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Playing The Angel

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FBI HEADQUARTERS
2000

“Ergot poisoning?” repeated Mulder.

“Yes. Ergot poisoning. Probably from something I ate. Maybe the croutons in that salad I had before you left.” Scully wasn’t looking at him, her eyes on a stack of files on the table she used as a desk. “It explains my emotional overreaction to Daniel’s heart attack, the hallucination in the Buddhist temple, the faith healer. You know. The uncharacteristic behavior.”

“Uncharacteristic behavior,” repeated Mulder with amusement. “Like wild monkey sex with a co-worker?”

Scully looked over at him, outraged, as if she’d never had wild monkey sex in her life. Mulder chuckled and opened one of the letters that had arrived that morning.

“Mulder, I don’t want you to think—” she started. When he looked over at her, she tucked a strand of short red hair behind her ear and sighed. “It’s different for you. You’re the manly stud nailing his co-worker. I’m—some tramp sleeping with her boss.”

For a split second, Mulder thought she meant Skinner, but then he frowned. “I’m not your boss!”

“It’s your name on the door! And on the desk.” She gestured at the sign. “You know, when my dad heard I was abandoning medicine for a career in the FBI, he was disappointed because he said now, I’d never marry a doctor. Like the whole reason for me to pick any career was to find a man!”

Realizing that this was going to be a Serious Relationship Talk—possibly even a Break-Up Talk—Mulder put down the letter and straightened up in his chair to give her his full attention.

“I get it,” he said. “But there have been rumors about us ever since we started working together seven years ago. We’ve both dated co-workers before. We know how it goes. We’ve got to ignore all that.”

Though he’d always taken her cue and avoided displays of affection in the office, Mulder held out his arm. She pursed her lips and hesitated, but then came over and let him pull her onto his lap.

“We’ve got a good thing going here, Scully. I don’t know about you, but I’d even say the best thing I’ve ever had going”

“Having met some of your exes, I’d have to agree,” said Scully with a twinkle of amusement in her blue eyes.

“Exactly. At least you’re not actually evil like Phoebe and Diana!”

And Krycek, came the unbidden thought. God, Krycek. He’d almost forgotten. A vivid memory of bright eyes and warm lips in crisp winter air. What the hell had he been thinking?

“And I don’t have a cursed tattoo,” he added, earning himself a poke in the side.

“What’s that?” she asked, noticing the letter in front of him.

“They’ve finished making the movie. We’re invited to the première.”

“Oh, man. I’m not sure I want to see it.”

“Trip to Hollywood, all expenses paid.” He kissed her cheek, pleased that she didn’t pull away. “Nobody could accuse us of working…”

Scully laughed. Mulder hugged her close and rested his chin on her head. “Don’t worry about us, Scully. You’ll see, we’ll be investigating the X-files together until we’re old and gray.”

* * * * *

2018

“You look thoughtful, Mulder. Bit late for second thoughts.”

He tucked a strand of strawberry blonde hair behind her ear, careful not to dislodge the cream-colored fascinator that stood in for a veil.

“Thinking about us,” he said. “How we’ve ended up growing old together after all.”

“Speak for yourself,” she said with a bright smile. “I plan to stay young forever.”

“I could live with that,” he said, nodding gravely. “Always wanted to be an old man with a hot young wife.”

Scully laughed and then schooled her features into a welcoming smile as another group of people approached them across the lawn.

“Oh, Ellen, I’m sorry I didn’t have time to talk to you at the church. How good of you to come. Hi, Trent. And it’s a pleasure to see you again, Lucy. You know, I remember your husband when he was your son’s age. They look so alike!”

Mulder smiled politely and greeted Scully’s friend Ellen and her descendants: Scully’s godson, a young man Mulder only remembered as a small boy, and his wife and son. He looked out across the small crowd clustered around the house as the women engaged in a lengthy conversation.

Most of the guests were work colleagues or friends met through their work. Mrs. Sandeep, Scully’s nurse from Our Lady of Sorrows, had come wearing a brightly-colored sari and was talking to Mrs. Al-Zahawi, herself adorned with an ornate lace-trimmed headscarf; their respective husbands, dressed in far less remarkable Western suits, were making small talk with Dr. Ramachandran from Georgetown Hospital by the buffet.

Skinner was talking to Bill Scully, maybe discussing politics, judging by the passion he was displaying. Scully’s other brother, Charlie, whom Mulder had only met once before, at Maggie Scully’s funeral, seemed to have found some common interest with Mr. Van De Kamp; they were observing the field opposite the house, one or the other occasionally making a sweeping gesture as if speculating about yields or crops or whatever a field might inspire them to talk about. Charlie’s husband, a slim young man with a shy disposition, was standing by them looking bored.

To the side of the house, Dr. Webber and Jeffrey Spender were engaged in conversation; Jeffrey’s appearance and health had improved dramatically over the last couple of years, maybe as a result of Sonia’s experiments on Krycek. Nearby, their adoptive daughter Charlotte, the clone of Samantha as a child, was playing with Daggoo and laughing silently at the dog’s antics. Mulder had introduced Sonia to others as his sister; few of the guests remembered the quest that had once consumed his life, and simply accepted her as his relative. In a way, he felt as though he had regained a small part of his childhood family, albeit through a clone who only stored his sister’s memories without having actually experienced them.

Further away, Brianna and Jackson were watching Rachel toddle uncertainly across the grass, following her to make sure she didn’t fall and hurt herself. Mrs. Van De Kamp had kindly taken over the catering for Mulder and Scully’s post-wedding celebration; she had enlisted the help of Bill’s wife Tara, and the two women were busy keeping the outdoor buffet well-stocked with food they had cooked or reheated in the kitchen. Scully had been very relieved to accept their help and the women seemed to be enjoying the task.

As his eyes drifted back to the front of the house, Mulder noticed a new car parking behind the line on their access road. He raised his hand and smiled as the group came to join him.

“Hey, sorry we’re late. Forgot about the traffic,” said Krycek with a wide grin. “Hi, Scully. Congratulations.”

“I’m so glad you could make it, Alex,” said Scully, leaning up to accept his kiss on the cheek.

Krycek placed his hand on the shoulder of the shorter man beside him. “Uh, this is Majid. You know. My partner.”

“Mr. Mulder, Ms. Scully, I am pleased to meet you in person and I offer you my congratulations on the joyous occasion of your marriage,” said Professor Ben Salem with the careful enunciation of someone unused to speaking English.

“He always speaks like that,” said Krycek. He exchanged an amused look with Ben Salem; this was clearly an old joke between them.

To Mulder’s mild disappointment, the professor looked even more like George Clooney in the flesh. He had adopted a dandy style that reminded Mulder of a modern-day Quentin Crisp, wearing a suit with a colored scarf and a fedora. With his neatly trimmed grey beard, he looked handsome and proudly gay.

“And I guess you know my daughter Mila too,” continued Krycek.

Mila gave Mulder and Scully a polite smile and a shy greeting. Her dark hair had one streak each of purple and pink, and she was dressed entirely in black, except for a purple crocheted cardigan that was her only concession to the occasion. Though her eyes were circled with far too much dark makeup, Mulder could see that they were green like her father’s.

After some small talk about their voyage from Europe, Ben Salem said something to Mila in French which brightened her bored expression, and the two of them took leave with a vague gesture toward the buffet.

“She looks like you,” commented Scully.

“Yup. Same smartass personality too. Or so Marita says.” Krycek looked around the crowd and spotted Jackson, who was now hanging out with his girlfriend Amber by the buffet. He had left Brianna in charge of Rachel. “I see your son is here too. How are you finding things with him?”

Scully gave him a noncommittal smile. “Well, it’s been a little hard to form a relationship with him, both because we missed so much of his life and because he lives in Wyoming. But he’s stayed with us a couple times, and his parents try to include us in what’s going on in his life.”

“Mila comes to stay with us in Paris every couple of months,” said Krycek, giving his daughter a tender look. “Gives her mom a break from having three kids in the house.”

Mulder remembered something Jackson said recently. “I don’t know if Mila does this too,” he said, “but Jackson experiences strange visions sometimes. He told me the other day that there’s a parallel universe where the plague never happened but Donald Trump became President of the United States.”

“Donald Trump, huh? He used to play golf with the Englishman.” Krycek grinned. “No, Mila doesn’t have visions like that. Just telekinesis and a touch of telepathy, which is all freaky enough without parallel universes as well. I think we’ve got enough to worry about in this universe. Anyway, I’ll have to thank your son later. I never did last time. But I guess I owe him my life and my health.”

“Yes, you do look well,” said Scully, looking Krycek over.

Mulder had to agree with her. Krycek looked older, as if the years he had lost to the lab were starting to catch up with him. His dark hair and the partial goatee that made him look like one of the Three Musketeers were both threaded with silver. But he was slim and tanned; his new life seemed to be suiting him.

“No more problems with your heart, I take it?” asked Scully.

Krycek gave a little shrug. “Nothing serious. Majid insisted I get it checked out when I moved to Paris. Cardiologist is monitoring me, but no problems so far. Inshallah, as Majid would say!”

“Speaking of which, how was Mecca?” asked Mulder, remembering one of Krycek’s recent messages.

Krycek grinned, uncovering his bright white teeth. “Crazy. In a good way. We threw stones at the Devil to cleanse our sins, paid someone to slaughter a goat for us. Didn’t get struck by divine wrath for being sinful sodomites. Or arrested by the Saudi authorities. It was a good trip. Here, I have a couple pictures.”

He pulled out his phone and showed them a picture of himself and Majid in front of an elaborate mosque. They were both wrapped in white sheets and had shaved their heads and beards. Scully pointed at the tattoo on Krycek’s left arm on the picture; thin Arabic writing curling around his biceps.

“That’s new,” she said.

“It’s a verse from the Qur’an. About how unjustified killing is bad, but saving lives is good.” Krycek gave a little shrug and pocketed the phone. “I still think about the kids at El Rico sometimes. But my therapist has been great and working with Islamic Relief really makes me feel useful. You know, protecting the aid workers, organising the logistics, making sure the accounts are in order for financial audits, that kind of stuff. We’re doing some really good work. Saving lives.”

“Oh, so you are the Mirror Universe Krycek,” said Mulder, pointing at his goatee.

Krycek laughed. “Yeah. I’m not the man I used to be.”

“And a man of faith, too,” commented Scully.

“Well, no. I still don’t believe there’s anything supernatural governing our lives,” said Krycek. “But it feels good to be part of something larger than myself. In Mecca, we were there with people from all around the world, united with this purpose of experiencing the Hajj. People from Malaysia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa. A couple from Pensacola took that picture of us. So it was good.” He grinned. “Mind you, I felt kind of like that at the Depeche Mode concert we went to in Paris too.”

Scully smiled. “Well, I’m glad— Oh. Sorry. Rachel. No!”

Mulder turned to see what was happening but it didn’t look life-threatening. At least, he didn’t think there were any poisonous snails in Virginia. Scully extracted the snail from Rachel’s mouth and carried her back to the group.

“Sorry. We’re going through a phase of eating anything we can get our hands on.”

Krycek leaned down to smile at Rachel in Scully’s arms. “Hey, sweetie. How are you doing?”

Rachel scowled at him and rubbed her eyes. Scully adjusted her position and gave him an apologetic smile.

“She’s very tired and doesn’t like her flower girl dress,” she explained. “I’d better put her down for a nap before we have a tantrum. I’ll see you later, Alex.”

Krycek smiled and gave Rachel a little wave as Scully headed for the house. Then he turned to look at Mulder.

“Morley’s parting gift?” he asked.

“No idea,” said Mulder. “We’re just going to accept that she’s another miracle and get on with our lives.”

“Just accepting something without investigating it to death? You must be getting old,” said Krycek with a chuckle. He looked around the small crowd. Skinner was looking in their direction, his expression somber. “It’s going to be an interesting evening. People who killed me, people who tortured me—” He turned away from Skinner and Webber, and gave Mulder a suggestive grin. “And, well, people who did some other stuff with me. All feels like a long time ago. And now here we all are together, celebrating your wedding.”

“Well, you know. Love brings people together and all that.”

They were interrupted when Ben Salem came back to join them. Mulder noted that his plate of food included cocktail sausages. Krycek’s entire attention immediately switched to his lover. After a brief interlude of small talk, Mulder watched them walk off together. Scully came to join him, holding the baby monitor.

“They look happy,” she commented.

Mulder looked down at her. “Maybe it’s contagious.”

* * * * *

1994

“You ever think about having kids, Mulder?” asked Krycek.

They were stuck in traffic on Constitution Ave., barely two blocks from the Hoover Building. At this rate, it was going to take forever to get to the airport and reach San Diego.

Mulder was driving but he gave Krycek a curious look. “Kids? What brought this on, your girlfriend complaining about her biological clock?”

He had decided to roll with Krycek’s frequent mentions of a girlfriend, even though he suspected this nameless person didn’t actually exist.

“No. Baby sister talking about going to college.” Krycek shrugged. “I’m a lot older than her. I remember when she was born. Just thinking it must be weird when you have kids and they grow up. You got any brothers and sisters?”

“No.” Mulder let a long pause go by, then decided to come clean on the greatest tragedy of his life. “I had a little sister too. She was abducted by aliens when I was twelve.”

“By aliens?”

“There was a bright light and she levitated out of the room. I’m guessing it was aliens,” he said tensely, bracing himself for ridicule.

Krycek looked at him for a moment. “Could have been people using alien technology,” he said finally. “Tough break, though.”

“I’m sure I’ll see her again someday. That’s all I want.” He inched forward in the gridlocked traffic and glanced at Krycek. “What about you, you want kids?”

He was unprepared for the look of sadness on Krycek’s face. “Maybe. Nearly did once, but, well, we decided it wasn’t the right time. My parents divorced when I was a kid. I guess I don’t know what I’d be like if I did have kids.” He smiled wryly. “Families are complicated.”

Mulder thought about his parents, divorced and miserable, and how messed up his relationships with Phoebe and Diana had been. He couldn’t imagine ever rising above his family history to become a good father.

“Tell me about it,” he said with feeling.

* * * * *

And now look at me, he thought, rocking Rachel gently in the early evening sunshine. Krycek was talking to Sonia and Jeffrey by the buffet; it seemed to be a surprisingly cordial conversation, considering their mutual past. Jackson and his girlfriend Amber were sitting on the back porch a short distance from Mulder’s rocking chair, both engrossed in their phones, though Jackson was holding Amber’s hand. Mila was lounging on one of the garden chairs, similarly occupied with her own little window into the shared virtual world that was rapidly consuming modern humanity.

As he watched, Mulder saw Krycek check the time and say goodbye to Sonia and Jeffrey. He went over to where Ben Salem was talking to Mrs. Al-Zahawi and casually wrapped his arms around his lover from behind, briefly joining their conversation before pulling Ben Salem away. He glanced at Mila, then said something that made Ben Salem laugh, and took out his phone. A moment later, Mila looked up from her phone and scowled at him, the facial expression so familiar that it made Mulder smile.

Sensing that they were preparing to leave, Mulder hefted himself and his sleepy daughter off the rocking chair and came down to join them.

“Are you leaving?” asked Scully, coming over too.

“Yes, time for us to head off,” said Krycek apologetically. “We have a flight to Seattle in the morning. We’re going to meet the rest of the family over there. I told them I was in jail,” he added. “It’s taken a while to work up the courage to actually see them again.”

“It will all go well,” said Ben Salem, giving Krycek’s hand a reassuring squeeze.

Scully smiled. “I’m sure they’ll be happy to see you and meet your lovely daughter.”

A slightly less scowly expression appeared on Mila’s face and Mulder thought she might indeed look lovely someday if she dropped the goth look.

"Thank you all so much for coming," continued Scully.

She smiled at Mila and Ben Salem, then embraced Krycek briefly. Rachel reached for her and Scully took her out of Mulder’s arms.

Stepping back from Scully, Krycek appraised Mulder for a moment, as if searching his face for something. A trace of the handsome young man he’d once loved, maybe, or committing to memory the image of a distant friend now only known as strings of characters on an electronic screen. Then casually, without making a big show of it, he kissed Mulder lightly on the lips.

“Goodbye, Mulder.”

Mulder smiled. “Have a good life, Krycek.”

He put his arm around Scully and held Rachel’s warm little hand. They watched as Krycek and his family drove off in the light of the setting sun.