by Sandrine Shaw

The digits of the digital clock in front of me show 03:09 when I check it. How long have I been awake now? 44 hours? 45? I don't remember. I knew it would be a hell of a day when I woke up in the morning, and I thought I had slept enough the previous nights, yet I'm starting to feel tired. The prospect of a long, hot bath starts to look more alluring with every passing minute, but I'm not crazy enough to risk my life for a bath. Still a couple of hundred miles to go before I can rest.

A tiny, nagging voice inside of me starts whispering that pulling the car over and taking a little nap wouldn't do any harm. We've been in these woods for hours; no one followed us. We're alone. Nothing can happen. No one can hurt us here. ... Can't they? I ignore the voice. Can't afford taking any risks. The stakes are too high.

The body on the passenger seat stirs ever so slightly. Tried blood is covering his face, his clothes, probably the seat, too, now. Fuck. I should have put a blanked or something around him. I'll never get rid of the stains now. I reach over, put a hand to his forehead. Even before my skin touches his, I feel that he's burning up. Then, carefully, I press my palm against his heated skin. I've done it before, only a couple of minutes ago, and yet before, an hour ago. Still, nothing could have prepared me for the pain that is shooting through my body when the contact is established. My head feels like exploding, my skin seems to be torn off my body in shreds. I hear a scream, but don't realize that it's my own before it's too late.

By instinct, my feet stamp on the brakes, then the world goes black. Minutes later, I come to again, still feeling like a train has hit me. The car is standing mere inches from a tree. Damn. A look into the mirror confirms my fears - I look about as bad as him now, pale, my eyes puffy and blood-shot. It doesn't matter. Beside me, I feel him moving in his seat. He looks better now, less pale, and his forehead is bloody, but unmarred. Thank God! I don't think I could have gone through this another time.

For someone who considers himself open for - how did he put it? - extreme possibilities, Fox Mulder is a fool. He believes what he sees. As if his eyes alone could capture reality. If reality even exists. Billy Miles' body was just a mass of broken bones and blood and flesh and yet he walked from the Hoover building as if no one had ever harmed a hair of his head. Alex Krycek was merely shot. A clear bullet wound right through the head - no more, no less. They didn't even bother to check his pulse. Not that they would have found one if they had, but still I find it vaguely amusing how much they trust their visual senses.

I would laugh at the irony of it, but the matter at hand is too pressing. I hadn't expected him to have lost so much blood. It will need days until he'll be fully recovered, weeks even. Right now, he's in that no-man's land between life and death. Without my help, he will be dead in a matter of minutes. Hell, he was dead, a few minutes ago. Everything went 'according to plan'. - That's what he's going to say later, and his voice will be flat and emotionless. His futile attempt to try covering up his thoughts from an empath ... or maybe merely not admitting to himself that he's still able to feel anything.

Him and me, we're playing a game where emotions ... guilt, regret, remorse, pain, sympathy, mercy ... can be our downfall. If that little scene down in the garage had not been an act, Alex would truly be dead now. He wouldn't have pulled the trigger. Shoot Mulder? Never.

Foolish boy.

I'll have to talk to him about it. Later, when he's recovered. Of course, he will deny it, this ... weak spot he has for Mulder, which will eventually get him killed.


He's a liability. Our weak point - his as well as mine. Yes, we hurt him. We have done so in the past, and we're not going to stop hurting him in the future, because there's no other choice. But neither of us has the nerve to kill Mulder. God knows it would be best to terminate his existence, before his search for whatever he believes to be his precious 'truth' will uncover things that better stay hidden and make it all go to hell. The world would be a safer place without Fox William Mulder digging in the gutter to bring out truths that will kill as certainly as the lies do. And yet, we will do everything in our power to protect him. It's always been this way.

One day, it will destroy us. Stupid Mulder. Foolish Mulder. Stubborn Mulder. I wonder if he'll ever realize who are his friends and who are the enemies. He probably will, but then it may be too late.

Sometimes, I wish they had taken him instead of me, like they actually planned to. Not because I want him to go through the same pain and horrors I did, no, I'm not that cruel. I just think that I would have done better in his place. Then again, maybe I wouldn't have. It's easy for me to say. I certainly wouldn't have stood aside and let Skinner kill someone who knew as much as Alex, though. If not for any other reason, they should at least have let him alive for the information. When we, me and Alex, talked it over before, I always pointed that out as the weak spot in his plan. He said they wouldn't hesitate to shoot him, just the same. Apparently, he was right.

I look over to his still form once again. As if he senses my gaze on him, his eyes snap open. His face is twisted in anguish. He opens his mouth to speak, but no words will come. Eventually, he croaks out, "Did it work?" Followed by a hard cough shaking his body.

"Yes, it did." I say, turning my face back to the road. "Give me a week, and you'll be a whole new man."

Keeping one hand at the steering wheel, I light up a cigarette and turn on the radio. Sting sings from the speakers, the music soft enough not to disturb Alex and loud enough to keep me awake.

"Sam?" He still speaks with some difficulty, and when I turn around, his eyes are fluttering shut as fatigue threatens to overwhelm him again.

"Don't speak, Alexei. Sleep," I mutter, taking another draw from the cigarette and blowing the smoke against the windshield. Seconds stretch into minutes, and for a long time I don't get an answer. Then, when I think he's fallen asleep already, I hear a quiet, "Thank you."

I smile. He's welcome.

It's half past three in the morning, and we're driving through the night. Somewhere far away, the horizon is tinted orange. It's still pitch black around us, but over there, just the slightest hint of light announces that it won't be long until dawn. We'll be okay.