was yawn again.
"What does he eat?" Skinner wondered, what kind of animal Krycek would have around? The damn thing didn't have to be an attack animal. All it had to do was sit on someone and its body weight and size would probably be as effective as a doberman's teeth.
"Don't worry. He's not fond of retired Assistant Directors. Too much gristle, eh, boy?"
Barney gave a wag of his great tail and strolled over to a couple of large metal bowls. As the men watched, the animal nosed around in one of the bowls, obviously looking for something to eat. Obviously not finding anything. He turned, sat on his haunches and managed, thought Skinner, to look incredibly pitiful for an animal that probably tipped the scales at around 150 pounds.
Skinner's attention flew from dog to man. He couldn't remember ever hearing Krycek laugh. It was deep, rich, heartfelt.
Krycek opened a cupboard and rummaged around, bringing out a plastic container of kibble. Barney watched with patient alertness as Krycek stooped, filled the dog's bowl. Barney took a sniff, looked up as though he had been expecting something different. "Sorry, boy, that's it for tonight. No leftovers." Barney looked from bowl to man, grinned a doggy grin that said you couldn't blame him for trying and thanked Krycek with a long slurpy lick of his cheek.
Krycek laughed again, wiped the side of his face against his raised shoulder. "You're welcome."
"How did you know I'm retired?"
Krycek patted the eating animal, rose and placed the empty container on the table. "I'm a spy, Skinner. Just because I'm dead doesn't mean I'm out of the loop."
"The RCMP loop? That is who you were really working for all along, wasn't it? The spy within the spy within the spy is really an undercover RCMP officer."
"You say that as though you expect me to deny it." Krycek opened the refrigerator door. "I've got left over stew. Will that do for supper?"
Skinner didn't say anything. Krycek looked around to see Skinner wearing his AD stone face. He decided to give the man a bit of a break. "Constable. I'm only a constable. We don't promote in rank the way you Americans do." He placed the cast iron pot on the stove, over the hottest part of the top.
"You infiltrated the Consortium first. Why?"
Krycek passed a hand through his hair, rubbing the back of his head with his fingertips. "You really do have a pile of questions, don't you? Ah, hell. I guess it really doesn't matter any more. And you still have your security clearance, right?"
"Drugs. They were running drugs, cross border, as a way of financing their experimentation with hybrids, among other things. Of course, we didn't know that part of it right then. My job was to get as much information as possible on the drug side of their activities and then get out. Unfortunately, I ended up involved in some of their other schemes. Which led me to the FBI, which led me to the Rebels."
"Who knew what you really were?"
"At first, the head of the drug investigation unit. Later, the head of the RCMP, then our Minister of Justice informed your Attorney General about the Shadow Government aspect. No one else."
"No one else?"
"Shit. There must have been times when you felt the whole world was on your case."
Krycek shrugged. "Goes...went with the territory."
"And you couldn't trust me with that information?"
Krycek looked uncomfortable for the first time. "No, not at first. At first, it appeared that your position had been bought by Spender and that you intended paying him for it. Then later, well, I might have, but Spender was too pissed off with you and I didn't dare approach you."
"Especially after you 'killed' me."
"Yeah. Especially then. Do you want bread with that stew? Mrs. MacLeod gave me a loaf of her soda bread yesterday. It's a bit dry the next day but it tastes great if you dunk it into the stew."
"You couldn't have come to me after Mulder got back and told me then? Or before that, when the two of us were working together to find him?"
Krycek shrugged. "Never seemed to be the right time. Besides, I wasn't sure you would believe me. And I wasn't sure that you wouldn't be put in danger if I told you. There were still a few of the 'bad guys' around and I decided not to take the chance."
"The chance. For you or for me, Alex?"
Krycek took a wooden spoon and concentrated on stirring the warming stew. "Does it matter?"
Skinner got up, walked over to behind the man at the stove. Krycek stiffened but didn't reach for his weapon.
"Yes, it matters. I find that I didn't come to the ends of the earth to hear that it mattered more for you than it did for me."
After two years of tracking down what had been, at first, a passing fancy, later, an idea that wouldn't go away, Skinner decided that it would be foolish to stop here. He took the risk and placed his hands on Krycek's tensed shoulders. Gently, he began massaging the tight muscles. "You took a lot of chances for me, Alex. It's taken me a while to add them all up. And to wonder why someone, as pragmatic as you are, would take them for me."
Krycek didn't relax but, then again, he didn't tell Skinner to take his hands away. Skinner felt the tension he had carried within him all the way up from D.C. begin to ease.
"Scully is the one who pointed it out to me. That, in spite of all the orders we found in the documentation for my termination, you found a way of circumventing them. Mulder remarked that it looked as though you had ulterior motives for keeping me alive. Scully snickered and said that, in those romance novels she had read while in her last trimester, it would be because you were in love with me.
"I thought about that. Thought about how I had once felt about you, Alex. About why, whenever we had to work together, be in the same room together, there was such heat between us. I told myself it was anger. Then I wondered. Have I been wondering wrong, Alex?"
The long minute of silence churned in Skinner's stomach. He brought his hands down to his side.
When Krycek finally turned around, his face was more open than Skinner had ever seen it. As though it could no longer hide the feelings Krycek had suppressed for so long. He opened his mouth, then closed it, swallowed hard as though his throat were dry. "I killed you," he whispered.
Skinner shrugged. "Yes, well, I killed you, too, Alex. Seems to me that, if you're inclined, we would be starting with a clean slate."
"There are so many other things that are between us." Krycek's voice ached, but Skinner thought he saw hope flicker in those cat eyes.
"True. But then, we have all this time with the storm to clear them up. If you want."
Krycek lowered his eyes. All those years, hungry for this man, knowing he would die starved for him. And now this.
"I could make you happy, Alex. I think you could do the same for me."
Krycek's smile wobbled. "Yes, well. Maybe." He looked up, sounded almost wistful. "Is this where you tell me you'll make my dreams come true?"
Skinner smiled back and opened his arms, offering a different haven.
Krycek closed his eyes, took a deep breath and found the courage to take the step that placed him within Skinner's warm embrace.
Skinner held him tightly, his cheek against that of this man whom he had managed to track down despite all odds.
"I think," he whispered into Krycek's ear, "that we may make Barney's dream come true first. The stew is burning."
To Make You Feel My Love
When the rain is blowing in your face
When evening shadows and the stars appear
I know you haven't made your mind up yet
I'd go hungry, I'd go black and blue
The storms are raging on the rollin' sea
I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
This song was written by Bob Dylan and recorded by both
Notes and Disclaimers
TITLE: Whither thou goest
An early birthday gift for Ned of The Theban Band